The Hieromartyr Basil, Bishop of Amasea, lived at the beginning of the fourth century in the Pontine city of Amasea. He encouraged and comforted the Christians suffering persecution by the pagans. During this time the Eastern part of the Roman Empire was ruled by Licinius (311-324), the brother-in-law of the holy emperor Constantine the Great (May 21). Licinius deceitfully signed St Constantine's Edict of Milan (313), which granted religious toleration to Christians, but he hated them and continued to persecute them.
Saint Memnon the Wonderworker from his youth lived in the Egyptian desert. By his arduous ascetical efforts, he attained a victory of spirit over the flesh.
As Igumen of one of the Egyptian monasteries, he wisely and carefully guided the brethren. Even while aiding them through prayer and counsel, the saint did not waver in his efforts in the struggle against temptation.
He received the gift of clairvoyance through unceasing prayer and toil. At his prayer a spring of water gushed forth in the wilderness, locusts destroying the harvest perished, and the shipwrecked who called on his name were saved. After his death, the mere mention of his name dispelled a plague of locusts and undid the cunning wiles of evil spirits.
The Apostle Sosipater was a native of Patra, Achaia. He is thought to be the same Sosipater mentioned in Acts 20:4. They both became disciples of St Paul, who even called them his kinsmen (Rom 16:21). St John Chrysostom (Homily 32 on Romans) says that this is the same Jason who is mentioned in Acts 17:5-9. St Jason was made bishop in his native city of Tarsus, and St Sosipater in Iconium. They traveled west preaching the Gospel, and in 63 they reached the island of Kerkyra [Korfu] in the Ionian Sea near Greece.
There they built a church in the name of the Protomartyr Stephen and they baptized many. The governor of the island learned on this and locked them up in prison, where they met seven thieves: Saturninus, Iakischolus, Faustianus, Januarius, Marsalius, Euphrasius and Mammius. The Apostles converted them to Christ. For their confession of Christ, the seven prisoners died as martyrs in a cauldron of molten tar, wax and sulfur.
The prison guard, after witnessing their martyrdom, declared himself a Christian. For this they cut off his left hand, then both feet and finally his head. The governor ordered the Apostles Jason and Sosipater to be whipped and again locked up in prison.
When the daughter of the governor of Kerkyra (Korfu), the maiden Kerkyra, learned how Christians were suffering for Christ, she declared herself a Christian and gave away all her finery to the poor. The infuriated governor attempted to persuade his daughter to deny Christ, but St Kerkyra stood firm against both persuasion and threats. Then the enraged father devised a terrible punishment for his daughter: he gave orders that she be placed in a prison cell with the robber and murderer Murinus, so that he might defile the betrothed of Christ
But when the robber approached the door of the prison cell, a bear attacked him. St Kerkyra heard the noise and she drove off the beast in the name of Christ. Then, by her prayers, she healed the wounds of Murinus. Then St Kerkyra enlightened him with the faith of Christ, and St Murinus declared himself a Christian and was executed.
The governor gave orders to burn down the prison, but the holy virgin remained alive. Then on her enraged father's order, she was suspended upon a tree, choked with bitter smoke and shot with arrows. After her death, the governor decided to execute all the Christians on the island of Kerkyra. The Martyrs Zeno, Eusebius, Neon and Vitalis, after being enlightened by Sts Jason and Sosipater, were burned alive.
The inhabitants of Kerkyra, escaping from the persecution, crossed to an adjoining island. The governor set sail with a detachment of soldiers, but was swallowed up by the waves. The governor succeeding him gave orders to throw the Apostles Jason and Sosipater into a cauldron of boiling tar. When he beheld them unharmed, he cried out with tears, "O God of Jason and Sosipater, have mercy on me!"
Having been set free, the Apostles baptized the governor and gave him the name Sebastian. With his help, the Apostles Jason and Sosipater built several churches on the island, and increased the flock of Christ by their fervent preaching. They lived there until they reached old age.
Troparion - Tone 3
O holy Apostles Jason and Sosipater,
Pray to the merciful God,
That He may grant to our souls
Remission of our transgressions. Kontakion - Tone 2
O Jason, source of healing,
And Sosipater, glory of the martyrs of Christ:
You were enlightened by the preaching of Paul,
Both becoming a great consolation to the world through your miracles.
Thrice-holy and God-bearing Apostles and defenders of those who suffer,
Intercede with Christ God that He may save our souls.
The Virgin Glaphyra. Licinius burned with passion for Glaphyra, a maidservant of his wife Constantia.The holy virgin reported this to the empress and sought her help. Dressing her in men's attire and providing her with money, the empress Constantia sent her to Pontus in the company of a devoted servant. They told the emperor that Glaphyra had gone mad and lay near death. On her way to Armenia, St Glaphyra stopped in Amasea, where the local bishop, St Basil, gave her shelter.
At this time the saint was building a church in the city. St Glaphyra donated all the money that she had received from Constantia for its construction, and in a letter to the empress she asked her to send additional funds to complete the church. The empress fulfilled her request. However, St Glaphyra's letter fell into the hands of the emperor. The enraged Licinius ordered the governor of Amasea to send him the hierarch and the maidservant. St Glaphyra died before the edict arrived in Amasea, and St Basil was sent to the emperor. Two deacons, Parthenius and Theotimos, followed after him and lodged near the prison where the saint was held.
