This Saint was from Bethsaida of Galilee; he was the son of Jonas and the brother of Peter, the chief of the Apostles. He had first been a disciple of John the Baptist; afterwards, on hearing the Baptist's witness concerning Jesus, when he pointed Him out with his finger and said, "Behold the Lamb of God, Which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1.29,36), he straightway followed Christ, and became His first disciple; wherefore he is called the First-called of the Apostles. After the Ascension of the Saviour, he preached in various lands; and having suffered many things for His Name's sake, he died in Patras of Achaia, where he was crucified on a cross in the shape of an "X," the first letter of "Christ" in Greek; this cross is also the symbol of Saint Andrew.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
As the first-called of the Apostles, and brother of their leader, O Andrew, entreat the Master of all that peace be granted unto the world and great mercy to our souls.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
Let us praise the namesake of bravery, the divinely eloquent and first to be called of the Disciples of Christ, the kinsman of Peter. As he called out to him in days of old, so now he calls to us, "Come, we have found Him for whom we yearned."
The Holy Martyr Paramon and the 370 Martyrs with him suffered for their faith in Christ in the year 250 during the rule of the emperor Decius (249-251). The governor of the Eastern regions, Aquianus, had locked up 370 Christians in prison, urging them to abjure Christ and instead offer sacrifice to idols.
They subjected the captives to beatings, hoping by torture and the threat of death to persuade them to renounce Christ and worship the pagan gods. One of the local inhabitants, Paramon by name, openly denounced the cruel governor and confessed his faith in the One True God, the Lord Jesus Christ. They beheaded St Paramon after fierce tortures, together with the other 370 martyrs.
Your holy martyrs Paramon and Philumenus and those with them, 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!
Urged on by the commandments of God,
with patience, you cleansed your souls from all defilement.
You reached perfection as spiritual athletes;
you renounced sacrifice to idols.
Imitating Christ, you were slain with a spear,
most blessed Paramon and Philumenus.
Always fervently intercede with Christ on behalf of the world.
Saint Nicon, the son of a certain noble, was from Armenia. Forsaking his parents and homeland, he passed throughout the parts of the East, crying to all men, "Repent ye," because of which he received this name. Finally, he came to Lacedaemonia of the Peloponnesus, where he built a church in honour of Christ our Saviour. After having dwelt there many years in solitude, and having converted many from paganism, he departed to the Lord about the end of the ninth century.
Apolytikion in the Third Tone
Lacedaemon doth rejoice with gladness in the godly shrine of thy blest relics, which doth make streams of healings to overflow and doth preserve from affliction and sore distresss all them that hasten, O Father, to thee with faith. Righteous Nicon, intercede with Christ God in our behalf that His great mercy may be granted unto us.
Kontakion in the Plagal of the Second Tone
Emulating the life of the Angels, thou didst esteem the world's delights as dross, while showing us the paths of repentance, O righteous and God-bearing Nicon. Wherefore, as we now celebrate thy memorial, we honour thee; for thou in truth art a fountain of healings.
Saint Mercurios came from Cappadocia, and was the son of Gordian, a Scythian. A young man, and a soldier of high rank, he refused to offer sacrifice to the idols, and after torments was beheaded during the reign of Valerian (253-260).
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Thy Martyr, O Lord, in his courageous contest for Thee received the prize of the crowns of incorruption and life from Thee, our immortal God. For since he possessed Thy strength, he cast down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons' strengthless presumption. O Christ God, by his prayers, save our souls, since Thou art merciful.
Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
O wise one, thou wast initiated solemnly in matters divine, O all-renowned Mercurios, and becamest an acceptable sacrifice when eagerly thou didst drink the cup of Christ God; and now thou dost ceaselessly pray for us all.
St Metrophanes, Bishop of Voronezh, in the world Michael, was born November 8, 1623. Since the saint's book of commemorations begins with persons of priestly rank, it is assumed that he was born into a priestly family. We know from St Metrophanes' will that he "was born of pious parents and was raised by them in the incorrupt piety of the Eastern Church, in the Orthodox Faith."
Until he was forty, the saint lived in the world. He was married, had a son John, and served as a parish priest. The place of Father Michael's pastoral activity was the village of Sidorovo, situated at the River Molokhta, a tributary of the Teza flowing to the Klyazma, not far from the city of Shui (now Vladimir district).
After his wife died, Father Michael received monastic tonsure with the name Metrophanes in the Zolotnikovskaya Dormition Monastery in 1663. In the Synodikon of the monastery the entry for St Metrophanes begins with the words: "Origin of the black clergy Metrophanes of Sidorovo." After three years of monastic life the hieromonk Metrophanes was chosen igumen of the St Cosmas of Yakrom (February 18) monastery. He guided the monastery for ten years, showing himself zealous as its head. By his efforts a church was built here in honor of the Icon of the Savior Not-Made-by-Hands (August 16).
Patriarch Joachim (1674-1690), learning about the deep piety of St Metrophanes, raised him in 1675 to the rank of archimandrite of the Makariev-Unzha monastery. Under the supervision of the saint, a stone church was built there in honor of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos, together with a trapeza and bell-tower.
