SAINTS AND FEASTS (July)
Martyr Leontius, and with him Martyrs Hypatius and Theodulus, at Tripoli in Syria (73)
Commemorated on June 18/July 1
The holy Martyrs Leontius, Ipatius and Theodolus were Roman soldiers. The holy Martyr Leontius, a Greek by origin, during the reign of Vespasian (70-79) served as a military-chief in the imperial army in the Phoenician city of Tripoli. The Christian Leontius was distinguished for his bravery and good sense, and the people of Tripoli held him in deep regard for his virtue.
The emperor appointed the Roman senator Adrian as governor of the Phoenician district, with full powers to hunt out Christians, and in case of their refusal to offer sacrifice to the Roman gods, to give them over to torture and death. And on his way to Phoenicia Adrian received a report, that Saint Leontius had turned many away from worshipping the pagan gods. The governor sent the tribune Ipatius with a detachment of soldiers to Tripoli, so as to find and arrest the Christian Leontius. Along the way the tribune Ipatius fell seriously ill, and being near death, he saw in a dream an Angel, which said: "If thou wishest to be healed, invoke thrice with thine soldiers: "God of Leontius, help me". Opening his eyes Ipatius beheld the Angel and said: "I was sent to arrest Leontius, how is it that I should appeal to his God?" At this moment the Angel became invisible. Ipatius told about his dream to the soldiers, among whose number was also his friend Theodolus, and all of them together thrice called on the help of the God, Whose Name it was that Saint Leontius confessed. Ipatius was immediately healed to the great joy of his soldiers, but only Theodolus sat aside, pondering the miracle. His soul was filled with love for God, and he told Ipatius to proceed twice as quickly to the city in search of Saint Leontius.
Upon their arrival in the city, a stranger met them and invited them to his house, where he lavishly hosted the travellers. Learning that their hospitable host was Saint Leontius, they fell on their knees and asked him to enlighten them with faith in the True God. They were baptised here, and when Saint Leontius pronounced over them the prayer calling on the Name of the MostHoly Trinity, a luminous cloud overshadowed the newly-baptised and shed a graced rain. The remaining soldiers in search of their commander arrived in Tripoli, where also had arrived the governor Adrian. Learning about what had happened, he gave orders to bring him Saints Leontius, Ipatius and Theodolus, and having threatened them with torture and death, he demanded that they renounce Christ and offer sacrifice to the Roman gods. All the martyrs firmly confessed their faith in Christ. Saint Ipatius was put under a column and struck at with iron claws, and Saint Theodolus was mercilessly beaten with rods. Seeing the steadfastness of the saints, they beheaded these two. And after torture, they sent Saint Leontius off to prison. In the morning he came before the governor. Adrian tried to entice the holy martyr with honours and rewards, and accomplishing nothing, he gave him over to new tortures: the holy martyr was suspended head downwards from a pillar with an heavy stone about his neck, but nothing was able to make him renounce Christ. The governor gave orders to beat at the sufferer with rods until such time as he died. They then threw the body of the holy Martyr Leontius out beyond the city, but Christians reverently gave it burial near Tripoli. The death of the holy martyrs occurred in about the years 70-79.
The accusation against Saint Leontios, and his sufferings and death are recorded on tin tablets prepared by the court scribe (commentarisius). These tablets were placed at the grave of the holy martyr.
Holy Apostle Jude, the Brother of the Lord (80)
Commemorated on June 19/July 2
The Holy Apostle Jude, among the rank of the 12 disciples of Christ, is descended from the lineage of King David and Solomon, and was the son of Righteous Joseph the Affianced from his first wife.
The Holy Apostle John the Theologian writes in his Gospel: "For none of his brethren believe on Him" (Jn. 7, 5). Sainted Theophilact, ArchBishop of Bulgaria, explains these words thus: at the beginning of the worldly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ – the sons of Joseph, among whose number was Jude, did not believe in His Divine essence. The tradition relates that when Righteous Joseph the Affianced, having returned from Egypt, began to divide among his sons the worldly things belonging to him, he wanted to alot part also to Christ the Saviour, born miraculously and incorruptibly from the All-Pure Virgin Mary. The brothers were opposed to this and only the eldest of them, James, accepted Christ Jesus in a joint ownership of his allotment, and for this he was termed Brother of the Lord. Later on Jude believed in Christ the Saviour as the awaited Messiah, and with all his heart he turned to Him and was chosen by Him into the number of the closest 12 disciples. But mindful of his sin, the Apostle Jude considered himself unworthy to be termed a brother with God and in his own soborno-catholic Epistle he calls himself merely the brother of James.
The Holy Apostle Jude also had other names: the Evangelist Matthew terms him "Levi, nicknamed Thaddeus" (Mt. 10, 3). The Holy Evangelist Mark also calls him Thaddeus (Mk. 3, 18), and in the Acts of the Holy Apostles he is mentioned under the name Barsaba (Acts 15, 22). This was customary at that time.
After the Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Apostle Jude set off preaching the Gospel. He propagated the faith in Christ at first in Judea, Galilee, Samaria and Idumeia, and later – in the lands of Arabia, Syria and Mesopotamia, and finally he went to the city of Edessa. Here he finished that which was not completed by his predecessor, the disciple from the 70 – Thaddeus. There is preserved an account, that the Holy Apostle Jude went preaching to Persia and from there wrote in the Greek language his soborno-catholic Epistle, in the brief wording of which consisted much profound truth. It contained dogmatic teaching about the Holy Trinity, about the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ, about the separation of Angels good and bad, and about the Dread Last-Judgement. In its moral content the Apostle urges believers to guard themselves against fleshly impurity, to be diligent in their obligations in prayer, faith and love, to convert the lost to the way of salvation, and to guard themselves from the teachings of heretics. The Apostle Jude taught that faith alone in Christ is not sufficient, good works also are necessary, the evidence to Christian teaching.
The Holy Apostle Jude died a martyr about the year 80 in Armenia in the city of Arata, where he was crucified on a cross and pierced by arrows.
Venerable Paisius the Great of Egypt (400)
Commemorated on June 19/July 2
The Monk Paisias the Great lived in Egypt. His parents, Christians, distributed generous alms to all the needy.
After the death of her husband his mother, on the suggestion of an Angel, gave over her young son Paisias to clergy of the church.
The youth Paisias loved monastic life and spent his time in one of the Egyptian sketes. Disavowing his own will, he lived under the spiritual guidance of Saint Pambos (Comm. 18 July), finishing all the tasks assigned him. The starets/elder said, that a newly-begun monk in particular needs to preserve his sight, so as to guard his senses from temptation, and Paisias, heeding the instruction, went for three years with his eyes cast downwards. The saintly ascetic diligently read spiritual books and he was especially notable for ascetic fasting and prayer. At first he did not taste of food during the course of a week, then – of two, and sometimes after partaking of the Holy Mysteries of Christ, he remained without food for seventy days.
In search of solitary quiet the Monk Paisias went into the Nitreian wilderness, where he lived in a cave carved out by his own hands. There the monk was vouchsafed a wondrous vision – the Lord Jesus Christ revealed to him, that because of his labours all the Nitreian wilderness would become inhabited by ascetics. The monk was impelled to ask the Lord where in the wilderness would the monks obtain the necessities of life? The Lord answered, that if they would fulfill all His commandments, He Himself would obtain for them all the necessities, to put them beyond demonic temptations and cunning.
With time there gathered to the Monk Paisias a number of monks and laymen, and thus was established a monastery. The primary covenant of the Monk Paisias was one: no one would do anything by his own will, but in all things would fulfill the will of his mentors. Burdened by the disturbance of the quiet, the monk withdrew to a yet farther cave. One time he was transported to a paradaisical monastery and vouchsafed there to partake of the non-material Divine food. After his ascetic labours for salvation, the Lord granted His saint the gift of foresight and healing the souls of men. In the life of the ascetic is reported an instance when one of his disciples, with the blessing of the monk, set off to sell handicrafts in Egypt and on the way he encountered a Jew, who suggested to the simple-minded monk that Christ the Saviour is not the Messiah, and that another one, a true one, will come. Confused, the monk uttered: "Perhaps it is true what thou sayest", – yet he did not attribute any particular significance to his words. Having returned, he saw with grief that the Monk Paisias would not acknowledge his arrival, and he asked the reason for his anger. The monk said: "My disciple was a Christian, thou art not a Christian, from thee hath departed the grace of Baptism". Having repented, the monk with tears besought to have absolved his sin. Only then did the holy elder rise up to prayer and seek forgiveness of the Lord for the monk.
A certain monk on his own initiative left the wilderness and re-settled not far from a city. There he had encounters with a woman, who hated and blasphemed Christ the Saviour. Having fallen under her influence, he not only left monasticism, but also scorned faith in Christ and finally he arrived at total disbelief. One time, through the blessed Providence of God, Nitreian monks came past his home. Seeing them, the sinner remembered his own former life and he asked the monks to convey to the Monk Paisias, that he pray for him to the Lord. Hearing the request, the monk began to pray fervently, and his efficacious prayer was heard. The Lord, appearing to His saint, promised to forgive the sinner. Soon the seduced-monk's woman-companion died, and he returned to the wilderness where, weeping and distressed about his sins, he began to labour at deeds of repentance.
The Monk Paisias distinguished himself by great humility, and accomplished ascetic deeds of fasting and prayer, but as far as possible, he concealed them from those aside. To a question of the monks, which virtue is highest of all, the monk answered: "those, which are done in secret and about which no one knows".
The Monk Paisias died in the V Cent. in extreme old age and he was buried with veneration by many of the gathered monks. After some while his relics were transferred by the Monk Isidoros Pelusiotes (Comm. 4 February) to the Pelusiot Monastery and placed alongside the relics of the Monk Paul of the Wilderness, with whom the Monk Paisias in life was in particular spiritually close.
Hieromartyr Methodius, bishop of Patara (312)
Commemorated on June 20/July 3
The PriestMartyr Methodios, Bishop of Patara (Lycian region in Asia Minor), was distinguished for his genuine monastic humility. Calmly and with mildness he instructed his flock, but together with this he firmly defended the purity of Orthodoxy and he energetically contended against heresies, especially the widespread heresy of the Origenists. He left behind him a rich literary legacy: works in defense of Christianity against paganism, explications of Orthodox dogmas against the heresy of Origen, moral discourses, and explanations of Holy Scripture.
Saint Methodios was arrested by the pagans, steadfastly confessed before them his faith in Christ, and in the year 312 he was sentenced to death by beheading.
St. Nahum of Ochrid (910)
Commemorated on June 20/July 3
The Monk Naum of Okhrid, Bulgarian by descent, was one of the disciple of the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Cyril and Methodios (Comm. 11 May), and he likewise accompanied Saint Kliment (Clement) of Okhrid during the time of his preaching of the Gospel in Bulgaria. When Saint Kliment set off to the south-western regions, the Monk Naum remained in the then capital city of Plisk. Afterwards the Monk Naum became successor to Saint Kliment in a monastery on the shores of Lake Okhrida, where he asceticised for 10 years. The Monk Naum reposed on 23 December 910, and his relics were glorified by numerous miracles, especially healings of sicknesses of soul. The memory of the saint is likewise celebrated on 23 December.
Martyr Julian of Tarsus in Cilicia (305)
Commemorated on June 21/July 4
The Holy Martyr Julian of Tarsis was born in the Asia Minor province of Cilicia. He was the son of a pagan senator, but his mother confessed Christianity. After the death of her husband the mother of Saint Julian resettled to Tarsis, where the son was baptised and raised in Christian piety. When Julian reached age 18, a persecution against Christians started under the emperor Diocletian (284-305). Among others arrested was also Saint Julian. They brought him before the governor Marcian for trial, where for a long time they urged him to renounce Christ. Neither tortures nor threats, nor promises of gifts and honours could convince the pious youth to offer pagan sacrifice and a denial of Christ. The holy confessor remained steadfast in his firm faith. For a whole year they led the martyr through the cities of Cilicia, in each of them subjecting him to interrogation and tortures, after which they threw him in prison. The mother of Saint Julian followed after her son and prayed, that the Lord would strengthen him yet more in faith and act. In the city of Aegea under the pretext of urging her son to offer sacrifice to idols, she besought the governor to permit her to visit the prison. She spent three days in prison with Saint Julian, beseeching him to be strong to the end.
Saint Julian was again brought to stand before the governor. Thinking, that the mother had persuaded her son to submit to the imperial decree, the governor began to praise her prudence. But suddenly the saint boldly confessed himself a Christian. And the holy Martyr Julian all the more fearlessly and boldly denounced the pagan polytheism. The governor then gave orders to cut off the feet of the mother of Saint Julian, since she had accompanied her son from Tarsis. They tied the Martyr Julian into a sack, filled with sand and poisonous vipers, and threw it into the sea. The body of the sufferer was carried by the waves to the shores of Alexandria, and with reverence was buried by a certain pious Alexandrian Christian. The martyr's death occurred in about the year 305. Afterwards the relics of the holy martyr were transferred to Antioch. Saint John Chrysostom honoured the memory of the holy Martyr Julian with a sermon of laudation.
Hieromartyr Eusebius, bishop of Samosata (380)
Commemorated on June 22/July 5
The Priestmartyr Eusebios, Bishop of Samosata, stood firmly for the Orthodox confession of faith confirmed at the Ist OEcumenical Council at Nicea in the year 325. For this he underwent persecution by the Arians, being repeatedly deprived of his cathedra and banished into exile. The emperor Constantius (337-361), patron of the Arians, having learned that Saint Eusebios kept a conciliar decree about the election to the Antioch cathedra of the Orthodox Archbishop Meletios, sent him a command to give up the decree. The saint boldly refused to do as ordered. The enraged emperor sent a message, that if he did not give up the decree, then his right hand would be cut off. Saint Eusebios stretched out both hands to the emissary with the words: "Cut them off, but the Decree of the Council, which doth denounce the wickedness and iniquity of the Arians, I will not give up". The emperor Constantius marveled at the audacity of the bishop, but did him no harm.
After Constantius, there reigned Justin the Apostate (361-363). Even more difficult times ensued – there began an open persecution against Christians. Sainted Eusebios, having concealed his dignity, went about in the garb of a soldier across the whole of Syria, Phoenicia and Palestine, urging Christians to the Orthodox faith. He established priests and deacons in desolated churches, he put hands upon bishops renouncing the Arian heresy. After Julian the Apostate perished, there ruled the pious emperor Jovian (363-364), during which time the persecutions stopped. Having returned from exile, Archbishop Meletios upon the advice of Saint Eusebios convened a Local Council at Antioch in the year 379. In it participated 27 bishops, and it re-affirmed the Orthodox teaching of faith accepted at the Ist OEcumenical Council. The Arians, fearing the steadfast defenders of Orthodoxy – Sainted-hierarchs Meletios, Eusebios and Pelagios, who had great influence with the emperor, put their signatures under the conciliar definition. After the death of the emperor Jovian began the rule of the Arian Vanlentus (364-378). The Orthodox were again subjected to persecution. Saint Meletios was banished to Armenia, Saint Pelagios – to Arabia, and Saint Eusebios was condemned to exile in Thrace. Having received the imperial decree, Saint Eusebios left Samosata by night so as to prevent tumult among the people that esteemed him. Having learned about the departure of the bishop, believers followed after him and with tears entreated him to return. The saint refused to fulfill the entreaty of those who had come, saying that it was necessary to obey the existing authorities. The saint urged his flock to hold firm to Orthodoxy, blessed them and set off to the place of exile. The Arian Eunomios was put upon the Samosata cathedra, but the people did not accept the heretic. The Orthodox would not go to the church and avoided meeting with him. The heretic Arian perceived, that it was impossible to entice the independent flock to him.
The emperor Gracian (375-383) came upon the throne, and there were brought back from exile all the Orthodox hierarchs banished under the Arians. Saint Eusebios also returned to Samosata and continued with the task of building up the church. Together with Saint Meletios he supplied Orthodox hierarchs and clergy to Arian places. In about the year 380, he arrived in the Arian city of Dolikhina to establish there the Orthodox bishop Marinos. An Arian woman flung a roof tile which struck the head of the sainted-bishop. In dying, he on the example of the Saviour asked her for wine and requested those around not to do her any harm. The body of Sainted Eusebios was taken to Samosata and with lamantation he was buried by his flock. In place of the saint was raised up his nephew, Blessed Antiokhos, and the Samosata Church continued to steadfastly confess the Orthodox faith, firmly spread through the efforts of the holy Priestmartyr Eusebios.
Martyr Agrippina of Rome (253-260)
Commemorated on June 23/July 6
The Holy Martyress Agrippina, was by birth a Roman. She did not wish to enter into marriage, and totally dedicated her life to God. During the time of persecution against Christians under the emperor Valerian (253-259) the saint went before the court and bravely confessed her faith in Christ, for which she was given over to torture. They beat the holy virgin with sticks so much, that her bones broke. Afterwards they put Saint Agrippina in chains, but an Angel freed her from her bonds. The holy confessor died from the tortures she endured. The Christians Vassa, Paula and Agathonica secretly took the body of the holy martyress and transported it to Cilicia, where at her grave were worked many miracles. In about the XI Century the relics of the holy Martyress Agrippina were transferred to Constantinople.
The Meeting of the Vladimir Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos in memory of Saving of Moscow from the Invasion of Khan Achmed
Commemorated on June 23/July 6
The Feast of the Mother of God in honour of Her Holy Vladimir Icon is celebrated in thanksgiving for the deliverance of Moscow from an invasion of khan Akhmat. In 1480 during the time of GreatPrince Ivan III Vasil'evich (1462-1505), khan Akhmat of the Golden Horde approached with a vast host up to the River Ugra, which those guarding the Moscow domain called "the Belt (Poyas) of the Mother of God". For an entire day the army of the khan and that of the Moscow prince stood opposite each other, not making the decision to act – "the standing at the Ugra". All Moscow prayed to its Patroness the MostHoly Mother of God for the safety of the Orthodox capital. Metropolitan Gerontii (1473-1489) and the father-confessor of the prince, Archbishop Vassion of Rostov, praying, strengthened the Russian army with blessing and counsel. The metropolitan wrote the prince a cathedral missive, in which he called on him to stand bravely against the enemy, trusting on the help of the Mother of God.
The MostHoly Mother of God interceded for the Russian land. The prince commanded his army to fall back from the Ugra, hoping to await the passing over of the Tatars; the enemy decided, however, that the Russians were luring them into a trap, and they thus began to fall back, at first slowly, but by night they fled, driven by fear. In thanksgiving for the deliverance of Russia from the Tatars, this feast was established in honour of the Mother of God. (The account about the Vladimir Icon is located under 26 August).
Nativity of St. John the Baptist
Commemorated on June 24/July 7
The Nativity of the Holy Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, John: The Gospel (Lk. 1: 57-80) relates that the righteous parents of Saint John the Baptist – the Priest Zachariah and Elizabeth, lived in the ancient city of Hebron, and reached old age being childless, since Elizabeth was barren. One time, Saint Zachariah was making Divine services at the Jerusalem Temple and saw the Archangel Gabriel, standing on the right side of the incense offertory. He predicted, that Saint Zachariah would father a son, who would announce the Saviour – the Messiah, awaited by the Old Testament Church. Zachariah was troubled, and fear fell upon him. He had doubts that in old age it was possible to have a son, and he asked for a sign. And it was given to him – it appeared at the same time as a chastisement for his unbelief: Zachariah was struck speechless until the time of the fulfillment of the archangel's words.
Saint Elizabeth came to be with child, and fearing derision over the lateness of her pregnancy, she kept it secret for five months, until there came visiting her distant relative the All-Blessed Virgin Mary, to share with her Her own joy. Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, was the first to greet the Virgin Mary as the Mother of God. And together with her Saint John also – in the womb of his mother Righteous Elizabeth – did greet "with leaps as in song" the MostHoly Virgin Mary and the Son of God incarnated within Her.
It became time, and Saint Elizabeth gave birth to a son, and all the relatives and acquaintances rejoiced together with her. On the eighth day, in accord with the law of Moses, was made the circumcision. His mother named him John. Everyone was amazed, since no one in their family had been named such. When they asked Saint Zachariah about this, he motioned for a tablet and wrote on it: "John is his name" – and immediately the binding of his tongue at the prediction of the archangel was unbound, and Saint Zachariah, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, glorified God and pronounced the words of prophecy about the Advent-Coming into the world of the Messiah, and about his own son John – the Forerunner of the Lord.
After the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ and the worship of the shepherds and the Magi, wicked king Herod gave orders to kill all the infants. Hearing about this, Saint Elizabeth fled into the wilderness and hid in a cave. Saint Zachariah as a priest was at Jerusalem and was doing his priestly service in the Temple. Herod sent soldiers to him to find out the abode of the infant John and his mother. Zachariah answered, that their whereabouts were unknown to him, and he was killed right there in the Temple. Righteous Elizabeth continued to live in the wilderness with her son and she died there. The lad John, protected by an Angel, dwelt in the wilderness until such time, when he came preaching about repentance and was himself vouchsafed worthy to baptise the Lord Who was come into the world.
