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Lives of the Saints - an Information Only Thread

Fr. George

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I want to start a location where we can post lives of the Saints, for people's edification, and to help bolster the resource material here on OC.net.

NO DEBATE PLEASE.

Below is a list of the Saints whose stories & sayings are in this thread, in order of posting.  A * indicates a duplicate entry (the first entry will not have the *).

If you are considering posting a new entry, please scan this list before you post.  You can use the search function of your browser to expedite the process, but remember that there may be alternate spellings (e.g. -us instead of -os) for the Saint's name.

Please include at least the name & feastday of the Saint, and a link to where the information comes from.

PAGE 1
St. Nicholas of Myra (Dec 6)
St. George (Apr 23)
All Saints of Britain and Ireland
St. Dympna of Gheel (May 15)
St. Peter of Alexandria (Hatour 29)
St. Kosmas Aitolos
Sts. Justinian & Theodora (Nov 14)
St. John of Damascus (Dec 4)
St. John of Otzoon
St. Lucy  (Dec 13)
Sts. Hermagoras and Fortunatus (Jul 12)
St. Juliana of Lazarevo
St. Savas the Sanctified (Dec 5)
Sts. Constantine & Helen (May 21)
St. Photios the Great (Feb 6)
St. Mark of Ephesus (Jan 19)
Sts. Rufus and Zosimus (Dec 18)
St. Sebastian & his companions
St. Elias the Cave-dweller (Sep 11)
St. Vrtanes
St. Krikoris
St. Husig
St. Patrick (Mar 17)
St. Sebastian of Rome (Dec 18)*
St. Laurence of Rome (Aug 10)
St. Maria Skobtsova (Jul 20)
St. Aristakes
St. Martin the Confessor (Apr 14)
St. Peter the Aleut (Sep 24/Dec 12)
St. Philothei (Feb 19)
St. Agatha of Palermo (Feb 5)
St. Ambrose of Milan (Dec 7)
Sts. Nicholas, Raphael, and Irene
St. Herman of Alaska (Aug 9 / Dec 13)
St. Hilary of Poitiers (Jan 13)
St. Martin of Tours (Nov 11)
St. Genevieve of Paris (Jan 3)

PAGE 2
St. Catherine (Nov 24)
St. Mary of Egypt (Apr 1)
St. Anastasia (Dec 22)
St. Sylvester (Jan 2)
St. Ammon (Dec 20)
St. Hripsime & St. Gayane & their companions
St. Ignatius (Dec 20)
St. Anastasios XII (Dec 21)
St. Moses
Sts. Sergius & Bacchus (Oct 7)
St. Juliana & her companions (Dec 21)
St. Zeno (Dec 22)
St. Chaeromon (Dec 22)
The Uncondemning Monk (Mar 30)
Sts. Emiliana & Tarsilla (Dec 24)
St. Stephen (Dec 27)
Sts. Gaspar & Balthasar (Dec 25)
10 Martyrs of Crete (Dec 23)
St. Matrona of Moscow (April 19)
St. John the Evangelist
St. Theodore the Confessor
St. Aileran (Dec 29)
Sts. Sarkis & Mardiros
St. Nicholas Planas (Mar 2)
Sts. Anysia & Anysios (Dec 30)
St. Sabinus (Dec 30)
St. Liberius (Dec 30)
St. Sylvester (Dec 31)
St. Melania (Dec 31)
St. Zoticos (Dec 31)
St. Aidan (Aug 31)
10 Martyrs of Crete (Dec 23)
St. Basil the Great (Jan 1)
St. Gregory Nazianzus
St. Aquilinus (Jan 4)
St. Rigobert (Jan 4)
St. Mavilus (Jan 4)
Sts. Theopemptos & Theonas (Jan 5)
St. Syncletica (Jan 5)
St. Syncletiki (Jan 5)
St. Oswald (Aug 5)
St. Athelm (Jan 8 )
St. Foellan (Jan 9)
St. Julian & companions (Jan 9)
St. Marcian (Jan 10)

PAGE 3
St. Nicanor (Jan 10)
St. Peter Urseolus (Jan 10)
St. Alexander (Jan 11)
St. Theodosius (Jan 11)
St. Theodosius Cenobiarch (Jan 11)
St. Hyginus (Jan 11)
St. Mary Magdalene (Jul 22)
St. Nicholas of Japan (Feb 3)
Sts. Cyril & Methodius (May 11)
St. Tikhon (Apr 7)
St. Andrew of Crete (Jul 4)
St. John Climacus (Mar 18)
St. Simeon the New Theologian (Mar 12)
St. Moses the Black (Aug 28)
St. Christopher (May 9)
7 Youths of Ephesus (Aug 4)
St. Simeon the New Theologian
St. Barbara (Dec 4)
St. Olaf (July 29)
St. Finnian of Clonard (Dec 12)
Sts. Sergius and Herman of Valaam
St. Anna of Novgorod
St. Gabriel the Youngling (Apr 20)
St. Gregory Peradze (Dec 6)
St. Euphrsyne of Polotsk (May 23)
St. Basil Martysz (Apr 21)
St. David of Wales (Mar 1)
St. Myrope of Ephesus and Chios (Dec 2)
St. Brigid
St. Benedict of Nursia (Mar 14)
Ruadan
St. Enda of Arranmore (Mar 21)
The Holy Orthodox Popes of Rome
St. Bishoy (Jul 15)
St. Anthony of Supraśl (Feb 4)
St. Cyril of Turov (Apr 28)
St. Maxim of Gorlice (Sep 6)
St. Sophia, Dutchess of Slutsk (Mar 19)
St. Matthew the Far-Sighted (Oct 5)

PAGE 4
St. Vladimir (Jul 15)
St. Benedict of Nursia (Mar 14)
St. Januarius (Apr 21)
St. Dionysios (Dec 17)
St. John Maximovich (Jul 2)
St. Athanasius of Brest (Sep 6)
St. Ignatius of Jableczna (Jul 28)
St. Finnian of Clonard (Dec 12/ 25)
St. Stylianus (Nov 26)
St. Manach of Lemonaghan (Jan 24)
St. Anthony the Great (Jan 17)
St. Adalbert the Hieromartyr, the Enlightener of Prussia (Apr 23)
St. Paul the Hieromartyr and St. Joanna the Martyr (Aug 15)
"Some Irish Saints of March"
St. Alexios, the Man of God (Mar 17)
St. James the Confessor (mar 21)
St. Anatole of Optina (Jul 30)
St. Rupert of Salzburg (Mar 14)
The Pre-Schism Orthodox Saints Who Evangelized Western Europe & The Scandinavian Lands
St. Irene the Great Martyr (May 5)
St. Anthony the Roman of Novgorod (Jan 17)
St. Attracta  (Aug 11)
St. Nicholas of Alma-Ata and Kazakhstan (Oct 12)
St. Barnabas the New Confessor (Oct 30)
34 Holy Martyrs of Valaam Monastery (Feb 20)
St. Frumentius
St. Ninian
St. Bruno of Querfurt (Feb 14)
St. Claudia (Aug 7)
Saints Benedict, John, Matthew, Isaac and Christian, the Protomartys of Poland (Nov 12)
St. Patrick (Mar 17)
 

Fr. George

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The Life of St. Nicholas of Myra

http://ocafs.oca.org/FeastSaintsLife.asp?FSID=103484

St Nicholas the Wonderworker and Archbishop of Myra in Lycia
Commemorated on December 6


Saint Nicholas, the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia is famed as a great saint pleasing unto God. He was born in the city of Patara in the region of Lycia (on the south coast of the Asia Minor peninsula), and was the only son of pious parents Theophanes and Nonna, who had vowed to dedicate him to God.

As the fruit of the prayer of his childless parents, the infant Nicholas from the very day of his birth revealed to people the light of his future glory as a wonderworker. His mother, Nonna, after giving birth was immediately healed from illness. The newborn infant, while still in the baptismal font, stood on his feet three hours, without support from anyone, thereby honoring the Most Holy Trinity. St Nicholas from his infancy began a life of fasting, and on Wednesdays and Fridays he would not accept milk from his mother until after his parents had finished their evening prayers.

From his childhood Nicholas thrived on the study of Divine Scripture; by day he would not leave church, and by night he prayed and read books, making himself a worthy dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. Bishop Nicholas of Patara rejoiced at the spiritual success and deep piety of his nephew. He ordained him a reader, and then elevated Nicholas to the priesthood, making him his assistant and entrusting him to instruct the flock.

In serving the Lord the youth was fervent of spirit, and in his proficiency with questions of faith he was like an Elder, who aroused the wonder and deep respect of believers. Constantly at work and vivacious, in unceasing prayer, the priest Nicholas displayed great kind-heartedness towards the flock, and towards the afflicted who came to him for help, and he distributed all his inheritance to the poor.

There was a certain formerly rich inhabitant of Patara, whom St Nicholas saved from great sin. The man had three grown daughters, and in desparation he planned to sell their bodies so they would have money for food. The saint, learning of the man's poverty and of his wicked intention, secretly visited him one night and threw a sack of gold through the window. With the money the man arranged an honorable marriage for his daughter. St Nicholas also provided gold for the other daughters, thereby saving the family from falling into spiritual destruction. In bestowing charity, St Nicholas always strove to do this secretly and to conceal his good deeds.

The Bishop of Patara decided to go on pilgrimage to the holy places at Jerusalem, and entrusted the guidance of his flock to St Nicholas, who fulfilled this obedience carefully and with love. When the bishop returned, Nicholas asked his blessing for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Along the way the saint predicted a storm would arise and threaten the ship. St Nicholas saw the devil get on the ship, intending to sink it and kill all the passengers. At the entreaty of the despairing pilgrims, he calmed the waves of the sea by his prayers. Through his prayer a certain sailor of the ship, who had fallen from the mast and was mortally injured was also restored to health.

When he reached the ancient city of Jerusalem and came to Golgotha, St Nicholas gave thanks to the Savior. He went to all the holy places, worshiping at each one. One night on Mount Sion, the closed doors of the church opened by themselves for the great pilgrim. Going round the holy places connected with the earthly service of the Son of God, St Nicholas decided to withdraw into the desert, but he was stopped by a divine voice urging him to return to his native country. He returned to Lycia, and yearning for a life of quietude, the saint entered into the brotherhood of a monastery named Holy Sion, which had been founded by his uncle. But the Lord again indicated another path for him, "Nicholas, this is not the vineyard where you shall bear fruit for Me. Return to the world, and glorify My Name there." So he left Patara and went to Myra in Lycia.

Upon the death of Archbishop John, Nicholas was chosen as Bishop of Myra after one of the bishops of the Council said that a new archbishop should be revealed by God, not chosen by men. One of the elder bishops had a vision of a radiant Man, Who told him that the one who came to the church that night and was first to enter should be made archbishop. He would be named Nicholas. The bishop went to the church at night to await Nicholas. The saint, always the first to arrive at church, was stopped by the bishop. "What is your name, child?" he asked. God's chosen one replied, "My name is Nicholas, Master, and I am your servant."

After his consecration as archbishop, St Nicholas remained a great ascetic, appearing to his flock as an image of gentleness, kindness and love for people. This was particularly precious for the Lycian Church during the persecution of Christians under the emperor Diocletian (284-305). Bishop Nicholas, locked up in prison together with other Christians for refusing to worship idols, sustained them and exhorted them to endure the fetters, punishment and torture. The Lord preserved him unharmed. Upon the accession of St Constantine (May 21) as emperor, St Nicholas was restored to his flock, which joyfully received their guide and intercessor.

Despite his great gentleness of spirit and purity of heart, St Nicholas was a zealous and ardent warrior of the Church of Christ. Fighting evil spirits, the saint made the rounds of the pagan temples and shrines in the city of Myra and its surroundings, shattering the idols and turning the temples to dust.

In the year 325 St Nicholas was a participant in the First Ecumenical Council. This Council proclaimed the Nicean Symbol of Faith, and he stood up against the heretic Arius with the likes of Sts Sylvester the Bishop of Rome (January 2), Alexander of Alexandria (May 29), Spyridon of Trimythontos (December 12) and other Fathers of the Council.

St Nicholas, fired with zeal for the Lord, assailed the heretic Arius with his words, and also struck him upon the face. For this reason, he was deprived of the emblems of his episcopal rank and placed under guard. But several of the holy Fathers had the same vision, seeing the Lord Himself and the Mother of God returning to him the Gospel and omophorion. The Fathers of the Council agreed that the audacity of the saint was pleasing to God, and restored the saint to the office of bishop.

Having returned to his own diocese, the saint brought it peace and blessings, sowing the word of Truth, uprooting heresy, nourishing his flock with sound doctrine, and also providing food for their bodies.

Even during his life the saint worked many miracles. One of the greatest was the deliverance from death of three men unjustly condemned by the Governor, who had been bribed. The saint boldly went up to the executioner and took his sword, already suspended over the heads of the condemned. The Governor, denounced by St Nicholas for his wrong doing, repented and begged for forgiveness.

Witnessing this remarkable event were three military officers, who were sent to Phrygia by the emperor Constantine to put down a rebellion. They did not suspect that soon they would also be compelled to seek the intercession of St Nicholas. Evil men slandered them before the emperor, and the officers were sentenced to death. Appearing to St Constantine in a dream, St Nicholas called on him to overturn the unjust sentence of the military officers.

He worked many other miracles, and struggled many long years at his labor. Through the prayers of the saint, the city of Myra was rescued from a terrible famine. He appeared to a certain Italian merchant and left him three gold pieces as a pledge of payment. He requested him to sail to Myra and deliver grain there. More than once, the saint saved those drowning in the sea, and provided release from captivity and imprisonment.

Having reached old age, St Nicholas peacefully fell asleep in the Lord. His venerable relics were preserved incorrupt in the local cathedral church and flowed with curative myrrh, from which many received healing. In the year 1087, his relics were transferred to the Italian city of Bari, where they rest even now (See May 9).

St Nicholas is the patron of travelers, and we pray to him for deliverance from floods, poverty, or any misfortunes. He has promised to help those who remember his parents, Theophanes and Nonna.

St Nicholas is also commemorated on May 9 (The transfer of his relics) and on July 29 (his nativity).
 

Fr. George

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Life of St. George the Great Martyr and Trophy-Bearer

http://ocafs.oca.org/FeastSaintsLife.asp?FSID=101184

Greatmartyr, Victory-bearer and Wonderworker George
Commemorated on April 23


The Holy Great Martyr George the Victory-Bearer, was a native of Cappadocia (a district in Asia Minor), and he grew up in a deeply believing Christian family. His father was martyred for Christ when George was still a child. His mother, owning lands in Palestine, moved there with her son and raised him in strict piety.

When he became a man, St George entered into the service of the Roman army. He was handsome, brave and valiant in battle, and he came to the notice of the emperor Diocletian (284-305) and joined the imperial guard with the rank of comites, or military commander.

The pagan emperor, who did much for the restoration of Roman might, was clearly concerned with the danger presented to pagan civilization by the triumph of the Crucified Savior, and intensified his persecution against the Christians in the final years of his reign. Following the advice of the Senate at Nicomedia, Diocletian gave all his governors full freedom in their court proceedings against Christians, and he promised them his full support.

St George, when he heard the decision of the emperor, distributed all his wealth to the poor, freed his servants, and then appeared in the Senate. The brave soldier of Christ spoke out openly against the emperor's designs. He confessed himself a Christian, and appealed to all to acknowledge Christ: "I am a servant of Christ, my God, and trusting in Him, I have come among you voluntarily, to bear witness concerning the Truth."

"What is Truth?" one of the dignitaries asked, echoing the question of Pontius Pilate. The saint replied, "Christ Himself, Whom you persecuted, is Truth."

Stunned by the bold speech of the valiant warrior, the emperor, who had loved and promoted George, attempted to persuade him not to throw away his youth and glory and honors, but rather to offer sacrifice to the gods as was the Roman custom. The confessor replied, "Nothing in this inconstant life can weaken my resolve to serve God."

Then by order of the enraged emperor the armed guards began to push St George out of the assembly hall with their spears, and they then led him off to prison. But the deadly steel became soft and it bent, just as the spears touched the saint's body, and it caused him no harm. In prison they put the martyr's feet in stocks and placed a heavy stone on his chest.

The next day at the interrogation, powerless but firm of spirit, St George again answered the emperor, "You will grow tired of tormenting me sooner than I will tire of being tormented by you." Then Diocletian gave orders to subject St George to some very intense tortures. They tied the Great Martyr to a wheel, beneath which were boards pierced with sharp pieces of iron. As the wheel turned, the sharp edges slashed the saint's naked body.

