Martyr Platon of Ancyra (266)
Commemorated on November 18/December 1

     The Holy Martyr Platon (Plato), brother of the holy Martyr Antiochos the Physician (Comm. 16 July), was born at the city of Ancyra in Galatia. While still a youth he left home and went through the cities, inspiredly preaching the Word of God to pagans, amazing his audience with the persuasiveness and beauty of his speech, and his profound knowledge of Greek learning. Because of his preaching he was arrested and brought for trial to the temple of Zeus before the governor Agrippina. At first the judge attempted by flattery to sway the saint into a renunciation of Christ. He assured the youth, that he might be on a par of intellect with the greatest of the philosophers Plato, if he but worshipped also the pagan gods. To this Saint Platon answered, that the wisdom of the philosopher, although great, was but ephemeral and limited, whereas the true, eternal and unbounded wisdom comprised the Gospel teachings. Then the judge as the reward for renunciation promised to give him as wife his beautiful daughter, but in case of refusal threatened him with torture and death. Saint Platon replied, that his choice was a temporal death for the sake of eternal life. The patience of the governor was exhausted, and he gave orders to mercilessly beat the martyr, and then send him off to prison.
     When they led Saint Platon off to prison, he turned to the people, gathered about the temple, he called on all not to forsake the Christian faith. Seven days later they again led the Martyr Platon for trial before Agrippina in the temple of Zeus, where they had the implements of torture already assembled: boiling cauldrons, red-hot iron and sharp hooks. The judge offered the martyr a choice: to either offer sacrifice to the pagan gods or to feel on himself the effects of these implements of torture. Again the saint steadfastly refused to worship idols, and after his tortures they threw him in prison for 18 more days without bread or water. But seeing that this did not shake the martyr, they offered him in exchange for his life and freedom but to pronounce the words "great god Apollo". "I want not to sin by word", – answered the martyr. By order of Agrippina the holy Martyr Platon was then beheaded (+ 302 or 306).

Martyr Romanus the Deacon of Caesarea and child-martyr Barulas of Antioch (303)
Commemorated on November 18/December 1

The Holy Martyr Romanos was deacon at a church in Palestinian Caesarea. During one of the persecutions against Christians he resettled at Antioch, where he encouraged Christians in the faith by his example and fervent preaching.
     When the Antioch governor Asklepiades was considering the destruction of the Christian temple, Saint Romanos called out the believers to stand up for their sanctuary. He persuaded them, that if they managed to protect the church, then down here on earth would be rejoicing, in the Church Militant, and if they were to perish in defense of the church, there would still be rejoicing in the Heavenly Church Triumphant. Seeing such a firm resolve amongst the people, the governor did not dare to carry out his plans.
     A certain while afterwards, when a pagan celebration had started in the city and many people from the surroundings had come to Antioch, Saint Romanos began denouncing the idol-worship and called on all to follow Christ. They arrested him and subjected him to torture. During the time of tortures the martyr saw in the crowd the holy Christian Lad Barulas and, having directed the governor to him, said: "The young lad is smarter than thee, in thine old age, since that he doth know the True God. Thou however dost worship mere idols". The governor Asklepiades gave orders to bring the boy to him. To all the questions of the governor, Barulas firmly and without fear confessed is faith in Christ, the True God. Asklepiades in a rage gave orders to fiercely whip the Martyr Barulas, and then behead him. Before his death the holy lad asked his mother, who was present at the execution, to give him something to drink, but the mother quieted him down to endure all the torments for the Lord Jesus Christ. She herself put his head of her son onto the block, and after the execution buried him (+ 303).
     The Martyr Romanos was sentenced to burning, but a sudden gust of rain extinguished the fire. The saint began glorifying Christ and insulting the pagan gods. The governor gave orders to cut out his tongue, but even deprived of his tongue Saint Romanos continued loudly to glorify the Lord. Then the torturers sentenced him to hanging (+ 303).

Prophet Obadiah (Abdias) (9th c. B.C.)
Commemorated on November 19/December 2

     The Holy Prophet Obadiah (or Avdi) was from the 12 Minor Prophets, and he lived during the IX Century B.C. He was a native of the village of Betharam, near Sichem, and he served as house-governor of the impious Israelite king Ahab. In these times the whole of Israel had turned away from the True God and had begun to offer sacrifice to Baal. But Obadiah-Avdi in secret faithfully served the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. When the impious and dissolute Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, set about the exterminating of all the prophets of the Lord, Obadiah-Avdi meanwhile in turn gave them shelter and food (3 [1] Kings 18:3ff). Ahab's successor king Okhoziah (Ahaziah) sent 3 detachments of soldiers to arrest the holy Prophet Elias (Elijah or Ilias, Comm. 20 July). One of these detachments was headed by Saint Obadiah-Avdi. Through the prayer of Saint Elias, two of the detachments were consumed by Heavenly fire, but Saint Obadiah-Avdi and his detachment were spared by the Lord (4 [2] Kings 1). From this moment Saint Obadiah resigned military service and became a follower of the Prophet Elias. Afterwards he himself received the gift of prophecy. The God-inspired work of Saint Obadiah-Avdi – the Book of Prophecies under his name, is the fourth in order of the Books of the Twelve Minor Prophets in the Bible. It contains predictions about the New Testament Church. The holy Prophet Obadiah-Avdi was buried in Samaria.

Martyr Barlaam of Caesarea in Cappadocia (304)
Commemorated on November 19/December 2

The Holy Martyr Varlaam lived in Syrian Antioch. During the time of the persecution against Christians under the emperor Diocletian (284-305), Saint Varlaam at an advanced age was arrested and brought to trial, where he confessed himself a Christian. The judge, wanting to compel the saint to renounce Christ, gave orders to conduct Saint Varlaam to the pagan altar, pull his right hand over it, and put into the palm of his hand a red-hot censor burning with incense. The torturer reckoned, that a physically weak old man could not hold out and would drop it on the altar, and in such manner would be offering sacrifice to the idol. But the saint held on to the censor, until his fingers were burnt. After this the holy Martyr Varlaam offered up his soul to the Lord (+ 304).

Venerables Barlaam and loasaph, prince of India, and St. Abenner the King, father of St. loasaph (4th c.)
Commemorated on November 19/December 2
The Monks Varlaam the Wilderness-Dweller, Joasaph the son of the Emperor of India, and his father Avenir: In India, – once formerly having received the Christian faith through the evangelisation of the holy Apostle Thomas, there ruled the emperor Avenir, an idol-worshipper and fierce persecutor of Christians. For a long time he did not have any children. Finally, a son was born to the emperor, and named Joasaph. At the birth of this son the wisest of the emperor's star-gazers predicted, that the emperor's son would accept the Christian faith which was persecuted by his father. The emperor, wanting to ward off the prediction, commanded that there be built for his son a separate palace and he arranged matters such, that his son should never hear a single word about Christ and His teachings.
     Reaching a youthful age, Joasaph asked permission of his father to go out beyond the palace, and he saw existing there such things as suffering, sickness, old age and death. This led him into ponderings over the vanity and absurdity of life, and he began to engage in some serious thinking.
     At this time in a far-off wilderness there asceticised a wise hermit, the Monk Varlaam. By a Divine insight he learned about the youth agonising in search of truth. Forsaking his wilderness, the Monk Varlaam in the guise of a merchant set out to India, and having arrived in the city where Joasaph's palace was situated, he declared that he had brought with him a precious stone, endowed with wondrous powers to heal sickness. Being brought in to Joasaph, he began to present him the Christian faith in the form of parables, and then also "from the Holy Gospel and the Holy Epistles". From the instructions of the Monk Varlaam the youth reasoned out, that the precious stone is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and he believed in Him and desired to accept holy Baptism. Having made the sign of the cross over the youth, the Monk Varlaam bid him to fast and pray, and he went off into the wilderness.
     The emperor, learning that his son was become a Christian, fell into a rage and grief. On the advice of one of his counsellors, the emperor arranged for a debate about faith between the Christians and the pagans, at which under the guise of Varlaam there appeared the Magi magician Nakhor. In the debate Nakhor was supposed to acknowledge himself beaten and in such manner turn the imperial youth away from Christianity. Through a vision in a dream, Saint Joasaph learned about the deception and he threatened Nakhor with a fiercesome execution, if beaten in the debate. Nakhor in terror not only beat the pagans, but he himself came to believe in Christ, and he repented and accepted holy Baptism and went off into the wilderness. The emperor tried to turn his son away from Christianity by other methods also, but the youth conquered all the temptations. Then on the advice of his counsellors, Avenir bestowed on his son half the realm. Saint Joasaph, having become an emperor, restored Christianity in his lands, built anew the churches, and finally, he converted his own father the emperor Avenir to Christianity. Soon after Baptism the emperor Avenir died, and Saint Joasaph abdicated his rule and went off into the wilderness in search of his teacher, the elder Varlaam. Over the course of two years he wandered about through the wilderness, suffering dangers and temptations, until he found the cave of the Monk Varlaam, asceticising in silence. The elder and the youth began to asceticise together. When the end for the Monk Varlaam approached, he served out the Divine Liturgy, partook of the Holy Mysteries and communed Saint Joasaph, and with this he expired to the Lord, having lived in the wilderness 70 of his hundred years. Having buried the elder, Saint Joasaph remained at the cave and continued with the wilderness efforts. He dwelt in the wilderness for 35 years, and expired to the Lord at age sixty.
     The successor of Saint Joasaph as emperor, Barachias, with the help of a certain hermit, found in the cave the undecayed and fragrant relics of both ascetics, and he conveyed them back to his fatherland and gave them burial in a church, built by the Monk-Emperor Joasaph.

Martyr Heliodorus in Pamphylia (273)
Commemorated on November 19/December 2

     The Holy Martyr Heliodoros lived during the reign of the emperor Aurelian (270-275) in the city of Magidum (Pamphylia). The city-governor Aetius subjected the saint to fierce tortures for his faith in Christ and had him beheaded (+ c. 273).

Venerable Gregory Decapolites (816)
Commemorated on November 20/December 3

     The Monk Gregory Dekapolites was born in the city of Isaurian Dekapolis in the VIII Century. From the time of his childhood he was fond of the temple of God and church services. He read constantly with reverence in the Holy Scripture. In order to avoid the marriage which his parents had intended for him, he secretly left home. He spent all his life wandering: he was in Constantinople, Rome, Corinth, and he pursued asceticism for a certain while on Olympos. The Monk Gregory preached everywhere the Word of God, denouncing the Iconoclast heresy, strengthening the faith and fortitude of the Orthodox, whom the heretics in those times were oppressing, torturing and imprisoning. Through his ascetic effort and prayer, Saint Gregory acquired the graced gifts of prophecy and wonderworking. Having attained to purity of heart, he was granted to hear Angelic singing in praise of the Holy Trinity. To better contend against the Iconoclast heresy, Saint Gregory left the monastery of Saint Minos where he had asceticised for a long while, and he set off again to Constantinople. At the capital, a grievous illness undermined his strength, and he expired to the Lord in the year 816.

St. Proclus, archbishop of Constantinople (447)
Commemorated on November 20/December 3

Sainted Proklos, Archbishop of Constantinople, from his early years devoted all his time to prayer and the study of Holy Scripture. The Lord granted him the great good fortune to be a student of Saint John Chrysostom (+ 407, Comm. 13 November), who at first ordained him to the dignity of deacon, and then to the dignity of presbyter. Saint Proklos was a witness of the appearance of the Apostle Paul to Saint John Chrysostom. Saint Proklos received from his teacher a profound comprehension of Holy Scripture, and learned in polished form to elucidate thought.
     After the exile and death of Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Proklos was ordained by the holy Patriarch of Constantinople Sisinios (426-427) to the dignity of bishop of the city of Kyzikos, but under the influence of Nestorian heretics he was expelled by his flock there. Saint Proklos then returned to the capital and preached the Word of God in the churches of Constantinople, strengthening listeners in the Orthodox faith and denouncing the impiety of the heretics. Upon the death of the Patriarch Saint Sisinios, Saint Proklos was elevated to archbishop. Having thus been made Patriarch of Constantinople, he guided the Church over the course of twelve years (434-447). By the efforts of Saint Proklos, the relics of Saint John Chrysostom were transferred from Comana to Constantinople during the time of the holy emperor Saint Theodosius II (408-450).
     During the time of Saint Proklos as patriarch the empire suffered destructive earthquakes, lasting for several months. At Bithynia, in the Hellespont, and in Phrygia cities were devastated, rivers disappeared from the face of the earth, and in previously dry places there occurred terrible flooding. The people of Constantinople together with the patriarch and emperor at the head came out from the city and made moliebens for the ceasing of the calamities, unprecedented in force. During the time of one molieben a boy from the crowd was snatched up into the air by an unseen force and carried off to such an height, that he was no longer to be seen by human sight. Then, whole and unharmed, the lad was lowered upon the ground and he reported, how that up Above he heard and he saw, how the Angels in glorifying God did sing: "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal". All the people began to sing this Trisagion Prayer, – adding to it the refrain. "Have mercy on us!" – and the earthquakes stopped. The Orthodox Church sings still this prayer at Divine-services to this very day.
     The Constantinople flock esteemed their Patriarch for his ascetic life, for his concern about the downtrodden, and for his preaching. Many works of the saint have survived down to the present day. Best known are his discourses against the Nestorians, two tracts of the Saint in praise of the Mother of God, and four tracts on the Nativity of Christ, – setting forth the Orthodox teaching about the Incarnation of the Son of God. The activity of the holy Patriarch in establishing decorum in all the church affairs gained him universal esteem. Surrounded by love and respect, Saint Proklos expired to the Lord in his declining years (+ 446-447).

Martyrs Eustace, Thespesius, and Anatolius of Nicaea (312)
Commemorated on November 20/December 3

The Holy Martyrs Eustathios, Thespasios and Anatolios, natives of the city of Gangra, were the children of a rich merchant. They were baptised by bishop Anthymos of Nicomedia. They died as martyrs at Nicea, having suffered quite fierce tortures (+ 312).

Saint Isaac, Archbishop of Armenia
Commemorated on November 20/December 3

Isaac was born in Constantinople when his father was an envoy of the Armenian king to the Byzantine court. Isaac was the tenth Archbishop of Armenia, and in that calling, governed the Church for fifty years. His episcopacy was distinguished, among other things, by the translation of the Holy Scriptures into the Armenian language. He was told in a vision that the Armenians would eventually fall away from the pure Faith of Orthodoxy. This eminent hierarch entered peacefully into rest in the year 440 and reposed in the Lord.

The Three Holy Virgins
Commemorated on November 20/December 3

All three were Persians. At the time of King Sapor, these three virgins were persecuted as Christians, and were finally cut to pieces with knives. Three fig trees grew out of their graves that healed all manner of pains and illnesses.

The Entry into the Temple of the Most-holy Theotokos
Commemorated on November 21/December 4

When the Most-holy Virgin Mary reached the age of three, her holy parents Joachim and Anna took her from Nazareth to Jerusalem to dedicate her to the service of God according to their earlier promise. It was a three-day journey from Nazareth to Jerusalem but, traveling to do a God-pleasing work, this journey was not difficult for them. Many kinsmen of Joachim and Anna gathered in Jerusalem to take part in this event, at which the invisible angels of God were also present. Leading the procession into the Temple were virgins with lighted tapers in their hands, then the Most-holy Virgin, led on one side by her father and on the other side by her mother. The virgin was clad in vesture of royal magnificence and adornments as was befitting the ``King's daughter, the Bride of God'' (Psalm 45:13-15). Following them were many kinsmen and friends, all with lighted tapers. Fifteen steps led up to the Temple. Joachim and Anna lifted the Virgin onto the first step, then she ran quickly to the top herself, where she was met by the High Priest Zacharias, who was to be the father of St. John the Forerunner. Taking her by the hand, he led her not only into the Temple, but into the ``Holy of Holies,'' the holiest of holy places, into which no one but the high priest ever entered, and only once each year, at that. St. Theophylact of Ohrid says that Zacharias ``was outside himself and possessed by God'' when he led the Virgin into the holiest place in the Temple, beyond the second curtain-otherwise, his action could not be explained. Mary's parents then offered sacrifice to God according to the Law, received the priest's blessing and returned home. The Most-holy Virgin remained in the Temple and dwelt there for nine full years. While her parents were alive, they visited her often, especially Righteous Anna. When God called her parents from this world, the Most-holy Virgin was left an orphan and did not wish to leave the Temple until death or to enter into marriage. As that would have been against the Law and custom of Israel, she was given to St. Joseph, her kinsman in Nazareth, after reaching the age of twelve. Under the acceptable role of one betrothed, she could live in virginity and thus fulfill her desire and formally satisfy the Law, for it was then unknown in Israel for maidens to vow virginity to the end of their lives. The Most-holy Virgin Mary was the first of such life-vowed virgins, of the thousands and thousands of virgin men and women who would follow her in the Church of Christ.

