The Placing of the Venerable Cincture of the Most Holy Mother of God in the Constantinople Blachernae Church was during the reign of the emperor Arcadius (395‑408). Before this the holy relic, entrusted to the Apostle Thomas by the Mother of God Herself, was after Her Dormition thereafter kept at Jerusalem by pious Christians. After many years, during the reign of emperor Leo the Wise (886-911), from the Cincture of the Mother of God was accomplished a miraculous healing of his spouse Zoa, suffering from an unclean spirit.
The empress had a vision, that she would be healed of her infirmity when the Cincture of the Mother of God would be placed upon her. The emperor turned with his petition to the Patriarch. The Patriarch removed the seal and opened the vessel in which the relic was kept: the Cincture of the Mother of God appeared completely whole and undamaged by time. The Patriarch placed the Cincture on the sick empress, and she immediately was freed from her infirmity. They served a solemn thanksgiving molieben to the Most Holy Mother of God, and the venerable Cincture they placed back into the vessel and resealed the seal.
In commemoration of the miraculous occurrence and the twofold Placing of the venerable Cincture, the feast of the Placing of the Venerable Cincture of the Most Holy Mother of God was established.
Saints Alexander, John, and Paul, Patriarchs of Constantinople, lived at different times, but each of them happened to clash with the activities of heretics who sought to distort the teachings of the Church.
Saint Alexander (325-340) was a chorbishop during the period of the first patriarch of Constantinople, Sainted Mitrophanes (315-325), and because of the patriarch's extreme age substituted for him at the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea against the Arians (325). Upon his death, Saint Mitrophanes had instructed in his will to elect his vicar to the Constantinople throne. During these times Patriarch Alexander had to contend with the Arians and with pagans. Once in a dispute with a pagan philosopher the saint said to him: "In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ I command thee to be quiet!" and the pagan suddenly became voiceless. When he gestured with signs of acknowledgement of his errors and affirmation of the correctness of the Christian teaching, then his speech returned to him and he believed in Christ together with many other pagan philosophers.
The heretic Arius was punished through the prayer of Saint Alexander. The heretic deceitfully agreed to enter into communion with the orthodox, and the emperor Saint Constantine set a day for receiving Arius. All night long Saint Alexander prayed, imploring the Lord not to permit the heretic to be received into communion with the Church. In the morning, when Arius triumphantly went to the church, surrounded by imperial counselors and soldiers, he was stricken with illness on the Constantine Square - his belly exploded and the innards fell out.
Patriarch Alexander, having toiled much, died in the year 340 at the age of 98. Sainted Gregory the Theologian (or Nazianzen, Comm. 25 January) made mention about him afterwards in words of praise to the people of Constantinople.
The Decollation of the Prophet, Forerunner of the Lord, John the Baptist: The Evangelists Matthew (Mt. 14:1-12) and Mark (Mk. 6:14-29) provide accounts about the Martyr's end of John the Baptist in the year 32 after the Birth of Christ.
Following the Baptism of the Lord, Saint John the Baptist was locked up in prison by Herod Antipas, who held one-fourth the rule of the Holy Land as governor of Galilee. (After the death of king Herod the Great, the Romans divided the territory of Palestine into four parts, and into each part put a governor. Herod Antipas received from the emperor Augustus the rule of Galilee). The prophet of God John openly denounced Herod for having left his lawful wife - the daughter of the Arabian king Aretas - and then instead co-habiting with Herodias - the wife of his brother Philip (Lk. 3:19-20).