At the Moscow Council of 1681-1682 among the number of measures taken for the struggle against the old ritualist schism, and with the goal of improving Christian enlightenment among the Orthodox populace, it was resolved to increase the number of dioceses, and to open up new cathedrals at Voronezh, Tambov, Kholmogor and Great Ustiug. St Metrophanes was summoned to the capital and on April 2, 1682 was consecrated Bishop of Voronezh by Patriarch Joachim and sixteen archpastors.
The beginning of St Metrophanes' tenure as bishop coincided with a dispute over the imperial succession, and a Church schism. Upon his arrival at Voronezh the saint first of all sent an encyclical to the pastors of his diocese, in which he urged his pastors to moral improvement. "Venerable priests of God Most High," he wrote, "leaders of the flock of Christ! You ought to possess clear eyes of the mind, illumined by the light of reason, in order to lead others on the correct path. In the words of the Lord, you must be the light yourselves: 'you are the light of the world' (Mt. 5:14). When Christ the Savior entrusted His flock to the Apostle Peter, He said to him three times: 'feed my sheep.' This is because pastors care for their flock in three ways: by the words of teaching, by prayer and the power of the Holy Mysteries, and by their way of life. You must also act by all three methods: teach the people, set an example of a righteous life, and pray for them. Strengthen them by the Holy Mysteries; above all enlighten the unbelievers by holy Baptism, and try to lead sinners to repentance. Take care of the sick, so that they do not depart from this life without receiving Holy Communion and Holy Unction."
St Metrophanes began his archpastoral activity with the building of a new cathedral church in honor of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos, replacing an old wooden temple. In 1692 the cathedral with chapels in honor of St Michael and St Nicholas was consecrated. In the twenty years that St Metrophanes was bishop, the number of churches increased from 182 to 239, and two monasteries were founded: the Korotoyaksk Ascension and the Bitiugsk Trinity monasteries. And in the existing monasteries, he concerned himself with eradicating the unseemly behavior and disorder, emphasizing a strict life according to the monastic rule.
The first Bishop of Voronezh eagerly concerned himself with the needs of his flock. He consoled both the poor and the wealthy, was a defender of widows and orphans, and an advocate of the wronged. His home served as a hostel for strangers and a hospice for the sick. The saint prayed not only for the living, but also for dead Christians, and particularly for soldiers fallen for the Fatherland, inscribing their names in the cathedral's memorial list. Remembering them at Proskomedia [priest's preparation of the gifts before Liturgy], St Metrophanes said: "If this is a righteous soul, then there is a greater portion of worthiness. If he is a sinner, however, then there is a connection with God's mercy."
There was a great friendship between St Metrophanes and St Pitirim, Bishop of Tambov (July 28). They not only kept up a correspondence, but also met for spiritual talks. The founding of the Tregulyaev monastery of St John the Forerunner was connected with the friendship of the bishops. On September 15, 1688 St Metrophanes visited St Pitirim. Three of them (the priest Basil was with them) took a stroll together to the Tambov archpastor's place of solitary prayer, and there they chose the place for the future monastery.
St Metrophanes, an intensely patriotic man, by his own moral authority, kind-heartedness and prayers, contributed to the reforms of Peter I, the necessity and purpose of which he well understood. With the building of a fleet at Voronezh for a campaign against Azov, St Metrophanes urged the nation to fully support Peter I. This was particularly important, since many regarded the construction of a fleet as useless. The saint did not limit himself only to advice to the Tsar, but rendered also material support to the state treasury, which needed money for the construction of the fleet, and he provided all the means, aware that they would go for the benefit of the nation.
The saint's patriotic feelings were combined in his soul with unflinching faith and strict Orthodox conviction, on account of which he did not fear incurring the Tsar's wrath. The saint refused to go to court to see Peter I, since there were statues of pagan gods there, and although disgrace threatened the saint for disobeying the imperial will, he remained uncompromising. Peter gave orders to remove the statues and from that time was filled with greater respect for the bishop.
St Metrophanes died in 1703 in extreme old age, taking the schema with the name Macarius before his death. The funeral took place on December 4, conducted according to the saint's monastic, not priestly rank. This became the established practice for the burial of a bishop. Tsar Peter I himself carried the coffin from the cathedral to the tomb. Taking leave, he said: "I no longer have a holy Elder such as he. Memory eternal to him."
One of the remarkable memorials of the life and activity of St Metrophanes is his Spiritual Testament. In it he says: "By divine destiny I have arrived at old age and now I have exhausted my natural strength. Therefore I declare this my final writing ... When my sinful soul is released from its union with the flesh, I entrust it to God Who created it, that it might find favor as the work of His hands. My sinful bones I grant to the mother of all (the earth), in expectation of the resurrection of the dead." Further on, addressing pastors and the flocks, the saint says: "The simple sinner give answer to God for his soul alone, but priests can come to torment for many, in neglecting the sheep, from which they gather milk and wool... For everyone the rule of wise men is: do work, preserve a balance, and you will be rich. Drink temperately, eat little, and you will be healthy. Do good, shun evil, and you will be saved."
The commemoration of St Metrophanes was established in 1832. On August 7, we celebrate the translation of his holy relics.
The Holy Apostles of the Seventy Philemon and his wife Apphia lived in the city of Colossa in Phrygia. After they were baptized by the holy Apostle Paul, they converted their house into a house of prayer, where all those who believed in Christ gathered and attended services. They devoted themselves to serving the sick and downcast.
