Lives of all saints commemorated on May 10


Sunday of the Samaritan Woman

The Holy Martyr Photina (Svetlana) the Samaritan Woman, her sons Victor (named Photinus) and Joses; and her sisters Anatola, Phota, Photis, Paraskeva, Kyriake; Nero’s daughter Domnina; and the Martyr Sebastian: The holy Martyr Photina was the Samaritan Woman, with whom the Savior conversed at Jacob’s Well (John. 4:5-42).

During the time of the emperor Nero (54-68), who displayed excessive cruelty against Christians, Saint Photina lived in Carthage with her younger son Joses and fearlessly preached the Gospel there. Her eldest son Victor fought bravely in the Roman army against barbarians, and was appointed military commander in the city of Attalia (Asia Minor). Later, Nero called him to Italy to arrest and punish Christians.

Sebastian, an official in Italy, said to Saint Victor, “I know that you, your mother and your brother, are followers of Christ. As a friend I advise you to submit to the will of the emperor. If you inform on any Christians, you will receive their wealth. I shall write to your mother and brother, asking them not to preach Christ in public. Let them practice their faith in secret.”

Saint Victor replied, “I want to be a preacher of Christianity like my mother and brother.” Sebastian said, “O Victor, we all know what woes await you, your mother and brother.” Then Sebastian suddenly felt a sharp pain in his eyes. He was dumbfounded, and his face was somber.

For three days he lay there blind, without uttering a word. On the fourth day he declared, “The God of the Christians is the only true God.” Saint Victor asked why Sebastian had suddenly changed his mind. Sebastian replied, “Because Christ is calling me.” Soon he was baptized, and immediately regained his sight. Saint Sebastian’s servants, after witnessing the miracle, were also baptized.

Reports of this reached Nero, and he commanded that the Christians be brought to him at Rome. Then the Lord Himself appeared to the confessors and said, “Fear not, for I am with you. Nero, and all who serve him, will be vanquished.” The Lord said to Saint Victor, “From this day forward, your name will be Photinus, because through you, many will be enlightened and will believe in Me.” The Lord then told the Christians to strengthen and encourage Saint Sebastian to peresevere until the end.

All these things, and even future events, were revealed to Saint Photina. She left Carthage in the company of several Christians and joined the confessors in Rome.

At Rome the emperor ordered the saints to be brought before him and he asked them whether they truly believed in Christ. All the confessors refused to renounce the Savior. Then the emperor gave orders to smash the martyrs’ finger joints. During the torments, the confessors felt no pain, and their hands remained unharmed.

Nero ordered that Saints Sebastian, Photinus and Joses be blinded and locked up in prison, and Saint Photina and her five sisters Anatola, Phota, Photis, Paraskeva and Kyriake were sent to the imperial court under the supervision of Nero’s daughter Domnina. Saint Photina converted both Domnina and all her servants to Christ. She also converted a sorcerer, who had brought her poisoned food to kill her.

Three years passed, and Nero sent to the prison for one of his servants, who had been locked up. The messengers reported to him that Saints Sebastian, Photinus and Joses, who had been blinded, had completely recovered, and that people were visiting them to hear their preaching, and indeed the whole prison had been transformed into a bright and fragrant place where God was glorified.

Nero then gave orders to crucify the saints, and to beat their naked bodies with straps. On the fourth day the emperor sent servants to see whether the martyrs were still alive. But, approaching the place of the tortures, the servants fell blind. An angel of the Lord freed the martyrs from their crosses and healed them. The saints took pity on the blinded servants, and restored their sight by their prayers to the Lord. Those who were healed came to believe in Christ and were soon baptized.

In an impotent rage Nero gave orders to flay the skin from Saint Photina and to throw the martyr down a well. Sebastian, Photinus and Joses had their legs cut off, and they were thrown to dogs, and then had their skin flayed off. The sisters of Saint Photina also suffered terrible torments. Nero gave orders to cut off their breasts and then to flay their skin. An expert in cruelty, the emperor readied the fiercest execution for Saint Photis: they tied her by the feet to the tops of two bent-over trees. When the ropes were cut the trees sprang upright and tore the martyr apart. The emperor ordered the others beheaded. Saint Photina was removed from the well and locked up in prison for twenty days.

After this Nero had her brought to him and asked if she would now relent and offer sacrifice to the idols. Saint Photina spit in the face of the emperor, and laughing at him, said, “O most impious of the blind, you profligate and stupid man! Do you think me so deluded that I would consent to renounce my Lord Christ and instead offer sacrifice to idols as blind as you?”

Hearing such words, Nero gave orders to again throw the martyr down the well, where she surrendered her soul to God (ca. 66).

On the Greek Calendar, Saint Photina is commemorated on February 26.


Apostle Simon the Zealot

Saint Simon was from Cana in Galilee, and was known to the Lord and His Mother. Tradition says that he was the bridegroom at the wedding where the Savior performed His first miracle. After witnessing the miracle of the water which had been turned into wine, he became a zealous follower of Christ. For this reason, he is known as Saint Simon the Zealot.

