Commemorated on March 31
The Iveron Icon of the Mother of God (which is preserved on Mt. Athos) was kept in the home of a certain pious widow, who lived near Nicea. During the time of the emperor Theophilus, the Iconoclasts came to the house of this Christian, and one of the soldiers struck the image of the Mother of God with a spear. Blood flowed from the place where it was struck.
The widow, fearing its destruction, promised the imperial soldiers money and implored them not to touch the icon until morning. When the soldiers departed, the woman and her son (later an Athonite monk), sent the holy icon away upon the sea to preserve it. The icon, standing upright upon the water, floated to Athos.
For several days, the Athonite monks had seen a fiery pillar on the sea rising up to the heavens. They came down to the shore and found the holy image, standing upon the waters. After a Molieben of thanksgiving, a pious monk of the Iveron monastery, St Gabriel (July 12), had a dream in which the Mother of God appeared to him and gave him instructions. So he walked across the water, and taking up the holy icon, he placed it in the church.
On the following day, however, the icon was found not within the church, but on the gates of the monastery. This was repeated several times, until the Most Holy Theotokos revealed to St Gabriel Her will, saying that She did not want the icon to be guarded by the monks, but rather She intended to be their Protectress. After this, the icon was installed on the monastery gates. Therefore this icon came to be called "Portaitissa" or "Gate-Keeper" (October 13). This comes from the Akathist "Rejoice, O Blessed Gate-Keeper who opens the gates of Paradise to the righteous."
There is a tradition that the Mother of God promised St Gabriel that the grace and mercy of Her Son toward the monks would continue as long as the Icon remained at the monastery. It is also believed that the disappearance of the Iveron Icon from Mt. Athos would be a sign of the end of the world.
The Iveron Icon is also commemorated on February 12, October 13 (Its arrival in Moscow in 1648), and Bright Tuesday (Commemorating the appearance of the Icon in a pillar of fire at Mt. Athos and its recovery by St Gabriel). SOURCE:
Saint Euboula, Mother of the Great Martyr Panteleimon (July 27), died peacefully around 303, before the martyrdom of her son.
Troparion - Tone 5
Let us fittingly praise with joyful hymns,
Holy Eubula, mother of our protector, Panteleimon.
She has given birth to our defender and healer,
The glory of martyrs and unmercinary physicians
And the swift healer of all.
Kontakion - Tone 3
Let us assemble today and joyfully celebrate
The mother of our protector, holy Eubula.
She stands before the throne of God with him,
Interceding unceasingly for us,
That we may be granted forgiveness of our sins!
The historian Theodoritus relates that during the reign of St Constantine the Great St Cyril destroyed many idols and pagan temples in Heliopolis, Phoenicia. He was put to death for this during the reign of Julian the Apostate. Pagans cut open his stomach and, like wild beasts, they ate his liver and intestines, for which the Lord punished them with blindness, boils and other terrible afflictions.
During this time the pagans killed many Christians in the Palestinian cities of Ascalon and Gaza: priests, women and children who had dedicated themselves to God. The torturers cut up their bodies, covered them with barley and fed them to pigs.
The holy martyrs received crowns of victory in the Kingdom of Heaven, and the torturers also received their just recompense: eternal torment in Hell.
Troparion - Tone 3
In preparation for the contest, O glorious Mark,
You anointed an assembly of martyrs
And strengthened them by your steadfastness.
You finished your course with them.
And you were all found worthy of the joys of heaven.
O righteous Father,
Pray to Christ our God to grant us his great mercy!
Kontakion - Tone 4
Having been illumined by the grace of truth,
You radiantly instruct the ends of the earth in piety, O glorious Hieromartyrs.
Therefore we bless you in faith. SOURCE:
With the help of God, we have almost reached the middle of the course of the Fast, where our strength has been worn down through abstinence, and the full difficulty of the labour set before us becomes apparent. Therefore our holy Mother, the Church of Christ, now brings to our help the all-holy Cross, the joy of the world, the strength of the faithful, the staff of the just, and the hope of sinners, so that by venerating it reverently, we might receive strength and grace to complete the divine struggle of the Fast.
Resurrectional Apolytikion in the Third Tone
Let the heavens sing for joy, and let everything on earth be glad. * For with His Arm the Lord has worked power. * He trampled death under foot by means of death; * and He became the firstborn from the dead. * From the maw of Hades He delivered us; * and He granted the world His great mercy.
Resurrectional Kontakion in the Third Tone
From the tomb You rose today, * O Lord of tender compassion, * also from the gates of death * You led us out, O our Savior. * On this day is Adam dancing and Eve rejoices, * and with them together Patriarchs and the Prophets * are unceasingly extolling the divine power of Your authority.
Seasonal Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
To you, Theotokos, invincible Defender, having been delivered from peril, I, your city, dedicate the victory festival as a thank offering. In your irresistible might, keep me safe from all trials, that I may call out to you: "Hail, unwedded bride!"
Commemorated on March 26
Hieromartyr Irenaeus suffered during the persecution against Christians under the Roman emperors Diocletian and Maximian (284-305).
He was a presbyter, and he and his wife raised their children in Christian piety. St Irenaeus was greatly respected for his education and strict manner of life.
He was later made Bishop of Sirmium in Pannonia (modern Hungary). Because of his fervent preaching of the Gospel he was arrested and brought before an official named Probus. Refusing to deny Christ and offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, the saint was handed over for torture. Witnessing his torments were the saint's parents, relatives and friends, who attempted to persuade him to submit, but the martyr remained steadfast.
After cruel tortures, the holy confessor spent a long time in prison. Probus tried to persuade the martyr, urging him to spare his life for the sake of his sons. St Irenaeus replied, "My sons believe in God, Who will care for them. As for me, nothing will force me to renounce my Christ."
The governor ordered the saint to be thrown into a river. They led the martyr on the bridge crossing the River Sava, where he knelt and prayed to the Lord for his flock. Then they beheaded the Hieromartyr Irenaeus, and threw his body into the river. SOURCE:
Saint Zachariah the Faster of the Caves was an ascetic in the Far Caves in the thirteenth-fourteenth centuries. He fasted so strictly that he ate nothing baked nor boiled, and he consumed only greens once a day at the setting of the sun. Demons trembled at the mere mention of his name.
Often the monk saw angels, with which he deserved to live in Heaven. The identification of St Zachariah, Faster of Caves, with Zachariah the son of John of Kiev, who had given all his inheritance for the adornment of the Caves temple and became a monk at the monastery, is unfounded.
