Saint Gregory of Pelsheme, Vologda, was born in the city of Galich,
Kostroma governia. He came from the line of the Lopotov nobility. When
the youth reached age fifteen, his parents wanted him to marry, but
they died, without seeing this come to pass. Young Gregory distributed
the inheritance left him to the poor, and entered the monastery of the
Most Holy Theotokos on the shore of Lake Galich.
The Igumen of the monastery regarded the new monk with mistrust because
of his youth and noble parentage. Therefore, he placed Gregory in
obedience to an experienced Elder. With great humility St Gregory served
all the brethren. After a certain while he was ordained a priest. Soon
St Gregory's fame as a pastor spread, and many began to arrive for
spiritual guidance and counsels.
The Galich prince asked the monk to be godfather for his children.
Burdened by fame and the nearness of his relatives, the monk went to
Rostov to venerate the relics of St Leontius (May 23), and he settled in
the monastery of St Abramius, (October 29). But here also news of the
saint's ascetic feats quickly spread.
The monks of the Savior (Yakovlev) monastery turned to Archbishop
Dionysius of Rostov (1418-1425) with a request to assign St Gregory to
head their monastery. Out of humility the monk accepted the guidance
over the monastery, but after two years he secretly left the monastery
and withdrew into the Vologda forest.
In the Sosnovetsk wilderness he became acquainted with St Dionysius of
Glushitsa (June 1). When the Lord prompted the holy ascetic to found his
own monastery, St Dionysius approved his friend's intention. With a
cross on his shoulders, St Gregory crossed over the River Pelsheme and
planted the cross in a thicket by the river bank.
The first monk in the new monastery was the priest Alexis, in
monasticism Alexander. In 1426 a church was built at the monastery in
honor of the Most Holy Theotokos. Its icons were painted by St
Dionysius, and St Gregory himself copied the sacred texts for the
monastery. Gradually the number of monks increased, the monastery grew
and became more famous.
St Gregory concerned himself with the nurturing of piety at the
monastery, and at the same time he shared in the destiny of his country.
In the year 1433, he went to Moscow in order to prevail upon the
Galich prince Yuri Dimitrievich, who had seized the Moscow principality
from Basil the Dark, to return Moscow to Prince Basil. Prince Yuri
obeyed the monastic Elder.
But in 1434 the son of Prince Yuri, Demetrius Shemyaka, began to ravage
the Vologda lands belonging to the Great Prince. St Gregory, distraught
over the discord and violence, went to Demetrius Shemyaka and
addressed him with bold words. "Prince Demetrius," said the monk, "you
do things that are not Christian. It would be better if you had gone
into a pagan land to a vile people ignorant of God. Widows and orphans
cry out against you to God. How many people will perish from hunger and
cold because of you, and if you don't stop the fratricide, the
bloodshed and violence soon, then you shall lose both your glory and
After this bold denunciation, Shemyaka gave orders to throw the holy
Elder off a bridge. For several hours the monk lay there unmoving. His
denunciations produced the desired effect, and Shemyaka soon quit
Vologda. The courage of the monk only increased the veneration of him.
Before his death, he received the Holy Mysteries, spoke a word of
guidance to the brethren, and appointed as igumen of the monastery his
fellow ascetic Alexander. St Gregory reposed on September 30, 1442 and
was buried in the monastery he founded.
Saint Theophanes the Merciful was an inhabitant of the Syrian city of
Gaza. He was very kind and merciful. He took in vagrants, he helped the
poor and the sick, and he spent all his substance on help for the
needy, while he himself remained in want.
St Theophanes did not
grieve at all over the loss of his property, but he lost his health, and
sickness caused him great suffering. His body began to swell up, to
rot, and to give off a stench. This ordeal the monk also endured in good
spirit, giving thanks to God for all things.
A fierce storm
raged while he was dying, and his wife grieved that she would not be
able to give him proper burial. The saint comforted her: “Weep not,
woman, for up to now the trial has lasted, but here comes help from the
Merciful God, since in the hour of my death the storm will cease, by the
will of God.” So it occurred: just as he gave up his soul to God,
calmness prevailed. After death the body of St Theophanes became
completely cleansed of wounds and decay and became fragrant, giving
forth abundant healing myrrh.
St Simon, Bishop of Vladimir (May
10), wrote about him to his friend St Polycarp (July 24): “At the Caves
was Erasmus the black-robed. He acquired a legacy of fame because he
used everything he possessed for the adornment of the monastery church.
He donated many icons, which even now may be seen over the altar.
saint experienced great temptations after he had given away his wealth.
The Evil One began to suggest to him that he should have given the
money to the poor, rather than spend it on the beautification of the
church. St Erasmus did not understand such thoughts, so he fell into
despondency and began to live in a careless manner. Because of his
former virtue the gracious and merciful God saved him. He sent him a
grievous illness, and the monk lay near death.
In this sickness
Erasmus lay for seven days, unable to see or speak, and hardly
breathing. On the eighth day the brethren came to him and, seeing the
difficulty of his approaching death, said, “Woe to the soul of this
brother, for he lived in idleness and in sin. Now his soul beholds
something and tarries, not having the strenght to leave the body.”
suddenly got up, as though he had not been ill, and said to the monks,
“Fathers and brethren! It is true that I am a sinner, and have not
repented, as you said. Today, however, our monastic fathers Anthony and
Theodosius have appeared to me, and said: ‘We have prayed for you, and
the Lord has given you time for repentance.’ Then I saw the All-Pure
Mother of God with Christ in Her arms, and She said to me, ‘Erasmus,
since you adorned My Church with icons, I will also adorn you and exalt
you in the Kingdom of my Son! Arise, repent, take the angelic schema,
and on the third day you will be taken from this life.’
said this, Erasmus began to confess his sins before all without shame,
then went to church and was clothed in the schema, and on the third day
he died.” St Erasmus was buried in the Near Caves. His memory is also
celebrated on September 28 and on the second Sunday of Great Lent.
These Martyrs contested for the Faith during the reign of
Diocletian, in the year 288. Saint Callistratus was arrested as a
Christian, and after being tormented, was enclosed in a sack and cast
into the sea. The sack burst, and the Saint came to dry land safe and
sound. Forty-nine soldiers, seeing this, also confessed Christ, and
with him were cast into prison, then beheaded.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Thy Martyrs, O Lord, in their courageous contest for Thee
received as the prize the crowns of incorruption and life from Thee, our
immortal God. For since they possessed Thy strength, they cast down
the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons' strengthless presumption. O
Christ God, by their prayers, save our souls, since Thou art merciful.
Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
O all-wise and godly Saints, today the whole Church, showing
honour to you all, doth now in spirit sing your praise; for ye contested
in her behalf, O right-victorious Martyrs of Christ our God.
The Holy, Glorious All-laudable Apostle and Evangelist, Virgin, and
Beloved Friend of Christ, John the Theologian was the son of Zebedee and
Salome, a daughter of St Joseph the Betrothed. He was called by our
Lord Jesus Christ to be one of His Apostles at the same time as his
elder brother James. This took place at Lake Gennesareth (i.e. the Sea
of Galilee). Leaving behind their father, both brothers followed the
The Apostle John was especially loved by the Savior for his sacrificial
love and his virginal purity. After his calling, the Apostle John did
not part from the Lord, and he was one of the three apostles who were
particularly close to Him. St John the Theologian was present when the
Lord restored the daughter of Jairus to life, and he was a witness to
the Transfiguration of the Lord on Mount Tabor.
During the Last Supper, he reclined next to the Lord, and laid his head
upon His breast. He also asked the name of the Savior's betrayer. The
Apostle John followed after the Lord when they led Him bound from the
Garden of Gethsemane to the court of the iniquitous High Priests Annas
and Caiphas. He was there in the courtyard of the High Priest during the
interrogations of his Teacher and he resolutely followed after him on
the way to Golgotha, grieving with all his heart.
At the foot of the Cross he stood with the Mother of God and heard the
words of the Crucified Lord addressed to Her from the Cross: "Woman,
behold Thy son." Then the Lord said to him, "Behold thy Mother" (John
19:26-27). From that moment the Apostle John, like a loving son,
concerned himself over the Most Holy Virgin Mary, and he served Her
until Her Dormition.
After the Dormition of the Mother of God the Apostle John went to
Ephesus and other cities of Asia Minor to preach the Gospel, taking with
him his own disciple Prochorus. They boarded a ship, which floundered
during a terrible tempest. All the travellers were cast up upon dry
ground, and only the Apostle John remained in the depths of the sea.
Prochorus wept bitterly, bereft of his spiritual father and guide, and
he went on towards Ephesus alone.
On the fourteenth day of his journey he stood at the shore of the sea
and saw that the waves had cast a man ashore. Going up to him, he
recognized the Apostle John, whom the Lord had preserved alive for
fourteen days in the sea. Teacher and disciple went to Ephesus, where
the Apostle John preached incessantly to the pagans about Christ. His
preaching was accompanied by such numerous and great miracles, that the
number of believers increased with each day.
During this time there had begun a persecution of Christians under the
emperor Nero (56-68). They took the Apostle John for trial at Rome. St
John was sentenced to death for his confession of faith in the Lord
Jesus Christ, but the Lord preserved His chosen one. The apostle drank a
cup of deadly poison, but he remained alive. Later, he emerged unharmed
from a cauldron of boiling oil into which he had been thrown on orders
from the torturer.
After this, they sent the Apostle John off to imprisonment to the island
of Patmos, where he spent many years. Proceeding along on his way to
the place of exile, St John worked many miracles. On the island of
Patmos, his preaching and miracles attracted to him all the inhabitants
of the island, and he enlightened them with the light of the Gospel. He
cast out many devils from the pagan temples, and he healed a great
multitude of the sick.
Sorcerers with demonic powers showed great hostility to the preaching of
the holy apostle. He especially frightened the chief sorcerer of them
all, named Kinops, who boasted that they would destroy the apostle. But
the great John, by the grace of God acting through him, destroyed all
the demonic artifices to which Kinops resorted, and the haughty sorcerer
perished in the depths of the sea.
The Apostle John withdrew with his disciple Prochorus to a desolate
height, where he imposed upon himself a three-day fast. As St John
prayed the earth quaked and thunder rumbled. Prochorus fell to the
ground in fright. The Apostle John lifted him up and told him to write
down what he was about to say. "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the
beginning and the end, saith the Lord, Who is and Who was and Who is to
come, the Almighty" (Rev 1:8), proclaimed the Spirit of God through the
Apostle John. Thus in about the year 67 the Book of Revelation was
written, known also as the "Apocalypse," of the holy Apostle John the
Theologian. In this Book were predictions of the tribulations of the
Church and of the end of the world.
After his prolonged exile, the Apostle John received his freedom and
returned to Ephesus, where he continued with his activity, instructing
Christians to guard against false teachers and their erroneous
teachings. In the year 95, the Apostle John wrote his Gospel at Ephesus.
He called for all Christians to love the Lord and one another, and by
this to fulfill the commands of Christ. The Church calls St John the
"Apostle of Love", since he constantly taught that without love man
cannot come near to God.
In his three Epistles, St John speaks of the significance of love for
God and for neighbor. Already in his old age, he learned of a youth who
had strayed from the true path to follow the leader of a band of
robbers, so St John went out into the wilderness to seek him. Seeing the
holy Elder, the guilty one tried to hide himself, but the Apostle John
ran after him and besought him to stop. He promised to take the sins of
the youth upon himself, if only he would repent and not bring ruin upon
his soul. Shaken by the intense love of the holy Elder, the youth
actually did repent and turn his life around.
St John died when he was more than a hundred years old. He far outlived the
other eyewitnesses of the Lord, and for a long time he remained the only
remaining eyewitness of the earthly life of the Savior.
When it was time for the departure of the Apostle John, he went out
beyond the city limits of Ephesus with the families of his disciples. He
bade them prepare for him a cross-shaped grave, in which he lay,
telling his disciples that they should cover him over with the soil. The
disciples tearfully kissed their beloved teacher, but not wanting to be
disobedient, they fulfilled his bidding. They covered the face of the
saint with a cloth and filled in the grave. Learning of this, other
disciples of St John came to the place of his burial. When they opened
the grave, they found it empty.
Each year from the grave of the holy Apostle John on May 8 came forth a
fine dust, which believers gathered up and were healed of sicknesses by
it. Therefore, the Church also celebrates the memory of the holy Apostle
John the Theologian on May 8.
The Lord bestowed on His beloved disciple John and John's brother James
the name "Sons of Thunder" as an awesome messenger in its cleansing
power of the heavenly fire. And precisely by this the Savior pointed out
the flaming, fiery, sacrificial character of Christian love, the
preacher of which was the Apostle John the Theologian. The eagle, symbol
of the lofty heights of his theological thought, is the iconographic
symbol of the Evangelist John the Theologian. The appellation
"Theologian" is bestown by the Holy Church only to St John among the
immediate disciples and Apostles of Christ, as being the seer of the
mysterious Judgments of God.
Troparion - Tone 2
Beloved apostle of Christ our God,
hasten to deliver a defenseless people.
