Category Archives: Daily Readings

Daily Readings for Saturday, May 07, 2022

2ND SATURDAY AFTER PASCHA

NO FAST

2nd Saturday after Pascha, Commemoration of the Precious Cross that appeared in the sky over Jerusalem in 351 A.D., Cyril, Archbishop of Jerusalem, Akakios the Centurion of Byzantium, Repose of St. Nilus, abbot of Sora, Pachomios the New Martyr of Patmos

ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 26:1, 12-20

IN THOSE DAYS, King Agrippa said to Paul, "You have permission to speak for yourself." Then Paul stretched out his hand and made his defense: "I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining round me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.' And I said, 'Who are you, Lord?' And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and bear witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from the people and from the Gentiles-to whom I send you to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.' "Wherefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those at Damascus, then at Jerusalem and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and perform deeds worthy of their repentance."

JOHN 6:14-27

At that time, when the people saw the sign which Jesus had done, they said, "This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!
Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, entered a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea rose because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat. They were frightened, but he said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.
On the next day the people who remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. However, boats from Tiberias came near the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the people saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves entered the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.
When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal.

Commemoration of the Apparition of the Sign of the Precious Cross Over Jerusalem, in 351 AD

The Precious Cross appeared in the sky over Jerusalem on the morning of May 7, 351 during the reign of the emperor Constantius, the son of Saint Constantine (May 21).

At that time the heresy of Arianism, which taught that Christ was merely a creature and not God, was causing great turmoil and division throughout the Empire. Even after the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea in 325, many people were drawn to this false teaching, and the Orthodox found themselves in the minority in many places.

Constantius, the ruler of the eastern part of the Empire, was a fervent supporter of Arianism. His brothers Constantine II and Constans, who were pious Orthodox Christians, ruled in the west. They were both killed in separate battles around 350, leaving Constantius as sole ruler. Also in 350, Saint Cyril (March 18) became Patriarch of Jerusalem and began his zealous struggle against Arianism.

In May of 351 a luminous Cross appeared over Jerusalem, stretching from Golgotha to the Mount of Olives, a distance of about five and a half miles. The Cross was wide as it was long, and shone more brightly than the sun. Many people left their homes and workplaces to gather in the church and glorify Christ. The historian Sozomen says that this wondrous sign led to the conversion of multitudes of pagans and Jews to Christianity.

A letter from Saint Cyril to the emperor describing this phenomenon, and admonishing him to become Orthodox, has been preserved. The apparition of the Cross remained over the city for a whole week.

The vision of the Cross over Jerusalem strengthened the Orthodox faithful and contributed to the return of many Arians to the Church. It is also a reminder of the awesome Second Coming of Christ, when “the sign of the Son of man shall appear in heaven” (Matthew 24:30).

Repose of Saint Alexis Toth, Confessor and Defender of Orthodoxy in America

Our holy Father Alexis, the defender of the Orthodox Faith and zealous worker in the Lord’s vineyard, was born in Austro-Hungary on March 18, 1854 into a poor Carpatho-Russian family. Like many others in the Austro-Hungarian empire, the Toths were Eastern Rite Catholics. Alexis’ father and brother were priests and his uncle was a bishop in the Uniate church. He received an excellent education and knew several languages (Carpatho-Russian, Hungarian, Russian, German, Latin, and a reading knowledge of Greek). He married Rosalie Mihalich, a priest’s daughter, and was ordained on April 18, 1878 to serve as second priest in a Uniate parish. His wife died soon afterwards, followed by their only child—losses which the saint endured with the patience of Job.

In May, 1879, Father Alexis was appointed secretary to the Bishop of Presov and also Administrator of the Diocesan Administration. He was also entrusted with the directorship of an orphanage. At Presov Seminary, Father Toth taught Church History and Canon Law, which served him well in his later life in America. Saint Alexis did not serve long as a professor or an administrator, for the Lord had a different future planned for him. In October, 1889 he was appointed to serve as pastor of a Uniate parish in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Like another Abraham, he left his country and his relatives to fulfill the will of God (Gen 12:1).

Upon his arrival in America, Father Alexis presented himself to the local Roman Catholic diocesan authority, Archbishop John Ireland, since there was no Uniate bishop in America at that time. Archbishop Ireland belonged to the party of American Catholics who favored the “Americanization” of all Roman Catholics. His vision for the future was founded on a common faith, customs, and the use of the English language for everything except liturgical celebrations. Naturally, ethnic parishes and non-Latin rite clergy did not fit into this vision. Thus, when Father Toth came to present his credentials, Archbishop Ireland greeted him with open hostility. He refused to recognize him as a legitimate Catholic priest or to grant permission for him to serve in his diocese.

As a historian and professor of Canon Law, Father Toth knew his rights under the terms of the Unia and would not accept Archbishop Ireland’s unjust decisions. In October of 1890, there was a meeting of eight of the ten Uniate priests in America at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania under the chairmanship of Father Toth. By this time the American bishops had written to Rome demanding the recall to Europe of all Uniate priests in America, fearing that Uniate priests and parishes would hinder the assimilation of immigrants into American culture. Uniate bishops in Europe refused to listen to the priests’ pleas for help.

Archbishop Ireland sent a letter to his parishes ordering their members not to attend Father Toth’s parish nor to accept any priestly ministrations from him. Expecting imminent deportation, Father Toth explained the situation to his parishioners and suggested it might be best for him to leave and return to Europe.

“No,” they said. “Let’s go to the Russian bishop. Why should we always submit ourselves to foreigners?” It was decided to write to the Russian consul in San Francisco in order to ask for the name and address of the Russian bishop. Ivan Mlinar went to San Francisco to make initial contact with Bishop Vladimir; then in February, 1891 Father Toth and his church warden, Paul Podany, also made the journey. Subsequently, Bishop Vladimir came to Minneapolis and on March 25, 1891 received Father Toth and 361 parishioners into the Orthodox Church of their ancestors. The parishioners regarded this event as a new Triumph of Orthodoxy, crying out with joy: “Glory to God for His great mercy!”

This initiative came from the people themselves, and was not the result of any coercion from outsiders. The Russian Orthodox Church was unaware of the existence of these Slavic Uniate immigrants to America, but responded positively to their petition to be reunited to the Orthodox Church.

The example of Saint Alexis and his parish in returning to Orthodoxy was an encouragement to hundreds of other Uniates. The ever-memorable one was like a candle upon a candlestick giving light to others (Mt.5:15), and his flock may be likened to the leaven mixed with meal which leavened the whole (Mt.13:33). Through his fearless preaching he uprooted the tares which had sprung up in the wheat of true doctrine, and exposed the false teachings which had led his people astray. Although he did not hesitate to point out errors in the doctrines of other denominations, he was careful to warn his flock against intolerance. His writings and sermons are filled with admonitions to respect other people and to refrain from attacking their faith.

While it is true that he made some strong comments, especially in his private correspondence with the church administration, it must be remembered that this was done while defending the Orthodox Church and the American Mission from unfounded accusations by people who used much harsher language than Father Toth. His opponents may be characterized by intolerance, rude behaviour, unethical methods and threats against him and his parishioners. Yet, when Father Alexis was offended or deceived by other people he forgave them, and he would often ask his bishop to forgive his omissions and mistakes.

In the midst of great hardships, this herald of godly theology and sound doctrine poured forth an inexhaustible stream of Orthodox writings for new converts, and gave practical advice on how to live in an Orthodox manner. For example, his article “How We should Live in America” stresses the importance of education, cleanliness, sobriety, and the presence of children in church on Sundays and Holy Days.

Although the Minneapolis parish was received into the Orthodox Church in March, 1891, it was not until July, 1892 that the Holy Synod of Russia recognized and accepted the parish into the Diocese of Alaska and the Aleutians. This resolution reached America only in October, 1892. During that time there was a climate of religious and ethnic hostility against the new converts. Father Alexis was accused of selling out his own Carpatho-Russian people and his religion to the “Muscovites” for financial gain.

In reality he did not receive any financial support for a long time, for his parish was very poor. Until his priestly salary began to arrive from Russia, the righteous one was obliged to work in a bakery in order to support himself. Even though his funds were meager, he did not neglect to give alms to the poor and needy. He shared his money with other clergy worse off than himself, and contributed to the building of churches and to the education of seminarians in Minneapolis. He was not anxious about his life (Mt.6:25), what he would eat or drink or wear. Trusting in God to take care of him, Saint Alexis followed the admonition of Our Savior to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Mt.6:33). So he bore the tribulation, slander, and physical attacks with patience and spiritual joy, reminding us that “godliness is stronger than all” (Wisdom of Solomon 10:12).

Bishops Vladimir, Nicholas, Saint Tikhon, and Platon recognized the special gifts of Father Toth, so they often sent him forth to preach and teach wherever there were people of Slavic background. Even though he was aware of his shortcomings and inadequacies, yet he was obedient to the instructions of the bishops. He did not hesitate or make excuses, but went immediately to fulfill his mission. Saint Alexis visited many Uniate parishes, explaining the differences between Orthodoxy, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism and Uniatism, stressing that the true way to salvation is in Orthodoxy.

Like Josiah, “he behaved himself uprightly in the conversion of his people” (Sir 49:2). He was instrumental in the formation or return of seventeen parishes, planting a vineyard of Christ in America, and increasing its fruitful yield many times over. By 1909, the time of his blessed repose, many thousands of Carpatho-Russian and Galician Uniates had returned to Orthodoxy. This was a major event in the history of the North American Mission, which would continue to shape the future of Orthodoxy in this country for many generations to come. Any future growth or success may truly be regarded as the result of Father Toth’s apostolic labors.

Who can tell of the saint’s spiritual struggles? Who can speak of the prayers which his pious soul poured forth unto God? He did not make a public display of his piety, but prayed to God in secret with all modesty, with contrition and inward tears. God, Who sees everything done in secret, openly rewarded the saint (Mt.6:6). It is inconceivable that Saint Alexis could have accomplished his apostolic labors unless God had blessed and strengthened him for such work. Today the Church continues to reap the fruits of his teaching and preaching.

Father Toth’s efforts did not go unrecognized in his own lifetime. He received a jeweled miter from the Holy Synod, as well as the Order of Saint Vladimir and the Order of Saint Anna from Czar Nicholas II for distinguished service and devotion to God and country. In 1907, he was considered as a candidate for the episcopal office. He declined this honor, however, humbly pointing out that this responsibility should be given to a younger, healthier man.

At the end of 1908, Saint Alexis’ health began to decline due to a complication of illneses. He went to the seashore in southern New Jersey in an attempt to regain his health, but soon returned to Wilkes-Barre, where he was confined to bed for two months. The righteous one reposed on Friday, May 7, 1909 (April 24 on the Old Calendar), the feast of Saints Savva and Alexius the Hermit of the Kiev Caves. Saint Alexis’ love and concern for his spiritual children did not cease with his death. Before closing the account of his life, it would be most appropriate to reveal but one example of his heavenly intercession:

In January, 1993 a certain man prayed to Saint Alexis to help him obtain information about his son from whom he had been separated for twenty-eight years. Placing his confidence in the saint’s boldness before God, he awaited an answer to his prayer. The very next day the man’s son telephoned him. It seems the young man was in church when he was suddenly filled with an overwhelming desire to contact his father. He had been taken to another state by his mother, and she changed his name when he was a child. This is why his father was unable to locate him. Having learned from his mother that his father was an Orthodox Christian, he was able with the help of an Orthodox priest to obtain his father’s phone number in a distant city. As a result of that telephone call, the young man later visited his father, who rejoiced to see what sort of man his son had become. The father gave thanks to God and to Saint Alexis for reuniting him with his son.

Saint Alexis was a true man of God who guided many Carpatho-Russian and Galician immigrants through the dark confusion of religious challenges in the New World and back to the unity of the Orthodox Church through his grace-filled words and by his holy example. In his last will and testament Saint Alexis commended his soul to God’s mercy, asking forgiveness from everyone and forgiving everybody. His holy relics now rest at Saint Tikhon Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania where the faithful may come to venerate them and to entreat Saint Alexis’ intercessions on their behalf.

Martyr Acacius the Centurion at Byzantium

The Holy Martyr Acacius, who lived mostly in the third century, was born at Cappadocia and was a centurion of the Martesian regiment under the military officer Firmus. When the persecution against Christians began on orders from the emperor Maximian Galerius (305-311), Firmus interrogated his soldiers one after the other about their faith. Saint Acacius firmly and openly confessed himself a Christian. Seeing the steadfastness of Saint Acacius, Firmus sent him to his superior officer, who was named Vivianus. Vivianus gave the saint over to fierce torture.

After the tortures they put him in heavy chains and locked him up in prison. A while later they led the martyr and other prisoners to Byzantium, to the prefect. The soldiers marched quickly, showing the prisoners no mercy. Saint Acacius weakened along the way from his wounds, from his chains, and from hunger and thirst. When finally they halted for the night, Saint Acacius offered thanks to God, for permitting him to suffer for His holy Name. As he prayed the saint heard a voice from the heavens, “Courage, Acacius, and be strong!” This voice was heard also by the other prisoners, and many of them believed in Christ and asked the saint to instruct them in the Christian Faith.

At Byzantium they placed the holy martyr in jail, while the other prisoners were held under less severe conditions. At night the other prisoners saw how radiant youths appeared to Saint Acacius and attended to him, washing his wounds and bringing him food. After seven days, Vivianus again summoned Saint Acacius before him and was struck by his fresh appearance. Supposing that the prison guard was bribed to give the prisoner both respite and food, he summoned the guard to question him. Since he did not believe his answers, Vivianus had the guard severely beaten. Saint Acacius himself then answered Vivianus, “My power and strength are given me by the Lord Jesus Christ, Who has healed my wounds.” Vivianus gave orders to beat the martyr about the face and to smash his teeth for his words.

Determined to intensify and prolong the torture of Saint Acacius, Vivianus sent him to the prefect Flaccinus with a letter. When he read the letter, Flaccinus became annoyed that Vivianus had tortured a centurion for so long and so cruelly, and he gave orders to behead the martyr without further delay.

At the place of execution Saint Acacius lifted up his eyes to the heavens, giving thanks to God for being granted a martyr’s death for His sake. Then he bowed his head beneath the sword. This occurred in the year 303.

Under Constantine the Great the relics of the holy martyr Acacius rested at Constantinople in a church built in his honor, and later they were transferred to Calabria, to the city of Scillatio. The holy martyr Acacius particularly helps those who struggle against temptations of the flesh, as attested by Saint Epiphanius, a disciple of Saint Andrew the Fool-for-Christ.

Repose of Venerable Nilus, Abbot of Sora

Saint Nilus of Sora, a great ascetic of the Russian Church, was descended from the Maikov nobility. He accepted monasticism at the monastery of Saint Cyril of White Lake (June 9). Here he made use of the counsels of the pious Elder Paisius Yaroslavov, who was afterwards igumen of the Trinity-Sergiev Lavra.

Saint Nilus journeyed much through the East, studying the monastic life in Palestine and on Mt. Athos. Returning to Rus, he withdrew to the River Sora in the Vologda lands, and built a cell and a chapel, where there soon grew up a monastery with a new (for that time in Rus) skete Rule adopted by Saint Nilus from Mt. Athos. Following the command of Saint Nilus, the monks had to sustain themselves by the work of their own hands, to accept charity only in extreme need, and to shun the love of things and splendor even in church. Women were not permitted in the skete, monks was not allowed to leave the skete under any pretext, and the possession of lands or estates was forbidden.

The monks lived in the forest around the small church in honor of the Meeting of the Lord, in separate cells of one or two but not more than three men. They gathered together in church for divine services. Moreover, readings from the holy Fathers were prescribed at the All-Night Vigil, which actually lasted the whole night. On other days, each one prayed and worked in his own cell.

The saint struggled constantly with his own thoughts and passions. Then peace would be born in his soul, clarity in his mind, contrition and love in his heart. In his written works, “A Tradition for my Disciple, Wishing to Live in the Wilderness,” and the “Rule,” Saint Nilus describes the steps of this salvific mental activity in detail. The first step is renunciation of the world, particularly, from every worldly distraction. The second is unceasing prayer, accompanied by the remembrance of death.

The saint was distinguished for his non-possessiveness and love for work. He dug a pond and a well, whose water had healing power. For his sanctity of life the Elder Nilus was deeply venerated by the Russian hierarchs of his time. He participated in the Councils of 1490 and 1503. Disdaining the honors and glories of this world, he told his disciples before his death either to throw his body to be eaten by beasts and birds, or to bury it without honor at the place of his struggles.

The saint died in his seventy-sixth year of life, on May 7, 1508. His relics, buried in the monastery he founded, were glorified by many miracles. The Russian Church has numbered him among the saints.

[In English, fragments of his “Tradition” and “Rule” may be found in G. Fedotov’s TREASURY OF RUSSIAN SPIRITUALITY.]

Saint John Zedazeni of Zaden, Georgia, with his 12 disciples

Our Holy Father John of Zedazeni and his twelve disciples, Abibus of Nekresi, Anthony of Martqopi, David of Gareji, Zenon of Iqalto, Thaddeus of Stepantsminda, Jesse of Tsilkani, Joseph of Alaverdi, Isidore of Samtavisi, Michael of Ulumbo, Pyrrhus of Breti, Stephen of Khirsa, and Shio of Mgvime, were Syrian ascetics and the founding fathers of Georgian monastic life.

Saint John received his spiritual education in Antioch. Early in his youth he was tonsured a monk and withdrew to the wilderness. The Lord, recognizing his humility, diligence in fasting, and devout watchfulness, blessed His faithful servant with the gift of healing the sick and casting out demons. Saint John was celebrated for his holy deeds and miracles. Curious crowds would swarm around him, and after some time he found it necessary to withdraw into even deeper seclusion.

Taking with him several of his disciples, he chose a remote area, fashioned for himself a cell, and began to labor as a hermit. Once the Most Holy Theotokos appeared to Saint John and told him, “Take twelve monks and go with them to Georgia, the nation enlightened by the Equal-to-the-Apostles Nino, and strengthen the Christian soul of its people.”

Saint John related the vision to his disciples, and after much fasting and prayer he chose twelve of them: Abibus, Anthony, David, Zenon, Thaddeus, Isidore, Joseph, Jesse, Michael, Pyrrhus, Stephen, and Shio. He left his remaining disciples in the wilderness in the care of the abbot, the blessed elder Euthymius, and set off for Georgia with the twelve he had chosen.

By divine revelation the Georgian king Parsman and Catholicos Evlavios received the good news that the venerable fathers were in Mesopotamia, on their way to Georgia, and they hurried to greet them with the proper honors. King Parsman and Catholicos Evlavios met the holy fathers as they were approaching Mtskheta.

The holy fathers venerated the myrrh-streaming wood of the Living Pillar and the Robe of Christ at Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. From there Saint John and his disciples traveled throughout Georgia, visiting its many holy sites.

With the blessing of Catholicos Evlavios, Saint John and his disciples settled on Zedazeni Mountain, where a pagan temple to the idol Zadeni had previously stood. The monks lived in wretched cells, eating only plants and praying ceaselessly.

Having heard of the spiritual endeavors of Saint John and his disciples, Christian believers began to flock to Zedazeni Mountain. Many burned with longing for the monastic life, and some abandoned the world to join the holy fathers at Zedazeni. In such a way, Zedazeni Mountain was transformed into an abode of hermits.

One night the Most Holy Theotokos appeared again to Saint John and instructed him to send his disciples throughout the country to preach the Word of God. In the morning, having related the vision to his disciples, Saint John advised them: “Our Lord Jesus Christ sent us to perform good deeds for this country and its people, for they are newly planted seeds in the Christian Faith. Therefore, let us go forth, each in his own direction, to preach the Word of God!”

Saint John remained at Zedazeni and went about his usual labors in the company of the Deacon Ilia. Zedazeni Mountain was without water, but Saint John prayed to God for a spring, and the Lord sent him a healing spring at the mountain’s peak. Through Saint John’s holy prayers, a bear that often came to the spring to drink was tamed and became a guard and protector of Zedazeni Monastery.

(To this day, the beasts of Zedazeni forest have never disturbed a single soul). Through Saint John’s intercessions, a man mute and paralyzed from his childhood began to speak and walk.

After earnestly serving God for many years, Saint John received a sign that his death was approaching. He called his disciples, blessed them, bade them farewell, and left them to bury him in the cave where he had dwelt. After receiving Holy Communion, Saint John beheld the heavens open and the incorporeal powers with the armies of saints shining forth.

The Lord called Saint John to Himself, saying: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham. Come and I will give you rest from your labors.”

The holy father prayed and gave up his soul to the Lord. After his repose Saint John’s disciples reasoned among themselves that a dismal cave was unfit to serve as their holy father’s burial place, and with great reverence they buried his remains in a church at the foot of the mountain. But suddenly a violent earthquake shook the ground where they stood. The earth ceased to quake only after the frightened disciples remembered their shepherd’s will and realized that the tremors were a sign from God. So the disciples, a priest, and a deacon uncovered the holy relics and reburied Saint John according to his will. While they were being translated, Saint John’s holy relics healed many sick and demon-possessed people.

In the 10th century, during the time of Catholicos Clement (908-923), a church in honor of Saint John the Baptist was built on the south side of Saint John’s cave. The holy father’s grave is located near the altar of this church.

The Holy Martyr Abibus of Nekresi was consecrated bishop of Nekresi at the request of Parsman VI, King of Kartli, and Catholicos Evlavios. Filled with holy zeal, Bishop Abibus converted many pagans to the Christian Faith.

In the 6th century the Persians forced many Georgians to deny Christ and worship fire in accordance with their own custom. When Saint Abibus poured water on their altar of sacrifice to extinguish the “holy fire,” the enraged Persians beat him cruelly, then stoned him to death.

By order of the marzban (Persian viceroy), the holy relics of Martyr Abibus remained for three days under the open sky. But to the marzban’s great amazement, neither beast nor bird would touch them.

On the fourth night, monks from Rechi Monastery arrived and translated the holy relics to Samtavisi Monastery for proper burial. Later, by order of Stepanoz (600-619), the rightful ruler of Kartli, the holy relics of Saint Abibus were translated again, to Samtavro Monastery in Mtskheta, and buried in the sanctuary under the altar table.

Saint Anthony of Martqopi always carried with him an icon of the Savior “Not-Made-By-Hands” which he had brought from Edessa in Asia Minor.

A lover of solitude, Saint Anthony settled in Lonoati Gorge, but the many curious Christians, drawn by his prayers and miracles, disturbed his seclusion. So the holy father built a monastery for his faithful followers, withdrew in reclusion beyond the Alazani River, and later settled on Akriani Mountain. In his new hermitage, he ate mostly plants and the bark of trees, and God sent a bear to bring him food. Later Saint Anthony erected a pillar at the top of the mountain and dwelt upon it for eighteen years.

The venerable father received a sign from God when his death was imminent, and at the moment of his repose he was kneeling in prayer before the icon of the Savior. His disciples carried his holy relics down from the pillar and buried them in the monastery he had founded, in front of the icon of the Mother of God.

Saint David of Gareji first settled in the outskirts of Tbilisi, the new capital of Georgia. Through his wondrous preaching, Saint David converted many fire-worshippers and brought people of many creeds to the Christian Faith.

One day the fire-worshippers took revenge: they bribed a pregnant woman to agree to their scheme and accuse Saint David of adultery. But the wonderworker Saint David touched his staff to the woman’s womb and said, “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I command you, infant, tell us who your real father is!” The infant uttered the name of his true father from inside his mother’s womb. The crowd of bystanders was outraged and began to stone the pagan slanderers.

Deeply disturbed by the rioting and unable to stop the bloodshed, Saint David departed with his disciple Lukiane.

Saints David and Lukiane settled in the Gareji Wilderness in southeastern Georgia. The Lord provided them with food in abundance: every day, except Wednesdays and Fridays, a herd of deer came to visit them. Lukiane milked the animals, and when David made the sign of the Cross over the milk, it was miraculously transformed into cheese.

News of the wonders performed by the holy fathers spread quickly, and soon the Gareji Wilderness became a refuge for the many Christians who hungered to lead a true ascetic life.

After some time a pious monk called Dodo came from Ninotsminda, a village in eastern Georgia, and, having received a blessing from his spiritual father, established the Monastery of the Most Holy Theotokos on the eastern side of the Gareji mountains. Since that time the eastern range has been called “Dodo’s Range.”

Saint David went to Jerusalem on pilgrimage, but when he arrived there, he suddenly judged himself unworthy and dared not enter the gates of the city. He prayed fervently before the city gates, then, in his profound humility, chose three stones to take with him as treasures and departed. That same night an angel appeared to Patriarch Elias of Jerusalem and told him that a monk named David, who had arrived from Georgia, was taking away all the grace of the Holy Land. The patriarch’s messengers found Saint David and seized from him two of the stones. The third stone he carried back to Gareji Monastery.

Having served the Lord his whole life, through much suffering and many tribulations, the God-pleasing Saint David reposed peacefully and was buried at David-Gareji Monastery.

Saint Jesse of Tsilkani was consecrated bishop of Tsilkani by Catholicos Evlavios, at the suggestion of Saint John of Zedazeni. The holy father preached to many crowds and converted many unbelievers. Before long, many followers had gathered around him. Saint Jesse, like Saint John’s other disciples, was endowed with the ability to work miracles.

Once Saint John decided to test the faith of his disciples, and he required each of them to perform a miracle. When it was Saint Isidore’s turn, he descended to the Ksani River, crossed over it, then touched his staff to the water and cried out, “In the name of the Lord, I command you to follow me!” Immediately the river began to flow in the opposite direction, and it followed every move of the venerable father’s staff. Saint Isidore led the river to Tsilkani Monastery.

Having witnessed this miracle, many people were converted to the true Faith.

Saint Isidore received a sign from heaven when his repose was near. He partook of the Holy Gifts and prayerfully gave up his soul to God. Saint Isidore is buried in the Tsilkani Church of the Most Holy Theotokos.

Saint Joseph of Alaverdi always carried with him a cross that had been formed from the wood of the Life-giving Cross of our Savior. With the blessing of his teacher, Saint Joseph preached the Gospel of Christ throughout the region of Kartli in eastern Georgia and later settled in the Alaverdi wilderness.

Once Saint Joseph encountered a pagan nobleman and preached to him the Word of God. Deeply inspired by Fr. Joseph’s grace-filled preaching, the nobleman founded a monastery in Alaverdi. Villagers from the surrounding region heard about the holy father’s great spiritual feats, and many of them left the world to labor with him. The number of ascetics in the region began to increase steadily from that time.

When his long and labor-filled life was drawing to an end, Saint Joseph appointed a new abbot for the monastery and reposed peacefully in the Lord. To this day many miracles have taken place over his grave at Alaverdi Monastery.

From his youth Saint Shio of Mgvime (of the cave) was a disciple of Saint John of Zedazeni, and he followed him to Georgia. Saint Shio settled in Sarkineti, a region northwest of Mtskheta. The Most Holy Theotokos blessed the monk, and he carried out his labors in accordance with her revelations.

