The Troparion of the Forefeast invites us to gather on this day in gladness, for the Theotokos is about to depart from earth to heaven.
The Prophet Micah, the sixth of the Twelve Minor Prophets, was descended from the Tribe of Judah and was a native of the city of Moresheth, to the south of Jerusalem. His prophetic service began around the year 778 before Christ and continued for almost 50 years under the kings of Judah: Jotham, Ahaz, and Righteous Hezekiah (721-691 B.C., August 28).
He was a contemporary of the Prophet Isaiah. His denunciations and predictions were in regard to the separate kingdoms of Judah and Israel. He foresaw the misfortunes threatening the kingdom of Israel before its destruction, and the sufferings of Judah during the incursions under the Assyrian emperor Sennacherib.
To him belongs a prophecy about the birth of the Savior of the world: “And thou, Bethlehem, house of Ephratha, art too few in number to be reckoned with the thousands of Judah; yet out of thee shall come forth to Me, one who is to be a ruler in Israel, and His goings forth were from the beginning, even from eternity” (Mic. 5: 2). From the words of the Prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 26: 18-19), the Jews evidently were afraid to kill the Prophet Micah. His relics were discovered in the fourth century after the Birth of Christ at Baraphsatia, through a revelation to the Bishop of Eleutheropolis, Zeuinos.
Saint Theodosius of the Caves was the Father of monasticism in Russia. He was born at Vasilevo, not far from Kiev. From his youth he felt an irresistible attraction for the ascetic life, and led an ascetic lifestyle while still in his parental home. He disdained childish games and attractions, and constantly went to church. He asked his parents to let him study the holy books, and through his evident abilities and rare zeal, he quickly learned to read the books, so that everyone was amazed at his intellect.
When he was fourteen, he lost his father and remained under the supervision of his mother, a strict and domineering woman who loved her son very much. Many times she chastised her son for his yearning for asceticism, but he remained firmly committed to his path.
At the age of twenty-four, he secretly left his parental home and Saint Anthony at the Kiev Caves monastery blessed him to receive monastic tonsure with the name Theodosius. After four years his mother found him and with tearfully begged him to return home, but the saint persuaded her to remain in Kiev and to become a nun in the monastery of Saint Nicholas at the Askold cemetery.
Saint Theodosius toiled at the monastery more than others, and he often took upon himself some of the work of the other brethren. He carried water, chopped wood, ground up the grain, and carried the flour to each monk. On cold nights he uncovered his body and let it be food for gnats and mosquitoes. His blood flowed, but the saint occupied himself with handicrafts, and sang Psalms. In church he appeared before others and, standing in one place, he did not leave it until the end of services. He also listened to the readings with particular attention.
In 1054 Saint Theodosius was ordained a hieromonk, and in 1057 he was chosen igumen. The fame of his deeds attracted a number of monks to the monastery, at which he built a new church and cells, and he introduced the cenobitic rule of the Studion monastery, a copy of which he commissioned at Constantinople. As igumen, Saint Theodosius continued his arduous duties at the monastery. He usually ate only dry bread and cooked greens without oil. He spent his nights in prayer without sleep, and the brethren often took notice of this, although the chosen one of God tried to conceal his efforts from others.
No one saw when Saint Theodosius dozed lightly, and usually he rested while sitting. During Great Lent the saint withdrew into a cave near the monastery, where he struggled unseen by anyone. His attire was a coarse hairshirt worn next to his body. He looked so much like a beggar that it was impossible to recognize in this old man the renowned igumen, deeply respected by all who knew him.
Once, Saint Theodosius was returning from Great Prince Izyaslav. The coachman, not recognizing him, said gruffly, “You, monk, are always on holiday, but I am constantly at work. Take my place, and let me ride in the carriage.” The holy Elder meekly complied and drove the servant. Seeing how nobles along the way bowed to the monk driving the horses, the servant took fright, but the holy ascetic calmed him, and gave him a meal at the monastery. Trusting in God’s help, the saint did not keep a large supply of food at the monastery, and therefore the brethren were in want of their daily bread. Through his prayers, however, unknown benefactors appeared at the monastery and furnished the necessities for the brethren.
The Great Princes, and especially Izyaslav, loved to listen to the spiritual discourses of Saint Theodosius. The saint was not afraid to denounce the mighty of this world. Those unjustly condemned always found a defender in him, and judges would review matters at the request of the igumen. He was particularly concerned for the destitute. He built a special courtyard for them at the monastery where anyone in need could receive food and drink. Sensing the approach of death, Saint Theodosius peacefully fell asleep in the Lord in the year 1074. He was buried in a cave which he dug, where he secluded himself during fasting periods.
The relics of the ascetic were found incorrupt in the year 1091. Saint Theodosius was numbered among the saints in 1108. Of the written works of Saint Theodosius six discourses, two letters to Great Prince Izyaslav, and a prayer for all Christians have survived to our time.
The Life of Saint Theodosius was written by Saint Nestor the Chronicler (October 27), a disciple of the great Abba, only thirty years after his repose, and it was always one of the favorite readings of the Russian nation. The Life of Saint Theodosius is found under September 28.
On August 14, 1798 the holy relics of Saint Arcadius were placed in a stone coffin, which had served as the resting place of his Elder, Saint Ephraim until 1572.
Saint Arcadius is also commemorated on December 13 (the day of his blessed repose), July 11 (the transfer of his relics in 1677), and June 11 (the discovery of his relics).
