Martyr Justin the Philosopher and those with him at Rome

The Holy Martyr Justin the Philosopher was born around 114 at Sychem, an ancient city of Samaria. Justin’s parents were pagan Greeks. From his childhood the saint displayed intelligence, love for knowledge and a fervent devotion to the knowledge of Truth. When he came of age he studied the various schools of Greek philosophy: the Stoics, the Peripatetics, the Pythagoreans, the Platonists, and he concluded that none of these pagan teachings revealed the way to knowledge of the true God.

Once, when he was strolling in a solitary place beyond the city and pondering about where to seek the way to the knowledge of Truth, he met an old man. In the ensuing conversation he revealed to Justin the essential nature of the Christian teaching and advised him to seek the answers to all the questions of life in the books of Holy Scripture. “But before anything else,” said the holy Elder, “pray diligently to God, so that He might open to you the doors of Light. No one is able to comprehend Truth, unless he is granted understanding from God Himself, Who reveals it to each one who seeks Him in prayer and in love.”

In his thirtieth year, Justin accepted holy Baptism (between the years 133 and 137). From this time Saint Justin devoted his talents and vast philosophical knowledge to preaching the Gospel among the pagans. He began to journey throughout the Roman Empire, sowing the seeds of faith. “Whosoever is able to proclaim Truth and does not proclaim it will be condemned by God,” he wrote.

Justin opened a school of Christian philosophy. Saint Justin subsequently defended the truth of Christian teaching, persuasively confuting pagan sophistry (in a debate with the Cynic philosopher Crescentius) and heretical distortions of Christianity. He also spoke out against the teachings of the Gnostic Marcian.

In the year 155, when the emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161) started a persecution against Christians, Saint Justin personally gave him an Apology in defense of two Christians innocently condemned to execution, Ptolemy and Lucias. The name of the third remains unknown.

In the Apology he demonstrated the falseness of the slander against Christians accused unjustly for merely having the name of Christians. The Apology had such a favorable effect upon the emperor that he ceased the persecution. Saint Justin journeyed, by decision of the emperor, to Asia Minor where they were persecuting Christians with particular severity. He proclaimed the joyous message of the imperial edict throughout the surrounding cities and countryside.

The debate of Saint Justin with the Rabbi Trypho took place at Ephesus. The Orthodox philosopher demonstrated the truth of the Christian teaching of faith on the basis of the Old Testament prophetic writings. Saint Justin gave an account of this debate in his work Dialogue with Trypho the Jew.

A second Apology of Saint Justin was addressed to the Roman Senate. It was written in the year 161, soon after Marcus Aurelius (161-180) ascended the throne.

When he returned to Italy, Saint Justin, like the Apostles, preached the Gospel everywhere, converting many to the Christian Faith. When the saint arrived at Rome, the envious Crescentius, whom Justin always defeated in debate, brought many false accusations against him before the Roman court. Saint Justin was put under guard, subjected to torture and suffered martyrdom in 165. The relics of Saint Justin the Philosopher rest in Rome.

In addition to the above-mentioned works, the following are also attributed to the holy martyr Justin the Philosopher:

1) An Address to the Greeks

2) A Hortatory Address to the Greeks

3) On the Sole Government of God

Saint John of Damascus preserved a significant part of Saint Justin’s On the Resurrection, which has not survived. The church historian Eusebius asserts that Saint Justin wrote books entitled

The Singer

Denunciation of all Existing Heresies and

Against Marcian

In the Russian Church the memory of the martyr is particularly glorified in temples of his name. He is invoked by those who seek help in their studies.

The holy martyrs Justin, Chariton, Euelpistus, Hierax, Peonus, Valerian, Justus and the martyr Charito suffered with Saint Justin the Philosopher in the year 166. They were brought to Rome and thrown into prison. The saints bravely confessed their faith in Christ before the court of the prefect Rusticus. Rusticus asked Saint Justin, whether he really thought that after undergoing tortures he would go to heaven and receive a reward from God. Saint Justin answered, “Not only do I think this, but I know and am fully assured of it.”