On his birthday, Herod made a feast for dignitaries, the elders and a thousand chief citizens. The daughter of Herod, Salome, danced before the guests and charmed Herod. In gratitude to the girl he swore to give her anything whatsoever she would ask, anything up to half his kingdom. The vile girl on the advice of her wicked mother Herodias asked that she be given at once the head of John the Baptist on a plate. Herod became apprehensive, for he feared the wrath of God for the murder of a prophet, whom earlier he had heeded. He feared also the people, who loved the holy Forerunner. But because of the guests and his careless oath, he gave orders to cut off the head of Saint John and to give it to Salome. By tradition, the mouth of the dead head of the preacher of repentance once more opened and proclaimed: "Herod, thou ought not to have the wife of Philip thy brother." Salome took the plate with the head of Saint John and gave it to her mother. The frenzied Herodias repeatedly stabbed the tongue of the prophet with a needle and buried his holy head in a unclean place. But the pious Joanna, wife of Herod's steward Chuza, buried the head of John the Baptist in an earthen vessel on the Mount of Olives, where Herod was possessor of a parcel of land (the Uncovering of the Venerable Head is celebrated 24 February). The holy body of John the Baptist was taken that night by his disciples and buried at Sebasteia, there where the wicked deed had been done. After the murder of Saint John the Baptist, Herod continued to govern for a certain while. Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea, later sent to him the bound Jesus Christ, over Whom he made mockery (Lk. 23:7-12).
The judgement of God came upon Herod, Herodias, and Salome even during their earthly life. Salome, crossing the River Sikoris in winter, fell through the ice. The ice gave way for her such that her body was in the water, but her head trapped beneath the ice. It was similar to how she once had danced with her feet upon the ground, but now flailing helplessly in the icy water. Thus she was trapped until that time when the sharp ice cut through her neck. The corpse was not found, but they brought the head to Herod and Herodias, as once they had brought them the head of Saint John the Baptist. The Arab king Aretas in revenge for the disrespect shown his daughter made war against Herod. Having suffered defeat, Herod suffered the wrath of the Roman emperor Caius Caligua (37-41) and was exiled with Herodias first to Gaul, and then to Spain.
In memory of the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, the feastday established by the Church is also a strict day of fast, as an expression of the grief of Christians at the violent death of the saint.
The Monk Moses Murin lived during the Fourth Century in Egypt. He was an Ethiopian, and he was black of skin and therefore called "Murin" (meaning "like an Ethiopian"). In his youth he was the slave of an important man, but after he committed a murder, his master banished him, and he joined in with a band of robbers. Because of his mean streak and great physical strength they chose him as their leader. Moses with his band of brigands did many an evil deed - both murders and robberies, so much so that people were afraid even at the mere mention of his name. Moses the brigand spent several years leading suchlike a sinful life, but through the great mercy of God he repented, leaving his band of robbers and going off to one of the wilderness monasteries. And here for a long time he wept, beseeching that they admit him amidst the number of the brethren. The monks were not convinced of the sincerity of his repentance; but the former robber was not to be driven away nor silenced in demanding that they should accept him.
In the monastery the Monk Moses was completely obedient to the hegumen and the brethren, and he poured forth many a tear, bewailing his sinful life. After a certain while the Monk Moses withdrew to a solitary cell, where he spent the time in prayer and the strictest of fasting in a very austere lifestyle.
One time four of the robbers of his former band descended upon the cell of the Monk Moses and he, not having lost his great physical strength, tied them all up and taking them over his shoulder brought them to the monastery, where he asked of the elders what to do with them. The elders ordered that they be set free. The robbers, learning that they had chanced upon their former ringleader, and that he had dealt kindly with them, themselves followed his example: they repented and became monks. And later, when the rest of the band of robbers heard about the repentance of the Monk Moses, then they too gave up their brigandage and became fervent monks.
The Monk Moses did not quickly become free from the passions. He went often to the monastery hegumen, Abba Isidor, seeking advice on how to be delivered from the passions of profligacy. Being experienced in the spiritual struggle, the elder taught him never to overeat of food, to be partly hungry whilst observing the strictest moderation. But the passions would not cease for the Monk Moses in his dreams. Then Abba Isidor taught him the all-night vigil. The monk stood the whole night at prayer, not being on bended knees so as not to drop off to sleep. From his prolonged struggles the Monk Moses fell into despondency, and when there arose thoughts about leaving his solitary cell, Abba Isidor instead strengthened the resolve of his student. In a vision he showed him many a demon in the west, prepared for battle, and in the east a still greater quantity of holy Angels, likewise readied for fighting. Abba Isidor explained to the Monk Moses, that the power of the Angels would prevail over the power of the demons, and in the long struggle with the passions it was necessary for him to become completely cleansed of his former sins.