Virgin-martyr Febronia of Nisibis (304)
Commemorated on June 25/July 8
The Virgin-Martyr Febronia suffered during the reign of Diocletian (284-305). She was raised at a monastery in the city of Sivapolis (Assyria region). The head of the women's monastery was the hegumenia Brienna, the aunt of Saint Febronia, and being concerned about the salvation of Saint Febronia, she assigned her a stricter form of life than the other nuns. According to their monastic ustav-rule, on Fridays the sisters left aside their other duties and spent the whole day at prayer and the reading of Holy Scripture, and usually the hegumenia appointed the reading to Saint Febronia.
News about her pious life spread throughout the city. The illustrious young widow Hieria, a pagan, began to visit her, and under the influence of her guidance and prayer she accepted holy Baptism, bringing then to the Christian faith her parents and kinsfolk.
Diocletian dispatched to Assyria for the destruction of Christians a detachment of soldiers under the command of Lysimachus, Selenus and Primus. Selenos, the uncle of Lysimachus, was noted for his fierce attitude against Christians, but Lysimachus was of a different frame of mind from him, since his mother had sought to inspire love for the Christian faith in her son, and she had died a Christian. And Lysimachus had discussed with his kinsman Primus how far possible it would be to deliver Christians from the hands of the torturer. When the detachment of soldiers approached the convent, its inhabitants hid. There remained only the hegumenia Brienna, her helper Thomaida and Saint Febronia, who at the time was seriously ill. It sorrowed the hegumenia terribly, that her niece would fall into the hands of the torturers, possibly to defile her, and she prayed fervently that the Lord would preserve her and strengthen her in the confession of Christ the Saviour. Selenus gave orders to bring him all the nuns of the convent. Primus with the detachment of soldiers found no one, except the two old women and Saint Febronia. He regretted that they had not hidden, and he suggested to the nuns to be gone. But the nuns decided not to quit the place of their labours and they entrusted themselves to the will of the Lord.
Primus told Lysimachus about the particular beauty of Saint Febronia and advised him to take her for himself in marriage. Lysimachus answered, that he did not wish to seduce a virgin dedicated to God, and he asked Primus to hide the other nuns somewhere, so that they would not fall into the hands of Selenus. One of the soldiers overheard the conversation and told Selenus. They led Saint Febronia off to the military commander with her hands bound and a chain on her neck. Selenus urged her to recant from the faith in Christ and he promised her honours, rewards, and marriage with Lysimachus. The holy virgin firmly and fearlessly answered, that she had the Immortal Bridegroom and she would not exchange Him for some worldly blessing. Selenus subjected her to fierce torture. The saint prayed: "My Saviour, do not abandon me in this terrible hour!" They beat the martyress for a long time, and blood from her handcuffs flowed from the wounds. In order to intensify the suffering of Saint Febronia, they tied her to a tree and set a fire under it. The tortures were so inhuman, that the people began to shout, urging a stop to the torture since there was no confession of guilt by the girl. But Selenus continued to mock and jeer at the martyress. Saint Febronia became silent. Because of weakness she was unable to utter a word. In a rage Selenus gave orders to tear out her tongue, smash her teeth, and finally, to cut off both hands and legs. The people were unable to bear such an horrid spectacle and they left the scene of the torture, cursing Diocletian and his gods.
Among the crowd was the Nun Thomaida, who afterwards recorded in detail the martyr's act of Saint Febronia, and also her student Hieria. She came forth out of the crowd and in the hearing of all reproached Selenus for his boundless cruelty. He gave orders to arrest her, but learning that Hieria was of illustrious standing whom he could not readily subject to torture, he stopped her, saying: "By thy speech thou hast brought on Febronia yet greater torment". Finally, they beheaded the holy Martyress Febronia.
Departing the place of execution, Lysimachus wept and withdrew to his quarters. Selenus made ready to eat, but he was not able to take food, and went off to the quiet of his own chambers. Suddenly, looking upwards, he all at once lost his speech, bellowed like an ox, fell down, and having struck a marble column, he cracked his head and there he died. When Lysimachus learned of this, he said: "O Great God of the Christians, Who art worthy of respect, in that innocent blood hath been revenged!" He prepared a coffin, placed in it the mutilated body of the martyress and took it to the convent. Hegumenia Brienna fell senseless, seeing the mutilated remains of Saint Febronia. By evening time she returned to her senses and gave orders to open the convent gates, so that all would be able to come and venerate the holy martyress and glorify God – having given her such endurance in suffering for Christ the Saviour. Lysimachus and Primus thereupon renounced their idol-worship, and accepted both Baptism and monasticism. Hieria gave her wealth to the convent and petitioned hegumenia Brienna to accept her at the convent in place of Saint Febronia.
Every year, on the day of the martyress death of Saint Febronia there was celebrated at the convent a solemn feast. During the time of the all-night vigil the monastic sisters always saw Saint Febronia, who occupied her usual place in church. From the relics of Saint Febronia occurred numerous miracles and healings. The Life of Saint Febronia was recorded by the Nun Thomaida, an eye-witness to her deeds.
In the year 363 the relics of Saint Febronia were transferred to Constantinople.
Soon after the death of Saint Febronia, Saint James the Bishop of Niziba (Comm. 13 January) built a church and transferred into it part of the relics of the holy martyress.
Venerable David of Thessalonica (540)
Commemorated on June 26/July 9
The Monk David of Soluneia (Thessalonika) pursued asceticism at the monastery of the holy Martyrs Theodore and Mercurios. Afterwards, having settled near the city of Soluneia, he built himself an hut under an almond tree and lived in it for 70 years, being in constant prayer, keeping strict fast, and enduring heat and cold. The Monk David received from God the gift of wonderworking, and he healed many from sickness. The holy ascetic gave spiritual counsel to all who came to him. Having attained to passionlessness, he was like an angel in the flesh, and without harm he was able to take into his hands the hot coals for the incensing. The monk died in about the year 540.
Venerable Sampson the Hospitable of Constantinople (530)
Commemorated on June 27/July 10
The Monk Sampson the Hospitable-to-Strangers was the son of rich and illustrious Roman parents. In his youth he received an excellent education, he studied the medical arts, and for free he doctored the sick. After the death of his parents Saint Sampson generously distributed alms and set free his slaves, preparing himself to go into the wilderness.
With this intent un mind he soon journeyed from Rome to the East. But the Lord directed him onto a different path, that of service to neighbour, and so Saint Sampson came to Constantinople. Settling into a small house, the saint began to take in the wandering homeless, the poor and the sick, and he attended to them zealously. The Lord blessed the efforts of Saint Sampson and endowed him with the power of wonderworking. He healed the sick not only through being a skilled physician, but also as a bearer of the grace of God. The news about Saint Sampson spread widely. The patriarch, having summoned him, ordained him as presbyter.
One time it was revealed to the grievously sick emperor Justinian (527-565), that he could receive healing only through Saint Sampson. In praying, the saint extended his hand in the direction of the sick emperor, who then received relief, and soon recovered altogether. In gratitude the emperor wanted to reward his healer with silver and gold, but the saint refused and instead asked Justinian to build a domicile for wanderers and the sick. The emperor readily fulfilled his request.
All the rest of his life Saint Sampson devoted to serving his neighbour. He survived into old age and after a short illness he with joy expired to the Lord (+ c. 530). The saint was buried at the church of the holy Martyr Mokias. Many an healing was effected at the grave of Saint Sampson. His home for wanderers and the hospice remained open, and the saint did not cease to care for the suffering. He twice appeared to a neglectful worker of the hospice and upbraided him for his laziness. At the request of an admirer of Saint Sampson the vagrants-home was transformed into a church, and alongside it was built a new edifice for taking in the homeless. During the time of a powerful conflagration at Constantinople the flames did not touch the vagrants-home of Saint Sampson: through his prayers a strong rain poured down, which quenched the fire.
Translation of the relics (412) of the Holy and Wonderworking Unmercenaries Cyrus and John (311)
Commemorated on June 28/July 11
The Transfer of the Relics of the Holy Martyrs, Unmercenaries and Wonderworkers, Cyrus and John from the city of Konopa, near Alexandria (where they suffered in the year 311) to the nearby village of Manuphin, was done in the year 412. This Egyptian village prompted fear in everyone, since in a former time there was here a pagan temple and residence of evil spirits. Patriarch Theophilos (385-412) wanted to cleanse this place of demons, but he died. His wish was fulfilled by his successor upon the Alexandrian cathedra-chair, holy Patriarch Cyril (412-444). He prayed fervently in carrying out this project. An Angel of the Lord appeared in a vision to the sainted-hierarch and commanded the venerable relics of Saints Cyrus and John be transferred to Manuphin. His Holiness Patriarch Cyril did the Angel's bidding and built at Manuphin a church in the name of the holy martyrs.
From that time this place was cleansed from the powers of the enemy, and by the prayers of the holy Martyrs Cyrus and John there began to occur many miracles, healings of the sick and infirm.
The Holy UnMercenary Cyrus was a noted physician in the city of Alexandria, where he was born and grew up. He was a Christian and he doctored all the sick for free, not only offering help for bodily ills, but healing also infirmities of soul, such as were causes of bodily sickness. Preaching the Gospel teaching, the holy physician converted many pagans to Christ. During the time of the persecution by Diocletian (284-305), Saint Cyrus withdrew into the Arabian wilderness, where he took on the monastic life, and continued there also to doctor people by his prayer, having received from God the gift to heal every sickness.
In the city of Edessa at this time lived the soldier John, a pious Christian. When the persecution started, he went to Jerusalem and there, hearing about Saint Cyrus, he began to search for him, and he went first to Alexandria and then to Arabia. Having finally found Saint Cyrus, John with all his heart became attached to him and became his faithful follower. They learned that in Egypt in the city of Canopis had been arrested the Christian Athanasia and her three young daughters: Theoktista – age 15, Theodotia – age 13, and Eudoxia – age 11. Saints Cyrus and John hastened to go to them in help, worrying that fear in the face of torture might impel them to renounce Christ. They visited them in prison and gave them courage to stand what was before them. Learning of this, the governor of the city arrested Saints Cyrus and John, and convincing himself of their steadfast and fearless confession of faith in Christ, he gave them over to terrible tortures before the very eyes of Athanasia and her daughters, who in turn bravely endured all the tortures and were beheaded. After them at the same place they executed the holy UnMercenaries Cyrus and John (+ 311). Christians buried their bodies in a church of the holy Disciple and Evangelist Mark. In the V Century the relics of Saints Cyrus and John were transferred from Canopis to Manuphin. Later on their relics were transferred to Rome, and from there to Munchen (Munich) (an account further is located under 28 June).
The Holy, Glorious and All-praised Leaders of the Apostles, Peter and Paul (67)
Commemorated on June 29/July 12
Sermon of Blessed Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (Ipponesia)
On this present day Holy Church piously remembers the suffering of the Holy Glorious and All-Praiseworthy Apostles Peter and Paul.
Saint Peter, the fervent follower of Jesus Christ, for the profound confession of His Divinity: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God", – was deemed worthy by the Saviour to hear in answer: "Blessed art thou, Simon... I tell thee, that thou art Peter (Petrus), and on this stone (petra) I build My Church" (Mt. 16: 16-18). On "this stone" (petra), is on that which thou sayest: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God", – it is on this thy confession I build My Church. Wherefore the "thou art Peter": it is from the "stone" (petra) that Peter (Petrus) is, and not from Peter (Petrus) that the "stone" (petra) is – just as how the christian is from Christ, and not Christ from the christian. Do you want to know, from what sort of "rock" (petra) the Apostle Peter (Petrus) was named? – Hear ye the Apostle Paul: "I do not want ye not to know, brethren, – says the Apostle of Christ, – how our fathers were all under a cloud, and all passed through the sea: and all in Moses were baptised in the cloud and in the sea. And all thus eating spiritual food, and all thus drinking spiritual drink: for they did drink from the spiritual accompanying rock: for the rock indeed was Christ" (1 Cor. 10: 1-4). Here is the from whence the "Rock" is Peter.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the final days of His earthly life, in the days of His mission to the race of man, chose from among the disciples His twelve Apostles for preaching the Word of God. Among them, the Apostle Peter for his fiery ardour was vouchsafed to occupy the first place (Mt. 10: 2) and to be as it were the representative person for all the Church. And therefore it is said to him, preferentially, after the confession: "And I give thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven: and if thou bindest upon the earth, it will be bound in the Heavens: and if thou loosenest upon the earth, it will be loosened in the Heavens (Mt.16; 19). Wherefore it was not one man, but rather the One Universal Church, that received these "keys" and the right "to bind and loosen". And that actually it was the Church that received this right, and not exclusively a single person, turn your attention to another place of the Scriptures, where the same Lord says to also all His Apostles: "Receive ye the Holy Spirit", – and further after this: "Whoseso sins ye remit, are remitted them: and whoseso sins ye retain, are retained" (Jn. 20: 22-23); or: "with what ye bind upon the earth, will be bound in Heaven: and with what ye loosen upon the earth, will be loosened in the Heavens" (Mt. 18: 18). Thus, it is the Church that binds, the Church that loosens; the Church, built upon the foundational corner-stone – Jesus Christ Himself (Eph. 2: 20) doth bind and loosen. Let both the binding and the loosening be feared: the loosening, in order not to fall under this again; the binding, in order not to remain forever in this condition. Wherefore "by the passions of his own sins, – says Wisdom, – is each ensnared" (Prov. 5: 22); and except for Holy Church nowhere is it possible to receive the loosening.
And after His Resurrection the Lord entrusted the Apostle Peter to shepherd His spiritual flock not because, that among the disciples only Peter alone was pre-deserved to shepherd the flock of Christ, but Christ addresses Himself chiefly to Peter because, that Peter was first among the Apostles and as such the representative of the Church; besides which, having turned in this instance to Peter alone, as to the top Apostle, Christ by this confirms the unity of the Church. "Simon of John, – says the Lord to Peter, – lovest thou Me? – and the Apostle answered: "Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee"; and a second time it was thus asked, and a second time he thus answered; being asked a third time, seeing that as it were not believed, he was saddened. But how is it possible for him not to believe That One, Who knew his heart? And wherefore then Peter answered: "Lord, Thou knowest all; Thou knowest that I love Thee". "And sayeth Jesus to him" all three times "Feed My sheep" (Jn. 20: 15-17). Besides this, the thrice appealing of the Saviour to Peter and the thrice confession of Peter before the Lord had a particular beneficial purpose for the Apostle. That one, to whom was given "the keys of the kingdom" and the right "to bind and to loosen", himself thrice bound himself by fear and cowardice (Mt. 26: 69-75), and the Lord thrice loosens him by His appeal and in turn by his confession of strong love. And to shepherd literally the flock of Christ was acquired by all the Apostles and their successors. "Attend yourself to all the flock, – urges the Apostle Paul to church presbyters, – in which the Holy Spirit hath established ye as bishops, to shepherd the Church of the Lord God, acquired by His Blood" (Acts 20: 28); and the Apostle Peter to the elders: "Feed among you the flock of Christ, attending to it not by need, but by will and according to God: not for unrighteous profit, but zealously: not as commanding parables, but be an image to the flock. And when is appeared the Prince of pastors, ye will receive unfading crowns of glory" (1 Pet. 5: 2-4).
It is remarkable that Christ, having said to Peter: "Feed My sheep", – did not say: "Feed thy sheep", – but rather to feed, good servant, the sheep of the Lord. "For was Christ divided, or is Paul crucified according to you, or are ye baptised in the name of Peter or of Paul?" (1 Cor. 1: 13). "Feed My sheep". Wherefore "wolfish robbers, wolfish oppressors, deceitful teachers and mercenaries, not being concerned about the flock" (Mt. 7: 15; Acts 20: 29; 2 Pet. 2: 1; Jn. 10: 12), having plundered a strange flock and making of the spoils as though it be of their own particular gain, they think that they feed their flock. Such are not good pastors, as pastors of the Lord. "The good pastor lays down his life for the sheep" (Jn. 10: 11), entrusted to Him by the Prince of pastors Himself (1 Pet. 5: 4). And the Apostle Peter, true to his calling, gave his soul for the very flock of Christ, having sealed his apostleship by a martyr's death, now glorified throughout all the world.
And the Apostle Paul, being formerly Saul, was changed from a robbing wolf into a meek lamb; formerly he was an enemy of the Church, then is manifest as an Apostle; formerly he stalked it, then preached it. Having received from the high-priests the authority at large to throw all christians in chains for execution, he was already on the way, "he breathed with rage and murder against the disciples of the Lord" (Acts 9: 1), he thirsted for blood, but – "the Living One in the Heavens mocked him" (Ps. 2: 4). When he, "having persecuted and vexed" in such manner "the Church of God" (1 Cor. 15: 9; Acts 8: 5), he came nigh to Damascus, and the Lord from Heaven called to him: "Saul, Saul, wherefore persecutest thou Me?" – and I am here, and I am there, I am everywhere: here is My head; there is My body. There becomes nothing of a surprise in this; we ourselves – are members of the Body of Christ. "Saul, Saul, wherefore persecutest thou Me; it is terrible to thee to kick against the goad" (Acts 9: 4-5). Saul, however, "trembling and frightened", cried out: "Who art Thou, Lord?" I am Jesus, – answered the Lord to him, – Whom thou persecutest". And Saul suddenly undergoes a change: "What wantest Thou me to do?" – he cries out. And suddenly for him there is the Voice: "Rise up and go to the city, and it will be told thee, what thou ought to do" (Acts 9: 6). Here the Lord sends Ananias: "Rise up go upon the street" to a man, "by the name of Saul", and baptise him, "for this one is a vessel chosen by Me, to bear My Name before pagans and rulers and the sons of Israel" (Acts 9: 11, 15, 18). This vessel mustneeds be filled with My Grace. "Ananias however answered: Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he hath done to Thine saints in Jerusalem: and to be here to have the authority from the high-priests to seize all calling upon Thy Name" (Acts 9: 13-14). But the Lord urgently commands Ananias: "Search for and fetch him, for this vessel is chosen by Me: for I shalt tell him, how much mustneeds be for him to suffer about My Name" (Acts 9: 11, 15-16).
And actually the Lord did direct the Apostle Paul, what things he had to suffer for His Name. He instructed him the deeds; He did not stop at the chains, the fetters, the prisons and shipwrecks; He Himself felt for him in his sufferings, He Himself guided him towards this day. On a single day is done the memory of the sufferings of both these Apostles, though they suffered on separate days, but by the spirit and the closeness of their suffering they constitute one. Peter went first, Paul followed soon after him, – formerly called Saul, and then Paul, having transformed in himself his pride into humility, as means also his very name (Paulus), meaning "small, little, less", – demonstrates this. What is the Apostle Paul after this? Ask him, and he himself gives answer to this: "I am, – says he, – the least of the Apostles: but moreso than all I have laboured, yet not I, but the grace of God, which is with me" (1 Cor. 15: 9-10).
And so, brethren, celebrating now the memory of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, remembering their venerable sufferings, we esteem their true faith and holy life, we esteem the innocence of their sufferings and pure confession. Loving in them the sublime quality and imitating them by great exploits, "in which to be likened to them" (2 Thess. 3: 5-9), and we shall attain to that eternal bliss which is prepared for all the saints. The path of our life before was more grievous, thornier, harder, but "how great the cloud of witnesses enveloping us" (Hebr. 12: 1), having passed by along it, made now for us easier, and lighter, and more readily-passable. First there passed along it "the Founder and Fulfiller of faith" our Lord Jesus Christ Himself (Hebr. 12: 2); His daring Apostles followed after Him; then the martyrs, children, women, virgins and a great multitude of witnesses. Who acted in them and helped them on this path? – He that said: "Without Me ye are able to do nothing" (Jn. 15: 5).
Synaxis of the Holy, Glorious and All-praised Twelve Apostles: Peter, Andrew, James and John the sons of Zebedee, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Jude the brother of James, Simon the Zealot, Matthias
Commemorated on June 30/July 13
The Sobor (Assemblage) of the Glorious and All-Praiseworthy 12 Apostles of Christ appears an ancient feast. Holy Church, – honouring each of the 12 Apostles at a separate time of the year, from ancient times established a general commemoration of them on the day following after the commemoration of the Glorious and First-Ranked among the Apostles Peter and Paul (+ c. 67). An account about each of the Apostles is on the day of his individual commemoration: the Apostle Peter (+ c. 67; Comm. 29 June); the Apostle Andrew the First-Called (+ 62, Comm. 30 November); the Apostle James son of Zebedee (+ 44, Comm. 30 April); the Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian (+ early II Century, Comm. 26 September); Apostle Philip (Comm. 14 November); Apostle Bartholomew (Comm. 11 June); Apostle Thomas (Comm. 6 October); Apostle and Evangelist Matthew (+ 60, Comm. 16 November); Apostle James Alphaeus (Comm. 9 October); Apostle Jude, brother of the Lord (+ c. 80, Comm. 19 June); Apostle Simon Zelotes (Comm. 10 May); Apostle Matthias (+ c. 63, Comm. 9 August).
The holy nobleborn emperor Constantine the Great (306-337) built at Tsar'grad a temple in the name of the holy Twelve Apostles. Directions for the celebrating of this feast are encountered from the IV Century.
[trans. note: Vide for varying-name Apostle lists: Mt. 10: 2, Mk. 3: 14, Lk. 6: 12, Acts 1: 13, 26].