A dove would bring food to the blessed father, and Saint Evagre (at that time the ruler of Tsikhedidi) witnessed this miracle one day while hunting in the area. Deeply inspired by his unceasing labors, the prince left the world to become Saint Shio’s disciple. It was not long before Saint Shio’s wilderness was filled with people who longed for the ascetic life. Saint Shio founded a monastery in Sarkineti, gathered nearly two thousand monks to labor there with him, and instructed them in a strict ascetic life.

Having performed countless miracles, Saint Shio finally vowed to God that he would spend the remainder of his life in a well that he had dug for himself. He appointed Evagre abbot of the monastery and went into reclusion at the bottom of the well. There he spent fifteen years and reposed peacefully in the Lord. Saint Shio’s holy relics are buried in that well, and to this day many miracles have taken place over his grave.

Saint Pyrrhus of Breti, called the “Divine Image of Repentance,” founded a monastery in Breti, on the bank of the Jvaristsqali River. His holy relics are buried in the church at that monastery.

Saint Isidore of Samtavisi preached the Christian Faith in Kartli for many years, in accordance with his teacher’s instruction. On the eastern bank of the Rekhula River, he founded Samtavisi Monastery of the Icon of the Savior “Not-Made-By-Hands.” He reposed and was buried at that monastery.

Saint Thaddeus of Stepantsminda first preached in Mtskheta, and later he founded a monastery at the foot of Zedazeni Mountain. After Saint John’s repose, Saint Thaddeus continued to preach throughout Kartli and erected many new churches. Among them, the Church of the Protomartyr Stephen in Urbnisi is a glorious example. Near the end of his life Saint Thaddeus withdrew to a cave at Tsleva Mountain not far from the city of Kaspi. He reposed peacefully and is buried in that place.

Saint Stephen of Khirsa and his companions preached throughout the region of Kakheti in eastern Georgia. Later Saint Stephen founded Khirsa Monastery near Kharnabuji Castle. He is buried in the sanctuary of the Church of the Protomartyr Stephen at Khirsa.

Saint Zenon of Iqalto preached the Christian Faith in northern Kakheti and founded Iqalto Monastery. He reposed peacefully, after accomplishing many good works on behalf of the true Faith. Saint Zenon is buried at Iqalto in the Church of the Icon of the Savior “Not-Made-By-Hands.”

Saint Michael of Ulumbo preached the Christian Faith in northern Kartli and Ossetia. He founded a monastery in the Ulumbo area (named after Mt. Olympus, a center of monasticism in Bythinia, Asia Minor), where his wonderworking relics were later buried.

Many Georgian children have been raised at the monasteries founded by the Thirteen Syrian Fathers. For centuries the Divine grace of the holy ascetics has spread among the Georgian people and throughout their land.

These monasteries and the holy fathers who founded them continue to protect the Georgian people against all manner of sin and unbelief.

Venerable Nilus the Myrrhgusher of Lavra of Mount Athos

Today we commemorate the uncovering of the relics of Saint Nilus in 1815.

On his deathbed, Saint Nilus told his disciples to bury his body in a small cave beneath the cave where he lived, sternly forbidding anyone to disturb his body. Although the saint did not seek human glory during his life or after his death, the Lord glorified him in the following way. From his grave, a fragrant myrrh began to flow through a small opening in the cave and down the side of the cliff into the sea. Soon this miracle became widely known, and ships would come to collect the myrrh. The myrrh had curative properties, and many people were healed of their illnesses.

Once, two monks came to the cave and tried to find the relics of Saint Nilus. While they were digging, a large rock fell from above, crushing the foot of one monk. Unable to help his companion, the other monk went to get a mule and someone to help him carry the injured brother from that place.

As he lay there in agony, the monk saw Saint Nilus before him. He asked the monk what was the matter. The monk explained what they intended to do and how he had been injured. The saint said, “How dare you, poor man, attempt something so dangerous without the saint’s express wish? Take care in future that you do not attempt a task beyond your ability, and without the will of God.”

Saint Nilus touched the monk’s leg, and he was made well. With great joy he started back to his cell. On the way, he met his companion who was leading a mule. The monk who was healed told the other how he had been healed by Saint Nilus. Then they both glorified God and Saint Nilus. After this, no one dared to disturb the saint’s relics.

In 1815, a certain monk called “Prisoner” was troubled by a demon, and he also had a hernia. Saint Nilus appeared to him several times and healed him. The saint predicted the Greek Revolution (1821), and many dangers which the Holy Mountain would face from the Turks. Then Saint Nilus told him he wanted a path made to his cave so that monks could go there to pray. He also wanted the Liturgy to be served in the cave church he himself had built.

When the Fathers heard this, they wished to build a new church in honor of Saint Nilus. As they were digging the foundation, they found the saint’s grave. From his relics an ineffable fragrance came forth. This took place on May 7, 1815.

Then the monks informed the Fathers of the Great Lavra of their discovery. They came and transferred the relics to the Lavra, leaving only a portion of the saint’s jaw at the cave to be venerated by those who came there.

See November 12 for the Life of Saint Nilus.

Monastic Martyr Pachomius of Mount Athos

The holy New Martyr Pachomius was from Little Russia, and was captured by Moslem Tatars who made him a slave. He was taken to Usaki, near the ancient city of Philadelphia in Asia Minor, where he was sold to a Moslem tanner.

While teaching Pachomius his occupation, the tanner also tried to instruct the young man in the Islamic religion and convert him. Although Pachomius was eager to learn his new master’s trade, he had no desire to become a Moslem. Since he would not deny Christ, he was sometimes beaten and denied food.

This faithful warrior of Christ lived for twenty-seven years as a slave, working for his master in the tannery. The tanner was so pleased by the work of his servant that he offered to give him his own daughter in marriage and make him his heir, even though the righteous one would not convert to Islam. Since he would have to become a Moslem in order to marry the tanner’s daughter and to inherit anything from him, Pachomius declined the offer. Impressed by the principled stand of his servant, the tanner freed the Saint and told him that he could go wherever he wished.

Saint Pachomius became ill just before he was to leave his master. Some Moslems spread the rumor that he had already denied Christ and accepted their religion. Due to his illness they did not circumcise him, but dressed him in green clothing such as Moslems wear. Christians were not permitted to wear green. When he recovered Pachomius traveled to Smyrna and became a merchant.

After some time had passed, the saint discarded his Moslem clothes and went to Saint Paul’s Monastery on Mount Athos. There he met Hieromonk Joseph, confessed the secrets of his heart to him, and told him he wished to become a monk. He lived with Elder Joseph for the next twelve years living the monastic life, and acquiring the virtues.

After hearing of Saint Acacius of Kavsokalyvia (April 12), he transferred to that monastery and became a disciple of Elder Acacius. For six years he devoted himself to the life of unceasing prayer, and became the very type and paradigm of a virtuous monk.

Day by day, the desire to become a martyr for Christ grew within him, because he feared that he might have spoken a careless word and denied the Lord when he was sick and not in his right mind. Saint Acacius tried to persuade him not to follow this course, because he thought that this desire might have arisen from Pachomius’s pride.

Saint Acacius did not want to let Pachomius go, and so he decided to test his resolve. For the next year, he imposed various rules and obediences on him, and both of them prayed that God would make His will known to them. They also consulted the most virtuous Fathers on the Holy Mountain, who all agreed that Pachomius should be blessed to leave the monastery and to seek martyrdom. He removed his monastic garb and dressed in the clothes of an ordinary Christian. He did this so that his actions would not lead to reprisals against the Athonite monasteries.

Accompanied by Elder Joseph, Pachomius returned to Usaki, the site of his supposed denial of Christ. Elder Joseph stayed at an inn, while Pachomius went to the home of his former master, and then walked through the marketplace, hoping to be recognized. It did not take long for him to be arrested and brought before the kadi. He was charged with accepting Islam, and then returning to the Christian faith, a “crime” which was punishable by death. His accusers pointed to the saint’s Christian clothing as evidence. “Behold what sort of garments he is wearing,” they shouted.

The kadi told Pachomius that he was not allowed to wear Christian garb, because he had previously denied Christ. He urged Pachomius to go back to being a Moslem, or to be put to death. With resolute courage, Saint Pachomius replied that he abhorred their religion, and that he would never deny the Savior. Furthermore, he declared that he was quite willing to endure any torture, and to die for Christ many times over, if such a thing were possible.

The holy one was thrown into prison, where he was deprived of food, sleep, and also of any sort of comfort. During this time he was sustained only by his trust in the Lord. After three days, he was sentenced to death. The martyr rejoiced, and told the kadi to carry out the sentence without delay.

Bound and dragged to the place of execution, Saint Pachomius was cursed and spat upon by some of the Turks in the crowd, while others urged him to return to Islam. As the holy athlete of Christ knelt for his beheading, even the executioner entreated him to save himself accepting the Moslem religion. Saint Pachomius remained firm in his resolve, and told the executioner to do as he was ordered without delay. The victorious martyr was beheaded on May 7, 1730 (which happened to be the Feast of the Ascension), thereby receiving an incorruptible crown from Christ.

The body of Saint Pachomius remained exposed to the elements for three days, and then the Orthodox were granted permission to bury him. After the burial, the executioner was possessed by demons, and ran through the city, shouting and foaming at the mouth. He died a few days afterward.

Elder Joseph left the inn where he was hiding, and went to the place where the saint’s body was. He spoke to Saint Pachomius as if he were still alive. “My dear Pachomius”, he said, “you have achieved what you desired. Intercede with the Lord for me, and for all who call upon you.”

Father Joseph was troubled at the thought of trying to leave the area without being captured. Saint Pachomius appeared to him in a dream and said, “Do not be afraid, O Elder, for no harm shall come to you.” Trusting in the words of the saint, he left the city and went back to the Holy Mountain without any trouble.

A local Christian woman, who had been suffering from severe headaches for many years, prayed to Saint Pachomius and asked for his help. She placed some of his blood on her head, and she was healed. She wrote to the monks on Mount Athos, asking them to paint an icon of the martyr for her. Since they had known him when he lived there, they remembered how he looked, and were able to paint the icon. The woman received the icon, and reverently honored the memory of Saint Pachomius every year on the anniversary of his martyrdom.

Later, his holy relics were taken to the Monastery of Saint John on the island of Patmos. On January 26, 1953 the Monastery of Saint John gave a piece of the relics of Saint Pachomius to the Monastery of Saint Paul on Mount Athos, where the saint had lived for a time.

Through the prayers of the holy New Martyr Pachomius, may we also be accounted worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Icon of the Mother of God of Zhirovits

The Zhirovits Icon of the Mother of God appeared in the year 1470 in the vicinity of Zhirovits on the Grodnensk frontier. In the forest, belonging to the Orthodox Lithuanian dignitary Alexander Solton, shepherds beheld an extraordinarily bright light, while peering through the branches of a pear tree that stood over a brook at the foot of a hill. The shepherds came closer and saw a radiant icon of the Mother of God on the tree. With reverence, the shepherds took the icon to Alexander Solton. Alexander Solton did not pay any attention to the report of the shepherds, but he took the icon and placed it in a chest.

On the following day Solton had guests, and he wanted to show them what had been found. To his amazement, he did not find the icon in the chest, although he had seen it shortly before this. After a certain time the shepherds again found the icon in the same place, and again they brought it to Alexander Solton. This time, however, he received the icon with great reverence and vowed to build a church in honor of the Most Holy Theotokos at the place of the icon’s discovery. Around the wooden church a settlement soon gathered and a parish was formed.

Around the year 1520 the church was completely burned, despite the efforts of the inhabitants to extinguish the blaze and save the icon. Everyone thought that the icon had been destroyed. However, some peasant children returning from school beheld a miraculous vision. The Virgin, extraordinarily beautiful and radiant, sat upon a stone at the burned church, and in Her hands was the icon which everyone believed had been destroyed. The children did not dare approach Her, but they hastened to tell their relatives and acquaintances about the vision.

Everyone accepted the story about the vision as a divine revelation and they went to the hill with the priest.The Zhirovits Icon of the Mother of God, totally unharmed by the fire, stood on a stone with a burning candle before it. For awhile they placed the icon in the priest’s house, and the stone was fenced in. When they built a stone church, they placed the wonderworking icon there. A men’s monastery later grew up around the church. Its brethren headed the struggle for Orthodoxy against the Unia and Latinism.

In 1609, the monastery was seized by the Uniates and remained in their hands until 1839. During this time the Zhirovits Icon of the Mother of God was venerated by both Uniates and Catholics. In 1839, the monastery was returned to the Orthodox and became the first place where Orthodox services were restored on the West Russian frontier.

During the First World War, they brought the Zhirovits Icon of the Mother of God to Moscow, and at the beginning of the 1920s it was returned to the monastery. At present it is in the Dormition cathedral of the Zhirovits monastery, Minsk diocese, and it is deeply revered for its grace-filled help. The icon was carved in stone and measured 43×56 cm.

Icon of the Mother of God of Lubech

The Lubech Icon of the Mother of God received its name from the city of Lubech, on the outskirts of Chernigov. The icon manifested itself during the eleventh century. The miracles of this icon were described by Saint Demetrius of Rostov. In 1653, when an invasion of the Poles against Lubech was imminent, they sent the icon to Kiev. In 1701 after the restoration, they returned the icon to the Lubech church in honor of the Resurrection of Christ, and an exact copy was left in the cathedral of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) in Kiev.

Saint Akaki Asistavi of Georgia

No information available at this time.

Martyr Quadratus and his companions

No information available at this time.

Daily Readings for Friday, May 06, 2022

2ND FRIDAY AFTER PASCHA

NO FAST

2nd Friday after Pascha, Job the Prophet, Our Holy Father Seraphim the Struggler of Mt. Domvu, Sophia of Kleisoura

ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 5:1-11

In those days, a man named Ananias with his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? Hark, the feet of those that have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and died. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all who heard of these things.

JOHN 5:30-47; 6:1-2

The Lord said to the Jews who came to him: "I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of the Father who sent me. If I bear witness to myself, my testimony is not true; there is another who bears witness to me, and I know that the testimony which he bears to me is true. You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that the testimony which I receive is from man; but I say this that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But the testimony which I have is greater than that of John; for the works which the Father has granted me to accomplish, these very works which I am doing, bear me witness that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness to me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen; and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe him whom he has sent. You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from men. But I know that you have not the love of God within you. I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; it is Moses who accuses you, on whom you set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a multitude followed him, because they saw the signs which he did on those who were diseased.

Righteous Job the Long-Suffering

The righteous Job (whose name means “persecuted”), God’s faithful servant, was the perfect image of every virtue. The son of Zarah and Bossorha (Job 42), Job was a fifth-generation descendent of Abraham. He was a truthful, righteous, patient and pious man who abstained from every evil thing. Job was very rich and blessed by God in all things, as was no other son of Ausis (his country, which lay between Idoumea and Arabia). However, divine condescension permitted him to be tested.

Job lost his children, his wealth, his glory, and every consolation all at once. His entire body became a terrible wound covered with boils. Yet he remained steadfast and patient in the face of his misfortune for seven years, always giving thanks to God.

Later, God restored his former prosperity, and he had twice as much as before. Job lived for 170 years after his misfortune, completing his earthly life in 1350 B.C. at the age of 240. Some authorities say that Job’s afflictions lasted only one year, and that afterwards he lived for 140 years, reaching the age of 210.

Job’s explanations are among the most poetic writings in the Old Testament book which bears his name. It is one of the most edifying portions of Holy Scripture. Job teaches us that we must endure life’s adversities patiently and with trust in God. As Saint Anthony the Great (January 17) says, without temptations, it is impossible for the faithful to be saved.

The Orthodox Church reads the book of Job, the first of the seven wisdom books of the Old Testament, during Holy Week, drawing a parallel between Job and Christ as righteous men who suffered through no fault of their own. God allowed Satan to afflict Job so that his faithfulness would be proven. Christ, the only sinless one, suffered voluntarily for our sins. The Septuagint text of Job 42:17 says that Job “will rise again with those whom the Lord raises up.” This passage is read on Great and Holy Friday, when the composite Gospel at Vespers speaks of the tombs being opened at the moment the Savior died on the Cross, and the bodies of the saints were raised, and they appeared to many after Christ’s Resurrection (Mt.27:52)

Venerable Micah, disciple of Venerable Sergius of Radonezh

Saint Micah of Radonezh was one of the first disciples of Saint Sergius of Radonezh, and lived with him in the same cell, and under his guidance he attained a high degree of spiritual perfection. For his meekness of soul and purity of heart, Saint Micah was permitted to witness the appearance of the Mother of God to his great teacher. Once, after Saint Sergius had completed the morning Rule of prayer, he sat down to rest for awhile; but suddenly he said to his disciple, “Be alert, my child, for we shall have a wondrous visitation.”

Hardly had he uttered these words when a voice was heard, “The All-Pure One draws near.” Suddenly there shone a light brighter than the sun. Saint Micah fell down upon the ground in fear, and lay there as if he were dead. When Saint Sergius lifted up his disciple, he asked, “Tell me, Father, what is the reason for this wondrous vision? My soul has nearly parted from my body from fright.” Saint Sergius then informed his disciple about the appearance of the Most Holy Theotokos.

Saint Micah fell asleep in the Lord in the year 1385.

Saint Micah’s relics rest in a crypt at the Trinity-Sergiev Lavra. On December 10, 1734, over Saint Micah’s tomb, a church was consecrated in honor of the Appearance of the Most Holy Theotokos and the Holy Apostles Peter and John the Theologian to Saint Sergius of Radonezh.

Martyr Barbarus the Soldier, and those with him, in Morea

The Holy Martyrs Barbarus the Soldier, Bacchus, Callimachus and Dionysius lived during the fourth century and served in the army of the emperor Julian the Apostate.

Saint Barbarus was secretly a Christian, and in a war with the Franks he gained victory in single combat against a mighty enemy soldier. For this he received great honor in the army and the acclamation of the emperor, and was given the title of comitus (imperial bodyguard).

After the victory over the Franks, Bacchus wanted to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, and he deferred to Barbarus as the victor, allowing him to have the honor of making the first sacrificial offering.

Saint Barbarus openly confessed himself a Christian and refused to offer the sacrifice. He was subjected to much torture for this, by order of Julian the Apostate. They suspended the saint and tore his body until his insides were falling out. Saint Barbarus called out to the Lord for help, and then an angel of God appeared and healed his wounds, so that not a trace of them remained.

Seeing this miracle, the military commander Bacchus and two soldiers, Callimachus and Dionysius, believed in Christ and repudiated the pagan gods. For this, they were immediately beheaded. They continued to torture Saint Barbarus. They tied him to a wheel and lit a fire under it, and they sprinkled the body of the sufferer with oil. But here also the power of God preserved the holy martyr unharmed. The fire burned many of the torturers, however, killing two. After this they continued to torment the holy Martyr Barbarus for another seven days.

Through miraculous help from on high, the saint remained unharmed. Seeing in this miracle the manifest power of God, many pagans were converted to the true God. Saint Barbarus finally completed his glorious endeavor by being beheaded by the sword in the year 362. The martyr’s body was buried in the city of Methona in the Peloponnesus by the pious Bishop Philikios.

Martyr Barbarus in Thessaly, who was a robber

The Holy Martyr Barbarus, formerly a robber, lived in Greece and for a long time he committed robberies, extortions and murders. But the Lord, Who does not desire the death of a sinner, turned him to repentance. Once, when Barbarus was sitting in a cave and gazing upon his stolen possessions, the grace of God touched his heart. He thought about the inevitability of death, and about the dread Last Judgment. Pondering over the multitude of his wicked deeds, he was distressed in his heart and he decided to make a beginning of repentance, saying, “The Lord did not despise the prayer of the robber hanging beside Him. May He spare me through His ineffable mercy.”

Barbarus left all his treasures behind in the cave and he went to the nearest church. He did not conceal his wicked deeds from the priest, and he asked to be accepted for repentance. The priest gave him a place in his own home, and Saint Barbarus followed him, going about on his hands and knees like a four-legged animal, since he considered himself unworthy to be called a man. In the household of the priest he lived with the cattle, eating with the animals and considering himself more wicked than any creature. Having received absolution from his sins from the priest, Barbarus went into the woods and lived there for twelve years, naked and without clothing, suffering from the cold and heat. His body became dirty and blackened all over.

Finally, Saint Barbarus received a sign from on high that his sins were forgiven, and that he would die a martyr’s death. Once, merchants came to the place where Saint Barbarus labored. In the deep grass before them they saw something moving. Thinking that this was an animal, they shot several arrows from their bows. Coming closer, they were terrified to see that they had mortally wounded a man. Saint Barbarus begged them not to grieve. He told them about himself and he asked that they relate what had happened to the priest at whose house he had once lived.

After this, Saint Barbarus yielded up his spirit to God. The priest, who had accepted the repentance of the former robber, found his body shining with a heavenly light. The priest buried the body of Saint Barbarus at the place where he was killed. Afterwards, a curative myrrh began to issue forth from the grave of the saint, which healed various maladies. His relics are located at the monastery of Kellios in Thessaly, near the city of Larissa.

Translation of the relics of Saint Savva, first Archbishop of Serbia

No information available at this time.

Saint Seraphim of Labodeia

Saint Seraphim, who struggled on Dobou mountain in Lebadeia in central Greece, was born in the village of Zeli in Boeotia in 1527, and his name in the world was Sotiris. He was the son of pious and virtuous parents, who nurtured him with the living water of the Gospel (John 4:10). From the time he was very little, he was inclined toward the study of the Holy Scriptures and toward the ascetic life. At an early age and despite the temporary refusal of his parents to give their blessing, he went to the monastery of the Prophet Elias on Mount Karkaras, where he built a church dedicated to the Savior Christ, and lived a life of asceticism.

The Saint’s reputation spread quickly, and there were frequent visits by his parents, his friends, and other pious believers, who sought him out so that he might counsel and help them. Because of these distractions, he was obliged to abandon his beloved cave, and so he went to the monastery of the Holy Unmercenaries.

He soon left this monastery as well, and went to the Monastery of the Transfiguration of the Savior on Mount Sagmation, between Boeotia and Euboia. There he quickly shone forth as a spiritual star of the first magnitude, and the igumen tonsured him as a monk with the name Seraphim. Later, he was ordained as a deacon and then as a priest.

Shortly afterward, in order to avoid vanity because of his reputation for virtue, St. Seraphim asked for the Igumen’s blessing to live elsewhere. He left the monastery of his repentance and arrived west of Helicon, at Dobou, where he built a church of the Savior, a few cells, and then he called some monks to dwell near him. He struggled there for ten years, teaching the other monks the saving precepts of the monastic life.

Saint Seraphim reposed in a godly manner at the age of 75, on May 6, 1602, on the Feast of Mid-Pentecost, at 6 o’clock in the afternoon, after foreseeing his own death and partaking of the spotless Mysteries. He performed many miracles during his lifetime.

The Saint’s head and a portion of his holy relics are found in the Monastery of Boeotia which is named for him. Another portion of the Saint's holy relics is honored at the Agathonos Monastery at Phthiotis in central Greece.

Daily Readings for Thursday, May 05, 2022

2ND THURSDAY AFTER PASCHA

NO FAST

2nd Thursday after Pascha, Irene the Great Martyr, Neophytos, Gaius, & Caianus the Monk-martyrs, The Righteous Martyr Ephraim the Younger, Euthymios the Wonderworker, Bishop of Madytos

ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 4:23-31

In those days, when the apostles were released they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who didst make the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who by the mouth of our father David, thy servant, didst say by the Holy Spirit, ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things? The kings of the earth set themselves in array, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’- for truly in this city there were gathered together against thy holy servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever thy hand and thy plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness, while thou stretchest out thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of thy holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.

JOHN 5:24-30

The Lord said to the Jews who came to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself, and has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment. I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of the Father who sent me.”

Great Martyr Irene

The holy Great Martyr Irene was born in the city of Magedon in Persia during the fourth century. She was the daughter of Licinius, the pagan ruler of a certain small kingdom, and his wife Licinia, and at birth her parents named her Penelope.

Penelope was very beautiful, and her father kept her isolated in a high tower from the time she was six so that she would not be exposed to Christianity. He also placed thirteen young maidens in the tower with her. An old tutor by the name of Apellian was appointed to give her the best possible education. Apellian was a Christian, and during her lessons, he told the girl about Christ the Savior and taught her about the Christian Faith and Christian virtues.

When Penelope reached adolescence, her parents began to think about her marriage. One night Penelope beheld the following vision: a dove entered the tower with an olive branch in its beak, depositing it on the table. An eagle also flew in carrying a wreath of flowers, and left it on the table. Then a raven flew in through another window and dropped a snake on the table. In the morning Penelope woke up and wondered about the meaning of the things she had seen. She related them to her tutor Apellian and he explained that the dove symbolized her superior education, and that the olive branch represented the grace of God which is received in Baptism. The eagle and the olive branch indicated success in her future life. The snake signified that she would experience suffering and sorrow.

At the end of the conversation Apellian said that the Lord wished to betroth her to Himself and that Penelope would undergo much suffering for her heavenly Bridegroom. After this Penelope refused marriage, was baptized by the priest Timothy, and he named her Irene (peace). She even urged her own parents to become Christians. Shortly after being baptized, she smashed all her father’s idols to pieces.

Since Saint Irene had dedicated herself to Christ, she refused to marry any of the suitors her father had chosen for her. When Licinius learned that his daughter refused to worship the pagan gods, he was furious. He attempted to turn her from Christ by having her tortured. She was tied up and thrown beneath the hooves of wild horses so that they might trample her to death, but the horses remained motionless. Instead of harming the saint, one of the horses charged Licinius, seized his right hand and tore it from his arm. Then it knocked Licinius down and began to trample him to death. This caused a great deal of confusion among the people there but Irene consoled them with the words of Christ: “All things are possible to the one who believes” (Mark 9: 23). And indeed, with wondrous faith, she prayed and through her prayers Licinius rose unharmed in the presence of many eyewitnesses with his hand intact. Then, Licinius and his wife were baptized as Christians, along with almost 3000 others who turned away from the worship of inanimate idols. Licinius abandoned his domain and lived in the tower he had built for his daughter. There he spent the rest of his life in repentance.

Saint Irene lived in the house of her teacher Apellian, and she began to preach Christ among the pagans, leading them to the path of salvation.

When Sedekias (Yesdegerd), the new prefect of the city, heard of the miracles performed by the saint, he summoned Apellian and questioned him about Irene’s manner of life. Apellian replied that Irene, like other Christians, lived in strict temperance, devoting herself to constant prayer and reading holy books. Sedekias summoned the saint to him and urged her to stop preaching about Christ. He also attempted to force her to sacrifice to the idols. Saint Irene staunchly confessed her faith before the prefect, not fearing his wrath, and prepared to undergo suffering for Christ. By order of Sedekias she was thrown into a pit filled with vipers and serpents. The saint spent ten days in the pit and remained unharmed, for an angel of the Lord protected her and brought her food. Sedekias ascribed this miracle to sorcery, and he subjected Saint Irene to many other tortures, but she remained unharmed. Under the influence of her preaching and miracles even more people were converted to Christ, and turned away from the worship of inanimate idols.

