2019-07-19

Science of the Saints, 20-VII-2019 (7 July), Our Venerable Fathers Thomas of Maleum and Acacius, mentioned in “The Ladder”


The Monk Thomas of Maleum was a military commander before accepting monasticism. Powerful and brave, he had participated in many a battle, and he brought victory to his countrymen, for which he gained glory and esteem. But, striving with all his heart towards God, Thomas left the world with its honours and he took monastic vows.

With great humility he visited monastic elders, asking of them guidance in the spiritual life. After several years Thomas received the blessing for solitary wilderness life and, strengthened in particular by a revelation through the holy prophet of God, Elias, he settled on Mount Maleum (eastern part of Athos). Dwelling in complete seclusion, Saint Thomas fought with invisible enemies with suchlike a courage as before he had against the visible enemies of his country.

The life and deeds of Saint Thomas were not able to be concealed from the surrounding area. People began to flock to him seeking spiritual guidance, and even those suffering from sickness, since he received from God the blessing to heal infirmities. 

Many believers received help through the prayers of the monk and upon his departure to God. 

The Monk Acacius of Sinai lived during the sixth century and was a novice at a certain monastery. The humble monk distinguished himself by his patient and unquestioning obedience to his spiritual elder, a man of callous character. He forced the monk to toil excessively, starved him with hunger, and beat him without mercy. Despite such treatment, the Monk Acacius meekly endured the affliction and thanked God for everything. Not long surviving such harsh obedience, Saint Acacius died.

The elder after five days told about the death of his disciple to another elder, who did not believe that the young monk was dead. Then this teacher of Acacius called this other elder over to the grave of Acacius and loudly asked: "Brother Acacius, art thou dead?" From the grave was heard a voice: "No, father, not dead; whosoever beareth an obedience, is not wont to die." The startled elder fell down with tears before the grave, asking forgiveness of his disciple.

And after this he changed himself morally, he applied himself in his cell near the grave of Saint Acacius, and in prayer and in meekness he finished out his life. The Monk John Climacus offers this tale in his "Ladder" as an example of endurance and obedience, and the rewards for them.

2019-07-18

Science of the Saints, 19-VII-2019 (6 July), Our Venerable Father Sisoes the Great


The Monk Sisoes the Great (+ 429) was a hermit-monk, pursuing asceticism in the Egyptian wilderness in a cave sanctified by the prayerful labours of his predecessor, the Monk Anthony the Great. For his sixty years of wilderness deeds the Monk Sisoes attained to sublime spiritual purity and he was vouchsafed a gift of wonderworking, such that by his prayer he even once returned a dead lad back to life.

Extremely strict with himself, the Monk Sisoes was very merciful and compassionate to those nearby and he received everyone with love. Those who visited him he first of all always taught humility. To the question of one of the monks as to how might he attain to a constant mindfulness of God, the monk remarked: "That is still not of much consequence, my son, but more important is this: to account oneself below everyone else, because such disparagement assists in the acquisition of humility." Asked by the monks, whether one year is sufficient for repentance in having fallen into sin against a brother, the Monk Sisoes said: "I believe in the mercy of God the Lover-of-Mankind, and if a man repent with all his soul, then God wilt accept his repentance in the course of three days."

When the Monk Sisoes lay upon his death-bed, the disciples surrounding the elder saw that his face did shine. They asked the dying man what he saw. Abba Sisoes answered that he looked upon the prophets and apostles. The disciples asked, with whom did the monk converse? He said that Angels had come for his soul, and he had entreated them to give him a short bit of time yet for repentance. "Thou, father, hast not need for repentance," replied the students. But the Monk Sisoes, with his great humility, answered: "I do not know for sure whether I have even begun to make my repentance." After these words the face of the holy abba shone so, that the brethren were not able to look upon him. The monk had time to tell them that he saw the Lord Himself, and his holy soul expired to the Heavenly Kingdom.

2019-07-17

Science of the Saints, 18-VII-2019 (5 July), Our Venerable Father Athanasius of Athos


The Monk Athanasius of Athos, in holy Baptism named Abraham, was born in the city of Trapezund. He was early left orphaned, and being raised by a certain good and pious nun, he copied his adoptive mother in the habits of monastic life, in fasting and in prayer. Doing his lessons came easily and he soon outpaced his peers in study.

After the death of his adoptive mother, Abraham was taken to Constantinople, to the court of the then Byzantine emperor Romanos the Elder, and was enrolled as a student under the renowned rhetorician Athanasius. In a short while the student attained the mastery of skill of his teacher and he himself became an instructor of youths. Reckoning as the true life that of fasting and vigilance, Abraham led a life strict and abstinent, he slept little and then only sitting upon a stool, and barley bread and water were his nourishment. When his teacher Athanasius through human weakness became jealous of his student, blessed Abraham quit his teaching and went away.

