Posts tagged ‘marriage’

Greatmartyr Eustathius Placidas with his wife and children, of Rome

The Holy Great Martyr Eustathius was named Placidas before his Baptism. He was a military commander under the emperors Titus (79-81) and Trajan (98-117). Even before he came to know Christ, Placidas performed acts of charity, helping the poor and destitute. Therefore, the Lord did not leave the virtuous pagan remain in the darkness of idolatry.

Once while hunting in a forest, he saw a stag which would stop now and then to look him right in the eye. Placidas pursued it on horseback, but could not catch up. The stag leaped over a chasm and stood on the other side facing him. Placidas suddenly saw a radiant Cross between its antlers. In surprise the military commander heard a voice coming from the Cross saying, “Why do you pursue Me, Placidas?”

“Who are You, Master?” asked Placidas.The Voice replied, “I am Jesus Christ, Whom you do not know, yet you honor Me by your good deeds. I have appeared here on this creature for your sake, to capture you in the net of My love for mankind. It is not fitting that one as righteous as you should worship idols and not know the truth. It was to save mankind that I came into the world.”

Placidas cried out, “Lord, I believe that You are the God of Heaven and earth, the Creator of all things. Master, teach me what I should do.” Again the Lord replied, “Go to the bishop of your country and receive Baptism from him, and he will instruct you.”

Placidas returned home and joyfully recounted everything to his wife Tatiana. She in turn told him how the evening before, in a mysterious dream, she had been told, “Tomorrow you, your husband and your sons shall come to Me and know that I am the true God. The spouses then proceeded to do as they had been bidden.

They hastened to the Christian bishop, who baptized all their family, and communed them with the Holy Mysteries. Placidas was renamed Eustathius, his wife was called Theopiste, and their children, Agapius and Theopistus.

On the following day, St 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.

Again St Eustathius received a miraculous revelation. The Lord Himself foretold his impending tribulations: “Eustathius, you shall suffer many misfortunes, as did Job, but in the end you will conquer the devil.”

Soon St Eustathius was plunged into misfortune: all his servants died of the plague and his cattle perished. Brought to ruin, but not despairing in spirit, St Eustathius and his family secretly abandoned their home, to live unknown, humble and in poverty.

They went to Egypt to board a ship sailing for Jerusalem. During the voyage a new woe beset the saint. The ship owner, enchanted by Theopiste’s beauty, cruelly set Eustathius and his children ashore, keeping the wife for himself.

In great sorrow the saint continued on his way, and new woe beset him. Coming to a tempestuous river, he went to carry his two sons across in turn. When he had brought one across, the other was seized by a lion and carried off into the wilderness. As he turned back towards the other, a wolf dragged that child into the forest.

Having lost everything, St Eustathius wept bitterly, but he realized that Divine Providence had sent him these misfortunes to test his endurance and devotion to God. In his inconsolable grief, St Eustathius went on farther, prepared for new tribulations.

In the village of Badessos he found work and spent five years in unremitting toil. St Eustathius did not know then that through the mercy of God, shepherds and farmers had saved his sons, and they lived right near him. He also did not know that the impudent shipowner had been struck down with a terrible disease and died, leaving St Theopiste untouched. She lived in peace and freedom at the place where the ship landed.

During this time it had become difficult for the emperor Trajan to raise an army for Rome to deal with a rebellion, for the soldiers would not go into battle without their commander Placidas. They advised Trajan to send men out to all the cities to look for him.

Antiochus and Acacius, friends of Placidas, sought him in various places. Finally, they arrived in the village where St Eustathius lived. The soldiers found Eustathius, but they did not recognize him and they began to tell him of the one whom they sought, asking his help and promising a large reward. St Eustathius, immediately recognized his friends, but did not reveal his identity to them.

He borrowed money from one of his friends and fed the visitors. As they looked at him, the travellers noted that he resembled their former commander. When they saw a scar on his shoulder from a deep sword-wound, they realized that it was their friend there before them. They embraced him with tears and told him why they were seeking him.

St Eustathius returned to Rome with them and again became a general. Many new recruits were drafted into the army from all over the empire. He did not know that two young soldiers who served him, and whom he loved for their skill and daring, were actually his own sons. They did not know that they were serving under the command of their own father, nor that they were brothers by birth.

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 life, how he had lost his mother and brother, and how in a terrifying way he had been parted from his father. The younger brother then realized that before him was his very own brother, and told him how he had been rescued from the wolf.

