Saint Cyprian was born of pagan parents in Carthage of
Roman Africa about the year 190. An eloquent teacher of rhetoric, he was
converted and baptized late in life, and his conversion from a proud
man of learning to a humble servant of Christ was complete; he sold his
great possessions and gave them to the poor, and because of his zeal and
virtue, was ordained presbyter in 247, then Bishop of Carthage in 248.
He was especially steadfast in defending the sanctity and uniqueness of
the Baptism of the Church of Christ against the confusion of those who
would allow some validity to the ministrations of heretics; his writings
continue to guide the Church even in our own day. Having survived the
persecution of Decius about the year 250, he was beheaded in confession
of the Faith during the persecution of Valerian in 258, on September 14;
that day being the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, his feast is
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Guide of Orthodoxy, teacher of piety and holiness, luminary of
Carthage, God-inspired adornment of confessors, O wise Cyprian, by thy
teachings thou has enlightened all, O harp of the Spirit. Intercede with
Christ God that our souls be saved.
Kontakion in the First Tone
We honour thee, O Cyprian, as a true shepherd * who with thy
sacred words and divinely-wise doctrines * hast shown us the
bound'ry-stones marking out the one Church of Christ. * Even unto death
didst thou bear witness with courage; * wherefore, we extol thee as a
hierarch and Martyr. * Entreat that we all be saved.
Saint Fantinus the Wonderworker was born in Calabria (Italy) of
parents George and Vriena. He was given over to a monastery, and from
childhood he was accustomed to ascetic deeds. In his youth he wandered
into the wilderness, remaining often without food or clothes for twenty
days. The monk spent 60 years in such exploits.
Before the end of
his life, fleeing before pursuing Saracens, he went with his disciples
Vitalius and Nicephorus to the Peloponnesos (Greece). Preaching the way
of salvation, the monk visited Corinth, Athens, Larissa and
Thessalonica, where he venerated the relics of the Great Martyr
Demetrius (October 26). He died peacefully in extreme old age at the end
of the ninth, and beginning of the tenth century.
The divine Baptist, the Prophet born of a Prophet, the
seal of all the Prophets and beginning of the Apostles, the mediator
between the Old and New Covenants, the voice of one crying in the
wilderness, the God-sent Messenger of the incarnate Messiah, the
forerunner of Christ's coming into the world (Esaias 40: 3; Mal. 3: 1);
who by many miracles was both conceived and born; who was filled with
the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb; who came forth like
another Elias the Zealot, whose life in the wilderness and divine zeal
for God's Law he imitated: this divine Prophet, after he had preached
the baptism of repentance according to God's command; had taught men of
low rank and high how they must order their lives; had admonished those
whom he baptized and had filled them with the fear of God, teaching them
that no one is able to escape the wrath to come if he do not works
worthy of repentance; had, through such preaching, prepared their hearts
to receive the evangelical teachings of the Savior; and finally, after
he had pointed out to the people the very Savior, and said, "Behold the
Lamb of God, Which taketh away the sin of the world" (Luke 3:2-18; John
1: 29-36), after all this, John sealed with his own blood the truth of
his words and was made a sacred victim for the divine Law at the hands
of a transgressor.
This was Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of
Galilee, the son of Herod the Great. This man had a lawful wife, the
daughter of Arethas (or Aretas), the King of Arabia (that is, Arabia
Petraea, which had the famous Nabatean stone city of Petra as its
capital. This is the Aretas mentioned by Saint Paul in II Cor. 11:32).
Without any cause, and against every commandment of the Law, he put her
away and took to himself Herodias, the wife of his deceased brother
Philip, to whom Herodias had borne a daughter, Salome. He would not
desist from this unlawful union even when John, the preacher of
repentance, the bold and austere accuser of the lawless, censured him
and told him, "It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife"
(Mark 6: 18). Thus Herod, besides his other unholy acts, added yet this,
that he apprehended John and shut him in prison; and perhaps he would
have killed him straightway, had he not feared the people, who had
extreme reverence for John. Certainly, in the beginning, he himself had
great reverence for this just and holy man. But finally, being pierced
with the sting of a mad lust for the woman Herodias, he laid his defiled
hands on the teacher of purity on the very day he was celebrating his
birthday. When Salome, Herodias' daughter, had danced in order to please
him and those who were supping with him, he promised her -- with an
oath more foolish than any foolishness -- that he would give her
anything she asked, even unto the half of his kingdom. And she,
consulting with her mother, straightway asked for the head of John the
Baptist in a charger. Hence this transgressor of the Law, preferring his
lawless oath above the precepts of the Law, fulfilled this godless
promise and filled his loathsome banquet with the blood of the Prophet.
So it was that that all-venerable head, revered by the Angels, was given
as a prize for an abominable dance, and became the plaything of the
dissolute daughter of a debauched mother. As for the body of the divine
Baptist, it was taken up by his disciples and placed in a tomb (Mark 6:
21 - 29). Concerning the finding of his holy head, see February 24 and
Apolytikion in the Second Tone
The memory of the just is celebrated with hymns of praise, but
the Lord's testimony is sufficient for thee, O Forerunner; for thou hast
proved to be truly even more venerable than the Prophets, since thou
was granted to baptize in the running waters Him Whom they proclaimed.
Wherefore, having contested for the truth, thou didst rejoice to
announce the good tidings even to those in Hades: that God hath
appeared in the flesh, taking away the sin of the world and granting us
Kontakion in the Plagal of the First Tone
The glorious beheading of the Forerunner was a certain divine
dispensation, that the coming of the Saviour might also be preached to
those in Hades. Let Herodias lament, then, that she demanded a wicked
murder; for she loved not the Law of God, nor eternal life, but one
false and fleeting.
Saint Job of Pochaev was born about 1551 in southwest
Galicia of a pious Orthodox family. In his tenth year the Saint departed
for the Ugornitsky Monastery of our Saviour in the Carpathian
Mountains. Tonsured after two years, he was ordained hieromonk about
1580. Renowned for his meekness and humility, Job was invited by the
great zealot for Holy Orthodoxy in the Carpatho-Russia, Prince
Constantine Ostrozhky, to be Abbot of the Monastery of the Cross in
Dubno. In his zeal for the preservation and propagation of the Orthodox
Faith, and to counteract the propaganda of the Uniates, he printed and
widely disseminated Orthodox spiritual and liturgical books. About 1600
he removed to the Mountain of Pochaev where at insistence of the
brethren, he became Abbot of the Monastery of the Dormition of the
Theotokos, which he enlarged and made to flourish. Through his labours, a
large printing works was founded at Pochaev and greatly assisted in the
nurture of the Orthodox faithful in that region. His monastery became
the center of the Orthodox Church in western Ukraine. The Saint reposed,
having taken the schema with the name of John, in 1651, at the advanced
age of one hundred.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Having acquired the patience of the long-suffering forefather,
having resembled the Baptist in abstinence, and sharing the divine zeal
of both, thou wast granted to receive their names, and wast a fearless
preacher of the true Faith. In this way thou didst bring a multitude of
monastics to Christ, and thou didst strengthen all the people in
Orthodoxy, O Job, our holy father. Pray that our souls be saved.
Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Thou wast a pillar of the true Faith, a zealot for the
commandments of the Gospel, a convicter of pride, an intercessor and
teacher of the humble. Wherefore, ask that forgiveness of sins be
granted unto them that bless thee; and do thou keep thy community
unharmed, O Job our Father, who dost resemble the much-suffering
Saint Pimen of Palestine lived during the sixth century in a
cave in the Rouba desert. The holy Fathers Sophronius and John speak of
him in Chapter 167 of THE SPIRITUAL MEADOW (Limonarion).
during winter the monk Agathonicus came to St Pimen for guidance and
remained to spend the night in an adjoining cave. In the morning, he
said that he had suffered much from the cold. St Pimen answered that he
had been uncovered, but did not feel the cold because a lion came and
lay beside him, warming him.
