Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Holy Apostle Hermes. The Holy Martyr Hermeas (May 31)

The Holy Apostle Hermes. 

Hermas was one of the Seventy Apostles. He is mentioned in the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans. "Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes and the brethren which are with them" (Romans 16:14). Hermas was a Greek by birth but lived in Rome for a long time. He was a bishop in Philippoupolis and ended his life as a martyr. He compiled a very instructive book called "The Shepherd" according to revelations from an angel of God. Hermas was a wealthy man but because of his sins and the sins of his sons, he fell into extreme poverty. Once while in prayer, a man appeared to him in white raiment with a staff in his hand and told him that he is an angel of repentance who was sent to be with him until the end of his life. The angel gave him twelve mandates:
  1. Believe in God;
  2. To live in simplicity and innocence; do not speak evil and give alms to all who beg;
  3. Love truth and avoid falsehood;
  4. Preserve chastity in your thoughts;
  5. Learn patience and generosity;
  6. To know that with every man, there is a good and an evil spirit;
  7. To fear God and not to fear the devil;
  8. To do every good and to refrain from every evil deed;
  9. To pray to God from the depth of the soul with faith that our prayer will be fulfilled;
  10. To guard against melancholy as the sister of doubt and anger;
  11. To question true and false prophecies;
  12. To guard against every evil desire

The Holy Martyr Hermeas.

Hermeas grew old as an imperial soldier and in his old age suffered for Christ the King. Since the evil judge tried in vain to dissuade him from the Faith of Christ and counseling him to offer sacrifices to the idols, the judge then gave orders that his teeth be knocked out with a stone and the skin peeled from his face with a knife. After that they threw him into a fiery furnace but, by the Grace of God, he was saved and stood up. Following that, by order of the judge he drank a bitter poison which was given to him by a magician, but the poison did him no harm. Witnessing this, the magician was so amazed that he openly confessed Christ for which he was immediately beheaded. Afterwards, they gouged out both of Hermeas' eyes but he did not grieve and cried out to the judge: "Take for yourself these bodily eyes that gaze upon the vanity of the world. I have eyes of the heart by which I clearly see the light of the truth." He was hung then by the feet upside down and those who did this to him were blinded and staggered around him. St. Hermeas beckoned them to come to him, laid his hands on them and, by prayer to the Lord, restored their sight. Witnessing all of this, the judge became as enraged as a lion, drew a knife and severed the head of this godly-man. Christians secretly removed the body of Hermeas and honorably buried it. His relics gave healing to all the sick and to the afflicted. St. Hermeas suffered in the year 166 A.D., during the reign of Emperor Antoninus.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Our Venerable Father Isaac (May 30)

Our Venerable Father Isaac, Hegumen of the Dalmatian Monastery

During the reign of Emperor Valens there was a great persecution against Orthodoxy on the part of the Arians which the emperor assisted. Hearing about this persecution a hermit Isaac, somewhere from the east, left the wilderness and came to Constantinople to encourage the right-believers and to denounce the heretics. Precisely at that time, the Emperor Valens departed to the north with his army against the Goths, who had come down from the Danube toward Thrace. Isaac came before the emperor and said to him: "O Emperor, open the churches of the right-believers and God will bless your path." The emperor ignored the elder and proceeded on his way. The following day, Isaac ran out again before the emperor and again he repeated his warning and the emperor almost heeded the elder were it not that a certain advisor of his, a follower of the Arian heresy, prevented him. Isaac ran out before the emperor on the third day, grabbed the emperor's horse by the reins and begged the emperor to grant freedom to the Church of God and threatened him with the punishment of God if he acts contrary to his petition. The enraged emperor ordered that the elder be thrown into a chasm of mud and thorns. But three angels appeared and pulled the elder out of the chasm. The fourth day Isaac came before the emperor and prophesied a terrible death for him if he does not grant freedom to the Orthodox: "I am speaking to you O emperor, you will lead the army against the barbarians but you will not be able to sustain their attack. You will flee from them but you will be captured and burned alive." Thus, it happened. The barbarians cut down the Greek army as grass but the emperor, with his Arianite advisor, fled and hid in a basket. The barbarians arrived at that place and learning where the emperor was, surrounded the basket and set it afire and both the emperor and his advisor were burned alive. Following this, Theodosius the Great was crowned emperor. Theodosius, who heard about the prophecy of Isaac and its fulfillment, summoned Isaac and prostrated himself before him. Since peace reigned in the Church and the Arians banished into exile, Isaac wanted to return to his wilderness but was persuaded and remained in Constantinople. An aristocrat, Saturninus by name, built a monastery for the Elder Issac where he lived a life of asceticism until his death, working many miracles. The monastery overflowed with monks and became a great monastery. Before his death, Isaac appointed Dalmatus, his disciple, as abbot after whom this monastery was later called. The god-pleasing Elder Isaac entered into eternity in the year 383 A.D., to find pleasure in gazing at the face of God.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Holy Venerable Martyr and Virgin Theodosia (May 29)

The Holy Venerable Martyr and Virgin Theodosia 

Once, during the reign of Emperor Maximian, many Christians stood bound before the praetor(*) in Palestinian Caesarea. The pious virgin Theodosia approached, comforted and encouraged them in their martyrdom. Upon hearing what she was saying, the soldiers also led her before the judge. The enraged judge ordered that a stone be hung around her neck and tossed her into the depths of the sea. But angels of God carried her to the shore alive. When she, again, appeared before the judge, he ordered her beheaded. The following night, Theodosia appeared to her parents completely encompassed in a great heavenly light, surrounded by many other virgins who were also saved and said: "Do you see how great is the glory and grace of my Christ which you wanted to deprive me of?" She said that to her parents because they tried to persuade her from confessing Christ and martyrdom. Theodosia suffered honorably and was glorified in the year 308 A.D

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pentecost Sunday (May 27)

Pentecost Sunday

A feast of the universal Church which commemorates the Descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, fifty days after the Resurrection of Christ, on the ancient Jewish festival called the "feast of weeks" or Pentecost (Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:10). Whitsunday is so called from the white garments which were worn by those who were baptised during the vigil; Pentecost ("Pfingsten" in German), is the Greek for "the fiftieth" (day after Easter).

