Sunday, May 31, 2015

Holy Pentecost

Commemorated on May 31

In the Church’s annual liturgical cycle, Pentecost is “the last and great day.” It is the celebration by the Church of the coming of the Holy Spirit as the end—the achievement and fulfillment—of the entire history of salvation. For the same reason, however, it is also the celebration of the beginning: it is the “birthday” of the Church as the presence among us of the Holy Spirit, of the new life in Christ, of grace, knowledge, adoption to God and holiness.

This double meaning and double joy is revealed to us, first of all, in the very name of the feast. Pentecost in Greek means fifty, and in the sacred biblical symbolism of numbers, the number fifty symbolizes both the fulness of time and that which is beyond time: the Kingdom of God itself. It symbolizes the fulness of time by its first component: 49, which is the fulness of seven (7 x 7): the number of time. And, it symbolizes that which is beyond time by its second component: 49 + 1, this one being the new day, the “day without evening” of God’s eternal Kingdom. With the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Christ’s disciples, the time of salvation, the Divine work of redemption has been completed, the fulness revealed, all gifts bestowed: it belongs to us now to “appropriate” these gifts, to be that which we have become in Christ: participants and citizens of His Kingdom.


The all-night Vigil service begins with a solemn invitation:

“Let us celebrate Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit,
The appointed day of promise, and the fulfillment of hope,
The mystery which is as great as it is precious.”

In the coming of the Spirit, the very essence of the Church is revealed:

“The Holy Spirit provides all,
Overflows with prophecy, fulfills the priesthood,
Has taught wisdom to illiterates, has revealed fishermen as theologians,
He brings together the whole council of the Church.”

In the three readings of the Old Testament (Numbers 11:16-17, 24-29; Joel 2:23-32; Ezekiel 36:24-28) we hear the prophecies concerning the Holy Spirit. We are taught that the entire history of mankind was directed towards the day on which God “would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh.” This day has come! All hope, all promises, all expectations have been fulfilled. At the end of the Aposticha hymns, for the first time since Easter, we sing the hymn: “O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth...,” the one with which we inaugurate all our services, all prayers, which is, as it were, the life-breath of the Church, and whose coming to us, whose “descent” upon us in this festal Vigil, is indeed the very experience of the Holy Spirit “coming and abiding in us.”

Having reached its climax, the Vigil continues as an explosion of joy and light for “verily the light of the Comforter has come and illumined the world.” In the Gospel reading (John 20:19-23) the feast is interpreted to us as the feast of the Church, of her divine nature, power and authority. The Lord sends His disciples into the world, as He Himself was sent by His Father. Later, in the antiphons of the Liturgy, we proclaim the universality of the apostles’ preaching, the cosmical significance of the feast, the sanctification of the whole world, the true manifestation of God’s Kingdom.


The liturgical peculiarity of Pentecost is a very special Vespers of the day itself. Usually this service follows immediately the Divine Liturgy, is “added” to it as its own fulfillment. The service begins as a solemn “summing up” of the entire celebration, as its liturgical synthesis. We hold flowers in our hands symbolizing the joy of the eternal spring, inaugurated by the coming of the Holy Spirit. After the festal Entrance, this joy reaches its climax in the singing of the Great Prokeimenon:

“Who is so great a God as our God?”

Then, having reached this climax, we are invited to kneel. This is our first kneeling since Easter. It signifies that after these fifty days of Paschal joy and fulness, of experiencing the Kingdom of God, the Church now is about to begin her pilgrimage through time and history. It is evening again, and the night approaches, during which temptations and failures await us, when, more than anything else, we need Divine help, that presence and power of the Holy Spirit, who has already revealed to us the joyful End, who now will help us in our effort towards fulfillment and salvation.

All this is revealed in the three prayers which the celebrant reads now as we all kneel and listen to him. In the first prayer, we bring to God our repentance, our increased appeal for forgiveness of sins, the first condition for entering into the Kingdom of God.

In the second prayer, we ask the Holy Spirit to help us, to teach us to pray and to follow the true path in the dark and difficult night of our earthly existence. Finally, in the third prayer, we remember all those who have achieved their earthly journey, but who are united with us in the eternal God of Love.

The joy of Easter has been completed and we again have to wait for the dawn of the Eternal Day. Yet, knowing our weakness, humbling ourselves by kneeling, we also know the joy and the power of the Holy Spirit who has come. We know that God is with us, that in Him is our victory.

Thus is completed the feast of Pentecost and we enter “the ordinary time” of the year. Yet, every Sunday now will be called “after Pentecost”—and this means that it is from the power and light of these fifty days that we shall receive our own power, the Divine help in our daily struggle. At Pentecost we decorate our churches with flowers and green branches—for the Church “never grows old, but is always young.” It is an evergreen, ever-living Tree of grace and life, of joy and comfort. For the Holy Spirit—“the Treasury of Blessings and Giver of Life—comes and abides in us, and cleanses us from all impurity,” and fills our life with meaning, love, faith and hope.

Father Alexander Schmemann (1974)


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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Memorial Saturday of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council

Today we remember all pious and Orthodox Christians who have fallen asleep in the Lord, and also recall the dread Day of Judgment. May Christ our God be merciful to them, and to us.

Two Epistles (Acts 28:1-31, I Thess. 4:13-17) and two Gospels (JN 21:14-25, JN 5:24-30) are appointed to be read at Liturgy. The readings from Acts and the Gospel of St John, which began on Pascha, now come to an end. The book of Acts does not end, as might be expected, with the death of Sts Peter and Paul, but remains open-ended.

In his article “With all the Saints,” Fr Justin Popovich says that the Lives of the Saints are nothing less than a “continuation of the Acts of the Apostles.” Just as the book of Acts describes the works of Christ which the Apostles accomplished through Christ, Who was dwelling in them and working through them, the saints also preach the same Gospel, live the same life, manifest the same righteousness, love, and power from on High. As we prepare for the Sunday of All Saints, we are reminded that each of us is called to a life of holiness.

On this seventh Saturday of Pascha, St John Chrysostom’s “Homily on Patience and Gratitude” is appointed to be read in church. It is also prescribed to be read at the funeral service of an Orthodox Christian.


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Friday, May 29, 2015

Virginmartyr Theodosia of Tyre

Commemorated on May 29

Saint Theodosia of Tyre lived during the third and fourth centuries. Once, during a persecution against Christians, which had already lasted for five years, the seventeen-year-old Theodosia went up to condemned Christian prisoners in the Praetorium in Caesarea, Palestine. It was the day of Holy Pascha, and the martyrs spoke about the Kingdom of God. St Theodosia asked them to remember her before the Lord, when they should come to stand before Him.

Soldiers saw that the maiden bowed to the prisoners, and they seized her and led her before the governor, Urban. The governor advised the maiden to offer sacrifice to the idols but she refused, confessing her faith in Christ. Then they subjected the saint to cruel tortures, raking her body with iron claws until her bones were exposed.

The martyr was silent and endured the sufferings with a happy face, and to a second suggestion by the governor to offer sacrifice to the idols she answered, “You fool, I have been granted to join the martyrs!” They threw the maiden with a stone about her neck into the sea, but angels drew her out from the depths. Then they threw the martyr to the wild beasts to be eaten by them. Seeing that the beasts would not touch her, they cut off her head.

By night St Theodosia appeared to her parents, who had tried to talk their daughter into not going to the sufferings. She was in bright garb with a crown upon her head and a luminous gold cross in her hand, and she said, “Behold the great glory of which you wanted to deprive me!”

The Holy Martyr Theodosia of Tyre suffered for Christ in the year 307 or 308. On May 29 we commemorate the transfer of her relics to Constantinople and Venice. She is also commemorated on April 3.


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Thursday, May 28, 2015

St Ignatius the Bishop and Wonderworker of Rostov

Saint Ignatius was Bishop of Rostov, and shepherded his flock for twenty-six years. After his death on May 28, 1288, his body was brought to the church. Some people saw him leave his coffin, and float in the air above the church. He blessed the people and the city, then went back to his coffin.

Many miracles took place at his grave.


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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Carpos, Apostle of the 70

May 26

This holy Apostle was numbered with the Seventy, and ministered unto the holy Apostle Paul, journeying with him and conveying his epistles unto those to whom they were written. He became Bishop of Beroea in Thrace, where he endured great tribulations while bringing many of the heathen to holy Baptism, and also suffered martyrdom there. Saint Paul mentions him in II Timothy 4:13.

