2018-12-11

Science of the Saints, 12-XII-2018 (29 Nov.), Holy Martyrs Paramonus and Philumenus

The Holy Martyr Paramonus and the 370 Martyrs with him suffered for their faith in Christ in the year 250 during the rule of the emperor Decius (249-251). The governor of the Eastern regions, Aquianus, had locked up in prison 370 Christians, urging them to abjure Christ and instead offer sacrifice to idols. They subjected the captives to beatings, hoping by tortures and the threat of death to persuade them to renounce Christ and worship the pagan gods. One of the local inhabitants, Paramonus by name, openly denounced the cruel governor and confessed his faith in the One True God, the Lord Jesus Christ. They beheaded Saint Paramonus after fierce tortures together with the other 370 martyrs.

The Holy Martyr Philumenus suffered for Christ in the year 274, during the persecution against Christians by the emperor Aurelian (270-275). Saint Philumenus was by occupation a bread merchant in Ancyra. Envious persons reported to the governor Felix that Philumenus was confessing the Christian faith, and he thus came before a judge. Saint Philumenus did not renounce Christ. For this they hammered nails into his hands, feet, and head, and they forced him to walk. The holy martyr bravely endured the torments and he died from loss of blood, giving up his soul to God.

2018-12-10

Science of the Saints, 11-XII-2018 (28 Nov.), Saint Stephen the New

The Holy Monk-Martyr and Confessor Stephen the New was born in 715 at Constantinople into a pious Christian family. His parents, having two daughters, prayed the Lord for the birth of a son. The mother of the newborn Stephen took him to the Blachernae church in honour of the Most Holy Mother of God and dedicated him to God.

During the time of the emperor Leo the Isaurian (716-741) there began persecution against holy icons and against those venerating them. With the support of the emperor, the adherents of the Iconoclast heresy seized control of the supreme positions of authority in the empire and in the Church. Persecuted by the powers of this world, Orthodoxy was preserved in monasteries distant from the capital, in solitary cells and in the brave and faithful hearts of its followers. The Orthodox parents of Saint Stephen, grieved by the surrounding impiety, fled from Constantinople to Bithynia, and they gave over their sixteen year old son in obedience to Blessed John, who asceticised in a solitary place on the Mount of Saint Auxentios. Saint Stephen dwelt more than fifteen years with Blessed John, having devoted himself totally to this spirit-bearing elder, and learning monastic activity from him. Here then Stephen received the news that his father was dead, and his mother and sisters had taken monastic tonsure.

After a certain while his teacher, Blessed John, also died. With deep sorrow Saint Stephen buried his venerable body, and by himself continued with monastic effort in his cave. Soon monks began to come to the ascetic, desiring to learn from him the virtuous and salvific life, and there gradually emerged a monastery, the hegumen of which was Saint Stephen. At forty-two years of age Stephen left the monastery founded by him, and he went to another mountain, on the summit of which he dwelt in deep seclusion in a solitary cell. But here also soon gathered a community of monks, seeking the spiritual guidance of Saint Stephen.

Leo the Isaurian was succeeded by Constantine Copronymos (741-775), a still more fierce persecutor of the Orthodox pious, and still more zealous an iconoclast. The emperor convened an Iconoclast council, to which came 358 bishops from the Eastern provinces. However, except for the archbishop of Constantinople Constantine - illegitimately raised up onto the patriarchal throne by the power of Copronymos - not one of the other patriarchs bothered to participate in the wicked doings of this council, thus making it all the less able to usurp the term "ecumenical." This council of heretics, at the instigation of the emperor and the archbishop, described icons as idols, and proscribed anathema on all who venerate icons in the Orthodox manner, and it described icon veneration as heresy.

Meanwhile, the monastery of Saint Stephen and its hegumen became known of in the capital. They told the emperor about the ascetic life of the monks, about their Orthodox piety, about the gift of wonderworking of the hegumen Stephen, and about how the news of Saint Stephen had spread far beyond the region of the monastery, and that the name of its head was accorded universal respect and love. The open encouragement of icon-veneration and therein the rebuff to the persecutors of Orthodoxy within the monastery of Saint Stephen especially angered the emperor. Archbishop Constantine perceived, that in the person of Saint Stephen he had a strong and implacable opponent to his iconoclastic intentions, and he took great efforts that he might draw him over to his side or else destroy him.