A woman overheard the soldiers’ conversation, since their tent was pitched right next to her house, and this woman realized that these were her sons. Still not identifying herself to them, but not wanting to be separated from them, she went to their commander, St Eustathius, to ask him to take her to Rome with him. She said she had been a prisoner, and wanted to go home. Then she came to recognize the commander 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 rebellion was crushed, and St Eustathius returned to Rome with honor and glory. The emperor Trajan had since died, and his successor Hadrian (117-138) wanted to celebrate the event of victory with a solemn offering of sacrifice to the gods. To the astonishment of everyone, St Eustathius did not show up at the pagan temple. By order of the emperor they searched frantically for him.

“Why don’t you want to worship the gods?” the emperor inquired. “You, above all others, ought to offer thanks to them. They not only preserved you in war and granted you victory, but also they helped you find your wife and children.” St Eustathius replied: “I am a Christian and I glorify and give thanks to Him, and I offer sacrifice to Him. I owe my life to Him. I do not know or believe in any other god than Him.”

In a rage, the emperor ordered him to take off his military belt and brought him and his family before him. They did not succeed in persuading the steadfast confessors of Christ to offer sacrifice to idols. The whole family of St Eustathius was sentenced to be torn apart by wild beasts, but the beasts would not touch the holy martyrs.

Then the cruel emperor gave orders to throw them all alive into a red-hot brass bull, and St Eustathius, his wife Theopiste, and their sons Agapius and Theopistus endured a martyr’s death. Before being placed in the bull, St Eustathius prayed, “Grant, O Lord, Thy grace to our relics, and grant to those who call upon us a place in Thy Kingdom. Though they call upon us when they are in danger on a river or on the sea, we entreat Thee to come to their aid.”

Three days later, they opened the brass bull, 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 buried the bodies of the saints.

Troparion – Tone 4
Your holy martyr Eustáthius and his wife and sons, O Lord,
through their sufferings have received incorruptible crowns from You, our God.
For having Your strength, they laid low their adversaries,
and shattered the powerless boldness of demons.
Through their intercessions, save our souls!

Kontakion – Tone 2
Having openly imitated the Passion of Christ,
and having eagerly drunk of His cup, O Eustáthius,
you became a partaker and fellow heir of His glory,
receiving divine forgiveness from on high from the God of all.

from oca.org

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Prophet Zachariah and the Righteous Elizabeth, parents of St. John the Baptist

The Holy Prophet Zachariah and the Righteous Elizabeth were the parents of the holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, John. They were descended from the lineage of Aaron: St Zachariah, son of Barach, was a priest in the Jerusalem Temple, and St Elizabeth was the sister of St Anna, the mother of the Most Holy Theotokos. The righteous spouses, “walking in all the commandments of the Lord (Luke 1:6), suffered barrenness, which in those times was considered a punishment from God.

Once, during his turn of priestly service in the Temple, St Zachariah was told by an angel that his aged wife would bear him a son, who “will be great in the sight of the Lord” (Luke 1:15) and “will go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias” (Luke 1:17).

Zachariah doubted that this prediction would come true, and for his weakness of faith he was punished by becoming mute. When Elizabeth gave birth to a son, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit she announced that his name was John, although no one in their family had this name.

They asked Zachariah and he also wrote the name John down on a tablet. Immediately the gift of speech returned to him, and inspired by the Holy Spirit, he began to prophesy about his son as the Forerunner of the Lord.

When King Herod heard from the Magi about the birth of the Messiah, he decided to kill all the infants up to two years old at Bethlehem and the surrounding area, hoping that the new-born Messiah would be among them.

Herod knew about John’s unusual birth and he wanted to kill him, fearing that he was the foretold King of the Jews. But Elizabeth hid herself and the infant in the hills. The murderers searched everywhere for John. Elizabeth, when she saw her pursuers, began to implore God for their safety, and immediately the hill opened up and concealed her and the infant from their pursuers.

In these tragic days St Zachariah was taking his turn at the services in the Temple. Soldiers sent by Herod tried in vain to learn from him the whereabouts of his son. Then, by command of Herod, they murdered this holy prophet, having stabbed him between the temple and the altar (MT 23: 35). Elizabeth died forty days after her husband, and St John, preserved by the Lord, dwelt in the wilderness until the day of his appearance to the nation of Israel.

Troparion – Tone 2
The memory of Your prophets Zachariah and Elizabeth
We celebrate today, O Lord.
By their prayers, we beseech You,
O Christ God, save our souls!

from oca.org

Righteous Nonna, the mother of St Gregory the Theologian

Saint Nonna, the mother of St Gregory the Theologian (January 25, 389), was the daughter of Christians named Philotatos and Gorgonia, who raised her in Christian piety. St Nonna was also an aunt of St Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium (November 23).

