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Lives of the Saints - an Information Only Thread

ozgeorge

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Sts. Raphael, Nicholas and Irene of Lesvos.

For many years a monk had been seen walking on the hill at Karyes in Lesbos,Mytillini in Greece.Many Christians and Turks had seen him.The hill was also called Kaloyeros after the monk, who was seen holding a censor and would disappear in a splendour of light.

In 1917 the Turk who owned an estate with olive trees on the hill at Karyes,Hasan Bei,commisioned the police officer of Thermi, Efstratios Sitara to solve this mystery.The short investigation was soon abandoned as the belief was held that these visions were of a supernatural nature.

There was a small chapel there in the name of Panayia. Residents of Thermi held a service there every Easter Tuesday without hindrance from the Turkish owner of the property.
Many saw the monk.Shepherds grazing their flocks heard singing and bells from the chapel.
Tradition said the monk was killed by the Turks but when this had happened,no one knew.There had also been a female monastery there, but had been destroyed by barbarians.There was a strong belief that the place had Divine Grace and was Holy.

After the destruction and problems suffered by the Greeks in Asia Minor,the Turkish olive tree property was given to a Mr Marangos and his family.They sought permission to build a church.

On 3rd July 1959, excavations began for the foundations of the church.A grave was found containing a human skeleton and giving off a sweet fragrance.The head of the skeleton was resting on a round stone, much like a pillow.The head was about 30cms away from the body. The lower jaw was missing. The excavators also found a ceramic tile from the Byzantine era with a Cross engraved on it.

After the discovery of the grave,amazing phenomena started to occur.The bones were put in a sack by a Mr Doukas Tsolakis. He was in charge of the excavations.He could not lift the sack up due to the excessive weight.Noises were heard from the bones.They were also producing a fragrant incense. One of the workers, a Mr Leonidas Sideras kicked the sack and his leg went numb. Tsolakis hand remained motionless.He could not lift the sack.The priest was asked to do a Trisagion-a prayer for the departed. The night before he was due to conduct the service, he was wondering what name he should use.During the night Saint Raphael appeared to the Priest. He told him who he was, and that he was born on the island of Ithaka.

Since then St Raphael has appeared many times to different people.He suffered martyrdom on 9th April 1463.

St Raphael was born Georgios Laskaridis. His father was called Dionysios and his mother Maria. They were a devout family.St Raphael served in the army. He then became a monk and clergyman taking the name of Raphael.

He served as parish priest in the parish of St Demetrios of Loumbardiaris in Athens.He then became Archimandrite and Bishop at the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

It was when he travelled to France that he met St Nicholas at Morlaix.Nicholas was from a wealthy family .He was a young student from Thessalonika studying at a French university.Nicholas was moved by the teaching of st Raphael and they became firm friends.

They lived in the monastery for nine years. In 1462 Mohammed the conqueror captured Lesvos after a seventeen day siege. It fell on 17th September 1462.The Turks did not disturb the Monastery immediately.After 6 months,in April 1463, during Holy Week, a movement occured in Thermi,causing some agitation. The Christians went up to Karyes to hide.The teacher Theodoros and the Commumity Chief Vasillios together with his family went up to the Monastery.St Raphael conducted the Divine Liturgy for the last time on Holy Thursday.On Good Friday the Turks came to the Monastery seized
Abbot Raphael, Deacon Nicholas,the family of the Community Chief and the Teacher Theodoros.Everyone else had fled to the mountains.The Turks started torturing them to find out the hideout of the others.

Irene, the twelve year old daughter of the Community Chief had her hand cut off in front of her parents, who were tied to a tree.She was then put in a big earthen pot and burned to death.Her father, mother, and the teacher Theodoros were all murdered.St Raphael was horribly tortured in front of Saint Nicholas.St Nicholas died of heart failure, on seeing his mentor murdered.

The Monastery was then torched and the Turks fled.The next night some devout christians buried the Holy Martyrs secretly.

When St Raphael started to appear to people he revealed everything-where the bones of the Martyrs were buried, the pot where little Irene was burned, the grave of the Teacher Theodoros, and the graves of Irene and her father.
At The site of the Ancient Church, icons were found,Holy water, Sheets from handwritten Gospels and a round icon of Jesus.St Raphael also revealed the spot where his jaw was.

The grave of Igoumene Mother Superior Olympia who suffered Martyrdom in 1235 when pirates destroyed Panaghias Old Monastery, and killed the nuns was also found.Three large nails were found in her skull.More nails were found on her body.

In 1963 at the place of the Holy Martyrdom a Convent for Ladies was established.

http://www.churchsaints.btinternet.co.uk/straphael/straphael.htm
 

PeterTheAleut

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St. Herman of Alaska


Commemorated on August 9 & December 13

Venerable Herman of Alaska, Wonderworker of All America. A spiritual mission was organized in 1793, made up of monks of the Valaam Monastery. They were sent to preach the Word of God to the native inhabitants of northwestern America, who only ten years before had come under the sovereignty of Russia. St Herman was among the members of this Mission.

St Herman came from a family of merchants of Serpukhov, a city of the Moscow Diocese. His name before he was tonsured, and his family name are not known. (The monastic name is given when a monk takes his vows). He had a great zeal for piety from youth, and at sixteen he entered monastic life. (This was in 1772, if we assume that Herman was born in 1756, although sometimes 1760 is given as the date of his birth.) First he entered the Trinity-Sergius Hermitage which was located near the Gulf of Finland on the Peterhof Road, about 15 versts (about 10 miles) from St Petersburg.

MIRACULOUS HEALING OF HERMAN At the St Sergius Hermitage there occurred the following incident to Father Herman. On the right side of his throat under his chin there appeared an abcess. The swelling grew rapidly, disfiguring his face. It became difficult for him to swallow, and the odor was unbearable. In this critical condition Father Herman awaited death. He did not appeal to a physician of this world, but locking his cell he fell before an lcon of the Queen of Heaven. With fervent tears he prayed, asking of Her that he might be healed. He prayed the whole night. Then he took a wet towel and with it wiped the face of the Most Holy Mother, and with this towel he covered the swelling. He continued to pray with tears until he fell asleep from sheer exhaustion on the floor. In a dream he saw the Virgin Mary healing him.

When Herman awoke in the morning, he found to his great surprise that he was fully healed. The swelling had disappeared, even though the abscess had not broken through, leaving behind but a small mark as though a reminder of the miracle. Physicians to whom this healing was described did not believe it, arguing that it was necessary for the abscess to have either broken through of its own accord or to have been cut open. But the words of the physicians were the words of human experience, for where the grace of God operates there the order of nature is overcome. Such occurrences humble human reason under the strong hand of God's Mercy.

HERMAN'S LIFE AT VALAAM For five or six years Father Herman continued to live in the St Sergius Hermitage, and then he transferred to the Valaam Monastery, which was widely scattered on the large islands in the waters of the great Lake Ladoga. He came to love the Valaam haven with all his soul, as he came to love its unforgettable Superior, the pious Elder Nazarius, and all the brethren. He wrote to Father Nazarius later from America, "Your fatherly goodness to me, humble one, will be erased out of my heart neither by the terrible, unpassable Siberian lands, nor by the dark forests. Nor will it be wiped out by the swift flow of the great rivers; nor will the awful ocean quench these feelings. In my mind I imagine my beloved Valaam, looking to it beyond the great ocean." He praised the Elder Nazarius in his letters as,"the most reverend, and my beloved father." (Batushka) and the brethren of Valaam he called, "my beloved and dearest." The place where he lived in America, deserted Spruce Island, he called "Now Valaam." And as we can see, he always remained in spiritual contact with his spiritual homeland', for as late as 1823, that is after thirty years of his life within the borders of America, he wrote letters to the successor of Father Nazarius, the lgumen Innocent.

Father Barlaam, later lgumen of Valaam, and a contemporary of Father Herman, who accepted his tonsure from Father Nazarius, wrote thus of the life of Father Herman.

"Father Herman went through the various obediences here, and being ‘well disposed toward every thing’ was in the course of events sent to Serdobol to oversee there the work of quarrying marble. The Brothers loved Father Herman, and awaited impatiently his return to the cloisters from Serdobol. Recognizing the zeal of the young hermit the wise elder, Father Nazarius, released him to take abode in the wilderness. This wilderness was in the deep forest about a mile from the cloister: to this day this place has retained the name 'Herman's.' On holy days, Father Herman returned to the monastery from the wilderness. Then it was that at Little Vespers he would stand in the choir and sing in his pleasant tenor the responses with the brethren from the Canon, 'O Sweetest Jesus, save us sinners. Most Holy Theotokos, Save us,' and tears would fall like hail from his eyes."

THE FIRST MISSION TO AMERICA In the second half of the 18th century the borders of Holy Russia expanded to the north. In those years Russian merchants discovered the Aleutian Islands which formed in the Pacific Ocean a chain from the eastern shares of Kamchatka to the western shares of North America. With the opening of these islands there was revealed the sacred necessity to illumine with the light of the Gospel the native inhabitants. With the blessing of the Holy Synod, Metropolitan Gabriel gave to the Elder Nazarius the task of selecting capable persons from the brethern of Valaam for this holy endeavor. Ten men were selected, and among them was Father Herman. The chosen men left Valaam for the place of their great appointment in 1793. (The members of this historical mission were: Archimandrite Joseph (Bolotoff), the Hieromonks, Juvenal, Macarius, Athanasius, Stephan and Nectarius, Hierodeacons, Nectarius and Stephen, and the monks Joasaph, and Herman.)

As a result of the holy zeal of the preachers the light of the evangelic sermon quickly poured out among the sons of Russia, and several thousand pagans accepted Christianity. A school for the education of newly-baptized children was organized, and a church was built at the place where the missionaries lived. But by the inscrutable providence of God the general progress of the mission was unsatisfactory. After five years of very productive labor, Archimandrite Joasaph, who had just been elevated to the rank of bishop, was drowned with his party. (This occurred on the Pacific Ocean been Kamchatka and the Aleutian Islands. The ship, Phoenix, one of the first sea-going ships built in Alaska, sailed from Okhotsk carrying the first Bishop for the American Mission and his party. The Phoenix was caught in one of the many storms which periodically sweep the northern Pacific, and the ship and all hands perished together with Bishop Joasaph and his party.) Before this the zealous Hieromonk Juvenal was granted the martyr's crown. The others died one after another until in the end only Father Herman remained. The Lord permitted him to labor longer than any of his brethren in the apostolic task of enlightening the Aleutians.

THE NEW VALAAM - SPRUCE ISLAND In America Father Herman chose as his place of habitation Spruce Island, which he called New Valaam. This island is separted by a strait about a mile and a quarter wide from Kodiak Island on which had been built a wooden monastery for the residence of the members of the mission, and a wooden church dedicated to the Resurrection of the Savior. (New Valaam was named for Valaam on Lake Ladoga, the monastery from which Father Herman came to America. It is interesting to note that Valaam is also located on an island, although, this island is in a fresh water lake, whereas, Spruce Island is on the Pacific Ocean, although near other islands and the Alaskan mainland.)

Spruce Island is not large, and is almost completely covered by a forest. Almost through its middle a small brook flows to the sea. Herman selected this picturesque island for the location of his hermitage. He dug a cave out of the ground with his own hands, and in it he lived his first full summer. For winter there was built for him a cell near the cave, in which he lived until his death. The cave was converted by him into a place for his burial. A wooden chapel, and a wooden house to be used as a schoolhouse and a guest house were built not too distant from his cell. A garden was laid out in front of his cell. For more than forty years Father Herman lived here.

FATHER HERMAN'S WAY OF LIFE Father Herman himself spaded the garden, planted potatoes and cabbage and various vegetables in it. For winter, he preserved mushrooms, salting or drying them. The salt was obtained by him from ocean water. It is said that a wicker basket in which the Elder carried seaweed from the shore, was so large that it was difficult for one person to carry. The seaweed was used for fertilizing the soil. But to the astonishment of all, Father Herman carried a basket filled with seaweed for a long distance without any help at all. By chance his disciple, Gerasim, saw him one winter night carrying a large log which normally would be carried by four men; and he was bare footed. Thus worked the Elder, and everything that he acquired as a result of his immeasurable labors was used for the feeding and clothing of orphans and also for books for his students.

His clothes were the same for winter as for summer. He did not wear a shirt; instead he wore a smock of deer skin, which he did not take off for several years at a time, nor did he change it, so that the fur in it was completely worn away, and the leather became glossy. Then there were his boots or shoes, cassock (podrasnik), an ancient and faded out cassock (riasa) full of patchwork, and his headdress (klobuk). He went everywhere in these clothes, and at all times; in the rain, in snowstorms, and during the coldest freezing weather. In this, Father Herman followed the example of many Eastern Ascetic Fathers and Monks who showed the greatest concern for the welfare and needs of others. Yet, they themselves wore the oldest possible clothes to show their great humility before God, and their contempt for worldly things.

A small bench covered with a time-worn deerskin served as Father Herman's bed. He used two bricks for a pillow; these were hidden from visitors by a skin or a shirt. There was no blanket. Instead, he covered himself with a wooden board which lay on the stove. This board Father Herman, himself called his blanket, and he willed that it be used to cover his remains; it was as long as he was tall. "During my stay in the cell of Father Herman," writes the creole Constantine Larionov, "I, a sinner, sat on his 'blanket'-and I consider this the acme of my fortune!" ('creole' is the name by which the Russians referred to the children of mixed marriages of native Indians of Alaska, Eskimo and Aleuts with Russians.)

On the occasions when Father Herman was the guest of administrators of the American Company and in the course of their soul-saving talks he sat up with them until midnight. He never spent the night with them, but regardless of the weather he always returned to his hermitage. If for some extraordinary reason it was necessary for him to spend the night away from his cell, then in the morning the bed which had been prepared for him would be found untouched; the Elder not having slept at all. The same was true in his hermitage where having spent the night in talks, he never rested.

The Elder ate very little. As a guest, he scarcely tasted the food, and remained without dinner. In his call his dinner consisted of a very small portion of a small fish or some vegetables.

His body, emaciated as a result of his labors, his vigils, and fasting, was crushed by chains which weighed about sixteen pounds. These chains are kept to this day in the chapel.

Telling of these deeds of Father Herman, his disciple, the Aleut lgnaty Aligyaga, added, "Yes, Apa led a very hard life, and no one can imitate his life!" (Apa, Aleutian word means Elder or grandfather, and it is a name indicative of the great affection in which he was held).

Our writing of the incidents in the life of the Elder deal, so to speak, with the external aspects of his labor. "His most important works," says the Bishop Peter, "were his exercises in spiritual endeavor in his isolated cell where no one saw him, but outside the cell they heard him singing and celebrating services to God according to the monastic rule." This witness of the Bishop is supported by the following answers of Father Herman, himself, "How do you manage to live alone in the forest, Father Herman? Don't you ever become lonesome?" He answered, "No I am not there alone! God is here, as God is everywhere. The Holy Angels are there. With whom is it better to talk, with people, or with Angels? Most certainly with Angels."

FATHER HERMAN AND THE NATIVES The way in which Father Herman looked upon the natives of America, how he understood his own relations with them, and how he was concerned for their needs he expressed himself in one of his letters to the former administrator of the colony, Simeon Yanovsky.

He wrote, "Our Creator granted to our beloved homeland this land which like a newly-born babe does not yet have the strength for knowledge or understanding. It requires not only protection, because of its infantile weakness and impotence, but also his sustenance. Even for this it does not yet have the ability to make an appeal on its own behalf. And since the welfare of this nation by the Providence of God, it is not known for how long, is dependent on and has been entrusted into the hands of the Russian government which has now been given into your own power, therefore I, the most humble servant of these people, and their nurse (nyanka) stand before you in their behalf, write this petition with tears of blood. Be our Father and our Protector. Certainly we do not know how to be eloquent, so with an inarticulate infant's tonque we say: Wipe away the tears of the defenseless orphans, cool the hearts melting away in the fire of sorrow. Help us to know what consolation means."

The Elder acted the way he felt. He always interceded before the governors in behalf of those who had transgressed. He defended those who had been offended. He helped those who were in need with whatever means he had available. The Aleuts, men, women and children, often visited him. Some asked for advice, others complained of oppression, others sought out defense, and still others desired help. Each one received the greatest possible satisfaction from the Elder. He discussed their mutual difficulties, and he tried to settle these peacefully. He was especially concerned about reestablishing understanding in families. If he did not succeed in reconciling a husband and wife, the Elder prevailed upon them to separate temporarily. The need for such a procedure he explained thus, "it is better to let them live apart, or believe me, it can be terrible if they are not separated. There have been incidents when a husband killed his wife, or when a wife destroyed her husband."

Father Herman especially loved children. He made large quantities of biscuits for them, and he baked cookies (krendelki) for them; and the children were fond of the Elder. Father Herman's love for the Aleuts reached the point of self-denial.

AN EPIDEMIC STRIKES A ship from the United States brought to Sitka Island, and from there to Kodiak Island, a contagious disease, a fatal illness. It began with a fever, a heavy cold, and difficult respiration, and it ended with chills; in three days the victim died. On the island there was neither a doctor nor medicine. The illness spread rapidly through the village, and then throughout the nearby areas. The disease affected all, even infants. The fatalities were so great that for three days there was no one to dig graves, and the bodies remained unburied. An eyewitness said, "I cannot imagine anything more tragic and horrible than the sight which struck me when I visited an Aleutian 'Kazhim'. This was a large building, or barracks, with dividing sections, in which the Aleuts lived with their families; it contained about 100 people. Here some had died, their cold bodies lay near the living; others were dying; there were groans and weeping which tore at one's soul."

"I saw mothers over whose bodies cold in death crawled a hungry child, crying and searching in vain for its food...My heart was bursting with compassion! It seemed that if anyone could paint with a worthy brush the full horror of this tragic scene, that he would have successfully aroused fear of death in the most embittered heart." Father Herman, during this terrible sickness which lasted a whole month, gradually dying out towards the end, visited the sick, never tiring. He admonished them in their fear, prayed, brought them to penance, or prepared them for death. He never spared himself.

FATHER HERMAN AS A SPIRITUAL TEACHER The Elder was concerned in particular for the moral growth of the Aleuts. With this end in mind a school was built for children-the orphans of the Aleuts. He himself taught them the Law of God and church music. For this same purpose he gathered the Aleuts on Sunday and Holy Days for prayer in the chapel near his cell. Here his disciple read the Hours and the various prayers while the Elder himself read the Epistle and Gospel. He also preached to them. His students sang, and they sang very well. The Aleuts loved to hear his sermons, gathering around him in large numbers. The Elder's talks were captivating, and his listeners were moved by their wonderous power. He himself writes of one example of the beneficial results of his words.

"Glory to the holy destinies of the Merciful God! He has shown me now through his unfathomable Providence a new occurence which I, who have lived here for twenty years had never seen before on Kodiak. Recently after Easter, a young girl about twenty years of age who knows Russian well, came to me. Having heard of the Incarnation of the Son of God and of Eternal Life, she became so inflamed with love for Jesus Christ that she does not wish to leave me. She pleaded eloquently with me. Contrary to my personal inclination and love for solitude, and despite all the hindrances and difficulties which I put forward before accepting her, she has now been living near the school for a month and is not lonesome."

"I, looking on this with great wonder, remembered the 'words of the Savior: that which is hidden from the wise and learned is revealed to babes." (Matt. 11:25)

This woman lived at the school until the death of the Elder. She watched for the good conduct of the children who studied in his school. Father Herman willed that after his death she was to continue to live on Spruce Island. Her name was Sophia Vlasova.

Yanovsky writes about the character and the eloquence of the talks of the Elder thus:

"When I met Father Herman I was thirty years old. I must say that I was educated in the naval corps school; that I knew many sciences having read extensively. But to my regret, the Science of sciences, that is the Law of God, I barely remembered the externals - and these only theoretically, not applying them to life. I was a Christian in name only, but in my soul and in reality, I was a freethinker. Furthermore, I did not admit the divinity and holiness of our religion, for I had read through many atheistic works. Father Herman recognized this immediately and he desired to reconvert me. To my great surprise he spoke so convincingly, wisely - and he argued with such conviction- that it seemed to me that no learning or worldly wisdom could stand one's ground before his words. We conversed with him daily until midnight, and even later, of God's love, of eternity, of the salvation of souls, and of Christian living. From his lips flowed a ceaseless stream of sweet words! By these continual talks and by the prayers of the holy Elder the Lord returned me completely to the way of Truth, and I became a real Christian. I am indebted for all this to Father Herman he is my true benefactor."

"Several years ago," continues Yanovsky, "Father Herman converted a certain naval captain G. to Orthodoxy from the Lutheran Faith. This captain was well educated. Besides many sciences, he was well versed in languages. He knew Russian, English, German, French, Italian and also some Spanish. But for all this he could not resist the convictions and proofs of Father Herman. He changed his faith and was united to the Orthodox Church through Chrismation. When he was leaving America, the Elder said to him while they were parting, "Be on guard, if the Lord should take your wife from you then do not marry a German woman under any circumstance. If you do marry a German woman, undoubtedly she will damage your Orthodoxy." The Captain gave his word, but he failed to keep it. The warning of the Elder was prophetic. Indeed, after several years the Captain's wife did die, and he married a German woman. There is no doubt that his faith weakened or that he left it; for he died suddenly without penance."

Further on Yanovsky writes, "Once the Elder was invited aboard a frigate which came from St Petersburg. The Captain of the frigate was a highly educated man, who had been sent to America by order of the Emperor to make an inspection of all the colonies. There were more than twenty-five officers with the Captain, and they also were educated men. In the company of this group sat a monk of a hermitage, small in stature and wearing very old clothes. All these educated conversationalists were placed in such a position by his wise talks that they did not know how to answer him. The Captain himself used to say, 'We were lost for an answer before him.'

