Selected Lives of
Saint Anthony. Saint Barbara. Saint Basil the Great. Saint Catherine. Saints Constantine and Helen. Saints Cosmas and Damianos the Benevolent. Saint Christina. Saint Cyrus and John the Benevolent.
Saint Demetrios. Saint Eugenia. Saint Euphemia. Forty Martyrs of Sebaste. Saint Fotini. Saint George — the Great Martyr. Saint Gerasimos. Saint Gregory the Theologian. Saint Haralambos.
Archbishop Innocent of Alaska. Saint Irene. Saint Isidoros and Saint Myrope. Saint John The Baptist. Saint John Chrysostom. St. John the Russian. Juvenal and Peter the Aleut America’s Protomartyrs. Martyr Julian of Tarsus. Saint Justin Martyr, the Philosopher.
Saint Kyriaki. Saint Marcella of Chios. Saint Marina. St. Martin of Tours. Saint Matrona of Chios. Saint Nicholas the Miraculous. Saint Nicholas (Kassatkin) enlightener of Japan. Saint Panteleimon. Saint Paraskevi. Saint Phanourios. Saint Philothei. Saint Prokopios.
Saint Sophia and her Three Daughters Faith, Hope and Love. Saint Spyridon the Miraculous. Saint Stelianos. Saint Theodore Stratilates. Saint Theodore Tyron. Saint Tryphon.
(Celebrated January 17).
Anthony, the founder of monasticism, was born in Egypt in the year 251 of very pious parents. As a youth, he loathed the burden of studying and found his classmates uninteresting. His education was therefore limited. He did, however, attend church faithfully with his parents and observed the services intensely, trying to enrich his spiritual growth. Progress in itself did not interest him, for he was completely satisfied with what he had.
After the death of his parents, Anthony lived with his sister, and between his 18th and 20th birthdays, he took care of family affairs. During this time he also studied the lives and miracles of the Saints. One day he attended the liturgy and heard the words of Jesus to the wealthy young man, “If thou wilt be perfect, go sell all that thou hast, give it to the poor and come follow me…”
So impressed was he by these words that he immediately set forth to do as Christ had told the young man. He gave his three-hundred plots of farm land to the hungry and all his money to the poor. He entrusted his sister to a Christian home for virgins and he returned to his house, for at this time there were no monasteries. Those who wanted to meditate would build cells a short distance from the city and live there. This is what Anthony did.
An elderly man in a nearby village lived the life of a hermit. In order to support himself, he would handcraft articles and sell them. Because of his virtuosity, he was well liked by all his neighbors. Anthony followed the example set by this man — he prayed, meditated, and fasted in order to overcome the many temptations which are common to young men. He practiced self denial by remaining awake days at a time, eating once a day, sometimes once every two days, and sleeping on the ground. The philosophy behind his actions was that young men should torture their bodies as much as possible so that their resistance to physical and spiritual sickness would be higher.
At the age of thirty-five, Anthony went to the old hermit in the neighboring village. He asked him to accompany him in the desert, away from temptation and sin. The old man did not want to go because of his age and because it was not an accepted practice at that time. Anthony departed on his own. In the desert, he found a derelict fortress in which he barricaded himself. No one entered and he did not leave. A stream which ran within the old structure, and loaves of bread brought to him every six months and left outside the door, were the sum total of his sustenance. Many of Anthony’s friends would come to the fortress and remain outside. They would hear voices coming from within telling them to depart. However, they could not understand whose voices they were, since Anthony was the only one inside.
He remained there many years and many men came to him expressing a desire to follow his example, living the life of a hermit, and undergoing spiritual struggles. He taught his brothers to prefer their love for Christ over everything else. In time, this became the first monastery, established in 305 A.D. It is for this reason that Saint Anthony is generally known as the Father of Monasticism. From this one brotherhood, many more sprouted throughout the known world. Rules were soon established which were to be followed by all hermit monks.
During the time of the persecutions under the Emperor Maximian, Anthony and several other monks traveled to Alexandria to encourage and comfort the many suffering Christians. In 325, Saint Anthony and his monks helped defeat the Arian heretics at the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea.
Many miracles are attributed to this religious father.
A soldier named Martinianos arrived at the monastery with his daughter who was extremely ill. He asked Anthony to cure his daughter. The soldier was told that he was a sinner, but if he put his faith in Christ, his daughter would be cured. The father and Saint Anthony prayed together, and the girl was cured. News of the miracle spread and soon many more came and waited outside the monastery to be healed. His solitude now endangered, Anthony decided to leave for Upper Thevaeda where he was unknown. Taking some loaves of bread, he went to the sea hoping to find a ship. Suddenly, he heard a voice asking him where he was going. He responded by saying that the crowds were annoying him and that he was going to Upper Thevaeda. The voice told him that he would be annoyed at Thevaeda also. To find what he sought, he had to go to the outer wilderness. Just then, a band of Saracens passed by; overjoyed at having Anthony as their companion, they took him to the desert. The Saracens gave him some bread and left him on a mountain.
When his brothers discovered where he was, they brought him his necessities. Anthony pitied them, since they had to travel a great distance to bring him food; therefore, he asked them to bring him some seeds for planting. He cleared a field and planted the seeds which were watered by a near-by stream. The seeds yielded wheat, and thus, Anthony became self-supporting. Seeing that people were still coming to receive his blessing, he decided to also plant some greens with which to feed them.
Many wild animals came and drank from the stream, causing a great amount of damage to his crops in the process. Catching one of the animals, he said to it, “I have done you no harm, yet you keep coming here and ruining my crops; therefore, leave now and never return to this spot.” After this, no animal came to drink from the stream.
Several monks came to the mountain asking Anthony to visit their monastery and preach to the other brothers. The Saint agreed, but on the way to the monastery, their water supply was exhausted. They were near death as Anthony lifted his hands and prayed to God. Miraculously, water sprang from the sand, and the monks were saved. After arriving at the monastery, he preached to the brothers about spiritual struggles and the rules of monasticism. While in this area, Anthony visited his sister, who had now become a nun, and then he returned to his mountain. Since his location was now disclosed, many monks came to hear Anthony’s words of wisdom and philosophy.
A ruler of Egypt, named Flonton suffered from epilepsy and almost complete blindness. Hearing of the miracles of Saint Anthony, Flonton decided to seek his help. Anthony told him to return home and he would be cured. When he arrived in Alexandria, his vision and epilepsy were indeed cured.
At another time, a girl from Tripoli had become extremely ill and paralyzed. Her parents, having heard of the Saint’s powers, took her to him. They were accompanied by several monks. When they arrived at the mountain, the monks went ahead to tell him of the girl’s arrival and sickness. Anthony told them to return to the girl for she had been cured by the mercy of Christ. The monks returned and found the girl in perfect health.
Anthony’s fame reached even to Constantinople. Constantine the Great and one of his sons would write letters to Anthony asking for his blessing and advice. He advised them to remember that Christ was the true King and that they should emulate Him; they should be philanthropists, help the poor, and rule their Empire justly.
It should be remembered that, Saint Anthony, as well as the other great workers of the Church, were only vehicles through which Christ would perform miracles. They themselves did not possess this holy ability, but were worthy enough to act as Christ’s agents.
Anthony died on January 17, 356 A.D. at the age of one-hundred and five. He instructed two of his monks to bury him secretly. This they did, and his resting place is still unknown.
From his history, the reader can understand the type of person that Saint Anthony was. From his youth to his death, he engaged in spiritual struggles and in this respect, he is considered the Father of Monasticism, an institution which had perpetuated our Orthodox Faith throughout its history.
(Celebrated December 4).
During the rule of Maximius, in the year 290 A.D., the governor in the Anatolian city of Heliopolis was Dioscuros. Dioscuros was a fairly wealthy man who was originally from the nearby village of Galassos. He had only one child, a very beautiful girl named Barbara. Her parents were extremely proud of her, not only because of her beauty, but for her virtuosity as well.
While still young, her parents took every precaution to protect her; therefore, they erected a fortress in which they placed Barbara so that people could not see her, as was the case with Saint Christina. They supplied her with all her needs; servants, food and clothing. When Barbara came of age, many military officers of Heliopolis asked her father for her hand in marriage, for they had heard of her great beauty and charm. He refused, however, to give his promise to anyone until he first conferred with his daughter. He went to the fortress and asked his daughter if she were willing to marry. Barbara immediately responded that if her father forced her to marry, she would commit suicide. When Dioscuros heard this, he left the fortress believing that in time, he could convince her to consent to marriage.
Dioscuros decided to add a bathing house to the fortress. He left the plans with the builders and instructed them to make sure that the new building was aesthetically constructed. He then departed for another city where he had some pressing business. During her father’s absence, Barbara had the opportunity to leave her living quarters and observe the erection of the bathing house. Upon discovering that the building was to have only two windows, she asked the builders why they did not add another window on the north side so that the pool would have more light. She was told that they were following her father’s orders. Barbara instructed them to install the third window and that she would assume the responsibility. The builders followed her directions.
Barbara watched the construction and was extremely pleased with the third window. Our All Merciful God, who knows everything before it occurs, was extremely pleased with Barbara’s innocence and filled her heart with the Holy Spirit and with the love of Christ. While standing by the pool of the bath house, Barbara made the sign of the cross on the marble with her finger. Miraculously, her finger chisled the cross so deeply into the marble, that it still exists today for all generations to see the power and glory of God. The pool also remains and is said to have the power to heal all those who have faith.
One day, returning from the bath house, Barbara noticed the false idols which her father worshipped and she spat on them. She returned to the fortress, fasting and praying that she would receive Divine Guidance.
When Dioscuror returned, he saw the third window in the bath house and wondered why the builders had constructed it. They informed him that his daughter had ordered the third window installed. He questioned his daughter as to why she had ordered the window’s construction. She told him that three windows made the bath house more beautiful. Dioscuros asked her if there was any particular reason for three. Barbara answered by saying, “Three Lights guide everyone who walks the earth.” Dioscuros asked her how these three Lights could guide everyone. Making the sign of the cross with three fingers, she said, ‘This signifies the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and with these Lights the whole world is guided.” These words angered her father and made him forget that Barbara was his daughter. He drew his sword and threatened to murder her. Terrified, she ran from him to a nearby mountain. Upon reaching the top, she raised her arms towards the heavens and prayed to God for help. Just then, the earth on which she stood parted and swallowed most of her body. In the meantime, her father, while searching for her, found two shepherds, whom he asked if they had seen his daughter. The first shepherd told him that they had not seen her so that the Saint might be spared. The other, however, pointed in the Saint’s direction. Divine Justice prevailed though, because all of the wicked shepherd’s sheep became the akanthis plants which surround the Saint’s gravesite.
After finding his daughter, Dioscuros forced her back to the fortress and locked her in a small room. Outside, he placed two guards. He then went to Marcius, the ruler of the city, and informed him that Barbara was a Christian. Shortly thereafter, Barbara was given to Marcius with her father’s damnation. Seeing that Barbara woud not sacrifice to the idols, Marcius ordered his soldiers to first strip the Saint and beat her with sticks, and then to rub the wounds with vinegar so that the pain would be even greater. This done, she vas imprisoned until her second trial. Towards midnight, a bright light appeared to Barbara and a voicetold her not to fear, for Christ was always with her. As soon as the words were spoken, all her wounds disappeared. A God-fearing woman, named Julia, was imprisoned with Barbara and had seen the miracle. She praised God with all her heart and decided to be a martyr for her Christian beliefs.
For a second time, the ruler ordered the Saint to be brought to trial. The court was amazed to see that there were no wounds on her body. Marcius refused to believe that she had been cured by the power of God and attributed the miracle to the false idols. Saint Barbara informed him that his gods had no power to perform such a miracle and that Christ, the Son of God, was responsible for her salvation. Outraged, the ruler ordered his soldiers to tear the Saint’s body with iron claws, to burn her with torches, and to hit her head with a spiked club.
Julia witnessed the torture. She felt so much sorrow for the Saint that she began to cry uncontrollably. When Marcius discovered that she was also a Christian, he ordered that she be hung beside the Saint to suffer the same tortures. As she was being tortured, she raised her eyes towards heaven and asked God to help her not to deny her beliefs in Him. Marcius then ordered his soldiers to cut of the martyr’s breasts. After this inhumane act was performed, Julia was taken back to prison.
Saint Barbara was stripped of her clothing to be marched throughout the city. Before this could be done, however, a group of cherubim appeared before the Saint. They dressed her in a brilliant gown and again healed her wounds. Seeing that he could not overcome the Saint with threats and tortures, Marcius ordered his soldiers to behead both Barbara and Julia.
Present at all these tortures was Dioscuros, the father of the Saint. He felt neither pain nor remorse for what he had done to his only child. When the ruler sentenced them to death, Dioscuros requested that he be permitted to perform the execution of his daughter. Barbara and Julia were taken to the mountain where Dioscuros had previously captured his daughter. He beheaded Saint Barbara and a soldier beheaded Saint Julia. This occurred on December 4, 290 A.D. For several seconds the earth shook. The earth then opened and swallowed the bodies of the two martyrs.
God was quick with Divine Retribution to Dioscuros, for as he was descending the mountain, a thunder storm arose. A bolt of lightning descended from the heavens and killed this bloodthirsty tyrant. A second bolt of lightning immediately descended and murdered Saint Julia’s executioner.
When Marcius heard of the events which occurred at the execution, he became psychologically distressed and soon afterwards died of his remorse.
Saint Basil the Great.
(Celebrated January 1).
Saint Basil was born in the capital of Cappadocia, Caesarea, in the year 329 A.D. His parents, Basil and Emmelia, were respected, God-fearing people. Basil had three brothers; Peter, Gregory, and Nafcratin; and one sister named Macrina. Peter was the Archbishop of Sebastia, Gregory was the Bishop of Nyssa and Macrina became a Saint (her memory is celebrated on the 19th of July).
Saint Basil was raised by his paternal grandmother, Macrina, in the city of Neocaesarea on Pontus. She instilled in his heart a great love for Christ. Her family had been persecuted for many years under the Emperor Maximinus for their belief in Christianity. Basil returned to Caesarea where his father was a Christian priest and teacher. It was here that he began his education. He continued his studies in Constantinople where his professors were among the most respected in the world. Upon the advice of his rhetorical instructor, Libanius, Basil went to Athens to further his education.
In Athens he became very friendly with Saint Gregory the Theologian. Basil’s life there was a prime example of frugality, continence and wisdom. Most of his colleagues were pagans who did not measure up to his Christian virtues. With the help of Saint Gregory, he overcame these paganistic ideals.
Saint Basil excelled in all of his studies, especially in rhetoric. He studied the writings of all the Ancient Greek philosophers and used philosophy in his everyday life. The balance of his instruction included logic, mathematics, astronomy, and medicine. Even with all his other studies, Saint Basil never satisfied his desire for theological learning, something that was instilled in him from his childhood.
After finishing his studies he returned to Caesarea in 355 A.D. and involved himself with law and politics. But this was not for him and he soon embarked in the monastic way of life with the same fervor as his sister.
Basil had always wanted to visit the Holy Lands to study the lifestyles of other monks. He, therefore, journeyed through Egypt, Syria, and Mesopotamia, witnessing the devotion and love with which the monks treated their fellow man. He finally arrived in Jerusalem (358 A.D. — 360 A.D.) with a former teacher named Evoulos and together they worshipped at all of the shrines in the city. They were then baptized in the Jordan River by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Maximos (at that time, Christians were not baptized until they were at least 30 years old).
He returned to Cappadocia and since he still wanted to lead a monastic life, he went to Pontus, where his family owned land. There he met his mother and sister. On this land, near the river Iris (today known as Turkisti Kailpak), his sister and other women, had built a monastery of which she was the abbess. A short distance from this monastery, Saint Basil built a small hut where he lived. Here he studied in depth the Holy Scriptures, prayed, fasted, and meditated. He dressed in rags and his only nourishment was water and stale bread. He slept on the ground and had no fire in the winter to keep him warm. Loving nature so, he endured anything it had to offer.
Saint Gregory the Theologian also shared Saint Basil’s monastic life. Many students from Asia and Greece came to study under these two great teachers. Since they had to accommodate so many people, the Saints tilled their land until they became self sufficient.
Saint Basil, having established his school, left thewilderness and journeyed to Antioch. Here he was ordained a deacon by the city’s Patriarch. Upon learning that his father was ill, he decided to go to Caesarea and ask for his blessing.
At that time, Eusebius was the Metropolitan of Caesarea. An angel appeared to him one night and told him that his successor was coming. The Metropolitan was to send representatives to the gates of the city to welcome him. When the envoys reached the gates, they saw Saint Basil and were impressed by his mere presence. He was taken to the Metropolitan who appointed him as head teacher of his Church. His duties included interpreting the Holy Scriptures. Shortly thereafter, Saint Basil was ordained into the priesthood.
Julian the Apostate was the ruler of the Byzantine Empire at that time. He was moving against the Persians. On his way, he stopped at Caesarea, where Saint Basil and many others went to greet the Emperor. He had been a student in Athens with Saint Basil. Julian asked Basil to present him with whatever the Saint usually ate. Basil immediately brought Julian three loaves of bread. The Emperor then ordered the people to go to their farms and cut fodder and present it to Saint Basil. The Saint told Julian that he had not asked for any gifts nor did he want the food that Julian was accustomed to eating. The Emperor, interpreting this as an insult, cursed Saint Basil for his remarks and for teaching Christianity. He warned him that when he returned from fighting the Persians, he would make the Saint pay for his commentary. With these words, Julian departed, but his threats were never to be fulfilled. Basil re-entered the city and warned his people of Julian’s anger. He told them not to be concerned with their property, but with the protection of their lives. They were to bring their money to one central spot and when Julian approached, they would offer it to him. This would hopefully calm him and persuade him to spare their lives. So the people gathered their gold, silver, and precious gems and brought them to Saint Basil who then placed them in the treasury. When he heard that Julian was returning, he summoned all the Christian families together. They fasted for three days and then went to the mountain of Didimos. On one of the peaks of this mountain was the Church of the Theotokos. They went to this church and prayed to Christ to save them. As they prayed, a cloud entered the church and on it they saw the figure of a Lady sitting on a throne. Just then, Basil envisioned Saint Mercourios, who dressed in armor, stood before the Lady (the Theotokos). She instructed the Saint to destroy Julian. The Theotokos then summoned Basil and gave him a book in which was contained the genesis of mankind and the world. The last word in the book was “save.”
Saint Basil left the church with the other clergy and returned to Caesarea. There was a church here dedicated to Saint Mercourios who was martyred in 100 A.D. The body of the Saint rested in this church. When Saint Basil went to the coffin to pray, he found it empty. He asked the caretaker of the church if he knew what had happened to the holy body, but the caretaker knew nothing. Saint Basil then realized that his vision was very real. Several hours afterwards, he heard of Julian’s death. He ran to the mountain and told the awaiting Christians the news. They rejoiced and praised both God and Saint Mercourios.
Saint Basil told his people to return to the city where he would return their money. The Christians shouted saying, “If we would have given it to the impious Julian, why should we not give it to the King of Heaven who saved us.” Saint Basil admired them for their generosity and told them to take one-third of what they had given. The remainder would be used to build orphanages, hospitals, and homes for the poor and aged.
Saint Basil did not remain long with the Bishop of Caesarea, for the Bishop became envious of the people’s love for Basil. Since Basil was a peace loving man, he left Caesarea, so that a dispute between the people and the Bishop would not arise. From Caesarea he went to Pontus to find Saint Gregory the Theologian.
In the year 363, the pious Iovianos ascended to the thrown of Byzantium. He died that same year and the Emperor Valens took his place. This Emperor believed in the Arian Heresy and tried to force his ideas on all the bishops of the Empire. He was determined to employ any and every means to accomplish his task. When the Bishop Eusebius and the people of Caesarea heard this, they sent a delegation to Saint Basil asking him to return. They felt that his presence would afford them protection from this unorthodox dogma. Saints Basil and Gregory went to Caesarea and espoused the idea of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church in that city.
Saint Basil’s main attack was to reinforce the people’s belief that Christ was the Son of God, created before all ages. The Emperor stopped all economic aid to Caesarea in order to force the city to accept the teachings of Arius. The rich helped the poor to survive these lean times by keeping their warehouses open. This was done in accordance with Saint Basil’s instructions.
In 370 A.D., Bishop Eusebius died and the bishops of Cappadocia elected Saint Basil to take his place. He was an exemplary Bishop for he worked with his people and taught them how to lead a true Christian life. He gave of his body and soul so that his people’s beliefs would become stronger. No one could criticize him for his work, for he was extremely dedicated. Countless citizens became very philanthropic and aided the poor because of his teachings. This generosity was not confined to Caesarea, but extended to all the cities of Cappadocia.
God granted Saint Basil the power to perform miracles. After the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Saint Iakovos, Christ’s brother, wrote several prayers for the priests to use in the Agape Services. Saint Climus, a student of Saint Peter’s, also wrote prayers to be used for the services. The liturgy became extremely long, and the Christian participants became very weary, since many of the prayers were repetitious. Saint Basil, wanting to remedy this situation, prayed to God for guidance to accomplish the task. After many days of prayer, fasting, and meditation, Saint Basil saw a vision. In the vision, Christ descended from Heaven with his Apostles and performed the liturgy. The liturgy was not chanted with the prayers of Saints Iakovos and Climus, but with other prayers and hymns. It was these prayers and hymns that Saint Basil used to write the Divine Liturgy. His Liturgy is heard ten times a year: the Feast Day of Saint Basil; Epiphany Day; the first five Sundays of the Great Lent; Holy Thursday; Holy Saturday; and Christmas Eve. The Liturgy we hear the remaining days of the year is the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom. His Liturgy is that of Saint Basil’s with several revisions.
A widow once owed money to one of the noblemen of Caesarea. She went to Saint Basil asking that he tell the nobleman to stop pressuring her for the payment. Saint Basil wrote a letter to the nobleman requesting that he be generous and pity the poor widow. She delivered the letter to the creditor, but he responded by saying that it was Imperial money that she owed. Saint Basil wrote another letter to the nobleman, telling him to put himself in the widow’s place. It was as though this letter was to be a prophecy, for the creditor was soon ordered by the Emperor to travel from city to city, to repay the many unjust payments which he had accepted. The nobleman wrote a letter asking the Saint to pray for him. The same day that Saint Basil prayed, the Emperor pardoned the nobleman for his crimes. He paid the woman twice the amount she had owed him.
At another time, a famine fell upon the area of Caesarea and many people were dying of hunger. Saint Basil made a plea to the rich of the city to help during this time of disaster. They brought all their goods to a general warehouse and Saint Basil personally distributed the food among the people until the famine ended.
Saint Basil did not confine his teachings to the people of Cappadocia. He tried to save the souls of orthodox Christians throughout the world. He realized that from Illirium to Egypt, there was great unrest in the Church. This unrest was caused by those believing in the Arian heresy, resentment of the Emperor, and by the indifference of the bishops of that area to their people. Because he wanted to stop this unrest, Basil began conferring by mail with the Bishop of Alexandria, Saint Athanasius the Great. He asked the Bishop to try in every way possible to calm the people and to settle their disputes. Saint Basil made the same request of the Bishop of Antioch. A letter was also sent to the Bishop of Rome warning him, that by Imperial Rule, any bishops who believed in the Arian heresy were elected, their churches were being turned over to the heretics.
Valens the Emperor, divided Cappadocia into two sections which were called Old and New Cappadocia. Caesarea remained the capital of Old Cappadocia while the city of Tyana became the capital of New Cappadocia. Saint Basil’s district was thus cut in half and another bishop took charge of New Cappadocia, one who believed in Arianism. The Emperor’s purpose in doing this was to bring more churches under the Arian philosophy. In addition, every attempt had been made to make Saint Basil accept the beliefs of Arius, but they continuously failed. The Emperor’s attempt came when he sent Modestos, the General of Cappadocia (372), to make Saint Basil accept the Arian Heresy or else exile him from Caesarea. Modestos tried to alter Saint Basil’s beliefs, but the Saint flatly refused and told him that he did not fear torture, exile, or death.
The Emperor himself came to Caesarea and Modestos told him of Saint Basil’s refusal. They both admired the Saint for his steadfastness. On Epiphany Day, the Emperor and his entourage went to the church in which Saint Basil was performing the liturgy. They were amazed at the size and piety of the congregation. The Emperor was so overwhelmed, that he approached the entrance to the sanctuary and offered a gift. Neither Saint Basil nor any of the priests, however, would accept a gift from an Arian heretic. The Emperor left in humiliation. Valens later returned to the church but this time he walked into the sanctuary to talk to Saint Basil. He was so moved by the Saint’s rhetoric, that he gave the best plots of land which he owned in Cappadocia, to the poor farmers of Caesarea.
The Emperor’s wife, Domnici, also believed in the teachings of Arius. She persuaded her husband to have Saint Basil exiled from the Empire. Saint Basil was told of the Emperor’s decision and prepared to leave. That night Domnici had terrible nightmares and was unable to sleep. Her son, Galatus, became ill with a high fever and her doctors could not cure him. The Empress realized that she was being punished for her sins against the orthodox Church and Saint Basil. Both monarchs prayed to God to save them from this peril. The Saint was summoned to the palace and as soon as he had entered the gates, Galatus’ fever dropped. He told the monarchs that if they would have their child baptized by an orthodox priest he would be completely cured. The Emperor refused.
Those believing in Arianism again convinced the Emperor to pressure Saint Basil to reconsider. The Saint again refused. The Emperor began to write the document ordering the Saint’s exile, but the paper on which he wrote crumbled. This happened three times and then the Emperor’s hand began to shake. He realized that this was a sign from God and thus Saint Basil was not exiled.
The governor of Caesarea had, at the time, become extremely ill. He asked Saint Basil to visit him. As the Saint approached, the governor was immediately cured. Another governor of the area had a close friend who was a judge. This judge wanted to marry a respectable widow of Caesarea. So that she would not be forced to do this, the widow went to Saint Basil to seek his protection. When the governor was told that the Saint was protecting this woman, he became furious. He sent his guards to arrest the Saint as though he were a common criminal. The governor found Saint Basil guilty of rebellion and ordered that he be tortured. When the people heard this, they gathered what ever weapons were available and assembled at the palace. Seeing the mob assembling, the governor realized that his life was in danger. He quickly ran to Saint Basil and begged for his forgiveness. The Saint pardoned the governor for his sins and dispersed the crowd.
Saint Ephraim the Syrian, was living in the desert as a monk, but had heard of the miracles and teachings of Saint Basil. He prayed to God to tell him what type of person Saint Basil was. Just then a pillar of fire rose from the ground towards heaven and Saint Ephraim heard a voice saying, “Ephraim, Saint Basil is like this pillar of fire that you see.” Thus, Ephraim hired an interpreter, who spoke both Greek and Syrian, and journeyed to Caesarea. The two monks arrived in Caesarea and went to the church where Saint Basil was performing the liturgy. When Ephraim saw the Saint in his robes, he was not impressed and his interpreter remarked that they had traveled all this distance for nothing. Saint Basil, through the Holy Ghost, realized what was happening. He called one of his deacons and told him that he would find two monks in the church, one tall and thin and the other dark. He was instructed to bring them to the sanctuary so that Saint Basil could talk to them. The deacon made his way through the crowd and found the two monks. He gave them Saint Basil’s message, but Saint Ephraim told the deacon that they were strangers in Caesarea, and since no one knew them, he was mistaken. The deacon returned to Saint Basil and explained what had occurred. Saint Basil again sent the deacon to deliver his message. The deacon told the two monks once again that the bishop wanted to see them. Saint Ephraim suddenly realized the magnitude of Saint Basil’s wisdom and that he was comparable to the pillar of fire. After the liturgy, Saint Basil and Saint Ephraim had a deep theological discussion. Saint Ephraim then disclosed the purpose of his visit. He told Saint Basil that he wanted to speak Greek so that he might spread the Word of God to more nonbelievers. He believed that whatever Saint Basil prayed for, God granted. He, therefore, asked Saint Basil to pray to God and ask Him to allow Saint Ephraim to speak Greek. Both Saints prayed for many hours. Saint Basil then turned to Saint Ephraim and told him to speak in the Greek language, which Saint Ephraim did. Conversely, Saint Basil spoke in Syrian. Saint Ephraim was ordained into the priesthood by Saint Basil and the interpreter was ordained a deacon. They remained in Caesarea for three days and then returned to the desert.
Some time later, the priests of Nicaea who believed in the Arian Heresy went to the Emperor and convinced him to give them sole jurisdiction over the churches in Nicaea. The orthodox Christians begged Saint Basil to go to the Emperor and persuade him to change his decision. Saint Basil went to the Emperor and told him that he had done an injustice to the orthodox Christians of Nicaea. The Emperor told the Saint that he would allow him to go to Nicaea and do what he thought would be just. He warned him, however, not to be partial to the orthodox Christians, since then he would be committing an injustice to the Arians. The Emperor gave a letter of introduction to the Saint and the holy man went to Nicaea. He called a general meeting of Christians and Arians and presented them with a proposal for the governing of the Church. The doors of their cathedral were to be locked and the Arians were to pray for them to be opened. If they failed, the Christians would also pray. If both factions failed, the Arians would be given rule of the Church. Both sides agreed to the terms of the proposal. The Arians proceeded to pray for three days, but to no avail. Then Saint Basil took the Christians to the Church of Saint Diomedes to pray. They prayed the entire night and then went in front of the Cathedral. Saint Basil said, “Blessed is the God of the Christians, now and forever and unto ages of ages.” Suddenly, the locks on the doors fell off and the doors swung open. The Christians entered the cathedral and Saint Basil performed the Liturgy. And so, Saint Basil saved the Christians of Nicaea from the rule of the Arian Heresy.
A rich widow, who had lived impiously all of her life, decided to repent for her sins. Being afraid and ashamed to tell her sins, she wrote them all on a piece of paper which she folded and sealed. She then went to Saint Basil, placed the letter at his feet and begged him to forgive her for her sins. Saint Basil asked her why she was crying. She replied that she was a sinful woman who wanted to be forgiven for her sins, but begged that he not open the sealed paper. Saint Basil took the list, held it towards heaven and said, “It is Your grace that will forgive this woman, Oh Master.” With the paper in his hand, he went into the sanctuary and prayed. When he had finished praying he returned the list to her. She unfolded the paper and found that all her writing had vanished except for the last sin. She fell at the Saint’s feet and begged him to pray to God to forgive her for that last sin. The Saint responded by saying, “Stand up, my widow, for I also am a man and have sinned and need forgiveness. Go to the desert and find Saint Ephraim, if you want your last sin forgiven.”
After receiving Saint Basil’s blessing, she went to the desert seeking Saint Efraim. The widow found the Saint and placed the letter at his feet, telling him that Saint Basil had sent her. She explained that Saint Basil had prayed and her other sins had been forgiven, but the last one was not. Saint Ephraim was to pray for the forgiveness of that one. The Saint refused, saying that he who had prayed for the forgiveness of her many sins could also pray for the forgiveness of the last. He told her to return quickly to Saint Basil, for he was about to die. When she arrived in Caesarea, she found that Saint Basil had died and many hundreds of people surrounded his coffin. She pushed her way through the crowd and put the letter on the Saint’s body. Crying out, she asked Saint Basil to hear and forgive her. One of the clergy, wanting to see what this terrible sin was, looked at the paper. He found it completely blank and asked the woman why she was hysterical. After she herself saw the paper, she fell on the Saint’s coffin and thanked him for his mercy. The woman lived piously many years after this and died in peace.
Prior to this event, Saint Basil had become very friendly with a rich Jewish doctor of Caesarea named Joseph. He was excellent in his profession and was able to tell whether a patient would live or die simply by feeling his pulse. Saint Basil had tried many times to convert his friend to Christianity, but Joseph retained his ancestors’ beliefs.
The Saint had a premonition of his death, and therefore, asked Joseph to come to his home. When the physician arrived, Saint Basil asked him, “When will I die, Joseph?” The doctor felt the Saint’s pulse and said, “You will die before morning, Your Eminence.” Saint Basil continued, “If I live until tomorrow, what will you do?” Joseph responded, “If you don’t die, you will defy all natural laws. I will then seek baptism as a Christian.” Saint Basil prayed, after Joseph left, and asked God to let him live until the next day for two reasons. The first was that the widow mentioned earlier was returning from the desert. Secondly, he wanted Joseph to convert to Christianity. His prayers were answered. The next morning, he sent for Joseph, who thought he was going to confirm the Saint’s death. When he arrived and found the Saint alive, he was shocked. He felt his pulse, but there was none. Joseph fell at the Saint’s feet and confessed his belief in Christ. Saint Basil took Joseph and his entire household, and baptized them. He also renamed the physician John. After the baptism, he explained the Christian religion’s teachings to them. Saint Basil then turned to John and said, “When shall I die, my friend?” John replied, “When you are ready, Your Eminence.” Saint Basil closed his eyes and died on the first day of January in the year 379 A.D. John fell at the Saint’s feet and cried, “I believe that you would not have died now, if you did not wish to.” Saint Basil the Great’s funeral took place the next day. Thousands of people attended, not only Christians, but Jews and idolaters as well. They mourned the loss of the greatest man of their time. Saint Gregory the Theologian, then Patriarch of Constantinople, wrote Saint Basil’s eulogy. Two years afterwards, he went to Caesarea, and in tears, read it at the Saint’s grave.
Saint Basil taught his people to be generous. He would send his representatives throughout Caesarea to collect contributions for less fortunate people. With this money he also helped areas which suffered from natural catastrophies, such as famines, earthquakes, and floods. It was this Saint who instituted collection trays in the Church so that he could help the poor. The people believed in the teachings of Saint Basil to such a degree, that they collected food to contribute to worthy causes. To follow Saint Basil one had to have will power, for Saint Basil taught that most music, theaters, and amusements were sinful and were in opposition to the spiritual good of the individual.
Saint Basil also established many institutions to take care of his people. Hospitals, orphanages, and old age homes were built in Caesarea and other areas of Cappadocia. These institutions were called “Vasileias” in his honor.
The Liturgy he so tediously wrote has come to us, virtually unchanged. The miracles which he performed serve as pillars of faith and inspiration to Orthodox Christians all over the world. Was it not fitting, then that our Church should honor Saint Basil by also naming him ‘The Great”?
On New Year’s Day, it is traditional for Greek Orthodox families to gather together and cut the New Year’s bread or vasilopeta, named after Saint Basil the Great. Saint Basil constantly taught that the rich should distribute their bread and money among the poor. From this teaching, the vasilopeta is made on his Feast Day and a coin is placed in it. It is believed that good luck befalls the person whose piece of bread contains the coin.
(Celebrated November 25).
In the proud megalopolis of Alexandria, during the time of the unbelieving ruler Maxentius (286-305, who was a co-Emperor of Diocletian) lived the daughter of the former king Constantos. Her name was Catherine and she was beautiful, statuesque, and unequaled in kindness.
Being tutored by the Greeks, she was familiar with the famous poets and philosophers of that time: Homer, Virgil, Aristotle, and Plato. Not only was she learned in the teachings of the great philosophers but also the works of the physicians Hippocrates, Erasistratus, and Galen. Rhetoric and logic were her forte; and her knowledge of many languages made all who met her wonder with amazement at the wisdom this woman possessed.
The richest men of the land sought her hand in marriage, for she was an heiress to the throne. Her mother and relatives, fearing that her father’s kingship would come to fall on some unworthy individual, counseled her to marry as soon as possible. Catherine, however, desired to retain her virginity, thereby achieving one of the highest philosophical goals of that time. She refused all proposals. Nevertheless, she was continually harassed by suitors despite her requests to be left alone. She subsequently decreed that the man she would wed must be “young and equal to her in the four virtues that were attributed to her.” Further, she explained that she would “never wed a man who was illiterate or belittled in her presence.” The four virtues which had to be equaled were: compassion, wealth, wisdom and beauty. A shortcoming in any of these areas would deem the individual unworthy of her hand.
The suitors were bewildered. Among them, only the son of the Roman emperor possessed equal compassion and wealth, falling short in the categories of wisdom and beauty. Being confused and somewhat frightened, the young girl’s mother departed with her daughter to seek the advice of a saintly hermit who lived hidden in the outskirts of the city. The holy man patiently listened to the girl’s story and immediately sought to make her aware of the Heavenly King, Christ. He said to her, “I know of a magnificent man who surpasses you in all ways. His greatness and beauty shadow the very sun. His wisdom governs all consciousness. His wealth is given unto all the nations of the earth and never diminishes, but is rather everlasting. His compassion is unequaled.”
Catherine, thinking that the hermit was speaking of some earthly man, was overcome with amazement. The hermit in turn, assured her that he spoke the truth about this individual without exaggeration. The bewildered girl asked the hermit, “Whose son is this wondrous person?”
“He has no earthly father,” answered the hermit. “He was born of nature and a very holy and majestic Virgin, who is Queen of Heaven and Earth and is worshipped by the very angels.”
“And is it possible for me to see this young man of which you speak so highly?” the princess asked.
“If you do as I instruct you will be able to gaze upon this everlasting and illustrious man.”
Looking into the eyes of the old man, Catherine retorted, “I see you as knowledgeable and reverent, old hermit. I believe, therefore, that you do not lie to me. Instruct me as you will.”
The hermit gave the young woman an old icon of the Virgin Mary, in which the Holy Mother held the infant Jesus. “This is the Most Virgin Mother of the one I spoke to you so wondrously. Take Her to your home and into your room. Pray to Her throughout the night, that She will find you worthy of beholding Her Son. I believe that if you approach Her with faith, She will permit you to see Him, Whom your soul seeks.”
Taking the holy icon, the girl returned to the palace and that night she locked herself in her room as the hermit had instructed. Weary from her praying and the day’s travel, she soon fell into deep sleep. She dreamt of the Queen of the Angels as She appeared in the icon, holding the Holy Child who shone more brightly than the very sun. The Child, however, kept his head turned towards His Mother and away from the longing gaze of the princess.
Suddenly, the Holy Mother spoke. “My Son, look at Your beautiful and reverent servant, Catherine.”
“She is ugly and unbelieving, and I will not suffer to look upon her.”
“But is she not among the wisest, the wealthiest, and fairest of all the cities of the world?” implored the Virgin.
“Mother, I say to You, that as long as she is in this state of mind, she is unknowledgeable, trite, and I will not let her see Me.”
Again, the Virgin Mother begged, “Do not deny Your own flesh and blood, My Son, but instruct her as to what she must do so that she might one day gaze upon Your light and grace.”
“Let her return to the old man who gave her the icon,” He replied, “and let her do as he bids and she will then see Me and gain hope and comfort.”
Seeing all this, the girl awoke immediately, with several other women, set out for the hermit’s cave. Upon reaching his abode, she fell crying, kissing the old man’s feet. She told him of all that had occurred and implored him to instruct her to what she had to do.
The old man immediately began to instruct her in the mysteries of Christianity. He began with the Old Testament and continued through Christ’s ascention into Heaven. He told her of the damnation of Hell and of the glory of Heaven. So, in a short time Catherine discovered the cost of faith.
When her belief was total and unquestioning, she was baptized and instructed to pray to the Holy Virgin. This she did throughout the day and night. She fasted and cried unceasingly until finally she slept. Again she dreamt of the Mother and Child, only this time, the Holy Infant gazed admiringly at Catherine.
The Holy Mother asked her Son if He was not proud of the virgin girl. He answered, “Where she was poor, she is now wealthy; where she was ignorant, she is now wise; where she was proud, she is now compassionate. She is worthy and I accept her as My bride.”
Hearing this, Catherine cried out, “Holy Bishop, I am not worthy of seeing Your everlasting light. Help me to become so worthy.”
Here the Holy Queen interceded and taking Catherine by the hand said, “Give her, My Son, a ring as a token of betrothal.”
Christ placed a beautiful golden ring on the girl’s finger, saying, ‘Today, I make you My bride, and for ages unto all ages. Hold this joining sacred and never take unto yourself another bridegroom.”
In the meantime, the infamous Emperor Maxentius, jealous of the popularity of the new Christian religion, sent an edict throughout his kingdom. The edict stated that all those who supported his reign and worshipped his gods were to come to the palace to pay hommage to the dieties. All others were threatened with many ills and dangers. Within a week, many had entered Alexandria, bringing with them hundreds of beasts for slaughter as tribute to the gods. Soon thecity was full of the cries of the dying animals.
Seeing all this, Catherine was troubled by the fact that the people ran to trade their souls for their lives by denying the only true faith. She, therefore, hurried with a few servants to the area of the sacrifice. To her disgust, she saw only death and destruction in the name of the gods. All who saw her at the “religious” slaughter, hence stopped their killing and gazed at her beauty. She immediately sought the Emperor. At first, she pleaded with him to stop the wanton destruction. Then she became staunch.
“You are fools,” she cried, “believing in idols that hold no promise. They ask for much and offer nothing in return. You have denied the meaning and sacredness of all life.
“There is only one God — the Undying God who has sacrificed Himself for all mankind. Because of Him life exists, kings reign, the people permit themselves to be governed, and the ideas of man take form.
“He does not ask for sacrifices of ignorant animals. His only demand is that you observe His Holy Commandments.”
The King was at a loss. He stood silent for a longtime. Finally, he told Catherine that only after the sacrifice was completed would he speak to her; and thus he summoned her to the palace that evening.
“Who are you, and what God do you speak of?” Maxentius demanded.
“I am Catherine, daughter of your king, Constantos, and bride of the Lord Christ.”
