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You endured beheading with a mighty heart, Offspring of Rome Martyr Anastasia. On the twenty-ninth Anastasia submitted to a sharp sword.
The Venerable Martyr Anastasia the Roman was born in Rome of well-born parents and left an orphan at the age of three. As an orphan, she was taken into a women’s monastery near Rome, where the abbess was one Sophia, a nun of a high level of perfection. She raised Anastasia in fervent faith, in the fear of God and obedience. After seventeen years, Anastasia was known to the Christians as a great ascetic and to the pagans as a rare beauty.
The persecution against Christians by the emperor Decius (249–251)* began around that time. The pagan administrator of the city, Probus, heard of her and sent soldiers to bring Anastasia to him. The good Abbess Sophia counselled Anastasia for two hours on how to keep the faith, how to resist flattering delusion and how to endure torture. Anastasia said to her: “My heart is ready to suffer for Christ; my soul is ready to die for my beloved Jesus.” Blessed by her abbess to suffer for Christ, the young martyr Anastasia humbly came out to meet the armed soldiers.
Brought before the governor Probus, Anastasia openly proclaimed her faith in Christ the Lord. Probus asked for her name. She replied: “My name is Anastasia [“Resurrection”], because the Lord resurrected me, so that I could shame you today, and your father the devil.” On seeing her youth and beauty, Probus first attempted flattery to make her deny Christ and dissuade her from the faith, “Why waste your youth, deprived of pleasure? What is there to gain by enduring tortures and death for the Crucified One? Worship our gods, marry a handsome husband, and live in glory and honor.” The holy maiden steadfastly replied, “My spouse, my riches, my life and my happiness are my Lord Jesus Christ, and you will not turn me away from Him by your deceit! I am ready to die for my Lord, not once but — oh, if it were only possible! — a thousand times.”
Probus then subjected Anastasia to fierce tortures. The holy Martyr bravely endured them, glorifying and praising the Lord. First she was struck in the face, then they stripped her naked, to humiliate her. She cried out to the judge: “This disrobing isn’t shameful at all for me, because it’s a brilliant, most fitting adornment. I’ve been stripped of the old person and have donned the new, in righteousness and truth. I’m now ready to suffer this death you hope to terrify me with. I want it so much. Even if you cut up my members, rip out my tongue, my nails and my teeth, you’ll be granting me an even greater blessing. I devote my whole being to my Creator and Savior. I desire that He be glorified in all my members. I’ll present them to him as jewels, with the adornment of faith.”
The governor then ordered that four posts be driven into the ground, on which they stretched out the Martyr and tied her, face-down. Underneath, they lit a fire with oil, pitch and brimstone, as well as other inflammable materials, by which her breasts, stomach and internal organs were burned. From above, the heartless torturers beat her back with sticks. She suffered and was thus tortured for a good long time and her spine and all her back were cut to pieces from the beating. On her front, the flesh, the veins and her blood were all thoroughly burned and she underwent such pain and agony that it was frightening to hear her. Only with her prayers, which were like dew, was she able to moderate the fierceness of the heat, because she remembered God’s former miracles, such as the Babylonian furnace.
When the brutal and inhuman beast saw that the Martyr was not cowed by these tortures, he ordered her to be tied to a wheel. No sooner said than done, and, when the wheel was turned by some mechanical device, all the Saint’s bones were shattered, her tendons and joints stretched, her body was pulled out of its natural, harmonious shape and she became a pitiful sight.
When the tyrant saw that the Saint was able to withstand this dreadful torture, he determined to defeat her immense resilience with other tortures. So he had all her teeth and nails pulled out and her breasts cut off. Again, the Saint thanked the Lord that she had become a sharer and participant in His sufferings. At the same time, she cursed the tyrant’s gods, calling them forces of darkness, demons and perdition for the soul.
The judge could not bear to hear such words and, because the light was so hateful to his feeble eyes, he ordered that her tongue be torn out from the root. Yet again, the Saint was not cowed by this punishment; she merely asked for a little time in which to glorify the Lord with her organs of speech. Having finished her prayer, she told the executioner to set about his work, which he did, cutting off her tongue. She fainted from the pain and a Christian called Cyril gave her a little water to drink. When Probus heard this, he was so enraged that he ordered his head to be cut off.
