Lives of all saints commemorated on April 19

Venerable John of the Ancient Caves in Palestine

Saint John of the Ancient Caves is so called because he lived during the eighth century in the Lavra of Saint Chariton (September 28). This was called the “Old,” or ancient cave, since it was one the oldest of the Palestinian monasteries. The Lavra was situated not far from Bethlehem, near the Dead Sea.

Saint John in his early years left the world, went to venerate the holy places of Jerusalem, and settled at the Lavra, where he labored in fasting, vigil, and prayer. He was ordained to the holy priesthood, and glorified by his ascetic life.

Martyrs Christopher, Theonas, and Anthony, at Rome

The Holy Martyrs Christopher, Theonas, and Anthony were officers in the army of the emperor Diocletian (284-305). They were present at the sufferings of the Holy Great Martyr George (April 23), they saw the miracles accomplished by the power of God, and they witnessed Saint George’s faith and unshakable courage.

The soldiers came to believe in the Savior, threw down their golden military belts, and declared themselves Christians in front of the emperor. They were immediately thrown into prison. The next day the emperor urged the former soldiers to renounce Christ, but they firmly confessed their faith and glorified the Savior as the true God.

The emperor ordered that the martyrs be beaten with iron rods, and their bodies to be raked with hooks. The holy martyrs endured all the torments and remained unyielding. Then Diocletian gave orders to burn them. The martyric death of Saints Christopher, Theonas, and Anthony occurred in the year 303.

Hieromartyr Paphnutius of Jerusalem

Hieromartyr Paphnutius of Jerusalem was a bishop. He underwent many sufferings from the pagans and was tortured by fire, wild beasts, and finally was beheaded by the sword.

Some suggest that the hieromartyr Paphnutius was an Egyptian bishop and suffered together with many other Egyptians, exiled to the Palestinian mines during the persecution by Diocletian (284-305).

The myrrh-streaming relics of the hieromartyr were glorified by miracles. The Canon in his honor was composed during the Iconoclast period (before 842). In the final Ode is a petition for the hieromartyr to put an end to the heresy disrupting the Church.

Saint George the Confessor and Bishop of Antioch, in Pisidia

Saint George the Confessor, Bishop of Antioch in Pisidia, lived during the Iconoclast period. In his youth he became a monk, was known for his holiness of life and was made bishop of Antioch in Pisidia.

Saint George was at Constantinople during the iconoclastic persecution under Emperor Leo the Armenian (813-820). He denounced the Iconoclast heresy at a Council of bishops, calling on the emperor to abandon it. When Saint George refused to remove the icons from the church, as ordered by the emperor’s decree, he was exiled to imprisonment (813-820).

Saint Tryphon, Patriarch of Constantinople

Saint Tryphon, Patriarch of Constantinople, was a monk from the time of his youth, distinguished by his meekness, lack of malice, full submission to the will of God, and his firm faith and love for the Church. At this time the emperor Romanus (919-944) ruled in Constantinople. He wanted to elevate his younger son Theophylactus to the patriarchal throne. When Patriarch Stephanos (925-928) died, Theophylactus was only sixteen years old. The emperor then suggested that Saint Tryphon be “locum tenens” of the patriarchal throne until Theophylactus came of age.

Saint Tryphon meekly accepted the burden of patriarchal service and for three years he wisely governed the Church. When Theophylactus turned twenty (931), the emperor told Saint Tryphon to resign the patriarchal throne. Saint Tryphon did not consider it proper to hand over the throne to an inexperienced youth, and he refused to do so. The emperor could not intimidate Saint Tryphon, since his life was blameless. Then Romanus employed the cunning counsels of Bishop Theophilus of Caesarea.

The deceitful bishop went to Saint Tryphon and urged him not to obey the emperor, and not to resign the patriarchal throne. Then Bishop Theophilus craftily obtained Saint Tryphon’s signature on a blank sheet of paper. Not suspecting any treachery, the guileless saint took a clean sheet of paper and wrote: “Tryphon, by the Mercy of God, Archbishop of Constantinople, the New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch.”

When they presented this paper to the emperor, he ordered them to write over the saint’s signature: “I hereby resign the position of Patriarch, because I consider myself unworthy of this office.” When this false document was read before the imperial dignitaries, servants removed Saint Tryphon from the patriarchal chambers.

Saint Tryphon patiently endured the injustice done to him, and returned to his own monastery. He lived there as a simple monk for a year before his death (+ 933). His body was taken to Constantinople and buried with the Patriarchs.

Venerable Nicephorus, Abbot of Catabad

Saint Nicephorus was born at Constantinople into a rich and illustrious family. His parents, Andrew and Theodora, raised their son in the Christian Faith. After their death, young Nicephorus distributed all his wealth to the poor and went to Chalcedon. The strict monastic life at the Monastery of Saint Andrew appealed to Nicephorus, and he remained there with the brethren.

From the very start, the saint displayed unusual fervor in prayer and at work. He had such endurance in asceticism, that soon the igumen sent the saint to a Phoenician island to preach Christ, and he was made igumen of a monastery dedicated to the Most Holy Theotokos.

Saint Nicephorus lived on the island for thirty-three years, and he brought many pagans to Christ. A church was built on the island on the site of a pagan temple.

Sensing the approach of death, the saint was carried aboard a ship and said to the captain, “I am going to the Lord, but take my body to Chalcedon to the monastery of Saint Andrew.” As soon as he said these words, he died.

The ship sailed to Chalcedon, and the brethren of the monastery of Saint Andrew reverently buried the body of the holy ascetic.

