Lives of all saints commemorated on March 19


2nd Saturday of Great Lent: Memorial Saturday

Saturday is the day which the Church has set aside for the commemoration of faithful Orthodox Christians departed this life in the hope of resurrection to eternal life. Since the Divine Liturgy cannot be served on weekdays during Great Lent, the second, third, and fourth Saturdays of the Fast are appointed as Soul Saturdays when the departed are remembered at Liturgy.

In addition to the Liturgy, kollyva (wheat or rice cooked with honey and mixed with raisins, figs, nuts, sesame, etc.) is blessed in church on these Saturdays. The kollyva reminds us of the Lord’s words, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).The kollyva symbolizes the future resurrection of all the dead. As Saint Simeon of Thessalonica (September 15) says, man is also a seed which is planted in the ground after death, and will be raised up again by God’s power. Saint Paul also speaks of this (I Cor. 15:35-49).

It is customary to give alms in memory of the dead in addition to the prayers we offer for their souls. The angel who spoke to Cornelius testifies to the efficacy of almsgiving, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God” (Acts 10:4).

Memorial services for the dead may be traced back to ancient times. Chapter 8 of the Apostolic Constitutions recommends memorial services with Psalms for the dead. It also contains a beautiful prayer for the departed, asking that their voluntary and involuntary sins be pardoned, that they be given rest with the Patriarchs, Prophets, and Apostles in a place where sorrow, suffering, and sighing have fled away (Isaiah 35:10). Saint John Chrysostom mentions the service for the dead in one of his homilies on Philippians, and says that it was established by the Apostles. Saint Cyprian of Carthage (Letter 37) also speaks of our duty to remember the martyrs.

The holy Fathers also testify to the benefit of offering prayers, memorial services, Liturgies, and alms for the dead (Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, Saint John of Damascus, etc.). Although both the righteous and those who have not repented and corrected themselves may receive benefit and consolation from the Church’s prayer, it has not been revealed to what extent the unrighteous can receive this solace. It is not possible, however, for the Church’s prayer to transfer a soul from a state of evil and condemnation to a state of holiness and blessedness. Saint Basil the Great points out that the time for repentance and forgiveness of sins is during the present life, while the future life is a time for righteous judgment and retribution (Moralia 1). Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Gregory the Theologian, and other patristic writers concur with Saint Basil’s statement.

By praying for others, we bring benefit to them, and also to ourselves, because “God is not so unjust as to forget your work and the love which you showed for His sake in serving the saints...” (Heb. 6:10).


Martyrs Chrysanthus and Daria, and those with them at Rome

Saint Chrysanthus came from a pagan family who had moved to Rome from Alexandria. He received a fine education, and among the books he read were those in which pagans discussed Christianity. The young man, however, wanted to read books written by Christians themselves. He finally managed to find a copy of the New Testament, which enlightened his rational soul.

Seeking someone to instruct him in the Holy Scriptures, he found the presbyter Carpophoros hiding from persecution, and received holy Baptism from him. After this, he began to preach the Gospel. Chrysanthus’ father tried to turn his son from Christianity, and finally married him to Daria, a priestess of Minerva.

Saint Chrysanthus managed to convert his wife to Christ, and the young couple mutually agreed to lead celibate lives. After the death of the father, they began to live in separate houses. Saint Chrysanthus converted several young men to Christ, and many pious women gathered around Saint Daria.

The people of Rome complained to the eparch Celerinus that Saints Chrysanthus and Daria were preaching celibacy and attracting too many young men and women to monasticism. Saint Chrysanthus was sent to the tribune Claudius for torture.

The torments, however, did not shake the bravery of the young martyr, since the power of God clearly aided him. Struck by this, the tribune Claudius himself came to believe in Christ and accepted holy Baptism together with his wife Hilaria, their sons Jason and Maurus, and all his household and soldiers. When news of this reached the emperor Numerian (283-284), he commanded them all to be executed. The Martyr Claudius was drowned in the sea, and his sons and soldiers were beheaded. Christians buried the bodies of the holy martyrs in a nearby cave, and Saint Hilaria constantly went there to pray. Once, they followed her and led her off for torture. The saint asked that they give her a few moments to pray, and as soon as she finished, she gave up her soul to God. A servant buried the saint in the cave beside her sons.

The torturers sent Saint Daria to a brothel, where she was protected by a lion sent by God. A certain man who tried to defile the saint was knocked to the ground and pinned down by the lion, but the lion did not kill him. The martyr preached to them about Christ and set them to the path of salvation.

They threw Saint Chrysanthus into a foul-smelling pit, into which all the filth of the city flowed. But a heavenly light shone on him, and the pit was filled with a sweet fragrance.

Then the emperor Numerian ordered Saints Chrysanthus and Daria to be turned over to the executioners. After many cruel tortures, the martyrs were buried alive in the ground.