“But I know,” added the ascetic
“that I shall be devoured by wild beasts, since when I lived in the
world and herded sheep, my dogs attacked a man and tore him apart. I
could have saved him, but I did not. It was later revealed to me that I
would die a similar death.” So it came to pass: three years later, at
the end of the sixth century, St Pimen of Palestine was torn apart by
The holy Martyrs Adrian and Natalie confessed the
Christian Faith during the reign of Maximian, in Nicomedia, in the year
298. Adrian was a pagan; witnessing the valor of the Martyrs, and the
fervent faith with which they suffered their torments, he also declared
himself a Christian and was imprisoned. When this was told to his wife
Natalie, who was secretly a believer, she visited him in prison and
encouraged him in his sufferings. Saint Adrian's hands and feet were
placed on an anvil and broken off with a hammer; he died in his
torments. His blessed wife recovered part of his holy relics and took it
to Argyropolis near Byzantium, and reposed in peace soon after.
Apolytikion in the Third Tone
Thou didst deem that Faith which hath salvation to be riches
never lost or plundered. Thou forsookest thy fathers' impiety, and thou
didst follow thy Master, becoming rich in His divine gifts, O glorious
Adrian. With the godly-minded Natalie, who emboldened thee, entreat
Christ God, O Martyr, that our souls be saved.
Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Having wisely laid to heart all the divine words of thy
godly-minded wife, Adrian, Martyr of Christ God, in torments thou
strovest ardently; and with thy yoke-mate thou now hast received thy
The Holy Hieromartyr Irenaeus was born in Asia Minor
about the year 120, and in his youth was a disciple of Saint Polycarp,
Bishop of Smyrna. Saint Irenaeus was sent to Lyons in Gaul, to be a
fellow labourer of Pothinus, Bishop of Lyons (celebrated June 2), who
had also been a disciple Saint Polycarp. After the martyrdom of Saint
Pothinus, Saint Irenaeus succeeded him as Bishop of Lyons. Besides the
assaults of paganism, Irenaeus found himself compelled to do battle with
many Gnostic heresies, against which he wrote his greatest work, A Refutation and Overthrow of Knowledge Falsely So Called .
He was also a peace-maker within the Church. When Victor, Bishop of
Rome, was prepared to excommunicate the Christians of Asia Minor for
following a different tradition celebrating Pascha, Irenaeus persuaded
him to moderate his zeal, and mediated peace. He made Lyons an
illustrious bastion of Orthodoxy and a school of piety, and sealed his
confession with martyrdom about the year 202, during the reign of
Septimius Severus. He is not to be confused with Saint Irenaeus, Bishop
of Sirmium, also celebrated today, who was beheaded and cast into a
river in 304 under Diocletian.
The Georgian Icon of the mother of God: In 1622 the Persian Shah
Abbas conquered Georgia. Many Christian holy things were stolen, and
many were sold to the Russian merchants in Persia. Thus, the Georgian
Icon of the Mother of God came to a certain merchant named Stephen, who
piously kept it.
In Yaroslavl, the merchant George Lytkin, on
whose business Stephen was in Persia, received a revelation in a dream
about the holy object found by Stephen, and he was commanded to send it
to the Chernogorsk monastery in the Arkhangelsk diocese, founded in
When Stephen returned home in 1629 and showed the icon to
George Lytkin, he remembered his vision and he set off to the Dvina
outskirts to the Chernogorsk monastery (so called because it was built
on a hilly and somber place. From of old it had been named “Black Hill”,
but afterwards the monastery changed the name to “Pretty Hill”.
icon was glorified there by miracles. In 1654, during a pestilential
plague, the icon was transferred to Moscow, and those praying before it
escaped the deadly plague. The numerous copies of the icon testify to
its deep veneration. In 1658, with the blessing of Patriarch Nikon,
there was established an annual feastday of the Georgian Icon of the
Mother of God. The service was written in 1698 under the supervision of
Theodore Polykarpov of the Moscow printing office.
The Apostle Thaddaeus was from Edessa, a Jew by race. When
he came to Jerusalem, he became a disciple of Christ, and after His
Ascension he returned to Edessa. There he catechized and baptized Abgar
(see Aug. 16). Having preached in Mesopotamia, he ended his life in
martyrdom. Though some call him one of the Twelve, whom Matthew calls
"Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus" (Matt. 10:3), Eusebius says that
he is one of the Seventy: "After [Christ's] Resurrection from the dead,
and His ascent into Heaven, Thomas, one of the twelve Apostles,
inspired by God, sent Thaddaeus, one of the seventy disciples of Christ,
to Edessa as a preacher and evangelist of Christ's teaching" (Eccl.
Hist. 1: 13).
Apolytikion in the Third Tone
O Holy Apostle Thaddeus, intercede to our merciful God, that He may grant our souls forgiveness of sins.
Kontakion in the Third Tone
The Apostle's joyous feast is come with radiant splendour; let us
keep it on this day with jubilation and gladness. For to them who ever
honour him in sincere faith, it doth grant their sins' forgiveness and
true divine health; for he hath great boldness as a divine initiate of
Christ's omnipotent grace.
This most holy man, a Prophet of God from childhood, was
the last judge of the Israelite people, and anointed the first two Kings
of Israel. He was born in the twelfth century before Christ, in the
city of Armathaim Sipha, from the tribe of Levi, the son of Elkanah and
Hannah (Anna). He was the fruit of prayer, for his mother, being barren,
conceived him only after she had supplicated the Lord with many tears;
wherefore she called him Samuel, that is, "heard by God." As soon as
Hannah had weaned him, she brought him to the city of Silom (Shiloh),
where the Ark was kept, and she consecrated him, though yet a babe, to
the service of God, giving thanks to Him with the hymn found in the
Third Ode of the Psalter: "My heart hath been established in the Lord . .
." Samuel remained in Silom under the protection of Eli the priest. He
served in the Tabernacle of God, and through his most venerable way of
life became well-pleasing to God and man (I Kings 2: 26). While yet a
child, sleeping in the tabernacle near the Ark of God, he heard the
voice of God calling his name, and foretelling the downfall of Eli; for
although Eli's two sons, Ophni and Phineas, were most lawless, and
despisers of God, Eli did not correct them. Even after Samuel had told
Eli of the divine warning, Eli did not properly chastise his sons, and
afterwards, through various misfortunes, his whole house was blotted out
in one day.
After these things came to pass, Samuel was chosen to
be the protector of the people, and he judged them with holiness and
righteousness. He became for them an example of all goodness, and their
compassionate intercessor before God: "Far be it from me that I should
sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; yea, I will serve the
Lord, and show you the good and the right way" (ibid. 12:23). When he
asked them -- having God as witness -- if he ever wronged anyone, or
took anyone's possessions, or any gift, even so much as a sandal, they
answered with one voice: "Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us,
nor afflicted us, neither hast thou taken anything from anyone's hand"
(ibid. 12:4). When Samuel was old, the people asked him for a king, but
he was displeased with this, knowing that God Himself was their King.
But when they persisted, the Lord commanded him to anoint them a king,
saying, "They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me from
reigning over them" (ibid. 8:7); so Samuel anointed Saul. But Saul
transgressed the command of God repeatedly, so Samuel anointed David.
Yet, since Samuel was a man of God, full of tender mercy, when the Lord
told him that He had rejected Saul, Samuel wept for him the whole night
long (ibid. 15:11); and later, since he continued to grieve, the Lord
said to him, "How long wilt thou mourn for Saul?" (ibid. 16:1). Having
lived blamelessly some ninety-eight years, and become an example to all
of a God-pleasing life, he reposed in the eleventh century before
Christ. Many ascribe to him the authorship of the Books of judges, and
of Ruth, and of the first twenty-four chapters of the First Book of
Kings (I Samuel).
Apolytikion in the Second Tone
As we celebrate the memory of Thy Prophet Samuel, O Lord, through him we beseech Thee to save our souls.
Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Thy hallowed mother dedicated thee unto the Lord even before she
had conceived thee; and when thou wast born thou didst serve Him from
thine infancy like an Angel. And, O Prophet of the Most High, for thy
fervent faith, thou wast granted to foretell things that should come to
pass. Hence, we cry to thee: Rejoice, O ven'rable Samuel.
Saint Pitirim, Bishop of Great Perm, was chosen and
consecrated to the See of Perm after the suffering and death of St
Gerasimus of Perm (January 24). Before becoming bishop, Archimandrite
Pitirim was head of the Chudov monastery. He later became known as the
composer of the Canon to St Alexis, Metropolitan of Moscow (February
12), and also wrote his Life.
