SAINTS AND FEASTS (March)
The 12 Martyred Saints – Pamphilos the Presbyter, Valentus (Ualentos) the Deacon, Paul, Porphyrios, Seleucios, Theodoulos, Julian, Samuel, Ilias, Daniel, Jeremiah and Isaiah
Commemorated on February 16/ March 1
The 12 Martyred Saints – Pamphilos the Presbyter, Valentus (Ualentos) the Deacon, Paul, Porphyrios, Seleucios, Theodoulos, Julian, Samuel, Ilias, Daniel, Jeremiah and Isaiah suffered during the time of a persecution against christians, initiated by the emperor Diocletian in the years 308-309 at Caesarea in Palestine. The holy martyr Pamphilos, a native of the city of Berit (Beirut), received his education at Alexandria, after which he was made presbyter at Caesarea. He laboured much over the collation and correction of copyist errors in texts of the New Testament. The corrected texts of Saint Pamphilos were copied out and distributed to those wanting them. In such form many pagans were converted to Christ through them. His works and concerned matters at Caesarea were gathered up into the extensive library of spiritual books available for the enlightening of christians. Blessed Jerome (IV – beginning V Century) deeply respected Saint Pamphilos and considered himself fortuneate to have located and come into possession of several of his manuscripts. Actively assisting Saint Pamphilos in proclaiming the faith in Christ were Saint Valentus, deacon of the church at Eleia – a man bent over with age and well-versed in the Holy Scriptures, and Saint Paul, ardent in faith and love for Christ the Saviour. All three were imprisoned for 2 years by the governor of Palestinian Caesarea, Urban. During the rule of his successor Firmilian, 130 christians were sentenced in Egypt and sent off to Cilicia (Asia Minor) to work in the gold mines. Five young brothers accompanied them there to the place of exile. On the return journey to Egypt they were detained at Caesarea and thrown into prison for confessing Christ. They brought the youths for judgement to Firmilian, together with those imprisoned earlier – Saints Pamphilos, Valentus and Paul. Having been named with names of Old Testament prophets – Ilias, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Samuel and Daniel – the youths answered the question of their fatherland by saying, that they were citizens of Jerusalem, meaning by this the heavenly Jerusalem. Firmilian knew nothing about a such-named city, since on the site of Jerusalem – razed to the ground by the emperor Titus in the year 70 – had been constructed a new city by the emperor Adrian (117-138), which at the time was named Eleia-Adrian. Firmilian tortured the youths for a long time. He sought to learn the location of the unknown city, and he sought to persuade the youths to apostacise. But nothing was accomplished, and the governor gave them over for beheading by the sword together with Pamphilos, Valentus and Paul.
Before this occurred, a servant of presbyter Pamphilos was given to suffer – this was the 18 year old youth Porphyrios, meek and humble. He had heard the sentence of death for the condemned martyrs, and asked the governor's permission to bury the bodies after execution. For this he was sentenced to death and given over to burning on a bon-fire.
A witness of this execution – the pious christian Seleucios, a former soldier – in saluting the deeds of the sufferers, went up to Pamphilos before execution and told him about the martyr's end of Saint Porphyrios. He was seized upon by soldiers and, on orders from Firmilian, was beheaded by the sword together with the condemned.
One of the governor's servants, Thoedoulos, a man of venerable age and secretly a christian, greeted the martyrs being led to execution, gave them a kiss and asked them to pray for him. He was taken by soldiers for questioning to Firmilian, on whose orders he was crucified on a cross.
The youth Julian, a native of Cappadocia who had come to Caesarea, caught view of the bodies of the saints which had been thrown to wild beasts without burial. Julian went down on his knees and venerated the bodies of the sufferers. Soldiers standing by at the wall seized hold of him and took him to the governor, who condemned him to burning. The bodies of all 12 martyrs stayed without burial for 4 days. Neither beasts nor birds would touch them. Embarrassed by this situation, the pagans permitted christians to take the bodies of the martyrs and bury them.
Great-martyr Theodore the Tyro (306)
Commemorated on February 17/March 2nd and on Saturday of the 1st week of the Great Lent
The Holy Martyr Theodore of Tyre was a soldier in the city of Alasium of the Pontine district (northeast province of Asia Minor, stretching alongside the coast of the Pontus Euxine, i.e. the Black Sea), under the command of a certain Brincus. They commanded him to offer sacrifice to idols. Saint Theodore firmly and in a loud voice confessed his faith in Christ the Saviour. The commander gave him several days to think it over, during which time Saint Theodore prayed intensely. They charged him with setting afire a pagan temple and threw him into prison for death by starvation. The Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him there, comforting and encouraging him. Brought again to the governor, Saint Theodore yet once more boldly and fearlessly confessed his faith, for which he was subjected to new torments and condemned to burning. The martyr Theodore without hesitation climbed onto the bon-fire and with prayer and laudation gave up his holy soul to God.
This occurred in about the year 306 under the Roman emperor Gallerius (305-311). Unharmed by the fire, the body of Saint Theodore was buried in the city of Eukhaitakheia, not far from Amasium. His relics were afterwards transferred to Tsar'grad, to a church dedicated to his name. His head is situated in Italy, in the city of Gaeto.
Later on, 50 years after the martyr's death of Saint Theodore, the emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363), wanting to commit an outrage upon the christians, commanded the city-commander of Constantinople during the first week of Great Lent to sprinkle all the food provisions in the market-places with the blood of idol-sacrifices. Saint Theodore, having appeared in a dream to archbishop Eudoxios, ordered him to inform all the christians, – that no one should buy anything at the market-places, but rather to eat cooked wheat with honey – kolivo ( kut'ya or sochivo). In memory of this occurrence the Orthodox Church annually makes celebration of the holy GreatMartyr Theodore of Tyre on Saturday of the first week of Great Lent. On the eve of Saturday, on Friday, in the Divine Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts after the amvon prayer there is read the molieben-kanon to the holy GreatMartyr Theodore, compiled by the monk John Damascene. After this, kolivo is blessed and distributed to the faithful. The celebration to the GreatMartyr Theodore on Saturday of the first week of Great Lent was set by the Patriarch of Constantinople Nektarios (381-397).
St. Leo the Great, pope of Rome (461)
Commemorated on February 18/March 3
Sainted Leo I the Great, Pope of Rome (440-461), received an exceedingly fine and diverse education, which opened for him the possibility of an excellent worldly career. But his yearning was in the spiritual life, and so he chose the different path of becoming an archdeacon under holy Pope Sixtus III (432-440) – after whose death Saint Leo in turn was chosen as Pope of the Roman Church, in September 440. These were difficult times for the Church, when heretics besieged the bulwarks of Orthodoxy with their tempting false-teachings. Saint Leo combined within himself a pastoral solicitude and goodness, together with an unshakable firmness in questions of the confession of the faith. He was in particular one of the basic defenders of Orthodoxy against the heresies of Eutykhios and Dioskoros – who taught that there was only one nature in the Lord Jesus Christ, and he was a defender also against the heresy of Nestorius. He exerted all his influence to put an end to the unrest by the heretics in the Church, and by his missives to the holy Constantinople emperors Theodosius II (408-450) and Marcian (450-457) he actively promoted the convening of the Fourth OEcumenical Council, at Chalcedon in 451, for condemning the heresy of the Monophysites. At this OEcumenical Council at Chalcedon, at which 630 bishops were present, there was proclaimed a missive of Saint Leo to the then already deceased Sainted Flavian, Patriarch of Constantinople (447-449). Saint Flavian had suffered for Orthodoxy under the Ephesus "Robber Council" in the year 449. In the letter of Saint Leo was posited the Orthodox teaching about the two natures [the Divine and the human] in the Lord Jesus Christ. And with this teaching all the bishops present at the Council were in agreement. The heretics Eutykhios and Dioskoros were excommunicated from the Church.
Saint Leo was likewise a defender of his fatherland against the incursions of barbarians. In the year 452, by the persuasive power of his word, he stopped a pillaging of Italy by the dreadsome leader of the Huns, Attila. And again in the year 455, when the leader of the Vandals [a Germanic tribe], Henzerich, turned towards Rome, he boldly persuaded him not to pillage the city, burn buildings, nor spill blood. He knew about his death beforehand and he prepared himself by ardent prayer and good deeds, for the passing over from this world into eternity.
He died in the year 461 and was buried at Rome, in the Vatican cathedral. His literary and theological legacy is comprised of 96 sermons and 143 letters – of which the best known is his missive to Saint Flavian.
Apostles Archippus and Philemon of the Seventy, and Martyr Apphia (1st c.)
Commemorated on February 19/March 4
The Holy Disciples from the Seventy: Archippos, Philemon and Apthea (2nd Comm. 22 November) were students and companions of the holy Apostle Paul. In the Epistle to Philemon, the Apostle Paul names Saint Archippos as his companion.
The Disciple Archippos was bishop of the city of Colossa in Phrygia. The Disciple Philemon was an eminent citizen of this city, and in his home the Christians gathered to celebrate Divine-services. He was likewise ordained to the dignity of bishop by the Apostle Paul and he went about the cities of Phrygia, preaching the Gospel. Later on, he became archpastor of the city of Gaza. Saint Apthea, his spouse, took into her home the sick and vagrants, zealously attending to them. She was indeed a veritable co-worker to her spouse in proclaiming the Word of God.
During the persecution against Christians under the emperor Nero (54-68), the holy Disciples Archippos and Philemon and Equal-to-the-Apostles Apthea were brought to trial by the city-governor Artocles for confessing faith in Christ. The Disciple Archippos was brutally hacked at with knives. After torture, they buried Saints Philemon and Apthea up to the waist in the ground, and stoned them until the holy martyrs died.
Venerable Leo, bishop of Catania in Sicily (ca. 780)
Commemorated on February 20/March 5
Sainted Leo was bishop of the city of Catania, in Sicily. He was famed for his benevolence and charity, and his Christian love for the poor and the vagrant. The Lord granted him the gifts of healing of various illnesses, and also wonderworking. During the time when Saint Leo was bishop in Catania, there lived a certain sorcerer magician named Heliodorus, who impressed people with his fake miracles. This fellow was originally a Christian, but then he secretly rejected Christ and became a servant of the devil. Saint Leo often urged Heliodorus to be done with his wicked deeds and return to God, but in vain. One time Heliodorus got so impudent that, having entered into the church where the bishop was celebrating Divine-services, he by his sorcery sowed confusion and temptation there, trying to create a disturbance. Seeing the people beset by devils under the sorcerous spell, Saint Leo realised, that the time of gentle persuasions had passed. He calmly emerged from the altar and, grabbing the magician by the neck with his omophorion, he led him out of the church into the city-square. There he forced Heliodorus to own up to all his wicked deeds; he commanded a bon-fire be built, and without flinching he jumped together with the sorcerer into the fire, while having on his omophorion. Thus they stood in the fire, until Heliodorus got burnt, while by the power of God Saint Leo remained unharmed. This miracle while still during his lifetime brought Saint Leo reknown. When he died, at his grave a woman with issue of blood received healing. The body of the saint was placed in a church of the holy Martyress Lucy, which he himself had built, and later on his relics were transferred into a church of Sainted Martin the Merciful, Bishop of Tours (Comm. 12 October).
