Posts tagged ‘saints’

Sunday of All Saints of America

american saintsIn the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

Every year, on the 2nd Sunday after the Great Feast of Pentecost (which is today), we celebrate the memory of All Saints of America, whether known or unknown. Really, the day is set aside for a local people to recognize their Saints – so in Greece it’s All Saints of Greece, and in Russia, All Saints of Russia, etc. This is one of those times liturgically that very beautifully brings us into direct contact with holy people who very literally have been where we are. There is a great temptation sometimes to think of the Saints as “those others” – to place them on a different plane and to think that their achievements are unattainable to us in our time and place. Today reminds us that that’s not at all true. There are people recognized as Saints (not to mention those we don’t even know about) who have lived in modern times in this very land. We are all called to be Saints; “Be ye perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48), and “Be ye holy, even as I am holy” (multiple places in Leviticus). The word Saint means holy – Sviat, Agios. To be holy means not just that something is sacred, but it means “to be set apart.” As Christians we are called to be set apart in two ways – to be set apart from the world, and to be set apart for God.

The Church sets the Saints before us as those who set themselves apart for God. They fulfill the Gospel commandments; they dedicate everything they are to Christ. And so in our hymns we hear about their lives and their exploits, and in our hagiography we read in more detail about their lives as they lived in Christ. But not only are we to learn about the Saints, to follow in their steps and to be inspired by their lives, but we’re also to be in relationship with the Saints. We as Orthodox don’t traditionally speak of the Church as visible and invisible – there is One Church, composed of those living in this world, and those alive in Christ in the world beyond. Just as we have a relationship with the Mother of God and with our patron Saints, we are encouraged to learn about, and then get to know, other Saints as well. We obviously can’t, in our earthly life, do this with all the Saints, but people typically find Saints with whom they resonate for one reason or another, and then they get to know those Saints. So with that in mind, instead of a detailed life of one of our American Saints, I basically want to give a list of our Saints with a sentence or two about each – an introduction to our American Saints, and perhaps something about one or more of them will inspire you to deeper study and to prayer and relationship.

St. Herman of Alaska – great missionary monk and wonderworker of Alaska, preached the Gospel, built schools, defended natives from mistreatment by Russian company, lived as a hermit most of his life on Spruce Island, 1st glorified American Saint

Martyred Hieromonk St. Juvenaly – part of original Russian mission from Valaam, was part of the baptism of over 14,000 Alaskan natives through his missionary efforts, later killed during his Gospel ministry by natives

St. Peter the Aleut, ProtoMartyr – with a group of Aleut hunters captured by the Spanish and taken to San Francisco in 1815, tortured brutally for refusing to convert to Roman Catholicism, St. Herman heard about his death and called him a new martyr

St. Jacob Netsvetov – first Alaskan ordained priest, traveled over huge stretches of land to minister and preach the Gospel, after his wife reposed he went to the Alaskan interior, preaching to many people who had never heard the Gospel, during his last trip to the Yukon he baptized over 1300 natives

St Innocent of Alaska, Metropolitan of Moscow – married Russian priest assigned to Alaska in 1823, learned languages and translated Gospels and services, wife reposed while he was in Russia in 1838, took monastic vows in 1840 and was made bishop of Kamchatka and the Aleutian Islands, continued traveling and working for the spread of the Gospel, later appointed Metropolitan of Moscow

St. Tikhon, Patriarch of All Russia – worked tirelessly during his tenure in America as bishop, traveling, converting many, founding Churches, and founding St. Tikhon’s Monastery, worked to establish Church structure for the American diocese, returned to Russian in 1907 and elected Patriarch in 1917, harassed by the government, imprisoned and persecuted, reposed in 1925, considered a martyr (many think he was poisoned by the Bolsheviks)

Hieromartyr St. Alexander Hotovitsky – married Russian priest assigned to St. Nicholas in NY, very active in the community and in publishing, built a huge new cathedral, returned to Russian in 1914, he was arrested and tried by the Soviets, eventually facing a final arrest in 1937 when he was sentenced to death and executed

St. Raphael of Brooklyn – born in Lebanon to Syrian parents, educated both in Damascus and Russia, 1st Bishop consecrated in America (by St. Tikhon), served as auxiliary bishop of Russian Church, based in Brooklyn, traveled constantly serving the Arab Orthodox throughout North America (visited St. George Church in Vicksburg!)

