2021-01-21

Science of the Saints, 22 January, Saint Timothy of the Seventy

 


The Holy Disciple Timothy was from the Lycaonian city of Lystra in Asia Minor. 

Saint Timothy was converted to Christ in the year 52 by the holy Apostle Paul. When the Apostle Paul and Barnabas first visited the Lycaonian cities, the Apostle Paul at Lystra healed one crippled from birth; many of the inhabitants there then believed in Christ, and among them was the future youthful disciple Timothy, his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois (Acts 14:6-12; II Tim. 1:5). 

The seed of faith, planted in the soul of Saint Timothy by the Apostle Paul, brought forth abundant fruit. He became a zealous student of the Apostle Paul, and later his constant companion and co-worker in the preaching of the Gospel. The Apostle Paul loved Saint Timothy and in his Epistles called him his beloved son, with gratitude remembering his devotion and fidelity. He wrote to Timothy: "Thou hast followed me in teaching, in life, in disposition, faith, magnanimity, love, and patience in afflictions and sufferings..." (II Tim. 3:10-11). 

The Apostle Paul in the year 65 ordained Saint Timothy as bishop of the Ephesus Church, which the saint administered for fifteen years. And finally the holy Apostle Paul, situated in prison and knowing that the act of martyrdom was before him, summoned his faithful student and friend, the Disciple Timothy, for a last farewell (II Tim. 4:9). 

Saint Timothy ended his life as a martyr. At Ephesus the pagans made a feastday in honour of their idols and they carried them through the city, accompanied by impious ceremonies and songs. The holy Bishop Timothy, zealous for the glory of God, attempted to halt the procession and reason with the spiritually blind idol-worshipping people, by preaching the true faith in Christ. The pagans dashed angrily upon the holy disciple. They beat him, dragged him along the ground, and finally, they stoned him. The holy Disciple Timothy's death by martyrdom occurred in the year 80. In the fourth century the holy relics of the Disciple Timothy were transferred to Constantinople and placed in the church of the Holy Apostles. Holy Church venerates Saint Timothy as amongst the number of the Seventy Disciples. 

2021-01-20

Science of the Saints, 21 January, Saint Maximus the Confessor

 


The Monk Maximus the Confessor was born in Constantinople in about the year 580 and raised in a pious Christian family. In his youth he received a very diverse education: he studied philosophy, grammatics, rhetoric, he was well-read in the authors of antiquity and he mastered to perfection theological dialectics. When Saint Maximus entered into government service, the scope of his learning and his conscientiousness enabled him to become first secretary to the emperor Heraclius (611-641). But court life vexed him, and he withdrew to the Chrysopoleia monastery (on the opposite shore of the Bosphorus - now Skutari), where he accepted monastic tonsure. By the humility of his wisdom he soon won the love of the brethren and was chosen hegumen of the monastery, but even in this dignity, in his own words, he "remained a simple monk." But in 633 at the request of a theologian, the future Jerusalem Patriarch Saint Sophronius, the Monk Maximus left the monastery and set off to Alexandria. 

Saint Sophronius was known in these times as an implacable antagonist against the Monothelite heresy. The Fourth Ecumenical Council (year 451) had condemned the Monophysite heresy, which confessed in the Lord Jesus Christ only one nature (the Divine, but not the Human nature, of Christ). Influenced by this erroneous tendency of thought, the Monothelite heretics introduced the concept that in Christ there was only "one Divine will" ("thelema") and only "one Divine effectuation or energy" ("energia"), - which sought to lead back by another path to the repudiated Monophysite heresy. Monotheletism found numerous adherents in Armenia, Syria, Egypt. The heresy, fanned also by nationalist animosities, became a serious threat to church unity in the East. The struggle of Orthodoxy with the heresies was particularly complicated by the fact, that in the year 630 three of the Patriarchal thrones in the Orthodox East were occupied by Monothelites: at Constantinople - by Sergius, at Antioch -- by Athanasias, and at Alexandria -- by Cyrus.

The path of the Monk Maximus from Constantinople to Alexandria led through Crete, where indeed he began his preaching activity. He clashed there with a bishop, who adhered to the heretical opinions of Severus and Nestorius. At Alexandria and its surroundings the monk spent about six years. In 638 the emperor Heraclius, together with the patriarch Sergius, attempted to downplay the discrepancies in the confession of faith, and the issued an edict: the so-called "Ecthesis" ("Ekthesis tes pisteos" - "Exposition of Faith), which ultimately decreed that there be confessed the teaching about "one will" ("mono-thelema") operative under the two natures of the Saviour. In defending Orthodoxy against this "Ecthesis," the Monk Maximus recoursed to people of various vocations and positions, and these conversations had success. "Not only the clergy and all the bishops, but also the people, and all the secular officials felt within themselves some sort of invisible attraction to him,” testifies his Vita.

Towards the end of 638 the patriarch Sergius died, and in 641 the emperor Heraclius also died. The imperial throne came to be occupied by the cruel and coarse Constans II (642-668), an open adherent of the Monothelites. The assaults of the heretics against Orthodoxy intensified. The Monk Maximus went off to Carthage and he preached there and in its surroundings for about five years. When the successor of patriarch Sergius,  patriarch Pyrrhus, arrived there in forsaking Constantinople because of court intrigues, and being by persuasion a Monothelite, there occurred between him and the Monk Maximus an open disputation in June 645. The result of this was that Pyrrhus publicly acknowledged his error and even wanted to put into writing to Pope Theodore the repudiation of his error. The Monk Maximus together with Pyrrhus set off to Rome, where Pope Theodore accepted the repentance of the former patriarch and restored him to his dignity.

