The New Hieromartyr Benjamin (Kazansky) was appointed Metropolitan of Petrograd in the summer of 1917. During those tumultuous times, he was one of the few people in Russia with no interest in politics. He was more concerned with caring for his diocese and his flock.
In 1922, the Communists began confiscating Church treasures. They professed that they wanted to sell them in order to buy food for the starving population. When the people protested, there were bloody reprisals. Metropolitan Benjamin did not resist turning over the Church's valuables, for he believed it was his duty to help save people's lives. He wanted this sacrifice to be voluntary, however, and not a plundering of church property by the government.
On March 6, 1922 Metropolitan Benjamin met with a commission which had been formed to help the starving. They agreed to his request that the dispersal of funds from voluntary contributions should be controlled by the parishes. Newspapers of that time praised the Metropolitan and his clergy for their charitable spirit.
Party leaders in Moscow did not approve of the decision made by the Communists of Petrograd allowing voluntary contributions to be administered by the parishes, and declared that the confiscation of Church property would continue. Protesters gathered in Petrograd, shouting and throwing stones at those who were stealing from the churches.
On March 24, 1922 "Pravda" printed a letter from twelve priests who broke ranks with the other clergy, referring to them as "counter-revolutionaries" and blaming them for the famine. Most of these twelve would later be active in the "Living Church." They called for unconditional surrender of all Church valuables to the Soviets.
The clergy of Petrograd were outraged by the letter from the twelve. Metropolitan Benjamin, hoping to avoid confrontations between the people and the Communists, tried to calm his priests. He also asked for a meeting with the authorities. Vvedensky and Boyarsky, two of the twelve, were delegated to talk with Soviet leaders, and came to an agreement. Parishes would be permitted to keep their sacred vessels if they substituted other property of equal value. This program seemed to work well for a time.
Vvedensky, Boyarsky, and others tried to wrest control of the Church from Patriarch Tikhon and the bishops. They informed Metropolitan Benjamin of the new state of affairs, declaring that Vvedensky had been appointed as the Petrograd representative of the new Church administration.
The Metropolitan could not accept this threat to Church order, so he proclaimed that Vvedensky would be regarded as being outside the Church until he repented of his error. This decree was published in the newspapers, and served to enrage the Soviets.
Vvedensky and the Petrograd commandant Bakaev went to see the Metropolitan and ordered him to rescind his decree. If he did not, they told him, he and others close to him would be placed on trial. They warned Metropolitan Benjamin that he and others would be put to death if he made the wrong choice. He refused to submit.
The courageous archpastor began meeting with his friends in order to say farewell. He also gave instructions for the administration of the diocese. A few days later, the Metropolitan was placed under house arrest. Not long after that, he was taken to prison.
As his trial began, the Metropolitan entered the courtroom with Bishop Benedict and other clergy. When everyone stood up for him, Metropolitan Benjamin blessed them. The judges tried to get the Metropolitan to renounce the idea of the parishes voluntarily contributing church valuables in order to feed the hungry, or to provide the names of those who had conceived this idea. It would suit their purposes very well if he could be made to "repent" or back away from his previous statements and submit to the authorities.
The other clergy and civilians on trial with Metropolitan Benjamin did not try to ingratiate themselves with the court, and did not accuse others in order to win leniency for themselves. The trial lasted for two weeks, and the prosecutors presented witnesses who had been hired to bring false accusations against the defendants.
Many witnesses were called, and their testimony seemed to support Metropolitan Benjamin and to weaken the government's case against him. A certain professor of the Technological Institute named Egorov angered the court by his testimony. He was accused of being a follower of the Metropolitan, so he was arrested on the spot.
In spite of all the evidence, the defendants were found guilty. Government supporters and members of the Red Army in the court broke into applause. The defense attorney addressed the court, saying that he knew that any pleas he might offer would be useless. "Political considerations come first with you, and all verdicts must favor your policy," he declared. Even though everyone understood that the trial was a farce, the Soviet government could not afford to make a martyr out of Metropolitan Benjamin. The example of history, he pointed out, should warn them against such a course.
When the defense attorney had finished, there was loud clapping. The judges tried to restore order, but found that many Communists in the audience had also joined in the applause.
The defendants were given a chance to speak, and the Metropolitan stood to address the court. He said it grieved him to be called an enemy of the people, for he had always loved the people and dedicated his life to them. The rest of his comments were a defense of the others on trial with him. When the presiding judge asked him to say something about himself, he said that no matter what sentence the court decreed he would thank God by saying, "Glory to Thee, O Lord, glory to Thee for all things."
At 9:00 P.M. on July 5, the chairman of the tribunal announced that ten defendants, including the Metropolitan, were to be shot.
St Benjamin and those with him (Archimandrite Sergius, George and John of Petrograd) were executed on July 31, 1922. They had been shaved and dressed in rags so that the firing squad would not know that they were shooting members of the clergy. SOURCE:
Commemorated on July 30
The Holy Apostles of the Seventy Silas, Silvanus, Crescens, Epenetus and Andronicus were disciples of the Savior.
St Silas was a respected figure in the original Church at Jerusalem, one of the "chief men among the brethren" (Acts 15:22). The Council of the Apostles was convened at Jerusalem in the year 51 to deal with the question of whether Gentile Christian converts should be required to observe the Mosaic Law. The Apostles sent a message with Paul and Barnabas to the Christians of Antioch, giving the decision of the Council that Christians of Gentile origin did not have to observe the prescriptions of the Mosaic Law. Nonetheless, they were told that they must refrain from partaking of foods offered to idols, from things strangled and from blood, to refrain from fornication (Acts 15:20-29). Together with Sts Paul and Barnabas, the Council of the Apostles sent Sts Silas and Jude to explain the message in greater detail, since they both were filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit. St Jude was later sent back to Jerusalem, but St Silas remained at Antioch and zealously assisted St Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, on his missionary journeys preaching the Gospel. They visited Syria, Cilicia, Macedonia.
In the city of Philippi they were accused of inciting unrest among the people, and for this they were arrested, beaten with rods, and then thrown into prison. At midnight, when the saints were at prayer, suddenly there was a strong earthquake, their chains fell off from them and the doors of the prison opened. The prison guard, supposing that the prisoners had fled, wanted to kill himself, but was stopped by the Apostle Paul. Then, he fell down trembling at the feet of the saints, and with faith accepted their preaching about Christ. He then led them out of the prison and took them to his own home, where he washed their wounds, and was baptized together with all his household.
From Philippi Sts Paul and Silas proceeded on to the cities of Amphipolis, Apollonia and Thessalonica. In each city they made new converts to Christ and built up the Church.
At Corinth the holy Apostle Silas was consecrated as bishop, and worked many miracles and signs, and there he finished his life.
The Holy Apostle Silvanus preached the Word of God together with the chief Apostles Peter and Paul. In his First Epistle, the holy Apostle Peter makes mention of him: "By Silvanus, a faithful brother to you, as I suppose, I have written briefly..." (1 Peter 5:12). St Silvanus was made bishop at Thessalonica and died there a martyr, having undergone many sorrows and misfortunes for the Lord's sake.
The Holy Apostle Crescens is mentioned by the holy Apostle Paul (2 Tim. 4:10), saying that Crescens had gone preaching to Galatia. He was made bishop there, and afterwards he preached the Word of God in Gaul (modern-day France). In the city of Vienna (modern Austria) the holy Apostle Crescens established his student Zacharias as bishop. Having returned to Galatia, he died as a martyr under the emperor Trajan (98-117).
The Holy Apostle Epenetus was made bishop at Carthage. In his Epistle to the Romans, the holy Apostle Paul writes: "Greet my dear Epenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ" (Rom. 16:5).
