In some places, the Burial Service of the Theotokos is celebrated on August 17 using a special epitaphios with an icon depicting the Mother of God.
The Holy Martyr Myron was a presbyter in Achaia (Greece), and lived during the third century. He suffered in the year 250 under the emperor Decius (249-251). The presbyter was gentle and kind to people, but he was also courageous in the defense of his spiritual children.
On the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, he was celebrating the Divine Liturgy. The local governor Antipater came into the church with soldiers so as to arrest those praying there and to subject them to torture. Saint Myron began to plead for his flock, accusing the governor of cruelty, and for this the saint was delivered over to be tortured.
They took Saint Myron and struck his body with iron rods. They then threw the presbyter into a red-hot oven, but the Lord preserved the martyr, but about 150 men standing nearby were scorched by the fire. The governor then began to insist that the martyr worship idols. Saint Myron firmly refused to do this, so Antipater ordered the leather thongs to be cut from his skin. Saint Myron took one of the leather thongs and threw it in the face of his tormentor.
Falling into a rage, Antipater gave orders to strike Saint Myron all over his stripped body, and then to give the martyr to wild beasts to be eaten. The beasts would not touch him, however. Seeing himself defeated, Antipater in his blind rage committed suicide. They then took Saint Myron to the city of Cyzicus, where he was beheaded by the sword.
Saint Alypius, one of the first and finest of Russian iconographers, was a disciple of Saint Nikon (March 23), and from his youth he lived a life of asceticism at the Kiev Caves monastery. He studied the iconography of the Greek masters, and from the year 1083 beautified the Caves monastery church of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos.
If he learned that in some church the icons had become worn, he took them with him and restored them without charge. If people happened to pay him for his work, he set aside one third to purchase supplies for painting icons, one third as alms for the poor, and the remainder for his own needs.
Saint Alypius was never famous, and he painted icons only to serve God. He was ordained a hieromonk, and was known for working miracles even in his lifetime. Saint Alypius healed a Kievan man suffering from leprosy and decay of the body by anointing the wounds of the sick man with the paints he used for the painting of icons. Many of his icons were glorified by miracles, and sometimes angels helped him in the holy task of painting icons.
A certain man of Kiev who had built a church, once gave two monks of the Caves a commission to have icons painted for it. The monks concealed the money and said nothing to Saint Alypius about it. After waiting a long time for the work to be completed, the man went to the igumen to complain about Saint Alypius. Only then did they discover that he had not been told of the commission. When they brought the boards provided by the customer, it turned out that beautiful icons had already been painted on them.
When the church was consumed by fire, all of the icons remained unharmed. One of these icons (the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos), known as the Vladimir-Rostov Icon (August 15), was taken by Great Prince Vladimir Monomakh (1113-1125) to a church he had built at Rostov.
Another time, when Saint Alypius lay deathly ill, an angel painted an icon of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos for him. On August 17 (around the year 1114), an angel came to receive the soul of Saint Alypius, and he was buried in the Near Caves. The first three fingers of Saint Alypius’s right hand were positioned together, and the last two were bent to the palm. It seems that he died while signing himself with the Sign of the Cross.
One of the icons painted by Saint Alypius survives from the time of Saints Anthony and Theodosius of the Kiev Caves, and is now preserved in the State Tretyakov Gallery. This is the Sven Icon (May 3 and August 17).
A twentieth century icon in the church of the Pskov Caves Monastery of the Dormition depicts Saint Alypius holding a copy of the “Assuage My Sorrows” Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos (January 25 and October 9).
The Holy Martyr Paul and his sister Juliana were executed under the emperor Aurelian (270-275) in the Phoenician city of Ptolemais. The emperor happened to visit Ptolemais, and among those who met him was Paul, who made the Sign of the Cross. They arrested him and threw him in prison.
On the following day, when they brought him to trial, he openly and boldly confessed his faith in Christ, for which he was subjected to fierce tortures. Juliana, seeing the suffering of her brother, began to denounce the emperor for his injustice and cruelty, for which she was also subjected to torture.