In the year 647 the Monk Maximus returned to Africa. And there, at a council of bishops Monotheletism was condemned as an heresy. In the year 648, in place of the "Ecthesis," there was issued a new edict, commissioned by Constans and compiled by the Constantinople patriarch Paul,  the "Typus" ("Tupos tes pisteos" - "Pattern of the Faith"), which overall forbade any further deliberations, whether if be about "one will" or about "two wills," as regarding the acknowledged "two natures" of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Monk Maximus thereupon turned to the successor of the Roman Pope Theodore, Pope Martin I (649-654), with a request to examine the question of Monotheletism at a conciliar consideration by all the Church. In October of 649 there was convened the Lateran Council, at which were present 150 Western bishops and 37 representatives of the Orthodox East, amongst which was also the Monk Maximus the Confessor. The Council condemned Monotheletism, and its defenders - the Constantinople patriarchs Sergius, Paul, and Pyrrhus, were consigned to anathema.

When Constans II received the determinations of the Council, he gave orders to arrest both Pope Martin and the Monk Maximus. This summons took five years to fulfill, in the year 654. They accused the Monk Maximus of treason to the realm and locked him up in prison. In 656 he was sent off to Thrace, and again later brought back to a Constantinople prison. The monk, together with two of his students, was subjected to the cruellest torments: for each they cut out the tongue and cut off the right hand. Then they were sent off to Colchis. But here the Lord worked an inexplicable miracle: all three of them found the ability to speak and to write. The Monk Maximus indeed foretold his own end (+ 13 August 662)

The Monk Maximus has left to the Church a large theological legacy. His exegetical works contain explanations of difficult places within the Holy Scripture, also Commentary on the Prayer of the Lord and on the 59th Psalm, various "scholia" ("marginalia" or text-margin commentaries) on treatises of the Hieromartyr Dionysios the Areopagite (+ 96) and Sainted Gregory the Theologian (+ 389). To the exegetical works of Saint Maximus belongs likewise his explication of Divine-services, entitled "Mystagogia" ("Introduction concerning the Mystery").

To the dogmatic works of the Monk Maximus belong: the Exposition on his dispute with Pyrrhus, and several tracts and letters to various people. In them are contained expositions of the Orthodox teaching of the Divine Essence and about Hypostatic-Persons of the Holy Trinity, about the Incarnation of God, and about the "theosis" ("deification", "obozhenie") of human nature.

"Nothing in theosis is the product of human nature,” the Monk Maximus writes in a letter to his friend Thalassius, “since nature cannot comprehend God. It is only but the mercy of God that has the capacity to endow theosis unto the existing... In theosis man (the image of God) becomes likened to God, he rejoices in all the plenitude that does belong to him by nature, since the grace of the Spirit doth triumph within him and because God doth act within him." (Letter 22). 

To the Monk Maximus belong also works concerning the anthropologic (i.e., concerning man). He deliberates on the nature of the soul and its consciously-personal existence after the death of a man. Among his moral compositions, especially important is his "Chapters on Love." The Monk Maximus the Confessor wrote likewise three hymns in the finest traditions of church hymnography, following the lead of Saint Gregory the Theologian.

The theology of the Monk Maximus the Confessor, based on the spiritual experience of the knowledge of the great Desert-Fathers, and utilising the skilled art of dialectics worked out by pre-Christian philosophy, was continued and developed upon in the works of the Monk Simeon the New Theologian, and Sainted Gregory Palamas.

2021-01-19

Science of the Saints, 20 January, Saint Euthymius the Great

 


The Monk Euthymius the Great came from the city of Meletina in Armenia, near the River Euphrates. His parents, Paul and Dionysia, were illustrious people and pious Christians. For a long time they did not have children, and finally through fervent prayer a son was born to them, whose appearance into the light of day was preceded by a Divine apparition foretelling a great future for the child.

The father of the Monk Euthymius soon died, and his mother - fulfilling a vow to dedicate her son to God - gave him over for educating to her brother, the Monk Eudoxius. He presented the lad to the bishop of the Meletina Church, Otreus, who with love took upon himself caring for him. Seeing his good conduct, the bishop soon made him a reader. Saint Euthymius later accepted monasticism and was ordained to the dignity of presbyter. At the same time, he was entrusted with the stewardship of all the city monasteries. The Monk Euthymius often visited the monastery of saint Polyeuctus, and during the days of Great Lent he withdrew into the wilderness. The position of steward of the monasteries weighed heavily upon the ascetic seeking quietude, and in his thirtieth year of life he secretly left the city and headed to Jerusalem where, having prostrated himself before the holy places, he withdrew into the Tharan Lavra. Having found outside the monastery a solitary empty abode, he settled into it, securing his subsistence by weaving baskets. Nearby, the Monk Theoctistus pursued asceticism. They had both one striving for God, one will, one purpose. Usually after the feast of Theophany, they withdrew into the Kutilleia wilderness (not far from Jericho). One day though they left there, having chosen a place in the mountains difficult of access, and settled into a cave. The Lord however soon revealed their solitary place for the benefit of many people: shepherds driving their flocks came upon the cave and told about it in the village. People seeking spiritual benefit began to throng to the hermits. Gradually a monastic community grew up - several monks came from the Tharan monastery, among them Marin and Luke. The Monk Euthymius entrusted the running of the growing monastery to his friend Theoctistus, and himself became a spiritual brother. He exhorted the brethren: "Know, that one desiring to lead a monastic life ought not to have his own will, he is always to be found in obedience and humility and to be mindful of the thought of death, to fear the Judgment and the eternal fire and to desire the Heavenly Kingdom."