Monastic Martyr Agathangelus of Esphigmenou, Mount Athos

The Monkmartyr Agathangelus, in the world Athanasius, was born in the city of Enos, Thrace, and was raised in a strict Orthodox family. After the death of his parents Constantine and Krystalia, he became a sailor. The Turks wanted to convert the skilled and intelligent youth to Islam, but knew that he would not do so of his own free will. So they arrested him in the city of Smyrna, wounded him and threatened him with death, then demanded that he become a Moslem.

The youth was terrified and promised to do as they asked, hoping to escape from the bullies and then go back on his promise. However, he was unable to do this for a long time. Tormented by pangs of conscience, he was able to quit the city and seek refuge on Mount Athos. Igumen Euthymius of Esphigmenou monastery confessed him and blessed him to become a novice.

Saint Athanasius considered even his most intense efforts insufficient to atone for his sin of apostasy. He believed that he had to suffer martyrdom for Christ, and he began to pray about this.

On the fourth Sunday of Great Lent the nineteen-year-old youth was tonsured as a monk with the name Agathangelus.

Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker appeared to the new monk in a dream and promised to help him. The igumen of the monastery saw this as a special sign, and blessed Saint Agathangelus to bear witness to Christ at Smyrna before those who forced him to become a Moslem.

In the Ottoman courtroom the confessor told how they had compelled him to accept an alien faith. Then he publicly renounced Islam and confessed himself a Christian. They began to cajole and admonish Saint Agathangelus to reconsider his statement. He replied, “I will not give in to you, nor to your threats, nor to your promises. I love only Christ, I follow only Christ, only in my Christ do I hope to know happiness.”

The judge threatened him with death by torture. “I am prepared to endure all for my Christ! I accept every manner of torment with the greatest joy! I ask only that you do not tarry in carrying out your word,” the saint replied.

They bound Saint Agathangelus with heavy chains, hammered his feet into wooden boots, and threw him into prison. With him were two other wrongly condemned Christians. One of them, Nicholas, gave an account of the saint’s martyrdom.

On the following day, Saint Agathangelus was again brought before the judge in fetters. Bravely enduring all the torments which the Turks had readied for him, he again was sent to prison. Nicholas told him that a certain influential man would intervene before the judge for his release, but Saint Agathangelus wrote a note to this man asking that he not attempt to free him, but to pray to God that he be strengthened for martyrdom.

The saint readied himself for the final trial. At midnight, it was revealed to him in a vision that they would execute him no later than five o’clock, and he waited for the appointed hour. At about the fourth hour, a watch was placed over him. Seeing no possibility of converting the confessor from his faith in Christ, the judges decided to execute him. Absorbed in prayer, the martyr did not take notice the preparations for execution, nor the large throng of people.

He was beheaded at the fifth hour of the morning, on April 19, 1818. Christians gathered up the holy relics of the martyr and buried them in the city of Smyrna, in the church of the Great Martyr George.

A portion of the relics of Saint Agathangelus was sent to the Esphigmenou monastery on Mount Athos in 1844.

Venerable Simeon of Philotheou

Saint Simeon the Bare-Foot [Bosoi] was the son of a priest. When he was fifteen years old, he came under the spiritual guidance of Pachomius, the Bishop of Demetriada (Larissa diocese), who tonsured him and ordained him as hierodeacon. Desiring to follow a strict monastic life, Saint Simeon soon went to a monastery near Mount Olympus, and then to Mount Athos, to the Lavra of Saint Athanasius.

By his humility and obedience he gained the respect of the brethren and was ordained hieromonk. After he transferred to the Philotheou monastery, he intensified his God-pleasing labors, he became an example for the brethren, and was unanimously chosen as head of this monastery. Later, through the cunning of the Enemy of mankind, Saint Simeon had to endure the complaints of monks who thought he was too strict.

Leaving it to God to judge the culprits, Saint Simeon left the monastery and went to Mt. Phlamourion on Mt. Pelion. There, in solitude and quiet, with neither roof nor fire, the holy hermit engaged in spiritual struggles dressed in old clothing, with almost no food, in constant prayer either standing or on bended knees. After three years, he was found by certain God-loving people. Inspired with reverence for his way of life, they begged him to allow them to live with him.

After seven years, through the efforts and zeal of Saint Simeon, a monastery was formed. A church was built in honor of the Most Holy Trinity, where he served the Divine Liturgy every day. When the life of the brethren in the wilderness monastery had been put in order, the wise servant left the monastery and began to preach the Word of God in Epirus, Thessaly and Athens.

By his instructions and teaching the saint strengthened the wavering in their faith, and he set those in error on the path to salvation. He made those who were strong in their faith even stronger, and he taught everyone to love one another, and to attend church on Sundays and feastdays.

The boldness of the holy confessor aroused the malice of the opponents of Christianity. In the city of Euripa they slandered Saint Simeon before the city ruler, Ayan, accusing him of converting a Turk to Christianity. The saint was arrested and sentenced to public burning. However, God did not permit the unjust sentence to be carried out.

The condemned one was led to his interrogation in shackles, barefoot [bosoi] and in an old rassa. Saint Simeon, inspired by the Holy Spirit, answered the governor so wisely that Ayan could not impose the death sentence. The saint received his freedom and continued his efforts, sealing his preaching with healings and miracles.

Many followed Saint Simeon and submitted themselves to him. He accepted everyone, blessed them for the monastic life, and sent them to his monastery.

Saint Simeon ended his life at Constantinople. He fell asleep in the Lord and was buried by the Patriarch at Chalke, in a church dedicated to the Most Holy Theotokos. After two years, when the monks of the Phlamourion monastery decided to transfer his holy relics to their monastery, and his grave was opened, an ineffable fragrance came forth, and healings began.

The Life and the Service to Saint Simeon were published at Smyrna in 1646.