Lives of all saints commemorated on May 16


Leavetaking of Pascha

On Wednesday of the sixth week of Pascha, we celebrate the Leavetaking of the Feast. While most Feasts have their Leavetaking on the eighth day, Pascha, the Feast of Feasts, has its Leavetaking on the thirty-ninth day. The fortieth day is the Feast of the Lord’s Ascension, which marks the end of the Lord’s physical presence on earth. He does not abandon us, however. He has promised to be with us always, even until the end of the age (MT 20:28). As we sing in the Kontakion for Ascension, “Thou didst ascend in glory, O Christ our God, not being parted from those who love Thee, but remaining with them and crying: I am with you and no one will be against you.” There is a similar thought expressed in the Troparion for the Dormition: “In falling asleep, you did not forsake the world, O Theotokos.”

The services today are celebrated just as on the day of Pascha itself. The daily readings from Holy Scripture, of course, will differ. After the Dismissal at Liturgy, the paschal hymns are no longer sung. The prayer “O Heavenly King” is not said or sung until Pentecost.The Winding Sheet (Plaschanitsa) is taken from the altar and is put in its proper place. Even though today is a Wednesday, fish, wine, and oil are permitted.

Today we also commemorate the Finding of the Icon of the Mother of God “Of the Meeting” in Kalamata in the Peloponnesus.


Venerable Theodore the Sanctified, disciple of Venerable Pachomius the Great

Saint Theodore was called “Sanctified” because he was the first in his monastery ordained to the priesthood.

Saint Theodore came from Egypt and was the son of rich and illustrious Christian parents. The yearning for monastic life appeared early in him. Once there was a large party at the house of his parents during the feast of Theophany. The boy did not want to take part in the festivities, grieving that because of earthly joys he might be deprived of joys in the life to come. He secretly left home when he was fourteen and entered one of the monasteries.

Hearing about Pachomius the Great, he burned with the desire to see the ascetic. Saint Pachomius received the young man with love, having been informed by God beforehand about his coming. Remaining at the monastery, Saint Theodore quickly succeeded in all his monastic tasks, particularly in the full obedience to his guide, and in his compassion towards the other brethren. Theodore’s mother, learning that he was at the Tabennisi monastery, came to Saint Pachomius with a letter from the bishop, asking to see her son. Saint Theodore did not wish to break his vow to renounce the world, so he refused to meet with his mother.

Seeing Saint Theodore’s strength of mind and ability, Saint Pachomius once told him to instruct the brethren on Holy Scripture. Saint Theodore was then only twenty years old. He obeyed and began to speak, but some of the older brethren took offense that a new monk should teach them, and they departed. Saint Pachomius said to them, “You have given in to the devil and because of your conceit, your efforts will come to naught. You have not rejected Theodore, but rather the Word of God, and have deprived yourselves of the Holy Spirit.”

Saint Pachomius appointed Saint Theodore as overseer of the Tabennisi monastery, and withdrew to a more solitary monastery. Saint Theodore with filial love continued to concern himself over his instructor, and he looked after Saint Pachomius in his final illness, and when the great abba reposed in the Lord, he closed his eyes. After the death of Saint Pachomius, Saint Theodore directed the Tabennisi monastery, and later on he was at the head of all the Thebaid monasteries. Saint Theodore the Sanctified was famed for his holiness of life and a great gift of wonderworking, and he was well known to Saint Athanasius, Patriarch of Alexandria. Saint Theodore reposed in his old age in the year 368.


Translation of the relics of Venerable Ephraim, Abbot of Perekop, Novgorod

The Transfer of the Relics of Saint Ephraim of Perekop occurred on May 16, 1545. This celebration was established at a Moscow Council of the year 1549. Saint Ephraim of Perekop reposed on September 26, 1492. The Life of the saint is found under September 26 .


Venerable Cassian, Abbot of Komel (Vologda)

Saint Cassian of Komel and Vologda was a disciple of Saint Cornelius of Komel (May 19) and he guided the Komel monastery after Saint Cornelius went to Lake Sura. Chosen by the brethren with the blessing of Saint Cornelius, he strove to imitate his teacher in everything, and he strictly observed his monastic Rule.

Saint Cassian instructed the monks in the fear of God to spend their time at prayer, to be concerned about inner activity, and to banish all worldly thoughts, to be sober in thought, to be vigilant in soul and contrite in heart (Chapter 1 of the Rule “On Church Decorum and Communal Prayer”).

Upon the return of Saint Cornelius to the monastery, Saint Cassian joyfully met his teacher, and resigned as igumen, wanting to remain in obedience to the holy Elder as before. Saint Cassian reposed in the year 1537.