Holy and Wonderworking Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian, martyrs at Rome
Commemorated on July 1/July 14
The Holy Martyrs, Wonderworkers and UnMercenaries Cosmas and Damian – were brothers by birth, born at Rome, and physicians by profession. They accepted a martyr's death at Rome under the emperor Carinus (283-284). They were brought up by their parents in the rules of piety, they led strict and chaste lives, and they were granted by God the graced gift of healing the sick. By their good and unselfish attitude towards people, combined with their exceptional kindliness, the brothers converted many to Christ. The saints usually said to the sick: "It be not by our power that we treat the sick, but by the power of Christ, the True God. Believe in Him and be healed". For their unselfish doctoring of the infirm, the holy brothers were called "unmercenary physicians".
Their active service towards neighbour and spiritual influence on the surroundings, leading many into the Church, attracted the attention of the Roman authorities. Soldiers were sent after the brothers. Hearing about this, Christians implored Saints Cosmas and Damian to hide themselves away for a while until they could render them help. But the soldiers, not finding the brothers, arrested instead other Christians of the settlement, where the saints lived. Saints Cosmas and Damian then came out of hiding and delivered themselves over into the hands of the soldiers, asking them to set free those arrested because of them.
At Rome, the saints were at first locked up in prison, and then were taken for trial. The saints openly confessed before the Roman emperor and the judge their faith in Christ God, having come into the world to save mankind and redeem the world from sin, and they resolutely refused to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. They said: "We have caused evil for no one, we have not involved ourselves with the magic or sorcery, of which you accuse us. We doctor the infirm by the power of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and we do not take any sort of recompense for rendering aid to the sick, because our Lord commanded His disciples: "Freely ye have received, freely give" (Mt. 10: 8).
The emperor however continued with his demands. Through the prayer of the holy brothers, imbued with the power of grace, God suddenly struck Carinus blind, so that he too in his own experience might know the almightiness of the Lord, not forgiving blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The people, beholding the miracle, cried out: "Great is the Christian God and no other is God, except Him!" Many of those that believed besought the holy brothers to heal the emperor, and he himself implored the saints, promising to convert to the True God Christ the Saviour. The saints healed him. After this, Saints Cosmas and Damian were with honour set free and again they set about doctoring the sick.
But what the hatred of the pagans and the ferocity of the Roman authorities could not do, was done by black envy, one of the strongest passions of the sinful nature of man. An older physician – an instructor, under whom in their time the holy brothers had studied the medical craft, became jealous of their fame. Driven to madness by this malice, and all overcome by passion, he summoned the holy brothers, formerly his most beloved students, that they should all get together for a gathering of various medicinal herbs, and setting far off into the mountains, he murdered them, throwing their bodies into a river.
Thus as martyrs ended the earthly journey of these holy brothers – the Unmercenary Healers Cosmas and Damian. They had devoted all their life to a Christian service to neighbour, having escaped the Roman sword and prison, but treacherously murdered by a teacher.
The Lord glorified His God-pleasing ones. And now through the prayers of the holy Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian is received healing from God for all, who with faith recourse to their saintly intercession.
The Placing of the Honorable Robe of the Most Holy Theotokos at Blachernae (5th c.)
Commemorated on July 2/July 15
The Placement of the Venerable Robe of the MostHoly Mother of God at Blakhernae: During the years of the reign of the Byzantine emperor Leo the Great the Macedonian (457-474), the brothers Galbius and Candidus, associates of the emperor, set out from Constantinople to Palestine to venerate at the holy places. In a small settlement near Nazareth they stopped for overnight lodging with a certain quite aged Hebrew woman. In her house the burning of candles and smoking incense caught the attention of the pilgrims. To their questions, as to what sort of sacred thing there was in her house, the pious woman for a long time did not want to give an answer, but after persistent requests she replied, that she had a very precious sacred item – the Robe of the Mother of God, from which had occurred many miracles and healings. The MostHoly Virgin before the time of Her Dormition ("Falling-Asleep" or "Repose") bequeathed one of her garments to a pious Jewish maiden from the family-lineage of this house, having instructed her to hand it on after death to another virgin. Thus, from generation to generation, the Robe of the Mother of God was preserved in this family.
The jewelled chest, containing the sacred Robe, was transferred to Constantinople. Saint Gennadios, Patriarch of Tsar'grad-Constantinople (+ 471, Comm. 31 August), and the emperor Leo, having learned of the sacred find, convinced themselves of the incorruptness of the holy Robe and with trembling they certified its authenticity. At Blakhernae, near the seacoast, there was erected a new church in honour of the Mother of God. On 2 June 458 Sainted Gennadios with appropriate solemnity transferred the sacred Robe into the Blakhernae church, placing it within a new reliquary.
Afterwards into the reliquary, together with the Robe of the Mother of God, was put also Her omophorion (i.e. the outer or over-robe) and part of Her belt-sash. This circumstance also set its seal upon the Orthodox iconography of the feast, in conjoining the two events: the Placing of the Robe, and the Placing of the Belt-Sash of the Mother of God in Blakhernae. The Russian pilgrim Stefan Novgorodets, visiting Tsar'grad in about the year 1350, testifies: "We arrived at Blakhernae, wherein lies the Robe upon an altar-throne in an imprinted reliquary".
More than once during the invasion of enemies the MostHoly Mother of God saved the city, to which She had bestown Her holy Robe. Thus it happened during the time of a siege of Constantinople by the Avars in 626, by the Persians – in 677, and by the Arabs – in the year 717. Especially relevant for us are events of the year 860, intimately connected with the history of the Russian Church.
On 18 June 860 the Russian fleet of prince Askol'd, in a force comprising more than 200 boats, having laid waste the coastal regions of the Black Sea and the Bosphorus, entered into the Bay of the Golden Horn and threatened Constantinople. The Russian ships sailed into sight of the city, setting ashore troops who "proceeded before the city, stretching forth their swords". The emperor Michael III (842-867), leaving off his heading of a campaign against the Arabs, returned to the capital; all night he prayed, prostrate down upon the stone tiles of the church of the Blakhernae Mother of God. Holy Patriarch Photios turned to his flock with preaching, calling for tears of repentance to wash away sins, and in fervent prayer to seek the intercession of the MostHoly Mother of God.
The danger grew with each passing hour. "The city was barely able to stand against a spear", – says Patriarch Photios in another of his sermons. Under these conditions the decision was made to save the church holy-things, and foremost – the holy Robe of the Mother of God, which was kept in the Blakhernae church, not far from the shore of the bay. After making an all-night molieben, and taking it out from the Blakhernae church, they carried the sacred Robe of the Mother of God in religious procession around the city walls, with a prayer they dipped its edge into the waters of the Bosphorus, and then they transported it to the centre of Tsar'grad – into the church of Saint Sophia. The Mother of God by Her grace gave shelter and quelled the militance of the Russian warriors. An honourable truce was concluded. Askol'd lifted the siege of Constantinople. On 25 June the Russian army began to leave, taking with them a large tribute payment. A week afterwards, on 2 July, the wonderworking Robe of the Mother of God was solemnly returned to its place in the reliquary of the Blakhernae church. In remembrance of these events an annual feastday of the Placing of the Robe of the Mother of God was established under 2 July by holy Patriarch Photios.
Soon, in October-November of the year 860, a Russian delegation arrived in Constantinople for concluding a treaty "in love and peace". In the conditions of the peace treaty they included articles about the Baptism of Kievan Rus', about the payment of an annual tribute by the Byzantines to the Russians, permission for them to serve with the Byzantine army, to carry on trade in the territory of the empire (primarily in Constantinople), and to send a diplomatic mission to Byzantium.
Most important was the point about the Baptism of Rus'. The continuator of the Byzantine "Theophanes Chronicles" relates, that "their delegation arrived in Tsar'grad with a request for them to be made participants in holy Baptism, which also was fulfilled". An Orthodox mission was sent to Kiev to fulfill this mutual wish of the Russians and the Greeks. Not very long before this (in 855) holy Equal to the Apostles Cyril (Kirill) the Philosopher (+ 869, Comm. 14 February and 11 May) had crafted a Slavonic alphabet and translated the Gospel. With the mission to Kiev essentially in particular there was sent Saint Cyril with his brother, the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Methodios (+ 885, Comm. 6 April and 11 May), together with books translated into Slavonic. This was at the initiative of Sainted Photios, whose student Saint Cyril was. The brothers spent the winter of 860/861 at Kherson (Chersonessus), and in the spring of 861 they were at the River Dneipr, with prince Askol'd.
There stood a difficult choice facing prince Askol'd, just as afterwards it faced holy prince Vladimir: both the Jews on the one hand and the Mahometans on the other wanted to bring him into their faith. But under the graced influence of Saint Cyril, the prince made his choice in favour of Orthodoxy. At the end of the year 861 Cyril and Methodios returned to Constantinople and carried with them from prince (or, as the Kievan princes called themselves during the IX-XI Centuries, "kagan") Askol'd to emperor Michael III. Askol'd thanked the emperor for sending him "such men, who showed by both word and by example, that the Christian faith – is holy". "Persuaded, – Askol'd further wrote, – that this is the true faith, we bid them to baptise at their intent in the hope for us also to attain sanctity. We are all – friends of the kingdom and prepared to be of service to thee, as requested".
Askol'd accepted holy Baptism with the name Nikolai, and many also of his retinue were baptised. Right directly from Tsar'grad, the capital of Orthodoxy, through the efforts of the holy Apostles to the Slavs there arrived in Rus' both the Slavonic Divine-services and the Slavonic written-language. At Kiev Saint Photios appointed the Metropolitan Michael, and the Russian metropolitan was entered into the notation-lists of dioceses of the Constantinople Patriarchate. Holy Patriarch Photios in a Circular missive of the year 867 called the Baptism of the Bulgarians and the Russians as among the chief accomplishments of his arch-hierarchical service. "The Russians, which lifted their hand against the Roman might, – he wrote, almost quoting literally from the missive of Askol'd, – at the present time replaced even the impious teaching, which they held to formerly, with the pure and genuine Christian faith, and with love having established themselves in the array of our friends and subjects". (The Byzantines reckoned as "subjects" all accepting Baptism from Tsar'grad and entering into military alliance with the empire.) "And to such an extent has flared up within them the desire and zeal of faith, that they have accepted bishops and pastors, and they embrace Christian sanctity with great zeal and fervour".
The feastday of the Placement of the Robe of the MostHoly Mother of God in Blakhernae reveals itself also as a feastday of the canonical establishing of the Russian Orthodox metropolitanate in Kiev. By the blessing of the Mother of God and by the miracle from Her holy Robe was accomplished not only the salvation of Tsar'grad from the most terrible siege in all its history, but also the salvation of the Russians from the darkness of pagan superstition, to life eternal. Together with this, the year 860 brought recognition to Kievan Rus' from Byzantium, and it signified an equitably-justified emergence of the young Russian realm into the arena of history.
The attempt of prince Askol'd to renew the Christian evangelisation begun by the holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called, and intended by him as a religious and state reform, ended unsuccessfully. The time of affirmation of Christianity in the Russian Land had not yet come. The adherents of the old paganism were too strong, and the princely power was too weak. In the clash of Askol'd with the pagan Oleg in 882 the Kievans betrayed their prince – Askol'd accepted a martyr's death at the hand of hired killers, tricked by deceit into the camp of his enemies for talks.
But the deed of Blessed Askol'd (the Ioakimov Chronicle calls him such) was not extinguished in the Russian Church. Oleg the Sage, having killed Askol'd, after him occupied the Kiev princedom, and called Kiev the "Mother of Russian Cities" – this is a literal translation of the Greek expression "Russian metropolia" (i.e. "mater-polis"). The most ancient chronicles of Kiev preserved the grateful memory of the first Kievan Christian-prince: the church of the Prophet of God Elias, built by Askol'd and afterwards mentioned in the Treaty of Igor with the Greeks (in year 944), is on the place where at present stands the church of this name, and there is also the church of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker, erected in the decade of the 950's over the grave of Askol'd by holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Ol'ga. The most important achievement of Askol'd, entering forever into the Church-inheritance not only of Rus', but of also all Orthodox Slavdom – is the Slavonic Gospel and Slavonic Divine-services, rendered such by the work of the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Cyril and Methodios. In Kiev at the court of Askol'd in 861 was set the beginning of their apostolic activity among the Slavs, and continued afterwards in Moravia and Bulgaria. Following Blessed Askol'd, speaking the words of the ancient "Alphabetic Prayers", "there soars in flight now the Slavonic tribe – to Baptism all striving".
With the miracle of the Robe of the MostHoly Mother of God at Blakhernae are connected several outstanding works of Byzantine Church hymnology and homiletics. To Saint Photios belong two sermons, one of which was given by him immediately within days of the siege of Constantinople, and the other – soon after the departure of the Russian forces. And with the campaign of Askol'd against Tsar'grad is connected also the composition of a remarkable "Akathist to the MostHoly Mother of God", the source of which certain Church histories ascribe also to holy Patriarch Photios. This Akathist comprises a basic part of the Divine-services of the day of Praise to the MostHoly Mother of God (i.e. the "Saturday of the Akathist" – Saturday in the 4th Week of Great Lent).
It is not only Byzantine sources that relate the events of the year 860, but also Russian historical chronicles. The Monk Nestor the Chronicler, stressing the significance of the Russian campaign against Tsar'grad, notes that from this time "it was begun to be called the Russian Land". Certain of the chronicles, among them the Ioakimov and Nikonov, preserved accounts of the Baptism of Prince Askol'd and Kievan Rus' after the campaign against Tsar'grad. The popular commemoration concerning this is firmly associated with the names of the Kievan princes Askol'd and Dir, although in the opinion of historians, Dir was prince of Kiev somewhat earlier than Askol'd.
The veneration of the feast of the Robe-placing was known of old in the Russian Church. Saint Andrei Bogoliubsky (+ 1174, Comm. 4 July) erected in the city of Vladimir at the Golden Gates a church in honour of this feastday. At the end of the XIV Century part of the Robe of the Mother of God was transferred from Constantinople to Rus' by Sainted Dionysii, Archbishop of Suzdal' (+ 1385, Comm. 26 June).
The holy Robe of the Mother of God, earlier having saved the capital of Byzantium, later also saved the capital Moscow from hostilities. Tatars of the Horde of the princeling Mazovshi in the Summer of 1451 approached beneathe the walls of Moscow. Saint Jona, Metropolitan of Moscow, by means of constant prayer and church services encouraged the defenders of the capital. On the night of 2 July, relates the chronicle, great confusion occurred within the Tatar camp. the enemy abandoned their plundered goods and in disarray speedily departed. In memory of the miraculous deliverance of Moscow, the metropolitan Saint Jona erected in the Kremlin the church in honour of the Robe-placing, making it his primary church. It burned, but in its place thirty years afterwards was built in the years 1484-1486 a new church, likewise dedicated to the feast of the Placing of the Robe of the Mother of God. This temple, standing at present, continued to serve as the primary church of Russian metropolitans and patriarchs until the cathedral of the Twelve Apostles was built under patriarch Nikon.
Martyr Hyacinth of Caesarea in Cappadocia
Commemorated on July 3/July 16
The Holy Martyr Jacinthus (Hyacinth), a native of Caesarea Cappadocia, grew up in a Christian family. The Roman emperor Trajan made him his "cubicularius" (bed-chamberlain).
Once during the time of a pagan festival the emperor Trajan was feasting in a pagan-temple together with his companions, eating of the idol-offered food, but the youth Jacinthus, having remained at the palace, shut himself up in a small room and prayed fervently to the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the servants overheard the words of prayer. He made a denunciation to the emperor, that Jacinthus, entrusted with an imperial position, did not honour the Roman gods but was secretly praying to Christ.
They immediately arrested Saint Jacinthus and led him to Trajan. The emperor demanded that he eat of the idol-offered meat, but the saint bravely refused and declared himself a Christian. By order of Trajan, they locked up the holy martyr in prison after fierce tortures, and they exhausted him with hunger and thirst, so as to force him to eat of idolatrous food. On the 38th day, one of the guards, bringing the idol-offering meat, saw Angels alongside the martyr, dressing him in bright attire and placing on his head a crown.
The torturers decided to continue with the trial over the saint, but they found him in prison already dead. The twelve year old Jacinthus died in the year 108 in the city of Rome. They afterwards transferred the relics of the saint to Caesarea.
St. Andrew, archbishop of Crete (712-726)
Commemorated on July 4/July 17
Sainted Andrew, Archbishop of Crete, was born in the city of Damascus into a pious Christian family. Up until seven years of age the boy was mute and did not talk. However, after communing the Holy Mysteries of Christ he found the gift of speech and began to speak. And from that time the lad began earnestly to study Holy Scripture and the discipline of theology.
At fourteen years of age he went off to Jerusalem and there he accepted monastic tonsure at the monastery of Saint Sava the Sanctified. Saint Andrew led a strict and chaste life, he was meek and abstinent, such that all were amazed at his virtue and reasoning of mind. As a man of talent and known for his virtuous life, over the passage of time he came to be numbered amongst the Jerusalem clergy and was appointed a secretary for the Patriarchate – a writing clerk. In the year 680 the locum tenens of the Jerusalem Patriarchate, Theodore, included archdeacon Andrew amongst the representatives of the Holy City sent to the Sixth OEcumenical Council, and here the saint contended against heretical teachings, relying upon his profound knowledge of Orthodox doctrine. Shortly after the Council he was summoned back to Constantinople from Jerusalem and he was appointed archdeacon at the church of Saint Sophia, the Wisdom of God. During the reign of the emperor Justinian II (685-695) Saint Andrew was ordained bishop of the city of Gortineia on the island of Crete. In his new position he shone forth as a true luminary of the Church, a great hierarch – a theologian, teacher and hymnographer.
Saint Andrew wrote many a Divine-service song. He was the originator of a new liturgical form – the canon. Of the canons composed by him the best known is the Great Penitential Canon, including within its 9 odes the 250 troparia recited during the Great Lent. In the First Week of Lent at the service of Compline it is read in portions (thus called "methymony" [trans. note: from the useage in the service of Compline of the "God is with us", in Slavonic the "S'nami Bog", or in Greek "Meth' Humon ho Theos", from which derives "methymony"], and again on Thursday of the Fifth Week at the All-night Vigil during Matins.
Saint Andrew of Crete gained reknown with his many praises of the All-Pure Virgin Mary. To him are likewise ascribed: the Canon for the feast of the Nativity of Christ, three odes for the Compline-service of Palm Sunday and also in the first four days of Holy Passion Week, as well as verses for the feast of the Meeting of the Lord, and many another church-song. His hynographic tradition was continued by the churchly great melodists of following ages: Saints John of Damascus, Cosma of Maium, Joseph the Melodist, Theophan the Written-upon. There have also been preserved edifying Sermons of Saint Andrew for certain of the Church feasts.
Church historians are not of the same opinion as to the date of death of the saint. One suggests the year 712, while others – the year 726. He died on the island of Mytilene, while returning to Crete from Constantinople, where he had been on churchly business. His relics were transferred to Constantinople. In the year 1350 the pious Russian pilgrim Stefan Novgorodets saw the relics at the Constantinople monastery named for Saint Andrew of Crete.
Venerable Athanasius of Mt. Athos (1003) and his six disciples
Commemorated on July 5/July 18
The Monk Athanasias of Athos, in holy Baptism named Abraham, was born in the city of Trapezund. He was early left orphaned, and being raised by a certain good and pious nun, he copied his adoptive mother in the habits of monastic life, in fasting and in prayer. Doing his lessons came easily and he soon outpaced his peers in study.
After the death of his adoptive mother, Abraham was taken to Constantinople, to the court of the then Byzantine emperor Romanos the Elder, and was enrolled as a student under the reknown rhetorician Athanasias. In a short while the student attained the mastery of skill of his teacher and he himself became an instructor of youths. Reckoning as the true life that of fasting and vigilance, Abraham led a life strict and abstinent, he slept little and then only sitting upon a stool, and barley bread and water were his nourishment. When his teacher Athanasias through human weakness became jealous of his student, blessed Abraham quit his teaching and went away.
During these days there had arrived at Constantinople the Monk Michael Maleinos (Comm. 12 July), hegumen of the Kimineia monastery. Abraham told the hegumen about his life, and revealed to him his secret desire to become a monk. The holy elder, discerning in Abraham a chosen vessel of the Holy Spirit, became fond of him and taught him much in questions of salvation. One time during their spiritual talks Saint Michael was visited by his nephew, Nicephoros Phokas, a reknown military officer and future emperor. The lofty spirit and profound mind of Abraham impressed Nicephoros, and all his life he regarded the saint with reverent respect and with love. Abraham was consumed by his zeal for the monastic life. Having forsaken everything, he went to the Kimineia monastery and, falling down at the feet of the holy hegumen, he besought to be received into the monastic form. The hegumen fulfilled his request with joy and gave him monastic vows with the name Athanasias.
With long fasts, vigils, bending of the knees, with works night and day Athanasias soon attained such perfection, that the holy hegumen blessed him for the exploit of silence in a solitary place not far from the monastery. Later on, having left Kimineia, he made the rounds of many a desolate and solitary place, and guided by God, he came to a place called Melanos, at the very extremity of Athos, settling far off from the other monastic dwellings. Here the monk made himself a cell and began to asceticise in works and in prayer, proceeding from exploit to exploit towards higher monastic attainment.