He who allowed you to recline on His breast,
receives you as you bow before Him.
Implore Him, John the Theologian,
to disperse the persistent threat from the heathens,
entreating for us peace and great mercy.
Kontakion - Tone 2
Who shall declare your greatness,
O virgin disciple,
for you pour forth wonders and are a source of healings,
and pray for our souls as Theologian and friend of Christ.
Our righteous Father Sergius was born in Rostov, north of
Moscow, about the year 1314. Named Bartholomew in Baptism, he was
brought up in Radonezh, and at the death of his parents he withdrew to
the wilderness to become a monk. It is notable that without having been
trained in a monastery, he was of such a spiritual stature as to be able
to take up the perilous eremitical life from the beginning, without
falling into delusion or despondency. When he had endured with courage
the deprivations of the solitary life, other monks began to come to him,
for whom he was made abbot against his will. On the counsel of
Philotheus, Patriarch of Constantinople, he organized his monks
according to the cenobitic life, appointing duties to each. While
Anthony and Theodosius of Kiev, and the other righteous Fathers before
Sergius, had established their monasteries near to cities, Sergius was
the leader and light of those who went far into the wilderness, and
after his example the untrodden forests of northern Russia were settled
with monks. When Grand Duke Demetrius Donskoy was about to go to battle
against the invading Tartars, he first sought the blessing of Saint
Sergius, through whose prayers he was triumphant. Saint Sergius was
adorned with the highest virtues of Christ-like humility and burning
love for God and neighbour, and received the gift of working wonders, of
casting out demons, and of discretion for leading souls to salvation.
When he served the Divine Liturgy, an Angel served with him visibly; he
was also vouchsafed the visitation of the most holy Theotokos with the
Apostles Peter and John. He was gathered to his Fathers on September 25,
1392. At the recovery of his holy relics on July 5, 1422, his body and
garments were found fragrant and incorrupt. His life was written by the
monks of Epiphanius, who knew him.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
As an athlete in virtue, and as a true soldier of Christ our God,
thou didst struggle mightily against the passions in this temporal
life, and thou wast a model for thy disciples in psalmody, vigils, and
fasts. Wherefore, the Most Holy Spirit dwelt in thee, and thou wast
radiantly adorned by His Grace. But since thou hast boldness with the
Holy Trinity, remember the flock which thou didst gather, O wise one;
and forget not to visit thy children as thou didst promise, O Sergius
our holy Father.
Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Wounded with love for Christ, O Saint, and having followed Him
with unwaning desire, thou didst hate all carnal pleasure, and like the
sun thou didst shine on thy fatherland. Wherefore, Christ hath enriched
thee with the gift of wonderworking. Remember us who honour thy most
illustrious memory, that we may cry to thee: Rejoice, O divinely-wise
Monkmartyr Galacteon of Vologda: Fearing the wrath of Tsar Ivan the Terrible, kinsmen of the disgraced prince Ivan Ivanovich Belsky secretly brought his seven-year-old son Gabriel to the city of Staritsa. In the years of his growing up, and seeing the malice of the Tsar towards his family, the young prince withdrew to Vologda and lived with a shoemaker, from whom he learned the cobbler’s craft. His marriage did not last long, for his wife soon died, leaving Prince Gabriel to raise his infant daughter.
The adversities of his earthly life strengthened in him the intent to devote himself to God. Having sought out a place at the River Sodima, he dug a pit and made his cell near a church named for the Most Holy Trinity. After being tonsured with the name Galacteon, he began to labor in fasting and prayer. The ascetic did not give up his cobbler’s trade, and the money which he received from the work was divided into three portions. One part he dedicated to God, another portion he gave to the poor, and the third part he kept for his own needs.
Advancing in spiritual life, St Galacteon secluded himself in his cell, chaining himself to the wall. God-fearing Christians gave him food through a small window. The ascetic rested little, on his knees and holding on to the chain, and he ate only dry bread and water. In the cell of St Galacteon was nothing but the old matting with which he covered himself.
People soon began to come to the hermit for spiritual guidance. He received both the rich and the poor, and his words were filled with spiritual power. He consoled the grieving and brought the proud to their senses. In prayer St Galacteon achieved a special spiritual grace.
Once, when the Vologda region had gone a long time without rain, Bishop Anthony came to the church of the Holy Trinity with a church procession and sent a request to the hermit to come and pray with everyone for deliverance from the common woe. St Galacteon obediently left his cell and prayed in the church, and the Lord sent abundant rain upon the parched earth.
The ascetic had a revelation from God about impending misfortunes of Vologda. He emerged from his cell in his chains, went to an earthen hut and declared, “Our sins have brought the Poles and Lithuanians upon us. Let there be fasting and prayer, and preparations to build a temple in honor of the Icon of the Mother of God of the Sign (November 27), so that the Heavenly Queen might deliver Vologda from the wrath of God as She did before Novgorod.”
One of those present, Nechai Proskurov, said, “He is concerned not for us, but for himself; he only wants to have a church near him. And what will become of the temple when you die, Elder?”
St Galacteon answered gravely, “Wrath is approaching Vologda. As for me, there at my place God is glorified, and there also a monastery will be built.” He also said that the Trinity church built by Nechai would be burned and the house of Nechai laid waste. Passing the church dedicated to St Demetrius of Priluki (February 11), he said, “The Wonderworker Demetrius has prayed to the Savior for the city, but they insult him. Around his church they set up shops and hawk their wares. This church will be destroyed.”
The prophecy of the righteous one was soon fulfilled. In September 1612 the Polish and Lithuanians stormed into Vologda, and they killed many of the inhabitants. They defiled and plundered the churches of God, and they set afire the city and its surroundings. As St Galacteon predicted, the house and church built by Nechai were burned, as was also the city church named for St Demetrius.
St Galacteon was murdered by the invaders on September 24, 1612. Pious Christians buried the body of hosiomartyr in his cell. Over the place of his burial miraculous healings began to occur. In the time of Bishop Barlaam (1627-1645), a church was built in honor of the Sign Icon of the Mother of God over the relics of the hosiomartyr Galacteon, and a monastery was founded. With the blessing of Archbishop Marcellus (1645-1663), a cathedral church was built at the monastery in honor of the Holy Spirit, and the monastery took its name from this church.
The Monastic Women Xanthippe and Polyxene were sisters by birth and
they lived in Spain in the time of the holy Apostles. They were among
the first to hear the divine teaching of Christ the Savior from the holy
Apostle Paul, when he preached in their land.