Apolytikion of Carpos of the 70 in the Third Tone
O Holy Apostle Carpos, intercede to our merciful God, that He may grant our souls forgiveness of sins.

Kontakion of Carpos of the 70 in the Fourth Tone
Having thee, O ven'rable Apostle Carpos, as a bright and shining star, the Church is ever made to shine with thine innum'rable miracles. Save them that faithfully honour thy memory.


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Monday, May 25, 2015

Hieromartyr Urban the Pope of Rome

Commemorated on May 25

Pope St. Urban I of Rome? (222-230)

Pace Giovanni Battista de Rossi, Pope St. Urban I of Rome is one of the martyrs who was buried in the Catacomb of Praetextatus (Kirsch).


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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Fathers of the 1st Council

The heresiarch Arius was a Libyan by race and a protopresbyter of the Church of Alexandria. In 315, he began to blaspheme against the Son and Word of God, saying that He is not true God, consubstantial with the Father, but is rather a work and creation, alien to the essence and glory of the Father, and that there was a time when He was not. This frightful blasphemy shook the faithful of Alexandria. Alexander, his Archbishop, after trying in vain to correct him through admonitions, cut him off from communion and finally in a local council deposed him in the year 321. Yet neither did the blasphemer wish to be corrected, nor did he cease sowing the deadly tares of his heretical teachings; but writing to the bishops of other cities, Arius and his followers requested that his doctrine be examined, and if it were unsound, that the correct teaching be declared to him. By this means, his heresy became universally known and won many supporters, so that the whole Church was soon in an uproar.

Therefore, moved by divine zeal, the first Christian Sovereign, Saint Constantine the Great, the equal to the Apostles, summoned the renowned First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea, a city of Bithynia. It was there that the shepherds and teachers of the Church of Christ gathered from all regions in the year 325. All of them, with one mouth and one voice, declared that the Son and Word of God is one in essence with the Father, true God of true God, and they composed the holy Symbol of Faith up to the seventh article (since the remainder, beginning with "And in the Holy Spirit," was completed by the Second Ecumenical Council). Thus they anathematized the impious Arius of evil belief and those of like mind with him, and cut them off as rotten members from the whole body of the faithful.

Therefore, recognizing the divine Fathers as heralds of the Faith after the divine Apostles, the Church of Christ has appointed this present Sunday for their annual commemoration, in thanksgiving and unto the glory of God, unto their praise and honour, and unto the strengthening of the true Faith.

Apolytikion of Fathers of the 1st Council in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
You are greatly glorified, O Christ our God, who established our Fathers as luminaries upon the earth, and through them led us all to the true Faith. O Most compassionate, glory to You.

Kontakion of Fathers of the 1st Council in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
The Church was strengthened into one faith through the preaching of the Apostles and the doctrines of the Fathers. The Church is robed in truth woven of the word of God from above. It teaches truth, and glorifies the great mystery of faith.


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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Right-believing Prince Basil of Yaroslavl

Commemorated on May 23

The celebration of the Synaxis of the Rostov and Yaroslav Saints on May 23 was established by resolution of His Holiness Patriarch Alexis I (+ 1970) and the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, on March 10, 1964.

The holy right-believing Prince Basil is also commemorated on June 8 and July 3.


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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Martyr Thallelaeus, Alexander and Asterius at Aegae in Cilicia

Commemorated on May 20

The Martyrs Thallelaeus, Alexander and Asterius lived during the reign of Numerian (283-284). The prefect of the city of Aegea sent soldiers to seek out Christians. They brought to him Thallelaeus, an eighteen-year-old blond-haired youth. To the prefect’s questions St Thallelaeus replied, “I am a Christian, a native of Lebanon. My father, Beruchius, was a military commander, and my mother was named Romylia. My brother is a subdeacon. I, however, am studying medicine under the physician Macarius. During a former persecution against Christians in Lebanon, I was brought before the prefect Tiberius, and barely escaped execution. But now that I stand before this court, do with me as you will. I wish to die for Christ my Savior and my God, and hope to endure all torments with His help.”

The enraged prefect ordered the two torturers Alexander and Asterius to bore through the knees of the martyr, pass a rope through the bone, and suspend him head downwards. But the executioners, by God’s design, bored into a block of wood, which they hung up in place of the

The Martyr Thallelaeus

martyr. When the prefect saw that they had deceived him, he then ordered that Alexander and Asterius be whipped. They also confessed themselves Christians and glorified God. The prefect immediately gave orders to cut off their heads. Twice he attempted to carry out the execution, and to bore through the saint’s knees, but the grace of God prevented him. Then he commanded that St Thallelaeus be drowned.

The returning servants reported to the prefect that they had carried out the execution, but just as they finished their report, St Thallelaeus appeared in white raiment. For a long time everyone was numbed with terror, but finally the prefect said, “Behold, this sorcerer has bewitched even the sea.”

Then one of his advisers, the magician Urbician, told the prefect to have the martyr thrown to the wild beasts. But neither the vicious bear, not the hungry lion and lioness, would touch the saint, all meekly lay down at his feet. Seeing this happen, the people began to shout, “Great is the God of the Christians. O God of Thallelaeus, have mercy on us!”

The crowd seized Urbician and threw him to the beasts, which did not hesitate to tear the magician apart. Finally, the prefect gave orders to kill the holy martyr with a sword. They led Christ’s martyr to the place of execution, called Aegea, where he prayed to God and bent his neck beneath the sword. This occurred in the year 284.

The relics of the holy martyr Thallelaeus are in the church of St Agathonicus of Constantinople and have performed many miracles. St Thallelaeus treated the sick without payment. For this reason, the Church calls him an Unmercenary Physician. He is invoked in prayers for the sick in the Mystery of Holy Unction, and during the Blessing of Waters.


Your holy martyr Thalelaeus and his companions, O Lord, / through their sufferings have received incorruptible crowns from You, our God. / For having Your strength, they laid low their adversaries, / and shattered the powerless boldness of demons. / Through their intercessions, save our souls!


Revealed as a fellow struggler with the martyrs, / you were a perfect soldier of the King of Glory. / Through your trials and torments / you humbled the arrogance of the idolators. / Therefore, we praise your honorable memory, O wise Thalelaeus.


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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Right-believing John the Prince of Uglich, Tonsured As Ignatius, Vologda

The holy Prince John of Uglich was a devout and God-fearing Christian from his youth. He and his brother Demetrius were thrown into prison by their uncle John, and remained there for thirty-two years.
Before his death, Prince John received monastic tonsure with the name Ignatius. He was known as a wonderworker.


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Monday, May 18, 2015

Virginmartyr Christina of Ancyra, who suffered under Decius

Saint Christina suffered under emperor Decius (249-251). She watched the trial of Dionysius, Nikomachus, and two soldiers, Andrew and Paul, who had been transferred from Mesopotamia. They all confessed their faith in Christ and refused to offer sacrifice to idols, so they were tortured. To the great sorrow of all the Christians, Nikomachus did not persevere. He denied the Lord Jesus Christ, and entered a pagan temple to offer sacrifice. He fell down in a terrible frenzy and died foaming at the mouth, tearing the skin from his body with his teeth.

The sixteen-year-old Christina shouted, “You cursed and lost man! Instead of enduring pain for a single hour, you have made yourself worthy of eternal torment!” The prefect gave orders to seize the holy virgin. Learning that she was a Christian, he gave her to dissolute men for their pleasure.

An angel appeared at the house where they had taken the holy virgin. Frightened by his terrible visage, the men tearfully begged the holy virgin’s forgiveness and asked her to pray that the Lord’s chastisement might not befall them.

On the following morning, Sts Dionysius, Andrew and Paul were again brought before the prefect. For confessing faith in Christ they were given to the pagans to be put to death. They bound the saints by the feet, dragged them to the place of execution, and stoned them to death. Seeing their courage, St Christina also ran up to die with the martyrs. She was beheaded by order of the prefect.