"Father Herman gave them all one general question: 'Gentlemen, What do you love above all, and what will each of you wish for your happiness?' Various answers were offered ... Some desired wealth, others glory, some a beautiful wife, and still others a beautiful ship he would captain; and so forth in the same vein. 'It is not true,' Father Herman said to them concerning this, 'that all your various wishes can bring us to one conclusion - that each of you desires that which in his own understanding he considers the best, and which is most worthy of his love?' They all answered, 'Yes, that is so!' He then continued, 'Would you not say, Is not that which is best, above all, and surpassing all, and that which by preference is most worthy of love, the Very Lord, our Jesus Christ, who created us, adorned us with such ideals, gave life to all, sustains everything, nurtures and loves all, who is Himself Love and most beautiful of all men? Should we not then love God above every thing, desire Him more than anything, and search Him out?' "

All said, "Why, yes! That's self-evident!" Then the Elder asked, "But do you love God?" They all answered, "Certainly, we love God. How can we not love God?" "And I a sinner have been trying for more than forty years to love God, I cannot say that I love Him completely," Father Herman protested to them. He then began to demonstrate to them the way in which we should love God. "if we love someone," he said, "we always remember them; we try to please them. Day and night our heart is concerned with the subject. Is that the way you gentlemen love God? Do you turn to Him often? Do you always remember Him? Do you always pray to Him and fulfill His holy commandments?" They had to admit that they had not! "For our own good, and for our own fortune," concluded the Elder, "let us at least promise ourselves that from this very minute we will try to love God more than anything and to fulfill His Holy Will!" Without any doubt this conversation was imprinted in the hearts of the listeners for the rest of their lives.

"in general, Father Herman liked to talk of eternity, of salvation of the future life, of our destinies under God. He often talked on the lives of the Saints, on the Prologue, but he never spoke about anything frivolous. It was so pleasant to hear him that those who conversed with him, the Aleuts and their wives, were so captivated by his talks that often they did not leave him until dawn, and then they left him with reluctance;" thus witnesses the creole, Constantine Larionov.

A DESCRIPTION OF FATHER HERMAN Yanovsky writes a detailed description of Father Herman. "I have a vivid memory," he said, "Of all the features of the Elder's face reflecting goodness; his pleasant smile, his meek and attractive mien, his humble and quiet behavior, and his gracious word. He was short of stature. His face was pale and covered with wrinkles. His eyes were greyish-blue, full of sparkle, and on his head there were a few gray hairs. His voice was not powerful, but it was very pleasant." Yanovsky relates two incidents from his conversations with the Elder. "Once," he writes, "I read to Father Herman the ode, 'God,' by Derzhavin. The Elder was surprised, and entranced. He asked me to read it again. I read it once more, "Is it possible that a simple, educated man wrote this?" he asked. "Yes, a learned poet," I answered. "This has been written under God's inspiration," said the Elder.

THE MARTYRDOM OF PETER "On another occasion I was relating to him how the Spanish in California had imprisoned fourteen Aleuts, and how the Jesuits were forcing all of them to accept the Catholic Faith. But this Aleut would not agree under any circumstances, saying, 'We are Christians.' The Jesuits protested, '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.' Then the Aleuts were placed in cells until evening; two to a cell. At night the Jesuits came to the prison with lanterns and lighted candles. They began to persuade the Aleuts in the cell once again to accept the Catholic Faith. 'We are Christians,' was the answer of the Aleuts, 'and we will not change our Faith.' Then the Jesuits began to torture them, at first the one while his companion was the witness. They cut the toes off his feet, first one joint and then the other joint. And then they cut the first joint on the fingers of the hands, and then the other joint. Afterwards they cut off his feet, and his hands; the blood flowed. The martyr endured all and steadfastly insisted on one thing: "I am a Christian.' In such suffering, he bled to death. The Jesuit promised to torture to death his comrades also on 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 dispatched to Monterey with the exception of the martyred Aleut. This was related to me by a witness, the same Aleut who was the comrade of the tortured Aleut. Afterwards he escaped from imprisonment, and I reported this incident to the supreme authorities in St Petersburg. When I finished my story, Father Herman asked, 'And how did they call the martyred Aleut?' I answered, 'Peter; I do not remember his family name.' The Elder stood up before an icon reverently, made the sign of the Cross and pronounced, "Holy newly-martyred Peter, pray to God for usl"

THE SPIRIT OF FATHER HERMAN’S TEACHING In order to express the spirit of Father Herman's teaching, we present here a quotation from a letter that was written by his own hand.

"The empty years of these desires separate us from our heavenly homeland, and our Love for these desires and our habits clothe us, as it were, in an odious dress; it is called by the Apostle 'the external (earthy) man.' (I Cor. 15:47). We who are wanderers in the journey of this life call to God for aid. We must divest ourselves of this repulsiveness, and put on new desires, and a new love for the coming age. Thus, through this we will know either an attraction or a repulsion for the heavenly homeland. It is possible to do this quickly, but we must follow the example of the sick, who wishing for desired health, do not stop searching for means of curing themselves. But I am not speaking clearly."

Not desiring anything for himself in life; long ago when he first came to America having refused, because of his humility, the dignity of hiero-monk and archimandrite; and deciding to remain forever a common monk, Father Herman, without the least fear before the, powerful, strove with all sincerity for God. With gentle love, and disregarding the person, he criticized many for intemperate living, for unworthy behalvor, and for oppressing the Aleuts. Evil armed itself against him and gave him all sorts of trouble and sorrow. But God protected the Elder. The Administrator of the Colony, Yanovsky, not having yet seen Father Herman, after receiving one of those complaints, had already written to St Petersburg of the necessity of his removal. He explained that it seemed that he was arousing the Aleuts against the administration. But this accusation turned out to be unjust, and in the end Yanovsky was numbered among the admirers of Father Herman.

Once an inspector came to Spruce Island with the Administrator of the Colony N. and with company employees to search through Father Herman's call.

This party expected to find property of great value in Father Herman's call. But when they found nothing of value, an employee (of the American Company), Ponomarkhov, began to tear up the floor with an axe, undoubtedly with the consent of his seniors. Then Father Herman said to him, "My friend, you have lifted the axe in vain; this weapon shall deprive you of your life." Some time later people were needed at Fort Nicholas, and for that reason several Russian employees were sent there from Kodiak; among them was Ponomarkhov; there the natives of Kenai cut off his head while he slept.

THE TEMPTATIONS OF FATHER HERMAN Many great sorrows were borne by Father Herman from evil spirits. He himself revealed this to his disciple, Gerasim. Once when he entered Father Herman's cell without the usual prayer he received no answer from Father Herman to any of his questions. The next day Gerasim asked him the reason for his silence. On that occasion Father Herman said to him, "When I came to this island and settled in this hermitage the evil spirits approached me ostensibly to be helpful. They came in the form of a man, and in the form of animals. I suffered much from them; from various afflictions and temptations. And that is why I do not speak now to anyone who enters into my presence without prayer." (It is customary among devout laymen, as well as clergy, to say out loud a prayer, and upon hearing a response ending with Amen, to enter and go to the icon in the room to reverence it, and to say a prayer before greeting the host).

SUPERNATURAL GIFTS FROM GOD Herman dedicated himself fully for the Lord's service; he strove with zeal solely for the glorification of His Most Holy Name. Far from his homeland in the midst of a variety of afflictions and privations Father Herman spent several decades performing the noblest deeds of self-sacrifice. He was privileged to receive many supernatural gifts from God.

In the midst of Spruce Island down the hill flows a little stream into the sea. The mouth of this stream was always swept by surf. In the spring when the brook fish appeared the Elder raked away some of the sand at its mouth so that the fish could enter, and at their first appearance they rushed up the stream'. His disciple, lgnaty, said, "it was so that if 'Apa' would tell me, I would go and get fish in the streaml" Father Herman fed the birds with dried fish, and they would gather in great numbers around his call. Underneath his cell there lived an ermine. This little animal can not be approached when it has had its young, but the Elder fed it from his own hand. "Was not this a miracle that we had seen?" said his disciple, lgnaty. They also saw Father Herman feeding bears. But when Father Herman died the birds and animals left; even the garden would not give any sort of crops even though someone had willingly taken care of it, lgnaty insisted.

On Spruce Island there once occurred a flood. The inhabitants came to the Elder in great fear. Father Herman then took an icon of the Mother of God from the home where his students lived, and placed it on a "laida" ( a sandy bank) and began to pray. After his prayer he turned to those present and said, "Have no fear, the water will not go any higher than the place where this holy icon stands." The words of the Elder were fullfilled. After this he promised the same aid from this holy icon in the future through the intercessions of the Most Immaculate Queen. He entrusted the icon to his disciple, Sophia; in case of future floods the icon was to be placed on the "laida."

At the request of the Elder, Baron F. P. Wrangel wrote a letter to a Metropolitan - his name is not known - which was dictated by Father Herman. When the letter was completed and read, the Elder congratulated the Baron upon his attaining the rank of admiral. The Baron was taken aback. This was news to him. It was confirmed, but only after an elapse of some time and just before he departed for St. Petersburg.

Father Herman said to the administrator Kashevarov from whom he accepted his son from the font (during the Sacrament of Baptism), "I am sorry for you my dear 'kum.' It's a shame, the change will be unpleasant for you!" In two years during a change of administration Kashevarov was sent to Sitka in chains.

Once the forest on Spruce Island caught fire. The Elder with his disciple, Ignaty, in a thicket of the forest made a belt about a yard wide in which they turned over the moss. They extended it to the foot of the hill. The Elder said, "Rest assured, the fire will not pass this line." On the next day according to the testimony of lgnaty there was no hope for salvation (from the fire) and the fire, pushed by a strong wind, reached the place where the moss had been turned over by the Elder. The fire ran over the moss and halted, leaving untouched the thick forest which was beyond the line.

The Elder often said that there would be a bishop for America; this at a time when no one even thought of it, and there was no hope that there would be a bishop for America;this was related by the Bishop Peter and his prophecy was fulfilled in time.

"After my death," said Father Herman, "there will be an epidemic and many people shall die during it and the Russians shall unite the Aleuts." And so it happened; it seems that about a half a year after his passing there was a smallpox epidemic; the death rate in America during the epidemic was tremendous. In some villages only a few inhabitants remained alive. This led the administration of the colony to unite the Aleuts; the twelve settlements were consolidated into seven.

"Although a long time shall elapse after my death, I will not be forgotten," said Father Herman to his disciples. "My place of habitation will not remain empty. A monk like myself who will be escaping from the glory of men, will come and he will live on Spruce Island, and Spruce Island will not be without people."

(This prophecy has now been fulfilled in its entirety. Just such a monk as Father Herman described lived on Spruce Island for many years; his name was Archimandrite Gerasim, who died on October 13, 1969. This monk took on himself the responsibility of taking care of the Chapel under which at first was buried the Elder Herman. Metropolitan Leonty soon after his elevation to the primacy of the Russian Orthodox Church in America made a pilgrimage to Spruce Island, and the grave of Herman.)

HERMAN'S PROPHECIES FOR THE FUTURE The creole Constantine, when he was not more than twelve years old, was asked by Father Herman, "My beloved one, what do you think; this chapel which they are now building, will it ever stand empty?" The youngster answered, "I do not know, 'Apa." "And indeed," said Constantine, "I did not understand his question at that time, even though that whole conversation with the Elder remains vivid in my memory." The Elder remained silent for a short time, and then said, "My child remember, in time in this place there will be a monastery."

Father Herman said to his disciple the Aleut lgnaty Aiigyaga, "Thirty years shall pass after my death, and all those living on Spruce Island will have died, but you alone will remain alive. You will be old and poor when I will be remembered." And indeed after the death of Father Herman thirty years passed when they were reminded of him, and they began to gather information and facts about him; on the basis of which was written his life. "It is amazing," exclaims lgnaty, "how a man like us could know all this so long before it happened! However, no, he was no ordinary man! He knew our thoughts, and involuntarily he led us to the point where we revealed them to him, and we received counsel from him!"

"When I die," said the Elder to his disciples, "you will bury me alongside Father Joasaph. You will bury me by yourself, for you will not wait for the priest! Do not wash my body. Lay it on a board, clasp my hands over my chest, wrap me in my 'mantia' (the monk's outer cloak), and with its wings cover my face and place the 'kiobuk' on my head. (The 'klobuk' is the monastic head-dress.) If anyone wishes to bid farewell to me, let them kiss the Cross. Do not show my face to anyone . . ."

THE DEATH OF FATHER HERMAN The time of the Elder's passing had come. One day he ordered his disciple, Gerasim, to light a candle before the icons, and to read the Acts of the Holy Apostles. After some time his face glowed brightly and he said in a loud voice, "Glory to Thee, O Lord!" He then ordered the reading to be halted, and he announced that the Lord had willed that his life would now be spared for another week. A week later again by his orders the candies were lit, and the Acts of the Holy Apostles were read. Quietly the Elder bowed his head on the chest of Gerasim; the cell was filled with a pleasant smelling odor; and his face glowed, and Father Herman was no more! Thus in blessedness he died, he passed away in the sleep of a righteous man in the 81st year of his life of great labor, the 25th day of December, 1837. (According to the Julian Calendar, the 13th of December 1837, although there are some records which state he died on the 28th of November, and was buried on the 26th of December).

Those sent with the sad news to the harbor returned to announce that the administrator of the colony Kashevarov had forbidden the burial of the Elder until his own arrival. He also ordered that a finer coffin be made for Father Herman, and that he would come as soon as possible and would bring a priest with him. But then a great wind came up, a rain fell, and a terrible storm broke. The distance from the Harbor to Spruce Island is not great - about a two hour journey - but no one would agree to go to sea in such weather. Thus it continued for a full month and although the body lay in state for a full month in the warm house of his students, his face did not undergo any change at all, and not the slightest odor emanated from his body. Finally through the efforts of Kuzma Uchilischev, a coffin was obtained. No one arrived from the Harbor, and the inhabitants of Spruce Island alone buried in the ground the remains of the Elder. Thus the words which Herman uttered before his death were fulfilled. After this the wind quieted down, and the surface of the sea became as smooth as a mirror.

One evening from the village Katani (on Afognak) was seen above Spruce Island an unusual pillar of light which reached up to heaven. Astonished by the miraculous appearance, experienced elders and the creole Gerasim Vologdin and his wife, Anna, said, "it seems that Father Herman has left us," and they began to pray. After a time, they were informed that the Elder had indeed passed away that very night. This same pillar was seen in various places by others. The night of his death in another of the settlements on Afognak was seen a vision; it seemed as though a man was rising from Spruce Island into the clouds.

The disciples buried their father, and placed above his grave a wooden memorial marker. The priest on Kodiak, Peter Kashevarov, says, "I saw it myself, and I can say that today it seems as though it had never been touched by time; as though it had been cut this day."

Having witnessed the life of Father Herman glorified by his zealous labors, having seen his miracles, and the ful- fillment of his predictions, finally having observed his blessed falling-asleep, "in general all the local inhabitants" witnesses Bishop Peter, "have the highest esteem for him, as though he was a holy ascetic, anti are fully convinced thdt he has found favor in the presence of God."

In 1842, five years after the passing away of the Elder, Innocent, Archbishop of Kamchatka and the Aleutians, was near Kodiak on a sailing vessel which was in great distress. He looked to Spruce Island, and said to himself, "if you, Father Herman, have found favor in God's presence then may the wind change!" It seems as though not more than fifteen minutes had passed, said the Bishop, when the wind became favorable, and he successfully reached the shore. In thanksgiving for his salvation, Archbishop Innocent himself conducted a Memorial Service over the grave of the Blessed Elder Herman.

In 1970, the Orthodox Church in America glorified the monk Herman as the Venerable Herman of Alaska, Wonderworker of All America.

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

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St Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers



Commemorated on January 13​

The Holy Hierarch Hilary was born of pagan parents in Gaul, and was trained in philosophy and rhetoric. At a time when paganism was still strong in Gaul, St Hilary understood the falsehood of polytheism, and became a Christian, and a great defender of his new Faith. About the year 350 AD, he was ordained Bishop of Poitiers, when Aries and Milan were in the hands of the Arians and the Arian Constantius was sole Emperor. Like his contemporary St Athanasius, St Hilary's Episcopate was one long struggle against the Arians. As Bishop of Poitiers, St Hilary foresaw the future greatness of Martin, and attached him to himself. In 355 AD, when required to agree to the condemnation of St Athanasius passed by the Synod of Milan, Hilary wrote an epistle to Constantius convicting the wrongs done by the Arians and requesting, among other things, the restoration of the Orthodox Bishops, including Athanasius. For this, Hilary was banished to Asia Minor, where he wrote his greatest work, On the Trinity. St Hilary returned to his See in 360 AD, where St Martin sought him out again. It was at this time that St Hilary blessed Martin to found a monastery near Poitiers, where Martin remained until being consecrated Bishop of Tours in 371 AD. In his last years, St Hilary strove for the deposition of Auxentius, the Arian Bishop of Milan, but by affecting an Orthodox confession Auxentius retained his See. St Hilary reposed in peace about the year 368 AD. Auxentius died in 374 AD and was succeeded by St Ambrose, who continued St Hilary's battle against Arianism.


Dismissal Hymn of St Hilary

Guide of Orthodoxy, teacher of piety and holiness, luminary of the world, God-inspired adornment of Hierarchs, O wise Hilary, by thy teachings thou hast enlightened all, O harp of the Spirit. Intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.


Kontakion of St Hilary
As first fruits of our nature

Enduring exile for the Faith delivered to the Church of Christ, you withstood the deceit of the Arians, O holy Hierarch Hilary. By your prayers and your teachings, O defender of Orthodoxy and right belief, convert the Western lands and entreat Christ for us, who honour you.

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St Martin the Merciful, Bishop of Tours



Commemorated on November 11​

Saint Martin the Merciful, Bishop of Tours, was born at Sabaria in Pannonia (modern Hungary) in 316. Since his father was a Roman officer, he also was obliged to serve in the army. Martin did so unwillingly, for he considered himself a soldier of Christ, though he was still a catechumen.

At the gates of Amiens, he saw a beggar shivering in the severe winter cold, so he cut his cloak in two and gave half to the beggar. That night, the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to the saint wearing Martin's cloak. He heard the Savior say to the angels surrounding Him, "Martin is only a catechumen, but he has clothed Me with this garment." The saint was baptized soon after this, and reluctantly remained in the army.

Two years later, the barbarians invaded Gaul and Martin asked permission to resign his commission for religious reasons. The commander charged him with cowardice. St Martin demonstrated his courage by offering to stand unarmed in the front line of battle, trusting in the power of the Cross to protect him. The next day, the barbarians surrendered without a fight, and Martin was allowed to leave the army.

He traveled to various places during the next few years, spending some time as a hermit on an island off Italy. He became friendly with St Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers (January 14), who made Matrin an exorcist. After several years of the ascetic life, St Martin was chosen to be Bishop of Tours in 371. As bishop, St Martin did not give up his monastic life, and the place where he settled outside Tours became a monastery. In fact, he is regarded as the founder of monasticism in France. He conversed with angels, and had visions of Sts Peter and Paul (June 29) and of other saints. He is called the Merciful because of his generosity and care for the poor, and he received the grace to work miracles.

After a life of devoted service to Christ and His Church, the saint fell ill at Candes, a village in his diocese, where he died on November 8, 397. He was buried three days later (his present Feast) at Tours. During the Middle Ages, many Western churches were dedicated to St Martin, including St Martin's in Canterbury, and St Martin-in-the-Fields in London.

In 1008, a cathedral was built at Tours over the relics of St Martin. This cathedral was destroyed in 1793 during the French Revolution, together with the relics of St Martin and St Gregory of Tours (November 17). A new cathedral was built on the site many years later. Some fragments of the relics of St Martin were recovered and placed in the cathedral, but nothing remains of St Gregory's relics.

St Martin's name appears on many Greek and Russian calendars. His commemoration on October 12 in the Russian calendar appears to be an error, since ancient sources give the November date.


Troparion - Tone 4

In signs and in miracles you were renowned throughout Gaul.
By grace and adoption you are a light for the world, O Martin,
blessed of God.
Almsdeeds and compassion filled your life with their splendors,
Teaching and wise counsel were your riches and treasures,
Which you dispense freely to those who honor you.


Kontakion - Tone 8

As a devoted man of God, you proclaimed His mysteries,
And as a seer of the Trinity, you shed your blessings on the Occident.
By your prayers and entreaties, O adornment of Tours and glory of all the Church,
Preserve us, O Saint Martin, and save all who praise your memory.

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Venerable Genevieve of Paris



Commemorated on January 3​

Saint Genevieve was born of wealthy parents in Gaul (modern France) in the village of Nanterre, near Paris, around 422. Her father's name was Severus, and her mother was called Gerontia. According to the custom of the time, she often tended her father's flocks on Mt. Valerien.

When she was about seven years old, St Germanus of Auxerre (July 31) noticed her as he was passing through Nanterre. The bishop kissed her on the head and told her parents that she would become great in the sight of God, and would lead many to salvation. After Genevieve told him that she wished to dedicate herself to Christ, he gave her a brass medal with the image of the Cross upon it. She promised to wear it around her neck, and to avoid wearing any other ornaments around her neck or on her fingers.

When it was reported that Attila the Hun was approaching Paris, Genevieve and the other nuns prayed and fasted, entreating God to spare the city. Suddenly, the barbarians turned away from Paris and went off in another direction.

Years later, when she was fifteen, Genevieve was taken to Paris to enter the monastic life. Through fasting, vigil and prayer, she progressed in monasticism, and received from God the gifts of clairvoyance and of working miracles. Gradually, the people of Paris and the surrounding area regarded Genevieve as a holy vessel (2 Tim. 2:21).

St Genevieve considered the Saturday night Vigil service to be very important, since it symbolizes how our whole life should be. "We must keep vigil in prayer and fasting so that the Lord will find us ready when He comes," she said. She was on her way to church with her nuns one stormy Saturday night when the wind blew out her lantern. The nuns could not find their way without a light, since it was dark and stormy, and the road was rough and muddy. St Genevieve made the Sign of the Cross over the lantern, and the candle within was lit with a bright flame. In this manner they were able to make their way to the church for the service.

