Lives of all saints commemorated on September 4

Martyr Gorazd of Prague, Bohemia and Moravo-Cilezsk

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” [John 10:11].

“O Lord, make this man also, who has been proclaimed a steward of the episcopal grace, to be an imitator of You, the true Shepherd, Who laid down Your life for Your sheep....” [Prayer of Consecration of a Bishop]. On September 25, 1921, these words were prayed over Father Gorazd Pavlik as he was consecrated the Bishop of Moravia and Silesia. It is doubtful that anyone in attendance that day, including the new bishop, expected that he would be called upon to live that prayer in a literal way.

Matthias Pavlik was born in 1879 in the Moravian town of Hrubavrbka in what would later become the Czech Republic. He was born into a Roman Catholic family, completed the Roman Catholic seminary in Olomouc and was ordained a priest. With the end of World War I and the formation of the new nation of Czechoslovakia from the ruins of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the laws requiring observance of the Catholic religion were loosened. Father Matthias, along with thousands of others left the Catholic Church with many seeking a home in the Orthodox Church, which in that region was then under the protection of the Orthodox Church of Serbia. Taking monastic vows, he assumed the name “Gorazd” who was a disciple of Saints Cyril and Methodius and who succeeded Saint Methodius as the bishop of Moravia. At the age of 42, Father Gorazd was consecrated an Orthodox bishop in Belgrade, Serbia by the Serbian Patriarch Dimitri along with the illustrious Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky of Kiev and several other bishops, including Bishop Dositheus of Zagreb. Bishop Dositheus was a key figure in the re-birth of the Orthodox Church among Carpatho-Rusyns and was glorified as a saint of the Orthodox Church in May, 2000.

Bishop Gorazd immediately set to work building up the Orthodox Faith, building eleven churches and two chapels, translating service books into the Czech language. He paid particular attention to the Carpatho-Rusyns in the eastern part of the Czech Republic who were also returning to the Orthodox Faith of their ancestors. In that region, in 1934 he took part in the 20th anniversary commemoration of the Marmarosh-Sigotsky trial. This trial occurred in 1914 when 94 Carpatho-Rusyn Orthodox, together with their priest, Saint Alexis Kabaluk, were tried for treason for renouncing the Greek Catholic Faith and embracing Orthodoxy.

For twenty years, the bishop faithfully cared for his flock as a good shepherd. He remained faithful to the Orthodox Faith despite attempts by many Catholics to persuade him to renounce Orthodoxy. When many Roman Catholic priests rose up against him, the Catholic Bishop Stoian said, “Leave Pavlik alone, you are not worthy to tie his laces, it would be good if everyone were like Pavlik.”

When the German Nazis invaded and conquered Czechoslovakia in 1938, the Orthodox Church was placed under the Orthodox metropolitan of Berlin, Germany, Metropolitan Seraphim (Liade). The German ruler of Czechoslovakia, Reinhard Heydrich, was assassinated on May 27, 1942 by a group of Czech resistance fighters who then were allowed to hide in the crypt of Saints Cyril and Methodius Orthodox Cathedral. When Bishop Gorazd learned of this he realized what great danger he and his flock were in if the Nazis uncovered this hiding place. Before leaving for Berlin to take part in the consecration of Father Philip Gardner as a bishop, he insisted that the resistance fighters leave the Cathedral and find another place of refuge. But on June 18, the hiding place was revealed after a betrayal and torture, and all members of the group were killed.

The Nazis immediately began massive reprisals. The two Cathedral priests and senior lay officials were arrested. Bishop Gorazd, trying to save his people and his church from destruction, wrote letters to the Nazi authorities taking the blame for the actions in the Cathedral, in which he stated, “I am giving myself up to the authorities and am prepared to face any punishment, including death.”

Bishop Gorazd was arrested on June 27, 1942, tortured and executed by firing squad at the Kobylisz Shooting Range on September 4. He was 63 years old. The two Cathedral priests were also shot. Along with the priests and bishop, a total of 550 people were executed by the Nazis in reprisal for the assassination. In one particularly heinous act, the entire village of Lidice was exterminated. All of the men were executed, the women and children placed in labor camps, and all village dwellings destroyed. Following the martyrdom of the bishop, the Orthodox Church in Bohemia and Moravia was suppressed and all churches closed. Orthodox priests were exiled to forced labor camps in Germany.