Whitsunday, as a Christian feast, dates back to the first century, although there is no evidence that it was observed, as there is in the case of Easter; the passage in 1Corinthians 16:8 probably refers to the Jewish feast. This is not surprising, for the feast, originally of only one day's duration, fell on a Sunday; besides it was so closely bound up with Easter that it appears to be not much more than the termination of Paschal tide.

That Whitsunday belongs to the Apostolic times is stated in the seventh of the (interpolated) fragments attributed to St. Irenæus. In Tertullian (On Baptism 19) the festival appears as already well established. The Gallic pilgrim gives a detailed account of the solemn manner in which it was observed at Jerusalem ("Peregrin. Silviæ", ed. Geyer, iv). The Apostolic Constitutions (Book V, Part 20) say that Pentecost lasts one week, but in the West it was not kept with an octave until at quite a late date. It appears from Berno of Reichenau (d. 1048) that it was a debatable point in his time whether Whitsunday ought to have an octave. At present it is of equal rank with Easter Sunday. During the vigil formerly the catechumens who remained from Easter were baptized, consequently the ceremonies on Saturday are similar to those on Holy Saturday.

The office of Pentecost has only one Nocturn during the entire week. At Terce the "Veni Creator" is sung instead of the usual hymn, because at the third hour the Holy Ghost descended. The Mass has a Sequence, "Veni Sancte Spiritus" the authorship of which by some is ascribed to King Robert of France. The colour of the vestments is red, symbolic of the love of the Holy Ghost or of the tongues of fire. Formerly the law courts did not sit during the entire week, and servile work was forbidden. A Council of Constance (1094) limited this prohibition to the first three days of the week. The Sabbath rest of Tuesday was abolished in 1771, and in many missionary territories also that of Monday; the latter was abrogated for the entire Church by Pius X in 1911. Still, as at Easter, the liturgical rank of Monday and Tuesday of Pentecost week is a Double of the First Class.

In Italy it was customary to scatter rose leaves from the ceiling of the churches to recall the miracle of the fiery tongues; hence in Sicily and elsewhere in Italy Whitsunday is called Pascha rosatum. The Italian name Pascha rossa comes from the red colours of the vestments used on Whitsunday. In France it was customary to blow trumpets during Divine service, to recall the sound of the mighty wind which accompanied the Descent of the Holy Ghost. In England the gentry amused themselves with horse races. The Whitsun Ales or merrymakings are almost wholly obsolete in England. At these ales the Whitsun plays were performed. At Vespers of Pentecost in the Oriental Churches the extraordinary service of genuflexion, accompanied by long poetical prayers and psalms, takes place. (Cf. Maltzew, "Fasten-und Blumen Triodion", p. 898 where the entire Greco-Russian service is given; cf. also Baumstark, "Jacobit. Fest brevier", p. 255.) On Pentecost the Russians carry flowers and green branches in their hands.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Holy Apostle Carpus & St. Augustine of Canterbury (May 26)

The Holy Apostle Carpus, One of the Seventy. 

Carpus was one of the Seventy Apostles. He was a follower and companion of the Apostle Paul by whom he was appointed as bishop of Varna in Thrace. He also preached the Gospel on Crete where he received St. Dionysius the Areopagite in his home. St. Dionysius testifies that Carpus was a man with an exceptionally pure mind, meekness and innocence and that the Lord Jesus, with His angels, appeared to him in a vision and that he never began the Divine Liturgy that he did not have a heavenly vision beforehand. Enduring many assaults for the Name of Christ, he finally suffered at the hands of the unbelieving Jews and was killed and, with his soul, took up habitation in the kingdom of God to delight eternally gazing upon the Lord in glory.

Our Holy Father Augustine of Canterbury, Enlightener of England.

St Augustine, a Benedictine monk who is considered to be the 'Apostle to the English' and a founder of the English Church. He was appointed as the first Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 598 and was revered as Saint shortly after his death in 604.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Feast of the Third Finding of the Head of St. John the Baptist (May 25)

Feast of the Third Finding of the Head of St. John the Baptist (May 25)

In the eighth century, during the bitter violence of iconoclasm, the head of St. John was brought to Comana, the place of exile of St. John Chrysostom. When iconoclasm ended in the year 850 A.D., during the reign of Emperor Michael and the Patriarch Ignatius, the honorable head of St. John was translated to Constantinople and there was placed in the chapel of the imperial court.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Our Venerable Father Simeon of the Wondrous Mountain (May 24)

