2019-03-20

Science of the Saints, 21-III-2019 (8 Mar.), Our Venerable Father and Confessor Theophylactus


Saint Theophylactus lived at Constantinople in the eighth century during the time of the Iconoclast heresy. After the death of the iconoclast emperor Leo IV the Khazar (775-780), there entered upon the throne the emperor Constantine VI (780-797). There occurred also a change of Patriarchs: the holy Patriarch Paul, not having the strength to continue guiding the flock afront the powerfully spread iconoclasm, voluntarily resigned the cathedra (784). In his place was chosen Saint Tarasius - at that time an eminent imperial counselor. Under the supervision of the new Patriarch was convened the Seventh Ecumenical Council (787), condemning the Iconoclast heresy. For Orthodoxy a relatively peaceful time began. Monasteries again began to fill with residents.

Saint Theophylactus, a gifted student of Saint Tarasius and with the blessing of this the Patriarch, settled together with Saint Michael in a monastery on the coast of the Black Sea. The zealous ascetics by their God-pleasing labours and intense efforts of prayer were granted by God the gift of wonderworking. By their prayers, during the time of an intense drought when the workers in the field were weakened by thirst, an empty vessel became filled with so much water, that it sufficed for the entire day. 

After several years in the monastery they were both consecrated by Patriarch Tarasius to the dignity of bishop: Saint Michael was made bishop of Synada, and Saint Theophylactus was made bishop of Nicomedia. 

Heading the Church of Nicomedia, Saint Theophylactus constantly concerned himself about the flock entrusted to him. He built churches, hospices, homes for wanderers, he generously distributed alms, was guardian for orphans, widows, and the sick, and himself attended to those afflicted with leprosy, not hesitating to wash their wounds.

When the iconoclast Leo the Armenian (813-820) came upon the imperial throne, the terrible heresy burst forth with new strength.

But the iconoclast emperor was not able to sway the successor of the holy Patriarch Tarasius, Saint Nicephorus (806-815), who together with the bishops vainly urged the ruler not to destroy churchly peace. Present at the negotiations of the emperor with the Patriarch was Saint Theophylactus, denouncing the heretics, and he predicted a speedy perishing to Leo the Armenian. For his bold prophesy the saint was sent into exile to the fortress Strobil (in Asia Minor). He languished for thirty years until his end, which occurred in about the year 845.

After the restoration of icon-veneration in the year 847, under the empress Saint Theodora (842-855; +867) and her son Michael, the holy relics of Bishop Theophylactus were transferred back to Nicomedia.

2019-03-19

Science of the Saints, 20-III-2019 (7 Mar.), The Hieromartyrs of Cherson: Basil, Ephrem, Capiton, Eugene, Etherius and others.


The Holy Hieromartyrs Basil, Ephrem, Eugene, Elpidias, Agathodorus, Etherius and Capiton carried the Good News of Christ into the North Black Sea region from the Danube to the Dniepr, including the Crimea, and they sealed their apostolic activity with a martyr's death during the fourth century in the city of Tauridian Chersonessus.

Long before the Baptism of Rus' under Saint Vladimir, the Christian faith had already spread into the Crimea, which in antiquity was called Tauridia and was ruled by the Roman emperor. The beginning of the enlightenment of Tauridia is attributed to the holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called (+62). Its very enemies even contributed to the further spread of Christianity, and contrary to their intent: the Roman emperors banished to this area transgressors against the state, which Christianity and the confessors of Christ were considered to be during the first three centuries. Thus, during the reign of Trajan (98-117) Saint Clement, Bishop of Rome (+101), was exiled for imprisonment to the Inkermann stone-quarry. There he continued with his preaching, and there also he accepted a martyr's end.

The pagans inhabiting the Crimean land stubbornly resisted the spread of Christianity. But the faith of Christ, through its self-denying preachers, grew strong and was affirmed. Many an evangeliser gave his life for this struggle.

At the beginning of the fourth century a bishop's cathedra was established at Chersonnesus. This was a critical period, when Chersonnesus served as a base for the Roman armies, which constantly passed through in their dependence upon Byzantium. During the reign of Diocletian (284-305), in the year 300 (that is, still before the persecution which the emperor started in the year 303), the Jerusalem Patriarch Hermonos (303-313) dispatched many bishops for preaching the Gospel in various lands. Two of them, Ephrem and Basil, arrived in Chersonnesus and planted there the Word of God. Later on, Saint Ephrem went to the peoples living along the Danube, where he underwent many tribulations and sorrows. At the time of the start of the persecution he was beheaded (exactly known is only the day of his death - 7 March). 

The preaching at Chersonnesus was continued by Saint Basil, the companion of Saint Ephrem. He set many idol worshippers onto the pathway of truth. Other wayward inhabitants of the city, enraged at his activity, showed wrathful resistance: the saint was arrested, mercilessly beaten and thrown out of the city. Having withdrawn to a mountain and settling in a cave, he incessantly prayed God for those that expelled him, that He might illumine them with the light of true divine knowledge. And the Lord sent the unbelieving a miracle. The only son of an important citizen of Chersonnesus died. The dead one appeared to his parents in a dream and said, that a certain man named Basil by his prayers to the True God could resurrect him from the dead. When the parents had searched out the saint and besought him to work the miracle, Saint Basil answered, that he himself was a sinful man and had not the power to resuscitate the dead, but the Lord Almighty could fulfill their request if they were to believe in Him. For a long time the saint prayed, invoking the Name of the Holy Trinity. Then, having blessed water, he sprinkled it on the dead one, who then came alive. The saint returned to the city with honour, and many believed and were baptised.

Soon, by order of the emperor Maximian Galerius (305-311), the persecution against Christians spread with renewed force. The Christ-haters rose up also against Saint Basil: on 7 March 309 he was dragged at night from his house; they tied him up, dragged him along the streets and beat him to death with stones and canes. The body of the saint was thrown out of the city for devouring by dogs and birds, and for many days it was left unburied, but remained untouched. Then Christians secretly buried the body of the holy martyr in a cave.

A year later, having learned of the martyr's death of Saint Basil, three of his companions - Bishops Eugene, Elpidius, and Agathodorus left off their preaching in the Hellespontine region, and arrived at Chersonnesus to continue his holy work. They underwent many hardships for the salvation of human souls. All three bishops shared the fate of their predecessor: demon-driven pagans likewise stoned them on 7 March 311.

After the passing of several years, a time already during the reign of holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine the Great (306-337), Bishop Etherius arrived in Chersonnesus from Jerusalem. At first he also encountered hostility on the part of the pagans, but the holy emperor in declaring freedom for the Christian faith would not tolerate acts of violence against the preacher: he issued a decree, by which it was declared that at Chersonnesus the Christians should be able to make divine services without hindrance. Through the efforts of Saint Etherius a church was built in the city, where the saint peacefully governed his flock.

To thank the emperor for protecting the Christians, Saint Etherius journeyed to Constantinople. On the return trip he fell ill and died on the island of Amos (in Greece) on 7 March.

In place of Saint Etherius, the holy emperor Constantine sent to Chersonnesus Bishop Capiton. The Christians met him with joy, but the pagans demanded from the new bishop a sign, so as to believe in the God Whom he preached. Placing all his hope on the Lord, Saint Capiton in clergy garb went into a red-hot bonfire, and for a long while he prayed in the fire and emerged from it unharmed, gathering up in his phelonion the red-hot coals. Many of the unbelievers were then persuaded in the power of the Christian God.

About this miracle and the great faith of Saint Capiton, reports were made to Saint Constantine and the holy fathers of the First Ecumenical Council (325). 

After several years Saint Capiton journeyed on business to Constantinople, but the ship hit a storm at the mouth of the Dniepr River. The local people (pagans) seized hold of the ship and drowned all those on board, including Saint Capiton. This however occurred on 21 December. The memory of the holy bishop of the Church was set in conjunction with the other Chersonnesus Hieromartyrs - 7 March.

The preaching of the Hieromartyrs strengthened the faith in Christ in the Chersonnesus. From the beginning of the fifth century this city became a spiritual centre, from which Christianity spread northwards towards Rus'. And all the more during the ninth century Chersonnesus exerted influence on the Russians, who had begun to settle in the city. Present-day archeological excavations have shown that in the city were more than fifty churches, dating to the fifth through fourteenth centuries. In the year 987 it was at Chersonnesus that holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Prince Vladimir accepted Baptism. This ancient city was a cradle of Christianity for Rus'.

2019-03-18

Science of the Saints, 19-III-2019 (6 Mar.), The Holy Forty-two Martyrs of Ammoria


The Holy Forty-two Martyrs of Ammoria: Constantine, Aetius, Theophilus, Theodore, Melissenus, Callistus, Basoes and the others with them. 

During the time of a war between the Graeco-Byzantine emperor Theophilus (829-842) and the Saracens, the Saracens managed to besiege the city of Ammoria (in Galicia in Asia Minor). As a result of treason on the part of the military commander Baditses, Ammoria fell, and forty‑two of its military defenders were taken captive and sent off to Syria. 

Over the course of seven years of exhaustive imprisonment they tried in vain to persuade the captives to renounce the Christian faith and accept Mussulmanism. The captives stubbornly resisted all the seductive offers and bravely held out against the terrible threats. After many torments that failed to break the spirit of the Christian soldiers, they condemned them to death, in the hope of shaking the steadfastness of the saints before the actual execution. They said to the Soldier Theodore: "We know that thou, having forsaken the priestly dignity, didst become a soldier and shed blood. Thou canst not hope upon Christ, so accept Mahomet," But the martyr with conviction replied: "I will not renounce Christ, and moreover, in that I left the priestly duty, the bloodshed was necessary."

The condemned calmly and without fear walked up to the executioners. They beheaded them, and threw their bodies into the River Euphrates. In the service to them, these holy passion bearers are glorified as: the "All-Blest" Theodore, the "Unconquered" Callistus, the "Valiant" Constantine, the "Wondrous" Theophilus and Basroes the "Most‑Strong."

And indeed the betrayer Baditses did not escape his shameful lot: the enemy knew that it is impossible to trust a traitor, and they killed him.

2019-03-17

Science of the Saints, 18-III-2019 (5 Mar.), The Holy Martyr Conon the Gardener


The Holy Martyr Conon of Isauria was born in Bethany, a village situated alongside the Asia Minor city of Isauria, the people of which had accepted the Christian faith from the Apostle Paul. Saint Conon from the time of his youthful years was accorded the special protection of the "Archistrategos" ("Leader of the Heavenly Hosts") Michael, who appeared to him and assisted him in many a difficult circumstance in life.

At the insistence of his parents, Conon was betrothed to a maiden named Anna, whom he persuaded after the wedding to remain a virgin. The young spouses lived as brother and sister, devoting themselves entirely to God. Saint Conon brought also his parents to the Christian faith. His father, Saint Nestor, accepted a martyr's end for denouncing idol worshippers.

Having early given burial likewise to both his mother and wife, Saint Conon continued his service to God, devoting himself entirely to monastic works, fasting and prayer. In his declining years the holy ascetic was glorified with the gift of wonderworking. By virtue of his preaching and miracles many a pagan was converted to Christ.

When a persecution against Christians started in Isauria, one of the first to suffer was Saint Conon. They subjected him to fierce torments for his refusal to offer sacrifice to idols. But the people of Isauria, learning about the tortures to which the saint was being subjected, marched out with arms in hand in defense of the martyr. Frightened off by the people's wrath, the torturers fled, and the Isaurians found the martyr wounded and bloodied at the place of torture. Saint Conon desired in all this that he be granted to accept a martyr's end for the Lord.

Two years afterwards Saint Conon died peacefully and was buried alongside his parents and wife.

2019-03-16

Science of the Saints, 17-III-2019 (4 Mar.), Our Venerable Father Gerasimus of the Jordan


The Monk Gerasimus was a native of Lycia (Asia Minor). From his early years he was distinguished for his piety. Having then accepted monasticism, the monk withdrew into the depths of the Thebaid wilderness (in Egypt). Thereafter, in about the year 450, the monk arrived in Palestine and settled at the Jordan, where he founded a monastery.

For a certain while Saint Gerasimus was tempted by the heresy of Eutychius and Dioscorus, which acknowledged in Jesus Christ only the Divine nature, but not His human nature (i.e. the Monophysite heresy). The Monk Euthymius the Great helped him to return to the true faith. 

At the monastery the Monk Gerasimus established a strict monastic rule. He spent five days of the week in solitude, occupying himself with handicrafts and prayer. On these days the wilderness dwellers did not eat cooked food, nor even kindle a fire, but rather ate only dry bread, roots, and water. On Saturday and Sunday all gathered at the monastery for Divine Liturgy and to commune the Holy Mysteries of Christ. In the afternoon, taking with them a supply of bread, tubers, water, and an armload of date-palm branches for weaving into baskets, the wilderness dwellers returned to their own cells. Each had only old clothes and a mat, upon which he slept. In exiting their cells, the door was never secured, so that anyone coming by could enter, and rest, or take along necessities.

The Monk Gerasimus himself attained an high level of asceticism. During Great Lent he ate nothing until the very day of the All-Radiant Resurrection of Christ, when he communed the Holy Mysteries. Going out into the wilderness for the whole of Great Lent, the Monk Gerasimus took along with him his beloved disciple Blessed Cyriacus, whom the Monk Euthymius had sent off to him.

At the time of the death of Saint Euthymius the Great, the Monk Gerasimus saw how Angels carried up the soul of the departed off to Heaven. Taking Cyriacus with him, the monk immediately set off to the monastery of Saint Euthymius and consigned his body to earth. 

The Monk Gerasimus himself died peacefully, wept over by brethren and disciples. Before his death, a lion had aided the Monk Gerasimus in his tasks, and upon the death of the elder it too died at his grave and was buried nearby. And therefore the lion is depicted on icons of the saint, at his feet.

2019-03-15

Science of the Saints, 16-III-2019 (3 Mar.), The Holy Martyr Eutropius and his Companions, Cleonicus and Basiliscus


The brothers Eutropius and Cleonicus, and Basiliscus the nephew of the Great Martyr Theodore of Tyre, were comrades. After the martyr's death of Saint Theodore, they wound up in prison and by their preaching brought to the Christian faith many of the pagans located in prison with them.

When he tortured Saint Theodore, Publius perished shamefully, struck down by Divine wrath. Asclepiodotos was chosen governor of Pontine Amasia, and did not bend from the fierceness of his predecessor. Knowing the comrades of the martyr Theodore of Tyre were still all in prison, the governor commanded that they be brought to him. Saints Eutropius, Cleonicus and Basiliscus thus firmly confessed their faith in Christ in front of this new governor. They were mercilessly beaten, such that their bodies became entirely bruised. At the time of torture Saint Eutropius prayed loudly to the Saviour: "Grant us, O Lord, to endure the making of these wounds for the sake of the crown of martyrdom, and come in help to us, like as Thou camest to Thy servant Theodore." In answer to this prayer of the saint, there appeared to the martyrs the Lord Himself with Angels and together with them the holy Great Martyr Theodore of Tyre, saying to them: "Behold, the Saviour is come in help to you, that ye may know about life eternal." 

Soldiers and many of the people standing nearby were also granted to behold the Saviour. They began to urge Asclepiodotos to halt the tortures. Seeing that the people were distraught and ready to believe in the True God, the governor commanded the martyrs to be taken away. The governor then invited Saint Eutropius to him at supper and urged him to publicly offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, yet remain a Christian in soul.

But Eutropius refused this offer.

On the following day they brought the martyrs to a pagan temple, so as to compel them by force to offer sacrifice. Eutropius thereupon began to entreat the Saviour: "Lord, be with us, and destroy the raging of the pagans. Grant, that on this place be offered a Christian Bloodless Sacrifice unto Thee, the True God." These last words of prayer had only just been spoken, when there began an earthquake, the walls of the temple began to collapse, and with them was smashed also the statue of the goddess Artemis. Everyone fled from the temple so as not to be crushed amidst the rubble. Amidst the noise of the earthquake was heard a voice from on high: "Your prayer is heard, and on this place shalt be built an house for Christian prayer."

When the earthquake ended, the governor Asclepiodotos, barely just recovered from fright, gave orders to drive high wooden stakes into the ground, tie the martyrs to them and pour boiling tar over them. The saints began to pray to God, and Eutropius cried out turning to the torturers: "May the Lord turn your deed against you!" And the tar began to flow aside the bodies of the martyrs, like water with marble, scorching the torturers. Those seeing this fled in terror, but the governor in his bitterness gave orders to rend their bodies with iron hooks and to sting their wounds with mustard, mixed with salt and vinegar. The saints endured these torments with remarkable firmness.

The following night before execution the saints spent their time at prayer, and again the Lord appeared to them and strengthened them.

On the morning of 3 March, Saints Eutropius and Cleonicus were crucified, but Basiliscus was left in prison.

They executed Saint Basiliscus on 22 May in the city of Komana. They beheaded him, and threw his body into a river. But Christians found his remains and buried them in a ploughed field. Later at Komana was built a church in the name of Saint Basiliscus. 

2019-03-14

Science of the Saints, 15-III-2019 (2 Mar.), The Holy Martyr Theodotus, Bishop of Cyrene


The Hieromartyr Theodotus, a native of Galatia in Asia Minor, was bishop of the city of Cyrene in Cyprus. 

During a time of persecution against Christians under the impious emperor Licinius (307-324), Saint Theodotus openly preached Christ, calling on the pagans to abandon idol worship and turn to the True God. The governor of Cyprus Sabinus gave orders to arrest and bring bishop Theodotus to trial. Having found out about this order, the saint did not wait for the soldiers sent after him, but instead immediately went to the governor with the words: "I am here, whom thou seekest; I have shown myself, so as to preach Christ my God." 

The governor gave orders for the saint to be beaten without mercy, hung up upon a tree and be dealt with by sharp implements, and then be taken to prison. After five days Saint Theodotus was again brought to the governor, who presumed that the bishop would prefer after his tortures to renounce Christ, rather than endure new sufferings. But Saint Theodotus did not cease to preach about Christ. At first they put the saint on an iron grate, under which they set a bonfire, and then hammered nails into his feet and let him go. Many witnessed the sufferings of the martyr: astonished at the endurance of the saint and his divinely inspired speaking, they came to believe in Christ. Learning of this, Sabinus gave orders to stop the torture and lock up the saint in prison.

During the time of Saint Constantine the Great, the freedom to confess their faith was given to all Christians, and among the sufferers set free from prison was also Saint Theodotus. The saint returned to Cyrene and after two years serving as bishop he peacefully expired to the Lord in about the year 326.