As bishop, St Pitirim first
occupied himself with establishing friendly relations between the
Zyryani and Voguli peoples. He circulated admonitory letters and
messages, seeking to defend the Zyryani from pillage. The Voguli leader
Asyka however, taking advantage of princely dissention and the
remoteness of the bishop from the capital, plundered Christian
settlements and killed defenseless people.
held lands at the Rivers Vyg and Dvina, suffering death from the
constant pillaging. In the year 1445, they marched out against the
Voguli and took Asyka captive. The crafty pagan swore friendship to Perm
and vowed to harass Christians no longer. Set free, Asyka waited for a
convenient moment to attack Ust’-Vym with the aim of killing St Pitirim,
to whom he attributed his defeat by the Novgorodians.
time St Pitirim was twice in Moscow: in 1447 to address an encyclical
to Prince Demetrius Shemyaka, having broken a treaty (it is supposed
that the writer was St Pitirim); and again in the year 1448 for the
consecration of St Jonah, Metropolitan of Moscow (March 31). Taking
advantage of St Pitirim’s absence, Asyka again made an attack on a
Zyryani settlement near the Pechora, robbing and killing the
inhabitants. Not only the Zyryani, but also the Voguli living their
nomadic life near the Pechora tributary, had become convinced of the
truth of the preachings of St Pitirim, and they had begun to accept
Embittered by this, Asyka committed a new crime. On
August 19, 1456 he murdered St Pitirim, when he was out blessing the
waters at the point of land formed by the confluence of the Rivers Vaga
and Vychegda. The body of the saint remained for 40 days in a grave at
the place of his death (since they awaited an answer to the sad news of
his death). In spite of the hot weather, decay did not touch him. The
saint was buried in the Ust’-Vym cathedral church of the Annunciation
next to his predecessor St Gerasimus. The memory of his repose was
already entered into a typikon in the year 1522. In the year 1607 the
joint commemoration of the three Great Perm holy Hierarchs: Gerasimus,
Pitirim and Jonah, was established (January 29). They succeeded one
another at the Ust’-Vym cathedral.
Saints Emilian the Bishop, and with him Hilarion, Dionysius,
and Hermippus were born and lived in Armenia. After the death of their
parents, the hieromartyrs Emilian, Dionysius, and Hermippus (they were
brothers), and their teacher Hilarion left their native land and arrived
in Italy, in the city of Spoleto.
St. Emilian began to preach the
Gospel to the pagans. He won the deep respect of the Christian
community because of his strict and virtuous life, and he was chosen
bishop of the city of Trebium. He was consecrated by Marcellinus, the
Bishop of Rome). After moving to Trebium, St. Emilian converted many
pagans to Christ, for which he was brought to trial before the emperor
The saint suggested that the emperor see for
himself the power of prayer to Christ. A man who had been crippled for a
long time was brought before him. However much the pagan priests tried
to heal him by appealing to the idols, they accomplished nothing. Then
St. Emilian prayed to the Lord and commanded the crippled man, in the
name of Jesus Christ, to get up. The man stood up healthy and went home
This miracle was so convincing that the emperor was
inclined to admit the truth about Christ, but the pagan priests told him
that the saint had worked magic. He was subjected to fierce tortures,
in which the Lord encouraged him, saying: “Fear not, Emilian, I am with
They tied him to a wheel, threw him on hot tin, dunked him
in a river, and put him in the arena to be eaten by wild beasts, but he
remained unharmed. In view of all these miracles the people began to
shout: “Great is the Christian God! Free His servant!” On this day 1000
men believed in Christ, and all received the crown of martyrdom.
a rage, the governor ordered that the beasts be killed since they did
not attack the saint. The martyr gave thanks to the Lord because even
the wild beasts accepted death for Christ. They locked St. Emilian in
prison together with his brothers and teacher, and after fierce tortures
the hieromartyrs Hilarion, Dionysius, and Hermippus were beheaded with
St. Emilian was executed outside the city. When the
executioner struck the martyr on the neck with a sword, it became soft
like wax, and did not wound the saint. Soldiers fell on their knees to
him asking forgiveness and confessing Christ as the True God. The saint
prayed on his knees for them and asked the Lord to grant him a martyr’s
death. His prayer was heard, and another executioner cut off the saint’s
head. Seeing a milky liquid flowing from his wounds, many of the pagans
believed in Christ and they buried the martyr’s body with honor.
Saint Myron was a priest during the reign of Decius, when
Antipater was ruler of Achaia. On the day of our Lord's Nativity,
Antipater entered the church to seize the Christians and punish them.
Saint Myron, kindled with holy zeal, roundly insulted Antipater, for
which he was hung up and scraped, then cast into a raging furnace, but
was preserved unharmed. When Myron refused to worship the idols,
Antipater commanded that strips be cut in the Saint's flesh from his
shoulders to his feet; the Saint took one of the strips of his flesh and
flung it in the tyrant's face. He was beaten, and scraped again upon
his beaten flesh; then he was thrown to wild beasts, but when Antipater
saw them leaving off their fierce nature and protecting the Saint from
harm, he was overcome with unbearable shame and slew himself. The Saint
was then sent to Cyzicus, where the proconsul had him beheaded, about
the year 250.
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 Second Tone
Since thou didst love Christ from childhood, O all-lauded one,
and strictly didst keep His precepts and divine commands, thou didst run
whole-heartedly unto Him, O Myron, and foundest rest and with Angels
glorifiest Him, while asking divine forgiveness for us all.
In birth, you preserved your virginity; in death, you did not
abandon the world, O Theotokos. As mother of life, you departed to the
source of life, delivering our souls from death by your intercessions.
Saint Macarius the Roman was born at the end of the fifteenth
century into a wealthy family of Rome. His parents raised him in piety
and gave him an excellent education. He might have expected a successful
career in public service, but he did not desire honors or earthly
glory. Instead, he focused on how to save his soul.
He lived in an
age when the Christian West was shaken by the Protestant Reformation.
While others around him were pursuing luxury and lascivious pleasures,
he studied the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers. St
Macarius was grieved to see so many darkened by sin and worldly vanity,
and was disturbed by the rebellions and conflicts within the Western
Church. With tears, he asked God to show him the path of salvation, and
his prayer did not go unanswered. He came to realize that he would find
the safe harbor of salvation in the Orthodox Church.
left Rome secretly, and set out for Russia without money, and wearing an
old garment. After many sufferings on his journey, he arrived in
Novgorod, where he rejoiced to see so many churches and monasteries. One
of these monasteries had been founded three centuries before by his
fellow countryman, St Anthony the Roman (August 3).
came to the banks of the River Svir, where St Alexander of Svir (April
17 and August 30) had founded the monastery of the Holy Trinity. St
Alexander received Macarius into the Orthodox Church and tonsured him as
a monk. Macarius, however longed for the solitary life. He moved to an
island on the River Lezna, forty-five miles from Novgorod, where he
engaged in ascetical struggles and unceasing prayer.
were very cold, and the summers were hot and humid. The marshy area was
also a breeding ground for mosquitos, which tormented the saint. St
Macarius survived on berries, roots, and herbs. Sometimes bears would
come to him for food, and they allowed him to pet them.
great lamp of the spiritual life could not remain hidden for long. One
rainy night someone knocked on his door and asked him to open it.
Several people, who seemed to be hunters, entered his cell. Astonished
by his appearance, and the divine light shining from his face, the men
asked for his blessing. They told him they had come to the forest to
hunt, and only by the prayers of the saint did God permit them to find
“It is not my sinful prayers,” he told them, “but the grace of God which led you here.”
feeding them, he spoke and prayed with them, then showed them the way
out of the marsh. St Macarius was concerned that his peace would be
disturbed, now that his dwelling place was known. His fears were
justified, because many people sought him out to ask for his advice and
The holy ascetic decided to move even farther into the
wilderness, choosing an elevated place on the left bank of the Lezna.
Even here, however, he was not able to conceal himself for very long.
Sometimes a pillar of fire would rise up into the sky at night above his
place of refuge. During the day, the grace of God was made manifest by a
fragrant cloud of smoke. Drawn by these signs, the local inhabitants of
the region were able to find him once more.