St Nonna entered into marriage with Gregory of Arianzus (January 1), the rich landowner of an estate in the Arianzus and Nazianzos districts. The marriage was advantageous by earthly considerations, but grievous for the pious soul of Nonna. Her husband Gregory was a pagan, a follower of the sect of the Supremists (Hypsistarii), who venerated a supreme god and observed certain Jewish rituals, while at the same time they worshipped fire.

St Nonna prayed that her spouse would turn to the holy truth. St Nonna’s son, St Gregory the Theologian, wrote about this: “She could not bear this, being half united to God, because he who was part of her remained apart from God. She wanted a spiritual union in addition to the bodily union. Day and night she turned to God with fasting and many tears, entreating Him to grant salvation to her husband.”

Through the prayers of St Nonna, her husband Gregory had a vision in his sleep. “It seemed to my father,” writes St Gregory, “as though he was singing the following verse of David: ‘I was glad when they said to me, let us go into the house of the Lord’ (Ps. 121/122: 1). He had never done this before, though his wife had often offered her supplications and prayers for it.”

The Psalm was strange to him, but along with its words, the desire also came to him to go to church. When she heard about this, St Nonna told her husband that the vision would bring the greatest pleasure if it were fulfilled.

The elder Gregory went to the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea, where he made known his conversion to Christ. He was baptized, ordained presbyter, and then Bishop of Nazianzos devoting himself totally to the Church. At the same time as his consecration as bishop, his wife St Nonna was made a deaconness. With the same zeal with which she had raised her children, she now occupied herself in performing works of charity.

“She knew,” says St Gregory the Theologian, “one thing to be truly noble: to be pious and to know from where we have come and where we are going; and that there is one innate and trusty wealth: to use one’s substance on God and on the poor, especially the impoverished kin.

One woman may be distinguished for frugality, and another for piety, while she, difficult as it is to combine both qualities, excelled all others in both of them. In each she attained the height of perfection, and both were combined in her. She did not permit one duty to interfere with the other, but rather each supported the other.

What time and place of prayer ever eluded her? She was drawn to this each day before anything else, and she had complete faith that her prayers would be answered. Although greatly moved by the sorrows of strangers, she never yielded to grief to the extent that she allowed any sound of woe to escape her lips before the Eucharist, or a tear to fall from her eye, or for any trace of mourning to remain on a Feast day, though she repeatedly endured many sorrows. She subjected every human thing to God.

Her final years brought St Nonna many sorrows. In the year 368 her younger son Caesarios died, a young man of brilliant expectations; and in the following year, her daughter died. The brave old woman bore these losses submitting to the will of God.

In the year 370 Bishop Gregory, then already an old man, participated in the consecration of St Basil the Great as Bishop of Caesarea. St Nonna, who was somewhat younger than her husband, was also ready to enter into the next life, but through the prayers of her beloved son her time on earth was prolonged.

“My mother,” wrote her son, ” was always strong and vigorous, and free from sickness all her life, but then she became ill. Because of much distress… caused by her inability to eat, her life was in danger for many days, and no cure could be found. How then did God sustain her? He did not send down manna, as for Israel of old; He did not split open a rock, in order to provide water for the thirsty people; not did He send food by ravens, as with Elias, nor did He feed her…, as He once fed Daniel, who felt hunger in the pit. But how?”

It seemed to her that I, her favorite son (not even in dreams did she prefer anyone else), had appeared to her suddenly by night with a basket of the whitest bread. Then I blessed these loaves with the Sign of the Cross, as is my custom, and I gave her to eat, and with this her strength increased.”

St Nonna believed the vision was real. She became stronger, and more like her old self.

St Gregory visited her early the next morning and, as usual, asked what sort of night she had, and if she required anything. She replied, “My son, you have fed me and now you ask about my health. I am well.” At this moment her maids made signs to me that I should not contradict her, but to accept her words so that the actual truth should not distress her.”

Early in the year 374 the hundred-year-old St Gregory the Elder reposed. After this, St Nonna almost never emerged from the church. Soon after his death, she died at prayer in the temple on August 5, 374.

St Nonna was a model wife and mother, a remarkable woman who devoted her life to God and the Church without neglecting her other responsibilities. Because of her spiritual, social, and domestic concerns, St Nonna would be a most fitting patron for Orthodox women’s organizations.

from oca.org