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May 17, 2019 | Saints & Martyrs
The Holy Virgin Pelagia lived during the III Century in the city of Tarsis in the Cilician district of Asia Minor. She was the daughter of illustrious pagans and when she heard preaching from her Christian acquaintances about Jesus Christ the Son of God, she believed in Him and desired to preserve her chastity, dedicating her whole life to the Lord. The heir of emperor Diocletian (a youth adopted by him), having seen the maiden Pelagia, was captivated by her beauty and wanted to take her to be his wife. But the holy virgin told the youth, that she was betrothed to the Immortal Bridegroom, – the Son of God, and therefore she had renounced earthly marriage. This answer of Pelagia caused great anger in the imperial youth, but he decided to leave her in peace for awhile, hoping, that she would change her frame of mind. This same while Pelagia convinced her mother to send her off to her nurse who had raised her in childhood – secretly hoping to locate the bishop of Tarsis Klinon, who had fled to a mountain during a time of persecution against Christians, and to accept Holy Baptism from him. In a dream vision there appeared the form of the bishop – Klinon, profoundly impressing itself upon her memory. Saint Pelagia set off to her nurse in a chariot, in rich clothes and accompanied by a whole retinue of servants, as her mother had desired her to. Along the way Saint Pelagia, through some particular ordering of events by God, met bishop Klinon. Pelagia immediately recognised the bishop, whose image had appeared to her in the dream. She fell at his feet, requesting baptism. At the prayer of the bishop there flowed from the ground a spring of water. Bishop Klinon made the sign of the cross over Saint Pelagia, and during the time of the mystery (sacrament) Angels appeared and covered the chosen one of God with a bright mantle. Having communed the pious virgin with the Holy Mysteries, bishop Klinon raised himself up in prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord together with her, and then sent her off to continue her journey. Having returned to the servants awaiting her, Saint Pelagia preached to them about Christ, and many of them were converted and believed. She tried to convert her own mother to faith in Christ, but the obdurate woman sent a message to the imperial youth, – that Pelagia was a Christian and did not wish to be his spouse. The youth comprehended that Pelagia was lost for him, and not wishing to give her over to torture, he fell upon his sword. Pelagia’s mother thereupon became fearful of the wrath of the emperor, tied her daughter and led her to the court of Diocletian as being a Christian and also the probable cause of the death of the heir to the throne. The emperor was captivated by the unusual beauty of the maiden and tried to sway her from her faith in Christ, promising her every earthly blessing and to make her his own wife. But the holy maiden refused the offer of the emperor with contempt and said: “Thou art insane, emperor, telling me such a speech. Know, that I wilt not do thine bidding, and I loathe thy vile marriage, since I have a Bridegroom – Christ, the King of Heaven. I desire not thy imperial, worldly, short-durationed crowns, since my Lord in the Heavenly Kingdom has prepared for me three imperishable crowns. The first for faith – since I have believed with all my heart in the True God; the second for purity – because I have entrusted to Him my virginity; the third for martyrdom – since I want to accept for Him every suffering and to offer up my soul because of my love for Him”. Diocletian thereupon sentenced Pelagia to be burnt in a glowing red-hot copper oven. Not permitting the executioners to touch her body, the holy martyress herself – signing herself with the sign of the cross, went with a prayer into the red-hot oven – in which her flesh melted like myrh, filling all the city with fragrance; the bones of Saint Pelagia remained unharmed and were removed by the pagans to outside the city. Four lions then came from out of the wilderness and sat around the bones – letting get at them neither bird nor wild beast. The lions protected the remains of the saint until such time as bishop Klinon came to that place. He gathered them up and buried them with honour. During the reign of emperor Constantine (306−337), when the persecutions against Christians had stopped, there was built a church at the place of burial of Saint Pelagia.
© 1996–2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.
