Lives of all saints commemorated on July 17

Greatmartyr Marina (Margaret) of Antioch in Pisidia

The Holy Great Martyr Marina was born in Asia Minor, in the city of Antioch of Pisidia (southern Asia Minor), into the family of a pagan priest. In infancy she lost her mother, and her father gave her into the care of a nursemaid, who raised Marina in the Orthodox Faith. Upon learning that his daughter had become a Christian, the father angrily disowned her. During the time of the persecution against Christians under the emperor Diocletian (284-305), when she was fifteen years old, Saint Marina was arrested and locked up in prison. With firm trust in the will of God and His help, the young prisoner prepared for her impending fate.

The governor Olymbrios, charmed with the beautiful girl, tried to persuade her to renounce the Christian Faith and become his wife. But the saint, unswayed, refused his offers. The vexed governor gave the holy martyr over to torture. Having beaten her fiercely, they fastened the saint with nails to a board and tore at her body with tridents. The governor himself, unable to bear the horror of these tortures, hid his face in his hands. But the holy martyr remained unyielding. Thrown for the night into prison, she was granted heavenly aid and healed of her wounds. They stripped her and tied her to a tree, then burned the martyr with fire. Barely alive, the martyr prayed: “Lord, You have granted me to go through fire for Your Name, grant me also to go through the water of holy Baptism.”

Hearing the word “water”, the governor gave orders to drown the saint in a large cauldron. The martyr besought the Lord that this manner of execution should become for her holy Baptism. When they plunged her into the water, there suddenly shone a light, and a snow-white dove came down from Heaven, bearing in its beak a golden crown. The fetters put upon Saint Marina came apart by themselves. The martyr stood up in the fount of Baptism glorifying the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Saint Marina emerged from the fount completely healed, without any trace of burns. Amazed at this miracle, the people glorified the True God, and many came to believe. This brought the governor into a rage, and he gave orders to kill anyone who might confess the Name of Christ. 15,000 Christians perished there, and the holy Martyr Marina was beheaded. The sufferings of the Great Martyr Marina were described by an eyewitness of the event, named Theotimos.

Up until the taking of Constantinople by Western crusaders in the year 1204, the relics of the Great Martyr Marina were in the Panteponteia monastery. According to other sources, they were located in Antioch until the year 908 and from there transferred to Italy. Now they are in Athens, in a church dedicated to the holy Virgin Martyr. Her venerable hand was transferred to Mount Athos, to the Batopedi monastery.

Venerable Irenarchus, Abbot of Solovki

Saint Irenarchus of Solovki accepted tonsure at the Solovki monastery, and in his monastic life he zealously imitated the Monks Zosimus (April 17) and Sabbatius (September 27). In 1614, after the death of the igumen Anthony, Irenarchus became his successor. During these times the Solovki monastery held tremendous significance in the defense of Northern Russia from the Swedes and the Danes. The new igumen did much to fortify the monastery. Under the Monk Irenarchus there was constructed a stone wall with turrets, deep ditches dug, and with stones spread out.

Concerned about the external dangers to the monastery, the monk also devoted much attention to fortifying it inwardly and spiritually. Very humble and meek, constantly immersed in thoughts of God, he was zealous for supporting in the monks a true monastic spirit. Under the spiritual guidance of Saint Irenarchus at the Solovki monastery there matured many worthy ascetics. With the blessing of the igumen and under his assistant, Saint Eleazar (January 13), a friend and co-ascetic of the venerable Irenarchus, founded a skete monastery on Anzersk Island.

In an imperial document to the Solovki monastery in the year 1621, the monks were bidden “to live according to the rules of the holy Fathers... and in full obedience to their igumen (Irenarchus) and the elders”.

The last two years of the monk’s life were spent in silent prayer, and he reposed on July 17, 1628.

Translation of the relics of Venerable Lazarus of Mount Galesius near Ephesus

Saint Lazarus the Wonderworker of Mount Galesius near Ephesus was born in Lydia, in the city of Magnesia. An educated young man who loved God, Lazarus became a monk at the monastery of Saint Sava, the founder of great ascetic piety in Palestine. He spent ten years within the walls of the monastery, winning the love and respect of the brethren for his intense monastic struggles.