St. Alexis Toth – married Uniate Greek Catholic priest in Slovakia, he came to America as a missionary priest after his wife’s repose, the Latin bishop refused to receive him, he knew his heritage was Orthodox and had considered conversion before and so now he entered the Russian Orthodox Church in America, through his ministry over 20,000 uniates were re-united with the Orthodox Church

Hieromartyr St. John Kochurov – married Russian priest who came to America as a missionary in 1895, served in Chicago, built the parish and founded other parishes in the Chicago area, translated texts into English, returned to Russia in 1907, martyred by Bolsheviks in October 1917 becoming the protohieromartyr (1st priest martyr)of the Soviet yoke

St. John Maximovitch, Wonderworker – life is far to amazing to detail here, spent the last years of his life as Archbishop of San Francisco (1962-1966) and was known far and wide even during his lifetime as a holy man and great worker of miracles

St. Nikolai Velimirovich – came to America from Communist Yugoslavia as a refugee in 1946 (spent time in Dachau, imprisoned and tortured by Nazis), ended his life as rector of St. Tikhon’s Seminary in 1956

Lesser known (4)
Hieromartyr St. Basil Martysz of Poland – married Polish priest who was a missionary in North America from 1900 to 1912, was in charge of Orthodox affairs for Polish army for 25 years, martyred in closing days of WW2 by bandits who tortured and killed him in 1945

St. Seraphim of Uglich – Russian monastic priest who was a missionary under St. Tikhon from 1902-1908 where he served as a teacher, deacon, and priest, consecrated bishop of Uglich in 1920, refused to cooperate with the Bolsheviks to form a new Synod, eventually exiled in 1928 from which he never returned (possibly martyred in 1937)

Hieromartyr St. Anatole of Irkutsk – missionary priest in North America from 1895-1903, glorified as a New-Martyr by the Russian Church for his suffering, though he reposed freed from prison in the early 1920s

St. Barnabus the New Confessor – born in Garyn Indina in 1914, returned to Serbia as a child and became a monk in 1940, later consecrated bishop and accused of being an American spy for his open criticism of the communist governments mistreatment of Christians, arrested and tortured and imprisoned, death believed to be by poison (like St. Tikhon)

All of these people lived and worked on this very continent, and now are glorified in Christ and recognized as Saints of our land. And we can be sure that there are many more Saints that are unknown to us.

May all the Holy Ones of America pray to God for us!
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Posted by Matthew Jackson

Advertisements

The Meeting of the Lord in the Temple (Luke 2:22-40)

presentAUDIO HERE

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

Today we celebrate as a great feast one of the many events from the life of our Lord. We heard in the Gospel reading this morning about the event – when He was 40 days old, the parents of Jesus took Him to the Temple in Jerusalem to offer sacrifice according to the Law. As He does throughout His life, the Lord is fulfilling and completing the law in Himself, today through the actions of Mary and Joseph. Neither He nor His Holy Mother had any need for purification, yet they obeyed the Law nonetheless. In the course of the Gospel reading we are introduced to two very interesting figures, those of Symeon the God-Receiver and the Prophetess Anna. I’d like us to hear a bit more about these two people, who are very central today, when you look at how much of the Gospel reading is dedicated to them.

St. Symeon is called the God-Receiver because he received the Christ in his arms as the Lord came to the Temple. The Tradition tells us that Symeon was one of the translators of the Septuagint, which was the translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek. He translated the book of Isaiah, and when he read that a Virgin would conceive and have a son, he wanted to change it to read “a woman…” At that moment, an angel appeared, telling him that the word should remain “Virgin,” and prophesying that he would live to see the time when a virgin would bear the Christ. And so God made this promise to Symeon that he would not die until he saw the coming of the Messiah. This promise was fulfilled today, and at the end of his earthly life, St. Symeon gives us the beautiful hymn that we end each day with at Vespers: “Lord, now lettest Thou thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel” (Luke 2:34-35). St. Symeon also made one of the most well known prophesies about Jesus: “this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will piece through your own soul also [he says to the Theotokos]), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).