The pious Christian Elpidephoros bribed the jailer and each night he visited the saint with Parthenius and Theotimos. On the eve of the saint's trial, he sang Psalms and chanted, "if I should sojourn at the extremity of the sea... even there Thy hand would guide me, and Thy right hand would hold me" (Ps 138/139:9-10). These were prophetic words.
Three times he broke down in tears. The deacons were afraid that the saint would not be able to endure the coming torments, but he calmed them.
At the trial St Basil resolutely refused the emperor's offer to become a pagan priest, and so he was sentenced to death. Elpidephoros gave the soldiers money, and they allowed the saint to pray and to speak with his friends before execution. Then the saint said to the executioner, "Friend, do as you have been ordered." Calmly, he bent his neck beneath the sword.
When the martyr had been beheaded, Elpidephoros tried to ransom his relics from the soldiers. But the soldiers were afraid of the emperor and they threw the saint's body and head into the sea. After this, an angel of God appeared to Elpidephoros three times in a dream, saying, "Bishop Basil is in Sinope and awaits you."
Heeding this call, Elpidephoros and the deacons sailed to Sinope, and there they hired fishermen to lower their nets. When they lowered the net on the suggestion of the deacons Theotimos and Parthenius, they came up with nothing. Then Elpidephoros declared that he would ask them to lower the net in the name of the God Whom he worshiped. This time, the net brought up the body of St Basil. The saint's head was attached to his body once more, and only the gash on his neck indicated the blow of the sword. The relics of St Basil were taken to Amasea and buried in the church he built. SOURCE:
George, this truly great and glorious Martyr of Christ, was born of a father from Cappadocia and a mother from Palestine. Being a military tribune, or chiliarch (that is, a commander of a thousand troops), he was illustrious in battle and highly honoured for his courage. When he learned that the Emperor Diocletian was preparing a persecution of the Christians, Saint George presented himself publicly before the Emperor and denounced him. When threats and promises could not move him from his steadfast confession, he was put to unheard-of tortures, which he endured with great bravery, overcoming them by his faith and love towards Christ. By the wondrous signs that took place in his contest, he guided many to the knowledge of the truth, including Queen Alexandra, wife of Diocletian, and was finally beheaded in 296 in Nicomedia.
His sacred remains were taken by his servant from Nicomedia to Palestine, to a town called Lydda, the homeland of his mother, and then were finally transferred to the church which was raised up in his name. (The translation of the Saint's holy relics to the church in Lydda is commemorated on November 3; Saint Alexandra the Queen, on April 21.)
If April 23 falls on or before Great and Holy Pascha, the Feast of St. George is translated to Bright Monday.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Liberator of captives, defender of the poor, physician of the sick, and champion of kings, O trophy-bearer, Great Martyr George, intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.
Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Cultivated by God, you became manifest as an honorable tiller gathering for yourself the sheaves of virtue. For you sowed with tears but reaped with gladness; in the contest you competed with your blood and came away with Christ. By your intercessions, O Holy One, all are granted forgiveness of sins.
Saint Sava of the Caves lived in the Near Caves of the Kiev Caves monastery during the thirteenth century. In the manuscripts, in the "Book of the Saints," and in the Canon of the Services to the Fathers of the Kiev Caves, he is called a wonderworker.
His memory is celebrated on April 24 because of his namesake, the Holy Martyr Sava Stratelates. The memory of St Sava is also celebrated on the Synaxis of the Monastic Fathers of the Near Caves (September 28), and on the Synaxis of all the Wonderworkers of the Kiev Caves (Second Sunday of Great Lent). SOURCE:
Commemorated on April 23
Two illustrious officials, Sts Anatolius and Protoleon, who were secretly Christians, openly confessed Christ after seeing St George tortured, then miraculously healed of his wounds. Immediately, and without a trial, they were beheaded with the sword by order of the emperor. SOURCE:
After the fall, man, we are told by Holy Writ, was cast out of paradise (Gen. 3,24). God, however, through this expulsion, did not lead man to despair, for He simultaneously sowed within Him the hope of salvation.
The final outcome of his vicissitude would be accomplished with the coming of the offspring of the "woman", who would crush the "head" of the "serpent" (Gen. 3,15). Man had to prepare himself systematically for this advent, for his restoration was not the result of force but the fruit of God's love which man accepted. Man had to accept once again in freedom the saving action of God.
The Orthodox Church believes that God wanted to prepare mankind for His saving intervention through the election of the people of Israel and the preaching of the Old Testament Prophets. The prophetical message had as its centre the awaited offspring of the "woman".
This Saviour of mankind was Jesus Christ in whom God united Himself with man and in this way man became a partaker of God's life. Christ is not two persons, a human and a divine, but one: a theandric person. He was one Christ, not two.
God's union with man in the person of Christ did not shatter the human nature, because the union of the divine and the human nature in the One Christ took place "without confusion, without separation, without change, without division". The two natures are not confused between themselves in a mixture, nor does the one separate itself from the other. Moreover, the human nature does not change into the divine nature nor does the divine change into the human. In this way the Son and Word of God took on human nature and in His unique person He led him to communion with God. One of the hymns of the Church states:
" You assumed my corrupt and mortal nature, You clothed me in incorruption, and You raised me up to eternal and blessed life,
where, Ο compassionate Lord,
do thou give rest to those whom you assumed".