The Apostle Andronicus is mentioned by St Paul: "Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, ... who are of note among the Apostles, who also were in Christ, before me" (Rom. 16:7). The holy Apostle Andronicus was bishop in Pannonia (modern-day Hungary).
Sts Andronicus and Junia are also commemorated on May 17. Troparion - Tone 3
O holy apostle,
Entreat the merciful God,
To grant our souls forgiveness of transgressions.
Kontakion - Tone 4
You were disciples of the Lord, O Silas and Silvanus:
Two vines in His vineyard, yielding a fruitful harvest.
You poured out for us the wine of salvation that makes glad the hearts of the faithful,
And brings them to celebrate your worthy memory.
Obtain for us the remission of our sins and transgressions!
The Holy martyr Theodota and her three young children lived during the reign of the emperor Diocletian (284-305). She was a Christian, a native of the city of Nicea, Bithynia. After being widowed, St Theodota led a pious life and raised her sons in the Christian Faith. She had a spiritual friendship with St Anastasia (December 22).
When the persecution against Christians began, they arrested the holy women. At the trial, the dignitary Leucadius was captivated by the beautiful Theodota and he decided to take her home with him, intending to marry her. Finding herself in the home of Leucadius with her children, St Theodota kept herself in purity, yielding neither to inducements nor charms, nor threats by the pagan.
Angered at the steadfastness of the saint, Leucadius sent her and her children to Bithynia, to the district governor Nicetas. At the interrogation, when the judge began to threaten her with torture, St Theodota's eldest son Evodus said that Christians do not fear tortures, but rather fear being forsaken by God. They cruelly beat the boy before the eyes of his mother, so that his blood began to flow. St Theodota prayed that the Lord would strengthen her son in his sufferings, and rejoiced in that he was being given a martyr's death for the sake of truth.
They gave St Theodota over to be defiled, but the Lord preserved her. An angel of the Lord held back everyone who tried to approach the saint. Imputing this miracle to sorcery, the judge sentenced the saint and her children to death by fire.
The memory of the holy Martyrs Theodota, the child Evodus and her other two small sons is celebrated also on December 22, together with the memory of St Anastasia the Deliverer from Potions.
Troparion - Tone 4
Your lamb Theodota, O Jesus,
Calls out to You in a loud voice:
I love You, O my bridegroom,
And in seeking You, I endure suffering.
In Baptism I was crucified so that I might reign in You,
And died so that I might live with You.
Accept me as a pure sacrifice,
For I have offered myself in love.
By her prayers save our souls, since You are merciful.
Saint Pitirim, Bishop of Tambov, in the world Procopius, was born 27 February 1645 (or 1644) in the city of Vyazma. From his youth, the Lord prepared Procopius for high spiritual service. While still a child, he learned reading and writing, attended church services, and acquired the habit of prayer. Procopius loved to read the writings of the holy Fathers and the Lives of the Saints. This furthered the future hierarch's spiritual growth. The boy was remarkable for his overall love of work, broad knowledge and mature judgment. He was endowed with artistic talent, and he successfully occupied himself with the painting of icons and church singing. A sublime spiritual disposition led Procopius onto the pathway of monastic life. Having resolved to dedicate himself completely to God, he entered into the Vyazma's monastery of St John the Baptist, known for its strict rule. When he was twenty-one, he was tonsured with the name of Pitirim.
The young monk earned the respect of his brethren by his ascetic life, and was chosen igumen. In 1684 he was raised to the dignity of archimandrite. St Pitirim, following the decree of the Tsar and the Patriarch, was diligent in removing "poorly executed," westernized icons from churches, and from private use. During a procession he confiscated such an icon painted by an unskilled iconographer. Those who had brought the icon grumbled and cursed, and many people were stirred up against the saint. The affair became known to Patriarch Joachim, who praised the courage and zeal of Archimandrite Pitirim and approved of his actions, and summoned him to Moscow for higher service to the Church.
On September 1, 1684 St Pitirim was nominated to be a bishop, and on February 15, 1685 Patriarch Joachim consecrated him Bishop of Tambov. St Pitirim did not leave immediately, but remained in Moscow for a year to prepare himself for his new responsibilities.
organized in 1682, the Tambov diocese suffered from the frontier poverty and the illiteracy of its inhabitants. Pagans comprised the greater part of the settlers: the Mordovians, the Cheremysi, the Mereschi. On the territory of the diocese lived also many Moslem Tatars, bitter opponents of Christianity. Among the Christian settlers of the diocese were many schismatics, fugitives from justice, or banished criminals.
The saint zealously devoted himself to the tasks set before him. On the site of the old wooden church at Tambov he began to build a two-story stone cathedral in honor of the Transfiguration of the Lord with a chapel named for St Nicholas. St Pitirim not only supervised the construction of the temple, but even participated in the building work himself. The saint devoted great effort to the spiritual enlightenment of his flock. He built a special school for clergy, where worthy Church pastors were trained under his guidance. In his home the saint had collected a library of spiritual literature (in the inventory of the Moscow's Dormition cathedral there are mentioned "two books of Dionysius the Areopagite, leather bound, one in red, the other in black, with gilt edges," belonging to St Pitirim). The saint continually instructed his flock, preaching the Word of God. He often made trips throughout the diocese, in order to familiarize himself with the needs of the communities.
The holy archpastor was constantly concerned with the return of schismatics and dissenters to the Orthodox Church. His deep piety, active compassion towards neighbor, and wise patience in conversations with the schismatics and dissenters disposed them to trust his word. By the fine example of his holy life and by the power of grace-filled discourse, the saint led many to the true Faith. The saint's sister, Katherine, became the first abbess of the Ascension women's monastery, which he founded in 1690.
Being a bold man of prayer and intercessor before God, St Pitirim never lost his Christian humility. Not relying on his own human strength, the archpastor shielded the city of Tambov entrusted him by God with icons of the Savior and the Kazan Mother of God, placing them at the two chief gates.
St Pitirim prayed much and taught his flock about prayer. He was present at divine services every day and often served them himself. On those days when the saint did not serve, he sang in the kliros (choir), teaching the choir proper church singing and reading. In his cell the saint very often prayed before icons of the Devpeteruv Mother of God (February 29) and St Nicholas.
St Pitirim loved the beauty of nature in his land, which roused in him a feeling of prayerful thanksgiving to the All-Holy Trinity for the visible world. In the forest, near the place where he went for solitary prayer, he built the Tregulaev monastery of St John the Baptist. He founded it together with his spiritual friend, St Metrophanes of Voronezh (November 23 and August 7). There the saint set up a large wooden cross with an image of the Savior.
Like the great ascetics, St Pitirim allotted much time to physical work. The wells he dug with his own hands at the Tregulaev Monastery of St John the Baptist, near the Tambov Cathedral, and in the forest thicket where he withdrew for silence and prayer, are evidence of this.
St Pitirim died in 1698 at age fifty-three. The body of the saint was buried in the lower level of the Tambov Savior-Transfiguration cathedral, at the south wall of the right side chapel dedicated to St Nicholas.
The death of St Pitirim did not dissolve his spiritual ties with his flock. People came to his tomb to seek his intercession, and soon obtained healing from God. With each year the number of pilgrims grew. On July 28, the anniversary of the saint's blessed repose, they would attend services at the Tambov cathedral. Each new sign of God's mercy, obtained by prayers to St Pitirim, inspired assurance for the people that the bishop they venerated was truly a man of God. From the year 1819 a record of miracles and personal testimonies began to be kept, and the veneration of St Pitirim extended far beyond the Tambov diocese. On July 28, 1914 the holy wonderworker Pitirim, Bishop of Tambov, was numbered among the saints. SOURCE:
Saints Clement, Bishop of Ochrid, Equal of the Apostles, Naum, Sava, Gorazd and Angelar were Slavs, disciples of Sts Cyril and Methodius (May 11). At first they lived as ascetics in Moravia, where St Gorazd succeded St Methodius as bishop. He was fluent in Slavonic, Greek and Latin. Sts Clement, Naum, Angelar and Sava were priests.