May 17, 2019 | Saints & Martyrs
Commemorated on May 3
Saints Timothy and Maura suffered for the faith during the time of persecution under the emperor Diocletian (284−305). Saint Timothy came from the village of Perapa (Egyptian Thebaid), and was the son of a priest by the name of Pikolpossos. He was made a reader among the church clergy and likewise a keeper and copyist of Divine-service books. Saint Timothy came under denunciation that he was a keeper of Christian books, which by order of the emperor were to be confiscated and burned. They brought Saint Timothy before the governor Arian, who demanded him to hand over the clergy books. For his refusal to obey the command, they subjected the saint to horrible tortures. They shoved into his ears two red-hot iron rods, from which the sufferer lost his eyesight and became blind. Saint Timothy bravely endured the pain and he gave thanks to God, for granting him to suffer for Him. The torturers hung up the saint head downwards, putting in his mouth a piece of wood, and they tied an heavy stone to his neck. The suffering of Saint Timothy was so extreme, that the very ones executing the torment began to implore the governor to ease up on the torture. And about this time they informed Arian, that Timothy had a young wife by the name of Maura, whom he had married a mere 20 days before. Arian gave orders to bring Maura, hoping, that with her present they could break the will of the martyr. At the request of Maura, they removed the piece of wood from the mouth of the martyr, so that he could speak. Saint Timothy urged his wife not to be afraid of the tortures and to go the path with him. Saint Maura answered: “I am prepared to die with thee”, – and boldly she confessed herself a Christian. Arian gave orders to tear out the hair from her head and to cut off the fingers from her hands. Saint Maura with joy underwent the torment and even thanked the governor for the torture, suffered in the redemption of sins. Then Arian gave orders to throw Saint Maura into a boiling cauldron, but she did not sense any pain and she remained unharmed. Suspecting that the servants out of sympathy for the martyress had filled the cauldron with cold water, Arian went up and ordered the saint to splash him on the hand with water from the cauldron. When the martyr did this, Arian screamed with pain and drew back his scaulded hand. Then, momentarily admitting the power of the miracle, Arian confessed God in Whom Maura believed as the True God, and he gave orders to release the saint. But the devil still held great power over the governor, and soon he again began to urge Saint Maura to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. Having gotten nowhere, Arian was overcome all the more by a satanic rage and he began to come up with new tortures. Then the people began to murmur and demand a stop to the abuse of this innocent woman. But Saint Maura, turning to the people, said: “Let no one defend me, I have one Defender – God, on Whom I trust”.
Finally, after long torments Arian gave orders to crucify the martyrs. Over the course of ten days they hung on crosses face to face with each other.
On the tenth day of martyrdom the saints offered up their souls to the Lord. This occurred in the year 286. Afterwards at Constantinople there began solemn celebration of the memory of the holy Martyrs Timothy and Maura, and a church was built in their honour.
© 1996–2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.
Holy Martyred Nun Pelagia, Troparion, in Tone IV —
Kontakion, Tone III —
May 7, 2019 | Saints & Martyrs
Commemorated on the Tuesday of the Bright Week
In 1616 the Persian shah Abbas I led his enormous army in an attack on Georgia. Having quenched his thirst for the blood of the Christians, he arranged a hunt in the valley of Gare (Outer) Kakheti. He encamped with his escorts in the mountains of Gareji and spent the night in that place.
At midnight the shah’s attention was drawn to a flaming column of lights advancing up the mountain. At first he took it to be an apparition. He was soon informed, however, that a famous monastery was situated in that place and on that night the monks were circling their church three times with lighted candles in celebration of Christ’s Holy Resurrection. Immediately the shah commanded his army to march to the monastery and destroy all those found celebrating.
That same night an angel of the Lord appeared to Abbot Arsenius of David-Gareji and told him, “Our Lord Jesus Christ is calling the brothers to His Heavenly Kingdom. On this night great suffering awaits you—you will be killed by the sword. He who desires to prolong his earthly life, let him flee, but he who thirsts to purify his soul for eternity, let him perish by the sword, and the Lord God will adorn him with the crown of immortality. Tell this to all who dwell in the monastery, and let each man choose for himself!”
The abbot informed the monks about his vision, and they began to prepare for their imminent sufferings. Only two young monks feared death and fled to a mountain not far from the monastery. At the chanting of the Lord’s Prayer near the end of the Paschal Liturgy, the monastery was completely surrounded by Persian warriors. Abbot Arsenius stepped out of the church and approached their leader to request that the monks be given a bit more time to finish the service and for all the brothers to receive Holy Communion.