Ordained to the holy priesthood by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Saint Lazarus returned to his native country and settled near Ephesus, on desolate Mount Galesius. Here he saw a wondrous vision: a fiery pillar, rising up to the heavens, was encircled by angels singing, “Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered.”

On the place where the saint beheld this vision, he built a church in honor of the Resurrection of Christ and took upon himself the feat of pillar-dwelling. Monks soon began to flock to the great ascetic, thirsting for spiritual nourishment by the divinely-inspired words and blessed example of the saint, and a monastery was established there.

Having received a revelation about the day of his death, the saint told the brethren. Through the tearful prayers of all the monks, the Lord prolonged the earthly life of Saint Lazarus for another fifteen years.

Saint Lazarus died at 72 years of age, in the year 1053. The brethren buried the body of the saint at the pillar upon which he had struggled in asceticism. He was glorified by many miracles after his death.

Saint Lazarus is also commemorated on November 7.

Royal Passionbearers Tsar Nicholas (Nikolai), Tsaritsa Alexandra, Tsarevich Aleksy, Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia

Saint Nicholas, the last Russian Tsar, was born in 1868. As a child, he was very religious, guileless and free from malice.

Nicholas II was crowned as Tsar in 1894, following the death of his father Tsar Alexander. He began his reign with lofty hopes for peace, urging other nations to reduce the size of their armies, and to seek the peaceful settlement of international disputes. The Peace Conference at the Hague in 1899 laid the groundwork for the League of Nations and the United Nations.

He married Princess Alice of Hesse, who converted to Orthodoxy and took the name Alexandra. Their children were Olga (1895), Tatiana (1897), Maria (1899), Anastasia (1901), and Alexis (1904).

The glorification of Saint Seraphim of Sarov took place on July 19, 1903, and Tsar Nicholas attended the ceremonies at Sarov with his family. At that time he was given a letter written by Saint Seraphim more than seventy years before, which seemed to disturb him. Although the Sovereign never revealed the letter’s contents, it is believed that it was a prophecy of the bloodshed that would engulf Russia in less than fifteen years.

Saint Nicholas was executed by the Bolsheviks at Ekaterinburg on July 4, 1918 along with his family and servants. The prisoners were awakened late at night and ordered to get dressed for travel. They went down to the cellar of the home in which they were being held, waiting for the word to leave. The Tsar sat on a chair in the middle of the room holding his son Alexis in his lap, while his wife and daughters stood around them.

The executioners entered the room and read out the order for their execution. Saints Nicholas and Alexandra died under the hail of bullets, but the children did not die right away. They were stabbed and clubbed with the butts of rifles. Their bodies were taken to an abandoned mine, cut into pieces, then piled in front of the mine. Sulphur and gasoline were poured on the bloody mound and set on fire. When the fire went out two days later, whatever remained of the bodies was thrown into the mine and grenades were tossed into it. Then the ground was plowed so that no trace of the disposal of the bodies remained.

Venerable Leonid of Ustnedumsk

Saint Leonid of Ustnedumsk lived in the Poshekhonsk district of Vologda, and he was a farmer by occupation. At age fifty, he saw the Mother of God in a dream, Who directed him to go to the River Dvina to the Morzhevsk Nikolaev hermitage. He was to take from there the Hodēgḗtria Icon of the Mother of God, and build a church for it at the River Luz and Mount Turin.

Saint Leonid decided not to follow the advice of this vision, thinking it simply a dream, and considering himself unworthy. He went to the Kozhe Lake monastery, accepting monastic tonsure there and spending about three years at work and ascetical efforts. From there he transferred to the Solovki monastery and labored there in the bakery.

The miraculous vision was repeated, and Saint Leonid was advised not to oppose God’s will. The venerable one then set off to the Morzhevsk hermitage, and after a year he told Igumen Cornelius (1599-1623) about the command of the Mother of God. Having received from the abbot both a blessing and the Hodēgḗtria icon, the monk reached the River Luz near Mount Turin, 80 versts from the city of Ustiug, and he built himself a hut from brushwood. The local people, fearing that their land would be taken from them for the saint’s monastery, compelled him to resettle up the river in a marshy wilderness spot.