St Philemon became bishop of the city of Gaza, and he preached the Word of God throughout Phrygia. The holy Apostle Paul continued to be his guide, and addressed to him his Epistle filled with love, and in which he sends blessings "to Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellow laborer, and to our beloved Apphia, and to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in thy house" (Phil 1:1-3).
St Onesimus (February 15), also mentioned in the Epistle, was St Philemon's former slave.
Sts Philemon and Apphia, and also St Archippus (who also lived at Colossa), all received the crown of martyrdom during the persecution of Nero (54-68). During a pagan festival an enraged crowd rushed into the Christian church when services were going on. All fled in terror, and only Sts Philemon, Archippus and Apphia remained. They seized them and led them off to the city prefect. The crowd beat and stabbed St Archippus with knives, and he died on the way to the court. Sts Philemon and Apphia were stoned to death by order of the prefect.
The memory of the holy Apostles Archippus, Philemon, and Apphia is celebrated also on February 19.
Holy Apostles Philemon, Archipus, Apphia, and Onesimus,
entreat the merciful God
to grant our souls forgiveness of transgressions.
Podoben: "Seeking the highest..."
Let us praise the Apostles of Christ,
who illumine the ends of the earth like all-radiant stars:
glorious Philemon and dedicated Archippus,
Onesimus, together with Mark and Apollos, and the all-wise Apphia.
Let us cry to them:
"Unceasingly pray for us all!"
The Holy Martyr Dasius lived during the third century in the city of Dorostolum on the Danube River. The inhabitants of the city were preparing for a festival in honor of the pagan god Saturn. By custom, thirty days before the celebration they selected a handsome youth, dressed him in fine clothing, accorded him royal honors, and he would go forth in public made up like Saturn. For thirty days, he would indulge in wicked deeds and immoral pleasures. On the day of the feast he was brought before the idols and put to the sword as a sacrifice to Saturn.
The choice of his compatriots fell upon St Dasius, since in the city there was not a more handsome youth. Learning of this, the saint said, "If I am fated to die, then it's better to die for Christ as a Christian." He openly confessed his faith in Christ before his fellow citizens and refused to take part in the shameful ritual. He denounced the impiety and error of the idolaters and converted many of them to Christ. Therefore, on the orders of the emperors Diocletian (284-305) and Maximian (305-311), he was beheaded after cruel tortures.
Saint Hilarion the Georgian was the son of a Kakheti aristocrat. There were other children in the family, but only Hilarion was dedicated to God from his very birth. Hilarion’s father built a monastery on his own land, and there the boy was raised.
At the age of fourteen Hilarion left the monastery and his father’s guardianship and settled in a small cave in the Davit-Gareji Wilderness. There he remained for ten years.
Soon report spread through all of eastern Georgia of the angelic faster and tireless intercessor in prayer. Crowds flocked to his cave to receive instruction, blessings, and counsel. When the bishop of Rustavi came to visit Hilarion, he ordained him a priest. Soon he was made abbot of St. Davit of Gareji Lavra.
After his ordination, the holy father was praised even more among his people, and he decided to leave his motherland. Hilarion chose one of the brothers to replace him as abbot of the monastery and set off on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
On the way Venerable Hilarion was attacked by a band of vicious thieves. They sought to kill the holy father, but their hands suddenly withered. When the terrified thieves realized that God had punished them for raising their hands to kill the saint, they fell to their knees before St. Hilarion and begged his forgiveness. The venerable father blessed them with the sign of the Cross, healed them and let them depart in peace.
St. Hilarion venerated the holy places in Jerusalem, then settled in a cave in the Jordan wilderness (according to tradition, the holy prophet Elijah had dwelt in that same cave).
One night St. Hilarion saw a vision: He was standing before the Most Holy Theotokos, in the midst of twelve men, on the Mount of Olives, the place of our Lord’s Ascension. The Holy Virgin said to him, “Hilarion! Return to your home and prepare a meal for the Lord, my Son!”
Upon waking, Hilarion understood this vision with both his heart and mind and immediately set off for his motherland.
When he returned to Georgia, St. Hilarion learned of the repose of his father and brothers. His mother gave her only living son the family inheritance.
Blessed Hilarion founded a convent with the resources he had inherited, donated lands to the monastic community, and established its rules. Then he gathered seventy-six worthy monk-ascetics and founded a monastery for men. He distributed his remaining property to the poor and disabled.
As before, the news of St. Hilarion’s virtuous deeds spread quickly through all of Georgia. Again many desired to receive his blessing and counsel, but when the clergy announced their intention to consecrate him a bishop, he abandoned Georgia for the second time. He took two companions and journeyed to Constantinople.
After the long journey, Hilarion and his companions finally reached Mt. Olympus in Asia Minor and settled in a small, forsaken church. During the evening services on Cheese-fare Saturday, the lamplighter from the Monastery of St. Ioannicius the Great came to the church to light an icon lamp, and seeing that several people had settled there, he brought them some food.
The next Saturday, the feast of St. Theodore the Tyro, the same monk returned to the church and saw that the brothers had gone the whole week eating nothing but a few lentils. They had not touched the food he had brought them. So the monk asked St. Hilarion what they needed, and Hilarion requested prosphora and wine for the Bloodless Sacrifice. Then St. Hilarion celebrated the Liturgy at the appropriate time, received Holy Communion, and served the Holy Gifts to the brothers.