The Hieromartyr Marcellus, Bishop of Apamea, was born of illustrious parents on the island of Cyprus. Having received a fine education, he occupied a high civil office. Everyone marveled at his purity of life, mildness, kindness and eloquence. In the year 375, the saint left his wife and children, and devoted himself to a monastic life in Syria. The people of Apamea, having him come to the city on some practical matter, elected him as bishop.
From the account of Theodoret of Cyrrhus we learn that Saint Marcellus received permission from the emperor Saint Theodosius the Great (379-395) to destroy a strongly built temple of Jupiter at Apamea, but the saint didn’t know how to accomplish this. A certain worker promised to help him. He undermined three of the huge columns, propping them up temporarily with olive wood. Then he tried to set them afire, but the wood would not burn. When Saint Marcellus learned of this, he performed the Lesser Blessing of Water, and he commanded that this water be faithfully sprinkled around the wood. After this, the wood burned quickly, the columns fell down and the whole pagan temple collapsed in upon itself.
When soldiers near Aulona in the Apamea district demolished another pagan temple, the saint, watching from a distance, was seized by pagans and thrown into a fire. The killers were found, and the saint’s sons wanted to take revenge. A local Council forbade them to do this, decreeing that it would be wrong to avenge such a death as the saint had received. Instead, they ought to give thanks to God.
The “Converser” Icon of the Mother of God is so named since it depicts the Mother of God and Saint Nicholas of Myra conversing with the sacristan George. This event occurred soon after the appearance of the Tikhvin Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos in 1383, when the Most Holy Theotokos Herself commanded sacristan George to say that they should replace the metal cross on the newly-constructed temple in Her honor at Tikhvin with a wooden one. At the place of this vision a chapel was built in honor of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker. The chapel burned several times (the first time was in 1390 at the same time as the church of the Tikhvin Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos). In 1515, a wooden church was built and a monastery founded in honor of this holy icon.
The Narva Icon of the Mother of God became famous in the year 1558, when the Russian army attacked the city of Narva. In one of the houses where Russian merchants had once lived, drunken Germans grabbed an icon of the Mother of God that had been left behind. Mocking the holy thing, they threw it into a fire under a kettle, in which they were brewing beer. Flames shot out from the kettle and engulfed the roof of the house.
At that very moment a storm blew up, and spread the fire throughout all the city. Taking advantage of the confusion, the Russian army advanced and took the city. The Wonderworking Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, and an icon of Saint Nicholas, were found in the ashes unharmed.
Metropolitan Nazarius of Kutaisi-Gaenati was born in 1872 in the village of Didi Jikhaishi in Imereti. His forefathers belonged to a long lineage of clergy, and the future metropolitan was nurtured in the Church from the earliest years of his youth.
Nazarius (known in the world as Joseph) received his education at Kutaisi Theological School. In 1892 he graduated with honors from Tbilisi Seminary and began to serve in the Church, first as a deacon and later (from February 9, 1893) as a priest. In 1904, after a series of personal tragedies (first his wife died, then his two daughters), Nazarius was tonsured a monk. On November 4, 1918, he was enthroned as Metropolitan of Kutaisi.
The years 1922 to 1923 marked a difficult period in the history of the Georgian Church. The Bolsheviks razed twelve hundred churches, destroyed much of the Church’s wealth, burnt many rare manuscripts, and persecuted spiritual leaders—particularly Georgian nationalists.
On February 10, 1921, following the Red Army’s invasion of Georgia, the treasures of the Sioni and Svetitskhoveli Cathedrals were carried away to Kutaisi for safekeeping. Patriarch Leonid gave his blessing for four boxes of holy objects to be buried under the porch at Metropolitan Nazarius’s residence, which was located on the grounds of the Bagrati Cathedral.
After the Bolsheviks secured their occupation of Georgia, they discovered where the treasures had been buried and arrested Metropolitan Nazarius. They accused him of agitating against the government and concealing the possessions of the Church. During the court proceedings the metropolitan was asked for whom he had hidden the treasure, and he answered, “For the Church and the Georgian people!”
The court sentenced Nazarius to the most severe punishment—execution by a firing squad—but the sentence was subsequently rescinded. In the end, the Bolsheviks imprisoned the hierarch and confiscated his personal belongings.
In April of 1924 Metropolitan Nazarius received amnesty and was released after two years in prison. He returned to his diocese, which was undergoing many trials. He was not permitted to return to his own residence, but was obliged to live with his brother, while his former home was transformed into a storage facility.
On August 14, 1924, a delegation from the village of Simoneti came to the metropolitan to request that he consecrate their local church. At the appointed time, the metropolitan arrived in Simoneti with his retinue and consecrated the church. That night, a group of Chekists (Soviet security agents) broke into the house where Metropolitan Nazarius and his entourage were staying, bound and beat them, and then dragged them to the village council. Without an investigation, the Troika (a Soviet extraordinary council of three judges) sentenced to death Metropolitan Nazarius and four other clergymen—Priest Herman Jajanidze, Priest Hierotheos Nikoladze, Priest Simon Mchedlidze, and Archdeacon Besarion Kukhianidze. A layman, Axalmotsameni, was also sentenced to death. They were shot to death in the Sapichkhia Forest.
In 1994, with the blessing of Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II, the full Ecclesiastical Council of the Georgian Church resolved with one accord to canonize Metropolitan Nazarius and the clergymen who were martyred with him. At the same time, the council canonized all the Orthodox Christians who, for their Faith and the independence of their homeland, became victims of the totalitarian regime. They were proclaimed the “New Martyrs of the Georgian Church.”