On the fourth day of the Afterfeast of the Dormition, the Church continues to honor the passage of the Most Holy Theotokos from death to life. Just as Christ once dwelt in the virginal womb of His Mother, now He takes Her “to dwell in His courts.”
The Martyr Andrew Stratelates was a military commander in the Roman army during the reign of the emperor Maximian (284-305). They loved him in the Roman army because of his bravery, invincibility and sense of fairness. When a large Persian army invaded the Syrian territories, the governor Antiochus entrusted Saint Andrew with the command of the Roman army, giving him the title of “Stratelates” (“Commander”). Saint Andrew selected a small detachment of brave soldiers and proceeded against the adversary.
His soldiers were pagans, and Saint Andrew himself had still not accepted Baptism, but he believed in Jesus Christ. Before the conflict he persuaded the soldiers that the pagan gods were demons and could not help them in battle. He proclaimed to them Jesus Christ, the omnipotent God of Heaven and earth, giving help to all who believe in Him.
The soldiers went into battle, calling on the help of the Savior. The small detachment routed the numerous host of the Persians. Saint Andrew returned from the campaign in glory, having gained a total victory. But jealous men denounced him to the governor Antiochus, saying that he was a Christian who had converted the soldiers under his command to his faith.
Saint Andrew was summoned to trial, and there he declared his faith in Christ. For this they subjected him to torture. He laid himself upon a bed of white-hot copper, but as soon as he sought help from the Lord, the bed became cool. They crucified his soldiers on trees, but not one of them renounced Christ. Locking the saints away in prison, Antiochus sent the report of charges on to the emperor, unable to decide whether to impose the death sentence upon the acclaimed champion. The emperor knew how the army loved Saint Andrew, and fearing a rebellion, he gave orders to free the martyrs. Secretly, however, he ordered that each be executed on some pretext.
After being freed, Saint Andrew went went to the city of Tarsus with his fellow soldiers. There the local bishop Peter and Bishop Nonos of Beroea baptized them. Then the soldiers proceeded on to the vicinity of Taxanata. Antiochus wrote a letter to Seleucus, governor of the Cilicia region, ordering him to overtake the company of Saint Andrew and kill them, under the pretext that they had deserted their military standards.
Seleucus came upon the martyrs in the passes of Mount Tauros, where they were evidently soon to suffer. Saint Andrew, calling the soldiers his brothers and children, urged them not to fear death. He prayed for all who would honor their memory, and asked the Lord to create a curative spring on the place where their blood would be shed.
At the time of this prayer the steadfast martyrs were beheaded with swords. During this time, a spring of water issued forth from the ground. Bishops Peter and Nonos, with their clergy, secretly followed the company of Saint Andrew, and buried their bodies. One of the clergy, suffering for a long time from an evil spirit, drank from the spring of water, and at once he was healed. Reports of this spread among the local people and they began to come to the spring. Through the prayers of Saint Andrew and the 2593 Martyrs suffering with him, they received gracious help from God.
Saint Pitirim, Bishop of Great Perm, was chosen and consecrated to the See of Perm after the suffering and death of Saint Gerasimus of Perm (January 24). Before becoming bishop, Archimandrite Pitirim was head of the Chudov monastery. He later became known as the composer of the Canon to Saint Alexis, Metropolitan of Moscow (February 12), and also wrote his Life.
As bishop, Saint Pitirim first occupied himself with establishing friendly relations between the Zyryani and Voguli peoples. He circulated admonitory letters and messages, seeking to defend the Zyryani from pillage. The Voguli leader Asyka however, taking advantage of princely dissention and the remoteness of the bishop from the capital, plundered Christian settlements and killed defenseless people.
Novgorod landowners held lands at the Rivers Vyg and Dvina, suffering death from the constant pillaging. In the year 1445, they marched out against the Voguli and took Asyka captive. The crafty pagan swore friendship to Perm and vowed to harass Christians no longer. Set free, Asyka waited for a convenient moment to attack Ust’-Vym with the aim of killing Saint Pitirim, to whom he attributed his defeat by the Novgorodians.
During this time Saint Pitirim was twice in Moscow: in 1447 to address an encyclical to Prince Demetrius Shemyaka, having broken a treaty (it is supposed that the writer was Saint Pitirim); and again in the year 1448 for the consecration of Saint Jonah, Metropolitan of Moscow (March 31). Taking advantage of Saint Pitirim’s absence, Asyka again made an attack on a Zyryani settlement near the Pechora, robbing and killing the inhabitants. Not only the Zyryani, but also the Voguli living their nomadic life near the Pechora tributary, had become convinced of the truth of the preachings of Saint Pitirim, and they had begun to accept Baptism.