An Angel of God appeared to Anastasia and upheld her. The people, seeing the inhuman and disgusting treatment of the Saint, became indignant, and the ruler was compelled to end the tortures. She was finally beheaded with the sword outside the city. The body of the Saint was thrown out beyond the city to be eaten by wild animals, but the Lord did not permit her holy relics to be dishonored. At the command of a holy Angel, Abbess Sophia went to find Anastasia’s mutilated body, and with the help of two Christians buried it in the earth.
* Some say it was during the reign of Diocletian.
** There is another Roman martyr named Anastasia who is celebrated on October 12th, but it is likely the same person. However, this Anastasia should not be confused with Saint Anastasia the Pharmakolytria celebrated on December 22nd.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
O holy Virgin Anastasia, thou didst redden thy robe of purity with the blood of thy martyr’s contest. Thou dost illumine the world with the grace of healing, and intercede with Christ our God for our souls.
Kontakion in the Third Tone
Commemorated on May 9, May 7 and on Thursday of the Cheese-fare Week
An Antiochian by birth, St. Shio of Mgvime was among the Thirteen Syrian Fathers who preached the Christian Faith in Georgia. His parents were pious nobles who provided their son with a sound education.
When the twenty-year-old Shio heard about the great ascetic labors of St. John of Zedazeni and his disciples who labored in the wilderness, he went in secret to visit them. St. John promised to receive Shio as a disciple, provided his parents agreed to his decision.
But when Shio returned home he said nothing to his parents about what had transpired.
Time passed and Shio’s parents both entered the monastic life.
Then Shio sold all his possessions, distributed the profits to the poor, widows, orphans, and hermits, freed all his family’s slaves, and returned to Fr. John.
St. John received Shio joyfully, tonsured him a monk, and blessed him to remain in the wilderness. He labored there with St. John for twenty years. Then John was told in a divine revelation to choose twelve disciples and travel to Georgia to increase the faith of its people. Shio was one of the disciples chosen to follow him on this holy mission.
The holy fathers arrived in Georgia and settled on Zedazeni Mountain. Then, with the blessings of Catholicos Evlavios and Fr. John, they dispersed throughout the country to preach the Word of God.
At his instructor’s command, St. Shio settled in the Sarkineti caves near Mtskheta and began to lead a strict ascetic life. There was no water there and many wild animals made their home in the caves, but the privations and tribulations he encountered did not shake St. Shio’s great faith. Like the Prophet Elijah, Shio received his food from the mouths of birds that carried it to him.
Once, after St. Shio had prayed at length, a radiant light appeared suddenly in the place where he was, and theMost Holy Theotokos and St. John the Baptist stood before him. After this miraculous visitation St. Shio began to pray with even greater zeal, and he would spend hours alone in the wilderness.
Another time, St. Evagre (at that time ruler of Tsikhedidi and military adviser to King Parsman) went hunting in the Sarkineti Mountains. There he encountered St. Shio and, astonished by his piety, resolved to remain there with him. The news of the ruler’s conversion soon spread through all of Georgia, and many people flocked to witness the venerable father’s miraculous deeds. Many remained there with them, following St. Evagre’s example.
Once St. Shio prayed to God to reveal to him the place where He desired a church to be built. He placed a lump of hot coal in his hand and sprinkled incense on it, as though his hand were a censer. Then he followed the smoke as it swirled up from the hot coal. In the place where it rose straight up like a pillar, he took his staff and marked the ground where the church would be built.
When King Parsman heard about his military adviser’s radical change of life, he was deeply disturbed and wandered into the wilderness to find him. But when he witnessed the divine grace shining on St. Shio’s face, he took off his crown and knelt humbly before him. Fr. Shio reverently blessed the king, helped him to stand up, and replaced the crown on his head. Following the king’s example, all the royal court came to receive Shio’s blessing. A certain nobleman with an injured eye knelt before St. Shio, touched his eye to the holy father’s foot, and received healing at once.
