On the third day of the Afterfeast of the Dormition, the hymns at Vespers call upon us to “sing the praises of the pure and most holy Virgin.” She did not ascend to heaven in a chariot of fire, as did the Prophet Elias, but “He Who is truly the Sun of Righteousness” received her pure soul.
The Martyrs Florus and Laurus were brothers by birth not only in flesh but in spirit. They lived in the second century at Byzantium, and afterwards they settled in Illyria [now Yugoslavia]. By occupation they were stone-masons (their teachers in this craft were the Christians Proclus and Maximus, from whom also the brothers learned about life pleasing to God).
The prefect of Illyria, Likaion, sent the brothers to a nearby district for work on the construction of a pagan temple. The saints toiled at the structure, distributing to the poor the money they earned, while they kept strict fast and prayed without ceasing.
Once, the son of the local pagan-priest Mamertin carelessly approached the structure, and a chip of stone hit him in the eye, severely injuring him. Saints Florus and Laurus assured the upset father, that his son would be healed.
They brought the youth to consciousness and told him to have faith in Christ. After this, as the youth confessed Jesus Christ as the true God, the brothers prayed for him, and the eye was healed. In view of such a miracle, even the father of the youth believed in Christ.
When the construction of the temple was completed, the brothers gathered the Christians together, and going through the temple, they smashed the idols. In the eastern part of the temple they set up the holy Cross. They spent all night in prayer, illumined with heavenly light. Having learned of this, the head of the district condemned to burning the former pagan priest Mamertin and his son and 300 Christians.
The martyrs Florus and Laurus, having been sent back to the prefect Likaion, were thrown down an empty well and covered over with earth. After many years, the relics of the holy martyrs were uncovered incorrupt, and transferred to Constantinople. In the year 1200 the Novgorod pilgrim Anthony saw them. Stephen of Novgorod saw the heads of the martyrs in the Pantokrator monastery around the year 1350.
The martyrs Hermes, Serapion, and Polyaenus were Romans who suffered for Christ in the second century. They were thrown into prison, and under interrogation they firmly confessed their faith in Christ and refused to offer sacrifice to idols. The martyrs were dragged through crowds and impassable places. Pelted with stones and other material, they died, receiving their heavenly crowns.
Saints Emilian the Bishop, and with him Hilarion, Dionysius, and Hermippus were born and lived in Armenia. After the death of their parents, the hieromartyrs Emilian, Dionysius, and Hermippus (they were brothers), and their teacher Hilarion left their native land and arrived in Italy, in the city of Spoleto.
Saint Emilian began to preach the Gospel to the pagans. He won the deep respect of the Christian community because of his strict and virtuous life, and he was chosen bishop of the city of Trebium. He was consecrated by Marcellinus, the Bishop of Rome. After moving to Trebium, Saint Emilian converted many pagans to Christ, for which he was brought to trial before the emperor Mamimian (284-305).
The saint suggested that the emperor see for himself the power of prayer to Christ. A man who had been crippled for a long time was brought before him. However much the pagan priests tried to heal him by appealing to the idols, they accomplished nothing. Then Saint Emilian prayed to the Lord and commanded the crippled man, in the name of Jesus Christ, to get up. The man stood up healthy and went home rejoicing.
This miracle was so convincing that the emperor was inclined to admit the truth about Christ, but the pagan priests told him that the saint had worked magic. He was subjected to fierce tortures, in which the Lord encouraged him, saying: “Fear not, Emilian, I am with you.”
They tied him to a wheel, threw him on hot tin, dunked him in a river, and put him in the arena to be eaten by wild beasts, but he remained unharmed. In view of all these miracles the people began to shout: “Great is the Christian God! Free His servant!” On this day 1000 men believed in Christ, and all received the crown of martyrdom.
In a rage, the governor ordered that the beasts be killed since they did not attack the saint. The martyr gave thanks to the Lord because even the wild beasts accepted death for Christ. They locked Saint Emilian in prison together with his brothers and teacher, and after fierce tortures the hieromartyrs Hilarion, Dionysius, and Hermippus were beheaded with the sword.
Saint Emilian was executed outside the city. When the executioner struck the martyr on the neck with a sword, it became soft like wax, and did not wound the saint. Soldiers fell on their knees to him asking forgiveness and confessing Christ as the True God. The saint prayed on his knees for them and asked the Lord to grant him a martyr’s death. His prayer was heard, and another executioner cut off the saint’s head. Seeing a milky liquid flowing from his wounds, many of the pagans believed in Christ and they buried the martyr’s body with honor.
