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Saint Angelina

September 26, 2019 | Saints & Martyrs

Saint Angeli­na was the daugh­ter of Prince George Skender­beg of Alba­nia. Her mother’s name is not known, but she raised her daugh­ter in Chris­t­ian piety and taught her to love God.

Saint Stephen Bran­covich (Octo­ber 9 and Decem­ber 10), the ruler of Ser­bia, had come to Alba­nia to escape those who wished to kill him. Some time before he arrived in Alba­nia, Saint Stephen was unjust­ly blind­ed by the Turk­ish Sul­tan for some per­ceived offense. Since he was inno­cent, he bore his afflic­tion with courage.

Saint Stephen was not only Prince George’s guest, but he was also treat­ed as a mem­ber of his fam­i­ly. Not sur­pris­ing­ly, Stephen and Angeli­na even­tu­al­ly fell in love. With her par­ents’ bless­ing, they were mar­ried in church. After a few years, they were blessed with two sons: George and John.

When the boys were grown, Saint Stephen and his fam­i­ly were forced to flee to Italy for their safe­ty. At that time the Turks invad­ed Alba­nia and began to slaugh­ter men, women, and even children.

Saint Stephen died in 1468, leav­ing Angeli­na a wid­ow. In her dis­tress, she turned to the ruler of Hun­gary for help. He gave them the town of Kupino­vo in Sirmie.

Saint Angeli­na left Italy with her sons in 1486, stop­ping in Ser­bia to bury Saint Stephen’s incor­rupt body in his native land.

The chil­dren of these pious par­ents also became saints. George gave up his claim to the throne in favor of his broth­er John, then entered a monastery and received the name Maximus.

John was mar­ried but had no sons. He died in 1503 at a young age, and many mir­a­cles took place before his holy relics.

Saint Angeli­na sur­vived her hus­band and both of her sons. Mind­ful of her soul’s sal­va­tion, she entered a women’s monastery. She depart­ed to the Lord in peace, and her body was buried in the same tomb as her sons in the monastery of Krushe­dol in Frush­ka Gora.
Saint Angeli­na is also com­mem­o­rat­ed on Decem­ber 10 with her hus­band Saint Stephen and her son Saint John.

The Monk Alexander of Svirsk

September 13, 2019 | Saints & Martyrs

Comorat­ed on August 30, April 17

The Monk Alexan­der of Svirsk was born on 15 July 1448, on the day of mem­o­ry of the Prophet Amos, and at Bap­tism was named in hon­our of him. Dwelling all his life far off from his­tor­i­cal events, the Monk Alexan­der – a bea­con light of monas­ti­cism in the deep forests of the Russ­ian North – worked a dif­fer­ent and spir­i­tu­al his­to­ry and was bestown extra­or­di­nary gifts of the Holy Spirit.

His par­ents, Ste­fan and Vas­sa (Vasil­isa) were peas­ants of the nigh-close to Lake Lado­ga vil­lage of Man­dera, at the bank of the Riv­er Oya­ta, a trib­u­tary of the Riv­er Svi­ra. They had two chil­dren, who were already grown and lived away from their par­ents. But Ste­fan and Vas­sa want­ed still to have anoth­er son. They prayed fer­vent­ly and heard a voice from above: “Rejoice, good wed­ded, ye shall bear a son, in whose birth God wilt give com­fort to His Church”.

Amos grew up a spe­cial lad. He was always obe­di­ent and gen­tle, he shunned games, jokes and foul-talk, he wore poor clothes and so weak­ened him­self with fast­ing, that it caused his moth­er anx­i­ety. Upon com­ing of age he once met Valaam­sk monks who had come to the Oya­ta for the pur­chase of neces­si­ties and con­cern­ing oth­er eco­nom­ic needs. Valaam at this time had already the rep­u­ta­tion as a monastery of deep piety and strict ascetic life. Hav­ing spo­ken with them, the youth became inter­est­ed by their account about the skete (with two or three togeth­er) and about the monas­tic her­mit life. Know­ing that his par­ents want­ed to mar­ry him off, the youth at age 19 went secret­ly to Valaam. Under the guise of being a com­pan­ion, an Angel of God appeared to him, show­ing the way to the island.