Sedekias was deposed by his son Sapor, who persecuted Christians with an even greater zeal than his father had done. Saint Irene went to her home town of Magedon in Persia to meet Sapor and his army, and ask him to end the persecution. When he refused, Saint Irene prayed and his entire army was blinded. She prayed again and they received their sight once more. In spite of this, Sapor refused to recognize the power of God. Because of his insolence, he was struck and killed by a bolt of lightning.

After this, Saint Irene walked into the city and performed many miracles. She returned to the tower built by her father, accompanied by the priest Timothy. Through her teaching, she converted five thousand people to Christ.

Next, the saint went to the city of Callinicus, or Callinicum (possibly on the Euphrates River in Syria). The ruler of that place was King Numerian, the son of Sebastian. When she began to teach about Christ, she was arrested and tortured by the pagan authorities. They enclosed her inside three bronze oxen, one after another, which were heated until they were red-hot. When the Great Martyr was placed within the third ox, it began to walk about, and then it split asunder. Saint Irene emerged from it as if from the fires of hell. This resulted in thousands of souls converting to the faith of Christ.

Sensing the approach of death, Numerian instructed his eparch Babdonus to continue torturing the saint in order to force her to sacrifice to idols. Once again, the tortures were ineffective, and many people turned to Christ.

Christ’s holy martyr then traveled to the city of Constantina, forty miles northeast of Edessa. By 330, the Persian king Sapor II (309-379) had heard of Saint Irene’s great miracles. To prevent her from winning more people to Christ, she was arrested, beheaded, and then buried. However, God sent an angel to raise her up again, and she went into the city of Mesembria. After seeing her alive and hearing her preach, the local king was baptized with many of his subjects.

Wishing to convert even more pagans to Christianity, Saint Irene went to Ephesus, where she taught the people and performed many miracles. The Lord revealed to her that the end of her life was approaching. Then Saint Irene left the city accompanied by six people, including her former teacher Apellian. On the outskirts of the town, she found a new tomb in which no one had ever been buried. After making the Sign of the Cross, she went inside, directing her companions to seal the entrance to the cave with a large stone, which they did. She also told them that that no one should move the stone until four days had passed.

Apellian returned after only two days, and found that the stone had been rolled away and the tomb was empty. There are conflicting accounts about her holy relics being taken to Constantinople and other places, including Patras, Samos, and Patmos. According to the Western Martyrologies, Saint Irene was martyred in Thessaloniki after being thrown into the fire, while according to the Menologion of Emperor Basil II, Saint Irene completed her martyric contest by being beheaded.

Saint Irene led thousands of people to Christ through her preaching, and by her example. The Church continues to honor her memory and to seek her heavenly intercession. She is invoked by those wishing to effect a swift and happy marriage. In Greece, she is also the patron saint of policemen. Saint Irene is also one of the twelve Virgin Martyrs who appeared to Saint Seraphim of Sarov (January 2) and the Diveyevo nun Eupraxia on the Feast of the Annunciation in 1831. By her holy prayers, may the Lord have mercy upon us and save us. Amen.

Uncovering of the relics of Venerable James, Abbot of Zhelezny Bor

Saint James of Zhelezny Bor. Today we celebrate the Uncovering of the Relics of the Kostroma Wonderworker. See his Life under April 11, the day of his repose.

New Martyr Ephraim

The holy New Martyr and wonderworker Ephraim was born in Greece on September 14, 1384. His father died when the saint was young, and his pious mother was left to care for seven children by herself.

When Ephraim reached the age of fourteen, the all-good God directed his steps to a monastery on the mountain of Amoman near Nea Makri in Attica. The monastery was dedicated to the Annunciation and also to Saint Paraskevḗ. Here he took on his shoulders the Cross of Christ, which all His followers must bear (Matt. 16:24). Being enflamed with love for God, Saint Ephraim eagerly placed himself under the monastic discipline. For nearly twenty-seven years he imitated the life of the great Fathers and ascetics of the desert. With divine zeal, he followed Christ and turned away from the attractions of this world. By the grace of God, he purified himself from soul-destroying passions and became an abode of the All-Holy Spirit. He was also found worthy to receive the grace of the priesthood, and served at the altar with great reverence and compunction.

On September 14, 1425, the barbarous Turks launched an invasion by sea, destroying the monastery and and looting the surrounding area. Saint Ephraim was one of the victims of their frenzied hatred. Many of the monks had been tortured and beheaded, but Saint Ephraim remained calm. This infuriated the Turks, so they imprisoned him in order to torture him and force him to deny Christ.

They locked him in a small cell without food or water, and they beat him every day, hoping to convince him to become a Moslem. For several months, he endured horrible torments. When the Turks realized that the saint remained faithful to Christ, they decided to put him to death. On Tuesday May 5, 1426, they led him from his cell. They turned him upside down and tied him to a mulberry tree, then they beat him and mocked him. “Where is your God,” they asked, “and why doesn’t he help you?” The saint did not lose courage, but prayed, “O God, do not listen to the words of these men, but may Thy will be done as Thou hast ordained.”

The barbarians pulled the saint’s beard and tortured him until his strength ebbed. His blood flowed, and his clothes were in tatters. His body was almost naked and covered with many wounds. Still the Hagarenes were not satisfied, but wished to torture him even more. One of them took a flaming stick and plunged it violently into the saint’s navel. His screams were heart-rending, so great was his pain. The blood flowed from his stomach, but the Turks did not stop. They repeated the same painful torments many times. His body writhed, and all his limbs were convulsed. Soon, the saint grew too weak to speak, so he prayed silently asking God to forgive his sins. Blood and saliva ran from his mouth, and the ground was soaked with his blood. Then he lapsed into unconsciousness.

Thinking that he had died, the Turks cut the ropes which bound him to the tree, and the saint’s body fell to the ground. Their rage was still not diminished, so they continued to kick and beat him. After a while, the saint opened his eyes and prayed, “Lord, I give up my spirit to Thee.” About nine o’clock in the morning, the martyr’s soul was separated from his body.

These things remained forgotten for nearly 500 years, hidden in the depths of silence and oblivion until January 3, 1950. By then a women’s monastery had sprung up on the site of the old monastery. Abbess Makaria (+ April 23, 1999) was wandering through the ruins of the monastery, thinking of the martyrs whose bones had been scattered over that ground, and whose blood had watered the tree of Orthodoxy. She realized that this was a holy place, and she prayed that God would permit her to behold one of the Fathers who had lived there.

After some time, she seemed to sense an inner voice telling her to dig in a certain spot. She indicated the place to a workman whom she had hired to make repairs at the old monastery. The man was unwilling to dig there, for he wanted to dig somewhere else. Because the man was so insistent, Mother Makaria let him go where he wished. She prayed that the man would not be able to dig there, and so he struck rock. Although he tried to dig in three or four places, he met with the same results. Finally, he agreed to dig where the abbess had first indicated.

In the ruins of an old cell, he cleared away the rubble and began to dig in an angry manner. The abbess told him to slow down, for she did not want him to damage the body that she expected to find there. He mocked her because she expected to find the relics of a saint. When he reached the depth of six feet, however, he unearthed the head of the man of God. At that moment an ineffable fragrance filled the air. The workman turned pale and was unable to speak. Mother Makaria told him to go and leave her there by herself. She knelt and reverently kissed the body. As she cleared away more earth, she saw the sleeves of the saint’s rasson. The cloth was thick and appeared to have been woven on the loom of an earlier time. She uncovered the rest of the body and began to remove the bones, which appeared to be those of a martyr.

Mother Makaria was still in that holy place when evening fell, so she read the service of Vespers. Suddenly she heard footsteps coming from the grave, moving across the courtyard toward the door of the church. The footsteps were strong and steady, like those of a man of strong character. The nun was afraid to turn around and look, but then she heard a voice say, “How long are you going to leave me here?”

She saw a tall monk with small, round eyes, whose beard reached his chest. In his left hand was a bright light, and he gave a blessing with his right hand. Mother Makaria was filled with joy and her fear disappeared. “Forgive me,” she said, “I will take care of you tomorrow as soon as God makes the day dawn.” The saint disappeared, and the abbess continued to read Vespers.

In the morning after Matins, Mother Makaria cleaned the bones and placed them in a niche in the altar area of the church, lighting a candle before them. That night Saint Ephraim appeared to her in a dream. He thanked her for caring for his relics, then he said, “My name is Saint Ephraim.” From his own lips, she heard the story of his life and martyrdom.

Since Saint Ephraim glorified God in his life and by his death, the Lord granted him the grace of working miracles. Those who venerate his holy relics with faith and love have been healed of all kinds of illnesses and infirmities, and he is quick to answer the prayers of those who call upon him.

Saint Ephraim is also commemorated on January 3.

Icon of the Mother of God “the Inexhaustible Chalice”

The “Inexhaustible Chalice” Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos was revealed in Russia in 1878. A retired soldier from Tula had spent his pension on alcohol, ruining his health. Though he was no longer able to walk, he continued to drink.

One night the holy Elder Barlaam of Serpukhov appeared to him in a dream and told him to go to the Serpukhov Monastery of the Entry of the Most Holy Mother of God into the Temple. “Have a Molieben served before her Icon ‘The Inexhaustible Chalice.’” Since he had no money and could not walk, the man paid no attention to the dream. Then the Elder appeared a second and third time, speaking to him with increasing severity.

Crawling on all fours, the man reached the next village and stayed in the home of an old woman. She rubbed his legs, and he began to feel better. The next day, he resumed his journey with two canes, then with one, until he arrived at the monastery.

He described his dreams to the monks, but none of them had ever heard of “The Inexhaustible Chalice” Icon. Finally, one of them remembered an icon on which a chalice was depicted. On the back of the icon was an inscription, “The Inexhaustible Chalice.” After the Molieben, the peasant returned home restored to health, and cured of his alcoholism.

News of the miracle spread, and many alcoholics and their families came to pray before the Icon. Many of them came back to thank the Mother of God for answering their prayers. Every Sunday in the Serpukhov-Vyotsk monastery a Molieben with an Akathist is served before the Icon for those who are addicted to alcohol.

Venerable Barlaam of Serpukhov

No information available at this time.

Daily Readings for Wednesday, May 04, 2022

2ND WEDNESDAY AFTER PASCHA

NO FAST

2nd Wednesday after Pascha, Pelagia the Nun-martyr of Tarsus, Hilary the Wonderworker, Euthemios, Bishop of Madytos, Athanasios, Bishop of Corinth

ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 4:13-22

In those days, when the Jews saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they wondered; and they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man that had been healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred with one another, saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is manifest to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to any one in this name.” So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people; for all men praised God for what had happened. For the man on whom the sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.

JOHN 5:17-24

The Lord said to the Jews who came to him: "My Father is working still, and I am working." This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but also called God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son, and shows him all that he himself is doing; and greater works than these he will show him, that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

New Martyr Archpriest Vasily Martysz

The holy New Martyr Archpriest Vasily Martysz was born on February 20, 1874 in Tertyn, in the Hrubieszow region of southeastern Poland. His father Alexander was a judge in Molczyce near Pinsk. After his retirement, he was ordained a priest and became rector of a local parish.

EDUCATION

In 1884, at the age of ten, Vasily made a brief trip to New York with his father. His beautiful singing during a church service attracted the attention of Bishop Vladimir. The hierarch prophesied that young Vasily would become a priest, and promised that he would invite him to his diocese in America once he was ordained. After returning to his country, he remembered the bishop’s words, and decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a priest. He began his theological education at the seminary in Chelm, where the rector was Bishop Tikhon (Belavin), the future Patriarch of Moscow.

Immediately after graduating in July 1899, Vasily married Olga Nowik, and was ordained a deacon. On December 10, 1900 he was ordained a priest. That same month he left Breman for America. The young couple expected to be assigned to a parish in New York, but instead he was appointed to a parish in Alaska. Together with the newly-appointed Bishop Tikhon, he began his missionary service in the land of Saint Herman.

AMERICA

Orthodoxy had arrived in Alaska with the coming of the monastic mission from Valaam in 1794. At the start of the twentieth century, climatic and social conditions in this vast territory remained difficult. In his pastoral work, Father Vasily met Russian settlers and indigenous inhabitants of the region, Eskimos and Aleuts. He also encountered gold rush pioneers quite often..

Father Vasily’s first parish was extensive. He was headquartered on Afognak, but he was also responsible for the people on Spruce and Woody Islands near Kodiak. There were several small wooden chapels scattered on these islands. In 1901, as a result of his efforts, the church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Virgin was built at Afognak. Although the village was completely destroyed in the earthquake and tidal wave of 1964, the church building survives to this day.

Because of the long distances and severe climate, Father Vasily’s priestly work was extremely difficult and required many sacrifices. Often he would leave home for several weeks, in order to celebrate the services, to confess, baptize, marry the living, and to bury the dead, while traveling in a specially constructed kayak.

Even when he was at home, Father Vasily had very little time to devote to his dear family. Besides celebrating the services in church and serving the needs of his parishioners, he taught in the parish school and worked in two church homes for the poor. His family bore the arduous conditions, especially the climate, with difficulty. His wife Olga, who had given birth to two daughters, stayed home. The older daughter, Vera, was born at Afognak in 1902. Their second daughter was born two years later, after they had moved to Kodiak.

During his missionary service in Alaska, Father Vasily kept a diary. It has survived to this day as one of the few records of his personal life. Fragments have been translated from Russian and published in Polish.

Because of the severe Alaskan climate, which especially affected Matushka Olga, and out of concern for the education of their children, the Martysz family transferred to the continental United States in 1906. As a farewell statement from Alaska that year, Father Vasily wrote an article for the Russian Orthodox American Messenger, “The Voice from Alaska,” in which he appealed to Orthodox faithful across the USA to support the building of Orthodox churches in Alaska.

The family settled in Osceola Mills in central Pennsylvania. Their first son, Vasily, was born that same year, and their youngest child Helen was born in 1908, soon after they moved to Old Forge, PA. Father Vasily’s work took him to Waterbury, CT, to West Troy, NY, and finally to Canada. He was assigned to Edmonton and then to Vostok, where he became Dean of the provinces of Alberta and Manitoba. In 1910, he celebrated his tenth anniversary in the priesthood. His prolific and loving pastoral activity endeared him to his flock. Church authorities considered him a very effective, devoted and talented priest, while the faithful loved him sincerely, valuing his modesty and kindness.

Despite their comfortable lifestyle and the relatively large Orthodox community they served in western Canada, the couple longed for their homeland. They feared the loss of their ancestral identity and requested permission to return to Poland. After serving nearly twelve years in America, Father Martysz left the New World and returned to Europe in 1912.

RETURN

Initially, Father Vasily and his family lived with relatives in Sosnowiec, where he eventually became rector of the parish and instructor in Religious Education at the local girls’ high school. The peaceful life they enjoyed there lasted barely one year, since the outbreak of the First World war disrupted the lives of thousands. Clergy were considered civil servants who were ordered to evacuate their homes, and move to safety inside Russia. At this critical time, Bishop Vladimir, their Archpastor and friend from Alaska, offered the Martysz family refuge in a small apartment within the Saint Andronicus Monastery in Moscow. From here, Father Vasily commuted daily to the distant parish at Valdai, where he taught religious education classes. When the Bolsheviks seized power, he lost this job and was forced to earn a living unloading railroad cars. His own life was endangered because Red Army soldiers often treated clergy with distinct brutality.

In 1919, at the end of the war, Polish refugees were granted permission to return to their former residences. Father Vasily and his family took this opportunity to return to Sosnowiec. They moved back into their former apartment, which had survived the devastation of the war. They did not remain long, however, for that September Father Vasily was assigned to a position in the newly organized Polish Army, in charge of Orthodox Affairs in the Religious Ministry of the War Department. The whole family relocated to Warsaw. Father Vasily started the wearisome but important work of forming an Orthodox military chaplaincy. In 1921, he was promoted to the rank of colonel, and assumed responsibility as the head of the Orthodox military chaplaincy. At this time, the church elevated him to the rank of Archpriest. Father Vasily served as chief of Orthodox chaplains for the next twenty-five years. Within the Ministry of the Interior, he had his own cabinet, and was directly responsible to the Minister himself.

AUTOCEPHALY

Father Vasily was also a chief advisor and close colleague of Metropolitan George (Jaroszewski) of Warsaw and all Poland. He participated in preparing all the meetings of the Holy Synod, and assisted Metropolitan George in his effort to obtain autocephaly for the Polish Orthodox Church. He accompanied the Metropolitan on the tragic day of February 8, 1923, when he was assassinated. The assassin had also planned to kill Father Vasily as well, but he was captured before he could succeed. Father Vasily remained under police protection for some time, but attended to all the details of the Metropolitan’s funeral, in which the First Regiment of the Szwolezers Regiment participated under orders from Marshal Jozef Pilsudski.

Father Vasily zealously participated in the subsequent process of obtaining autocephaly for the Orthodox Church in Poland, which was granted during the tenure of Metropolitan Dionysius (Walednski) in 1925. Father Vasily became the Metropolitan’s closest advisor and confidant. He often accompanied the Metropolitan and acted as liaison with the Polish Head of State, Marshal Pilsudski. He was often invited to attend cabinet meetings at Belvedere, the Royal Castle, where he regularly signed the guest book on holidays.

In addition to his work as chief military chaplain, Father Vasily devoted much time to organizing pastoral ministry in the Ukrainian internment camps. In February 1921, Father Vasily appointed Father Peter Biton as chaplain for the camp in Aleksandrow Kujawski. He visited the Ukrainian internees himself and helped arrange camp churches. On July 8, 1921, he celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the Ukrainian language for over 5,000 prisoners, while visiting this camp. His sermon, delivered in Ukrainian, greatly improved their morale. He also assisted in organizing chaplains’ training courses in other Ukrainian army camps.

The Polish Secretary of the Army, Lucjan Zeligowski sent a congratulatory letter to Father Vasily on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of his ordination, December 7, 1925, stating “The virtues of this remarkably talented, conscientious and diligent servant, completely devoted to the Polish nation, expressed in his receiving a high distinction, the Order of Polonia Restituta, which is conferred upon him for his efforts in securing the Autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in Poland.”

Father Vasily retired from his government position in 1936. The couple decided to leave Warsaw and return to their home region, Hrubieszowszczna. They built two houses in Teratyn, one for themselves and another for their widowed mothers. They did not enjoy this peaceful life for very long, because in 1939 the German Army invaded Poland. The village gradually declined. Both of their mothers died. Matushka herself did not live to see the end of the war, but died in 1943. Then Father Vasily’s youngest daughter, Helen, moved into his house with her husband and daughter in order to support him.

Father Martysz spent the difficult war years in Teratyn. On May 4, 1945 (Great and Holy Friday), a few days before the surrender of Nazi Germany, his house was attacked. A female acquaintance warned him of the danger, but he replied, “I have done no harm to anyone and I will not run away from anyone. Christ did not run away.” Father Vasily did not fear and did not flee from his tormentors. He faced them bravely, in a Christ-like way, accepting the crown of martyrdom. The villains, seeking gold and money, had no respect for his uniform as a colonel in the Polish Army, nor for his priestly vestments.

MARTYRDOM

The bandits broke into the house by breaking a window. With callous cruelty they tortured Father Vasily though his only crime was that he was an Orthodox priest. They beat his pregnant daughter Helen, causing her to miscarry. They beat Father Vasily for four hours, reviving him by throwing water on him when he lost consciousness. Horribly tortured, he was finally murdered by a gun shot. The criminals threatened to shoot Helen as well, When she knelt before the icon of Christ and began to pray, the executioner’s aim and resolve weakened. They left, threatening to return and kill her as well.

On Great and Holy Saturday, Father John Lewczuk celebrated the burial rites for Father Vasily in Chelm. He was buried at the local cemetery in Teratyn.

In October 1963, the earthly remains of Father Vasily Martysz were brought to Warsaw and solemnly reinterred in the Orthodox cemetery in the Wola district, next to his wife and mother-in-law. At the beginning of 2003, his holy relics were uncovered and placed in the church of Saint John Climacus in Warsaw. The Holy Synod of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Poland promulgated the official Act of Canonization on March 20, 2003, and the rites glorifying Saint Vasily Martysz were celebrated in Chelm on June 7-8.

Orthodox Christians in the Polish Army have taken Saint Vasily Martysz as their heavenly patron. The martyrdom of Saint Vasily was the crowning accomplishment of his pious and dedicated life, a testimony to his amazing courage. He carried his cross to the end without complaint, accepting the crown of martyrdom as he had dedicated his life to Christ and the Holy Orthodox Faith.

Written by Jaroslaw Charkiewicz

Virgin Martyr Pelagia of Tarsus, in Asia Minor

Saint Pelagia of Tarsus in Cilicia (southeastern Asia Minor) lived in the third century, during the reign of Diocletian (284-305), and was the daughter of illustrious pagans. When she heard about Jesus Christ from her Christian friends, she believed in Him and desired to preserve her virginity, dedicating her whole life to the Lord.

Emperor Diocletian’s heir (a boy he adopted), saw the maiden Pelagia, was captivated by her beauty and wanted her to be his wife. The holy virgin told the youth that she was betrothed to Christ the Immortal Bridegroom, and had renounced earthly marriage.

Pelagia’s reply greatly angered the young man, but he decided to leave her in peace for awhile, hoping that she would change her mind. At the same time, Pelagia convinced her mother to let her visit the nurse who had raised her in childhood. She secretly hoped to find Bishop Linus of Tarsus, who had fled to a mountain during a persecution against Christians, and to be baptized by him. She had seen the face of Bishop Linus in a dream, which made a profound impression upon her. The holy bishop told her to be baptized. Saint Pelagia traveled in a chariot to visit her nurse, dressed in rich clothes and accompanied by a whole retinue of servants, as her mother wished.

Along the way Saint Pelagia, by the grace of God, met Bishop Linus. Pelagia immediately recognized the bishop who had appeared to her in the dream. She fell at his feet, requesting Baptism. At the bishop’s prayer a spring of water flowed from the ground.

Bishop Linus made the Sign of the Cross over Saint Pelagia, and during the Mystery of Baptism, angels appeared and covered the chosen one of God with a bright mantle. After giving the pious virgin Holy Communion, Bishop Linus offered a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord with her, and then sent her to continue her journey. She then exchanged her expensive clothing for a simple white garment, and distributed her possessions to the poor. Returning to her servants, Saint Pelagia told them about Christ, and many of them were converted and believed.

She tried to convert her own mother to Christ, but the obdurate woman sent a message to Diocletian’s son that Pelagia was a Christian and did not wish to be his wife. The youth realized that Pelagia was lost to him, and he fell upon his sword in his despair. Pelagia’s mother feared the emperor’s wrath, so she tied her daughter up and led her to Diocletian’s court as a Christian who was also responsible for the death of the heir to the throne. The emperor was captivated by the unusual beauty of the virgin and tried to turn her from her faith in Christ, promising her every earthly blessing if she would become his wife.

The holy virgin refused the emperor’s offer with contempt and said, “You are insane, Emperor, saying such things to me. I will not do your bidding, and I loathe your vile marriage, since I have Christ, the King of Heaven, as my Bridegroom. I do not desire your worldly crowns which last only a short while. The Lord in His heavenly Kingdom has prepared three imperishable crowns for me. The first is for faith, since I have believed in the true God with all my heart; the second is for purity, because I have dedicated my virginity to Him; the third is for martyrdom, since I want to accept every suffering for Him and offer up my soul because of my love for Him.”

Diocletian sentenced Pelagia to be burned in a red-hot bronze bull. Not permitting the executioners to touch her body, the holy martyr signed herself with the Sign of the Cross, and went into the brazen bull and her flesh melted like myrrh, filling the whole city with fragrance. Saint Pelagia’s bones remained unharmed and were removed by the pagans to a place outside the city. Four lions then came out of the wilderness and sat around the bones letting neither bird nor wild beast get at them. The lions protected the relics of the saint until Bishop Linus came to that place. He gathered them up and buried them with honor. Later, a church was built over her holy relics.

The Service to the holy Virgin Martyr Pelagia of Tarsus says that she was “deemed worthy of most strange and divine visions.” She is also commemorated on October 7.

During the reign of Emperor Constantine (306-337), when the persecutions against Christians had stopped, a church was built at Saint Pelagia’s burial place.

Venerable Alphan, with his brothers, of Novgorod, founders of the Sokolnitzky Monastery

The Alfanov Brothers Saints Nikḗtas, Cyril, Nikēphóros, Clement, and Isaac lived during the fourteenth century at Novgorod. They led a righteous life and founded the Sokolnitsky monastery. As the chronicles relate, “A wooden church dedicated to Saint Nicholas was built on the Sokol hill and a monastery was founded” in 1389.

The righteous Alfanov (Sokolnitskyie) brothers were kinsmen according to the chronicler James Anphalov [or Alfanov], who fled to the Dvina to avoid pursuit because of his dealings with Moscow.

The righteous ones were subjected to misfortune because they were related to James, and they purified themselves through their innocent suffering. In the Tale of the brothers, a miracle took place at their relics.

Their memory is celebrated on May 4 and June 17. As the result of a fire which destroyed the Sokolnitsky monastery, their holy relics were transferred to the Antoniev monastery on May 4, 1775.

Holy Confessor Erasmus, Bishop of Formia in Campania

Saint Erasmus zealously served the Lord from his youth. In his mature years he was consecrated as Bishop of Formium, Italy. During the persecution against Christians under the emperors Diocletian (284-305) and Maximian Hercules (284-305), Saint Erasmus left his diocese and went to Mount Libanus, where he hid for seven years. Once, however, an angel appeared to him and said, “Erasmus! No one vanquishes enemies if he is asleep. Go to your own city, and you shall vanquish your enemies.” Heeding the voice of the angel, Saint Erasmus left his seclusion.

The first ones who asked him about his faith were soldiers who met him along the way. Saint Erasmus confessed himself a Christian. They brought him to trial at Antioch before the emperor Diocletian. The saint fearlessly confessed his faith in Christ and denounced the emperor for his impiety.

Saint Erasmus was subjected to fearsome tortures, but remained unbending. After the tortures the saint was bound in iron chains and thrown into prison, where an angel appeared in miraculous form, saying, “Follow after me, I will lead you to Italy. There you shall bring many people to salvation.” Saint Erasmus preached boldly to the people about Christ and raised up the son of an illustrious citizen of Lycia.

After this miracle at Lycia 10,000 men were baptized. The emperor of the Western half of the Roman Empire, Maximian Hercules, gave orders to seize the saint and bring him to trial. Saint Erasmus also confessed his faith before this emperor. They beat him and threatened him with crucifixion if he did not renounce Christ. They forced him to go to a temple of the idol, but along the saint’s route all the idols fell and were destroyed, and from the temple there came fire which fell upon many of the pagans.

After being set free, Saint Erasmus baptized many pagans, and later went to the city of Sirmium, where he was seized and subjected to torture. They seated him in a red-hot oven, but he remained alive and unharmed. This miracle amazed so many people that the emperor, fearing civil unrest, retired into his own chambers. The angel freed Saint Erasmus from his fetters and took him to the city of Formium, i.e. to his own diocese, where the saint baptized many more people. The saint died there in 303. Christians buried the relics of the holy confessor with honor.