At first the sufferer loudly cried out to the Lord, but soon he quieted down, and did not utter even a single groan. Diocletian decided that the tortured one was already dead, and he gave orders to remove the battered body from the wheel, and then went to a pagan temple to offer thanks.

At this very moment it got dark, thunder boomed, and a voice was heard: "Fear not, George, for I am with you." Then a wondrous light shone, and at the wheel an angel of the Lord appeared in the form of a radiant youth. He placed his hand upon the martyr, saying to him, "Rejoice!" St George stood up healed.

When the soldiers led him to the pagan temple where the emperor was, the emperor could not believe his own eyes and he thought that he saw before him some other man or even a ghost. In confusion and in terror the pagans looked St George over carefully, and they became convinced that a miracle had occurred. Many then came to believe in the Life-Creating God of the Christians.

Two illustrious officials, Sts Anatolius and Protoleon, who were secretly Christians, openly confessed Christ. Immediately, without a trial, they were beheaded with the sword by order of the emperor. Also present in the pagan temple was Empress Alexandra, the wife of Diocletian, and she also knew the truth. She was on the point of glorifying Christ, but one of the servants of the emperor took her and led her off to the palace.

The emperor became even more furious. He had not lost all hope of influencing St George, so he gave him over to new and fiercesome torments. After throwing him into a deep pit, they covered it over with lime. Three days later they dug him out, but found him cheerful and unharmed. They shod the saint in iron sandals with red-hot nails, and then drove him back to the prison with whips. In the morning, when they led him back to the interrogation, cheerful and with healed feet, the emperor asked if he liked his shoes. The saint said that the sandals had been just his size. Then they beat him with ox thongs until pieces of his flesh came off and his blood soaked the ground, but the brave sufferer, strengthened by the power of God, remained unyielding.

The emperor concluded that the saint was being helped by magic, so he summoned the sorcerer Athanasius to deprive the saint of his miraculous powers, or else poison him. The sorcerer gave St George two goblets containing drugs. One of them would have quieted him, and the other would kill him. The drugs had no effect, and the saint continued to denounce the pagan superstitions and glorify God as before.

When the emperor asked what sort of power was helping him, St George said, "Do not imagine that it is any human learning which keeps me from being harmed by these torments. I am saved only by calling upon Christ and His Power. Whoever believes in Him has no regard for tortures and is able to do the things that Christ did" (John 14:12). Diocletian asked what sort of things Christ had done. The Martyr replied, "He gave sight to the blind, cleansed the lepers, healed the lame, gave hearing to the deaf, cast out demons, and raised the dead."

Knowing that they had never been able to resurrect the dead through sorcery, nor by any of the gods known to him, and wanting to test the saint, the emperor commanded him to raise up a dead person before his eyes. The saint retorted, "You wish to tempt me, but my God will work this sign for the salvation of the people who shall see the power of Christ."

When they led St George down to the graveyard, he cried out, "O Lord! Show to those here present, that You are the only God in all the world. Let them know You as the Almighty Lord." Then the earth quaked, a grave opened, the dead one emerged from it alive. Having seen with their own eyes the Power of Christ, the people wept and glorified the true God.

The sorcerer Athanasius, falling down at the feet of St George, confessed Christ as the All-Powerful God and asked forgiveness for his sins, committed in ignorance. The obdurate emperor in his impiety thought otherwise. In a rage he commanded both t Athanasius and the man raised from the dead to be beheaded, and he had St George again locked up in prison.

The people, weighed down with their infirmities, began to visit the prison and they there received healing and help from the saint. A certain farmer named Glycerius, whose ox had collapsed, also visited him. The saint consoled him and assured him that God would restore his ox to life. When he saw the ox alive, the farmer began to glorify the God of the Christians throughout all the city. By order of the emperor, St Glycerius was arrested and beheaded.

The exploits and the miracles of the Great Martyr George had increased the number of the Christians, therefore Diocletian made a final attempt to compel the saint to offer sacrifice to the idols. They set up a court at the pagan temple of Apollo. On the final night the holy martyr prayed fervently, and as he slept, he saw the Lord, Who raised him up with His hand, and embraced him. The Savior placed a crown on St George's head and said, "Fear not, but have courage, and you will soon come to Me and receive what has been prepared for you."

In the morning, the emperor offered to make St George his co-administrator, second only to himself. The holy martyr with a feigned willingness answered, "Caesar, you should have shown me this mercy from the very beginning, instead of torturing me. Let us go now to the temple and see the gods you worship."

Diocletian believed that the martyr was accepting his offer, and he followed him to the pagan temple with his retinue and all the people. Everyone was certain that St George would offer sacrifice to the gods. The saint went up to the idol, made the Sign of the Cross and addressed it as if it were alive: "Are you the one who wants to receive from me sacrifice befitting God?"

The demon inhabiting the idol cried out, "I am not a god and none of those like me is a god, either. The only God is He Whom you preach. We are fallen angels, and we deceive people because we are jealous."

St George cried out, "How dare you remain here, when I, the servant of the true God, have entered?" Then noises and wailing were heard from the idols, and they fell to the ground and were shattered.

There was general confusion. In a frenzy, pagan priests and many of the crowd seized the holy martyr, tied him up, and began to beat him. They also called for his immediate execution.

The holy empress Alexandra tried to reach him. Pushing her way through the crowd, she cried out, "O God of George, help me, for You Alone are All-Powerful." At the feet of the Great Martyr the holy empress confessed Christ, Who had humiliated the idols and those who worshipped them.

Diocletian immediately pronounced the death sentence on the Great Martyr George and the holy Empress Alexandra, who followed St George to execution without resisting. Along the way she felt faint and slumped against a wall. There she surrendered her soul to God.

St George gave thanks to God and prayed that he would also end his life in a worthy manner. At the place of execution the saint prayed that the Lord would forgive the torturers who acted in ignorance, and that He would lead them to the knowledge of Truth. Calmly and bravely, the holy Great Martyr George bent his neck beneath the sword, receiving the crown of martyrdom on April 23, 303.
 

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Russian Church Institutes Feastday of All Saints of Britain and Ireland

(in English)  http://www.interfax.ru/e/B/politics/28.html?id_issue=11842406(in
(in Russian) http://www.interfax.ru/r/B/politics/2.html?id_issue=11842306


Moscow, August 21, 2007, Interfax - The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church instituted a holiday to honour Christians who lived on the islands of Great Britain and Ireland and were canonized before the 1054 schism that divided Christendom into the Western Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.

The holiday will be an annual event observed on the third Sunday after Pentecost in the Julian Calendar.

The Synod, which met on Tuesday, also ordered that these saints' names be included in the Menology after their Christian exploits have been studied.

The Synod's decision follows an appeal of March 3, 2007, in which the diocese of Sourozh, a Russian Orthodox diocese having the islands of Great Britain and Ireland for its territory, asked the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexy II, and its Holy Synod to institute a holiday for pre-1054 British and Irish saints.

All Saints of Britain and Ireland pray to God for us.
 

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I'd like to post some Lives of the Celtic Saints as their feastdays come along through the year.  But there are about 15,000 - too many to post all of them!

I put out a daily e-mail via Yahoo! with their Lives if anyone is interested in subscribing.

Lives of the Celtic Saints  - by daily e-mail
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/celt-saints

 

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Father,

Can you post the life of our Holy Mother St Dymphna?

Theophan.
 

PeterTheAleut

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Athanasios said:
Hello,

Can we include those Saints on the Roman Calendar that the Orthodox might not have on theirs (i.e., Saint John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, etc.)?
Not to be insulting or dismissive, but this being an Orthodox Christian discussion forum, I'm not sure that would be such a good idea to post stories of men and women whom we Orthodox don't glorify as saints.  Not my call to make, however (AFAIK).
 

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GOCTheophan said:
Can you post the life of our Holy Mother St Dymphna?
*

From
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/celt-saints/message/2678

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
St. Dympna of Gheel      15 May
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=


Died c. 650. Dympna is said to have been the daughter of a pagan Irish (from Monaghan?), British, or Amorican king and a Christian princess who died when she was very young, but who had baptized her daughter. As Dympna grew into a young woman, her uncanny resemblance to her dead mother aroused an incestuous passion in her father.

On the advice of her confessor, Saint Gerebernus (f.d. today), Dympna fled from home. Accompanied by Gerebernus and attended by the court jester and his wife, she took a ship to Antwerp. She then travelled through wild forest country until she reached a small oratory dedicated to Saint Martin on the site of the present-day town of Gheel (25 miles from Antwerp). The group settled there to live as hermits and during the several months before they were found, Dympna gained a reputation for holiness because of her devotion to the poor and suffering.

Dympna's father had pursued her to Antwerp, and he sent spies who found them by tracing their use of foreign coins. The king tried to persuade her to return, but when she refused, the king ordered that she and Gerebernus be killed. The king's men killed the priest and their companions but hesitated to kill Dympna. The king himself struck off her head with his sword. The bodies were left on the ground. They were buried by angelic or human hands on the site where they had perished.

The whole story gripped the imagination of the entire countryside especially because, according to tradition, lunatics were cured at her grave. Great interest in her cultus was renewed and spread when the translation of the relics of Dympna was followed by the cures of a number of epileptics, lunatics, and persons under evil influences who had visited the shrine.

Under her patronage, the inhabitants of Gheel have been known for the care they have given to those with mental illnesses. By the close of the 13th century, an infirmary was built. Today the town possesses a first-class sanatorium, one of the largest and most efficient colonies for the mentally ill in the world. It was one of the first to initiate a program through which patients live normal and useful lives in the homes of farmers or local residents, whom they assist in their labour and whose family life they share. The strength of Dympna's cultus is evidenced by this compassionate work of the people of Gheel for the mentally ill at a time when they were universally neglected or treated with hostility.

The body of Dympna is preserved in a silver reliquary in the church bearing her name. Only the head of Gerebernus rests there, the remains have been removed to Sonsbeck in the diocese of Muenster.

Many children in Belgium are called Dympna, but in Ireland she is remembered under the form Damhnat, while in England Daphne is used.

Dympna is invoked against insanity, mental illness of all types, asylums for the mentally ill, nurses of the mentally ill, sleepwalking, epilepsy, and demoniac possession (Roeder). Her feast day is kept in Ireland and Gheel.

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The Coptic Synaxarium Reading for: Hatour 29
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The Martyrdom of St. Peter, the Seal of the Martyrs, 17th Pope of Alexandria.
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This day marks the martyrdom of St. Peter, the 17th Pope of Alexandria and the seal of the martyrs. His father was the archpriest of Alexandria whose name was Theodosius, and his mother's name was Sophia.

St Peter's parents were God-fearing people and they had no children. On the fifth day of the Coptic month of Abib, the feast of the Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, St Peter's mother went to church and saw other mothers carrying their children. She was exceedingly sorrowful and she wept. She besought our Lord Jesus Christ with many tears, to grant her a son. That night, Sts Peter and Paul appeared to her and told her that the Lord had accepted her prayers and that He would give her a son, and to call him Peter. They commanded her to go to the Patriarch, to bless her. When she woke up, she told her husband about what she saw and he was exceedingly glad. Then she went to the father, the Patriarch and told him about what she saw and asked him to pray for her. He prayed and blessed her.

Shortly after, she gave birth to this saint and called him Peter. When he was 7 years old, they gave him to Pope Theonas, as was done with Samuel the prophet and he became as a son to him. He placed him in the theological school where he received his education and excelled in preaching and counseling. He then ordained him as a reader, then as a deacon, and shortly after as a priest. He relieved the Pope of many church administrative duties.

Before Pope Theonas' departure, he recommended that Abba Peter be his successor. When he was enthroned on the See of St. Mark, the church was enlightened by his teachings.

It came to pass in the city of Antioch, that a man of high authority had agreed with Diocletian the Emperor, to return to paganism. That man had two children and because of him, their mother could not baptize them there. Therefore, she took them to Alexandria. On her way there, the sea was troubled by a violent storm and she was afraid that her two sons would drown and die without being baptized. She therefore dipped them in the sea three times saying, "In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit," then she cut her breast and with her blood made the sign of the Holy Cross over their foreheads.

Eventually, the troubled sea calmed down and she arrived safely to Alexandria with her sons. On the same day, she brought them to be baptized. Whenever the Patriarch St. Peter tried to baptize them, the water would solidify as stone. This happened three times. When he questioned her, she informed him of what had happened to her at sea. He marvelled and praised God saying, "That is what the church proclaims, that it is one baptism." Therefore, the baptism she performed in the sea was accepted by the Lord.

Also in the days of this Pope, Arius the heretic appeared and St. Peter advised him several times to turn from his wicked thoughts, but he would not hearken to him. Consequently, he excommunicated him and prevented him from fellowship with the church.

Arius contacted Emperor Maximianus, the infidel, and reported to him that Peter, the Patriarch of Alexandria, incited the people not to worship the gods. The Emperor was outraged and he sent messengers with orders to cut off his head. When they arrived in Alexandria, they attacked the people and destroyed most of the cities of Egypt. They robbed all their valuables, their women and children. In total, about 840 thousand of them were killed, some with the sword, some with starvation and some with imprisonment. Then they returned to Alexandria and captured the father, the Patriarch, and imprisoned him.

When the people heard about their shepherd's arrest, they gathered in front of the prison door and wanted to save him by force. The officer in charge of his slaying was worried that the general peace would be disrupted, so he postponed the execution till the next day. When the saint saw what had happened, he wanted to deliver himself to death for his people, for he feared what might happen to his flock. He wished to depart and be with Christ, without causing any disturbances or troubles. He sent for his people and he comforted them and advised them to adhere to the true faith.

When Arius, the infidel, learned that St. Peter was departing to be with the Lord, leaving him under the band of excommunication, he entreated him, through the high priests, to absolve him. St. Peter refused and told them that the Lord Christ had appeared to him this night in a vision, wearing a torn robe. St. Peter asked Him, "My Lord, who rent Your robe?" The Lord replied, "Arius has rent My robe, because he separated Me from My Father. Beware of accepting him."

After this, St. Peter summoned the Emperor's messenger in secret and advised him to dig a hole in the prison's wall on the side where there were no Christians. The officer was amazed at the bravery of the father and he did as he commanded him. He took him out of prison secretly and brought him outside the city, to where the tomb of St. Mark the evangelist, Egypt's evangelist. There, he kneeled down and asked the Lord, "Let the shedding of my blood mark the end of the worship of idols and be the end of the shedding of the blood of Christians." A voice came from heaven and was heard by a saintly virgin who was near that place. It said, "Amen. May it be to you according to your wishes." When he finished his prayer, the swordsman advanced and cut off his holy head.

The body remained in its place until the people went out hurriedly from the city to the place where he was martyred, because they did not know what had happened. They took the pure body and dressed it in the pontifical clothes and seated him on the seat of St. Mark, which he refused to sit on during his life. He used to say that he saw the power of God sitting on the Chair and therefore, he did not dare to sit on it.

Then they placed his body with the bodies of the saints. He occupied the throne of St. Mark for 11 years.

His prayers be with us. Amen.
 

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One of the most important and attractive individuals to appear among the Greek people during the period they were subject to the Ottoman Turks was a diminutive monk named Kosmas. Because he was a native of the province of Aitolia in western Greece, he is best known as Kosmas the Aitolian, although among the people of his time he was simply referred to as Father Kosmas.

His love, concern, and tireless labor among ordinary people, his honest and forthright preaching, his unassuming character, his sterling and uncompromising personality, and his great love for and dedication to Jesus Christ earned for him the titles of 'Equal to the Apostles,' 'Teacher of the Greek Nation,' and the 'Apostle of the Poor.'

The impact Father Kosmas had on the people-both lay and clergy-was such that he was considered a saint many years before he was cruelly put to death by the Turks. The secret of his great success was due, above all, to the fact that he not only preached the Gospel but lived it in such a way that many who heard him were moved to follow in his footsteps.

According to Kostes Loverdos, a writer of the past century:

The anchorite and hieromonk Kosmas arrived [in Kephallenia] in 1777. Initially, he preached in the rural areas and then in the city, being followed by thousands of inhabitants of every class and sex. The austerity of his character, the evangelical simplicity of his words and the power of his arguments brought about such a transformation of life that families that were enemies were seen living together as brothers, having exchanged the kiss of peace and asking of each other forgiveness. Men who had committed serious crimes were seen crying bitterly over their sins. Broken marriages of long standing were restored again. Prostitutes abandoned their shameful work and returned filled with repentance and prudence. Rich upper class young ladies gave away their valuable jewelry to the poor or to churches. Court trials ceased. Stolen articles were returned. Insults were forgiven. Depraved men took up the monastic habit and followed the preacher. In a few words, the appearance of the island was transformed." (See Historia tes nesou Kephallenias. . . [Kephallenia, 18881, pp. 171-72.)

