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The Monk Simeon the Stylite was born in the Cappadocian village of Sisan in the Christian family of Susotian and Martha. At 13 years of age he began to tend his father's flock of sheep. To this his first obedience he concerned himself attentively and with love. One time, having heard in church the Gospel commands of the Beatitudes, he was struck by their profundity. Not trusting to his own immature judgement, he turned therefore with his questions to an experienced elder. The elder readily explained to the lad the meaning of what he had heard and it strengthened in him finally the resolve to follow the Gospel path. Instead of heading homewards, Simeon set off to the nearest monastery and, after tears of entreaty, he was accepted after a week into the number of the brethren. When Simeon became age 18, he took monastic vows and devoted himself to feats of the strictest abstinence and of unceasing prayer. His zealousness -- beyond strength for the other monastic brethren -- so alarmed the hegumen (abbot) that he suggested to the monk that he either moderate his ascetic deeds or leave the monastery. The Monk Simeon thereupon withdrew from the monastery and settled himself by day upon a very high column, where he was able to carry out his austere vows unhindered. After some time, Angels appeared in a dream vision to the hegumen, which commanded him to bring back Simeon to the monastery. The monk however did not long remain at the monastery. After a short while he settled into a stony cave, situated not far from the village of Galanissa, and he dwelt there for three years, all the while perfecting himself in monastic feats. One time, he decided to spent the entire Forty-day Great Lent without food and drink. With the help of God, the monk endured this strict fast. From that time he always completely refrained during the entire period of the Great Lent even from bread and water -- twenty days he prayed while standing, and twenty days while sitting -- so as not to permit the corporeal powers to relax. A whole crowd of people began to throng to the place of his efforts, wanting to receive healing from sickness and to hear a word of Christian edification. Shunning worldly glory and striving again to find his lost solitude, the monk chose a yet unknown mode of asceticism. He went up a pillar 4 meters in height and settled upon it in a little cell, devoting himself to intense prayer and fasting. Reports about the Monk Simeon reached the highest church hierarchy and the imperial court. The Antioch Patriarch Domninos II ((441-448) visited the monk, made Divine Liturgy on the pillar and communed the ascetic with the Holy Mysteries. Fathers pursuing asceticism in the wilderness all heard about the Monk Simeon, who had chosen such a difficult form of ascetic striving. Wanting to test the new ascetic and determine whether his extreme ascetic feats were pleasing to God, they dispatched messengers to him, who in the name of these desert fathers were to bid the Monk Simeon to come down from the pillar. In the case of disobedience they were to forcibly drag him to the ground. But if he offered obedience, they were entrusted in the name of the desert fathers to bless his continued ascetic deeds. The monk displayed complete obedience and deep Christian humility.
The Monk Simeon was brought to endure many temptations, and he invariably gained the victory over them -- relying not on his own weak powers, but on the Lord Himself, Who always came to him in help. The monk gradually increased the height of the pillar on which he stood. His final pillar was 40 cubits in height. Around him was raised a double wall, which hindered the unruly crowd of people from coming too close and disturbing his prayerful concentration. Women in general were not permitted beyond the fence. In this the monk did not make an exception even for his own mother, who after long and unsuccessful searchings finally succeeded in finding her lost son. Not having gained a farewell, she thus died, nestled up to the fence encircling the pillar. The monk thereupon asked that her coffin be brought to him; he reverently bid farewell to his dead mother -- and her dead face then brightened up with a blissful smile.
The Monk Simeon spent 80 years in arduous monastic feats -- 47 years of which he stood upon the pillar. God granted him to accomplish in such unusual conditions an indeed apostolic service -- many pagans accepted Baptism, struck by the moral staunchness and bodily toughness which the Lord bestowed upon His servant.
The first one to learn of the end of the monk was his close pupil Anthony. Concerned that his teacher had not appeared to the people over the course of 3 days, he went up upon the pillar and found the dead body stooped over at prayer (+ 459). The Antioch Patriarch Martyrios performed the funeral of the monk before an huge throng of clergy and people. They buried him not far from the pillar. At the place of his ascetic deeds, Anthony established a monastery, upon which rested a special blessing of the Monk Simeon.
The Holy Martyr Haifal the Deacon by order of the Persian emperor Sapor II was killed by stoning in the year 380, for confessing the Name of Christ.
The 40 Holy Virgins and Saint Ammunos the Deacon, who enlightened them with the light of the Christian faith, died as martyrs for Christ under the Roman emperor Licinius at the beginning of the IV Century in the Macedonian city of Adrianopolis. The governor Babdos subjected the holy martyrs to many torments, so as to force them to renounce Christ and worship idols. After cruel tortures they were all sent off to Herakleia to another torturer, before whom also they firmly confessed their faith in Christ and refused to worship idols. By order of the torturer, Saint Ammunos and 8 virgins with him were beheaded, 10 virgins were burnt, six of them died after red-hot iron was put into their mouths, six were stabbed with knives, and the rest were killed with swords.
This saint, whose name has been held in great veneration for several ages in France and England, is said to have been an Athenian by birth, and of noble extraction. His extraordinary piety and learning drew the admiration of the world upon him in such a manner, that it was impossible for him to enjoy in his own country that obscurity and retirement which was the chief object of his desires on earth; and he dreaded the sunshine of temporal prosperity and the applause of men, as fraught with dangerous poison, which easily insinuates itself into the heart. Therefore, leaving his own country, he sailed to France, and chose an hermitage first in the open deserts near the mouth of the Rhone, afterwards nigh the river Gard, and lastly, in a forest in the diocess of Nismes. He passed many years in this close solitude, using no other subsistence than wild herbs or roots, and water, conversing only with God, and living rather like an angel than a man; so perfectly was he disengaged from earthly cares, and with so great purity of affections, with such constancy and ardour was his soul employed in the exercises of heavenly contemplation. His historian relates, that he was for some time nourished with the milk of a hind in the forest, and that a certain prince discovered him in hunting in those woods, by pursuing the chase of that hind to his hermitage, where the beast had sought for shelter at his feet. The reputation of the sanctity of this holy hermit was much increased by many miracles which he wrought, and which rendered his name famous throughout all France. Some, by mistake, have confounded this saint with one Giles, whom St. Cæsarius made abbot of a monastery near the walls of Arles, and whom he sent to Rome with his secretary, Messianus, in 514, to Pope Symmachus, to obtain of him a confirmation of the privileges of the metropolitan church of Arles. But the Bollandists prove very well, in a long and learned dissertation, that the great St. Giles lived only in the end of the seventh, and beginning of the eighth century, not in the sixth; and that the French were at that time masters of the country about Nismes. Messianus and Stephen, in the second book of the life of St. Cæsarius, inform us, that the French took Arles in 541, the year before the death of St. Cæsarius; after which, the Goths yielded up to them that whole province. St. Giles was highly esteemed by the French king; but could not be prevailed upon to forsake his solitude. He, however, admitted several disciples, and settled excellent discipline in the monastery of which he was the founder, and which, in succeeding ages, became a flourishing abbey of the Benedictin Order, though it has been long since converted into a collegiate church of canons. A considerable town was built about it, called St. Giles’s, which was famous in the wars of the Albigenses. This saint is commemorated in the Martyrologies of Bede, Ado, and others; and is the patron of many churches in France, Germany, Poland, &c.
Entire constant solitude is a state which few are able to bear with unabated fervour in the uninterrupted exercises of arduous penance and contemplation. A man in solitude, whom sloth often warps, or whose conversation is not always with God and his holy angels, is his own most dangerous tempter and worst company. Aristotle having defined man a social creature, 1 or one born for society, added, that he who lives alone must either be a god or a beast. But that philosopher was unacquainted with the happiness of religious contemplation. The ancient Christian proverb is more exact, that he who lives always alone is either an angel or a devil. This state therefore is not without snares and dangers; nor does an hermitage necessarily make a saint; but when a person, by an extraordinary call, embraces it with fervour, and strenuously applies himself to all the exercises of holy retirement and penance, such a one being disengaged in his affections from all earthly ties, exchanges the society of a vain and sinful world for that of God and holy spirits, and the contagious commerce of foolish toys for the uninterrupted glorious employment of the angels, and has certainly attained the highest degree of happiness under heaven; this state is its novitiate, and in some degree an anticipation of its eternal sweet and noble employ. He who accompanies these most fervent exercises of contemplation and divine love with zealous and undaunted endeavours to conduct others to the same glorious term with himself, shall be truly great in the kingdom of heaven.
Saint Meletius the New was born in Cappadocia in 1035. Many people regarded him as an imbecile, but God "hath made foolish the wisdom of this world" (I Cor. 1:20), and it has also pleased Him "by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" (I Cor. 1:21). So the Lord used the saint to draw many souls to Himself.
St Meletius was given the gift of prophecy, and performed many miracles. He built a monastery on Mt. Cytheron in Boeotia in central Greece, which was named for him.
After living as a hermit for many years, St Meletius fell asleep in the Lord on Mt. Cytheron in 1105.
The Holy Martyrs Callista and her brothers Euodos and Hermogenes, Christians of Nikomedia, were brought to trial before the pagan governor for confessing their faith in Christ. Having refused to offer sacrifice to idols, they were cut down by the sword (+ 309).
Saint Jesus Son of Navin (Joshua) after the death of the Prophet Moses was leader of the Israelite People. He conquered the Promised Land and brought upon it the Hebrew nation. The Lord worked a great miracle through Jesus Navinus. The Jews went across the River Jordan as though on dry land, the Archistratigos [Leader of the Heavenly Hosts] Michael appeared to Jesus Navinus, and the walls of the city Jericho -- besieged by the Israelites -- fell down by themselves after the Ark of the Covenant was carried around the city during the course of seven days. Finally at the time of the battle with the enemy, Jesus Navinus, by the will of God, halted the motion of the sun and prolonged the day until that moment when victory was won. After the end of the war, Jesus Navinus divided the Promised Land among the 12 Tribes of Israel. He died at 110 years of age (XVI Century B.C.), in his last will commanding the nation to preserve the Law of Moses. All these events are recounted in the Book of Jesus Navinus (Joshua) (Chapters 3, 5, 6, 10), which is included within the Holy Bible.
The Holy Martyr Mamant was born in Paphlagonia of pious and illustrious parents, the Christians Theodotos and Ruphina. For their open confession of their faith, the parents of the saint were arrested by the pagans and locked up in prison in Caesarea Cappadocia. Knowing his own bodily weaknesses, Theodotos prayed, that the Lord would take him before being martyred. The Lord heard his prayer and he died in prison. Saint Ruphina died also after him, having given birth to a premature son, whom she prayerfully entrusted to God, beseeching that He be the Protector and Defender of the orphaned infant. God hearkened to the death-bed prayer of Saint Ruphina: a rich Christian widow named Ammea reverently buried the bodies of Saints Theodotos and Ruphina, and she took the boy into her own home and surrounded him with motherly care. Saint Mamant grew up in the Christian faith. His foster mother concerned herself with the developing of his natural abilities and early on she sent him off to study his grammar. The boy learned easily and willingly. He was not of an age of mature judgement but distinguished himself by maturity of mind and of heart. By means of prudent conversations and personal example young Mamant converted many of his own peers to Christianity. There was a denunciation about this to the governor, named Democritus, and the youth was arrested and brought to trial. In deference to his illustrious parentage Democritus decided not to subject him to torture, but instead sent him off to the emperor Aurelian (270-275). The emperor tried at first kindly, but then with threats to turn Saint Mamant back to the pagan faith, but all in vain: the saint bravely confessed himself a Christian and pointed out the madness of the pagans in their worship of mindless idols. Infuriated, the emperor subjected the youth to cruel tortures. They eventually wanted to drown the saint, but an Angel of the Lord saved Saint Mamant and bid him live on an high mountain in the wilderness, located not far from Caesarea. Bowing to the will of God, the saint built there a small church and began to lead a life of strict temperance, in exploits of fasting and prayer.
Soon he received a remarkable power over the forces of nature: wild beasts inhabiting the surrounding wilderness gathered at his abode and listened to the reading of the Holy Gospel. Saint Mamant nourished himself on the milk of wild goats and deer.
The saint did not ignore the needs of his neighbours: preparing cheese from this milk, he gave it away freely to the poor. Soon the fame of Saint Mamant's life spread throughout all of Caesarea. The governor in concern sent a detachment of soldiers to arrest him. Coming across Saint Mamant on the mountain, the soldiers did not recognise him, and mistook him for a simple shepherd. The saint then invited them to his dwelling, gave them a drink of milk and then told them his name, knowing that a suffering death for Christ awaited him. In surrendering himself over into the hands of the torturers, Saint Mamant was brought to trial under a deputy governor named Alexander, who subjected him to intensive and prolonged tortures. But they did not break the Christian will of the saint. He was strengthened by the words addressed to him from above: "Be strong and take courage, Mamant". When they gave Saint Mamant over for devouring by wild beasts, these creatures would not touch him. Finally, one of the pagan-priests struck at him with a trident-spear. Mortally wounded, Saint Mamant went out beyond the city limits. There, in a small stone cave, he offered up his spirit to God, Who in the hearing of all summoned the holy Martyr Mamant into the habitation on high (+ 275). He was buried by believers at the place of his death.
Christians soon began to receive from him blessings of help in their afflictions and sorrows. Saint Basil the Great speaks thus about the holy Martyr Mamant in a sermon to the people: "Commemorate ye the holy martyr: those, who saw him in a vision, who from amongst the living here have him as an helper, those whom in calling on his name he hath helped in some matter, those whom he hath guided out of a prodigal life, those whom he hath healed of infirmity, those whose children already dead he hath restored to life, those whose life he hath prolonged -- all of ye, gathered as one, praise ye the martyr".
Saint John IV the Faster, Patriarch of Constantinople (582-595), is famed in the Orthodox Church as the compiler of a Penitential nomokanon (i.e. Law-Canon of penances), which has come down to us in several distinct versions. But their foundation is one and the same. This -- is an instruction for priests, how to hear a secret confession of secret sins, be this a sin already committed or constituting merely a sin of intent. Ancient churchly rules address the manner and duration of churchly public penances, established for obvious and evident sinners. But it was necessary to effectively adapt these rules for the secret confession of undetected things being repented of. Saint John the Faster because of this issued his Penitential nomokanon (or "Canonaria"), so that the good-intentioned confession of secret sins, unknown to the world, already testifies to the disposition of the sinner and his conscience in being reconciled to God, and therefore the saint shortened the penances by the ancient fathers by half or more. Yet on the other hand, he set more exactly the character of the penances: severe fasting, daily performing of an established number of prayerful prostrations to the ground, the distribution of alms. The length of penance is determined by the priest. The main purpose of the nomocanon, compiled by the holy Patriarch, consists in establishing penances not simply by the measure of sins, but by the measure of admitting the confessed, and through the appraisement of penitence not by continual punishment, but through the extent of the experience to be confessed, one's spiritual state.
Among the Greeks, and afterwards also in the Russian Church the rules of Saint John the Faster are honoured on a level "with other saintly rules", and the law-canons of his book are accounted "applicable for all the Orthodox Church". The Monk Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain (Nikodim Svyatogorets, Comm. 1 July) included him in the Greek handbook for priests (Exomologitaria), first published in 1796, and in the Greek "Rudder Book" (Pedalion), published by him in 1800.
The first Slavonic translation was done quite possibly by the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Methodios, at the same time as he produced the "Nomocanon in 50 Titles" of the holy Patriarch John Scholastikos, whose successor on the Constantinople cathedra-seat was Saint John the Faster. This ancient translation was preserved in Rus' in the "Ustiug Rudder" (XIII), published in 1902.
From the XVI Century in the Russian Church was circulated the nomocanon of Saint John the Faster in another redaction, compiled by priest-monks and clergy of Holy Mount Athos. In this form it was repeatedly published at the Kievo-Pechersk Lavra (in 1620, 1624, 1629). In Moscow the Penitential Nomokanon was published in the form of a supplement to the Trebnik ("Book of Needs"): under Patriarch Joasaph in 1639, under Patriarch Joseph in 1651, and under Patriarch Nikon in 1658. The last edition since that time invariably is that printed in the Large Trebnik. A scholarly edition of the nomocanon with parallel Greek and Slavonic texts and with detailed historical and canonical commentary was done by A. S. Pavlov (Moscow, 1897).
The 3628 Martyrs in Nicomedia suffered under the co-emperors Diocletian (284-305) and Maximian (284-305). These were Christians who had come from Alexandria. They had come to believe in Christ following the killing of Saint Peter, Archbishop of Alexandria (Comm. 25 November). Having taken with them their wives and children, they arrived in Nicomedia and voluntarily gave themselves over for martyrdom, exclaiming: "We are Christians". Diocletian at first attempted to plead with them to renounce Christ, but seeing their firmness, he ordered them all to be beheaded, and their bodies to be thrown into a fiery pit. Many years later the relics of the holy martyrs were discovered through various manifestations of grace.
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 St 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 St Nicholas at the Askold cemetery.
St 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 St 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, St 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 St 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, St 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 St 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, St 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 in the year 109, and St Theodosius was glorified as a saint in 1108. Of the written works of St Theodosius six discourses, two letters to Great Prince Izyaslav, and a prayer for all Christians have survived to our time.
The Life of St Theodosius was written by St 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. St Theodosius is also commemorated on September 28 and May 3.
Saint Anthony of the Kiev Caves was born in the year 983 at Liubech, not far from Chernigov, and was named Antipas in Baptism. Possessing the fear of God from his youth, he desired to be clothed in the monastic schema. When he reached a mature age, he wandered until he arrived on Mt. Athos, burning with the desire to emulate the deeds of its holy inhabitants. Here he received monastic tonsure, and the young monk pleased God in every aspect of his spiritual struggles on the path of virtue. He particularly excelled in humility and obedience, so that all the monks rejoiced to see his holy life.
The igumen saw in St Anthony the great future ascetic, and inspired by God, he sent him back to his native land, saying, "Anthony, it is time for you to guide others in holiness. Return to your own Russian land, and be an example for others. May the blessing of the Holy Mountain be with you.
Returning to the land of Rus, Anthony began to make the rounds of the monasteries about Kiev, but nowhere did he find that strict life which had drawn him to Mt. Athos.
Through the Providence of God, Anthony came to the hills of Kiev by the banks of the River Dniepr. The forested area near the village of Berestovo reminded him of his beloved Athos. There he found a cave which had been dug out by the Priest Hilarion, who later became Metropolitan of Kiev (October 21). Since he liked the spot, Anthony prayed with tears, "Lord, let the blessing of Mt. Athos be upon this spot, and strengthen me to remain here." He began to struggle in prayer, fasting, vigil and physical labor. Every other day, or every third day, he would eat only dry bread and a little water. Sometimes he did not eat for a week. People began to come to the ascetic for his blessing and counsel, and some decided to remain with the saint.
Among Anthony's first disciples was St Nikon (March 23), who tonsured St Theodosius of the Caves (May 3) at the monastery in the year 1032.
The virtuous life of St Anthony illumined the Russian land with the beauty of monasticism. St Anthony lovingly received those who yearned for the monastic life. After instructing them how to follow Christ, he asked St Nikon to tonsure them. When twelve disciples had gathered about St Anthony, the brethren dug a large cave and built a church and cells for the monks within it.
After he appointed Abbot Barlaam to guide the brethren, St Anthony withdrew from the monastery. He dug a new cave for himself, then hid himself within it. There too, monks began to settle around him. Afterwards, the saint built a small wooden church in honor of the Dormition of the Mother of God over the Far Caves.
At the insistence of Prince Izyaslav, the igumen Barlaam withdrew to the Dimitriev monastery. With the blessing of St Anthony and with the general agreement of the brethren, the meek and humble Theodosius was chosen as igumen. By this time, the number of brethren had already reached a hundred men. The Kiev Great Prince Izyaslav (+ 1078) gave the monks the hill on which the large church and cells were built, with a palisade all around. Thus, the renowned monastery over the caves was established. Describing this, the chronicler remarks that while many monasteries were built by emperors and nobles, they could not compare with those which are built with holy prayers and tears, and by fasting and vigil. Although St Anthony had no gold, he built a monastery which became the first spiritual center of Rus.
For his holiness of life, God glorified St Anthony with the gift of clairvoyance and wonderworking. One example of this occurred during the construction of the Great Caves church. The Most Holy Theotokos Herself stood before him and St Theodosius in the Blachernae church in Constantinople, where they had been miraculously transported without leaving their own monastery. Actually, two angels appeared in Constantinople in their forms (See May 3, the account of the Kiev Caves Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos). Having received gold from the Mother of God, the saints commissioned master architects, who came from Constantinople to the Russian land on the command of the Queen of Heaven to build the church at the Monastery of the Caves. During this appearance, the Mother of God foretold the impending death of St Anthony, which occurred on July 10, 1073.
Through Divine Providence, the relics of St Anthony remain hidden.
The PriestMartyr Anthymos, Bishop of Nicomedia, and the Martyrs with him suffered during the time of the persecution against Christians under the emperors Diocletian (284-305) and Maximian (284-305). The persecution of Christians became particularly intense after the occurrence of a conflagration at the imperial court at Nicomedia. The pagans accused the Christians of setting the fire and reacted against them with terrible ferocity. Thus, in Nicomedia alone, on the day of the Nativity of Christ, at a church as many as twenty thousand Christians were burned. But this monstrous inhumanity did not frighten off the Christians: they firmly confessed their faith and accepted a martyr's death for Christ. And thus during this period of sufferings died Saints Dorotheus, Mardonius, Migdonius, Peter, Indysos and Gorgonios. One of them was beheaded by the sword, others perished -- by burning, or being covered over in the ground or by drowning in the sea. Zinon, a soldier, for his bold denunciation of the emperor Maximian was stoned, and then beheaded. Then also perished at the hands of the pagans the holy Virgin-Martyr Domna -- a former pagan-priestess, and also Saint Euthymios, because of their concern that the bodies of the holy martyrs should be buried. Bishop Anthymos, who headed the Nicomedia Church, at the request of his flock concealed himself in a village not far from Nicomedia. From there he sent missives to the Christians, urging them to cleave firmly to the holy faith and not to fear tortures. One of his letters, dispatched with the Deacon Theophilos, was intercepted and given over to the emperor Maximian. Theophilos was subjected to interrogation and died under torture, without revealing to his torturers the whereabouts of Bishop Anthymos. But after a certain while Maximian managed to learn where Saint Anthymos was situated, and he sent a detachment of soldiers after him. The bishop himself met up with them along the way. The soldiers did not recognise the identity of the saint. He invited them to join him and provided them a meal, after which he revealed that he was the one that they were searching for. The soldiers did not know what to do in this instance; indeed, they wanted to leave him be and tell the emperor that they had not found him. Bishop Anthymos was not one to tolerate a lie, and so he would not consent to this. The soldiers themselves came to believe in Christ and accepted holy Baptism. But amidst all this, the saint nonetheless demanded them to carry out the orders of the emperor. When Bishop Anthymos was brought before the emperor, the emperor gave orders that the instruments of execution be brought out and placed before him. "Dost thou think, emperor, to frighten me with these tolls of execution?" -- asked the saint. -- "No indeed, thou canst not frighten one that doth wish to die for Christ! Execution is frightening only for the cowardly of soul, for whom the present life is most precious". The emperor then directed that the saint be fiercely tortured and beheaded by the sword. Bishop Anthymos to his last gasp with joy glorified God, for Whom he had been vouchsafed to suffer (+ 302; another account of the Nicomedia Martyrs is located under 28 December).
The Martyress Basilissa of Nicomedia suffered for her faith in Christ under the emperor Diocletian. The Nicomedia governor Alexander gave orders to arrest the nine year old Basilissa and force her to renounce Christ. But the young maiden displayed unshakable firmness in fidelity to her Lord and for this she was subjected to protracted and intense torture. But through the grace of God the holy martyress remained alive and unharmed. This was evident to all those present as a manifestation of the power of God, and it so shook up the governor Alexander, that he also came to believe in Christ and confessed himself a Christian. Baptised later by Bishop Anthymos, he lived for a short while afterwards in deep repentance, and then expired peacefully to the Lord, as also did Saint Basilissa some while after him. Her end was one of Christian peace and accompanied by miraculous signs of God's mercy (+ 309).
Saint Aristion was the bishop of lesser Alexandria in Cilicia (Asia Minor). He was born in the small town of Aribazo in the eparchy of Apamea, Syria at the beginning of the second century. His parents were pagans, and he spent his early years in an atmosphere of idolatry.
We do not know what sort of early education St Aristion received, nor where he studied, but it did not satisfy his search for the truth. A ten-year-old boy who lived in the same town, the future martyr Anthony, showed him the path which led to the truth. Anthony instructed him in the true Faith, and Aristion increased in piety and zeal for God.
It is significant that Anthony, despite the constant fear of persecution, exile and even danger to his own life, was not just a member of the local church, but also preached the Faith to others. It is certain that Aristion prayed for his young friend and remembered his courage and strength, for Anthony's efforts to bring Aristion to the saving Faith had born fruit and were not in vain. Not only did Anthony give himself to the Church through his martyrdom at the age of twenty, he also gave it another saint and martyr: St Aristion
Years later, St Aristion was consecrated bishop for Isso in Cilicia, which is found in lesser Alexandria. He was a good shepherd to his flock, and cared diligently for their souls.
One day the ruler of Alexandria had St Aristion arrested because he was a Christian. Although he was placed on public trial, the holy bishop was calm and showed no fear. His whole demeanor made the Roman eparch realize that it would not easy to deal with this man who stood before him. He tried to turn Aristion from Christ through flattery and promises of reward, but the saint stood firm. Seeing that his words had no effect on the bishop, he threatened him with fierce tortures. He was not influenced by these threats, however.
St Aristion stood before the eparch and his counselors, gazing at them with love and concern for their salvation. Even in his weakness, this captive was stronger than his captors, and he refused to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods.
Before a multitude of idolaters, St Aristion spoke of the Triune God, by Whom all things were created. He also told them about the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ, which was accomplished through God's saving dispensation. He explained that Christ brings salvation to fallen man, thereby giving him another chance to attain the true purpose of his life - theosis.
"How poor these soulless statues of the gods are," the bishop said, "and how helpless the eparch looks in his radiant apparel."
All who heard the saint speak were amazed and asked one another where he got such courage. Aristion invited them to believe in the truth which he was revealing to them. Those who watched understood that this holy man was someone special, and they wanted to hear more about his beliefs.
The Roman eparch could not find any way to resist Aristion except through violence, so he sentenced him to death. He commanded his soldiers to prepare a large furnace and then throw him into the flames.The saint went to his martyrdom without resistance, remaining brave and strong until the end. The few Christians who were present tried not to weep.They whispered prayers for him, and were saddened because their father was leaving them. They knew, however, that their archpastor would not cease praying for them, especially now that he was going to Christ. They could hear St Aristion singing hymns in the fire until his last breath.
The eparch did not know what a terrible mistake he had made. He did not realize that death is not the end for men, nor for the truth. Nothing could separate St Aristion from the Fountain of Life, and so the Lord bestowed upon him an imperishable crown of glory.
After the flames died down, his spiritual children approached the furnace and collected as many of his bones as they could. With great reverence they put the holy relics in a secret place, which remains unknown to the present day.
Saint Theoctistus of Palestine was a great ascetic who lived in the Judean wilderness in the Wadi Mukellik. At first, he was the companion of St Euthymius the Great (January 20) in the ascetic lfe. So great was their mutual affection and oneness of mind that they seemed to live as one soul in two bodies. They were persons of similar virtue and holiness, and they encouraged one another in their struggles. Each year after the Leave-taking of Theophany, they would go into the desert to struggle and pray in solitude, returning to their cells on Palm Sunday.
After five years together, Sts Euthymius and Theoctistus went into the desert for Great Lent, and in a wadi they discovered a large cave which later became a church. They decided to remain there, believing that they had been led there by God. They ate wild herbs to sustain themselves, and met with no other people for some time.
The Lord did not wish these great luminaries to remain hidden, however. He wanted their wisdom and holiness of life to become known in order to benefit others. One day, shepherds from Bethany found the ascetics and went back to their village and told others about them. After that, many people came to hear of them, and monks came from other monasteries to visit them. Some even stayed there in order to be instructed by them.
So many monks gathered around them that they were obliged to build a lavra over the cave church. St Euthymius made Theoctistus the igumen of the lavra, while he himself lived in seclusion in the cave. The wise Theoctistus accepted all who came to him, confessing them and treating the infirmities of their wounded souls with appropriate spiritual remedies.
When he had reached an advanced old age, St Theoctistus became very ill. St Euthymius (who was ninety years old himself) visited him and took care of him. When St Theoctistus went to the Lord in 467, Patriarch Anastasius of Jerusalem came and presided at his burial service.
St Theoctistus of Palestine should not be confused with St Theoctistus of Sicily (January 4).
Blessed John the Merciful of Rostov (also known as "Vlasatyi" -- "the Hairy") asceticised at Rostov in the exploit of holy folly (iurodstvo), in it enduring deprivation and sorrow. He did not have a permanent shelter and at times took his rest at the house of his spiritual father -- a priest at the church of the All-Holy ("Veskhsvyatsk"), or with one of the aged widows. Living in humility, patience and unceasing prayer, he spiritually nourished many a person, in which number was also the Monk Irinarkh, Hermit of Rostov (Comm. 13 January). After his lengthy life of pursuing asceticism he died on 3 September 1580 and was buried, according to his final wishes, alongside the church of Saint Blaise beyond the altar.
He had "hair upon his head abundantly", wherefore he was called "Vlasatyi" or "Hairy". The title "Merciful" was bestown upon Blessed John for the many healings that occurred at his grave, and also in connection with the memory of the holy Patriarch John the Merciful (VII Century, Comm. 12 November), whose name he had in common.
Sainted Joannikii, Patriarch of Serbia, was a native of the city of Prizren. It is known of him, that at first he started out as a secretary under king Karl (Charles) of Serbia, and later on from the year 1339 -- he guided the Church in the dignity of archbishop. In the year 1346 a Council (Sobor) of all the Serbian archpastors, and including also the Patriarch of Bulgaria, at the wish of king Dushan, chose Archbishop Joannikii as Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Sainted Joannikii reposed on 3 September 1349 and was buried in the Pech monastery.
Saint Phoebe the Deaconess is mentioned by the holy Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans (Rom. 16: 1-2).
The PriestMartyr Babyla and with him the 3 Lads Urban, Prilidian, Eppolonias and their Mother Christodoula died as martyrs under the emperor Decius (249-251). During a time of his stay at their city of Antioch, the emperor arranged for a large festival in honour of the pagan gods. During this same time the holy and God-fearing bishop of Antioch, Babyla, was making Divine Liturgy in church; he prayed for his flock and taught it bravely to undergo all the tribulations for the faith in Christ. After his abomination of idol-worship, Decius-- wanting to behold the making of the Divine Mysteries, decided to enter the church and by his visit to defile the Sanctuary of the Lord. News of this reached the bishop, and he, not wanting to permit impiety in the temple of God, went out to meet him and block the path to the church. When the emperor tried to get closer to the church doors, Saint Babyla shoved him away with his hands, such that the emperor had to forego his intent. He wanted to take his revenge on the saint right away, but seeing the large throng of Christians, he feared having them riot.
The next day the angry emperor gave orders to set fire to the Christian temple, and to bring Bishop Babyla before him. To the question about why he should insult the imperial dignity, and not allow the emperor into the church nor render him due respect of position, the holy bishop answered: "Anyone that would rise up against God and want to desecrate His sanctuary, -- such an one not only is not worthy of respect, but is become the enemy of the Lord".
The emperor demanded, that the holy bishop worship the idols and in such manner redeem his offence against the emperor, or else face execution. But having convinced himself that the martyr would remain steadfast in his faith, he commanded the military-commander Victorinus to put him in heavy chains and lead him through the city in disgrace. To this the holy martyr replied: "Emperor, for me these chains be as venerable, as for thee is thine imperial crown, and the suffering for Christ for me is as acceptable, as is the imperial power for thee; death for the Immortal King for me is as desirable, as thine life be for thee".
At the trial with Bishop Babyla were three young brothers, who did not forsake him even in this most difficult moment. Seeing them, the emperor asked: "Who are these children? " "These are my spiritual children, -- answered the saint, -- and I have raised them in piety, I have nourished them with an education, cultivated them with guidance, and here in a small body before thee are these great young men and perfect Christians. Test and see".
The emperor tried in all sorts of ways to entice the youths and their mother Christodoula into a renunciation of Christ, but in vain. Then in a rage he gave orders to whip each of them in a number equivalent to their years of age. The first they whipped with 12 blows, the second -- 10, and the third -- 7. Having dismissed the mother and children, the torturer again summoned the bishop, telling him that the children had renounced Christ. But the lie quickly unraveled and brought no success. Then in a rage he commanded all the martyrs be tied on a tree and burnt at with fire. But seeing the stoic bravery of the saints, the emperor finally condemned them to the death of martyrdom by beheading with the sword (+ c. 251).
Sainted Joasaph was born at Proluka, in the former Poltava governance, on 8 September 1705, the feastday of the Nativity of the MostHoly Mother of God. At Baptism he was named Joakim. He was descended from the old and venerable Little Russian (Ukrainian) lineage of the Gorlenkovi. In 1712 his father enrolled the 7 year old Joakim in the Kiev Spiritual Academy. Within the walls of the academy he felt the attraction towards monastic life. And over the course of 7 years he studied it further, and finally revealed his intent to his parents. For a long time his mother and father pleaded with their first-born son not to accept monastic tonsure. But in 1725, in secret from them, he became a "ryasophor" ("robe-wearing novice") with the name Ilarion at the Kiev Mezhigorsk monastery, and on 21 November 1727 he was tonsured in monk's-mantle with the name Joasaph at the Kievo-Bratsk monastery. This event co-incided with the completion of his studies at the spiritual academy. After the death of His Grace Varlaam, the Kiev cathedra-chair was governed by archbishop Raphael Zaborovsky. Archbishop Raphael directed his attention to the evident abilities of the young ascetic and drew him into still more widespread a service to the Church. He was entrusted the responsible obedience of the office of examiner of the Kiev archbishopric. In November 1734 archbishop Raphael ordained the monk-deacon Joasaph to the dignity of priest-monk, and he transferred over from the Bratsk monastery school to the Kievo-Sophia archbishop's house. At the same time he was appointed a member of the Kiev religious consistory. In fulfilling the office of examiner, he exerted much effort towards the correction of moral deficiencies among the parish clergy. The consistory office service of the saint proved a fine schooling for his administrative abilities. During this time he made a good study of the needs of clergy-servers, noting both the good points and the failings of the diocese. Herein in clear form developed Joasaph's many-sided ability for matter, combined with great inner spiritual efforts. He quickly rose up the ladder of spiritual perfection, to which he witnesses in his work, "The Conflict of the Seven Venerable Virtues with the Seven Deadly Sins".
On 24 June 1737 Priest-monk Joasaph was appointed head of the Holy Transfiguration Mgarsk monastery, with elevation to the dignity of hegumen. Here the hegumen worked with all his strength to get the monastery in good order, which was an old bulwark of Orthodoxy in the struggle with the Unia. In this monastery were situated relics of Sainted Athanasias, Patriarch of Constantinople and Lubensk Wonderworker (Comm. 2 May). And several times Sainted Athanasias appeared to Hegumen Joasaph, witnessing to his patronal protection.
In 1744 metropolitan Raphael elevated Hegumen Joasaph to the dignity of archimandrite. Towards the end of that same year he was called to Moscow and soon, at the direction of the MostHoly Synod, he was appointed vicar of the Holy Trinity Sergiev Lavra monastery. At this monastery of the Monk Sergei he likewise unstintingly fulfilled obedience to the Church (this year required much exertion for the rebuilding of the monastery after a conflagration).
On 2 June 1748 at the Petropavlovsk (Peter and Paul) cathedral in Peterburg, Archimandrite Joasaph was ordained bishop of Belgorod. Entering upon the archbishop cathedra-chair, Saint Joasaph strictly concerned himself with piety and the condition of the churches, with the proper making of Divine-services and especially the moral condition of his flock. The saint devoted great attention to the education of the clergy, and the correct observance by them of churchly norms and traditions. And just as before, the saint worked with all his strength at the archpastoral service, without regard for his health. To his cell-attendant Stefan, on the eve of his repose, the saint forbade him to aspire to the priestly dignity and he predicted, that in case of disobedience he would meet with an untimely end. To another dell-attendant Vasilii, the saint indicated that he would be a deacon, but would never attain the dignity of priesthood. And this prediction was afterwards fulfilled. On 10 December 1754 the saint died. Sainted Joasaph was glorified to the ranks of the Saints on 4 September 1911.
The Holy Prophet and God-Seer Moses was of the tribe of Levi, the son of Abram and Jochabed (Exodus 6:20). His life is described in the Bible (Exodus 2 through Deuteronomy 34:12).
Moses was born in Egypt around 1689 B.C. When Pharaoh ordered all male children of the Hebrew slaves to be killed (Exodus 1:22), Moses' mother placed him in a basket of papyrus coated with pitch, and set him adrift on the Nile. Pharaoh's daughter found him and raised him as her own son.
At the age of eighty, Moses fled to Midian, where he spoke to God in the Burning Bush on Mt. Horeb (Exodus 3:2). God chose Moses to lead His people from the slavery of Egypt. They crossed the Red Sea as if it were dry land, and for forty years they wandered in the desert.
Arriving in the land of Moab, Moses went to the top of Mt. Nabau, or Nebo (Deuteronomy 32:49), which is called Phasga (Deut. 34:1). There, according to the will of God, he died in 1569 B.C. at the age of 120 without entering the Promised Land.
The first two Biblical Odes are attributed to Moses: "Let us sing to the Lord…" (Exodus 15:1-9), which was sung on the shores of the Red Sea after the Hebrews had crossed it. "Attend, O heaven…" (Deut. 32:1-43) was sung in the land of Moab, a few days before Moses' death. He is also regarded as the author of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament).
The holy Prophet Moses performed many miracles during his lifetime, and also after his death. He appeared on Tabor with the Prophet Elias at the Transfiguration of the Lord (August 6).
On the day that St John of the Ladder (March 30) was installed as abbot of Mt. Sinai, the Prophet Moses was seen going around and giving orders to the cooks, stewards, and servants. When the guests had gone and the monks were sitting at table, they wondered what had become of the stranger who had been giving orders. St John said, "Our Lord Moses does nothing strange by serving in the place which belongs to him."
Saint Simeon was raised at Davit-Gareji Monastery. He labored as a simple monk until he reached an advanced age, and was chosen to be abbot. Outstanding in virtue and humility, St. Simeon was endowed by the Lord with the ability to work miracles.
Once St. Simeon became deathly ill and lay lifeless for more than an hour. Then, by Divine Providence, he arose and distributed all of his possessions to the fathers of the monastery to keep him in remembrance.
When St. Serapion heard about this miracle, he hastened to Abbot Simeon, his spiritual father, and, enlightened with prophetic grace, comforted him: “O honorable Father, give me your holy hands that I may kiss them. How I desire for these hands to bury the dust of my worthless body—but now you are departing this world ahead of me. You will go, Father, but without you I will not remain long on this earth; soon I will follow after you!”
So the fathers bade him farewell for the last time.
St. Simeon settled his affairs at the monastery, and in 1773 he reposed in peace, exactly one week after he had recovered from his deathly illness.
The Holy Martyress Hermionia was a daughter of the holy Apostle Philip (Comm. 14 November). Wanting to see the holy Apostle John the Theologian, Hermionia with her sister Euthykhia set off to Asia (Asia Minor) in search of the saint, but during the time of their journey they learned the saint had died. Continuing on, the sisters met up with a disciple of Saint Paul named Petronias, and copying him in everything, they became his disciples. Saint Hermionia, having mastered the healing arts, rendered help to many a Christian and by the power of Christ she healed the sick.
During this period, the emperor Trajan (98-117) waged war against the Persians and he came with his army through the village where the saint lived. When they reported that Hermionia was a Christian, he gave orders to bring her to him. At first the emperor with casual admonitions sought to persuade the saint to renounce Christ. When this did not succeed, he commanded that she should be struck on the face at length, but she joyfully endured this suffering. Moreover, she was comforted by a vision of the Lord, sitting upon the throne of judgement, in semblance of Petronias. Convincing himself that she was adamant in her faith, Trajan sent her away. Hermionia later built an hospice in which she took in the sick, doctoring their infirmities both of body and soul.
Trajan's successor as emperor, Adrian, again commanded that the saint be brought to trial for confessing the Christian faith. At first, the emperor commanded that she be beaten mercilessly, then they pierced the soles of her feet with nails, and finally they threw her into a cauldron with boiling tar, tin and sulphurous brimstone. But the saint bore everything giving thanks to God. And the Lord rendered her His mercy: the fire went out, the tin flowed off, and the saint remained unharmed. Adrian in surprise went up to the place of torture and touched at the cauldron, to ascertain whether it had cooled. But just as he touched at the cauldron, he burned the skin on his hand. But even this did not dissuade the torturer. He gave orders to heat red-hot a sort of frying-pan and put upon it the holy martyress. And here again happened another miracle. An Angel of the Lord scattered about the hot coals and burnt many that stood about the fire. The saint stood on the frying-pan, as though on green grass, hymning forth praise to the Lord. Descending the frying-pan, the holy martyress seemed to appear willing to offer sacrifice to the pagan god Hercules. The delighted emperor gave orders to take her off to the idolous temple. When however the saint prayed there to God, a loud thunder-clap was heard, and all the idols in the pagan temple fell and shattered. In a rage the emperor ordered that Hermionia be led out beyond the city and beheaded. Two servants -- Theodoulos and Timothy -- were entrusted to carry out the execution. Going along the way, they wanted to commit iniquity against the saint, but just as they were considering this, their hands withered. Then they believed in Jesus Christ and with repentance they fell at the feet of Saint Hermionia. They besought her to pray to the Lord, that He should summon them to Himself before her, which through this prayer transpired. After this, having prayed, she also expired to the Lord (+ c. 117).
The Martyr Babyla, and with him his 84 Students, suffered in the city of Nicomedia for their confessing of Christianity during the reign of the emperor Maximian (284-305). The emperor, then in Nicomedia, renewed the persecution against Christians. Just as with many another amongst believers, denunciation was made to Maximian regarding Babyla, that he was instructing children in Christian piety. When the elder Babyla was brought before the emperor, and after his confession of faith in the True God, he was given over to many torments. During the time of his sufferings the holy martyr cried out to God: "I give Thee thanks, O Lord, that Thou hast rendered me, old and infirm, to be young and strong". After a pummelting with stones his bloodied body was thrown in irons and they took him off to prison. Then they led the students of the saint before the emperor. Neither affable urgings nor promise of gifts were able to sway the Christian convictions of the children. Two of them, Ammonias and Donatos, firmly declared: "We -- are Christians, and we do not offer sacrifice to deaf and dumb devils". The emperor, going into a rage over the unexpected and firm rebuke on the part of the children, at first ordered them to be whipped, and later to be put to death by beheading, together with their teacher. Going to execution, the holy Martyr Babyla intoned the benediction to God: "Lo, I and the children, which God hath given me!" With spiritual rejoicing at first Saint Babyla, and then all his 84 students, accepted death by martyrdom.
The Holy Martyrs Theodore, Mianos, Julian and Kion lived during the reign of Maximian (305-311) and were from the village of Quandababa (near Nicomedia). For confessing faith in Christ they were arrested and given over to torture. At first their bodies were torn at with sharp iron hooks, and then they were locked into an hot and flooded bath-house. And so that they should not escape, the doors were locked and sealed with the imperial signet-ring. But an Angel of the Lord freed them. Soldiers again arrested the martyrs and led them beyond the city for execution. The saints at their request were given time for prayer, and then they gave up their souls to the Lord. Their bodies were hacked into pieces and thrown into a fire.
The Holy Prophet Zachariah and Holy Righteous Elizabeth were the parents of the holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, John. They were descended from the lineage of Aaron: Saint Zachariah, son of Barach, was a priest in the Jerusalem Temple, and Saint Elizabeth was the sister of Saint Anna, -- the mother of the MostHoly Mother of God. The righteous spouses, "comporting themselves through all the commandments of the Lord blameless (Lk. 1: 5-25), suffered barrenness, which in the Old Testament times was considered a punishment from God. One time during the occasion of service in the Temple, Saint Zachariah received the news from an Angel, that his aged wife would bear him a son, who "wilt be great before the Lord" (Lk. 1: 15) and "wilt go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias" (Lk. 1: 17). Zachariah was doubtful of the possibility of the fulfilling of this prediction, and for his weakness of faith he was punished by becoming unable to speak. When Righteous Elizabeth gave birth to a son, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit she announced that his name was John, although earlier in their family line no one had been given such a name as this. They asked Righteous Zachariah and he likewise wrote down on the writing-board the name John. Immediately the gift of speech returned to him, and inspired of the Holy Spirit, he began to prophesy about his son as being the Forerunner of the Lord.
When impious king Herod heard from the Magi about the birth of the Messiah, he decided to kill at Bethlehem and its surroundings all the infants up to 2 years old, hoping that in this number would be also the new-born Messiah. Herod well know about the unusual birth of John and he wanted to kill him, fearing that he was the foretold King of the Jews. But Righteous Elizabeth hid herself away with the infant in the hills. The murderers searched everywhere for John. Righteous Elizabeth, catching sight of her pursuers, began tearfully to implore God concerning their safety, and immediately the hill opening up concealed her together with the infant from their pursuers. In these tragic days Saint Zachariah was taking his turn making services at the Jerusalem Temple. Soldiers sent by Herod tried in vain to learn from him the whereabouts of his son. Then, by command of Herod, they murdered this holy prophet, having stabbed him betwixt the offertory and the altar (Mt. 23: 35). Righteous Elizabeth died 40 days after her spouse, and Saint John, preserved by the Lord, dwelt in the wilderness until the day of his appearance to the nation of Israel.
The Hieromartyr Athansius of Bretsk was Belorussian and was born in about the year 1597 into a pious Christian family named Philippovich. He received a serious upbringing, and he knew the theological and historical literature, as is evidenced in the diary of the saint, which has been preserved.
In his youth, St Athanasius for a while was a teacher in the houses of Polish merchants. In the year 1627, he accepted tonsure under Igumen Joseph at the Vilensk monastery of the Holy Spirit. St Athanasius was ordained hieromonk in the year 1632, and made head of the Duboisk [Dubovsk] monastery near Pinsk.
St Athanasius, with a special blessing of the Theotokos, re-established Orthodoxy within the boundaries of the ancient Russian territories that had been seized by the Polish Reche. Between the years 1638-1648 St Athanasius fulfilled his obedience as igumen of the Bretsk-Simeonov monastery. The monk endured much abuse from the Uniates and illegal persecution from the civil authorities. Three times he endured being locked up in prison.
The saint was sent to the authorities at Kiev to appear before a religious tribunal, but he was acquitted, and returned to his own monastery. For ten years St Athanasius, finding himself among persons maliciously disposed towards him, led a constant struggle for Holy Orthodoxy, his faithfulness to which is evidenced by his sufferings.
Attempts to wear down the spiritual endurance of the saint were to no avail. He again went to trial, after which the monk was sentenced to death by execution, for his cursing of the Unia. St Athanasius died as a martyr on the night of September 4-5, 1648 (the Uncovering of Relics was on July 20, 1679).
The Holy Martyr Rhais (Iraida) lived at Alexandria. Once, she went to a well to draw water and saw a ship at the shore. On board were a large number of men, women, clergy and monks, all fettered in chains for their confession of the Christian Faith.
Casting aside her water pitcher, the saint voluntarily joined the prisoners for Christ, and fetters were placed on her, too. When the ship arrived in the Egyptian city of Antipolis, St Iraida was the first to undergo fierce torments and was beheaded with the sword. After her, the other martyrs sealed their confession of faith in Christ with their blood.
Nobleborn Prince Gleb, in Holy Baptism David, was one of the first Russian martyrs -- "Passion-Bearers" ("Strastnoterptsi"); he suffered together with his brother Prince Boris (in Holy Baptism named Roman). After the murder of Saint Boris, Svyatopolk the Accursed sent to his younger brother Prince Gleb a messenger with false information concerning their father, Great-prince Vladimir -- who had died from illness, thereby using deceit to murder another possible claimant to the Kiev throne. The deceived Prince Gleb hastened off towards Kiev with a small company. His apprehensive brother Yaroslav, having caught up with him at Smolensk, was unable to delay the saint, who did not suspect such wickedness on the part of his brother Svyatopolk. Not far from Smolensk the assassins came upon the boat of Saint Gleb, who made no resistance, but only mildly besought that they should spare him because of his yet still young life. At the command of the murderers the cook of Gleb slit his throat. The body of the prince was buried in a desolate place not far from Smolensk, "betwixt two tree-trunks", i.e. in a simple wooden coffin (+ 1015). In the year 1019-1020 his brother Yaroslav found the grave of Saint Gleb, and the body being incorrupt, was transferred to Vyshgorod near Kiev and buried alongside holy Prince Boris. Later on, the relics of the brothers were transferred (Comm. 2 May) into a church of Saint Basil the Great, and there at the crypts of these holy passion-bearers many miracles were worked. The Kiev metropolitan John compiled a service to the passion-bearer princes and also established a feastday for them together on 24 July, which was made from the first half of the XI Century. The Russian Church from of old has venerated these passion-bearer brothers, who unceasingly have rendered prayerful assist to their native land, particularly in years of grievous tribulation. Thus, just before the Nevsky battle in 1240, the Passion-Bearers Boris and Gleb appeared in a vision to one of the soldiers of holy Nobleborn Prince Alexander Nevsky (Comm. 23 November, 30 August and 23 May), and they aided the Russians during the combat. The chronicles are filled with the accounts about the various manifestations of graced mercy, witnessed at their tombs, and about the victories gained through their help. In honour of the holy Passion-Bearers Boris and Gleb many churches and monasteries were built throughout all the various ends of Russia.