Our Venerable Father Simeon of the Wondrous Mountain 

This wonderful saint Simeon was born in Antioch in the year 522 A.D. during the reign of Emperor Justin the Elder. His father perished in an earthquake and he was left alone with his mother Martha. At age six, he withdrew to the desert to a spiritual father John under whose guidance he submitted himself to a life of austere fasting and prayerful asceticism to the astonishment of all who saw him. Enduring horrible demonic temptations, he received great comfort and grace from the Lord and His angels. The Lord Christ appeared to him under the guise of a handsome youth. After this vision, a great love for Christ burned in Simeon's heart. He spent many years on a "pillar" praying to God and chanting psalms. Under God's guidance, he withdrew to a mountain named "Wonderful" by the Lord Himself. Because of the name of this mountain, Simeon was surnamed the "Man of the Wonderful Mountain." Because of his love for God, he was endowed with the rare gift of grace, by which he healed every infirmity, tamed wild beasts, discerned into distant parts of the world and the hearts of men. He left his body and gazed at the heavens and conversed with angels, frightened and cast out demons, prophesied, at times lived without sleep for thirty days and even longer without food and received nourishment from the hands of angels. The words of the Lord were completely fulfilled in him: "He that believes in me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do" (St. John 14:12). In the year of our Lord 596 A.D. and in the seventy-fifth year of his life, St. Simeon presented himself to the Lord that he, together with the angels, may satisfy himself gazing upon the face of God.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Our Venerable Father Michael, Bishop of Synnada & Venerable Euphrosyne (May 23)

Our Venerable Father and Confessor Michael, Bishop of Synnada.

Michael, this holy and learned hierarch, dedicated himself to the service of Christ from early childhood. Together with St. Theophylact of Nicomedia, he lived a life of asceticism. At one time during a period of drought, these two saints, by their prayers, brought forth abundant rain on the earth. Because of his ascetical and chaste life from his early youth, he was chosen and consecrated bishop of Synnada by Patriarch Tarasius. He participated in the Seventh Ecumenical Council [Nicaea, 783 A.D.]. At the request of the emperor, he went to Caliph Harun-al-Rashid to conduct negotiations for peace. During the reign of the nefarious Leo the Armenian, Michael was removed from his episcopal throne because of his veneration of icons and was banished into exile, where in misery and poverty and, remaining faithful to Orthodoxy, died in the year 818 A.D. and took up habitation in the kingdom of Christ the King.

The Venerable Euphrosyne, Hegumena of the Monastery of our Holy Savior in Polotsk. 

Euphrosyne was the daughter of Prince Vseslav of Poltsk. When her parents wanted to betroth her, she fled to a convent and was tonsured a nun. An angel of the Lord appeared to her three times and revealed to her where she must establish a new convent for virgins. She even attracted her sister Eudocia to the monastic life and many other maidens from the ranks of the aristocracy. Her cousin, Zvenislava, by birth Princess Borisov, brought all of her riches, clothes and precious stones and said: "All the beauty of this world, I consider vanity and these adornments prepared for my marriage, I give to the Church of the Savior and I, myself, wish to be betrothed to Him in a spiritual marriage and place my head beneath His good and easy yoke." Euphrosyne also tonsured her a nun and gave her the name Eupraxia. In her old age, Euphrosyne desired to die in Jerusalem and for that she prayed to God. God heard her prayers and, indeed, when she visited Jerusalem she died there. Euphrosyne was buried in the monastery of St. Theodosius on May 23, 1173 A.D.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Holy Martyr Basiliscus. The Holy and Righteous Melchisedek, King of Salem (May 22)

The Holy Martyr Basiliscus

Basiliscus was a kinsman of St. Theodore Tiro. He was tortured together with Eutropius and Cleonicus. When the latter two [Eutropius and Cleonicus] were crucified, and expired (March 3), then Basiliscus was again returned to prison. At that time, there occurred a change in the emperor's deputy so that Basiliscus remained imprisoned for a long time. With tears, Basiliscus prayed that God not deprive him of a martyr's death. After lengthy prayers, the Lord Jesus Himself appeared to him, promised to fulfill his wish and sent him to his village to bid farewell to his mother and brothers. At that time Agrippa, a new deputy, was appointed and ordered that Basiliscus he brought from the village immediately. Enroute from the village to the town of Amasea the Lord, through His martyr, worked a great miracle and, as a result, many people believed in Christ. Agrippa ordered the martyr to offer a sacrifice to the idol Apollyon. Basiliscus said: "Apollyon means `one who kills - the destroyer,' " and with fervent prayer turned the idol into dust and with a heavenly fire burned the temple. The frightened Agrippa attributed this to magic and ordered Basiliscus beheaded. At that moment, Agrippa went insane and, in his madness, went to the scaffold, found a little blood of the martyr in the dust, placed it under his belt and he was healed. Coming to his senses he was baptized. Later on, Marinus, a citizen of Comana, the place of the execution of Basiliscus, built a church over the relics of the saint where many afflicted people found healing.

The Holy and Righteous Melchisedek, King of Salem 

John Vladimir was of princely lineage from Zahumlje. His grandfather was called Hvalimir and his father Petrislav. As a ruler, he was wise, merciful, meek, chaste and brave. He fervently prayed to God and voluntarily built churches and supported them. However, he had difficult struggles both internally and externally. Internally, from heretics and the Bogomils and externally from Tsar Samuel and Tsar Basil who wanted to conquer him. Samuel deceitfully captured him and cast him into prison. While he languished in prison an angel of God appeared to him and foretold that he would shortly be freed, but that he would die a martyr's death. Getting to know him better, Samuel grew to like him and gave his daughter Kosara to be his wife. When Samuel died, his son Radomir was crowned Tsar. But Vladislav, his twin brother, slew Radomir and deceitfully summoned Vladimir and beheaded him in the year 1015 A.D. The relics of this saintly king repose uncorrupt in his monastery near Elbasan and over his relics, throughout the ages and even today, numerous miracles occur. In 1925, a church was built to honor this crowned martyr adjacent to the monastery of St. Nahum since John Vladimir was the benefactor of this glorious monastery.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Holy Emperor Constantine and His Mother Helen (May 21)

