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December 1

The Holy Prophet Naum

The Holy Prophet Naum -- one of the 12 Lesser Prophets, was from the village of Elkosh (Galilee). He lived during the VII Century BC. The Old Testament Book of the Prophet Naum contains prophecy of the ruin of the Assyrian city of Ninevah because of its iniquity, the destruction of the Israelite kingdom, and of the blasphemy of king Sennacherib against Jehovah. Details of the prophet's life are unknown. He died at age 45 and was buried in his native region.

Righteous Philaretos the Merciful

Righteous Philaretos the Merciful, son of George and Anna, was raised in piety and the fear of God. He lived during the VIII Century in the village of Amnea in the Paphlagonian district (Asia Minor). His wife, Theozua, was from a rich and illustrious family, and they had children: a son John, and daughters Ipatia and Euanthea.

Philaretos was a rich and illustrious dignitary, but he was not hoarding of his wealth. Knowing that many people suffered from poverty, he remembered the words of the Saviour about the dread Last Judgement and about "these least ones" (Mt. 25: 40); the words of the Apostle Paul about the fact that a dying man takes nothing along from this world (1 Tim. 6: 7); and the verses of king David about the reward of the righteous (Ps. [37] 36: 25). And Philaretos became famed for his love for the poor.

One time Ishmaelites (arabs) made an attack on Paphlagonia, devastating the land and plundering the estate of Philaretos. There remained only 2 oxen, a cow, some oil and the house. But this also, finally, he shared with the poor. Mildly yet stubbornly he endured the reproaches of his wife and the jeers of his children. "I have in secret places unbeknownst to you, such riches and such treasure, -- he replied to his family, -- which would suffice you, even if ye live an hundred years without toil and without concern".

And the Lord rewarded Philaretos for his generosity: when the last measure of wheat was given away, a old friend sent him forty measures, and after this, as warm clothing was given to the needy, riches returned to him.

During this time the Byzantine empress Irene (797-802) was seeking a bride for her son -- the future co-reigning Constantine Porphyrigenitos (Bagryanorodnii) (780-797) and for this emissaries were sent throughout all the empire. And the envoys did not bypass Amnea. When Philaretos and Theozua learned that these most illustrious guests were to visit at their house, Philaretos was very happy, but Theozua was sad, -- at the house there was no always even food, and suitable entertainment was impossible. But Philaretos bid his wife to finely decorate their home. Their neighbours, knowing that imperial envoys were being expected, brought everything in abundance for a rich feast. The envoys made their choices for the imperial bride selection: amidst the 10 most beautiful maidens was Philaretos' grand-daughter, Maria. This very Maria exceeded all her rivals in quality and modesty and indeed became the regent's wife, and Constantine Porphyrigenitos lavished rewarded Philaretos. And thus fame and riches returned to Philaretos. But just as before, this holy lover of the poor generously distributed alms and established an eating place for the poor, and he himself served them at the time of the meal. Everyone was astonished at the humility of Philaretos and said: "In truth this is a man of God completely, a true disciple of Christ".

He ordered a servant to take three chests and fill them separately with gold, silver and copper coins: from the first the totally destitute received alms, from the second -- those having been robbed of the means of subsistence, and from the third -- those who hypocritically coveted money.

Thus, not caught up in honours, but rather in humility and love for the poor, the blessed elder attained 90 years of age. Foreseeing his end, he set off to the Constantinople Rodolpheia monastery, distributing there everything that he had on himself, for monastery needs and for the needy. Having summoned his family, he exhorted them in love for the poor and non-avarice; he then expired peacefully to the Lord. He died in the year 792 and was buried in the Rodolpheia Judgement monastery in Constantinople.

The appearance of a miracle after his death confirmed the sainthood of Righteous Philaretos. When they took the body of the saint to the place of burial, a certain man, possessed by the devil, took hold on the coffin and followed with the funeral procession. At the cemetery occurred the healing of the demoniac: the devil threw the man down on the ground and went out from him. Many other miracles and healings also were done at the grave of the saint.

After the death of Righteous Philaretos, his wife Theozua worked at restoring monasteries and churches devastated during the time of a barbarian invasion.

December 2

The Holy Prophet Avvakum (Habbakuk)

The Holy Prophet Avvakum (Habbakuk), one of the 12 Minor Prophets, was descended from the Tribe of Simeon, and he prophesied in about the year 650 B.C.

The Prophet Avvakum foresaw the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, the Babylonian Captivity and the later return of the captives to their native-land. During the time of the war with the Babylonians the prophet withdrew to Arabia, where with him there occurred the following miracle. When he was bringing dinner to the reapers, he met with an Angel of the Lord, and instantly by the strength of his spirit he was transported to Babylon, where at the time the Prophet Daniel was languishing in prison. Thus, the food, intended for the reapers, assuaged the hunger of the exhausted Prophet Daniel. After the end of the war with the Babylonians, the Prophet Avvakum returned to his fatherland and died in extreme old age. His relics were found at the time of the holy Constantinople Emperor Theodosius he Younger (408-450).

The Monk Athanasii (or Afanasii), Hermit of Pechersk in the Nearer Caves

The Monk Athanasii (or Afanasii), Hermit of Pechersk in the Nearer Caves, was a contemporary of the Kievo-Pechersk monastery archimandrite, the Monk Polikarp (+ 1182, Comm. 24 July).

The Monk Athanasii for a long time was grievously ill. When he died, the brethren prepared him for burial. And on the third day the hegumen came to bury him. But they all beheld, that the dead one was alive, -- he sat there and wept. To all their questions he replied only thus: "Seek salvation, in everything have obedience to the hegumen, repent each hour and pray to our Lord Jesus Christ, to His All-Pure Mother and to the Monks Antonii and Theodosii, so as to end good the life here. Ask ye no more".

After this he lived for 12 years more in solitude in a cave and in all this time he spoke not a word to anyone, he wept day and night, and only every other day did he partake of a little bread and water. Only just before his death, having assembled the brethren, did he repeat his earlier spoken words to them, and then he peacefully expired to the Lord (in about the year 1176).

The monk Vavilii, many a year having suffered illness and a weakness of the legs, was healed at his relics. "One time I did lay there, -- he related to the brethren, -- and I cried out from sharp pain. Suddenly to me there came Blessed Athanasii and said: come to me, and I shalt heal thee. I wanted to ask him, how and when he had come here. But he became invisible. I however was convinced of his appearance and besought, that I should be taken to his relics. And indeed, I have been healed".

The Monk Athanasii was buried in the Antoniev Cave. His memory is celebrated also on 28 September and on the 2nd Sunday of Great Lent.

The Monk Athanasii (Afanasii), Hermit of Pechersk in the Farther Caves

The Monk Athanasii (Afanasii), Hermit of Pechersk in the Farther Caves: His name is mentioned in the 4th ode of the general canon of Monastic Fathers of the Farther Caves. In the "Sayings about the Lives of the Saints, at Repose in the Cave of the Monk Theodosii", it says, that for the Monk Athanasii there was no need of candle in the cave, since an Heavenly brilliance shone for him. To all, who approach him with faith, he grants healing. The memory of the Monk Athanasii is celebrated also on 28 August and on the 2nd Sunday of Great Lent.

The Holy Martyress Myropia

The Holy Martyress Myropia was born in the city of Ephesus at the beginning III Century. She early lost her father, and her mother raised her in the Christian faith.

Saint Myropia, frequenting the grave of the Martyress Hermionia (Comm. 4 September), daughter of the holy Apostle Philip, took myrh from her relics and healed the sick. At the time of the persecution by Decius (249-251), Myropia went away with her mother to the island of Chios, where they spent the time in fasting and prayer.

One time, by order of the cruel governor of the island, there was martyred the Soldier Isidor (Comm. 14 May), a man of deep faith and great piety. Saint Myropia secretly took and buried the body of the martyr. The soldiers, who had orders not to allow Christians to the body of Isidor, were sentenced to death. Saint Myropia took pity on the condemned and she herself reported to soldiers and then the governor about her doings. At the trial she confessed herself a Christian. For this they gave her a fierce beating and then threw her in prison. In the prison at midnight there shone a light. Thus appeared Saint Isidor surrounded by Angels, and they took up the soul of Myropia (+ c. 251). The prison was immediately filled with fragrance. The pagan guard, trembling at the vision, told about this to a priest, thereafter accepting Baptism and a martyr's death for the confession of Christ.

The Monk Ise (Jesse), Bishop of Tsilkan

The Monk Ise (Jesse), Bishop of Tsilkan, was born at Syrian Antioch in a pious Christian family. While still a lad he felt the pull towards the spiritual life, and with the attainment of mature age, and the blessing of his parents, he set out to one of the Antioch monasteries, where at the time asceticised the Monk John Zedazeni (the account about him is located under 7 May).

The Monk Ise was included amongst the number of the 13 holy Syrian (Cappadocian) Fathers (their general commemoration is 7 May), who were chosen by lot by the Monk John Zedazeni (as commanded him by the Mother of God). The Monk Ise arrived in Gruzia (Georgia) together with them, and with them he taught and instructed the people in the pious life, providing an example of sanctity and healing the sick.

The reports of the deeds of the 13 Syrian Fathers spread about among the people such, that the Katholikos-Archbishop of Gruzia Eulabios (533-544) proposed having a council of bishops meet and choose certain of these ascetics to fill empty cathedra-seats. Because of the difficulty of whom to choose, since all alike were worthy of the dignity of bishop, they proposed to go to the city of Zaden, where the ascetics dwelt, and to choose those who at the time were celebrating the Divine Liturgy. In this manner thus became bishops: the PriestMonk Habib (the account about him is located under 29 November) and the MonkDeacon Ise, appointed to the Tsilkan cathedra-seat. Having arrived in his diocese, Ise was astonished by the rampant pagan rites, customs and superstition. He zealously concerned himself with the restoration of piety, preaching constantly and making frequent Divine-services. His work bore fruit -- in the Tsilkan diocese Orthodox piety was affirmed, and with it also was affirmed the Church of Christ. Continuing also his ascetic efforts, Saint Ise attained to great gifts of prayer and wonderworking. Through his prayer, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ there separated off from the River Xana a stream of water, which -- in following the course that the saint intended, formed the bed of a canal and stretched to the church of the MostHoly Mother of God (near Tsilkan). Having put his diocese in good order, Saint Ise set off preaching to the Ossetians and other mountain peoples of the great Caucasus Mountain range. He made the rounds of he ravines and the rocky crags with the Gospel and cross in hand, everywhere affirming the teaching of God's revelation.

Saint Ise learned about his impending end through a revelation from above. Gathering his flock and clergy, he preached a spiritual instruction, communed the Holy Mysteries, and with hands upraised to Heaven he offered up his soul o the Lord. This transpired at the end VI Century. (The known exact day of the saint's death is 18 August). The venerable relics of Saint Ise, already glorified by healing at the time of his burial, were consigned to earth in the church of the MostHoly Mother of God at Tsilkan, betwixt the altar-table and the table of oblation. The Church subsequently enumerated Saint Ise to the rank of the Saints and set his day of memory as 2 December.

Saint Stefan Urosh, Tsar of Serbia

Saint Stefan Urosh, Tsar of Serbia, was son of tsar Dushan Nemany, and was born in the year 1337. In 1346 he was crowned king. Dushan sought the daughter of the French king for his son, but the Roman pope insisted that the princess not change from the Latin confession. Dushan did not want to see a Catholic in his family, and because of this Saint Stefan Urosh entered into marriage with the daughter of Vlad, prince of Valachia.

Upon the death of his father (+ 1355), Saint Stefan Urosh became the independent and actual ruler of Serbia. He was faithful to the Lord, like a father he provided for widows and orphans, he pacified quarrels and maintained peace, he was charitable to the poor, and defended the downtrodden.

In the interests of peace in Serbia and indeed for the preservation of his own life, Saint Stefan was obliged to flee to his kinsman, prince Lazar. Saint Stefan's uncle, Vulkashin, immediately seized the throne, but his fear of rivals gave him no peace. Through his sister, the mother of Saint Stefan, he invited his nephew to come to the city of Skopje, on the ruse of a reconciliation. Greeting him with honour, as tsar, he invited him to go hunting. When Saint Stefan, weary from the hunt, went off with his horse to a well and bent over to take a sip of water, Vulkashin struck him a mortal blow on the head with a mace (+ 1367).

December 3

The Prophet Sophonias (or Zephaniah)

The Prophet Sophonias (or Zephaniah) was a contemporary of the Prophet Jeremiah and the Prophetess Oldama. He was of illustrious lineage [from the tribe of Simeon, and was the 9th of the Twelve Minor Prophets of the Old Testament]. The prophet lived at the royal court, where he preached repentance and helped king Josiah extirpate idol-worship.

He prophesied about the calamities that were to come for the people of Judea and the surrounding regions: Gaza, Ascalon, Crete, and against the Moabites, the Ammonites and the Ninevites.

The Monk Savva of Storozhevsk and Zvenigorodsk

The Monk Savva of Storozhevsk and Zvenigorodsk in his early youth left the world, accepting tonsure under the Monk Sergei of Radonezh, for whom he was one of the first disciples and co-ascetics.

The Monk Savva loved the quiet life, he shunned conversing with people and he lived in constant toil, in lamentation over the poverty of his soul and remembrance of the judgement of God. The Monk Savva was a model of simplicity and humility, and he attained to such a depth of spiritual wisdom, that "in the monastery of the Monk Sergei he was a spiritual confessor to all the brethren, a venerable starets-elder and exceedingly learned". When GreatPrince Dimitrii Donskoy, in gratitude for the victory over Mamai, built the monastery of the Uspenie-Dormition of the Mother of God at the River Dubenka, Savva became its hegumen, with the blessing of the Monk Sergei. Preserving the simple manner of his ascetic lifestyle, he ate food only of plants, wore coarse clothing and slept on the ground.

In 1392 the brethren of the Sergiev Lavra, with the departure of its hegumen Nikon into the wilderness, besought the Monk Savva to accept being hegumen at the monastery. Here he "did well shepherd the flock entrusted him, such as he could and such as the prayers of his spiritual father Blessed Sergei did aid him". Tradition imputes to his time as hegumen the finding of a spring of water beyond the Lavra walls.

A godson of the Monk Sergei, prince Yurii Dimitrievich Zvenigorodsky, regarded the Monk Savva with great love and esteem. He chose the Monk Savva as his spiritual father and besought him to come and bestow blessing upon all his household. The monk had hoped to return to his monastery, but the prince prevailed upon him to remain and set in place a new monastery, "in his fatherland, near Zvenigorod, where the place was called Storozh". Striving after the solitary and silent life, the Monk Savva accepted the offer of the Zvenigorod prince Yurii Dimitrievich, and with tears before an icon of the Mother of God he besought Her protection for the wilderness place. On the Storozhevsk heights, where formerly was encamped a sentinel, guarding Moscow from enemies, he set up a small wooden church of the Nativity of the MostHoly Mother of God, and not far off from it made a small cell for himself. And here in the year 1399 the monk established a monastery, fondly accepting all that were come for the life of solitude. The monk toiled much at the building up of his monastery. He himself dug out a well below the hill, from which on his shoulders he carried his own water; he encircled the monastery with a wooden palisade, and above it in an hollow he dug out for himself a cell for a life of solitude.

In 1399 the Monk Savva blessed his spiritual son, prince Yurii, to go off on a military campaign, and he predicted victory over the enemy. Through the prayers of the holy elder, the forces of the prince were granted a speedy victory. Through the efforts of the Monk Savva, a stone church of the Nativity of the MostHoly Mother of God was also built.

Saint Savva died at an advanced age on 3 December 1406.

Veneration of the monk by the local people began immediately at his death. The miraculous curative power, issuing from the grave of the monk, and his numerous appearances, convinced everyone that Hegumen Savva "is in truth an unsetting star-radiance of the Divine light, by the shining forth of his miracles illumining all". In a letter of 1539 the Monk Savva is called a wonderworker. Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich had particular esteem for him, repeatedly going on foot to venerate at the monastery of the Monk Savva. Tradition has preserved for us a remarkable account, of how the Monk Savva had saved him from a ferocious bear.

The Life of the Monk Savva, compiled in the XVI Century, relates how at the end of the XV Century (years 1480-1490), the saint appeared to the Savvinsk monastery hegumen Dionysii and said to him: "Dionysii! Wake up and write my face upon an icon". To the question of Dionysii, as to whom he was, came the reply: "I am Savva, the founder of this place". An old starets-elder of the monastery named Avvakum, having in his youth seen the Monk Savva, described the outward appearance of the saint. And it was precisely such as the saint appeared to the hegumen Dionysii, who fulfilled the command and wrote the icon of the Monk Savva.

The feastday of the Monk Savva was established in the year 1547 at a Moscow Sobor-Council. On 19 January 1652 the incorrupt relics of the saint were uncovered.

The Monk John the Silent (Hermit)

The Monk John the Silent (Hermit) was born in about the year 454 in the city of Armenian Nicopolis, into the family of a military-commander named Enkratios and his wife Euphemia. The boy early on began to study Holy Scripture and with all his heart he loved solitude and prayer.

With the portion of inheritance coming to him after the death of his parents, the youth John built a church in the Name of the MostHoly Mother of God. At 18 years of age John together with 10 monks lived nearby the church, in fasting, prayer and temperance. At the request of the citizens of the city of Colonia, the Sebasteia metropolitan ordained the 28 year old John as bishop of the Colonia Church. Having assumed ecclesial governance, the saint did not alter his strict ascetic manner of life. Under the influence of the saint in a Christian manner lived also his kinsfolk -- his brother Pergamios (an associate of the emperors Zenon and Anastasius) and his nephew Theodore (an associate of the emperor Justinian).

In John's tenth year as bishop, the governance in Armenia was assumed by Pazinikos, the husband of the saint's sister, Maria. The new governor began forcibly to interfere in spiritual and ecclesiastical matters. Unrest arose within the church. Saint John thereupon set off to Constantinople and through archbishop Euphymios he besought the emperor Zenon to defend the Armenian Church from the churlish enroachments.

Overwhelmed by worldly quarrels, John secretly left his bishopric and sailed to Jerusalem. With tears he besought God to show him the place, where he might live and find salvation. A bright star appeared, which led Saint John to the Lavra monastery of the Monk Sava. John, concealing his bishop's dignity, was accepted amidst the brethren as a simple novice. Under the guidance of the hegumen Saint Sava (Comm. 5 December), the Monk John for more than 4 years fulfilled obedience at very heavy work in the construction of a vagrants home, and of a monastery for newly-made monks. Seeing Saint John's humility and love of toil, Saint Sava reckoned him worthy of ordination to presbyter. But Saint John had happened to reveal his secret to the Jerusalem Patriarch Elias (494-517), and with the blessing of this primate of the Jerusalem Church, the Monk John took a vow of silence. Soon the Lord also revealed Saint John's secret to the Monk Sava. The Monk John spent four years in his cell, receiving no one and not going out even for church.

Desirous of ever greater solitude and increased abstinence, the Monk John quit the Lavra and withdrew into the wilderness, where he spent more than nine years, nourishing himself off of the grasses. Here he survived a devastating incursion of the Saracens and did not perish, only because that the Lord sent him a defender, -- a ferocious lion, at the sight of which the enemy, which more than once seeking to kill the monk, instead scattered in fright. Tradition speaks of many a miracle, effected through the prayer of the Monk John during this time in the wilderness.

When the holy hegumen Saint Sava returned, having for an extended period gone off to Scythopolis, he persuaded the Monk John to forsake the wilderness and again resettle at the monastery. And after this, the Lord in miraculous manner revealed to everyone at the Lavra, that Saint John was actually a bishop.

When the Monk John reached age seventy, his holy and God-bearing spiritual father Saint Sava died. The saint grieved deeply over this demise. Saint Sava appeared to him in a vision, and having consoled him, he foretold, that there was much toil ahead in the struggle with heresy. And actually, Saint John did have to forsake his cell so as to strengthen the brethren in the struggle with the heresy of the Origenists.

The Monk John the Silent spent 66 years at the Lavra of the Monk Sava the Sanctified. By his constant ascetic efforts, by his untiring prayer and humble wisdom, the Monk John acquired the grace of the Holy Spirit: through his prayer happened many a miracle, the secret thoughts of people were discerned by the saint, he healed the sick and the demoniac, and even during his life he saved from certain destruction those invoking his name, and from a fig-tree seed thrown by the saint onto dry soil there sprouted up a beautiful and fruitful tree.

The Monk John the Silent expired to the Lord at age 104 in peace.

December 4

The Holy GreatMartyress Barbara

The Holy GreatMartyress Barbara lived and suffered during the reign of the emperor Maximian (305-311). Her father, the pagan Dioskoros, was a rich and illustrious man in the city of Phoenician Heliopolis; early left a widower, he concentrated all his attention in tender devotion to his only daughter. Seeing the extraordinary beauty of Barbara, Dioskoros decided to raise her concealed from the eyes of strangers. For this he built a tower, where besides Barbara, there were present only her pagan teachers. From the tower heights there opened up a view of God's world of hills stretching into the distance. By day she was able to gaze upon the wooded hills, the swiftly flowing rivers, and on the meadows covered with a gayly mottled blanket of flowers; by night the harmonious and majestic vault of the heavens twinkled and provided a spectacle of inexpressible beauty. Soon the maiden began to ask herself questions about the Primal Cause and Creator of so harmonious and splendid a world. Gradually she became convinced of the idea, that the soul-less idols -- were but only the work of human hands, and though her father and teachers offered them worship, the idols were not sufficiently clever and august enough to have made the surrounding world. The desire to know the True God so consumed the soul of Barbara, that she decided to devote all her life to this and to spend her life in virginity.

But the fame of her beauty spread throughout the city, and many sought for her hand in marriage. But despite the endearing entreaties of her father, she refused. Barbara cautioned her father, that his persistence might end tragically and separate them forever. Dioskoros decided, that the temperament of his daughter had been affected by her life of seclusion. He therefore permitted her to leave the tower and gave her full freedom in her choice of friends and acquaintances. The maiden thus encountered in the city youthful confessors of faith in Christ, and they revealed to her teachings about the Creator of the world, about the Trinity, and about the Divine Logos. Through the Providence of God, after a certain while there arrived in Heliopolis from Alexandria a priest in the guide of a merchant. He performed the sacrament of Baptism over Barbara.

During this while at the house of Dioskoros a luxuriant bath was being built. By his orders the workers prepared to put into it two windows on the south side. But Barbara, availing herself of her father's absence, asked them to make a third window, in the form of a Trinity of Light. Over the entrance of the bath-house Barbara patterned a cross, which was durably set into stone. On the stone steps of the bath-house there later remained the imprint of her feet, while within the water-spring had dried up, appearing later on with great healing power, -- all which Simeon Metaphrastes in writing about the sufferings of the holy martyress, compares with the life-creating power of the stream of Jordan and the Pool of Siloam. When Dioskoros returned and expressed dissatisfaction about the change of his plan of construction, his daughter told him about her knowledge of the Triune God, about the saving power of the Son of God, and about the futility of worshipping idols. Dioskoros went into a rage, grabbed a sword and was on the point of striking her. The maiden fled from her father, and he rushed after her in pursuit. His way became blocked by an hill, which opened and concealed the saint in a crevice. On the other side of the crevice was an entrance upwards. Saint Barbara managed then to conceal herself in a cave on the opposite slope of the hill. After a long and fruitless search for his daughter, Dioskoros saw two shepherds on the hill. One of them pointed out the cave to him, where the saint had hidden. Dioskoros beat his daughter terribly, and then locked her under watch and tried to wear her down with hunger. Finally he handed her over to the governor of the city, named Martianus. They beat Saint Barbara fiercely: they struck at her with ox thongs, and ground into her wounds with an hair-shirt. By night the holy maiden prayed fervently to her Heavenly Bridegroom, and the Saviour Himself appeared and healed her wounds. Then they subjected the saint to new, and even more cruel torments.

Amidst the crowd standing near the place of torture of the martyress was the Christian Juliania, an inhabitant of Heliopolis. Her heart was filled with sympathy for the voluntary martyrdom of the beautiful and illustrious maiden. Juliania likewise wanted to suffer for Christ. She began loudly to denounce the torturers, and they seized hold of her. For a long while they tortured both holy martyresses: they lacerated and tore at their bodies with hooks and then led them stripped through the city amidst derision and jeers. Through the prayers of Saint Barbara the Lord sent an Angel, which covered the bareness of the holy martyresses with splendid garb. The steadfast confessors of faith in Christ, Saints Barbara and Juliania, were then beheaded. Dioskoros himself executed Saint Barbara. The wrath of God was not slow to punish both torturers, Martianus and Dioskoros: they were struck down by bolts of lightning.

In the VI Century the relics of the holy GreatMartyress Barbara were transferred to Constantinople. In the XII Century the daughter of the Byzantine emperor Alexis Comnenes, the princess Barbara, having entered into marriage with the Russian prince Mikhail Izyaslavich, transferred them to Kiev. They rest even now at the Kiev Vladimir cathedral.

The Monk John Damascene

The Monk John Damascene was born in about the year 680 at the capital of Syria, Damascus, into a Christian family. His father, Sergios Mansuros, was a treasurer at the court of the caliph. John had also a foster brother, the orphaned lad Cosmas, whom Sergios had taken into his own home. When the children were growing up, Sergios concerned himself over their education. At the Damascus slave market he ransomed from captivity the learned monk Cosmas of Calabria and entrusted to him the teaching of his children. The boys displayed uncommon ability and readily mastered their courses of the secular and spiritual sciences. After the death of his father, John at court occupied ministerial posts and became city-governor.

During these times at Byzantium there had arisen and quickly spread about the heresy of Iconoclasm, supported by the emperor Leo III the Isaurian (717-741). Rising up in defense of Orthodox Icon-Veneration (Ikonodoulia), Saint John wrote three treatises entitled, "Against the Revilers of Holy Icons". The wise and God-inspired writings of Saint John enraged the emperor. But since the author was not a Byzantine subject, the emperor was unable to lock him up in prison, or execute him. The emperor thereupon resorted to slander. By his command there was composed a counterfeit letter under the name of John, in which the Damascus official was supposed to have offered his help towards the conquest of the Syrian capital. This letter and its hypocritically-flattering answer was sent off by Leo the Isaurian to the caliph. The caliph immediately ordered that Saint John be removed from his post, and that his right hand be cut off and then led through the city in chains. That same evening they returned the cut-off hand to Saint John. The saint began to pray to the MostHoly Mother of God for healing. Having fallen asleep, he beheld an icon of the Mother of God and heard Her voice telling him that he had been healed, and together with this commanded him to toil unceasingly with his healed hand. Awakening, he saw that his hand was intact.

Having learned of the miracle, which witnessed to the innocence of John, the caliph asked his forgiveness and wanted to restore him to his former office, but the saint refused. He distributed away his riches and together with his step-brother and comrade in learning, Cosmas, he set off to Jerusalem, where as a simple novice he entered the monastery of the Monk Sava the Sanctified. It was not easy for him to find a spiritual guide. Among the monastic brethren there consented to this only one very experienced monastic elder, skilled to nourish in a student the spirit of obedience and humility. Before anything the elder forbade John to write, on the supposition that success in this area might present a source of pride. One time he sent the monk to Damascus to sell baskets, made at the monastery, and commanded him to sell them at a certain inflated price, more than their real value. And here, passing by on the tormenting path under the searing sun, the former dignitary of Damascus was now to be found at the marketplace in the ragged garb of an humble basket-vendor. But Saint John was recognised by his former house steward, who bought up all the baskets at the entrusted price.

One time at the monastery, one of the monks chanced to die and the brother of the deceased besought Saint John to write down something by way of consolation. Saint John for a long time refused, but out of pity he yielded to the petition of the grief-stricken, and wrote his reknown funeral tropari. For this disobedience the elder banished him from his cell. All the monks began to plead for John. The elder thereupon assigned him one of the worst and most unpleasant tasks -- to remove the wastes from the monastery. And even in this the monk was a model of obedience. After a certain while, the elder was commanded in a vision by the All-Pure and MostHoly Mother of God to allow Saint John again to write. The Jerusalem Patriarch learned of the monk: he ordained him priest and made him a preacher at his cathedral. But the Monk John soon returned to the Laura of the Monk Sava, where until the end of his days he spent his time in the writing of spiritual books and church song. He left the monastery only to denounce the iconoclasts at the Constantinople Council of 754. They subjected him to imprisonment and torture, but he endured everything and through the mercy of God he remained alive. He died in about the year 780, at perhaps over age 100.