They tried to entice Saint Stephen into the Iconoclast camp, at first with flattery and bribery, then by threats, but in vain. Then they slandered the saint, accusing him of co-habiting with nuns. But his guilt was not proven, since the slandered nun courageously denied guilt and died under torture and beatings. Finally, the emperor gave orders to lock up the saint in prison, and to destroy his monastery. Iconoclast bishops were sent to Saint Stephen in prison, trying to persuade him of the dogmatic correctness of the Iconoclast position. But the saint easily refuted all the arguments of the heretics and he remained true to Orthodoxy.

Then the emperor gave orders to exile the saint to one of the islands in the Sea of Marmora. The monk settled into a cave, and there also soon gathered his disciples. After a certain while the saint left the brethren and took upon himself the exploit of pillar-dweller. News about the Pillar-Dweller Stephen, and about the miracles worked by his prayers, spread throughout all the empire and strengthened the faith and spirit of Orthodoxy in the people.

The emperor gave orders to transfer Saint Stephen to prison on the island of Pharos, and then to bring him to trial. At the trial, the saint refuted the arguments of the heretics sitting in judgement upon him. He explained the dogmatic essence of icon‑veneration, and he denounced the Iconoclasts for this - that in blaspheming icons, they gave blasphemy to Christ and the Mother of God. The saint pointed to a golden coin in proof, upon which was the depiction of the emperor. He asked the judges, what they would do with a man, who having thrown down the money, would then trample it under his feet. They answered him, that such a man would certainly be punished for having dishonoured the image of the emperor. To this the saint said, that an even greater punishment awaited anyone who would dishonour the image of the King of Heaven and His Saints, and with that he cast down the coin upon the ground and began to grind it underfoot.

The emperor gave orders to take away the saint to prison, where already there were languishing 342 elders, condemned for the veneration of icons. And in this prison Saint Stephen spent eleven months, consoling the imprisoned. Together with them he made the singing of prayer, often doing the tropar to the Image of the Saviour Not‑Wrought-by-Hands. The people in crowds came to the prison and asked Saint Stephen to pray for them. 

The emperor, having learned that in prison the saint had organised a monastery, where constantly there was prayer amidst which they venerated holy icons, sent two of his own dearest servants, twin brothers, to beat the saint to death. When these brothers went to the prison and beheld the face of the monk shining with a Divine light, they fell down on their knees to him, asking his forgiveness and prayers, but they told the emperor that his command had been carried out. But the emperor learned the truth and he resorted to still another lie. Informing his soldiers, that the saint had intentions to topple him from the throne, he dispatched them to the prison. The holy confessor himself came out half the way to the furious soldiers, who seized hold of him and dragged him through the streets of the city. They then threw the lacerated body of the martyr into a pit, where they were wont to bury criminals.

On the following morning over Mount Auxentios there appeared a fiery cloud, and then an heavy darkness descended upon the capital with a fierce thunderstorm.

2018-12-09

Science of the Saints, 10-XII-2018 (27 Nov.), The Holy Martyr James the Persian

The Holy Great Martyr James the Persian (the Hewn-Apart) was born in the fourth century into a pious Christian family, both wealthy and illustrious. His wife was also a Christian, and the spouses raised their children in piety, inspiring in them a love for prayer and the Holy Scripture. James occupied an high position at the court of the Persian emperor Izdegerd (399-420) and his successor Barakhranes (420-438). But on one of the military campaigns James, seduced by the emperor's beneficence, became afraid to acknowledge himself a Christian, and so together with the emperor he offered sacrifice to idols. Learning of this, the mother and wife of James in deep distress wrote him a letter, in which they scolded him and urged him to repent. Receiving the letter, James realised the gravity of his sin, and setting before himself the horror of being cut off not only from his family, but also from God Himself, he began loudly to weep and implore the Lord for forgiveness. His fellow-soldiers, hearing him pray to the Lord Jesus Christ, reported about this to the emperor. Under interrogation and taking courage in spirit, Saint James bravely confessed his faith in the One True God. No amount of urgings by the emperor could shake him into renouncing Christ. The emperor then gave orders to deliver the saint over to a death by martyrdom. They placed the martyr on a chopping-block and they alternately cut off his fingers and his toes, and then his hands and his feet. During the prolonged torture Saint James incessantly offered up prayer of thanks to the Lord, that He had granted him the possibility through the terrible torments to be redeemed of the sins committed. Flowing with blood, the martyr was then beheaded.