Because Bishop Gorazd willingly laid down his life in order to protect his flock, he was recognized by the Orthodox Church of Serbia as a new martyr on May 4, 1961. On August 24, 1987 he was glorified in the Cathedral of Saint Gorazd in Olomouc, Moravia. His feast day is observed on the day of his martyrdom, September 4. Today, at the site of his martyrdom at the Kobylisz Shooting Range, a monument has been erected in his memory and those others who suffered at the hands of the Nazis.

Father Edward Pehanich
Posted with permission, the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese, Johnstown, PA

Hieromartyr Babylas, Bishop of Antioch, and those with him

The Hieromartyr Babylas and with him the three youths Urban, Prilidian, Epolonius and their mother Christodoula died as martyrs under the emperor Decius (249-251). During his stay in their city of Antioch, the emperor arranged for a large festival in honor of the pagan gods.

At the same time, Babylas, the holy and God-fearing Bishop of Antioch, was serving the Divine Liturgy in church. He prayed for his flock and taught them to endure all tribulations for Christ with courage. The idolater Decius, curious to witness the Divine Mysteries, decided to enter the church.

News of this reached the bishop, so he went out to meet Decius and blocked the path to the church, for he was unwilling to permit impiety in the temple of God. When the emperor approached the church doors, Saint Babylas refused to let him enter, so the emperor had to abandon his intention. He wanted to take revenge on the saint right away, but when he saw the large throng of Christians, he feared they might riot.

The next day the angry emperor ordered that the church be set on fire, and for Bishop Babylas to be brought before him. When asked why he had insulted the imperial dignity by not allowing the emperor to enter the church, the holy bishop answered, “Anyone who would rise up against God and want to desecrate His sanctuary, is not worthy of respect, but has become the enemy of the Lord.”

Decius declared that the holy bishop must worship the idols in order to make up for his lack of respect for the emperor, or else face execution. After convincing himself that the martyr would remain steadfast in his faith, he commanded the military commander Victorinus to put him in heavy chains and lead him through the city in disgrace. The holy martyr replied, “Emperor, these chains are as venerable for me as your imperial crown is for you. For me, suffering for Christ is as desirable as the imperial power is for you. Death for the Immortal King is as precious to me as your life is to you.”

At the trial with Bishop Babylas were three young brothers, who did not forsake him even in this most difficult moment. Seeing them, the emperor asked, “Who are these children? “

“These are my spiritual children,” the saint replied, “and I have raised them in piety, I have given them an education, cultivated them with guidance, and here before you in a small body are these great young men and perfect Christians. Test them and see.”

The emperor tried in all sorts of ways to entice the youths and their mother Christodoula to renounce Christ, but in vain. Then, in a rage, he ordered each of them to be whipped with a number of blows corresponding to their age. The first received twelve blows, the second, ten, and the third, seven. Dismissing the mother and children, the torturer again summoned the bishop, telling him that the children had renounced Christ. He did not believe the lie, however.

Then he commanded all the martyrs be tied to a tree and burned with fire. Seeing the stoic bravery of the saints, the emperor finally condemned them to be beheaded with the sword.

Holy Prophet and God-seer Moses

The Holy Prophet and God-Seer Moses was of the tribe of Levi, the son of Abram and Jochabed (Exodus 6:20). His life is described in the Bible (Exodus 2 through Deuteronomy 34:12).

Moses was born in Egypt around 1689 B.C. When Pharaoh ordered all male children of the Hebrew slaves to be killed (Exodus 1:22), Moses’ mother placed him in a basket of papyrus coated with pitch, and set him adrift on the Nile. Pharaoh’s daughter found him and raised him as her own son.

At the age of eighty, Moses fled to Midian, where he spoke to God in the Burning Bush on Mt. Horeb (Exodus 3:2). God chose Moses to lead His people from the slavery of Egypt. They crossed the Red Sea as if it were dry land, and for forty years they wandered in the desert.

Arriving in the land of Moab, Moses went to the top of Mt. Nabau, or Nebo (Deuteronomy 32:49), which is called Phasga (Deut. 34:1). There, according to the will of God, he died in 1569 B.C. at the age of 120 without entering the Promised Land.