The enemy of mankind tried to arouse in Saint Athanasias hatred for the place chosen by him, and assaulted him with constant suggestions in thought. The ascetic decided to suffer it out for a year, and then wherever the Lord should direct him, he would go. On the last day of this year's length of time, when Saint Athanasias set about to prayer, an Heavenly Light suddenly shone upon him, filling him with an indescribable joy, all the thoughts dissipated, and from his eyes welled up graced tears. From that moment Saint Athanasias received the gift of tenderness ("umilenie"), and the place of his solitude he became as strongly fond of as before he had loathed it. During this time Nicephoros Phokas, having had enough of military exploits, remembered his vow to become a monk and from his means he besought the Monk Athanasias to build a monastery, i.e. to build cells for him and the brethren, and a church where the brethren could commune the Divine Mysteries of Christ on Sundays.
Tending to shun cares and worries, Blessed Athanasias at first would not agree to accept the hateful gold, but seeing the fervent desire and good intent of Nicephoros, and discerning in this the will of God, he set about the building of the monastery. He erected a large church in honour of the holy Prophet and Forerunner of Christ John the Baptist, and another church at the foot of an hill, in the name of the MostHoly Virgin Mother of God. Around the church were the cells, and a wondrous monastery arose on the Holy Mount. In it were arrayed a refectory, an hospice for the sick and for taking in wanderers, and other necessary structures.
Brethren flocked to the monastery from everywhere, not only from Greece, but also from other lands – simple people and illustrious dignitaries, wilderness-dwellers having asceticised long years in the wilderness, hegumens from many a monastery and hierarchs wanting to become simple monks in the Athos Laura of Saint Athanasias.
The saint established at the monastery a life-in-common ("coenobitic") monastic-rule on the model of the old Palestinian monasteries. Divine-services were made with all strictness, and no one made bold to chatter during the time of service, nor to come late or leave without need from the church.
The Heavenly Patroness of Athos, the All-Pure Mother of God Herself, was graciously disposed towards the saint. Many a time he was granted to behold Her wondrous eyes. By the sufferance of God there once occurred such an hunger, that the monks one after the other quit the Laura. The saint remained all alone and in a moment of weakness he also considered leaving. Suddenly he beheld a Woman beneathe an aethereal veil, coming to meet him. "Who art thou and whither goest?" – She asked quietly. Saint Athanasias from an innate deference halted. "I am a monk from here", – answered Saint Athanasias and told about himself and his worries. "And on account of a morsel of dry bread thou would forsake the monastery, which was intended for glory from generation unto generation? Where is thy faith? Turn round, and I shalt help thee". "Who art Thou?", – asked Athanasias. "I am the Mother of thy Lord", – She answered and bid Athanasias to strike his staff upon a stone, such that from the fissure there shot forth a spring of water, which exists even now, in remembrance of this miraculous visitation.
The brethren grew in number, and the construction work at the Laura continued. The Monk Athanasias, foreseeing the time of his departure to the Lord, prophesied about his impending end and besought the brethren not to be troubled over what he foresaw. "For Wisdom disposeth otherwise than people do judge". The brethren were perplexed and pondered over the words of the saint. Having bestown on the brethren his final guidance and comforted all, Saint Athanasias entered his cell, put on his mantle and holy kukol'-headpiece, which he wore only on great feasts, and after prolonged prayer he emerged. Alert and joyful, the holy hegumen went up with six of the brethren to the top of the church to look over the construction. Suddenly, through the imperceptible will of God, the top of the church collapsed. Five of the brethren immediately gave up their spirit to God. The Monk Athanasias and the architect Daniel, thrown upon the stones, remained alive. All heard, as the monk called out to the Lord: "Glory to Thee, O God! Lord, Jesus Christ, help me!" The brethren with great weeping began to dig out their father from amidst the rubble, but they found him already dead.
Uncovering of the relics (1422) of Venerable Sergius of Radonezh (1392)
Commemorated on July 5/July 18
The Uncovering of the Venerable Relics of the Monk Sergei of Radonezh: The relics of the Monk Sergei (+ 1392, Comm. 25 September) were uncovered on 5 July 1422 during a time when the Monk Nikon (+ 1426, Comm. 17 November) was hegumen. In the year 1408, when Moscow and its surroundings suffered invasion by the Tatar horde of Edigei, the Trinity monastery was devastated and burnt, and the monks headed by the hegumen Nikon hid themselves in the forests, saving the icons, sacred vessels, books and other holy things connected with the memory of the Monk Sergei. In a vision by night on the eve of the Tatar incursion the Monk Sergei informed his disciple and successor about the coming tribulations and foretold in consolation, that the vexation would not be prolonged but rather that the monastery, arising from the ashes, would flourish and grow even more. Metropolitan Philaret wrote about this in the "Life of the Monk Sergei": "In semblance to this, that it suited Christ to suffer, and through the cross and death to enter into the glory of the Resurrection, so also doth it become everyone, that wouldst be blest by Christ in the length of days in glory, to be tested by one's own cross and death". Going through its own fiery cleansing, the monastery of the Life-Originating Trinity was resurrected in the length of days, and the Monk Sergei himself rose up, so that forevermore his holy relics should dwell within it.
Before the beginning of construction of the new temple in the Name of the Life-Originating Trinity upon the spot of the former wooden one (which was consecrated on 25 September 1412), the Monk Sergei appeared to a certain pious layman and bid him inform the hegumen and the brethren: "Why do ye leave me such a while in the grave, covered over by ground and in the water, constraining my body?" And herewith during the construction of the cathedral, when they dug the ditches for the foundations, the undecayed relics of the Monk Sergei were uncovered and brought up, and all were astonished, that not only the body, but also the clothing upon him was undecayed, although round about the grave there actually stood water. Amidst a large throng of the devout and the clergy, in the presence of the son of Dimitrii Donskoi – the prince of Zvenigorod Yurii Dimitrievich (+ 1425), the holy relics were brought up from the ground and placed temporarily in the wooden Trinity church (at this spot is located now the church of the Descent of the Holy Spirit). With the consecration in 1426 of the stone Trinity cathedral the relics were transferred into it, where at present they remain.
All the threads of the spiritual life of the Russian Church converge towards the great Radonezh saint and wonderworker, and through all of Orthodox Rus' the graced life-creating currents extend outwards from the Trinity monastery founded by him.
Naming a church for the Holy Trinity within the Russian land began with holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Ol'ga (+ 969, the account about her is under 11 July), who erected the first Trinity temple at Pskov. Afterwards there were erected similar churches in Great Novgorod and other cities.
The spiritual contribution of the Monk Sergei in the teaching of theology about the Holy Trinity is quite significant. The monk had profound insight into the secret mysteries of theology with the "mental eyes" of the ascetic – in prayerful ascent to the Tri-Hypostatic (i.e. in Three-Persons) God, and in the spiritual experience of communion with God and God-likeness.
"Co-heirs of the perfect light and contemplation of the MostHoly and All-Sovereign Trinity, – explained Saint Gregory the Theologian, – are those which become perfectly co-united in the perfection of the Spirit". The Monk Sergei knew experientially the mystery of the Life-Originating Trinity, since in his life he became co-united with God, he became a communicant to the very life of the Divine Trinity, i.e. he attained as much as is possible on earth to the measure of "theosis" ("divinisation", "obozhenie"), becoming a "partaker of the Divine nature" (2 Pet. 1: 4). "Whoso loveth Me, – saith the Lord, – that one wilt keep to My word; and My Father wilt love him, and We shalt come unto him and make abode with him" (Jn. 14: 23). Abba Sergei, in everything observing the commands of Christ, belongs to the rank of holy saints in the souls of whom the Holy Trinity "hath made abode"; he fashioned himself into "an abode of the Holy Trinity", and everyone with whom the Monk Sergei associated, he elevated and brought into communion unto the Holy Trinity.
The Radonezh ascetic, with his disciples and conversants, enriched the Russian and the OEcumenical Church with a new knowledge and vision of the Life-Originating Trinity, the Beginning and Source of life, manifesting Itself unto the world and to mankind in the "Sobornost'" ("Communality") of the Church, with brotherly unity and the sacrificial redemptive love of its pastors and children.
In the spiritually symbolic gathering together of Rus' in unity and love, the historical effort of the nation became a temple of the Life-Originating Trinity, erected by the Monk Sergei, "so that by constant attention to It would be conquered the fright of the hateful discord of this world".
The worship of the Holy Trinity, in forms created and bequeathed by the holy Hegumen of Radonezh Sergei, became one of the most profound and original of features of Russian ecclesiality. With the Monk Sergei, in the Life-Originating Trinity there was posited not only the holy perfection of life eternal, but also an image-model for human life, a spiritual ideal towards which mankind ought to strive, since that in the Trinity as "Indivisible" ("Nerazdel'nyi", Grk. "Adiairetos") discord is condemned and "Sobornost'" ("Communality") is blest, and in the Trinity as "Inseparable" ("Neslyannyi", "Akhoristos", – per Fourth OEcumenical Council at Chalcedon in year 451) coercion is condemned and freedom blest. In the teaching of the Monk Sergei about the MostHoly Trinity the Russian nation sensed profoundly its own catholic and ecumenical vocation, and comprehending the universal significance of the feastday, the people embellished it with all the variety and richness of the ancient national custom and people's verse. All the spiritual experience and spiritual striving of the Russian Church was embodied in the liturgical creativity of the feast of the Holy Trinity, of trinitarian church rituals, icons of the Holy Trinity, and churches and monasteries of this nomen.
The theological insight of the Monk Sergei in transformation was rendered as the wonderworking icon of the Life-Originating Trinity written by the Monk Andrei (Andrew) of Radonezh, surnamed Rublev (+ 1430, Comm. 4 July), a monk-iconographer, monasticised in the Trinity-Sergiev monastery, and written at the blessing of the Monk Nikon in praised memory to holy Abba Sergei. (At the Stoglav Council of 1551 this icon was affirmed as proper model for all successive church iconographic depiction of the MostHoly Trinity).
"The hateful discord", quarrels and commotions of worldly life were surmounted by the monastic life-in-common, planted by the Monk Sergei throughout all Rus'. People would not have divisions, quarrels and war, if human nature, created by the Trinity in the image of the Divine Tri-Unity, were not distorted and impaired by Originial sin. Overcoming by his own co-crucifixion with the Saviour the sin of particularity and separation, repudiating the "my own" and the "myself", and in accord with the teachings of Saint Basil the Great, the life-in-common monks restore the First-created unity and sanctity of human nature. The monastery of the monk Sergei became for the Russian Church the model for suchlike renewal and rebirth, in it were formed holy monks, bearing forth thereof features of the true path of Christ to remote regions. In all their works and actions the Monk Sergei and his disciples churchified life, giving the people a living example of its possibility. Not for renouncing the earth, but rather for transfiguring it, they proclaimed ascent and they themselves ascended unto the Heavenly.
The school of the Monk Sergei, through the monasteries founded by him, his disciples and the disciples of his disciples, embraces all the vastness of the Russian land and threads its way through all the remotest history of the Russian Church. One fourth a portion of all Russian monasteries, the strongholds of faith, piety and enlightenment, was founded by Abba Sergei or his disciples. The "Hegumen of the Russian land" was what people called the founder of the Domicile of the Life-Originating Trinity. The Monks Nikon and Mikhei of Radonezh, Syl'vester of Obnorsk, Stefan of Makhrisch and Avraam of Chukhlomsk, Athanasii of Serpukhov and Nikita of Borovsk, Theodore of Simonovsk and Pherapont of Mozhaisk, Andronik of Moscow and Savva of Storozhevsk, Dimitrii of Prilutsk and Kirill of Belozersk – they were all disciples and conversants of "the wondrous elder", Sergei. Sainted-hierarchs Alexei and Kiprian – Metropolitans of Moscow, Dionysii ArchBishop of Suzdal', and Stephen Bishop of Perm, were associated with him in spiritual closeness. The Patriarchs of Constantinople Kallistos and Philotheos dispatched missives to him and sent their blessings. Through the Monks Nikita and Paphnutii of Borovsk threads a spiritual legacy to the Monk Joseph of Volotsk and others of his disciples, and through Kirill of Belozersk – to Nil Sorsky, to German, Savvatii and Zosima of Solovetsk.
The Church venerates also disciples and co-ascetics of the Monk Sergei, whose memories are not specifically noted within the "Mesyatseslov" lists of saints under their separate day. We remember, that the first to arrive for the Monk Sergei at Makovets was the elder Vasilii the Gaunt ("Sukhoi"), called such because of his incomparable fasting. Second was the Monk Yakuta, i.e. Yakov (James), of simple peasant stock, who without a murmur spent long years at the monastery on errands of drudgery and difficult obedience. Among his other disciples, there came to the Monk Sergei his fellow countrymen from Radonezh the Deacon Onisim and son Elisei. When 12 monks had gathered and the constructed cells were fenced in by an high enclosure, the abba appointed Deacon Onisim the gate-keeper, since his cell was outermost from the entrance to the monastery. Under the protective shadow of the Holy Trinity monastery the Hegumen Mitrophan spent his final years, – he it was who formerly had vowed the Monk Sergei into the angelic form and guided him in monastic efforts. The grave of dead and soon blest Starets Mitrophan became the first in the monastery cemetery. In the year 1357 there arrived at the monastery from Smolensk the Archimandrite Simon, who resigned his venerable position as head of one of the Smolensk monasteries, to become a simple obedient of the God-bearing Radonezh hegumen. In recompense for his great humility, the Lord granted him to share in the miraculous vision of the Monk Sergei about the future increase of his monastic flock. With the blessing of the abba, the Blessed elder Isaakii the Silent took upon himself the deed of prayerful silence; his silence was more instructive than any words for the monks and those outside. Only one time after a year of silence did the Monk Isaakii open his mouth – to testify, how he had seen an Angel of God serve together at the altar of the Monk Sergei, in making the Divine Liturgy. An eyewitness of the grace of the Holy Spirit, co-effectualised for the Monk Sergei, was also the ecclesiarch Simon, who once saw, how an heavenly fire came down upon the Holy Mysteries and that the saint of God "did commune the fire unburningly". The Elder Epiphanii (+ 1420) was somewhat later, during the time of hegumen Nikon, a priest of the Sergiev flock. The Church names him Epiphanii the Wise for his deep learning and great spiritual talents. He is known as the compiler of the Life of the Monk Sergei and of his conversant Saint Stephen of Perm in eulogy to them; he wrote also the "Account of the Life and Repose of GreatPrince Dimitrii Donskoi". The vita of the Monk Sergei, compiled by Epiphanii 26 years after the death of the monk, i.e. in 1418, was later reworked by the Monk-hagiographer Pakhomii the Serb, called the Logothete, who had come from Athos.
To the monk Sergei, as to an inexhaustible font of spiritual prayer and grace of the Lord, at all times came in veneration thousands of the people – for edification and for prayers, for help and for healing. And each of those having recourse with faith to his wonderworking relics he heals and renews, fills with power and with faith, transforms and guides upwards with his light-bearing spirituality.
But it was not only spiritual gifts and graced healings bestown to all, approaching with faith the relics of the Monk Sergei; to him likewise was given by God the grace to defend against enemies of the Russian land. The monk by his prayers was with the army of Dimitrii Donskoi at the Battle of Kulikovo Pole ("Field"), – he even blessed to go to the military effort his own monks, Aleksandr Peresvet and Andrei Oslyab. He directed Ivan the Terrible the place for erection of the fortress of Sviyazhsk and helped in the victory over Kazan. During the time of the Polish incursion the Monk Sergei appeared in a dream to the Nizhni Novgorod citizen Kozma Minin, ordering him to gather funds and equip an army for the liberation of Moscow and the Russian realm. And when in 1612 after a molieben to the Holy Trinity the militia of Minin and Pozharsky moved on towards Moscow, a propitious breeze fluttered the Orthodox standards, "as though from the grave of the Wonderworker Sergei himself".
To the period of the Time of Troubles and the Polish incursion belongs the heroic "Trinity sitting-tight", when many a monk with the blessing of the hegumen Saint Dionysii repeated the military holy deed of the Sergiev disciples Peresvyet and Oslyab. For one and an half years – from 23 September 1608 to 12 January 1610 – the Polish laid siege to the monastery of the Life-Originating Trinity, hoping to plunder and destroy this sacred bulwark of Orthodoxy. But by the intercession of the MostHoly Mother of God and through the prayers of the Monk Sergei, "with much disgrace" they fled finally from the walls of the monastery, pursued by Divine wrath, and soon even their leader Lisovsky perished a cruel death on precisely the Monk Sergei's day of memory, 25 September 1617. In 1618 the son of the Polish king, Vladislav, came right up to the walls of the Holy Trinity monastery. But being powerless against the grace of the Lord guarding the monastery, he was compelled to conclude a peace-treaty with Russia at the monastery village of Deulino. After this a church was erected in the name of the Monk Sergei.
In the year 1619 the Jerusalem patriarch, Theophanes, visited the Lavra amidst his journey to Russia. He especially wanted to see those monks who in time of military danger made bold to put over their monastic garb the chain-mail coat and with weapon in hand to go up onto the walls of the holy monastery, warding off the enemy. The Monk Dionysii the hegumen (+ 1633, the account about him is under 12 May), in speaking about the defense, presented to the patriarch more than twenty monks.
The first of them was Athanasii (Oscherin), very up in years and with the yellowed greyness of an elder. The patriarch asked him: "Didst thou go to war and lead soldiers?". The elder answered: "Yes, holy Vladyko, it was made necessary by bloody tears". – "What is most proper for a monk – prayerful solitude or military exploits before the people?" Blessed Athanasii, making poklon, answered: "Every thing and every deed has its own time. Here on my head is a Latin signature, from a weapon. There are six more memorials of lead in my body. Sitting in the cell at prayer, could I indeed have found suchlike inducements towards moaning and groaning? I did all this not at my own pleasure, but for the blessing of the service of God sent us". Touched by the wise answer of the humble monk, the patriarch blessed and hugged him. He blessed also the other soldier-monks and expressed his admiration to all the brethren of the Lavra of the Monk Sergei.
The deed of the monastery, during this grievous Time of Troubles for all the nation, was recorded by the steward Avraam (Palitsyn) in "An Account about the Happenings of the Time of Troubles", and also by the steward Simon Azar'in in two hagiographic collections: "Book about the Miracles of the Monk Sergei" and the "Life of the Monk Dionysii of Radonezh". In the year 1650 Simeon Shakhovsky compiled an akathist to the Monk Sergei, as "valiant voevoda (military-leader)" of the Russian land, in memory of the deliverance of the Trinity monastery from the enemy siege. Another akathist in existence to the Monk Sergei was compiled in the XVIII Century, and its author is considered to be the Moscow metropolitan, Platon (Levshin, + 1812).
In the times following, the monastery continued to be an inextinguishable torch of spiritual life and church enlightenment. From its brethren one after the other were chosen for service many famed hierarchs of the Russian Church. In the year 1744, for its service to the country and the faith, the monastery was entitled a Lavra. In 1742 within its enclosure was established the religious seminary, and in the year 1814 the Moscow Spiritual Academy was transferred there.
And at present the Domicile of the Life-Originating Trinity serves as one of the primary centres of grace of the Russian Orthodox Church. Here at the promptings of the Holy Spirit are done the acts of the Local Councils of the Russian Church. At the monastery is a place of residence of His Holiness the Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus', which carries upon it the special blessing of the Monk Sergei, in the established form, "Archimandrite of the Holy Trinity Sergiev Lavra".
The fifth of July, the day of the Uncovering of the relics of holy Abba Sergei, hegumen of the Russian Land – is a crowded and solemn church feastday at the monastery.
Venerable Sisoes the Great of Egypt (429)
Commemorated on July 6/July 19
The Monk Sisoi the Great (+ 429) was an hermit-monk, pursuing asceticism in the Egyptian wilderness in a cave sanctified by the prayerful labours of his predecessor – the Monk Anthony the Great (Comm. 17 January). For his sixty years of wilderness deeds the Monk Sisoi attained to sublime spiritual purity and he was vouchsafed a gift of wonderworking, such that by his prayer he even once returned a dead lad back to life.
Extremely strict with himself, the Monk Sisoi was very merciful and compassionate to those nearby and he received everyone with love. Those, who visited him, the monk first of all always taught humility. To the question of one of the monks as to how might he attain to a constant mindfulness of God, the monk remarked: "That is still not of much consequence, my son, but more important is this – to account oneself below everyone else, because such disparagement assists in the acquisition of humility". Asked by the monks, whether one year is sufficient for repentance in having fallen into sin against a brother, – the Monk Sisoi said: "I believe in the mercy of God the Lover-of-Mankind, and if a man repent with all his soul, then God wilt accept his repentance in the course of three days".
When the Monk Sisoi lay upon his death-bed, the disciples surrounding the elder saw that his face did shine. They asked the dying man what he saw. Abba Sisoi answered, that he looked upon the prophets and apostles. The disciples asked, with whom did the monk converse? He said that Angels had come for his soul, and he had entreated them to give him a short bit of time yet for repentance. "Thou, father, hast not need for repentance," – replied the students. But the Monk Sisoi, with his great humility, answered: "I do not know for sure whether I have even begun to make my repentance". After these words the face of the holy abba shone so, that the brethren were not able to look upon him. The monk had time to tell them that he saw the Lord Himself, and his holy soul expired to the Heavenly Kingdom.