Kosmas, who was baptized Konstas, was born in a mountain village named Mega Dendron (Great Tree) in 1714 to parents who hailed from Epiros but had moved to the province of Aitolia, where they worked as weavers. Kosmas remained and worked with his parents until the age of twenty. He had received little or no formal education during this time, although his brother Chrysanthos had given him the rudiments, of an education when he was much younger.

Unhappy with his life and with his inability to understand the Gospel which he loved to hear in church, Kosmas decided to leave his village and his parents to receive an education.

Kosmas first attended the school in the village of Segditsa. Later he moved on to the School in Lompotina, where he studied with the teacher Ananias Dervisianos. In four years, Kosmas had made such progress in his studies that he was appointed an assistant teacher in the same school.

Kosmas, however, did not confine himself to teaching; he often preached in the church as well, thus giving an early expression to what would be his life's work.

From the village of Lompotina Kosmas moved on to the school in the village of Gouva, in the area of Vragiana, whose school was directed by his brother Chrysanthos. There Kosmas studied Greek, theology, and even some medicine. The latter would prove very useful to him during his ministry among the poor and often illiterate mountain populations he felt called to serve.

How long Kosmas remained in Vragiana is not known. Nor do we know many details of his life for the next ten years, for Father Kosmas rarely spoke of himself, and his biographer and disciple, Sapheiros Christodoulides, adds few facts. Father Kosmas was too modest, while Christodoulides was more interested in the Teaching of Kosmas and in the miracles that accompanied his preaching and work than in biographical details.

Once, feeling the need to introduce himself to his audience, Kosmas said:


My false, earthly, and fruitless homeland is the province of Arta, in the district of Apokouro. My father, my mother, my family are pious Orthodox Christians. However, I too am, my brethren, a sinful man, worse than anyone. But I'm a servant of our Lord Jesus Christ who was crucified - . . . Leaving my homeland fifty years ago, I traveled to many places . . . and especially to Constantinople. I stayed the longest on the Holy Mountain, seventeen years, where I wept over my sins. (See page 157)

We know that Kosmas went to Mount Athos in 1749 to attend the Theological Academy established there in the same year by Patriarch Kyrillos V (I 748-5 1 ; 1752-57) at the Monastery of the Great Lavra. At Athonias, the name by which the Academy was known, Kosmas studied under such well-known clergymen-teachers as Neophytos Kafsokalyvites, Panagiotes Palamas, and especially Evgenios Voulgares, who was the school's most distinguished director and teacher.

Unfortunately for theological education, within ten years trouble and conflict arose in the Academy which resulted in Voulgares' departure. Months later, Kosmas also left (the Academy would close within the next year) and entered the Monastery of Philotheou where he became a monk, changing his name from Konstas to Kosmas.

In Kosmas' own words: "I stayed the longest on the Holy Mountain, seventeen years, where I wept over my sins. Among the countless gifts which my Lord has granted me, he made me worthy to acquire a little Greek learning and I became a monk." (page 15)

Months later, Kosmas the monk responded to the invitation of his fellow monks and was ordained deacon and then priest. But the life of a cloistered monk was insufficient for Kosmas. He felt the very strong need to leave the quiet of the monastery to enter the 'world' and serve his fellow Christians. "Studying the holy and sacred Gospel," he said, "I found in it many and different teachings which are all pearls, diamonds, treasures, riches, joy, gladness eternal life. Among the other things I also found this teaching which Christ says to us: no Christian, man or woman, should be concerned only with himself, how he can be saved, but must be concerned also with his brethren so that they may not fall into sin." (pages 15-16)

Convinced that he had a call to preach, Kosmas received permission from Patriarch Sophronios 11 of Constantinople (1757-61). For the next nineteen years, beginning in 1760, Father Kosmas became an itinerant preacher, spending most of his time among the poorest and most unfortunate of his fellow Orthodox Christians. Traveling on foot, by donkey and by ship, followed by scores and often by hundreds and even thousands of men and women, priests and monks, Kosmas undertook three 'apostolic' journeys. The first took him from Mt. Athos to Constantinople (Istanbul), through European Turkey and Macedonia, Thessaly, and Aitolia, crossing over to the island of Kephallenia. On his second journey he covered much of the same provinces except that he visited the islands of Skiathos and Skopelos instead of Kephallenia and spent much additional time in Aitolia, going northward into Epiros and southern and central Albania. His third and final journey was spent primarily in Albania, Epiros, Aitolia and Thessaly, but also included the Ionian Islands, the Kyklades, and even some of the Dodecanese Islands.

Among the factors contributing to Kosmas' enormous success as a preacher were his humility and his identification with the people among whom he moved and worked.

"Not only," he said of himself, "am I not worthy to teach you, but not even worthy to kiss your feet, for each of you is worth more than the entire world." (page 14) On another occasion he said: "I'm a servant of our Lord God Jesus Christ who was crucified. Not that I'm worthy to be a servant of Christ, but Christ condescended to have me because of his compassion." (page 15)

He spoke in their language, taking his illustrations from the experiences and surroundings with which they were familiar. He was selfless, ex ' pending all of his time and energy in the service of others, while never accepting any payment for his services.

Hearing, my brethren, this sweetest teaching which our Christ spoke, that we should labor among our brethren without charge, it seemed to me in the beginning to be very hard. Later, however, it seemed very sweet, like a honeycomb, and I glorified and glorify my Christ a thousand times because he guarded me from the passion for money. So with the grace of our Lord and God Jesus Christ, the Crucified One, I have neither purse, nor house, nor chest, nor another cassock from the one I am wearing." (pages 16-17)

Although he was a monk who believed monks could only be saved if they remained in monasteries, Father deliberately took Ms chances:

A monk can't be saved in any other way except to escape far from the world . . . But you may say, you too are a monk. Why are you involved in the world? I too, my brethren, do wrong. But because our race has fallen into ignorance, I said to myself, let Christ lose me, one sheep, and let him win the others. Perhaps God's compassion and your prayers will save me too." (page 111)

In addition to feeding the soul, Father Kosmas attempted to feed the body as well as the mind. He spoke out against social injustices, against the abuse of the poor and uneducated and against the inequities that existed between men and women. Moreover, Kosmas was a great foe of illiteracy and a strong advocate of education.

Against social injustice and the abuse of the poor by the economically more affluent he said:


We too, my brethren, if we wish to call our God father must be compassionate, and cause our brethren to rejoice, and then we can call God father. If, however, we are merciless, hardhearted, and we cause our brethren to be poisoned, we put death in their hearts." (page 22)

On another occasion he urged:


You elders who are heads of the villages, if you wish to be saved, should love all the Christians as your children and should apportion taxes according to each person's ability to pay and not play favorites. (page 53)

Against what today we could call male chauvinism, Kosmas boldly preached to the mountaineers of Epiros and Albania:

Don't treat your wife like a slave, because she is God's creature as you are. God was crucified for you as he was for her. You call God father; she calls him father too. You have one faith, one baptism. God does not consider her inferior. (page 28)
On another occasion he said:

There are women who are better than men. If perhaps you men wish to be better than women, you must do better works than they do. If women do better works they go to paradise and we men who do evil works go to hell. What does it profit us if we are men? It would be better if we were not born. (pages 97-98)

On the subject of schools and education, Father Kosmas said:

It is better, my brother, for you to have a Greek school in your village rather than fountains and rivers, for when your child becomes educated, then he is a human being. The school opens churches; the school opens monasteries. (page 77)
He advised the people of the town of Parga: "Take care to establish without fail a Greek School in which your children will learn all that you are ignorant of." Kosmas believed that our faith wasn't established by ignorant saints, but by wise and educated saints who interpreted the Holy Scriptures accurately and who enlightened us sufficiently by inspired teachings." (page 145)

Father Kosmas was persuasive enough so that in over two hundred towns and villages he was instrumental in establishing schools where none existed before. His moral authority was such that he was able not only to raise the money needed to establish the schools and to maintain them, but with the consent of the inhabitants to appoint teachers and overseers for those schools, as illustrated from his letters.

I appointed, with the consent of all, Mr. Ioannes, son of Panos, trustee; and Mr. Demos, son of Ioannes the priest, and Mr. Stavros, son of Demos, overseers and his assistants to govern the school as the Lord inspires them. '(page 150)
Kosmas' invaluable and fundamental contribution to education has caused the Greek people to regard him as a 'National Saint' and a 'Teacher of the Nation.'

"My beloved children in Christ," he said, "bravely and fearlessly preserve our holy faith and the language of our Fathers, because both of these characterize our most beloved homeland, and without them our nation is destroyed." (page 146).

Father Kosmas' primary interest in education, however, was religious. He saw in education an indispensable tool for the understanding of Orthodoxy. "Schools enlighten people. They open the eyes of the pious and Orthodox Christians to learn the Sacraments." (page 91 ) In another Teaching he said: "Schools may open the way to the church. We learn what God is, what the Holy Trinity is, what an angel is, what virtues, demons, and hell are." (page 108) Elsewhere he noted: "Blessed Christians, a large number of churches neither preserve nor strengthen our faith as much as they should if those who believe in God aren't enlightened by both the Old and New Testaments." (page 145)

In the eighteenth century the Orthodox Church was faced with a growing number of defections among the poor and illiterate Orthodox to Islam, especially in the areas of Albania and western Greece. There the Orthodox were under especially severe social, economic, and religious pressures by the dominant Moslems. It was Father Kosmas' belief that the establishment of schools where the Orthodox faith would be taught would be able to stem the tide.

So, my children, [he advised the people of Parga] to safeguard your faith and the freedom of your homeland, take care to establish without fail a Greek School. (page 145)
But Father Kosmas was realistic enough to know that this was not enough. "How can our nation be preserved," he asked, "without harm in its religion and freedom when the sacred clergy is disastrously ignorant of the meaning of the Holy Scriptures which are the light and foundation of the faith?" (page 145)

The only schools available at that time, besides the Moslem schools, were those conducted in Greek. This is why Kosmas discouraged the use of other languages (Albanian and Romanian) and strongly urged the Orthodox to use Greek. "Teach [your children] their letters, and especially Greek, because our Church uses the Greek language." (page 80)

Perhaps the most significant of Father Kosmas' teachings is his treatment of Christian love. For this 'Apostle of Love,' love is not something a person theorizes about, but something that one practices.

Kosmas never tired of saying:

God has many names ... but his principle name is love ... All Christians must have two loves, one for God and one for our fellow human beings. Without [these two loves], it is impossible to be saved. (pages 90-91)
Standing on a low pulpit a gift of one of the local Turkish officials-in front of a large wooden Cross, as was his custom, Father Kosmas was not content merely to repeat the above words concerning love, but he immediately challenged people to love and translate this love into effective and meaningful assistance to those in need. Agreeing that love was important and necessary was meaningless for Father Kosmas unless one was willing to prove it with deeds.

"How can I determine, my son, whether or not you love your brethren?" he challenged someone in his audience.

"Do you love that poor boy?" "I do," was the reply.

"If You loved him you would buy him a shirt because he is naked ... Will you do it?"

"Yes." (page 22)

Father Kosmas was able to challenge his listeners to respond Positively to the call to love because he himself was an example of that kind of love. Therefore, when he said: "Perfect love is to sell all your possessions and to give alms, and even to sell yourself as a slave, and whatever you get to give in alms," and "whoever has wronged any Christian, Jew or Turk, return what you have taken unjustly because it is cursed and You'll never get ahead," his listeners responded immediately and Positively. (pages 46, 63)

Father Kosmas took his vow of poverty very seriously and never accepted anything for himself. But money was given to his followers and disciples. This money, however, was used to buy various articles which were distributed by the thousands among the people: kerchiefs, combs, crosses, prayer ropes, candles, booklets, and even baptismal fonts.

Consequently, when he advised men to allow their beards to grow, he provided them with combs which they could not buy for themselves. When he urged women to cover their heads, he gave them kerchiefs. When he advised parents to baptize their children, he helped provide various churches with baptismal fonts, and finally, when he counseled Christians to practice the Jesus Prayer he distributed prayer ropes to aid them in their concentration.

Any preacher who deals with social issues is bound to alienate some people whose interests are threatened. This happened to Father Kosmas as well. This attempt to elevate the educational level of the people and to eliminate illiteracy displeased those who preferred people ignorant. Village elders, landowners, and wealthy merchants felt their interests threatened when Father Kosmas called for just taxation, fair prices,
and equitable rents.

The atmosphere created by the unsuccessful revolution of the Greeks in the Peloponnese in 1770, inspired and led by the Orlov brothers, together with the real and imagined presence of Russian agents among the Orthodox people of the Balkans, made it easy for the Ottoman Turks to believe that Father Kosmas was himself an agent. Undoubtedly, the thousands of people who left their fields and jobs to follow Father Kosmas from place to place added to the uneasiness of the Turks and raised grave suspicions about his activities.

Father Kosmas waged a strong battle against the desecration of the Christian Sabbath. Town fairs and country bazaars were often held on Sundays, something Kosmas opposed and did everything in his power to change. He insisted that they be held on Saturdays. In this he was opposed by Jewish merchants, who naturally did not wish to engage in commerce on their own Sabbath. Allied with them were Christian merchants for whom Sunday was also more convenient. Consequently, Father Kosmas' death was fashioned by many interests: Christian, Jewish, and Turkish.

On 24 August 1779, Father Kosmas was in the city of Berat, Albania. Permission to seize him was secured from the local governor, Kurt Pasha, who was generously bribed and who heard Kosmas falsely accused of various crimes. To prevent any demonstration on the part of Father Kosmas' followers, he was apprehended in secret and many of his closest friends were imprisoned in a neighboring monastery.

Father Kosmas was taken to the neighboring village of Kalinkontasi, where he was hanged. After he died, his body was thrown into a nearby river from which it was retrieved a few days later by the priest Markos of the same village. Father Kosmas was buried in Father Markos' church with Metropolitan Ioasaph of Velegrada in attendance.

It is interesting to note that the initiative for the first church to be built in memory of Father Kosmas was taken by the Moslem ruler of Albania, Ali Pasha, who held Father Kosmas in high esteem not only because he believed Kosmas to be a holy man but also because Kosmas had earlier predicted great success for him.

In 1810 Ali Pasha became master of the city of Berat and its environs. Within four years he succeeded in raising the money required to build the first church in honor of St. Kosmas. Moreover, he personally contributed not only toward the building of the church but paid to have a silver reliquary made in which Kosmas' skull was placed and saw to it that the Saint's service (akolouthia) was composed. It was later printed in Venice by the Epirot printer Nicholas Glykys.

The people whom Father Kosmas loved and served did not wait for any official proclamation of his sainthood (this took place almost two hundred years later on 20 April 1961) to honor him as one of God's special servants. Father Kosmas became one of the most popular saints among Greek and Albanian Christians, a popularity which has increased as time has gone by.



 

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PROPHECIES AND SAYINGS of St. Kosmas


You will see people flying in the sky like blackbirds and hurling fire on the earth. Those alive then will run to the graves and shout: "Come out, you who are dead, and let us who are living in."

The cause of the general war will come from Dalmatia. Austria will be dismembered first and then Turkey.

That which is desired [i.e., freedom] will come in the third generation. Your grandchildren will see it.

France will liberate Greece, [while] Italy (will liberate) Epiros.

The villages of the plain will suffer destruction, while people at the foot of (Mount) Kissavo will go to sleep slaves and will awaken free.

The time will come when your enemies will take away from you even the ashes from your fires, but don't give up your faith as others will do.

The red hats [ie., the French] will come here [Kephallenia], and then the English for fifty-four years, and then this place will become Roman [i.e., Greek Orthodox].

The time will come when people will speak from one far place to another, for example, from Constantinople to Russia, as though they were in adjoining rooms.

A time will come when the harmony that exists now between clergy and laymen will not be.

Clergymen will become worse and more impious than everyone.

People will become impoverished because they will have no love for trees.

You will see in the plain a carriage without horses which will run faster than a rabbit.

The rich will become poor and the poor will die.

The time will come when the Romans [i.e., the Greek Orthodox] will fight among themselves. I recommend harmony and love.

A foreign army will come. It will believe in Christ, but it will not speak the (Greek) language.

After the general war, the wolf will live with the lamb.

People will become poor because they will become lazy.

They will ask for your rifles. Retain two. Give one and keep the other. A single rifle will save a hundred souls.