Before his death, John had transferred his property to his friend Sergius. This was when the igumen was St Nikon (March 23). Zachariah was five years old at the time. At age fifteen, i.e., not later than the year 1098, he obtained his inheritance from Sergius, in order to give it to the monastery. However, St Zachariah the Faster of the Caves lived approximately 200 years later.
Saint Nikon of the Kiev Caves was the first disciple and fellow-ascetic of St Anthony (July 10), the founder of the Kiev Caves monastery, to which he came as a priest. At the monastery he tonsured all the new monks, and among their number was St Theodosius of the Caves (May 3 and August 14).
For tonsuring the favorites of the Great Prince Izyaslav, Sts Barlaam (November 19) and Ephraim (January 28 ), St Nikon brought the wrath of the prince down upon himself, but he refused to force the new monks to leave the monastery. The princess calmed Izyaslav, and he left St Nikon in peace.
When the number of brethren in the monastery had increased, St Nikon desired to go into seclusion and live as a hesychast. He went to the Tmutarakan peninsula (on the eastern banks of the Kerchensk straits) and settled in an unpopulated spot. When news of his holy life and spiritual gifts spread throughout the region, many gathered about him, wishing to follow his example. Thus a monastery and a church were founded in the name of the Most Holy Theotokos.
When he returned to the Kiev Caves monastery, St Nikon was obedient to St Theodosius as his spiritual Father. According to St Nestor the Chronicler (October 27), when St Theodosius had to go somewhere, he entrusted all the brethren to the care of St Nikon. Sometimes he asked St Nikon to offer instruction to the brethren in place of himself. Often, when St Nikon was binding books, St Theodosius sat near him and spun the thread for the binding.
When Prince Svyatoslav drove out his brother Izyaslav from Kiev, St Nikon returned to the monastery he founded. He returned under the igumen Stephen. When St Stephen (April 27) left the Kiev Caves monastery, St Nikon was chosen as igumen of the monastery. He toiled much to adorn his monastery with spiritual books and icons. He died at a great old age (+ 1088) and was buried in the Near Caves of St Anthony. SOURCE:
St Isaac lived during the fourth century, received monastic tonsure and pursued ascetic labors in the desert. During the reign of the emperor Valens (364-378), a zealous adherent of the Arian heresy, there was a persecution of the Orthodox, and churches were closed and destroyed.
Hearing of the persecution, St Isaac left the wilderness and went to Constantinople to console and encourage the Orthodox, and to fight against the heretics. At that time, barbarian Goths along the River Danube were making war against the Empire. They seized Thrace and advanced toward Constantinople.
When the emperor Valens was leaving the capital with his soldiers, St Isaac cried out, "Emperor, unlock the churches of the Orthodox, and then the Lord will aid you!" But the emperor, disdaining the words of the monk, confidently continued on his way. The saint repeated his request and prophecy three times. The angry emperor ordered St Isaac to be thrown into a deep ravine, filled with thorns and mud, from which it was impossible to escape.
St Isaac remained alive by God's help, and he emerged, overtook the emperor and said, "You wanted to destroy me, but three angels pulled me from the mire. Hear me, open up the churches for the Orthodox and you shall defeat the enemy. If, however, you do not heed me, then you shall not return. You will be captured and burned alive." The emperor was astonished at the saint's boldness and ordered his attendants Saturninus and Victor to take the monk and hold him in prison until his return.
St Isaac's prophecy was soon fulfilled. The Goths defeated and pursued the Greek army. The emperor and his Arian generals took refuge in a barn filled with straw, and the attackers set it afire. After receiving news of the emperor's death, they released St Isaac and honored him as a prophet.
Then the holy Emperor Theodosius the Great (379-395) came to the throne. On the advice of Saturninus and Victor, he summoned the Elder, treating him with great respect. Obeying his instructions, he banished the Arians from Constantinople and restored the churches to the Orthodox. St Isaac wanted to return to his desert, but Saturninus and Victor begged him not to leave the city, but to remain and protect it by his prayers.
Saturninus built a monastery for the saint in Constantinople, where monks gathered around him. St Isaac was the monastery's igumen and spiritual guide. He also nourished laypeople, and helped many of the poor and suffering.
When he had reached an advanced age, St Isaac made St Dalmatus (August 3) igumen. The monastery was later named for Dalmatus.
St Isaac died in the year 383, and his memory is also celebrated on May 30. SOURCE:
Commemorated on March 21
Basil Muraviev (the future St Seraphim) was born in 1865 in the town of Cheremovsky in the Yaroslavl province. His parents, Nicholas and Chione, were peasants. When Basil was ten years old, his father died, and he was left to care for his ailing mother and his sister Olga.
A kind neighbor took Basil with him to St Petersburg, and found him a job as a store clerk. The boy had a secret desire to become a monk, so one day he went to the St Alexander Nevsky Lavra to speak to one of the Elders about this. The Elder advised him to remain in the world and raise a family, then after their children had grown, he and his wife were to serve God in the monastic life.
Basil accepted these words as the will of God, and so he lived his life as the Elder had directed. Returning to the store, Basil continued to work and send money home to his family. When he was twenty-four years old, Basil married his wife Olga.
He started his own business as a furrier, and became very wealthy. He had a son, Nicholas and a daughter, Olga. After their daughter's death, Basil and his wife agreed to live together as brother and sister from that time forward.
When he was around thirty, Basil gave away most of his wealth, donating money to various monasteries. When Nicholas was grown, Basil and Olga went to monasteries to serve God. Olga was tonsured in 1919 with the name Christina, and lived in the Resurrection-New Divyevo Monastery in St Petersburg. Later, she was tonsured into the schema and was given the name Seraphima. She died in 1945.
We do not know where Basil received monastic tonsure (some say it was on Mt Athos), nor the new name he was given at that time.
In 1927, he arrived at the St Alexander Nevsky Lavra, where he became Father Confessor to the monks. There he was tonsured into the schema with the name Seraphim. Soon it became apparent that St Seraphim had received from God the gifts of clairvoyance and healing, and many people came to him seeking his help and advice.
Bishop Alexei (Shimansky) of Novgorod came to the Elder in 1927 to ask if he should leave Russia, since many bishops and priests were facing arrest and execution under the Communist yoke. Before the bishop could utter a word, St Seraphim said, "Many now wish to leave Russia, but there is nothing to fear. You are needed here. You will become Patriarch and will rule for twenty-five years."
A time of trial came for the Lavra. Monks were arrested, exiled, and sent to labor camps. Many of them were executed. Beginning in 1929, the Elder was arrested fourteen times. He continued his priestly ministry in the prison camps, where he strengthened and encouraged his fellow-prisoners.