The Enlighteners of the Slavs were opposed by German missionaries, who had the support of the Pope and the patronage of the Moravian prince Svyatopolk. The struggle centered around the questions of the need for divine services in Slavonic, the Filioque and Saturday fasting. Pope Stephen VI prohibited the use of Slavonic in church.
Saint Nahum Saint Clement
The proponents of the three-tongued heresy (who wanted to use only Hebrew, Greek, or Latin for Church purposes), after setting aside the ancestral language of the Slavic peoples, brought the disciples of St Methodius to trial, including St Clement. They subjected them to fierce torture: dragging them through thorns, and holding them in prison for a long time, just as they had done with their spiritual Father, St Methodius.
In 886, some of the prisoners were sold to slave-traders, and ended up in the Venice marketplace. The ambassador of the Byzantine Emperor Basil the Macedonian went to Venice, ransomed the saints and brought them to Constantinople. The older confessors were banished. It is not known where St Gorazd went, nor where St Sava found shelter. Naum and Angelar went to Bulgaria.
In 907 Moravia collapsed under the onslaught of the Magyars, and Moravian refugees escaped along those same paths followed earlier by the saints they had exiled.
The Bulgarians received the Slavonic confessors with respect and requested them to conduct divine services in the Slavonic language. The Bulgarian prince Boris sought out such people as the disciples of St Methodius, who labored for the enlightenment of his nation. The saints immediately began to study Slavonic books collected by the Bulgarian nobles.
St Angelar soon died, and St Clement received the appointment to teach at Kutmichivitsa, a region in southwest Macedonia. In the Eastern Church a worthy man was chosen to be a teacher, someone known for his devout life, and possessed with a gift of words. St Clement was a teacher while he was still in Moravia. In Bulgaria, St Clement worked as an instructor until 893. He organized a school at the princely court, which attained high esteem during the reign of Simeon. In southwest Macedonia he created separate schools for adults and for children.
St Clement instructed the children in reading and in writing. The total number of his students was enormous. Those chosen and accepted for the clergy amounted to 3500 men. In the year 893, St Clement became Bishop of Dremvitsa, or Velitsa, and St Naum took his place.
St Clement was the first Bulgarian hierarch to serve, preach and write in the Slavonic language. To this end he systematically prepared clergy from among the Slavic people. The holy bishop labored for the glory of God into his old age. When his strength failed, and he was unable to fulfill his responsibilities in the cathedral, he asked Tsar Simeon to let him retire.
The Tsar urged the saint not to forsake the cathedral, and St Clement agreed to continue his episcopal service. After this he went to Ochrid, to a monastery he founded. There the saint continued with his translation activities and translated important parts of the PENTEKOSTARION.
Soon the saint became seriously ill and departed to the Lord in the year 916. The saint's body was placed in a coffin he made with his own hands, and was buried in Ochrid's St Panteleimon monastery.
St Clement is considered the first Slavonic author. He not only continued the translation work begun by Sts Cyril and Methodius, but also left behind works of his own composition, the first samples of Slavonic spiritual literature.
Many of the lessons and sermons of St Clement were brought to Russia, where they were read and lovingly copied by pious Russian Christians.
The relics of Sts Gorazd and Angelar rest near Berat in Albania, and St Naum's relics are in the monastery bearing his name, near Lake Ochrid. St Clement is also commemorated on November 25.
Hieromartyrs Hermolaus, Hermippus and Hermocrates of Nicomedia, were among the small number of those remaining alive after 20,000 Christians were burned alive in a church at Nicomedia in the year 303 (December 28), on the orders of the emperor Maximian (284-305). They in remote places and did not cease to preach Christianity to the pagans.
The young pagan named Pantoleon (Holy Great Martyr Panteleimon, July 27) often passed by the house in which St Hermolaus had concealed himself. Once St Hermolaus chanced to meet the youth and asked him to stop by his house. In their conversation St Hermolaus began to explain to his guest the falseness, impiety and vanity of worshipping the pagan gods. From that day on, Pantoleon began to visit St Hermolaus daily and received holy Baptism from him.
When the trial of the holy Great Martyr Panteleimon was being held, Sts Hermolaus, Hermippus and Hermocrates, were also arrested. The Lord Jesus Christ appeared to St Hermolaus one evening and revealed to him that on the following day he would suffer for Him and receive a martyr's crown.
Sts Hermippus and Hermocrates were arrested and brought to trial after St Hermolaus. All three were given the chance to deny Christ and offer sacrifice to idols. But they resolutely refused, confessed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and were prepared gladly to die for Him.
The pagans began to threaten the holy priests with torture and death. Suddenly, a strong earthquake occurred, and the idols and pagan temple collapsed and shattered. This was reported to the emperor. The enraged Maximian gave the holy martyrs over to torture and pronounced upon them a sentence of death. Bravely enduring all the torments, the holy Hieromartyrs Hermolaus, Hermippus and Hermocrates were beheaded in about the year 305.
Resurrectional Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
You descended from on high, O compassionate One, and condescended to be buried for three days, so that from the passions You might set us free. Our life and resurrection, O Lord, glory be to You.
Resurrectional Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
When You had risen from the grave, You also raised those who had died and resurrected Adam; and now Eve is celebrating in Your Resurrection, and the ends of the world keep festival, for Your rising from the dead, O Most-Merciful.
Seasonal Kontakion in the Plagal of the Second Tone
O Protection of Christians that cannot be put to shame, mediation unto the creator most constant: O despise not the voices of those who have sinned; but be quick, O good one, to come unto our aid, who in faith cry unto thee: Hasten to intercession and speed thou to make supplication, O thou who dost ever protect, O Theotokos, them that honor thee. SOURCE:
THIS IS TRUE AND THE BACKLASH AGAINST THE BISHOP IS AMAZING
A dog has received communion at an Anglican parish in Toronto. Pets are permitted in the church. “The minister welcomed me and said come up and take communion, and Trapper [the dog] came up with me and the minister gave him communion as well,” said Donald Keith,... the dog’s owner. “Then he bent his head and said a little prayer.”
“I thought it was a nice way to welcome me into the church,” said Mr. Keith, a new member. “99.9% of the people in the church love Trapper, and the kids play with him.”
Following a parishioner’s complaint, the local Anglican bishop decided that Trapper would not receive communion again, though he will continue to be welcome at church.
Peggy Needham, the deputy people’s warden at the parish, told the Toronto Sun that the parish supported Mr. Keith. “The backlash is from just one person. Something happened that won’t happen again. Something our interim priest did spontaneously,” she said. “This person went to the top and e-mailed our bishop to make a fuss and change things,” she added. “But he misjudged our congregation.”
The Martyr Christina lived during the third century. She was born into a rich family, and her father was governor of Tyre. By the age of 11 the girl was exceptionally beautiful, and many wanted to marry her. Christina's father, however, envisioned that his daughter should become a pagan priestess. To this end he placed her in a special dwelling where he had set up many gold and silver idols, and he commanded his daughter to burn incense before them. Two servants attended Christina.
In her solitude, Christina began to wonder who had created this beautiful world. From her room she was delighted by the stars of the heavens and she constantly came back to the thought about the Creator of all the world. She was convinced, that the voiceless and inanimate idols in her room could not create anything, since they themselves were created by human hands. She began to pray to the One God with tears, entreating Him to reveal Himself. Her soul blazed with love for the Unknown God, and she intensified her prayer all the more, and combined it with fasting.
One time Christina was visited by an angel, who instructed her in the true faith in Christ, the Savior of the world. The angel called her a bride of Christ and told her about her future suffering. The holy virgin smashed all the idols standing in her room and threw them out the window. In visiting his daughter Christina's father, Urban, asked her where all the idols had disappeared. Christina was silent. Then, having summoned the servants, Urban learned the truth from them.