The Orthodox Christian does not attempt to approach the God-manhood of Christ rationally; he accepts it with humility as revelation from God, as a "great mystery" (I Timothy 3, 16), which identified with man's very salvation.
Salvation through Christ, then, is not to be found in the showing of some "way" outside his person, or in the keeping of certain commandments on man's part. No effort whatsoever on the part of the created could ever lead to the uncreated, i.e. to freedom from the bondage to corruption and death. The uncreated and eternal God, in the Person of Jesus Christ, transcends the ontological abyss separating the created from the uncreated. This is accomplished, not that God might live the life of the created, but that He might raise created man to divine life beyond corruption and death. This communion of mortal man with immortal and eternal God is communion "according to energy" and not "according to essence"; this means that man does not partake of God's essence, that he is touched by God's energy, i.e. His Grace. And because the divine energy is from the essence of God, the communion between God and man is a real communion which grants life to man without doing away with him; it does not constitute a confusion or mixture of human nature in God's. God saves man while respecting his person; He attributes to it inestimable value.
All that we have mentioned shows that faith in Christ's God-manhood constitutes man's only hope, because he finds in this faith λ deeper meaning in life even beyond the grave. St. Paul calls salvation in Christ a great mystery of piety; "Truly great is the mystery of our piety: God was revealed in the flesh, vindicated through Spirit, appeared to the angels, proclaimed to the nations, believed in throughout the world, ascended in glory" (I Timothy 3,16).
Man's salvation therefore is identified with the event of God's incarnation. God through this manner assumes man and saves him. Belief that we will make this fact, this event, of our salvation our own possession is the great mystery of piety.
Christ is now the new head of the human race. Holy Scripture underlines the fact that He is the saviour of God's new people: the Church, which constitutes "His Body", having Him as its very head (Math. 1,21. Ephes. 5,23). In speaking about the Church He describes her as the "kingdom of God". For in the Body of Christ the heavenly and the earthly, i.e. angels and men, are to be "recapitulated" (Ephes. 1,10), so as to be under the one Head and to be ruled by Christ.
This is what Christ meant when He said that with His coming, the kingdom of heaven was at hand (Matth. 4,17. 10,7). Indeed, with the re-formation of the Church the mystery of the kingdom is now "within you" (Lk. 17,21); all of mankind is touched by the grace of God, is sanctified in its totality and ruled by the Head, which is Christ.
Man is inaugurated into the kingdom of God (into the Body of Christ) through Holy Baptism, and he is called to live the life of the Body, i.e. to become a partaker of salvation in Christ, of the life in Christ. In this sense, he can now say along with St. Paul, " I no longer live, but Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2,20). For this reason, Paul's task aimed at "...such time as Christ shall be formed within you" (Gal.4,19). The Lord Himself assures everyone who shall love him in truth, that he shall be loved by God the Father "and we will come to him and make our home with him"; we will dwell with Him! (Jn. 14,23).
It is important to underline that the body which Christ assumed was no different than our body. It was a created body and thus susceptible to corruption and death. And indeed, Christ subjected Himself to these in order to meet death and destroy it through His death in the flesh on the Cross, and to liberate us from its bonds, thus becoming the first born from the dead (I Cor. 15, 55-58). In this way the believer, incorporated into the human flesh which Christ assumed, in the body of Christ, makes his own that communion which was brought about in the person of Christ and is led to theosis; In Christ the uncontainable God becomes contained and in Christ man becomes a "partaker of the divine nature" (II Peter 1,4).
The path which God chose in order to save man is the path of love and honour towards His creature. God Himself undertook the task of man's salvation. In God's eyes apostate man did not cease to be something precious. For this reason He did not search him out and summon him back through "a representative or a messenger"; He Himself set out in search of him and "emptied Himself out, taking the form of a servant". He humbled Himself (Philp. 2,7-8), in order to raise man up from the state of dishonour to the heights of honour. He offered him the communion of His love without crushing him, without violating man's personality.
That which now remains for man is his disposition. He is still free and can make his own choice; the believer knows that there is but one road to salvation: Christ, who said, "I am the way...no one cometh unto the Father except through me" (John 14,6). There is no other way to salvation outside the God-man Jesus Christ; neither can our brother save us. How then can someone else save us? No one can offer anything to God to atone for him. He does not have the price to pay for his soul, even if he were to labour all his life.
This is underlined by Holy Scripture: "No one can ransom a brother, there is no price one can give to God for it. For the ransom of life is costly and can never suffice" (Psalm 48, 8-9). In harmony with Holy Scripture one of the hymns of the Church emphasizes:
"Being crucified, ο Christ,
tyranny has been done away with;
the power of the enemy has been trampled upon;
for neither angel nor man,
but the Lord Himself has saved us.
Glory to Thee".
Here then every idea of self-development, self-realization, self-discovery and self-salvation is overthrown and shown to be incompatible with the Christian faith. Man's participation is found in his free and total consent to the saving work of God in Jesus Christ.
THE ORTHODOX CHURCH Its Faith, Worship and Life Rev. Antonios Alevisopoulos, Th.D., Ph.D Translated by Rev. Stephen Avramides ATHENS 2001
The Holy Martyrs Theodore, his mother Philippa, Dioscorus, Socrates and Dionysius suffered during the reign of the emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161) in Perge, Pamphylia. When they were conscripting robust and healthy young men for military service, then they led the youth Theodore and the others to the military commander Theodotus.