The Emperor was stunned by her appearance and carriage. He exclaimed that she was not mortal, but one of the gods themselves. Catherine explained that she was not of the demonic creatures he worshipped. She was the true God’s creation, made in His image from the dust of the Earth.
Maxentius warned her not to speak disrespectfully of his gods, lest they punish her terribly.
With a cold stare, Catherine spoke, “You know not what you say when you dare compare your satanic creations with the true God. His name is the only one to be held in reverence, unless you would have His power demonstrated.”
Seeing the Saint’s freedom in speaking, Maxentius did not want to appear as though he feared her or succumbed to her logic, and said, “A king should not have to match wits with a woman. I will have my counsellors confer with you, and you will soon recognize the symptoms of your illness and realize the truth in the dogmas of the gods.”
The Princess was detained under guard at the palace while the Emperor sent a request throughout his land that the wisest and most learned of all the Greek scholars should attend his court. He made his request in the name of the messenger god, Hermes, saying that their presence was required to cure certain ill thinkings of an otherwise wise woman. Their success could bring them great renown and reward.
And thus, one hundred and fifty of the greatest minds of that era ventured to Alexandria. Maxentius welcomed them and gave them his instructions. “Prepare yourselves to do mental battle with an extremely intelligent woman. Combine your efforts for she is no ordinary human being. Prove her claims are all false and make her appear foolish. Do this and you will have rewards beyond your wildest expectation. Fail and you shall die the most horrifying deaths ever devised.”
The scholars, overconfident and greedy, assured the Emperor with glib tongues that this would be no contest and that victory was his. Overjoyed, the Emperor sent for Catherine. Before her summoning, however, the Saint was visited by the Archangel Michael and he said to her, “Fear not, spokesman of Christ, for He will give you the strength to conquer. And because of you, many will believe before you receive the eternal crown of martyrdom.”
Coming before the scholarly gathering, she was asked if she realized that she had blasphemed those gods which the ancient poets had labled as most holy. Her answer was that she did realize this but went on to reveal the gross weaknesses of all these gods and the strength of the one God.
So stirring was her rhetoric presentation, that the scholars were dumbfounded and speechless. Shocked, Maxentius ordered them to contradict her words. “We cannot argue ‘with the truth,” they replied. The Emperor was outraged and ordered that a great fire be built in the city and that all the scholars should be burned. They, in turn, fell on their knees, begging the Saint to intervene for them to God and to ask for their forgiveness. She replied that it was good that they left the darkness for the True Light and sought baptism. She blessed them all with the sign of the cross.
The one hundred and fifty were thrown into the flames on November 17, but miraculously none were harmed. Praising the Lord, they fled the city and returned to their lands where they spread the word of Christ.
Then with slyness and flattery Maxentius attempted to convince Catherine to make sacrifices. He went so far as to offer her half his kingdom if she denounced the Lord Christ. She refused, saying that she was already wed and that she sought the crown of martyrdom more than any earthly crown. Again, he pleaded that she not make him defame her very being and again she refused, saying, “To kill me would serve the purpose of my God, that purpose for which I was born. And many of your servants would you lose to the Word.”
Immediately, she was stripped naked and whipped for two hours. Never before had the soldiers seen such courage as that with which she withstood the terrifying beating. She was then imprisoned and denied food for twelve days.
In the meantime, the Empress Augusta, had grown to admire the Saint greatly. While Maxentius traveled, his wife sought the aid of one of his generals, Porphyry, in order to see the Saint. For Augusta had dreamt that Catherine had given her a wreath of silver, saying, “The Lord sends this to you.” The meeting was secretly arranged, and the Empress met Catherine one evening in the Saint’s jail cell. So lifted were this woman’s spirits, that she told Catherine that now she was ready to lose all her wealth and earthly objects.
The Saint said, “I admire you, Augusta, for I see a crown on thy brow and in three days the Holy Angels will offer it to you. Soon you will rule for all eternity with the true King.”
Porphyry prepared the royal party to leave, but returned to the Saint saying that he and his two hundred soldiers desired to serve in the army of the Lord. The Saint took his hand, made the sign of the cross, blessing the entire contingent, and baptized them.
Christ did not forsake His servant during this time of strife. While the Saint was in her cell, a White Dove would fly through the high window bearing food. And He said to her, “Do not lose faith, for by your patience many will seek and find My Name. You are yet to be crowned.”
The Emperor returned only to find the Saint alive and well. Thinking that the jailers were traitors, he ordered them killed. Catherine, however, explained that no human hand kept her alive. Only her faith and her Lord God sustained her. Maxentius again plied her with flattery and temptation, stating that he feared for her future.
“Do not concern yourself with my future, for it is set, and to a richer place I am destined to go. You would do better to think of all that will befall you if you do not seek to find the Truth and the Light.”
Hoursasathen, a minister of the royal court, desired the good word of the Emperor, Maxentius. And so, he offered a suggestion to him.
Have your men build a machine made up of four wooden wheels: two rotating to the right, two rotating to the left. On the edges of these wheels, place sharp blades of iron. The woman should be bound and placed between the four wheels. Fear will overcome her and she will denounce her God, or she will be shred into little pieces and you will be rid of her.”
The idea appealed to the monarch and in three days the machine was completed. Catherine was brought to the place of execution and to the ruler’s amazement she did not even flinch at the sight of the turning wheels. Instead, she spoke softly, “You know my beliefs, be quick in what you must do.”
She was placed in the machine but as the wheels were turned, the moorings broke and the machine rolled wildly, killing many pagans. Catherine implored, “Why do you insist on fighting the Truth, senselessly testing the strength of God?”
The Emperor was outraged and turned his wrath towards Augusta who had wept during the Saint’s attempted execution. Her breasts were cut from her body and she was beheaded on November 23rd.
That night, Porphyry and his men secretly took the Empress’ body and buried it away from the Emperor and further mutilations. In the morning, Maxentius sought to punish all who took place in his wife’s execution since the body could not be found. The general came forth exclaiming, “We are soldiers of Christ.” Insane with anger after hearing this, Maxentius beheaded the general and all his men on November 24th.
The next day, Saint Catherine was brought before Maxentius. He accused her of being the cause of his problems: that is, his wife’s unfaithfulness and his soldier’s dissertion.
“I should have executed you long ago, but I could not bring myself to destroy such wisdom and beauty. Save yourself. Sacrifice to the gods and your every wish shall be my command.”
Again the woman refused. And so the Emperor ordered her executed. She was led out of the city, to the place of her death. A throng of wailing men and women followed the party, for they mourned the evident passing of such a lovely human being. They could not understand how she so stubbornly refused the Emperor’s generosity, or how she would end her life in the prime of youthfulness.
To their cries she replied, “Cease your mourning. Be happy, for I go to meet my Savior, my Great or, my Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. In Heaven, I shall reign with Him for endless ages. Cry for yourselves, for it is you who will suffer greatly those same endless ages.”
When the company had reached the place of execution, Catherine knelt in prayer. She asked the Lord not to forsake her, nor to let her death be in vain. When she had finished, her head was severed. As if to honor this Saint even after death, milk miraculously poured forth from the wound instead of blood.
Her death occurred on November 25, circa 305 and her body was lifted by heavenly angels and taken to Mount Sinai. Her body was later discovered by a band of monks who built a monastery near the spot of the discovery. The relics of Saint Catherine are now enshrined in the Monastery of Saint Catherine on Mount Sinai.
Saints Constantine and Helen.
(Celebrated May 21).
Before the Emperor Diocletian abandoned his throne, he divided the Roman Empire, which was rapidly declining, into a tetrarchy. The eastern part was ruled by himself, the western part by Maximilian, Galerius was overlord of the Balkan Peninsula, and Constantius Chlorus was ruler of Gaul. Constantius Chlorus was the husband of Saint Helen, a deeply religious woman from Misses in Macedonia and the father of a son, named Constantine. Constantine was born in the year 273 A.D. At the age of sixteen, he was educated in Britainy, his father’s kingdom. Because Saint Helen and many of the empire’s soldiers were Christians, Constantius did not persecute the Christians as did the other rulers. However, so that she would not be an obstacle to her husband’s progress, Saint Helen returned to upper Macedonia.
Constantine soon became an officer in the army and his travels brought him to the palace of Diocletian in Nicomedia, the capital of the Eastern Empire. It was here that Constantine saw many persecutions against the Christians (300-305 A.D.). During this time, many of the great Saints of our Church, such as Saint George, Saint Panteleimon, The Benevolent Saints of Alexandria, Saint Catherine, and many more, were martyred. Repulsed by all this, Constantine asked to be transferred to the Western Empire to visit his father who was ill. He was allowed to leave, but under guard, so that his superiors would be sure that he would not desert. He had actually been held hostage for his father’s good behavior.
Constantius Chlorus disapproved of Maximilian’s appointment of Maxentius as successor in the Western Empire. He, therefore, made Constantine temporary ruler of Gaul so that he could fight Maxentius. During the ensuing battle, Constantius died, but Constantine decided to resume the battle. He took two Christian legions, crossed the Alps, and entered Northern Italy.
Meanwhile, Galerius obsessed with the belief that he should be the supreme ruler of the Empire, led his legions to Salonika and prepared to attack Rome. On this journey, Galerius died.
This was to be a crucial period for Constantine, since he was going to fight against his own countrymen. As he prepared to cross the Moldavian Bridge, Constantine saw a bright cross in the sky enscribed with the words, “In this sign you shall conquer.”
Constantine entered into the battle and was eventually victorious. Maxentius, along with many of his soldiers drowned in the Tiber River. Proceeding to Rome, Constantine entered into the battle and was welcomed as the great emancipator, and crowned Emperor of the Western and Middle Roman Empires. His brother-in-law, Licinius, defeated Maximinus and became ruler of the Eastern Roman Empire. In 313, the Emperors issued the Edict of Milan, which guaranteed religious tolerance. This Edict stopped the persecutions. This was the first time the rights of the Christian religion were fully recognized. Shortly thereafter, however, Licinius decided that if he aided the idolaters and again restored paganism as the official religion, he might become Emperor of the entire Empire. He stationed himself in the city of Andrianopolis with the advent of renewed persecutions. Constantine engaged Licinius in battle and won. Thus, Constantine became sole ruler of the entire Roman Empire. He showed a great tolerance for Christianity, primarily because of his mother, Saint Helen, and because of the sign he had seen in the sky prior to his battle with Maxentius.
Saint Helen, at the age of eighty, decided to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Lands. Her mission was to discover the Cross on which Christ was crucified. She saw the place where she would find the cross in her dream. When she arrived at Golgotha, she found the sweetly fragrant Basil plant and excavated that spot. As the story goes, Saint Helen found all three crosses, but she did not know which one was Christ’s. They took the crosses to a hospital and held them one by one, over the sick. When Christ’s cross was held over the patients, they were cured immediately. Saint Helen not only found the Holy Cross, but also Christ’s tomb. She built many churches at the spots where the major events in Christ’s life took place.
Constantine, meanwhile, had developed the greatest army and navy ever known to the world at that time. For strategic reasons, he transferred the capital of the Roman Empire from Rome to Byzantium. Byzantium was a city located on the Bospherus Sea and was founded by the Greek merchant, Byzus, in 657 B.C. Constantine dedicated the city to the Mother of God, the Theotokos. During this time, the Church was in a turmoil over the Arian Heresy. This was a philosophy taught by a bishop of Alexandria, named Arius, and stated that Christ was a creation of God and not the Son of God. Thus, Christ existed only after his birth by the Theotokos. To settle this dispute, Constantine summoned the First Ecumenical Council in the city of Nicaea in the year 325. There were 318 bishops, priests, monks and laymen in attendance and they declared that the teachings of Arius were false. In addition, this body wrote the first seven articles of the Nicaean Creed.
Constantine gave large sums of money for philanthropic institutions and built several churches. In 330 A.D., he renamed his capital Constantinople. Later, he went to Nicomedia where he confessed his sins and was baptized. Upon his death in Nicomedia on May 21, 336, the Byzantine Empire was again divided into three sections with each of his three sons governing one section.
History has designated Constantine as the Great, our Church has designated him and his mother, Helen, as Saints and rates them as equals to the Apostles.
Saints Cosmas and Damianos the Benevolent.
(Celebrated November 1).
Much has been written about these Benevolent Saints. The three best known stories however, are somewhat conflicting.
The first of these is that Saints Cosmas and Damianos were from Rome. They lived during the reign of Carinius and were doctors by profession. Curing both people and animals, these men were also teachers of the Christian religion. When Carinius heard about these men, he invited them to his palace. The doctors came to the palace and told him about Christ being the True God. The ruler was so impressed that he became a Christian. The event which convinced the Emperor to become a Christian was a miracle performed by these Saints. The Emperor had threatened to punish them if they did not pray to the idol which was in the palace. Suddenly, the head of this idol was reversed. With the help of God, the Saints turned the head again to its previous position. This not only converted the Emperor, but also all who were present and saw the miracle.
The man who had taught them their profession, envied them for their great success. He and some of his students conspired against Cosmas and Damianos. They took the Saints to a high mountain to collect herbs to be used for healing. Here they stoned them to death. Their Feast Day is celebrated on July 1st.
The second story claims that these Saints were from Arabia. They were excellent doctors and would go to cities and villages, not only curing the sick, but also preaching about the true God. They arrived in Lycaea, in a village named Egas. The village was ruled by a man called Losion. He was disturbed with their teachings of Christianity and warned them to stop. The Saints refused. He took them and tied rocks around their necks and threw them into the sea. An angel was sent by God to their rescue. Losion intending to kill these physicians, then placed them in a blazing furnace. Once again they were saved. Losion tried again. This time he nailed them to a cross and beheaded them. They died on the 16th of October. This is the second Feast Day of the Saints.
The third story of these Saints is the one most widely accepted by our Church today. Cosmas and Damianos were brothers and doctors by profession. They were known as Benevolent because they would cure people but would not accept any form of payment for their work. This story states that Saints Cosmas and Damianos were from Asia Minor, from an area known as Cilicia and from a very rich family. Their father, at first, was a pagan, however, later became a Christian. He died when the boys were very young and left them to the protection of their mother, Theodoti. She was a Christian woman, very devout in her beliefs, and very virtuous. Her main goal was to educate her sons and this she succeeded in doing. Cosmas and Damianos were educated as physicians and immediately afterwards began their philanthropic task of curing people. As they healed their patients, they always spread the word of Christ. They cured their patients with herbs, and with the help of the Theotokos. They were extremely humble — not only did they not accept payment for their cures, but their material wealth consisted of the barest necessities. The people did not call them by their names, Cosmas and Damianos, but called them “Anargeri” of “Benevolent.” They were so charitable, they cured animals as well as people. The Holy Doctors cured rich and poor alike. They lived in a stable with sheep and it was in this same stable that acquaintances and strangers came to be cured.
The Doctors cured all kinds of illnesses; however, they did not believe that these people were cured by their treatments, but by the Grace of God. They had studied the books of Hippocrates and many other doctors of antiquity, but none of these men could cure paralysis or resurrect people from the dead. The Saints, with the help of God, were able to do both. It was because of their miraculous curing power that many people with all kinds of illnesses would come to them to be cured of physical and mental ailments.
Saints Cosmas and Damianos traveled a great deal and it was in the town of Ferenen of Asia Minor that Saint Damianos died. Many hundreds of Christians attended his funeral and mourned this great man. A few days later, Saint Cosmas, the older brother, died and was buried next to his brother, Damianos.
There was once a nobleman who had become ill with a then incurable sickness — – prostatism. He had spent all his money to find a cure, but none could be found. After consulting with all of the doctors in the area, he remembered Saints Cosmas and Damianos and asked his friends and relatives to take him to their church. The Saints appearing to him, told him to take hair from Cosmas, burn it, crumble it, place it in some water and then drink it. This puzzled the man since he did not know where the Saint’s body was entombed. A few days before the nobleman had gone to the church, a woman had brought a lamb to be slaughtered on the Saints’ Feast Day. The lamb remained there so long that the caretakers of the church decided to name it Cosmas. On the Feast Day, a short time before the lamb was to be slaughtered, the nobleman arrived at the church. The animal stood before the nobleman, bleeting in a loud tone. When the priest arrived at the church and saw this, he asked what was wrong with Cosmas. Hearing what the priest had called the lamb, the nobleman then realized that it was from this Cosmas that he was to cut the hair. He did as the Saints had instructed and was immediately cured.
At another time, a God-fearing man in Anatolia suffered from his youth with an incurable stomach ailment. Seeing that no man could cure him, he turned to God for help and went to the Church of Saints Cosmas and Damianos. After staying a few days and seeing no improvement in his condition, he decided to go home thinking that it was not God’s will that he should be cured. The night before he was to leave, a man appeared to him in his dream. This man told him not to be in such a hurry to return home, but to wait until the following Sunday and he would see the Glory of God and that of the Benevolent Saints. Sunday came and in his usual manner, the man knelt before the icon of the Saints and prayed. Toward twilight, he saw the image of Saint Cosmas leave the icon. The image walked around the church and visited the sick people who were there. The ill man did not look up. The Saint had passed him the first time; however, he hoped that he would notice him on his return. Unfortunately this did not happen. The image was returning to the icon when the man fell at its feet and begged to be cured. Handing him a sweet, the Saint told the man to eat it. After eating the pastry, he fell at the Saint’s feet again and asked him to prevent the illness from returning. The Saint did the sign of the cross over the man and told him that the ill ness would not return; however, the Saint told him that he was never to eat legumes again. The reason for this instruction is not explained.
This man was also suffering from a toothache which in those times could be cured only by painful extraction of the decayed tooth. The man asked the Saint to cure him of this also, however, this request was denied. Man, by nature, the Saint explained, was meant to suffer those small ailments as a payment for his sins. The man left the church thanking God and Saints Cosmas and Damianos for his good health.
This is the history of the Benevolent Doctors, Saints Cosmas and Damianos. They are models of selfless devotion to the cause of human betterment.
(Celebrated July 24).
In the year 200 A.D., a girl was born unto the wealthy family of Orfanos, the Emperor’s general. Her name was Christina, and as she grew older, she developed into a very beautiful woman. Orfanos, seeing that his daughter was so attractive, built a tower in which Christina was hidden, away from the prying eyes of the common folk. She was provided with food and servants and the tower was filled with idols — for her parents were pagans.
Christina’s beauty was matched only by her intelligence. She looked around and saw how perfect everything was. The trees, the streams, the rocks, and the sky were pieces of art in themselves. No Olympian gods could have created all this and she wondered about the true creator. God, seeing the innocence and wisdom of this girl, sent an angel to answer her questions. Thus, the Saint learned of the true religion and the one, true God.
One day, her parents came to the tower to see their child. They asked her if she had worshipped the gods which had given her such beauty. She told her parents that she had not and would not worship the fake and indifferent gods that they held in such esteem. She also described her God to them and explained that he was comprised of the Holy Trinity: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Her father begged her to worship their gods instead of these three Gods. She explained to him that they were not three Gods, but three parts of the same essence.
The next day, her father returned to worship the idols, but found them missing. He questioned the servants as to the whereabouts of the idols. They told him that his daughter had smashed them and instructed them to throw the pieces out of the window. Orfanos was infuriated, and murdered every servant. He had his daughter beaten by twelve men until they fell from exhaustion. The Saint cursed her father for his beliefs. He, in turn, then tied a chain around her neck and placed her in prison. He returned to his home enraged and in despair. Discovering how her daughter had been tortured, the Saint’s mother, crying, went to the prison. She begged Christina to abide by her father’s wishes for she could not bear to lose her only child. The Saint refused.
In the morning, Christina was hung by her hair and her body was raked with sharp instruments. The Saint took a piece of the skin which had been torn off her body and threw it in her father’s face. She yelled, “You want to eat my body away, oh heir to eternal damnation, so here it is,” This inhumane father then ordered that a wheel be brought to him. He tied Christina to it and lit a fire underneath it to torture his daughter even more. The Saint began to pray and as she prayed, the flames flew out from under the wheel and burnt many of the idolaters who were watching. Orfanos imprisoned her again without food, hoping to starve her to death. Christ did not forsake his servant for He sent three angels to feed the Saint and heal her wounds. The entire time she was in prison, she praised God for his mercy.
That evening, Orfanos sent his servants to the prison and had them tie a boulder around his daughter’s neck. Christina was then thrown into the river, however, she was saved by three angels of the Lord. The boulder sank to the bottom, but the Saint walked on the water. As she stood on the water, a bright cloud hovered over her. She heard a voice telling her that Christ was speaking to her. Christina was then baptized and returned to the shore. The angels placed her next to her father’s palace. When he came out the next morning, he found his daughter praying. He was ready to torture the servants for not carrying out his instructions, but Christina explained what had happened. He took her back to prison and planned to behead his only daughter the next day. That night Orfanos died.
The Saint remained in prison, unharmed for several weeks. A new ruler, Dios, came to take Orfanos’ place. Seeing that he could not change her mind, Dios ordered the Saint boiled in oil. The Saint was boiled for hours, but it had no effect on her. To shame her, he had her head shaved and then marched her nude through the city. When the soldiers returned her to the palace, she was again placed in prison. She was brought before the ruler the next day and Dios asked her if she would worship the god of the sky, meaning Apollo. Christina agreed to worship the God of the sky and was taken to the Tern pie of Apollo. After praying, she commanded the idol of Apollo to move forty meters outside of the temple. The idol began to move and stopped in the place that the Saint had designated. Since Dios would still not acknowledge the strength of God, she prayed that the statue would fall, and it did. Dios died from his sorrow. The man who temporarily replaced him had the Saint imprisoned. Within a few days another ruler was elected, named Julius. Seeing that she was a devout Christian and would not change her faith, he decided to execute her. He ordered that poisonous snakes be placed in her cell. Instead of biting, the beasts licked her feet. When the keeper entered the cell, the creatures immediately killed him. Christina ordered the serpents to leave the city without harming anyone else. The Saint then prayed to Christ to resurrect the dead man and her prayers were answered. The man praised God and Saint Christina. Julius ordered his soldiers to cut off the Saint’s breasts and throw her back in prison.
Many women came to her cell trying to comfort the Saint. However, she needed no comforting for she knew that she had suffered for Christ and that He was with her. Many of the pagan women who came to see her were converted to Christianity. The next day, she was taken before Julius. He asked her if she was ready to sacrifice to the gods. If she refused he would execute her. Christina responded, “Today you too shall die and go to eternal damnation.” Julius became furious and had the Saint’s tongue cut out. The Saint took her tongue and threw it in Julius’ face. He was immediately blinded. A voice came from the Saint’s mouth saying, “Julius, because you have cut out a tongue which worships the Master you have lost your sight.” The blinded ruler ordered two of his soldiers to murder Christina. They stabbed her in the heart and in her side.
She died on Thursday, the 24th day of July. Julius died the same day after suffering a great amount of pain. One of the Saint’s relatives built a church in her honor and placed her holy body in it.
Saint Cyrus and John the Benevolent.
(Celebrated January 31).
These two Saints, Cyrus and John lived circa 292 A.D.
Saint Cyrus was a physician from Alexandria. When he cured people, he would tell them that if they wanted to remain in good health, they should resist temptation. Many sicknesses, he believed, were caused by a person’s sins. He did not cure people by the use of medicine, but in the name of Christ and by reading from the Holy Scriptures. In this manner he converted many idolaters to Christianity and strengthened the beliefs of those of his patients who were already Christians. The rulers at that time ordered that Cyrus be brought to trial for his treasonous teachings against the Roman Empire. Afraid of the outcome, Cyrus left Alexandria and went to a monastery located near the Persian Gulf. He became a monk and remained there. He reached such a high degree of virtue, that he could perform miracles simply by making the sign of the cross. In this way he could cure all types of maladies.
A soldier by profession, John was from a city called Edessa, located in Mesopotamia. He went to Jerusalem and heard of the miracles which had been attributed to Saint Cyrus. Arriving in Alexandria, he inquired about the Saint and was informed of his whereabouts. He then proceeded to the monastery where he also became a monk.
During this time, the persecutions against the Christians were taking place. A woman named Athanasia and her three daughters — Theodotis, 15, Theoktistis, 13, and Eudoxia, 11 — were imprisoned and tortured because of their Christian belief. They were imprisoned by the ruler of Syria who was named Syrianos. Cyrus and John heard of this and fearing that these women would yield to the tortures, decided to go and aid them. They realized that doing this would mean their own deaths. Their intent was to talk to these women and strengthen their faith.
Syrianos heard of the arrival of the two monks and ordered them to appear in court. He said to them, “Do you also believe in this man called Christ? You must denounce your belief in Him and sacrifice to the gods. If you fail to do this, you will be subjected to horrible tortures.” They responded by saying, “We are not in need of your honors, nor do we fear your tortures. We believe that Christ is the true God.”
When Syrianos heard this, he was angered and ordered that the three women be brought to witness the tortures. Cyrus and John, were beaten and their hair was burned off. Afterwards, vinegar and salt were rubbed over their wounds so that the pain would be even greater. The Saints underwent these tortures with great courage, which the onlookers admired.
Syrianos then had the women tortured in the same manner. They also faced the tortures with great courage. Seeing that these women persisted in their beliefs, Syrianos had them beheaded. Again, with promises and threats, he tried to convert Cyrus and John to idolatry (to have two monks denounce Christ would have been a great victory for paganism). Being unsuccessful, he had them beheaded also on January the 31st. Some pious people took their bodies and buried them in the Church of the Evangelist Mark. When Theodosi us the Great became Emperor of the Byzantine Empire, the Saints’ bodies were exhumed with honor and taken to Constantinople.
On this day, the memory of Athanasia and her three daughters is also commemorated.
Cyrus and John are considered Benevolent because they asked for no payment from the people they cured. They can also be considered Benevolent because they went of their own accord to protect Athanasia and her daughters when they refused to denounce Christ. They accepted no payments for their healings, because they prefered to be rewarded in the Kingdom of Heaven.
(Celebrated October 26).
Three-hundred years after the birth of Christ, Maximilian became Emperor of Rome and married the daughter of Diocletian. So impious was Maximilian, that he would execute anyone who mentioned the name of Christ to him. Many Christians would voluntarily go to him and confess their belief in Christianity and their love for Christ so that they could martyr in his name. One of these Christians was Saint Demetrios.
Demetrios was born in Salonika, Greece, in the year 270 A.D. His parents were very rich and respected in Macedonia. He was honored for his goodness and innocence, but more so for his appearance, for Demetrios was a very handsome young man. When he matured, he was taught the ways of a gentleman and an athlete, since these were very important studies at the time. Demetrios was well known for his strength, and for his good deeds in battle. He was so well noted for these, that Maximilian invited Demetrios to the palace to make him head of the armies of Thessaly.
Before Maximilian bestowed this honor upon him, Demetrios had pretended to be an idolater. Afterwards, however, he no longer hid the fact that he was a Christian. He made this known by teaching the Words of God and Christ. His teaching was not done secretly, but openly so that everyone would hear him. His major accomplishment was to plant the seed of respect in the souls of those he taught. He told them that man was made by God and that man was placed in Paradise to be happy and content; however, the devil made man disobey the will of God and this was why he was exiled from Paradise. God, to save mankind, sent his only begotten Son to Earth. Christ was born to the Virgin Mary and was a perfect man; He was crucified and resurrected; He ascended into Heaven and would come again to judge the living and the dead. This was the message of Saint Demetrios.
Demetrios found many people who believed his teachings. Many of the Greeks who heard him destroyed the idols which they worshipped; however, he considered his efforts worthless if he could not convince the people of Salonika to accept Christianity as their religion. The enemies of Demetrios were disturbed by his teachings because they saw Christianity growing; therefore, they would do anything to stop him. The best way to accomplish this, they decided, was to have Demetrios murdered.
Maximilian, returning to Rome after suppressing the spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire, stopped in Salonika. The enemies of Demetrios found this to bean opportunity to accomplish their evil deed. They told Maximilian about Demetrios’ teachings and that many Greeks in Salonika were converting to Christianity because of these teachings. Maximilian was grieved by what he had heard and asked that Demetrios be brought before him. Demetrios was found sitting on a rock teaching Christ’s words. He was seized and taken to Maximilian. Demetrios was willing to die for Christ and feared neither the men who accused him of treason nor Maximilian.
Demetrios was questioned about his beliefs and upon finding that he loved Christ more than Maximilian, the ruler decided to torture him. The Emperor hoped that Demetrios would change his ideas and had him imprisoned. Demetrios was taken from the palace and locked in the old palace bath in Salonika. While in this room, the Saint saw a large scorpion in front of him. The scorpion was preparing to sting when Demetrios made the sign of the cross and stepped on it. After this, an angel of the Lord appeared holding a golden wreath and said to Demetrios, “Hail Demetrios, soldier of Christ. Have courage and conquer your enemies.” The angel then placed the golden wreath on the head of Demetrios. He was filled with happiness and sorrow-happiness because of the event which had taken place and sorrow because he had not died for the Savior.
Since Maximilian believed in sacrifices to the gods and delighted sin bloodshed,, he decided to revive the ancient Greek tradition of the Pentathelon in Salonika. Lyaeus, an athletic giant, was the main contestant in these games. Lyaeus was extremely good in wrestling and had been victorious over many men. Maximilian decided to put Lyaeus against the Christians and called upon any Christian to fight thre giant as a representation of the Christian faith combating paganism. There was also a man in Salonika who was very young and handsome. His name was Nestor. Nestor was a good friend of Demetrios and was secretly a Christian. Seeing that Lyaeus was murdering many Christians and that Maximilian delighted in this, Nestor decided to fight the pagan giant. Nestor had another reason for fighting Lyaeus — he wanted to test the true strength of Christ. He secretly went to Demetrios’ cell, told him of his intentions, and asked Demetrios for his blessing so that he would have the strength to be victorious. Demetrios made the sign of the cross and prayed for Nestor. The Christian left the cell and went to the place where Lyaeus was wrestling. He asked Maximilian for his permission to fight the giant and it was granted. Nestor entered the arena drawing his dagger. Aiming carefully, he threw the dagger and hit Lyaeus in the heart. Maximilian asked Nestor what magic he had used to kill Lyaeus. The victor responded by saying that no magic was used, and that his strength was obtained from God. Maximilian was angered by this and ordered one of his guards, named Markius, to behead Nestor on the spot. Nestor was killed but the Church has not forgotten him, for Nestor was proclaimed a Saint for his sacrifice. His feast day is on October 27th.
When Maximilian heard that it was through the help of Demetrios that Lyaeus was killed, he ordered Demetrios executed. The soldiers went forth and stabbed Demetrios numerous times with their spears. The first spear stabbed him in his right side, the same place where the soldiers pierced Christ when he was on the cross. A friend of Demetrios, named Loupos, was present at the execution of the Saint. He removed the Saint’s scarf, robe, and a ring from his right hand and dipped these in the Saint’s blood. It is believed that for this reason these relics later performed many miracles. When Maximilian heard of this, he sent soldiers to behead Loupos and he was executed at a place called Trivounalion. Some other Christians went and secretly buried the body of Saint Demetrios in the same spot where he was martyred.
The Miracles of Saint Demetrios.
After the death of Maximilian, the Christian ruler, Constantine, came to power. Constantine had a soldier serving him, named Leontion, who was taken ill in Salonika. He was in such pain that he preferred to die rather than suffering any more with his sickness. Many doctors examined him, but none could find a cure. Leontion knew where the body of Saint Demetrios was buried and immediately went to that place. Upon his arrival, he was immediately cured. Being thankful for the redemption of his health, he paid to have the Church of Saint Demetrios built over the grave in Salonika. This church is still in existence and the Saint’s body is enshrined here. When Leontion was ordered by Constantine to go to another part of the Empire, he wanted to take part of the body of Saint Demetrios with him so that he could build a church elsewhere dedicated to the Saint. Saint Demetrios appeared to Leontion and told him not to separate the body and Leontion obeyed. He did take the ring, robe, and scarf from the tomb and placed them in a chest. When he was ready to leave Salonika, the river Danube had swelled and Leontion could not cross. The Saint appeared to him in his sleep and told him that he would be able to cross the river the next day. He also instructed him to hold the chest in his hand, and he and all who were with him would cross the river safely, which in fact took place the next day. When he arrived at his destination, he built another church dedicated to Saint Demetrios.
During Constantine’s reign, there was a bishop in an African city, who left by boat for his destination of Alexandria. While on route, the ship was captured by pirates and all the passengers, including the bishop, were sold to barbarians. His master was a wicked man and made the bishop carry fertilizer to the vineyards and gardens. The bishop thought of the irony of his experience; where holy head pieces once rested, he was now carrying fertilizer. Day and night he prayed to God for his freedom from this slavery. One night, Saint Demetrios mounted on a large horse, appeared to the bishop; however, the bishop did not know the horseman. The Saint asked him why he was disturbed and the bishop told him of the events which had transpired. The Saint ordered that he mount the horse with him; however, the bishop told him that he could not since he was in chains. The Saint demanded that he get up and mount the horse, and the bishop did. Miraculously, they found themselves in front of the church in Salonika where the body of Saint Demetrios was buried. The bishop was directed to go to the house of Demetrios after he had recovered from his wounds. He asked where he could find this house and the Saint told him that all he need do was ask for the house of Demetrios, Duke of Salonika. He was told that he would be sent home when he came to this house. When the bishop recovered, he asked some people where he could find the house of the Duke of Salonika. They laughed at him and told him that there was no such place; however, some more learned people, realized that the Saint must have performed some miracle, since every year on that day the Saint helped enslaved people. They questioned the bishop about his story and his identity. The bishop told them about the events which had occurred. The people told him that they would take him to church so that he could see Demetrios. When the bishop got to the church, he recognized Saint Demetrios in the icon as the person who had saved him and fell on his knees in prayer and thanks. When the bishop of Salonika heard about these events, he gave the bishop enough money to return home. He returned safely to his province, and sold all his belongings so that he could build a church dedicated to Saint Demetrios. The church was completed, except for one thing — the pulpit. They pulpit was missing because a high quality marble could not be found which caused the bishop to be extremely depressed. At that time there was a nobleman in Constantinople building a Church dedicated to Saints Minas, Victor, and Vincent. This man had sent a ship to the East to bring back marble columns. The ship which was to carry the marble columns to Constantinople docked in the bishop’s home port. That night, Saint Demetrios appeared to the bishop and told him of the ship which was docked in the harbor and of the marble which it contained. He instructed the bishop to go to the dock and speak to the captain. The bishop told the captain that he had heard about the marble and desired to purchase a portion of it; however, the captain claimed that he had none. The bishop bitterly returned home, but that night the Saint appeared and told him to again ask for the marble. The bishop again asked the captain, but again the captain denied having any marble. The third night, the Saint instructed the bishop to tell the captain the following: that there was a great deal of marble on board the ship, of cream, blue, green, red, and white colored pieces. He was also to tell the captain that the marble was destined for Constantinople to complete a church dedicated to Saints Minas, Victor, and Vincent; however, the church had been finished due to the captain’s long absence and the nobleman’s acquisition of other marble. Therefore, the bishop would be doing the captain a favor by buying the marble and thus finishing his own church. The next morning the bishop went to the captain and told him everything as the Saint had instructed. Upon hearing the news, the captain donated the marble for his salvation. I n this manner, the church was completed by the bishop, praising God and Saint Demetrios.
There had occurred a famine in Thessaly. All of Thessaly was starving, especially the people of Salonika. A ship was being filled with wheat elsewhere and one night Saint Demetrios appeared to the ship’s owner asking him where he intended to take the wheat. The owner responded by saying that he was planning to take the shipment to Flagklan. The Saint told him that the grain should go to Salonika, because of the famine there and the owner could get any price he asked. The Saint gave him three gold pieces as down-payment and told him that the rest would be given to him upon delivery. Other ships would deliver wheat to Flagklan, but only this ship would pass Salonika on its route. On the way to Salonika, the ship encountered a fierce storm and was in danger of sinking; however, the Saint appeared in front of the ship and guided it to Salonika safely. The inhabitants ran to the docks and bought the wheat. The ship-owner told the people of his experiences and together they praised Demetrios, Protector of Salonika.
After the Saint’s death, God wanted him glorified throughout the world; therefore, he made a sweet smelling ointment arise from his tomb. This is the reason he is called myrovlitis or the “sweet scented.” Many people still go to the tomb to receive this ointment, which replenishes itself. The ointment is capable of curing illnesses; thus people receive this with great faith. A hermit who lived on the nearby mountain of Solomon had heard about this ointment, but did not believe it. He believed that other Saints had martyred more than Demetrios and he could not accept the fact that God would honor Demetrios in such a manner. One night, in his dream, the hermit saw himself in Salonika in the Church of Saint Demetrios. In the church was a man who held the key to the tomb of the Saint. The hermit ordered him to open the tomb so that he could pay reverence to the Saint. After he had prayed, he noticed that the tomb was wet. The hermit turned to the caretaker and convinced him to dig underneath the tomb so that they could see where this ointment came from. They found a large coffin made of marble. Opening the coffin, they found the body of Saint Demetrios. From the wounds which had been made by the lances, came forth this sweet smelling ointment. So much ointment was flowing, that the caretaker became soaked with it. The hermit became so frightened that he would drown from the ointment that he yelled, “Saint Demetrios, help me.” At that moment, the hermit awoke to find his body and clothing soaked from the holy ointment. Immediately, the hermit left the mountain and went to Salonika. There he spent several days in the Church of Saint Demetrios. Afterwards, he returned to the mountain believing that Saint Demetrios was the greatest Saint of the Church.
A lord named Marianos once lived in Aviona. He was taken ill, and from hour to hour, the doctors did not know whether he would live or die. No doctor could cure this man for his entire body had filled with leprosy. One night, Saint Demetrios appeared to this lord and told him that he could not be cured by any conventional methods. The only way he could be cured was to go to the tomb of Saint Demetrios and experience the strength of God. Marianos went to the tomb and that night Saint Demetrios appeared to him and rubbed his body with the ointment. Marianos was cured immediately.
The great ruler Justinian planned to take a piece of the Saint’s body for his own salvation. He wanted to place it in his newly built Cathedral of Constantinople, Agia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), in which he had other holy relics. Therefore, he sent some of his trusted men to go to Salonika and exhume the Saint’s body. The men went to Salonika offering gifts to the people and to the Saint. They told the inhabitants of their mission. The inhabitants responded by telling them that none of them had the nerve to do such a thing, but if they dared, they could exhume the body. Justinian’s men began to dig and when they were half way to the coffin, a huge flame rose from where they dug and nearly burned them. Then the men heard a voice telling them not to dig any further. The men fell face down and prayed to the Saint not to burn them. Some time later, the men arose and took some of the dirt from the tomb and gave it to Justinian, telling him of the miracle they had seen.
Because of these and many other miracles, each year many people would gather in Salonika to celebrate the feast of Saint Demetrios and Saint Nestor. The Saracens had heard of this feast day and decided to attack the city during the celebration of Saint Nestor and take the inhabitants prisoners. The enemy ships landed in the port. Vesper services had just finished and the people had returned to their homes. Just then, the building which contained the tomb of Saint Demetrios caught fire. The people ran to extinguish the fire; however, others started to grab the silver and gold which was stored in the tomb. When the caretaker of the church saw this, knowing nothing of the invasion, he yelled to the people that the Saracens were at the walls so that he could disperse the crowd. When the people heard this, they ran to defend the city. The Saracens had started up the ladders to come over the walls. Saint Demetrios appeared at the walls and defeated the Saracens by a miracle. The Salonikans returned to their homes contemplating the events which had occurred and some even prayed to Saint Demetrios for forgiveness.
Michael Comninos, Emperor of Constantinople, was a peace loving man and loved to see the magnificence of his city and its people. He, therefore, ordered that a beautiful robe be made for him to wear on feast days and other special occasions. It was to be decorated with precious stones. After a long time and great expense, the robe was finished. It was truly magnificent. The stones shone like thousands of stars in the night. The Emperor stored this robe in the city’s treasury building and planned to wear it for the first time on Easter. On Holy Saturday, Saint Demetrios took the robe and went to Salonika with it. He placed it in his tomb and covered his body from head to foot. When the guards of the treasury found that the robe was missing, they were extremely frightened and informed the Emperor.
Only the robe was missing from the treasury. Meanwhile, the caretakers had gone into the Tomb of Saint Demetrios in Salonika. Astonished, they saw the robe on the tomb and stood in awe admiring its beauty. They hastened out of the tomb and told the people of the beautiful robe, who in turn ran to see it. They all agreed that the robe must belong to royalty. A letter was sent to Cominos telling him about the robe and its composition. Cominos wanted to know the exact time the robe had been found. He was given this information and discovered that the guards of the treasury had discovered that the robe was missing at the same time. The amazed Emperor recounted the miracle of the Saint to the citizens of the city. Realizing that the Saint was trying to show him that he was a selfish man, he gave the robe to the Church.
Towards the eastern end of the city of Salonika, there is a place rich in beauty. The citrus trees are plentiful and the air is very clean. There is also a fountain there which has fresh water flowing from a mountain spring. In this beautiful place a noble Christian built a church dedicated to Saint Demetrios. This fountain was included in the church. Around the church he built many cells which were inhabited by monks. The Emperor of Constantinople had sent a man to take charge of the city of Salonika. He was pious, just, merciful, compassionate, and very wise. Unfortunately, the man was ill. The illness left him paralyzed. With time, his skin began to rot and he experienced unbearable pain. One night Saint Demetrios appeared to him. He told him to go to the church and rub his entire body with water from the fountain. The next day some of his friends took the man to the church. As soon as the man washed himself with the water, he was completely cured. The miracle was announced to the entire city and from then on the fountain was called “Armoumeni.”