The monk commanded young monastics to tackle bodily labour with an inner thought of God. He said: "If laymen work much in order to feed themselves and their families, and besides this, they give alms and offer sacrifice to God, then all the moreso ought we as monks to work, so as to avoid idleness and not be nourished by the work of strangers." The abba demanded that the monks keep silence in church during Divine-services and at meals. He did not allow young monks, wishing to fast more than others of the brethren, to follow their own will, but urged them to partake of all the food at meals with temperance, not having over-eaten.

In these years the Monk Euthymius converted and baptised many Arabs, among whom was the military-head Aspevet and his son Terevon, whom the Monk Euthymius healed from sickness. Aspevet received the name Peter in Baptism and afterwards he was a bishop amongst the Arabs.

The fame of the miracles accomplished by the Monk Euthymius spread quickly. People began to throng from everywhere; brought with sickness, they received healing. Unable to bear human fame and glory, the monk secretly left the monastery, taking with him only his closest student Dometian. He withdrew into the Ruv wilderness and settled on the high mountain of Mardes, around about the Dead Sea. In the quests for solitude the monk explored the Zeph wilderness and settled in the cave, where formerly holy king David hid from the pursuit of king Saul. The Monk Euthymius founded there a monastery, and at the cave of David he established a church. During this time the Monk Euthymius converted many monks in the wilderness from the Manichaean heresy, he worked miracles, healed the sick and cast out devils. 

Visitors to the saint disturbed the tranquillity of the wilderness; loving silence, he decided to return to the monastery of Saint Theoctistus that he had forsaken. Along the way the monk took a fancy to a solitary place on a mountain and he remained on it. There afterwards his holy body was buried. 

Blessed Theoctistus went out with his brethren to the Monk Euthymius and requested him to return to the monastery, but the monk did not comply. However, he promised to come to the monastery on Sundays for community Divine-services.

The Monk Euthymius did not wish to have anyone nearby, nor to organise a general monastery or lavra, but in a vision the Lord commanded him not to drive away those who were come to him for the salvation of their souls. After some time brethren again gathered around him, and he organised a Lavra, on the pattern of the Tharan Lavra. In the year 429, when the monk Euthymius was 52 years old, the Jerusalem Patriarch Juvenalius consecrated the lavra church and supplied it with presbyters and deacons.

The lavra was at first poor, but the monk steadfastly trusted on God to send down all the necessities for people. Once there came to the lavra about 400 male pilgrims - Armenians from Jerusalem who were starving. Viewing this, the Monk Euthymius summoned the steward and ordered him to feed the wanderers. The steward answered that there was no such quantity of food in the monastery. The monk, however, persisted. Going to the room where the bread was kept, the steward found there a large quantity of bread. With this came forth wine and oil. The wanderers ate to the glory of God: they ate their fill and after this there remained a three-month supply of food for the brethren. Thus the Lord wrought a miracle through the faith of Saint Euthymius. 

Once one of the monastics refused to carry out an obedience assigned to him. Despite the fact that the monk having summoned him urged him to comply, the monastic remained obstinate. The monk then shouted loudly: "Thou wilt see what the reward for disobedience is." The monastic fell to the ground in a fit of raving. The brethren began to make entreaty to the abba for him, and then the Monk Euthymius healed the insubordinate one who, having come to himself, asked forgiveness and promised to improve himself. "Obedience," said Saint Euthymius, "is a great virtue. The Lord loves obedience more than sacrifice, but disobedience leads to death."

Two of the brethren in the monastery of Saint Euthymius became overwhelmed by the austere form of life and they resolved to flee. Foreseeing in spirit their intent, the monk summoned them and for a long time he urged them to give up their destructive intention. He said: "Heed not that state of mind of having sorrow and hatred for the place in which we live, and being prompted to go off to another place. Let a monk not imagine that, having gone to another place, he arrives at something better, since good deeds are realised not by a place, but by a firm will and by faith. Whence the tree, which often they transplant to another place, does not bear fruit."

In the year 431 was convened in Ephesus the Third Ecumenical Council, directed against the Nestorian heresy. The Monk Euthymius rejoiced over the affirmation of Orthodoxy but was grieved about the archbishop of Antioch John who, being orthodox, defended Nestorius.

In the year 451 was convened at Chalcedon the Fourth Ecumenical Council against the heresy of Dioscorus who, in contrast to Nestorius, asserted that in the Lord Jesus Christ there is only one nature - the Divine - having in the Incarnation swallowed up the human nature (thus the heresy was called Monophysite).

The Monk Euthymius accepted the confession of the Chalcedon and he acknowledged it as Orthodox. News about this spread quickly among the monks and hermits and many of them, having previously believed wrongly, through the example of Saint Euthymius accepted the confession of the Chalcedon Council.

For his ascetic life and firm confession of the Orthodox faith Saint Euthymius received the title "the Great." Having become wearied by intercourse with the world, the holy abba settled for a time into an inner wilderness. After his return to the lavra some of the brethren saw that, when he celebrated the Divine Liturgy, fire descended from Heaven and encircled the saint. The monk himself revealed to several of the monastics, that often he saw an Angel celebrating the Holy Liturgy together with him. The monk had a gift of perspicacity - he saw the innder workings of the spirit and he discerned human inclinations. When monastics received the Holy Mysteries, it was revealed to the monk who approached worthily, and who unto condemnation of self.