The Monk Moses undertook a new effort. Making the rounds by night of the wilderness cells, he carried water from the well to each brother. He did this especially for the elders, who lived far off from the well and who were not easily able to carry their own water. One time, kneeling over the well, the Monk Moses felt a powerful blow upon his back and he fell down at the well like one dead, laying there in that position until dawn. Thus did the devils take revenge upon the monk for his victory over them. In the morning the brethren carried him to his cell, and he lay there a whole year crippled up. Having recovered, the monk with firm resolve confessed to the hegumen, that he would continue to asceticise. But the Lord Himself put limits to this struggle of many years: Abba Isidor blessed his student and said to him, that the profligate passions had already gone from him. The elder commanded him to commune the Holy Mysteries and in peace to go to his own cell. And from that time the Monk Moses received from the Lord the power over demons.
Accounts about his exploits spread amongst the monks and even beyond the bounds of the wilderness. The governor of the land wanted to see the saint. Having learned about this, the Monk Moses decided to hide away from any visitors and he departed his own cell. Along the way he met up with servants of the governor, who asked him, how to get to the cell of the wilderness-dweller Moses. The monk answered them: "Go on no further to this false and unworthy monk." The servants returned to the monastery, where the governor was waiting, and they conveyed to him the words of the elder they had chanced upon. The brethren, hearing a description of the elder's appearance, all as one acknowledged that they had come upon the Monk Moses himself.
Having spent many a year at monastic exploits, the Monk Moses was ordained deacon. The bishop attired him in white vesture and said: "Abba Moses is now entirely white." The saint answered: "Master, what makes it purely white - the outer or the inner?" Through humility the saint reckoned himself unworthy to accept the dignity of deacon. One time the bishop decided to test him and he bid the clergy to drive him out of the altar, whilst reviling him for being an unworthy Ethiopian. With full humility the monk accepted the abuse. Having put him to the test, the bishop then ordained the monk to the priesthood. And in this dignity the Monk Moses asceticised for fifteen years and gathered round himself seventy-five disciples.
When the monk reached age seventy-five, he forewarned his monks that soon brigands would descend upon the skete and murder all that were there. The saint blessed his monks to leave in good time, so as to avoid the violent death. His disciples began to beseech the monk to leave together with them, but he replied: "I many a year already have awaited the time, when upon me there should be fulfilled the words which my Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, did speak: All, who take up the sword, shalt perish by the sword." (Mt. 26: 52). After this seven of the brethren remained with the monk, and one of these hid not far off during the coming of the robbers, The robbers killed the Monk Moses and the six monks that remained with him. Their death occurred in about the year 400.
The Monk Pimen the Great was born in about the year 340 in Egypt. With his two brothers, Anubias and Paisias, he went into one of the Egyptian monasteries, and all three accepted monastic tonsure. The brothers were such strict ascetics, that when their mother came to the monastery to see her children, they did not come out to her from their cells. The mother stood there for a long time and wept. Then the Monk Pimen said to her through the closed door of the cell, "If thou bearest with the temporal parting from us now, then in the future life wilt thou see us, since we do hope upon God the Lover-of-Mankind!" The mother was humbled and returned home.
Fame about the deeds and virtues of the Monk Pimen spread throughout all the land. One time the governor of the district wanted to see him. The Monk Pimen, shunning fame, reasoned thus: "If dignitaries begin coming to me with respect, then also many of the people will start coming to me and disturb my quiet, and I shall be deprived of the grace of humility, which I have found only with the help of God." And so he relayed a refusal to the messenger. For many of the monks, the Monk Pimen was a spiritual guide and instructor. And they wrote down his answers to serve to the edification of others besides themselves. A certain monk asked, "Ought one to veil over with silence the sin of a transgressing brother, if perchance one see him?" The elder answered, "If we reproach the sins of brothers, then God will reproach our sins, and if thou seest a brother sinning, believe not thine eyes, and know that thine own sin is like a wood-beam, but the sin of thy brother is like a wood-splinter, and then thou wilt not come into distress and temptation." Another monk turned to the saint, saying, "I have grievously sinned and I want to spend three years at repentance. Is such a length of time sufficient?" The elder answered, "That is a long time." The monk continued to ask how long a period of repentance did the saint reckon necessary for him - a year, or forty days? The elder answered, "I think that if a man repenteth from the depths of his heart and posits a firm intent to return no more to the sin, then God would accept also a three-day repentance." To the question as to how to be rid of persistent evil thoughts, the saint answered, "If a man has on one side of him fire, and on the other side a vessel with water, then if he starts burning from the fire, he takes water from the vessel and extinguishes the fire. Like to this are the evil thoughts suggested by the enemy of our salvation, which like a spark can enkindle sinful desires within man. It is necessary to put out these sparks with the water, which is prayer and the yearning of the soul for God."