Out of schools will come things which your mind can't imagine.

http://www.stmaryofegypt.org/kosmas/prophecies.html

 

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PeterTheAleut said:
Not to be insulting or dismissive, but this being an Orthodox Christian discussion forum, I'm not sure that would be such a good idea to post stories of men and women whom we Orthodox don't glorify as saints.  Not my call to make, however (AFAIK).
You might start a parrallel thread on the Orthodox-Catholic forum.

You might want to put ones like Josaphat Kuntsevych on the private forum.
 

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Hello,

ialmisry said:
You might start a parrallel thread on the Orthodox-Catholic forum.

You might want to put ones like Josaphat Kuntsevych on the private forum.
I was just going to ask that very question. Well, you know what they say about great minds ... ;)
 

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The Holy and Right-Believing Emperor Justinian I and Empress Theodora

Commemorated on:

November 14th


Justinian

Justinian's full name was Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Justinianus. He is said to be of Slavic descent, probably born in a small village called Tauresium in Illyricum, near Scupi (present day Skopje, Macedonia), on May 11, 483, to Vigilantia. His mother Vigilantia was the sister of the highly esteemed General Justin, who rose from the ranks of the army to become emperor. His uncle adopted him and ensured the boy's education. Justinian was superbly well educated in jurisprudence, theology and Roman history. His military career featured rapid advancement, and a great future opened up for him when, in 518, Justin became emperor. Justinian was appointed consul in 521, and later as commander of the army of the east. He was functioning as virtual regent long before Justin made him associate emperor on April 1, 527.

Four months later, Justinian became the sole sovereign upon Justin I's death. His administration had world-wide impact, constituting a distinct epoch in the history of the Byzantine Empire and the Orthodox Church. He was a man of unusual capacity for work (sometimes called the "emperor who never sleeps") and possessed a temperate, affable, and lively character, but he was also unscrupulous and crafty when it served him. He was the last emperor to attempt to restore the Roman Empire to the territories it enjoyed under Theodosius I.

He surrounded himself with men and women of extraordinary talent, "new men" culled not from the aristocratic ranks, but appointed based on merit. In 523 he married Theodora, who was by profession a courtesan (or actress or circus performer, according which source one believes) about 20 years his junior. According to the historian Procopius, notorious for his slanderous dislike of the royal couple, Justinian is said to have met her at a show where she and a trained goose performed Leda and the Swan, a play that managed to mock Greek mythology and Christian morality at the same time. Justinian would have, in earlier times, been unable to marry her because of her class, but his uncle Emperor Justin I had passed a law allowing intermarriage between social classes. Theodora would become very influential in the politics of the empire, and later emperors would follow Justinian's precedent and marry outside of the aristocratic class. The marriage was a source of scandal, but Theodora would prove to be very intelligent, "street smart," a good judge of character, and Justinian's greatest supporter.

Justinian achieved lasting influence for his judicial reforms, notably the summation of all Roman law, something that had never been done before. Justinian commissioned quaestor Tribonian to the task, and he issued the first draft of the Corpus Juris Civilis on April 7, 529, in three parts: Digesta (or Digest or Pandectae), Institutiones (or Institutes), and the Codex. The Corpus forms the basis of Latin jurisprudence (including ecclesiastical canon law: "ecclesia vivit lege romana," "the Church lives under Roman law"). It ensured the survival of Roman law, which would pass to the West in the 12th century and later to Eastern Europe, including Russia. It remains influential to this day.

Justinian also took a very firm stance in his support of Orthodoxy; he fought different heresies throughout his rule. At the beginning of his reign, he promulgated by law belief in the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation, and subsequently declared that he would deprive all disturbers of orthodoxy due process of law. He made the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed the sole symbol of the Church and accorded legal force to the canons of the four Ecumenical Councils. At the command of the sovereign, the Fifth Ecumenical Council was convened in the year 553, censuring the teachings of Origen and affirming the definitions of the Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon. He also attempted to secure religious unity within the Empire through his (unsuccessful) dialogues with the non-Chalcedonians. He appointed Theodora, a convert from Monophysitism, as his special envoy to deal with those who rejected Chalcedon. Besides Monophysitism, other ecclesiastical tensions had begun to emerge between the East and the West; the "Three Chapters" controversy brought all of these to a head.

The Emperor was instrumental in the building of numerous churches. He gave orders to build 90 churches for the newly-converted and generously supported church construction within the Empire. The finest structures of the time are considered to be the monastery at Sinai, and the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. Under St. Justinian many churches were built dedicated to the Theotokos. Since he had received a broad education, St. Justinian assiduously concerned himself with the education of clergy and monks, ordering them to be instructed in rhetoric, philosophy, and theology. He neglected no opportunity for securing the rights of the Church and clergy, for protecting and extending monasticism: his law codes contain many enactments regarding donations, foundations, and the administration of ecclesiastical property; election and rights of bishops, priests, and abbots; monastic life, residential obligations of the clergy, conduct of divine service, and episcopal jurisdiction.

Justinian's standardization of the Divine Liturgy included introducing the Cherubic Hymn, and two oft-used troparia of the Church, Only Begotten Son and O Gladsome Light are traditionally accredited to him.

In his personal life, St. Justinian was strictly pious, and he fasted often. During Great Lent he would not eat bread nor drink wine, but lived on only water and vegetables. He is also remembered for promoting the idea of "symphony" between church and state.


Theodora

There are two histories concerning the early life of Theodora. The best known account is the Secret History allegedly written by Procopius. Its authorship is questioned by most scholars because it was discovered in the Vatican three centuries after the empress's death and the style of the writing bears no resemblance to Procopius's other works. According to this account, Theodora was born into the lowest class of Byzantine society, the daughter of a bearkeeper for the circus. Critics of this work dismiss it as pornographic and western propaganda.

The second source was written by Bishop Eusebius, a contemporary of Theodora. Eusebius states that she was the daughter of a Roman senator who died during Theodora's early childhood. After her father's death, Theodora and her mother lived in Egypt, where her mother died soon after. According to Eusebius, Theodora spent the remaining part of her young life in an Egyptian monastery, which accounted for her sympathetic views of Monophysitism.

It is believed by some scholars that sometime before meeting Justinian she became an adherent of the Monophysite Christianity, which claims Christ was of one nature, and remained their partisan throughout her life. Others instead argue that her association with Monophysitism is largely because of Justinian's putting her in charge of courting the Monophysites' reunion with the Chalcedonian party in the Church, and so while remaining Chalcedonian herself, she was pastorally favorable toward the non-Chalcedonians.

In 523 Theodora married Justinian, the magister militum praesentalis in Constantinople. On his ascension to the Roman Imperial throne in 527 as Justinian I, he made her joint ruler of the empire, and appears to have regarded her as a full partner in their rulership. This proved to be a wise decision. A strong-willed woman, she showed a notable talent for governance. In the Nika riots of 532, her advice and leadership for a strong (and militant) response caused the riot to be quelled and probably saved the empire. She also helped to mitigate the breach in Christianity that loomed large over her time; she probably had a large part in Justinian's efforts to reconcile the Monophysites to orthodoxy.

Many regard Theodora's achievements for women not as those of a modern feminist who encouraged abortion or adultery but rather as those of a truly egalitarian ruler who strove to give women the same legal rights as men. Theodora freed prostitutes from their pimps, established homes for them, and passed laws prohibiting forced prostitution. She also advocated granting women more rights in divorce cases, allowing women to own and inherit property, enacting the death penalty for rape, and allowing noblemen to marry women from lower classes. These changes raised women's status far above that current in the Western portion of the Empire.

Theodora died of cancer (probably breast cancer) before the age of 50, some 20 years before Justinian died. Her body was buried in the Church of the Holy Apostles, one of the splendid churches the emperor and empress had built in Constantinople. Both Theodora and Justinian are represented in beautiful mosaics that exist to this day in the Church of San Vitale at Ravenna in northern Italy, which was completed a year before her death.
 

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St. John the Damascene, Hymnwriter and Defender of the Faith
Commemorated on December 4 (my patron saint)

--From the Lives of Saints by by Saint Nikolai (Velimirovich) Bishop of Zhica

John was first the chief minister to Caliph Abdul-Malik and later a monk in the Monastery of St. Sava the Sanctified. Because of his ardent defense of the veneration of icons during the reign of the iconoclastic Emperor Leo the Isaurian, John was maligned by the emperor to the Caliph, who cut off his right hand. John fell down in prayer before the icon of the Most-holy Theotokos, and his hand was rejoined and miraculously healed. Seeing this miracle the Caliph repented, but John no longer desired to remain with him as a nobleman. Instead, he withdrew to a monastery, where, from the beginning, he was a model to the monks in humility, obedience and all the prescribed rules of monastic asceticism. John composed the Funeral Hymns and compiled the Octoechos (The Book of Eight Tones), the Irmologion, the Menologion and the Paschal Canon, and he wrote many theological works of inspiration and profundity. A great monk, hymnographer, theologian and soldier for the truth of Christ, Damascene is numbered among the great Fathers of the Church. He entered peacefully into rest in about the year 776 at the age of 104.

HYMN OF PRAISE
Saint John Damascene


O wondrous trumpet of the Orthodox Faith,
O glorious monk of a glorious cenobium,
John the poet, champion of the Faith,
Holy sufferer for the holy icons,
Having glorified God you are now glorified;
Immortal trumpeter of eternal life,
You left the world for the sake of the Living Christ.
Having humbled yourself, you are glorified the more.
You took upon yourself the path of asceticism;
Through tears you beheld the heavenly mysteries;
By prayer and faith you performed miracles;
You conversed with the Mother of God.
The Faith-who could better expound it?
Who could glorify God with a sweeter hymn?
O harp of eternal truth, there is none like you,
No one like you, glorious Father Damascene.
Oh, raise even now your pure mouth,
And implore the Life-giving Christ for us,
That His mercy accompany us until death,
That we with you may glorify Him.


REFLECTION


Obedience, coupled with humility, is the foundation of the spiritual life, the foundation of salvation and the foundation of the overall structure of the Church of God. The great John Damascene-great in every good thing-as a monk left a deep impression on the history of the Church by his exceptional example of obedience and humility. Testing him one day, his elder and spiritual father handed him woven baskets and ordered him to take them to Damascus and sell them there. The elder established a very high price for the baskets, thinking that John would not be able to sell them at that price but would have to return with them. John, therefore, firstly had to go on a long journey; secondly, he had to go as a poor monk to the city where he, at one time, had been the most powerful man after the Caliph; thirdly, he had to seek a ridiculously high price for the baskets; and fourthly, should he not sell the baskets, he would have made this enormous journey, there and back, for nothing. In this way, the elder wished to test the obedience, humility and patience of his famous disciple. John silently prostrated before the elder and, without a word, took the baskets and started on his journey. Arriving in Damascus, he stood in the market place and awaited a buyer. When he told the interested passers-by the price of his goods, they laughed at and mocked him as a lunatic. He stood there the whole day, and the whole day he was exposed to derision and ridicule. But God, Who sees all things, did not abandon His patient servant. A certain citizen passed by and looked at John. Even though John was clad in a poor monk's habit and his face was withered and pale from fasting, this citizen recognized in him the one-time lord and first minister of the Caliph, in whose service he had also been. John also recognized him, but they both began to deal as strangers. Even though John named the all-too-high price of the baskets, the citizen purchased and paid for them without a word, recalling the good that John Damascene had once done for him. As a victor, holy John returned to the monastery rejoicing, and brought joy to his elder.


 

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Athanasios said:
Hello,

Can we include those Saints on the Roman Calendar that the Orthodox might not have on theirs (i.e., Saint John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, etc.)?
Athanasios said:
Hello,

I was just going to ask that very question. Well, you know what they say about great minds ... ;)
So go ahead and start a new thread in Orth-Cath!
 

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St. John of Otzoon:

St. John of Otzoon served as Catholicos Hovhan between 717 and 728 A.D.  Born in the province of Dashratz in the village of Otzoon, he studied with celebrated theologians.  During the Arab rule of Armenia, he endeared himself to Arab leaders and ushered in a period of tolerance and cooperation.  Through his farsightedness, statesmanship, and piety, he secured some basic and important rights for Armenian Christians, such as religious freedom, exemption from taxes for churches, and the right to worship freely.  He also stopped forced conversion of Christians to Islam. 
As a writer, he contributed to the Book of Sharagans, and wrote many epistles and essays.  Respected for his personality, for being righteous, pious, brave, and humble, in addition to being a great statesmen and writer, St. John lived his later years as a monk in a mountain monastery.

http://www.armenianchurch.net/prayer/saints/johns.html
 

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Saint Lucy - December 13

Lucy's name means "light", with the same root as "lucid" which means "clear, radiant, understandable." Unfortunately for us, Lucy's history does not match her name. Shrouded in the darkness of time, all we really know for certain is that this brave woman who lived in Syracuse lost her life in the persecution of Christians in the early fourth century. Her veneration spread to Rome so that by the sixth century the whole Church recognized her courage in defense of the faith.

Because people wanted to shed light on Lucy's bravery, legends grew up. The one that is passed down to us tells the story of a young Christian woman who had vowed her life to the service of Christ. Her mother tried to arrange a marriage for her with a pagan. Lucy apparently knew that her mother would not be convinced by a young girl's vow so she devised a plan to convince her mother that Christ was a much more powerful partner for life. Through prayers at the tomb of Saint Agatha, her mother's long illness was cured miraculously. The grateful mother was now ready to listen to Lucy's desire to give her money to the poor and commit her life to God.

Unfortunately, legend has it, the rejected bridegroom did not see the same light and he betrayed Lucy to the governor as a Christian. This governor tried to send her into prostitution but the guards who came to take her way found her stiff and heavy as a mountain. Finally she was killed. As much as the facts of Lucy's specific case are unknown, we know that many Christians suffered incredible torture and a painful death for their faith during Diocletian's reign. Lucy may not have been burned or had a sword thrust through her throat but many Christians did and we can be sure her faith withstood tests we can barely imagine.

Lucy's name is probably also connected to statues of Lucy holding a dish with two eyes on it. This refers to another legend in which Lucy's eyes were put out by Diocletian as part of his torture. The legend concludes with God restoring Lucy's eyes.

Lucy's name also played a large part in naming Lucy as a patron saint of the blind and those with eye-trouble.

Whatever the fact to the legends surrounding Lucy, the truth is that her courage to stand up and be counted a Christian in spite of torture and death is the light that should lead us on our own journeys through life.
 

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Sts. Hermagoras and Fortunatus  -  July 12

Died c. 66. According to tradition, Hermagoras was chosen by Saint Mark to tend his converts in Aquileia, Italy, of which he was consecrated first bishop by Saint Peter. With his deacon Fortunatus, Hermagorus preached in the area until arrested by Sebastius, a representative of Emperor Nero, and then was tortured and beheaded with Fortunatus. Fortunatus's connection with Hermagorus, despite the tradition, has never been proven, but he did suffer martyrdom in Aquileia.





Icon of the Episcopal Consecration of St. Hermagoras, Bishop in Aquileia. On the left is St. Peter the Apostle, performing the consecration. In the centre is St. Hermagoras. On the right is St. Mark (St. Hermagoras was the disciple of St. Mark the Evangelist).

Source
 

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St. Juliana of Lazarevo:

Righteous Juliana of Lazarevo and Murom presents an astonishing example of a self-denying Russian Christian woman. She was the daughter of the nobleman Justin Nediurev. From her early years she lived devoutly, kept the fasts strictly and set aside much time for prayer. Early on having become orphaned, she was given over into the care of relatives, who did not take to her and laughed at her. Juliana bore everything with patience and without complaint. Her love for people was expressed by nursing the sick and sewing clothing for the poor.

The pious and virtuous life of the maiden attracted the attention of the Lazarevo village owner, Yurii Osoryin, who soon married her. The husband's parents loved their gentle daughter-in-law and left the running of the household in her hands. Domestic concerns did not disrupt the spiritual efforts of Juliana. She always found time for prayer and she was always prepared to feed the orphaned and clothe the poor. During a harsh famine, she herself remained without food, having given away her last morsel to someone begging. When an epidemic started after the famine, Juliana devoted herself completely to the nursing of the sick.

Righteous Juliana had six sons and a daughter. After the death of two of her sons she decided to withdraw to a monastery, but her husband persuaded her to remain in the world, and to continue to raise their children. On the testimony of Juliana's son, Kallistrat Osoryin, who wrote her Life, at this time she became all the more demanding towards herself: she intensified her fasting and prayer, slept not more than two hours at night, and then laying her head upon a board.