2018-12-08

Science of the Saints, 9-XII-2018 (26 Nov.), Our Venerable Father Alypius the Stylite.



The Monk Alypius the Pillar-Dweller was born in the city of Adrianopolis in Paphlagonia. His mother, a Christian, early on became a widow, and she gave over her son for education to bishop Theodore, while she herself, having distributed her substance to the poor, began to asceticise nearby the church and was deigned worthy of the vocation of deaconess.

Saint Alypius from the time of his early years wanted to devote his life to God and yearned for the solitary life, although bishop Theodore would not give him permission to do so. One time, when Saint Alypius was accompanying his Vladyka to Constantinople, the holy Martyress Euthymia appeared to him in a vision, summoning Saint Alypius to return to Adrianopolis and found a church in her name. On the means offered by believers in Adrianopolis, Saint Alypius did build a church in the name of the holy Martyress Euthymia, on the spot of a dilapidated pagan temple, infested by legions of devils. Alongside the church, and under the open sky, atop a pagan tomb the saint erected a pillar. For fifty-three years the Monk Alypius asceticised upon the pillar, praying to God and teaching the many that came to him. The demons, which infested the pagan cemetery, by night fell upon the ascetic and pelted him with stones. Saint Alypius, wanting nothing to stand in the way of the attacks of the spirits of darkness, then even destroyed the light lean-to which protected him from the rain and wind. In face of the conquering steadfastness of the saint, the demons quit this place forever, which had been sanctified by his deed of voluntary martyrdom. A mere 14 years before his death Saint Alypius was no longer able to stand and he was compelled through the weakness of his legs to lay upon his side, enduring grievous sufferings with humble thankfulness. Around the pillar of the monk gradually there arose two monasteries: on the one side - a men's monastery, and on the other - a women's monastery. The Monk Alypius introduced for both monasteries strict monastic rules and until his death he directed both monasteries. The monk died in the year 640, at age 118. The body of the venerable pillar-dweller was buried in the church founded by him in honour of the holy Martyress Euthymia. The relics of the saint of God healed many that came in faith.

2018-12-07

Science of the Saints, 8-XII-2018 (25 Nov.), Holy Hieromartyrs Clement, Bishop of Rome and Peter, Bishop of Alexandria

The Hieromartyr Clement, Pope of Rome, was born at Rome into a rich and illustrious family. Since childhood separated from his parents by force of circumstances, Clement was raised by strangers. Living at Rome, the youth received a fine education, he was surrounded by luxury, and had access to the imperial court. But the comforts brought him no delight, and the pagan wisdom failed to attract him. He began to think about the meaning of life. When the news about Christ and His teaching began to reach the capital, Saint Clement left his home and estate and set out to those lands, where the Apostles were preaching. At Alexandria, Saint Clement encountered the holy Disciple Barnabas, hearkening to his words with deep attention, and with all his heart perceiving the power and truth of the Word of God. Arriving in Palestine, Saint Clement accepted Baptism from the holy Apostle Peter and became his zealous student and constant companion, sharing with him his toil and sufferings. The holy Apostle Peter shortly before his own sufferings and death ordained Saint Clement to become a bishop of the city of Rome. After the death of the Apostle Peter, there followed next as Bishop of Rome Saint Linus (67-79), succeeded by Saint Anacletus (79-91), and then upon the Roman cathethra came next Saint Clement (92-101).