The Holy Prophetess Anna was an 84 year old widow, of whom very little is actually known. She had been married, but her husband had died only 7 years into their marriage. The description of her in the Gospel today was quite beautiful – she “did not leave the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers day and night” (Luke 2: 37). She saw the Messiah as He entered the Temple, and giving thanks, she then went to speak “of Him to all those who were looking for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). She was the first evangelist, the first bearer of the Good News that the Messiah had been born.

Symeon and Anna, together with John the Baptist, represent the last vestiges of the Old Covenant, the last of the Righteous ones before the coming of the Promised One. And today, the elderly Symeon and Anna have their lives fulfilled in seeing the coming of the Promised Messiah, the Holy One of Israel. So today, let’s celebrate this Feast of the Meeting of the Lord in the Temple, and also the lives of these two holy people of God, the Saints Symeon and Anna.

Happy Feast! Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Author Matthew Jackson

St. James, the brother of the Lord

Audio for homily HERE

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

We really have a couple of rough readings for the homilist this morning, especially with the joy of the Nativity season. We have St. Paul talking about his own apostleship in Christ, and we have the continuing story of our Lord’s flight to Egypt and return to Nazareth. I thought about looking at some of the Orthodox traditions regarding our Lord’s time in Egypt, but I’ve decided instead to look at one of the saints we remember today, James the brother of the Lord. The life and ministry of St. James meld very nicely with the celebration of his brother’s birth in the flesh as Lord and King and God.

The holy Apostle James is called the brother of the Lord, and was the son of St. Joseph by his first wife. There are multiple discussions about exactly what the relationship was – we know that St. Joseph was not a child of Mary (ever-Virgin & scene with St. John at the Cross) – in ancient times some of the Western Father’s of the Church had a few differing ideas on the relationship between James and our Lord, but early on in the Orthodox East it was known that James was the son of Joseph. So in our modern terminology he was really the step-brother of the Lord. From his earliest years, St. James dedicated himself to God as a Nazarene. The Nazarenes vowed to remain in virginity, to abstain from wine and meat, and they didn’t cut their hair. They were about the closest thing to monastics in the Jewish tradition. Their vows symbolized a life of purity, a life totally dedicated to God. So from his earliest years, St. James’ desire was to serve God.

When our Lord’s ministry was revealed and He began to preach and to work the miracles of the Messiah, St. James believed in his brother and became one of His Apostles. He is remembered at one of the Apostles of the Seventy (he is not, of course, James the son of Zebedee who was one of the twelve). After our Lord’s death and resurrection and ascension, St. James was chosen as the first bishop of the Holy City of Jerusalem. He presided over the Apostolic Council (recorded in Acts 15), which became the model for all of our Orthodox Councils. He pronounced the final decision of the Council with the famous phrase, “for it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us” – forever a reminder that the Holy Spirit should be our guide, that Christ is present leading and steering His Holy Body, the Church. Our task as the Church and as individual Christians, a very difficult task at times, is to hear Him.

During his 30 years as Bishop of Jerusalem, St. James converted many of his fellow Jews to Christ. Of course, this greatly angered the Pharisees and the Scribes and the leaders of the Temple, and they began to plot together to put St. James to death. They lead him up to the top of the Temple in Jerusalem and they began to ask him what he thought of Jesus. The holy bishop began to preach and to expound the Scriptures and to show that Jesus was the Christ, the expected Messiah of Israel. Filled with fury, the leaders of the Temple threw him off the roof of the Temple. The fall did not immediately kill the Saint, and as he was being stoned to death, he lifted his eyes to the heavens and prayed for the forgiveness of his enemies. The martyrdom of St. James took place in the year 63 AD.