At another time King Parsman asked St. Shio if there was anything he needed, and he answered, “O Sovereign King, God enlightens the hearts of kings. Do that which your heart tells you!” In response, the king donated much wealth for the construction of a church in the wilderness: the lands of four villages, a holy chalice and diskos, a gold cross, and an ornately decorated Gospel that had belonged to the holy king Vakhtang Gorgasali (†502).
When construction of the church was complete, the king traveled there in the company of the catholicos, several bishops and St. John of Zedazeni. The hierarchs consecrated the newly built church, and a monastic community soon grew up on its grounds. Eventually, the number of monks laboring at King Parsman’s monastery grew to nearly two thousand. Many people visited this place to receive St. Shio’s wonder-working blessings, and they were healed from many diseases.
St. Shio performed many miracles: Once a wolf that had been prowling the monastery grounds ravaged a herd of donkeys. When St. Shio heard this, he prayed to God to transform the wolf into the protector of the herd. From that time on the wolf grazed peacefully among the other animals.
With the blessings of both his teacher, John of Zedazeni, and the catholicos of Georgia, St. Shio gathered his disciples, advised them on the path they should follow, appointed Evagre his successor as abbot, and went into reclusion in a well that he had dug for himself. There St. Shio spent fifteen years in prayer and fasting. Finally, when God revealed to him that his death was approaching, St. Shio partook of the Holy Gifts and lifted up his hands, saying, “O Lord, receive the soul of Thy servant!”
Later, during one of the Persian invasions, the soldiers of Shah Abbas uncovered the holy father’s relics and carried them back to Persia. In the same year Persia was ravaged by a terrible plague, and the frightened invaders returned the holy relics to the Shio-Mgvime Monastery.
© 2006 St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood.
Commemorated on May 8, September 26
The Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian occupies an unique place in the ranks of the chosen disciples of Christ the Saviour. Often in iconography the Apostle John is depicted as a gentle, majestic and spiritual elder, with features of innocent tenderness, with the imprint of complete calm upon his forehead and the deep look of a contemplator of unuttered revelations. Another main trait of the spiritual countenance of the Apostle John is revealed through his teaching about love, for which the title “Apostle of Love” is preeminently designated to him. Actually, all his writings are permeated by love, the basic concept of which leads to the comprehension, that God in His Being is Love (1 Jn. 4: 8). In his writings, Saint John dwells especially upon the manifestations of the inexpressible love of God for the world and for mankind, the love of his Divine Teacher. He constantly exhorts his disciples to mutual love one for another.
The qualities of calmness and profound contemplation were in him combined with an ardent fidelity, tender and boundless love with intensity and even a certain abruptness. From the brief indications of the Evangelists it is apparent, that he was endowed in the highest degree with an ardent nature, and his hearty passionateness sometimes reached such a stormy zealousness, that Jesus Christ was compelled to give the admonishment, that it was discordant with the spirit of the new teaching (Mk. 9: 38–40; Lk. 9: 49–50, 54‑56) and He called the Apostle John and his brother by birth the Apostle James “Sons of Thunder” (“Boanerges”). During this while Saint John shows scant modesty, and besides his particular position among the Apostles as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”, he did not stand out among the other disciples of the Saviour. The distinguishing features of his character were the observance and sensitivity to events, permeated by a keen sense of obedience to the Will of God. Impressions received from without rarely showed up in his word or actions, but they penetrated deeply and powerfully into the inner life of the holy Apostle John. Always sensitive to others, his heart ached for the perishing. The Apostle John with pious tremulation was attentive to the Divinely-inspired teaching of his Master, to the fulness of grace and truth, in pure and sublime comprehending the Glory of the Son of God. No feature of the earthly life of Christ the Saviour slipped past the penetrating gaze of the Apostle John, nor did any event occur, that did not leave a deep impression on his memory, since in him was concentrated all the fulness and wholeness of the human person. The thoughts also of the Apostle John the Theologian are imbued with suchlike an integral wholeness. The dichotomy of person did not exist for him. In accord with his precepts, where there is not full devotion, there is nothing. Having chosen the path to service to Christ, to the end of his life he fulfilled it with complete and undivided devotion. The Apostle John speaks about wholistic a devotion to Christ, about the fulness of life in Him, wherefore also sin is considered by him not as a weakness and injury of human nature, but as evil, as a negative principle, which is completely set in opposition to the good (Jn. 8: 34; 1 Jn. 3: 4, 8–9). In his perspective, it is necessary to belong either to Christ or to the devil, it is not possible to be of a mediocre lukewarm, undecided condition (1 Jn. 2: 22, 4: 3; Rev. 3: 15–16). Therefore he served the Lord with undivided love and self-denial, having repudiated everything that appertains to the ancient enemy of mankind, the enemy of truth and the father of lies (1 Jn. 2: 21–22). Just as strongly as he loves Christ, just as strongly he contemns the Anti-Christ; just as intensely he loves truth, with an equal intensity does he contemn falsehood, – for light doth expel darkness (Jn. 8: 12; 12: 35–36). By the manifestation of the inner fire of love he witnesses with the unique power of spirit about the Divinity of Jesus Christ (Jn. 1: 1–18; 1 Jn. 5: 1–12).