There is a tradition that the church which St Genevieve suggested that King Clovis build in honor of Sts Peter and Paul became her own resting place when she fell asleep in the Lord around 512 at the age of eighty-nine. Her holy relics were later transferred to the church of St Etienne du Mont in Paris. Most of her relics, and those of other saints, were destroyed during the French Revolution.

In the Middle Ages, St Genevieve was regarded as the patron saint of wine makers.

 

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Commemorated on November 24

The Holy Great Martyr Catherine was the daughter of Constus, the governor of Alexandrian Egypt during the reign of the emperor Maximian (305-313). Living in the capital, the center of Hellenistic knowledge, and possessed of a rare beauty and intellect, Catherine received an excellent education, studying the works of the greatest philosophers and teachers of antiquity. Young men from the most worthy families of the empire sought the hand of the beautiful Catherine, but she was not interested in any of them. She told her parents that she would enter into marriage only with someone who surpassed her in nobility, wealth, comeliness and wisdom.

Catherine's mother, a secret Christian, sent her to her own spiritual Father, a saintly Elder living in a cave outside the city, for advice. After listening to Catherine, the Elder said that he knew of a Youth who surpassed her in everything. "His countenance is more radiant than the shining of the sun, and all of creation is governed by His wisdom. His riches are given to all the nations of the world, yet they never diminish. His compassion is unequaled."

This description of the Heavenly Bridegroom produced in the soul of the holy maiden an ardent desire to see Him. "If you do as I tell you," said the monk, "you will gaze upon the countenance of this illustrious man." In parting, the Elder handed Catherine an icon of the Theotokos with the divine Child Jesus on Her arm and told her to pray with faith to the Queen of Heaven, the Mother of the Heavenly Bridegroom, and She would hear Catherine and grant her heart's desire.

Catherine prayed all night and was permitted to see the Most Holy Virgin, Who said Her Divine Son, "Behold Thy handmaiden Catherine, how fair and virtuous she is." But the Child turned His face away from her saying, "No, she is ugly and unbelieving. She is a foolish pauper, and I cannot bear to look at her until she forsakes her impiety."

Catherine returned again to the Elder deeply saddened, and told him what she had seen in the dream. He lovingly received her, instructed her in the faith of Christ, admonished her to preserve her purity and integrity and to pray unceasingly. She then received the Mystery of holy Baptism from him. Again St Catherine had a vision of the Most Holy Theotokos with Her Child. Now the Lord looked tenderly at her and gave her a beautiful ring, a wondrous token of her betrothal to the Heavenly Bridegroom (This ring is still on her hand).

At that time the emperor Maximian was in Alexandria for a pagan festival. Therefore, the celebration was especially splendid and crowded. The cries of the sacrificial animals, the smoke and the smell of the sacrifices, the endless blazing of fires, and the bustling crowds at the arenas defiled the city of Alexandria. Human victims also were brought, the confessors of Christ, those who would not deny Him under torture. They were condemned to death in the fire. The saint's love for the Christian martyrs and her fervent desire to ease their sufferings compelled Catherine to speak to the pagan priest and to the emperor Maximian.

Introducing herself, the saint confessed her faith in the One True God and with wisdom exposed the errors of the pagans. The beauty of the maiden captivated the emperor. In order to convince her and to show the superiority of pagan wisdom, the emperor ordered fifty of the most learned philosophers and rhetoricians of the Empire to dispute with her, but the saint got the better of the wise men, so that they came to believe in Christ themselves. St Catherine made the Sign of the Cross over the martyrs, and they bravely accepted death for Christ and were burned alive by order of the emperor.

Maximian, no longer hoping to convince the saint, tried to entice her with the promise of riches and fame. Receiving an angry refusal, the emperor gave orders to subject the saint to terrible tortures and then throw her in prison. The Empress Augusta, who had heard much about the saint, wanted to see her. She prevailed upon the military commander Porphyrius to accompany her to the prison with a detachment of soldiers. The empress was impressed by the strong spirit of St Catherine, whose face was radiant with divine grace. The holy martyr explained the Christian teaching to them, and they were converted to Christ.

On the following day they again brought the martyr to the judgment court where, under the threat of being broken on the wheel, they urged that she renounce the Christian Faith and offer sacrifice to the gods. The saint steadfastly confessed Christ and she herself approached the wheels; but an angel smashed the instruments of execution, which shattered into pieces with many pagans standing nearby.

Having beheld this wonder, the Empress Augusta and the imperial courtier Porphyrius with 200 soldiers confessed their faith in Christ in front of everyone, and they were beheaded. Maximian again tried to entice the holy martyr, proposing marriage to her, and again he was refused. St Catherine firmly confessed her fidelity to the heavenly Bridegroom Christ, and with a prayer to Him she herself lay her head on the block beneath the executioner's sword.

The relics of St Catherine were taken by the angels to Mount Sinai. In the sixth century,, the venerable head and left hand of the holy martyr were found through a revelation and transferred with honor to a newly-constructed church of the Sinai monastery, built by the holy Emperor Justinian (November 14).

St Catherine is called upon for relief and assistance during a difficult childbirth. Pilgrims to her monastery on Mt Sinai are given souvenir rings as a remembrance of their visit.

Taken from OCA.org.
 

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St. Mary of Egypt

Commemorated on April 1

St Zosimas (April 4) was a monk at a certain Palestinian monastery on the outskirts of Caesarea. Having dwelt at the monastery since his childhood, he lived there in asceticism until he reached the age of fifty-three. Then he was disturbed by the thought that he had attained perfection, and needed no one to instruct him. "Is there a monk anywhere who can show me some form of asceticism that I have not attained? Is there anyone who has surpassed me in spiritual sobriety and deeds?"

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, "Zosimas, you have struggled valiantly, as far as this is in the power of man. However, there is no one who is righteous (Rom 3:10). So that you may know how many other ways lead to salvation, leave your native land, like Abraham from the house of his father (Gen 12:1), and go to the monastery by the Jordan."

Abba Zosimas immediately left the monastery, and following the angel, he went to the Jordan monastery and settled in it.

Here he met Elders who were adept in contemplation, and also in their struggles. Never did anyone utter an idle word. Instead, they sang constantly, and prayed all night long. Abba Zosimas began to imitate the spiritual activity of the holy monks.

Thus much time passed, and the holy Forty Day Fast approached. There was a certain custom at the monastery, which was why God had led St Zosimas there. On the First Sunday of Great Lent the igumen served the Divine Liturgy, everyone received the All-Pure Body and Blood of Christ. Afterwards, they went to the trapeza for a small repast, and then assembled once more in church.

The monks prayed and made prostrations, asking forgiveness one of another. Then they made a prostration before the igumen and asked his blessing for the struggle that lay before them. During the Psalm "The Lord is my Light and my Savior, whom shall I fear? The Lord is defender of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?" (Ps 26/27:1), they opened the monastery gate and went off into the wilderness.

Each took with him as much food as he needed, and went into the desert. When their food ran out, they ate roots and desert plants. The monks crossed the Jordan and scattered in various directions, so that no one might see how another fasted or how they spent their time.

The monks returned to the monastery on Palm Sunday, each having his own conscience as a witness of his ascetic struggles. It was a rule of the monastery that no one asked how anyone else had toiled in the desert.

Abba Zosimas, according to the custom of the monastery, went deep into the desert hoping to find someone living there who could benefit him.

He walked into the wilderness for twenty days and then, when he sang the Psalms of the Sixth Hour and made the usual prayers. Suddenly, to the right of the hill where he stood, he saw a human form. He was afraid, thinking that it might be a demonic apparition. Then he guarded himself with the Sign of the Cross, which removed his fear. He turned to the right and saw a form walking southward. The body was black from the blazing sunlight, and the faded short hair was white like a sheep's fleece. Abba Zosimas rejoiced, since he had not seen any living thing for many days.

The desert-dweller saw Zosimas approaching, and attempted to flee from him. Abba Zosimas, forgetting his age and fatigue, quickened his pace. When he was close enough to be heard, he called out, "Why do you flee from me, a sinful old man? Wait for me, for the love of God."

The stranger said to him, "Forgive me, Abba Zosimas, but I cannot turn and show my face to you. I am a woman, and as you see, I am naked. If you would grant the request of a sinful woman, throw me your cloak so I might cover my body, and then I can ask for your blessing."

Then Abba Zosimas was terrified, realizing that she could not have called him by name unless she possessed spiritual insight.

Covered by the cloak, the ascetic turned to Zosimas: "Why do you want to speak with me, a sinful woman? What did you wish to learn from me, you who have not shrunk from such great labors?"

Abba Zosimas fell to the ground and asked for her blessing. She also bowed down before him, and for a long time they remained on the ground each asking the other to bless. Finally, the woman ascetic said: "Abba Zosimas, you must bless and pray, since you are honored with the grace of the priesthood. For many years you have stood before the holy altar, offering the Holy Gifts to the Lord."

These words frightened St Zosimas even more. With tears he said to her, "O Mother! It is clear that you live with God and are dead to this world. You have called me by name and recognized me as a priest, though you have never seen me before. The grace granted you is apparent, therefore bless me, for the Lord's sake."

Yielding finally to his entreaties, she said, "Blessed is God, Who cares for the salvation of men." Abba Zosimas replied, "Amen." Then they rose to their feet. The woman ascetic again said to the Elder, "Why have you come, Father, to me who am a sinner, bereft of every virtue? Apparently, the grace of the Holy Spirit has brought you to do me a service. But tell me first, Abba, how do the Christians live, how is the Church guided?"

Abba Zosimas answered her, "By your holy prayers God has granted the Church and us all a lasting peace. But fulfill my unworthy request, Mother, and pray for the whole world and for me a sinner, that my wanderings in the desert may not be useless."

The holy ascetic replied, "You, Abba Zosimas, as a priest, ought to pray for me and for all, for you are called to do this. However, since we must be obedient, I will do as you ask.

The saint turned toward the East, and raising her eyes to heaven and stretching out her hands, she began to pray in a whisper. She prayed so softly that Abba Zosimas could not hear her words. After a long time, the Elder looked up and saw her standing in the air more than a foot above the ground. Seeing this, Zosimas threw himself down on the ground, weeping and repeating, "Lord, have mercy!"

Then he was tempted by a thought. He wondered if she might not be a spirit, and if her prayer could be insincere. At that moment she turned around, lifted him from the ground and said, "Why do your thoughts confuse you, Abba Zosimas? I am not an apparition. I am a sinful and unworthy woman, though I am guarded by holy Baptism."

Then she made the Sign of the Cross and said, "May God protect us from the Evil One and his schemes, for fierce is his struggle against us." Seeing and hearing this, the Elder fell at her feet with tears saying, "I beseech you by Christ our God, do not conceal from me who you are and how you came into this desert. Tell me everything, so that the wondrous works of God may be revealed."

She replied, "It distresses me, Father, to speak to you about my shameless life. When you hear my story, you might flee from me, as if from a poisonous snake. But I shall tell you everything, Father, concealing nothing. However, I exhort you, cease not to pray for me a sinner, that I may find mercy on the Day of Judgment.

"I was born in Egypt and when I was twelve years old, I left my parents and went to Alexandria. There I lost my chastity and gave myself to unrestrained and insatiable sensuality. For more than seventeen years I lived like that and I did it all for free. Do not think that I refused the money because I was rich. I lived in poverty and worked at spinning flax. To me, life consisted in the satisfaction of my fleshly lust.

"One summer I saw a crowd of people from Libya and Egypt heading toward the sea. They were on their way to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. I also wanted to sail with them. Since I had no food or money, I offered my body in payment for my passage. And so I embarked on the ship.

"Now, Father, believe me, I am very amazed, that the sea tolerated my wantonness and fornication, that the earth did not open up its mouth and take me down alive into hell, because I had ensnared so many souls. I think that God was seeking my repentance. He did not desire the death of a sinner, but awaited my conversion.

"So I arrived in Jerusalem and spent all the days before the Feast living the same sort of life, and maybe even worse.

"When the holy Feast of the Exaltation of the Venerable Cross of the Lord arrived, I went about as before, looking for young men. At daybreak I saw that everyone was heading to the church, so I went along with the rest. When the hour of the Holy Elevation drew nigh, I was trying to enter into the church with all the people. With great effort I came almost to the doors, and attempted to squeeze inside. Although I stepped up to the threshold, it was as though some force held me back, preventing me from entering. I was brushed aside by the crowd, and found myself standing alone on the porch. I thought that perhaps this happened because of my womanly weakness. I worked my way into the crowd, and again I attempted to elbow people aside. However hard I tried, I could not enter. Just as my feet touched the church threshold, I was stopped. Others entered the church without difficulty, while I alone was not allowed in. This happened three or four times. Finally my strength was exhausted. I went off and stood in a corner of the church portico.

"Then I realized that it was my sins that prevented me from seeing the Life-Creating Wood. The grace of the Lord then touched my heart. I wept and lamented, and I began to beat my breast. Sighing from the depths of my heart, I saw above me an icon of the Most Holy Theotokos. Turning to Her, I prayed: "O Lady Virgin, who gave birth in the flesh to God the Word! I know that I am unworthy to look upon your icon. I rightly inspire hatred and disgust before your purity, but I know also that God became Man in order to call sinners to repentance. Help me, O All-Pure One. Let me enter the church. Allow me to behold the Wood upon which the Lord was crucified in the flesh, shedding His Blood for the redemption of sinners, and also for me. Be my witness before Your Son that I will never defile my body again with the impurity of fornication. As soon as I have seen the Cross of your Son, I will renounce the world, and go wherever you lead me."

"After I had spoken, I felt confidence in the compassion of the Mother of God, and left the spot where I had been praying. I joined those entering the church, and no one pushed me back or prevented me from entering. I went on in fear and trembling, and entered the holy place.

"Thus I also saw the Mysteries of God, and how God accepts the penitant. I fell to the holy ground and kissed it. Then I hastened again to stand before the icon of the Mother of God, where I had given my vow. Bending my knees before the Virgin Theotokos, I prayed:

"'O Lady, you have not rejected my prayer as unworthy. Glory be to God, Who accepts the repentance of sinners. It is time for me to fulfill my vow, which you witnessed. Therefore, O Lady, guide me on the path of repentance.'"

"Then I heard a voice from on high: 'If you cross the Jordan, you will find glorious rest.'

"I immediately believed that this voice was meant for me, and I cried out to the Mother of God: 'O Lady, do not forsake me!'

"Then I left the church portico and started on my journey. A certain man gave me three coins as I was leaving the church. With them I bought three loaves of bread, and asked the bread merchant the way to the Jordan.

"It was nine o'clock when I saw the Cross. At sunset I reached the church of St John the Baptist on the banks of the Jordan. After praying in the church, I went down to the Jordan and washed my face and hands in its water. Then in this same temple of St John the Forerunner I received the Life-Creating Mysteries of Christ. Then I ate half of one of my loaves of bread, drank water from the holy Jordan, and slept there that night on the ground. In the morning I found a small boat and crossed the river to the opposite shore. Again I prayed that the Mother of God would lead me where She wished. Then I found myself in this desert."

Abba Zosimas asked her, "How many years have passed since you began to live in the desert?"

"'I think," she replied, "it is forty-seven years since I came from the Holy City."

Abba Zosimas again asked, "What food do you find here, Mother?"

And she said, "I had with me two and a half loaves of bread when I crossed the Jordan. Soon they dried out and hardened Eating a little at a time, I finished them after a few years."

Again Abba Zosimas asked, "Is it possible you have survived for so many years without sickness, and without suffering in any way from such a complete change?"

"Believe me, Abba Zosimas," the woman said, "I spent seventeen years in this wilderness (after she had spent seventeen years in immorality), fighting wild beasts: mad desires and passions. When I began to eat bread, I thought of the meat and fish which I had in abundance in Egypt. I also missed the wine that I loved so much when I was in the world, while here I did not even have water. I suffered from thirst and hunger. I also had a mad desire for lewd songs. I seemed to hear them, disturbing my heart and my hearing. Weeping and striking myself on the breast, I remembered the vow I had made. At last I beheld a radiant Light shining on me from everywhere. After a violent tempest, a lasting calm ensued.

"Abba, how shall I tell you of the thoughts that urged me on to fornication? A fire seemed to burn within me, awakening in me the desire for embraces. Then I would throw myself to the ground and water it with my tears. I seemed to see the Most Holy Virgin before me, and She seemed to threaten me for not keeping my vow. I lay face downward day and night upon the ground, and would not get up until that blessed Light encircled me, dispelling the evil thoughts that troubled me.

"Thus I lived in this wilderness for the first seventeen years. Darkness after darkness, misery after misery stood about me, a sinner. But from that time until now the Mother of God helps me in everything."

Abba Zosimas again inquired, "How is it that you require neither food, nor clothing?"

She answered, "After finishing my bread, I lived on herbs and the things one finds in the desert. The clothes I had when I crossed over the Jordan became torn and fell apart. I suffered both from the summer heat, when the blazing heat fell upon me, and from the winter cold, when I shivered from the frost. Many times I fell down upon the earth, as though dead. I struggled with various afflictions and temptations. But from that time until the present day, the power of God has guarded my sinful soul and humble body. I was fed and clothed by the all-powerful word of God, since man does not live by bread alone, but by every word proceeding from the mouth of God (Dt 8:3, Mt.4:4, Luke 4:4), and those who have put off the old man (Col 3:9) have no refuge, hiding themselves in the clefts of the rocks (Job 24:8, Heb 11:38). When I remember from what evil and from what sins the Lord delivered me, I have imperishible food for salvation."

When Abba Zosimas heard that the holy ascetic quoted the Holy Scripture from memory, from the Books of Moses and Job and from the Psalms of David, he then asked the woman, "Mother, have you read the Psalms and other books?"

She smiled at hearing this question, and answered, "Believe me, I have seen no human face but yours from the time that I crossed over the Jordan. I never learned from books. I have never heard anyone read or sing from them. Perhaps the Word of God, which is alive and acting, teaches man knowledge by itself (Col 3:16, 1 Thess 2:13). This is the end of my story. As I asked when I began, I beg you for the sake of the Incarnate Word of God, holy Abba, pray for me, a sinner.

"Furthermore, I beg you, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, tell no one what you have heard from me, until God takes me from this earth. Next year, during Great Lent, do not cross the Jordan, as is the custom of your monastery."

Again Abba Zosimas was amazed, that the practice of his monastery was known to the holy woman ascetic, although he had not said anything to her about this.

"Remain at the monastery," the woman continued. "Even if you try to leave the monastery, you will not be able to do so. On Great and Holy Thursday, the day of the Lord's Last Supper, place the Life-Creating Body and Blood of Christ our God in a holy vessel, and bring it to me. Await me on this side of the Jordan, at the edge of the desert, so that I may receive the Holy Mysteries. And say to Abba John, the igumen of your community, 'Look to yourself and your brothers (1 Tim 4:16), for there is much that needs correction. Do not say this to him now, but when the Lord shall indicate."

Asking for his prayers, the woman turned and vanished into the depths of the desert.

For a whole year Elder Zosimas remained silent, not daring to reveal to anyone what he had seen, and he prayed that the Lord would grant him to see the holy ascetic once more.

When the first week of Great Lent came again, St Zosimas was obliged to remain at the monastery because of sickness. Then he remembered the woman's prophetic words that he would not be able to leave the monastery. After several days went by, St Zosimas was healed of his infirmity, but he remained at the monastery until Holy Week.

On Holy Thursday, Abba Zosimas did what he had been ordered to do. He placed some of the Body and Blood of Christ into a chalice, and some food in a small basket. Then he left the monastery and went to the Jordan and waited for the ascetic. The saint seemed tardy, and Abba Zosimas prayed that God would permit him to see the holy woman.

Finally, he saw her standing on the far side of the river. Rejoicing, St Zosimas got up and glorified God. Then he wondered how she could cross the Jordan without a boat. She made the Sign of the Cross over the water, then she walked on the water and crossed the Jordan. Abba Zosimas saw her in the moonlight, walking toward him. When the Elder wanted to make prostration before her, she forbade him, crying out, "What are you doing, Abba? You are a priest and you carry the Holy Mysteries of God."

Reaching the shore, she said to Abba Zosimas, "Bless me, Father." He answered her with trembling, astonished at what he had seen. "Truly God did not lie when he promised that those who purify themselves will be like Him. Glory to You, O Christ our God, for showing me through your holy servant, how far I am from perfection."

The woman asked him to recite both the Creed and the "Our Father." When the prayers were finished, she partook of the Holy Mysteries of Christ. Then she raised her hands to the heavens and said, "Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen Your salvation."

The saint turned to the Elder and said, "Please, Abba, fulfill another request. Go now to your monastery, and in a year's time come to the place where we first time spoke."

He said, "If only it were possible for me to follow you and always see your holy face!"

She replied, "For the Lord's sake, pray for me and remember my wrechedness."

Again she made the Sign of the Cross over the Jordan, and walked over the water as before, and disappeared into the desert. Zosimas returned to the monastery with joy and terror, reproaching himself because he had not asked the saint's name. He hoped to do so the following year.

A year passed, and Abba Zosimas went into the desert. He reached the place where he first saw the holy woman ascetic. She lay dead, with arms folded on her bosom, and her face was turned to the east. Abba Zosimas washed her feet with his tears and kissed them, not daring to touch anything else. For a long while he wept over her and sang the customary Psalms, and said the funeral prayers. He began to wonder whether the saint would want him to bury her or not. Hardly had he thought this, when he saw something written on the ground near her head: "Abba Zosimas, bury on this spot the body of humble Mary. Return to dust what is dust. Pray to the Lord for me. I reposed on the first day of April, on the very night of the saving Passion of Christ, after partaking of the Mystical Supper."

Reading this note, Abba Zosimas was glad to learn her name. He then realized that St Mary, after receiving the Holy Mysteries from his hand, was transported instantaneously to the place where she died, though it had taken him twenty days to travel that distance.