Sainted Gennadii, Archbishop of Novgorod

Sainted Gennadii, Archbishop of Novgorod, was descended from the lineage of the Gonzov's and was, in the testimony of contemporaries, "a man dignified, intelligent, virtuous and learned in the Holy Scripture". His monastic obedience was made at the Valaamo monastery, under the spiritual guidance of the Monk Savvatii of Solovetsk (Comm. 27 September). From the year 1472 -- he was archimandrite of the Chudov monastery in Moscow. Zealous for a strict ustav/rule of Divine-services, during the years 1479-1481, together with Vassian, archbishop of Rostov, and later his successor Joasaph, he fearlessly rose up in defense of an ancient ustav during a dispute about going "like the sun" (east to west) during the consecration of a new temple. (The dispute had arisen in connection with the consecration of the Uspensky cathedral in Moscow.)

In 1483 Saint Gennadii began construction at the Chudov monastery of a stone refectory church in honour of Sainted Alexei, Metropolitan of Moscow (+ 1378), the founder of the monastery. On 12 December 1484 Saint Gennadii was ordained archbishop of Novgorod. Already in Novgorod but still reverencing the memory of Saint Alexei, Gennadii did not cease to concern himself over the erection of the temple, "having sent silver voluntarily for the completion of this temple and refectory and chamber".

The time of holy Archbishop Gennadii as hierarch at Novgorod coincided with a terrible period in the history of the Russian Church. Judaising preachers, having journeyed to Novgorod under the guise of merchants, already in the year 1470 had begun to plant the weeds of heresy and apostasy amongst the Orthodox. The false teaching spread secretly. The first report about the heresy reached Saint Gennadii in the year 1487: four members of a secret society, in a drunken intoxication opened up and disclosed before the Orthodox the existence of the impious heresy. As soon as it became known to him, the zealous archpastor immediately set about an inquiry and with deep sorrow became convinced, that the danger was a threat not only to local Novgorod piety, but also the very capital of Orthodoxy -- Moscow, whence the leaders of the Judaisers had already journeyed in 1480. In September 1487 he dispatched to metropolitan Gerontii at Moscow all the inquiry material in the original, together with a list of the apostates discovered by him, and also their writings. The struggle with the Judaisers became the chief object of the archpastoral activity of Saint Gennadii. In the words of the Monk Joseph of Volotsk (Comm. 9 September), "this archbishop, being wroth with the malevolent heretics, pounced upon them like a lion, from out of the thicket of the Holy Scriptures and the splendid heights of the prophets and the apostolic teachings". For twelve years the struggle of Saint Gennadii and the Monk Joseph against the most powerful attempts of the opponents of Orthodoxy to betray all the course of history of the Russian Church and the Russian state. By the their efforts the struggle was crowned with victory for Orthodoxy. The works of Gennadii in the study of the Bible contributed to this. The heretics in their impious cleverness resorted to the searching out of texts from the Old Testament books, but which were different from those accepted by the Orthodox. Archbishop Gennadii took upon himself an enormous task -- to bring together into a single codex correct listings of Holy Scripture. Up until this time Biblical books had been copied in Russia, on the example of Byzantium, not in view of an entire codex, but by separate parts -- the Pentateuch (first five books) or Octateuch (first eight books), Kings, Proverbs and other instructive books; the Psalter, the Prophets, the Gospels and the Epistles.

The holy books of the Old Testament in particular often were subjected to both accidental and intentional defect. Saint Gennadii wrote about this with sorrow in a letter to archbishop Joasaph: "The Judaising heretical tradition doth adhere to -- psalms of David or prophecies which they have altered". Gathering round himself learned and industrious Bible workers, the saint collected together all the books of the Holy Scripture into a single codex, and he gave blessing that there again be translated from the Latin language those of the Holy Books, which were not found by him in manuscripts of the traditional Slavonic Bible. In 1499 was published in Rus' the first complete codex of Holy Scripture in the Slavonic language -- "the Gennadii Bible", as they respectfully call it after the name of its compiler. This work became an integral link in the succession of Slavonic translation of the Word of God. From the God-inspired translation of the Holy Scripture by the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Cyril and Methodios (863-885), through the Bible of Saint Gennadii (1499), reproduced in the first-imprinted Ostrozh Bible (1581), the Church has maintained an unaltered Slavonic Biblical tradition right up through the so-called Elizabethan Bible (1751) and all successive printed editions.

Together with the preparation of the Bible, the circle of church scholars under Archbishop Gennadii undertook also a great literary task: the compiling of the "Fourth Novgorod Chronicle"; they brought this up to the year 1496, and numerous hand-written books were translated, corrected and transcribed. The hegumen of the Solovetsk monastery, Dosiphei, being at Novgorod on monastery matters, worked for several years (1491-1494) with Saint Gennadii to compile a library for the Solovetsk monastery. It was at the request of Saint Gennadii that Dosiphei wrote the Lives of the Monks Zosima (Comm. 17 April) and Savvatii (Comm. 27 September). A majority of the books, transcribed with the blessing of the Novgorod hierarch (more than 20), were preserved in the collection of the Solovetsk collected manuscripts. Ever a zealous advocate for spiritual enlightenment, Saint Gennadii founded at Novgorod a school for the preparation of worthy clergy.

The memory of Saint Gennadii is preserved also in other of his work for the welfare of the Orthodox Church.

At the end of the XV Century a menacing concern weighed upon Russian minds about the impending of the world, which they anticipated would be at the expiration of seven thousand years from the creation of the world. Way back in 1408 with the completion of the world-creation cycle, they had not ventured in Rus' to compute the Paschal dates further than the year 1491. Thus in September 1491, the Archbishops' Sobor-Council of the Russian Church at Moscow, with the participation of Saint Gennadii, decreed that: "the Paschalion for the eight thousandth year be written". Metropolitan Zosima at Moscow on 27 November 1492 "set forth a cathedral Paschalion for 20 years," and entrusted to bishop Philothei of Perm and archbishop Gennadii of Novgorod to each compile their own Paschalion for conciliar witness and affirmation on 21 December 1492. Saint Gennadii finished the compiling of his Paschalion, which in contrast to that of the Metropolitan, extended for 70 years. It was distributed through the dioceses by approval of the Sobor as the accepted Paschalion for the next 20 years, incorporating it as its own with explanation upon it in a Circular Letter under a general heading, "Source for the Paschalion transposed to the Eight Thousandth Year". In the theological explanation of the Paschalion, grounded upon the Word of God and the holy fathers, the saint wrote: "It is proper not to fear the end of the world, but rather to await the coming of Christ at every moment. For just as God might deign to end the world, so also might He deign to prolong the course of time". The time set by the Creator is not for Himself but for man: "Let man realise the requital of the times, that he esteem the end of his life". About the time of the finish of the creation by God, "no one knoweth however, not the Angels, nor again the Son, but only the Father". And therefore the holy fathers, inspired of the Holy Spirit, explained the world-creation cycle namely as a "cycle": "This doth occur in a circular motion, not having an end". To the heretical allures of calculating out the times, the saint contrasts the way hallowed by the Church, -- of a constant spiritual sobriety. Saint Gennadii expounded on the theological fundamentals of the Paschalion, he explains, how amidst the Alpha of the world-creation cycle it is possible to derive a Paschalion for the future, such as may be required. The Paschalion of Saint Gennadii, by his own testimony, was not compiled by him anew, but rather was obtained on the basis of a former tradition -- in part, on the basis of the Paschalion, written for 1360-1492 under Sainted Vasilii Kalika, Archbishop of Novgorod (+ 3 July 1352). By the operative principles at work in the Paschalion set forth by Saint Gennadii, later on, in the year 1539, under the archbishop of Novgorod Makarii, there was compiled a Paschalion also for all the eight thousand years.

A prayer to the MostHoly Mother of God composed by him in 1497 evidences also his deep spiritual life and prayerful inspiration. Besides his known letters to Metropolitans Zosima and Simon, to Archbishop Joasaph, to Bishops Nyphontii and Prokhor, and a missive to the 1490 Sobor, Archbishop Gennadii wrote also a church "Small Ustav/Rule" and the "Tradition for Monks", such as lived in accord to the ustav of monastic skete life. Leaving his archpastoral service, from 1504 the saint lived thereafter in retirement at the Chudov monastery, where he peacefully expired to the Lord on 4 December 1505. In the Stepen'-Ranks book we read: "Archbishop Gennadii dwelt as archbishop for nineteen years, much improving the display of church adornment and clergy decorum, and amidst heretics affirming the Orthodox faith, and then at Moscow, dwelling a year and an half at the monastery of the miracle of the Archangel Michael and Saint Alexei the metropolitan and wonderworker, wherein first he was archimandrite, and reposed then also to God". The holy remains of Saint Gennadii were put into the temple of the Miracle at Khona of the holy Archangel Michael, in that place particularly venerated by him, wherein rested the relics of Sainted Alexei, Metropolitan of Moscow. The commemoration of Sainted Gennadii is also done on the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost, on the day, when Holy Church remembers all the Saints illumined at Novgorod.

The Monk John, Bishop of Polyboteia

The Monk John, Bishop of Polyboteia (in Phyrgia), was known as a denouncer of the heresy and impiety of the emperor Leo the Isaurian. The saint died at the beginning of the VIII Century. For his holy life he was granted by the Lord the gift to heal the infirm and cast out evil spirits.

The PriestMonk Seraphim, Bishop of the Phanar

The PriestMonk Seraphim, Bishop of the Phanar: Native to the village of Bezila, Agrapheia diocese, he asceticised at first as a monk at the Studite monastery, and later was chosen as bishop of the Phanar and Neokhoreia. For his refusal to accept Islam, after beatings he was impaled by the Turks, in 1601. His head is situated at the Studite monastery and was glorified by numerous miracles.

December 5

The Monk Sava the Sanctified

The Monk Sava the Sanctified was born in the V Century at Cappadocia of pious Christian parents, named John and Sophia. His father was a military-commander. Journeying off to Alexandria on service related matters, his wife went with him, but their five year old son they left in the care of an uncle. When the boy reached eight years of age, he entered the monastery of Saint Flavian situated nearby. The gifted child quickly learned to read and became well studied in Holy Scripture. And in vain then did his parents urge Saint Sava to return to the world and enter into marriage.

At 17 years of age he accepted monastic tonsure and so prospered in fasting and prayer, that he was bestown the gift of wonderworking. Having spent ten years at the monastery of Saint Flavian, the monk set off to Jerusalem, and from there to the monastery of the Monk Euthymios the Great (Comm. 20 January). But the Monk Euthymios sent off Saint Sava to abba Theoktistos, the head of a nearby monastery with a strict common-life monastic rule. The Monk Sava dwelt at this monastery as an obedient until age 30.

After the death of the monastic-elder Theoktistos, his successor gave blessing to the Monk Sava to seclude himself within a cave: on Saturdays however the monk left his hermitage and came to the monastery, where he participated in Divine-services and partook of food. And after a certain while they gave permission to the monk not to leave his hermitage at all, and Saint Sava asceticised within the cave over the course of 5 years.

The Monk Euthymios attentively oversaw the life of the young monk, and seeing how he had matured spiritually, he began to take him along with him to the Ruv wilderness (at the Dead Sea).They went out on 14 January and remained there until Palm Sunday. The Monk Euthymios called Saint Sava a child-elder and took care to encourage in him growth in the utmost monastic virtues.

When the Monk Euthymios expired to the Lord (+ 473), Saint Sava withdrew from the Laura-monastery and resettled in a cave near the monastery of the Monk Gerasimos of Jordan (+ 475, Comm. 4 March). After several years disciples began to gather to the Monk Sava -- all searching for monastic life. There thus arose the Great Laura-monastery. Through a command from above (in a pillar of fire) the monks built a church in the cave.

The Monk Sava founded several more monasteries. Many a miracle was manifest through the prayers of the Monk Sava: amidst the Laura spouted forth a spring of water, during a time of drought it rained in abundance, and there likewise occurred healings of the sick and the demoniac. The Monk Sava composed the first monastic-rule of church services, the so-called "Jerusalem Rule", accepted by all the Palestine monasteries. The saint reposed peacefully to God in the year 532.

Sainted Gurii, Archbishop of Kazan

Sainted Gurii, Archbishop of Kazan, (in the world named Grigorii Grigor'evich Rugotin), was the first archbishop of the Kazan diocese, established in 1555. He was born in the town of Radonezh outside Moscow into the family of a courtier. His parents were not wealthy, and so from his early years he had to serve prince Ivan Pen'kov as steward of his estates. From the time of his youth, Grigorii was pious, humble and gentle. He did not wish to enter into marriage. But slandered before the prince of improprieties with his wife, Grigorii was locked up in an underground dungeon. This undermined his health, but it also intensified and deepened his religious sensitivity. In prison, the prisoner wrote a small booklet for teaching children to read and write. The proceeds from his alphabet-book he gave off to the needy.

Released from prison, Grigorii accepted tonsure with the name Gurii at the Iosifo-Volokolamsk monastery, known for its strict monastic rule. In 1543 he was chosen by the brethren as hegumen of this monastery and he administered it for almost 9 years, and then he resigned as hegumen and lived for two years as a simple monk. Before becoming bishop, Saint Gurii for one year directed the Trinity Selizharov monastery in Tver diocese. He was chosen by lot to the Kazan cathedra-seat. Assisted by Saint Varsonophii (+ 1576, Comm. 11 April)Saint Gurii collaborated much in missionary activity. In his eight years as bishop there, four monasteries were organised, and the Blagoveschensk-Annunciation cathedral church and ten more city churches were built.

In 1561 the saint fell grievously ill. On feastdays they carried him into the church, and here he either sat or lay, not having the strength to walk or even stand. Shortly before his death (+ 5 December 1563)he accepted the great schema under Saint Varsonophii, and he was buried in the Spaso-Preobrazhensk (Saviour Transfiguration) monastery. On 4 October 1595, the incorrupt relics of Sainted-hierarchs Gurii and Varsonophii were uncovered. The Kazan metropolitan, Sainted Ermogen (the future Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus', + 1613, Comm 12 May), was present at this uncovering of relics, and he described this event in the lives of these saints. On 20 June 1613, the relics of Sainted Gurii were transferred from the Saviour-Transfiguration monastery to the Annunciation cathedral church. At present the relics rest at a cemetery church named for the holy Nobleborn Princes Theodore (Feodor) of Muromsk and his sons David and Konstantin, situated in the city of Kazan.

The Monastics Karion and his son Zachariah

The Monk Karion lived in one of the Egyptian skete-monasteries during the IV Century. He left behind in the world his wife and two children. When a famine chanced to strike Egypt, the wife of the Monk Karion brought the children to the skete-monastery and complained of the poverty and difficulties of life. The saint took his son, but the daughter remained with the mother. He raised his son Saint Zachariah at the skete, and everyone knew that this was his son. But when the lad grew up, the monastery brethren began to grumble. The father and the son thereupon went off into the Thebaid. But there also came the grumbling monks. Then Saint Zachariah went into a fetid lake, immersing himself in the water up to his nostrils and he stayed in it for an hour. His face and his body was covered with welts, like a leper literally, such that even his own father hardly recognised him. But when the Monk Zachariah partook Communion, the holy Presbyter Isidor had a revelation about him and said: ""Child, on Sunday last thou didst commune like a man, but now it be like an angel". After the death of his father, the Monk Zachariah began to asceticise together with the Monk Moses the Black (Comm. 28 August). "What mustneeds I do, to be saved?" -- asked the Monk Moses. Hearing this, the Monk Zachariah fell to his knees and said: "Thou askest this of me, father?" "Believe me, my child, Zachariah, -- the Monk Moses continued, -- I saw, how the Holy Spirit did come down upon thee, and only because of this I asked thee". The Monk Zachariah thereupon took from his head the kukol'-covering, he set it at his feet, and having set it aright, he said: "If a man be not tonsured thus, he cannot be a monk". Before his end the Monk Moses asked him: "What seest thou, brother?" "Should this not be better left unsaid, father?" -- answered the Monk Zachariah. "Yes, child, be silent", -- agreed the Monk Moses the Black. When the soul of the Monk Zachariah parted from its body, holy Abba Isidor, lifting his gaze towards the heavens, said: "Happy art thou, Zachariah my child, for unto thee art opened the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven". The Monk Zachariah died towards the end of the IV Century and was buried at a skete-monastery.

The Monk Nektarios

The Monk Nektarios was raised by his father, who had accepted monasticism at the monastery of the holy Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian in Bitolia (Bulgaria). He himself accepted tonsure on Holy Mount Athos, and did his obedience under experienced spiritual guides -- the Monk Philotheos and the spiritual-elder Dionysios. Like Job, the monk experienced being struck down by exceptional bodily afflictions, and he peacefully gave up his soul to the Lord on 5 December 1500. Uncovered four years later, the holy relics of the saint exuded a wondrous fragrance.

The Monk Philotheos of Kareia

The Monk Philotheos of Kareia (XV Century) asceticised on Athos in the Kareia monastery cell of Iagaros. He was the spiritual father of the Monk Nektarios. For his high purity of life, he was granted the gift of perspicacity.

The Kareian Holy MonkMartyrs

The Kareian Holy MonkMartyrs accepted a martyr's death from the papists, who were come with fire and sword onto Holy Mount Athos during the reign of the Byzantine emperor Michael Paleologos (1259-1282), an apostate from Orthodoxy. Bursting in upon the Kareia monastery, the Latins burnt and devastated the Protatos [the Athos governing assembly], "leaving no one alive". The Monk Protos, who had denounced the Latinising rationalising as heresy, was after much torture hung up afront the Protatos at the place called Khalkhos, and those hidden in caves around Kareia were cut down with swords.

December 6

Sainted Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia, and Wonderworker

Sainted Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia, and Wonderworker is famed as a great saint pleasing unto God. He was born in the city of Patara in the Lycian region (on the south coast of the Asia Minor peninsula), and was the only son of pious parents Theophanes and Nonna, who had given a vow to dedicate him to God. As the fruition of longtime prayer of his childless parents, the infant Nicholas from the very day of his birth revealed to people the light of his future glory as a wonderworker. His mother, Nonna, after giving birth was immediately healed from illness. The newborn infant while still in the baptismal font stood on his feet three times, without support from anyone, indicating by this to honour the MostHoly Trinity. Saint Nicholas from his infancy began a life of fasting, and on Wednesdays and Fridays he accepted milk from his mother only but once, after the evening prayers of his parents.

From the time of his childhood Nicholas thrived on the study of Divine Scripture; by day he would not leave church, and by night he prayed and read books -- fashioning in himself a worthy dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit. His uncle, Bishop Nicholas of Patara, rejoiced at the spiritual success and deep piety of his kinsman. He ordained him a reader, and then elevated Nicholas to the dignity of presbyter, making him his assistant and entrusting him to speak instructing the flock. In serving the Lord the youth was fervent of spirit, and in his proficiency with questions of faith he was like an elder / starets, which aroused the wonder and deep respect of believers. Constantly at work and vivacious, being in unceasing prayer, presbyter Nicholas displayed great kind-heartedness towards the flock, and towards those afflicted coming to him for help, and he distributed all his inheritance to the poor. Having learned about the bitter need and poverty of a certain formerly rich inhabitant of his city, Saint Nicholas saved him from great sin. Having three grown daughters, the despairing father considered to give them over to profligacy so as to save them from hunger. The saint, grieving lest the man perish a sinner, by night secretly brought him through the window three sacks with gold and by this saved the family from falling into spiritual destruction. In bestowing charity, Saint Nicholas always strove to do this secretly and conceal his good deeds.

In setting off on pilgrimage to the holy places at Jerusalem, the bishop of Patara entrusted the guidance of the flock to Saint Nicholas, who fulfilled this obedience carefully and with love. When the bishop returned, he in turn asked blessing for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Along the way the saint predicted the onset of a storm threatening the ship with inundation, since he saw the devil itself having got on ship. At the entreaty of the despairing pilgrims, he calmed by his prayers the waves of the sea. Through his prayer also was restored to health a certain sailor of the ship, who had fallen from the mast and was mortally injured.

Having reached the ancient city of Jerusalem and having come to Golgotha, Saint Nicholas offered up thanksgiving to the Saviour of the race of mankind and he made the rounds of all the holy places, doing poklons and making prayers. By night on Mount Sion the closed doors of the church opened by themselves in front of the arriving great pilgrim. Going round the holy places connected with the earthly service of the Son of God, Saint Nicholas decided to withdraw into the wilderness, but he was stopped by a Divine voice, urging him to return to his native country. Having returned to Lycia and yearning for a life of quietude, the saint entered into the brotherhood of a monastery, named Holy Sion. But the Lord again announced another pathway, awaiting him: "Nicholas, this is not the field, on which thou ought to await Mine harvest, but rather turn round and go into the world, and there My Name shalt be glorified in thee". In the vision the Lord gave him a Gospel of exquisite workmanship, and the MostHoly Mother of God -- an omophor.

And actually, upon the death of archbishop John, he was chosen bishop of Lycian Myra -- after one of the bishops of the Council gave a decisive reply on the question of choice of a new archbishop -- the choice of God as directed him in a vision -- Saint Nicholas. Summoned to the flock of the Church in the dignity of archbishop, Sainted Nicholas remained a great ascetic, appearing to his flock as an image of gentleness, kindness and love towards people. This was particularly precious for the Lycian Church during the time of persecution of Christians under the emperor Diocletian (284-305). Bishop Nicholas, locked up in prison together with other Christians, sustained them and exhorted them to bravely endure the fetters, punishment and torture. He himself the lord preserved unharmed. Upon the accession to rule of the holy equal-to-the-apostles Constantine, Saint Nicholas was restored to his flock, which joyfully received back their guide and intercessor.

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

In the year 325 Saint Nicholas was a participant in the I OEcumenical Council (Sobor). This Council proclaimed the Nicean Symbol of faith, and he stood up with the likes of saints Sylvester the pope of Rome, Alexander of Alexandria, Spyridon of Trimiphuntum and others of the 318 fathers of the Council against the heretic Arius.

Saint Nicholas, in the heat of denunciation and fired up with zeal for the Lord, even gave the false-teacher a good drubbing on the ears, for which he was deprived of his bishop's omophor and put under guard. But several of the holy fathers shared a vision revealing that the Lord Himself and the Mother of God had made the saint to be bishop, bestowing upon him the Gospel and omophorion. The fathers of the Council, having concurred, that the audacity of the saint was pleasing to god, gave glory to the Lord and restored His holy saint to the dignity of bishop.

Having returned to his own diocese, the saint brought it peace and blessings, sowing the word of Truth, nipping in the bud defective and spurious claims of wisdom, uprooting heresy and healing the fallen and those led astray through ignorance. He was indeed a light in the world and the salt of the earth, wherein his life did shine and his word was mixed with the salt of wisdom.

Even during his life the saint worked many miracles. Of them the one accorded the greatest fame was the deliverance from death by the saint of three men, unjustly condemned by a greedy city-commander. The saint boldly went up to the executioner and took hold of his sword, already suspended over the heads of the condemned. The city-commander, denounced by Saint Nicholas in wrong-doing, repented himself and begged for forgiveness. During this time there were present three military officers, dispatched by the emperor Constantine to Phrygia. They did not suspect that they soon likewise would be compelled to seek the intercession of Saint Nicholas: it so happened that they had been vilely slandered before the emperor and were come under a sentence of death. Appearing in sleep to the holy equal-to-the-apostles Constantine, Saint Nicholas called on him to dismiss the wrongful death-sentence of the military officers who, now in prison, prayerfully called out for help to the saint. He worked many other miracles, and asceticised many long years at his labour. Through the prayers of the saint, the city of Myra was rescued from a terrible famine. Having appeared in sleep to a certain Italian merchant and having left him as a pledge of payment three gold money-pieces, which the merchant found in his hand upon wakening in the morning, he requested him to sail to Myra and furnish grain there. More than once did the saint save those drowning in the sea, and provide release from captivity and imprisonment.

Having reached old age, Saint Nicholas expired peacefully to the Lord (+ 345-351). His venerable relics were preserved undecayed in the local cathedral church and flowed with curative myrh, from which many received healing. In the year 1087 his relics were transferred to the Italian city of Bari, where they rest even now (about the Transfer of Relics see under 9 May).

The name of the great saint of God, the hierarch and wonderworker Nicholas, a speedy helper and suppliant for all hastening to him, is famed in all the ends of the earth, in many lands and among many peoples. In Russia there are a multitude of cathedrals, monasteries and churches consecrated in his name. There is not, probably, a single city without a Nikol'sk temple.

In the name of Sainted Nicholas the Wonderworker -- the first Russian Christian prince Askol'd (+ 882) was baptised in 866 by Patriarch Photios. Over the grave of Askol'd, the holy equal-to-the-apostles Ol'ga (Comm. 11 July) erected the first temple of Sainted Nicholas in the Russian Church at Kiev. Primary cathedrals were dedicated to Saint Nicholas at Izborsk, Ostrov, Mozhaisk, and Zaraisk. At Novgorod the Great one of the main churches of the city -- the Nikolo-Dvorischensk church, later became a cathedral. Famed and venerable Nikol'sk churches and monasteries are at Kiev, Smolensk, Pskov, Toropetsa, Galich, Archangelsk, Great Ustiug, Tobol'sk. Moscow was famed by several tens of churches consecrated to the saint, and three Nikol'sk monasteries were situated in the Moscow diocese: the Nikolo-Greek (Staryi) -- in the Chinese-quarter, the Nikolo-Perervinsk and the Nikolo-Ugreshsk. One of the chief towers of the Kremlin was named the Nikol'sk. Part of all the churches devoted to the saint were those established at market-squares by Russian merchants, sea-farers and land-goers, venerating the wonderworker Nicholas as a protector of all those journeying on dry land and sea. They sometimes received the name among the people of "Nicholas soaked". Many village churches in Russia were dedicated to the wonderworker Nicholas, reverently venerated by peasants as a merciful intercessor before the Lord for all the people in their work. And in the Russian land Saint Nicholas did not leave off with his intercession. Ancient Kiev preserves the memory about the miraculous rescue of a drowning infant by the saint. The great wonderworker, hearing the grief-filled prayers of the parents in the loss of their only child, by night snatched up the infant from the waters, revived him and placed him in the choir-loft of Saint Sophia church in front of his wonderworking image. And here in the morning the infant was found safe by his thrilled parents, praising with a multitude of the people Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker.

Many wonderworking icons of Saint Nicholas appeared in Russia and came also from other lands. There is the ancient byzantine embordered image of the saint (XII), brought to Moscow from Novgorod, and the large icon written in the XIII Century by a Novgorod master. Two depictions of the wonderworker are especially distributed in the Russian Church: Sainted Nicholas of Zaraisk -- in full-length, with blessing right hand and with Gospel (this image was brought to Ryazan in 1225 by the byzantine princess Eupraxia, future spouse of Ryazan prince Theodore, and perishing in 1237 with her husband and infant-son during the incursion of Batu); and Sainted Nicholas of Mozhaisk -- also in full stature, with a sword in his right hand and a city in his left -- in memory of the miraculous rescue, through the prayers of the saint, of the city of Mozhaisk from an invasion of enemies. It is impossible to list all the graced icons of Saint Nicholas. Every Russian city and every church was blessed by suchlike icons through the prayers of the saint.

Sainted Maksim, successor of the Kievan Metropolitan Kirill III

Sainted Maksim, successor of the Kievan Metropolitan Kirill III (1243-1280), was by birth a Greek, and he arrived in Rus', which then suffered under the Mongol (Tatar) Yoke, in the year 1283 in the dignity of Metropolitan. The saint decided to remain at Kiev, but the city was completely devastated by the plundering incursions of the Tatars. Metropolitan Maksim withdrew to Bryansk, and from there to Suzdal'. During the time of his visit from Southern Rus' to Volynia the saint met with the hegumen of the Ratsk monastery, Sainted Peter (Comm. 21 December), who would succeed him in future as metropolitan.

In 1295 the saint deposed Jakov from the bishop's cathedra at Vladimir and put there Simon. During these terrible times the Great-princely throne was situated first at Vladimir, then at Pereslavl', then at Tver'.

