From September 15 until the Leavetaking, we sing “O come, let us worship and fall down before Christ. O son of God crucified in the flesh, save us who sing to Thee: Alleluia” at weekday Liturgies following the Little Entrance.
The Holy Great Martyr Euphemia the All-Praised was the daughter of Christians, the senator Philophronos and Theodosia. She suffered for Christ in the year 304 in the city of Chalcedon, on the banks of the Bosphorus opposite Constantinople.
The Chalcedon governor Priscus circulated an order to all the inhabitants of Chalcedon and its surroundings to appear at a pagan festival to worship and offer sacrifice to an idol of Ares, threatening grave torments for anyone who failed to appear. During this impious festival, 49 Christians were hidden in one house, where they secretly attended services to the True God.
The young maiden Euphemia was also among those praying there. Soon the hiding place of the Christians was discovered, and they were brought before Priscus to answer for themselves. For nineteen days the martyrs were subjected to various tortures and torments, but none of them wavered in their faith nor consented to offer sacrifice to the idol. The governor, beside himself with rage and not knowing any other way of forcing the Christians to abandon their faith, sent them for trial to the emperor Diocletian. He kept the youngest, the virgin Euphemia, hoping that she would not remain strong if she were all alone.
Saint Euphemia, separated from her brethren in faith, fervently prayed the Lord Jesus Christ, that He strengthen her in her impending ordeal. Priscus at first urged the saint to recant, promising her earthly blessings, but then he gave the order to torture her.
The martyr was tied to a wheel with sharp knives, which cut her body. The saint prayed aloud, and as it happened, the wheel stopped by itself and would not move even with all the efforts of the executioners. An angel of the Lord, came down from Heaven, removed Euphemia from the wheel and healed her of her wounds. The saint gave thanks unto the Lord with gladness.
Not perceiving the miracle that had occurred, the torturer ordered the soldiers Victor and Sosthenes to take the saint to a red-hot oven. But the soldiers, seeing two fearsome angels in the midst of the flames, refused to carry out the order of the governor and became believers in the God Whom Euphemia worshipped. Boldly proclaiming that they too were Christians, Victor and Sosthenes bravely went to suffering. They were sent to be eaten by wild beasts. During their execution, they cried out for mercy to God, asking that the Lord would receive them into the Heavenly Kingdom. A heavenly Voice answered their cries, and they entered into eternal life. The beasts, however, did not even touch their bodies.
Saint Euphemia, cast into the fire by other soldiers, remained unharmed. With the help of God she emerged unharmed after many other tortures and torments. Ascribing this to sorcery, the governor gave orders to dig out a new pit, and filling it with knives, he had it covered over with earth and grass, so that the martyr would not notice the preparation for her execution.
Here also Saint Euphemia remained safe, easily passing over the pit. Finally, they sentenced her to be devoured by wild beasts at the circus. Before execution the saint began to implore that the Lord deem her worthy to die a violent death. But none of the beasts, set loose at her in the arena, attacked her. Finally, one of the she-bears gave her a small wound on the leg, from which came blood, and immediately the holy Great Martyr Euphemia died. During this time there was an earthquake, and both the guards and the spectators ran in terror, so that the parents of the saint were able to take up her body and reverently bury it not far from Chalcedon.
A majestic church was afterwards built over the grave of the Great Martyr Euphemia. At this temple the sessions of the Fourth Ecumenical Council took place in the year 451. At that time, the holy Great Martyr Euphemia confirmed the Orthodox confession in a miraculous manner, and exposed the Monophysite heresy. Details of this miracle are related under July 11.
With the taking of Chalcedon by the Persians in the year 617, the relics of the holy Great Martyr Euphemia were transferred to Constantinople (in about the year 620). During the Iconoclast heresy, the reliquary with the relics of Saint Euphemia appears to have been thrown into the sea. Pious sailors recovered them. They were afterwards taken to the Island of Lemnos, and in the year 796 they were returned to Constantinople.