They beat the martyrs, tore their bodies with iron hooks, burned them over red-hot grates, but they were not able to break the wondrous endurance of the Lord’s confessors. Three soldiers torturing the saints were struck by the courageous spirit of the martyrs, and they in turn believed in Christ. These newly chosen of God were named Quadratus, Acacius and Stratonicus, and they were immediately executed.
The tormentor tried to seduce Saint Juliana with a promise to marry her, if she were to renounce Christ, but the saint refused the offer and remained steadfast. By order of the emperor they sent her to a brothel to be defiled. The Lord also preserved her there, and anyone who tried to touch the saint lost his sight. Then the enraged emperor commanded that they again burn the bodies of the saints. Those who saw the suffering of the saints began to murmur loudly, and Aurelian gave orders to behead the martyrs. With gladdened face the brother and sister went to execution singing, “For Thou hast saved us from those who afflicted us and hast shamed those who hated us” (Ps. 43/44:7).
The Martyrs Thyrsus, Leucius, Coronatus, and their Companions suffered in Bythnian Caesarea and Apollonia under the emperor Decius (249-251). [It is possible that Coronatus is the same person as Cornutus, whose commemoration is on September 12].
The Martyr Patroclus lived during the third century under the emperor Aurelian (270-275). He was a native of the city of Tricassinum (now the city of Troyes in France) and led a pious Christian life: he loved to pray, to read the Holy Scriptures, to fast and to be charitable to the poor. For this the Lord bestowed upon him the gift of wonderworking.
The emperor Aurelian summoned Saint Patroclus to himself and commanded him to worship idols, promising for this great honors and riches. The saint disdained idol worship saying that the emperor himself was a beggar.
“How can you call me, the emperor, a beggar?” asked Aurelian. The saint answered: “You possess many earthly treasures, but you do not have heavenly treasures. Since you do not believe in Christ and in the future life, you shall not receive the blessedness of Paradise. Therefore, you are poor.”
Aurelian sentenced him to beheading by the sword. Soldiers led him to the banks of the River Sequanum (now the Seine), but suddenly their eyes were clouded, and Saint Patroclus at this time went across the river on the water and began to pray on a hill on the other shore. Coming to themselves, some of the soldiers were astounded at the disappearance of the martyr and they glorified God, but others attributed the miracle to magic.
A pagan woman pointed out to the soldiers that Saint Patroclus was on the other bank of the river. Crossing over there, the soldiers killed the martyr. His body was buried by night by the priest Eusebius and deacon Liberius.
The Martyrs Straton, Philip, Eutychian and Cyprian suffered at Nicomedia. Visiting the circus, they taught people to abandon their idol-worship, and they converted many pagans to Christ. The governor, observing that the people were leaving the circus, summoned to himself the martyrs, who firmly confessed their faith in Christ. For this they were given over to wild beasts to be eaten. The beasts did not touch them, and the martyrs were then tortured and thrown into a fire.
Saint Theodoritus left home and went to the Solovki Monastery when he was only thirteen years old. The following year he was tonsured and placed under obedience to the wise Father Zosimas. For the next fifteen years he grew in wisdom and virtue, then was ordained a deacon by the Archbishop of Novgorod.
Saint Theodoritus spent one more year with his Elder, then asked for permission to visit other monasteries. At each place he spoke with experienced ascetics, deriving much spiritual profit from their conversation. After two years at the White Lake Monastery, Saint Theodoritus lived alone in the forest around the monastery. During his four years in the forest, he came into contact with other ascetics, from whom he learned many useful things.
Father Zosimas at Solovki, sensing that he would die soon, wrote to Saint Theodoritus asking him to return to him. He served his Elder for about a year, taking care of him during his final illness.
Saint Theodoritus then traveled to the mouth of the Kola River and undertook missionary labors among the Lapps with the Elder Metrophanes. The Lapps worshiped idols and did not live in towns or cities. The monks learned their language so they could teach them about Christ, and also translated prayers for them.