The virtuous life, charitable works and prayerful activity of holy Pope Clement converted many to Christ. Thus, on the day of Pascha once he baptised 424 people. And among the baptised were people of all social classes: slaves, officials, members of the imperial family.

The pagans, seeing the success of his apostolic preaching, made denunciations against Saint Clement to the emperor Trajan (98-117), accusing the saint of insulting the pagan gods. The emperor banished Saint Clement from the capital, sending him off to the faraway Crimea, for work at the Inkerman stone quarry not far from the city of Kherson. Many of the disciples of the saint followed after him, voluntarily preferring exile rather than separation from their spiritual father. Having arrived at the place of exile, Saint Clement found there many Christian believers, sentenced to toil under harsh conditions, and amidst a scarcity of water. He prayed together with the condemned, and the Lord in the image of the Lamb revealed to him the place of a spring of water, from which gushed forth a veritable river of water. This miracle attracted to Saint Clement a multitude of people. Hearing the zealous preacher, hundreds of pagans were converted to Christ. Each day 500 or more men were baptised. And there, in the stone quarry, was made a church, in which he served as priest.

The apostolic activity of the saint aroused the wrath of the emperor Trajan, and he gave orders to drown Saint Clement. They threw the martyr into the sea with an anchor about his neck. This occurred in the year 101.

Through the prayers of the saint's faithful disciples, Cornelius and Fibius together with all the people, the sea receded, and the people found a not-wrought-by-hand temple ("Angelic Church") the undecayed body of their pastor. After this, yearly on the day of the martyr's death of Saint Clement the sea fell back and in its wake for seven days Christians were able to venerate his holy relics. Only in the ninth century during the reign of the Constantinople emperor Nicephoros (802-811), by Divine sufferance, the relics of Saint Clement for fifty years became inaccessible for veneration. During the time of the emperor Michael and his mother Theodora (855-867), Kherson was visited by holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Cyril and Methodius. Having learned about the concealed relics of Saint Clement, they induced the Kherson bishop George to make a collective service of prayer to the Lord for the revealing of the relics of the hieromartyr. After the service of prayer of Saints Cyril and Methodius and the clergy having come with them from Tsargrad and the fervent prayer of everyone gathered, on the surface of the sea at midnight there miraculously appeared the holy relics of Saint Clement. These they solemnly conveyed to the church of the Holy Apostles at Constantinople. A portion of the relics were then transported by Saints Cyril and Methodius to Rome, but a large portion of the relics was later brought to Kiev by the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Vladimir (+ 1015) and placed in the Desyatin-Tithe church, together with the relics of Saint Fibius, where a chapel in the name of Saint Clement had been constructed. The memory of the Hieromartyr Clement [in Russian Kliment] is sacredly venerated in Russia. From ancient times many a church has been dedicated to him.

Saint Clement, who belongs to the Apostolic Fathers, has left to us a spiritual legacy - two epistles to the Corinthians - the first such written memorials of Christian teaching after the writings of the holy Apostles. 

The Holy Hieromartyr Peter, Archbishop of Alexandria, was born and raised at Alexandria. He was a man highly educated, and occupied the position of head of the Alexandria school. In the year 300 he entered upon the guiding of the Alexandria Church, succeeding his teacher and spiritual guide, Blessed Bishop Theonas. Banished from the city during the time of the persecutions against Christians under the emperors Diocletian and Maximian, Saint Peter, being awhile in many imperial districts, again returned to his native city, in order to personally head the Alexandrian Church in this dangerous period. The saint secretly visited the Christians locked up in prison, encouraging steadfastness of faith in them, assisting the widows and orphans, preaching the Word of God, constantly praying and making Divine services. And the Lord kept him safe out of the hands of the persecutors. During this time of unrest to further unsettle the Church of Church there arose the impious teaching of the heretic Arius, who denied the Divinity of Jesus Christ. Saint Peter came out against him, he condemned the heretic and excommunicated him from the Church. And even then, when Arius through the students of Saint Peter besought the saint to lift the excommunication from him, asserting that he had repented and given up on his false teachings, Saint Peter, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, saw through the falsity and deceit of the renunciation of Arius, and so he instructed his flock not to believe Arius nor to accept him into churchly communion.