The military commander ordered the youth to offer sacrifice to idols, but the martyr submitted neither to persuasion nor threats. Then the military commander had him placed on a red-hot plate and poured liquid tar on him. Suddenly, there was an earthquake, and a torrent of water gushed forth from the ground and extinguished the fire.
The martyr Theodore remained unharmed, and gave praise to God. The commander ascribed his deliverance to sorcery, so St Theodore suggested that he test the power of his gods by putting the pagan priest Dioscorus through the same trials.
The commander told Dioscorus to lie upon the red-hot plate, and call on the help of Zeus. St Dioscorus replied that he believed in Christ, and he was prepared to throw the idol of Zeus into the fire. Again the military commander commanded him to get on the heated plate. St Dioscorus fell at the knees of St Theodore, asking that he pray for him. Then he got onto the plate, crying out: "I thank You, Lord Jesus Christ, that You have numbered me among Your servants. Accept my soul in peace." Then he died, having been delivered from terrible torment.
They continued to torture St Theodore. They tied him to wild horses, which began to run. But at the city walls the horses fell down and collapsed, and the martyr Theodore remained unharmed. Two soldiers, Socrates and Dionysius, saw how a fiery chariot came down from the heavens to St Theodore, on which the martyr was carried off.
The astonished soldiers shouted: "Great is the God of the Christians!" They seized them and on the next day threw them into a fiery furnace with the martyr Theodore. But a heavenly dew cooled the furnace, and the saints remained alive.
In the morning, the military commander ordered soldiers to look upon the burned bodies of the martyrs. The soldiers returned and reported that the three youths were unharmed. St Theodore's mother, Philippa, encouraged the martyrs in their act.
The military commander told St Philippa to save her son, by urging him to offer sacrifice to the idols. St Philippa said that when her son was born it was revealed to her that he would be crucified for Christ. Hearing this, the military commander commanded them to crucify St Theodore, and to cut off the heads of the other martyrs. St Theodore hung on the cross for three days, offering prayers to God until he finally died.
Commemorated on April 20
Child Martyr Gabriel of Bialystok (+ 1690) was killed in Poland when he was only six years old. One day when his parents were not home, he was lured out of his house by a man named Schutko, and then killed. After thirty years, the martyred child's body was found to be incorrupt.
By: Fr. Anthony Alevizopoulos
PhD. of Theology, PhD. of Philosophy
God is the unique Being, the absolute existence; nothing can be compared with Him and the honor which is due Him, i.e. worship and adoration, is rendered unto none other; neither to some non-existent god nor to some idol.
But God's grace is transmitted in every way in accordance with His will; even through material objects or even through the shadow of holy men, as was the case with the shadow of the Apostles, which is their imprint, a type of image (Acts 5, 12-16. 19,11-12).
In the Old Testament some of the objects which transmitted the miraculous grace of God were the bronze snake of Moses, the Ark of the Covenant, the sheep-skin coat of the Prophet Elias, et al. Every desecration of the sacred objects was severely punished by God (see Num. 10,15-20. I Kings 5, 2-4).
The teaching of the Orthodox Church concerning the holy icons has a Christological foundation. God is by essence unapproachable; He can neither be expressed by words nor depicted. The Son and Word of God, however, became man and we beheld His glory (Jn 1, 14). Thus we can depict the person of Christ which constitutes the visible sign of the invisible presence of God, an "image of the invisible God" (Col. 1, 15). In the Orthodox Church that which is seen can be depicted; we express the same confession of faith either by written or oral word and even by depiction. The icon of Christ constitutes the confirmation of the incarnation of the Son and Word of God, which was a totally real, and not a docetic or imaginary, one.
Through the sacred icons we express our internal desire to grow in the love of Christ and the saints, to attain to the "new creation in Christ" and to become "conformed to His image" (Rom. 8,29). Just as the word sanctifies our lips, in a like way the icon, which transmits the same meaning as does the word, sanctifies our eyes and our mind.
The icons of the saints refer to "the new man" and are a declaration of our belief in our transformation in Christ and in the incorruption of man and the entire world. They do not refer to the "beauty" of this world, but rather symbolize the beauty and the glory of the "future age". This is why the holy icons lack the dimension of "depth" and are two-dimensional. They proclaim a transfigured world which however we observe "as through a mirror" (I Cor. 13, 12). The holy icons give us the feeling that there exists a new world that is being transformed, and they constitute the assurance of our hope, expressed in the words of our Lord: "Behold I make all things new" (Rev. 21,5).
The honor rendered to the holy icons is placed within the framework established by the Seventh Ecumenical Council. According to the Holy Fathers of this council, the honor shown towards the holy icons refers back to the ancient Church and confirms the belief in the real incarnation of God the Word. This council ordains that along with the Holy Cross icons be made for the Churches, to be placed on the sacred vessels and the vestments of the priests, in the homes and in the roads; icons of Christ, the Theotokos and all the saints. It further underlines:
"For the more frequently they [the sacred icons] are seen, all the more those who see them are moved to remembrance and desire of those depicted; to them [the icons] they render greetings and a veneration of honor, but not true worship, which in accordance with our faith, is due only unto the divine nature...for the honor rendered to the icon is transferred to the prototype, and he who venerates the icon venerates the person depicted thereon".