Amos lived for sev­en years at the monastery as a novice, lead­ing an aus­tere life. He spent his days at work, and his nights – in vig­i­lance and prayer. Some­times bare of chest, all cov­ered by mos­qui­toes and gnats, he prayed in the for­est to the morn­ing song of the birds.

In the year 1474 Amos took monas­tic vows with the name Alexan­der. After some sev­er­al years his par­ents even­tu­al­ly learned from Kare­lians arriv­ing in Man­dera, whith­er their son had dis­ap­peared. Through the exam­ple of their son, even the par­ents soon went to the monastery and took vows with the names Sergei and Var­vara (Bar­bara). After their death the Monk Alexan­der, with the bless­ing of the hegu­men of the monastery, set­tled on a soli­tary monastery island, where in the crevice of a cliff he built a cell and con­tin­ued his spir­i­tu­al exploits.

The fame of his exploits spread far. Then in 1485 the Monk Alexan­der depart­ed from Valaam and, upon a com­mand from above, chose a place in the for­est on the shore of a beau­ti­ful lake, which after­wards was named Holy (Svy­a­ta). Here the monk built him­self an hut and in soli­tude he dwelt for sev­en years, eat­ing only that which he gath­ered in the for­est (After­wards at this place, – Lake Svy­a­ta, 36 ver­sts from the future city of Olonets and 6 ver­sts from the Riv­er Svi­ra, the Monk Alexan­der found­ed the monastery of the Life-Orig­i­nat­ing Trin­i­ty, and 130 sazhen (i.e. 910 feet) off from it, at Lake Roschi­na, he built him­self a “with­draw­ing place”, – on the spot where the Alexan­dro-Svirsk monastery lat­er emerged). Dur­ing this time the saint expe­ri­enced fierce suf­fer­ings from hunger, frost, sick­ness and demon­ic temp­ta­tions. But the Lord con­tin­u­al­ly sus­tained the spir­i­tu­al and bod­i­ly strength of the right­eous one. Once when suf­fer­ing with ter­ri­ble infir­mi­ties, the monk not only was not able to get up from the ground, but also even was unable to lift his head, he just lay there and sang psalms. And here­upon there appeared to him a glo­ri­ous man. Plac­ing his hand on the pained spot, he signed the saint with the sign of the cross and healed him.

In 1493 while hunt­ing for deer, the adjoin­ing land-own­er Andrei Zaval­ishin hap­pened to come upon the hut of the monk. Andrei spoke to him about a light, seen ear­li­er at this place, and he entreat­ed the monk to tell him about his life. From that point Andrei start­ed often to vis­it with the Monk Alexan­der, and final­ly through the monk’s guid­ance, he him­self depart­ed for Valaam, where he took vows with the name Adri­an, found­ing lat­er on the Ondrusovsk monastery, and glo­ri­fy­ing him­self with a saint­ly life (Comm. 26 August and 17 May, + 1549).

Andrei Zaval­ishin was not able to keep qui­et about the ascetic, in spite of the promise giv­en to him. News about the right­eous one began to spread wide­ly, and monks start­ed to gath­er about him. The monk there­upon with­drew him­self from all the brethren and built him­self a “with­draw­ing spot” a dis­tance of 130 sazhen from the com­mon dwelling. The he encoun­tered a mul­ti­tude of temp­ta­tions. The demons took on beast­ly shapes, they hissed like snakes, urg­ing the monk to flee. But the prayer of the saint, as it were a fiery flame, scorched and dis­persed the devils.