Some of his visitors
begged St Macarius to permit them to live near him and to be guided by
his counsels. Seeing that this was the Lord’s will, he did not refuse
them. He blessed them to build cells, and this was the foundation of his
In 1540, they built a wooden church dedicated to the
Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos. St Macarius was ordained to the
holy priesthood by Bishop Macarius of Novgorod, who later became
Metropolitan of All Russia. The hierarch also appointed St Macarius as
igumen of the monastery.
St Macarius was an example to the others,
and was given the gifts of clairvoyance and wonderworking from God. He
wore himself out with his labors and vigils, encouraging others not to
become faint-hearted in their own struggles.
After several years,
he entrusted the monastery to one of his disciples, and returned to the
island where he had first lived. There he fell asleep in the Lord on
August 15, 1550. His disciples buried him outside on the left side of
the Dormition church which he had founded.
The Hermitage of St
Macarius was never a prosperous monastery with many monks, but it was
distinguished by the high level of spiritual life. In the seventeenth
century, many of the monasteries near Novgorod were plundered by Swedish
invaders. The Hermitage of St Macarius was also burned in 1615, and
some of the monks were put to the sword.
By the eighteenth
century, the monastery had become a dependency of the St Alexander
Nevsky Lavra in St Petersburg. The Empress Catherine closed it in 1764,
just as she had closed other monasteries, and it was designated as a
parish church. Although pilgrims still came to venerate the saint’s
relics and to celebrate his Feast Day, the buildings soon fell into
In the mid-nineteenth century, some benefactors restored the
two churches and the miraculous healing spring which the saint himself
had dug. About this time an old priest was living there, and he
celebrated the church services until his death. In 1894, the monastery
began to function once more under the noted missionary Hieromonk
Arsenius, who introduced the Athonite Typikon. The monastery was
destroyed by the Soviets in 1932.
St Macarius the Roman is commemorated on August 15 (the date of his repose), and also on January 19 (his nameday).
In faith, O ye people, leap for joy while clapping your hands;
and gather in gladness on this day with longing and shout in radiant
jubilance. For the Theotokos cometh nigh to departing from the earth
unto the heights; and we glorify her with glory as the Mother of God in
our unceasing hymns
Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
In the Immaterial Spirit, the whole world hath been mystically
adorned upon the glorious memory; and it doth cry to thee joyously:
Rejoice, O Virgin, thou boast of the Christian race.
You were transfigured on the Mount, Christ God revealing Your
glory to Your disciples, insofar as they could comprehend. Illuminate us
sinners also with Your everlasting light, through the intercessions of
the Theotokos. Giver of light, glory to You.
The Martyrs Anicetus and Photius (his nephew) were natives of
Nicomedia. Anicetus, a military official, denounced the emperor
Diocletian (284-305) for setting up in the city square an implement of
execution for frightening Christians. The enraged emperor ordered St
Anicetus to be tortured, and later condemned him to be devoured by wild
beasts. But the lions they set loose became gentle and fawned at his
Suddenly there was a strong earthquake, resulting in the
collapse of the pagan temple of Hercules, and many pagans perished
beneath the demolished city walls. The executioner took up a sword to
cut off the saint’s head, but he fell down insensible. They tried to
break St Anicetus on the wheel and burn him with fire, but the wheel
stopped and the fire went out. They threw the martyr into a furnace with
boiling tin, but the tin became cold. Thus the Lord preserved His
servant for the edification of many.
The martyr’s nephew, St
Photius, saluted the sufferer and turned to the emperor, saying, “O
idol-worshipper, your gods are nothing!” The sword, held over the new
confessor, struck the executioner instead. Then the martyrs were thrown
After three days Diocletian urged them, “Worship our
gods, and I shall give you glory and riches.” The martyrs answered, “May
you perish with your honor and riches!” Then they tied them by the legs
to wild horses. Though the saints were dragged along the ground, they
remained unharmed. They did not suffer in the heated bath house, which
fell apart. Finally, Diocletian ordered a great furnace to be fired up,
and many Christians, inspired by the deeds of Sts Anicetus and Photius,
went in themselves saying, “We are Christians!” They all died with a
prayer on their lips. The bodies of Sts Anicetus and Photius were not
harmed by the fire, and even their hair remained whole. Seeing this,
many of the pagans came to believe in Christ. This occurred in the year
Sts Anicetus and Photius are mentioned in the prayers for the
Blessing of Oil and the Lesser Blessing of Water (BOOK OF NEEDS, 1987,
Saint Theodore, Prince of Ostrozh, gained fame with the
construction of churches and by his defense of Orthodoxy in Volhynia
against the enroachment of Papism. He was descended from St Vladimir
(July 15), through a great-grandson Svyatopolk-Michael, prince of Turov
(1080-1093) and later Great Prince of Kiev (+1113).
time the name of the holy Prince Theodore is mentioned is in the year
1386, when the Polish king Jagiello and the Lithuanian prince Vitovt
affirmed his hereditary possession of the Ostrozh district, and they
augmented the Zaslavsk and Koretsk surroundings.
In 1410 St
Theodore participated in the defeat of the Teutonic Knights of the
Catholic Order at the Battle of Gruenwald. In 1422 the holy prince,
because of sympathy for the Orthodox in Bohemia, supported the Hussites
in their struggle with the German emperor Sigismund. Theodore introduced
the Hussite formation (i.e., the Taborite, adopted by the Ukrainian
Cossacks) into Russian military strategy.
In 1432, after winning a
series of victories over the Polish forces, St Theodore compelled
Prince Jagiello to guarantee the freedom of Orthodoxy in Volhynia under
the law. Prince Svidrigailo, apprehensive of the strengthening of his
ally, locked St Theodore into prison, but the people who loved the saint
rose up in rebellion, and he was freed.
St Theodore was
reconciled with the offender and went to him for help in the struggle
against the Lithuanians and the Poles. In 1438, the holy prince took
part in a battle with the Tatars. In 1440, with the accession to the
Polish throne of Cazimir, youngest son of Prince Jagiello, St Theodore
received the rights of administration of the city of Vladimir, Dubno,
Ostrog, and he was granted extensive holdings in the best regions of
Podolia and Volhynia.
St Theodore left all this behind, together
with princely power and fame. After 1441 he entered the Kiev Caves
monastery, where he received the monastic tonsure with the name
Theodosius, he struggled there for the salvation of his soul until the
time of his blessed repose.
The year of St Theodore’s death is
unknown, but it is probable that he died in the second half of the
fifteenth century at a great old age (S. M. Soloviev in his HISTORY OF
RUSSIA gives the year of his death as 1483). The saint was buried in the
Far Caves of St Theodosius (He is also commemorated on the Synaxis of
the Monastic Fathers of the Far Caves, August 28). His glorification
apparently took place at the end of the sixteenth century, since in the
year 1638 the hieromonk Athanasius Kal’nophysky testified that “St
Theodore rests in the Theodosiev Cave, where his body was discovered
Blessed Laurence, Fool-for-Christ and Kaluga Wonderworker, lived at
the beginning of the sixteenth century at the distance of half a verst
from old Kaluga near a forest church in honor of the Nativity of Christ,
set upon a high hill.
There was a long underground entrance from
his dwelling to the church, where he attended services. He lived also
at the home of the Kaluga prince Simeon Ioannovich. It is conjectured
that Blessed Laurence was descended from the noble Khitrov lineage,
since his name initiates their lineage memorial at the Peremyshl’sk
Liotykov monastery, in the Kaluga diocese. Blessed Laurence went
barefoot both winter and summer, in a shirt and sheepskin coat. By his
struggles he so raised himself up that while still alive he was
glorified by gifts of grace.
When the Crimean Tatars fell upon
Kaluga in May 1512, Blessed Laurence, then in the home of the prince,
suddenly shouted out in a loud voice: “Give me my sharp axe, for the
curs fall upon Prince Simeon and it is necessary to defend him!” Saying
this, he seized the axe and left. Suddenly having come on board ship
next to the prince, Righteous Laurence inspired and encouraged the
soldiers, and in that very hour they defeated the enemy.
depicted in icons with an axe in his right hand, set upon a long handle.