Martyrs Cecilia, Valerian, Tiburtius, and Maximus at Rome (288)
Commemorated on November 22/December 5

     The Holy Martyress Cecelia (Cesilia) and the Holy Martyrs Valerian, Tiburtius and Maximus: The holy Martyress Cecelia was a Roman of rich and noted lineage. From her youth she was raised in the Christian faith and she prayed fervently, she helped those in need, and beneathe her fine clothing she wore an hairshirt. Her parents decided to give her in marriage to the illustrious pagan Valerian. The saint did not dare oppose the will of her parents, but with tears she prayed to God, that her betrothed would believe in Christ, and that she would preserve her virginity. The saint persuaded her fiance to go with her to bishop Urban, hiding away from the persecution in a cave along the Appian Way. The instructions of the wise elder permeated the soul of Valerian, and both he and his brother Tiburtius believed in Christ and were converted to Christianity. The brothers distributed part of their inheritance to the poor, cared for the sick, and buried Christians tortured to death by the persecutors.
     The governor Ammachus, having learned of this, gave orders to arrest the brothers and bring them to trial. He demanded that the saints renounce Christ and offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. The brothers refused. Then they mercilessly began to scourge the brothers. Saint Valerian under torture urged Christians not to be afraid of torments, but rather stand firm for Christ.
     The governor, wanting to prevent the holy preacher from influencing the people, gave orders to take the martyrs beyond the city limits and there execute them. The detachment of soldiers accompanying the martyrs to execution was commanded by Maximus. He was amazed at the courage of the saints. He asked them why they did not fear death. The holy brothers answered, that they were relinquishing temporal life for life eternal. Maximus wanted to learn in detail the teaching of Christians. He took Saints Valerian and Tiburtius to his own house and all night engaged them in conversation. Having learned of this, Saint Cecelia went with a priest to Maximus, and he with all his family accepted holy Baptism.
     On the following day when they beheaded the Martyrs Valerian and Tiburtius, Saint Maximus confessed before everyone that he saw how their holy souls had gone up to Heaven. For this confession the holy Martyr Maximus was scourged to death with whips (+ 230).
     The governor wanted to confiscate the property of the executed, but having learned that Saint Cecelia had already distributed all her remaining wealth to the poor and by her preaching had converted 400 men, he gave orders to execute her. For three days they tormented her with fire and smoke in a red-hot bath-house, but the grace of God succoured her. Then they decided to behead her. The executioner struck the saint with a sword, but only wounded her. The holy martyress suffered yet three more days in full consciousness, encouraging in the faith those around her, and died with prayer on her lips.

St. Callistus II, patriarch of Constantinople (Mt. Athos) (1397)
Commemorated on November 22/December 5

Sainted Kallistos II, known under the name Kallistos Xanthopoulos, pursued asceticism at the Xanthopulos monastery on Holy Mount Athos (apparently, in the monastery of the Pantokrator). In 1397 he was elevated to the patriarchal throne and was hierarch during the days of Manuel Paleologos (1391-1425). Resigning the guidance of the Constantinople Church, he withdrew into solitude. Together with his fellow ascetic Ignatios of Xanthopulos he compiled the Hundred Chapters located in the second part of the Slavonic edition of the "Dobrotoliubie" ("Philokalia"). As asserted by their contemporary, Sainted Simeon of Soluneia-Thessalonika, Saints Kallistos and Ignatios of Xanthopulos witnessed the Divine Radiance, as had the apostles on Mount Tabor. Their faces seemed "shining like the sun".

Martyr Menignus at Parium (250)
Commemorated on November 22/December 5

Menignus was born on the Hellespont. He worked as a linen-bleacher, for which he was called ``the Fuller.'' At the time of Emperor Decius, he tore up the imperial decree declaring a persecution of Christians. For this, he was thrown into prison, where the Lord Himself appeared to him and encouraged him, saying: ``Be not afraid, I am with thee.'' At that moment his chains melted like wax, the prison opened of itself, and he went out. He was arrested again and tried. They tortured him inhumanly, severing his fingers and toes and beheading him. At night, his severed head glowed like a lamp.

Apostles Philemon and Archippus, Martyr Apphia, wife of Philemon, and St. Onesimus, disciple of St. Paul (ca. 109)
Commemorated on November 22/December 5

The Holy Disciple Philemon and his spouse Apphia lived in the city of Colossa in Phrygia. Upon receiving Baptism from the holy Apostle Paul, they converted their house into an house of prayer, where all the Colossian believers in Christ gathered together and made Divine services. They devoted themselves to the service of the sick and downcast. The Disciple Philemon was made bishop of the city of Gaza and he preached the Word of God throughout all Phrygia. The holy Apostle Paul did not cease being his guide, and directed to him his Epistle filled with love, and in which he sends blessings "to Philemon our friend and co-worker, and Apphia our beloved sister, and Archippos our co‑striver, and their household the church" (Phil. 1: 1-3). Onysimos, about whom it speaks in the Epistle, – a Disciple from among the Seventy – was a former servant of Philemon. During the persecution of Nero (54-68) Saints Philemon and Apphia, and likewise the holy Disciple Archippos (who also lived at Colossa), all received the crown of martyrdom. During the time of a pagan feast an enraged crowd rushed into the Christian church when Divine-services were being made. All fled in terror, and only Saints Philemon, Archippos and Apphia remained. They seized hold of them and led them off to the city governor. The crowd like beasts beat up and stabbed at Saint Archippos with knives, and on the way to the court he died. Saints Philemon and Apphia were stoned to death by order of the governor.
     The memory of the holy Disciples Philemon and Archippos and Equal-to-the-Apostles Apphia is celebrated also on 19 February.

Righteous Michael the Soldier of Bulgaria (866)
Commemorated on November 22/December 5

Holy Michael the Warrior, among the first Christians of Bulgaria, lived in the city of Potok during the reign of the Byzantine emperor Michael III P'yanos ("the Fat") (855-867). He was descended from an old Bulgarian line. While still an infant they had called him a "saintly child". From his youth he led an immaculate life, possessed the fear of God, fasted, generously distributed alms to the poor and visited the sick, and was meek and humble. At 24 years of age Saint Michael was made head of a troop of soldiers. The Turks were warring against Christians. Saint Michael inspired all his troop by his bravery in battle. When the allies of the Bulgarians, the Greeks, fled from the field of battle, he fell to the earth and prayed with tears for the saving of Christians. Then he led his own soldiers against the enemy. Rushing at the centre of the enemy formation, he put it into disarray and himself remained unharmed.
     Returning homewards after the war, he rescued the inhabitants of a certain city in the Raipha wilderness from an huge snake, which emerged from a lake and attacked children. Having returned home, Saint Michael some days later gave up his spirit to the Lord, Whom he had loved since his youth. He wrought many miracles after death, granting healing to those recoursing to him with reverence.
     The transfer of the relics of the saint from Potok to Tyrnovo occurred in the year 1206, and at the beginning of the XIX they were transferred to Valakhia.

St. Amphilochius, bishop of Iconium (394)
Commemorated on November 23/December 6

Amphilochius was a fellow countryman, companion and friend of St. Basil the Great and other great saints of the fourth century. Amphilochius left the uproar of the world early in life and withdrew to a cave where, as a hermit, he lived in asceticism for forty years. It then happened that the episcopal throne in Iconium was vacated, and Amphilochius, in a wondrous manner, was chosen and consecrated Bishop of Iconium. He was a splendid shepherd and a great defender of the purity of the Orthodox Faith. He took part in the Second Ecumenical Council in 381. He fought zealously against the impious Macedonius, the Arians and the Eunomians. He personally begged Theodosius the Great to expel all the Arians from every city in the empire, but the emperor did not heed him. A few days later, Amphilochius came before the emperor again. When the bishop was led into the reception chamber, the emperor was sitting on his throne, and on his right sat his son Arcadius, whom Theodosius had taken as his co-emperor. Entering the chamber, St. Amphilochius bowed to Emperor Theodosius but paid no attention to Arcadius, the emperor's son, as if he were not there. Greatly enraged at this, Emperor Theodosius ordered that Amphilochius be immediately expelled from the court. The saint then said to the emperor: ``Do you see, O Emperor, how you do not tolerate disrespect to your son? So too, God the Father does not tolerate disrespect to His Son, and is disgusted with the corruptness of those who blaspheme Him and is angered at all those adherents of that cursed (Arian) heresy.'' Hearing this, the emperor then understood why Amphilochius had not given honor to his son, and was amazed at his wisdom and daring. Among many other works, St. Amphilochius wrote several books on the Faith. He entered into rest in great old age in the year 395 and took up his habitation in eternal life.

St. Gregory, bishop of Agrigentum (680)
Commemorated on November 23/December 6

Gregory was born of devout parents, Chariton and Theodota in Sicily near the town of Agrigentum, where he was later bishop,. His entire life was imbued with God's wonderful miracles. In a miraculous manner, he went to Jerusalem; in a miraculous manner, he was chosen as bishop; and in a miraculous manner, he was saved from slander. He himself was a great miracle-worker, for he was a great God-pleaser, a great spiritual father and an ascetic. He participated at the Fifth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in 553. After difficult trials he reposed peacefully near the end of the sixth century or the beginning of the seventh.

St. Alexander Nevsky (in schema Alexis), grand prince of Novgorod (1263)
Commemorated on November 23/December 6

Alexander was the son of Prince Yaroslav. From childhood, his heart was directed to God. He defeated the Swedes on the river Neva on July 15, 1240, for which he received the appellation ``Nevsky'' [``of the Neva'']. On that occasion, Saints Boris and Gleb appeared to one of Alexander's commanders and promised their help to the great prince, who was their kinsman. Once, among the Golden Horde of the Tartars, he refused to bow down to idols or to pass through fire. Because of his wisdom, physical strength and beauty, even the Tartar Khan respected him. He built many churches and performed countless works of mercy. He entered into rest on November 14, 1263 at the age of forty-three. On this day, November 23, the translation of his relics to the town of Vladimir is commemorated.

St. Metrophanes (in schema Macarius), bishop of Voronezh (1703)
Commemorated on November 23/December 6

Sainted Mitrophan, Bishop of Voronezh, in the world Mikhail (Michael), was born 8 November 1623. In the synodikon (memorial-list) belonging to the saint, the list begins especially with persons of priestly dignity, and this gives a basis to suggest, that he was born into priestly lineage. From the Spiritual last-testimony of Sainted Mitrophan is known, that he "was born of pious parents and was raised by them in the incorrupt piety of the Eastern Church, in the Orthodox faith". Until age 40 the saint lived in the world: he was married, had a son Ioann and served as a parish priest. The place of pastoral activity of the priest Mikhail was the village of Sidorov, situated at the River Molokhta, a tributary of the Teza flowing to the Klyaz'ma, not far from the city of Shui (now Vladimir district).
     Having lost his spouse, priest Mikhail took monastic vows with the name Mitrophan in the Zolotnikovsk wilderness in 1663. In the synodikon of the monastery the origin of Saint Mitrophan that begins with the words: "Origin of black clergy Mitrophan is of Sidorovsk". After three years of monastic life the priest-monk Mitrophan was chosen hegumen of the Yakroma Kosma monastery [cf. 14 October]. He guided the monastery for 10 years, shewing himself zealous as its head. By his efforts here they raised up a church in honour of the All-Merciful Saviour Not-Made-by-Hand Image.
     Patriarch Joakim (1674-1690), learning about the deep piety of Saint Mitrophan, raised him in 1675 to the dignity of archimandrite of the then known Makarievo-Unzhensk monastery. Under the supervision of the saint, a church was built there in honour of the Annunciation (Blagoveschenie) of the MostHoly Mother of God, together with a refectory and bell-tower. At the Moscow Sobor (Council) of 1681-1682 among the number of measures taken for the struggle against the old-ritualist schism, and with the goal in mind of improvement of Christian enlightenment among the Orthodox populace, it was resolved to increase the number of dioceses and to open up new cathedrals at: Voronezh, Tambov, Kholmogor and Great-Ustiug. Saint Mitrophan was summoned to the capital and on 2 April 1682 was ordained bishop of Voronezh by Patriarch Joakim and sixteen archpastors.
     The beginning of bishop's service of Sainted Mitrophan co-incided with a terrible time of troubles for Rus' and a Church schism. Upon his arrival at Voronezh the saint first of all sent out to the pastors of his diocese a circular missive, in which he urged his pastors to moral improvement. "Venerable priests of God Most-High! – wrote the saint, – Lead the flock of Christ! Ye ought to possess bright mental eyes, enlightened by the light of reasoning, in order to lead others to the correct path. In the words of the Lord, ye ought to be yourselves the light: "ye art the light of the world" (Mt. 5: 14)... Christ the Saviour, entrusting the flock to His apostle, thrice said to him: pastor, as though inspiring him that the image of pastorate is threefold: the word of teaching, prayer in benefit of the Holy Mysteries, and the example of life. Act ye also by all three methods: give example by a good life, teach your people and pray for them, strengthening them by the Holy Mysteries; above all enlighten the unbelieving by holy Baptism, and lead sinners to repentance. Be attentive to the sick, so that their lives be not deprived of the communing of the Holy Mysteries and the anointing with holy oil".
     Saint Mitrophan began his arch-pastoral activity with the building of a new cathedral church in honour of the Annunciation of the MostHoly Mother of God, replacing an old wooden temple. In 1692 the cathedral with chapels in honour of the Archistrategos Michael and Saint Nicholas was consecrated. In the 20 years that Sainted Mitrophan was bishop, the number of churches increased from 182 to 239, and two monasteries were founded: the Korotoyaksk Ascension (Voznesenie) and the Bitiugsk Trinity monasteries. And within the existing monasteries, he concerned himself about eradicating the unseeming and disorders, emphasising strict life according to monastic rule.
     The first Voronezh bishop eagerly concerned himself about the needs of his flock. He consoled both the poor and the wealthy, was a defender of widows and orphans, and an advocate of the wronged. His home served as an hostel for strangers and an hospice for the sick. The saint prayed not only for the living, but also for dead Christians, and particularly for soldiers fallen for the Fatherland, inscribing their names in the memorial list of the synodikon. Remembering them at Proskomedia [priest's preparation of the gifts preceeding Liturgy], Sainted Mitrophan said: "If a righteous soul, then be there a greater portion of worthiness; if however be a sinner, then be there a communion with the mercy of God".
     There existed a great friendship of Sainted Mitrophan with Sainted Pitirim, Bishop of Tambov (Comm. 28 July). They not only kept up correspondence, but also met for spiritual talk. The history of the founding near Tambov of the Tregulyaev John the Precursor monastery was connected with the friendship of the bishops. On 15 September 1688 Saint Mitrophan visited with Saint Pitirim. Three of them together (with them was the priest Vasilii) took a stroll, to a place of solitary prayers of the Tambov archpastor, and there they chose the place for the future monastery.
     Saint Mitrophan, a man intensely patriotic, by his own moral authority, kind‑heartedness and prayers contributed to the reforms of Peter I, the necessity and purpose of which he well understood. With the building of a fleet at Voronezh for a campaign against Azov, Saint Mitrophan urged the nation to fully support Peter I. This was particularly important, since many regarded the construction of a fleet as an useless affair. The saint did not limit himself only to advice to the tsar, but rendered also material support to the state treasury, which needed the money for the construction of the fleet, and he provided all the means, aware that they would go for the welfare of the nation.
     The patriotic feelings of the saint were combined in his soul with unflinching faith and strict Orthodox conviction, on account of which he did not fear incurring the tsar's wrath. Thus, the saint refused to go to court to Peter I, since there stood there statues of pagan gods, and although for disobedience to the imperial will disgrace threatened the saint, he remained uncompromising. Peter gave orders to remove the statues and from that time was imbued with greater respect for the bishop. Sainted Mitrophan died in 1703 in extreme old age, taking before death the schema with the name Makarii. The funeral was done 4 December. Tsar Peter I himself carried the coffin from the cathedral to the tomb. Taking leave, he said: "There remains for me no greater such holy elder. Memory eternal be to him". One of the remarkable memorials of the life and activity of Saint Mitrophan is his Spiritual Testament. In it he says: "By Divine destiny I have arrived at old age and now I have exhausted my natural strength. Wherefore I have adjudged this my final writing... When my sinful soul is released from its union with the flesh, I entrust it to the bosom of the Wisdom of God having created it, that it might find favour as the work of His hands, and the sinful bones I grant to the mother of all, in expectation thence of the resurrection of the dead". Further on, addressing pastors and the flocks, the saint says: "The simple sinner giveth answer to God for only his soul alone, but priests can come to torment for many, in neglecting the sheep, from which they do gather milk and wool... For everyone such the rule of wise men is: do work, preserve a balance – ye will be rich; drink temperately, eat little – ye will be healthy; do good, shun evil – ye wilt be saved". The commemoration of Sainted Mitrophan was established in 1832.

Great-martyr Catherine of Alexandria (305)
Commemorated on November 24/December 7

Catherine was the daughter of King Constus. After the death of her father, she lived with her mother in Alexandria. Her mother was secretly a Christian who, through her spiritual father, brought Catherine to the Christian Faith. In a vision, St. Catherine received a ring from the Lord Jesus Himself as a sign of her betrothal to Him. This ring remains on her finger even today. Catherine was greatly gifted by God and was well educated in Greek philosophy, medicine, rhetoric and logic. In addition to that, she was of unusual physical beauty. When the iniquitous Emperor Maxentius offered sacrifices to the idols and ordered others to do the same, Catherine boldly confronted the emperor and denounced his idolatrous errors. The emperor, seeing that she was greater than he in wisdom and knowledge, summoned fifty of his wisest men to debate with her on matters of faith and to put her to shame. Catherine outwitted and shamed them. In a rage, the emperor ordered all fifty of those men burned. By St. Catherine's prayers, all fifty confessed the name of Christ and declared themselves Christians before their execution. After Catherine had been put in prison, she converted the emperor's commander, Porphyrius, and two hundred soldiers to the true Faith, as well as Empress Augusta-Vasilissa herself. They all suffered for Christ. During the torture of St. Catherine, an angel of God came to her and destroyed the wheel on which the holy virgin was being tortured. Afterward, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself appeared to her and comforted her. After many tortures, Catherine was beheaded at the age of eighteen, on November 24, 310. Milk, instead of blood, flowed from her body. Her miracle-working relics repose on Mount Sinai.