The Martyrs Thiphael and his sister Thivea (or Vivea) (+ c. 98-138) suffered for their bold and effective preaching of Christianity among the pagans. After long and intense torture the pagans suspended the holy Martyr Thiphael on a tree and cut at him with a saw, and his sister the Martyr Thivea they killed with a spear thrust in the neck.
The Martyred Soldiers Juventinus and Maximus suffered during the reign of the emperor Julian the Apostate, whom they served as bodyguards. One time while he was at Antioch, Julian decided to make a defilement of Christians, having besprinkled with idol-offering blood all the food-supplies offered in the market-places. Saints Juventinus and Maximus openly condemned the emperor's course of action and they boldly denounced him for his apostasy from the Christian faith. After merciless beatings they were both put to death on orders of the impious emperor (+ c. 361-363).
The Martyrs Urban, Theodore, Medimnos and with them 77 Men of Churchly Rank suffered at Nikomedia during the reign of the Arian-heretic emperor Valentus (Valens) (364-378 or 379). Under this Arian heretic they banished from the Constantinople Church the Orthodox bishop Euagrios, and Christians not wishing to consort with this heresy were locked up into prison and subjected to various outrages. Having then been driven to the point of despair, the Orthodox Christians decided to petition protection from the emperor and they dispatched 80 chosen men of religious rank, headed by Saints Urban, Theodore and Medimnos. Hearing their justified complaints, the emperor flew into a rage. But he know how to hide his wrath, and quietly he summoned the eparch Modestus and ordered him to put the delegates to death. Modestus put them upon a ship, having initially given them to understand the false news that they all would be sent off to imprisonment, while he instead gave orders to the ship-officers to burn the ship on the open sea. The ship was set afire and in the embrace of its flames it thus for awhile floated upon the sea. Finally, reaching a place called Dakizis, the ship burnt up completely together with all the holy martyrs on board it (+ 370).
The Martyr Avdi (or Habib) suffered in Persia during the reign of the emperor Izdegerd I for his refusal to renounce Christ and instead worship the sun and fire. He died after tormenting tortures and until his final gasp he gave thanks to God, for blessing His chosen one to die for His Holy Name.
The Remembrance of the Miracle, worked by the Holy Archistrategos (Heavenly Hosts Leader) Michael, at Khona : In Phrygia, not far from the city of Hieropolis, in a place called Kherotopos, there was a church named for the Archangel Michael, and outside the church flowed a health-curative spring. This church was built through the zeal of a certain inhabitant of the city of Laodiceia in gratitude to God and to the holy Archistrategos Michael, who had appeared in a dream vision to this man -- the father of a mute girl, and who then had not yet been illumined by holy Baptism, and revealed to him, that his daughter would receive the gift of speech in drinking from the water of the spring. During her drinking the girl actually did receive healing and began to speak. After this miracle, the father with his daughter and all their family were baptised, and in fervent gratitude the father built the church in honour of the holy Archistrategos Michael. And for healing began to come to the water-spring not only Christians, but also pagans. In so doing, many of the pagans turned from their idols and were converted to the faith in Christ.
At this church of the holy Archistrategos Michael a certain pious man by the name of Archippos served over the span of 60 years as church-attendant. By his preaching and by the example of his saintly life he brought many a pagan to faith in Christ. With the general malice of that time towards Christians, and even moreso against Archippos, who had never forsaken the church and gave example of a real servant of Christ, the pagans gave thought to destroying the church and at the same time kill Archippos. Towards this end they made a confluence of two mountainous rushing streams and directed its combined flow against the church. Saint Archippos prayed fervently to the Archistrategos Michael to ward off the danger. Through his prayer the Archangel Michael appeared at the temple, and with a blow of his staff opened into the mountain a wide fissure and commanded to flow into it the rushing torrents of water. The temple thus remained unharmed. In beholding such an awesome miracles, the pagans fled in terror, and Archippos together with Christians gathered in church glorified God and gave thanks to the holy Archangel Michael for the help. The place where the miracle happened received the name "Khona", which means "opening" or "fissure".
Our righteous father Maxim Sandovich (also Maximus) of Gorlice, Protomartyr of the Lemko people, was a Carpatho-Russian hieromartyr who, in practicing his Orthodox faith as priest under the rule of the Unia, as enforced by the Roman Catholic Austrian imperial government, was arrested and then executed for his faith in August 1914.
Maxim Sandovich was born into the family of a prosperous farmer, Timothy Sandovich, and his wife, Christina, in the village of Zdyna, Galicia. His father served as the choir director in the local parish. After finishing four years of study at the local high school in Novy Sanch, Maxim crossed the border into Russia to become a novice at the Pochaev Lavra in Volynia. Subsequently, he attended the Orthodox seminary in Zhitomir. Completing his studies he married a young Orthodox woman, Pelagia, and was ordained as a deacon and then to the priesthood before returning to his home.
It was not very long before the Austrian militia discovered his Orthodox pastoral and missionary service as he was denounced by a Ukrainian teacher by the name of Leos, in 1912. Immediately the Austrian gendarmes put Fr. Maxim in chains and sent him to prison in Lvov. There he was held for two years without a trial or inquest while being abused horribly and living in equally bad conditions. Then as World War I was to begin he was released for lack of evidence.
Fr. Maxim's stay at his home in the village Hrab was to prove to be short as the first shots of the war heralded a wave of new repressions of the Orthodox Carpatho-Russians. The militia, on August 4, 1914, arrested the whole family of the young priest and dragged them off in shackles to the prison in Gorlice. Fr. Maxim, his father, mother, brother, and wife were forced to travel on foot to the prison while being prodded by the bayonets of the gendarmes. In prison they were placed in separate cells and denied the opportunity to see each other.
Then, on Sunday, August 6, while at prayer at the dawn of the new day, Fr. Maxim could hear the noise of a crowd beyond the walls of their prison. The noise was accompanied finally by a load thud as a moustachioed German captain, named Dietrich, from Linz entered the prison grounds, accompanied by two soldiers and four gendarmes. The captain was known to be a cruel and sadistic person. This group was followed by the prison wardens, some civil servants, officers, and a group of curious women led by Pan Mitshka, the leader of the Gorlice District. As silence fell, the order was given to the warden to bring Fr. Maxim from his cell.
With that order two soldiers led the twenty-eight-year-old Orthodox priest from the prison. Fr. Maxim suddenly realized where they were taking him and humbly and with dignity asked, "Be so good as not to hold me. I will go peacefully wherever you wish." Even the taunting of the crowd did not affect his courageous bearing as he walked calmly and with a measured gait to the fateful wall, as befitting a follower of Christ.
Captain Dietrich ripped Fr. Maxim's cross from his chest, tossing it on the ground where he trampled it with his feet. As the captain bound Fr. Maxim's hands behind his back and blind folded him, Fr. Maxim exclaimed that it was not necessary as he had no intention of running away. But, the "brave" captain laughed and then marked with white chalk a line on Fr. Maxim's black cassock as a target for the riflemen. In the silence of the moment as the executioners were arranged, Pan Mitshka read the death sentence. With a short command from the captain, the saber was raised and lowered. With that action, shots echoed through the prison.
Fr. Maxim's voice could then be heard, first strongly but diminishing as he spoke, "Long live the Russian people." Then, leaning against the wall, "Long live the Holy Orthodox Faith." And, finally and barely audible, "Long live Slavdom." As his powerful frame slid down the wall, a gendarme ended Fr. Maxim's suffering by firing three shots from his pistol into Fr. Maxim's head.
Through all this Fr. Maxim's father and mother watched his heroic death in silence and as the final shots echoed through the prison his wife fell senselessly to the ground. Thus died Fr. Maxim Sandovich, a martyr for Orthodox Christianity.
The Martyrs Eudoxios, Zinon, Makarios and their Companions received a martyr's death for Christ under the emperor Maximian Galerius, the successor to the emperor Diocletian.
Saint Eudoxios held the high position of a military-commander in the imperial armies. He was a Christian, as were also his friend Zinon and his house steward Makarios. After the issuance by the emperor Diocletian of an edict about putting Christians to death, such as who refused to offer sacrifice to idols, many -- including people of illustrious position and rank, fled to various lands with their families to avoid torture and death. And at this time also Saint Eudoxios resigned his high position, and with his wife Saint Basilissa and all their family abandoned their property and went into hiding in the region of Armenian Meletina.
The governor of Meletina dispatched soldiers to search for Eudoxios. When they came across Eudoxios himself, attired in white garb, and not recognising him, the soldiers began to question whether a certain military-commander Eudoxios had come into these parts. Not revealing who he actually was, the saint invited the soldiers into his home, fed them and gave them lodging for the night. Saint Eudoxios considered his encounter with the soldiers as a sign from the Lord about his impending end by martyrdom. In the morning he disclosed to his guests, that he was the one whom they were seeking. In gratitude for the hospitality the soldiers offered to conceal from the authorities that they had managed to find Saint Eudoxios. But the saint would not consent to this. Setting his house in order, he said to his wife not to bewail, but on the contrary to celebrate the day of his martyr's death. Donning his military attire, he went off with the soldiers to the governor. Saint Basilissa and his friends -- Saints Zinon and Makarios -- followed after Saint Eudoxios. The governor tried to persuade Saint Eudoxios to offer sacrifice to the idols and by this safeguard his life, exalted rank and substance. Saint Eudoxios firmly refused, denouncing the folly of anyone who would worship soulless idols. His soldier's sash -- the emblem of his power of authority -- he himself removed and threw in the face of the governor. Soldiers present at this, secret Christians, did likewise, and they numbered more than a thousand men. The embarrassed governor enquired of the emperor as to what he should do, and he received the orders: try the ringleaders and set free the rest. After prolonged tortures they led forth Saint Eudoxios to execution. Following after her husband, Saint Basilissa wept, and his friend Saint Zinon also bewept the martyr. Saint Eudoxios thereupon again urged his wife not to bewail him, but rather to rejoice that he be deigned the crown of martyrdom, and he asked that she bury his body in a place called Amimos. To his weeping friend Saint Zinon Saint Eudoxios predicted, that they would simultaneously enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Emboldened by these words, Zinon loudly declared himself a Christian, for which he was immediately sentenced to death. Later, Saint Basilissa without hindrance took up the body of her husband and buried it there where he had requested. After this they arrested the saint and led her before the governor; wanting to share the fate of her husband, she fearlessly denounced both the governor and his false gods -- the idols. The governor however saw into her intent and would not torture her, but instead sent her away. In leaving, the saint said to him, that God would see her intent to suffer for her faith and would accept this intent as accomplished deed. Seven days later Saint Eudoxios appeared to his wife in a vision and bid convey to his friend and house-steward Makarios, that both he and Saint Zinon awaited the arrival of Makarios. Makarios immediately went to the governor and declared himself a Christian, for which he was sentenced to death and beheaded. Many a Christian likewise accepted a martyr's death during this time (+ 311-312).
The Monk Archippos, son of pious Christians from the city of Hieropolis, at age 10 went to pray in the church of the holy Archistrategos Michael and he remained at this temple thereafter to render service as church-caretaker. He led a strict and ascetic manner of life, constantly at fasting and prayer; many a pagan that came to the holy water-spring he persuaded to accept holy Baptism, to forsake pagan impiety, and to turn to the One True God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Tenacious pagans headed by idolous priests repeatedly tried to kill Saint Archippos, but the Lord each time delivered him out of their hands. Finally, the pagans concocted a plan to destroy the church and at the same time kill also Archippos, -- by flooding the spot where stood both the church and the curative spring. Seeing the preparations for this wicked deed, Saint Archippos firmly resolved not to abandon the holy place, and he prayed God and the Archangel Michael to preserve the church and the spring. The Lord hearkened to his prayer, and the saint witnessed to the Great Miracle of the Archistrategos Michael at Khona (IV) (q.v. vide supra). Miraculously delivered from death, Saint Archippos dwelt constantly at the church into venerable old age, and he died peacefully at 70 years from birth. Christians buried the saint at Khona, at the place of his deeds.
The Martyr Romilus lived during the reign of the emperor Trajan and was a confidant to the emperor by virtue of his office -- military-commander. During a time of sojourn of the emperor in the East with the aim of suppressing the uprisings of various peoples against the Romans, -- whether the Iberians, the Sarmatians, the Arabs --in the year 107 and again a second time in 115 the emperor, in conducting a review of the military strength of his army, found in his troops upwards to 11,000 Christians. Trajan immediately sent off in disgrace these Christians into exile in Armenia. Saint Romilus, in view of this, reproached the emperor with his impiety and the sheer folly to diminish the army's numeric strength during a time of war. And Saint Romilus moreover openly acknowledged that he himself was a Christian. The enraged Trajan had the holy martyr subjected to a merciless beating, after which the holy martyr Romilus was beheaded.
The Christian soldiers sent off to exile in Armenia were killed by various forms of execution.
The PriestMartyr Cyril, Bishop of Gortineia, lived during the time of the emperor Diocletian and his co-emperor Maximian. As a Christian he was brought to trial before the governor Agrippina and after interrogation he was thrown into prison. By night he heard a voice, which commanded the saint to go to Rome. In the morning the doors of the prison were open, and the idols -- overthrown and destroyed. On the road to Rome Saint Cyril had a vision: the Monk Philoxenos appeared and foretold for him 2 crowns -- one of hierarch and the other of martyr. At Rome Saint Cyril rendered great help to the Church by his preaching. When a persecution against Christians started up, Saint Cyril set off to Jerusalem to encourage the spirits of Christians living there. Along the way he had a vision and received a command not to neglect Crete. Having arrived there, Saint Cyril was chosen bishop of the city of Gortineia. He was then 60 years of age. Still on the Gortineia cathedra-seat at age 95, Saint Cyril at the start of a new persecution against Christians was brought to trial and sentenced to death and beheaded with the sword in the vicinity of Raxos at the beginning of the IV Century.
The Martyrs Faustus the Presbyter, Habib the Deacon and 11 other Martyrs accepted a martyr's death for Christ at Alexandria under the emperor Decius (249-251). During the time of persecution, they all of them steadfastly confessed themselves Christians afront the governor Valerius and were beheaded by the sword, in about the year 250. Their bodies were buried by Christians in Alexandria.
The Monk David before his entry into a monastery was the leader of a band of bandits in Egypt, in the Hermopolis wilderness. He had committed many a murder and other wicked deeds. Getting old, he thought over his life and took fright at his past misdeeds. Leaving his band of bandits, he went to the monastery and besought the hegumen to accept him amongst the brethren for repentance. The hegumen refused, explaining to David, that their monastic life was very severe and would be beyond his ability. David persisted and, finally, he revealed to the hegumen, that he was the notorious robber David. He said, that if they did not open the doors of the monastery to him for repentance, he would then return to his former manner of life, come back and plunder the monastery and kill the monks. The hegumen thereupon allowed him into the monastery, and to the surprise of all, David became an excellent monk. By his severe efforts David surpassed all the monks. After a certain length of time the Lord sent the Archangel Gabriel to David with the announcement, that the Lord had forgiven him. But the Monk David in his great humility could not believe, that for so great a sinner as he, the Lord would so quickly grant forgiveness. The Archangel then said to him, that for his little-faith David would become speechless. David implored, that he should be left the ability to say his prayers, monastic rule and share in church services. This was granted him, and the rest of the time he remained speechless. Towards the end of his life the Monk David received from God the gift of wonderworking: he healed many of the sick and cast out evil spirits. Having lived in such manner for many years, he reposed to the Lord.
The Martyr Sozontes, a native of Likaonea, was a shepherd. He read the Holy Scriptures attentively, and he loved to share his knowledge about the One God with the shepherds who gathered together with him. He brought many to the faith in Christ and to Baptism. By night-time once, when he sat under an oak tree, he had a vision foretelling his deed of martyrdom for Christ. He set off to the city of Cilician Pompeiopolis, where a festal pagan celebration was being prepared for a golden idol, standing in a pagan temple. Unseen by anyone, saint Sozontes went into the pagan temple and broke off the hand of the idol, and having smashed it he gave the gold to the poor. The missing hands of the idol caused an uproar and commotion in the city: many were under suspicion, given over to interrogation and torture. Not wanting to be the cause ofd suffering for other people, Saint Sozontes went to the emperor Maximian (284-305) and declared, that it was he that broke the hand from the idol. "I did this, -- he said, -- so that ye might see the lack of power of your god, which offered me no resistance. It is not a god, but rather a deaf and dumb idol. I wanted to smash it all into pieces, so that people would no longer worship its wrought hands". The emperor in a fitful rage commanded that Saint Sozontes be tortured mercilessly. They hung him up and struck at him with iron claws, and then they put on his legs iron shackles with nails inside and took him through the city. After this they again suspended him and beat him with iron rods until his bones broke. In these terrible torments Saint Sozontes gave up his spirit to God (+ c. 304). By decree of the emperor, slaves set a strong fire so as to burn the body of the martyr, but suddenly lightning flashed, it thundered loudly and a strong rain poured down over the flames of the fire. Christians took the body of the martyr by night and gave it over to burial. By his grave and at the place where he had the vision, there occurred healing of many of the sick. A church later was built in memory of the sufferings of the holy martyr.
Sainted John, Archbishop of Novgorod, was born at Novgorod of the pious parents Nikolai and Christina. He passed his childhood in quiet and peaceful surroundings.
After the death of the parents John and his brother Gabriel, having received a small inheritance, decided to make on their inherited property a small monastery in honour of the Annunciation (Blagoveschenie) of the MostHoly Mother of God. At first they built a wooden church, but a short time later built also a stone church. Their good intentions were not without difficulties. Before they finished construction on the stone temple, the brothers totally exhausted their means. Only their steadfast and living faith inspired them to continue what they had started. They turned for help with it to the Queen of Heaven, on Whose account this God-pleasing matter was begun. Through their unflagging prayer She manifested to them Her mercy -- She foretold in a dream, that everything necessary for the completion of the temple would be provided. On the following morning the brothers saw a splendid horse, loaded with two sacks of gold. No one came by for it, and when the brothers took hold of the sacks, the horse then vanished. Thus did the Mother of god send means for the monastery.
Upon completion of the monastery construction, -- here under the protection of the Mother of God, the brothers took monastic vows. Saint John took the name of Ilia, and Saint Gabriel -- the name Gregory.
The chronicles speak about Saint John being made bishop under the entries for the year 1162. His first archpastoral missive was directed to the clergy of his diocese. It was embued with an endearing concern about his flock, written in a spirit of fatherly guidance: "It pleased God and the MostHoly Mother of God, through your prayers, that I but a mere man, should not refrain from this high dignity, of which I am unworthy. Wherein that ye yourselves have encouraged me to this service, now hearken to me..." The saint spoke about the vocation of the pastor -- he is concerned about his sheep, he not only chastises but also heals those that lead a sinful life. "At the beginning of my discourse I ask you, be not strongly attached to this world, but rather be instructive to people. Look first of all, that they not give themselves over to strong drunkenness. Yet ye yourselves know, that through this most of all do not only the simple people perish, but we also. When your spiritual children approach you in repentance, then question them with mildness. It is not seemly to impose harsh penances. Scorn not the reading of books, since if we do not make a start of doing this, then what will distinguish us from the simple unschooled people?... Do not impose penances upon orphans.... Let everything be seemly, in that the yoke of Christ ought to be light..."
In the year 1165 Saint John was elevated to archbishop (from that time the Novgorod cathedra became archbishopal).
The winter of 1170 was a very difficult time for Novgorod. Suzdal' forces with their allies laid siege to the city for two days since the Novgorod people would not accept prince Svyatoslav, and likewise the took the tribute-tax of the Dvina district which was not subject to them.
In grief the Novgorod people prayed God and the MostHoly Mother of God for the salvation of the city. On the third night, while he was praying before an image of the Saviour, Saint John heard a voice, ordering him to go to the church of the Saviour on Il'ina street, to take the icon of the MostHoly Mother of God and put it up upon a trident-hook. In the morning the saint told the assembly about the command and sent the archdeacon with clergy to the Sophia church for the icon. Going into the church, the archdeacon bowed down before the icon and wanted to take hold of it, but the icon would not budge. The archdeacon returned to the archbishop and told him about what happened. Then the saint with all the assembly went to the Il'ina church and on their knees began to pray before the icon. They began to sing a molieben canon, and at the 6th ode at the kondak " Mediatrix of Christians" the icon itself moved from the place. The people with tears cried out: "Lord, have mercy!" Then Saint John took the icon and together with two deacons carried it on the trident-hook. The Novgorod people in terror foresaw their doom, since the Suzdal' forces with their allies had made their way ready for pillage. In the sixth hour of the evening there began an assault, and the arrows fell like rain. Then by the Providence of God the icon turned its visage towards the city, and from the eyes of the MostHoly Mother of God there trickled down tears, which the saint gathered on his phelon. A darkness like ashes covered over the Suzdal' forces, they became unable to see and with terror they fell back. This occurred on 25 February 1170. Saint John established in honour of this a solemn feastday for Novgorod -- the Sign (Znamenie) of the MostHoly Mother of God (celebrated 27 November).
The Suzdal' army wreaked great harm on the Novgorod region. Here also the archpastor did not remain on the sidelines. He showed fatherly concern about devastated households suffering hunger, and he distributed aid to hapless orphans. Just like other Russian hierarchs, by prayer and by virtue he calmed and soothed the internecine strife in much-suffering Rus'. Thus, in 1172 the archpastor himself journeyed to Vladimir to reconcile the nobleborn prince Andrei Bogoliubsky with the Novgorod people.
The saint not only shared in the adversity of his people, but most of all he concerned himself about their spiritual enlightenment. Saint John devoted great attention to spiritual conversations, which often occurred in the circle of the clergy and the laypeople. There are preserved about 30 of his instructions: concerning Baptism, Confession, the Holy Eucharist. The Guidance for Monks is filled with spiritual grandeur: "Once having followed after Christ, monks as actualisers of spiritual life by the cross ought to live in solitary places, separate from worldly folk. Let them pilfer nothing for themself, nor not wholly be dedicated to God. A monk ought always to be a monk, at every time and at every place -- both in sleep and in wakefulness they should preserve the memory of death, and in flesh to be fleshless. Not for everyone does the monastery serve as a doctoring for sensual-love, just as silence -- is to anger, and death -- to greed for money, and the tomb -- to avarice... Monastic life and worldly life are incompatible, -- just as they do not harness together a camel and horse. The monk bends his neck beneathe the yoke of the Creator and ought to pull the plow in the valley of humility, in order to multiply the fine wheat by the warmth of the Life-bestowing Spirit and to sow the seed-grains of the reason of God. The black-robed is not his own master; being like gods take care not to rot in likeness to people, nor fall from the heights like the light-bearing prince [i.e. of angels, Lucifer-satan]... for from human glory is begotten haughty pride..."
The saint's spiritual powers of grace were unusual. For his simplicity of soul and purity of heart God gave him power against devils. One time, when the saint as was his custom prayed by night, he heard in the wash-bowl something splashing the water. Seeing that there was no one alongside him, the saint perceived, that this was the doing of a devil trying to scare him. The saint made the sign of the cross over the wash-bowl and restrained the devil. Soon the evil spirit could no longer bear the prayer of the saint, which scorched it with fire, and it began to implore to be released from the wash-bowl. The saint was agreeable, but set a condition, that the devil carry him from Novgorod to Jerusalem to the Sepulchre of the Lord, and back all in one night. The devil fulfilled the command of the saint, but asked him to tell no one about his shaming.
In one of his conversations the saint told his flock, that he knew a man, who by night visited the Holy Land. The revenge of the evil spirit was not slow in coming. It began to scatter about women's things in the cell of the saint. One time when a large crowd of city-folk, stirred up by jealous and unvirtuous people, had gathered at the cell of the monk, the devil appeared to them, looking like a woman which ran out from the cell. The saint came out to the racket and gently asked: "What has happened, my children, what is the noise all about?" The unruly crowd, shouting various charges of perverse life against the saint, dragged him to the River Volkhov. They put the saint on a raft and released it down along the current of the river, reckoning to be rid of it. But the raft, contrary to expectation, sailed against the current straight to the men's Yur'ev monastery, situated three versts from Novgorod. Seeing this, people took shame and with weeping and shouts they went along the river-bank after the raft, beseeching the saint to forgive them and to return to the city. The heart of the simple-souled archpastor was filled with thankful joy, not only for himself but just as much for his flock: ""Lord, hold this not in sin against them!" -- he prayed and granted pardon to all.
This occurrence happened not long before the death of the saint. Sensing its approach, he put off the hierarch's omophor and took the schema with the name John, -- the same name he had in his youth. As successor to himself he appointed his brother, Sainted Gregory (Comm. 24 May). The saint died on 7 September 1186 and was put in the portico of the Sophia church.
In 1439 through the zeal of Sainted Evphymii repairs were being made at the Sophia cathedral; in the portico chapel-temple of Saint John the Fore-Runner a stone suddenly came loose and powerfully cracked the lid of the tomb standing there. Sainted Evphymii gave orders to lift off the boards broken by the stone, and the temple was filled with fragrance. In the tomb they beheld the undecayed relics of the saint, but no one was able to identify whom this archpastor was. In his cell Sainted Evphymii began fervently to pray God to reveal to him the name of this saint. By night there appeared before him a man, clothed in hierarchical garb, and said that he was Archbishop John, found worthy to serve the miracle of the MostHoly Mother of God in honour of Her Sign (Znamenie). "I proclaim thee the will of God, -- continued the saint, -- to make the memory of the archbishops and princes lying here, on 4 October, and I shall pray Christ for all Christians". His memory is celebrated likewise with the Assemblage (Sobor) of Novgorod Sainted-hierarchs on 10 February; in 1630 a feastday was also established on 1 December.
The MonkMartyr Makarii of Kanevsk lived in the XVII Century. This was a most terrible of times for Orthodox Christians in western Rus'. The vital effort, made by the monkmartyr, was an effort of defence of the Orthodox Faith under conditions of inequitably exhaustive struggle, when it was possible only to defend the future of the Russian Orthodox Church, which was preserved from the brusque passing of the hurricane of the Unia, endured together with Tatar incursions.
The holy MonkMartyr Makarii was born in 1605 in the city of Ovrucha in Volynia -- into the illustrious Tokarevsky family, reknown adherents of Orthodoxy. In the years between 1614-1620 the saint studied at the Ovruchsk Dormition (Uspenie) monastery, and upon the death of his parents he became a monk at this monastery, having begun his service in the minor monastic rank of novice. In 1625 the Monk Makarii, with the blessing of the archimandrite, left the Uspensk monastery and was sent to the Pinsk bishop, -- Avramii, who assigned him to the Pinsk Kupyatichsk monastery. In 1630 he was ordained to the dignity of monk-deacon, and in 1632 -- to the dignity of priest-monk. Fame about the excellence of the monastic life of the priest-monk Makarii spread beyond the bounds of the Kupyatichsk monastery, and in 1637 the brethren of the Bretsk Simonovsk monastery turned with a request to the hegumen of the Kupyatichsk monastery -- Ilarion (Denisevich), to send them Saint Makarii to be their head. But the Kupyatichsk hegumen also had need of the priest-monk Makarii. In 1637 the head of the Kupyatichsk monastery sent him to the Kiev metropolitan Peter Moghila to hand over money collected by the brethren for the rebuilding of the Kiev Sophia temple, and for the solicitation of help for the construction and repair of damaged monastery churches. Seeing in the priest-monk Makarii a talented son of God's Church, the metropolitan issued him an universal certificate for the collection of offerings, and in 1638 appointed him head of the Kamenetsk Resurrection (Voskresenie) monastery (in Grodnensk district). Until the pillaging and seizing of the monastery by the Uniates in 1642, the Monk Makarii guided the brethren of the Voskresensk monastery. In these harsh times the brethren of the Kupyatichsk monastery summoned as hegumen the Monk Makarii, who held the monastery until 1656. From 1656 through 1659 the Monk Makarii headed the Pinsk monastery, and from 1660 in the dignity of archimandrite the Monk Makarii guided the brethren of his original Ovruchsk Uspenie monastery. More than ten years passed in incessant struggle with the Latino-Polish in Ovrucha. But neither the tearing-away by the Dominicans of the farm-lands belonging to the monastery, nor the rapacious pillaging of moveable property, nor thrashing, -- nothing was able to compel the brethren to quit the monastery. Only in the year 1671, after the devastation of Ovrucha by the Tatars, did the holy archimandrite Makarii leave the monastery, in which there remained not a single monk, and he set off for spiritual deeds to the Kievo-Pechersk Lavra. But the defenders of Orthodoxy, like the Monk Makarii, were needed not only at Kiev, but even moreso outside of Kiev. Metropolitan Joseph (Neliubovich-Tukal'sky) assigned Archimandrite Makarii as head of the Kanevsk monastery. Thus, after thirty years of struggle with the Uniates, the Monk Makarii was again on the front lines of giving battle for the Orthodox Faith.
In 1672 at the Kanevsk monastery the son of Bogdan Khmel'nitsky, -- Yuri, sought shelter. The hetman Doroshenko, having petitioned Metropolitan Joseph for the assignment of the Monk Makarii, repeatedly visited Kanevsk monastery and in 1675 switched to Russian allegiance, having renounced allegiance to the Turks, evidently, not without counsel from the Monk Makarii. In response the Turkish powers dispatched an army to Little Russia. On 4 September 1678 the aggressors rushed on the monastery. Saint Makarii met the enemy with cross in hand at the entrance to the church. The Turks demanded from the monk to hand over to them the monastery treasury. Hearing the answer of the monk, that his treasure was in Heaven, the furious robbers hung the saint hand and foot between two posts. After two days they beheaded the monkmartyr (+ 7 September 1678). Witnesses to the martyr's death of Archimandrite Makarii carried his body to the monastery church, in which for safety they were hidden. But the returning Turks placed firewood around the church and burnt everything concealed in the temple. When the citizens of Kanev that survived began removing the bodies of those that perished, then only one body was found whole and as though alive -- this was the body of the MonkMartyr Makarii, attired in hairshirt, with a cross on the breast and another cross in the hand. The holy body was buried in this temple beneathe the altar on 8 September 1678.
The holy MonkMartyr Makarii was a man of highly righteous and spiritual life, glorified while still alive by miracles and the gift of perspicacity. At Kanev he healed the blind and the dying.
In 1688, during renovation of the temple, the grave of the monkmartyr was opened and in it was found the undecayed body of the saint. In connection with the danger of invasion for the Kanevsk monastery, on 13 May 1688 the holy relics were solemnly transferred to the Pereyaslavl' regimental Resurrection church. There also they transferred the beloved book of the monkmartyr -- "Discourse of John Chrysostom on the 14th Epistle of the holy Apostle Paul" (Kiev edition 1621-1623) with his signature on one of the page-leafs. Under Bishop Zakharii (Kornilovich) the relics were transferred in 1713 to a new-built temple of the Pereyaslavl' Mikhailovsk monastery, and after its closing the relics reposed from 4 August 1786 at the Pereyaslavl' Resurrection monastery.
In 1942 the relics were transferred to the Trinity church in the city of Cherkassa, and from 1965 they are situated in a temple in honour of the Nativity of the MostHoly Mother of God in that same city.
The commemoration of the MonkMartyr Makarii is made twice: 7 September -- on the day of repose, and on 13 May -- on the day of transfer of the holy relics.
The Monk Serapion of Pskov was born at Yur'ev (now Tartu), which then was under the rule of Germans, who sought to stamp out Orthodoxy. His parents were parishioners of a Russian church in the name of Saint Nicholas. The Monk Serapion was versed in the Holy Scripture and more than once he entered into the defense of Orthodoxy. When they wanted to convert him by force to the foreign faith, he departed to the Tolvsk wilderness, not far from Pskov, where the Pskov ascetic monk Evphrosyn (Comm. 15 May) began his prayerful work. Under his nurturing the Monk Serapion began to acquire the wisdom of wilderness life. But soon he happened to undergo temptations: on the basis of his own powers he wanted without blessing to quit his guide and in complete solitude to start independent ascetic life. But the Lord brought the inexperienced novice to his senses: having seriously hurt his leg, he repented his self-will and disobedience and returned to the elder. Having taken on the great schema, for 55 years he dwelt constantly with the Monk Evphrosyn, strictly keeping the vow of silence. Brethren began gradually to gather around the Monk Evphrosyn, for which the elder built a temple in the name of the Three Hierarchs and gave a skete ustav (rule). The Monk Serapion zealously fulfilled everything commanded of him and was a role-model for the monks. The monk so strictly fulfilled the monastic vow of uncovetousness, that a copyist of his life called him "an unburied corpse". He bore every insult with extraordinary humility, always blaming only himself alone, and he himself asked forgiveness of his insulter. The monk deeply sensed the power of in-common church-prayers and he said, that "the order of the twelve psalms" sung alone in the dell cannot equal one "Lord, have mercy" sung in church.
The Monk Serapion died on 8 September 1480, on the feastday of the Nativity of the MostHoly Mother of God. Since the day of repose of the Monk Serapion coincides with the twelve great-feasts, his memory is made on 7 September. A tropar and kondak to the monk were compiled.
The Monk Evphrosyn himself gave over to the earth the body of his disciple, who from his fervent deeds had transformed himself into mere "bones, covered by skin". The Monk Serapion was not separated from his spiritual father even after death: their holy relics were placed alongside each other, and to the Monks Evphrosyn and Serapion there was composed a common service on 15 May, wherein the Monk Serapion is glorified as the first co-ascetic, "companion and friend" of the Monk Evphrosyn.
The Holy Disciple from the Seventy Evodus was, after the holy Apostle Peter, the first bishop in Syrian Antioch. About him there reminisces his successor the PriestMartyr Ignatios the God-Bearer (Comm. 20 December) -- disciple of the holy Apostle John the Theologian, in Ignatios' Letter to the Antiochenes: "Remember your blessed father Evodus, who was made first pastor for you by the Apostles..."
Saint Evodus served in the dignity of bishop for 27 years and died a martyr's death under the emperor Nero (54-68). Saint Evodus wrote several compositions. In one of them he writes about the MostHoly Virgin Mary, that She gave birth to the Saviour of the world at age 15.
Other compositions of the saint have not survived. Of them there is known a book under the title "the Star" mentioned by the XIV Century church historian Nicephoros Kallistos. The martyr's death of Saint Evodus occurred in the year 66.
About the Holy Disciple Onysiphoros the holy Apostle Paul (+ 67, Comm. 29 June) gives witness: "God grant mercy to the house of Onysiphoros for that repeatedly he hath given me rest and was not ashamed of my bonds, but being at Rome, with great diligence he searched after and did find me. May the Lord grant him to find the mercy of the Lord on that day; and how much he did serve me at Ephesus, thou well knowest" (2 Tim. 1: 16-18). Saint Onysiphoros was bishop at Colophon (Asia Minor), and later -- at Corinth. He died a martyr in the city of Parium (not far from Ephesus) at the shores of the Hellespont, whither he had set out to proclaim the faith in Christ amongst the local pagans. Here the holy disciple Onysiphoros was arrested and brought to an idolous pagan-temple. For his refusal to burn incense to the pagan gods, the disciple Onysiphoros, together with his servant Porphyrios, was tied to wild horses and dragged along the ground. In the Roman Martyrology the day of death of Saint Onysiphoros is reckoned as 16 September. The Orthodox Church honours his memory together with the holy disciple Evodus on 7 September, and likewise on 4 January in the Assemblage (Sobor) of the holy 70 Disciples.
Saint Cloud was born in 520. When his father was killed in battle in 524 he and his brothers were brought up by their grandmother St Clotilde (June 3). His brothers were murdered by their uncles Childebert and Clotaire to prevent them from succeeding to the Frankish throne. St Cloud escaped and lived as a hermit, renouncing any claim to the throne.
Later, St Cloud was ordained to the holy priesthood, and lived a life of virtue and good works. He died around 560.
The Holy Martyr Eupsykhias was born in Caesaria Cappadocia. In one of the synaxaria (saints-accounts) he is called the son of a senator Dionysios. During a time of a persecution against Christians under Adrian he was arrested and subjected to torture. After the torture they threw him into prison, where he was healed of his wounds by an Angel. When they set the martyr free, he distributed all his property to the poor, besides which he gave away a certain portion even to his enemies, who had reported on him and given him over to torture. Under the changeover to a new governor Saint Eupsykhias was again arrested. They hung him up and cut at his body with iron, and then they cut off his head with a sword. The martyr died under the emperor Adrian (117-138).
The Monk Luke was the third holy hegumen (from the year 975) at the Saviour monastery, named "Deep Rivers" (near Constantinople in the Cythian Gulf). The first holy hegumen was the Monk Basil (he died at the beginning of the IX Century, and his memory in the Greek Church is 1 July); the second holy hegumen -- was the Monk Ignatios (c. 963-975, Comm. 27 September). The monastery was famed for the especial strictness of the ascetic life of its residents. The Monk Luke died at the end of the X Century.
The MostHoly Virgin Mary was born at a time, when people had reached such limits of decay of moral values, that it seemed altogether impossible to restore them. The best minds of this era were aware and often said openly, that God mustneeds come down into the world, so as to restore faith and not tolerate the ruination of the race of mankind.
The Son of God chose for the salvation of mankind to take on human nature, and the All-Pure Virgin Mary, -- alone worthy to contain in Herself and to incarnate the Source of purity and holiness, -- He chose as His Mother.
The Birth of Our MostHoly Lady Mother of God and EverVirgin Mary is celebrated by the Church as a day of universal joy. Within the context of the Old and the New Testaments, on this radiant day was born the MostBlessed Virgin Mary, -- having been forechosen through the ages by Divine Providence to bring about the Mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God, and She is revealed as the Mother of the Saviour of the World, Our Lord Jesus Christ. The MostHoly Virgin Mary was born in the small city of Galilee, Nazareth. Her parents were Righteous Joakim from the tribe of the King and Prophet David, and Anna from the tribe of the First-Priest Aaron. The couple was without child, since Saint Anna was barren. Having reached old age, Joakim and Anna did not lose hope on the mercy of God. They had strong faith that for God everything is possible, and that He would be able to solve the barrenness of Anna -- even in her old age, as He had once solved the barrenness of Sarah, spouse of the Patriarch Abraham. Saints Joakim and Anna made a vow to dedicate the child which the Lord might bestow on them, into the service of God in the Temple. Childlessness was considered among the Hebrew nation as a Divine punishment for sin, and therefore the righteous Saints Joakim and Anna had to endure abuse from their own countrymen. On one of the feastdays at the Temple in Jerusalem the elderly Joakim brought his sacrifice in offering to God, but the High Priest would not accept it, -- considering him to be unworthy since he was childless. Saint Joakim in deep grief went into the wilderness and there he prayed with tears to the Lord for the granting of a child. Saint Anna, having learned about what had happened at the Jerusalem Temple, wept bitterly; never once did she complain against the Lord, but rather she prayed, asking God's mercy on her family. The Lord fulfilled her petitions when the pious spouses had attained to extreme old age and prepared themselves by virtuous life for a sublime calling -- to be the parents of the MostHoly Virgin Mary, the future Mother of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Archangel Gabriel brought Joakim and Anna the joyous message: their prayers were heard by God, and of them would be born a MostBlessed Daughter Mary, through Whom would come the Salvation of all the World. The MostHoly Virgin Mary of Herself in purity and virtue surpassed not only all mankind but also the Angels; -- She was manifest as the Living Temple of God, such that the Church sings in its festal verses of song: "the Heavenly Gate, bringing Christ into the world for the salvation of our souls" (2nd Stikhera on "Lord, I have cried", Tone 6).
The Birth of the Mother of God marks the change of the times, wherein the great and comforting promises of God begin to be fulfilled about the salvation of the human race from slavery to the devil. This event has brought nigh to earth the grace of the Kingdom of God, -- a Kingdom of Truth, piety, virtue and life immortal. Our Mother FirstBorn of All Creation is revealed to all of us by grace as a merciful Intercessor and Mother, to Whom we steadfastly recourse with filial devotion.
The present feastday is for us the beginning of feastdays. Serving as boundary limit to the law and to foretypes, it at the same time serves as a doorway to grace and truth. "For Christ is the end of the law" (Rom. 10: 4), Who, having freed us from the writing, doth raise us to spirit. Here is the end (to the law): in that the Lawgiver, having made everything, hath changed the writing in spirit and doth head everything within Himself (Eph. 1: 10), enlivening the law with grace: grace hath taken the law under its dominion, and the law is become subjected to grace, such that the properties of the law not suffer reciprocal commingling, but only suchlike, that the servile and subservient (in the law) by Divine power be transmuted into the light and free (in grace), "so that we, -- sayeth the Apostle, -- be not enslaved to the elements of the world" (Gal. 4: 3) and be not in a condition under the slavish yoke of the writing of the law. Here is the summit of Christ's beneficence towards us! Here are the mysteries of revelation! Here is the theosis [divinisation] assumed upon humankind -- the fruition worked out by the God-man.
The radiant and bright coming-down of God for people ought to possess a joyous basis, opening to us the great gift of salvation. Suchlike also is the present feastday, having as its basis the Nativity of the Mother of God, and as its purposive end -- the uniting of the Word with flesh, this most glorious of all miracles, unceasingly proclaimed, immeasurable and incomprehensible. The less comprehensible it is, the more it is revealed; and the more it is revealed, the less comprehensible it is. Wherefore the present God-graced day, the first of our feastdays, shewing forth the light of virginity and as it were the crown woven from the unfading blossoms of the spiritual garden of Scripture, doth proffer creatures a common joy. Be of good cheer, -- sayeth it, -- behold, this is the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin and of the renewal of the human race! The Virgin is born, She groweth and is raised up and prepareth Herself to be the Mother of God All-Sovereign of the ages. All this, with the assist of David, makes it for us an object of spiritual contemplation. The Mother of God manifests to us Her God-bestown Birth, and David points to the blessedness of the human race and wondrous co-kinship of God with mankind.
And thus, truly one ought to celebrate the mystery today and to offer to the Mother of God a word by way of gift: since nothing is so pleasing to Her, as a word and praise by word. It is from here also that we receive a twofold benefit: first, we enter into the region of truth, and second, we emerge from the captivity and slavery of the written law. Howso? Obviously, when darkness vanishes, then light appears; so also here: after the law there follows the freedom of grace.
The present day solemnity is a line of demarcation, separating the truth from its prefigurative symbol, and ushering in the new in place of the old. Paul -- that Divine Trumpeter of the Spirit, -- exclaims thus about this: "For anyone that be in Christ, ye are remade a new creature; the old passeth away and behold all is become new (2 Cor. 5: 17); for the law hath perfected nothing adducing for a better hope, whereby we draw nigh to God" (Heb. 7: 19). The truth of grace hath shown forth brightly...
Let there now be one common festal celebration in both heaven and on earth. Let everything now celebrate, that which is in the world and that beyond the world. Now is made the created temple for the Creator of all; and creation is readied into a new Divine habitation for the Creator. Now our nature having been banished from the land of blessedness doth receive the principle of theosis and doth strive to rise up to the highest glory. Now Adam doth offer from us and for us elements unto God, the most worthy fruit of mankind -- Mary, in Whom the new Adam is rendered Bread for the restoration of the human race. Now is opened the great bosom of virginity, and the Church, in the matrimonial manner, doth place upon it a pure pearl truly immaculate. Now human worthiness doth accept the gift of the first creation and returns to its former condition; the majesty darkened by formless sin, -- through the conjoining by His Mother by birth "of Him Beauteous by Goodness", man receives beauty in a most excellent and God-seemly visage. And this creating is done truly by the creation, and recreation -- by theosis, and theosis -- by a return to the original perfection! Now a barren one is become beyond expectation a mother, and the Birth-giver hath given birth without knowing man, and She doth sanctify natural birth. Now is readied the majestied colour of the Divine scarlet-purple and the impoverished human nature is clothed in royal worthiness. Now -- according to prophecy -- there sprouts forth the Offshoot of David, Who, having eternally become the green-sprouting Staff of Aaron, hath blossomed forth for us with the Staff of Power -- Christ. Now of Judah and David is descended a Virgin Maiden, rendering of Herself the royal and priestly worthiness of Him that hath taken on the priesthood of Aaron in the order of Melchisedek (Heb. 7: 15). Now is begun the renewal of our nature, and the world responding, assuming a God-seemly form, doth receive the principle of a second Divine creation.
The first creation of mankind occurred from the pure and unsullied earth; but their nature darkened the worthiness innate to it, they were deprived of grace through the sin of disobedience; for this we were cast out of the land of life and, in place of the delights of paradise, we received temporal life as our inheritance by birth, and with it the death and corruption of our race. All started to prefer earth to heaven, such that there remained no hope for salvation, beyond the utmost help. Neither the natural nor the written law, nor the fiery reconciliative sayings of the prophets had power to heal the sickness. No one knew, how to rectify human nature and by what means it would be most suitable to raise it up to its former worthiness, so long as God the Author of all did not deign to reveal to us another arranged and newly-constituted world, wherein is annihilated the pervasive form of the old poison of sin, and granting us a wondrous, free and perfectly dispassionate life, through our re-creation in the baptism of Divine birth. But how would this great and most glorious blessing be imparted to us, so very in accord with the Divine commands, if God were not to be manifest to us in the flesh, not subject to the laws of nature, -- nor deign to dwell with us in a manner, known to Him? And how could all this be accomplished, if first there did not serve the mystery a Pure and Inviolate Virgin, Who contained the Uncontainable, in accord with the law, yet beyond the laws of nature? And could some other virgin have done this, besides She alone, Who was chosen before all others by the Creator of nature?
This Virgin is the Mother of God -- Mary, the MostGlorious of God, from the womb of Whom the MostDivine issued forth in the flesh and by Whom He Himself did arrange a wondrous temple for Himself. She conceived without seed and gave birth without corruption, since that Her Son was God, though also He was born in the flesh, without mingling and without travail. This Mother, truly, avoided that which is innate to mothers but miraculously fed with milk Her Son, begotten without a man. The Virgin, having given birth to the seedlessly Conceived-One, remained a Pure Virgin, having preserved incorrupt the marks of virginity. And so in truth She is named the Mother of God; Her virginity is esteemed and Her birth-giving is glorified. God, having conjoined with mankind and become manifest in the flesh, hath granted Her an unique glory. Woman's nature suddenly is freed from the first curse, and just as the first did bring in sin, so also doth the first initiate salvation also.
But our discourse has attained its chief end, and I, celebrating now and with rejoicing sharing in this sacred feast, I greet you in the common joy. The Redeemer of the human race, -- as I said, -- willed to arrange a new birth and re-creation of mankind: like as under the first creation, taking dust from the virginal and pure earth, wherein He formed the first Adam, so also now, having arranged His Incarnation upon the earth, -- and so to speak, in place of dust, -- He chooses from out of all the creation this Pure and Immaculate Virgin and, having re-created mankind within His Chosen-One from amidst mankind, the Creator of Adam is made the New Adam, in order to save the old.
Who indeed was This Virgin and from what sort of parents did She come? Mary, the glory of all, was born of the tribe of David, and from the seed of Joakim. She was descended from Eve, and was the child of Anna. Joakim was a gentle man, pious, raised in God's law. Living prudently and walking before God he grew old without child: the years of his prime provided no continuation of his lineage. Anna was likewise God-loving, prudent, but barren; she lived in harmony with her husband, but was childless. As much concerned about this, as about the observance of the law of the Lord, she indeed was daily stung by the grief of childlessness and suffered that which is the usual lot of the childless, -- she grieved, she sorrowed, she was distressed, and impatient at being childless. Thus, Joakim and his spouse lamented that they had no successor to continue their line; yet the spark of hope was not extinguished in them completely: both intensified their prayer about the granting to them of a child to continue their line. In imitation of the prayer heard of Hannah (1 Kings 1: 10), both without leaving the temple fervently beseeched God that He would undo her sterility and make fruitful her childlessness. And they did not give up on their efforts, until their wish be fulfilled. The Bestower of gifts did not contemn the gift of their hope. The unceasing power came quickly in help to those praying and beseeching God, and it made capable both the one and the other to produce and bear a child. In such manner, from sterile and barren parents, as it were from irrigated trees, was borne for us a most glorious fruition -- the Immaculate Virgin. The constraints of infertility were destroyed -- prayer, upright manner of life, these rendered them fruitful; the childless begat a Child, and the childless woman was made an happy mother. Thus the immaculate Fruition issuing forth from the womb occurred from an infertile mother, and then the parents, in the first blossoming of Her growth brought Her to the temple and dedicated Her to God. The priest, then making the order of services, beheld the face of the girl and of those in front of and behind, and he became gladdened and joyful, seeing as it were the actual fulfillment of the Divine promise. He consecrated Her to God, as a reverential gift and propitious sacrifice -- and, as a great treasury unto salvation, he led Her within the very innermost parts of the temple. Here the Maiden walked in the upright ways of the Lord, as in bridal chambers, partaking of heavenly food until the time of betrothal, which was preordained before all the ages by Him Who, by His unscrutable mercy, was born from Her, and by Him Who before all creation and time and expanse Divinely begat Him, and together with His consubstantial and co-reigning and co-worshipped Spirit, -- this being One Godhead, having One Essence and Kingdom, inseparable and immutable and in which is nothing diverse, except the personal qualities. Wherefore, in solemnity and in song I do offer the Mother of the Word the festal gift; since that He born of Her hath taught me to believe in the Trinity: the Son and Word Without-Beginning hath made in Her His Incarnation; the Father begetting Him hath blessed this; the Holy Spirit hath signed and sanctified the womb which incomprehensibly hath conceived.