It is certain that Prince Simeon (+ 1518), owing him his safety, built a
monastery in his memory on the site of the saint’s ascetic labors.
Blessed Laurence died on August 10, 1515, on his nameday. The memory of the saint is honored also on July 8.
Laurence was glorified, it seems, in the second half of the sixteenth
century. Thus, Tsar Ivan the Terrible in a deed of donation to the
monastery (1565) wrote: “Monastery of the Nativity of Christ, where lies
Laurence, the Fool-for-Christ.” In the Life, the first posthumous
miracle is recorded under the year 1621: the healing of the paralyzed
boyar Kologrivov, who became well after a Molieben to the saint.
One of the greatest treasures in the possession of the Monastery of
New Valamo in Heinävesi, Finland is the wonder-working icon of the
Mother of God of Valaam. Painted on lime wood, the 132 x 79.5 cm icon
depicts the Virgin Mary as a full-length figure standing on a cloud with
lowered gaze, clothed in a bright red cloak and a dark turquoise
undergarment. She is holding the Christ child, who is dressed in a thin,
pale yellow smock, on her left arm. With her right hand, she points to
Christ, in the style of the “hodigitria” icons of the Mother of God.
Christ blesses with His right hand and holds an orb, surmounted by a
cross, in His left hand, signifying that He is the Creator of the world
and King of all.
According to the inscription, the icon was
painted in 1878, “the work of the monks of Valaam.” It is customarily
attributed, however, to Father Alipy, one of the leading iconographers
at the original Valaam Monastery in Lake Ladoga in Russian Karelia.
Father Alipy painted the icon only a few years after he arrived at the
monastery, before he had become a novice there. He was tonsured to
monastic orders in 1884 and ordained as priestmonk in 1893.
the conventions of the late 19th century, the icon was painted in a
“naturalistic” style, employing a technique that combined the use of
tempera and oils.
Originally, the icon was to have been placed in
the Valaam Monastery’s Church of the Dormition. This never occurred,
however, and subsequently the icon was misplaced. In 1897, the icon was
rediscovered and gained its miracle-working reputation on the strength
of a succession of visions of the Mother of God experienced by an
elderly woman with serious rheumatoid arthritis, Natalia Andreyevna
Andreyeva, who was cured of her illness.
Despite the Valaam
Monastery’s long history, it had never had an icon of the Mother of God
of its own design, although Father Alipy’s icon came to occupy such a
position in subsequent years. In the turmoil of World War II, the icon
was transported to safety in Finland, along with many other treasures
from Valaam and the majority of the monks. It now occupies a prominent
position in the Church of the Transfiguration of Our Lord at the New
In 1987, the bishops of the autonomous Orthodox
Church of Finland established an annual feast in the Valaam Icon’s
honor on August 7. The troparion and kontakion for the feast were
written by the late Archbishop Paul of Finland.
On July 29, 2005,
the Valaam Icon of the Mother of God was brought for the first time to
North America by His Eminence, Archbishop Leo of Karelia and All
“Mother dear, is it true that you live at Valaam?”
The story of the icon of the Mother of God of Valaam, as recorded in 1897
a corner behind the choir enclosure on the south side of the lower main
church at the monastery of Valaam, where the miracle-working remains of
the monastery’s founders, the Saints Sergei and Herman of Valaam, lie
at rest interred in the rock, stands an icon of the All-Holy Mother of
God. This full length image of the Queen of Heaven holding the divine
child in her arms is known as the icon of the Mother of God of Valaam.
It is a work of considerable artistic merit that was painted by a local
artist-monk and later hieromonk, Father Alipi, in 1878. Nowadays this
icon is one of the most cherished objects of reverence at Valaam.
if by some divine providence, no suitable place could be found for the
icon at first when it was finished, and it was placed in the entrance
hall to the upper main church, where it remained until that church was
demolished to make way for a new one. At that stage the majority of the
icons, including this one, were taken to the Church of the Dormition of
the Mother of God, where the monastery held its regular services until
the lower main church was completed. The icon was hung in a relatively
high position on a pillar to the left of the entrance to the church.
the lower main church was ready for consecration, all the icons that
had been moved to the Church of the Dormition were returned to it, but
again, for some inexplicable reason known only to God, no place could be
found for this one. As scarcely any services were held in the Church of
the Dormition any longer, this icon, along with some others, was placed
in temporary storage in the Church of St Nicholas the Miracle-Worker.
There it lay forgotten for many years, until it was moved to its present
place in response to a vision experienced by a holy woman servant of
God. The story of the indescribable act of grace bestowed upon this
woman by the Queen of Heaven is recounted below in her own words.
am a member of the peasant estate from the village of Zarino in the
parish of Paskina, part of the district of Korchevski within the
province of Tver. My name is Natalia Andreyevna Andreyeva. I am now
sixty-four years of age and live in St Petersburg, in the Brusnitsyn old
peoples’ home, at Kosaya Line no. 15 on Vasili Island. I was placed in
this home, through the grace of God, by the lady in whose service I was a
serf in former days.
In the year 1878 or 1879 I caught a bad
cold on one occasion when washing clothes and developed rheumatism in my
arms and legs. I began to seek treatment for this, but my health became
worse year by year. I went to the Mariski Hospital for massage for a
long time, but it didn’t help, and I went to the Grand Duchess Elena
Pavlovna’s clinic opposite the Tauria gardens for as long as I could. I
was more or less a cripple for most of the winter. All my money went on
doctors’ fees and medicines, but the Lord God didn’t look kindly on my
afflictions. In the end I was told that my illness had reached the stage
of serious rheumatoid arthritis and that the only way of curing it was
to go to a spa and take warm water baths.
What could I do? By
that time I could scarcely afford to eat, so how could I find the money
for treatment at a spa? And so, sinner that I am, I began to pray
ardently to the Mother of God that in her mercy she would help me in my
sufferings. I could walk only with great difficulty, leaning on a stick,
and I had such pains in my hands and arms from time to time that I
could no longer hold on to the stick. Sometimes I could make my way into
the Church of the Sign only by crawling up the steps on all fours. I
lived as a beggar, on food that people gave me as alms. This went on
At that point my former mistress heard about my
pitiful state and invited me to come and live with her at Käkisalmi in
the province of Viipuri in Finland and look after her children as far as
my health would permit. There was no other work that I could think of
doing in the condition that I was in. The family was not a rich one, and
so I was not to receive any wages for this - but, thank God, at least I
was sure of food and a roof over my head.
While I was at
Käkisalmi I heard many accounts of the miraculous cures that had taken
place at the tomb of the Saints Sergei and Herman of Valaam, and this
aroused a powerful desire in me to visit Valaam and prostrate myself
before the tomb of these saints who had been acceptable unto the Lord
and entreat their help in my serious state of illness. I had heard a lot
about Valaam earlier, while I was living in St Petersburg, and I had
often thought of visiting the monastery to pay reverence to its founder
saints, but in all the vanities of life I had never got round to it. The
main reason had been the cost of the journey, of course, but now the
monastery was closer. Also, there was an inner voice speaking to me all
the time, “Go to Valaam and be cured!”
I could no longer resist
this desire, and I asked the lady of the house for leave to go there. As
I had no money at all, I pawned my warm scarf for four roubles and
started to make preparations for the journey.
As the day of
departure approached I began to feel uneasy and distressed. I was an old
woman who was utterly sick and lacking in strength. How could I travel
alone? I had very little money, only just enough for the journey. How
could I set out at all on such a journey? And if something were to
happen, what would a poor creature like me do then? Thoughts like this
began to haunt me until I was quite distraught.
The night before I
set out I just lay on my bed and wept. What should I do? I wanted so
much to make this journey, but still I was frightened for some reason.
Then - I don’t know whether I was asleep or awake - I saw quite clearly a
tall woman clad in pink velvet and with a child in her arms, surrounded
by an amazing light. The thought immediately struck me, could this be
the Mother of God? I didn’t dare to call out to her by that name,
though. I wanted to go to her, but she stepped back and said, “Don’t
weep. The Saviour is coming, and I am coming to you!”
Then I said to her, “Mother dear, how beautiful and good you are! Is it true that you live at Valaam?”