Venerable Laurence, Abbot of Komel

Saint Laurence of Komel was a disciple of Saint Cornelius of Komel. In the year 1538, on the recommendation of Saint Cornelius, he was unanimously chosen by the brethren as igumen of the monastery, and he made use of the spiritual counsels and instructions of his teacher.

Learning of the approach of Tatars towards the monastery, and on the advice of Saint Cornelius, igumen Laurence led all the brethren away to a safe place. Later, when the danger had passed, the monks returned to the monastery.

Upon the repose of his teacher, Saint Laurence guided the holy monastery for ten years, devoting himself to its welfare. Seeing the zeal and the love for the Lord in Saint Laurence as head of the Korniliev monastery, the Elder Alexius placed the Koptevo monastery, which he directed, under the Korniliev monastery in 1547.

Even with his many cares, Saint Laurence did not forsake his beloved work of copying books. Saint Laurence reposed in the Lord on May 16, 1548.


Saint Alexander, Archbishop of Jerusalem

The Hieromartyr Alexander, Bishop of Jerusalem, was a disciple of the great teacher and writer of the Church, Clement of Alexandria. At the beginning of the third century he was chosen bishop of Flavia, Cappadocia. He was arrested during the reign of the emperor Septimus Severus (193-211) and spent three years in prison.

After his release from prison he went to Jerusalem to venerate the holy places, and was told to remain there through a divine revelation. In 212 he was chosen as coadministrator with the elderly Patriarch Narcissus, an unusually rare occurrence in the ancient Church. Following the death of Saint Narcissus (August 7), Saint Alexander succeeded him and governed the Church of Jerusalem for thirty-eight years, working for the enlightenment of Christians. He also established the first library of Christian theological works at Jerusalem.

Saint Alexander was arrested during the persecution of the Church under the emperor Decius (249-251). The holy martyr was sent to Cappadocia, where he suffered many tortures. He was condemned to be eaten by wild beasts, but they did not harm him. Saint Alexander was cast into prison, where he surrendered his soul to God in the year 251.

The hieromartyr Alexander is also commemorated on December 12.


Martyrs Vitus, Modestus, and Crescentia, at Lucania

The Holy Martyrs Vitus, Modestus, and Crescentia suffered for Christ during the reign of Emperor Diocletian (284-305).

Saint Vitus was the son of an illustrious Sicilian dignitary, the pagan Gelas. Gelas tried to turn his son from Christianity, but failed. Paternal love then turned to hatred, and he decided to kill Vitus.

In order to save the boy, his tutor Saint Modestus and his governess Saint Crescentia, who were Christians, secretly took him from his parental home. They saw a boat at the river, and an angel entered the boat with them. They reached the Italian district of Lucanium, where the saints lived quietly, hiding from those who would persecute them. The holy youth continued to heal the sick and convert pagans to Christianity. His fame soon spread throughout the region.

Saints Vitus and Modestus went to present themselves before Diocletian, and were thrown into prison. Then the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to the prisoners, strengthening them for their contest. He helped them, and the fetters fell from their hands.

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Ascribing the miracle to magic, Diocletian ordered that Saint Vitus be thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil. The saint stood in it as if in cool water, and remained unharmed. Then a fierce lion was set loose. The young man made the Sign of the Cross, and the beast laid at his feet and began to lick them. They tied the holy martyrs to pillars and began to scrape them with iron claws.

Saint Crescentia came out of the crowd of spectators, confessed herself a Christian and reproached the emperor for his cruelty. He also sentenced her to torture.

Saint Vitus called out to God, “O God, save us by Thy power and deliver us.” Then an earthquake struck, and many pagans perished beneath the collapsed buildings. Diocletian fled to his chambers in fear. An angel released the martyrs from the pillars and took them to Lucanium.

Saint Vitus prayed that God would accept their souls in peace and not deprive those who kept their memory of His benefaction. A Voice came from Heaven, “Thy prayer is heard.” Then the saints joyfully surrendered their souls to God.

The holy martyrs Vitus, Modestus and Crescentia suffered for Christ in the year 303. These saints are also commemorated on June 15.

The relics of Saint Vitus were transferred to Prague. The Holy Prince Vyacheslav (Wenceslaus) of the Czechs (September 28) built a church in honor of Saint Vitus, in which he was afterwards buried.


Blessed Child Musa of Rome

Saint Musa lived during the fifth century. She was distinguished for her pure life. Saint Gregory Dialogus included her story in his Dialogues, saying that he had heard these things from Musa’s brother Probus.

The Most Holy Theotokos once appeared to Musa in a dream, surrounded by girls dressed in white. She asked her, “Do you wish to live together with these maidens in my court?”

“Yes, I do,” the girl replied.

“Do not do anything silly, as little girls often do. Avoid frivolity and joking. In thirty days I shall come for you and you will be with us.”