Now is the time to question David: in what did the God of all forswear him? Speak, O Psalmist and Prophet! He hath sworn from the fruit of my loin to sit upon my throne (Ps. 131 : 11). Here in this He is forsworn and wilt not break His oath, He hath forsworn and His Word is sealed with a deed! "Once, -- said he, -- I forswear by My Holiness, that I lie not to David; his seed wilt prevail forever, and his throne, like the sun before Me and like the moon coursing the ages: a faithful witness also in heaven" (Ps. 88 : 35-38). God hath fulfilled this oath, since it is not possible for God to lie (Heb. 6: 18). Consider this: Christ in the flesh is named my Son (Mt. 22: 42), and all nations will worship my Lord and Son (Ps. 71 : 11), seeing him sit upon a virginal throne! Here also is the Virgin, from Whose womb the Praeternal One issued forth, incarnated at the end of the ages and renewing the ages, likewise sprung forth from my loins! All this is so!
People of God, holy nation, sacred gathering! Let us revere our paternal memory; let us extol the power of the mystery! Each of us, in the measure given by grace, let us offer a worthy gift for the present feast. Fathers -- a prosperous lineage; mothers -- fine children; the unbearing -- the not-bearing of sin; virgins -- a twofold prudence, of soul and of body; betrothed -- praiseworthy abstinence. If anyone of you be a father, let him imitate the father of the Virgin; and if anyone be without child -- let them make harvest of fruitful prayer, cultivating a life pleasing to God. The mother, feeding her children, let her rejoice together with Anna, raising her Child, given to her in infertility through prayer. She that is barren, not having given birth, lacking the blessing of a child, let her come with faith to the God-given Offshoot of Anna and offer there her barrenness. The virgin, living blamelessly, let her be a mother by discourse, adorning by word the elegance of soul. For a betrothed -- let her offer mental sacrifice from the fruits of prayer. All together rich and poor, lads and maidens, old and young (Ps. 48: 2, 148: 12), priests and levites -- let all together keep the feast in honour of the Maiden, the Mother of God and the Prophetess: from Her hath issued forth the Prophet, foretold of by Moses, Christ God and Truth (Deut. 18: 15). Amen.
Righteous Saint Joakim, son of Barpathir, was a descendant of King David, to whom God had revealed that from the descendants of his line would be born the Saviour of the world. Righteous Saint Anna was the daughter of Matthan and through her father she was of the tribe of Levi, and through her mother -- of the tribe of Judah. The spouses lived at Nazareth in Galilee. They were childless into their old age and all their life they grieved over this. They had to endure derision and scorn, since at that time childlessness was considered a disgrace. But they never grumbled and only but fervently prayed to God, humbly trusting on His will. Once during the time of a great feast, the gifts which Righteous Joakim took to Jerusalem for offering to God were not accepted by the priest Ruben, who considered that a childless man was not worthy to offer sacrifice to God. This pained the old man very much, and he, regarding himself the most sinful of people, decided not to return home, but to settle in solitude in a desolate place. His righteous spouse Anna, having learned, what sort of humiliation her husband had endured, in prayer and fasting began sorrowfully to pray to God for granting her a child. In his desolate solitude and with fasting Righteous Joakim also besought God for this. And the prayer of the saintly couple was heard: to both of them an Angel announced, that there would be born of them a Daughter, Who would bless all the race of mankind. By order of this Heavenly Messenger, Righteous Joakim and Anna met at Jerusalem, where through the promise of God was born to them the Daughter, named Mary.
Saint Joakim died a few years later after the Entry into the Temple of his Blessed Daughter, at about age 80. Saint Anna died at age 70, two years after him, spending the time in the Temple alongside her Daughter.
The Holy Martyr Severian (+ 320) suffered for Christ in Armenian Sebasteia under a governor named Licius during a time of persecution against Christians under the emperor Licinius. Even prior to his martyr's deed, Saint Severian had shown sincere compassion for 40 Christian soldiers, suffering for confessing the Name of Christ. He visited the captives in prison, raised their spirits, and appealed to their valour and stoic strength. These martyrs met their suffering end at Lake Sebasteia (Comm. 9 March). Half a year later Severian was likewise brought to trial for confessing the Christian faith and he was subjected to cruel tortures. Deeply devoted to the Will of God, Saint Severian during the time of torment called out to the Lord, imploring of Him the strength to bear the suffering and to go through his deed of martyrdom to the end. After intense torture, and unbroken in his faith, the holy martyr was suspended with a stone about the neck head downwards upon the city wall and thus he died. His body was carried by Sebasteia Christians to his home, whither thronged the local inhabitants to take their leave of him and to ask for his holy prayers. Amidst all this there arose a dead man, a servant of Saint Severian as yet unburied, who took up his death-cot and came to go along the final path of his master. He continued to live yet another 15 years even, never leaving the place of burial of the holy martyr.
Saint Joseph of Volokolamsk, in the world John Sanin, was born on November 14, 1440 (1439 according to another source) in the village of Yazvisch-Pokrov, not far from the city of Volokolamsk. He was born into a pious family with his father named John (in monasticism Joannicius) and his mother Marina (in schema Maria). The seven-year-old boy John was sent to the pious and enlightened Elder Arsenius of the Volokolamsk-Exaltation of the Cross monastery to be educated.
Distinguished by rare qualities and extraordinary aptitude for church service, for one year the talented youth studied the Psalter, and, the following year, the entire Holy Scripture. He became a reader and singer in the monastery church. Contemporaries were astonished at his exceptional memory. Often, without having a single book in his cell, he would do the monastic rule, reciting from memory from the Psalter, the Gospel, the Epistles, and all that was required.
Even before becoming a monk, John lived a monastic lifestyle. Thanks to his reading and studying of Holy Scripture and the works of the holy Fathers, he dwelt constantly in contemplation of God. As his biographer notes, he "disdained obscene and blasphemous talk and endless mirth from his childhood years."
At twenty years of age John chose the path of monastic striving and, leaving his parents' home, he went off into the wilderness nigh to the Tver Savvin monastery, to the renowned Elder and strict ascetic, Barsanuphius. But the monastic rule seemed insufficiently strict to the young ascetic. With the blessing of Elder Barsanuphius, he set off to Borov to St Paphnutius of Borov (May 1), who had been a novice of Elder Nikita of the Vysotsk monastery, who in turn was a disciple of St Sergius of Radonezh and Athanasius of Vysotsk.
The simple life of the holy Elder, the tasks which he shared with the brethren, and the strict fulfilling of the monastic rule suited John's spiritual state. St Paphnutius lovingly accepted the young ascetic who had come to him, and on February 13, 1460 he tonsured him into monasticism with the name Joseph, thus realizing John's greatest wish. With love and with zeal the young monk shouldered the heavy obediences imposed upon him, in the kitchen, the bakery, the infirmary. St Joseph fulfilled this latter obedience with special care, "giving food and drink to the sick, taking up and arranging the bedding, so very anxious and concerned with everything, working, as though attending to Christ Himself."
The great spiritual abilities of the young monk were evidenced in the Church reading and singing. He was musically talented and possessed a voice that "in church singing and reading was like that of a swallow and wondrously harmonious, delighting the hearing of listeners, as much as anyone anywhere." St Paphnutius made Joseph ecclesiarch in church, so that he would observe the fulfilling of the Church rule.
Joseph spent about seventeen years in the monastery of St Paphnutius. The strict efforts of monastic obedience under the direct guidance of the experienced abbot was for him an excellent spiritual schooling, having educated him into a future instructor and guide of monastic life. Towards the end of the life of St Paphnutius, Joseph was ordained hieromonk and, in accord with the final wishes of St Paphnutius, he was appointed Igumen of the Borov monastery.
St Joseph decided to transform the monastic life along strictly coenobitic principles, following the example of the Kiev Caves, Trinity-St Sergius, and St Cyril of White Lake monasteries. But this met with strong opposition from a majority of the brethren. Only seven pious monks were of one mind with the igumen. St Joseph decided to visit Russian coenobitic monasteries, to investigate the best arrangement for monastic life. He arrived together with the Elder Gerasimus at the St Cyril of White Lake monastery, which itself presented a model of strict asceticism on the principles of a coenobitic monastery rule.
His acquaintance with the life of these monasteries strengthened St Joseph's views. But, after he returned to Borov monastery at the wish of the prince, St Joseph encountered again the former staunch resistance of the brethren to change from their customary rule. Therefore, he resolved to found a new monastery with a strict coenobitic rule, so he took seven like-minded monks to Volokolamsk, his native region, to a forest known to him since childhood.
In Volokolamsk at the time, the prince was Boris Vasilievich, the pious brother of Great Prince Ivan III. Hearing of the virtuous life of the great ascetic Joseph, he gladly received him and allowed him to settle on the outskirts of his principality, at the confluence of the Rivers Struga and Sestra. The selection of this spot was accompanied by a remarkable occurrence: a storm blew down the trees before the eyes of the astonished travelers, as though clearing the place for the future monastery. Here the ascetics set up a cross and built a wooden church in honor of the Dormition of the Mother of God in June 1479, which was consecrated on August 15, 1479. This day and year stand in history as the date of the founding of the monastery of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God as "volok' lamsk" ["broken-up peninsula"], later named after its founder.
The monastery was built rather quickly. Much of the work in the construction of the monastery was done by the founder himself. "He was skilled in every human craft: he felled trees, carried logs, he chopped and sawed wood." By day he toiled with everyone at the construction of the monastery, but spent his nights in solitary cell prayer, remembering always that "Desires kill the sluggard, for his hands do not choose to do anything" (Prov 21:25).
Good reports about the new ascetic attracted disciples to him. The number of monks soon increased to a hundred men, and the venerable Joseph strove to be a good example for his monks in everything. Preaching temperance and spiritual sobriety in all things, his external appearance was no different than the others. His simple, cold-weather rags were his constant clothing, and bast shoes (made from bark) served as his footwear.
He was the first one to appear in church, he read and sang in the choir beside the others, he gave instruction and was the last to leave church. At nights the holy igumen walked around the monastery and the cells, safeguarding the peace and prayerful sobriety of the brethren entrusted him by God. If he chanced to hear a frivolous conversation, he rapped on the door and quietly withdrew.
St Joseph devoted much attention to the inner ordering of the life of the monks. He himself led a strict cenobitic life in accord with the Rule he compiled, to which all the services and obediences of the monks were subordinated, and it governed their whole life, "whether in their comings or goings, their words or their deeds." At the core of the rule was total non-covetousness, detachment from one's own will, and constant work. The brethren possessed everything in common: clothing, footwear, food and other things.
None of the brethren could take anything into their cell without the blessing of the igumen, not even a book or an icon. Part of the trapeza meal of the monks, by general consent, was given away to the poor. Work, prayer, spiritual efforts filled the life of the brethren. The Jesus Prayer never vanished from their lips. Festivity was viewed by St Joseph as a chief weapon for demonic seduction. St Joseph invariably imposed upon himself quite burdensome obediences. The monastery was occupied with the copying and transcription of Service Books and the writings of the holy Fathers, so that the Volokolamsk book collection soon became one of the finest of Russian monastic libraries.
With each passing year the monastery of St Joseph flourished all the more. In the years 1484-1485 a stone church of the Dormition of the Mother of God was built in place of the wooden one. In the Summer of 1485 "artistic masters of the Russian land" painted within it, Dionysius the Iconographer with his sons Vladimir and Theodosius. St Joseph's nephews, Dositheus and Bassian Toporkov, participated in the adornment of the new Church. In 1504 a heated church in honor of the Holy Theophany was set up, followed by the establishment of a bell-tower and next to the bell tower, a church named in honor of the Hodigitria (Directress)Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos.
St Joseph trained a whole school of renowned monks, some of whom gained notoriety in the arena of church-historical activity since they were "good pastors," while others gained fame with works of enlightenment. Some were remembered as worthy examples of pious monastic struggles. History has preserved for us the names of many disciples and co-ascetics of the holy Volokolamsk igumen, who continued to develop his ideas.
Among the disciples and followers of St Joseph were: the Metropolitans of Moscow and All Rus: Daniel (+ 1539) and Macarius (+1563), the Archbishop of Rostov Bassian (+1515), the Bishops of Suzdal: Simeon (+1515), Dositheus of Krutitsa (+1544), Sava of Krutitsa, called the Black, The activity and influence of St Joseph were not limited to the monastery. Many laypeople went to him to receive advice. With a pure spiritual insight he penetrated into the deep secrets of the souls of questioners and clairvoyantly revealed to them the will of God. Everyone living around the monastery considered him their spiritual Father and protector. Eminent nobles and princes asked him to be godfather for their children. They revealed their souls to him in confession, they asked for letters of guidance to help them fulfill his directives.
The common folk found at the monastery the means for sustaining their existence on occasions of extreme need. The number of those fed through monastery resources sometimes approached 700 people. "All of the Volotsk land are inclined to good, enjoying peace and quiet. And the name Joseph, as something sacred, is on everyone's lips."
The monastery was famed not only for its piety and help for the suffering, but also for its manifestations of the grace of God. During Matins of Holy Saturday, the righteous monk Bessarion once saw the Holy Spirit in the form of a white dove, sitting upon the Shroud of the Lord, which was being carried by St Joseph. The Abbot, bidding the monk to keep silent about the vision, himself rejoiced in spirit, hoping that God would not forsake the monastery. This monk had seen the souls of dying brethren, white as snow, issuing forth from their mouths. To St Joseph himself was revealed the day of his end, and he fell asleep in the Lord with joy, having received the Holy Mysteries and assuming the schema.
The saintly life of St Joseph was neither easy nor placid. In these difficult times for the Church in Russia, the Lord raised him up as a zealous defender of Orthodoxy in the struggle with heresies and churchly disputes. St Joseph exerted quite a great effort in denouncing the Judaizers, who tried to poison and distort the foundations of Russian spiritual life. Just as the holy Fathers and teachers of the Ecumenical Councils had elaborated on the teachings of Orthodoxy in responding to the ancient heresies (which contended against the Spirit, Christ, or icons), so also St Joseph was summoned forth by God to oppose the false teachings of the Judaizers and to compile the first manual of Russian Orthodox theology, his large book The Enlightener.
Even earlier, preachers from the Khozars had come to St Vladimir (July 15), trying to convert him to Judaism. But the great Baptizer of Rus repudiated the pretensions of the rabbis. After this, St Joseph writes, "the Great Russian land dwelt for five centuries in the Orthodox Faith, until the Enemy of salvation the devil, should bring the cunning Jew to the city of Novgorod."
Along with the retinue of the Lithuanian prince Michael Olelkovich, who came to Novgorod in 1470, the Jewish preacher Skhariya (Zachariah) accompanied them. Playing upon the deficiencies of faith and of learning on the part of certain clergy, Skhariya and his accomplices sowed distrust among the petty-minded towards the church hierarchy, inclining them towards a revolt against the spiritual authorities, tempting them with the idea of "self-authority," i.e. a capricious self-determination of each individual in matters of faith and salvation. Those they tempted gradually pushed towards a full break with the Church: they disdained the holy icons, and repudiated the veneration of the saints, basic elements of Orthodox popular morality.
Ultimately, they led the religiously blind and deluded to a denial of the saving Mysteries and the fundamental teachings of Orthodoxy, outside of which there is no knowledge of God: the teaching of the Most Holy Trinity and the teaching of the Incarnation of the God-man our Lord Jesus Christ. If decisive measures were not taken, "all of Orthodox Christianity would be doomed by heretical teachings." So the question was posed for history. The Great Prince Ivan III, enticed by the Judaizers, invited them to Moscow. He had two of the most prominent of the heretics made archpriests, one at the Dormition, the other at the Archangel Michael cathedrals of the Kremlin, and he summoned to Moscow even the arch-heretic Skhariya himself.
All those close to the prince were led astray by the heresy, beginning with the clerk heading the government, Theodore Kuritsyn, whose brother became a ringleader of the heretics. Even the in-law of the great prince, Elena Voloshanka, accepted the Judaizers. And finally, the heretical Metropolitan Zosimas was installed upon the bishop's Throne of the great Moscow Hierarchs Peter, Alexis and Jonah.
St Joseph and St Gennadius, Bishop of Novgorod (December 4), called for a struggle against the spread of the heresy. St Joseph wrote his first epistle "Concerning the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity" while still a monk at the Paphnutiev Borov monastery in the year 1477. From the very beginning the Dormition Volokolamsk monastery became a bulwark of Orthodoxy in the struggle against the heresy. Here St Joseph wrote his chief works, The Enlightener, engendered with his fiery anti-heretical epistles, or as the monk himself unassumingly called them, "book exercises." The works of St Joseph and Archbishop Gennadius were crowned with success. In 1494 the heretic Zosimas was deposed from the bishop's Throne, and in the years 1502-04 the malicious and unrepentant Judaizers, who blasphemed against the Holy Trinity, Christ the Savior, the Most Holy Theotokos and the Church,were condemned at a church council.
St Joseph had many other trials and tribulations, but each time the Lord tried him according to the measure of his spiritual strength. The saint angered the Great Prince Ivan III, who only towards the end of his life reconciled with the saint and repented of his former weakness for the Judaizers. The saint also angered the Volotsk appenage prince Theodore, on whose lands Joseph's monastery was situated. In 1508 the saint suffered wrongful interdiction from St Serapion, Archbishop of Novgorod (March 16), with whom, however, he soon reconciled.
In 1503, a Council at Moscow, under the auspices of St Joseph and his disciples, adopted a "Conciliar Reply" concerning the indissolubility of church properties, "therefore all church-acquired property is essentially the acquired property of God, pledged, entrusted, and given to God." The legacy of the canonical works of Igumen Joseph is notably in "The Nomocanon Codex," a vast codex of canonical rules of the Orthodox Church, begun by St Joseph and completed by Metropolitan Macarius.
There are opinions about the differences of outlook and discord between the two great pedagogues of Russian monasticism at the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth centuries: St Joseph of Volotsk and St Nilus of Sora (May 7). In the historical literature these views usually present them as proclaiming two "contrary" currents within Russian spiritual life: external action and inner contemplation. This is profoundly incorrect. St Joseph in his Rule synthesized these two aspects of the Russian monastic tradition, proceeding without interruption from the Athonite blessing given to St Anthony of the Kiev Caves, through St Sergius, and down to our own day.
The Rule presupposes the need for a full inner regeneration of man, submitting one's whole life to the task of salvation and deification [Greek theosis] not only for each individual monk, but also for the collective salvation of the whole human race. A great emphasis in the Rule is put on the demand to monastics for constant work in connection with inward and churchly prayer, "the monk should never be on holiday." Work, as "a collective deed," comprised for Joseph the very essence of church life: faith, embodied in good works, is the realization of prayer.
On the other hand, St Nilus of Sora had lived the ascetic life for a number of years on Mt. Athos, and he brought from there the teaching about the contemplative life and "the Jesus Prayer" as a means of a hesychastic service of monks to the world, as a constant spiritual activity, in connection with the physical work necessary for sustaining one's life.
But spiritual work and physical work are but two aspects of the same Christian vocation: a vital continuation of the creative activity of God in the world, encompassing as much the ideal as well as the material spheres. In this regard Sts Joseph and Nilus are spiritual brothers, varied in continuing the Church Tradition of the holy Fathers, and are heirs to the precepts of St Sergius of Radonezh. St Joseph highly regarded the spiritual experience of St Nilus and sent his own disciples to him to study inner prayer.
St Joseph was also an active proponent of a strong centralized Moscow realm. He was one of the originators of the teaching about the Russian Church as the recipient and bearer of the piety of the Byzantine Empire, "the Russian land has now surpassed all in piety." The ideas of St Joseph, possessing tremendous historical significance, were further developed later by his disciples and followers. From them came the Pskov Spaso-Eleazarov monastery Elder Philotheus with his own teaching about Moscow as the Third Rome. He declared, "Two Romes have fallen, Moscow is the third, and a fourth there shall not be."
These views of the Josephites on the significance of monasteries possessing properties for church building, and the participation of the Church in social life, were set amidst the conditions of the struggle for centralized power by the Moscow prince. His opponents were separatists who tried to disparage these views for their own political ends, surreptitiously using the teaching of St Nilus of Sora about "non-acquisitiveness," the withdrawal of monastics from worldly matters and possessions.
This supposed opposition engendered a false view on the hostility between the trends of Sts Joseph and Nilus. In actuality, both trends legitimately coexisted within the Russian monastic Tradition, complementing each other. As is evidenced from the Rule of St Joseph, its basis was complete non-acquisitiveness, and renunciation of the very concepts of "yours-mine."
The years passed. The monastery flourished with the construction work and efforts of St Joseph, and as he got old, he prepared himself for life eternal. Before his end he received the Holy Mysteries, then summoned all the brethren. He gave them his peace and blessing, and peacefully fell asleep in the Lord on September 9, 1515.
The funeral oration to St Joseph was composed by his nephew and disciple, the monk Dositheus Toporkov.
The first Life of the saint was written in the 1540s by a disciple of St Joseph, Bishop Sava the Black of Krutitsa, with the blessing of Macarius, Metropolitan of Moscow and all Rus (+ 1564). It entered into the Great MENAION Readings compiled by Macarius. A second redaction of the Life was written by the Russified Bulgarian writer Lev the Philolog with the assistance of St Zenobius of Otensk (October 30).
Local celebration of St Joseph was established at the Volokolamsk monastery in December of 1578, on the hundred year anniversary of the founding of the monastery. On June 1, 1591, the church-wide celebration of his memory was established under Patriarch Job. St Job, a disciple of the Volokolamsk saint, tonsured St Germanus of Kazan, and was a great admirer of St Joseph and was author of the Service to him, which was included in the MENAION. Another disciple of Sts Germanus and Barsanuphius was also the companion and successor to Patriarch Job, the Hieromartyr Patriarch Hermogenes (February 17), a spiritual leader of the Russian people in the struggle for liberation under the Polish incursion.
The theological works of St Joseph comprise an undeniable contribution within the treasury of the Orthodox Tradition. As with all Church writings inspired by the grace of the Holy Spirit, they continue to be a source of spiritual life and knowledge, and they have their own theological significance and pertinence.
St Joseph's chief book was written in sections. Its original form, completed at the time of the 1503-1504 councils, included eleven sections. In the final redaction, compiled after the death of the saint and involving a tremendous quantity of scrolls, The Book against the Heretics or The Enlightener includes sixteen sections, prefaced by An Account of the Newly-Appeared Heresies. The first section expounds the Church teaching about the teaching of the Most Holy Trinity; the second, about Jesus Christ, the True Messiah; the third, about the significance within the Church of the prophecies of the Old Testament; the fourth, about the Incarnation of God; the fifth through seventh, about the veneration of icons. In the eighth through tenth sections, St Joseph expounds on the fundamentals of Christian eschatology. The eleventh section is devoted to monasticism. In the twelfth the ineffectiveness of the anathemas and sanctions imposed by heretics is demonstrated. The final four sections consider methods of the Church's struggle with the heretics, and the means for their correction and repentance.
St. Kieran was born in Connacht, Ireland. He was the son of Beoit, a carpenter. He studied at St. Finnian's school at Clonard and taught the daughter of the king of Cuala, as he was considered the most learned monk at Clonard. Kieran spent seven years at Inishmore on Aran with St. Enda and then went to a monastery in the center of Ireland called Isel. Forced to leave by the monks because of what they considered his excessive charity, he spent some time on Inis Aingin (Hare Island) and with eight companions, migrated to a spot on the bank of the Shannon river in Offaly, where he built a monastery that became the famous Clonmacnois, reknowned for centuries as the great center of Irish learning, and was its Abbot. Many extravagant miracles and tales are told of Kieran, who is one of the twelve apostles of Ireland. He is often called St. Kieran the Younger to distinguish him from St. Kieran of Saighir.
The Monk Theophanes, Confessor and Faster, was born into a family of pagans. In his youth Theophanes came to believe in Christ, was baptised and secretly left his pagan parents to go to Mount Dabis to an hermit-elder, who had asceticised there over the course of 75 years. The ascetic taught the lad the reading of the Scriptural books and the rules of monastic life. Five years later the elder died, and Saint Theophanes spent the next 58 years in his cave in solitude. Then he came down from the mountain and began to preach the faith in Christ amongst the pagans and he converted many to Christianity. By order of the Roman emperors Carlus (282-283) and his sons Numerian and Carlinus (283-284), Saint Theophanes was seized and subjected to torture. The holy confessor bravely endured his sufferings and was released alive. Having returned to the mountain, Saint Theophanes lived there yet another 17 years and peacefully died (c. year 300).
Blessed Nikita lived at Constantinople and occupied the position of "khartularium" ("letter-writer"). They call him "secretive" because, living in the world amidst the bustle of the city, with secret exploits of faith he reached spiritual perfection and was a great saint of God. His saintly life was revealed through unusual circumstances. Two friends, a certain priest and the deacon Sozontos, had quarreled. The priest died, and the deacon grieved that they had not been able to be reconciled. He told about the tormenting sin on his conscience to an experienced ascetic-elder. This one gave him a letter and ordered him to give it to the first person, whom Sozontos would meet at midnight at the temple of Hagia Sophia, the Wisdom of God. Saint Nikita the Khartularian appeared before him. Having read the letter, he began weeping and said, that it makes him responsible for this, and that it exceeds his strength, but with the prayers of the elder who had sent Sozontos, he would strive to accomplish this. Making a prostration before the church doors, Saint Nikita said: "Lord, open to us the doors of Thine mercy", -- and the doors of the temple flew open by themselves. Leaving the deacon at the thresh-hold, Saint Nikita began to pray, and Sozontos beheld, how he shone with a strange light. Afterwards they went from the church, and the doors again closed. Approaching the church of the Blakhernae Mother of God, Saint Nikita again began praying and again the doors opened in front of them. In the church there shone a light, and from the altar there came out two rows of priests, among whom deacon Sozontos recognised his dead friend. Saint Nikita quietly said: "Father presbyter, chat with thine brother, and cease the enmity which ye have between ye". Immediately the priest and deacon Sozontos greeted each other. They hugged with love and were reconciled. The priest went back, and the doors closed by themselves. Blessed Nikita said to the deacon: "Brother Sozontos, save thine soul both for thyself and for my benefit. To the father that did send thee, say, that the purity of his holy prayers and his trust on God made possible the return of the dead". After these words Blessed Nikita became invisible for Sozontos. Having returned to his spiritual father the elder, the deacon with tears gave him thanks, that through his prayers, the great secret saint of God Nikita the Khartularian had done away with the sin from both the living and the dead.
The Third OEcumenical Council was convened in the year 431 in the city of Ephesus (Asia Minor) during the reign of the emperor Theodosius the Younger (408-450). The Council was convened for the purpose of an investigation by the Church of the false-teachings of the Constantinople patriarch Nestorius (428-431). Contrary to the dogmas of the OEcumenical Church, Nestorius dared to assert that the Son of God Jesus Christ is not one Person (Hypostasis), as Holy Church teaches, but is rather two distinct persons -- the one Divine, and the other human. Regarding the Mother of God, he impiously asserted, that She ought not to be called the Mother of God but rather only the mother of the man Christ. The heresy of Nestorius conflicts against one of the basic dogmas of the Christian faith -- against the dogma of the God-manhood of our Lord Jesus Christ, since according to the false-teaching of Nestorius, Jesus Christ was born as an ordinary man, and afterwards because of sanctity of life the he was conjoined with the Divinity, and abode in Him. With this blasphemous teaching of Nestorius the enemy of the race of man the devil attempted to undermine the Christian faith on these points: that the Praeternal God the Word, the Son of God, actually was incarnated in the flesh from the All-Pure Birthgiver of God, having therein become Man, He thereby redeemed by His suffering and death the human race from slavery to sin and death, and by His glorious resurrection He trampled down Hades and death and opened to believers in Him, and those striving to live in accord with His commandments, the path to the Kingdom of Heaven.
A long while prior to the convening of the OEcumeical Council, Saint Cyril, Archbishop of Alexandria, repeatedly tried to reason with the heretic Nestorius. Saint Cyril in his letters explained the mistakes of judgement by Nestorius, but Nestorius stubbornly continued with his pseudo-teachings. Saint Cyril wrote about the danger of the rising heresy to Celestine, the Pope of Rome, and to other Orthodox bishops, who also attempted to reason with Nestorius. When it became clear, that Nestorius would continue with his pseudo-teachings and that they were becoming widespread, the Orthodox bishops appealed to the emperor Theodosius the Younger for permission to convene an OEcumenical Council. The Council was convened on the Day of the MostHoly Trinity, 7 June 431. At the Council arrived 200 bishops. Nestorius also arrived in Ephesus, but despite the fact that the fathers of the Council three times suggested that he attend the sessions there, he did not appear. Then the fathers began to sort out matters concerning the heresy in the absence of the heretic. The sessions of the Council continued from 22 June to 31 August. At the Ephesus Council were present such famed fathers of the Church, as the Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Juvenal of Jerusalem, Memnon of Ephesus (Saint Celestine, Pope of Rome, was unable to attend because of illness, but he sent papal legates). The Third OEcumenical Council condemned the heresy of Nestorius and confirmed the Orthodox teaching on these matters: that it is necessary to confess the Lord Jesus Christ as One Person (Hypostasis) and of two natures -- the Divine and the Human, and that the All-Pure Mother of the Lord be acclaimed as Ever-Virgin and in truth the Birthgiver of God. In the guidance of the Church the holy fathers issued 8 rule-canons, and the "Twelve Anathemas against Nestorius" by Saint Cyril of Alexandria.
The Holy Virgins Menodora, Metrodora and Nymphodora (305-311), were sisters by birth, and they were from Bithynia (Asia Minor). Distinguished for their especial piety, the Christian sisters wanted to preserve their virginity and avoid worldly association. They chose for themselves a solitary place in the wilderness and spent their lives in deeds of fasting and prayer. Reports about the holy life of the virgins soon spread about, since through their prayers healings of the sick began to occur. The Bithynia region was governed at that time by a governor named Frontonus, who gave orders to arrest the sisters and bring them before him. At first he tried to persuade them to renounce Christ, promising great honours and rewards. But the holy sisters steadfastly confessed their faith before him, rejecting all the suggestions of the governor, and declaring to him, that they did not value temporal earthly blessings, and that they were prepared to die for their Heavenly Bridegroom. Going into a rage, the governor took out his wrath on the eldest of them -- Saint Menodora. The saint bravely endured the torments and finally, she cried out: "Lord Jesus Christ, joy of my heart, my hope, in peace receive Thou my soul!" And with these words she gave up her spirit to God.
Four days later they brought to the court the younger sisters Metrodora and Nymphodora. They put before them the battered body of their elder sister to frighten them. The virgins wept over her, but they likewise remained steadfast. Then they subjected Saint Metrodora to torture. She died, crying out with her last breath to her beloved Lord Jesus Christ. Then they turned to the third sister Nymphodora. Before her lay the bruised bodies of her elder sisters. Frontonus hoped that this spectacle would intimidate the young virgin. Under pretense that he was charmed by her youth and beauty, he began amiably to urge her to worship the pagan gods, promising great rewards and honours. Saint Nymphodora rebuffed his words, and shared the fate of her older sisters. She was tortured to death with blows from iron rods.
The bodies of the holy martyrs were to be burnt on a bon-fire, but a strong rain extinguished the blazing fire, and lightning felled Frontonus and his servant. Christians took up the bodies of the holy sisters and reverently buried them at the so-called Warm Springs at Pythias (Bithynia). Part of the relics of the holy martyrs are preserved at Athos in the Pokrov-Protection cathedral of the Russian Panteleimon monastery, and the hand of Saint Metrodora is situated on the Holy Mountain in the monastery of the Pantocrator.
The Monk Paul the Obedient (XIII-XIV), was an ascetic in the Farther Caves at Kiev. Upon assuming the monastic form at the Pechersk monastery, the monk without a murmur underwent very burdensome obediences, on which the monastery head had sent him. He was never idle, and when he was not at an obedience, he ground the grain under the millstone, wearing down his body by this heavy work and keeping unceasing inner prayer. The Church honours his memory on 10 September, on the day of his name in common with Sainted Paul, Bishop of Nicea.
The Monk Joasaph of Kamensk, Vologda Wonderworker, in the world was named Prince Andrei (Andrew). His parents -- prince Dimitrii Vasil'evich of Lesser Zaozersk (a descendant of holy Nobleborn Prince Theodore (Feodor) Rostislavich, of Smolensk and Yaroslavl'), and princess Maria -- were known for their deep piety, which they imparted to the future ascetic. At twenty years of age Prince Andrei accepted tonsure at the Kubensk Spaso-Kamenyi monastery with the name Joasaph, in honour of Saint Joasaph, son of an emperor of India (Comm. 19 November). The Monk Joasaph gained a good reputation for himself by complete obedience, keeping of the fasts, zeal in prayer and love for books. The brethren of the monastery were amazed at the gracious meekness and sincerity of mind of the young ascetic. Under the spiritual nurture of the experienced elder Grigorii (Gregory), afterwards bishop of Rostov, Saint Joasaph progressed in virtue. He led the life of an hermit in his cell and attained to high spiritual talents. Saint Joasaph asceticised at the Spaso-Kamenyi monastery over the course of five years. In the final year of his life he partook of food only once during the week and communed the Holy Mysteries each Sunday. Before his end the monk took his farewell from the brethren, consoling and admonishing the monks not to grieve over his parting. In the presence of the brethren the monk made the monastic rule, said prayer to the Lord and to the Mother of God, then he lay down upon his death bed and quietly died with prayer on his lips, on the day of 10 September 1453.
The Holy Disciple Apellias (or Apelles) from amidst the Seventy Disciples was a bishop in the city of Smyrna (on the Eastern coast of the Aegean Sea). The holy Apostle Paul makes mention of him in the Epistle to the Romans (Rom. 16: 10).
The Holy Disciple Lucius (or Luke) from amidst the Seventy Disciples was bishop in Syrian Laodicia (a former chief city in Phrygia). The holy Apostle Paul likewise makes mention of him in the Epistle to the Romans (Rom. 16: 21), amongst the other Christians whom he greets.
The Holy Disciple Clement was bishop in Sardica (an ancient wealthy city of Lydia in Asia Minor). The holy Apostle Paul makes mention of his name in the Epistle to the Philippians (Phil. 4: 3). Addressing a certain "sincere co-worker of his", Paul entreats him: "Assist them, which did asceticise and evangelise together with me and with Clement and my other co-workers, whose names be in the Book of Life" (the account about the Assemblage-Sobor of the Seventy Disciples is situated under 4 January).
The Nobleborn Empress Pulcheria, daughter of the Greek-Byzantine emperor Arcadius (395-408), was co-regent and adviser of her brother Theodosius the Younger (408-450). Having received a broad and well-rounded education, she distinguished herself by her wisdom and piety, firmly adhering to the Orthodox teaching of faith. Through her efforts the church of the MostHoly Mother of God at Blakhernae was built, and likewise other churches and monasteries. With her assist, the Third OEcumenical Council was convened in the year 431 at Ephesus, to deal with the heresy of Nestorius.
Through the intrigues of enemies and also Eudocia, the wife of the emperor Theodosius the Younger, Saint Pulcheria was stripped of rule. She withdrew into seclusion, where she lived a pious life. But without her things became disorderly, and after a certain while, upon the urgent request of her brother the emperor she returned, and the unrest provoked by emerging heresies was quelled. After the death of Theodosius the Younger, Marcian (450-457) was chosen emperor. Saint Pulcheria again wanted to withdraw into her seclusion, but both the emperor and officials besought her not to forsake the rule, and instead become the spouse of the emperor Marcian. For the common good she consented to become the wife of Marcian on the condition, that she be permitted to preserve her virginity within the marriage. In such manner the imperial spouses lived in purity, like brother and sister.
Through the efforts of Saint Pulcheria, the Fourth OEcumenical Council was convened in the year 451 at Chalcedon, to deal with the heresies of Dioskoros and Eutykhios.
Throughout the course of all her life Saint Pulcheria defended the Orthodox teaching of faith against the various heresies that emerged. Having distributed off her substance to the poor and to the Church, she died peacefully at age 54 in the year 453.
Saints Peter and Paul were bishops at Nicea. Saint Peter defended the Orthodox faith against the iconoclasts during the reign of Leo the Isaurian (813-820) and endured suffering for this. He died no earlier than the year 823: four Letters of Saint Theodore the Studite to Saint Peter are known of, written in the years 816-823. No account about the life of holy Bishop Paul of Nicea has been preserved. The first that his name is met with is in the so-called "Petrine" Greek Prologue of the XI Century.
The Nun Theodora of Alexandria and her husband lived in Alexandria. Love and harmony ruled in their family, and this was hateful to the enemy of salvation. Goaded on by the devil, a certain rich man was captivated by the youthful beauty of Theodora and began with all his abilities to lead her into adultery, but for a long time he was unsuccessful. Then he bribed a woman of loose morals, who led the unassuming Theodora astray by saying, that a sin committed in the night God would not account to guilt. Theodora betrayed her husband, but soon came to her senses and realising the seriousness of her downfall, she became furious with herself, incessantly slapping herself on the face and tearing at her hair. Her conscience gave her no peace, and Theodora set out to a reknown hegumeness and told her about her transgression. The hegumeness, beholding the repentance of the young woman, roused in her the faith in Divine forgiveness and reminded her of the Gospel passage about the sinful woman, who with her tears washed the feet of Christ and received from Him forgiveness of her sins. In hope on the mercy of God, Theodora said: "I do believe my God and from hence shall not commit suchlike sin, and I wilt strive to expiate my deed". At that moment Saint Theodora resolved to go off to a monastery, so as to purify herself by deed and by prayer. In secret she left her home, and having attired herself in men's garb, she set off to a men's monastery, since she feared that her husband would manage to find her in a women's monastery. The hegumen of the monastery would not even give blessing to allow her into the courtyard, in testing the resolve of the new-comer. The Nun Theodora spent the night at the gates. In the morning, having fallen down at the knees of the hegumen, she said her name was Theodore from Alexandria and entreated him to let her remain at the monastery for repentance and monastic deeds. Seeing the sincere intent of the new-comer, the hegumen consented.
Even the experienced monks were amazed at the all-night prayers on bended-knee, the humility, the endurance and self-denial of Theodora. The saint asceticised at the monastery for eight years. Her body, once defiled by adultery, became a visible vessel of the grace of God and a receptacle of the Holy Spirit. One time the saint was sent to Alexandria for the buying of bread. Having given blessing for the journey, the hegumen indicated that in case of a stopover along the way, to stay over at the Enata monastery along the way. At the guest-house of the Enata monastery was then staying the daughter of its hegumen, who had come to visit with her father. Allured by the comeliness of the young monk, she tried to seduce the Monk Theodore into the sin of fornication, not knowing that before her was a woman. Being refused, she committed sin with another guest and became pregnant. Meanwhile the saint having bought the bread returned to the home monastery.
After a certain while the father of the shameless girl, realising that a transgression had occurred, began to question his daughter as to who it was that had seduced her. The girl indicated that it was the Monk Theodore. The father at once reported it to the head of the monastery at which Saint Theodora asceticised. The hegumen summoned the saint and told about the accusation. The saint firmly replied: "As God is my witness, I did not do this", and the hegumen, knowing the purity and holiness of life of Theodore, did not believe the accusation. When the girl gave birth, the Enata monks brought the infant to the monastery wherein lived the ascetic, and began to reproach its monks for an unchaste life. But this time even the hegumen believed the slanderous accusation and became angry at the innocent Theodore. They entrusted the infant into the care of the saint and dishonourably threw her out of the monastery. The saint humbly submitted to this new trial, seeing in it the expiation of her former sin. She settled with the child not far from the monastery in an hut. Shepherds out of pity gave her milk for the infant, and the saint herself ate only wild vegetables. Over the course of seven years, bearing her misfortune, the holy ascetic spent in banishment. Finally, at the request of the monks, the hegumen allowed her to return to the monastery together with the child, and in seclusion she spent two years instructing the child. The hegumen of the monastery received a revelation from God that the sin of the Monk Theodore was forgiven. The grace of God dwelt upon the Monk Theodore, and soon all the monks began to witness to the signs, worked through the prayers of the saint. One time in this locale during a time of drought all the water-wells dried up. The hegumen said to the brethren, that only Theodore would be able to reverse the misfortune. Having summoned the saint, the hegumen bid her to bring forth water, and the water in the well afterwards did not dry up. The humble Theodore said, that the miracle was worked through the prayer and faith of the hegumen.
Before her death, the Nun Theodora secluded herself in her cell with the child and in last-wishes bid him to love God, and she asked the compliance of the hegumen and the brethren, to preserve tranquility, to be meek and without malice, to shun obscenity and silliness, to love non-covetousness, and to keep in mind their community life. After this, standing at prayer, for a final time she asked of the Lord forgiveness of her sins. The child also prayed together with her. Soon the words of prayer gave way to death on the lips of the ascetic, and she peacefully expired to an higher world (+ c. 474-491).
The Lord revealed to the hegumen the spiritual accomplishment of the saint and about her concealed secret. The hegumen, in order to remove any disrepute from the deceased, -- in the presence of the hegumen and brethren of the Enata monastery, told about his vision and for proof uncovered the bosom of the saint. The Enata hegumen and brethren shrank back in terror at their great transgression, and having fallen down at the body of the saint, with tears they asked forgiveness of the Nun Theodora. News about the Nun Theodora reached her former husband. He took monastic tonsure at this selfsame monastery where his wife had been. And the child, raised by the nun, likewise followed in the footsteps of his foster-mother. Afterwards he became hegumen of this very monastery.
One might find highly implausible a beardless monk dwelling in a monastery for so long a period of time unquestioned. But perhaps eunuch-castrates were still common at this time, and as such losing also the capacity to grow beards. The matter of cross-dressing in men's monastic attire is a literary gendre occuring also in the lives of other women saints, usually only for the purposes of concealment and for but a short time. But as the "Redaction" account introducing the Russian original of our text indicates, the Saint-Lives reflect a broad spectrum of historical sources compiled with differing intended purposes, often other than the "modern" penchant for strict recording of historical facts. Which is to say, the account may have been embellished to in entertaining edify both the common man and woman, as well as the sophisticated. Certainly many a Saint-Vita contains an account of a virtually unhurtable and well-nigh unkillable martyr, -- so that one is left to wonder that the persecution of Christians by the pagans of old, who in the torturing sometimes themselves dropped down dead, -- should have taken so very long, to end. But beneathe any of these embellishments is an actual historical person, who witnessed to Christ our Lord. And to write the miraculous off as mere fable, -- is foolish. The spiritual task herein is one of discernment between embellishment and fact.
The Holy Martyrs Demetrios, his wife Euanthea, and their son Demetrian: The holy Martyr Demetrios was a prince and governor of the city of Skepsis in the Hellespont. Into his city came preaching the Gospel Saint Cornelius the Centurian (Comm. 13 September) -- he that had been the first pagan-Gentile converted to Christ by the Apostle Paul. Saint Cornelius sowed Christianity amongst many of the inhabitants of Skepsis, and for this the pagans arrested him and brought him for trial before the governor Demetrios, who in vain demanded that the saint renounce Christ, and finally handed him over for torture. Saint Cornelius bravely endured the torture, while in turn urging the governor to forsake his pagan errors and turn to the true faith in Christ. Led into an idolous temple, Saint Cornelius by his prayer destroyed the pagan temple and the idols standing in it. Persuaded of the truth of Christianity by the preaching of the saint and his miracles, the governor Demetrios himself came to believe in Christ and accepted holy Baptism together with all his family. For confessing Christ, the pagans threw all the newly-converted family into prison where they perished by starvation.
The Monk Euphrosynos was from one of the Palestinian monasteries, and he did his obedience working in the kitchen as a cook. Toiling away for the brethren, the Monk Euphrosynos did not absent himself from thought about God, but rather dwelt in prayer and fasting. He remembered always, that obedience -- is the first duty of a monk, and therefore humbly he was obedient to the elder brethren. The patience of the saint was amazing: they often reproached him, but he made no complaint and unperturbedly endured every unpleasantness. The Monk Euphrosynos pleased the Lord by his inner virtue concealed from people, and the Lord Himself revealed to the monastic brethren the spiritual heights of their unassuming fellow-monk. One of the monastery presbyters in prayer asked the Lord to show him the blessings, prepared for the righteous in the age to come. The priest beheld in a dream, what is situated in paradise and he contemplated with fear and with joy its inexplicable beauty. He also espied there a monk of his monastery, -- the cook Euphrosynos. Amazed at this encounter, the presbyter asked Euphrosynos, how he came to be there. The saint answered him, that he was in paradise through the great mercy of God. The priest again asked, whether Euphrosynos would be able to give him something from amongst the surrounding beauty. The Monk Euphrosynos suggested to the priest to take whatsoever he wished, and so the priest pointed to three luscious apples, growing in the paradise garden. The monk picked the three apples, wrapped them in a kerchief, and gave them to his companion. Having awakened in the early morning, the priest thought the vision a typical dream, but suddenly he noticed next to him the kerchief with the fruit of paradise wrapped in it, and emitting a wondrous fragrance. The priest, having found the Monk Euphrosynos in church, asked him under oath, where he was the night before. The saint answered, that he was there where also the priest was. Then the monk said, that the Lord, in fulfilling the prayer of the priest, had shown him paradise and had bestown the fruit of paradise through him, " the lowly and unworthy servant of God, Euphrosynos". At the finish of the morning the priest related everything to the monastery brethren, pointing out the spiritual loftiness of Euphrosynos in pleasing God, and he pointed to the fragrant paradaisical fruit. Deeply affected by what they heard, the monks went to the kitchen, in order to pay respect to the Monk Euphrosynos, but they did not find him there: fleeing human glory, the monk had left the monastery. The place where he concealed himself remained unknown, but the monks always remembered that their monastic brother the Monk Euphrosynos had come upon paradise, and that they in being saved, through the mercy of God would meet him there. The apples of paradise they reverently saved and distributed pieces of for blessing and for healing.
Saint Deiniol (died 584) was the first Bishop of Bangor in the Kingdom of Gwynedd, Wales. He is also venerated in Brittany as Saint Denoual. In English, the name is translated as Daniel but this is rarely used.
Very little is known of the saint's life, but the tradition that he was the first Bishop of Bangor is very strong. He was apparently consecrated in 545 by Saint David. The present Bangor Cathedral is dedicated to Deiniol and is said to be on the site where Deiniol's first monastery stood. His feast day is September 11.
He was the son of Dunod Fawr, son of Pabo Post Prydain. The family were originally rulers of an area in what is now the North of England, but having lost these were given lands by the king of Powys, Cyngen ap Cadell. Deiniol is said to have studied under Cadoc of Llancarfan and later was given land by Maelgwn Gwynedd king of Gwynedd to found a monastery on the site where Bangor Cathedral now stands. He attended the Synod of Llanddewi Brefi in c. 545 with Saint David when the subject of rules for penance was being discussed.
He was the founder of the monastery of Bangor-on-Dee (Bangor Iscoed or Is-y-coed), Flintshire, though whether the early abbot there named Saint Dunod was his father or not is unclear. The church of Hawarden in Flintshire is dedicated to Deiniol. William Ewart Gladstone dedicated Saint Deiniol's Library, a library for arts students, in 1896. The church of Marchwiel is also dedicated to Deiniol and there are also dedications at Itton in Monmouthshire and Llangarran in Herefordshire. According to the Annales Cambriae, Deiniol died in 584 and was buried on Bardsey Island.
The Holy Martyress Ia was taken into captivity together with 9,000 Christians by the Persian emperor Sapor II and led off to the Persian city of Bisada. The chief of the Persian sorcerers demanded the saint to renounce Christ, but she remained unyielding and was given over for torture. They then threw her into prison and after repeated torture they beheaded her.
The PriestMartyr Autonomus was a bishop in Italy. During the time of the persecution against Christians under the emperor Diocletian (284-305), Saint Autonomus left his own country and resettled in Bithynia, in the locality of Soreia with the wandering-lover Cornelius. Saint Autonomus did his apostolic duty with zeal and converted to Christ so many pagans, that a large Church was formed, for which he consecrated a temple in the name of the Archangel Michael. For this church, the saint at first ordained Cornelius as deacon, and then presbyter. Preaching about Christ, Saint Autonomus visited also Likaonia and Isauria.