In 1933, the Elder returned from the camps and settled in Vyritsa. This was a very beautiful place with forests and a river, and it was known for its healthy climate. St Seraphim's health had deteriorated in the prison camps, and he had been beaten many times.
A wooden church in honor of the Kazan Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos had been built in Vyritsa in 1913 to commemorate the three hundredth anniversary of the Romanov dynasty. The upper church has two altars: one dedicated to the Kazan Icon, the other to St Nicholas. The lower church was dedicated to St Seraphim of Sarov.
After he had recovered somewhat, Fr Seraphim began to receive visitors who came seeking advice and comfort from him. Many of those afflicted with illness received healing by his prayers. The authorities soon noticed the great numbers of people who came to him. His cell was searched many times, usually at night. Once, the police came to arrest the Elder, but a doctor told them that Fr Seraphim would not survive the trip because of his many infirmities. They decided to leave him alone, and so the Lord preserved the life of His servant.
The Germans entered Vyritsa in September of 1941, but no one was harmed, and there was no looting. During the War, Fr Seraphim became weak and now served only rarely in the chapel of St Seraphim. Starting in 1945, Fr Alexei Kibardin began serving in the Kazan church.
By the spring of 1949, St Seraphim was very weak and had to remain in bed. Still, he permitted visitors to come to him as before.
Shortly before his death, the Most Holy Theotokos appeared to St Seraphim and told him to receive Holy Communion every day. Fr Alexei Kibardin would bring him Communion at 2 AM, but once he overslept and did not come until 4 AM. He apologized to the Elder for his tardiness, and noticed that there was a certain radiance around the saint. The Elder said, "Father, do not worry. The holy angels have already brought me Communion." Seeing his face, Fr Alexei knew that this was absolutely true!
The Elder told Fr Alexei to go to Moscow and inform Patriarch Alexei I that he would depart to the Lord in two weeks. When Fr Alexei relayed the message, the Patriarch turned to the holy icons and crossed himself. When he turned around again, tears were streaming down his cheeks. "I have been Patriarch for four years," he said. "Twenty-one years remain to me. This is what the holy Elder told me." Patriarch Alexei died in 1970, just as St Seraphim foretold.
St Seraphim departed to the Lord on March 21, 1949 (April 3 N.S.). In the hours before his death, he asked that the Akathists to the Most Holy Theotokos, to St Seraphim of Sarov, and to St Nicholas be read. For a week after his blessed repose, a sweet fragrance permeated Vyritsa.
St Seraphim was buried in the cemetery next to the church of the Kazan Icon in Vyritsa. Great throngs of people came for the funeral, and Vyritsa became a place of pilgrimage.
The schemamonk St Seraphim was glorified by the Church of Russia in August of 2000. SOURCE:
The Holy Virgin Martyrs Claudia, Alexandra, Euphrasia, Matrona, Juliania, Euphemia and Theodosia were arrested in the city of Amisa (on the coastal region of the Black Sea) during the persecution against Christians under the emperor Maximian Galerius (305-311). Under interrogation they confessed their faith and were subjected to cruel tortures for this. The malefactors scourged and beat them with rods, and cut off their breasts. After this, they were suspended and torn with sharp hooks. Finally, the holy virgins were burned alive in a red-hot oven (+ 310).
This holy icon, which dates from the fifteenth century, was in the St Nicholas monastery church in the Pskov region.
There was once a silver plaque with an inscription from 1890 on the reverse of the icon. It told of how Tsar Ivan the Terrible came to the monastery of St Nicholas at Lubyatov during Great Lent in 1570. He had stopped there on his way to punish the people of Pskov, for he believed that they were about to give their allegiance to the Prince of Lithuania.
During the morning service, he happened to gaze at the icon of the Mother of God, and his heart was moved to compunction. "Let the killing stop," he said. "Put away your swords."
Soldiers of the Polish king Stephen Batory shot at the icon as they were on their way to attack Pskov in 1581.
Communists confiscated the icon in 1928, and in 1930 it was placed in the Tretiakov Gallery.
The icon has elements from three other types of icons of the Mother of God. Essentially, it belongs to the Eleousa type, like the Vladimir Icon (May 21, June 23, August 26). The gesture of the divine Child resembles the "Sweet-Kissing" or "Tenderness" Icon of Smolensk (March 19), and the scroll seems to come from the Hodigitria Icon (July 28). SOURCE:
The Holy Martyrs Trophimus and Eucarpion were soldiers at Nicomedia during the persecution against Christians under the emperor Diocletian (284-305). They distinguished themselves by their great ferocity in carrying out all of the emperor's decrees.
Once, when these soldiers had caught up with some Christians, they suddenly saw a large fiery cloud which had come down from the sky, thickening in form as it drew close to them. From out of the cloud came forth a Voice: "Why are you so zealous in threatening My servants? Don't be deluded! No one can suppress those believing in Me through their own strength. It is better to join them and discover the Heavenly Kingdom yourselves."
The soldiers fell to the ground in fright, not daring to lift up their eyes, and only said to one another, "Truly this is the great God, Who has manifested Himself to us. We would do well to become His servants." The Lord then spoke saying, "Rise up, repent, for your sins are forgiven." As they got up, they beheld within the cloud the image of a Radiant Man and a great multitude standing about Him.
The astonished soldiers cried out with one voice, "Receive us, for our sins are inexpressibly wicked. There is no other God but You, the Creator and true God, and we are not yet numbered among Your servants." But just as they spoke this, the cloud receded and rose up into the sky.
Spiritually reborn after this miracle, the soldiers released all the jailed Christians from the prisons. For this Sts Trophimus and Eucarpion were handed over to terrible torments: they suspended the saints and tore their bodies with iron hooks. They gave thanks unto God, certain that the Lord would forgive them their former sins. When a fire had been lit, the holy martyrs went willingly into the fire and there gave up their souls to God.
Saint Macarius of Kalyazin (in the world Matthew) was born in 1400 in the village of Gribkovo (Kozhino), near the city of Kashin, into the family of the boyar Basil Kozha. From youth he yearned for monasticism, but he married at the insistence of his parents.
After a year his parents died, and after three more years his wife Elena also reposed. Having nothing to bind him to his former life, Matthew became a monk at the Nikolaev Klobukov monastery. Desiring solitude, he left the city monastery with the abbot's blessing, and he found a suitable place between two lakes, eighteen versts from Kashin. Here the monk raised a cross and founded a solitary wilderness monastery.