The prefect proposed to all the Christian prisoners that they offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. When they refused he issued a sentence of death, and the saints were beheaded.


Venerable Dionysius, Abbot of Glushitsa, Vologda

Our holy Father Dionysius, a native of Vologda, was one of the greatest ascetics of Russia’s Northern Thebaid (See A. Muraviev, The Russian Thebiad of the North, Saint Petersburg, 1855), and had links to some of the most important figures of Russian monasticism, including Saint Cyril of White Lake (June 9), whose portrait he painted.

Saint Dionysius spread Saint Cyril’s tradition of inner spiritual activity and love for the poor throughout the northern regions of Russia. He also combined within himself the Athonite traditions of his Elder Saint Dionysius with those of Saint Sergius of Radonezh (September 25 & July 5).

His Spiritual Father was Saint Dionysius the Athonite (October 18) who later became the Archbishop of Rostov. It was this saint who tonsured the younger Dionysius as a monk at the Spasso-Kameni Island Monastery, bestowing his own name upon him because he had such a great love for him. After nine years he left the monastery, with the blessing of his Elder, and went with his disciple Pachomius to a remote area known as Saint Luke, because once there had been a monastery in that place which was dedicated to the holy Apostle and Evangelist Saint Luke (October 18).

The two monks built a church and dedicated it to Saint Nicholas (December 6). Desiring even greater solitude, Saint Dionysius left Pachomius at Saint Luke’s one day in 1393 and began went deeper into the Vologda forest so that he might not be deprived of an opportunity for ascetical struggles. That evening, he decided to rest for the night by the Glushitsa River. As he slept he heard the ringing of bells, which he took as a sign that he should build a monastery there. Saint Dionysius made a crude shelter for himself near a bird-cherry tree. The small, black cherries contain tannin and have a bitter-sweet taste. For this reason they are sometimes known as choke cherries, or hackberries. Saint Dionysius used to give these cherries to those who were ill, and they would then become well.

Soon disciples began to gather around the saint, not only men, but also women who thirsted for God. As disciples began to gather around him it became necessary to build cells to accomodate them. A local prince ordered woodsmen to clear a spot for the building of a monastery. Monastic cells were built, and also a small church in honor of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos (October 1).

The number of monks increased, and one night Saint Dionysius had a dream where he saw a young man who told him to build a larger church. The man told him that he would always have the protection of the Mother of God.

In the morning, after Matins, he informed the brethren of his dream, and told them that they should obey the young man’s instructions. The church was built, and was adorned with icons painted by Saint Dionysius, who was an accomplished iconographer. His icon of the Dormition, which was a wonderworking icon, was given to the Monastery of the Seven Hills, which had been founded by the saint’s disciples, and was also located by the Glushitsa River.

In 1407, Prince George Boktiuzhinsky expressed his wish to donate funds for the foundation of the Glushitsa Monastery. Saint Dionysius would not allow him to do this, but he did bless him to provide food for the brethren.

When this monastery became too crowded, Saint Dionysius found an isolated place called Sosnovetsk (so named because of the large, very old pine tree which grew there) on the banks of the Glushitsa River. There he built a church in honor of Saint John the Baptist, and a few cells for those who also desired greater solitude.

The righteous one increased his ascetical efforts, standing in prayer all night, and living on bread and water. He even dug his own grave. Once he told the brethren that they were to remain at that place, but only if he was buried there. He assured them that if they stayed, they would have their reward from God. If he was not buried there, however, he declared that they should not remain. In time the Glushitsa Monastery was abandoned, but monks continued to live at the Sosnovetsk Monastery until recent times.