In a rage the father began to slap his daughter's face. At first, the holy virgin remained quiet, but then she told her father about her faith in the One True God, and that she had destroyed the idols with her own hands. Urban gave orders to kill all the servants in attendance upon his daughter, and he gave Christina a fierce beating and threw her in prison. Having learned about what had happened, St Christina's mother came in tears, imploring her to renounce Christ and to return to her ancestral beliefs. But Christina remained unyielding. On another day, Urban brought his daughter to trial and urged her to offer worship to the gods, and to ask forgiveness for her misdeeds. Instead, he saw her firm and steadfast confession of faith in Christ.
The torturers tied her to an iron wheel, beneath which they lit a fire. The body of the martyr, turning round on the wheel, was scorched on all sides. They then threw her into prison.
An angel of God appeared at night, healing her wounds and strengthening her with food. Her father, seeing her unharmed, gave orders to drown her in the sea. An angel sustained the saint while the stone sank down, and Christina miraculously came out of the water and reappeared before her father. In terror, the torturer imputed this to sorcery and he decided to execute her in the morning. That night he himself suddenly died. Another governor, Dion, was sent in his place. He summoned the holy martyr and also tried to persuade her to renounce Christ, but seeing her unyielding firmness, he again subjected her to cruel tortures. The holy martyr was for a long while in prison. People began to flock to her, and she converted them to the true faith in Christ. Thus about 300 were converted.
In place of Dion, a new governor Julian arrived and resumed the torture of the saint. After various torments, Julian gave orders to throw her into a red-hot furnace and lock her in it. After five days they opened the furnace and found the martyr alive and unharmed. Seeing this miracle take place, many believed in Christ the Savior, and the torturers executed St Christina with a sword.
Troparion - Tone 4
Your lamb Christina, O Jesus,
Calls out to You in a loud voice:
I love You, O my bridegroom,
And in seeking You, I endure suffering.
In Baptism I was crucified so that I might reign in You,
And died so that I might live with You.
Accept me as a pure sacrifice,
For I have offered myself in love.
By her prayers save our souls, since You are merciful.
Kontakion - Tone 4
O Venerable Christina,
You appeared as a shining dove,
With a pair of golden wings
Alighting in the Highest Heavens.
Therefore we celebrate your glorious feast
And bow before the place that holds your relics.
Pray that we may receive grace and healing for body and soul.
This is a true account of events as described by a passenger aboard a plane, returning from the Holy Land on August 29, 2003
It was dawn on Friday, August 29, 2003. We were sad to be leaving Jerusalem. We were on our way to Tel Aviv and from there, to Athens.
We had a magnificent time. The previous day we had celebrated the Dormition of our Lady at the site of her tomb, since this feast is celebrated in Jerusalem on the 28th of August, that is, 13 days later than the date celebrated in Greece.
We had a unique experience. The feast was rich and splendid for everyone. Late in the afternoon we packed our bags and took part in the all night vigil at the Holy Sepulcher. Immediately afterwards we boarded the bus which was waiting for us just outside the old city. The weather was good, the sky starlit and in the silence we delighted in the city all lit up. We fixed our gaze on the city’s walls, embracing all the holy sites with our mind, holding them tight within our hearts. An almost invisible smile gave way to our fatigue, but also to our deep gratefulness towards God for everything we had experienced. Our thankfulness was so great that it was not shaken by the long wait, or even by the Israelis’ exhausting security control at the airport.
When we eventually boarded the plane – if I remember correctly, it was a twin engine Airbus – I noticed that its lights were flickering the whole time. I thought that some wire was not making contact properly and I sank into my seat. When the plane starting taxiing, the electrical problems became more apparent, as the characteristic sound of small, multiple short-circuits could be heard. I didn’t think much of it. The lights went out, we took off, and when they turned back on the problem was less noticeable. I was sitting with my mother on the left side of the aircraft, in front of the wing, and my friends and acquaintances were sitting close by.
About twenty minutes later we heard a loud noise and the aircraft started shaking and moving back and forth. The pilot told us in Hebrew, and then in English, to remain seated and fasten our seat belts. The stewardesses did the same. At the beginning, we didn’t pay much attention, until I looked at the wing and saw the engine on fire and spitting out burning pieces of metal! After a reassuring word, I showed it to my mother and my other friends. We had all traveled by plane many times before, but it was the first time we had seen a flaming engine. We tensed up somewhat but we tried not to show our worry, remaining silent. As I learnt afterwards, some of us were inwardly praying the Jesus prayer. A few minutes later the pilot confirmed that we had lost the left engine and that he was going try to make it to Eleftherios Venizelos airport in Athens, using the other engine.
Less than twenty minutes later we heard a noise not as loud from the right side of the plane and felt the same strong vibrations, mixed with turbulence. Some people, sitting in front of the right wing shouted, “The engine is on fire!” The atmosphere in the plane which was mostly calm, and rather pleasant, up to then turned into panic. The aircraft was quickly and steadily losing altitude, and there was a loud whistling sound that I later recalled hearing in films when planes dropped bombs. The stewardesses, who had just started offering refreshments, rushed to secure the trolleys in their proper places and then sat down quickly and fastened their seat belts and put their heads on their knees. Several people with heart problems and some of the elderly were taking their pills two at a time. Spouses were making public confessions as to when and where and with whom they had committed adultery and were asking for forgiveness. Older people were asking for forgiveness from their children because they had not included them in their wills and forgiveness was being granted. And the latter were apologizing for past inappropriate behavior. Friends were revealing that they had lied in certain situations and had slandered each other.
The plane started leaning to one side and we realized that the pilot was trying to turn back to Tel Aviv or go to Cyprus. A little while later a stewardess got up and quickly went over to secure some things that were falling. I stopped her and asked her what exactly was happening. The pleasant young woman who had previously been smiling had turned pale white and lost her voice; her expression had turned to fear.
I asked her if we had lost both engines and she nodded. “And what are we going to do now?” I asked. She stopped looking at me and became distant, as if she were looking far away. She shook her head back and forth and shrugged her shoulders as if indifferent, as though everything was over and she started to walk away. I held her by the hand tightly, shouting, “We’re falling?” She just shook her head repeatedly, unable to say a word. Then she ran to buckle up in her seat again, holding her head tightly to her knees. We all took a deep breath and tried as calmly as possible to realize what was happening.
The veil of gloom was torn by the loud voice of a monk. “Don’t be afraid, my brothers, let us pray. God will not abandon us!” The priests put on their petrachilia (stoles) and started reading prayers, other faithful were saying the Jesus prayer quietly, and the rest divided themselves into two groups (one for each side of the plane), one reading the Paraklesis to the Theotokos, and the other the Akathist. We placed our hopes in God and felt a lot better.
Non-Christian passengers, a lot more scared than us, thought we were singing and that we had gone crazy. However, this comforting boost was suddenly interrupted a little later, when the the captain made an announcement in a terrified voice: “As you have already realized we lost the second engine a little while ago. We have emptied our fuel tanks and will try to return to Ben Gurion Airport (the airport in Tel Aviv) but...” He had a lump in his throat and suddenly stopped speaking. At that moment we froze. It is one thing to presume something awful is about to happen and another to have it officially confirmed for you. After the first tense moment, we all continued our prayers from where we had left off - some with the Jesus Prayer, some with the Paraklesis, and others with the Akathist. It made an impression on me that people who had previously seemed not to believe, were praying wholeheartedly.