In a cave near the place of execution, Christians began to gather to honor the anniversary of the saints’ martyrdom. They celebrated Church services and partook of the Holy Mysteries. Learning of this, the pagan authorities sealed the entrance to the cave, and those within received the crown of martyrdom. Two of these martyrs are known by name: the Presbyter Diodorus and the Deacon Marianus.


Saint Innocent of Komel, disciple of Saint Nilus of Sora, Vologda

Saint Innocent of Komel and Vologda was born at Moscow, and was descended from the Moscow princely family of Okhlyabinin. He became a monk in the monastery of Saint Cyril of White Lake (June 9), and was put under the guidance of Saint Nilus of Sora (May 7).

Sts Innocent and Nilus wandered through the East visiting Palestine, Constantinople, and spent several years at the monasteries of Mt. Athos. Having returned to Rus, the saints did not return to their original Saint Cyril of White Lake monastery, but to solitary cells for monastic seclusion. Out of love for wilderness-life they then withdrew into the impassable forest at the River Sora, some fifteen versts from the monastery. Here they set up a cross, dug a well, and built separate cells, after the manner of the skete monasteries. A church was built on a marshy spot, and there the hermits led strict lives.

Foreseeing his own demise, Saint Nilus sent Saint Innocent to the River Nurma and predicted to him: “God is sending you there, and yours shall be a cenobitic monastery; after my death, my wilderness monastery will remain as it was during my life, with the brothers living separately each in his own cell.”

Upon the death of Saint Nilus, his holy disciple withdrew into the Vologda hinterland and in 1491 he built a cell at the River Eda, which flows into the River Nurma. In a short while disciples began to gather to him. Following the final command of his teacher, Saint Innocent did not seek any donations for it.

Saint Innocent labored for thirty years at building his monastery. He left behind an instruction for the brethren, based on the works of the holy Fathers, particularly the writings of Saint Nilus of Sora. Saint Innocent bade them first of all to avoid wrangling and disputes and asked them to preserve love for Christ and spiritual peace.

The saint forbid young and beardless monks to be accepted and tonsured at his monastery, and he forbid women to enter the monastery. A monk who left the monastery lost his right to a cell, and if he returned, then he could occupy it only with the consent of the igumen and the brethren. The monk asked that a future church be consecrated in the name of Saint John the Forerunner, and Baptizer of the Lord, in commemoration of the Third Finding of his Venerable Head (25 May), because Saint John is a patron for all monks and wilderness dwellers (later, the monastery was called Transfiguration after its chief temple).

Saint Innocent died on March 19, 1521. In accordance with his last wish, he was buried in a corner of the monastery near a marsh. A stone was placed on his grave inscribed with the year, month and day of his repose.


Martyr Pancharius at Nicomedia

The Holy Martyr Pancharius was a friend of the emperor Diocletian. He abandoned Christianity and became a pagan. His mother and sister sent him a letter in which they urged the apostate to fear God and the dread Last Judgment. Having repented, Saint Pancharius openly confessed his faith before the emperor, for which he suffered torture at Rome. Then he was sent to Nicomedia and beheaded in 303.


“Sweet-Kissing” Icon of the Mother of God of Smolensk

The Smolensk “Tenderness” Icon of the Mother of God manifested itself in the year 1103 at Smolensk. There is another Smolensk “Tenderness” Icon from the vicinity of Okopa (down from Smolensk). This icon was in the encampment of the Russian armies of the military commander Shein, restraining the Polish besiegers from destroying Smolensk for twenty months (1611-1613).


Icon of the Mother of God of Lubyatov

This holy icon, which dates from the fifteenth century, was in the Saint Nicholas monastery church in the Pskov region.

There was once a silver plaque with an inscription from 1890 on the reverse of the icon. It told of how Tsar Ivan the Terrible came to the monastery of Saint Nicholas at Lubyatov during Great Lent in 1570. He had stopped there on his way to punish the people of Pskov, for he believed that they were about to give their allegiance to the Prince of Lithuania.

During the morning service, he happened to gaze at the icon of the Mother of God, and his heart was moved to compunction. “Let the killing stop,” he said. “Put away your swords.”

Soldiers of the Polish king Stephen Batory shot at the icon as they were on their way to attack Pskov in 1581.

Communists confiscated the icon in 1928, and in 1930 it was placed in the Tretiakov Gallery.

The icon has elements from three other types of icons of the Mother of God. Essentially, it belongs to the Eleousa type, like the Vladimir Icon (May 21, June 23, August 26). The gesture of the divine Child resembles the “Sweet-Kissing” or “Tenderness” Icon of Smolensk (March 19), and the scroll seems to come from the Hodēgḗtria Icon (July 28).


Smolensk "Tenderness" Icon of the Mother of God

This Icon appeared in 1103, and was found at Smolensk. The Mother of God is depicted gazing tenderly at the Divine Child, Who reclines in her lap, resting His head on her left arm. Both of her hands rest just below her neck.

The Savior holds an orb in His right hand, the symbol of sovereignty and power. In some icons, however, the orb is in His left hand.

The nine hundredth anniversary of the Smolensk Tenderness Icon's appearance was observed in 2003.