Upon the death of her husband, Juliana distributed to the poor her portion of the inheritance. Living in extreme poverty, she was none the less vivacious, cordial, and in everything she thanked the Lord. The saint was vouchsafed a visitation by St Nicholas the Wonderworker and guidance by the Mother of God in church. When Righteous Juliana fell asleep in the Lord, she was then buried beside her husband at the church of St Lazarus. Here also her daughter, the schemanun Theodosia was buried. In 1614 the relics of Righteous Juliana were uncovered, exuding a fragrant myrrh, from which many received healing.

(Taken from OCA.org.)
 

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Venerable Sava the Sanctified

Commemorated on December 5

Saint Sava the Sanctified was born in the fifth century at Cappadocia of pious Christian parents, John and Sophia. His father was a military commander. Journeying to Alexandria on military matters, his wife went with him, but they left their five-year-old son in the care of an uncle. When the boy reached eight years of age, he entered the monastery of St Flavian located nearby. The gifted child quickly learned to read and became an expert on the Holy Scriptures. In vain did his parents urge St Sava to return to the world and enter into marriage.

When he was seventeen years old he received monastic tonsure, and attained such perfection in fasting and prayer that he was given the gift of wonderworking. After spending ten years at the monastery of St Flavian, he went to Jerusalem, and from there to the monastery of St Euthymius the Great (January 20). But St Euthymius sent St Sava to Abba Theoctistus, the head of a nearby monastery with a strict cenobitic rule. St Sava lived in obedience at this monastery until the age of thirty.

After the death of the Elder Theoctistus, his successor blessed St Sava to seclude himself in a cave. On Saturdays, however, he left his hermitage and came to the monastery, where he participated in divine services and ate with the brethren. After a certain time St Sava received permission not to leave his hermitage at all, and he struggled in the cave for five years.

St Euthymius attentively directed the life of the young monk, and seeing his spiritual maturity, he began to take him to the Rouba wilderness with him. They set out on January 14, and remained there until Palm Sunday. St Euthymius called St Sava a child-elder, and encouraged him to grow in the monastic virtues.

When St Euthymius fell asleep in the Lord (+ 473), St Sava withdrew from the Lavra and moved to a cave near the monastery of St Gerasimus of Jordan (March 4). After several years, disciples began to gather around St Sava, seeking the monastic life. As the number of monks increased, a lavra sprang up. When a pillar of fire appeared before St Sava as he was walking, he found a spacious cave in the form of a church.

St Sava founded several more monasteries. Many miracles took place through the prayers of St Sava: at the Lavra a spring of water welled up, during a time of drought there was abundant rain, and there were also healings of the sick and the demoniacs. St Sava composed the first monastic Rule of church services, the so-called "Jerusalem Typikon", accepted by all the Palestine monasteries. The saint surrendered his soul to God in the year 532.

Troparion - Tone 8

By a flood of tears you made the desert fertile,
and your longing for God brought forth fruits in abundance.
By the radiance of miracles you illumined the whole universe!
Our Father Sabbas, pray to Christ God to save our souls!

Kontakion - Tone 8

From your youth you offered yourself to God as a blameless sacrifice,
having been dedicated to Him before your birth, blessed Sabbas.
You were an adornment of the righteous and a praiseworthy citizen of the desert.
Therefore, we cry to you: "Rejoice, ever glorious Father."

Source
 

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May 21: Feast of the Holy Great Sovereigns Constantine and Helen, Equal to the Apostles
Icon of Saints Constantine and Helen provided by Athanasios Clark and used with permission.

http://www.goarch.org/en/special/listen_learn_share/constantineandhelen/learn/

Life of the Saints

This great and renowned sovereign of the Christians was the son of Constantius Chlorus (the ruler of the westernmost parts of the Roman empire), and of the blessed Helen. He was born in 272, in (according to some authorities) Naissus of Dardania, a city on the Hellespont. In 306, when his father died, he was proclaimed successor to his throne. In 312, on learning that Maxentius and Maximinus had joined forces against him, he marched into Italy, where, while at the head of his troops, he saw in the sky after midday, beneath the sun, a radiant pillar in the form of a cross with the words: "By this shalt thou conquer." The following night, our Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him in a dream and declared to him the power of the Cross and its significance. When he arose in the morning, he immediately ordered that a labarum be made (which is a banner or standard of victory over the enemy) in the form of a cross, and he inscribed on it the Name of Jesus Christ. On October 28 he attacked and mightily conquered Maxentius, who drowned in the Tiber River while fleeing. The following day, Constantine entered Rome in triumph and was proclaimed Emperor of the West by the Senate, while Licinius, his brother-in-law, ruled in the East. But out of malice, Licinius later persecuted the Christians. Constantine fought him once and again, and utterly destroyed him in 324, and in this manner he became monarch over the West and the East. Under him and because of him all the persecutions against the Church ceased. Christianity triumphed and idolatry was overthrown.

In 325 he gathered the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea, which he himself personally addressed. In 324, in the ancient city of Byzantium, he laid the foundations of the new capital of his realm, and solemnly inaugurated it on May 11, 330, naming it after himself, Constantinople. Since the throne of the imperial rule was transferred to Constantinople from Rome, it was named New Rome, the inhabitants of its domain were called Romans, and it was considered the continuation of the Roman Empire. Falling ill near Nicomedia, he requested to receive divine Baptism, according to Eusebius (The Life of Constantine. Book IV, 61-62), and also according to Socrates and Sozomen; and when he had been deemed worthy of the Holy Mysteries, he reposed in 337, on May 21 or 22, the day of Pentecost, having lived sixty-five years, of which he ruled for thirty-one years. His remains were transferred to Constantinople and were deposed in the Church of the Holy Apostles, which had been built by him (see Homily XXVI on Second Corinthians by Saint John Chrysostom).

As for his holy mother Helen, after her son had made the Faith of Christ triumphant throughout the Roman Empire, she undertook a journey to Jerusalem and found the Holy Cross on which our Lord was crucified (see Sept. 13 and 14). After this, Saint Helen, in her zeal to glorify Christ, erected churches in Jerusalem at the sites of the Crucifixion and Resurrection, in Bethlehem at the cave where our Saviour was born, another on the Mount of Olives whence He ascended into Heaven, and many others throughout the Holy Land, Cyprus, and elsewhere. She was proclaimed Augusta, her image was stamped upon golden coins, and two cities were named Helenopolis after her in Bithynia and in Palestine. Having been thus glorified for her piety, she departed to the Lord being about eighty years of age, according to some in the year 330, according to others, in 336.


Orthodox Christian Celebration of the Feast of Saints Constantine and Helen

The feast and commemoration of Saints Constantine and Helen is celebrated with the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom which is conducted on the morning of the feast and preceded by a Orthros service. A Great Vespers may be conducted on the evening before the day of the Feast.

Scripture readings for the Feast of Saints Constantine and Helen are: At the Vespers: I Kings 8:22-23, 27-30; Isaiah 61:10-62:5; Isaiah 60:1-16 At the Orthros (Matins): John 10:9-19. At the Divine Liturgy: Acts 26:1, 12-20; John 10:1-9.


Hymns of the Saint

Apolytikion: Plagal of the Fourth Tone
He beheld the image of Your Cross in the Heavens and, as Paul, he too did not receive the call from men. Your Apostle among Kings placed the care of the Royal City in Your hands. Through the intercessions of the Theotokos, O only Loving Lord, keep it ever in peace.

Kontakion: Third Tone
Today, Constantine with his mother Helen present the Cross, the most precious wood. It shames unbelievers. It is a weapon of faithful kings against their adversaries. A great sign has come forth for us which is awesome in battle.

Reading courtesy of Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Brookline, MA
 

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photius

St. Photios I (also spelled Photius), or St. Photios the Great (Greek: Φώτιος, Phōtios) (c. 820 – February 6, 893) was Patriarch of Constantinople from 858 to 867 and from 877 to 886. Photios is widely regarded as the most powerful and influential Patriarch of Constantinople since John Chrysostom. He is recognized as a saint by the Eastern Orthodox Church and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches of Byzantine tradition. His feast is celebrated on 6 February.

Life

Little is known of his origin or family, but Photios was a relative of the Patriarchs Tarasios and John VII Grammatikos. Byzantine writers report that Emperor Leo VI once angrily called St. Photios "Khazar-faced", but whether this was a generic insult or a reference to his ethnicity is unclear.[1]

As soon as he had completed his own education, St. Photios began to teach grammar, rhetoric, divinity and philosophy. The way to public life was probably opened for him by (according to one account) the marriage of his brother Sergios to Irene, a sister of the Empress Theodora, who upon the death of her husband Theophilos in 842, had assumed the regency of the empire. St. Photios became a captain of the guard and subsequently chief imperial secretary (prōtasēkrētis). At an uncertain date, Photios participated in an embassy to the Arabs.

The dissension between the patriarch Ignatios and the Caesar Bardas, the uncle of the youthful Emperor Michael III, concerning Bardas' relationship with his daughter-in-law, brought promotion to St. Photios. Ignatios was arrested and imprisoned in 858, and upon refusing to resign his office was deposed, while Photios was inducted into the priesthood within six days, and was installed as patriarch in his place.

Ignatios continued to refuse abdication, and his supporters appealed to Pope Nicholas I when St. Photios began to alter his predecessor's policies. When in 863 Nicholas anathematized and deposed St. Photios, the latter replied with a counter-excommunication. The situation was additionally complicated by the question of papal authority over the entire Church and by disputed jurisdiction over newly-converted Bulgaria.

This state of affairs changed with the murder of St. Photios' patron Bardas in 866 and of the emperor Michael in 867, by his colleague Basil the Macedonian, who now usurped the throne. St. Photios was deposed as patriarch, not so much because he was a protegé of Bardas and Michael, but because Basil I was seeking an alliance with the Pope and the western emperor. St. Photios was removed from his office and banished about the end of September 867, and Ignatios was reinstated on November 23. During his second patriarchate, Ignatios followed a policy not very different from that of St. Photios. This perhaps helped improve relations between the two, and in c. 876 St. Photios was suddenly recalled to Constantinople and entrusted with the education of the emperor's children. On the death of Ignatios in October 877, Photios, after the requisite show of reluctance, was restored to the patriarchal throne.

Photios now obtained the formal recognition of the Christian world in a council convened at Constantinople in November 879. The legates of Pope John VIII attended, prepared to acknowledge Photios as legitimate patriarch, a concession for which the pope was much censured by Latin opinion. The patriarch stood firm on the main points contested between the Eastern and Western Churches, the demanded apology to the Pope, the ecclesiastical jurisdiction over Bulgaria, and the introduction of the filioque clause into the creed. Eventually Photios refused to apologize or accept the filioque, and the papal legates made do with his return of Bulgaria to Rome. This concession, however, was purely nominal, as Bulgaria's return to the Byzantine rite in 870 had already secured for it an autocephalous church. Without the consent of Boris I of Bulgaria, the papacy was unable to enforce its claims.

During the altercations between Basil I and his heir Leo VI, Photios took the side of the emperor. Consequently, when Basil died in 886 and Leo became senior emperor, St. Photios was dismissed and banished, although he had been Leo's tutor. St. Photios was sent into exile to the monastery of Bordi in Armenia. From this time Photios disappears from history. No letters of this period of his life are extant. The precise date of his death is not known, but it is said to have occurred on February 6, 893.

For the Eastern Orthodox, St. Photios was long the standard-bearer of their church in its disagreements with the pope of Rome; to Catholics, he was a proud and ambitious schismatic: the relevant work of scholars over the past generation has somewhat modified partisan judgements. All agree on the virtue of his personal life and his remarkable talents, even genius, and the wide range of his intellectual aptitudes. Pope Nicholas himself referred to his "great virtues and universal knowledge." It may be noted, however, that some anti-papal writings attributed to St. Photios were apparently composed by other writers about the time of the East-West Schism of 1054 and attributed to Photios as the champion of the independence of the Eastern Church.

The Eastern Orthodox Church venerates Photios as a saint; he is also included in the liturgical calendar of Eastern Catholic Churches of Byzantine Rite, though not in the calendars of other Eastern Catholic Churches. His feast day is February 6.

Writings

The most important of the works of Photios is his renowned Bibliotheca or Myriobiblon, a collection of extracts and abridgments of 280 volumes of classical authors (usually cited as Codices), the originals of which are now to a great extent lost. The work is specially rich in extracts from historical writers.

To St. Photios we are indebted for almost all we possess of Ctesias, Memnon, Conon, the lost books of Diodorus Siculus, and the lost writings of Arrian. Theology and ecclesiastical history are also very fully represented, but poetry and ancient philosophy are almost entirely ignored. It seems that he did not think it necessary to deal with those authors with whom every well-educated man would naturally be familiar. The literary criticisms, generally distinguished by keen and independent judgment, and the excerpts vary considerably in length. The numerous biographical notes are probably taken from the work of Hesychius of Miletus.

The Lexicon, published later than the Bibliotheca, was probably in the main the work of some of his pupils. It was intended as a book of reference to facilitate the reading of old classical and sacred authors, whose language and vocabulary were out of date. The only manuscript of the Lexicon is the Codex Galeanus, which passed into the library of Trinity College, Cambridge.

His most important theological work is the Amphilochia, a collection of some 300 questions and answers on difficult points in Scripture, addressed to Amphilochius, archbishop of Cyzicus. Other similar works are his treatise in four books against the Manichaeans and Paulicians, and his controversy with the Latins on the Procession of the Holy Spirit. St. Photios also addressed a long letter of theological advice to the newly-converted Boris I of Bulgaria.

The chief contemporary authority for the life of Photios is his bitter enemy, Niketas David Paphlagon, the biographer of his rival Ignatios.

Notes

  1. "Photius may have felt a direct and personal interest in Khazaria, for possibly he was himself of Khazar extraction. So, it seems, we might best explain the epithet "Khazar-face", applied to him once in anger by the Emperor Michael III." Dunlop 194 (citing Symeon Magister, ex. Bonn, 673.)
 

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St. Mark the Archbishop of Ephesus

Commemorated on January 19

Saint Mark Eugenikos, Archbishop of Ephesus, was a stalwart defender of Orthodoxy at the Council of Florence. He would not agree to a union with Rome which was based on theological compromise and political expediency (the Byzantine Emperor was seeking military assistance from the West against the Moslems who were drawing ever closer to Constantinople). St Mark countered the arguments of his opponents, drawing from the well of pure theology, and the teachings of the holy Fathers. When the members of his own delegation tried to pressure him into accepting the Union he replied, "There can be no compromise in matters of the Orthodox Faith."

Although the members of the Orthodox delegation signed the Tomos of Union, St Mark was the only one who refused to do so. When he returned from Florence, St Mark urged the inhabitants of Constantinople to repudiate the dishonorable document of union. He died in 1457 at the age of fifty-two, admired and honored by all.



http://ocafs.oca.org/FeastSaintsViewer.asp?SID=4&ID=1&FSID=100228
 

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Saints Rufus and Zosimus - December 18

Rufus and Zosimus were citizens of Antioch (or perhaps Philippi) who were brought to Rome with St. Ignatius of Antioch during the reign of Emperor Trajan. They were condemned to death for their Christianity and thrown to wild beasts in the arena two days before the martyrdom of Ignatius. Feast Day December 18.
 

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Sebastian the Martyr & his Companions

Reading:
This Saint, who was from the city of Milan, was a member of the Senate as well as a zealot for the Faith of Christ, and had converted many to the knowledge of God. When Diocletian and Maximian began a Persecution against the Christians, Saint Sebastian was arrested and pierced with sharp arrows, and the bones of his body were shattered with clubs; and being cut into pieces, he gave up his spirit to God in the year 288. Together with him there were others also who died while enduring various tortures. Their names are Marcellinus and Mark the brethren, Tranquillinus their father, Nicostratus and his spouse Zoe, Tiburtius, Claudius, Castulus, and Castor.

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
Since thou wast great in zeal for godly religion, thou didst assemble an alliance of Martyrs, and in their midst, thou shonest like a flashing star. With the arrows that did pierce thy much-suffering body, thou didst slay the enemy, O Great Martyr Sebastian; and thou thyself didst fly as from a bow into the Heavens, where Christ hath received thy soul.

http://www.goarch.org/en/chapel/saints.asp?contentid=343
 

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St Elias the Cave-Dweller



Commemorated on September 11​

St Elias was born to a wealthy family of nobles in Reggio in Calabria in the year 864. One day a monk approached him in church and upbraided him for his rich clothes and frivolous life. The young man changed at once and at the age of eighteen ran away to Taormina to escape marriage. From here he travelled to Rome to venerate the tombs of the Apostles, but seeing the dissoluteness in the city and its clergy, he returned to Reggio.