Under the wise nurturing of Saint Peter the Alexandrian Church strengthened and grew, in spite of the persecutions. But finally, on orders from the emperor Maximian (305‑311), the saint as arrested and sentenced to death. A multitude of people gathered at the entrance of the prison, expressing their outrage. Wanting to avoid bloodshed and a riot by the people, the saint sent a message to the authorities, in which he offered to coƶperate with them in knocking down a back wall of the prison, so that he might be taken away secretly from the people, to execution. In the dark of the night Saint Peter went forward to the executioners, who took him beyond the city walls and beheaded him at the selfsame spot, where formerly the holy Disciple Mark had been executed, and there was heard a Voice from the heavens, heard by a certain pious virgin that night, exclaiming: "Peter - first of the Apostles, Peter - last of the Alexandrian Martyrs." This occurred in the year 311. In the morning, having learned of the death of their bishop, a throng of people gathered at the place of execution, they took up the body and head of the martyr went off to the church, putting on him his bishop's vestments, they put him in the altar at the high place during the time of the funeral service. During his life Saint Peter sat only beneath it, since in the words of the saint, he beheld a Divine light, encircling the high place, and dared not through humility to enter it.

Saint Peter, a great champion of Orthodoxy, is known also as a profound theologian. Passages from his book, "On the Divinity (of Jesus Christ)" were taken into account at the Ephesus and Chalcedon Councils. From his works the most widely known and highly esteemed by the Church are the "Penitential Canons."

2018-12-06

Science of the Saints, 7-XII-2018 (24 Nov.), Great Martyress Katherine


The Holy Great Martyress Katherine was the daughter of the governor of Alexandrian Egypt Constus during the reign of the emperor Maximian (305-313). Living in the capital, the centre of Hellenistic knowledge, and possessed of an uncommon beauty and intellect, Katherine received a most splendid of educations, having studied the works of the finest philosophers and teachers of antiquity. Young men from the most worthy families of the empire sought the hand of the beautiful Katherine, but none of them was chosen. She declared to her parents that she would be agreeable to enter into marriage only with someone who surpassed her in illustriousness, wealth, comeliness, and wisdom.

Katherine's mother, a secret Christian, sent her for advice to her own spiritual father - a saintly elder pursuing prayerful deeds in solitude in a cave not far from the city. Having listened to Katherine, the elder said that he knew of a Youth, who surpassed her in everything, such that "His beauty was more radiant than the shining of the sun, His wisdom governed all creation, His riches were spread throughout all the world - this however did not diminish but rather added to the inexpressible loftiness of His lineage." The image of the Heavenly Bridegroom produced in the soul of the holy maiden an ardent desire to see Him. Truth, to which her soul yearned, revealed it to her. In parting, the elder handed Katherine an icon of the Mother of God with the God-Child Jesus on Her arm and bid her to pray with faith to the Queen of Heaven - the Mother of the Heavenly Bridegroom - for the bestowing of the vision of Her Son.

Katherine prayed all night and was given to see the Most Holy Virgin, Who sent Her Divine Son to look upon the kneeling of Katherine before Them. But the Child turned His face away from her saying that He was not able to look at her because she was ugly, of shabby lineage, beggarly, and mindless like every person - not washed with the waters of holy Baptism and not sealed with the seal of the Holy Spirit. Katherine returned again to the elder deeply saddened. He lovingly received her, instructed her in the faith of Christ, admonished her to preserve her purity and integrity and to pray unceasingly; he then performed over her the mystery/sacrament of holy Baptism. And again Saint Katherine had a vision of the Most Holy Mother of God with Her Child. Now the Lord looked tenderly at her and gave her a ring - a wondrous gift of the Heavenly Bridegroom.

At this time the emperor Maximian was himself in Alexandria for a pagan feastday. Because of this, the feast was especially splendid and crowded. The cries of the sacrificial animals, the smoke and the smell of the sacrifices, the endless blazing of fires, and the bustling crowds at the arenas filled Alexandria. Human victims also were brought - because they consigned to death in the fire the confessors in Christ, those not recanting from Him under torture. The Saint's love for the Christian martyrs and her fervent desire to lighten their fate impelled Katherine to go to the pagan head-priest and ruler of the empire, the emperor-persecutor Maximian. 