Saint John V was Patriarch of Constantinople from 669-674. He lived during the reign of the emperor Constantine Pogonatos (668-685).
Saint George I was Patriarch of Constantinople from 678-683. He lived during the reign of the emperor Constantine Pogonatos (668-685).
Saint Macarius, Igumen of the Pelekete Monastery, was born at Constantinople in 785. While still a child, he lost his parents. The saint fervently read the Scriptures and came to realize that earthly things are temporary and perishable, and that heavenly things are permanent and imperishable. Therefore, he decided to devote his life entirely to God. He entered the Pelekete monastery in Bithynia, where at the time the igumen was the renowned ascetic, Saint Hilarion (March 28).
After the death of Saint Hilarion, Saint Macarius was unanimously chosen as igumen by the brethren. During the reign of the Byzantine Emperors Leo V the Armenian (813-820) and Michael II the Stammerer (820-829), Saint Macarius suffered as a confessor for the veneration of holy icons. He was sent to the island of Aphousia, where he died in about the year 830.
Saint John of Rila, the great spiritual ascetic of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and Heavenly Protector of the Bulgarian nation, was born in the year 876 in the village of Skrino in the Sredets district [now Sofia].
After he had been orphaned, the boy became a cowherd in order to avoid people. Once the rich man beat him for losing a cow with its calf. The boy cried long and he prayed, that God would help him. When he found the cow with the calf, the water at that time flowed high and strong in the River Struma. The young cowherd prayed, he placed his own tattered shirt on the water, made the Sign of the Cross over it, took up the calf in his arms and went with it, as though on dry land, to the other bank of the river where the cow was.
The rich man, hidden in the forest, was frightened upon seeing this miracle. He rewarded the youth generously, then sent him away from his home. Having given away his things, the boy left his village. Where and when the saint took monastic tonsure is unknown.
At the very first he pursued asceticism on a high and barren hill, eating only wild plants. His hut was of brushwood. After a short while robbers fell upon him by night, beat him, and drove him off from there. Then he found a deep cave and settled in it. Soon, his nephew Saint Luke also settled there.
The place was quite unpopulated, so that Saint John at first considered the appearance of Luke a demonic trick, but learning that the youth sought the salvation of his soul, he lovingly accepted him. Not for long, however, did they live together. Saint John’s brother found the ascetics, and forcibly took away his son. Along the way home the youth died from the bite of a snake. The brother repented and asked forgiveness of the monk. The wanderer went frequently to the grave of the righteous youth; his beloved place of rest was there.
Saint John spent twelve years in the desolate cave, and then he went into the Rila wilderness and settled in the hollow of a tree. He fasted and prayed a great deal, wept incessantly, and ate only grass. Seeing such endurance, God caused beans to grow, which he ate for a long time. The beans and his exploits made him known to people.
Once a flock of frightened sheep ran along the hilly steep paths, and did not stop until the place where the monk lived. The shepherds, following after the flock, with astonishment saw the hermit, who amicably greeted them: “You arrive here hungry. Pick some of my beans and eat.” All ate and were satisfied. One gathered many beans in reserve. Along the way home he offered them to his comrades, but there were no beans in the pilfered pods. The shepherds turned back penitent, and the Elder stood there, saying with a smile: “See, children, these fruits are appointed by God for subsistence in the wilderness.”
From that time they began to bring to the monk the sick and those troubled by unclean spirits, which he healed by prayer. Fleeing celebrity, the monk went from his beloved tree-hollow and settled on a high and rocky crag difficult of access, where he dwelt for seven years under the open sky. Reports about the great ascetic reached even the Bulgarian king Peter (927-969), who wanted to meet him. Saint John wrote a letter, refusing such a meeting out of humility.
Later on Saint John accepted under him the guidance of monks, who built a monastery with a church in the cave where Saint John formerly lived. He wisely tended his flock and died on August 18, 946 at 70 years of age.
Five years before his end he wrote in his own hand “A Testament to Disciples,” one of the finest creations of Old Bulgarian literature. The holy life of the ascetic and the remarkable mercies of God through his prayers were a fine preaching of the Christian Faith in the newly-baptized Bulgarian land. In the uneasy time of struggle of Bulgaria with Byzantium, under the west Bulgarian king Samuel (976-1014), Saint John appeared to his disciples, commanding them to transfer his relics to Sredets (Sofia), where the Bulgarian Patriarch Damian (927-972) was hiding. It is presumed that the transfer of relics took place in the year 980.