I tried to act calm, to the point of being accused of insensitivity. Hoping to give courage to some who were crying, I explained calmly, “We will all die one day. This cannot be changed. What is important therefore? How many years we will live and how we will live them. We all want to live many years, but if God has decided that we die today, this cannot be changed either. Besides, whatever can be done within our power to be saved, we do it. So, if we take it for granted that today we will be called to make an account for our lives, what should it matter to us? What state our soul is in. Now you would say, ‘I’m not in good shape at all, but if I had more time I would repent!’ But this way of thinking isn’t relevant now – though probably a pious desire – because as we said, we’re presuming that we’re leaving today. So, what is there for us to do? To pray sincerely and genuinely ask for the forgiveness of our sins. But we must also place our hope in God. Why? Because, God through His infinite love for us, would never permit something to happen to us towards the detriment of our souls. That is, that if He decides to take us today, then He will take us at our best.
Most of us just confessed and received Holy Communion yesterday at the feast of the Virgin Mary; so we’re as ready as we can be; imagine leaving being totally unprepared? Those of us who came here did not come as tourists, but pilgrims. Do you think the Lord and the Theotokos, whose feast we went to, would abandon us?”
The turbulence continued strong once again. We were flying low; the islands could be made out and farther away, the mainland. Then suddenly, the same monastic who had urged us to pray – I do not know if he was a monk or a hieromonk, I just remember his skinny figure, the happiness in his face, and his long beard – got up and said in a loud voice, full of conviction and with tears in his eyes, “My children, please believe me. I can see our Lady, huge, standing in front of us, and holding the plane by its belly!!!. We’re going to be saved! We’re going to be saved!” And weeping he said: “Let us pray so as to thank her!”
Then we all took heart and started chanting the Paraklesis, louder this time, joyfully chanting the Paraklesis. Even the stewardesses could tell by our body language that something good was happening and they too took courage, looking at us curiously.
Soon, we could clearly see the buildings in Tel Aviv, since we were already flying very low. There were already a few moments left. Thoughts of doubt started to enter my head: “I wonder if the landing is going to take place on land, or are we going to fall into the the sea?” I tried to chase them away with prayer: “I believe Lord, help my unbelief. May Your will be done. Most holy Theotokos save us.”
Shortly after we could see the airport. The runaway was covered in white foam and there were many ambulances already standing by. No other plane was in sight; they had obviously given us priority to land. We seemed to be descending very quickly compared with other times. There were only a few meters left between us and the ground. When the plane touched down it miraculously stopped after 50 meters, without any of us being moved from our seats, not even a little. There were no engines left so as to put them in reverse to help us brake, and the brakes from the wheels would have been extremely abrupt (quite dangerous actually), so as to stop in only 50 meters, and even so we would have all been thrown forward due to inertia! (Even in a car, when one breaks suddenly at a low speed, his body moves forward.) Nothing like that happened. The plane did not stop according to the laws of physics, but as if it was placed softly on the ground!
Full of relief, we all started giving thanks: “Glory to You, Lord,” “Thank you Panagia,” “May Your name be blessed, Lord.”
Only the stewardesses began having panic attacks. For at least five minutes, one of them would open a yogurt, eat one spoonful, throw it away and then take another. Another one was constantly opening and closing the metal drawers. And still another was trembling and chattering her teeth.
A little while later we got off the plane, accompanied by police, doctors and nurses and went to one of the waiting rooms, where they tried to revive some who had fainted and offered the rest of us refreshments. Our mouths were dry from the suspense, but none of us cared!
We were alive, that’s all that mattered! A little while later another airplane came to take us to Athens, where we arrived safely. Of course, there were reporters and cameras waiting for us. An anxious friend of mine called me to see if I was alright, because he had seen a clip on one of the big channel’s morning news about our flight, but after the big event it was hushed up carefully.
The next few days went by like this. I saw every little thing as a creation of God, I loved it and was amazed at it. I had stopped getting angry and devoting myself to things of secondary importance. I was trying to respond to God’s love with charitable behavior – not judge, and help others when I could. Unfortunately, after about a week I got back into my daily routine. I am embarrassed to say it, but I didn’t manage to keep within me that newfound peace, prayer, gratitude, and love.
That event completely made me look at things a little differently, to try and get out of the shell of my egocentrism and our absurd way of thinking, which puts everything in little boxes and tries to explain it all with laws and rules. Fear of one’s end accelerates the awareness of one’s mistakes.
The gratefulness that one feels towards the infinite love of God softens his heart, it melts him, through God it makes him love his brothers, creation and at the same time fear that he has perhaps saddened God with some deed and lose what his heart has had a taste of, that gift of love that his soul was created to seek - its union with God.
(I decided to write about this unique experience at the instigation of a dear friend, as a testament to the glory of God, and as a spiritual help for my brothers. Please forgive the personal tone of the account. I merely wished to describe my feelings and the events exactly as we had experienced them. Thank you for your understanding.)
Commemorated on July 22
Saint Markella lived in the village of Volissos, Chios sometime after the middle of the fourteenth century. Her parents were Christians, and among the wealthiest citizens of Volissos. The saint's mother died when she was young, and so her father, the mayor of the village, saw to her education.
She had been trained by her mother to be respectful and devout, and to guard her purity. She avoided associations with other girls who were more outgoing than she was so that she would not come to spiritual harm through such company. Her goal was to attain the Kingdom of Heaven, and to become a bride of Christ.
St Markella increased in virtue as she grew older, fasting, praying, and attending church services. She tried to keep the commandments and to lead others to God. She loved and respected her father, and comforted him in his sorrow. She told him she would take care of him in his old age, and would not abandon him.
As an adult, St Markella was loved by everyone for her beauty and for her spiritual gifts. The Enemy of our salvation tried to lure her into sin by placing evil thoughts in her mind. She resisted these temptations, and so the devil turned away from a direct confrontation with the young woman. Instead, he incited her father with an unnatural desire for his daughter.
Markella's father changed in his behavior toward her. He became moody and depressed, forbidding her to go into the garden or to speak with the neighbors. Unable to understand the reason for this change, the saint went to her room and wept. She prayed before an icon of the Mother of God, asking Her to help her father. Soon she fell asleep, only to be awakened by her father's shouting.
The unfortunate man had spent a long time struggling against his lust, but finally he gave in to it. At times he would speak to his daughter roughly, then later he would appear to be gentle. He wanted to be near her, and to stroke her hair. Unaware of her father's intentions, St Markella was happy to see him emerge from his melancholy state, thinking that her prayer had been answered.
One day, her father openly declared the nature of his feelings for her. Horrified, the saint tried to avoid him as much as she could. Even the neighbors realized that there was something wrong with the man, so they stopped speaking to him.
A shepherd was tending his sheep near the beach one morning, and was leading them into the shade of a plane tree to avoid the hot July sun. Just as he was about to lie down, he heard a noise and looked up. He saw a young woman with a torn dress running down the hill. She hid in a nearby bush, ignoring its thorns.
The shepherd wondered who was chasing her, and how she had come to this spot. Then he heard the sound of a horse approaching, and recognized the mayor of the village. He asked the shepherd if he had seen his daughter. He said that he had not seen her, but pointed to her hiding place with his finger.
The mayor ordered Markella to come out of the bush, but she refused. Therefore, he set fire to the bush in order to force her out. She emerged on the side opposite her father, and ran toward the rocky shore, calling out to the Mother of God for help.
Markella continued to run, even though blood was flowing from her face and hands. Feeling a sharp pain in her leg, she saw that she had been shot with an arrow. She paused to pull it out, then took to flight once more. She scrambled over the rocks, staining them with her blood. Hearing her father getting closer, she prayed that the earth would open up and swallow her.
The saint sank to her knees, her strength all gone, and then a miracle took place. The rock split open and received her body up to the waist. Her father drew near with wild-eyed joy shouting, "I have caught you. Now where will you go?