When the abbot of the Great Lavra heard that a service had been celebrated by an unknown priest in a language other than Greek, he was infuriated and ordered his steward and several of the monks to chase the strangers off the monastery property. But St. Hilarion responded to the steward in Greek and asked for permission to spend the night in the church, promising to depart in the morning.
That night the Theotokos appeared to the abbot of the lavra in a vision. She stood at the foot of his bed and rebuked him, saying, “Foolish one! What has moved you to cast out these strangers, who left their own country for the love of my Son and God? Why have you broken the commandment to receive and show mercy to strangers and the poor? Do you not know that there are many living on this mountain that speak the same language as they? They are also praising God here. He who fails to receive them is my enemy, for my Son entrusted me to protect them and to ensure that their Orthodox Faith is not shaken. They believe in my Son and have been baptized in His name!”
The next day the elder fell to his knees before St. Hilarion, begged forgiveness for his impertinence, and requested that he remain at the monastery. St. Hilarion consoled the elder and agreed to stay.
St. Hilarion spent five years on Mt. Olympus, then journeyed again to Constantinople, to venerate the Life-giving Cross of our Lord. From there he traveled to Rome to venerate the graves of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul. On the way to Rome his prayers healed a paralyzed man. After spending two years in Rome, St. Hilarion set off again for Constantinople. On the way, in the city of Thessalonica, the blessed Hilarion stopped for a rest at the home of the prefect. When he arrived, a servant woman was carrying a paralyzed fourteen-year-old boy out of the house, and she laid him in the sun. The saint asked the woman for water, and when she had gone to bring it, he blessed the child with the sign of the Cross and healed him. Immediately the boy ran to his mother, and St. Hilarion quickly departed from that place.
But the prefect, the boy’s father, had witnessed the miracle, and he ordered that the wonderworker be found. When he had been brought before him, the prefect begged St. Hilarion to remain in Thessalonica and choose for himself a place to continue his miraculous works.
Recognizing the prefect to be a true lover of God, the saint heeded his entreaty and agreed to remain. The prefect built a church in the place that Hilarion had chosen, and before long the entire city had heard about St. Hilarion and his miracles.
St. Hilarion spent the remainder of his days in Thessalonica. When the Lord made known to him the day of his repose, he called for the prefect, thanked him, and instructed him to love the monks and all the suffering and to be just and merciful.
The saint reposed on November 19, 875, and the sorrowful prefect prepared a marble shrine for him. Those who were sick and who approached St. Hilarion’s grave with faith were healed of their infirmities.
The prefect and the archbishop of Thessalonica informed the Byzantine emperor Basil the Macedonian (867–886) about the miracles that had occurred at the holy father’s grave. The emperor in turn informed the monks who came to him from Mt. Olympus, among whom was the elder who once had tried to chase St. Hilarion out of the church. Emperor Basil became intrigued with St. Hilarion’s disciples and fellow countrymen through the stories of Hilarion’s miracles. St. Hilarion’s three disciples were presented to him, and the emperor was so struck by their holiness that he sent them to the patriarch of Constantinople to receive his blessing. Recognizing immediately that the three elders were filled with divine favor, the patriarch advised the emperor to confer great honors upon them.
In response, Emperor Basil invited the elders to choose for themselves and their countrymen one of the monasteries in Constantinople and make it their own. The fathers graciously declined since they did not wish to live in the populous city. Instead the monks asked the emperor to build cells for them outside the capital. So Emperor Basil built a large church dedicated to the Holy Apostles in a place that the Georgian fathers had chosen in a certain ravine, where a spring of cold water flowed from beneath a little hill, and he carved a cell for himself as well. The monastery was called “Romana,” after the nearby brook.
Later the emperor sent his own two sons, Leo1 and Alexander, to be raised by the holy fathers. Emperor Basil sought to bury St. Hilarion’s holy relics in the capital, but the people of Thessalonica would not allow the relics to be taken away. In the end, it was necessary for the emperor’s envoys to conceal the sacred shrine and carry it back to Constantinople in secret.
The emperor, the patriarch, and all the people met the arrival of St. Hilarion’s relics with glorious hymns and prayers. Before the special burial vault had been built, the emperor kept St. Hilarion’s holy relics in his own chamber. Three nights after the relics had arrived, Basil awoke to an unusual fragrance. No one in the court could discover its source.
When the emperor dozed off again, St. Hilarion appeared to him in his vestments and said, “You have done a good deed by preparing a shelter for my remains. But the sweet fragrance you smell was acquired in the wilderness, not in the city. Therefore, if you desire to receive the divine blessings in full, take me away to the wilderness!”
The emperor reported this wondrous turn of events to the patriarch and the prefect, and with their consent he brought the holy relics of St. Hilarion to the Monastery of Romana.
Saint Gregory was born in Neocaesarea of Pontus to parents who were not Christians. He studied in Athens, in Alexandria, in Beirut, and finally for five years in Caesarea of Palestine under Origen, by whom he was also instructed in the Faith of Christ. Then, in the year 240, he became bishop of his own city, wherein he found only seventeen Christians. By the time the Saint reposed about the year 265, there were only seventeen unbelievers left there. Virtually the whole duration of his episcopacy was a time of continual, marvellous wonders worked by him. Because of this, he received the surname "Wonderworker"; even the enemies of the truth called him a second Moses (see Saint Basil the Great's On the Holy Spirit, ch. 29).