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Sunday, May 17, 2015

St Stephen the Archbishop of Constantinople

Saint Stephen, Patriarch of Constantinople, was the younger son of Emperor Basil the Macedonian, and was a brother of Emperor Leo the Wise. He was ordained to the priesthood under Patriarch Photius. When St Photius was compelled to resign the patriarchal throne in the year 886, St Stephen was elevated to the See of Constantinople. The saint vigilantly stood watch over his spiritual flock, he was merciful and interceded for the defenseless, he concerned himself with widows and orphans, and distinguished himself by his temperance. He died peacefully in the year 893 and was buried in the Sikellian monastery.


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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Venerable Laurence the Abbot of Komel (Vologda)

Saint Laurence of Komel was a disciple of St Cornelius of Komel. In the year 1538, on the recommendation of St Cornelius, he was unanimously chosen by the brethren as igumen of the monastery, and he made use of the spiritual counsels and instructions of his teacher.

Learning of the approach of Tatars towards the monastery, and on the advice of St Cornelius, igumen Laurence led all the brethren away to a safe place. Later, when the danger had passed, the monks returned to the monastery.

Upon the repose of his teacher, St Laurence guided the holy monastery for ten years, devoting himself to its welfare. Seeing the zeal and the love for the Lord in St Laurence as head of the Korniliev monastery, the Elder Alexius placed the Koptevo monastery, which he directed, under the Korniliev monastery in 1547.

Even with his many cares, St Laurence did not forsake his beloved work of copying books. St Laurence reposed in the Lord on May 16, 1548.


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Friday, May 15, 2015

Venerable Pachomius the Abbot of Nerekhta

Saint Pachomius of Nerekhta, in the world James, was born into the family of a priest at Vladimir on the Klyazma. He was sent to school at the age of seven, since from childhood he knew the Holy Scriptures very well. Finding the bustle of the perishing world burdensome, he was tonsured at the Vladimir Nativity monastery, fulfilling various obediences without complaint.

Yearning for the solitary wilderness life, the ascetic secretly left the monastery and went to the outskirts of Nerekhta. Here, at the River Gridenka, he found a suitable place for a monastery, a raised semi-island in the deep forest. The saint asked the people around Nerekhta to establish and build a monastery in the vicinity of Sypanovo, on the Kostroma frontier. The people of Nerekhta happily consented and helped in the construction of the monastery.

St Pachomius painted an icon of the Holy Trinity, and after singing a Molieben he carried it to the place where he was to build the church in the Name of the Holy Trinity. After the church was completed, St Pachomius organized the new monastery, which soon began to attract monks.

At the newly-formed monastery the monks had to cultivate the land themselves and feed themselves by the toil of their own hands. The saint set an example for the brethren in this matter.

He died in 1384, advanced in age, and he was buried in the Trinity church he built. One of his disciples, Irenarchus, painted an icon of the saint, and later a crypt was built for his holy relics. The dates of commemoration for St Pachomius are on May 15, his Name Day, and on March 23, the day of his repose.


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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Venerable Serapion of Egypt

Saint Serapion lived during the fifth century in Egypt. He was called the linen cloth-wearer (Sindonite) since he wore only a coarse linen garb called a “sindon.” From his youth the monk lived like the birds of the air, without a shelter.

For several days at a time he did not eat, not having the means to buy bread. He gave away his sindon to a beggar who was shivering from the cold, and he himself was naked.

A certain Greek philosopher, wishing to test the non-covetousness of the monk, gave him a gold coin and watched him. The saint went to the bakery, bought one loaf of bread, gave the merchant the gold coin and left, having no regard for the value of the money.

St Serapion led many on the way of salvation. Once, he was the servant of a Greek actor, whom he converted to Christ. The actor, imitating the example of the holy life of the saint, believed and was baptized together with all his family. He asked St Serapion to remain with him not as a servant, but as a guide and friend, but the monk went away, not taking any of the money offered him.

Traveling to Rome, St Serapion got on a ship, but paid nothing to the ship owners. At first they began to reproach him for this, but noticing that the Elder had gone five days already without eating, they began to feed him for the sake of God, and in this they fulfilled the command of the Lord.

At Rome, the saint continued to wander about, going from house to house, having nothing, accumulating only spiritual wealth for himself and for his neighbor.


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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

St Euthymius of Athos the translator

Commemorated on May 13

The venerable Euthymius of Mt. Athos was the son of St. John of Mt. Athos, a military commander during the reign of King Davit Kuropalates, who abandoned the world to enter the monastic life.

While St. John was laboring on Mt. Olympus, the Byzantine emperor returned a large portion of the conquered Georgian lands, but in exchange for this benefaction he ordered that the children of certain eminent aristocrats be taken to Constantinople as surety.

Among his hostages was St. John’s young son, Euthymius. When John discovered that his son was being held captive in Constantinople, he departed immediately to appeal to the emperor for his release. Eventually John’s request was granted, and he took Euthymius back with him to the monastery. However, by this time the young Euthymius had already forgotten his native language.

Soon St. John’s name was known in every monastery on Mt. Olympus, so the holy father withdrew with his son and several disciples to Mt. Athos, to the Lavra of St. Athanasius the Great, to escape the homage and praise.

From his youth Euthymius received great grace from the Holy Spirit. While still a child he fell deeply ill, and his father, losing hope in his recovery, sent for a priest to bring him Holy Communion. Then he went into a church, knelt before the icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, and began to pray for his son. When he returned to his cell he was greeted by the pleasant scent of myrrh and the sight of his son, standing in perfect health.

Euthymius told his father that a magnificent Queen had appeared to him and asked him in Georgian, “What has happened to you? What has disturbed you so, Euthymius?”

“I am dying, my Queen,” he had said.

Then the Queen embraced him, saying, “Arise, do not be afraid, but speak freely in your native Georgian tongue!”

After this miraculous healing the Georgian language flowed from Euthymius’s mouth like water pouring forth from a clear spring, and the young man surpassed all others in eloquence.

Venerable John gave great thanks to God and explained to his son the meaning of the vision: “My son! Our country is suffering from a terrible shortage of books. But the Lord has bestowed upon you a gift, and now you must labor diligently in order to more abundantly recompence the Lord.”

St. Euthymius began his new task with great joy, and many people marveled at his success. St. Giorgi of Mt. Athos recorded the life of St. Euthymius, and his account mentions more than fifty works that he translated from the original Greek into Georgian.

After St. John’s death, Euthymius succeeded him as abbot of the Iveron Monastery on Mt. Athos. (St. John had founded the Iveron Monastery with St. John-Tornike.) His leadership of the monastery brought with it many responsibilities, and Euthymius was obliged to continue his translations at night.

St. Euthymius performed many miracles. Once, while his father was still living, Byzantium was struck by a terrible drought. The earth became cracked, trees and vineyards withered, and all the vegetation dried up after four months without rain. St. John sent Euthymius and his brothers to the Church of the Prophet Elijah to celebrate an All-Night vigil. (During periods of drought Orthodox Christians have traditionally turned to the Prophet Elijah to bring rain as he did in the Old Testament.) During the Gospel reading a dark cloud formed in the sky, and at the moment Euthymius received Holy Communion it began to rain.

Once, during the Feast of the Transfiguration, the faithful of Mt. Athos saw Fr. Euthymius embraced by divine fire. The crowd of witnesses fell on their knees before him, but the saint calmed them, saying, “Do not be afraid, my brothers; God has looked down on us, and Christ has glorified His feast!”

But the devil could not tolerate the godly labors of the venerable Euthymius and his brothers at the monastery, so he persuaded a certain beggar, who resembled a monk, to kill the holy father.

When the killer approached Fr. Euthymius’s cell, two monks blocked his way. So the assassin slashed them with his sword. Upon hearing the noise, Father Euthymius came outside and served Holy Communion to his fallen brothers. The two monks were fatally wounded and crowned as martyrs of the Church, while the killer confessed his sin and died, greatly afflicted in spirit.

Later a monastery gardener attempted to murder St. Euthymius, but when he lifted his hand to strike the saint, it withered suddenly, and only the prayers of Fr. Euthymius could heal it.

St. Euthymius labored as abbot of the Iveron Monastery on Mt. Athos for fourteen years. His literary endeavors demanded much time and great effort, so, according to his father’s will, he appointed a certain George (later St. George of Mt. Athos, the Builder) his successor.

Then he locked himself in his cell and dedicated himself exclusively to his translations.