Saint Theodoritus labored among the Lapps for twenty years. He was ordained to the holy priesthood in Novgorod, and later returned to the Lapps and established a monastery. He then spent two years in the Novgorod area as igumen of a monastery. Later, he was raised to the rank of archimandrite and became the igumen of the Savior-Saint Euthymius Monastery at Suzdal for five years.
In 1554 Saint Theodoritus was slandered and confined for two years at the White Lake Monastery. Upon his release, he went to live in a monastery at Yaroslav. Tsar Ivan the Terrible sent him to Constantinople in 1558 to discuss his coronation with the Patriarch.
Saint Theodoritus returned to Russia with the Patriarch’s reply, and the Tsar gave him twenty-five silver coins and a sable coat. Not wishing to acquire material possessions, the saint sold the coat and gave the money away to the poor.
Searching for peace, he went to the monastery at Priluki in Vologda. From there, Saint Theodoritus made two visits to the Lapps whom he had converted. He departed to the Lord on August 17, 1571 at the Solovki Monastery where he had been tonsured.
The Kiev Caves Icon of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos is one of the most ancient icons in the Russian Orthodox Church. The Mother of God entrusted it to four Byzantine architects, who in 1073 brought the icon to Saints Anthony and Theodosius of the Caves. The architects arrived at the monks’ cave and asked, “Where do you want to build the church?” The saints answered, “Go, the Lord will point out the place.”
“How is it that you, who are about to die, have still not designated the place?” the architects wondered. “And they gave us much gold.”
Then the monks summoned all the brethren and they began to question the Greeks, saying, “Tell us the truth. Who sent you, and how did you end up here?”
The architects answered, “One day, when each of us was asleep in his own home, handsome youths came to us at sunrise, and said, ‘The Queen summons you to Blachernae.’ We all arrived at the same time and, questioning one another we learned that each of us had heard this command of the Queen, and that the youths had come to each of us. Finally, we beheld the Queen of Heaven with a multitude of warriors. We bowed down to Her, and She said, ‘I want to build Myself a Church in Rus, at Kiev, and so I ask you to do this. Take enough gold for three years.’”
“We bowed down and asked, ‘Lady Queen! You are sending us to a foreign land. To whom are we sent?’ She answered, ‘I send you to the monks Anthony and Theodosius.’”
“We wondered, ‘Why then, Lady, do You give us gold for three years? Tell us that which concerns us, what we shall eat and what we shall drink, and tell us also what You know about it.’”
“The Queen replied, ‘Anthony will merely give the blessing, then depart from this world to eternal repose. The other one, Theodosius, will follow him after two years. Therefore, take enough gold. Moreover, no one can do what I shall do to honor you. I shall give you what eye has not seen, what ear has not heard, and what has not entered into the heart of man (1 Cor.2:9). I, Myself, shall come to look upon the church and I shall dwell within it.’”
“She also gave us relics of the holy martyrs Menignus, Polyeuctus, Leontius, Acacius, Arethas, James, and Theodore, saying, ‘Place these within the foundation.’ We took more than enough gold, and She said, ‘Come out and see the resplendent church.’ We went out and saw a church in the air. Coming inside again, we bowed down and said, ‘Lady Queen, what will be the name of the church?’”
“She answered, ‘I wish to call it by My own name.’ We did not dare to ask what Her name was, but She said again, ‘It will be the church of the Mother of God.’ After giving us this icon, She said, ‘This will be placed within.’ We bowed down to Her and went to our own homes, taking with us the icon we received from the hands of the Queen.”
Having heard this account, everyone glorified God, and Saint Anthony said, “My children, we never left this place. Those handsome youths summoning you were holy angels, and the Queen in Blachernae was the Most Holy Theotokos. As for those who appeared to be us, and the gold they gave you, the Lord only knows how He deigned to do this with His servants. Blessed be your arrival! You are in good company: the venerable icon of the Lady.” For three days Saint Anthony prayed that the Lord would show him the place for the church.