Great-martyr Mercurius of Caesarea in Cappadocia (259)
Commemorated on November 24/December 7

The Holy GreatMartyr Mercurius (Mercury), a Skyth by descent, served as a soldier in the Roman army. The impious emperors Decius (249-251) and Valerian (253-259) issued a law, ordering all Roman citizens to worship the pagan gods and condemning Christians to death.
     During these times barbarians attacked the Roman empire, and the emperor Decius went on campaign with a large army. In one of the battles an Angel of the Lord appeared to Mercurius and presented him a sword with the words: "Fear not. Go forth bravely against the enemy. And when thou art victorious, forget not the Lord thy God". With this sword the holy warrior broke through the ranks of the barbarian horde; he destroyed an hoste of the enemy and killed the leader of the barbarians, winning victory for the Romans. The grateful emperor rewarded Saint Mercurius for his bravery, and made him a military commander.
     The Angel of the Lord appeared again to the holy warrior, who had received great honours and riches, and reminded him by Whom the victory had been given, and bidding him to serve the Lord. Saint Mercurius recalled that his father Gordian had also confessed the Christian faith; – he himself had been baptised and with all his soul he yearned for Christ. He refused to participate in the solemn offering of sacrifice to the pagan gods and was summoned before the dread emperor. Openly declaring himself a Christian, Mercurius threw down at the feet of the emperor his soldier's belt and mantle and he repudiated all the honours. The Angel of the Lord again appeared to Saint Mercurius in the prison, encouraging him and inspiring him to bravely endure all the suffering for Christ.
     They stretched the holy martyr over fire; they cut at him with knives, and lashed at him so much, that the blood from his wounds extinguished the fire. But each time, when they threw him back into the prison nearly dying from his wounds, Saint Mercurius received complete healing from the Lord, manifesting before the impious the great power of faith in Christ. Condemned to a sentence of death, the saint was deemed worthy of a vision of the Lord Himself, promising him a quick release from his sufferings. The GreatMartyr Mercurius was beheaded at Caesarea Cappadocia. His holy body exuded fragrant myrh and incense, bestowing healing on many of the sick.
     Even after his death the warrior of Christ, united unto the Heavenly Church, served a soldier's service for the good of the earthly Church. Through the prayer of Sainted Basil the Great (Comm. 1 January) in front of an icon of the MostHoly Mother of God for deliverance of Christians under persecution of the Christian faith by the emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363), the Mediatrix for Christians dispatched the holy Warrior Mercurius in assist from the Church Triumphant unto the Church Militant. The image of the holy GreatMartyr Mercurius, depicted on the icon alongside the image of the MostHoly Mother of God, became invisible. It reappeared again later with a bloodied spear.
     At this very moment Julian the Apostate on his Persian campaign was pierced by the spear of an unknown assailant, who disappeared immediately. The mortally wounded Julian, as he lay dying, cried out: "Thou hast conquered, Galileian!"

Venerable Mastridia of Alexandria (1060)
Commemorated on November 24/December 7

The Nun Mastridia lived in Egyptian Alexandria. She gave a vow of virginity and, keeping the fasts and silence, she dwelt in unceasing prayer. The pure life of the holy virgin was beset by trials. A certain young man, attracted to her with impure desire, began to pursue her such that she could not go from her home even for church. Grieving over the fact that she had unwillingly led the youth into temptation, and being zealous for his salvation, the saint invited him into her home. Knowing that it was her pretty eyes especially that attracted him, the nun with complete selflessness put them out with a linen weaving instrument. Having saved herself and the youth from temptation, Saint Mastridia brought him to repentance. He accepted monasticism and lived as a strict ascetic, and Saint Mastridia finished her life in works for the Lord.

Hieromartyr Clement, pope of Rome (101)
Commemorated on November 25/December 8

Clement was born in Rome of royal lineage and was a contemporary of the holy apostles. His mother and two brothers, traveling on the sea, were carried by a storm to different places. His father then went to find his wife and two sons and he, too, became lost. Clement, being twenty-four years old, then set out for the east to seek his parents and brothers. In Alexandria, he made the acquaintance of the Apostle Barnabas and, afterward, joined the Apostle Peter whom his two brothers, Faustinus and Faustinian, were already following. By God's providence, the Apostle Peter came upon Clement's mother as an aged beggar woman, and then found his father as well. Thus, the whole family was united, and all returned to Rome as Christians. Clement did not separate himself from the great apostle, who appointed him as bishop before his death. After Peter's martyrdom, Linus was Bishop of Rome, then Cletus-both of them for a short time-and then Clement. Clement governed the Church of God with flaming zeal, and from day to day brought a great number of unbelievers to the Christian Faith. In addition, he ordered seven scribes to write the lives of the Christian martyrs who were suffering at that time for their Lord. The Emperor Trajan banished him to Cherson, where Clement found about two thousand exiled Christians. All were occupied with the difficult job of hewing stones in a waterless land. The Christians received Clement with great joy and he was a living source of comfort to them. By his prayer, he brought forth water from the ground and converted so many of the unbelieving natives to Christianity that, in one year, seventy-five churches were built there. To prevent his spreading the Christian Faith even more, the authorities condemned Clement to death, and drowned him in the sea with a stone around his neck in the year 101. His miracle-working relics were removed from the sea only in the time of Saints Cyril and Methodius.

Hieromartyr Peter, archbishop of Alexandria (311)
Commemorated on November 25/December 8

Peter was a disciple and successor of St. Theonas, Archbishop of Alexandria, and was for a time a teacher at Origen's famous school of philosophy. He ascended the archiepiscopal throne in the year 299, and died a martyr's death in 311, beside the grave of the Holy Apostle Mark. He governed the Church in a most difficult era, when assaults were being made against the faithful by unbelievers from without, and by heretics from within. During his time, 670 Christians suffered in Alexandria. Often, whole families were led to the scaffold and executed. At the same time, the ungodly Arius was confusing the faithful with his false teaching. St. Peter cut him off from the Church and anathematized him, both in this world and in the next. The Lord Himself visited this great and wonderful saint in prison.



The Venerable Paphnutius
Commemorated on November 25/December 8

Paphnutius never drank wine. Once, bandits seized him, and their leader forced him to drink a cup of wine. Seeing Paphnutius's kind nature, the chief of the bandits repented, and abandoned his brigandage.

Venerable Alypius the Stylite of Adrianopolis (640).
Commemorated on November 26/December 9

Alypius was born in Hadrianopolis, a city in Paphlagonia. From childhood, he was dedicated to the service of God. He served as a deacon with Bishop Theodore in the church in that city. But, desirous of a life of solitude, prayer and meditation, Alypius withdrew to a Greek cemetery outside the city. This was a cemetery from which people fled in terror, because of frequent demonic visions seen there. Alypius set up a cross in the cemetery and built a church in honor of St. Euphemia, who had appeared to him in a dream. Beside the church, he built a tall pillar, climbed on top of it, and spent fifty-three years there in fasting and prayer. Neither the mockery of men nor the evil of the demons was able to drive him away or cause him to waver in his intention. Alypius especially endured countless assaults from demons. Not only did the demons try to terrorize him with apparitions, but stoned him as well, and gave him no peace, day or night, for a long time. The courageous Alypius protected himself from the power of the demons by the sign of the Cross and the name of Jesus. Finally the demons were defeated and fled from him. Men began to revere him and come to him for prayer, consolation, instruction and healing. Two monasteries were built beside his pillar, one on one side for men and one on the other for women. His mother and sister lived in the women's monastery. St. Alypius guided the monks and nuns from his pillar, by example and words. He shone like the sun in the heavens for everyone, showing them the way to salvation. This God-pleaser had so much grace that he was often illuminated in heavenly light, and a pillar of this light extended to the heavens above him. St. Alypius was a wonderful and mighty miracle-worker in life, and also after his repose. He lived for one hundred years and entered into rest in the year 640, during the reign of Emperor Heraclius. His head is preserved in the Monastery of Koutloumousiou on the Holy Mountain.

Venerable James the Solitary of Syria (457)
Commemorated on November 26/December 9

The Monk James the Hermit asceticised on a mountain, not far from the city of Cyr in Syria. He suffered grievous ills, but he always wore chains, ate food only in the evening and prayed constantly. By such efforts he attained to an high spiritual perfection, having received from the Lord power over demons, the gift of healing and even of resuscitating the dead. In his declining years the Monk James peacefully expired to the Lord.

The Venerable Stylianus
Commemorated on November 26/December 9

Stylianus was from Paphlagonia and a fellow countryman and contemporary of St. Alypius. He had a great love for the Lord Jesus, and because of this love gave himself up to great ascetic struggle. He renounced everything in order to have an undivided love for his Lord. Before his repose, angels came to take his soul, and his face shone like the sun. Stylianus was a great miracle-worker before and after his death. He especially helps sick children and childless couples.

Venerable Nicon Metanoeite ("Preacher of Repentance") of Armenia (998)
Commemorated on November 26/December 9

He was born about 930 to a pious and wealthy family near Trebizond. Once, making an inspection of the family's estates, he was so affected by the wretched conditions of the poor fieldworkers that he despaired of happiness in this world and determined to live a monastic life. After years spent in a monastery, where he shone in obedience, prayer and self-denial, the Saint was given leave to travel in the ministry of the Gospel of Christ. For three years he wandered the East, without home or possessions, crying to everyone he met, "Repent!" and proclaiming with tears the message of salvation in Christ. He then spent seven years in Crete, then went to Greece, walking barefoot from place to place, preaching repentance and becoming so well known that he acquired the nickname "Metanoite," meaning "Repent!" After driving a great plague from Sparta through his prayers, he settled near that city, building a great church dedicated to Christ the Savior, and living in the church for the remainder of his life. In time, a monastery was attached to the church for his disciples. His last counsel to his disciples was: "Flee pride, cleave to humility; do not despise the poor; keep clear of all evil, of all envy and of the remembrance of wrongs; forgive your brethren. Go regularly to church and confess your sins often to the priests and spiritual fathers. If you keep to these counsels, I will never abandon you." He then gave his soul back to God. Saint Nikon was immediately venerated as a saint by the people of Sparta, and is regarded as the protector of the city, where his relics are venerated to this day.

Repose of St. Innocent, first bishop of Irkutsk (1731)
Commemorated on November 26/December 9

 Sainted Innokentii, Bishop of Irkutsk, in the world Ioann (John), was descended from the Kul'chitsky line of court nobility. His parents in the mid-XVII Century resettled from Volynia to the Chernigov region. The saint was born in about the year 1680, and educated at the Kiev Spiritual Academy. He accepted monastic tonsure in 1710 and was appointed an instructor at the Slavonic-Greek-Latin Academy as prefect and professor of theology. In 1719 Saint Innokentii transferred to the Sankt-Peterburg Alexandro-Nevsky Lavra with the appointment of arch-priestmonk of the Fleet. In 1720 he bore the obedience of vice-regent of the Alexandro-Nevsky Lavra. On 14 February 1721, PriestMonk Innokentii was ordained to the dignity of Bishop of Pereyaslavl' and appointed to the Peking Spiritual Mission in China. But the Chinese government on the visa gave refusal "for a spiritual personage, a great lord", as the Senate Commission on External Affairs had indiscretely characterised him. The saint was compelled to spend three years at Selingin on the Chinese border, undergoing much deprivation because of the uncertainty of his position, and grief from the disarray of civil governance in Siberia. Diplomatic blunders of the Russian Mission in China by Graf Raguzinsky, and intrigues by the Irkutsk archimandrite Antonii Platkovsky led to this – that in China was appointed archimandrite Antonii, and by decree of the MostHoly Synod Saint Innokentii was named in 1727 to be Bishop of Irkutsk and Nerchinsk. And so he entered into the governance of the newly-formed dioceses.
     The proximity of the Chinese border, the expanse and sparsely-settled dioceses, the great number of diverse nationalities (Buryat, Mongol, and others), mostly unenlightened by the Christian faith, the lack of roads and the poverty – all this made Saint Innokentii's pastoral work burdensome and his life full of deprivation. Through a strange oversight of the Senate , he did not receive money up until the time of his very death and he endured extreme insufficiency of means. In these difficult condition of scant funds the Irkutsk Ascension monastery still maintained two schools opened under him – one Mongol and the other Russian. The constant concern of the saint was directed towards their functioning – the selection of worthy teachers, and providing for students the necessary books, clothing and other provisions.
     The saint toiled tirelessly at the organising of the diocese, strengthening its spiritual life, to which witness his many sermons, pastoral letters and directives. In his work and deprivations Saint Innokentii found spiritual strength, humility, and perspicacity.
     In the Spring of 1728 the Baikal region began to suffer a drought. Famine from poor grain-harvest had threatened the diocese already back in 1727. With the blessing of the sainted-hierarch, in May within the churches of Irkutsk and the Irkutsk region for each Liturgy they began to include a molieben for the cessation of the drought; on Saturdays they sang an akathist to the Mother of God, and on Sundays they served a collective molieben. "The supplications, – said the saint, – should finish on the day of Saint Elias". And indeed on that very day appointed, 20 July, at Irkutsk there raged a storm with such strong rains, that in the streets of the city water stood up to their knees, – and thus ended the drought.
     Through the efforts of Saint Innokentii, construction was started on a stone church to replace the wooden one at the Ascension monastery, and the boundaries of the diocese were expanded to include not only Selingin, but also the Yakutsk and Ilimsk surroundings.
     The saint, never noted for robust health, and under the influence of the severe climate and his afflictions, rather young expired to the Lord. He reposed on the morning of 27 November 1731.
     In the year 1764 the body of the saint was discovered incorrupt during a time of restoration work on the monastery's Tikhvinsk church. Many miracles occurred not only at Irkutsk, but also in remote places of Siberia – for those recoursing with prayer to the saint. This impelled the MostHoly Synod to display the relics and glorify the saint in the year 1800. And in the year 1804 there was established a feastday in his memory throughout all Russia on 26 November, since on the actual day of his repose is made celebration of the Znamenie-Sign Icon of the Mother of God. A second day in memory of Saint Innokentii is 9 February.

Great-martyr James the Persian (421)
Commemorated on November 27/December 10

     The Holy GreatMartyr James the Persian (the Hewn-Apart) was born in the IV Century into a pious Christian family, both wealthy and illustrious. His wife was also a Christian, and the spouses raised their children in piety, inspiring in them a love for prayer and the Holy Scripture. James occupied an high position at the court of the Persian emperor  Izdegerd (399-420) and his successor Barakhranes (420-438). But on one of the military campaigns James, seduced by the emperor's beneficence, became afraid to acknowledge himself a Christian, and so together with the emperor he offered sacrifice to idols. Learning of this, the mother and wife of James in deep distress wrote him a letter, in which they scolded him and urged him to repent. Receiving the letter, James realised the gravity of his sin, and setting before himself the horror of being cut off not only from his family, but also from God Himself, he began loudly to weep and implore the Lord for forgiveness. His fellow-soldiers, hearing him pray to the Lord Jesus Christ, reported about this to the emperor. Under interrogation and taking courage in spirit, Saint James bravely confessed his faith in the One True God. No amount of urgings by the emperor could shake him into renouncing Christ. The emperor then gave orders to deliver the saint over to a death by martyrdom. They placed the martyr on a chopping-block and they alternately cut off his fingers and his toes, and then his hands and his feet. During the prolonged torture Saint James incessantly offered up prayer of thanks to the Lord, that He had granted him the possibility through the terrible torments to be redeemed of the sins committed. Flowing with blood the martyr was then beheaded.

17 Monk-martyrs in India (4th c.)
Commemorated on November 27/December 10

They were Christian monks who suffered at the hands of the Indian King Abenner. Enraged at Elder Barlaam because he baptized his son, Ioasaph, King Abenner sent men in pursuit of him. The pursuers did not capture Barlaam, but captured seventeen other monks and brought them to the king. The king condemned them to death and his men plucked out their eyes, severed their tongues, broke their arms and legs, and then beheaded them. Even so, the Christian Faith in the Kingdom of India was strengthened all the more by the blood of these knights of Christ.

Venerable Romanus the Wonderworker of Cilicia (5th c.)
Commemorated on November 27/December 10

The Holy Monk Romanos was born in the city of Rosa and asceticised in the outskirts of Antioch, acquiring the graced gifts of perspicacity and healing. Through his prayer, the Lord granted many a childless woman the joy of motherhood. Saint Romanos was strict at fasting, and beneathe his hairshirt he wore heavy chains. The saint spent many years as an hermit, without lighting up a fire. Having attained to old age, he in peace expired to the Lord (V).

Venerable Pinuphrius of Egypt (4th c.)
Commemorated on November 27/December 10

Pinuphrius was a contemporary of St. John Cassian (February 29) and a great Egyptian ascetic. He lived in the fourth century and carried out his life of asceticism in various places, always fleeing the praise of men. He had many disciples, who strove to imitate the lofty example of their teacher.

Venerable Nathaniel of Nitria (6th c.)
Commemorated on November 27/December 10

Nathaniel was a Nitrian monk. He prayed to God both day and night, and was enlightened by the contemplation of divine matters. He neither left his cell nor even crossed the threshold for a full thirty-eight years. He entered into rest in the Lord in the second half of the sixth century.