The boyar Ivan Kolyaga, to whom the nearby lands belonged, began to fear that a monastery would grow up there, and that monks would begin to cultivate the wastelands. The Enemy of our salvation planted such spite and enmity in the boyar, that he decided to kill the saint. Suddenly, he was stricken with a grievous illness. Fear of death awakened repentance in the boyar. Ivan Kolyaga was carried to the saint and told him of his evil intent, asking forgiveness.
"God forgive you", the humble ascetic replied. Wishing to expiate his sin and to help the saint, the boyar gave his lands to the growing monastery. The monks built a temple dedicated to the Most Holy Trinity. Word of the boyar Kolyaga's conversion brought many people to the monk, seeking salvation. St Macarius tonsured Kolyaga and named the monastery Kalyazin for him.
It became necessary to choose an igumen. St Macarius was then fifty-three years of age, but he considered himself unworthy of this dignity and he asked each of the older men coming to him to become the monastery's priest and igumen. Yielding to the common will, the saint was made igumen by Bishop Moses of Tver.* The new igumen prepared for his first service at the altar of God with long solitary prayer, and then communed all the brethren with the Holy Mysteries.
In the rank of igumen, St Macarius labored to guide the brethren. The monastery had two chalices, a diskos and two plates fashioned by St Macarius on a lathe. He guided not only the monks, but also laypeople coming to the monastery, dealing with both the educated and the simple.
Despite his noble origin and his position of igumen, the saint wore ragged, frayed and patched clothing. In his conduct and his way of life St Macarius was so simple that the haughty heretic Vassian, sneeringly called him the "peasant of Kalyazin." The saint preferred to hear himself mocked rather than praised. He went to solitary places, delighted to be alone with nature. Wild animals, sensing his holiness, walked with him like sheep, they submitted to him, and sometimes took food from him.
The spiritual stature of St Macarius was close to the spiritual stature of St Paphnutius of Borov (May 1, 1477). Not by chance did St Paphnutius' disciple, St Joseph of Volokolamsk (September 9, 1515), visit St Macarius in 1478 and write down his impressions of him: "When I arrived at this place," said St Macarius, "seven Elders came with me from the monastery of Klobukov. They were so excellent in virtues, fasting and monastic life, that all the brethren came to them to receive instruction and benefit. They enlightened all and taught them for their benefit. They affirmed the virtuous life, and censured those inclined to misconduct, and neither did they seek to do their own will."
Though the humble igumen was silent about his own efforts, they were not hidden from St Joseph. Perceiving the holiness of the igumen, he accounted him blessed and spoke about the life of the monastery: "Such piety and decorum were in that monastery, where everything was done in harmony with the patristic and communal traditions, that even the great Elder Metrophanes Byvaltsev was amazed. He had just come from Mount Athos, where he spent nine years, and said to the brethren: "My efforts and my journey to the Holy Mountain were in vain, because one can find salvation in the Kalyazin monastery. Life here is similar to life in the cenobitic monasteries of the Holy Mountain."
From the moment St Macarius settled in the wilderness, his did not abandon his strict Rule because of old age. Even during his lifetime the saint repeatedly healed the paralyzed and the demon-possessed.
The saint reposed on March 17, 1483. At the time of his death they found heavy chains on him, about which no one knew. The incorrupt relics of St Macarius were uncovered on May 26, 1521 when ditches were dug for a new church. A Council of 1547 established his local festal celebration.
* The successor of Bishop Moses was St Macarius' brother, Bishop Gennadius (Kozhin) (1460-1477). The nephew of St Macarius, St Paisius of Uglich (January 8 and June 6) was also famed for his sanctity. The Kalyazin monastery had a collection of the sermons of St Gregory the Theologian, which St Macarius had copied in his own hand.
Troparion - Tone 8
You deadened your carnal mind by abstinence and vigil.
The place watered by the sweat of your labors proclaims your admonitions like God’s trumpet.
After your repose your relics pour forth healings.
Therefore we cry to you: pray to Christ our God that our souls may be saved!
Kontakion - Tone 2
You desired the life of heaven
And delighted in abstinence, labors and sweat.
You bridled the flesh and received the grace to work wonders.
You appear as a radiant light, O righteous Father Macarius.
Therefore the Church of Christ glorifies you!
The Orthodox Church relates Holy Baptism to the sacred Mystery of Chrism, with which our induction into the body of the Church is completed, and the faithful, armed wtih the charismata of God can now grow spiritually, and conscientiously live the life in Christ; the life of the entire body.
With Holy Baptism the neophyte is "edified" and "planted" into the Body of Christ, the Church, and becomes "one in Christ". This means a return to the "one man", i.e. man's rebirth into the one integral human nature from which he was cut off through the fall (Jn 3-6). The faithful, however, after Baptism is on the one hand sanctified and justified in Christ, yet he finds himself in the spiritual condition of a child. He has to be protected from external threats and to grow spiritually "unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the full stature of Christ" (Eph. 4,13).
This does not mean that his personality is confused or done away with through his union "in Christ"; he continues to constitute a separate personality. For this reason the neophyte who enters the spiritual palaestra in order to struggle and grow in virtue, needs his personal spiritual armor. This is given him through Holy Chrism, which in the ancient Church was transmitted through the laying on of hands by the Apostles. (Acts 8, 15-17) and constituted the engagement or earnest of our inheritance (Eph. 1, 13-14; cmp also II Cor. 1,22 and I Jn 2,20).
Through Holy Chrism the Church receives and accepts the entire man and sustains the human person; it is for this reason that the entire person is anointed, sanctified and armed in order to progress victoriously in his spiritual struggles, in which he participates with all his being. In this way the personal character of the gift of the Holy Spirit shows us that the human personality is not done away with by the induction of each and every believer into the Body of Christ. This union takes place without confusion of the various persons, who remain distinct and different; their unity in the one Body of Christ does not abrogate them, but to the contrary, shows them forth and elevates them.
All the members of the body of the newly-illuminated are anointed and sealed with the "seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit" and with the visible sign of Holy myrrh, and the entire man becomes God's property "God's dwelling-place" and "temple of the Holy Spirit" (I Cor. 3,16-17; 6, 19). The gifts of the Holy Spirit are transmitted to the newly-illuminated and he becomes in his entirety charismatic, putting on the the panoply of God, ready for spiritual battle (Eph. 6,10-18).
This struggle can become very arduous (Eph. 6. 10-13). A Christian must labor in order to acquire the evangelical virtues. God accepts man's efforts and pains, He sanctifies him and offers him His Grace and mercy abundantly, showing him forth to be a victor (Rom. 9,16; I Cor. 3,7; Eph. 2,8).