Saint Dionysius was the first to establish a women’s monastery with an Athonite Typikon. After a visit to Rostov, where his Elder Dionysius was now the Archbishop, he returned to his monastery and established a women’s monastery near him, dedicating it to Saint Leontius of Rostov (May 23). The monastery flourished and was a model of the monastic ideal for women.

During a time of famine, Saint Dionysius gave alms to all who came to the monastery for assistance. When the number of people increased, his alms-giving also increased. Once the steward informed him that the monastery’s supplies were almost depleted. Saint Dionysius rebuked him and said that their alms-giving would be a great help to the monks on the Day of Judgment. Giving to the poor, he said, was like lending to God Himself.

Before his death, he named his disciple Saint Amphilochius as his successor. He also heard the voice of the Mother of God, promising to protect the brethren of the monastery from every evil and necessity.

The saint’s final illness began on May 29, 1437 and it was revealed to him that he would die in three days. Early on the morning of June 1, he asked his disciple Saint Macarius to serve the Divine Liturgy so that he would be able to receive Holy Communion for the last time. After the service he called the brothers to him so that he might give them his final blessing and bid them farewell. At six A.M. his face shone with a divine radiance, and peacefully he surrendered his soul to God at the age of 74. The cell was filled with an ineffable fragrance, and Saint Amphilochius saw a crown on the head of his Spiritual Father.

Many of the disciples of Saint Dionysius also became Igumens of other monasteries. Among them are Saint Amphilochius of Glushitsa (October 12), who reposed in 1452, Saint Gregory of Peshma (September 30). This holy wonderworker fell asleep in the Lord in 1451. He and Saint Dionysius had such mutual love that they seemed to be of one mind. Saint Dionysius told him, “Do good while you have the time, be true in glorifying God and doing His will.” Saint Macarius of Sosnovetsk (October 12 & May 13) was also a disciple. He completed the course of his God-pleasing life in 1480.

Saint Dionysius was buried at Sosnovetsk, in accordance with his desire. Through his holy prayers, may we also be found worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven.


Venerable Agapitus the Unmercenary Physician of the Kiev Near Caves

Saint Agapitus of the Caves. This holy Unmercenary Physician was born at Kiev. He was a novice and disciple of Saint Anthony of the Caves, and lived during the eleventh century. If any of the monastic brethren fell ill, Saint Agapitus came to him and selflessly attended to the sick one. He fed his patient boiled herbs which he himself prepared, and the person recovered through the prayers of the saint. Many laymen also turned to the monastic physician with the gift of healing.

In Kiev at this time was an experienced Armenian physician, who was able to diagnose the nature of the illness and even accurately determine the day of death just by looking at a patient. When one of these doomed patients turned to Saint Agapitus, the grace-bearing healer gave him some food from the monastery trapeza (dining area), and the patient became well. Enflamed with envy, the physician wanted to poison Saint Agapitus, but the Lord preserved him, and the poison had no effect.

Saint Agapitus healed Prince Vladimir Monomakh of Chernigov, the future Great Prince of Kiev (1114-1125), by sending him boiled herbs. The grateful prince went to the monastery and wanted to see his healer, but the humble ascetic hid himself and would not accept gifts.

When the holy healer himself became sick, that same Armenian physician came to him and after examining him, he said that he would die in three days. He swore to became an Orthodox monk if his prediction were not fulfilled. The saint said that the Lord had revealed to him that He would summon him only after three months.

Saint Agapitus died after three months (on June 1, not later than 1095), and the Armenian went to the igumen of the Caves monastery and received monastic tonsure. “It is certain that Agapitus was a saint of God,” he said. “I well knew, that it was impossible for him to last three days in his sickness, but the Lord gave him three months.” Thus did the monk heal sickness of the soul and guide to the way of salvation.


Fathers martyred by the Dagestanians

The holy monk-martyrs Shio the New, David, Gabriel and Paul labored in the David-Gareji Wilderness at the end of the 17th century.