The emperor Diocletian gave orders to arrest Saint Autonomus, but the saint withdrew to Claudiopolis on the Black Sea. In returning to Soreia, he had Presbyter Cornelius ordained bishop. Saint Autonomus then set out to Asia, and when he had returned from there, he began to preach in the vicinity of Limna, nearby Soreia. One time, the newly-converted destroyed a pagan temple. The pagans decided to take revenge on the Christians. Seizing their chance, the pagans rushed upon the church of the Archangel Michael when Saint Autonomus was serving Divine Liturgy there, and after torturing Saint Autonomus they killed him, reddening the altar of the church with his martyr's blood. The deaconess Maria extracted the body of the holy martyr from beneathe a pile of stones and gave it burial. During the reign of Saint Constantine the Great a church was built over the place of burial of the saint. In about the year 430 a certain priest had the decaying church pulled down. And not knowing that beneathe the church had been buried the body of the martyr, he rebuilt the church in a new spot. But after another 60 years the relics of the saint were found undecayed, and a church was then built in the name of the PriestMartyr Autonomus.
The Monk Vassian of Tiksnensk (Totemsk), in the world Vasilii, was a peasant from the village of Strelitsa (by other accounts, from the village of Burtsevo), near the city of Tot'ma, and he was by trade a tailor. Leaving his family, he accepted monasticism under the Monk Theodosii (Feodosii) of Totemsk in the Sumorinsk monastery at the River Sukhona, where he spent several years in works and obediences. In 1594 the monk resettled not far from Tot'ma, at the River Tiksna, nearby a church in the name of Sainted Nicholas the Wonderworker. At first he lived at the church portico, but then he made himself a cell nearby the church. The monk visited at each Divine-service. For thirty years he wore chains on his body -- on his shoulders an heavy chain, on his loins an iron belt, and on his head beneathe his head covering an iron cap.
Yearning for solitude, the monk admitted no one to his cell, except his spiritual father. He lived by the alms, which they put by his small window. The Monk Vassian died on 12 September 1624. Only at burial was it discovered, how extremely he had humbled his flesh.
At the place of the efforts of the monk was afterwards formed a monastery in honour of the Not-Wrought-by-Hand Image of the Saviour. Veneration of the Monk Vassian began with the year 1647, when at the time of a deadly plague many received healing at the place of his burial. The life of the monk was written in the year 1745 by the hegumen Joseph.
St. Ailbe or Ailbeus is venerated as one of the four great patron of Ireland. His feast is commemorated on September 12, throughout Ireland and in the diocese of Emily, Ireland, his feast kept as that of its patron and first bishop.
The recorded life of Saint Ailbe is a not clear. The date of his birth is unknown, One of his account of his birth is: born of a serving-girl by a chieftain who ordered that the baby should be exposed to perish. A she-wolf raised him along with her with her cubs, until a hunter found the child in the wolf’s liar and took him away. Years later he was present at a run when an aged she-wolf ran to him for protection. The bishop recognized his foster-mother and gave her sanctuary and fed her every day thereafter at his own table. Another account is he was 1 raised by a British Colony in Ireland.
It is said St. Ailbe returned to Ireland where he preached the Gospel to a barbarous people. He delivered the eternal wisdom with commanding authority, such was the force with which word and example he set forth the divine law, so evident were the miracles with which he confirmed the truth, that the sacred doctrine made its way to the hearts of many of his listeners. He not only brought a multitude to the faith of Christ but infused into many the spirit of perfection. Later he is alleged to have gone to Rome where he was consecrated bishop because of his strong belief in the Creator of all things.
St. Ailbe is the reputed author of an ancient monastic rule written in Old Irish which became the basic philosophy of Irish Monasticism.
The rule instructs the monk that his conscience should be tender, he must seldom speak, work hard, serve the sick, deal gently with sinners, be modest in dress, and be wise, pious, generous, and courteous. St. Ailbe's desire in his old age was to retire to Thule, the remotest country toward the Northern pole, (Shetland or Norway) but it is believed the King guarded to prevent his flight. The date of St. Ailbe's death is put at 526 or 531 or 551.
Righteous Simeon of Verkhotursk (+ 1642) was a nobleman, but he concealed his origin and led the life of a beggar. He walked through the villages and for free sewed half-coat and other over-clothes, primarily for the poor. While doing this he deliberately failed to sew something -- either a glove, or a scarf, for which he endured abuse from his customers. The ascetic wandered much, but most often he lived at a churchyard of the village of Merkushinsk not far from the city of Verkhotur' (Perm outskirts). Saint Simeon loved nature in the Urals, and joyfully contemplating its majestic beauty, he would raise up a thoughtful glance towards the Creator of the world. In such of his time as was free of toil, the saint loved to go afishing in the tranquility of solitude, since this reminded him of the disciples of Christ, whose work he continued, guiding the local people in the true faith. His conversations were that seed of grace, from which gradually grew the abundant fruits of the Spirit in the Urals and in Siberia, where the saint is especially reverenced.
Righteous Simeon of Verkhotursk died in 1642, when he was but 35 years of age. He was buried in the Merkushinsk graveyard by the church of the Archangel Michael.
On 12 September 1704, with the blessing of the Tobol'sk metropolitan Philothei, the holy relics of Righteous Simeon were transferred from the church of the Archistrategos Michael to the Verkhotursk monastery in the name of Saint Nicholas.
Righteous Simeon worked many a miracle after his death. He frequently appeared in a dream to the sick and healed them, and he brought to their senses those fallen into the disease of drunkenness. A peculiarity in the appearance of the saint was that with the healing of bodily infirmities he gave instruction and guidance for the soul.
The memory of Righteous Simeon of Verkhotursk is celebrated also on 18 December, on the day of his glorification (1694).
The Holy Martyr Julian lived during the IV Century not far from the ancient city of Ancyra. A report was made to the governor of the Galatian district that in a certain cave was hidden the Presbyter Julian with 40 others of the same persuasion, and that he was celebrating Divine-services there. They arrested Saint Julian and demanded that he hand over the remaining Christians who were well hidden, but he refused.
The pagans ordered the holy presbyter to offer sacrifice to their gods, but to this also he would not consent. Then they stripped him and placed him on a red-hot iron grate. The martyr signed himself with the sign of the Cross, and an Angel of the Lord cooled the flame. Saint Julian remained unharmed. To the question of the governor, who he was and how he had quenched the fire, the martyr said: "I -- am a servant of God". The torturers brought forth an old woman, the mother of the saint, and they threatened her that if she did not persuade her son to offer sacrifice to idols, then they would give her over to torture. The brave woman answered, that if against her will they defiled the body, this would not make her guilty before God, but on the contrary, it would constitute an act of martyrdom. The humiliated torturers sent away the old woman, but Saint Julian they condemned to death by execution. In his pre-death prayer the saint gave fervent thanks to God and besought that he should be given strength to endure the sufferings. Saint Julian asked likewise an especial grace from God: that people, who take ground from the place of his burial, should be granted forgiveness of sins and deliverance from passions, and that upon their fields there not descend harmful insects nor birds. Turning himself towards God with the words: "Lord, in peace accept my spirit!" -- the martyr bent his neck beneathe the sword. There sounded a Voice, summoning the martyr to the Heavenly Kingdom. This Voice was heard also by those Christians, who had hidden themselves in the cave. Emboldened, they come forth to the place of the sufferings of Saint Julian, but they found him already dead. They unanimously confessed themselves Christians, and they were arrested and brought to the governor, who ordered them beheaded.
The PriestMartyr Theodore, Bishop of Alexandria, was born in Egypt in the city of Alexandria. This city was famed in the Church Universal by many a martyr and confessor: from the holy Evangelist Mark, First-Martyr of Alexandria (+ 63, Comm. 25 April), to Saint Athanasias the Great (Comm. 18 January and 2 May), a pillar and confessor of Orthodoxy (+ 373). Regrettably, historical records do not provide us precise details about the time of life and the deeds of holy Bishop Theodore, but the Church of Christ throughout all times has preserved the name of the priest-martyr in its diptych lists.
A fiery preacher, powerful of word and church activity, Bishop Theodore evoked an angry hatred within the boisterous Alexandrian pagans, intolerant of evangelisation. During the time of one of his preachings they surrounded and seized hold of the saint. He did not offer resistance. They beat him and they jeered at him: they placed a crown of thorns on his head and amidst mockery they led him through the city. Then they led him to the sea-coast and threw him from a cliff into the sea. But the wind caught hold of him -- and the waves carried him back to dry land. The astonished pagans led Saint Theodore off to the governor of the city, who commanded that he be subjected to harsh tortures. But not a word except prayer to the Lord did the torturers hear from the tortured confessor. Then the holy martyr was handed over to Roman soldiers and executed in the manner of the Apostle Paul -- through beheading by the sword.
The PriestMartyr Cornutus, Bishop of Nicomedia (Iconium), suffered for Christ in the persecution by Decius and Valerian in the III Century. The governor of Iconium, Perennius, forced Christians through his interrogations and persecution to hide themselves away in places of concealment. Saint Cornutus came voluntarily before Perennius. The torturers tightly bound the legs of the bishop with thin cords and led him through the city. The priest-martyr underwent excruciating sufferings, and from the wounds on his legs, being cut by the cords, blood flowed. After terrible tortures Bishop Cornutus was beheaded.
Thirty-five thousand Persian soldiers marched toward Georgia in the year 1795. The Georgian king Erekle II (1762–1798) and his two thousand soldiers declared war on the invaders as they were approaching Tbilisi. The Georgians won the first skirmish, but many perished in the fighting. The enemy was shaken and was preparing to flee the battleground, when several traitors reported to Aqa Muhammed Khan that King Erekle had lost nearly his entire army. This betrayal decided the fate of the battle: the one hundred fifty soldiers who remained in the Georgian army barely succeeded in saving the life of King Erekle, who had willed to perish on the battlefield with his soldiers.
All of Tbilisi was engulfed in flames. The plunderers murdered the people, set fire to the libraries, destroyed the print shop, and vandalized the churches and the king’s palace. They slaughtered the clergy in an especially cruel manner.
Unfortunately, history has not preserved the names of all those martyrs who perished in this tragedy, but we do know that a certain Metropolitan Dositheus of Tbilisi was killed because he would not abandon his flock. While the invaders simply killed most of the clergymen, from St. Dositheus they demanded a renunciation of the Christian Faith. They commanded him to defile the True and Life-giving Cross of our Lord. But the holy hieromartyr Dositheus endured the greatest torments without yielding to the enemy, and he joyfully accepted death for Christ’s sake. The invaders slaughtered Christ’s devoted servant with their swords.
St. Dositheus was martyred on September 12 in the year 1795.
The Monk Athanasii (Afanasii) of Serpukhov, in the world Andrei, was born at Obonezhsk Pyatinainto the family of the priest Avksentii and his wife Maria. He was from youth inclined towards prayerful self-absorption and renunciation of the world, and he sought for a worthy guide in monastic doings.
At this time, news about the efforts of the Monk Abba Sergei of Radonezh had already spread throughout the whole of Rus'. The monastery of the Life-Originating MostHoly Trinity at Makovets had become for everyone a luminous model of monastic organisation. Here in the monastic life-in-common was transformed "the hateful discord of this world", creating an oneness of spirit in an unity of love on the example of the Divine Trinity Itself. To Abba Sergei, to the Trinity at Makovets, headed also in his footsteps in search of spiritual perfection the youth Andrei, from the far off Novgorod outskirts.
Named Athanasii (Afanasii) in monasticism, in honour of Saint Athanasias the Great, the student and copyist of the life of Abba Anthony the Great, the founder of Egyptian monasticism. Abba Athanasii in turn became a worthy student of the great Hegumen Sergei, the father and teacher of Russian monasticism.
The students of the Monk Sergei, besides the usual monastic obediences, received blessing of the holy abba for special church services: book-writing (i.e. copying), icon-writing, temple construction. This was a genuine church-ification of life, imparting within it churchly beauty and versification, a liturgical transfiguration of God's world. The favourite obedience, which Abba Athansii imposed upon himself, was book-writing. The holy books were regarded by the fathers as right alongside holy icons, as being the most important material form of imparting churchly ideas, those of theological and liturgical creativity. The school of the Monk Sergei, revealing to the Russian and to the Universal Church the whole extent of theological experiential knowledge about the Holy Trinity, is closely connected with the flourishing of church bookishness, with the necessity of interactive enrichment of the Russian Church by the literary-works of the Byzantine Church, and the theologians of Byzantium -- by the deep spiritual experience of the Russian ascetics.
In the year 1374, the Serpukhov prince Vladimir Andreevich the Brave, a colleague of Dimitrii Donskoi, turned to the Monk Sergei with a request to found a monastery on his land-holdings. Abba Sergei came to Serpukhov with his beloved disciple Athanasii, and having situated the monastery of the Conception of the MostHoly Mother of God, he gave blessing to the Monk Athanasii to organise it, and then to be its hegumen.
The monastery of Saint Athanasii was built nearby the city of Serpukhov, on the high bank of the River Nara. They therefore called it "the monastery on the heights", or "Vysotskoi" ("of the heights"). Hence also its title, with which entered into Russian Church history its founder and first hegumen -- the Monk Athanasii of Vysotsk.
Abba Athanasii zealously set about the organisation of the monastery entrusted to him. Many a Russian ascetic arrived here, "on the heights", for an heightened schooling in monasticism.
In accord with the teaching of Abba Athanasii, preserved for us by Epiphanii the Wise, -- to be a monk was no easy thing. "The duty of the monk doth consist in this, that he be vigilant in prayer and in Divine precepts until midnight, and sometimes the whole night; he should eat nothing besides bread and water, oil even and wine will be altogether improper". Through the words of the saint of God, many came to him at the monastery on the Heights, "but then they did slacken, and unable to endure the work of ascetic abstinence, they did flee". Those ascetics of higher monastic worth remained with the holy abba.. Therefore, it was to this monastery, to his disciple and fellow-ascetic Athanasii, that the God-bearing Abba Sergei of Radonezh sent off for tonsure and guidance in monastic deeds his future successor, the Monk Nikon (Comm. 17 November). The Monk Athanasii taught him: "Monks are called voluntary martyrs. Many an holy martyr did suffer within a single hour and then die, but monks each day do endure sufferings not from torturers, but from within, from the properties of the flesh and from mental enemies, there exist struggles, and until the last breath they suffer".
In 1478 after the death of the Metropolitan of Moscow, Saint Alexei, there arrived in Moscow the new Metropolitan -- Saint Kiprian (Comm. 16 September). But Great-prince Dimitrii Donskoi wanted to establish as metropolitan his own priest and colleague Mikhail (Mitaya), and he would not accept Metropolitan Kiprian, and instead expelled him from Moscow. Saint Kiprian was in a difficult position. But he found support and sympathy among the pillars of Russian monasticism -- the Monks Sergei of Radonezh and Athanasii of Vysotsk. From the very beginning they saw the canonical propriety of the metropolitan in his dispute with the great-prince and they supported him in the prolonged struggle (1478-1490) for the restoration of canonical order and unity in the Russian Church. Saint Kiprian several times during these years had to journey to the Constantinople Patriarch for participation in council deliberations in regard to the governace of the Russian Church. On one of these journeys, with the blessing of holy Abba Sergei, there set off to Constantinople with the metropolitan also his friend the Monk Athanasii of Vysotsk, leaving as the hegumen of the Vysotsk monastery his own disciple, the Monk Athanasii the Younger (+ 1395).
At Constantinople the Monk Athanasii settled into the monastery of the holy ForeRunner and Baptist of the Lord John, where he found himself a cell with several disciples that had come with him, meanwhile concerning himself with prayer and theological salvific books. The monk spent about twenty years in the then capital of Church culture, in constant work at translating from the Greek language and copying Church books, which he then sent off to Rus', transferring over to the Russian Church not only a legacy of great Orthodox thought, but also the traditions of the Constantinople book-copyist masters, with their elegant writing-script and artistry of textual miniatures, achieving an harmony of content and form. A continuing creative connection was established between the book-copyist mastery of the Monk Athanasii at Constantinople and the calligraphic and iconographic school of the Vysotsk monastery at Serpukhov.
It was not by chance that it was especially at the Vysotsk monastery that the Monk Hegumen Nikon guided the future great iconographer-monk Saint Andrei Rublev (Comm. 4 July), as once previously the God-bearing Abba Sergei had guided him himself in this monastery for spiritual maturity and grasp with a rejuvenating and transformative spirit of pure churchly beauty. In this sacred service of churchly beauty, in constant liturgical activity to the glory of the Life-Originating Trinity, there matured and consolidated the life-bearing genius of the Monk Andrei, which God foreordained for the great visual rendering of the theological and liturgical legacy of the monk Sergei -- within the immortal wonderworking icon of the MostHoly Trinity for the iconostas of the Trinity cathedral. In the iconographic creativity of the Monk Andrei Rublev, just as in the temple-building activity of the Monk Hegumen Nikon, and in the hagiographic works of Epiphanii the Wise, we find embodiment and synthesis of the finest traditions of the Byzantine and Russian artistry.
This creative synthesis was served also by the Monk Athanasii of Vysotsk all his whole life. Living at Constantinople, he continued to work for the Russian Church, and for his native-land. In but one example, he sent to the Vysotsk monastery10 icons of the finest Greek style. By him and his disciples were rendered into the Slavonic language and copied the "Four Hundred Chapters" of the Monk Maximos the Confessor, the Chapters of Mark about church-services, and the Discourses of the Monk Simeon the New Theologian.
In the year 1401, just before his death, the venerable elder copied, and possibly himself translated, a Church ustav (rule), distributed within the Russian Church under the title, "The Ecclesial Eye".
The Monk Athanasii spent his life in constant work with books. He died at Constantinople in old age in the year 1401 (or perhaps a bit later). Russian chroniclers note him as an elder "virtuous, learned, knowing the Holy Scriptures", to which "at present his writings give witness". His life was written in the year 1697 by the priest-monk Karion (Istomin) of the Moscow Chudov monastery.
About the Monk Athanasii's successor and student, Blessed Athanasii the Younger, it is known that he successfully directed the spiritual life of the brethren and gave example by his own God-pleasing life. Saint Athanasii the Younger reposed after a long illness on 12 September 1395. In the ancient manuscripts of the saints it says about him: "The Monk Athanasii, hegumen of Vysotsk Conception monastery at Serpukhov, a new wonderworker who did repose in the year 6904 (1395) on the 12th day of September, a student of the Monk Athanasii, wondrous student of the Monk Sergei, who later was at Tsar'grad and there reposed".
The Commemoration of the Renewal of the Temple of the Resurrection of Christ at Jerusalem celebrates the solemnity on the occasion of the consecration of the Church of the Resurrection of Christ, built by the Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine the Great and his mother Equal-to-the-Apostles the empress Helen. This feastday is still called among the people by its unique title "having reputation from the Resurrection" ("Voskresenie slovuschee") and it means that it reputes to or pertains to the Resurrection, in distinction from the Feast of the Luminous Resurrection of Christ, and refers particularly to the consecration of the Church in honour of the Resurrection of Christ.
The history of the construction of this temple is thus. After the voluntary Passion and Death on the Cross of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the holy place of His suffering was long trampled on by pagans. When the Roman emperor Titus in the year 70 conquered Jerusalem, he razed the city and destroyed the Temple of Solomon on Mount Moriah, leaving there not a stone upon a stone, as even the Saviour had foretold about in conversation with the disciples (Mt. 13: 1-2). Later on the zealous pagan emperor Adrian (117-138) built on the place of the Jerusalem destroyed by Titus a new city, which was named after his name -- Aelia Adriani (Aelia Capitolina) and made it forbidden to call the city by its former name. The Holy Sepulchre of the Lord he gave orders to cover over with ground and stones and on that spot to set up an idol; and on Golgotha where the Saviour was crucified, in 119 he constructed a pagan-temple dedicated to the goddess Venus. In front of the statues they offered sacrifice to demons and performed pagan rites, accompanied by wanton acts. In Bethlehem, at the place the Saviour was born of the AllPure Virgin, the impious emperor set up an idol of Adonis. He did all this intentionally, so that people would forget completely about Christ the Saviour and that they would no more remember the places where He lived, taught, suffered and arose in glory.
When there began the reign of Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine the Great (306-337), the first of the Roman emperors to recognise the Christian religion, he together with his pious mother the empress Helen decided to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and on the place of the suffering and Resurrection of the Lord to erect a new temple, to purify from the foul pagan cults the places connected with memory of the Saviour, and again to consecrate them. The nobleborn empress Helen journeyed to Jerusalem with a large quantity of gold, and Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine the Great wrote a letter to Patriarch Makarios I (313-323), in which he requested him to assist in every possible way for the task of the renewal of the Christian holy places. Having arrived in Jerusalem, the holy empress Helen destroyed all the idolous pagan temples and had the desecrated places re-consecrated. She was ardent with the desire to find the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and she gave orders to dig up the place, where stood the temple of Venus. There they discovered the covered over Sepulchre of the Lord and the place of the Skull, not far from where they found three crosses and nails. In order to determine, upon which of the three crosses lay the Saviour, Patriarch Makarios gave orders to touch alternately against a dead person, whom they happened to be carrying by towards a place of burial. Just as the Cross of Christ touched the dead person, he immediately came alive. With the greatest of joy the nobleborn empress Helen and Patriarch Makarios raised up high the Life-Creating Cross and displayed it to all the people standing about.
The holy empress quickly set about the construction of a large church, which enclosed in its walls the place of the Crucifixion of the Saviour -- Golgotha, and the Sepulchre of the Lord, located a not large distance from each other, and as the holy Apostle and Evangelist John wrote about this: "At that place, where He was crucified, was a garden and in the garden a new tomb, in which still no one had been put; there they did place Jesus because of the Jewish Friday, since that the tomb was nearby" (Jn. 19: 41-42). The Church of the Resurrection was 10 years in building, and the holy empress Helen did not survive to the completion of construction. Having returned to Constantinople, she reposed in the year 327. After the time of her arrival in Jerusalem the holy empress built churches in Bethlehem, on the Mount of Olives, at Gethsemane and in many other places, connected with the life of the Saviour and events in the New Testament.
The completion of construction of the New Testament temple of the Resurrection of Christ, called "Martyrion", in memory of the sufferings of the Cross of the Saviour, co-incided with the passage of the First Council of Tyre, and with it the thirty year reign of the Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine the Great. Wherefore at the assemblage of 13 September 335 the consecration of the temple was particularly solemn. At the consecration of the church participated hierarchy of the Christian Churches from many lands: Bythnia, Thrace, Cilicia, Cappadocia, Syria, Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, Arabia, Palestine and Egypt. To the solemnity of the renewal were invited only the fathers that concluded the Tyre Council. On this day was consecrated all the city of Jerusalem. The commemoration of this remarkable event by the fathers of the Church was established as 13 September.
The PriestMartyr Cornelius the Centurion: Soon after the sufferings on the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ and after His Ascension into Heaven, there settled at Caesarea in Palestine a centurion by the name of Cornelius, who earlier had lived in Thracian Italy. Although he was a pagan, he distinguished himself by deep piety and good deeds, as the holy Evangelist Luke testifies about him (Acts 10: 1). The Lord did not disdain his virtuous life and led him to the understanding of truth through the enlightening light of faith in Christ.
One time Cornelius was at prayer in his home. An Angel of God appeared to him and said, that his prayer had been heard and accepted by God, and commanded him to send people to Joppa to Simon, called Peter. Cornelius immediately fulfilled the command. While those dispatched were on their way to Joppa, the Apostle Peter was at prayer, during which time he had a vision: thrice were lowered down vessels in visage of great plenitude, filled with meats and fowl. From Heaven he heard a voice, commanding him to eat of everything. At the refusal of the apostle there followed a reply: "What God hath purified, regard not as unclean" (Acts 10: 15).
By means of this vision the Lord commanded the Apostle Peter to go at preaching the Word of God to the pagans. When the Apostle Peter in the company of those sent to meet him arrived at the house of Cornelius, he was received with great joy and respect by the host together with his kinsmen and comrades. Cornelius on his knees bowed down to the apostle and requested to be taught the way of salvation. The apostle began to preach about the earthly life of Jesus Christ, about the miracles and signs worked by the Saviour, about His sufferings, the teachings about the Kingdom of Heaven, the death on the Cross, the Resurrection and Ascent into Heaven. By grace under the influence of the Holy Spirit, Cornelius believed in Christ and was baptised together with all his kinsfolk. He was the first pagan to receive Baptism.
He retired from the world and went preaching the Gospel together with the Apostle Peter, who made him a bishop. When the Apostle Peter, together with his helpers Saints Timothy and Cornelius, was in the city of Ephesus, he learned of a particularly vigorous idol-worship in the city of Skepsis. Lots were drawn as to whom that would go there, falling upon Saint Cornelius. In the city lived a prince by the name of Demetrios, learned in the ancient Greek philosophy, hating Christianity and venerating the pagan gods, in particular Apollo and Theos/Deus (Zeus). Learning about the arrival of Saint Cornelius in the city, he immediately summoned him and asked him the reason for his coming. Saint Cornelius answered, that he came to free him from the darkness of ignorance and lead him to knowledge of the True Light. The prince, not comprehending the meaning of what was said, became angry and demanded him to answer each of his questions. When Saint Cornelius explained, that he serves the Lord and that the reason for his coming consists in an announcement of the Truth, the prince became enraged and demanded from Cornelius an offering of sacrifice to the idols. The saint asked to be shewn the gods. When he entered the pagan temple, Cornelius turned towards the East and bending down on his knees, he uttered a prayer to the Lord. There began an earthquake, and the temple of Zeus and the idols situated in it were destroyed. All the populace, seeing what had happened, were terrified. The prince was even more vexed and began to take counsel together with those approaching him, about how to destroy Cornelius. They bound the saint and took him to prison for the night. At this point one of his servants informed the prince the grievous news that his wife and child had perished beneathe the rubble of the destroyed temple. But a certain while later one of the pagan-priests, by the name of Barbates, reported that he heard the voice of the wife and son somewhere in the ruins and that they were praising the God of the Christians. The pagan-priest asked to free the imprisoned one, as gratitude for the miracle worked by Saint Cornelius, in that the wife and son of the prince remained alive. The joyous prince in the company of those about him hastened to the prison, declaring that he believed in Christ and asking him to lead out his wife and son from somewhere in the ruins of the temple. Saint Cornelius set off to the destroyed idol-temple, and through prayer the suffering were freed. After this the prince Demetrios, and all his kinsmen and comrades accepted holy Baptism. Saint Cornelius lived for a long time in this city, converted to Christ all the pagan inhabitants, and made Eunomios a presbyter for service to the Lord. Saint Cornelius died in old age and was buried not far from the pagan temple destroyed by him.
The Holy Martyrs Seleukos, Stratonikes, Kronides, Leontios and Serapion suffered for the Christian faith in the III Century. Saint Seleukos -- came from Galatia, Stratonikes -- from Bythinian Nikomedia, while Kronides, Leontios and Serapion -- were from Egypt. After fierce torments for their confession of faith in Christ, holy martyrs were beastly killed. Saints Kronides, Leontios and Serapion they bound hand and foot and cast into the sea. Their bodies were carried by the waves to shore, where Christians gave them burial.
Saint Seleukos suffered in Galatia, where after many tortures he was thrown together with his wife for devouring by wild beasts.
Saint Stratonikes after torture by order of the Bythinan governor was bound to two drawn tree trunks. His body was split into two parts. (His memory is celebrated also on 9 September).
The Holy Martyrs Gordian, Macrobius, Elias, Zotikos, Lucian and Valerian suffered at the beginning of the IV Century at Paphlagonia (Asia Minor) under the emperor Licinius (307-324). Saint Gordian was a native of Cappadocia, and Macrobius -- of Paphlagonia. They were handsome youths serving under the imperial court and they enjoyed the particular favour of the emperor. For their firm confession of faith in Christ they were sent to Skythia, where they met Zotikos, Lucian and Elias, likewise courageous confessors of the Name of Christ. First suffered Saints Gordian and Macrobius. After this in the city of Tomak in Skythia were tortured and then beheaded Saints Elias, Zotikos, Lucian and Valerian.
The Monk Peter from Atroe was from childhood dedicated to God and spent his whole life in exploits of fasting and unceasing prayer. He pursued asceticism in the city of Atroe, near Asian Olympos. A distinctive feature of the holy ascetic was his extreme temperance. While still during his lifetime the saint worked many miracles and peacefully reposed during the time or rule of the Patriarch of Constantinople Tarasios (784-806).
Saint John was a monk of the Prislop Monastery in southwestern Romania at the turn of the sixteenth century. After several years in that place, he went into the mountains to lead a solitary ascetical life, struggling against the assaults of the demons.
One day, while St John was making a window in his cell, he was shot and killed by a hunter on the other side of the creek, who mistook him for a wild animal.
St John's holy relics were later brought to Wallachia (southern Romania). He was glorified by the Orthodox Church of Romania in 1992.
St. Amatus, called in French Amé, was born of a wealthy family, and had the happiness to learn the spirit of Jesus Christ, not that of the world, from the example and assiduous instructions of his pious parents. Being applied young to his studies, he discovered in them a clear apprehension, and a solid judgment; but set bounds to his curiosity in his application to profane sciences, religiously practising the maxim of Saint Jerom, that it is better never to learn what cannot be known without danger. In the mean time his ardour was unquenchable in learning the true science of the saints—that is, the knowledge of God and himself: and in the most profound humility of heart he never ceased to ask of God the grace of his most pure and holy love. His parents were careful to fence his mind from his infancy against the love of vanity and pleasure, and against the other snares that are incident to youth; they watched to remove out of his way all dangers of bad company, and whatever could in the least sully the purity of his mind, take him off from the gravity of his deportment, and his application to his studies, or damp his ardour in the pursuit of virtue. In this they were to him themselves a constant spur, being aware that the corruption of a young man’s mind in one particular, generally draws others after it, and that to fall from fervour into slackness, or into the least habitual infidelity to divine grace, is to slide insensibly, and, as it were, blindfold into the broad way of vice.
Amatus, formed by these maxims to virtue, seemed in his youth to have already attained to perfection; but this consists in more and more strenuous endeavours always to advance higher. He some time deliberated with himself what course of life to steer, in which every desire of his soul, every action of his life might be a step advancing in a direct line towards that happiness for which he was created by God; and him he consulted, by earnest and humble prayer, upon this important and critical choice. The issue of his deliberation was, that, with the consent and advice of those to whom prudence or duty obliged him to listen, he embraced an ecclesiastical state. No sooner had he from the bottom of his heart said to God that he was his portion and his inheritance for ever, but prayer, sacred studies, and exercises of charity and other virtues, became his whole employment. It was his great comfort and joy that the very habit which he wore freed him from many dangers and importunities of the world, and exempted him from visits, amusements, and idle employments, which in other states various circumstances make sometimes necessary, and which, though they may be sanctified by a good intention, yet are often dangerous, and always great consumers of the little time we have here, to purge our affections, to strengthen our souls in habits of virtue, and to lay in a due provision for eternity, by actions which are the most conducive to those great purposes. Such being his inclinations and views, there was no danger of his entertaining any superfluous commerce with the world, by frequenting its company or amusements: a commerce always pernicious and contrary to the spirit of ecclesiastics, and which the world itself is just enough to condemn, even though by allurements it invited them into the snare. The closest retirement afforded our saint leisure and means for all those exercises of compunction, devotion, and heavenly contemplation, and for laying in a good store of sacred learning and practical knowledge, by which he qualified himself for the high functions of the ministry, to which he aspired. He prepared himself afresh for every new step in holy orders by the fervent practice of virtue, and by all suitable dispositions, that when he was raised to the priesthood he might receive the plenitude of its graces. Out of a desire of greater perfection, he took the monastic habit at Agaunum, a monastery at that time famous both for regular discipline, and the sacred studies. St. Amatus, with the leave of the abbot, dwelt in a little cell cut in a rock, with an oratory adjoining, which is now called our Lady’s in the rock.
Some time after, Amatus was chosen bishop of Sion, in the Valais, about the year 669. In this exalted station the example of his virtue shone forth with new lustre, and greater authority; he was enabled to deal his alms more plentifully among the poor, and was furnished with the means of every way exerting his zeal more powerfully in advancing the divine honour, and the spiritual good of souls. He preached, instructed, comforted, and relieved all persons according to their particular necessities. In a word, he was an accomplished pastor, sanctifying both himself and those who were committed to his charge. He had governed his diocess almost five years, when the devil, jealous of the victories which the holy pastor daily gained over his empire, stirred up against him certain wicked instruments, who could not bear in others that virtue which they had not courage to practise themselves.
Theodoric III., son of Clovis II., king, first of Austrasia, afterwards of all France, was for several years abandoned to vice and evil counsellors, and is the first of those who, governing by the mayors of his palace, are called by some historians the Idle Kings. Ebroin, mayor of his palace, was one of the wickedest tyrants that ever had any share in the administration of the French kingdom; the murder of St. Leodegarius, and the persecution and banishment of many other holy bishops and saints, of which he was the author, are instances of his injustice, cruelty, and irreligion. The enemies of St. Amatus found it an easy matter to accuse him before such a king, and such a minister, of crimes which had not the least foundation in truth; some say, of accusing Ebroin of tyranny. Theodoric, without further examination, or so much as allowing the holy man a hearing, banished him to St. Fursey’s monastery at Peronne, where St. Ultan, the abbot, treated him with all imaginable respect and veneration. The holy exile rejoiced in his disgrace to find the tranquillity of holy retirement, in which he enjoyed a sweet calm, with the happy means of living to himself and God, conversing always in heaven, and giving free scope to his zeal in the practice of the most rigorous penitential austerities. The flagrant injustice that was done him never drew from him the least complaint, though no synod had been assembled to hear him, no sentence of deposition issued out, no crime so much as laid to his charge in a juridical manner. The only circumstance which afflicted him was to see a wolf intruded by the king into his see, not to feed, but to devour his flock.
After the death of St. Ultan, St. Mauront was charged with the custody of St. Amatus, and took him first to the monastery of Hamaye; but soon after built a new abbey upon an estate of his own, at a place called Breüil, or Broile, now Merville, (that is, Little Town,) upon the Lis, in Flanders. St. Amatus removed with him to Breüil. St. Mauront rejoiced to be possessed of such a guest, and resigned to him the government of that abbey. St. Amatus, both by words and example, excited the monks to fervour and humility, and having settled the house in excellent order, shut himself up in a little cell near the church, in which he occupied his soul with so much ardour in heavenly contemplation, as scarcely to seem to be any longer an inhabitant of the earth. Thus he lived five years with these monks, and only left them to become an intercessor with Christ in his glory for them, about the year 690. Ebroin, who had sacrificed many innocent bishops and noblemen to his cruel policy, was himself massacred in 679. King Theodoric died in 691, but entering into himself some time before his death, had severely condemned himself for having unjustly persecuted St. Amatus, and in satisfaction made several donations to the abbey of Breüil. Gramaye takes this house to have been a community of secular priests; but that they were monks is evident, since the Capuchin friars, in digging up the ground, found remains of their bodies buried in the monastic habit, as Castillion remarks. 2 In the incursions of the Normans these monks retired with the relics of St. Amatus, first to Soissons, but soon after to Douay. 3 This translation was made on the 1st of May, in 870, by Eruannicus, abbot of Breüil, and St. Bainus, fifth bishop of Tarvanne, 4 when these relics were deposited in the chapel which St. Mauront had built in honour of St. Amatus, soon after his death, in the church of our Lady, which, four years after, began to be called St. Amatus’s, or St. Amé’s, when these monks obtained of John, bishop of Arras and Cambray, King Charles the Bald, and Baldwin I., surnamed the Iron-armed, (who had been made by that prince sovereign count of Flanders and Artois, or the Morini,) proper authority to remove from Breüil, and fix their residence at this church in Douay. The monastery thus settled at Douay, was secularised, and converted into a college of canons in 940. A priory and a holy chapel subsisted long after this at Breüil, on the spot where St. Mauront received St. Amatus, and where both led an anchoretical life. The land to this day belongs to this church of St. Amatus, or Amé, in Douay. The relics of St. Mauront were translated to St. Amé’s, in Douay, from Marchiennes, in 1485.
The Holy GreatMartyr Ketvana was descended from the imperial Bagration lineage and was a great-grandchild of the emperor Constantine of Kartalin (1469-1505). Having become the spouse of David, successor to the emperor Alexander II of Khaketin (1577-1605), she herself governed the empire. The deep piety of the empress was manifest in a particular attention to the needs of the Gruzian (Georgian) Church, -- in the building of churches, shelters and vagrants homes. After the death of her husband Saint Ketvana settled into solitude.
The brother of her husband, Constantine (called Okayan), accepted Mahometanism and on the instructions of the shah Abbas I sent assassins to his dying father, the emperor Alexander II, and his brother George. Having committed the crime, Constantine gave orders to place the bodies of the murdered on camels and take them to the empress Ketvana. Horrified at the wicked deed, the empress bewailed the innocent sufferers and buried them at the Alaverdsk cathedral. The impious one, however, enroached upon her honourable widowhood and demanded her hand, threatening force in case of refusal.
The empress Ketvana gathered the people of Kakhetin and marched against Constantine, defeating the impious apostate. He met an inglorious death together with many in the Persian army. Under the wise rule of the empress Ketvana, peace and justice were re-established in Kakhetia. Shah Abbas I returned her son Teimuraz, who although he had lived several years in court in the guise of an hostage, preserved his Orthodox faith in purity. Afterwards the shah Abbas, threatening Gruzia with destruction, coerced the Kakhetin feudal authorities into handing over illustrious hostages. In that number voluntarily was the empress Ketvana. Wanting to avert disaster for the Gruzian nation and Holy Church, she arrived in Ispahan. Shah Abbas urged the nobleborn empress to accept Mahometanism, but he received decisive refusal. Thereupon the empress Ketvana was thrown into prison, where she spent ten years, filled with the sufferings of martyrdom. Neither vileness from Persian courtiers, nor cunning offers by the shah to elevate her to empress of the Persian realm, nor offers to her of great treasure, nor the implorings and entreaties of the courtiers and Persian nobles, -- nothing was able to budge her, not even to uttering a single blasphemous word against Christ, nothing was able to move the sufferer for Christ. They tortured her with red-hot tongs hung cross-wise in wood. On the head of the holy martyress they touched a red-hot iron kettle. The dense smoke from her burning hair and head rose upwards, and the blessed martyress gave up her soul to God on 13 September 1624.
Three bright pillars, having come down upon the body of Saint Ketvana, signified her spiritual victory. The relics of the holy empress were taken to Rome, to the cathedral of the holy Apostle Peter, by monks of the Augustinian order who had been witnesses to her deed of confessor. Part of the relics (the venerable head and right hand of the martyress) was given by the Augustinian monks to emperor Teimuraz I and placed beneathe the altar-table (prestol') of the Alaverdi cathedral of the holy GreatMartyr George in Kakhetia. The Catholikos-Patriarch Zakharia (1613-1630) enumerated the great-martyress to the rank of the saints and established her memory on 13 September.
The Monk Hierotheos was born in 1686 in Greece. Desiring to comprehend Divine wisdom as it is in the sciences and likewise as it is in monastic life, the pious youth, displaying great ability and diligence, studied Latin and Greek philosophy. After the death of his parents, and wanting to continue his education, Saint Hierotheos first of all visited Holy Mount Athos, which was famous for its many male teachers. At first he was the student of a certain hermit near the cell of Saint Artemias (Comm. 20 October), and then he joined the brethren of the Iveria monastery, where he took monastic vows. On matters of the monastery Saint Hierotheos soon journeyed to Constantinople, and from there to Valachia, where the Lord directed him to continue his interrupted education. Having been instructed by a certain Cypriot monk, Saint Hierotheos by his good manners merited the favour of the Sofia metropolitan Avksentii and was ordained deacon. Having completed his education in Venice, Saint Hierotheos returned to the Holy Mountain. He settled near the Iveria monastery in the Khaga wilderness. On the testimony of his contemporaries, he led a very strict hermit's life; with the constant Jesus Prayer the monk discovered deep love for neighbour and joy-creating weeping. On the intercession of the hegumen of the Iversk monastery Saint Hierotheos was vouchsafed the priestly dignity by the metropolitan of Neocaesarea James, living there in retirement.
At the request of the inhabitants of Skopelo, having been bereft of priest-server, the self-denying ascetic forsook his solitude. During the course of 8 years together with his Athos disciples -- the priestmonk Meletios and the monks Joasaph and Simeon, he made Divine-services and preached much. Foreseeing his own impending end, the Monk Hierotheos with three disciples withdrew to the island of Yura, where usually were sent those banished for life. There after a short illness he expired to the Lord in the year 1745. His disciples buried him on that island, and after three years his venerable head was transferred to the Iveria monastery. By prayers to the saint were healed many sick and those contending with bodily suffering.
The pagan Roman emperors tried to completely eradicate from human memory the holy places where our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and was resurrected for mankind. The Emperor Adrian (117-138) gave orders to cover over the ground of Golgotha and the Sepulchre of the Lord, and upon the hill fashioned there to set up a pagan temple of the pagan goddess Venus and a statue of Jupiter. Pagans gathered on this place and offered sacrifice to idols there. Eventually after 300 years, by Divine Providence, the great Christian sacred remains -- the Sepulchre of the Lord and the Life-Creating Cross were again discovered and opened for veneration. This occurred under the Equal-to-the-Apostles Emperor Constantine the Great (306-337) after his victory in the year 312 over Maxentius, ruler of the Western part of the Roman empire, and over Licinius, ruler of its Eastern part, becoming in the year 323 the sole-powerful ruler of the vast Roman empire. In 313 he had issued the so-called Edict of Milan, by which the Christian religion was legalised and the persecutions against Christians in the Western half of the empire were stopped. The ruler Licinius, although he had signed the Milan Edict to oblige Constantine, still fanatically continued the persecutions against Christians. Only after his conclusive defeat did the 313 Edict about toleration extend also to the Eastern part of the empire. The Equal-to-the-Apostles Emperor Constantine, having with the assistance of God gained victory over his enemies in three wars, had seen in the heavens the Sign of God -- the Cross and written beneathe: "By this thou shalt conquer".
Ardently desiring to find the Cross on which our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine sent to Jerusalem his mother, the pious Empress Helen (Comm. 21 May), having provided her with a letter to the Jerusalem patriarch Makarios. Although the holy empress Helen was already in her declining years, she set about completing the task with enthusiasm. The empress gave orders to destroy the pagan temple and idol-statues overshadowing Jerusalem. Searching for the Life-Creating Cross, she made inquiry of Christians and Jews, but for a long time her searchings remained unsuccessful. Finally, they directed her to a certain elderly hebrew by the name of Jude who stated, that the Cross was buried there, where stands the pagan-temple of Venus. They demolished the pagan-temple and, having made a prayer, they began to excavate the ground. Soon there was detected the Sepulchre of the Lord and not far away from it three crosses, a plank with inscription having been done by order of Pilate, and four nails, which had pierced the Body of the Lord. In order to discern on which of the three crosses the Saviour was crucified, Patriarch Makarios alternately touched the crosses to a corpse. When the Cross of the Lord was placed to it, the dead one came alive. Having beheld the rising-up, everyone was convinced that the Life-Creating Cross was found. Christians, having come in an innumerable throng to make veneration to the Holy Cross, besought Saint Makarios to elevate, to exalt the Cross, so that all even afar off, might reverently contemplate it. Then the Patriarch and other spiritual chief personages raised up high the Holy Cross, and the people, saying "Lord have mercy", reverently made poklon/prostration before the Venerable Wood. This solemn event occurred in the year 326. During the discovery of the Life-Creating Cross there occurred also another miracle: a grievously sick woman, beneathe the shadow of the Holy Cross, was healed instantly. The starets/elder Jude and other Jews there believed in Christ and accepted Holy Baptism. Jude received the name Kuriakos (ie. lit. "of the Lord") and afterwards was ordained Bishop of Jerusalem. During the reign of Julian the Apostate (361-363) he accepted a martyr's death for Christ (Comm. of Priest-Martyr Kuriakos is 28 October). The holy empress Helen journeyed round the holy places connected with the earthly life of the Saviour -- the reason for more than 80 churches -- raised up at Bethlehem the place of the Birth of Christ, and on the Mount of Olives from whence the Lord ascended to Heaven, and at Gethsemane where the Saviour prayed before His sufferings and where the Mother of God was buried after the falling-asleep. Saint Helen took with her to Constantinople part of the Life-Creating Wood and nails. The Equal-to-the-Apostles Emperor Constantine gave orders to raise up at Jerusalem a majestic and spacious church in honour of the Resurrection of Christ, including in itself also the Sepulchre of the Lord, and Golgotha. The temple was constructed in about 10 years. Saint Helen did not survive until the dedication of the temple; she died in the year 327. The church was consecrated on 13 September 335. On the following day, 14 September, the festal celebration of the Exaltation of the Venerable and Life-Creating Cross was established.
On this day is remembered also another event connected to the Cross of the Lord, -- its return back to Jerusalem from Persia after a 14 year captivity. During the reign of the Byzantine emperor Phokas (602-610) the Persian emperor Khozroes II in a war against the Greeks defeated the Greek army, plundered Jerusalem and led off into captivity both the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord and the Holy Patriarch Zacharios (609-633). The Cross remained in Persia for 14 years and only under the emperor Herakles (610-641), who with the help of God defeated Khozroes and concluded peace with his successor and son Syroes -- was the Cross of the Lord returned to Christians from captivity. With great solemnity the Life-creating Cross was transferred to Jerusalem. Emperor Herakles in imperial crown and porphyry(purple) carried the Cross of Christ into the temple of the Resurrection. Alongside the emperor went Patriarch Zacharios. At the gates, by which they ascended onto Golgotha, the emperor suddenly stopped and was not able to proceed further. The Holy Patriarch explained to the emperor that an Angel of the Lord blocked his way, since He That bore the Cross onto Golgotha for the expiation of the world from sin, made His Way of the Cross in the guise of Extreme Humilation. Then Herakles, removing the crown and porphyry, donned plain garb and without further hindrance carried the Cross of Christ into the church.
In a sermon on the Exaltation of the Cross, Saint Andrew of Crete (Comm. 4 July) says: "The Cross is exalted, and everything true gathers together, the Cross is exalted, and the city makes solemn, and the people celebrate the feast".
Saint John Chrysostom died on 14 September 407, but because of the feast of the Exaltation of the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord, the commemoration of the saint was transferred to 13 November, where the account about him is located. On 27 January is made a commemoration of the transfer of the holy relics of Saint John Chrysostom from Komaneia to Constantinople, and on 30 January -- is the celebration of the Sobor/Assemblage of the Three OEcumenical Hierarchs.
The Holy GreatMartyr Nikita was a Goth (a Germanic tribe). He was born and lived on the banks of the Danube River, and suffered for Christ in the year 372. The Christian faith was then already widely spread throughout the territory of the Goths. Saint Nikita believed in Christ and accepted Baptism from the Gothic bishop Theophilus, a participant in the First OEcumenical Council. Pagan Goths began to oppose the spread of Christianity, which resulted in internecine strife.
After the victory of Fritigern, -- heading a Christian army and inflicting defeat on the pagan Athanarik, the Christian faith began to spread increasingly among the Goths. Bishop Wulfil, the successor to Bishop Theophilus, created a Gothic alphabet and translated into the Gothic language many priestly books. Saint Nikita worked intensely among his fellow Goths at spreading Christianity. By his personal example and inspired words he brought many pagans to the Christian faith. However, Athanarik after his defeat again contrived to gather his own forces, return to his own country and reestablish his former power. Having remained a pagan, he continued to hate Christians and persecute them. Saint Nikita, having undergone many tortures, was thrown into a fire, where he died in the year 372. The friend of Saint Nikita, a Christian named Marianus, by night retrieved the body of the martyr, -- unharmed by the fire and illumined by a miraculous light, and gave it over to burial in Cilicia. Afterwards it was transferred to Constantinople. Part of the relics of the GreatMartyr Nikita were later transferred to the monastery of Vysokie Dechany in Serbia.
The Holy Presbyter and Wonderworker Philotheios lived in the X Century in the village of Mrauino (or Murav'evo) located in Bythnia in Asia Minor. He was married and had children. Philotheios accepted the dignity of priesthood and from that time he devoted himself to deeds of prayer and fasting, and works of charity. Because of his holy life the Monk Philotheios received from God the gift of wonderworking. The ascetic continually fed the hungry and helped the needy. The Monk Philotheios died peacefully. From his relics flowed myrh.
Sainted Joseph, Bishop of Alaverdi, was one of the Thirteen Holy Syrian (Cappadocian) Fathers, the establishers of Georgian Monasticism (the accounts concerning them is located under 7 May). He, as a "blossom of longed-for virginity", from his early years chose the monastic vocation. Having arrived in Gruzia (Georgia) with his teacher Saint John Zedazni (Comm. 7 May), Saint Joseph settled in Kakhetia in the unpopulated and barren Alaverdian steppes. Here he began his ascetic exploits. His spiritual strength was so great that even wild beasts did not touch him, and the steppe deer came to him and nourished him with their milk.
One of the Kakhetian nobles during an hunt found himself on the Alaverdian steppes and was so astonished, seeing Saint Joseph standing at prayer, that he remained with him.
Reports about this personage becoming a monk and about the holy life of the Monk Joseph spread throughout Kakhetia. People fervent for piety and the ascetic life began to throng to the Alaverdian steppe to Saint Joseph. A monastery thus arose, and a church in honour of the GreatMartyr George was built.
Chosen to lead the monastery, Saint Joseph with fatherly love concerned himself about the brethren of the monastery, and about the spiritual enlightenment of Kakhetia. Pagan superstitions were still not eradicated, and Saint Joseph -- with cross in hand, often left the monastic solitude for preaching the Word of God.
