The seventh day of the Afterfeast of Theophany falls on January 13. Many of the Church’s hymns during this period rejoice in the manifestation of God (Theophany) at Christ’s baptism in the Jordan. The voice of the Father is heard, the Son enters the water, and the Holy Spirit appears in the form of a dove.
The Holy Martyrs Hermylus and Stratonicus, Slavs by origin, lived at the beginning of the fourth century during a persecution against Christians by the emperor Licinius (311-324). Saint Hermylus served as deacon in the city of Singidunum (Belgrade). Condemned by Licinius to imprisonment, he was long and cruelly tortured for Christ, but he remained unyielding.
Hermylus mocked the pagan gods, calling them deaf, dumb, and blind idols. In anger Licinius ordered more severe torments for him, saying that he could avoid them if he would offer sacrifice. The holy martyr predicted that Licinius would suffer terrible wounds himself because he worshiped idols instead of the Creator. His words came true, for Licinius was killed in 324.
After three days Hermylus was brought before the tribunal again and asked whether he would avoid more torture by offering sacrifice. The saint replied that he would offer worship and sacrifice only to the true God.
Saint Hermylus prayed that the Lord would give him strength to endure his torments and triumph over the pagans. A voice was heard saying, “Hermylus, you will be delivered from your suffering in three days, and will receive a great reward.” The torturers fell to the ground in fear, and took the saint back to prison.
Saint Stratonicus was one of the prison guards and a secret Christian. Seeing the agonizing torments of his friend, he was unable to keep from weeping, and he revealed that he was a Christian. They also subjected him to punishment.
After the torture, they put both martyrs into a net and threw them into the Danube. On the third day, the bodies of the saints were found by Christians on the bank of the river and buried near Singidunum. Their venerable heads were in the Church of Hagia Sophia, where the Russian pilgrim Anthony saw them in the year 1200.
Irenarchus, Hermit of Rostov, was born into a peasant family in the village of Kondakovo in the Rostov district. In Baptism he received the name Elias. In his thirtieth year, he was tonsured a monk at the Rostov Saints Boris and Gleb monastery. There he began fervently to labor at monastic tasks, he attended church services, and by night he prayed and slept on the ground. Once, taking pity on a vagrant who did not have shoes, Saint Irenarchus gave him his own boots, and from that time he began to go barefoot through the snow.
The igumen did not care for such behavior, and he began to humiliate him, compelling him to stand for an hour or nearly two in the snow opposite his cell, or to ring the bells for a long time. The saint endured everything with patience but he did not change his conduct. The igumen continued to be hard-hearted, and the monk was obliged to transfer to the Abramiev Theophany monastery, where he was accepted into the number of the brethren and he was soon chosen as steward.
The saint fulfilled his monastic obediences with zeal, but grieved that the brethren and servants did not look after the property of the monastery, but imprudently wasted it. Once in a dream he saw Saint Abraham of Rostov (October 29), who comforted him and blessed him to distribute necessities to all without trouble. Later, Saint Irenarchus sobbed loudly during the singing of the Cherubimic hymn. The archimandrite asked him why he wept, and he answered, “My mother has died!”
Leaving Abramiev monastery, Saint Irenarchus transferred to the Rostov monastery of Saint Lazarus, settled into a solitary cell and lived for three years in privation and hunger. Here he was visited by Blessed John the Fool, nicknamed “the Big Simpleton.” The saints encouraged each other by spiritual conversation. The Elder, however, had a desire to return to the Saints Boris and Gleb monastery. He was accepted back with love by the strict Barlaam, and he began to pursue even greater ascetic deeds at the monastery.
Having withdrawn into solitude, Saint Irenarchus chained himself to a wooden chair, and he placed on himself heavy chains and crosses. For this he endured the mockery and sneers of the brethren. During this time he was visited by his old friend, Blessed John the Fool, who predicted the Lithuanian invasion of Moscow.
Saint Irenarchus spent twenty-five years shackled in chains and in arduous tasks. His ascetic deeds were a silent reproach to those living carelessly at the monastery, and they lied to the igumen about him. They said that the Elder taught that they should not do monastic work, but rather pursue asceticism as he did. The igumen believed the slander and he banished the holy Elder from the monastery. Humbly submitting, Saint Irenarchus again went to Rostov and lived in the monastery of Saint Lazarus for one year.
Meanwhile the igumen of Saints Boris and Gleb regretted his conduct and sent monks after Saint Irenarchus. He returned, blaming himself that he did not live like the brethren who engaged in righteous works, in which he was lacking. The monk continued to bear his own heavy fetters. He made clothes for the needy, and he knitted hairshirts and klobuks. He slept at night for only an hour or two, the rest of the time he prayed and beat his body with an iron rod.
Saint Irenarchus had a vision that Lithuania would invade Moscow, and that churches there would be destroyed. He began to weep bitterly about the impending disaster, and the igumen ordered him to go to Moscow and warn Tsar Basil Shuisky (1606-1610) about the terrible misfortune. Saint Irenarchus carried out the order. He refused the gifts offered him and when he returned, he began to pray fervently that the Lord would show mercy on the Russian land.