When the Monk Euthymios was 82 years old, there came to him blessed Sava (the future Sava the Sanctified), who was then still a youth. The elder received him with love and sent him off to the monastery of the Monk Theoctistus. He foretold, that the Monk Sava would shine in the monastic life.

When the saint had become 90 years of age, his companion and fellow Monk Theoctistus became grievously ill. The Monk Euthymius came to visit his friend and remained at the monastery; he took his leave of him and was present at the end. Having consigned the body to the grave, he returned to the lavra.

The time of his death was revealed to the Monk Euthymius through a particular mercy of God. On the day of memory of the Monk Anthony the Great, 17 January, the Monk Euthymius gave blessing to make the all-night vigil and, summoning the presbyters to the Altar, he told them that he would no more celebrate with them another vigil, because the Lord was summoning him from earthly life. All were filled with great sadness, but the monk commanded the brethren to gather together with him in the morning. He began to instruct the brethren: "If ye love me, observe my precepts, acquire love, which is an uniting of perfection. No virtuousness is possible without love and humility. The Lord Himself on account of His Love for us humbled Himself and became Man, as are we. We need therefore unceasingly to offer up praise to Him, particularly we, who have renounced the passions of the world. Never leave from church services, observe tradition and monastic rules carefully. If anyone of the brethren struggleth with unclean thoughts, unceasingly guide and instruct him, so that the devil does not carry off the brother into the pit."

"I add likewise another command: let the gates of the monastery never be bolted to wanderers and everything that you have, offer to the needy, for the poor in their misfortune do what you can to help." Afterwards, having given instruction for the guidance of the brethren, the monk promised to remain in spirit with all who desired to bear asceticism in his monastery until the end of the ages.

Having dismissed all, the Monk Euthymius kept about him only his one disciple Dometian and, remaining with him inside the Altar for three days, he died on 20 January in the year 473 at the age of 97 years.

At the burial of the holy abba there immediately thronged a multitude of monks from the monasteries and from the wilderness, among whom was Saint Gerasimus. The Patriarch Anastasius came also with clergy, the Nitreian monks Martyrius and Elias, who later became Jerusalem Patriarchs - about which the Monk Euthymius had foretold them.

Blessed Dometian did not leave the grave of his preceptor for six days. On the seventh day, he saw the holy abba, joyously having returned with love for his student: "I am come, my child, in preparation for thee in peace, wherefore I prayed the Lord Jesus Christ, that thou be with me." Having told the brethren about the vision, Saint Dometian went to church and in joy offered his spirit to God. He was buried alongside Saint Euthymios. The relics of the Monk Euthymios were situated at his monastery in Palestine: the Russian pilgrim hegumen Daniel saw them in the twelfth century.

2021-01-18

Science of the Saints, 19 January, Saint Macarius the Egyptian

 


The Monk Macarius the Great of Egypt was born in the village of Ptinapor in Lower Egypt. At the wish of his parents he entered into marriage, but was soon a widower. Having buried his wife, Macarius told himself: "Take heed, Macarius, and have care for thy soul, wherefore it becometh thee to forsake earthly life." The Lord rewarded the saint with a long life, but from that time the mindfulness of death was constantly with him, impelling him to ascetic deeds of prayer and penitence. He began to visit the church of God more frequently and to be more deeply absorbed in Holy scripture, but he did not depart from his aged parents - thus fulfilling the commandment about the honouring of parents. Until his parents' end the Monk Macarius ("Macarius" - from the Greek means "blessed") used his remaining substance to help his parents and he began to pray fervently, that the Lord might show him a preceptor on the way to salvation. The Lord sent him such a guide in the person of an experienced monk-elder, living in the wilderness not far from the village. The elder took to the youth with love, guided him in the spiritual science of watchfulness, fasting and prayer, and taught him the handicraft of weaving baskets. Having built a separate cell not far from his own, the elder settled his student in it.

The local bishop arrived one day at Ptinapor and, knowing about the virtuous life of the monk, made him into the clergy against his will. But Blessed Macarius was overwhelmed by this disturbance of his silence, and therefore went secretly to another place. The enemy of salvation began a tenacious struggle with the ascetic, trying to terrify him, shaking his cell and suggesting sinful thoughts. Blessed Macarius shook off the attacks of the devil, defending himself with prayer and the sign of the Cross. Evil people made up a slander against the saint, accusing him in the seduction of a maiden from a nearby village. They dragged him out of his cell, and jeered at him. The Monk Macarius endured the temptation with great humility. The money that he got for his baskets he sent off without a murmur for the welfare of the maiden. The innocence of Blessed Macarius was revealed when the maiden, being worried for many days, was not able to give birth. She then confessed in her sufferings that she had slandered the hermit, and she pointed out the real author of the sin. When her parents found out the truth, they were astonished and intended to go to the monk with remorse. But the Monk Macarius, shunning the vexation of people, fled that place by night and settled on a Nitrian mountain in the Pharan wilderness. Thus human wickedness contributed to the prospering of the righteous. Having dwelt in the wilderness for three years, he went to Saint Anthony the Great, the father of Egyptian monasticism, about whom he had heard that he was still alive in the world, and he longed with a desire to see him. The Monk Abba Anthony received him with love, and Macarius became his devoted student and follower. The Monk Macarius lived with him for a long time and then, on the advice of the saintly abba, he went off to the Skete wilderness-monastery (in the northwest part of Egypt). He so shone forth there by his ascetic deeds that he came to be called "a young-elder", insofar as having scarcely reached thirty years of age, he distinguished himself as an experienced and mature monk.