Glorifying God, Abba Zosimas said to himself, "It is time to do what she asks. But how can I dig a grave, with nothing in my hands?" Then he saw a small piece of wood left by some traveler. He picked it up and began to dig. The ground was hard and dry, and he could not dig it. Looking up, Abba Zosimas saw an enormous lion standing by the saint's body and licking her feet. Fear gripped the Elder, but he guarded himself with the Sign of the Cross, believing that he would remain unharmed through the prayers of the holy woman ascetic. Then the lion came close to the Elder, showing its friendliness with every movement. Abba Zosimas commanded the lion to dig the grave, in order to bury St Mary's body. At his words, the lion dug a hole deep enough to bury the body. Then each went his own way. The lion went into the desert, and Abba Zosimas returned to the monastery, blessing and praising Christ our God.

Arriving at the monastery, Abba Zosimas related to the monks and the igumen, what he had seen and heard from St Mary. All were astonished, hearing about the miracles of God. They always remembered St Mary with faith and love on the day of her repose.

Abba John, the igumen of the monastery, heeded the words of St Mary, and with the help of God corrected the things that were wrong at the monastery. Abba Zosimas lived a God-pleasing life at the monastery, reaching nearly a hundred years of age. There he finished his temporal life, and passed into life eternal.

The monks passed on the life of St Mary of Egypt by word of mouth without writing it down.

"I however," says St Sophronius of Jerusalem (March 11), "wrote down the Life of St Mary of Egypt as I heard it from the holy Fathers. I have recorded everything, putting the truth above all else."

"May God, Who works great miracles and bestows gifts on all who turn to Him in faith, reward those who hear or read this account, and those who copy it. May he grant them a blessed portion together with St Mary of Egypt and with all the saints who have pleased God by their pious thoughts and works. Let us give glory to God, the Eternal King, that we may find mercy on the Day of Judgment through our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom is due all glory, honor, majesty and worship together with the Unoriginate Father, and the Most Holy and Life-Creating Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen."

Taken from OCA.org.
 

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Greatmartyr Anastasia the "Deliverer from Potions"

Commemorated on December 22

The Great Martyr Anastasia the Deliverer from Potions, a Roman by birth, suffered for Christ at the time of Diocletian's persecution of Christians. Her father was a pagan, but her mother was secretly a Christian. St Anastasia's teacher in her youth was an educated and pious Christian named Chrysogonus. After the death of her mother, her father gave St Anastasia in marriage to a pagan named Publius, but feigning illness, she preserved her virginity.

Clothing herself in the garb of a beggar, and accompanied by only one servant, she visited the prisons. She fed, doctored and often ransomed captives who were suffering for their faith in Christ. When her servant told Publius about everything, he subjected his wife to a beating and locked her up at home. St Anastasia then began to correspond secretly with Chrysogonus, who told the saint to be patient, to cleave to the Cross of Christ, and to accept the Lord's will. He also foretold the impending death of Publius in the sea. After a certain while Publius did indeed drown, as he was setting out with a delegation to Persia. After the death of her husband, St Anastasia began to distribute her property to the poor and suffering.

Diocletian was informed that the Christians who filled the prisons of Rome stoically endured tortures. He gave orders to kill them all in a single night, and for Chrysogonus to be sent to him at Aquileia. St Anastasia followed her teacher at a distance.

The emperor interrogated Chrysogonus personally, but could not make him renounce his faith. Therefore, he commanded that he be beheaded and thrown into the sea. The body and severed head of the holy martyr were carried to shore by the waves. There by divine Providence, the relics were found by a presbyter named Zoilus who placed them in a coffer, and concealed them at his home.

St Chrysogonus appeared to Zoilus and informed him that martyrdom was at hand for Agape, Chione and Irene (April 16), three sisters who lived nearby. He told him to send St Anastasia to them to encourage them. St Chrysogonus foretold that Zoilus would also die on the same day. Nine days later, the words of St Chrysogonus were fulfilled. Zoilus fell asleep in the Lord, and St Anastasia visited the three maidens before their tortures. When these three martyrs gave up their souls to the Lord, she buried them.

Having carried out her teacher's request, the saint went from city to city ministering to Christian prisoners. Proficient in the medical arts of the time, she zealously cared for captives far and wide, healing their wounds and relieving their suffering. Because of her labors, St Anastasia received the name Deliverer from Potions (Pharmakolytria), since by her intercessions she has healed many from the effects of potions, poisons, and other harmful substances.

She made the acquaintance of the pious young widow Theodota, finding in her a faithful helper. Theodota was taken for questioning when it was learned that she was a Christian. Meanwhile, St Anastasia was arrested in Illyricum. This occurred just after all the Christian captives there had been murdered in a single night by order of Diocletian. St Anastasia had come to one of the prisons, and finding no one there, she began to weep loudly. The jailers realized that she was a Christian and took her to the prefect of the district, who tried to persuade her to deny Christ by threatening her with torture. After his unsuccessful attempts to persuade St Anastasia to offer sacrifice to idols, he handed her over to the pagan priest Ulpian in Rome.

The cunning pagan offered St Anastasia the choice between luxury and riches, or grievous sufferings. He set before her gold, precious stones and fine clothing, and also fearsome instruments of torture. The crafty man was put to shame by the bride of Christ. St Anastasia refused the riches and chose the tools of torture.

But the Lord prolonged the earthly life of the saint, and Ulpian gave her three days to reconsider. Charmed by Anastasia's beauty, the pagan priest decided to defile her purity. However, when he tried to touch her he suddenly became blind. His head began to ache so severely that he screamed like a madman. He asked to be taken to a pagan temple to appeal to the idols for help, but on the way he fell down and died.

St Anastasia was set free and she and Theodota again devoted themselves to the care of imprisoned Christians. Before long, St Theodota and her three sons accepted a martyrdom. Her eldest son, Evodus, stood bravely before the judge and endured beatings without protest. After lengthy torture, they were all thrown into a red-hot oven.

St Anastasia was caught again and condemned to death by starvation. She remained in prison without food for sixty days. St Theodota appeared to the martyr every night and gave her courage. Seeing that hunger caused St Anastasia no harm whatsoever, the judge sentenced her to drowning together with other prisoners. Among them was Eutychianus, who was condemned for his Christian faith.

The prisoners were put into a boat which went out into the open sea. The soldiers bored holes in the boat and got into a galley. St Theodota appeared to the captives and steered the ship to shore. When they reached dry land, 120 men believed in Christ and were baptized by Sts Anastasia and Eutychianus. All were captured and received a martyr's crown. St Anastasia was stretched between four pillars and burned alive. A certain pious woman named Apollinaria buried her body, which was unharmed by the fire, in the garden outside her house.

In the fifth century the relics of St Anastasia were transferred to Constantinople, where a church was built and dedicated to her. Later the head and a hand of the Great Martyr were transferred to the monastery of St Anastasia [Deliverer from Potions], near Mount Athos.



Troparion - Tone 4

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

Troparion - Tone 5

As a martyr you emulated the deeds of the martyrs,
To whom you ministered,
And, striving valiantly, you overcame the enemy.
You are an abundant and overflowing source of grace
For all who come to you, O godly-minded Anastasia!

Kontakion - Tone 2

Those in temptations and afflictions hasten to your temple
And are restored by the grace that dwells in you,
For you ever pour forth healings for all the world,
O great Martyr Anastasia!

More information can be found here: http://www.holytrinityorthodox.com/calendar/los/December/22-01.htm
 

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St Sylvester, Pope of Rome



Commemorated on January 2​

Saint Sylvester, Bishop of Rome (314-335) was born at Rome of Christian parents named Rufinus and Justa. His father soon died, and the saint remained in the care of his mother. Sylvester's teacher, the presbyter Quirinus, gave him a fine education and raised him as a true Christian.

When he was an adult, Sylvester fulfilled the Lord's command to love one's neighbor. He often received strangers and travelers, serving them like a slave in his own home. During a persecution against Christians, Sylvester did not hesitate to take in the holy confessor Bishop Timothy of Antioch, who dwelt with him for more than a year, and who converted many to Christ by his preaching.

Bishop Timothy was arrested and executed on orders of the Prefect Tarquinius. Sylvester secretly took the body of the saint and buried it. This came to the attention of Tarquinius, and the saint was arrested and brought to trial. Tarquinius demanded that he renounce Christ, threatening him with torture and death. St Sylvester was however not intimidated, and he remained steadfast in his confession of faith, and was then thrown into prison. When Tarquinius suddenly died after the trial, the saint was set free and fearlessly he evangelized the pagans, converting many to Christianity.

At thirty years of age St Sylvester was ordained as a deacon, and then presbyter, by Bishop Marcellinus (296-304). After the death of Bishop Militiades (or Melchiades, 311-314), St Sylvester was chosen Bishop of Rome. He encouraged his flock to live in a righteous manner, and he insisted that priests strictly fulfill their duty, and not be involved with secular businesses.

St Sylvester became renowned as an expert on Holy Scripture and as a staunch defender of the Christian Faith. During the reign of the emperor St Constantine the Great, when the period of persecution had ended for the Church, the Jews arranged a public debate to determine which faith was true. St Constantine and his mother, the holy Empress Helen, were present together with a large crowd.

St Sylvester spoke for the Christians, and the Jews had one hundred and twenty learned rabbis led by Zambres, a magician and sorcerer. Quoting the sacred books of the Old Testament, St Sylvester convincingly demonstrated that all the prophets foretold the birth of Jesus Christ from the all-pure Virgin, and also His voluntary suffering and death for the redemption of the fallen race of mankind, and His glorious Resurrection.

The saint was declared the victor in the debate. Then Zambres tried to resort to sorcery, but the saint obstructed the evil by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Zambres and the other Jews came to believe in Jesus Christ, and they asked to be baptized.

St Sylvester guided the Roman Church for more than twenty years, earning the esteem of his flock. He died peacefully in old age in the year 335.


Troparion - Tone 4

You appeared to your flock as a rule of faith,
An image of humility and a teacher of abstinence.
Because of your lowliness Heaven was opened to you;
Because of your poverty, riches were granted to you.
O holy Pope Sylvester, pray to Christ our God to save our souls!


Kontakion - Tone 2

The Trinity delights in you, O holy bishop Sylvester!
You are divine thunder, a spiritual trumpet
A planter of the Faith,
and destroyer of heresies.
As you ever stand with the angels, entreat Christ without ceasing for us all!


Source
 

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Saint Ammon - December 20

One of the Theban Martyrs who were converted by Egyptian Christians. Ammon, along with Ingenes, Ptolemy, Theophilus, and Zeno, were guards during the persecution of Christians in the reign of Emperor Decius. During the torture and trial of these prisoners, Ammon and his fellow guards were converted to Christ. They cheered the faithfulness of the Christians under torture and urged them to endure in their courage. As a result, Ammon and the others became prisoners. They were beheaded displaying the same Christian constancy.
 

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St. Hripsime and her companions

St. Gayane and her companions

According to tradition, the Hripsimian sisterhood was home to 37 virgins who lived as hermits in a Roman monastery around 300 A.D.  The Roman emperor saw a painting of St. Hripsime and fell desperately in love with her, vowing to make her his wife.

Not wanting to break her vows by being forced to marry the emperor, St. Hripsime and the other sisters followed their leader, St. Gayane, out of Rome.  They ended up in Armenia.  The Roman emperor asked Armenia's King Drtad to hunt for them and return the woman he wanted to marry.

Armenian soldiers found the women, but instead of sending St. Hripsime back to Rome, King Drtad fell for her beauty and decided she should be his wife.  She quickly declined and so the King pressured St. Gayane to convince St. Hripsime to marry him.

Instead of pushing St. Hripsime toward marriage, St. Gayane told her to stand firm in her faith and vow of chastity.  So, King Drtad had St. Gayiane tortured.  Still, she refused to encourage St. Hripsime to marry.

Because she continued to decline marriage, the King's forces cruelly tortured and eventually killed St. Hripsime, as well as the other sisters.  The Armenian forces cut out their tongues, pinned them to the ground, burned their bodies, tore them open with stones, and pierced their eyes.

The martyrdom of these women took place in the last year of St. Gregory the Illuminator's imprisonment in the deep pit.  When St. Gregory was released, he immediately picked up their relics, buried them, and built a church at the site.

  http://www.armenianchurch.net/prayer/saints/hripsime-gayane.html

It was the martyrdom of these holy women which resulted in the conversion of Armenia to Christianity.  After they were killed, King Drtad went insane.  His sister knew that St. Gregory the Illuminator, whom Drtad had previously persecuted and thrown into a pit, was still alive.  She had St. Gregory taken out of the pit and asked him to heal the king.  St. Gregory prayed for King Drtad and Drtad was healed from his insanity.  After that, the king repented of his many sins, converted to Christianity and declared Armenia to be a Christian nation.
 

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St. Ignatius of Antioch

Commemorated on December 20

The Hieromartyr Ignatius the God-Bearer, was a disciple of the holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian, as was also St Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna (February 23). St Ignatius was the second bishop of Antioch, and successor to Bishop Euodius, Apostle of the Seventy (September 7).

Tradition suggests that when St Ignatius was a little boy, the Savior hugged him and said: "Unless you turn and become as little children, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven" (Mt. 18:3). The saint was called "God-Bearer" (Theophoros), because he bore God in his heart and prayed unceasingly to Him. He also had this name because he was held in the arms of Christ, the incarnate Son of God.

St Ignatius was a disciple of the Apostle John the Theologian, together with St Polycarp of Smyrna. As Bishop of Antioch, St Ignatius was zealous and spared no effort to build up the church of Christ. To him is attributed the practice of antiphonal singing (by two choirs) during church services. He had seen a vision of the angels in heaven alternately singing praises to God, and divided his church choir to follow this example. In the time of persecution he was a source of strength to the souls of his flock, and was eager to suffer for Christ.

In the year 106 the emperor Trajan (98-117), after his victory over the Scythians, ordered everyone to give thanks to the pagan gods, and to put to death any Christians who refused to worship the idols. In the year 107, Trajan happened to pass through Antioch. Here they told him that Bishop Ignatius openly confessed Christ, and taught people to scorn riches, to lead a virtuous life, and preserve their virginity. St Ignatius came voluntarily before the emperor, so as to avert persecution of the Christians in Antioch. St Ignatius rejected the persistent requests of the emperor Trajan to sacrifice to the idols. The emperor then decided to send him to Rome to be thrown to the wild beasts. St Ignatius joyfully accepted the sentence imposed upon him. His readiness for martyrdom was attested to by eyewitnesses, who accompanied St Ignatius from Antioch to Rome.

On the way to Rome, the ship sailed from Seleucia stopped at Smyrna, where St Ignatius met with his friend Bishop Polycarp. Clergy and believers from other cities and towns thronged to see St Ignatius. He exhorted everyone not to fear death and not to grieve for him. In his Epistle to the Roman Christians, he asked them to assist him with their prayers, and to pray that God would strengthen him in his impending martyrdom for Christ: "I seek Him Who died for us; I desire Him Who rose for our salvation... In me, desire has been nailed to the cross, and no flame of material longing is left. Only the living water speaks within me, saying, 'Hasten to the Father.'"

From Smyrna, St Ignatius went to Troas. Here he heard the happy news of the end of the persecution against Christians in Antioch. From Troas, St Ignatius sailed to Neapolis (in Macedonia) and then to Philippi.

On the way to Rome St Ignatius visited several churches, teaching and guiding the Christians there. He also wrote seven epistles: to the churches of Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Rome, Philadelphia, and Smyrna. He also addressed a letter to St Polycarp, who mentions a collection of the letters of St Ignatius in his letter to the Philippians (Ch. 13). St Irenaeus of Lyons quotes from St Ignatius's letter to the Romans (AGAINST HERESIES 5:28:4). All these letters have survived to the present day.

The Roman Christians met St Ignatius with great joy and profound sorrow. Some of them hoped to prevent his execution, but St Ignatius implored them not to do this. Kneeling down, he prayed together with the believers for the Church, for love between the brethren, and for an end to the persecution against Christians.

On December 20, the day of a pagan festival, they led St Ignatius into the arena, and he turned to the people: "Men of Rome, you know that I am sentenced to death, not because of any crime, but because of my love for God, by Whose love I am embraced. I long to be with Him, and offer myself to him as a pure loaf, made of fine wheat ground fine by the teeth of wild beasts."

After this the lions were released and tore him to pieces, leaving only his heart and a few bones. Tradition says that on his way to execution, St Ignatius unceasingly repeated the name of Jesus Christ. When they asked him why he was doing this, St Ignatius answered that this Name was written in his heart, and that he confessed with his lips Him Whom he always carried within. When the saint was devoured by the lions, his heart was not touched. When they cut open the heart, the pagans saw an inscription in gold letters: "Jesus Christ." After his execution St Ignatius appeared to many of the faithful in their sleep to comfort them, and some saw him at prayer for the city of Rome.

Hearing of the saint's great courage, Trajan thought well of him and stopped the persecution against the Christians. The relics of St Ignatius were transferred to Antioch (January 29), and on February 1, 637 were returned to Rome and placed in the church of San Clemente.

from oca.org
 

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St. Moses the Ethiopian

His roots and his early years
It is not exactly known from what region St. Moses originally came, or to which tribe he belonged. It was said that he was from a Berber tribe, and the little that is known about his early years and his youth deserves little admiration.

The life of repentance
In spite of Moses' badness and his wicked before all the people, the merciful God found in Moses' heart the readiness for a life with Him. From the time he heard about the saintly Fathers of the wilderness of Scetis, Moses was attracted by the purity of their lives and their wonderful endearment towards others. He looked at the sun, the only god he knew, saying, "O Sun, let me know if you are God. And You, the God that I do not know, acquaint me with You." Then Moses heard from someone that the Monks of the Valley of Hebib (the wilderness of Scetis) knew God. So he immediately girded himself with his sword and went to the wilderness.

Repentance
In the wilderness, he met with St. Isidorus and asked him to guide him to his salvation. St. Isidorus adopted him, taught him, and exhorted him greatly with words of God; he spoke to him about judgment and salvation. The living Word of God worked in his heart, completed its effectiveness within his soul, and his tears were like a flood. His soul was invaded with fiery repentance, his sleep was perturbed. He hated his wicked life and resolved to free himself from it, so he went to St. Isidorus once again.

The Confession of his sins and his baptism
He knelt before the Priest of Scetis and confessed his faults and the crimes of his past life, in a loud voice, and with great humility that compelled compassion in the midst of abundant tears. St. Isidorus took him to the dwelling of St. Macarius the Great, who started to teach him and guide him gently and with lenience. He then granted him the blessing of the Holy Sacrament of Baptism. He confessed all his sins and his previous ugliness publicly in the church. During his confession, St. Macarius the Great saw a board with writings in black, and as Moses confessed an old sin, the Angel of God erased it, and when he finished his confession, the board was white.

His Monastic life
When Moses heard the words of St. Isidorus, he dwelled with the brethren, the Monks, and it was said that at the beginning, they were frightened because in his previous life, he was "the terror of the region." However, they soon found in him a model of humility, spiritual struggle and order. In view of the numerous visitors who came to him, St. Isidorus suggested that he withdraws from that place to solitary cell, in poverty. St. Moses obeyed immediately and went to his cell; he lived patiently in solitude, in spiritual struggle until it greatly developed within him, leading him to fasting, prayer, meditation and repentance. The devil could not endure the Saint's behavior and started to fight him with all his might. 

The training in fasting and prayer:
As St. Moses was constant in fasting, prayer and mediation, the devil of sin brought to his memory the evil old habits, adorning them for him, after his soul had been enlightened and he returned to the knowledge of God. As these evil thoughts became stronger, he went to St. Isidorus and told him about the fight of the flesh that was rising up against him. He comforted him saying, "Do not grieve while you still are at the beginning of the trials. The winds of tribulation will be coming for a long time, you soul will be anxious, but do not fear and do not be disturbed. If you persevere in fasting, in watching and in disdaining the falsehoods of this age, you will triumph over the lusts of the flesh." Moses benefited from the words of St. Isidorus. He returned to his solitary cell to practice many ways to deaden the body; he ate some bread only once in the whole day, and he persevered in prayer and in manual labor.

The service to others and the escape from leisure:
It was difficult to bring water to the cells, for it necessitated walking a long distance. Moses the Strong took this opportunity to train himself in deeds of love. He went out at night, passed by the Elders' cells, took their jars and filled them with water. When the devil saw these deeds, he could not endure them, so he left him until some days later he came to the well to fill the jars, and he beat him savagely, breaking his bones, until he fell to the ground as a dead person. Some of the brethren then came, carried him and took him to the church. The Divine Liturgy was celebrated for three days until his soul came back to him.

Contrition before God and the need for not depending upon our piety and our strength:
Father Moses increased in piety and in the struggle with himself to a great extent; but in spite of these desperate measures, the vigilance and the defeat of the self, he could not avoid imagining the lustful ghosts that were intensified as his struggle increased. His additional abstentions were probably without the permission of his spiritual mentor, for when he went to him to complain about his situation, he said to him, "My son, stop fighting the devils for the human being's strength has its limits. However, if God does not have mercy upon you and He alone gives victory over them, you will never overpower them. Go now and submit yourself to God with repentance before Him. Persevere in humility, He will have mercy upon you." Moses answered, "I trust in God in whom I have placed all my hope that I be constantly armed against the devils, and never stop fighting them until they depart from me." When St. Isidorus saw this faith in him, he said, "And I also believe in my Lord Jesus Christ, and in the name of Jesus Christ, from this moment the devils will stop fighting you." He added, "Go to the Holy church and partake of the Holy Sacraments." St. Moses continued to do as the Elder had said with perseverance, and God gave him a great blessing, humility and serenity. The power of thought came upon him, and from that moment Moses lived in peace and grew in wisdom.


His Martyrdom

On one of the occasions, as the brethren were sitting near the Saint, he said to them, "The Berbers will come today to the wilderness of Scetis; rise and escape." They said to him, "Father, do you not want to escape?" He answered, "I have been waiting for this day during all these years, so that the words of our Savior may be fulfilled as He said, "For all they that take the sword shall perish by the sword" (Matthew 26:52)." So they said, "We also will not escape so that we may die with you." He answered them, "This is not my concern, but it is your choice. May every human being be concerned with himself about the matters that dwell within him."