The Holy Emperor Constantine and His Mother Helen

Constantine's parents were Emperor Constantius Chlorus and the Empress Helena. Chlorus had other children by another wife, but from Helena he had only Constantine. After his coronation Constantine fought three great battles: one, against Maxentius, a Roman tyrant; the second, against the Scythians on the Danube and the third, against the Byzantines. Before the battle with Maxentius, while Constantine was greatly concerned and in doubt about his success, a brilliant Cross appeared to him in the sky during the day, completely adorned with stars and written on the Cross were these words: "By this Sign Conquer." Astonished, the emperor ordered a large cross to be forged similar to the one that appeared to him and that it be carried before the army. By the power of the Cross he achieved a glorious victory over the enemy who was superior in members. Maxentius was drowned in the Tiber river. Immediately after that, Constantine issued the famous Edict of Milan in the year 313 A.D. to halt the persecution of Christians. Defeating the Byzantines, Constantine built a beautiful capital on the Bosphorus which from that time on was called Constantinople. Before that, however, Constantine succumbed to the dreaded disease of leprosy. As a cure, the pagan priests and physicians counseled him to bathe in the blood of slaughtered children. However, he rejected that. Then the Apostles Peter and Paul appeared to him and told him to seek out Bishop Sylvester who will cure him of this dreaded disease. The bishop instructed him in the Christian Faith, baptized him and the disease of leprosy vanished from the emperor's body. When a discord began in the Church because of the mutinous heretic Arius, the emperor convened the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea, 325. A.D., where the heresy was condemned and Orthodoxy confirmed. St. Helena, the pious mother of the emperor, was very zealous for the Faith of Christ. She visited Jerusalem, discovered the Honorable Cross of the Lord, built the Church of the Resurrection on Golgotha and many other churches throughout the Holy Land. This holy woman presented herself to the Lord in her eightieth year in 327 A.D. Emperor Constantine outlived his mother by ten years. He died in Nicomedia in his sixty-fifth year in 337 A.D. His body was interred in the Church of the Twelve Apostles in Constantinople.

© Copyright, Serbian Orthodox Church Diocese of Western America

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Holy Martyr Thaleleus (May 20)

The Holy Martyr Thaleleus (May 20)

Thalelaeus was born in Lebanon. His father was called Berucius and his mother was called Romila. Thalelaeus was an eighteen-year old youth, handsome of countenance, physically tall and with reddish yellow hair. He was a physician by profession. He suffered for Christ during the reign of Numerian. When he bravely confessed his faith in Christ the Lord before his tormenting judge, the judge ordered the two executioners, Alexander and Asterius, to bore through his knees with a drill, to thread a rope through the perforated bones and to hang him from a tree. But God through an invisible power, took away the sight of the executioners. In place of Thalelaeus they bored through a board and hung it from a tree. When the judge-torturer found out, he thought that the executioners did this intentionally and ordered them both to be flogged. Then Alexander and Asterius, in the midst of their flogging, cried out: "The Lord is alive to us and, from now on, we are also becoming Christians. We believe in Christ and suffer for Him." Upon hearing this, the judge-torturer ordered that both be beheaded. Then the judge took the drill to bore the knees of Thalelaeus himself but his hands became paralyzed and he begged Thalelaeus to save him, which the innocent martyr of Christ did, with the help of prayer. Following that, Thalelaeus was thrown into water but appeared alive before his tormentor (for Thalelaeus prayed to God inwardly to prolong his sufferings that he not die immediately). When he was thrown before wild beasts, they licked his feet and were amiable toward him. Finally, Thalelaeus was beheaded and took up his habitation in life eternal in the year 284 A.D.

Friday, May 18, 2012

St. Theodotus of Ancyra & The Seven Virgins, and Sts. Peter, Dionysius and their Companions. (May 18)

The Holy Martyr Theodotus of Ancyra and The Holy Seven Virgins.

Theodotus was married and an innkeeper in Ancyra during the reign of Diocletian. Although married, he lived according to the word of the apostle: "Let those having wives act as not having them" (1 Corinthians 7:29). He maintained the inn in order to unsuspectedly help Christians. His inn was a shelter of the persecuted faithful. Theodotus secretly sent help to those Christians who fled to the mountains and secretly gathered the bodies of those who died and buried them. At that time, seven maidens were brought to trial and tortured for Christ, ridiculed and finally drowned in a lake. One of them, St. Thecusa appeared in a dream to Theodotus and told to him to remove their bodies from the lake and bury them. In the darkness of night, Theodotus, with a companion, went out to fulfill the wish of the martyr and, led by an angel of God, succeeded to locate all seven bodies and bury them. But this companion betrayed Theodotus to the judge and the judge subjected him to cruel tortures. Theodotus endured all sufferings as though he were in someone else's body keeping his whole mind engrossed in the Lord. When the torturer transformed his entire body into wounds and knocked out his teeth with a stone, he ordered him to be beheaded. When he was led to the scaffold, many Christians wept for him and

St. Theodotus said to them: "Brethren, do not weep for me but glorify our Lord Jesus Christ Who helped me to complete this mortification and to overcome my enemy." Having said this, he place his head on the block under the sword and was beheaded in the year 303 A.D. A priest honorably buried this martyr's body on a hill outside the town. Later on, a church was built on this spot in the name of St. Theodotus.

The Holy Martyrs Peter, Dionysius and their Companions.

