The third day of the Afterfeast of the Meeting of the Lord falls on February 5.
The Holy Virgin Martyr Agatha was the fifteen-year-old daughter of rich and respected Christian parents from the city of Palermo (formerly Panormos) in Sicily. During the persecution under the emperor Decius (249-251), the city prefect of Catania, Quintianus, having heard about Agatha’s wealth and beauty, sent his soldiers after her to bring her to trial as a Christian.
At Catania they housed the saint with a certain rich woman, who had five daughters. They all attempted to tempt Saint Agatha with fine clothes, amusements and entertainment, urging her to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, but the saint disdained all these things. The more they tried to move her, the more resolute she became. She prayed that she might soon face martyrdom.
During her interrogation under Quintianus, the holy martyr was swayed neither by the flattery, nor by the threats, and she was subjected to cruel torments. They also tried to remove her breasts with metal tongs, and when this failed, they used knives.
The holy Apostle Peter appeared to her in prison and healed her wounds. Saint Agatha was led to torture again, and Quintianus was astonished to see her completely healed, with no trace of cutting. Then the torture began once more.
At this moment an earthquake took place in the city, and many buildings were destroyed. Among those killed were two of Quintianus’s advisors. The terrified inhabitants rushed to Quintianus, demanding an end to Agatha’s tortures. Fearing a revolt by the people, Quintianus sent Saint Agatha back to prison. There the martyr, offering thanks to God, peacefully surrendered her soul to the Lord.
Saint Theodosius, Archbishop of Chernigov, was born in the seventeenth century at the beginning of the decade of the thirties in Podolsk governance. He was descended from a noble family, the Polonitsky-Uglitskys. His parents were the priest Nikita and Maria. The saint was taught Christian piety in his parents’ home, and this piety remained with him throughout his life.
From childhood he was distinguished by a fervent love for God and zeal for the Church. The innate abilities of the youth came to light in the Kiev Brotherhood school at Kiev’s Theophany monastery. The school was flourishing at the end of the 1640s, when its rectors were Archimandrite Innocent (Gizel), and Igumen Lazar (Baranovich), who later became Archbishop of Chernigov. Among its instructors were: Hieromonk Epiphanius (Slavinetsky), Hieromonk Arsenius (Satanovsky), Bishop Theodosius (Baevsky) of Belorus, Igumen Theodosius (Saphonovich) and Meletius Dzik. These were the enlightened men of those days. The comrades of Saint Theodosius at the school would become future outstanding pastors: Simeon Polotsky, Joannicius Golyatovsky, Anthony Radivillovsky, Barlaam Yasninsky. The Kiev Brotherhood Theophany school was the chief center in the struggle of Orthodoxy against the assaults of Catholic clergy, particularly the Jesuits.
Saint Theodosius grew to spiritual maturity near the relics of Saints Anthony and Theodosius and other God-pleasers of the Kiev Caves, and he tried to imitate their holy life as much as he could. He devoted all his free time to prayer, meditation on God, and the reading of Holy Scripture.
It might be surmised that the saint did not finish the full course of studies, since the school ceased its activity for several years following the devastation of Podolia by the Poles. All his life the saint had a deep regard for the Kiev Brotherhood monastery where he was educated. In the Synodikon of the Kiev-Vydubitsk monastery is the following comment about Saint Theodosius: “He was a man of fine intellect, and generous to the Kiev Brotherhood monastery.”
Upon receiving his education, the future hierarch received monastic tonsure at the Kiev Caves Lavra with the name Theodosius, in honor of Saint Theodosius of the Caves (May 3).
Metropolitan Dionysius (Balaban) of Kiev made him archdeacon of Kiev’s cathedral of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) , and then appointed him steward of the episcopal household. Soon he left Kiev and went to the distant Krupitsky monastery near Baturino (in the Chernigov diocese), which was famed for its strict monastic life. There he was ordained to the holy priesthood, but remained there only a short time.