In 1508, the 23th year of the monk’s dwelling at this seclud­ed spot, there appeared to him the Life-Orig­i­nat­ing Trin­i­ty. The monk was pray­ing at night at his “with­draw­ing spot”. Sud­den­ly an intense light shone, and the monk beheld approach­ing him Three Men, robed in radi­ant white garb. Hal­lowed by Heav­en­ly Glo­ry, They did shine in a pure bright­ness greater than the sun. Each of Them held in Their hand a staff. The monk fell down in ter­ror, and hav­ing come to his sens­es, pros­trat­ed him­self on the ground. Tak­ing him up by the hand, the Men said: “Trust thou, blessed one, and fear not”. The monk received orders to con­struct a church and to build up a monastery. He again fell to his knees, cry­ing out about his own unwor­thi­ness, but the Lord raised him up and ordered him to ful­fill the com­mands. The monk asked, in whose name the church ought to be. The Lord there­upon said: “Beloved, as thou behold­est Those speak­ing with thee in Three Per­sons, so also con­struct thou the church in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spir­it, the Trin­i­ty One-in-Essence. I leave thee peace and My peace I give thee”. And imme­di­ate­ly the Monk Alexan­der beheld the Lord with out-stretched wings, going as though along the ground, and He became invis­i­ble. In the his­to­ry of the Russ­ian Ortho­dox Church this Divine Descent is acknowl­edged as unique. After this vision the monk began to think, where to build the church. Once dur­ing a time of prayer to God, he heard a voice from above. Hav­ing gazed up to the heights, he saw an Angel of God in man­tle and klobuk, such as the Monk Pakhomios had seen. The Angel, stand­ing in the air with out‑stretched wings and up-raised hands, pro­claimed: “One is Holy, One is the Lord Jesus Christ, in the Glo­ry of God the Father, Amen”. And then he turned to the monk: Alexan­der, upon this spot con­struct the church in the Name of the Lord Who hath appeared to thee in Three Per­sons, Father and Son and Holy Spir­it, the Trin­i­ty Undi­vid­ed”. And hav­ing thrice made the cross over the place, the Angel became invisible.

In that same year was built a wood­en church of the Life-Orig­i­nat­ing Trin­i­ty (in 1526 was built here a stone church). And at the same time as the build­ing of the church, the brethren began to urge the monk to accept the priest­hood. For a long time he refused, con­sid­er­ing him­self unwor­thy. Then the brethren began to implore Saint Ser­a­pi­on, Arch­bish­op of Nov­gorod (+ 1516, Comm. 16 March), that he con­vince the monk to accept the dig­ni­ty. And so in that very year the monk jour­neyed to Nov­gorod and received ordi­na­tion from the holy arch­bish­op. Soon after­wards the brethren also besought the monk to accept being hegumen.

Hav­ing become hegu­men, the monk became even more hum­ble than before. His clothes were all in tat­ters, and he slept on the bare ground. He him­self pre­pared food, knead­ed dough and baked bread. One time there was not suf­fi­cient fire­wood and the stew­ard asked the hegu­men to dis­patch after fire­wood any of the monks that were idle. “I am idle”, – said the monk, and he began to chop fire­wood. Anoth­er time like­wise he began to car­ry water. And by night when all were asleep, the monk was often grind­ing away with hand-stones for mak­ing more bread. By night the monk made the round of the cells and if he heard any­where vain con­ver­sa­tions, he light­ly tapped on the door and depart­ed, but in the morn­ing he admon­ished the broth­er, impos­ing a penance on the culprit.