St Xanthippe and
her husband Probus accepted Christianity, but St Polyxene was still a
pagan when a certain man became entranced with her extraordinary beauty
and forcibly carried her off to Greece on a ship. The Lord preserved her
unharmed. On the voyage, the saint heard the preaching of the holy
Apostle Peter and believed in Christ.
When she arrived in Greece,
St Polyxene turned to the Christians for protection and defense and
they hid her in the city of Patra in Achaia, where she formally accepted
Christianity and was baptized by the holy Apostle Andrew the
She became a witness to his miracles, and
how he patiently and humbly endured his sufferings and death. She stood
at the cross upon which they crucified the holy Apostle Andrew. After
his martyric death, St Polyxene returned to Spain, where she and her
older sister Xanthippe converted many pagans to Christ. St Polyxene
toiled for about forty years preaching the Gospel in Spain. St Xanthippe
shared in her sister’s work and preached in the populous city of
St Polyxene reposed in about the year 109, having preserved her virginity to the end of her earthly life.
Resurrectional Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Second Tone
Angelic powers were above Thy tomb, and they that guarded Thee
became as dead. And Mary stood by the grave seeking Thine immaculate
Body. Thou hast despoiled Hades and wast not tried thereby. Thou didst
meet the Virgin and didst grant us life. O Thou Who didst arise from
the dead, Lord, glory be to Thee.
Seasonal Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Lifted up on the Cross by Your free will, Christ God, grant
mercies to the new commonwealth that bears Your name. Gladden our
faithful rulers by Your power, giving them victories over their
adversaries. May Your alliance be for them a weapon for peace, an
Saint Theodore was the eighth Archbishop of Canterbury
(668-690), and one of England’s great saints. He was a Greek from
Tarsus, the home of St Paul. He was a highly-educated monk living in
Rome who was quickly advanced through all the clerical ranks and
consecrated as Archbishop of Canterbury at the age of sixty-five. St
Adrian (January 9), an African who was the abbot of a monastery near
Naples, was sent to assist St Theodore.
St Theodore arrived in
Kent in 669, when he was almost seventy. In spite of his age, he was
quite energetic, traveling throughout England founding churches and
consecrating bishops to fill those Sees which were left vacant by an
outbreak of plague. He also created new Sees and established a school in
Canterbury where Greek was taught.
In Northumbria, St Theodore
settled a dispute involving episcopal succession. St Wilfrid (October
12) had been elected Bishop of Lindisfarne (the See was later
transferred to York), and he traveled to Gaul to be consecrated by a
Roman bishop, because he would not accept consecration from a Celtic
bishop. In the meantime, St Chad, or Ceadda (March 2), had been elected
and uncanonically consecrated because Wilfrid remained in Gaul for three
years. Although St Theodore deposed St Chad, he recognized his
worthiness to be a bishop. He regularized the consecration, then sent St
Chad to be Bishop of Mercia. St Wilfred was restored to his See.
Theodore summoned a council of the entire English Church at Hertford in
672. Not only was this the first church council in England, it was the
first assembly of any kind attended by representatives from all over the
country. In 679 he convened another synod at Hatfield to maintain the
purity of Orthodox doctrine and to condemn the heresy of Monothelitism.
Theodore fell asleep in the Lord in 690, and his body remained
incorrupt for a long time. Under his leadership, the English Church
became united in a way that the various tribal kingdoms did not. The
diocesean structures which he established continue to serve as the basis
for church administration in England. He was respected for his
administrative skills, and also for his moral and canonical decisions.
The Staro Rus Icon of the Mother of God was so named because for a
long time it was in Staro Rus, where it had been brought by the Greeks
from Olviopolis during the very first period of Christianity in Russia.
The icon was in Staro Rus until the seventeenth century. In 1655 during a
plague it was revealed to a certain inhabitant of the city of Tikhvin
that the pestilence would cease if the wonderworking Staro Rus Icon were
transferred there, and the Tikhvin Icon sent to Staro Rus.
the transfer of the icons the plague ceased, but the people of Tikhvin
did not return the icon and only in the eighteenth century did they give
permission to make a copy of the Staro Rus Icon, which on May 4, 1768
was sent to Stara Russa. A feast was established in honor of this event.
On September 17, 1888 the original was also returned to Staro Rus and a
second Feast day established.
The Holy Martyr Ludmilla, a Czech (Bohemian) princess, was married to
the Czech prince Borivoy. Both spouses received holy Baptism from St
Methodius, Archbishop of Moravia and Enlightener of the Slavs (Comm. 11
As Christians, they showed concerned for the enlightening of
their subjects with the light of the true Faith They built churches
and invited priests to celebrate the divine services. Prince Borivoy
died early at age 36. St Ludmilla, as a widow, led an austere, pious
life and continued to be concerned for the Church during the reign of
her son Bratislav, which lasted for 33 years.
married to Dragomira, with whom he had a son, Vyacheslav. After the
death of Bratislav, eighteen-year-old Vyacheslav came on the throne.
Taking advantage of the inexperience and youth of her son, Dragomira
began to introduce pagan manners and customs in the country.
Ludmilla, of course, opposed this. Dragomira came to hate her
mother-in-law and tried to destroy her. When St Ludmilla moved away to
the city of Techin, Dragomira sent two boyars in secret to murder her.
St Ludmilla was praying at the time, and the two assassins entered the
house and carried out Dragomira’s orders.
The relics of the holy
Martyr Ludmilla were buried in Techin in the city wall. Numerous
healings occurred at her grave. Prince Vyacheslav transferred the body
of St Ludmilla to the city of Prague and placed it in the church of St
The Elevation of
the Venerable and Life-Creating Cross of the Lord:
The pagan Roman
emperors tried to completely eradicate from human memory the holy places
where our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and was resurrected for mankind.
The Emperor Hadrian (117-138) gave orders to cover over the ground of
Golgotha and the Sepulchre of the Lord, and to build a temple of the
pagan goddess Venus and a statue of Jupiter.
Pagans gathered at
this place and offered sacrifice to idols there. Eventually after 300
years, by Divine Providence, the great Christian sacred remains, the
Sepulchre of the Lord and the Life-Creating Cross were again discovered
and opened for veneration. This took place under the Emperor Constantine
the Great (306-337) after his victory in the year 312 over Maxentius,
ruler of the Western part of the Roman empire, and over Licinius, ruler
of its Eastern part. In the year 323 Constantine became the sole ruler
of the vast Roman Empire.