Hieromartyr Albian, Bishop of Anaea in Asia Minor

Saint Albian was bishop of the city of Aneium in the Aseian district, and suffered for Christ about the year 304 in a persecution against Christians under the emperor Diocletian and his co-ruler Maximian. Saint Albian was ordered to offer sacrifice to idols under the threat of death, but he confessed his faith in Christ and refused to serve idols. They tortured him with red-hot irons and beat him mercilessly, but he remained unyielding.

They tortured his disciple with him, and he also remained faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ. Both holy martyrs were sentenced to death and thrown into a red-hot oven, in which they died, receiving the crowns of martyrdom.

Hieromartyr Silvanus, Bishop of Gaza, and 40 Martyrs with him

Saint Silvanus came from the vicinity of the city of Gaza, and was a soldier. Desiring to serve the heavenly King, he became a priest, and was consecrated Bishop of Gaza. Saint Silvanus converted many pagans to Christ. During the persecution against Christians under the emperor Diocletian he was taken for trial to the city of Caesarea. He underwent torture and bravely endured it, and was then sentenced to harsh labor in the copper mines.

The holy bishop was exhausted by this work, but remained cheerful of spirit. He incessantly preached Christ to all those around him. This angered the pagans, who beheaded him.

Forty holy martyrs, who believed in Christ after hearing the words of the bishop, were also martyred with him. Their death followed in the year 311.

Venerable Nikēphóros of Mount Athos

Saint Nikēphóros was the teacher of Saint Gregory Palamas (November 14). He grew up as a Roman Catholic, but he journeyed to the Byzantine Empire and became Orthodox. Saint Nikēphóros lived as an ascetic on Mount Athos, and died before the year 1300. His treatise “On Watchfulness and the Guarding of the Heart” is found in the fourth volume of the English Philokalia.

“Staro Rus” Old Russian Icon of the Mother of God

The Staro Rus (Old Russian) Icon of the Mother of God was so named because for a long time it was in Staro Rus, where it had been brought by the Greeks from Olviopolis during the very first period of Christianity in Russia. The icon was in Staro Rus until the seventeenth century. In 1655 during a plague it was revealed to a certain inhabitant of the city of Tikhvin that the pestilence would cease if the wonderworking Staro Rus Icon were transferred there, and the Tikhvin Icon sent to Staro Rus.

After the transfer of the icons the plague ceased, but the people of Tikhvin did not return the icon and only in the eighteenth century did they give permission to make a copy of the Staro Rus Icon, which on May 4, 1768 was sent to Stara Russa. A feast was established in honor of this event. On September 17, 1888 the original was also returned to Staro Rus and a second Feast day established.

Saint Monica

Saint Monica, the mother of Saint Augustine of Hippo (June 15), was born in 322 in Tagaste, North Africa. Her parents were Christians, but little is known of her early life. Most of our information about her comes from Book IX of her son’s Confessions.

Saint Monica was married to a pagan official named Patritius, who had a short temper and lived an immoral life. At first, her mother-in-law did not like her, but Monica won her over by her gentle disposition.

Saint Monica and Patritius had three children: Saint Augustine, Navigius and Perpetua. It was a source of great sorrow to her that Patritius would not permit them to be baptized. She worried about Augustine, who lived with a young woman in Carthage and had an illegitimate son with her. Her constant prayers and tears for her son had the effect of converting her husband to Christ before his death. Augustine, however, continued on the path that led away from Christ.

While in Carthage, Augustine fell under the influence of the heretical Manichean sect. His mother was horrified and tried to turn him away from his error. She had a dream in which she was told to be patient and gentle with her son. Augustine, however, paid little attention to her arguments, and remained in his delusion for nine years. Saint Monica must have felt disheartened and disappointed, but she never gave up on him. She even tried to enlist the help of a bishop who had once been a Manichean himself, but he would not dispute with Augustine. He said he couldn’t reason with the young man, because he was still attracted by the novelty of the heresy. He did reassure her saying, “Go on your way, and God bless you, for it is not possible that the son of these tears should be lost.”

Saint Monica went to Rome with Augustine when he lectured there in 383. Later, he received an appointment to Milan, where he met Saint Ambrose (December 7) and was greatly impressed by his preaching. Bishop Ambrose came to have a high regard for Saint Monica, and often congratulated Augustine on having such a virtuous mother.

One day Augustine was reading the New Testament in a garden, and came to Romans 13:12-14. There and then Augustine decided to “cast off the works of darkness,” and to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” He was baptized on the eve of Pascha in 387.

After his baptism, Augustine and his mother planned to return to Africa. They stopped to rest in Ostia, where Saint Monica fell asleep in the Lord at the age of fifty-six. She was buried at Ostia, and her holy relics were transferred to the crypt of a church in the sixth century. Nine centuries later, Saint Monica’s relics were translated to Rome.

In the West, Saint Monica is considered the patron saint of wives and mothers whose husbands or sons have gone astray.

Daily Readings for Tuesday, May 03, 2022

2ND TUESDAY AFTER PASCHA

NO FAST

2nd Tuesday after Pascha, The Holy Martyrs Timothy and Maura, Peter the Wonderworker, Theophan, Bishop of Peritheorion, Xenia of Kalamata the Great Martyr, Father Theodosius, Abbot of Kiev Caves Lavra, Ahmet the Calligrapher & Martyr, Oikoumenios the Wonderworker, Bishop of Trikka

ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 4:1-10

In those days, while the apostles were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the morrow, for it was already evening. But many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to about five thousand.
On the morrow their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, "By what power or by what name did you do this?" Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a cripple, by what means this man has been healed, be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man is standing before you well.

JOHN 3:16-21

The Lord said to his disciples: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.”

Day of Rejoicing

On Tuesday of Saint Thomas week we remember those Orthodox Christians from all ages who have died in faith, and in the hope of resurrection.

There are indications of this commemoration in the sermons of the Fathers of the Church. Saint John Chrysostom, for example, mentions it in his homily “On the Cemetery and the Cross.”

In pre-Revolutionary Russia bars remained closed and alcoholic beverages were not sold until this Day of Rejoicing so that the joy people felt would be because of the Resurrection, and not an artificial joy brought on by alcohol.

Today the Church remembers its faithful members at Liturgy, and koliva is offered in remembrance of those who have fallen asleep. Priests visit cemeteries to bless the graves of Orthodox Christians, and to share the paschal joy with the departed. It is also customary to give alms to the poor on this day.

Martyr Timothy the Reader and his wife, Maura, in Egypt

Saints Timothy and Maura suffered for the faith during the persecution under the emperor Diocletian (284-305). Saint Timothy came from the village of Perapa (Egyptian Thebaid), and was the son of a priest named Pikolpossos. He was made a reader among the church clergy, and also a keeper and copyist of divine service books. Saint Timothy was denounced as a keeper of Christian books, which the emperor ordered to be confiscated and burned. They brought Saint Timothy before the governor Arian, who demanded that he hand over the sacred books. They subjected the saint to horrible tortures for his refusal to obey the command. They shoved two red-hot iron rods into his ears, from which the sufferer lost his eyesight and became blind.

Saint Timothy bravely endured the pain and he gave thanks to God, for granting him to suffer for Him. The torturers hung the saint head downwards, putting a piece of wood in his mouth, and they tied a heavy stone to his neck. Saint Timothy’s suffering was so extreme, that even those who tortured him implored the governor to ease up on the torture.

About this time they informed Arian that Timothy had a young wife named Maura, whom he had married only twenty days before. Arian ordered Maura to be brought, hoping that with her present, they could break Saint Timothy’s will. Saint Timothy urged his wife not to fear the tortures, but to follow his path. Saint Maura answered, “I am prepared to die with you,” and she boldly confessed herself a Christian. Arian commanded that the hair be torn from her head, and to cut the fingers off her hands.

Saint Maura underwent the torment with joy and even thanked the governor for the torture, which she endured so that her sins might be forgiven. Then Arian gave orders to throw Saint Maura into a boiling cauldron, but she did not feel any pain, and she remained unharmed. Suspecting that the servants had filled the cauldron with cold water out of sympathy for the martyr, Arian went up and ordered the saint to splash him on the hand with water from the cauldron. When the martyr did this, Arian screamed with pain and drew back his scalded hand. Then, momentarily admitting the power of the miracle, Arian confessed God in Whom Maura believed as the True God, and he ordered her to be released. But the devil still held great power over the governor, and soon he again began to urge Saint Maura to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. Having gotten nowhere, Arian was overcome all the more by a satanic rage and he came up with new tortures. Then the people began to murmur and demand a stop to the abuse of this innocent woman. But Saint Maura, turning to the people, said, “Let no one defend me. I have one Defender, God, in Whom I trust.”

Finally, after torturing them for a long time, Arian ordered the martyrs to be crucified. For ten days they hung on crosses facing each other.

On the tenth day of martyrdom the saints offered up their souls to the Lord. This occurred in the year 286. Later, a solemn celebration of the holy martyrs Timothy and Maura was instituted at Constantinople, and a church was built in their honor.

Venerable Theodosius, Abbot of the Kiev Far Caves Monastery, and Founder of Coenobitic Monasticism in Russia

Saint Theodosius of the Caves, was the Father of monasticism in Russia. He was born at Vasilevo, not far from Kiev. From his youth he felt an irresistible attraction for the ascetic life, and led an ascetic lifestyle while still in his parental home. He disdained childish games and attractions, and constantly went to church. He asked his parents to let him study the holy books, and through his ability and rare zeal, he quickly learned to read the books, so that everyone was amazed at his intellect.

When he was fourteen, he lost his father and remained under the supervision of his mother, a strict and domineering woman who loved her son very much. Many times she chastised her son for his yearning for asceticism, but he remained firmly committed to his path.

At the age of twenty-four, he secretly left his parents’ home and Saint Anthony at the Kiev Caves monastery blessed him to receive monastic tonsure with the name Theodosius. After four years his mother found him and with tearfully begged him to return home, but the saint persuaded her to remain in Kiev and to become a nun in the monastery of Saint Nicholas at the Askold cemetery.

Saint Theodosius toiled at the monastery more than others, and he often took upon himself some of the work of the other brethren. He carried water, chopped wood, ground up the grain, and carried the flour to each monk. On cold nights he uncovered his body and let it serve as food for gnats and mosquitoes. His blood flowed, but the saint occupied himself with handicrafts, and sang Psalms. He came to church before anyone else and, standing in one place, he did not leave it until the end of services. He also listened to the readings with particular attention.

In 1054 Saint Theodosius was ordained a hieromonk, and in 1057 he was chosen igumen. The fame of his deeds attracted a number of monks to the monastery, at which he built a new church and cells, and he introduced cenobitic rule of the Studion monastery, a copy of which he commissioned at Constantinople.

As igumen, Saint Theodosius continued his arduous duties at the monastery. He usually ate only dry bread and cooked greens without oil, and spent his nights in prayer without sleep. The brethren often noticed this, although the saint tried to conceal his efforts from others.

No one saw when Saint Theodosius dozed lightly, and usually he rested while sitting. During Great Lent the saint withdrew into a cave near the monastery, where he struggled unseen by anyone. His attire was a coarse hairshirt worn next to his body. He looked so much like a beggar that it was impossible to recognize in this old man the renowned igumen, deeply respected by all who knew him.

Once, Saint Theodosius was returning from visiting the Great Prince Izyaslav. The coachman, not recognizing him, said gruffly, “You, monk, are always on holiday, but I am constantly at work. Take my place, and let me ride in the carriage.” The holy Elder meekly complied and drove the servant. Seeing how nobles along the way bowed to the monk driving the horses, the servant took fright, but the holy ascetic calmed him, and gave him a meal at the monastery. Trusting in God’s help, the saint did not keep a large supply of food at the monastery, and therefore the brethren were in want of their daily bread. Through his prayers, however, unknown benefactors appeared at the monastery and furnished the necessities for the brethren.

The Great Princes, especially Izyaslav, loved to listen to the spiritual discourses of Saint Theodosius. The saint was not afraid to denounce the mighty of this world. Those unjustly condemned always found a defender in him, and judges would review matters at the request of the igumen. He was particularly concerned for the destitute. He built a special courtyard for them at the monastery where anyone in need could receive food and drink. Sensing the approach of death, Saint Theodosius peacefully fell asleep in the Lord in the year 1074. He was buried in a cave which he dug, where he secluded himself during fasting periods.

The relics of the ascetic were found incorrupt, and he was glorified as a saint in 1108. Of the written works of Saint Theodosius six discourses, two letters to Great Prince Izyaslav, and a prayer for all Christians have survived to our time.

The Life of Saint Theodosius was written by Saint Nestor the Chronicler (October 27), a disciple of the great Abba, only thirty years after his repose, and it was always one of the favorite readings of the Russian nation. Saint Theodosius is also commemorated on September 2 and 28.

Saint Peter the Wonderworker, Bishop of Argos

Saint Peter the Wonderworker, Bishop of Argos in the Peloponnesos, lived during the ninth and early tenth centuries, and was raised by pious parents. Saint Peter’s parents, and later his brothers Paul, Dionysius, Platon and Saint Peter himself, all became monks. Saint Peter zealously devoted himself to monastic labors, and he excelled all his fellows. This came to the attention of the Italian bishop Nicholas (who from 895 was Patriarch of Constantinople), who wanted to elevate him to the rank of bishop. Saint Peter declined, accounting himself unworthy of such honor.

Bishop Nicholas consecrated Paul, Saint Peter’s brother, as Bishop of Corinth, and Saint Peter went to his brother and lived with him, taking upon himself the spiritual struggle of silence. After a year emissaries came to Bishop Paul from the city of Argos, where the bishop had died, and they asked for Saint Peter as their bishop. After long and intense entreaties, Saint Peter finally gave his consent. As bishop, Saint Peter toiled zealously in guiding his flock. He was extraordinarily compassionate, concerning himself with those in need, especially orphans and widows.

The saint fed the hungry in years of crop failure. Through his prayers the food set aside for the hungry never ran out. The saint also ransomed captives, healed the sick and the afflicted, and possessed the gift of insight. The saint predicted the day of his death, and departed to the Lord at the age of seventy. His relics were transferred from Argos to Nauplos in 1421, exuding myrrh, and working miracles and healings.

“Svenskaya” Icon of the Mother of God

The Sven Caves Icon of the Mother of God was painted by Saint Alypius of the Caves (August 17). On the icon the Mother of God is depicted sitting upon a throne, and with the Divine Infant on Her knees. Saint Theodosius is on the right side of the throne, and Saint Anthony of the Caves on the left. Until the year 1288 it was in the Kiev Caves monastery, where it was glorified by miracles. In 1288 it was transferred to the Briansk-Svensk monastery, which is dedicated to the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos.

Prince Roman of Chernigov, then at Briansk, became blind. Hearing about the miracles worked by the icon of Saint Alypius, the prince sent a courier to the monastery requesting that the icon be sent to him at Briansk. They sent a priest with the icon along the River Desna. After the voyage the boat landed on the right bank of the River Svena. After lodging for the night they went to the boat to pray before the icon, but they did not find it there. They saw it on a hill on the opposite bank, resting in the branches of an oak tree. News of this reached Prince Roman, and they led him to the icon on foot.

The prince prayed fervently before the icon and vowed to build a monastery on that spot, donating all the land which could be seen from the hill. After the prayer the prince regained his sight. First he saw the footpath, then nearby objects, and finally all the surroundings.

After making a shrine for the icon, the prince had a Molieben served, and then they laid the foundations for a wooden church in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos. The tree on which the icon rested was cut up and used as wood for other icons. The Feast day of the Sven Icon of the Mother of God was set for May 3. It is also commemorated on August 17 (the day of the repose of Saint Alypius the Iconographer).

The icon was glorified by healings of the blind and of the possessed, and has long been regarded as a protector from enemies.

Translation of the Dormition Icon of the Mother of God from Constantinople to the Kiev Caves, Far Caves

The Kiev Caves Icon of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos is one of the most ancient icons in the Russian Orthodox Church. The Mother of God entrusted it to four Byzantine architects, who in 1073 brought the icon to Saints Anthony and Theodosius of the Caves. The architects arrived at the monks’ cave and asked, “Where do you want to build the church?” The saints answered, “Go, the Lord will point out the place.”

“How is it that you, who are about to die, have still not designated the place?” the architects wondered. “And they gave us much gold.”

Then the monks summoned all the brethren and they began to question the Greeks, saying, “Tell us the truth. Who sent you, and how did you end up here?”

The architects answered, “One day, when each of us was asleep in his own home, handsome youths came to us at sunrise, and said, ‘The Queen summons you to Blachernae.’ We all arrived at the same time and, questioning one another we learned that each of us had heard this command of the Queen, and that the youths had come to each of us. Finally, we beheld the Queen of Heaven with a multitude of warriors. We bowed down to Her, and She said, ‘I want to build Myself a Church in Rus, at Kiev, and so I ask you to do this. Take enough gold for three years.’”

“We bowed down and asked, ‘Lady Queen! You are sending us to a foreign land. To whom are we sent?’ She answered, ‘I send you to the monks Anthony and Theodosius.’”

“We wondered, ‘Why then, Lady, do You give us gold for three years? Tell us that which concerns us, what we shall eat and what we shall drink, and tell us also what You know about it.’”

“The Queen replied, ‘Anthony will merely give the blessing, then depart from this world to eternal repose. The other one, Theodosius, will follow him after two years. Therefore, take enough gold. Moreover, no one can do what I shall do to honor you. I shall give you what eye has not seen, what ear has not heard, and what has not entered into the heart of man (1 Cor.2:9). I, Myself, shall come to look upon the church and I shall dwell within it.’”

“She also gave us relics of the holy martyrs Menignus, Polyeuctus, Leontius, Acacius, Arethas, James, and Theodore, saying, ‘Place these within the foundation.’ We took more than enough gold, and She said, ‘Come out and see the resplendent church.’ We went out and saw a church in the air. Coming inside again, we bowed down and said, ‘Lady Queen, what will be the name of the church?’”

“She answered, ‘I wish to call it by My own name.’ We did not dare to ask what Her name was, but She said again, ‘It will be the church of the Mother of God.’ After giving us this icon, She said, ‘This will be placed within.’ We bowed down to Her and went to our own homes, taking with us the icon we received from the hands of the Queen.”

Having heard this account, all glorified God, and Saint Anthony said, “My children, we never left this place. Those handsome youths summoning you were holy angels, and the Queen in Blachernae was the Most Holy Theotokos. As for those who appeared to be us, and the gold they gave you, the Lord only knows how He deigned to do this with His servants. Blessed be your arrival! You are in good company: the venerable icon of the Lady.” For three days Saint Anthony prayed that the Lord would show him the place for the church.

After the first night there was a dew throughout all the land, but it was dry on the holy spot. On the second morning throughout all the land it was dry, but on the holy spot it was wet with dew. On the third morning, they prayed and blessed the place, and measured the width and length of the church with a golden sash. (This sash had been brought long ago by the Varangian Shimon, who had a vision about the building of a church.) A bolt of lightning, falling from heaven by the prayer of Saint Anthony, indicated that this spot was pleasing to God. So the foundation of the church was laid.

The icon of the Mother of God was glorified by numerous miracles. Two friends, John and Sergius, sealed their friendship before it. After many years John fell mortally ill. He gave part of his wealth to the the Caves monastery, and he gave Sergius the portion for his five-year-old son for safekeeping. He also entrusted his son Zachariah to his guardianship. When Zachariah turned fifteen, he asked for his inheritance, but Sergius persisted in saying that John had distributed everything to the poor. He even went into the Dormition church and swore before the wonderworking icon that he had taken nothing.

When he attempted to kiss the icon, he was not able to come near it. He went to the doors and suddenly shouted, “Saints Anthony and Theodosius! Let me not be struck down for my dishonesty. Entreat the Most Holy Theotokos to drive away the multitude of demons which torment me. Let the gold and silver be taken away. It is sealed up in my granary.” Zachariah gave away all his inheritance to the Caves monastery, where he also himself was tonsured a monk. From that time, no one would take oaths before the wonderworking icon (March 24).

More than once the icon defended the land from enemy invasion. In 1677, when the Turks laid siege to Chigirin and danger threatened Kiev, they carried the icon around the city for almost the entire day of August 27. The Mother of God blessed Russian armies going to the Battle of Poltava (1709). In 1812 they carried the icon around Kiev again. The icon is commemorated twice during the year: May 3 and August 15 .

Saint Mamai, Catholicos of Georgia

Saint Mamai served as chief shepherd of the Georgian faithful from 731 to 744.

The information we have about his life is scarce, but it is known that Saint Mamai was abbot of Zedazeni Monastery and died a martyr for Christ.

Outstanding in his achievements and endowed with profound spiritual wisdom, Saint Mamai was enthroned as Catholicos of Georgia at a time when the catholicos and the Georgian king were frequently the first victims of invading armies.

Saints Michael and Arsenius of Ulompo, Georgia

The biographies of Saints Michael and Arsenius the Georgians have unfortunately not been preserved.

It is believed that at some point Arsenius moved from Khandzta Monastery to Palestine and labored there with a certain Macarius of Leteti. Afterward, Saint Arsenius founded a Georgian monastery on Mt. Olympus in Asia Minor. Twenty years later, Venerable Ilarion the Georgian arrived on Mt. Olympus and found three Georgian monks who were almost certainly disciples of Michael and Arsenius.

It is known that they were contemporaries of Patriarch Sergius of Jerusalem (843-859). The following entry is recorded in the synodicon of Jerusalem’s Holy Cross Monastery: “Our Holy Fathers Michael and Arsenius, founders of Olympus.” The record indicates that Saints Arsenius and Michael established Georgian monasticism on Mt. Olympus.

Located in Bythinia of Asia Minor, southeast of Prousa, Mt. Olympus was an important monastic center from the 5th to the 14th centuries. The monasteries of Olympus came to include the monastic communities on the plain of Prousa. The number of monasteries in the region is numbered at around fifty, their apogee occurring between the 8th and 10th centuries, when Olympus occupied the first place in the list of holy mountains. Monasteries in the region included Atroa, Chenolakkos, Medikion, and Pelekete.

According to Paul Ingorokva, a scholar of the Georgian Middle Ages, Arsenius was probably a disciple of Saint Grigol of Khandzta. Ingorokva calls Arsenius “a handsome gentleman, a kind monk full of wisdom, the son of a great nobleman, and a relative of Saint Ephraim, bishop of Atsquri.”

Saint Ecumenius, Wonderworker of Trikala

No information available at this time.

Holy Great Martyr Xenίa of Kalamata

The Holy Great Martyr Xenίa was born in Kalamata in 291 to devout and God-loving parents, Nicholas and Despina, who were from the eastern part of Italy. Because of the persecution of Christians at that time, they fled to Kalamata in the Peloponnesos, where they had a farm outside the city, because her father was a farmer.

From a young age Saint Xenίa adorned her soul with fasting, temperance, silence, unceasing prayer, tears, vigils, and charity. When Dometian, the eparch of that region, happened to meet the Saint, he was dazzled by her beauty and wanted to make her his wife. Saint Xenίa absolutely refused to change her faith, or to become the wife of an idolater. Then Dometian had her arrested. The Saint was tortured mercilessly and then beheaded in 318. Thus, she entered into the joy of her Lord and received an unfading crown of glory from Christ God.

Father George Nasis, the rector of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in New York City from 1942-1967 was praying one day when a beautiful woman appeared to him. She said her name was Xenίa, a martyr who had been forgotten for almost 1700 years. She asked him to paint an icon, depicting her holding a cross.

At first Father George did not mention this to anyone, thinking that perhaps people would mock him. Then he decided to inform the Archbishop. Researchers tried to find references to Saint Xenίa of Kalamata, but they were not successful. Finally, they found her name in a list of Saints, where she is described as a young woman with blonde hair and blue eyes.

By God's grace, the Saint has worked many miracles after her death.

In 1993, a new parish church of the Holy Trinity was built in the western part of Kalamata, which has a chapel dedicated to Saint Xenia.

Daily Readings for Monday, May 02, 2022

REMOVAL OF THE RELICS OF ST. ATHANASIUS THE GREAT

NO FAST

Removal of the Relics of St. Athanasius the Great, Hesperos & Zoe the Righteous, Boris, King & Enlightener of Bulgaria (Michael in Baptism), Jordan the Wonderworker

ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE HEBREWS 13:7-16

Brethren, remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God; consider the outcome of their lives, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings; for it is well that the heart be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited their adherents. We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go forth to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

MATTHEW 5:14-19

The Lord said to his disciples, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

Saint Matrona of Moscow

No information available at this time.

Saint Athanasius the Great, Patriarch of Alexandria

Saint Athanasius the Great, Archbishop of Alexandria, was a great Father of the Church and a pillar of Orthodoxy. He was born around the year 297 in the city of Alexandria into a family of pious Christians. He received a fine secular education, but he acquired more knowledge by diligent study of the Holy Scripture. In his childhood, the future hierarch Athanasius became known to Saint Alexander the Patriarch of Alexandria (May 29). A group of children, which included Athanasius, were playing at the seashore. The Christian children decided to baptize their pagan playmates.

The young Athanasius, whom the children designated as “bishop”, performed the Baptism, precisely repeating the words he heard in church during this sacrament. Patriarch Alexander observed all this from a window. He then commanded that the children and their parents be brought to him. He conversed with them for a long while, and determined that the Baptism performed by the children was done according to the Church order. He acknowledged the Baptism as real and sealed it with the sacrament of Chrismation. From this moment, the Patriarch looked after the spiritual upbringing of Athanasius and in time brought him into the clergy, at first as a reader, and then he ordained him as a deacon.

It was as a deacon that Saint Athanasius accompanied Patriarch Alexander to the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea in the year 325. At the Council, Saint Athanasius refuted of the heresy of Arius. His speech met with the approval of the Orthodox Fathers of the Council, but the Arians, those openly and those secretly so, came to hate Athanasius and persecuted him for the rest of his life.

After the death of holy Patriarch Alexander, Saint Athanasius was unanimously chosen as his successor in the See of Alexandria. He refused, accounting himself unworthy, but at the insistence of all the Orthodox populace that it was in agreement, he was consecrated bishop when he was twenty-eight, and installed as the archpastor of the Alexandrian Church. Saint Athanasius guided the Church for forty-seven years, and during this time he endured persecution and grief from his antagonists. Several times he was expelled from Alexandria and hid himself from the Arians in desolate places, since they repeatedly tried to kill him. Saint Athanasius spent more than twenty years in exile, returned to his flock, and then was banished again.

There was a time when he remained as the only Orthodox bishop in the area, a moment when all the other bishops had fallen into heresy. At the false councils of Arian bishops he was deposed as bishop. Despite being persecuted for many years, the saint continued to defend the purity of the Orthodox Faith, and he wrote countless letters and tracts against the Arian heresy.

When Julian the Apostate (361-363) began a persecution against Christians, his wrath first fell upon Saint Athanasius, whom he considered a great pillar of Orthodoxy. Julian intended to kill the saint in order to strike Christianity a grievous blow, but he soon perished himself. Mortally wounded by an arrow during a battle, he cried out with despair: “You have conquered, O Galilean.” After Julian’s death, Saint Athanasius guided the Alexandrian Church for seven years and died in 373, at the age of seventy-six.