Apprehensive lest he insult the South Russian princes by his removal to the north, the saint turned in heated prayers to the Mother of God and was granted inspiration by the MostHoly Mother of God, Who pointed to Vladimir as the place of his residence. In the year 1299 Metropolitan Maksim resettled at Vladimir, and in the following year at Novgorod he established as bishop Sainted Theoktist (Comm. 23 December). In 1301 Metropolitan Maksim arrived at Constantinople for a Patriarchal Council, where at the urging of the bishop of Saraisk Sainted Theognost he set forth for resolution questions about the needs of the Russian Church. Concerned about rebuilding the strength of subjugated Rus', the saint urged the Moscow prince Yuri Danilovich to make peace with the Tver' prince Mikhail Yaroslavich, and he advised Yuri journeying to the Horde for receiving the Great-princely throne. In 1304 the saint installed upon the Great-princely throne at Vladimir the holy Nobleborn Prince of Tver', Mikhail Yaroslavich (Comm. 22 November). Giving everyone example of intense spiritual life, Metropolitan Maksim was constantly concerned about the spiritual growth of his proverbial flock. Thus, the saint established rules about fasting, besides Great Lent specifying it for the Apostles', Dormition and Nativity lenten periods, and he defined when the fast on Wednesdays and Fridays is allowed (until the XIV Century in Russia they did not observe fast on the Mid-Feast and Leave-taking of Pascha). The holy metropolitan was particularly concerned with an affirmation of lawful marriage: "I write therefore about all this, so that ye my children, born in baptismal font and newly-sanctified, will take for your wife from the Holy, Catholic (Soborni) and Apostolic Church, -- for the woman is unto the salvation of the man. If ye cleave to them in profligacy without marriage: what doth it benefit thee? No, but rather beseech ye and implore them whether young or old to be married in the Church". The saint reposed on 6 December 1305, and his body was buried in the Vladimir Uspenie cathedral. Over the place of the saint's grave was built a gilded covering, on which was written in gold lettering: "Maksim the Greek ordained in the year 6791 in the existence of the world and having come to Kiev in the year 1283 after the Birth of Christ, because of his sharing in the Tatar onslaught he resettled from Kiev to the Great-Russian city of Vladimir; Maksim shepherded the Church of Christ for 23 years, and he reposed in the year 6813". On the wall over the grave of the saint was put the Maksimovsk Icon of the Mother of God, written in the year 1299 in a vision to Metropolitan Maksim. An inscription about this vision was embellished on the left side of the crypt.

December 7

Sainted Ambrose, Bishop of Mediolanum (Milan)

Sainted Ambrose, Bishop of Mediolanum (Milan), was born in the year 340 into the family of the Roman governor of Gaul (now France). Even in the saint's childhood there appeared presentiments of his great future. Thus, one time bees covered the face of the sleeping infant and they flew away after leaving honey on his tongue.

After the death of the father of the family, Ambrose journeyed off to Rome, where the future saint and his brother Satyrus received a most excellent, for their time, law education. About the year 370, upon completion of his course of study, Ambrose was appointed to the official position of governor (consular prefect) of districts of Liguria and AEmilia, though he continued to live at Mediolanum (now Milan). In the year 374 the bishop of Mediolanum, Auxentius, died. This entailed complications between the Orthodox and the Arians, since each side wanted to have its own bishop. Ambrose, as the chief city official, set off to the church for presiding over the agenda. When he turned from speaking to the crowd, suddenly some child cried out: "Ambrose -- bishop!" The people took up this chant. Ambrose, who at this time was still in the rank of the catechumens, considered himself unworthy, and began to refuse. He attempted falsely to disparage himself, and moreover tried to flee from Mediolanum. The matter went ultimately before the emperor Valentinian the Elder (364-375), whose orders Ambrose dared not disobey. He accepted holy Baptism from an Orthodox priest and, -- having in a mere seven days passed through all the ranks of the Church clergy, on 7 December 374 he was ordained to the dignity of bishop of Mediolanum and at once he dispersed all his possessions, money and property for the embellishment of churches, the upkeep of orphans and the poor, and he turned himself towards a strict ascetic life.

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

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

Saint Ambrose also actively participated in civil matters. Thus, the emperor Gracian (375-383), having received from him the "Exposition of the Orthodox Faith" (De Fide), removed -- by decree of the saint -- the altar of Victory from the halls of the Senate at Rome, on which oaths were wont to be taken. Displaying a pastoral boldness, Saint Ambrose placed a severe penance on the emperor Theodosius I (379-395) for a massacre of innocent inhabitants of the city of Soluneia (Thessalonika). For him there was no difference between emperor and common person: having then released Theodosius from the penance, the saint would not permit the emperor to commune at the altar, but compelled him to stand together with all the flock.

Fame about Bishop Ambrose and his actions attracted to him many followers from other lands. From faraway Persia came to him students of sagacity, wanting to discern the Truth. Fritigelda, queen of the military Germanic tribe of the Markomanni, which often had attacked Mediolanum, asked the saint to instruct her in the Christian faith. The saint in his letter to her persuasively stated the dogmas of the Church. And having become a believer, the queen converted her own husband to Christianity and persuaded him to seal a treaty of peace with the Roman empire.

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

The repose of Saint Ambrose, who expired to God on the night of Holy Pascha, was accompanied by many miracles, -- and he even appeared in a vision to the children being baptised this night. The saint was buried in the Ambrosian basilica in Mediolanum, beneathe the altar, between the Martyrs Protasius and Gervasius.

A zealous preacher and valiant defender of the Christian faith, Saint Ambrose received particular reknown as a Church writer. In dogmatic compositions he set forth the Orthodox teaching about the Holy Trinity, the Sacraments and Repentance: "Five Books about the Faith" ("De Fide"); "Explication of the Symbol of the Faith" ("Explanatio Symboli"); "About the Incarnation" ("De Incarnationis"); "Three Books about the Holy Spirit" ("De Spiritu Sancto"); "About the Sacraments" ("De Sacramento"); "Two Books about Repentance" ("De Paenitentia"). In writings about Christian morality, he explained the excellence of Christian moral teaching compared to pagan moral teaching. A well-known work of Saint Ambrose, "About the Duties of Clergy-Servers" ("De Officiis Ministrorum") evidences a deep awareness by him of pastoral duty; in it is contained not only the command for proper knowledge of Church-services, but the proper knowledge also of moral precepts, for those that serve in the Church. Saint Ambrose was also a reformer of Church-singing. He introduced into the western Church antiphonal singing (along the Eastern or Syrian form), which became known as "Ambrosian Chant"; and he composed 12 hymns, which were used during his lifetime. His solemn thanksgiving hymn, -- "Thou, O God, we praise" (Te Deum), composed in the year 386, entered into the Divine-services of the Orthodox Church.

The Monk Nil of Stolobensk

The Monk Nil of Stolobensk was born into a peasant family in a small village of the Novgorod diocese. In the year 1505 he took monastic vows at the monastery of the Monk Savva of Krypetsk near Pskov. After 10 years in ascetic life at the monastery he set out to the River Sereml', on the side of the city of Ostashkova; here for 13 years he led a strict ascetic life in incessant struggle against the snares of the devil, who took on the appearance of apparitions -- reptiles and wild beasts. Many of the inhabitants of the surrounding area started coming to the monk for instruction, but this became burdensome for him and he prayed God to point out to him a place for deeds of quietude. One time after long prayer he heard a voice: "Nil! Go to Lake Seliger. There upon the island of Stolobensk thou canst be saved!" From people that came to him the Monk Nil learned the whereabouts of the island; when he arrived there, he was astonished at its beauty.

In the midst of the lake -- the island was covered over by dense forest; on it the monk found a small hill and dug out a cave, and after a certain while he built himself an hut, in which he lived for 26 years. Exploits of strict fasting and quietude [ie. hesychia] he accompanied with another and unique effort -- he never lay down to sleep, but permitted himself only a light nap, leaning on a prop set into the wall of the cell.

The pious life of the monk many a time roused the envy of the enemy of mankind, which evidenced itself through the spiteful action of the local inhabitants. One time someone set fire to the woods on the island where stood the hut of the monk, but the flames upon reaching the hill in miraculous manner went out. Another time robbers forced themselves into the hut. The monk said to them: "All my treasure is in the corner of the cell". In this corner stood an icon of the Mother of God, but the robbers began to search there for money and became blinded. Then with tears of repentance they begged the monk for forgiveness.

Many other miracles done by the monk are known of. He was wont to quietly refuse an offering if the conscience of the one offering it to him was impure, or if they were in bodily impurity.

In an awareness of his end, the Monk Nil prepared for himself a grave. And at the time of his death they came to him on the island an hegumen from one of the nearby monasteries and communed him with the Holy Mysteries. Before the departure of the hegumen, the Monk Nil for a last time made prayer and censed round the holy icons and the cell, and gave up to the Lord his immortal soul on 7 December 1554. The glorification of his holy relics (now venerated at the Znamenie Icon of the Mother of God church in the city of Ostashkova) was done in the year 1667, with feastdays established both on the day of his death and on 27 May.

The Monk Antonii of Siisk

The Monk Antonii of Siisk, in the world Andrei, was born into a family of rich farmers in the village of Kekhta near the North Dvina river. In childhood he received a fine education, read much and learned iconography. Bereaved of his parents, Andrei set off to Novgorod and for five years worked for a boyar (nobleman) there. He later married, but his wife died after a year. Then Andrei decided to dedicate himself to monasticism. He distributed his goods to the poor and as a wanderer came to the Pakhomiev wilderness-monastery at the River Kena. The Monk Pakhomii gave him monastic vows with the name Antonii. Soon they had him ordained to the dignity of priest-monk, and the monk by himself -- with the blessing of the hegumen, made the Divine-services. He went out together with the other monks of the monastery to work for the monastic needs in common. Out of love for solitude the Monk Antonii eventually left the Pakhomiev wilderness, -- having chosen from the monastic brethren two companions, and he settled upon Mikhailov island, on the one side washed by the River Sii, and on the other, by encircling lakes. In this harsh frontier within the dense thickets a chapel was built by Antonii in 1520. But to clear the forest required difficult work, and the companions of Antonii began to grumble against him. And just then quite unexpectedly an unknown man began to furnish them the means of subsistence, offering even money for good measure. The Siisk monastery became reknown, and inhabitants of surrounding villages often visited it. And again the Monk Antonii, taking one disciple, withdrew to a still more remote place on Lake Palun. There, in a solitary cell, he dwelt for three years. When the hegumen Theoktist refused further to guide the Siisk monastery, the brethren tried to persuade the Monk Antonii to return to them. He finally acceded to the request of the monks, again became hegumen and piously guided the monastery until his death in the year 1556, when he was 79 years old.

The Holy Martyr Athenodoros

The Holy Martyr Athenodoros, from Syrian Mesopotamia, led a monastic life from the time of his youthful years. Reported on, he was arrested and condemned to fierce tortures by the governor of the land, Eleusios. Miracles accompanied the martyrdom of the saint, which brought many of the pagans there present to the Christian faith. When they decided to behead the saint with a sword, the executioner died, and his head separated from its shoulders. The saint gave up his spirit to God in prayer.

The Monk Paul the Obedient

The Monk Paul the Obedient -- when he lived is unknown. There is only a short life which says that he was the son of well-off parents. He left secular life upon reaching maturity. The appellation "Obedient" was bestowed upon the monk for the deep humility peculiar to him and for the complete renunciation of his own will. One time the monk moved by hand boiling resin-pitch, and received not the slightest burn from it. Some of the brethren regarded him as a God-bearing ascetic, but others became suspicious of him. Through prayers the monks received an unique vision proving that their brother -- was a true ascetic. By night they were all transported off to paradise and they conversed with the Monk Paul, who permitted them to take with them for the memory a flower or twig. Awakening from sleep, they detected in their hands the flowers and twigs from paradise. After this Blessed Paul set off to Jerusalem, and then to Cyprus. Having led a solitary life, he expired to God on Mount Paregoros [Mount Solace]. Before his death the voice of God said to him: "Ascend the mountain, Paul, and accept the end of life".

The Monk Gregory, born in Serbia

The Monk Gregory, born in Serbia, pursued asceticism on Athos. The monastery formed by him, and dedicated by him to Saint Nicholas, was termed in his honour the Gregoryite. In the Athos record-acts was discovered the signature of the monk from about 1405. By tradition, the relics of Saint Gregory were taken from Athos by Serbian monks.

December 8

The Monk Patapios

The Monk Patapios was born at Thebes into a pious Christian family. Reaching the age of maturity, he had but scorn for the vanities of the world and so went off into the Egyptian wilderness. He became known for his ascetic deeds after the passing of many years. When people began to come to him for advice, he instead wished to dwell in silence. He went eventually to Constantinople, where he obtained a cell at the city wall, near the Blakhernae church. But here also he quickly became known. The sick began to throng about, and he having been vouchsafed the gift of healing, began to help all the needy.

The Monk Kirill of Chelmogorsk, Enlightener of the Chudian People

The Monk Kirill of Chelmogorsk, Enlightener of the Chudian People, was born at the city of Beloozero [White-Lake]. He took vows at the monastery of the Monk Antonii the Roman, where for 6 years he passed through various obediences. Then, after a three year wandering through the wilderness, he settled in a wild region of Kargopol'sk. And here, by a command from on high, he chose for his constant abode Mount Chelma. Many of the afflicted from among the Chud people came to check out the Monk Kirill, whose luminant ascetic life and kindly preachings moved many to an acceptance of holy Baptism. Towards the end of his life, the Monk Kirill established a monastery and church in honour of the Theophany (Bogoyavlenie) of the Lord. The monk dwelt upon Mount Chelma for 52 years and died at the advanced age of 82.

The Holy Disciples from the Seventy: Sosthenes, Apollos, Cephas, Tykhikos, Epaphrodites, Caesarius and Onysiphoros

The Holy Disciples from the Seventy: Sosthenes, Apollos, Cephas, Tykhikos, Epaphrodites, Caesarius and Onysiphoros were chosen and sent by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself for preaching; they were chosen some while after the choosing of the 12 Apostles (Lk. 10: 1-24).

The Disciple Sosthenes before accepting Christianity was head of the Jewish synagogue at Corinth. During the time of a riot against the Apostle Paul, he too suffered a beating. He was converted by Paul to faith in Christ and afterwards became bishop at Colophon.

Apollos was a native of Alexandria and was a man of excellent erudition. The chief place of his service was at Corinth. He toiled there for a long time and converted many to faith in Christ. Towards the end of his life he preached on Crete and was bishop of Caesarea.

The Disciple Cephas was bishop at Colophon.

The Disciple Tykhikos, a native of Asia Minor, was a student and companion of the holy Apostle Paul. At the time of the first imprisonment of Paul, he delivered the Epistles to the Ephesians and to the Colossians. He replaced the Disciple Sosthenes on the cathedra-chair at Colophon.

The Disciple Epaphrodites -- one of the closest assistants and companions of the Apostle Paul -- was bishop of the Thracian city of Adriaca.

The Disciple Caesarius preached at and was bishop of Dirracheia -- a district in middle Greece.

All of these disciples expired peacefully to the Lord (a second commemoration is under 30 March). The Church remembers with them also the Disciple Onysiphoros (Comm. 7 September).

Martyred 62 Clergy and 300 Laymen

Martyred 62 Clergy and 300 Laymen: This occurred during the time of the emperor Zenon (474-491). The ruler of the Vandal kingdom in North Africa, Guneric, came under the influence of heretic Arian bishops and started up a fierce persecution against the Orthodox. When believers had gathered at one of the churches and secretly celebrated Divine Liturgy, barbarian soldiers burst into the church. Part of the worshippers fled, but 300 men -- those most firm in the true faith -- voluntarily gave themselves over to torture and were beheaded. Of the 62 clergy, two were burnt, and tongues were cut out from the rest. But by a miraculous Divine power they continued to preach and to oppose the Arian false-teachings.

The Holy Martyress Anthysa

The Holy Martyress Anthysa, wife of a Roman official, was baptised by Sainted Ambrose of Mediolanum (Milan). She recoiled from the offer of the city-governor's wife Sunilda to accept Arian baptism, and so was committed to the fire.

December 9

The Conception by Saint Anna, of "Whence is Conceived the Holy Mother of God"

The Conception by Saint Anna, of "Whence is Conceived the Holy Mother of God": Saint Anna, the mother of the MostHoly Mother of God, was the youngest daughter of the priest Nathan from Bethlehem, descended from the tribe of Levi. She entered into marriage with Saint Joakim (their mutual memory is made 9 September), who was a native of Galilee. For a long time Saint Anna was childless, but after a span of some 20 years, through the fervent prayer of both spouses, an Angel of the Lord announced to them the Conception of a Daughter, Who would bring blessing to all the human race. The Conception by Saint Anna took place at Jerusalem, where also was born the MostHoly Virgin Mary by name. The majority of icons, dedicated to the Conception by Saint Anna, portray the MostHoly Virgin trampling underfoot the serpent. "Down the icon, along its sides, Saints Joakim and Anna are depicted usually with upraised hands prayerfully folded; their eyes also are directed upward and hey contemplate the Mother of God, Who as it were soars in the air with outstretched hands; under Her feet is portrayed an orb wound round with a serpent symbolising the devil, which in the face of fallen forefathers strives to conquer with its power all the universe".

There also exist icons, upon which Saint Anna holds on her left arm the MostHoly Virgin at an infant age. Upon the face of Saint Anna is portrayed a special reverence. An ancient icon of large size, written on canvas, is located in the village of Minkovetsa in the Dubensk district of Volynsk diocese. And from ancient times this feast was especially venerated in Russia by pregnant women.

The Holy Prophetess Anna (Hannah)

The Holy Prophetess Anna (Hannah) dwelt in marriage with Elkanah, but she was childless. Elkanah took to himself another wife, Phennana, who bore him children. Anna grieved strongly over her misfortune, and every day she prayed for a solution to her childlessness, and she made a vow to dedicate the child to God. One time, when she prayed fervently in the Temple, the priest Elias decided that she was drunk, and he began to reproach her. But the saint poured out her grief, and having received a blessing, she returned home. After this Anna conceived and gave birth to a son, whom she named Samuel (which means "Besoughten of God"). When the child reached the age of boyhood, the mother herself presented him to the priest Elias, and with him Samuel remained to serve before the Tabernacle (1 Kings (1 Samuel) 1; 2: 1-21).

The Monk Sophronios, Archbishop of Cyprus

The Monk Sophronios, Archbishop of Cyprus, was born into a Christian family on Cyprus, and he studied many a science, but most of all he devoted himself to the reading of Holy Scripture. He became so accomplished in piety and good works, that he was vouchsafed of the Lord the gift of wonderworking. Following the death of the bishop of the Cypriot Church, Saint Damian, the Monk Sophronios, at the wish of all the people, was ordained in place of the deceased. In occupying the bishop's cathedra-chair, he proved himself a true father to his flock.

The Monk Stephen the New-Radiant

The Monk Stephen the New-Radiant was born at Constantinople and received a fine education. Under Patriarch Methodios (82-846) Stephen accepted monastic tonsure and entered amongst the clergy at one of the Constantinople churches. Later he went into seclusion and over a span of 50 years he constantly increased his ascetic efforts. Towards the end of his life the monk acquired from the Lord a great grace, shining in the constellation of the Saints like to the ancient ascetics of the Orthodox Church of old, so that he came to be called the "New-Radiant". According to the prologue-accounts of the Saints, he died in the year 912.

December 10

The Holy Martyrs Minos, Hermogenes and Eugraphos

The Holy Martyrs Minos, Hermogenes and Eugraphos suffered for their faith in Christ under the emperor Maximian (305-313).

Saint Minos was sent by the emperor from Athens to Alexandria to suppress the riots that had arisen between the Christians and the pagans. Distinguished for his gift of eloquence, Minos instead openly began to preach the Christian faith and he converted many pagans to Christ. Learning of this, Maximian dispatched Hermogenes to the Alexandria district to conduct a trial over the saints, and moreover was given orders to purge the city of Christians. Hermogenes, although he was a pagan, was distinguished however by his reverent bearing. And struck by the endurance of Saint Minos under torture and by his miraculous healing after the cruel torments, he also came to believe in Christ. Maximian himself then arrived in Alexandria. Neither the astonishing stoic endurance under torture of Saints Minos and Hermogenes, nor even the miracles of these days manifest of God in this city, in any way mollified the emperor, but instead vexed him all the more. The emperor personally stabbed Saint Eugraphos, the secretary of Saint Minos, and then gave orders to behead the holy Martyrs Minos and Hermogenes.

The remains of the holy martyrs, cast into the sea in an iron chest, were afterwards found (about this see under 17 February) and transferred to Constantinople. The emperor Justinian built a church in the name of the holy Martyr Minos of Alexandria. Saint Joseph the Melodist (Comm. 4 April) composed a canon in honour of the holy martyrs.

The Martyr Gemellos the Paphlagonian

The Martyr Gemellos the Paphlagonian, for his staunch denunciation of the emperor Juilan the Apostate (361-363) in the city of Ancyra (Galatia), was subjected to cruel tortures. They flayed the skin from him and nailed him to a cross.

The Monk Thomas Dethurkinos

The Monk Thomas Dethurkinos was born in Bithynia. From his youthful years he was fond of monastic life and entered one of the surrounding monasteries. Later in life, when the Byzantine official Galoliktos had founded at the River Sagarisa a monastery, the Monk Thomas was already an experienced monk, and the brethren chose him as head of the new monastery. From there the Monk Thomas withdrew into the wilderness, where for a long time he asceticised in solitude. The monk underwent many a snare of the devil in the wilderness. The Lord glorified him with the gift of healing and perspicacity. One time, the emperor Leo the Wise (886-911) came to the monastery to Saint Thomas for advice. Not finding the monk at the monastery, the emperor sent off his messenger with a letter for him. And just as the messenger arrived at the hut of the elder, the saint carried out to him a sealed answer, resolving the quandary of the emperor. The account about the repose of the monk is not preserved.

Blessed John and his parents: Blessed Stefan and Blessed Angelina

Blessed John and his parents: Blessed Stefan and Blessed Angelina (XV Century): The life of the Serbian ruler Stefan Brankovich and his family was filled with instability and misfortune. After Serbia was seized in 1457 by the Turks, the then Serbian ruler's middle son, Stefan, distinguished by meek disposition and fine knowledge of Holy Scripture, set out to the capital of Turkey after his sister, who had been given to sultan Murat in marriage. But learning however, that the Turks with fanatic cruelty had burned the Mileshevsk monastery, Blessed Stefan rose up in defense of Serbia from oppression. When he married Angelina, the daughter of the prince of Albania, the Turks threatened Blessed Stefan and his family with punishment. With his wife and three children he was forced to hide first in Albania, and then in Italy, where later he died.

Blessed Angelina transferred the undecayed remains of her spouse to Kupinovo. At the end of the XV Century a son of Righteous Stefan and Angelina, Blessed John, became ruler of Serbia. The undecayed relics of Righteous John and his parents were afterwards glorified by many miracles.

December 11

The Monk Daniel the Pillar-Dweller

The Monk Daniel the Pillar-Dweller was born in the village of Bythar, near the city of Samosata in Mesopotamia. His mother Martha was childless for a long while and in her prayers gave a vow, that if she had a child, she would dedicate him to the Lord. Her prayers were heard, and Martha soon gave birth to a son, who until he was 5 years of age was without a name. The parents of the boy desired, that since he was born through the good-will of God, he should likewise receive from God his name. They took their son to a monastery located nearby and approached the hegumen. The hegumen gave orders to take down one of the Divine-service books, and at random having unrolled it, found in it the mention of the Prophet Daniel (Comm. 17 December). Thus did the lad receive his name. The parents asked that the lad might remain at the monastery, but the hegumen would not accept him, since he was still but a small boy. At 12 years of age, saying nothing to no one, the lad left home for the monastery.

His parents were happy when they learned where their son was, and they went to the monastery. Seeing that he was still going about in his worldly clothes, they besought that the hegumen should attire him in the Angelic garb. And on that Sunday the hegumen fulfilled their request, but permitted them often to visit their son. The brethren of the monastery were astonished at the efforts of the monk.

One time on a visit to the monastery came Saint Simeon the Pillar-Dweller (comm. 1 September), who foretold to the young monk, that he too would undertake the feat of pillar-dwelling. The Monk Daniel continued on with his ascetic life in seclusion. When in a vision the place of a new exploit was revealed to him, he withdrew into the Thracian wilderness together with two students, where they set up a pillar, upon which the Monk Daniel dwelt for 33 years. People thronged to the pillar, those who were misfortunate and those who were sick, and all received from the Monk Daniel help and healing. Byzantine emperors likewise besought the prayers of the holy ascetic. And from the numerous predictions of the monk, the most notable was about a strong conflagration in Constantinople. The Monk Daniel possessed also the gift of gracious words. He guided many onto the path of correcting their lives. The monk reposed in his 80th year.

The Monk Nikon the Lean

The Monk Nikon the Lean, the son of rich and illustrious parents, gave up everything for Christ and accepted monasticism at the Kievo-Pechersk monastery. In the year 1096, during the incursions of khan Bonyak, he together with other monks was taken into captivity. Expecting a rich ransom, the captor treated the Monk Nikon harshly. When the saint was refused ransom, the master began to torment him with hunger, and left him exposed in the heat of Summer and the cold of Winter. But the monk gave thanks to God for everything and once said to his tormentor, that the Lord, through the prayers of the Monks Antonii and Theodosii (Feodosii) would return him to his monastery, as the Monk Evstratii (+ 1097, Comm. 28 March) had predicted while appearing to him. The captor cut the leg-tendons of the Monk Nikon and set a strong guard over him. But on the third day at the sixth hour suddenly the holy captive became invisible, at the moment the guard hear the words: "Praise the Lord from the Heavens". And thus he was transported to the Divine Liturgy at the Uspensk church. The brethren surrounded him and began to ask how he got there. The Monk Nikon wanted to conceal the miracle. But the brethren implored him to tell the truth. The Monk Nikon wanted to continue his ascetic deeds in his fetters from captivity, but the hegumen said: "If the Lord had wanted that thou shouldst remain bound, He would not have delivered thee from captivity". After a long while the former master of the Monk Nikon came to the Kievo-Pechersk monastery and recognised his former captive, withered up from hunger and wounds. He came to believed, accepted Baptism, and having taken monastic tonsure, he himself became an obedient (novice) under the Monk Nikon. The Monk Nikon died at the beginning of the XII Century and was buried in the Nearer Caves. His memory is celebrated also on 28 September and on the 2nd Sunday of Great Lent.

The Holy Martyr Mirax

The Holy Martyr Mirax was born into a Christian family that lived in the city of Tennes (Egypt) during the VII Century. He was raised in piety, but yielded to demonic temptation and renounced the Holy Cross, going over to the ruler of Egypt named Amir, and taking up sword in hand he entered into the service of the Arabs. His parents, grieving over the terrible downfall of their son, prayed for him incessantly. And then the grace of God illumined the heart of the prodigal. He deeply repented and returned home. His parents counselled him to openly declare about his fall into darkness and his repentance. Saint Mirax obeyed them. The ruler condemned him to tortures, after which the saint was beheaded and cast into the sea (this occurred not earlier than the year 640).

The Holy Martyrs Akepsios and Haifal

The Holy Martyrs Akepsios and Haifal hailed from Persia. Akepsios was a pagan priest in the city of Arbel. Having received healing through the prayers of a Christian bishop, he was converted to the faith in Christ and boldly confessed it. For this they threw Saint Akepsios into prison. Soon imprisoned with him was Saint Haifal, a deacon of the Arbel Church. They brought the martyrs before the ruler, where they again confessed their faith and were beheaded.

The Monk Luke the New Pillar-Dweller

The Monk Luke the New Pillar-Dweller was a soldier under the Byzantine emperor Constantine Porphyrigenitos (912-959). During the time of a war with Bulgaria (917), Saint Luke through the Providence of God remained unharmed. After this he accepted monasticism, and having succeeded in his efforts, was elevated to the dignity of presbyter. Striving though towards an higher degree of perfection, the monk put chains upon himself and went up upon a pillar. After three years standing aloft, through a Divine inspiration, he went to Mount Olympos, and then to Constantinople, and finally to Chalcedon, where likewise he chose a pillar, upon which he was aloft for 45 years, , manifesting a gift of wonderworking. He died in about the year 980.