In Dracontion, a village of Cappadocia, a farmer was clearing his fields. In one part of the field, he found many rocks which are common to that area. They were part of the foundation of a building, but had been covered by dirt. He started to destroy the foundation. Suddenly, a beautiful church with a man standing in front of it appeared to the farmer. The vision asked the farmer why he was destroying a man’s home and he told him that he was Demetrios of Salonika (Demetrios was a very honored Saint in Cappadocia). When the farmer heard this he went running to his home and told his relatives of the happening. They went to the spot where the farmer had been clearing and decided that this must have been a church dedicated to Saint Demetrios. In time, they built a church at this spot, to the best of their ability, and placed a large cross inside. This cross was placed there so that people could gain faith the same way Saint Demetrios gained his strength and faith from the cross. An icon was painted of Saint Demetrios with the cross. Thus, this icon and the church were named “Saint Demetrios of the Cross.”
This was the martyrdom of Saint Demetrios and some of his miracles, a Saint worthy of the praise bestowed upon him by the Church. He is considered to be the patron Saint of the city of Salonika.
(Celebrated December 24).
During the reign of King Commodus, around 270 A.D., there was a proud and rich Eparch in Alexandria named Philip. He and his wife, Claudia, had two sons, Avitan and Sergion, and a daughter named Eugenia. The Greek word “eugenia” means politeness; her name was befitting to her since she was extremely polite and had a high regard for her fellow human beings.
Philip was the ruler of all Egypt. Even though he was an idolater, Philip ruled his province with wisdom and justice. He loved the good people and hated the wicked. Realizing that the Christians were harmless, he did not persecute them; however, to avoid trouble, he did not allow them to live inside the walls of the cities. Therefore, Christian communities of Egypt were located outside of the walls of the cities.
Eugenia was educated in Latin and Greek. By the time she had reached the age of fifteen, she was so well educated that she was envied and admired by all. There was an Eparch in Rome named Achillinus who had also heard of Eugenia’s wisdom and politeness. He, therefore, approached her father and asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage. When Eugenia heard of this, she refused to marry him for she did not want to sacrifice her virginity to a mortal man. She acquired this idea from the Christian readings which favored women to be the unwed brides of Christ. From these readings also, she believed that Christianity was superior to paganism.
After reading one of the Epistles of Saint Paul, she became convinced that there was one God who ruled the whole universe and that he had sent his only begotten Son to Earth to save his people. Fearfully, she kept her beliefs secret from her parents. She asked their permission to leave the city and visit its outlying villages so that she could know the province better. She entered a carriage with her two eunuchs, Protas and Iakinthos, who guarded her. Both knew Greek for they sat with her during her lessons. They arrived at the place where the Christians lived and entered the church just as the priest was reading the words of a prophet, which said, ‘The gods of the nations are spirits. The true God of Heaven is the creator of all things.” She turned to her eunuchs and said, “Even though you are educated in the ways of Aristotle and Plato, you should realize that the basis of their teachings and religion are mythology. I find it easier to believe that there is one God rather than many major and minor gods; therefore, I am changing my faith to Christianity. If you find the Christian philosophy believable, follow me and find your salvation. If you follow me, I will not consider you servants any longer, but brothers, who are bonded by the love of our great Father, the creator of all.”
The eunuchs decided to follow her and swore never to leave her side. During the night, the three left the carriage, hidden from the other servants by the darkness of night. After walking a great distance, she turned to her eunuchs and said, “I have heard that there is a monastery not far from here. There are many Christians gathered there who have as their bishop a man called Eleon. He has elected a man, Theodore, to run the monastery and to guide the monks to the road of salvation. Women are not allowed to enter the monastery; therefore, cut my hair and give me male garments so that we may go and become part of this holy brotherhood.” She felt that the monks would not question her, thinking that she also was a eunuch.
They entered the monastery and went to Theodore. Just then they saw a procession of Christians coming from the city of Heliopolis. Eugenia asked a monk, named Evtropios, who was leading the procession. She was informed that it was Eleon. He was in Heliopolis to disprove a man named Zaran who said that Eleon was spurious. Eugenia asked Evtropios to take them to Eleon so that they could become monks. He told them to wait, for Eleon would be very tired and would want to sleep. After returning to the monastery, Eleon performed a liturgy. Afterwards as he slept, he dreamt that a statue of a woman was being held up by two men. All the people were worshipping the statue. He asked the idol why she allowed people to worship her since she was a worker of God. The idol came down from the platform which the people had her on and said to Eleon, “I will not distinguish you from the rest, I will lead you to my Creator.” He awoke and was met by Eutropios who informed him that there were three very young men outside who wanted to become monks and remain at the monastery for the rest of their lives. “Since they are very young, they request that you allow them to work together in the monastery.” Eleon now understood the meaning of his dream and asked Eutropios to show them in. When they came before him, Eleon asked them who they were and what they wanted. Eugenia responded by telling him that they were from Rome and that they were brothers. She told him that the other two were named Protas and Iakinthos and that her name was Eugenius. Eleon then told Eugenius that God had prepared him for her arrival. He told her of his admiration, since it took a great amount of love for God to make a woman change her appearance and ways, so that she could serve Him in a monastery. Assuring her that her secret was safe with him and that she could serve God for the rest of her life in the monastery, Eleon then turned to Protas and Iakinthos and commended them for following their mistress and helping her in serving God. He then took the three, baptized them, and made them monks. Meanwhile, the carriage returned to Alexandria and Eugenia’s parents, brothers, and servants went to greet her. To their astonishment, the carriage was empty. Her relatives wept and declared a period of mourning throughout Alexandria. They sent soldiers throughout the countryside to find her. Seeing that his daughter could not be found, Philip went to the priests of the pagans and asked them to perform a service and have the gods tell them what had happened to Eugenia. If they succeeded, they would be rewarded, if they failed, they would be put to death. The priests in order to save themselves, told Philip that Eugenia had been lifted into heaven and made a goddess. When Philip heard this he was comforted. He erected a gold statue of his daughter in Alexandria and all people who were pagans worshipped and sacrificed to the new goddess.
Eugenia surpassed all the other monks in her understanding and practice of the holy and monastic laws. God gave her the gift of performing miracles. She cured all who came to her no matter what the affliction.
During the third year of her monastic life, the abbott of the monastery died. The other monks, seeing her great and many attributes, requested that Eugenius take his place. After a great amount of consideration, Eugenius accepted the position.
There was a rich and noble woman in Alexandria named Melanthia. She became very ill and no physician could cure her. Hearing of the fame of the monk Eugenius, she went to the monastery hoping to be cured. The Saint anointed her with Holy Oil and she was cured. After leaving the monastery, Melanthia filled three cups with silver and sent them to Eugenius as an expression of her gratitude. Eugenius returned the silver to her explaining that the monks had no need for money; however, Eugenius requested that the money be distributed among the poor. Melanthia went personally to see Eugenius and begged him to take the money. Eugenius accepted it so that there would not be hard feelings. After this, Melanthia frequently went to visit the Abbot out of her great love and respect for him. Unfortunately, this spiritual love became physical. (Melanthia, as did everyone else, believed that Eugenius was a man). As the days went on, her lust grew stronger. She requested Eugenius to visit her in Alexandria because she was ill again. Eugenius, thinking that he had not cured her, willingly went. He arrived in Alexandria and in her room Melanthia said to him, “Since the time you cured me of my illness, I have developed a great love for you. If I appeal to you, marry me and you will take charge of all my wealth.” After saying this, Melanthia tried to lure Eugenius to her. Eugenius was outraged and told her that his bond was with Christ, and his riches were in Heaven.
Melanthia, fearing that Eugenius would expose her, went to Philip, the Eparch of Alexandria. She told him that a Christian had tried to rape her and if she had not screamed, he would have succeeded. Philip ordered that the abbot be brought to Alexandria in chains so that he could suffer a horrible death. Hearing of this, many people from the outlying parts of Egypt came to watch the trial. Eugenius was brought before the people and found guilty. The soldiers began to prepare the tortures.
Philip asked Eugenius, “Is it this kind of act that your Christ teaches you to do? Is it right for a man to prostitute himself in public? What kind of person would go to the home of a respectable woman under the pretence of curing her and then force himself upon her?” Eugenius responded, “A wise ruler would listen to both sides of a story before passing judgement. Then if you find me guilty, I will welcome my death. However, if Melanthia is found guilty, I beg of you not to torture her, for this is our Christian law.”
Melanthia then brought one of her servants who verified her story. Seeing that everyone believed Melanthia, Eugenia explained, “It is time for the truth to be known. I would have gladly accepted the crown of martyrdom, but I refuse to defame the habit which I wear. Many women have changed their appearance in order to serve God. I have done the same so that I could avoid the corruption of mankind.” She then stripped to the waist and showed the people that she was a woman. She turned to Philip and told him that she was his daughter, Eugenia. The whole city rejoiced and proclaimed Christ as the true Savior. They dressed Eugenia in golden robes and sat her on a high throne so that all the people could be inspired by her. A heavenly bolt of lightening killed Melanthia and destroyed her home. Many pagans changed their faith because of this. Philip was baptized a Christian and ordered all the Christians to reside within the city.
The Emperor then sent a man called Terention to replace Philip as Eparch of Alexandria. He was instructed to secretly kill Philip so that he would not be an inspiration to the other citizens. Terention paid several men who stabbed Philip while he was praying. So that the population would not revolt against him, Terention arrested and imprisoned these murderers; however, shortly afterwards a pardon was issued by the Emperor. Philip lived three days after receiving his fatal wounds. He had been Archbishop of Alexandria for one year and three months. Subsequently, he was buried with honors outside the city in a church which he had founded and Eugenia, Clavdia, Protas, Iakinthos, and Eugenia’s brothers went to Rome.
Many noblemen sent their daughters to Eugenia who would teach them the advantages of virginity and respectability for God. Among these girls was one named Basilla. She wanted more than anything else to emulate Eugenia. Her uncle, however, was an idolater and would not allow her to leave her home until she was married. Secretly, she sent a letter to Eugenia byway of her servant, Porthemia. The letter asked for the Articles of Faith. Eugenia, realizing that the Articles were more easily read then applied, sent Protas and Iakinthos disguised as servants to go to the home of Basilla and teach her the ways of Christianity. Cornellius, the Archbishop of Rome was also notified and he secretly went and baptized Basilla.
Valerius and Gallius then became the ruler of the Roman Empire. They immediately started a campaign to suppress Christianity. Basilla and Eugenia became closer than actual sisters. One night they each dreamt that the other had received the crown of martyrdom. Knowing that they would never see each other again, they kissed each other on the cheek and departed. A servant of Pompeion, Basilla’s uncle, went to Elenos, Basilla’s fiance, and told him of Basilla’s becoming a Christian. Elenos in turn went to Pompeion and told him. They decided the wedding would take place immediately. Pompeion went to Basilla, but she refused to marry. He, therefore, sent some men who told the Emperor that the Christians were defying the gods, obstructing marriages, and worshipping the God whom Eugenia had brought with her from Alexandria. The Emperor wrote a letter demanding that Basilla marry Elenos. If she refused, she would be executed. They also ordered Eugenia to sacrifice to the gods. If she refused, she also would be executed.
Upon hearing this, Basilla refused to marry and was immediately beheaded. Protas and Iakinthos were taken to the Ternple of Zeus so that they could make a sacrifice to the Gods. While they were in the temple, they prayed to the true God. When they finished praying, the idols which were in the temple fell and were smashed. The high priests had the men beheaded. Eugenia was taken to the temple of Artemis. She made the sign of the cross and prayed. Upon doing this, the temple collapsed. The Emperor ordered that Eugenia be thrown into the Tiber River with a rock tied to her; however, instead of sinking, she walked on the water, as did Saint Peter. She was then taken and thrown in a pit of burning coal; the fire lost its heat and instead of burning Eugenia, it cooled her. Seeing that this also failed, they placed Eugenia in prison, hoping to starve her to death. While in prison, she was fed by the angels who gave her a loaf of bread each day. Christ himself visited Eugenia in prison and informed her that she would soon join Him in the Kingdom of Heaven. A few hours after this, soldiers came and slaughtered Eugenia on the 25th of December. Her mother and brothers took her holy body and buried it on the Roman Road, where many other martyrs were buried.
Due to the 25th of December being Christmas, the feast day of Saint Eugenia is celebrated on the 24th of December. On this day we also commemorate the memories of Basilla, Philip, Protas, and Iakinthos.
(Celebrated September 16).
Across from Constantinople, where the Sea of Marmara ends at Asia Minor, is the ancient and historic city of Chalcedon. Here, in the year 288 A.D., there ruled a God-fearing Emperor and Empress named Philophos and Theodosia. They were considered great philanthropists by the citizens, for they gave money to the poor, housed orphans, fed the hungry and took care of the elderly. To these exemplary Christians a daughter was born who was named Euphemia. She was a highly educated girl, raised by the highest of Christian standards. The Holy Scriptures never left her hands. Soon, forty-nine students were studying Christianity under her tutelage. All the citizens of the city admired her for her wisdom, humility, and simplicity.
When Euphemia was fifteen years of age, in the year 303 A.D., the Emperor Diocletian issued his edict that all Christians who did not sacrifice to the pagan gods, would be submitted to macabre tortures. During this reign of terror, thousands of martyrs died for their Christian beliefs. Some of these martyrs were Saint Demetrios, Saint George, Saint Orestes, Saint Theodore Tyron, Saint Catherine, Saint Anastasia, Saint Barbara, and many others.
As his personal representative, Diocletian sent an idolater named Priscus to govern Chalcedon and to enforce his edict. When he arrived in Chalcedon, this governor ordered everyone to make a sacrifice to the god Aris, the protector of the city. To avoid this sacrilege, hundreds of Christians fled the city, and hid either in the wilderness or in the outlying areas of the city. Among these refugees, was Euphemia and her forty-nine pupils.
One of the idolaters of Chalcedon discovered Euphemia’s hiding place and reported this to Priscus. The governor sent soldiers who captured and brought them to the palace. Discovering that these Christians had no intentions of sacrificing to Aris, Priscus ordered his soldiers to submit them to twenty days of torture. After this period, the forty-nine students were imprisoned with the intention of sending them to Rome so that Diocletian could execute them.
Saint Euphemia, being more steadfast in her beliefs than the others, was submitted to further tortures. She was placed on the iron wheel until her arms and legs were nearly wrenched from her body. Being in great pain, the Saint began to pray, asking God to help her in her time of need. While the Saint was praying, she was not only freed from this torture, but her wounds also miraculously healed.
Determined to break the Saint, Priscus had a furnace heated until the fire blazed. As he prepared to throw the Saint into the furnace, the fire died. Two servants, Victor and Sosthenes, who were to throw the Saint into the blaze, saw an angel extinguish the flames. They realized that Christ was omnipotent and refused to take part in the execution. Two other servants, Ceasar and Vicarius, were instructed to complete the execution. Upon throwing the Saint into the furnace, the servants were severely burned by the flames, however, the blazing inferno amazingly cooled the Saint.
Euphemia was placed in prison until Priscus determined what her next torture would be. Victor and Sosthenes proclaimed their belief in Christ to the tyrant who, in turn, immediately had them thrown to the lions where they received the crown of martyrdom. Euphemia was tied to a skewer and turned over hot coals. Again, by the grace of God, the Saint was not harmed. Finally, Saint Euphemia was thrown to wild beasts and died. This occurred on the 16th of September, 304 A.D. The moment the Saint died, an earthquake rocked the entire city.
In 305 A.D., the Emperor Diocletian relinquished his throne and in 307, Constantine the Great became sole ruler of the Roman Empire. The first Church to be built in Constantinople after Constantine came to power was dedicated to Saint Euphemia and was built in the Phanari area of the city, near the present Patriarchate. In 328, a large Church was built to honor this Saint on the same spot where a temple had once been dedicated to the goddess Artemis. Her body was exhumed from the place where her parents had buried her and placed in a hand tooled silver coffin in this large Church. Saint Euphemia was proclaimed the Patron Saint of Chalcedon. An artist of the city painted an icon of the Saint showing her as a humble servant of God dressed in dark clothing representing her wisdom.
Many miracles have been attributed to Saint Euphemia, however, only two will be related here because of their importance to the church. In the year 451, the Fourth Ecumenical Synod was held in city of Chalcedon. Six-hundred and thirty holy fathers attended the Council, which was held in the Church of Saint Euphemia to discuss the heresy of the monophysites. This group of heretics said that Christ had but one nature, the Divine, and thus rejected the fact that Christ was also man. According to the history of Saint Euphemia, the orthodox fathers wrote their beliefs in one book while the heretics wrote their beliefs in another. To determine the truth, both were placed on the chest of the Saint’s holy body and the coffin was sealed. After three days and nights of fasting, praying and chanting by both sides, the coffin was again opened. Astoundingly, the book containing the orthodox writings was clutched in the hands of the Saint, while the book containing the writings of the heretics was at the Saint’s feet. In this way, the Saint proved that the orthodox way was the way of truth. However, the heresy was never completely suppressed. These events were related by Bishop Tyanon, one of the holy fathers who was in attendance at the Council.
The second miracle occurred annually for many years on the Feast Day of the Holy Martyr. A sweet smelling myrrh with fresh blood would emerge from the Saint’s relics. The Emperor, the Patriarch, clergy, and laity would go each September 16th to see the miracle of the Virgin Saint. The Patriarch, along with the clergy, would approach the coffin with a sponge mounted on a long pole. The sponge would fill with the holy mixture from the Saint’s body. It would then be distributed among the faithful in vials. The blood would remain fresh, the myrrh, sweet-smelling.
The body of the Saint remained in this large Church, which had been built by Saint Constantine, until the Emperor Copronimus ruled the Byzantine Empire. Being an extremely impious ruler, he desecrated the Church of Saint Euphemia and intended to burn her relics along with the carcasses of animals. Several Christians managed to save the body and took it to the island of Lemnos. In 783, the Empress Irene the Athenian had the body returned to Constantinople and replaced in the original Church. When the Franks conquered Constantinople they murdered women, children and old people. They also destroyed Churches and sold the bodies and relics of the Saints. Again the body of Saint Euphemia was saved and taken to the town of Sylivrian in eastern Thrace. In the year 1707, Patriarch Gennadios, the Scholarian, had the body of Saint Euphemia along with those of two other Saints brought to the Church of the Patriarchate, where they remain to this day.
The litany of Saint Euphemia was written by Patriarch Gregory the Fifth, who was martyred by the Turks for his beliefs during the Greek War of Independence in 1821. The original Church of Saint Euphemia was destroyed in 1555, by the Turks and on the spot a mosque was erected. The Christians of the city were able, however, to save the iconostasis and its icons before the Church was destroyed. In addition they saved books, heirlooms, other icons, and the wheel and skewer on which the Saint was tortured. All of these were taken to the Byzantine monastery of Saint Bassis, near the port of Chalcedon. Since the Saint was the Patron Saint of the city and because her Church had been destroyed, they renamed the monastery Saint Euphemia. The body of the Saint released its holy myrrh and blood until the year 1870. However, vials containing these miraculous substances still exist. The Church was enlarged in the years 1694 and 1820. The icons which are of extremely fine Byzantine quality, have been covered over with silver. Two of the original icons from the old Church are in the Church of Saint George and the icon of the Virgin of Chalcedon is in the Church of the Holy Trinity in Chalcedon.
Forty Martyrs of Sebaste.
When the pagan Licinius ruled the eastern half of the Roman empire (307-323 AD), it was his evil intent to eliminate Christianity from the lands under his control, and especially, for fear of treason, among the troops. One of his supporters was a cruel man by the name of Agricola who commanded the forces in the Armenian town of Sebaste, in what is now eastern Turkey. Among his soldiers were forty devout Christians who wielded equally well the sword of battle and the sword of the spirit which is the word of God (Eph. 6:17). These men formed an elite bodyguard. When it came to Agricola’s attention that they were Christians, he determined to force them to renounce their’ faith and bow down to the pagan gods. He gave them two alternatives:
“Either offer sacrifice to the gods and earn great honors, or, in the event of your disobedience, be stripped of your military rank and fall into disgrace.”
The soldiers were thrown into jail to think this over. That night they strengthened themselves singing psalms and praying. At midnight they were filled with holy fear upon hearing the voice of the Lord: “Good is the beginning of your resolve, but he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 10:22).
The next morning Agrricola summoned them once again. This time he tried to persuade them by flattering words, praising their valor and their handsomeness. When the soldiers remained unmoved, they were again thrown into prison for a week to await the arrival of Licius, a prince of some authority.
During this time they prepared themselves for the trial of martyrdom. One of them, Cyrion by name, exhorted his fellow soldiers:
“God so ordained that we made friends with each other in this temporary life; let us try not to separate even in eternity; just as we have been found plea sing to a mortal king, so let us strive to be worthy of the favor of the immortal King, Christ our God.”
Cyrion reminded his comrades in arms how God had miraculously helped them in time of battle and assured them that He would not forsake them now in their battle against the invisible enemy. When Licius arrived, the soldiers marched to the interrogation singing the psalm, “O God, in Thy name save me” (Ps. 53), as they always did when entering upon the field of contest.
Licius repeated Agricola’s arguments of persuasion, alternating between threats and flattery. When he saw that words were of no avail, he ordered the soldiers sent to jail while he thought up a form of torture sure to change their minds.
After prayers that night, for a second time the soldiers heard the voice of the Lord:
“He who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live. Be bold and have no fear of short-lived torment which soon passes; endure…that you may receive crowns.”
The next day the soldiers were led to a lake. It was winter and a frosty wind was blowing. The soldiers were stripped of their clothes and ordered to stand through the night in the freezing waters. A guard was set to watch over them. In order to tempt the holy warriors of Christ, warm baths were set up on the side of the lake. Anyone who agreed to sacrifice to the idols could flee the bitterly cold waters and warm his frozen bones in the baths. This was a great temptation which in the first cruel hour of the night overpowered one of the soldiers. Scarcely had he reached the baths, however, than he dropped to the ground and died.
Seeing this, the rest of the soldiers prayed the more earnestly to God: “Help us, O God our Saviour, for here we stand in the water and our feet are stained with our blood; ease the burden of our oppression and tame the cruelty of the air; O Lord our God — on Thee do we hope, let us not be ashamed, but let all understand that we who call upon Thee have been saved.”
Their prayer was heard. In the third hour of the night a warm light bathed the holy martyrs and melted the ice. By this time all but one of the guards had fallen asleep. The guard who was still awake had been amazed to witness the death of the soldier who had fled to the baths and to see that those in the water were still alive. Now, seeing this extraordinary light, he glanced upward to see where it came from and saw thirty-nine radiant crowns descending onto the heads of the saints, immediately, his heart was enlightened by the knowledge of the Truth. He roused the sleeping guards and, throwing off his clothes, ran into the lake shouting for all to hear, “I am a Christian too!” His name was Aglaius, and he brought the number of martyrs once again to forty.
The next morning the evil judqes came to the lake and were enraged to find that not only were the captives still alive, but that one of the guards had joined them. The martyrs were then taken back to prison and subjected to torture; the bones of their legs were crushed by sledge-hammers. The mother of one of the youngest, Heliton, stood by and encouraged them to endure this trial. To their last breath the martyrs sang out, “Our help is in the name of the Lord,” and they all gave up their souls to God. Only Meliton remained alive, though barely breathing.
Taking her dying son upon her shoulders, the mother followed the cart on which the bodies of the soldiers were being taken to be burned. When her son at last gave up his soul, she placed him on the cart with his fellow athletes of Christ.
The funeral-pyre burned out leaving only the martyrs’ bones. Knowing that Christians would collect these relics to the eternal glory of the martyrs and their God, the judges ordered them to be thrown into the nearby river. That night, however, the holy martyrs appeared to the blessed bishop of Sebaste and told him to recover the bones from the river. Together with some of his clergy, the bishop went secretly that night to the river where the bones of the martyrs shone like stars in the water, enabling them to be collected to the very last fragment. So also do the holy martyrs shine like stars in the world, encouraging and inspiring believers everywhere to be faithful to Christ even to the end.
(Celebrated February 26).
This great martyr of Christ was the Samaritan woman who conversed with Christ at the well of Jacob. The story is related to us in the Gospel of the Evangelist John. With her two sons and five sisters, she was baptized after Pentecost. They followed the Apostles and preached the Faith of Christ, thus converting many idolaters to the true faith.
The great persecutions against the Christians started in the year 66 A.D. under the Emperor Nero and, after the death of the Apostles Peter and Paul, Nero wanted to murder the rest of the Apostles and all those who believed in Christ. Little did they realize that the more they tried to erase the name of Christ from the face of the earth, the more they strengthened the people’s faith in Him.
When the persecutions first began, Saint Fotini and her youngest son, Joseph, were in Carthage (a famous city in Africa) teaching the Gospel of Christ. Her oldest son, Victor, was a soldier in the Roman army, and was stationed in Rome. Because of his courageous deeds during the war between the Romans and the Arabs, he was made a general by Nero. Not knowing that Victor was a Christian, Nero sent him to Southern Italy to persecute the Christians. Sebastian, the Duke of Southern Italy, told Victor that he knew that he was a Christian and advised him to do as Nero had ordered so that he would not endanger his life. Victor told Sebastian that he would not endanger his own life, but that he would, nevertheless, obey the will of the Immortal King and not that of a tyrant. Sebastian told him to reconsider and also to advise his mother and brother to stop their preaching. Upon saying this, the Duke was blinded and lost his voice. He was filled with severe pain. Some by-standers lifted him up and placed him on a bed where he remained for three days. After the third day he yelled, “I believe in the God of the Christians.” Victor came and baptized him. After emerging from the baptismal font, Sebastian regained his sight and praised God. Those idolaters who were present feared that the same might happen to them and went to Victor to be baptized.
Stories of these events reached Nero. He was also told that Victor and Sebastian were spreading the teachings of Peter and Paul, and that Victor’s mother and brother were doing the same in Carthage. Nero sent a battalion of soldiers to Southern Italy to arrest the Christians and bring them to Rome. Christ appeared to these Christians before the soldiers arrived and told them to have faith, and they would be rewarded in His Kingdom. He appeared to Victor separately and told him that from that day forth he would be known as Fotinos, instead of Victor, for he had bestowed the true light upon many people. (Fotinos is the Greek word for someone who sheds light.).
Christ also appeared to Saint Fotini in Carthage. She left Carthage with a large number of Christians and went to Rome where they continued to teach Christianity. Several days after their arrival in Rome, Saint Fotini and her followers met Fotinos and Sebastian. Along with many Christians they went before Nero who asked them why they came to Rome. Fotini informed him that they had come to teach him to believe in Christ. Fotinos and Sebastian told Nero that they were willing to die for their beliefs. The Emperor turned to Saint Fotini and asked who the others who accompanied her were. She told him that the women were her sisters Anatoli, Foto, Fotis, Paraskevi, Kyriaki, and that the man was her youngest son, Joseph. Nero then asked if they had all agreed to die for the Nazarene. Fotini told him that they had. The order was then given to the soldiers to crush iron balls against the joints of their fingers. This torture lasted for hours, however, the Saints felt no pain, nor were their fingers crushed.
So shocked was Nero when he heard this, that he ordered the soldiers to cut off the hands of the Saints. The soldiers tied the Saints’ hands to a cutting board and tried seven times to sever them. Instead, they became paralyzed and fell to the ground as if dead. Relentlessly, Nero began to consider ways in which to conquer the Saints. He ordered that the men be placed in a dark prison. Fotini and her sisters were taken to the treasury and were presented with a great amount of gold. Nero ordered his daughter, Domina, to go with her servants and talk with the Saints. When Domina arrived in the treasury, Fotini discovered that the Princess was also a Christian. Afterwards, the royal daughter and her servants were baptized by Saint Fotini and her sisters. Domina’s name was changed to Anthousa and her head servant’s name was changed to Stephanida. Saint Anthousa then took all the gold in the treasury and distributed it among the poor.
When Nero discovered what had occurred, he was enraged and ordered that a furnace be heated for seven days. After the seventh day, Fotini and the others were placed within the furnace and there they remained for three days. Thinking that he had burnt the Saints, Nero ordered that they open the furnace and throw the bones into the river. However, when the grates were opened, they found all the Saints in perfect health and praising God for the miracle. When the Romans heard of this miracle, even they praised God. Nero was outraged and ordered that the Saints be poisoned. A chemist named Lampadios was ordered to make the poison. Saint Fotini was the first to drink the poison and the rest drank after her. None of them felt any effects. Lampadios was amazed and told the Saint that he had a much stronger poison and that if they drank it and were not harmed, he too would believe in Christ. After the Saints drank this poison without being harmed, he took all his sorcerer’s books, burned them, and was then baptized and renamed Theoclitos. Upon hearing this, Nero ordered that Theoclitos be taken outside the walls of the city and beheaded. This was done immediately and Theoclitos received the wreath of immortality from Christ.
The Emperor continued his hideous tortures; however, the results were again negative. It was then ordered that lead and sulphur should be boiled and poured into the Saints’ ears. With Divine Help, the Saints remained unharmed. Nero was amazed. Soldiers were then ordered to cut out the eyes of the Saints and throw the Christians into a dark prison, which was filled with poisonous snakes. When the Saints entered the prison, all the snakes died. Instead of a stench, a sweet fragrance lingered in the air, and instead of darkness in the cell, there was bright light. Suddenly Christ appeared unto the Saints and said, “Peace be with you.” He took Saint Fotini by the hand and said to her, “I am always with you. Never fear, instead, always be happy.” Christ gave them back their sight and they saw and praised their Master. He gave them courage and ascended into heaven.
The Saints remained in prison for three years, for the Romans often forgot their prisoners or did not bother to open the cells believing that the inmates were dead. After the third year, the guards had passed by the cell to free one of Nero’s servants. They discovered that the Saints lived and were in good health. The soldiers informed Nero that the blinded Galileans were alive, well, and had regained their sight. They also told him that the prison had become a house of God and that many pagans went there to be baptized and taught the Christian religion. Nero was shocked when he heard this and summoned the Saints before him. Fotini told Nero that they would never stop teaching Christianity. The Emperor then ordered that the Saints be crucified up-side-down for eight days and that their bodies be torn with iron claws until the joints were destroyed. On the eighth day, the executioners came to see whether the Saints were still alive. As they gazed upon their victims, they were blinded. An angel of the Lord descended and freed the Saints and left them in perfect health.
Saint Fotini cured the executioners of their blindness and they in turn believed in Christ and were baptized. Nero was furious when he heard of this and ordered that Saint Fotini be cut all over her body and then thrown into a dried well. Saints Sebastian, Fotinos, and Joseph were also cut and thrown into an old bath house. Nero ordered his soldiers to amputate the breasts of the five sisters of Saint Fotini; however, Saint Fotis would not allow the soldiers near her. Nero was angered at her bravery and had her executed. He had two tree tops bent and tied to the feet of the Saint. When the ropes which held the tree tops were cut, Saint Fotis was split in half. Nero then had all the other Saints, except for Saint Fotini beheaded. Saint Fotini was placed in prison. She was extremely depressed because she had not received the crown of martyrdom as had her other companions. Soon she saw a vision of Christ who made the sign of the cross to her. Several days later she died in prison.
On February 26th, we celebrate the memory of Saint Fotini and the other Saints:
Saint Anatoli, the second sister of Saint Fotini Saint Fotos, the third sister of Saint Fotini Saint Fotis, the fourth sister of Saint Fotini Saint Paraskevi, the fifth sister of Saint Fotini Saint Kyriaki, the sixth sister of Saint Fotini Saint Fotinos; the oldest son of Saint Fotini Saint Joseph, the youngest son of Saint Fotini Saint Sebastian, the Duke of Southern Italy Saint Theoclitos, the chemist.
Saint George — the Great Martyr.
(Celebrated April 23).
This great miracle worker and martyr lived in the latter part of the third century A.D., during Diocletian’s rule of the Roman Empire. He originally came from the area of Cappadocia and was raised by very pious parents.
When Diocletian started his persecutions against the Christians, Saint George declared himself to be a Christian and thus denied the false idols. He suffered many tortures because of his belief, but never considered renouncing it.
The life of Saint George is a prime example of the life that each Christian should follow to obtain salvation.
Saint George, the Great Martyr, was raised in the Christian religion. His father himself was martyred for his faith. After his father’s death, George’s mother took him to Palestine where she had some farm land. At a young age, he served in the Roman army under the Emperor Diocletian and was commended many times for his excellent service to the Empire. From the rule of the Emperor Decian, until 284 A.D., when Diocletian became Emperor, the Christian Church went through a period of peace and prosperity. During that time, the Christians obtained important positions in the government, built many churches and schools, and organized the authoritative structure of the Church. Diocletian gave many of his loyal officers political positions so that he could have the military strength of his Empire on his side.
After Diocletian had suppressed the barbarian tribes which were attacking the Empire and after he had secured its borders, he began to concentrate on the Empire’s internal affairs. Diocletian believed that a state religion could keep an Empire united. Since paganism was the state religion, Diocletian focused his efforts toward the suppression of Christianity.
During the year 303 A.D., Diocletian summoned his aides to meet in Caesarea, a city of the Eastern Roman Empire. He held three general meetings with his aides, instructing them to persecute the Christians. Saint George, since he had shown his excellence while serving in the army, was among these aides. Diocletian asked them to pledge their allegiance to this cause by making pagan sacrifices as proof of their loyalty. All of the aides pledged their loyalty, except for the Saint. He stood in front of Diocletian and admitted his belief in Christianity, telling the monarch of the Christian teachings and the Godliness of the Crucified Nazarene. The Emperor ordered this Christian taken to prison and that a boulder be placed on his chest as a form of torture. The next morning Diocletian ordered that the prisoner be brought before him for questioning. George stood steadfast and told Diocletian of his belief in the riches of the Kingdom of Heaven. The Emperor then summoned the executioners to take the Saint and have him bound to the rim of a wheel set with sharp spikes. Diocletian admired the courage of the Saint and asked him to sacrifice to the gods to save himself. He refused Diocletion’s request and welcomed the chance to martyr for Christ, as his father had done. After praying to God, he heard a voice from heaven say, “Do not fear, George, I am with you.” With the help of Christ, the spiked wheel had no effect upon Saint George. When the Saint appeared before Diocletian not only was he unharmed, but an angelic aura had settled about him. Suddenly, two officers of the Roman army, Anatolios and Protoleon, appeared before Diocletian with two thousand soldiers. They admitted their belief in Christ and Diocletian had them all executed.
He then ordered his soldiers to dig a pit and fill it with lime. The Saint was then drenched with water and thrown into the pit. The water and lime would slowly destroy the Saint’s body. After three days, Diocletian instructed the soldiers to clear the pit. To the surprise of the soldiers and the Emperor, Saint George sat at the bottom of the pit unharmed. Diocletian demanded to know what type of magic George had used to escape his fate. George answered that he had not used any magic, but that he had been saved by the power of God.
The Emperor then ordered that iron sandals be tied to the feet of the Saint and that he be made to run. As he ran, he was beaten. One of Diocletian’s advisors, Magnentios, ordered George to perform a miracle. They happened to pass by a tomb of a man who had been dead for many years. Magnentios ordered George to resurrect this man to show the power of his God. After praying for a long time, he rolled the rock away from the tomb and resurrected the dead man. The by-standers praised the strength of Christ. Diocletian asked the resurrected man who he was and when he had died. He told Diocletian that he had lived before Christ had come on the Earth, and because he was an idolater, he had burned in the fires of Hell during all those years. Many idolaters were converted to Christianity because of this great miracle.
Among the people who glorified God and Saint George at the tomb was a farmer named Glecerios. Previously Saint George had resurrected this farmer’s oxen, his livelihood. Because the farmer was so outspoken, the soldiers murdered him and thus he received the crown of martyrdom.
The next day, Diocletian met with his noblemen to determine Saint George’s fate. They decided to beat the Saint mercilessly. The Saint nevertheless remained unharmed and retained his angelic appearance. Diocletian was convinced that all of George’s miracles were done by magic. He, therefore, called upon Athanasius the Magician to break this magic. Athanasius held two vials in his hands. If the Saint drank the first one, he would go insane, if he drank the second one he would die. The Saint took the first vial and prayed. He drank its contents and there was no effect. Diocletian still believed that George was a magician; however, Athanasius realized the strength of God and confessed his belief in the Christian God. Athanasius was immediately executed by Diocletian’s order. After seeing the miracles of Saint George, Diocletian’s wife, the Empress Alexandra, also confessed her belief in Christ. Diocletian imprisoned her. Saint George was returned to prison and dreamt that Christ told him that he would receive the crown of martyrdom and life eternal.
Once again George appeared before Diocletian who ordered that Saint George accompany him to the temple and sacrifice to the gods. When they arrived at the temple, Saint George made the sign of the cross and the idols were again destroyed. The people and the priests were furious and demanded that Diocletian have the Saint executed. Saint George was taken out of the city and as he turned his head toward the executioner, he was beheaded.
In the history of our Church, we find a myth related to a dragon and Saint George. This dragon threatened the idolaters in the area of Atalia. The people were forced to live inside the walls of their city. This prevented them from tending their fields and grazing their sheep. Every year, they would sacrifice a young girl to the dragon. When Saint George arrived in this area, the King’s daughter was about to be sacrificed. After subduing the dragon, Saint George placed a rope around its neck. He then gave the rope to the princess so that she could lead the beast back to the city. Thence, he slaughtered the terror and subsequently baptized thousands of the city’s inhabitants.
It is from the icon of Saint George that this myth came about. The icon depicts the Saint as an equestrian slaying the dragon with the princess in the background. The first iconographers of Saint George were probably trying to depict Satan as the dragon and Saint George conquering evil. Another explanation of this icon is that the artists were trying to depict Diocletian as the dragon and Saint George conquering him. The princess in the background could have been the Empress Alexandra who watched Saint George as he triumphed. She could also symbolize Christianity, or the Church itself. When the Crusaders journeyed through the Byzantine Empire, they saw this icon and from its depiction they interpreted the legend which they spread throughout western Europe.
The Miracles of Saint George.
- A woman had bought a pillar for a church being dedicated to Saint George in Rome. However, she had no means of transporting the pillar. One night she dreamt of Saint George. He helped her to lift the pillar and then throw it into the sea. Soon afterwards, the pillar was found in Rome with instructions to place it on the right side of the church as the woman had wished.
- In the city of Paflagonia in Pontus, many churches had been dedicated to Saint George. Many families named their children George or Georgia in honor of this great martyr. The following miracle concerns one particularly pious couple who had named their son George. The boy had been raised with great faith. As was the law, when he became twenty years old, he served in the army. During a battle with a barbaric tribe, many Christian soldiers were either murdered, imprisoned, or enslaved. George became a personal slave to one of the barbarian officers. His parents, giving him up for dead, had mourned him for a year. They went to one of the churches dedicated to Saint George and asked that he tell them what had happened to their son. The Feast Day of Saint George was being celebrated on the anniversary of the boy’s disappearance. The parents invited their relatives to dinner since they hoped that Saint George would give them a sign concerning their son. That same evening, the barbarian master was preparing for a dinner and ordered Georgeto draw some water with which to wash his master’s feet. As he drew the water he cried and prayed to Saint George to reunite him with his family. As he prepared to return to his master, a horseman appeared before him on a white horse. It was Saint George. The Saint put him on the horse and the boy found himself in the house of his parents while they were eating. One may imagine the happiness that filled that house. It is from this miracle that another icon of Saint George is based. It depicts a boy on the back of the horse with Saint George. This icon was first made in early Byzantium.
- In the same city of Paflagonia, some children were playing in the courtyard of the Church of Saint George. One of the boys was being teased by the others. He went to the icon of Saint George to ask for help. In return, the boy promised to make the Saint a food called “sfouggato,” a type of onion omelet. The boy returned to the courtyard and won a wrestling match with several boys. He went home and made the “sfouggato” and took it to the Saint’s icon. Shortly afterwards, three young men entered the church and saw the food. In jest, they said that the Saint would not eat the food, so they decided to sit on the steps of the altar and eat it themselves. When they tried to get up, they found themselves stuck to the marble steps. Only after offering the Saint three gold pieces, were they able to leave.
The icon of Saint George is rarely missing from the first row of icons of the iconostasis. A town with several Greek Orthodox Churches normally has one church named after this great martyr. His great honor is derived not only from the miracles which have been attributed to him, but also because many of his icons have performed miracles.
- The Icon of Saint George in the Holy Monastery of Zographos on Mount Athos
In the year 919, three brothers — Moses, Aaron, and Vasilios — went to Mount Athos to become monks. They built three tents in a large valley near the river. They also built a small church near there, but were skeptical about what saint to name the church after. They prepared the board on which the icon of the patron saint of the church was to be painted, however, they did not paint the icon because they could not decide to which saint the church should be dedicated. When the monks went to the church the next morning, « they found that an icon of Saint George had been painted on the board. The icon was painted in an ancient style. This miracle showed the brothers that God wanted their church dedicated to Saint George.
The institution which the brothers had established was named the Monastery of Zographos, or the Monastery of the Painter because of the icon’s miraculous appearance.
The following is considered to be the history of this icon before its appearance in the Monastery of Zographos. This icon was originally in the Monastery of Phanouel, located in Lidan. From the time that Eustratios was the abbot of this monastery, the icon had performed many miracles. One day in the presence of the monks, the icon came off of the piece of wood on which it had been painted and disappeared from their sight. The monks were extremely saddened by this event and felt that God had forsaken them. Then, the Abbot Eustratios saw Saint George before him and the Saint told him not to weep for him for he was on Mount Athos. The abbot told the other brothers of his vision. Eustratios left the monastery, and after going to Jerusalem, he embarked on his journey to Mount Athos. After searching in many of the monasteries for the icon, he finally came upon the Monastery of Zographos. When he entered the church, he saw the icon hanging without anything supporting it. Eustratios remained at that monastery until his other brothers came to see the miracle.