Once the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VIII (1027-1039) summoned Fr. Euthymius to his court. Before departing for Constantinople, the venerable father gathered his brothers, prepared for them a meal, and asked them for their prayers. Then, just before he left on his journey, he visited his childhood friend, the elder Theophan. When they were bidding each other farewell, Theophan embraced him tearfully, crying out, “What grief I am suffering, O holy Father, for I will not see you again in the flesh!” The elder’s prophecy was soon fulfilled.

The emperor received St. Euthymius with great honor. On May 8th, following the Liturgy for the feast of St. John the Theologian, St. Euthymius set off to visit a certain iconographer from whom he had earlier commissioned an icon. He was seated on a young mule and sent on his way. But along the road he was approached by a beggar, clad all in black, who asked alms of him. The venerable father reached into his pocket, but when the mule suddenly noticed the strange man by the roadside, he was frightened, lurched violently, and cast the holy father to the ground, killing him.

All of Byzantium mourned the death of St. Euthymius. His holy relics are buried in the Church of St. John the Baptist at the Iveron Monastery on Mt. Athos.


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2014(with 2013's link here also and further:, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and even 2008!):

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

St Polybius the Bishop in Cyprus

Saint Polybius was a disciple of St Epiphanius of Cyprus. He accompanied him on all his journeys and he wrote about the life and miracles of his teacher.

St Polybius accompanied St Epiphanius when he was returning from Constantinople, unwilling to take part in the council condemning St John Chrysostom. As he was dying, St Epiphanius told St Polybius, “Go to Egypt, and after my death I shall concern myself about you.” St Polybius obeyed his teacher’s order with humility and, not waiting for the burial of the body, he went to Egypt, where he was made bishop of the city of Rinocyria.

For his virtuous ascetic life, St Polybius was granted the gift of wonderworking. Once, through his prayer, the Lord sent rain during a drought and provided an abundant harvest in the fields. St Polybius reposed in the fifth century at an advanced age.


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2014(with 2013's link here also and further:, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and even 2008!):

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Martyr Hesychius of Antioch

The Holy Martyr Hesychius of Antioch lived in Antioch during the reign of Maximian Galerius (305-311), and he occupied a high official position. Maximian issued an edict by which all Christians were to be deprived of military rank and expelled from military service. Those who would not renounce Christianity were stripped of their soldier’s belt and military insignia, and degraded to the level of hired servants. St Hesychius was one of these.

Maximian ordered Hesychius to remove his robes of office, put on common attire, and to be placed among the women servants. After several days he summoned Hesychius and asked, “Are you not ashamed to remain in such dishonor?” St Hesychius answered, “The honors which I had from you were only temporal.”

Then Maximian gave orders to drown St Hesychius in a river, with a millstone tied about his neck. The exact year of the martyr’s death is not known.


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2014(with 2013's link here also and further:, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and even 2008!):

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Venerable Joseph of Optina

Saint Joseph of Optina was born on November 2, 1837 in the village of Gorodishcha in the province of Kharkov. His name in the world was John Litovkin, and his parents Euthymius and Maria were simple but pious people. They were generous to the poor, and often lent money to those in need even when there seemed little chance that it would be repaid. Euthymius also loved to receive monks who came to his door collecting alms for their monasteries. Invariably, he would give each one five rubles for the needs of the monastery.

The Litovkins had six children, and they often read to them from spiritual books, especially from the Lives of the Saints. The second of their three sons (the future St Joseph) was baptized with the name John in honor of St John the Merciful (November 12). Instead of providing them with earthly wealth, the couple endowed their children with heavenly treasures, raising them in piety, obedience, and in the fear of God.

John learned to read even before he started school, taught by his older sister Alexandra at home. He was a sickly child, nearsighted and hard of hearing in one ear. He also met with various accidents. Once he was knocked down by another child and bit off the tip of his own tongue. Another time he was scalded with boiling water. In spite of all this, he was a happy and affectionate child. His father knew there was something special about John, and others also believed that God’s special favor was upon the boy.

When he was only four, John’s beloved father died, and his mother had to raise the children herself. When he was eight, John was playing with some friends, and suddenly froze on the spot. He raised his arms and his head toward the sky, then fell down unconscious. They carried him home and put him to bed. When he awoke, they asked him what had happened. He told them that he had seen the Queen of Heaven in the air.

“What makes you think you saw the Queen?” they asked.

“Because she had a crown with a cross,” he replied.

From that time on, the boy became more quiet and thoughtful, and started to avoid children’s games. Soon after this, the family moved into a new home. There was a great fire in the village, and John prayed that the Mother of God would protect their house from the flames. The Livotkin home was spared, even though everything around it was burned.

In 1848, their mother died during an outbreak of cholera. John was only eleven at the time. His older brother Simeon and his sister Anna were both married before their mother passed away, and his sister Alexandra had gone to the Borisovsk monastery in Kursk Province to become a nun. Simeon became the head of the family, although his drinking problem made him rather unreliable. Simeon took care of John for a while, and their younger brother Peter went to live with Anna. Simeon decided to leave home, and so John was placed in the care of various people, including a tavern keeper and a grocer.

Unable to endure conditions in the homes of such people, John went to live with a cousin who was a deacon in Novocherkassk. He ate nothing on his journey, for he was ashamed to beg, and people did not offer him any food on their own. When he arrived at the church where his cousin served, John sat down outside and waited for the Liturgy to end. Two women with rolls passed by and took pity upon him. One of them gave him a warm roll, which the boy regarded as manna from heaven.

John stayed with his cousin for a brief time, then moved on to other places, taking various jobs to support himself. Later in life he was asked whether he had ever had a girlfriend when he was living in the world. He shook his head and said, “Since I was nearsighted, I couldn’t really see anyone at a distance, and I was too shy to approach anyone up close.”

While living in the world John was often unhappy, and he found consolation in prayer and in church services. One day he received a letter from his sister, Mother Leonida, suggesting that he enter the skete at Optina, which was blessed with experienced Elders. Then the desire to leave the world and embrace the monastic life began to grow within him.

Learning that John was planning to make a pilgrimage to the Kiev Caves, the man for whom he was working offered him his daughter in marriage. Years later Fr Joseph would say, “It’s always that way. As soon as one begins to think of following the path to salvation, obstacles and tempataions begin to appear.”

With his employer’s permission, John started out for Kiev. On the way, he stopped to visit his parents’ graves and the place where he had spent a happy childhood. He stayed briefly at the Dormition Monastery in Kharkov’s Holy Mountains, but he did not wish to remain there. Finally he went to the Borisovsk Women’s Hermitage to visit his sister, Mother Leonida. She had spoken to St Macarius of Optina (September 7) of her concern for John. He told her not to worry, because John would become a monk.

Mother Leonida’s Eldress, Schemanun Alypia, overheard some of their conversation and said to John, “Forget about Kiev. Go to the Elders at Optina.” Mother Leonida gave him a look indicating that John should obey.

He traveled to Optina with some nuns of the women’s monastery at Belev, driving the cart for them. St Macarius had already departed to the Lord in 1860, and was succeeded as Elder by his disciple, St Ambrose (October 10). Knowing of John’s monastic inclinations, the nuns jokingly introduced him as “Brother John.” St Ambrose replied solemnly, “This Brother John will prove useful to us, and to you.”

On March 1, 1861 John found himself standing before the Elder Ambrose, telling him of his life, and asking for a blessing to go to Kiev. Fr Ambrose told him to remain at Optina, forseeing the blessings he would bring to Optina, and to the women’s monasteries which were under the guidance of the Optina Elders. Taking St Ambrose’s words as an indication of God’s will, John murmured, “May it be blessed.”

John, like all new novices, was given an obedience in the kitchen. He was assigned to help the cook in the skete. From the very start, John demonstrated perfect obedience and humility. Life in the monastery was everything he had hoped it would be, and he was glad to leave the tumult of the world behind.

In June the Superior of the Skete, Fr Paphnutius, asked John if he would like to move in with the Elder Ambrose as his cell-attendant. The next day he moved to the Elder’s quarters, where he remained for the next fifty years. As happy as he was to be near the Elder, he was disturbed by the constant flow of visitors. He felt that there was no time to pray or go to church, and began to have misgivings. He was tempted by the thought that perhaps he would be better off in Kiev or on Mount Athos, and did not notice that Fr Ambrose had entered the cell. Suddenly he felt a hand on his shoulder and heard the Elder say, “Brother John, it’s better here than it is on Athos. Stay with us.”