Numerous works of Saint Athanasius have been preserved; four Orations against the Arian heresy; also an Epistle to Epictetus, bishop of the Church of Corinth, on the divine and human natures in Jesus Christ; four Epistles to Serapion, Bishop of Thmuis, about the Holy Spirit and His equality with the Father and the Son, directed against the heresy of Macedonius.

Other apologetic works of the Saint in defense of Orthodoxy have been preserved, among which is the Letter to the Emperor Constantius. Saint Athanasius wrote commentaries on Holy Scripture, and books of a moral and didactic character, as well as a biography of Saint Anthony the Great (January 17), with whom Saint Athanasius was very close. Saint John Chrysostom advised every Orthodox Christian to read this Life.

The memory of Saint Athanasius is celebrated also on January 18 with Saint Cyril of Alexandria.

Translation of the Relics of the Holy Passionbearers Boris and Gleb (in Baptism Roman and David—1072 and 1115)

The Transfer of the Relics of the Holy Passion-Bearers Boris and Gleb. Saint Boris (July 24) was a brother of the Great Prince of Kiev Yaroslav the Wise (1019-1054), and was baptized with the name Roman. The murdered Prince Boris was buried at the church of Saint Basil the Great at Vyshgorod near Kiev.

Metropolitan John I of Kiev (1008-1035) and his clergy solemnly met the incorrupt relics of the holy passion-bearer Gleb and placed them in the church where the relics of Saint Boris rested. Soon the burial place was glorified by miracles. Then the relics of the holy brothers Boris and Gleb were removed from the ground and placed in a specially constructed chapel. On July 24, 1026 a church of five cupolas built by Yaroslav the Wise was consecrated in honor of the holy martyrs.

In later years, the Vyshgorod Saints Boris and Gleb church containing the relics of the holy Passion-Bearers became the family church of the Yaroslavichi, their sanctuary of brotherly love and service to the nation. The symbol of their unity was the celebration of the Transfer of the Relics of Boris and Gleb, observed on May 2. The history of the establishing of this Feast is bound up with the preceding events of Russian history. On May 2, 1069 the Great Prince Izyaslav, who had been expelled from the princedom for seven months (i.e. from September 1068) because of an uprising of the Kievan people, entered into Kiev. In gratitude for God’s help in establishing peace in the Russian land, the prince built a new church to replace an older structure. Two Metropolitans, George of Kiev and Neophytus of Chernigov, participated in its consecration with other bishops, igumens, and clergy. The transfer of the relics, in which all three of the Yaroslavichi (Izyaslav, Svyatoslav, Vsevolod) participated, was set for May 2, and it was designated as an annual celebration.

Svyatoslav Yaroslavich, Prince of Kiev during 1073-1076, made an effort to transform the Saints Boris and Gleb temple into a stone church, but he was able to build the walls only eight cubits high. Later Vsevolod (+ 1093) finished the church construction, but it collapsed by night.

The veneration of Saints Boris and Gleb developed during the time of Yaroslav’s grandsons, often producing a peculiar pious competition among them. Izyaslav’s son Svyatopolk (+ 1113), built silver reliquaries for the saints. In 1102 Vsevolod’s son Vladimir Monomakh (+ 1125), sent master craftsmen by night and secretly adorned the silver reliquaries with gold leaf. Svyatoslav’s son Oleg (+ 1115) outdid them. He was called “Gorislavich”, and was mentioned in the “Tale of Igor’s Campaign.” He “intended to raise up the collapsed stone (church) and hired some builders.” He provided everything that was necessary.

The church was ready in the year 1111, and Oleg “pressured and besought Svyatopolk to transfer the holy relics into it.” Svyatopolk did not want to do this, “because he did not build this church.”

The death of Svyatopolk Izyaslavich (+ 1113) brought a new insurrection to Kiev, which nearly killed Vladimir Monomakh, who had become Great Prince of that city. He decided to cultivate friendship with the Svyatoslavichi through the solemn transfer of the relics into the Oleg church. “Vladimir gathered his sons, and David and Oleg with their sons. They all arrived at Vyshgorod. All the hierarchs, igumens, monks and priests came, filling all the town and there was no space left for the citizenry along the walls.”

On the morning of May 2, 1115, the Sunday of the Myrhhbearing Women, they began to sing Matins at both churches, old and new, and the transfer of relics began. The three were separated. “First they brought Saint Boris in a cart, and with him went Metropolitan Vladimir and his clergy.” On other carts went Saint Gleb “and David with bishops and clergy.” (Oleg waited for them in the church).

This separation was adhered to in future generations. Saint Boris was considered a heavenly protector of the Monomashichi; Saint Gleb, of the Ol’govichi and the Davidovichi. When Vladimir Monomakh speaks about Boris in his “Testament”, he does not mention Gleb. In the Ol’govichi line, none of the princes received the name Boris.

In general the names Boris and Gleb, and so also Roman and David, were esteemed by many generations of Russian princes. The brothers of Oleg Gorislavich were named Roman (+ 1079), Gleb (+ 1078), David (+ 1123), and one of his sons was named Gleb (+ 1138).

From Monomakh were the sons Roman and Gleb; from Yuri Dolgoruky, Boris and Gleb; of Saint Rostislav of Smolensk, Boris and Gleb; of Saint Andrew Bogoliubsky, Saint Gleb (+ 1174); of Vsevolod Big Nest, Boris and Gleb. Among the sons of Vseslav of Polotsk (+ 1101) was the full range of “Saints Boris and Gleb” names: Roman, Gleb, David, Boris.

The Vyshgorod sanctuaries were not the only centers for the liturgical veneration of Saints Boris and Gleb. It was spread throughout the Russian land. First of all, there were churches and monasteries in specific places connected with the martyrdom of the saints, and their miraculous help for people; the temple of Boris and Gleb at Dorogozhich on the road to Vyshgorod, where Saint Boris died; the Saints Boris and Gleb monastery at Tmo near Tver where Gleb’s horse injured its leg; a monastery of the same name at Smyadyno at the place of Gleb’s murder; and at the River Tvertsa near Torzhok (founded in 1030), where the head of Saint George the Hungarian was preserved [trans. note: the beloved servant of Saint Boris was beheaded in order to steal the gold medallion given him by Saint Boris]. Churches dedicated to Saints Boris and Gleb were built at the Alta in memory of the victory of Yaroslav the Wise over Svyatopolk the Accursed on July 24, 1019; and also at Gzena near Novgorod where Gleb Svyatoslavich defeated a sorcerer.

The Ol’govichi and the Monomashichi vied with each other in building churches dedicated to the holy martyrs. Oleg himself, in addition to the Vyshgorod church, built the Saints Boris and Gleb cathedral in Old Ryazan in 1115 (therefore, the diocese was later called Saints Boris and Gleb). His brother David also built at Chernigov (in 1120). In the year 1132 Yuri Dolgoruky built a church of Boris and Gleb at Kideksh at the River Nerla, “where the encampment of Saint Boris had been.” In 1145, Saint Rostislav of Smolensk “put a stone church at Smyadyno,” at Smolensk. In the following year the first (wooden) Saints Boris and Gleb church was built in Novgorod. In 1167 a stone foundation replaced the wood, and it was completed and consecrated in the year 1173. The Novgorod Chronicles name the legendary Sotko Sytinich as the builder of the church.

The holy Passion-Bearers Boris and Gleb were the first Russian saints glorified by the Russian and Byzantine Churches. A service to them was composed soon after their death, and its author was Saint John I, Metropolitan of Kiev (1008-1035), which a MENAION of the twelfth century corroborates. The innumerable copies of their Life, the accounts of the relics, the miracles and eulogies in the manuscripts and printed books of the twelfth-fourteenth centuries bear witness to the special veneration of the holy Martyrs Boris and Gleb in Russia.

[trans. note: Neither this account nor those of the individual feastdays give the details of their martyrdom. Perhaps it is assumed that the reader is familiar with the story, or perhaps it is too painful to recount. The saints chose not to take up arms to defend themselves, or flee to safety. In their final prayers, they refer to the Lord’s voluntary suffering and death, as recorded by the chroniclers. Since they meekly accepted an unjust death for the sake of Christ, they are known as “Passion-Bearers.”]

Saint Athanasius of Lubensk, Patriarch of Constantinople

Saint Athanasius III Patelarios, Patriarch of Constantinople, Wonderworker of Lubensk, in the world Alexis, was born in 1560 on the island of Crete, into the pious Greek family Patelarios. Despite his education and position in society, Alexis was attracted by the life of Christian ascetics. After his father’s death, he became a novice in one of the monasteries of Thessalonica with the name Ananias. From there, he later went to the monastery of Esphigmenou on Mt. Athos, where he fulfilled his obedience in the trapeza (dining area).

From Athos he journeyed to the Palestinian monasteries, and he was tonsured with the name Athanasius. Upon his return to Thessalonica he was ordained presbyter and spread the Gospel of Christ among the Vlachs and the Moldovians, for whom he translated the PSALTER from the Greek. Sometimes, the saint went to Mt. Athos for solitude, and to ask God’s blessing on his pastoral work. The holiness of his life attracted many Christians who wished to see a true preacher of the Orthodox Faith.

By his remarkable abilities and spiritual gifts he attracted the attention of the Patriarch of Constantinople, Cyril I (Lukaris) (1621-1623). Summoning the ascetic, Patriarch Cyril appointed him a preacher of the Patriarchal throne. Soon Saint Athanasius was consecrated bishop and became Metropolitan of Thessalonica.

At this time Patriarch Cyril was slandered before the sultan and imprisoned on the island of Tenedos. Saint Athanasius assumed the Patriarchal throne on March 25, 1634, on the day of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos.

Patriarch Athanasius led an incessant struggle against heretics, Jesuits, and Moslems. After only forty days on the Patriarchal throne, he was deposed through the intrigues of the enemies of Orthodoxy, and Cyril I was returned.

The saint went to Athos, where for a certain time he pursued asceticism in solitude. Then he became Patriarch again, but was deposed after a year. After this, he returned to Thessalonica and renewed his connections with the Holy Mountain. In view of the intolerable persecution of Christians by the Moslems, Saint Athanasius was repeatedly (from 1633 to 1643) obliged to send petitions to the Russian tsar Michael (1613-1645) seeking alms for the hapless Church of Constantinople.

When living at Thessalonica became impossible for the saint, he was forced to journey to Moldavia under the protection of its sovereign, Basil Lukulos, and he settled there in the monastery of Saint Nicholas near Galats, but he longed for Mount Athos. He visited it often and hoped to finish his life there, but God ordained something else for him.

In 1652 after the death of Patriarch Cyril I, Saint Athanasius was returned to the patriarchal throne. He remained only fifteen days, since he was not acceptable to the Moslems and Catholics. During his final Patriarchal service he preached a sermon in which he denounced papal pretensions to universal jurisdiction over the whole Church.

Persecuted by the Moslems and Jesuits, physically weakened, he transferred the administration of the Church of Constantinople to Metropolitan Paisius of Laureia, and he withdrew to Moldavia, where he was appointed administrator of the monastery of Saint Nicholas at Galats.

Knowing the deep faith and responsiveness of the Russian nation, Saint Athanasius undertook a journey to Russia. In April 1653 he was met with great honor in Moscow by Patriarch Nikon (1652-1658) and Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich. Having received generous alms for the needs of the monastery, Patriarch Athanasius left for Galats in December 1653. On the way he fell ill and stayed at the Transfiguration Mgarsk monastery in the city of Lubno in February 1654.

Sensing his impending death, the saint wrote his last will, and he fell asleep in the Lord on April 5. Igumen Petronios and the brethren of the monastery buried the Patriarch. By Greek custom the saint was buried in a sitting position. On February 1, 1662 Saint Athanasius was glorified as a saint and his Feastday was designated as May 2, the Feast of Saint Athanasius the Great.

The relics of holy Patriarch Athansios, glorified by numerous miracles and signs, rest in the city of Kharkov, in the Annunciation cathedral church.

Martyr Hesperus with his wife and sons at Attalia

The Holy Martyrs Hesperus, his wife Zoe, and their children Cyriacus and Theodulus suffered for their faith in Christ in the second century, during the persecution under Hadrian (117-138). They had been Christians since their childhood, and they also raised their children in piety. They were all slaves of an illustrious Roman named Catullus, living in Attalia, Asia Minor. While serving their earthly master, the saints never defiled themselves with food offered to idols, which pagans were obliged to use.

Once, Catullus sent Hesperus on business to Tritonia. Saints Cyriacus and Theodulus decided to run away, unable to endure constant contact with pagans. Saint Zoe, however, did not bless her sons to do this. Then they asked their mother’s blessing to confess their faith in Christ openly, and they received it.

When the brothers explained to Catullus that they were Christian, he was surprised, but he did not deliver them for torture. Instead, he sent them with their mother to Saint Hesperus at Tritonia, hoping that the parents would persuade their children to deny Christ. At Tritonia, the saints lived in tranquility for a while, preparing for martyrdom.

All the slaves returned to Attalia for the birthday of Catullus’ son, and a feast was prepared at the house in honor of the pagan goddess Fortuna. Food was sent to the slaves from the master’s table, and this included meat and wine that had been sacrificed to idols. The saints would not eat the food. Zoe poured the wine upon the ground and threw the meat to the dogs. When he learned of this, Catullus gave orders to torture Zoe’s sons, Saints Cyriacus and Theodulus.

The brothers were stripped, suspended from a tree, and raked with iron implements before the eyes of their parents, who counselled their children to persevere to the end.

Then the parents, Saints Hesperus and Zoe, were subjected to terrible tortures. Finally, they threw all four martyrs into a red-hot furnace, where they surrendered their souls to the Lord. Their bodies were preserved in the fire unharmed, and angelic singing was heard, glorifying the confessors of the Lord.

Saint Boris (in Baptism Michael), Equal of the Apostles, Prince and Baptizer of Bulgaria

The Holy Equal of the Apostles Tsar Boris, in Holy Baptism Michael: His apostolic deeds were foretold by an uncle, Saint Boyan. The first years of the reign of Tsar Boris were marked by misfortune. The Bulgarians were frequently at war with surrounding nations, famine and plague beset the land, and in the year 860 Bulgaria found itself in dire straits. Tsar Boris saw the salvation of his land, which was darkened by paganism, in its enlightenment by the faith in Christ.

During one of the battles of the Bulgarians with the Greeks he captured the illustrious courtier Theodore Kuphares, who had become a monk. He was the first man to plant the seed of the Gospel in the soul of the Bulgarian tsar. In one of the campaigns with the Greeks the young sister of Tsar Boris was taken captive, and was raised in the Orthodox Faith at the court of the Byzantine Emperor.

When the emperor Theophilus died, Tsar Boris decided to take advantage of this circumstance to take revenge upon the Greeks for his former defeats. But the widow of the emperor, Theodora, showed courage and sent a messenger to the Bulgarian tsar saying that she was prepared to defend the Empire and humiliate its opponents. Tsar Boris agreed to a peace alliance, and Theodore Kuphares was exchanged for the Bulgarian princess, who influenced her brother toward Christianity. A while later Saint Methodius was sent into Bulgaria. He and his brother Saint Cyril were enlightening the Slavic peoples with the light of Christ. Saint Methodius baptized Tsar Boris, his family and many of the nobles.

When the pagan Bulgarians learned of this, they wanted to kill Tsar Boris, but their plot was frustrated by the tsar. Deprived of their rebellious leaders, the Bulgarian people voluntarily accepted Baptism. A peace was concluded between Byzantium and Bulgaria, based on their unity in faith, which was not broken until the end of the reign of the noble tsar. The Patriarch Photius (February 6) took great interest in the spiritual growth of the Bulgarian nation. In 867, preachers from Rome were sent into Bulgaria. This led to three years of discord between the Greek and Roman Churches in Bulgaria.

A Council at Constantinople in 869 put an end to the quarrel, and on March 3, 870 Bulgaria was joined to the Eastern Church and Orthodoxy was firmly established there. Bulgaria’s holy ascetics: Saints Gorazd (July 27) and Clement of Ochrid (July 27) were glorified as saints. Tsar Boris adorned the land with churches and furthered the spread of piety. Later, a Patriarchal See was established in Bulgaria. In his declining years, Tsar Boris entered a monastery, leaving the throne to his sons Vladimir and Simeon.

While in the monastery the saint learned that Vladimir, who succeeded him, had renounced Christianity. Distressed by this, Saint Boris again donned his military garb, punished his disobedient son and threw him in prison. After giving the throne to his younger son Simeon, Saint Boris returned to the monastery. He left it once more to repel a Hungarian invasion. Saint Boris, who was named Michael in holy Baptism, reposed on May 2, 907.

Icon of the Mother of God of Putivil

The Putivil Icon depicts the Mother of God holding Christ on her left arm, and with a ladder behind her right hand. Christ is holding an orb in His left hand, and bestows a blessing with His right.

The Putivil Icon is thought to be a copy of the Abul Icon from Mt Abul in Serbia.

Daily Readings for Sunday, May 01, 2022

THOMAS SUNDAY

NO FAST

Thomas Sunday, Martyrs Emmanuel, Theodore, George, Michael and the other George of Samothrace, Jeremias the Prophet, New Martyr Maria of Fourna, Mirabella in Crete, Tamara (Tamar), Queen of Georgia, Nikiforos the Monk of Chios, Synaxis of the Three New Righteous Martyrs of the Holy Mountain, Euthymius, Ignatius, and Acacius, Asaph, Bishop of Wales

ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 5:12-20

In those days, many signs and wonders were done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high honor. And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and pallets, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed. But the high priest rose up and all who were with him, that is, the party of the Sadducees, and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the common prison. But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out and said, “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.”

JOHN 20:19-31

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them: "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them: "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.
Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him: "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them: "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.
Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said: "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.

Antipascha: Saint Thomas Sunday

Some icons depicting this event are inscribed “The Doubting Thomas.” This is incorrect. In Greek, the inscription reads, “The Touching of Thomas.” The Slavonic inscription is, “The Belief of Thomas.” When Saint Thomas touched the Life-giving side of the Lord, he no longer had any doubts.

This day is also known as “Antipascha.” This does not mean “opposed to Pascha,” but “in place of Pascha.” Beginning with this first Sunday after Pascha, the Church dedicates every Sunday of the year to the Lord’s Resurrection. Sunday is called “Resurrection” in Russian, and “the Lord’s Day” in Greek.

Prophet Jeremiah

The Holy Prophet Jeremiah, one of the four great Old Testament prophets, was son of the priest Helkiah from the city of Anathoth near Jerusalem, and he lived 600 years before the Birth of Christ, under the Israelite king Josiah and four of his successors. He was called to prophetic service at the age of fifteen, when the Lord revealed to him that even before his birth the Lord had chosen him to be a prophet. Jeremiah refused, citing his youth and lack of skill at speaking, but the Lord promised to be always with him and to watch over him.

He touched the mouth of the chosen one and said, “Behold, I have put My words into your mouth. Behold, I have appointed you this day over nations and kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to rebuild, and to plant” (Jer. 1:9-10). From that time Jeremiah prophesied for twenty-three years, denouncing the Jews for abandoning the true God and worshipping idols, predicting sorrows and devastating wars. He stood by the gates of the city, and at the entrance to the Temple, everywhere where the people gathered, and he exhorted them with imprecations and often with tears. The people, however, mocked and abused him, and they even tried to kill him.

Depicting for the Jews their impending enslavement to the king of Babylon, Jeremiah first placed on his own neck a wooden, and then an iron yoke, and thus he went about among the people. Enraged at the dire predictions of the prophet, the Jewish elders threw the Prophet Jeremiah into a pit filled with horrid, slimy creatures, where he almost died. Through the intercession of the God-fearing royal official Habdemelek, the prophet was pulled out of the pit, but he did not cease his prophecies, and for this he was carted off to prison. Under the Jewish king Zedekiah his prophecy was fulfilled.

Nebuchadnezzar came, slaughtered many people, carried off a remnant into captivity, and Jerusalem was pillaged and destroyed. Nebuchadnezzar released the prophet from prison and permitted him to live where he wanted. The prophet remained at the ruins of Jerusalem and bewailed his nation’s misfortune. According to Tradition, the Prophet Jeremiah took the Ark of the Covenant with the Tablets of the Law and hid it in one of the caves of Mount Nabath (Nebo), so that the Jews could no longer find it (2 Mac. 2). Afterwards, a new Ark of the Covenant was fashioned, but it lacked the glory of the first.

Among the Jews remaining in their fatherland there soon arose internecine clashes: Hodoliah, Nebuchadnezzar’s viceroy, was murdered. The Jews, fearing the wrath of Babylon, decided to flee into Egypt. The Prophet Jeremiah disagreed with their intention, predicting that the punishment which they feared would befall them in Egypt. The Jews would not listen to the prophet, however, and taking him along by force, they went into Egypt and settled in the city of Tathnis. There the prophet lived for four years and was respected by the Egyptians, because by his prayers he killed crocodiles and other creatures infesting these parts. When Jeremiah prophesied that the King of Babylon would invade Egypt and annihilate the Jews living there, the Jews murdered him. In that very same year the saint’s prophecy was fulfilled. There is a tradition that 250 years later, Alexander the Great transported the relics of the holy Prophet Jeremiah to Alexandria.

The Prophet Jeremiah wrote his Book of Prophecies and also the Book of Lamentations about the desolation of Jerusalem and the Exile. The times in which he lived and prophesied are described in 4/2 Kings (Ch. 23-25) and in the Second Book of Chronicles (36:12) and in 2 Maccabbees (Ch. 2).

In the Gospel of Matthew it is said that the betrayal of Judas was foretold by the Prophet Jeremiah, “And they took thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom the sons of Israel had set a price, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me” (Mt. 27:9-10). Perhaps Jeremiah 32:6-15 is meant.

Even after his death, the Prophet Jeremiah was regarded as a wonderworker. Dust from his tomb was believed to cure snake-bite, and many Christians pray to him for this purpose.

Venerable Paphnutius, Abbot of Borov

Saint Paphnutius of Borov was born in 1394 in the village of Kudinovo, not far from Borov, and at Baptism he was named Parthenius. His father John was the son of a baptized Tatar, a “baskak” (“tax-collector”) named Martin, and his mother was named Photina. At the age of twenty, Parthenius left his home and received monastic tonsure in 1414 with the name Paphnutius at the Vyosky-Protection Monastery near Borov under its abbot, Marcellus. Saint Paphnutius struggled for many years at the monastery, and when Igumen Marcellus died, the brethren chose him as his successor. Saint Photius, Metropolitan of Kiev (July 2), ordained him to the priesthood around the year 1426.

The monk spent thirty years at the Protection Monastery, where he was igumen, Elder, and Father-confessor. At fifty-one years of age he fell grievously ill, gave up his position as igumen and was tonsured into the Great Schema. After recovering his health on April 23, 1444 (the Feast of the holy Great Martyr George the Victory-Bearer), he left the monastery and settled with one monk on the left bank of the River Protva, where it meets the River Isterma. Soon brethren began to gather to him at this new place, and the number of the monks quickly grew. A new stone church was built in place of the former wooden one, in honor of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos.

The finest iconographers of those times, Dionysius, Metrophanes, and their assistants were invited to adorn the church with icons and frescoes. Saint Paphnutius was an example to the brethren, leading a strict life. His cell was the poorest of all, and he chose the worst morsels of food. On Mondays and Fridays he ate nothing at all, and on Wednesdays he only ate dry food. He did the most difficult tasks himself. He chopped and carried fire wood, dug and cultivated the garden, yet he was always the first to arrive for church services.

Saint Paphnutius earned the deep respect and love not only of the brethren of his own monastery, but also of other monasteries. Through the providence of God a twenty-year-old youth, John Sanin was guided to the monastery. After testing him for a time, Paphnutius tonsured him into monasticism with the name Joseph. Later on Saint Joseph of Volokolamsk (Sept. 9) defended the purity of the Orthodox Faith and entered into struggle against the heresy of the Judaizers, condemned at the Council of 1504. Saint Paphnutius blessed the young man in his endeavors.

A week before his death, the saint foretold his end. After he had prayed and blessed the brethren, he fell asleep in the Lord on May 1, 1477. Saint Paphnutius was a disciple of Saint Sergius of Radonezh (Sept. 25).

New Martyr Euthymius of Mount Athos

This holy New Martyr of Christ was born in Demitsana in the Peloponnesos. His parents were Panagiotes and Maria, and he was given the name Eleutherius in Baptism. Eleutherius was the youngest of five children (the others were George, Christos, John, and Katerina).

After attending school in Demetsana, Eleutherius and John traveled to Constantinople to enroll in the Patriarchal Academy. Later, they went to Jassy, Romania where their father and brothers were in business. Some time afterwards, Eleutherius decided to go to Mt. Athos to become a monk. Because of a war between Russia and Turkey, he was able to travel only as far as Bucharest. There he stayed with the French consul, then with an employee of the Russian consul.

Eleutherius began to pursue a life of pleasure, putting aside his thoughts of monasticism. When hostilities ceased, Eleutherius made his way to Constantinople in the company of some Moslems. On the way, he turned from Orthodoxy and embraced Islam. He was circumcised and given the name Reschid. Soon his conscience began to torment him for his denial of Christ. The other Moslems began to notice a change in his attitude, so they restricted his movements and kept a close watch on him.

One day Eleutherius was seen wearing a cross, so the others reported him to the master of the house, Rais Efendi. The master favored Eleutherius, which made the others jealous. He told them it was still too early for Eleutherius to give up all his Christian ways.

Rais Efendi and his household journeyed to Adrianople, arriving on a Saturday. Metropolitan Cyril, who later became Patriarch of Constantinople, was serving Vespers in one of the city’s churches. Eleutherius pretended to have letters for Metropolitan Cyril, but he sent someone else to receive them. When Eleutherius told this man that he wanted Christian clothes, he became suspicious and sent him away.

Back in Constantinople, Rais Efendi gave Eleutherius costly presents, hoping to influence him to remain a Moslem. Eleutherius, however, prayed that God would permit him to escape. He ran off at the first opportunity, seeking out a priest from the Peloponnesos who lived near the Patriarchate. After relating his story, Eleutherius asked the priest to help him get away. The priest refused to assist him, fearing reprisals if he should be caught. He gave Eleutherius some advice, then sent him away.

With some assistance from the Russian embassy, Eleutherius boarded a ship and sailed to Mt. Athos. At the Great Lavra Eleutherius was chrismated and received back into the Orthodox Church, and also became a monk with the name Euthymius.

Euthymius read the New Martyrologion of Saint Νikόdēmos (July 14), and was inspired by the example of the New Martyrs. He then became consumed with a desire to wipe out his apostasy with the blood of martyrdom.

Saint Euthymius went to Constantinople with a monk named Gregory, arriving on March 19, 1814. A few days later, on Palm Sunday, he received Holy Communion. Removing his monastic garb, he dressed himself as a Moslem and went to the palace of the Grand Vizier, Rusud Pasha. Saint Euthymius, holding palms in his hand, confessed that he was an Orthodox Christian, and wished to die for Christ. He denounced Mohammed and the Moslem religion, then trampled upon the turban he had worn on his head, which led the Vizier to believe that he was either drunk or crazy.