Here he found a spiritual father, Arsenius, who tonsured him as a monk. Elias worked very hard and spent his nights in hymns, prayers and genuflexions. He said: 'He who works with his hands and prays in his heart becomes doubly rich, for he serves Christ both as Mary and as Martha'. The two holy fathers always avoided disputes with others and when God revealed to them the forthcoming Saracen/Arab invasion, they both left for Greece. Here, near Patras, they lived for eight years, expelling demons and working wonders.

When the Saracen danger was over, they returned to their monastery of St Eustratius in Calabria and joined with two other ascetics in forming a monastery in a cave. Arsenius became the Abbot but, foreknowing his death, reposed in 904, having chosen Elias the new Abbot. Later, St Arsenius' tomb was opened by the Saracens, who found his relics not only incorrupt but also indestructible.

Advised in a dream to take on new disciples, Elias soon found himself at the head of a large brotherhood. The cave of these troglodytes was now too small for them, but they discovered a much larger cave which they made into a monastery with a church dedicated to the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. Soon the nearby caves also filled with monks, who followed the example of the life of their Abbot, who taught them how to defeat the demons. Once he worked the miracle of changing water into wine in order to serve the liturgy. Another time he scolded a bear who was destroying the monks' crops: the bear walked away chastened. He gave wise advice to his monks, teaching them obedience by example and protecting them though his prayers. He also did much to improve the customs of the local people and delivered the possessed of demons. Many poor and the sick were drawn to his monastery.

When the Arabs attacked, as they often did, St Elias would either flee into the mountains, hardly eating or drinking, or else would go into the town, upbraiding the inhabitants for their loose morals which had incurred such disasters. In old age, the saint received the gift of tears, but spent the nights before feast-days singing to God in joy. Having predicted his death a year in advance, he went on pilgrimage to the tomb of St Elias of Sicily. He returned, tonsured many novices and then withdrew to his own cave. Here he suffered great pain in silence for twenty-five days, before entering into the heavenly kingdom on 11 September 960, aged 96. He was buried in his cave in the presence of the local Bishop and a great throng of the faithful.

St Elias lived constantly under the threat of the Saracen Muslim attacks. Feasted on 11 September, he should therefore be an intercessor and protector in our own sad times. Let us recall that like other Calabrian saints, he clearly understood and openly proclaimed that the Muslim attacks and invasions of his day were allowed to happen by God on account of the loose morals of the so-called Christians of the age.

 

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St. Vrtanes, one of the sons of St. Gregory the Illuminator of Armenia:


St. Vrtanés

The elder son of St. Gregory the Illuminator chose to lead a secular life and got married while still in Caesarea. At a later time he was ordained a priest, either in Caesarea or Armenia. He and his wife’s desire to have children, and their prayers to God towards this end, were answered only in an advanced age. They were blessed with twins, Krikoris and Husig, who were reared in the Armenian court and given a solid education. He presumably lost his wife during the pontificate of his brother Arisdagés, and after the latter’s death Vrtanés himself was raised to the episcopal throne of Greater Armenia. Vrtanés probably received episcopal ordination from his brother’s hand, since there is no reference in the historians to any ceremony of ordination, either in Caesarea or elsewhere.

St. Vrtanés’ activities as chief bishop of Greater Armenia were closely linked with those of the Christian kings of Armenia: first Drtad, and later his son Khosrov Godag (330-337) and grandson Diran (337-344). Vrtanés stood by the side of the kings during various Persian invasions into Armenia as well as during internal rebellions. As an active pastor he continued the work of his father and brother.

Despite the declaration of Christianity as the national religion of Armenia and the royal support that the church thereby received, certain people of high position were not pleased with the new religion. Their displeasure led to serious repercussions. King Drtad, who had been responsible for the kingdom’s conversion, died at a ripe old age—but not of natural causes. Certain Armenian princes in the service of the court hastened his demise by giving him a poisoned cup to drink. From another version of the story about King Drtad’s death, we learn that the anti-Christian princes collaborated with the King of Kings of Iran, and were instigated by the latter to put him to death. While on a hunt, they shot Drtad with an arrow, and as the wounded king was recuperating from his wound, they gave him a poisoned cup to drink.

Vrtanés himself almost fell victim to a scheme of a different nature. At the annual commemoration in Ashdishad of St. John the Baptist and Bishop Athenogenes, as instituted by St. Gregory, the chief bishop was celebrating the Divine Liturgy, when two thousand mountaineers from Sasun converged on the place, with the intent of assassinating Vrtanés. The assassins were unconverted idol worshippers, instigated by certain magnates and particularly by the queen of Armenia, whom Vrtanés had formerly rebuked for committing adultery. We are told that the hand of God made the conspirators motionless until Vrtanés released them. Overwhelmed by what had happened, the mountaineers heeded the admonitions of the bishop, and after completing the period of penance set by him they were baptized. Subsequently the bishop withdrew to his paternal estate in Til, near Erzinjan.

St. Vrtanés is said to have ordained a special day of commemoration for the Armenian forces under General Vaché Mamigonian, who perished in a battle against the Persians in 338. He consoled the king, his magnates and soldiers for the devastating effect of the war. According to this ordinance, the commemoration was to be repeated annually. He also instituted a special canon for all those who should die for Christian Armenia, that they be commemorated “before God’s holy altar at that point in the liturgy when the names of the saints are enumerated, and after them.” This commemoration was later replaced with that of St. Vartan Mamigonian and his 1,036 companions, which has been celebrated every year up to the present day.

St. Vrtanés’ name is closely connected with a contemporary non-Armenian churchman of renown, namely St. Macarius, bishop of Jerusalem (313-334). Macarius was one of the fathers of the Council of Nicaea (325), responsible (with a few others) for drafting the Nicene Creed, which we recite in church during the Divine Liturgy. It was during his tenure of office that the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was built in Jerusalem. St. Vrtanés had the distinction of receiving a letter from Macarius. The letter, originally written in Greek, is preserved only in Armenian and bears the title: “To the Christ-loving and pious Chief Bishop Vrtanés and all the bishops and priests of Armenia.” According to this docu ment, Vrtanés had sent certain priests to Jerusalem with specific ques tions about church traditions. In his answer, Macarius dwells on various traditions and practices that must be observed in the rite of baptism.

St. Vrtanés died in the third year of King Diran—that is, in a.d. 340. He was buried near his father in Tortan, and his grave was shown inside the village church.

http://www.armenianchurch.net/church/gregory-sons3.html
 

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St. Krikoris, son of St. Vrtanes and grandson of St. Gregory the Illuminator of Armenia:


The missionary work initiated by St. Gregory in the regions of northern Armenia, Georgia and Caucasian Albania was not neglected by his successors. To this end, St. Vrtanés’ son Krikoris was raised to the episcopal rank and appointed bishop of Georgia and Albania at a relatively young age.

The young bishop extended his missionary activities over a vast expanse of territory reaching the shores of the Caspian Sea. He established churches and evangelized among the peoples and tribes under his care. Among the different northern semi-barbaric nomadic tribes to whom he preached the gospel were the Mazkuts, who were ruled by a line of Arshaguni kings related to the royal dynasty of Armenia. At first, the Mazkuts accepted St. Krikoris’ instructions favorably and were inclined to convert to Christianity.

But when they learned that Christian teachings forbade some practices of their nomadic way of life—such as looting, pillaging, killing, coveting others possession—they became disgusted and greatly angered. They saw in St. Krikoris’ teachings a plot on the part of the Armenian king to stop their plundering raids into Armenia. St. Krikoris was tied to the tail of a wild horse and driven over a plain. The bishop died as a result. His body was claimed by his followers and taken to Amaras, which is located in present-day Karabagh. He was buried in the church built by St. Gregory. At the end of the fifth century, a crypt was built to house his grave. That structure is now located under the main altar of the church of the Monastery of Amaras and is a place of pilgrimage.

The martyrdom of St. Krikoris took place shortly before the Mazkut invasion of Armenia and the seizure of its capital city, Vagharshabad. That event took place in a.d. 335. St. Krikoris’ relics were discovered in the latter part of the fifth century and were buried in a newly built crypt, which is still extant, as stated above.


http://www.armenianchurch.net/church/gregory-sons4.html
 

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Yet another son of St. Vrtanes and grandson of St. Gregory the Illuminator:

St. Husig

St. Husig, the second son of St. Vrtanés, followed his father’s example by embracing secular life. Nourished by King Diran, he was forced into marrying the king’s daughter, much against his will. He and his wife had twin sons, Bab and Athenogenes. His inclination towards a celibate life, however, alienated his wife and invited on him the hostility of the royal court. Their pressure was terminated by his wife’s death, after which St. Husig devoted himself to raising his children. In a dream, the Lord appeared to him and told him that from his children there “will be born other children, and they will be illuminators of knowledge and fonts of spiritual wisdom for the realm of Armenia.”

After his father’s demise, St. Husig was in line for the succession of the episcopal throne of Greater Armenia. King Diran immediately dispatched a delegation of thirteen high-ranking princes and dignitaries to accompany St. Husig to Caesarea. There, St. Husig was elevated to the episcopal rank. On his return to Armenia he was met by the king and taken to the city of Ardashad, where he was officially enthroned. Like his father and grandfather, he became a wonderful pastor of his flock.

St. Husig’s woes began when he, as the upholder of the moral precepts of the church, began to castigate the king and his magnates for their unchristian behavior: they had engaged in immoral acts and had shed innocent blood for political ends. St. Husig excommunicated them, forbidding their entry into the church. Predictably, this invited on him the royal court’s animosity. On one occasion—a day of annual celebration when St. Husig, on a pastoral visit to the western province of Great Dzopk, was present at the palatine church in the royal fortress of Pnapegh—King Diran arrived with his retinue and tried to enter the church. Learning about their arrival, St. Husig stepped out and cried aloud: “You are unworthy! Why have you come? Do not go inside!” Angered by this, the king's attendants dragged him inside the sanctuary and beat him with rods, shattering his bones. The servants of the church of Pnapegh carried the battered bishop, who was still alive, to his ancestral estate in Tortan. Unable to recover from his injuries, St. Husig died there and was buried near the graves of his father and grandfather. His tomb was shown inside the church of Tortan. The martyrdom of St. Husig is dated to a.d. 344.

http://www.armenianchurch.net/church/gregory-sons5.html
 

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One of the great Western saints of the Orthodox Church and one for whose work I am most thankful:

St. Patrick the Bishop of Armagh and Enlightener of Ireland

Commemorated on March 17

Saint Patrick, the Enlightener of Ireland was born around 385, the son of Calpurnius, a Roman decurion (an official responsible for collecting taxes). He lived in the village of Bannavem Taberniae, which may have been located at the mouth of the Severn River in Wales. The district was raided by pirates when Patrick was sixteen, and he was one of those taken captive. He was brought to Ireland and sold as a slave, and was put to work as a herder of swine on a mountain identified with Slemish in Co. Antrim. During his period of slavery, Patrick acquired a proficiency in the Irish language which was very useful to him in his later mission.

He prayed during his solitude on the mountain, and lived this way for six years. He had two visions. The first told him he would return to his home. The second told him his ship was ready. Setting off on foot, Patrick walked two hundred miles to the coast. There he succeeded in boarding a ship, and returned to his parents in Britain.

Some time later, he went to Gaul and studied for the priesthood at Auxerre under St Germanus (July 31). Eventually, he was consecrated as a bishop, and was entrusted with the mission to Ireland, succeeding St Palladius (July 7). St Palladius did not achieve much success in Ireland. After about a year he went to Scotland, where he died in 432.

Patrick had a dream in which an angel came to him bearing many letters. Selecting one inscribed "The Voice of the Irish," he heard the Irish entreating him to come back to them.

Although St Patrick achieved remarkable results in spreading the Gospel, he was not the first or only missionary in Ireland. He arrived around 432 (though this date is disputed), about a year after St Palladius began his mission to Ireland. There were also other missionaries who were active on the southeast coast, but it was St Patrick who had the greatest influence and success in preaching the Gospel of Christ. Therefore, he is known as "The Enlightener of Ireland."

His autobiographical Confession tells of the many trials and disappointments he endured. Patrick had once confided to a friend that he was troubled by a certain sin he had committed before he was fifteen years old. The friend assured him of God's mercy, and even supported Patrick's nomination as bishop. Later, he turned against him and revealed what Patrick had told him in an attempt to prevent his consecration. Many years later, Patrick still grieved for his dear friend who had publicly shamed him.

St Patrick founded many churches and monasteries across Ireland, but the conversion of the Irish people was no easy task. There was much hostility, and he was assaulted several times. He faced danger, and insults, and he was reproached for being a foreigner and a former slave. There was also a very real possibility that the pagans would try to kill him. Despite many obstacles, he remained faithful to his calling, and he baptized many people into Christ.

The saint's Epistle to Coroticus is also an authentic work. In it he denounces the attack of Coroticus' men on one of his congregations. The Breastplate (Lorica) is also attributed to St Patrick. In his writings, we can see St Patrick's awareness that he had been called by God, as well as his determination and modesty in undertaking his missionary work. He refers to himself as "a sinner," "the most ignorant and of least account," and as someone who was "despised by many." He ascribes his success to God, rather than to his own talents: "I owe it to God's grace that through me so many people should be born again to Him."

By the time he established his episcopal See in Armargh in 444, St Patrick had other bishops to assist him, many native priests and deacons, and he encouraged the growth of monasticism.

St Patrick is often depicted holding a shamrock, or with snakes fleeing from him. He used the shamrock to illustrate the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Its three leaves growing out of a single stem helped him to explain the concept of one God in three Persons. Many people now regard the story of St Patrick driving all the snakes out of Ireland as having no historical basis.

St Patrick died on March 17, 461 (some say 492). There are various accounts of his last days, but they are mostly legendary. Muirchu says that no one knows the place where St Patrick is buried. St Columba of Iona (June 9) says that the Holy Spirit revealed to him that Patrick was buried at Saul, the site of his first church. A granite slab was placed at his traditional grave site in Downpatrick in 1899.

 

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Another saint, commemorated today (Dec. 18, NC), a martyr whose story is quite compelling:

Martyr Sebastian at Rome

Commemorated on December 18

The Holy Martyr Sebastian was born in the city of Narbonum in Gaul (modern France), and he received his education at Mediolanum (now Milan). Under the co-reigning emperors Diocletian and Maximian (284-305) he occupied the position of head of the imperial guards. St Sebastian was respected for his authority, and was loved by the soldiers and those at court. He was a brave man filled with wisdom, his word was honest, his judgment just, insightful in advice, faithful in his service and in everything entrusted to him. He was a secret Christian, not out of fear, but so that he could provide help to the brethren in a time of persecution.

The noble Christian brothers Marcellinus and Mark had been locked up in prison, and at first they firmly confessed the true Faith. But under the influence of the tearful entreaties of their pagan parents (Tranquillinus and Marcia), and also their own wives and children, they began to waver in their intent to suffer for Christ. St Sebastian went to the imperial treasurer, at whose house Marcellinus and Mark were held in confinement, and addressed the brothers who were on the verge of yielding to the entreaties of their family.

"O valiant warriors of Christ! Do not cast away your everlasting crowns of victory because of the tears of your relatives. Do not remove your feet from the necks of your enemies who lie prostrate before you, lest they regain their strength and attack you more fiercely than before. Raise your banner high over every earthly attachment. If those whom you see weeping knew that there is another life where there is neither sickness nor death, where there is unceasing gladness and everything is beautiful, then assuredly they would wish to enter it with you. Anyone who fears to exchange this brief earthly life for the unending joys of the heavenly Kingdom is foolish indeed. For he who rejects eternity wastes the brief time of his existence, and will be delivered to everlasting torment in Hades."

Then St Sebastian said that if necessary, he would be willing to endure torment and death in order to show them how to give their lives for Christ.

So St Sebastian persuaded the brothers to go through with their act of martyrdom, and his speech stirred everyone present. They saw how his face shone like that of an angel, and they saw how seven angels clothed him in a radiant garment, and heard a fair Youth say, "You shall be with Me always."

Zoe, the wife of the jailer Nicostratus, had lost her ability to speak six years previously, and she fell down at the feet of St Sebastian, by her gestures imploring him to heal her. The saint made the Sign of the Cross over the woman, and she immediately began to speak and she glorified the Lord Jesus Christ. She said that she had seen an angel holding an open book in which everything St Sebastian said was written. Then all who saw the miracle also came to believe in the Savior of the world. Nicostratus removed the chains from Marcellinus and Mark and offered to hide them, but the brothers refused.

