The hymns of Vespers remind us that the Transfiguration is not merely a historical event, but something which also has implications for us. Those who “desire to see and hear things past understanding” must ascend from earthly concerns to “the height of the contemplation of the virtues.” This may be achieved by “directing our minds to heavenly things” and by “being formed anew in piety into the image of Christ.”
The Martyrs Archdeacon Laurence, Pope Sixtus, Deacons Felicissimus and Agapitus, the Soldier Romanus were citizens of Rome, and suffered in the year 258 under the emperor Valerian (253-259). Holy Pope Sixtus, born at Athens, received a fine education, preached in Spain and was made bishop in Rome following the martyr’s death of Holy Pope Stephen (253-257, commemorated on August 2). These were times when a pope occupying the Roman throne, was known to choose death for the faith. In a short while Saint Sixtus also was arrested and put in prison together with his deacons Felicissimus and Agapitus.
When the holy archdeacon Laurence visited Pope Sixtus, whom they held in prison, he cried out with tears: “Whither art thou gone, father? Why hast thou forsaken thine archdeacon, with whom always thou hast offered the Bloodless Sacrifice? Take thy son with thee, that I may be thy companion in having blood shed for Christ!” Saint Sixtus answered him: “I have not forsaken thee, my son. I am old and go to an easy death, but yet greater sufferings await thee. Know, that after three days upon our death thou shalt follow after me. And now go, take the church treasury and distribute it to the poor and needy Christians.” Saint Laurence zealously did the bidding of the holy hierarch.
Having heard that Pope Sixtus had been taken to trial with the deacons, Saint Laurence went there so as to witness their deed, and he said to the holy bishop: “Father, I have already fulfilled thy command, and distributed by hand thine treasury; forsake me not!” Hearing something about treasure, soldiers put him under guard, and the other martyrs were beheaded (+6 August 258). The emperor locked up Saint Laurence in prison and ordered the chief jailer Hyppolitus to keep watch over him. In prison Saint Laurence with prayer healed the sick gathered together with him and he baptized many.
Astonished by this, Hyppolitus himself believed and accepted Baptism from Saint Laurence together with all his household. Soon the archdeacon Laurence was again brought to the emperor and commanded to produce the hidden treasure. Saint Laurence answered: “Give me a period of three days, and I shalt show thee this treasure”. During this time the saint gathered up a crowd of the poor and the sick, who ate only because of the charity of the Church, and bringing them he explained: “Here are the vessels in which is contained the treasure. And everyone, who puts their treasure in these vessels, will receive them in abundance in the Heavenly Kingdom”.
After this they gave Saint Laurence over to fierce tortures, urging him to worship idols. The martyr was scourged (with a fine iron flail with sharp needles), they burned his wounds with fire, and struck at him with metal switches. At the time of the martyr’s suffering, the soldier Romanus suddenly cried out: “Saint Laurence, I behold a bright youth, who standeth about thee healing thy wounds. Beseech thy Lord Christ not to forsake me!” After this they stretched Saint Laurence on a rack and returned him to prison to Hyppolitus. Romanus brought there a waterpot with water and besought the martyr to baptize him. And immediately after the Baptism of the soldier, he was beheaded (+9 August). When they took Saint Laurence to his final torture, Saint Hyppolitus wanted to declare himself a Christian and die together with him, but the confessor said: “Conceal for now thy confession in thy heart. After some length of time I shall summon thee, and thou shalt hear and come unto me. Weep not for me, but rather rejoice, for I go to receive a glorious crown of martyrdom.”
They placed him in an iron cage, under which they set an intense fire, and the flames of the fire flicked towards the body of the martyr. Saint Laurence, glancing at the governor, said: “Here now, you burn only but one side of my body, turn over the other and do my whole body”. Dying, he uttered: “I thank Thee, Lord Jesus Christ, that Thou hast accounted me worthy to enter into Thy gates” -- and with these words he gave up the spirit.
Saint Hyppolitus took the body of the martyr by night, he wrapped it in a shroud with ointments and gave it over to the priest Justin. Over the relics of the martyr in the home of the widow Kyriake they made an all-night vigil and Divine Liturgy. All the Christians present partook of the Holy Mysteries and with honor they buried the body of the holy martyr Archdeacon Laurence in a cave on 10 August 258. Saint Hyppolitus and other Christians suffered three days after the death of Saint Laurence (13 August), as he had foretold them of this.
Blessed Laurence, Fool-for-Christ and Kaluga Wonderworker, lived at the beginning of the sixteenth century at the distance of half a verst from old Kaluga near a forest church in honor of the Nativity of Christ, set upon a high hill.
There was a long underground entrance from his dwelling to the church, where he attended services. He lived also at the home of the Kaluga prince Simeon Ioannovich. It is conjectured that Blessed Laurence was descended from the noble Khitrov lineage, since his name initiates their lineage memorial at the Peremyshl’sk Liotykov monastery, in the Kaluga diocese. Blessed Laurence went barefoot both winter and summer, in a shirt and sheepskin coat. By his struggles he so raised himself up that while still alive he was glorified by gifts of grace.
When the Crimean Tatars fell upon Kaluga in May 1512, Blessed Laurence, then in the home of the prince, suddenly shouted out in a loud voice: “Give me my sharp axe, for the curs fall upon Prince Simeon and it is necessary to defend him!” Saying this, he seized the axe and left. Suddenly having come on board ship next to the prince, Righteous Laurence inspired and encouraged the soldiers, and in that very hour they defeated the enemy.
He is depicted in icons with an axe in his right hand, set upon a long handle. It is certain that Prince Simeon (+ 1518), owing him his safety, built a monastery in his memory on the site of the saint’s ascetic labors.
Blessed Laurence died on August 10, 1515, on his nameday. The memory of the saint is honored also on July 8.
Blessed Laurence was glorified, it seems, in the second half of the sixteenth century. Thus, Tsar Ivan the Terrible in a deed of donation to the monastery (1565) wrote: “Monastery of the Nativity of Christ, where lies Laurence, the Fool-for-Christ.” In the Life, the first posthumous miracle is recorded under the year 1621: the healing of the paralyzed boyar Kologrivov, who became well after a Molieben to the saint.