The valiant warrior of Christ assured the Vizier that he was in his right mind, and was not drunk. Euthymius was thrown into a dark cell and bound with chains. After an hour or so, they brought him out again. With flattery and promises of wealth, the Vizier tried to convince Euthymius to return to the Moslem faith. The saint boldly declared that Islam was a religion based on fables and falsehood, and that he would not deny Christ again even if he were to be tortured and slain.

The Grand Vizier ordered the saint to be beaten and returned to prison. After three hours, Saint Euthymius was brought before Rusud Pasha, who said to him, “Have you reconsidered, or do you remain stubborn?”

Euthymius replied, “There is only one true Faith, that of the Orthodox Christians. How can I believe in your false prophet Mohammed?”

Now the Vizier realized that he would never convince Euthymius to return to Islam, so he ordered him to be put to death by the sword. When the executioner attempted to tie the saint’s hands he said, “I came here voluntarily, so there is no need to bind my hands.Allow me to meet my death untied.”

Saint Euthymius was allowed to walk to the place of execution unbound. He went joyfully and unafraid, holding a cross in his right hand, and palms in his left. When they arrived at the site, Euthymius faced east and began to pray. He thanked God for making him worthy of martyrdom for His sake. He also prayed for his family and friends, asking God to grant all their petitions which are unto salvation.

Then Saint Euthymius kissed the cross he was holding, then knelt and bent his neck. The executioner struck a fierce blow with the sword, but this did not behead him. He struck again, and failed to kill him. Finally, he took a knife and slit the martyr’s throat.

Saint Euthymius was killed about noon on March 22, 1814 in Constantinople, thereby earning a place in the heavenly Kingdom where he glorifies the holy, consubstantial, and life-creating Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, forevermore.

The head of Saint Euthymius is in the Monastery of Saint Panteleimon on Mt. Athos.

New Martyr Ignatius the Martyr of Mount Athos

The holy New Martyr Ignatius was born in the village of Eski Zagora in the Trnovo region of Bulgaria, and was named John in Baptism. While he was still a young child, his parents George and Maria moved to the city of Philippopolis and enrolled him in a school there.

Although he did well at school, he had a strong desire for the monastic life. Upon reaching adulthood, he entered the Rila monastery in western Bulgaria. There he was assigned to an Elder, with whom he lived in obedience for six years. When the Elder’s strictness became unbearable, John returned home.

About that time the Serbs rose in revolt against the Moslem government. John’s father was asked to take command of an Ottoman brigade, but he refused to fight against other Orthodox Christians.

The Moslems attacked George with furious anger. He was stabbed and then beheaded. John’s mother and sisters were also taken by the Hagarenes, and they ultimately agreed to convert to Islam.

John fled and hid in the home of an elderly Orthodox woman. His mother and sisters learned where he was hiding, and they told the Moslems. Those sent to capture him did not know what he looked like, so the old woman told them she did not know him. The woman helped him escape to Bucharest, Romania, where he became acquainted with Saint Euthymius, who would also endure martyrdom.

John did not wish to stay in Bucharest, however, and so he left for Mt. Athos. On the way he visited the village of Soumla, where he ran into his friend Father Euthymius again. Learning that Euthymius had denied Christ and become a Moslem, John became very sad and left the village.

He had not gotten very far when Turkish soldiers stopped him and took all his possessions. They demanded that he convert to Islam, and in his fright he told them that he would do so. Satisfied with this reply, they let him go.

John reached the village of Eski Zagora, where he met an Athonite monk from the monastery of Grigoriou. They journeyed to the Holy Mountain together, and John settled in the Skete of Saint Anna. There he met Father Basil.

One day John and Father Basil traveled to Thessalonica on monastery business. While they were there the monks David and Euthymius of Demetsana suffered martyrdom because they were Christians. John was inflamed with the desire for martyrdom. Father Basil, however, urged him to postpone his intention, and so they returned to the Holy Mountain. A short time after this, Father Basil died.

When a monk from the Skete of Saint Anna told him of the martyrdom of the New Martyr Euthymius (March 22), John was once more filled with zeal for martyrdom. He was placed under the spiritual direction of the Elder Acacius, who prescribed for him prayer, prostrations, and reading the Gospel.

In time, John was found worthy of monastic tonsure, and was given the new name Ignatius. The Elder Acacius blessed him to travel to Constantinople with the monk Gregory in order to bear witness to Christ. After receiving the Holy Mysteries in Constantinople, Ignatius felt he was ready for his ordeal.

Dressed in Moslem garb, Ignatius went before the kadi and proclaimed his faith in Christ. He told him how he had promised to become a Moslem when he was younger, but now he threw his turban at the kadi’s feet and said that he would never deny Christ.

Thinking that Ignatius was insane, the kadi warned him that if he did not come to his senses he would endure horrible torments before being put to death. On the other hand, if he embraced Islam, he would receive rich gifts and great honor from them.

The courageous martyr told the kadi to keep his gifts, for they were merely temporal gifts. “Your threats of torture and death are nothing new,” he said, “and I knew of them before I came here. In fact, I came here because of them, so that I might die for my Christ.”

Saint Ignatius went on to call Mohammed “a false prophet, a teacher of perdition, and a friend of the devil.” Then he invited the Moslems to believe in Christ, the only true God.

The kadi then became so angry he could not speak, so he motioned for a servant to lead Saint Ignatius out of the room. Ignatius turned and struck the servant, then knelt before the kadi and bent his neck, as if inviting him to behead him then and there. Other servants entered the room, however, and dragged him off to prison.

Later, Ignatius was brought before the kadi for questioning. When asked who had brought him to Constantinople, he replied, “My Lord Jesus Christ brought me here.”

Again the kadi urged him to reconsider, for he was about to experience unimaginable tortures. “Do not expect to be beheaded so that the Christians can collect your blood as a blessing,” he said, “for I intend to hang you.”

Ignatius replied, “You will be doing me a great service whether you hang me or put me to the sword. I accept everything for the love of Christ.”

Seeing that he could not turn Ignatius from his Christian Faith, the kadi ordered him to be hanged. He was taken to a place called Daktyloporta, where the sentence was carried out. The martyr’s body remained hanging there for three days, then some pious Christians paid a ransom for it and took it to the island of Prote for burial.

Saint Ignatius gave his life for Christ on October, 1814. He is also commemorated on May 1 together with Saints Acacius and Euthymius.

The head of Saint Ignatius is in the Monastery of Saint Panteleimon on Mt Athos.

New Martyr Acacius, Martyr of Mount Athos and Seres

The holy New Martyr Acacius was born at Neochorion, Macedonia near Thessalonica in the eighteenth century. The oldest son of Bulgarian peasants, he was named Athanasius at his baptism. When he was nine years old, his family moved to the city of Serres. Athanasius was apprenticed to a cobbler, who frequently beat him. On the night of Holy Friday, after a particularly severe beating, he wandered onto the street and two Moslem women comforted him, brought him home and fed him. Pretending sympathy, they urged him to deny Christ, the bread which came down from heaven (John 6:41). They took the boy to Yusuf Bey, who adopted him, gave him a Moslem name, and had him circumcised. He lived in that home for nine years.

At first, the wife of Yusuf Bey treated Athanasius with maternal love, but this later turned into a lustful passion. Just as the righteous Joseph (March 31) rejected the advances of Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:8-10), so did Athanasius spurn the advances of the Moslem woman. So she told her husband that Athanasius had tried to force himself on her. His Turkish father threw him out of the house, and the young man returned to Thessalonica to find his real parents. His mother told him it was too dangerous for him to stay with them, and so he went to Mt Athos.

At first he lived at the Hilandar Monastery for a while, but he spent time in other monasteries as well. He confessed his apostasy to Father Nicholas at the Xenophontos Monastery, who read the prescribed prayers and received him back into the Church through Chrismation. Athanasius returned to Hilandar for about a year, then went to Ivḗron. While at the skete at Ivḗron he heard of Saints Euthymius and Ignatius, and desired to imitate their feat of martyrdom. He became filled with the desire to wipe out his sin by shedding his blood for Christ in the same place where he had denied Him. Athanasius revealed all this to Father Nikephorus, who had been the spiritual Father of Saints Ignatius and Euthymius. He was placed under the direction of the monk Acacius, who was to prepare him for his difficult struggle. Athanasius spent his time in ceaseless prayer, vigil, and fasting. This, of course, aroused the hatred of the devil, who sowed the seeds of doubt and uncertainty in his soul. After thirty-five days Athanasius became faint-hearted and ran away in the middle of the night.

Athanasius went to Simonopetra Monastery, but found no peace there. He returned to Hilandar Monastery, but as a penance he had to live in the vineyard rather than in a cell. He soon became ill and was taken to Karyes, the capital of the Holy Mountain, but he refused medical treatment. Those who had brought him there were upset by this, and they said that he was neither a Christian nor a Moslem. Stung by their rebuke, Athanasius went into seclusion for forty days.

At the end of that time, Athanasius returned to Father Nikephorus at Ivḗron and Elder Acacius was assigned to look after him again. He entered upon an intense program of prayer, prostrations, and vigil, and was granted the gift of tears. On the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent, seeing his repentance and progress in virtue, the Elder Acacius tonsured him with the name Acacius.

Soon he left for Constantinople with the Elder Gregory, who had also accompanied Saints Ignatius and Euthymius on their way to martyrdom. They left Mt Athos on a ship, arriving in Constantinople thirteen days later. On April 22, Saint Acacius received Holy Communion at a church in Galata, then returned to the ship. He changed into Moslem clothing and went with Father Gregory to the Porte, where a doorkeeper asked them what they wanted.

Saint Acacius related his story, saying that he had been deceived into renouncing Christianity and accepting Islam, but now he had come to his senses. Denouncing Mohammed as a false prophet, he loudly proclaimed that he was a Christian. Then he threw his turban on the floor, trampled it under his feet, and spit on it.

Saint Acacius was seized, beaten, and thrown into prison. That night he was promised wealth and high position if he would return to Islam. When he refused, they began to beat him again.

The next day, Saint Acacius was brought before the vizier and repeated his story, then was returned to prison. Father Gregory was able to send a messenger to bring Acacius a pyx containing the Holy Gifts, and he partook of the life-giving Mysteries of Christ.

Soon after this, the holy martyr was led to a place called Parmak Kapi, where he was beheaded. Saint Acacius gave his life for Christ on May 1, 1816 at six o’clock in the evening. Some pious Christians ransomed the saint’s body from the Turks, and Father Gregory brought it back to Mt Athos. The holy relics were brought to Ivḗron and buried in a church dedicated to Saints Ignatius and Euthymius.

Although some sources give the year of the saint’s martyrdom as 1815, there is a letter from Saint Acacius to a certain spiritual Father on Mt Athos dated April 27, 1816 which states that he is on his way to martyrdom. Thus, the year is 1816.

The heads of Saints Acacius, Euthymius, and Ignatius are in the Russian monastery of Saint Panteleimon on the Holy Mountain.

Hieromartyr Macarius, Metropolitan of Kiev

The Hieromartyr Macarius, Metropolitan of Kiev, was earlier the archimandrite of the Vilensk Holy Trinity monastery.

In 1495, after the death of Metropolitan Jonah of Kiev, Macarius was chosen and ordained in his place by an assembly of hierarchs; Vassian of Vladimir, Luke of Polotsk, Vassian of Turov and Jonah of Lutsk. Papers of blessing were sent from Constantinople by the Patriarch Niphon, confirming the election of Saint Macarius to the metropolitan See of Kiev. On May 1, 1497 Tatars invading Russia killed Metropolitan Macarius of Kiev and All Rus in the village of Strigolovo, at the River Vzhischa, where the saint was conducting divine services. Many of his flock were killed with him, or taken into captivity .

The holy incorrupt relics of Saint Macarius, glorified by God with miracles, rest now at Kiev at the Vladimir cathedral church.

Martyr Bata the Persian

The Martyr Bata, a monastic, lived during the fourth century in Persia and labored there in one of the monasteries. The holy martyr was killed in the city of Nisibis for confessing the Christian Faith during a time of persecution against Christians initiated by the Persian emperor.

Right-believing Tamara, Queen of Georgia

In 1166 a daughter, Tamar, was born to King George III (1155-1184) and Queen Burdukhan of Georgia. The king proclaimed that he would share the throne with his daughter from the day she turned twelve years of age.

The royal court unanimously vowed its allegiance and service to Tamar, and father and daughter ruled the country together for five years. After King George’s death in 1184, the nobility recognized the young Tamar as the sole ruler of all Georgia. Queen Tamar was enthroned as ruler of all Georgia at the age of eighteen. She is called “King” in the Georgian language because her father had no male heir and so she ruled as a monarch and not as a consort.

At the beginning of her reign, Tamar convened a Church council and addressed the clergy with wisdom and humility: “Judge according to righteousness, affirming good and condemning evil,” she advised. “Begin with meif I sin I should be censured, for the royal crown is sent down from above as a sign of divine service. Allow neither the wealth of the nobles nor the poverty of the masses to hinder your work. You by word and I by deed, you by preaching and I by the law, you by upbringing and I by education will care for those souls whom God has entrusted to us, and together we will abide by the law of God, in order to escape eternal condemnation…. You as priests and I as ruler, you as stewards of good and I as the watchman of that good.”

The Church and the royal court chose a suitor for Tamar: Yuri, the son of Prince Andrei Bogoliubsky of Vladimir-Suzdal (in Georgia Yuri was known as “George the Russian”). The handsome George Rusi was a valiant soldier, and under his command the Georgians returned victorious from many battles. His marriage to Tamar, however, exposed many of the coarser sides of his character. He was often drunk and inclined toward immoral deeds. In the end, Tamar’s court sent him away from Georgia to Constantinople, armed with a generous recompense. Many Middle Eastern rulers were drawn to Queen Tamar’s beauty and desired to marry her, but she rejected them all. Finally at the insistence of her court, she agreed to wed a second time to ensure the preservation of the dynasty. This time, however, she asked her aunt and nurse Rusudan (the sister of King George III) to find her a suitor. The man she chose, Davit-Soslan Bagrationi, was the son of the Ossetian ruler and a descendant of King George I (1014-1027).

In 1195 a joint Muslim military campaign against Georgia was planned under the leadership of Atabeg (a military commander) Abu Bakr of Persian Azerbaijan. At Queen Tamar’s command, a call to arms was issued. The faithful were instructed by Metropolitan Anton of Chqondidi to celebrate All-night Vigils and Liturgies and to generously distribute alms so that the poor could rest from their labors in order to pray. In ten days the army was prepared, and Queen Tamar addressed the Georgian soldiers for the last time before the battle began: “My brothers! Do not allow your hearts to tremble before the multitude of enemies, for God is with us…. Trust God alone, turn your hearts to Him in righteousness, and place your every hope in the Cross of Christ and in the Most Holy Theotokos!”

Having taken off her shoes, Queen Tamar climbed the hill to the Metekhi Church of the Theotokos (in Tbilisi) and knelt before the icon of the Most Holy Theotokos. She prayed without ceasing until the good news arrived: the battle near Shamkori had ended in the unquestionable victory of the Orthodox Georgian army.

After this initial victory the Georgian army launched into a series of triumphs over the Turks, and neighboring countries began to regard Georgia as the protector of the entire Transcaucasus. By the beginning the 13th century, Georgia was a commanding political authority recognized by both the Christian West and the Muslim East.

Georgia’s military successes alarmed the Islamic world. Sultan Rukn al-Din was certain that a united Muslim force could definitively decide the issue of power in the region, and he marched on Georgia around the year 1203, commanding an enormous army.

Having encamped near Basiani, Rukn al-Din sent a messenger to Queen Tamar with an audacious demand: to surrender without a fight. In reward for her obedience, the sultan promised to marry her on the condition that she embrace Islam; if Tamar were to cleave to Christianity, he would number her among the other unfortunate concubines in his harem. When the messenger relayed the sultan’s demand, a certain nobleman, Zakaria Mkhargrdzelidze, was so outraged that he slapped him on the face, knocking him unconscious.

At Queen Tamar’s command, the court generously bestowed gifts upon the ambassador and sent him away with a Georgian envoy and a letter of reply. “Your proposal takes into consideration your wealth and the vastness of your armies, but fails to account for divine judgment,” Tamar wrote, “while I place my trust not in any army or worldly thing but in the right hand of the Almighty God and the infinite aid of the Cross, which you curse. The will of Godand not your ownshall be fulfilled, and the judgment of Godand not your judgmentshall reign!”

The Georgian soldiers were summoned without delay. Queen Tamar prayed for victory before the Vardzia Icon of the Theotokos, then, barefoot, led her army to the gates of the city.

Hoping in the Lord and the fervent prayers of Queen Tamar, the Georgian army marched toward Basiani. The enemy was routed. The victory at Basiani was an enormous event not only for Georgia, but for the entire Christian world.

The military victories increased Queen Tamar’s faith. In the daytime she shone in all her royal finery and wisely administered the affairs of the government; during the night, on bended knees, she beseeched the Lord tearfully to strengthen the Georgian Church. She busied herself with needlework and distributed her embroidery to the poor.

Once, exhausted from her prayers and needlework, Tamar dozed off and saw a vision. Entering a luxuriously furnished home, she saw a gold throne studded with jewels, and she turned to approach it, but was suddenly stopped by an old man crowned with a halo. “Who is more worthy than I to receive such a glorious throne?” Queen Tamar asked him.

He answered her, saying, “This throne is intended for your maidservant, who sewed vestments for twelve priests with her own hands. You are already the possessor of great treasure in this world.” And he pointed her in a different direction.

Having awakened, Holy Queen Tamar immediately took to her work and with her own hands sewed vestments for twelve priests.

History has preserved another poignant episode from Queen Tamar’s life: Once she was preparing to attend a festal Liturgy in Gelati, and she fastened precious rubies to the belt around her waist. Soon after she was told that a beggar outside the monastery tower was asking for alms, and she ordered her entourage to wait. Having finished dressing, she went out to the tower but found no one there. Terribly distressed, she reproached herself for having denied the poor and thus denying Christ Himself. Immediately she removed her belt, the cause of her temptation, and presented it as an offering to the Gelati Icon of the Theotokos.

During Queen Tamar’s reign a veritable monastic city was carved in the rocks of Vardzia, and the God-fearing Georgian ruler would labor there during the Great Fast. The churches of Pitareti, Kvabtakhevi, Betania, and many others were also built at that time. Holy Queen Tamar generously endowed the churches and monasteries not only on Georgian territory but also outside her borders: in Palestine, Cyprus, Mt. Sinai, the Black Mountains, Greece, Mt. Athos, Petritsoni (Bulgaria), Macedonia, Thrace, Romania, Isauria and Constantinople. The divinely guided Queen Tamar abolished the death penalty and all forms of bodily torture.

A regular, secret observance of a strict ascetic regimefasting, a stone bed, and litanies chanted in bare feetfinally took its toll on Queen Tamar’s health. For a long time she refrained from speaking to anyone about her condition, but when the pain became unbearable she finally sought help. The best physicians of the time were unable to diagnose her illness, and all of Georgia was seized with fear of disaster. Everyone from the small to the great prayed fervently for Georgia’s ruler and defender. The people were prepared to offer not only their own lives, but even the lives of their children, for the sake of their beloved ruler.

God sent Tamar a sign when He was ready to receive her into His Kingdom. Then the pious ruler bade farewell to her court and turned in prayer to an icon of Christ and the Life-giving Cross: “Lord Jesus Christ! Omnipotent Master of heaven and earth! To Thee I deliver the nation and people that were entrusted to my care and purchased by Thy Precious Blood, the children whom Thou didst bestow upon me, and to Thee I surrender my soul, O Lord!”

The burial place of Queen Tamar has remained a mystery to this day. Some sources claim that her tomb is in Gelati, in a branch of burial vaults belonging to the Bagrationi dynasty, while others argue that her holy relics are preserved in a vault at the Holy Cross Monastery in Jerusalem.

St. Tamara is commemorated on the Sunday of the Myrrh-bearing Women in addition to her regular commemoration on May 1.

Venerable Nikēphóros of Chios

Saint Nikēphóros, the “most luminous star of the Church of Christ,” who delighted the hearts of the faithful “with divinely inspired teachings,” was born around 1750 at Kardamyla on the Greek island of Chios, and his family name was Georgios, or Georgos. When he was still very young, he became sick with a pestilential disease. His parents vowed that if he recovered, they would offer him to the Mother of God to serve Her at the famous Byzantine monastery of Nea Moni, which was dedicated to Her. He did get well, and so the parents took him to the monastery, where he was placed under the guidance of the venerable Elder Anthimus Hagiopateritis.

Later, he was sent to the city of Chios to be educated in its schools by the priest Father Gabriel Astrakaris. Saint Nikēphóros remained close to this priest throughout the period of his education in the city, where he developed a love for learning, and a respect for those who taught others. He also met Saint Athanasius Parios (June 24), who was the Director of the school in the city of Chios. The greatest influence on his life was Saint Macarius of Corinth (April 17), whom he met even before he met Saint Athanasius. Saint Macarius was at Chios in 1780, left for a time, then returned in 1790. Saint Nikēphóros saw Saint Macarius frequently, and learned much from him. After finishing his education, Saint Nikēphóros returned to the monastery and was ordained a deacon.

When Saint Athanasius Parios reorganized the school of Chios, he appointed Nikēphóros as one of its teachers. At the same time, he was also given a blessing to preach the Word of God at Nea Moni and elsewhere.

While serving as a teacher, Saint Nikēphóros was called to become the Igumen of Nea Moni. Until 1802, the monks had managed the monastery’s affairs without any audits. In that year, however, the monastery was fined 600,000 piasters, and some of the monastery’s estates had to be sold to pay the amount. Suspecting that the affairs of the monastery were not being properly administered, the citizens asked that Father Nikēphóros be made Igumen. They knew he despised worldly possessions, and so they had full confidence in him. They also decided that an audit of the monastery accounts would be made every year.

It was not easy for Saint Nikēphóros to assume this burden, for he was not familiar with the many responsibilities of a Superior. He would have preferred solitude and study, but he applied himself to his new duties. During the next two years, he tried to resolve conflicts, and to raise the moral spirit of the monks by teaching and by personal example. There were many people above him and below him who did not appreciate his efforts, however, and they plotted against him. Unaccustomed to quarrels and intrigues, he was unable to complete his two year term in office. Therefore, he left and sought refuge in the Hermitage of Saint George at Resta.

Although he was unable to govern these monks, Saint Nikēphóros did excel in his personal life, and in guiding many people to virtue. He also composed church services and hymns to various saints, including Saints Nikḗtas, John, and Joseph (May 20), and Saint Matrona of Chios (October 20).

The companions of Saint Nikēphóros at Resta were a retired priest (who had also been a teacher) called Father Joseph, and Saint Macarius of Corinth. Father Joseph had lived on Mount Athos for a while, then settled on Chios. He also composed church services, including one to the New Martyr Saint Nicholas the New (October 31), which had been published in Venice in 1791. In 1812, Saint Athanasius Parios retired as Director of the schools of Chios, and joined Saint Nikēphóros and the others at Resta.

Saint Nikēphóros devoted himself to spiritual struggles, study, and writing. He also engaged in physical work of an agricultural nature. He planted olive and fig trees, cypresses, and pines. He also encouraged others to plant trees, for he understood that a lack of trees led to poverty, and that by planting trees one’s material resources could be improved. The saint would sometimes tell those who came to him for Confession to plant so many trees as a penance.

In 1805, on his deathbed, Saint Macarius entrusted Saint Nikēphóros with the task of completing and publishing his book THE NEW LEIMONARION. This book contained the Lives and church services of various martyrs, ascetics, and other saints. It is remarkable in that three saints collaborated on this book about saints, Saint Macarius, Saint Nikēphóros, and Saint Athanasius Parios.

By writing so many saints’ Lives and church services, Saint Nikēphóros showed that he considered them important and beneficial. Not only did he provide the biographical details about these saints, he also expressed the Orthodox view of God and man, the beauty of the virtues, and spiritual concepts such as theosis (divinization), inner attention, ceaseless prayer, purification, and asceticism in general.

Like Saint Macarius of Corinth, Saint Nikēphóros was also known as a trainer of martyrs. Those who abandoned Christianity and embraced Islam, and later repented of their actions, went to him to confess their sin. He helped them to prepare to wash away their apostasy by shedding their blood as martyrs. Mindful of the Lord’s words, “Whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father Who is in heaven” (Mt. 10:33) they believed that only after a public reaffirmation of their faith in Christ before the Moslem authorities (which inevitably resulted in a sentence of death) could their sin be forgiven.

Saint Nikēphóros prepared them with prayer, fasting, prostrations, and by encouraging them to remain strong when they went to their deaths. Thus fortified, they endured the most horrible tortures with astonishing courage. Not only did the martyrs themselves receive grace and forgiveness from God, but their example encouraged others to remain firm in the Orthodox Faith.

In addition to those whom he prepared personally, many others were also inspired to martyrdom through his published Lives and services to the martyrs.

Although Saint Nikēphóros had the grace of working miracles, this is not the only reason that he is venerated as a saint. His holy life and character are also important considerations. A saint is one who is free from all vice and possesses all the virtues through divine grace. The people of Chios recognized that Saint Nikēphóros was humble, gentle, free from anger, and filled with love for others. That is why, even in his lifetime, they regarded him as a saint.

Saint Nikēphóros was of medium height, with a pale and gentle face, and a large black beard. Although Saint Nikēphóros probably reposed in the summer of 1821, his Feast Day is designated as May 1. He died in a home near the church of Saint Paraskeve, where he sometimes stayed overnight when he was unable to get back to Resta. His body was brought back to Resta, and was placed in a grave where both Saint Athanasius Parius and the monk Nilus had once been buried.

The holy relics of Saint Nikēphóros were uncovered in 1845 and brought to the metropolitan church of Chios. Many years later, the Guild of Tanners asked for the relics and placed them in the church of Saint George. In 1907, an icon of Saint Nikēphóros was painted, and a church service was composed in his honor.

“Unexpected Joy” Icon of the Mother of God

The “Unexpected Joy” Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, is painted in this way: in a room is an icon of the Mother of God, and beneath it a youth is kneeling at prayer. The tradition about the healing of some youth from a bodily affliction through this holy icon is recorded in the book of Saint Demetrius of Rostov, The Fleece of Prayer [See Judges 6: 36-40].

The sinful youth, who was nevertheless devoted to the Theotokos, was praying one day before the icon of the All-Pure Virgin before going out to commit a sin. Suddenly, he saw that wounds appeared on the Lord’s hands, feet, and side, and blood flowed from them. In horror he exclaimed, “O Lady, who has done this?” The Mother of God replied, “You and other sinners, because of your sins, crucify My Son anew.” Only then did he realize how great was the depth of his sinfulness. For a long time he prayed with tears to the All-Pure Mother of God and the Savior for mercy. Finally, he received the unexpected joy of the forgiveness of his sins.

The “Unexpected Joy” icon is also commemorated on January 25 and May 1.