The Persians consulted among themselves and agreed to honor this request. The fathers partook of the Holy Gifts, encouraged one another, and presented themselves clad in festive garments before the unbelievers. First the Persians beheaded Abbot Arsenius; then they massacred his brothers in Christ without mercy.
After the Persians finished killing the monks, they were organized into several regiments and made their way towards the other monasteries of the Gareji Wilderness. Halfway between the Chichkhituri and St. John the Baptist Monasteries the Muslims captured the two young monks who had earlier fled and demanded that they convert to Islam.
The monks refused to abandon the Christian Faith and for this they were killed. A rose bush grew up in the place where they were killed and continued to fragrantly blossom through the 19th century, despite the dry and rocky soil.
At the end of the 17th century, King Archil gathered the bones of the martyrs with great reverence and buried them in a large stone reliquary to the left of the altar in the Transfiguration Church of David-Gareji Monastery. Their holy relics continue to stream myrrh to this day.
The brothers of the Monasteries of St. David of Gareji and St. John the Baptist received a blessing from Catholicos Anton I to compose a commemorative service for the martyrs and to designate their feast day as Bright Tuesday, or the third day of Holy Pascha.
© 2006 St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood.
April 25, 2019 | Saints & Martyrs
Commemorated on April 13
The Holy Martyress Thomaida was born into a Christian family in the city of Alexandria. In her childhood she was educated in piety and loved to read Holy Scripture.
At 15 years of age the girl entered into marriage with a fisherman, – also a Christian. The young couple lived in the household of the husband’s family, where Saint Thomaida was loved for her mild and gentle disposition, and virtue and prudence.
The father-in-law of Saint Thomaida, at the prompting of the devil, was captivated by her beauty. When his son went out at night for fishing, he began seeking to lead his daughter-in-law into sin. In vain did Saint Thomaida admonish the senseless old man, reminding him about the last Judgement and about the penalty for sin. Infuriated by the steadfastness of Saint Thomaida, he thoughtlessly seized a sword and began to threaten her with death. But Saint Thomaida answered resolutely: “Even if thou cut me in two, I shall not stray from the commandments of the Lord”.
Overcome with passion, the father-in-law swung the sword and struck Saint Thomaida. The saint received a martyr’s death for her prudence and faith in the commandments of God in the year 476.
Divine chastisement befell the murderer. He instantly became blinded and was not able to go out the door to flee. In the morning there arrived companions of the saint’s husband. They opened the doors and saw the body of the saint and the blood-stained blind old man. The murderer himself confessed his evil deed and asked to be condemned to death by execution.
During this time there arrived in Alexandria from a wilderness skete the Monk Daniel. He bid the monks of the nearby Oktodecadia monastery to take the body of the martyress to bury in the monastery cemetery. Some of the monks were perplexed, how it should be possible to bury a woman with monks. The monk Daniel answered: “This girl – is a mother for me and you. She died for purity”.
After a solemn funeral the Monk Daniel returned to his own skete. Soon one of the young monks began to complain to him, that fleshly passions tormented him. The monk Daniel ordered him to go and pray at the grave of the holy martyress Thomaida. The monk did the bidding of the elder. During the time of prayer at the grave he fell into a light sleep. Saint Thomaida then appeared to him and said: “Father, have my blessing and go in peace”.
Having awakened, the monk felt at joy and peace in his soul. And after this the fleshly struggle no longer disturbed him. Abba Daniel explained to him: “The blessing – was the gift of the martyress’ prudence; the ascetic deeds of purity hold such power before God”.
In later times many found at the grave of Saint Thomaida both spiritual joy and release from their passions. The relics of Saint Thomaida were transferred to Constantinople to one of the women’s monasteries. In the year 1420 the Russian pilgrim archdeacon Zosima viewed them.
© 1996–2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.
April 23, 2019 | Saints & Martyrs
Commemorated on April 10
In the 14th century, during the reign of King Bagrat V (1360–1394), Timur (Tamerlane) invaded Georgia seven times. His troops inflicted irreparable damage on the country, seizing centuries-old treasures and razing ancient churches and monasteries.