John realized that his thoughts had been sent by the Enemy of our salvation, and he fell down at Fr Ambrose’s feet in repentance.

On April 15, 1872 he was tonsured as a rassophore (wearer of the rassa), then on June 16, 1872 he was tonsured as a monk, receiving the name Joseph in honor of St Joseph the Hymnographer (April 4). He was unexpectedly ordained as a deacon in 1877 in a way which demonstrated that God was directing the course of his life.

On December 7 (Fr Ambrose’s nameday), Igumen Isaac served Liturgy in the skete church. Later, he visited Fr Ambrose to offer his congratulations, and the cell-attendants Fr Joseph and Fr Michael served them tea. The Superior asked Fr Ambrose about a monk whom he proposed to recommend for ordination to the diaconate. The Elder said that the time was not right for that particular monk, recommending someone else instead. Noticing Fr Joseph standing nearby with a tray, Fr Isaac smiled and said, “Well Father, you don’t want my candidate, and I don’t want yours. Let’s ordain Fr Joseph.”

So it was that Fr Joseph was sent to Kaluga, where he was ordained by Bishop Gregory on December 9. It was customary at Optina that a newly-ordained deacon or priest would serve every day for forty days. Fr Joseph’s health did not permit him to fulfill the forty days, however. He developed an inflammation on his right side, and he nearly died.

Fr Joseph’s life continued as it had before, but with more responsibilities. He had no cell of his own, but continued to sleep in the reception room, which the Elder used each day until almost 11 P.M. Fr Ambrose frequently tested his cell-attendant in order to give him the opportunity to acquire patience and humility, following the instructions of St John of the Ladder (Book 4, paragraphs 27 and 28).

Fr Ambrose built the Shamordino Convent about eight miles from Optina, and on October 1, 1884 Bishop Vladimir of Kaluga came for its opening. At the Liturgy that day, Fr Joseph was ordained as a priest.  From that day forward the nuns regarded him as their priest, and he became the spiritual director of the convent after the repose of Fr Ambrose.

Fr Joseph now became the Elder’s senior cell-attendant, and tried to protect him and also to placate the visitors who grumbled about having to wait for so long to see Fr Ambrose. In spite of his duties, Fr Joseph found time to read spiritual books. He particularly loved the PHILOKALIA and the writings of the Fathers. In these books he found spiritual wisdom, which he shared with those who came to him for advice.

St Joseph’s inner life was known only to God, but his advice to others indicates that he practiced unceasing prayer of the heart. Forseeing that Fr Joseph would serve as Elder after him, Fr Ambrose blessed some people to start going to Fr Joseph for their spiritual needs.

Fr Joseph attended St Ambrose for thirty years, until the Elder’s death on October 10, 1891. Fr Ambrose prepared Fr Joseph for eldership, teaching him by word and by example. He would also refer some visitors to Fr Joseph for advice. There was such oneness of mind between them that when people would ask Fr Joseph about something and then ask Fr Ambrose about the same thing, they would receive the very same answer.

Fr Joseph’s health was not good, and he was susceptible to colds in winter. In February 1888 he became very ill and took to his bed, and he received the Mystey of Holy Unction. The doctor recommended that he be moved to the infirmary for treatment, but Fr Joseph did not wish to leave Fr Ambrose. The Superior of the skete insisted on the transfer, however. The ride to the monastery in a sleigh during cold weather only made his illness worse.

Fr Joseph was tonsured into the schema (the highest level of monasticism) during the Liturgy on February 14. The next day, prayers for the Departure of the Soul were read for him, and people came to bid him farewell. A novice, sitting behind a screen, heard Fr Joseph praying aloud. Peering through a slit in the screen, he saw Fr Joseph gazing at an icon of Christ and lifting up his hands. This novice went to the infirmary later and heard someone behind the screen say, “Be patient, my dear one, only a little remains.” He looked behind the screen, but saw no one there except Fr Joseph. Later, Fr Ambrose told people that Fr Joseph had seen the Mother of God during his illness. Though he had been quite near death, he got well.

After his recovery, Fr Joseph began to hear confessions on a regular basis, since this was becoming too difficult for Fr Ambrose. He blessed people to go to Fr Joseph “not just once, but always.”

In the summer of 1888, Fr Ambrose blessed Fr Joseph to go on a pilgrimage to Kiev. After nearly thirty years, he was able to fulfill his desire to visit the holy places of Kiev. On his way back to Optina, he stopped to visit his sister Mother Leonida at Borisovsk.

Fr Ambrose usually spent three weeks during the summer at the Shamordino Convent, accompanied by Fr Joseph. In June of 1890 Fr Joseph began to prepare for the journey, but Fr Ambrose said, “I’m not taking you this time, you’re needed here.” He ordered Fr Joseph to move into his cell and to transfer a large “Surety of Sinners” Icon (March 7 and May 29) into the reception room. Fr Joseph had a premonition that Fr Ambrose would never return.

Although he missed the Elder, Fr Joseph resigned himself to the situation. He did go to Shamordino once a month to visit Fr Ambrose, however. In the absence of Fr Ambrose, many monks who confessed to him began to go to Fr Joseph. During the Nativity Fast Fr Ambrose started sending his spiritual children at Shamordino to confess to Fr Joseph as well. This was difficult for the nuns, who were used to Fr Ambrose. Even when he heard a nun’s confession himself, Fr Ambrose would send her to Fr Joseph for the prayers of absolution. In this manner, he indicated that he was entrusting his spiritual children to no one but Fr Joseph.

In September 1891 Fr Ambrose became ill, but no one thought it was serious. On October 8, he was so critical that they sent for Fr Joseph. That evening the service of Holy Unction was performed, and the next morning Fr Joseph gave Fr Ambrose Communion for the last time. St Ambrose reposed on the morning of October 10, and no one grieved more than Fr Joseph. Even in his sorrow, however, he comforted and consoled others.

Without any outside influence or pressure, the monks of Optina began coming to Fr Joseph just as they had come to Fr Ambrose. When the nuns of Shamordino asked to whom they should go for spiritual direction, Fr Isaac told them, “At Optina all we have Fr Joseph as our common Elder, and he must be yours as well.”

For the next twenty years, St Joseph received visitors, gave spiritual counsel to those who asked for his advice, and even performed miracles of healing for the afflicted. Out of humility, Fr Joseph never said anything on his own authority, but quoted the words of Fr Ambrose, or gave examples from his life. He spoke very little, and then only to answer a question which had been put to him. Some laymen, and even some of the monks, were annoyed with him because he did not say more.

One monk had the thought that since Fr Joseph was filled with spiritual wisdom and was so familiar with the writings of the Fathers, he could have said many beneficial things to people. The Elder explained this to him, quoting St Peter of Damascus, who said that one should not say anything helpful unless asked by the brethren, because then the resulting benefit would come from their free choice. Even concerning something which might be useful for salvation, the ancient Fathers would not speak without being asked, considering unsolicited advice as idle talk (Vol. 3 of the English PHILOKALIA, p. 186).

His greatest care was for the Shamordino Convent, which remained unfinished, and for the spiritual welfare of its nuns. The Superior of the convent now turned to Fr Joseph to consult him about everything related to the life of the convent, and would do nothing without his blessing. He went there twice a year, during the Apostles’ Fast, and during the Dormition Fast, to hear the confessions of the sisters. In the winter, they would visit him at Optina for Confession. Soon he was obliged to give up traveling to Shamordino because of his health.
Fr Joseph was officially appointed as confessor for the Optina brotherhood near the end of 1893 when Fr Anatole became ill and could not fulfill this duty. Many of the monks had already been confessing to Fr Joseph, but now they all came to him.

On January 25, 1894 St Anatole, the head of the skete, fell asleep in the Lord. Archimandrite Isaac and the bretheren unanimously chose Fr Joseph to succeed Fr Anatole as Superior of the skete. Although he never sought this honor, Fr Joseph accepted his election with all humility. He discharged his duties, not by issuing orders, but with paternal love and humility.

As Superior, he could have chosen to serve only on major Feast Days when the priests concelebrated, and designated one of the priests of the skete to serve on other days. He often served as a simple monk, however, with only one deacon to assist him.