Venerable Timothy of Symbola in Bithynia (795)
Commemorated on February 21/March 6
The Monk Timothy the Wilderness-Dweller, an Italian by descent, from youth asceticised at a monastery, called "Symboleia", in Asia Minor near Mount Olympos. The archimandrite of the monastery was the Monk Theoktistos. Saint Timothy was his disciple and co-student of the Monk Platon, a Studite Confessor (+ 814, Comm. 5 April). Attaining an high degree of spiritual perfection, he received from God the gift of healing the sick and casting out unclean spirits. The monk spent many years as an hermit, roaming the wilderness, the mountains and forests, both day and night offering up prayer to the Lord God. He died in extreme old age, in the year 795.
St. Eustathius (Eustace), archbishop of Antioch (337)
Commemorated on February 21/March 6
Sainted Eustathios, Archbishop of Antioch (323-331) was born in Pamphylian Sidon in the second half of the III Century. He was bishop of Beria (Beroea), and enjoyed the love and esteem of the people, and at the request of his flock he was elevated by the fathers of the First OEcumenical Council (325) to the Antioch cathedra-chair.
Sainted Eustathios was profoundly learned as a theologian, and was likewise distinguished by his broad knowledge in the mundane sciences. When in the East there began spreading about the heresy of Arius, which denied the Consubstantiality of the Son of God together with the Father, Saint Eustathios struggled zealously – in both word of mouth and in writing – for the purity of the Orthodox faith. The First OEcumenical Council was convened in the year 325 by the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine the Great (306-337). The first to preside over this Council was Saint Eustathios. The Council condemned the heretical teachings of Arius and expounded the Orthodox confession into the Symbol of Faith (i.e. the Nicene Creed). But the mad Arius, as Saint Eustathios called him, who refused to renounce his errors, together with those of like mind with him, were deprived of dignity and excommunicated from the Church by the Council. Though among the bishops, who put their signature to the Nicene Symbol of Faith, were also those sympathising with the heresy of Arius yet signing the Acts of the Council not through conviction, but through fear of excommunication. After the Council, intrigues started against Saint Eustathios. With great cunning they gained his consent for the convening at Antioch of a Local Council. Having bribed a certain profligate woman, they persuaded her to appear at the Council with an infant at her breast, and falsely declare that the father of the infant was Saint Eustathios. Violating the Apostolic Rule concerning this, that accusations against clergy-servers need to be vouched to by two witnesses, the Arians declared Saint Eustathios deposed. Without a trial he was sent off into exile to Thrace. But the lie to the accusation was soon unmasked: having fallen grievously ill after the slandering, the woman repented, summoned the clergy and in the presence of many people she confessed her sin. But in this same time period Saint Constantine the Great had died, and onto the throne entered his son Constantius (337-361), who shared the heretical views of Arius and patronised the Arianising bishops. Even in exile Saint Eustathios struggled with all his same zeal for Orthodoxy. He died in exile, in the city of Philippi or Trajanopolis, in the year 337.
Convened in the year 381 at Constaninople, the Second OEcumenical Council confirmed the Orthodox Symbol of Faith, which Saint Eustathios had so assiduously defended. The Arian false-teaching was once again anthematised as heretical.
In the year 482 the relics of Saint Eustathios were reverently transferred from Philippi to Antioch, to the great joy of the Antioch people, who had not ceased to honour and love their confessor-patriarch.
Saint Eustathios was esteemed by the great hierarchs of the IV Century – Basil the Great, John Chrysostom, Athanasias of Alexandria, Epiphanios of Cyprus, Anastasias of Sinai and Jerome of Stridonia. The reknown church historian Bishop Theodorit of Cyr calls Saint Eustathios a pillar of the Church and a man of piety, of an equal footing with Saint Athanasias of Alexandria and the other bishops at the forefront in the struggle for Orthodoxy.
Martyrs Maurice and his son Photinus, and Martyrs Theodore, Philip, and 70 soldiers, at Apamea in Syria (305)
Commemorated on February 22/March 7
Saint Mauricios, a military commander of Syrian Apameia, suffered in the year 305 under the emperor Maximian Galerius (305-311) together with his son Photinos and 70 soldiers under his command (from the soldiers are known the names of only two – Theodore and Philip).
During a time of persecution, pagan priests made denunciation to the emperor that Saint Mauricios was spreading the faith in Christ. Brought to trial, Saint Mauricios with his son and his soldiers firmly and unflinchingly confessed their faith and they wavered neither to entreaty nor to threats. They were then beaten without mercy, burnt at with fire and torn at with iron hooks. Young Photinos, having firmly endured the tortures, was beheaded by the sword before the very eyes of his father. But this cruel torment did not break Saint Mauricios, who took comfort in that his son had been vouchsafed the martyr's crown.
They then devised for the martyrs even more subtle tortures: they led them to a swampy place, where it was full of mosquitoes, wasps and gnats, and they tied them to trees, having smeared their bodies with honey. The insects fiercely stung and bit at the martyrs, who weakened by hunger and thirst. The saints endured these torments over the course of 10 days, but they did not cease praying to and glorifying God until finally the Lord put an end to their sufferings. The wicked torturer gave orders to behead them and leave their bodies exposed without burial, but Christians secretly by night buried the venerable remains of the holy martyrs at the place of their horrible execution.
Hieromartyr Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna (167)
Commemorated on February 23/March 8
Sainted Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, was born about the year 80 and lived in Asia Minor in the city of Smyrna. He was left an orphan at an early age, but through the direction of an Angel, he was raised by the pious widow Kallista. After the death of his adoptive mother, Polycarp gave away his possessions and began to lead a chaste life, caring for the sick and the infirm. He was very fond of and close to the holy bishop of Smyrna Bukolos (Comm. 6 February). He ordained Polycarp as deacon, entrusting to him to preach the Word of God in church.
At this time the holy Apostle John the Theologian was still alive. Saint Polycarp was especially close to Saint John the Theologian, whom he accompanied on his apostolic wanderings. Sainted Bukolos ordained Saint Polycarp presbyter, and shortly before his death expressed last wishes that he be made bishop upon the Smyrna cathedra. When the ordination of Saint Polycarp to bishop was accomplished, the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him. Saint Polycarp guided his flock with apostolic zeal. He was also greatly loved among the clergy. With great warmth did Saint Ignatios the God-Bearer regard him. Setting out to Rome where execution awaited him (he was torn asunder by wild beasts), he wrote to Saint Polycarp: "Just as the winds and turbulence require the rudder – for coming ashore, so likewise are the present times necessary, in order to reach God".
The emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180) came upon the Roman throne and started up a most fierce persecution against christians. The pagans demanded that the judge seek out Saint Polycarp – "the father of all the christians" and "the seducer of all Asia". During this while Saint Polycarp, at the persistent urging of his flock, stayed at a small village not far from Smyrna. When the soldiers came for him, he went out to them and led them in to eat, and at this time he began to pray, having prepared himself for the deed of martyrdom. His suffering and death are recorded in "An Epistle of the Christians of the Church of Smyrna to the other Churches" – one of the most ancient memorials of Christian literature. Having been brought to trial, Saint Polycarp firmly confessed his faith in Christ and was condemned to burning. The executioners wanted to tie him to a post, but he calmly told them that the bon-fire would not work, and they could merely tie him with ropes. The flames encircled the saint but did not touch him, coming all together over his head. Seeing that the fire did him no harm, the throng of pagans demanded that he be killed with a sword. When they inflicted the wound upon Saint Polycarp, there flowed from it so much blood, that it extinguished the flames. The body of the priestmartyr Polycarp was then committed to flame. The Christians of Smyrna reverently gathered up his venerable remains, honouring his memory as sacred.
A story has been preserved about Saint Polycarp by his disciple, Sainted Ireneios of Lyons, which Eusebios cites in his "Ecclesiastical History" (V, 20): "I was still very young when I saw thee in Asia Minor at Polycarp's, – writes Saint Ireneios to his friend Florinus, – ...but I would still be able to point out the place where Blessed Polycarp sat and conversed, – be able to depict his walk, his mannerisms in life, his outward appearance, his speaking to people, his companionable wandering with John, and how he himself related, together with other eye-witnesses of the Lord, – those things that he remembered from the words of others and in turn told what he heard from them about the Lord, His teachings and miracles ... Through the mercy of God to me, I then already listened attentively to Polycarp and wrote down his words not on tablets, but in the depths of my heart ... Wherefore, I am able to witness before God, that if this blessed and apostolic elder heard something similar to thy fallacy, he would immediately stop up his ears and express his indignation with his usual phrase: 'Good God! That Thou hast permitted me to be alive at such a time!' ".
During his life the sainted bishop wrote several Epistles to the flock and letters to various individuals. There has survived to the present his Epistle to the Philippians which, on the testimony of Blessed Jerome, was read in the churches of Asia Minor at Divine-services. It was written by the saint in response to the request of the Philippians to send them a letter of the PriestMartyr Ignatios, which had been preserved by Saint Polycarp.
First (4th c.) and Second (452) Findings of the Precious Head of St. John the Baptist
Commemorated on February 24/March 9
After the cutting off of the Head of the Prophet, ForeRunner and Baptist John (Comm. 29 August), his body was buried by disciples in the Samarian city of Sebasteia, and the venerable head was hidden by Herodias in an unclean place. Pious Joanna, wife of king Herod's steward Chuza (there is made mention about him by the holy evangelist Luke – Lk 8: 3), secretly took the holy head and placed it into a vessel and buried it on the Mount of Olives – in one of the properties of Herod. After many years this property passed into the possession of the dignitary Innocentius, who began to build a church there. When they dug a trench for the foundation, the vessel with the venerable head of John the Baptist was uncovered. Innocentius recognised the great holiness of it from the signs of grace occurring from it. Thus occurred the First Discovery of the Head. Innocentius preserved it with great piety, but before his own death, fearful so that the holy relic should not be abused by unbelievers, he again hid it in that same place, where it was found...Upon his death the church fell into ruin and was destroyed.
During the days of Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine the Great (+ 337, Comm. 21 May), when the Christian faith began to flourish, the holy ForeRunner himself appeared twice unto two monks journeying to Jerusalem on pilgrimage to the holy places, and he revealed the location of his venerable head. The monks uncovered the holy relic and, placing it into a sack of camel-hair, they proceeded homewards. Along the way they encountered an un-named potter and gave him to carry the precious burden. Not knowing what he was carrying, the potter continued on his way. But the holy ForeRunner himself appeared to him and ordered him to flee from the careless and lazy monks, together with that which was in his hands. The potter concealed himself from the monks and at home he preserved the venerable head with reverence. Before his death he sealed it into a water-carrying vessel and gave it over to his sister. From that time the venerable head was successively preserved by pious christians, until the priest Eustathios infected with the Arian heresy – came into possession of it. He seduced a multitude of the infirm, healed by the holy head, adding abundance to the heresy. When his blasphemy was uncovered, he was compelled to flee. Having buried the holy relic in a cave, near Emessus, the heretic intended to afterwards return and again take possession of it for disseminating falsehood. But God did not permit this. Pious monks settled into the cave, and then at this place arose a monastery. In the year 452 Saint John the Baptist in a vision to the archimandrite of this monastery Marcellus indicated the place of concealment of his head. This became celebrated as the Second Discovery. The holy relic was transferred to Emessus, and later to Constantinople.