THE ORTHODOX CHURCH Its Faith, Worship and Life Rev. Antonios Alevisopoulos, Th.D., Ph.D Translated by Rev. Stephen Avramides ATHENS 2001
Commemorated on March 16
Saint Ambrose the Confessor (in the world Besarion Khelaia) was born in 1861. He received his primary education at the theological school in Samegrelo and graduated from Tbilisi Seminary in 1885. He graduated and was ordained to the priesthood in the same year. Fr. Ambrose served as a priest in Sokhumi (in northwestern Georgia) for eight years, at the same time teaching the Georgian language in schools and directing the activity of various philanthropic societies. In 1896 he was widowed, and in 1897 he enrolled at the Kazan Theological Academy.
While in Kazan, Fr. Ambrose followed both the literary-cultural life of the city and the Georgian national independence movement with great interest. He researched the history of Georgia from primary sources and composed several essays based on his findings. His essay, entitled “The Struggle Between Christianity and Islam in Georgia,” was so compelling to one professor that he recommended that Fr. Ambrose continue exploring this theme and present his research for a master’s degree.
In 1901 Fr. Ambrose completed his studies at the Kazan Theological Academy, and in the same year he was tonsured a monk and returned to Georgia. Together with the greatest sons of his nation, he fought tirelessly for the autocephaly of the Georgian Orthodox Church. As a punishment for his uncompromising commitment to this goal, Fr. Ambrose was exiled to Russia in 1905.
Upon his return to Georgia, he was elevated to the rank of archimandrite and appointed abbot of Chelishi Monastery. Chelishi Monastery had at one time been a center for theological education in Georgia, but many years had passed since then and the monastery’s student body was rapidly shrinking. Before long it would be completely deserted. But with the blessing of Bishop Leonid of Imereti (later Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia), St. Ambrose gathered a number of gifted young people to study at the seminary and began to instruct them in chanting and the reading of the Holy Gospel.
St. Ambrose devoted much of his time and energy to finding and restoring the old manuscripts of Chelishi Monastery. Once, while passing through the monastery yard, he heard a muted sound coming from beneath the earth. He began to dig at that place and discovered an ancient copy of the Holy Gospels. It was the “Chelishi Gospel,” a famous Georgian relic from the 9th or 10th century.
Soon St. Ambrose joined the Tbilisi Synodal Council and was enthroned as abbot of Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Tbilisi. But in 1908 he was accused of conspiring in the murder of the exarch Nikon and deprived of the right to serve in the Church. The prosecutors exiled him to the Holy Trinity Monastery in Ryazan, where he spent over a year under strict guard. In 1910 St. Ambrose was acquitted and again permitted to serve in the Church.
In 1917 Archimandrite Ambrose returned to Georgia and rejoined the struggle for an autocephalous Georgian Church. Within a few months the Church's autocephaly was proclaimed. He was consecrated Metropolitan of Chqondidi, later to be transferred to the Tskum-Abkhazeti region. In 1921 St. Ambrose was enthroned Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia.
The Soviet government began to persecute the Church not long after St. Ambrose’s enthronement. Some 1,200 churches were plundered, converted for other purposes, or destroyed. A great number of clergy were arrested, exiled, and later shot to death.
On February 7, 1922, Catholicos-Patriarch Ambrose, the spiritual father and chief shepherd of his nation, sent a memorandum to participants in the Conference of Genoa (In 1922 representatives of thirty-four nations met in Genoa, Italy to discuss the economic reconstruction of Central and Eastern Europe and to improve relations between the Soviet Union and Western Europe.) in which he defended the rights of the Georgian Church and nation. Every word of his appeal was penetrated with distress for the fate not only of his motherland but of the entire human race. St. Ambrose assured his audience that a nation and government deprived of Christian virtue would have no future and pleaded for help in this time of misfortune.
The receipt of such a memorandum was unprecedented for the Bolshevik regime, and in response the officials had St. Ambrose arrested. Nevertheless, he fearlessly criticized the government’s complaisance with acts of crime, injustice, and sacrilege.
In response to one of the Bolshevik interrogations, the patriarch asserted, “Confession of Faith is a spiritual necessity for every nation— persecution increases its necessity. Faith deepens, being contracted and accumulated, and it bursts out with new energy. So it was in the past, and so it will be in our country. Georgia is no exception to this universal law.”
St. Ambrose spoke these remarkable last words to his persecutors: “My soul belongs to God, my heart to my motherland, and with my flesh you may do whatever you wish.” The court sentenced the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia to seven years, nine months and twenty-eight days in prison.
At the end of 1924 St. Ambrose and the other members of the Synodal Council were granted amnesty, but their grave experience had already taken its toll. The Georgian flock lost its faithful shepherd in 1927.
In 1995 the life of Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ambrose (Khelaia) was discussed at an expanded council of the Holy Synod of the Georgian Church. In recognition of his great achievements on behalf of the Church and nation, Ambrose was canonized as “St. Ambrose the Confessor.”
The Hieromartyr Alexander was from Side, Pamphylia. He suffered for Christ during the persecution under the emperor Aurelian (270-275). The saint was interrogated by the governor Antoninus and given over to fierce tortures.
Miraculously preserved by the Lord, the saint underwent all the tortures with surprising endurance, and finally, he was beheaded. Just as the torturer Antoninus went from the judgment place, he was possessed by demons and perished in frenzied convulsions.
Commemorated on March 13
Originally, the Prophets Moses, Aaron, and Samuel were commemorated on this Sunday. The Alleluia verses appointed for today's Liturgy reflect this older usage.
Today we commemorate the "Triumph of Orthodoxy," the restoration of the holy icons in the reign of the holy Empress Theodora (February 11).
Troparion - Tone 2
We venerate Your most pure image, O Good One,
and ask forgiveness of our transgressions, O Christ God.
Of Your own will You were pleased to ascend the Cross in the flesh
to deliver Your creatures from bondage to the enemy.
Therefore with thanksgiving we cry aloud to You:
You have filled all with joy, O our Savior,
by coming to save the world.
Kontakion - Tone 8
No one could describe the Word of the Father;
but when He took flesh from you, O Theotokos, He accepted to be described,
and restored the fallen image to its former beauty.
We confess and proclaim our salvation in word and images. SOURCE:
The wonder-working Lydda Icon is mentioned in the service for the Kazan Icon (July 8 & October 22) in the third Ode of the Canon.
According to Tradition, the Apostles Peter and John were preaching in Lydda (later called Diospolis) near Jerusalem. There they built a church dedicated to the Most Holy Theotokos, then went to Jerusalem and asked her to come and sanctify the church by her presence. She sent them back to Lydda and said, "Go in peace, and I shall be there with you."