Beholding the saintly and immaculate life of the monk Joseph and his sincere desire to serve them, the Kakhetian people willingly and joyfully accepted the Gospel teaching, and abandoned their unbelief and pagan customs.
Saint Joseph composed a catechism (lost in the XVI Century) by which he taught the flock entrusted to him. Nearing the end of his life of lofty service, Saint Joseph secluded himself in a tight cell for complete silence.
In the year 570 occurred his peaceful and blessed end. Sainted Joseph was buried in the church of the holy GreatMartyr George in Alaverdi.
In the IX Century in place of the former church was erected the great Alaverdi cathedral in which, on the left side of the Altar at the north wall, under a grave-cover rests the body of Sainted Joseph.
The Holy Martyr Porphyrios suffered during the reign of Julian the Apostate (361-363). Porphyrios was an actor and on the emperor's birthday he was performing a role at the theater, whereby he was supposed to mock at the mystery of holy Baptism. But when Porphyrios during the course of the play immersed himself in water and uttered: "Baptised is the servant of God Porphyrios, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit", -- then, under the inspiration of Divine grace received by him at these words, he emerged from the water confessing himself a Christian. Julian thereupon ordered him to be tortured and after the torments to be beheaded. This happened in the city of Ephesus in the year 361.
The Holy Martyrs Maximos, Askliada (Asklipiodota), and Theodotos suffered at the beginning of the IV Century under the emperor Maximian Galerius (305-311). Eminent citizens of the city of Marcianopolis, Maximos and Askliada led a pious Christian life. By their example they brought many to faith in Christ and to holy Baptism. During the time of the persecution the governor of Thrace, Tiris, went the rounds of the city subject to him and persecuted those believing in Christ. He summoned before him Maximos and Askliada and demanded they recant from the Christian faith. But seeing the firm faith of the martyrs, he commanded that they be cruelly beaten. Then a certain pious man, by the name of Theodotos, began to reproach the governor for his inhumanity and cruelty. They seized him also, and hanging him on a tree, they subjected him to torture with iron hooks. After this they threw the three martyrs into prison. Tiris traveled further for two weeks more and took the holy martyrs along with him. In the city of Adrianopolis he subjected them to still greater tortures, commanding that their bodies be scorched with white-hot plates. Amidst the agony of suffering was a comforting Voice from Heaven, strengthening them in endurance. After several days of torture they threw the martyrs to wild beasts in the circus for devouring, but the she-bear released upon Saints Maximos and Theodotos instead began to cuddle up to them. They tied Saint Askliada to a bull, but he became as though rooted on the spot, not budging. Tiris in a rage set out farther and, before reaching the city of Philippopolis, in the village of Saltis he again began to urge the martyrs to renounce Christ. Finally, he ordered them to be beheaded. After a while he was punished by the wrath of God: a bolt of lightning struck him when he was sitting upon the judgement seat.
Sainted Bessarion, Archbishop of Larissa, lived during the XVI Century and founded the Dusika monastery in Thessaly.
The Monk Gerasimos founded a monastery in honour of the Holy Trinity near Makrinitsa in Zagora (Mizia). This monastery received the name Zurvia (Survias).
The NewMartyr John of Crete suffered in the year 1811 under the Turks at New Ephesus.
The Holy Presbyter and Wonderworker Philotheus lived in the tenth century in the village of Mravin (or Myrmix) located in Bythnia in Asia Minor. He was a married priest, and had children. He devoted himself to deeds of prayer and fasting, and works of charity. Because of his holy life, St Philotheus received from God the gift of working miracles. The ascetic continually fed the hungry and helped the needy. St Philotheus died in peace. Myrrh flowed from his relics.
The Holy GreatMartyress Euphemia the All-Praiseworthy was the daughter of Christians -- the senator Philophronos and Theodosia. She suffered for Christ in about the year 304 in the city of Chalcedon, located on the banks of the Bosphorus opposite Constantinople.
The Chalcedon governor Priscus circulated an order to all the inhabitants of Chalcedon and its surroundings to appear at a pagan feast for worship and to offer sacrifice to an idol of Ares (Mars), threatening grave torments for whomever failed to appear. During the time of this impious feast 49 Christians had hidden away at one house, where they secretly made Divine-services to the True God. The young maiden Euphemia was also among those praying there. Soon the hide-out of the Christians was discovered, and they were brought before Priscus to answer for themselves. Over the course of 19 days the martyrs were subjected to various tortures and torments, but none of them wavered in their faith nor consented to offer sacrifice to the idol. The governor, beside himself with rage and not knowing still any further means of forcing the Christians into renunciation, sent them for trial to the emperor Diocletian, but he separated from them the youngest -- the maiden Euphemia, hoping that she, alone by herself, would not hold out.
Saint Euphemia, separated from her brethren in faith, fervently prayed the Lord Jesus Christ, that He Himself would strengthen her in the impending ordeal. Priscus at first urged the saint to recant, promising her earthly blessings, but then he gave the order to torture her. The martyress was tied to a wheel with sharp knives, which in turning cut at the body. The saint prayed loudly. And here it happened, that the wheel stopped by itself and would not move even with all the efforts of the executioners. An Angel of the Lord, having come down from Heaven, removed Euphemia from the wheel and healed her of her wounds, and with gladness the saint gave thanks unto the Lord.
Not perceiving the miracle that had occurred, the torturer ordered the soldiers Victor and Sosthenes to take the saint to a red-hot oven. But the soldiers, seeing amidst the flames two fearsome Angels, refused to carry out the order of the governor and became themselves believers in the God, Whom Euphemia worshipped. Boldly proclaiming that they too were Christians, Victor and Sosthenes bravely went to suffering. They were given over for devouring by wild beasts. During the time of execution they cried out for mercy to God, that the Lord should receive them into the Heavenly Kingdom. An heavenly Voice answered their cries, and they expired unto life eternal. The beasts however did not even touch their bodies.
Saint Euphemia, cast by other soldiers into the fire, remained unharmed. And with the help of God she emerged unharmed after many another torture and torment. Ascribing this to sorcery, the governor gave orders to dig out a new pit, and filling it with knives he had it covered over with ground and grass, so that the martyress would not know about the preparation for her execution; but here also Saint Euphemia remained safe, easily passing over the pit. Finally, they sentenced her to be devoured by wild beasts at the circus. Before execution the saint began to implore, that the Lord deem her worthy to die a violent death. But none of the beasts, set loose at her in the arena, attacked her. Finally, one of the she-bears struck her a small wound on the leg, from which came blood, and the holy GreatMartyr Euphemia instantly died. During this time there occurred an earthquake, and both the guards and the spectators ran in terror, so that the parents of the saint were able to take up her body and reverently bury it not far from Chalcedon.
A majestic church was afterwards erected over the grave of the GreatMartyr Euphemia. At this temple took place the sessions of the Fourth OEcumenical Council in the year 451, during the time of which in miraculous manner the holy GreatMartyress Euphemia confirmed the Orthodox confession, and setting limits to the Monophysite heresy, the details of which are related under the day of the commemoration of this miracle, 11 July.
With the taking of Chalcedon by the Persians in the year 617, the relics of the holy GreatMartyress Euphemia were transferred to Constantinople (in about the year 620). During the period of the Iconoclast heresy the reliquary with the relics of Saint Euphemia appears to have been thrown into the sea. Pious sailors pulled them out. They were afterwards taken to the Island of Lemnos, and in the year 796 they were returned to Constantinople.
Sainted Kiprian, Metropolitan of Kiev and All Russia, was by origin a Serb, and asceticised at Athos. By his pious life and education he came to the attention of the Constantinople Patriarch Philotheos (1354-1355, 1362-1376), who in 1375 ordained Kiprian as Metropolitan of Kiev and Lithuania. At the Constantinople Council it was decided, to avoid a fragmentation of the Russian metropolia, that "upon the death of Sainted Alexei, he should become the Metropolitan of All Rus'". At Moscow Saint Kiprian endured many a sorrow from the great-prince, and therefore initially he lived either in Lithuania or at Constantinople. Only in the year 1390, during the time of Great-prince Vasilii Dimitrievich, was he accepted as primate at Moscow. Saint Kiprian concerned himself over the correction of the Divine-service books. There are preserved autographic manuscripts of certain Slavonic translations by the saint, witnessing to his great scientific work. And by his pastoral epistles he encouraged the faith of the Church. His activity in the translation of liturgical literature is widely known.
The Holy Martyress Sebastiana was a student of the holy Apostle Paul. During a persecution against Christians under the emperor Dometian (81-96), she was at trial as a Christian before the governor named Georgios in the city of Marcianopolis in the Mizea region. Saint Sebastiana firmly confessed her faith in Christ and for this she was subjected to cruel tortures. At first they beat her, and then they threw her into a red-hot oven, from which she emerged unharmed. They dispatched the saint to the city of Herakleia, where sentence was pronounced on her a second time. The governor named Pompian gave orders to tie the saint to a tree and lacerate her body with roof-tiles. The martyress remained unbroken in her faith. Then the governor gave her over for devouring by wild beasts. There too the Lord preserved the holy martyress, and the beasts refused to touch her. Then, by order of the governor, Saint Sebastiana was beheaded. Her body, thrown into the sea, was conveyed by Angels to the Island of Rhodes (in Thrace, in the Sea of Marmora).
The Holy Martyress Meletina lived in the city of Marcianopolis during the rule of the emperor Antoninus Pius ((138-161). She was a fervent Christian, and the Lord blessed her with the gift of wonderworking. By the power of prayers she shattered the idols of Apollo and Herakles. Her fiery preaching converted many pagans to Christ: among the converted was the spouse of the governor of the city of Marcianopolis. When the governor learned of this, he had Saint Meletina brought to trial, and sentenced her to be beheaded. In returning to his own country, the Macedonian Akakios reverently took up the body of Saint Meletina with the intention of burying her in Macedonia. But during the voyage Akakios fell sick and died. The ship stopped at the Island of Lemnos, where the body of the holy Martyress Meletina was consigned to burial, and alongside her grave they buried Akakios.
The Monk Dorotheios, Egyptian Wilderness-Dweller, a native of the Thebaid region in Egypt, asceticised for 60 years in the Skete wilderness, on the Western side of the River Nile. Palladius, bishop of Helenopolis and author of the reknown "Lausiaca", had in his youthful years been a student of the Monk Dorotheios, and thus has passed along memories of him. The Monk Dorotheios led a austere and ascetic manner of life. After finishing his prayers, he went off into the noonday heat to gather up stones along the seashore and build cells for the other hermits. By night the saint wove baskets, in exchange for which he received the necessities of sustenance. Food for the Monk Dorotheios consisted of bread and the meagre grass in the wilderness. Once a day he partook of food and drank a little water. The monk did not lie down to sleep, and only but dozed off sometimes at work or after eating. One time the Monk Dorotheios sent off his student to go fetch water, but that one returned saying that he saw a snake in the well and that the water in the well was now poisoned. The Monk Dorotheios went then himself to the well, took up a ladle of water, and making the sign of the Cross over it he drank of it, saying: "Where there is the Cross, there the demonic powers do altogether no harm". The Monk Dorotheios peacefully died up in age.
The Holy Martyress Liudmila, a Czech (Bohemian) princess, was married to the Czech prince Borivoy. Both spouses received holy Baptism from Saint Methodios, Archbishop of Moravia and Enlightener of the Slavs (Comm. 11 May). As Christians, they showed concerned for the enlightening of their subjects with the light of the true faith, they built churches and invited priests therein to make Divine-services. Prince Borivoy died early at age 36. Saint Liudmila as a widow led an austere pious life and continued to be concerned for the Church during the reign of her son Bratislav, which lasted for 33 years. Bratislav was married to Dragomira, from whom he had a son Vyacheslav. After the death of Bratislav, 18 year old Vyacheslav came on the throne. Taking advantage of the inexperience and youth of her son, Dragomira began to propagate pagan manners and customs in the country. Saint Liudmila of course opposed this. Dragomira came to hate her mother-in-law and tried to destroy her. When Saint Liudmila moved away to the city of Techin, Dragomira sent there two boyars in secret to murder her. At the time Saint Liudmila was praying, and the two assassins entered the house, carrying out Dragomira's orders. The relics of the holy Martyress Liudmila was buried in Techin in the city wall. From her grave there occurred numerous healings. Prince Vyacheslav transferred the body of Saint Liudmila to the city of Prague and placed it in the church of Saint George.
The Holy Martyrs Isaac and Joseph, brothers by birth, were born in the city of Theodosiopolis, or Karna (now Erzerum). Their father was an illustrious Moslem, but their mother -- a Christian. The good and pious woman educated her two sons, and also an older one whose name is uncertain, in the Christian faith. Having reached the age of maturity, all three brothers -- Joseph alone being married -- wanted to depart their Mahometan father in order confess their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ without hindrance. They recoursed by letter to the Byzantine emperor Nicephoros I (802-811), requesting his permission to resettle at Constantinople and to enter into service at his court. Having received a favourable reply from the Christian sovereign, the brothers began to ready themselves for the journey. The eldest soon set out for Constantinople, but Joseph and Isaac were detained by order of the emir of Theodosiopolis. Questioned about the purpose of their journey to Constantinople, the brothers answered, to the surprise of all those present including their father, that they were Christians from the time of their birth and therefore they were fleeing the impious, and wanting to confess freely their own faith. Neither by enticements nor by threats were they able to sway the brave martyrs. Having convened an assembly of officials, the emir sentenced the brothers to death. At the place of execution, on bended knee, Saints Isaac and Joseph offered up prayer to the Lord, after which the executioner chopped off their venerable heads. This occurred in the year 808. Upon the unburied bodies of the holy martyrs by night came down and shone an extraordinarily bright column of light over them. Struck by this sign, the Mahometans the next day besought the Christians of the city to give burial to the bodies of the holy martyrs. Later, at the place of burial of the saints was built a temple and consecrated in the Name of the MostHoly Trinity.
The Monk Procopius was born in Bohemia, in the village of Hotun. In his dignity of priest he toiled much for the propagating of the Christian faith in Czechia. By the River Zasava he founded a monastery in the name of Saint John the Precursor, at which he died in the year 1053.
The Holy Martyresses Vera (Faith), Nadezhda (Hope) and Liubov' (Love) were born in Italy. Their mother, Saint Sophia (Wisdom), was a pious Christian widow. Having named her daughters with the names of the three Christian virtues, Saint Sophia raised them up in love for the Lord Jesus Christ. Saint Sophia and her daughters did not hide their faith in Christ and they openly confessed it before everyone. The official Antiochus made denunciation about them to the emperor Adrian (117-138), who ordered that they be brought to Rome. Realising that they would be taken before the emperor, the holy virgins prayed fervently to the Lord Jesus Christ, asking that He should send them the strength not to fear impending torture and death. When the holy virgins with their mother came before the emperor, everyone present was amazed at their composture: it seemed that they had been called out to some happy festivity, rather than to torture. Summoning the sisters in turn, Adrian urged them to offer sacrifice to the goddess Artemis. The young girls (Vera was 12, Nadezhda was 10 and Liubov' was 9) remained unyielding. Then the emperor gave orders to fiercely torture them: they burned at the holy virgins over an iron grating, they threw them into a red-hot oven and then into a cauldron with boiling tar, but the Lord by His Unseen Power preserved them. The youngest one, Liubov', they tied to a wheel and beat at her with canes, until her body was covered all over with bloody welts. And undergoing unreported torments, the holy virgins glorified their Heavenly Bridegroom and remained steadfast in the faith. They subjected Saint Sophia to another and grievous torture: the mother was forced to look upon the suffering of her daughters. But she displayed adamant courage and during this whole while she urged the girls to endure the torments in the Name of the Heavenly Bridegroom. All three maidens with joy met their martyr's end. They were beheaded.
In order to intensify the inner suffering of Saint Sophia, the emperor decided to let her take up the bodies of her daughters. She placed their remains in coffins and reverently conveyed them on a wagon beyond the city and buried them on an high place. Saint Sophia sat there for three days not leaving the graves of her daughters, and finally she gave up her soul to the Lord. Believers buried her body there also. the relics of the holy martyresses since the year 777 rest at El'zasa, in the church of Esho.
The Holy Martyress Theodotia, a native of Cappadocia, suffered in the city of Nicea during the reign of the emperor Alexander Severus (222-235). At this time the governor of Cappadocia was a certain fellow named Symblicius. They reported to him, that a rich woman named Theodotia was confessing Christ. The governor summoned Theodotia and for a long time urged her to recant from the true faith. Seeing the uselessness of his attempts, he gave Theodotia over to torture: they suspended her and began to tear at her with iron hooks, but she as it were did not sense any suffering. Then they put her in chains and led her away to a prison cell. After 8 days, when they led the saint out for new tortures, there remained on her on faint traces of the tortures already endured. The governor was amazed and asked her: "Who art thou?" The saint answered: "Thine mind is darkened, but if thou were sober, thou would then have recognised, that I am Theodotia". Symblicius commanded the martyress to be cast into a red-hot furnace. Flames shot out from the furnace and scorched those standing nearby, while those remaining unharmed shut the furnace and scattered in fright. After a certain while pagan priests came and opened the furnace so as to scatter the ashes of the martyress, but they too were burned by the flames; those remaining unhurt saw Saint Theodotia unharmed: she stood amidst the flames betwixt two youths in white raiment and was glorifying the Lord. This apparition so terrified the pagans, that they fell down as though dead. Later they again returned the saint to prison.
The invincibility of the martyress gave Symblicius no peace. Having made a journey to Byzantium, on the return trip he stopped over at Ancyra and tried to get the better of Theodotia. He gave orders to throw her all at once onto red-hot iron, but again the martyress remained unharmed. Then Symblicius gave orders that the saint be taken to Nicea. There, in a pagan temple he wanted by force to compel her to offer sacrifice to the idols, but through the prayer of the saint the idols fell and were shattered. The governor in a rage gave orders to stretch the martyress and saw her through, but here also the power of God preserved the saint: the saw caused Theodotia no harm, and the servants became exhausted. Finally, they beheaded the saint. The bishop of Nicea Sophronios buried her body.
Martyr, Bishop of Maestricht, b. at Maestricht between 633 and 638; d. at Liège, between 698 and 701. His parents, who belonged to the nobility, gave him a very religious education, and chose as his preceptor St. Landoaldus, priest of the cathedral church at Maestricht. Later, Lambert received instruction from St. Theodardus (668 or 669), whom he succeeded in 670 as Bishop of Maestricht. During the calamitous days of Ebroin, Mayor of the Palace, Lambert, having defended the interests of King Childeric, was forced to flee from Maestricht. While Pharamundus administered his see, Lambert spent seven years (674-681) in the well-known Abbey of Stavelot, where he edified the monks by his saintly life. In 681 Ebroin received his well-earned retribution, and Pepin of Heristal became mayor of the palace, at first of Austrasia, but in 687 of the whole domain of the Franks. Pepin, who liked Lambert, permitted him to return to Maestricht and resume the administration of his see. Some time later we find Lambert as a missionary in Toxandria, the Kempenland and Brabant of today. In order to spread the Gospel, he descended the River Meuse as far as Tiel and laboured along its banks in company with St. Willibrord, who had come from England in 691. It is very probable that Lambert came in contact with Sts. Wiro, Plechelmus, and Otger, who had built a church and monastery on the Pietersburg, later called the Odilienberg, near Roermond. St. Landrada aided Lambert in founding the Abbey of Munsterbilsen. For several centuries a controversy has been carried on concerning the manner of the saint's death. According to tradition, Lambert became a martyr to his defence of marital fidelity. The Bollandists, Mabillon, Valois, Lecointe, Pagi and others held, however, that the saint was killed by Frankish nobles in revenge for the failure of a plundering expedition. Kurth in 1876 critically examined the centuries-old tradition and, documents in hand, proved beyond further doubt that Lambert was martyred because of his defence of the marriage tie. Pepin of Heristal lived for many years in irreproachable wedlock with the pious Plectrude, who bore him two sons. Later he entered into unlawful relations with Alpais, who became the mother of Charles Martel. When no one had the courage to remonstrate with Pepin, Lambert went to his court like another John the Baptist. Alpais, fearing that Pepin might heed the admonitions of the saint, appealed to her brother Dodo. The latter sought revenge and caused Lambert to be assassinated in the chapel of Sts. Cosmas and Damian, built by St. Monulphus at Liège. His heart was pierced by a javelin while he was at the altar. The servants of the martyr placed his remains in a vessel, descended the Meuse to Maestricht, and buried them in the cemetery of St. Peter, in the vault of his parents, Aper and Herisplindis, beneath the walls of Maestricht. Between 714 and 723, St. Hubert exhumed the remains and had them translated to Liège, whither he had transferred, presumably as early as 723, his episcopal see.
The Holy Martyress Agathoklea was a servant in the home of a certain Christian named Nicholas. His wife Paulina was a pagan. For eight years Agathoklea underwent abuse from her mistress because of her faith. Paulina fiercely beat the servant, and made her walk barefoot over sharp stones. Once in a fit of nastiness Paulina with a blow from an hammer broke her rib, and then cut out her tongue. Nothing was able to make the saint give in to the demand of her mistress -- to worship idols. Then Paulina locked the martyress in prison and exhausted her with hunger. But Agathoklea did not perish: birds brought her food each day. Finally, in a fit of evil, Paulina went to the prison and murdered the holy martyress.
The Holy Martyrs Pelios and Nilos, Bishops of Egypt, Presbyter Zinon, Patermuphias, Ilios and another 151 Martyrs suffered during the reign of the emperor Maximian Galerius (305-311). The majority of them were Egyptians, but there were also some Palestinians among them. The governor of Palestine, Firmilian, arrested 156 Christians. They gouged out the eyes of the holy martyrs, cut the tendons of the feet and subjected them to all manner of tortures. They beheaded 100 of the martyrs, and burned the rest.
The Monk Eumenios from the time of his youth was noted for his virtuous life. He strove to serve the One God and therefore he shunned worldly temptations. Concerned about salvation of soul, he distributed all his substance to the poor. By the blessing of God the Monk Eumenios was chosen and elevated to the dignity of bishop of the Gortineia Church on the Island of Crete. The saint like a compassionate father comforted his flock in their sorrows, and cared for the orphaned and indigent. He prayers were so strong before God, that once during the time of drought he called forth abundant rain upon the earth. Saint Eumenios wisely and zealously defended the Orthodox faith against the then arising Monophysite heresy. For his opposition to the heresy the saint was banished to the Thebaid, where he died in the VII Century. His body was then transferred and buried in Gortineia.
The Holy Martyress Ariadna was a servant of Tertillos, a city-father of Promyssia (Phrygia) during the reign of the emperor Adrian (117-161). One time, when on the occasion of the birth of a son the master made a sacrificial offering to the pagan gods, the Christian Ariadna refused to participate in the impious solemnity. For this they subjected her to beatings, and suspending her, they lacerated her body with sharp iron hooks. Then they threw the martyress into prison and for a long while they exhausted her with hunger, demanding worship to the gods. When they released the saint from prison, she left the city, but Tertillos sent pursuers after her. Seeing that they were chasing her, she ran, calling out to God that He defend her from her enemies. Suddenly through her prayers there opened in the mountain a fissure, and Saint Ariadna hid in it. This miracles brought the pursuers into confusion and fear, and they in their depravity of mind began to strike one another with spears.
The Martyrs Bidjen (Cholokashvili), Shalva and Elizbar of Xana were Gruzian princes who liberated Kakhetia (Eastern Gruzia/Georgia) from the Persians. At the demand of shah Abbas II all three were handed over to him, with the connivance of the Gruzian emperor Vakhtang V (1658-1675), who had accepted Islam and became known under the name Shah-Navaza.
When they brought the holy captives before the shah, then at the typical interrogation they answered, that they were Christians. No one was able to force the conviction of the martyrs to change, standing firm as they did in their confession of faith in Christ. Shah Abbas, trying every which way, including promises, threats and tortures, sent Bidjen, Elizbar and Shalva to the former ruler of Kakhetia, the sultan of Aldaran, who lived then at Ispagana. The sultan, seeing their steadfastness, gave orders that after fierce tortures the heads of Elizbar and Shalva be cut off, and that this be done before the eyes of Bidjen. Bidjen he ordered as a sign of shame to be dressed in prostitute's attire and led through the city on a donkey. When even after this Bidjen wavered not in the faith, they subjected him to new lacerations and torments: his body was broken at the joints, and finally, his venerable head was cut off.
This event happened on 18 September 1660 (by other accounts, the martyrs suffered under shah Sefi, son of Abbas II, in the year 1664). The bodies of the holy martyrs were thrown out in burial pits outside the city. By night a light shone over them, streaming down from the heavens. Seeing this, local Armenians removed and secreted the holy relics in their church. After a certain while the relics were transferred to Kartalin and with reverence buried in the Ikhort monastery near the city of Hora.
Saint Euphrosyne of Suzdal was born in 1212. Although she was a princess, she entered a women's monastery in Suzdal, where she was tonsured with the name Euphrosyne, in honor of St Euphrosyne of Alexandria (September 25).
After her death on September 25, 1250, many miracles took place at her grave. Believers were healed of various infirmities, and their prayers were answered.
On September 18, 1698, with the blessing of Patriarch Adrian, Metropolitan Hilarion of Suzdal glorified the nun Euphrosyne as a saint.
Saint Sophia endured martyrdom with Sts Castor and Irene in Alexandria.
Saint Irene endured martyrdom with Sts Sophia and Castor in Alexandria.
The Holy Martyrs Trophymos, Sabbatios and Dorimedontos suffered for Christ during the reign of the Roman emperor Probus (276-282). One time in the city of Antioch a pagan feastday was being celebrate -- the sacrificial offerings were brought, the wine was poured, and the vile acts were done. The Christians Trophymos and Sabbatios arrived in the city, and with grief looking upon this loud and indecent spectacle, they besought the Lord to guide the errant onto the way of salvation. They were arrested and taken to the governor. At the interrogation, the saints firmly confessed their faith, and to the demand that they renounce their faith, they answered with a resolute refusal. During the time of fierce tortures Saint Sabbatios died, and Saint Trophymos was sent off, for even more terrible tortures, to the city of Synnada to the governor Frigius Dionysius, infamous as a torturer and executioner. Shod in iron sandals with sharp nails, Saint Trophymos for three days went on foot, driven on by a cavalry guard. The skilled torturer used all manners of torture to break the will of the brave Christian -- but Saint Trophymos merely repeated the words of Scripture: "many an affliction hath the righteous one, but from them all wilt the Lord deliver him" (Ps. 33 : 20). They threw the sufferer into prison, where he was visited by a secret Christian -- the senator Dorimedontos. He attended to Saint Trophymos, washing and binding his wounds. When this came to the attention of the torturers, they began to demand Saint Dorimedontos renounce Christianity, and then they threw him together with Saint Trophymos for devouring by wild beasts. But the martyrs remained untouched. Then they beheaded them with the sword.
Holy Nobleborn Prince Theodore (Feodor) of Smolensk and Yaroslavl', nicknamed the "Black" (i.e. "dark" or "swarthy"), was born in years terrible for Rus' -- those of the Mongol invasion, about 1237-1239, and at Baptism he was named after the holy GreatMartyr Theodore Stratilates (Comm. 8 February), who was particularly esteemed by the Russian warrior-princes. And holy Prince Theodore also was destined by God to be famed in the Russian Land by military exploits. In the year 1239, when through the prayers of the MostHoly Mother of God, the holy Warrior-Martyr Merkurii (Comm. 24 November) delivered Smolensk from being captured by Batu, the child Theodore was not in the city: they had taken him away and hidden him in a safe place during the warfare. In the following year of 1240 died his father, prince Rostislav, who was a great-grandson of holy Prince Rostislav of Smolensk and Kiev (+ 1168, Comm. 14 March).
His elder brothers as heirs divided among themselves the lands of their father, allotting to the infant child Theodore the small holding of Mozhaisk. Here passed his childhood, and here he studied Holy Scripture, the church-services and the military art.
In the year 1260 holy Prince Theodore was married to Maria Vasil'evna, daughter of holy Nobleborn Prince Vasilii of Yaroslavl' (+ 1249, Comm. 3 July), and Theodore became prince of Yaroslavl'. From their marriage was born a son Mikhail, but Saint Theodore was soon widowed. He spent much of his time at military efforts and campaigns, and his son was raised by his mother-in-law, princess Xenia.
In the year 1277 the allied forces of the Russian princes, in union with the Tatar forces, took part in a campaign in the Osetian land and in the taking of "its famed city Tetyakov". In this war the allied forces gained a total victory. From the times of Saint Alexander Nevsky (+ 1263, Comm. 23 November), the khans of the Golden Horde -- seeing the uncrushable spiritual and the military strength of Orthodox Rus', were compelled to change their attitude towards it, and they began to draw the Russian princes into alliances, and the khans then turned to them for military assistance. The Russian Church providentially made use of this drawing closer, for the Christian enlightenment of the foreigners. Already in the year 1261, through the efforts of Saint Alexander Nevsky and Metropolitan Kirill III at Sarai, the capital of the Golden Horde, there was established a diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church. In the year 1276, a Constantinople Council presided over by the patriarch John Bekkos (1275-1282) gave reply to questions of the Sarai Russian bishop Theognost about the order for baptising Tatars, and also the receiving into Orthodoxy of the Monophysite and Nestorian Christians among them. During these years also, holy Prince Theodore was at the Horde. Having distinguished himself by military exploits on the Osetian campaign, he gained special favourable attention from khan Mengu-Temir, who regarded the Orthodox Church with respect, and who as khan issued the first "yarlyk" ("decree" or "grant") about church tax-exemption for Metropolitan Kirill. In the chronicles it said: "And prince Feodor Rostislavich the emperor Mengu-Temir and his empress did favour fondly and did not want to permit him return back to Rus' on account of his bravery and the handsomeness of his face". Saint Theodore spent three years at the Horde. Finally, "the emperor did send him off with great honour", and the prince arrived in Yaroslavl'. His wife Maria had already died, and in the city ruled princess Xenia with her grandson Mikhail. The Yaroslavians would not let in the prince returning from the Horde: "not accepting him onto the city but saying to him: "this be the city of princess Xenia and Mikhailo is our prince"".
Saint Theodore had to return to the Horde. The empress, wife of khan Mengu-Temir, "did have exceedingly great fondness for him and did wish for him to give the hand of her own daughter". Such a marriage had tremendous significance for Rus'. For a long time the khan would not consent to this, considering the Russian princes to be "ulusniki" (i.e. "vassals" or "subjects"). To give in marriage his daughter to a Russian prince meant to acknowledge him as an equal in worthiness. And even more important: this meant the khan would acknowledge the primacy of Orthodoxy, since before the wedding rite of crowning it required that the Tatar princess would accept holy Baptism. The khan went along with this, since union with Russia was very important for him: "and he ordered his daughter be given to prince Feodor, and ordered first to baptise her, and he ordered the Orthodox faith not be desecrated". Thus was Saint Theodore married to the daughter of the mighty khan, who was baptised with the name Anna. "The emperor didst esteem exceedingly and commanded him be seated opposite himself, he built him a palace, and gave princes and bolyarini-nobles in retinue".
There at the Horde also were born Saint Theodore's sons -- holy Nobleborn Prince David (+ 1321) and holy Nobleborn Prince Konstantin. The tremendous influence, which Saint Theodore gained at the Horde, he used to the glory of the Russian Land and the Russian Church. Orthodoxy became all the more strengthened amongst the Tatars, and the Horde began to assimilate Russian customs, morals and piety. Russian merchants, architect-builders and skilled craftsmen carried Russian culture to the shores of the Don, the Volga, the Urals and farther even into Mongolia itself. From this period archeologists find Orthodox icons, and crosses and lampadas, throughout all the former territories of the Golden Horde, since included into the makeup of Russia. Thus began a great missionary movement of the Russian Church towards the East, and the enlightening with the light of the Gospel truth of all the tribes -- all the way to the Great Ocean (i.e. the Pacific). Russian Orthodox princes and their retinues, participating as confederates in the Mongol campaigns, learned of and became familiar with the boundless expanses of Asia, Siberia and the Far East. In the year 1330, more than thirty years after the death of Saint Theodore, Chinese chronicles write about Russian retinues in Peking.
Saint Theodore lived in Sarai until 1290, when "news reached him from Rus', from the city of Yaroslavl', that his first son, prince Mikhail, had died". Having bestown the prince rich gifts and a large retinue, the khan sent him back to Rus'. Having become again the prince at Yaroslavl', Saint Theodore began zealously to concern himself over the strengthening and building up of his city and principality. He had an especial love for the monastery of the Transfiguration of the Lord. His fame resounded throughout all Rus', and all the princes sought friendship and alliance with him. But most of all, he was fond of the son of Saint Alexander Nevsky, -- Andrei Aleksandrovich, supporting him in all undertakings, and when this prince Andrei became great-prince of Vladimir, he went with him on military campaigns; he was gladdened over the victories, and he grieved over his being cut down in defeat. In 1296 a bloody fratricidal war was just breaking out between two groups of princes: on the one side was Saint Theodore and Great-prince Andrei, and on the other side -- Saint Michael of Tver (+ 1318, Comm. 22 November) and Saint Daniel of Moscow (+ 1303, Comm. 4 March). But with the help of God the bloodshed was successfully averted. At a Vladimir "sitting of princes" (year 1296) the Vladimir bishop Simeon and the Sarai bishop Izmail managed to bring peace to both sides. This fact, that holy Prince Theodore and the Sarai Vladyka Izmail participated in the sitting, points out that Saint Theodore employed all his diplomatic talents and influence at the Horde, to enable the establishing of peace in the Russian Land.
The connections of Saint Theodore the Black with his paternal origins -- Smolensk, were not sundered, though for him to be prince there would have been complicated. Thus, in the year 1297, Saint Theodore went on a campaign to Smolensk to renew his lawful right to the Smolensk principality, which had been usurped by his nephews. But to take the city and become anew the Smolensk prince did not transpire.
Soon after this campaign the holy warrior-prince took sick. On 18 September 1299 the saint of God gave orders that he be carried to the Saviour-Transfiguration monastery, and there he took monastic tonsure. Towards the end of the ritual, Saint Theodore asked to interrupt the service. With the blessing of the hegumen, and to fulfill the will of the dying prince, they carried him into the monastery courtyard, whither had already come a throng of the Yaroslavl' people. "And the prince did confess before all the people, whether he had sinned against anyone or held ill-feelings against anyone. And whoever had sinned against him or borne him enmity -- he blessed all and begged them pardon and in everything took upon himself the guilt before God and mankind". Only after this did the humble warrior complete his resolve to finish his unusual and much-troubled life's path with the acceptance of the angelic form.
All night the hegumen and the brethren prayed over the holy prince. At the second hour of the night they began to ring for matins. Administered the Holy Mysteries of Christ, Saint Theodore lay silently upon his monk's cot. When the monks began the third "Glory" of the Psalter, he made the sign of the Cross and gave up his soul to the Lord. His appearance at the grave was extraordinary: "Wondrous indeed was the look of the blessed one, upon the cot lay he not as one dead, but as one actually alive. His face did shine like as the rays of the sun, adorned by his venerable grey of hair, witnessing to his purity of soul and heart without malice".
After him at Yaroslavl' ruled his son -- Saint David (+ 1321). The second of his two younger sons, Konstantin, had evidently died earlier. The Church veneration of holy Prince Theodore within the Yaroslavsk lands began soon after his death. During the years 1322-1327, with the blessing and commissioning of the Rostov bishop Prokhor, -- in memory by the Vladyka of the venerable Saint Theodore, -- there was written and adorned with miniatures the reknown Theodorov Gospel. Bishop Prokhor at first had been hegumen of the Saviour-Transfiguration monastery at Yaroslavl'. Actually, he knew the holy prince personally, and was able to be an eye-witness at his tonsure and public repentance before the people. Historians think, that the fine miniatures, sewn into this precious manuscript, had belonged to a rather earlier Gospel, the owner of which had been Saint Theodore the Black himself, and which he had brought with him to Yaroslavl' as a blessing from his native Smolensk.
On 5 March 1463, there were opened at Yaroslavl' the relics of holy Prince Theodore and his sons, David and Konstantin. The chronicler, an eye-witness to the event, recorded under the year: "At the city of Yaroslavl' in the monastery of the Holy Saviour they did bring up three great princes, prince Feodor Rostislavich and his sons David and Konstantin, and above the ground they did lay them. Great-prince Feodor was a man of great stature, and of his sons David and Konstantin they did lay them alongside, and their stature was less than his. They did lay within a single grave". This feature of the physical appearance of the holy prince so struck the senses of the eye-witnesses and those present at the time of the uncovering of the relics, that an account of this was entered into the Prologue's Saints-lives concerning Saint Theodore, and also into the text of the Iconographic Originals.
The Life of holy Prince Theodore the Black was written, shortly after the uncovering of the relics, by the priest-monk Antonii of the Yaroslavsk Saviour monastery, with the blessing of the Metropolitan of Moscow and All Rus', Philip I. Another redaction of the Life was written by Andrei Yur'ev at the Kirillo-Belozersk monastery. A third and most detailed Life of Saint Theodore was included in the "Book of Ranks of Imperial Geneology", compiled under tsar Ivan the Terrible and metropolitan Makarii. The Russian people put together spiritual songs about holy Prince Theodore, which over the span of centuries they sang in "the destitute wanderings". In them, the verses glorify the piety and the right-discernment, the beneficence and kind-heartedness of the saint, and his concern over the building and adorning of churches. The complexity of historical destinies, the roughness of the era, the numerous multitude of enemies -- not personal, but enemies of Russia and the Church, -- stress for us all the more clearly the great exploits of the saintly builders of the Russian Land.
Theodore was a monk (probably of the Basilian Order) but not yet in Holy Orders, living at Rome in 667, when Pope Vitalian chose him for the See of Canterbury in place of Wighard, who had died before consecration. After receiving orders, Theodore was consecrated by the Pope himself, on 26 March, 668, and set out for England, but did not reach Canterbury until May, 669. The new primate found the English Church still suffering from the jealousies and bitterness engendered by the long Paschal controversy, only lately settled, and sadly lacking in order and organization. The dioceses, coterminous with the divisions of the various kingdoms, were of unwieldy size, and many of then were vacant. Theodore, says Bede, at once "visited all the island, wherever the tribes of the Angles inhabited", and was everywhere received with respect and welcome. He made appointments to the vacant bishoprics, regularized the position of St. Chad, who had not been duly consecrated, corrected all that was faulty, instituted the teaching of music and of sacred and secular learning throughout the country, and had the distinction of being, as Bede specifically mentions, "the first archbishop whom all the English obeyed".
In 673 he convoked at Hertford the first synod of the whole province, an assembly of great importance as the forerunner and prototype of future English witenagemotes and parliaments. Going later to the court of the King of Northumbria, which country was entirely under the jurisdiction of St. Wilfrid, he divided it into four dioceses against the will of Wilfrid, who appealed to Pope Agatho. The pope's decision did not acquit Theodore of arbitrary and irregular action, although his plan for the subdivision of the Northumbrian diocese was carried out. For St. Cuthbert in 685, and in the following year he was fully reconciled to Wilfrid, who was restored to his See of York. Thus, before his death, which occurred five years later, Theodore saw the diocesan system of the English Church fully organized under his primatical and metropolitical authority. Stubbs emphasizes the immensely important work done by Theodore not only in developing a single united ecclesiastical body out of the heterogeneous Churches of the several English kingdoms, but in thus realizing a national unity which was not to be attained in secular matters for nearly three centuries.
Apart from the epoch-making character of his twenty-one years' episcopate, Theodore was a man of commanding personality: inclined to be autocratic, but possessed of great ideas, remarkable powers of administration, and intellectual gifts of a high order, carefully cultivated. Practically his only literary remains are the collected decisions in disciplinary matters, well known as "The Penitential of Theodore". It was first published complete by Wasserschleben in 1851, and several editions of it have been printed during the past sixty years. Theodore was buried in St. Augustine's Monastery, Canterbury, a long poetical epitaph, of which Bede has preserved only eight verses, being inscribed upon his tomb.
The Martyr Zosima the Wilderness-Dweller lived during the IV Century. One time while hunting, the governor of Cilicia named Dometian caught sight of the elder, who calmly and amiably conversed with the beasts around him. Seeing the hunters, the beasts fled. They then interrogated the elder, -- who was he and why did he live in the wilderness. The elder answered, that he was called Zosima, that he was a Christian, and that he was not able to live in the city with the enemies of the Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore he lived alone amongst the wild animals. Then Dometian said threateningly: "If thou dost worship the Nazarene, at Nazareth I shalt hand thee over publicly to fierce tortures, and thou wilt renounce Christ". To the question of what kind of magic Zosima used to tame wild beasts, the elder answered only: "I -- am a Christian". At Nazareth the tortures began. They tied the elder head downwards, and to his neck a large stone, and they began to lacerate at his body with iron hooks. The torturers taunted the sufferer: "If the beasts do hearken unto thee, direct one of them to come forth here, and we then will believe in thine God". The holy martyr turned with a prayer to God, and suddenly an huge lion sprang forth. Everyone fled in terror, and the lion went up to the elder, and with its paw began to lift the stone, tied to the neck of the martyr. The governor began to implore the martyr to keep the lion calm, and he gave orders to untie the saint, so as to convey him off to the emperor, but Saint Zosima was already dead, having given up his pure soul to God.
The mid-XII Century was for Rus' a grievous time of incessant internecine strife over the Kiev principality between two princely groupings: the Ol'govichi and the Mstislavichi. They were all close relatives, they were all -- great-grandsons of Yaroslav the Wise. The Mstislavichi were called such after the name of their father -- Saint Mstislav the Great (+ 1132), son of Vladimir Monomakh (from whence their other name: "Monomashichi"). The Ol'govichi were called such after the name of Oleg Svyatoslavich (+ 1115), termed because of his bitter ("gore") fate "Gorislavich". Oleg Gorislavich was the son of the Kiev prince Svyatoslav (+ 1076), -- who participated in the year 1072 in the Transfer of the Relics of the holy Passion-Bearers Boris and Gleb (Vide account under 2 May), and who is of note in the history of the Russian Church as the owner of two of the most remarkable theological collections of this time -- the "Svyatoslav Izbornik [holy fathers selections] of 1073" and the "Izbornik of 1076".
In certain of the old Mesyateslovs (Saint-accounts), even prince Svyatoslav himself was esteemed as a saint of God, but particularly famed were his two grandsons: the Monk Nikola Svyatosha (+ 1143, Comm. 14 October), and Nikola's first-cousin, the son of Oleg Gorislavich -- the holy Martyr Prince Igor Ol'govich (+ 1147).
The Monk Nikola Svyatosha and Saint Igor Ol'govich represent two different paths of Christian sanctity in Ancient Rus'. The Monk Nikola, having given up the world and princely duties, became a simple monk and died peacefully, having spent nearly forty years at the monastery. Saint Igor, by the will of God involved in the struggle for the Kiev principality, by his deed of martyrdom would redeem the legacy of the sin of princely strife.
In the year 1138 the Kiev Great-principality was assumed by Igor's elder brother, Vsevolod Ol'govich (great-grandfather of Saint Michael of Chernigov). Although his rule lasted only but several years and was filled with constant wars, prince Vsevolod considered Kiev as his own dominion to bequeathe [a view partly in conflict with the complex "appanage" system, rotating princes on basis of seniority], and he decided to bequeathe it as an inheritance to his brother Igor. On this he cited the example of prince Vladimir Monomakh and said, almost as if intentionally provoking the Monomashichei: "Vladimir did seat Mstislav, his son, to follow after him in Kiev, and Mstislav -- his brother Yaropolk. And herewith I declare: if God should take me, I then after me give Kiev over to my brother Igor'". But opposes the proud. The haughty words of Vsevolod, whom also the Kievans did not much love, became the pretext for inciting enmity against his brother Igor and all the Ol'govichi. "We want not to be in inheritance" -- resolved the Kievan "veche" (council). The ill-will and arrogance of the prince evoked in response the ill-will and arrogance of the Kievans: Saint Igor, against his will dragged into the very centre of events, became an innocent victim of the growing hatred.
The terrible events unfolded impetuously. On 1 August 1146 prince Vsevolod died, and the Kievans kissed the cross to Igor as their new prince, and Igor kissed the cross to Kiev -- that he would rule the people justly and defend them. But the Kievan boyar-nobles violated their kissing of the cross, and immediately invited the Mstislavichi with their forces. Beneathe Kiev occurred a battle between the forces of Prince Igor and those of Izyaslav Mstislavich. Once again breaking their oath given in kissing the cross, the Kievan forces in the height of battle went over to the side of Izyaslav. For four days Igor Ol'govich hid himself in the marshes about Kiev. Then they took him captive, and took him to Kiev and put him in the "blockhouse". This was on 13 August, and the whole of his time as prince lasted but two weeks.
In the "blockhouse" ("porub" -- this was a dank log house, without windows or doors; in order for a man to get free, it was necessary to "vyrubit'" ("chop") him out from there), the much-suffering Igor fell grievously ill. They thought that he was dead. Under these conditions the enemies of the prince decided "to chop him out" from imprisonment and have him tonsured a schema-monk at the Kiev Theodorov monastery. With the help of God the prince recovered health and, remaining a monk at the monastery, he spent his time at tears and prayer.
The struggle for Kiev continued. Incited by pride and blind hatred, neither one of the sides wanted to give in. Wanting to wipe out the line of the Ol'govichi, and at the same time all its princes, the Kievan veche-council in the following year set about to do away with the prince-monk.
The metropolitan and the clergy tried to reason with them and stop them. The prince ruling at Kiev, Izyaslav Mstislavich, and in particular his brother Vladimir, tried to avert this senseless bloodshed, and indeed to save the holy martyr, but they themselves were in danger from the vicious mob.
The mob rushed into church during the time of the Holy Liturgy, they grabbed hold of Igor who was praying before the icon of the Mother of God, and they dragged him out to massacre him. Prince Vladimir halted the mob at the gates of the monastery. Igor said to him: "Yoi, brother, wilt thou forsake me?" Vladimir jumped down from his horse, wanting to help, and covered him with his "korzno" (princely cloak) while saying to the Kievans: "Brethren, no murder!". "And Vladimir did lead Igor' to the palace of his mother, and they began to rush forth against Vladimir". Thus reports the chronicle. Vladimir succeeded in pushing Igor into the palace and locking the gates. But the people broke down the gates, and catching sight of Igor "in the lofts" (closed gallery on the second floor in old Kievan garretts), they smashed open the loft, dragging down the holy martyr and murdering him on the lower steps of the stairway. The vicious mob was so intense, that they subjected the dead body of the sufferer to further beatings and abuse, and they dragged him with ropes to his feet to the Desyatina (Tithe) church, and then having thrown him on a cart, they went off with it and "hung him up in the marketplace".
Thus did the holy martyr give up his spirit to the Lord, "and he did take off the perishable robe of mankind, and was clothed in the imperishable and much-suffering robe of Christ". When on the evening of the same day the body of Blessed Igor was transferred to the church of Saint Michael, "God did manifest a great sign, and the candles over him were set alight in this church". On the second morning the holy sufferer was buried in the monastery of Saint Simeon, on the outskirts of Kiev.
In the year 1150 the Chernigov prince Svyatoslav Ol'govich transferred the relics of his brother, Saint Igor, to Chernigov and put them in the Saviour cathedral. The wonderworking icon of the Mother of God, named the Igorevsk, -- before which the martyr prayed before his murder, is located in the Great Uspenie church of the Kievo-Pechersk Lavra (celebration of the icon is 5 June).
The Holy GreatMartyr Eustathius before Baptism had the name "Placidus" [meaning "placid" or "calm" in Latin]. He was a military commander under the emperors Titus (79-81) and Trajan (98-117). Even before he came to know Christ, Placidus did acts of charity, helping the poor and destitute. And the Lord deigned not to leave the virtuous pagan remain within the darkness of idol-worship.
One time ahunting he chased upon his speedy mount after a stag, which halted its run atop an high hill, and Placidus suddenly saw amidst its antler-rack a radiant Cross, and upon it -- the Crucified Son of God. In surprise Placidus heard a voice saying: "Why pursuest thou Me, Placidus?" "Who art Thou, Master, Who dost speak with me?" -- in fright asked Placidus. In reply he heard: "I -- am Jesus Christ, God, Who wast incarnated for the salvation of mankind and didst endure voluntary suffering and death by the Cross. Thou honourest Me even without knowing Me, since thy good deeds and abundant alms art come to Me. I have appeared here, to convert and to conjoin thee unto Mine true servants. For I want, that the man working righteous deeds, shouldst not perish in the snares of enemies".
Placidus cried out: "Lord, I do believe that Thou -- art the God of Heaven and earth, the Creator of all creatures. I beseech Thee, O Master, teach me what I should do". And again resounded the Divine voice: "Go thou unto the Christian priest, receive from him Baptism, and he wilt instruct thee unto salvation".
With joy Placidus returned home, and told everything to his wife. She in turn told him, how the evening before in a mysterious dream-vision she had been told: "Thou, thy husband and thy sons on the morrow shalt come unto Me and know Me -- Christ Jesus, the True God, sent unto the salvation of those that do love Me". The spouses then proceeded to do as they had been bidden.
They hastened to the Christian presbyter, who baptised all their family, and communed all with the Holy Mysteries.
