Lives of all saints commemorated on February 15

Apostle Onesimus of the Seventy

Saint Onesimus, Apostle of the Seventy in his youth was a servant of Philemon, a Christian of distinguished lineage, living in the city of Colossae, Phrygia. Guilty of an offense against his master and fearing punishment, Saint Onesimus fled to Rome, but as a runaway slave he wound up in prison. In prison he encountered the Apostle Paul, was enlightened by him, and was baptized.

In prison Saint Onesimus served the Apostle Paul like a son. Saint Paul was personally acquainted with Philemon, and wrote him a letter filled with love, asking him to forgive the runaway slave and to accept him like a brother. He sent Saint Onesimus with this letter to his master, depriving himself of help, of which he was very much in need.

After he received the letter, Saint Philemon not only forgave Onesimus, but also sent him back to Rome to the apostle. Saint Philemon (January 4, February 19, and November 22) was afterwards consecrated bishop of the city of Gaza.

After the death of the Apostle Paul, Saint Onesimus served the apostles until their end, and he was made a bishop. After the death of the holy apostles he preached the Gospel in many lands and cities: in Spain, Carpetania, Colossae, Patras. In his old age, Saint Onesimus occupied the bishop’s throne at Ephesus, after the Apostle Timothy. When they took Saint Ignatius the God-Bearer (December 20) to Rome for execution, Bishop Onesimus came to meet with him with other Christians, as Saint Ignatius mentions in his Epistle to the Ephesians.

During the reign of the emperor Trajan (89-117), Saint Onesimus was arrested and brought to trial before the eparch Tertillus. He held the saint in prison for eighteen days, and then sent him to prison in the city of Puteoli. After a certain while, the eparch sent for the prisoner and, convincing himself that Saint Onesimus maintained his faith in Christ, had him stoned, after which they beheaded the saint with a sword. A certain illustrious woman took the body of the martyr and placed it in a silver coffin. This took place in the year 109.

Venerable Paphnutius the Recluse of the Kiev Caves

Saint Paphnutius had the gift of tears, which Saint John of the Ladder says (Step 6:1) is preceded by the remembrance of death. For worldly people, this remembrance may lead to fear and distress, but for Saint Paphnutius it led to constant prayer and the guarding of his mind.

By remembering the hour of death and God’s judgment, Saint Paphnutius was able to free himself from worldly distractions and passions through prayer, repentance and fasting. This, in turn, led to tears.

Venerable Paphnutius of Alexandria

The Holy Martyr Paphnutius hailed from Egypt and struggled in the desert. During the persecution against Christians under Diocletian (284-305), the governor Hadrian commanded that Saint Paphnutius be brought to him. The ascetic, not waiting for those sent to bring him, appeared before the governor, confessed his faith in Christ, and was subjected to torture.

The soldiers involved in his torture, Dionysius and Callimachus, seeing how the power of God preserved the martyr, believed in Christ the Savior themselves, for which they were then beheaded. Cast into prison after the tortures, Saint Paphnutius converted forty prisoners to the Faith. They were all burned alive.

After a while Saint Paphnutius was set free, and a Christian named Nestorius gladly took him in. He and all his family, after spiritual guidance, became steadfast in the Faith, and ultimately endured martyrdom. The saint strengthened many other Christians to confess our Lord Jesus Christ, and they all died as martyrs. Some were cut with swords, others were burned. There were 546 men in all.

Saint Paphnutius himself was thrown by the torturers into a river with a stone about his neck, but he miraculously floated to shore with the stone. Finally, they sent the holy martyr to the emperor Diocletian himself, who commanded him to be crucified on a date tree.

Saint Paphnutius is also commemorated on September 25.

Venerable Euphrosyne of Alexandria

Saint Euphrosyne of Alexandria was born at the beginning of the fifth century in the city of Alexandria. She was the only child in her family of illustrious and rich parents. Since her mother died early, she was raised by her father, Paphnutius, a deeply believing and pious Christian. He frequented a monastery, the igumen of which was his spiritual guide.

When Euphrosyne turned eighteen, her father wanted her to marry. He went to the monastery to his spiritual guide to receive his blessing for the planned wedding of his daughter. The igumen conversed with the daughter and gave her his blessing, but Saint Euphrosyne yearned for the monastic life.