That icon performed the following miracle. The Bishop Vothenon visited the monastery and began to question the events without faith. Pointing to the icon, he laughed and said, “Is this the miraculous icon?” He placed his finger on the icon and there it stuck. To this day, visitors to the monastery can still see the finger hanging on the icon.
- The Miraculous Icon of Saint George Which Came by Sea From Arabia.
This icon was found in the harbor of the Monastery of Vatopedion. Later it was discovered that the icon had originally come from Arabia. The abbots of the different monasteries began to argue as to whom the icon belonged. They decided to place the icon on the back of a donkey. The onager was left at the cross roads between Mount Athos and Salonika. It was agreed that whichever monastery the donkey went to could rightfully claim the icon. The donkey proceeded to the Monastery of Zographos. After the donkey alived there, it died. The icon was placed on the left pillar of the church, opposite the other miraculous icon of Saint George.
- The Third Icon of Saint George in the Monastery of Zographos
On the third pillar of the Church of Saint George of the Monastery of Zographos hangs a third icon of the Saint. This icon had belonged to the ruler of Moldavia (Rumania), Stephen. When ever he went into battle, Stephen would carry this icon with him. After capturing Constantinople, the Turks came to the land ruled by Stephen. He decided to fight the Turks inside the walls of the city. He saw a vision of Saint George which told him that the Saint would help him to be victorious. After the battle, Stephen took the icon to the Monastery of Zographos and gave a great deal of money for the purpose of beautifying this holy place.
- The Miraculous Icon of Saint George in the Monastery of Xenophone on Mount Athos During the Iconoclast Period, several soldiers had taken an icon of Saint George and thrown it into a fire with other icons. When the fire had died, some bystanders saw that it had not consumed the icon of Saint George, but had damaged only a small portion of it. One soldier ran his sword into the face of the Saint. Blood emerged from this spot. The soldiers were so frightened that they ran. Some Iconodules who witnessed this miracle, took the icon to protect it from the soldiers in case they returned. They took it to the shore and placed it into the water. Then they prayed to the Saint to guide his icon to a place where it would continue to perform miracles. The icon landed at the Monastery of Xenophone on Mount Athos. The blood stains and the burnt clothing of the Saint can still be seen on the icon.
It should be noted here that there is a theory that Saint George and Saint Phanourios (August 27) are one and the same. This is so because Saint George’s birth was said to have occurred in the city of Phanouel and because the tortures which the two Saints underwent were so similar. This theory has not been completely proven.
The fame of Saint George spread all over the East, and the Crusaders brought their devotion for the warrior Saint back to Europe. Through the Crusaders, Saint George became the patron Saint of England. He is also the patron Saint of Syria and Lebanon. The Emperor Constantine dedicated a church to him not long after his martyrdom, and in later times, he became an object of devotion for Christians and Moslems alike.
Saint George is the protector of Christians, and the patron of all who fight for righteousness. His cheerful fortitude and unswerving loyalty have inspired generations of Christians the world over.
(Celebrated October 20).
Saint Gerasimos was born in the village of Tricalla, located in the Peloponnesos, in the year 1509. His parents, Demetrios and Kalie, were rich nobles of the family Notaras, one of the official families of the court of Byzantium.
Gerasimos was raised as any other wealthy boy of the time -attended by servants, and possessing riches, glory, splendor and magnificence; however, none of this impressed him. He wanted more than anything else to dedicate himself to God.
This noble-hearted young man had an unbreakable tie with heaven. He believed that God was the only true glory. Secretly, therefore, he abandoned his family and home so that he could make long journeys to enrich his experiences and his spiritual horizons. He first went to the island of Zakinthos, then to Thessaly, and crossing the Sea of Marmara to Constantinople, Proponditha, Halkithona, and from there to Agion Oros on Mount Athos. Here he became a monk. In all the places he traveled he performed good deeds and tried in every way to better the Christian civilization.
One of his great desires was to go to Jerusalem so that he could worship the place of Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection. Therefore, he left Agion Oros and went to Mount Sinai, Antioch, Damascus, Egypt, Lebanon, and finally arrived in Jerusalem.
In Jerusalem he became the candle-lighter (kandelanaptis) at the Tomb of Christ for one year. Here also, Gerasimos was ordained a priest by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Germanos. He remained with the Patriarch for twelve years as the head of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre. Becoming a priest was a step to further Gerasimos’ goals — to help mankind see the way of God. He left Jerusalem and went to the Desert of Jordon. Here, with Divine Help, he fasted from food and water for forty days and nights, meditated and prayed. From Jordon he went to Crete, and from Crete back to the island of Zakinthos. In Zakinthos he lived in an unknown and hidden cave for five years — praying, fasting, and meditating. He lived of unsalted squash and dry legumes. After the five years, he asked God to show him where to spend the few remaining years of his life. With Divine Judgement, Gerasimos left Zakinthos and went to Kefallinia (here to become the patron Saint of the island). In Kefallinia, he lived in a dark cave not far from the sea or the town; however, because of his fame, many of the inhabitants came to see and worship him. This caused Gerasimos to leave the cave after eleven months, since he wanted no glory or worship. He went to a monastery called Omalon Moni. Next to this monastery, which was located on a steep and snowcapped mountain, he built a new wing which he called “New Jerusalem.” This was to be a center of spiritual learning, a center of charity, a center for healing physical and mental ailments, and later on, a center for the miracles attributed to this Saint. It was in this place that Saint Gerasimos taught that people must have love and peace in their heart, because human feelings which were in opposition to these two feelings would also oppose the Christian way of life.
On August 15, 1579, Saint Gerasimos died at the same monastery in which he had taught. As is the custom in Greece, his body was exhumed three years later, on October 20, 1581. This date became his Feast Day. The body was exhumed by the order of the monk in charge of the monastery, Iaramion. Amazingly, the body of the Saint had not decayed as bodies normally do when buried for that length of time. Instead, the body and the vestments were in the same condition as the day that he was buried. The body also had a sweet fragrance emerging from it. Naturally, the people were skeptical, and therefore, by the order of the Metropolitan Philadelphias Gabriel, the body was buried again to see if it would decompose. After two years and eight months, the body was again exhumed, once more the body and the vestments were in the same condition as the day of the Saint’s death. The sweet fragrance still emerged from the body. Subsequently, the body was laid out in a casket and placed in the monastery, there to become a symbol of faith for all generations which followed.
The Miracles of Saint Gerasimos.
A few years after the death of the Saint, a nun in the monastery where he was enshrined, became possessed and during the night had fallen into the well. The other nuns heard the voice of Saint Gerasimos telling them, “Go quickly, the possessed one is in danger and needs your help.” They all went forth with torches and found their sister in the well, not sinking, but floating on the surface of the water as if someone was holding her up. She called to them, “Throw me a rope reverend mothers, so that I may be saved.” When she was lifted out of the well, she was cleansed of her possession. Together, the sisters went into the shrine and thanked God and Saint Gerasimos for the miracle.
In 1760, a plague befell Kefallinia. The government could do nothing to control it and thus it grew more dangerous every day. All of the inhabitants asked for Saint Gerasimos’ help. One night, a nun of the monastery, named Akakia, saw Saint Gerasimos in her dream. He was kneeling in front of the icon of the Virgin Mary asking her to give him strength so that he could help the inhabitants. The nun heard a voice from the icon say to him, “Yes, true worker of My Son, it is My will.” She then saw the Saint get up and unroll a dirty carpet. Inside this carpet were balls of cotton which the Saint then blew away. The next day, the plague subsided.
A woman named Catherine from the island of Levkas was taken ill in 1788. No doctor or medicine could make her well. Her husband had heard about the miracles performed by Saint Gerasimos and decided to take her to Kefallinia, hoping that the Saint would help her. He placed her in front of the body of Saint Gerasimos and begged him to cure his beloved wife; however, God wanting to test the faith of this man, did not cure her immediately. Instead, she laid in her bed in front of the body of Saint Gerasimos for six months. After six months the woman was cured of her illness.
In 1790, in the village of Magoula in Atolia, a girl named Giannoula became ill with smallpox and became blind. One night, she saw a monk in her dream and he said to her, “Do not pity yourself, but go to Kefallinia and there Gerasimos will cure you.” She told her parents of this dream and they immediately left for Kefallinia. She remained in the monastery for one year — – praying and fasting. At the end of the year, Giannoula saw the same monk in her dream again. He said to her, “Get up and go to your home. You are cured.” The girl immediately awoke, and once again, she could see.
In 1923, two girls (ten year old Elaine Stephanatou, from the village Kalavathi, and twelve year old Elpiniki Vaslatou, from the village Razaton) became possessed. They were brought to the monastery by their parents hoping that their children would be cured. All the nuns pitied them and helped pray for the children. On August 16, 1923, during the Liturgy, both girls were cured.
Saint Gerasimos is considered to have demonstrated exemplary Christian charity. He was a man who did not let the hardships of travel stop him from increasing his spiritual experiences. Wherever he went, he aided his people and guided them in the Christian way of life. Among many Orthodox Christians, he was believed to be a great healer of the possessed.
Saint Gregory the Theologian.
(Celebrated January 25).
This great father and teacher of the Church lived during the years of Julian the Apostate and Theodosios the Great. He was born in the year 329 in the village of Ariansis, of Cappadocia, near the city of Nazianzos. His father, also named Gregory, had been an idolater. Upon his son’s birth, however, he converted to Christianity and later became a bishop of that city. His mother, Nona, was a pious Christian who had not been able to bear children. For many years she prayed for a male offspring and finally her prayers were answered with the birth of Gregory. In a display of gratitude, she dedicated her son to God.
Gregory began his education in Nazianzos. Afterwards, he studied in Caesarea, Alexandria, and finally in Athens, where the most renown philosophers were teaching.
The Saint boarded a ship in Alexandria to go to Athens. On the way, however, a fierce storm arose and darkness prevented the passengers from seeing either the sky or the water. As the winds became stronger, the ship began to list and the passengers were fearful that it would capsize. Saint Gregory also feared death because he had not yet been baptized; therefore, putting his trust in God and with tears in his eyes, he began to pray. In his prayers, he promised God that if he were saved from death, he would be baptized as soon as he returned to Nazianzos and that he would dedicate his life to the Church. Upon the completion of the Saint’s prayer, the storm subsided and the vessel was saved from destruction. The other passengers realized the strength of the Christian God and all who were idolaters confessed their belief in the true God.
Upon his arrival in Athens, he received a warm reception from its citizenry, teachers, and scholars. Within a short time, Saint Basil the Great also arrived to continue his education in the Grecian capital. The two men became extremely close friends. So close was their friendship, that the people believed that there was one soul within the two bodies. They profited mentally and spiritually from their relationship and soon surpassed the other students in all their studies. Their prime purpose in obtaining the highest education possible was to aid the Church in later years. Upon completing his studies, Saint Basil left Athens and returned to his home in Caesarea. Saint Gregory remained in Athens where he was considered the city’s leading philosopher. Soon, however, he requested that the other philosophers excuse him so that he might return to his home in Nazianzos, since he had been absent several years. Upon his return to his home town, he was immediately baptized and ordained by his father, who had become a bishop.
Wishing to find his beloved friend, Basil, Gregory left Nazianzos and went to an area near the Black Sea where Saint Basil had begun his hermitic life. During Saint Gregory’s visit, Saint Basil wrote monastic rules to be obeyed by the ascetics.
Because of his advancing age, Saint Gregory’s father wrote him a letter asking him to return to Nazianzos. He realized that death was near and he wanted the Saint to take charge of his Church. Leaving his beloved friend and the peaceful desert, Saint Gregory returned to Nazianzos where he found the Church in turmoil. The Emperor, one of Constantine the Great’s nephews, believed in the Arian Heresy which caused many priests to go into voluntary exile so that they would not have to preach these falsehoods. Others, either because of fear or ignorance, taught the heresy which claimed that Christ was a creation of God and not the Son of God. Saint Gregory’s father, being an uneducated man, believed this heresy and preached it. The Saint arrived in Nazianzos and prayed the entire night for the strength with which to defeat the heretics. The next day he succeeded in convincing his father and the other priests that the teachings of Arius were false. Gregory then proceeded to convince the populace that their beliefs were erroneous. And so, Saint Gregory saved the city of Nazianzos from the teachings of the Arian Heresy.
Soon thereafter, Julian the Apostate ascended to the throne of Byzantium. His sole purpose, as a ruler, was to once again establish paganism as the official religion of the Empire. One of Julian’s decrees was that the Greek language was not to be taught to students. To counteract this, Saint Gregory proceeded to write poems and books in Greek so that the language would be more prevalent, in spite of the Emperor’s ruling. His purpose was not only to teach the language, but also to instill in his flock a sense of piety, decency, and humility.
Both the Saint’s parents were nearing one hundred years of age and soon afterwards his parents departed this life. After his elevation to the hierarchical position, Gregory left Nazianzos and went to the city of Selefkeia where he remained in the Church of the Martyr Thecla until a new bishop was elected in Nazianzos.
Many new heresies soon began to plague the Church (Nestorian, Apollonarian and Macedonian) and the Church in the greatest amount of turmoil was that of Constantinople. Saint Basil then wrote a letter to Saint Gregory and begged him, along with other clergy, to go to Constantinople and reunite the Church.
Saint Gregory arrived in the Byzantine Capital in 378. The Church was in complete chaos and grave danger. He immediately proceeded to suppress the heresies. His efforts appeared fruitful; however, as soon as he suppressed one heresy, another would arise. Groups of heretics banded together and conspired to stone the Saint to death, as the Jews had killed Saint Stephen, the First Martyr. With the help of God, the Saint escaped danger, but was taken to trial for preaching “treasonous” ideas. During the trial, Saint Gregory made such outstanding theological speeches, that not only did they find him innocent, but also made him Patriarch of Constantinople.
Saint Gregory had governed the Church for a short time when turmoil erupted once more. Through deceit and trickery, an Egyptian named Maximun who believed in the Arian Heresy, managed to depose Saint Gregory and ascend the Patriarchal Throne. The Saint prepared to leave the city wishing to go to the desert to meditate. His followers, however, begged the Saint to retake his rightful position. Gregory refused until one citizen shouted, “Your Holiness, you may leave Constantinople, but remember that you are taking the Holy Trinity with you.” Gregory decided to stay. The Emperor Theodosius heard of these events while battling barbarians in Macedonia and wrote a letter to Constantinople instructing the people to depose and exile Maximun and reinstate Patriarch Gregory.
Daily, the reinstated Patriarch would go to the church and teach Christian ideals to his people. He succeeded with his rhetoric in strengthening the faith of the orthodox Christians, and also in cleansing those so called “Christians” who had heretical ideas. Because of his speeches and his teachings, the people called him “Theologian.”
After defeating the barbarians, Theodosius returned to the Capital where he formally made Gregory, Patriarch of Constantinople by giving him the Patriarchal Staff. He thanked him for his efforts in controlling the disputes within the Church and wished him well in his continuing efforts towards unity. The heretics, however, became extremely jealous of the Emperor’s praise and hired an assassin to murder the saint. When the young assassin beheld the holiness of his victim, he regretted his task and fell at the Saint’s feet to ask for forgiveness; however, the Saint knew not what to forgive. When he was told of the plot, he forgave the man and guided him.
During the time that Gregory was Patriarch, the “Second Ecumenical Council took place in the city of Constantinople. The one hundred and fifty clergy met to debate the Macedonian Heresy which stated that the Holy Ghost was not equal to the Father and the Son. The Council condemned this teaching and completed the Creed which was begun in the city of Nicaea. During the meeting, Gregory sought permission from the Emperor Theodosius to relinquish his throne. The monarch regretted hearing this request, but because of his great love for and understanding of the Saint, he granted permission for his request. Thus, in the presence of the Second Ecumenical Council, Saint Gregory gave his farewell speech in the year 382. He returned to the city of Ariansis where his father had left him some farmland. Later, he also delivered the eulogy at Saint Basil’s gravesite.
He left Ariansis and returned to Nazianzos where he again cleared the Church of wayward priests.
Once again, he returned to Ariansis where he wrote many poems and hymns combating the heretical teachings. It was here that this teacher and Patriarch died at the age of eighty.
(Celebrated February 10).
This courageous Christian, Haralambos, was a priest in the city of Magnesia, near Smyrna in Asia Minor.
Circa the year 198 A.D., Severus was the Emperor of the Roman Empire. He had appointed Lucius to govern Asia Minor. Many Christians were persecuted for their beliefs under his reign. At this same time, Haralambos was in Magnesia and openly taught the Christian religion. When Lucius discovered this, he ordered his soldiers to capture Haralambos for trial. Asked why he condemned the idols and why he disobeyed the laws of the Empire, Haralambos informed Lucius that he adhered to the laws of Jesus Christ and no others. He felt that Severus had written a set of rules that were contradictory to Christian beliefs, since he ordered his subjects to pay homage to a group of fake and indifferent gods. Their souls would be condemned to Hell if they followed these rules. He maintained that Christ offered eternal life to his followers. The governor commanded Haralambos to sacrifice to the gods and forsake Christ, or else undergo fierce tortures. The Saint refused to deny his beliefs.
The Saint then endured his first torture. He was stripped of his clothing and his body was ripped with iron claws. He withstood the torture with great courage. When the soldiers witnessed his courage, they asked the noblemen if this might not be Christ himself who had come to test them. Hearing this, one of the dukes became so enraged that he took the iron claws and began to rip Haralambos’ flesh with more fervor than his soldiers. At this point, the first miracle involving Saint Haralambos occurred. As the Duke was using the iron claws, his hands were torn from his wrists and hung on the priest’s body. Screaming, he asked Lucius to help him. Seeing the Duke’s plight, the governor spat in the Saint’s face. Immediately, the pagan’s head twisted in an awkward position, where it remained. The whole citizenry of Magnesia was terrified and begged the Saint to pray to Christ to save them. Haralambos beckoned them to pray. They begged for the forgiveness of their sins. The Duke pleaded with Haralambos to pray to Christ to give him back his hands. When the Saint finished praying, the Duke’s hands returned to his body. The Duke was then baptized and became a devout Christian.
After these events, thousands of people from Magnesia and other parts of Asia, came to Haralambos, confessed their sins, and were baptized. The Saint performed many miracles by curing the faithful of many sicknesses. When Severus heard of this, he was greatly angered and sent three-hundred soldiers to Magnesia. Their task was to find the Saint, drive nails into his back, and then drag him from Magnesia to Antioch. The soldiers found Haralambos and carried out their orders. They tied a rope to his beard and dragged him behind a horse. A voice told them to leave this man alone for God was with him. When the soldiers heard this, they became frightened. They took Haralambos to Antioch without further torture. Severus , informed of what had happened, sent another group of soldiers to torture the Saint. They tied a skewer to his chest and gathered wood so that they could burn him. He was turned on the skewer with the fire burning him for several hours. Through Divine Help, the Saint was not hurt. Severus ordered that the Saint be brought before him. He asked the Saint what his age was and was informed that he was 113 years old. A young man had died in the city. Severus ordered the Saint to resurrect him to show the strength of his God. After praying several hours, God, through Haralambos, performed the miracle. Many pagans converted to Christianity when they saw this; however, an eparch named Crispos asked Severus to execute the Saint because he had performed this miracle through the use of magic. Severus asked Haralambos to sacrifice to the gods so that he could save himself. The Saint refused; therefore, Severus ordered his soldiers to hit the Saint’s jaws with rocks and burn his face and beard with torches. The fire reflected off of the Saint’s face and burned the bystanders. Severus was amazed at this and was curious to know who Christ was. Crispos exclaimed that a harlot named Mary had borne Him. A man named Aristarchos warned Crispos not to blaspheme. A fit of madness overcame Severus and as he shot arrows towards the sky, he ordered Christ to come and fight him. Suddenly, the earth quaked and a fierce storm arose. Severus and Crispos begged the Saint to save them. Severus ’ daughter, Galinee, came into the room and warned her father to believe in Christ. She asked the Saint to forgive her father and to pray to God to end this calamity. The Saint prayed and the acts of God stopped. After thirty days, Severus again told Haralambos to sacrifice to the gods, but Haralambos refused. He then ordered that a bridle be placed in the Saint’s mouth and that he be taken throughout the city, in the same manner as a horse. Galinee begged her father to stop these tortures or else he would be condemned to eternal damnation. Severus was angered by his daughter’s words and ordered her to sacrifice to the gods. She went to the Temple of Zeus and told the priest that she had cursed the gods. Then she prayed to the true God. Immediately, the statues of all the gods were destroyed. Severus ordered 300 sculptors to make more statues and place them in the temple before the next morning, so that the people would not mock the gods. The next morning Galinee was returned to the temple where she saw the new statues. Realizing what her father had done, she prayed again and the statues were smashed once more.
To insult Haralambos, he was given to a widow to be guarded. When he arrived at her home, he leaned against a dry wooden beam. The beam was immediately transformed into a large tree, bearing a great amount of fruit. The woman was so frightened that she asked the Saint to leave her home since it was not worthy of his presence. He told her to have faith in God and she would have nothing to fear. The next day the neighbors saw the large tree in her garden and upon asking, they learned of the miracle of Saint Haralambos. They sat with the Saint and discovered Christianity. The pagans told Severus about these happenings and the eparch advised Severus to have Haralambos beheaded. The Saint was captured, but before his execution, he prayed to Christ. He died in peace before the soldiers could behead him. Galinee took his body and placed it in a golden coffin.
Saint Haralambos guarded his people much as a shepherd would guard his flock; therefore, he is considered to be the protector of shepherds and their flocks. The body of Saint Haralambos is now in the Monastery of Saint Stephen in the Meteora, Greece, where it performs miracles to this day.
Archbishop Innocent of Alaska.
Many years ago the late Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose) wrote: “The very presence of Orthodoxy in America has a missionary purpose. Orthodoxy is not the national religion of a few peoples, but the true Church of Christ, and as such meant to be preached to all peoples….” Few Orthodox Americans are perhaps aware of the promising beginning of the Orthodox mission in the 18th and 19th centuries, when a serious attempt was undertaken to make the riches of Holy Orthodoxy accessible to Americans” (Orthodox Word, Vol. 1, No. 5, 1965).
The important first chapter written in American Orthodox history by St. Herman of Alaska’s holy life and labors on this continent is now well-known to many, but fewer know and fully appreciate the second chapter in that history, written by the evangelistic struggles of a second righteous one in Alaska, Archbishop Innocent Veniaminov, often called the “Apostle to America.”
Born in 1797 and baptized with the name John, this future great missionary bishop came from a pious clerical family, was educated in the usual ecclesiastical manner, graduating at the head of his class, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1821. This giant of a man (he was six foot three, tall even for our times) now began work in the crucible of pastoral activity, where he was to become a giant in the spirit as well.
Although assigned to a regular parish — the Church of the Annunciation in Irkutsk — it was necessary for him to supplement his large family’s material needs (he and his Matushka, Katherine, were to have seven children) by making clocks and little barrel-organs — skills that were to be very useful in later missionary activity.
A Missionary Summons.
In 1823 his bishop received instructions from the Holy Synod to send a priest to the Russian-American colony in Alaska. In Father John’s own words: “When all the clergymen in the diocese were asked by order of the late Bishop Michael if they would like to go to Unalaska — and if not, then why? — I like all the others stated that I did not wish to accept the position because it was too far away….Indeed, how could I — why should I (humanly speaking) — have traveled God-knows where when I had one of the best parishes in the city, when I enjoyed the love of my parishioners and the good graces of the authorities, when I already owned my own home and had a larger income than the salary being offered to whomever was assigned to Unalaska?’ Who among us could doubt the sincerity of Fr. John’s motives here; who would not identify with his natural desire to stay in the familiar, comfortable and secure world of a cathedral town in Old Russia?
But the Providence of God sent a Russian adventurer from Alaska his way, whose inspiring tales were an instrument of the Holy Spirit in changing Fr. John’s heart and destiny: he “began to tell me of the Aleuts’ zeal in prayer and hearing the Word of God (I doubtless had heard these same things from him many times before), when suddenly Blessed be the Name of the Lord! — I began to burn with a desire to go to such a people.”
Calling Fr. John a “Son of Obedience,” Bishop Michael enthusiastically appointed him to this post, and saw to his missionary needs (holy vessels, vestments, service books, two antimensia, as well as salary and a qualified Reader — Fr. John’s own nineteen year old brother). On October 20, 1823 — a holy day in the history of American Orthodoxy — this little missionary band arrived safely in Alaska After wintering in Sitka, Fr. John arrived in Unalaska where he inaugurated his missionary activity on August 1, 1824, the Feast of the Procession of the Precious and Life-giving Cross. Fr. John could hardly contain his joy when he wrote that “for the first time since the birth of Christ — in fact, from the creation of the world,” the Cross of the Lord had been venerated in that remote and nearly inaccessible part of the world.
There now began the years of hardship, intense missionary activity, struggle, and holy glory, all of which was well documented at the time and serves as a true model for those struggling to work in the missionary fields of America today.
There are two important things “modelled” for us in Fr. John’s missionary approach.
First, he quite literally fell in love with the natives among whom he lived and worked. This cannot be overstated as a necessary criterion for successful missionary work. Externally, superficially, there was nothing attractive about the Aleuts and Eskimos. To a refined and cultured man from a priestly family, these natives might have appeared dirty, ragged, and lazy, as they did to others. But Fr. John saw beyond this to their joyful, affectionate, honest, and above all patient souls. He saw in them decent and precious qualities of character that were plainly lacking in most “civilized” races, and these qualities warmed and melted his heart with deep Christ-like love for them. As he himself later wrote:
“The more I become acquainted with these ‘savages’ the more I love them and am convinced that we, for all our ‘enlightenment’ have, without even noticing it, departed far, far from the paths of perfection. Many a so-called ‘savage’ is morally superior to us so-called ‘enlightened’ people.” Indeed, he was to realize that, “although it is painful and shameful to admit it, holy truth demands we say that the present Russian Orthodox are themselves an obstacle to spreading and confirming Christianity· Our exhortations here are useless…” On a later visit to his homeland, Fr. John was to proudly proclaim not that he was a’ Russian, but “I’m from America — a savage.”
Thus he sought, in constant conversation and concourse, to understand and deeply penetrate the tribal character, not seeking to “russify them but to bring out and enhance their own native character, which was, as he discovered, already “patient, meek, obedient, peaceful, pious” and so forth…
Secondly, he realized immediately that for his missionary task to be fruitful he must use the native languages wherever possible — not only for preaching the Gospel, but also in translating Scripture, the Catechism, and Divine Services. There was no hesitation in his own mind about this, no thought of making the natives into Russians which, had he tried to do so, would only have put massive and quite unnecessary obstacles in the path of salvation for these new sheep of Christ· Besides, it was much more practical for a few missionaries to learn the languages of their flecks than for all of these tribes to learn new tongues.
Devoting at least two hours a day to learning quite difficult native languages, and then making translations for publication, Fr. John encountered a familiar objection from Church authorities back in Russia: how could they be sure that these native languages had the proper terminology to express “accurately and with full force…the lofty truths” of the Gospel?
Returning to Russia, he insured the future of his translating and publishing activities, and won over both the Ober-Procurater and the great and Blessed Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, who quickly saw something “apostolic” about Fr. John. He appeared before the Holy Synod and also had a private audience with the pious Tsar Nicholas I, all of whom enthusiastically gave their support — both moral and financial — to missionary activity in the New World.
During this same visit to his homeland he was raised to the rank of Archpriest and then, shortly, learned of the untimely death of his beloved Matushka. After a pilgrimage to the Kiev Caves he accepted monastic tonsure and was given the name Innocent — touchingly, on the first anniversary of her repose, which was also her Nameday.
While he was still in Russia, the Holy Synod and the Tsar resolved to crests a diocese out of Fr. John’s (now Fr. Innocent’s) missionary territory. Of the three candidates nominated for bishop, the Tsar chose Archimandrite Innocent because of “his outstanding ability and true worth.” Thus, on December 15, 1840, he was consecrated to the episcopacy. One month later he was on his way back to his second homeland, where his own orphaned children in the flesh and those thousands in the spirit eagerly awaited their father’s return.
Fields White With Harvest
The next year saw an amazing-one should say truly miraculous — increase in missionary activity, establishing churches, schools, and orphanages. In the words of one observer, “It is difficult to describe in full the labors which this great worker took upon himself. Travel on reindeer, sometimes lack of food, inclement weather — even foul weather — hostile natives, and insults all around — all of this the old man endured patiently and in good humor. Often, when I would mention his incredible labors to him, he would tell me about patience and the rewards in heaven which await those who do good for God and their neighbor. Without rest for nine months the great old man preached the true God before hundreds of savages. With animation, zeal, and often tears in his eyes he taught them the truths of the Gospel, and his labors did not prove in vain.
In particular he encouraged candidates for the priesthood from among the natives themselves, establishing a seminary for this purpose, for “One cannot doubt that there will be success,” he wrote, “Of course, everything comes from the Lord. God Himself — and not the preachers — converts people to the path of Truth; these are only His ‘weapons’.”
After providing a vicar for himself in the New World, Archbishop Innocent moved on to Yakutsk, where he continued his missionary labors, particularly the arduous work of translating the Divine Liturgy into the local vernacular. On the day (July 19, 1859) the newly-translated service books were first presented and used in the Cathedral, tribal leaders petitioned that that day be henceforth kept as a feastday.
Now entering the autumn of his life, and soon to become Metropolitan of Moscow, the greatest see in the Russian Church, Archbishop Innocent first made detailed recommendations about the Church in America. He was convinced that it was God’s will that the Russian colonies be sold to the United States for in this way, he wrote, Orthodoxy would spread far beyond his former missionary diocese. He suggested (among other things) that the residence of the bishop be moved to San Francisco and that the bishop and his retinue be required not only to know English but that they and all clerics of the Orthodox Church in America be allowed to celebrate the Liturgy and other services in English (for which purpose, obviously, the service books must be translated into English). And further, that English rather than Russian (which must sooner or later be replaced by English) be used “in all instruction in the schools to be established in San Francisco and elsewhere to prepare people for missionary and clerical positions.”
After he was chosen Metropolitan of Moscow, he used his lofty position and influence to encourage more, and still more missionary activity, regardless of the odds and difficulties, convincing the populace at large that it was their “sacred duty” to further — not an ethnic culture, however old and beautiful — but the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout all the world. Thus, not only did he wisely govern the Russian Church, but zealously kept his hand to the missionary plow right up to his holy death on Great Saturday, 1878, as though whether waking or sleeping, he could hear the voice of the Lord whispering in his ear: “Go, and preach the Gospel to all nations…”
It is in this that the greatness , the saintliness of Archbishop Innocent consists. His fearless single-mindedness seems quite awesome to us today, so weighed down by our “sophistication,” academic credentials, and worldly comforts; so distracted by our jurisdictional disputes, our modern technology and the signs of an approaching Armaggedon. True, Archbishop Innocent lived in a much simpler age than ours; yet in the balance, although his obstacles were different, ours are no more formidable than his, for with God all things are possible.
There can be no doubt that the powerful personality, the great soul, of this man stands over the Church in America today and, to a certain extent, reproaches us for our weak-heartedness, our lack of missionary zeal. The very fact that many of his own goals and recommendations for Orthodoxy on this continent have waited now for more than 100 years to be fully implemented should shame us all, and surely accounts for the quite minimal success of Orthodoxy since his time. Yet, before his repose 2,000 natives were being baptized every year, and 3,000 more were catechumens!
What became of this wonderful promise, this amazing outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our own times?
(Celebrated May 5).
Saint Irene was the only daughter of the Emperor Licinius and the Empress Licinia. She was born in the city of Magethon near Salonika, Greece and was originally named Penelope. Because of her beauty, and because her father did not want her exposed to the Christian religion, her parents confined Penelope in a castle with thirteen other maidens. The castle was furnished very lavishly and contained a great store of gold.
Penelope was tutored in the castle by an elderly man named Apellianos and one day, during her studies, she saw a dove with an olive branch in its beak, fly into the castle. The dove placed the olive branch on a table. Then an eagle flew in through another window with a wreath of flowers in its beak, and placed it on the table. Through another window, a crow flew in holding a snake in its beak, the snake was also placed on the table. Penelope was astounded and confused by these events. Her tutor, Apellianos, interpreted the omen in the following way. The dove symbolized education, while the olive branch stood for baptism. An eagle is the king of all fowl and the wreath which it carried foretold of future victories. The crow with the snake was telling of tortures and sorrows which were to come. In total, the omen was showing that Penelope would one day martyr for Christ. Our Church history maintains that an angel descended from heaven and renamed Penelope, Irene, meaning peace. This same angel instructed Irene to obtain her salvation through Christianity. She was also told that because of her actions, many souls would be saved. Finally, the angel instructed her to wait for the pious priest, Timothy, who would soon baptize her. After these events, Irene destroyed all of her father’s idols.
When her father discovered what she had done and that she had converted to Christianity, he became enraged. He tied the Saint to the ground intending to have her trampled to death. Instead, the horses turned towards the right and killed Licinius. The Saint was freed and she began to pray. Her prayers were answered and her father was resurrected. He and his wife, along with many witnesses, converted to the Christian religion and were baptized. Licinius then left his position in the government and went to the castle which he had built for his daughter. Here he spent the remainder of his life in meditation and repentance.
Upon Licinius’ abdication, the Emperor Sedecius came to power. He had no tolerance for the Christians. After capturing Saint Irene, he tried to force her to denounce her faith. Since she refused to do so, she was thrown into a snake pit. Here, the Saint remained for fourteen days, and when she was removed, it was discovered that she had not been harmed. Sedecius then had the Saint’s feet amputated, but through Divine Power, they grew back immediately.
Sedecius died and his son Savor succeeded him. He resumed the Christian persecutions with even greater zeal. Saint Irene attempted to stop these persecutions. She prayed, and Savor and his entire army were blinded. She prayed again, and they regained their sight. In this manner, she was trying to show the power of the true God. Even though they could again see, the pagans remained blind to the truth. Thus, they took the Saint and tied heavy sacks of sand to her. So burdened, she was to walk three miles out of the city. Suddenly, the earth trembled and the ground split. The crater swallowed hundreds of idolaters. Even then Savor refused to recognize the power of God and because of his insolence, he was struck and killed by a bolt of lightning.
Saint Irene was then released and she returned to the castle where her father and the priest, Timothy, lived. There, many people went to hear her teach and she succeeded in converting hundreds of idolaters to Christianity.
Saint Irene traveled to the city of Kalinikou where she confronted the ruler, Noumerias, with her beliefs. He submitted her to tortures but succeeded neither in killing her nor in making her sacrifice to the false idols. Before his death, Noumerias had instructed his successor to torture the Saint to death. The new ruler decided to burn the Saint. When the fire was lit, it extinguished itself. Thus, this ruler was convinced and he and his entire house converted to Christianity.
Saint Irene’s fame spread throughout the then known world. When word reached the King of Persia, Savorios (ruler of Persia when Constantine the Great ruled Byzantium, 330 A.D.), captured the Saint and beheaded her. However, the omnipowerful and wise God was not ready to take the Saint’s soul. He, therefore, dispatched one of his angels to resurrect her. Saint Irene then went to the city of Mesimvrian. And as Saint Irene entered the city she held an olive branch in her hand and approached the ruler. When he perceived her holiness, he and many others embraced Christianity. Satisfied, she left Mesimvrian and returned to her home in Magethon, where she mourned her father’s death.
Wanting to convert even more idolaters to Christianity to save them from eternal damnation, she went to the city of Ephesus. Here she retold Christ’s story. It was in Ephesus that she met her former teacher, Apellianos.
After teaching in Ephesus, Saint Irene accompanied by six people, including Apellianos, departed from the city. They found a tomb in which no one had ever been buried. Saint Irene entered the empty tomb and Apellianos placed a boulder in front of the entrance. The Saint had requested that no one was to move the boulder for four days. Two days after the Saint had been entombed, Apellianos checked the grave site. A miracle had occurred! The boulder had been rolled away and the Saint’s body was gone. She was now with the Master.
Saint Irene martyred in Magethon, Kalinikou, and Mesimvrian and her story was first told by Apellianos. The Church recognized this Saint as being one of its greatest martyrs.
Saint Isidoros and Saint Myrope.
(Celebrated May 14; Celebrated December 2).
This great martyr of Christ, Isidores, lived during the time that Decius was ruler of the Roman Empire (251 A.D). He was originally from Alexandria and a soldier by profession. Arriving in Chios with a Roman fleet, he admitted to being a Christian and denounced the Greek gods. When Numerios, the captain of the fleet heard the words of Saint Isidores, he ordered the other soldiers to bind the Saint and whip him. The Saint faced the torture with great courage, since he knew that he was being tortured for his love of Christ.
Isidores was then thrown into a furnace, however, with the help of God, he was not harmed. He was then imprisoned until his trial. Hearing of his son’s imprisonment, Isidores’ father left Alexandria for Chios immediately. Upon his arrival in Chios, he went to the prison and tried to make Isidores denounce Christ. He failed in his attempts and thus went to the ruler of the island hoping that he would free him to his custody. The ruler granted his wish and again he tried to convince Isidores to denounce Christ. He asked him why he believed in a person whom the Jews tortured and murdered. Isidores told his father that Christ died for man’s salvation and that he would never denounce Him. His father’s love turned to hatred. He had him tied to two wild horses which wrenched his body. The Saint underwent this torture with courage. After suffering this ordeal, his father had him beheaded. Instead of blood, milk ran from the Saint’s fatal wound. His body was thrown into a well so that it could be eaten by snakes and it was guarded so that the Christians could not take it. However, a virgin named Myrope, who admired the Saint, wanted the body buried. She went with her servants during the night and found the soldiers asleep, and thus took the Saint’s body.
When the ruler discovered that the body had been stolen, he had the soldiers put in chains and made them search for the body. If they failed they were to be beheaded. When Myrope saw the soldiers suffering and heard of what would happen to them, she refused to be the cause of their death. She confessed what she had done and was taken to the governor. Myrope told the governor that he forced her to steal the body because of his injustice and unpiousness. He ordered his soldiers to take her throughout the capital and beat her. She was beaten until almost dead and then was placed in prison. During the night Saint Myrope saw a host of angels, and in the middle of this group was Saint Isidores. The Saint told her that she had earned the crown of martyrdom and she would soon be in the Kingdom of Heaven. As Saint Myrope heard these words, she gave her soul up to the hands of God. As she passed away, the prison filled with a loud chanting and the guards ran with fear. All who were in prison and saw the miracle were willing to die for Christ. Several Christians took Saint Myrope’s body and buried it next to Saint Isidores. Their tombs, which are covered by one wall, can still be seen today. It is believed that the Emperor Constantine Pachonatos built a church over the tombs, but that it was destroyed and only parts of it remain in the newer church. The Genoese took the Saints’ bodies and for many years the Christians worshipped their empty tombs. In recent years the body of Saint Isidores has been returned by the Roman Catholic Church to the Cathedral on the Island of Chios.
Saint John The Baptist.
(Celebrated January 7)
Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, was a God-fearing and just priest. He lived with his wife Elizabeth in a small town named Orienin, known today as Aem Karem. This village is approximately eight kilometers from Jerusalem. The couple was not completely contented since they did not have a child; therefore, they prayed each day for a son. One day, while performing a liturgy in his church , Zacharias saw the Archangel Gabriel who told him that his prayers had been answered. God would grant them a son whom they would name John. Zacharias was skeptical, since Elizabeth had long passed the child-bearing age. For this reason, the Archangel took Zacharias’ voice away.
Within the year, the news announced by Gabriel came true. Elizabeth gave birth to a son and even though the relatives wanted her to follow the tradition of naming the child after the father, Elizabeth insisted that the child be named John. After John was born, Zacharias regained his voice.
As the Archangel had predicted, John prepared himself as he grew older to convince people to accept Christ as the true Savior. He, therefore, went into the desert where he lived on wild honey, the sprouts of trees, and insects. John prayed and meditated constantly and after receiving a message from an angel, he left the desert and went to an area near the Jordan River. Dressed in a garment made of camel hair tied with a leather belt, he preached repentance for the remission of sins and baptized those who confessed. He also preached generosity — helping those who were less fortunate. Thousands of people came and confessed to the Forerunner. (Saint John is also referred to as the Forerunner because he prepared the way or the road for Christ.) They were baptized in the Jordan, and prepared for the Messiah.
Because the people had previously heard of the Messiah, they began to believe that John was the Messiah. Seeing that the people’s respect for him was turning to glory, he told them that he baptized them only with water, whereas, the true Messiah would baptize them with the Holy Spirit.
One day, as John was speaking of the Messiah, he looked up and saw Christ. Christ asked John to baptize him. Awed, John refused, saying that Christ should rather baptize him! Christ told him that it was the will of God. John then baptized him. The heavens opened and the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, came and sat on Christ’s head. A voice thundered from heaven, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” This day is called Epiphany, for it was on this day that Christ was shown to man as God. John then told the people that this was the Son of the true God. This was the Messiah.
Herod of Antipus had married his brother’s wife, Herodia, which was against Mosaic law. John publicly condemned him for this. Being influenced by his wife, Herod had John imprisoned, hoping that the people would forget his incestuous affair. He did not dare murder the Forerunner because he highly respected this pious man and was afraid of the people’s reaction, who considered John to be a prophet. His wife tried to convince him to have John killed, but she was unsuccessful. During one of the feast days, Herod’s stepdaughter, Salome, danced for the king. He was so pleased that he offered to give her anything she wanted. After conferring with her mother, Salome asked for the head of John the Baptist. Though Herod was disgusted at the request, he could not break his promise. He ordered his soldiers to behead the Baptist. The Saint was executed and his head was presented to Salome on a silver platter.