Drawing his sword, he began to butcher his helpless daughter, cutting off pieces of her body. Finally, he seized her by the hair and cut off her head, throwing it into the sea. At once the calm sea became stormy, and large waves crashed to the shore near the murderer's feet. Thinking that the sea was going to drown him because of his crime, he turned and fled. His ultimate fate has not been recorded.
In later years, pious Christians built a church on the spot where St Markella hid in the bush. The spot where she was killed became known as "The Martyrdom of St Markella," and the rock that opened to receive her is still there. The rock appears to be a large stone that broke off from a mountain and rolled into the sea. Soil from the mountain covers the spot on the side facing the land. On the side facing the ocean is a small hole, about the size of a finger. A healing water flows from the opening, which cures every illness.
The flow of water is not due to the movements of the tide, because when the tide is out, there would be no water. This, however, is not the case. The water is clear, but some of the nearby rocks have been stained with a reddish-yellow color. According to tradition, the lower extremities of St Markella's body are concealed in the rock.
The most astonishing thing about the rock is not the warmth of the water, nor the discoloration of the other rocks, but what happens when a priest performs the Blessing of Water. A sort of steam rises up from the water near the rock, and the entire area is covered with a mist. The sea returns to normal as soon as the service is over. Many miracles have occurred at the spot, and pilgrims flock there from all over the world.
The Monks Simeon, Fool-for-Christ, and his Fellow-Ascetic John were Syrians, and they lived in the sixth century at the city of Edessa. From childhood they were bound by close ties of friendship. The older of them, Simeon, was unmarried and lived with his aged mother. John, however, although he was married, lived with his father (his mother was dead) and with his young wife. Both friends belonged to wealthy families. When Simeon was thirty years old, and John twenty-four, they made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Venerable and Life-Creating Cross of the Lord. On the journey home the friends spoke of the soul's path to salvation. Dismounting their horses, they sent the servants on ahead with the horses, while they continued on foot.
Passing through Jordan, they saw monasteries on the edge of the desert. Both of them were filled with an irrepressible desire to leave the world and spend their remaining life in monastic struggles. They turned off from the road, which their servants followed to Syria, and they prayed zealously that God would guide them to the monasteries on the opposite side. They besought the Lord to indicate which monastery they should choose, and they decided to enter whichever monastery had its gates open. At this time the Lord informed Igumen Nikon in a dream to open the monastery gates, so that the sheep of Christ could enter in.
In great joy the comrades came through the open gates of the monastery, where they were warmly welcomed by the igumen, and they remained at the monastery. In a short while they received the monastic tonsure.
After remaining at the monastery for a certain time, Simeon desired to intensify his efforts, and to go into the desert to pursue asceticism in complete solitude. John did not wish to be left behind by his companion, and he decided to share with him the work of a desert-dweller. The Lord revealed the intentions of the companions to Igumen Nikon, and on that night when Sts Simeon and John intended to depart the monastery, he himself opened the gates for them. He prayed with them, gave them his blessing and sent them into the wilderness.
When they began their life in the desert, the spiritual brothers at first experienced the strong assaults of the devil. They were tempted by grief over abandoning their families, and the demons tried to discourage the ascetics, subjecting them to weakness, despondency and idleness. The brothers Simeon and John remembered their monastic calling, and trusting in the prayers of their Elder Nikon, they continued upon their chosen path. They spent their time in unceasing prayer and strict fasting, encouraging one another in their struggle against temptation.
After a while, with God's help, the temptations stopped. The monks were told by God that Simeon's mother and John's wife had died, and that the Lord had vouchsafed them the blessings of Paradise. After this Simeon and John lived in the desert for twenty-nine years, and they attained complete dispassion (apathia) and a high degree of spirituality. St Simeon, through the inspiration of God, considered that now it was proper for him to serve people. To do this, he must leave the desert solitude and go into the world. St John, however, believing that he had not attained such a degree of dispassion as his companion, decided not to leave the wilderness.
The brethren parted with tears. Simeon journeyed to Jerusalem, and there he venerated the Tomb of the Lord and all the holy places. By his great humility the holy ascetic entreated the Lord to permit him to serve his neighbor in such a way that they should not acknowledge him. St Simeon chose for himself the difficult task of foolishness for Christ. Having come to the city of Emesa, he stayed there and passed himself off as a simpleton, behaving strangely, for which he was subjected to insults, abuse and beatings. In spite of this, he accomplished many good deeds. He cast out demons, healed the sick, delivered people from immanent death, brought the unbelieving to faith, and sinners to repentance.
All these things he did under the guise of foolishness, and he never received praise or thanks from people. St John highly esteemed his spiritual brother, however. When one of the inhabitants of the city of Emesa visited him in the wilderness, asking for his advice and prayers, he would invariably direct them to "the fool Simeon", who was better able to offer them spiritual counsel. For three days before his death St Simeon ceased to appear on the streets, and he enclosed himself in his hut, where there was nothing except for bundles of firewood. Having remained in unceasing prayer for three days, St Simeon fell asleep in the Lord. Some of the city poor, his companions, had not seen the fool for some time. They went to his hut and found him dead.
Taking up the dead body, they carried him without church singing to a place where the homeless and strangers were buried. While they carried the body of St Simeon, several of the inhabitants heard a wondrous church singing, but could not understand from whence it came.
After St Simeon died, St John also fell asleep in the Lord. Shortly before his death, St Simeon saw a vision of his spiritual brother wearing a crown upon his head with the inscription: "For endurance in the desert."
Troparion - Tone 1
Having heard the voice of Your Apostle Paul:
We are fools for Christ's sake!
Your servant Simeon, O Christ God,
Lived the life of a fool here on earth for Your sake.
Therefore as we venerate his memory,
We entreat You, O Lord, to save our souls!
Kontakion - Tone 2
Let us praise with fervent love,
This man who lived in the flesh as an angel,
Adorning his soul with the most radiant virtues!
Simeon, the equal to the Apostles and the Bearer of God.
Together with him, let us honor his companion John,
For they both ever stand before God, interceding for us all!
One of the chief marks of the previous century – the twentieth – was the Christian world's attempt to restore unity. After Papism fell away from the Church at the beginning of the second millennium (1054) and then the Protestant's subsequent breach with Papism in the 16th century, East and West were deeply divided and the West was much divided within itself. Yet the Church lost neither its unity nor its catholicity – its wholeness: heresy and schism may wound and scar the body of the Church but they do not divide it, just as a tree is not said to be divided if someone clips off one of its branches. From this viewpoint, the oft-used terms 'the undivided Church' of the first ten centuries and 'the union of the churches' are incorrect. The Church is ever undivided, be it after the schism of 1054 or any other schism whatsoever. Moreover, there are not many churches needing to be brought together: there is the "One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church" alone, whose life continues undivided and uninterrupted in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Those heterodox Christians of the East and West who have broken away, falling into heresy and schism, cannot be called churches; they must instead seek union with the Church, denouncing heresy and delusion. Unity is not achieved by 'uniting the churches', but rather through 'union with the Church'.