I like looking at the Saints any time of year, and St. James’ life is so powerful at this time of year firstly because he is the brother of the Lord and his life ties us directly into the earthly life of Christ, which we’re continuing to celebrate in this festal Nativity period. Also, and particularly because he gave everything he had, even to his very life, for the Christ he had come to believe in. He spent his life for the glory of God, and his death glorified God again.

Two additional notes we’ll end with:
The Holy Apostle James also composed a Liturgy which bears his name – a Liturgy still used around the world in various churches, though typically only served in the Orthodox Church on his name day. And finally, as we all well know, one of his Epistles has been preserved at part of the New Testament canon used by all Christians even until today. We continue to be inspired not only by the life of this great man of God, but also by his words, which continue to be read by Christians everywhere.

Holy brother of the Lord, James, pray to God for us!

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Author Matthew Jackson

St. Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and Apostle to America

St Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and Apostle to America was born as Vasily Ivanovich Belavin on January 19, 1865 into the family of Ioann Belavin, a rural priest of the Toropetz district of the Pskov diocese. His childhood and adolescence were spent in the village in direct contact with peasants and their labor. From his early years he displayed a particular religious disposition, love for the Church as well as rare meekness and humility.

When Vasily was still a boy, his father had a revelation about each of his children. One night, when he and his three sons slept in the hayloft, he suddenly woke up and roused them. He had seen his dead mother in a dream, who foretold to him his imminent death, and the fate of his three sons. She said that one would be unfortunate throughout his entire life, another would die young, while the third, Vasily, would be a great man. The prophecy of the dead woman proved to be entirely accurate in regard to all three brothers.

From 1878 to 1883, Vasily studied at the Pskov Theological Seminary. The modest seminarian was tender and affectionate by nature. He was fair-haired and tall of stature. His fellow students liked and respected him for his piety, brilliant progress in studies, and constant readiness to help comrades, who often turned to him for explanations of lessons, especially for help in drawing up and correcting numerous compositions. Vasily was called “bishop” and “patriarch” by his classmates.

In 1888, at the age of 23, Vasily Belavin graduated from the St Petersburg Theological Academy as a layman, and returned to the Pskov Seminary as an instructor of Moral and Dogmatic Theology. The whole seminary and the town of Pskov became very fond of him. He led an austere and chaste life, and in 1891, when he turned 26, he took monastic vows. Nearly the whole town gathered for the ceremony. He embarked on this new way of life consciously and deliberately, desiring to dedicate himself entirely to the service of the Church. The meek and humble young man was given the name Tikhon in honor of St Tikhon of Zadonsk.

He was transferred from the Pskov Seminary to the Kholm Theological Seminary in 1892, and was raised to the rank of archimandrite. Archimandrite Tikhon was consecrated Bishop of Lublin on October 19, 1897, and returned to Kholm for a year as Vicar Bishop of the Kholm Diocese. Bishop Tikhon zealously devoted his energy to the establishment of the new vicariate. His attractive moral make-up won the general affection, of not only the Russian population, but also of the Lithuanians and Poles. On September 14, 1898, Bishop Tikhon was made Bishop of the Aleutians and Alaska. As head of the Orthodox Church in America, Bishop Tikhon was a zealous laborer in the Lord’s vineyard.

He did much to promote the spread of Orthodoxy, and to improve his vast diocese. He reorganized the diocesan structure, and changed its name from “Diocese of the Aleutians and Alaska” to “Diocese of the Aleutians and North America” in 1900. Both clergy and laity loved their archpastor, and held him in such esteem that the Americans made Archbishop Tikhon an honorary citizen of the United States.

On May 22, 1901, he blessed the cornerstone for St Nicholas Cathedral in New York, and was also involved in establishing other churches. On November 9, 1902, he consecrated the church of St Nicholas in Brooklyn for the Syrian Orthodox immigrants. Two weeks later, he consecrated St Nicholas Cathedral in NY.