They were seven brethren; and after a while he said to them, "The Berbers are coming near the door." The Berbers entered and killed them. However, one of them, who was afraid, escaped amidst the mats and he saw seven crowns coming down from heaven to crown the seven who were killed. (The manuscript 257, in the Coptic Museum, relates that the brother, who escaped and hid, saw the Angel of the Lord and the crowns in his hand, and he immediately hurried out before the Berbers and obtained the crown of life from the hand of the Angel.)

http://www.stantonymonastery.org/saintmoses/index.asp



 

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Martyrs Sergius and Bacchus in Syria



Commemorated on October 7​

The Martyrs Sergius and Bacchus in Syria were appointed to high positions in the army by the emperor Maximian (284-305), who did not know that they were Christians. Envious people informed Maximian that his two trusted counsellors did not honor the pagan gods. This was considered to be a crime against the state.

The emperor, wanting to convince himself of the truth of the accusation, ordered Sergius and Bacchus to offer sacrifice to the idols, but they replied that they honored the One God and worshiped only Him.

Maximian commanded that the martyrs be stripped of the insignia of military rank (their belts, gold pendants, and rings), and then dressed them in feminine clothing. They were led through the city with an iron chains around their necks, and the people mocked them. Then he summoned Sergius and Bacchus to him again and in a friendly manner advised them not to be swayed by Christian fables, but to return to the Roman gods. The saints refuted the emperor's words, and demonstrated the folly of worshiping the pagan gods.

The emperor commanded that they be sent to the governor of the eastern part of Syria, Antiochus, a fierce hater of Christians. Antiochus had received his position with the help of Sergius and Bacchus. "My fathers and benefactors!" he said. "Have pity on yourselves, and also on me. I do not want to condemn my benefactors to cruel tortures." The holy martyrs replied, "For us life is Christ, and to die is gain." The enraged Antiochus ordered Bacchus to be mercilessly beaten, and the holy martyr surrendered his soul to the Lord. They shod Sergius with iron sandals with nails in their soles and sent him to another city, where he was beheaded with the sword.


Troparion - Tone 4

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


Kontakion - Tone 2

Podoben: "Seeking the highest..."
Having courageously confronted the enemy,
you brought an end to his guiles, and received from on high the crown of victory.
Illustrious martyrs, Sergius and Bacchus,
with one heart you cry aloud:
"How good and pleasant it is to dwell with God."


Source
 

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Juliana of Nicomedia & her 630 Companion Martyrs

Saint Juliana, who was from Nicomedia, lived during the years of Maximian and was the daughter of wealthy parents. They were pagans, but she was secretly a Christian. Without consulting her, her parents betrothed her to an idolater named Eleusius, who was a member of the Senate. She, not wishing to marry him, told him that unless he became eparch, she would nor marry him. When he had obtained this position, she told him that unless he renounced the religion of the idols and became a Christian, she would have nothing to do with him.

Eleusius then told Juliana's father of this. He attempted to turn her from the Faith of Christ, but when he saw that she could not change her constancy, he gave her up to the Eparch, Eleusius her betrothed, to be tried according to the law. When he could not persuade her to do his will, he subjected her to the most inhuman tortures and after imprisoning her, cast her into a furnace. But by the grace of God, the furnace was marvellousy quenched. Seeing this, some five hundred men and one hundred and fifty women believed in Christ and were beheaded for His sake. After further torments, she was beheaded, in the year 299.

Kontakion in the First Tone
A comely virgin wast thou, O wise Juliana; and as thy soul was wounded with love for thy Maker thy body was also pierced through with comely martyric wounds, which adorned thee as the bride of Christ and His Martyr; now as thou dost dwell in the bridechambers of Heaven, thou prayest for all of us.

Saints Julianna and her holy companions, pray for us!

http://www.goarch.org/en/chapel/saints.asp?contentid=347
 

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Saint Zeno - December 22

Zeno (d. 303) + Martyred soldier at Nicomedia (modern Turkey). He was seized and condemned to death for laughing while Emperor Diocletian (r. 284-305) offered a sacrifice to the Roman god Ceres. Zeno had his jaws shaffered and was then beheaded.
 

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Saint Chaeromon - December 22

Bishop of Nilopolis, in Egypt. When the persecution was instituted by Emperor Trajanus Decius, Chaeromon was quite elderly. He and several companions fled into the Arabian desert and were never seen again. The bishop and his companions are listed as martyrs.
 

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The Uncondemning Monk. (March 30th)

The name of this monk is unkown to us, yet we know the day he entered Paradise, and the circumstances of his departure.
The Prologue of Ohrid records:
"This monk died joyfully because he had never in his life condemned anyone. He was lazy, careless, disinclined to prayer, but throughout his entire life he had never judged anyone. And when he lay dying, he was full of joy. The brethren asked him how he could die so joyfully with all his sins, and he replied: 'I have just seen the angels, and they showed me a page with all my many sins. I said to them: "The Lord said: 'Judge not, that ye be not judged.' I have never judged anyone and I hope in the mercy of God, that He will not judge me." And the angels tore up the sheet of paper.' Hearing this, the monks wondered at it and learned from it."
 

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Saints Emiliana and Tarsilla - December 24

St. Gregory the Great had three aunts, sisters to his father, Gordian the regionarius, who led an ascetic religious life in their father's house. Their names were Tarsilla, who was the eldest, Emiliana and Gordiana. Tarsilla and Emiliana were more united by the fervor of their hearts and the bond of charity than by blood. They lived in their father's house on the Clivus Scauri as in a monastery and, encouraging one another to virtue by discourse and example, made great progress in spiritual life. Gordiana joined them, but she was often impatient of silence and retirement and, being called to another way of living, married her guardian. Tarsilla and Emiliana persevered in the path they had chosen, enjoying divine peace and love until they were called to receive the recompense of their fidelity. St. Gregory tells us that Tarsilla was visited one night with a vision of her great-grandfather, Pope St. Felix II (III), who showed a place prepared for her in heaven, saying, "Come; I will receive you into this habitation of light". She fell sick soon after, and as her friends were crowding round her bed, she cried out, "Away! Away! My Saviour Jesus is coming!" After these words she breathed out her soul into the hands of God on the vigil of Christmas. The skin of her knees and elbows was found to be hardened, "like the hide of a camel", by her continual prayer. A few days later she appeared to Emiliana, and called her to celebrate the Epiphany in heaven. Emiliana in fact, died on January 5. Both are named, on the respective days of their death, in the Roman Martyrology. Their feast day is December 24th.
 

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Saint Stephen - December 26

One of the first deacons and the first Christian martyr; feast on 26 December. In the Acts of the Apostles the name of St. Stephen occurs for the first time on the occasion of the appointment of the first deacons (Acts 6:5). Dissatisfaction concerning the distribution of alms from the community's fund having arisen in the Church, seven men were selected and specially ordained by the Apostles to take care of the temporal relief of the poorer members. Of these seven, Stephen, is the first mentioned and the best known.

Stephen's life previous to this appointment remains for us almost entirely in the dark. His name is Greek and suggests he was a Hellenist, i.e., one of those Jews who had been born in some foreign land and whose native tongue was Greek; however, according to a fifth century tradition, the name Stephanos was only a Greek equivalent for the Aramaic Kelil (Syr. kelila, crown), which may be the protomartyr's original name and was inscribed on a slab found in his tomb. It seems that Stephen was not a proselyte, for the fact that Nicolas is the only one of the seven designated as such makes it almost certain that the others were Jews by birth. That Stephen was a pupil of Gamaliel is sometimes inferred from his able defence before the Sanhedrin; but this has not been proved. Neither do we know when and in what circumstances he became a Christian; it is doubtful whether the statement of St. Epiphanius (Haer., xx, 4) numbering Stephen among the seventy disciples is deserving of any credence. His ministry as deacon appears to have been mostly among the Hellenist converts with whom the Apostles were at first less familiar; and the fact that the opposition he met with sprang up in the synagogues of the "Libertines" (probably the children of Jews taken captive to Rome by Pompey in 63 B. C. and freed hence the name Libertini), and "of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of them that were of Cilicia and Asia" shows that he usually preached among the Hellenist Jews. That he was pre eminently fitted for that work, his abilities and character, which the author of the Acts dwells upon so fervently, are the best indication. The Church had, by selecting him for a deacon, publicly acknowledged him as a man "of good reputation, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom" (Acts 6:3). He was "a man full of faith, and of the Holy Ghost" (vi, 5 ), "full of grace and fortitude" (vi, 8 ); his uncommon oratorical powers and unimpeachable logic no one was able to resist, so much so that to his arguments replete with the Divine energy of the Scriptural authorities God added the weight of "great wonders and signs" (vi, 8 ). Great as was the efficacy of "the wisdom and the spirit that spoke" (vi, 10 ), still it could not bend the minds of the unwilling; to these the forceful preacher was fatally soon to become an enemy.

The conflict broke out when the cavillers of the synagogues "of the Libertines, and of the Cyreneans, and of the Alexandrians, and of them that were of Cilicia and Asia", who had challenged Stephen to a dispute, came out completely discomfited (vi, 9 10); wounded pride so inflamed their hatred that they suborned false witnesses to testify that "they had heard him speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God" (vi, 11).

No charge could be more apt to rouse the mob; the anger of the ancients and the scribes had been already kindled from the first reports of the preaching of the Apostles. Stephen was arrested, not without some violence it seems (the Greek word synerpasan implies so much), and dragged before the Sanhedrin, where he was accused of saying that "Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place [the temple], and shall change the traditions which Moses delivered unto us" (vi, 12 14). No doubt Stephen had by his language given some grounds for the accusation; his accusers apparently twisted into the offensive utterance attributed to him a declaration that "the most High dwelleth not in houses made by hands" (vii, 48), some mention of Jesus foretelling the destruction of the Temple and some inveighing against the burthensome traditions fencing about the Law, or rather the asseveration so often repeated by the Apostles that "there is no salvation in any other" (cf. iv, 12) the Law not excluded but Jesus. However this may be, the accusation left him unperturbed and "all that sat in the council...saw his face as if it had been the face of an angel" (vi, 15).

Stephen's answer (Acts 7) was a long recital of the mercies of God towards Israel during its long history and of the ungratefulness by which, throughout, Israel repaid these mercies. This discourse contained many things unpleasant to Jewish ears; but the concluding indictment for having betrayed and murdered the Just One whose coming the Prophets had foretold, provoked the rage of an audience made up not of judges, but of foes. When Stephen "looking up steadfastly to heaven, saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God", and said: "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God" (vii, 55), they ran violently upon him (vii, 56) and cast him out of the city to stone him to death. Stephen's stoning does not appear in the narrative of the Acts as a deed of mob violence; it must have been looked upon by those who took part in it as the carrying out of the law. According to law (Leviticus 24:14), or at least its usual interpretation, Stephen had been taken out of the city; custom required that the person to be stoned be placed on an elevation from whence with his hands bound he was to be thrown down. It was most likely while these preparations were going on that, "falling on his knees, he cried with a loud voice, saying: "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge" (vii, 59). Meanwhile the witnesses, whose hands must be first on the person condemned by their testimony (Deuteronomy 17:7), were laying down their garments at the feet of Saul, that they might be more ready for the task devolved upon them (vii, 57). The praying martyr was thrown down; and while the witnesses were thrusting upon him "a stone as much as two men could carry", he was heard to utter this supreme prayer: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (vii, 58). Little did all the people present, casting stones upon him, realize that the blood they shed was the first seed of a harvest that was to cover the world.

The bodies of men stoned to death were to be buried in a place appointed by the Sanhedrin. Whether in this instance the Sanhedrin insisted on its right cannot be affirmed; at any rate, "devout men" -- whether Christians or Jews, we are not told -- "took order for Stephen's funeral, and made great mourning over him" (vii, 2). For centuries the location of St. Stephen's tomb was lost sight of, until (415) a certain priest named Lucian learned by revelation that the sacred body was in Caphar Gamala, some distance to the north of Jerusalem. The relics were then exhumed and carried first to the church of Mount Sion, then, in 460, to the basilica erected by Eudocia outside the Damascus Gate, on the spot where, according to tradition, the stoning had taken place (the opinion that the scene of St. Stephen's martyrdom was east of Jerusalem, near the Gate called since St. Stephen's Gate, is unheard of until the twelfth century). The site of the Eudocian basilica was identified some twenty years ago, and a new edifice has been erected on the old foundations by the Dominican Fathers.

The only first hand source of information on the life and death of St. Stephen is the Acts of the Apostles (6:1-8:2).
 

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St. Gaspar and Balthasar of the Magi

Commemorated on December 25

The names of the three Wise Men (Magi) do not appear in the Gospels. The tradition that there were three visitors from the east is very ancient, but their names are only mentioned in the Middle Ages. The tradition that one of them was a Negro dates from the fifteenth century.

Bones reputed to be the relics of the three kings have been in the cathedral at Cologne, Germany since 1164.


 

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Commemorated on December 23



The Ten Holy Martyrs of Crete: Theodulus, Saturninus, Euporus, Gelasius, Eunician, Zoticus, Pompius, Agathopus, Basilides and Evaristus suffered for Christ during the third century under the emperor Decius (249-251). The governor of Crete, also named Decius, fiercely persecuted the Church, and arrested anyone who believed in Christ. Once, ten Christians were brought before him from various cities of Crete, who at the trial steadfastly confessed their faith in Christ and refused to worship idols.



For thirty days they were subjected to cruel tortures, and with the help of God they all persevered, glorifying God. Before their death they prayed that the Lord would enlighten their torturers with the light of the true Faith. Since pain did not influence them, the saints were beheaded.



St Paul of Constantinople (November 6) visited Crete about a hundred years later. He took the relics of the holy martyrs to Constantinople to serve as a protection for the city, and a source of blessings for the faithful.

Troparion - Tone 3

Let us show forth our great praise of CreteThat brought forth these precious Christians: the pearls of Christ!And these blessed ten, the offspring of martyrs,Who though few in number, overcame all the deceits of powerful demons.Therefore these martyrs of Christ have been crowned with victory!

Kontakion - Tone 3

The noble struggle of the martyrsShines forth as the morning star,Shedding brilliant light for usOn the One who was born in the caveTo whom the Virgin gave birth without human seed.
 

ozgeorge

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St. Matrona the Sightless of Moscow

“Blessed Matrona was born in 1881 into a poor family in the village of Sebino-Epifaniskaya (now Kimovski) in the Tula region, a few kilometers from the site of the famous battle of Kulikovo. Blind from birth, her eyes lacking pupils, she bore this infirmity with humility and patience, and God, in his turn, made her an elect vessel of grace. At the moment of her baptism, the priest saw a light cloud above the child, which shed forth a sweet fragrance as a sign of divine favor. From the age of six or seven, she exhibited an extraordinary gift of insight, discerning sicknesses of soul and body in the many people who visited her, revealing to them their secret sins and their problems, and healing them through prayer and wise counsel. At about the age of fourteen, she made a pilgrimage to the great holy places in Russia in company with a devout benefactress. When they arrived at Kronstadt to receive the blessing of St. John, while they were lost in the crowd, St. John suddenly cried out: “Matrona, come here!” and he added “She will be my heir, and will become the eighth pillar of Russia”. At that moment, no one understood the meaning of this prophecy.

“When she reached the age of seventeen, she was seized with paralysis and was unable to walk from then on. Knowing that this was God’s will, she never bemoaned her state but thanked the Lord. For the rest of her days — over fifty years — she lived in a room filled with icons, sitting cross legged on her bed. With a radiant face and a quiet voice, she received all who came to seek divine consolation through her presence. She foretold the great misfortunes that were to sweep down upon the country after the Bolshevik revolution, placing her gift of insight at the service of the people of God. One day when some visitors commiserated with her about her disablement, she replied: “A day came on which God opened my eyes, and I saw the light of the sun, the stars and all that exists in the world: the rivers, the forests, the sea and the whole of creation.”

“In 1925 she left her village to settle in Moscow and, after her mother’s death in 1945, she moved frequently, welcomed secretly into the houses of the faithful. This was because the Communists, fearing her influence among the people, wanted to arrest her. But, every time, she had advance knowledge of this, and when the police arrived they learned that she had moved an hour or two earlier. One day, when a policeman arrived to arrest her, she advised him to return home as quickly as possible, promising him that she would not escape. When the man arrived home, he discovered that his wife was on fire, and was just in time to take her to the hospital.

“Saint Matrona led the ascetic life on her bed of pain. She fasted constantly, slept little, her head resting on her chest, and her forehead was dented by the innumerable signs of the Cross that she made. Not only the Muscovites but also people from afar, of all ages and conditions, thronged around her to ask her advice and her prayers. In this way she truly became the support of the afflicted people, especially during the Second World War. To those who came to ask her for news of their relatives on the Front, she reassured some and counselled others to hold memorial services. She spoke to some directly, and to others in parables, having in view their spiritual edification and recommending them to keep the Church’s laws, to marry in church and to go to Confession and Communion. When the sick and possessed were brought to her, she placed her hands on their heads, saying several prayers or drove the demon out with authority, always insisting that she was doing nothing of herself but that God was healing by her mediation. When asked why the Church was undergoing such great persecution, she replied that it was because of the sins of the Christians and their lack of faith. “All the peoples who have turned away from God have disappeared from off the face of the earth,” she affirmed. “Difficult times are our lot, but we Christians must choose the Cross. Christ has placed us on His sleigh, and he will take us where He will.”

“Having foretold the day of her death, she gave instructions for her obsequies. Before falling asleep in peace on 2 May/19 April 1952, she cried out: “Come close, all of you, and tell me of your troubles as though I were alive! I’ll see you, I’ll hear you, and I’ll come to your aid.” Miracles were multiplied at her tomb and, ever since her translation to the women’s monastery of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God (13 March 1998), the faithful who, in their thousands, queue to venerate Moscow’s new protectress, turn to her icon and bring her their various problems as though the Sant were alive in front of them.

~ From Volume Four of the Synaxarion, compiled by the Hieromonk Makarios of Simonos Petra, Mount Athos
 

Athanasios

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Saint John the Evangelist - December 27

Saint John the Divine as the son of Zebedee, and his mother's name was Salome [Matthew 4:21, 27:56; Mark 15:40, 16:1]. They lived on the shores of the sea of Galilee. The brother of Saint John, probably considerably older, was Saint James. The mention of the "hired men" [Mark 1:20], and of Saint John's "home" [John 19:27], implies that the condition of Salome and her children was not one of great poverty.

SS. John and James followed the Baptist when he preached repentance in the wilderness of Jordan. There can be little doubt that the two disciples, whom Saint John does not name (John 1:35), who looked on Jesus "as he walked," when the Baptist exclaimed with prophetic perception, "Behold the Lamb of God!" were Andrew and John. They followed and asked the Lord where he dwelt. He bade them come and see, and they stayed with him all day. Of the subject of conversation that took place in this interview no record has come to us, but it was probably the starting-point of the entire devotion of heart and soul which lasted through the life of the Beloved Apostle.

John apparently followed his new Master to Galilee, and was with him at the marriage feast of Cana, journeyed with him to Capernaum, and thenceforth never left him, save when sent on the missionary expedition with another, invested with the power of healing. He, James, and Peter, came within the innermost circle of their Lord's friends, and these three were suffered to remain with Christ when all the rest of the apostles were kept at a distance [Mark 5:37, Matthew 17:1, 26:37]. Peter, James, and John were with Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. The mother of James and John, knowing our Lord's love for the brethren, made special request for them, that they might sit, one on his right hand, the other on his left, in his kingdom [Matthew 20:21]. There must have been much impetuosity in the character of the brothers, for they obtained the nickname of Boanerges, Sons of Thunder [Mark 3:17, see also Luke 9:54]. It is not necessary to dwell on the familiar history of the Last Supper and the Passion. To John was committed by our Lord the highest of privileges, the care of his mother [John 19:27]. John [the "disciple whom Jesus loved"] and Peter were the first to receive the news from the Magdalene of the Resurrection [John 20:2], and they hastened at once to the sepulchre, and there when Peter was restrained by awe, John impetuously "reached the tomb first."

In the interval between the Resurrection and the Ascension, John and Peter were together on the Sea of Galilee [John 21:1], having returned to their old calling, and old familiar haunts.

When Christ appeared on the shore in the dusk of morning, John was the first to recognize him. The last words of the Gospel reveal the attachment which existed between the two apostles. It was not enough for Peter to know his own fate, he must learn also something of the future that awaited his friend. The Acts show us them still united, entering together as worshippers into the Temple [Acts 3:1], and protesting together against the threats of the Sanhedrin [Acts 4:13]. They were fellow-workers together in the first step of Church expansion. The apostle whose wrath had been kindled at the unbelief of the Samaritans, was the first to receive these Samaritans as brethren [Luke 9:54, Acts 8:14].

He probably remained at Jerusalem until the death of the Virgin, though tradition of no great antiquity or weight asserts that he took her to Ephesus. When he went to Ephesus is uncertain. He was at Jerusalem fifteen years after Saint Paul's first visit there [Acts 15:6]. There is no trace of his presence there when Saint Paul was at Jerusalem for the last time.

Tradition, more or less trustworthy, completes the history. Irenaeus says that Saint John did not settle at Ephesus until after the death SS. Peter and Paul, and this is probable. He certainly as not there when Saint Timothy was appointed bishop of that place. Saint Jerome says that he supervised and governed all the Churches of Asia. He probably took up his abode finally in Ephesus in 97. In the persecution of Domitian he was taken to Rome, and was placed in a cauldron of boiling oil, outside the Latin gate, without the boiling fluid doing him any injury. [Eusebius makes no mention of this. The legend of the boiling oil occurs in Tertullian and in Saint Jerome]. He was sent to labor at the mines in Patmos. At the accession of Nerva he was set free, and returned to Ephesus, and there it is thought that he wrote his gospel. Of his zeal and love combined we have examples in Eusebius, who tells, on the authority of Irenaeus, that Saint John once fled out of a bath on hearing that Cerinthus was in it, lest, as he asserted, the roof should fall in, and crush the heretic. On the other hand, he showed the love that was in him. He commended a young man in whom he was interested to a bishop, and bade him keep his trust well. Some years after he learned that the young man had become a robber. Saint John, though very old, pursued him among the mountain fastnesses, and by his tenderness recovered him.