Venerable Thomas of Mt. Maleon (10th c.)
Commemorated on July 7/July 20
The Monk Thomas the Maleian was a military commander before accepting monasticism. Powerful and brave, he had participated in many a battle, and he brought victory to his countrymen, for which he gained glory and esteem. But, striving with all his heart towards God, Thomas left the world with its honours and he took monastic vows.
With great humility he visited monastic-elders, asking of them guidance in the spiritual life. After several years Thomas received the blessing for solitary wilderness life and, strengthened in particular by a revelation through the holy prophet of God Elias, he settled on Mount Maleia (eastern part of Athos). Dwelling in complete seclusion, Saint Thomas fought with invisible enemies with suchlike a courage, as before he had against the visible enemies of his country.
The life and deeds of Saint Thomas were not able to be concealed from the surrounding area. People began to flock to him seeking spiritual guidance, and even those suffering from sickness, since he received from God the blessing to heal infirmities.
Many believers received help through the prayers of the monk and upon his departure to God (X).
Martyr Cyriaca (Domnica or Nedelja) of Nicomedia (289)
Commemorated on July 7/July 20
The Holy Martyress Kyriakia suffered for Christ at Nikomedia during the time of a persecution under Diocletian. She was the only daughter of the pious christians Dorotheos and Eusebia, who had given a vow to dedicate their daughter to God.
At the beginning of the persecution Saints Dorotheos and Eusebia were separated from their daughter and given over to trial under the governor Justus, but Saint Kyriakia was sent to Nikomedia to the co-ruler of Diocletian – Maximian Hercules. The holy martyress firmly endured the tortures, praying to God. The Lord worked many miracles to bring the idol-worshippers to their senses: idols fell down in the pagan temples, just as they brought the saint there; wild animals brought to the martyress lay down peacefully at her feet. Seeing this, many pagans were converted to Christ. When the sentence of death was read, Saint Kyriakia requested time for prayer. After a final prayer she peacefully died, delivered by the Lord out of the hands of the Roman executioners (IV).
Holy Great-martyr Procopius of Caesarea in Palestine (303)
Commemorated on July 8/July 21
The Holy GreatMartyr Procopius, in the world Neanius, a native of Jerusalem, lived and suffered during the reign of the emperor Diocletian (284-305). His father, an eminent Roman by the name of Christopher, was a Christian, but the mother of the saint, Theodosia, remained a pagan. He was early deprived of his father, and the young lad was raised by his mother. Having received an excellent secular education, he was introduced to Diocletian in the very first year of the emperor's accession to the throne, and he quickly advanced in government service. Towards the year 303, when open persecution against Christians was enacted, Neanius was dispatched as a proconsul to Alexandria with orders to mercilessly persecute the Church of God. But on the way to Egypt, near the Syrian city of Apameia, Neanius had a vision of the Lord Jesus, just as once formerly had happened with Saul on the road to Damascus. A Divine voice exclaimed: "Neanius, why persecutest thou Me?" Neanius asked: "Who art Thou, Lord?" – "I am the crucified Jesus, the Son of God". And at this moment in the air appeared a radiant cross. Neanius sensed in his heart an inexpressible joy and spiritual happiness and he was transformed from being a persecutor into instead a zealous follower of Christ. From this point in time Neanius became fondly disposed towards Christians and struggled victoriously only against the barbarian pagans.
But for the saint there transpired the words of the Saviour, that "the enemies for a man – are of his own household" (Mt. 10: 36). His mother, a pagan herself went to the emperor with a complaint against her son, of not reverencing the ancestral gods. Neanius was summoned to the procurator Judaeus Justus, where he was solemnly handed the missive of Diocletian. Having read through the missive filled with its blasphemies, Neanius quietly before the eyes of everyone tore it up. This itself was already a crime, which the Romans regarded as an "insult to authority". Neanius was held under guard and in chains sent off to Caesarea Palestine, where the Apostle Paul once languished. After terrible torments they threw the saint into a dank prison. By night in the prison room there shone a light, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, having come with luminous Angels, made Baptism for the suffering confessor, and gave him the name Procopius.
Repeatedly they led Saint Procopius to the courtroom, demanding him to renounce Christ and anew they subjected him to tortures. The stolidity of the martyr and his fiery faith brought down God's abundant grace viewing the execution. Inspired by the deed of Procopius, beneathe the sword of the executioner went many of the holy prisoner's former guards and Roman soldiers together with their tribunes Nicostrates and Antiochus. And with martyr's crowns was sealed the faith of 12 Christian Women, having themselves come to the gates of the Caesarea Praetorium. Struck by the great faith of the Christians and their courage, and having seen the firmness of her son in bearing terrible sufferings, Theodosia became repentant and stood amidst the line of confessors and was executed. Finally the new procurator, Flavian, convinced of the uselessness of the tortures, sentenced the holy GreatMartyr Procopius to beheading by the sword. By night Christians took up the much-tortured body, and having wrapped it in grave-clothes, with tears and prayers they committed it to earth (+ 303).
Hieromartyr Pancratius, bishop of Taormina in Sicily (1st c.)
Commemorated on July 9/July 22
The PriestMartyr Pankratios, Bishop of Tauromeneia, was born at a time, when our Lord Jesus Christ yet lived upon the earth.
The parents of Pankratios were natives of Antioch. Hearing about the good-news of Jesus Christ, the father of Pankratios took his young son with him and set off to Jerusalem, in order to see for himself personally the great Teacher. The miracles astonished him, and when he heard the Divine teaching, he then believed in Christ as the Son of God. He became close with the disciples of the Lord, especially with the holy Apostle Peter. And it was during this period that young Pankratios got to know the holy Apostle Peter.
After the Ascension of the Saviour one of the Apostles came to Antioch and baptised the parents of Pankratios together with all their household. When the parents of Pankratios died, he left behind his inherited possessions and went to a Pontine mountain and began to live in a cave, passing his days in prayer and deep spiritual contemplation. The holy Apostle Peter, one time passing through these parts, made a visit to Pankratios at Pontus, and took him along to Antioch, and then to Cilicia, where the holy Apostle Paul then was. And there the holy Apostles Peter and Paul ordained Saint Pankratios as bishop of the Cilician city of Tauromeneia.
Saint Pankratios toiled zealously for the Christian enlightenment of the people. Over the course of a single month he built a church, where he celebrated Divine-services. The number of believers quickly grew, and soon almost all the people of Tauromeneia and the surrounding cities accepted the Christian faith.
Saint Pankratios governed his flock peacefully for many years. But one time pagans connived against the saint, and seizing an appropriate moment, they fell upon him and stoned him. Thus did Saint Pankratios end his life as a martyr (I). The relics of the saint rest in the church named for him, at Rome.
St. Theodore, bishop of Edessa (848)
Commemorated on July 9/July 22
Sainted Theodore, Bishop of Edessa, was born in the Syrian city of Edessa. All his life the holy saint was a bright witness of the great deeds of God, glorified in His Saints.
At twelve years of age, having lost his parents and given away his inheritance to the poor, he set out to Jerusalem, where at the Laura of the Monk Sava the Sanctified he took monastic tonsure. After 12 years of fervent monastic obedience and then another 24 years of full seclusion and great abstinence the Lord summoned the valiant ascetic to be bishop, so that he might bring light to the world. For after the death of the Edessa bishop, no more worthy a successor was found than Theodore, and through the mutual assent of the Antioch and Jerusalem Patriarchs, and likewise of both clergy and laity, this fine man was chosen bishop. It was not easy for Saint Theodore to forsake his quietude, but he submitted himself to the will of God and entered into the guidance of the Edessa Church. This occurred during the reign of the Greek emperor Michael and his mother Theodora (842-855). During the time of the episcopal imposition of hands over the Monk Theodore, there occurred a great miracle. The people beheld a dove white like snow, soaring about beneathe the cupola of the church, which then came down upon the head of the newly-made bishop. Setting about the governance of his flock, Saint Theodore devoted all his abilities to this service. He was a model for the faithful in word, in life, in love, and by the good example of his holy ascetic life he guided the flock, entrusted to him by God, onto the path of salvation. Theodore exerted much effort in the struggle with heretics, and with a firm hand he guarded the Church from temptations and errant thought. By his consolation and support for Saint Theodore, the perspicacious elder and pillar-dweller the Monk Theodosios likewise served the spiritual community, while asceticising not far from the city near the monastery of the holy GreatMartyr George.
With the blessing of the elder, Saint Theodore undertook a journey to Baghdad to the caliph Mavi with a complaint about unjust measures against the Orthodox. Having come to Mavi, the saint found him seriously ill. Calling on the help of the Lord, the holy bishop threw into a vessel with water a bit of earth from the Sepulchre of the Lord and gave it to the caliph to drink, and the sick one was healed. The grateful Mavi, favourably disposed towards the saint, happily heard out his teachings and finally, together with three close associates he accepted holy Baptism with the name John.
Shortly afterwards for his open confession of faith in Christ before the Mussulmans, the caliph John was killed with his three close associates. Having appeared in a dream simultaneously to Saint Theodore and to the Pillar-Dweller Theodosios, he reported that he had been granted to suffer for Christ, being numbered among the rank of the Martyrs, and he would soon meet the two of them in the Kingdom of Heaven. This was an indication to the saint of God, that his own end was approaching. Three years later, again in solitude at the Laura of Saint Sava the Sanctified, he peacefully expired to the Lord (IX). Saint Theodore has left to Christians his writings of edification. The Life of Saint Theodore of Edessa was a beloved reading in Rus' during the XVI-XVII Centuries and was preserved in many a manuscript.
Holy 45 Martyrs at Nicopolis in Armenia, including Leontius, Maurice, Daniel, Anthony, Alexander, Anicetus, Sisinius, Meneus, and Belerad (Verelad) (319)
Commemorated on July 10/July 23
The Forty-five Martyrs of the Armenian City of Nikopolis suffered during the reign of the emperor Licinius (307-324), then a co-regent with Constantine the Great. Licinius fiercely persecuted Christians and in his Eastern districts of the empire he issued an edict to put to death anyone who would not consent to return to paganism. When the persecutions began at Nikopolis, more than forty of the persecuted of Christ decided to voluntarily appear before their persecutors, to openly confess their faith in the Son of God and accept martyrdom. The holy confessors were headed by Leontios, Mauricios, Daniel, Anthony and Alexander, and were distinguished by their virtuous life. The hegemon-procurator of the Armenian district, Licius, before whom the holy confessors presented themselves, was amazed at the directness and bravery of those who voluntarily doomed themselves to torture and death. He tried to persuade them to renounce Christ and offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, but the saints remained steadfast. They refuted all the arguments of the governor, pointing out to him all the falseness of faith in the disgusting and vice-filled pagan gods, leading to ruin those that worship them. The hegemon-procurator gave orders to beat the confessors about the face with stones, and then shackle and imprison them.
In prison the saints rejoiced and sang psalms of David. Saint Leontios inspired and encouraged the brethren in the faith, readying them to accept new tortures for the true faith, and telling them of the bravery of all those formerly that had suffered for Christ. In the morning, after repeated refusal to offer sacrifice to the idols, the saints were again given over to torture. Saint Leontios, seeing the intense suffering of the martyrs and worrying, that certain of them might collapse in spirit and lose faith, prayed to God, that he might see a quick end of the matter for all.
When the holy martyrs sang psalms at midnight, an Angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to them, and the prison blazed with light. The Angel declared to the martyrs, that their deed was near its end, and their names already were inscribed in Heaven. Two of the prison guards, Meneas and Virilades, beheld what was happening and believed in Christ. On the following morning the governor decided to put to death the martyr-witnesses of Christ. After beastly tortures they burned them in a fire, and their bones they threw in a river (+ c. 318). Pious people found them, gathered them up and saved them. Later on, when freedom had been bestown to the Church of Christ, on this spot was built a church in the name of the holy 45 Martyrs.
Venerable Anthony of the Kiev Caves (1073)
Commemorated on July 10/July 23
The Monk Antonii (Anthony) of Pechersk was born in the year 983 not far from Chernigov, at the locale of Liubech. Possessing the fear of God from his youthful years, he desired to be clothed in the monastic form. Attaining maturity of age, he set off wandering, and having reached Athos, he burned with the desire to emulate the deeds of its holy inhabitants. Here he received monastic tonsure and in everything the young monk pleased God in his asceticising upon the path of virtue; he throve especially in humility and obedience, such that all the monks did rejoice to look upon his holy life.
The hegumen foresaw within Saint Antonii the great future ascetic, and on an inspiration from God, he sent him off back to his native land, saying: "Antonii! It is time for thee to guide others also into an holy life. Return to thine own Russian Land, and be thou upon thee the blessing of Holy Mount Athos, so that from thee shalt come a multitude of monks".
Having returned to Rus', Antonii began to make the rounds of the monasteries about Kiev, but nowhere did he find that strict life, which had drawn him to Athos.
Through the Providence of God, on one of the hills of Kiev at a steep bank of the River Dneipr, reminiscent for him of the beloved Athos, in a forested area near the village of Berestovo, he espied a cave, dug out by the Priest Ilarion (who afterwards became Metropolitan of Kiev, Comm. 21 October). He began to asceticise there in prayer, fasting, vigil and work, eating over the course of a day but a bit of food, and sometimes he did not eat throughout the week. People began to come to the ascetic for blessing and counsel, and some decided to remain thereafter with the saint. Among the first disciples of the Monk Antonii was Saint Nikon, who in the year 1032 tonsured at the monastery the similarly arrived Monk Theodosii (Feodosii) of Pechersk (+ 1074, Comm. 3 May).
The holy life of the Monk Antonii brightened all the Russian Land with the beauty of monastic striving. Saint Antonii received with love those yearning for monasticism. After instructions on how one ought to follow Christ, he bid Blessed Nikon to tonsure those willing. When 12 men had gathered about the Monk Antonii, the brethren together dug out a large cave and within it was built a church and cells for the monks. Saint Antonii, having appointed Blessed Varlaam as hegumen over the brethren, himself withdrew from the monastery, and having dug out for himself a new cave, he secluded himself within it. But there also, around the place of his seclusion, monks soon began to settle. Thus were formed the Nearer and Farther Cave monasteries. Afterwards over the Farther Caves was built by the monk a small wooden church in honour of the Uspenie-Dormition of the Mother of God.
At the insistence of prince Izyaslav, the hegumen Varlaam withdrew to the Dimitriev monastery. With the blessing of the Monk Antonii and with the general agreement of the brethren , there was chosen as hegumen the meek and humble Theodosii. During this time the number of brethren had already reached an hundred men. The Kiev Great-prince Izyaslav (+ 1078) gifted to the monks the hill, on which was built the large church and cells, and around it was built a palisade wall. Thus was established the reknown monastery, which was called the Pechersk, foundationed over the caves. Giving the account of this, the chronicler remarks, that many a monastery exists built by rich emperors and nobility, they however cannot compare with those, which are built up by the prayers of saints, and by their tears, fasting and vigil. And thus though the Monk Antonii possessed not gold, he raised up by his efforts a monastery, incomparable with others, which became the first spiritual centre of Rus'.
For his holiness of life, God glorified the Monk Antonii with the gift of foresight and wonderworking. In an especial instance this occurred during their construction of the Great Pechersk church. The MostHoly Mother of God Herself stood before him and the Monk Theodosii in the Blakhernae church (in Byzantium), whither they had been miraculously transported and enraptured, without having left their Pechersk monastery (Vide account of this under 3 May, regarding the Kievo-Pechersk Icon of the MostHoly Mother of God). Having received gold from the Mother of God, the saints commissioned master-architects, who on the command of the Queen of Heaven set off (from Byzantium) to the Russian Land for building the church at the Pechersk monastery. During this appearance the Mother of God foretold the impending death of the Monk Antonii, which occurred at age 90 on 7 May 1073. The relics of the Monk Antonii, through Divine Providence, remain concealed.
Commemoration of the Miracle (451) of Great-martyr Euphemia the All-praised, of Chalcedon (304)
Commemorated on July 11/July 24
The holy GreatMartyress Euphemia (the account about her is located under 16 September) suffered martyrdom in the city of Chalcedon in the year 304, during the time of the persecution against Christians by the emperor Diocletian (284-305). One and an half centuries later, – at a time when the Christian Church had become victorious within the Roman empire, God deigned that Euphemia the All-Praiseworthy should again be an especial witness and confessor of the purity of the Orthodox teaching.
In the year 451 in the city of Chalcedon, in the very church wherein rested the glorified relics of the holy GreatMartyress Euphemia – there took place the sessions of the Fourth OEcumenical Council (the account about it is under 16 July). The Council was convened for determining the precise dogmatic formulae of the Orthodox Church concerning the nature-composition of the God-Man Jesus Christ. This had been necessitated because of the widely-dispersed heresy of the Monophysites ["mono-phusis" meaning "one nature"], who opposed the Orthodox teaching about the two natures in Jesus Christ – the Divine and the Human natures [but in one Divine Person as Son of God within the Holy Trinity of three Divine Persons]. The Monophysites falsely affirmed that within Christ was only one nature – the Divine [i.e. that Jesus is God but not man, by nature], causing discord and unrest within the Church. At the Council were present 630 representatives from all the Local Christian Churches. On the side of the Orthodox in the conciliar deliberations there participated Sainted Anatolios, Patriarch of Constantinople (Comm. 3 July), Sainted Juvenalios, Patriarch of Jerusalem (Comm. 2 July), and representatives of Sainted Leo, Pope of Rome (Comm. 18 February). The Monophysites were present in large numbers, headed by Dioscoros, the Alexandrian patriarch, and the Constantinople archimandrite Eutykhios.
After prolonged discussions the two sides could not come to a decisive agreement.
The holy Patriarch of Constantinople Anatolios thereupon proposed that the Council submit the decision of the Church dispute to the Holy Spirit, through His undoubted bearer Saint Euphemia the All-Praiseworthy, whose wonderworking relics had been discovered during the Council's discussions. The Orthodox hierarchs and their opponents wrote down their confessions of faith on separate scrolls and sealed them with their seals. They opened the tomb of the holy GreatMartyress Euphemia and placed both scrolls upon her bosom. Then, in the presence of the emperor Marcian (450-457), the participants of the Council sealed the tomb, putting on it the imperial seal and setting a guard to watch over it for three days. During these days both sides imposed upon themselves strict fast and made intense prayer. After three days the patriarch and the emperor in the presence of the Council opened the tomb with its relics: the scroll with the Orthodox confession was held by Saint Euphemia in her right hand, and the scroll of the heretics lay at her feet. Saint Euphemia, as though alive, raised her hand and gave the scroll to the patriarch. After this miracle many of the hesitant accepted the Orthodox confession, while those remaining obstinant in the heresy were consigned to the Council's condemnation and excommunication.
After an invasion by the Persians during the VII Century, the relics of Saint Euphemia were transferred from Chalcedon to Constantinople, into a newly built church dedicated in her name. Many years later, during the period of the Iconoclast heresy, the reliquary with the relics of the saint was cast into the sea – by order of the Iconoclast emperor Leo the Isaurian (716-741). The reliquary was rescued from the sea by the ship-owning brothers Sergios and Sergonos, who gave it over to the local bishop. The holy bishop ordered that the relics be preserved in secret, beneathe a crypt, since the Iconoclast heresy was continuing to rage. A small church was built over the relics, and over the reliquary was put a board with an inscription stating whose relics rested therein. When the Iconoclast heresy was finally condemned at the holy Seventh OEcumenical Council (in the year 787), – during the time of Sainted Tarasios, Patriarch of Constantinople (784-806) and the emperor Constantine VI (780-797) and his mother Saint Irene (797-802), – the relics of the holy GreatMartyress Euphemia were once again solemnly transferred to Constantinople.
Blessed Equal-to-the-Apostles Olga, princess of Russia, in holy baptism called Helen (969)
Commemorated on July 11/July 24
Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Olga was the spouse of the Kiev GreatPrince Igor. The struggle of Christianity with paganism under Igor and Olga, who reigned after Oleg (+ 912), entered into a new phase. The Church of Christ in the years following the reign of Igor (+ 945) became a remarkable spiritual and political force in the Russian realm. The preserved text of a treaty of Igor with the Greeks in the year 944 gives indication of this: it was included by the chronicler in the "Tale of Bygone Years", under the entry recording the events of the Biblical year 6453 (945).
The peace treaty had to be sworn to by both the religious communities of Kiev: "Baptised Rus'", i.e. the Christian, took place in the cathedral church of the holy Prophet of God Elias (Comm. 20 July); "Unbaptised Rus'", i.e. the pagans, in turn swore their oath on their weapons in the sanctuary of Perun the Thunderer. The fact, that Christians are included in the document in the first place, indicates their significant spiritual influence in the life of Kievan Rus'.
Evidently at the moment when the treaty of 944 was being drawn up at Tsar'grad (Constantinople), there were people in power in Kiev sympathetic to Christianity, who recognised the historical inevitability of conjoining Rus' into the life-creating Christian culture. To this trend possibly belonged even prince Igor himself, whose official position did not permit him personally to go over to the new faith, nor at that time of deciding the issue concerning the Baptism of the whole country with the consequent dispersal throughout it of Orthodox Church hierarchs. The treaty therefore was drawn up in the circumspect manner of expression, which would not hinder the prince to ratify it in either the form of a pagan oath, or in the form of a Christian oath.