Orthodox Christians believe that the Holy Cross is their only pride (Gal. 6,14). It is the instrument through which sin, the source of death, was set at naught (Rom. 5,12. 8,3). The Cross is thus no longer a symbol of death and of shame (Deut. 21,23), but a source of eternal life. Through the Cross the curse is done away with, conciliation "in Christ" is brought about, and "the new man" is created (Eph. 2, 15- 16). These truths are expressed in many of the hymns of the Church:
"You spread out Your hands on the Cross, Ο Merciful One, and You gathered together the Nations that were far from You so that they might glorify Your great goodness".
"By spreading out Your divine hands upon the Cross, Ο Jesus,
You brought unto Yourself the work of Your hands, and You freed all from the hands of the Evil One and subjected them [unto You], for which cause let us faithful hymn Your majesty, for indeed it is glorified".
The Cross of Christ is thus characterized by the Lord Himself as glory, as the judgment of this world, as the casting out of the Devil and as exaltation (Jn 12, 24-33). Our Church characterizes the Cross as "a weapon against the Devil", because he trembles and shudders at the sight of the Cross, not being able to bear its power.
"Lord, You have given us Your Cross as a weapon against the Devil; for he shudders and trembles, not being able to gaze upon its might.
For its resurrects the dead,
and abrogated death;
for which cause we venerate
Your entombment and Your Resurrection".
The Holy Cross of Christ becomes a standard and a measure of either man's triumph or his condemnation, depending upon the position he takes vis-a-vis it. Whoever equates Christ's Cross with that of the thieves, is equated with the unrepentant thief and is condemned. On the contrary, whoever differentiates the Cross of Christ and considers it to be a royal scepter, and invokes the mercy of Christ, is likened unto the good thief, and the road leading to Paradise is opened up before him. In this way the Holy Cross becomes the measure of the judgment of the world, "the scale of justice" as it is called by the hymn of the Church:
"Your Cross stood between two thieves
as a scale of justice.
The one is led down to hell
by the weight of his blasphemy,
the other is lightened from the burden of his sins
unto the knowledge of things divine.
Ο Christ-God, glory to You".
When we speak of the Holy Cross we do not mean only Christ's crucifixion, but also the wood of the Cross. For this, too, is sanctified by its contact with the Body of Christ, and that is why it, too, is venerated: "The wood of Your Cross do we venerate, Ο Lover of man, for on it was nailed the Life of all things", states one of the Church's hymns. The sign of the Cross is also "divine and venerable", says St. Gregory Palamas, for it is "a venerable seal, sanctifying and perfecting all the marvelous and ineffable good things that come from God". It is an image of the crucified Christ and it draws its power and grace from His passion. This is why the sealing with the sign of the Cross is the external sign of all of the Church's Mysteries through which man's salvation is wrought.
The Cross of Christ expresses the ineffable love of God, but at the same time it also expresses man's infinite value in God's sight. A contemporary theologian says that Christ put sin to death without slaying the sinner; He did away with guilt and yet saved the guilty one. This is the great difference between Christ and human justice which crushes guilt by deriding and disgracing the guilty one. However, Christ did not simply conquer sin but also the consequence of sin which is death, and restored man to his pristine purity. Thus He led man to a surpassing of death, to the life of immortality and incorruption. Thus we do not have here a lifting of some type of Augustinian inherited guilt, nor room for any type of "payment" or "ransom" - save only in the patristic sense - and certainly not an Anselmian satisfaction of Divine justice. Rather the weight rests on Christ's love, Who achieved the most extreme limits of sacrifice in behalf of those whom He loves. And it is in precisely this that we see man's infinite value.
Making the sign of the Cross is an early Christian Tradition testified to by St. Justin the Martyr (+ 150) and by Tertullian (+ 200). The latter writes: " We Christians in all our travels and in all our movements about, at every departure and upon every arrival, when we put on our clothes and shoes, in the bath and at the table, when we light our lamp, when we sit or sleep, in all the acts of our every-day life in general, we make the sign of the Cross".
" This custom," Tertullian concludes, "has its beginnings in the Church's Tradition, it is strengthened through habit and should be preserved in faith".
Orthodox Christians unite the three fingers of their right hand and place them first on their forehead, then on their stomach and finally bring them to their two shoulders from right to left. All of the Church's theology is depicted in the sign of the Cross. By uniting our three fingers we depict and confess our belief in the One Triune God. From the forehead we bring our fingers to the stomach, and by so doing "typify the Son" Who was pre-eternally born of the Father and came down to earth by His birth from the Virgin Mary. When we place our united fingers on our shoulders we do so to "typify the Holy Spirit", Who is characterized as being the "arm" and the "might" of God. By uniting the remaining two fingers we depict Christ's incarnation and the inseparable union of the two natures, through which human nature was cured and exalted to the height of theosis.
We must not make the sign of the Cross in a mechanical way, but conscientiously, with inner participation. We should make the sign of the Cross upon our bodies distinctly and not carelessly, but in accordance with the order of the Church: with our three fingers joined together and as if the Cross itself were touching us. It is understood that the sign of the Cross must be accompanied by analogous faith in that which it depicts ; the unwavering decision to crucify and do away with our sinful selves and our passions; to put on the new man and ever be orientated towards the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ.