Somewhat later, the right hand of Saint John of Rila was transferred to Russia (presumably to the city of Rila, where a church was constructed in the name of Saint John of Rila, with a chapel dedicated to the martyrs Florus and Laurus, on the day of their commemoration (August 18) on which he died).
The name of Saint John was known and loved by the Russian people from antiquity. Data about the death of the saint is preserved, especially in Russian sources (the MENAION for August in the twelfth century, in the Mazurinsk Chronicle).
In the year 1183, the Hungarian king Bela II (1174-1196), during a campaign against the Greeks, seized the chest with the relics of Saint John, together with other booty, and took it to the city of Esztergom.
In the year 1187, after he embellished the reliquary, he sent back the holy relics with great honor. On October 19, 1238 the relics of Saint John were solemnly transferred to the new capital, Trnovo, and put in a church dedicated to the saint. On July 1, 1469 the holy relics of Saint John of Rila were returned to the Rila monastery, where they rest to the present day, granting grace-filled help to all the believers.
Saint Sophronius lived in the eighteenth century. He left home on his wedding night and became a monk on Mount Athos. After living there for fifty years, he died in peace.
Today the Church commemorates the uncovering of the relics of Saint Arsenius of Paros (1800-1877), who was glorified by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1967.
The main Feast of Saint Arsenius, “the glory of Epirus and the boast of Paros,” is on January 31.
Saint Arsenius and his Elder stayed on Mount Athos for six years before being forced to leave by ignorant monks who were against the Kollyvades movement. The Kollyvades called for a strict adherence to holy Tradition, opposed performing memorial services on Sundays, and believed that Christians should receive Holy Communion more frequently than four times a year. They also practiced unceasing prayer of the heart (hesychasm), which was misunderstood by many people of that time. Some of the Athonite monks, in their ignorance, were highly critical of the Kollyvades, insulting and mistreating them, and forcing them into exile.
Father Daniel and Saint Arsenius left Athos when the anti-Kollyvades sentiments against frequent Communion were particularly intense. This was just before the start of the Greek War of Independence on March 25, 1821. After a brief stay at the Penteli Monastery near Athens, the two went to the island of Paros. Unable to remain there, they ultimately settled on the island of Pholegandros.
Since there were no teachers on the island, the inhabitants asked Father Daniel to permit Father Arsenius to teach their children. The Elder agreed to their request, and also had Father Arsenius ordained a deacon by the Metropolitan of Thira. After his ordination, the Greek government appointed Father Arsenius as a teacher. His teaching career lasted from 1829 to 1840.
Saints Barnabas and his nephew Sophronius were Athenians who lived on Mount Mela near Trebizond in Asia Minor. They died in the year 412.
Saint Christopher was born in Gazara, near Trebizond. He was the head of a monastery on Mount Mela in the second half of the seventh century (641-668).
The Hodigitria (or “Directress”) Icon of the Mother of God. According to Tradition, this icon in the Mela monastery near Trebizond was painted by the Evangelist Luke.
Today we celebrate the memory of Four Ascetics in the desert whose names are unknown. Also 300 Saints who were burned in a fire for smashing idols.
The great Church figure and philosopher Saint Christodoulos was from the village of Sakara in the Imereti region. He possessed an exceptional knowledge of the Holy Scriptures and spoke several languages fluently. To support his prodigious understanding of the Christian Faith, Christodoulos became thoroughly acquainted with other creeds as well. To this purpose, he even memorized the Koran.
Once the Persian king Iamame arranged a debate on theological issues between the Muslims and the Christians, and he invited the elder Christodoulos to take part in this event. At first the king himself debated with the elder and suffered an upset. Then a certain pagan astrologer was brought to replace him, and when it became clear that he too was no match for the elder-philosopher, he summoned a renowned scholar to outwit him. In the debates with this scholar, Christodoulos freely cited both the Holy Scriptures and the Koran, and with his brilliant logic and rhetoric he triumphed over his rival. His challengers were disgraced.
In his work Pilgrimage, the famous 19th-century historian Archbishop Timote (Gabashvili) describes his journey to Mt. Athos and notes that Saint Christodoulos had labored with the monks of the Iveron Monastery.
Church historians believe that Saint Christodoulos labored first in Georgia, then moved to Mt. Athos, and finally to the island of Patmos.