In 1662, Saint Theodosius was appointed Igumen of the Korsun monastery in Kiev diocese, and in the year 1664 he was made head of the ancient Kiev-Vydubitsky monastery. This monastery had fallen into the hands of the Uniates and Poles at the beginning of the seventeenth century and was in complete ruin. Thanks to the energy and initiative of Saint Theodosius, the Vydubitsky Mikhailovsk monastery was quickly restored.
He was particularly concerned with the order of church services. He formed an excellent choir, which was famed not only in Little Russia, but also in Moscow. Saint Theodosius sent his singers to Moscow in 1685 to instruct their choirs in Kievan chant.
As a strict ascetic himself, Saint Theodosius was concerned with the spiritual growth of his monks. He founded a small skete on the island of Mikhailovschina, not far from the monastery, for brethren wishing to live in solitude. He appointed the hieromonk Job (Opalinsky), one of the most zealous monks of his monastery, to organize and administer the skete.
Saint Theodosius had to live through some quite difficult days, enduring many sorrows. He and other Igumens were accused by Bishop Methodius of Mstislav and Orshansk of betraying Russia in a supposed correspondence with the enemies of Russia.
On September 20, 1668 Saint Theodosius explained the matter. On November 17, 1668 the lie was exposed, and Saint Theodosius together with the other Igumens were vindicated. Archbishop Lazar (Baranovich) esteemed the high spiritual qualities of Saint Theodosius and befriended him. He called him “a sheep of the flock of Christ, teaching by humility,” and he prophetically expressed the wish that the name of Saint Theodosius might be inscribed in Heaven.
When Archbishop Lazar became locum tenens of Kiev’s Metropolitan See in 1689, he appointed Saint Theodosius as his vicar in Kiev, while he remained at Chernigov. In his capacity as vicar of the locum tenens of the Kiev Metropolitan See, Saint Theodosius had an active role in many churchly events. In 1685 he participated with the right of a decisive vote in the election of Bishop Gideon (Chetverinsky) as Metropolitan of Kiev, and he was sent to Moscow with news of this event with Igumen Jerome (Dubin) of Pereyaslavl . In Moscow, both representatives were received with honor and esteem. Indeed, the result of this delegation was the reuniting of the Kiev Metropolitan See with the Russian Orthodox Church.
In 1688 Saint Theodosius was appointed archimandrite of Chernigov’s Eletsy monastery, replacing the deceased Archimandrite Joannicius (Golyatovsky). In appointing Saint Theodosius, Archbishop Lazar told him to spare no effort in placing the Eletsy monastery in good order. This monastery had not yet been set aright after the expulsion of the Jesuits and Dominicans, and it was in great disorder.
Through the efforts of Saint Theodosius, in his two or three years as igumen, the monastery’s revenues and properties increased, the church of the Dormition was repaired, and the Elets Icon (February 5) was enshrined there.
In his new position, the saint also assisted Archbishop Lazar in many important matters. He participated in drafting a conciliar reply to Patriarch Joachim of Moscow in response to his questions about the attitude of the Kiev Metropolitan See to the Council of Florence, and its judgment on the question of the transformation of the Holy Gifts as accepted by this Florentine Council. When the Patriarch proved to be unsatisfied by these answers, the Baturino Igumen Saint Demetrius (the future Metropolitan of Rostov) was sent to him at the beginning of 1689. Saint Theodosius journeyed with him as the representative of Archbishop Lazar. He was entrusted with the delivery of a letter to the Patriarch, and to clear up the misunderstandings.
Because of his poor health, Archbishop Lazar wished to see Saint Theodosius consecrated to the episcopate, seeing in the saint a worthy successor to himself. On September 11, 1692 the election of Saint Theodosius as Archbishop of Chernigov was confirmed, and he was consecrated in the Dormition cathdral of the Moscow Kremlin two days later.
Little information regarding Saint Theodosius’s administration of the Chernigov diocese has been preserved. The saint worked incessantly to raise the level of true Christian piety in his flock. He also focused on maintaining old monasteries, and founding new communities.