December 12

Sainted Spyridon of Trimyphunteia

Sainted Spyridon of Trimyphunteia was born towards the end of the III Century on the island of Cyprus. The accounts have preserved little about his life. But it is known, that he was a shepherd, and had a wife and children. He used all his substance for the needs of his neighbours and the homeless, for which the Lord rewarded him with a gift of wonderworking: he healed the incurably sick and cast out devils. After the death of his wife, during the reign of Constantine the Great (306-337), they ordained him bishop of the Cypriot city of Trimyphunteia. Even with the dignity of bishop the saint did not change his manner of life, combining pastoral service with deeds of charity. According to the witness of Church historians, Saint Spyridon in the year 325 participated in the sessions of the First OEcumenical Council. At the Council, the saint entered into a dispute with a Greek philosopher, who was defending the Arian heresy. The plain direct speaking of Saint Spyridon showed everyone the impotence of human wisdom afront Divine Wisdom: "Listen, philosopher, to what I tell thee: we believe, that the Almighty God from out of nothing did create by His Word and His Spirit both heaven and earth, and all the world both visible and invisible. The Word is the Son of God, Who didst come down upon the earth on account of our sins; he wast born of a Virgin, He lived amongst mankind, and suffered and died for our salvation, and then He arose, having redeemed by His sufferings the Original Sin, and He hath resurrected with Him the human race. We believe, that He is One in Essence and Equal-in-Dignity with the Father, and we believe this without any sly rationalisations, since it is impossible to grasp this mystery by human reason". As a result of their discussion, the opponent of Christianity became the saint's zealous defender and later accepted holy Baptism. And after his conversation with Saint Spyridon, turning towards his companions, the philosopher said: "Listen! While the disputation with me was conducted by means of argued proofs, I could set forth to certain proofs other proofs, and by the very art of debate I could refute anything, that others might propose. But when, instead of proofs from reason, there began to issue forth from the mouth of this elder some sort of especial power, and the rational proofs became powerless against it, since it is impossible that man can withstand God. If any of you should come to think as I now indeed do, let him believe in Christ and together with me follow this elder, from whose lips doth speak God Himself". At this Council, Saint Spyridon displayed a proof in evidence of the Oneness within the Holy Trinity. He took in his hand a brick and he grasped it -- for an instant fire emerged from it upwards, water flowed downwards, and there remained clay in the hands of the wonderworker. "There are these three elements, but one tile (brick), -- and Saint Spyridon then said, -- suchlike also the Holy Trinity: Three Persons, but One God".

The saint concerned himself about his flock with great love. Through his prayer, drought was replaced by abundant life-producing rains, and otherwise incessant rains were replaced by fair weather. And likewise through his prayer the sick were healed and demons cast out. One time a woman came up to him with a dead child in her arms, imploring the intercession of the saint. He prayed, and the infant was restored to life. The mother, overcome with joy, collapsed lifeless. Through the prayer of the saint of God the mother was restored to life. Another time, hastening to save his friend, falsely-accused and sentenced to death, the saint was hindered on his way by the unanticipated flooding of a watery brook. The saint commanded the freshet: "Halt! For thus biddeth thee the Lord of all the world, that I might cross over and a man be saved, on account of whom be my haste". The will of the saint was fulfilled, and he crossed over happily to the other shore. The judge, apprised of the miracle that had occurred, received Saint Spyridon with esteem and set free his friend.

Similar instances are known from the life of the saint. One time he went into an empty church, he gave orders to light up the lampadas and candles, and then he began the Divine-services. Intoning the "Peace be unto all", both he and the deacon heard in reply from above the resounding of "a great multitude of voices, proclaiming: "And with thine spirit". This choir was majestic and more sweetly melodious than any human choir. To each ectenia-petition of the litanies, the invisible choir sang "Lord, have mercy". Attracted by the church singing wafting forth, the people situated nearby hastened towards it. And as they got closer and closer to the church, the wondrous singing all more and more filled the ears and gladdened their hearts. But when they entered into the church, they saw no one besides the bishop and several church servers, nor did they hear any moreso the church singing, by which they were greatly astonished".

Saint Simeon Metaphrastes, the author of his Life, likened Saint Spyridon to the Patriarch Abraham in his virtue of hospitality. "This also mustneeds be known, how he received strangers", -- wrote that insider of the monastic circles, Sozomen, who in his "Church History" offers an amazing example from the life of the saint. One time, at the onset of the Forty-day Great Lent a stranger knocked at his door. Seeing that the traveller was very exhausted, Saint Spyridon said to his daughter: "Wash the feet of this man, that he may recline to dine". But with it being Lent there were none of the necessary provisions, since the saint "partook of food only on set days, and on other days he went without food". His daughter therefore answered, that in the house there was neither bread, nor even flour. Then Saint Spyridon, apologising to his guest, ordered his daughter to roast a salted ham in the food-provisions, and having seated the stranger at table, he began to dine, "urging that man to do likewise. When the latter refused, calling himself a Christian, the saint rejoined: "It be no less proper to refuse this, since the Word of God hath proclaimed: "All is pure to the pure" (Tit. 1: 15)".

Another historical detail, reported by Sozomen, was likewise exceedingly characteristic of the saint: he had the custom to distribute one part of the gathered harvest to the destitute, and another portion to those having need while in debt. For himself personally he did not take a portion, but simply showed the entrance to his supply-room, where each could take as much as was needed, and thereafter make a return in like manner, without controls or accountings.

There is also the tale by Sokrates Scholastikos about how robbers planned to steal the sheep of Saint Spyridon: in the deep of night they broke into the sheepfold, but here by some invisible power they found themselves all tied up. With the onset of morning the saint went to his flock, and seeing the tied-up robbers, he prayed and untied them and for a long while he upbraided them to leave off from their path of iniquity and earn a livelihood by respectable work. "Then, having made them a present of a sheep and sending them off, the saint said kindly: "Be ye not vigilant in vain".

They often likened Saint Spyridon to the Prophet Elias (Elijah or Ilias), since it was through his prayer during the times of drought that frequently threatened the island of Cyprus, that rain occurred: "Let us view the Angelic-equal Spyridon the Wonderworker. Formerly did the land suffer exceedingly from want of rain and drought: there was famine and pestilence and a great many of the people were stricken, but through the prayers of the saint there did descend rain from the heavens upon the earth: wherefore the people delivered from woe gratefully do proclaim: Hail, thou in semblance to the great prophet, in that the rain driving off famine and malady in good time is come down".

All the Vitae (Lives) of the saint are striking in the amazing simplicity and powerful wonderworking, granted him by God. Through a word of the saint the dead were awakened, the elements of nature tamed, the idols smashed. At one point at Alexandria, a Council had been convened by the Patriarch in regard to the idols and pagan temples there, and through the prayers of the fathers of the Council all the idols fell down, except one -- which was very much revered. It was revealed to the Patriarch in a vision that this idol remained to be shattered by Saint Spyridon of Trimyphunteia. Invited by the Council, the saint set sail on a ship, and at the moment the ship touched shore and the saint stepped out on land, the idol in Alexandria with all its offerings turned to dust, which then was announced to the Patriarch and all the bishops gathered round Saint Spyridon.

Saint Spyridon lived his earthly life in righteousness and sanctity, and in prayer he offered up his soul to the Lord (+ c. 348).

In the history of the Church, Sainted Spyridon is venerated together with Sainted Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia. His relics repose on the island of Corfu, in a church named after him (except for the right hand, located in Rome). His memory is celebrated a second time on Cheesefare Saturday.

The Monk Pherapont of Monzensk

The Monk Pherapont of Monzensk was a monk in the monastery of the Monk Adrian at the River Monza. The monk began his ascetic deeds in Moscow, and then transferred to the city of Kostroma at the Cross-Elevation monastery, and was tonsured there. The pious monks Adrian and Paphnutii, from the monastery of the Monk Paul of Obnorsk (Comm. 10 January), in seeking solitude and with blessing, resettled to the Monza and there founded a monastery 25 versts from Galich. The Monk Pherapont transferred to this monastery, where he asceticised to the end of his life. Each day, with the blessing of the monastery head, he withdrew into a forested thicket and there he prayed. By night he read and transcribed copies of spiritually useful books. In his life he emulated Blessed Vasilii (Basil) of Moscow (Comm. 2 August), whom he called his friend, although personally he never saw him. Even during his life the Monk Pherapont was glorified with a gift of wonderworking. Before his death he predicted a year of famine (1601).The monk died in the year 1597. The monastery at the River Monza was called after him the Pherapontov.

The PriestMartyr Alexander, Bishop of Jerusalem

The PriestMartyr Alexander, Bishop of Jerusalem, was a student of the great teacher and writer of the Church, presbyter Clement of Alexandria (+ c. 217). At the beginning of the III Century he was chosen bishop of Cappadocian Flavia. Under the emperor Septimus Severus (193-211) he was locked up in prison and spent three years there. After his release from prison he set off to Jerusalem to venerate at the holy places there, and through a revelation from above, he was chosen there as co-administrator to the quite elderly Patriarch Narcissos (in the year 212). This was an unusually rare occurrence in the practice of the ancient Church. In this dignity he governed the Jerusalem Church for 38 years, toiling much at Christian enlightenment. A large library of the works of Christian writers was gathered by him at Jerusalem. He died in prison during the time of the persecution under the emperor Decius.

The Holy Martyr Cynecius

The Holy Martyr Cynecius (Razumnik) (Cynecius is derived from the Greek word "synetos", -- meaning "man of reason") was by birth a Roman, and was a reader in the Roman Church under Pope Sixtus (257-258). He was subjected to tortures and then beheading for his brave confession of faith during the time of the emperor Aurelian (270-275).

December 13

The Holy Martyrs Eustratios, Auxentius, Eugene (Eugenios), Mardarias and Orestes

The Holy Martyrs Eustratios, Auxentius, Eugene (Eugenios), Mardarias and Orestes suffered for Christ under the emperor Diocletian (284-305) at Sebasteia, in Armenia. Among those first Christians then undergoing torture then was the presbyter of the Arabian Church, the Martyr Auxentios, locked up in prison. Looking on at the steadfastness of the Christians was the nobleborn military-commander Saint Eustratios, city-governor of the city of Sataleon. He was secretly a Christian, and he decided on an open confession of faith, for which he was subjected to torture: they beat him, put iron sandals on his feet, and burnt at him with fire. And after these cruel torments they burned him, and beheaded the Martyr Auxentios. Witnessing their death by martyrdom, one of the common people, Saint Mardarias, likewise confessed his faith and was suspended upside down. Before death he uttered the prayer: "O Master Lord God, Father Almighty...", which is read at the end of the 3rd Hour and at the All-Night Vigil. For the Martyr Eugene (Eugenios) they cut out his tongue, they cut off his hands and feet and then they cut off his head with a sword. The young soldier Saint Orestes confessed himself a Christian and for this stood trial. He was sentenced to burning upon a red-hot iron bed, whither he went encouraged by the prayer of Saint Eustratios ("Greatly I do exalt Thee, O Lord...") which is read at the Saturday All-Night Vigil. The Martyr Eustratios died on 13 December.

The Monk Arkadii of Vyazemsk and Novotorzhsk

The Monk Arkadii of Vyazemsk and Novotorzhsk was from the city of Vyaz'ma of common folk pious parents, who from childhood taught him prayer and obedience. The gentle, perceptive, prudent and good youth chose for his ascetic deed being a fool-for-Christ. He ate by alms, and slept where he put himself, -- whether in the forest, or on the church portico. His blessed unconcern and closeness to nature imparted to the figure of young Arkadii a peculiar spiritual aspect and distance from worldly vanity. In church, absorbed in prayer, Saint Arkadii often wept tears of tenderness and spiritual joy. His advice was precise, his predictions happened, and his look intelligent. An experienced guide, the Monk Ephrem -- Wonderworker of Novotorzhsk (Comm. 28 January, helped the young ascetic to avoid the spiritual dangers in passing through the difficult and in this time uncommon exploit of foolishness. And after this the people of Vyaz'ma became witnesses of several miracles, done through the prayer of Blessed Arkadii, but he fled human fame and set out along the upper Tvertsa River. Here the Monk Arkadii divided the work with his spiritual guide the Monk Ephrem of Novotorzhsk, and shared together with him in the founding of a church and monastery in honour of the holy Nobleborn Passion-Bearers Boris and Gleb (+ 1015; first transfer of their holy relics was in 1072; General Comm. 2 May).

Entering into the new-built monastery, the Monk Arkadii accepted monasticism and took upon himself the exploit of full obedience to his spiritual father, the Monk Ephrem. The Monk Arkadii never missed Liturgy and for Matins he appeared first together with his spiritual guide. After the repose of the Monk Ephrem (28 January 1053), the Monk Arkadii continued to pursue asceticism in accord with the last-wishes of his starets-elder, dwelling in prayer, fasting and quietude. And with the subsequent passage of some years he likewise expired to the Lord (13 December 1077).

In 1594 a chapel in the name of the Monk Arkadii was built at one of the churches of Vyaz'ma. A combined celebration to the Monks Arkadii and Ephrem was established under Metropolitan Dionysii in the years 1584-1587. The relics of the Monk Arkadii, glorified by miracles of healing, were uncovered on 11 July (in earlier times his memory was celebrated on this day) 1677, in a stone crypt of the Borisoglebsk cathedral of the city of Torzhk. In 1841 on the left side of the Borisogleb cathedral church was built a chapel in honour of the Monk Arkadii. Solemn celebration of the 300 years from the time of the uncovering of the holy relics of the Monk Arkadii took place in the city of Torzhk in the year 1977.

The Monk Mardarii, Hermit of Pechersk

The Monk Mardarii, Hermit of Pechersk, asceticised in the Farther Caves during the XIII Century. According to the manuscript calendar, in the tropar and kondak he is called "non-covetous", and by the superscription over the relics -- "without cell". His name is remembered in the 7th Ode of the Service of the Sobor-Assemblage of the Fathers of the Farther Caves (28 August) together with the Monk Ammon (Comm. 4 October), where he is called a "zealot of poverty". He was buried in the Farther Caves. His memory is celebrated also on 28 August and on the 2nd Sunday of Great Lent.

The Monk Arsenios

The Monk Arsenios, the son of rich, illustrious and pious parents, was born at Constantinople. The emperor decorated him and made him military-commander and a patrician of the Cyberrhiote military thema. One time, when he was sailing with his soldiers upon the sea, a storm came up. The ships sank. Of all the soldiers only Saint Arsenios was saved. After this he accepted monasticism and he wearied the flesh by fasting, vigil and fetters. After such doings he came to a certain place on Mount Latros, situated in Asia Minor. There he killed a poisonous viper by his prayer and the sign of the cross, and then he settled in the nearby Kelliboreia monastery on the north side of the mountain, where he was chosen hegumen. From the monastery the Monk Arsenios set off to a cave, where he repelled wild beasts by prayer. Brethren gathered to him. Usually he sat the entire week in the narrow cell, and on Sunday he took food and instructed the brethren. Finally, the Monk Arsenios attained such perfection, that he was nourished by an Angel. By his staff he changed bitter water into sweet, and having done many other miracles, he peacefully died amidst the brethren. They suggest the lifetime of the Monk Arsenios as between the VIII and X Centuries.

December 14

The Holy Martyrs Thyrsos, Leukios and Kallinikos

The Holy Martyrs Thyrsos, Leukios and Kallinikos suffered for Christ under the emperor Decius (249-251) at Bithynian Caesarea. Saint Leukios, having reproached the governor Qumvricius for his unjust persecution of Christians, after torture was beheaded by the sword. Saint Thyrsos, sentenced to cruel tortures and torments, endured them unharmed and by the will of God he died peacefully. The pagan priest Kallinikos, having seen the bravery and the miracle involving Saint Thyrsos, believed in Christ and boldly confessed the true faith, for which he was beheaded by the sword.

The Holy Martyrs Philemon, Apollonios, Arian and Theotykhos

The Holy Martyrs Philemon, Apollonios, Arian and Theotykhos suffered for the faith in Egypt, at the city of Antinoe, under the emperor Diocletian (284-305). Saint Arian up until his conversion to Christ was a persecutor of Christians, among which number were the martyrs Apollonios and Philemon. The Martyr Apollonios, at first fearing to face the sufferings, asked the pagan-musician Philemon to change into his clothing and make the appearance of offering sacrifice to idols for him. But unexpectedly Saint Philemon confessed himself a Christian afront the pagans. Saint Apollonios repented himself and also confessed Christ. After torture both martyrs were executed. Their torturer Arian, -- his injured eye having been healed by ashes taken from the remains of Philemon, repented and was converted to the Christian faith and baptised together with all his household and body-guards. Out of love for Christ they voluntarily went to torture and were sentenced to death. Among the body-guards the eldest was the Martyr Theotykhos, remembered together with the other saints. The Martyrs Philemon and Apollonios died on 16 March 286, and the Martyrs Arian and Theotykhos -- on 4 March 287.

Sainted Ilarion, Metropolitan of Suzdal' and Yur'ev

Sainted Ilarion, Metropolitan of Suzdal' and Yur'ev (in the world John), was born 13 November 1631 into the family of the lower-city priest Ananii. His father, famed for his piety and reading, was one of three candidates for the Patriarchal throne, put forth together in choice with the future Patriarch Nikon (1652-1658).

John took vows at a monastery in 1653. In 1655 he became founder and builder of the Phlorischev wilderness monastery not far from the city of Gorokhovetsa. In the doings of a monk, the saint underwent an harsh struggle with fleshly passions. When he fell down in exhaustion before the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God and with tears besought Her for help, the Mother of God shielded him with gracious power and pacified his spirit. One time, when Saint Ilarion was serving evening song together with a monk-deacon, robbers burst into the church. They killed the monk-deacon and started to set Saint Ilarion on fire, interrogating him as to where the monastery treasure was hid. They did not believe that in the monastery there was no gold. Overcome by the pain, Saint Ilarion turned to the wonderworking icon and said: "O All-Pure Virgin Mary, Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ! If they injure me with the fire, I shall no more have the ability to always glorify Thy Son and Thee". Suddenly the robbers heard the shouts of people searching for them, and in fear they fled.

One time, Saint Ilarion in passing by the church heard a voice: "I shalt glorify thee through all the land". He trembled, and having gone into the vestibule, he found there no people; in the portico was only the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God. The ascetic with tears fell down before the image and confessed his unworthiness.

Later on, when the saint had set about construction of a stone church, he greatly sorrowed, that concerns about the construction and disagreements among the workers were distracting him from prayer. While making services in church with the brethren, he was preoccupied by these thoughts and began to regret beginning the work. With tears he besought the Mother of God not to abandon him and to deliver him from these worries. At the finish of the prayer Saint Ilarion remained alone in church and began again to think about the construction. And so he fell asleep. In a dream the Mother of God appeared to him and said: "Transfer My image, named the Vladimir, from this hot church and put it in the newly-made stone church, and I shalt be thine Helper there". Saint Ilarion awoke and gave the command to ring the large bell. The monks immediately assembled. All set off to the hot church and, having prayed before the icon, solemnly transferred it from the portico into the temple. After making the all-night vigil, Divine Liturgy and a molieben, the saint told the brethren about his vision. Then in procession they trnsferred the icon to the church under construction, where they set it amidst the woods. From that time the construction went successfully and soon was finished. The saint wanted to dedicate the temple in honour of the icon. But he had a vision in which he was made to understand, that the temple was to be consecrated in honour of the Dormition (Uspenie) of the MostHoly Mother of God.

In the wilderness monastery he maintained a very strict community rule. In the year 1694 the saint sent a directive to the Phlorischev monastery talking of monastic rule, in which he reminisced about his own monastery rule at this monastery: "Under me, a sinner, no one possessed anything of his own, but all was put in common. And at present many of you remember about that former community in common. And they remember also that I consigned to the fire those belongings which, under me a sinner, would destroy that common-community".

On 11 December 1681 the saint was consecrated to the dignity of Archbishop of Suzdal' and Yur'ev, and in 1682 he was elevated to the dignity of Metropolitan and remained on the Suzdal' cathedra until February 1705. The saint died peacefully on 14 December 1707 and was buried in the Suzdal' cathedral in honour of the Nativity of the MostHoly Mother of God. The saint was known for his unceasing concern for the poor. After his death they found all of three farthings of money.

The wonderworking Icon of the Mother of God of Vladimir-Phlorischev (Comm. 26 August) was written by the reknown iconographer Ivan Andreevich Chirov in 1464 at Nizhni Novgorod under a vow of Ivan Yakovlevich Vetoshnikov.

December 15

The PriestMartyr Eleutherius, his mother the Martyress Anthea and the Martyr Corivus the Eparch

Saint Eleutherius, the son of an illustrious Roman citizen, was raised in Christian piety by his mother. His virtue was such, that already at age 20 he had been elevated to bishop of Illyria. Under the emperor Adrian (II), Saint Eleutherius after torture for his bold preaching about Christ was beheaded at Rome together with his mother Anthea. The eparch Corivus, who had tortured Saint Eleutherius, himself came to believe in Christ and was executed.

The Monk Paul of Latreia

The Monk Paul of Latreia was a native of the city of AElen in Pergamum. Early bereft of his father, he was educated at the monastery of Saint Stephen in Phrygia; after the death of his mother, he devoted himself completely to monastic deeds at a monastery on Mount Latra, near Miletos. Wanting to gain yet loftier accomplishment, he secluded himself in a cave. For his ascetic deeds he gained the gifts of perspicacity and wonderworking. The emperor Constantine VII Porphyrigenitos (912-959) often wrote to the monk, asking his prayers and counsel. The Monk Paul twice withdrew to the island of Samos, where he established a laura monastery and restored three monasteries ravaged by the Hagarites (Arabs). Foretelling his end, the monk reposed to God in the year 955.

Sainted Stephen the Confessor, Archbishop of Surozh

Sainted Stephen the Confessor, Archbishop of Surozh, was a native of Cappadocia and was educated at Constantinople. Having taken monastic vows, he withdrew into the wilderness, where he passed the time for 30 years in ascetic deeds. Patriarch Germanos, through some particular revelation, ordained him bishop of the city of Surozh (presently the city of Sudak in the Crimea). Under the iconoclast emperor Leo III the Isaurian (716-741), Saint Stephen underwent tortures and imprisonment in Constantinople, from which he emerged after the death of the emperor. Already quite advanced in years, he returned to his flock in Surozh, where he died.

There is preserved an account how, at the beginning of the IX Century during the time of a campaign into the Crimea, and influenced by miracles at the crypt of the saint, the Russian prince Bravlin accepted Baptism.

The Monk Tryphon of Pechengsk and Kol'sk

The Monk Tryphon of Pechengsk and Kol'sk, in the world Mitrophan, was born in the Novgorod governance into the family of a priest. The pious parents raised their son in the fear of God. From his early years Tryphon had resolved to devote his life to apostolic deeds and to go with the preaching of Christ to the pagan Lopar people. He knew of them only threw the accounts of fish-vendors. Once during a time of prayer in the forest he had heard a voice: "Tryphon, an empty and thirsty land awaiteth thee". Forsaking his parental home, the saint went out onto the Kola Peninsula and halted at the banks of the Pechenga River, where dwelt the Lopari. There he began to carry on trade with them. The saint first acquainted himself with the pagan beliefs of the aboriginal people and studied their language, and then began to preach the Christian faith to them. The Lopari greeted the words of the saint with acute mistrust. The holy preacher had occasion to suffer much hardship, to endure hostility and even beatings. But gradually, by his wise and kindly words and mildness many were converted to Christ.

With the blessing of the Novogord Archbishop Makarii, the Monk Tryphon together with Blessed Feodorit (Theodorit) and the priestmonk Ilya built a church for the newly-converted; and for those fervent for monastic life he founded in 1532 the Pechengsk Trinity monastery -- "of the cold sea, on the frontier of Murmansk". Tsar Ivan the Terrible helped him and richly endowed the monastery. The Enlightener of the Lopari died in old age in 1583, having lived at the Pechenga almost 60 years. Local celebration was established soon after the death of the saint. In 1589 the Swedes destroyed the Pechengsk monastery. Later on, by order of tsar Feodor Ioannovich, the monastery was transferred to the Kol'sk Peninsula. On the site of the restored monastery was built a church in the name of the Monk Tryphon, and over the grave of the saint was constructed a church in honour of the Meeting (Sretenie) of the Lord. Saint Tryphon has many a time come to the aid of perishing seamen, who with faith called upon his name.

The Holy Martyr Eleutherios Cubicularius

The Holy Martyr Eleutherios Cubicularius was an illustrious and rich chamberlain ("cubicularius") at the Byzantine court. Amidst all his courtly privileges, Eleutherios was not beguiled by worldly goods and honours; he dwelt constantly in thought about the imperishable and eternal. Having accepted holy Baptism, he began daily to glorify God with psalmody and to bejewel his life with virtuous deeds. But one of his servants through diabolic promptings, informed against his master to the [then still pagan] emperor. The emperor tried to dissuade Eleutherios from his faith in Christ, but after the unsuccessful attempts the emperor gave orders to behead him, and to cast out his body for devouring by dogs and vultures. A certain Christian priest took up the body of the saint and committed it to burial.

A second commemoration of the martyr is under -- 4 August.

The Monk Pardus the Hermit

The Monk Pardus the Hermit, a Roman, was involved in his youth with the teamster's craft. One time when he set off to Jericho, a boy accidentally fell under the legs of his camels. The camels trampled the boy to death. Shaken by this occurrence, Pardus took monastic vows, and withdrew to Mount Arion. Thinking himself under the condemnation of a murderer, and seeking a punishment of death, the Monk Pardus entered the cave-den of a lion. He poked the wild beast and prodded it with a spear so that the lion would rend him apart, but the creature would not touch the hermit. The Monk Pardus then took off his clothes and lay down upon the path that the lion would take for water. But even here, the lion merely leaped over the hermit. And the elder then perceived, that he had been forgiven by the Lord. Having returned to his mountain, the Monk Pardus dwelt there in fasting and prayer until the end of his days. He died in the VI Century.

The Monk Jona of Pechengsk and Kol'sk

The Monk Jona of Pechengsk and Kol'sk was by tradition a priest in the city of Kola. After the death of his daughter and wife he went off to the Pechengsk Trinity monastery, situated in the vicinity of Kola, and became a student of its founder, the Monk Tryphon. After the death of his teacher, he settled in 1583 at the site of what was to become his grave in the neighbouring Uspensk wilderness, and here he was killed by the Swedes in the year 1590.

The Monk Nektarii of Bitel'sk

The Monk Nektarii of Bitel'sk was born in the small town of Bitl' (or Butili) in Bulgaria. In the world he was named Nikolai. Before the occurrence of a Turkish invasion he mother had a vision: the MostHoly Virgin Herself appeared and bid her to flee and go into hiding with her husband and children. Nikolai's father, having taken the boy with him, withdrew to a monastery dedicated to the UnMercenaries, not far from Bitel', where he accepted monasticism with the name Pakhomii. Nikolai, having reach adolescent age, went on to Athos. The perspicacious elder Philothei accepted him and endowed him into the Angelic form with the name Nektarii. The monk suffered for a long time from the envy and spite of one of the novices, but he showed him in return total humility. The monk distinguished himself by his charity: money that he obtained from his handicraft he distributed to the poor. The Monk Nektarii died in the year 1500.

December 16

The Holy Prophet Aggei (Haggai)

The Holy Prophet Aggei (Haggai) -- was the 10th of the Twelve Minor Prophets. He was of the Tribe of Levi and he prophesied during the times of the Persian emperor Darius Hystaspis (prior to 500 B.C.). Upon the return of the Jews from the Babylonian Captivity, he persuaded the people to build the Second Jerusalem Temple and he proclaimed, that in this Temple was to "appear the Word Without-Beginning in the finality of times".

The Martyr Marinus

The Martyr Marinus suffered in Rome in about the year 283 (other sources suggest the years 217-218). Refusing to offer sacrifice to idols, Saint Marinus was beheaded after cruel tortures.

The Blessed Empress Theophania (Theophano)

The Blessed Empress Theophania (Theophano) was the first spouse of the emperor Leo VI the Wise (886-911). She was slandered as having lived together with a man, being with him even after ascending the throne, and she was locked away in prison for three years. Receiving her freedom, she spent her life in prayer and fasting. Her gentleness, charity and heartfelt contrition for sins glorified her name among her contemporaries. Theophania died in either the year 893 or 894.

The Nun Sophia

The Nun Sophia, in the world Solomonia, a great-princess, was the daughter of the boyar-noble Yurii Konstantinovich Saburov. In the year 1505 she was chosen as bride by the heir to the throne, the future great-prince Vasilii Ioannovich. Their marriage was unhappy, because Solomonia remained childless. In order to have an heir, great-prince Vasilii Ioannovich decided to wed a second time (to Elena Glinsky) and on 25 November 1525 he ordered Solomonia to be tonsured a nun. Forcibly monasticised with the name Sophia, Solomonia was sent under guard to the Suzdal' Pokrov-Protection convent, where by ascetic deeds she banished from her heart worldly thoughts, and totally dedicated herself to God. Prince Kurbsky calls the blessed princess "a Nun Martyress". In the manuscripts of the Saints she is termed as "the holy Righteous Princess Sophia the Monastic, for she did dwell at the Pokrov monastery convent, a wonderworker". Under tsar Feodor Ioannovich they esteemed her as a saint. Tsaritsa Irina Feodorovna sent to Suzdal', "to Great-Princess Solomonida, in other regards Sophia, a velvet veil with depiction of the Saviour and other saints". Patriarch Joseph wrote to the Suzdal' archbishop Serapion about the singing over Sophia of panikhidas and moliebens. The Nun Sophia reposed to God in the year 1542. In the descriptions by the Suzdal' sacristan Ananii there occur several instances of miraculous healings at the grave of the Nun Sophia.