St. Tarasius, archbishop of Constantinople (806)
Commemorated on February 25/March 10
Sainted Tarasias, Patriarch of Constantinople, came of illustrious lineage. He was born and raised in Constantinople, where he received a fine education. He was rapidly promoted at the court of the emperor Constantine VI Porphyrigenitos (780-797) and Constantine's mother, the holy Empress Irene (797-802; Comm. 7 August), and the saint reached the rank of senator. During these times the Church was agitated by the turmoil of the Iconoclast disturbances. The holy Patriarch Paul (780-784, Comm. 30 August) although not sympathetic in soul with Iconoclasm, through his weakness of character was not able to decisively contend with the heresy and he therefore withdrew to a monastery, where he took the schema. When the holy Empress Irene together with her son the emperor came to him, Saint Paul declared to them, that the most worthy successor to him would be Saint Tarasias (who at this time was still a layman). Tarasias for a long time refused, not considering himself worthy of so very high a dignity, but he then gave in to the common accord, on the condition, that an OEcumenical Council be convened for rendering judgement on the Iconoclast heresy. Proceeding in a short while through all the degrees of clergy dignity, Saint Tarasias was elevated to the Patriarchal throne in the year 784. In the year 787 in the city of Nicea, with holy Patriarch Tarasias presiding, – the Seventh OEcumenical Council was convened, at which were present 367 bishops. The affirmation of holy icons was confirmed at the Council. Those of the bishops, who repented of Iconoclasm, were again received by the Church.
Saint Tarasias wisely governed the Church for 22 years. He led a strict ascetic life. He used up all his money on God-pleasing ends, feeding and giving comfort to the old, to the impoverished, to widows and orphans, and on Holy Pascha he set out for them the meal at which he himself served. The holy Patriarch fearlessly denounced the emperor Constantine Porphyrigenitos when that one slandered his spouse, the empress Maria – the grand-daughter of Righteous Philaretos the Merciful (+ 792, Comm. 1 December), so that he could be rid of Maria to a monastery thus freeing him to marry his own kins-woman. Saint Tarasias resolutely refused to dissolve the marriage of the emperor, for which the saint fell into disgrace. Soon, however, Constantine was deposed by his own mother, the Empress Irene. Saint Tarasias died in the year 806. Before his death, devils reminded him of his life from the time of his youth, and they tried to get the saint to admit to sins that he had not even committed. "I am innocent in that of which ye speak, – replied the saint, – and ye do falsely slander me, yet mustneeds it be ye have no power over me". Mourned by the Church, the saint was buried in a monastery built by him on the Bosphorus. From his grave was worked many a miracle.
St. Porphyrius, bishop of Gaza (420)
Commemorated on February 26/March 11
Sainted Porphyrios, Archbishop of Gaza, was born in about the year 346 at Thessalonika in Macedonia. His parents were people of substance, and this allowed Saint Porphyrios to receive a fine education. Having the inclination for monastic life, at twelve years of age he left his native region and set off to Egypt, where he asceticised in the Nitreian desert under the guidance of the Monk Makarios the Great (Comm. 19 January). There also he met Blessed Jerome (Comm. 15 June), who was then visiting the Egyptian monasteries; he set off with him to Jerusalem on pilgrimage to the holy places and to reverence the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord (Comm. 14 September), after which he resettled into the Jordanian wilderness for prayer and ascetic deeds. There Saint Porphyrios fell under a serious malady. For healing he decided to go to the holy places of Jerusalem. One time, when fully paralysed he lay half-conscious at the foot of Golgotha, the Lord sent His servant into a salvific sleep-vision. Saint Porphyrios beheld Jesus Christ, descending with the Cross and turning to him with the words: "Take this Wood and preserve it". Awakening, he sensed himself healthy. The words of the Saviour were soon fulfilled: the Patriarch of Jerusalem ordained Saint Porphyrios to the priestly dignity and appointed him curator of the Venerable Wood of the Cross of the Lord. And it was during this time that Saint Porphyrios received his portion of an inheritance from his parents – 4 thousand gold coins. All this he gave away to the needy and for the embellishing of the churches of God.
In 395 the bishop of the city of Gaza (in Palestine) died. The local Christians set out to Caesarea to the Metropolitan John with a request to provide them a new bishop, who would be able to contend against the pagans, which were predominant in their city and were harassing the Christians there. The Lord inspired the Metropolitan to summon the Jerusalem presbyter Porphyrios. With fear and trembling the ascetic accepted the dignity of bishop, and with tears he prostrated himself before the Life-Creating Wood and then set off to fulfill his new obedience.
In Gaza he found all of only three Christian churches, but of the pagan temples and idols – there were a great many. During this time there had occurred a long spell without rain, causing a severe drought. The pagan-priests brought offerings to their idols, but the woes did not cease. Saint Porphyrios imposed a fast for all the Christians; he then made the all-night vigil, followed by going round all the city in a church procession. Immediately the sky covered over with storm clouds, thunder boomed, and abundant rains poured down. Seeing this miracle, many a pagan cried out: "Christ is indeed the One True God!" As a result of this, there came to be united to the Church through Holy Baptism 127 men, 35 women and 14 children, and soon after this, another 110 men.
But the pagans just like before still harassed the Christians, passed them over for public office, and burdened them down with taxes. Saint Porphyrios and the Metropolitan of Caesarea John set off to Constantinople, to seek redress from the emperor. Saint John Chrysostom (Comm. 14 September, 27 and 30 January) received them and rendered them active assistance.
Saints John and Porphyrios were presented to the empress Eudoxia who at that time was expecting a child. "Intercede for us, – said the bishops to the empress, – and the Lord will send thee a son, who shalt reign during thine lifetime". Eudoxia very much wanted a son, since she had given birth only to daughters. And actually through the prayer of the saints an heir was born to the imperial family... In consequence of this, the emperor in the year 401 issued an edict directing the destruction of the pagan temples in Gaza and the restoration of privileges to Christians. Moreover, the emperor bestowed on the saints the means for the construction of a new church, which was to be built in Gaza on the locale of the chief pagan-temple there.
Saint Porphyrios to the very end of his life upheld Christianity in Gaza and guarded well his flock from the vexatious pagans. Through the prayers of the saint there occurred numerous miracles and healings. Over the course of 25 years the archpastor guided veritable flock and reposed at an advanced age, in the year 420.
Venerable Procopius the Confessor of Decapolis (ca. 750)
Commemorated on February 27/March 12
The Monk Prokopios Dekapolites lived during the VIII Century in the region of Dekapolis (Mk. 7: 31), to the east of Lake Galilee. And there also he devoted himself to salvation, occupied with monastic deeds.
Saint Prokopios, together with his co-ascetic Saint Basil (Comm. 28 February) and others zealous for holy Orthodoxy, rose up against the Iconoclast heresy that had arisen in those times. By order of the emperor Leo the Isaurian (716-741), the Monk Prokopios was arrested, subjected to a fierce scourging and thrown into prison. Here he languished together with the Monk Basil until the very death of the oppressive emperor, after which the holy confessors were set free. The Monk Prokopios spent the rest of his life peacefully at monastic deeds, guiding many on the way of virtue and salvation. He died in old age, in about the year 750.
Venerable Thalelaeus, hermit of Syria (460)
Commemorated on February 27/March 12
The Monk Thalaleos lived during the V Century. He was a native of Cilicia (Asia Minor), accepting monasticism at the monastery of Saint Sava the Sanctified, and was ordained presbyter there. Later on, having relocated to Syria, not far from the city of Habala, he found a dilapidated pagan temple surrounded by graves, and he settled there in a tent. This place had a rough reputation, since the unclean spirits residing there frightened travellers and caused them much harm.
And here the monk lived, praying day and night in total solitude. The demons often assailed the saint, trying to terrify him with sights and sounds. But by the power of God the monk gained victory over the power of the enemy ultimately, after which he was troubled no more. The monk then intensified his efforts even more: he built himself an hut, so very cramped that it was just possible to get into it, and only with an effort was it possible to keep up his head, and there he dwelt for about 10 years.
The Lord granted the ascetic the gift of wonderworking: miracles helped him to enlighten the surrounding inhabitants, who were pagans. And with the help of the inhabitants converted by him to Christianity, he demolished the idolous temple, building in its place a church and bringing into it daily Divine-services. The Monk Thalaleos died in old age in about the year 460. In the book entitled "Leimonarion", or "Pratum" ("The Meadow"), – a composition of the Greek monk John Moskhos (+ 622), – it speaks thus about the Monk Thalaleos: "Abba Thalaleos was a monk for sixty years and with tears never ceased saying: God hath given us, brethren, this time for repentance, and if we perish, we then shalt be severely judged".
Venerable Basil the Confessor (747), companion of St. Procopius at Decapolis
Commemorated on February 28/March 13
The Monk Basil the Confessor was a monastic and suffered during the reign of the iconoclast emperor Leo the Isaurian (717-741). When a persecution started against those that venerated holy icons, Saint Basil together with his companion the Monk Prokopios (Comm. 27 February) was subjected to much torture and locked up in prison. here both martyrs languished for a long while, until the death of the impious emperor. When the holy Confessors Basil and Prokopios were set free together with other venerators of holy icons, they continued with their monastic efforts, instructing many in the Orthodox faith and the virtuous life. The Monk Basil died peacefully in the year 750.
Venerable John Cassian the Roman, abbot (435)
Commemorated on February 29/March 13
The Monk John Cassian the Roman, as to the place of birth and the language in which he wrote – belonged to the West, but the spiritual native-land of the saint was always the Orthodox East. John accepted monasticism at a Bethlehem monastery, situated at a place not far from where the Saviour was born. After a two-year stay at the monastery, in the year 390 the monk with his spiritual brother Germanus journeyed over the course of seven years through the Thebaid and Skete wilderness monasteries, drawing upon the spiritual experience of innumerable ascetics. Having returned in 397 for a brief while to Bethlehem, the spiritual brothers asceticised for three years in complete solitude, but then they set out to Constantinople, where they attended to Sainted John Chrysostom.
The Monk Cassion was ordained to the dignity of presbyter in his own native land. At Massilia (Marseilles) in Gallia (Gaul, now France) he first established there two coenobitic (life-in-common) monasteries, a men's and a women's, on the order of monastic-rules of Eastern monasticism. At the request of Bishop Castor of Aptia Julia (in Gallia Narbonensis), the Monk Cassian in the years 417-419 wrote 12 books entitled "De Institutis Coenobiorum" ("On the Directives of Coenobitic Life") from the Palestinian and Egyptian monks and including 10 conversations with the desert fathers, so as to provide his fellow countrymen examples of life-in-common (cenobitic) monasteries and acquaint them with the spirit of the asceticism of the Orthodox East. In the first book of "De Institutis Coenobiorum" the talk concerns the external appearance of the monastic; in the second – concerning the order of the night psalms and prayers; in the third – concerning the order of the daytime prayers and psalms; in the fourth – concerning the order of renunciation from the world; in the eight remaining books – concerning eight chief sins.
In the conversations of the fathers Saint Cassian as a guide within asceticism speaks about the purpose of life, about spiritual discernment, about the degrees of renunciation from the world, about the passions of the flesh and spirit, about the eight sins, about the hardship of the righteous, and about prayer.