At the very beginning of his episcopate, the the Pecheniksk women’s monastery was established with his blessing, and he himself consecrated the monastery church in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos.
In 1694, a skete was founded near Liubech. The same year, at the Domnitsky men’s monastery, the saint consecrated a temple in honor of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos. In the summer of 1695, he consecrated a majestic temple in honor of the Most Holy Theotokos, on the summit of Boldino Hill, near the ancient monastery of Saint Elias. Under Saint Theodosius there was a special enthusiasm for and strengthening of monasticism in the Chernigov diocese.
The saint also devoted much attention to the clergy, and he tried to choose worthy candidates for the priesthood. He also encouraged the pastoral education of the Chernigov clergy. He invited learned monks from Kiev, among whom was Saint John (Maximovitch), the future Metropolitan of Tobolsk (June 10), and also a helper and successor of Saint Theodosius in organizing the Chernigov clergy school.
Strict uprightness in regard to clergy and flock, deep compassion, concern and Christian love of peace were distinguishing features in the activity of Saint Theodosius. Not only did the Orthodox turn to him for help and advice, but even persons of other confessions.
Saint Theodosius did not remain with his Chernigov flock very long. Sensing the approach of death, he summoned the administrator of the Briansk Svensk monastery, Saint John (Maximovitch), and appointed him Archimandrite of the Chernigov Elets monastery.
Saint Theodosius died on February 5, 1696, and was buried in Chernigov’s Saints Boris and Gleb cathedral church, in a special crypt near the right cleros. His successor Saint John (Maximovitch), who was healed of a grievous illness by Saint Theodosius, later placed a stone plaque over his grave with a poetic inscription in gratitude for the saint’s help. The special grace which Saint Theodosius attained is shown by his ascetic life and his assistance to all who turn to him in prayer.
The glorification of Saint Theodosius occurred on September 9, 1896.
The Holy martyr Theodula lived in the city of Anazarbus (Asia Minor) during the reign of the Roman emperors Diocletian (284-305) and Maximian (305-311). The prefect of the city, Pelagius, was a very cruel man. His servants sought out Christians throughout the entire region and brought them to trial, where which the imperial edict was read to them, and they were ordered to worship idols.
One day they brought to him a Christian woman named Theodula. She was afraid, not so much of the tortures, but that she might be defiled by the pagans, and so she had offered them much gold. However, the servants would not accept the gold, and they brought her before the prefect. Pelagius asked her name and he ordered her to worship the pagan gods. He threatened her with cruel tortures if she refused. Saint Theodula replied, “I am a Christian. My very name means ‘servant of God,’ and so people call me Theodula. I worship the One True God and will not worship a mere stone.”
Pelagius became furious and he gave orders to begin the tortures. The Lord granted Theodula His help, and she did not feel any pain. Pelagius, however, said this was done by the gods, who had spared Theodula in the hope that she would turn to them.
Saint Theodula said to the prefect, “Where are your gods, who spare me? Show them to me, that I might show honor to them.” They brought her into the temple of the “deified” Roman emperor Hadrian, whom they regarded as a mighty god. The saint however, in praying to the One True God, merely blew a breath at the idol, and it crumbled into dust. Seeing this, Pelagius trembled with fright. If the idol’s destruction was reported to the emperor, he himself would be thrown to the wild beasts. He fell down at the feet of Saint Theodula, begging her to restore the idol, and promised to accept Christianity.
The saint prayed to the Lord Jesus Christ, and the idol again stood in its place, whole and intact. The prefect Pelagius, however, not only did not keep his promise to become a Christian, but instead he began to torture the martyr with an even greater fury.
During these torments a certain fellow named Helladius came up to the prefect, and looking at the captives, he asked to be given the maiden Theodula, promising to make her worship the pagan gods, doing this because he wanted to ingratiate himself with the city prefect and to receive honors.
Helladius subjected Saint Theodula to harsh torments, exceeding Pelagius in cruelty. The saint prayed that God would grant her the ability to persevere. She immediately received help from God and was healed. The tormentor was awestruck, and Saint Theodula admonished him. “Become a Christian,” she said, “and attain eternal honors in the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who shall judge both the living and the dead and render to each man according to his deeds.”