Timur’s armies ravaged Kartli, then took the king, queen, and the entire royal court captive and sent them to Karabakh (in present-day Azerbaijan). Later Timur attempted to entice King Bagrat to renounce the Christian Faith in exchange for permission to return to the throne and for the release of the other Georgian prisoners.
For some time Timur was unable to subjugate King Bagrat, but in the end, being powerless and isolated from his kinsmen, the king began to falter. He devised a sly scheme: to confess Islam before the enemy, but to remain a Christian at heart. Satisfied with King Bagrat’s decision to “convert to Islam,” Timur permitted the king to return to the throne of Kartli. At the request of King Bagrat, Timur sent twelve thousand troops with him to complete Georgia’s forcible conversion to Islam.
When they were approaching the village of Khunani in southeastern Georgia, Bagrat secretly informed his son Giorgi of everything that had happened and called upon him and his army to massacre the invaders.
The news of Bagrat’s betrayal and the ruin of his army infuriated Timur, and he called for immediate revenge. At their leader’s command, his followers destroyed everything in their path, set fire to cities and villages, devastated churches, and thus forced their way through to Kvabtakhevi Monastery.
Monastics and laymen alike were gathered in Kvabtakhevi when the enemy came thundering in. Having forced open the gate, the attackers burst into the monastery, then plundered and seized all its treasures. They captured the young and strong, carrying them away.
The old and infirm were put to the sword. As the greatest humiliation, they mocked the clergy and monastics by strapping them with sleigh bells and jumping and dancing around them.
Already drunk on the blood they had shed, the barbarians posed an ultimatum to those who remained: to renounce Christ and live or to be driven into the church and burned alive.
Faced with these terms, the faithful cried out: “Go ahead and burn our flesh—in the Heavenly Kingdom our souls will burn with a divine flame more radiant than the sun!” And in their exceeding humility, the martyrs requested that their martyrdom not be put on display: “We ask only that you not commit this sin before the eyes of men and angels. The Lord alone knows the sincerity of our will and comforts us in our righteous afflictions!”
Having been driven like beasts into the church, the martyrs raised up a final prayer to God: “In the multitude of Thy mercy shall I go into Thy house; I shall worship toward Thy holy temple in fear of Thee. O Lord, guide me in the way of Thy righteousness; because of mine enemies, make straight my way before Thee (Ps. 5:6–7) that with a pure mind I may glorify Thee forever….”
The executioners hauled in more and more wood, until the flames enveloping the church blazed as high as the heavens and the echo of crackling timber resounded through the mountains. Ensnared in a ring of fire, the blissful martyrs chanted psalms as they gave up their spirits to the Lord.
The massacre at Kvabtakhevi took place in 1386. The imprints of the martyrs’ charred bodies remain on the floor of the church to this day.
© 2006 St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood.
Commemorated on April 3, May 29
The Holy Martyress Theodosia of Tyre suffered in the year 307. On 29 May is celebrated the transfer of her relics to Constantinople, and later on to Venice. Once, during a time of persecution against Christians, which then had already lasted for five years, the seventeen year old Theodosia went up to condemned Christian prisoners, situated in the Praetorium. It was the day of Holy Pascha, and the martyrs spoke about the Kingdom of God. Saint Theodosia asked them to remember her before the Lord, when they should come to stand before Him. Soldiers saw that the maiden bowed to the prisoners, and they seized hold of her and led her before the governor, Urban. The governor advised the maiden to offer sacrifice to the idols but she refused, confessing her faith in Christ. Then they subjected the saint to cruel tortures, – her body they struck at with iron claws such that they did lay bare the bones. The martyress was silent and with an happy face endured the sufferings, and to a second suggestion by the governor to offer sacrifice to the idols she answered: “Thou fool, I have been granted to join the martyrs!” They threw the maiden with a stone about her neck into the sea, but Angels drew her out from the depths. Then they gave over the martyress for devouring by wild beasts. Seeing that the beasts would not touch her, they cut off her head. By night Saint Theodosia appeared to her parents, who had tried to talk their daughter into not going to the sufferings. She was in bright garb with a crown upon her head and a luminous gold cross in her hand, and she said: “Behold the great glory that ye did want to deprive me of!”.
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