In 313 he had issued the Edict of
Milan, by which the Christian religion was legalized and the
persecutions against Christians in the Western half of the empire were
stopped. The ruler Licinius, although he had signed the Edict of Milan
to oblige Constantine, still fanatically continued the persecutions
against Christians. Only after his conclusive defeat did the 313 Edict
of toleration extend also to the Eastern part of the empire. The Holy
Equal of the Apostles Emperor Constantine, having gained victory over
his enemies in three wars with God's assistance, had seen in the heavens
the Sign of the Cross, and written beneath: "By this you shall
Ardently desiring to find the Cross on which our Lord
Jesus Christ was crucified, St Constantine sent his mother, the pious
Empress Helen (May 21), to Jerusalem, providing her with a letter to St
Macarius, Patriarch of Jerusalem.
Although the holy empress Helen
was already in her declining years, she set about completing the task
with enthusiasm. The empress gave orders to destroy the pagan temple and
the statues in Jerusalem. Searching for the Life-Creating Cross, she
made inquiry of Christians and Jews, but for a long time her search
Finally, they directed her to a certain
elderly Hebrew by the name of Jude who stated that the Cross was buried
where the temple of Venus stood. They demolished the pagan temple and,
after praying, they began to excavate the ground. Soon the Tomb of the
Lord was uncovered. Not far from it were three crosses, a board with the
inscription ordered by Pilate, and four nails which had pierced the
Lord's Body (March 6).
In order to discern on which of the three
crosses the Savior was crucified, Patriarch Macarius alternately touched
the crosses to a corpse. When the Cross of the Lord touched the dead
one, he came to life. Having beheld the raising of the dead man,
everyone was convinced that the Life-Creating Cross was found.
came in a huge throng to venerate the Holy Cross, beseeching St
Macarius to elevate the Cross, so that even those far off might
reverently contemplate it. Then the Patriarch and other spiritual
leaders raised up the Holy Cross, and the people, saying "Lord have
mercy," reverently prostrated before the Venerable Wood. This solemn
event occurred in the year 326.
During the discovery of the
Life-Creating Cross another miracle took place: a grievously sick woman,
beneath the shadow of the Holy Cross, was healed instantly. The elder
Jude and other Jews there believed in Christ and accepted Holy Baptism.
Jude received the name Cyriacus and afterwards was consecrated Bishop of
During the reign of Julian the Apostate (361-363) he
accepted a martyr's death for Christ (see October 28). The holy empress
Helen journeyed to the holy places connected with the earthly life of
the Savior, building more than 80 churches, at Bethlehem the birthplace
of Christ, and on the Mount of Olives where the Lord ascended to Heaven,
and at Gethsemane where the Savior prayed before His sufferings and
where the Mother of God was buried after her death.
St Helen took
part of the Life-Creating Wood and nails with her to Constantinople.
The holy emperor Constantine gave orders to build at Jerusalem a
majestic and spacious church in honor of the Resurrection of Christ,
also including under its roof the Life-Giving Tomb of the Lord and
Golgotha. The temple was constructed in about ten years. St Helen did
not survive until the dedication of the temple. She died in the year
327. The church was consecrated on September 13, 335. On the following
day, September 14, the festal celebration of the Exaltation of the
Venerable and Life-Creating Cross was established.
connected to the Cross of the Lord is remembered also on this day: its
return to Jerusalem from Persia after a fourteen year captivity. During
the reign of the Byzantine emperor Phocas (602-610) the Persian emperor
Khozroes II in a war against the Greeks defeated the Greek army,
plundered Jerusalem and captured both the Life-Creating Cross of the
Lord and the Holy Patriarch Zachariah (609-633).
remained in Persia for fourteen years and only under the emperor
Heraclius (610-641), who with the help of God defeated Khozroes and
concluded peace with his successor and son Syroes, was the Cross of the
Lord returned to the Christians.
With great solemnity the
Life-creating Cross was transferred to Jerusalem. Emperor Heraclius in
imperial crown and royal purple carried the Cross of Christ into the
temple of the Resurrection. With the emperor went Patriarch Zacharios.
At the gates by which they ascended Golgotha, the emperor suddenly
stopped and was not able to proceed farther. The holy Patriarch
explained to the emperor that an angel of the Lord was blocking his way.
The emperor was told to remove his royal trappings and to walk
barefoot, since He Who bore the Cross for the salvation of the world
from sin had made His way to Golgotha in all humility. Then Heraclius
donned plain garb, and without further hindrance, carried the Cross of
Christ into the church.
In a sermon on the Exaltation of the
Cross, St Andrew of Crete (July 4) says: "The Cross is exalted, and
everything true gathers together, the Cross is exalted, and the city
makes solemn, and the people celebrate the feast".
Troparion - Tone 1
Lord, save Your people, And bless You inheritance. Grant victories to
the Orthodox Christians Over their adversaries. And by virtue of Your
Cross, Preserve Your habitation.
Kontakion - Tone 4
You were voluntarily raised upon the cross for our sake, Grant mercy to
those who are called by Your Name, O Christ God; Make all Orthodox
Christians glad by Your power, Granting them victories over their
adversaries, By bestowing on them the Invincible trophy, Your weapon of
Saint Macrobius was from Paphlagonia and Saint Gordian was a native of Cappadocia. They both suffered martyrdom with Sts Macrobius, Elias, Zoticus, Lucian and Valerian..
and Macrobian served in the imperial court, and they enjoyed the
particular favor of the emperor. When he found out that they were
Christians, he sent them to Scythia. There they met Zoticus, Lucian and
Elias, who were also courageous confessors of Christ. First Sts Gordian
and Macrobius suffered. After this Sts Elias, Zoticus, Lucian and
Valerian were tortured and then beheaded in the city of Tomis in Scythia
(Tomis, Romania). They suffered at Paphlagonia (Asia Minor) at the
beginning of the fourth century during the reign of the Roman emperor
The Holy Martyr Julian lived during the fourth century not
far from the ancient city of Ancyra. A report was made to the governor
of the district of Galatia that the Presbyter Julian was hiding in a
certain cave with forty others of the same persuasion and that he was
celebrating divine services there. They arrested St Julian and demanded
that he reveal where the remaining Christians were hidden but he
The pagans ordered the holy priest to offer sacrifice to
their gods but he would not consent to this either. Then they
stripped him and placed him on a red-hot iron grate. The martyr signed
himself with the Sign of the Cross and an angel of the Lord cooled the
flame. St Julian remained unharmed.
When the governor asked who
he was and how he had quenched the fire, the martyr said: “I am a
servant of God.” The torturers brought forth an old woman, the mother of
the saint, and they threatened her that if she did not persuade her son
to offer sacrifice to idols, then they would torture her. The brave
woman answered that if they defiled her body against her will, this
would not make her guilty of sin before God. On the contrary, it would
constitute an act of martyrdom.