Martyr Stephen the New of Mt. St. Auxentius (767)
Commemorated on November 28/December 11

As at one time Hannah, the mother of Samuel, prayed to God to give her a son, so did Anna, the mother of Stephen. Praying thus in the Church of Blachernae before the icon of the Most-holy Theotokos, a light sleep overcame her, and she saw the Most-holy Virgin as radiant as the sun, and heard a voice from the icon: ``Woman, depart in peace. In accordance with your prayer, you have a son in your womb.'' Anna indeed conceived and gave birth to a son, the holy Stephen. At sixteen, Stephen received the monastic tonsure on Mount Auxentius near Constantinople, from the elder John who also taught him divine wisdom and asceticism. When John entered into rest in the Lord, Stephen remained on the mountain in a life of strict asceticism, taking upon himself labor upon labor. His holiness attracted many disciples to him. When Emperor Constantine Copronymus was persecuting icons more ferociously than his foul father, Leo the Isaurian, Stephen showed himself a zealous defender of the veneration of holy icons. The demented emperor accepted various obscene slanders against Stephen and personally plotted intrigues to break Stephen and get him out of the way. Stephen was banished to the island of Proconnesus, then taken to Constantinople, chained and cast into prison, where he was met by 342 monks, brought from all over and imprisoned for their veneration of the icons. There, in prison, they carried out the whole church typicon as in a monastery. Then the wicked emperor condemned Stephen to death. The saint foresaw his death forty days in advance, and asked forgiveness of the brethren. The emperor's servants dragged him from prison and, beating and pulling him, dragged him through the streets of Constantinople calling upon all those loyal to the emperor to stone this ``enemy of the emperor.'' One of the heretics struck the saint on the head with a piece of wood, and the saint gave up his soul. As St. Stephen the Protomartyr suffered at the hands of the Jews, so this Stephen suffered at the hands of the iconoclastic heretics. This glorious soldier of Christ suffered in the year 767 at the age of fifty-three, and was crowned with unfading glory.

New Martyr Christos of Constantinople (1748)
Commemorated on November 28/December 11

Christos was an Albanian Christian living in Constantinople and a gardener by trade. As he was selling his vegetables one day, he offended a Turk, who then slandered him before a judge, saying that Christos had promised to become a Moslem and then recanted. After interrogation, he was chained and cast into prison. In prison, someone offered him food, which Christos refused, saying: ``It is better that I appear before my Christ hungry.'' After that, he pulled out some money he had concealed under his belt and gave it to one of his fellow prisoners, requesting that the money be used for several Liturgies to be celebrated for his soul. He was beheaded by the Turks in the year 1748, and was glorified forever in the Kingdom of Christ God.

The Venerable Anna
Commemorated on November 28/December 11
Anna was a woman of noble birth who, after her husband's death, was tonsured into monasticism by St. Stephen the New. Emperor Constantine Copronymus urged her to say that she had engaged in illicit physical relations with St. Stephen, in order to humiliate him before the people. However, this holy woman refused to join in the emperor's intrigue against the saint, whom she venerated as her spiritual father. For that, she was whipped and then cast into prison, where she gave up her holy soul to God.

The Holy and Devout Emperor Maurice
Commemorated on November 28/December 11

Maurice was murdered with his six sons by Emperor Phocas in the year 602.

Martyr Paramon and 370 Martyrs in Bithynia (250)
Commemorated on November 29/December 12

The Holy Martyr Paramon and the 370 Martyrs with him suffered for their faith in Christ in the year 250 during the rule of the emperor Decius (249-251). The governor of the Eastern regions, Aquianus, had locked up in prison 370 Christians, urging them to abjure Christ and instead offer sacrifice to idols. They subjected the captives to beatings, hoping by tortures and the threat of death to persuade them to renounce Christ and worship the pagan gods. One of the local inhabitants, Paramon by name, openly denounced the cruel governor and confessed his faith in the One True God, the Lord Jesus Christ. They beheaded Saint Paramon after fierce tortures together with the other 370 martyrs.

Venerable Acacius of Mt. Latros, who is mentioned in The Ladder (6th c.)
Commemorated on November 29/December 12

The Monk Akakios of Sinai lived during the VI Century and was a novice at a certain monastery. The humble monk distinguished himself by his patient and unquestioning obedience to his spiritual-elder, a man of callous character. He forced the monk to toil excessively, starved him with hunger, and beat him without mercy. Despite such treatment, the Monk Akakios meekly endured the affliction and thanked God for everything. Not long surviving such harsh obedience, Saint Akakios died.
     The elder after five days told about the death of his disciple to another elder, who did not believe that the young monk was dead. Then this teacher of Akakios called this other elder over to the grave of Akakios and loudly asked: "Brother Akakios, art thou dead?" From the grave was heard a voice: "No, father, not dead; whosoever beareth an obedience, is not wont to die". The startled elder fell down with tears before the grave, asking forgiveness of his disciple.
     And after this he changed himself morally, he applied himself in his cell near the grave of Saint Akakios, and in prayer and in meekness he finished out his life. The Monk John of the Ladder Climaticus (Comm. 30 March) offers this tale in his "Ladder" as an example of endurance and obedience, and the rewards for them.

Hieromartyr Dionysius, bishop of Corinth (182)
Commemorated on November 29/December 12

He was an eminent pastor and teacher. He was beheaded for Christ in the year 182.

St. Tiridates, king of Armenia (4th c.)
Commemorated on November 29/December 12

Tiridates was a contemporary of Diocletian. At first, he furiously persecuted Christians, but God's punishment befell him and he went insane and became like a beast, as had happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. Tiridates was miraculously healed of his insanity by St. Gregory of Armenia (September 30). From then until his death, Tiridates spent his life in repentance and devotion. He died peacefully in the fourth century.

The Holy Martyr Apollonius
Commemorated on November 29/December 12

Apollonius was a Roman senator. Accused because of his faith in Christ, he confessed it before the entire senate, for which he was beheaded with the sword in Rome in the year 186.

Holy and All-praised Apostle Andrew the First-called (62)
Commemorated on November 30/December 13

Andrew, the son of Jonah and brother of Peter, was born in Bethsaida and was a fisherman by trade. At first he was a disciple of St. John the Baptist, but when St. John pointed to the Lord Jesus, saying, Behold the Lamb of God! (John 1:36), Andrew left his first teacher and followed Christ. Then, Andrew brought his brother Peter to the Lord. Following the descent of the Holy Spirit, it fell by lot to the first apostle of Christ, St. Andrew, to preach the Gospel in Byzantium and Thrace, then in the lands along the Danube and in Russia around the Black Sea, and finally in Epirus, Greece and the Peloponnese, where he suffered. In Byzantium, he appointed St. Stachys as its first bishop; in Kiev, he planted a Cross on a high place and prophesied a bright Christian future for the Russian people; throughout Thrace, Epirus, Greece and the Peloponnese, he converted multitudes of people to the Faith and ordained bishops and priests for them. In the city of Patras, he performed many miracles in the name of Christ, and won many over to the Lord. Among the new faithful were the brother and wife of the Proconsul Aegeates. Angered at this, Aegeates subjected St. Andrew to torture and then crucified him. While the apostle of Christ was still alive on the cross, he gave beneficial instructions to the Christians who had gathered around. The people wanted to take him down from the cross but he refused to let them. Then the apostle prayed to God and an extraordinary light encompassed him. This brilliant illumination lasted for half an hour, and when it disappeared, the apostle gave up his holy soul to God. Thus, the First-called Apostle, the first of the Twelve Great Apostles to know the Lord and follow Him, finished his earthly course. St. Andrew suffered for his Lord in the year 62. His relics were taken to Constantinople; his head was later taken to Rome, and one hand was taken to Moscow.

St. Frumentius, archbishop of Abyssinia (380)
Commemorated on November 30/December 13

Sainted Phrumentios, Archbishop of Inda (Aethiopia, formerly Abysssinia), was a native of the city of Tyre. By Divine Providence while still a child he came to be in Abyssinia. Growing up near the imperial court, he became a friend and chief counselor of the Abyssinian emperor, and afterwards tutor to his son, – who ascended the throne while still a minor after the death of his father. With the consent of the new emperor, Saint Phrumentios journeyed to his native land and afterwards visited Alexandria and its patriarch, Sainted Athanasias the Great (326-373; Comm. 2 May). With the blessing of Saint Athanasias, Phrumentios was raised to the dignity of bishop of Abyssinia and he returned to that other country, which had sheltered him from his childhood years. Under the influence of the preaching of the saint, miracles were worked through his prayer: the emperor and many of his subjects received holy Baptism. Having accomplished the apostolic exploit of converting the Abyssinian nation to Christ, Saint Phrumentios for many years zealously and fruitfully guided the Church entrusted him by God, and he peacefully expired to the Lord in extreme old age (+ c. 380).

Prophet Nahum (7th c. B.C.)
Commemorated on December 1/December 14

Nahum was born of the tribe of Simeon in a place called Elkosh on the far side of the Jordan. He lived about seven hundred years before Christ and prophesied the destruction of Nineveh about two hundred years after the Prophet Jonah. Because of Jonah's preaching, the Ninevites had repented, and God had spared them and not destroyed them. In time, however, they forgot God's mercy and again became corrupt. The Prophet Nahum prophesied their destruction, and since there was no repentance, God did not spare them. The entire city was destroyed by earthquake, flood and fire, so that its location is no longer known. St. Nahum lived for forty-five years and entered into rest in the Lord, leaving us a small book of his true prophecies.





Righteous Philaret the Merciful of Amnia in Asia Minor (792)
Commemorated on December 1/December 14

Philaret was from the village of Amnia in Paphlagonia. Early in life, Philaret was a very wealthy man, but by distributing abundant alms to the poor he himself became extremely poor. However, he was not afraid of poverty, and, not heeding the complaints of his wife and children, he continued his charitable works with hope in God, Who said: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy (Matthew 5:7). Once, while he was plowing in the field, a man came to him and complained that one of his oxen had died in the harness and that he was unable to plow with only one ox. Philaret then unharnessed one of his oxen and gave it to him. He even gave his remaining horse to a man who was summoned to go to war. He gave away the calf of his last cow, and when he saw how the cow pined for her missing calf, and the calf for the cow, he called the man and gave him the cow too. And thus the aged Philaret was left without food in an empty house. But he prayed to God and placed his hope in Him. And God did not abandon the righteous one to be put to shame in his hope. At that time the Empress Irene reigned with her young son, Constantine. According to the custom of that time, the empress sent men throughout the whole empire to seek the best and most distinguished maiden to whom she could wed her son, the emperor. By God's providence, these men happened to stay overnight in Philaret's house, and they saw his most beautiful and modest granddaughter Maria, the daughter of his daughter Hypatia, and took her to Constantinople. The emperor was well pleased with her, married her, and moved Philaret and all his family to the capital, giving him great honors and riches. Philaret did not become proud as a result of this unexpected good fortune, but, thankful to God, he continued to perform good works even more than he had before, and thus he continued until his death. At the age of ninety he summoned his children, blessed them, and instructed them to cleave to God and to God's law, and with his clairvoyant spirit he prophesied to all of them how they would live out this life, as once had Jacob. After that he went to the Rodolfia Monastery and gave up his soul to God. At his death his face shone like the sun, and after his death an unusual, sweet fragrance came forth from his body and miracles took place at his relics. This righteous man entered into rest in the year 797. His wife, Theosevia, and all his children and grandchildren lived a God-pleasing life and reposed in the Lord.

Prophet Habakkuk (Abbacum) (7th c. B.C.)
Commemorated on December 2/December 15

The Holy Prophet Avvakum (Habbakuk), one of the 12 Minor Prophets, was descended from the Tribe of Simeon, and he prophesied in about the year 650 B.C.
     The Prophet Avvakum foresaw the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, the Babylonian Captivity and the later return of the captives to their native-land. During the time of the war with the Babylonians the prophet withdrew to Arabia, where with him there occurred the following miracle. When he was bringing dinner to the reapers, he met with an Angel of the Lord, and instantly by the strength of his spirit he was transported to Babylon, where at the time the Prophet Daniel was languishing in prison. Thus, the food, intended for the reapers, assuaged the hunger of the exhausted Prophet Daniel. After the end of the war with the Babylonians, the Prophet Avvakum returned to his fatherland and died in extreme old age. His relics were found at the time of the holy Constantinople Emperor Theodosius he Younger (408-450).

Martyr Myrope of Chios (251)
Commemorated on December 2/December 15

The Holy Martyress Myropia was born in the city of Ephesus at the beginning III Century. She early lost her father, and her mother raised her in the Christian faith.
     Saint Myropia, frequenting the grave of the Martyress Hermionia (Comm. 4 September), daughter of the holy Apostle Philip, took myrh from her relics and healed the sick. At the time of the persecution by Decius (249-251), Myropia went away with her mother to the island of Chios, where they spent the time in fasting and prayer.
     One time, by order of the cruel governor of the island, there was martyred the Soldier Isidor (Comm. 14 May), a man of deep faith and great piety. Saint Myropia secretly took and buried the body of the martyr. The soldiers, who had orders not to allow Christians to the body of Isidor, were sentenced to death. Saint Myropia took pity on the condemned and she herself reported to soldiers and then the governor about her doings. At the trial she confessed herself a Christian. For this they gave her a fierce beating and then threw her in prison. In the prison at midnight there shone a light. Thus appeared Saint Isidor surrounded by Angels, and they took up the soul of Myropia (+ c. 251). The prison was immediately filled with fragrance. The pagan guard, trembling at the vision, told about this to a priest, thereafter accepting Baptism and a martyr's death for the confession of Christ.

St. Stephen-Urosh IV, king (1371), and St. Helen of Serbia
Commemorated on December 2/December 15

Saint Stefan Urosh, Tsar of Serbia, was son of tsar Dushan Nemany, and was born in the year 1337. In 1346 he was crowned king. Dushan sought the daughter of the French king for his son, but the Roman pope insisted that the princess not change from the Latin confession. Dushan did not want to see a Catholic in his family, and because of this Saint Stefan Urosh entered into marriage with the daughter of Vlad, prince of Valachia.
     Upon the death of his father (+ 1355), Saint Stefan Urosh became the independent and actual ruler of Serbia. He was faithful to the Lord, like a father he provided for widows and orphans, he pacified quarrels and maintained peace, he was charitable to the poor, and defended the downtrodden.
     In the interests of peace in Serbia and indeed for the preservation of his own life, Saint Stefan was obliged to flee to his kinsman, prince Lazar. Saint Stefan's uncle, Vulkashin, immediately seized the throne, but his fear of rivals gave him no peace. Through his sister, the mother of Saint Stefan, he invited his nephew to come to the city of Skopje, on the ruse of a reconciliation. Greeting him with honour, as tsar, he invited him to go hunting. When Saint Stefan, weary from the hunt, went off with his horse to a well and bent over to take a sip of water, Vukashin struck him a mortal blow on the head with a mace (+ 1367).

Venerable Athanasius "the Resurrected," recluse of the Kiev Caves, whose relics are in the Near Caves (1176)
Commemorated on December 2/December 15

The Monk Athanasii (or Afanasii), Hermit of Pechersk in the Nearer Caves, was a contemporary of the Kievo-Pechersk monastery archimandrite, the Monk Polikarp (+ 1182, Comm. 24 July).
     The Monk Athanasii for a long time was grievously ill. When he died, the brethren prepared him for burial. And on the third day the hegumen came to bury him. But they all beheld, that the dead one was alive, – he sat there and wept. To all their questions he replied only thus: "Seek salvation, in everything have obedience to the hegumen, repent each hour and pray to our Lord Jesus Christ, to His All-Pure Mother and to the Monks Antonii and Theodosii, so as to end good the life here. Ask ye no more".
     After this he lived for 12 years more in solitude in a cave and in all this time he spoke not a word to anyone, he wept day and night, and only every other day did he partake of a little bread and water. Only just before his death, having assembled the brethren, did he repeat his earlier spoken words to them, and then he peacefully expired to the Lord (in about the year 1176).
     The monk Vavilii, many a year having suffered illness and a weakness of the legs, was healed at his relics. "One time I did lay there, – he related to the brethren, – and I cried out from sharp pain. Suddenly to me there came Blessed Athanasii and said: come to me, and I shalt heal thee. I wanted to ask him, how and when he had come here. But he became invisible. I however was convinced of his appearance and besought, that I should be taken to his relics. And indeed, I have been healed".
     The Monk Athanasii was buried in the Antoniev Cave. His memory is celebrated also on 28 September and on the 2nd Sunday of Great Lent.

Venerable Jesse (Ise), bishop of Tsilkani in Georgia (6th c.)
Commemorated on December 2/December 15

The Monk Ise (Jesse), Bishop of Tsilkan, was born at Syrian Antioch in a pious Christian family. While still a lad he felt the pull towards the spiritual life, and with the attainment of mature age, and the blessing of his parents, he set out to one of the Antioch monasteries, where at the time asceticised the Monk John Zedazeni (the account about him is located under 7 May).
     The Monk Ise was included amongst the number of the 13 holy Syrian (Cappadocian) Fathers (their general commemoration is 7 May), who were chosen by lot by the Monk John Zedazeni (as commanded him by the Mother of God). The Monk Ise arrived in Gruzia (Georgia) together with them, and with them he taught and instructed the people in the pious life, providing an example of sanctity and healing the sick.
     The reports of the deeds of the 13 Syrian Fathers spread about among the people such, that the Katholikos-Archbishop of Gruzia Eulabios (533-544) proposed having a council of bishops meet and choose certain of these ascetics to fill empty cathedra-seats. Because of the difficulty of whom to choose, since all alike were worthy of the dignity of bishop, they proposed to go to the city of Zaden, where the ascetics dwelt, and to choose those who at the time were celebrating the Divine Liturgy. In this manner thus became bishops: the PriestMonk Habib (the account about him is located under 29 November) and the MonkDeacon Ise, appointed to the Tsilkan cathedra-seat. Having arrived in his diocese, Ise was astonished by the rampant pagan rites, customs and superstition. He zealously concerned himself with the restoration of piety, preaching constantly and making frequent Divine-services. His work bore fruit – in the Tsilkan diocese Orthodox piety was affirmed, and with it also was affirmed the Church of Christ. Continuing also his ascetic efforts, Saint Ise attained to great gifts of prayer and wonderworking. Through his prayer, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ there separated off from the River Xana a stream of water, which – in following the course that the saint intended, formed the bed of a canal and stretched to the church of the MostHoly Mother of God (near Tsilkan). Having put his diocese in good order, Saint Ise set off preaching to the Ossetians and other mountain peoples of the great Caucasus Mountain range. He made the rounds of he ravines and the rocky crags with the Gospel and cross in hand, everywhere affirming the teaching of God's revelation.
     Saint Ise learned about his impending end through a revelation from above. Gathering his flock and clergy, he preached a spiritual instruction, communed the Holy Mysteries, and with hands upraised to Heaven he offered up his soul o the Lord. This transpired at the end VI Century. (The known exact day of the saint's death is 18 August). The venerable relics of Saint Ise, already glorified by healing at the time of his burial, were consigned to earth in the church of the MostHoly Mother of God at Tsilkan, betwixt the altar-table and the table of oblation. The Church subsequently enumerated Saint Ise to the rank of the Saints and set his day of memory as 2 December.