The Monk Macarius survived many demonic attacks against him: once he was carrying palm branches from the wilderness for weaving baskets, and a devil met him on the way and wanted to strike him with a sickle, but he was not able to do this and said: "Macarius, I suffer from thee great anguish because I am not able to vanquish thee; thine armour, by which thou art defended from me, is this - thy humility." When the saint reached age 40, he was ordained to the dignity of priest and made the head (abba) of the monks living at the Skete wilderness. During these years the Monk Macarius often visited with Anthony the Great, receiving guidance from him in spiritual conversations. Blessed Macarius was deemed worthy to be present at the death of the holy abba and he received his staff in succession, together with which he received twice the spiritual power of Anthony the Great - in the same way, as did once the prophet Elisha receive from the prophet Elias twice the grace with the mantle coming down from heaven.

The Monk Macarius accomplished many healings: people thronged to him from various places for help and for advice, asking his holy prayers. All this unsettled the quietude of the saint. He therefore dug out under his cell a deep cave and betook himself there for prayer and Divine meditation. The Monk Macarius attained to such daring in walking before God, that through his prayer the Lord resuscitated the dead. In spite of such lofty attainment of God-likeness, he continued to preserve his unusual humility. One time the holy abba caught a thief, putting his things on a donkey standing nearby the cell. Not giving the appearance that he was the owner of these things, the monk began quietly to help tie up the load. Having removed himself from the world, the monk told himself: "We bring nothing at all into this world; clearly, it is not possible to take anything out from hence. Bless the Lord in all things!"

One time the Monk Macarius was walking along the way and, seeing a skull lying upon the ground, he asked it: "Who art thou?" The skull answered: "I was a chief-priest of the pagans. When thou, Abba, dost pray for those situated in hell, we do receive some mitigation." The monk asked: "What are these torments?" "We are sitting in a great fire," answered the skull, "and we do not see one another. When thou prayest, we begin to see each other somewhat, and this affords us some comfort." Having heard such words, the monk began weeping and asked: "Are there yet more fiercesome torments?" The skull answered: "Down below us are located those, which did know the Name of God, but spurned Him and kept not His commandments. They endure yet more grievous torments."

Once during prayer Blessed Macarius heard a voice: "Macarius, thou hast reached such attainment as have two women living in the city." The humble ascetic, taking up his staff, went to the city, found the house where the women lived, and knocked. The women received him with joy, and the monk said: "Because of you I have come from a far wilderness, and I want to know about your good deeds; tell about them, keeping nothing secret." The women answered with surprise: "We live with our own husbands, and we have not such virtues." But the saint continued to insist, and the women then told him: "We entered into marriage with two brothers by birth. After all this time of life in common we have told each other not one evil thing nor insulting word, and never do we quarrel between ourselves. We asked our husbands to release us into a women's monastery, but they were not agreeable, and we gave a vow not to utter one worldly word until death." The holy ascetic glorified God and said: "In truth the Lord does not seek virgins nor married women, and neither monks nor worldly persons, but doth value the free intent of the person within the arbitrariness of his free will to offer thanks to the Holy Spirit, which acts and which rules the life of each person, yearning to be saved."

During the years of the reign of the emperor Valens - an Arian heretic (364-378), the Monk Macarius the Great together with the Monk Macarius of Alexandria was subjected to persecution by the adherents of the Arian bishop Luke. They seized both elders and, imprisoning them on a ship, transported them onto a wild island where there lived pagans. By the prayers of the saints there, the daughter of a pagan priest received healing, at which the pagan priest and all the inhabitants of the island accepted holy Baptism. Learning about what had happened, the Arian bishop became ashamed and permitted the elders to return to their own monasteries.

The meekness and humility of the monk transformed human souls. "A harmful word," said Abba Makarios, "and it makes good things bad, but a good word makes bad things good." On the questioning of the monks, how to pray properly, the monk answered: "For prayer it does not require many words, it is needful only to say: 'Lord, as Thou desirest and as Thou knowest, have mercy on me.' If an enemy should fall upon thee, it is needful but to utter: 'Lord, have mercy!' The Lord knoweth that which is useful for us, and doth grant us mercy." When the brethren asked: "In what manner ought a monk to comport himself?" the monk answered: "Forgive me, I am a poor monk, but I beheld monks being saved in the remote wilderness. I asked them, how might I make myself a monk. They answered: 'If a man doth not withdraw himself from everything which is situated in the world, it is not possible to be a monk.' At this point I answered: 'I am weak and not able to be such as ye.' The monks therewith answered: 'If thou art not able to be such as we, then sit in thy cell and dwell in contrition about thy sins.'"

The Monk Macarius gave advice to a certain monk: "Flee from people and thou shalt be saved." That one asked: "What does it mean to flee from people?" The monk answered: "Sit in thy cell and dwell in contrition about thy sins." The Monk Macarius said also: "If thou wishest to be saved, be as one who is dead, who is not given over to anger when insulted, and not puffed up when praised." And further: "If for thyself, slander is like praise, poverty like riches, deficiency like abundance, thou shalt not perish. Since it is not possible, that in piety believers and ascetic seekers should fall into unclean passions and demonic seductions."