In his old age, when unable to do more, he was carried into the assembly of the Church at Ephesus, and his sole exhortation was, "Little children, love one another."

The date of his death cannot be fixed with anything like precision, but it is certain that he lived to a very advanced age. He is represented holding a chalice from which issues a dragon, as he is supposed to have been given poison, which was, however, innocuous. Also his symbol is an eagle.

From The Lives of the Saints by the Rev. S. Baring-Gould, M.A., published in 1914 in Edinburgh.
 

chris

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Theodore the Confessor

Saint Theophanes, the brother of Saint Theodore the Branded, was a Palestinian by race. Both were monks at the Monastery of Saint Sabbas. They were called "the Branded" because Theophilus, the last of the Iconoclast emperors, had twelve iambic verses branded by hot irons on their foreheads and then sent them into exile, where Theodore died in the year 838. After the death of Theophilus in 842, Theophanes was elected Bishop of Nicaea. Both brothers composed many canons and hymns, thereby adorning the services of the Church.

Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone

You are a guide of Orthodoxy, a teacher of piety and modesty, a luminary of the world, the God inspired pride of monastics. O wise Theodore, you have enlightened everyone by your teachings. You are the harp of the Spirit. Intercede to Christ our God for the salvation of our souls.

Kontakion in the Third Tone

Thou didst piously revere the sacred icon of Christ God, for Whose sake thou didst endure all persecutions and hardships; so didst thou become a pillar of Orthodoxy, having triumphed over every manner of error. Hence, O Theodore, we honour and magnify thee as a great champion of faith.


http://www.goarch.org/en/chapel/saints.asp?contentid=356
 

Athanasios

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Saint Aileran - December 29

Monk, biographer, and scholar-also called Sapiens the Wise. Aileran was one of the most distinguished professors at the school of Clonard in Ireland. St. Finian welcomed Aileran to Clonard. In 650, Aileran became rector of Clonard, and was recognized as a classical scholar and a master of Latin and Greek. He wrote The Fourth Life of St. Patrick, a Latin-Irish Litany and The Lives of St. Brigid and St. Fechin of Fore. His last work was a treatise on the genealogy of Christ according to St. Matthew. A fragment of another of Aileran's works has survived: A Short Moral Explanation of the Sacred Names. Scholarly institutions across Europe read this work aloud annually. Aileran died from the Yellow Plague. His death on December 29, 664 is chronicled in the Annals of Ulster.
 

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St. Sarkis ("Sergius" in English) is very popular in the Armenian Church:

   
St. Sarkis the Warrior and His Son, St. Mardiros


The feast day honoring St. Sarkis is movable.  It occurs between January 11th and February 15th.  Each year it follows the five-day Fast of Catechumens.

St. Sarkis was a Greek from the area of Cappadocia on the Anatolian plain.  He was a proud, brave Christian and served as a Roman army officer during the reign of Emperor Constantine (roughly 337 A.D.).  St. Sarkis' valor, strength, and bravery earned him the rank of general.

Sarkis used his position of power for spiritual growth, going from town to town purging the land of pagan idols, teaching the Gospel, and building churches where pagan temples once stood.  Sarkis had a good model in the piety of the Emperor Constantine.

When Constantine died, Christianity throughout the region came under attack from the new Roman leader, Julian the Apostate.  Under his leadership, pagans set about destroying churches and persecuting Christians. 

Seeing this, Sarkis prayed.  Jesus appeared to him and said, "It is time for you to leave your country and your clan, as did Abraham the Patriarch, and go to a country which I will show you.  There you will receive the crown of righteousness prepared for you."

Sarkis left behind his noble title and power and headed with his son, Mardiros, to Armenia, where they were welcomed by King Diran, grandson of King Drtad. 

While Sarkis and Mardiros were in Armenia, the Emperor Julian, attempting to take over the known world, continued to move eastward toward Antioch in Syria.  Whenever the Roman army came upon Christians, they were instantly killed.  Many people fled the invading armies.  King Diran urged Sarkis to escape and seek refuge among the Persians.

When Sarkis and his son arrived in Persia, King Shapur, hearing of his bravery, appointed him a commander of the Persian military.  As he continued to be victorious in battle, Sarkis also continued to give the credit to God. 

When Julian's troops started raiding lands near King Shapur's kingdom, Sarkis was sent to defend the territory.  Outnumbered by the Greek and Roman forces, Sarkis' troops were frightened.  He told them that if they believed in the Creator of heaven and earth, their hearts would never be shaken.  Many of his soldiers were baptized by the priests traveling with the army, and they succeeded in fending off a Roman attack.

Some of Sarkis' soldiers, who had not been baptized, went to King Shapur and told him that Sarkis was rebelling against the Persian ruler by preaching belief in Jesus.  The king called Sarkis back to the palace, where he, his son, and the newly-baptized soldiers were expected to attend a feast honoring the pagan gods.

At the temple, the king asked Sarkis to offer a sacrifice to the pagan gods.  Sarkis refused, saying he would only worship the one, true God.  The king began to criticize Sarkis and his faith.  But Sarkis could not tolerate such talk, so he spat in the king's face and knocked down the temple idols.  The king and his followers were enraged by Sarkis' actions, so they killed his son, Mardiros, before his eyes.

The king then ordered Sarkis imprisoned.  In prison Sarkis was strengthened by his relationship with the Lord.  King Shapur heard of this and ordered Sarkis' execution.

At his execution, Sarkis began to pray.  An angel descended from heaven and told him, "Be strong.  Do not fear the killers of your body; for the gate of the Kingdom of Heaven is open for you."  Upon seeing the angel and understanding the power of everlasting life, many of the pagans who had gathered for the execution became Christians.

Sarkis made one last passionate plea for people to accept Jesus Christ, and then was killed. 

His loyal Christian soldiers retrieved St. Sarkis' body and wrapped it in clean linen with the intention of burying his body honorably.  When King Shapur heard of this reverence, he ordered the soldiers killed as well.  Eventually, Christians found St. Sarkis' body and it was sent to Assyria, where it remained until the fifth century, when St. Mesrob Mashdots received his remains and moved them to Armenia.

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

 

ozgeorge

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St. Nicholas Planas of Athens

LIFE OF ST. NICHOLAS PLANAS (1851-1932)
"The Simple Shepherd Of The Simple Sheep"

It is necessary in the materialistic age in which we live, to become acquainted with holy personalities which our long-suffering Lord sends us, so that we can be assured that He has not abandoned us. One such personality is "Papa" (Father) Nicholas Planas, who lived in the beginning of our century.

HIS BIRTH.
He was born in Naxos in 1851. His parents, captain John and Augustina, were quite well off but were also good people, with the simple and pure soul which distinguishes island people. They had their own estate, with a little chapel in the middle of it by the name of Saint Nicholas. Very frequently little Nicholas Planas would hide in the chapel wearing a bed sheet, and he would chant whatever he knew, as he was still a small child. At other times he would gather his friends, and they would "celebrate" the Divine Liturgy.

He learned his first letters from his grandfather, Father George Melissourgos. Near him, Nicholas learned to read the psalter. He observed his grandfather's every movement in the Holy Altar and followed him in all the liturgies he did in the innumerable country chapels.

One winter night--as Papa Nicholas himself related about his childhood life--they were sitting near the fireplace and he told his father, "Father, at this moment our boat, the Evangelistria, is sinking outside Constantinople."

Trembling, his father said to his wife, "Woman, what is the child saying?"

And truly, at that moment their boat was sinking. Immediately, to dismiss the idea of holy foreknowledge which he had, he said, "All small children have foreknowledge." (And because he didn't have any teeth he spoke like a little child).

His father died young. He had been pained in soul, not only for the loss of their boat, but even more so for the young lads who were lost along with it. Thus he left Nicholas an orphan at forteen years of age. His mother took him and they went--together with his sister--to Athens. At that time Athens began at the Acropolis and reached up to Panaghia Vlassarou Church. They settled somewhere between St. John of Plaka and St. Panteleimon of Ilissou because there were quite a few Naxiotes builders and workers there. Their days were difficult. His mother worked washing other homes so that they could survive. She took her children together with her no matter where she was working, because she was afraid of Athens. She trembled at the idea that they might take the evil path.

HIS ORDINATION.
When he reached seventeen years of age, his mother married him off to a good gril from Kythira, Eleni Provelegiou. They had one child. Afterwards he was ordained a deacon in the Church of the Transfiguration, Plaka, on July 28, 1879. Five years later, on March 2, 1884, he was ordained a priest in the church of the Holy Prophet Elisha. In the meantime, however, his wife reposed. And so, carrying the burden of being a widower, he entrusted himself and his son John to God's mercy. He had no estate because had split it with his sister and had put his own portion as collateral on a loan, so that a compatriot of his could be saved from debt.

He was compassionate, and had no care for worldly things or estates. Night and day he was absorbed in divine worship, and with his small parish of St. Panteleimon in Neo Kosmo which was comprised of thirteen families. The people loved him. His simplicity, his island piety, his kindness, his chastity, his lack of love for money, drew everyone to divine worship. Everyone wanted him to bless their homes, their stores. And he ran everywhere joyously. From aristocratic homes down to the poorest homes, he never kept a drachma on him. The poor always waited outside the church for him to distribute whatever he had in his pocket.

However, a certain priest without a parish of his own, in cooperation with the council members of St. Panteleimon, kicked him out of his parish and sent him to the Church of Saint John, ("the Hunter" as they called it then) in Vouliagimeni. The new parish was very poor and was comprised of eight families. His payment as a priest was one piece of meat from the fattened lamb of Meatfare Sunday or Christmas. This did not brother him, however, because fasting was most important in his life. So long as he had a church in which to liturgize, he was happy.

His having been kicked out of St. Panteleimon, however, bothered him a lot. One night, as he was leaving St. John to go home, he was crying on the road. The place was deserted at that hour. Suddenly he saw on his path a young lad said to him, "Why are you crying, Father?"....

"I'm crying, my child, because they kicked me out of St. Panteleimon's."
"Don't be said, Father. I am always with you."
"Who are you, my child?"
"I am Panteleimon, who lives in Neo Kosmo."

And immediately he vanished from in front of him.

Every year, on the feast of St. Panteleimon, he would go to the Saint's church in Neo Kosmo and do a vigil. One year, as he himself related, he was sick and had a fever. His relative did not allow him to go for his customary vigil. But because of the love which Father Nicholas had for the Saint, he went anyway. "That night," he himself said,

    "after the Liti, exhausted, I leaned on the edge of the Holy Table. In the delirium of the fever I saw the Saint in front of me, young and vigorous, holding a small glass full of medicine, and he told me, 'Drink it, my Father, to become well.' I took it from the hand and drank it and became completely well. The fever left me. For a whole week out through the Royal Gate and said, 'My children, I was very sick tonight, and at this moment Saint Panteliemon gave me medicine and I drank and became well.' Everyone believed it and knelt down, glorifying the Saint."

HIS LITURGIES.
For fifty consecutive years he liturgized daily from 8.a.m. til 2.p.m., in snows, in revolutions. Not even with the invasion of the Anglo-French in 1917 did he interrupt his series of Liturgies. In the narrow streets of the Acropolis at 2:00 in the afternoon in July, he would liturgize in small chapels, as the sweat settled on the sacred vestments of this true laborer in Christ's vineyard.

HIS FASTS.
He ate every night. He fasted from oil every lenten period. As a confessor he was not strict about fasting, though when it concerned himself, he was very strict. One day someone gave him a little chocolate and told him it was fastworthy. He took it in his hand, looked at it closely and said, "Just to sure, take it back!"

HIS "BILLS AND CONTRACTS".
He commemorated names for whole hours. First, departed patriarchs, metropolitans, priests, deacons and the .... Naxiotes, and the Athenians. The names they gave him, he commemorated for many months. Every now and then his spiritual children, to give him some rest, would take the old papers and secretly rip them up, because he took them with him to all the churches. He would place them in two large handkerchiefs and tie them up like a type of package, and place them on his hip. When he would arrive home and take them off his hip--because he had two packages, one with names and the other with holy relics--they would ask him.

"What are these packages?"
And he would respond, "My bills and my contracts."
"Aren't you tired, Father? When will you rest?"
He would cross his hands and humbly respond, "I shall chant to my God as long as I live."

When he would go into church, a stir would occur from the reception people would give him. Some would kiss his hands, others his cassock, others his little head since he was short. Most of the time he liturgized in the church of the Prophet. On feast days he would he would go to his own parish. In the church of St. John there was a caretaker who disliked the elder. One day she swore at him with hand gestures, and at night she saw Saint John saying to her, "What did my servant do to you that you would swear at him like that?" And he gave her a slap on the cheek. In the morning her cheek was black and blue. The next day when Father Nicholas went to church the caretaker went in front of him, fell at his feet, asked his forgiveness, and simultaneously asked him to step on her hands. The meek and clam one went off to one side. She shouted, "Step on them, Father!" And again he responded, "But why should I step on them?" This lasted quite a while until he forgave her for what she had done, even though he had not noticed it.

HIS PATIENCE AND FORBEARANCE.
His patience and forbearance were unlimited. He had a helper, Michael, who always accompanied him and chanted if no one else was there. Even though he loved the elder a lot, at the same time he tormented him. On freezing days of winter when he was forced to be near Father Nicholas while he commemorated for unending hours, Michael would shout "Come o-o-on, Father-er-er-er! You are looking to take the dead out of hades and bury us with the cold..." Another time, he did not allow him to do a supplication service to the Panaghia at the end of the Liturgy. Father Nicholas was pout-faced all day and would say to himself, "Imagine Michael not allowing me to do a supplication service!..." And he would repeat again, "Imagine, he wouldn't allow me." When sometimes they argued in church, the elder would hide in the altar so as not to take part. And once he was advising one of his spiritual children on how to restrain her anger, and would say, "Do you think, my child, that I don't know how to speak out? I know but I think of the result."

HIS SANCTITY.
The children who were in church would see him shining with heavenly light, doing unexplainable gestures, or remaining for a long time attentive, as if something were happening to him. These were the moments when he was communicating with the saints and being drenched with the light of Paradise. Many times they would see him not standing on the ground. A little eight year old child once came out white from the altar and told his mother "Mo-o-om, Father Nicholas is this high off the ground" and he showed her with his hand a half cubit above the ground. "Don't be afraid, my child, all priests are elevated off the ground that way when they liturgize," his mother responded, doing her cross to settle him down.

The children would see him being elevated to the sky and not stepping upon the ground, because he scorned all earthly and material things. His mind was high up, on Him Who He worshipped, and he would not turn his eyes to look at what the people call material goods.

HIS LACK OF LOVING MONEY.
Once some for whom he had read a supplication service gave him a respectable sum of money in a sealed envelope. He gave it away immediately, still sealed, to a poor woman. The man who gave it to him got upset and said, "Why, that blessed one, wouldn't he even look at what I gave him?"

He told a spiritual daughter of his that he had cut a payment to eleven families of widows and orphans, and futhermore, he said, the young widows especially have need, because poverty urges them to corruption.

A lot of money would pass through his hands, but he would keep nothing. He would immediately give it away to charity. Many times he remained without even a penny for himself. Once he took a horse and carriage to take him somewhere, without noticing that he did not have any money. The carriage driver said to him, "Aren't you the parish priest of St. John's, Father Nicholas?"
"Yes, my child, I am."
"Well, I don't want money, just your blessing!"

Another time some people where discussing politics at a certain house. "So, what do you say, Father?" they asked him. Once he recovered from the depth of his thought, he wanted to say something. "Who is governing now?"! Imagine how little knowledge he had of secular matters.

THE APPEARANCE OF ANGELS.
Once he set out on his own to go to chapel in Peristeri, but he lost his way. He advanced, distressed and praying, without knowing where he was going, until he saw a young lad in front of him, saying to him, "Did you lose your way, Father? I will guide you." The young lad went in front and Father Nicholas went behind, and they reached the door of the church. Here he, himself, relates what happened: "As soon as we reached outside the door, I turned to give him thanks, and immediately he shone brilliantly, and I lost him."

When he liturgized, he wanted everything to contribute to the majesty of the Divine Liturgy. He chanted with such contrition that he would hear the angels chanting with him. Once, he asked a spiritual daughter of his whether she also heard the angels. "No, my Father, I don't hear them." Immediately he repented and said to himself, "I shouldn't have said it, I shouldn't have said it..."

For the duration of the half century in which he liturgized without a break, he never lacked prosphoro (holy bread used for the Holy Divine Liturgy). Always some woman would bring it the night before or some nearby bakery would provide it for him. One day the Matins (Orthros) had proceeded quite a way and no prophoro could be seen anywhere. He sent helpers to go to the women he knew always had prosphoro; he looked in the cupboards of the sanctuary --nothing. He was distressed to the point that he started to cry. After such a continuance of liturgies for a cessation to occur now! Whereupon they saw him coming out of the Holy Royal Doors holding a prosphoro (the Sea only, not the whole loaf), which was still very warm and which he had found on the altar table. Moved with joy, he said, "My children, what a sign God did for me!" All miracles he called signs. He did not delve too deeply into these phenomena; he considered them natural, out of his great faith. And he did not comment very much about them, so as not to put on himself.

One night, the eve of the feast of the Holy Hieromartyr Phocas was dawning. One of his spiritual children saw a majestic priest behind Father Nicholas, who was observing how they were chanting the Holy Divine Liturgy. When she metnioned this to the elder, he said to her, bringing his finger to his lips, "Shhh! It is the Hieromartyr Phocas."

A CORRECTION OF VAINGLORY.
Father Nicholas knew how to censure, to correct, to enlighten souls, without rhetorical sermons, but merely with his life, his presence. A rich woman got sick, and her cousin suggested that they bring Father Nicholas to read a prayer for health. The daughter of the sick woman liked external propriety. So she said, "Let's bring a more respectable looking priest from the bigger churches, and not him, who will be dusty from church," etc. That night she saw Father Nicholas in her sleep, with all gold vestments, saying to her, "Do I please you, my child?" Startled, she awoke and stove to call father to read a prayer for health. When he came, the daughter of the sick woman ran piously, and she knelt down to kiss his hand, he said to her, "Did I please you as you saw me, my child?" Awe and astonishment rushed all through her body. Never did she expect such a rebuke for her vanity.

Yet one other incident reveals the unsurpassed faith and piety which he had in the performance of his sacred duties. He went one day to commune a leper, but the illness had destroyed his lips so much that he could not take the Holy Body of the Lord, and it fell a little to the side of his mouth. Without hesitation, Father knelt and took the Divine Pearl which had fallen, and consumed It!

In the various churches where he celebrated he was the consolation and refuge of people. He was the "sacred little elder" who comforted every human pain. His reputation had extended to the various eparchies also, and people hastened form everywhere to hear him liturgize, to kiss his hand, for him to bless them... He reached 84 years of age and had never been slandered once, nor did anyone say anything against him. Everyone knew him and respected his holy personality. When he passed by they greeted him, taking off their hats.

On March 2, 1932, however, his holy life reached its end. He liturgized for the last time on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son. As soon as he consumed the Holy Cup, he suffered a light fainting and was transported home, where his son John, and his daughter-in-law, Marigoula, offered their last services to their holy father. Like a little bird he gave up his holy soul to Him Whom he had worshipped his whole life long. News of the grievous event spread to all of Athens. People ran to venerate the relic of the venerable elder. Everyone wanted to kiss his hand for the last time. The Archbishop of Athens, Chrysostom Papadoupoulos, suggested that the burial take place at night so that everyone could embrace him. Thus it happened.

His body was buried in the courtyard of the church of Saint John. His bones were placed in a silver reliquary in the new majestic church of St. John. His whole life was proof of the divine power and wisdom which God the Creator grants to those who love Him and keep His commandments.

For this reason the noted writers, Alexandros Papadiamantis and Alexandros Moraitidis, attached themselves to the disciples of the uneducated but wise priest (they would always chant near Father Nicholas). For this reason great spiritual names such as the Abbot of the Sacred Monastery of Longovarda, Paros, the Archimandrite Zervakos, praised him.

The Church of Greece, with an introduction from His Emience the Metropolitan of Patras, Nikodemos, who personally had met Saint Nicholas was granted to get his blessing, asked the Ecumenical Patriarchate to recognize Father Nicholas Planas' holiness. With a special Synodical Deed, the Patriarchate numbered him in the listing of saints of the Orthodox Church, and appointed that his memory be celebrated on March 2nd.

    DISMISSAL HYMN.
    PLAGAL OF FIRST TONE
    Let us praise our protector, the godly Nicholas;
    as one endowed with blest virtue,
    he shone forth as true priest of the most high god, and was His fervent worshipper.
    For, by his holy life on earth,
    he hath left us most sublime,
    divine and unfailing teachings of long-suffering, meekness, patience, unfeigned humility
    and true God-like love.

    KONTAKION. THIRD TONE.
    Humble of spirit and pure of heart, illustrious in life and dispassionate of a truth, wast thou,
    O wise one. Thou didst illumine all by the virtues
    and dost grant grace unto them that draw nigh unto thee;
    and by thine intercessions, thou dost heal them that call upon thee, O Father Nicholas.

    MEGALYNARION
    As a simple shepherd of Christ God's lambs,
    thou didst tend thy flock well on the pasture of piety,
    nourishing their spirits with ceaseless supplications and leading them to Christ,
    O wise Father Nicholas.

http://www.serfes.org/lives/stnicholas.htm
 

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Saint Anysia - December 30

Martyr of Greece. She was a wealthy woman of Salonika, in Thessaly, who used her personal funds to aid the poor. A soldier accosted her in the street and tried to drag her to a pagan sacrifice. Anysia resisted and was killed when the soldier attacked her with his sword.