Prophet Zephaniah (Sophonias) (635 B.C.)
Commemorated on December 3/December 16

The Prophet Sophonias (or Zephaniah) was a contemporary of the Prophet Jeremiah and the Prophetess Oldama. He was of illustrious lineage [from the tribe of Simeon, and was the 9th of the Twelve Minor Prophets of the Old Testament]. The prophet lived at the royal court, where he preached repentance and helped king Josiah extirpate idol-worship.
     He prophesied about the calamities that were to come for the people of Judea and the surrounding regions: Gaza, Ascalon, Crete, and against the Moabites, the Ammonites and the Ninevites.


Venerable John the Silent of St. Sabbas' monastery (558)
Commemorated on December 3/December 16
John was a native of Nicopolis in Armenia and was the son of Encratius and Euphemia. He was tonsured a monk at the age of eighteen and lived a strict and resolute life of asceticism, cleansing his heart by his many tears, fasting and prayer. After ten years, he was appointed bishop of Colonia. By his example, he attracted his brother Pergamius and his uncle Theodore-both distinguished men at the imperial courts of Emperors Zeno and Justinian-to a God-pleasing life. Seeing the malice and intrigues of this world and his inability to put matters right, he abandoned his episcopal throne. He disguised himself as a simple monk and went to the Monastery of St. Sava the Sanctified near Jerusalem. There he remained unknown for many years, conscientiously and capably completing every task that the abbot ordered him to do. For this, St. Sava recommended to Patriarch Elias that he ordain him a presbyter. When the patriarch wanted to ordain John, he confessed that he already possessed the rank of bishop. Then St. John closed himself in a cell and spent years and years in silence and prayer. Afterward he spent nine years in the wilderness feeding himself only on wild vegetables, and then he returned to the monastery. He turned the faithful away from the heresy of Origen and contributed greatly to the condemnation and elimination of this heresy. He clearly discerned the spiritual world and healed people from sickness. Having conquered himself, he easily conquered demons. Great in humility, might and divine wisdom, this servant of God entered peacefully into rest in the year 558 at the age of 104.

Hieromartyr Theodore, archbishop of Alexandria (606)
Commemorated on December 3/December 16

Hieromartyr Theodore, Archbishop of Alexandria (606-609), suffered for Christ in Alexandria by idolaters who placed a crown of thorns on the head of St. Theodore and, after abusing him, beheaded him.

Venerable Theodulus, eparch of Constantinople (440)
Commemorated on December 3/December 16

Theodulus was an eminent patrician at the court of Theodosius the Great. After the death of his wife, he renounced the vanity of the world and withdrew from Constantinople to a pillar near Ephesus, where he lived a life of asceticism for thirty years.

Venerable Sabbas, abbot of Zvenigorod, disciple of St. Sergius of Radonezh (1406)
Commemorated on December 3/December 16

The Monk Savva of Storozhevsk and Zvenigorodsk in his early youth left the world, accepting tonsure under the Monk Sergei of Radonezh, for whom he was one of the first disciples and co-ascetics.
     The Monk Savva loved the quiet life, he shunned conversing with people and he lived in constant toil, in lamentation over the poverty of his soul and remembrance of the judgement of God. The Monk Savva was a model of simplicity and humility, and he attained to such a depth of spiritual wisdom, that "in the monastery of the Monk Sergei he was a spiritual confessor to all the brethren, a venerable starets-elder and exceedingly learned". When GreatPrince Dimitrii Donskoy, in gratitude for the victory over Mamai, built the monastery of the Uspenie-Dormition of the Mother of God at the River Dubenka, Savva became its hegumen, with the blessing of the Monk Sergei. Preserving the simple manner of his ascetic lifestyle, he ate food only of plants, wore coarse clothing and slept on the ground.
     In 1392 the brethren of the Sergiev Lavra, with the departure of its hegumen Nikon into the wilderness, besought the Monk Savva to accept being hegumen at the monastery. Here he "did well shepherd the flock entrusted him, such as he could and such as the prayers of his spiritual father Blessed Sergei did aid him". Tradition imputes to his time as hegumen the finding of a spring of water beyond the Lavra walls.
     A godson of the Monk Sergei, prince Yurii Dimitrievich Zvenigorodsky, regarded the Monk Savva with great love and esteem. He chose the Monk Savva as his spiritual father and besought him to come and bestow blessing upon all his household. The monk had hoped to return to his monastery, but the prince prevailed upon him to remain and set in place a new monastery, "in his fatherland, near Zvenigorod, where the place was called Storozh". Striving after the solitary and silent life, the Monk Savva accepted the offer of the Zvenigorod prince Yurii Dimitrievich, and with tears before an icon of the Mother of God he besought Her protection for the wilderness place. On the Storozhevsk heights, where formerly was encamped a sentinel, guarding Moscow from enemies, he set up a small wooden church of the Nativity of the MostHoly Mother of God, and not far off from it made a small cell for himself. And here in the year 1399 the monk established a monastery, fondly accepting all that were come for the life of solitude. The monk toiled much at the building up of his monastery. He himself dug out a well below the hill, from which on his shoulders he carried his own water; he encircled the monastery with a wooden palisade, and above it in an hollow he dug out for himself a cell for a life of solitude.
     In 1399 the Monk Savva blessed his spiritual son, prince Yurii, to go off on a military campaign, and he predicted victory over the enemy. Through the prayers of the holy elder, the forces of the prince were granted a speedy victory. Through the efforts of the Monk Savva, a stone church of the Nativity of the MostHoly Mother of God was also built.
     Saint Savva died at an advanced age on 3 December 1406.
     Veneration of the monk by the local people began immediately at his death. The miraculous curative power, issuing from the grave of the monk, and his numerous appearances, convinced everyone that Hegumen Savva "is in truth an unsetting star-radiance of the Divine light, by the shining forth of his miracles illumining all". In a letter of 1539 the Monk Savva is called a wonderworker. Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich had particular esteem for him, repeatedly going on foot to venerate at the monastery of the Monk Savva. Tradition has preserved for us a remarkable account, of how the Monk Savva had saved him from a ferocious bear.
     The Life of the Monk Savva, compiled in the XVI Century, relates how at the end of the XV Century (years 1480-1490), the saint appeared to the Savvinsk monastery hegumen Dionysii and said to him: "Dionysii! Wake up and write my face upon an icon". To the question of Dionysii, as to whom he was, came the reply: "I am Savva, the founder of this place". An old starets-elder of the monastery named Avvakum, having in his youth seen the Monk Savva, described the outward appearance of the saint. And it was precisely such as the saint appeared to the hegumen Dionysii, who fulfilled the command and wrote the icon of the Monk Savva.
     The feastday of the Monk Savva was established in the year 1547 at a Moscow Sobor-Council. On 19 January 1652 the incorrupt relics of the saint were uncovered.

Great-martyr Barbara and Martyr Juliana at Heliapolis in Syria (306)
Commemorated on December 4/December 17

This glorious follower of Christ was betrothed to Christ from early childhood. Her father Dioscorus was a pagan and was renowned for his position and wealth in the city of Heliopolis in Egypt. Dioscorus locked up his only daughter Barbara, brilliant in mind and of beautiful countenance, in a high tower. He surrounded her with every comfort, gave her female servants, erected idols for worship, and built her a bathing room with two windows. Looking through the window at the earth below and the starry heavens above, Barbara's mind was opened by the grace of God. She recognized the One True God, the Creator, despite the fact that she did not have a human teacher to bring her to this knowledge. Once, while her father was away from the city, she came down from the tower and, according to God's providence, met some Christian women who revealed the true Faith of Christ to her. Barbara's heart became inflamed with love for Christ the Lord. She ordered that a third window be cut open in the bath so that the three windows would represent the Holy Trinity. On one wall she traced a Cross with her finger, and the Cross etched itself deep in the stone as if cut by a chisel. A pool of water sprang forth from her footprints on the floor of the bath, which later gave healing of diseases to many. Learning of his daughter's faith, Dioscorus beat her severely and drove her from the tower. He pursued her in order to kill her, but a cliff opened up and hid Barbara from her brutal father. When she appeared again, her father brought her to Martianus, the magistrate, who handed her over for torture. They stripped the innocent Barbara and flogged her until her entire body was covered with blood and wounds, but the Lord Himself appeared to her in prison with His angels and healed her. A certain woman, Juliana, upon seeing this, desired martyrdom for herself. Both women were severely tortured and with mockery were led through the city. Their breasts were cut off and much blood flowed from them. They were finally led to the place of execution, where Dioscorus himself slaughtered his daughter, and Juliana was slain by the soldiers. That same day, lightning struck the house of Dioscorus, killing him and Martianus. St. Barbara suffered in the year 306. Her miracle-working relics rest in Kiev. Glorified in the Kingdom of Christ, she has appeared many times even in our own day, sometimes alone and sometimes in the company of the Most-holy Theotokos.

Venerable John Damascene (760)
Commemorated on December 4/December 17

John was first the chief minister to Caliph Abdul-Malik and later a monk in the Monastery of St. Sava the Sanctified. Because of his ardent defense of the veneration of icons during the reign of the iconoclastic Emperor Leo the Isaurian, John was maligned by the emperor to the Caliph, who cut off his right hand. John fell down in prayer before the icon of the Most-holy Theotokos, and his hand was rejoined and miraculously healed. Seeing this miracle the Caliph repented, but John no longer desired to remain with him as a nobleman. Instead, he withdrew to a monastery, where, from the beginning, he was a model to the monks in humility, obedience and all the prescribed rules of monastic asceticism. John composed the Funeral Hymns and compiled the Octoechos (The Book of Eight Tones), the Irmologion, the Menologion and the Paschal Canon, and he wrote many theological works of inspiration and profundity. A great monk, hymnographer, theologian and soldier for the truth of Christ, Damascene is numbered among the great Fathers of the Church. He entered peacefully into rest in about the year 776 at the age of 104.

St. Gennadius, archbishop of Novgorod (1504)
Commemorated on December 4/December 17

 Sainted Gennadii, Archbishop of Novgorod, was descended from the lineage of the Gonzov's and was, in the testimony of contemporaries, "a man dignified, intelligent, virtuous and learned in the Holy Scripture". His monastic obedience was made at the Valaamo monastery, under the spiritual guidance of the Monk Savvatii of Solovetsk (Comm. 27 September). From the year 1472 – he was archimandrite of the Chudov monastery in Moscow. Zealous for a strict ustav/rule of Divine-services, during the years 1479-1481, together with Vassian, archbishop of Rostov, and later his successor Joasaph, he fearlessly rose up in defense of an ancient ustav during a dispute about going "like the sun" (east to west) during the consecration of a new temple. (The dispute had arisen in connection with the consecration of the Uspensky cathedral in Moscow.)
     In 1483 Saint Gennadii began construction at the Chudov monastery of a stone refectory church in honour of Sainted Alexei, Metropolitan of Moscow (+ 1378), the founder of the monastery. On 12 December 1484 Saint Gennadii was ordained archbishop of Novgorod. Already in Novgorod but still reverencing the memory of Saint Alexei, Gennadii did not cease to concern himself over the erection of the temple, "having sent silver voluntarily for the completion of this temple and refectory and chamber".
     The time of holy Archbishop Gennadii as hierarch at Novgorod coincided with a terrible period in the history of the Russian Church. Judaising preachers, having journeyed to Novgorod under the guise of merchants, already in the year 1470 had begun to plant the weeds of heresy and apostasy amongst the Orthodox. The false teaching spread secretly. The first report about the heresy reached Saint Gennadii in the year 1487: four members of a secret society, in a drunken intoxication opened up and disclosed before the Orthodox the existence of the impious heresy. As soon as it became known to him, the zealous archpastor immediately set about an inquiry and with deep sorrow became convinced, that the danger was a threat not only to local Novgorod piety, but also the very capital of Orthodoxy – Moscow, whence the leaders of the Judaisers had already journeyed in 1480. In September 1487 he dispatched to metropolitan Gerontii at Moscow all the inquiry material in the original, together with a list of the apostates discovered by him, and also their writings. The struggle with the Judaisers became the chief object of  the archpastoral activity of Saint Gennadii. In the words of the Monk Joseph of Volotsk (Comm. 9 September), "this archbishop, being wroth with the malevolent heretics, pounced upon them like a lion, from out of the thicket of the Holy Scriptures and the splendid heights of the prophets and the apostolic teachings". For twelve years the struggle of Saint Gennadii and the Monk Joseph against the most powerful attempts of the opponents of Orthodoxy to betray all the course of history of the Russian Church and the Russian state. By the their efforts the struggle was crowned with victory for Orthodoxy. The works of Gennadii in the study of the Bible contributed to this. The heretics in their impious cleverness resorted to the searching out of texts from the Old Testament books, but which were different from those accepted by the Orthodox. Archbishop Gennadii took upon himself an enormous task – to bring together into a single codex correct listings of Holy Scripture. Up until this time Biblical books had been copied in Russia, on the example of Byzantium, not in view of an entire codex, but by separate parts – the Pentateuch (first five books) or Octateuch (first eight books), Kings, Proverbs and other instructive books; the Psalter, the Prophets, the Gospels and the Epistles.
     The holy books of the Old Testament in particular often were subjected to both accidental and intentional defect. Saint Gennadii wrote about this with sorrow in a letter to archbishop Joasaph: "The Judaising heretical tradition doth adhere to – psalms of David or prophecies which they have altered". Gathering round himself learned and industrious Bible workers, the saint collected together all the books of the Holy Scripture into a single codex, and he gave blessing that there again be translated from the Latin language those of the Holy Books, which were not found by him in manuscripts of the traditional Slavonic Bible. In 1499 was published in Rus' the first complete codex of Holy Scripture in the Slavonic language – "the Gennadii Bible", as they respectfully call it after the name of its compiler. This work became an integral link in the succession of Slavonic translation of the Word of God. From the God-inspired translation of the Holy Scripture by the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Cyril and Methodios (863-885), through the Bible of Saint Gennadii (1499), reproduced in the first-imprinted Ostrozh Bible (1581), the Church has maintained an unaltered Slavonic Biblical tradition right up through the so-called Elizabethan Bible (1751) and all successive printed editions.
     Together with the preparation of the Bible, the circle of church scholars under Archbishop Gennadii undertook also a great literary task: the compiling of the "Fourth Novgorod Chronicle"; they brought this up to the year 1496, and numerous hand-written books were translated, corrected and transcribed. The hegumen of the Solovetsk monastery, Dosiphei, being at Novgorod on monastery matters, worked for several years (1491-1494) with Saint Gennadii to compile a library for the Solovetsk monastery. It was at the request of Saint Gennadii that Dosiphei wrote the Lives of the Monks Zosima (Comm. 17 April) and Savvatii (Comm. 27 September). A majority of the books, transcribed with the blessing of the Novgorod hierarch (more than 20), were preserved in the collection of the Solovetsk collected manuscripts. Ever a zealous advocate for spiritual enlightenment, Saint Gennadii founded at Novgorod a school for the preparation of worthy clergy.
     The memory of Saint Gennadii is preserved also in other of his work for the welfare of the Orthodox Church.
     At the end of the XV Century a menacing concern weighed upon Russian minds about the impending of the world, which they anticipated would be at the expiration of seven thousand years from the creation of the world. Way back in 1408 with the completion of the world-creation cycle, they had not ventured in Rus' to compute the Paschal dates further than the year 1491. Thus in September 1491, the Archbishops' Sobor-Council of the Russian Church at Moscow, with the participation of Saint Gennadii, decreed that: "the Paschalion for the eight thousandth year be written". Metropolitan Zosima at Moscow on 27 November 1492 "set forth a cathedral Paschalion for 20 years," and entrusted to bishop Philothei of Perm and archbishop Gennadii of Novgorod to each compile their own Paschalion for conciliar witness and affirmation on 21 December 1492. Saint Gennadii finished the compiling of his Paschalion, which in contrast to that of the Metropolitan, extended for 70 years. It was distributed through the dioceses by approval of the Sobor as the accepted Paschalion for the next 20 years, incorporating it as its own with explanation upon it in a Circular Letter under a general heading, "Source for the Paschalion transposed to the Eight Thousandth Year". In the theological explanation of the Paschalion, grounded upon the Word of God and the holy fathers, the saint wrote: "It is proper not to fear the end of the world, but rather to await the coming of Christ at every moment. For just as God might deign to end the world, so also might He deign to prolong the course of time". The time set by the Creator is not for Himself but for man: "Let man realise the requital of the times, that he esteem the end of his life". About the time of the finish of the creation by God, "no one knoweth however, not the Angels, nor again the Son, but only the Father". And therefore the holy fathers, inspired of the Holy Spirit, explained the world-creation cycle namely as a "cycle": "This doth occur in a circular motion, not having an end". To the heretical allures of calculating out the times, the saint contrasts the way hallowed by the Church, – of a constant spiritual sobriety. Saint Gennadii expounded on the theological fundamentals of the Paschalion, he explains, how amidst the Alpha of the world-creation cycle it is possible to derive a Paschalion for the future, such as may be required. The Paschalion of Saint Gennadii, by his own testimony, was not compiled by him anew, but rather was obtained on the basis of a former tradition – in part, on the basis of the Paschalion, written for 1360-1492 under Sainted Vasilii Kalika, Archbishop of Novgorod (+ 3 July 1352). By the operative principles at work in the Paschalion set forth by Saint Gennadii, later on, in the year 1539, under the archbishop of Novgorod Makarii, there was compiled a Paschalion also for all the eight thousand years.
     A prayer to the MostHoly Mother of God composed by him in 1497 evidences also his deep spiritual life and prayerful inspiration. Besides his known letters to Metropolitans Zosima and Simon, to Archbishop Joasaph, to Bishops Nyphontii and Prokhor, and a missive to the 1490 Sobor, Archbishop Gennadii wrote also a church "Small Ustav/Rule" and the "Tradition for Monks", such as lived in accord to the ustav of monastic skete life. Leaving his archpastoral service, from 1504 the saint lived thereafter in retirement at the Chudov monastery, where he peacefully expired to the Lord on 4 December 1505. In the Stepen'-Ranks book we read: "Archbishop Gennadii dwelt as archbishop for nineteen years, much improving the display of church adornment and clergy decorum, and amidst heretics affirming the Orthodox faith, and then at Moscow, dwelling a year and an half at the monastery of the miracle of the Archangel Michael and Saint Alexei the metropolitan and wonderworker, wherein first he was archimandrite, and reposed then also to God". The holy remains of Saint Gennadii were put into the temple of the Miracle at Khona of the holy Archangel Michael, in that place particularly venerated by him, wherein rested the relics of Sainted Alexei, Metropolitan of Moscow. The commemoration of Sainted Gennadii is also done on the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost, on the day, when Holy Church remembers all the Saints illumined at Novgorod.