The first two Biblical Odes are attributed to Moses: “Let us sing to the Lord...” (Exodus 15:1-9), which was sung on the shores of the Red Sea after the Hebrews had crossed it. “Attend, O heaven...” (Deut. 32:1-43) was sung in the land of Moab, a few days before Moses’ death. He is also regarded as the author of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament).

The holy Prophet Moses performed many miracles during his lifetime, and also after his death. He appeared on Tabor with the Prophet Elias at the Transfiguration of the Lord (August 6).

On the day that Saint John of the Ladder (March 30) was installed as abbot of Mt. Sinai, the Prophet Moses was seen going around and giving orders to the cooks, stewards, and servants. When the guests had gone and the monks were sitting at table, they wondered what had become of the stranger who had been giving orders. Saint John said, “Our Lord Moses does nothing strange by serving in the place which belongs to him.”

Uncovering of the relics of Saint Joasaph, Bishop of Belgorod

Saint Joasaph was born at Proluka, in the former Poltava governance, on September 8, 1705, the Feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos. He was descended from the old and venerable Little Russian (Ukrainian) lineage of the Gorlenkovi. At Baptism he was named Joachim.

In 1712, his father enrolled the seven-year-old Joachim in the Kiev Spiritual Academy. Within the walls of the academy he felt attracted to monastic life.For seven years he studied it further, and finally revealed his intention to his parents.

For a long time his mother and father pleaded with their first-born son not to accept monastic tonsure. But in 1725, unknown to them, he became a “rasophore” (“robe-wearing novice”) with the name Hilarion at the Kiev Mezhigorsk monastery, and on 21 November 1727 he was tonsured in the mantya with the name Joasaph at the Kievo-Bratsk monastery. This event coincided with the completion of his studies at the spiritual academy.

After the death of His Grace Barlaam, the See of Kiev was governed by Archbishop Raphael Zaborovsky. Archbishop Raphael noticed the abilities of the young ascetic and assigned him to greater service to the Church. He was entrusted with the responsibility of the office of examiner of the Kiev archbishopric.

In November 1734, Archbishop Raphael ordained the hierodeacon Joasaph as hieromonk, and he was transferred from the Bratsk monastery school to the Kiev-Sophia archbishop’s house. At the same time, he was appointed a member of the Kiev religious consistory.

In fulfilling the office of examiner, he exerted much effort towards the correction of moral deficiencies among the parish clergy. The saint’s service in the consistory office enabled him to develop his administrative abilities. During this time, he made a good study of the needs of clergy-servers, noting both the good points and the failings of the diocese. His talent for administration was combined with his great spiritual effort. He quickly ascended the ladder of spiritual perfection, which can be seen in his work, “The Conflict of the Seven Venerable Virtues with the Seven Deadly Sins.”

On June 24, 1737 Hieromonk Joasaph was appointed head of the Holy Transfiguration Mgarsk monastery, and elevated to the rank of igumen. Here he worked with all his strength to put the monastery in good order, for it was an old bastion of Orthodoxy in the struggle with the Unia. In this monastery were relics of Saint Athanasius, Patriarch of Constantinople and Wonderworker of Lubny (May 2). Several times Saint Athanasius appeared to Igumen Joasaph, as a sign of his patronal protection.

In 1744 Metropolitan Raphael elevated Igumen Joasaph to the dignity of archimandrite. Towards the end of that same year he was called to Moscow and soon, at the direction of the Most Holy Synod, he was appointed vicar of the Holy Trinity Sergiev Lavra monastery. At this monastery of Saint Sergius he also unstintingly fulfilled obedience to the Church (this year required much exertion for the rebuilding of the monastery after a fire).

On June 2, 1748 at the Peter and Paul cathedral in Peterburg, Archimandrite Joasaph was ordained Bishop of Belgorod. Ascending the archbishop’s throne, Saint Joasaph strictly concerned himself with piety and the condition of the churches, with the proper celebration of divine services, and especially with the moral condition of his flock.

The saint devoted great attention to the education of the clergy, and the correct observance of churchly norms and traditions. Just as before, the saint worked with all his strength in his archpastoral service, without regard for his health.

On the eve of his repose, the saint forbade his cell attendant Stephen to aspire to the priesthood, and he predicted that if he did not obey him, he would meet with an untimely end. To another cell attendant Basil, the saint indicated that he would be a deacon, but would never become a priest. Later, this prediction was fulfilled. Saint Joasaph died on December 10, 1754, and was glorified on September 4, 1911.

