The artos, which was blessed after the Liturgy of Pascha, is cut and distributed after Liturgy on Bright Saturday. The prayer read today speaks of Christ as the Bread of Life.
The Holy Apostle James, the son of Zebedee, was the brother of Saint John the Theologian, and one of the Twelve Apostles. He and his brother, Saint John, were called to be Apostles by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who called them the “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). It was this James, with John and Peter, who witnessed the Raising of the Daughter of Jairus, the Lord’s Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, and His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Saint James, after the Descent of the Holy Spirit, preached in Spain and in other lands, and then he returned to Jerusalem. He openly and boldly preached Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world, and he denounced the Pharisees and the Scribes with the words of Holy Scripture, reproaching them for their malice of heart and unbelief.
The Jews could not prevail against Saint James, and so they hired the sorcerer Hermogenes to dispute with the apostle and refute his arguments that Christ was the promised Messiah Who had come into the world. The sorcerer sent to the apostle his pupil Philip, who was converted to belief in Christ. Then Hermogenes himself became persuaded of the power of God, he burned his books of magic, accepted holy Baptism and became a true follower of Christ.
The Jews persuaded Herod Agrippa (40-44) to arrest the Apostle James and sentence him to death (Acts 12:1-2). Eusebius provides some of the details of the saint’s execution (CHURCH HISTORY II, 9). Saint James calmly heard the death sentence and continued to bear witness to Christ. One of the false witnesses, whose name was Josiah, was struck by the courage of Saint James. He came to believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah. When they led the apostle forth to execution, Josiah fell at his feet, repenting of his sin and asking forgiveness. The apostle embraced him, gave him a kiss and said, “Peace and forgiveness to you.” Then Josiah confessed his faith in Christ before everyone, and he was beheaded with Saint James in the year 44 at Jerusalem.
Saint James was the first of the Apostles to die as a martyr.
Saint Nikita the former Recluse of the Kiev Caves fell asleep in the Lord in 1109, after serving as Bishop of Novgorod for thirteen years.
Bishop Nikita was glorified as a saint during the reign of Tsar Ivan Vasilievich, and his holy relics, dressed in full vestments, were uncovered on April 30, 1558. That day was marked by the healing of many people. His relics now rest in the cathedral of the holy Apostle Philip in Novgorod.
St Nikita of Novgorod is also commemorated on January 31, the day of his repose, and on May 14.
Saint Donatus lived during the reign of the holy Emperor Theodosius the Great (379-397) and was bishop of the city of Euroea (in Albania). Not far from this city, in the vicinity of Soreia, was a brackish spring of water. When the saint learned of this, he went with clergy to the spring and cast out a monstrous serpent, which died. The saint prayed, he blessed the spring and drank the water without harm. Seeing this miracle, the people glorified God.
Another time, Saint Donatus prayed and brought forth water from a dry and rocky place, and during a drought he entreated the Lord to send rain to the parched land.
The daughter of the holy Emperor Theodosius fell terribly ill and was afflicted by an unclean spirit. Saint Donatus came to the palace, and as soon as he arrived the devil left and the sick woman was healed.
A certain man, shortly before his death, repaid a loan to a money-lender. The creditor tried to extort the money a second time from the dead man’s widow. The saint resurrected the dead man, who told where and when the loan had been repaid. After obtaining a receipt from the creditor, the man fell asleep in the Lord.
Saint Donatus reposed in peace about the year 387.
The Hieromartyr Basil, Bishop of Amasea, lived at the beginning of the fourth century in the Pontine city of Amasea. He encouraged and comforted the Christians suffering persecution by the pagans. During this time the Eastern part of the Roman Empire was ruled by Licinius (311-324), the brother-in-law of the holy emperor Constantine the Great (May 21). Licinius deceitfully signed Saint Constantine’s Edict of Milan (313), which granted religious toleration to Christians, but he hated them and continued to persecute them.
The Holy Martyr Maximus suffered for his faith in Christ, and was run through with a sword.
No information available at this time.
The Icon of the Mother of God “Of the Passion” The icon received its name because on either side of the Mother of God are two angels with the implements of the Lord’s suffering: the Cross, the lance, and the sponge.
There was a certain pious woman, Katherine, who began to suffer seizures and madness after her marriage. She ran off into the forest and attempted suicide more than once.
In a moment of clarity she prayed to the Mother of God and vowed that if she were healed, she would enter a monastery. After recovering her health, she only remembered her vow after a long time. Afraid and mentally afflicted, she took to her bed. Three times the Most Holy Theotokos appeared to her, commanding the sick woman to go to Nizhni-Novgorod and to buy Her icon from the iconographer Gregory.
After she had done this, Katherine received healing. From that time on, miracles have occurred from this icon. The Feast day of this icon is on August 13, commemorating its transfer from the village of Palitsa to Moscow in 1641. A church was built at the place where it was met at the Tver gates, and in 1654, the Strastna monastery was built.
The icon is also commemorated on April 30, and on the sixth Sunday after Pascha (the Sunday of the Blind Man) in memory of the miracles which occurred on this day. Other “Passion” icons of the Mother of God have been glorified in the Moscow church of the Conception of Saint Anna, and also in the village of Enkaeva in Tambov diocese.
The holy New Martyr Argyra lived in Proussa, Bithynia, and came from a pious family. She was a beautiful and virtuous woman. When she was eighteen, she married a pious Christian, and they moved into a neighborhood inhabited by many Moslems.
After only a few days, she was approached by a Turkish neighbor, the son of the Cadi (magistrate). He boldly declared his love for her, and tried to convert her to his religion. She rejected his advances, saying that she would rather die than be married to a Moslem. She did not tell her husband, fearing that he would go after the Turk and then be punished for it.
The Moslem brought her to trial and testified that she had assented to his advances, but then had laughed and said she was only joking. His lies were corroborated by false witnesses, and Argyra was sent to prison.
The saint’s husband, hoping to get her a fair trial, appealed to Constantinople. There the accuser repeated his lies before the judge. Saint Argyra said that she was a Christian, and that she would never deny Christ. The judge ordered her to be flogged, then sentenced her to life in prison.
She was often taken from her cell, interrogated, beaten, then returned to prison. This continued for seventeen years. The saint was also insulted and tormented by the Moslem women who were incarcerated for their evil deeds. The Evil One incited them to annoy Saint Argyra with these torments and afflictions, but she endured all these things with great courage and patience.
According to the testimony of many Christian women who were in prison with her, she humbled her body through fasting. Her heart was filled with such love for Christ that she regarded her hardships as comforts.
A pious Christian named Manolis Kiourtzibasis sent her word that he would try to have her released, but Saint Argyra would not consent to this. She completed her earthly pilgrimage in the prison, receiving the crown of martyrdom on April 5, 1721.
After a few years her body was exhumed, and was found to be whole and incorrupt, emitting an ineffable fragrance. Pious priests and laymen took her body to the church of Saint Paraskeve on April 30, 1735 with the permission of Patriarch Paisius II.
Her relics remain there to this day, where they are venerated by Orthodox Christians from all walks of life, to the glory of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Saint Argyra’s name comes from the Greek word for silver (argyre). THE NEW MARTYR ARGYRA 1688-1721 by P. Philippidou (which also contains a Service to the saint) was published in Constantinople in 1912.