December 17

The Holy Prophet Daniel and the Three Holy Youths Ananias, Azarias and Misael

The Holy Prophet Daniel and the Three Holy Youths Ananias, Azarias and Misael: In the years following 600 B.C. Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians, the Temple built by Solomon was destroyed, and many of the Israelite people were led away into the Babylonian Captivity. Among the captives were also the illustrious youths Daniel, Ananias, Azarias and Misael. The emperor of Babylon, Nebuchadnessar, gave orders to instruct them in the Chaldean wisdom, and to dress them in finery at his court. But they, in cleaving to the commandments of their faith, refused the extravagance and led a strict manner of life; they indeed sustained themselves on only vegetables and water. The Lord granted them wisdom, and to Saint Daniel -- the gift of perspicacity and the interpretation of dreams. The holy Prophet Daniel, having preserved sacred faith in the One God and trusting on His almighty help, in his wisdom surpassed all the Chaldean astrologers and sorcerers, and was made a confidant to the emperor Nebuchadnessar. One time Nebuchadnessar had a strange dream, which terrified him, but upon awakening he forgot the details of the vision. The Babylonian wise-men seemed powerless to learn what the emperor had dreamt. Thereupon the holy Prophet Daniel gave glory before all to the power of the True God, revealing not only the content of the dream, but also its prophetic significance. After this Daniel was elevated by the emperor to be a lord of the realm of Babylonia.

During these times the emperor Nebuchadnessar gave orders to erect in his likeness -- an huge statue, to which it was decreed to accord the honours befitting a god. For their refusal to do this, the three holy lads -- Ananias, Azarias and Misael -- were thrust into a burning fiery furnace. The flames shot out over the furnace 49 cubits, felling the Chaldeans standing about, but the holy lads walked amidst the flames, offering up prayer and psalmody to the Lord (Dan. 3: 26-90). The Angel of the Lord in appearing made cool the flames, and the lads remained unharmed. The emperor, upon seeing this, commanded them to come out, and was converted to the True God.

Under the following emperor Balthasar, Saint Daniel interpreted a mysterious inscription ("Mene, Takel, Phares"), which had appeared on the wall of the palace during the time of a banquet (Dan. 5: 1-31), which foretold the downfall of the Babylonian realm. Under the Persian emperor Darius, Saint Daniel was slandered by his enemies, and was thrown into a den with hungry lions, but they did not touch him, and he remained unharmed. The emperor Darius then in rejoicing over Daniel gave orders throughout all his realm to worship the God of Daniel, "since that He is the Living and Ever-Existing God, and His Kingdom is unbounded, and His sovereignty is without end" (Dan. 6: 1-29). The holy Prophet Daniel sorrowed deeply for his people, who then were undergoing righteous chastisement for a multitude of sins and offenses, for transgressing the laws of God, -- resulting in the grievous Babylonian Captivity and the destruction of Jerusalem: "My God, incline Thine ear and hearken, open Thine eyes and look upon our desolation and upon the city, in which is spoken Thine Name; wherefore do we make our supplication before Thee, trusting in hope not upon our own righteousness, but upon Thy great mercy" (Dan. 9: 18). By his righteous life and prayer for the redeeming of the iniquity of his people, there was revealed to the holy prophet the destiny of the nation of Israel and the fate of all the world.

During the interpretation of the dream of the emperor Nebuchadnessar, the Prophet Daniel declared about the kingdoms replacing one another and about the great final kingdom -- the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ (Dan. 2: 44). The prophetic vision about the seventy of weeks (Dan. 9: 24-27) tells the world about the signs of the First and the Second Comings of the Lord Jesus Christ and is connected with those events (Dan. 12: 1-12). Saint Daniel interceded for his people before the successor to Darius, the emperor Cyrus, who esteemed him highly, and who decreed freedom for the Israelite people. Daniel himself and his fellows Ananias, Azarias and Misael, all survived into old age, but died in captivity. According to the testimony of Sainted Cyril of Alexandria (Comm. 9 June), Saints Ananias, Azarias and Misael were beheaded on orders of the Persian emperor Chambyses.

The Monk Daniel the Confessor

The Monk Daniel the Confessor, in the Schema Stephen, was a Spanish dignitary, and ruler of the island of Niverta. Disdaining worldly glory, he accepted monasticism at Rome and set out to the holy places at Constantinople and Jerusalem, where he became a schema-monk. For his refusal to accept Islam he perished as a martyr under the Saracens in the X Century.

December 18

The Holy Martyr Sebastian

The Holy Martyr Sebastian was born in the city of Narbonum (in Gaul, modernday France), and he received his education at Mediolanum (now city of Milan in Italy). Under the co-reigning emperors Diocletian and Maximian (284-305) he occupied the position of head of the imperial guards. Saint Sebastian was respected for his authority and with the love of the soldiers and those at court: he was a brave man, filled with wisdom, his word was honest, his judgement just, insightful in advice, faithful in his service and in everything entrusted him. But being himself a secret Christ, he much aided his brethren in the faith. The Christian brothers Marcellinus and Mark had been locked up in prison, and at first they firmly confessed the true faith. But under the influence of the tearful entreaties of the pagan-parents (the father Tranquillinus and mother Marcia), and also their own wives and children, they wavered in their intent to suffer for Christ. Saint Sebastian went to the imperial treasurer, at whose house Marcellinus and Mark were held in confinement, and uttered a rousing speech.

"O ye valiant warriors of Christ! Cast not away the standards of your victory on account of womanly tears nor let up upon the enemy cast down beneathe your feet, wherein he, in regaining strength would again renew the struggle with you. Over every earthly impulse raise up the glorious banner of your deed. If those, whom ye see weeping should know that there be another life -- bereft of death and ill, in the which doth reign unceasing bliss, then assuredly they would wish to enter into it with you, and contemning temporal life, they would instead strive to receive the eternal. For he that desireth not to be servant of life eternal, doth indeed perish in this temporal life in vain".

Saint Sebastian thus persuaded the brothers to go through with their act of martyrdom. His speech stirred everyone present. They beheld, how the very face of the saint did shine like that of an angel, and they saw how seven Angels did attire him radiant garb, and a fair Youth did bless the orator and say: "Always shalt thou be with Me". The wife of the imperial treasurer Nicostratus, named Zoa, had lost the ability to speak 6 years previously, and she fell down at the feet of Saint Sebastian, with her gestures imploring him to heal her. The saint made the Sign of the Cross over the woman, and she immediately began to speak and she glorified the Lord Jesus Christ. She said that she had seen an Angel with an open book, from which Saint Sebastian did read his preaching. Thereupon all present came to be believers in the Saviour of the world. Nicostratus removed the chains from Marcellinus and Mark and offered to hide them, but the brothers refused.

Mark said: "Let them rend our bodies with cruel torments; they can kill the body, but the soul, warring for the faith, is not to be conquered by them". Nicostratus and his wife asked for Baptism. Saint Sebastian advised Nicostratus to arrange matters such, that Baptism might be made over possibly a large number of people. Nicostratus then requested the Roman prison-head Claudius to send to him all the imprisoned. Conversing with the prisoners, Sebastian became convinced that they were all worthy of Baptism, and he summoned the presbyter Polycarp, who prepared them for the mystery with a catechetical talk, he instructed them to fast, having set for evening time the making of the sacrament.

During this while Claudius informed Nicostratus, that the Roman eparch named Arestius Chromatus was pressing him for an explanation as to why the prisoners were gathered at his house. Nicostratus told Claudius about the healing of his wife, and Claudius in turn led to Saint Sebastian his own sick sons, Symphorian and Felix. In the evening the priest Polycarp baptised Tranquillinus with his kin and friends, and Nicostratus and all his family, Claudius and his sons, and likewise 16 condemned prisoners. The newly-baptised numbered 64 in all.

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

During this time the bishop at Rome was Saint Caius (afterwards Pope of Rome from 283-296, Comm. 11 August). Saint Caius gave blessing to Chromatus to go to his estates in Southern Italy together with the presbyter Polycarp. Christians unable to undergo the suffering of martyrdom went with them. The priest Polycarp had been dispatched for strengthening the newly-converted in the faith and for making the sacraments. Tiburtius, the son of Chromatus, desired to accept martyrdom and he remained in Rome with Saint Sebastian. Of those remaining, Saint Caius ordained Tranquillinus to the dignity of presbyter, his sons Marcellinus and Mark were ordained deacons, and there remained also Nicostratus, his wife Zoa and brother Castorius, and Claudius, his son Symphorian and brother Victorinus. They gathered at the court of the emperor together with a secret Christian, the dignitary Castulus, but soon the time began for them to suffer for the faith.

The pagans arrested Saint Zoa first, praying at the grave of the Apostle Peter. At the trial she bravely confessed her faith in Christ and she died, hung by her hair over rotting refuse; her body then was thrown into the River Tiber. Appearing in a vision to Saint Sebastian, she told him about her death. Presbyter Tranquillinus was the next after her to suffer: pagans pelted him with stones at the grave of the holy Apostle Peter, and his body was likewise thrown into the Tiber. Saints Nicostratus, Castorius, Claudius, Victorinus and Symphorian were seized at the riverbank, when they were pulling out the bodies of the martyrs. They led them to the eparch, and the saints refused his command to offer sacrifice to idols. They tied stones to the necks of the martyrs and then drowned them in the sea. The false-Christian Torquatus betrayed Saint Tiburtius. But not gaining a renunciation of Christ from him, the trial-court gave orders to put young Tiburtius on red-hot coals, but the Lord preserved him: Tiburtius walked through the burning coals, not feeling the heat. The torturers then beheaded Saint Tiburtius. Unknown Christians then buried the saint.

Torquatus betrayed also the holy Deacons Marcellinus and Mark, and the dignitary Saint Castulus. After torture they threw Castulus into a pit and buried him alive, but Marcellinus and Mark had their feet nailed to stumps of wood. They stood all night in prayer, and in the morning they were pierced with spears.

Saint Sebastian was the final one taken off to torture. The emperor Diocletian personally interrogated him, and persuading himself of the resoluteness of the holy martyr, he ordered him taken out beyond the city, tied to a tree and shot with arrows. The wife of the dignitary Saint Castulus, Irene, went at night in order to bury Saint Sebastian, but found him alive and took him to her home. Saint Sebastian soon recovered from his wounds. Christians urged him to leave Rome, but he refused. Coming nearby a pagan temple, the saint saw the emperors approaching there and he publicly denounced them for their impiety. Diocletian gave orders to remove the holy martyr to the Hippodrome (Coliseum) and there execute him. They killed Saint Sebastian, and cast his body upon the rubbish heap. The holy martyr appeared to the Christian Saint Lucina (Lucy) in a dream vision, and bid her take his body and bury it in the catacombs. And thus the pious Christian buried the body of the saint.

The Monk Sevastian of Sokhotsk, Poshekhonsk

The Monk Sevastian of Sokhotsk, Poshekhonsk, founded a monastery in honour of the Transfiguration of the Lord, located at the River Sokhota, 90 versts from the city of Romanov (now Tutaev) in the Yaroslavsk district. The monks of the monastery themselves cultivated the soil and ate through the work of their own hands. The founder of the monastery taught the ascetics this by his own example and guidance. The Monk Sevastian reposed in about the year 1500.

The Transfiguration monastery on the River Sokhota was later annexed to the Cherepovetsk Ascension monastery, and in 1764 closed down. In the mid XIX Century over the relics of the Monk Sevastian was built a stone church. Commemoration of the saint is likewise made on 26 February.

Sainted Modestos, Archbishop of Jerusalem

Sainted Modestos, Archbishop of Jerusalem, was born into a Christian family in Cappadocian Sebasteia (Asia Minor). From his youthful years he felt a strong attraction towards strict monastic life. Saint Modestos accepted monastic tonsure. Afterwards he became head of the monastery of Saint Theodosios the Great (founded in the IV Century) in Palestine. At this time (the year 614), military forces of the Persian emperor Chosroes fell upon Syria and Palestine, killing 90 thousand Christians and laying waste the Christian churches. The Jerusalem Patriarch Zakharias and a multitude of Christians together with the Cross of the Lord was taken into captivity. Saint Modestos was entrusted to temporarily govern the Jerusalem Church in the capacity of locum tenens of the patriarchal cathedra.

With the help of the Alexandria Patriarch John the Merciful (Comm. 12 November), Saint Modestos set about the restoring of devastated Christian holy places, among which was the Sepulchre of the Lord. He reverently gave burial to the remained of murdered monks from the monastery of Saint Sava the Sanctified. After 14 years, Patriarch Zakharias returned from captivity with the Cross of the Lord, and after his death Saint Modestos became Patriarch of Jerusalem. Saint Modestos died at age 97 in the year 634.

The Monk Phloros, Bishop of Ameia

The Monk Phloros, Bishop of Ameia, was the son of the Christians Phloros and Euthymia, who provided him a fine education. He entered courtly service for the Byzantine emperor and was elevated to the dignity of patrician; he was also married and had children. After his wife and children died from smallpox, he left the world and withdrew to the outskirts of Constantinople, where he led a solitary and pious life. Later on he was chosen bishop of Ameia (in Asia Minor). Saint Phloros wisely guided his flock and died peacefully at the beginning of the VII Century.

The Monk Michael the Confessor

The Monk Michael the Confessor was born at Jerusalem into a family of zealous Christians and at an early age devoted himself to monastic life. After the death of his father, his mother and sisters went off to a monastery, and the Monk Michael was ordained to the dignity of presbyter. He was famed as a strong preacher, and therefore the Jerusalem Patriarch Thomas I took him under wing and advanced him in the calling of "synkellos" (dealing in matters of church governance). At this time there reigned the Iconoclast emperor Leo the Armenian (813-820). The patriarch dispatched off to him the Monk Michael, together with the holy brothers Saints Theodore (Comm. 27 December) and Theophanes (Comm. 11 October), with the hope that they might persuade the emperor to cease his persecution against the Orthodox. The emperor subjected Saint Michael to beatings and sent him off into exile. Later having returned from exile, the monk again suffered for the veneration of holy icons under the emperor Theophilos (829-842). The companions of Saint Michael, Saints Theodore and Theophanes, were subjected to horrible torments: upon their faces was put red-hot brandings with an inscription slandering them. They received the churchly title "Written-Upon" ("Nachertannykh"). Again condemned, Saint Michael was sent with his disciple Job to the Pabeida monastery. After the death of Theophilos, the empress Theodora (842-855) restored the veneration of holy icons, and ordered the return of Christians banished by the Iconoclasts. She made the offer that Saint Michael might occupy the patriarchal throne in place of the deposed iconoclast, Grammatikos. But the holy martyr declined this. Thus upon the patriarchal throne entered Saint Methodios.

Saint Michael the Confessor to the end of his days toiled in the position of "synkellos". He died peacefully in about the year 845.

December 19

The Holy Martyr Boniface

The Holy Martyr Boniface was the slave of a rich young Roman woman named Aglaida and he dwelt with her in an iniquitous cohabitation. But they both felt the sting of conscience and they wanted somehow to wash away their sin. And the Lord deigned to grant them the possibility to cleanse away their sin with their blood and to finish their sinful life with repentance. Agaliada learned, that if relics of the holy martyrs be reverently kept in the home, then through their prayers it becomes the easier to receive salvation, since under their graced influence sinfulness is diminished and virtues prevail. She arranged for Boniface to go to the East, where at the time there was a fierce persecution against Christians, and she asked him to bring back the relics of some martyr or other, who would become for them a guide and protector. In making his farewell Boniface laughed and asked: "And what if, lady, I do not find the relics, and instead I myself suffer for Christ, -- wilt thou accept my body with reverence?" Aglaida took his words seriously and she scolded him, that he was setting off on a sacred matter, but he was not taking it seriously. Boniface pondered over her words, and the whole while of the journey he was absorbed in thought.

Having journeyed to Cilicia, to the city of Tarsus, Boniface left his companions at the inn and proceeded to the city square, where they were torturing the Christians. Struck by the beastly horrible torments, and seeing the faces of the holy martyrs radiant with the grace of the Lord, Boniface was drawn to them with sympathy in his heart, and he rushed up to them, kissed their feet and besought their holy prayers, that he also might be found worthy to suffer with them. The judge thereupon asked Boniface, who was he? Boniface answered: "I am a Christian", -- and then refused to make the sacrificial offering to idols. They therewith gave him over to torture: they beat him so hard, that the flesh lay bare the bones, they stuck needles under his nails, and finally they poured molten tin down his throat, but by the power of the Lord he remained unharmed. The people round about the judgement-seat went into an uproar, they began to throw stones at the judge, and then they headed off for the pagan temple, to cast down the idols. On the following morning, when they had quieted down the unrest somewhat, the judge directed that the holy martyr be thrown into a cauldron of boiling tar, but this also caused the sufferer no harm: an Angel come down from Heaven moistened him, and the tar overflowed the cauldron, splattering and burning the torturers themselves. Saint Boniface was then sentenced to beheading by the sword. From his wounds flowed blood and a milky fluid; beholding such a miracle, about 550 men believed in Christ.

Amidst this the companions of Saint Boniface, waiting at the inn for him for two days in vain, began searching around for him, thinking that he had gotten caught up in some frivolous past-time. At first their search was without success, but finally they came across a man, who had been an eyewitness to the martyr's death of the saint. The eyewitness also led them to the place, where lay the decapitated body. The companions of Saint Boniface with tears besought of him forgiveness for their unseemly thoughts about him, and having ransomed for a sizeable sum of money the remains of the martyr, they brought them back to Rome.

On the eve of their arrival an Angel appeared to Aglaida in her sleep and bid her prepare herself to receive her former slave, now his own man and a patron, serving together with the Angels. Aglaida summoned the clergy, with great reverence she received the venerable relics, and then she built on the place of his grave a church in the name of the holy martyr and put there his relics, glorified by numerous miracles. Having distributed to the poor all her wealth, she withdrew to a monastery, where she spent eighteen years in repentance and during her lifetime she acquired the miraculous gift to cast out unclean spirits. She herself was buried nearby to the tomb of the Martyr Boniface.

The Monk Ilya Muromets of Pechersk

The Monk Ilya Muromets of Pechersk, nicknamed "Chobotok" ("Shoemaker" or "Cobbler"), was from the city of Murom, and popular legend identifies him with the famous bogatyr-warrior hero Ilya Muromets, about whom were sung Russian byliny-ballads.

About the Monk Ilya is known, that he died with the fingers of his right hand formed for prayer in the position accepted even today in the Orthodox Church -- the first three fingers together, and the two outermost last fingers contracted into the palm [in contrast to the hand formation in making the sign of the Cross used by the "Old Ritualist" "Staroverie" "Old Believers"]. In the period of the struggle with the Old Ritualist ("Staroobryadnyi") Schism (end XVII - XIX Cent.), this fact from the life of the saint served as a powerful proof in the useage of the present hand formation.

The Martyrs Elias, Probos and Ares

The Martyrs Elias, Probos and Ares, native to Egypt, and heedless of their own safety, served Christians locked up in prison during the time of the persecution of Maximian (305-313). For this they were arrested, subjected to like manner of torture and given over unto death (+ 308).

Sainted Boniface the Merciful, Bishop of Firentium

Sainted Boniface the Merciful, Bishop of Firentium (Florence): [trans. note -- his very name "Bonifacius" in Latin means "good-doer", and hence "merciful"]. From his very childhood he was distinguished by his non-covetousness and love for the poor. On the street when he saw a destitute man, he took his own clothes and gave them away to those in need, to the chagrin of his widowed mother. One time he gave away a year's supply of the bread grain, but the Lord worked a miracle through his prayer, and the granary was again full of grain. Saint Boniface became bishop of the city of Firentium (Florence), situated to the north of Rome (Tuscany region). And even with his lofty position as bishop he remained totally non-covetous and merciful towards people, and wisely he directed his flock, exhorting it to attend to even its least among neighbours.

Sainted Gregory, Bishop of Omiritia

Sainted Gregory, Bishop of Omiritia (Himyaritia), son of Agapius and Theodotia, from his youth was filled with the grace of God and possessed gifts of healing and wonderworking. The Providence of God led him to hierarchical service. While still in the dignity of deacon at Mediolanum (Milan in Italy) he heard the foretelling of his destiny from an hermit-elder, and then he received confirmation of these words from another spirit-bearing schemamonk-elder, who asceticised in the mountains. When Gregory went to the schemamonk for guidance, a miracle occurred: the elder appeared upon a fiery column, and by night he saw him praying above the ground. The elder revealed to Saint Gregory that it was necessary for him, after praying in Rome to Saints Boniface and Aglaida, to proceed on to Alexandria and there accept the dignity of bishop, and thereafter encourage the faith in Christ in the city of Negran, in the Ethiopian empire in Southern Arabia. And so that Gregory should have no doubts as to the veracity of his words, the elder indicated, that to him was known a secret mystery: in a vision there had appeared to Saint Gregory the First-Ranked Apostles Peter and Paul, and they had placed upon him an hierarch's omophorion.

In fulfilling the will of God, having stayed a short while in Carthage (North Africa) serving as a deacon, Saint Gregory arrived in Rome. There once more he was vouchsafed a vision of the holy Apostle Peter while at the tomb of Saints Boniface and Aglaida, who imposed on him an obedience to help the Christians, suffering for the name of the Lord at Negran. And by night he saw in a dream the Apostle Paul carrying to him a cup with oil, foretokening that he should receive the grace accorded an hierarch.

During this time the armies of the Ethiopian emperor Elezboi (Comm. 24 October) vanquished the Himyarite emperor Dunaan, who was of Hebrew lineage, and the Omiritian city of Negran was liberated, and Christianity restored there. But all the Church hierarchy had been cruelly exterminated by Dunaan, and therefore Elezboi dispatched emissaries to the patriarch of Alexandria to send to Negran a bishop and clergy for the churches. After prayers, the holy Disciple Mark appeared in a vision to the patriarch, bidding him to find a deacon Gregory, who was to be ordained to the dignity of presbyter and then to bishop, and then to be sent to Elezboi. And the patriarch did this. During the time of laying-on of hands there appeared over Saint Gregory a special grace of God: his face shone with an unearthly light, and from his garb issued a fragrance of incense.

Arriving in Omiritia, Saint Gregory began to set in order the Christian holy things, and preached truth to both pagans and Jews. Saint Gregory anointed the new emperor Abraham to the throne, who commanded that all his subjects be baptised. Thereupon certain illustrious Jews turned to the emperor with a request, that he should command a debate on faith to be held between then and the Christians, vowing that if in this debate the Christians prove victorious, the Jews would then accept Baptism. After forty days the debate was arranged, so as to last for several days. Saint Gregory refuted all the arguments of the head of the Hebrew elders, rabbi Ervan, using only text references from the Old Testament. In a vision Ervan beheld the holy Prophet Moses, who worshipped the Lord Jesus Christ. The prophet told Ervan, that Ervan was in opposition to the truth and would be defeated. By the grace of God the Christian truth prevailed in the debate, but Ervan in no way wanted to acknowledge himself bested, and he made a last desperate attempt. He boldly said: "If thou desirest that I in my heart should believe in thy Christ, and that I should acknowledge that thy God -- be the True God, -- then show Him to me, bishop!" The saint replied: "Thy request is a major one. It now be not with man that thou dost contend, but with God. But, in order to affirm His faith within the people, the Lord wilt work a sign". In fear and with daring the Christians waited to see, what further would happen. Saint Gregory, having steadfast faith in God and tenaciously trusting on Him, began to pray aloud. He recollected the mystery of the Incarnation of God the Word, the miracles during His earthly life, the Three-day Resurrection and the Ascension up to Heaven, and he invoked the power of the Life-Creating Cross: "Show Thyself, O Lord, -- prayed the saint, -- to the Glory of Thine Holy Name!"

When he finished the prayer, the earth quaked, and in the East the heavens were opened up, and in a radiant cloud, amidst flaming and fiery rays of light the Lord Jesus Christ came down on earth, and thus was heard the Voice of the Lord: "On account of the prayers of bishop Gregory be ye healed of My Crucifixion by your fathers".

Like unto Saul before his becoming Paul, who on the Road to Damascus was struck blind by the Heavenly light, the Jews here were struck blind and they implored the holy bishop to heal them. In receiving holy Baptism, all of them were healed. Rabbi Ervan received the Christian name Leo (meaning "lion").

After this most extraordinary miracle, Saint Gregory guided the Omiritia flock for another thirty years. He reposed in the year 552 and was buried in a crypt of the Great church.

December 20

The PriestMartyr Ignatios the God-Bearer

The PriestMartyr Ignatios the God-Bearer, a native of Syria, was a disciple of the holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian, as was also Sainted Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna (Comm. 23 February). Saint Ignatios was the second bishop of Antioch, and successor to Bishop Evodus, Disciple from amongst the Seventy.

Tradition suggests, that when Saint Ignatios was a little boy, the Saviour hugged him and said: "If ye wilt not turn and be as little children, ye shalt not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven" (Mt. 18: 3). The saint was termed "God-Bearer" since he had the Name of the Saviour in his heart and prayed unceasingly to Him. Saint Ignatios was zealous and spared no efforts for toiling in the fields of Christ. To him is attributed the establishing within church services of antiphonal singing (for two parts or choirs). During time of persecution he was a source of strength to the souls of his flock, and was himself ardent in the wish to suffer for Christ.

In the year 106 the emperor Trajan (98-117), on the occasion of a victory over the Skyths, gave orders to everywhere offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, and put to death any Christians refusing to worship idols. And in the year 107, during the time of a campaign against the Armenians and Parthians, the emperor Trajan happened to pass through Antioch. Here they made denunciation to him that Bishop Ignatios openly confessed Christ, and with this taught to contemn riches, to lead a virtuous life and preserve virginity. At this moment Saint Ignatios himself came voluntarily before the emperor, so as to avert persecution against the Christians in Antioch. The persistent requests of the emperor Trajan were resolutely rejected by Saint Ignatios. The emperor then decided to have him taken away for devouring by wild beasts at Rome. Saint Ignatios joyfully accepted the sentence imposed upon him. His readiness for the deed of martyrdom was attested to by eye-witnesses, accompanying Saint Ignatios from Antioch to Rome.

On the way to Rome, the ship having set out from Seleucia stopped over at Smyrna, where Saint Ignatios met with his friend the Smyrna Bishop Polycarp. Clergy and believers from other cities and towns thronged to Saint Ignatios. Saint Ignatios exhorted everyone not to fear death and not grieve over him. In his Epistle of 24 August 107 to the Roman Christians, he asked them to assist him with their prayers, so as to beseech God to strengthen him in his impending act of martyrdom for Christ: "I seek Him Who hath died for us, I desire Him Who hath risen for us... My love wast crucified, and within me is no fire loving material things, but rather the living water that speaketh within me, from within calling unto me: 'I go unto the Father'".

From Smyrna Saint Ignatios went to the Troiad. Here he met with the happy news about the cessation of persecution against Christians in Antioch. From the Troiad Saint Ignatios sailed to Neapolis (in Macedonia) and then to Philippi.

Along the way to Rome Saint Ignatios visited churches, and gave discourses of teaching and guidance. He also then wrote six epistles: to the Ephesians, to the Magnezians, to the Trallians, to the Philadelphians, and to the Smyrna Bishop Polycarp. All these epistulary letters were preserved and have survived to our present day.

The Roman Christians met Saint Ignatios with great joy and profound sorrow. Certain of them had hopes to persuade the people to give up on making it a bloody spectacle, but Saint Ignatios implored them not to do this. Bending down upon his knees, he prayed together with all the believers for the Church, for love between the brethren and for an end to the persecution against Christians. On the day of a pagan feast, 20 December, they led Saint Ignatios into the circus arena, and he turned to the people: "Men of Rome, ye do know, that I am sentenced to death not because of any wrong-doing, but in love of my One God, by love for Whom I am embraced and unto Whom I do aspire. I am His wheat and by the teeth of wild beasts I shall be grinded, so as for Him to be a pure bread". Right after this the lions were released. Tradition relates that in going to execution, Saint Ignatios unceasingly repeated the Name of Jesus Christ. When they asked him why he was doing this, Saint Ignatios answered, that he carried this Name in his heart, "He that is imprinted in mine heart, is He Whom I confess with my lips". When the saint was torn to pieces, it turned out that his heart was not touched. Having cut open the heart, the pagans beheld within it in gold lettering : "Jesus Christ". On the night after his execution Saint Ignatios appeared to many of the faithful in their sleep to comfort them, and certain of them saw him at prayer.