Saint Cyprian, Metropolitan of Kiev and All Russia, was a Serb by origin, and struggled on Mt. Athos. By his pious life and education he came to the attention of Patriarch Philotheus of Constantinople (1354-1355, 1364-1376), who in 1375 consecrated Cyprian as Metropolitan of Kiev and Lithuania.
At the Constantinople Council it was decided to avoid a fragmentation of the Russian metropolia, and that “upon the death of Saint Alexis (February 12), he should become the Metropolitan of All Rus.” At Moscow, Saint Cyprian endured many sorrows from the Great Prince, so at first he lived either in Lithuania or at Constantinople. Only in the year 1390, in the time of Great Prince Basil Dimitrievich, was he accepted as primate at Moscow.
Saint Cyprian concerned himself with the correction of the service books. There are preserved autographic manuscripts of certain Slavonic translations by the saint, witnessing to his great scientific work. And by his pastoral epistles he encouraged the faith of the Church. His activity in the translation of liturgical literature is widely known.
The Holy Martyr Sebastiana was a follower of the holy Apostle Paul. During a persecution against Christians under the emperor Dometian (81-96), she was on trial as a Christian before the governor named Georgios in the city of Marcianopolis in the Mizea region.
Saint Sebastiana firmly confessed her faith in Christ, and for this she was subjected to cruel tortures. At first they beat her, and then they threw her into a red-hot oven, from which she emerged unharmed. They sent the saint to the city of Heraklea, where sentence was pronounced on her a second time.
The governor, named Pompian, gave orders to tie the saint to a tree and lacerate her body with roof-tiles. The martyr remained unbroken in her faith. Then the governor gave her to be eaten by wild beasts. There too, the Lord preserved the holy martyr, and the beasts refused to touch her. Then, by order of the governor, Saint Sebastiana was beheaded. Her body, thrown into the sea, was taken by angels to the island of Rhodes (in Thrace, in the Sea of Marmara).
The Holy Martyr Melitina lived in the city of Marcianopolis in Thrace during the rule of the emperor Antoninus Pius ((138-161). She was a fervent Christian, and the Lord blessed her with the gift of wonderworking. By the power of her prayers she shattered the idols of Apollo and Herakles.
Her fiery preaching converted many pagans to Christ. Antiochus, the governor of the city of Marcianopolis, ordered that she be tortured, since this holy woman could not be persuaded to deny Christ. She was handed over to the governor’s women who tried to convert her by flattery and kindness. Not only was Saint Melitina not deceived or softened by their efforts, but she made Christians of the governor’s women. When the governor learned of this, he had Saint Melitina brought to trial, and sentenced her to be beheaded.
A Christian named Acacius reverently took the martyr’s body with the intention of burying her in his homeland of Macedonia. During the voyage, however, Acacius fell sick and died. The ship stopped at the island of Limnos, where the body of Saint Melitina was buried. The martyr-loving Acacius was laid to rest beside her grave.
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Saint Dorotheus, Egyptian Hermit, a native of the Thebaid region in Egypt, labored in asceticism for 60 years in the Skete desert, on the Western side of the River Nile. Palladius, Bishop of Helenopolis and author of the renowned LAUSIAC HISTORY, had been a disciple of Saint Dorotheus in his youth, and has preserved memories of him.
Saint Dorotheus led a austere and ascetic life. After finishing his prayers, he went into the noonday heat to gather stones along the seashore to build cells for the other hermits. By night the saint wove baskets, in exchange for which he received the supplies he needed in order to live.
Food for Saint Dorotheus consisted of bread and the meager grass in the wilderness. Once a day he partook of food and drank a little water. He did not lie down to sleep, but only dozed off sometimes at work, or after eating.
Once, Saint Dorotheus sent his disciple to fetch water, but he returned saying that he saw a snake in the well and that the water in the well was now poisoned. Saint Dorotheus went to the well himself, took up a ladle of water, and making the Sign of the Cross over it he drank it, saying: “Where the Cross is, there the demonic powers do no harm.” Saint Dorotheus died peacefully at an advanced age.