She secretly accepted tonsure from a wandering monk, left her father’s house and decided to enter a monastery in order to lead her life in solitude and prayer. She feared, however, that in a women’s monastery her father would find her. Calling herself the eunuch Smaragdos, she went to the very same men’s monastery which she had visited with her father since childhood.

The monks did not recognize Euphrosyne dressed in men’s garb, and so they accepted her into the monastery. Here in a solitary cell, Saint Euphrosyne spent 38 years in works, fasting and prayer, and attained a high level of spiritual accomplishment.

Her father grieved over the loss of his beloved daughter and more than once, on the advice of the igumen, he conversed with the monk Smaragdos, revealing his grief and receiving spiritual comfort. Before her death, the nun Euphrosyne revealed her secret to her grieving father and asked that no one but he should prepare her body for burial. Having buried his daughter, Paphnutius distributed all his wealth to both the poor and to the monastery, and then he accepted monasticism. For ten years right up to his own death, he labored in the cell of his daughter.

Saint Euphrosyne is also commemorated on September 25.

Venerable Eusebius the Hermit of Syria

Saint Eusebius the Hermit lived in the fourth century and lived in asceticism on a mountain near the village of Asicha in Syria. He led a very strict life under the open sky, patiently enduring the summer heat and winter cold. He wore skins for clothing, and nourished himself on the pods of peas and beans.

Though he was elderly and infirm, he ate only fifteen figs during the Great Forty day Fast. When many people began to flock to Saint Eusebius, he went to a nearby monastery, built a small enclosure at the monastery walls and lived in it until his death.

Saint Eusebius died at the age of ninety, sometime after the year 400.

Icon of the Mother of God of Vilnius

The Vilnius Icon of the Mother of God was painted by the Holy Evangelist Luke. For many years it belonged to the family of the Byzantine emperors in Constantinople. In 1472 Sophia Paleologina, the wife of the Great Prince Ivan III (1462-1505), brought the Icon with her to Moscow. In 1495 the Great Prince blessed his daughter Elena with this icon before giving her in marriage to the Lithuanian king Alexander.

Today's Feast commemorates of the transfer of the Icon from Moscow to Vilnius, Lithuania. Later the holy Icon was placed in the church of Saint John the Forerunner, where Princess Elena was buried. Later, the Icon was transferred to the Holy Trinity monastery in Vilnius.

The Vilna Icon is also commemorated on April 14.

Icon of the Mother of God of Dalmatia

The Dalmatian Icon of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos is from the Dormition-Dalmatov Monastery in the Province of Perm.

Saint Anthimus of Chios

Saint Anthimos (Argyrios K. Bagianos) was born on July 1, 1869 in the vicinity of Saint Luke at Livadion, Chios. His righteous and virtuous parents, Constantine and Argyro, took care to give their child a Christian education. The young Argyrios was endowed by the Holy Spirit with the spirit of wisdom; he was foreordained by God to shine forth as a chosen vessel and to become a great guide who would lead others to Christ. His entire childhood development and upbringing was apparently due to the strong and profound influence of his Christian family environment.

On Sundays Argyrios and his family attended services at the Monastery of Nea Moni.1 When he was eight years old he met Saint Nektarios, who was a Deacon at the time. After conversing with young Argyrios, he said to Igumen Pachomios, "Elder, do you see that child? Someday he will become a Saint."

Argyrios had little formal education, and was limited to simple elementary school knowledge. So with no theoretical knowledge of worldly acclaim, but with a good disposition, spiritual discernment, and with a particularly intense desire for the spiritual life, he advanced unwaveringly in the virtuous life with the precious gift of unshakable faith.

Divine love led him to renounce the world and its noisy turmoil, and to enter the monastic state where his virtues shone forth. The starting point for him to follow the path of monasticism was his visit to the Skete of the Holy Fathers of Chios for the restoration of his own wonderworking icon of the All Holy Virgin the Helper (Παναγία Βοηθεία), which he had received from his mother. Since that time, this icon remained an integral part of his entire life. The Theotokos became a source of inexhaustible strength for him in his later difficult struggles, and she was also a fount of refreshment and respite.