The prayer of the Monk Macarius saved many in perilous circumstances of life, and preserved them from harm and temptation. His benevolence was so great, that they said about him: "Just as God covereth the world, so also doth Abba Macarius cover offenses which he, having seen, is as though he had not seen, and having heard, as though he had not heard."

The monk lived until age 97. Shortly before his end there appeared to him the Monks Anthony and Pachomius, bringing the joyful message about his transition into a blessed Heavenly monastery. Having given admonition to his disciples and having given them blessing, the Monk Macarius asked forgiveness from all and bid farewell with the words: "Into Thy hands, Lord, I commend my spirit."

Holy abba Macarius spent sixty years in the wilderness, being dead to the world. The monk spent most of the time in conversation with God, being often in a state of spiritual rapture. But he never ceased to weep, to repent and to work. The abba rendered his rich ascetic experience into profound theological works. Fifty discourses and seven ascetic tracts form the precious legacy of spiritual wisdom of the Monk Macarius the Great.

His idea, that the highest blessedness and purpose of man - the unity of the soul with God - is a primary principle in the works of the Monk Macarius. Recounting the means by which to attain to mystical union, the monk relies upon the experience of both the great teachers of Egyptian monasticism and upon his own experience. The way to God and the experience of the holy ascetics of communality with God is revealed to each believer's heart. Therefore Holy Church also includes within the general use of vespers and matins the ascetic prayers of the Monk Macarius the Great.

Earthly life, according to the teachings of the Monk Macarius, possesses with all its works only a relative significance: to prepare the soul, to make it capable for the perception of the Heavenly Kingdom, to establish in the soul an affinity with the Heavenly fatherland. "The soul - for those truly believing in Christ - it is necessary to transpose and to transform from out of the present degraded condition into another condition, a good condition: and from out of the present perishing nature into another, Divine nature, and to be remade anew by means of the power of the Holy Spirit." To attain this is possible, if "we truly believe and we truly love God and have penetrated into all His holy commands." If the soul, betrothed to Christ in holy Baptism, does not itself co-operate in its gifts of the grace of the Holy Spirit, then it is subjected to "an excommunication from life," as is shown by a lack of attaining blessedness and incapacity to union with Christ. In the teaching of the Monk Macarius, the question about the unity of Divine Love and Divine Truth is experientially decided. The inner action of the Christian determines the extent of the perception by him of this unity. Each of us acquires salvation through grace and the Divine gift of the Holy Spirit, but to attain a perfect measure of virtue - which is necessary for the soul's assimilation of this Divine gift - is possible only "by faith and by love with the strengthening of free will." Thus, "as much by grace, as much also by truth" does the Christian inherit eternal life. Salvation is a Divine-human action: we attain complete spiritual success "not by Divine power and grace alone, but also by the accomplishing of the proper labours." From the other side, it is not alone within "the measure of freedom and purity" that we arrive at the proper solicitude, it is not without "the co-operation of the hand of God above." The participation of man determines the actual condition of his soul, thus self-determining him to good or evil. "If a soul still in the world does not possess in itself the sanctity of the Spirit for great faith and for prayer, and does not strive for the oneness of Divine communion, then it is unfit for the heavenly kingdom."

The miracles and visions of Blessed Macarius are recorded in a book by the Presbyter Ruphinos, and his Life was compiled by the Monk Serapion, bishop of Tmuntis (Lower Egypt), one of the renowned workers of the Church in the fourth century.

2021-01-17

Science of the Saints, 18 January, Saints Athanasius the Great and Cyril of Alexandria

 


Sainted Athanasius and Cyril, Archbishops of Alexandria, have a conjoined feast established to them in acknowledgement of the profound gratitude of Holy Church for their incessant lengthy labour in affirmation of the dogmas of the Orthodox faith and their zealous defense of such against heretical teachings. 

Of these two Holy Fathers of ours, Saint Athanasius flourished during the reign of Constantine the Great (306-337) and was present at the First Ecumenical Synod in Nicaea in the year 325 as a Deacon of Archbishop Alexander of Alexandria. There he put to shame the impious Arius with wise words and proofs from Holy Scripture. Following the repose of the blessed Alexander, he was made Archbishop of Alexandria. Because Constantius (337-361), the son of Constantine the Great, was an Arian, he exiled this Great Athanasius to various places. After the blessed one remained steadfast for forty years in such persecution, he departed to the Lord.

Saint Cyril flourished during the reign of Theodosios the Younger (408-450), and was the nephew of Archbishop Theophilos of Alexandria, upon whose throne he became the successor. He was the leader and champion of the Holy Third Ecumenical Synod in Ephesus, which gathered in the year 431, and condemned the impious Nestorius, who spoke many blasphemies and dogmatized cacodoxies against our Holy Lady Theotokos. This Holy Cyril shined with many successes and virtues, and departed to the Lord.

In his physical appearance, Saint Athanasius was average in height and in age, slightly broad, bent forward, graceful in his face, of fair complexion, baldheaded, hooknosed like a falcon. His face was not long, but he had a wide chin, an average beard and small mouth. He was not very white, but he shined with a yellowish color. Saint Cyril was slightly fair in the color of his skin, his eyebrows were shaggy and big and suitably round. He was long-nosed and long-cheeked, with full lips, a bald head, a small space between his eyes, and his beard was shaggy and long. His hair was twisted and slightly blonde, with a mixture of white and black hairs. Thier Synaxis is celebrated in the most holy Great Church.