The humiliated torturers sent the
old woman away, but they condemned St Julian to death. In his prayer
the saint gave fervent thanks to God and asked that he be given strength
to endure the sufferings. St Julian also asked a special grace from
God: that those who take earth from the place of his burial be granted
forgiveness of sins and deliverance from passions, and that harmful
insects and birds might not descend upon their fields.
himself to God with the words: “Lord, accept my spirit in peace!” the
martyr bent his neck beneath the sword, and a Voice summoned the martyr
to the Heavenly Kingdom. This Voice was heard also by those Christians
who had hidden themselves in the cave. Emboldened, they came forth to
the place of St Julian’s sufferings, but they found him already dead.
They all confessed themselves to be Christians, and they were arrested
and brought to the governor, who ordered them beheaded.
Saint Euphrosynus the Cook was from one of the Palestinian
monasteries, and his obedience was to work in the kitchen as a cook.
Toiling away for the brethren, St Euphrosynus did not absent himself
from thought about God, but rather dwelt in prayer and fasting. He
remembered always that obedience is the first duty of a monk, and
therefore he was obedient to the elder brethren.
The patience of
the saint was amazing: they often reproached him, but he made no
complaint and endured every unpleasantness. St Euphrosynus pleased the
Lord by his inner virtue which he concealed from people, and the Lord
Himself revealed to the monastic brethren the spiritual heights of their
One of the priests of the monastery
prayed and asked the Lord to show him the blessings prepared for the
righteous in the age to come. The priest saw in a dream what Paradise is
like, and he contemplated its inexplicable beauty with fear and with
He also saw there a monk of his monastery, the cook
Euphrosynus. Amazed at this encounter, the presbyter asked Euphrosynus,
how he came to be there. The saint answered that he was in Paradise
through the great mercy of God. The priest again asked whether
Euphrosynus would be able to give him something from the surrounding
beauty. St Euphrosynus suggested to the priest to take whatever he
wished, and so the priest pointed to three luscious apples growing in
the garden of Paradise. The monk picked the three apples, wrapped them
in a cloth, and gave them to his companion.
When he awoke in the
early morning, the priest thought the vision a dream, but suddenly he
noticed next to him the cloth with the fruit of Paradise wrapped in it,
and emitting a wondrous fragrance. The priest, found St Euphrosynus in
church and asked him under oath where he was the night before. The saint
answered that he was where the priest also was. Then the monk said that
the Lord, in fulfilling the prayer of the priest, had shown him
Paradise and had bestown the fruit of Paradise through him, “ the lowly
and unworthy servant of God, Euphrosynus.”
The priest related
everything to the monastery brethren, pointing out the spiritual
loftiness of Euphrosynus in pleasing God, and he pointed to the fragrant
paradaisical fruit. Deeply affected by what they heard, the monks went
to the kitchen, in order to pay respect to St Euphrosynus, but they did
not find him there. Fleeing human glory, the monk had left the
monastery. The place where he concealed himself remained unknown, but
the monks always remembered that their monastic brother St Euphrosynus
had come upon Paradise, and that they in being saved, through the mercy
of God would meet him there. They reverently kept and distributed pieces
of the apples from Paradise for blessing and for healing.
TROPARION - TONE 4
You lived in great humility, / In labors of asceticism and in purity of
soul, / O righteous Euphrosynos, / By a mystical vision you demonstrated
the Heavenly joy which you had found. / Therefore make us worthy to be
partakers of your intercessions.
Saint Nicetas the Hidden lived at Constantinople and occupied the
position of “chartolarium” (“letter-writer”). They call him “the
Hidden,” because living in the world amid the bustle of the city, with
secret exploits of faith, he attained spiritual perfection and was a
great saint of God. His saintly life was revealed through unusual
Two friends, a certain priest and the deacon
Sozon, had quarreled. The priest died, and the deacon grieved that they
had not been able to be reconciled. He told an experienced Elder of the
sin that tormented his conscience. He gave Sozon a letter and ordered
him to give it to the first person whom he would meet at midnight at the
temple of Hagia Sophia, the Wisdom of God.
St Nicetas the
Chartolarian appeared before him. Having read the letter, he began
weeping and said, that it made him responsible for this, and that it was
beyond his strength, but with the prayers of the Elder who had sent
Sozon, he would strive to accomplish this. Making a prostration before
the church doors, St Nicetas said: “Lord, open to us the doors of Thy
mercy,” and the doors of the temple flew open by themselves. Leaving the
deacon at the threshold, St Nicetas began to pray, and Sozon saw that
he shone with a strange light.
Afterwards they went from the
church, and the doors again closed. Approaching the church of the
Blachernae Mother of God, St Nicetas again began praying and again the
doors opened in front of them. In the church there shone a light, and
from the altar came two rows of priests, among whom Deacon Sozon
recognized his dead friend. St Nicetas quietly said: “Father, speak to
your brother, and cease the enmity between you.”
priest and Deacon Sozon greeted each other. They embraced one another
with love and were reconciled. The priest went back, and the doors
closed by themselves. St Nicetas said to the deacon: “Brother Sozon,
save your soul both for your sake, and for my benefit. To the Father who
sent you, say that the purity of his holy prayers and his trust in God
made possible the return of the dead.”
After these words St
Nicetas became invisible to Sozon. Having returned to his spiritual
Father and Elder, the deacon thanked him with tears, that through his
prayers, the great hidden saint of God Nicetas the Chartolarian had
removed the sin from both the living and the dead.
The Syamsk Icon of the Mother of God was found at the
Syamsk-Vologda monastery, established in the sixteenth century. In the
year 1542, during a fire at the monastery, only the wonderworking icon
was saved. After the fire, the monastery was rebuilt.
In the year
1770, a church was built at the monastery in honor of the Nativity of
the Most Holy Theotokos, and in it was placed this wonderworking icon.
This holy Martyr was a shepherd in Lycaonia. Born a
pagan, named Tarasius, he received holy Baptism and was renamed Sozon.
Filled with zeal for the truth, he taught his countrymen to desist from
the worship of idols. Once he entered the temple of Artemis in
Pompeiopolis of Cilicia, cut off the golden hand of the idol, and
breaking it in pieces, distributed it among the poor. When he saw that
many were being unjustly punished for the theft, of his own accord he
gave himself up to Maximian the Governor. He was beaten with rods until
his bones were broken. According to some, he suffered martyrdom in
288; according to others, in 304.
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
As we come together on this day, let us acclaim with a great
voice Sozon, the true and God-bearing Martyr, the approved athlete of
godliness, the divine initiate of grace, the most bountiful bestower of
healings; for he intercedeth with God for us all.