Following the schism, throughout the whole of the second millennium, many attempts were made at achieving unity, in particular through the calling of great synods aimed at unity such as those of Lyon (1274) and Ferreira-Florence (1438-1439). Though union between the Orthodox and the Papists was officially accepted at the later of these and almost all of the Orthodox bishops in attendance signed the terms - with the exception of Saint Mark of Ephesus and a few others - it remained unapplied: nothing more than a simple piece of paper. These councils did not aim at true Christian peace and unity - unity in truth; they did not ground themselves on the true model of unity as is found in the teaching of Christ, the Apostles and the Saints. Rather, like Unia, they were based on newly invented, false models of unity which serve ulterior motives – other malevolent, egotistical, autocratic, divisive motives. These not only failed to help the cause of unity, but enlarged the chasm and provoked new divisions. The members of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between Orthodox and Roman Catholics concluded this unanimously at the sixth plenary session of the Commission's General Assembly held at Freising, Germany in June 1990. The text they signed reads as follows: "Unia as a method – wherever it was applied - did not succeed in its aim of bringing about rapprochement between the churches. Conversely, it brought on new divisions. The situation that it created became the cause of conflicts and trials which have left their mark on the collective memory and consciousness of the two churches. Thus for ecclesiological reasons the conviction that other methods should be sought has been made firm." (¶ 6c)
Papal and Patriarchal texts, studies produced by theologians and even the Theological Dialogue itself create the chimerical impression that the supposed new model of unity being sought after is the ecclesiological model of 'sister churches'. In connection to this the aforementioned Freising text writes: "Now that our Churches have come together on the ecclesiological foundation of communion between sister churches, it would be a grievous matter to destroy the excellent work toward the unity of the Churches achieved through the Dialogue by returning to the method of Unia." (¶ 6d) This model indeed applies when speaking about relations between the local autocephalous churches of the Orthodox Church, where conciliarity on both the local and international levels prevents anyone from asserting universal jurisdiction not only over the other patriarchs, but also over the ecumenical councils. The Vatican, on the other hand, does not accept, nor is it going to accept, the equality of the primates, or even that of the bishops, nor the supreme authority of the ecumenical councils. Such is apparent from the decisions of the Second Vatican Council as well as from its contemporary declarations and actions, like the abolition of the Pope's ancient title 'Patriarch of the West' which limits his jurisdiction topically. Thus, the Vatican is deceiving us with the 'sister churches' model. In reality it seeks a new Unia; a Unia that is broader and elastic, having boundless diversity on matters of faith and life so long as the primacy of the Pope is recognized.
Fundamentally, this is the model espoused by the older version of Unia which allows those Christians in union with Rome to maintain their own liturgical rites, holy icons, vesture of clergy, and other customs and practices, in some cases not even demanding unity in faith. Seeing that the first model of unity that Papism used – that of Latinization – produced no long-standing results (whether applied violently, as it was during the Crusades, or through personal proselytism), the Jesuits invented the deceptive method of Unia as a more effective means of bringing about union with Rome. They did this despite the fact that Unia was neither a holy nor true means of union; but for the Jesuits 'the end justifies the means'. According to Christian ethics, however both the means and the end must be holy. Unity of faith and worship cannot be sacrificed in order to secure unity under the Pope, whose office is itself false and contrary to the Gospel since it subverts the God-given and apostolic model of administration – the synodical – to implement the absolute monarchy of the Pope. True unity is achieved through unity of faith, worship and administration: this is the model of unity in the ancient Church, which the Orthodox Catholic Church has maintained unswervingly. The method of Unia introduces a false unity, a unity in name only, because, outside of the fact that it allows for unlimited diversity in faith and worship, it is based on heretical ecclesiology since it overturns the Church's synodical system of administration – a divine institution – with the primacy of the Pope – a human institution. In the Church, diversity is only permitted in secondary matters of local tradition and practice, which do not touch on the fundamentals of faith and worship and administration.
Those who in our day adhere to and promote the true unity – unity in faith, worship and administration – are troubled by what has been plotted and packaged for us from above within the Theological Dialogue, without the knowledge of the people. There at the Dialogue, as expressed in the Ravenna text (which was also discussed in October 2009 in Cyprus) the Papists lured the Orthodox into discussion of the imaginary universal 'primacy' of the Pope, without which no proposed union can be accepted by Luciferian Papism.
We have a new Unia at our doors; on account of this the co-chair of the Dialogue's Mixed Committee, Cardinal Casper, expressed his satisfaction at the fact that the Orthodox discussed the universal primacy of the Pope in some form for the first time in centuries. We have been deceived by the Vatican: there can be no union with the Papists without the primacy of the Pope. For it to be otherwise they would have to call an 'ecumenical council' to change their ecclesiology, to change the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church produced at Vatican II. Even if the Roman Catholic theologians involved in the Dialogue were convinced by the Orthodox and they signed a text rejecting any form of Papal primacy, accepting that the Pope – along with the other Patriarchs – are first in honour alone, and accepting that above all is the authority of the Ecumenical Councils, this text would be immediately rejected by Rome. It would be made to disappear, as if it had never been produced. This is precisely what occurred with the Freising text of 1990 which condemned Unia. Rome rejected it, it disappeared and Rome lured us into the composition of a new text on Unia at Balamand, Lebanon in 1993. There, a reduced Orthodox delegation (without representation from six autocephalous churches) exonerated Unia along with the Papist theologians so as to be in line with Vatican II, which praises Unia, and so that it might remain a model for unity with the Orthodox as per the Ravenna and Cyprus texts. Rome, therefore, accepts only what is in line with its own innovations and rejects the things of the Gospel and of the Church. Can this facade, this caricature of a dialogue be considered a dialogue? Is it acceptable for us to participate in an ostensible, false, disingenuious dialogue, a dialogue whose outcome is already known: that is to say, the rejection of all that does not agree with Papal dogma?
Since the repose of Archbishop Seraphim, our ecclesiastical leadership's stance on these matters has been disappointing. We have even arrived at the point that many of us are considering invoking the 15th canon of the First-Second Council (called by Saint Photios in 861), which permits cessation of the commemoration of those bishops who are not upholding Orthodoxy, just as was done in 1970 when Metropolitan Augustinos of Florina, the ever-memorable Metropolitans Paul of Paramythia and Ambrose of Elevtheropolous, and almost all of the Monasteries of Mount Athos ceased commemoration of Patriarch Athenagoras.
Though the clouds of Ecumenism and Philo-Papism are yet thick, the horizon has again begun to open - there are streams of light; there is the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece's decision from last October to provide guidelines for its representatives at the Theological Dialogue in discussions of the Pope's 'primacy', returning it to the path of the Holy Fathers; there is also your strong voice, your tireless and unceasing action, Your Eminence [addressing Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus]. Your boldness and outspokenness on a host of matters of faith and life amazes us. Already you have been placed at the head of the anti-Papal and anti-ecumenical struggle as today’s conference, taking place under your patronage, proves; there are those amongst your fellow bishops who signed the Confession of Faith against Ecumenism together with you, and there are other bishops who did not sign but do agree; there are the six hagiorite and a host of other monasteries – male and female - who have signed; hundreds of abbots, hieromonks, married clergy, monks, and thousands of laity who have signed and continue to sign and who, surpassing every expectation, have flooded this great auditorium tonight.
We hope and believe that we will not be led into a new Unia, into the recognition of the universal primacy of the Pope in any form. If, however, the powerful and influential, the new Beccuses, Basserions, and Isidores, impose this development, all of us, with God's help and the prayers of the Most-Holy Theotokos and all the saints who have struggled and confessed the faith, will once again quash it and ensure it is not applied.
The Monastic Martyr Athanasius of Bretsk (Uncovering and Transfer of Relics 1649): The martyric death of the holy Passion-bearer Athanasius, igumen of Bretsk, occured on September 5, 1648. For eight months the body of the sufferer for Orthodoxy lay in the ground without a church funeral. On May 1, 1649 a boy pointed out to the brethren of the Simeonov monastery the place of the igumen's burial. The ground in which the martyr was buried belonged at the time to the Jesuits, and therefore they had to go to work secretly. At night the monks dug up the incorrupt body of the igumen and immediately took it off to another place. In the morning, they brought it to their monastery, where after several days, on May 8, they buried him with honor at the right kleiros (choir) in the main church of the monastery dedicated to St Simeon the Stylite.
The earthly life of the monastic martyr Athanasius had come to an end, but the remembrance of him remained always alive and sacred among the Orthodox inhabitants of the west Russian frontier. The profound veneration of believers here for his holy name. His incorrupt relics, placed in a copper reliquary, were glorified by grace-filled gifts of wonderworking, and attracted a vast number of believers.