In 1905, the American Mission was made an Archdiocese, and St Tikhon was elevated to the rank of Archbishop. He had two vicar bishops: Bishop Innocent (Pustynsky) in Alaska, and St Raphael (Hawaweeny) in Brooklyn to assist him in administering his large, ethnically diverse diocese. In June of 1905, St Tikhon gave his blessing for the establishment of St Tikhon’s Monastery in South Canaan, PA.

In 1907, he returned to Russia, and was appointed to Yaroslavl, where he quickly won the affection of his flock. They came to love him as a friendly, communicative, and wise archpastor. He spoke simply to his subordinates, never resorting to a peremptory or overbearing tone. When he had to reprimand someone, he did so in a good-natured, sometimes joking manner, which encouraged the person to correct his mistakes.

When St Tikhon was transferred to Lithuania on December 22, 1913, the people of Yaroslavl voted him an honorary citizen of their town. After his transfer to Vilnius, he did much in terms of material support for various charitable institutions. There too, his generous soul and love of people clearly manifested themselves. World War I broke out when His Eminence was in Vilnius. He spared no effort to help the poor residents of the Vilnius region who were left without a roof over their heads or means of subsistence as a result of the war with the Germans, and who flocked to their archpastor in droves.

After the February Revolution and formation of a new Synod, St Tikhon became one of its members. On June 21, 1917, the Moscow Diocesan Congress of clergy and laity elected him as their ruling bishop. He was a zealous and educated archpastor, widely known even outside his country.

On August 15, 1917, a local council was opened in Moscow, and Archbishop Tikhon was raised to the dignity of Metropolitan, and then elected as chairman of the council. The council had as its aim to restore the life of Russian Orthodox Church on strictly canonical principles, and its primary concern was the restoration of the Patriarchate. All council members would select three candidates, and then a lot would reveal the will of God. The council members chose three candidates: Archbishop Anthony of Kharkov, the wisest, Archbishop Arseny of Novgorod, the strictest, and Metropolitan Tikhon of Moscow, the kindest of the Russian hierarchs.

On November 5, following the Divine Liturgy and a Molieben in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, a monk removed one of the three ballots from the ballot box, which stood before the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God. Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev announced Metropolitan Tikhon as the newly elected Patriarch. St Tikhon did not change after becoming the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church. In accepting the will of the council, Patriarch Tikhon referred to the scroll that the Prophet Ezekiel had to eat, on which was written, “Lamentations, mourning, and woe.” He foresaw that his ministry would be filled with affliction and tears, but through all his suffering, he remained the same accessible, unassuming, and kindly person.

All who met St Tikhon were surprised by his accessibility, simplicity and modesty. His gentle disposition did not prevent him from showing firmness in Church matters, however, particularly when he had to defend the Church from her enemies. He bore a very heavy cross. He had to administer and direct the Church amidst wholesale church disorganization, without auxiliary administrative bodies, in conditions of internal schisms and upheavals by various adherents of the Living Church, renovationists, and autocephalists.

The situation was complicated by external circumstances: the change of the political system, by the accession to power of the godless regime, by hunger, and civil war. This was a time when Church property was being confiscated, when clergy were subjected to court trials and persecutions, and Christ’s Church endured repression. News of this came to the Patriarch from all ends of Russia. His exceptionally high moral and religious authority helped him to unite the scattered and enfeebled flock. At a crucial time for the church, his unblemished name was a bright beacon pointing the way to the truth of Orthodoxy. In his messages, he called on people to fulfill the commandments of Christ, and to attain spiritual rebirth through repentance. His irreproachable life was an example to all.

In order to save thousands of lives and to improve the general position of the church, the Patriarch took measures to prevent clergy from making purely political statements. On September 25, 1919, when the civil war was at its height, he issued a message to the clergy urging them to stay away from political struggle.

The summer of 1921 brought a severe famine to the Volga region. In August, Patriarch Tikhon issued a message to the Russian people and to the people of the world, calling them to help famine victims. He gave his blessing for voluntary donations of church valuables, which were not directly used in liturgical services. However, on February 23, 1922, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee published a decree making all valuables subject to confiscation.

