Today’s hymns speak of how Christ made those who ascended Mt Tabor with Him “partakers of (His) otherworldly glory.” The Apostles, “overcome with fear, fell headlong upon the earth.”
The Martyrs Anicetus and Photius (his nephew) were natives of Nicomedia. Anicetus, a military official, denounced the emperor Diocletian (284-305) for setting up in the city square an implement of execution for frightening Christians. The enraged emperor ordered Saint Anicetus to be tortured, and later condemned him to be devoured by wild beasts. But the lions they set loose became gentle and fawned at his feet.
Suddenly there was a strong earthquake, resulting in the collapse of the pagan temple of Hercules, and many pagans perished beneath the demolished city walls. The executioner took up a sword to cut off the saint’s head, but he fell down insensible. They tried to break Saint Anicetus on the wheel and burn him with fire, but the wheel stopped and the fire went out. They threw the martyr into a furnace with boiling tin, but the tin became cold. Thus the Lord preserved His servant for the edification of many.
The martyr’s nephew, Saint Photius, saluted the sufferer and turned to the emperor, saying, “O idol-worshipper, your gods are nothing!” The sword, held over the new confessor, struck the executioner instead. Then the martyrs were thrown into prison.
After three days Diocletian urged them, “Worship our gods, and I shall give you glory and riches.” The martyrs answered, “May you perish with your honor and riches!” Then they tied them by the legs to wild horses. Though the saints were dragged along the ground, they remained unharmed. They did not suffer in the heated bath house, which fell apart. Finally, Diocletian ordered a great furnace to be fired up, and many Christians, inspired by the deeds of Saints Anicetus and Photius, went in themselves saying, “We are Christians!” They all died with a prayer on their lips. The bodies of Saints Anicetus and Photius were not harmed by the fire, and even their hair remained whole. Seeing this, many of the pagans came to believe in Christ. This occurred in the year 305.
Saints Anicetus and Photius are mentioned in the prayers for the Blessing of Oil and the Lesser Blessing of Water (BOOK OF NEEDS, 1987, p. 230).
Saint Alexander, Bishop of Comana, lived during the third century not far from Neocaesarea. He studied the Holy Scripture and knew many scientific disciplines. Taking upon himself the exploit of holy foolishness, the saint lived in poverty, selling coal in the city square. Many, seeing his face always black from the grime of the coal dust, sneered at him with contempt.
When the Bishop of Comana happened to die, then among the candidates put forth for election as new bishop -- one was a man illustrious, others were learned or eloquent, while yet others were rich. Then Saint Gregory Thaumaturgos, Bishop of Neocaesarea (November 17), having been invited for the ordination of their choice, pointed out, that a bishop ought to have not only outward worthiness and distinction, but foremost of all, a pure heart and holy life. These words caused some to laugh saying: “If outward appearance and nobility of origin be for naught, then even Alexander the collier might be made bishop”.
Saint Gregory perceived that it was not without the Providence of God that this man came to be mentioned, and he asked that they call him. The appearance of the saint at the gathering evoked laughter. Having respectfully bowed to Saint Gregory, Saint Alexander stood there deeply absorbed in himself and ignoring the sneering: Saint Gregory put him to the test, and the collier was obliged to reveal that he was formerly a philosopher, and had studied Holy Scripture, but that for the sake of God he had assumed upon himself voluntary poverty and humility. Saint Gregory then took the collier to his own lodging, where he washed off the grime, and gave him clean clothes. Returning then to the assembled people, Saint Gregory in front of everyone began to put to him questions from Holy Scripture, to which Saint Alexander answered like a knowledgeable and wise pastor. Seeing this, all were astonished at his humility and with one accord they elected him their bishop.
Saint Gregory ordained him priest, and later bishop. After the imposition of hands the new bishop preached a sermon to the people, full of power and the grace of God. And everyone rejoiced that the Lord had sent them such a wise pastor. Under the emperor Diocletian (284-305) the saint bravely confessed Christ, and refused to worship idols. After tortures they threw him into a fire, and there he departed to God. According to other sources, Saint Alexander suffered instead under the emperor Decius (249-251).
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries the Dagestanis were continually raiding and pillaging the Davit-Gareji Wilderness. They destroyed churches and monasteries, stole sacred objects, and tortured and killed many of the monks who labored there.
A Dagestani army invaded the Davit-Gareji Wilderness in the summer of 1851. They looted the Davit-Gareji Lavra and carried off many of the monastery’s sacred treasures and books. Then they took many of the monks captive and tortured a few of the most pious.
First they stabbed Hierodeacon Otar to death, then they beheaded Hieromonk Gerontius. The unbelievers battered Hieromonk Serapion to death with their swords. Monk Herman was stabbed in the stomach, then beheaded. Monk Besarion was also beheaded. The eighteen-year-old Simeon tried to flee on foot but was shot at with bows and arrows, then caught and beheaded. Monk Michael, the most outstanding among the brothers in humility and silence, was subjected to the harshest tortures.
After their martyrdom the bodies of these holy men were illumined with a divine light.
The martyrdom of the holy fathers of the Davit-Gareji Monastery was described in 1853 by Hieromonk Isaac of Gaenati, who witnessed the tragedy. Hieromonk Isaac himself was captured and led away to Dagestan by the merciless bandits. He was later freed through the mediation of Tsar Nicholas I (1825-1855).
The Martyrs Pamphilus and Capiton were beheaded by the sword in the area of Oliurea near Constantinople.