Introducing herself, the saint confessed her faith in the One True God and with wisdom denounced the errors of the pagans. The beauty of the maiden captivated the emperor. In order to convince her and show the superiourity of pagan wisdom, the emperor gave orders to gather fifty of the most learned men (rhetoricians) of the empire, but the Saint got the better of the wise men, such that they themselves came to believe in Christ. Saint Katherine shielded the martyrs with the sign of the cross, and they bravely accepted death for Christ and were burnt by order of the emperor.

Maximian, no longer hoping to convince the saint, tried to entice her with the promise of riches and fame. Having received an angry refusal, the emperor gave orders to subject the saint to terrible tortures and then throw her in prison. The Empress Augusta, who had heard much about the saint, wanted to see her. Having prevailed upon the military-commander Porphyry to accompany her with a detachment of soldiers, Augusta went to the prison. The empress was impressed by the strong spirit of Saint Katherine, whose face glowed with Divine grace. The holy martyress explained the Christian teaching to the newly-arrived, and they in believing were converted to Christ.

On the following day they again brought the martyress to the judgment court where, under the threat of being broken on the wheel, they urged that she recant from the Christian faith and offer sacrifice to the gods. The saint steadfastly confessed Christ and she herself approached the wheels; but an Angel smashed the instruments of execution, which broke up into pieces with many pagans passing nearby. Having beheld this wonder, the empress Augusta and the imperial courtier Porphyry with 200 soldiers confessed their faith in Christ in front of everyone, and they were beheaded. Maximian again tried to entice the holy martyress, proposing marriage to her, and again he received a refusal. Saint Katherine firmly confessed her fidelity to the Heavenly Bridegroom - Christ - and with a prayer to Him she herself put her head on the block under the sword of the executioner. The relics of Saint Katherine were taken by the Angels to Mount Sinai. In the sixth century, through a revelation, the venerable head and left hand of the holy martyress were found and transferred with honour to a newly-constructed church of the Sinai monastery, built by the holy emperor Justinian (527-565; Comm. 14 November).

2018-12-05

Science of the Saints, 6-XII-2018 (23 Nov.), Saint Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium

Sainted Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium, was born in Caesarea Cappadocia, a city having given the world among the greatest fathers and teachers of the Orthodox Church. He was a first cousin to Saint Gregory the Theologian, and a close friend of Saint Basil the Great. He was their student, follower and of like-mind with them. Saint Amphilochius toiled hard on the field of Christ. Up until the time when the Lord summoned him for hierarchical service, he lived in the wilderness as a strict ascetic for about forty years. In the year 372 the bishop of Iconium died. Angels of the Lord thrice appeared in visions to Saint Amphilochius, summoning him to go to Iconium for hierarchical service. The truthfulness of these visions was proven by that the Angel, appearing to him the third time, sang together with the saint the Angelic song: "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord Sabaoth." The heavenly messenger led the saint to the nearest church, where an assembly of Angels consecrated Amphilochius bishop.

The saint, on the way back to his cell, encountered seven bishops who were seeking after him through the command of God, so as to establish him as archpastor of Iconium. 

Sainted Amphilochius told them that he was already consecrated by the Angels.

For many years Sainted Amphilochius tended the Iconium flock entrusted to him by the Lord. The prayer of the righteous one was so intense, that he was able to implore of the Lord healing of spiritual and bodily infirmities of his flock. The wise archpastor, gifted as writer and preacher, unceasingly taught piety to his flock. A strict Orthodox theologian, the saint relentlessly confronted the Arian and Eunomian heresies. He participated in the events of the Second Ecumenical Council (381), and he headed the struggle against the heresy of Macedonios. Letters and tracts of Saint Amphilochius are preserved, in which the completed form is combined with a profoundly dogmatic and apologetic content. The holy Bishop Amphilochius of Iconium peacefully expired to the Lord in the year 394.