In the years following, the Monk Cassian described another fourteen (or else twenty-four) "Conversations of the Fathers" (the "Collationes Patrum"): about the perfection of love, about purity, about the help of God, about the comprehending of Scripture, about the gifts of God, about friendship, about the use of language, about the four levels of monasticism, about solitary hermetic life and coenobitic life-in-common, about repentance, about fasting, about nightly meditations, about spiritual mortification – this last given the explanatory title "I want not to, yet this I do".
In the year 431 Saint John Cassian wrote his final work, the "Against Nestorius" ("De incarnationem Domini contra Nestorium" – literally "On the Incarnation of the Lord, against Nestorius"). In it he gathered together against the heresy the opinions of censure of many Eastern and Western teachers. In his works the Monk Cassian grounded himself in the spiritual experience of the ascetics, meriting the admiration of Blessed Augustine (Comm. 15 June), that "grace far least of all is defensible by pompous words and loquacious contention, by dialectic syllogisms and the eloquence of a Cicero". In the words of the Monk John of the Ladder (Climaticus or Lestvichnik; Comm. 30 March), "great Cassian discerns loftily and quite excellently". Saint John Cassian the Roman reposed peacefully in the year 435.
Martyr Eudocia of Heliopolis (152)
Commemorated on March 1/March 14
The Holy Monastic Martyress Eudocia was a Samaritan, a native of the city of Iliopolis in Phoenician Lebanon. Her pagan impiety took her off the good path, and for a long time she led a sinful life. Her soul was deadened and her heart hardened.
One time at midnight Eudocia awoke and heard from beyond the wall in the other half of the house, where there lived a Christian, the singing of a molieben and reading of Holy Scripture, in which it spoke about the eternal bliss prepared for the righteous, and about the punishment awaiting sinners. The grace of God touched the heart of Eudocia, and she realised, that these results of her sin lay grievously upon her soul.
In the morning Eudocia hastened to call on the man, whose rule of prayer she heard by night. This was the elder named Germanos, returning from pilgrimage along the holy places to his own monastery. Eudocia listened for a long time to the guidance of the elder, and her soul as it were came alive and she was filled with joy and love for Christ. She besought the elder Germanos to come to her after several days, during which she secluded herself within the house and gave herself over in repentance to fasting and prayer.
The elder Germanos summoned a presbyter, and after the testing of being a catechumen Eudocia received holy Baptism from the bishop of Iliopolis, Theodotos. Having given away all her wealth to the poor, she withdrew into a monastery and took upon herself very strict acts of penitence. The Lord granted forgiveness to the penitent sinner and endowed her with graced spiritual gifts.
One time, when she was already head of the monastery, the young pagan Philostrates appeared at the monastery. Aflame with impious passion, he under the guise of a monk came into the monastery and began to urge the Nun Eudocia to return to Iliopolis, and begin anew her former life. "May God in revenge stop thee", – angrily answered Eudocia, and the impostor-monk fell down dead. Fearing that in this she had served as an accomplice to murder, the sisters intensified their prayer and besought the Lord to reveal to them His will.
The Lord Himself appeared to Saint Eudocia in a dream vision and said: "Rise up, Eudocia, and get down on the knees and pray, and thy tempter wilt arise". And through the prayer of Eudocia, Philostrates revived. Having been restored to life, the pagan besought the nun to forgive him. And having accepted holy Baptism, he withdrew into Iliopolis. And from that time he never forgot the mercy of God shown him, and he started onto the way of repentance.
A certain while passed, when another situation occurred. Inhabitants of Iliopolis reported to the governor named Aurelian, that in accepting Christianity Eudocia allegedly had concealed her wealth at the monastery. Aurelian sent a detachment of soldiers to confiscate these supposed treasures. But over the course of three days the soldiers tired in vain to get close to the walls of the monastery: an invisible power of God guarded it. Aurelian again sent soldiers to the monastery, this time under the lead of his own son. But on the very first day of the journey the son of Aurelian badly injured his leg and soon died. Then Philostrates counseled Aurelian to write to the Nun Eudocia, imploring her to revive the youth. And the Lord, by His infinite mercy, and through the prayers of Saint Eudocia, restored the youth to life. Having witnessed this great miracle, Aurelian and his close associates believed in Christ and were baptised.
When persecutions against Christians intensified, they arrested the Nun Eudocia and brought her for torture to the governor Diogenes. The military-commander Diodoros torturing her received news about the sudden death of his wife Firminia. In despair he rushed to Saint Eudocia with a plea to pray for his departed wife. The monastic-martyress, filled with great faith, turned to God with prayer and besought of Him the return of Firminia to life. Becoming convinced as eye-witnesses to the power and grace of the Lord, Diodoros and Diogenes believed in Christ and after a certain while were baptised together with their families. The Nun Eudocia lived for awhile at the house of Diodoros and enlightened the newly-illumined Christians.
One time the only son of a certain widow, working in the garden, was bitten by a snake and died. The mother bitterly bewailed her dead son. Having learned of her grief, Saint Eudocia said to Diodoros: "The time is at hand for thee to show faith in the Almighty God, Who heareth the prayers of penitent sinners and by His mercy doth grant them forgiveness".
Diodoros was distressed, not considering himself worthy of such boldness before the Lord, but he obeyed Saint Eudocia. He prayed and by the Name of Christ he commanded the dead one to rise, and before the eyes of everyone present the youth revived.
The Nun Eudocia returned to her monastery, in which she pursued asceticism for 56 years.
After the death of Diogenes the new governor was Vicentius, a fierce persecutor of Christians. Having learned of the fearless confessor of the Christian faith, he gave orders to execute her. The holy nun-martyress was beheaded on 1 March (c. 160-170).
Hieromartyr Theodotus, bishop of Cyrenia (315)
Commemorated on March 2/March 15
The PriestMartyr Theodotos, a native of Galatia in Asia Minor, was bishop of the city of Kyreneia in Cyprus. During a time of persecution against christians under the impious emperor Licinius (307-324), Saint Theodotos openly preached Christ, calling on the pagans to abandon idol-worship and turn to the True God. The governor of Cyprus Sabinus gave orders to arrest and bring bishop Theodotos to trial. Having found out about this order, the saint did not wait for the soldiers sent after him, but instead immediately went to the governor with the words: "I am here, whom thou seekest; I have shown myself, so as to preach Christ my God". The governor gave orders for the saint to be beaten without mercy, hung up upon a tree and be dealt with by sharp implements, and then be taken to prison. After five days Saint Theodotos was again brought to the governor, who presumed that the bishop would prefer after his tortures to renounce Christ, rather than endure new sufferings. But Saint Theodotos did not cease to preach about Christ. At first they put the saint on an iron grate, under which they set a bon-fire, and then hammered nails into his feet and let him go. Many witnessed the sufferings of the martyr: astonished at the endurance of the saint and his Divinely-inspired speaking, they came to believe in Christ. Learning of this, Sabinus gave orders to stop the torture and lock up the saint in prison.
During the time of Saint Constantine the Great (Comm. 21 May), the freedom to confess their faith was given to all christians, and among the sufferers set free from prison was also Saint Theodotos. The saint returned to Kyreneia and after two years serving as bishop he peacefully expired to the Lord in about the year 326.
Martyr Eutropius of Amasea, and with him Martyrs Cleonicus and Basiliscus (308)
Commemorated on March 3/March 16
The Holy Martyrs Eutropios, Kleonikos and Basiliskos suffered in the city of Pontine Amasia (Asia Minor) in about the year 308.
The brothers Eutropios and Kleonikos, and Basiliskos the nephew of the GreatMartyr Theodore of Tyre (Comm. 17 February), were comrades. After the martyr's death of Saint Theodore, they wound up in prison and by their preaching brought to the Christian faith many of the pagans located in prison with them.
When he tortured Saint Theodore, Publius perished shamefully, struck down by Divine wrath. Asclepiodotos was chosen governor of Pontine Amasia, and did not bend from the fierceness of his predecessor. Knowing the comrades of the martyr Theodore of Tyre were still all in prison, the governor commanded that they be brought to him. Saints Eutropios, Kleonikos and Basiliskos thus firmly confessed their faith in Christ in front of this new governor. They were mercilessly beaten, such that their bodies became entirely bruised. At the time of torture Saint Eutropios prayed loudly to the Saviour: "Grant us, O Lord, to endure the making of these wounds for the sake of the crown of martyrdom, and come in help to us, like as Thou camest to Thy servant Theodore". In answer to this prayer of the saint, there appeared to the martyrs the Lord Himself with Angels and together with them the holy GreatMartyr Theodore of Tyre, saying to them: "Behold, the Saviour is come in help to you, that ye may know about life eternal".
Soldiers and many of the people standing nearby were also granted to behold the Saviour. They began to urge Asclepiodotos to halt the tortures. Seeing, that the people were distraught and ready to believe in the True God, the governor commanded the martyrs to be taken away. The governor then invited Saint Eutropios to him at supper and urged him to publicly offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, yet remain a Christian in soul.
But Eutropios refused this offer.
On the following day they brought the martyrs to a pagan temple, so as to compel them by force to offer sacrifice. Eutropios thereupon began to entreat the Saviour: "Lord, be with us, and destroy the raging of the pagans. Grant, that on this place be offered a Christian Bloodless Sacrifice unto Thee, the True God". These last words of prayer had only just been spoken, when there began an earthquake, the walls of the temple began to collapse, and with them was smashed also the statue of the goddess Artemis. Everyone fled from the temple so as not to be crushed amidst the rubble. Amidst the noise of the earthquake was heard a voice from on high: "Your prayer is heard, and on this place shalt be built an house for Christian prayer".
When the earthquake ended, the governor Asclepiodotos, barely just recovered from fright, gave orders to drive high wooden stakes into the ground, tie the martyrs to them and pour boiling tar over them. The saints began to pray to God, and Eutropios cried out turning to the torturers: "May the Lord turn your deed against you!" And the tar began to flow aside the bodies of the martyrs, like water with marble, scorching the torturers. Those seeing this fled in terror, but the governor in his bitterness gave orders to rend their bodies with iron hooks and to sting their wounds with mustard, mixed with salt and vinegar. The saints endured these torments with remarkable firmness.
The following night before execution the saints spent their time at prayer, and again the Lord appeared to them and strengthened them.
On the morning of 3 March, Saints Eutropios and Kleonikos were crucified, but Basiliskos was left in prison.
They executed Saint Basiliskos on 22 May in the city of Komana. They beheaded him, and threw his body into a river. But christians found his remains and buried them in a ploughed field. Later at Komana was built a church in the name of Saint Basiliskos.
An account about the life of the holy martyr is located under 22 May.
Venerable Gerasimus of the Jordan (475)
Commemorated on March 4/March 17
The Monk Gerasimos was a native of Lycia (Asia Minor). From his early years he was distinguished for his piety. Having then accepted monasticism, the monk withdrew into the depths of the Thebaid wilderness (in Egypt). Thereafter, in about the year 450, the monk arrived in Palestine and settled at the Jordan, where he founded a monastery.
For a certain while Saint Gerasimos was tempted by the heresy of Eutykhios and Dioskoros, which acknowledged in Jesus Christ only the Divine nature, but not His human nature (i.e. the Monophysite heresy). The Monk Euthymios the Great (Comm. 20 January) helped him to return to the true faith.