Saint Archippus, son of devout Christians from the city of
Hieropolis, at age ten went to pray in the church of the holy Chief
Commander Michael and he remained at this temple to serve as church
caretaker. He led a strict and ascetic manner of life, constantly at
fasting and prayer.
He persuaded many pagans who came to the holy
spring to accept holy Baptism, to forsake pagan impiety, and to turn to
the One True God and Savior Jesus Christ. Tenacious pagans headed by
idolous priests repeatedly tried to kill St Archippus, but each time the
Lord delivered him out of their hands.
Finally, the pagans
devised a plan to destroy the church and at the same time kill also
Archippus by flooding the spot where both the church and the curative
spring stood. Seeing the preparations for this wicked deed, St Archippus
firmly resolved not to abandon the holy place, and he prayed to God and
to the Archangel Michael to preserve the church and the spring. The
Lord heard his prayer, and the saint witnessed the great Miracle of the
Chief Commander Michael at Colossae. Miraculously delivered from death,
St Archippus lived at the church into his old age, and he died
peacefully at the age of 70. Christians buried the saint at Colossae, at
the place of his deeds.
The Martyrs Tathuil (Thiphael) and his sister Bebaia (or
Thivea) suffered for their bold and effective preaching of Christianity
among the pagans. After long and intense torture, the pagans suspended
the holy Martyr Thiphael on a tree and cut him with a saw. His sister St
Bebaia was killed with a spear thrust in the neck.
The Unburnt Bush Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos is based on the
miracle witnessed by Moses in the Old Testament. In Chapter 3 of Exodus
God calls Moses on Mt. Horeb from the midst of a bush which “was
burning, yet it was not consumed” (Ex. 3:2). Moses is informed that he
will lead the Hebrews out of their slavery in Egypt, and then God tells
him His name, “I am Who am” (Ex. 3:14).
The Church has always
regarded the Unburnt Bush on Horeb as a type of the Most Holy Theotokos
giving birth to the Savior Christ, while remaining a Virgin. This
imagery is to be found in the Church’s hymnography (for example, the
Dogmatikon at Saturday Vespers in Tone 2), and also in iconography.
of the earliest depictions of the Mother of God as the Unburnt Bush
shows her holding her divine Son in the midst of a burning bush. Moses
is shown to one side, removing his sandals, for that place was holy (Ex.
Most icons now depict the bush in a symbolic fashion. There
are two overlapping diamonds: one red (representing the fire), the
other green (representing the bush), forming an eight pointed star. The
Theotokos is shown in the center.
In the four corners of the
green diamond are the symbols of the four Evangelists: a man (St
Matthew), a lion (St Mark), an ox (St Luke), and an eagle (St John).
These symbols are derived from Ezekiel 1:10 and Revelation 4:7.
Archangels are depicted in the four corners of the red diamond.
design of the icon has become more complex over time. Now we can see
archangels, Moses and the burning bush (Ex. 3:2), Isaiah and the
seraphim with the burning coal (Is. 6:7), Ezekiel and the gate through
which only the Lord may enter (Ez. 44:2), and Jacob with the ladder
(Gen. 28:12). The Theotokos is shown holding Jacob’s ladder which leads
from earth to heaven. Sometimes the Root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1) is shown
in the center of the icon’s lower border.
There is an old story
about a fire which was consuming several wooden buildings. In the midst
of the fire an old woman stood in front of her house holding an icon of
the “Unburnt Bush.” A witness happened to see her there, and marveled at
her faith. The next day he returned to the spot and was astonished to
see the old woman’s home completely unscathed by the fire, while all the
other houses around it were destroyed. This may explain why the Mother
of God, through her Icon of the Unburnt Bush, is regarded as the
protector of homes from fire.
It is believed that the earliest icons of the Unburnt Bush originated at St Catherine’s Monastery on Mt. Sinai.
TROPARION - TONE 1
The miracle that Moses witnessed on Sinai in the burning bush / Foretold
your virgin childbearing, O pure Mother. / We the faithful cry to you:
/ Rejoice, O truly living bush! / Rejoice, O holy mountain! / Rejoice, O
sanctified expanse and most holy Theotokos!
KONTAKION - TONE 4
You showed Moses, O Christ God, / An image of your most pure Mother / In
the bush that burned yet was not consumed, / For she herself was not
consumed, / When she received in her womb the fire of divinity! / She
remained incorrupt after her pure childbearing! / By her prayers, O
greatly merciful One, / Deliver us from the flame of passions, / And
preserve your people from all harm!
Saint Aristion was the bishop of lesser Alexandria in Cilicia (Asia
Minor). He was born in the small town of Aribazo in the eparchy of
Apamea, Syria at the beginning of the second century. His parents were
pagans, and he spent his early years in an atmosphere of idolatry.
do not know what sort of early education St Aristion received, nor
where he studied, but it did not satisfy his search for the truth. A
ten-year-old boy who lived in the same town, the future martyr Anthony,
showed him the path which led to the truth. Anthony instructed him in
the true Faith, and Aristion increased in piety and zeal for God.
is significant that Anthony, despite the constant fear of persecution,
exile and even danger to his own life, was not just a member of the
local church, but also preached the Faith to others. It is certain that
Aristion prayed for his young friend and remembered his courage and
strength, for Anthony’s efforts to bring Aristion to the saving Faith
had born fruit and were not in vain. Not only did Anthony give himself
to the Church through his martyrdom at the age of twenty, he also gave
it another saint and martyr: St Aristion.
Years later, St Aristion
was consecrated bishop for Isso in Cilicia, which is found in lesser
Alexandria. He was a good shepherd to his flock, and cared diligently
for their souls.
One day the ruler of Alexandria had St Aristion
arrested because he was a Christian. Although he was placed on public
trial, the holy bishop was calm and showed no fear. His whole demeanor
made the Roman eparch realize that it would not easy to deal with this
man who stood before him. He tried to turn Aristion from Christ through
flattery and promises of reward, but the saint stood firm. Seeing that
his words had no effect on the bishop, he threatened him with fierce
tortures. He was not influenced by these threats, however.
Aristion stood before the eparch and his counselors, gazing at them
with love and concern for their salvation. Even in his weakness, this
captive was stronger than his captors, and he refused to offer sacrifice
to the pagan gods.
Before a multitude of idolaters, St Aristion
spoke of the Triune God, by Whom all things were created. He also told
them about the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ, which was
accomplished through God’s saving dispensation. He explained that Christ
brings salvation to fallen man, thereby giving him another chance to
attain the true purpose of his life—theosis.