Peter, a handsome young man; Dionysius, a distinguished man; Andrew and Paul, soldiers; and Christina, a sixteen year old virgin, all courageously confessed Christ the Lord and endured sufferings and death for His Name. Nicomachus, who along with them was tortured, denied Christ in the middle of his tortures and, instantly lost his mind and, as a mad man, bit his body and threw up foam from his mouth until he died. This occurred in the year 250 A.D. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Feast of the Ascension of our Lord (May 17)

Feast of the Ascension of our Lord: In his human body, the Lord returned to the glory he has at the right hand of his Father on high. In this way, he lifts our human nature to deification and is enthroned as the High Priest who has suffered human death, yet is risen for the sake of human life. We glorify the Lord and await his coming again in glory.

Kontakion, Tone 6: When you fulfilled the plan of salvation for us, and united all things on earth to those in heaven, O Christ our God, you ascended in glory, never leaving us, but remaining ever-present. For you proclaimed to those who love you: I am with you and no one else has power over you.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

St. Theodore, The Holy Martyrs Vitus, Modestus and Crescentia & Blessed Vladimir (May 16)

Our Venerable Father Theodore the Consecrated, Disciple of St. Pachomius

Theodore was a disciple of St. Pachomius. He was born and raised as a pagan but as a young man came to the knowledge of the True Faith and was baptized. Learning about St. Pachomius, he secretly fled from his parent's home to Pachomius' monastery. St. Pachomius tonsured him a monk and admired him because of his unique zeal and obedience. When his mother arrived to ask him to come home, Theodore did not even want to appear before her but prayed that God would enlighten her with the truth. Indeed, not only did her son not return home, but she herself did not return home. Seeing a convent not far away which was under the spiritual direction of Pachomius' sister, she entered the convent and was tonsured a nun. After a period of time Paphnutius, Theodore's brother, also came to the monastery and was tonsured a monk. In time the bishop of Panopolis called St. Pachomius to establish a monastery for those who desired the monastic life. Pachomius took Theodore with him and entrusted him with the duty of establishing this new monastery. After the death of Pachomius, Theodore became the abbot of all Pachomius' monasteries and lived to a ripe old age. Theodore lived a life pleasing to God, directing the many monks on the road to salvation. He died peacefully and took up habitation in the kingdom of Eternal Light in the year 368 A.D.

The Holy Martyrs Vitus, Modestus, and Crescentia

The Holy Martyrs Vitus, Modestus, and Crescentia, suffered for Christ during the reign of Emperor Diocletian (284-305). Saint Vitus was enflamed with an ardent love for the Lord Jesus Christ and he prayed incessantly to Him. The Lord gave him the grace of wonderworking. He healed the sick and converted many pagans to Christ. However, St. Vitus, being the son of a pagan governor, was again and again put in temptation of sin, yet he held strong through the abuse, luxury and women. In order to save the boy, his tutor St. Modestus and his governess St. Crescentia, who were Christians, secretly took him from his parental home. At the river they saw a boat. An angel went into the boat together with them and they reached the Italian district of Lucanium, where the saints lived quietly, hidden away from torturers. The holy youth never ceased to heal the sick and he converted pagans to Christianity. Eventually the three were in the midst of Diocletian, who sentenced them all to torture. The, St. Vitus called out to God, "O God, save us by Thy power and deliver us." An earthquake struck, and many pagans perished under the collapsed buildings. Diocletian fled to his chambers in fear. The sufferings of the holy martyrs Vitus, Modestus and Crescentia occurred in the year 303. The relics of Saint Vitus were transferred to Prague. The Holy Prince Vyacheslav (Wenceslaus) of the Czechs (September 28) constructed a temple in honor of St. Vitus, in which he was afterwards buried.

Blessed Martyr the Priest Vladimir Bajrak

Blessed Martyr the Priest Vladimir Bajrak was born on the 24th February 1907 at Shvaikivtsy, Ternopil’s’ka oblast’, Ukraine. A Greek Catholic, he joined the Basilian Order of Saint Josaphat monastery on 4 September 1924. Ordained on the13th August 1933, and became 0rior of Drohobych in 1941. He was later arrested for his faith on 17 September 1945 by the NKVD. On 13 November 1945 his property was confiscated, and he was sentenced to eight years in a forced labor camp, where he died in prison as a martyr.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Our Venerable Father Pachomius the Great. Our Venerable Father Isaiah the Wonderworker, Bishop of Rostov (May 15)

Our Venerable Father Pachomius the Great.

Pachomius was born in Egypt and, in his youth, was a pagan. As a soldier, he fought in battle with Emperor Constantine against Maxentius. Following that, he learned of the One God from Christians and witnessing their devout life, Pachomius became baptized and withdrew to the Tabennisi wilderness, to the famous ascetic Palamon with whom he studied the ascetical life for ten years. Then, an angel appeared to him in the habit of a Schema [The Great Angelic Habit of a Monk] over the place called Tabennisiot and gave him a board upon which was written the Monastic Rule [Constitution] for the Cenobitic Life, ordering him to establish such a monastery in that place, prophesying to him that in this monastery many monks will come for the sake of salvation of souls. Heeding the angel of God, Pachomius began to build many cells even though at that place there was not anyone except his brother John and himself. When his brother reproached him for building unnecessary cells, Pachomius simply said to him that he is following the command of God without regard as to who will come to live there and when. But soon, many men gathered at that place moved by the Spirit of God, and began to live a life of asceticism according to the Rule of Pachomius, which he received from the angel. When the number of monks increased, Pachomius gradually established six more monasteries. The number of his disciples amounted to about seven thousand. St. Anthony is considered to be the founder of the hermitical life but St. Pachomius as founder of the monastic cenobitic way of life. The humility, love of labor and abstinence of this holy father was and remains a rare example for the imitation of the vast number of monks. St. Pachomius worked numerous miracles but endured numerous temptations from demons as well as men. He served men as a father or a brother. He inspired many to follow the path to salvation and directed many on the path to truth. He was and remains a great light of the Church and a great witness to the truth and justice of Christ. He died peacefully in the year 348 A.D. in the seventy-fourth year of his earthly life. The Church has included many of his disciples in the ranks of the saints, such as: Theodore, Job, Paphnutius, Pecusius, Athenodorus, Eponymus, Sorus, Psoi, Dionysius, Psentaesis and others. 

