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 Martyrs Agathonicus, Zoticus, Theoprepius, Acindynus, Severian, Zeno and others accepted death for Christ during the reign of the emperor Maximian (284-305).
The Martyr Agathonicus was descended from the illustrious lineage of the Hypasians, and he lived at Nicomedia. Well versed in Holy Scripture, he converted many pagans to Christ, including the most eminent member of the Senate (its “princeps” or leader). Comitus Eutolmius was sent to the Pontine (lower Black Sea) region, where he crucified the followers of the Christian Zoticus, who had refused to offer sacrifice to idols. He took Zoticus with him.
In Nicomedia, Eutolmius arrested the Martyr Agathonicus (together with the princeps), and also Theoprepius, Acindynus and Severian. After tortures, Eutolmius ordered that the martyrs be taken to Thrace for trial by the emperor.
But along the way, in the vicinity of Potama, the Martyrs Zoticus, Theoprepius and Acindynus were unable to proceed further behind the chariot of the governor because of wounds received during torture. Therefore, they were put to death. The Martyr Severian was put to death at Chalcedon, and the Martyr Agathonicus together with others was beheaded with the sword by order of the emperor, in Selymbria.
The relics of the Martyr Agathonicus were in a church named for him at Constantinople, and were seen in the year 1200 by the Russian pilgrim Anthony. And in the fourteenth century Philotheus, the archbishop of Selymbria, devoted an encomium to the Martyr Agathonicus.
The Hieromartyr Athanasius, bishop of the Cilician city of Tarsus, who baptized the holy Nun Anthusa, was beheaded by the sword under the emperor Aurelian (270-275).
Saint Anthusa, a native of the city of Seleucia (in Syria), was the daughter of illustrious pagans. Learning of the teachings of Christ, she under pretense of visiting her benefactress, journeyed instead to Tarsus to Saint Athanasius and received Baptism from him.
Her parents were enraged at their daughter for becoming a Christian. She received monastic tonsure from Saint Athanasius, then settled in the desert, where she spent 33 years at ascetic deeds. She died at the end of the third century while she was praying. The Martyrs Charisimos and Neophytus, who had been baptized together with the Nun Anthusa, were her servants, and they too accepted death for Christ.
The Martyr Eulalia lived in Spain, near the city of Barcionum (now Barcelona), and she was raised by her parents in piety and the Christian Faith. Already at fourteen years of age, the maiden spent a solitary life in her parental home with others of her own age, occupied in prayer, the reading of Holy Scripture, and handicrafts.
During the time of a persecution against Christians under the emperors Diocletian (284-305) and Maximian (305-311), the governor Dacian arrived in the city of Barcionum to rid it of Christians. Hearing of this, the maiden secretly left her home at night, and by morning had made her way into the city. Pushing her way through the throng of people, the girl made a bold denunciation of the judge for forcing people to renounce the True God in order to offer sacrifice to devils instead.
Dacian gave orders to strip the girl and beat her with rods, but she steadfastly endured the torment and told the judge that the Lord would deliver her from the pain. They tied the martyr to a tree and tore her skin with iron claws, and they then burned her wounds with torches.
During her torment, Dacian asked the saint, “Where then is your God, Whom you have called upon?” She answered that the Lord was beside her, but that Dacian in his impurity could not see Him. During the saint’s prayer: “Behold, God helps me, and the Lord is the defender of my soul” (Ps. 53/54:4), the flames of the torches turned back upon the torturers, who fell to the ground.
The Martyr Eulalia began to pray that the Lord would take her to Heaven to Himself, and with this prayer she died. People saw a white dove come from her mouth and fly up to Heaven. Then a sudden snowstorm covered the martyr’s naked body like a white garment (the saint’s commemoration is sometimes given as December 10, which may be more correct, in view of the snow).
Three days later, the martyr’s parents came and wept before her hanging body, but they were also glad that their daughter would be numbered among the saints. When they took Saint Eulalia from the tree, one of the Christians, named Felix, said with tears of joy: “Lady Eulalia, you are the first of us to win the martyr’s crown!”
Saint Felix himself soon accepted death for Christ, and is also commemorated on this day.
The Georgian Icon of the mother of God: In 1622 the Persian Shah Abbas conquered Georgia. Many Christian holy things were stolen, and many were sold to the Russian merchants in Persia. Thus, the Georgian Icon of the Mother of God came to a certain merchant named Stephen, who piously kept it.
In Yaroslavl, the merchant George Lytkin, on whose business Stephen was in Persia, received a revelation in a dream about the holy object found by Stephen, and he was commanded to send it to the Chernogorsk monastery in the Arkhangelsk diocese, founded in 1603.
When Stephen returned home in 1629 and showed the icon to George Lytkin, he remembered his vision and he set off to the Dvina outskirts to the Chernogorsk monastery.1
The icon was glorified there by miracles. In 1654, during a pestilential plague, the icon was transferred to Moscow, and those praying before it escaped the deadly plague. The numerous copies of the icon testify to its deep veneration. In 1658, with the blessing of Patriarch Nikon, there was established an annual feastday of the Georgian Icon of the Mother of God. The service was written in 1698 under the supervision of Theodore Polykarpov of the Moscow printing office.
1 It was called this because it was built on a hilly and somber place. From of old it had been named “Black Hill”, but afterwards the monastery changed the name to “Pretty Hill”
Saint Bogolep was a disciple of Saint Paisius of Uglich (June 6). In the world Saint Bogolep was a baker of bread, and then in the monastery he had this as his obedience.
A wonderworking icon of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos appeared before him when he went early in the morning for water to the Volga. He saw the icon standing on the riverbank and gleaming with a heavenly light (from whence it came was unknown).
Forgetting about the water, Saint Bogolep quickly ran back to the monastery and reported everything to Saint Paisius. Saints Adrian, Vassian, Bogolep and Paisius, in company with all the monastery brethren, carried the icon to the monastery.
Saint Bogolep was a hieromonk. Before his death he became a schemamonk. His memory is celebrated on August 22, the day commemorating his namesake Saint Theoprepius (which in Russian translation is “Bogolep,” meaning “God-worthy”).
Saint Isaac (Antimonov) fell asleep in the Lord on August 22, 1894.
The Moscow Patriarchate authorized local veneration of the Optina Elders on June 13,1996, glorifying them for universal veneration on August 7, 2000.