The Feast Day of Saint John the Baptist is celebrated on January 7, because it is on this day that his arm arrived in Constantinople. The body of the Saint was buried in a town called Sevastie. The Evangelist Luke went to this town and cut off the right arm of the Saint. He took the arm to Antioch, his home town. Here, many miracles were attributed to this holy relic. When Constantine was ruler of the Byzantine Empire, of which Antioch was a part, a man called Iov brought the arm of the Saint to Constantinople. (This Constantine should not be confused with Saint Constantine, the son of Saint Helen). This occurred in the year 912 A.D. It was brought to the city on the day after the Epiphany. The arm of Saint John the Baptist is now found in the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul.
The Holy Head of Saint John the Forerunner was first found by two monks in the palace of Herod, Saint John’s executioner. The monks were on a pilgrimage to the Tomb of Jesus Christ, but decided to stop at the palace to seek the Saint’s body. When they discovered Saint John’s head, they took it to the town of Emesan. Here the monks protected the relic faithfully. Before the death of the last monk, he instructed his sister to guard Saint John’s head.
After the death of this woman many people took possession of the head until finally it became the possession of a monk-priest named Efstathios. He had been excommunicated from the Church because of his belief in the Arian Heresy. Consequently, he was also expelled from the cave which he had occupied. The relic remained there until the time of the Priest Marcellos and the Bishop Ouranios of Emesan, circa 431 A.D. The head was found in a clay vase and it was taken to a church by Bishop Ouranios, where it performed many miracles for the sick. This discovery is celebrated on the 24th of February.
The head of the Saint was now enclosed in a silver box, in a holy place. This, a priest saw in his dream, for the head was lost again. However, it was found and taken from Comana in Cappadocia to Constantinople. The Emperor, Patriarch, and all the Christians accepted the relic with deep humility.
In the year 1204, during the Crusades, Walto de Sarton took part of the Holy Head, that is, all of the face except for the lower jaw, to France.
After Saint John’s execution, several of his disciples took his body from the palace and honorably interred it. During the reign of Julian the Apostate, several pagans broke open the tomb and burnt part of the Holy Relic. The remainder of the body was later given to Saint Athanasius in Alexandria. The Emperor Theodosius built a Church over the body of Saint John the Baptist in 396 A.D.
Saint John is considered to be a martyr, a doctor, and a prophet by our Church.
Saint John Chrysostom.
(Celebrated November 13).
This beacon of Christianity was born in the city of Antioch in the year 344 A.D. His parents, Secundus and Anthusa, had been wealthy idolaters. Secounthos was also a respected general in the Roman army. At the time of John’s birth, however, both were baptized Christians. When John was still young he was baptized by Saint Meletius, who was the then Patriarch of Antioch.
Secundus died early in the Saint’s life, and thus Anthousa became a young widow left with John as her only comfort. She sought endlessly to teach him Christianity’s love and faith. In addition, he was educated by Libanius in rhetoric and by Andragatius in philosophy. Therefore, the Saint became familiar with the wisdom of both the Greeks and the Christians.
Soon, he departed Antioch and went to Athens where the Greeks had built their universities. Within a short time, he became known as the most eloquent speaker of the city. His fame spread throughout the capital and all the lands of the Greek speaking world. He was summoned many times to speak before the city’s governor. At one time, the governor had invited all the philosophers of Athens to his palace. He wanted to honor John, and therefore, sent a horse to the Saint’s home to bear him to the palace. John refused the use of the horse. The governor and the other philosophers saw him approaching on foot and admired his humility. To honor him they sat him in the center of the room. One of the pagan philosophers, named Anthemius, became extremely jealous. He said to the governor, “You have done an injustice to your honor. You have sat a stranger in the most honored seat and have ignored philosophers who have spent their entire lives in Athens. Not only this, but his religion is unlike ours.” The governor replied, “We have not done an injustice. We honor this man because he is from a noble family and because of his great humility.” Then Saint John spoke, “It does not become you, Anthemius, to call yourself a philosopher and then to be jealous of another’s honors. Jealousy does not add to our attributes, but detracts from them. As for my religion, I worship one God. This God created the world and tends his creation.” But Anthemius interrupted him saying, “It is our gods who supply us with the three elements of the world — water, earth and fire.” Before he could finish his statement, he had a seizure and fell to the ground shaking.
The other philosophers watched in amazement and then begged Saint John to cure Anthemius. The Saint prayed and the philosopher was cured. As it turned out, Anthemius was cured not only physically, but spiritually as well, for he went to the Bishop of Athens, sought and received baptism. Many other philosophers followed suit.
When John completed his formal education, he left Athens and went to Antioch. There, he led a monastic life for many years with a friend and former schoolmate named Basil (not Saint Basil the Great).
In Antioch, a monk named Eutichius admired Saint John and wanted to emulate him in every way. One night, this monk had a strange dream. A fierce looking white lamb came from heaven and stood in front of the praying figure of Saint John. The Saint was so frightened that he fell to his knees. The lamb said to the Saint, “Fear not, but have courage, for I am Saint John the Theologian.” He gave John a scroll and told him that it contained the explanation of the Scriptures. Saint John Chrysostom did not consider himself worthy of such an honor, but Saint John the Theologian gave him courage and then ascended into heaven.
The other monks saw that Eutichius was troubled and asked him what his concern was. He told them of his dream and they all agreed not to reveal anything to Saint John. They expected to see great things happen to the Saint.
A rich nobleman of Antioch became ill and a severe pain affected one side of his head and his sight. He went to Saint John and begged him to relieve his suffering. Saint John said to him, “You are suffering because you do not truly believe in Christ and because you have led a sinful life. If you strengthen your belief in Christ and repent for your sins, you shall be cured.” The nobleman prayed and asked forgiveness. He then held onto the robes of the Saint. Immediately the pain stopped and his vision was restored.
Another extremely rich man, named Archelaus, became ill in Antioch. He spent much of his time and money on physicians, but none could cure him. In the interim he had heard of Saint John’s greatness and power and decided that the holy man was his last hope of salvation. Finding the Saint in the monastery, he pleaded for assistance. Saint John taught him how to live a true Christian life and then told him to drink water from the monk’s cup. The nobleman drank the water and was completely cured of his sickness. But the most significant part of this story is that Archelaos was so moved that he distributed all of his money among the poor of Antioch and then became a monk in the monastery himself.
Many men in Antioch became monks, patterning their lives after that of Saint John. One such man, Eucleos, who was blind in one eye, had come to Saint John’s monastery. The Saint realized that this affliction was a great burden to Eucleos. Thus, the Saint said to him “May God cure you, my brother, and let you see both spiritually and physically.” Immediately Eucleos gained his sight.
In another instance, a woman had been suffering intermittent hemorrhages for two years. I n those days, this was a common illness for women, but it was also very serious. Her husband went to Saint John and asked for help. The Saint instructed the man to tell his wife to believe in Christ with all her heart, to be generous, and to lead a pure life. The husband returned to his wife and did as he had been told. His wife followed his directions explicitly, and within a short period she was cured.
Also at that time, a lion had been terrorizing the farmers of Antioch. So ferocious was he, that it became extremely dangerous for the farmers to tend their fields. Many were killed by the beast while they tilled their land. Finally, they turned to Saint John for assistance. He scolded them for abandoning God. They asked forgiveness for their negligence. The Saint forgave them and granted them a wooden cross. They were instructed to place the cross on the road which led into Antioch. The people did as the Saint instructed. The following morning, the lion was found dead, lying before the cross.
Saint John remained in this monastery for four years, performing many miracles and serving as an example of Christian life to the other monks and to the citizens of Antioch. Wanting to lead the life of a hermit monk, however, he eventually left the monastery and went into the wilderness. Here he lived without any of the comforts of life. He was subjected to the extreme heat of the day and the freezing cold of the desert night. Because of these elements, John became ill and was forced to return to Antioch. There, the Patriarch Meletius (who had baptized him) welcomed John with open arms and made him a reader (anagnostis). Later he was ordained a deacon by Flavianos. He remained a deacon for five years and then returned to his former monastery. During this time, the Second Ecumenical Council was called in the city of Constantinople. Meletius left Antioch and went to Constantinople to attend the Council. While in Constantinople, he died and Flavianos became Patriarch of Antioch. One night, Patriarch Flavianos saw a dream where an angel instructed him to go to the monastery and take Saint John to the Patriarchal Church. There, he was to ordain him into the priesthood. That same night, Saint John, while praying, was told by an angel that the Patriarch would come to him the next day and he was to go with him, for this was the will of God. The next morning, Saint John told the other monks of his vision. They wept, for they were to lose their beloved brother. The Patriarch arrived at the monastery and he told Saint John of his vision. They held a Liturgy at the monastery and prepared to leave. The other monks gathered around John. Crying, they begged him not to leave them. Flavianos comforted the monks and, together with Saint John, departed for Antioch. When the people of Antioch heard of the Saint’s arrival, they gathered at the church to witness the ordination. As the ceremony progressed, a vision of a white dove appeared in the church. The Patriarch was about to ordain John when the dove descended and sat on the Saint’s head. This symbolized the blessing given by the Holy Spirit.
Because of his teachings, and his explanations of the Scriptures (all of which he did eloquently), the people of Antioch called him “the mouth of Christ,” “the second Paul,” and “Chrysostom” (golden mouth). The name Chrysostom was used most frequently and it is this name that we still associate with Saint John.
An affluent woman, named Euclea, had five sons, four of which had died. The fifth became extremely ill with a burning fever. Fearing for the life of her only remaining son, she ran with her husband to the church where Saint John was performing the Liturgy. When they arrived, the Saint was reading the scripture where the woman begged Christ to cure her sick daughter. Euclea fell at the Saint’s feet and begged him to cure her only child. John realized that the son was suffering because of the sins of his parents. The Saint told Euclea and her husband that to save their son, they would have to repent for the sins which they had committed. They shed bitter tears and Saint John instructed them to bring their son to the church. He took a chalice of water and blessed it. Then he gave three sips of the Holy Water to the boy. His fever fell immediately.
The Antiochian governor at that time was a heretic and wanted to spread the false teachings of Markianus. Markianus taught that there were four gods. The first, the Father, was innocence and no one was capable of knowing him. The second god was the Great or, who created the four elements — earth, air, fire, and water. The third god was named Wise, and he borrowed the four elements of the Creator and formed the Earth and mankind. Christ was the fourth god, but he was considered inferior to the other gods. During the time that the governor supported this heresy, his wife became ill with dysentery. Many doctors tried to cure her and many heretics prayed for her, but their efforts were in vain. Finally they carried the woman to the church where John was teaching. When Saint John saw them, he ordered them to leave the church for they were heretics and thus enemies of Christ. The governor maintained that this was the religion they had been taught from childhood and that was why they accepted it. They were, however, willing to change their beliefs. Saint John then ordered them to bring water which he blessed and sprinkled on the woman. She was immediately cured and walked back to her home. Both the governor and his wife subsequently believed in the orthodox teachings. They did many philanthropic deeds, such as building homes for the poor, hospitals, orphanages and churches.
When the others who believed in this heresy saw that the governor and his wife had denounced the Markian teachings, they began to curse Saint John, calling him a magician and a heretic. John warned them to change their ways or else suffer the consequences. Within a few days an earthquake shook the city of Antioch and leveled the houses of the heretics. Not one Christian home was damaged. This disaster caused the heretics to denounce their ideas. For many days, they came to Saint John to be baptized as Christians.
Towards the end of the 4th century, the Patriarch of Constantinople, Nectarius, died. He had succeeded Saint Gregory the Theologian. The question arose as to whom to elect as the new Patriarch. After a great deal of turmoil, five men decided to go to Antioch, bring back Saint John to Constantinople, and ordain him Patriarch. With the consent of the Emperor Arcadius and that of the other bishops, a letter was written to Flavianos, Patriarch of Antioch, informing him of the death of Nectarios and of the election of John the Chrysostom to the position of Patriarch of Constantinople. When John was informed of this decision, he was deeply troubled, for he did not deem himself capable of fulfilling the great responsibilities of this position. When the people were informed, a riot nearly ensued in Antioch. They refused to let their teacher and father leave. Flavianos tried by every means to calm them, but to no avail. Fearing that blood would be shed if they persisted, the representatives of the Emperor Arcadius returned to Constantinople without John.
Arcadius wrote a letter to the governor of Antioch instructing him to send Saint John to him even if the Saint refused. The governor was to do this secretly so that the people would not be aware of the Saint’s departure. Thus a note was written to the Saint asking him to go to the Martyr’s Church outside the city for someone needed his help. The note was not signed. When he arrived, he saw a carriage in front of the church. This seemed strange to him for people rich enough to own carriages did not frequently attend church. Suddenly, five soldiers surrounded him and instructed him to go with them. Saint John was placed in the carriage and taken to Constantinople. When they neared the city, thousands of people, including many priests and bishops, came to welcome the new Patriarch. Among them was Theophilus who was the Patriarch of Alexandria and the nephew of the Empress Eudoxia. Theophilus ordained John, Patriarch of Constantinople, on December 15, 398 A.D. The next day, the Emperor and other officials went to the Patriarchate and received the Patriarch’s blessing.
As Patriarch, Saint John had one overriding duty — to save the souls of his people. He wrote many speeches instructing the people to lead Christian lives in order to obtain salvation.
The people in the area of Phoenicia were still idolaters. Saint John was determined to convert these people to Christianity. Thus, with the consent of Arcadius, soldiers went to Phoenicia and destroyed all the heathen temples. In their place they erected churches and monasteries. Monks were then sent to these monasteries and within a short time, they converted the Phoenicians to Christianity. In addition to this, John was also successful in halting the spread of heresy throughout the rest of the kingdom.
Saint John was renowned for his explanations of the Holy Scriptures. He also interpreted the Epistles of Saint Paul, whom he admired greatly. In order to assure himself that the interpretations of the Epistles were correct, he asked God to offer him a sign.
At that same time, a nobleman had risen against Emperor Arcadius. The Emperor, in turn, confiscated all of the man’s possessions and threatened to execute him. The nobleman became desperate and decided to ask for Saint John’s assistance. When he arrived at the Patriarchate, Saint John could not offer him an audience immediately, but instructed him to return that evening. Saint John told the assistant priest, Proclos (who later succeeded Saint John as Patriarch), to show the nobleman to the Saint’s room when he arrived. That evening, the nobleman returned and Proclos went to inform the Patriarch of his arrival. The door to the room was shut, so Proclos looked through the keyhole. He saw Saint John sitting at his desk writing, with a bald-headed man, slightly bent, looking over his shoulder. Seeing this, Proclos returned to the nobleman and told him that the Patriarch was in conference. Proclos returned to the Patriarch’s room several times during the night, but the man was still talking with John. Thus the nobleman waited the entire night to see Saint John. Morning came and the Patriarch prepared to perform the Matins, realizing neither that the nobleman had waited all night for him, nor that Proclos had seen the vision.
That morning the nobleman returned to the Patriarchate since it was of the utmost importance for him to see the Patriarch. Proclos went again to inform John of the nobleman’s arrival, but again saw the same man in the Patriarch’s room. John looked extremely interested in what the man was telling him. Proclos was bewildered on how the man was entering, since everyone had to come by him.
The nobleman returned for the fourth time and Proclos assured him that the Patriarch was alone, for he had made certain that no one passed without his knowledge. When Proclos went to the Patriarch’s room, he was shocked to find the same man still there. He returned to the nobleman and told him to go to his home for it was impossible for him to see John.
That third day, the Saint had remembered the nobleman and inquired about him. Proclos told John that the man had come three times, but each time, the Patriarch was busy talking to the same man. John asked Proclos whom he had seen in the room. Proclos told him that it looked as if it were the Apostle Paul whose icon sat on the Saint’s desk. Joyously, Saint John realized that this was the sign he had asked for from God concerning his interpretations of the Apostle’s epistles. Thus, Saint John wrote The Fourteen Epistles of the Apostle Paul containing the explanation of the letters. This book is one of the greatest works in the writings of the Orthodox Church.
After conferring with the nobleman, the Patriarch agreed to act as mediator between the nobleman and the Emperor. Within a short time, the differences were settled and the nobleman was again granted his confiscated property.
The Saint began to acquire many enemies, during his stay in office. He spoke openly and condemned anyone who did not live according to the Christian teachings. He expelled many priests, either for false teachings or because of their involvement in scandalous affairs. He also condemned the royalty for their extravagant way of life. Thus the Empress, and other pleasure-loving people turned against him. These enemies were to cause the Saint a great amount of uneasiness and unhappiness.
Eutropios, the Chamberlain of the Emperor, was one of the bitterest enemies of the Saint. He was a heathen and did everything in his power to cause trouble in the Church. In his desire for power, Eutropios began to oppose the Emperor and Empress, He erected statues to himself, claiming to be the second founder of Constantinople. Finally, he insulted the Empress. She ordered that Eutropios be arrested and executed. He fled to the church of the Patriarchate and begged for asylum. The soldiers followed him and entered the church. John immediately stepped between the soldiers and Eutropios and instructed the soldiers to leave. They returned to the Empress to tell her what had happened. The next day the soldiers gathered outside of the church and demanded Eutropios’ death. Saint John ascended the pulpit and gave one of the most famous speeches of his life. Thus he dispersed the soldiers and saved the heathen from execution.
Another event occurred at this time to arouse more problems for the Patriarch. There were many people in Constantinople who believed in the Arian Heresy. They had their own churches and tried to convert the orthodox Christians. Thus, Saint John asked Arcadius to give the heretics a choice — either to return to the orthodox thinking or to leave Constantinople. Arcadius agreed and related his decision to the Arian priests. Many heretics, not wishing to leave their homes and the city, returned to the Christian Church. Others left Constantinople and resettled in the city’s outlying areas. During the great feast days of the Church, the heretics would return to the city and sing hymns against the Orthodox Church. To try to stop this, Saint John wrote hymns against the heretics and called them antiphona (against the voices). So much hatred arose between the two groups, that blood was eventually shed.
A eunuch named Brison was singing the antiphona with the Christians on one such Feast Day when heretics began to throw rocks at them. Brisanas was struck in the forehead and killed. From that time on the Arians were not allowed to chant in Constantinople.
A Church Council was held in Constantinople in which twenty-two Bishops from Anatolia attended. During the meeting, Bishop Eusebius, from Valentinopolis, handed Saint John a letter listing several charges against the Metropolitan of Ephesus, Anthony. These charges were that:
- He gave the golden and silver pieces in the Metropolitan Church to smiths, who melted them down and made jewelry which was sold at his son’s jewelry exchange.
- Much marble which was in the Church was taken by the Metropolitan and put in his personal bath house.
- Money planned for use by the Church was taken by the Metropolitan and used to build his son a house.
- Anthony’s son had committed murder which had gone unpunished.
- The lands that had been given to the Church by the mother of Julian the Apostate had been sold by Anthony.
- Anthony’s former wife had returned to live with him and that she had another child by him while he was a bishop.
- He made those who wanted to be ordained pay for the service. This was considered to be the most serious of the charges.
When Saint John read these charges he asked Eusebius if they had been written out of hatred for Anthony. Eusebius answered that he had written the truth for the good of the church. John warned him that once these charges were read to the clergy and laity, the decision would be out of his hands. The charges were read and it was decided that Anthony should stand trial for the last charge. If he were found guilty, the other charges would just support the accusation. John was satisfied with this decision.
Several priests whom Anthony had ordained were summoned before the bishops, but they denied having paid Anthony. Thus John saw that it would be difficult to accuse Anthony without a witness. He, therefore, decided to go to Ephesus. Anthony, knowing what John would discover, persuaded the Emperor’s representative not to allow the Patriarch to leave Constantinople. The Patriarch sent two other bishops and Eusebius to Ephesus to discover if the charges were valid. He gave them two months in which to find witnesses. If they failed, Eusebius would be punished for his false accusations.
Meanwhile, Eusebius received many gifts and favors from Anthony and he no longer wanted the charges to be proven true. He, therefore, did not bring forth any witnesses. After two months, the bishops departed for Constantinople. Midway there, Eusebius summoned them to return to Ephesus, saying that he had found witnesses. He did this so that the bishops would not have him punished for the false accusation. The bishops returned to Ephesus to question the witnesses. However, by that time, all the bishops had left Constantinople. Within a year of the first accusations, Anthony died and the case was forgotten. The people of Ephesus did ask Saint John to go to their city to clear the Church of other scandalous priests.
John boarded one of the royal ships and went to Apemian, the seaport of Ephesus. Here he was met by other bishops and taken to the city. There, bishops were questioned as to what amount they had paid to be ordained. The amount was reimbursed from the estate of the late Bishop Anthony. A new bishop was also elected to serve that area and Eusebius was duly punished.
It was Saint John’s habit to publicly criticize all people who were greedy, unjust, and selfish. Many of the nobility of Constantinople objected to this, even though the Saint would never mention names. There was a nobleman named Theodorichus in Constantinople who was extremely rich. The Empress Eudoxia had become jealous of this man and wanted to destroy him. However, she could find no valid excuse to do this. She, therefore, decided to ask him to lend a large sum of money to the Empire. If he gave the money, she would never return it to him; and if he refused, she could easily ruin him. Theodorichos realized what Eudoxia was attempting to do and thus went to Saint John for help. The Patriarch wrote a letter to the Empress and suppressed her scheme. Afterwards, Saint John told Theodorichus that if God had not intervened no doubt he would have given his money to the Empress. Therefore, he should be generous with his money and share it with the Church. Theodorichus donated a large portion of the money to the Church’s treasury, keeping just enough to support himself and his family. When Eudoxia discovered what Theodorichus had done with his fortune, she was furious. She immediately sent a letter to Saint John accusing him of scheming to obtain Theodorichus’ wealth for himself.
Saint John, considering himself innocent of this accusation, responded to the Empress’ letter. He explained to her that long ago he had distributed his own inheritance among the poor, and that he had done the same with the money he received from Theodorichus. He also stated that the nobleman himself had decided to give the money to the Church so that the Empress’ greed could not be satisfied. Unfortunately, this insult enraged Eudoxia and she became the Saint’s ardent enemy.
Still another event caused Eudoxia to be bitter against Saint John. There lived a very rich widow in Alexandria, named Kallitrope. The governor of Alexandria, Pavlacios, wanted to rob this woman of her money. Accusing her of a false crime, he demanded five-hundred gold pieces as a fine.
Two years later, Paulacius was summoned to Constantinople to pay his taxes to the Empire. With this opportunity, Kallitrope also went to the capital city, hoping to present her case to the Emperor. Upon telling the Emperor of the injustice that Paulacius had subjected her to, the Emperor handed the case over to the Eparch of Constantinople. Unfortunately, he sided with Pavlacios since this money was part of the taxes which Paulacius had to pay.
Seeing that she would not receive fair treatment from these men, Kallitrope decided to go to Eudoxia, thinking that, being a woman, the Empress would stop this injustice. Eudoxia was nonetheless greedy. She gave the widow only eighty gold pieces and told her to leave the palace. Filled with despair, Kallitrope departed and went to Saint John. Hearing the widow’s case, the Patriarch summoned Paulacius to the Patriarchate and ordered him to return the money to the widow. He informed the Saint that he had given the money to the Emperor. Thus Saint John had Paulacius jailed in the prison of the Partriarchate. When Eudoxia heard of Paulacius’ imprisonment, she went to Saint John and ordered him to release the nobleman. The Patriarch refused and told Eudoxia that unless the money were returned to the widow, he would not release Paulacius. The Empress ordered two hundred soldiers to go to the Patriarchate and free Paulacius. When the soldiers arrived at the gates of the prison, they saw an angel of the Lord who held a spear and ordered the soldiers to leave. When they returned and told the Empress of the event, she became frightened. She called upon a nobleman named Flumentius who was a friend of Saint John and instructed him to go to the Patriarch to convince him to free Paulacius. Flumentius could not persuade the Patriarch to free the prisoner. Thus, he returned to Eudoxia and informed her of the Patriarch’s steadfastness in the matter. Flumenius then went to his home, got five-hundred gold pieces, and took them to the Patriarch who in turn released the prisoner.
Eudoxia again sent a message to Saint John. She informed him that the rulers of the Empire did not interfere in ecclesiastical affairs and that the Patriarch should not interfere with the affairs of the State. Also, she requested that he refrain from criticizing her. His reply was that he would continue to criticize her until she would change her lifestyle so as to permit her soul to receive the riches of heaven.
Eudoxia was now determined to have the Saint deposed. Thus, she and other enemies including Patriarch Theophilos of Alexandria, laid a trap. Together they asked the bishops to call a council. Here false accusations were made against Saint John, especially from Patriarch Theophilos. The council of bishops heard forty accusations against the Saint. The accusations included:
- Selling the marble of the Church of Saint Anastasia
- Putting several monks in irons
- Beating the son of a nobleman
- Selling many jewels of the Church
- Cursing several clergymen
- Having a man named Servius murdered
- Not giving an account of the Church’s income
The bishops who were against the Patriarch outnumbered those who were on the side of his righteousness. They signed the documents deposing the Patriarch and suggested to the Emperor that he send the spiritual head of the Church into exile. The Emperor Arcadius ordered his soldiers to patrol the city since the citizens were almost in a state of riot due to the council’s decision. When the Bishop of Rome, Ignatius heard of the council’s decision, he wrote a letter to Arcadius condemning him for his actions.
The night that Saint John was exiled, an earthquake shook the city of Constantinople. Arcadius became extremely frightened and sent a messenger recalling John from Prametus, the Saint’s place of exile. When the citizenry of Constantinople heard that Patriarch John was returning, they crowded the narrow streets of the city and awaited the arrival of their leader. Saint John reached the gates of Constantinople and stopped. He requested that another council come and re-examine him. The crowd yelled so much for him to enter the city, that the Patriarch honored their request. Upon reaching the Patriarchate, Saint John was hesitant about taking the Patriarchal chair. However, the citizens again forced him to take his rightful place.
The Emperor and his wife were not so easily swayed. They were determined to be rid of this uncooperative hierarch. Eventually, they slaughtered hundreds of Christians, and threatening to kill many more, they succeeded in coercing Saint John into exile.
He was escorted to the small Armenian village of Cucussus. Even here, however, he attracted more followers. Fearing that his power would grow, his enemies forced him to undertake a long and tedious journey. On this journey, John’s ill ness and age took their toll. He felt that the end was near. And so, one morning he dressed in white garments, raised his hands towards the sky, and said, “Glory be to God for all things.” With that his soul passed into heaven.
Years after his death, a dispute arose as to the superiority of Chrysostom over Basil the Great and Gregory the Theologian. Basil was the most philosophical, Gregory the most theological and Saint John the most eloquent of all the pillars of Orthodoxy. All three were undoubtably the great Fathers of the Orthodox Church. I n order to illustrate the equality of the Three Great Hierarchs, the Church has sanctioned a common feast for all three, celebrated on January 30.
The Transfer of Saint John Chrysostom’s Body to Constantinople.
(Celebrated January 27).
After the death of the Saint in his place of exile, the Empress Eudoxia began hemorrhaging and her entire body began to decay. She realized that she was suffering because of her injustices to Patriarch John. During her last days oh earth, she tried to remedy these injustices. Even after her death the Empress did not rest in peace, for her grave trembled for thirty-three years until the body of Saint John was returned to Constantinople.
Eudoxia left as her heirs four daughters, Poulcheria, Foulia, Arcadia and Mary, and one son, Theodosius. The Emperor Arcadius ruled for fourteen years upon Eudoxia’s death. Her daughters remained unwed. Poulcheria ruled after Arcadius, for nineteen years until Theodosius came of age to rule. After thirty years of Theodosius’ reign, Proclus, a student of Saint John was elected Patriarch of Constantinople. In 435, he approached Emperor Theodosius and requested that the relics of Saint John be brought to Constantinople.
Upon the Emperor’s consent, his representatives were sent to Komana (the burial place of the Saint) where they requested the citizens to show them the spot where Saint John rested. Not wanting to deny an imperial order, the citizens took the representatives to the tomb of Saint John. By the power of God, the men were not able to budge the boulder which covered the tomb. Not until Theodosius wrote a letter of apology in the Saint’s name and prayed that he permit his body to be brought to Constantinople were the men able to move the boulder.
A procession started from Comana to Constantinople. The Saint’s body was placed in a golden coffin and hundreds of people, chanting and holding candles led the procession. When they approached Chalcedon, the citizens of Constantinople prepared to accept the Saint’s body. Hundreds of ships crowded the harbor of Constantinople and thousands of people lined the streets. Just before they reached Constantinople, the coffin was placed on one of the Imperial barges. Suddenly, a fierce storm arose and all the boats which were in the harbor listed. The imperial barge landed in front of the home of Kallitrope, a widow whom Eudoxia had wronged. The storm then subsided. After several moments, the current of the Hellespont changed, and the barge floated to the Church of Saint Thomas where the Empress Eudoxia was buried. As the barge docked there, the grave of the Empress, which had trembled for thirty-three years, became peaceful.
The Emperor was unsure as to where to bury the body of the Saint. Therefore, it was taken to the Church of Saint Irene and placed in front of the altar, however, nothing happened. It was then placed on a royal coach and taken to the Church of the Holy Apostles. When the body was placed in front of this altar, a voice was heard to say, “Peace be with you.” The body was buried in this Church, where it remains today.
St. John the Russian.
One of the most popular saints among Greeks today is St. John the Russian whose incorrupt relics are the boast of the island of Euboia. The multitudes who visit his shrine are such that there is daily bus service to the shrine from Athens. Countless miracles flow from his relics and icons, and even now-when the spirit of the world is having such an oppressive effect on traditional Greek piety — icons of the Saint are often found in buses and in nearly all Orthodox homes. St. John was neither a celebrated hierarch, nor an eloquent theologian, but a simple young man who spent the better part of his life in a stable.
St. John was born in the south of Russia of pious Orthodox parents. He was still young when, in 1711, he took part in the battle against the Turks. Sharing the unhappy fate of many other Russian soldiers, the Saint was captured and sold as a slave to a Turkish cavalry commander from the village of Procopion near Caesarea in Asia Minor. Fanatic in their Moslem beliefs, the Turks inflicted cruel tortures upon their Christian slaves in trying to force them to renounce their faith. While some succumbed to this form of persuasion, many preferred to suffer death and a whole multitude of martyrs was thus added to the heavenly choir. In their misguided zeal the Turks would also kidnap the sons of Christians and raise them as fanatical Moslem soldiers. Procopion was the army-camp of these Christian-hating Janissaries and the new slave of the Turkish Agha became a target of their derisions. But neither their insults nor the beatings of his Turkish master were able to shake the faith of the pious Russian youth who confessed outright that he would sooner die than lose what he treasured above all — the holy Orthodox faith.
The blessed John was assigned to work in the stable where he was also told to sleep. Recalling the lowly Bethlehem cave and The manger where the Saviour of the world first lay His head, the Saint rejoiced in his rude dwelling place. In his humility he regarded his dark corner of the stable as a little paradise where he could freely offer prayer and praise to the true God. The unshakable firmness of his faith, his patience, fortitude, and gentleness of spirit, gradually won the hearts of the Agha and his wife who offered the meek stable boy to sleep in a small room near the hayloft. John, however, preferred to remain in the stable where he could toil more assiduously in the ascetic life, bringing his body into subjection to the spirit according to the Apostle’s command. He ate very sparingly and spent long hours in prayer with the Psalms of David continually on his lips. Weekly he prepared himself to partake of the Most Holy Mysteries in a nearby church, for he knew that without the strength of Christ he was powerless to persevere on the path of the true Faith. At night he would secretly go and keep vigil in the narthex of the church. The Lord rewarded the labors of His faithful servant and through him bestowed blessings also upon his Turkish master who became one of the wealthy and powerful men of Procopion. The Agha understood the cause of his new prosperity and did not shrink from telling it to his fellow citizens.
Once the Agha undertook a pilgrimage to Mecca, the city most sacred to the Moslems. While he was away, his wife invited friends and relatives to pray for the Agha’s safe return from such an arduous journey. As they were getting ready to eat. the mistress turned to John, who was serving at the table, and said, “How much pleasure your master would have, Gavan, if he were here now and ate this pilaff with us!” The pilaff, a common grain dish of the Middle East, was a favorite with the Agha. Wishing the best for his master and firmly believing in the almighty power of God, John asked for a plate full of pilaff from his mistress, saying that he would send it to his master in Mecca. The guests laughed but the mistress asked the cook to comply with the youth’s request, thinking that he would take it to some poor Christian family as was his custom.
Those who are familiar with the Gospel should not be astonished at what happened next, for did the Lord not say that faith as small as a mustard seed is enough to move mountains? Strong in his faith, the blessed one returned with the plate of pilaff to the stable and, as he was petitioning the Lord, in answer to his firm entreaty, the plate disappeared. What was the amazement of the entire household when the Agha finally returned from Mecca bringing with him the copper plate which had held the food. He had been equally astonished to discover the steaming plate of pilaff upon his return from the Mosque to the locked room where he was staying. Still greater was his confusion when he realized that the copper plate was engraved with his initials — just as all the vessels in his house. “For the sake of Allah, I cannot understand how it came even unto Mecca and who brought it!” When his wife told him of John’s request, they recognized the strange occurrence to be a miracle of God, and henceforth all considered John as a righteous man who had found favor with God.
Once again the Agha and his wife tried to persuade the blessed one to change his dwelling place, but the Saint preferred to remain among the animals, willingly fulfilling his duties and continuing steadfast in his ascetic struggles.
- He persevered in this manner of life until, after a few years, he became ill. Foreseeing his end, he called for a priest and asked to partake of the Holy Mysteries. Fearing the fanaticism of the Turks, the priest did not want to bring the Holy Mysteries openly to the stable, but receiving wisdom from above, he thought to hollow out an apple; lining the cavity with beeswax, he placed the Holy Mysteries inside and was thus able to safely bring Communion to the Saint. Upon receiving the immaculate Body and Blood of the Lord, the blessed one surrendered his holy soul into the hands of God Whom he loved so much. He reposed on the 27 of May, 1730, having spent some forty years in this temporal vale of sin and sorrow.
The Saint was given a Christian burial by order of the Agha who, as a token of his love and great respect for the Saint, gave an expensive cloth to cover his relics. Three years later a light appeared over the tomb which was seen by many. At the same time, the Saint appeared in a dream to his father confessor revealing that it was the will of God that his relics be exhumed, for his body was incorrupt. Until 1924 the relics were kept in the church of St. George there in Procopion. When, however, the exchange of population took place between Greece and Turkey, and many of the Christian inhabitants of Procopion were resettled on the island of Euboia, the relics of their beloved St. John were also moved and were received with great acclaim and veneration by the Greeks who built a majestic temple in his honor there in the village of New Procopion. To this day, streams of pious Greek pilgrims make their way to this village on the island of Euboia, where the Saint answers the faith of their earnest petitions with his strong and quick intercession before the throne of God.
Some Miracles of Saint John
The Saint performed many wonders even after his blessed repose. A descendent of the Agha told many of the following miracle: “My children would not live except for a short time, and would die while yet infants. Their unfortunate mother, after she had lost hope in the wisdom of medicine, fled without my knowledge to the relics of the slave John, so that be might grant her a little child which would not die while yet young, so that we also might rejoice to see it as a young man or even a young girl …. In truth the righteous John heard the supplication of my wife. God granted us a strong little boy whom we called, as you know, Kole Guvan Oglu (that is, “Son of the Slave John”), and he lives through the power of God and the prayers of John even until today.”
Several times St. John has appeared in dreams and visions warning of impending dangers. Once he warned some Greek school children that the roof was about to fall; they had time enough to jump underneath their desks and when the roof fell, its beams came down upon the desks without striking even one of the children.
More recently we have heard about the miraculous healings of two severe cases of meningitis — one a 19 year old shepherd boy in southern Greece and the other a 3-year old boy in London.
Today a part of the right hand of St. John is enshrined in a special silver reliquary in the Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Boston, where many people come to venerate it and to ask the prayers of this simple Confessor of the Christian faith, knowing that the Lord — Who resisteth the proud — hears speedily the prayers of the meek.
Juvenal and Peter the Aleut America’s Protomartyrs.
The Protomartyr (the first martyr) of the Christian Church is the Archdeacon Stephen, who suffered from the Jews who refused the Gospel of Christ. He died with the heavens opened up to him, asking God’s forgiveness for his murderers (Acts 7:54-60). From that day to this, the blood of the martyrs has been the seed of Christianity; every Christian land has had its martyrs, and in giving up everything earthly and laying down their very lives for Christ, they have served as the source of the flowering of Christianity for each separate people.
The first martyrs in each country are usually from the heathen; and once Christianity has been established on their blood, a second wave of martyrs has been produced by the heterodox — those, who while calling themselves Christians, have distorted the Gospel of Christ and rise up attempting to destroy the true Church of, Christ. Finally, the godless, or those who have rejected Christ altogether, make a final attack against the Church.
Thus it was with Byzantium, which after the pagan persecutions of the first three centuries, had to endure numerous persecutions from the Arians, the Iconoclasts, and others, until the very city of Constantinople was sacked and its holy things defiled by the Latin Crusaders; and finally it was reduced to merciless slavery at the hands of the Turks, the only light in this period coming from its new martyrs who went boldly to endure tortures and death at their hands.
The Orthodox land of Russia, which suffered little from persecutions in earlier periods, has in this century brought forth an abundant multitude of new martyrs from the godless, who have raised up the worst attack ever to afflict the Church of Christ.
America, a land late to receive the light of Orthodoxy, has also had its martyrs, although up to now they have received little veneration or even attention. Hieromartyr Juvenal, at the very dawn of Orthodoxy on this continent (1796), suffered from the pagan natives of Alaska to whom he was preaching the Gospel so zealously; and New Martyr Peter The Aleut, one of the first generation of Orthodox converts in America, suffered cruel torture and death at the hands of Latin missionaries in San Francisco (1815) for refusing to abandon Orthodoxy for the heterodox Christianity of the West.
Martyrs are seldom given a formal glorification or canonization, their own blood shed for Christ being already sufficient witness of their sanctity. But in the case of these American protomartyrs, the absence of a formal glorification has been a cause of their neglect. The church service to St. Herman of Alaska, approved by the bishops of the Russian Church Outside of Russia in 1970 for the glorification of the first Saint of America, did make mention of Sts. Juvenal and Peter, but still only a few have begun to show veneration for them. Now the same group of bishops has issued a formal decree on this subject (see p. 11), and perhaps at last a worthy glorification of them will begin, with the realization that their martyric witness, together with the righteous life of St. Herman, is the seed of our own Orthodox Christianity in this land.
One kind of martyrdom is still lacking to American Orthodoxy: persecution from the Godless. But the march of historical events seems to point inexorably to this kind of future for America. Let the sons of Orthodox America take to heart the warning of world events and prepare now to be strong witnesses (the literal meaning of “martyr”) of true Christianity. Let us pray the more fervently to the new martyrs of this land, that by their prayers we may be strengthened in this witness.
Holy New Martyrs Juvenal and Peter, Pray to God for Us!
Martyr Julian of Tarsus.
(Commemorated June 21).
St. Julian, the son of a pagan senator and a Christian mother, was born in the Cilician city of Anazerva. Upon the death of his father, S t. Julian’s mother moved to Tarsus, another city in Cilicia. Here she baptized young Julian, teaching him — along with his letters, the basic tenets of the Faith and the rules of Christian piety.
When Julian was 18 years old, there arose a great persecution of Christians, instigated by the Roman Emperor Diocletian (who reigned from 284 to 305). Julian was among those Christians arrested and brought to the magistrate Marcian for trial. But neither cruel torments nor threats nor promises of gifts and honors could incline the pious youth to turn away from Christ and bring sacrificial offerings to the pagan idols. For a whole year they led Julian from city to city in Cilicia, putting him to tortures everywhere, but he, being adamant, remained firm in his confession of faith in Jesus Christ.
When St. Julian was brought to the coastal city of Egaia, the heathens there forced open the holy martyr’s mouth and crammed it with meat and blood that had been offered to idols, thinking thereby to defile the pure and holy servant of Christ with unclean sacrifices. Then they imprisoned St. Julian in a dungeon. His pious mother, who had been accompanying him everywhere, praying to the Lord to strengthen St. Julian in his painful trial, came there to see him. When the torturers seized her and brought her before the magistrate, she begged to be given three days in the dungeon with her son in order to persuade him to worship the idols. The magistrate granted her request. But she, spending day and night in the dungeon conversing with her son, exhorted him with tears and maternal love to bear these temporary torments to the end, in order to receive from the Lord eternal blessings in the kingdom of martyrs.
When three days had passed, St. Julian was brought, together with his mother, to the magistrate for trial. Thinking that the mother had succeeded in persuading her son to bring offerings to the idols, the magistrate began to praise her for her exhortations, but she loudly and fearlessly began to confess the name of Jesus Christ and to condemn pagan godlessness. And St. Julian also dauntlessly confessed and glorified Jesus Christ as the one true God, and exposed the pantheism of the pagans. The infuriated magistrate ordered them both — mother and son, — to be tortured. After many torments, they chopped off the feet of the Saint’s mother, the very feet on which she had traveled about from Tarsus, following after her son; the holy martyr Julian was put in a sack filled with sand and various poisonous reptiles, and tossed into the sea. Thus did St. Julian reach the end of his sufferings. Not long thereafter, his pious mother likewise died a martyr’s death, and both received crowns of victory from Christ God.