The Monk Pimen was strict at fasting and did not partake of food for the space of a week or more. But others he advised to eat every day, but without eating one's fill. For a certain monk, permitting himself to partake of food only on the seventh day but being angry with a brother, the saint said, "Thou wouldst learn to fast over six days, yet cannot abstain from anger for even a single day." To the question, which is better - to speak or be silent, the elder said, "Whoso doth speak on account of God, doeth well, and whoso is silent on account of God, that one doth act well." And moreover: "It may be, that a man seems to be silent, but if his heart doth judge others, then always is he speaking. But there are also those, who all the day long speak with their tongue, but within themselves they do keep silence, since they judge no one."
The saint said: "For a man it is necessary to observe three primary rules: to fear God, to pray often, and to do good for people." "Malice in turn never wipes out malice. If someone doeth thee bad, do them good, and thy good will conquer their bad." One time, when the monk with his students arrived at an Egyptian wilderness monastery (since he had the habit to go about from place to place, so as to shun glory from men), it became known to him that the elder living there was annoyed at his arrival and also was jealous of him. In order to overcome the malice of the hermit, the saint set off to him with his brethren, taking along with them food as a present. The elder refused to come out to them. Thereupon the Monk Pimen said, "We shall not depart from here, until we are granted to see and pay respect to the holy elder," and he remained standing in the bright heat at the door of the cell. Seeing such perseverance and lack of malice on the part of the Monk Pimen, the elder received him graciously and said, "It is right what I have heard about you, but I see in you the good deeds and a hundred times even moreso." Thus did the Monk Pimen know how to extinguish malice and provide good example to others. He possessed such great humility that often with a sigh he said, "I shall be cast down to that place, whither was cast down Satan!"
One time there came to the saint a monk from afar, to get his guidance. He began to speak about sublime matters difficult to grasp. The saint turned away from him and was silent. To the bewildered monk they explained, that the saint did not like to speak about lofty matters. Then the monk began to ask him about the struggle with passions of soul. The saint turned to him with a joyful face, "Here now thou well hath spoken, and I must answer," and for a long while he provided instruction, as to how one ought to struggle with the passions and conquer them.
The Monk Pimen died at age 110, in about the year 450. Soon after his death he was acknowledged as a saint pleasing to God and received the title "the Great" as a sign of his great humility, modesty, uprightness, and self-denying service to God.
The Martyrs Adrian and Natalia were married in their youth for one year prior to their martyrdom. They lived in Bithynian Nicomedia during the time of the emperor Maximian (305-311). Having started his persecution, the emperor promised a reward to whomever would inform on Christians to bring them to trial. There began the denunciations, and through one of these there were seized twenty-three Christians, hiding in a cave near Nicomedia. They were tortured, urged to worship idols, and then taken to the judgment palace, in order to record their names and responses.
Adrian, the head of the judgment palace, looking on as they brought in the people suffering with such courage for their faith, and how firmly and fearlessly they confessed Christ, asked: "What rewards do ye expect from your God for suffering?" The martyrs replied: "Such rewards, as we are not able to describe, nor thy mind comprehend." Inspired, Saint Adrian told the scribes: "Write me down also, that I be a Christian and with joy I do die for Christ God." The scribes reported about this to the emperor, who summoned Saint Adrian and asked: "Really, hast thou gone mad, that thou dost want to die? Come, cross out thine name from the lists and offer sacrifice to the gods, asking their forgiveness." Saint Adrian answered: "I am not mad, but the rather have been converted to health of mind." Maximian then ordered Adrian to be thrown into prison.