Saint Anysius - December 30

Bishop successor of St. Ascolus in the see of Salonika, in Greece. A friend of St. Ambrose, Anysius was appointed bishop in 383. Pope Damasus also named him vicar apostolic of Illyricum. A loyal defender of St. John Chrysostom, Anysius was one of the sixteen Macedonian bishops to appeal to Pope Innocent in 404 on St. John's behalf.
 

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Saint Sabinus - December 30

Martyr with St. Exuperantius, Marcellus, Venustian, and companions. They were put to death at Spoleto, Italy, during the persecutions of the Church under Emperor Diocletian. Sabinus was a bishop (he is claimed by several cities, including Assisi, Spoleto, and Faenza); Exuperantius and Marcellus were his deacons; and Venustian and others were converts. The martyrs were brought before the local governor, and Sabinus converted many and cured a blind child.
 

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Pope Saint Sylvester I - December 31

Saint Sylvester was born in Rome. When he reached the age to dispose of his fortune, he took pleasure in giving hospitality to Christians passing through the city. He would take them with him, wash their feet, serve them at table, and in sum give them in the name of Christ, all the care that the most sincere charity inspired. One day Timothy of Antioch, an illustrious confessor of the Faith, arrived in Rome. No one dared receive him, but Sylvester considered it an honor. For a year Timothy, preaching Jesus Christ with unflagging zeal, received at Sylvester’s dwelling the most generous hospitality. When this heroic man had won the palm of martyrdom, Sylvester took up his precious remains and buried them during the night. But he himself was soon denounced to the prefect and accused of having hidden the martyr’s treasures. He replied, “Timothy left to me only the heritage of his faith and courage.” The governor threatened him with death and had him imprisoned, but Sylvester said to him, “Senseless one, this very night it is you who will render an account to God.” And the persecutor that evening swallowed a fish bone, and died in fact that night.

Fear of heavenly chastisements softened the guardians, and the brave young man was set at liberty. Sylvester’s courageous acts became known to Saint Melchiad, Pope, who elevated him to the diaconate. He was a young priest when persecution of the Christians grew worse under the tyrant Diocletian. Idols were erected at the street corners, in the market-places, and over the public fountains, so that it was scarcely possible for a Christian to go abroad without being put to the test of offering sacrifice, with the alternative of apostasy or death. During this fiery trial, Sylvester strengthened the confessors and martyrs, and God preserved his life from many dangers. It was indeed he who was destined to succeed the Pope who had recognized his virtues.

His long pontificate of twenty-one years, famous for several reasons, is remembered in particular for the Council of Nicea, the Baptism of Constantine, and the triumph of the Church. Some authors would place Constantine’s Baptism later, but there are numerous and serious testimonies which fix the emperor’s reception into the Church under the reign of Saint Sylvester, and the Roman Breviary confirms that opinion. Constantine, while still pagan and little concerned for the Christians, whose doctrine was entirely unknown to him, was attacked by a kind of leprosy which soon covered his entire body. One night Saint Peter and Saint Paul, shining with light, appeared to him and commanded him to call for Pope Sylvester, who would cure him by giving him Baptism. In effect, the Pope instructed the royal neophyte and baptized him. Thus began the social reign of Jesus Christ: Constantine’s conversion, culminating in the Edict of Milan in 313, had as its happy consequence that of the known world.
 

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Saint Melania - December 31

St. Melania whose feast day is December 31. Melania was born to wealthy Christians, Publicola, a Roman senator, and Albina. At fourteen, she was given in marriage to Valerius Pinianus. When two of her children died soon after childbirth, her husband agreed to lead a life of continency and religious dedication.

Inheriting her father's vast wealth, Melania endowed monasteries in Egypt, Syria, and Palestine and aided churches and monasteries in Europe. To escape the barbarian invasions, she fled with her mother and husband to Tagaste in Numidia in the year 410.

In 417, all three made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and settled at Jerusalem, where Melania became a friend of St. Jerome. After the death of her mother in 431 and her husband in 432, Melania attracted disciples to her solitary way of life and built a convent, for which she was Abbess until her death on December 31, 439.

The life of St. Melania reminds us of the fleeting character of earthly wealth. We should strive to emulate her use of wealth as well as talents to further the cause of Christ.
 

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Saint Zoticus - December 31

Zoticus (d.c. 350) + Priest and patron of the poor. Originally from Rome, he journeyed to Constantinople (modern Istanbul, Turkey) when it became the capital city of the Empire under Constantine the Great (r. 324-337). There he founded a hospital for the poor and defended orthodox Christianity before the pro-Arian emperor Constantius II (r. 641-668). Feast day: December 31.
 

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St. Aidan, Commemorated on August 31

Saint Aidan, a steadfast defender of Celtic practices against the imposition of Roman usage, was born in Ireland (then called Scotland) in the seventh century. As a monk of the monastery founded by St Columba (June 9) on the island of Iona, he was known for his strict asceticism.

When the holy King Oswald of Northumbria (August 5) wanted to convert his people to Christianity, he turned to the Celtic monks of Iona, rather than the Roman clergy at Canterbury. The first bishop sent to lead the mission proved unsuitable, for he alienated many people by his harshness, and he blamed the hostile disposition of the English for his failure. St Aidan said that the bishop was to blame, and not the English. Instead of being too severe with an ignorant people, he should have fed them with milk rather than solid food (I Cor. 3:2). The bishop was recalled, and an ideal candidate was found to replace him.

St Aidan was consecrated bishop and sent to Northumbria to take charge of the mission. King Oswald gave him the island of Lindisfarne near the royal residence of Bamburg for his episcopal See. St Aidan also founded the famous monastery on Lindisfarne in 635.

St Bede (May 27), in his ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH PEOPLE praises Aidan for his humility and piety, recommending him as a model for other bishops and priests to follow. He was not attached to the things of this world, nor did he seek earthly treasures. Whenever he received gifts from the king or from rich men, he distributed them to the poor. On Wednesdays and Fridays he would fast from all food until the Ninth Hour (about 3 P.M.), except during the paschal season.

From Lindisfarne, St Aidan traveled all over Northumbria, visiting his flock and establishing missions. St Oswald, who knew Gaelic from the time he and his family were exiled to Iona, acted as an interpreter for Bishop Aidan, who did not speak English. Thus, the king played an active role in the conversion of his people.

One year, after attending the services of Pascha, King Oswald sat down to a meal with Bishop Aidan. Just as the bishop was about to bless the food, a servant came in and informed the king that a great number of needy folk were outside begging for alms. The king ordered that his own food be served to the poor on silver platters, and that the silver serving dishes be broken up and distributed to them.There is a charming illustration of this incident in the thirteenth century Berthold Missal in New York's Pierpont Morgan Library (Morgan MS 710, fol. 101v). Aidan, deeply moved by St Oswald's charity, took him by the right hand and said, "May this hand never perish." According to Tradition, St Oswald's hand remained incorrupt for centuries after his death. St Bede says that the hand was kept in the church of St Peter at Bamburgh, where it was venerated by all. The present location of the hand, if it still survives, is not known.

St Oswald was killed in battle against the superior forces of King Penda on August 5, 642 at a place called Maserfield. He was only thirty-eight years old. St Aidan was deeply grieved by the king's death, but his successor St Oswin (August 20) was also very dear to him.

King Oswin once gave St Aidan a horse and a cart for his journeys (the bishop usually traveled on foot). Soon after this, Bishop Aidan met a beggar and gave him the horse and cart. The king heard of this and was disturbed by it. He asked St Aidan why he had given the royal gift away when there were ordinary horses in the stables which were more suitable for a beggar. Aidan rebuked him, asking if the king regarded the foal of a mare more highly than the Son of God. At first, he did not understand. Then he fell at the bishop's feet, weeping tears of repentance. Asking for forgiveness, Oswin promised never again to judge St Aidan's charitable deeds.

St Aidan raised the king to his feet, declaring that he had never seen a king who was so humble. He prophesied that Oswin would soon depart from this life, since the people did not deserve such a ruler. His prophecy was soon fulfilled, for St Oswin was murdered at Gilling on August 20, 651. St Aidan departed to the Lord on August 31, less than two weeks later. He died at Bamburgh, by the west wall of the church. The beam on which he was leaning to support himself still survives, even though the church was twice destroyed by fire. The beam may still be seen in the ceiling of the present church, above the baptismal font.

On the day St Aidan died, St Cuthbert (March 20) was a young man tending his master's sheep. Looking up, Cuthbert saw a vision of angels bearing someone's soul to heaven in a sphere of fire. Later, he learned that Bishop Aidan had died at the very hour that he had seen the vision.

At first, the holy bishop Aidan was buried at Lindisfarne on the right side of the altar in the church of St Peter. In 664 the Synod of Whitby declared that all the churches of Britain must follow Roman practices, and that Celtic customs were to be suppressed. St Colman (February 18), the third Bishop of Lindisfarne, was unable to accept this decision. Therefore, he decided to retire to Iona, taking the bones of St Aidan with him. Celtic customs survived on Iona until the eighth century.

From OCA.org.

 

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10 Holy Martyrs of Crete



Commemorated on December 23​

The Ten Holy Martyrs of Crete: Theodulus, Saturninus, Euporus, Gelasius, Eunician, Zoticus, Pompius, Agathopus, Basilides and Evaristus suffered for Christ during the third century under the emperor Decius (249-251). The governor of Crete, also named Decius, fiercely persecuted the Church, and arrested anyone who believed in Christ. Once, ten Christians were brought before him from various cities of Crete, who at the trial steadfastly confessed their faith in Christ and refused to worship idols.

For thirty days they were subjected to cruel tortures, and with the help of God they all persevered, glorifying God. Before their death they prayed that the Lord would enlighten their torturers with the light of the true Faith. Since pain did not influence them, the saints were beheaded.

St Paul of Constantinople (November 6) visited Crete about a hundred years later. He took the relics of the holy martyrs to Constantinople to serve as a protection for the city, and a source of blessings for the faithful.


Troparion - Tone 3

Let us show forth our great praise of Crete
That brought forth these precious Christians: the pearls of Christ!
And these blessed ten, the offspring of martyrs,
Who though few in number, overcame all the deceits of powerful demons.
Therefore these martyrs of Christ have been crowned with victory!


Kontakion - Tone 3

The noble struggle of the martyrs
Shines forth as the morning star,
Shedding brilliant light for us
On the One who was born in the cave
To whom the Virgin gave birth without human seed.

Source
 

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Saint Basil the Great - January 2

Bishop of Caesarea, and one of the most distinguished Doctors of the Church. Born probably 329; died 1 January, 379. He ranks after Athanasius as a defender of the Oriental Church against the heresies of the fourth century. With his friend Gregory of Nazianzus and his brother Gregory of Nyssa, he makes up the trio known as "The Three Cappadocians", far outclassing the other two in practical genius and actual achievement.

St. Basil the Elder, father of St. Basil the Great, was the son of a Christian of good birth and his wife, Macrina (Acta SS., January, II), both of whom suffered for the faith during the persecution of Maximinus Galerius (305-314), spending several years of hardship in the wild mountains of Pontus. St. Basil the Elder was noted for his virtue (Acta SS, May, VII) and also won considerable reputation as a teacher in Caesarea. He was not a priest (Cf. Cave, Hist. Lit., I, 239). He married Emmelia, the daughter of a martyr and became the father of ten children. Three of these, Macrina, Basil, and Gregory are honoured as saints; and of the sons, Peter, Gregory, and Basil attained the dignity of the episcopate.

Under the care of his father and his grandmother, the elder Macrina, who preserved the traditions of their countryman, St. Gregory Thaumaturgus (c. 213-275) Basil was formed in habits of piety and study. He was still young when his father died and the family moved to the estate of the elder Macrina at Annesi in Pontus, on the banks of the Iris. As a boy, he was sent to school at Caesarea, then "a metropolis of letters", and conceived a fervent admiration for the local bishop, Dianius. Later, he went to Constantinople, at that time "distinguished for its teachers of philosophy and rhetoric", and thence to Athens. Here he became the inseparable companion of Gregory of Nazianzus, who, in his famous panegyric on Basil (Or. xliii), gives a most interesting description of their academic experiences. According to him, Basil was already distinguished for brilliancy of mind and seriousness of character and associated only with the most earnest students. He was able, grave, industrious, and well advanced in rhetoric, grammar, philosophy, astronomy, geometry, and medicine. (As to his not knowing Latin, see Fialon, Etude historique et littéraire sur St. Basile, Paris, 1869). We know the names of two of Basil's teachers at Athens — Prohaeresius, possibly a Christian, and Himerius, a pagan. It has been affirmed, though probably incorrectly, that Basil spent some time under Libanius. He tells us himself that he endeavoured without success to attach himself as a pupil to Eustathius (Ep., I). At the end of his sojourn at Athens, Basil being laden, says St. Gregory of Nazianzus "with all the learning attainable by the nature of man", was well equipped to be a teacher. Caesarea took possession of him gladly "as a founder and second patron" (Or. xliii), and as he tells us (ccx), he refused the splendid offers of the citizens of Neo-Caesarea, who wished him to undertake the education of the youth of their city.

To the successful student and distinguished professor, "there now remained", says Gregory (Or. xliii), "no other need than that of spiritual perfection". Gregory of Nyssa, in his life of Macrina, gives us to understand that Basil's brilliant success both as a university student and a professor had left traces of worldliness and self-sufficiency on the soul of the young man. Fortunately, Basil came again in contact with Dianius, Bishop of Caesarea, the object of his boyish affection, and Dianius seems to have baptized him, and ordained him Reader soon after his return to Caesarea. It was at the same time also that he fell under the influence of that very remarkable woman, his sister Macrina, who had meanwhile founded a religious community on the family estate at Annesi. Basil himself tells us how, like a man roused from deep sleep, he turned his eyes to the marvellous truth of the Gospel, wept many tears over his miserable life, and prayed for guidance from God: "Then I read the Gospel, and saw there that a great means of reaching perfection was the selling of one's goods, the sharing of them with the poor, the giving up of all care for this life, and the refusal to allow the soul to be turned by any sympathy towards things of earth" (Ep. ccxxiii). To learn the ways of perfection, Basil now visited the monasteries of Egypt, Palestine, Coele-Syria, and Mesopotamia. He returned, filled with admiration for the austerity and piety of the monks, and founded a monastery in his native Pontus, on the banks of the Iris, nearly opposite Annesi. (Cf. Ramsay, Hist. Geog. of Asia Minor, London, 1890, p. 326). Eustathius of Sebaste had already introduced the eremitical life into Asia Minor; Basil added the cenobitic or community form, and the new feature was imitated by many companies of men and women. (Cf. Sozomen, Hist. Eccl., VI, xxvii; Epiphanius, Haer., lxxv, 1; Basil, Ep. ccxxiii; Tillemont, Mém., IX, Art. XXI, and note XXVI.) Basil became known as the father of Oriental monasticism, the forerunner of St. Benedict. How well he deserved the title, how seriously and in what spirit he undertook the systematizing of the religious life, may be seen by the study of his Rule. He seems to have read Origen's writings very systematically about this time, for in union with Gregory of Nazianzus, he published a selection of them called the "Philocalia".

Basil was drawn from his retreat into the area of theological controversy in 360 when he accompanied two delegates from Seleucia to the emperor at Constantinople, and supported his namesake of Ancyra. There is some dispute as to his courage and his perfect orthodoxy on this occasion (cf. Philostorgius, Hist. Eccl., IV, xii; answered by Gregory of Nyssa, In Eunom., I, and Maran, Proleg., vii; Tillemont, Mém., note XVIII). A little later, however, both qualities seem to have been sufficiently in evidence, as Basil forsook Dianius for having signed the heretical creed of Rimini. To this time (c. 361) may be referred the "Moralia"; and a little later came two books against Eunomius (363) and some correspondence with Athanasius. It is possible, also, that Basil wrote his monastic rules in the briefer forms while in Pontus, and enlarged them later at Caesarea. There is an account of an invitation from Julian for Basil to present himself a court and of Basil's refusal, coupled with an admonition that angered the emperor and endangered Basil's safety. Both incident and correspondence however are questioned by some critics.

Basil still retained considerable influence in Caesarea, and it is regarded as fairly probable that he had a hand in the election of the successor of Dianius who died in 362, after having been reconciled to Basil. In any case the new bishop, Eusebius, was practically placed in his office by the elder Gregory of Nazianzus. Eusebius having persuaded the reluctant Basil to be ordained priest, gave him a prominent place in the administration of the diocese (363). In ability for the management of affairs Basil so far eclipsed the bishop that ill-feeling rose between the two. "All the more eminent and wiser portion of the church was roused against the bishop" (Greg. Naz., Or. xliii; Ep. x), and to avoid trouble Basil again withdrew into the solitude of Pontus. A little later (365) when the attempt of Valens to impose Arianism on the clergy and the people necessitated the presence of a strong personality, Basil was restored to his former position, being reconciled to the bishop by St. Gregory of Nazianzus. There seems to have been no further disagreement between Eusebius and Basil and the latter soon became the real head of the diocese. "The one", says Gregory of Nazianzus (Or. xliii), "led the people the other led their leader". During the five years spent in this most important office, Basil gave evidence of being a man of very unusual powers. He laid down the law to the leading citizens and the imperial governors, settled disputes with wisdom and finality, assisted the spiritually needy, looked after "the support of the poor, the entertainment of strangers, the care of maidens, legislation written and unwritten for the monastic life, arrangements of prayers, (liturgy?), adornment of the sanctuary" (op. cit.). In time of famine, he was the saviour of the poor.

In 370 Basil succeeded to the See of Caesarea, being consecrated according to tradition on 14 June. Caesarea was then a powerful and wealthy city (Soz., Hist. Eccl., V, v). Its bishop was Metropolitan of Cappadocia and Exarch of Pontus which embraced more than half of Asia Minor and comprised eleven provinces. The see of Caesarea ranked with Ephesus immediately after the patriarchal sees in the councils, and the bishop was the superior of fifty chorepiscopi (Baert). Basil's actual influence, says Jackson (Prolegomena, XXXII) covered the whole stretch of country "from the Balkans to the Mediterranean and from the Aegean to the Euphrates". The need of a man like Basil in such a see asCaesarea was most pressing, and he must have known this well. Some think that he set about procuring his own election; others (e.g. Maran, Baronius, Ceillier) say that he made no attempt on his own behalf. In any event, he became Bishop of Caesarea largely by the influence of the elder Gregory of Nazianzus. His election, says the younger Gregory (loc. cit.), was followed by disaffection on the part of several suffragan bishops "on whose side were found the greatest scoundrels in the city". During his previous administration of the diocese Basil had so clearly defined his ideas of discipline and orthodoxy, that no one could doubt the direction and the vigour of his policy. St. Athanasius was greatly pleased at Basil's election (Ad Pallad., 953; Ad Joann. et Ant., 951); but the Arianizing Emperor Valens, displayed considerably annoyance and the defeated minority of bishops became consistently hostile to the new metropolitan. By years of tactful conduct, however, "blending his correction with consideration and his gentleness with firmness" (Greg. Naz., Or. xliii), he finally overcame most of his opponents.

Basil's letters tell the story of his tremendous and varied activity; how he worked for the exclusion of unfit candidates from the sacred ministry and the deliverance of the bishops from the temptation of simony; how he required exact discipline and the faithful observance of the canons from both laymen and clerics; how he rebuked the sinful, followed up the offending, and held out hope of pardon to the penitent. (Cf. Epp. xliv, xlv, and xlvi, the beautiful letter to a fallen virgin, as well as Epp. liii, liv, lv, clxxxviii, cxcix, ccxvii, and Ep. clxix, on the strange incident of Glycerius, whose story is well filled out by Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire, New York, 1893, p. 443 sqq.) If on the one hand he strenuously defended clerical rights and immunities (Ep. civ), on the other he trained his clergy so strictly that they grew famous as the type of all that a priest should be (Epp. cii, ciii). Basil did not confine his activity to diocesan affairs, but threw himself vigorously into the troublesome theological disputes then rending the unity of Christendom. He drew up a summary of the orthodox faith; he attacked by word of mouth the heretics near at hand and wrote tellingly against those afar. His correspondence shows that he paid visits, sent messages, gave interviews, instructed, reproved, rebuked, threatened, reproached, undertook the protection of nations, cities, individuals great and small. There was very little chance of opposing him successfully, for he was a cool, persistent, fearless fighter in defence both of doctrine and of principles. His bold stand against Valens parallels the meeting of Ambrose with Theodosius. The emperor was dumbfounded at the archbishop's calm indifference to his presence and his wishes. The incident, as narrated by Gregory of Nazianzus, not only tells much concerning Basil's character but throws a clear light on the type of Christian bishop with which the emperors had to deal and goes far to explain why Arianism, with little court behind it, could make so little impression on the ultimate history of Catholicism.

While assisting Eusebius in the care of his diocese, Basil had shown a marked interest in the poor and afflicted; that interest now displayed itself in the erection of a magnificent institution, the Ptochoptopheion, or Basileiad, a house for the care of friendless strangers, the medical treatment of the sick poor, and the industrial training of the unskilled. Built in the suburbs, it attained such importance as to become practically the centre of a new city with the name of he kaine polis or "Newtown". It was the motherhouse of like institutions erected in other dioceses and stood as a constant reminder to the rich of their privilege of spending wealth in a truly Christian way. It may be mentioned here that the social obligations of the wealthy were so plainly and forcibly preached by St. Basil that modern sociologists have ventured to claim him as one of their own, though with no more foundation than would exist in the case of any other consistent teacher of the principles of Catholic ethics. The truth is that St. Basil was a practical lover of Christian poverty, and even in his exalted position preserved that simplicity in food and clothing and that austerity of life for which he had been remarked at his first renunciation of the world.