At 30 versts from the city of Lalsk, the Elder constructed a cell and set about building a monastery. For draining the marshes, the ascetic dug three canals, about 2 kilometers in length, from the River Luz to Black Lake, and from Black Lake to Holy Lake, and from there to the Black Rivulet. During this time of heavy work he was bitten by a poisonous snake. Entrusting himself to the will of God, Saint Leonid decided not to seek medical treatment, nor did he think of the consequences. He went to sleep and woke up healthy. In gratitude to the Lord for His mercy, he called the canal the “Nedumaya Reka” (“Unplanned River”), and his monastery the “Ustnedumsk” (“the mouth of the Nedumaya”) monastery.

With the blessing of the Metropolitan Philaret of Rostov (afterwards the Patriarch of All-Russia, 1619-1633), Saint Leonid was ordained hieromonk in 1608. In the newly-built church in honor of the Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple, Hieromonk Leonid installed the Hodēgḗtria icon, as the Mother of God commanded him. Because of his difficult labors on the frontier, called the “Luzsk Permtsa”, which means “the pocket-land of the wild Permians”, it is fitting that Saint Leonid is venerated as one of the first enlighteners of these remote lands.

The monk had many struggles with the severe and inhospitable forces of nature. Although his canal-system had drained the marsh, in times of floodings the River Luz engulfed the monastery. Towards the end of his life the tireless worker undertook construction on a point of land at Black Lake. At the new site a church was built and consecrated in 1652. Saint Leonid died at age 100, on July 17, 1654. He was buried at the monastery church, where for a long time his coarse and heavy hair-shirt was preserved, a reminder of the ascetic toils of the holy saint.

There is a Troparion to Saint Leonid, and his holy icons are in churches at the places of his struggles.

Icon of the Mother of God of Sviatogorsk

The Sviatogorsk Icon of the Mother of God is from the Sviatogorsky Monastery in the province of Pskov. In the year 1563, during the time of Ivan the Terrible, in the environs of Pskov a “Tenderness” Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos appeared to a fifteen-year-old shepherd and fool named Timothy, not far from the stream Lugovitsa. This icon was thereafter situated in the Voronicha parish church of Saint George. The voice from the icon said that after six years the grace of God would shine forth upon this hill.

In 1569 to this same youth upon the Sinicha hill, there appeared a Hodēgḗtria icon of the Mother of God upon a pine tree. Timothy spent forty days at this place in fasting and prayer. The miraculous voice from the icon commanded that the clergy and the people should come to the Sinicha heights with the Tenderness icon on the Friday following the Sunday of All Saints.

When the church procession reached the hill and began the Molieben, a light suddenly shone during the reading of the Gospel. The air was filled with fragrance and everyone saw upon the pine tree the Hodēgḗtria icon. Both holy icons, the Hodēgḗtria and the Tenderness, were put into the church of the Great Martyr George. From them many miraculous signs and healings took place, about which reports were made to Tsar Ivan IV. Through his decree, upon the Sinicha Hill, called from that time the “Svyata” (“Holy”), a chapel was built, into which were transferred the wonderworking icons. But soon, on the Feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos, when a church procession with icons went to Holy Hill, the chapel suddenly burned that night. The fire destroyed everything else inside, but the holy things remained unharmed.

On this sacred spot they built a stone church in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, the altar of which stood on the place where the Hodēgḗtria icon had appeared. Both glorified icons were placed into the lower tier of the iconostas: the Hodēgḗtria on the right side (a chapel in honor of which was built in 1770), and the Tenderness on the left (a chapel was built in 1776).

In that same year of 1569 on Holy Hill was founded the Sviatogorsk (“Holy Hill”) Dormition monastery.

Every year, on the first Friday of the Peter and Paul Fast, the icons are conveyed to the Trinity cathedral of the city of Pskov. On the following Sunday, a procession is made with them along the inner walls of the city.

The celebration in honor of the Tenderness icon is March 19, and on the ninth Friday after Pascha. The Hodēgḗtria icon is commemorated on July 17, and on the Feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos (October 1).