At the monastery the Monk Gerasimos established a strict monastic rule. He spent five days of the week in solitude, occupying himself with handicrafts and prayer. On these days the wilderness dwellers did not eat cooked food, nor even kindle a fire, but rather ate only dry bread, roots and water. On Saturday and Sunday all gathered at the monastery for Divine Liturgy and to commune the Holy Mysteries of Christ. In the afternoon, taking with them a supply of bread, tubers, water and an armload of date-palm branches for weaving into baskets, the wilderness dwellers returned to their own cells. Each had only old clothes and a mat, upon which he slept. In exiting their cells, the door was never secured, so that anyone coming by could enter, and rest, or take along necessities.
The Monk Gerasimos himself attained an high level of asceticism. During Great Lent he ate nothing until the very day of the All-Radiant Resurrection of Christ, when he communed the Holy Mysteries. Going out into the wilderness for the whole of Great Lent, the Monk Gerasimos took along with him his beloved disciple Blessed Kyriakos (Comm. 29 September), whom the Monk Euthymios had sent off to him.
At the time of the death of Saint Euthymios the Great, the Monk Gerasimos saw how Angels carried up the soul of the departed off to Heaven. Taking Kyriakos with him, the monk immediately set off to the monastery of Saint Euthymios and consigned his body to earth.
The Monk Gerasimos himself died peacefully, wept over by brethren and disciples. Before his death, a lion had aided the Monk Gerasimos in his tasks, and upon the death of the elder it too died at his grave and was buried nearby. And therefore the lion is depicted on icons of the saint, at his feet.
Martyr Conon of Isauria (2nd c.)
Commemorated on March 5/March 18
The Holy Martyr Konon of Isauria was born in Bethany, a village situated alongside the Asia Minor city of Isauria, the people of which had accepted the Christian faith from the Apostle Paul. Saint Konon from the time of his youthful years was accorded the special protection of the "Archistrategos" ("Leader of the Heavenly Hosts") Michael, who appeared to him and assisted him in many a difficult circumstance in life.
At the insistence of his parents, Konon was betrothed to a maiden named Anna, whom he persuaded after the wedding to remain a virgin. The young spouses lived as brother and sister, devoting themselves entirely to God. Saint Konon brought also his parents to the Christian faith. His father, Saint Nestor, accepted a martyr's end for denouncing idol-worshippers.
Having early given burial likewise to both his mother and wife, Saint Konon continued his service to God, devoting himself entirely to monastic works, fasting and prayer. In his declining years the holy ascetic was glorified with the gift of wonderworking. By virtue of his preaching and miracles many a pagan was converted to Christ.
When a persecution against Christians started in Isauria, one of the first to suffer was Saint Konon. They subjected him to fierce torments for his refusal to offer sacrifice to idols. But the people of Isauria, learning about the tortures to which the saint was being subjected, marched out with arms in hand in defense of the martyr. Frightened off by the people's wrath, the torturers fled, and the Isaurians found the martyr wounded and bloodied at the place of torture. Saint Konon desired in all this that he be granted to accept a martyr's end for the Lord.
Two years afterwards Saint Konon died peacefully and was buried alongside his parents and wife.
Venerable Mark the Faster of Egypt (5th c.)
Commemorated on March 5/March 18
The Monk Mark asceticised during the V Century in the Nitreian wilderness (Lower Egypt). From the time of his youth the fondest pursuit for him was the reading of Holy Scripture. There is an account, that he knew the whole Bible by heart. It is known also, that the Monk Mark heard the preaching of Saint John Chrysostomos. Many a discourse written by Saint Mark has come down to us. The monk was noted for his gentleness, purity of soul and abstinence, for which he was called a "fast-keeper".
The 42 Martyrs of Ammoria in Phrygia, including: Constantine, Aetius, Theophilus, Theodore, Melissenus, Callistus, Basoes, and others (845)
Commemorated on March 6/March 19
The Holy 42 Martyrs of Ammoreia: Constantine, Aetios, Theophilos, Theodore, Melissenos, Kallistos, Basoes and the others with them: During the time of a war between the Graeco-Byzantine emperor Theophilos (829-842) and the Saracens, the Saracens managed to besiege the city of Ammoreia (in Galicia in Asia Minor). As a result of treason on the part of the military commander Baditses, Ammoreia fell, and forty‑two of its military defenders were taken captive and sent off to Syria. Over the course of seven years of exhaustive imprisonment they tried in vain to persuade the captives to renounce the Christian faith and accept Mussulmanism. The captives stubbornly resisted all the seductive offers and bravely held out against the terrible threats. After many torments that failed to break the spirit of the Christian soldiers, they condemned them to death, in the hope of shaking the steadfastness of the saints before the actual execution. They said to the Soldier Theodore: "We know that thou, having forsaken the priestly dignity, didst become a soldier and shed blood. Thou canst not hope upon Christ, ‑- so accept Mahomet". But the martyr with conviction replied: "I wilt not renounce Christ, and moreover, in that I left the priestly duty, the bloodshed was necessary".
The condemned calmly and without fear walked up to the executioners. They beheaded them, and threw their bodies into the River Euphrates. In the service to them, these holy passion-bearers are glorified as: the "All-Blest" Theodore, the "Unconquered" Kallistos, the "Valliant" Constantine, the "Wondrous" Theophilos and Basroes the "Most‑Strong".
And indeed the betrayer Baditses did not escape his shameful lot: the enemy knew, that it is impossible to trust a traitor, and they killed him.
The Holy Hieromartyrs of Cherson: Basil, Ephraim, Capito, Eugene, Aetherius, Elpidius, and Agathodorus (4th c.)
Commemorated on March 7/March 20
The Holy PriestMartyrs Basil, Ephrem, Eugene, Elpidias, Agathodoros, Etherias and Kapiton carried the evangelium (Good News) of Christ into the North Black Sea region from the Danube (Dunaj) to the Dniepr, including the Crimea, and they sealed their apostolic activity with a martyr's death during the IV Century in the city of Tauridian Chersonessus. Long before the Baptism of Rus' under Saint Vladimir, the Christian faith had already spread into the Crimea, which in antiquity was called Tauridia and was ruled by the Roman emperor. The beginning of the enlightenment of Tauridia is attributed to the holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called (+ 62, Comm. 30 November). Its very enemies even contributed to the further spread of Christianity, and contrary to their intent: the Roman emperors banished to this area transgressors against the state, – which Christianity and the confessors of Christ were considered to be during the first three centuries. Thus, during the reign of Trajan (98-117) Saint Clement, Bishop of Rome (+ 101, Comm. 25 November), was exiled for imprisonment to the Inkermann stone-quarry. There he continued with his preaching, and there also he accepted a martyr's end.
The pagans inhabiting the Crimean land stubbornly resisted the spread of Christianity. But the faith of Christ, through its self-denying preachers, grew strong and was affirmed. Many an evangeliser gave his life for this struggle.
At the beginning of the IV Century a bishop's cathedra (presiding-chair) was established at Chersonnesus. This was a critical period, when Chersonnesus served as a base for the Roman armies, which constantly passed through in their dependence upon Byzantium. During the reign of Diocletian (284-305), in the year 300 (that is, still before the persecution which the emperor started in the year 303), – the Jerusalem Patriarch Hermonos (303-313) dispatched many bishops for preaching the Gospel in various lands. Two of them, Ephrem and Basil, arrived in Chersonnesus and planted there the Word of God. Later on, Saint Ephrem went to the peoples living along the Danube, where he underwent many tribulations and sorrows. At the time of the start of the persecution he was beheaded (exactly known is only the day of his death – 7 March). The preaching at Chersonnesus was continued by Saint Basil, the companion of Saint Ephrem. He set many idol-worshippers onto the pathway of truth. Other wayward inhabitants of the city, enraged at his activity, showed wrathful resistance: the saint was arrested, mercilessly beaten and thrown out of the city. Having withdrawn to a mountain and settling in a cave, he incessantly prayed God for those that expelled him, that He might illumine them with the light of true Divine-knowledge. And the Lord sent the unbelieving a miracle. The only son of an important citizen of Chersonnesus died. The dead one appeared to his parents in a dream and said, that a certain man named Basil by his prayers to the True God could resurrect him from the dead. When the parents had searched out the saint and besought him to work the miracle, Saint Basil answered, that he himself – was a sinful man and had not the power to resuscitate the dead, but the Lord Almighty could fulfill their request if they were to believe in Him. For a long time the saint prayed, invoking the Name of the Holy Trinity. Then, having blessed water, he sprinkled it on the dead one, who then came alive. The saint returned to the city with honour, and many believed and were baptised.
Soon, by order of the emperor Maximian Galerius (305-311), the persecution against Christians spread with renewed force. The Christ-haters rose up also against Saint Basil: on 7 March 309 he was dragged at night from his house; they tied him up, dragged him along the streets and beat him to death with stones and canes. The body of the saint was thrown out of the city for devouring by dogs and birds, and for many days it was left unburied, but remained untouched. Then Christians secretly buried the body of the holy martyr in a cave.
A year later, having learned of the martyr's death of Saint Basil, three of his companions – Bishops Eugene (Eugenios), Elpidias and Agathodoros – left off their preaching in the Hellespontine region, and arrived at Chersonnesus to continue his holy work. They underwent many hardships for the salvation of human souls. All three bishops shared the fate of their predecessor – demon-driven pagans likewise stoned them on 7 March 311.
After the passing of several years, a time already during the reign of holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine the Great (306-337, Comm. 21 May), Bishop Etherias arrived in Chersonnesus from Jerusalem. At first he also encountered hostility on the part of the pagans, but the holy emperor in declaring freedom for the Christian faith would not tolerate acts of violence against the preacher: he issued a decree, by which it was declared that at Chersonnesus the Christians should be able to make Divine-services without hindrance. Through the efforts of Saint Etherias a church was built in the city, where the saint peacefully governed his flock.
To thank the emperor for protecting the Christians, Saint Etherias journeyed to Constantinople. On the return trip he fell ill and died on the island of Amos (in Greece) on 7 March.
In place of Saint Etherias, the holy emperor Constantine sent to Chersonnesus Bishop Kapiton. The Christians met him with joy, but the pagans demanded from the new bishop a sign, so as to believe in the God Whom he preached. Placing all his hope on the Lord, Saint Kapiton in clergy garb went into a red-hot bonfire, and for a long while he prayed in the fire and emerged from it unharmed, gathering up in his phelonion the red-hot coals. Many of the unbelievers were then persuaded in the power of the Christian God.
About this miracle and the great faith of Saint Kapiton, reports were made to Saint Constantine and the holy fathers of the First OEcumenical Council (325).
After several years Saint Kapiton journeyed on business to Constantinople, but the ship hit a storm at the mouth of the Dniepr River. The local people (pagans) seized hold of the ship and drowned all those on board, including Saint Kapiton. This however occurred on 21 December. The memory of the holy bishop of the Church was set in conjunction with the other Chersonnesus PriestMartyrs – 7 March.
The preaching of the priestmartyrs strengthened the faith in Christ in the Chersonnesus. From the beginning of the V Century this city became a spiritual centre, from which Christianity spread northwards towards Rus'. And all the more during the IX Century Chersonnesus exerted influence on the Russians, who had begun to settle in the city. Present-day archeological excavations have shown, that in the city were more than fifty churches, dating to the V-XIV Centuries. In the year 987 it was at Chersonnesus that holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Prince Vladimir accepted Baptism. This ancient city was a cradle of Christianity for Rus'.