After the first night there was a dew throughout all the land, but it was dry on the holy spot. On the second morning throughout all the land it was dry, but on the holy spot it was wet with dew. On the third morning, they prayed and blessed the place, and measured the width and length of the church with a golden sash. (This sash had been brought long ago by the Varangian Shimon, who had a vision about the building of a church.) A bolt of lightning, falling from heaven by the prayer of Saint Anthony, indicated that this spot was pleasing to God. So the foundation of the church was laid.
The icon of the Mother of God was glorified by numerous miracles. Two friends, John and Sergius, sealed their friendship before it. After many years John fell mortally ill. He gave part of his wealth to the the Caves monastery, and he gave Sergius the portion for his five-year-old son for safekeeping. He also entrusted his son Zachariah to his guardianship. When Zachariah turned fifteen, he asked for his inheritance, but Sergius persisted in saying that John had distributed everything to the poor. He even went into the Dormition church and swore before the wonderworking icon that he had taken nothing.
When he attempted to kiss the icon, he was not able to come near it. He went to the doors and suddenly shouted, “Saints Anthony and Theodosius! Let me not be struck down for my dishonesty. Entreat the Most Holy Theotokos to drive away the multitude of demons which torment me. Let the gold and silver be taken away. It is sealed up in my granary.” Zachariah gave away all his inheritance to the Caves monastery, where he also himself was tonsured a monk. From that time, no one would take oaths before the wonderworking icon (March 24).
More than once the icon defended the land from enemy invasion. In 1677, when the Turks laid siege to Chigirin and danger threatened Kiev, they carried the icon around the city for almost the entire day of August 27. The Mother of God blessed Russian armies going to the Battle of Poltava (1709). In 1812 they carried the icon around Kiev again. The icon is commemorated twice during the year: May 3 and August 15.
Saint Leucius of Volokolamsk was the founder of the Dormition monastery on the Ruza River (the monastery was located 32 versts from the city of Volokolamsk and 2 versts from the village of Seredo-Stratilatsk).
Saint Leucius was a disciple of Saint Paphnutius of Borov (May 1) and an associate of Saint Joseph of Volokolamsk (September 9). The time of the founding of the monastery by Saint Leucius might perhaps be determined from the remnants of the Life of Saint Daniel of Pereyaslavl (April 7). Saint Daniel upon his arrival at the Borov monastery in the year 1466 was entrusted by Saint Paphnutius to the Elder Leucius as an experienced ascetic in the spiritual life.
After ten years, i.e. in 1476, the Elder and his disciple settled in the Volokolamsk region, where they dwelt together for another two years in founding the monastery. After this Saint Daniel went to Pereyaslavl. It is conjectured that Saint Leucius was 62 years of age at the founding of the monastery. Having raised up a monastery, he became known throughout the surrounding region for his ascetic life. According to Tradition, Saint Leucius died in extreme old age at the end of the fifteenth century. He was buried in the monastery he founded.
In the manuals of iconography the monk is listed under July 27: “He was greyed, and a beard like Saint Sergius, his hair uncovered, a schema on his shoulders, in his hands a staff, and monastic garb.”
The commemoration of Saint Leucius is observed both on December 14 and on August 17, on the Feast of the Holy Martyr Leucius.
Saint Philip of Sukhona was a hermit on Mt. Yankov, on the left bank of the Sukhona River, two versts from the city of Ustiug. The Ustiug inhabitants built a monastery at the place of his ascetic deeds, so as to learn monastic life under his guidance.
In the year 1654, they built a church in honor of the Mother of God “Of the Sign,” with a chapel in the name of Saint Philip, Metropolitan of Moscow. Brethren soon gathered. Saint Philip, while refusing no one his guidance, would not, in his humility, accept the office of igumen. He died at the monastery as a simple monk on August 17, 1662.
The Sven Icon of the Mother of God of the Caves has two festal celebrations: May 3 (the day of the reopse of Saint Theodosius of the Caves), and August 17 (the day of the repose of Saint Alypius), who painted the icon. The August 17 celebration was established in the year 1815 in thanksgiving for the deliverance of the city of Briansk (around which the icon appeared in 1288) from invasion during the 1812 Napoleonic War.