By her prayers and her words, Saint Theodula led Helladius to the knowledge of truth. He believed in Christ and confessed the True God before the prefect. He also received the crown of martyrdom. They cut off his head with a sword, and threw his body into the sea.
Saint Theodula was thrown into a blazing oven, but she remained unharmed. After this, they stretched her out on a metal plate. They poured boiling tar, wax and oil on her, but the red-hot plate shattered into pieces, and the fire scorched many people, including the city prefect Pelagius, who indeed died of fright, but Saint Theodula remained unharmed.
Seeing such a miracle, many people believed in Christ, among whom were the respected citizens Macarius and Evagrius. The pagans continued to torture Christians. They heated an oven and threw Saint Theodula, Macarius, Evagrius and many others who believed in Christ into it. They all suffered martyrdom, and were translated into life immortal.
“Seeker of the Perishing” Icon of the Mother of God From time immemorial the Russian people, with faith in the all-powerful help of the Most Holy Theotokos, considered the title “Seeker of the Perishing” to refer not only to those who are dying, but to those whose souls are in danger of spiritual death.
There are no reliable accounts of the origin of the icon, “Seeker of the Perishing.” There are, however, several wonderworking icons of this name, through which the Theotokos showed forth Her mercy to people on the very brink of death.
In the mid-eighteenth century, in the village of Bor of Kaluga governance, the pious peasant Thedotus Obukhov lost his way in a blizzard on the Feast of the Lord’s Baptism. The horse became exhausted and paused on the edge of an impassable ravine. Not seeing any way to save himself, Obukhov lay down in his sleigh, where he began to freeze.
In these terrible moments he prayed with all his being to the Queen of Heaven for help, and he vowed that if he was rescued he would have a “Seeker of the Perishing” icon painted and donate it to the local church. She heard his prayer and helped him in a marvelous way. A certain peasant in the nearby village heard a voice outside his window saying, “Take him.” He went out and saw the half-frozen Obukhov on his sleigh. When he recovered his health, Obukhov immediately fulfilled his vow and commissioned a copy of the icon from the Saint George church in the city of Bolkhov in the Orlov governance. From that time the Bor “Seeker of the Perishing” Icon was glorified by many manifestations of grace and miracles.
There are other “Seeker of the Perishing” Icons: one manifested itself in 1770 in the village of Malizhino in Kharkov governance, and delivered the people from cholera three times; there was another in the village of Krasnoe in Chernigov governance, and another from Voronezh and Kozlov in Tambov governance. In the year 1835, at the Moscow Alexandrov Orphanage Institute, a church was consecrated in honor of the “Seeker of the Perishing” Icon.
Of particular interest is the “Seeker of the Perishing” Icon in the Church of the Glorious Resurrection in Moscow. This icon had been transferred from the church of the Nativity of Christ to the Palashevska alley. Its final owner had become widowed and was on the verge of complete poverty.
Fervent prayer to the Most Holy Theotokos saved him from despair and arranged matters for his daughters. This man felt that he was not worthy to have this wonderworking icon in his house, so he gave it to the church.
In 1812 the Palashevsk church was pillaged by the French. The desecrated icon was found broken into three pieces among the rubble. With the finding of the icon, numerous miracles of healing took place. Brides entering into marriage pray before this icon that their marriage might be a happy one. People come to it, overwhelmed by drunkenness, perishing in poverty, suffering in illness, and they turn to the Icon in prayer as to a Mother with Her perishing children.
The Queen of Heaven sends down help and support for all: “Seek us who are perishing, O Most Holy Virgin, chasten us not according to our sins, but as you are merciful in your love for mankind, have pity, deliver us from hell, sickness and necessity, and save us” (Troparion, Tone 4).