Venerable Sabbas the Sanctified (532)
Commemorated on December 5/December 18

The Monk Sava the Sanctified was born in the V Century at Cappadocia of pious Christian parents, named John and Sophia. His father was a military-commander. Journeying off to Alexandria on service related matters, his wife went with him, but their five year old son they left in the care of an uncle. When the boy reached eight years of age, he entered the monastery of Saint Flavian situated nearby. The gifted child quickly learned to read and became well studied in Holy Scripture. And in vain then did his parents urge Saint Sava to return to the world and enter into marriage.
     At 17 years of age he accepted monastic tonsure and so prospered in fasting and prayer, that he was bestown the gift of wonderworking. Having spent ten years at the monastery of Saint Flavian, the monk set off to Jerusalem, and from there to the monastery of the Monk Euthymios the Great (Comm. 20 January). But the Monk Euthymios sent off Saint Sava to abba Theoktistos, the head of a nearby monastery with a strict common-life monastic rule. The Monk Sava dwelt at this monastery as an obedient until age 30.
     After the death of the monastic-elder Theoktistos, his successor gave blessing to the Monk Sava to seclude himself within a cave: on Saturdays however the monk left his hermitage and came to the monastery, where he participated in Divine-services and partook of food. And after a certain while they gave permission to the monk not to leave his hermitage at all, and Saint Sava asceticised within the cave over the course of 5 years.
     The Monk Euthymios attentively oversaw the life of the young monk, and seeing how he had matured spiritually, he began to take him along with him to the Ruv wilderness (at the Dead Sea).They went out on 14 January and remained there until Palm Sunday. The Monk Euthymios called Saint Sava a child-elder and took care to encourage in him growth in the utmost monastic virtues.
     When the Monk Euthymios expired to the Lord (+ 473), Saint Sava withdrew from the Laura-monastery and resettled in a cave near the monastery of the Monk Gerasimos of Jordan (+ 475, Comm. 4 March). After several years disciples began to gather to the Monk Sava – all searching for monastic life. There thus arose the Great Laura-monastery. Through a command from above (in a pillar of fire) the monks built a church in the cave.
     The Monk Sava founded several more monasteries. Many a miracle was manifest through the prayers of the Monk Sava: amidst the Laura spouted forth a spring of water, during a time of drought it rained in abundance, and there likewise occurred healings of the sick and the demoniac. The Monk Sava composed the first monastic-rule of church services, the so-called "Jerusalem Rule", accepted by all the Palestine monasteries. The saint reposed peacefully to God in the year 532.

The Venerable Nectarius of Bitola
Commemorated on December 5/December 18

Nectarius was born in Bitola and lived a life of asceticism in the Monastery of the Holy Unmercenary Physicians Cosmas and Damian, together with his father, Pachomius, who was also tonsured. After that he went to Karyes, where he continued his asceticism in the Cell of the Holy Archangels under the guidance of Elders Philotheus and Dionysius. After conquering human envy, demonic assaults and difficult illnesses, he entered into rest in the Kingdom of Christ on December 5, 1500. His incorrupt and fragrant relics rest in this same cell.

Venerable Karion (Cyrion) and his son St. Zachariah of Egypt (4th c.)
Commemorated on December 5/December 18

 The Monastics Karion and his son Zachariah: The Monk Karion lived in one of the Egyptian skete-monasteries during the IV Century. He left behind in the world his wife and two children. When a famine chanced to strike Egypt, the wife of the Monk Karion brought the children to the skete-monastery and complained of the poverty and difficulties of life. The saint took his son, but the daughter remained with the mother. He raised his son Saint Zachariah at the skete, and everyone knew that this was his son. But when the lad grew up, the monastery brethren began to grumble. The father and the son thereupon went off into the Thebaid. But there also came the grumbling monks. Then Saint Zachariah went into a fetid lake, immersing himself in the water up to his nostrils and he stayed in it for an hour. His face and his body was covered with welts, like a leper literally, such that even his own father hardly recognised him. But when the Monk Zachariah partook Communion, the holy Presbyter Isidor had a revelation about him and said: ""Child, on Sunday last thou didst commune like a man, but now it be like an angel". After the death of his father, the Monk Zachariah began to asceticise together with the Monk Moses the Black (Comm. 28 August). "What mustneeds I do, to be saved?" – asked the Monk Moses. Hearing this, the Monk Zachariah fell to his knees and said: "Thou askest this of me, father?" "Believe me, my child, Zachariah, – the Monk Moses continued, – I saw, how the Holy Spirit did come down upon thee, and only because of this I asked thee". The Monk Zachariah thereupon took from his head the kukol'-covering, he set it at his feet, and having set it aright, he said: "If a man be not tonsured thus, he cannot be a monk". Before his end the Monk Moses asked him: "What seest thou, brother?" "Should this not be better left unsaid, father?" – answered the Monk Zachariah. "Yes, child, be silent", – agreed the Monk Moses the Black. When the soul of the Monk Zachariah parted from its body, holy Abba Isidor, lifting his gaze towards the heavens, said: "Happy art thou, Zachariah my child, for unto thee art opened the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven". The Monk Zachariah died towards the end of the IV Century and was buried at a skete‑monastery.

St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, archbishop of Myra in Lycia (345)
Commemorated on December 6/December 19

This glorious saint, celebrated even today throughout the entire world, was the only son of his eminent and wealthy parents, Theophanes and Nona, citizens of the city of Patara in Lycia. Since he was the only son bestowed on them by God, the parents returned the gift to God by dedicating their son to Him. St. Nicholas learned of the spiritual life from his uncle Nicholas, Bishop of Patara, and was tonsured a monk in the Monastery of New Zion founded by his uncle. Following the death of his parents, Nicholas distributed all his inherited goods to the poor, not keeping anything for himself. As a priest in Patara, he was known for his charity, even though he carefully concealed his charitable works, fulfilling the words of the Lord: Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth (Matthew 6:3). When he gave himself over to solitude and silence, thinking to live that way until his death, a voice from on high came to him: ``Nicholas, for your ascetic labor, work among the people, if thou desirest to be crowned by Me.'' Immediately after that, by God's wondrous providence, he was chosen archbishop of the city of Myra in Lycia. Merciful, wise and fearless, Nicholas was a true shepherd to his flock. During the persecution of Christians under Diocletian and Maximian, he was cast into prison, but even there he instructed the people in the Law of God. He was present at the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea [325] and, out of great zeal for the truth, struck the heretic Arius with his hand. For this act he was removed from the Council and from his archiepiscopal duties, until the Lord Christ Himself and the Most-holy Theotokos appeared to several of the chief hierarchs and revealed their approval of Nicholas. A defender of God's truth, this wonderful saint was ever bold as a defender of justice among the people. On two occasions, he saved three men from an undeserved sentence of death. Merciful, truthful, and a lover of justice, he walked among the people as an angel of God. Even during his lifetime, the people considered him a saint and invoked his aid in difficulties and in distress. He appeared both in dreams and in person to those who called upon him, and he helped them easily and speedily, whether close at hand or far away. A light shone from his face as it did from the face of Moses, and he, by his presence alone, brought comfort, peace and good will among men. In old age he became ill for a short time and entered into the rest of the Lord, after a life full of labor and very fruitful toil, to rejoice eternally in the Kingdom of Heaven, continuing to help the faithful on earth by his miracles and to glorify his God. He entered into rest on December 6, 343.

St. Nicholas, bishop of Patara
Commemorated on December 6/December 19

Nicholas was the uncle of the great St. Nicholas, and it was he who guided him to the spiritual life and ordained him a priest.

The Holy Martyr Nicholas Karamos
Commemorated on December 6/December 19

Nicholas was cruelly tortured for the Christian Faith by the Turks and was hanged in Smyrna in the year 1657.

St. Theophilus, bishop of Antioch (181)
Commemorated on December 6/December 19

A man well educated in Hellenic philosophy, Theophilus, after reading the Holy Scriptures, was baptized and became a great defender of the Christian Faith. His work ``On the Faith'' is preserved even today. He governed the Church of Antioch for thirteen years and entered into rest in the year 181.

St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan (397).
Commemorated on December 7/December 20

This great holy father of the Orthodox Church was of eminent birth. His father was the imperial deputy of Gaul and Spain and was a pagan by faith, but his mother was a Christian. While he was still in the cradle, a swarm of bees settled on him, poured honey onto his lips, and flew away. And while still a child, he extended his hand and spoke prophetically: ``Kiss it, for I will be a bishop.'' After his father's death, the emperor appointed him as his representative in the province of Liguria, of which Milan was the chief city. When the bishop of Milan died, a great dispute arose between the Orthodox Christians and the Arian heretics concerning the election of a new bishop. Ambrose entered the church to maintain order, this being his duty. At that moment, a child at its mother's bosom exclaimed: ``Ambrose for bishop!'' All the people took this as the voice of God, and unanimously elected Ambrose as their bishop, contrary to his will. Ambrose was baptized, passed through all the necessary ranks and was consecrated to the episcopacy, all within a week. As bishop, Ambrose strengthened the Orthodox Faith, suppressed the heretics, adorned churches, spread the Faith among the pagans, wrote many instructive books, and served as an example of a true Christian and a true Christian shepherd. He composed the famous hymn ``We Praise Thee, O God.'' This glorious hierarch, whom men visited from distant lands for his wisdom and sweetness of words, was very restrained, diligent and vigilant. He slept very little, labored and prayed constantly, and fasted every day except Saturday and Sunday. Therefore, God allowed him to witness many of His miracles and to perform miracles himself. He discovered the relics of the Holy Martyrs Protasius, Gervasius, Nazarius and Celsus (October 14). Meek toward lesser men, he was fearless before the great. He reproached Empress Justina as a heretic, cursed Maximus the tyrant and murderer, and forbade Emperor Theodosius to enter a church until he had repented of his sin. He also refused to meet with Eugenius, the tyrannical and self-styled emperor. God granted this man, so pleasing to Him, such grace that he even raised the dead, drove out demons from men, healed the sick of every infirmity, and foresaw the future. Ambrose died peacefully on the morning of Pascha in the year 397.

Venerable Gregory the Silent of Serbia, founder of Grigoriou Monastery, Mt. Athos (1405)
Commemorated on December 7/December 20

Gregory was a Serb by birth. He was the founder of the Monastery of St. Nicholas on the Holy Mountain, known as ``Gregoriou'' after him. His cell, where he prayed in silence and repented, can be found about a quarter of an hour distance from the monastery. In the year 1761, there was a great fire in the monastery, and on this occasion some of the monks took his relics and translated them to Serbia. This man of God entered peacefully into rest in the year 1406.

Venerable Nilus, monk, of Stolben Island (1554)
Commemorated on December 7/December 20

The Monk Nil of Stolobensk was born into a peasant family in a small village of the Novgorod diocese. In the year 1505 he took monastic vows at the monastery of the Monk Savva of Krypetsk near Pskov. After 10 years in ascetic life at the monastery he set out to the River Sereml', on the side of the city of Ostashkova; here for 13 years he led a strict ascetic life in incessant struggle against the snares of the devil, who took on the appearance of apparitions – reptiles and wild beasts. Many of the inhabitants of the surrounding area started coming to the monk for instruction, but this became burdensome for him and he prayed God to point out to him a place for deeds of quietude. One time after long prayer he heard a voice: "Nil! Go to Lake Seliger. There upon the island of Stolobensk thou canst be saved!" From people that came to him the Monk Nil learned the whereabouts of the island; when he arrived there, he was astonished at its beauty.
     In the midst of the lake – the island was covered over by dense forest; on it the monk found a small hill and dug out a cave, and after a certain while he built himself an hut, in which he lived for 26 years. Exploits of strict fasting and quietude [ie. hesychia] he accompanied with another and unique effort – he never lay down to sleep, but permitted himself only a light nap, leaning on a prop set into the wall of the cell.
     The pious life of the monk many a time roused the envy of the enemy of mankind, which evidenced itself through the spiteful action of the local inhabitants. One time someone set fire to the woods on the island where stood the hut of the monk, but the flames upon reaching the hill in miraculous manner went out. Another time robbers forced themselves into the hut. The monk said to them: "All my treasure is in the corner of the cell". In this corner stood an icon of the Mother of God, but the robbers began to search there for money and became blinded. Then with tears of repentance they begged the monk for forgiveness.
     Many other miracles done by the monk are known of. He was wont to quietly refuse an offering if the conscience of the one offering it to him was impure, or if they were in bodily impurity.
     In an awareness of his end, the Monk Nil prepared for himself a grave. And at the time of his death they came to him on the island an hegumen from one of the nearby monasteries and communed him with the Holy Mysteries. Before the departure of the hegumen, the Monk Nil for a last time made prayer and censed round the holy icons and the cell, and gave up to the Lord his immortal soul on 7 December 1554. The glorification of his holy relics (now venerated at the Znamenie Icon of the Mother of God church in the city of Ostashkova) was done in the year 1667, with feastdays established both on the day of his death and on 27 May.

Venerable Patapius of Thebes (7th c.)
Commemorated on December 8/December 21

Patapius was born and brought up in the Faith and in the fear of God by pious parents in the Egyptian city of Thebes. At an early age he perceived and abhorred the vanity of this world and withdrew into the wilderness of Egypt. There he devoted himself to a life of asceticism, cleansing his heart of all earthly desires and thoughts, for the sake of God's love. However, when his virtues became known among the people, they began to come to him and to seek solace from him in their sufferings. Fearing the praise of men, which darkens the minds of men and separates them from God, Patapius fled this wilderness to Constantinople, for this wonderful saint thought that he could hide himself more easily from people in the city than in the wilderness. Patapius built a hut for himself in the proximity of the Church of Blachernae in Constantinople. There, immured and unknown, he continued his interrupted life of eremetic asceticism. However, a light cannot be hidden. A child, blind from birth, was led by God's providence to St. Patapius. He besought the saint to pray to God that he be given his sight and be able to look upon God's creation-thus allowing him to praise God all the more. Patapius having compassion on the suffering child, prayed to God, and the child's sight was restored. This miracle revealed God's chosen one throughout the entire city, and people rushed to him for healing, comfort and instruction. Patapius healed an eminent man of dropsy by tracing the sign of the Cross over him and anointing him with oil. By making the sign of the Cross in the air with his hand, he freed a youth from an unclean spirit that had cruelly tormented him. The evil spirit, with a loud shriek, came out from God's creature like smoke. He made the sign of the Cross over a woman who had a sore on her breast all filled with worms, and made her healthy. Many other miracles did St. Patapius perform, all through prayer in the name of Christ and by the sign of the Cross. He entered into rest peacefully in great old age and took up his habitation in the Heavenly Kingdom in the seventh century.

Holy Apostles of the Seventy: Sosthenes, Apollos, Cephas, Tychicus, Epaphroditus, Caesar, and Onesiphorus
Commemorated on December 8/December 21

The Holy Disciples from the 70: Sosthenes, Apollos, Cephas, Tykhikos, Epaphrodites, Caesarius, Onysiphoros – were chosen and sent by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself for preaching; they were chosen some while after the choosing of the 12 Apostles (Lk. 10: 1-24).
     The Disciple Sosthenes before accepting Christianity was head of the Jewish synagogue at Corinth. During the time of a riot against the Apostle Paul, he too suffered a beating. He was converted by Paul to faith in Christ and afterwards became bishop at Colophon.
     Apollos was a native of Alexandria and was a man of excellent erudition. The chief place of his service was at Corinth. He toiled there for a long time and converted many to faith in Christ. Towards the end of his life he preached on Crete and was bishop of Caesarea.
     The Disciple Cephas was bishop at Colophon.
     The Disciple Tykhikos, a native of Asia Minor, was a student and companion of the holy Apostle Paul. At the time of the first imprisonment of Paul, he delivered the Epistles to the Ephesians and to the Colossians. He replaced the Disciple Sosthenes on the cathedra-chair at Colophon.
     The Disciple Epaphrodites – one of the closest assistants and companions of the Apostle Paul – was bishop of the Thracian city of Adriaca.
     The Disciple Caesarius preached at and was bishop of Dirracheia – a district in middle Greece.
     All of these disciples expired peacefully to the Lord (a second commemoration is under 30 March). The Church remembers with them also the Disciple Onysiphoros (Comm. 7 September).