Arriving at Lydda, they found an icon of the Virgin imprinted in color on the wall of the church (some sources say the image was on a pillar). Then the Mother of God appeared and rejoiced at the number of people who had gathered there. She blessed the icon and gave it the power to work miracles. This icon was not made by the hand of man, but by a divine power.
Julian the Apostate (reigned 361-363) heard about the icon and tried to eradicate it. Masons with sharp tools chipped away at the image, but the paint and lines just seemed to penetrate deeper into the stone. Those whom the emperor had sent were unable to destroy the icon. As word of this miracle spread, millions of people came to venerate the icon.
In the eighth century, St Germanus, the future Patriarch of Constantinople (May 12) passed through Lydda. He had a copy of the icon made, and sent it to Rome during the iconoclastic controversy. It was placed in the church of St Peter, and was the source of many healings. In 842, the reproduction was returned to Constantinople and was known as the Roman Icon (June 26).
The oldest sources of information for the Lydda Icon are a document attributed to St Andrew of Crete in 726, a letter written by three eastern Patriarchs to the iconoclast emperor Theophilus in 839, and a work of George the Monk in 886.
The icon still existed as late as the ninth century. SOURCE:
The Holy Martyr Epimachus of Alexandria was a native of Egypt. For a long time he lived in seclusion on Mount Peleusium. During a persecution against Christians at Alexandria (about the year 250), St Epimachus in his fervent zeal came into the city, destroyed pagan idols, and fearlessly confessed Christ. For this the saint was put to torture. Among the people watching the torture was a woman who was blind in one eye. A drop of blood from the martyr healed her infirmity.
After fierce tortures, the saint was beheaded by the sword.
Today we commemorate the translation of the relics of St Epimachus.
The Holy Martyr Quadratus (Codratus) and those with him: During a persecution against Christians (in the third century) a certain pious woman named Rufina fled from Corinth to a mountain, to escape from her pursuers. There she gave birth to a son Quadratus, and died soon afterward. By the Providence of God the infant remained alive and was nourished in miraculous manner: a cloud appeared over him, dropping a sweet dew into his mouth.
The childhood and youth of St Quadratus were spent in the wilderness. When he was a young man, he chanced upon Christians, who enlightened him with the light of the true Faith. Quadratus studied grammar, and later learned the physician's art and attained great success in it. But most of all, Quadratus loved the wilderness solitude and he spent the greater part of his time in the hills, in prayer and meditation upon God. Many years passed, and his friends and followers frequently came to the saint to hear his instruction. Among them were Cyprian, Dionysius, Anectus, Paul, Crescens and many others.
By order of the impious emperor Decius (249-251), the military prefect Jason arrived at Corinth to torture and slay Christians. Since Quadratus was the eldest, he spoke for the rest. The saint bravely defended his faith in Christ the Savior, then they began the torture. St Quadratus, despite inhuman suffering, encouraged the others, urging them not to be afraid and to stand firmly for the Faith.
Unable to persuade any of them to deny Christ, Jason ordered the martyrs to be thrown to wild beasts to be torn apart. But the beasts did not touch them. They tied the saints to chariots by their feet and dragged them through the city, and many of the crowd threw stones at them. Finally, they condemned the martyrs to beheading by the sword. At the place of execution the martyrs requested for a certain time to pray, and then one after the other they bent their necks beneath the sword.
The remaining disciples of St Quadratus also suffered for Christ: Dionysius (another one) was stabbed in the night; Victorinus, Victor and Nicephorus were crushed in a large stone press; Claudius's hands and feet were cut off; Diodorus was thrown into a fire prepared for him; Serapion was decapitated; Papias and Leonidas were drowned in the sea. Imitating the men, many holy women also went voluntarily to suffer for Christ.
Troparion - Tone 1
Let the godly–minded Quadratus, Anectus, Paul, Dionysius, Cyprian, and Crescens
Be praised with melodious hymns,
For as the six–fold choir of Christ’s prize–winners,
They ceaselessly pray for us before the Trinity!
Troparion - Tone 4
Your holy martyrs, Quadratus and his companions, O Lord,
Through their sufferings have received incorruptible crowns from You, our God.
For having Your strength, they laid low their adversaries,
And shattered the powerless boldness of demons.
Through their intercessions, save our souls!
Kontakion - Tone 4
As you contested bravely in Corinth, O wise martyrs,
You appeared as a six–branched radiant lamp.
Illumining the way for Christ’s faithful by the grace that was given you!
In a landmark judgment, which will have a serious impact on the future of fostering and adoption in the UK, the High Court has suggested that Christians with traditional views on sexual ethics are unsuitable as foster carers, and that homosexual ‘rights’ trump freedom of conscience in the UK. The Judges stated that Christian beliefs on sexual ethics may be ‘inimical’ to children, and they implicitly upheld an Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) submission that children risk being ‘infected’ by Christian moral beliefs.
Today’s ruling relates to the dispute between married couple Eunice and Owen Johns and Derby City Council. The Johns applied to the Council in 2007 to foster a child but the Council blocked their application because they objected that the Johns were not willing to promote the practise of homosexuality to a young child. In November 2010 both parties jointly asked the Court to rule on whether the Johns were able to foster children, or whether they could be excluded from doing so under equality law because of their Christian beliefs.
Today (28th February) that judgment has been released. The judges declined to make the statement that the Johns, wanting to re-establish their fostering application, had sought. Instead, the judgment strongly affirms homosexual rights over freedom of conscience and leaves the Johns currently unable to foster a child as desired, despite their proven track record as foster parents. There now appears to be nothing to stop the increasing bar on Christians who wish to adopt or foster children but who are not willing to compromise their beliefs by promoting the practise of homosexuality to small children.
The nature of the judgment means that Christians who hold orthodox Christian views on the family, marriage and sexuality will continue to face difficulties in the fostering and adoption process and the Courts will not intervene to stop this from happening. In fact, the summary contained in the judgment sends out the clear message that orthodox Christian ethical beliefs are potentially harmful to children and that Christian parents with mainstream Christian views are not suitable to be considered as potential foster parents.