On the following day Saint Eustathius set out to the place of his miraculous conversion and in fervent prayer he offered up thanks to the Lord, for having called him onto the path of salvation.
And again Saint Eustathius was vouchsafed a miraculous revelation -- the Lord Himself foretold him about impending tribulations: "Eustathius, thou mustneeds prove thine faith in deeds. Before thee, like unto Job, art many a sorrow, so that being put to the test like gold in the forge, thou be shewn worthy of Me and receive the crown from My hands". Saint Eustathius humbly answered: "Thy will be done, O Lord. I am prepared to accept all things at Thine hands with gratitude, but let Thine almighty help be with me".
Soon Saint Eustathius was plunged into misfortune: all his servants died and his cattle perished. Brought to ruin, but not despairing in spirit, Saint Eustathius with his family secretly abandoned their home, to live unknown, humble and in poverty. He set off on a ship to Egypt. During the time of sailing a new woe beset the saint. The ship owner, enchanted by the beauty of the wife of Eustathius, cruelly set him ashore with his children, keeping the wife for himself. In great grief the saint continued on his way, and new woe beset him. Crossing a tempestuous river ford, he went to carry in turn his two sons, but when he had carried across the one, the other on shore was seized by a lion and carried off into the wilderness, and while he returned towards the other, a wolf dragged that one off into the forest.
Having lost everything, Saint Eustathius wept bitterly. But he realised, that Divine Providence had sent him these misfortunes, to test his endurance and devotion to the will of God. In prayer lifting up to God his inconsolable grief, Saint Eustathius went on further, prepared for new tribulations. In the village of Badiss he found work and spent five years in unremitting toil. But Saint Eustathius did not then know, that through the mercy of God shepherds and farmers had saved his sons, and they lived right nearby him; he also did not know, that the impudent shipowner was soon struck down -- he died from a terrible disease, and the wife of Saint Eustathius had been left untouched, and she lived at peaceful work.
During this time period it had become difficult for the emperor Trajan to levy an army for Rome. He then remembered the valiant regimental commander Placidus and dispatched Antiochus and Acacius, friends of Placidus, to find him.
Having gone round a multitude of places, finally they arrived in the village, where Saint Eustathius lived. The soldiers came upon Eustathius in a field, where he was guarding the bread-grain, but they did not recognise him and they began to tell him about the one whom they sought, asking his help and promising a large reward. But Saint Eustathius, immediately recognising his friends, did not reveal to them his identity. He brought them to the home of his master and fed them. Gazing at him, the travellers noted that he very much resembled their regimental commander, and when they saw on his knee a peculiar mark -- the scar from a deep war wound, they realised that in front of them -- was their friend. They hugged him with tears and said why they were seeking him. Saint Eustathius returned to Rome and again became an imperial commandant. Many a new recruit entered the army for him, and he did not know, that the two young soldier-friends, to whom he often gave orders and whom he loved for their skill and daring, were actually his own sons, and they did not know, that they were serving under the command of their own father, nor that they each the other -- were brothers by birth.
One time while on campaign the army, led by Eustathius, halted at a certain settlement. The soldier-brothers were talking in their tent. The elder one spoke about his lot: how he had lost his mother and hapless brother, and how in a terrifying way he had been parted from his father. And the younger brother with joy realised, that in front of him was his very own brother, and told him so and also about himself.
A woman overheard the soldiers' conversation -- their tent was pitched right next to her house -- and this woman was their mother! She realised that these were her sons. Still not yet identifying herself to them, and not wanting to be separated from them, she went to their commander -- Saint Eustathius, to ask permission to follow along with his army. And this commander she recognised as her husband, and with tears she told him about herself and about the two soldiers, who were actually their sons. Thus, through the great mercy of the Lord, the whole family was happily reunited.
Soon thereafter the war ended in victory. Saint Eustathius returned to Rome with honours and glory. The emperor Trajan had since died, and his successor Adrian (117-138) wanted to celebrate the event of victory with a solemn offering of sacrifice to the gods. To the astonishment of everyone Saint Eustathius did not show up at the pagan temple. By order of the emperor they searched frantically for him.
"Why wishest thou not to worship the gods? -- enquired the emperor, -- It becomest thee before all others to offer up thanks unto them. They not only preserved thee in war and granted thee victory, but also they did help thee find thy wife and children". Saint Eustathius replied: "I -- am a Christian and I know as the One God Christ Jesus, I revere and give thanks to Him, and I worship Him. He hath given me everything: health, victory, He returned my family and hath sent down His help unto the overcoming of tribulations".
In a rage the emperor stripped him of his rank and summoned him with his family to trial. But there also they did not succeed in swaying the steadfast confessors of Christ into offering sacrifice to idols. The whole family of Saint Eustathius was sentenced to be torn apart by wild beasts. But the beasts would not touch the holy martyrs. Then the cruel emperor in his wrath gave orders to throw them all alive into a red-hot copper ox, and here Saint Eustathius, his wife Theopistia and their sons Agapius and Theopistus, accepted a martyr's end. Three days later they opened the fiery grave, and the bodies of the holy martyrs were found unscathed -- not one hair on their heads was singed, and their faces shone with an unearthly beauty. Many seeing this miracle came to believe in Christ. Christians then gave burial to the bodies of the saints.
The Holy Nobleborn Prince of Chernigov Michael, son of Vsevolod Ol'govich the Dark-Red (+ 1212), was noted from childhood for his piety and mildness. He had very poor health, but hoping on the mercy of God, the young prince in 1186 besought the holy prayers of the Monk Nikita of Pereyaslavl' the Pillar-Dweller (Comm. 24 May), who during these years received reknown by his prayerful intercession before the Lord. Having received a wooden staff from the holy ascetic, the prince at once was healed. In 1223 noble prince Michael took part in a meeting of Russian princes at Kiev, deliberating the question of whether to aid the Polovetsians against the approaching Mongol-Tatar hordes. With the perishing in the Battle at the Kalka River in 1223 of his uncle, Mstislav of Chernigov, Saint Michael became prince of Chernigov. In 1225 he was invited to be prince for the Novgorod people. Through his sense of justice, compassion and firmness he gained the love and respect of Old Novgorod. This was particularly important for the Novgorodians, in that the ascent of Michael as prince signified a reconciliation of Novgorod with the city of Vladimir holy nobleborn GreatPrince Georgii Vsevolodovich (Comm. 4 March), the wife of whom was the holy princess Agathia, sister of prince Michael.
But Saint Michael did not long remain prince at Novgorod. He soon returned to his native Chernigov. To the stipulations and requests of the Novgorodians to remain prince he answered, that Chernigov and Novgorod ought to become kindred lands, and their inhabitants -- like brothers, and he would forge the bonds of friendship of these cities.
The noble prince assiduously concerned himself with the building up of his appenage realm. But it was difficult for him in these troubled times. His activity provoked unease in the Kursk prince Oleg, and in 1227 internecine strife nearly erupted -- save that the Kiev metropolitan Kirill (Cyril, 1224-1233) reconciled them. And in this same year prince Michael peacefully resolved a dispute between the Kiev GreatPrince Vladimir Rurikovich and the Galich prince.
In 1235 noble prince Michael occupied the Kiev great-princely throne.
Troublesome times ensued. In 1238 the Tatars (Mongols) laid waste to Ryazan, Suzdal', Vladimir. In 1239 they moved against South Russia, and ravaged the left-bank of the Dniepr River, the Chernigov and Pereyaslavl' lands. By autumn of 1240 the Mongols were coming nigh to Kiev. The khan's emissaries proposed that Kiev surrender voluntarily, but the noble prince would not negotiate with them. Prince Michael rode urgently to Hungary, to persuade the Hungarian king Bela to organise allied forces to resist the common enemy. Saint Michael tired to recruit into the struggle against the Mongols both Poland, and the German emperor. But the moment for a combined resistance was lost: Rus' was devastated, and later in turn Hungary and Poland. Having received no foreign support, noble prince Michael returned to the ruins of Kiev and for a certain while he lived not far from the city on an island, and then he resettled to Chernigov.
The prince did not abandon hope in the possibility of an united Christian Europe against the Asiatic nomads. In 1245 at a Lyons Council in France was present as emissary, sent by Saint Michael, his co-worker the metropolitan Peter (Akerovich), calling for a crusade to march against the pagan Horde. Catholic Europe in the persons of its chief spiritual leaders, the Roman pope and the German emperor, betrayed the interests of Christianity. The pope was involved in a war with the German emperor, and the Germans indeed took advantage of the Mongol invasion, to attack Rus' themselves.
In these circumstances affecting Christianity in general, there is an universal significance to the confessor's deed of the Orthodox prince-martyr Saint Michael of Chernigov amidst the pagan Horde. In Rus' soon appeared emissaries of the khan, in order to carry out a census of the Russian population and to impose tribute-taxes upon it. From the prince was demanded full submission to the Tatar khan, and for his princely realm -- the khan's special permission of a charter ("yarlyk"). The emissaries informed prince Michael, that it was necessary for him to set off in journey to the Horse for an affirmation of rights to rule the princedom under the khan's yarlyk. Seeing the woeful plight of Rus', noble prince Michael recognised the need to obey the khan, but as a fervent Christian he knew, that he would not abjure his faith before the pagans. From his spiritual father, the bishop John, he received blessing to journey to the Horde and be there a true confessor of the Name of Christ.
Together with holy prince Michael on the journey to the Horde went his faithful friend and companion, the boyar-noble Theodore (Feodor). At the Horde they knew about the attempts of prince Michael to organise an uprising against the Tatars concurrently with Hungary and the other European powers. His enemies had long sought the opportunity to destroy him. In 1246 when noble prince Michael and the boyar Theodore arrived at the Horde, they were ordered on how to go to the khan, to proceed through a flaming bon-fire, to cleanse them of their evil intents, and to worship the primal-elements considered gods by the Mongols: the sun and fire. In answer to the pagan-priests commanding them to perform the pagan rituals, the holy prince replied: "A Christian doth worship only God, the Creator of the world, and not creatures". They reported to the khan about the unyielding of the Russian prince. Batu's attendant El'deg delivered the conditions: either fulfill the demands of the pagan priests, or die unyielding in torments. But this also was followed by the resolute answer of holy prince Michael: "I am prepared to submit to the emperor, since that God hath entrusted him with the destiny of the earthly kingdoms, but as a Christian, I cannot worship idols". The fate of the brave Christians was sealed. Taking courage in the words of the Lord: "Whoso wouldst to save their soul, shalt lose it, and whoso shalt lose their soul for My sake and the Gospel, that one wilt save it" (Mt. 8: 35-38), the holy prince and his devoted boyar prepared for a martyr's end and communed the Holy Mysteries, which their spiritual father foreseeing this gave them. The Tatar executioners seized hold of the noble prince and for a long time they beat him fiercely, until the ground ran crimson with blood. Finally one of the apostates from the faith in Christ, by the name of Daman, cut off the head of the holy martyr.
To the boyar Saint Theodore, if he were to fulfill the pagan ritual, the Tatars deceitfully began to promise the princely honours of the martyred sufferer. But Saint Theodore was not swayed by this -- he followed the example of his prince. After quite vicious torments they beheaded him. The bodies of the holy passion-bearers were thrown for devouring by dogs, but the Lord miraculously guarded them for several days, until faithful Christians could secretly bury them with reverence. Later on the relics of the holy martyrs were transferred to Chernigov.
The confessor's act of Saint Theodore amazed even his executioners. Persuaded of the steadfast keeping to the Orthodox faith by the Russian people, and their readiness to die with joy for Christ, the Tatar khans decided not to try the patience of God as before, and they ceased demanding of Russians at the Horde any outright fulfilling of pagan rituals. But the struggle of the Russian nation and the Russian Church against the Mongol Yoke continued for yet a long time. The Orthodox Church was embellished in this struggle by new martyrs and confessors. GreatPrince Theodore (Feodor, + 1246) was poisoned by the Mongols. Also martyred were Saint Roman of Ryazan (+ 1270), Saint Michael of Tver' (+ 1318), his sons Dimitrii (+ 1325) and Alexander (+ 1339). All of these took courage at the example and holy prayers of the Russian FirstMartyr at the Horde --Saint Michael of Chernigov.
On 14 February 1572, at the wish of tsar Ivan Vasil'evich the Terrible, and with the blessing of the metropolitan Antonii, the relics of the holy martyrs were transferred to Moscow, into the temple dedicated to their name. From there in 1770 they were transferred into the Visitation (Sretenie) cathedral, and on 21 November 1774 -- into the Archangel cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin.
The Lives and service to Saints Michael and Theodore were compiled in the mid-XVI Century by the reknown church writer, the monk Zinovii of Otonsk.
"The lineage of the righteous wilt be blest", -- says the holy Psalmodist David. This occurred in full measure for Saint Michael. He is at the head of many a famous family-line in Russian history. His children and grandchildren continued with the holy Christian service of Saint Michael. The Church enumerated to the ranks of the saints his daughter -- the Nun Evphrosynia of Suzdal' (Comm. 25 September), and his grandson -- holy nobleborn Oleg of Bryansk (Comm. 20 September).
Holy Nobleborn Prince Oleg Romanovich of Bryansk (in Baptism Leontii) was grandson of the holy Martyr-prince Michael of Chernigov. According to the chronicle histories it is known, that noble prince Oleg in 1274 together with his father, prince Roman Mikhailovich of Bryansk, participated in a war against Lithuania. After 1274 he resigned as prince and took monastic vows with the name Vasilii at the Bryansk Petropavlovsk monastery, built on his means. At this monastery the holy nobleborn prince died as a strict ascetic in about the year 1285 and was buried in the monastery church.
The Holy Disciple from the Seventy Codratus preached the Word of God at Athens and at Magnezia (eastern peninsula of Thessaly), and was bishop of Athens. He converted many pagans to the true faith in Christ the Saviour. His preaching aroused the hatred of unswayable pagans. One time an angry mob fell upon the disciple to pelt him with stones. Preserved by God, the Disciple Codratus remained alive, and they threw him into prison, where he died from starvation. His holy body was buried in Magnezia.
In the year 126 the Disciple Codratus wrote an Apologia in defence of Christianity. Presented by him to the emperor Adrian (117-138), the Apologia thus affected the persecution of Christians, since the emperor issued a decree, prescribing not to convict anyone without proof. This Apologia was known in the IV Century to the historian Eusebios. At the present time only part of this Apologia is known, quoted by Eusebios: "The deeds of our Saviour were always witnessed, because they were true. The healings by Him and the raisings-up from the dead were visible not only when they were healed and raised up, but always. They lived not only during the existence of the Saviour upon the earth, but they remained alive sufficiently long also after His departure; some indeed have survived to our present time".
Sainted Dimitrii, Metropolitan of Rostov, arrived at the Rostov cathedral in 1702, and he first of all visited the monastery of Sainted Jakov, Bishop of Rostov (Comm. 27 November and 23 May). At the cathedral church in honour of the Conception of the MostHoly Mother of God he made liturgy, after which before all those present in the temple he pointed out on the right side the place of his future burial with the words: "Behold my repose, here settle I for eternity". Sainted Dimitrii reposed on 28 October 1709 (the account about his life is located under this day). Contrary to the wishes of the saint, expressed in his will, the clergy and people of Rostov requested the locum-tenens of the patriarchal throne, the Metropolitan of Ryazan Stefan Yavorsky, -- who arrived for the funeral, to make the burial at the cathedral church of the city, alongside the predecessor of Saint Dimitrii, Sainted Joasaph. Metropolitan Stefan, keeping to the will of his deceased friend, insisted on burial of the body of Saint Dimitrii at the designated spot. However, until the arrival of Metropolitan Stefan the place of burial had not been prepared, although from the day of death about a month had elapsed. Owing to the urgent departure of Metropolitan Stefan from Rostov, into the dug-out grave was made an hastily constructed wooden frame, in which on 25 November the body of the saint was buried. This circumstance, foreseen by the Providence of God, led to a quick uncovering of the relics. In 1752 repairs were being done at the cathedral church of the monastery, and on 21 September during repair of the torn-up floor was discovered the undecayed body of Saint Dimitrii. The place of burial was affected by dampness, the oaken coffin and the writing on it were decayed, but the body of the saint, and even the omophor, sacchos, mitre and silken rosary were preserved uncorrupt. After the uncovering of the holy relics many healings were worked, about which report was made to the Synod, -- by the order of which there arrived at Rostov the Suzdal' Metropolitan Sylvester and the Simonovsk archimandrite Gavriel for an examination of the relics of saint Dimitrii and the incidents of miraculous healings. There resulted an ukaz (decree) of the Synod of 29 April 1757 concerning the enumeration to the ranks of the saints of Sainted Dimitrii, Metropolitan of Rostov, and feastdays established for 28 October (the day of repose) and 21 September (the day of uncovering of the relics).
The Monk Daniel of Shuzhgorsk was born in the Moscow dominion in the XVI Century. He asceticised in northern Rus', where he took vows at the Komel'sk monastery, founded by the Monk Kornilii of Komel'sk in 1498. The Monk Daniel left the monastery and continued solitary ascetic life in the unpopulated and forested locale of the Belozersk hinterland, on a mountain named Shuzhgor. Here the holy ascetic founded his monastery in honour of the Transfiguration of the Lord. The Monk Daniel was buried at a temple in honour of the Transfiguration of the Lord at the monastery founded by him. In 1764 the monastery was turned into a parish.
The Monk Joseph of Zaonikievsk, was in the world Ilarion, a pious peasant from the village of Obukhovo Kubensk in the region of the Vologda gubernia. For a long time he suffered an illness of eyesight and he fervently prayed for the help of the Lord, to the MostHoly Mother of God and to the Saints, in particular the holy Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian. His prayer was heard, and in 1588, by revelation of Saint Cosmas, the Monk Joseph went into the forest into a swampy place, to an icon of the Mother of God, from which he received healing. In gratitude the monk cleared a forest thicket at the place of the appearance of the wonderworking icon and built a chapel, in which he put the icon. He himself settled close by, taking the monastic form with the name of Joseph. Afterwards, with the blessing of Sainted Antonii, Bishop of Vologda, on the place of Joseph's ascetic exploits emerged the Zaonikiev monastery, called such from the name of the brigand Aniki who once dwelt in this forest. When the monastery expanded and the number of monks grew, upon the advice of the Monk Joseph, Antonii was chosen as hegumen. Joseph himself out of humility did not accept the leadership and, having concealed from the others his own strict exploits, he was perceived as a fool-for-Christ, -- he stood on his feet at prayer in his chapel, and in the fierce cold he went about barefoot.
The Monk Joseph reposed on 21 September 1612 at age 83, and was buried in the monastery founded by him.
The Priestmartyr Ipatios, Bishop of Ephesus, and the Presbyter Andrew suffered in the VIII Century under the iconoclast emperor Leo the Isaurian (717-741). In youth they studied together in one of the monasteries. Saint Ipatios accepted monasticism, and Saint Andrew became a clergyman and zealously taught people the Christian faith. When the emperor Leo the Isaurian began to persecute those who venerated holy icons, and the holy icons were thrown out from the churches, to trample underfoot and burn, Saints Ipatios and Andrew rose up in defence of icon-veneration, urging their flock to maintain faithfulness to Orthodoxy. The emperor, wanting to persuade the saints, summoned them to him and arranged a disputation about icon-veneration, at which Saints Ipatios and Andrew were consistently able to defend the Orthodox veneration of icons. They threw the martyrs into prison and for a long time they held them there, hoping, that this would force the saints to renounce their convictions, but the saints remained steadfast. Then the emperor gave orders to torture the martyrs. They beat them, flayed the skin with hair from their heads, smeared their beards with tar and set it afire, and upon the heads of the martyrs they burned holy icons. The saints with endurance bore all the tortures and remained alive. The emperor gave orders to drag the saints through the city for mockery from the people and only after this to kill them. They threw the bodies of Saints Ipatios and Andrew for devouring by dogs, but believers reverently gave them burial.
The Priestmartyr Phocas was born in the city of Sinope. From youth he led a virtuous Christian life, and in his adult years he was elevated to bishop of Sinope. Sainted Phocas converted many pagans to faith in Christ. At the time of a persecution against Christians under the emperor Trajan (98-117), the governor demanded the saint to renounce Christ. After fierce torture they closed Saint Phocas into an hot bath, where he died a martyr's death in the year 117.
In the year 404 the relics of the saint were transferred to Constantinople (Commemoration of the Transfer of Relics is 22 July).
The Priestmartyr Phocas is especially venerated as a defender against fires, but also as giving aid to the drowning.
The Holy Prophet Jonah lived in the VIII Century before the Birth of Christ and was a successor of the Prophet Elisha. The Book of the Prophet Jonah is included in the compilation of the Bible and has prophecies about the judgements on the Israelite nation, the sufferings of the Saviour, the downfall of Jerusalem, and the end of the world. Besides the prophecies, in the Book of Jonah is related, how he was sent to the Ninevites with a preaching of repentance (Jon. 3: 3-10).
Our Lord Jesus Christ, in conversation with the Scribes and the Pharisees demanding a sign from Him, said that no sign would be given, save for the sign of the Prophet Jonah: "As Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so also shalt the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights (Mt. 12: 40). From these words the Lord shows clearly the symbolic meaning of the Book of the Prophet Jonah in relation to the Death on the Cross, the Descent into Hell, and the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Reproaching the lack of penitence and recalcitrance of the Jews, the Lord said: "The Ninevites shalt rise up to judgement with this generation and wilt condemn it -- wherein that they had repented themselves from the preaching of Jonah; and here, is He greater than Jonah" (Mt. 12: 41).
The Monk Jonah the Presbyter, Father of Saints Theophanes the Composer of Canons (Comm. 11 October) and Theodore the Scribe (Comm. 27 December), lived in Palestine at the late VIII to early IX Centuries. The Monk Jonah lived a virtuous and holy life. He had two sons -- glorified afterwards for their martyr's confession of Orthodoxy during the time of the Iconoclast heresy. After the death of his spouse, Saint Jonah withdrew to the Laura of the Monk Sava the Sanctified (Comm. 5 December), where both his sons earlier had taken monastic vows. The Monk Jonah dwelt at the Laura until his death in the IX Century. The Lord bestowed upon His saint the gift of graced healing.
The Holy Martyr Phocas the Gardener came from the city of Sinope, situated on the southern shore of the Black Sea. Having a small garden, he lived modestly: he sold what he grew and on the proceeds he maintained himself, he helped the needy and paid the housing of vagrants. The Christian piety of the saint had an influence on other people. Even pagans deferred to him with deep respect. Under his influence they often abandoned their error and accepted the Christian faith.
But the governor of the district, aware that Saint Phocas was spreading Christian teachings, gave orders to find and kill him. The saint himself accidentally came upon those sent after him, and not mentioning his name he courteously received them, dined them and prepared them a place for night-lodging. At night he went into the garden, he prepared a grave and the place for his burial; he even was able to make arrangements that all his possessions would be distributed after death to the poor. In the morning Saint Phocas declared to the strangers that it was he here for whom they were searching. And he asked that they fulfill the duty entrusted to them. The visitors were distressed, not wanting to kill the kindly saint, they felt honour bound to spare Saint Phocas. But he would not hear of their good intent and bent down humbly his head beneathe the sword.
They buried the holy Martyr Phocas in the grave that he himself had prepared in the garden. The place of his burial was glorified by miracles, and later a church was built there. An accurate account of the martyr's death was collected by Asterios of Amasia (+ c. 410), through the testimony of whom the memory of the holy Martyr Phocas is especially venerated by sea-farers.
Saint Peter, formerly a Publican, was the chief collector of taxes in Africa in the service of the emperor Justinian (527-565). He was a cruel and merciless man. One day he threw a morsel of bread to a beggar incessantly begging alms. By night in a dream Peter saw himself as having died and there, -- how the holy Angels weighed his deeds on the scale of the righteous judgement of God. On the side of good deeds nothing was placed except a morsel of bread, annoyedly thrown to the beggar, but this halted the opposite side being pulled down by vicious deeds. Peter pondered the meaning of the dream, and having repented, he completely changed his life. He liberally distributed alms to the needs, and fed and clothed many. On day in a dream Peter saw Jesus Christ. The Lord was dressed in clothes which the saint once gave to a beggar. Peter thereupon distributed his substance to the poor and ordered his slave to sell him himself into slavery and to give the money to the poor. The slave carried out the order of his master. for many years Saint Peter worked diligently and humbly for his master. One day he was recognised by tradesmen, to whom he had been known earlier. They told the master who his servant was. Having overheard this conversation, the saint quickly fled from the city. In departing, he worked a miracle: the gatekeeper slave, a deaf-mute, received from the righteous Peter the command to open the gates in the Name of Jesus Christ. He fulfilled the command and at once had his hearing and speech. He rushed around everywhere to tell his master and added moreover, that from the mouth of the saint, when he commanded him to open the gates, fire came forth touching his face, after which he began to hear and speak. Everyone set out to look for Peter, but the search proved in vain: the saint hid and until his death remained hidden.
The Vita (Life) of Saint Peter was passed along by Sainted John the Merciful, Patriarch of Alexandria (Comm. 12 November), who in turn knew it from a man personally acquainted with the saint.
The Monk Jona of Yashezersk was born in the village of Shoksha, 16 versts from the monastery afterwards established by him. The beginning of the monastery took place in 1580, when a wooden church was built in honour of the Annunciation of the MostHoly Mother of God, and eight monks joined together with the monk for their joint ascetic deeds.
The Monk Jona toiled with great concern over the building up of the monastery. Thus for example, in order to ease the catching of fish, he himself dug across a channel-ditch from Yashozero to the nearby Lake Senno. He often rode atop horseback along the solitary paths of the forest in search of necessities for the monastery. The ascetic made vessels from wood for use at the time of Divine services. In time the monk became known for his holy life far beyond the bounds of the monastery. Many pilgrims brought in gift things, among which also were Church service books. The boundaries of the monastery expanded, and the number of churches increased. Profound love and reverence were had towards the ascetic by the Novgorod Metropolitan Isidor, by the hegumen of the Solovetsk monastery Jakov and the Monk Irinarch (Comm. 17 July), and likewise by many other contemporaries.
The Monk Jona died at the end of the XVI Century and was buried in the Annunciation monastery founded by him.
The Monk Kozma, Hermit of Zographia, was a Bulgarian. In his youth he avoided entering into marriage, and left secretly from his parents for Holy Mount Athos. Then already on his way to the Holy Mountain, the devil tried to rattle the yearning of the youth, vexing him with an apparition of the infinite abyss of the sea, surrounding the Holy Mountain. The fervent prayer of the youth dispelled the demonic temptation. On Athos Saint Kozma was accepted in the Zographia monastery. There he was for a long time a novice, and then he took monastic vows and was appointed ecclesiarch [ie. kliuchar' or church-doorman]. Saint Kozma received a special mercy to be a secret-seer of the Heavenly Hegumeness Herself of Mount Athos, Who on the feast of the Annunciation at the Batopedeia monastery deigned to reveal to him a glimpse of Her care for Her earthly appanage: he saw a Woman of royal majesty and grandeur, Who attended to both in church for services, and in refectory, and all the monks were Her obedients and servers. Soon the saint was ordained to deacon, and then to presbyter, which moved him to new exploits. Zealous for salvation, the saint through fervent prayer to the MostHoly Mother of God was granted a particular sign of Her especial patronage: he heard the voice of the Mother of God, issuing from Her holy icon and asking Her Son: "How wilt Kozma be saved?" The answer of the Lord was suchlike: "Let him withdraw from the monastery into silence". Having besought the blessing of the monastic head, Saint Kozma withdrew into the wilderness, and there in a cave, cut into a cliff, he began his new deed of silent seclusion. God did not forsake the faithful man of prayer: the saint was granted the gift of perspicacity.
Just as at the start of his ascetic life, the enemy of the race of mankind again tried to dissuade the saint from his intended path, and so also the final days before the death of the righteous one were for him a grievous trial. Not long before the death of God's chosen one, he was granted a vision of Christ Himself, Who informed the saint that before his soul would expire to the heavenly Kingdom, satan himself with his hosts would beat and gnash at him. Prepared for the suffering by the Divine solace, the saint bravely underwent the permitted by God terrible demonic assault and on the third day after furious beatings, having communed the All-Pure Mysteries, and with words of praise on his lips, he peacefully expired to the Lord. God, "glorifying those that do glorify Him", miraculously at death also glorified the Monk Kozma: at the time of the burial of the saint there flocked to his cave a multitude of beasts and birds, as though sensing the common loss of the Holy Mountain, and when they put the body in the grave and began to cover it over with ground, each of the speechless creatures let out a mournful cry, bestowing final respect to the saint of God. When, by custom, 40 days afterwards after the all-night vigil the brethren opened the holy remains of the saint, so as to transfer them with honour to the monastery, in miraculous manner they were not to be found -- the Lord hid them. This occurred in the year 1323.
The holy Prophet Malachi prophesied that before the Messiah would appear His Forerunner, who would indicate His coming. The Jews therefore in awaiting the Messiah also awaited the appearance of His Forerunner. In a city of the hills of Judea in the land of Palestine lived the righteous priest Saint Zachariah and his wife Saint Elizabeth, assiduously observing the commandments of the Lord. The couple however had a misfortune: getting up in years they remained childless and they prayed unceasingly to God, that He should grant them a child. One time, when Saint Zachariah was in turn priest at the Temple of Jerusalem, he went during the time of Divine-services into the Sanctuary for making an incensing. Having gone in behind the Sanctuary veil, he beheld an Angel of God, standing at the right side of the incense altar. Saint Zachariah was astonished and halted in fear, but the Angel said to him: "Fear not, Zachariah, thine prayer is heard, and thy wife Elizabeth will bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John". But Righteous Zachariah did not believe the words of the heavenly messenger, and then the Angel said to him: "I -- am Gabriel, that standeth before God and am sent to announce this unto thee. But now, thou shalt be mute until the day of birth, since that thou hast not believed my words". Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zachariah and they were astonished, that he had not come out from the Sanctuary after so long a time. And when he did come out, he was supposed to pronounce a blessing upon the people, but could not pronounce it since he had been struck speechless. When Zachariah explained by gestures that he was unable to speak, the people then understood that he had experienced a vision. The prophecy of the Archangel was fulfilled, and Righteous Elizabeth was delivered from her barrenness, having given birth to the Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, named John.
The Monastic Women Xanthippa and Polyxenia were sisters by birth and they lived in Spain during the time of the holy Apostles. They were among the first to hear the Divine teaching of Christ the Saviour from the holy Apostle Paul, when he preached in their land. Saint Xanthippa together with her husband Probus accepted Christianity, but Saint Polyxenia was still a paganess, when a certain man became entranced with her extraordinary beauty and forcibly carried her off to Greece. But the Lord preserved her unharmed. On the ship voyage, the saint heard the preaching of the holy Apostle Peter and believed in Christ. Upon arriving in Greece Saint Polyxenia turned to the Christians for protection and defense and was hidden by them in the city of Patra in the Achaia region, where she formal acceptance Christianity and was baptised by the holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called himself. She became a witness to his miracles, and also to his patient and humble endurance of his sufferings and death. She stood at the cross upon which they crucified the holy Apostle Andrew. After his martyr's end, Saint Polyxenia returned to Spain, where together with her older sister Xanthippa she converted many a pagan to Christ. Saint Polyxenia toiled for about forty years at preaching the Gospel in Spain. Saint Xanthippa shared in the exploit and toil of her sister and preached in the populous city of Toledo.
Saint Polyxenia reposed in about the year 109, up to the end of her earthly life having preserved her virginity.
The Holy Martyress Iraida lived at Alexandria. One time, having gone to a well to draw water, she saw a ship at the shore, upon which were situated a large number of men, women, clergy and monks, all fettered in chains for their confession of the Christian faith. Having cast aside her water pitcher, the saint voluntarily joined in with the prisoners for Christ, and fetters were placed on her too. When the ship arrived in the Egyptian city of Antipolis, Saint Iraida was the first to undergo fierce torments and was beheaded with the sword. After her, the other martyrs sealed their confession of faith in Christ with their blood.
The Holy Martyrs Andrew and John, and John's Children Peter and Antoninus, suffered during the time of the cruel African ruler Ibrahim. After the taking and destruction of the Sicilian city of Syracuse, Ibrahim took captive and brought to Africa Saint John and his two children, Peter and Antoninus, whom he compelled to study the Arab language and sciences. When the youths had grown, prince Ibrahim was so fond of them for their wisdom and virtuous life, that he named Antoninus his kinsman, and Peter he appointed as his chief steward. One time however, having learned that the youths secretly confessed faith in Christ, Ibrahim fell into a furious rage and ordered them thrown into iron shackles and beaten with knotted rods. After prolonged scourging, they put Saint Antoninus on a donkey, and secured on by straps they drove him through the city, beating and ridiculing him with abuse. The martyr endured all the insults and gave thanks to God. Saint Peter after fierce beating with the rods was thrown into prison. The father of the holy martyrs, John, was ordered to be arrested. The brutal Ibrahim grabbed him by the neck with his left hand, and with his right he thrust a knife into his throat. They threw the body of the father together with the bodies of his sons. They then lighted up a large bonfire, into which they cast the bodies of the holy martyrs.
Concerning Saint Andrew, the torturer for a long time wore him down with hunger, and then ran him through with a spear in the chest. When the martyr prayerfully began to give thanks to God, Ibrahim ran him through a second time. As he lay expiring from loss of blood, they then beheaded the righteous martyr with a sword.
Sainted Innocent (Innokentii), Metropolitan of Moscow (in the world Ivan Evseevich Popov-Veniaminov), was born on 26 August 1797 in the village of Anginsk of Irkutsk diocese, into the family of a sacristan. The boy mastered his studies at an early age and at age 7 he was reading the Epistle in church. In 1806 they sent him to the Irkutsk seminary. Here, to the betterment of lineage, they gave the youth the family name of Veniaminov, in honour of the deceased Irkutsk archbishop Veniamin (Benjamin, + 8 July 1814). On 13 May 1817 he was ordained deacon for the Irkutsk Annunciation church, and on 18 May 1821 -- he was ordained priest.
The missionary service of the future Apostle of America and Siberia began with the year 1823. Saint Innocent spent 45 years at the labour of enlightening the peoples of Kamchatka, the Aleutian Islands, North America, Yakutia, the Khabarovsk frontier, performing his apostolic exploit in severe conditions and at great risks to life. Saint Innocent baptised ten thousand people, and built churches, alongside which he founded schools and he himself taught in them the fundamentals of the Christian life. And together with this, his knowledge of various crafts and arts aided him much in his work.
Saint Innocent was a remarkable preacher. In making liturgies, moliebens and the all-night vigil, he incessantly guided his flock. During his time of endless journeying, Saint Innocent studied the languages, customs and habits of the peoples, among whom he preached. His work in geography, ethnography and linguistics received worldwide acclaim. He composed an alphabet and grammar of the Aleut-Lisiev language and translated into it the Catechism, the Gospel and many prayers. One of the finest of his works was the "Directions of the Way to the Heavenly Kingdom" (1833), translated into the various languages of the peoples of Siberia and appearing in more than 40 editions. Thanks to the toil of Saint Innocent, the Yakut people in 1859 first heard the Word of God and Divine-services in their own native language.
On 29 November 1840 the Metropolitan of Moscow Philaret made the tonsuring of Father John-Ivan into monasticism with the name Innokentii (Innocent), in honour of Saint Innocent of Irkutsk. On 15 December Archimandrite Innokentii was consecrated bishop of Kamchatka, the Kurile and Aleutian Islands. On 21 April 1850 Bishop Innocent was elevated to the dignity of archbishop.
By the Providence of God on 5 January 1868 Saint Innocent succeeded Metropolitan Philaret on the cathedra-seat of Moscow. Through the Holy Synod Metropolitan Innocent consolidated the secular missionary efforts of the Russian Church (already in 1839 he had proposed a project for improving the organisation of missionary service). Under the care of Metropolitan Innocent there was created a Missionary Society, and the Moscow Pokrov-Protection monastery was reorganised for missionary work: in 1870 was set up the Japanese Orthodox Spiritual Mission headed by Archimandrite Nikolai Kasatkin (afterwards Sainted Nikolai of Japan, Comm. 3/16 February), to whom Saint innocent had passed on much of his own spiritual experience. Quite fruitful also was the guidance by Saint Innocent of the Moscow diocese. By his efforts, the church of the Pokrov-Protection of the MostHoly Mother of God was built up into the Moscow Spiritual Academy.
Saint Innocent reposed to the Lord on 31 March 1879, on Great Saturday, and was buried at the Holy Spirit temple of the Trinity-Sergiev Lavra. On 6 October 1977, Saint Innocent was glorified into the rank of the Saints by the Russian Orthodox Church. His memory is established to be celebrated twice during the year: on 31 March / 13 April, the day of his blessed repose, and on 23 September / 6 October -- the day of his glorification.
The Holy First-Martyress and Equal-to-the-Apostles Thekla was born in the city of Iconium. She was the daughter of rich and illustrious parents, and moreover she was distinguished by extraordinary beauty. At 18 years of age they betrothed her to an eminent youth. But having heard the preaching of the holy Apostle Paul about the Saviour, Saint Thekla with all her heart came to love the Lord Jesus Christ, and she steadfastly resolved not to enter into marriage, but rather to devote all her life to preaching the Gospel. The mother of Saint Thekla was opposed to her daughter's plans and demanded that she enter into marriage with the bridegroom betrothed to her. Saint Thekla's fiancee likewise made a complaint to the governor of the city against the Apostle Paul, accusing him of turning his bride against him. The governor locked up Saint Paul in prison. During the night Saint Thekla secretly ran away from her house, and she bribed the prison guards, giving them all her gold ornaments, and so made her way into the prison to the prisoner. For three days she sat at the feet of the Apostle Paul, hearkening to his fatherly precepts. The disappearance of Thekla was discovered, and servants were sent out everywhere in search of her. Finally they found her in the prison and brought her home by force.
At his trial the Apostle Paul was sentenced to banishment from the city. And with Saint Thekla they again began urging her to consent to the marriage, but she would not change her mind. Neither the tears of her mother, nor her wrath, nor the threats of the governor were able to separate Saint Thekla from her love for the Heavenly Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ. Her mother in a insane rage demanded from the judges a death sentence against her unyielding daughter, and Saint Thekla was sentenced to burning. Without flinching, the holy martyress went into the bon-fire and made the sign of the cross over herself. At this moment the Saviour appeared to her, blessing her present deed, and inexpressible joy filled her holy soul. The flames of the bon-fire shot up high, but the martyress was surrounded by an halo and the flames did not touch her. Thunder boomed, and a strong downpour of rain with hail extinguished the bon-fire. The torturers scattered in fear. Saint Thekla, kept safe by the Lord, quit the city and with the help of a certain Christian youth searched out the Apostle Paul. The holy apostle and his companions, among which was also the Disciple Barnabas, were hidden away in a cave not far from the city, praying fervently, that the Lord would give strength to Saint Thekla in her sufferings.
After this, Saint Thekla went together with them preaching the Gospel in Antioch. In this city she was pursued by a certain dignitary named Alexander, who was captivated by her beauty. Saint Thekla refused his offer to enter into marriage, and so for being a Christian she was condemned to death. Twice they set loose upon her hungry wild animals, but they would not touch the holy virgin, but instead lay down meekly and licking at her feet. The Providence of God preserved the holy martyress unharmed through all her torments. Finally, they tied her to two oxen and began to chase after her with red-hot rods, but the strong cords broke asunder like cob-webs, and the oxen ran off, leaving Saint Thekla unharmed. And the people began shouting: "Great is the God of the Christians!" The governor himself became terrified, reasoning it out finally, that the holy martyress was being kept safe by the Almighty God, Whom she served. He then gave orders to set free the servant of God Thekla.
With the blessing of the Apostle Paul, Saint Thekla then settled in the desolate surroundings of Isaurian Seleucia and dwelt there for many years, constantly preaching the Word of God and healing the sick through her prayer. Saint Thekla converted many pagans to Christ, and the Church names her worthily as "Equal-to-the-Apostles" ("Ravnoapostol'na"). Even a pagan priest, seeking to assault her purity and punished for his impudence, was brought by her to holy Baptism. More than once the enemy of the race of man tried to destroy Saint Thekla through people blinded by sin, but the power of God always preserved this faithful servant of Christ.
When Saint Thekla was already a 90 year old woman, pagan sorcerers became incensed at her for treating the sick for free. They were unable to comprehend that the saint was healing the sick by the power of the grace of Christ, and they presumed that the virgin-goddess Artemis (Diana) was her especial patroness. Out of envy against Saint Thekla, they sent their followers to defile her. When they had already approached quite close to her, Saint Thekla cried out for help to Christ the Savior, and the hill split open and hid the holy virgin, the bride of Christ. And thus did Saint Thekla offer up her holy soul to the Lord.
Holy Church glorifies the "First-Suffering" Thekla as "of women the glory and guide for suffering, opening up the way through every torment". From of old many a temple was dedicated to her, one of which was built at Tsargrad (Constantinople) by the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine (Comm. 21 May). And then too, the name of the First-Martyress Equal-to-the-Apostles Thekla, a prayer intercessor for the ascetic, is remembered during the tonsure of women into monasticism.
The Monk Nikandr of Pskov (at Baptism Nikon) was born on 24 July 1507 into the peasant family of Philip and Anastasia in the village of Videlebo in the Pskov lands.
From childhood he dreamed of continuing the ascetic exploits of his fellow villager, the Monk Evphrosyn of Spasoeleazarsk, the original Pskov wilderness-dweller (Comm. 15 May). The first in Nikon's family to accept monasticism was his older brother Arsenii. After the death of his father, the seventeen year old Nikon was able to convince his mother also to disperse the property and withdraw into a monastery, where she lived til her own end. Having made the rounds of the monasteries in the Pskov lands, and having venerated at the relics of the Monk Evphrosyn and his disciple the Monk Savva of Krypetsk (Comm. 28 August), Nikon became firmly convinced in his striving for the hermit's life.
In order to have possibility to read the Word of God, Nikon took employ as a worker for the Pskov inhabitant Philip, who to reward his ardour sent him off for studying to an experienced teacher. Seeing the zeal of the youth, the Lord Himself directed him to the place of ascetic effort. Intensely praying in one of the Pskov churches, he heard a voice from the altar commanding him to go into the wilderness place, which the Lord would point out through His servant Theodore (Feodor). The peasant Theodore led him off to the River Dem'yanka, betwixt Pskov and Porkhov. (Afterwards both Philip and Theodore, who helped the Monk Nikandr attain his commanded goal, were themselves to enter upon the path of monasticism, and tonsured at the Krypetsk monastery with the names Philaret and Theodosii (Feodosii).
Having spent several years in silence and severe ascetic deeds, emaciating his flesh, Nikon went to the monastery founded by the Monk Savva of Krypetsk. The hegumen, seeing his weakened body, would not at once agree to accept him, fearing that the difficulties of monastic life would be too much for him. Nikon thereupon, falling down at the crypt of the Monk Savva, began as though to one alive beseeching him to take him into his monastery. The hegumen relented and tonsured Nikon with the name Nikandr.
The Monk Nikandr lived through many a temptation and woe on the straitened path of asceticism. Blessed Nikolai (Comm. 28 February) while still at Pskov foretold him about the "wilderness sufferings". Through the prayers of all the Pskov Saints and the Monk Alexander of Svirsk (Comm. 30 August and 17 April), who twice appeared to him, guiding and strengthening him, and with the help of the grace of God, he overcame all the manifold snares of the evil one. By the power of prayer the monk conquered the weakness of flesh, human failings and diabolical apparitions. One time robbers nearly killed him, running off with the hermit's sole and very precious possessions -- his books and icons. Through the prayers of the saint, two of them, taking fright at the sudden death of one of their comrades, repented of their wicked deeds and received forgiveness from the starets-elder.
The Monk Nikandr did not long live at the Krypetsk monastery, and with a blessing he returned to his own wilderness. Afterwards he once again came to live at the Krypetsk monastery, where he fulfilled the obediences of rubrics-regulator and cellerer of supplies, and then thereafter again he went off into the wilderness and lived there in fasting and prayer, meditating the Word the God. Once a year during Great Lent the Monk Nikandr came to the Damianov monastery, where he made his confession and communed the Holy Mysteries of Christ. Eight years before his end he accepted there the monastic great-schema. Many people began to come to the monk "for benefit", since in the words of the Monk John of the Ladder, "monastic life is a light for all mankind". Believers turned to the Monk Nikandr for prayerful help, since the Lord had bestown on him many gifts of grace. The wilderness-dweller with love and concern had regard for all the needs of the visitors and he even built for them for night-lodging "the guest-house at the oak", and which he provided heat for. The monk did not permit himself to show off his spiritual gifts. Going secretly to his cell, people always heard that he prayed with bitter weeping. And he, perceiving the people nearby, immediately began entreaty, concealing from them the gift of tears that he had received.
The Monk Nikandr to the end of his life remained a wilderness-dweller (and thus they praise him as "Monk Nikandr the Wilderness-Dweller"), but he gave final instructions that after his death the place of his ascetic efforts not be forsaken, promising his protection to the settlers of a future monastery. The monk gave final directions to the deacon Peter of the Porkhov women's monastery to build a church at his grave and transfer thither the icon of the Annunciation of the MostHoly Mother of God from the Tishanka church-cemetery. He foresaw his own death, predicting that he would die when enemies invaded the fatherland, and foretelling them of this immanent assault. On 24 September 1581, during the time of invasion by the army of the Polish king Stefan Bathory, a certain peasant found the monk dead: he lay on his cot with hands in cruciform position. From Pskov came out clergy and people who revered the monk, and among whom was also the deacon Peter, and they performed the rite of Christian burial.
In 1584 at the graced place of the ascetic deeds of the Monk Nikandr, sanctified by his almost half-century of prayer, there was built a monastery, which they began to call the Nikandrov wilderness-monastery. The builder of this monastery was the monk Isaii (Isaiah), who had been healed through prayer to the saint. Under Patriarch Joakim in 1696 occurred the glorification of the Monk Nikandr and the feastdays in his memory were established for 24 September, the day of his repose, and on the temple feast of the monastery -- the Annunciation of the MostHoly Mother of God. During a reconstruction of the monastery cathedral church the relics of the Monk Nikandr were discovered, concealed in a wall: 29 June is celebrated as the day of the uncovering of his venerable relics. And at present strong bonds of prayers connect believers with the Monk Nikandr, whom they deeply venerate in the Pskov lands.
Fearing the wrath of tsar Ivan the Terrible, kinsmen of the disgraced prince Ivan Ivanovich Bel'sky secretly conveyed his seven year old son Gavriil (Gabriel) to the city of Staritsa. In the years of his growing up, and seeing the malice of the tsar towards his family, the young prince withdrew to Vologda and settled in with a shoemaker, from whom he learned the cobbler's craft. And his marriage was not for long, since his wife soon died, leaving prince Gavriil to raise his infant daughter.
The adversities of his earthly life strengthened in him the intent to devote himself to God. Having sought out a place at the River Sodima, he dug himself a pit and made his cell round about a church in the Name of the MostHoly Trinity, and having taken monastic vows with the name Galaktion, he began to asceticise in fasting and prayer. The ascetic did not give up on his cobbler's craft, and the money which he received from the work he divided into three portions: one part he dedicated to God, another portion he gave to the poor, and the third part provided him sustenance.
Advancing in spiritual life, the Monk Galaktion secluded himself in his cell, having chained himself to the wall. God-fearing Christians provided him food through a small window. The ascetic rested little, on his knees and holding on the chain, and he ate only dry bread and water. In the cell of the Monk Galaktion was nothing, besides old matting with which he covered himself.
People soon began to come to the hermit for spiritual guidance. And he received both the rich and the poor; his words were filled with spiritual power, whereof he consoled the grieving and brought to their senses the proud. In prayer the Monk Galaktion achieved an especial spiritual grace. One time, when the Vologda region had gone a long time without rain, bishop Antonii with a church procession came to the church of the Holy Trinity and dispatched a request to the hermit to pray together with everyone for deliverance from the common woe. The Monk Galaktion obediently left his cell and prayed in the church, and the Lord sent abundant rain upon the parched earth. The ascetic had a revelation from God about impending Vologda misfortunes. He emerged from his cell in his chains, went to an earthen hut and declared: "Sins have called forth the Poles and Lithuanians upon us. Let there be undertaken fasting and prayer, and preparation to build a temple in honour of the Sign (Znamenie) of the Mother of God, so that the Heavenly Queen as before Novgorod (the commemoration of the Sign Icon of the Mother of God of Novgorod is 27 November) might deliver Vologda from the wrath of God". One of those present, Nechai Proskurov, said: "Not for us, but for himself is he concerned; he doth but want to have a church near him. And what will become of the temple when thou die, starets?" The Monk Galaktion answered gravely: "Wrath is nigh to Vologda. As for me, there at my place God is glorified -- and there also wilt be built a monastery", -- and he said moreover, that the Trinity church built by Nechai, would be burnt and the house of Nechai laid waste. And going on past the church in honour of the Monk Dimitrii of Prilutsk (Comm. 11 February), he said: "The Wonderworker Dimitrii hath prayed the Saviour for the city, but they pay him insult -- around his church they set up shops and noise about their wares. And this church wilt be destroyed".