The Holy Martyr Ludmilla, a Czech (Bohemian) princess, was married to the Czech prince Borivoy. Both spouses received holy Baptism from Saint Methodius, Archbishop of Moravia and Enlightener of the Slavs (Comm. 11 May).
As Christians, they showed concern for the enlightening of their subjects with the light of the true Faith, they built churches and invited priests to celebrate the divine services. Prince Borivoy died early at age 36. Saint Ludmilla, as a widow, led an austere, pious life and continued to be concerned for the Church during the reign of her son Bratislav, which lasted for 33 years.
Bratislav was married to Dragomira, with whom he had a son, Wenceslaus (Vyacheslav). After the death of Bratislav, eighteen-year-old Wenceslaus came on the throne. Taking advantage of the inexperience and youth of her son, Dragomira began to introduce pagan manners and customs in the country.
Saint Ludmilla, of course, opposed this. Dragomira came to hate her mother-in-law and tried to destroy her. When Saint Ludmilla moved away to the city of Techin, Dragomira sent two boyars in secret to murder her. Saint Ludmilla was praying at the time, and the two assassins entered the house and carried out Dragomira’s orders.
The relics of the holy Martyr Ludmilla were buried in Techin in the city wall. Numerous healings occurred at her grave. Prince Vyacheslav transferred the body of Saint Ludmilla to the city of Prague and placed it in the church of Saint George.
The holy martyrs Isaac and Joseph the Georgians were born into a Muslim family, but their Georgian mother, a Christian, secretly raised them according to the Christian tradition.
The brothers were so firmly dedicated to the Faith that they journeyed to Byzantium to request that Emperor Nicephorus I Phocas (802-811) permit them to settle in his capital. The pious ruler extended a warm welcome to the brothers, who were already well known and respected by the nobility of Theodosiopolis (Karnu).
Learning of the brothers’ intention, the emir of Theodosiopolis demanded to know the reason for their journey to Constantinople. The brothers answered him openly, citing their Christian Faith as the reason for their journey. Hearing this, the emir was infuriated, but he did not want to kill the brothers, since they were deeply respected by the people of his city. Instead he resolved to convert them from the Christian Faith.
Isaac and Joseph’s elderly father tearfully pleaded with them to deny Christ, while the emir promised them every honor and reward for betraying Him, and terrible suffering and death in the case of their refusal. But the holy brothers answered the emir, saying, “Remember that the flesh is like grass and every glory of this earth is like a flower that grows in the grass. When the grass withers, the flower also dies (c.f. Isaiah 40:6-7). Your threats of torture and death are for us rather absurd, for neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:38-9).”
The young men’s boldness enraged the emir, and he ordered his servants to execute them.
Before the holy brothers gave up their souls, they knelt to the ground and prayed: “O Holy King and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, look down upon Thy servants with mercy and receive us as a holy sacrifice. Number us among Thy martyrs and make us worthy of the crown of righteousness, for every good and perfect gift is from above and comes down from Thee, the Father of lights (c.f. James 1:17)!”
Then they bowed their necks beneath the sword.
The executioners chopped off their heads, leaving their bodies untouched. That night their holy remains shone with a radiant light.
This miracle frightened the godless persecutors, and they ordered the local Christians to bury the holy martyrs’ remains. The local bishop and clergy committed their bodies to the earth with great reverence.
A church was later erected over the place where Saints Isaac and Joseph were laid to rest.
The Icon of the Mother of God, “Support of the Humble”, appeared in 1420 at Stony Lake near Pskov. That same year, on September 16, it was transferred to Pskov and placed in the cathedral church. Today’s celebration was established in memory of the transfer of this wonderworking icon.
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Saint Procopius was born in Bohemia, in the village of Hotun. In his dignity of priest he toiled much to spread the Christian Faith in Czechia. By the River Zasava he founded a monastery in the name of Saint John the Forerunner, where he died in the year 1053.