According to the 73rd Apostolic Canon, such actions were regarded as sacrilege, and the Patriarch could not approve such total confiscation, especially since many doubted that the valuables would be used to combat famine. This forcible confiscation aroused popular indignation everywhere. Nearly two thousand trials were staged all over Russia, and more than ten thousand believers were shot. The Patriarch’s message against the confiscation was viewed as sabotage, for which he was imprisoned from April 1922 until June 1923.

His Holiness, Patriarch Tikhon did much on behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church during the crucial time of the so-called Renovationist schism. He showed himself to be a faithful servant and custodian of the undistorted precepts of the true Orthodox Church. He was the living embodiment of Orthodoxy, which was unconsciously recognized even by enemies of the church, who called its members “Tikhonites.”

When Renovationist priests and hierarchs repented and returned to the church, they were met with tenderness and love by St Tikhon. This, however, did not represent any deviation from his strictly Orthodox policy. “I ask you to believe me that I will not come to agreement or make concessions which could lead to the loss of the purity and strength of Orthodoxy,” the Patriarch said in 1924.

Being a good pastor, who devoted himself entirely to the church’s cause, he called upon the clergy to do the same: “Devote all your energy to preaching the word of God and the truth of Christ, especially today, when unbelief and atheism are audaciously attacking the Church of Christ. May the God of peace and love be with all of you!”

It was extremely painful and hard for the Patriarch’s loving, responsive heart to endure all the Church’s misfortunes. Upheavals in and outside the church, the Renovationist schism, his primatial labors, his concern for the organization and tranquility of Church life, sleepless nights and heavy thoughts, his confinement that lasted more than a year, the spiteful and wicked baiting of his enemies, and the unrelenting criticism sometimes even from the Orthodox, combined to undermine his strength and health.

In 1924, Patriarch Tikhon began to feel unwell. He checked into a hospital, but would leave it on Sundays and Feast Days in order to conduct services. On Sunday, April 5, 1925, he served his last Liturgy, and died two days later. On March 25/April 7, 1925 the Patriarch received Metropolitan Peter and had a long talk with him. In the evening, the Patriarch slept a little, then he woke up and asked what time it was. When he was told it was 11:45 P.M., he made the Sign of the Cross twice and said, “Glory to Thee, O Lord, glory to Thee.” He did not have time to cross himself a third time.

Icon and Relic of St. Tikhon, from St. Tikhon’s Monastery Church in South Canaan, PA

Almost a million people came to say farewell to the Patriarch. The large cathedral of the Donskoy Monastery in Moscow could not contain the crowd, which overflowed the monastery property into the square and adjacent streets. St Tikhon, the eleventh Patriarch of Moscow, was primate of the Russian Church for seven and a half years.

On September 26/October 9, 1989, the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church glorified Patriarch Tikhon and numbered him among the saints. For nearly seventy years, St Tikhon’s relics were believed lost, but in February 1992, they were discovered in a concealed place in the Donskoy Monastery.

It would be difficult to imagine the Russian Orthodox Church without Patriarch Tikhon during those years. He did so much for the Church and for the strengthening of the Faith itself during those difficult years of trial. Perhaps the saint’s own words can best sum up his life: “May God teach every one of us to strive for His truth, and for the good of the Holy Church, rather than something for our own sake.”

from oca.org

The Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God

On the 1st of October every year, we celebrate the Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God. This is a very nice article on the Feast from oca.org.

The Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos: “Today the Virgin stands in the midst of the Church, and with choirs of Saints she invisibly prays to God for us. Angels and Bishops venerate Her, Apostles and prophets rejoice together, Since for our sake she prays to the Eternal God!”

This miraculous appearance of the Mother of God occurred in the mid-tenth century in Constantinople, in the Blachernae church where her robe, veil, and part of her belt were preserved after being transferred from Palestine in the fifth century.

On Sunday, October 1, during the All Night Vigil, when the church was overflowing with those at prayer, the Fool-for-Christ St Andrew (October 2), at the fourth hour, lifted up his eyes towards the heavens and beheld our most Holy Lady Theotokos coming through the air, resplendent with heavenly light and surrounded by an assembly of the Saints. St John the Baptist and the holy Apostle John the Theologian accompanied the Queen of Heaven. On bended knees the Most Holy Virgin tearfully prayed for Christians for a long time. Then, coming near the Bishop’s Throne, she continued her prayer.