Our Venerable Father Isaiah the Wonderworker, Bishop of Rostov.

Isaiah was born near Kiev. In 1077, he became the second bishop of Rostov, succeeding Leonty of Rostov. As Christianity was not yet well established in the area, he spent his tenure converting pagans, destroying idolatry and encouraging the spread of Christianity. The seat of Bishop of Rostov remained vacant for more than a century after Isaiah's death. Relics of Leonty and Isaiah were discovered in 1162 or 1164. In 1474 they were re-interred in a new cathedral of Rostov. The first historical reference to Isaiah appears in the Life of Theodosius of Kiev (Russian: Житие Феодосия Печерского). According to the biographer of Theodosius, in 1062 prince Iziaslav I of Kiev selected Isaiah, a monk of Pechersk Lavra, to the newly instituted Demetrios Monastery, and in 1077 secured appointment of Isaiah as the Bishop of Rostov. In 1088 Isaiah has consecrated St. Michael's church in Vydubitsy; in 1089 Isaiah and metropolitan John jointly consecrated the Church of Theotokos in Pechersk Lavra. Both these facts are reproduced in the Life of Isaiah of Rostov; these were actually all the facts available to the medieval biographer. He converted a routine mention of Isaiah' presence in Kiev in 1089 into a tale of magical instant flight from Rostov to Kiev and back. However, the year and circumstances of Isaiah' death remain unknown. Life of Isaiah of Rostov exists in two versions; the second and larger version incorporates long quotes from earlier chronicles and scriptures and does not add anything to biography itself. 19th century historians attributed the first, brief, version to 13th century Rostov chronists. According to contemporary authors, it was actually compiled around 1474, the year of canonization.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Holy Martyr Isidore (May 14)

The Holy Martyr Isidore

During the reign of Decius, Isidore was drafted by force from the island of Chios into military service. From childhood, Isidore adhered to the Faith of Christ and spent his entire life in fasting, prayer and good works. But when in the army Isidore declared himself a Christian, the commander seized him, required of him an answer and counseled him to deny Christ and offer sacrifices to the idols. The saint replied: "Even if you kill my body, you have no authority over my soul. I possess the True, Living God, Jesus Christ Who now lives in me and after my death, He will be with me and I am in Him and will remain in Him and I will never cease to confess His Holy Name as long as my soul is in my body." First, the commander ordered that Isidore be whipped with oxen tails and after that they cut out his tongue. Even without his tongue, Isidore, by the Spirit of God, spoke and confessed the Name of Christ. Meanwhile, the punishment of God came upon the commander and he, suddenly, became mute. Finally, the mute commander gave the sign to behead Isidore. Isidore was elated at this sentence and after praising God went to the scaffold where he was beheaded in the year 251 A.D. His companion, Ammon buried his body and following that also suffered and received the martyr's wreath.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Holy Martyr Glyceria (May 13)

The Holy Martyr Glyceria

Gyceria was the daughter of a Roman governor. Becoming impoverished after her father's death, Glyceria settled in Trajanopolis in Thrace. During the reign of the nefarious Emperor Antoninus, Glyceria was taken to offer sacrifices to the idol of Jupiter [Zeus]. She traced the sign of the cross on her forehead and when the Prefect Sabinus questioned her concerning her lamp, (for all of them carried lamps in their hands), Glyceria pointed to the cross on her forehead and said: "This is my lamp." As a result of her prayer lightning struck the idol and smashed it to pieces. The prefect became angry and ordered her flogged and thrown into prison. The prefect sealed the doors to the prison, determined to starve the virgin to death. However, an angel of God appeared to Glyceria and administered heavenly food to her. After a period of time, when the prefect thought that the virgin must have died from hunger, he opened the doors of the prison and was astonished when he saw her healthy, radiant and joyful. Witnessing this miracle, Laodicius, the jailer confessed Christ the Lord and was immediately beheaded. After that Glyceria was thrown into a fiery furnace but remained unharmed by the fire. Standing in the midst of the fire and, remembering the miracle of the three youths in the Babylonian furnace, Glyceria praised the Lord. Finally, she was thrown to the lions and, praying to God, this holy virgin gave up her soul to the Lord for Whom she bravely endured many tortures. She suffered honorably in the year 177 A.D. A healing oil [myrrh] emitted from her relics which healed the sick of the gravest diseases.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Our Holy Fathers Epiphanius, Bishop of Cyprus and Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople. (May 12)

Our Holy Father Epiphanius, Bishop of Cyprus.

Our father among the saints Epiphanius of Cyprus was Bishop of Salamis on the island of Cyprus and, later, Bishop of Cyprus during the latter part of the fourth century. He was known for his great zeal for the faith, his love and charity toward the poor, and simplicity of character. He is known for composing a large compendium of the heresies in his time. He was well educated and became a Christian after seeing how a monk named Lucian gave away his clothing to a poor person. After his baptism, he became a member of a monastery in Egypt under the guidance of the elder St. Hilarion the Great. In 402, at the urging of Abp. Theophilus of Alexandria, Epiphanius traveled to Constantinople to support Theophilus in his campaign against Abp. John Chrysostom of Constantinople, and the four "Tall Brothers" monks. When he realized he was being used as a tool by Theophilus against John, who had given refuge to the monks persecuted by Theophilus and had appealed to the emperor, Epiphanius returned to Salamis, only to die on the way home in 403.