“How poor these soulless statues of the gods are,” the bishop said, “and how helpless the eparch looks in his radiant apparel.”
who heard the saint speak were amazed and asked one another where he
got such courage. Aristion invited them to believe in the truth which he
was revealing to them. Those who watched understood that this holy man
was someone special, and they wanted to hear more about his beliefs.
Roman eparch could not find any way to resist Aristion except through
violence, so he sentenced him to death. He commanded his soldiers to
prepare a large furnace and then throw him into the flames.The saint
went to his martyrdom without resistance, remaining brave and strong
until the end. The few Christians who were present tried not to
weep.They whispered prayers for him, and were saddened because their
father was leaving them. They knew, however, that their archpastor would
not cease praying for them, especially now that he was going to Christ.
They could hear St Aristion singing hymns in the fire until his last
The eparch did not know what a terrible mistake he had
made. He did not realize that death is not the end for men, nor for the
truth. Nothing could separate St Aristion from the Fountain of Life, and
so the Lord bestowed upon him an imperishable crown of glory.
the flames died down, his spiritual children approached the furnace and
collected as many of his bones as they could. With great reverence they
put the holy relics in a secret place, which remains unknown to the
A more detailed biography of the saint has been
published (in Greek): THE HOLY HIEROMARTYR ARISTION, by John G.
Thalassinos (Athens, 2003). This volume also contains the Service to the
saint, which was composed by Hieromonk Athanasius of Simonopetra
Monastery on Mt. Athos.
The 3628 Martyrs in Nicomedia suffered under the emperors
Diocletian (284-305) and Maximian (305-311).
These were Christians who
had come from Alexandria. They had come to believe in Christ following
the martyrdom of St Peter, Archbishop of Alexandria (November 25).
their wives and children with them, they arrived in Nicomedia and
voluntarily presented themselves for martyrdom, exclaiming, “We are
Christians.” At first, Diocletian tried to persuade them to renounce
Christ, but seeing their resolve, he ordered them all to be beheaded,
and for their bodies to be thrown into a fiery pit.
Many years later, the relics of the holy martyrs were discovered through various manifestations of grace.
Saint Simeon the Stylite was born in the Cappadocian village of Sisan
of Christian parents, Sisotian and Martha. At thirteen years of age he
began to tend his father’s flock of sheep. He devoted himself
attentively and with love to this, his first obedience.
after he heard the Beatitudes in church, he was struck by their
profundity. Not trusting to his own immature judgment, he turned
therefore with his questions to an experienced Elder. The Elder readily
explained to the boy the meaning of what he had heard. The seed fell on
good soil, and it strengthened his resolve to serve God.
Simeon was eighteen, he received monastic tonsure and devoted himself to
feats of the strictest abstinence and unceasing prayer. His zeal,
beyond the strength of the other monastic brethren, so alarmed the
igumen that he told Simeon that to either moderate his ascetic deeds or
leave the monastery.
St Simeon then withdrew from the monastery
and lived in an empty well in the nearby mountains, where he was able to
carry out his austere struggles unhindered. After some time, angels
appeared in a dream to the igumen, who commanded him to bring back
Simeon to the monastery.
The monk, however, did not long remain at
the monastery. After a short while he settled into a stony cave,
situated not far from the village of Galanissa, and he dwelt there for
three years, all the while perfecting himself in monastic feats. Once,
he decided to spent the entire forty days of Great Lent without food or
drink. With the help of God, the monk endured this strict fast. From
that time he abstained from food completely during the entire period of
the Great Lent, even from bread and water. For twenty days he prayed
while standing, and for twenty days while sitting, so as not to permit
the corporeal powers to relax.
A whole crowd of people began to
throng to the place of his efforts, wanting to receive healing from
sickness and to hear a word of Christian edification. Shunning worldly
glory and striving again to find his lost solitude, the monk chose a
previously unknown mode of asceticism. He went up a pillar six to eight
feet high, and settled upon it in a little cell, devoting himself to
intense prayer and fasting.
Reports of St Simeon reached the
highest church hierarchy and the imperial court. Patriarch Domninos II
(441-448) of Antioch visited the monk, celebrated Divine Liturgy on the
pillar and communed the ascetic with the Holy Mysteries.
living in the desert heard about St Simeon, who had chosen a new and
strange form of ascetic striving. Wanting to test the new ascetic and
determine whether his extreme ascetic feats were pleasing to God, they
sent messengers to him, who in the name of these desert fathers were to
bid St Simeon to come down from the pillar.
In the case of
disobedience they were to forcibly drag him to the ground. But if he was
willing to submit, they were to leave him on his pillar. St Simeon
displayed complete obedience and deep Christian humility. The monks told
him to stay where he was, asking God to be his helper.
endured many temptations, and he invariably gained the victory over
them. He relied not on his own weak powers, but on the Lord Himself, Who
always came to help him. The monk gradually increased the height of the
pillar on which he stood. His final pillar was 80 feet in height.
Around him a double wall was raised, which hindered the unruly crowd of
people from coming too close and disturbing his prayerful concentration.
in general, were not permitted beyond the wall. The saint did not make
an exception even for his own mother, who after long and unsuccessful
searches finally succeeded in finding her lost son. He would not see
her, saying, “If we are worthy, we shall see one another in the life to
come.” St Martha submitted to this, remaining at the foot of the pillar
in silence and prayer, where she finally died. St Simeon asked that her
coffin be brought to him. He reverently bid farewell to his dead mother,
and a joyful smile appeared on her face.
St Simeon spent 80 years
in arduous monastic feats, 47 years of which he stood upon the pillar.
God granted him to accomplish in such unusual conditions an indeed
apostolic service. Many pagans accepted Baptism, struck by the moral
staunchness and bodily strength which the Lord bestowed upon His
The first one to learn of the death of the saint was his
close disciple Anthony. Concerned that his teacher had not appeared to
the people for three days, he went up on the pillar and found the dead
body stooped over at prayer. Patriarch Martyrius of Antioch performed
the funeral before a huge throng of clergy and people. They buried him
near his pillar. At the place of his ascetic deeds, Anthony established a
monastery, upon which rested the special blessing of St Simeon.
We pray to St Simeon for the return to the Church of those who have forsaken Her, or have been separated from Her.
TROPARION - TONE 1
You were a pillar of patient endurance, / Having imitated the
forefathers, O Venerable One: / Job in suffering, and Joseph in
temptations. / You lived like the bodiless ones while yet in the flesh, O
Simeon, our Father. / Beseech Christ God that our souls may be saved.
KONTAKION - TONE 2
Seeking the things of the Highest, / And having made your pillar a fiery
chariot, you were joined to the heights. / Therefore, you have become a
companion to the angels, O Venerable One, / And with them you are
praying incessantly to Christ God for us all.