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
By vigilance in prayer, and continuance in the working of wonders, thou didst acquire thine achievements as a surname; wherefore, intercede with Christ our God, O Father Gregory, to enlighten our souls, lest we sleep in sin unto death.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
Since thou hadst received the power to work miracles, thou dravest from men diseases, O wise Gregory, and with fearful signs thou madest the demons tremble; hence, thou art called Wonderworker, O man of God; for thou hast received thy surname from thy works.
This Apostle, who was also called Levi, was the son of Alphaeus and had Galilee as his homeland. A publican before being called by Christ, he became one of the Twelve Apostles, and an Evangelist. While still in Palestine, he wrote his Gospel first in Hebrew, being also the first of all to write the Gospel. When he is depicted in icons, there is portrayed next to him the likeness of a man, one of the symbolic living creatures mentioned by Ezekiel (1.10), which, as Saint Irenaeus writes, is a symbol of our Saviour's Incarnation.
Apolytikion in the Third Tone
O Holy Apostle and Evangelist Matthew, intercede with the merciful God that He grant unto our souls forgiveness of offences.
Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
When thou didst cast away the publican's balance and wast united to the yoke of uprightness, then didst thou prove a merchant of great excellence, one that gathered in the wealth of the wisdom of Heaven; for this cause, the word of truth thou didst herald, O Matthew, and didst arouse the souls of sluggish men by signifying the dread day of reckoning.
This Apostle, one of the Twelve, was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and was a compatriot of Andrew and Peter. He was instructed in the teachings of the Law, and devoted himself to the study of the prophetic books. Therefore, when the Lord Jesus called him to the dignity of apostleship, he immediately sought out and found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found Him of Whom Moses in the Law and the Prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph" (John 1.45). Having preached Jesus the God-man throughout many parts of Asia Minor, and having suffered many things for His Name's sake, he was finally crucified upside down in Hierapolis of Phrygia.
Apolytikion in the Third Tone
O Holy Apostle Philip, intercede with the merciful God that He grant unto our souls forgiveness of offences.
Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Your disciple and friend, emulator of Your passion, the divinely eloquent Philip, proclaimed You to the world as God. By his entreaties, and through the Theotokos, keep Your Church from lawless enemies, O most merciful.
This greatest and most beloved of all Christian orators was born in Antioch the Great in the year 344 or 347; his pious parents were called Secundus and Anthusa. After his mother was widowed at the age of twenty, she devoted herself to bringing up John and his elder sister in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. John received his literary training under Anthragathius the philosopher, and Libanius the sophist, who was the greatest Greek scholar and rhetorician of his day. Libanius was a pagan, and when asked before his death whom he wished to have for his successor, he said, "John, had not the Christians stolen him from us." With such a training, and with such gifts as he had by nature, John had before him a brilliant career as a rhetorician. But through the good example of his godly mother Anthusa and of the holy Bishop Meletius of Antioch (see Feb. 12), by whom he was ordained reader about the year 370, he chose instead to dedicate himself to God. From the years 374 to 381 he lived the monastic life in the hermitages that were near Antioch. His extreme asceticism undermined his health, compelling him to return to Antioch, where Saint Meletius ordained him deacon about the year 381. Saint Meletius was called to Constantinople later that year to preside over the Second Ecumenical Council, during which he fell asleep in the Lord. In 386 Bishop Flavian ordained John presbyter of the Church of Antioch. Upon his elevation to the priesthood his career as a public preacher began, and his exceptional oratorical gifts were made manifest through his many sermons and commentaries. They are distinguished by their eloquence and the remarkable ease with which rich imagery and scriptural allusions are multiplied; by their depth of insight into the meaning of Scripture and the workings of God's providence; and, not least of all, by their earnestness and moral force, which issue from the heart of a blameless and guileless man who lived first what he preached to others. Because of his fame, he was chosen to succeed Saint Nectarius as Patriarch of Constantinople. He was taken away by stealth, to avoid the opposition of the people, and consecrated Patriarch of Constantinople on February 28, 398, by Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria, who was to prove his mortal enemy.
At that time the Emperor of the East was Arcadius, who had had Saint Arsenius the Great as his tutor (see May 8); Arcadius was a man of weak character, and much under the influence of his wife Eudoxia. The zealous and upright Chrysostom's unsparing censures of the lax morals in the imperial city stung the vain Eudoxia; through Theophilus' plottings and her collaboration, Saint John was banished to Pontus in 403. The people were in an uproar, and the following night an earthquake shook the city; this so frightened the Empress Eudoxia that she begged Arcadius to call Chrysostom back. While his return was triumphant, his reconciliation with the Empress did not last long. When she had a silver statue of herself erected in the forum before the Church of the Holy Wisdom (Saint Sophia) in September of 403, and had it dedicated with much unseemly revelry, Saint John thundered against her, and she could not forgive him. In June of 404 he was exiled to Cucusus, on the borders of Cilicia and Armenia. From here he exchanged letters with Pope Innocent of Rome, who sent bishops and priests to Constantinople requesting that a council be held. Saint John's enemies, dreading his return, prevailed upon the Emperor to see an insult in this, and had John taken to a more remote place of banishment called Pityus near the Caucasus. The journey was filled with bitter sufferings for the aged bishop, both because of the harshness of the elements and the cruelty of one of his 310 guards. He did not reach Pityus, but gave up his soul to the Lord near Comana in Pontus, at the chapel of the Martyr Basiliscus (see May 22), who had appeared to him shortly before, foretelling the day of his death, which came to pass on September 14, 407. His last words were "Glory be to God for all things." His holy relics were brought from Comana to Constantinople thirty-one years later by the Emperor Theodosius the Younger and Saint Pulcheria his sister, the children of Arcadius and Eudoxia, with fervent supplications that the sin of their parents against him be forgiven; this return of his holy relics is celebrated on January 27.