Embittered by this, Asyka committed a new crime. On August 19, 1456 he murdered Saint Pitirim, when he was out blessing the waters at the point of land formed by the confluence of the Rivers Vaga and Vychegda. The body of the saint remained for 40 days in a grave at the place of his death (since they awaited an answer to the sad news of his death). In spite of the hot weather, decay did not touch him. The saint was buried in the Ust’-Vym cathedral church of the Annunciation next to his predecessor Saint Gerasimus. The memory of his repose was already entered into a typikon in the year 1522. In the year 1607 the joint commemoration of the three Great Perm holy Hierarchs: Gerasimus, Pitirim and Jonah, was established (January 29). They succeeded one another at the Ust’-Vym cathedral.
The Martyrs Timothy, Agapius and Thekla suffered martyrdom in the year 304. The Martyr Timothy was a native of the city of Caesarea in Palestine. He studied the Holy Scripture, and having received a special gift of eloquence, he became a teacher of the Christian Faith.
During the time of persecution against Christians under the co-emperors Diocletian (284-305) and Maximian (305-311), the martyr was brought to trial by the governor Urban. Saint Timothy fearlessly declared himself a Christian and spoke about the love of the Lord Jesus Christ for mankind and of His coming into the world for their salvation. The martyr was subjected to cruel torture, and when they saw that he still remained steadfast in his love for Christ, they killed him.
And in this same town and year the Martyrs Agapius and Thekla were condemned. They were thrown to be eaten by wild beasts, and suffering in this manner, they received their heavenly crowns.
Saint Theophanes the New, a native of the city of Ioannina, lived during the sixteenth century. As a young man, he received monastic tonsure on Mount Athos at the Docheiariou monastery. He was later chosen igumen of this monastery because of his lofty virtue. With the help of God, the Saint freed from the Turks who had captured Constantinople his own nephew who had been forcibly converted to Islam, gave him refuge in his own monastery, and blessed him to enter the monastic life.
The brethren, fearing revenge on the part of the Turks, began to grumble against the saint. He, not wanting to be the cause of discord and dissension, humbly withdrew with his nephew from the Docheiariou monastery, quit the Holy Mountain and went to Beroea. There, in the skete monastery of Saint John the Forerunner, Saint Theophanes built a church in honor of the Most Holy Theotokos. And as monks began to gather, he gave them a cenobitic monastic rule.
When the monastery flourished, the saint withdrew to a new place at Naousa, where he made a church in honor of the holy Archangels and founded there also a monastery. To the very end of his days Saint Theophanes did not forsake guiding the monks of both monasteries, both regarding him as their common father.
After receiving a revelation foreseeing his own end and giving his flock a final farewell, the saint died in extreme old age at the Beroeia monastery. Even during his life the Lord had glorified his humble saint: saving people from destruction, he calmed a storm by his prayer, and converted seawater into drinking water. Even after death, the saint has never forsaken people who asked for his grace-filled help.
The Don Icon of the Mother of God was painted by Theophanes the Greek. On the day of the Kulikovo Battle (September 8, 1380, the Feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos), the Icon was with the Russian army, giving it help, but after the victory it was passed on by the Don Cossacks as a gift to their commander, Great Prince Demetrius of the Don (1363-1389), who then transferred it to Moscow.
The Icon at first was at the Kremlin’s Dormition Cathedral, and later at the Annuniciation Cathedral (the Icon is now in the Tretiakov State Gallery). In commemoration of the victory on the banks of the River Don it was called the Don Icon.
In the year 1591, the Crimean Khan Nuradin and his brother Murat-Girei invaded Russia with a numerous army. Advancing on Moscow, they positioned themselves on the Vorobiev hills. A church procession was made around Moscow with the Don Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos in order to guard the city from the enemy.
On the day of battle it was in the military chapel in the ranks of the soldiers, and set the Tatars to flight. In 1592, in thanksgiving to the Most Holy Theotokos for Her mercy manifest through the Don Icon, the Don monastery was founded at the very place where the icon had stood amid the soldiers. The wonderworking icon was placed in this monastery, and its feastday was established as August 19.
By established custom, once every four years His Holiness the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia performs the rite of the preparation of Holy Chrism in the small cathedral in honor of the Don Icon of the Mother of God.