Hearing about the great courage of the saint, Trajan thought well of him and stopped the persecution against the Christians. The relics of Saint Ignatios were transferred to Antioch (the account about this is located under 29 January), and again at a later time on 1 February were returned with glory and put in the church named for the PriestMartyr Clement, Pope of Rome (91-100).

The Monk Ignatii, Archimandrite of Kievo-Pechersk

In the general service to the Kievo-Pechersk saints, it says of him: "Ignatii, monastic pastor and healer of the sick, in our infirmities thou dost aid us by thine reverence, wherefore let us offer song of praise unto thine memory" (Song 1 of the Canon). He was buried in the Farther (Theodosiev) Caves, and his memory is celebrated together with the Monks of these Farther Caves, on 28 August. The commemoration of the Monk Ignatii was placed under 20 December on the basis of his name-in-common with the PriestMartyr Ignatios the God-Bearer. There is also another commemoration -- in common with the Sobor (Assemblage) of all the Fathers of the Kievo-Pechersk monastery on the 2nd Sunday of Great Lent.

Sainted Philogonios, Bishop of Antioch

Sainted Philogonios, Bishop of Antioch, before his installation upon the bishop's cathedra-seat, was a laywer-advocate, who came forth in defense of the poor, the widowed and the orphaned. When his wife died, they chose him as bishop of Antioch. Distinguished by profound theological knowledge, Saint Philogonios successfully defended Orthodoxy against the Arian heresy and by this prevented unrest in the Church. During the time of persecution against Christians under the emperors Maximian (305-311) and Licinius (307-324), Saint Philogonios proved himself a confessor of the Orthodox faith. He died peacefully in about the year 323. In the year 386 Saint John Chrysostom preached an eulogy to Saint Philogonios.

Sainted Daniel of Serbia

Sainted Daniel of Serbia, the only son of rich and reknown parents, was a close associate of the Serbian king Stefan Urosh Miliutin. Having renounced a secular career, he took monastic vows under the hegumen of a monastery named for Saint Nicholas in the locale of Konchul on the banks of the River Ibro. The ascetic life of the Monk Daniel was an example for all the brethren. The Archbishop of Serbia Evstathii ordained him presbyter and took him into his cell. When it became time to choose the hegumen for the Khilendaria monastery on Holy Mount Athos, Saint Daniel then received the appointment. The saint was hegumen at a most difficult time for the Holy Mount, when the crusaders were expelled from Palestine, and having mingled together with the Arabs, they plundered and looted the Athonite monasteries, "not sparing anything sacred". Saint Daniel bravely dwelt at the Khilendaria monastery, which underwent storming and siege and hunger. When peace came to the Holy Mountain, the saint resigned being hegumen and withdrew into complete silence in the cell of Saint Savva of Serbia (at Karea). During the time of an internecine war of Urosh Miliutin with his brother Stefan Dragutin, the ascetic was summoned to Serbia, where he reconciled the brothers. In his native land Daniel was made Bishop of Bransk and head of the reknown monastery of Saint Stefan -- a royal treasury. Having finished at Bansk the construction of a cathedral church in the name of the holy Disciple and ArchDeacon Stephen, Saint Daniel again returned to his monastic efforts on the Holy Mountain.

The saint was summoned from Athos yet another time in 1325, for his elevation to Archbishop of Serbia, taking place on the feastday of the Elevation of the Cross of the Lord. The "protos" ("head") of the Holy Mountain, Garbasios, and other Athonite elders took part in the solemnities. Archbishop Daniel was a model of piety, and a wise archpastor. Complete non-covetousness, incessant concern and toil for the needs of the Church and the flock along with the appearance of holy temples distinguished his service as bishop. In 1335 at Dechakh the saint erected a church in honour of the Ascension of the Lord -- one of the finest Christian monuments in Serbia. Having gathered accounts about the Serbian past, the saint compiled the "Rodoslov" (Account about the Native-land"), writing about the lives of Serbian rulers and Serbian archpastors. Sainted Daniel even during his lifetime was granted the gift of wonderworking and healing. After fourteen years as archbishop, Saint Daniel expired to the Lord on 19 December 1338.

The Holy Martyr the Lad John

The Holy Martyr the Lad John was born on the island of Paphos in the village of Mariesa. In his youth he was seized by the Turks and accused of offending Mahometanism. They tried to force him to accept Islam, but he would not agree to renouncing the Christian faith, for which he was beheaded at Constantinople at a mere 13 years of age in the year 1652.

December 21

The Holy Martyress Juliania

The Holy Martyress Juliania, daughter of an illustrious pagan named Africanus, was born in the city of Nicomedia. In her adolescent years she was betrothed to a certain Eleusios. Saint Juliania was endowed with a profound intellect and an inclination to goodness of soul, and she saw through the delusion and deception of the pagan faith. She secretly accepted holy Baptism. When the time of the wedding approached, Juliania resolutely refused to be married. Her father began to urge her not to break the long engagement but, not getting his wish, he began to beat her viciously. Then Africanus handed his daughter over to the magistrate of the city, -- which was that very Eleusios, the former fiancee of Juliania. Eleusios heatedly asked Juliania to marry him, promising not to require of her a change of faith. Saint Juliania refused and preferred the torture. They beat the saint both long and harshly, but after each beating she received from God healing and new strength. Her beating was done before a large number of people. Of these, 500 men and 150 women came to confess Christ -- having witnessed the steadfastness and courage of the holy virgin miraculously healed from her wounds. They were beheaded, having been baptised in their own blood. Convinced finally of his own hopeless attempt to tear the holy virgin away from her Heavenly Bridegroom, Eleusios sentenced Juliania to death. She accepted the sentence with joy and glorified the Lord for permitting her to receive a martyr's crown. The execution of the holy Martyress Juliania was done in the year 304.

Sainted Peter, Metropolitan of Moscow

Sainted Peter, Metropolitan of Moscow, was born in Volhynia of the pious parents Feodor and Evpraksia. Even before the birth of her son, the Lord revealed to Evpraksia the blessed pre-chosenness of her son. At 12 years of age, young Peter entered a monastery. He successfully studied the book sciences of those times and eagerly fulfilled his monastic obediences. The future saint devoted much time to an attentive study of the Holy Scriptures and he learned iconography. The icons, written by the Monk Peter, were distributed to the brethren and to Christians visiting the monastery. Because of his virtuous and ascetic life, the hegumen of the monastery had the Monk Peter ordained to the dignity of priestmonk. After some number of years of ascetic deeds at the monastery, the priestmonk Peter, having gained the blessing of the hegumen, left the monastery in search of a solitary place. At the Rata River he made a cell and began to pursue asceticism in silence. Afterwards at this place of his ascetic exploits was formed a monastery, called the Novodvorsk. A church in the Name of the Saviour was built for the arriving monks. Chosen as hegumen, Saint Peter guided his spiritual children, never becoming angry with a guilty monk, but rather by word and by example he instructed the brethren. The virtuous hegumen and ascetic became known far beyond the bounds of the monastery. The prince of Galich Yuri L'vovich came frequently to the monastery to hear spiritual guidance from the holy ascetic.

One time the Vladimir Metropolitan Maxim visited the monastery, in his travels through the Russian land with words of instruction and edification. Having received the Saint Maxim's blessing, Saint Peter offered him as a gift in return an image written by him of the Uspenie (Dormition) of the MostHoly Mother of God -- before which Saint Maxim until the end of his days prayed for the salvation of the Russian land entrusted him by God.

When Metropolitan Maxim died, the Vladimir cathedra-chair remained for a certain time unoccupied. The Greatprince of Vladimir, -- at this time it was Saint Michael of Tver (Comm. 22 November), -- dispatched to the Patriarch of Constantinople his chosen like-minded associate the hegumen Gerontii with a petition that he be elevated to Metropolitan of Russia.

On the suggestion of the Galich prince Yuri, hegumen Peter also set out to the Constantinople Patriarch for consideration to the hierarch cathedra. God chose Saint Peter for the nourishing of the Russian Church. The Mother of God appeared to Gerontii, sailing amidst the Black Sea by night during a storm, and said: "In vain dost thou endeavour, the hierarchical dignity is not allotted thee. That one, who hath written Me [upon icon], the Rata hegumen Peter, shalt be elevated to the throne of the Russian metropolitan". The words of the Mother of God were fulfilled in full: the Patriarch of Constantinople Athanasias (1289-1293) with a council elevated Saint Peter to Russian metropolitan, bestowing upon him the hierarchical vestments, staff and icon, brought by Gerontii. Upon his return to Russia in 1308, Metropolitan Peter after the course of a year arrived at Kiev, and then proceeded on to Vladimir.

The chief hierarch was tested by many trials during his first years of guiding the Russian metropolitanate. In its suffering beneath the Tatar (Mongol) Yoke the Russian land was in turmoil, and Saint Peter was obliged often to change the place of his residence. During this period particularly important were the labours and concerns of the saint to affirm the true faith and morality in the realm. During this time of constant journeying throughout the diocese he incessantly instructed the people and clergy about strict preservation of Christian piety. The quarrelsome princes he summoned to love of peace and unity.

In the year 1312 the saint made a journey to the Horde, where he received from khan Uzbek an edict, guarding the rights of Russian clergy.

In 1325 Metropolitan Peter, at the request of Greatprince Ivan Kalita (1328-1340), transferred the metropolitan cathedra-chair from Vladimir to Moscow. This event had very great significance for all the Russian land. Saint Peter prophetically predicted deliverance from the Tatar Yoke and the future emergence of Moscow as the centre of all Russia.

By his blessing, in August 1326 in the Moscow Kremlin was put down the foundation of the cathedral in honour of the Uspenie (Dormition) of the MostHoly Mother of God. This was a profoundly symbolic blessing by the chief-hierarch of the Russian land. On 21 December 1326 Saint Peter expired to God. The holy body of the saint was buried in the Uspensk cathedral in a stone crypt, which he himself had prepared. Many miracles were done through the prayers of the saint. Many healings even were done secretly, which testifies to the deep humility of the saint even after death. The deep veneration of the Chief-hierarch of the Russian Church was affirmed and spread throughout all the Russian land. In 1339, 13 years later under Sainted Theognost (Comm. 14 March), Saint Peter was enumerated to the ranks of the saints. And at the tomb of the saint, princes kissed the cross as a symbol of fidelity to the Greatprince of Moscow. As a particularly venerated protector of Moscow, Saint Peter was called on in witness in the drawing up of government treaties. The Novgorod people, formerly having the right to choose their own bishop of Saint Sophia, after their annexation to Moscow under Ivan III, gave promise with an oath to establish their archbishops only at the grave of Sainted Peter the Wonderworker. And it was at the grave of the saint that Russian chief-hierarchs were named and chosen.

The Russian chronicles make mention about him constantly, and no significant state undertaking was initiated without prayer at the grave of Saint Peter. In 1472 and 1479 was made a transfer of the relics of Saint Peter. In memory of these events feastdays were established for 5 October and 24 August.

Nobleborn Juliania, Princess of Vyazemsk and Novotorzh

Nobleborn Juliania, Princess of Vyazemsk and Novotorzh, a daughter of the boyar-noble Maksim Danilov, was glorified by a deep marital prudence. Her spouse, the Vyazemsk prince Simeon Mstislavich, and also the Smolemsk prince Yuri Svyatoslavich, were compelled to flee their native lands, which the Lithuanian prince Vitovt had seized. Then the Moscow prince Vasilii Dimitrovich bestowed the exiled princes the Tver city of Torzhok. Prince Yuri Svyatoslavich became captivated by the beauty of Juliania and tried every which way to persuade her to adultery, but Juliania strictly kept her marital fidelity. One time during a feast, prince Yuri killed the husband of Juliania, in the hope of taking her by force. Saint Juliania resisted the ravisher. The enraged prince Yuri gave orders to cut off her hands and feet, and to throw her body into the Tvertsa River. The martyrdom of Saint Juliania was done in the winter of 1406. From pricks of conscience prince Yuri fled to the Tatars, but even there he did not find peace. He then settled in the Ryazan wilderness (where also he died in 1408). In the spring of 1406 they saw the body of the blessed princess floating in the far current. A certain paralytic heard a voice from above, commanding to bury the body of Saint Juliania at the south gate of the cathedral in Torzhok. A tomb with the body was afterwards built at the Saviour-Transfiguration cathedral, where many received healing from her. In connection with the glorification of Saint Juliania on 2 June 1819 was built a chapel at the right-hand side, dedicated to her name. At the cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Lord, where earlier there was a chapel over the grave of the saint, a church was built and also dedicated to the name of Saint Juliania in 1906.

Blessed Prokopii, Fool-for-Christ, of Vyatsk

Blessed Prokopii, Fool-for-Christ, of Vyatsk, was the son of pious peasants. When Prokopii reached age 20, they wanted him to marry, but he secretly went off to the city of Khlyn and took upon himself the feat of foolishness. The fool-for-Christ endured hunger, cold, mocking and insults. The Lord glorified him with the gift of perspicacity. Blessed Prokopii died in his 49th year from birth in the year 1627.

The Holy Martyr Themistokles

The Holy Martyr Themistokles lived in the city of Lycian Myra during the reign of the persecutor of Christians, Decius (249-251). Themistokles was a shepherd. During the time of persecution he concealed within his home a certain Christian named Dioskorides, while he himself went out to the pursuers. They tortured him cruelly, and he accepted a martyr's crown for Christ in the year 251.

December 22

The GreatMartyr Anastasia the Alleviatrix-of-Captives

The GreatMartyr Anastasia the Alleviatrix-of-Captives (Uzoreshitel'nitsa), a Roman by birth, suffered for Christ during the time of the persecution against Christians under Diocletian. Her father was a pagan, her mother -- secretly a Christian. The teacher of Saint Anastasia in her youth was an educated and pious Christian named Chrisogenes. After the death of her mother, her father gave Saint Anastasia in marriage to a pagan named Pomplius, but under the pretext of a contrived illness, she preserved her virginity.

Clothing herself in the garb of a beggar, and accompanied by only one servant, she visited the prisons: she fed, doctored and often ransomed captives that were suffering for their faith in Christ. When her servant told Pomplius about everything, he subjected his wife to a beating and locked her up at home. Saint Anastasia then began secretly to correspond with Chrisogenes, who bid the saint to be patient, to conform all thoughts to the Cross of Christ and prepare herself to serve the Lord; he foretold also the impending perishing of Pomplius in the sea. And after a certain while Pomplius did indeed drown, having set out with a delegation to Persia. After the death of her husband, Saint Anastasia began generously to distribute her property to the poor and suffering.

A report was made to Diocletian that the Christians, who filled the prisons of Rome, stoically endured the tortures. He thereupon gave orders in a single night to kill them all, and for Chrisogenes to be dispatched to him at Aquileia. Saint Anastasia followed her teacher at a distance.

The emperor personally interrogated Chrisogenes, but being unable to incline him to a renunciation of faith, the emperor then gave command for him to be beheaded and thrown into the sea. The body and severed head of the holy martyr were carried by the waves to shore. There by a Divine prompting they were found by a certain presbyter named Zoilus who, having put them within a coffin, concealed them at his home. Chrisogenes appeared to Zoilus and informed him that martyrdom was near for Agapia, Chiona and Irene -- youthful Christians living not far away, and bid him to send Saint Anastasia to them. For Zoilus himself, Chrisogenes foretold a quick and peaceful death. Chrisogenes likewise in a vision guided Saint Anastasia's path to Zoilus. Having come to the presbyter, she prayed at the relics of Saint Chrisogenes, and afterwards she spiritually strengthened the three maidens before their tortures. When these three martyrs gave up their souls to the Lord, she herself buried them.

Having carried out the bequest of her teacher, the saint began her wanders. And having gained proficiency in the medical arts of the time, she zealously cared for captives far and wide. Through her exploits, Saint Anastasia earned for herself the name Aleviatrix-of-Captives (Uzoreshitel'nitsa), since by her many efforts she delivered from agony of long-time suffering many a confessor of the Name of Christ.

One time she made the acquaintance of the pious young widow Theodotia and found in her a faithful helper. Both soon suffered persecution. They arrested Saint Anastasia when she was in Illyria. This occurred just after all the Christian captives there had been murdered in a single night by order of Diocletian. Saint Anastasia had come to one of the prisons, and finding no one there, she began to weep loudly. The jailers realised that she was a Christian and led her off to the governor of the district, who tried to persuade the saint to recant Christ by threatening torture.He then handed her over to the Capitolian pagan-priest Ulpian. The cunning pagan offered Saint Anastasia the choice between luxury and riches, or grievous sufferings. He set before her on the one side gold, precious stones and clothing, but on the other side -- fearsome tools of torture. The pagan guile was put to shame by the bride of Christ -- Saint Anastasia refused the riches and chose the tools of torture. But the Lord prolonged the course of the earthly deeds of the saint. Charmed by the beauty of Anastasia, the pagan-priest decided to profane her purity, but during his first yearnings to touch her he suddenly became blind. Losing his wits under this affliction, he dashed to run off to a pagan temple to appeal to the idols for help, but along the way he fell down and died. Saint Anastasia was set free and together with Theodotia she again devoted herself to the care of imprisoned Christians. Before long, Saint Theodotia and her three sons accepted a martyr's death. Her eldest son, Evodus, stood bravely before the judge and without protest endured beatings. After lengthy torture, they threw all of them into a red-hot oven.

Saint Anastasia was caught again and condemned to death by starvation. She stayed in prison without food for 60 days. Saint Theodotia appeared to the martyr every night and gave her courage. Having seen that hunger caused Saint Anastasia no harm whatsoever, the judge sentenced her to drowning together with condemned criminals. Among these people also was Eutykhian, condemned for his Christian faith.

When the ship went out into the open sea, the soldiers bored holes in it and transferred themselves into a boat. Saint Theodotia appeared to the captives and commanded the ship to shore. Having come to dry land and being saved by the miracle, the 120 men believed in Christ and were baptised by Saints Anastasia and Eutykhian. All were soon captured and given over to a martyr's death. They stretched Saint Anastasia between four posts cross-shaped over a red-hot bon-fire. A certain pious woman Apollinaria buried in a garden her body, unharmed by the fire. In the V Century the relics of Saint Anastasia were transferred to Constantinople, where a church in her name was built. They later transferred the head and an hand of the GreatMartyress to the monastery of Saint Anastasia Uzoreshitel'nitsa (Alleviatrix-of-Captives), located near holy Mount Athos.

December 23

The Ten Holy Martyrs of Crete: Theodulus, Satorninus, Euporus, Gelasius, Eunician, Zoticus, Pompius, Agathopus, Basilides and Evarestus

The Ten Holy Martyrs of Crete: Theodulus, Satorninus, Euporus, Gelasius, Eunician, Zoticus, Pompius, Agathopus, Basilides and Evarestus suffered for Christ during the III Century under the emperor Decius (249-251). The governor of Crete, named Decius just like the emperor, fiercely persecuted the Cretan Church. One time there were brought before him 10 Christians from various cities of Crete, who at the trial steadfastly confessed their faith in Christ and refused to worship idols. Over the course of 30 days they were subjected to cruel tortures, and with the help of God they all persevered, glorifying God. Before their death they prayed, that the Lord would enlighten their torturers with the light of the true faith. All the saints were beheaded.

Sainted Theoktist, Archbishop of Novgorod

Sainted Theoktist, Archbishop of Novgorod, prior to taking the cathedra-seat, was hegumen of the Annunciation monastery near Novgorod. After the death of archbishop Clement in the year 1300, the Novgorod people chose him as their Vladyka, and metropolitan Maxim with the Russian bishops Simeon of Rostov and Andrew of Tver ordained Saint Theoktist as bishop of Novgorod. A chief concern of Vladyka Theoktist was the renovation and building of churches. He himself consecrated cathedrals in the name of Saints Boris and Gleb and in the name of the Holy Fathers of the First OEcumenical Council. Under him was set in good order the monastery at Valaamo. In the year 1307, because of poor health, the saint withdrew to the Annunciation monastery, where he dwelt right up to his death, devoting himself to the ascetic deed of silence. The glorification of Saint Theoktist, owing to miraculous healings by his relics, was made in the year 1664. In 1786 the relics of the saint were transferred to Yur'ev, where archimandrite Photii constructed at the local cathedral a chapel in his honour.

The Monk Nyphontos, Bishop of Cyprus

The Monk Nyphontos, Bishop of Cyprus, was born in Paphlagonia, and received his education at Constantinople. In childhood he was gentle and good, and he often attended church services. But in his youth he began to lead a prodigal and sinful life. He sometimes came to his senses, and he was horrified by the extent of his fallenness; but reckoning that he could not receive forgiveness, he resumed with his impious life. He one time came upon a friend, who gazed into his face for a long time with astonishment. To the question of Nyphontos as to what he was looking at, the friend replied: "I never before saw thy face so, for it is black, like that of an AEthiopian". These words showed to Nyphontos the extent of his fallenness, and he began to cry out to the Mother of God, begging Her intercession.

After an intense and long prayer he saw, that the Face of the Mother of God on the holy icon was radiantly bright with a smile.

From that time Nyphontos prayed incessantly to the Queen of Heaven. If he fell into sin, the Face of the Mother of God turned away from him, but after penitential tears and prayers again mercifully turned towards him. Finally, Nyphontos completely turned his life around and began to spend his time in prayer and penitence. After an illness, from which he received healing from the Mother of God, he communed the Holy Mysteries, and then accepted monastic tonsure and intensified his efforts, exhausting his body in the struggle against the passions.

This struggle was one of many years, and many a time devils assaulted Saint Nyphontos, but with the help of God he overcame them. He received from God the gift to discern evil spirits and defeat them, and likewise to see the departure of the soul after death. Already up in age, and arriving at Alexandria, he was pointed out to the Patriarch in a vision as one worthy to assume the dignity of bishop. They made him bishop of the city of Constancia on the island of Cyprus. However, he did not remain there a bishop for long. Saint Nyphontos learned about the time of his day three days beforehand. Saint Athanasias the Great visited him before his death. At the deathbed the saint was granted to see Angels and the All-Pure Mother of God.

The Monk Paul, Bishop of Neocaesarea

The Monk Paul, Bishop of Neocaesarea, suffered under the emperor Licinius (307-324). At trial having firmly confessed his faith, Saint Paul was subjected to beatings. They tortured him also with hunger, but he remained steadfast. Then they scorched his hands with red-hot iron and locked him away in a prison, situated at the banks of the Euphrates. After the execution of Licinius in the year 324, when the Emperor Saint Constantine I became the sole sovereign ruler of the Roman empire, and Christians sitting in prison received their freedom, holy Bishop Paul returned to his flock. He was a participant at the First OEcmenical Council at Nicea, convened in the year 325, at which the Arian heresy was condemned and the Symbol-Creed of Faith adopted. At the end of the Council, the Emperor Constantine solemnly received the Council participants and kissed the burnt hand of Saint Paul. After long years of guiding his flock, Saint Paul peacefully expired to God.

December 24

The Monastic-Martyress Eugenia

The Monastic-Martyress Eugenia, by birth a Roman, lived at Alexandria, where her father, Philip, was sent by the emperor Commodus (180-192) in the capacity of governor of Egypt. Eugenia received a fine upbringing and was noted for her good disposition and beauty. Many an illustrious youth sought her hand, but she did not wish to enter into marriage. And having become acquainted with the Epistles of the Apostle Paul, she yearned with all her soul to become a Christian and so in secret from her parents, in the company of her two servants Protus and Hyacinthus, attired in men's garb, she set out to a men's monastery. There together with her servants and companions she accepted holy Baptism from bishop Elias, who learned about her in a vision, and he gave blessing for her to pursue asceticism at the monastery as the monk Eugene.

By her ascetic feats Saint Eugenia acquired the gift of healing. One time a rich young woman named Melania turned to her for help. Seeing what before her seemed a young monk, this woman burned with an impure passion, and upon being spurned, she contrived a slander about a forcible attempt. Saint Eugenia came to trial before the governor of Egypt, i.e. her father, and she was forced to reveal her secret. Her parents were exuberant, finding before them one over whom they had long grieved. After a certain while they all accepted holy Baptism. But Philip, upon the denunciation of pagans, was displaced from the post of governor. The Alexandrian Christians chose him as their bishop. The new governor, fearing the wrath of the people, did not dare openly to execute Philip, but instead dispatched assassins. During the time of solitary prayer of Saint Philip, they inflicted wounds upon him, from which he died three days later as a martyr.

Having thus become widowed, Saint Claudia and her daughter and servants set out to her estates, situated near Rome. There Eugenia continued with monastic life. She brought many young women to Christ, and Claudia built a wanderers hostel and aided the widowed. After the course of several peaceful years, the emperor Galienus (260-268) began anew the persecution against Christians, and many of them found refuge with Saints Claudia and Eugenia. During these times a young Roman girl, named Vacilla, orphaned and of imperial lineage, heard about the Christians and Saint Eugenia, and wanting to meet the saint she wrote her a letter. In answer, Saint Eugenia sent her friends and co-ascetics, Protus and Hyacinthus, who enlightened Vacilla, and she accepted holy Baptism. The servant of Vacilla then told her fiancee Pompei, that his fiancee had become a Christian, and Pompei made complaint to the emperor against the Christians for preaching celibacy. Summoned to answer, Vacilla refused to enter into marriage with Pompei, and for this they killed her with a sword. They dragged Saints Protus and Hyacinthus into an idolous temple for making them sacrifice, but just as they entered therein, the idol fell down and was shattered. The holy Martyrs Protus and Hyacinthus were beheaded. They likewise by force brought Saint Eugenia to the temple of Diana, but she did not even enter it, when all the pagan temple with its idol collapsed. They threw the holy martyress into the Tiber with a stone about her neck, but the stone plunged downwards and she remained unharmed. She remained unharmed also in fire. Then they cast her into a pit, where she remained for 10 days. During this time the Saviour Himself appeared to her and announced, that she would enter into the Heavenly Kingdom on the day of the Nativity of Christ. When this radiant feastday was come in the year 262, the executioner killed the holy martyress with a sword. Saint Claudia soon also received a martyr's crown. Saint Eugenia had told her beforehand about her day of death.

The Monk Nicholas the Monastic

The Monk Nicholas the Monastic was a military commander under the Byzantine emperor Nicephorus I (802-811). He was sent off into a war with the Bulgars. On the eve of battle he was subjected to temptation from a certain woman, but manfully he resisted it. In the blood-spilling of the battle all his comrades perished, but Nicholas remained alive. It was revealed to him in a vision, that his life was spared because he had overcome temptation. After this Blessed Nicholas left the world, settled into a cave, became a schema-monk and prayed unceasingly for soldiers, the fallen and killed. By his great ascetic efforts he so pleased the Lord, that he was granted the gift of perspicacity.

December 25

The Nativity (Rozhdestvo) of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ

The Nativity (Rozhdestvo) of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, was born of the MostHoly Virgin Mary in the city of Bethlehem during the reign of the emperor Augustus (Octavian). Caesar Augustus decreed that an universal census be made throughout all his empire, which then also included Palestinian Israel. The Jews were accustomed to carry out the nation's census-taking according to ancestral-origins, tribes and family-relations. Every ancestral-origin and family-relation had its own designated city as its place of ancestry. The MostBlessed Virgin Mary and Righteous Joseph, descended from the family line of King David, had to go to Bethlehem (the city of David), to register their names on the census-list of Caesar's subjects. At Bethlehem they did not find a single place vacant at any of the city's inns. In the celebrated cave, used as a stable, amidst the hay and the straw, strewn about as food and bedding for the cattle, far from the hearth of home, amidst people that were total strangers, on the cold winter night, and in a setting deprived not only of worldly grandeur but even of the basic amenities -- was born the God-Man, the Saviour of the world. "I behold a strange and most glorious mystery, -- with awe sings Holy Church, -- Heaven -- the Cave; the Throne of the Cherubim -- the Virgin; the Manger -- the Crib, in which lay the placeless Christ God" (Irmos in 9th Ode of the Festal Canon). Without defilement having given birth to the Divine Infant the MostHoly Virgin, Herself without help from strangers, "wraps Him in swaddling cloths and places Him in the manger" (Lk. 2). But amidst the midnight stillness, when all mankind was shrouded in its deepest sinful sleep, the proclaiming of the Birth of the Saviour of the world was heard by shepherds, watching their flocks by night. And the Angel of the Lord came before them and said: "Fear not, for lo I proclaim ye tidings of great joy, which shalt be for all people, for this day is born unto you the Saviour, Which be Christ the Lord in the city of David". The humble shepherds were the first deemed worthy to offer worship for the salvation of mankind unto He That hath condescended to "the image of an humble servant". Besides the Angelic glad tidings to the Bethlehem shepherds, the Nativity of Christ by means of a wondrous star was made known to Magi "knowing the stars", and in the person of these Eastern wise-men all the pagan world, imperceptibly -- bent down upon its knees before the true Saviour of the world, the God-Man. Entering wherein the Infant lay, the wise-men Magi -- "falling down they worshipped Him, and opening their treasure they presented Him gifts: gold and frankincense and myrh" (Mt. 2: 11).