But when the Byzantine emissaries arrived in Kiev, conditions along the River Dneipr had essentially changed. A pagan opposition had clearly emerged, at the head of which stood the Varangian voevoda (military-leader) Svenel'd (or Sveinald) and his son Mstislav (Mtsisha) to whom Igor had given holdings in the Drevlyani lands.
Strong also at Kiev was the influence of the Khazar Jews, who could not but be displeased with the thought of the triumph of Orthodoxy in the Russian Land.
Unable to overcome the customary inertia, Igor remained a pagan and he concluded the treaty in the pagan manner – with an oath on his sword. He refused the grace of Baptism and was punished for his unbelief. A year later, in 945, rebellious pagans murdered him in the Drevlyanian land, cut down betwixt two trees. But the days of paganism and the lifestyle of the Slavic tribes basic to it were already numbered. The burden of government fell upon the widow of Igor – the Kiev Great-princess Olga, and her three year old son Svyatoslav.
The name of the future enlightener of the Russian Land and of her native region is first to be met with in the "Tale of Bygone Years", – in the phrase where it speaks about the marriage of Igor: "and they brought him a wife from Pskov, by the name of Ol'ga". She belonged, so specifies the Joakimov Chronicle, to the lineage of the Izborsk princes, – one of the obscure ancient-Russian princely dynasties, of which in Rus' during the X-XI Centuries there numbered no less than twenty, but who were all displaced by the Rurikovichi or merged otherwise with them through marriage. Some of them were of local Slavic descent, others – Varangian new-comers. It is known, that the Scandinavian Viking "koenigs" (kinglets) called to become princes in the Russian cities – invariably assimilated to the Russian language, and often, they soon became genuinely Russian with Russian names and lifestyle, world-outlook and even physical appearance of attire.
The spouse of Igor thus also had the Varangian name "Helga", which in the Russian "rendering" of pronunciation, is Ol'ga, Vol'ga. The feminine name Ol'ga corresponds to the masculine name "Oleg" (Helgi), which means "holy" [from Germanic "heilig" for "holy"]. Although the pagan understanding of holiness was quite different from the Christian, it also presupposed within man a particular frame of reference, of chasteness and sobriety, of mind and of insight. It reveals the spiritual significance of names, that people termed Oleg the Wise-Seer ("Veschi") and Ol'ga – the Wise ("Mudra").
Rather later traditions regard her a native of a village named Vybuta, several kilometers from Pskov up along the River Velika. They still not so long ago used to point out at the river the Ol'ga Bridge, the ancient fording place, Where Olga was met by Igor. The Pskov geographic features have preserved not a few names, connected with the memory of this great descendent of Pskov: the village of Ol'zhinets and Ol'gino Pole (Ol'ga Field); the Ol'ga Gateway – one of the branches of the River Velika; Ol'ga Hill and the Ol'ga Cross – near Lake Pskov; and the Ol'ga Stone – at the village of Vybuta.
The beginning of the independent rule of Princess Olga is connected in the chronicles with the narrative about her terrible revenge on the Drevlyani, who murdered Igor. Having sworn their oaths on their swords and believing "only in their swords", the pagans were doomed by the judgement of God to also perish by the sword (Mt. 26: 52). Worshipping fire amongst the other primal elements, they found their own doom in the fire. And the Lord chose Olga to fulfill the fiery chastisement.
The struggle for the unity of Rus', for the subordination to the Kievan centre of mutually divisive and hostile tribes and principalities paved the way towards the ultimate victory of Christianity in the Russian Land. For Olga, though still a pagan, the Kiev Christian Church and its Heavenly patron saint the holy Prophet of God Elias [in icons depicted upon a fiery chariot] stood as a flaming faith and prayer of a fire come down from the heavens, and her victory over the Drevlyani – despite the severe harshness of her victory, was a victory of Christian constructive powers in the Russian realm over the powers of a paganism, dark and destructive.
The God-wise Olga entered into history as a great builder of the civil life and culture of Kievan Rus'. The chronicles are filled with accounts of her incessant "goings" throughout the Russian land with the aim of the well-being and improvement of the civil and domestic manner of life of her subjects. Having consolidated the inner strengthening of the might of the Kiev great-princely throne – with the consequent weakening of the influence of the jumbled hodge-podge of petty local princes in Rus', Olga centralised the whole of state rule with the help of the system of "pogosti" (administrative trade centres). In the year 946 she went with her son and retinue through the Drevlyani land, "imposing tribute and taxes", noting the villages, inns and hunting places, liable for inclusion in the Kiev great-princely holdings. The next year she went to Novgorod, establishing administrative centres along the Rivers Msta and Luga, everywhere leaving visible traces of her activity. "Her lovischa (hunting preserves) were throughout all the land, the boundary signs, her places and administrative centres, – wrote the chronicler, – and her sleighs stand at Pskov to this very day, as are her directed places for snaring of birds along the Dneipr and the Desna Rivers; and her village of Ol'zhicha stands to the present day".
The "pogosti" established by Olga, as financial-administrative and law-court centres, represented sturdy props of great-princely power in these places.
Being first of all, and in the actual sense of the word, centres of trade and exchange (the merchant as "guest") gathered together and became organised around the settlements (and in place of the "humanly arbitrary" gathering of tribute and taxes, there now existed uniformity and order with the "pogosti" system). Olga's "pogosti" became an important network of the ethnic and cultural unification of the Russian nation.
Later on, when Olga had become a Christian, they began to erect the first churches at the "pogosti"; from the time of the Baptism of Rus' the "pogost" and church (parish) became inseparably associated. (It was only afterwards with the existence of cemeteries alongside churches that there developed the current meaning of the Russian word "pogost" to nowadays signify "parish graveyard".)
Princess Olga exerted much effort to fortify the defensive might of the land. The cities were built up and strengthened, Vyshgorod (or Detintsa, Kroma) they enclosed with stone and oak walls (battlements), and they bristled them with ramparts and pallisades. Knowing how hostile many were to the idea of strengthening the princely power and the unification of Rus', the princess herself lived constantly "on the hill" over the Dneipr, behind the trusty battlements of Kievan Vyshgorod ("Verkhna-gorod" or "Upper-city"), surrounded by her faithful retainers. Two thirds of the gathered tribute, as the chroniclers testify, she gave over for the use of the Kiev "veche" (city-council), and the remaining one third went "to Olga, for Vyshgorod" – for the needs of building fortifications. And to the time period of Olga, historians note the establishment of the first state frontiers of Russia – to the west, with Poland. Heroic outposts to the south guarded the peaceful fields of the Kievans from the peoples of the Wild Plains. Foreigners hastened to Gardarika ("the land of cities"), as they called Rus', with merchandise and craftwares. Swedes, Danes, Germans all eagerly entered as mercenaries into the Russian army. The foreign connections of Kiev spread. This furthered the developement of construction with stone in the city, the beginnings of which was initiated under Olga. The first stone edifices of Kiev – the city palace and Olga's upper enclosure – were discovered by archaeologists only but in this century. (The palace, or more properly its foundations and remains of the walls were found in excavations during the years 1971-1972).
But it was not only the strengthening of the civil realm and the improvement of domestic norms of the manner of life for people that attracted the attention of the wise princess. Even more urgent for her was the fundamental transformation of the religious life of Rus', the spiritual transfiguration of the Russian nation. Rus' had become a great power. Only two European realms could compare with it during these years in significance and might: in Eastern Europe – the ancient Byzantine empire, and in the West – the kingdom of Saxony.
The experience of both empires, connected with the exaltation in spirit of Christian teaching, with the religious basis of life, showed clearly, that the way to the future greatness of Rus' lay not through military means, but first of all and primarily through spiritual conquering and attainment. Having entrusted Kiev to her teenage son Svyatoslav, and seeking grace and truth, Great-princess Olga in the Summer of 954 set off with a great fleet to Tsar'grad. This was a peaceful "expedition", combining the tasks of religious pilgrimage and diplomatic mission, but the political considerations demanded that it become simultaneously a display of the military might of Rus' on the Black Sea, which would remind the haughty "romanoi" [Byzantine Greeks] of the victorious campaigns of Askol'd and Oleg, who in the year 907 advanced in their shields "to the very gates of Tsar'grad".
The result was attained. The appearance of the Russian fleet in the Bosphorus created the necessary effect for the developing of Russo-Byzantine dialogue. In turn, the southern capital struck the stern daughter of the North with its variety of beauty and grandeur of architecture, and its jumbled mixture of pagans and peoples from all over the world. But an especial impression was produced by the wealth of Christian churches and the holy things preserved in them. Tsar'grad-Constantinople, "the city of the imperial Caesar-tsar", the Byzantine Greek empire, strove in everything to be worthy for its Heavenly Mediatrix. At its very foundation (or more precisely, restoration), the city had been consecrated in the year 330 by the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine the Great (Comm. 21 May) to the MostHoly Mother of God (this event occurred in the Greek Church on the date of 11 May and from there passed over into Russian commemoration). The Russian princess was present at Divine-services in the finest churches of Constantinople – Saint Sophia, the Mother of God Blakhernae, and others.
In her heart the wise Olga found the desire for holy Orthodoxy, and she made the decision to become a Christian. The sacrament of Baptism was made over her by the Constantinople Patriarch Theophylaktos (933-956), and her godfather was the emperor Constantine Porphyrigenitos (912-959). At Baptism there was entrusted to her the name Elena (Helen) in honour of the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Helen (Comm. 21 May), the mother of Saint Constantine, and she also had been the discoverer of the Venerable Wood of the Cross of the Lord. In an edifying word spoken at the conclusion of the sacramental rite, the patriarch said: "Blessed art thou amongst Russian women, in that thou hast forsaken the darkness and hast loved the Light. The Russian people shalt bless thee in all the future generations, from thy grandson and great-grandson to thine furthermost descendants". He instructed her in the truths of the faith, the churchly rules and the rule of prayer, he explained the commands about fasting, chastity and charity. "She however, – says the Monk Nestor, – bowed her head and stood, literally like a sponge absorbing water she hearkened to the teaching, and bowing down to the Patriarch, she did say: By thine prayers, Vladyka, let me be preserved from the wiles of enemies".
It is precisely thus, with a slightly bowed head, that Saint Olga is depicted on one of the frescoes of the Kiev Sophia cathedral, and likewise on a Byzantine miniature contemporary to her, in a manuscript portrait of the Chronicles of John Scilitius in the Madrid National Library. The Greek inscription, accompanying the miniature, terms Olga "Archontessa (i.e. ruler) of the Russes", "a woman, Helga by name, who came to the emperor Constantine and was baptised". The princess is depicted in special head attire, "as a newly-baptised Christian and venerable deaconess of the Russian Church". Alongside her in the same attire of the newly-baptised – is Malusha (+ 1001), the mother later on of the Equal-to-the-Apostles Saint Vladimir (Comm. 15 July).
For one who had originally so disliked the Russians as did the emperor Constantine Porphyrigenitos, it was no trivial matter for him to become the godfather to the "Archontessa of Rus'". In the Russian chronicles are preserved narratives about this, how resolutely and on an equal footing Olga conversed with the emperor, amazing the Greeks by her spiritual depth and wisdom of governance, and displaying that the Russian nation was quite capable of accepting and assimilating the highest attainments of the Greek religious genius, the finest fruition of Byzantine spirituality and culture. And thus by a peaceful path Saint Olga succeeded in "taking Tsar'grad", something which no other military leader before her had ever been able to do. According to the witness of the chronicles, the emperor himself had to admit, that Olga "had given him the slip" (had outwitted him), and the popular mind, jumbling together into one the traditions about Oleg the Wise and Olga the Wise, sealed in its memory this spiritual victory in the bylina or folk-legend entitled "Concerning the Taking of Tsar'grad by Princess Olga".
In his work "About the Ceremonies of the Byzantine Court" – which has survived to the present-day in but one copy, Constantine Porphyrigenitos has left us a detailed description of the ceremony surrounding the stay of Saint Olga at Constantinople. He describes a triumphant reception in the famed Magnaura palace, beneathe the singing of bronze birds and the roars of copper lions, where Olga appeared with an impressive retinue of 108 men (not counting the men of Svyatoslav's company). And there took place negotiations in the narrower confines of the chambers of the empress, and then a state dinner in the hall of Justinian. And here during the course of events, there providentially met together at one table the four "majestic ladies": the grandmother and the mother of holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Saint Vladimir (Saint Olga and her companion Malusha), and the grandmother and the mother of Saint Vladimir's future spouse Anna (the empress Helen and her daughter-in-law Theophano). Slightly more than half a century would pass, and at the Desyatin church of the MostHoly Mother of God at Kiev would stand aside each other the marble tombs of Saint Olga, Saint Vladimir and "Blessed Anna".
During the time of one of these receptions, – relates Constantine Porphyrigenitos, – the Russian princess was presented a golden plate inset with jewels. Saint Olga made an offering of it at the vestry of the Sophia cathedral, where at the beginning of the XIII Century it was seen and described by the Russian diplomat Dobrynya Yadeikovich (who afterwards was to become the Novgorod archbishop Antonii): "The large golden official plate of Ol'ga of Russia, when she took it as tribute, having come to Tsar'grad; upon the plate be precious stones, and upon it is written in these stones the name Xpictoc-Christ".
Moreover, the wily emperor, having reported such details as would underscore how "Olga had given him the slip", likewise presents a difficult riddle for historians of the Russian Church. The matter involves this, – that the Monk Nestor the Chronicler relates in the "Tale of Bygone Years" that the Baptism of Olga took place in the Biblical year 6463 (955 or 954), and this corresponds to the account of the Byzantine chronicles of Kedrinos. Another Russian Church writer of the XI Century, Yakov Mnikh, – in his work "Eulogy and Laudation to Vladimir... and how Vladimir's Grandmother Ol'ga was Baptised", speaks about the death of the holy princess (+ 969) and he notes, that she lived as a Christian for fifteen years, and he places the actual date of Baptism as the year 954, which likewise corresponds within several months to that indicated by Nestor. In contrast to this, describing for us the stay of Olga at Constantinople and providing the precise dates of the receptions given in her honour, Constantine Porphyrigenitos has us to understand in no uncertain terms that all this occurred in the year 957.
To reconcile the cited chronicles, on the one hand, with the testimony of Constantine on the other hand, Russian Church historians are led to suppose either one of two things: either Saint Olga journeyed a second time to Constantinople in the year 957 to continue negotiations with the emperor, or that either – she was in no wise baptised at Constantinople, having previously been baptised at Kiev in 954, and that she was merely making pilgrimage to Byzantium, being already a Christian. The first supposition is the more credible.
As for the immediate diplomatic outcome of the negotiations, there were basic matters for Saint Olga that had been left unsettled. She had gained success on questions concerning Russian trade within the territories of the Byzantine empire, and also the reconfirmation of the peace accord with Byzantium, concluded by Igor in the year 944. But she had not been able to sway the emperor on two issues of importance to Rus': the dynastic marriage of Svyatoslav with a Byzantine princess, and the conditions for restoring an Orthodox metropolitan to Kiev as had existed at the time of Askol'd. The evidently inadequate outcome of her mission is detected in her answer, when she had already returned home, which was given to emissaries sent out by the emperor. To the emperor's inquiry about promised military aid, Saint Olga through the emissaries curtly replied: "If thou hadst spend a time with me similarly at Pochaina, as I did at the Court, then would I give the soldiery in aid".
Amidst all this, in spite of her failed attempts at establishing the Church hierarchy within Rus', Saint Olga in having become a Christian zealously devoted herself to efforts of Christian evangelisation amongst the pagans, and also church construction: "demanding the distressing of demons and the beginning of life for Christ Jesus". She erected churches: of Saint Nicholas and Saint Sophia at Kiev, of the Annunciation of the MostHoly Mother of God at Vytebsk, and of the Holy Life-Originating Trinity – at Pskov. Pskov from that period has been called in the chronicles the Domicile of the Holy Trinity. The church, built by Olga at the River Velika at a spot pointed out to her from on high, – according to the chronicler, – by a "light-beam of the Thrice-Radiant Divinity", stood for more than one and an half centuries. In the year 1137 holy Prince Vsevolod-Gabriel (+ 1138, Comm. 11 February) replaced this wooden temple with one made of stone, which in turn in 1363 was rebuilt and replaced finally with the presently existing Trinity cathedral.
Another verymost important monument of Russian "Monument Theology", – a Church architecture frequently is termed, – connected with the name of Saint Olga, is the temple of Sophia Wisdom of God at Kiev, which was started soon after her return from Tsar'grad, and consecrated on 11 May 960. This day was afterwards observed in the Russian Church as a special Church feastday.
In the Mesyatseslov (calendar supplement)of a parchment Epistle-book from 1307, under 11 May is written: "On this day was consecration of Saint Sophia at Kiev in the year 6460". The year-date of memory is indicated in the so-called "Antioch" rather than generally-accepted Constantinople manner of chronology, and it corresponds to the year 960 from the Birth of Christ.
It was no mere co-incidence that Saint Olga received in Baptism the name of the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Helen (Elena), who was the one to find the Venerable Wood of the Cross at Jerusalem. The foremost sacred item in the newly built Kiev Sophia temple was a piece of the Holy Cross, brought by this new Helen from Tsar'grad, and received by her in blessing from the Constantinople Patriarch. The Cross, by tradition, was hewn out from an entire piece of the Life-Creating Wood of the Lord. Upon the Cross-Wood was inscribed: "The Holy Cross for the Regeneration of the Russian Land, Received by Noble Princess Ol'ga".
Saint Olga did much to eternalise the memories of the first Russian confessors of the Name of Christ: over the grave of Askol'd was erected the Nikol'sk (Nicholas) church, where according to certain accounts, she herself was afterwards interred. Over the grave of Dir – was built the afore-mentioned Sophia cathedral, which stood for half a century and burned in the year 1017. On this spot Yaroslav the Wise later on built a church of Saint Irene in 1050, but the sacred items of Olga's Sophia temple were transferred into a stone church of the same name – standing at present as the Kiev Sophia, started in 1017 and consecrated in about the year 1030. In the Prologue account of the XIII Century, it said about the Olga Cross: "for It be now at Kiev in Saint Sophia in the altar on the right side". The plundering of Kiev's holy things, which after the Mongols was continued by the Lithuanians who captured the city in 1341, did not spare even this. Under Jagiello in the period of the Liublin Unia, which in 1384 united Poland and Lithuania into one state, the Olga Cross was snatched from the Sophia cathedral and carried off by the Catholics to Liublin. Its further fate is unknown.
But even in Olga's time there were at Kiev amongst the boyar-nobles and retinue-retainers no few people who, in the words of Solomon, "hated Wisdom", and also Saint Olga, for having built Wisdom's temple. Zealots of the old paganism became all the more emboldened, viewing with hope the coming of age of Svyatoslav, who decidedly spurned the urgings of his mother to accept Christianity, and even becoming angry with her over this. It was necessary to hurry with the intended matter of the Baptism of Rus'. The deceit of Byzantium, at the time not wanting to promote Christianity in Rus', played into the hands of the pagans. In search of a solution, Saint Olga turned her gaze to the west. No contradiction here yet existed. Saint Olga (+ 969) belonged still to the undivided Church (i.e. before the Great Schism of 1054), and she had scant possibility to study the theological points involved between the Greek and Latin faith-confessions. The opposition of West and East presented itself to her first of all as a political rivalry – of secondary importance in comparison with her pertinent task – the establishing of the Russian Church and the Christian enlightenment of Rus'.
Under the year 959, the German chronicler named "the Continuant of Reginon", records: "to the king came emissaries of Helen, queen of the Russes, who was baptised in Constantinople, and which did seek for their nation to have bishop and priests". King Otto, the future founder of the German empire, willingly acceded to the request of Olga, but he bid the matter not be in haste, in quite German the ponderence. It was only on Nativity of the following year 960, that there was established a Russian bishop Libutius, from the monastery brethren of Saint Alban am Mainz. But he soon died (15 March 961). In his place was ordained Adalbert of Trier, whom Otto "generously furnishing all needs" dispatched, finally, to Russia. It is difficult to say, what would have happened, had the king not delayed for so long a while, but when in 962 when Adalbert showed up at Kiev, he "did not succeed in the matter for which he had been sent, and did consider his efforts to be in vain". Furthermore, on the return journey "certain of his companions were murdered, and the bishop himself escaped not mortal danger".
It turned out that after the passage of years, as Olga indeed had foreseen, matters at Kiev had twisted ultimately in favour of paganism, and Rus' – having become neither Orthodox nor Catholic, had second thoughts altogether about accepting Christianity. The pagan reaction thus produced was so strong, that not only did the German missionaries suffer, but also some of the Kiev Christians who had been baptised with Olga at Tsar'grad. By order of Svyatoslav, Saint Olga's nephew Gleb was killed and some of the churches built by her were destroyed. It seems reasonable, that this transpired not without Byzantium's secret diplomacy: given the possibility of a strengthened Rus' in alliance with Otto, the Greeks would have preferred to support the pagans, with the consequent intrigues against Olga and various disorders.