Holy 362 Martyrs of Africa, martyred by the Arians, and Martyr Anthusa, at Rome (5th c.)
Commemorated on December 8/December 21

Martyred 62 Clergy and 300 Laymen: This occurred during the time of the emperor Zenon (474‑491). The ruler of the Vandal kingdom in North Africa, Guneric, came under the influence of heretic Arian bishops and started up a fierce persecution against the Orthodox. When believers had gathered at one of the churches and secretly celebrated Divine Liturgy, barbarian soldiers burst into the church. Part of the worshippers fled, but 300 men – those most firm in the true faith – voluntarily gave themselves over to torture and were beheaded. Of the 62 clergy, two were burnt, and tongues were cut out from the rest. But by a miraculous Divine power they continued to preach and to oppose the Arian false-teachings.

The Conception by St. Anna of the Most Holy Theotokos
Commemorated on December 9/December 22

The Conception by Saint Anna, of "Whence is Conceived the Holy Mother of God":  Saint Anna, the mother of the MostHoly Mother of God, was the youngest daughter of the priest Nathan from Bethlehem, descended from the tribe of Levi. She entered into marriage with Saint Joakim (their mutual memory is made 9 September), who was a native of Galilee. For a long time Saint Anna was childless, but after a span of some 20 years, through the fervent prayer of both spouses, an Angel of the Lord announced to them the Conception of a Daughter, Who would bring blessing to all the human race. The Conception by Saint Anna took place at Jerusalem, where also was born the MostHoly Virgin Mary by name. The majority of icons, dedicated to the Conception by Saint Anna, portray the MostHoly Virgin trampling underfoot the serpent. "Down the icon, along its sides, Saints Joakim and Anna are depicted usually with upraised hands prayerfully folded; their eyes also are directed upward and hey contemplate the Mother of God, Who as it were soars in the air with outstretched hands; under Her feet is portrayed an orb wound round with a serpent symbolising the devil, which in the face of fallen forefathers strives to conquer with its power all the universe".

Prophetess Anna (Hannah) (1100 B.C.), mother of the Prophet Samuel
Commemorated on December 9/December 22

The Holy Prophetess Anna (Hannah) dwelt in marriage with Elkanah, but she was childless. Elkanah took to himself another wife, Phennana, who bore him children. Anna grieved strongly over her misfortune, and every day she prayed for a solution to her childlessness, and she made a vow to dedicate the child to God. One time, when she prayed fervently in the Temple, the priest Elias decided that she was drunk, and he began to reproach her. But the saint poured out her grief, and having received a blessing, she returned home. After this Anna conceived and gave birth to a son, whom she named Samuel (which means "Besoughten of God"). When the child reached the age of boyhood, the mother herself presented him to the priest Elias, and with him Samuel remained to serve before the Tabernacle (1 Kings (1 Samuel) 1; 2: 1-21).

Venerable Stephen the "New Light" of Constantinople (912)
Commemorated on December 9/December 22

This God-pleaser was born and brought up in Constantinople in the home of his parents, Zacharias and Theophano. His father was a priest of the Great Church at the time of Patriarch Methodius. While carrying him in her womb, his mother fed only on bread and water, and when the child was born a cross of light shone on his chest. Because of this and because of his pure and God-pleasing life, he is called the ``New Light.'' At the age of eighteen Stephen enclosed himself in a cell near the Church of St. Peter the Apostle, and there he gave himself up to the ascetic labor of fasting and prayer. Once St. Peter appeared to him and said: ``Peace be to you, my child. You have made a good beginning. May the Lord strengthen you.'' Following this, he lived for many years in a cell by the Church of the Holy Martyr Antipas. This saint also appeared to him and encouraged him with the words: ``Know that I will not abandon you.'' Stephen imposed even greater and greater hardships upon himself. He ate only twice a week and then only unsalted vegetables. This holy man lived a life of asceticism for fifty-five years for the sake of Christ's Kingdom and entered into rest in the Lord in the year 829, at the age of seventy-three.

Saint Sophronios, Archbishop of Cyprus (6th C)
Commemorated on December 9/December 22

The Monk Sophronios, Archbishop of Cyprus, was born into a Christian family on Cyprus, and he studied many a science, but most of all he devoted himself to the reading of Holy Scripture. He became so accomplished in piety and good works, that he was vouchsafed of the Lord the gift of wonderworking. Following the death of the bishop of the Cypriot Church, Saint Damian, the Monk Sophronios, at the wish of all the people, was ordained in place of the deceased. In occupying the bishop's cathedra-chair, he proved himself a true father to his flock.

Martyrs Menas the Melodius, Hermogenes, and Eugraphus of Alexandria (310)
Commemorated on December 10/December 23

Both Menas and Hermogenes were born in Athens. They both lived in Byzantium, being held in great honor by the emperor and the people. Menas was known for his great learning and eloquence of speech and, although he acted outwardly as a pagan, he was a convinced Christian in his heart. Hermogenes was Eparch of Byzantium and acted as a pagan both inwardly and outwardly, but he was compassionate and performed many good deeds. When a dispute flared up between the Christians and the pagans in Alexandria, Emperor Maximin dispatched Menas to calm the disturbance and to root out the Christians from the city. Menas went and restored peace, but he declared himself a Christian and converted many pagans to the true Faith by his eloquence and many miracles. Hearing of this, the emperor sent Hermogenes to punish Menas and to smother Christianity. Hermogenes brought Menas to trial, cut off his feet and tongue, gouged out his eyes, and then cast him into prison. In prison, the Lord Jesus Himself appeared to Menas, healing and comforting His suffering servant. Seeing Menas miraculously healed, Hermogenes was baptized. He began to preach the powerful Christian Faith and was consecrated as Bishop of Alexandria. Then the enraged Maximin went to Alexandria himself and subjected Menas and Hermogenes to cruel tortures, which they courageously endured, helped by God's grace. Beholding the bravery of these soldiers of Christ and the miracles of God upon them, Eugraphus, secretary and friend of St. Menas, appeared before the tribunal and cried out to the emperor's face: ``I too am a Christian!'' The emperor became enraged, drew his sword and beheaded St. Eugraphus. Following this, the evil emperor ordered the executioner to behead St. Menas and St. Hermogenes. Their holy relics, thrown into the sea, miraculously floated to Constantinople, where the bishop, to whom this was revealed in a dream, solemnly met them and honorably buried them.

Blessed John, king of Serbia (1503), and his parents Stephen (1468) and Angelina Brancovich (16th c.)
Commemorated on December 10/December 23
Blessed John and his parents: Blessed Stefan and Blessed Angelina (XV Century): The life of the Serbian ruler Stefan Brankovich and his family was filled with instability and misfortune. After Serbia was seized in 1457 by the Turks, the then Serbian ruler's middle son, Stefan, distinguished by meek disposition and fine knowledge of Holy Scripture, set out to the capital of Turkey after his sister, who had been given to sultan Murat in marriage. But learning however, that the Turks with fanatic cruelty had burned the Mileshevsk monastery, Blessed Stefan rose up in defense of Serbia from oppression. When he married Angelina, the daughter of the prince of Albania, the Turks threatened Blessed Stefan and his family with punishment. With his wife and three children he was forced to hide first in Albania, and then in Italy, where later he died.
     Blessed Angelina transferred the undecayed remains of her spouse to Kupinovo. At the end of the XV Century a son of Righteous Stefan and Angelina, Blessed John,  became ruler of Serbia. The undecayed relics of Righteous John and his parents were afterwards glorified by many miracles.

Martyr Gemellus of Paphlagonia (361)
Commemorated on December 10/December 23

Gemellus was an honorable citizen of Ancyra. When Emperor Julian the Apostate came to this city, Gemellus came before him and openly denounced him for his apostasy. For this, he was tortured and crucified in the year 361. While in pain on the Cross, he heard a voice from heaven saying: ``Blessed are you, Gemellus!''

Venerable Thomas of Bithynia (10th c.)
Commemorated on December 10/December 23

The Monk Thomas Dethurkinos was born in Bithynia. From his youthful years he was fond of monastic life and entered one of the surrounding monasteries. Later in life, when the Byzantine official Galoliktos had founded at the River Sagarisa a monastery, the Monk Thomas was already an experienced monk, and the brethren chose him as head of the new monastery. From there the Monk Thomas withdrew into the wilderness, where for a long time he asceticised in solitude. The monk underwent many a snare of the devil in the wilderness. The Lord glorified him with the gift of healing and perspicacity. One time, the emperor Leo the Wise (886-911) came to the monastery to Saint Thomas for advice. Not finding the monk at the monastery, the emperor sent off his messenger with a letter for him. And just as the messenger arrived at the hut of the elder, the saint carried out to him a sealed answer, resolving the quandary of the emperor. The account about the repose of the monk is not preserved.

Venerable Daniel the Stylite of Constantinopole (490)
Commemorated on December 11/December 24

The Monk Daniel the Pillar-Dweller was born in the village of Bythar, near the city of Samosata in Mesopotamia. His mother Martha was childless for a long while and in her prayers gave a vow, that if she had a child, she would dedicate him to the Lord. Her prayers were heard, and Martha soon gave birth to a son, who until he was 5 years of age was without a name. The parents of the boy desired, that since he was born through the good-will of God, he should likewise receive from God his name. They took their son to a monastery located nearby and approached the hegumen. The hegumen gave orders to take down one of the Divine-service books, and at random having unrolled it, found in it the mention of the Prophet Daniel (Comm. 17 December). Thus did the lad receive his name. The parents asked that the lad might remain at the monastery, but the hegumen would not accept him, since he was still but a small boy. At 12 years of age, saying nothing to no one, the lad left home for the monastery.
     His parents were happy when they learned where their son was, and they went to the monastery. Seeing that he was still going about in his worldly clothes, they besought that the hegumen should attire him in the Angelic garb. And on that Sunday the hegumen fulfilled their request, but permitted them often to visit their son. The brethren of the monastery were astonished at the efforts of the monk.
     One time on a visit to the monastery came Saint Simeon the Pillar-Dweller (comm. 1 September), who foretold to the young monk, that he too would undertake the feat of pillar-dwelling. The Monk Daniel continued on with his ascetic life in seclusion. When in a vision the place of a new exploit was revealed to him, he withdrew into the Thracian wilderness together with two students, where they set up a pillar, upon which the Monk Daniel dwelt for 33 years. People thronged to the pillar, those who were misfortunate and those who were sick, and all received from the Monk Daniel help and healing. Byzantine emperors likewise besought the prayers of the holy ascetic. And from the numerous predictions of the monk, the most notable was about a strong conflagration in Constantinople. The Monk Daniel possessed also the gift of gracious words. He guided many onto the path of correcting their lives. The monk reposed in his 80th year.

Venerable Luke the New Stylite of Chalcedon (979)
Commemorated on December 11/December 24

The Monk Luke the New Pillar-Dweller was a soldier under the Byzantine emperor Constantine Porphyrigenitos (912-959). During the time of a war with Bulgaria (917), Saint Luke through the Providence of God remained unharmed. After this he accepted monasticism, and having succeeded in his efforts, was elevated to the dignity of presbyter. Striving though towards an higher degree of perfection, the monk put chains upon himself and went up upon a pillar. After three years standing aloft, through a Divine inspiration, he went to Mount Olympos, and then to Constantinople, and finally to Chalcedon, where likewise he chose a pillar, upon which he was aloft for 45 years, , manifesting a gift of wonderworking. He died in about the year 980.

Venerable Nicon the Dry of Kiev Caves (1101)
Commemorated on December 11/December 24

The Monk Nikon the Lean, the son of  rich and illustrious parents, gave up everything for Christ and accepted monasticism at the Kievo-Pechersk monastery. In the year 1096, during the incursions of khan Bonyak, he together with other monks was taken into captivity. Expecting a rich ransom, the captor treated the Monk Nikon harshly. When the saint was refused ransom, the master began to torment him with hunger, and left him exposed in the heat of Summer and the cold of Winter. But the monk gave thanks to God for everything and once said to his tormentor, that the Lord, through the prayers of the Monks Antonii and Theodosii (Feodosii) would return him to his monastery, as the Monk Evstratii (+ 1097, Comm. 28 March) had predicted while appearing to him. The captor cut the leg-tendons of the Monk Nikon and set a strong guard over him. But on the third day at the sixth hour suddenly the holy captive became invisible, at the moment the guard hear the words: "Praise the Lord from the Heavens". And thus he was transported to the Divine Liturgy at the Uspensk church. The brethren surrounded him and began to ask how he got there. The Monk Nikon wanted to conceal the miracle. But the brethren implored him to tell the truth. The Monk Nikon wanted to continue his ascetic deeds in his fetters from captivity, but the hegumen said: "If the Lord had wanted that thou shouldst remain bound, He would not have delivered thee from captivity". After a long while the former master of the Monk Nikon came to the Kievo-Pechersk monastery and recognised his former captive, withered up from hunger and wounds. He came to believed, accepted Baptism, and having taken monastic tonsure, he himself became an obedient (novice) under the Monk Nikon. The Monk Nikon died at the beginning of the XII Century and was buried in the Nearer Caves. His memory is celebrated also on 28 September and on the 2nd Sunday of Great Lent.

Martyr Mirax of Egipt (640)
Commemorated on December 11/December 24

Mirax was an Egyptian. Deceived by a Moslem Emir, he embraced Islam. He later repented and entered a mosque with a cross. There he declared himself a Christian, calling upon the Moslems to forsake their falsehood and to accept the truth. He was tortured and beheaded in about the year 640.

St. Spyridon the Wonderworker of Tremithon (348)
Commemorated on December 12/December 25

The island of Cyprus was both the birthplace and the place where this glorious saint served the Church. Spyridon was born of simple parents, farmers, and he remained simple and humble until his death. He married in his youth and had children, but when his wife died he devoted himself completely to the service of God. Because of his exceptional piety, he was chosen as bishop of the city of Tremithus. Yet even as a bishop he did not change his simple way of living, handling his livestock and cultivating his land himself. He used very little of the fruits of his labor for himself; instead, he distributed a greater share to the needy. He manifested great miracles by God's power: he brought down rain in time of drought, stopped the flow of a river, raised several people from the dead, healed Emperor Constantius of a grave illness, saw and heard angels of God, foresaw future events, discerned the secrets of men's hearts, converted many to the true Faith, and did much else. He took part in the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea [325], and he brought many heretics back to Orthodoxy by his simple and clear expositions of the Faith as well as by his mighty miracles. He was so simply dressed that once, when he wanted to enter the imperial court at the invitation of the emperor, a soldier, thinking that he was a beggar, struck him on the face. Meek and guileless, Spyridon turned the other cheek to him. He glorified God through many miracles, and was of benefit, not only to many individuals but also to the whole Church of God. He entered into rest in the Lord in the year 348. His miracle-working relics rest on the island of Corfu, and even today they glorify God with many miracles.

Hieromartyr Alexander, bishop of Jerusalem (251)
Commemorated on December 12/December 25
The PriestMartyr Alexander, Bishop of Jerusalem, was a student of the great teacher and writer of the Church, presbyter Clement of Alexandria (+ c. 217). At the beginning of the III Century he was chosen bishop of Cappadocian Flavia. Under the emperor Septimus Severus (193-211) he was locked up in prison and spent three years there. After his release from prison he set off to Jerusalem to venerate at the holy places there, and through a revelation from above, he was chosen there as co-administrator to the quite elderly Patriarch Narcissos (in the year 212). This was an unusually rare occurrence in the practice of the ancient Church. In this dignity he governed the Jerusalem Church for 38 years, toiling much at Christian enlightenment. A large library of the works of Christian writers was gathered by him at Jerusalem. He died in prison during the time of the persecution under the emperor Decius.

Martyr Synesius of Rome (3rd c.)
Commemorated on December 12/December 25
The Holy Martyr Cynecius (Razumnik) (Cynecius is derived from the Greek word "synetos", – meaning "man of reason") was by birth a Roman, and was a reader in the Roman Church under Pope Sixtus (257-258). He was subjected to tortures and then beheading for his brave confession of faith during the time of the emperor Aurelian (270‑275).

Martyrs Eustratius, Auxentius, Eugene, Mardarius, and Orestes at Sebaste (284)
Commemorated on December 13/December 26

These five courageous men shone like five shining stars in the dark days of the Christ-persecuting Emperors Diocletian and Maximian. St. Eustratius was a Roman commander in the city of Satalionus; Eugene was his companion in the army; Orestes was likewise a distinguished soldier; Auxentius was a priest; and Mardarius was an ordinary citizen who came, like Eustratius, from the town of Arabrak. The imperial deputies Lysias and Agricolus tortured Auxentius first since he was a priest. Seeing the innocent suffering of Christians, Eustratius appeared in front of Lysias and declared that he was also a Christian. While Eustratius was being tortured, Eugene appeared before the judge and cried out: ``Lysias, I too am a Christian.'' When Eustratius was led through the town of Arabrak with the other martyrs, Mardarius saw them from the roof of his house. He took leave of his wife and two young children and rushed after the martyrs, shouting into the faces of the tormentors: ``I too am a Christian, like my lord Eustratius.'' When St. Orestes was target-practicing in the presence of Lysias, the cross he was wearing fell from his chest and Lysias realized that he was a Christian, after which Orestes openly confessed his faith. Orestes was a young and handsome soldier and towered above all the other soldiers in stature. Auxentius was beheaded, Eugene and Mardarius died while being tortured, Orestes expired on a red-hot iron grid, and Eustratius died in a fiery furnace. St. Blaise (February 11) administered Holy Communion to St. Eustratius in prison before his death. Their relics were later taken to Constantinople and buried in the church dedicated to them: The Holy Five Companions. They were seen alive in that church, and St. Orestes appeared to St. Dimitri of Rostov (October 28). A beautiful prayer by St. Eustratius is extant, which is read at the Midnight Service on Saturday: ``Most highly do I magnify Thee, O Lord.''