Saint Shio was from the village of Vedzisi in the Kartli region. His parents, Papuna and Tamar, were wealthy and highly influential people. They had eight children: five sons and three daughters. After their parents died, Shio’s brothers quarreled so intensely over their inheritance that the eldest brother finally killed the youngest.

Deeply disturbed by this tragedy, blessed Shio sought to withdraw from the vanity of the world—a world in which brother can murder brother and a son can murder his father. Shio confessed his desire to his spiritual father, and he was advised to journey to the David-Gareji Monastery and be tonsured a monk. In fact, the abbot, Fr. Onopre (Machutadze), had invited Shio to the monastery several times before, saying, “Come, brother Shio, and let us finish our lives here.”

With great joy Onopre received Shio, who was already revered by many for his faith and chastity. He directed him to a cell and clothed him as a novice.

Blessed Shio’s tireless labors, humility, and manifest love for his brothers inspired many to seek his counsel. The abbot himself often trusted Shio to administer the affairs of the monastery in his absence.

Once Fr. Onopre departed to attend to some matters outside the monastery, leaving Shio in charge. After Vespers and a meal, the exhausted brothers were settling down to rest when a band of Dagestani robbers suddenly stormed the monastery grounds. They ransacked the monastery and captured Hieromonk Shio and the monks David, Gabriel and Paul and killed them. Some of the brothers who remained tried to flee, but they were caught and brutally slain.

The cells of the David-Gareji Monastery were soaked with blood. Then the Dagestanis, yet unsatisfied, seized and destroyed nearly all the monastery’s property. They stole some of the clerical vestments, and the rest they cut in pieces and tossed in a well. Then they hacked the holy icons to pieces with their axes.

With the blessing of the catholicos and by order of the king, the mutilated relics of the holy martyrs were buried in the courtyard south of the grave of Saint David of Gareji.


Martyrs Shio, David, Gabriel, and Paul of Akhalkalaki in Georgia

The holy monk-martyrs Shio the New, David, Gabriel and Paul labored in the David-Gareji Wilderness at the end of the 17th century.

Saint Shio was from the village of Vedzisi in the Kartli region. His parents, Papuna and Tamar, were wealthy and highly influential people. They had eight children: five sons and three daughters. After their parents died, Shio’s brothers quarreled so intensely over their inheritance that the eldest brother finally killed the youngest.

Deeply disturbed by this tragedy, blessed Shio sought to withdraw from the vanity of the world—a world in which brother can murder brother and a son can murder his father. Shio confessed his desire to his spiritual father, and he was advised to journey to the David-Gareji Monastery and be tonsured a monk. In fact, the abbot, Fr. Onopre (Machutadze), had invited Shio to the monastery several times before, saying, “Come, brother Shio, and let us finish our lives here.”

With great joy Onopre received Shio, who was already revered by many for his faith and chastity. He directed him to a cell and clothed him as a novice.

Blessed Shio’s tireless labors, humility, and manifest love for his brothers inspired many to seek his counsel. The abbot himself often trusted Shio to administer the affairs of the monastery in his absence.

Once Fr. Onopre departed to attend to some matters outside the monastery, leaving Shio in charge. After Vespers and a meal, the exhausted brothers were settling down to rest when a band of Dagestani robbers suddenly stormed the monastery grounds. They ransacked the monastery and captured Hieromonk Shio and the monks David, Gabriel and Paul and killed them. Some of the brothers who remained tried to flee, but they were caught and brutally slain.

The cells of the David-Gareji Monastery were soaked with blood. Then the Dagestanis, yet unsatisfied, seized and destroyed nearly all the monastery’s property. They stole some of the clerical vestments, and the rest they cut in pieces and tossed in a well. Then they hacked the holy icons to pieces with their axes.

With the blessing of the catholicos and by order of the king, the mutilated relics of the holy martyrs were buried in the courtyard south of the grave of Saint David of Gareji.