Our Holy Father Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople. 

St. Germanus was born in Constantinople about the year 645, the son of the patrician Juatinianus. Germanus was then sent to a monastery from which he entered into the service to the church. He was the Patriarch of Constantinople from 715 to 730. At the Seventh Ecumenical Council in 787, his name was added to the list of saints. He wrote a number of works. Among these works are the book "Meditation on Church Matters or Commentary on the Liturgy", more commonly known as On the Divine Liturgy, an explanation of passages of Holy Scripture, letters about veneration of icons, hymns in praise of the saints, and discourses on the Feasts of Presentation of the Theotokos, the Annunciation, and the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos.  

St. Mocius, Sts. Cyril and Methodius, Apostles of the Slavs & Our Holy Father Basil (May 11)

The Holy Priest-Martyr Mocius.

Mocius was Roman by birth and a presbyter in Amphipolis, a town in Macedonia. He suffered during the reign of Diocletian. By prayer he destroyed the statue of the god Dionysius which embittered certain pagans against him and others he converted to the Faith. He was beheaded for Christ in the year 295 A.D.

Our Holy Fathers Cyril and Methodius, Apostles of the Slavs.

The brothers Cyril and Methodius were born early in the 9th century in Thessalonika into a senatorial family. They are most renowned for the development of the Glagolitic alphabet that was used to bring literacy and Christian literature to the Slavs in their own language. With further development by their disciples it became the Cyrillic alphabet, which is now used by many of the Slavic peoples. The two brothers have been recognized as saints, equals to the apostles, for their missionary work. Many details of their lives have been obscured by the legends that have arisen about them.
" O Cyril and Methodius, inspired by God,
You became equal to the Apostles by your life.
Since you were teachers of the Slavs,
Intercede with the Master of all
That He may strengthen all Orthodox peoples in the True Faith,
And that He may grant peace to the world
And great mercy to our souls." 
~ Troparion (Tone 4)

Our Holy Father Basil (Hopko), Bishop of Midila.

Blessed Basil Hopko was ordained in 1929 and served as a parish priest in Prague, with a spcial mission to the poor, the unemployed and students. In 1947, he was named auxiliary bishop of Prjashev. Three years later, he was arrested by Communist officials and was given a trial and sentenced to 15 years for “subversive activity.” His health failed as he was continually tortured. In 1964, he was transferred to a home for seniors. There, he was kept under guard but managed to minister to a group of 120 nuns who had been imprisoned in the home as well. Though his eparchy was restored in 1968, officials did not permit him to resume his leadership. A Slovak bishop was appointed in his place. He never recovered from his health and died in 1976. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2003 in the Slovak Republic.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Holy Apostle Simon the Zealot (May 10)

The Holy Apostle Simon the Zealot

The holy, glorious and all-laudable Apostle Simon the Zealot was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, referenced in Matthew 10:2-4 and other places in Holy Scripture. His feast day is May 10 (October 28th in Roman). According to legend, he preached in various places in the Middle East and suffered martyrdom by being sawed in two; in art, he is depicted with a saw, the instrument of his death, or a book, symbolic of his zeal for the Law.

The apostle Simon was the least known, and one must constrain himself lest he say the least important, of all the apostles. In all Sacred Scripture there is nothing else said of him beyond the mention of his name. And even this name, Simon-from the Hebrew, shim'on, literally, "heard"-he had to share with another Simon in the circle of the apostles...

We know nothing certain, absolutely nothing certain about Simon's apostolic works. Simon, the unknown apostle, is the patron of the countless Christians who go through life without fame, without a name. He is the patron of the army of unknown workers in the vineyard of the Lord, who toil in the last places for the kingdom of God. He is the patron of the unknown soldiers of Christ, who struggle on the disregarded and thankless fronts. No one notices, no one praises, no one rewards this obscure and often misunderstood apostles-no one except the Father, who sees through all obscurity, who understands all misjudgments.

Simon, the Unknown Zealot

Legends concerning the apostle Simon are as contradictory as those concerning his brother Jude Thaddeus. The most plausible of all, however, is the account that Simon, after the death of his oldest brother, James, in the year 62, succeeded him as bishop of Jerusalem.

The Church historian Eusebius recored Hegesippus' statement, made around the middle of the second century, that a Simeon, son of Clopas, was the second bishop of Jerusalem. Nicephorus Callistus also listed this Simeon as the second bishop of Jerusalem. The first account states that this apostle held his office for twenty-three years; the second, for twenty-six years. The validity of this information is strengthened by an old Abyssinian tradition. Accordingly to this, the apostle Simon the Zealot, after zealously laboring in Samaria, become bishop of Jerusalem, and there he suffered martyrdom on the cross. The Roman Breviary, however, observes the feast of the apostle Simon separately on October 28th, and that of a Simeon, bishop of Jerusalem, on February 18.

Simon's apostolic labors as bishop of Jerusalem coincided with the siege, conquest and destruction of the Holy City. Simon might often have envied James, his martyred brother and predecessor, who was spared the grueling experience of watching the devastation of the holy places. Christ had warned,

"And when you see Jerusalem being surrounded by an army, then know that her desolation is at hand. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let those who are in her midst go out...

Remembering this, Simon promptly fled with his flock of the faithful to the pagan city of Pella in Perea, where the threat of war was not imminent.

This was the first evacuation of Christian refugees commanded by the Good Shepherd Himself, out of deep concern for His faithful flock. 

Legends have portrayed this reserved Simon crossing many different and distant lands. 