2021-01-16

Science of the Saints, 17 January, Saint Anthony the Great

 


The Monk Anthony, a very great ascetic, the founder of wilderness-monastery life and as such the father of monasticism, is entitled "the Great" by Holy Church. 

He was born in Egypt in the village of Coma, near the Thebaid wilderness, in the year 251. His parents were pious Christians of illustrious lineage. From his youth Anthony was always serious and given over to concentration. He loved to visit church services and he hearkened to the Holy Scripture with such deep attention that he remembered what he heard all his entire life. The commandments of the Lord guided him from the time of his very youth. 

When Saint Anthony was about twenty years old, he lost his parents, but in his care remained his sister, a minor in age. Visiting the church services, the youth was pierced through by a reverent feeling towards those Christians who, as it relates in the Acts of the Apostles, sold off their possessions and the proceeds thereof they applied in following after the Apostles. He heard in church the Gospel passage of Christ, spoken to the rich young man: "If thou wouldst be perfect, sell what thou hast and give it to the poor; and thou wilt have treasure in heaven; and come follow after Me," (Mt. 19:21). Anthony understood this as spoken to him personally. He sold off his property that remained to him after the death of his parents, he distributed the money to the poor, he left his sister in the care of pious virgins in a monastic setting, he left his parental home, and having settled not far from his village in a wretched hut, he began his ascetic life. He earned his livelihood by working with his hands, and alms also for the poor. Sometimes the holy youth also visited other ascetics living in the surrounding areas, and from each he sought to receive direction and benefit. And to a particular one of these ascetics he turned for guidance in the spiritual life.

In this period of his life the Monk Anthony was subjected to terrible temptations by the devil. The enemy of the race of man troubled the young ascetic with thoughts, and with doubts about his chosen path, with anguish over his sister, and he attempted to incline Anthony towards fleshly sin. But the monk preserved his firm faith, he incessantly made prayer and intensified his efforts. Anthony prayed that the Lord would point out to him the path of salvation. And he was granted a vision. The ascetic beheld a man, who by turns alternately finished a prayer, and then began to work - this was an Angel, which the Lord had sent to instruct His chosen one. The monk thereupon set up a strict schedule for his life. He partook of food only once in the entire day, and sometimes only once every second or third day; he spent all night at prayer, giving himself over to a short sleep only on the third or fourth night after unbroken vigil. But the devil would not desist with his tricks, and trying to scare the monk, he appeared under the guise of monstrous phantoms. The saint however with steadfast faith protected himself with the Life-Giving Cross. Finally the enemy appeared to him in the guise of a frightful looking youth, and hypocritically declaring himself beaten, he reckoned to sway the saint into vanity and pride. But the monk expelled the enemy with prayer. 

For yet greater solitude, the saint re-settled farther away from the village, in a graveyard. On designated days his friend brought him a scant bit of food. And here the devils, pouncing upon the saint with the intent to kill him, inflicted upon him terrible beatings. But the Lord would not allow the death of Anthony. The friend of the saint, on schedule taking him his food, saw him as though dead laying upon the ground, and he took him away back to the village. They thought the saint was dead and began to prepare for his burial. But the monk in the deep of night regained consciousness and besought his friend to take him back to the graveyard. The staunchness of Saint Anthony was greater than the wile of the enemy. Taking the form of ferocious beasts, the devils again tried to force the saint to forsake the place chosen by him, but he again expelled them by the power of the Life-Giving Cross. The Lord strengthened the power of His saint: in the heat of the struggle with the dark powers the monk saw coming down to him from the sky a luminous ray of light, and he cried out: "Where hast Thou been, O Merciful Jesus? Why hast Thou not healed my wounds at the very start?" The Lord replied: "Anthony! I was here, but did wait, wanting to see thy valour; and now after this, since thou hast firmly withstood the struggle, I shalt always aid thee and glorify thee throughout all the world." After this vision the Monk Anthony was healed of his wounds and ready for renewed efforts. He was then 35 years of age. 

Having gained spiritual experience in the struggle with the devil, the Monk Anthony pondered going into the deeps of the Thebaid wilderness, and in full solitude there to serve the Lord by deed and by prayer. He besought the ascetic elder (to whom he had turned at the beginning of his monastic journey) to go off together with him into the wilderness, but the elder, while blessing him in the then as yet unheard of exploit of being suchlike an hermit, decided against accompanying him because of the infirmity of age. The Monk Anthony went off into the wilderness alone. The devil tried to stop him, throwing in front of the monk precious gems and stones, but the saint paid them no attention and passed them on by. Having reached a certain hilly spot, the monk caught sight of an abandoned enclosed structure and he settled within it, securing the entrance with stones. His faithful friend brought him bread twice a year, and water he had inside the enclosure. In complete silence the monk partook of the food brought him. The Monk Anthony dwelt for 20 years in complete isolation and incessant struggle with the devils, and he finally found tranquillity of spirit and peace in his mind. When it became appropriate, the Lord revealed to people about His great ascetic. The saint had to instruct many layfolk and monastics. The people gathering at the enclosure of the monk removed the stones sealing his entrance way, and they went to Saint Anthony and besought him to take them under his guidance. Soon the heights on which Saint Anthony asceticised was encircled by a whole belt of monastic communities, and the monk fondly directed their inhabitants, teaching about the spiritual life to everyone who came into the wilderness to be saved. He taught first of all the need to take up spiritual efforts, to unremittingly strive to please the Lord, to have a willing and unselfish attitude towards types of work shunned earlier. He urged them not to be afraid of demonic assaults and to repel the enemy by the power of the Life-Giving Cross of the Lord.