Enemies appeared against Russia, they began the conquest of the city, beat the inhabitants, and robbed churches and monasteries. The False Demetrius and a second Pretender sought to conquer Russia for the Polish king. Saints Boris and Gleb monastery was also overrun by the enemy, who came to the holy hermit and were amazed at the direct and bold words of the Elder, predicting catastrophe for them.
Sapega, remaining at the Saints Boris and Gleb monastery, wanted to see the Elder sitting in chains, and he was amazed at such an ascetic exploit. When the Polish nobles with Sapega told him that the Elder prayed for Shuisky, the monk boldly said, “I am born and baptized in Russia, and I pray to God for the Russian Tsar.” Sapega answered, “Grandfather speaks truly; in whatever land one lives, there one also serves.” After this Saint Irenarchus began to urge Sapega to leave Russia, predicting death for him if he did not do so.
Saint Irenarchus followed the course of the war and sent his blessings and a prosphora to Prince Demetrius Pozharsky. He told him to come to Moscow, predicting, “You shall see the glory of God.” To assist Pozharsky and Minin, the saint handed over his cross. With the help of God the Russians vanquished the Lithuanians, Prince Pozharsky took possession of the Kremlin, and peace gradually began to return to the Russian land. Saint Irenarchus incessantly prayed God with tears for the deliverance of Russia from enemies and, with the power to work miracles, he healed the sick and demoniacs.
The day of his death was revealed to him, and summoning his disciples Alexander and Cornelius, he gave them his final instructions. After taking leave of all he quietly fell asleep in the Lord. The holy Elder left behind 142 copper crosses, seven shoulder chains, other chains which he wore on his neck, iron foot shackles, eighteen hand fetters, heavy “bonds” which he wore on his belt, and iron rods with which he thrashed his body to drive away demons.
In these works, as the Elder called them, he spent thirty-eight years, and having lived in the world for thirty years, he died in his sixty-eighth year. After the death of Saint Irenarchus, many miracles took place at his grave, especially the healing of the sick and the demoniacs by laying the holy ascetic’s crosses and chains upon them.
Saint Eleazar of Anzersk was born in the city of Kozelsk into the merchant family Severiukov. With the blessing of his parents he went off to the Solovki monastery, where he received monastic tonsure from the igumen Saint Irenarchus (July 17).
At the monastery he displayed an astonishing artistic gift: he learned woodcarving and he took part in the embellishment of the Transfiguration Cathedral. With the blessing of the igumen, he went to the island of Anzersk in 1612, where he became a hermit, devoting himself to constant prayer and meditation on God.
In order to obtain subsistence for himself on the island wilderness, Saint Eleazar carved wooden cups, which he left at the dock. On the cups he wrote a message requesting food. Fishermen left bread and other supplies for the ascetic, and they were rewarded with a great catch of fish.
In the year 1616 Saint Eleazar was elevated to schemamonk. Disciples gathered around the saint wishing to live near him and benefit from his instruction. He organized a skete with a strict rule of monastic life following the ancient form. Monastic cells were built far away from one another, and the hermits gathered together only for Saturday and Sunday services.
Among the disciples of Saint Eleazar was the hieromonk Nikita, the future Patriarch Nikon. Tsar Michael (1613-1645), learning of the saint’s ascetic life, summoned him to Moscow. Saint Eleazar predicted the birth of a son, and in return the Tsar generously gave him help to build a stone church on the island dedicated to the Holy Trinity, and also a monastery.
Saint Eleazar loved books. He compiled three books, “Flower Gardens,” collecting edifying sayings and examples from various sources. He also wrote a commentary on the Rule for monastic cell life.
Saint Eleazar died in great old age, forseeing the time of his death. It is not known how old he was, but he lived at Ansersk for forty years, and he was at Solovki for some time before that.
Saint Peter was slain at Hieropolis between 309—320 for confessing Christ.
Saint James, Bishop of Nisibis, was the son of prince Gefal (Armenia) and received a fine upbringing. From the time of his youth he loved solitude, and for a long time he lived in the mountains around about the city of Niziba (on the border of the Persian and Roman Empires), where he carried out strict ascetic exploits: he lived under the open sky, fed himself with tree fruits and greens, and dressed himself in goat-skins. The monk passed all this time in prayerful conversations with God.
During a persecution by the emperor Maximian (284-305) he was glorified by a courageous confession of faith. Because of his strict and pious life the inhabitants of Nisibis chose him as their bishop (no later than the year 314). Saint James was glorified by his ardent zeal for the Orthodox Faith, by great miracles and by the gift of clairvoyance. By his prayers Nisibis was saved from an invasion by Sapor, the emperor of Persia.
Saint James, among the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council, was one of the prominent defenders of the Orthodox Faith. A wise and educated pastor, he constructed a public school at Nisibis, in which he himself was an instructor. He made a strong impression on the hearts of his listeners by the high morality of his life.