During these days there had arrived at Constantinople the Monk Michael Maleinos, hegumen of the Kimineia monastery. Abraham told the hegumen about his life, and revealed to him his secret desire to become a monk. The holy elder, discerning in Abraham a chosen vessel of the Holy Spirit, became fond of him and taught him much in questions of salvation. One time during their spiritual talks Saint Michael was visited by his nephew, Nicephoros Phokas, a renowned military officer and future emperor. The lofty spirit and profound mind of Abraham impressed Nicephoros, and all his life he regarded the saint with reverent respect and with love. Abraham was consumed by his zeal for the monastic life. Having forsaken everything, he went to the Kimineia monastery and, falling down at the feet of the holy hegumen, he besought to be received into the monastic form. The hegumen fulfilled his request with joy and gave him monastic vows with the name Athanasius.

With long fasts, vigils, bending of the knees, with works night and day Athanasius soon attained such perfection that the holy hegumen blessed him for the exploit of silence in a solitary place not far from the monastery. Later on, having left Kimineia, he made the rounds of many a desolate and solitary place, and guided by God, he came to a place called Melanos, at the very extremity of Athos, settling far off from the other monastic dwellings. Here the monk made himself a cell and began to asceticise in works and in prayer, proceeding from exploit to exploit towards higher monastic attainment.

The enemy of mankind tried to arouse in Saint Athanasius hatred for the place chosen by him, and assaulted him with constant suggestions in thought. The ascetic decided to suffer it out for a year, and then wherever the Lord should direct him, he would go. On the last day of this year's length of time, when Saint Athanasius set about to prayer, a Heavenly Light suddenly shone upon him, filling him with an indescribable joy, all the thoughts dissipated, and from his eyes welled up graced tears. From that moment Saint Athanasius received the gift of tenderness, and the place of his solitude he became as strongly fond of as before he had loathed it. During this time Nicephoros Phokas, having had enough of military exploits, remembered his vow to become a monk and from his means he besought the Monk Athanasius to build a monastery, i.e. to build cells for him and the brethren, and a church where the brethren could commune the Divine Mysteries of Christ on Sundays.

Tending to shun cares and worries, Blessed Athanasius at first would not agree to accept the hateful gold, but seeing the fervent desire and good intent of Nicephoros, and discerning in this the will of God, he set about the building of the monastery. He erected a large church in honour of the holy Prophet and Forerunner of Christ John the Baptist, and another church at the foot of a hill, in the name of the Most Holy Virgin Mother of God. Around the church were the cells, and a wondrous monastery arose on the Holy Mount. In it were arrayed a refectory, a hospice for the sick and for taking in wanderers, and other necessary structures.

Brethren flocked to the monastery from everywhere, not only from Greece, but also from other lands - simple people and illustrious dignitaries, wilderness-dwellers having asceticised long years in the wilderness, hegumens from many a monastery and hierarchs wanting to become simple monks in the Athos Laura of Saint Athanasius.

The saint established at the monastery a life-in-common ("coenobitic") monastic-rule on the model of the old Palestinian monasteries. Divine-services were made with all strictness, and no one made bold to chatter during the time of service, nor to come late or leave without need from the church.

The Heavenly Patroness of Athos, the All-Pure Mother of God Herself, was graciously disposed towards the saint. Many a time he was granted to behold Her wondrous eyes. By the sufferance of God there once occurred such a hunger that the monks one after the other quit the Laura. The saint remained all alone and in a moment of weakness he also considered leaving. Suddenly he beheld a Woman beneath an ethereal veil, coming to meet him. "Who art thou and whither goest?" She asked quietly. Saint Athanasius from an innate deference halted. "I am a monk from here," answered Saint Athanasius and told about himself and his worries. "And on account of a morsel of dry bread thou wouldst forsake the monastery, which was intended for glory from generation unto generation? Where is thy faith? Turn round, and I shalt help thee." "Who art Thou?" asked Athanasius. "I am the Mother of thy Lord," She answered and bid Athanasius to strike his staff upon a stone, such that from the fissure there shot forth a spring of water, which exists even now, in remembrance of this miraculous visitation. 

The brethren grew in number, and the construction work at the Laura continued. The Monk Athanasius, foreseeing the time of his departure to the Lord, prophesied about his impending end and besought the brethren not to be troubled over what he foresaw. "For Wisdom disposeth otherwise than people do judge." The brethren were perplexed and pondered over the words of the saint. Having bestown on the brethren his final guidance and comforted all, Saint Athanasius entered his cell, put on his mantle and holy koukoulion-headpiece, which he wore only on great feasts, and after prolonged prayer he emerged. Alert and joyful, the holy hegumen went up with six of the brethren to the top of the church to look over the construction. Suddenly, through the imperceptible will of God, the top of the church collapsed. Five of the brethren immediately gave up their spirit to God. The Monk Athanasius and the architect Daniel, thrown upon the stones, remained alive. All heard, as the monk called out to the Lord: "Glory to Thee, O God! Lord, Jesus Christ, help me!" The brethren with great weeping began to dig out their father from amidst the rubble, but they found him already dead.