Martyr Hermione, daughter of Saint Philip the Deacon

The Holy Martyr Hermione was a daughter of Saint Philip the Deacon (October 11). Wishing to see the holy Apostle John the Theologian, Hermione with her sister Eutychia went to Asia Minor in search of the saint. During their journey, they learned the saint had died. Continuing on, the sisters met a disciple of Saint Paul named Petronius, and imitating him in everything, they became his disciples. Saint Hermione, having mastered the healing arts, rendered help to many Christians and healed the sick by the power of Christ.

During this period, the emperor Trajan (98-117) waged war against the Persians and he came with his army through the village where the saint lived. When they accused Hermione of being a Christian, he gave orders to bring her to him.

At first the emperor, with casual admonitions, sought to persuade the saint to renounce Christ. When this did not succeed, he commanded that she should be struck on the face for several hours, but she joyfully endured this suffering. Moreover, she was comforted by a vision of the Lord, in the form of Petronius, sitting upon the throne of judgment. Convincing himself that she was steadfast in her faith, Trajan sent her away. Hermione later built a hospice in which she took in the sick, treating their infirmities both of body and soul.

Trajan’s successor, Hadrian, again commanded that the saint be brought to trial for confessing the Christian Faith. At first, the emperor commanded that she be beaten mercilessly, then they pierced the soles of her feet with nails, and finally they threw her into a cauldron with boiling tar, lead and sulphurous brimstone. The saint bore everything, giving thanks to God.

And the Lord granted her His mercy: the fire went out, the lead spilled out, and the saint remained unharmed. Hadrian in surprise went up to the place of torture and touched at the cauldron, to ascertain whether it had cooled. When he touched at the cauldron, he burned the skin on his hand, but even this did not dissuade the torturer.

He gave orders to heat a sort of skillet and put the holy martyr in it naked. Here again another miracle took place. An angel of the Lord scattered the hot coals and burned many who stood by the fire. The saint stood in the skillet, as though on green grass, singing hymns of praise to the Lord.

When she was removed from the skillet, the holy martyr seemed to be willing to offer sacrifice to the pagan god Hercules. The delighted emperor gave orders to take her off to the temple. When the saint prayed to God, a loud thunderclap was heard, and all the idols in the pagan temple fell and shattered.

In a rage, the emperor ordered that Hermione be led out of the city and beheaded. Two servants, Theodulus and Theotimos, were entrusted to carry out the execution. Since they were in such a hurry to execute the saint, not allowing her time for prayer, their hands withered. Then they believed in Jesus Christ and with repentance they fell at the feet of Saint Hermione. They besought her to pray that the Lord would call them to Himself before her. This is what transpired, through her prayers. After this, she also fell asleep in the Lord.

Martyr Babylas of Nicomedia and 84 children with him

The Martyr Babylas and 84 disciples with him suffered in the city of Nicomedia for confessing Christianity during the reign of the emperor Maximian (284-305). The emperor, who was then in Nicomedia, renewed the persecution against Christians.

Like many other believers, Saint Babylas was denounced as someone who was instructing children in Christian piety. When Babylas was brought before the emperor, and after his confession of faith in the true God, he was given over to many torments.

During his sufferings the holy martyr cried to God, “I thank You, O Lord, that You have made me, who am old and infirm, to be young and strong.” After being pelted with stones, he was clapped in irons and they took him to prison.

Then the saint ‘s young disciples were brought before the emperor. Neither flattery nor promise of gifts were able to alter the Christian convictions of the children. Two of them, Ammonias and Donatus, firmly declared, “We are Christians, and we will not offer sacrifice to deaf and dumb devils.”

The emperor flew into a rage over the unexpected and firm rebuke from the children. At first, he ordered them to be whipped, and later to be put to death by beheading, together with their teacher. On the way to execution, the holy Martyr Babylas quoted Isaiah, “Behold, I and the children which God has given me” (Isaiah 8:18). With spiritual rejoicing, first Saint Babylas, and then his 84 disciples, received the crown of martyrdom.

Martyrs Theodore, Mianus, Julian, Kion, and Centurionus, of Nicomedia

The Holy Martyrs Theodore, Mianus (Ammianus), Julian and Kion (Oceanus) lived during the reign of Maximian (284-305)and were from the village of Quandababa (near Nicomedia). For confessing faith in Christ they were arrested and given over to torture.