His guide in the ascetical life was the venerable Elder Pachomios of Sketis, by whom he was tonsured into the small Schema, and who renamed him Anthimos.

He submitted to Elder Pachomios and through unceasing prayer and fasting, and by the harsh struggles which he undertook with God’s good will, he grew great in asceticism and in virtue. His physical and spiritual struggles left him exhausted and ill. So, with the blessing of Father Pachomios, he returned to his home in order to recuperate. Saint Anthimos, however, did not abandon his struggles. Once his health was partially restored he retired to a small isolated cell on his father’s estates in Livadia, Chios, and continued his spiritual contests. At the same time he worked as a shoemaker in order to help his poor parents, and to show mercy to those who were afflicted.

In his cell, by unceasing prayer, and by studying the lives of the great ascetics, he was strengthened and he made progress in his spiritual formation, but he also provoked the demonic rage of the Evil One. He struggled severely and effectively, conducting multifaceted and victorious contests against the Evil One with ardent prayer, and each day he ascended the blessed Ladder of virtues and holiness. In 1909, at the age of forty, he was tonsured into the Great Schema by Hieromonk Andronikos, the successor of Father Pachomios.

The virtuous ascetic Anthimos was a chosen vessel and was ready for the office of the priesthood, but the local bishop refused to ordain him because of his lack of education. In 1910, he was invited to Adramyttium in Asia Minor by his godfather, Stephen Diomataris, for this purpose. The saint’s ordination by the Bishop of Smyrna was not a typical event.

In his case, there were signs of divine approval following the ordination. Earthquake, lightning, thunder, and a cataclysmic rainfall occurred at that sacred hour. The vigil lamps swayed, and one of them fell down. After the ordination there was calm, stillness, and joy from God. These physical phenomena revealed and bore witness to the fact that God was pleased by his ordination.

As long as he remained in Adramyttium, he shone forth in a dazzling way because of his virtue and holiness, by which he healed those in the region who were possessed by demons, something his fellow priests were unable to do. His spiritual radiance stirred up the passion of jealousy in his concelebrants. Wishing to free them from this passion, the Saint left Adramyttium in 1911 and went to Mount Athos, where the Hagiorite monks freely bestowed many honors upon him.

Returning to Chios, he was assigned as the priest for the home for lepers, which became a new setting for his virtues and charitable activities. The icon of the Panagia Ypapanti (the Meeting of the Lord), the protectress of the hospital for lepers, focuses on all her acts of kindness.

The Lady Theotokos, through the prayers of Saint Anthimos, performed countless miracles of healing the infirmities of the faithful, both those whose names are known and those who remain anonymous. This institution for unfortunate lepers became a spiritual center of physical and mental health. His entire ministry at the home for lepers shows his deepest faith and his very valuable contributions.

Here the greatness of the Saint is revealed. As the priest of that church, Saint Anthimos was always found with the lepers: he ate with them, he talked to them, and he communed them with the Spotless Mysteries. After the Divine Liturgy he rested.

In that hallowed atmosphere, he envisioned the establishment of a Monastery to shelter nuns who had fled there from Asia Minor following the exchange of populations (1922-1924).2 So his dreams moved forward toward their fulfillment. In 1927, after he had a vision of the Theotokos, he received permission to build such a monastery. He also built the magnificent temple dedicated the icon of the Mother of God the Helper (Παναγία Βοηθεία) in 1930. From that time he settled in the Monastery filled with devotion to the Most Holy Theotokos, and there he advanced in his life of asceticism, filled with a multitude of virtues and holiness through the intercession and help of the Theotokos, and he shepherded his flock with great affection and love, strengthening and consoling them with his sweet and simple speech, healing the sicknesses and afflictions of those who had recourse to him.

After his life-long ministry, now at the age of 90, fully ripe and full of days, with a dignity which was reminiscent of the great ascetics of the desert, he celebrated his last Divine Liturgy on January 27, 1960. A few days later he reposed in peace.

Saint Anthimos was glorified by the Church of Constantinople on August 13, 1992.

1 The monastery was dedicated to Saints Niketas, John, and Joseph.

2 At that time many Greeks in Asia Minor were sent to Greece, and many Turks in Greece went to Turkey.