I live there. You will see me at Valaam!” After that the vision
disappeared, but now that the Mother of God had spoken to me it was as
if a stone had been lifted from my heart. My mind was at ease and all my
fears had been swept away.
The next day the ship came and I set
out joyfully on my journey. The old ladies sitting beside me began to
offer me food and drink, one bread, another tea and yet another coffee,
so that I was not short of anything all the way. It was a happy journey.
The only problem was that my legs were very painful because of the
rocking of the ship. At Valaam they were celebrating not only the annual
feast of the Saints Sergei and Herman but also the laying of the
foundation stone for a new church. There were a huge number of pilgrims
there, and also the Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich and his wife the
Duchess. There were throngs of people everywhere.
Once I had
arrived and rested after the strenuous journey, I made my way to the
tomb of the Saints Sergei and Herman and prayed there ardently so that
the tears streamed from my eyes. I asked the saints who had been
acceptable unto God to help me, to grant me, sinful as I was, relief
from my illness. I spent the last coins that I had on a short service of
prayer to them, so that I had nothing left but twenty kopecks and my
The evening service was held in the Church of the
Dormition, and the crowd was so enormous that with my illness, I stood
no chance of pushing my way into the church but had to stand, or rather
sit, in the entrance.
The following day I had to return home. I
would have liked to stay there longer to pray, but I couldn’t, as even a
few days would have cost so much that I would not have had any money
for the fare home.
Just before the ship was due to leave, some
unseen force began to drive me back to the Church of the Dormition once
more to pray. Although I was frightened of missing the ship, I didn’t
dare to resist this inner voice which ordered me into the church, so I
gathered up all my strength and practically ran back there.
soon as I stepped into the church I involuntarily looked to the left -
and stood rooted to the spot. My legs went weak beneath me, and I would
certainly have fallen down if it hadn’t been for the railings beside the
stairs leading to the upper church.
The reason for my surprise
and bewilderment was something quite miraculous. Hanging on the pillar
to the left of the door, in a golden frame, and looking at me was the
Mother of God! And what was more, I recognised in Her the same figure
who had appeared to me in a dream on the eve of my departure for Valaam
and strengthened my failing spirit for the journey. I couldn’t take my
eyes off the icon, and I became more and more convinced that this was
the same dear mother who had been gracious enough to visit me in a
dream. I recognised Her radiant face and Her merciful gaze. Even Her
clothing was the same, and She held the Child in just the same way as I
had seen in my dream.
As soon as I had recalled all this I wanted
to have a service of prayer for the Mother of God and to kiss Her holy
icon, but this was evidently not a suitable moment for Her, as our
defender, to receive my unworthy prayers. The ship’s siren sounded in
the distance, announcing its departure, and the icon was hung so high up
that it was impossible for me to kiss it. I just had time to buy a
candle with my last twenty kopecks and place it in front of the icon.
Then, with tears in my eyes, I had to leave for the ship.
only during the voyage that I recovered my composure. I was delighted
beyond words with this miracle that had been granted to me, a sinner,
although I was also saddened by the fact that I had seen the icon of the
All-Holy Mother of God only in the last few minutes before leaving
Valaam. This had evidently been Her wish.
* * * * * * * *
few days after I arrived back in Käkisalmi I began to feel much better.
I could walk without a stick and do little jobs around the house. I
resolved at once to go back to the monastery again at the first
opportunity to thank God and the holy fathers and definitely to have a
service of prayer said in front of the icon of the Mother of God. But
the Lord determined otherwise.
The lady in whose house I was
living decided to move into the country, and I had to go back to St
Petersburg again and rely on assistance from the good people there. The
years went by. My life was a hard one, and I was often facing hunger. My
illness became worse, and I again had to walk with a stick. I prayed
ardently to the Mother of God for help. Then, in 1896, nine years after
my visit to Valaam, I came home from Vespers one Saturday evening, said
my prayers and went to bed. Again I had a dream. The Mother of God
appeared to me in exactly the same form as on the first occasion, and
said, “So your enthusiasm has waned and you’ve forgotten your promise to
return to Valaam. You were shown the way, but you didn’t follow it.”
“I am poor,” I answered, “I haven’t the money.”
find money for everything else, but not for this. Alas, this is a
bitter disappointment for me,” the Mother of God complained.
was horrified at this vision. I had evidently offended our dear mother.
What was I to do now? Suddenly I heard that my former mistress had
recently returned to St Petersburg, and so I went to her and told her
the reason for my sorrow. She again came to my rescue - may God grant
her all his goodness - and unexpectedly gave me five roubles. With these
I was able to travel to Valaam at once.
As soon as I reached the
monastery I went to the new church to pray at the tomb of the founder
saints, and then to the Church of the Dormition to pray to the Mother of
God. To my great sorrow, however, I couldn’t find Her icon where it had
been on the first occasion. I began to ask the monks where it was, and
the former treasurer Father Evgeni advised me to ask the master of the
church furnishings, Father Pafnuti, who was responsible for all the
icons. Even he couldn’t tell me exactly where the icon of the Mother of
God that had been in the Church of the Dormition now was, and thought it
might have been sent to the monastery’s chapel on Vasili Island in St
Petersburg. I was very, very upset that I had not found my Queen of
Heaven, and shed many bitter tears as I prayed to the Mother of God and
the Saints Sergei and Herman that they would not abandon me in my sin.
stayed at Valaam for two and a half weeks, looking everywhere for the
icon, but I couldn’t find it. My health was poor, and my soul weighed
heavy within me. Eventually I went back to St Petersburg and called at
the Valaam chapel on Vasili Island, but the icon was not there, either. I
was more grief-stricken than ever.
Another year passed, and my
illness began to grow worse again, so that I could scarcely walk even
with a stick. I had scrimped and saved all year and gradually collected
the kopecks together for another journey to Valaam. I set out to spend
the feast of St Peter at the monastery and to look for the icon of the
Mother of God once again.
Although I was exhausted by the time I
arrived, I prayed earnestly at the tomb of the founder saints and with
tears in my eyes prayed to the Mother of God that she would show me
where I could find Her blessed icon. And my prayer was answered.
night I had another dream. I was walking through the yard of the
monastery and past the now abandoned Church of St Nicholas. I was crying
and praying to the Mother of God, “Oh mother dear, if only I could see
you once more!” I was greatly surprised, but I went on praying.
I heard a voice, but this time it was someone else’s. “What are you so
sad about? What are you looking for?” I turned round and there was a
grey-bearded old monk in a blue biretta standing behind me.
“I am looking for the Mother of God,” I replied.
“Wait. We will find Her.”
“How can you find Her so quickly,” I asked, “when Father Pafnuti searched for three weeks without finding her?”
“He searched in the wrong places. He had forgotten where She is,” the old monk said.
I followed him to a door. “This door is closed,” I said.
He opened it. “She is in here.”
looked into the inside of the church, and in one corner, amidst a heap
of furnishings and old icons, was the icon of the Mother of God, half
wrapped in a linen cloth and sacking. I recognised it at once as the
icon I was looking for. “Here She is!” I exclaimed in a loud voice. It
was then that the other women in the same room woke me up.
next day, a Wednesday, I went to the Liturgy early in the morning, after
which Father Pafnuti conducted a service of prayer at the tomb of the
founder saints. I told him about my dream. “In the name of God, forgive
me,” he said. “I looked for the icon at first and then forgot all about
it. I will go and search for it at once. Now I remember. I’m sure it’s
in the Church of St Nicholas the Miracle-Worker.”
I intended to
take Communion on the Saturday, and the night before I had another
dream. It was as if I were standing alone in the lower church. There
were just two monks beside the founders’ tomb, Father Seraphim and
Father Nikolai. I was waiting impatiently for something and could not
take my eyes off the outer door. Suddenly the door opened and the icon
of the Mother of God was carried in by Father Pafnuti and a young monk
in a short, grey cassock. “There She is, my dear mother!” I cried, and
threw myself on the floor, thinking that the icon would be carried over
me and I would be made well. But Father Pufnuti said, “There is nothing
ready for you here. We have to hold a short service to bless the holy
water before a sick person can be made well.” And at that I awoke.
the morning I took Communion. I told Father Pafnuti of my dream and,
sobbing, entreated him to go and look for the icon. Before the later
Liturgy I was in a chapel when I suddenly saw a crowd of people hurrying
from the hotel to the church. “What is happening?” I asked. They told
me that the missing icon of the Mother of God had been found and that it
was being taken to the lower church. I went into the church and saw the
icon on the steps in front of the iconostasis.