After completing her prayer she took her veil and spread it over the people praying in church, protecting them from enemies both visible and invisible. The Most Holy Lady Theotokos was resplendent with heavenly glory, and the protecting veil in her hands gleamed “more than the rays of the sun.” St Andrew gazed trembling at the miraculous vision and he asked his disciple, the blessed Epiphanius standing beside him, “Do you see, brother, the Holy Theotokos, praying for all the world?” Epiphanius answered, “I do see, holy Father, and I am in awe.”

The Ever-Blessed Mother of God implored the Lord Jesus Christ to accept the prayers of all the people calling on His Most Holy Name, and to respond speedily to her intercession, “O Heavenly King, accept all those who pray to You and call on my name for help. Do not let them not go away from my icon unheard.”

Sts Andrew and Epiphanius were worthy to see the Mother of God at prayer, and “for a long time observed the Protecting Veil spread over the people and shining with flashes of glory. As long as the Most Holy Theotokos was there, the Protecting Veil was also visible, but with her departure it also became invisible. After taking it with her, she left behind the grace of her visitation.”

At the Blachernae church, the memory of the miraculous appearance of the Mother of God was remembered. In the fourteenth century, the Russian pilgrim and clerk Alexander, saw in the church an icon of the Most Holy Theotokos praying for the world, depicting St Andrew in contemplation of her.

The Primary Chronicle of St Nestor reflects that the protective intercession of the Mother of God was needed because an attack of a large pagan Russian fleet under the leadership of Askole and Dir. The feast celebrates the divine destruction of the fleet which threatened Constantinople itself, sometime in the years 864-867 or according to the Russian historian Vasiliev, on June 18, 860. Ironically, this Feast is considered important by the Slavic Churches but not by the Greeks.

The Primary Chronicle of St Nestor also notes the miraculous deliverance followed an all-night Vigil and the dipping of the garment of the Mother of God into the waters of the sea at the Blachernae church, but does not mention Sts Andrew and Epiphanius and their vision of the Mother of God at prayer. These latter elements, and the beginnings of the celebrating of the Feast of the Protection, seem to postdate St Nestor and the Chronicle. A further historical complication might be noted under (October 2) dating St Andrew’s death to the year 936.

The year of death might not be quite reliable, or the assertion that he survived to a ripe old age after the vision of his youth, or that his vision involved some later pagan Russian raid which met with the same fate. The suggestion that St Andrew was a Slav (or a Scythian according to other sources, such as S. V. Bulgakov) is interesting, but not necessarily accurate. The extent of Slavic expansion and repopulation into Greece is the topic of scholarly disputes.

In the PROLOGUE, a Russian book of the twelfth century, a description of the establishment of the special Feast marking this event states, “For when we heard, we realized how wondrous and merciful was the vision… and it transpired that Your holy Protection should not remain without festal celebration, O Ever-Blessed One!”

Therefore, in the festal celebration of the Protection of the Mother of God, the Russian Church sings, “With the choirs of the Angels, O Sovereign Lady, with the venerable and glorious prophets, with the First-Ranked Apostles and with the Hieromartyrs and Hierarchs, pray for us sinners, glorifying the Feast of your Protection in the Russian Land.” Moreover, it would seem that St Andrew, contemplating the miraculous vision was a Slav, was taken captive, and became the slave of the local inhabitant of Constantinople named Theognostus.

Churches in honor of the Protection of the Mother of God began to appear in Russia in the twelfth century. Widely known for its architectural merit is the temple of the Protection at Nerl, which was built in the year 1165 by holy Prince Andrew Bogoliubsky. The efforts of this holy prince also established in the Russian Church the Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God, about the year 1164.

At Novgorod in the twelfth century there was a monastery of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos (the so-called Zverin monastery) In Moscow also under Tsar Ivan the Terrible the cathedral of the Protection of the Mother of God was built at the church of the Holy Trinity (known as the church of St Basil the Blessed).