St. Julian’s body was carried to shore by the waves, and there it was found by a pious widow from Alexandria who had it buried with honor. Somewhat later, Julian’ s holy relics were brought to Antioch. St. John Chrysostom, when he was a presbyter in that city, honored the memory of holy martyr Julian with words of praise.
Saint Justin Martyr, the Philosopher.
(Commemorated June 1/14).
By the time the apostles were preaching the Gospel the most learned pagans had already ceased to believe in their gods. Convinced of the falseness of their idolatrous religion, they sought for truth in the teachings of the ancient philosophers: Plato, Pythagoras, Zenon, Epicurus and others. Some of these maintained that everything in the world was the result of chance, and they deified the powers of nature; others thought to attain a state of blessedness by means of an indomitable self-will, and while they did not call upon the Creator of the universe, they nevertheless respected virtue; still others sought only earthly pleasures, temporal satisfactions.
Among those who sought for the truth in this maze of different philosophies was an intense youth by the name of Justin. He was born about 100 AD into a pagan family in the Flavian Neapolis or what is now the West Bank city of Nablus in Palestine. His parents were wealthy and able to provide him a first-class education compatible with his brilliant mind. Justin soon became enamored of philosophy, attaching himself first to one system, then another, but none of these was able to satisfy his genuine thirst for truth. His soul yearned for what was absolute, eternal; he was willing to pay any price.
Of the various philosophers he was most drawn to Plato, who had some understanding of divinity and of the immortality of the soul. Immersing himself in the study of Platonism, Justin often withdrew to some solitary place for the sake of greater concentration. On one such occasion he was walking along the beach, deep in thought, when he met a venerable elder with whom he entered into conversation. Justin told the elder of his desire to know the truth and he extolled the teaching of Plato. The elder contested his opinion, arguing that man was incapable of attaining knowledge of the truth without help from above. “Be assured,” he said, “you will not find in the teachings of Plato or any other philosopher, the true wisdom which leads to the knowledge of God. The human mind, which is not instructed by the Holy Spirit and is not enlightened by faith, cannot know God.”
Justin was taken aback. “Where, then,” he asked the elder, “can I find a teacher who will show me the truth, if, as you claim, it can’t be found in the books of Plato?”
“In ancient times,” began the elder, “long before the philosophers, there lived holy and righteous people who were pleasing to God. Filled with the Holy Spirit, they foretold future happenings, relaying to the people whatever God revealed to them. Their writings exist even now, illumining the minds of men to a knowledge of the truth, for they were witnesses of the truth. They believed in God, the Creator of the world, and announced beforehand the coming to earth of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.”
On the basis of the Holy Scripture and those prophecies which had already been fulfilled, the elder explained that the teachings of the pagan philosophers were far from perfect, and that only in Christianity was the fullness of truth to be found:
“Pray to the true God,” advised the elder, “that He might open for you the doors of light, for without God’s help no one is capable of coming to an understanding of what is divine, but He reveals the truth to everyone who seeks it with prayer, and who turns to Him with love.”
After conversing at some length the elder departed. “I never saw him again,” wrote Justin later in describing his conversion, “but in my soul there was ignited a love for the prophets and holy men who are friends of Christ. In deliberating over what the elder had said, I understood that the only true wisdom was that which he had told me about. I began to study the books of the prophets and the apostles, and finally became a real philosopher, that is, a Christian.”
Not satisfied with studying Christian books, Justin wanted to know how the Christians lived. The pagans circulated the most scandalous rumors concerning their behavior and manner of life, accusing the Christians of criminal activity and immorality. The gross discrepancy between such behavior and the purity of Christian teaching troubled Justin. When, however, he became acquainted with the Christian community, he saw that these rumors were but malicious and baseless fabrications. In fact, he found their behavior to be exemplary, combining meekness, charity and patience with firmness of faith and spirit. “What most impressed me,” wrote Justin, “was the courage of these Christians, and the tranquility with which they endured tortures in confessing their faith.”
Convinced of the truth of Christianity, Justin was baptized and himself began to preach the word of God, travelling around and propagating the Christian faith in various cities of the Empire, until he came to Rome. He wore the traditional robe which identified him as a philosopher, and soon attracted enough students to warrant the establishment of a school where he tried to instill Christian values.
The emperor at that time, Antoninus Pius, persecuted the Christians, not because he held anything against their teaching, but because he believed the slanders which were spread about them. In order to refute these charges, St. Justin addressed to the Emperor an Apology (c. 150 AD), in which he elucidated the essence of the Christian teaching and defended the Christians as moral, law-abiding citizens. He likewise sought to banish the terrible rumors that circulated about the Christian Eucharist. By simply explaining what the Eucharist was all about, he provided one of the earliest descriptions of the Divine Liturgy and its theology. He says, in part:
“We call this food Eucharist; and no one else is permitted to partake of it except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [Baptism], and is thereby living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Saviour was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so, too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by Him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nourished, is both the Flesh and Blood of that incarnated Jesus.”
Leaving Rome for a time, St. Justin came to Ephesus. There he entered into debate with a learned rabbi by the name of Tryphon whom he tried to convince of the truth of Christianity, basing his arguments on the Jewish writings and the Old Testament prophecies fulfilled in the coming to earth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He later recorded the Dialogue, which has survived as a model of a missionary conversation.
Returning to Rome after the philosopher Marcus Arelius had become emperor, St. Justin discovered that the persecution of Christians had resumed. The following case was typical. The wife of a certain pagan had begun to take instruction in the Christian faith, for which her husband had the catechist and two sympathizers arrested and executed. Protesting this immoral vengeance, St. Justin wrote a second Apology, essentially a continuation of the first, in which he demonstrated the superiority of Christianity over paganism; the practical benefit to society alone recommended it: “We who formerly delighted in fornication now cleave only to chastity. We who exercised the magic arts now consecrate ourselves to the good and unbegotten God. We who valued above all else the acquisition of wealth and property now direct all that we have to a common fund, which is shared with every needy person. We who hated and killed one another, and who, because of differing customs, would not share a fireside with those of another race, now, after the appearance of Christ, live together with them. We pray for our enemies, and try to persuade those who unjustly hate us that, if they live according to the excellent precepts of Christ, they will have a good hope of receiving the same reward as ourselves, from the God Who governs all.”
This time, St. Justin’s arguments failed to have the desired effect, and soon thereafter (c. 165 AD), the Saint himself fell beneath the executioner’s sword. According to one account it was the pagan Greek philosopher Criscens who, bitterly resentful of St. Justin for having repeatedly defeated him in debates, brought him before the Roman prefect on charges of treason and impiety. When it appeared that the courts were going to acquit the Saint, Criscens arranged for him to be poisoned.
References to numerous works by St. Justin in the writings of other early Church Fathers indicate that he was a prolific writer. Only the Apology and the Dialogue have come down to us, and they are considered among the most valuable sources for students of early Christian history. They have also established St. Justin’s reputation as the founder of the science of Christian apologetics.
The Martyr’s holy remains are located in a Capuchin monastery in Rome, awaiting the General Resurrection. He is commemorated by the Church on June 1.
With today’s proliferation of false religions and false gods, each one of us must be an informed apologist for the Faith. Holy Martyr Justin, help us, pray for us.
Troparion, Tone 4
O Justin, teacher of divine knowledge, thou didst shine with the rays of true philosophy and wast wisely armed against the enemy. Confessing the truth thou didst contend with the martyrs: with them ever entreat Christ our God to save our souls.
(Celebrated July 7).
During the reign of the Emperors Diocletian and Maximian, there lived a Christian couple in Anatolia named Dorotheus and Eusevia. They lived with other Christians and followed exemplary Christian lives. Having a great deal of money, they often aided the poor. Their only regret in life was that they had no children. For this reason they prayed daily to God. As examples, they had Sarah and Abraham, Anna and Joachim, and Zachariah and Elizabeth who also were childless until God granted their wish. God finally answered their prayers and Eusevia gave birth to a girl. Since she was born on Sunday, they named the child Kyriaki, the Greek word for Sunday.
Kyriaki was raised in accordance with Christian laws. She was not only highly respected, extremely educated, and philanthropic, but also very beautiful. Since Dorotheus and Eusevia were elderly people, they wanted security for Kyriaki upon their deaths. They felt that this security could be obtained through marriage. Kyriaki, being very devout in her Christian beliefs, wanted to follow the teachings of Saint Paul. In his Epistles to the Corinthians, he said that the highest virtue a woman could achieve was to guard her virginity and become a bride of Christ; therefore, Kyriaki refused her parents’ request.
The Saint’s parents were not dismayed, but praised God for granting them such a blessed child. Unfortunately, Kyriaki’s family was well known to the idolaters for their wealth and for Kyriaki herself. One of the idolaters wanted Kyriaki to marry his only son. Kyriaki flatly refused the proposal. Being extremely insulted and angered, the nobleman went to Diocletian and told him that this family did not worship the idols of the Romans. Diocletian summoned Dorotheus, Eusevia, and Kyriaki to his palace and ordered them to make sacrifices to the idols. Dorotheus told Diocletian that the only true God was Jesus Christ and that they would not worship the false gods of the Romans. Diocletian sent Dorotheus and Eusevia to the town of Melitini in Asia Minor to be tortured and executed. He sent Saint Kyriaki to Maximian, the ruler of Nicomedia, so that he could persuade her to sacrifice to the idols.
Dorotheus and Eusevia were tortured unmercifully. Upon seeing that they would not convert, Diocletian ordered his soldiers to execute them. Maximian tried to persuade the Saint with words and then by action to convert; however, Kyriaki remained steadfast in her beliefs. Maximian then sent her to the ruler of Bethany, Elarius, hoping that he could change her beliefs. Elarius ordered that the Saint be hung by her hair and that her naked body be burned with torches. Kyriaki faced the torture with great courage. She was then taken back to prison. That night, Kyriaki had a dream where Christ appeared to her. He said, “Kyriaki, have no fear of the tortures, for I am with you and will protect you.” He healed her burns and ascended into heaven.
The next day, Elarius summoned the Saint before him. Seeing that her body had no wounds, he attributed the miracle to the pagan gods. Kyriaki informed him that she had not been cured by his gods, but by her Savior, Jesus Christ. Kyriaki was then taken to the pagan temple. After she had prayed to Christ, all the idols were destroyed. An earthquake shook the temple and Elarius was struck and killed by lightning.
After Elarius’ death, the ruler Apollonius was sent to rule Bethany. When he heard that Saint Kyriaki was trying to convert people to Christianity, he ordered his soldiers to find and seize her. Apollonius questioned the Saint and upon finding her guilty, he ordered that she be burned to death. As God saved the three boys from the furnace, so he did with Saint Kyriaki. When the Saint began to pray, a heavy rain fell from a cloudless sky and extinguished the flames. The rain fell only over the fine. When Apollonius saw that the fire had no effect on the Saint, he ordered that Kyriaki be placed in an arena with two lions, as had been done with Daniel. The lions, being starved, began to go towards the Saint. As soon as they reached her, they knelt on the ground at her feet. Many idolaters who witnessed this miracle confessed their belief in Christ. Apollonius immediately had these people executed. Kyriaki was again returned to prison.
The following day, Apollonius ordered his soldiers to bring the Saint before him. Apollonius tried once again to convince her to denounce her beliefs. Arrogantly, Kyriaki refused, and told him that she would welcome death since it would mean sacrificing herself for Christ. Apollonius then decided to behead Kyriaki. When she was taken to the place of her execution, she asked to be left alone so that she might pray. Her request was granted. After she finished praying, angels descended and received her soul. When the executioners returned, they found that Saint Kyriaki had already died. They recognized the Christian God as being ruler over life and death. They returned to Apollonius and informed him of the events which had occurred.
Christians took the body of the Virgin Martyr for burial, praising God and glorifying the courage of Saint Kyriaki.
Saint Marcella of Chios.
(Celebrated July 22).
It is written that there was once a young woman who epitomized goodness; she was kind, virtuous, simple, and deeply religious. She exemplified what every man would want his wife, mother, daughter, or sister to be. The history of Chios tells us that Saint Marcella lived about the year 1550 in the village of Volissos on the island of Chios and that she was an only child. It is said that she was from a Christian family named Mogias who were well-to-do compared to the other villagers, and highly respected in their community.
Her mother died when Marcella was very young, but not before instilling in her daughter a deep sense of decency and virtue founded on religious faith. And therefore, this humble girl considered Jesus Christ as her protector.
It is written also that she was a lovely child and as she grew older she developed into a beautiful woman. Unfortunately, however, for Marcella, her father was seized by a madness that violated all natural, civil, and religious law — he wanted his daughter to be his wife.
Tortured by her father’s unnatural persistence and fearing for her safety, she fled in terror from her home and from the village she loved. She escaped to the hills being chased by Satan himself, where in her anquish and despair she pleaded with God to embrace her and keep her unharmed.
Our religious history is replete with dramatic human tragedy designed to be beacons of spiritual strength when viewed in perspective by following generations. At this point in time and to this girl, such a spiritual struggle would occur. She was to face a macabre and violent death.
Her father, driven by this incestuous madness, pursued her relentlessly. When his daughter saw him, she ran from the hills towards the coast and hid in a briar patch. Informed of her hiding place by a farmer with the surname of Kazikas, he followed her and insanely set fire to the patch to burn her alive or to force her out into the open. Saint Marcella, with her clothes torn and her body scratched by the briars, ran frantically towards the shore over rocks and boulders to a nearly protected cove. Her father, armed with bow and arrow, wounded her. Desperately she beseeched God to rend the boulder in front of her so that it might swallow and hide her.
Miraculously, the boulder opened to receive her, but only up to her chest. Her father arrived to find her in this trapped position. He mutilated and murdered his daughter by cutting off her breasts which he threw on the rocks and then cut off her head and threw it into the sea.
A document exists which says that the head of the Saint exists in Rome. At this time in history the island of Chios was under the rule of the Genoese. Supposedly, some Genoese sailors saw the head of the Saint floating in the water with a lit candle on it. The head was retrieved and taken to Rome.
The present Church of Saint Marcella is built on the spot where the briar patch reputedly grew. It is also said that the church has the same general dimensions as the briar patch. About fifteen minutes walking distance from the church is the shrine which the Chians have named, “The Martyrdom of Saint Marcella. This is the location of the rock where the murder occurred and the place where the virgin Saint’s body is said to still exist. The boulder is located at the edge of the Aegean Sea. It is not extremely large and seems to have originally stood on a nearby mountain. On the landward side, time has eroded half of the rock. On the seaward side, sand has partially covered the boulder- so that now, one can only see about three feet of the rock above sea level.
On this exposed surface, there is a small aperture the size of a fingernail. A very clear and warm, low-salt content water flows from this opening. One wonders where this water comes from, since the boulder is not geologically part of an aquifer; nor is it sea water, because the water level in the hole does not follow variations of the tide; nor does it have high-salt content of the sea and its relatively cold temperatures.
This clear water colors the rocks and pebbles on the shore, about nine to ten feet of the surrounding area, a reddish brown. In this surrounding area the water itself seems to have a reddish tone when the sea is calm. For this reason, the inhabitants have named the place “Holy Blood.” The monk who wrote the litany of Saint Marcella named the rock, ‘The Tomb of Saint Marcella,” and the inhabitants believe that her corpse is in that rock and from here flows the unique water considered to be holy and healing.
All this is unique and wondrous: the temperature of the water, its quality, the color of the rocks, its unknown source. But there is another more amazing occurrence at this holy place. When the priest chants at the site of the shrine, bubbles start to appear in the water. In time, the entire surface of the water seems to boil.
A short distance from the shrine, the stones in the water are colored similarly to those at “The Tomb of Saint Marcella.” It is believed that this is the place where the Saint’s father wounded her with the arrow. The rocks are said to be stained with the blood of the Saint. Father Nikiphoros, a theologian of Chios, writes that the color of these rocks is not naturally red. When one rubs them, the blackish color comes through (this being the natural color of the surrounding area). The Feast Day of the Saint is on the 22nd of July. On this day, thousands of people gather from all over the island along with many Chians from the mainland of Greece. A liturgy and litany, presided over by the Metropolitan of the island, takes place at the shrine.
Hundreds of miracles have been attributed to Saint Marcella, but two are recent and quite impressive. During March of 1942, when Greece was under German occupation, thirty-nine Greek officers secretly sailed from Lavrion to Asia Minor. When the launch was between Chios and Mytilene, they encountered a fierce storm. The boat was severely damaged and became totally uncontrollable. About 1:00 A.M., one of the officers fell overboard and was drowned. During this desperate situation, the other officers fearfully prayed to the Almighty. One of them, Kreon Talios, says that he saw a dark mysterious cloud from which emanated a bright light. From within this light there developed a beautiful building which was a church. Emerging from the church was a beautiful girl who beckoned to the officers with her right hand to be calm. Miraculously the storm subsided. By day-break, the boat had drifted near the “Tomb of Saint Marcella.” At this time, a patrol of Volissians, headed by Alexander Zorbas, were in the area. Among these men were two brothers, named Karagiosis, who strangely enough had served under Kreon Talios on the Albanian front. These men helped the officers bring the boat to the cove of Saint Marcella. The monk Arsenias, the church’s caretaker, hid the officers, since the Germans had a garrison in Volissos. In three days the boat was repaired and the officers again set sail for Asia Minor where there were ruins of a church next to a wild olive tree. The church was named Saint Marcella, the same as the church in Volissos which is next to a huge tree.
On July 21, 1971, a woman, along with her neighbor, came to Chios to attend the Feast Day of Saint Marcella. This woman had been an orphan for many years. She had been crippled from childhood and walked with a crutch. The neighbor had seen a woman in her dream who told her to bring her friend to Chios and Marcella would help her. She told her friend of the dream and together they departed for Chios hoping that the dream would come true. On July 22, the Feast Day of Saint Marcella, the crippled woman went to pray at the “Tomb of Saint Marcella.” When she finished praying she arose and began to walk without her crutch. Imagine how thankful and amazed this woman was, as were all the people who attended the Saint’s celebration. Being a very poor woman, but wanting to give something in tribute to the Saint, the woman cut off her hair and hung it in the church.
Chians, as well as other Christians, should be grateful to God for allowing such a young woman as Saint Marcella to exist on this Earth to spread the glory of God to all mankind.
(Celebrated July 17).
Saint Marina lived in the year 270 A.D., in the city of Antioch. She was the only child of the pagan high priest, Aidesius. Several days after her birth, her mother died and she was thus left to the care of her father. Being unable to raise the child himself, he gave Marina to a woman to care for. Perhaps this was the will of God, for the woman who took Marina was a Christian. As the child grew, she heard the teachings of the Christian faith and practiced them. Her beliefs became deeply rooted as she matured. She admitted to everyone that she was a Christian and condemned the false idols. It was for these reasons that her father despised her. As much as he rejected her, Christ accepted her. Marina decided to martyr for Christ when she was only fifteen years old.
During this time, the Eparch of the East was Olivrius, a cruel and heartless ruler. He was traveling to Antioch when he first saw Marina. Because of her extreme beauty, he became lustfully desirous for her. His guards seized her and she was brought to the palace. She prayed to God to help her maintain her wisdom and innocence so that she would be crowned righteously with the other martyrs. After telling Olivrius that her name was Marina and that she was a Christian, she was imprisoned.
The next day, the pagans celebrated a holiday during which many so called Christians, to save themselves, made sacrifices to the idols. Olivrius believed that Marina, seeing the others, would do the same. Marina, however, would not sacrifice, even after Olivrius offered her all the riches of his kingdom. She informed the Eparch that she would never denounce her belief in Christ, no matter how many tortures he submitted her to. The Saint did not fear death, for she knew that her reward would be eternal life. Olivrius hid his anger, hoping that Marina would eventually change her mind. Again, he asked her to sacrifice to the gods, promising in return that he would marry her. Then the Eparch ordered his soldiers to strip the Saint and beat her with thorned clubs. The earth turned red from the Saint’s blood. Even though the pain was unbearable, the Saint neither screamed nor shed a tear. It was through her prayers to God that she was able to endure such pain. Olivrius ordered the beatings stopped and that the Saint be returned to prison. He did not do this out of compassion. On the contrary, he had tortures in mind. She remained in a dark cell for several days until she was taken to trial again. This time Olivrius ordered his soldiers to rake the Saint’s body with iron claws. She was so badly mutilated that no one could bear to look at her. This once beautiful girl was now a freak. Once more, she was thrown into the dark cell with nothing to eat or drink. Throughout this misery, she still praised Christ and thanked him for allowing her to suffer for his teachings.
Our Church history tells us that since Olivrius could not make Marina worship the idols, Satan himself intervened. He changed himself into a fierce fire breathing demon, with a tongue as red as blood and dead white teeth. He appeared before the Saint, but she continued to pray. Suddenly, the demon leaped and swallowed Marina up to her waist. Terrified, the Saint prayed to God for her salvation. She made the sign of the cross and immediately the demon’s stomach was torn open and he then disappeared.
As Marina was praying, she had seen a brilliant cross with a dove on it (representing the Holy Ghost). The dove said, “Hail Marina, true and blessed servant of the Master, for you have conquered Satan himself. Hail, for today you will receive the crown of martyrdom and will be with the Bridegroom for all ages.” With these words, all the wounds healed.
The next morning, as Olivrius stood before his subjects, the Saint was brought forth. Seeing that the Saint’s wounds had vanished, he attributed the miracle to the pagan gods. Marina quickly corrected him and told him that it was through Christ’s intervention that she was cured. Infuriated, Olivrius ordered his soldiers to tie the Saint to a piece of wood and burn her with torches. Afterwards, a large vat of water was placed by the Saint. Still tied to the wood, they dunked her, head first, into the vat. When they lifted her out, she again prayed to Christ. Immediately, they immersed her again. Just then a dove with a wreath in its mouth flew over the vat and a pillar of fire appeared with a cross in its center. Violently, the earth trembled, and the Saint was freed from the vat. The dove sat on the Saint’s head, and thus she was baptized. Many spectators who witnessed this event converted to Christianity. All those who converted were immediately executed. So that no more pagans would change their beliefs, he ordered that Saint Marina be beheaded. She was taken to the place of execution and after praying that her enemies be forgiven, she was executed. Her death took place on the 17th of July.
Saint Marina is now entombed in the Church built in her honor in Athens, Greece.
St. Martin of Tours.
(Commemorated November 11).
St. Martin was born in that part of the Roman Empire which is now called Hungary. Though he was the son of pagan parents, he was drawn from his youth to the Christian faith and at the age of ten he asked to be made a catechumen. His father was an officer in the Roman army and Martin was still in his teens when he was forced to become an Imperial Horse Guardsman; this ended his schooldays.
Even before baptism, his actions followed so closely the Gospel teaching that at times he was regarded as a monk rather than a soldier. One freezing night in Amiens, France.
While on guard duty at the fort, the young officer saw a poor man with no cloak. He removed his cape, drew his sword, and slashed the cape down the middle; half he gave to the poor man and half he put on his own back. That night in sleep, young Martin had a vision: he saw the Lord Jesus Christ wearing the half of his cloak that he had given away. Thus encouraged, he took the first opportunity to be baptized.
Two years passed, and France (then called Gaul) was invaded by barbarians. Not wishing to transgress the commandments of God, Martin asked his commander for permission to give up his position as an officer, saying, “I am a soldier of Christ; I am not allowed to fight.” [This indicates that he already considered himself to be a monk] The commander was furious and called him a coward, but Martin offered to stand in the front line of battle, armed only with the sign of the Cross.· The next day the barbarians surrendered without a fight and Martin was allowed to leave the army, seeing in this the Providence of Almighty God.
In the town of Poitiers was the holy Bishop Hilary; Martin now placed himself in this Saint’s hands. It was not long before he was warned in a dream that his parents would soon die and he received the bishop’s blessing to travel to his far-off homeland. There he had the happiness of seeing his mother’ s conversion before her death. Passing through a certain city on his way back to Gaul, he came across many Arians whose false doctrine he so actively opposed that he was whipped in front of a crowd. Soon afterward, he heard that his beloved Bishop had been forced to leave Gaul. Instead of returning there alone, St. Martin went to an island off the coast of Italy to live a solitary life until he heard news of St. Hilary’s return. The two monk-saints then established at Poitiers the first monastery in the West, Liguge, which grew into a community of hermits in about ten years and followed the rule of St. Basil for communal monastic life.
In 371 St. Martin was again forced to become a Guardsman, this time of the Church, With great reluctance he accepted his election as Bishop of the city of Tours. At this consecration, however, were some influential and jealous men — nobles, landowners, and even bishops — who preferred “gentlemen” to saints, saying, “A man of such insignificant appearance, with unkempt hair and dirty clothes…” should not be bishop. But already, his reputation as a wonderworker and a man of God was so well established in the hearts of the people, that they came in great multitudes and made his election sure.
Burdened by the constant stream of visitors to his cell next to the cathedral, St. Martin moved to an isolated place about two miles outside the city. There he established a monastery, directing 80 brothers in the hermitic life while carrying out his duties as Bishop with flaming zeal. He converted the people of many regions in and surrounding Gaul, traveling with few provisions and a small band of monks, usually on foot. His preaching was accompanied by miracles of prophecy and healing of the sick, some of whom were healed simply through touching a piece of his garment; once he cleansed a leper with a kiss of mercy; three times the dead were raised; once five people saw a “ball of fire” surrounding his head when he blessed the congregation.
His prayers were eager, expectant, and pleasing to God. This roused the anger of the evil one. Many times and in the most varied disguises the devil appeared to St. Martin. But that holy man always protected him self with prayer and the sign of the Cross. Once Satan appeared to him in the form of Christ. At another time he taunted the Saint for allowing wicked sinners to become monks. To this St. Martin replied, “If you yourself would even now repent of your misdeeds, I have such trust in the Lord Jesus Christ that I would promise you mercy.’ Once a troop of soldiers beat him up because the sight of his ragged figure made the mules shy and balk. The monks carried him to safety unconscious, but the mules would not budge until the soldiers recognized the Bishop and begged his pardon.
Everywhere he went, earthly powers humbled themselves before his heavenly spirit: an empress served him at table; when St. Martin ordered a tree sacred to the pagans to be cut down, he stood boldly right in the path of its fall — to everyone’ s great astonishment, as it toppled it swerved to avoid him! and the multitude of pagans with one accord acclaimed the name of Christ. In fact, much of this Saint’s life was devoted to the destruction of idols and their shrines, and his daily life was full of miracles proclaiming the power of the one true God, the Creator, and the folly of worshipping anything created. And wherever he went, he left monks and priests to carry on the work of instructing the new believers.
At last, adorned with the venerable gray hairs of old age, St. Martin longed to reach the end of his earthly sojourn. For many years he had with stood the attacks of demons like a true soldier of Christ, armed with patience and prayers which never left his mind and heart. He had attained such purity of life that not only were the demons powerless before him, but he was also granted to converse with angels. At last, while visiting some brethren in need of his ‘peacemaking talents, the Saint collapsed from exhaustion. Foreseeing his departure from this world, he called together the brethren of his monastery who begged him not to leave them “at the mercy of wolves.” The old Saint wept and said, “lord, if I am still necessary to Thy people, I do not refuse to toil; Thy will be done. But God answered the Saint’s desire and took the soul of His faithful servant who died peacefully, his face turned to the window so he could see the sky. St. Martin was the first to be called Saint without having been martyred, and immediately his grave at Tours became the most venerated shrine in Gaul; his memory the most honored in all the West, and many churches and villages were dedicated to this holy Saint of France.
Our knowledge of St. Martin comes from his friend and biographer Sulpicius Severus whose testimony we can trust. Since so many and such unusual miracles are recorded in this Saint’s life, some people have had a hard time believing them, both then and now. But that should only be those who are unbelievers. We should remember that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself said that His true disciples would work miracles even greater than He did while on earth. Through the prayers of the fervent and faithful St. Martin, may we come to full and unashamed belief in the one true God and ail His works. Amen.
Saint Matrona of Chios.
(Celebrated October 20).
This Saint and miracle worker was from the island of Chios which is located in the Aegean Sea, twelve miles off the coast of Turkey. The village of her birth, Volissos, is one of the largest villages on the island. Now the third largest village, Volissos is located on the northwest section of the island and its population at that time was approximately eight thousand people. It was from this same village that a later Saint, Saint Marcella martyred for her beliefs.
Saint Matrona lived in the 15th century. Her parents, Leon and Anna, were highly respected and well-to-do (compared to the other villagers) Christians. There were seven children in the family, including Mary who was the youngest child. Saint Matrona’s name was Mary before she became a nun. When she entered the monastery, her name was changed to Matrona. When the time came for her parents to arrange for her marriage, Mary refused because she wanted to guard her virginity; for it was a strong Christian belief that the highest virtue a woman could have was that of her virginity. In this way, she could become a bride of Christ. This philosophy was taught by Saint Paul. In order to avoid this marriage, Mary left Volissos and her family, and went to a nearby mountain in an area overlooking Volissos called Katavasis. This is now a very small village about two kilometers from Volissos. It was a beginning of a life filled with spiritual struggles for Mary. In Katavasis she fasted, prayed, and meditated. It was a lifestyle which separated her from the corruption of the world. Meanwhile, her parents searched the area trying to find their daughter. After locating her, they convinced her to return home. Mary complied with all the wishes of her parents, except for one — she refused to wed. Seeing that she still desired to lead a monastic life, Mary’s parents gave her their consent to pursue her ambition.
Upon the death of her parents, she inherited a great deal of farmland which she distributed among her sisters and the orphans of the community. Mary left Volissos, never to see her village again, and returned to Katavasis. Her food, which was basic, was brought to her by one of her sisters. She remained here for three years as she re-examined her spiritual beliefs. God, however, wanted her to guide others in the way of righteousness and show them how to obtain their salvation; therefore, she left Katavasis and went to the capital city of Chios, commonly referred to as Chora. In Chora there were many women’s monasteries which followed the rules of monastic society. It was in one of these monasteries that she was to spend the remainder of her life: undergoing spiritual struggles, leading others towards salvation, and performing miracles.
Upon visiting the different monasteries, Mary found a secluded one which she preferred over the others. The monastery was located near the village of Mesa Didima and was of the same order as that founded by Makarius of Egypt, that is, a semi-hermitic monastery. It consisted of three nuns, a mother and her two daughters. This monastery offered an atmosphere of solitude, peace, and tranquility — major considerations in Mary’s decision. The other nuns, realizing her sincerity, immediately welcomed her into their home. At this point Mary’s name was changed to Matrona. (When a nun reaches a high point in her monastic life and becomes a Stavrophore, a new name is bestowed upon her, symbolizing a second baptism and a new way of life).
Matrona surpassed the other nuns in her devotion, spirituality, and understanding. Her sincerity convinced other girls to come to this monastery and lead the same type of life. The church itself was extremely small since it was not built as a church for a monastery, but instead as a family church belonging to the three nuns. (It is common in Greece to find many small churches belonging to individual families — that is in a sense, private churches). Matrona suggested that the church be enlarged and that cells be built for the nuns. The Abbess agreed, however, the monastery was poor. Matrona, therefore, sold her remaining farmland and personal belongings which she owned in Volissos. With the money received from the sale of this land, the monastery built a public bath so that the poor and wayfarers could bathe. These public baths were very common during this time. After this, the renovation of the church was started.
As the workers opened the foundations to expand the church, they discovered a box filled with gold. Matrona was skeptical about the treasure, for she was not sure whether it was a sign from God or Satan. Therefore, the treasure was taken into the church where Matrona went into deep meditation and prayed to Christ to give her a sign to alleviate her dilemma. By a miracle, the gold began to glow and then disappeared completely, a sign that the treasure was placed there by Satan. The Saint and the other nuns praised God for showing them the truth. When the workers heard of the miracle they began to work with greater zeal to complete the church. When the church was complete (with the help of Saint Artemios to whom the church was dedicated) the Abbess of the monastery died.
The nuns then elected Matrona as the new Abbess (Egoumeni). The Abbess in a monastery is called Kira or Mistress. Thus from this point, the Saint was called neither Mary nor Matrona, but Kira.
After the Genoese conquered the island of Chios, many barbarians from the West inhabited the island. They were barbarians in language (did not speak Greek) and in actions. They plundered the island, including its monasteries. Among these was the monastery of Saint Matrona. One of these barbarians attempted to attack the nuns of the monastery. After the Saint prayed for Divine help, her assailant was struck by a bolt of lightning and killed. Matrona, having all her faith in God, and pitying this man, again prayed for aid. After she had finished praying, the barbarian was resurrected. Upon hearing of these two miracles, the people praised both God and Saint Matrona and the barbarians fled from the island in fear.
After these events, Matrona dreamt of her own death. Subsequent to this, she suffered from an illness for seven days. In these seven days, she advised the other nuns as a mother would advise her children. She received Holy Communion and died on the 20th of October, 1462. She was buried in the church of the monastery in which she had spent the greater part of her life. To honor this great Saint, God allowed her holy body to perform miracles after death. Many people with all types of afflictions came to her church and were cured.
There was a rich nobleman in Magnesia, a city of Anatolia, who became paralyzed on his left side. He spent a great deal of money on doctors, hoping to be cured of his paralysis. This man’s servant, named Mary, who was originally from the island of Chios, saw that her master was not receiving any help from the doctors. She told him that there was a person in Chios who could cure any type of sickness, a Christian woman who cured without medicine. The nobleman took Mary and several other servants and went to the island of Chios. Carried by his servants, he was taken to the Church of Saint Matrona. The nobleman asked where this woman could be found, still thinking that he was dealing with a living being. Mary told him to rest awhile, and that he would soon see the woman. The main factor in this miracle was the faith and respect that the servant had in God and in Saint Matrona. The Saint appeared in the nobleman’s dream. She told him that he would be cured because of his servant’s faith and prayers. The nobleman awoke and found not even a trace of his paralysis. He donated many gifts to the church and freed Mary from her servitude so that she could remain at the monastery. When the citizens of Magnesia heard of the miracle, they praised both God and Saint Matrona and many of them went to Chios to pray at her grave.
The citizens of Chios wanted to enlarge the Church to accommodate the many people who came to worship. As the work men were excavating, they found a skull. Present in the church at this time were a man who was paralyzed and a woman who was mute. When the head was found, both of these people were cured of their afflictions. The authorities proclaimed this to be the true head of the Saint. This discovery is celebrated on the 15th of July.
In 1700, a European man who was paralyzed in both legs came to Chios. Several people took him to the Church of Saint Matrona. With great faith, he fell on the grave of the Saint and remained there for several days. On October 20th, during the litany held in the memory of the Saint, the man was cured of his paralysis. He donated several items to the church including a chandelier and three large bronzen candelabras which may still be seen today.
On October 20, 1701, many miracles took place in the church. In fact, so many miracles took place, that it would take many more pages to relate them all. One of these events concerns three people: a blind man, a paralyzed man, and a mute woman. That night, the mute woman had a dream that the paralyzed man was forcing her out of the church. She was frightened and began to scream. In his dream, the paralyzed man heard the mute woman screaming and without any difficulty ran to her. The blind man heard the screams and the running in his dream and turned, as if he could see, to find out what was happening. When the three people awoke, the blind man had his sight, the paralyzed man could walk, and the mute woman could speak. The governor of the island was skeptical when he heard this; therefore, he summoned the three people. When he discovered that these miracles actually occurred, he praised the Holy Saint.
The miracles which are attributed to the Saint, not only took place in the church, but anywhere provided a person had enough faith. In 1701, a woman in another part of the Ottoman Empire became extremely ill. Having heard of the miracles of Saint Matrona, she prayed to her for help. That night, the woman had a dream in which she saw a nun. The nun told her that she was Matrona of Chios and anointed the woman with Holy Water. The next morning the woman awoke completely cured. In thanks, the woman sent a large sum of money and a huge silver candelabra to the monastery.
During May of 1734, a ship arrived in Chios on its way to Constantinople. Several women from this ship went to worship at the Church of Saint Matrona. They gave money for a Liturgy, hoping that this would give them favorable winds to continue their journey. When the priest asked their names, one woman could not respond since she was mute. The other women told the priest that she had come to pray for her voice. The Liturgy was held and the woman left, however, before sunset, the women returned to the church for the mute woman had re-gained her voice.
In 1734, a woman was carried to the church by four men. Her stomach was extremely swollen and she was expected to die. She remained in the church that night and dreamt that the Saint told her to take oil from the oil lamp in front of her icon and rub her stomach with it. The next morning the woman awoke and did as the Saint had instructed her. She was immediately cured.
In 1750, a young mute man had come from Constantinople to worship at the Church of Saint Matrona. For several nights, he knelt in front of her icon crying and praying. One night, the Saint appeared to him in his dream and asked him why he way crying. He told her that he wanted to regain his voice. Matrona told him that he was cured since he had spoken to her. The next morning the young man awoke and could indeed speak.
In the village of Katavasis, there was a church built to honor the place where the Saint had first started her spiritual struggles. Later, a larger church was built and the smaller one was used as a cemetery chapel. It is said by the inhabitants of Katavasis that when the new church was completed, all the icons were transfered from the small church to the larger one. The next day, all the icons were found in the old church once again.
The story of Saint Matrona of Chios is one of the most beautiful ones in our Church History. She is an excel lent example of a devoted Christian who tried in every sense of the word, to be closer to her Lord and guide and help her fellow man. She continues to perform, many miracles for the worthy faithful.
Saint Nicholas the Miraculous.
(Celebrated December 6).
There was once a city in Anatolia in the vicinity of Lycia, named Patara. It was in this city that Saint Nicholas was born, the only child of humble Christians. Unlike the other children who would go and play after school, Nicholas would make his way to church and converse with the elders hoping to receive more education from them. His father’s brother, who was also named Nicholas, was the bishop of that area. It was this Nicholas who ordained the Saint to the priesthood.
When Nicholas was still young, his parents died, leaving him a small sum of money. He used this money to buy food for the hungry, to dress the naked, and to care for orphans and widows. The most famous story associated with Saint Nicholas’ distribution of money is as follows: There was a rich man who had three very beautiful and virgin daughters. Quite suddenly, he lost all of his money and was left in poverty. To save the family from starvation, he decided to make his daughters prostitutes. God wanted to save these three girls from damnation; therefore, He told Saint Nicholas that this man had decided to sell his daughters’ virginity. One night Saint Nicholas took three-hundred gold pieces, wrapped in a handkerchief, and left them at the door of the man’s house. He left immediately so that his identity would remain unknown. The father found the money the next morning. He did not know who his benefactor was but wanted to find him. He used this money as a dowery and married his eldest daughter to a nobleman. He prayed to God hoping that the same person who had saved his eldest daughter would do the same for the other two. Seeing that the money had gone to a good cause, Saint Nicholas returned the second night and left another three-hundred gold pieces. The man arose the second morning, saw the three-hundred gold pieces, and arranged a marriage for his second daughter. He prayed to God to let him see this great philanthropist so that he could thank him. The third night, Saint Nicholas returned. He dropped another three-hundred gold pieces at the door, however, this time the door opened and the father and third daughter stood there thanking him for his kindness. Since he was a well-known priest in that city, Saint Nicholas asked them not to disclose what he had done until after his death. In this manner, Nicholas saved the three daughters from eternal damnation. Because of many similar acts. Saint Nicholas has become the great patron Saint of children and the type of cheerful giver of gifts, who expects none in return. In Northern Europe his name was changed to Santa Claus.
Wanting to worship at the Tomb of Christ, Saint Nicholas boarded an Egyptian ship with many other Christians, destined for Jerusalem. That night, he dreamt of Satan. The next day, he told the sailors that there would be a storm; however, if they had their trust in God, they would have nothing to fear. True to the Saint’s prediction, a dark cloud covered the sky and a fierce storm arose. The storm was so violent that the sailors were sure that they would die. They pleaded with Saint Nicholas to pray to God for their salvation. Immediately, the storm subsided and the ship and its crew were saved. During the storm, a sailor had climbed the mast to fix the sails. The wind was so strong that it knocked him off and he fell to his death on the deck of the ship. Saint Nicholas pitied the man and prayed to God to resurrect the sailor. With Divine help, the Saint’s request was answered. When they reached land, the sailors recounted the Saint’s miracles to the inhabitants. Many sick people came to him and were cured. He finally arrived in Jerusalem and worshipped at the Tomb of Christ. He wanted to remain here to rest, however, an angel of the Lord came and told him to return to Patara.
Thus wanting to return to his home, Saint Nicholas went to the docks seeking passage. He offered to pay a ship owner if he would take him to Patara of Lycia. The winds were favorable, therefore, the captain decided to leave immediately. The sailors, however, wanted to return to their families and thus turned the ship towards their homeland. This was not God’s will, and He again created a storm so that the ship became uncontrollable. Saint Nicholas prayed and the ship landed safely in Patara. The sailors fell on their knees and begged for the Saint’s forgiveness. He blessed them and told them that they would return safely to their homes. All the inhabitants went to greet Nicholas for they had heard of the miracles which he had performed.
There was a city near Patara called Myra — the modern name for this city is Dembre and it is located in Turkey. The bishop of this city had died and the inhabitants were searching for someone who was worthy enough to replace the holy man. A meeting was held by the priests to elect the person for this position. Several priests were nominated. The meeting was adjourned so that the priests could decide on their choices. That night, an angel appeared to one of the most important priests. He told him that the new bishop would be Nicholas and that he would walk into the church the next day. The priest informed the others of his dream and together they went to the church to wait. Soon afterwards, Saint Nicholas walked into the church and he was asked his name. The priest then introduced him to the other priests and Nicholas was ordained Bishop of the District of Myra.