Towards the end of his life the Monk Alexan­der decid­ed to build a stone church of the Pokrov (Pro­tec­tion) of the MostHoly Moth­er of God. One time in the evening, after doing an akathist to the MostHoly Moth­er of God, the monk set­tled down to rest in the cell and sud­den­ly said to the cell-atten­dant Afanasii: “Child, be sober and alert, because in this hour will be a won­drous and astound­ing vis­it”. There fol­lowed a voice, like thun­der: “Behold cometh the Lord and His Birth-Giv­er”. The monk has­tened to the entrance to the cell, and a great light illu­mined it, spread­ing over all the monastery brighter than the rays of the sun. Gaz­ing, the monk beheld over the foun­da­tion of the Pokrov church sit­ting at the altar place, as it were an empress upon a throne, the All-Pure Moth­er of God. She held the Infant-Christ in Her arms, and a mul­ti­tude of the angel­ic rank, shin­ing with an inde­scrib­able bright­ness, stood before Her. The monk fell down, unable to bear the great light. The Moth­er of God said: “Rise up, thou cho­sen one of My Son and God. For I have come here to vis­it thee, My dear one, and to look upon the foun­da­tion of My church. And for this, I have made entreaty for thy dis­ci­ples and monastery, from hence all wilt be abun­dant; not only dur­ing thine life, but also upon thy depar­ture per­sis­tent­ly from thy monastery will be a grant­i­ng of all neces­si­ties in abun­dance. Behold and watch care­ful­ly, how many monks are gath­ered into thy flock, which by thee must­needs be guid­ed on the way of sal­va­tion in the Name of the Holy Trin­i­ty”. The monk rose up and beheld a mul­ti­tude of monks. Again said the Moth­er of God: “My dear one, if some­one doth bear one brick for the build­ing of My church, in the Name of Jesus Christ, My Son and God, his trea­sure per­isheth not”. And She became invisible.
      Before his death the monk dis­played won­drous humil­i­ty. He sum­moned the brethren and bid them: “Bind my sin­ful body by the legs and drag it to a swampy thick­et and, hav­ing enclosed it in skins, sub­merse it by the legs”. The brethren answered: “No, father, it is not pos­si­ble to do this”. Then the monk bid that his body not be kept at the monastery, but at a place of with­draw­al, the church of the Trans­fig­u­ra­tion of the Lord. Hav­ing lived 85 years, the monk expired to the Lord on 30 August 1533.

The Monk Alexan­der of Svirsk was glo­ri­fied by won­drous mir­a­cles dur­ing his life and upon his death. In 1545 his dis­ci­ple and suc­ces­sor, Hegu­men Iro­di­on, com­piled his life. In 1547 was begun the local cel­e­bra­tion of the monk and a ser­vice com­piled to him. In the year 1641, on 17 April, dur­ing the rebuild­ing of the Trans­fig­u­ra­tion church, the incor­rupt relics of the Monk Alexan­der of Svirsk were uncov­ered and the uni­ver­sal Church cel­e­bra­tion to him was estab­lished on two dates: the day of repose – 30 August, and the day of glo­ri­fi­ca­tion (Uncov­er­ing of Relics) – 17 April.

The Monk Alexan­der of Svirsk instruct­ed and raised up a whole mul­ti­tude of dis­ci­ples, as the Moth­er of God had bequeathed him. These are the Saint­ed-Monks: Ignatii of Ostro­vsk (XVI), Leonid of Ostro­vsk (XVI), Kornilii of Ostro­vsk (XVI), Dionysii of Ostro­vsk (XVI), Athanasii (Afanasii) of Ostro­vsk (XVI), Theodore (Feodor) of Ostro­vsk (XVI), Fer­apont of Ostro­vsk (XVI). Besides these saints, there are known dis­ci­ples and those con­vers­ing with the Monk Alexan­der of Svirsk, which have sep­a­rate days of mem­o­ry: the Monk Athansii (Afanasii) of Syan­dem­sk (XVI, Comm. 18 Jan­u­ary), the Monk Gen­nadii of Vasheoz­er­sk (+ 8 Jan­u­ary 1516, Comm. 9 Feb­ru­ary), the Monk Makarii of Orodezh­sk (+ 1532, Comm. 9 August), the Monk Adri­an of Ondrosovsk (+ 26 August 1549, Comm. 17 May), the Monk Niki­for of Vasheoz­er­sk (+ 1557, Comm. 9 Feb­ru­ary), the Monk Gen­nadii of Kostro­ma and Liu­bi­mo­grad (+ 1565, Comm. 23 Jan­u­ary). All these saints (except the Monk Gen­nadii of Kostro­ma) are imaged on the Icon of the Monas­tic Fathers, illu­mined in the Kare­lia land (icon from the church at the Spir­i­tu­al Sem­i­nary in the city of Kuo­pio, Fin­land). The fes­tal cel­e­bra­tion of the Sobor-Assem­blage of the Saints Illu­mined in the Kare­lian Land is done by the Finnish Ortho­dox Church on the Sat­ur­day falling between 31 Octo­ber and 6 November.