“Is this the icon you meant?” Father Pafnuti asked me.
“Yes, this is the one,” I replied.
be comforted and pray to the Holy Mother of God,” he said. I asked him
to hold a service of prayer to the Mother of God, and he did so, with a
blessing of water as well, and lit a lamp in front of the icon.
Alipi was reading a service of prayer at the tomb of the founder saints
just then, and I was told that it was he who had painted the icon. I
went to him and bowed down to the ground before him. My breath stuck in
my throat and tears streamed down my cheeks from the sheer joy of
finding at last the icon of the Mother of God who had appeared to me,
and I gave thanks to the Lord with all my heart for the unspeakable
mercy he had shown to me.
The holy water was poured into a bottle
for me, and when I drank it I felt my strength return. I took some oil
from the lamp and went to my room. There I spread it on my hands and
feet. The pain abated, and for the first time for many years I was able
to sleep peacefully. I week later I could walk without a stick.
giving thanks with all my soul and from the bottom of my heart to the
Mother of God for the miracle that She had worked on me in my
unworthiness, I returned to St Petersburg. I began to gain in strength
all the time without any medicine, and by Easter I had completely
recovered. It was then that I decided that I would buy a lamp for the
icon. By the grace of God I managed to gather together eight roubles
from the little that I had, but a lamp cost ten roubles. Then a friend
of mine who had bought a charity lottery ticket promised that if she won
she would give me the two roubles I needed, and she did win a gold
watch, so that I was able to buy the lamp and send it to the monastery.
Many people asked me to give them a photograph of the icon. Now I am in
perfect health. I can do washing and scrub floors, and I have even been
helping with the haymaking at the Konevits Monastery. I have no pain at
all in my legs. Altogether the illness lasted twelve years. At one time I
couldn’t even get my arms into the sleeves of my clothes, and sometimes
I could only climb steps by crawling on my hands and knees. I shed
countless tears at such times and prayed to the Mother of God that I
might be cured. Now I am healthy again and have everything that I need.
There are even good people around me who have put me in an old people’s
home. Glory be to the Queen of Heaven!’
story of the discovery of the icon in the abandoned Church of St
Nicholas is thoroughly plausible. It would have been impossible for her
to know anything about the contents of the church or about the objects
stored there beforehand. The church is kept closed and no people other
than the monastery staff are allowed into it. Everything really happened
as she had seen in her dream. Following her instructions, Father
Pafnuti went into the church, found the icon in a corner and brought it
to the lower main church. There he placed it on the right-hand side of
the church, on a pillar behind the right-hand choir enclosure, where it
has been to this day. And by some miraculous means the person who helped
Father Pufnuti carry the icon was indeed dressed in a short, grey
Natalia Andreyevna released this account of her visions
on 7th August 1897, and it was written down in the present form on 26th
TROPARION - TONE 4
O Virgin Theotokos, / we rejoice in beholding your holy icon, / for
devout prayers offered in front of it were fulfilled on the island of
Valaam / and the ascetics’ failing strength was renewed. / Hear our
prayers, also, O Most Holy One. / Strengthen us in faith and love, /
entreating peace for the world / and great mercy for our souls.
KONTAKION - TONE 3
With minds elevated, / we come before your Holy Icon, / O Most
Honorable Theotokos! / Your akathistos hymn was sung while it was being
painted on the island of Valaam. / You appeared three times to the widow
you healed, / and you showed the location of your forgotten icon. /
Strengthen us in our afliction. / Increase in our hearts humility, love
and silence of prayer. / Be a constant protection of your monastery /
and our courage before your Son, / O praised Mother of God and heavenly
Discourse on the Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ of Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica
an explanation of the present Feast and understanding of its truth, it
is necessary for us to turn to the very start of today’s reading from
the Gospel: “Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James and John his
brother, and led them up onto a high mountain by themselves” (Mt.17:1).
of all we must ask, from whence does the Evangelist Matthew begin to
reckon with six days? From what sort of day is it? What does the
preceding turn of speech indicate, where the Savior, in teaching His
disciples, said to them: “For the Son of Man shall come with his angels
in the glory of His Father,” and further: “Amen I say to you, there are
some standing here who shall not taste death, until they have seen the
Son of Man coming in His Kingdom” (Mt.16:27-28)? That is to say, it is
the Light of His own forthcoming Transfiguration which He terms the
Glory of His Father and of His Kingdom.
The Evangelist Luke
points this out and reveals this more clearly saying: “Now it came to
pass about eight days after these words, that He took Peter and John and
James, and went up the mountain to pray. And as He prayed, His
countenance was altered, and His raiment became a radiant white” (Luke
9:28-29). But how can the two be reconciled, when one of them speaks
definitively about the interval of time as being eight days between the
sayings and the manifestation, whereas the other (says): “after six
There were eight on the mountain, but only six were
visible. Three, Peter, James and John, had come up with Jesus, and they
saw Moses and Elias standing there and conversing with Him, so
altogether there were six of them. However, the Father and the Holy
Spirit were invisibly with the Lord: the Father, with His Voice
testifying that this was His Beloved Son, and the Holy Spirit shining
forth with Him in the radiant cloud. Thus, the six are actually eight,
and there is no contradiction regarding the eight. Similarly, there is
no contradiction with the Evangelists when one says “after six days,”
and the other says “eight days after these words.”
twofold sayings as it were present us a certain format set in mystery,
and together with it that of those actually present upon the Mount. It
stands to reason, and everyone rationally studying in accordance with
Scripture knows that the Evangelists are in agreement one with another.
Luke spoke of eight days without contradicting Matthew, who declared
“after six days.” There is not another day added on to represent the day
on which these sayings were uttered, nor is the day on which the Lord
was transfigured added on (which a rational person might reasonably
imagine to be added to the days of Matthew).
The Evangelist Luke
does not say “after eight days” (like the Evangelist Matthew says “after
six days”), but rather “it came to pass eight days after these words.”
But where the Evangelists seem to contradict one another, they actually
point out to us something great and mysterious. In actual fact, why did
the one say “after six days,” but the other, in ignoring the seventh
day, have in mind the eighth day? It is because the great vision of the
Light of the Transfiguration of the Lord is the mystery of the Eighth
Day, i.e., of the future age, coming to be revealed after the passing
away of the world created in six days.
About the power of the
Divine Spirit, through Whom the Kingdom of God is to be revealed, the
Lord predicted: “There are some standing here who shall not taste death,
until they have seen the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom” (Mt.16:28).
Everywhere and in every way the King will be present, and everywhere
will be His Kingdom, since the advent of His Kingdom does not signify
the passing over from one place to another, but rather the revelation of
its power of the Divine Spirit. That is why it is said: “come in
power.” And this power is not manifest to simply ordinary people, but to
those standing with the Lord, that is to say, those who have affirmed
their faith in Him like Peter, James and John, and especially those who
are free of our natural abasement. Therefore, and precisely because of
this, God manifests Himself upon the Mount, on the one hand coming down
from His heights, and on the other, raising us up from the depths of
abasement, since the Transcendent One takes on mortal nature. Certainly,
such a manifest appearance by far transcends the utmost limits of the
mind’s grasp, as effectualized by the power of the Divine Spirit.
the Light of the Transfiguration of the Lord is not something that
comes to be and then vanishes, nor is it subject to the sensory
faculties, although it was contemplated by corporeal eyes for a short
while upon an inconsequential mountaintop. But the initiates of the
Mystery, (the disciples) of the Lord at this time passed beyond mere
flesh into spirit through a transformation of their senses,
effectualized within them by the Spirit, and in such a way that they
beheld what, and to what extent, the Divine Spirit had wrought
blessedness in them to behold the Ineffable Light.
grasping this point have conjectured that the chosen from among the
Apostles beheld the Light of the Transfiguration of the Lord by a
sensual and creaturely faculty, and through this they attempt to reduce
to a creaturely level (i.e., as something “created”) not only this
Light, the Kingdom and the Glory of God, but also the Power of the
Divine Spirit, through Whom it is meet for Divine Mysteries to be
revealed. In all likelihood, such persons have not heeded the words of
the Apostle Paul: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered
into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for those who love
Him. But to us God has revealed them through His Spirit. For the Spirit
searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Cor.2:9-10).
with the onset of the Eighth Day, the Lord, taking Peter, James and
John, went up on the Mount to pray. He always prayed alone, withdrawing
from everyone, even from the Apostles themselves, as for example when
with five loaves and two fish He fed the five thousand men, besides
women and children (Mt.14:19-23). Or, taking with Him those who excelled
others, as at the approach of His Saving Passion, when He said to the
other disciples: “Sit here while I go over there and pray” (Mt.26:36).