The Armatia Icon of the Mother of God was in Constantinople at the Armatian monastery. The place where the monastery was located, was called “Armation” or “of the Armatians” and received its name from the military magister Armatias, nephew of the tyrant Basiliscus, and a contemporary of the emperor Zeno (474-491).
The celebration of the wonderworking icon was established to commemorate deliverance from the Iconoclast heresy. The Seventh Ecumenical Council of 787 drew up dogmatic definitions about icon veneration based on Holy Scripture and Church Tradition.
The Armatia Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos is commemorated twice during the year, on July 21 and August 17.
The holy monk Demetrios was born in the village of Samarina, in the Pindos region of Greece in the late XVIII century. He became a monk in the monastery of his homeland, where he exhausted his body and soul with fasting. After the suppression of an insurrection by Ali Pasha in 1808, which was inspired by Father Euthymios Vlakhavas, Saint Demetrios came out of his monastery and went to the neighboring villages preaching the Word of God, comforting the villagers, and giving them hope. Ali Pasha thought that Father Demetrios had also been preaching rebellion, but the monk said that he was only trying to strengthen the Christians in their faith, and urging them to respect the law. The Pasha did not believe him, so he ordered him to be subjected to cruel tortures.
The executioners pierced his arms with nails and then placed pieces of wood under the nails of his hands and feet. An iron band was placed around his forehead. This was tightened and produced excruciating pain. All the while they told him to name his fellow conspirators. Saint Demetrios remained silent, and he was thrown into prison. Later, he was hanged upside down, with a fire under his head. A certain Turk, after witnessing the courage of the Saint, believed in Christ and then he suffered martyrdom.
Next, Ali Pasha sealed Demetrios into a wall, leaving only his head out to prolong the torture. The Martyr survived for ten days, then he surrendered his soul to God on August 17,1808.
The holy Father Tbeli Abuseridze lived and labored in the 13th century. His father John, the archduke of Upper Atchara, perished in a battle with the Turks. After Tbeli’s mother was widowed, she was tonsured a nun and given the name Katherine. Tbeli’s brothers, Abuseri and Bardan, were also well-known figures in their time.
Saint Tbeli received an education befitting his noble rank and succeeded in fully developing his natural abilities.
Saint Tbeli left an indelible mark on the history of Georgian culture as a hymnographer, an astronomer, an expert in sacred music, and a scholar of diverse interests. We know from his works that he built a church in honor of Saint George in the village of Khikhani (in upper Atchara), and it has been suggested that he composed most of his works, including a chronicle of his own ancestry, in that village. He had seven children whom he brought there, and at the end of his chronicle he left a second testament, commanding that his family’s future generations be brought there as well.
Saint Tbeli contributed immensely to the life of Gelati Academy. Historians believe it was there that he received the broad education that allowed him to express himself in so many different fields. Saint Tbeli’s collection of hymns to Saint John the Baptist, Saint John the Theologian, and Saint John Chrysostom reveals his true piety and talent as a writer of the Church. The profound theological ideas, the symbolic and mystical comprehension of phenomena, the “knowledge of the visible” and “comprehension of the invisible” evident in this work paint Saint Tbeli as one equally endowed as both a scholar and a theologian.
Saint Tbeli was fascinated by the science of chronology, and he compiled a work called Chronicles: Complete Commentaries and Rules to address some of the problems related to chronology. Combining a solid understanding of astronomy and history, this work conveys the cosmic meaning of the Julian calendar and Christian eschatology. Saint Tbeli’s famous hagiographical work The New Miracle of Great-martyr George contains valuable historical information about the Abuseridze family’s efforts to revive Georgian culture during the ancient feudal epoch.
While pursuing his literary and scholarly interests, Saint Tbeli also labored as a holy and God-fearing pastor. (Scholars believe that the saint was a bishop of Tbeti, from which he received his appellation Tbeli.) The Georgian Apostolic Church has numbered our Holy Father Tbeli Abuseridze among the saints in recognition of the countless good deeds he performed on behalf of the Church and its people.