At this time, Diocletian was the ruler of the Roman Empire. He was against Christianity and threatened the citizens of the Empire with punishment if they did not worship the idols. Many people died for their beliefs, others sacrificed to the idols; while others, not wanting to die or to make sacrifice, ran to the mountains and hid in caves. Diocletian’s edict reached Myra. Saint Nicholas and other Christians were imprisoned. Here they suffered from hunger, thirst, and mistreatment. During this time, the Saint gave strength to the others, encouraging them not to give up their faith in God. While Saint Nicholas and the others were in prison, Diocletian died, and Constantine, the son of Saint Helen, came to power. He issued the Edict of Milan which put a stop to the persecution of the Christians and returned confiscated land to the Church. Saint Nicholas was thus released from prison under this ruling and continued in his position as Bishop of Myra.
During the rule of Constantine the Great, a dispute arose within the Church. There was a man in Alexandria called Arius. He preached that Christ was not the Son of God, but a creation of God. He was exiled from Alexandria for his teachings. However, when Achilles became the Bishop of Alexandria, Arius returned to that city and was made Metropolitan. During the bishop’s lifetime, Arius preached his heretic ideas. After his death, Achilles was replaced by Alexander, who later was elevated to Sainthood. Arius had created quite a following. When Constantine saw the disharmony in the Church, he ordered all the bishops to meet in the city of Nicaea to discuss the beliefs of Arius. Two hundred and thirty-two bishops attended the meeting. This number was brought to three-hundred and eighteen when priests, deacons and monks were included. Some of those who were in attendance were Sylvester, the Bishop of Rome, Metrophanis, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Saint Pafnoutios, Saint Spyridon, and Saint Nicholas. Constantine headed the one-hundred day meeting. Seeing that Arius was monopolizing the miting by his constant arguing, Saint Nicholas was angered and struck Arius with his fist. Arius complained and Constantine had Nicolas imprisoned. That night, Christ and the Virgin Mary appeared to the Saint. He informed them that he had been imprisoned because of his love for Them. Christ then handed him a Gospel and the Virgin Mary gave him a bishop’s garment. The next day, his friends came to prison to visit him. He told them what had happened and showed them the relics. They informed Constantine of the events and he went to the cell to ask for Saint Nicholas’ forgiveness. He was set free, and after the Holy Synod, he returned to Myra.
When the great famine which befell Lycia occurred, this area was almost completely abandoned. Saint Nicholas was determined to save his district. A ship filled with wheat was bound for the Gallic lands. Saint Nicholas appeared to the ship’s captain one night and instructed him to take the wheat to Myra instead of the Gallic lands. He handed the captain three gold pieces as a down payment and told him that he would receive the amount due when he delivered the wheat to Myra. When the captain awoke the next morning, he actually had three gold pieces in his hand. He told his crew of the miracle and they immediately headed for Myra. Upon their arrival in Myra, he sold his wheat. The Myrians praised God in whom they had everlasting faith.
There was an area in the Roman Empire which revolted against Constantine. The Emperor sent three generals, Nepontianos, Orsos, and Erpillion, with a large army to end the insurrection. They arrived at Andriaca, Myra’s port. The seas were rough, and they remained in Myra until the weather cleared. The soldiers, however, started to loot the market place. When Saint Nicholas heard of this, he went to the three generals and asked why they allowed their soldiers to ransack the city. They told him that they had no knowledge of this and that they would depart as soon as the weather cleared. Saint Nicholas told them that their mission was to suppress a revolution and not to create one. The generals restrained the soldiers and afterwards were invited to the home of Saint Nicholas. Later, the generals and soldiers, accompanied by Saint Nicholas, returned to their ships and the Saint returned to Myra. Upon his arrival, he saw several men and women crying. They begged Saint Nicholas to save three of their relatives who were unjustly condemned to death by the district’s judge, Efstathios. Realizing the injustice of the situation, Saint Nicholas hurried to the place of execution. He released the three men and they fell to their knees in thanks. Saint Nicholas reprimanded Efstathios who begged for forgiveness. The generals with their army proceeded to their destination and suppressed the revolt. They then returned to Constantinople and told Constantine of their success and he rewarded them. Several enemies of Constantine, in order to cause trouble in the Empire, approached Aflavia, the Emperor’s magistrate. They told him that the three generals had convinced their soldiers to suppress the revolt so that they could become rulers. They bribed the magistrate with money and he had the three generals thrown into prison, without Constantine’s knowledge. They remained in prison several months, without knowing why. Fearing that Aflavia would discover that they were lying, the enemies gave him more money so that he would execute the three generals. Seeing that these men would go to such extremes, Aflavia approached Constantine and told him what charges were pressed against the three. Constantine believed him and ordered the generals beheaded the next day. The jailkeeper informed the men of their sentence. They were at a loss for words, since they did not know what crime they had committed. Remembering that Saint Nicholas had saved the three men in Myra from an unjust death, they prayed to God to have the Saint help them also. God heard their prayers, and towards dawn, Saint Nicholas appeared to Constantine. He told the Emperor that the three generals were unjustly condemned and that if they were not set free, he would be punished by God. Constantine asked who he was and was informed that the vision was Saint Nicholas. He also appeared to Aflavia and told him the same. Constantine and Aflavia discovered upon talking that they had the same dream. The three men were brought before Constantine. He asked them what magic they had used to make the same dream appear to two different men. They explained what had happened in Myra and of their praying to Saint Nicholas to free them from an unjust death. Constantine asked for their forgiveness and gave them a golden Gospel and incense burner to take to the church where Saint Nicholas had been ordained. They took the gifts to the church and then proceeded to find Saint Nicholas who baptized them.
At another time, there were some sailors who were endangered during a storm at sea. They had heard of the miracles of Saint Nicholas and how he had helped many other sailors. They knelt in prayer, “Saint Nicholas help us this hour for we are drowning.” The Saint appeared at the stern of the ship and took the helm. He turned and said to them, “Do not fear for I am with you.” In a few moments the storm subsided and the Saint disappeared. The sailors decided to go to Myra so that they could find the Bishop. They were told that he had just entered the church with his priests. Arriving at the church, they recognized him immediately as the person who had appeared on the ship. They fell on their knees and thanked him for their salvation.
Saint Nicholas died an ill man in 330 A.D. Thousands of people mourned his death for they had lost their leader and teacher.
After his death, the citizens of Myra built a church in his honor. The Church of Saint Nicholas now stands in the plain at the western portion of Dembre. Its floor is far below the present level of the plain, and for some time the church was half filled with earth. The Saint’s body remained in this church for many years because so many were cured by worshipping at the grave.
Saint Nicholas is the patron Saint of children and sailors, and also the patron Saint of Russia. Our Church celebrates his memory on the 6th of December. He is considered the patron Saint of children because from infancy he was a model of innocence and virtue.
The Transfer of Saint Nicholas’ Body to Bari, Italy.
When Alexii Cominos was Emperor of the Byzantine Empire in 1081, a barbaric tribe attacked Asia Minor. The area which suffered the most was Pisithian where most of the city became completely desolate. The barbarians murdered the men and elderly people while the women and children were taken as slaves. The body of Saint Nicholas the miracle worker remained in the city of Myra. The Saint appeared in the dream of a priest in the city of Bari, Italy. The Saint told him that he did not want to remain in such a barren place and instructed the priest to come and take him away. The priest told the clergy and the people of Bari about his dream. They immediately sent three ships to Myra to claim the body of Saint Nicholas.
The explorers found only four monks in the Church of Saint Nicholas. They showed the men where they had taken the coffin of the Saint to keep it safe from the barbarians. When they opened the coffin, they found a sweet ointment flowing from the Saint’s body. The sailors and monks filled many vials with this fluid and then placed the Saint’s body on one of the ships to transfer it to Bari. Two of the monks accompanied the Saint to Italy while the other two remai- ned in Myra. Several days later, the ships arrived and the clergy and people were waiting. With a great liturgy, they took the Saint’s body to the Church of Saint John the Baptist. A silver box was made and the head and hands of the Saint were placed in it. The remainder of the Saint’s body stayed in the original coffin. Soon afterwards a large Church was built in honor of Saint Nicholas and the two boxes were taken there. This is celebrated on May 20th. The ointment still flows from the Saint’s remains. Even though it is recognized that the body of Saint Nicholas is in Bari, Italy, a story exists that the Saint’s body is in Russia. The Russians celebrate the transfer of the Saint’s body to Russia on the 9th of May.
Enshrinement of the Relics of Saint Nicholas in the United States.
As a sign of the healing of the 900-year-old breach between Eastern and Western Christians, the Roman Catholic Church presented relics of Saint Nicholas to the Greek Orthodox Church during December of 1972. The relics consisted of a fragment of the casket in which the Saint’s body had been transported to Bari, tiny fragments of his skull resting on cotton and a vial of the holy myrrh. The relics, encased in a small gold reliquary fashioned for them in Athens, were enshrined at Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Flushing, New York. The ceremony was led by Archbishop Iakovos, the Greek Orthodox primate of North and South America, and the Most Reverend Francis Mugavero, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Brooklyn, New York.
Saint Nicholas (Kassatkin) enlightener of Japan.
In these evil times when the forces of materialism, ignorance and coldness of faith rise up against us, the believers, and challenge us to prove at all moments our faith, whether or not we are consciously aware of it, each of us is a missionary to those around us who are in darkness; that is, we are wit nesses of the power and glory of the Holy Spirit graciously transmitted to us through our Holy Orthodox Church. As Christ our Saviour taught us in the parable of the talents, we are not to bury our talents but to cultivate, invest and employ them that they might manifest the reality of our faith in God. Each of us has different talents-for some it is the achievement of virtues; for others, power of prayer; some are gifted with practicing mercy and charity-and a few, special chosen are granted missionary zeal and fervor to preach the Gospel to the far corners of the earth.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19).
A young Russian priest, inspired by the Lord’s call to preach the Gospel to all nations , traveled to one of the far corners of the earth, to the land of the Rising Sun. He was to become known as one of the greatest missionaries of recent times and the “Enlightener of Japan”— Blessed Nicholas Kassatkin.
This righteous hierarch was born in l835 to the family of a poor deacon in the provincial village Beryoza of Smolensk. His pa rents, Deacon Dimitri and Matushka Xenia, were blessed with four children, Gabriel, Olga, Basil and the future great missionary to Japan who was given the name of John at baptism. When john was still very young his elder brother Gabriel died and not long after- wards, his mother also departed this life at the age of 35. His father worked hard to preserve his little family and instructed his children in piety and service to the Lord. As little john was the eldest of the two remaining boys, it is only natural that his father paid special attention to the cultivation of virtue and love of God in this child. He also taught him secular subjects. Among other things, he told him about the far off land of Japan; about how highly civilized and polite its people were. This struck a responsive chord in the heart of the youth who soon developed a great sense of love and respect for the Japanese people. He himself grew up to be a highly refined and dignified personality with a determined will.
When john was old enough, he was sent to the local elementary school, and upon completion, he entered a seminary in Belinski. After graduating from the seminary near the top of his class , he was sent to the Theological Academy in Petersburg from which he graduated in 1361, Through all these years he never lost his love for the Japanese.
It was during this time that Japan, after several hundred years of isolationism, once again opened its doors to foreign traders and diplomats. For the young seminarian this signaled an opportunity to evangelize the Far Fast. When a Russian embassy was established in. Hakodate, a port in northern Japan, and there arose a need for a priest to serve the diplomatic corps. John enthusiastically answered the call.
Immediately upon graduating from the academy, he was tonsured and given the name of Nicholas. He was soon ordained and the same year, at the age of 26, this young priest- monk set out upon the arduous journey across Siberia-alone. Sometimes he traveled on foot, sometimes by coach and lastly, by ship. Upon his arrival to Japan, Fr. Nicholas wrote back to his superiors in St. Petersburg that he was impressed by the highly civilized, polite, and refined character of the Japanese people. Yet, he could not help pitying them for they lacked the one good thing-faith in Jesus Christ the Saviour of mankind.
Unfortunately, the young missionary was not very warmly received either by the Russians in Hakodate, nor by the Japanese who, because of the nation’s previous isolationism, were not well disposed to hear the Gospel. The situation was discouraging. However, on September 9, 1861, he received a visit from Archbishop Innocent, Apostle to America, who rebuked him for his waning enthusiasm and advised him to study the Japanese language. Thus, his missionary zeal was rekindled and Father Nicholas began to apply himself in earnest to the study of Japanese. He studied diligently with a private tutor and also visited the Buddhist temples to listen to the sermons and study the vocabulary necessary to preach about virtues. His teacher was filled with admiration for his pupil’s patience and ability to withstand hardships and proudly introduced Father Nicholas to many important people.
I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist (Luke 21:15).
During the time he was studying the language, Father Nicholas began his preaching. One evening, as he was sitting in his study, a samurai (Japanese war-lord) burst into the room brandishing a sword and threatened his life if he did not stop preaching and “corurupting” the local people. Humbly, the gentle Father Nicholas agreed to die-if the man would listen to what he was studying. Out of customary Japanese politeness, the samurai laid down his sword and agreed to listen. Father Nicholas began to tell his would-be- assassin about the creation of the universe by God, about His will for man and about how Christ came for man’s salvation. The war- lord, Takuma Sawabe, became so engrossed in what Father Nicholas was explaining, that he gave no more thought to his original murderous intent and, in S t e a d, returned time and again to listen to the words of life and wisdom which flowed so sweetly from the lips of the zealous missionary. This Japanese samurai became the first man to be baptized by Father Nicholas and fourteen years later, when be was ordained to the priesthood, he became the first Japanese Orthodox priest- Father Paul Sawabe.
Within seven years, Father Nicholas had mastered reading and writing Japanese sufficiently to begin his translation work. As much as he is admired by the Japanese people for his gift as a preacher and evangelizer and as a merciful and 10 v i n g pastor, Blessed Nicholas’ greatest talent is universally recognized as his ability to translate. Besides all of the other works for which he is known the righteous hierarch must be ac claimed for the vast quantities of material which he translated; he translated all of the Scriptures and all of the major services and prayers with the exception of the Typicon (a book of rules of how to perform services). He did not, however, hide himself in a closet to translate. This great lover of souls applied himself equally diligently to preaching instructing and pastoral care for his people. One of the first things he did as soon as he had begun to gather a flock, was to set up a carefully organized system of catechism. He established some rules for catechists and sent out a network of instructors to preach in the outlying areas. His teaching was best received in the rural districts, where the people are closer to God’s creation, but he was not rejected in the urban areas either; by the time he reposed there were churches in almost all of the major cities in Japan including an immense cathedral erected in Tokyo.
On March 30, 1381, while he was touring Russia to collect funds for the building of this cathedral, he was consecrated Bishop. He returned with the funds from the Russian faithful and a beautiful set of bells donated by the Tsar. It took seven years to complete the construction of the cathedral which was dedicated to the Holy Resurrection. A seminary was built on some adjacent property be longing to the cathedral. Here Orthodox young women were also accepted for instruction. This was one of the first public institutions of higher learning where ladies could study in all of Japan.
The fame of this outstanding missionary hierarch grew. The cathedral received more members and visitors so that each Sunday when he served, Nicholai-do (the affectionate name given in the cathedral by local residents) was filled from the front to the back. Bishop Nicholas continued to translate, preach and baptize. By the time of his repose on Feb. 3, 1912, more than 35,000 people had received Holy Baptism in Japan
May Blessed Nicholas’ spirit of love and evangelism move everyone to employ his own talent, however small, to be a living witness, to the power and glory of Holy orthodoxy throughout the whole world!
(Celebrated July 27).
Saint Panteleimon was born circa 284 A.D., in the city of Nicodemia. His father, Evstorgios, was an idolater, while his mother, Evoulis, was a devout Christian. Evoulis raised her son, whose real name was Pantoleonta, with the intent of satisfying his spiritual needs. She taught him about Christ and the Christian way of life. While Pantoleonta was still young, Evoulis passed away.
Pantoleonta was first educated in his vernacular and then in Greek. His father then sent him to study under the famous physician, Evfrosinos. Quickly, Pantoleonta surpassed the other students. He was handsome, soft spoken, humble, and all who spoke with him felt true happiness and peace. Because of these virtues, he became well known in Nicodemia. One day, he went with Evfrosinos to the palace and it was here that the ruler, Maximian, first saw him. He instructed Evfrosinos to educate Pantoleonta to the utmost so that the young man could be appointed royal physician.
At that time, Saint Ermolaos, the head of the Church in Nicodemia, lived in a house with other Christians. He watched Pantoleonta every day as he would leave his home and go to his studies. Ermolaos realized that this was an individual full of innocence. After a time, Ermolaos asked the student about his religion. Pantoleonta told him that his mother had been a Christian and that his father was an idolater. Ermolaos then asked, “But what religion do you follow?” Pantoleonta responded, “While my mother was alive, I followed the Christian teachings. When she died, my father made me follow the pagans and is now trying to convince me to work in the palace.” Ermolaos asked what his profession was and Pantoleonta told him that he was studying to become a physician. Ermolaos then said, “If you believe with all your heart in the true God and Savior, Jesus Christ, you will be able to cure anyone with His help. Christ surpassed any doctor for He gave sight to the blind, resurrected the dead, and cured lepers. Even now He is with His followers and helps them perform miracles. It is these followers who will inherit His kingdom.” Pantoleonta told Ermolaos, “I acknowledge everything you have told me for I have heard these things many times before from my mother.” After thanking the clergyman for his advice, Pantoleonta went on his way. From this time on, Pantoleonta went to Ermolaos for counsel and began to accept Christ with all his heart.
Returning from school, Pantoleonta saw a dead child which had been bitten by a viper lying in the street. The creature was standing beside its victim. Pantoleonta thought to himself that if Christ would allow him to resurrect the child and kill the viper, he would need no further proof that Christ was the true God. After praying, Pantoleonta’s wish came true and he became a devout Christian. He immediately ran to Ermolaos to tell him of the event and to request the sacrament of Baptism. Ermolaos baptized him, gave him Holy Communion, and instructed him in the Sacraments of the Holy Church. He remained for seven days with this holy man, and during this time he became completely acquainted with the teachings and practices of the Church. On the eighth day, he returned home and his father questioned him as to where he had been. Pantoleonta told him that one of the king’s advisors had been sick in the palace and that Maximian kept Evfrosinos and himself there until the patient had completely recovered. The next day he was questioned by Evfrosinos as to where he had been. Pantoleonta told him that his father had given him a large piece of farm land and he had to make arrangements for someone to work it. Allegorically, he was talking about himself to his father in that he was being cured of his sins. To Evfrosinos, he was saying that he had inherited the Kingdom of Heaven.
Soon, Pantoleonta was working towards his father’s conversion to Christianity. Thus he asked him, “Why is it that when the gods are depicted sitting down they never get up?” Evstorgios had no answer and he began to doubt the idols and made fewer sacrifices to them. Seeing this, Pantoleonta decided to increase his efforts. One day a group of people came to the home of Evstorgios and asked if Pantoleonta the doctor was there. When the Saint approached, one man pleaded with him for there turn of his sight. Pantoleonta, feeling the man’s anxiety, told him that he would be cured by the grace of the true God. Evfrosinos told him not to make such promises so that the Saint would not be disgraced, thinking that he would use herbs. The Saint told his father to watch and he would also be cured. Pantoleonta then took his right hand and made the sign of the cross on the man’s eyes. By the grace of God, the man regained his sight, not only physically, but spiritually, for before this time he was an idolater. The miracle also converted Evstorgios and he praised God with his son. He took his father and the man to Saint Ermolaos who baptized them.
Pantoleonta then distributed all his wealth among the imprisoned and the poor, and released all his servants. He then proceeded to cure all who came to him. The only payment that the Saint would ask was that the healed person believe that Jesus Christ was their true healer. The other physicians in the city became very envious. As they were sitting in the market place they saw the previously blind man walk by. They asked him how he had gained his sight and he told them that Pantoleonta had cured him. Enviously, they tried to find a way to betray the Saint to the Emperor. The group of doctors went to Maximian and told him that Pantoleonta, the doctor whom the Emperor himself had educated, was healing Christians who were tortured by Maximian. They also told him that those whom he cured were converting to Christianity. For this reason, they advised him to do away with Pantoleonta before he converted anyone else. For proof, they suggested that the Emperor question the blind man to verify what they had said. The blind man who was cured by Pantoleonta was brought before Maximian. The Emperor asked him how Pantoleonta had cured him. The cure, he was told, was effected through prayer to Christ. Maximian then asked whom the blind man considered to be his healer, Christ or the gods. The man responded by saying, “I have thought about this matter in great depth. You see those doctors there? Each of them tried their best to cure me. I remained blind and penniless for I spent everything on medicines. They did me more harm than good. For before I went to them, I could see slightly. But they made me completely blind. Who then should I consider my doctor, the pagan gods or Christ? Anyone knows the answer to your question!” Maximian told him that the gods had cured him and not Christ. The man responded by saying, “My Emperor, you are blinder now than I ever was. The idols that you worship are fakes!” Maximian then realized that everything that the doctors had told him was true. The man then repaid his debt to Christ, for the Emperor ordered that he be beheaded. The Saint secretly took the man’s body and buried it in a Christian place.
Pantoleonta was ordered to appear before the Emperor. On his way to the palace, the Saint prayed to Christ to give him courage. Maximian described the charges that were brought before him and ordered Pantoleonta to sacrifice to the gods. Pantoleonta replied, ‘The God that I believe in is the creator of the sky, the earth, the water and the entire world. He resurrected the dead, gave sight to the blind, cleansed lepers, made the paralyzed walk-all with words and the power of faith. I have neither heard that any of your gods have done this nor do I believe that they are able to. If you are willing, my Emperor, let us test your gods against mine, so that you can seethe truth. Bring someone here with an incurable disease and let your priests try to heal him. Then let me pray to my God and see if the person will not be completely cured.” Maximian agreed and a man who was completely paralyzed was brought to the palace for the test. The pagan priests prayed for hours to their gods, but their efforts were in vain. Then Pantoleonta began to pray to Christ to cure the paralytic. The Saint took the man in his arms and said, “In the Name of Jesus Christ, I command you to walk.” The man got up and walked as if he had never been paralyzed. Many of the idolaters then confessed their belief in Christ. The priests and doctors begged the Emperor to execute the Saint so that Christianity would not gain in popularity among the people. Maximian tried to persuade the Saint to change his beliefs, but to no avail. The Emperor then ordered that the Saint be tortured. First, they tied him to a board and tore his skin with iron claws. Then, the soldiers burned him with their torches. During these ordeals, the Saint felt no pain for all he thought about was Christ. Christ appeared to the Saint in the form of Ermolaos who said, “Fear not for I am with you, and I will help you in all you suffer for Me.” Just then the soldiers’ arms became paralyzed, the torches went out, and the Saint’s wounds disappeared. Maximian, now infuriated, ordered a large kettle filled with tar and a fire lit beneath it. The Saint was taken and placed in the kettle. Christ appeared once again as Ermolaos and entered the kettle with the Saint. Immediately the fire was extinguished and the tar became cool. The Emperor still considered these miracles to be magic tricks performed by Pantoleonta. Continuing with his fruitless efforts, he decided to tie a boulder to the Saint and throw him into the sea. When the Saint was thrown into the sea, the boulder became as light as a feather and the Saint walked on the water. He returned to the shore unharmed. Maximian still refused to recognize the power of the true God. He ordered that the most ferocious beasts be brought to the arena. In the interim, he allowed Pantoleonta to remain in prison for three days, hoping that this holy man would change his opinions concerning the gods. The citizens of Nicodemia heard of this and packed the stadium on the day the Saint was to be sacrificed. The Saint was placed in the arena and the animals were set free. Instead of attacking the Saint, the beasts peacefully walked towards him and as if to worship him, they licked his feet. The crowd cheered and together praised God and Saint Pantoleonta. Maximian was enraged and had all the animals butchered. The miracle served to honor the Saint and to show others the way of righteousness.
The Saint was submitted to even more tortures. The palace engineers designed a wheel and tied the Saint to it. It was then rolled down a hill. The purpose was to tear the Saint’s body to pieces. Instead, it rolled over several idolaters and killed them. The Saint again suffered no harm.
Pantoleonta decided to bring Saint Ermolaos to the people, since his words could convert even more pagans to Christianity. Three soldiers escorted him to the house where the Saint was hiding. When Ermolaos came to the door, he said, “I have been waiting for you. I realize that it is time for me to die for Christ. “Upon their arrival at the palace, Maximian asked Ermolaos if he had any other Christians hidden. Ermolaos, being an honest man, said, “I have two others, Ermocratis and Ermippon.” The Emperor then had them brought to the palace also, where they admitted their belief in Christ. Maximian told them that they believed in a false God. Ermolaos asked him, “What would you think of your gods if they were destroyed?” Just then a messenger came from the temple and informed the Emperor that all the idols in the temple had fallen and were smashed. He tortured these three holy men and upon seeing that they would not accept his thinking, he had them beheaded. The bodies were secretly taken by some Christians and buried with honor.
Pantoleonta was again brought before the Emperor. Maximian said, “Your friends have made sacrifices to the gods. Follow their example and I shall set you free also.” The Saint knew that the Emperor was trying to deceive him and asked to see them. He was informed that they had been sent to another city. Pantoleonta knew that they were in the Kingdom of God.
The defeated Emperor passed final sentence on the Saint. He was to be beheaded and his body was to be cremated. The Saint was taken and tied to an olive tree. As the soldier raised his sword to behead the Saint, the sword melted as if it were made of wax. The soldiers fell to their knees and admitted their beliefs in Christ. The Saint prayed for them and forgave them for their sins.
A voice came from heaven and said, “All you have asked has been granted. From this time on, you will be known not as Pantoleonta, but as Panteleimon (All-merciful).” He forced the soldiers to behead him so that he could receive the crown of martyrdom. After kissing the Saint, the soldiers beheaded him on the 27th of July in the year 304 A.D. As was the case with other most holy Saints, milk, rather than blood flowed from Panteleimon’s wound. The olive tree to which he was tied immediately bloomed and brought forth fruit. Hearing of this, the Emperor ordered that the tree be cut down and that the body be burned. The soldiers, however, did not return to the palace. They with other Christians, took the holy body, anointed it with myrrh and buried it outside of the city in the place named the Scholar Adamantines.
Saint John of Damascus informs us that the remains were transported to Constantinople. The majority of these remains are now shown in the Abbey of Saint Denyr, near Paris, France. The Saint’s head is in Lyons, France. The reliquary arm of Saint Panteleimon was purchased by Walter’s Art Gallery in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1920 from an art dealer named Harding. Previous to this, the arm was in the collection of Robert Hoe of New York. The remains of the Saint were taken from Constantinople by the Crusaders in the 12th century.
Saint Panteleimon is often asked by faithful Christians to aid them in times of sickness. He is believed to take special interest in those who are crippled. Saint Panteleimon is considered equal to the Benevolent Saints Cosmas and Damianos, and Kyros and John.
(Celebrated July 26).
Saint Paraskevi was a Roman, born in the year 140 A.D. During this time, Antonius Pius (138-161 A.D). was ruler of the Roman Empire. Her father Agathon, was a very rich Christian. Her mother, Politia, was a Christian of many attributes — the greatest of which was her charitability. Agathon and Politia had been happily married many years, but had no children. Consequently, after their deaths, the family name would have been lost and their fortune would have been dispersed among strangers. For these reasons, they often prayed to God to bless them with a child which they would raise in a true Christian atmosphere. Their prayers were answered with the birth of a girl and because she was born on the sixth day of the week, they named her Paraskevi, the Greek word for Friday.
As they had promised God, they raised Paraskevi in a Christian environment. It was not their guidance, but the Christian life which they led that impressed her the most. Thus, from a very young age, Paraskevi knew the way of life she would one day lead. She obtained her education from secular books and from the Scriptures. In addition, she was very knowledgable in the field of philosophy. Bolstered by her Christian upbringing and philosophy, she often conversed with other women about Christianity, trying to strengthen their faith in this new religion.
Many noblemen wanted to marry this beautiful, educated, and rich young woman. Her understanding and kindness made her even more desirable. Having a higher goal in life, Paraskevi did not accept any proposals of marriage.
When she was twenty years old, both of her beloved parents died and she was left alone the world. Because of the wealth she had inherited, many young men again came to propose marriage, all of which she refused. She was filled with the spirit of Christ and Christian ideals. The words of Christ to a rich young man who wanted to know how he could obtain salvation made a great impression on her. Christ told the young noble man to sell everything he had, distribute it among the poor, and then follow Him. Therefore, she sold all her worldly goods and dispersed most of her money among the poor. The remainder was contributed to a community treasury which supported a home for young virgins and widows who had dedicated their lives to the teachings of Christianity. These women had, however, strayed far from the word of the Gospel and, therefore, Paraskevi remained in this home for many years and taught them the true meaning of Christianity. She served as a great inspiration to them and to the poor Christians of Rome.
This was not enough for her, however, and unprotected, she went out to teach the way of Christ, knowing that death was waiting for her at the end of her journey. It was during this period that the Jews and Romans persecuted the new religion with the greatest intensity. Even the most courageous Christian was afraid to publicly teach Christianity. Paraskevi, however, made the decision to dedicate herself to her beloved Christ and, if necessary, martyr for Him.
She left Rome at the age of thirty and began her holy mission. She passed through many cities and villages preaching the Word of God. It may seem odd that she was not caught immediately and put to death. Antonius Pius ruled Rome at this time and he, as his predecessor Adrian, did not execute Christians without a trial (unlike Domitian and Trojan). Instead, he protected them against the blind mania of the Jewish and Roman inhabitants. A Christian could only be brought to trial if a formal complaint were lodged against him by another citizen. At onetime, however, Antonius had to repeal this law because of the many disasters which had befallen Rome. These disasters were blamed on the Christians and Antonius had to satisfy the Roman populace by making it easier to persecute the Christians. It was felt that the gods were punishing the Romans because they were so permissive with the Christians. The enemies of Christianity again killed many. This continued for several years until Antonius reversed the law.
Eventually, Antonius heard of Saint Paraskevi’s holy mission. When she returned to Rome, several Jews filed complaints about her and Antonius summoned her to his palace to question her. As soon as he saw the beauty and humility of this young Christian virgin, he was at a loss for words. At first, he spoke to her in quiet terms, trying to make her denounce her belief in Christ. Seeing that she was steadfast in her belief, he threatened her with torture. Pitying her, however, he advised that she make a sacrifice to the gods so that she could save herself. He told her that if she obeyed him, he would take her as his wife, making her an empress. However, if she disobeyed, he would put her through horrendous torture. She replied by telling him that no torture could be great enough to make her forsake her Savior. Antonius, angered by her words, ordered a steel helmet, which would fit tightly around the virgin martyr’s head, to be lined with nails and placed on her head. This helmet, however, had no effect on the Saint. Many who witnessed this miracle were converted to Christianity. When Antonius heard these people saying that they would change their religion, he ordered that they be put to death. Some were beheaded, some were burned alive, and others were thrown with their hands tied into the Tiber River.
He then ordered Paraskevi to be bound and placed in prison, hoping that she would change her mind and save herself from a macabre death. When the Saint was placed in prison, she immediately began to pray. She asked God to give her the strength to face the terror which awaited her. At about midnight, her cell was filled with a bright light. She turned around and saw an angel standing next to her holding a shining cross. He told her not to fear, for Christ would protect and free her from any torture she would encounter. He loosened her bonds and vanished. Puzzled by this omen, the Saint kept praying until daybreak. In the morning, Antonius had the Saint brought before him. When the soldiers went to her cell, they found her freed from the chains. They then took her to Antonius who asked her if she had changed her ideas. But again, Paraskevi replied by telling him that no torture could make her betray her Savior. She also told him that if he did not believe her, to test the true strength of Christ. Antonius was so angered that he ordered his soldiers to hang the Saint by her hair and burn her hands and arms with torches. The Saint suffered greatly, but had the will not to submit to the pain. Seeing that this torture did not bring the expected results, Antonius prepared a large kettle of oil and tar, boiled the mixture and then had Paraskevi immersed in it. Miraculously she stood as if she were being cooled rather than burned. Antonius thought that the oil and tar were not hot enough and that Paraskevi was a magician. Angered, he asked, “What magic have you used to save yourself? Did you place a fake bottom in the bottom of the kettle so that the oil would not burn?” Paraskevi told him that she never intended to do him any harm, but since he insisted, she would let him test the oil and tar. She placed the boiling substance in her hands and threw it in the Emperor’s face. This liquid burned his eyes and blinded him. He begged Paraskevi to take pity on him. The Saint stepped out of the kettle and went to Antonius. She told him that only the Christian God could cure him of his misfortune. Immediately, Antonius regained his sight. The miracle humbled the monarch so much that he freed the Saint and ended all persecutions against the Christians throughout the Roman Empire.
As soon as she was freed, Paraskevi went forth with greater zeal to accomplish her apostolic mission. This was the start of her second travel. As long as Antonius was alive she taught without fear, and converted many people. The Emperor Antonius died in the year 161 A.D. at which time Marcus Aurelius (161-180 A.D). came to power. During his reign, a pestilence befell Rome and many people died. Once again this disaster was blamed on the Christians. They said that the gods were mad because the Christians were free. The Emperor was forced to change the laws dealing with “non-believers.”
Later in her travels, Paraskevi spread the word of Christ in a city which was ruled by a man called Asclipius. Seeing that Paraskevi was still teaching despite the new ruling, he had her captured and brought to trial. Asked about her religion, she explained what she believed in. Asclipius commanded her to make a sacrifice to the gods. Paraskeyi refused. Thus, she was convicted of treason and condemned to death. In accordance with the sentence, she was thrown into a pit which contained a huge snake. In this same pit, many Christians had met their death. The snake slithered towards the Saint with its mouth opened widely, making a whistling noise. After the Saint made the sign of the cross, the snake remained immobile and suddenly, it split in two. Asclipius realized that a great and mighty power guarded the Saint and that this force was Christ. Paraskevi was again free to teach others about Christianity.
Paraskevi soon arrived at the city in which she would meet her death. She taught Christianity here as she had done in other cities. Taracius was the ruler here. He summoned her to the palace for trial, finding her guilty, he decided to have her tortured to death. As Antonius, Taracius also ordered his soldiers to prepare a kettle filled with boiling oil and melted tar and the Saint was placed in it. Once again, nothing happened. This miracle convinced many of the observers to convert to Christianity. Taracius, however, was not moved. Rather, the Saint was then tied and beaten. Three soldiers took turns beating the Saint without results. She was, thereafter, imprisoned and a huge rock was placed on her chest. She prayed to Christ and soon her cell was filled with light and she saw Him. He told her to be strong, for His spirit was with her and it would not be long before she would be with Him for eternity. He healed her wounds and then vanished. Her heart was filled with joy for she knew that soon she would be with her Master.
The next morning, Taracius had the Saint brought before him. He saw that she had no wounds and was amazed. “You can thank the gods for being so kind to you,” he smirked. She informed him that she was cured by Christ and not by his fake gods, but that she was willing to go with Taracius to the Temple of Apollo. Taracius, thinking that he had changed her views, was pleased and took Paraskevi and many others to the temple. Everyone praised Taracius for his ability to break Paraskevi’s faith. Upon entering the temple, the idolaters were curious to see what Paraskevi would do. The Saint raised her hand and made the sign of the cross. Suddenly, they heard a loud noise and all the idols in the temple were destroyed. The priests and idolaters dragged the Saint from the altar, beat her, and pushed her out of the temple. The priests demanded that Taracius kill Paraskevi. She was convicted and condemned to death.
When the Saint was taken out of the city to be beheaded, she asked to be left alone for a few moments so that she might pray for the last time. Afterwards, the soldiers returned and executed the Saint on the 26th of July, in the year 180 A.D. On this day we celebrate the Feast Day of the Virgin Martyr, Saint Paraskevi.
Because of the miracle she performed in restoring the sight of Antonius Pius, Saint Paraskevi is considered to be a healer of the blind.
(Celebrated August 27).
A detailed story of this Saint is not available. For as in many other instances, the documents containing his life story were lost during the Middle Ages. The following is all which is known.
When the Knight Hospitallers of Saint John of Jerusalem occupied the island of Rhodes, their leader decided to repair the walls surrounding the city of Rhodes. These walls had been all but destroyed by previous warfare. There were ruined homes at the city’s outskirts, and it was believed that these homes were once part of an old fortress which existed there. The leader intended to use the rocks from the ruins to repair the walls. The remains of a beautiful church were found among these ruins. While excavating in this site, many icons were also found. All of the icons had been worn away by time, except for one. This particular icon appeared to have been painted that same day. Being notified of these ruins, the Bishop of the island, Nilos, was informed of the ruins and read the letters on the icon, which said, “Saint Phanourios.”
In the middle of the icon was the image of the Saint dressed in armor. He looked very young and held a cross, on top of which was a lit candle. Around the main portion of the icon were twelve scenes from the life of the Saint. They depicted him as follows:
Being questioned by rulers while surrounded by soldiers who were stoning him.
Supine on the ground while being flogged by soldiers.
Being raked by iron instruments.
Again being questioned by the tyrants.
Being burned with torches.
Turning the wheel of a well, as if he were an animal.
In a den of wild animals.
Trapped under a boulder.
In front of an idol with lit coals in his hands.
Standing in a large burning furnace.
With his hands lifted towards heaven.
It is from these twelve scenes that the Bishop discovered that the Saint was a martyr. He sent representatives to the governors of the island, asking them to give funds to the Bishop so that he could have the Church repaired; however, they scoffed at his request. The Knights of Saint John were Roman Catholics, and they therefore, did everything in their power to discourage the Eastern Orthodox.
Thus, the Bishop sought funds from Constantinople and received them. The church was re-built and is still standing.
Following is one of the miracles attributed to Saint Phanourios. During his life, the island of Crete was ruled by the Genoese; Therefore, the island had a Roman Catholic religious leader rather than an Orthodox one. The Genoese did not allow any of the Orthodox clergy to advance in position, nor did they allow any new priests to be ordained. Those who wanted to become priests had to go to the nearby island of Kythera to be ordained. Three deacons left Crete and went to Kythera for this reason. During their return to Crete, they were captured by the Knights of Saint John who sold them as slaves to other Knights of Rhodes. The newly ordained priests pondered their fate, but having heard that many of Saint Phanourios’ miracles had occurred on Rhodes, prayed to him for their freedom. The three priests were soon separated, since each was to serve a different master. Before their departure however, they asked permission to pray at the Church of Saint Phanourios and the request was granted. When they reached the church, they fell on their knees in front of the Saint’s icon and begged him to free them from their bondage. They left the church comforted and each went to his own master’s home.
That night, the Saint appeared to each of the masters. He ordered them to release the priests so that they could better serve the church. A great misfortune would befall the masters if these words were not heeded. The masters, believing that this was some sort of witchcraft, tied the priests in chains and made them work harder. The next night the Saint himself released the priests from their chains, telling them that they would be freed the next day. Again, the Saint warned their masters that if they did not free the priests the next day, they would experience the awesome strength of God. Everyone in those three houses was blinded or crippled arid underwent unbearable pain when they awoke the next morning. The masters consulted with each other to decide what could be done. They decided to send for the prisoners and ask them if it was in their power to cure them. The clergymen responded by saying that God’s will had been done, but that they would pray-the rest would be up to Him. The third night, the Saint reappeared before the masters and informed them that if they did not send a letter of freedom for the priests to the church by the next morning, they would never regain their health. The next day, each master sent his letter by messenger to the church. All three letters were left in front of the icon of Saint Phanourios. By the time the messengers returned, all who had been blinded and crippled were cured. The priests were then freed and each was given money for his passage to Crete. One priest painted a copy of the icon of Saint Phanourios and took it back to Crete.
There is another interesting aspect associated with this Saint. The Saint’s name, Phanourios, sounds similar to the Greek word for “I make shown.” Therefore, when someone loses something, they ask the Saint to help them find the lost object. In return, the person, offers to bake a bread for the soul of the Saint’s mother.
His feast day is celebrated on the 27th of August.
(Celebrated February 19).
Saint Philothei lived around 1589, in Athens, Greece. Her parent’s names were Angelo and Sirenie Benizelos. Descendants of this family exist in Athens today.
Sirenie was a beautiful and rich woman. She was extremely charitable and helped many poor people. Angelo and Sirenie were married for several years, but they remained childless. Finally, she turned to God for help. Sirenie went to the Church of the Virgin Mary to pray for a child. She fell asleep in the church and while asleep she had a beautiful dream. A great beam of light came out of the icon of the Virgin and fell on Sirenie’s stomach, while a voice told her that she would bear a child. After several months, she had a daughter which she named Revoulan (her name was changed to Philothei when she became a nun). Revoulan was blessed with many good characteristics as a child, and as she grew more mature, her attributes increased in number. When she reached her twelfth birthday, she was asked by a leading citizen of Athens to marry him; however, this pillar of virtue was anxious to keep her virginity and to live a life of solitude devoted to Christ. After much cajoling and threatening by her parents, Revoulan was coerced into marrying this rich nobleman. Since her husband was a tyrant, the Saint was extremely unhappy and prayed to God to save her from this misery. Several years later, the Saint’s husband died and she returned to live with her parents. She still had one goal in life-to find away of life in which she could best serve God. Since many noblemen were asking for her hand in marriage, her parents were insisting that she marry for a second time.
