Lives of all saints commemorated on April 18

Venerable John, disciple of Venerable Gregory of Decapolis

Saint John was born at the end of the eighth century. At a young age he became a disciple of Saint Gregory of Decapolis (November 20) and accepted monastic tonsure from him at a monastery in Thessalonica. Under the guidance of this experienced teacher, Saint John attained great spiritual perfection.

When the emperor Leo the Armenian (813-820) renewed the persecution against Orthodox Christians because they venerated the holy icons, Saint Gregory of Decapolis and Saint Joseph the Hymnographer (April 4) and his disciple Saint John went from Thessalonica to Constantinople, to raise opposition to the Iconoclast heresy.

In spite of persecution, Saints Gregory and John fearlessly defended Orthodoxy for several years, and preached the veneration of icons. After many hardships Saint Gregory died (around 820), and soon after, his faithful disciple John also departed to the Lord. Saint Joseph the Hymnographer transferred the relics of Saints Gregory and John and placed them in the church of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker.

Martyr Victor, and his companions, of Nicomedia

The Holy Martyrs Victor, Zoticus, Acindynus, Zeno, Severian and Caesarius suffered under the emperor Diocletian (284-305) when he began a fierce persecution against Christians. One of the first to suffer was the holy Great Martyr and Victory-Bearer George (April 23). Saint George’s unshakable faith and bravery during his suffering led many pagans to Christ.

The saints were struck with astonishment that Saint George suffered no harm from the wheel of torture, and they declared in the hearing of all that they also believed in Christ. At the judge’s order, the holy martyrs were beheaded at Nicomedia in 303.

Saint Cosmas, Bishop of Chalcedon, and his fellow ascetic, Saint Auxentius

Saint Cosmas, Bishop of Chalcedon, and his companion Saint Auxentius, lived during the ninth century, at a time when the Iconoclasts oppressed the Orthodox. Saint Cosmas while still in his youth had entered a monastery and received monastic tonsure. Later, he was consecrated as Bishop of Chalcedon, and zealously defended the Orthodox Faith against the Iconoclast heretics. Saint Auxentius helped the saint in this struggle.

The Iconoclasts tried in many ways to win the saint over to their side, but he remained faithful to Orthodoxy until the very end. Saint Cosmas did not obey the decree of Emperor Leo the Armenian (813-820) ordering the removal of the holy icons from the churches. For this he was expelled from his See and exiled to prison.

When the saint returned from exile, he and Saint Auxentius continued to defend the veneration of holy icons. At the end of the persecution, Saint Cosmas was weak in body, but remained strong in spirit. Saint Cosmas and Saint Auxentius steadfastly preserved the Orthodox Faith until the end of their lives.

New Martyr John the New of Epirus

The holy martyr John Kulikos was born in the Greek district of Epirus, in the city of Ioannina. His parents were pious, but he was orphaned at an early age, and he went to Constantinople. With the means left him by his parents, he built a small stall in the city bazaar and was occupied with trade.

He loved to work, he honorably filled all his orders, and his business was successful. However, his soul did not yearn for earthly blessings, but for the Kingdom of Heaven.

Saint John lived during difficult times. Constantinople was under the dominion of the Turks, and Christians were subjected to oppressions. Many Christian tradesmen and merchants went over to the Moslem religion. Saint John reproached them for their betrayal of Christ, and he also sustained the unwavering in their faith. The apostates were filled with hatred for Saint John, and they desired his ruin. The saint knew this, but was not afraid. He was willing to suffer for Christ.

On Great and Holy Friday he went to his spiritual Father and asked his blessing to seek martyrdom. The priest counselled the youth to examine himself and to prepare himself by fasting and prayer, so that at the time of torture he would not deny Christ. Saint John prayed ardently to the Lord to strengthen him. At night on Great and Holy Saturday he saw himself in a dream, standing in a fiery furnace and singing praises to the Lord. Interpreting this vision as an indication to go to martyrdom, Saint John received the Holy Mysteries and asked the priest’s blessing.

When Saint John arrived at the market, the vexed tradesmen began to reproach him that he had promised to renounced Christ, but that he was not fulfilling his word. In reply, the martyr declared that he was a Christian and had never renounced, nor would he ever renounce Christ.

Then the envious merchants had him arrested. The judge tried to persuade Saint John to accept Islam, for he respected him as a skilled master craftsman. But the martyr steadfastly confessed himself a Christian. For several days, they wearied him with hunger and thirst, and beat him without mercy. They sentenced the martyr to be burned alive.

Saint John met his sentence with joy. When they led him to the blazing fire, he went boldly into the midst of the flames. The torturers, seeing that Saint John was prepared to die in the fire, pulled him out and beheaded him with the sword (+ 1526). They then threw the martyr’s head and body into the fire.

Christians gathered up the bones of the martyr which remained from the fire, and reverently brought them to the cathedral church.