During the last years of his life, Fr Joseph grew weaker and was often ill. In May of 1905 he felt that he lacked the strength to carry out his duties, and he asked to retire as Superior of the skete. He also had to give up hearing the confessions of visitors, since this exhausted him. His spiritual children were saddened by his decision, but the monks and nuns continued to come to him with their spiritual wounds and afflictions.

In 1911 Fr Joseph was weak and ill, but began to feel somewhat better during Great Lent. He was unusually joyful during Holy Week, which led some to believe that he had had some sort of vision. On April 11, the third day of Pascha, Fr Joseph developed a fever and stopped seeing visitors. The following week, a doctor diagnosed him with maleria, declaring that there was no hope for recovery.

On April 20 the wonderworking Icon “of the Sign” was brought to his cell and a molieben was served. In the afternoon, the Kazan Icon and the rassa of St Seraphim were brought to him. Two days later, he requested that the skete brotherhood be permitted to come to him so that he could bid them farewell and ask their forgiveness. Then he asked that the Shamordino nuns also be allowed to come.

Fr Joseph stopped taking food from April 28 on, nourishing himself only with the Holy Mysteries of Christ. Up until the time of his death, he was conscious and lucid, answering questions and dictating replies to letters. On May 8 he felt a little better, then became weak again. On the morning of May 9 he received Holy Communion, then at four in the afternoon he received some people for a final blessing.

That evening the Elder lay resting on his bed with his eyes closed, and his face shone with an unearthly radiance. At 10:45 he drew his last breath and departed to the Lord with a smile on his face.

After the body was prepared for burial, panikhidas were served one after another for the departed Elder. The saint appeared to some of the brethren in dreams both that night and on subsequent days.

The body was placed in a coffin at six o’clock the next morning and was carried to the skete church. Following the Liturgy, a panikhida was served, then the casket was brought to the monastery church of St Mary of Egypt. The monks began taking turns serving panikhidas for Fr Joseph until his burial.

Several miracles took place on the day St Joseph was laid to rest at the feet of Fr Ambrose. Even today, he continues to intercede with God and to work miracles for those who entreat him with faith.

St Joseph became a great Elder because first he had been a great disciple. He was obedient to his Elder Fr Ambrose in all things, and never contradicted him. Because he renounced his own will, refrained from judging others, and reproached himself for his own sins, Fr Joseph acquired humility and the grace of God. He also obtained from the Lord the discernment to recognize every sort of spiritual illness, and how to treat it.

The Moscow Patriarchate authorized local veneration of the Optina Elders on June 13,1996. The work of uncovering the relics of Sts Leonid, Macarius, Hilarion, Ambrose, Anatole I, Barsanuphius and Anatole II began on June 24/July 7, 1998 and was concluded the next day. However, because of the church Feasts (Nativity of St John the Baptist, etc.) associated with the actual dates of the uncovering of the relics, Patriarch Alexey II designated June 27/July 10 as the date for commemorating this event. The relics of the holy Elders now rest in the new church of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God.

The Optina Elders were glorified by the Moscow Patriarchate for universal veneration on August 7, 2000.


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2014(with 2013's link here also and further:, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and even 2008!):

Friday, May 08, 2015

John the Apostle, Evangelist, & Theologian

May 8

The feast today in honour of the holy Apostle John commemorates the miracle taking place each year in Ephesus, in which a certain dust or powder, called manna, suddenly poured forth from his tomb and was used by the faithful for deliverance from maladies of both soul and body. For an account of his life, see September 26.

Apolytikion of John the Theologian in the Second Tone
Beloved Apostle of Christ our God, hasten to deliver a people without defense. He who permitted you to recline upon His bosom, accepts you on bended knee before Him. Beseech Him, O Theologian, to dispel the persistent cloud of nations, asking for us peace and great mercy.

Kontakion of John the Theologian in the Second Tone
Who can recount your greatness, O virgin, for miracles flow and healing springs forth from you. You intercede for our souls, as the Theologian and friend of Christ.


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2014(with 2013's link here also and further:, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and even 2008!)

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Icon of the Mother of God of Zhirovits

Commemorated on May 7

The Zhirovits Icon of the Mother of God appeared in the year 1470 in the vicinity of Zhirovits on the Grodnensk frontier. In the forest, belonging to the Orthodox Lithuanian dignitary Alexander Solton, shepherds beheld an extraordinarily bright light, while peering through the branches of a pear tree that stood over a brook at the foot of a hill. The shepherds came closer and saw a radiant icon of the Mother of God on the tree. With reverence, the shepherds took the icon to Alexander Solton. Alexander Solton did not pay any attention to the report of the shepherds, but he took the icon and placed it in a chest.

On the following day Solton had guests, and he wanted to show them what had been found. To his amazement, he did not find the icon in the chest, although he had seen it shortly before this. After a certain time the shepherds again found the icon in the same place, and again they brought it to Alexander Solton. This time, however, he received the icon with great reverence and vowed to build a church in honor of the Most Holy Theotokos at the place of the icon’s discovery. Around the wooden church a settlement soon gathered and a parish was formed.

Around the year 1520 the church was completely burned, despite the efforts of the inhabitants to extinguish the blaze and save the icon. Everyone thought that the icon had been destroyed. However, some peasant children returning from school beheld a miraculous vision. The Virgin, extraordinarily beautiful and radiant, sat upon a stone at the burned church, and in Her hands was the icon which everyone believed had been destroyed. The children did not dare approach Her, but they hastened to tell their relatives and acquaintances about the vision.

Everyone accepted the story about the vision as a divine revelation and they went to the hill with the priest.The Zhirovits Icon of the Mother of God, totally unharmed by the fire, stood on a stone with a burning candle before it. For awhile they placed the icon in the priest’s house, and the stone was fenced in. When they built a stone church, they placed the wonderworking icon there. A men’s monastery later grew up around the church. Its brethren headed the struggle for Orthodoxy against the Unia and Latinism.

In 1609, the monastery was seized by the Uniates and remained in their hands until 1839. During this time the Zhirovits Icon of the Mother of God was venerated by both Uniates and Catholics. In 1839, the monastery was returned to the Orthodox and became the first place where Orthodox services were restored on the West Russian frontier.

During the First World War, they brought the Zhirovits Icon of the Mother of God to Moscow, and at the beginning of the 1920s it was returned to the monastery. At present it is in the Dormition cathedral of the Zhirovits monastery, Minsk diocese, and it is deeply revered for its grace-filled help. The icon was carved in stone and measured 43x56 cm.


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2014(with 2013's link here also and further:, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and even 2008!)

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Martyr Barbarus in Thessaly, who was a robber

The Holy Martyr Barbarus, formerly a robber, lived in Greece and for a long time.  He committed robberies, extortions and murders. But the Lord, Who does not desire the death of a sinner, turned him to repentance. Once, when Barbarus was sitting in a cave and gazing upon his stolen possessions, the grace of God touched his heart. He thought about the inevitability of death, and about the dread Last Judgment. Pondering over the multitude of his wicked deeds, he was distressed in his heart and he decided to make a beginning of repentance, saying, “The Lord did not despise the prayer of the robber hanging beside Him. May He spare me through His ineffable mercy.”

Barbarus left all his treasures behind in the cave and he went to the nearest church. He did not conceal his wicked deeds from the priest, and he asked to be accepted for repentance. The priest gave him a place in his own home, and St Barbarus followed him, going about on his hands and knees like a four-legged animal, since he considered himself unworthy to be called a man. In the household of the priest he lived with the cattle, eating with the animals and considering himself more wicked than any creature. Having received absolution from his sins from the priest, Barbarus went into the woods and lived there for twelve years, naked and without clothing, suffering from the cold and heat. His body became dirty and blackened all over.

Finally, St Barbarus received a sign from on high that his sins were forgiven, and that he would die a martyr’s death. Once, merchants came to the place where St Barbarus labored. In the deep grass before them they saw something moving. Thinking that this was an animal, they shot several arrows from their bows. Coming closer, they were terrified to see that they had mortally wounded a man. St Barbarus begged them not to grieve. He told them about himself and he asked that they relate what had happened to the priest at whose house he had once lived.