“Myrrh-Bearing” Icon of the Mother of God

The “Myrrh-Bearing” Icon of the Mother of God of Tsarevokokshaisk (in the province of Kazan) appeared to the peasant Andrew Ivanov on May 1, 1647 near Bolshaya Kuznetsa, fifteen versts from the city of Tsarevokokshaisk in the Kazan region. Working in the field, Andrew noticed an icon lying on the ground and wanted to pick it up, but the icon became invisible. The astonished peasant, looking around, noticed the icon in a tree, supported by an unseen force. He prayed and took the icon home, where it was glorified by miracles.

Pilgrims thronged to the icon from all the surrounding villages. They carried the image to the city of Tsarevokokshaisk, and later to Moscow, and after a while, they returned home with it. A monastery was built at the place of its appearance. It is called “Myrrh-Bearing” because the Mother of God is depicted with the Myrrh-Bearing Women.

Saint Panaretus of Cyprus

No information available.

Saint Gerasimus of Boldino

Saint Gerasimus of Boldino, whose secular name was Gregory, was born in 1490 at Pereslav-Zalessk. In his early childhood, he often went to church to attend the divine services. When he heard about the holy life of Saint Daniel of Pereyaslavl (April 7), the thirteen-year-old Gregory tearfully begged the Elder to permit him to join him. The Elder accepted the boy as a novice and, after a short time, gave him monastic tonsure with the name Gerasimus. The new monk zealously fulfilled the labors of fasting and prayer, and soon he was known in Moscow as a strict ascetic. He even traveled to the capital with his teacher, and met the Tsar.

Worldly fame was a burden for the ascetic and, after twenty-six years under Saint Daniel’s guidance, Saint Gerasimus obtained the blessing of his Elder to live the solitary life in the region of Smolensk. He settled near the city of Dorogobuzha in a wild forest inhabited by snakes and wild animals.The holy ascetic restrained his body (“the wild beast”) by subjecting it to heat and cold. The saint often had to endure the intrusion of brigands, but he bore all their outrages meekly and patiently, and he prayed for the malefactors.

In a vision, he was instructed to go to Boldino Hill, where an immense oak stood by a spring. The local inhabitants beat him with sticks and wanted to drown him, but they became frightened and handed him over to the administrator of Dorogobuzha, who threw him into jail for vagrancy. Saint Gerasimus patiently endured the ridicule, keeping silence and devoting himself to prayer.

During this time an imperial emissary from Moscow came to visit the administrator. Seeing Saint Gerasimus, he bowed down before him and asked his blessing. He recognized him because he had seen the saint before, with Saint Daniel, in the presence of the Tsar. The administrator became terrified, and immediately begged the saint’s forgiveness and promised to build an enclosure to protect him from robbers.

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From that time Saint Gerasimus received those who wished to embrace the monastic life, and sought permission at Moscow to build a monastery. In 1530 he built a church dedicated to the Most Holy Trinity, and he also built cells for the brethren.

Besides the Boldino monastery, Saint Gerasimus founded another monastery in honor of Saint John the Forerunner at the city of Vyazma, and later on, in the Bryansk forest at the River Zhizdra, a monastery in honor of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple. Peter Korostelev, a disciple of Saint Gerasimus, was made igumen of this monastery. Several ascetics were under the spiritual guidance of Saint Gerasimus: the igumen Anthony, who later became the Bishop of Vologda (Oct. 26), and Arcadius, a disciple of Saint Gerasimus, struggled as a hermit and was buried at the Boldino monastery.

Before his death, Saint Gerasimus summoned the igumens and monks of the monasteries he had founded, told them of his life, and gave them his final instructions. This oral narrative of the saint was included in his Life, which was composed by Saint Anthony at the request of the Elders. The Rule, or Testament, of Saint Gerasimus is similar to the “Spiritual Deed” of Saint Joseph of Volokolamsk (September 9, October 18, February 13). From Saint Joseph he also borrowed the practice of having twelve Elders govern the monastery.

There is an oral tradition that he may have converted Opta, the founder of Optina Monastery. It seems that he would convert the criminals in a given area, and then establish a monastery there.

Saint Gerasimus reposed on May 1, 1554. He is also commemorated on July 20.

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Martyr Isidora

No information available at this time.

Saint Zosimas II of Kumurdo

Saint Zosimas of Kumurdo lived and labored from the end of the 15th century through the first half of the 16th century. To the world he was known as Zebede. He was raised by Princess Ketevan, the daughter of King George VIII (1446-1466).

In 1515 Zebede was tonsured a monk and given the new name Zosimas. It is believed that in the same year he was also consecrated a bishop. An inscription at Kumurdo Church attests to his hierarchical rank: “May the Lord have mercy on Zosimas, bishop of Kumurdo. Amen.”

Saint Zosimas is credited with compiling a handwritten anthology of prayers, homilies, and other writings in the year 1537. The anthology concludes with two of the holy father’s own wills.

In addition to his pastoral, educational and church-building activity in the Kumurdo diocese, Saint Zosimas also performed many important works in the Holy Land of Jerusalem. In the 15th and 16th centuries the struggle between Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics over whom God had appointed heir to the holy hill of Golgotha became particularly acute, and the Orthodox Church was forced to defend the rights that it had acquired in previous centuries. At that time, Saint Zosimas arrived in the Holy Land and joined the struggle to liberate Golgotha from the Catholics. In honor of his valiant efforts, two vigil lamps were later hung in his name in the churches at Golgotha and the Holy Cross Monastery.

It is significant to note that from the 15th century the names of the bishops of Kumurdo have been inscribed in an important chronicle called Ertgulebis Tsigni, or The Book of Faith. Throughout history the hierarchs of Kumurdo have defended the unity of the Georgian Church and stood steadfast as pillars of national-religious sentiment and examples of faith.

On October 17, 2002, the Georgian Church canonized the holy hierarch Zosimas of Kumurdo and reinstated the bishopric of ancient Kumurdo.

Daily Readings for Saturday, April 30, 2022

RENEWAL SATURDAY

NO FAST

Renewal Saturday, James the Apostle and brother of St. John the Theologian, Argyra the New Martyr, Clement the Hymnographer, Erconwald, Bishop of London

ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 3:11-16

In those days, while the healed lame man clung to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s, astounded. And when Peter saw it he addressed the people, “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And his name, by faith in his name, has made this man strong whom you see and know; and the faith which is through him has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.”

JOHN 3:22-33

At that time, Jesus and his disciples went into the land of Judea; there He remained with them and baptized. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people came and were baptized. For John had not yet been put in prison.
Now a discussion arose between John's disciples and a Jew over purifying. And they came to John, and said to him, "Rabbi, he who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you bore witness, here he is, baptizing, and all are going to him." John answered, "No one can receive anything except what is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before Him. He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full. He must increase, but I must decrease.
He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth belongs to the earth, and of the earth he speaks; he who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony; he who receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true.

Bright Saturday

The artos, which was blessed after the Liturgy of Pascha, is cut and distributed after Liturgy on Bright Saturday. The prayer read today speaks of Christ as the Bread of Life.

Apostle James the Brother of Saint John the Theologian

The Holy Apostle James, the son of Zebedee, was the brother of Saint John the Theologian, and one of the Twelve Apostles. He and his brother, Saint John, were called to be Apostles by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who called them the “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). It was this James, with John and Peter, who witnessed the Raising of the Daughter of Jairus, the Lord’s Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, and His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Saint James, after the Descent of the Holy Spirit, preached in Spain and in other lands, and then he returned to Jerusalem. He openly and boldly preached Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world, and he denounced the Pharisees and the Scribes with the words of Holy Scripture, reproaching them for their malice of heart and unbelief.

The Jews could not prevail against Saint James, and so they hired the sorcerer Hermogenes to dispute with the apostle and refute his arguments that Christ was the promised Messiah Who had come into the world. The sorcerer sent to the apostle his pupil Philip, who was converted to belief in Christ. Then Hermogenes himself became persuaded of the power of God, he burned his books of magic, accepted holy Baptism and became a true follower of Christ.

The Jews persuaded Herod Agrippa (40-44) to arrest the Apostle James and sentence him to death (Acts 12:1-2). Eusebius provides some of the details of the saint’s execution (CHURCH HISTORY II, 9). Saint James calmly heard the death sentence and continued to bear witness to Christ. One of the false witnesses, whose name was Josiah, was struck by the courage of Saint James. He came to believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah. When they led the apostle forth to execution, Josiah fell at his feet, repenting of his sin and asking forgiveness. The apostle embraced him, gave him a kiss and said, “Peace and forgiveness to you.” Then Josiah confessed his faith in Christ before everyone, and he was beheaded with Saint James in the year 44 at Jerusalem.

Saint James was the first of the Apostles to die as a martyr.

Uncovering of the relics of Saint Nikḗtas, Bishop of Novgorod

Saint Nikḗtas the former Recluse of the Kiev Caves fell asleep in the Lord in 1109, after serving as Bishop of Novgorod for thirteen years.

Bishop Nikḗtas was glorified as a saint during the reign of Tsar Ivan Vasilievich, and his holy relics, dressed in full vestments, were uncovered on April 30, 1558. That day was marked by the healing of many people. His relics now rest in the cathedral of the holy Apostle Philip in Novgorod.

Saint Nikḗtas of Novgorod is also commemorated on January 31, the day of his repose, and on May 14.

Saint Donatus, Bishop of Euroea in Epirus

Saint Donatus lived during the reign of the holy Emperor Theodosius the Great (379-397) and was bishop of the city of Euroea (in Albania). Not far from this city, in the vicinity of Soreia, was a brackish spring of water. When the saint learned of this, he went with clergy to the spring and cast out a monstrous serpent, which died. The saint prayed, he blessed the spring and drank the water without harm. Seeing this miracle, the people glorified God.

Another time, Saint Donatus prayed and brought forth water from a dry and rocky place, and during a drought he entreated the Lord to send rain to the parched land.

The daughter of the holy Emperor Theodosius fell terribly ill and was afflicted by an unclean spirit. Saint Donatus came to the palace, and as soon as he arrived the devil left and the sick woman was healed.

A certain man, shortly before his death, repaid a loan to a money-lender. The creditor tried to extort the money a second time from the dead man’s widow. The saint resurrected the dead man, who told where and when the loan had been repaid. After obtaining a receipt from the creditor, the man fell asleep in the Lord.

Saint Donatus reposed in peace about the year 387.

Uncovering of the relics of Saint Basil, Bishop of Amasea

The Hieromartyr Basil, Bishop of Amasea, lived at the beginning of the fourth century in the Pontine city of Amasea. He encouraged and comforted the Christians suffering persecution by the pagans. During this time the Eastern part of the Roman Empire was ruled by Licinius (311-324), the brother-in-law of the holy emperor Constantine the Great (May 21). Licinius deceitfully signed Saint Constantine’s Edict of Milan (313), which granted religious toleration to Christians, but he hated them and continued to persecute them.

Martyr Maximus of Ephesus

The Holy Martyr Maximus suffered for his faith in Christ, and was run through with a sword.

Saint Ignatius Brianchaninov, Bishop of the Caucasus and Stavropol

The future hierarch, Saint Ignatius, was chosen for the service of God even before his birth on February 6, 1807. His father Alexander S. Brianchaninov was a wealthy provincial landowner in the large village of Pokrovskoe in Vologda Gubernia. The Saint's birth was the result of his devout mother's fervent prayers, for she had no children until then. His mother Sophia (1786–1832) had been barren for a long time, and she visited the holy places in the area, asking God to give her a child. Finally, her prayers were answered, and she gave birth to a son. In Holy Baptism he received the name Demetrios, in honor of Saint Demetrios of Priluki (February 11).

Young Demetrios spent his childhood at Pokrovskoe in the natural surroundings of rural life. As he matured, he became quiet and reflective. He loved going to church and often attended the Services. In his spare time, the boy read spiritual books and he prayed. After the Holy Gospels, his favorite book was The Spiritual School, a very old collection of the Lives and sayings of the Saints in five volumes. Although he was drawn to the monastic life, his parents did not approve of this. Besides, it was quite unusual for a nobleman to follow such a path. Alexander Brianchaninov was from an old and respected family, and he was a worldly individual with ties to the palace. He planned a military career for his son.

When Demetrios reached the age of fifteen, his father entered him in the Imperial School of Military Engineers at St. Petersburg. He did so well in his entrance exam that he even attracted the notice of the Director of the school, Grand Duke Nicholas Pavlovich, the future Tsar Nicholas I. The Prince invited the young man to the palace, and introduced him to his wife, who suggested that he be given a stipend.

At the school he won the affection of the professors and administrators because of his excellent grades and exemplary conduct. Demetrios was even received at the home of Alexei N. Olenin, who was then President of the Academy of the Arts, Archaeology, and History, where he became acquainted with all the prominent literary figures of the day: K.N. Batyushkov, N.I. Gnedich, I.A. Krylov, and also A.S. Pushkin. These gatherings contributed to the development of the young man's literary talents.

However, the clamor of the capital and its worldly pleasures could not extinguish the fire in his soul which had been kindled by divine grace. His spirit was troubled by many thoughts: his mind was filled with doubts, and his heart seethed with passions. In this state Demetrios took refuge in prayer. He prayed constantly day and night. At the same time, he was no longer content to receive Holy Communion only once a year, as was the custom at school. Desiring to partake of this spiritual food (John 6:48-58), Demetrios went to confess to the school's priest, who was surprised by such a request. Not only did he refuse to permit Demetrios to receive Communion more frequently, he also reported what he heard in Confession to the school authorities, which was inexcusable.

Despite his excellent record, Demetrios grew more and more depressed at the thought of a career as a military officer, and he still wanted to become a monk. He and his friend Nicholas Chikhachev († January 16, 1873) decided to visit the Alexander Nevsky Lavra in St. Petersburg for Confession. Father Athanasios, the Father Confessor, was more sympathetic than the school's priest had been, and did not discourage them when they expressed a desire to become monks.

But there were still many obstacles and heavy trials which had to be overcome by the young ascetics before they could attain their goal, which was to take refuge behind the walls of a holy monastery. Of course, the greatest opposition to their plans came from their own relatives. When the elder Mr. Brianchaninov found out about his son's life and activities, he wrote at once to the Director of the school, Count Sivers, asking him to keep a very close watch over his son. He also wrote to Metropolitan Seraphim of St. Petersburg saying that the Father Confessor of the Lavra, Father Athanasios, was encouraging his son to become a monk. The Metropolitan, fearing trouble from the powerful people of this world, reprimanded Father Athanasios severely and forbade him to receive the two young men for Confession. This was very difficult for Demetrios, so he decided to discuss the matter with the Metropolitan in person. After seeing the young man, and listening to his sincere explanation, the Metropolitan blessed him to visit the Lavra and his Father Confessor once again. Meanwhile, the young man's decision to forsake the world came to a definite resolution, and he decided to follow the call of his inner voice. The main reason why Demetrios decided to fulfill his desire right away was his acquaintance with Elder Leonid of Optina, who was distinguished by his divine wisdom, holiness of life, and experience in the ascetical life of monasticism. After their first conversation, Demetrios told his friend Michael Chikhachev (Чихачев), "Father Leonid has captured my heart. Now it is definite. I am asking to be discharged, and I am going to follow the Elder."

Before Demetrios was able to find a quiet abode within the walls of the monastery, however, he had to endure some great trials; first with his family, and secondly with the powerful people of this world. Unable to obtain that which he desired, the grieving young man left home for the capital. There, another storm awaited him. As soon as he finished his last exam, he petitioned for a discharge from his military service (which he had not yet begun). When Tsar Nicholas I learned of this, he asked his brother, the Grand Duke, to talk the young man out of this. All of the powerful prince's kindnesses, discussions, and even threats, were in vain. The young man remained inflexible. Then the Grand Duke informed Demetrios that the Tsar had refused to release him, and that he has been assigned to Dinaburg Fortress. Bitterly, the young officer was forced to submit, but when he arrived at Dinaburg he became severely ill. When he visited the fortress in 1827, the Grand Duke could see for himself that Demetrios was unable to continue his military service, and he gave him his much-desired discharge. Thus, the secular life of young Demetrios came to an end.

After obtaining his discharge, Demetrios traveled via St. Petersburg to Svirsk Monastery and to Elder Leonid (who was living there at the time because he was persecuted at Valaam by the Superior, Father Innocent), in order to submit himself to this experienced spiritual guide and begin his monastic life. Arriving at St. Petersburg, and dressed as a peasant, Demetrios stayed at Chikhachev's apartment. His friend Michael also requested a discharge, but this was not granted. So he was obliged to remain in the service for a while longer. Demetrios left for Svirsk Monastery alone, where he began his asceticism of obedience. In the meantime, his angry parents cut off all ties with him, denying him any material assistance.

While he was a novice, the future instructor of monks was distinguished by his complete obedience and deep humility. Assigned to work in the kitchen, he obeyed all of the cook's orders with humility, (the cook happened to be his father's former servant), and the entire brotherhood began to respect and to love the young ascetic. Elder Leonid was the young novice's Spiritual Father. Demetrios, by his singular obedience, cemented his relationship with his instructor. This relationship resembled that of the ancient novices with their Elders. Demetrios did not take a single step without the knowledge of his Spiritual Father, and every day he revealed all his innermost thoughts and desires to him. In this case, the Elder was like a real instructor in the spirit of true monasticism, as exemplified by the ancient ascetics of early Christianity.

The novice lived this kind of life at Svirsk Monastery, and also at Ploschansk Hermitage, where his instructor was forced to transfer after a year with his disciples. Here Demetrios was comforted by the arrival of his close friend Michael Chikhachev. Reunited in the tranquil seclusion of the monastery, the friends began to practice the asceticism of piety, offering help to one another. They were blessed to do so by Father Leonid. However, the young ascetics were unable to remain for long at the quiet abode of Ploschansk Hermitage. Because of persecution by the Superior, Father Leonid was forced to move to Optina. His disciples were also ordered to leave and were told to go wherever they pleased.

Grief-stricken, because they admired the strict and quiet life of the two novices, the other monks watched them depart. The monks gave them five rubles, which they had collected for their travel expenses. First, the two friends went to White Bluff Hermitage but they were not accepted there. Then they went to Optina to be with their Elder, but Abbot Moses did not want to admit them for a long time. At long last, because of their constant pleading, he was compelled to accept these two brilliant former officers who had rejected all worldly vanity for the sake of Christ.

Their position at Optina was difficult. The Superior regarded them sternly, and the monks did not trust them. The coarse food and the climate both affected Demetrios, and he became very ill. Chikachev took care of his friend, but soon he too was stricken with a debilitating fever. In the meantime, Demetrios's parents softened their opinion of their son. His mother became ill, and this illness aroused her maternal instincts, and she wanted to see her son again. Even the stern father seemed to mellow somewhat, and he invited his son and his friend to come and visit. Demetrios and Michael went there right away, but their reunion was far from pleasant. His mother was feeling better, but as her illness abated, his father's tender feelings also disappeared, and Demetrios got a very cold reception. Alexander Brianchaninov still hoped to have his son pursue a brilliant career, so he tried to force him to abandon the monastic life and to enter into civil or military service. Therefore, the young man began to feel burdened by life in the world.

At the beginning of 1830, he and Michael entered the St. Cyril of White Lake Monastery. The Superior at that time was Father Arkadios, a saintly man, but simple of heart. Seeing true monks in these newcomers, he welcomed them with love. Almost as soon as the two friends began their life in that monastery, Demetrios was stricken once again with a terrible fever. The monastery was located on an island in a large lake, and the dampness made it impossible for him to remain there any longer. Chikhachev also became ill. Then Demetrios returned to Vologda in order to recover his health, while Chikhachev went back to his home in Pskov Province.

It was difficult for the young ascetic to live in the world once more after he had rejected it. His only happiness then were his talks with Bishop Stephen of Vologda, who came to love the young novice, and often invited him to visit. As soon as Demetrios was well, he blessed him to live in the Semigorod Hermitage of the Dormition. Here Demetrios devoted himself to his usual works of meditation and prayer. Meanwhile, his strict father kept insisting that he enter the service again. He did not leave his son in peace even when he transferred from Semigorod Hermitage to the far-off and secluded Glushitsa Sosnovetsk Monastery. For this reason Demetrios pleaded with Bishop Stephen to tonsure him as soon as possible. Since he was very familiar with Demetrios's spiritual state, he decided to do so. He obtained special permission from the Holy Synod, then summoned Demetrios to Vologda and ordered him to prepare himself for tonsure, but to conceal this from his relatives.

On June 20, 1831, the desire of his heart was fulfilled. He was tonsured by Bishop Stephen and renamed Ignatius, in honor of the Hieromartyr Ignatius the God-Bearer (December 20 & January 29). When his relatives arrived at the cathedral that day they were greatly astonished by this new ceremony which they had never seen before. They were even more upset by their son's action, which shattered all of their fondest hopes and plans. The newly-tonsured monk was not disturbed by this, however. He was ordained as a deacon on July 5 and then to the priesthood on July 20. In that rank he was appointed as Superior of the Grigoriev Pel'shemsk Lopotov Monastery.

Lopotov Monastery was almost completely in ruins. Everything had to be restored or rebuilt. The new Superior began his work with zeal, and soon the Lopotov Monastery became unrecognizable. Not only was it restored outwardly, but inwardly as well, in its spiritual life. This was all due to the new Superior. Father Ignatius did not spare himself in laboring for the good of the monastery. For
example, all during the winter of 1832 he lived in the poor, small cabin of the church watchman.

These labors of the young Hieromonk were done for the glory of God, but he was not left without his joys. His first joy was meeting
his dear friend Chikhachev, who also came to live at the Lopotov Monastery, and was the Superior's energetic helper. His second joy
was his peaceful reconciliation with his parents. He began to visit them again and, under his influence, they became more favorably
disposed toward him. His mother especially was changed, and thanked God for making her first-born His servant. She reposed soon after this, at the age of forty-six, and received Holy Communion for the last time from her son. He bore his grief with true Christian fortitude, and tried to overcome his sorrow with extra work in rebuilding the monastery. The young Hieromonk's efforts were noticed by Bishop Stephen, who elevated him to the rank of Igoumen in January of 1833.

His labors could not but affect his weakened and sickly body, especially since the Lopotov Monastery was in a swamp. All this made him very ill again until his friend Chikhachev tried to talk him into transferring elsewhere. Thanks to the help of Countess Anna Orlova-Chesmenskaya, Father Ignatius's condition was closely observed by the great Moscow hierarch Metropolitan Philaret, who offered him to be the Superior of the St. Nicholas-Ugreshsky Monastery in his diocese.

However, God's Providence was preparing Father Ignatius for much broader activities. Tsar Nicholas I remembered his beloved student and ordered that he not be sent to Moscow, but to St. Petersburg so that he could see him in person. The humble Igoumen set out for the northern capital, where he was presented to the Tsar, who was pleased to see him. After a few brief explanations, the Tsar said, "I love you as I did before! You still owe me for your education, which I gave you because of my love for you. You did not want to serve me in the place I offered you, and chose your own path. So, it is on that path that you must repay your debt to me. I am giving you the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Hermitage near St. Petersburg. I want you to live there and make it a monastery which will serve as an example for the other monasteries in the capital."

Tsar Nicholas then presented him to his wife, who was kind to her former student, and asked him to bless her children. The Tsar then ordered the Secretary of the Synod to come, and told him of his wishes. Igoumen Ignatius was appointed as Superior of St. Sergius Hermitage, and was raised to the rank of Archimandrite. The new Superior assumed his duties at the Hermitage on January 5, 1834. Here, Father Ignatius encountered new labors and cares. Until that time, St. Sergius Hermitage had been ruled by vicar bishops, which, of course, was not good for the monastery. Its proximity to the city was also harmful for it. All the buildings in the Hermitage were in need of repair, and even major renovations. There were only thirty monks, and all of them fell far short of the monastic ideal. Moral laxity reigned here in full force. It was difficult for the sickly Superior, who was frequently ill, to perform his duties, which required constant care, bother, and work. It was especially difficult to combat the depravity of his monks. He said himself, "Jealousy, evil talk, and slander rose up against me and they hissed at me. I saw enemies who breathed unutterable malice, and who thirsted for my destruction." He overcame all of this with his iron will, which was hidden in the humble Superior's weakened body.

It was not even a year before St. Sergius Hermitage was given new life and beautified. Constant work, restoring churches, a new living quarters was built, and also a new trapeza, bakery, and shops. In the midst of all this construction, the Tsar and his family unexpectedly visited the monastery. When the Tsar arrived and entered the church at 6:00 P.M., he asked the first monk he met, "Is Father Archimandrite at home? Tell him that his old friend wishes to see him."

When the Superior hastened to receive the exalted guests, the Tsar greeted him and asked about his work. He inspected the construction sites, praised the work of Father Ignatius, and promised to send money from the Treasury.

Beautifying his monastery on the outside, with the Tsar's help, the zealous Superior also brought to it a sense of inner well-being. Everything was orderly now, the Divine Services were solemn and grand, and he formed a beautiful choir. He cared even more, however, for the spiritual nurture of the monks in his monastery. He examined the personal life of each monk, instructing them to use their free time in a way that would benefit their souls: in prayer, fasting, reading spiritual books, and manual labor. In a word, he tried to instill the spirit of true monasticism in them. His great experience, his unflagging zeal, and his knowledge of the human heart, all these produced such results that Father Ignatius soon attained his goals. Indeed, he had fulfilled the Tsar's wishes by making St. Sergius Hermitage a model for other monasteries.

In caring for the perfecting of others, Father Archimandrite himself progressed higher and higher toward spiritual perfection. He taught not only by word, but also by his own example. His fondest wish was that he himself might attain the spiritual beauty of the ancient monks of the Thebaïd and of Egypt, whose lofty example had captivated him from his childhood. In order to come closer to his ideal, he did not spare his health or his strength in his ascetical struggles. These caused him to become ill, which obliged him to request retirement from his position.

Instead of retirement, however, Archimandrite Ignatius received some time off in order to regain his health at Kostroma's St. Nicholas Babaev Monastery on the Volga River. After living there for about eleven months in complete seclusion, he returned once more to his duties as Superior of the St. Sergius Hermitage. Yet the thought of living as a hermit had never left Father Ignatius. After losing his benefactor, Tsar Nicholas, he decided to devote himself once again to a secluded life in a Skete. He even began making arrangements with Father Moses of Optina Hermitage to let him have a cell in the Skete. Then suddenly, he was elected as Bishop of Stavropol and the Caucasus.

Father Ignatius was consecrated as Bishop of the Caucasus on October 27, 1857 in the Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg. The new hierarch bade farewell to everyone in November, and put his financial affairs in order. He left for his new assignment, and arrived early in 1858. On the way, he was nearly killed in a severe blizzard. When he arrived at Stavropol, he began to carry out his new duties with zeal. His diocese required more from him than most others, since it had been established only a short time before. The bishop's residence had hardly anything on which to live. The clergy were very poor, and their relationship with their flocks was far from what it should be. Schools had to be reorganized, and the churches and the Divine Services needed improvement.

After seeing to the material means of existence in the bishop's residence, Saint Ignatius turned most of his attention to celebrating the Divine Services according to the Church Typikon, and to restoring a proper relationship between the clergy and the people. In his own dealings with the clergy, he was kind, simple, and straightforward. He was always concerned with improving their lives, education, and their relationship with one another. The Church Schools received his particular attention, and in general, how to raise the younger generation in a true Christian spirit. Thanks to the bishop's energy and love of his duties, the Diocese of the Caucasus was soon put into good order. Unfortunately, Bishop Ignatius was not able to rule the diocese for long. Smallpox, along with a terrible fever, completely exhausted his health. He had been weakened already by his former ascetical struggles and by his workload.