On November 8, 1815 at the time of a fire at the Bretsk Simeonov monastery, the wooden monastery church burned, and the copper reliquary, in which the relics of the martyr were kept, melted in the flames. The day following the fire, an unharmed portion of the relics were found by the priest Samuel of Lisovsk and placed by the pious inhabitants of the city of Bretsk beneath the altar of the monastery trapeza church. In the year 1823, with the blessing of Archbishop Anatolius of Minsk, the holy relics were placed in a wooden vessel by the head of the monastery and put in church for veneration.
Thus, it pleased God to preserve a portion of the relics of the holy Martyr Athanasius.
Rising up before us is this great champion of Orthodoxy, with his great faith and love of neighbor. Deeply religious, inexorably devoted to the faith of the holy Fathers, he became bold and expressed by word and by deed his priestly indignation against the oppression of Orthodox Christians by the haughty Uniates. With fervent faith in his calling by God, he entered into the struggle for his oppressed brethren. "I am not a prophet, but only a servant of God my Creator, sent because of the times, in order to speak the truth to everyone. He has sent me, so that I might proclaim beforehand the destruction of the accursed Unia." Such were the words of the fervent, unyielding and inspired struggler for Orthodoxy, who deeply believed in the victorious power of the true Faith.
St Athanasius saw the complete affirmation of Orthodoxy and the final and total undoing of the Unia as his single goal. He dedicated his whole life to this end. Having submitted to the will of God, he had no thought of danger, nor did he consider the obstacles, in fulfilling his holy duty. St Athanasius used His daring, spiritually-inspired speeches and writings, his published grievances, and voluntary folly in Christ for the attainment of his sacred goal: the affirmation of Orthodoxy in the ancient Russian land.
Having repudiated the Unia, he was inspired with a deep sense of pity and love towards those who had become the victims of Uniate proselitism. The righteousness and sincerity of St Athanasius in relation to those nearby defined the course of all his deeds. By his existence in the solitary life, surrounded by open and hidden enemies, the holy ascetic remained a steadfast defender and pillar of Orthodoxy. He constantly repeated his prediction: "The Unia will die out, but Orthodoxy will flourish." SOURCE:
The Holy Prince Roman Olegovich of Ryazan was from a line of princes, who during the time of the Tatar (Mongol) Yoke won glory as defenders of the Christian Faith and of their Fatherland. Both his grandfathers perished for the Fatherland in the struggle with Batu.
Raised to love the holy faith (the prince lived in tears and prayers) and his homeland, the prince with all his strength concerned himself about his devastated and oppressed subjects. He defended them from the coercion and plundering of the Khan's "baskaki" ("tax-collectors"). The "baskaki" hated the saint and they slandered him before the Tatar Khan Mengu-Timur.
Roman Olegovich was summoned to the Horde, where Khan Mengu-Timur declared that he had to choose one of two things: either a martyr's death or the Tatar faith. The noble prince said that a Christian cannot change from the true Faith to a false one. For his firmness in the confession of faith he was subjected to cruel torments: they cut out his tongue, gouged out his eyes, cut off his ears and lips, chopped off his hands and feet, tore off the skin from his head and, after beheading him, they impaled him upon a spear. This occurred in the year 1270.
The veneration of the royal martyr began immediately with his death. The chronicle says about the saint: "By your suffering, you have gained the Kingdom of Heaven, and a crown from the hand of the Lord, together with your kinsman Michael Vsevolodovich, cosufferers with Christ for the Orthodox Christian Faith."
Since 1854, there have been church processions and Moliebens at Ryazan on the Feast day of St Roman. A church was consecrated in honor of the holy Prince Roman at Ryazan in 1861. SOURCE:
The Tolga Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos appeared on August 8, 1314 to the Rostov hierarch Prochorus (Tryphon in schema). Going about his diocese, the saint visited the environs of White Lake and from there traveled along the banks of the Rivers Sheksna and Volga, to Yaroslavl. Having stopped with the approach of night 7 versts distant from Yaroslavl, at the right bank of the Volga River there flows opposite into it the River Tolga.
At midnight, when everyone was asleep, the saint awoke and saw a bright light illuminating the area. The light proceeded from a fiery column on the other bank of the river, to which there stretched a bridge. Taking up his staff, the saint went across to the other bank, and having approached the fiery column, he beheld on it the icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, suspended in the air. Astonished at the miracle, the saint prayed for a long time, and when he went back, he forgot to take his staff.
The next day, after serving Matins, when St Prochorus was preparing to continue his journey by boat, they began to search for his staff, but they were not able to find it anywhere. The saint then remembered that he had forgotten his staff on the other side of the river, where he had gone across on the miraculous bridge. He then revealed what had occurred, and sent servants across on a boat to the other shore. They came back and reported that in the forest they had seen an icon of the Mother of God suspended in the branches of a tree, next to his bishop's staff.
The saint quickly crossed over with all his retinue to the opposite shore, and he recognized the icon that had appeared to him. Then after fervent prayer before the icon, they cleared the forest at that place, and put down the foundations of a church. When the people of Yaroslavl learned of this, they came out to the indicated spot. By midday the church was already built, and in the evening the saint consecrated it in honor of the Entrance into the Temple of the Most Holy Theotokos, and having installed the icon there he established a Feast on the day of its appearance. St Prochorus later built the Tolga monastery near this church. St Prochorus died on September 7, 1328.
The Tolga Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos is also commemorated on August 8. SOURCE:
Saint Irenarchus of Solovki accepted tonsure at the Solovki monastery, and in his monastic life he zealously imitated the Monks Zosimus (April 17) and Sabbatius (September 27). In 1614, after the death of the igumen Anthony, Irenarchus became his successor. During these times the Solovki monastery held tremendous significance in the defense of Northern Russia from the Swedes and the Danes. The new igumen did much to fortify the monastery. Under the Monk Irenarchus there was constructed a stone wall with turrets, deep ditches dug, and with stones spread out.
Concerned about the external dangers to the monastery, the monk also devoted much attention to fortifying it inwardly and spiritually. Very humble and meek, constantly immersed in thoughts of God, he was zealous for supporting in the monks a true monastic spirit. Under the spiritual guidance of St Irenarchus at the Solovki monastery there matured many worthy ascetics. With the blessing of the igumen and under his assistant, St Eleazar (January 13), a friend and co-ascetic of the venerable Irenarchus, founded a skete monastery on Anzersk Island.
In an imperial document to the Solovki monastery in the year 1621, the monks were bidden "to live according to the rules of the holy Fathers... and in full obedience to their igumen (Irenarchus) and the elders".
The last two years of the monk's life were spent in silent prayer, and he reposed on July 17, 1628. SOURCE:
The Virgin Martyr Julia was born in Carthage into a Christian family. While still a girl she was captured by the Persians. They carried her off to Syria and sold her into slavery. Fulfilling the Christian commandments, St Julia faithfully served her master. She preserved herself in purity, kept the fasts and prayed much to God. No amount of urging by her pagan master could turn her to idolatry.
Once the master set off with merchandise for Gaul and took St Julia with him. Along the way the ship stopped over at the island of Corsica, and the master decided to take part in a pagan festival, but Julia remained on the ship. The Corsicans plied the merchant and his companions with wine, and when they had fallen into a drunken sleep, they took Julia from the ship. St Julia was not afraid to acknowledge that she was a Christian, and the savage pagans crucified her.
An angel of the Lord reported the death of the holy martyr to the monks of a monastery, located on a nearby island. The monks took the body of the saint and buried it in a church in their monastery.
In about the year 763 the relics of the holy Martyr Julia were transferred to a women's monastery in the city of Breschia (historians give conflicting years of the death of the saint: as either the fifth or seventh century).