Mark said, "Let them tear the flesh from our bodies with cruel torments. They can kill the body, but they cannot conquer the soul which contends for the Faith." Nicostratus and his wife asked for Baptism, and St Sebastian advised Nicostratus to serve Christ rather than the Eparch. He also told him to assemble the prisoners so that those who believed in Christ could be baptized. Nicostratus then requested his clerk Claudius to send all the prisoners to his house. Sebastian spoke to them of Christ, and became convinced that they were all inclined to be baptized. He summoned the priest Polycarp, who prepared them for the Mystery, instructing them to fast in preparation for Baptism that evening.

Then Claudius informed Nicostratus that the Roman eparch Arestius Chromatus wanted to know why the prisoners were gathered at his house. Nicostratus told Claudius about the healing of his wife, and Claudius brought his own sick sons, Symphorian and Felix to St Sebastian. In the evening the priest Polycarp baptized Tranquillinus with his relatives and friends, and Nicostratus and all his family, Claudius and his sons, and also sixteen condemned prisoners. The newly-baptized numbered 64 in all.

Appearing before the eparch Chromatus, Nicostratus told him how St Sebastian had converted them to Christianity and healed many from sickness. The words of Nicostratus persuaded the eparch. He summoned St Sebastian and the presbyter Polycarp, and was enlightened by them, and became a believer in Christ. Nicostratus and Chromatus, his son Tiburtius and all his household accepted holy Baptism. The number of the newly-enlightened increased to 1400. Upon becoming a Christian, Chromatus resigned his office of eparch.

During this time the Bishop of Rome was St Gaius (August 11). He blessed Chromatus to go to his estates in southern Italy with the priest Polycarp. Christians unable to endure martyrdom also went with them. Father Polycarp went to strengthen the newly-converted in the Faith.

Tiburtius, the son of Chromatus, desired to accept martyrdom and he remained in Rome with St Sebastian. Of those remaining, St Gaius ordained Tranquillinus as a presbyter, and his sons Marcellinus and Mark were ordained deacons. Nicostratus, his wife Zoe and brother Castorius, and Claudius, his son Symphorian and brother Victorinus also remained in Rome. They gathered for divine services at the court of the emperor together with a secret Christian named Castulus, but soon the time came for them to suffer for the Faith.

The pagans arrested St Zoe first, praying at the grave of the Apostle Peter. At the trial she bravely confessed her faith in Christ. She died, hung by her hair over the foul smoke from a great fire of dung. Her body then was thrown into the River Tiber. Appearing in a vision to St Sebastian, she told him about her death.

The priest Tranquillinus was the next to suffer: pagans pelted him with stones at the grave of the holy Apostle Peter, and his body was also thrown into the Tiber.

Sts Nicostratus, Castorius, Claudius, Victorinus ,and Symphorian were seized at the riverbank, when they were searching for the bodies of the martyrs. They were led to the eparch, and the saints refused his command to offer sacrifice to idols. They tied stones to the necks of the martyrs and then drowned them in the sea.

The false Christian Torquatus betrayed St Tiburtius. When the saint refused to sacrifice to the idols, the judge ordered Tiburtius to walk barefoot on red-hot coals, but the Lord preserved him. Tiburtius walked through the burning coals without feeling the heat. The torturers then beheaded St Tiburtius, and his body was buried by unknown Christians.

Torquatus also betrayed the holy Deacons Marcellinus and Mark, and St Castulus (March 26). After torture, they threw Castulus into a pit and buried him alive, but Marcellinus and Mark had their feet nailed to the same tree stump. They stood all night in prayer, and in the morning they were stabbed with spears.

St Sebastian was the last one to be tortured. The emperor Diocletian personally interrogated him, and seeing the determination of the holy martyr, he ordered him taken out of the city, tied to a tree and shot with arrows. Irene, the wife of St Castulus, went at night in order to bury St Sebastian, but found him alive and took him to her home.

St Sebastian soon recovered from his wounds. Christians urged him to leave Rome, but he refused. Coming near a pagan temple, the saint saw the emperors approaching and he publicly denounced them for their impiety. Diocletian ordered the holy martyr to be taken to the Circus Maximus to be executed. They clubbed St Sebastian to death, and cast his body into the sewer. The holy martyr appeared to a pious woman named Lucina in a vision, and told her to take his body and bury it in the catacombs. This she did with the help of her slaves. Today his basilica stands on the site of his tomb.
 

Friul

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Martyr and Archdeacon Laurence of Rome
(My family's patron Saint)



Commemorated on August 10​

The Martyrs Archdeacon Laurence, Pope Sixtus, Deacons Felicissimus and Agapitus, the Soldier Romanus were citizens of Rome, and suffered in the year 258 under the emperor Valerian (253-259). Holy Pope Sixtus, born at Athens, received a fine education, preached in Spain and was made bishop in Rome following the martyr's death of Holy Pope Stephen (253-257, commemorated on August 2). These were times when a pope occupying the Roman throne, was known to choose death for the faith. In a short while St Sixtus also was arrested and put in prison together with his deacons Felicissimus and Agapitus.

When the holy archdeacon Laurence visited Pope Sixtus, whom they held in prison, he cried out with tears: "Whither art thou gone, father? Why hast thou forsaken thine archdeacon, with whom always thou hast offered the Bloodless Sacrifice? Take thy son with thee, that I may be thy companion in having blood shed for Christ!" St Sixtus answered him: "I have not forsaken thee, my son. I am old and go to an easy death, but yet greater sufferings await thee. Know, that after three days upon our death thou shalt follow after me. And now go, take the church treasury and distribute it to the poor and needy Christians." St Laurence zealously did the bidding of the holy hierarch.

Having heard, that Pope Sixtus had been taken to trial with the deacons, St Laurence went there so as to witness their deed, and he said to the holy bishop: "Father, I have already fulfilled thy command, and distributed by hand thine treasury; forsake me not!" Hearing something about treasure, soldiers put him under guard, and the other martyrs were beheaded (+6 August 258). The emperor locked up St Laurence in prison and ordered the chief jailer Hyppolitus to keep watch over him. In prison St Laurence with prayer healed the sick gathered together with him and he baptized many.

Astonished by this, Hyppolitus himself believed and accepted Baptism from St Laurence together with all his household. Soon the archdeacon Laurence was again brought to the emperor and commanded to produce the hidden treasure. St Laurence answered: "Give me a period of three days, and I shalt show thee this treasure". During this time the saint gathered up a crowd of the poor and the sick, who ate only because of the charity of the Church, and bringing them he explained: "Here are the vessels in which is contained the treasure. And everyone, who puts their treasure in these vessels, will receive them in abundance in the Heavenly Kingdom".

After this they gave St Laurence over to fierce tortures, urging him to worship idols. The martyr was scourged (with a fine iron flail with sharp needles), they burned his wounds with fire, and struck at him with metal switches. At the time of the martyr's suffering, the soldier Romanus suddenly cried out: "St Laurence, I behold a bright youth, who standeth about thee healing thy wounds. Beseech thy Lord Christ not to forsake me!" After this they stretched St Laurence on a rack and returned him to prison to Hyppolitus. Romanus brought there a waterpot with water and besought the martyr to baptize him. And immediately after the Baptism of the soldier, he was beheaded (+9 August). When they took St Laurence to his final torture, St Hyppolitus wanted to declare himself a Christian and die together with him, but the confessor said: "Conceal for now thy confession in thy heart.

After some length of time I shall summon thee, and thou shalt hear and come unto me. Weep not for me, but rather rejoice, for I go to receive a glorious crown of martyrdom." They placed him in an iron cage, under which they set an intense fire, and the flames of the fire flicked towards the body of the martyr. St Laurence, glancing at the governor, said: "Here now, you burn only but one side of my body, turn over the other and do my whole body". Dying, he uttered: "I thank Thee, Lord Jesus Christ, that Thou hast accounted me worthy to enter into Thy gates" -- and with these words he gave up the spirit.

St Hyppolitus took the body of the martyr by night, he wrapped it in a shroud with ointments and gave it over to the priest Justin. Over the relics of the martyr in the home of the widow Kyriake they made an all-night vigil and Divine Liturgy. All the Christians present partook of the Holy Mysteries and with honor they buried the body of the holy martyr Archdeacon Laurence in a cave on 10 August 258. St Hyppolitus and other Christians suffered three days after the death of St Laurence (13 August), as he had foretold them of this.


Troparion - Tone 4

Victorious martyr of Christ our God,
by the sign of the Cross you gave sight to the blind;
you distributed the riches of the Church to the poor;
you were tried by fire and no evil was found in you.
As you endured the burning,
may your prayers extinguish the flames of our many sins,
blessed Archdeacon Lawrence!

Kontakion - Tone 2

Your heart burned with divine fire
as the flames of the passions died within you.
God-bearing martyr Lawrence, the pillar of those who struggle,
you cried out in the midst of your contest:
"Nothing can separate me from the love of Christ."​

 

ozgeorge

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St. Maria Skobtsova


The holy and glorious venerable-martyr Maria Skobtsova (also Saint Mary of Paris or Mother Maria) was a nun and martyr in Paris in the early twentieth century. She encouraged hospitality and love of one's neighbor, often in the most uncompromising of terms. She considered this to be the foundation of the Christian gospel, and she embodied it in her life. She is often compared to Dorothy Day, an American Roman Catholic who founded the Catholic Worker movement. Saint Mary died a martyr in Ravensbrück prison. She was glorified by the Church of Constantinople on January 16, 2004, along with her companions, Priest Dmitri Klepinin, her son George (Yuri) Skobtsov, and Elie Fondaminsky.
Contents

Life
Born to a well to do, upper-class family in 1891 in Latvia, she was given the name Elizaveta Pilenko. Her father died when she was a teenager, and she embraced atheism. In 1906 her mother took the family to St. Petersburg, where she became involved in radical intellectual circles. In 1910 she married a Bolshevik by the name of Dimitri Kuzmin-Karaviev. During this period of her life she was actively involved in literary circles and wrote much poetry. Her first book, Scythian Shards, was a collection of poetry from this period. By 1913 her marriage to Dimitri had ended.

Through a look at the humanity of Jesus – "He also died. The sweated blood. They struck his face" – she began to be drawn back into Christianity. She moved – now with her daughter, Gaiana – to the south of Russia where her religious devotion increased.

In 1918, after the Bolshevik Revolution, she was elected deputy mayor of the town of Anapa in Southern Russia. When the White Army took control of Anapa, the mayor fled and she became mayor of the town. The White Army put her on trial for being a Bolshevik. However, the judge was a former teacher of hers, Daniel Skobtsov, and she was acquitted. Soon the two fell in love and were married.

Soon, the political tide was turning again. In order to avoid danger, Elizaveta, Daniel, Gaiana, and Elizaveta's mother Sophia fled the country. Elizaveta was pregnant with her second child. They traveled first to Georgia (where her son Yuri was born) and then to Yugoslavia (where her daughter Anastasia was born). Finally they arrived in Paris in 1923. Soon Elizaveta was dedicating herself to theological studies and social work.

In 1926, Anastasia died of influenza – a heartbreaking event for the family. Gaiana was sent away to Belgium to boarding school. Soon, Daniel and Elizaveta's marriage was falling apart. Yuri ended up living with Daniel, and Elizaveta moved into central Paris to work more directly with those who were most in need.

Her bishop encouraged her to take vows as a nun, something she did only with the assurance that she would not have to live in a monastery, secluded from the world. In 1932, with Daniel Skobtov's permission, an ecclesiastical divorce was granted and she took monastic vows. In religion she took the name Maria. Her confessor was Father Sergius Bulgakov. Later, Father Dmitri Klepinin would be sent to be the chaplain of the house.

Mother Maria made a rented house in Paris her "convent." It was a place with an open door for refugees, the needy and the lonely. It also soon became a center for intellectual and theological discussion. In Mother Maria these two elements - service to the poor and theology – went hand-in-hand.

Death
When the Nazis took Paris in World War II, Jews soon approached the house asking for baptismal certificates, which Father Dimitri would provide them. Many Jews came to stay with them. They provided shelter and helped many escape. Eventually the house was closed down. Mother Maria, Father Dimitri, Yuri, and Sophia were all taken by the Gestapo. Father Dimitri and Yuri both died at the prison camp in Dora.

Mother Maria was sent to the camp in Ravensbruck, Germany. On Holy Saturday, 1945, Mother Maria was taken to the gas chamber and entered eternal life. It is suggested that she took the place of another who had been selected for that death.

Glorification

Mother Maria was glorified by act of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on January 16, 2004. The glorification of Mother Maria, together with Fr. Dimitri, Yuri, and Ilya Fondaminsky took place at the Cathedral of Saint Alexander Nevsky in Paris on May 1 and 2, 2004. Their feast day is July 20.

http://orthodoxwiki.org/Maria_Skobtsova
 

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I just have to include St. Gregory the Illuminator's other son, St. Aristakes.  He succeeded St. Gregory as Catholicos and attended the First Ecumenical Council.


While still a layman in Caesarea (Kayseri), St. Gregory and his wife Mariam were blessed with two sons, Vrtanés and Arisdagés. When St. Gregory and Mariam parted, Arisdagés was still very young and in need of motherly care. Mariam took him with her to the convent she joined. Influenced by his early upbringing in the convent, Arisdagés entered the service of God at an early age and became a hermit in the mountains. He became renowned for his austere way of life, attracting young disciples who sought his company for pious instruction. He was particularly versed in Greek letters and philosophy.

Years passed, and when King Drtad (by now a Christian convert) learned that St. Gregory had sired two sons in his younger days, he sent certain nobles to Caesarea to bring the sons to Armenia. (St. Gregory himself had withdrawn to the wilderness to lead a solitary life.) At the time, St. Arisdagés was living in a hermitage; he initially refused to leave his austere way of life and go to the court of the king. Ultimately, he yielded to the plea of Christians not to refuse the pastoral work that lay before him.

Upon the arrival of Sts. Arisdagés and Vrtanés, King Drtad took them with him to look for St. Gregory. Finding the saint in the wilderness, he begged St. Gregory to ordain his son Arisdagés a bishop and take him as his assistant. After his ordination, St. Arisdagés diligently pursued his pastoral work, preaching and wiping out the vestiges of pagan customs and traditions.

St. Arisdagés represented the Armenian Church at the Holy Council of Nicaea, which met in a.d. 325 at the order of the Roman Emperor Constantine. His name appears on the list alongside those of the 318 bishops who participated in that council. He returned to Armenia, bringing with him the canons of the renowned council. These canons are still venerated in the Armenian Church and form the foundation of discipline and order in our tradition.

After St. Gregory’s complete withdrawal from pastoral life and his demise, St. Arisdagés succeeded him as the chief bishop of Greater Armenia. As a pastor he surpassed the accomplishments of his father, as attested by the historian of the conversion of Armenia.

St. Arisdagés himself died as a martyr, and that is one of the reasons why he is considered a saint of the Armenian Church. The circumstances of his assassination are not very clear. All we know is that, at some point in his career as chief bishop of Armenia, he had reprimanded a high dignitary named Archilaeus, who had been appointed governor of the province of Dzopk in western Armenia. We are not told what Archilaeus had done to deserve St. Arisdagés’ reprimand, but he kept a grudge. When the bishop was on a pastoral visit in those parts, Archilaeus met him on the road and slew him. In order to avoid arrest and prosecution for his crime, he fled to the Taurus Mountains in Cilicia. St. Arisdagés’ disciples took his body to the village of Til near Erzinjan and buried him there. His grave was later shown within the confines of the Chukhdag Hayrabedats Vank (“The Monastery of the Twin Patriarchs”), which was still extant until 1915.

St. Arisdagés is said to have presided as the chief bishop of Armenia for seven years. The date of his martyrdom is calculated to have taken place at about a.d. 328.

http://www.armenianchurch.net/church/gregory-sons2.html
 

Friul

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St. Martin the Confessor, Pope of Rome



Commemorated on April 14​

Saint Martin the Confessor, Pope of Rome, was a native of the Tuscany region of Italy. He received a fine education and entered into the clergy of the Roman Church. After the death of Pope Theodore I (642-649), Martin was chosen to succeed him.

At this time the peace of the Church was disturbed by the Monothelite heresy (the false doctrine that in Christ there is only one will. He has a divine, and a human will). The endless disputes of the Monothelites with the Orthodox took place in all levels of the population. Even the emperor Constans (641-668) and Patriarch Paul of Constantinople (641-654) were adherents of the Monothelite heresy. The emperor Constans II published the heretical "Pattern of Faith" (Typos), obligatory for all the population. In it all further disputes were forbidden.