Orthodox Christians therefore render respect and honorary veneration to the Cross just as they do to the holy icons, in relation always to the personage of Christ. This also holds true for the honor rendered to the saints. This honor is not adoration and worship, but an expression of respect and love towards persons and things which God Himself honored by abundantly bestowing upon them His grace. This veneration would be transformed into worship only in such case where one were to render it by identifying in his conscience that which he venerated with God. No Orthodox Christian, however, ever identifies the Holy Cross, the sacred icons or the saints with God, nor does he differentiate the honor accorded them from their relationship to the person of our Lord.
Hieromartyr Paphnutius of Jerusalem was a bishop. He underwent many sufferings from the pagans and was tortured by fire, wild beasts, and finally was beheaded by the sword.
Some suggest that the hieromartyr Paphnutius was an Egyptian bishop and suffered together with many other Egyptians, exiled to the Palestinian mines during the persecution by Diocletian (284-305).
The myrrh-streaming relics of the hieromartyr were glorified by miracles. The Canon in his honor was composed during the Iconoclast period (before 842). In the final Ode is a petition for the hieromartyr to put an end to the heresy disrupting the Church.
Saint Cosmas, Bishop of Chalcedon, and his companion St Auxentius, lived during the ninth century, at a time when the Iconoclasts oppressed the Orthodox. St Cosmas while still in his youth had entered a monastery and received monastic tonsure. Later, he was consecrated as Bishop of Chalcedon, and zealously defended the Orthodox Faith against the Iconoclast heretics. St Auxentius helped the saint in this struggle.
The Iconoclasts tried in many ways to win the saint over to their side, but he remained faithful to Orthodoxy until the very end. St Cosmas did not obey the decree of Emperor Leo the Armenian (813-820) ordering the removal of the holy icons from the churches. For this he was expelled from his See and exiled to prison.
When the saint returned from exile, he and St Auxentius continued to defend the veneration of holy icons. At the mitigation of the persecution, St Cosmas was weak in body, but remained strong in spirit. St Cosmas and St Auxentius steadfastly preserved the Orthodox Faith until the end of their lives.
Commemorated on April 17
Saint Alexander of Svir died on August 30, 1533. His in-corrupt relics were uncovered in 1641 during the reconstruction of the Transfiguration cathedral.
The incorrupt relics of the saint were removed from the Svir Monastery by the Bolsheviks on December 20, 1918 after several unsuccessful attempts to confiscate them. There was an infamous campaign to liquidate the relics of the saints which continued from 1919 to 1922. Many relics of Russian saints were stolen and subjected to "scientific examination" or displayed in anti religious museums. Some were completely destroyed.
Hoping to prove that the relics were fakes, the Soviets conducted many tests. However, the tests only confirmed that the relics were genuine. Finally, the holy relics were sent to Petrograd's Military Medical Academy. There they remained for nearly eighty years.
A second uncovering of St Alexander's relics took place in December 1997.
The relics were found to be in-corrupt, just as they were when they were confiscated. The saint's appearance matched the description in the records from 1641. Once it was determined that these were in fact the relics of St Alexander, Metropolitan Vladimir of St Petersburg permitted them to be taken to the church of St Sophia and her three daughters Faith, Hope, and Love (September 17) for four months before their return to the Svir Monastery. As people venerated St Alexander's relics they noticed a fragrant myrrh flowing from them.
The holy relics were taken to the St Alexander of Svir Monastery in November 1998, and miraculous healings continue to take place before them.
The Holy Martyr Leonidas and the Holy Martyrs Charissa, Nike, Galina, Kalisa (Kalida), Nunekhia, Basilissa, and Theodora suffered at Corinth in the year 258. They threw them into the sea, but they did not drown. Instead, they walked upon the water as if on dry land, singing spiritual hymns. The torturers overtook them in a ship, tied stones around their necks and drowned them.
Commemorated on April 15
Saint Pudens was one of the Seventy Apostles whom the Lord Jesus Christ sent before him with the good news of the Gospel (Luke 10:1-24).
St Pudens is mentioned in St Paul's second Epistle to Timothy (2 Tim. 4:21). He occupied high position as a member of the Roman Senate. The saint received the foremost Apostles Peter and Paul in his home, where believing Christians gathered. His house was converted into a church, receiving the name "Pastorum". According to Tradition, the holy Apostle Peter himself served in it as priest.
St Pudens suffered martyrdom at Rome under the emperor Nero (54-68). He is also commemorated on January 4.
Troparion - Tone 4
Together let us honor the threefold choir of Christ's Apostles,
Aristarchus, Pudens and the holy Trophimus.
Like rivers filled with the wisdom of God
They poured out the water of the Word for all the world.
Through their intercessions, O Christ our God, have mercy on us!
Kontakion - Tone 1
Apostles of Christ and laborers of the Savior,
You are the light of the world.
Intercede for us who praise your holy memory,
And pray that we may be saved. SOURCE:
The Vilnius (Vilna) Icon of the Mother of God was painted by the holy Evangelist Luke. For a long time it was in the family of the Greek emperors at Constantinople. In 1472 Sophia Paleologina, wife of the Moscow Great Prince Ivan III (1462-1505), transferred the icon to Moscow.
In 1495 the Great Prince blessed his daughter Elena with this icon before giving her in marriage to the Lithuanian king Alexander. The Church celebrates the transfer of this icon to Vilnius on February 15.
Later, the holy icon was placed in the church of St John the Forerunner, in which Princess Elena was buried. Afterwards, they transferred the icon to Vilnius's HolyTrinity monastery.