In remembrance of the Nativity in the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, the feastday was established by the Church. Its very origin is related to the times of the Apostles. In the Apostolic Constitutions it says: "Brethren, observe the feastdays, and among the chief such the day of the Birth of Christ, which make ye celebration of on the 25th day of the tenth month" (from March, which in those days began the year). There also in another place it said: "Celebrate ye the day of the Nativity of Christ, in the which unseen grace is given man by the birth of the Word of God from the Virgin Mary for the salvation of the world".

In the II Century also Sainted Clement of Alexandria indicates that the day of the Nativity of Christ is 25 December. In the III Century as before Saint Hypolitus of Rome makes mention concerning the feastday of the Nativity of Christ, and designates the Gospel readings for this day from the beginning chapters of Saint Matthew. It is known also, that during the time of persecution of Christians by Maximian in the year 302, Nicomedia Christians numbering 20,000 were burned in church on the very feastday of the Nativity of Christ (Comm. 28 December). In that same century, but later on after the persecution when the Church had received freedom of religion and had become the official religion in the Roman empire, we find the feastday of the Nativity of Christ observed throughout all the Universal Church. And this is evidenced from the works of saint Ephrem the Syrian, Sainted Basil the great, Sainted Gregory the Theologian, Sainted Gregory of Nyssa, Sainted Ambrose of Milan, Sainted John Chrysostom and other fathers of the Church of the IV Century concerning this feastday. Saint John Chrysostom, in his sermon which he gave in the year 385, points out that the feast of the Nativity of Christ is ancient and indeed very ancient. In this same century also at the place of the Bethlehem Cave, made famous by the Birth of Jesus Christ, the Equal-to-the-Apostles empress Helen erected a church, which her mighty son Constantine strove after her to make resplendid. In the Codex of the emperor Theodosius from 438, and of the emperor Justinian -- in 535, is promulgated as law the universal celebration of the day of the Nativity of Christ. It is in this sense, truly, that Nicephoros Kallistos, a writer of the XIV Century, says in his history that the emperor Justinian in the VI Century established the celebration of the Nativity of Christ throughout all the world.

In the V Century the Patriarch of Constantinople Anatolios, in the VII -- Sophronios and Andrew of Jerusalem, in the VIII -- Saints John of Damascus, Cosma of Maium and the Patriarch of Tsar'grad Germanos, in the IX -- the Nun Cassia and others of names unknown, all these wrote for the feast of the Nativity of Christ many sacred hymns, used at present by the Church to the glory of this radiant festal event.

However, during the first three centuries, when persecutions hindered the freedom of Christian Divine-services, in certain places in the East -- in the Churches of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria and Cyprus -- the feastday of the Nativity of Christ was combined together with the feastday of the Baptism of Christ on 6 January, under the in-common term "Theophany" ["Bogoyavlenie" -- which both in the Greek and the Slavonic means "Manifestation of God"]. The reason for this, actually, was from the view, that Christ was baptised at a later time on His birthday, as might be inferred concerning this from the discourse of Saint John Chrysostom who, in one of his sermons on the Nativity of Christ, says: "it is not that day on which Christ was born which is called Theophany, but rather that day on which He was baptised". Towards suchlike a viewpoint also it is possible to consider a nuance in the words of the Evangelist Luke who, speaking about the Baptism of Jesus Christ, testifies, that then "Jesus being incipient [incipiens, arkhomenos] upon His thirtieth year" (Lk. 3:23). The celebration of the Nativity of Christ conjointly with Theophany in certain of the Eastern Churches continued to the end of the IV Century, and in some -- until the V or even the VI Century. Remembrance of the ancient conjoining of the feasts of the Nativity of Christ and Theophany at present enters into the making of the order of services in the celebration of these feasts. For both -- on the eve-day preceding the feast, there is a similar tradition among the people, that on the festal eve-days the fast ought to be kept until the stars appear. The order of Divine-services on the eve of both feastdays and the feastdays themselves is done the same.

The day of the Nativity of Christ from of old was numbered by the Church among the Twelve Great Feasts, -- in accord with the Divine witness of the Gospel in depicting these festal events as the greatest, most all-joyful and wondrous. "Behold, I proclaim unto you glad tidings, -- said the Angel to the Bethlehem shepherds, -- of great joy, for all mankind. For unto you this day is born the Saviour, Who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this for ye is the sign: ye will find the Infant wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger. Then suddenly with the Angel was a multitude of the heavenly hosts, glorifying God and saying: Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, good-will to mankind. Those hearing of this were awestruck at the sayings of the shepherds concerning this Child. And the shepherds themselves returned back, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen" (Lk. 2: 10-20). Thus the Nativity of Christ, as an event most profound and extraordinary, was accompanied by the wondrous tidings to the shepherds and the Magi about the universal rejoicing for all mankind, -- "for the Saviour is Born!", by the Angelic proclamation of glory to the new-born Saviour, by the worship to him by shepherds and wise-men, by the reverent awe of many, hearkening to the words of the shepherds about the new-born Child, amidst glory and praise of Him by the Shepherds.

In accord with the Divine witness of the Gospel, the fathers of the Church in their God-imbued writings also depict the feast of the Nativity of Christ as most profound, universal and all-joyous, which serves as a basis and foundation for all the other feastdays.

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

December 26

The Sobor-Assemblage of the MostHoly Mother of God

On the day after the Nativity of Christ is celebrated the Sobor-Assemblage of the MostHoly Mother of God, commemorating together with Her also Saint Joseph the Betrothed, King David (an ancestor by flesh of the Lord Jesus Christ), and Saint James the Brother of the Lord, a son of the first marriage of Saint Joseph the Betrothed. Saint James accompanied his father Joseph and the Mother of God and the Divine-Infant Jesus on the Flight into Egypt.

Saint Joseph the Betrothed

Saint Joseph the Betrothed was descended from the lineage of King David. In his first marriage, he had four sons and two daughters. Having become a widower, Saint Joseph led a life of strict temperance. As an eighty year old elder Saint Joseph was chosen by the high-priests as a protector of the virginity of the MostHoly Mother of God, Who had taken a vow of virginity. An Angel announced to him about the Incarnation through Her of the Son of God. Saint Joseph was present during the worship of the NewBorn Divine-Infant by the shepherds, and also by the Magi. On the orders of the Angel he fled with the Mother of God and the God-Infant Jesus into Egypt, saving them from the wrath of king Herod. In Egypt he lived with the Virgin Mary and the God-Infant, earning his livelihood by work as a carpenter. Saint Joseph died at about one hundred years old (a 2nd Commemoration of Saint Joseph is on the Sunday of the Holy ForeFathers).

The Holy King and Prophet David

The Holy King and Prophet David was a forefather by flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ. The youngest son of Jesse, in his youth David shepherded a flock of sheep that belonged to his father. He was distinguished by his deep faith, and he zealously fulfilled the will of God. Thus, during the time of an invasion of the Philistines he vanquished in single combat the giant Goliath, which decided the outcome of the war in favour of the Israelite people. Having endured many wrongs from king Saul, who saw him as a favorite of the people and his rival also, David displayed his own decency and magnanimity. Twice having had the possibility to kill Saul, he did not. After Saul and his son perished, David was proclaimed king of the southern part of the Israelite realm, and after the killing of the second son of Saul, -- he became king of all Israel. He built a new capital -- Jerusalem ("the City of Peace"), and in it -- a new tabernacle; his great wish to build together with the tabernacle a temple was not realised. It was predicted to him, that his son would build the temple. The life of the Prophet David was darkened by a grievous falling: he took for himself the wife of Uriah, and Uriah himself he sent to his death in battle. But he also gave example of great repentance, humbly and with faith bearing to the uttermost the sorrows, sent in punishment for the sins committed. Saint David gave a model for repentance in Psalm 50 [51]. King David died in extreme old age with steadfast faith of the coming into the world of the promised Divine Redeemer -- the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ. In Divine-services and personal prayers his Divinely-inspired "Psalter" is widely used. (The Biblical Books of Kings and Chronicles tell about him).

The Holy Apostle James, Brother of the Lord

The Holy Apostle James, Brother of the Lord, was the eldest son of Joseph the Betrothed from his first marriage with Solomonia. The Apostle James is remembered in the holy days after the feast of the Nativity of Christ together with his father Joseph and the Prophet King David, since by tradition, he accompanied the Holy Family during the Flight into Egypt and dwelt there together with the God-Infant Jesus, the Mother of God and Joseph, helping them, and he returned with them to Israel. After the Ascension of the Lord, Saint James was the first bishop of Jerusalem, gaining the great esteem not only of Christians, but also among Jews. He accepted a martyr's death for Christ: they threw him off from the roof of the Jerusalem Temple since he had publicly preached to the people about the God-manhood of the Lord Jesus Christ (a 2nd Commemoration of the Apostle James is 23 October).

The PriestMartyr Euthymios, Bishop of Sardica

The PriestMartyr Euthymios, Bishop of Sardica, during the period of the reign of the Byzantine emperor Constantine Porphyrigenitos (780-797) and the empress Irene (797-802), was chosen bishop of Sardica because of his virtuous life. He was also present at the Seventh OEcumenical Council (787), at which he denounced the Iconoclast heresy. When the Iconoclast emperor Nicephoros I (802-811) came to rule, Saint Euthymios together with other Orthodox hierarchs was banished to the island of Patalareia, where he languished for a long time. Recalled from exile by the emperor Leo V (813-820), the bishop again boldly entered into denunciation of the Iconoclast heresy, and they again sent him into exile to the city of Assia. The next emperor -- Michael II the Stutterer (820-829) again demanded that he renounce icon-veneration, but without success. Then the holy martyr was subjected to flogging and banished for a third time, to the island of Crete. Michael was succeeded on the throne by the Iconoclast emperor Theophilos (829-842), upon whose order Saint Euthymios was subjected to cruel tortures: they stretched him on four poles and beat at him with ox thongs. Saint Euthymios reposed to the Lord several days after the torture.

The Monk Constantine of Synada

The Monk Constantine of Synada, a native of the city of Synada and by descent Jewish, from the time of his youth he felt an inclination towards the Christian faith. An attentive attitude to the teachings of Christ set aflame his heart, and in his early youth he left his parents to become a monastic. He was baptised with the name Constantine and took monastic tonsure. When they brought him the holy cross, he kissed it with love and placed it to his head. The image of the holy cross impressed itself upon him throughout all his life. Having spent his God-pleasing life in strict asceticism, Saint Constantine peacefully reposed to God.

The Monk Euarestes

The Monk Euarestes, a native of Galatia, was the son of illustrious parents. From his youth he yearned for the monastic life, and in particular he loved to read the books of Saint Ephrem the Syrian. Having settled into the Studite monastery, he pursued asceticism in strict fasting, vigil and prayer, wearing iron chains. He reposed peacefully to God at age 75 in the year 825.

December 27

The Holy Disciple (from the Seventy) First-Martyr and ArchDeacon Stephen

The Holy Disciple (from the Seventy) First-Martyr and ArchDeacon Stephen was the eldest among the Seven Deacons, established by the Apostles themselves, and therefore he is called "archdeacon". He was the Christian First-Martyr, and he suffered for Christ at about age 30. In the words of Asterias, he was "the starting-point of the martyrs, the instructor of suffering for Christ, the foundation of righteous confession, in that Stephen was first to shed his blood for the Gospel".

Being filled of the Holy Spirit, Saint Stephen with daring persuasively preached the Christian teaching and defeated Jewish teachers of the Law in disputation. For this the Jews maligned Saint Stephen, saying that he had uttered blasphemy against God and against Moses. Under such charges, Saint Stephen came before the Sanhedrin and the high-priest. He spoke a fiery speech, in which he expounded the history of the Jewish nation, and he boldly denounced the Jews for persecuting the prophets and also the execution by them of the awaited Messiah, Jesus Christ. During the time of his speaking, Saint Stephen suddenly saw the heavens opened and Jesus Christ in glory, standing at the right side of God. He exclaimed loudly about this. Then the Jews, covering over their ears, rushed upon him, dragged him out of the city and stoned him, but the holy martyr prayed for his murderers. Afar off on the heights stood the Mother of God with the holy Apostle John the Theologian, and She prayed fervently for the martyr. Before death Saint Stephen uttered: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit, wherein O Lord, impute this not to them in sin", -- and then with joy he gave up his pure soul to Christ. The body of the holy First-Martyr Stephen, left for devouring by beasts, was secretly taken up by the illustrious Jewish teacher Gamaliel and his son Habib, and given burial on his estate. And afterwards these both believed in Christ and accepted holy Baptism.

The Monk Theodore the Confessor

The Monk Theodore the Confessor, and his brother the Confessor Theophanes the Lettered-Upon, were born in Jerusalem of Christian parents. The elder was Theodore. From early childhood he shunned childish amusements and loved to visit church services. Together with his younger brother Theophanes (Comm. 11 October), he was sent for education to the presbyter at the Laura-monastery of Saint Sava. Both brothers accepted monasticism. Saint Theodore was raised to the dignity of presbyter.

When the iconoclast emperor, Leo V the Armenian (813-820), expelled and replaced the pious ruler Michael I Rangabes (811-813), he began to patronise the Iconoclast heresy. The Patriarch of Jerusalem sent both brothers to Constantinople for the defense of Orthodoxy. Arriving in the Byzantine capital, the holy confessors boldly entered into the defense of Icon-Veneration. In a contest of words Leo was humiliated. He gave orders to beat both brothers mercilessly, and then had them sent off into exile, strictly forbidding anyone to help them in any way.

Under the subsequent emperors, Michael II (820-829), and particularly under the harsh iconoclast Theophilos (829-842), both brothers returned from exile, and again they were urged to concur with the Iconoclast heresy, but they firmly and bravely endured all the tortures, and again they were sent off into exile. But later they again returned. This time they were subject to fierce torture, and finally, there was done upon them an unprecedented torment. With red-hot needles they marked branding upon their faces the writing as it were of their disgrace -- 12 poetic lines, in which it described the holy confessors as "vessels of superstitious errors". Hence the title ascribed to the holy brothers: "the Lettered-Upon" ("Nachertanni", "Graptoi"). Before torture the city official asked Saint Theodore to take communion with iconoclasts, -- for which they promised him freedom. But the holy martyr replied: "It is all the same, as they say: 'We shall only cut off thy head, and then go whither thou willest'". After torture the holy brothers were imprisoned in the locality of Apameia, where Saint Theodore died in about the year 840. Saint Theophanes survived the ending of the Iconoclast heresy, and died in the dignity of Bishop of Nicea. The Monk Theophanes was author of many compositions in defense of Orthodoxy. The relics of the MonkMartyr Theodore were transferred to Chalcedon, where healings were done by them.

Sainted Theodore, Archbishop of Constantinople

Sainted Theodore, Archbishop of Constantinople, was a native of Constantinople, led a pious life, was raised to the dignity of presbyter and served in the cathedra of Saint Sophia, where also he was the keeper of vessels. In the year 676 he was chosen Patriarch of Constantinople, although after two years he was deposed through slander. But the truth triumphed, and Saint Theodore in 683 was again raised onto the Patriarchal throne, and he then guided the Constantinople Church to the very end of his life. He died in about the year 686.

December 28

The Holy 20,000 Martyrs of Nicomedia

At the beginning of the IV Century the emperor Maximian (284-305) gave orders to destroy Christian churches, to burn Divine-service books, and to deprive all Christians of rights and offices of citizenship. At this time the bishop of the city of Nicomedia was Saint Cyril, who by his preaching and life contributed to the spread of the Christian faith, such that many of the dignitaries of the emperor were themselves secretly Christian.

At the Nicomedia court of the emperor lived the pagan-priestess, Domna. In the absence of Maximian she read through the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of the Apostle Paul. Her heart burned with the desire to become acquainted with the Christian teaching. With the help of some young Christian, Domna went secretly to the bishop, Cyril, in the company of a faithful servant, the eunuch Indysos. Saint Cyril catechised them, and afterwards both received holy Baptism. Domna began to help the poor: she distributed her valuables with the assistance of Indysos, and she distributed also food from the imperial kitchen. Having learned about the unusual manner of life of Domna and Indysos, the head of the eunuchs -- who was in charge of the imperial table, locked up both of them to exhaust them with hunger, but they received support from an Angel and did not suffer. In order to no longer live amidst the pagans, Saint Domna feigned insanity. Then she and Indysos managed to leave the court, and she went to the women's monastery of the hegumeness Agathia. The hegumeness quickly dressed her in men's clothing, cut her hair and sent her off from the monastery.

During this time the emperor happened to return and gave orders to seek out everywhere for the former pagan-priestess Domna. The soldiers dispatched for this purpose found the monastery and destroyed it. The sisters were thrown into prison, subjected to torture and abuse, but not one of them suffered violation. Sent off to an house of iniquity, Saint Theophila with the help of an Angel of the Lord there also preserved her virginity: the Angel removed her from the profligacy.

At this time the emperor set up in the city square an offering of sacrifice to the pagan gods. When they began sprinkling the crowd with the blood of the sacrificial animals, Christians started to leave the square. Seeing this, the emperor became enraged, but he did not give vent to his anger, since suddenly the earth quaked. A certain while later Maximian having located the church entered it and demanded a renunciation of Christ from all; for refusal he promised to burn the church and kill its Christians. The Christian presbyter Glykerios answered him, that Christians never renounce their faith, even under the threat of torture. Hiding his anger, the emperor exited the church, and after a certain while commanded the presbyter Glykerios be arrested for trial. The executioners tortured the martyr, who ceased not to pray and to call on the Name of the Lord. Not being able to wring a renunciation of Christ out of Saint Glykerios, Maximian ordered him to be burned to death.

On the feastday of the Nativity of Christ in the year 302, when about 20,000 Christians had assembled at the Nicomedia cathedral church, the emperor sent into the church an herald -- who proclaimed the emperor's command to exit the church and offer sacrifice to idols; otherwise, he threatened to burn the church together with those praying in it. But all those present refused to worship idols. While the tormentors prepared to set fire to the church, Bishop Anthymos (Comm. 3 September; a related account is under this day), having completed Divine-services, baptised all the catechumens and communed all with the Holy Mysteries. All 20,000 of those praying died in the fire. Among them were the hegumeness Agathia and Saint Theophila who had been saved by a miracle from the den of iniquity. Bishop Anthymos however managed to escape the fire.

Maximian reckoned that he had finished off all the Christians of Nicomedia. But he soon learned that there were many more, and that they all as before would confess their faith and were prepared to die for Christ. The emperor pondered over how to deal with them. By his command they arrested the regimental-commander Zinon, who openly before the people was criticising the emperor for impiety and cruelty. Zinon was fiercely beaten and finally beheaded. They locked up in prison the eunuch Indysos, formerly a priest to idols, for his refusal to participate in a pagan feastday.

Amidst all this, Saint Domna concealed herself within a cave and nourished herself eating plants. The persecution against Christians continued. In the locale elsewhere, in Italy, there were thrown into prison Dorotheus, Mardonius, Migdonius the Deacon and some dignitaries. Bishop Anthymos encouraged them, sending epistles to them. One of the messengers, the deacon Theophilos, was captured. Interrogating him about the bishop, they subjected him to torture, but the holy martyr endured all the tortures, revealing nothing. Then together with him they executed those, whom the bishop had addressed in his letter.

When Saint Domna returned to the city, she cried for a long time at the burnt-out ruins, regretting that she was not found worthy to die with her sisters. Then she went along the sea shore. At that moment fishermen pulled out of the water with their nets the bodies of the martyrs Indysos, Gorgonios and Peter. Saint Domna was still dressed in men's clothing, and she helped the fishermen to draw in their nets. They left her the bodies of the martyrs. With reverence she looked after the holy remains; in particular, she was gladdened that she saw the body of her spiritual friend -- the Martyr Indysos. After the burial, she did not depart these graves so dear to her heart, but daily made incensing before them. When the emperor was told about an unknown youth who paid respects at the graves of executed Christians, he gave orders to behead the youth. Together with Domna was executed also the Martyr Euthymios.

The Monk Ignatii of Lomsk and Yaroslavsk

The circumstances of his life while still in the world are unknown. He started his ascetic path at the Saviour Prilutsk monastery at Vologda, and he took monastic vows at the Kirillo-Beloezersk monastery. The Monk Ignatii then departed to the environs of the city of Lom and there founded a wilderness monastery, which gradually attracted disciples, after which he withdrew to a forested skete and there pursued asceticism in quietude. He earned his livelihood (just like the Monk Joakim, who lived three versts from him) by the plaiting of bast-shoes, which he left along the roadside. Passers-by took the bast-shoes in exchange for bread. In this locale the Monk Ignatii constructed a temple in honour of the Pokrov (Protection) of the MostHoly Mother of God, alongside which was founded the Vadoissk Mother of God wilderness monastery. In the XVIII Century it became deserted, and there remained only the church of the Saviour at Lom, in which rested the relics of the Monk Ignatii, glorified by wonderworking. The holy ascetic died in 1591.

The Monk Simon the Myrh-bearing

The Monk Simon the Myrh-bearing pursued asceticism on Athos in exploits of ascetic life, and was glorified by many miracles. He was the founder of the New-Bethlehem monastery, now called the Simon-Peter. Having reached old age, he reposed in the year 1287. The holy relics of the monk exude myrh.

December 29

The Holy Martyred 14,000 Infants

The Holy Martyred 14,000 Infants were killed by king Herod in Bethlehem. When the time was come for the fulfilling of the greatest of events -- the Incarnation of the Son of God and His Birth of the MostHoly Virgin Mary, Magi in the East beheld a new star in the heavens, foretelling the Nativity of the King of the Jews. They set off immediately to Jerusalem to worship the Born-Child, and the star showed them the way. Having worshipped the Divine-Infant, they did not return to Jerusalem to Herod, as he had ordered them to, but rather -- receiving a revelation from on high -- they went back to their country by another way. Herod finally realised that his scheme to find the Infant would not have success, and he gave orders to kill all the male children two years and younger at Bethlehem and its surroundings. He reasoned, that among the dead children would be also the Divine-Infant, Whom he considered a rival. The murdered infants became the first martyrs for Christ. The rage of Herod fell also on Simeon the God-Receiver, who declared in witness in front of everyone in the Temple that the Messiah had been born. When the holy elder died, Herod would not give permission that he be properly buried. And on the orders of king Herod, the holy prophet and priest Zachariah also was killed: they murdered him in the Jerusalem Temple betwixt the Offertory and the Altar -- because he would not tell the whereabouts of his son John, the future Baptist of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The wrath of God soon fell upon Herod himself: an horrid condition struck him down and he died -- devoured by worms while still alive. Before his death the impious king accomplished full measure of his wicked deeds: he murdered chief-priests and scribes among the Jews, and also his brother by birth, and his sister and her husband, and also his own wife Mariam and three of his sons, and likewise 70 men of wisdom that were members of the Sanhedrin.

The Monk Markellos, Hegumen of the Monastery called "the Ever-Vigilant"

The Monk Markellos, Hegumen of the Monastery called "the Ever-Vigilant" ("Neysypaiuschii"), was a native of the city of Apameia in Syria. He was early deprived of his Christian parents. He received his education first at Antioch, and then at Ephesus. All his possessions left him by his parents he distributed to the poor, thereby sundering his ties to the world. Under the guidance of an experienced elder at Ephesus, Markellos entered upon the path of asceticism. He later went on to Byzantium to the Monk Alexander, hegumen of the monastery named "the Ever-Vigilant". The monastery received its name from this, -- that in it psalmody was done constantly, both day and night. The Monk Alexander accepted Markellos and vowed him into the monastic form. Zealous in the works of watchfulness, fasting and prayer, the saint was early vouchsafed great spiritual talents and the gift of perspicacity. Markellos foresaw the day of death of Abba Alexander and his own election as hegumen; but, being himself still young, he did not want to hold authority and so immediately left the monastery to visit at other monasteries, where he received edification from the elders.

After the death of Saint Alexander, when Abba John had already been chosen as hegumen, Markellos returned, to the great joy of the brethren. Abba John made Markellos his own closest assistant. After John's death, Saint Markellos was chosen hegumen of the monastery in spite of his own wishes, and in this dignity he dwelt for 60 years. News of his saintly life spread far. And to Markellos there came from afar both the illustrious and the common among people, both the rich and the poor. Many a time they beheld Angels encircling the saint, attending to and guarding him. With the help of God the monastery "Ever-Vigilant" flourished. Saint Markellos, having received from believers the means for its enlargement and embellishment, built a beautiful large church, an hospital, and an homeless hostel. By his prayers the monk doctored the sick, cast out devils and worked miracles. For example, one of the monks was sent to Ankara and there fell ill. Being near death, he called out mentally to his abba. In that very hour the Monk Markellos heard with a spiritual hearing the cry of his student, and he started to pray, and he that was sick recovered immediately. When a ship with his monks came into danger, the monk by his prayer calmed the sea tempest. Another time, when they told the monk that a fire was raging at Byzantium, he prayed tearfully for the city being devastated in the fire, and the fire subsided -- as though extinguished by the tears of the monk. One time John, the servant of a certain dignitary named Ardaburios was unjustly accused of something, and he hid out at the monastery to escape the wrath of his master. Ardaburios twice demanded of Saint Markellos that he hand over John to him, but each time met with refusal. Ardaburios then sent out a detachment of soldiers, and the monastery was surrounded. Worn down in spirit, the brethren went to the abba, asking deliverance from the troubles. Saint Markellos boldly went out alone through the monastery gate towards the soldiers, holding a cross. A shining radiance encircled the monk, and from the cross came flashes of lightning, amidst peals of thunder. The detachment of soldiers therewith took to flight. Ardaburios, learning from the soldiers what had happened, approached in fright, and because of Saint Markellos he pardoned the servant.

The monk expired peacefully to the Lord in the year 485. His faithful student Lukian grieved terribly over him, but on the fifth day after the death the Monk Markellos appeared to him and comforted him, foretelling his own impending end.

The Monks Mark the Grave-Digger, Theophil the Weeping and John

The Monks Mark the Grave-Digger, Theophil the Weeping and John are narrated about in the Kievo-Pechersk Paterikon. Two brothers being monastics, the Monks Theophil and John, so loved each other, that they prevailed upon the Monk Mark to prepare them a common grave.

Many years later, the elder of these two brothers was away on monastery business. During this while his brother John fell ill and died. Several days later the Monk Theophil returned and went together with the brethren to view where his dead brother was placed. Seeing that he lay within their common grave at the head place, he became indignant with Blessed Mark and said: "Why is he put here in my place? I am older than he". The cave-dweller Mark, bowing humbly to the Monk Theophil, asked that he forgive him. Then, turning to the dead man, he said: "Brother, arise and give this place to the older, and do thou lie down in the other place". And the dead man moved in the grave. Seeing this, the monk Theophil fell down at the knees of the Monk Mark begging his forgiveness. The cave-dweller Mark remarked to him, that he ought to be concerned about his own salvation, because after a certain while he also would be brought hither. Hearing this, the Monk Theophil became terrified and decided that he would soon die. Having given away everything that he possessed, and keeping only his mantle, he every day awaited the hour of death. No one was able to distract him from weeping nor bring him to eat sweet-tasting food. The Monk Theophil lost his eyesight from weeping. The Monk Mark before his own death -- at the supplication of Theophil to die together with him, said: "Desire not death, it shalt come, though even thou wishest it not. Herein is what shalt serve thee as a sign of thine impending end: three days before death thine eyesight wilt recover". The words of the saint were fulfilled. The body of the Monk Theophil was placed in the Antoniev Cave in the grave together with his brother the Monk John, near the remains of the Monk Mark. Their memory is celebrated also on 28 September and on the 2nd Sunday of Great Lent.