In their judgment, the judges stated:
That if children are placed with parents who have traditional Christian views like the Johns “there may well be a conflict with the local authority’s duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of looked-after children”, 
That there is a tension between the equality provisions concerning religious discrimination and those concerning sexual orientation. Yet, as regards fostering, “the equality provisions concerning sexual orientation should take precedence”, 
That a local authority can require positive attitudes to be demonstrated towards homosexuality, 
That there is no religious discrimination against the Johns because they were being excluded from fostering due to their moral views on sexual ethics and not their Christian beliefs (This is incredible and very disingenuous as the Johns moral views cannot be separated from their religious beliefs),  and
That “Article 9 [of the European Human Rights Act] only provides a ‘qualified’ right to manifest religious belief and ... this will be particularly so where a person in whose care a child is placed wishes to manifest a belief that is inimical to the interests of children”. 
Equality and Human Rights Commission
The tax payer funded EHRC played an important role in this judgment. They intervened in the Johns case, and they suggested to the Court that a child should not, in their own words, be ‘infected’ with Christian moral beliefs. Suggesting that Christian moral beliefs on sexual ethics could ‘infect’ children is an extraordinary position for a statutory body to take. It is also deeply insulting both to the Johns, who have a proven track record of successfully raising children, and to Christians in general.
THE HIGH COURT IMPLICITLY UPHELD THIS SUBMISSION BY THE EHRC.
The judgment was greeted with disbelief and sadness today by Eunice and Owen Johns. In a statement, the couple said:
“We wanted to offer a loving home to a child in need. But because of this ruling we are unsure how we can continue the application process. We have been excluded because we have moral opinions based on our faith, and a vulnerable child has now probably missed the chance of finding a safe and caring home. We do not believe that our ordinary Christian moral views are infectious, contrary to what the Equality and Human Rights Commission believes. Being a Christian is not a crime and should not stop us from raising children. Today, it looks as though a child has missed out on a home.”
Christian Legal Centre Reaction
Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of Christian Concern and the Christian Legal Centre said:
“The Johns are a mild mannered, ordinary Christian couple, yet they may never be able to foster children again. They were willing to love a child regardless of sexual orientation, but not willing to tell a young child that practising homosexuality was a positive thing. Now, a child has likely missed out on finding a home, at a time when there is a desperate shortage of willing parents.
“Eunice and Owen Johns have been humiliated and sidelined and told by a Government body (the EHRC) that their mainstream Christian views might “infect” children. They have also effectively been told by British Judges that their views may harm children.
“The Judges have claimed that there was no discrimination against the Johns as Christians because they were being excluded from fostering due to their sexual ethics and not their Christian beliefs. This claim that their moral beliefs on sex have nothing to do with their Christian faith is a clear falsehood made in order to justify their ruling. How can the Judges get away with this?
“What has happened to the Johns is part of a wider trend seen in recent years. The law has been increasingly interpreted by Judges in a way which favours homosexual rights over freedom of conscience. Significant areas of public life are now becoming out of bounds to Christians who do not want to compromise their beliefs. If Christian morals are harmful to children and unacceptable to the State, then how many years do we have before natural children start being taken away from Christians?
“At the Christian Legal Centre our clients have included, amongst many others, a nurse suspended for offering prayer; a Council worker suspended for talking about God to a client, a teacher suspended for offering prayer; a nurse forced off frontline nursing because she wouldn’t take off her cross. We have dealt with Civil Registrars who have been demoted because they did not want to officiate at civil partnerships, and a Christian counsellor who lost his job for not wanting to give sex therapy to homosexuals. In the last few years, several Catholic adoption agencies have been forced to close because they refused to place children with homosexual couples.
“There is a great imbalance in the law at the moment, resulting in ordinary people suffering. The situation must be addressed by Parliament as the Judiciary have failed to stand for civil liberties but have capitulated to the agenda of the homosexual rights lobby. We cannot have a society where you are excluded just because you don’t agree with the sexual ethics of the homosexual lobby. Britain is now leading Europe in intolerance against religious belief.”
The Albazin Icon of the Mother of God "the Word made Flesh" is of great religious significance in the Amur River region. It received its name from the Russian fortress of Albazin (now the village of Albazino) along the Amur river, founded in the year 1650 by the famous Russian frontier ataman Hierotheus Khabarov on the site of a settlement of the Daurian prince Albaza.
The hue and cry over the Amur Albazinsk fortress became an object of enmity for the Chinese emperor and his generals, who then already dreamed of expanding their influence over all of Russian Siberia.
On the eve of the Feast of the Annunciation, on March 24, 1652, the first military clash of the Russians with the Chinese occurred at the Amur. Through the prayers of the Most Holy Theotokos the pagans were scattered and fled to their own territory. This victory seemed like a portent for the Russians. But the struggle had only just begun. Many sons of Holy Russia died in the struggle for the Amur, and for the triumph of Orthodoxy in the Far East.
In June of 1658 an Albazin military detachment, 270 Cossacks under the leadership of Onuphrius Stepanov, fell into an ambush and in a heroic fight they were completely annihilated by the Chinese.
The enemy burned Albazin, overran Russian lands, and carried off the local population into China. They wanted to turn the fertile cultivated area back into wilderness.
During these difficult years the Most Holy Theotokos showed signs of Her mercy to the land of Amur. In 1665, when Russians returned and rebuilt Albazin, together with a priest there came to the Amur the Elder Hermogenes from the Kirensk Holy Trinity monastery. He carried with him a wonderworking icon of the Mother of God "the Word made Flesh", called the Albazinsk Icon since that time. In 1671 the holy Elder built a small monastery on the boundary mark of the Brusyan Stone (one and a half kilometers from Albazin near the Amur), where the holy icon was later kept.
Albazin was built up. At two churches in the city, the Ascension of the Lord and St Nicholas the Wonderworker, Albazin priests offered the Bloodless Sacrifice. Not far from the city (along the Amur) another monastery was built, the Spassky. The fertile soil produced bread for Eastern Siberia. The local populace adapted itself to Russian Orthodox culture, peacefully entering into the multi-national Russian state, and found Russian protection from the plundering raids of Chinese feudal war-lords.
At Moscow they did not forget the needs of the far-away Amur frontier. They strengthened military defenses and improved regional government. In 1682 the Albazin Military-Provincial Government was formed. They concerned themselves about the spiritual nourishment of the Amur region peoples. A local Council of the Russian Church in 1681 adopted a resolution to send "archimandrites, igumens, or priests, both learned and good, to enlighten unbelievers with the law of Christ." The Daurian and Tungusian peoples as a whole accepted Holy Baptism. Of great significance was the conversion of the Daurian prince Hantimur (renamed Peter) and his eldest son Katana (renamed Paul) to Orthodoxy.