Virgin-martyr Lucy of Syracuse (304)
Commemorated on December 13/December 26

With her mother, Lucy visited the grave of St. Agatha in Catania, where St. Agatha appeared to her. Her mother, who had dropsy, was then miraculously healed in the church. Lucy distributed all her goods to the poor, and this embittered her betrothed, who accused her of being a Christian before Paschasius the judge. The wicked judge ordered that she be taken to a brothel in order to defile her. However, by the power of God she remained immovable, as if rooted to the earth, and not even a multitude of people was able to move her from that spot. Then an enraged pagan pierced her throat with a sword and she gave up her soul to God and took up her habitation in the Kingdom of Eternity. Lucy suffered in the year 304.

St. Gabriel, patriarch of Serbia (1659)
Commemorated on December 13/December 26

During the terrible period of Turkish rule over Serbia, this great hierarch traveled to Russia, where he participated in the Moscow Synod of 1655. Upon returning, he was accused of high treason. Certain evil Jews also accused him of having converted several Jews to the Christian Faith. In their accusation, the Jews cited that he was attempting to convert the Turks. The Jews did this to enrage the Turkish authorities even more. Brought before the tribunal, he was condemned and sentenced to embrace Islam. Since Gavril would not even hear of this, he was, after a period of imprisonment, sentenced to death and hanged in Brusa in the year 1659. Thus, he departed for his beloved Christ to receive from Him a double crown, that of a hierarch and that of a martyr.

Martyrs Thyrsus, Leucius, and Callinicus of Apollonia (250)
Commemorated on December 14/December 27

The Holy Martyrs Thyrsos, Leukios and Kallinikos suffered for Christ under the emperor Decius (249-251) at Bithynian Caesarea. Saint Leukios, having reproached the governor Qumvricius for his unjust persecution of Christians, after torture was beheaded by the sword. Saint Thyrsos, sentenced to cruel tortures and torments, endured them unharmed and by the will of God he died peacefully. The pagan priest Kallinikos, having seen the bravery and the miracle involving Saint Thyrsos, believed in Christ and boldly confessed the true faith, for which he was beheaded by the sword.

Martyrs Apollonius, Philemon, Arianus, and Theoctychus of Alexandria (ca. 305)
Commemorated on December 14/December 27

The Holy Martyrs Philemon, Apollonios, Arian and Theotykhos suffered for the faith in Egypt, at the city of Antinoe, under the emperor Diocletian (284-305). Saint Arian up until his conversion to Christ was a persecutor of Christians, among which number were the martyrs Apollonios and Philemon. The Martyr Apollonios, at first fearing to face the sufferings, asked the pagan-musician Philemon to change into his clothing and make the appearance of offering sacrifice to idols for him. But unexpectedly Saint Philemon confessed himself a Christian afront the pagans. Saint Apollonios repented himself and also confessed Christ. After torture both martyrs were executed. Their torturer Arian, – his injured eye having been healed by ashes taken from the remains of Philemon, repented and was converted to the Christian faith and baptised together with all his household and body-guards. Out of love for Christ they voluntarily went to torture and were sentenced to death. Among the body-guards the eldest was the Martyr Theotykhos, remembered together with the other saints. The Martyrs Philemon and Apollonios died on 16 March 286, and the Martyrs Arian and Theotykhos – on 4 March 287.

Hieromartyr Eleutherius, bishop of Illyria, and his mother, Martyr Anthia and Martyr Corivus the Eparch (126)
Commemorated on December 15/December 28

The PriestMartyr Eleutherius, his mother the Martyress Anthea and the Martyr Corivus the Eparch: Saint Eleutherius, the son of an illustrious Roman citizen, was raised in Christian piety by his mother. His virtue was such, that already at age 20 he had been elevated to bishop of Illyria. Under the emperor Adrian (II), Saint Eleutherius after torture for his bold preaching about Christ was beheaded at Rome together with his mother Anthea. The eparch Corivus, who had tortured Saint Eleutherius, himself came to believe in Christ and was executed.



St. Stephen the Confessor, archbishop of Surozh in the Crimea (790)
Commemorated on December 15/December 28

Sainted Stephen the Confessor, Archbishop of Surozh, was a native of Cappadocia and was educated at Constantinople. Having taken monastic vows, he withdrew into the wilderness, where he passed the time for 30 years in ascetic deeds. Patriarch Germanos, through some particular revelation, ordained him bishop of the city of Surozh (presently the city of Sudak in the Crimea). Under the iconoclast emperor Leo III the Isaurian (716-741), Saint Stephen underwent tortures and imprisonment in Constantinople, from which he emerged after the death of the emperor. Already quite advanced in years, he returned to his flock in Surozh, where he died.
     There is preserved an account how, at the beginning of the IX Century during the time of a campaign into the Crimea, and influenced by miracles at the crypt of the saint, the Russian prince Bravlin accepted Baptism.

Venerable Paul of Mt. Latros (956)
Commemorated on December 15/December
The Monk Paul of Latreia was a native of the city of AElen in Pergamum. Early bereft of his father, he was educated at the monastery of Saint Stephen in Phrygia; after the death of his mother, he devoted himself completely to monastic deeds at a monastery on Mount Latra, near Miletos. Wanting to gain yet loftier accomplishment, he secluded himself in a cave. For his ascetic deeds he gained the gifts of perspicacity and wonderworking. The emperor Constantine VII Porphyrigenitos (912-959) often wrote to the monk, asking his prayers and counsel. The Monk Paul twice withdrew to the island of Samos, where he established a laura monastery and restored three monasteries ravaged by the Hagarites (Arabs). Foretelling his end, the monk reposed to God in the year 955.

Venerable Pardus, hermit of Palestine (6th c.)
Commemorated on December 15/December 28

 The Monk Pardus the Hermit, a Roman, was involved in his youth with the teamster's craft. One time when he set off to Jericho, a boy accidentally fell under the legs of his camels. The camels trampled the boy to death. Shaken by this occurrence, Pardus took monastic vows, and withdrew to Mount Arion. Thinking himself under the condemnation of a murderer, and seeking a punishment of death, the Monk Pardus entered the cave-den of a lion. He poked the wild beast and prodded it with a spear so that the lion would rend him apart, but the creature would not touch the hermit. The Monk Pardus then took off his clothes and lay down upon the path that the lion would take for water. But even here, the lion merely leaped over the hermit. And the elder then perceived, that he had been forgiven by the Lord. Having returned to his mountain, the Monk Pardus dwelt there in fasting and prayer until the end of his days. He died in the VI Century.

Prophet Haggai (Aggaeus) (500 B.C.)
Commemorated on December 16/December 29

The Holy Prophet Aggei (Haggai) – was the 10th of the Twelve Minor Prophets. He was of the Tribe of Levi and he prophesied during the times of the Persian emperor Darius Hystaspis (prior to 500 B.C.). Upon the return of the Jews from the Babylonian Captivity, he persuaded the people to build the Second Jerusalem Temple and he proclaimed, that in this Temple was to "appear the Word Without-Beginning in the finality of times".

St. Nicholas Chrysoberges, patriarch of Constantinople (995)
Commemorated on December 16/December 29

Nicholas governed the Church from 980 until 995. He ordained the great Simeon the New Theologian a presbyter when this spiritual giant was elected abbot of the Monastery of the Holy Martyr Mamas in Constantinople. During his times, a miraculous appearance of the Archangel Gabriel took place at Karyes [Mount Athos]. On this occasion, the archangel taught the monks to praise the Most-holy Theotokos with the hymn ``It Is Truly Meet,'' writing this hymn on a stone in a chapel of one of the kellia, which from that time has been called ``It Is Truly Meet'' (June 13). As an eminent and great hierarch, he peacefully entered into rest and took up his habitation in the Kingdom of God.

Blessed Empress Theophania of Byzantium (893)
Commemorated on December 16/December 29

The Blessed Empress Theophania (Theophano) was the first spouse of the emperor Leo VI the Wise (886-911). She was slandered as having lived together with a man, being with him even after ascending the throne, and she was locked away in prison for three years. Receiving her freedom, she spent her life in prayer and fasting. Her gentleness, charity and heartfelt contrition for sins glorified her name among her contemporaries. Theophania died in either the year 893 or 894.

Holy Prophet Daniel (600 B.C.) and the Three Holy Youths: Ananias, Azarias, and Misael
Commemorated on December 17/December 30

The Holy Prophet Daniel and the Three Holy Youths Ananias, Azarias and Misael: In the years following 600 B.C. Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians, the Temple built by Solomon was destroyed, and many of the Israelite people were led away into the Babylonian Captivity. Among the captives were also the illustrious youths Daniel, Ananias, Azarias and Misael. The emperor of Babylon, Nebuchadnessar, gave orders to instruct them in the Chaldean wisdom, and to dress them in finery at his court. But they, in cleaving to the commandments of their faith, refused the extravagance and led a strict manner of life; they indeed sustained themselves on only vegetables and water. The Lord granted them wisdom, and to Saint Daniel – the gift of perspicacity and the interpretation of dreams. The holy Prophet Daniel, having preserved sacred faith in the One God and trusting on His almighty help, in his wisdom surpassed all the Chaldean astrologers and sorcerers, and was made a confidant to the emperor Nebuchadnessar. One time Nebuchadnessar had a strange dream, which terrified him, but upon awakening he forgot the details of the vision. The Babylonian wise-men seemed powerless to learn what the emperor had dreamt. Thereupon the holy Prophet Daniel gave glory before all to the power of the True God, revealing not only the content of the dream, but also its prophetic significance. After this Daniel was elevated by the emperor to be a lord of the realm of Babylonia.
     During these times the emperor Nebuchadnessar gave orders to erect in his likeness – an huge statue, to which it was decreed to accord the honours befitting a god. For their refusal to do this, the three holy lads – Ananias, Azarias and Misael – were thrust into a burning fiery furnace. The flames shot out over the furnace 49 cubits, felling the Chaldeans standing about, but the holy lads walked amidst the flames, offering up prayer and psalmody to the Lord (Dan. 3: 26-90). The Angel of the Lord in appearing made cool the flames, and the lads remained unharmed. The emperor, upon seeing this, commanded them to come out, and was converted to the True God.
     Under the following emperor Balthasar, Saint Daniel interpreted a mysterious inscription ("Mene, Takel, Phares"), which had appeared on the wall of the palace during the time of a banquet (Dan. 5: 1-31), which foretold the downfall of the Babylonian realm.         Under the Persian emperor Darius, Saint Daniel was slandered by his enemies, and was thrown into a den with hungry lions, but they did not touch him, and he remained unharmed. The emperor Darius then in rejoicing over Daniel gave orders throughout all his realm to worship the God of Daniel, "since that He is the Living and Ever-Existing God, and His Kingdom is unbounded, and His sovereignty is without end" (Dan. 6: 1-29). The holy Prophet Daniel sorrowed deeply for his people, who then were undergoing righteous chastisement for a multitude of sins and offenses, for transgressing the laws of God, – resulting in the grievous Babylonian Captivity and the destruction of Jerusalem: "My God, incline Thine ear and hearken, open Thine eyes and look upon our desolation and upon the city, in which is spoken Thine Name; wherefore do we make our supplication before Thee, trusting in hope not upon our own righteousness, but upon Thy great mercy" (Dan. 9: 18). By his righteous life and prayer for the redeeming of the iniquity of his people, there was revealed to the holy prophet the destiny of the nation of Israel and the fate of all the world.
     During the interpretation of the dream of the emperor Nebuchadnessar, the Prophet Daniel declared about the kingdoms replacing one another and about the great final kingdom – the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ (Dan. 2: 44). The prophetic vision about the seventy of weeks (Dan. 9: 24-27) tells the world about the signs of the First and the Second Comings of the Lord Jesus Christ and is connected with those events (Dan. 12: 1-12). Saint Daniel interceded for his people before the successor to Darius, the emperor Cyrus, who esteemed him highly, and who decreed freedom for the Israelite people. Daniel himself and his fellows Ananias, Azarias and Misael, all survived into old age, but died in captivity. According to the testimony of Sainted Cyril of Alexandria (Comm. 9 June), Saints Ananias, Azarias and Misael were beheaded on orders of the Persian emperor Chambyses.

Venerable Daniel the Confessor (in schema Stephen) of Spain and Egypt (10th c.)
Commemorated on December 17/December 30

The Monk Daniel the Confessor, in the Schema Stephen, was a Spanish dignitary, and ruler of the island of Niverta. Disdaining worldly glory, he accepted monasticism at Rome and set out to the holy places at Constantinople and Jerusalem, where he became a schema-monk. For his refusal to accept Islam he perished as a martyr under the Saracens in the X Century.

The Venerable New Martyrs Paisius and Habakkuk
Commemorated on December 17/December 30

Paisius was abbot of the Travna Monastery near Chachak in Serbia, and Habakkuk was his companion and deacon. As Christians, both were impaled on stakes by the Turks on Kalemegdan in Belgrade on December 17, 1814. Carrying his stake through the streets of Belgrade, the courageous Habakkuk sang. When his mother begged him with tears to embrace Islam in order to save his life, this wonderful soldier of Christ replied to her:
                 My mother, thank you for your milk,
                 But for your counsel I thank you not:
                 A Serb is Christ's; he rejoices in death.

Martyr Sebastian at Rome and his companions: Martyrs Nicostratus, Zoe, Castorius, Tranquillinus, Marcellinus, Mark, Claudius, Symphorian, Victorinus, Tiburtius, and Castulus (287)
Commemorated on December 18/December 31

This glorious saint was born in Italy and brought up in the city of Milan. While still young, he dedicated himself to military service. Being educated, handsome and courageous, he received the favor of Emperor Diocletian, who appointed him captain of his imperial guard. Secretly he confessed the Christian Faith and prayed to the Living God. As an honorable, just and merciful man, Sebastian was greatly beloved by his soldiers. Whenever he could, he saved Christians from torture and death, and, when he was unable to do so, he exhorted them to die for Christ the Living God without turning back. Two brothers, Marcus and Marcellinus, who had been imprisoned for Christ and were already on the verge of denouncing Him and worshiping idols, were confirmed in the Faith by Sebastian, who strengthened them for martyrdom. As he spoke with them, encouraging them not to fear death for Christ, his face was illumined. Everyone saw his shining face, like that of an angel of God. Sebastian also confirmed his words by miracles: he healed Zoe, the jailer Nicostratus's wife, who had been mute for six years; he brought her, Nicostratus and his entire household to baptism; he healed the two ailing sons of Claudius the commander and brought him and his household to baptism; he healed Tranquillinus, the father of Marcus and Marcellinus, of gout and pains in his legs which had troubled him for eleven years, and brought him to baptism together with his entire household; he healed the Roman eparch Chromatius of the same illness and brought him and his son Tiburtius to baptism. The first of them to suffer was St. Zoe, whom they seized at the tomb of the Apostle Peter, where she was praying to God. After torturing her, they threw her into the Tiber River. They then seized Tiburtius, and the judge placed live coals before him, telling him to choose between life and death, that is, either to cast incense on the coals and to cense the idols or to stand barefoot on the hot coals. St. Tiburtius made the sign of the Cross, stood barefoot on the hot coals, and remained unharmed. After this, he was beheaded. Nicostratus was killed with a stake, Tranquillinus was drowned, and Marcus and Marcellinus were tortured and pierced with spears. Then Sebastian was brought before Emperor Diocletian. The emperor rebuked him for his betrayal, but Sebastian said: ``I have always prayed to my Christ for your health and for the peace of the Roman Empire.'' The emperor ordered that he be stripped naked and shot through with arrows. The soldiers shot him through with arrows until the martyr was so completely covered with arrows that his body was not seen because of them. When all thought that he was dead, he appeared alive and completely healthy. Then the pagans killed him with staves. He suffered gloriously for Christ his Lord and took up his habitation in the Kingdom of Christ in the year 287 at the time of Diocletian the Emperor and Gaius the Bishop of Rome.

Venerable Florus, bishop of Amisus (7th c.)
Commemorated on December 18/December 31

The Monk Phloros, Bishop of Ameia, was the son of the Christians Phloros and Euthymia, who provided him a fine education. He entered courtly service for the Byzantine emperor and was elevated to the dignity of patrician; he was also married and had children. After his wife and children died from smallpox, he left the world and withdrew to the outskirts of Constantinople, where he led a solitary and pious life. Later on he was chosen bishop of Ameia (in Asia Minor). Saint Phloros wisely guided his flock and died peacefully at the beginning of the VII Century.

St. Modestus I, archbishop of Jerusalem (4th c.)
Commemorated on December 18/December 31

Sainted Modestos, Archbishop of Jerusalem, was born into a Christian family in Cappadocian Sebasteia (Asia Minor). From his youthful years he felt a strong attraction towards strict monastic life. Saint Modestos accepted monastic tonsure. Afterwards he became head of the monastery of Saint Theodosios the Great (founded in the IV Century) in Palestine. At this time (the year 614), military forces of the Persian emperor Chosroes fell upon Syria and Palestine, killing 90 thousand Christians and laying waste the Christian churches. The Jerusalem Patriarch Zakharias and a multitude of Christians together with the Cross of the Lord was taken into captivity. Saint Modestos was entrusted to temporarily govern the Jerusalem Church in the capacity of locum tenens of the patriarchal cathedra.
     With the help of the Alexandria Patriarch John the Merciful (Comm. 12 November), Saint Modestos set about the restoring of devastated Christian holy places, among which was the Sepulchre of the Lord. He reverently gave burial to the remained of murdered monks from the monastery of Saint Sava the Sanctified. After 14 years, Patriarch Zakharias returned from captivity with the Cross of the Lord, and after his death Saint Modestos became Patriarch of Jerusalem. Saint Modestos died at age 97 in the year 634.