2019-07-16

Science of the Saints, 17-VII-2019 (4 July), Our Holy Father Andrew of Jerusalem, Archbishop of Crete


Sainted Andrew, Archbishop of Crete, was born in the city of Damascus into a pious Christian family. Up until seven years of age the boy was mute and did not talk. However, after communing the Holy Mysteries of Christ he found the gift of speech and began to speak. And from that time the lad began earnestly to study Holy Scripture and the discipline of theology.

At fourteen years of age he went off to Jerusalem and there he accepted monastic tonsure at the monastery of Saint Sava the Sanctified. Saint Andrew led a strict and chaste life, he was meek and abstinent, such that all were amazed at his virtue and reasoning of mind. As a man of talent and known for his virtuous life, over the passage of time he came to be numbered amongst the Jerusalem clergy and was appointed a secretary for the Patriarchate - a writing clerk. In the year 680 the locum tenens of the Jerusalem Patriarchate, Theodore, included archdeacon Andrew amongst the representatives of the Holy City sent to the Sixth Ecumenical Council, and here the saint contended against heretical teachings, relying upon his profound knowledge of Orthodox doctrine. Shortly after the Council he was summoned back to Constantinople from Jerusalem and he was appointed archdeacon at the church of Saint Sophia, the Wisdom of God. During the reign of the emperor Justinian II (685-695) Saint Andrew was ordained bishop of the city of Gortineia on the island of Crete. In his new position he shone forth as a true luminary of the Church, a great hierarch, a theologian, teacher, and hymnographer.

Saint Andrew wrote many a Divine-service song. He was the originator of a new liturgical form - the canon. Of the canons composed by him the best known is the Great Penitential Canon, including within its 9 odes the 250 troparia recited during the Great Lent. In the First Week of Lent at the service of Compline it is read in portions, and again on Thursday of the Fifth Week at the All-night Vigil during Matins.

Saint Andrew of Crete gained reknown with his many praises of the All-Pure Virgin Mary. To him are likewise ascribed: the Canon for the feast of the Nativity of Christ, three odes for the Compline-service of Palm Sunday and also in the first four days of Holy Passion Week, as well as verses for the feast of the Meeting of the Lord, and many another church-songs. His hymnographic tradition was continued by the churchly great melodists of following ages: Saints John of Damascus, Cosma of Maium, Joseph the Melodist, Theophan the Written-upon. There have also been preserved edifying Sermons of Saint Andrew for certain of the Church feasts. 

Church historians are not of the same opinion as to the date of death of the saint. One suggests the year 712, while others the year 726. He died on the island of Mytilene, while returning to Crete from Constantinople, where he had been on churchly business. His relics were transferred to Constantinople. In the year 1350 the pious Russian pilgrim Stefan Novgorodets saw the relics at the Constantinople monastery named for Saint Andrew of Crete.

2019-07-15

Science of the Saints, 16-VII-2019 (3 July), The Holy Martyr Hyacinth


The Holy Martyr Hyacinth, a native of Caesarea Cappadocia, grew up in a Christian family. The Roman emperor Trajan made him his "cubicularius" (bed-chamberlain).

Once during the time of a pagan festival the emperor Trajan was feasting in a pagan temple together with his companions, eating of the idol-offered food, but the youth Hyacinth, having remained at the palace, shut himself up in a small room and prayed fervently to the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the servants overheard the words of prayer. He made a denunciation to the emperor, that Hyacinth, entrusted with an imperial position, did not honour the Roman gods but was secretly praying to Christ.

They immediately arrested Saint Hyacinth and led him to Trajan. The emperor demanded that he eat of the idol-offered meat, but the saint bravely refused and declared himself a Christian. By order of Trajan, they locked up the holy martyr in prison after fierce tortures, and they exhausted him with hunger and thirst, so as to force him to eat of idolatrous food. On the 38th day, one of the guards, bringing the idol-offering meat, saw Angels alongside the martyr, dressing him in bright attire and placing on his head a crown.

The torturers decided to continue with the trial over the saint, but they found him in prison already dead. The twelve year old Hyacinth died in the year 108 in the city of Rome. They afterwards transferred the relics of the saint to Caesarea.