Saint Simon was one of the twelve Apostles, and received the Holy Spirit with the others on Pentecost. He traveled to many places from Britain to the Black Sea, proclaiming the Gospel of Christ. After winning many pagans to the Lord, Saint Simon suffered martyrdom by crucifixion.

Saint Demetrius of Rostov says that this Saint Simon is to be distinguished from the Apostle Simon Peter, and from the Lord’s relative Simon (Mt.13:55), who was the second Bishop of Jerusalem.

Saint Simon is also commemorated on June 30 with the other Apostles.


Saint Simeon, Bishop of Vladimir and Suzdal of the Kiev Near Caves

Saint Simon, Bishop of Vladimir and Suzdal was an author of the KIEV CAVES PATERIKON, and he became a monk at the Monastery of the Caves, sometime in the second half of the twelfth century.

In the year 1206 he was appointed igumen of the Vladimir Monastery of the Nativity of the Theotokos, and in 1214, at the wish of Prince George Vsevolodovich (+ 1238), he was made the first bishop of Vladimir-on-the-Klyazma and Suzdal.

In 1218 he consecrated a church at the Nativity monastery, and in the year 1225, a cathedral church at Suzdal. The Great Prince deeply respected Saint Simon and was prepared to establish a new bishop’s See at Suzdal for his friend, the monk Polycarp of the Kiev Caves monastery, who sought after spiritual glory. Saint Simon, seeing that Polycarp was not yet ready to assume such an office, talked the Great Prince out of his idea, and he wrote a deeply moving letter to Polycarp, in which he offered his friend advice on overcoming his spiritual shortcomings. Saint Simon’s own inner life, character, and virtue are also revealed in the epistle.

Saint Simon was known as a learned teacher, and his epistle to Polycarp was placed at the beginning of the KIEV CAVES PATERIKON. On the eve of his repose in 1226, the saint received the schema.

Initially his body was buried at Vladimir, but later, in accordance with the saint’s last wishes, his body was transferred to the Kiev Caves Lavra, where it rests in the Antoniev Caves.


Martyrs Philadelphus, Cyprian, Alphius, Onesimus, Erasmus, and 14 others, in Sicily

The Holy Martyrs Philadelphus, Alphaeus, Cyprian, Onesimus, Erasmus and 14 others with them, lived during the third century and came from Italy. Alphaeus, Philadelphus and Cyprian were sons of a governor in Italy, named Vitalius. They were enlightened by faith in Christ and baptized by Saint Onesimus.

During this period the emperor Licinius issued orders to seek out and hand over the Christians for torture. The brothers went to Rome together with Onesimus, Erasmus and fourteen other Christians. At Rome the pagans crushed the chest of Saint Onesimus with a heavy stone, which killed him. Erasmus and the fourteen Martyrs were beheaded.

The brothers Alphaeus, Philadelphus and Cyprian suffered in the city of Mesopolis Leontini in Sicily, where they had been sent from Rome. Saint Philadelphus was burned over an iron lattice in the year 251, in the reign of the emperor Decius.

In the year 1517 their incorrupt relics were discovered at Leontini [Lentini]. Saints Alphaeus, Philadelphus and Cyprian appeared to Saint Euthalia (March 2) and told her that she would be healed of an affliction after she was baptized.


Martyr Hesychius of Antioch

The Holy Martyr Hesychius of Antioch lived in Antioch during the reign of Maximian Galerius (305-311), and he occupied a high official position. Maximian issued an edict by which all Christians were to be deprived of military rank and expelled from military service. Those who would not renounce Christianity were stripped of their soldier’s belt and military insignia, and degraded to the level of hired servants. Saint Hesychius was one of these.

Maximian ordered Hesychius to remove his robes of office, put on common attire, and to be placed among the women servants. After several days he summoned Hesychius and asked, “Are you not ashamed to remain in such dishonor?” Saint Hesychius answered, “The honors which I had from you were only temporal.”

Then Maximian gave orders to drown Saint Hesychius in a river, with a millstone tied about his neck. The exact year of the martyr’s death is not known.


Blessed Isidora the Fool of Tabenna in Egypt

Saint Isidora, Fool-for-Christ, struggled in the Tabenna monastery in Egypt during the sixth century. Taking upon herself the feat of folly, she acted like one insane, and did not eat food with the other sisters of the monastery. Many of them regarded her with contempt, but Isidora bore all this with great patience and meekness, blessing God for everything.

She worked in the kitchen and fulfilled the dirtiest, most difficult tasks at the monastery, cleaning the monastery of every impurity. Isidora covered her head with a plain rag, and instead of cooked food she drank the dirty wash water from the pots and dishes. She never became angry, never insulted anyone with a word, never grumbled against God or the sisters, and was given to silence.

Once, a desert monk, Saint Pitirim, had a vision. An angel of God appeared to him and said, “Go to the Tabenna monastery. There you will see a sister wearing a rag on her head. She serves them all with love, and endures their contempt without complaint. Her heart and her thoughts rest always with God. You, on the other hand, sit in solitude, but your thoughts flit about all over the world.”