The Monk Thaddeos the Confessor

The Monk Thaddeos the Confessor, a disciple of Theodore the Studite, was a defender of the veneration of holy icons. He suffered during the reign of Leo V (813-820). During these times of iconoclast rule he was brought to trial. The heretics, in making mockery over Saint Thaddeos, put an icon of the Saviour on the ground and, forcibly shoving the saint, compelled him to tread upon it. After this the judge said: "Thou hast trampled upon the icon of Christ, now join together with us". But Thaddeos boldly answered that he would rather venerate and kiss the holy icon of the Saviour, and that the treading had been accomplished deliberately against his will. he proceeded to curse the impiety of the iconoclasts. For this they beat him with canes. They then dragged the breathless martyr by the legs and threw him beyond the city walls. But he was still alive. A certain Christian took him into his own home and washed off the grime. Saint Thaddeos lived yet another three days, and then gave up his soul to God.

December 30

The Holy Martyress Anysia

The Holy Martyress Anysia lived in the city of Soluneia (Thessalonika) during the reign of the emperor Maximian (284-305). Upon the death of her parents, who had raised her in Christian piety, Saint Anysia distributed her substance to the poor and began to lead a strict life in vigil, fasting and prayer.

During the time of his persecution against Christians Maximian issued an edict, according to which anyone had the right without punishment to kill Christians. One time, when Saint Anysia had gone to church for prayer, a pagan soldier stopped her and demanded, that she come along to the pagan feast to the sun. Saint Anysia gently pulled herself away from him. When he soldier boldly grabbed hold of her and attempted to tear the veil from her head, she shoved him, spit in his face and said: "My Lord Jesus Christ forbid thee!" The soldier in anger drew out his sword and ran through the holy martyress. Those gathering over her body wept and loudly complained against the cruel emperor, for having so inhuman an edict. Christians buried the martyress near the city gates, and over her grave was built an house of prayer.

The PriestMartyr Zotikos (Zoticus), Nourisher of Orphans

The PriestMartyr Zotikos (Zoticus), Nourisher of Orphans, an illustrious and rich Roman, was in the service of Saint Constantine the Great (306-337). When the emperor transferred the capital from Rome to Constantinople, Zotikos also relocated there. Soon, however, spurning worldly honours, Zotikos accepted the priestly dignity, and he began in his own home to provide for the destitute and orphaned. Then, having received funds from Saint Constantine, he built a place for the sick, a shelter for the homeless, where he took in those afflicted with leprosy, rescuing them from the soldiers, who had been ordered to drown the sick in the sea.

When there followed upon the imperial throne Saint Constantine's son, Constantius (337-361), an adherent of the Arian heresy, a denunciation was made against Saint Zotikos, that he had received from the deceased emperor a large sum of money. Interrogated over this, Zotikos pointed out to the emperor the homeless and sick home built by him. Constantius became angry, since according to his reckoning, that with the money received from his father Zotikos had purchased jewels, and he wanted them back. He gave orders to tie Saint Zotikos to wild mules, which dragged the saint over the stones. All his body was lacerated, and the saint gave up his soul to God. At the place of his death sprang forth a stream of pure water, from which many received healing.

The Holy Disciple Timon

The Holy Disciple Timon was one of the 7 Deacons, established by the Apostles for the assist of destitute Christian widows. Afterwards he was chosen bishop of the city of Arabian Bostra, where he led many to Christianity and died a martyr: they threw him into a red-hot furnace ( a 2nd commemoration is 28 July).

The Holy Martyr Phileteros of Nicomedia

The Holy Martyr Phileteros of Nicomedia twice suffered torture for Christ: under Diocletian (284-305) and under Maximian (305-311). When Diocletian arrived in Nicomedia, they brought to trial Saint Phileteros, who was tall of stature and handsome of face. Catching sight of him, the emperor compared him in appearance to one of the pagan gods. To the questions about his social rank and lineage the martyr answered: "I am the son of an eparch, by faith -- a Christian, and I live with Christians". The emperor by flattery attempted to sway him into a renunciation and spoke insultingly of the Lord Jesus Christ, but the saint replied: "Let the mouth of anyone be silenced, whether he be the emperor or someone other, who dareth to insult my Christ". After these words the martyr was thrown into a red-hot oven, but he emerged from it unharmed. Then Diocletian, under the influence of the apparent miracle, and taking into account the illustrious and handsome appearance of the saint, set him free.

Denunciations were made at a later period to the emperor Maximian, that Phileteros was a Christian. Brought to trial before the emperor, the holy martyr again confessed his faith in Christ. For this they subjected him to whippings. Then they threw him for devouring by wild beasts, but he remained unharmed. Then they sentenced him to beheading by the sword, but the two servants, to whom was entrusted the execution, were not able to kill him: just as they positioned the sword over the head of the martyr, their hands ceased to function. Persuaded through this, that the Lord invisibly was guarding the holy martyr, both these executioners believed in Christ and they themselves suffered for the faith by being beheaded by the sword.

The holy Martyr Phileteros was sentenced then to exile on Prokonnesus, one of the islands of the Sea of Marmora. On the journey to exile he wrought many a miracle and destroyed an heathen temple with its idols. Six soldiers with their commandant accompanying the saint to his exile thus believed in Christ.

There came out to him along the way Saint Eubiotes, who likewise had undergone many a suffering for Christ. The saints joyfully hugged, and they dwelt at the cell of Saint Eubiotes for 7 days, together the soldiers and their commander. Saint Phileteros then died there (+ 311) and was buried by Saint Eubiotes. The soldiers with their commander likewise died there, 11 days later, and were buried alongside the holy Martyr Phileteros.

The Nun Theodora of Caesarea

The Nun Theodora of Caesarea, living during the VIII Century, was the daughter of the patrician Theophilos and his wife Theodora. Her parents for a long time had been childless, and grieved over this. They prayed much and made a vow, that if a child were born to them, it would be dedicated to God. When the daughter born to them was of age, her mother took her to the monastery of Saint Anna, where the maiden entered under the guidance of an hegumeness. And there she learned the Word of God.

The emperor Leo the Isaurian (716-741), an iconoclast heretic, wanted to give the maiden Theodora into marriage to one of his aides. Against her will they took her from the monastery and brought her to Constantinople, where everything was already prepared for the wedding celebration. But at the time of the wedding feast there occurred an attack by the Skyths against the capital, and the spouse of Saint Theodora, dispatched to help beat back the attack of the enemy, perished in the very first skirmish. Taking advantage of the general confusion, Saint Theodora made herself inconspicuous, got on a ship and returned to her convent. When an imperial emissary showed up there for her, he saw that she was already tonsured a monastic, dressed in sackcloth. They thus could no longer force the saint to leave the women's monastery, and she spent the remaining years of her life in deeds of vigil, fasting and prayer. Upon her body she wore heavy iron chains, not removing them until death.

The Nun Theodora of Tsargrad

The Nun Theodora of Tsargrad lived at Constantinople during the first half of the X Century. She had been married, but was widowed early on and led a pious life, attending the destitute and hopeless, and then she accepted monasticism and lived under the guidance of the Monk Basil the New (Comm. 26 March), devoting herself to monastic life in her own home in a solitary cell. The Nun Theodora died in extreme old age in the year 940. Upon the death of Saint Theodora, a student of Saint Basil the New, Gregory by name, prayerfully besought his teacher to reveal to him the after-death fate of the deceased nun. "Thou thus very much do wish this?", -- asked the Monk Basil. "Yes, very much I should wish it", -- answered Gregory. "Thou shalt see her today, if thou with faith ask of this and if deeply thou be convinced of the possibility of the fulfilling of the request". Gregory was greatly surprised and he thought it all over, how and where he as going to be able to see someone, who had gone off into eternal life. When Gregory that same night was falling asleep, a youth of comely appearance came to him and said: "Rise up, the monastic father Basil doth summon thee, so as to visit together with Theodora; if thou wishest to see her, then come along and see". Gregory immediately went off to the Monk Basil, but did not find him there. Those present said to him, that the Monk Basil had gone himself to visit the Nun Theodora. To the distressed Gregory they pointed out the way, along which had gone the Monk Basil. Gregory proceeded along it, until he found himself in a unknown labyrinth. The narrow and difficult path led to a bolted gateway. Seeing through a crack in it, that a courtyard was situated beyond the gates, Gregory called out to a woman seated there. She explained, that this courtyard belonged to Father Basil, who was wont to come hither to visit with his spiritual children. "Open to me, for I too am a spiritual child of Saint Basil," -- besought Gregory. But the servant girl would not open the doors without the permission of the Nun Theodora. Gregory began to knock loudly on the doors. The Nun Theodora heard it and joyfully let him through, exclaiming: "Here he is -- the beloved son of my master, Basil!" Having greeted him, the Nun Theodora inquired: "Brother Gregory, who hath guided thee hither?" Then he in turn related, how through the prayer of Saint Basil he had the good fortune to behold her in the glory, which she had attained by her ascetic life. Gregory began to implore her to tell him, for purposes of spiritual benefit, how she had parted from the body and bypassing the slanderers she had come to this holy habitation. The Nun Theodora replied: "how can I, dear child Gregory, tell thee everything? After the point, in which I was with tribulation in fear and trembling, I have forgotten much, moreover, I did see such faces and hear such voices, as never one doth happen to see nor hear over all the course of one's life. What I can say, is this, that death should have come upon me fiercely because of my unjust deeds, done on earth, were it not for the prayers of our Father Basil. His prayers alone did make my death the more easy". After this the Nun Theodora began to relate, how a multitude of suddenly appearing evil spirits accosted before her end. They carried large books, into which were written down all the sins of her whole life, and they reviewed them with impatience, as though any minute expecting the arrival of some sort of judge. Seeing all this, the Nun Theodora went into such fear and terror, that finally she began exhausted and in agony she glanced about on all sides, wanting to see someone, who would be able to drive away he devils. Finding herself in this tormenting situation, she then beheld two Angels, standing to the right side of her. The evil spirits then withdrew farther off. "Why do ye, grim enemies of the race of man, seek to harass and torment the soul of the deceased? Rejoice not, for here be not one of yours", -- exclaimed an Angel. Then the shameless spirits began to recount everything, that the saint had done from the time of her youth, whether by word, or deed or thought. To all this they added on much of their own invention, seeking to slander the saint. Finally there came death. It poured something into a bowl and offered it to the saint to drink, and afterwards, taking a knife, it cut off her head. "Ah, my child, -- continued on the Nun Theodora with her account, -- how bitter it became for me then, how bitter! At this moment death snatched away my soul, which quickly separated from the body, just like a bird leaps off the hand of the fowler, if he sets it to freedom". Radiant Angels took the soul of the Nun Theodora and began to set off with it to Heaven, whereas her body was left to lay upon the earth, like discarded clothing. When the holy Angels had hold of the soul of the nun, the evil spirits again showed up, saying: "We have her many sins, answer us for them". And then the Angels began to recount all the good deeds, which the saint had done: her charity, her love of peace, the love for the temple of God, patience, humility, fasting, and many other ascetic deeds which the nun had undertaken in life. All taken together, they set opposite the sins her good deeds, which expiated them. The evil spirits gnashed their teeth, wanting yet to abduct the holy soul and hurl it down into the abyss. At this time suddenly there appeared in spirit the Monk Basil and he said to the holy Angels: "My protectors, this soul hath rendered me many a service, lessening the distress of mine infirmity and old age. I have prayed concerning her to the Lord, and He bestowed this good thing". With this the Monk Basil gave the Angels some sort of small chest, adding: "When ye want the coelestial trials to finish, redeem her, taking what be from this chest and giving it to the wicked and evil spirits". Having giving them the chest, the saint went away. Seeing all this, the evil spirits for a long time remained perplexed and speechless, and then suddenly, loudly shrieking, they howled: "Woe to us! In vain have we toiled, watching and following her, as to how and where she did sin". Having said this, they instantly disappeared. Then the Monk Basil again appeared and brought with him many different vessels with fragrances, which he entrusted to the Angels. Opening one vessel after the other, the Angels poured out the fragrances upon the Nun Theodora. She was filled with a spiritual sweetness and felt, that she had changed and become very luminous. The Monk Basil said: "My protectors! When ye have done everything needful over her, then, having brought her to the habitation prepared by the Lord for me, leave her there". Having said this, he withdrew. The holy Angels took the Nun Theodora and proceeded upwards to Heaven, rising up as though through the air.

And here upon the way suddenly was encountered the First Trial, which is called the Trial of Idle and Nasty Words. The tormentors demanded an answer be given to everything, that the Nun Theodora had ever spoken badly about anyone, and they pointed out the indecorous laughter, mockery and crude songs. All this the saint had forgotten, since quite a length of time had passed, when first she began to lead a life, pleasing to God. But the Angels defended her.

Further on was the Trial of Lies. The evil spirits situated there were very nasty, stubborn and fierce. They furiously began to slander the saint, but the Angels gave it to them from the small chest and passed by unhindered.

When the Nun Theodora reached the Third Trial -- that of Judging and Slander, from the evil spirits there emerged one rather older and it began to relate, how with what vile words the nun had slandered someone during her life. Much he indicated was false, but it was amazing still, with what detail and exactness the demons remembered things, things which the nun herself had forgotten.

The servants of the Fourth Trial -- that of Gluttony and Drunkenness, literally like ravenous wolves were ready to devour the saint, recollecting, how she ate in the morning without praying to God, how she ate at lunch and supper without measure, and transgressed the fasts. Trying to snatch the nun from the hands of the Angels, one of the evil spirits said: "Did thou not promise to the Lord God at holy Baptism to renounce Satan and all his works and everything, that pertains to him? Having given such a vow, how canst thou have done the things which thou hast done?" And the devils even calculated up all the cups of wine, which the Nun Theodora had imbibed over the course of all her life. When she said: "Yes, this was so, and this I do remember", -- the Angels again gave out a portion from the small chest of Saint Basil, just as they had done at each of the trials, and set off further.

"Do the people located on earth know, what awaits them here and with what they will meet at the time of their death?" -- asked the Nun Theodora of the Angels. "Yes, they do know, -- answered an Angel, -- but the pleasures and delights of life act so strongly upon them, it so consumes their attention, that they involuntarily forget about that which doth await them beyond the grave. Good it be for those, which remember the Holy Scripture and work charity or do yet other good deeds, which afterwards can redeem them of the eternal torments of hell. But woe to those, which live carelessly as though forever, thinking only of the sweets of the belly and their pride. If suddenly death should overtake them, they perish completely, since they have not in their defense any good deeds; the souls of these people are fiercely tormented by the dark princes of these trials, they lead them off into the dark places of hell and will hold on to them until the Coming of Christ. Thus also thou, Theodora, wouldst have suffered, had thou not received of the saint of God Basil the gift, which hath saved thee here from all harm".

With suchlike discourse by the Angel was reached the Fifth Trial -- that of Laziness and Sloth, where sinners are tormented for all the hours of the day spent in idleness. Here the indolent are held, having been too lazy to go to the Church of God on feastdays. Here too the careless and the despondent are tested, both the layfolk and the clergy, and there is discerned the lack of attentiveness of each about their own soul. Many here are hurled off into the abyss. The Angels made up for the insufficiencies of the nun with the gifts of Saint Basil and proceeded on further.

The Sixth Trial -- was that of Thievery, and they passed through freely. Thus also the Seventh Trial -- that of Greed and Avarice, the Angels managed to pass through unhindered because, by the mercy of God, the Nun Theodora had always been satisfied with what God provided, and she diligently distributed what she possessed to the needy.

The spirits of the Eighth Trial -- that of Bribery, gave torment for Bribe-taking and Flattery, and gnashed their teeth out of malice, when the Angels went on from them, since they had nothing against the Nun Theodora.

And the Angels proceeded freely thus through the Ninth Trial -- that of Unrighteousness and Vanity, the Tenth Trial -- that of Envy and Jealousy, and the Eleventh Trial -- that of Pride.

Along their way they soon encountered the Twelfth Trial -- that of Anger. The eldest of the spirits, full of the wrath of anger and arrogance, commanded its servants to torment and torture the nun. The devils repeated all the original words of the nun, spoken by her in anger, they remembered even, how with anger she had glared at her own children or strictly punished them. For all this the Angels gave answer, handing out from the small chest.

Literally like robbers, there rushed out the evil spirits of the Thirteenth Trial -- that of Spitefulness, but finding nothing in their records, they wailed bitterly. Then the Nun Theodora made bold to ask one of the Angels, from whence do the evil spirits know, who and what is done bad in life. The Angel answered: "Every Christian through holy Baptism doth receive a Guardian Angel, who does invisibly protect him from everything bad and urges him to everything good, and who records all the good deeds done by this person. But on the other side, there is an evil angel keeping watch over all the course of life for the evil deeds of people and writes them down into his book. He records all the sins which, as thou hast seen, do accost people in passing through the trials on their way to Heaven. These sins are able to deny a soul entry into Paradise and lead directly into the abyss, in which the evil spirits themselves do dwell. And therein these souls will dwell until the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, if they have not for themselves good deeds, wherewith to snatch them from the hands of the devil. People, those truly believing in the Holy Trinity, and having communed as they are able a portion of the Holy Mysteries of the Body and Blood of Christ the Saviour, directly ascend to Heaven without any hindrance. And the holy Angels of God be manifest as their defenders, and the Saints pleasing to God do intercede for the salvation of souls of righteously living people. Concerning however the impious and heretics of malicious-faith, and those who accomplish nothing of benefit in their lives, no one looks after then and in their defense the Angels are able to say nothing".

The Angels then reached the Fourteenth Trial -- that of Thuggery, where are tested all, who have lashed out with anger, smiting someone on the cheek or using some other weapon. And this trial too the Angels passed through freely.

Suddenly they found themselves at the Fifteenth Trial -- that of Sorcery and Necromancy (Conjuring), amidst poisonously beckoning demons. Here are located he viperous-mannered spirits, the purpose of whose existence is to lead people into temptation and corruption. Through the grace of Christ the Nun Theodora soon bypassed this trial. But after this she inquired, is it for every sin, which a man commits in life, that he is tormented with at the trials, or is it possible even during life to expiate the sin, in order to be cleansed of it and not be tormented with it at the trials. The Angels answered the Nun Theodora, that not all thus experience the trials, but only those, who like her, did not make an heart-cleansing confession before death. "If I had confessed to my spiritual father all my sinfulness without shame or fear, and if I had received absolution from my spiritual father, -- said the Nun Theodora, -- then I should have gone through all these trials unhindered, and not one of my sins would have tormented me. But since I was not wont to confess in an heart-cleansing manner all my sins to my spiritual father, then here they do torment me for this. Certainly, it did help me much, that I strove and desired over all the course of my life to flee sin. Whoever with diligence strives after repentance, doth receive always from God the forgiveness, and through this also unencumbered passage from this life to the blessed life beyond the grave. The evil spirits, which be situated amidst the trials together with their records, in opening them find nothing written, since the Holy Spirit will make invisible everything written. And they see this and they know, that everything written by them is wiped out, thanks to confession, and they then be deeply saddened. If a person be still among the living, then they aspire to write down there some other sort of sins. Great in truth is the saving of the person in confession! It doth save one from many a woe and distress, it provides the possibility without hindrance to go through all the trials and come nigh to God. Some do not make confession in the expectation, that there will still be time for salvation, and for the remission of sins. Others simply at confession are ashamed to tell the priest their sins -- here such people will be severely tested by the trials. There are also such, who are ashamed to tell everything to one spiritual father, and they choose rather to tell one sin to one priest, and others -- to another, and so forth. For such a confession they will be punished and they will suffer not a little the transition from trial to trial".

Imperceptibly they approached the Sixteenth Trial -- that of Fornication. The tormentors were astonished, that the saint had reached them without hindrance, and when they began to relate, what she had done in life, they gave much false testimony, while providing in the account names and places. Thus also it happened with the servants of the Seventeenth Trial -- that of Adultery. The Eighteenth Trial -- that of Sodomy, was where there are tormented all the sins of fornication against nature and of incest, all the nasty, secretly done deeds about which, in the words of the Apostle, it is shameful even to speak. The Nun Theodora passed through quickly. The Angels said to her: "Thou didst see the dreadful and loathsome fornications of that trial. Know, that it is the rare soul that passes by them freely. All the world is immersed in the evil of temptations and filth, nearly all people are lascivious, and "the inclinations of the heart of man -- are evil from the time of his youth" (Gen. 8: 21). Few are they that have mortified the passions of the flesh, and there be few such, who would freely get through these trials. A large part, arriving hither, do perish. The forces of the fornicative trials boast, that they alone most of all of the trials fill up the fiery raging in hell. Give thanks to God, Theodora, that thou hast bypassed these tormentors of prodigality through the prayers of thine father, the Monk Basil. Thou shalt see no greater terror".

At the Nineteenth Trial -- that of Idol-Worship and Every-Heresy, there was nothing to torment the Nun Theodora with.

At the final, the Twentieth Trial -- that of Lack of Pity and Hardness of Heart, there was recorded everything unmerciful, cruel, spiteful and of hate. The soul of a person, not following the command of God about mercy, is flung from hither into hell and shut up in it until the general resurrection. Literally like a mass of bees, there swooped down servants of the fierce demon, but finding nothing concerning the nun, they went away.

The rejoicing Angels then transported the saint through the gates of Heaven. When she entered into Heaven the water on the ground gave way, and behind her it again joined together. A triumphant host of Angels met the saint and conducted her to the Throne of God. As they went, there descended upon them two Divine clouds. At an inexplicable height stood the Throne of God, so white, that it illumined all present before it. "Everything there is situated such, that it be not possible either to comprehend or explain; the mind is beclouded with perplexity, and memory lulls, and I did forget, where I was situated", -- went on the Nun Theodora with her narration. She bowed down to the Unseen God and heard a Voice, commanding to be shown her all the souls of the righteous and of sinners, and after this to grant repose, where the Monk Basil should indicate. When all this had been shown her, one of the Angels said: "Thou knowest, Theodora, that in the world it is the custom: on the 40th day after death those remaining alive make memory of the departed. And thus, there upon the earth the Monk Basil doth today remember thee". "And so, -- the Nun Theodora concluded her story, -- my spiritual child Gregory, after the 40th day of the separation of my soul from the body, I am now situated in this place, which was prepared for our father the Monk Basil". After this she led him through the Heavenly habitation, where Gregory encountered the Monk Basil in the courtyard beyond the refectory. Afterwards Saint Theodora led him into the garden. Astonished at all the good things, Gregory wanted to find out about them. But the Nun Theodora merely said, that all this be not of earth, but attainable for those, who in the earthly life endure many a sorrow and misfortune, yet who keeps the commands of the Lord and precisely fulfills them. When the Nun Theodora said, that life in Heaven is distinctly different from life on earth, Gregory involuntarily pinched himself, wanting to know whether he was still in the flesh. His spirit was joyful, his senses and thoughts pure. He wanted to return from the garden, which the nun had pointed him to, and go to the courtyard. When he returned, there was no one there at the refectory. Having made a bow to the Nun Theodora, Gregory started to return homewards, and at that very moment he awoke and began to wonder, where he was and what it all it had been, that he had heard and seen. He became afraid, lest it was all just a demonic deceit, and he went to his teacher. Then he Monk Basil himself recounted everything, that Gregory had seen, and asked him to write down everything he had seen and heard, for the benefit of others.

December 31

The Nun Melania

The Nun Melania, the first of a series of Roman girls who "yearned from their youthful years for Christ, thirsting for bodily chastity and stung by Divine love", -- was born into a Christian family. Her parents, people of property and wealth, looked on their daughter as an heiress and continuant of their line. At fourteen years of age Melania was given, against her will, in marriage to the illustrious youth Apinian. From the very beginning of their married life, Saint Melania besought her spouse to live with her in chastity or else release her from the marriage, chaste in both body and soul. Apinian answered: "When through the will of the Lord we come to have two children as heirs to the property, then together we shall renounce the world". Soon Melania gave birth to a daughter, whom the young parents dedicated to God. Continuing to live together in marriage, Melania in secret wore an hairshirt and spent her nights at prayer. The second time Melania gave birth, it was premature and with severe complications. A boy was born, they baptised him, and at once he expired to the Lord. Seeing the suffering of his spouse, Blessed Apinian besought the Lord to preserve Saint Melania alive, and he gave a vow to spend the rest of their life together in chastity. Recovering, Saint Melania did away once for all with her silken-like clothing. Soon also their daughter died. Amongst themselves, the parents of the Saints were against the desire of the young couple to devote themselves to God. It was only when the father of Saint Melania became deathly sick, that he asked forgiveness of them and gave his permission for them to follow their chosen path, meanwhile asking them to pray for him. The saints then quit the city of Rome, and a new life began for them, completely dedicated to the service of God. Apinian at this time was 24 years of age, and Melania -- age 20. They began to visit the sick, to take in wanderers, and generously to help the indigent. They made the rounds of the prisons, places of those exiled and mine-convicts and the destitute, held there in debtor's prison. Having sold off estates in Italy and Spain, they generously rendered help to elders and monasteries by purchasing for the monasteries -- lands in Mesopotamia, Syria, Egypt, Phoenicia and Palestine. By their assist was built many a church and sick-house. Churches of both West and East benefited from them. When in forsaking their native land, they set sail for Africa, a strong storm broke loose as they sailed. The sailors said, that this was from the wrath of God, but Blessed Melania said, that they had been given over in the ship to His unfathomable will. The waves carried the ship to an island, on which stood a city, besieged by barbarians. The besiegers demanded a ransom payment from the inhabitants, elsewise they threatened to lay waste the city. The saints supplied the necessary money, and thus saved the city and its people from destruction. Arriving then in Africa, they rendered help to all the needy there, and with the blessing of the local bishops they made offerings to churches and monasteries. During this while Saint Melania continued to humble her flesh by strict fasting, and she fortified her soul by constant reading of the Word of God, making copies of the sacred books and distributing them to those that lacked them. She herself sewed an hairshirt, and having donned it continued to wear it.

In Africa the saints spent 7 years and then, freed of all their wealth, on the command of Christ, they set off to Jerusalem. Along the way, at Alexandria, they were welcomed by the bishop, Saint Cyril, and they met in church with the holy elder Nestorios, who was possessed of the gift of prophecy and healing. The elder turned to them, comforting and calling them to courage and patience in expectation of the Glory of Heaven. At Jerusalem the saints distributed to the destitute their remaining gold and then spent their days in poverty and prayer. After a short visit to Egypt, where the saints visited many of the desert fathers, Saint Melania secluded herself into a solitary cell on the Mount of Olives, and only occasionally saw Saint Apinian. Gradually around her cell there arose a monastery, where gathered eventually nine women. Saint Melania, out of humility, would not consent to be hegumeness, and as before lived and prayed in solitude. In her instructions Saint Melania urged the sisters to be vigilant and to pray, to disdain their own opinions and cultivate first of all love for God and for one another, to keep the holy Orthodox faith and purity both of soul and of body. In particular she exhorted them to be obedient to the will of God. Calling to mind the words of the Apostle Paul, she counselled them to keep the fasts "not with wailing nor from compunction: but in virtuous disposition bestown with love for God". By her efforts in the monastery was built an oratory and altar, where they buried relics of saints: of the Prophet of God Zachariah, of the holy FirstMartyr Stephen, and of the Forty Martyrs of Sebasteia. At about this time Saint Apinian expired to the Lord. Saint Melania buried his relics and there spent another four years in fasting and unceasing prayer.

Saint Melania wanted to build a men's monastery on the Mount of the Ascension of the Lord. The Lord blessed her intent, by sending a benefactor who provided the means for the monastery. Joyfully accepting it, Saint Melania finished the great work in a single year. In this monastery, saintly men began to lift up unceasing prayer in the church of the Ascension of Christ. Having finished her tasks, the saint left Jerusalem for Constantinople, to go to her pagan uncle in hope of saving his soul. Along the way she prayed at the relics of Saint Lawrence, at the place of his martyrdom, and received auspicious signs. Arriving in Constantinople, the saint found her uncle suffering in sickness, and she conversed with him. Under her influence the sick man gave up paganism and died a Christian. During this period many inhabitants of the capital were worked up over the heretical teaching of Nestorius. Saint Melania accepted anyone who turned to her for proper explanation. Many miracles were worked through the prayer of the saint. Returning then to her own monastery, the saint sensed the nearness of death, and declared this to the presbyter and the sisters. They listened to her final instructions in deep sorrow and with tears. Having asked their prayers and commanding them to preserve themselves in purity, and having communed the Holy Mysteries with joy and psalmody, Saint Melania calmly and in peace gave up her soul to the Lord. This occurred in the year 439.