© 1996–2001 by trans­la­tor Fr. S. Janos.

The Monk Dometios

August 20, 2019 | Saints & Martyrs

Com­mem­o­rat­ed on August 7

The Monk Dome­tios lived dur­ing the IV Cen­tu­ry, and he was by birth a Per­sian. In his youth­ful years he was con­vert­ed to the faith by a Chris­t­ian named Uaros. For­sak­ing Per­sia, he with­drew to the fron­tier-city of Niz­i­ba (in Mesopotamia), where he accept­ed Bap­tism in one of the monas­ter­ies and was ton­sured into monas­ti­cism. But then flee­ing the ill-will of the monastery inhab­i­tants, the Monk Dome­tios moved on to the monastery of Saints Ser­gios and Bac­chus in the city of Theo­dosiopo­lis. The monastery was under the guid­ance of an archi­man­drite named Nurbe­los – a strict ascetic, about whom it was report­ed, that over the course of 60 years he did not taste of cooked food, nor did he lay down for sleep, but rather took his rest stand­ing up, sup­port­ing him­self upon his staff. In this monastery the Monk Dome­tios was ordained to the dig­ni­ty of dea­con, but when the archi­man­drite decid­ed to have him made a pres­byter, the saint in reck­on­ing him­self unwor­thy hid him­self away on a des­o­late moun­tain in Syr­ia, in the region of Cyr. Reports about him con­stant­ly spread about among the sur­round­ing inhab­i­tants. They began to come to him for heal­ing and for help. Many a pagan was brought to the faith in Christ by Dome­tios. And one time, in the local­i­ty where Saint Dome­tios asceti­cised with his dis­ci­ples, the emper­or Julian the Apos­tate (361−363) arrived, jour­ney­ing along on his cam­paign against the Per­sians. By order of the emper­or, sol­diers searched out Saint Dome­tios pray­ing with his dis­ci­ples in a cave, and stoned them to death (+ 363).

© 1996–2001 by trans­la­tor Fr. S. Janos.