The servants of the Chinese emperor planned for a new attack. After several unsuccessful forays, on July 10, 1685, they marched against Albazin with an army of 15,000 and encircled the fortress. In it were 450 Russian soldiers and three cannon. The first assault was repulsed. The Chinese then from all sides piled up firewood and kindling against the wooden walls of the fortress and set it on fire. Further resistance proved impossible. With its military standards and holy things, among which was the wonderworking Albazin Icon, the soldiers abandoned the fortress.
The Mother of God did not withhold Her intercession from Her chosen city. Scouts soon reported that the Chinese suddenly began to withdraw from Albazin, ignoring the Chinese emperor's command to destroy the crops in the Russian fields. The miraculous intervention of the Heavenly Protectress not only drove the enemy from Russian territories, but also preserved the grain which sustained the city for the winter months. On August 20, 1685 Russians were in Albazin again.
A year went by, and the fortress was again besieged by Chinese. There began a five-month defense of Albazin, which occupies a most honored place in Russian military history. Three times, in July, in September, and in October, the forces of the Chinese emperor made an assault on the wooden fortifications. A hail of fiery arrows and red-hot cannon balls fell on the town. Neither the city nor its defenders could be seen in the smoke and fire. And all three times, the Mother of God defended the inhabitants of Albazin from their fierce enemy.
Until December 1686, when the Chinese lifted the siege of Albazin, of the city's 826 defenders only 150 men remained alive.
These forces were inadequate to continue the war against the Chinese emperor. In August 1690 the last of the Cossacks departed from Albazin under the leadership of Basil Smirenikov. Neither the fortress, nor its holy things, fell into the hands of the enemy. The fortifications were razed and leveled by the Cossacks, and the Albazin Icon of the Mother of God was taken to Sretensk, a city on the river Shilka, which flows into the Amur.
But even after the destruction of Albazin, God destined its inhabitants to do another service for the good of the Church. By divine Providence the end of the military campaign contributed to the increase of the influence of the grace of Orthodoxy among the peoples of the Far East. During the years of war, a company of about a hundred Russian cossacks and peasants from Albazin and its environs were taken captive and sent to Peking.
The Chinese emperor even gave orders to give one of the Buddhist temples in the Chinese capital for an Orthodox church dedicated to Sophia, the Wisdom of God. In 1695 Metropolitan Ignatius of Tobolsk sent an antimension, chrism, service books, and church vessels to the Sophia church. In a letter to the captive priest Maximus, "the Preacher of the Holy Gospel to the Chinese Empire," Metropolitan Ignatius wrote: "Be not troubled, nor troubled in soul for yourself and the captives with you, for who is able to oppose the will of God? Your captivity is not without purpose for the Chinese people, so that you may reveal to them the light of Christ's Orthodox Faith."
The preaching of the Gospel in the Chinese Empire soon bore fruit and resulted in the first baptisms of Chinese. The Russian Church zealously looked after the new flock. In 1715 the Metropolitan of Tobolsk, St Philotheus "the Apostle to Siberia" (+ May 31, 1727), wrote a letter to the Peking clergy and the faithful living under the Peking Spiritual Mission, who continued with the Christian work of enlightening pagans.
The years went by, and the new epoch brought the Russian deliverance of the Amur. On August 1, 1850, the Procession of the Precious Wood of the Life-Giving Cross, Captain G. I. Nevelsky raised up the Russian Andreev flag at the mouth of the Amur River and founded the city of Nikolaevsk-on-Amur. Through the efforts of the Governor-General of Eastern Siberia, N. N. Muraviev-Amursky (+ 1881), and St Innocent, Archbishop of Kamchatka (March 31), and through the spiritual nourishment which obtained in the Amur and coastal regions, in several years the left bank of the Amur was built up with Russian cities, villages and Cossack settlements.
Each year brought important advances in the development of the liberated territory, its Christian enlightenment and welfare. In the year 1857 on the bank of the Amur fifteen way-stations and settlements were established (the Albazin on the site of the old fortress and the Innokentiev, named in honor of St Innocent). In a single year, 1858, there were more than thirty settlements, among which were three cities: Khabarovsk, Blagoveschensk and Sophiisk.
On May 9, 1858, on the Feast of St Nicholas, N. N. Muraviev-Amursky and Archbishop Innocent of Kamchatka arrived in the Cossack post at Ust'-Zeisk. St Innocent was there to dedicate a temple in honor of the Annunciation of the Mother of God (Blagoveschenie, in Slavonic), the first building in the new city. Because of the name of the temple, the city was also called Blagoveschensk, in memory of the first victory over the Chinese on the Feast of the Annunciation in 1652, and in memory of the Annunciation church at Irkutsk, in which St Innocent began his own priestly service. It was also a sign that "from that place proceeded the blessed news of the reintegration of the Amur region territory under Russian sovereignty." New settlers on the way to the Amur, journeying through Sretensk, fervently offered up their prayers to the Holy Protectress of the Amur region before her Wonderworking Albazin Icon. Their prayers were heard: the Aigunsk (1858) and Peking (1860) treaties decisively secured the left bank of the Amur and coastal regions for Russia.
In 1868 the Bishop of Kamchatka, Benjamin Blagonravov, the successor to St Innocent, transferred the holy icon from Sretensk to Blagoveschensk, thereby returning the famous holy icon to the Amur territory. In 1885, a new period began in the veneration of the Albazin Icon of the Mother of God and is associated with the name of the Kamchatka bishop Gurias, who established an annual commemoration on March 9 and a weekly Akathist.
In the summer of 1900, during the "Boxer Rebellion" in China, the waves of insurrection reached all the way to the Russian border. Chinese troops suddenly appeared on the banks of the Amur before Blagoveschensk. For nineteen days the enemy stood before the undefended city, raining artillery fire down upon it, and menacing the Russian bank with invasion.
The shallows of the Amur afforded passage to the adversary. In the Annunciation church services were celebrated continuously, and Akathists were read before the Wonderworking Albazin Icon. The Protection of the Mother of God was again extended over the city, just as it had been in earlier times. Not daring to cross the Amur, the enemy departed from Blagoveschensk. According to the accounts of the Chinese themselves, they often saw a Radiant Woman over the bank of the Amur, inspiring them with fear and rendering their missiles ineffective.
For more than 300 years the Wonderworking Albazin Icon of the Mother of God watched over the Amur frontier of Russia. Orthodox people venerate it not only as Protectress of Russian soldiers, but also as a Patroness of mothers. Believers pray for mothers before the icon during their pregnancy and during childbirth, "so that the Mother of God might bestow the gift of abundant health from the Albazin Icon's inexhaustible well-spring of holiness."
This icon depicts Christ as a child standing in a mandorla before His Mother's breast.