Saint John was surnamed Chrysostom ("Golden-mouth") because of his eloquence. He made exhaustive commentaries on the divine Scriptures and was the author of more works than any other Church Father, leaving us complete commentaries on the Book of Genesis, the Gospels of Saints Matthew and John, the Acts, and all the Epistles of Saint Paul. His extant works are 1,447 sermons and 240 epistles. Twenty-two teachers of the Church have written homilies of praise in his honour. Besides his feasts today and on January 27, he is celebrated as one of the Three Hierarchs on January 30, together with Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory the Theologian.
It should be noted that, because September 14 is the Exaltation of the Cross, the Saint's memory has been transferred to this day.
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Grace shining forth from thy mouth like a beacon hath illumined the universe, and disclosed to the world treasures of uncovetousness, and shown us the heights of humility; but while instructing us by thy words, O Father John Chrysostom, intercede with the Word, Christ our God, to save our souls.
Kontakion in the Plagal of the Second Tone
You received divine grace from Heaven, and by your own lips taught all to worship the One God in Trinity. All-blessed, venerable John Chrysostom, deservedly, we praise you for you are a teacher clearly revealing things divine.
Saint John was born in 555 on the island of Cyprus in the city of Amathus; his father, Epiphanius, was a ruler of Cyprus. The Saint was consecrated Archbishop of Alexandria in 608. A man of exemplary uprightness, in his zeal for Orthodoxy he strove mightily to fight the many heresies among the Christians in Egypt; but above all, he was famous for his singular generosity, humility, and sympathy towards all, especially the poor. His mercy was so great that the report of it reached the Persian invaders of Jerusalem, who desired to see him because of it. Saint John reposed in 619, at the age of sixty-four.
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
In thy patience thou hast won thy reward, O righteous Father. Thou didst persevere unceasingly in prayer; thou didst love the poor, and didst provide for them in all things. Wherefore, intercede with Christ our God, O blessed John the Almsgiver, that our souls be saved.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
Thy riches and wealth didst thou disperse unto the poor; thou now hast received the Heavens' riches in return. For this cause, O all-wise John, we all honour thee with our songs of praise as we keep thy memorial, O namesake of almsgiving and of mercy.
Nothing is known about his parents, or the time and place of his birth. St Maximus chose one of the most difficult and thorny paths to salvation, having taken upon himself the guise of a fool for the sake of Christ. Summer and winter Maximus walked about almost naked, enduring both heat and cold. He had a saying, "The winter is fierce, but Paradise is sweet."
Russia loved its holy fools, it esteemed their deep humility, it heeded their wisdom, expressed in the proverbial sayings of the people's language. And everyone heeded the holy fools, from the Great Princes down to the least beggar.
Blessed Maximus lived at a difficult time for the Russian people. Tatar incursions, droughts, epidemics were endemic and people perished. The saint said to the unfortunate, "Not everything is by the weave of the wool, some is opposite... They have won the fight, submit, and bow lower. Weep not, you who are beaten; but weep, you who are unbeaten. Let us show tolerance, and in this at least, we shall be human. Gradually, even green wood will burn. God will grant salvation if we bear all with patience."
But the saint did not only speak words of consolation. His angry denunciations frightened the mighty of his world. Blessed Maximus would often say to the rich and illustrious, "The house has an icon corner, but the conscience is for sale. Everyone makes the Sign of the Cross, not everyone prays. God sees every wrong. He will not deceive you, nor will you deceive Him."
Blessed Maximus died on November 11, 1434 and is buried at the church of the holy Princes Boris and Gleb. Miraculous healings began occurring from the relics of God's saint. In an encyclical of 1547, Metropolitan Macarius enjoined "the singing and celebration at Moscow for the new Wonderworker Maximus, Fool-for-Christ." That same year on August 13 the incorrupt relics of Blessed Maximus were uncovered. The church of Sts Boris and Gleb, where the saint was buried, burned in the year 1568. On the site a new church was built, which they consecrated in the name of St Maximus, Fool-for-Christ. The venerable relics of St Maximus were placed in this church.
The holy Apostles Erastus, Sosipater (April 28), Quartus and Tertius (October 30) were disciples of St Paul. The Apostle to the Gentiles speaks of them in the Epistle to the Romans, "And Erastus, the city treasurer, greets you, and Quartus, a brother" (Rom 16: 23).
St Olympas was mentioned by the holy Apostle Paul (Rom 16:15). He was also a companion of the Apostle Peter. He was beheaded on the very day and hour when St Peter was crucified.
Saint Rodion, or Herodion (April 8), was a kinsman of the Apostle Paul (Romans 16:11), and left the bishop's throne at Patras to go to Rome with the Apostle Peter. St Olympas was also a companion of the Apostle Peter. Sts Rodion and Olympas were beheaded on the very day and hour when St Peter was crucified. St Sosipater, a native of Achaia, was Bishop of Iconium, where also he died. St Paul mentions him in Romans 16:21.