The prophecy of the righteous one was soon fulfilled. In September 1612 the Polish and Lithuanians stormed into Vologda, and they killed many of the inhabitants, they defiled and plundered the churches of God, and they set afire the city and its surroundings. As the Monk Galaktion predicted, the house and church built by Nechai were burnt, as was also the city church named for the Monk Dimitrii.
The Monk Galaktion was murdered by the invaders on 24 September 1612. Pious Christians buried the body of the monkmartyr in his cell. Over the place of his burial began to occur miraculous healings. During the time of bishop Varlaam (1627-1645), over the relics of the MonkMartyr Galaktion was built a church in honour of the Sign (Znamenie) Icon of the Mother of God, and a monastery was founded. With the blessing of archbishop Markell (1645-1663), at the monastery was built a cathedral church in the Name of the Holy Spirit, and the monastery took its name from this church.
Saint Juvenal, the Protomartyr of America, was born in 1761 in Nerchinsk, Siberia. His secular name was John Feodorovich Hovorukhin, and he was trained as a mining engineer. In a letter to Abbot Nazarius of Valaam (December 13, 1819), St Herman says that St Juvenal "had been an assistant at our monastery and was a former officer."
After his wife died in 1791, John entered a monastery at St Petersburg (St Herman's Letter of December 13, 1819) and was tonsured with the name Juvenal. Three years later, he went to Alaska as a missionary.
During 1794, the hieromonks Juvenal and Macarius spent two months in the area around Kodiak teaching the inhabitants about Christ and baptizing them. They traveled in small boats of hide in all sorts of weather, dividing up the territory among themselves. St Herman tells of a conversation he heard one day as he walked with the hieromonks to a small hill on the south side of the harbor. They sat down facing the sea, and spoke of various things. Soon they began to discuss where each of them should go to preach. Aflame with zeal and eager to set out on their journey, a friendly argument ensued between Fr Macarius and Fr Juvenal. Fr Macarius said he intended to go north to the Aleutian Islands, and then make his way to the Alaskan mainland, where the inhabitants had invited him to visit. The monks had a map of Captain Cook's which indicated that some Russians were living near a certain river in that particular area, and Fr Macarius hoped to find them.
Fr Juvenal interrupted, saying that he believed that the Alaskan mainland was his territory. "I beg you to yield to me and not offend me in this," he told Fr Macarius, "since the ship is leaving for Yakutan. I shall begin preaching in the south, proceeding north along the ocean, cross the Kenai peninsula, then from the port there I shall cross to Alaska."
Fr Macarius became sorrowful and said, "No, Father. Do not restrict me in this way. You know the Aleutian chain of islands is joined to Alaska, therefore it belongs to me, and also the whole northern shore. As for you, the southern part of America is sufficient for your whole lifetime, if you please."
As he listened to their apostolic fervor, St Herman says he "went from joy to rapture" (Letter to Abbot Nazarius, May 19, 1795).
In 1795, Father Juvenal baptized over 700 Chugatchi at Nushek, then he crossed Kenai Bay and baptized the local people there. In 1796, according to native oral tradition, St Juvenal came to the mouth of the Kuskokwim near the present village of Quinahgak, where he was killed by a hunting party (There is a forged diary attributed to Ivan Petroff which gives a slanderous version of Fr Juvenal's death, and alleges that he was martyred at Lake Iliamna).
The precise reason for St Juvenal's murder by the natives is not known. However, they later told St Innocent something about his death. They said that St Juvenal did not try to defend himself when attacked, nor did he make any attempt to escape. After being struck from behind, he turned to face his attackers and begged them to spare the natives he had baptized.
The natives told St Innocent that after they had killed St Juvenal, he got up and followed them, urging them to repent. The fell upon him again and gave him a savage beating. Once more, he got to his feet and called them to repentance. This happened several times, then finally the natives hacked him to pieces. Thus, the zealous Hieromonk Juvenal became the first Orthodox Christian in America to receive the crown of martyrdom. His unnamed guide, possibly a Tanaina Indian convert, was also martyred at the same time.
It is said that a local shaman removed St Juvenal's brass pectoral cross from his body and attempted to cast a spell. Unexpectedly, the shaman was lifted up off the ground. He made three more tries with the same result, then concluded that there was a greater power than his own at work here. Years later, a man showed up at the Nushagak Trading Post wearing a brass pectoral cross exactly like the one worn by St Juvenal.
A column of light arose from his holy relics and reached up to Heaven. It is not known how long this phenomenon continued.
St Juvenal, in his tireless evangelization of the native peoples of Alaska, served the Church more than all the other missionaries combined.
Saint Peter the Aleut is mentioned in the Life of St Herman of Alaska (December 13). Simeon Yanovsky (who ended his life as the schemamonk Sergius in the St Tikhon of Kaluga Monastery), has left the following account:
"On another occasion I was relating to him how the Spanish in California had imprisoned fourteen Aleuts, and how the Jesuits (actually Franciscans) were forcing all of them to accept the Catholic Faith. But the Aleuts would not agree under any circumstances, saying, 'We are Christians.' The Jesuits argued, 'That's not true, you are heretics and schismatics. If you do not agree to accept our faith then we will torture all of you to death.' Then the Aleuts were placed in prisons two to a cell. That evening, the Jesuits came to the prison with lanterns and lighted candles. Again they tried to persuade two Aleuts in the cell to accept the Catholic Faith. 'We are Christians,' the Aleuts replied, 'and we will not change our Faith.' Then the Jesuits began to torture them, at first the one while his companion was a witness. They cut off one of the joints of his feet, and then the other joint. Then they cut the first joint on the fingers of his hands, and then the other joint. Then they cut off his feet, and his hands. The blood flowed, but the martyr endured all and firmly repeated one thing: "I am a Christian.' He died in such suffering, due to a loss of blood. The Jesuit also promised to torture his comrade to death the next day.
But that night an order was received from Monterey stating that the imprisoned Aleuts were to be released immediately, and sent there under escort. Therefore, in the morning all were sent to Monterey with the exception of the dead Aleut. This was related to me by a witness, the same Aleut who had escaped torture, and who was the friend of the martyred Aleut. I reported this incident to the authorities in St Petersburg. When I finished my story, Father Herman asked, 'What was the name of the martyred Aleut?' I answered, 'Peter. I do not remember his family name.' The Elder stood reverently before an icon, made the Sign of the Cross and said, "Holy New Martyr Peter, pray to God for us"
We know very little about St Peter, except that he was from Kodiak, and was arrested and put to death by the Spaniards in California because he refused to convert to Catholicism. The circumstances of his martyrdom recall the torture of St James the Persian (November 27).
Both in his sufferings and in his steadfast confession of the Faith, St Peter is the equal of the martyrs of old, and also of the New Martyrs who have shone forth in more recent times. Now he rejoices with them in the heavenly Kingdom, glorifying God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, throughout all ages.
Saint Silouan the Athonite, also sometimes referred to as Saint Silvanus the Athonite or Staretz Silouan (1866, Russia – 1938, Mount Athos), was an Eastern Orthodox monk of Russian origin. He was born Simeon Ivanovich Antonov, of Russian Orthodox parents who came from the village of Sovsk in Russia's Tambov region. At the age of twenty-seven, after a period of military service, he left his native Russia and came to the monastic state of Mt. Athos (an autonomous peninsula in Greece) where he became a monk at the Monastery of St Panteleimon, known as "Rossikon", an Orthodox monastery that houses Russian monks yet is, as all the Athonite monasteries, under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople, and was given the name Silouan (the Russian version of the Biblical name Silvanus.)
An ardent ascetic, he received the grace of unceasing prayer and saw Christ in a vision. After long years of spiritual trial, he acquired great humility and inner stillness. He prayed and wept for the whole world as for himself, and he put the highest value on love for enemies. He became widely known as an elder. Thomas Merton has described Silouan as “the most authentic monk of the twentieth century.” St Silouan reposed on September 24, 1938.
Though barely literate, he was sought out by pilgrims for his wise counsel. His writings were edited by his disciple and pupil, Archimandrite Sophrony. Father Sophrony has written the life of the saint along with a record of St. Silouan's teachings in the book Saint Silouan the Athonite. Starets Silouan was canonized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1987.
The Monk Koprios was found as a newborn infant by monks of the monastery of the Monk Theodosios in Palestine. He lay upon a dung-hill (in Greek "kopria"), where his mother left him, in fleeing pursuit during an invasion of the Hagarites (i.e. Arabs). The monks took up the infant, named him Koprios, fed him goat's milk and raised him in their monastery. Saint Koprios afterwards accepted monastic tonsure and spent his whole life in his native monastery. Having attained to an high degree of virtue and the gift of wonderworking, the Monk Koprios died peacefully at 90 years of age.
Holy King Stefan of Serbia was the first ruler of Serbia crowned to reign with the king's crown. His father was Saint Stefan Nemanya (Comm. 13 February). In 1224 holy King Stefan died, having accepted before death monastic tonsure with the name Simeon, and he was buried in the "Studenitsa" monastery.
Holy King Vladislav of Serbia was the son of holy King Stefan, and he reigned for 7 years. He was noted for his virtue and charity towards the poor, the vagrant and the misfortunate, and he built a monastery at Milesheva, where he died in 1239 and was buried.
The Monk David, a nephew of holy King Stefan, in the world had the name Dimitrii. He built a monastery at Brodarova, at the River Lima, and there he accepted monastic tonsure with the name David and asceticised to the end of his days.
The Monk Avraamii (Abraham) of Mirozhsk was the builder and first hegumen of the Pskov Saviour-Transfiguration monastery on the banks of the River Velika, at the confluence into it of the Rivulet Mirozha. The Mirozhsk monastery was founded in about the year 1156, during the princedom of Svyatopolk Mstislavich, by both the Monk Avraamii and by Sainted Nyphont, Bishop of Novgorod (tonsured at the Kievo-Pechersk monastery, Comm. 8 April), a brother by birth of holy Prince Vsevolod-Gavriil (Comm. 11 February). This monastery, the most ancient in Pskov, was the first seed of monasticism transported to the Pskovsk soil from Kiev. On a chalice of the Monk Nyphont is inscribed: "Holy Bishop Nyphont... enthroned, many an holy monastery and church did he build with approval of prince Vsevolod of Pskov, and upon the demise of prince Vsevolod he came.. to Pskov and did construct... the church of the Transfiguration of the Lord, and a monastery of fame and beauty, and did gather brethren and establish an hegumen". Towards the end of the XIX Century during a remodeling of the Transfiguration cathedral there were discovered beautiful frescoes of the XII Century, with which the church had been painted, and which now receive universal reknown. (The Monk Nyphont built also a similar church at Ladoga, dedicated to Sainted Clement of Rome, but in the present day only the foundations there have been preserved).
About the life of the Monk Avraamii the accounts contain little, since the monastery was situated inside the city walls and often it was laid waste and served as quarters for enemy soldiers. The monk died on 24 September 1158. His relics lay beneathe a crypt of the cathedral church in honour of the Transfiguration of the Lord in the monastery built by him.
Four centuries later, on 24 September 1567, on the day of memory of the Monk Avraamii at the Mirozhsk monastery there occurred a miraculous sign from an ancient icon of the MostHoly Mother of God. The Mirozhsk Icon had manifest itself at the monastery in the year 1198. But later, during the reign of Ivan the Terrible, at a time when a pestilential epidemic raged at Pskov, an ancient report tells how from this icon, "Our Sovereign Lady Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary in mystery did effect Her venerable sign: from the All-Pure image were tears from both eyes, and like streams did flow, and many a benefit and healing for man did occur from the image of the Mother of God". The Mirozhsk Icon was written on the style of the "Orans" ("Praying"). In front of the MostHoly Mother of God stand the Pskov Saints: on the right -- holy Nobleborn Prince Dovmont-Timothy (Comm. 20 May), on the left -- his spouse, the holy Nun Martha, in the world named Maria Dimitrievna (+ 8 November 1300). Tsar Ivan Vasil'evich took away the wonderworking image from Pskov, but at the monastery there remained a copy "measure for measure" -- the so-called "Great Panagia" from the Saviour-Mirozhsk monastery. The celebration of the Sign Icon of Mirozh was established in that same year of 1567, with the blessing of archbishop Pimen of Novgorod and Pskov. A special service to this icon was compiled, published in the 1666 Menaion.
The Monk Sergei of Radonezh was born in the village of Varnitsa, near Rostov, on 3 May 1314. His parents were the pious and illustrious boyar-nobles Kirill and Maria. The Lord forechose him while still in his mother's womb. In the Vita of the Monk Sergei it reports, that at Divine Liturgy even before the birth of her son, Righteous Maria and those praying heard the thrice-repeated cry of the infant: before the reading of the Holy Gospel, during the time of the Cherubim hymn, and when the priest pronounced: "Holy Things to the Holy". God gave Kirill and Maria a son, whom they named Bartholomew. From his very first days of life the infant amazed everyone by his fasting, on Wednesdays and Fridays he would not accept milk from his mother, and on other days, if Maria used oil in the food, the infant likewise refused the milk of his mother. Noticing this, Maria refrained altogether from food with oil. At seven years of age Bartholomew was sent to study together with his two brothers -- his older brother Stefan and his younger brother Peter. His brothers learned successfully, but Bartholomew fell behind in his studies, even though the teacher gave him much special attention. The parents scolded the child, the teacher chastised him, and his fellow-classmates made fun of his lack of comprehension. Finally in tears Bartholomew besought of the Lord to grant him the bookish understanding. One time his father sent Bartholomew out after the horses in the field. Along the way he met an Angel sent by God under the guise of appearance of a monk: the starets-elder stood at prayer beneathe an oak amidst the field. Bartholomew approached him, and bowing, waited for the elder's finish of prayer. That one blessed him, gave him a kiss and asked, what he wanted. Bartholomew answered: "With all my soul I want to learn reading and writing, holy father, pray for me to God, that He help me to become literate". The monk fulfilled the request of Bartholomew, raising up his prayer to God, and in blessing the lad he said to him: "From henceforth God giveth thee, my child, to understand reading and writing, and in this wilt thou surpass thy brothers and peers". With this the elder took forth a vessel and gave Bartholomew a portion of prosphora-bread: "Take, child, and eat, -- said he. -- This is given thee as a sign of the grace of God and for the understanding of Holy Scripture". The elder wanted to depart, but Bartholomew asked him to visit at the home of his parents. His parents received their guest with joy and offered him their hospitality. The starets answered, that first it is proper to partake of spiritual nourishment, and he bade their son to read the Psalter. Bartholomew began harmoniously to read, and his parents were amazed at the change that had happened with their son. In parting, the elder prophetically predicted about the Monk Sergei: "Great shalt be your son before God and the people. He shalt become a chosen habitation of the Holy Spirit". After this the holy lad read without difficulty and understood the contents of books. And with an especial fervour he became immersed in prayer, not missing a single Divine-service. Already in childhood he imposed upon himself a strict fast, he ate nothing on Wednesdays and Fridays, and on the other days he sustained himself on bread and water.
In about the year 1328 the parents of the Monk Sergei resettled from Rostov to Radonezh. When their older sons married, Kirill and Maria shortly before their death accepted the monastic schema at the Khot'kov monastery of the Protection of the MostHoly Mother of God, not far from Radonezh. And later on, the older brother Stefan as a widower accepted monasticism at this monastery. Having buried his parents, Bartholomew together with his brother Stefan withdrew for wilderness-dwelling into the forest (12 versts from Radonezh). At first they made cells, and then a not-large church, and with the blessing of metropolitan Theognost, it was consecrated in the Name of the MostHoly Trinity. But soon, unable to bear the difficulties of life in the wilderness, Stefan left his brother and went on to the Moscow Theophany monastery (where he became close with the Monk Alexei, afterwards Metropolitan of Moscow -- Comm. 12 February).
Bartholomew on 7 October 1337 accepted tonsure into monasticism from hegumen Mitrophan, taking the name of the holy Martyr Sergios (Comm. 7 October), and he set about the start of a new habitation to the glory of the Life-Originating Trinity. Suffering temptations and demonic apparitions, the Monk Sergei advanced from strength to strength. Gradually he became known to other monks, seeking his guidance. The Monk Sergei accepted all with love, and soon in the small monastery were gathered a brethren of twelve monks. Their experienced spiritual guide distinguished himself by an extraordinary love for work. With his own hands he built several cells, he carried water, he chopped wood, baked bread, sewed clothing, prepared food for the brethren and humbly took on other tasks. The Monk Sergei combined the heavy work with prayer, vigil and fasting. The brethren were amazed, that with such severe exertion the health of their guide did not deteriorate, but rather became all the more hearty. It was not without difficulty that they implored the Monk Sergei to accept being hegumen over the monastery. In 1354 the Volynsk bishop Athanasii consecrated the Monk a priest-monk and elevated him to the dignity of hegumen. Just as before at the monastery, monastic obediences were strictly fulfilled. With the expansion of the monastery grew also its needs. Often the monks had only scant food, but through the prayers of the Monk Sergei unknown people provided the necessities.
Reports about the exploits of the Monk Sergei became known even at Constantinople, and Patriarch Philotheos sent to the Monk a cross, a "paraman" [or "paramandia" -- a monk's article of clothing, a four-cornered cloth tied with cords to the chest and worn beneathe other garb, and adorned with symbols of the Lord's Passion] and schema-robe in blessing for new deeds, and a grammota-document of blessing, in which the patriarch counselled the chosen of God to organise a coenobitic (life-in-common) monastery. The Monk set off with the Patriarchal missive to Saint Alexei, and received from him the counsel to introduce a strict manner of life-in-common. The monks began to grumble at the strictness of the monastic ustav-rule, and the Monk Sergei was compelled to forsake the monastery. At the River Kirzhach he founded a monastery in honour of the Annunciation of the MostHoly Mother of God. Matters at the former monastery went quickly into disarray, and the remaining monks recoursed to Saint Alexei, that he should get the saint to return.
The Monk Sergei unquestioningly obeyed the sainted-hierarch, and left in place of himself at the Kirzhachsk monastery his disciple, the Monk Roman.
Already during his lifetime the Monk Sergei had been vouchsafed a graced gift of wonderworking. He resuscitated a lad, at a point when the despairing father had given up on his only son as lost. Reports about the miracles worked by the Monk Sergei began quickly to spread about, and the sick began to come to him, both from the surrounding villages and also from remote places. And no one left from the Monk without receiving healing of infirmities and edifying counsel. Everyone gave glory for the Monk Sergei, and reverenced him on an equal with the ancient holy fathers. But human glory did not hold allure for the great ascetic, and as before he remained the example of monastic humility.
One time Sainted Stephen, Bishop of Perm (Comm. 27 April), -- who deeply revered the Monk Sergei, was on journey from his diocese to Moscow. The road-way passed off eight versts distant from the Sergiev monastery. Intending to visit the monastery on his return trip, the saint stopped, and having recited a prayer, he bowed to the Monk Sergei with the words: "Peace be to thee, spiritual brother". At this instant the Monk Sergei was sitting at refectory-meal with the brethren. In reply to the blessing of the sainted-hierarch, the Monk Sergei rose up, recited a prayer, and made a return blessing to Saint Stephen. Certain of the disciples, astonished at the extraordinary action of the Monk Sergei, hastened off to the indicated place, and became convinced of the veracity of the vision.
Gradually the monks began to witness also other similar actions. One time during Liturgy an Angel of the Lord served together with the Monk, but the Monk Sergei in his humility forbade anyone to tell about this before the end of his life on earth.
The Monk Sergei was connected with Saint Alexei by close bonds of spiritual friendship and brotherly love. Sainted Alexei in his declining years summoned the Monk Sergei to him and besought him to accept to be Russian Metropolitan, but Blessed Sergei in humility declined to be primate.
The Russian Land at this time suffered under the Mongol-Tatar Yoke. Having gathered an army, Great-prince Dimitrii Ioannovich Donskoy went to monastery of the Monk Sergei to ask blessing in the pending struggle. The Monk Sergei gave blessing to two monks of his monastery to render help to the great-prince: the schema-monk Andrei (Oslyaba) and the schema-monk Aleksandr (Peresvet), and he predicted the victory for prince Dimitrii. The prophecy of the Monk Sergei was fulfilled: on 8 September 1380, on the feastday of the Nativity of the MostHoly Mother of God, Russian soldiers gained a total victory over the Tatar hordes at Kulikovo Pole (Kulikovo Field), and set in place the beginning of the liberation of the Russian Land from the Mongol Yoke. During the time of the fighting the Monk Sergei together with the brethren stood at prayer and besought God to grant victory to the Russian forces.
For his angelic manner of life the Monk Sergei was granted an heavenly vision by God. One time by night Abba Sergei was reading the rule of prayer beneathe an icon of the MostHoly Mother of God. Having completed the reading of the canon to the Mother of God, he sat down to rest, but suddenly he said to his disciple, the Monk Mikhei (Comm. 6 May), that there awaited them a wondrous visitation. After a moment the Mother of God appeared accompanied by the holy Apostles Peter and John the Theologian. Due to the extraordinary bright light the Monk Sergei fell down, but the MostHoly Mother of God touched Her hands to him, and in blessing him promised always to be Protectress of his holy monastery.
Having reached old age, and foreseeing his own end six months beforehand, the Monk summoned the brethren to him and blessed as hegumen his disciple the Monk Nikon (Comm. 17 November), who was experienced in the spiritual life and obedience. In tranquil solitude the Monk reposed to God on 25 September 1392. On the eve beforehand the great saint of God summoned the brethren a final time and turned to them with the words of last-instruction: "Brethren, be attentive to yourselves. Have first the fear of God, purity of soul and love unhypocritical...".
Saint Arsenius the Great, a pupil and spiritual son of Gregory of Khandzta, was the youngest son of a certain aristocrat, Mirian, from Meskheti in southern Georgia.
On their way to Abkhazeti, St. Gregory’s companions Theodore and Christopher stopped in Meskheti at the home of Arsenius’ family. Mirian and his wife, Kravaia, asked the monks to bless their children and, astonished at the fathers’ virtue, they entrusted their youngest son to their care.
Gregory of Khandzta later traveled to Abkhazeti to visit Theodore and Christopher, and on his way back to the monastery he brought with him the young Arsenius, the future catholicos of Georgia, and the youth Ephraim, the future wonderworker and bishop of Atsquri. The monks Theodore and Christopher journeyed with them as well.
The monks of Khandzta met the young men with grave displeasure, since the rules of the monastery forbade the presence of youths, but St. Gregory assured the brothers that this was an exceptional circumstance in which God’s holy will would soon be revealed. St. Gregory entrusted the young men’s upbringing to his companions and disciples, the hermits Theodore and Christopher.
When Arsenius had reached the appropriate age, his father Mirian bypassed the Church Council and had his son enthroned as catholicos of all Georgia by his own initiative (he was helped by a small group of bishops and laymen). Mirian’s interference in the affairs of the hierarchy was a blatant offense to the Church and the faithful.
A Church council assembled in Javakheti to decide on a way to address Mirian’s behavior. The circumstances were particularly difficult, since the leader of the council, Bishop Ephraim of Atsquri, had grown up with St. Arsenius. But Church law upheld the judgment of the Church and the faithful, and it was decided to ask Arsenius to resign as catholicos. At that very moment, however, St. Gregory arrived at the meeting and assured the holy fathers that Arsenius’s enthronement was a fulfillment of God’s holy will.
The disturbance was soon calmed and the love between Ephraim and Arsenius restored, and the catholicos blessed the old church at Khandzta. With his God-pleasing example and divine love St. Arsenius enlightened the Georgian Church and the faithful until his final day on earth.
St. Arsenius is also commemorated as a great historian and philologist. He is credited with the remarkable historical work On the Division of the Georgian and Armenian Churches. In this exposition St. Arsenius logically proved that the Georgian Church had followed the path of true Christianity steadfastly throughout history, while the Armenian Church had strayed from the true path when it accepted the Monophysite heresy. To his pen also belong many remarkable hymns and Lives of Saints. His work The Life and Martyrdom of Abibos of Nekresi is particularly worthy of note.
Catholicos Arsenius the Great is known also as an active builder of churches. He constructed the Cathedral of Tkobi-Erda in the region of Ingushetia (near present-day Chechnya), in the Assa River Valley.
St. Arsenius led the flock of the Georgian faithful for twenty-seven years and joyfully appeared before Christ in the year 887.
St. Geoffrey was a Benedictine abbot of St. Paul Monastery at Wearmouth-Jarrow, England, also called Geoffrey. He was born in Northumbria in 642 and became a monk at Ripon. St. Benedict Biscop named him prior of Wearmouth, but he was too strict and was forced to leave. Accompanying St. Benedict to Rome in 678, Ceolfrid became the deputy abbot of St. Paul’s in 685. He and one young student were the only ones to survive the regional plague. He became the abbot in 690 and developed the twin monasteries into cultural centers. The CodexAmatianus, the oldest known copy of the Vulgate Bible in one volume, was produced at his command. He also trained St. Bede. In 716, Ceolfrid retired and started for Rome, dying on September 25 at Longres, in Champagne, France.
The Nun Evphrosynia, Princess of Suzdal', was born in the year 1212. In holy Baptism she was given the name Theodulia and she was the eldest daughter of the holy Martyr Michael, Great-prince of Chernigov (Comm. 20 September). Noble Prince Michael and his wife Theophania for a long time did not have children and they often visited the Kievo-Pechersk monastery, where they prayed the Lord for the granting of children. Noble Princess Evphrosynia was their first daughter, besought of the Lord in prayer. Three times the MostHoly Mother of God appeared to them and related, that their prayer was heard and that the Lord would grant them a daughter.
Theodulia was raised in deep faith and piety. The educated boyar-noble Theodore (Feodor, Comm. 20 September) had a large influence on her upbringing. The diverse education and uncommon beauty of the princess attracted many.
The princess was betrothed to holy Nobleborn Prince Theodore (Feodor, + 1233, Comm. 5 June), a brother of Saint Alexander Nevsky, but he died on the very day of his wedding. The princess withdrew to the Suzdal' women's monastery named in honour of the Placing of the Robe of the Mother of God, where she soon accepted tonsure with the name Evphrosynia, in honour of Saint Euphrosynia of Alexandria.
As altogether still a young nun she fulfilled the monastic rule of life with an amazing zeal, and she remarkably excelled over the other residents of the monastery in her firmness of reason, spiritual insight and extreme abstinence. The Lord Himself visited the ascetic, commanding her to be vigilant and positive in her efforts. The Nun Evphrosynia to the very end of her life kept to the directives of the Saviour, and overcoming an innumerable number of sly temptations. The extraordinary ascetic life of the Nun Evphrosynia was quickly learned of at Suzdal' and beyond its borders. A multitude of people made visit to the monastery, in order to hearken to the instructions of the Nun Evphrosynia concerning love, prayer, obedience and humility. Often after suchlike talks many accepted the monastic form and began a more zealous service to God. The monastery hegumeness herself had recourse to the counsels of the nun. At the request of the ascetic, the sisters of the monastery were divided into two halves: virgins and widows. This facilitated the spiritual growth and affirming in purity of the sisters of the monastery. After the death of the hegumeness, the Nun Evphrosynia became head of the monastery.
In an unique revelation the Lord foretold to the blessed hegumeness about the martyr's death of her natal father, and also about the Mongol-Tatar invasion of Rus'. In the year 1238 vast Tatar-Mongol hordes did actually descend upon the Russian realm. Destroying everything in their path, they came to Suzdal'. The city was completely devastated and burned by them, and only the monastery of the Nun Evphrosynia was spared through her prayers.
The Nun Evphrosynia reposed to God on 25 September 1250. At her grave believers continued to receive graced help in the healing of various infirmities. And on 18 September 1698, with the blessing of Patriarch Adrian, the Suzdal' metropolitan Ilarion made the glorification of the Nun Evphrosynia.
The Holy Martyr Paphnutios hailed from Egypt and asceticised in the wilderness. During the time of persecution against Christians under Diocletian (284-305), the governor Adrian commanded that Saint Paphnutios be brought to him, but the ascetic, not awaiting those sent for him, himself instead appeared before the governor, confessed his faith in Christ, and was given over for torture. The soldiers involved in his torture, Dionysios and Callimachos, seeing how the power of God preserved the martyr, themselves believed in Christ the Saviour, for which they were then beheaded. Cast into prison after the tortures, Saint Paphnutios converted to the faith 40 prisoners. They were all burnt. After a certain while Saint Paphnutios was set free, and a Christian named Nestorios gladly took him in. He and all his family, after spiritual guidances, became all the more steadfast in the faith, and ultimately accepted a martyr's end. The saint strengthened many another Christian in the confession of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and they all accepted a martyr's end: some were chopped up with swords, others were burnt -- there were 546 men in all. Saint Paphnutios himself was thrown by the torturers into a river with a stone about his neck, but he miraculously floated with the stone to shore. Finally, they sent off the holy martyr to the emperor Diocletian himself, who commanded him crucified on a date tree.
The Nun Euphrosynia was born at the beginning of the V Century in the city of Alexandria. She was the only child in her family of illustrious and rich parents. Her mother died early. She was raised by her father, Paphnutios, a deeply believing and pious Christian. He frequented a monastery, the hegumen of which was his spiritual guide. When Euphrosynia turned age 18, her father wanted her to marry. He set off to the monastery to his spiritual guide to receive blessing for the planned wedding of his daughter. The hegumen conversed with the daughter and gave her his blessing, but Saint Euphrosynia yearned for the monastic life. Secretly having accepted tonsure from a wandering monk, she left her father's house and decided to enter a monastery in order to lead her life in solitude and prayer. She feared, however, that in a women's monastery her father would find her. Calling herself the eunuch Izmaragdos, she went to that very selfsame men's monastery, which since childhood she had visited with her father. The monks did not recognise Euphrosynia dressed in men's garb, and so they accepted her into the monastery. Here in a solitary cell, in works, fasting and prayer, Saint Euphrosynia spent 38 years and attained to high spiritual accomplishment. Her father grieved over the loss of his beloved daughter and more than once, on the advice of the hegumen, he conversed with the monk Izmaragdos, revealing his grief and receiving spiritual comfort. Before her death, the Nun Euphrosynia revealed her secret to her grieving father and asked, that no one except him should prepare her body for burial. Having buried his daughter, Paphnutios distributed all his wealth to both the poor and to the monastery, and then he accepted monasticism. For ten years right up to his own death, he asceticised in the cell of his daughter.
The Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian was the son of Zebedee and Salomia -- a daughter of Saint Joseph the Betrothed. Together at the same time with his elder brother James, he was called by our Lord Jesus Christ to be numbered amongst His Apostles, which took place at Lake Gennesareth (i.e. the Sea of Galilee). Leaving behind their father, both brothers followed the Lord.
The Apostle John was especially beloved by the Saviour for his sacrificial love and his virginal purity. After his calling, the Apostle John did not part from the Lord, and he was one of the three apostles, who were particularly close to Him. Saint John the Theologian was present when the Lord resuscitated to life the daughter of Jairus, and he was a witness to the Transfiguration of the Lord on Mount Tabor. During the time of the Last Supper, he reclined next to the Lord, and at a gesture from the Apostle Peter, he pressed nigh to the bosom of the Saviour and asked the name of the betrayer. The Apostle John followed after the Lord, when they led Him bound from the Garden of Gethsemane to the court of the iniquitous high-priests Annas and Caiphas. He was there in the courtyard of the high-priest during the interrogations of his Divine Teacher and he resolutely followed after him on the way of the Cross, grieving with all his heart. At the foot of the Cross he went together with the Mother of God and heard addressed to Her from atop the Cross the words of the Crucified Lord: "Woman, behold Thy son" and to him "Behold thy Mother" (Jn. 19: 26-27). And from that moment the Apostle John, like a loving son, concerned himself over the MostHoly Virgin Mary, and he served Her until Her Dormition ("Falling-Asleep" or "Uspenie"), never leaving Jerusalem. After the Dormition of the Mother of God the Apostle John, in accord with the lot that had befallen him, set off to Ephesus and other cities of Asia Minor to preach the Gospel, taking with him his own disciple Prokhoros. They set off upon their on a ship, which floundered during the time of a terrible tempest. All the travellers were cast up upon dry ground, and only the Apostle John remained in the depths of the sea. Prokhoros wept bitterly, bereft of his spiritual father and guide, and he went on towards Ephesus alone. On the fourteenth day of his journey he stood at the shore of the sea and beheld, that the waves had cast ashore a man. Going up to him, he recognised the Apostle John, whom the Lord had preserved alive for fourteen days in the deeps of the sea. Teacher and student set off to Ephesus, where the Apostle John preached incessantly to the pagans about Christ. His preaching was accompanied by numerous and great miracles, such that the number of believers increased with each day. During this time there had begun a persecution against Christians under the emperor Nero (56-68). They took away the Apostle John for trial at Rome. The Apostle John was sentenced to death for his confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but the Lord preserved His chosen one. The apostle drank out of a cup prepared for him with deadly poison but he remained alive, and later he emerged unharmed from a cauldron of boiling oil, into which he had been thrown on orders from the torturer. After this, they sent the Apostle John off to imprisonment to the island of Patmos, where he spent many years. Proceeding along on his way to the place of exile, the Apostle John worked many miracles. On the island of Patmos, his preaching accompanied by miracles attracted to him all the inhabitants of the island, and he enlightened them with the light of the Gospel. He cast out many a devil from the pagan-idol temples, and he healed a great multitude of the sick. Sorcerer-magicians with diverse demonic powers showed great hostility to the preaching of the holy apostle. He gave especial fright to the chief sorcerer of them all, named Kinops, who boasted that they would destroy the apostle. But the great John -- the Son of Thunder, as the Lord Himself had named him, and by the grace of God acting through him -- destroyed all the demonic artifices to which Kinops resorted, and the haughty sorcerer perished exhausted in the depths of the sea.
The Apostle John withdrew with his disciple Prokhoros to a desolate height, where he imposed upon himself a three-day fast. During the time of the Apostle John's prayer the earth quaked and thunder boomed. Prokhoros in fright fell to the ground. The Apostle John lifted him up and bid him to write down, that which he was to speak. "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, saith the Lord, Which is and Which was and Which is to come, the Almighty" (Rev. 1: 8), -- proclaimed the Spirit of God through the Apostle John. Thus in about the year 67 was written the Book of Revelation ("Otkrovenie", known also as the "Apocalypse") of the holy Apostle John the Theologian. In this Book was a revealing of the tribulations of the Church and of the end of the world.
After his prolonged exile, the Apostle John received his freedom and returned to Ephesus, where he continued with his activity, instructing Christians to guard against false-teachers and their false-teachings. In about the year 95, the Apostle John wrote his Gospel at Ephesus. He called for all Christians to love the Lord and one another, and by this to fulfill the commands of Christ. The Church entitles Saint John the "Apostle of Love", since he constantly taught, that without love man cannot come nigh to God. In his three Epistles, written by the Apostle John, he speaks about the significance of love for God and for neighbour. Already in his old age, and having learned of a youth who had strayed from the true path to begin following the leader of a band of robbers, the Apostle John went out into the wilderness to seek him. Catching sight of the holy elder, the culprit tried to hide himself, but the Apostle John ran after him and besought him to stop, and promising to take the sins of the youth upon himself, if only he should but repent and not bring ruination upon his soul. Shaken by the intense love of the holy elder, the youth actually did repent and turn his life around.
The holy Apostle John died at more than an hundred years old. He far out-lived the other remaining eye-witnesses of the Lord, and for a long time he remained the sole remaining eye-witness of the earthly paths of the Saviour.
When it became time for the departure of the Apostle John, he withdrew out beyond the city-limits of Ephesus, being together with the families of his disciples. He bid them prepare for him a cross-shaped grave, in which he lay, telling his disciples that they should cover him over with the soil. The students with tears kissed their beloved teacher, but not wanting to be disobedient, they fulfilled his bidding. They covered the face of the saint with a cloth and filled in the grave. Learning of this, other students of the Apostle John came to the place of his burial, but opening the grave they found it empty.
Each year from the grave of the holy Apostle John on 8 May there came forth a fine ash-dust, which believers gathered up and were healed of sicknesses by it. Therefore the Church celebrates the memory of the holy Apostle John the Theologian still even also on 8 May.
The Lord bestowed on His beloved disciple John and John's brother James the name "Sons of Thunder" -- as an awesome messenger in its cleansing power of the heavenly fire. And precisely by this the Saviour pointed out the flaming, fiery, sacrificial character of Christian love, -- the preacher of which was the Apostle John the Theologian. The eagle -- symbol of the lofty soaring of his theological thought -- is the iconographic symbol of the Evangelist John the Theologian. The appellation "Theologian" is bestown by Holy Church only to Saint John among the immediate Disciples and Apostles of Christ, as being the seer of the mysteried Judgements of God.
The Monk Ephrem of Perekomsk, Novgorod, was born on 20 September 1412 in the city of Kashin. In Holy Baptism he was named Evstaphii. His parents, Stefan and Anna, lived not far from the Kashinsk women's monastery named in honour of the Uspenie (Dormition of the MostHoly Mother of God. Drawn towards the solitary life, Evstaphii while still in his early years left his parental home and settled in the Kalyazinsk monastery in the Name of the MostHoly Trinity. His parents wanted their son to return home, but he himself in turn persuaded them to leave the world and accept monasticism. They also afterwards finished their earthly paths living as hermits. Having been at his monastery for three years, Evstaphii through a miraculous revelation transferred over to the monastery of the Monk Savva of Vishersk (Comm. 1 October), and it was there in 1437 that he accepted tonsure with the name Ephrem. While in the monastery, the Monk Ephrem received a revelation from the Lord, commanding him to withdraw to a desolate place. Having received the blessing of the Monk Savva, in 1450 he went over to Lake Il'men, at the mouth of the River Verenda, and on the banks of the River Cherna he built a cell. After a certain while to the Monk Ephrem there came the elder Foma (Thomas) with two monks, and they settled not far from his cell. And from that time also there began to gather other hermits to the new monastery. At their request the Monk Ephrem received the dignity of priest at Novgorod from Sainted Evphymii (+ 1458, Comm. 11 March).
Returning from Novgorod, the Monk Ephrem built a church in honour of the Theophany (Bogoyavlenie) of the Lord on an island, situated at the mouth of the River Verenda. To secure a ready supply of water for the monastery, the monk dug out a canal to Lake Il'men, from which the monastery received its name "Perekopsk" or "Perekomsk" (from "pere-kopat'" meaning "to dig through"). Later on the Monk Ephrem built a stone church in the name of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker. Unable to find sufficient skilled builders, he dispatched several monks to Great-prince Vasilii Ioannovich with a request for sending stone-workers, after which in 1466 the construction of the temple was completed.
The Monk Ephrem reposed on 26 September 1492 and was buried at the church of Saint Nicholas. In 1509 because of frequent floodings that threatened the monastery with ruin, it was transferred to another location at the shore of Lake Il'men. The Monk Ephrem appeared to the hegumen Roman and pointed to the site of Klinkovo for situating anew the monastery. On the place of the burial of the monk was built a chapel, since all the monastery churches were in ruins. On 16 May 1545 the relics of the Monk Ephrem were transferred over to the new monastery site. On this day at the monastery is an annual celebration of the memory of the Monk Ephrem of Perekomsk, confirmed ultimately after the glorification of the holy ascetic at the Sobor (Council) of 1549. (The Commemoration of the Transfer of Relics of the Monk Ephrem of Perekomsk is celebrated 16 May).
Saint Nilus the Younger, (Italian: San Nilo di Rossano, Greek: Όσιος Νείλος, ο εκ Καλαβρίας), (910 – December 27, 1005), was a Monk, Abbot, and founder of Italo-Greek monasticism in southern Italy. He is venerated as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox church.
Born to a Greek family of Rossano, in the Byzantine Theme of Calabria, for a time he was married (or lived unlawfully) and had a daughter. Sickness brought about his conversion, however, and from that time he became a monk and a propagator of the rule of Saint Basil in Italy.
He was known for his ascetic life, his virtues, and theological learning. For a time he lived as a hermit, later he spent certain periods of his life at various monasteries which he either founded or restored. He was for some time at Monte Cassino, and again at the Alexius monastery at Rome. When Pope Gregory V (996–999) was driven out of Rome, Nilus opposed the usurpation of Philogatos of Piacenza as antipope. Later when Philogatos was tortured and mutilated he reproached Gregory and the Emperor Otto III for this crime.
Nilus' chief work was the foundation in 1004 of the famous Greek monastery of Grottaferrata,[note 2] near Frascati, on lands granted him by Gregory, count of Tusculum; he is counted the first abbot. The abbey continues in the Byzantine rite. He spent the end of his life partly in St. Agata monastery in Tusculum and partly in a hermitage at Valleluce near Gaeta. He died in the Sant'Agata monastery in 1005.
Saint Callistratus was a native of Carthage. An ancestor of Saint Callistratus, Neoscorus, has served under the emperor Tiberius in Palestine, under the command of the procurator of Judea Pontius Pilate, and was a witness to the suffering on the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, His martyr's death and glorious Resurrection. The father of the saint was a Christian, and he raised his son in faith and piety. Also like his father, Saint Callistratus became a soldier and excelled among his pagan military comrades by good conduct and gentle disposition. During the nights when everyone slept, he usually stayed up at prayer. One time a soldier sleeping nearby him heard Saint Callistratus invoking the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and he reported this to the military commander, who in turn summoned Callistratus, interrogated him and wanted to make him offer sacrifice to idols. To this the saint answered firmly with a resolute refusal. Then the military commander gave orders to beat the saint and then, covered with wounds, to drag him over sharp stones. The beating and the torments did not sway the firm will and brave endurance of the sufferer. The torturer gave orders to sew up the saint in a leather sack and drown him in the sea. By Divine Providence however the sack came upon a sharp rock tearing it, and Saint Callistratus, supported by dolphins, came to dry land unharmed. Viewing such a miracle, 49 soldiers came to believe in Christ. Then the military commander threw Saint Callistratus together with the believing soldiers into prison. Before this, all of them were subjected to innumerable floggings.
In confinement Saint Callistatus continued to preach the Word of God to the soldiers and he bolstered their spirits for the martyr's act. Summoned again to the military commander, the sufferers firmly confessed their faith in Christ, after which they bound them hand and foot and threw them into a water-dam. But there their bonds broke, and with bright faces the holy martyrs stood in the water, rejoicing in their Baptism, which coincided with the act of martyrdom. Over them were beautiful bright crowns, and all heard a voice: "Be brave, Callistratus, with thine company, and come rest in the eternal habitations". At the same time with this, the earth shuddered and an idol standing not far off fell down and smashed. Beholding this happening, another 135 soldiers also believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. The military commander, fearing a mutiny in the army, did not set about to judge them, but again imprisoned Saint Callistratus with the others, where they fervently prayed and gave thanks to the Creator, for having given them power to endure such sufferings. At night by order of the military commander they chopped the martyrs to pieces with swords. Their holy remains were buried by the remaining-alive 135 soldiers, and afterwards on the spot of their sufferings, as Saint Callistatus had foretold, a church was built.
The Monk Savvatii of Solovetsk came to the Kirillo-Beloezersk monastery in the year 1396, where he took monastic vows. He there pursued asceticism for a long time, unquestioningly fulfilling all obediences. His humility, gentle love towards the brethren and his strict life distinguished the monk Savvatii among his fellow ascetics. He soon became burdened by the attention and esteem of the brethren and laity coming to him, and having learned that on Lake Ladoga is the rocky island of Valaam, he decided to settle there. Quite sadly, the brethren of the Kirillo-Beloezersk monastery were parted from their starets (elder). At Valaam the worldly fame likewise began to disquiet the humble starets. Amidst this the monk learned, that in the North was the uninhabited island of Solovetsk, and he began to ask of the hegumen blessing to settle there in solitude. But the hegumen and the brethren did not want to be separated from their holy starets-elder. At the command of God the Monk Savvatii by night left the Valaam monastery and set off to the shores of the White Sea. When he learned from the local people that the island was situated at a two-day voyage, that on it were many lakes and that on the island no one lived, he all the more was embued with the desire to settle there. The astonished local people asked the ascetic, whitened with grey hair, how he would live there and what he would eat. "My Master is such, -- answered the monk, -- Who unto frailty giveth the fresh strength of youth, and nourisheth to fullness the hungry".
For a certain while the Monk Savvatii remained at the chapel, set nearby the mouth of the Vyg River, in the environs of Soroka. There he encountered the Monk German -- pursuing asceticism as an hermit, and together they decided to settle upon the island. In a frail boat, praying to God, the elders set off upon the harsh sea and after three days they reached Solovetsk Island. The ascetics settled by the Sekirna hill, where they raised up a cross and made their cells. In the severe conditions of the North the startsi-elders over the course of several years by their exploits hallowed the unpopulated island. And here likewise the enemy of mankind -- the devil, tempted the holy elders. A certain fisherman with his wife, moved with a sense of envy, came somehow to the island and settled not far from the ascetics. But the Lord did not permit the laypeople to maintain themselves alongside the elders. Two youths in bright garb appeared to the wife of the fisherman and struck at her with rods. The fisherman took fright, quickly gathered his things and hastened to return to his former place of residence.
Once, when the Monk German had gone for cell-necessities off along the Onega River, the Monk Savvatii -- remaining alone and sensing his impending end, with prayer turned to God, that He would grant him to commune the Holy Mysteries. The monk sailed for two days to the mainland and at ten versts from the Vyg River encountered the hegumen Nathanael, who had come to the distant settlement to commune a sick Christian. Hegumen Nathanael rejoiced at meeting the monk, fulfilled his wish and heard the account about his exploits on the island. In parting, they agreed to meet at the church along the Vyg River.
Entering the temple, the holy elder prayerfully gave thanks to God for Communion. He then enclosed himself in a cell located nearby the church, and began to prepare himself for hermitage in the eternal habitation. During this time the Novgorod merchant John came to shore and, having venerated the holy icons in church, he went to the holy elder. Having received blessing and guidance, he offered the monk a portion of his wealth and was saddened, when he heard a refusal. To comfort the merchant, the Monk Savvatii offered him to stay over until morning and promised him prosperity on further journeying. But the merchant John hastened to disembark. Suddenly there began an earthquake and on the sea a storm picked up. Having taken fright, the merchant stayed, and in the morning when entering the cell for a blessing, he saw that the elder was already dead. Together with the just-arrived hegumen Nathanael, they buried the Monk Savvatii at the chapel and compiled a manuscript of his life. This occurred on 27 September 1435. After 30 years the relics of the Monk Savvatii were transferred by the Monk Zosima (+ 1478, Comm. 17 April) and the brethren of Solovetsk Island, placing them in the Transfiguration church. In 1566 the relics of the Monks Savvatii and Zosima were transferred into a church, named in their honour (combined Commemoration 8 August).
The Holy Disciple from the Seventy Mark, also named John, is mentioned by the holy Disciple and Evangelist Luke in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 12: 25, 15: 37-39) and also by the holy Apostle Paul in both the Epistle to the Colossians (Col. 4: 10) and the Epistle to Philemon (Phlm. 1: 23). The holy Disciple Mark preached the Word of God together with Paul and Barnabas and was made bishop by them of the Phoenician city of Biblos. The holy Disciple Mark attained great daring before God, such that his very shadow healed the sick (Comm. also 15 April).
New Hieromartyr Peter, Metropolitan of Krutitsy was glorified by the Russian Orthodox Church at the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church on February 23, 1997.
St Peter was born in the Voronezh region, and studied at the Moscow Theological Academy, graduating in 1892, where he then continued as inspector. After a short stay at the seminary of Zhirovits in Belarus as inspector, he was appointed secretary of the Synodal Education Committee becoming de facto inspector of all the theological schools of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Unlike many of his contemporaries who had graduated from a theological academy, Peter Poliansky did not seek ordination, and for a long time remained a layman. As secretary of the Synodal Education Committee he traveled widely, visiting innumerable theological establishments, meeting and knowing many people. Gifted with an outstanding intellect, a firm character and a sociable nature, he was widely known and made many friends. He exercised a beneficial influence on the religious education of future priests.
In 1917-18, Peter Poliansky took part in the work of the local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, when St Tikhon (April 7) was elected Patriarch. The latter made Peter Poliansky one of his closest aides, and persuaded him to become bishop; the Patriarch wished to consolidate the leadership of the Church in what was fast becoming the darkest time for the Church in many centuries. In 1920 Peter Poliansky was made a monk and auxiliary bishop for the diocese of Moscow; in a matter of months he was appointed Metropolitan of Krutitsy, one of the highest ranking bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Patriarch Tikhon died on April 7, 1925, the day of the Annunciation (March 25). Foreseeing increasing troubles and uncertainty for the Church, thinking that the government would not allow a Church council to assemble and elect the next patriarch, St Tikhon took an administrative decision aimed at securing a smooth succession when he died. He nominated three bishops in order of priority, as locum tenens; the third was Metropolitan Peter Poliansky. When the first two choices were found to be in prison and thus unable to assume the leadership of the Church, this heavy task befell Metropolitan Peter.
Persecution against the Church was raging, the government gave its support to the splinter group "The Living Church" in an attempt to discredit and destroy the official Orthodox Church. A great number of bishops had been imprisoned or exiled to remote parts of the country, and were unable to have a clear understanding of the prevailing situation. The whole country was in turmoil; the so-called Living Church energetically tried to replace the true Church.
In the absence of a patriarch, people did not know whom to believe and to whom to give their allegiance. Metropolitan Peter then issued an uncompromisingly firm "Letter to the Russian Church" where he described the position of the Church vis a vis the authorities and vis a vis the "Living Church." He made no compromises with anybody, and stood firm in the truth of Christ. This letter helped the Church to strengthen itself but caused the Metropolitan to be arrested.