At first their bodies were torn with sharp iron hooks, and then they were locked into a hot and flooded bath-house. The doors were locked and sealed with the imperial signet ring so that they should not escape. An angel of the Lord freed them, however.

Soldiers arrested the martyrs again and led them outside the city for execution. The saints at their request were given time for prayer, and then they surrendered their souls to the Lord. Their bodies were hacked into pieces and thrown into a fire.

“Unburnt Bush” Icon of the Mother of God

The “Unburnt Bush” Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos is based on the miracle witnessed by Moses in the Old Testament. In Chapter 3 of Exodus God calls Moses on Mt. Horeb from the midst of a bush which “was burning, yet it was not consumed” (Ex. 3:2). Moses is informed that he will lead the Hebrews out of their slavery in Egypt, and then God tells him His name, “I am Who I am” (Ex. 3:14).

The Church has always regarded the Unburnt Bush on Horeb as a type of the Most Holy Theotokos giving birth to the Savior Christ, while remaining a Virgin. This imagery is to be found in the Church’s hymnography (for example, the Dogmatikon at Saturday Vespers in Tone 2), and also in iconography.

One of the earliest depictions of the Mother of God as the Unburnt Bush shows her holding her divine Son in the midst of a burning bush. Moses is shown to one side, removing his sandals, for that place was holy (Ex. 3:5).

Most icons now depict the bush in a symbolic fashion. There are two overlapping diamonds: one red (representing the fire), the other green (representing the bush), forming an eight pointed star. The Theotokos is shown in the center.

In the four corners of the green diamond are the symbols of the four Evangelists: a man (Saint Matthew), a lion (Saint Mark), an ox (Saint Luke), and an eagle (Saint John). These symbols are derived from Ezekiel 1:10 and Revelation 4:7. Archangels are depicted in the four corners of the red diamond.

The design of the icon has become more complex over time. Now we can see archangels, Moses and the burning bush (Ex. 3:2), Isaiah and the seraphim with the burning coal (Is. 6:7), Ezekiel and the gate through which only the Lord may enter (Ez. 44:2), and Jacob with the ladder (Gen. 28:12). The Theotokos is shown holding Jacob’s ladder which leads from earth to heaven. Sometimes the Root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1) is shown in the center of the icon’s lower border.

There is an old story about a fire which was consuming several wooden buildings. In the midst of the fire an old woman stood in front of her house holding an icon of the “Unburnt Bush.” A witness happened to see her there, and marveled at her faith. The next day he returned to the spot and was astonished to see the old woman’s home completely unscathed by the fire, while all the other houses around it were destroyed. This may explain why the Mother of God, through her Icon of the Unburnt Bush, is regarded as the protector of homes from fire.

It is believed that the earliest icons of the Unburnt Bush originated at Saint Catherine’s Monastery on Mt. Sinai.

Second finding of the relics of Saint Metrophanes, Bishop of Voronezh

The Second finding of the relics of Saint Metrophanes of Voronezh took place in 1989. On March 22, 1998 Patriarch Alexei II of Moscow gave his blessing for the celebration of this Feast.

Hieromartyr Peter, Metropolitan of Serbia

No information available at this time.

Hieromartyr Peter, Metropolitan of Dabro-Bosnia

No information available at this time.

Venerable Parthenius, Igumen of Kiziltachsk

No information available at this time.

Venerable Simeon the Wonderworker

Saint Simeon was raised at Davit-Gareji Monastery. He labored as a simple monk until he reached an advanced age, and was chosen to be abbot. Outstanding in virtue and humility, Saint Simeon was endowed by the Lord with the ability to work miracles.

Once Saint Simeon became deathly ill and lay lifeless for more than an hour. Then, by Divine Providence, he arose and distributed all of his possessions to the fathers of the monastery to keep him in remembrance.

When Saint Serapion heard about this miracle, he hastened to Abbot Simeon, his spiritual father, and, enlightened with prophetic grace, comforted him: “O honorable Father, give me your holy hands that I may kiss them. How I desire for these hands to bury the dust of my worthless body—but now you are departing this world ahead of me. You will go, Father, but without you I will not remain long on this earth; soon I will follow after you!”

So the fathers bade him farewell for the last time.

Saint Simeon settled his affairs at the monastery, and in 1773 he reposed in peace, exactly one week after he had recovered from his deathly illness.