Venerable Euthymius, Enlightener of Karelia, Finland and the Righteous Anthony and Felix

According to an ancient manuscript Hemerologion (Ημερολογιον), Saint Euthymios was born in the second half of the XIV century. From his youth, he felt drawn to the monastic life, so when he reached adulthood, he travelled north around the year 1400, in order to live as an Anchorite. Later, about 1410, several disciples came to him, begging him to guide them in the monastic life. On the shores of the White Sea in Karelia, 34 versts from Archangelsk, they built a monastery dedicated to the Holy Wonderworker Saint Nicholas of Myra in Lycia (December 6), with cells for the monks.

At first, nothing seemed to go well for the monks, who had settled in an area inhabited by pagans. Saint Euthymius knew, however, that in the place where they labored, one day the monastic life would be firmly established, and the Faith would flourish.

In 1418, the Venerable Anthony and Felix, the two devout sons of Martha Boretska, the wife of a government official (посадница) from Novgorod, were drowned at the mouth of the North Dvina River while exploring the land. These young brothers were buried at Saint Nicholas monastery. In life, they were distinguished for their works of charity, and their grief-stricken mother asked Saint Euthymius to pray for the sons who had been taken from her. Subsequently, their names were included in the manuscript Lives of the Saints of Saint Nicholas Monastery.

In 1419, the monastery was destroyed by Norwegian invaders, who descended upon the monastery, burned the church, and killed several of the monks. Saint Euthymius decided that he would rebuild the monastery, and Martha Boretska gave a large sum of money for the monastery to be rebuilt over the graves of her sons.

Saint Euthymius reposed peacefully in 1435, and was buried at the monastery in Karelia, as were his disciples Stephen the Ascetic, Isaiah, and Nikanor.

In 1641, Saint Euthymios of Karelia was glorified for his apostolic labors in Karelia, and his holy relics were uncovered in 1647. Now they rest in a hidden place within the monastery.

A Church Service has been composed for Saints Euthymius, Anthony and Felix. They are commemorated on April 18, and again on May 21, the Synaxis of All Saints of Karelia.

“Maximov” Icon of the Mother of God

The Saint Maximus Icon is in the cathedral church of the city of Vladimir. Metropolitan Maximus (December 6), a Greek by birth, painted the Icon in 1299, as he was told to do in a vision while he slept in his cell. When St. Maximus arrived in Vladimir from Kiev, the Mother of God appeared to him in a dream and gave him an omophorion saying, "My servant Maximus, it is good that you have come to visit my city. Take this omophorion and shepherd the rational flock of my city."

When he awoke, he found he was holding an omophorion. The appearance of the Mother of God was regarded as a sign of approval for the transfer of the metropolitan See from Kiev to Vladimir.

A description of this vision was inscribed on the left side of his crypt. The Mother of God is shown in full stature, holding the Divine Child on her left arm. With her right hand, she offers the omophorion to Saint Maximus, who is standing on a pillar. The contrast in the size of their figures is meant to show the difference in their spiritual states. A variant Icon depicts Saint Maximus kneeling at the feet of the Theotokos.

Later, a golden coffer was made, and the omophorion was placed inside. This omophorion was kept in the Vladimir cathedral as a relic for 112 years. It was hidden by the cathedral’s doorkeeper Patrick in 1412 during an invasion by the Tartars, Patrick was killed when he refused to show them where the cathedral's treasures were hidden. The coffer has not yet been found.

This Icon, which measures five feet by two and a half feet, has been glorified by many miracles.

Saint Basil Ratishvili of Georgia

Saint Basil Ratishvili, one of the most prominent figures of the 13th-century Church, was the uncle of Catholicos Ekvtime III. He labored with the other Georgian fathers at the Ivḗron Monastery on Mt. Athos. Endowed with the gift of prophecy, Saint Basil beheld a vision in which the Most Holy Theotokos called upon him to censure King Demetre’s impious rule. (This is actually Saint Demetre the Devoted, who in his youth lived profligately but later laid down his life for his nation.)

Having arrived in Georgia and been brought before the king, the God-fearing father denounced the sovereign’s uncrowned marriage [i.e., a conjugal union without the blessing of the Church]. He promised the king that if he abandoned his present way of life, he would find great happiness and success. Saint Basil also condemned the ungodly ways of Georgia’s apostate feudal lords.

But the king and his court disregarded the virtuous elder’s admonitions, and in response Saint Basil prophesied: “A vicious enemy will kill you, and your kingdom will remain without refuge. Your children will be scattered, your kingdom conquered, and all your wealth seized. Know that, according to the will of the Most Holy Theotokos, everything I have told you will come to pass unless you repent and turn from this way of life. Now I will depart from you in peace.”

Saint Basil returned to Mt. Athos and peacefully reposed at the Ivḗron Monastery.

His vision was fulfilled.