The history of the few months in which a campaign was master-minded by the Commissar for religious affairs, Tuchkov, to compromise and weaken St Peter, shows how determined the government was to defeat the head of the Church, but this did not break him. On December 10, 1925, St Peter was put under house arrest, and two days later sent to the Lubianka prison; in May 1926 he was transferred to the Suzdal fortress, then back to the Lubianka, and finally, in December, he was sent to Siberia, first to Tobolsk, then to the village of Abalak on the banks of the river Irtysh which he reached in 1927. Many of the other bishops had experienced a similar fate, the dioceses remaining without their shepherds.
In August 1927, Metropolitan Peter was taken to another destination beyond the Arctic Circle, a place called Khe on the mouth of the Ob, in the frozen tundra. For a little while he lived there peacefully, recovering from the arduous journey. However, on August 29, the day of the Beheading of the St John the Baptist, he suffered his first attack of angina and had to stay in bed. Two paramedics who came from a far distance by river in a boat manned by a native, advised him to be seen by a doctor and be transferred to a hospital. The Metropolitan wrote to the authorities at the GPU, but never got a reply, or money, or provisions, although he knew that several parcels had arrived in Tobolsk addressed to him.
The damp, cold climate of this northern region was extremely harmful to him in his condition. Eventually, towards the end of September, he was taken back to Tobolsk. Unexpectedly, he had an interview with Tuchkov who offered him freedom if he surrendered his title of locum tenens, but he remained firm and refused to compromise. He was then sent back to Khe for another three years of exile, but he was never granted his freedom. In Moscow in 1936, ten years after his first imprisonment, believers were waiting for his return, counting on the end of his ten-year term of exile. They never saw him again. He may have been moved for the last time to a monastery nearer central Russia where he was a little less constrained, but with no freedom to write or communicate with the world. He was shot by decision of the Soviet authorities after years of prison and exile.
Saint Anthimus was born in Georgia, and his parents were called John and Mary. The child received the name Andrew in Baptism, and his parents raised him as an Orthodox Christian.
Andrew was captured by Turks who invaded Georgia when he was young, and he was one of many who were made slaves in Constantinople. There he learned to speak Greek, Arabic, and Turkish, and also became skilled in woodcarving, embroidery, and painting. After a few years as a slave, Andrew escaped and fled to the Ecumenical Patriarchate for refuge.
Around 1690, Andrew was invited to Wallachia by Prince Constantine Brancoveanu (August 16), who had heard of his talents. After a year or so, he became a monk and received the name Anthimus. Later, he was ordained to the holy priesthood. He was placed in charge of the royal print shop in Bucharest, and later set up a printing house in the Snagov Monastery.The monastery printed sixty-three books in Romanian, Greek, Arabic, and Georgian. St Anthimus was the author of thirty-eight of them. He was chosen to be the igumen of Snagov in 1696.
The saint was consecrated as Bishop of Rimnicu-Vilcea in 1705, and three years later he was made Metropolitan of Wallachia. As Metropolitan, he established schools for poor children, and built churches and monasteries. Since he was a woodcarver, he used his talent to beautify many churches.
St Anthimus was a zealous pastor who satisfied his flock's hunger for spiritual knowledge. Preaching in the Romanian language, he taught them the saving truths of Orthodoxy, and offered words of encouragement and consolation. His edifying books and sermons are part of the spiritual legacy of the Romanian Orthodox Church.
Metropolitan Anthimus was arrested by the Turks in 1716 and sentenced to be exiled at St Catherine's Monastery on Mt. Sinai, but he never arrived at his destination. On September 27, 1716, he was killed by the soldiers who were escorting him. They cut his body into little pieces and threw them into the Tungia River, south of the Danube. Thus, the faithful servant of Christ received the crown of martyrdom.
St Anthimus was a true shepherd of his flock, and a father to his clergy. He was glorified by the Orthodox Church of Romania in 1992.
The Holy Disciple from the Seventy Aristarchus was mentioned by the holy Apostle Paul in the Epistle to the Colossians (Col. 4: 10) and in Philemon (Phlm. 1: 23). The holy Disciple Aristarchus accompanied the holy Apostle Paul, and afterwards was made bishop in the Syrian city of Apameia (Comm. also 15 April).
The Holy Disciple from the Seventy Zenon, a disciple and co-worker with the first-ranked Apostle Paul, was called a "lawyer", -- since he was a learned man and led juridical matters in church courts. There is mention about him in the Epistle of the holy Apostle Paul to Titus (Tit. 3: 13): "Take care to send off Zenon the lawyer and Apollos such that nothing be wanting for them". Afterwards the disciple Zenon became bishop of the city of Diospolis (or Lydda) in Palestine.
The Holy Martyress Epikharia lived at Rome during the reign of Diocletian (284-305). For her steadfast confession of Christ as Saviour they subjected her to tortures: they suspended her and tore at her body with iron hooks, and then they beat at her with tin threshing-rakes. The holy martyress prayed, and an Angel of God struck down the torturers. Then Saint Epikharia was beheaded.
The Monk Ignatios lived during the X Century in Cappadocia and from his youth was dedicated by his parents to God. Upon attaining the age of maturity, he accepted monasticism and soon was ordained to the dignity of presbyter. Saint Ignatios afterwards was made hegumen of a monastery of the Saviour, called "Deep River", nearby to Constantinople. The Monk Ignatios concerned himself about the monastery, embellishing the churches and making an enclosure for the monastery. The Monk Ignatios died in the city of Amoreia in the year 975. His relics after a long period of time were uncovered undecayed.
The Monk Chariton the Confessor suffered at Iconium during the time of one of the persecutions against Christians under either the emperor Galerius (305-311), Maximian (305-311) or Licinius (311-324). The grace-bearing example of the holy First-Martyress Thekla (Comm. 24 September) encouraged him in his confessor's deed -- she being a native of his city, whose memory he in particular deeply venerated. Saint Chariton bravely denounced the pagan gods and staunchly confessed faith in the One True God -- Christ the Saviour. The holy Confessor underwent fierce tortures but, through the Providence of God, he remained alive. When the persecution abated, the saint was set free from imprisonment and he dedicated all his life to the service of the Lord. Journeying to Jerusalem on pilgrimage to the holy places, he fell into the hands of robbers. They tied him and threw him in a cave, intending later to kill him, and they themselves hastened off on business. In expectation of death the saint prayed heatedly, he gave thanks to God and entreated him to do with him according to His will. At this time a snake crawled into the cave and began to drink wine from a vessel setting there, poisoning it with its deadly venom. Having returned to the cave, the robbers drank the poisoned wine and they all perished. The Monk Chariton, giving thanks to God, began asceticising at the place of his miraculous rescue. The plundered gold of the robbers he distributed to the poor, and in the monastery -- in the robbers cave he built a church, around which in time there formed a monastery -- the reknown Tharan Laura in Palestine. The Monk Chariton compiled a strict ustav (rule) for his monastery. Yearning for solitude, the monk went farther into the wilderness, but there also he did not reject those who besought his spiritual guidance , and he founded yet two more monasteries -- the Jerichon and the Tree-branched, named the "Palm Laura". At the end of his life the Monk Chariton asceticised in a cave on an hill, nearby the Tree-branched monastery, but he did not cease guidance with all three of the monasteries founded by him. By tradition, the Monk Chariton compiled the office of taking monastic vows. The Monk Chariton the Confessor died in extreme old age and was buried, in accord with his last-wishes, in the Tharan monastery in the church, built on the spot of the robbers cave.
The Sobor (Assemblage) of Monastic Fathers, venerated in the Nearer Caves (of the Monk Antonii), is celebrated now on 28 September. This general commemoration previously was on the first Saturday after the Leave-taking of the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, i.e. after 21 September. The establishing of the celebration of the general commemoration of the Monastics, venerated in the Antoniev Cave, -- on the Saturday after the Leave-taking of the feast of the Exaltation of the Venerable Cross, -- dates to the year 1670. During the restoration of the Caves, damaged by an earthquake, some of the relics of the ancient ascetics were uncovered and a temple built in honour of the Exaltation of the Venerable Cross.
In 1760 a stone church in honour of the Exaltation of the Venerable Cross was built over the Caves. In 1886 under the Kiev metropolitan Platon, the celebration of the memory of the Sobor (Assemblage) of the Nearer Caves was moved to 28 September, in conjunction with the celebrating on 28 August of the memory of the Assemblage (Sobor) of the Saints of the Farther Caves. Two canons to the Monastic Fathers, venerated in the Nearer Caves, are known: the first, compiled by the priest-monk Meletii the Orphan (inscribed in the Kiev Akathistnik of 1764). The second, found in the services to the Pechersk monastics, was compiled by Sainted Dimitrii of Rostov.
The Sobor (Assemblage) of the Monastic Fathers of the Nearer Caves includes (in parenthesis is given the day of individual memory, wherein also is located an account about the life of the saint):
The Monk Antonii (Anthony) the First-Founder (Comm. 10 July); the Monk Prokhor the Wonderworker, named the Weed-eater (Comm. 10 February); the Monk John the Faster (Comm. 7 December); the Monastic Juliania the Maiden, Princess of Ol'shansk (Comm. 6 July); the MonkMartyrs Vasilii (Basil) and Feodor (Theodore) (Comm. 11 August); the Monk Polykarp, Archmandrite of Pechersk (Comm. 24 July); the Monk Varlaam, Hegumen of Perchersk (Comm. 19 November); the Monk Damian the Presbyter and Healer (Comm. 5 October); the Monk Nikodom the Prosphora-maker (Comm. 31 October); the Monk Lavrentii (Lawrence) the Hermit, Bishop of Turov (Comm. 29 January); the Monk Afanasii (Athanasii) the Hermit (Comm. 2 December); the Monk Erasm the Black-Garbed (Comm. 24 February); the Monk Luke, Steward of Pechersk (Comm. 6 November); the Monk Agapit, Gratuitous Physician (Comm. 1 June); Monks Theophil the Exact-Sighted and John the God-pleasing, within a single Coffin (Comm. 29 December); the Monk Nektarii the Obedient (Comm. 29 November); the Monk Grigorii (Gregory) the Iconographer (Comm. 8 August); the PriestMartyr Kuksha, Enlightener of the Vyati (Comm. 27 August); Monk Aleksii (Alexei) the Hermit (Comm. 24 April); Monk Savva the God-pleasing (Comm. 24 April); Monk Sergei the Obedient (Comm. 7 October); the Monk Mekurii, Bishop of Smolensk (Comm. 7 August); the Monk Pimen the MuchSick (Comm. 7 August); the Monk Nestor the Chronicler (Comm. 27 October); the MonkMartyr Evstratii (Comm. 28 March); Monk Elladii the Hermit (Comm. 4 October); Monk Jeremiah the Perspicacious (Comm. 5 October); MonkMartyr Moisei (Moses) the Ugrian (Hungarian) (Comm. 26 July); Monk John the MuchSuffering (Comm. 18 July); Monk Mark the Grave-digger (Comm. 29 December); the Monk Nikola Svyatosha, Prince of Chernigov (Comm. 14 October); Martyr Grigorii (Gregory) the Wonderworker (Comm. 8 January); Monk Onysim the Hermit (Comm. 4 October and 21 July); Monk Matfei (Matthew) the Perspicacious (Comm. 5 October); Monk Isaiah the Wonderworker (Comm. 15 May); Monk Avramii (Abraham) the WorkLover (Comm. 21 August); Monk Nyphont, Bishop of Novgorod (Comm. 8 April); Monk Syl'vester the Wonderworker (Comm. 2 January); Monk Pimen the Faster (Comm. 27 August); the Monk Onuphrii the Silent (Comm. 21 July); Monk Anatolii the Hermit (Comm. 3 July); the Monk Alypii the Iconographer (Comm. 17 August); Monk Sisoi the Hermit (Comm. 24 October); Monk Theophil the Hermit (Comm. 24 October); Monk Aretha the Hermit (Comm. 24 October); Monk Spiridon the Prosphora-maker (Comm. 31 October); the Monk Onysiphor the Confessor (Comm. 9 November); Monk Simon, Bishop of Suzdal' (Comm. 10 May); the Monk Nikon, Hegumen of Pechersk (Comm. 23 March); Monk Theophan the Faster (Comm. 11 October); the Monk Makarii (Comm. 19 January); MonkMartyr Anastasii the Deacon (Comm. 22 January); Twelve Greek Master Architects of the Kievo-Pechersk Great Church in honour of the Uspenie (Dormition) of the MostHoly Mother of God (Comm. 14 February); Monk Avramii (Abraham) the Hermit (Comm. 29 October); Monk Isaakii (Isaac) the Hermit (Comm. 14 February); Martyr John the Infant (Comm. in common with the 14,000 Infants killed at Bethlehem by Herod -- 29 December); Monk Ilya of Murom (Comm. 19 December); Monk Nikon the Lean (Comm. 11 December); Monk Ephrem, Bishop of Pereyaslavl' (Comm. 28 January); Monk Tito the PriestMonk (Comm. 27 February).
Besides these enumerated Saints, amidst the Pechersk Monastics are known 30 Saints of God, of whom were preserved myrh-bearing heads. In the Service to the Monastic Fathers of the Nearer Caves on 28 September are mentioned also: the Monk Ephrem the Priest (ode 9), -- about whom the priestmonk Afanasii Kal'pophyisky wrote in 1638, that his undecayed body, dressing in priestly vestments, lay opposite the relics of the Monk Ilya of Murom; and about the Monk Evstathii, formerly in the world a goldsmith (ode 8).
In the Canon of Meletii the Orphan also is mentioned: Sainted Dionisii, Archbishop of Suzdal' (Comm. 26 June and also 15 October). The sainted-hierarch was detained by the Lithuanian prince at Kiev upon his elevation by Constantinople to the dignity of Metropolitan of Moscow. He died on 15 October 1384 and was placed in the Antoniev Cave.
Besides the Monks mentioned in the Services, the priestmonk Afanasii Kal'pophyisky in his Manuscript of 1638 indicated yet more Saints, whose uncovered relics they venerated: the Monk Ieronym, Hermit and Wonderworker; the Monk Meladii, holy Elder and Wonderworker; the Monk Pergii, holy Elder; the Monk Pavel (Paul), -- a monk of Wondrous Obedience.
In the old hand-written Kalendars are preserved the names of priests: the Monk Meletii, the Monk Serapion, the Monk Philaret, the Monk Peter.
In one of the branches of the Nearer Caves was discovered on 24 May 1853 an inscription on the crypts from the XI Century: "Lord, preserve as Thy servants Theodosii and Theophil, many years"; "Grave of the Cave-Dweller Ivan -- here lived and is now Ivan the sinner"; on an oak-board: "Ivan the Cave-Dweller". Thus were revealed names of the new Pechersk Fathers: Theophil, Theodosii and John.
There is also a commemoration in common of the Monastics of the Nearer Caves together with the Monastics of the Farther Caves -- on the 2nd Sunday of Great Lent, when there is celebrated the Sobor (Assemblage) of all the Monastic Fathers of Kievo-Pechersk. The Canon of the Priestmonk Meletii the Orphan enters into the Service of that feastday (the Service to the Pechersk Monastic Fathers and to all the Saints, illumined in Little Russia, inscribed from Akathists with a Canon. Kiev, in the typography of the Kievo-Pechersk Uspenie Lavra, 1866).
Without doubt, far from all the names of the Kievo-Pechersk Monastic Fathers are known. In the in-common Commemoration of the Sobor (Assemblage) are glorified all the Fathers, illumined by ascetic deeds in the Caves. In the ikos of the Service of 28 September it speaks thus about this: "The praises to all those, whomever do be Thy Saints, O Blessed One, do reckon them multiplied more than the very sands. But Thyself, O Master Christ, having counted out the stars and named all named, grant them our prayers..."
The Monk Irodion of Iloezersk and Novgorod, was a disciple of the Monk Kornilii of Komel'sk (+ 19 May 1537). After the death of his preceptor, he settled at Iloezersk -- 20 kilometers from Belozersk, and there on a peninsula he built himself a cell and established a church in honour of the Nativity of the MostHoly Mother of God, marking the beginning of the Iloezersk Ozadsk monastery. The monk was strict at fasting, he spent the nights at prayer and every Saturday he communed the Holy Mysteries. An Angel announced to the monk about the proximity of his end. He died a schema-monk on 28 September 1541 and was buried in the chapel built by him.
The first icon of the Monk Irodion was written after his appearance to a certain Sophonii. Sophonii, impiously having thrust his staff in at the grave of the monk, was struck blind, but by prayer to the saint he received back his sight.
A Short Life of the Monk Irodion was written by the archimandrite Mitrophan of Belozersk monastery, who in 1653, with the blessing of the Novgorod metropolitan (afterwards patriarch) Nikon, witnessed to a miracle worked from the relics of the Monk Irodion. There was then established a celebration to his memory. At the place of the chapel of the Monk Irodion was erected a church in honour of the Nativity of the MostHoly Mother of God together with a chapel in the name of the Monk Irodion of Iloezersk.
The Holy Prophet Baruch was an inseparable companion, disciple, friend and scribe of the great Prophet Jeremiah (Comm. 1 May). He wrote down an entire scroll of his prophetic sayings and read them to the people in the Jerusalem Temple. Together with his teacher, Saint Baruch grievously bewailed the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnessar, and he taught and censured the Jews, and he suffered from them spite and vexation. He was a witness of how they killed the holy Prophet Jeremiah with stones, and gave over his body to burial.
After the martyr's death of the Prophet Jeremiah, Saint Baruch lived a short while and died in Egypt, in the VI Century before the Birth of Christ. The holy Prophet Baruch prophesied about the return of the Jews from the Babylonian Captivity and about the desolation of Babylon. He clearly prophesied about the coming into the world of the Son of God, Who would "dwell with mankind". His prophecy begins with the words: "This is our God, and naught else doth compare with Him" (Bar. 3: 36-38, 4: 1-5).
The Book of the Prophet Baruch is regarded as uncanonical and is annexed to the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah. On the eve of the Nativity of Christ from it are read paroemi (Old Testament readings), expressed as prophecy from Jeremiah.
The Holy Martyrs Alexander, Altheos, Zosima, Mark the Shepherd, Nikon, Neonos, Iliodoros and others suffered for the confession of the Christian faith in various places of Asia Minor during the reign of Diocletian (284-305). Saint Mark, a shepherd, was arrested for his open confession of the Christian faith in the surroundings of Pisidian Antioch. The 30 soldiers guarding him were converted by Saint Mark, and they were beheaded at Nicea, but Saint Mark was sentenced to tortures. For the preparation of the instruments of torture they summoned three brother blacksmiths from the settlement of Katalitea, or Kalitea -- Alexander, Altheos and Zosima, but the iron did not melt down and fuse, and the hands of the blacksmiths grew numb. Hearing a voice, summoning them to suffer together with Saint Mark, the brothers believed in Christ. After fierce torture they poured in their throats molten tin (+ 28 September). After torture they beheaded Saint Mark at Claudiopolis. When they carried the head of the holy martyr into the pagan temple of Artemis, all the idols fell down and smashed. The witnesses of this miracle -- Nikon, Neonos, Iliodoros, maidens and lads -- believed in Christ, confessed their faith and died martyrs at Maromilium.
The Holy Nobleborn Prince Vyacheslav of the Czechs was a grandson of the holy Martyress and Princess Liudmila (Comm. 16 September), and he was raised by her in deep piety. He began to rule at age 18 after the death of his father prince Bratislav (+ 920). In spite of his youthful age, he ruled wisely and justly and concerned himself much about the Christian enlightenment of the people. The holy prince was a widely educated man, and he studied in the Latin and Greek languages. Saint Vyacheslav was peace-loving. He built and embellished churches, and in the Czech capital Prague he raised up a magnificent church in the name of Saint Vitus, and he had respect for the clergy. Envious nobles decided to murder the saint and at first to incite his mother against him, and later to urge his younger brother, Boleslav, to occupy the princely throne. Boleslav invited his brother to the dedication of a church, and then asked him to tarry and stay for still another day. In spite of the warnings of his servants, the holy prince refused to believe in a conspiracy and exposed his life to the will of God. On the following day, 28 September 935, when the nobleborn Vyacheslav went to matins, he was wickedly murdered at the doors of the church by his own brother by birth and that one's servants. His body was stabbed and thrown down without burial. The mother, hearing about the murder of her son, found and placed him in a recently consecrated church at the princely court. They were not able to wash off the blood splashed on the church doors, but after 3 days it disappeared by itself. Repenting himself, the perpetrator of the fratricide transferred the relics of Saint Vyacheslav to Prague, where they were placed in the church of Saint Vitus, which the martyr himself had constructed (the transfer of the relics of Saint Vyacheslav is celebrated on 4 March). The memory of the Nobleborn Prince Vyacheslav is honoured from of old in the Russian Orthodox Church. (There exists conjecture, that the death of the saint occurred instead in the year 929).
Saints Spyridon and Nicodemus, the Prosphora-bakers of the Kiev Caves, Near Caves fulfilled their obedience of baking prosphora for thirty years. St Spyridon came to the monastery in the time of Igumen Pimen (1132-1141), when he was no longer a young man. The ascetic combined his work with unceasing prayer and the singing of Psalms. Even during his life St Spyridon was glorified by miracles. He was illiterate, but knew the entire Psalter by heart.
Once, his mantle caught fire from the oven. The fire was put out, but the mantle remained whole. St Nicodemus toiled together with St Spyridon and led a very strict life. Their relics are in the Kiev Caves of St Anthony. The fingers of St Spyridon's right hand are positioned to make the Sign of the Cross with three fingers. They are also commemorated on September 28, and the second Sunday of Great Lent.
This Unmercenary Physician was born at Kiev. He was a novice and disciple of St Anthony of the Caves, and lived during the eleventh century. If any of the monastic brethren fell ill, St Agapitus came to him and selflessly attended to the sick one. He fed his patient boiled herbs which he himself prepared, and the person recovered through the prayers of the saint. Many laymen also turned to the monastic physician with the gift of healing.
In Kiev at this time was an experienced Armenian physician, who was able to diagnose the nature of the illness and even accurately determine the day of death just by looking at a patient. When one of these doomed patients turned to St Agapitus, the grace-bearing healer gave him some food from the monastery trapeza (dining area), and the patient became well. Enflamed with envy, the physician wanted to poison St Agapitus, but the Lord preserved him, and the poison had no effect.
St Agapitus healed Prince Vladimir Monomakh of Chernigov, the future Great Prince of Kiev (1114-1125), by sending him boiled herbs. The grateful prince went to the monastery and wanted to see his healer, but the humble ascetic hid himself and would not accept gifts.
When the holy healer himself became sick, that same Armenian physician came to him and after examining him, he said that he would die in three days. He swore to became an Orthodox monk if his prediction were not fulfilled. The saint said that the Lord had revealed to him that He would summon him only after three months.
St Agapitus died after three months (on June 1, not later than 1095), and the Armenian went to the igumen of the Caves monastery and received monastic tonsure. "It is certain that Agapitus was a saint of God," he said. "I well knew, that it was impossible for him to last three days in his sickness, but the Lord gave him three months." Thus did the monk heal sickness of the soul and guide to the way of salvation.
Saint Pimen the Much-ailing attained the Kingdom of Heaven by enduring grievous illness. This Russian ascetic was both born and grew up sickly, but his illness preserved him from illness of the soul.
For a long time he besought his parents to send him to the Kiev Caves monastery. When they brought their son to the famed monastery, they then began to pray for him to be healthy. But the sufferer himself, conscious of the high value of suffering, instead asked the Lord both for the continuation of his sickness, and also his tonsuring into monasticism.
One night, radiant angels appeared in the guise of monks, and tonsured him. They told him that he would receive his health only on the day of his death. Several of the brethren heard the sound of singing, and coming to St Pimen, they found him attired in monastic garb. In his hand he held a lit candle, and his tonsured hair could be seen at the crypt of St Theodosius. St Pimen spent many years in sickness, so that those attending to him could not tolerate it. They often left him without food and water for two or three days at a time, but he endured everything with joy.
Compassionate towards the brethren, St Pimen healed a certain crippled brother, who promised to serve him until death if he were healed. But after a while the brother grew lax in his service, and his former ailment overtook him. St Pimen again healed him with the advice, that both the sick and those attending the sick receive equal reward.
St Pimen spent twenty years in grievous sufferings. One day, as the angels had predicted, he became healthy. In church, the monk took leave of all the brethren and partook of the Holy Mysteries. Then, having bowed down before the grave of Abba Anthony, St Pimen indicated the place for his burial, and he himself carried his bed there.
Pointing to those buried there, one after the other of the monks, and he predicted that the brethren would find one buried in the schema to be without it, since this monk had led a life unworthy of it. Another monk, who had been buried without the schema, would be found clothed in it after death, since he had greatly desired it during his life, and he was worthy.
Then St Pimen lay down upon his bed and fell asleep in the Lord. The brethren buried him with great honor, glorifying God.
After the death of St Pimen, the brethren were persuaded of the truth of his words. On the day of St Pimen's repose, three fiery columns appeared over the trapeza, and moved atop the church. A similar event was described in the chronicles under February 11, 1110 (See the August 5 commemoration of St Theoctistus of Chernigov), therefore the day of demise of St Pimen is surmised as also occurring on February 11, 1110.
The relics of St Pimen rest in the Antoniev Cave.
The Monk Kyriakos was born at Corinth into the family of a presbyter of the cathedral church, John and his wife Eudoxia. The bishop of Corinth, Peter, being a kinsman and seeing that Kyriakos was growing up as a quiet and sensible lad, made him a reader in church. Constant reading of the Holy Scriptures awakened in him a spirit of love for the Lord and of a yearning for a pure and saintly life. Once, when the youth was not yet 18 years old, during a church service he was so deeply moved by the words of the Gospel: "Whosoever would to come after Me, let him deny himself and raise up his cross and follow Me" (Mt. 16: 24), that immediately -- not returning home -- he went to the harbour, got onto a ship and set off to Jerusalem. Having visited the holy places, Kyriakos dwelt for several months at a monastery not far from Sion in obedience to the hegumen Abba Eustorgios, by whose blessing he made his way to the wilderness Laura of the Monk Euthymios the Great (Comm. 20 January). The Monk Euthymios, discerning in the youth great Divine gifts, vowed him into the monastic form and set him under the guidance of the Monk Gerasimos (Comm. 4 March), pursuing asceticism at Jordan in the monastery of Saint Theoktistos. Saint Gerasimos, seeing the youthfulness of Kyriakos, ordered him to live in the regular community with the brethren. The young monk easily accomplished the monastic obediences, -- he prayed fervently, he slept little, food he partook of only every other day, nourishing himself but with bread and water. During the period of great Lent Saint Gerasimos, having set out according to custom into the Ruv wilderness returning to the monastery only on Palm Sunday, -- began also to take Kyriakos with him. In the complete solitude the ascetics redoubled their efforts. The Monk Gerasimos each Sunday communed his student with the Holy Mysteries. After the death of the Monk Gerasimos, the 27 year old Kyriakos returned to the Laura of the Monk Euthymios, but he too was no longer among the living. The Monk Kyriakos asked for himself a solitary cell and there he pursued asceticism in silence, communicating only with the monk Thomas. But soon Thomas was sent to Alexandria where he was ordained bishop, and Saint Kyriakos spent 10 years in total silence. At 37 years of age he was ordained to the dignity of deacon. When a split occurred between the monasteries of the Monk Euthymios and the Monk Theoktistos, Saint Kyriakos withdrew to the Sukea monastery of the Monk Chariton (Comm. 28 September). At this monastery they took in monks entering anew as new-beginners, and so also was Saint Kyriakos received, humbly toiling at the regular monastic obediences. After several years the Monk Kyriakos was ordained priest and chosen canonarch [service canon arranger] and did this obedience for 18 years. The Monk Kyriakos spent 30 years at the monastery of the Monk Chariton. Strict fasting and total lack of evil distinguished the Monk Kyriakos even among the ascetics of the Laura. In his cell each night he read the Psalter, interrupting the reading only so as to go to church at midnight. The ascetic slept very little. When the monk reached 70 years of age, he went to the Natupha wilderness -- taking with him his disciple John. In the wilderness the hermits nourished themselves only with bitter grasses, which through the prayer of Saint Kyriakos was rendered edible. After a period of five years one of the inhabitants found out about the ascetics and brought to them his demon-possessed son, and Saint Kyriakos healed him. From that time many people began to approach the monk with their needs, but he sought complete solitude and fled to the Ruv wilderness, where he dwelt five years more. But the sick and demon-afflicted came to him in this wilderness, and the monk healed them with the sign of the Cross and prayer. At his 80th year of life the Monk Kyriakos fled to the hidden Susakim wilderness, where two parched streams passed by. According to tradition, the holy Prophet David brought Susakim to attention: "Thou driest up the river Itham" (Ps. 73 : 15). After seven years brethren of the Sukea monastery came to him, beseeching his spiritual help during the time of onset, through the sufferance of God, of debilitating hunger and illness. They implored Saint Kyriakos to return to the monastery, and the monk settled into a cave, in which the Monk Chariton had earlier asceticised.
The Monk Kyriakos rendered great help to the Church in the struggle with the spreading heresy of the Origenists; by prayer and word he returned the misled to the true way, and strengthening the Orthodox in their faith. The author of the Vita (Life) of the Monk Kyriakos, a monk of the Laura of the Monk Euthymios named Cyril, was a witness, when the Monk Kyriakos predicted the pending death of the chief heretics Jonah and Leontios, and soon the heresy would cease to spread. The MostHoly Mother of God Herself commanded the Monk Kyriakos to keep to the Orthodox teaching in its purity: Having appeared to him in a dream together with the Saints John the Baptist and John the Theologian, She refused to enter into the cell of the monk because in it was a book with the words of the heretic Nestorius. "In your cell -- is My enemy", She said (Comm. of appearance of the MostHoly Mother of God to the Monk Kyriakos is 8 June). At his 99th year of life the monk Kyriakos again went off to Susakim and lived there with his disciple John. In the wilderness an huge lion waited on the Monk Kyriakos, protecting him from robbers, but it did not bother wandering brethren and it ate from the monk's hand. Once in the heat of summer all the water in the pit dried up, where during winter the ascetics had stored up water, and there was no other source of water. The Monk Kyriakos prayed, and here amidst the desert there poured forth copious rain, filling the pit with water. For the two years before his death the Monk Kyriakos returned to the monastery and again settled into the cave of the Monk Chariton. Until the end of his life the righteous elder preserved his courage, and standing with fervour he sang. He was never without deeds, either he prayed, or he worked. Before death the Monk Kyriakos summoned the brethren, gave blessing to all and with a prayer he quietly expired to the Lord, having lived 109 years.
Saint Onuphrius of Gareji (Otar Machutadze in the world) lived and labored in the 18th century. He was a Kartlian aristocrat famed for his wealth, hospitality, and charity.
Longing for the ascetic life, Otar wore a hair shirt under his distinguished raiment and unceasingly prayed to God for the strength to lead the monastic life. He revealed his will to his wife: “I thirst to turn from this world and draw nearer to Christ,” he said. “Therefore, I beg your forgiveness for all my transgressions, both voluntary and involuntary.”
His faithful wife consented and permitted him to go in peace. Otar traveled with his two eldest sons to Tbilisi, blessed them, and bade them farewell for the last time. Then he set off for the David-Gareji Monastery, which at that time was led by the kindhearted superior Archimandrite Herman.
Archimandrite Herman received Otar with great joy, and after a short time he tonsured him a monk with the name Onuphrius.
Blessed Onuphrius was a peaceful, humble and obedient man and a tireless ascetic. He would keep vigil through the night, and after the morning prayers he would go down to the ravine and continue to chant psalms, shedding tears over his past transgressions. He ate just one meal a day of bread and water, after the hour of Vespers. Once the Dagestanis attacked the David-Gareji Monastery, plundered the church, and took captive several monks including Onuphrius, the priests Maxime and Ioakime, and four deacons. Onuphrius was the oldest among them. The unbelievers planned to stab him to death, but the Lord protected him from their evil scheme.
According to the will of the All-mercifulGod, Onuphrius was freed and returned to the monastery.
The brotherhood was impoverished after the invasion, so Archimandrite Herman sent St. Onuphrius on a mission to solicit alms. It was difficult for St. Onuphrius to depart from the monastery, but he unquestioningly obeyed the will of his superior: the former aristocrat began to walk from door to door, begging for charity. At Tskhinvali in Samachablo St. Onuphrius attracted the attention of a crowd of people leading a young, demon-possessed man. The saint approached them and discovered that they were bringing the young man to a fortuneteller for help.
With love and great boldness St. Onuphrius addressed the crowd, saying, “My children, such behavior is not fitting for Christian believers. Bring the young man to me!”
The young man’s mother fell on her knees before him, begging for help, but St. Onuphrius raised her up and proclaimed: “I have come bearing earth from the grave of St. David of Gareji. This will help your son!” He dissolved a pinch of the earth in water and gave it to the young man to drink, and he was immediately healed.
St. Onuphrius took with him his youngest son, John, and returned to the monastery with a great quantity of provisions.
Once a certain Arab with a wounded eye came to the monastery seeking help. St. Onuphrius washed his eye in water from the holy spring of David-Gareji, and he was immediately healed.
Later St. Onuphrius desired to be tonsured into the great schema. The superior was hesitant, and told Onuphrius to remain for twenty or thirty days at the grave of St. David praying and supplicating God to reveal His will. The saint remained there in prayer, and after thirty days God revealed to the abbot that Fr. Onuphrius was truly worthy of this honor. Then Schemamonk Onuphrius gave a vow of silence and began to sleep on a tattered mat. Under his clothing he wore a heavy chain, and he left his cell only to attend the divine services.
Soon Blessed Onuphrius became so exhausted that he was no longer able to stand. The brothers begged him to lie on a bed and rest his head on a pillow, but the blessed Onuphrius opened his mouth for the first time since taking the vow of silence and said, “I vow to end my days on this mat.”
St. Onuphrius endured his infirmities with thanksgiving and repeated the Jesus Prayer incessantly. When people came to receive his blessing, he would welcome them, saying, “Let me kiss the edge of your garments and wash your feet with my tears!”
Sensing that the end of his days was approaching, St. Onuphrius partook of the Holy Gifts and, eighteen days later, on the Feast of Theophany, fell asleep in the Lord.
St. Onuphrius was buried on the south side of the grave of St. David of Gareji, near the altar window.
The Martyrs Dadas, Habeddai and Kazdoa accepted death for Christ under the Persian emperor Sapor. Dadas was chief court-steward under Sapor, and Saints Habeddai and Kazdoa were the cruel emperor's own children. Not knowing that Saint Dadas was a Christian, the emperor appointed him as governor of one of the Persian districts. When it was discovered, he was stripped of all honours, sent to the court of the cruel torturer Andromelik and was condemned to burning. Approaching the stake, Saint Dadas shielded himself with the sign of the Cross, and the fire went out. Seeing this miracle, the emperor's stunned son Habeddai believed in Christ and in the hearing of all confessed his faith. The judge reported this to the emperor, and he commanded Saint Habeddai to be fiercely tortured. But in all the sufferings Divine strength preserved the saint. An Angel of the Lord comforted him, and each time the Lord restored health and strength to him. Beholding the miraculous healing of the holy martyr, many prisoners situated in the prison with him, and even among them the sorcerer Gargal, became Christians and thus accepted martyrdom. The emperor's daughter Kazdoa, sister of the Martyr Habeddai, secretly visited him in prison and brought him water. Another time Kazdoa saw her brother when the torturers tortured him anew. The holy martyr was hung on a cross, and a flight of arrows shot at him, but the arrows bounced off and fell against the archers. Seeing his sister, he prevailed upon her to believe in Christ. Saint Kazdoa confessed herself a Christian, and by the command of her father the emperor Sapor, she was cruelly beaten and thrown into prison where her brother languished. Suffering from her wounds, Saint Kazdoa asked her brother to pray for her. Saint Habeddai, having said the prayer, assured his sister that she would suffer no more. On the following day during new tortures Saint Gabeddai, having seen in the crowd two presbyters -- Dadias and Abdi, asked them to bring oil and water, since he deeply wanted to receive holy Baptism. At this moment a cloud overshadowed the martyr, from which poured out water and oil, and a voice was heard: "Servant of God, thou hast already received Baptism". The face of the martyr became radiant, and in the air was the smell of fragrance. The torturer commanded the saint to be pierced with spears, and after several hours he died with prayer on his lips. His body was divided into three parts, but the priests Dadias, Abdi and the deacon Armazates took the holy remains and buried them reverently. The body of the holy Martyr Dadas, whom they also tortured for a long time and cut in parts, was also secretly buried by Christians. At midnight the Martyr Habeddai appeared to the priest Dadias, gave him a vessel with oil and sent him to the Martyress Kazdoa to anoint her with oil and commune her the Holy Mysteries. The priest did this, at the very last having said to the holy martyress: "Sleep, sister, until the coming of the Lord", and Saint Kazdoa expired to the Lord. The mother of the holy martyress prepared her for burial and with joy buried her with the Martyr Habeddai.
The Monk Theophanes was an inhabitant of the Syrian city of Gaza. He was very kind and merciful. He took in vagrants, he helped the poor and the sick, and he spent all his substance on help for the needy, while he himself remained in want. Saint Theophanes grieved not at all over the loss of his property, but a still greater ordeal awaited him: he lost his health, and sickness caused him great suffering. His body began to swell up, to rot, and to give off a stench. But this ordeal also the monk endured in good spirit, in everything giving thanks to God. A fiercesome storm raged while he was dying, and his wife grieved that she would not be able to give him proper burial. The saint comforted her: "Weep not, woman, for up to now the trial has lasted, but here doth come help from the Merciful God, since in the hour of my death wilt cease the storm, by the will of God". Thus it occurred: just as he gave up his soul to god, calmness prevailed. After death the body of Saint Theophanes became completely cleansed of wounds and decay and became fragrant, giving forth abundant curative myrh.
The Monk Kiprian of Ustiug was a rich landowner but, contemning the vanities of the world, he took on the Angelic form with the name Kiprian at the monastery of the Holy Trinity at Gledeno. The inhabitants of the newly-established city of Ustiug besought the Monk Kiprian to build a monastery somewhere not far from the city. The Monk Kiprian, having gone about the city and observed its layout, chose a place near shallow lakes at the Ostrozh falls and he started to construct a cell. By the year 1212 he began to build a monastery in honour of the Entrance (Vvedenie) into the Temple of the MostHoly Mother of God, and a church in the name of the Leader-of-Heavenly-Hosts (Archistratigos) Michael. The inhabitants of Ustiug, seeing the God-worthy like of the holy ascetic, brought him all the necessities for building the monastery, and many began to pursue asceticism together with the Monk Kiprian, who received everyone with joy and with love. The holy monastery grew, and according to the account in the Ustiug Chronicle, the Monk Kiprian "was chosen head of the holy monastery and pastor of the flock of Christ", but out of humility he did not take on the priestly dignity. concerning the monk's ascetic deeds there is in evidence a stone used by him at bedside -- during his night prayers the ascetic held it in his hands so as to maintain vigilance and be constantly at prayer. The Monk Kiprian died on 29 September 1276 and was buried in the monastery founded by him. Afterwards at the place of burial was built a church in honour of the Holy Mid-Pentecost.
Sainted Michael, the first Metropolitan of Kiev, according to the Joakimov chronicle was a Syrian by birth, but according to the account of other chronicles -- he was a Bulgarian or Serb. In the year 989 he arrived at Korsun together with other clergy for holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Prince Vladimir (Comm. 15 July), not long after Vladimir's acceptance of Baptism (988). To the lot of the first metropolitan of the Russian Church felt a difficult, but graced service. He zealously made the rounds of the newly-enlightened Russian Land, preaching the Holy Gospel, baptising and teaching the newly-illumined people, founding the first churches and religious schools. In Rostov he established the first wooden church in honour of the Uspenie-Dormition of the MostHoly Mother of God and installed there as bishop Theodore the Greek. Saint Michael was a wise and gentle, but also strict hierarch. The Russian Church has preserved the memory of the meritorious deeds of the saint: in the synodikon-lists of the Novgorod and Kiev Sophia cathedrals he is rightfully called the initiator. Saint Michael died in the year 992 and was buried in the Desyatin-Tithe church of the MostHoly Mother of God in Kiev. In about the year 1103, under the hegumen Saint Theoktist (afterwards Bishop of Chernigov, Comm. 5 August), his relics were transferred to the Antoniev Cave, and on 1 October 1730 into the Pechersk Great Church (Uspenie temple). In connection with this his memory was established under 30 September, and also 15 July -- the day of his repose. Earlier, his memory was noted also under 2 September, together with the Monks Antonii and Theodosii of Pechersk. Evidence for this is contained in the service to him: in the 2nd verse of the "Praises" about Saint Michael it speaks thus: "The first passages of the new year having begun, we do offer unto thee first songs, O blessed one, for having been the first beginning of the hierarchy in the Russian land".
The PriestMartyr Gregory, Enlightener of Great Armenia, was born in the year 257. He was descended from the line of the Parthian Arsakid emperors. The father of Saint Gregory, Anak, in striving after the Armenian throne, had murdered his kinsman, the emperor Kursar, in consequence of which all the line of Anak was marked for destruction. A certain kinsman saved Gregory: he carried off the infant from Armenia to Caesarea Cappadocia and raised him in the Christian faith. At maturity, Gregory married, had two sons, but soon was left a widower. Gregory raised his sons in piety. One of them -- Orthanes, afterwards became a priest, and the other -- Arostanes, accepted monasticism and went off into the wilderness. In order to atone for the sin of his father, who had murdered the father of Tiridates, Gregory entered into the service of the latter and was for him a faithful servant. Tiridates loved Gregory like a friend, but he was intolerant of the Christian confession of faith. After ascending the Armenian throne, he began to demand that Saint Gregory renounce the Christian faith. The steadfastness of the saint embittered Tiridates, and he gave his faithful servant over to cruel tortures: they suspended the sufferer head downwards with a stone about his neck, for several days they choked him with a stinking smoke, they beat and ridiculed him, and forced him to walk in iron sandals inset with nails. During the time of these sufferings Saint Gregory sang psalms. In prison the Lord healed all his wounds. When Gregory again stood before the emperor cheerful and unharmed, that one was astonished and gave orders to repeat the torments. Saint Gregory endured them, not wavering, with all his former determination and bearing. They then poured hot tin over him and threw him into a pit, full of vipers. The Lord however saved His chosen one: the viperous creatures did him no harm. Some pious women fed him with bread, secretly lowering it into the pit. An holy Angel, appearing to the martyr, invigorated his powers and encouraged his spirit. Thus it went on for 14 years. During this time the emperor Tiridates wrought yet another evil deed: he martyred the holy virgin Saint Ripsimia, the aged hegumeness Gaiania and another 35 virgins from one of the Asia Minor monasteries.
Saint Ripsimia had fled to Armenia, together with her hegumeness and fellow sisters, to avoid entering into marriage with the emperor Diocletian (284-305), who was charmed by her beauty. Concerning this, Diocletian sent a report to the Armenian emperor Tiridates suggesting that he either send Ripsimia back, or wed her himself. The servants of the emperor found the fugitives and they began to urge Ripsimia to submit to the will of the emperor. The saint answered, that she, just like all her monastic sisters, was betrothed to the Heavenly Bridegroom and so to enter into marriage was not possible. Then from the heavens resounded a Voice: "Be brave and fear not, for I am with thee". The messengers in fear withdrew. Tiridates gave the maiden over to cruelest torments: they plucked out her tongue, cut open her stomach, blinded and killed her, chopping her body into pieces. After this, inspired by Ripsimia to bravely endure torments for Christ, the hegumeness Saint Gaiania and two other monastic sisters were given over to similar tortures, after which they were beheaded. The remaining 33 sisters were run through with swords and their bodies thrown for devouring by wild beasts. The wrath of God befell emperor Tiridates, and likewise those of his associates and soldiers, who had participated in the tormenting of the saints. Beset by demons, they became like wild boars (as once with Nebuchadnessar, Dan. 4: 30), ranging through the forests, rending their clothes and gnawing at their own bodies. After the passage of a certain while, it was announced in a dream to Tiridates' sister Kusarodukhta: "If Gregory be not taken out of the pit, emperor Tiridates will not be healed". Then those close to the emperor approached the pit and asked: "Gregory, art thou alive?" Gregory answered: "By the grace of my God I am alive". Then they brought out the holy martyr -- unshaven, darkened and very withered, but as before steadfast of spirit.
The saint ordered the remains of the martyred virgins to be gathered up, which they venerably buried, and on the place of burial they built a church. At this church Saint Gregory greeted the demon-possessed emperor and commanded him to pray to the holy martyrs. Tiridates was healed, repenting of his offenses against God, and with his whole household he accepted holy Baptism. Following the example of the emperor, all the whole Armenian people was baptised. Through the efforts of Saint Gregory in the year 301 there was erected the Echmiadzin cathedral in honour of the Descent of the Holy Spirit. In the year 305 Saint Gregory journeyed to Caesarea Cappadocia and there was installed by archbishop Leontios as bishop of Armenia. For his apostolic works he received the title of Enlightener of Armenia. Saint Gregory likewise converted to Christ many people from the surrounding lands of Persia and Assyria. In organising the Armenian Church Saint Gregory summoned to serve as bishop his own son, Arostanes the wilderness-dweller, and he himself retired into the wilderness. Saint Arostanes in the year 325 was a participant in the First OEcumenical Council, which condemned the heresy of Arius. Saint Gregory, having retired to the wilderness, died in the year 335. The right hand and part of his holy relics rest now in a reliquary Echmiadzin cathedral church in Armenia. In the tradition of the Armenian Apostolic Church, preserved up to the present, the Supreme Katholikos-Patriarch of all the Armenians blesses with this right hand the holy myrh at the time of the myrh-boiling.
The Monk Gregory (Grigorii) of Pel'shemsk, Vologda, was born in the city of Galich, Kostroma governance. He was descended from the line of the Lopotov nobility. When the youth reached age 15, his parents wanted him to marry, but they died, not having succeeded in the wished for marriage. Young Gregory distributed to the poor the inheritance left him and entered a monastery of the MostHoly Mother of God, situated on the shore of Lake Galich. The hegumen of the monastery regarded the new monk with mistrust because of his youth and noble parentage. Therefore he put Gregory into obedience under an experienced elder. With great humility the Monk Gregory served all the brethren. After a certain while he was vouchsafed the dignity of priest. Soon afterwards for the Monk Gregory was affirmed his fame as pastor, and many began to arrive for spiritual guidance and counsels. The Galich prince besought the monk to be godfather for his children. Burdened by fame and the nearness of his kinsfolk, the monk departed to Rostov for veneration of the relics of Saint Leontii (Comm. 23 May), and he settled in the monastery of the Monk Avraamii (Abraham, Comm. 29 October). But here also quickly spread reports about the ascetic feats of the saint. The monks of the Saviour (Yakovlev) monastery turned to the Rostov archbishop Dionysii (1418-1425) with a request to assign the Monk Gregory to head their monastery. Out of humility the monk accepted the guidance over the monastery, but after two years he secretly left the monastery and withdrew into the Vologda forest. In the Sosnovetsk wilderness he became acquainted with the Monk Dionysii of Glushitsk (Comm. 1 June). When the Lord prompted the holy ascetic to found his own monastery, the Monk Dionysii gave approval to the intent of his friend. With a cross on his shoulders the Monk Gregory crossed over the River Pel'shema and erected the cross in a forested thicket at the river bank. The first monk in the new monastery was the priest Alexei, in monasticism Alexander. In 1426 was built at the monastery a church in honour of the MostHoly Mother of God. Its icons were written by the Monk Dionysii, and the Monk Gregory himself copied the sacred texts for the monastery. Gradually the number of monks increased, the monastery spread out and became all the more known. The Monk Gregory concerned himself over the nurturing of piety at the monastery, and at the same time he shared in the destiny of his fatherland. In the year 1433 he went to Moscow in order to prevail upon the Galich prince Yurii Dimitrievich, who had seized the Moscow principality from Vasilii Vasilievich the Dark, to return Moscow to prince Vasilii. Prince Yurii obeyed the monastic elder. But in 1434 the son of prince Yurii, Dimitrii Shemyaka, began to ravage the Vologda lands, belonging to Great-prince. The Monk Gregory, distraught over the discord and violence, set out to Dimitrii Shemyaka and turned to him with bold words. "Prince Dimitrii, -- said the monk, -- thou doest deeds not Christian. Better it were that thou had gone into a pagan land to a vile people not knowing God. Widows and orphans cry out against thee to God. How many people from thee wilt perish from hunger and cold, and if soon thou cease not the fratricide, the bloodshed and violence, then soon thou shalt lose both glory and princedom". After this bold denunciation, Shemyaka gave orders to thrown the holy elder off a bridge. For several hours the monk lay there unmoving. But his denunciations produced the desired effect, and Shemyaka soon quit Vologda. The courage of the monk but heightened the veneration of him. Before his end, he communed the Holy Mysteries, spoke a guidance to the brethren, and appointed as hegumen of the monastery his fellow ascetic Alexander. The Monk Gregory reposed on 30 September 1442 and was buried in the monastery founded by him.