Venerable Theophylactus, bishop of Nicomedia (845)
Commemorated on March 8/March 21
Saint Theophylaktos lived at Constantinople in the VIII Century during the time of the Iconoclast heresy. After the death of the iconoclast emperor Leo IV the Khazar (775-780), there entered upon the throne the emperor Constantine VI (780-797). There occurred also a change of Patriarchs: the holy Patriarch Paul (Comm. 30 August), not having the strength to continue guiding the flock afront the powerfully spread iconoclasm, voluntarily resigned the cathedra/chair (784). In his place was chosen Saint Tarasios (Comm. 25 February) – at that time an eminent imperial counselor. Under the supervision of the new Patriarch was convened the Seventh OEcumenical Council (787), condemning the Iconoclast heresy. For Orthodoxy a relatively peaceful time began. Monasteries again began to fill with residents.
Saint Theophylaktos, a gifted student of Saint Tarasios and with the blessing of this the Patriarch, settled together with Saint Michael (Comm. 23 May) in a monastery on the coast of the Black Sea. The zealous ascetics by their God-pleasing labours and intense efforts of prayer were granted by God the gift of wonderworking. By their prayers, during the time of an intense drought when the workers in the field were weakened by thirst, an empty vessel became filled with so much water, that it sufficed for the entire day.
After several years in the monastery they were both consecrated by Patriarch Tarasios to the dignity of bishop: Saint Michael was made bishop of Synada, and Saint Theophylaktos was made bishop of Nicomedia.
Heading the Church of Nicomedia, Saint Theophylaktos constantly concerned himself about the flock entrusted to him. He built churches, hospices, homes for wanderers, he generously distributed alms, was guardian for orphans, widows and the sick, and himself attended to those afflicted with leprosy, not hesitating to wash their wounds.
When the iconoclast Leo the Armenian (813-820) came upon the imperial throne, the terrible heresy burst forth with new strength.
But the iconoclast emperor was not able to sway the successor of the holy Patriarch Tarasios – Saint Nicephoros (806-815, Comm. 2 June), who together with the bishops vainly urged the ruler not to destroy churchly peace. Present at the negotiations of the emperor with the Patriarch was Saint Theophylaktos, denouncing the heretics, and he predicted a speedy perishing to Leo the Armenian. For his bold prophesy the saint was sent into exile to the fortress Strobil (in Asia Minor). He languished for thirty years until his end, which occurred in about the year 845.
After the restoration of icon-veneration in the year 847, under the empress Saint Theodora (842-855; + 867, Comm. 11 February) and her son Michael, the holy relics of Bishop Theophylaktos were transferred back to Nicomedia.
The Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste: Cyrion (or Quirio), Candidus, Domnus, Hesychius, Heraclius, Smaragdus, Eunoicus, Valens, Vivianus, Claudius, Priscus, Theodulus, Eutychius, John, Xanthias, Helianus, Sisinius, Angus, Aetius, Flavius, Acacius, Ecdicius, Lysimachus, Alexander, Elias, Gorgonius, Theophilus, Dometian, Gaius, Leontius, Athanasius, Cyril, Sacerdon, Nicholas, Valerius, Philoctimon, Severian, Chudion, Aglaius,and Meliton (320)
Commemorated on March 9/March 22
In the year 313 Saint Constantine the Great issued an edict, from which the christians were permitted freedom of belief and made equal with pagans under the law. But his co-ruler Licinius was prevailed upon by pagans, and in his part of the empire he decided to eradicate Christianity, which had become considerably widespread there. Licinius prepared his soldiery to fight against Constantine and, fearing mutiny, he decided to rid christians from his army.
One of the military-commanders of that time in the Armenian city of Sebasteia was Agricolaus, a zealous proponent of paganism. Under his command was a company of forty Cappadocians – brave soldiers – who emerged victorious from many a battle. All of them were christians. When these soldiers refused to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, Agricolaus locked them up in prison. The soldiers immersed themselves in diligent prayer, and at one point during the night they heard a voice: "Persevere until the end, then shalt ye be saved".
On the following morning the soldiers were again taken to Agricolaus. This time the pagan tried the method of flattery. He began to praise their valour, their youthfulness and strength; and again he urged them to renounce Christ and thereby win themselves the respect and favour of their emperor. And again hearing their refusal, Agricolaus gave orders to shackle the soldiers. But the eldest of them, Kyrion, said: "The emperor has not given thee the right to put shackles upon us". Agricolaus became embarrassed and gave an order to take the soldiers back to prison without shackles.
Seven days later, the reknown judge Licius arrived at Sebasteia and held trial over the soldiers. The saints steadfastly answered: "Take not only our military insignia, but also our lives, since nothing is more precious to us than Christ God". Licius thereupon ordered the holy martyrs to be beaten with stones. But the stones flew past them entirely; and the stone thrown by Licius, hit Agricolaus in the face. The torturers realised that the saints were guarded by some invisible force. In prison, the soldiers spent the night at prayer and again they heard the voice of the Lord comforting them: "Believing in Me, if anyone shalt die he shalt live. Be brave and fear not, since ye shall obtain crowns imperishable".
On the following day also the judge repeated the interrogation in front of the torturer, but the soldiers remained unyielding.
It was winter, and there was a strong frost. They lined up the holy soldiers, led them to a lake located not far from the city, and placed them under guard on the ice all night. In order to break the will of the martyrs, a warm bath-house was set up not far away on the shore. During the first hour of the night, when the cold had become unbearable, one of the soldiers could not hold out and made a dash for the bath-house, but barely had he stepped over the threshold, that he fell down dead. During the third hour of the night the Lord sent consolation to the martyrs: suddenly there was light, the ice melted away, and the water in the lake became warm. All the guards were asleep, except for one who kept watch by the name of Aglaios. Looking at the lake he saw, that over the head of each martyr there had appeared a radiant crown. Aglaios counted thirty-nine crowns and realised, that the soldier who fled had lost his crown. Aglaios thereupon woke up the other guards, discarded his uniform and said to them: "I too – am a Christian" – and he joined the martyrs. Standing in the water he prayed: "Lord God, I believe in Thee, in Whom these soldiers do believe. To them add me also, and esteem me worthy to suffer with Thy servants".
In the morning the torturers beheld with surprise that the martyrs were alive, and their guard Aglaios was glorifying Christ together with them. They then led the soldiers out of the water and broke their legs. At the time of this horrible execution the mother of the youngest of the soldiers, Meliton, pleaded with her son not to endure and suffer everything all the way to death. They put the bodies of the martyrs on a cart and committed them to fire. Young Meliton was still breathing, and they left him to lay on the ground. His mother then pulled up her son, and on her own shoulders she carried him behind the cart. When Meliton gasped out his last breath, his mother put him on the cart amidst the bodies of his fellow sufferers. The bodies of the saints were committed to fire, and they then threw the charred bones into the water, so that christians would not gather them up.
Three days later the martyrs appeared in a dream to Blessed Peter, bishop of Sebasteia, and commanded him to give their remains over to burial. The bishop together with several clergy gathered up the remains of the glorious martyrs by night and buried them with honour.
Martyrs Codratus (Quadratus) and with him: Cyprian, Dionysius, Anectus, Paul, Crescens, Dionysius (another), Victorinus, Victor, Nicephorus, Claudius, Diodorus, Serapion, Papias, Leonidas, Chariessa, Nunechia, Basilissa, Nice, Galla, Galina, Theodora, and others at Corinth (258)
Commemorated on March 10/March 23
The Holy Martyr Codratus and those with him: During a time of persecution against christians (in III Cent.) a certain pious woman by the name of Ruthyna fled from Corinth to a mountain, for safety from her pursuers. There she gave to a son Codratus, and soon after birth she died. By the Providence of God the infant remained alive and was nourished in miraculous manner: a cloud drew down over him, feeding him with sweet dew. The childhood and youthful years of Saint Codratus were spent in the wilderness. Having grown up, he chanced upon christians, who enlightened him with the light of the true faith. Codratus studied at grammar, and later learned the physician's art and attained great success at it. But most of all Codratus loved the wilderness solitude and he spent a great part of his time in the hills, given over to prayer and meditation upon God. Many years passed. In the wilderness frequently there came to the saint his friends and followers to hear his instruction. Among them were Cyprian, Dionysios, Anectus, Paul, Crescentus and many others.
By order of the persecutor of christians – the impious emperor Decius (249-251), the military commander Jason arrived at Corinth. Saint Codratus was arrested together with his comrades and thrown into prison. At the interrogations, Jason turned most frequently of all to Codratus as the eldest by age. The saint bravely defended his faith in Christ the Saviour. Then they began the torture. Saint Codratus, despite inhuman suffering, found in himself the strength to encourage others, urging them not to be terrified and to stand firmly for the faith. Not having gained renunciation from any of them, Jason gave orders to throw the martyrs for rending apart by wild beasts. But the beasts did not touch them. They tied the saints by their feet to chariots and dragged them through the city, and many of the crowd threw stones at them. Finally they condemned the martyrs to beheading by the sword. At the place of execution the martyrs requested for themselves a certain while for prayer, and then one after the other began to walk towards the executioner, bending their necks beneathe the upheld sword.
The remaining disciples of Saint Codratus likewise suffered for Christ: Dionysios (the other one) was stabbed in the night; Victorinus, Victor and Nicephoros were crushed alive in a large stone press; for Claudius they chopped off the hands and the feet; Diodoros was thrown into a bonfire prepared for him; Serapion was decapitated; Papias and Leonides they drowned in the sea. Imitating the menfolk, many holy women also went voluntarily to sufferings for Christ.
St. Sophronius, patriarch of Jerusalem (638)
Commemorated on March 11/March 24
Sainted Sophronios, Patriarch of Jerusalem, was born in Damascus. From his youthful years he distinguished himself by his piety and his love for the classical sciences. He advanced especially in philosophy, for which they were wont to call him the Wise. But the future hierarch sought out an higher wisdom in the monasteries, and in conversations with the wilderness-dwellers. He arrived in Jerusalem at the monastery of Saint Theodosios, and there he became close with the PriestMonk John Moskhos, becoming his spiritual son and devoting himself to him in obedience. They journeyed together through the monasteries, and they wrote down descriptions of the lives and precepts of the ascetics found there. From these jottings was afterwards compiled their reknown book, the "Leimonarion" or "Spiritual Meadow", which was highly esteemed at the Seventh OEcumenical Council.
To save themselves from the devastating incursions of the Persians, Saints John and Sophronios quit Palestine and withdrew to Antioch, and from there they went to Egypt. In Egypt Saint Sophronios became seriously ill. During this time he also decided to become a monk and so he accepted tonsure from the Monk John Moskhos. After the return to health of Saint Sophronios, they both decided to remain in Alexandria. There they were fondly received by the holy Patriarch John the Merciful (Comm. 12 November), to whom they rendered great aid in the struggle against the Monophysite heresy. At Alexandria Saint Sophronios' eyesight was afflicted, and he recoursed with prayer and faith to the holy UnMercenaries Cyrus and John (Comm. 31 January), and he received healing in a church named for them. In gratitude, Saint Sophronios then wrote the Vita of these holy unmercenaries.