The "Acts of Simon and Jude" identified the scene of Simon's apostolic labors as Babylonia and Persia (as already explained in the previous chapter on Jude Thaddeus). Centering their activity in Babylon, Simon and Jude journeyed through the twelve provinces of the Persian Empire. Yet even in these legends the shadow of the first Simon, Peter, can be traced. It was in "Babyon"-to be understood as a cryptic designation for Rome-that Peter wrote his first Epistle at the time when this Babylonian city was besieged by vice, false teaching, and immorality. Perhaps, therefore, legend has attributed the real Babylon to Simon the Zealot as the field of his missionary activity because Simon Peter had worked in the symbolic Babylon.

According to these legends, Simon suffered a martyr's death in the "city of Suanir". Yet a Persian city with this name is not known. There is the possibility that some connection existed between Suanir and the "Suanen" in Colchis, an ancient country on the eastern shore of the Black Sea in Transcaucasia.

Simon's special grace was to persevere in Christ, as Christ increased and he decreased.

Many who must work in obscurity lose their ardor and zeal. We would do well to follow the example of Simon by going out into the world to become unknown, while Christ becomes known.

Profound, therefore, is the lesson to be learned from this simplest of all the apostles: when we are not thanked, not remembered, not known, we should rejoice for the sake of Christ, and not only to persevere in, but increase, our zeal.

"Take heed not to practice your good before men, in order to be seen by them; otherwise you shall have no reward with your Father in heaven.

"Therefore when thou givest alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and streets, in order that they may be honored by men. Amen I say to you, they have had their reward"

Mind the things that are above, not the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, your life, shall appear, then you too will appear with him in glory.

The following paragraph is taken from Leonard Foley, O.F.M. from his book Saint of the Day. Simon is mentioned on all four lists of the Apostles. On two of them he is called "the Zealot". The Zealots were a Jewish sect which represented an extreme of Jewish nationalism. For them, the messianic promise of the Old Testament meant that the Jews were to be free and independent nation. God alone was their king, and any payment of taxes to the Romans-the very domination of the Romans-was a blasphemy against God. No doubt some of the Zealots were the spiritual heirs of the Maccabees, carrying on their ideals of religion and independence. But many were the counterparts of modern terrorist. They raided and killed, attacking both foreigners and collaborating Jews. They were chiefly responsible for the rebellion against Rome which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D 70.

The following links provides insight on both Sts Simon and Jude:

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Holy Prophet Isaiah & The Holy Martyr Christopher of Lycia (May 9)

The Holy Prophet Isaiah

The Holy Prophet Isaiah lived 700 years before Christ, and was born of royal lineage. St. Isaiah was called to prophetic service during the reign of Oziah (Uzziah), king of Judea, and he prophesied for 60 years during the reign of kings Joatham, Achaz (Ahaz), Hezekiah and Manasseh. The start of his service was marked by the following vision: he beheld the Lord God, sitting in a majestic heavenly temple upon a high throne. Six-winged Seraphim encircled Him. With two wings they covered their faces, and with two wings they covered their feet, and with two wings they flew about crying out one to another, "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord Sabaoth, heaven and earth are filled with His glory!" The pillars of the heavenly temple shook from their shouts, and in the temple arose the smoke of incense. Isaiah left behind him a book of prophecy in which he denounces the Jews for their unfaithfulness to the God of their Fathers. The Prophet Isaiah with particular clarity and detail prophesied about the coming of the Messiah, Christ the Savior. The prophet names the Messiah as God and Man, teacher of all the nations, founder of the Kingdom of peace and love. The prophet foretells the birth of the Messiah from a Virgin, and with particular clarity he describes the Suffering of the Messiah for the sins of the world. He foresees His Resurrection and the universal spreading of His Church. Isaiah wrote, "He beareth our sins and is smitten for us.... He was wounded for our sins and tortured for our transgressions. The chastisement of our world was upon Him, and by His wounds we were healed...." (Is 53:4-5. Vide Isaiah: 7:14, 11:1, 9:6, 53:4, 60:13, etc.). The holy Prophet Isaiah had also a gift of wonderworking. The Prophet Isaiah died a martyr's death. By order of the Jewish king Manasseh he was sawn through by a wood-saw. The relics of the holy Prophet Isaiah were afterwards transferred by the emperor Theodosius the Younger to Constantinople and installed in the church of St. Laurence at Blachernae. At the present time part of the head of the Prophet Isaiah is preserved at Athos in the Chilandari monastery. For the times and the events which occurred during the life of the Prophet Isaiah, see the 4th Book of Kings [alt. 2 Kings] (Ch 16, 17, 19, 20, 23, etc.), and likewise 2 Chr:26-32). His feast day falls on May 9. 

The Holy Martyr Christopher

St. Christopher lived in Lycia, under the reign of the Roman emperor Decius (reigned 249-251). Not much is known about him, but there are many legends connected to him. The Orthodox tradition describes the saint as a tall man of tremendous strength who made a living carrying people across a raging river. One day his passenger was a child who grew so heavy as they crossed the river that St. Christopher feared they would both drown. He was amazed that such a small child could overcome someone so mighty as himself. The child then revealed that he was Christ, and the heaviness was caused by the weight of the world which he bore. St. Christopher came to martyrdom under the emperor who wanted to kill him for his faith. Christopher was first asked to renounce Christ. When he refused, he was tied to an iron stool, which was placed over fire. The stool melted, but St. Christopher was unharmed. The emperor then ordered archers to shoot him, but all the arrows missed. One archer shot the emperor in the eye. Outraged, the emperor then ordered that the saint be decapitated. St. Christopher's severed head told the emperor to put some of his blood in his wounded eye, and when the emperor did so, his sight was restored and he converted to Christianity.