The Monks Simeon, Fool-for-Christ, and his Fellow-Ascetic John

August 3, 2019 | Saints & Martyrs

Com­mem­o­rat­ed on July 21

The Monks Sime­on, Fool-for-Christ, and his Fel­low-Ascetic John were Syr­i­ans, and they lived in the VI Cen­tu­ry at the city of Edessa. From child­hood a close friend­ship held them togeth­er. The old­er of them, Sime­on, was unmar­ried and lived with his aged moth­er. John, how­ev­er, although he entered into mar­riage, lived with his father (his moth­er was dead) and with his young spouse. Both friends belonged to wealthy fam­i­lies. When Sime­on became 30 years old, and John 24, they made a pil­grim­age to Jerusalem on the feast of the Exal­ta­tion of the Ven­er­a­ble and Life-Cre­at­ing Cross of the Lord. On the return jour­ney home the friends con­versed about the ways of sal­va­tion for the soul. Jour­ney­ing with hors­es, they sent the ser­vants with the hors­es on ahead, and they them­selves went on foot. Going through Jor­dan, they saw monas­ter­ies, sit­u­at­ed at the edge of the wilder­ness. Both of them were filled with an irre­press­ible desire to leave the world and spend their remain­ing life in monas­tic deeds. They turned off from the road, along which their ser­vants went into Syr­ia, and they prayed zeal­ous­ly to God, to guide them towards the monas­ter­ies on the oppo­site side. They besought the Lord to indi­cate which monastery for them to choose and they resolved to enter whichev­er monastery the gates of which would be open. At this time in a dream the Lord informed the hegu­men Nikon of a monastery to open the monastery gates, and that the sheep of Christ would enter in. In great joy the com­rades came through the open gates of the monastery, where they were warm­ly wel­comed by the hegu­men, and they remained at the monastery. In a short while they took monas­tic vows. Hav­ing dwelt for a cer­tain while at the monastery, Sime­on became keen with the desire to inten­si­fy his effort, to go into the deep wilder­ness and there to pur­sue asceti­cism in com­plete soli­tude. John did not wish to be left behind by his com­pan­ion and he decid­ed to share with him the work of wilder­ness-dweller. The Lord revealed to the hegu­men Nikon the inten­tions of the com­pan­ions, and on that night when the Monks Sime­on and John intend­ed to depart the monastery, he him­self opened for them the gates, he prayed with them, gave them his bless­ing and sent them into the wilder­ness. Hav­ing begun wilder­ness life, the spir­i­tu­al broth­ers at first under­went the strong assault of the dev­il, sug­gest­ing to them grief over aban­don­ing their fam­i­lies, fright­en­ing the ascetics, direct­ing upon them weak­ness, despon­den­cy and idle­ness. The broth­ers Sime­on and John, firm­ly mind­ful of the monas­tic vows giv­en by them, and trust­ing on the prayers of their starets the hegu­men Nikon, con­tin­ued straight upon their cho­sen path, and they passed the time in unceas­ing prayer and strict fast­ing, encour­ag­ing each the oth­er in their strug­gle against temp­ta­tion. After a cer­tain while, with the help of God, the temp­ta­tions stopped. The monks received from God the report, that the moth­er of Sime­on and the spouse of John had died and that the Lord had vouch­safed them the bless­ing of par­adise. After this Sime­on and John dwelt in the wilder­ness for 29 years, and they attained com­plete dis­pas­sion (apatheia) and an high degree of spir­i­tu­al­i­ty. The Monk Sime­on, through the inspi­ra­tion of God, pon­dered about that it now was prop­er that he should serve peo­ple, and for this it was nec­es­sary to leave the wilder­ness soli­tude and go into the world. But Saint John, reck­on­ing that he had not attained to such a degree of dis­pas­sion as his com­pan­ion, decid­ed not to quit the wilder­ness. The brethren part­ed with tears. Sime­on jour­neyed to Jerusalem, and there he wor­shipped at the Tomb of the Lord and all the holy places. By his great humil­i­ty the holy ascetic zeal­ous­ly besought the Lord to per­mit him to serve his neigh­bour in such­like man­ner, that they should not acknowl­edge him. Saint Sime­on chose for him­self the dif­fi­cult task of fool-for-Christ. Hav­ing come to the city of Emes­sus, he stayed in it and passed him­self off as a sim­ple­ton, doing strange acts, for which he was sub­ject­ed to insults, abuse and beat­ings, and amidst which he accom­plished many good deeds. He cast out dev­ils, healed the sick, deliv­ered from imma­nent death, brought the unbe­liev­ing to faith, and sin­ners – to repen­tance. All these good deeds he did under the guise of fool­ish­ness, and in no wise did he receive praise or thanks from peo­ple. But the Monk John high­ly esteemed his spir­i­tu­al broth­er: when some­one of the inhab­i­tants of the city of Emes­sus vis­it­ed him in the wilder­ness, ask­ing advice and prayer, he would invari­ably direct them to “the fool Sime­on”, who could bet­ter offer them spir­i­tu­al coun­sel. For three days before his death Saint Sime­on ceased to appear on the streets, and he enclosed him­self in his hut, in which, except for bun­dles of fire-wood, there was noth­ing. Hav­ing remained at unceas­ing prayer for three days, Saint Sime­on reposed to the Lord. Some of the city poor, com­pan­ions with him, and not com­ing across the fool, went to his hut and there found him dead. Tak­ing up the dead body, they car­ried him with­out church singing to a place, where the home­less and strangers were buried. While they car­ried the body of Saint Sime­on, sev­er­al of the inhab­i­tants heard a won­drous church singing, but could not com­pre­hend from whence it came. After Saint Sime­on, the Monk John peace­ful­ly expired to the Lord in the wilder­ness. Short­ly before death, Saint Sime­on was giv­en to behold the crown upon the head of his spir­i­tu­al broth­er with the inscrip­tion: “For endurance in the wilderness”.