Desiring to complete the remainder of his life in the solitude for which he yearned, the bishop decided to petition the Tsar and the Synod
to retire him so that he might end his days in peace. His request was accepted and he received retirement with pay. He was also appointed as Superior of the St. Nicholas Babaev Monastery in the Diocese of Kostroma.

The bishop arrived at the monastery on October 13, 1861. He went there to be at peace, but being accustomed to constant work, he could not be at ease just doing nothing. Even now, he looked to improve the monastery which had been entrusted to him. The order of Divine Services, the monastery's Rule, the monks' trapeza, the living quarters, all these were improved. He rebuilt the Superior's living quarters; he also built a beautiful new church to replace the old one. He saw to the proper use of the monastery's land, and the monastery's finances increased. The inner life of the monks was also improved. The bishop was the same extraordinary instructor that he had been elsewhere.

In the midst of all his labors, the best consolation for him was the visits of various close friends and guests. So, in his first year at Babaev, and for the last time in their lives, his friend Father Michael Chikhachev arrived from St. Sergius Hermitage. In 1862, his retired
brother, the former governor of Stavropol Province, came to live in the monastery as "a pilgrim." In August of 1866, he was visited by
Tsar Alexander II and the Grand Duke, who listened kindly to the Elder's conversation about monasticism.

In addition to his talks with visitors, Bishop Ignatius loved his literary labors. He reread and rewrote his previous articles, and wrote new articles. In these labors, caring for the monastery, and his monastic struggles, Bishop Ignatius spent all of his time living in Babaev Monastery until the spring of 1867. No one knew, except the Elder himself, just how close the time of his death was. He had already been preparing for it for some time.

On the Bright Day of Christ's Resurrection, after Vespers, he suddenly announced that no one was to disturb him, because he needed to prepare for death in solitude. This was on April 16. The following day, the bishop began to say farewell to his close friends. When he bade his cell attendant farewell, he bowed to the ground before him and said, "Batushka, please forgive me." Such was the Elder's humility, and it moved the cell attendant to tears. During those days, he often said that it was difficult for him to bring his mind down to earthly matters.

His feelings did not deceive him. On April 30, 1867, he reposed quietly and in peace. Death found him in solitude and at prayer. No one knew when or how his soul departed his body. His body remained in his cell for three days, preserving on his face the imprint of unearthly peace and joy. Then it was taken to the monastery church and buried by Bishop Jonathan, the vicar of the Kostroma Diocese. The funeral service seemed more like a spiritual feast than a sad funeral.

Saint Ignatius was glorified by the Jubilee Council of the Moscow Patriarchate (June 6-9, 1988), during the millennial celebration of the Baptism of Rus. His holy relics are preserved at the Tolga Monastery on the Volga River, near Yaroslavl.

Icon of the Mother of God “of the Passion”

The Icon of the Mother of God “Of the Passion” The icon received its name because on either side of the Mother of God are two angels with the implements of the Lord’s suffering: the Cross, the lance, and the sponge.

There was a certain pious woman, Katherine, who began to suffer seizures and madness after her marriage. She ran off into the forest and attempted suicide more than once.

In a moment of clarity she prayed to the Mother of God and vowed that if she were healed, she would enter a monastery. After recovering her health, she only remembered her vow after a long time. Afraid and mentally afflicted, she took to her bed. Three times the Most Holy Theotokos appeared to her, commanding the sick woman to go to Nizhni-Novgorod and to buy Her icon from the iconographer Gregory.

After she had done this, Katherine received healing. From that time on, miracles have occurred from this icon. The Feast day of this icon is on August 13, commemorating its transfer from the village of Palitsa to Moscow in 1641. A church was built at the place where it was met at the Tver gates, and in 1654, the Strastna monastery was built.

The icon is also commemorated on April 30, and on the sixth Sunday after Pascha (the Sunday of the Blind Man) in memory of the miracles which occurred on this day. Other “Passion” icons of the Mother of God have been glorified in the Moscow church of the Conception of Saint Anna, and also in the village of Enkaeva in Tambov diocese.

New Martyr Argyra

The holy New Martyr Argyra lived in Proussa, Bithynia, and came from a pious family. She was a beautiful and virtuous woman. When she was eighteen, she married a pious Christian, and they moved into a neighborhood inhabited by many Moslems.

After only a few days, she was approached by a Turkish neighbor, the son of the Cadi (magistrate). He boldly declared his love for her, and tried to convert her to his religion. She rejected his advances, saying that she would rather die than be married to a Moslem. She did not tell her husband, fearing that he would go after the Turk and then be punished for it.

The Moslem brought her to trial and testified that she had assented to his advances, but then had laughed and said she was only joking. His lies were corroborated by false witnesses, and Argyra was sent to prison.

The saint’s husband, hoping to get her a fair trial, appealed to Constantinople. There the accuser repeated his lies before the judge. Saint Argyra said that she was a Christian, and that she would never deny Christ. The judge ordered her to be flogged, then sentenced her to life in prison.

She was often taken from her cell, interrogated, beaten, then returned to prison. This continued for seventeen years. The saint was also insulted and tormented by the Moslem women who were incarcerated for their evil deeds. The Evil One incited them to annoy Saint Argyra with these torments and afflictions, but she endured all these things with great courage and patience.

According to the testimony of many Christian women who were in prison with her, she humbled her body through fasting. Her heart was filled with such love for Christ that she regarded her hardships as comforts.

A pious Christian named Manolis Kiourtzibasis sent her word that he would try to have her released, but Saint Argyra would not consent to this. She completed her earthly pilgrimage in the prison, receiving the crown of martyrdom on April 5, 1721.

After a few years her body was exhumed, and was found to be whole and incorrupt, emitting an ineffable fragrance. Pious priests and laymen took her body to the church of Saint Paraskeve on April 30, 1735 with the permission of Patriarch Paisius II.

Her relics remain there to this day, where they are venerated by Orthodox Christians from all walks of life, to the glory of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Saint Argyra’s name comes from the Greek word for silver (argyre). THE NEW MARTYR ARGYRA 1688-1721 by P. Philippidou (which also contains a Service to the saint) was published in Constantinople in 1912.

Daily Readings for Friday, April 29, 2022

RENEWAL FRIDAY: THEOTOKOS OF THE LIFE-GIVING SPRING

NO FAST

Renewal Friday: Theotokos of the Life-giving Spring, Jason and Sosipater the Apostles of the 70 and their Companions, Holy Martyr Cercyra, Our Holy Father John of Kaloktenos, Metropolitan of Thebes, Basil, Bishop of Montenegro, Nektarios the New Martyr of Optina

ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 3:1-8

In those days, Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful to ask alms of those who entered the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, with John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention upon them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and walked and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.

JOHN 2:12-22

At that time, Jesus came to Capernaum with his mother and his brothers and his disciples; and there they stayed for a few days.
The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers at their business. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple; and he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, "Take these things away; you shall not make my Father's house a house of trade." His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for your house will consume me." The Jews then said to him, "What sign have you to show us for doing this?" Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews then said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?" But he spoke of the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.

Bright Friday: The Life Giving Fountain of the Mother of God

Today we commemorate the Life-Giving Fountain of the Most Holy Theotokos.

There once was a beautiful church in Constantinople dedicated to the Mother of God, which had been built in the fifth century by the holy Emperor Leo the Great (January 20) in the Seven Towers district.

Before becoming emperor, Leo was walking in a wooded area where he met a blind man who was thirsty and asked Leo to help him find water. Though he agreed to search for water, he was unable to find any. Suddenly, he heard a voice telling him that there was water nearby. He looked again, but still could not find the water. Then he heard the voice saying “Emperor Leo, go into the deepest part of the woods, and you will find water there. Take some of the cloudy water in your hands and give it to the blind man to drink.Then take the clay and put it on his eyes. Then you shall know who I am.” Leo obeyed these instructions, and the blind man regained his sight. Later, Saint Leo became emperor, just as the Theotokos had prophesied.

Leo built a church over the site at his own expense, and the water continued to work miraculous cures. Therefore, it was called “The Life-Giving Fountain.”

After the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, the church was torn down by the Moslems, and the stones were used to build a mosque. Only a small chapel remained at the site of the church. Twenty-five steps led down into the chapel, which had a window in the roof to let the light in. The holy Fountain was still there, surrounded by a railing.

After the Greek Revolution in 1821, even this little chapel was destroyed and the Fountain was buried under the rubble. Christians later obtained permission to rebuild the chapel, and work began in July of 1833. While workmen were clearing the ground, they uncovered the foundations of the earlier church. The Sultan allowed them to build not just a chapel, but a new and beautiful church on the foundations of the old one.

Construction began on September 14, 1833, and was completed on December 30, 1834. Patriarch Constantine II consecrated the church on February 2, 1835, dedicating it to the Most Holy Theotokos.

The Turks desecrated and destroyed the church again on September 6, 1955. A smaller church now stands on the site, and the waters of the Life-Giving Fountain continue to work miracles.

There is also a Life-Giving Fountain Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos which is commemorated on April 4.

KONTAKION Tone 8

O most favored by God, you confer on me the healing of your grace from your inexhaustible Fountain. Therefore, since you gave birth incomprehensibly to the Word, I implore you to refresh me with the dew of your grace that I might cry to you: Hail, O Water of salvation.

Appearance of the Icon of the Mother of God “The Footprint” at Pochaev

On Bright Friday we commemorate the Appearance of the Icon of the Mother of God “The Footprint” at Pochaev.

In the year 1340, two monks came and settled in a cave on the hill where the monastery is now located. After reading his usual Prayer Rule, one of them went to the top of the hill, and and suddenly he beheld the Theotokos standing on a rock and enveloped in flames. He summoned the other monk, who also witnessed the miracle. A third witness of the vision was the shepherd John Bosoy. He ran to the hill, and the three of them glorified God. The Most Holy Theotokos left the imprint of her right foot on the stone where she had stood, and this filled up with water. Since that time, many people have been healed at this miraculous spring.

Nine Martyrs at Cyzicus: Theognes, Rufus, Antipater, Theostichus, Artemas, Magnus, Theodotus, Thaumasius, and Philemon

The city of Cyzicus is in Asia Minor on the coast of the Dardenelles (Hellespont). Christianity already began to spread there through the preaching of Saint Paul (June 29). During the persecutions by the pagans, some of the Christians fled the city, while others kept their faith in Christ in secret.

At the end of the third century Cyzicus was still basically a pagan city, although there was a Christian church there. The situation in the city distressed the Christians, who sought to uphold Christianity. The nine holy martyrs Thaumasius, Theognes, Rufus, Antipater, Theostichus, Artemas, Magnus, Theodotus, and Philemon were also from Cyzicus. They came from various places, and were of different ages: the young like Saint Antipater, and the very old like Saint Rufus. They came from various positions in society: some were soldiers, countryfolk, city people, and clergy. All of them declared their faith in Christ, and prayed for the spread of Christianity.

The saints boldly confessed Christ and fearlessly denounced the pagan impiety. They were arrested and brought to trial before the ruler of the city. Over several days they were tortured, locked in prison and brought out again. They were promised their freedom if they renounced Christ. But the valiant martyrs of Christ continued to glorify the Lord. All nine martyrs were beheaded by the sword (+ ca. 286-299), and their bodies buried near the city.

In the year 324, when the Eastern half of the Roman Empire was ruled by Saint Constantine the Great (May 21), and the persecutions against Christians ended, the Christians of Cyzicus removed the incorrupt bodies of the martyrs from the ground and placed them in a church built in their honor.

Various miracles occurred from the holy relics: the sick were healed, and the mentally deranged were brought to their senses. The faith of Christ grew within the city through the intercession of the holy martyrs, and many of the pagans were converted to Christianity.

When Julian the Apostate (361-363) came to rule, the pagans of Cyzicus complained to him that the Christians were destroying pagan temples. Julian gave orders to rebuild the pagan temples and to jail Bishop Eleusius. Bishop Eleusius was set free after Julian’s death, and the light of the Christian Faith shone anew through the assistance of the holy martyrs.

In Russia, not far from the city of Kazan, a monastery was built in honor of the Nine Martyrs of Cyzicus. It was built by the hierodeacon Stephen, who brought part of the relics of the saints with him from Palestine. This monastery was built in the hope that through their intercession and prayers people would be delivered from various infirmities and ills, particularly a fever which raged through Kazan in 1687.

Saint Demetrius of Rostov (September 21), who composed the service to the Nine Martyrs, writes, “through the intercession of these saints, abundant grace was given to dispel fevers and trembling sicknesses.” Saint Demetrius also described the sufferings of the holy martyrs and wrote a sermon for their Feast day.

Venerable Memnon the Wonderworker

Saint Memnon the Wonderworker from his youth lived in the Egyptian desert. By his arduous ascetical efforts, he attained a victory of spirit over the flesh.

As Igumen of one of the Egyptian monasteries, he wisely and carefully guided the brethren. Even while aiding them through prayer and counsel, the saint did not waver in his efforts in the struggle against temptation.

He received the gift of clairvoyance through unceasing prayer and toil. At his prayer a spring of water gushed forth in the wilderness, locusts destroying the harvest perished, and the shipwrecked who called on his name were saved. After his death, the mere mention of his name dispelled a plague of locusts and undid the cunning wiles of evil spirits.

Martyrs Diodorus and Rhodopianus—Deacons, at Aphrodisia in Anatolia

The Holy Martyrs, Deacons Diodorus and Rhodopianus suffered under the emperor Diocletian (284-305) in Aphrodisias, Caria. They were stoned to death for spreading the Christianity among the pagans.

Saint Basil, Bishop of Zakholmsk in Montenegro, Serbia

Saint Basil, Bishop of Zakholmsk, was born of pious parents in the sixteenth century in the Popov district of Herzegovina. At the age of maturity he left his parental home and settled in the Trebinsk monastery in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, and became a monk.

For his virtuous life the saint was elevated to be Bishop of Zakholm and Skenderia. He occupied the bishop’s cathedra in the second half of the sixteenth century, a successor to Bishop Paul and predecessor of Bishop Νikόdēmos. Saint Basil was a good pastor of the flock of Christ, and the Lord strengthened his discourse with various miracles. For the sanctifying of soul with the wisdom of holy ascetic fathers, the saint journeyed to Athos. Saint Basil died peacefully and was buried in the city of Ostrog in Chernogoria on the border with Herzegovina.

Venerable Nectarius of Optina

Saint Nectarius was born in the city of Elets in the Orel province in 1853, the son of Basil and Elena Tikhonov. At his baptism, he was named Nicholas.

Saint Nectarius completed the course of his earthly life on April 29, 1928.

The Moscow Patriarchate authorized local veneration of the Optina Elders on June 13,1996, glorifying them for universal veneration on August 7, 2000.

Martyrs of Lazeti

Lazeti is a region in southern Kolkheti (Colchis), the ancient kingdom located in what is now southwestern Georgia and northeastern Turkey. In ancient times, Lazeti was a center of Georgian culture. The holy Apostle Andrew began the conversion of the Georgian nation from this very region.

After the fall of Byzantium in 1453, the Ottomans sought for three centuries to destroy the Christian-Georgian consciousness of the Laz people. At the same time, Rome increased its presence in the region by dispatching ever greater numbers of Catholic missionaries.

The Laz, caught in the crossfire, boldly defended and preserved their Orthodox Faith. Those that were forcibly converted to Islam struggled to preserve their national culture, the memory of their ancestors, and the love of their homeland.

As time progressed, however, some grew weak and converted to Catholicism (in word, if not in mind and heart) or allowed themselves to be won over by the Monophysite heresy.

In our own time, with the blessing of Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II, people from several Georgian regions have reestablished lines of communication with the Laz who currently reside within Turkish borders.

Further, many of the Laz currently residing within Georgian borders have converted from Islam back to the Orthodox Christianity of their ancestors. They have recounted to the Holy Synod of the Georgian Church stories of the martyrdom of their Christian ancestors at the hands of the Ottomans: the beheading of some three hundred Laz warriors on a single mountain between the years 1600 and 1620 and the martyrdom of the clergy at one local monastery. The martyrdoms took place on Mt. Dudikvati (“the place of beheading”) and on Mt. Papati (“the place of the clergy”) respectively.

Based on the information provided by the martyrs’ descendants, the Holy Synod of the Georgian Church declared all the clergy and laymen martyred on Dudikvati and Papati and all the Laz martyred for Christ’s sake worthy to be numbered among the saints. They were canonized on September 18, 2003.

Saint Endellion, recluse of Cornwall

No information available at this time.

Daily Readings for Thursday, April 28, 2022

RENEWAL THURSDAY

NO FAST

Renewal Thursday, The Holy Nine Martyrs of Cyzicus, John the Martyr of Romania, Memnon the Wonderworker

ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 2:38-43

In those days, Peter said to the people, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.” And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And fear came upon every soul; and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.

JOHN 3:1-15

At that time, there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nikodemos, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him." Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nikodemos said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born from above.' The Spirit blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, and you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." Nikodemos said to him, "How can this be?" Jesus answered him, "Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand this? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen; but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

Bright Thursday

On Bright Thursday the Gospel reading is John 3:1-15, which mentions the Pharisee Νikόdēmos who came by night to speak to Christ. The Lord told him that a man could not see the Kingdom of God unless he were born again. Νikόdēmos, taking Him much too literally, could not understand how such a thing was possible.

The Savior then clarified His words, saying that one must be born “of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5), referring to Baptism. Νikόdēmos, however, still found it difficult to understand Him.

The Lord said, “If I have told you of earthly things, and you believe not, how shall you believe if I tell you of heavenly things?” (John 3:12).

The reading from Acts 2:38-41 also speaks of Baptism. Saint Peter told the crowd, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you… and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

The main focus of today’s readings is on Baptism, but they also point to other things. We are to raise our mind and understanding from earthly to heavenly things, and to seek the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Apostles Jason and Sosipater of the Seventy, the Virgin Kerkyra, and those with them

The Apostle Jason was from Tarsus (Asia Minor). He was the first Christian in the city. The Apostle Sosipater was a native of Patra, Achaia. He is thought to be the same Sosipater mentioned in Acts 20:4. They both became disciples of Saint Paul, who even called them his kinsmen (Rom 16:21). Saint John Chrysostom (Homily 32 on Romans) says that this is the same Jason who is mentioned in Acts 17:5-9. Saint Jason was made bishop in his native city of Tarsus, and Saint Sosipater in Iconium. They traveled west preaching the Gospel, and in 63 they reached the island of Kerkyra [Korfu] in the Ionian Sea near Greece.

There they built a church in the name of the Protomartyr Stephen and they baptized many. The governor of the island learned of this and locked them up in prison, where they met seven thieves: Saturninus, Iakischolus, Faustianus, Januarius, Marsalius, Euphrasius and Mammius. The Apostles converted them to Christ. For their confession of Christ, the seven prisoners died as martyrs in a cauldron of molten tar, wax and sulfur.

The prison guard, after witnessing their martyrdom, declared himself a Christian. For this they cut off his left hand, then both feet and finally his head. The governor ordered the Apostles Jason and Sosipater to be whipped and again locked up in prison.

When the daughter of the governor of Kerkyra (Korfu), the maiden Kerkyra, learned how Christians were suffering for Christ, she declared herself a Christian and gave away all her finery to the poor. The infuriated governor attempted to persuade his daughter to deny Christ, but Saint Kerkyra stood firm against both persuasion and threats. Then the enraged father devised a terrible punishment for his daughter: he gave orders that she be placed in a prison cell with the robber and murderer Murinus, so that he might defile the betrothed of Christ

But when the robber approached the door of the prison cell, a bear attacked him. Saint Kerkyra heard the noise and she drove off the beast in the name of Christ. Then, by her prayers, she healed the wounds of Murinus. Then Saint Kerkyra enlightened him with the faith of Christ, and Saint Murinus declared himself a Christian and was executed.

The governor gave orders to burn down the prison, but the holy virgin remained alive. Then on her enraged father’s order, she was suspended upon a tree, choked with bitter smoke and shot with arrows. After her death, the governor decided to execute all the Christians on the island of Kerkyra. The Martyrs Zeno, Eusebius, Neon and Vitalis, after being enlightened by Saints Jason and Sosipater, were burned alive.

The inhabitants of Kerkyra, escaping from the persecution, crossed to an adjoining island. The governor set sail with a detachment of soldiers, but was swallowed up by the waves. The governor succeeding him gave orders to throw the Apostles Jason and Sosipater into a cauldron of boiling tar. When he beheld them unharmed, he cried out with tears, “O God of Jason and Sosipater, have mercy on me!”

Having been set free, the Apostles baptized the governor and gave him the name Sebastian. With his help, the Apostles Jason and Sosipater built several churches on the island, and increased the flock of Christ by their fervent preaching. They lived there until they reached old age.

Martyrs Dada, Maximus, and Quinctilian, at Dorostolum

The Martyrs Dada, Maximus and Quinctilian suffered under the emperor Diocletian (284-305), who issued a decree requiring everyone to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods during the public festivals, and to put Christians to death.

Tarquinius and Gabinius, the emperor’s representatives in Dorostolum, made a sumptuous feast, attended not only by the inhabitants of the city, but also people from the surrounding villages.

After the festivities, someone reported to the emperor that three brothers, Dada, Maximus and Quinctilian, did not obey the imperial decree and withdrew themselves into the Ozovia forest. Soldiers were sent after them, who caught the holy brothers at prayer and led them forth for trial.

The governors interrogated the brothers, who confessed themselves Christians. Tarquinius offered to make Saint Maximus a pagan priest of Zeus, but the saint called Zeus a foul adulterer and again confessed the True God.

Tarquinius attempted to reason with Saints Dada and Quinctilian. They said that their brother was well versed in the Holy Scripture and they would follow him in everything. They threw the martyrs into prison, but they thought only of the salvation of their souls. At midnight when the saints were asleep, the devil appeared to them. When the martyrs woke, they beheld an angel who said, “Fear not, for God your hope brings you to Himself. He is not far from you and will sustain you.”

In the morning, Tarquinius told the brothers that the gods had revealed their will to him in a dream: they were to be put to death if they did not offer sacrifice. The martyrs answered that the Lord had commanded them to endure torments for His sake.

The tortures and interrogations continued for several days from morning to evening. Finally, they sentenced the martyrs to death, led them out under guard to their forest and beheaded them with a sword.

Saint Cyril, Bishop of Turov

Saint Cyril, Bishop of Turov, was born of rich parents in the thirties of the twelfth century in the city of Turov at the River Pripyat.

From his early years Saint Cyril eagerly read the sacred books and attained a profound understanding of them. He studied not only in Russian, but also in Greek. When he reached maturity Saint Cyril refused his inheritance and was tonsured in Turov’s Saint Boris and Gleb monastery. He struggled much in fasting and prayer and taught the monks to obey the igumen. A monk who is not obedient to the igumen does not fulfill his vow, and therefore is not able to be saved.

Three writings of Saint Cyril on monastic life have survived, one of which, “A Narrative on the Black Clergy from the Old Law and from the New,” may be ascribed to a period of his being in the monastery.

After a certain while Saint Cyril lived on a pillar, where he increased his asceticism, and meditated on the Holy Scripture. Many turned to him for counsel in the spiritual life.

Saint Cyril’s holiness of life and profound enlightenment became known to many, and so he was chosen as Bishop of Turov. In 1169 Saint Cyril took part in a council censuring Bishop Theodore, who occupied the Vladimir-Suzdal cathedra and who sought to separate from the metropolitanate of Kiev. Saint Cyril denounced the heresy of Theodore and wrote many letters to the holy prince Andrew Bogoliubsky (July 4), in which he provided him instruction and guidance in discovering the cause of church disorders in the Rostov region.

Because of his love for solitude, Saint Cyril left his See (by the year 1182, Bishop Laurence is mentioned as the Bishop of Turov) and he devoted himself fully to spiritual writing. He composed a discourse on the yearly cycle of the Lord’s Feasts, but not all of them have been preserved. The works of Saint Cyril deserve a place beside the works of the holy Fathers in book collections.

The most complete collection of works by Saint Cyril of Turov, published by Bishop Eugenius of Turov in 1880, includes:

Sermon on Palm Sunday, from Gospel accounts

Sermon on Holy Pascha on the Radiant Day of the Resurrection of Christ, from the prophetic accounts

Sermon on the Sunday after Pascha, on the Renewal of the Resurrection, on the Artos [loaf blessed on Pascha], and on Thomas Touching the Side of the Lord

Sermon on Taking down the Body of Christ and on the Myrrh-bearing Women, from the Gospel account, and in praise of Joseph on the Third Sunday After Pascha

Sermon on the Paralytic from Genesis and from the Gospel account, on the Fourth Sunday After Pascha

Sermon on the Blind man and the enmity of the Jews from the Gospel account, on the Fourth Sunday After Pascha

Sermon on the Ascension of the Lord, on Thursday of the Sixth Week After Pascha, from prophetic decrees, and on Raising the Race of Adam from Hades

Sermon on the Holy 318 Fathers, from the Holy Books, on Christ the Son of God, and in praise of the Fathers of the Holy Council of Nicea, on the Sunday Before Pentecost

Parable on the Blind and the Lame

Parable on the Human Soul, and on the Body, and on Breaking God’s Commandments, and on the Resurrection of the Human Body, and on the Future Judgment, and on the Torment

Narrative on the Black Clergy, from the Old Testament and from the New, bearing a common form, and the accomplishing of this matter

To Igumen Basil: a Parable on the White Clergy, and on Monasticism, and on the Soul, and on Repentance

Letter of a certain Elder to the Blessed Archimandrite Basil on the Schema

Four Prayers on Sunday (after Matins, Hours, and two after Vespers)

Four Prayers on Monday

Four Prayers on Tuesday

Five Prayers on Wednesday (after Matins, Hours, and three after Vespers)

Three Prayers on Thursday (after Matins, Hours, Vespers)

Four Prayers on Friday (after Matins, Hours, and two after Vespers)

Six Prayers on Saturday (two after Matins, one after Hours, and three after Vespers)

Molieben Canon

Confession and Remembrance.

Later, the “Sermon on the Enlightenment of our Lord Jesus Christ” was discovered. The saint also composed a “Great Canon of Repentance to the Lord in Alphabetic Chapters.” As a theologian Saint Cyril believed his task was to discern the true and hidden meaning of various texts of Holy Scripture.

Saint Cyril died on April 28, 1183. His contemporaries regarded him as a Russian Chrysostom. The saint humbly wrote of himself: “I am not a harvester, but I gather sheaves of grain; I am not an artist in literary matters.” He was always conscious of the sublime hierarchical service to which the Lord had called him: “If I were to speak of my own opinions, you would do well not to come to church, but I proclaim to you the Word of God. I read to you the accounts of Christ. I present to you the words of God, finer than gold or other stones, sweeter than mead or honeycomb, and you would be deprived of them by not coming to church, … but I praise and bless those of you who do come.”