In the year 311 the Church was beset by a trial - a fierce persecution against Christians, set in motion by the emperor Maximian. Wanting to suffer together with the holy martyrs, the Monk Anthony left the wilderness and arrived in Alexandria. He openly rendered aid to the imprisoned martyrs, he was present at the trial and interrogations, but the torturers would not even bother with him. It pleased the Lord to preserve him for the benefit of Christians. With the close of the persecution, the monk returned to the wilderness and continued his exploits. The Lord bestowed upon His saint a gift of wonderworking: the monk cast out devils and healed the sick by the power of his prayer. The multitude of people coming to him disrupted his solitude, and the monk went off still farther, into the so-called "interior of the wilderness," and he settled atop a high elevation. But the brethren of the wilderness monasteries searched out the monk and besought him at least often to pay visits to their communities.

Another time the Monk Anthony left the wilderness and arrived amidst the Christians in Alexandria, to defend the Orthodox faith against the Manichaean and Arian heresies. Knowing that the name of the Monk Anthony was venerated by all the Church, the Arians circulated a lie about him - that he allegedly adhered to their heretical teaching. But actually being present in Alexandria, the Monk Anthony in front of everyone and in the presence of the bishop openly denounced Arianism. During the time of his brief stay at Alexandria he converted to Christ a great multitude of pagans. Pagan philosophers came to the monk, wanting by their speculations to test his firm faith, but by his simple and convincing words he reduced them to silence. The Equal-to-the-Apostles emperor Constantine the Great (+337) and his sons deeply esteemed the Monk Anthony and besought him to visit them at the capital, but the monk did not want to forsake his wilderness brethren. In reply to the letter, he urged the emperor not to be overcome with pride by his lofty position, but rather to remember, that even over him was the Impartial Judge - the Lord God. 

The Monk Anthony spent 85 years of his life in the solitary wilderness. Shortly before his death, the monk told the brethren that soon he would be taken from them. Time and again he instructed them to preserve the Orthodox faith in its purity, to shun any association with heretics, and not to weaken in their monastic efforts. "Strive the yet more to dwell ever in unity amongst ye, and most of all with the Lord, and then with the saints, so that upon death they should bring ye into eternity by their blood, as friends and acquaintances," thus were the death-bed words of the monk passed on in his Vita (Life). The monk bid two of his disciples, who had been together with him the final 15 years of his life, to bury him in the wilderness and not arrange any solemn burial of his remains in Alexandria. Of his two monastic mantles, the monk left one to Sainted Athanasius of Alexandria, the other to Sainted Serapion of Tmunta. The Monk Anthony died peacefully in the year 356, at age 105, and he was buried by his disciples at a treasured spot glorified by him in the wilderness. 

The Vita (Life) of the famed ascetic the Monk Anthony the Great was written in detail by a father of the Church, Saint Athanasius of Alexandria. This work of Saint Athanasius is the first memorial of Orthodox hagiography, and is considered one of the finest of his writings. Saint John Chrysostom says that this Vita should be read by every Christian. "These narratives be significantly small in comparison with the virtues of Anthony," writes Saint Athanasius, "but from them ye can conclude, what the man of God Anthony was like. From his youth into his mature years observing an equal zeal for asceticism, not being seduced by the avenues of filth, and not as regards infirmity of body altering his garb, nor the any worse for it in suffering harm. His eyes were healthy and unfailing and he saw well. Not one tooth fell out for him, and they only weakened at the gums from the advanced years of age. He was healthy of hand and of foot. And what they said about him everywhere, all being amazed at him, whereof even those that did not see him loved him - this serves as evidence of his virtue and love for God in soul."

Of the works of the Monk Anthony himself, there have come down to us: 1) his Discourses, 20 in number, treating of the virtues, primarily monastic, 2) Seven Letters to monasteries - about striving for moral perfection and regarding the spiritual struggle, and 3) a Rule of life and consolation for monastics.

In the year 544 the relics of the Monk Anthony the great were transferred from the wilderness to Alexandria, and later on with the conquest of Egypt by the Saracens in the seventh century, they were transferred to Constantinople. The holy relics were transferred from Constantinople in the tenth-eleventh centuries to a diocese outside Vienna, and in the fifteenth century to Arles (in France), into the church of Saint Julian.

2021-01-15

Science of the Saints, 16 January, Saint Peter's Chains

 


The Veneration of the Venerable Chains of the Holy and All-Praiseworthy Apostle Peter.

On the orders of Herod Agrippa, in about the year 42 the Apostle Peter was thrown into prison for preaching about Christ the Saviour. In prison he was held secure by two iron chains. By night, on the eve of his trial, an Angel of the Lord removed these chains from the Apostle Peter and miraculously led him out from the prison (Acts 12:1-11).

Christians who learned of the miracle took the chains and kept them as precious keepsakes. Those afflicted with illness and approaching them with faith received healing. The Chains of the holy Apostle Peter were kept at Jerusalem until the time of Patriarch Juvenalios, who presented them to Eudocia, spouse of the emperor Theodosius the Younger, and she in turn transferred them from Jerusalem to Constantinople in either the year 437 or 439. Eudocia sent one Chain to Rome to her daughter Eudoxia, who built a church in the name of the Apostle Peter and put within it the Chain. At Rome were also other Chains, in which the Apostle Peter found himself before his death under the emperor Nero.

On 16 January the Chains of the Apostle Peter are brought out for veneration by the people.