Ten years after she had been widowed, her parents passed away. She was now free to live the life she had always wanted. Revoulan went into a period of spiritual struggles, fasting, and praying. The Saint built a home for maidens and named it Saint Andrew’s Monastery. The home had many cells and other facilities to accommodate the nuns. It was at this point that Revoulan’s name was changed to Philothei. She and the other nuns created a place where they could completely devote themselves to Christ. Philothei would teach the other nuns how to live a true Christian life, and since she was not only a teacher, but a great philanthropist, she built hospitals, comforted the sick, and welcomed the wayfarer to this home.
At one time the monastery became extremely destitute. The nuns began to criticize Philothei for depriving them of the necessities of life. The Saint, however, never stopped reassuring them that if they had faith in God, everything would betaken care of. One day, two noblemen came to worship at the Monastery of Saint Andrew. They gave an extremely large donation to the monastery and saved it from closing. The Saint and the nuns thanked the noblemen and God for this generosity.
Philothei was always concerned with the salvation of her sister nuns, as well as for all people. There was a group of women from various parts of Greece who were Turkish slaves in Athens. Four of these women had heard of the Saint’s goodness and charitability. At their first opportunity, they escaped from their masters and went to the Saint. In her usual way, the Saint welcomed them and convinced them to be courageous in anything that they would have to encounter. When their masters discovered where they were, they went to the monastery and forced their way into the cell of Saint Philothei. They took her to the Turkish governor of Athens, Mousoulmanos, who then had her thrown into prison. The Saint felt joy instead of sadness, because she now had the chance to sacrifice her life for her friends instead of betraying them. She remembered the words of the Gospel which tells us that there is no greater love than that of one person who would give up his soul for another. The next morning many Turks gathered at the palace, demanding the death of the Saint. The Saint was brought before the governor who gave her a choice: either to die by the sword or to renounce her faith and thereby betray her people. The Saint told them that she would never renounce her faith and that she was grateful because their actions would allow her to be with Christ all the sooner. The Turks were astounded to hear this and they decided to free the Saint, since she did not fear but welcomed death.
When the Saint was freed, she wanted to continue her salvation of souls. Thus, she went to the island of Kea where she had built a monastery many years before. She remained there with the nuns for one year. Afterwards, she returned to Athens to her former monastery and there performed several miracles.
One of these miracles included a man who had been a cheat and a thief from his youth. He lived like a thief in the mountains and caves. One day, he came upon the monastery, and Saint Philothei cured him of his obsessions. She then made him a monk and he went to another monastery where he remained for the rest of his life. When the Athenians heard of this, hundreds came to be cured of physical and psychological problems. The monastery could not accommodate all these people; therefore, the Saint went to a suburb of Athens called Patision and built another monastery where she continued her labors.
One night, as the nuns were commemorating the memory of Saint Dionysius, the Turks, who had formerly taken the Saint to Governor Mousoulmanos, entered the monastery and beat the Saint until she was almost dead. Several days later, the Saint died in that monastery. The body of Saint Philothei has been placed in the Church of Saint Elevtherios next to the Metropolis of Athens. Every year on her Feast Day, the family of Benizelos goes to the church and opens the coffin of the Saint. A liturgy is held and hundreds of people attend — some hoping to be cured of various sicknesses and others hoping to see them cured.
The Saint’s name is truly appropriate to her … Philothei — “A friend of God.”
(Celebrated July 8)
From the year 283 to 305 A.D., Diocletian and Maximian co-ruled the Roman Empire. Both Emperors were intent on wiping out Christianity. For this task, they appointed Galerius, Maxentius, and Maximinus, and instructed them to capture all known Christians and give them a choice — either sacrifice to the idols or be executed. To accomplish their goal, they were to use any means of torture which they thought would be effective.
One of the Church’s greatest martyrs lived during this reign of terror. His Christian name was Prokopios. His father, Christopher, was a very pious Christian, while his mother, Theodotie, was an idolatress. When the Saint was born, she named him Neanian. She raised him in her faith, for Christopher died when his son was very young. While in Antioch, she educated him in philosophy, When he had completed his education, Theodotie took Neanian to Diocletian. She deposited a large amount of money in the Emperors treasury and begged him to give her son a position in government.
Diocletian was pleased to accept Neanian for he had proven his faithfulness to the pagan gods. He planned to have Neanian help him in the persecutions of the Christians. He, therefore, appointed him Duke of all Egypt, with headquarters in Alexandria. He was given soldiers with which to carry out his task. His orders were that if a Christian would not sacrifice to the gods, his property was to be confiscated and he was to be executed. Thus Neanian departed for Alexandria, but fearing pirates, they sailed only at night. One of these nights, early in the morning, Neanian saw a brilliant cross and a voice asked him where he was going. Neanian replied that he was going to Alexandria to persecute the Christians.
The voice then said, “So you have come to fight Me.” Bewildered, Neanian asked, “Who are You Master?” The voice responded, “I am Jesus Christ the Son of God.” The Duke queried, “Since You are the Son of God, why did You allow the Jews to crucify You?” Christ answered, “In this way I could save mankind. You, Neanian, are one of My chosen subjects.” The message filled everyone around him with joy and the voice was silent.
When Neanian arrived in the city of Skethopolis, he found a jeweler named Mark. He ordered him to make a cross of gold, a copy of the one he had seen in his vision. The jeweler knew that if Diocletian discovered what he was making, he would have him executed, but Neanian gave him courage. When the cross was finished, something odd happened. The figure of Christ appeared in the center and the Archangels Michael and Gabriel appeared on the arms of the cross. Mark tried to rub the figures off, but it was impossible. Neanian accepted the cross with the figures on it and he venerated it with great faith.
Upon his arrival in Alexandria, Neanian found that a barbarian tribe had attacked the city and had raped many daughters of aristocratic families. He asked Christ, “If You are truly the Son of God, help me.” He heard a voice respond, “Have courage for I am with you.” Neanian proceeded with his soldiers, freed the captured women, and slaughtered six thousand barbarians. Not one of his soldiers sustained an injury. His entire army converted to Christianity and together they praised Christ.
Neanian wrote to his mother, Theodotie, about his victory and his talk with Christ. This staunch believer in idolatry became very disturbed about her son’s belief in Christianity. She, therefore, left Nicomedia for Alexandria to persuade him to remain an idolater. Theodotie was unsuccessful in her mission. Neanian took the golden statues which his mother had brought with her, broke them and distributed the gold among the poor people of Alexandria. Theodotie was enraged and when she returned to Nicomedia, she betrayed her son to Diocletian.
The Emperor immediately sent a dispatch to the ruler of Syria, Oukliona, instructing him to capture Neanian and force him to sacrifice to the idols. If Neanian refused, he was to be executed. Oukliona, knowing the Christian’s strength, went to the Duke’s home and personally handed him the dispatch from Diocletian. He tried to persuade Neanian to worship the idols, but failed. Neanian tore the dispatch, took off his armor, and told Oukliona to do what had to be done, for he would not make a sacrifice to the false gods. The ruler took the Saint to Caesarea, where he was tortured and then placed in prison, in the hope that Neanian would have a change of heart. While in prison, the turnkey treated the Saint well and looked after him with love and respect. One night, the Saint saw a vision. Angels threw water on him and told him to stand up straight. Then he saw Christ who healed his wounds and told him that he would no longer be called Neanian, but Prokopios (one who never tires).
The next day, Oukliona sent one of his servants to see if the Saint had died in prison. The servant returned to the Ruler and told him that the Saint was in perfect health. Oukliona ordered the Saint to be brought to him so that they could go to the temple and give thanks to the gods for curing him. Prokopios went to the temple and because of his prayers, three-hundred statues in the temple were destroyed. The soldiers who accompanied the Saint to Alexandria immediately wanted to be baptized. When Prokopios was returned to prison, he asked his friend, the turnkey, to allow him to accompany these soldiers to the Bishop of Caesarea, Leontius, so that they could be baptized, as Leontius had previously baptized him. The Bishop baptized the soldiers, spoke to them about Christianity, and then gave them Holy Communion.
The Ruler summoned the soldiers and the Saint to appear before him. Seeing that the soldiers were staunch in their beliefs, he had them put to death. Prokopios prayed that the Master would accept their souls. They martyred on the 22nd of May and Prokopios was imprisoned with twelve women. While in the prison, Prokopios taught the women about Christianity and gave them courage to face the tortures which they would undergo. He instructed these twelve women to go to their death of martyrdom as if they were going to a marriage feast. It is for this reason that Saint Prokopios is invoked in the benediction at the end of wedding ceremonies in the Eastern Orthodox Church. The women were eventually tortured and all twelve martyred for Christ on the same day. Theodotie witnessed the martyrdom of the twelve women and after conferring with her son, she was also baptized by Bishop Leontius. She too was tortured and martyred for the Christ whom she once despised.
Subsequently, Oukliona became extremely ill with a high fever and died. The Ruler Flavianos replaced him. He put Saint Prokopios through many tortures, all of which the Saint faced with great courage. Flavianos was much more educated than Oukliona and tried to convince the Saint of the superiority of Paganism over Christianity. Prokopios’ arguments were much stronger than Flavianos’, however, and the ruler admired him for this.
He decided to torture the Saint even more. They tied him to the base of an idol and placed incense around him. They then placed hot coals in his hands. If the Saint dropped them, it would symbolize sacrificing to the idols since the coals would fall on the incense. Prokopios held the flaming coals in his hand until they died.
The Saint survived many tortures which would have killed anyone else. Finally, Flavianos decided to behead Prokopios. He was taken to the place of his execution and there Saint Prokopios prayed to Christ to save the city from Satan and to help the people see the true light. He heard a voice tell him that his prayers would be answered. The executioner raised his ax and beheaded Saint Prokopios on the 8th day of July. His body was taken by several Christians who anointed it with myrrh and then buried it with other martyrs.
On the 8th of July, the feast days of the following martyrs are also celebrated: Theodotie, the mother of Saint Prokopios. The twelve women who were imprisoned with Saint Prokopios.
Saint Sophia and her three daughters Faith, Hope and Love.
(Celebrated September 17).
In 222 A.D., the Emperor Adrian was ruling the Roman Empire and it was during this time that these Saints lived. They were members of a distinguished family, but soon left their home and went to Rome, there to further their mission in life — teaching Christianity. So great was their faith, that while in Rome, they went before Adrian, who admired their courage, and they professed their beliefs to him. Subsequently, he separated Saint Sophia from her three daughters in order to discuss her beliefs with her. She expressed her convictions without fear of the potential consequences. He then summoned the three daughters and tried to persuade them to change their beliefs. Finding that his efforts were futile, he decided to torture the girls. He hoped that Saint Sophia, seeing her daughters suffer, would convert to idolatry.
The first to be tortured was twelve year old Faith, the eldest of Saint Sophia’s daughters. The tyrant tied her hands behind her back and had her beaten unmercifully. He then proceeded to cut off the Saint’s breasts. Astoundingly, milk, rather than blood, flowed from the wounds. Since the child remained steadfast, he placed her in a cauldron filled with boiling tar and asphalt. By the Grace of God, the boiling mixture did not injure the Saint in any way. Saint Sophia praised the Lord for blessing her with such a courageous daughter. Saint Faith was then beheaded and received the crown of martyrdom.
Saint Hope, ten years of age, was next brought to Adrian. Because she also would not alter her convictions, he proceeded to torture her. He submitted Hope to the same tortures Saint Faith had undergone. She withstood the tortures with great courage and with God’s help, was unharmed. Eventually, he beheaded Saint Hope, and she also received the crown of martyrdom.
The third daughter, Love, freely confessed her undying faith in God to Adrian. She was nine years old when she was beaten with a whip until her skin peeled from her body. However, her wounds immediately healed. Adrian then had her thrown into a pot of boiling oil, and again she was saved. Some of the oil splattered from the pot and burnt many idolaters including Adrian. Even after this, the tyrant’s mania was not satisfied. He, therefore, had sharp forks placed into the Saint’s body. This failing, he finally beheaded her.
Saint Sophia deeply mourned the passing of her beloved daughters. Nevertheless, she knew that they had gone to the Kingdom of Heaven and would enjoy life everlasting. Upon recovering the bodies, she buried them next to each other. After three days of mourning, she begged God to let her die also. And so, Saint Sophia departed from this world, placing her soul in God’s keeping. She was buried next to her daughters.
Many churches are named Agia Sophia, and this has been a cause for some confusion. Not all of these churches are named after this Saint. In reality, the name means Holy Wisdom (Agia — Holy, Sophia — Wisdom). For example, the Church built by the Emperor Justinian in Constantinople is named Agia Sophia, or Holy Wisdom, and not after this Saint.
Saint Spyridon the Miraculous.
(Celebrated December 12).
Christians all over the world have profited spiritually by reading and emulating the life styles of the Saints. In this respect Saint Spyridon’s life is considered to be most exemplary.
Saint Spyridon was a humble, simple man who lived on the beautiful island of Cyprus. Spyridon, a shepherd early in life, was a very hospitable man. Whenever the opportunity arose, he accepted people into his home and cared for them in all their needs. He was married according to the laws of the Church and had a daughter named Irene. Upon the death of his wife, he began to study the laws of God. Through this education, he became extremely indulgent of his enemies and philanthropic at heart. He labored fervently in his endeavors and because of this he received many favors from God. Curing many and varied illnesses, he gave sight to the blind and aided the poor with the Divine Help of God, his co-worker. A shepherd of sheep, soon became a shepherd of men.
In the year that Constantine the Great began his career as a leader, (circa 303 A.D.), Spyridon was Bishop of Trimythontos, a city of Cyprus. During his time, Spyridon performed countless miracles. At one time there was a drought on the island which caused a famine and many deaths. Spyridon, still a young man, petitioned God to help them in their time of need. Rain clouds began to form over the island; however, to show the people that this was a miracle to be attributed to Saint Spyridon, the clouds remained there without rain. Not until Saint Spyridon had become so deeply involved in prayer that he began to cry, did the clouds give forth their life-giving substance.
Later, another famine struck the island of Cyprus. The people who had land and had stored food away, were the only ones surviving. They sold surplus food for a high price, thus profiting from the catastrophe. One peasant, with tears in his eyes begged one of these rich landowners to give him some food so that his family would not starve; however, the rich man was not moved. Not knowing where to turn, the poor man went to Saint Spyridon and told him of his poverty and of the rich man’s indifference towards his situation. Saint Spyridon, with Divine Help, told the man to return to his home and that his house would be filled with food that night. The man left, with only the thought of what the Saint had told him to comfort him. That night, a great storm arose which caused flooding. The flood reached the rich man’s storeroom and all the food which he had stored was washed away to the poor man’s home. The rich man cried over his fate, while the peasant allowed all the people to share his food, including the rich man, without asking payment.
A farmer, who was acquainted with Saint Spyridon, was in a severe state of poverty and went to a wealthy aristocrat asking him for some wheat for planting. Since the poor man had no money, the rich man refused to give him any. The peasant told him that he would trade other things for the wheat, but the nobleman only wanted money. Turning to Saint Spyridon for help, the poor man was assured that his plea would be answered. That night, the Saint left some gold coins at the poor man’s door. The farmer took the money to the nobleman who now was willing to help him. He planted the wheat and with God’s help, reaped an abundant crop. From the money he made, he gave the gold back to Saint Spyridon to repay the loan. The Saint told him to give the money to God, for He had given the money to him in the beginning. They went out into the garden and placed the money on the ground. Saint Spyridon then began to pray. He asked Christ to return the gold to its former state so that they could praise and glorify the name of Jesus Christ. The lifeless gold was miraculously transformed into a bird filled with life. The Saint took the bird and placed it back into its nest from where he had taken it before its transformation into the gold. The poor man fell to the ground crying for he thought that he was not worthy of seeing such a miracle. The Saint lifted him up giving him physical and spiritual strength.
A sinful man, who was a friend of the Saint, had been condemned to death for a crime which he had not committed. Saint Spyridon decided to attend the trial and save the sinner. In order to reach the place of the trial, the Saint had to cross a river which was flooding. Having his faith in Christ, he commanded the river, as if it were his servant, to be still for his Master’s sake, so that he could go and save his friend. When he said this, the current was held back and a path was cleared in the water until the Saint passed. All those who witnessed the miracle ran back to the city and recounted the miracle performed by Saint Spyridon.
The Eparch who had condemned the Saint’s friend to death also heard about the miracle and freed the man, thus receiving Saint Spyridon’s blessing. The Saint took his friend and returned to the city. Recognizing the holiness of this Saint, the man repented for his sins and lead a good Christian life from that time on.
Saint Spyridon loved the virtue of humility and it was for this reason that he always walked. One day he had walked a great distance to another town. Here, he went to the home of one of his friends who welcomed him with open arms. When the other villagers heard that Spyridon was at that home, they ran to offer their hospitality. Among them was a sinful woman, who attempted to wash the Saint’s feet. Spyridon had been forewarned by the Holy Spirit of this woman and he told her not to touch him. In this way he hoped to shame her into confession. The Saint described the sins which she had committed. Amazed at his knowledge, she confessed and washed his feet with bitter tears. Thus, he saved the woman from damnation and showed the others an example of what they too should do.
In 325 A.D., the year that Constantine the Great was ruler of the Byzantine Empire, the First Ecumenical Council was held in the city of Nicaea. Three-hundred and eighteen bishops, priests, and monks were in attendance. The Council was called to suppress the Arian Heresy which stated that Christ was just a creation of God and not the Son of God. Among the great Church Fathers in attendance was Saint Spyridon. Arius was a great orator and the orthodox Fathers had difficulty infighting him. At one point when it seemed that Arius and his followers would be victorious, it was not one of the educated Fathers who intervened, but the illiterate Saint Spyridon. He approached Arius and asked to speak to him; however, the other Church Father, knowing Spyridon to be uneducated and lacking in his speech, tried to prevent him from talking to Arius. Spyridon then began, ‘There is only One God of the heavens and Earth. He made the Heavenly Powers, created man, and formed all the visible and invisible things. With His Word and Spirit, the heavens were formed, Earth was created, the air and sea were made, all the animals were born and man was created. We believe that this Word of God was Jesus Christ Who is of one essence with the Father. He was born to a Virgin, was crucified and buried as a man, and as a God was resurrected to save mankind from his sins and grant him eternal life. We also believe that He will judge the whole world and we will have to be responsible to Him for all our actions, words, and feelings. We consider Him co-substantial with the Father and who together are praised, honored, and glorified. If They are three persons and three hypostatses, They are but one God and one Essence which is incomprehensible. This is not comprehensible to the mind of man, that is, the infinity of the Divinity. We may compare this to the sea, for as it is impossible to put all the water of the sea into a small container, so is it impossible for man’s mind to understand fully the make-up of the Deity.”
One of the Arian philosophers was so stunned by this event that he lost his voice. When he finally regained his speech, he said to Saint Spyridon, “I accept and believe all that you have said, oh holy man.” Spyridon then said to him, “Since you believe by word all I have said, show that you also believe by your actions, and let us go to the church so that you may receive the meaning of the orthodox Church.” After returning from the church, the philosopher turned to the others who believed in the Arian Heresy and told them that because of the speech and miracle of Saint Spyridon, he had to admit defeat. He also told them that for their own salvation, they should accept Christ and follow Saint Spyridon who spoke as if the words had been sent from heaven. Only six people remained who believed in the Arian Heresy, the others f flowed the teachings of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. All of the Church Fathers praised and thanked Saint Spyridon for helping save the faith. Constantine himself thanked the Saint.
After the Council was adjourned, Spyridon returned to Cyprus. Upon his arrival, he was informed that his daughter, Irene, had died. In several days a woman came to him crying and told him that she had given his daughter a priceless medallion to safeguard, but because of her death, she did not return it. Spyridon questioned everyone in the household, but was not able to locate the medallion. He, therefore, went to his daughter’s grave. As if he were talking to a living person, he said, “Irene, my beloved daughter, where have you placed this medallion.” Suddenly a voice was heard as if it were coming from a living being and informed the Saint of the location of the artifact. He then said, “Sleep, my daughter, until the Day of Judgment.” The Saint went to the place his daughter had described, found the medallion, and returned it to the woman.
After the death of Constantine the Great, the ruler’s three sons divided the Empire equally. The Eastern part of the Empire was ruled by his son Constantine. While Constantine was in Antioch, the Emperor became extremely ill and no doctor or medicine could cure him. One night, he saw an angel of the Lord appear in his dream. The angel showed him a group of bishops. In the center there were two bishops, and the angel told him that only these two could cure him of his illness. He was not told where they could be found or what their names were. Constantine instructed his soldiers to bring ail the bishops of his Empire to his palace so that he could find the ones which were shown to him by the angel. This was done, however, the two bishops were not among them. He then sent a letter to Cyprus instructing those bishops to come to him. Spyridon, along with his friend, Triphillion, who was a very religious man, complied with the Emperor’s request and went to Antioch. Triphillion was not yet a bishop, but was shown by the angel to be one because of his holiness. They went to the palace dressed in humble clothes. One of the servants first saw them and because of their clothing, thought that they were not worthy of seeing the Emperor. He not only threw them out, but also hit Saint Spyridon with his fist. Spyridon followed the teachings of Christ and instead of fighting with the servant, turned the other cheek, so that the servant could hit him a second time. When the servant saw the great humility of this man, he took pity on him. Discovering that Spyridon was a bishop, he fell to his feet and begged forgiveness. Spyridon forgave him and advised him not to act so harshly with strangers in the future. They then proceeded to the throne room. Triphillion was amazed at the beauty of the palace for he had never seen anything like it before. Being a young man, he was shocked when he saw the Emperor sitting on a high throne in his rich clothing. Spyridon told him that he should not be impressed by these materialistic things, for they were unlike the glory and power of God.
As the two were talking, the Emperor saw them from this throne. He recognized Spyridon immediately, but not Triphillion. He ran from the throne and fell at the feet of the Saint and begged to be cured of his sickness. Saint Spyridon placed his hand on the head of the Emperor and blessed him. Miraculously, he was cured. Constantine insisted that the Saint take gold as payment for the miracle. Saint Spyridon took the gold, but before leaving that land, he divided it among the poor. When Constantine learned of this, his admiration and respect for the Saint grew even more. It was at this time that Constantine stopped taxing the priests and the Church.
Having left the palace, a Christian took the Saint to his home. While there, a barbarian woman, i.e. one who did not know how to speak the Greek language, came to Saint Spyridon with a dead baby in her arms. She placed the child at the Saint’s feet and with motions and tears explained that she wanted the Saint to resurrect the child. He pitied the woman, but thought that he would be asking for too much if he asked Christ for this. He, therefore, consulted with his deacon, named Artemidoros to try to resolve his problem. Artemidoros told him that his prayers were always answered by God. He had cured the Emperor and therefore, should definitely help the poor. Spyridon listened to the deacon and crying, he began to pray for the child. When he finished, the child was resurrected and restored to his mother by the grace of God. From her great shock, the mother died. The deacon begged the Saint to resurrect her also so that the child would not be an orphan. The Saint performed another miracle and resurrected the mother. She never disclosed the miracle while the Saint lived; however, after his death, it was known to Christians all over the world.
Saint Spyridon left Antioch and returned to his home in Cyprus. A nearby farmer desired to buy some rams from the Saint. After agreeing on the price, the Saint told him to putt he money in a certain place and to take the rams. Seeing that the Saint had not codnted the money, he decided to take an extra ram. On the way home, the ram which he had not paid for, returned to the stable of Saint Spyridon. This happened three times. Finally, the farmer put the ram on his shoulders to carry it home. The ram tried to escape and hit him in the head with its horns. The Saint then asked the farmer if he had forgotten to pay for that ram. The farmer confessed and asked to be forgiven. The ram then followed him home willingly.
At another time, Saint Spyridon had gone into a church to perform a Vesper Service. No one was in the church except for himself and the deacon. Suddenly the sound of a choir was heard and it appeared as if the choir was comprised of thousands of voices. The voices were not human, but angelic. They were heard outside the church and people began to enter to see the choir; however, when they entered the only ones they saw were the two clergymen.
A very pious woman named Sophronia had married a shepherd who was an idolater. She begged Saint Spyridon to convert him to Christianity. One day while eating, the Saint called his servant and told him that the shepherd had fallen asleep and had lost his flock. He also informed the servant that the shepherd would be coming to him to ask for aid. He instructed the servant to tell him that he would find the flock in a nearby cave. Later, the shepherd came to the house and the servant repeated what the Saint had told him to say. The shepherd was amazed that the Saint knew the question and answer before he had said anything; therefore, he wanted to make a sacrifice to him. Saint Spyridon stopped him and told him that he was not God, but a servant of God. The idolater was soon thereafter baptised a Christian.
(Celebrated November 26).
Saint Stelianos was born in Paflagonia, a village in Asia Minor. After his parents’ deaths, he inherited a vast fortune. Wanting to obtain his salvation and believing that the least fortunate should be aided, he distributed his wealth among the poor. He did this according to the needs of each family.
Stelianos wanted to depart from the city since it was filled with scandalous and impious people. He, therefore, went to a monastery where he devoted himself to God. He proved himself more sincere and pious than the other monks. However, true devotion to God, meant doing away with all human obstacles, so he subsequently left the monastery and went into the wilderness. There, he lived in a cave, praying and fasting constantly. The goodness and piety of Stelianos became known to the inhabitants of Paflagonia and many would go to the cave and listen to the Saints teachings and be cured of illnesses by his power. He cured many people of both physical and mental illnesses. It was in this same cave, where he spent most of his life, that Saint Stelianos died on the 28th of November. After his death, his name did not cease to exist- When an illness would strike children, the inhabitants of Paflagonia believed that the Saint could cure the youngsters, They would paint an icon of the Saint and place it over the head of the child. It is for this reason that Saint Stelianos is known as the protector of children and when depicted in an icon, he is always holding an infant.
This was the life of Saint Stelianos of Paflagonia. His teaching was that one gains nothing if he has conquered the world, and yet keeps his soul in debt. This teaching is as relevant today as it was in his time. It should stay in our minds no matter how small the task we endeavor to accomplish.
Saint Theodore Stratilates.
(Celebrated February 8).
Saint Theodore Stratilates, or The Commander, lived circa 320 A.D., when Licinius was the ruler of the Roman Empire. He was born in the village of Eucharita, in Galatia. From his village he went to live in Heracleia of Pontus which is situated on the Black Sea. He was a very well built young man possessing a great deal of wisdom and a charisma which led his friends to nickname him Vriorhetroa, or the “fountain of rhetoric.” His presence commanded respect and people sought his friendship. Licinius happened to converse with Theodore and was so impressed by him, that he made him a Commander of the Roman army, governing the area of Heracleia. When he commissioned the Saint, Licinius did not know that Theodore was a Christian.
After the Saint started his rule of Heracleia, he began teaching that Christ was the true God. Every day Theodore would gain more converts. In time, almost the entire population of Heracleia was Christian.
The ruler of the Eastern Roman Empire lived in Nicomedia and when Licinius discovered that Theodore was preaching Christianity, he wrote a letter instructing this ruler to make the Saint sacrifice to the gods. The co-ruler in turn, sent his personal representatives to deliver the message. When Saint Theodore saw them, he welcomed them with open arms, gifted them, and showed them his warm hospitality for three days. When the day arrived for their departure, Theodore kept three of the representatives and sent the rest to Nicomedia with his letter to Licinius. In the letter, the Saint explained that it was impossible for him to leave. He asked that Licinius come to Heracleia with idols so that they could both sacrifice in front of the people, thus setting an example. When Licinius read the letter, he rejoiced in the thought that Theodore cared for the idols. He, therefore, left Nicomedia with eight thousand soldiers and the idols of the gods.
Saint Theodore had a dual purpose in writing this letter. First, he wanted to martyr in Heracleia for his beliefs, so that his country would be blessed. Secondly, he wanted to die in front of the Christians to give them courage and faith.
That night Saint Theodore had a dream. He saw his house roofless while a large flame descended from heaven. A voice was speaking to him, “Have courage, Theodore, for I shall be with you.” Joyously, he realized that this dream was foretelling of his martyrdom.
When Saint Theodore saw Licinius advancing, he prayed to God for courage. Soon he was greeting Licinius, whom he led to the royal throne, and seated himself to the Emperor’s right. The ruler praised the city and its people and told them that Hercules, the son of Zeus, and to whom the city had been dedicated, was with them. He also praised Theodore for his wisdom and his loyalty to the Greek gods. Saint Theodore then asked Licinius to give him the statues of the gods, which were made of gold and silver, so that he could take then to his home and worship them. Licinius was more than happy to present them to him. After taking the idols home, Theodore smashed them into little pieces and distributed the gold and silver among the poor.
Two days later he again sat with the Emperor. Licinius told him that on the third day they would sacrifice to the gods. Just then, Maxentius, a royal aide, revealed what Theodore had done to the idols. He told Licinius that he had seen a peasant holding the golden head of the goddess Artemis which the peasant confessed had been given to him by Saint Theodore. The sovereign was silent for several minutes. Enraged, he suddenly turned to the holy man and said, “I traveled the long distance from Nicomedia because I had faith in you. You will soon regret your insolent actions.”
The Saint’s hands and feet were bound to two crossed spikes so that his body was stretched. Licinius then ordered his soldiers to lash Saint Theodore forty times on his back and fifty times on his stomach. When this punishment was finished, the soldiers took torches and methodically burned the Saint. He was then chained and thrown into prison where he remained for seven days, without food or drink. His only nourishment came from his faith in God. Saint Theodore did not give up hope, instead he praised God, saying, “Glory be to my God.”
When the Saint was released from prison, he was again taken to Licinius. The Emperor offered him priceless gifts if he would sacrifice to the gods. Theodore refused and was taken out of the city to be crucified. His hands and feet were nailed to a cross. While on the cross, his body was mutilated in every conceivable way. Again, Saint Theodore praised God with all his heart. While hanging on the cross, he asked Christ to help him and to give him strength. As pain racked his body, the Saint saw one of his faithful servants, Warren, crying for him. Warren had recorded all of the tortures which the Saint had undergone. The Saint instructed the servant to finish his work, so that this event would give courage and faith to the generations of Christians to follow.
Theodore remained on the cross for the entire night and Licinius was under the impression that the Saint had died. Later that evening, however, an angel of the Lord descended to cure the Saint of his wounds and free him from the cross.
At day-break, Licinius sent two of his guards, Patrician and Antiochus to remove the Saint’s body and throw it into the sea, thus depriving the Christians of a holy relic. Then the guards reached the place of the crucifixion, they found the cross on the ground and the Saint, completely healed, kneeling next to it while praying.
When Licinius discovered what had happened, he sent his general, Cestan, with three-hundred soldiers to execute the Saint. When they arrived and saw him, they also converted to Christianity. All of the citizens of Heracleia gathered at this spot — not one idolater remained. One of the soldiers, named Leondros, returned and told Licinius of what had happened. Angry and fearful, the Emperor sent other soldiers to behead Saint Theodore. The Christians who were gathered around the Saint tried to prevent the soldiers from accomplishing their mission. Saint Theodore calmed his followers and told them that it was time for him to meet his Master. He instructed them to bury his body in Evchaita, his paternal village. He bent his head down and was beheaded by the soldiers, thus receiving the crown of martyrdom which he had sought. Several Christians followed the Saint’s instructions and buried him in Evchaita where his holy body performed many miracles.
Licinius was rewarded for his evil doings. Because of his continued persecutions against the Christians after the Edict of Milan, Constantine the Great declared war against Licinius. During the battle, Licinius was killed and Constantine the Great became sole ruler of the Roman Empire.
The memories of Saints Theodore Tryon and Theodore Stratilates are celebrated separately, however, our Church has declared that the two martyrs be honored together the Saturday of the first week of the Great Lent. This occurs because of the foilowing tradition. The Emperor, Julian the Apostate, knowing that the Christians were fasting during the Great Lent, ordered that the food supplies in the market place be sprayed with the blood of animals which had been sacrificed to the idols. His intention was to prevent the Christians from fasting. That night, Patriarch Eudoxius saw a vision of Saints Theodore Tryon and Theodore Stratilates disclosing the governor’s intentions and advising the Christians to abstain from purchasing food at the market, using instead boiled wheat which was called “collyva” (or kutyia, in Russian) in that area. This is how “collyva” was introduced in our Church in commemoration of the dead.
Saint Theodore Tyron.
(Celebrated February 17).
Saint Theodore Tyron was born in 297 A.D., near the city of Amasia on the Black Sea, in the small village of Choumianos. During this time, the Emperors Maximius and Maximian sent an edict throughout their kingdoms telling the Christians that if they gave up their faith, they would be greatly rewarded. Those who failed to do so would suffer macabre deaths. Because of this decree, three types of Christians emerged. The first type included the so called “abandoners” who denounced Christ and received materialistic rewards from the rulers. Secondly, there were the Christians who hid so that they would neither have to denounce Christ nor suffer the consequences. In private they were Christians, in public idolaters. The third type were the true Christians. They would openly speak of their beliefs knowing that a horrible fate awaited them. Most of the martyred Saints of our Church came from this third group of Christians.
Saint Theodore would be classified as a second group Christian (those who acted as idolaters, but were really Christians). Because of his intelligence and courage, Saint Theodore was in the battalion of the Tyrons, or new recruits. The army was to go to the East for guard duty, when Saint Theodore was reassigned to an elite legion consisting of 893 soldiers. This legion was known as Margaritas, or the strong ones. They departed for the East under the leadership of Brigean. Arriving in the city of Evcharita (the town of Saint Theodore Stratilates), they discovered a thick forest, about forty miles from the town itself. In this forest lived a fierce serpent which threatened the inhabitants of that area.
Saint Theodore sought to discover whether or not his fate lay in martyrdom. Therefore, he proceeded into this forest on horseback, in search of the serpent. If he were victorious, he would know that his death for Christ would occur later. Failing to find the serpent, he laid down in a meadow and fell asleep.
A rich woman, named Eusevia happened to pass by the spot where Theodore was sleeping. She immediately awakened him to warn him of the serpent which roamed the countryside. The Saint asked who she was. She replied that she was a Christian landowner. Fear of the serpent had caused her to abandon her land so that she would not be killed by the beast. Saint Theodore told the woman that with the aid of God, he would kill the serpent and that she would soon be able to return to her land.
He mounted his horse and once again proceeded to search for the beast. Finally, after finding the serpent, he destroyed it with his spear. Joyously, he left the forest somehow realizing that it was Christ’s will that he martyr in His name.
The time came for the soldiers to sacrifice to the pagan gods. It was at this point that Brigean discovered that Theodore was a Christian. He tried to persuade him to sacrifice to the idols, but his efforts were in vain. Thus, Theodore became a transgressor to the Empire. He was questioned about his beliefs and given several days to reach a decision. The General proceeded to question other soldiers who admitted that they also were Christians. Saint Theodore talked to these Christians and taught them not to denounce Christ. He warned them that if they died as idolaters they would be condemned to eternal damnation. If, however, they suffered for Christ, they would inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. All the soldiers who admitted to being Christians were later imprisoned.
One night, Saint Theodore escaped from his prison and set fire to the altar dedicated to the goddess Rea. A great amount of confusion resulted in Eucharita and the people demanded punishment of whoever desecrated the altar. The caretaker of the altar, named Chronides, saw the Saint commit the crime. He went to the governor of Eucharita, named Pouplius, and told him of what he had seen.
Pouplius went to Brigean and reprimanded him for allowing Theodore to escape. Brigean told Pouplius that he had tried in every conceivable way to make the Saint sacrifice to the gods. The governor himself then tried to persuade the Saint to sacrifice to the gods, but he also failed. Words were useless and Pouplius decided to concentrate on physical efforts.
The governor had Saint Theodore thrown into prison and instructed the turnkey not to give the Saint’ any nourishment whatsoever. A seal was placed on the door to insure security. His purpose was to have the Saint die in prison. However, Christ did not forsake his servant, for that night, a bright light shown in the cell and the Saint heard Christ’s voice. He told him, “Hail Theodore, My Soldier, I am with you. The only food and drink you need is your love for Me. In several days, you will be with Me in My Kingdom.” Christ ascended into heaven and a host of angels surrounded Saint Theodore. Together they praised God. When the guards heard the loud chanting, they went to inspect the cell. The seal was still on the door, but a group of men in white robes were with the Saint. They immediately went to Pouplius and informed him of this. Here turned with many soldiers and they guarded the door so that the white-robed men could not escape. Pouplius also heard the chanting and entered the cell. Much to his surprise, all he saw was the Saint chained in the corner. He became extremely frightened and fled, sealing the door as he did. The turnkey was then ordered to give the Saint a piece of bread and some water daily.
When the turnkey took the bread and water to the Saint the next day, Theodore refused it saying that he was being nourished by his love for Christ. He was released from prison and taken to Pouplius who again asked him to sacrifice to the Greek gods. Upon the Saint’s refusal, Pouplius ordered his soldiers to hang the Saint from his feet and to take an iron grater and rip his body until he died or sacrificed to the gods.
Because of the people’s growing unrest, Pouplius stopped this torture and again asked Saint Theodore to sacrifice to the Gods. Once more, the Saint refused. Thus the governor declared Theodore an enemy of the Emperor and the Empire, and ordered him executed by fire. Theodore was taken to the place of his martyrdom, where he was disrobed. After praying for several minutes, he jumped into the burning furnace. As he died, the flame turned stark white and Saint Theodore the Recruit received the crown of martyrdom.
Eusevia, the woman who had awakened him in the forest, bought the Saint’s body at an exorbitant price. She transported it to her hometown, Evchaita, where the Christians had worshipped the Saint and where many had asked for and received his aid. And there, even after his death, the Saint continued to protect his followers.
(Celebrated February 1).
Saint Tryphon was born in Lampsakon and raised by a very devout Christian family. From a young age he was blessed with the divine power to cure any type of sickness.
In the year 239 A.D., Gordianos was the ruler of the Roman Empire. Even though he was a pagan, he was not a persecutor of Christians. As the original biographer of Saint Tryphon tells us, the Emperor had an only child, a daughter. Many of the noblemen of the city desired to marry this girl; therefore, her father locked her in a palace tower so that people could not see her. This girl became possessed and tortured by a demon. When her parents saw that she could not be cured, they became distressed. They were informed by the demon that he would not leave the girl’s body unless Tryphon were present.
The Emperor sent messengers to every city and town of the Empire to find Tryphon. He promised a large reward to the one who brought the Saint to Rome. They arrived in Lampsakon, where Tryphon was watching over his geese. Seeing these noblemen, he knew immediately what their task was and said to them, “I am Tryphon, the person you were sent to find.” At this time, Tryphon was seventeen years old. They started immediately for their return to Rome. The demon knew of Tryphon’s arrival three days prior to its occurrence and started to torment the girl even more than before. When Tryphon arrived in Rome, the demon could not look at the Saint and left the girl. Gordianos welcomed Tryphon as the person who had cured his daughter.
To make certain of Tryphon’s validity, the Emperor asked him to make the demon appear before them so that he could ask him why he had possessed his daughter. The Saint fasted for six days; after which, he prayed to God to give him the power to perform his task. On the seventh day, the citizens of Rome gathered to see the miracle. After praying to God, Tryphon said, “In the name of Jesus Christ, I order you to appear in front of us so that we may see the epitome of ugliness and sickness.” Suddenly, a large black dog appeared in front of them. Tryphon then said, ‘Tell us why you possessed this girl.” The demon responded by saying, “My father, who is the ruler of evil and is named Satan, sent me to torture this girl.” The Saint continued his inquiry, “Who gives you, rulers of the underworld, the authority to enter the bodies of the workers of God?” He responded by saying that they had no authority to do so, but could only possess people who practiced what the demon stood for. The people were amazed when they saw and heard this. Gordianos rewarded the Saint with many gifts. Tryphon was accompanied back to his home and after returning, he continued curing those who came to him.
After the death of Gordianos, the pious Philip became the ruler of the Roman Empire. He ruled only for a short time due to his death in battle. Decius then became ruler in 250 A.D. He had no tolerance for Christians. Those who worshipped the idols were rewarded, those who remained Christians were persecuted.
The pagans of the Eastern part of the Empire would betray Christians to their ruler, Achilion. A complaint was thus lodged against Tryphon. Achilion sent his envoys to find the Saint and he was taken to Nicaea to stand trial. When the Emperor saw that Tryphon would not deny his beliefs, he ordered his soldiers to hang him on a cross and stab him with their spears. He faced the torture without fear. The Emperor admired this courage and tried to persuade Tryphon to sacrifice to the gods and save himself. Seeing that he could not change the Christian’s opinions, Achilion was extremely angered. He ordered that Tryphon be taken down from the cross. Planning to go on a hunting trip, he decided to take Tryphon with him. Tryphon was tied behind a horse so that he would have to keep up with the riding soldiers by walking. The Saint suffered greatly. After several days, Achilion returned to Nicaea and Tryphon walked back to the city in the same manner. Again, Achilion tried to persuade Tryphon to change his beliefs and again the Saint stood firm in his convictions. Achilion ordered the Saint’s feet bound in chains and he was taken to the center of the city to be beaten. Afterwards, Tryphon was burned with torches. During his agony, the martyr prayed to Christ not to forsake him.
Achilion gave Tryphon his last chance to deny Christ and save himself. If Tryphon refused, the soldiers were to behead him. The Saint looked toward heaven and prayed. So that his death could not be attributed to the tyrant, Tryphon died just before the soldiers beheaded him. Several Christians of Nicaea wanted to bury his body near the city; however, the Saint appeared in their dreams and directed them to bury his body in Lampsakon, where later, many miracles were attributed to him.
Saint Tryphon is considered by many farmers to be the protector of fields and a Saint who takes special interest in vineyards.