2019-07-14

Science of the Saints, 15-VII-2019 (2 July), The Deposition of the Venerable Robes of the Theotokos at Blachernae


The Placement of the Venerable Robe of the Most Holy Mother of God at Blachernae: During the years of the reign of the Byzantine emperor Leo the Great the Macedonian (457-474), the brothers Galbius and Candidus, associates of the emperor, set out from Constantinople to Palestine to venerate at the holy places. In a small settlement near Nazareth they stopped for overnight lodging with a certain quite aged Hebrew woman. In her house the burning of candles and smoking incense caught the attention of the pilgrims. To their questions as to what sort of sacred thing there was in her house, the pious woman for a long time did not want to give an answer, but after persistent requests she replied that she had a very precious sacred item - the Robe of the Mother of God, from which had occurred many miracles and healings. The Most Holy Virgin before the time of Her Dormition bequeathed one of her garments to a pious Jewish maiden from the family-lineage of this house, having instructed her to hand it on after death to another virgin. Thus, from generation to generation, the Robe of the Mother of God was preserved in this family. 

The jewelled chest containing the sacred Robe was transferred to Constantinople. Saint Gennadios, Patriarch of Constantinople, and the emperor Leo having learned of the sacred find, convinced themselves of the incorruptness of the holy Robe and with trembling they certified its authenticity. At Blachernae, near the seacoast, there was erected a new church in honour of the Mother of God. On 2 June 458 Sainted Gennadios with appropriate solemnity transferred the sacred Robe into the Blachernae church, placing it within a new reliquary.

Afterwards into the reliquary, together with the Robe of the Mother of God, was put also Her omophorion (i.e. the outer or over-robe) and part of Her belt-sash. This circumstance also set its seal upon the Orthodox iconography of the feast, in conjoining the two events: the Placing of the Robe, and the Placing of the Belt-Sash of the Mother of God in Blachernae. The Russian pilgrim Stefan Novgorodets, visiting Constantinople in about the year 1350, testifies: "We arrived at Blachernae, wherein lies the Robe upon an altar‑throne in an imprinted reliquary."

2019-07-13

Science of the Saints, 14-VII-2019 (1 July), The Holy Unmercenary Healers and Wonder-workers Cosmas and Damian


The Holy Martyrs, Wonderworkers and Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian were brothers by birth, born at Rome, and physicians by profession. They accepted a martyr's death at Rome under the emperor Carinus (283-284). They were brought up by their parents in the rules of piety, they led strict and chaste lives, and they were granted by God the graced gift of healing the sick. By their good and unselfish attitude towards people, combined with their exceptional kindliness, the brothers converted many to Christ. The saints usually said to the sick: "It is not by our power that we treat the sick, but by the power of Christ, the True God. Believe in Him and be healed." For their unselfish doctoring of the infirm, the holy brothers were called "unmercenary physicians."

Their active service towards neighbour and spiritual influence on the surroundings, leading many into the Church, attracted the attention of the Roman authorities. Soldiers were sent after the brothers. Hearing about this, Christians implored Saints Cosmas and Damian to hide themselves away for a while until they could render them help. But the soldiers, not finding the brothers, arrested instead other Christians of the settlement where the saints lived. Saints Cosmas and Damian then came out of hiding and delivered themselves over into the hands of the soldiers, asking them to set free those arrested because of them.

At Rome, the saints were at first locked up in prison, and then were taken for trial. The saints openly confessed before the Roman emperor and the judge their faith in Christ God, having come into the world to save mankind and redeem the world from sin, and they resolutely refused to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. They said: "We have caused evil for no one, we have not involved ourselves with the magic or sorcery, of which you accuse us. We doctor the infirm by the power of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and we do not take any sort of recompense for rendering aid to the sick, because our Lord commanded His disciples: "Freely ye have received, freely give." (Mt. 10:8)

The emperor however continued with his demands. Through the prayer of the holy brothers, imbued with the power of grace, God suddenly struck Carinus blind, so that he too in his own experience might know the almightiness of the Lord, not forgiving blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The people, beholding the miracle, cried out: "Great is the Christian God and no other is God, except Him!" Many of those that believed besought the holy brothers to heal the emperor, and he himself implored the saints, promising to convert to the True God Christ the Saviour. The saints healed him. After this, Saints Cosmas and Damian were with honour set free and again they set about doctoring the sick.

But what the hatred of the pagans and the ferocity of the Roman authorities could not do, was done by black envy, one of the strongest passions of the sinful nature of man. An older physician - an instructor, under whom in their time the holy brothers had studied the medical craft - became jealous of their fame. Driven to madness by this malice, and all overcome by passion, he summoned the holy brothers, formerly his most beloved students, that they should all get together for a gathering of various medicinal herbs, and setting far off into the mountains, he murdered them, throwing their bodies into a river. 

Thus as martyrs ended the earthly journey of these holy brothers - the Unmercenary Healers Cosmas and Damian. They had devoted all their life to a Christian service to neighbour, having escaped the Roman sword and prison, but treacherously murdered by a teacher.

The Lord glorified His God-pleasing ones. And now through the prayers of the holy Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian is received healing from God for all, who with faith recourse to their saintly intercession.