When the barbarians began to threaten Alexandria, the holy Patriarch John, accompanied by Saints Sophronios and John Moskhos, set out for Constantinople, but along the way he died. Saints John Moskhos and Sophronios with eighteen other monks then set out for Rome. At Rome the Monk John Moskhos also died (+ 622). His body was conveyed by Saint Sophronios to Jerusalem and buried at the monastery of Saint Theodosios.
In the year 628 the Jerusalem patriarch Zacharias (609-633) returned from the Persian Captivity. After his death, the patriarchal throne was occupied for a space of two years by Saint Modestos (633-634, Comm. 18 December). After the death of Saint Modestos, Saint Sophronios was chosen patriarch. Sainted Sophronios toiled much for the welfare of the Jerusalem Church as its primate (634-644).
Towards the end of his life, Saint Sophronios with his flock lived through a two year siege of Jerusalem by the Mahometans. Worn down by hunger, the Christians finally consented to open the city gates, on the condition that the enemy spare the holy places. But this condition was not fulfilled, and holy Patriarch Sophronios died in deep grief over the desecration of the Christian holy places.
Written works by Patriarch Sophronios have come down to us in the area of dogmatics, and likewise his "Excursus on the Liturgy", the Vita of the Nun Mary of Egypt (Comm. 1 April), and also about 950 tropars and stikhi-verses from Pascha to the Ascension. While still a priestmonk, Saint Sophronios made review and corrections to the "ustav-rule" of the monastery of the Monk Sava the Sanctified (Comm. 5 December). And the "tri-odic song" of the saint for the Holy Forty Day Great Lent is included in the composition of the contemporary Lenten Triodion.
Venerable Symeon the New Theologian (1022) and his elder Symeon the Reverent of the Studium (987)
Commemorated on March 12/March 25
The Monk Simeon the New Theologian was born in the year 946 in the city of Galata (Paphlagonia), and he received the basic secular education at Constantinople. His father prepared him for a career at court, and for a certain while the youth occupied an high position at the imperial court. But at age 25 he felt the draw towards monastic life, and he fled his house and withdrew to the Studite monastery, where he entered into obedience under the then reknown elder Simeon the Reverent. The basic ascetic deed of the monk was the unceasing Jesus Prayer in its short form: "Lord, have mercy!" For greater prayerful concentration he constantly sought out solitude, and even at liturgy he stood separately from the brethren, and he often remained alone at night in the church; in order to accustom himself to mindfulness concerning death, he would spend nights in the graveyard. The fruit of his fervour was a special condition of ecstasy: in these moments the Holy Spirit in the form of a luminous cloud descended upon him and made oblivious to his sight everything surrounding. With time he attained to a constant high spiritual enlightened awareness, which was especially evident when he served the Liturgy.
In roughly the year 980 the Monk Simeon was made hegumen of the monastery of Saint Mamant and continued in this dignity for 25 years. He set in order the neglected management of the monastery and restored order to its church.
The Monk Simeon combined kindliness with strictness and steadfast observance of the Gospel commands. Thus, for example, when his favourite disciple Arsenios killed ravens which were pecking away at moist bread, the hegumen made him tie the dead birds to a rope, and wear this "necklace" on his neck and stand in the courtyard. In the monastery of Saint Mamant for the atoning of his sin was a certain bishop from Rome, unrepentingly having murdered his young nephew, and the Monk Simeon assiduously brought him around to good and spiritual attentiveness.
The strict monastic discipline, which the Monk Simeon constantly strove for, led to a strong dissatisfaction amongst the monastic brethren. One time after liturgy, the particularly irked among the brethren pounced on him and nearly killed him. When the Constantinople patriarch expelled them from the monastery and wanted to hand them over to the city authorities, the monk obtained pardon for them and aided them to live in the world.
In about the year 1005, the Monk Simeon handed over the hegumen position to Arsenios, while he himself settled nearby the monastery in peace. He composed there his theological works, fragments of which entered into the 5 volumed "Philokalia" ("Dobrotoliubie"). The chief theme of his works – is the hidden activity of a spiritual perfecting, with struggle against the passions and sinful thoughts. He wrote discursive instructions for monks, – "Practical Theological Chapters", "A Tract on Three Forms of Prayers", and "A Tract on Faith". Moreover, the Monk Simeon was an outstanding churchly poet. To him belong the "Hymns of Divine Love" – about 70 poems, filled with profound prayerful ponderings.
The teachings of the Monk Simeon about the new man, about the "divinisation of the flesh", with which he wanted to replace the teachings concerning the "mortification of the flesh" (for which also they termed him the New Theologian), – were difficult for his contemporaries to assimilate. Many of his teachings sounded for them unacceptable and strange. This led to conflict with Constantinople church authorities, and the Monk Simeon was subjected to banishment. He withdrew to the coasts of the Bosphorus and founded there a monastery of Saint Marina.
The saint reposed peacefully to God in the year 1021. While still during his life he received a gift of wonderworking. Numerous miracles occurred also after his death; one of them – was a miraculous discovery of his image. His Life (Vita) was written by his cell-attendant and disciple, the Monk Nikita Stethatos.
St. Gregory the Dialogist, pope of Rome (604)
Commemorated on March 12/March 25
Sainted Gregory Dialogus, Pope of Rome, was born in Rome in about the year 540. His grandfather was Pope Felix, and his mother Sylvia and aunts Tarsilla and Emiliana were likewise enumerated by the Roman Church to the rank of saints. Having received a most excellent secular education, he attained to high governmental positions. And leading a God-pleasing life, he yearned with all his soul for monasticism. After the death of his father, Saint Gregory used up all his inheritance on the establishing of six monasteries. At Rome he founded a monastery in the name of the holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called, and having exchanged his capacious chambers for a narrow cell, he accepted there monastic tonsure. Afterwards, on a commission entrusted to him by Pope Pelagius II, Saint Gregory lived for a long while in Byzantium. And there he wrote his "Exposition on the Book of Job". After the demise of Pope Pelagius, Saint Gregory was chosen to the Roman cathedra-see. But reckoning himself unworthy, over the course of seven months he would not consent to accept so responsible a service, and having acceded only through the entreaties of the clergy and flock, he finally accepted the consecration.
Wisely leading the Church, Sainted Gregory worked tirelessly at propagating the Word of God. Saint Gregory compiled in the Latin language the rite of the "Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts", which before him was known of only in the verbal tradition. Affirmed by the Sixth OEcumenical Council, this liturgical rite was accepted by all the Orthodox Church.
He zealously struggled against the Donatist heresy; he likewise converted to the True Faith the inhabitants of Brittany – pagans and Goths, adhering to the Arian heresy.
Saint Gregory left after him numerous works of writing. And after the appearance of his book, "Dialogues concerning the Life and Miracles of the Italian Fathers" ("Dialogi de vita et miraculis patrum Italiorum"), the saint became called "Dialogus", i.e. "teaching by dialogue conversations". Particular reknown was enjoyed by his "Pastoral Rule" (or "Concerning Pastoral Service" – "Liber regulae pastoralis"). In this work Saint Gregory describes from every side the model of the true pastor. There have likewise reached us his letters (848), comprised of moral guidances.
Sainted Gregory headed the Church over the course of 13 years, concerning himself over all the needs of his flock. He was characterised by an extraordinary love of poverty, for which he was vouchsafed a vision of the Lord Himself.
Pope Saint Gregory I the Great, as he is otherwise known, died in the year 604, and his relics rest in the cathedral of the holy Apostle Peter in the Vatican.
Translation of the relics (846) of St. Nicephorus the Confessor, patriarch of Constantinople (829)
Commemorated on March 13/March 26
Sainted Nicephoros was a dignitary at the court of the empress Irene (797-802), and then accepting monasticism, he became known for his piety. In the year 806 he was elevated to the patriarchal throne. The saint was a zealous defender of Icon-Veneration. When the Iconoclast emperor Leo the Armenian (813-820) came to rule, the saint in 815 was exiled to the Island of Prokonnis, where he died in the year 828.
In the year 846 the holy relics of Patriarch Nicephoros were opened, undecayed and fragrant. They transferred them from Prokonnis to Constantinople and placed them for one day in the church of Saint Sophia, and then they transferred them to the church of the Holy Apostles. The hands of the saint are preserved in the Khilendaria monastery on Mount Athos.
The saint left behind three writings, directed against Iconoclasm. The memory of Saint Nicephoros is celebrated also on 2 June.
Venerable Benedict of Nursia, abbot (543)
Commemorated on March 14/March 27
The Monk Benedict, founder of the western monastic order of the Benedictines, was born in the Italian city of Nursia in the year 480. At 14 years of age the saint was sent off by his parents for studies at Rome, but vexed at the immorality there surrounding him, he decided to devote himself to a different sort of life. At first Saint Benedict settled near the church of the holy Apostle Peter in the village of Effedum, but news about his ascetic life compelled him to go farther into the mountains. There he encountered the hermit Romanus, who tonsured him into monasticism and directed him to a remote cave for a domicile. From time to time the hermit would bring the saint food. For three years in total solitude the saint waged an harsh struggle with temptations and conquered them. People soon began to gather to him, thirsting to live under his guidance. The number of disciples grew so much, that the saint divided them into twelve communities. Each community was comprised of twelve monks and was a separate skete-monastery. And to each skete the saint gave an hegumen-abbot from among his experienced disciples.
With the Monk Benedict remained only the new-made monks for instruction.
The strict monastic-rule, established by Saint Benedict for the monks, was not taken to heart by everyone, and the monk more than once became the victim of abuse and vexation.
Finally he settled in Campagna and on Mount Cassino he founded the Monte Cassino monastery, which for a long time was a centre of theological education for the Western Church. At the monastery was created a remarkable library. And at this monastery the Monk Benedict wrote his ustav-rule, based on the experience of life of the Eastern wilderness-dwellers and the precepts of the Monk John Cassian the Roman (Comm. 29 February). The monastic-rule was accepted afterwards by many of the Western monasteries (by the year 1595 it had come out in more than 100 editions). The rule prescribed for monks an absolute renunciation of personal possessions, unconditional obedience and constant work. It was considered the duty of older monks to teach children and to copy out ancient manuscripts. This helped to preserve many memorable writings, belonging to the first centuries of Christianity. Every new postulant was required to live as a novice-obedient over the course of a year, to learn the monastic rule and to become acclimated to monastic life. Every deed required a blessing. The head of this common-life monastery is the hegumen-abbot, having all the fulness of power. He discerns, teaches and explains. The hegumen solicits the advice of the elders and the experienced brethren, but he personally makes the decision. The fulfilling of the monastic-rule is strictly binding for everyone and is regarded as an important step, nigh to perfection.
Saint Benedict was vouchsafed of the Lord the gift of foresight and wonderworking. He healed many by his prayers. The monk foretold his end beforehand.
The sister of Saint Benedict, Saint Scholastica, likewise became famed for her strict ascetic life and was ennumerated to the ranks of the Saints.