© 1996–2001 by trans­la­tor Fr. S. Janos.

The Holy Great Martyress Marina

July 31, 2019 | Saints & Martyrs

Com­mem­o­rat­ed on July 17

holy-great-martyress-marinaThe Holy Great­Mar­tyress Mari­na was born in Asia Minor, in the city of Anti­och, into the fam­i­ly of a pagan priest. In infan­cy she lost her moth­er, and her father gave her over into the care of a nurse­maid, who raised Mari­na in the Ortho­dox faith. Upon learn­ing that his daugh­ter had become a Chris­t­ian, the father angri­ly dis­owned her. Dur­ing the time of the per­se­cu­tion against Chris­tians under the emper­or Dio­clet­ian (284−305), Saint Mari­na at fif­teen years of age was arrest­ed and locked up in prison. With firm trust in the will of God and His help, the young pris­on­er pre­pared for her impend­ing fate. The gov­er­nor Olym­brios, charmed with the beau­ti­ful girl, tried to per­suade her to renounce the Chris­t­ian faith and become his wife. But the saint, unswayed, refused his false offers. The vexed gov­er­nor gave the holy mar­tyress over to tor­ture. Hav­ing beat­en her fierce­ly, they fas­tened the saint with nails to a board and tore at her body with tri­dents. The gov­er­nor him­self, unable to bear the hor­ror of these tor­tures, hid his face in his hands. But the holy mar­tyress remained unyield­ing. Thrown for the night into prison, she was grant­ed Heav­en­ly aid and healed of her wounds. Tied to a tree, they scorched the mar­tyress with fire. Bare­ly alive, the mar­tyress prayed: “Lord, Thou hast grant­ed me to go through fire for Thine Name, grant me also to go through the water of holy Baptism”.

Hear­ing the word “water”, the gov­er­nor gave orders to drown the saint in a large bar­rel. The mar­tyress besought the Lord, that this man­ner of exe­cu­tion should become for her holy Bap­tism. When they plunged her into the water, there sud­den­ly shone a light, and a snow-white dove came down from Heav­en, bear­ing in its beak a gold­en crown. The fet­ters put upon Saint Mari­na of them­selves came apart. The mar­tyress stood up in the fount of Bap­tism glo­ri­fy­ing the Holy Trin­i­ty – Father, Son, and Holy Spir­it. Saint Mari­na emerged from the fount com­plete­ly healed, with­out any trace of burns. Amazed at this mir­a­cle, the peo­ple glo­ri­fied the True God, and many came to believe. This brought the gov­er­nor into a rage, and he gave orders to kill any­one, who might con­fess the Name of Christ. There then per­ished 15,000 Chris­tians, and the holy Mar­tyress Mari­na was behead­ed. The suf­fer­ings of the Great­Mar­tyress Mari­na were described by an eye-wit­ness of the event, named Theotimos.

Up until the tak­ing of Con­stan­tino­ple by West­ern cru­saders in the year 1204, the relics of the Great­Mar­tyress Mari­na were sit­u­at­ed in the Pan­tepon­teia monastery. Accord­ing to oth­er sources, they were locat­ed in Anti­och until the year 908 and from there trans­ferred to Italy. Her ven­er­a­ble hand was trans­ferred to Athos, to the Bato­pe­deia monastery.

© 1996–2001 by trans­la­tor Fr. S. Janos.