From that moment, Musa’s character was changed. She began to pray earnestly and lived a strict life. In answer to the questions of her astonished parents, Saint Musa told them about the vision.

On the twenty-fifth day the maiden developed a fever, and on the thirtieth day she again saw the Mother of God coming to her with the same girls as before. The blessed child reposed with the words, “I am coming, I am coming to you, my Lady!”

Saint Musa departed this earthly life and was gathered into the heavenly Kingdom, where she glorifies the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit unto ages of ages.


Saint George, Bishop of Mitylene

Saint George was made Bishop of Mytilene in the years 820-829, during the Iconoclast controversy. He died in 842 at Mytilene. In the twelfth century his holy relics were seen by the Russian igumen Daniel, who was journeying through the East and recording what he saw on his journey.


Venerable Monastic Martyrs of Saint Sava Lavra

Forty-four monks of the Saint Sava Lavra received the unfading crown of martyrdom about 614, during the reign of the emperor Heraclius (610-641).

The monastery was attacked by Arabs in search of plunder. When they were unable to find the treasure they expected, they became angry and murdered the defenseless Fathers. Some were beheaded, while others were hacked to pieces.

Saint Antiochus (December 24) has preserved an account of the martyrs in his “107th Homily.” Dositheus also mentions them in his Dodekabiblos.

The saints commemorated today should not be confused with other martyrs of the Saint Sava Lavra, who suffered in 796 (March 20). The two dates reflect separate attacks on the monastery at different times. History tells us that barbarians raided the Saint Sava Lavra on several occasions.


Saint Theodore of Vrsac, Serbia

No information available at this time.


New Martyr Vukasin of Klepci, Serbia

No information available at this time.


New Martyr Nicholas of Metsovo

Nicholas Basdanis was born at Metsovo, Epeiros to poor, but devout Orthodox parents. As a young man he went to Trikkala in Thessaly, where he worked as the assistant of a Moslem baker. While there, some Turks tried to convert him to their religion. Yielding to their persistent efforts, he embraced Islam. Later, realizing the gravity of his sin, he returned to Metsovo, and to the Orthodox Church.

Nicholas earned some extra money by taking wood to Trikkala and selling it. This went on for some time, but one day He was recognized by a Moslem barber, who was a friend of the baker. The barber wondered why Nicholas was no longer dressed as a Turk. Stricken with fear, Nicholas gave him the load of wood, promising to bring him more wood every year, if he would keep his secret. The barber agreed, and things continued that way for a long time.

Nicholas was troubled by his conscience, however, and believed that the only way to atone for his denial of Christ was to become a martyr. He spoke of this to his Spiritual Father at the monastery of Meteora, who advised him not to be too hasty in carrying out his intention, lest he should be unable to endure the inevitable torture, and deny Christ once again. Seeing that Nicholas was determined to pursue this course, the priest strengthened him spiritually for the contest.

When Nicholas felt he was ready, he returned to Trikkala to see the barber. The man asked him about the wood he had promised to bring, and Nicholas told him that he had none. Furthermore, he would not be receiving any wood in future. The barber became angry and denounced Nicholas to the authorities, saying that he had rejected Islam. The barber summoned other Turks to take Nicholas to the kadi for interrogation.

In answer to the kadi's questions, Nicholas admitted freely that he had converted to Islam, but then he repented and returned to his Christian Faith. Fearlessly, he told the Moslems that he was born a Christian, and that he intended to die as a Christian, no matter how much they might torture him.

The kadi tried the usual flattery and promises of riches in order to persuade him to return to their religion. When this failed, the kadi threatened him with horrible torments and death if he did not relent. Nicholas refused, and so he was beaten and thrown into prison, where he received nothing to eat or drink for some time.

Twice more, Saint Nicholas was brought before the kadi with the same results. Seeing that he could not be persuaded, the kadi sentenced him to death. A large fire was lit in the marketplace, and the holy martyr was thrown into it on May 16, 1617. Thus, by enduring this fire, Saint Nicholas escaped the fire of Gehenna.

Later, a pious Christian went to that place, hoping to obtain relics. Since the Saint's body was being guarded, the man had to pay a large sum of money to obtain the skull. He took it home and hid it inside a wall so the Moslems would not find it.

In time, an Orthodox Christian named Melandros bought the house. On the night of May 17, 1618, he noticed a bright light shining from the wall of one of the rooms. In the morning, he opened the wall and found the skull of the New Martyr Nicholas. He brought this treasure to Barlaam Monastery at Meteora, where his brother was a monk, and donated the holy relic to the monastery in remembrance of himself, and of his family.

The Holy New Martyr Nicholas, who is also known as Saint Nicholas the Vlach, is commemorated on May 17 in Greek usage.