Saint Gregory, bishop of great Armenia, turned to him with a request to write about the faith, and the Nisibis pastor sent to him by way of reply a detailed Discourse (18 Chapters): about the faith, about love, fasting, prayer, spiritual warfare, the resurrection of the dead, the duties of pastors, about circumcision (against the Jews), about the choice of foods, about Christ as the Son of God, and so on. His composition distinguishes itself by its persuasive clear exposition and warmth.
Saint James died peacefully in about the year 350.
Saint Hilary, the great opponent of Arianism, was born around 320. He was raised as a pagan, but converted to Christianity as an adult. He became Bishop of Poitiers in 350. When the emperor Constantius II attempted to impose Arianism on the western Church, Saint Hilary led a vigorous opposition to his efforts. Because of his outspoken criticism, he was exiled to Phrygia in 356. There he became such a defender and champion of Orthodoxy that the emperor decided it would be less trouble to allow him to return to his diocese.
Saint Hilary continued to fight against Arianism until his death in 368. His holy relics still rest in the cathedral bearing his name at Poitiers in France.
He has lent his name to the “Hilary term” of English law courts and universities, which begin on or near his Feast Day.
Saint Maximus Kavsokalyvites was educated at the church of the Most Holy Theotokos at Lampsakos. At seventeen years of age he left his parental home, became a monk, and passed his obedience under Elder Mark, the finest spiritual instructor in Macedonia. After the death of his teacher, the saint pursued asceticism under the guidance of several desert Fathers of extremely strict life. Arriving in Constantinople, Saint Maximus was constantly at the Blachernae church of the Most Holy Theotokos, as though he had taken up his abode at the entrance.
From his youth, Saint Maximus had a great love for the Mother of God. He persistently entreated Her to grant him the gift of unceasing mental prayer. One day, as he was venerating her icon, he felt a warmth and a flame enter his heart from the icon. It did not burn him, but he felt a certain sweetness and contrition within. From that time, his heart began to repeat the Jesus Prayer of itself. In this way, the Virgin Theotokos fulfilled his request.
Saint Maximus fulfilled his obedience in the Lavra of Saint Athanasius on Mt. Athos. In order to conceal his ascetic deeds of fasting and prayer, and to avoid celebrity, he behaved like a fool. One day, he had a vision of the Mother of God, who told him to ascend the mountain. On the summit of the Holy Mountain, he prayed for three days and nights. Again, the Most Holy Theotokos appeared to him surrounded by angels, and holding Her divine Son in Her arms.
Prostrating himself, the saint heard the All-Holy Virgin speak to him, “Receive the gift against demons... and settle at the foot of Athos, for this is the will of My Son.” She told him that he would ascend the heights of virtue, and become a teacher and guide for many. Then, since he had not eaten for several days, a heavenly bread was given to him. As soon as he put it in his mouth, he was surrounded by divine light, and he saw the Mother of God ascending into Heaven.
Saint Maximus told his vision to a certain Elder living by the church of the holy Prophet Elias at Carmel. He was skeptical, but the saint turned his disbelief to good. He pretended to be slightly crazy in order to conceal his prodigious ascetic deeds, privations, his hardship and solitude. Saint Maximus did not live in a permanent abode, but wandered from place to place like a lunatic. Whenever he moved, he would burn his hut down. Therefore, he was called “Kavsokalyvites,” or “Hut Burner.”
Those on the Holy Mountain, knowing of the extreme deprivations and sorrows of Saint Maximus, for a long time regarded him with contempt, even though he had attained the height and perfection of spiritual life. When Saint Gregory of Sinai (August 8) arrived on Athos, he encountered the holy fool. After speaking to him, he began to call him an earthly angel. Saint Gregory persuaded Saint Maximus to stop behaving like a fool and to live in one place so that others might benefit from his spiritual experience. Heeding the words of Saint Gregory and the advice of other Elders, Saint Maximus selected a permanent dwelling in a cave near the renowned Elder Isaiah.
Knowing of his gift of clairvoyance, the Byzantine Emperors John Paleologos (1341-1376) and John Kantakouzenos (1341-1355) visited him and were surprised by the fulfillment of his predictions. Theophanes, the igumen of Vatopedi monastery, wrote about Saint Maximus: “I invoke God as my witness, that I myself saw several of his miracles. Once, for instance, I saw him travel through the air from one place to another. I listened as he made a prediction concerning me, that first I would be an igumen, and then Metropolitan of Ochrid. He even revealed to me how I would suffer for the Church.”
Saint Maximus abandoned his solitude only just before his death, and settled near the Lavra of Saint Athanasius, where he surrendered his soul to the Lord at 95 years of age (+ 1354). After his death, as in life, Saint Maximus was glorified by many miracles.
Little is known of Saint Elian. While some accounts hold that he came by sea from Rome and landed in Anglesey at Porth yr Yehen in Northern Wales, where he established a church around 450 AD, others claim that he was of Cornish or Breton roots and lived during the sixth century. He was said to have been related to Saint Ismael, the sixth century Welsh Bishop of Rhos. He is remembered for his missionary efforts in Cornwall, England and for establishing several religious houses.