The collapse of the mission of Adalbert had providential significance for the future Russian Orthodox Church, escaping papal dominion. Saint Olga was obliged to accede to the humiliation and to withdraw fully into matters of personal piety, handing over the reigns of governance to her pagan-son Svyatoslav. Because of her former role, all the difficult matters were referred over to her in her wisdom of governance. When Svyatoslav absented himself from Kiev on military campaigns and wars, the governance of the realm was again entrusted to his mother. But the question about the Baptism of Rus' was for the while taken off the agenda, and this was ultimately bitter for Saint Olga, who regards the good-news of the Gospel of Christ the chief matter in her life.
She meekly endured the sorrow and grief, attempting to help her son in civil and military affairs, and to guide matters with heroic intent. The victories of the Russian army were a consolation for her, particularly the destruction of an old enemy of the Russian state – the Khazar kaganate. Twice, in the years 965 and 969, the armies of Svyatoslav went through the lands of "the foolish Khazars", forever shattering the might of the Jewish rulers of Priazovia and lower Povolzhia. A subsequent powerful blow was struck at the Mahometan Volga Bulgars, and then in turn came the Danube Bulgars. Eighteen years were spent on the Danube with the Kiev military forces. Olga was alone and in worry: it was as though, absorbed by military matters in the Balkans, Svyatoslav had forgotten about Kiev.
In the Spring of 969 the Pechenegs besieged Kiev: "and it was impossible to lead out the horses to water, for the Pechenegs stood at the Lybeda". The Russian army was far away, at the Danube. Having sent off messengers to her son, Saint Olga herself headed the defense of the capital. When he received the news, Svyatoslav rode quickly to Kiev, and "he hugged his mother and his children and was distressed, with what had happened with them from the Pechenegs". But after routing the nomads, the warrior prince began anew to say to his mother: "It doth not please me to sit at Kiev, for I do wish to live at Pereslavl' on the Dunaj (Danube) – since there be the centre of my lands". Svyatoslav dreamed of creating a vast Russian holding from the Danube to the Volga, which would unite all Rus', Bulgaria, Serbia, the Near Black Sea region and Priazovia (Azov region), and extend his borders to those of Tsar'grad itself. Olga the Wise understood however, that all the bravery and daring of the Russian companies could not compare against the ancient empire of the Byzantine Romanoi, and that the venture of Svyatoslav would fail. But the son would not heed the admonitions of his mother. Saint Olga thereupon said: "Thou dost behold, that I am ill. Why wishest thou to forsake me? When thou buriest me, then set out whitherso thou dost will".
Her days were numbered, and her burdens and sorrows sapped her strength. On 11 July 969 Saint Olga died: "and with great lament they bewept her, her son and grandsons and all the people". The final years, amidst the triumph of paganism, for her as once haughty ruler transpired with having a priest secretly by her, so as to not evoke new outbursts of pagan fanaticism. But before death, having found anew her former firmness and resolve, she forbade them to make over her the pagan celebration of the dead, and she gave final instructions to bury her openly in accord with Orthodox ritual. Presbyter Gregory, who was with her at Constantinople in 957, fulfilled her request exactly.
Saint Olga lived, died, and was buried as a Christian. "And thus having lived and well having glorified God in Trinity, Father and Son and Holy Spirit, having worshipped in the blessed faith, she did end her life in the peace of Christ Jesus, our Lord". As her prophetic testament to succeeding generations, with deep Christian humility she confessed her faith concerning her nation: "God's will be done! If God be pleased to have mercy upon my native Russian Land, then shalt they be turned in heart towards God, as for me also wast this gift".
God glorified the holy toiler of Orthodoxy, the "initiator of faith" in the Russian Land, by means of miracles and incorrupt relics. Yakov Mnikh (+ 1072), an hundred years after her death, wrote in his work "Memory and Laudation to Vladimir": "God hath glorified the body of His servant Olena, and her venerable body be in the grave, incorrupt to this day".
Saint Olga glorified God with good deeds in all things, and God glorified her. Under holy Prince Vladimir, ascribed by some as occurring in the year 1007, the relics of Saint Olga were transferred into the Desyatin church of the Uspenie (Dormition) of the MostHoly Mother of God and placed within a special sarcophagus, into suchlike as was customary to enclose the relics of saints in the Orthodox East. "And hear ye concerning a certain miracle about her: the grave of stone is small in the church of the Holy Mother of God, this church built by blessed Prince Vladimir, and in the grave is Blessed Ol'ga. And atop the grave was an opening wrought – for to behold the body of Blessed Ol'ga lying there whole". But not everyone was given to see this miracle of the incorrupt relics of the saint: "For whosoever with faith did come, the aperture opened up, and there was beheld the venerable body lying intact, and one would marvel at such a miracle – the body lying there for so many years without decay. Worthy of all praise be this venerable body: in the grave whole, as though sleeping at rest. But for another, who not in faith shouldst approach, the grave aperture would not open up, and they would not catch sight of this venerable body, but only the grave".
Thus even after death Saint Olga espoused life eternal and resurrection, filling believers with joy and confounding non-believers. She was, in the words of the Monk Nestor the Chronicler, "a precursor in the Christian land, like the dawn before sunrise or light the twilight before the light".
The holy Equal-to-the-Apostles GreatPrince Vladimir, himself giving thanks to God on the day of the Baptism of Rus', witnessed before his countrymen concerning Saint Olga with the remarkable words: "The sons of Rus' do bless thee, and also the generations of thine ultimate lineage".
Martyrs Proclus and Hilary of Ancyra (2nd c.)
Commemorated on July 12/July 25
The Holy Martyrs Proklos and Ilarion were natives of the village of Kalipta, near Ancyra, and they suffered during the time of a persecution under the emperor Trajan (98-117). Saint Proklos was put under arrest first. Brought before the governor Maximus, he fearlessly confessed his faith in Christ. The governor decided to compel the saint by force to submit himself to the emperor to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. During the time of tortures, the martyr predicted to Maximus, that soon he himself would be compelled to confess Christ as the True God. They forced the martyr to run after the chariot of the governor, heading towards the village Kalipta. Exhausted along the way, Saint Proklos prayed, that the Lord would halt the chariot. By the power of God the chariot halted, and no sort of force could move it from the spot. The dignitary sitting in it was as it were petrified and remained unmoving until such time, at the demand of the martyr, that he would sign a statement with a confession of Christ; only after this was the chariot with the governor able to continue on its way.
The humiliated pagan took fierce revenge on Saint Proklos: after many tortures he commanded that he be led out beyond the city, tied to a pillar and executed with arrows. The soldiers, leading saint Proklos to execution, told him to give in and save his life, but the saint said that they should do what they had been ordered.
Along the way to the place of killing, there met them the nephew of Saint Proklos, Ilarion, who with tears hugged his martyr-uncle and also confessed himself a Christian. The soldiers seized him, and he was thrown into prison. The holy Martyr Proklos beneathe the hail of arrows prayed for his tormentors and with prayer gave up his soul to God.
Saint Ilarion, having been brought to trial, with the same fearlessness as Saint Proklos confessed himself a Christian, and after tortures he was sentenced to death. They tied the martyr's hands and dragged him by his feet through the city, wounded and bloody, and then they beheaded him 3 days after the death of his uncle, the holy Martyr Proklos. Christians buried them together in a single grave.
Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos "Of the Three Hands", Hilandar, Mt. Athos
Commemorated on July 12/July 25
The Icon of the Mother of God, named "Three-Handed": The wonderworking image, before which the Monk John Damascene (Comm. 4 December) received healing of a cut-off hand, was given over by him to the Laura of the Monk Sava the Sanctified. In the XIII Century the icon was situated in Serbia, and afterwards it was miraculously transported to Athos to the Khilendaria monastery.
The Icon of the Mother of God, named "Of Three Hands" ("Troeruchitsa"): In the IX Century at the time of the Iconoclasts, the Monk John Damascene (+ c. 780, Comm. 4 December) was zealous in his veneration of holy icons. Because of this, he was slandered by the emperor and iconoclast Leo III the Isaurian (717-740), who informed the Damascus caliph that the Monk John was committing treasonous acts against him. The caliph gave orders to cut off the hand of the monk and take it to the marketplace. Towards evening Saint John, having asked the caliph for the cut-off hand, put it to its joint and fell to the ground before the icon of the Mother of God. The monk begged Our Lady to heal the hand, which had written in defense of Orthodoxy. After long prayer he fell asleep and saw in a dream, that the All-Pure Mother of God had turned to him promising him quick healing. Before this the Mother of God bid him toil without fail with this hand. Having awakened from sleep, the Monk John saw that his hand was unharmed. In thankfulness for this healing the Monk John placed on the icon an hand fashioned of silver, from which the icon received its name "Of Three Hands". According to tradition, the Monk John wrote a song of thanksgiving to the Mother of God – "All of creation rejoiceth in Thee, O Full of Grace", which appears in place of the Mother of God hymn "Mete it is in truth" in the Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great.
Saint John Damascene accepted monasticism at the Laura monastery of the Monk Sava the Sanctified and there bestowed his wonderworking icon. The Laura presented the icon "Of Three Hands" in blessing to Sainted Savva, ArchBishop of Serbia (+ 1237, Comm. 12 January). During the time of an invasion of Serbia by the Turks, Christians wanting to safeguard the icon entrusted it to the safekeeping of the Mother of God Herself. They placed it upon a donkey, which without a driver proceeded to Athos and stopped in front of the Khilendaria monastery. The monks put the icon in the cathedral church. During the time of discord over the choice of hegumen, the Mother of God deigned Herself to accept to head the monastery, and from that time Her holy icon has occupied the hegumen's place in the temple. And from that time at the Kilendaria monastery there is chosen only a vicar, and the monks by monastic useage receive from the holy icon blessing in every obedience.
Synaxis of the Holy Archangel Gabriel
Commemorated on July 13/July 26
The Sobor of the ArchAngel Gabriel is celebrated on the day following after the Annunciation/Blagoveschenie, ie. 26 March. This feast is celebrated a second time 13 July. The reason for its being established probably served the dedication in the XVII Cent. of a church at Constantinople, constructed in the name of the Holy Archi-Strategos / Chief of the Heavenly Hosts.
The Archangel Gabriel was chosen by the Lord to make the blest-announcement to the Virgin Mary about the Incarnation of the Son of God from Her, to the great rejoicing of all mankind. Therefore on the day after the feast of the Annunciation – the day itself on which the All-Pure Virgin Herself is glorified, we give thanks to the Lord and we venerate His messenger Gabriel, who contributed to the mystery of our salvation.
The holy Archistrategos (Leader of the Heavenly Hosts) Gabriel acted in service to the Almighty God. He announced to Old Testament mankind about the future Incarnation of the Son of God; he inspired the Prophet Moses during the writing of the Pentateuch books of the Bible, he announced to the Prophet Daniel about the coming tribulations of the Hebrew People (Dan. 8: 16, 9: 21-24); he appeared to Righteous Anna with the news of the birth from her of the Ever-Blessed Virgin Mary. The holy Archangel Gabriel stayed constantly with the Holy Virgin Mary when She was a child in the Jerusalem Temple and afterwards watched over Her throughout all Her earthly life. He appeared to the Priest Zachariah, foretelling the birth of the Forerunner of the Lord – John the Baptist. The Lord dispatched him to Saint Joseph the Betrothed: he appeared to him in a dream, to reveal to him the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God from the All-Pure Virgin Mary, and warned him of the wicked intentions of Herod, ordering him to flee into Egypt with the Divine-Infant and the Mother of God. When the Lord before His Passion prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane to the extent of sweating blood, according to Church tradition, to strengthen Him there was sent from Heaven the Archangel Gabriel, whose very name signifies "Strength of God" (Lk. 22: 43).
The Myrh-Bearing Women heard from the Archangel the joyous news about the Resurrection of Christ.
Mindful this day of the manifold appearances of the holy Archangel Gabriel and of his zealous fulfilling of the Divine Will, and confessing his intercession before the Lord for Christians, the Orthodox Church calls upon its children with faith and with fervour to have recourse in prayer to the great Angel.
(The account about the Sobor-Assemblage of the Bodiless Powers is located under 8 November.)
Apostle Aquila of the Seventy, and St. Priscilla (1st c.)
Commemorated on July 14/July 27
It is possible, that he was a disciple of the Apostle Paul, a native of Pontus and a Jew, living in the city of Rome with his wife Priscilla (Comm. 13 February). During the reign of the emperor Claudius (41-54) all the Jews were banished from Rome. Saint Aquilla and his wife were compelled to leave. They settled in Corinth. A short while afterwards the holy Apostle Paul arrived there from Athens preaching the Gospel. Having made the acquaintance of Aquila, he began to live at his house and laboured together with him over the making of tents.
Having accepted Baptism from the Apostle Paul, Aquila and Priscilla bacame his devoted and zealous disciples. They accompanied the apostle to Ephesus. The Apostle Paul instructed them to continue the preaching of the Gospel at Ephesus, and he himself set off to Jerusalem, in order to be present there for the feast of Pentecost. At Ephesus Aquila and Priscilla heard the bold preaching of a new-comer from Alexandria, the Jew Apollos, who had been instructed in the fundamentals of the faith, but knew only the baptism of John the ForeRunner [i.e. John the Baptist]. They called him over to themselves and explained more precisely about the way of the Lord.
After the death of the emperor Claudius, Jews were permitted to return to Italy, and Aquila and Priscilla then returned to Rome. The Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans recollects about his faithful disciples: "Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus, who put forth their heads for my soul, whom I do not alone thank, but also all the Church of the Gentiles and the church of their household" (Rom. 16: 3-4). Saint Aquila did not long dwell in Rome: the Apostle Paul made him a bishop in Asia. Saint Aquila zealously laboured at preaching the Gospel in Asia, Achaeia and Herakleia: he converted pagans to Christ, he confirmed in the faith newly-converted Christians, he established presbyters and destroyed idols. Saint Priscilla constantly assisted him in the apostolic work. Saint Aquila finished his life a martyr: pagans murdered him. According to the tradition of the Church, Saint Priscilla was killed together with him.
Martyrs Cyricus (Quiricus) and his mother Julitta of Tarsus (305)
Commemorated on July 15/July 28
The Holy Martyrs Kyrikos and Julitta lived in Asia Minor in the city of Iconium in the Likaoneia region. Saint Julitta was descended from an illustrious family and was a Christian. Widowed early on, she raised her three year old son Kyrikos. During the time of the persecution made against Christians by the emperor Diocletian (284-305), Saint Julitta with her son and two trustworthy servants departed the city, leaving behind her home and property and servants.
Under the guise of being impoverished she his out first at Seleucia, and then at Tarsis. And it was there in about the year 305 that she was recognised, arrested and brought to trial before the governor named Alexander. Strengthened by the Lord, she fearlessly gave answer to the questions of the judge and she firmly confessed her faith in Christ. The governor gave orders to beat the saint with canes. During the time of torment Saint Julitta kept repeating: "I am a Christian and will not offer sacrifice to demons".
The little boy Kyrikos cried, seeing his mother being tortured, and wanted to go to her. The governor Alexander tried to hug him, but the boy broke free and shouted: "Let me go to my mother, I am a Christian". The governor flung the boy from the high rostrum onto the stone steps, and the boy tumbled downwards striking the sharp edges, and died. The mother, seeing her lacerated son, gave thanks to God that He had vouchsafed the boy a martyr's end. After many cruel tortures they beheaded Saint Julitta with the sword.
The relics of Saints Kyrikos and Julitta were discovered during the reign of holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine (+ 337, Comm. 21 May). In honour of these holy martyrs there was built near Constantinople a monastery, and not far off from Jerusalem was built a church. In popular custom, Saints Kyrikos and Julitta are prayed to for family happiness, and the restoring to health of sick children.
Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Great Prince Vladimir (in holy baptism Basil), enlightener of the Russian Land (1015)
Commemorated on July 15/July 28
Few names in the annals of history can compare in significance with the name of holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Vladimir, the Baptiser of Rus', who stands forever at the onset of the foreordained spiritual destiny of the Russian Church and the Russian Orthodox people. Vladimir was the grandson of holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Olga, and he was the son of Svyatoslav (+ 972). His mother, Malusha (+ 1001) – was the daughter of Malk Liubechanin, whom historians identify with Mal, prince of the Drevlyani. Having subdued an uprising of the Drevlyani and conquered their cities, Princess Olga gave orders to execute prince Mal, for his attempt to marry her after his murder of her husband Igor, and she took to herself the children of Mal, Dobrynya and Malusha. Dobrynya grew up to be a valiant brave warrior, endowed with a mind for state affairs, and he was later on an excellent help to his nephew Vladimir in matters of military and state administration.
The "capable girl" Malusha became a Christian (together with GreatPrincess Olga at Tsar'grad), but she preserved in herself a bit of the mysterious darkness of the pagan Drevlyani forests. And thus she fell in love with the austere warrior Svyatoslav, who against the will of his mother Olga made her his wife. The enraged Olga, reckoning as unseemly the marriage of her "housekeeper" and captive servant with her son Svyatoslav, heir to the Great Kiev principality, sent Malusha away to her own native region not far off from Vybut'. And there in about the year 960 was born the boy, called with the Russian pagan name – Volodimir, meaning peaceful ruler, ruling with a special talent for peace.
In the year 970 Svyatoslav set out on a campaign from which he was fated not to return. He had divided the Russian Land amongst his three sons. At Kiev Yaropolk was prince; at Ovrucha, the centre of the Drevlyani lands, there was Oleg; at Novgorod there was Vladimir. His first years as prince we see Vladimir as a fierce pagan. He heads a campaign, in which the whole of pagan Rus' is sympathetic to him, against Yaropolk the Christian, or in any case, according to the chronicles, "having given great freedom to the Christians", on 11 July 978 he enters into Kiev, having become the "sole ruler" of the Kiev realm, "having subdued the surrounding lands, some – by peaceful means, and the unsubmissive ones – by the sword".
Young Vladimir indulged himself in a wild sensuous life, though far from being the libertine that they sometimes portray him. He "shepherded his land with truth, valour and reason", as a good and diligent master, of necessity he extended and defended its boundaries by force of arms, and in returning from military campaign, he made for his companions and for all Kiev liberal and merry feastings.
But the Lord prepared him for another task. Where sin increases, there – in the words of the Apostle, – grace abounds. "And upon him did come visitation of the MostHigh, and the All-Merciful eye of the Good God didst gaze upon him, and shine forth the thought in his heart, of understanding the vanity of idolous delusion, and of appealing to the One God, Creator of all things both visible and invisible". The matter of the acceptance of Baptism was facilitated through external circumstances. The Byzantine empire was in upheaval under the blows of the mutinous regiments of Bardas Skliros and Bardas Phokas, each of which sought to gain the imperial throne. In these difficult circumstances the emperors – the co-regent brothers Basil the Bulgar-Slayer and Constantine, turned for help to Vladimir.
Events unfolded quickly. In August 987 Bardas Phokas proclaimed himself emperor and moved against Constantinople, and in Autumn of that same year the emissaries of emperor Basil were at Kiev. "And having exhausted his (Basil's) wealth, it compelled him to enter into an alliance with the emperor of the Russes. They were his enemies, but he besought their help, – writes one of the Arab chronicles of events in the 980's. – And the emperor of the Russes did consent to this, and did make common cause with him".
In reward for his military help, Vladimir besought the hand of the emperors' sister Anna, which for the Byzantines was an unheard of audacity. Princesses of the imperial lineage did not go off to marry "barbarian" rulers, even though they be Christian. At this same time the emperor Otto the Great was seeking the hand of this Anna for his son, and he was refused, but herein regarding Vladimir Constantinople was obliged to consent.
An agreement was concluded, according to which Vladimir had to send in aid to the emperors six thousand Varangians, to accept holy Baptism, and under these conditions he would receive the hand of the imperial daughter Anna. Thus in the strife of human events the will of God directed the entering of Rus' into the graced bosom of the OEcumenical Church. GreatPrince Vladimir accepted Baptism and dispatched the military assistance to Byzantium. With the aid of the Russians, the mutineers were destroyed and Bardas Phokas killed. But the Greeks, gladdened by their unexpected deliverance, were in no hurry to fulfill their part of the agreement.
Vexed at the Greek duplicity, Prince Vladimir "hastened to collect his forces" and he moved "against Korsun, the Greek city", the ancient Chersonessus. The "impenetrable" rampart of the Byzantine realm on the Black Sea fell, and it was one of the vitally important hubs of the economic and mercantile links of the empire. This blow was so much felt, that its echo resounded throughout all the regions of Byzantium.
Vladimir again had the upper hand. His emissaries, the voevoda-commanders Oleg and Sjbern soon arrived in Tsar'grad for the imperial daughter. Eight days passed in Anna's preparation, during which time her brothers consoled her, stressing the significance of the opportunity before her: to enable the enlightening of the Russian realm and its lands, and to make them forever friends of the Romanoi-Byzantine realm. At Taurida Saint Vladimir awaited her, and to his titles there was added a new one – Caesar (tsar', emperor). It required the haughty rulers of Constantinople to accede also in this – to bestow upon their new brother-in-law the Caesar (i.e. imperial) insignia. In certain of the Greek historians, Saint Vladimir is termed from these times as a "mighty basileios-king", he coins money in the Byzantine style and is depicted on it with the symbols of imperial might: in imperial attire, and on his head – the imperial crown, and in his right hand – the sceptre with cross.