The heretical "Pattern of Faith" was received at Rome in the year 649. St Martin, a firm supporter of Orthodoxy, convened the Lateran Council at Rome to condemn the Monothelite heresy. At the same time St Martin sent a letter to Patriarch Paul, persuading him to return to the Orthodox confession of faith. The enraged emperor ordered the military commander Olympius to bring St Martin to trial. But Olympius feared the clergy and the people of Rome who had descended upon the Council, and he sent a soldier to murder the holy hierarch. When the assassin approached St Martin, he was blinded. The terrified Olympius fled to Sicily and was soon killed in battle.

In 654 the emperor sent another military commander, Theodore, to Rome. He accused St Martin of being in secret correspondence with the enemies of the Empire, the Saracens, and of blaspheming the Most Holy Theotokos, and of uncanonically assuming the papal throne.

Despite the proofs offered by the Roman clergy and laity of St Martin's innocence, the military commander Theodore with a detachment of soldiers seized St Martin by night and took him to Naxos, one of the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea. St Martin spent an entire year on this almost unpopulated island, suffering deprivation and abuse from the guards. Then they sent the exhausted confessor to Constantinople for trial.

They carried the sick man on a stretcher, but the judges callously ordered him to stand up and answer their questions. The soldiers propped up the saint, who was weakened by illness. False witnesses came forward slandering the saint and accusing him of treasonous relations with the Saracens. The biased judges did not even bother to hear the saint's defense. In sorrow he said, "The Lord knows what a great kindness you would show me if you would deliver me quickly over to death."

After such a trial they brought the saint out in tattered clothes to a jeering crowd. They shouted, "Anathema to Pope Martin!" But those who knew the holy Pope was suffering unjustly, withdrew in tears. Finally the sentence was announced: St Martin was to be deposed from his rank and executed. They bound the half-naked saint with chains and dragged him to prison, where they locked him up with thieves. These were more merciful to the saint than the heretics.

In the midst of all this the emperor went to the dying Patriarch Paul and told him of the trial of St Martin. He turned away from the emperor and said, "Woe is me! This is another reason for my judgment." He asked that St Martin's torments be stopped. The emperor again sent a notary and other persons to the saint in prison to interrogate him. The saint answered, "Even if they cripple me, I will not have relations with the Church of Constantinople while it remains in its evil doctrines." The torturers were astonished at the confessor's boldness, and they commuted his death sentence to exile at Cherson in the Crimea.

There the saint died, exhausted by sickness, hunger and deprivations on September 16, 655. He was buried outside the city in the Blachernae church of the Most Holy Theotokos, and later the relics of the holy confessor Martin were transferred to Rome.

The Monothelite heresy was condemned at the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 680.


Troparion - Tone 3

You strengthened the Church with true doctrine,
wise hierarch Martin.
You declared the two natures of Christ,
putting heresy to shame.
Entreat the Lord to grant us His great mercy.

Kontakion - Tone 8

High Priest and teacher of the mysteries,
you poured forth streams of doctrine.
You expounded the true doctrine of the two natures and wills of Christ.
Intercede for those who cry: "Rejoice, blessed Father Martin."

Source
 

PeterTheAleut

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Of course, this thread would not be complete for me personally without this info on my patron saint, the martyr Peter the Aleut.



Commemorated on September 24 (and, as Fr. Chris pointed out on another thread, December 12)

Saint Peter the Aleut is mentioned in the Life of St Herman of Alaska (December 13). Simeon Yanovsky (who ended his life as the schemamonk Sergius in the St Tikhon of Kaluga Monastery), has left the following account:

"On another occasion I was relating to him how the Spanish in California had imprisoned fourteen Aleuts, and how the Jesuits (actually Franciscans) were forcing all of them to accept the Catholic Faith. But the Aleuts would not agree under any circumstances, saying, 'We are Christians.' The Jesuits argued, 'That's not true, you are heretics and schismatics. If you do not agree to accept our faith then we will torture all of you to death.' Then the Aleuts were placed in prisons two to a cell. That evening, the Jesuits came to the prison with lanterns and lighted candles. Again they tried to persuade two Aleuts in the cell to accept the Catholic Faith. 'We are Christians,' the Aleuts replied, 'and we will not change our Faith.' Then the Jesuits began to torture them, at first the one while his companion was a witness. They cut off one of the joints of his feet, and then the other joint. Then they cut the first joint on the fingers of his hands, and then the other joint. Then they cut off his feet, and his hands. The blood flowed, but the martyr endured all and firmly repeated one thing: "I am a Christian.' He died in such suffering, due to a loss of blood. The Jesuit also promised to torture his comrade to death the next day.

But that night an order was received from Monterey stating that the imprisoned Aleuts were to be released immediately, and sent there under escort. Therefore, in the morning all were sent to Monterey with the exception of the dead Aleut. This was related to me by a witness, the same Aleut who had escaped torture, and who was the friend of the martyred Aleut. I reported this incident to the authorities in St Petersburg. When I finished my story, Father Herman asked, 'What was the name of the martyred Aleut?' I answered, 'Peter. I do not remember his family name.' The Elder stood reverently before an icon, made the Sign of the Cross and said, "Holy New Martyr Peter, pray to God for usl"

We know very little about St Peter, except that he was from Kodiak, and was arrested and put to death by the Spaniards in California because he refused to convert to Catholicism. The circumstances of his martyrdom recall the torture of St James the Persian (November 27).

Both in his sufferings and in his steadfast confession of the Faith, St Peter is the equal of the martyrs of old, and also of the New Martyrs who have shone forth in more recent times. Now he rejoices with them in the heavenly Kingdom, glorifying God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, throughout all ages.

http://www.oca.org/FS.NA-Saint.asp?SID=4&Saint=Peter


Troparion - Tone 4

Today Alaska rejoices and America celebrates
for the New World has been sanctified by martyrdom.
Kodiak echoes with songs of thanksgiving,
Iliámna and Kenái observe the Festival of Faith.
The apostle and martyr Juvenaly is glorified
and Peter the Aleut is exalted by his voluntary sacrifice.
In their devotion and love for the Lord
they willingly endured persecution and death for the Truth.
Now in the Kingdom of Heaven they intercede for our souls.


Kontakion - Tone 4

Today Valaam joins Alaska in celebrating this joyous feast,
as her spiritual son Juvenaly embraces the New Martyr Peter with love.
Together they suffered for the Lord in America
and united the Old World with the New by their voluntary sacrifice.
Now forever they stand before the King of Glory and intercede for our souls.

http://www.oca.org/FSTropars.asp?SID=13&ID=102713
 

ozgeorge

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St. Philothei

Philothei was born in 1550 Athens into a very affluent family. Her family was loving and caring as well as patient, and she was married to a young man and widowed before she was even sixteen. After returning to live with her parents, she took on an active position in the family as well as the church and city. She was only content when she was helping others, and this peace of mind drew her closer to God and the Church. Her family’s wealth assisted in her charitable work, and before she had reached adulthood she had earned the love and respect of the community.

After her family had passed away, Philothei became the sole owner of extensive wealth, but desiring to become a nun, she assigned control of her belongings to the care of others in order to move to an Orthodox convent. In the meantime her money continued helping the poor and also funded the building of several churches and nunneries in and around Athens. At her own convent, Philothei transferred the nuns’ interests from passive to active. She taught them to supplement their worship and devotions with crafts that could benefit the Church community. Her work set the example for the handiwork that has been the trademark of nunneries for years.

During this time in history, Turkish Moslems were holding Greece hostage, challenging Christianity. However, they became frustrated because their attempts at conversion were unsuccessful. They had hoped the mere pressure of their presence would lead to the gradual replacement of Christianity by their own Moslem faith. Eventually the Turks endeavored to discredit the many faithful Christian leaders in Athens, but this was also unsuccessful. Philothei and other spiritual leaders only gained stronger resolve and greater devotion to God.

Philothei began to give refuge to women who had escaped from Turkish harems and fled to her convent. Some became nuns, others were kept hidden in the convent until a safe house could be found for them. A woman ahead of her time, St. Philothei had established the first women's refuge in the 16th Century.

When it became apparent that Islam could not reach the hearts of the Christian Athenians, the Turks deliberately chose Philothei as a target, not only because of her open defiance but because they considered her sex to be a weakness and hoped she would succumb to surrender more easily. However, she remained a faithful and strong guide for the Athenians. Enraged, the Turks began a brutal course of terrorism.

During a service in Saint Andrew church, one of the beautiful chapels erected by her magnanimity, Philothei and some of her friends were attacked. The women were brutally beaten with clubs and stones, then dragged into the street to be murdered in front of the devastated townspeople. Philothei was carried out alive from this barbaric scene, but yielded to her wounds and gave up the spirit on February 19th, 1589.

Several miracles have been attributed to the Holy Martyr Philothei, mostly at the Cathedral in Athens and the Saint Andrew Church, still standing today and where her relics are enshrined. The many churches and nunneries she funded are still evident, and many organizations of women are named to honor this Athenian Saint.


Troparion to Saint Philothei

(Tone 5)

The Faithful of Athens and all the world

honors Philothei the martyred nun

and rejoices in her holy relics.

For she has exchanged this passing life

for the life that knows no end

through her struggle and martyrdom;

and she begs the Savior to have mercy on us all.

St. Philothei’s feast is celebrated on February 19th. Translated, her name means "friend of God."​
 

Friul

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Martyr Agatha of Palermo in Sicily



Commemorated on February 5​

The Holy Virgin Martyr Agatha was the fifteen-year-old daughter of rich and respected Christian parents from the city of Palermo (formerly Panormos) in Sicily. During the persecution under the emperor Decius (249-251), the city prefect of Catania, Quintianus, having heard about Agatha's wealth and beauty, sent his soldiers after her to bring her to trial as a Christian.

At Catania they housed the saint with a certain rich woman, who had five daughters. They all attempted to tempt St Agatha with fine clothes, amusements and entertainment, urging her to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, but the saint disdained all these things. The more they tried to move her, the more resolute she became. She prayed that she might soon face martyrdom.

During her interrogation under Quintianus, the holy martyr was swayed neither by the flattery, nor by the threats, and she was subjected to cruel torments. They also tried to remove her breasts with metal tongs, and when this failed, they used knives.

The holy Apostle Peter appeared to her in prison and healed her wounds. St Agatha was led to torture again, and Quintianus was astonished to see her completely healed, with no trace of cutting. Then the torture began once more.

At this moment an earthquake took place in the city, and many buildings were destroyed. Among those killed were two of Quintianus's advisors. The terrified inhabitants rushed to Quintianus, demanding an end to Agatha's tortures. Fearing a revolt by the people, Quintianus sent St Agatha back to prison. There the martyr, offering thanks to God, peacefully surrendered her soul to the Lord.


Troparion - Tone 4

Your lamb Agatha, calls out to You, O Jesus, in a loud voice:
"I love You, my Bridegroom, Bridegroom, and in seeking You I endure 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 offered myself in love."
Through her prayers save our souls, since You are merciful.

Kontakion - Tone 4

May the Church be robed today in a garment of glorious porphyry,
dyed by the pure blood of the martyr Agatha,
and let us cry out: "Rejoice, pride of Catania!"


Source
 

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St Ambrose, Bishop of Milan



Commemorated on December 7​

Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, was born in the year 340 into the family of the Roman prefect of Gaul (now France). Even in the saint's childhood there appeared presentiments of his great future. Once, bees covered the face of the sleeping infant. They flew in and out of his mouth, leaving honey on his tongue. Soon they flew away so high that they could no longer be seen. Ambrose's father said that the child would become something great when he reached manhood.

After the death of the father of the family, Ambrose journeyed to Rome, where the future saint and his brother Satyrius received an excellent education. About the year 370, upon completion of his course of study, Ambrose was appointed to the position of governor (consular prefect) of the districts of Liguria and Aemilia, though he continued to live at Mediolanum (now Milan).

In the year 374 Auxentius, the Arian Bishop of Mediolanum, died. This led to complications between the Orthodox and the Arians, since each side wanted to have its own bishop. Ambrose, as the chief city official, went to the church to resolve the dispute.

While he was speaking to the crowd, suddenly a child cried out,"Ambrose for bishop!" The people took up this chant. Ambrose, who at this time was still a catechumen, considered himself unworthy, and tried to refuse. He disparaged himself, and even tried to flee from Mediolanum. The matter went ultimately before the emperor Valentinian the Elder (364-375), whose orders Ambrose dared not disobey. He accepted holy Baptism from an Orthodox priest and, passing through all the ranks of the Church clergy in just seven days, on December 7, 374 he was consecrated Bishop of Mediolanum. He dispersed all his possessions, money and property for the adornment of churches, the upkeep of orphans and the poor, and he devoted himself to a strict ascetic life.

Ambrose combined strict temperance, intense vigilance and work within the fulfilling of his duties as archpastor. St Ambrose, defending the unity of the Church, energetically opposed the spread of heresy. Thus, in the year 379 he traveled off to establish an Orthodox bishop at Sirmium, and in 385-386 he refused to hand over the basilica of Mediolanum to the Arians.

The preaching of St Ambrose in defense of Orthodoxy was deeply influential. Another noted Father of the Western Church, St Augustine (June 15), bore witness to this, having accepted holy Baptism in the year 387 by the grace of the preaching of the bishop of Mediolanum.

St Ambrose also actively participated in civil matters. Thus, the emperor Gracian (375-383), having received from him the "Exposition of the Orthodox Faith" (De Fide), removed, by decree of the saint, the altar of Victory from the halls of the Senate at Rome, on which oaths were wont to be taken. Displaying a pastoral boldness, St Ambrose placed a severe penance on the emperor Theodosius I (379-395) for the massacre of innocent inhabitants of Thessalonica. For him there was no difference between emperor and commoner. Though he released Theodosius from the penance, the saint would not permit the emperor to commune at the altar, but compelled him to do public penance.

The fame of Bishop Ambrose and his actions attracted to him many followers from other lands. From faraway Persia learned men came to him to ask him questions and absorb his wisdom. Fritigelda (Frigitil), queen of the military Germanic tribe of the Markomanni, which often had attacked Mediolanum, asked the saint to instruct her in the Christian Faith. The saint in his letter to her persuasively stated the dogmas of the Church. And having become a believer, the queen converted her own husband to Christianity and persuaded him to conclude a treaty of peace with the Roman Empire.

The saint combined strictness with an uncommon kindliness. Granted a gift of wonderworking, he healed many from sickness. One time at Florence, while staying at the house of Decentus, he resurrected a dead boy.

The repose of St Ambrose, who departed to the Lord on the night of Holy Pascha, was accompanied by many miracles. He even appeared in a vision to the children being baptized that night. The saint was buried in the Ambrosian basilica in Mediolanum, beneath the altar, between the Martyrs Protasius and Gervasius (October 14).

A zealous preacher and valiant defender of the Christian Faith, St Ambrose received particular renown as a Church writer. In dogmatic compositions he set forth the Orthodox teaching about the Holy Trinity, the Sacraments, and Repentance: "Five Books on the Faith" (De Fide); "Explication of the Symbol of the Faith" (Explanatio Symboli); "On the Incarnation" (De Incarnationis); "Three Books on the Holy Spirit" (De Spiritu Sancto); "On the Sacraments" (De Sacramento); "Two Books on Repentance" (De Paenitentia). In writings about Christian morality, he explained the excellence of Christian moral teaching compared to pagan moral teaching.

A well-known work of St Ambrose, "On the Duties of the Clergy" (De Officiis Ministrorum) evidences his deep awareness of pastoral duty. He stresses that those who serve in the Church should have not only the proper knowledge of Church services, but also the proper knowledge of moral precepts.

St Ambrose was also a reformer of Church singing. He introduced antiphonal singing (along the Eastern or Syrian form) into the Western Church, which became known as "Ambrosian Chant." He also composed twelve hymns which were used during his lifetime. The hymn, "Thee, O God, we praise" (Te Deum), attributed to St Ambrose, entered into the divine services of the Orthodox Church (Molieben).


Troparion - Tone 4

In truth you were revealed to your flock as a rule of faith,
an image of humility and a teacher of abstinence;
your humility exalted you;
your poverty enriched you.
Hierarch Father Ambrose,
entreat Christ our God
that our souls may be saved.

Kontakion - Tone 3

You shone forth with divine doctrine eclipsing the deception of Arius,
shepherd and initiate of the mysteries, Ambrose.
you worked miracles through the power of the Spirit,
healing various passions;
righteous father, entreat Christ our God to grant us His great mercy.


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