His wife, Saint Natalia, knowing that her husband was suffering for Christ, rejoiced, since she herself was secretly a Christian. She hastened to the prison and encouraged her husband saying: "Blest be thou, mine lord, in that thou hast believed on Christ, wherein thou hast obtained a great treasure. Regret not anything of earth, neither beauty, nor youth (Adrian was then 28 years of age), nor riches. Everything worldly is dust and ashes. Only faith and good deeds be pleasing to God."
On the pledge of the other martyrs, they released Saint Adrian from prison to relate to his wife about the day of execution. Saint Natalia at first thought that he had renounced Christ and thus had been set free, and she did not want to let him into the house. The saint persuaded his wife, that he had not fled martyrdom, but rather had come to give her the news of the day of his execution.
They tortured Saint Adrian cruelly. The emperor advised the saint to have pity on himself and call on the gods, but the martyr answered: "Let thine gods say what blessings they promise me, and then I shalt worship them, but if they cannot speak thus, then why should I worship them?"
Saint Natalia did not cease to encourage her husband. She asked him also to convey for her a foremost prayer to God, that they would not compel her into a marriage with a pagan after his death. The executioner ordered the hands and the legs of the saints to be broken on the anvil. Saint Natalia, fearing that her husband would hesitate in seeing the sufferings of the other martyrs, besought the executioner to begin the execution with him and let her herself put his hands and legs on the anvil. They wanted to burn the bodies of the saints, but a strong storm arose and the fire went out. Many of the executioners even were struck by lightning. Saint Natalia took the hand of her spouse and kept it at home. Soon an army commander asked the emperor's approval to wed Saint Natalia, who was both young and rich. But she hid herself away in Byzantium. Here Saint Adrian appeared to her in a dream and said, that she would soon be at rest in the Lord. The anemic martyress, worn down by her former sufferings, in fact soon expired to God.
The Transfer of the Relics of the Apostle Bartholomew took place at the end of the Sixth Century.
His apostolic activity and martyr's end are remembered by the Church on 11 June. The Apostle Bartholomew suffered for Christ in Armenian Albano (now Baku) in the year 71, where also his holy relics were situated. From the relics of the holy apostles occurred numerous miracles, and many of the unbelieving were converted to Christ. Under the emperor Anastasios (491-518) the relics of the Apostle Bartholomew were transferred into the newly constructed city of Anastasiopolis (or Dareia) and remained there until the end of the Sixth Century.
When the city of Anastasiopolis was captured by the Persian emperor Khozroes, Christians took up the chest with the relics of the Apostle Bartholomew and fled with it to the shores of the Black Sea. Having overtaken them, pagan priests threw the chest with the relics of the Apostle Bartholomew into the sea. Together with it, four other chests were thrown into the sea containing the relics of the holy Martyrs Papian, Lucian, Gregory, and Acacius.
By the power of God the chests did not sink into the depths of the sea, but rather accomplished a miraculous floating upon the waves and reached Italy. The chest with the relics of the Apostle Bartholomew came to land at the island of Lipari, and the remaining chests continued their journey and came to land at various places in Italy. The chest with the relics of the Martyr Papian halted at Sicily, the Martyr Lucian at Messina, the Martyr Gregory at Calabria, and the Martyr Acacius at Asculusa.
The arrival of the relics of the holy Apostle Bartholomew was revealed to the bishop of the island of Lipari, Agathon, who went with clergy to the shores of the sea, took up the chest from the waters and solemnly transferred it to church.
From the relics of the Apostle Bartholomew there flowed out myrrh, giving healing for various illness. The holy relics remained in the church of the island of Lipari until the middle of the Ninth Century, when the island was captured by pagans. Christian merchants took up the holy relics of the Apostle Bartholomew and transferred them to the city of Beneventum, where they were received with great veneration and placed in the main church of the city.