The Elets-Chernigov (Chernigov Spruce Tree) Icon of the Mother of God appeared on a spruce or fir tree near Chernigov in the year 1060, in the time of Prince Svyatoslav Yaroslavich, as was recorded in the Synodikon of Bishop Zosimus Prokopovich of Chernigov (1655-1657). The icon was placed in a church built in honor of the Elets-Spruce Icon of the Mother of God. Saint Anthony (July 10), while living an ascetical life on the Boldino Heights (1068-1069), had given his blessing to found a monastery at this place.
In 1238 the monastery was pillaged by the Tatars (Mongols), but the icon was hidden inside the monastery walls. In the year 1470, Prince Simeon Olelkovich of Kiev restored the monastery, and they placed the icon in the church.
The ultimate fate of the icon is unclear. According to one tradition, a descendant of the Chernigov princes, Baryatinsky, carried the icon to Moscow in the year 1579, when Chernigov fell into the hands of the Polish King Stephen Bathory. In 1687, Prince Daniel Baryatinsky was returning from a campaign in the Crimea. At Kharkov he fell seriously ill, and before his death he bequeathed the Elets Icon to the nearby Kharkov Dormition church.
According to another tradition, the icon vanished from the monastery when it was sacked in the seventeenth century by the forces of Sigismund III. In 1676, Prince Constantine Ostrozhsky presented the Elets monastery a copy of the Elets Icon of the Mother of God, brought from Vladimir by the Kozel brothers. Archimandrite Joannicius (Golyatovsky) was at this time restoring the monastery and he described numerous miracles of this icon in his book, “Skorbnitsa” (or “Sokrovischnitsa”, i.e. “Consoler” or “Treasury”), published in 1676 in Novgorod.
There is still another Elets Icon of the Mother of God, also appearing in the year 1060. It received its name because it appeared in the city of Elets, in a cathedral church dedicated to the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God. The feastday of this icon was set for January 11.
The Divnogorsk-Sicilian Icon of the Mother of God received the first part of its title from where it was enshrined when it was glorified: the Dormition monastery of Divnogorsk, in the former Ostrogozhsk district in Voronezh governance. Its title of “Sicilian” comes from its place of origin, since by tradition this icon at Diva (i.e. “Wondrous Heights”) was brought from Sicily by the pious monastic Elders Xenophon and Joasaph. They suggest that these saints were Orthodox Greeks by birth, and that they had arrived there not earlier than the end of the fifteenth century. Xenophon and Joasaph founded a monastery at a scenic spot above the River Don, near the confluence of the River Tikha Sosna [Quiet Pine River]. The place was called Wondrous Heights by those struck by the form of the chalk columns throughout the hills.
It is said that Xenophon and Joasaph lived in a cave (where later the church of Saint John the Forerunner was built), and that they carved out the first church in a chalk column, into which also they put the Sicilian Icon of the Mother of God which they had brought with them. Here is where they found their eternal repose.
On the Divnogorsk-Sicilian Icon of the Mother of God, the Theotokos is depicted sitting in the clouds. In Her right hand is a white lily blossom, and with Her left arm She supports the Divine Infant, Who sits upright upon Her knees. The Savior holds a lily blossom in His left hand, and blesses with His right hand. Around the face of the Mother of God are eight angels. The two beneath are shown on bended knee and with hands upraised in prayer. Over the head of the Theotokos is the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove.
The special glorification of the icon began in the year 1831, when cholera was raging. At Korotoyak, 7-8 versts from the monastery, the Most Holy Virgin appeared (as She is depicted in the Divnogorsk Icon) to a certain elderly woman, Ekaterina Kolomenska, in a dream. She commanded that Her icon be brought and a Molieben be served before it. The wonderworking icon was brought to Korotoyak, and after a Molieben before the holy icon, the cholera ceased.
By the intercession of the Mother of God, the city of Ostrogozhsk also was saved from cholera. The people of Korotoyak and Ostrogozhsk were also saved from cholera in 1847 and 1848 through the miraculous intercession of the Mother of God, which occurred after a church procession around these towns with the holy icon.
According to Tradition, the feastday of the wonderworking icon on February 5 was established already at its original habitation by Xenophon and Joasaph.