Together with the empress Anna, there arrived for the Russian cathedra-seat metropolitan Michael – ordained by holy Patriarch Nicholas II Chrysobergos, and he came with his retinue and clergy, and many holy relics and other holy things. In ancient Chersonessus, where each stone brings to mind Saint Andrew the First-Called, there took place the marriage-crowning of Saint Vladimir and Blessed Anna, both reminiscent and likewise affirming the oneness of the Gospel good-news of Christ in Rus' and in Byzantium. Korsun, the "empress dowry", was returned to Byzantium. In the Spring of 988 the greatprince with his spouse set out through the Crimea, Taman' and the Azov lands, which had come into the complexion of his vast realm, on the trip of return to Kiev. Leading the greatprincely cortege with frequent moliebens and incessant priestly singing they carried crosses, icons and holy relics. It seemed, that the OEcumenical Holy Church was moving into the spacious Russian land, and renewed in the font of Baptism, Holy Rus' came forth to meet Christ and His Church.
There ensued the unforgettable and quite singular event in Russian history: the morning of the Baptism of the Kievans in the waters of the River Dneipr. On the evening beforehand, Saint Vladimir declared throughout the city: "If anyone on the morrow goeth not into the river – be they rich or poor, beggar or slave – that one be mine enemy". The sacred wish of the holy prince was fulfilled without a murmur: "all our land all at the same time did glorify Christ with the Father and the Holy Spirit".
It is difficult to overestimate the deep spiritual transformation – effected by the prayers of Saint Vladimir, effected within the Russian people, in all the entirety of its life and world-outlook. In the pure Kievan waters, as in a "bath of regeneration", there was realised a mysteried transfiguration of the Russian spiritual element, the spiritual birth of the nation, called by God to yet unforeseen deeds of Christian service to mankind. – "Then did the darkness of the idols begin to lift from us, and the dawn of Orthodoxy appear, and the Sun of the Gospel didst illumine our land". In memory of this sacred event, the renewal of Rus' by water and the Spirit, there was established within the Russian Church the custom of an annual church procession "to the water" on 1 August, combined afterwards with the feastday of the Bring-Forth of the Venerable Wood of the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord, in common with the Greek Church, and likewise the Russian Church feastday of the All-Merciful Saviour and the MostHoly Mother of God (established by Saint Andrei Bogoliubsky in the year 1164). In this combination of feasts there is found a precise expression of the Russian theological consciousness, for which both Baptism and the Cross are inseparable.
Everywhere throughout Holy Rus', from the ancient cities to the far outposts, Saint Vladimir gave orders to tumble down the pagan sanctuaries, to flog the idols, and in their place to chop along the hilly woods for churches, in which to consecrate altars for the Bloodless Sacrifice. Churches of God grew up along the face of the earth, at high elevated places, and at the bends of the rivers, along the ancient trail "from the Variangians to the Greeks" – figuratively as road signs, and lamps of national holiness. As regards the famed church-building activity of holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Vladimir, the Kiev Metropolitan Saint Ilarion (author of the "Word about the Law and Grace") exclaimed: "They demolished the pagan temples, and built up churches, they destroyed the idols and produced holy icons, the demons are fled, and the Cross hath sanctified the cities". From the early centuries of Christianity it was the custom to raise up churches upon the ruins of pagan sanctuaries or upon the blood of the holy martyrs. Following this practise, Saint Vladimir built the church of Saint Basil the Great upon an hill, where a sanctuary of Perun had been located, and he situated the stone church of the Uspenie-Dormition of the MostHoly Mother of God (Desyatinnaya) on the place of the martyrdom of the holy Varangian-Martyrs (Comm. 12 July). The magnificent temple intended to become the place of serving for the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus' – and hence the primal-altar of the Russian Church, was built in five years: it was richly adorned with wall-fresco painting, crosses, icons and sacred vessels, brought from Korsun. The day of the consecration of the church of the MostHoly Mother of God, 12 May (in some manuscripts 11 May), was ordered by Saint Vladimir to be inserted as an annual celebration in the Church-kalendar lists. This event was tied in with other previous happenings for the celebration of 11 May, and it provided the new Church a twofold sense of succession. Under this day in the Saints is noted the churchly "renewal of Tsar'grad" – dedicated by the holy emperor Saint Constantine as the new capital of the Roman Empire, the Constantine-city Constantinople, dedicated to the MostHoly Mother of God (330). And on this same day of 11 May, under holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Olga, there had been consecrated at Kiev the church of Sophia – the Wisdom of God (in the year 960). Saint Vladimir, having had the cathedral church consecrated to the MostHoly Mother of God, followed the example of Saint Constantine in dedicating the capital city of the Russian Land, Kiev, to the Queen of Heaven.
And then there was bestown on the Church a tithe or tenth; and since this church had become the centre of the All-Russian gathering of churchly tithes, they called it the Desyatinnaya (Tithe) church. The most ancient text of the deed-grant document, or churchly ustav-rule by holy Prince Vladimir spoke thusly: "For I do bestow this church of the Holy Mother of God a tenth of all mine principality, and likewise throughout all the Russian Land from all the princely jurisdiction a tithe of squirrel-pelts, and from the merchant – a tithe of the week, and from households each year – a tenth of every herd and every livelihood, to the wondrous Mother of God and the wondrous Saviour". The ustav likewise specified "church people" as being free from the jurisdictional power of the prince and his "tiuni"-officials, and placed them under the jurisdiction of the metropolitan.
The chronicle has preserved a prayer of Saint Vladimir, with which he turned to the Almighty at the consecration of the Uspensky Desyatin-Tithe church: "O Lord God, look Thou down from Heaven and behold, and visit Thine vineyard, which Thy right-hand hath planted. And make this new people, whom Thou hast converted in heart and mind – to know Thee, the True God. And look down upon this Thine church, which Thy unworthy servant hath built in the name of the Mother Who hath given birth to Thee, She the Ever-Virgin Mother of God. And whosoever doth pray in this church, let his prayer then be heard, on account of the prayers to the All-Pure Mother of God".
With the Desyatin-Tithe church and bishop Anastasii, certain historians have made a connection with the beginnings of Russian chronicle writing. At it were compiled the Vita-Life of Saint Ol'ga and the account of the Varangian-Martyrs in their original form, and likewise the "Account, How in the Taking of Korsun, Vladimir came to be Baptised". Here also there originated the early Greek redaction of the Vitae-Lives of the holy Martyrs Boris and Gleb.
The Kiev Metropolitan cathedra-seat during the time of Saint Vladimir was occupied successively by the Metropolitan Saint Michael (+ 15 June 991, Comm. 30 September), Metropolitan Theophylakt – transferred to Kiev from the see of Armenian Sebasteia (991-997), Metropolitan Leontii (997-1008), and Metropolitan John I (1008-1037). Through their efforts the first dioceses of the Russian Church were opened: at Novgorod (its first representative was Sainted Joakim the Korsunite – + 1030, compiler of the Joakimov Chronicle), Vladimir-Volyn (opened 11 May 992), Chernigov, Pereslavl', Belgorod, and Rostov. "And thus throughout all the cities and villages there were set up churches and monasteries, and the clergy did increase, and the Orthodox Faith did blossom forth and shine like the sun". To advance the faith amongst the newly enlightened people, learned people and schools were needed for their preparation. Saint Vladimir therefore with holy Metropolitan Michael "did command fathers and mothers to take their young children and send them to schools to learn reading and writing". Saint Joakim the Korsunite (+ 1030) set up such a school at Novgorod, and they did likewise in other cities. "And there were a multitude of schools of scholars, and of these were there a multitude of wisdom-loving philosophers".
With a firm hand Saint Vladimir held in check enemies at the frontiers, and he built cities with fortifications. He was the first in Russian history to set up a "notched boundary" – a line of defensive points against nomadic peoples. "Volodimir did begin to set up cities along the Desna, along the Vystra, along the Trubezha, along the Sula and along the Stugna. And he did settle them with the Novgorodians, the Smol'yani, the Chuds and the Vyatichi. And he did war against the Pechenegs and defeated them". But the actual means was often the peaceful Christian preaching amongst the steppe pagans. In the Nikol'sk Chronicles under the year 990 was written: "And in that same year there came to Volodimir at Kiev four princes from the Bulgars and they were illumined with Divine Baptism". In the following year " there came the Pecheneg prince Kuchug and accepted the Greek faith, and he was baptised in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and did service to Vladimir with a pure heart". Under the influence of the holy prince there were baptised also several apparent foreigners, as for example, the Norwegian "koenig" (king") Olaf Trueggvason (+ 1000) who lived several years at Kiev, and also the reknown Torval'd the Wanderer – founder of a monastery of Saint John the Precursor along the Dneipr near Polotsk, among others. In faraway Iceland the poet-skalds called God the "Protector of the Greeks and Russians".
Amidst the Christian preaching was also the reknown feastings of Saint Vladimir: after Liturgy on Sundays and Church Great-Feasts there were put out abundant feasting tables for the Kievans, they rang the bells, choirs sang praise, the "transported infirm" sang bylini-ballads and spiritual verses. On 12 May 996, for example, on the occasion of the consecration of the Desyatin-Tithe church, the prince "made a bright feast", "distributing goods to many of the poor, and destitute and wanderers, and through the churches and the monasteries. To the sick and the needy he delivered through the streets casks and barrels of mead, and bread, and meat, and fish, and cheese, desiring that all might come and eat, glorifying God". Feasts were likewise arrayed in honour of the victories of Kievan bogatyr-warriors, and the regiments of Vladimir's retinue – of Dobrynya, Aleksandr Popovich, Rogda the Bold.
In the year 1007 Saint Vladimir transferred the relics of holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Ol'ga to the Desyatin-Tithe church. And four years later, in 1011, there was also buried there his spouse and companion in many of his undertakings, the Blessed Empress Anna. After her death the prince entered into a new marriage – with the young daughter of the German Graf Kuno von Enningen, grand-daughter of the emperor Otto the Great.
The era of Saint Vladimir was a crucial initial period for the state formation of Orthodox Rus'. The unification of the Slavic lands and the formation of state boundaries under the domain of the Riurikovichi resulted from a strenuous spiritual and political struggle with neighbouring tribes and states. The Baptism of Rus' by Orthodox Byzantium was a most important step in its state self-definition. The chief enemy of Vladimir became Boleslav the Brave, whose plans included the extensive unification of the West-Slavic and East-Slavic tribes under the aegis of Catholic Poland. This rivalry arose still back in the times, when Vladimir was still a pagan: "In the year 6489 (981). Volodimir went against the Lakhs and took their cities, Peremyshl', Cherven', and other cities, which be under Rus'". The final years of the X Century are likewise filled with the wars of Vladimir and Boleslav.
After a short lull (the first decade of the XI Century), the "great stand-off" enters into a new phase: in the year 1013 at Kiev a conspiracy against Saint Vladimir is discovered: Svyatopolk the Accursed, who is married to a daughter of Boleslav, yearns for power. The instigator of the conspiracy is the clergyman of Boleslav – the Kolobzheg Catholic bishop Reibern.
The conspiracy of Svyatopolk and Reibern was an all-out threat to the historical existence of the Russian state and the Russian Church. Saint Vladimir took decisive measures. All the three involved were arrested, and Reibern soon died in prison.
Saint Vladimir did not take revenge on those that "opposed and hated" him. Under the pretense of feigned repentance, Svyatopolk was set free.
A new misfortune erupted in the North, at Novgorod. Yaroslav, still not so very much "the Wise" – as he was later to go down in Russian history, in the year 1010 having become ruler of Novgorod, decided to defect from his father the greatprince of Kiev, and he formed his own separate army, moving on Kiev to demand the customary tribute and tithe. The unity of the Russian land, for which Saint Vladimir had struggled all his life, was threatened with ruin. In both anger and in sorrow Saint Vladimir gave orders to "secure the dams and set the bridges", and to prepare for a campaign against Novgorod. His powers were on the decline. In the preparations for his final campaign, happily not undertaken, the Baptiser of Rus' fell grievously ill and gave up his spirit to the Lord in the village of Spas-Berestov, on 15 July 1015. He had ruled the Russian realm for thirty-seven years (978-1015), and twenty-eight of these years had been spent since holy Baptism.
Preparing for a new struggle for power and hoping for Polish help in it, and to play for time, Svyatopolk attempted to conceal the death of his father. But patriotically inclined Kievan boyar-nobles, secretly by night, removed the body of the deceased sovereign from the Berestov court, where Svyatopolk's people were guarding it, and they conveyed the body to Kiev. At the Desyatin-Tithe church the coffin with the relics of Saint Vladimir was met by Kievan clergy with Metropolitan John at the head. The holy relics were placed in a marble crypt, set within the Clement chapel of the Desyatin Uspenie church alongside the marble crypt of Empress Anna...
The name and deeds of holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Vladimir, whom the people called the Splendid Sun, is interwoven with all the successive history of the Russian Church. "Through him we too have come to worship and to know Christ, the True Life, – testified Saint Ilarion. His deeds were continued by his sons, and grandsons and descendants – rulers of the Russian land over the course of almost six centuries: from Yaroslav the Wise with the taking of the first steps towards the independent existence of the Russian Church – down to the last of the Riurikovichi, tsar Feodor Ioannovich, under whom (in 1589) the Russian Orthodox Church became the fifth independent Patriarchate in the dyptich-lists of Orthodox Autocephalous Churches.
The feastday celebration to holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Vladimir was established under Saint Alexander Nevsky, in memory of the intercession of Saint Vladimir on 15 May 1240, for his help in gaining the reknown victory by Nevsky over Swedish crusaders.
But the first reverencing of the holy prince began in Rus' rather earlier. The Metropolitan of Kiev Saint Ilarion (+ 1053), in his "Word on Law and Grace", spoken on the day of memory of Saint Vladimir at the saint's crypt in the Desyatin-Tithe church, calls him "an apostolic sovereign", "like" Saint Constantine, and he compares his apostolic evangelisation of the Russian Land to that of the evangelisation by the holy Apostles.
Hieromartyr Athenogenes, bishop of Heracleopolis, and his ten disciples (311)
Commemorated on July 16/July 29
The PriestMartyr Athenogoras and his Ten Disciples suffered for Christ during the time of persecution against Christians in the city of Sebasteia. The governor Philomarkhos made a large festival in honour of the pagan gods and summoned the Sebasteia citizenry to offer sacrifice to the idols. But the inhabitants of Sebasteia, Christian in the majority, refused to participate in the impious celebration with its offering of sacrifice to idols. Soldiers were ordered to kill people, and many Christians then accepted a martyr's crown.
It came to the governor's attention, that Christianity was being widely spread about by the graced preaching of Bishop Athenogoras. Orders were issued to seek out the elder and arrest him. Saint Athenogoras and ten of his disciples lived not far from the city in a small monastery. But not finding the bishop there, the soldiers arrested his disciples. The governor gave orders to slap them into chains and throw them in prison.
Saint Athenogoras came then to Sebasteia and began reproaching the judge that those thrown into prison were guiltless. He was arrested. In prison, Saint Athenogoras encouraged his spiritual children for their impending deed. Led forth to trial, all the holy martyrs confessed themselves Christians and refused to offer sacrifice to idols. After undergoing fierce tortures, the disciples of the holy bishop were beheaded. And after the execution of the disciples, the executioners were ordered to put the elder to the test of torture. Strengthened by the Lord, Saint Athenogoras underwent the tortures with dignity. His only request was – that he be executed in the monastery.
Taken to his own monastery, the saint in prayer gave thanks to God, and he rejoiced in the sufferings that he had undergone for Him. Saint Athenogoras besought of the Lord the forgiveness of sins of all those people, who should remember both him and his disciples.
The Lord granted the saint to hear His Voice before death, announcing the promise given to the penitent thief: "Today with Me thou shalt be in paradise". The priestmartyr himself bent his neck beneathe the sword.
Virgin-martyr Julia of Carthage (440)
Commemorated on July 16/July 29
The Holy Martyress Julia was born in Carthagena into a Christian family. While still a maiden she fell into captivity to the Persians. They carried her off to Syria and sold her into slavery. Fulfilling the Christian commandments, Saint Julia faithfully served her master, and she preserved herself in purity, kept the fasts and prayed much to God.
No amount of urging by her pagan master could sway her to idol-worship.
On time the master set off with merchandise for Gaul and took Saint Julia with him. Along the way the ship stooped over at the island of Corsica, and the master decided to take part in a pagan festivity, but Julia remained on the ship. The Corsicans plied the merchant and his companions with wine, and when they had fallen into a drunken sleep, they took Julia from the ship. Saint Julia was not afraid to acknowledge that she was a Christian, and the savage pagans crucified her on a cross.
An Angel of the Lord reported about the death of the holy martyress to the monks of a monastery, situated on a nearby island. The monks took the body of the saint and buried it in a church in their monastery.
In about the year 763 the relics of the holy Martyress Julia were transferred to a women's monastery in the city of Breschia (historians give conflicting years of the death of the saint: as either the V or VII Century).
Great-martyr Marina (Margaret) of Antioch in Pisidia (4th c.)
Commemorated on July 17/July 30
The Holy GreatMartyress Marina was born in Asia Minor, in the city of Antioch, into the family of a pagan priest. In infancy she lost her mother, and her father gave her over into the care of a nursemaid, who raised Marina in the Orthodox faith. Upon learning that his daughter had become a Christian, the father angrily disowned her. During the time of the persecution against Christians under the emperor Diocletian (284-305), Saint Marina at fifteen years of age was arrested and locked up in prison. With firm trust in the will of God and His help, the young prisoner prepared for her impending fate. The governor Olymbrios, charmed with the beautiful girl, tried to persuade her to renounce the Christian faith and become his wife. But the saint, unswayed, refused his false offers. The vexed governor gave the holy martyress over to torture. Having beaten her fiercely, they fastened the saint with nails to a board and tore at her body with tridents. The governor himself, unable to bear the horror of these tortures, hid his face in his hands. But the holy martyress remained unyielding. Thrown for the night into prison, she was granted Heavenly aid and healed of her wounds. Tied to a tree, they scorched the martyress with fire. Barely alive, the martyress prayed: "Lord, Thou hast granted me to go through fire for Thine Name, grant me also to go through the water of holy Baptism".
Hearing the word "water", the governor gave orders to drown the saint in a large barrel. The martyress besought the Lord, that this manner of execution should become for her holy Baptism. When they plunged her into the water, there suddenly shone a light, and a snow-white dove came down from Heaven, bearing in its beak a golden crown. The fetters put upon Saint Marina of themselves came apart. The martyress stood up in the fount of Baptism glorifying the Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Saint Marina emerged from the fount completely healed, without any trace of burns. Amazed at this miracle, the people glorified the True God, and many came to believe. This brought the governor into a rage, and he gave orders to kill anyone, who might confess the Name of Christ. There then perished 15,000 Christians, and the holy Martyress Marina was beheaded. The sufferings of the GreatMartyress Marina were described by an eye-witness of the event, named Theotimos.
Up until the taking of Constantinople by Western crusaders in the year 1204, the relics of the GreatMartyress Marina were situated in the Panteponteia monastery. According to other sources, they were located in Antioch until the year 908 and from there transferred to Italy. Her venerable hand was transferred to Athos, to the Batopedeia monastery.
Martyr Emilian of Silistra in Bulgaria (363)
Commemorated on July 18/July 31
The Holy Martyr Emelian, a Slav, suffered for Christ during the reign of the emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363). Julian wanted to restore in the Roman empire the cult of the pagan gods, and he circulated an edict throughout all the regions, according to which all Christians would be subject to death.
The city of Dorostolum, situated on the banks of the River Dunaj (Danube), where Saint Emelian lived, was governed by an official named Capitolinus. The imperial edict was read in the city square. The people of Dorostolum said that there were no Christians in the city.
Saint Emelian was a slave of the local city-head, and he was secretly a Christian. Emboldened by the harsh edict, Saint Emelian snuck into the pagan temple, he destroyed statues of the idols with an hammer, he overturned the altars and the candle-stands, and then emerged without notice. But soon the pagans discovered, that the pagan-temple was in ruins. An angry crowd began to beat up a certain Christian, who by chance happened by. Saint Emelian then shouted out loudly, that they should not lay hold of that innocent man, and then he said that he himself had wrecked the pagan-temple. They seized hold of him and led him for judgement to Capitolinus. By order of the official, Saint Emelian was for a long time beaten mercilessly, and then he was condemned to burning. Thrown into a bon-fire, he did not perish, but rather the flames burnt many of the pagans standing about. And when the bon-fire had gone out, Saint Emelian lay down upon the dying embers and with a prayer gave up his spirit to the Lord (+ 363). At Constantinople afterwards there was built a church in honour of the holy Martyr Emelian, wherein also they transferred his relics.
Martyr Hyacinth of Amastris (4th c.)
Commemorated on July 18/July 31
The Holy Martyr Iacynthos (Hyacinthe) (IV) was born into a pious Christian family in the city of Amastridea (now Amastra in Anatolia). An Angel which appeared gave him his name. As a three year old boy Saint Iacynthos besought of God that a dead infant might be resurrected, and the Lord hearkened to his childish prayer: the dead one arose. Both lads afterwards grew up together, and together they asceticised in virtuous life. Saint Iacynthos once noticed, how the pagans were worshipping a tree, and so he chopped it down. For this they subjected him to harsh tortures. They smashed out all his teeth, and having bound him with rope, they dragged him along the ground and threw him in prison. And it was there that the holy sufferer expired to God.