The Vilnius icon is also commemorated on February 15. SOURCE:
Commemorated on April 13
The Holy martyr Thomais was born into a Christian family in the city of Alexandria. She was raised in piety, and loved to read spiritual books.
When she was fifteen, the girl married a fisherman, who was also a Christian. The young couple lived in the house of her husband's family, where St Thomais was loved for her mild and gentle disposition, and for other good traits.
St Thomais' father-in-law, at the prompting of the devil, was captivated by her beauty. One night, when his son went out fishing, he attempted to lead his daughter-in-law into sin. Horrified, St Thomais admonished the senseless old man, reminding him of the Last Judgment and the penalty for sin. Infuriated by her steadfastness, he seized a sword and threatened to cut off her head. St Thomais answered resolutely, "Even if you cut me to pieces, I shall not stray from the commandments of the Lord." Overcome with passion, the old man cut St Thomais in two with the sword. The saint received the crown of martyrdom in the year 476.
Divine punishment overtook the murderer. He became blind and could not find the door in order to escape. In the morning, the companions of the saint's husband came to the door. They saw the body of the saint, and the blind old man covered with blood. The murderer confessed his evil deed and asked to be taken to the judge for punishment. He was beheaded for his crime.
At this time, St Daniel of Skete (June 7) happened to be in Alexandria. He told the monks of the Oktodekadian monastery (at the eighteenth mile on the road leading west from Alexandria) to bring the body of the martyr to the monastery and bury her in the cemetery with the departed fathers. Some of the monks were scandalized because he wanted to bury a woman's body with the monks. St Daniel replied, "She is a mother to me and to you, because she died for her chastity."
After the funeral St Daniel returned to his own skete. Soon one of the young monks began to complain to him that he was tormented by fleshly passions. St Daniel ordered him to go and pray at the grave of the holy martyr Thomais. The monk did the bidding of the Elder. While he prayed at the grave, he fell into a light sleep. St Thomais appeared to him and said, "Father, accept my blessing and go in peace."
When he awakened, the monk felt joy and peace in his soul. After this, he told St Daniel that he was no longer bothered by the temptations of the flesh. Abba Daniel exclaimed, "Great is the boldness of those who have struggled for chastity."
Many found both spiritual joy and release from their passions at the grave of St Thomais. Her holy relics were transferred to Constantinople to one of the women's monasteries. The Russian pilgrim Archdeacon Zosimas venerated them in 1420.
St Thomais is invoked by those seeking deliverance from sexual impurity. Other saints whose intercession we seek for this purpose are: St John the Much-Suffering (July 18) and St Moses the Hungarian (July 26).
Saint Anthusa of Constantinople was the daughter of the Iconoclast emperor Constantine Copronymos (741-775) and his first wife. She and her brother, the future emperor Leo the Khazar (775-780), were twins born on January 25, 750. The empress suffered very much with their birth. Constantine Copronymos summoned Abbess Anthusa of Mantinea (July 27) from prison and entreated her prayers. The abbess predicted the birth of the twins and their fate, and the daughter was named in her honor.
When she grew up, the emperor began to urge her to marry. But from her youth St Anthusa yearned for monasticism and would not agree to his suggestions. After the death of her father, she used all her personal property to help the poor and the orphaned. The devout empress Irene (780-802), wife of Leo the Khazar, regarded St Anthusa with love and esteem and invited her to be a co-regent. St Anthusa, however, did not desire worldly honors. Being at court, she wore clothes befitting her position as an emperor's daughter, but underneath her finery she wore a hair-shirt.
St Anthusa was tonsured by the holy Patriarch Tarasius (784-806). She founded at Constantinople the Omonia monastery, known for its strict rule. St Anthusa was herself an example of humility. She did hard work, she cleaned the church and carried water. She never sat at table during meals, but instead served the sisters. She saw to it that no one left the monastery without a special need.
The humble and gentle ascetic lived to the age of fifty-two, and died peacefully in 801. SOURCE:
In the 14th century, during the reign of King Bagrat V (1360–1394), Timur (Tamerlane) invaded Georgia seven times. His troops inflicted irreparable damage on the country, seizing centuries-old treasures and razing ancient churches and monasteries.
Timur’s armies ravaged Kartli, then took the king, queen, and the entire royal court captive and sent them to Karabakh (in present-day Azerbaijan). Later Timur attempted to entice King Bagrat to renounce the Christian Faith in exchange for permission to return to the throne and for the release of the other Georgian prisoners.
For some time Timur was unable to subjugate King Bagrat, but in the end, being powerless and isolated from his kinsmen, the king began to falter. He devised a sly scheme: to confess Islam before the enemy, but to remain a Christian at heart. Satisfied with King Bagrat’s decision to “convert to Islam,” Timur permitted the king to return to the throne of Kartli. At the request of King Bagrat, Timur sent twelve thousand troops with him to complete Georgia’s forcible conversion to Islam.
When they were approaching the village of Khunani in southeastern Georgia, Bagrat secretly informed his son Giorgi of everything that had happened and called upon him and his army to massacre the invaders.
The news of Bagrat’s betrayal and the ruin of his army infuriated Timur, and he called for immediate revenge. At their leader’s command, his followers destroyed everything in their path, set fire to cities and villages, devastated churches, and thus forced their way through to Kvabtakhevi Monastery.