Then He took with Him Peter, James and John. But in our instance right
here and now, having taken only these same three, the Lord led them up
onto a high mountain by themselves and was transfigured before them,
that is to say, before their very eyes.
“What does it mean to
say: He was transfigured?” asks the Golden-Mouthed Theologian
(Chrysostom). He answers this by saying: “It revealed something of His
Divinity to them, as much and insofar as they were able to apprehend it,
and it showed the indwelling of God within Him.” The Evangelist Luke
says: “And as He prayed, His countenance was altered” (Luke 9:29); and
from the Evangelist Matthew we read: “And His face shone as the sun”
(Mt.17:2). But the Evangelist said this, not in the context that this
Light be thought of as subsistent for the senses (let us put aside the
blindness of mind of those who can conceive of nothing higher than what
is known through the senses). Rather, it is to show that Christ God, for
those living and contemplating by the Spirit, is the same as the sun is
for those living in the flesh and contemplating by the senses.
Therefore, some other Light for the knowing the Divinity is not
necessary for those who are enriched by Divine gifts.
Inscrutable Light shone and was mysteriously manifest to the Apostles
and the foremost of the Prophets at that moment, when (the Lord) was
praying. This shows that what brought forth this blessed sight was
prayer, and that the radiance occured and was manifest by uniting the
mind with God, and that it is granted to all who, with constant exercise
in efforts of virtue and prayer, strive with their mind towards God.
True beauty, essentially, can be contemplated only with a purified mind.
To gaze upon its luminance assumes a sort of participation in it, as
though some bright ray etches itself upon the face.
Even the face
of Moses was illumined by his association with God. Do you not know
that Moses was transfigured when he went up the mountain, and there
beheld the Glory of God? But he (Moses) did not effect this, but rather
he underwent a transfiguration. However, our Lord Jesus Christ possessed
that Light Himself. In this regard, actually, He did not need prayer
for His flesh to radiate with the Divine Light; it was but to show from
whence that Light descends upon the saints of God, and how to
contemplate it. For it is written that even the saints “will shine forth
like the sun” (Mt.13:43), which is to say, entirely permeated by Divine
Light as they gaze upon Christ, divinely and inexpressibly shining
forth His Radiance, issuing from His Divine Nature. On Mount Tabor it
was manifest also in His Flesh, by reason of the Hypostatic Union (i.e.,
the union of the two perfect natures, divine and human, within the
divine Person [Hypostasis] of Christ, the Second Person of the Most Holy
Trinity). The Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon defined this
Hypostatic union of Christ’s two natures, divine and human, as “without
mingling, without change, without division, without separation.”
believe that at the Transfiguration He manifested not some other sort
of light, but only that which was concealed beneath His fleshly
exterior. This Light was the Light of the Divine Nature, and as such, it
was Uncreated and Divine. So also, in the teachings of the Fathers,
Jesus Christ was transfigured on the Mount, not taking upon Himself
something new nor being changed into something new, nor something which
formerly He did not possess. Rather, it was to show His disciples that
which He already was, opening their eyes and bringing them from
blindness to sight. For do you not see that eyes that can perceive
natural things would be blind to this Light?
Thus, this Light is
not a light of the senses, and those contemplating it do not simply see
with sensual eyes, but rather they are changed by the power of the
Divine Spirit. They were transformed, and only in this way did they see
the transformation taking place amidst the very assumption of our
perishability, with the deification through union with the Word of God
in place of this.
So also she who miraculously conceived and gave
birth recognized that the One born of her is God Incarnate. So it was
also for Simeon, who only received this Infant into his arms, and the
aged Anna, coming out [from the Jerusalem Temple] for the Meeting, since
the Divine Power illumined, as through a glass windowpane, giving light
for those having pure eyes of heart.
And why did the Lord,
before the beginning of the Transfiguration, choose the foremost of the
Apostles and lead them up onto the Mount with Him? Certainly, it was to
show them something great and mysterious. What is particularly great or
mysterious in showing a sensory light, which not only the foremost, but
all the other Apostles already abundantly possessed? Why would they need
a transforming of their eyes by the power of the Holy Spirit for a
contemplation of this Light, if it were merely sensory and created? How
could the Glory and the Kingdom of the Father and the Holy Spirit
project forth in some sort of sensory light? Indeed, in what sort of
Glory and Kingdom would Christ the Lord come at the end of the ages,
when there would not be necessary anything in the air, nor in expanse,
nor anything similar, but when, in the words of the Apostle, “God will
be all in all” (1 Cor.15: 28)? That is to say, will He alter everything
for all? If so, then it follows that light is included.
is clear that the Light of Tabor was a Divine Light. And the Evangelist
John, inspired by Divine Revelation, says clearly that the future
eternal and enduring city “has no need of the sun or moon to shine upon
it. For the Glory of God lights it up, and the Lamb will be its lamp”
(Rev 21:23). Is it not clear, that he points out here that this [Lamb]
is Jesus, Who is divinely transfigured now upon Tabor, and the flesh of
Whom shines, is the lamp manifesting the Glory of divinity for those
ascending the mountain with Him?
John the Theologian also says
about the inhabitants of this city: “they will not need light from
lamps, nor the light of the sun, for the Lord God will shed light upon
them, and night shall be no more” (Rev 22:5). But how, we might ask, is
there this other light, in which “there is no change, nor shadow of
alteration” (Jas 1:17)? What light is there that is constant and
unsetting, unless it be the Light of God? Moreover, could Moses and
Elias (and particularly the former, who clearly was present only in
spirit, and not in flesh [Elias having ascended bodily to Heaven on the
fiery chariot]) be shining with any sort of sensory light, and be seen
and known? Especially since it was written of them: “they appeared in
glory, and spoke of his death, which he was about to fulfill at
Jerusalem” (Luke 9:30-31). And how otherwise could the Apostles
recognize those whom they had never seen before, unless through the
mysterious power of the Divine Light, opening their mental eyes?
let us not tire our attention with the furthermost interpretations of
the words of the Gospel. We shall believe thus, as those same ones have
taught us, who themselves were enlightened by the Lord Himself, insofar
as they alone know this well: the Mysteries of God, in the words of a
prophet, are known to God alone and His perpetual proximity. Let us,
considering the Mystery of the Transfiguration of the Lord in accord
with their teaching, strive to be illumined by this Light ourselves and
encourage in ourselves love and striving towards the Unfading Glory and
Beauty, purifying our spiritual eyes of worldly thoughts and refraining
from perishable and quickly passing delights and beauty which darken the
garb of the soul and lead to the fire of Gehenna and everlasting
darkness. Let us be freed from these by the illumination and knowledge
of the incorporeal and ever-existing Light of our Savior transfigured on
Tabor, in His Glory, and of His Father from all eternity, and His
Life-Creating Spirit, Whom are One Radiance, One Godhead, and Glory, and
Kingdom, and Power now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
TROPARION - TONE 7
You were transfigured on the mountain, O Christ God, / revealing Your
glory to Your disciples as far as they could bear it. / Let Your
everlasting Light also shine upon us sinners, / through the prayers of
the Theotokos. / O Giver of Light, glory to You!
KONTAKION - TONE 7
On the Mountain You were Transfigured, O Christ God, / And Your
disciples beheld Your glory as far as they could see it; / So that when
they would behold You crucified, / They would understand that Your
suffering was voluntary, / And would proclaim to the world, / That You
are truly the Radiance of the Father!