After this, St Barbarus yielded up his spirit to God. The priest, who had accepted the repentance of the former robber, found his body shining with a heavenly light. The priest buried the body of St Barbarus at the place where he was killed. Afterwards, a curative myrrh began to issue forth from the grave of the saint, which healed various maladies. His relics are located at the monastery of Kellios in Thessaly, near the city of Larissa.


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2014(with 2013's link here also and further:, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and even 2008!):

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Greatmartyr Irene of Thessalonica

Commemorated on May 5

The holy Great Martyr Irene was born in the city of Magedon in Persia during the fourth century. She was the daughter of the pagan king Licinius, and her parents named her Penelope.

Penelope was very beautiful, and her father kept her isolated in a high tower from the time she was six so that she would not be exposed to Christianity. He also placed thirteen young maidens in the tower with her. An old tutor by the name of Apellian was assigned to give her the best possible education. Apellian was a Christian, and during her lessons, he told the girl about Christ the Savior and taught her the Christian Faith and the Christian virtues.

When Penelope reached adolescence, her parents began to think about her marriage. One day, a dove flew through the window carrying an olive branch in its beak, depositing it upon a table. Then an eagle swooped in with a wreath of flowers in its beak, and also placed it upon the table. Finally, a raven flew in carrying a snake, which it dropped on the table. Penelope was puzzled by these events and wondered what they meant.

Apellian explained that the dove signified her education, and the olive branch stood for the grace of God which is received in Baptism. The eagle with the wreath of flowers represented success in her future life. The raven and the snake foretold her future suffering and sorrow.

At the end of the conversation Apellianus said that the Lord wished to betroth her to Himself and that Penelope would undergo much suffering for her heavenly Bridegroom. After this Penelope refused marriage, was baptized by the priest Timothy, and she was named Irene (peace). She even urged her own parents to become Christians. Shortly after this, she destroyed all her father’s idols.

Since St Irene had dedicated herself to Christ, she refused to marry any of the suitors her father had chosen for her. When Licinius learned that his daughter refused to worship the pagan gods, he was furious. He attempted to turn her from Christ by having her tortured. She was tied up and thrown beneath the hooves of wild horses so that they might trample her to death, but he horses remained motionless. Instead of harming the saint, one of the horses charged Licinius, seized his right hand and tore it from his arm. Then it knocked Licinius down and began to trample him. They untied the holy virgin, and through her prayers Licinius rose unharmed in the presence of eyewitnesses with his hand intact.

Seeing such a miracle, Licinius and his wife, and many of the people, (about 3000 men) believed in Christ and turned from the pagan gods. Resigning his administrative duties, Licinius devoted himself to the service of the Lord Jesus Christ. St Irene lived in the house of her teacher Apellian, and she began to preach Christ among the pagans, converting them to the path of salvation.

When Sedecius, the new prefect of the city, heard of this miracle he summoned Apellian and questioned him about Irene’s manner of life. Apellian replied that Irene, like other Christians, lived in strict temperance, devoting herself to constant prayer and reading holy books. Sedecius summoned the saint to him and urged her to stop preaching about Christ. He also attempted to force her to sacrifice to the idols. St Irene staunchly confessed her faith before the prefect, not fearing his wrath, and prepared to undergo suffering for Christ. By order of Sedecius she was thrown into a pit filled with vipers and serpents. The saint spent ten days in the pit and remained unharmed, for an angel of the Lord protected her and brought her food. Sedecius ascribed this miracle to sorcery, and he subjected St Irene to many other tortures, but she remained unharmed. Under the influence of her preaching and miracles even more people were converted to Christ, and turned away from the worship of inanimate idols.

Sedecius was deposed by his son Savorus, who persecuted Christians with an even greater zeal than his father had done. St Irene went to her home town of Magedon in Persia to meet Savorus and his army, and ask him to end the persecution. When he refused, St Irene prayed and his entire army was blinded. She prayed again and they received their sight once more. In spite of this, Savorus refused to recognize the power of God. Because of his insolence, he was struck and killed by a bolt of lightning.

After this, St Irene walked into the city and performed many miracles. She returned to the tower built by her father, accompanied by the priest Timothy. Through her teaching, she converted five thousand people to Christ.

Next, the saint went to the city of Callinicus, or Callinicum (possibly on the Euphrates River in Syria). The ruler of that place was King Numerian, the son of Sebastian. When she began to teach about Christ, she was arrested and tortured by the pagan authorities. She was placed into three bronze oxen which were heated by fire. She was transferred from one to another, but miraculously she remained uninjured. Thousands of idolaters embraced Christianity as a result of this wondrous event.

Sensing the approach of death, Numerian instructed his eparch Babdonus to continue torturing the saint in order to force her to sacrifice to idols. Once again, the tortures were ineffective, and many people turned to Christ.

Christ’s holy martyr then traveled to the city of Constantina, forty miles northeast of Edessa. By 330, the Persian king Sapor II (309-379) had heard of St Irene’s great miracles. To prevent her from winning more people to Christ, she was arrested, beheaded, and then buried. However, God sent an angel to raise her up again, and she went into the city of Mesembria. After seeing her alive and hearing her preach, the local king was baptized with many of his subjects.

Wishing to convert even more pagans to Christianity, St Irene went to Ephesus, where she taught the people and performed many miracles. The Lord revealed to her that the end of her life was approaching. Then St Irene left the city accompanied by six people, including her former teacher Apellian. On the outskirts of the town, she found a new tomb in which no one had ever been buried. After making the Sign of the Cross, she went inside, directing her companions to close the entrance to the cave with a large stone, which they did. When Christians visited the cave four days later, they did not find the body of the saint.

Apellian returned after only two days, and found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. Thus did God glorify St Irene, who loved Him and devoted her life to serving Him. Although many of these miracles may seem improbable to those who are skeptical, nothing is impossible with God.

St Irene led thousands of people to Christ through her preaching, and by her example. The Church continues to honor her memory and to seek her heavenly intercession.

The holy, glorious Great Martyr Irene is invoked by those wishing to effect a swift and happy marriage. In Greece, she is also the patron saint of policemen. St Irene is also one of the twelve Virgin Martyrs who appeared to St Seraphim of Sarov (January 2) and the Diveyevo nun Eupraxia on the Feast of the Annunciation in 1831. By her holy prayers, may the Lord have mercy upon us and save us.


Your lamb Irene calls out to You, O Jesus, in a loud voice: / “I love You, my Bridegroom, and in seeking You I endure suffering. / In baptism I was crucified so that I might reign in You, / and I died so that I might live with You. / Accept me as a pure sacrifice, / for I have offered myself in love.” / Through her prayers save our souls, since You are merciful.


Podoben: “Today You have shown forth...” / Adorned with the beauty of virginity, / you became more beautiful in your struggle, virgin martyr Irene. / You were empurpled by the flow of your blood, / having destroyed the temptation of godlessness. / Therefore you received the prize of victory from the hand of your Creator.


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2014(with 2013's link here also and further:, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and even 2008!):

Monday, May 04, 2015

New Martyr Archpriest Vasily Martysz

Commemorated on May 4

The holy New Martyr Archpriest Vasily Martysz was born on February 20, 1874 in Tertyn, in the Hrubieszow region of southeastern Poland. His father Alexander was a judge in Molczyce near Pinsk. After his retirement, he was ordained a priest and became rector of a local parish.


In 1884, at the age of ten, Vasily made a brief trip to New York with his father. His beautiful singing during a church service attracted the attention of Bishop Vladimir. The hierarch prophesied that young Vasily would become a priest, and promised that he would invite him to his diocese in America once he was ordained. After returning to his country, he remembered the bishop’s words, and decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a priest. He began his theological education at the seminary in Chelm, where the rector was Bishop Tikhon (Belavin), the future Patriarch of Moscow.

Immediately after graduating in July 1899, Vasily married Olga Nowik, and was ordained a deacon. On December 10, 1900 he was ordained a priest. That same month he left Breman for America. The young couple expected to be assigned to a parish in New York, but instead he was appointed to a parish in Alaska. Together with the newly-appointed Bishop Tikhon, he began his missionary service in the land of St Herman.


Orthodoxy had arrived in Alaska with the coming of the monastic mission from Valaam in 1794. At the start of the twentieth century, climatic and social conditions in this vast territory remained difficult. In his pastoral work, Fr Vasily met Russian settlers and indigenous inhabitants of the region, Eskimos and Aleuts. He also encountered gold rush pioneers quite often.