Monastics and laymen alike were gathered in Kvabtakhevi when the enemy came thundering in. Having forced open the gate, the attackers burst into the monastery, then plundered and seized all its treasures. They captured the young and strong, carrying them away.
The old and infirm were put to the sword. As the greatest humiliation, they mocked the clergy and monastics by strapping them with sleigh bells and jumping and dancing around them.
Already drunk on the blood they had shed, the barbarians posed an ultimatum to those who remained: to renounce Christ and live or to be driven into the church and burned alive.
Faced with these terms, the faithful cried out: “Go ahead and burn our flesh—in the Heavenly Kingdom our souls will burn with a divine flame more radiant than the sun!” And in their exceeding humility, the martyrs requested that their martyrdom not be put on display: “We ask only that you not commit this sin before the eyes of men and angels. The Lord alone knows the sincerity of our will and comforts us in our righteous afflictions!”
Having been driven like beasts into the church, the martyrs raised up a final prayer to God: “In the multitude of Thy mercy shall I go into Thy house; I shall worship toward Thy holy temple in fear of Thee. O Lord, guide me in the way of Thy righteousness; because of mine enemies, make straight my way before Thee (Ps. 5:6–7) that with a pure mind I may glorify Thee forever….”
The executioners hauled in more and more wood, until the flames enveloping the church blazed as high as the heavens and the echo of crackling timber resounded through the mountains. Ensnared in a ring of fire, the blissful martyrs chanted psalms as they gave up their spirits to the Lord.
The massacre at Kvabtakhevi took place in 1386. The imprints of the martyrs’ charred bodies remain on the floor of the church to this day. SOURCE:
Saint Eleni (who was also called Susanna) is one of the New Martyrs of Lesbos who are commemorated on Bright Tuesday. She was St. Irene's older cousin, and suffered along with Sts Raphael, Nicholas, and Irene on April 9, 1463 (Bright Tuesday).
On November 12, 1961 Mrs Basilike Rallis had a dream in which she saw herself by the church at Karyes near the town of Thermi on the Greek island of Lesbos. As she looked inside the church, she saw a young girl about fourteen or fifteen years old, with a dark complexion and dark hair. Since the girl was praying, Mrs Rallis also began to pray. The girl turned to her and said, "Do you know who I am? I am a martyr. Not like Renoula (a diminutive form of Irene), of course, but if you only knew what I endured! I lived with the mayor's family, and I was also with them when the Turks tortured them here. They mistreated me and gave me such a horrible beating that I died from the pains. My name is Eleni."
The saint also told Mrs Rallis about an icon of the Mother of God that she had been asking about, revealing to her the place where it would be found.
When she awoke, Mrs Rallis was reluctant to mention this dream to anyone. She said to herself, "If there really is another martyr named Eleni, I'll see her again. Maybe someone else will see her, too, then I'll tell. But who was this Eleni who lived with the mayor's family? Perhaps she was their servant."
The next night, she dreamed that she was in the village church. She saw three clerics coming out through the left door of the altar. She made the Sign of the Cross at once, for she thought that Satan might be tempting her. Then she saw the three clerics make the Sign of the Cross, too. They looked at her and smiled as they slowly proceeded to the center of the church.
"I recognized St. Raphael and St. Nicholas right away," Mrs Rallis recalled, "but did not know the other saint. He was tall, middle-aged with a long gray beard and a lordly air about him."
At that moment, a girl with a round face came out by the same door. She was beautiful, and she wore a rose-colored dress. Mrs Rallis approached her and, kneeling before her, she asked, "Are you also a saint?"
"Yes," the girl replied. "Sit down beside me, watch quietly and I will explain some things to you."
Then other people began to come out from the same door and approached the saints. First, a man of medium height with civilian clothes and a long gray jacket. The girl said to Mrs Rallis, "The teacher, Theodore." He was followed by another well-formed man. The saint said, "The mayor, Basil (St Irene's father)." Then a tall, stout woman of about forty came forth with two girls whom Mrs Rallis recognized at once.They were Sts Irene and Eleni, of whom she had dreamt the night before.
The unknown saint who had appeared with Sts Raphael and Nicholas identified the tall woman as Maria, the mayor's wife, and the two girls as Renoula and Eleni. He asked Mrs Rallis, "Why, when you dreamed about her last evening, did you say that you would not say anything about it to anyone? Eleni is also a martyr, and she wishes to be remembered. She was not the mayor's servant, but his orphaned niece who lived with them. Her proper name, which she signed on papers, was Eleni. However, they also called her Susanna. She also had that name."
Mrs Rallis slowly approached St Irene. She embraced her and began to weep, saying, "O Renoula, my tortured little girl, how could these heartless evil-doers burn you?" Then St Irene also started to cry.
When Mrs Rallis woke up, her eyes were filled with tears, and she thought that she would faint. So powerful was the dream that she later said, "Ah, that tortured child! How I ached for her! Every time I go to Karyes I will sit by her little tomb and I will mourn as if she were my own child. Just think, they tortured the child in front of her father, in front of her mother who bore her. It seems to me that there does not exist a more terrible martyrdom for parents."
The Newly-Appeared Martyrs of Lesbos are also commemorated on April 9. Detailed accounts of these saints may be found in A GREAT SIGN (in Greek) by Photios Kontoglou (Astir, 1964). SOURCE: