2020-09-19

Science of the Saints, 20 September, Great Martyr Eustathius, His Wife Theopiste, And Their Two Sons Agapius And Theopistus


The Holy Great Martyr Eustathius before Baptism had the name "Placidus" [meaning "placid" or "calm" in Latin]. He was a military commander under the emperors Titus (79-81) and Trajan (98-117). Even before he came to know Christ, Placidus did acts of charity, helping the poor and destitute. And the Lord deigned not to leave the virtuous pagan remain within the darkness of idol-worship.

One time while hunting he chased upon his speedy mount after a stag, which halted its run atop an high hill, and Placidus suddenly saw amidst its antler-rack a radiant Cross, and upon it the Crucified Son of God. In surprise Placidus heard a voice saying: "Why dost thou pursue Me, Placidus?" "Who art Thou, Master, Who dost speak with me?" in fright asked Placidus. In reply he heard: "I am Jesus Christ, God, Who wast incarnated for the salvation of mankind and didst endure voluntary suffering and death by the Cross. Thou honourest Me even without knowing Me, since thy good deeds and abundant alms art come to Me. I have appeared here, to convert and to conjoin thee unto Mine true servants. For I want that the man working righteous deeds, shouldst not perish in the snares of enemies."

Placidus cried out: "Lord, I do believe that Thou art the God of Heaven and earth, the Creator of all creatures. I beseech Thee, O Master, teach me what I should do." And again resounded the Divine voice: "Go thou unto the Christian priest, receive from him Baptism, and he wilt instruct thee unto salvation."

With joy Placidus returned home, and told everything to his wife. She in turn told him, how the evening before in a mysterious dream-vision she had been told: "Thou, thy husband, and thy sons on the morrow shalt come unto Me and know Me - Christ Jesus, the True God, sent unto the salvation of those that do love Me." The spouses then proceeded to do as they had been bidden.

They hastened to the Christian presbyter, who baptised all their family, and communed all with the Holy Mysteries.

On the following day Saint Eustathius set out to the place of his miraculous conversion and in fervent prayer he offered up thanks to the Lord, for having called him onto the path of salvation.

And again Saint Eustathius was vouchsafed a miraculous revelation - the Lord Himself foretold him about impending tribulations: "Eustathius, thou must needs prove thine faith in deeds. Before thee, like unto Job, art many a sorrow, so that being put to the test like gold in the forge, thou be shewn worthy of Me and receive the crown from My hands." Saint Eustathius humbly answered: "Thy will be done, O Lord. I am prepared to accept all things at Thine hands with gratitude, but let Thine almighty help be with me."

Soon Saint Eustathius was plunged into misfortune: all his servants died and his cattle perished. Brought to ruin, but not despairing in spirit, Saint Eustathius with his family secretly abandoned their home, to live unknown, humble and in poverty. He set off on a ship to Egypt. During the time of sailing a new woe beset the saint. The ship owner, enchanted by the beauty of the wife of Eustathius, cruelly set him ashore with his children, keeping the wife for himself. In great grief the saint continued on his way, and new woe beset him. Crossing a tempestuous river ford, he went to carry in turn his two sons, but when he had carried across the one, the other on shore was seized by a lion and carried off into the wilderness, and while he returned towards the other, a wolf dragged that one off into the forest.

Having lost everything, Saint Eustathius wept bitterly. But he realised that Divine Providence had sent him these misfortunes to test his endurance and devotion to the will of God. In prayer lifting up to God his inconsolable grief, Saint Eustathius went on further, prepared for new tribulations. In the village of Badiss he found work and spent five years in unremitting toil. But Saint Eustathius did not then know that through the mercy of God shepherds and farmers had saved his sons, and they lived right nearby him. He also did not know, that the impudent shipowner was soon struck down - he died from a terrible disease, and the wife of Saint Eustathius had been left untouched, and she lived at peaceful work.

During this time period it had become difficult for the emperor Trajan to levy an army for Rome. He then remembered the valiant regimental commander Placidus and dispatched Antiochus and Acacius, friends of Placidus, to find him.

Having gone round a multitude of places, finally they arrived in the village, where Saint Eustathius lived. The soldiers came upon Eustathius in a field, where he was guarding the bread-grain, but they did not recognise him and they began to tell him about the one whom they sought, asking his help and promising a large reward. But Saint Eustathius, immediately recognising his friends, did not reveal to them his identity. He brought them to the home of his master and fed them. Gazing at him, the travellers noted that he very much resembled their regimental commander, and when they saw on his knee a peculiar mark - the scar from a deep war wound - they realised that in front of them was their friend. They hugged him with tears and said why they were seeking him. Saint Eustathius returned to Rome and again became an imperial commandant. Many a new recruit entered the army for him, and he did not know, that the two young soldier-friends, to whom he often gave orders and whom he loved for their skill and daring, were actually his own sons. And they did not know that they were serving under the command of their own father, nor that they each the other were brothers by birth.

One time while on campaign the army, led by Eustathius, halted at a certain settlement. The soldier-brothers were talking in their tent. The elder one spoke about his lot: how he had lost his mother and hapless brother, and how in a terrifying way he had been parted from his father. And the younger brother with joy realised that in front of him was his very own brother, and told him so and also about himself.

A woman overheard the soldiers' conversation - their tent was pitched right next to her house - and this woman was their mother! She realised that these were her sons. Still not yet identifying herself to them, and not wanting to be separated from them, she went to their commander, Saint Eustathius, to ask permission to follow along with his army. And this commander she recognised as her husband, and with tears she told him about herself and about the two soldiers, who were actually their sons. Thus, through the great mercy of the Lord, the whole family was happily reunited.

Soon thereafter the war ended in victory. Saint Eustathius returned to Rome with honours and glory. The emperor Trajan had since died, and his successor Adrian (117‑138) wanted to celebrate the event of victory with a solemn offering of sacrifice to the gods. To the astonishment of everyone Saint Eustathius did not show up at the pagan temple. By order of the emperor they searched frantically for him.

"Why wishest thou not to worship the gods?" enquired the emperor, -"It becometh thee before all others to offer up thanks unto them. They not only preserved thee in war and granted thee victory, but also they did help thee find thy wife and children." Saint Eustathius replied: "I am a Christian and I know as the One God Christ Jesus, I revere and give thanks to Him, and I worship Him. He hath given me everything: health, victory, He returned my family and hath sent down His help unto the overcoming of tribulations."

In a rage the emperor stripped him of his rank and summoned him with his family to trial. But there also they did not succeed in swaying the steadfast confessors of Christ into offering sacrifice to idols. The whole family of Saint Eustathius was sentenced to be torn apart by wild beasts. But the beasts would not touch the holy martyrs. Then the cruel emperor in his wrath gave orders to throw them all alive into a red-hot copper ox, and here Saint Eustathius, his wife Theopistia, and their sons Agapius and Theopistus accepted a martyr's end. Three days later they opened the fiery grave, and the bodies of the holy martyrs were found unscathed - not one hair on their heads was singed, and their faces shone with an unearthly beauty. Many seeing this miracle came to believe in Christ. Christians then gave burial to the bodies of the saints.

2020-09-18

Science of the Saints, 19 September, Holy Martyrs Trophimus, Sabbatius, And Dorymedon


The Holy Martyrs Trophimus, Sabbatius, and Dorymedon suffered for Christ during the reign of the Roman emperor Probus (276-282). 

One time in the city of Antioch a pagan feast-day was being celebrated. The sacrificial offerings were brought, the wine was poured, and the vile acts were done. The Christians Trophimus and Sabbatius arrived in the city, and with grief looking upon this loud and indecent spectacle, they besought the Lord to guide the errant onto the way of salvation. They were arrested and taken to the governor. 

At the interrogation, the saints firmly confessed their faith, and to the demand that they renounce their faith, they answered with a resolute refusal. During the time of fierce tortures Saint Sabbatius died, and Saint Trophimus was sent off, for even more terrible tortures, unto the city of Synnada to the governor Frigius Dionysius, infamous as a torturer and executioner. 

Shod in iron sandals with sharp nails, Saint Trophimus for three days went on foot, driven on by a cavalry guard. The skilled torturer used all manners of torture to break the will of the brave Christian but Saint Trophimus merely repeated the words of Scripture: "many an affliction hath the righteous one, but from them all wilt the Lord deliver him." (Ps. 33:20) 

They threw the sufferer into prison, where he was visited by a secret Christian - the senator Dorymedon. He attended to Saint Trophimus, washing and binding his wounds. When this came to the attention of the torturers, they began to demand Saint Dorymedon renounce Christianity, and then they threw him together with Saint Trophimus for devouring by wild beasts. But the martyrs remained untouched. Then they beheaded them with the sword.

2020-09-17

Science of the Saints, 18 September, Saint Eumenes, Bishop Of Gortyna In Crete, Wonderworker


The Monk Eumenes from the time of his youth was noted for his virtuous life. 

He strove to serve the One God and therefore he shunned worldly temptations. Concerned about salvation of soul, he distributed all his substance to the poor. 

By the blessing of God the Monk Eumenes was chosen and elevated to the dignity of bishop of the Gortyna Church on the Island of Crete. 

The saint like a compassionate father comforted his flock in their sorrows, and cared for the orphaned and indigent. He prayers were so strong before God, that once during the time of drought he called forth abundant rain upon the earth. 

Saint Eumenes wisely and zealously defended the orthodox faith against the then arising Monophysite heresy. For his opposition to the heresy the saint was banished to the Thebaid, where he died in the seventh century. His body was then transferred and buried in Gortyna.

2020-09-16

Science of the Saints, 17 September, Saints Sophia and her daughters Faith, Hope, and Charity

 

The Holy Martyresses Faith, Hope, and Charity were born in Italy. Their mother, Saint Sophia, was a pious Christian widow. Having named her daughters with the names of the three Christian virtues, Saint Sophia raised them up in love for the Lord Jesus Christ. Saint Sophia and her daughters did not hide their faith in Christ and they openly confessed it before everyone. The official Antiochus made denunciation about them to the emperor Adrian (117-138), who ordered that they be brought to Rome. Realising that they would be taken before the emperor, the holy virgins prayed fervently to the Lord Jesus Christ, asking that He should send them the strength not to fear impending torture and death. When the holy virgins with their mother came before the emperor, everyone present was amazed at their composure: it seemed that they had been called out to some happy festivity, rather than to torture.

Summoning the sisters in turn, Adrian urged them to offer sacrifice to the goddess Artemis. The young girls (Faith was 12, Hope was 10 and Charity was 9) remained unyielding. Then the emperor gave orders to fiercely torture them: they attempted to burn the holy virgins over an iron grating, they threw them into a red-hot oven and then into a cauldron with boiling tar, but the Lord by His Unseen Power preserved them. The youngest one, Charity, they tied to a wheel and beat at her with canes, until her body was covered all over with bloody welts. And undergoing unreported torments, the holy virgins glorified their Heavenly Bridegroom and remained steadfast in the faith. The tormentors subjected Saint Sophia to another and grievous torture: she was forced to look upon the suffering of her daughters. But she displayed adamant courage and during this whole while she urged the girls to endure the torments in the Name of the Heavenly Bridegroom. All three maidens with joy met their martyr's end. They were beheaded.

In order to intensify the inner suffering of Saint Sophia, the emperor decided to let her take up the bodies of her daughters. She placed their remains in coffins and reverently conveyed them on a wagon beyond the city and buried them on an high place. Saint Sophia sat there for three days not leaving the graves of her daughters, and finally she gave up her soul to the Lord. Believers buried her body there also. The relics of the holy martyresses since the year 777 rest in Alsace, at the church of Saint Trophimus in Eschau.

"Faith, Hope, and Charity, holy branches of noble Sophia, by grace made Greek wisdom foolishness. They have contested and won the Victory and have been crowned by Christ the Master of all." - Kontakion of St Sophia and her Three Daughters, Tone 1.

2020-09-15

Science of the Saints, 16 September, The Great And All-Famed Martyr Euphemia


The Holy Great Martyress Euphemia the All-Praiseworthy was the daughter of  Christians - the senator Philophronos and Theodosia. She suffered for Christ in about the year 304 in the city of Chalcedon, located on the banks of the Bosphorus opposite Constantinople. 

The Chalcedon governor Priscus circulated an order to all the inhabitants of Chalcedon and its surroundings to appear at a pagan feast for worship and to offer sacrifice to an idol of Ares (Mars), threatening grave torments for those failing to appear. During the time of this impious feast, forty-nine Christians had hidden away at one house where they secretly made Divine-services to the True God. The young maiden Euphemia was also among those praying there. Soon the hideout of the Christians was discovered, and they were brought before Priscus to answer for themselves. Over the course of nineteen days the martyrs were subjected to various tortures and torments, but none of them wavered in their faith nor consented to offer sacrifice to the idol. The governor, beside himself with rage and not knowing any further means of forcing the Christians into renunciation, sent them for trial to the emperor Diocletian, but he separated from them the youngest - the maiden Euphemia - hoping that she, alone by herself, would not hold out.

Saint Euphemia, separated from her brethren in faith, fervently prayed the Lord Jesus Christ that He Himself would strengthen her in the impending ordeal. Priscus at first urged the saint to recant, promising her earthly blessings, but then he gave the order to torture her. The martyress was tied to a wheel with sharp knives, which in turning cut at the body. The saint prayed loudly. And here it happened, that the wheel stopped by itself and would not move even with all the efforts of the executioners. An Angel of the Lord, having come down from Heaven, removed Euphemia from the wheel and healed her of her wounds, and with gladness the saint gave thanks unto the Lord.

Not perceiving the miracle that had occurred, the torturer ordered the soldiers Victor and Sosthenes to take the saint to a red-hot oven. But the soldiers, seeing amidst the flames two fearsome Angels, refused to carry out the order of the governor and became themselves believers in the God Whom Euphemia worshipped. 

Boldly proclaiming that they too were Christians, Victor and Sosthenes bravely went to suffering. They were given over for devouring by wild beasts. During the time of execution they cried out for mercy to God, that the Lord should receive them into the Heavenly Kingdom. An heavenly Voice answered their cries, and they expired unto life eternal. The beasts however did not even touch their bodies.

Saint Euphemia, cast by other soldiers into the fire, remained unharmed. And with the help of God she emerged unharmed after many another torture and torment. Ascribing this to sorcery, the governor gave orders to dig out a new pit, and filling it with knives he had it covered over with ground and grass, so that the martyress would not know about the preparation for her execution; but here also Saint Euphemia remained safe, easily passing over the pit. Finally, they sentenced her to be devoured by wild beasts at the circus. Before execution the saint began to implore, that the Lord deem her worthy to die a violent death. But none of the beasts set loose at her in the arena attacked her. Finally, one of the she-bears struck her a small wound on the leg, from which came blood, and the holy Great Martyr Euphemia instantly died. During this time there occurred an earthquake, and both the guards and the spectators ran in terror, so that the parents of the saint were able to take up her body and reverently bury it not far from Chalcedon. 

A majestic church was afterwards erected over the grave of the Great Martyr Euphemia. At this temple took place the sessions of the Fourth Ecumenical Council in the year 451.

With the taking of Chalcedon by the Persians in the year 617, the relics of the holy Great Martyress Euphemia were transferred to Constantinople (in about the year 620). During the period of the Iconoclast heresy the reliquary with the relics of Saint Euphemia appears to have been thrown into the sea. Pious sailors pulled them out. They were afterwards taken to the Island of Lemnos, and in the year 796 they were returned to Constantinople.

2020-09-14

Science of the Saints, 15 September, Saint Nicetas The Goth


The Holy Great Martyr Nicetas was a Goth (a Germanic tribe). He was born and lived on the banks of the Danube River, and suffered for Christ in the year 372. The Christian faith was then already widely spread throughout the territory of the Goths. Saint Nicetas believed in Christ and accepted Baptism from the Gothic bishop Theophilus, a participant in the First Ecumenical Council. Pagan Goths began to oppose the spread of  Christianity, which resulted in internecine strife.

After the victory of Fritigern, heading a Christian army and inflicting defeat on the pagan Athanarik, the Christian faith began to spread increasingly among the Goths. Bishop Wulfil, the successor to Bishop Theophilus, created a Gothic alphabet and translated into the Gothic language many priestly books. 

Saint Nicetas worked intensely among his fellow Goths at spreading Christianity. By his personal example and inspired words he brought many pagans to the Christian faith. However, Athanarik after his defeat again contrived to gather his own forces, return to his own country and reestablish his former power. Having remained a pagan, he continued to hate Christians and persecute them. Saint Nicetas, having undergone many tortures, was thrown into a fire, where he died in the year 372. The friend of Saint Nicetas, a Christian named Marianus, by night retrieved the body of the martyr, unharmed by the fire and illumined by a miraculous light, and gave it over to burial in Cilicia. Afterwards it was transferred to Constantinople. 

Part of the relics of the Great Martyr Nicetas were later transferred to the monastery of Vysokie Dechany in Serbia.

2020-09-13

Science of the Saints, 14 September, The Exaltation Of The Precious And Lifegiving Cross


The pagan Roman emperors tried to completely eradicate from human memory the holy places where our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and was resurrected for mankind. 

The Emperor Adrian (117-138) gave orders to cover over the ground of Golgotha and the Sepulchre of the Lord, and upon the hill fashioned there to set up a pagan temple of the pagan goddess Venus and a statue of Jupiter. Pagans gathered on this place and offered sacrifice to idols there. 

Eventually after 300 years, by Divine Providence, the great Christian sacred remains - the Sepulchre of the Lord and the Life-Creating Cross - were again discovered and opened for veneration. This occurred under the Equal-to-the-Apostles Emperor Constantine the Great (306-337) after his victory in the year 312 over Maxentius, ruler of the Western part of the Roman empire, and over Licinius, ruler of its Eastern part, becoming in the year 323 the sole-powerful ruler of the vast Roman empire. In 313 he had issued the so-called Edict of Milan, by which the Christian religion was legalized and the persecutions against Christians in the Western half of the empire were stopped. The ruler Licinius, although he had signed the Milan Edict to oblige Constantine, still fanatically continued the persecutions against Christians. Only after his conclusive defeat did the 313 Edict about toleration extend also to the Eastern part of the empire. The Equal-to-the-Apostles Emperor Constantine, having with the assistance of God gained victory over his enemies in three wars, had seen in the heavens the Sign of God - the Cross - and written beneath: "In this Sign thou shalt conquer."

Ardently desiring to find the Cross on which our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, Constantine sent to Jerusalem his mother, the pious Empress Helen, having provided her with a letter to the Jerusalem patriarch Makarios. Although the holy empress Helen was already in her declining years, she set about completing the task with enthusiasm. The empress gave orders to destroy the pagan temple and idol-statues overshadowing Jerusalem. 

Searching for the Life-Creating Cross, she made inquiry of Christians and Jews, but for a long time her searchings remained unsuccessful. Finally, they directed her to a certain elderly Hebrew by the name of Jude who stated that the Cross was buried in the place where was standing the pagan temple of Venus. 

They demolished the pagan temple and, having made a prayer, they began to excavate the ground. Soon there was detected the Sepulchre of the Lord and not far away from it three crosses, a plank with inscription having been done by order of Pilate, and four nails, which had pierced the Body of the Lord. In order to discern on which of the three crosses the Saviour was crucified, Patriarch Makarios alternately touched the crosses to a corpse. When the Cross of the Lord was placed to it, the dead one came alive. 

Having beheld the rising-up, everyone was convinced that the Life-Creating Cross was found. Christians, having come in an innumerable throng to make veneration to the Holy Cross, besought Saint Makarios to elevate and to exalt the Cross, so that all, even afar off, might reverently contemplate it. 

Then the Patriarch and other spiritual chief personages raised up high the Holy Cross, and the people, saying "Lord have mercy," reverently made prostration before the Venerable Wood. This solemn event occurred in the year 326. 

During the discovery of the Life-Creating Cross there occurred also another miracle: a grievously sick woman, beneath the shadow of the Holy Cross, was healed instantly. The starets Jude and other Jews there believed in Christ and accepted Holy Baptism. Jude received the name Kyriakos (i.e. lit. "of the Lord") and afterwards was ordained Bishop of Jerusalem. During the reign of Julian the Apostate (361-363) he accepted a martyr's death for Christ. 

The holy empress Helen journeyed round the holy places connected with the earthly life of the Saviour - the reason for more than eighty churches - raised up at Bethlehem the place of the Birth of Christ, and on the Mount of Olives from whence the Lord ascended to Heaven, and at Gethsemane where the Saviour prayed before His sufferings and where the Mother of God was buried after the falling-asleep. Saint Helen took with her to Constantinople part of the Life-Creating Wood and nails. The Equal-to-the-Apostles Emperor Constantine gave orders to raise up at Jerusalem a majestic and spacious church in honour of the Resurrection of Christ, including in itself also the Sepulchre of the Lord, and Golgotha. The temple was constructed in about ten years. Saint Helen did not survive until the dedication of the temple; she died in the year 327. The church was consecrated on 13 September 335. On the following day, 14 September, the festal celebration of the Exaltation of the Venerable and Life-Creating Cross was established.

On this day is remembered also another event connected to the Cross of the Lord, - its return back to Jerusalem from Persia after a fourteen year captivity. 

During the reign of the Byzantine emperor Phokas (602-610) the Persian emperor Khozroes II in a war against the Greeks defeated the Greek army, plundered Jerusalem and led off into captivity both the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord and the Holy Patriarch Zacharios (609-633). The Cross remained in Persia for 14 years and only under the emperor Herakles (610-641), who with the help of God defeated Khozroes and concluded peace with his successor and son Syroes, was the Cross of the Lord returned to Christians from captivity. 

With great solemnity the Life-creating Cross was transferred to Jerusalem. Emperor Herakles in imperial crown and porphyry carried the Cross of Christ into the temple of the Resurrection. Alongside the emperor went Patriarch Zacharios. 

At the gates, by which they ascended onto Golgotha, the emperor suddenly stopped and was not able to proceed further. The Holy Patriarch explained to the emperor that an Angel of the Lord blocked his way, since He That bore the Cross onto Golgotha for the expiation of the world from sin, made His Way of the Cross in the guise of Extreme Humilation. Then Herakles, removing the crown and porphyry, donned plain garb and without further hindrance carried the Cross of Christ into the church.

In a sermon on the Exaltation of the Cross, Saint Andrew of Crete says, "The Cross is exalted, and everything true gathers together, the Cross is exalted, and the city makes solemn, and the people celebrate the feast".