The Elder set out for the Tabenna monastery, but he did not see the one indicated to him in the vision among the sisters. Then they led Isidora to him, considering her a demoniac. Isidora fell down at the knees of the Elder, asking his blessing. Saint Pitirim bowed down to the ground to her and said, “Bless me first, venerable Mother!”

To the astonished questions of the sisters the Elder replied, “Before God, Isidora is higher than all of us!” Then the sisters began to repent, confessing their mistreatment of Isidora, and they asked her forgiveness. The saint, however, distressed over her fame, secretly hid herself away from the monastery, and her ultimate fate remained unknown. It is believed that she died around the year 365.


Blessed Thais of Egypt

Saint Thais lived in Egypt in the fifth century. Left an orphan after the death of her wealthy parents, she led a pious life, distributing her wealth to the poor, and she gave shelter to pilgrims on her estate. She decided that she would never marry, but would devote her life to serving Christ.

After spending all her inheritance, Thais was tempted to acquire more money by any means, and began to lead a sinful life. The Elders of Sketis near Alexandria heard of her fall, and asked Saint John the Dwarf (November 9) to go to Thais and persuade her to repent. “She was kind to us,” they said, “now perhaps we can help her. You, Father, are wise. Go and try to save her soul, and we will pray that the Lord will help you.”

The Elder went to her home, but Thais’s servant did not want to allow him into the house. Saint John said, “Tell your mistress that I have brought her something very precious.” Thais, knowing that the monks sometimes found pearls at the shore, told her servant to admit the visitor. Saint John sat down and looked her in the face, and then began to weep. Thais asked him why he was crying. “How can I not weep,” he asked, “when you have forsaken your Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ, and are pleasing Satan by your deeds?”

The Elder’s words pierced the soul of Thais like a fiery arrow, and at once she realized how sinful her present life had become. In fear, she asked him if God would accept the repentance of a sinner like her. Saint John replied that the Savior awaited her repentance. That is why He came, to seek and to save the perishing. “He will welcome you with love,” he said, “and the angels will rejoice over you. As the Savior said Himself, one repentant sinner causes the powers of Heaven to rejoice” (Luke 15:7).

A feeling of repentance enveloped her, and regarding the Elder’s words as a call from the Lord Himself to return to Him, Thais trembled and thought only of finding the path of salvation. She stood up and left her house without speaking to her servants, and without making any sort of disposition of her property, so that even Saint John was amazed.

Following Saint John into the wilderness, she hastened to return to God through penitence and prayer. Night fell, and the Elder prepared a place for Thais to lay down and sleep. He made a pillow for her from the sand, and he went off somewhat farther, and went to sleep after his evening prayers.

In the middle of the night, he was wakened by a light coming down from the heavens to the place where Thais was at rest. In the radiant light he saw holy angels bearing her soul to Paradise. When he went over to Thais, he found her dead.

Saint John prayed and asked God to reveal to him whether Thais had been saved. An angel of God appeared and told him, “Abba John, her one hour of repentance was equal to many years, because she repented with all her soul, and a compunctionate heart.”

After burying the body of the saint, Saint John returned to Sketis and told the monks what had happened. All offered thanks to God for His mercy toward Thais who, like the wise thief, repented in a single moment.


Icon of the Mother of God “Kiev-Bratsk”

The Kiev-Bratsk Icon of the Mother of God is celebrated also on September 6, June 2, and on Saturday of the Fifth Week of Great Lent.


Venerable Comgall of Bangor

Saint Comgall (Comhghall), “the Father of Monks,” was born in Ireland at Dalaradia, Co. Ulster sometime between 510 and 520. Unlike many of the early Irish saints, Saint Comgall was not of noble birth. He served as a soldier, then studied with Saint Finnian of Moville (September 10). He was ordained to the holy priesthood by Bishop Lugaid before the age of forty.

Saint Comgall and several companions lived for a time on an island in Lough Erne in the county of Ulster, where they lived a very strict ascetical life. Although his desire was to be a missionary in Scotland, Bishop Lugaid asked him to stay in Ireland and establish a monastery at Bangor (Bennchor) on the southern shore of Belfast Loch (in modern Co. Down). The monastery was founded sometime between 552-555.

It is believed that over four thousand monks were trained by Saint Comgall at Bangor, including Saint Columbanus of Luxeuil (November 21, or 23) and Saint Moluag (June 25). Saint Comgall often prayed while standing in the water for several hours. Sometimes at night his cell seemed to be ablaze with a heavenly radiance.

Later Saint Comgall did visit Scotland, where he became very close to Saint Columba of Iona (June 9), by whose prayers Comgall was once saved from drowning.

Saint Comgall lived to an advanced age, then suffered from a prolonged illness. He completed the course of his earthly life at Bangor on May 10, 602, after receiving Holy Communion from Saint Fiacre (August 30).