© 1996–2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.
Commemorated on April 22
The Monk Vitalios, a monk of the monastery of Saint Serid, arrived in Alexandria when the Patriarch of Alexandria was Sainted John the Merciful (609–620, Comm. 12 November).
The holy prayers of the Monk Vitalios saved many a fallen woman. Some of them went off to a monastery, others got married, and yet others started respectable work. But to tell the reason of straightening out their life and lift the abuse heaped upon the Monk Vitalios they could not: they were bound by an oath, given to the saint. And when of the woman began to break her oath to stand up in defense of the saint, she fell into a demonic frenzy. After this, the Alexandria people had no doubt concerning the sinfulness of the monk.
© 1996–2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.
The king then, full of wrath, said: “Do either of two things: deny thy faith or choose a bitter death.” The athlete of Christ answered: “Do thou one of three things: leave me to go to my elder, for I have done no wrong; or send me to Christ with martyrdom; or become a Christian and reign for eternity in the heavens.”
The Lives of the Saints of the Holy Land and the Sanai Desert
Monk-Martyr Michael of St. Savvas Lavra
The Holy Great-Martyress Irene lived during the I Century and until baptism had the name Penelope. She was daughter of the pagan Licinius, governor of the city of Migdonia (in Macedonia, or Thrace). Licinius built for his daughter a separate splendid palace, where she lived with her governess Karia, surrounded by her peers and her servants. Daily there came to Penelope a tutor by the name of Apelian, who taught her the sciences. Apelian was a Christian, and during the time of study he told the maiden about Christ the Saviour and taught her the Christian teaching and the Christian virtues.
Having learned of this, Sedecius, – the new governor of the city, summoned Apelian and questioned him about the manner of life of Irene. Apelian answered that Irene, just like other Christians, lived in strict temperance, in constant prayer and reading of holy books. Sedecius summoned the saint to him and began to urge her to cease preaching about Christ and to offer sacrifice to the gods. Saint Irene staunchly confessed her faith before the governor, not fearing his wrath, and prepared to undergo suffering for Christ. By order of Sedecius she was thrown into a pit, filled with vipers and serpents. The saint spent 10 days in the pit and remained unharmed, since an Angel of the Lord protected her and brought her food. Sedecius ascribed this miracle to sorcery and he subjected the saint to a cruel torture: he gave orders to saw her with an iron saw. But the saws broke one after the other and caused no harm to the body of the holy virgin. Finally, a fourth saw reddened the body of the holy martyress with blood. Sedecius with derision said to the martyress: “Where then is thy God? If He be powerful, let Him help thee!” Suddenly a whirlwind shot up, gave forth a blinding lightning-flash, striking down many of the torturers, thunder crashed, and a strong rain poured down. Beholding such a sign from Heaven, many believed in Christ the Saviour. Sedecius did not understand the obvious display of the power of God and he subjected the saint to new torments, but the Lord preserved her unharmed. Finally the people rebelled having to look upon the sufferings of the innocent virgin, and they rose up against Sedecius and expelled him from the city.
© 1996–2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.