St Quartus endured much suffering for his piety and converted many pagans to Christ, dying peacefully as a bishop in the city of Beirut.
St Tertius, to whom St Paul dictated the Epistle to the Romans, was the second Bishop of Iconium, where also he died.
Holy Apostles, Erastus, Olympas, Herodion, Sosipater, Quartus and Tertius, entreat the merciful God, to grant our souls forgiveness of transgressions.
Illumined by divine light, O holy apostles, you wisely destroyed the works of idolatry. When you caught all the pagans you brought them to the Master and taught them to glorify the Trinity.
Saint Nektarios was born in Selyvria of Thrace on October 1, 1846. After putting himself through school in Constantinople with much hard labour, he became a monk on Chios in 1876, receiving the monastic name of Lazarus; because of his virtue, a year later he was ordained deacon, receiving the new name of Nektarios. Under the patronage of Patriarch Sophronius of Alexandria, Nektarios went to Athens to study in 1882; completing his theological studies in 1885, he went to Alexandria, where Patriarch Sophronius ordained him priest on March 23, 1886 in the Cathedral of Saint Sabbas, and in August of the same year, in the Church of Saint Nicholas in Cairo, made him Archimandrite. Archimandrite Nektarios showed much zeal both for preaching the word of God, and for the beauty of God's house. He greatly beautified the Church of Saint Nicholas in Cairo, and years later, when Nektarios was in Athens, Saint Nicholas appeared to him in a dream, embracing him and telling him he was going to exalt him very high.
On January 15, 1889, in the same Church of Saint Nicholas, Nektarios was consecrated Metropolitan of the Pentapolis in eastern Libya, which was under the jurisdiction of Alexandria. Although Nektarios' swift ascent through the degrees of ecclesiastical office did not affect his modesty and childlike innocence, it aroused the envy of lesser men, who convinced the elderly Sophronius that Nektarios had it in his heart to become Patriarch. Since the people loved Nektarios, the Patriarch was troubled by the slanders. On May 3, 1890, Sophronius relieved Metropolitan Nektarios of his duties; in July of the same year, he commanded Nektarios to leave Egypt.
Without seeking to avenge or even to defend himself, the innocent Metropolitan left for Athens, where he found that accusations of immorality had arrived before him. Because his good name had been soiled, he was unable to find a position worthy of a bishop, and in February of 1891 accepted the position of provincial preacher in Euboia; then, in 1894, he was appointed dean of the Rizarios Ecclesiastical School in Athens. Through his eloquent sermons his unwearying labours to educate fitting men for the priesthood, his generous alms deeds despite his own poverty, and the holiness, meekness, and fatherly love that were manifest in him, he became a shining light and a spiritual guide to many. At the request of certain pious women, in 1904 he began the building of his convent of the Holy Trinity on the island of Aegina while yet dean of the Rizarios School; finding later that his presence there was needed, he took up his residence on Aegina in 1908, where he spent the last years of his life, devoting himself to the direction of his convent and to very intense prayer; he was sometimes seen lifted above the ground while rapt in prayer. He became the protector of all Aegina, through his prayers delivering the island from drought, healing the sick, and casting out demons. Here also he endured wicked slanders with singular patience, forgiving his false accusers and not seeking to avenge himself. Although he had already worked wonders in life, an innumerable multitude of miracles have been wrought after his repose in 1920 through his holy relics, which for many years remained incorrupt. There is hardly a malady that has not been cured through his prayers; but Saint Nektarios is especially renowned for his healings of cancer for sufferers in all parts of the world.
Apolytikion in the First Tone
The offspring of Selyvria and the guardian of Aegina, the true friend of virtue who didst appear in the last years, O Nectarius, we faithfully honour thee as a godly servant of Christ, for thou pourest forth healings of every kind for those who piously cry out: Glory to Christ Who hath glorified thee. Glory to Him Who hath made thee wondrous. Glory to Him Who worketh healings for all through thee.
Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
In joy, let our hearts praise the latest shining star of the Orthodox, the newly erected rampart of the Church. For, glorified by the work of the Spirit, he abundantly pours forth the grace of healing to those who cry out, "Hail, Father Nektarios".
All the Angels, according to the Apostle Paul, are ministering spirits, - sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation - (Heb. 1:14). God set them as overseers of every nation and people, and guides to that which is profitable (Deut. 32:8); and while one Angel is appointed to oversee each nation as a whole, one is also appointed to protect each Christian individually. He commands them to guard them that hope on Him, that nothing should harm them, neither should any evil draw nigh to their dwelling (Ps. 90:10-12). In the Heavens they always behold the face of God, sending up to Him the thrice-holy hymn and interceding with Him in our behalf, seeing they rejoice over one sinner that repents (Esaias 6:2-3; Matt. 18:10; Luke 15:7). In a word, they have served God in so many ways for our benefit, that the pages of Holy Scripture are filled with the histories thereof. It is for these reasons that the Orthodox Catholic Church, wisely honouring these divine ministers, our protectors and guardians, celebrates today the present Synaxis that is, our coming together in assembly for their common feast to chant their praises, especially for the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, who are mentioned in the Scriptures by name. The name Michael means "Who is like God?" and Gabriel means "God is mighty." The number of Angels is not defined in the divine Scriptures, where Daniel says that thousands of thousands ministered before Him, and ten thousands of ten thousands attended upon Him -(Dan. 7:10). But all of them are divided into nine orders which are called Thrones, Cherubim, Seraphim, Dominions, Powers, Authorities, Principalities, Archangels, and Angels.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Supreme Commander of the Hosts of Heavens, we, the unworthy, importune and beseech thee that by thy supplications thou encircle us in the shelter of the wings of thine immaterial glory, guarding us who now fall down and cry to thee with fervour: Deliver us from dangers of all kinds, as the great marshal of the heavenly hosts on high.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
Chief Commanders of God; ministers of divine glory; guides for men and leadership of the Incorporeal; as Chief Commanders of the Incorporeal, plead for our welfare and for great mercy.