On the Feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos we implore the defense and assistance of the Queen of Heaven, “Remember us in your prayers, O Lady Virgin Mother of God, that we not perish by the increase of our sins. Protect us from every evil and from grievous woes, for in you do we hope, and venerating the Feast of your Protection, we magnify you.”

Venerable Sabbatius the Wonderworker of Solovki

Saint Sabbatius of Solovki came to the St Cyril of White Lake monastery in the year 1396, where he received the monastic tonsure. He there pursued asceticism for a long time, unquestioningly fulfilling all obediences. His humility, gentle love towards the brethren and his strict life distinguished the monk Sabbatius among his fellow ascetics. He soon became burdened by the attention and esteem of the brethren and laity coming to him, and having learned that on Lake Ladoga is the rocky island of Valaam, he decided to settle there.

The brethren of the St Cyril of White Lake monastery were very sad to be parted from their Elder. At Valaam the worldly fame also began to disquiet the humble Elder. Then the monk learned that in the north was the uninhabited island of Solovki, and he began to ask the igumen’s blessing to settle there in solitude. But the igumen and the brethren did not want to be separated from their holy Elder.

At the command of God St Sabbatius left the Valaam monastery by night and set off to the shores of the White Sea. When he learned from the local people that the island was two days distant, that on it were many lakes and that no one lived on the island, he was even more eager to settle there. The astonished local people asked the ascetic, whitened with grey hair, how he would live there and what he would eat. “My Master,” replied the monk, “gives the fresh strength of youth to the frail, and nourishes the hungry to satiety.”

For a certain time St Sabbatius remained at the chapel near the mouth of the Vyg River, in the environs of Soroka. There he encountered St Germanus pursuing asceticism as a hermit, and together they decided to settle upon the island. In a frail boat, praying to God, the Elders set off upon the harsh sea and after three days they reached Solovki Island.

The ascetics settled by the Sekirna hill, where they raised up a cross and built their cells. In the severe conditions of the north, the Elders hallowed the unpopulated island by their exploits. Here also the Enemy of mankind,the devil, tempted the holy Elders. A certain fisherman with his wife, moved with a sense of envy, came somehow to the island and settled near the ascetics. But the Lord did not permit the laypeople to remain near the monks. Two youths in bright garb appeared to the wife of the fisherman and struck her with rods. The fisherman took fright, quickly gathered his things and hastened to return to his former place of residence.

Once, when St Germanus had gone for supplies along the Onega River, St Sabbatius, alone and sensing his impending end, turned to God and prayered that He would grant him to partake of the Holy Mysteries. The monk sailed for two days to the mainland and at ten versts from the Vyg River encountered the igumen Nathanael, who had come to the distant settlement to commune a sick Christian. Igumen Nathanael rejoiced at meeting the monk, fulfilled his wish and heard the account of his exploits on the island. In parting, they agreed to meet at the church along the Vyg River.

Entering the temple, the holy Elder prayerfully gave thanks to God for Communion. He then enclosed himself in a cell located near the church, and began to prepare himself for death. During this time the Novgorod merchant John came to shore and, having venerated the holy icons in church, he went to the holy Elder. Having received his blessing and guidance, he offered the monk a portion of his wealth and was saddened when he heard a refusal. To comfort the merchant, St Sabbatius offered to let him stay over until morning, and promised him prosperity on further journeying. The merchant John, however, hastened to disembark.

Suddenly there was an earthquake, and a storm arose on the sea. Taking fright, the merchant stayed where he was. In the morning when he entered the cell for a blessing, he saw that the Elder was already dead. He and Igumen Nathanael, who had just arrived, buried St Sabbatius at the chapel and wrote a manuscript of his Life. This occurred on September 27, 1435. After thirty years, the relics of St Sabbatius were transferred by St Zosimas (April 17) and the brethren of Solovki Island, placing them in the Transfiguration church. In 1566, the relics of Sts Sabbatius and Zosimas were transferred into a church, named in their honor (August 8).

from oca.org

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