In the midst of his labours, Basil underwent suffering of many kinds. Athanasius died in 373 and the elder Gregory in 374, both of them leaving gaps never to be filled. In 373 began the painful estrangement from Gregory of Nazianzus. Anthimus, Bishop of Tyana, became an open enemy, Apollinaris "a cause of sorrow to the churches" (Ep. cclxiii), Eustathius of Sebaste a traitor to the Faith and a personal foe as well. Eusebius of Samosata was banished, Gregory of Nyssa condemned and deposed. When Emperor Valentinian died and the Arians recovered their influence, all Basil's efforts must have seemed in vain. His health was breaking, the Goths were at the door of the empire, Antioch was in schism, Rome doubted his sincerity, the bishops refused to be brought together as he wished. "The notes of the church were obscured in his part of Christendom, and he had to fare on as best he might,--admiring, courting, yet coldly treated by the Latin world, desiring the friendship of Rome, yet wounded by her reserve,--suspected of heresy by Damasus, and accused by Jerome of pride" (Newman, The Church of the Fathers). Had he lived a little longer and attended the Council of Constantinople (381), he would have seen the death of its first president, his friend Meletius, and the forced resignation of its second, Gregory of Nazianzus. Basil died 1 January, 379. His death was regarded as a public bereavement; Jews, pagans, and foreigners vied with his own flock in doing him honour. The earlier Latin martyrologies (Hieronymian and Bede) make no mention of a feast of St. Basil. The first mention is by Usuard and Ado who place it on 14 June, the supposed date of Basil's consecration to the episcopate. In the Greek "Menaea" he is commemorated on 1 January, the day of his death. In 1081, John, Patriarch of Constantinople, in consequence of a vision, established a feast in common honour of St. Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus, and John Chrysostom, to be celebrated on 30 January. The Bollandists give an account of the origin of this feast; they also record as worthy of note that no relics of St. Basil are mentioned before the twelfth century, at which time parts of his body, together with some other very extraordinary relics were reputed to have been brought to Bruges by a returning Crusader. Baronius (c. 1599) gave to the Naples Oratory a relic of St. Basil sent from Constantinople to the pope. The Bollandists and Baronius print descriptions of Basil's personal appearance and the former reproduce two icons, the older copied from a codex presented to Basil, Emperor of the East (877-886).

By common consent, Basil ranks among the greatest figures in church history and the rather extravagant panegyric by Gregory of Nazianzus has been all but equalled by a host of other eulogists. Physically delicate and occupying his exalted position but a few years, Basil did magnificent and enduring work in an age of more violent world convulsions than Christianity has since experienced. (Cf. Newman, The Church of the Fathers). By personal virtue he attained distinction in an age of saints; and his purity, his monastic fervour, his stern simplicity, his friendship for the poor became traditional in the history of Christian asceticism. In fact, the impress of his genius was stamped indelibly on the Oriental conception of religious life. In his hands the great metropolitan see of Caesarea took shape as the sort of model of the Christian diocese; there was hardly any detail of episcopal activity in which he failed to mark out guiding lines and to give splendid example. Not the least of his glories is the fact that toward the officials of the State he maintained that fearless dignity and independence which later history has shown to be an indispensable condition of healthy life in the Catholic episcopate.

Some difficulty has arisen out of the correspondence of St. Basil with the Roman See. That he was in communion with the Western bishops and that he wrote repeatedly to Rome asking that steps be taken to assist the Eastern Church in her struggle with schismatics and heretics is undoubted; but the disappointing result of his appeals drew from him certain words which require explanation. Evidently he was deeply chagrined that Pope Damasus on the one hand hesitated to condemn Marcellus and the Eustathians, and on the other preferred Paulinus to Meletius in whose right to the See of Antioch St. Basil most firmly believed. At the best it must be admitted that St. Basil criticized the pope freely in a private letter to Eusebius of Samosata (Ep. ccxxxix) and that he was indignant as well as hurt at the failure of his attempt to obtain help from the West. Later on, however, he must have recognized that in some respects he had been hasty; in any event, his strong emphasis of the influence which the Roman See could exercise over the Eastern bishops, and his abstaining from a charge of anything like usurpation are great facts that stand out obviously in the story of the disagreement. With regard to the question of his association with the Semi-Arians, Philostorgius speaks of him as championing the Semi-Arian cause, and Newman says he seems unavoidably to have Arianized the first thirty years of his life. The explanation of this, as well as of the disagreement with the Holy See, must be sought in a careful study of the times, with due reference to the unsettled and changeable condition of theological distinctions, the lack of anything like a final pronouncement by the Church's defining power, the "lingering imperfections of the Saints" (Newman), the substantial orthodoxy of many of the so-called Semi-Arians, and above all the great plan which Basil was steadily pursuing of effecting unity in a disturbed and divided Christendom.
 

Athanasios

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Saint Gregory of Nazianzus - January 2

Doctor of the Church, born at Arianzus, in Asia Minor, c. 325; died at the same place, 389. He was son -- one of three children -- of Gregory, Bishop of Nazianzus (329-374), in the south-west of Cappadocia, and of Nonna, a daughter of Christian parents. The saint's father was originally a member of the heretical sect of the Hypsistarii, or Hypsistiani, and was converted to Catholicity by the influence of his pious wife. His two sons, who seem to have been born between the dates of their father's priestly ordination and episcopal consecration, were sent to a famous school at Caesarea, capital of Cappadocia, and educated by Carterius, probably the same one who was afterwards tutor of St. John Chrysostom. Here commenced the friendship between Basil and Gregory which intimately affected both their lives, as well as the development of the theology of their age. From Caesarea in Cappadocia Gregory proceeded to Caesarea in Palestine, where he studied rhetoric under Thespesius; and thence to Alexandria, of which Athanasius was then bishop, through at the time in exile. Setting out by sea from Alexandria to Athens, Gregory was all but lost in a great storm, and some of his biographers infer -- though the fact is not certain -- that when in danger of death he and his companions received the rite of baptism. He had certainly not been baptized in infancy, though dedicated to God by his pious mother; but there is some authority for believing that he received the sacrament, not on his voyage to Athens, but on his return to Nazianzus some years later. At Athens Gregory and Basil, who had parted at Caesarea, met again, renewed their youthful friendship, and studied rhetoric together under the famous teachers Himerius and Proaeresius. Among their fellow students was Julian, afterwards known as the Apostate, whose real character Gregory asserts that he had even then discerned and thoroughly distrusted him. The saint's studies at Athens (which Basil left before his friend) extended over some ten years; and when he departed in 356 for his native province, visitingConstantinople on his way home, he was about thirty years of age.

Arrived at Nazianzus, where his parents were now advanced in age, Gregory, who had by this time firmly resolved to devote his life and talents to God, anxiously considered the plan of his future career. To a young man of his high attainments a distinguished secular career was open, either that of a lawyer or of a professor of rhetoric; but his yearnings were for the monastic or ascetic life, though this did not seem compatible either with the Scripture studies in which he was deeply interested, or with his filial duties at home. As was natural, he consulted his beloved friend Basil in his perplexity as to his future; and he has left us in his own writings an extremely interesting narrative of their intercourse at this time, and of their common resolve (based on somewhat different motives, according to the decided differences in their characters) to quit the world for the service of God alone. Basil retired to Pontus to lead the life of a hermit; but finding that Gregory could not join him there, came and settled first at Tiberina (near Gregory's own home), then at Neocæsarea, in Pontus, where he lived in holy seclusion for some years, and gathered round him a brotherhood of cenobites, among whom his friend Gregory was for a time included. After a sojourn here for two or three years, during which Gregory edited, with Basil some of the exegetical works of Origen, and also helped his friend in the compilation of his famous rules, Gregory returned to Nazianzus, leaving with regret the peaceful hermitage where he and Basil (as he recalled in their subsequent correspondence) had spent such a pleasant time in the labour both of hands and of heads. On his return home Gregory was instrumental in bringing back to orthodoxy his father who, perhaps partly in ignorance, had subscribed the heretical creed of Rimini; and the aged bishop, desiring his son's presence and support, overruled his scrupulous shrinking from the priesthood, and forced him to accept ordination (probably at Christmas, 361). Wounded and grieved at the pressure put upon him, Gregory fled back to his solitude, and to the company of St. Basil; but after some weeks' reflection returned to Nazianzus, where he preached his first sermon on Easter Sunday, and afterward wrote the remarkable apologetic oration, which is really a treatise on the priestly office, the foundation of Chrysostom's "De Sacerdotio", of Gregory the Great's "Cura Pastoris", and of countless subsequent writings on the same subject.

During the next few years Gregory's life at Nazianzus was saddened by the deaths of his brother Caesarius and his sister Gorgonia, at whose funerals he preached two of his most eloquent orations, which are still extant. About this time Basil was made bishop of Caesarea and Metropolitan of Cappadocia, and soon afterwards the Emperor Valens, who was jealous of Basil's influence, divided Cappadocia into two provinces. Basil continued to claim ecclesiastical jurisdiction, as before, over the whole province, but this was disputed by Anthimus, Bishop of Tyana, the chief city of New Cappadocia. To strengthen his position Basil founded a new see at Sasima, resolved to have Gregory as its first bishop, and accordingly had him consecrated, though greatly against his will. Gregory, however, was set against Sasima from the first; he thought himself utterly unsuited to the place, and the place to him; and it was not long before he abandoned his diocese and returned to Nazianzus as coadjutor to his father. This episode in Gregory's life was unhappily the cause of an estrangement between Basil and himself which was never altogether removed; and there is no extant record of any correspondence between them subsequent to Gregory's leaving Sasima. Meanwhile he occupied himself sedulously with his duties as coadjutor to his aged father, who died early in 374, his wife Nonna soon following him to the grave. Gregory, who was now left without family ties, devoted to the poor the large fortune which he had inherited, keeping for himself only a small piece of land at Arianzus. He continued to administer the diocese for about two years, refusing, however, to become the bishop, and continually urging the appointment of a successor to his father. At the end of 375 he withdrew to a monastery at Seleuci, living there in solitude for some three years, and preparing (though he knew it not) for what was to be the crowning work of his life. About the end of this period Basil died. Gregory's own state of health prevented his being present either at the deathbed or funeral; but he wrote a letter of condolence to Basil's brother, Gregory of Nyssa, and composed twelve beautiful memorial poems or epitaphs to his departed friend.

Three weeks after Basil's death, Theodosius was advanced by the Emperor Gratian to the dignity of Emperor of the East. Constantinople, the seat of his empire, had been for the space of about thirty years (since the death of the saintly and martyred Bishop Paul) practically given over too Arianism, with an Arian prelate, Demophilus, enthroned at St. Sophia's. The remnant of persecuted Catholics, without either church or pastor, applied to Gregory to come and place himself at their head and organize their scattered forces; and many bishops supported the demand. After much hesitation he gave his consent, proceeded to Constantinople early in the year 379, and began his mission in a private house which he describes as "the new Shiloh where the Ark was fixed", and as "an Anastasia, the scene of the resurrection of the faith". Not only the faithful Catholics, but many heretics gathered in the humble chapel of the Anastasia, attracted by Gregory's sanctity, learning and eloquence; and it was in this chapel that he delivered the five wonderful discourses on the faith of Nicaea -- unfolding the doctrine of the Trinity while safeguarding the Unity of the Godhead -- which gained for him, alone of all Christian teachers except the Apostle St. John, the special title of Theologus or the Divine. He also delivered at this time the eloquent panegyrics on St. Cyprian, St. Athanasius, and the Machabees, which are among his finest oratorical works. Meanwhile he found himself exposed to persecution of every kind from without, and was actually attacked in his own chapel, whilst baptizing his Easter neophytes, by a hostile mob of Arians from St. Sophia's, among them being Arian monks and infuriated women. He was saddened, too, by dissensions among his own little flock, some of whom openly charged him with holding Tritheistic errors. St. Jerome became about this time his pupil and disciple, and tells us in glowing language how much he owed to his erudite and eloquent teacher. Gregory was consoled by the approval of Peter, Patriarch of Constantinople (Duchesne's opinion, that the patriarch was from the first jealous or suspicious of the Cappadocian bishop's influence in Constantinople, does not seem sufficiently supported by evidence), and Peter appears to have been desirous to see him appointed to the bishopric of the capital of the East. Gregory, however, unfortunately allowed himself to be imposed upon by a plausible adventurer called Hero, or Maximus, who came toConstantinople from Alexandria in the guise (long hair, white robe, and staff) of a Cynic, and professed to be a convert to Christianity, and an ardent admirer of Gregory's sermons. Gregory entertained him hospitably, gave him his complete confidence, and pronounced a public panegyric on him in his presence. Maximus's intrigues to obtain the bishopric for himself found support in various quarters, including Alexandria, which the patriarch Peter, for what reason precisely it is not known, had turned against Gregory; and certain Egyptian bishops deputed by Peter, suddenly, and at night, consecrated and enthroned Maximus as Catholic Bishop of Constantinople, while Gregory was confined to bed by illness. Gregory's friends, however, rallied round him, and Maximus had to fly fromConstantinople. The Emperor Theodosius, to whom he had recourse, refused to recognize any bishop other than Gregory, and Maximus retired in disgrace to Alexandria.

Theodosius received Christian baptism early in 380, at Thessalonica, and immediately addressed an edict to his subjects at Constantinople, commanding them to adhere to the faith taught by St. Peter, and professed by the Roman pontiff, which alone deserved to be called Catholic. In November, the emperor entered the city and called on Demophilus, the Arian bishop, to subscribe to the Nicene creed: but he refused to do so, and was banished from Constantinople. Theodosius determined that Gregory should be bishop of the new Catholic see, and himself accompanied him to St. Sophia's, where he was enthroned in presence of an immense crowd, who manifested their feelings by hand-clappings and other signs of joy. Constantinople was now restored to Catholic unity; the emperor, by a new edict, gave back all the churches to Catholic use; Arians and other heretics were forbidden to hold public assemblies; and the name of Catholic was restricted to adherents of the orthodox and Catholic faith.

Gregory had hardly settled down to the work of administration of the Diocese of Constantinople, when Theodosius carried out his long-cherished purpose of summoning thither a general council of the Eastern Church. One hundred and fifty bishops met in council, in May, 381, the object of the assembly being, as Socrates plainly states, to confirm the faith of Nicaea, and to appoint a bishop for Constantinople (see CONSTANTINOPLE, THE FIRST COUNCIL OF). Among the bishops present were thirty-six holding semi-Arian or Macedonian opinions; and neither the arguments of the orthodox prelates nor the eloquence of Gregory, who preached at Pentecost, in St. Sophia's, on the subject of the Holy Spirit, availed to persuade them to sign the orthodox creed. As to the appointment of the bishopric, the confirmation of Gregory to the see could only be a matter of form. The orthodox bishops were all in favor, and the objection (urged by the Egyptian and Macedonian prelates who joined the council later) that his translation from one see to another was in opposition to a canon of the Nicene council was obviously unfounded. The fact was well known that Gregory had never, after his forced consecration at the instance of Basil, entered into possession of the See of Sasima, and that he had later exercised his episcopal functions at Nazianzus, not as bishop of that diocese, but merely as coadjutor of his father. Gregory succeeded Meletius as president of the council, which found itself at once called on to deal with the difficult question of appointing a successor to the deceased bishop. There had been an understanding between the two orthodox parties at Antioch, of which Meletius and Paulinus had been respectively bishops that the survivor of either should succeed as sole bishop. Paulinus, however, was a prelate of Western origin and creation, and the Eastern bishops assembled at Constantinople declined to recognize him. In vain did Gregory urge, for the sake of peace, the retention of Paulinus in the see for the remainder of his life, already fare advanced; the Fathers of the council refused to listen to his advice, and resolved thatMeletius should be succeeded by an Oriental priest. "It was in the East that Christ was born", was one of the arguments they put forward; and Gregory's retort, "Yes, and it was in the East that he was put to death", did not shake their decision. Flavian, a priest of Antioch, was elected to the vacant see; and Gregory, who relates that the only result of his appeal was "a cry like that of a flock of jackdaws" while the younger members of the council "attacked him like a swarm of wasps", quitted the council, and left also his official residence, close to thechurch of the Holy Apostles.

Gregory had now come to the conclusion that not only the opposition and disappointment which he had met with in the council, but also his continued state of ill-health, justified, and indeed necessitated, his resignation of the See of Constantinople, which he had held for only a few months. He appeared again before the council, intimated that he was ready to be another Jonas to pacify the troubled waves, and that all he desired was rest from his labours, and leisure to prepare for death. The Fathers made no protest against this announcement, which some among them doubtless heard with secret satisfaction; and Gregory at once sought and obtained from the emperor permission to resign his see. In June, 381, he preached a farewell sermon before the council and in presence of an overflowing congregation. The peroration of this discourse is of singular and touching beauty, and unsurpassed even among his many eloquent orations. Very soon after its delivery he leftConstantinople (Nectarius, a native of Cilicia, being chosen to succeed him in the bishopric), and retired to his old home at Nazianzus. His two extant letters addressed to Nectarius at his time are noteworthy as affording evidence, by their spirit and tone, that he was actuated by no other feelings than those of interested goodwill towards the diocese of which he was resigning the care, and towards his successor in the episcopal charge. On his return to Nazianzus, Gregory found the Church there in a miserable condition, being overrun with the erroneous teaching of Apollinaris the Younger, who had seceded from the Catholic communion a few years previously, and died shortly after Gregory himself. Gregory's anxiety was now to find a learned and zealous bishop who would be able to stem the flood of heresy which was threatening to overwhelm the Christian Church in that place. All his efforts were at first unsuccessful, and he consented at length with much reluctance to take over the administration of the diocese himself. He combated for a time, with his usual eloquence and as much energy as remained to him, the false teaching of the adversaries of the Church; but he felt himself too broken in health to continue the active work of the episcopate, and wrote to the Archbishop of Tyana urgently appealing to him to provide for the appointment of another bishop. His request was granted, and his cousin Eulalius, a priest of holy life to whom he was much attached, was duly appointed to the See of Nazianzus. This was toward the end of the year 383, and Gregory, happy in seeing the care of the diocese entrusted to a man after his own heart, immediately withdrew to Arianzus, the scene of his birth and his childhood, where he spent the remaining years of his life in retirement, and in the literary labours, which were so much more congenial to his character than the harassing work of ecclesiastical administration in those stormy and troubled times.

Looking back on Gregory's career, it is difficult not to feel that from the day when he was compelled to accept priestly orders, until that which saw him return from Constantinople to Nazianzus to end his life in retirement and obscurity, he seemed constantly to be placed, through no initiative of his own, in positions apparently unsuited to his disposition and temperament, and not really calculated to call for the exercise of the most remarkable and attractive qualities of his mind and heart. Affectionate and tender by nature, of highly sensitive temperament, simple and humble, lively and cheerful by disposition, yet liable to despondency and irritability, constitutionally timid, and somewhat deficient, as it seemed, both in decision of character and in self-control, he was very human, very lovable, very gifted -- yet not, one might be inclined to think, naturally adapted to play the remarkable part which he did during the period preceding and following the opening of the Council of Constantinople. He entered on his difficult and arduous work in that city within a few months of the death of Basil, the beloved friend of his youth; and Newman, in his appreciation of Gregory's character and career, suggests the striking thought that it was his friend's lofty and heroic spirit which had entered into him, and inspired him to take the active and important part which fell to his lot in the work of re-establishing the orthodox and Catholic faith in the eastern capital of the empire. It did, in truth, seem to be rather with the firmness and intrepidity, the high resolve and unflinching perseverance, characteristic of Basil, than in his own proper character, that of a gentle, fastidious, retiring, timorous, peace-loving saint and scholar, that he sounded the war-trumpet during those anxious and turbulent months, in the very stronghold and headquarters of militant heresy, utterly regardless to the actual and pressing danger to his safety, and even his life which never ceased to menace him. "May we together receive", he said at the conclusion of the wonderful discourse which he pronounced on his departed friend, on his return to Asia from Constantinople, "the reward of the warfare which we have waged, which we have endured." It is impossible to doubt, reading the intimate details which he has himself given us of his long friendship with, and deep admiration of, Basil, that thespirit of his early and well-loved friend had to a great extent moulded and informed his own sensitive and impressionable personality and that it was this, under God, which nerved and inspired him, after a life of what seemed, externally, one almost of failure, to co-operate in the mighty task of overthrowing the monstrous heresy which had so long devastated the greater part of Christendom, and bringing about at length the pacification of the Eastern Church.

During the six years of life which remained to him after his final retirement to his birth-place, Gregory composed, in all probability, the greater part of the copious poetical works which have come down to us. These include a valuable autobiographical poem of nearly 2000 lines, which forms, of course, one of the most important sources of information for the facts of his life; about a hundred other shorter poems relating to his past career; and a large number of epitaphs, epigrams, and epistles to well-known people of the day. Many of his later personal poems refer to the continuous illness and severe sufferings, both physical and spiritual, which assailed him during his last years, and doubtless assisted to perfect him in those saintly qualities which had never been wanting to him, rudely shaken though he had been by the trails and buffetings of his life. In the tiny plot of ground at Arianzus, all (as has already been said) that remained to him of his rich inheritance, he wrote and meditated, as he tells, by a fountain near which there was a shady walk, his favourite resort. Here, too, he received occasional visits from intimate friends, as well as sometimes from strangers attracted to his retreat by his reputation for sanctity and learning; and here he peacefully breathed his last. The exact date of his death is unknown, but from a passage in Jerome (De Script. Eccl.) it may be assigned, with tolerable certainty, to the year 389 or 390.

Some account must now be given of Gregory's voluminous writings, and of his reputation as an orator and a theologian, on which, more than on anything else, rests his fame as one of the greatest lights of the Eastern Church. His works naturally fall under three heads, namely his poems, his epistles, and his orations. Much, though by no means all, of what he wrote has been preserved, and has been frequently published, the editio princeps of the poems being the Aldine (1504), while the first edition of his collected works appeared in Paris in 1609-11. The Bodleian catalogue contains more than thirty folio pages enumerating various editions of Gregory's works, of which the best and most complete are the Benedictine edition (two folio volumes, begun in 1778, finished in 1840), and the edition of Migne (four volumes XXXV - XXXVIII, in P.G., Paris, 1857 - 1862).
 
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