Saint Luke of Sicily was a native of the Sicilian city of Tauromenium. In his youth he left his parents and fiancée and went into the wilderness, where he spent many years in fasting and prayer. He lived the ascetic life at Mount Aetna.
Towards the end of his life St Luke, because of a revelation to him, founded a monastery. In order to become familiar with the rule and life of other monasteries, he visited many other cities. He died at Corinth in 820.
The Martyrs Galacteon and his wife Epistime at Emesa.
There was a rich and distinguished couple named Kletophon and Leukippe, who lived in the Syrian city of Emesa, and for a long time they were childless. They gave much gold to the pagan priests, but still they remained childless.
The city of Emesa was governed by a Syrian named Secundus, put there by the Roman Caesars. He was a merciless and zealous persecutor of Christians, and to intimidate them he ordered that the instruments of torture be displayed on the streets. The slightest suspicion of belonging to "the sect of the Galilean" (as thus Christians were called by the pagans), was enough to get a man arrested and handed over for torture. In spite of this, many Christians voluntarily surrendered themselves into the hands of the executioners, in their desire to suffer for Christ.
A certain old man by the name of Onuphrius, who concealed his monastic and priestly dignity beneath his beggar's rags, walked from house to house in Emesa, begging alms. At the same time, whenever he saw the possibility of turning people away from the pagan error, he preached about Christ.
Once, he came to the magnificent house of Leukippe. Accepting alms from her, he sensed that the woman was in sorrow, and he asked what was the cause of this sadness. She told the Elder about her familial misfortune. In consoling her, Onuphrius began to tell her about the one true God, about His omnipotence and mercy, and how He always grants the prayer of those turning to Him with faith. Hope filled the soul of Leukippe. She believed and accepted Holy Baptism. Soon after this it was revealed to her in a dream that she would give birth to a son, who would be a true follower of Christ. At first, Leukippe concealed her delight from her husband, but after the infant was born, she revealed the secret to her husband and also persuaded him to be baptized.
They named the baby Galacteon and his parents raised him in the Christian Faith and provided him a fine education. He could make an illustrious career for himself, but Galacteon sought rather an unsullied monastic life in solitude and prayer.
When Galacteon turned twenty-four, his father resolved to marry him off and they found him a bride, a beautiful and illustrious girl by the name of Epistime. The son did not oppose the will of his father, but by the will of God, the wedding was postponed for a time. Visiting his betrothed, Galacteon gradually revealed his faith to her. Eventually, he converted her to Christ and he secretly baptized her himself.
Besides Epistime he baptized also one of her servants, Eutolmius. The newly-illumined decided on the initiative of Galacteon, to devote themselves to the monastic life. Leaving the city, they hid themselves away on Mount Publion, where there were two monasteries, one for men and the other for women. The new monastics had to take with them all the necessities for physical toil, since the inhabitants of both monasteries were both old and infirm.
For several years the monastics struggled in work, fasting and prayer. Once, Epistime had a vision in her sleep: she and Galacteon stood in a wondrous palace before a radiant King, and the King bestowed golden crowns on them. This was a prefiguring of their impending martyrdom.
The pagans became aware of the existence of the monasteries, and a military detachment was sent to apprehend their inhabitants. But the monks and the nuns succeeded in hiding themselves in the hills. Galacteon, however, had no desire to flee and so he remained in his cell, reading Holy Scripture. When Epistime saw that the soldiers were leading Galacteon away in chains, she began to implore the Abbess to permit her to go also, since she wanted to accept torture for Christ together with her fiancé and teacher. The Abbess tearfully blessed Epistime to do so.
The saints endured terrible torments, while supplicating and glorifying Christ. Their hands and legs were cut off, their tongues were cut out, and then they were beheaded.
Eutolmius, the former servant of Epistime, and who had become her brother in Christ and fellow ascetic in monastic struggles, secretly buried the bodies of the holy martyrs. He later wrote an account of their virtuous life and their glorious martyrdom, for his contemporaries and for posterity.
Let us the faithful honor these two betrothed athletes: Galácteon and modest Epistémis. Their ascetic labors blossomed into martyrdom, therefore we cry to them: "Glory to Him who has strengthened you! Glory to Him who has crowned you! Glory to Him who through you grants healing to all!"
Your holy martyrs, 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!
You are numbered among the hosts of martyrs for you were illustrious in mighty contests. Galácteon, together with Epistémis, your faithful wife and companion in struggle, unceasingly intercede to the one God for us all.