Fr Vasily’s first parish was extensive. He was headquartered on Afognak, but he was also responsible for the people on Spruce and Woody Islands near Kodiak. There were several small wooden chapels scattered on these islands. In 1901, as a result of his efforts, the church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Virgin was built at Afognak (Although the village was completely destroyed in the earthquake and tidal wave of 1964, the church building survives to this day).

Because of the long distances and severe climate, Fr Vasily’s priestly work was extremely difficult and required many sacrifices. Often he would leave home for several weeks, in order to celebrate the services, to confess, baptize, marry the living, and to bury the dead, while traveling in a specially constructed kayak.

Even when he was at home, Fr Vasily had very little time to devote to his dear family. Besides celebrating the services in church and serving the needs of his parishioners, he taught in the parish school and worked in two church homes for the poor. His family bore the arduous conditions, especially the climate, with difficulty. His wife Olga, who had given birth to two daughters, stayed home. The older daughter, Vera, was born at Afognak in 1902. Their second daughter was born two years later, after they had moved to Kodiak.

During his missionary service in Alaska, Fr Vasily kept a diary. It has survived to this day as one of the few records of his personal life. Fragments have been translated from Russian and published in Polish.

Because of the severe Alaskan climate, which especially affected Matushka Olga, and out of concern for the education of their children, the Martysz family transferred to the continental United States in 1906. As a farewell statement from Alaska that year, Fr Vasily wrote an article for the Russian Orthodox American Messenger, “The Voice from Alaska,” in which he appealed to Orthodox faithful across the USA to support the building of Orthodox churches in Alaska.

The family settled in Osceola Mills in central Pennsylvania. Their first son, Vasily, was born that same year, and their youngest child Helen was born in 1908, soon after they moved to Old Forge, PA. Fr Vasily’s work took him to Waterbury, CT, to West Troy, NY, and finally to Canada. He was assigned to Edmonton and then to Vostok, where he became Dean of the provinces of Alberta and Manitoba. In 1910, he celebrated his tenth anniversary in the priesthood. His prolific and loving pastoral activity endeared him to his flock.

Church authorities considered him a very effective, devoted and talented priest, while the faithful loved him sincerely, valuing his modesty and kindness.

Despite their comfortable lifestyle and the relatively large Orthodox community they served in western Canada, the couple longed for their homeland. They feared the loss of their ancestral identity and requested permission to return to Poland. After serving nearly twelve years in America, Fr Martysz left the New World and returned to Europe in 1912.


Initially, Fr Vasily and his family lived with relatives in Sosnowiec, where he eventually became rector of the parish and instructor in Religious Education at the local girls’ high school. The peaceful life they enjoyed there lasted barely one year, since the outbreak of the First World war disrupted the lives of thousands. Clergy were considered civil servants who were ordered to evacuate their homes, and move to safety inside Russia. At this critical time, Bishop Vladimir, their Archpastor and friend from Alaska, offered the Martysz family refuge in a small apartment within the St Andronicus Monastery in Moscow. From here, Fr Vasily commuted daily to the distant parish at Valdai, where he taught religious education classes. When the Bolsheviks seized power, he lost this job and was forced to earn a living unloading railroad cars. His own life was endangered because Red Army soldiers often treated clergy with distinct brutality.

In 1919, at the end of the war, Polish refugees were granted permission to return to their former residences. Fr Vasily and his family took this opportunity to return to Sosnowiec. They moved back into their former apartment, which had survived the devastation of the war. They did not remain long, however, for that September Fr Vasily was assigned to a position in the newly organized Polish Army, in charge of Orthodox Affairs in the Religious Ministry of the War Department. The whole family relocated to Warsaw. Fr Vasily started the wearisome but important work of forming an Orthodox military chaplaincy. In 1921, he was promoted to the rank of colonel, and assumed responsibility as the head of the Orthodox military chaplaincy. At this time, the church elevated him to the rank of Archpriest. Fr Vasily served as chief of Orthodox chaplains for the next twenty-five years. Within the Ministry of the Interior, he had his own cabinet, and was directly responsible to the Minister himself.


Fr Vasily was also a chief advisor and close colleague of Metropolitan George (Jaroszewski) of Warsaw and all Poland. He participated in preparing all the meetings of the Holy Synod, and assisted Metropolitan George in his effort to obtain autocephaly for the Polish Orthodox Church. He accompanied the Metropolitan on the tragic day of February 8, 1923, when he was assassinated. The assassin had also planned to kill Fr Vasily as well, but he was captured before he could succeed. Fr Vasily remained under police protection for some time, but attended to all the details of the Metropolitan’s funeral, in which the First Regiment of the Szwolezers Regiment participated under orders from Marshal Jozef Pilsudski.

Fr Vasily zealously participated in the subsequent process of obtaining autocephaly for the Orthodox Church in Poland, which was granted during the tenure of Metropolitan Dionysius (Walednski) in 1925. Fr Vasily became the Metropolitan’s closest advisor and confidant. He often accompanied the Metropolitan and acted as liaison with the Polish Head of State, Marshal Pilsudski. He was often invited to attend cabinet meetings at Belvedere, the Royal Castle, where he regularly signed the guest book on holidays.

In addition to his work as chief military chaplain, Fr Vasily devoted much time to organizing pastoral ministry in the Ukrainian internment camps. In February 1921, Fr Vasily appointed Fr Peter Biton as chaplain for the camp in Aleksandrow Kujawski. He visited the Ukrainian internees himself and helped arrange camp churches. On July 8, 1921, he celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the Ukrainian language for over 5,000 prisoners, while visiting this camp. His sermon, delivered in Ukrainian, greatly improved their morale. He also assisted in organizing chaplains’ training courses in other Ukrainian army camps.

The Polish Secretary of the Army, Lucjan Zeligowski sent a congratulatory letter to Father Vasily on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of his ordination, December 7, 1925, stating “The virtues of this remarkably talented, conscientious and diligent servant, completely devoted to the Polish nation, expressed in his receiving a high distinction, the Order of Polonia Restituta, which is conferred upon him for his efforts in securing the Autocephaly of the Orthodox Church in Poland.”
Father Martysz spent the difficult war years in Teratyn. On May 4, 1945 (Great and Holy Friday), a few days before the surrender of Nazi Germany, his house was attacked. A female acquaintance warned him of the danger, but he replied, “I have done no harm to anyone and I will not run away from anyone. Christ did not run away.” Father Vasily did not fear and did not flee from his tormentors. He faced them bravely, in a Christ-like way, accepting the crown of martyrdom. The villains, seeking gold and money, had no respect for his uniform as a colonel in the Polish Army, nor for his priestly vestments.


The bandits broke into the house by breaking a window. With callous cruelty they tortured Father Vasily though his only crime was that he was an Orthodox priest. They beat his pregnant daughter Helen, causing her to miscarry. They beat Father Vasily for four hours, reviving him by throwing water on him when he lost consciousness. Horribly tortured, he was finally murdered by a gun shot. The criminals threatened to shoot Helen as well, When she knelt before the icon of Christ and began to pray, the executioner’s aim and resolve weakened. They left, threatening to return and kill her as well.

On Great and Holy Saturday, Father John Lewczuk celebrated the burial rites for Father Vasily in Chelm. He was buried at the local cemetery in Teratyn.

In October 1963, the earthly remains of Father Vasily Martysz were brought to Warsaw and solemnly reinterred in the Orthodox cemetery in the Wola district, next to his wife and mother-in-law. At the beginning of 2003, his holy relics were uncovered and placed in the church of St John Climacus in Warsaw. The Holy Synod of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Poland promulgated the official Act of Canonization on March 20, 2003, and the rites glorifying St Vasily Martysz were celebrated in Chelm on June 7-8.

Orthodox Christians in the Polish Army have taken St Vasily Martysz as their heavenly patron. The martyrdom of St Vasily was the crowning accomplishment of his pious and dedicated life, a testimony to his amazing courage. He carried his cross to the end without complaint, accepting the crown of martyrdom as he had dedicated his life to Christ and the Holy Orthodox Faith.

Written by Jaroslaw Charkiewicz


SAINT OR FEAST POSTED THIS DATE 2014(with 2013's link here also and further:, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and even 2008!):