Martyrs Agapius, Publius (Pauplios), Timolaus, Romulus, two named Dionysius, and two named Alexander, at Caesarea in Palestine (303)
Commemorated on March 15/March 28
The Holy Martyrs Agapios, Puplios, Timolaus, Romilos, Alexander, Alexander, Dionysios and Dionysios suffered under the emperor Diocletian (284-305) in the city of Palestinian Caesarea. At the time of one of the pagan feasts they began to torture and execute Christians who refused to offer sacrifice to idols. At this time the Martyr Timotheos (Comm. 19 August) was sentenced to burning, and the Martyrs Agapios and Thekla (Comm. 19 August) were sentenced to tearing apart by wild beasts. The group of young Christians – Puplios, Timolaus, Alexander, another Alexander, Dionysios, and the subdeacon of the Diaspolis church Romilos – decided publicly to confess their faith and suffer for Christ. As a sign of their voluntary deed they tied themselves together by the feet and appeared before the governor Urban. Seeing their youthfulness, the governor tried to persuade them to refrain from their decision, but in vain. He then threw them in prison, where there were already two Christians – Agapios, undergoing tortures for faith in Christ, and his servant Dionysios. All these saints were subjected to terrible tortures and beheaded.
Apostle Aristobulus of the Seventy, bishop of Britain (1st c.)
Commemorated on March 16/March 29
The Holy Disciple from among the 70 – Aristoboulus, Bishop of Britanium (Britain), was born on Cyprus. Together with his brother, the holy Disciple from among the 70 – Barnabus, he accompanied the holy Apostle Paul on his journeys. Saint Aristoboulus is mentioned by the Apostle Paul in the Epistle to the Romans (Rom 16: 10). The Apostle Paul made Saint Aristoboulus a bishop and sent him to preach the Gospel in Britanium, where he converted many to Christ, for which he suffered persecution by the pagans. Saint Aristoboulus died in Britain. His memory is on 31 October and on 4 January also amidst the Sobor / Assemblage of the 70 Disciples.
Martyr Sabinas of Hermopolis, Egypt (303)
Commemorated on March 16/March 29
The Holy Martyr Sabinus was governor of the Egyptian city of Hermopolis. During the time of persecution against christians under the emperor Diocletian (284-305), Saint Sabinus hid himself away with like-minded companions in a remote village. But his dwelling-place was revealed for two gold coins given to a certain ungrateful beggar, whom the saint had constantly fed and helped with money. Together with six other christians, Sabinus was seized, and after torture they were all drowned in the Nile (+ 287).
Venerable Alexis the Man of God, in Rome (411)
Commemorated on March 17/March 30
The Monk Alexis was born at Rome into the family of the pious and poverty-loving Eufimian and Aglaida. The spouses were for a long time childless and constantly prayed the Lord for granting them a child. And the Lord consoled the couple with the birth of their son Alexis. At six years of age the lad began to read and successfully studied the mundane sciences, but it was with particular diligence that he read Holy Scripture. Having grown into a young man, he began to imitate his parents: he fasted strictly, distributed alms and beneathe fine clothing he secretly wore an hair-shirt. Early on there burned within him the desire to leave the world and serve the One God. But his parents had prepared for Alexis to marry, and when he attained mature age, they found him a bride.
After the betrothal, having been left alone of an evening with his betrothed, Alexis took a ring from his finger, gave it to her and said: "Keep this, and may the Lord be with us, by His grace providing us new life". And going himself secretly from his home, he got on a ship sailing for Mesopotamia.
Having come to the city of Edessa, – where the Image of the Lord "Not-made-by-Hand" was preserved, Alexis sold everything that he had, distributed the money to the poor and began to live nearby the church of the MostHoly Mother of God under a portico and survived on alms. The monk ate only bread and water, and the alms that he received he distributed to the aged and infirm. Each Sunday he communed the Holy Mysteries.
The parents sought everywhere for the missing Alexis, but without success. The servants, sent by Eufimian upon the search, arrived also in Edessa, but they did not recognise in the beggar sitting at the portico, – their master. His body was withered by strict fasting, his comeliness vanished, his stature diminished. The saint recognised them and gave thanks to the Lord that he received alms from his servants.
The unconsolable mother of Saint Alexis confined herself in her room, incessantly praying for her son. And his wife grieved together with her in-laws.
The monk dwelt in Edessa for seventeen years. One time it was revealed about him to the sexton of the church, at which the monk asceticised: the Mother of God through Her holy icon commanded: "Lead into My church that man of God, worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven; his prayer doth ascend to God, like unto fragrant incense, and the Holy Spirit doth rest upon him". The sexton began to search for such a man, but for a long while was not able to find him. Then with prayer he turned to the MostHoly Mother of God, beseeching Her to clear up his confusion. And again there was a voice from the icon proclaiming, that the man of God was that beggar, who sat in the church portico. The sexton found Saint Alexis and took him into the church. Many recognised and began to praise him. The saint, shunning fame, went secretly on a ship, journeying to Cilicia. But the Fore-Knowledge of God destined otherwise: a storm took the ship far off to the West and it arrived at the coast of Italy. The saint journeyed to Rome. Unrecognised, he humbly besought of his father permission to settle in some corner of his courtyard. Eufimian settled Alexis in a specially constructed lodging near the entrance of the house and gave orders to feed him from his table.
Living at his parental home, the saint continued to fast and he spent day and night at prayer. He humbly endured the insults and jeering from the servants of his father. The room of Alexis was situated opposite the windows of his betrothed, and the ascetic suffered grievously, hearing her weeping. Only immeasurable love for God helped the saint endure this torment. Saint Alexis dwelt at the house of his parents for seventeen years and was informed by the Lord about the day of his death. Then the saint, taking parchment, wrote about his life, asking the forgiveness of his parents and betrothed.
On the day of the death of saint Alexis, the Roman Pope Innocentius (402-417) was serving Liturgy in the presence of the emperor Honorius (395-423). During the time of services there was heard from the altar a miraculous Voice: "Come unto Me, all ye who labour and art heavy-burdened, and I wilt grant you respite" (Mt 11: 28). All those present fell to the ground in trembling. The Voice continued: "Find the man of God, departing unto life eternal, and have him pray for the city". They began to search through all of Rome, but they did not find the saint. From Thursday into Friday the Pope, making the all-night vigil, besought the Lord to point out the saint of God. After Liturgy again was heard the Voice in the temple: "Seek the man of God in the house of Eufimian". All hastened thither, but the saint was already dead. His face shown like the face of an Angel, and in his hand was clasped the parchment, which he did not let go of, nor were they able to take it. They placed the body of the saint on a cot, covered with costly coverings. The Pope and the emperor bent their knees and turned to the saint, as to one yet alive, asking to open up his hand. And the saint fulfilled their prayer. When the letter was read, the father and mother and betrothed of the righteous one tearfully venerated his holy remains.
The body of the saint, from which began to be worked healings, was put amidst the square. The emperor and the Pope themselves carried the body of the saint into the church, where it was situated for a whole week, and then was placed in a marble crypt. From the holy relics there began to flow fragrant myrh, bestowing healing unto the sick.
The venerable remains of Saint Alexis, man of God, were buried in the church of Saint Boniface. In the year 1216 the relics were opened.
St. Cyril, archbishop of Jerusalem (386)
Commemorated on March 18/March 31
Saint Cyril, Archbishop of Jerusalem, was born in Jerusalem in the year 315 and was raised in strict Christian piety. Having reached the age of maturity, he became a monk, and in the year 346 he became a presbyter. In the year 350, upon the death of archbishop Maximos, he succeeded him upon the Jerusalem cathedra-seat.
In the dignity of Patriarch of Jerusalem, Saint Cyril zealously fought against the heresies of Arius and Macedonias. In doing so, he brought upon himself the animosity of the Arianising bishops, who sought to have him deposed and banished from Jerusalem.
In the year 351 at Jerusalem, on the feastday of Pentecost at the 3rd hour of the day, there occurred a miraculous portent: the Holy Cross appeared in the heavens, shining with a radiant light. It stretched forth from Golgotha over the Mount of Olives. Saint Cyril reported about this portent to the Arian emperor Constantius (351-363), hoping to convert him to Orthodoxy.
The heretic Akakios – deposed by the Council of Sardica, was formerly the metropolitan of Caesarea, and in collaboration with the emperor he resolved to have Saint Cyril removed. An intense famine struck Jerusalem, and Saint Cyril went through all his own wealth on acts of charity. But since the famine did not abate, the saint began to pawn off church items, buying on the money in exchange wheat for the starving. The enemies of the saint mongered about a scandalous rumour, that they had apparently seen a woman in the city dancing around in clergy garb. And taking advantage of this rumour, the heretics by force threw out the saint.
The saint found shelter with bishop Siluan in Tarsus. After this, a Local Council gathered at Seleucia, at which there were about 150 bishops, and among them Saint Cyril. The heretical metropolitan Akakios did not want to allow him to take a seat, but the Council would not consent to this. Akakios thereupon quit the Council and in front of the emperor and the Arian patriarch Eudoxios he denounced both the Council and Saint Cyril. The emperor had the saint imprisoned.
When the emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363) ascended the throne, seemingly out of piety he repealed all the decrees of Constantius, directed against the Orthodox. Saint Cyril returned to his own flock. But after a certain while, when Julian had become secure upon the throne, he openly apostacised and renounced Christ. He permitted the Jews to start rebuilding the Jerusalem Temple that had been destroyed by the Romans, and he even provided them a portion of the means for the building from state monies. Saint Cyril predicted, that the words of the Saviour about the destruction of the Temple down to its very stones (Lk. 21: 6) would undoubtedly transpire, and the blasphemous intent of Julian would come to naught. And thus one time there occurred such a powerful earthquake, that even the solidly set foundation of the ancient Solomon Temple shifted in its place, and what had been erected anew fell down and shattered in dust. When the Jews nevertheless started construction anew, a fire came down from the heavens and destroyed the tools of the workmen. Great terror seized everyone. And on the following night there appeared on the garb of the Jews the Sign of the Cross, which they by no means could extirpate.
After this Heavenly confirmation of the prediction of Saint Cyril, they banished him again, and the cathedra-seat was occupied by Saint Kyriakos. But Saint Kyriakos soon suffered a martyr's death (+ 363, Comm. 28 October).
After the emperor Julian perished in 363, Saint Cyril returned to his cathedra-seat, but during the reign of the emperor Valens (364-378) he was sent into exile for a third time. It was only under the holy emperor Saint Theodosius the Great (379-395) that he finally returned to his archpastoral activity. In the year 381 Saint Cyril participated in the Second OEcumenical Council, which condemned the heresy of Macedonias and affirmed the Nicea-Constantinople Credal-Symbol of Faith.
Of the works of Saint Cyril, particularly known are 23 Instructions (18 are Catechetical for those preparing to accept Holy Baptism, and 5 are for the newly-baptised) and 2 Discourses on Gospel themes: "About the Paralytic" and "Concerning the Transformation of Water into Wine at Cana".
At the basis of the Catechetical Instructions is a detailed explanation of the Symbol of Faith. The saint suggests that the Christian should inscribe the Symbol of Faith upon "the tablets of the heart". "The articles of the faith, – teaches Saint Cyril, – were compiled not through human cleverness, but has therein gathered everything most important from all the entire Scripture, and as such it is compiled into a single teaching of faith. Just as the mustard seed within its small kernel has within it contained all its plethora of branches, thus precisely also does the faith in its several declarations combine all the pious teachings of the Old and the New Testaments".
Saint Cyril died in the year 386.