The Monk Varlaam of Khutynsk

July 5, 2019 | Saints & Martyrs

Com­mem­o­rat­ed on the 1st Fri­day of Apos­tles’ Fast and Novem­ber 6


The Monk Var­laam of Khutyn­sk lived in the XII Cen­tu­ry, the son of an illus­tri­ous Nov­goro­di­an, and he lived his child­hood years at Nov­gorod. With­draw­ing at an ear­ly age to the Lisich monastery near the city, the Monk Var­laam accept­ed ton­sure. Lat­er on he set­tled at a soli­tary hill below Volkhov, in a locale called Khutyn’, 10 ver­sts from Nov­gorod. In soli­tude the Monk Var­laam led a strict life, mak­ing unceas­ing prayer and keep­ing very strict fast. He was a zeal­ous ascetic in his tasks – he him­self felled tim­ber in the for­est, chopped fire­wood and tilled the soil, ful­fill­ing the words of Holy Scrip­ture: “If any shalt not work, nei­ther shalt he eat” (2 Thess. 3: 10). Cer­tain of the inhab­i­tants of Nov­gorod gath­ered to him, want­i­ng to share in monas­tic works and deeds. Instruct­ing those that came, the Monk Var­laam said: “My chil­dren, be obser­vant against all unright­eous­ness, and nei­ther envy nor slan­der. Refrain from anger, and give not mon­ey over for usury. Beware to judge unjust­ly. Do not swear false­ly giv­ing an oath, but rather ful­fill it. Be not indul­gent to the bod­i­ly appetites. Always be meek and bear all things with love. This virtue – is the begin­ning and root of all good”.

Soon there was erect­ed a church in hon­our of the Trans­fig­u­ra­tion of the Lord, and a monastery found­ed. The Lord sent down upon the monk, for his ser­vice to oth­ers, the gifts of won­der­work­ing and per­spi­cac­i­ty. When his days approached an end, by Divine Will there came from Con­stan­tino­ple the priest­monk Antonii – of the same age and a friend of the Monk Var­laam. The blessed saint, in turn­ing to him, said: “My beloved broth­er! God’s bless­ing doth rest upon this monastery. And now into thine hand I trans­fer this monastery. Watch over and take con­cern for it. I do expire to the King of Heav­en. But be not con­fused over this: while yet in the body I do leave you, still in spir­it I shalt be with you always”. Hav­ing bestown guid­ance unto the brethren, with the com­mand to pre­serve the Ortho­dox faith and dwell con­stant­ly in humil­i­ty, the Monk Var­laam reposed to the Lord on 6 Novem­ber 1192.

© 1996–2001 by trans­la­tor Fr. S. Janos.

The Holy Virgin Pelagia

May 17, 2019 | Saints & Martyrs

holy-virgin-pelagiaThe 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.

Saints Timothy and Maura

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 —
Thy ewe-lamb Pela­gia cri­eth out to Thee with a loud voice, O Jesus: “I love Thee, O my Bride­groom, and, seek­ing Thee, I pass through many strug­gles: I am cru­ci­fied and buried with Thee in Thy bap­tism, and suf­fer for Thy sake, that I may reign with Thee; I die for Thee that I might live with Thee. As an unblem­ished sac­ri­fice accept me, who sac­ri­fice myself with love for Thee By her sup­pli­ca­tions save Thou our souls, in that Thou art merciful.

Kon­takion, Tone III —
Dis­dain­ing tran­si­to­ry things, hav­ing become a par­tak­er of the good things of heav­en and received a crown for thy suf­fer­ing, O most hon­ored Pela­gia, thou didst bring the tor­rents of thy blood as a gift to Christ the Mas­ter. Pray thou, that He deliv­er from mis­for­tunes us who hon­or thy memory

Blessed Martyrs and Fathers of the Saint David-Gareji Monastery

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.

The Holy Martyress Thomaida

April 25, 2019 | Saints & Martyrs

Com­mem­o­rat­ed on April 13

holy-martyress-thomaidaThe 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.