Lives of all saints commemorated on March 8

1st Sunday of Great Lent: Sunday of Orthodoxy

Originally, the Prophets Moses, Aaron, and Samuel were commemorated on this Sunday. The Alleluia verses appointed for today’s Liturgy reflect this older usage.

Today we commemorate the “Triumph of Orthodoxy,” the restoration of the holy icons in the reign of the holy Empress Theodora (February 11).

Saint Theophylactus, Bishop of Nicomedia

Saint Theophylactus lived at Constantinople in the eighth century during the time of the Iconoclast heresy. After the death of the iconoclast emperor Leo IV the Khazar (775-780), Emperor Constantine VI (780-797) ascended the throne. At the same time, the holy Patriarch Paul (August 30), not having the strength to continue guiding the flock in the face of iconoclasm, voluntarily resigned his office (784). Saint Tarasius (February 25) was chosen in his place. At that time, he was an eminent imperial counselor. Under the supervision of the new Patriarch the Seventh Ecumenical Council (787) was convened to condemn the Iconoclast heresy. A relatively peaceful time began for the Church, and monasteries again began to fill with monks.

Saint Theophylactus, a gifted disciple of Saint Tarasius, with the blessing of the Patriarch, went to a monastery on the coast of the Black Sea with Saint Michael (May 23). The zealous ascetics by their God-pleasing labors and intense prayer were granted the gift of wonderworking by God. During a drought, when the workers in the field were weakened by thirst, the saints prayed and an empty vessel became filled with enough water to last the entire day.

After several years in the monastery, they were both consecrated as bishops by Patriarch Tarasius. Saint Michael was made Bishop of Synada, and Saint Theophylactus was made Bishop of Nicomedia.

Heading the Church of Nicomedia, Saint Theophylactus cared for the flock entrusted to him. He built churches, hospices, homes for wanderers, he generously distributed alms, was the guardian of orphans, widows and the sick, and personally attended those afflicted with leprosy, not hesitating to wash their wounds.

When the iconoclast Leo the Armenian (813-820) came to the imperial throne, the terrible heresy burst forth with renewed strength.

But the iconoclast emperor was not able to influence Saint Nicephorus (June 2), the successor of Patriarch Tarasius, who with the other bishops vainly urged Leo not to destroy the peace of the Church. Saint Theophylactus was present at the negotiations of the emperor with the Patriarch. Denouncing the heretics, Saint Theophylactus predicted a speedy death for Leo the Armenian. For his bold prophecy the saint was sent into exile to the fortress Strobil (in Asia Minor). He languished for thirty years until his death, which took place around the year 845.

After the restoration of icon-veneration in the year 847 under the empress Saint Theodora (February 11) and her son Michael, the holy relics of Saint Theophylactus were returned to Nicomedia.

Venerable Lazarus of Murom

Saint Lazarus of Murom was a Greek, born at Constantinople. In his native city he became a monk at the High-Mount monastery under the Elder Athanasius Diskotes, builder of many monasteries. Eight years later, Lazarus was under the guidance of Bishop Basil of Caesarea. In the year 1343 Bishop Basil, wanting to encourage the Russian Church, sent Saint Lazarus as a noted iconographer together with monks and gifts to Saint Basil, Archbishop of Novgorod (February 10, October 4, June 3).

Saint Lazarus made a copy of Novgorod’s Icon of Sophia, the Wisdom of God (August 15) for the Caesarea diocese, and compiled an account of Novgorod churches and monasteries. Meeting the monk, the Novgorod hierarch bowed to the ground to his guest and blessed him to remain in a monastery he built. For ten years Saint Lazarus faithfully served Saint Basil, and in 1352 upon the death of the holy archpastor, he “dressed the holy body in the prepared clothing and shed many tears.”

Previously, Saint Lazarus had received letters informing him of the death of Bishop Basil of Caesarea. Grieved that he had been deprived of both his guides, the Saint considered returning to his native land. However, in a dream the Novgorod hierarch appeared to him and directed him “to go northward towards the sea, to Mucha Island in Lake Onega” (Murom Island in Lake Onega). In a short time his first guide, Bishop Basil of Caesarea, commanded him in a dream to go to that same place and found a monastery. The Chronicles say that at this time the Novgorodians were making their first attempts to convert the peoples of the White Sea coastal region to Christianity.

But Saint Lazarus was not able to get to this island at once. For a long time, the owner of the island, the Novgorod merchant Ivan, would not permit him. The monk prayed fervently to the Most Holy Theotokos and to Saint John the Forerunner, and he wept at the grave of Saint Basil; and the owner’s resistance was removed. And the owner’s resistance was removed. Saint Basil once appeared to him in a dream and ordered him to bestow the island “to our friend Lazarus”, so that the Mother of God might be honored there.

Saint Lazarus arrived alone at the blessed spot. He set up a cross, a hut, and a chapel. Soon the Lopari and Chud natives living on the island heard about him, and he endured much suffering from them. They burned down his hut and did what damage they could. They beat him, chased him from the island, and pursued him in order to kill him. But God and the Queen of Heaven guarded the saint.

At the site of the burned hut the icon of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos again appeared to Saint Lazarus, miraculously undamaged by the fire. It was with this icon that they had blessed him when he became a monk, and from it was heard a commanding Voice: “The faithless people shall become faithful, and there will be one Church and one flock of Christ. Establish upon this place a church of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos.”

Another time the saint saw how this place was blessed by “a Woman of majesty, radiant with golden hue, and resplendent men who made reverence to Her.” Soon the eldest of the Lopari came to the monk and begged him to heal a child born blind: “... then we shall depart from the island, as your servants have been commanded.” Saint Lazarus perceived that this was an angel, and he gave thanks unto the Lord. He healed the blind child after praying and sprinkling him with holy water. Then those resisting the Saint quit the island. The father of the healed child later became a monk and all his sons were baptized.

From that time, people started coming to the saint from faraway places. He baptized them, and tonsured them into monasticism. Even his fellow countrymen came to him from Constantinople, the holy Monks Eleazar, Eumenius and Nazarius (June 4), future founders of the Monastery of the Forerunner in the Olonetsk region.

Visiting Novgorod, Saint Lazarus received from Bishop Moses (1352-1360) his blessing for the construction of a monastery, together with an antimension and some church vessels. A church was built in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, the first in all the coastal region; also a church of the Resurrection of Lazarus, and even a wooden church of Saint John the Forerunner together with a trapeza.

The Murom Dormition monastery was built up and strengthened by its zealous head Saint Lazarus until his old age.

The time of his death was revealed to him in a vision by his faithful protector, Saint Basil of Novgorod. Having chosen a worthy successor, the Athonite Elder Theodosius, and after receiving the Holy Life-Creating Mysteries and blessing everyone, Saint Lazarus departed to the Lord on March 8, 1391 at the age of 105 years. They buried him in a chapel beside the church of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos.

The Life of Saint Lazarus was written by the Elder Theodosius from the words of the monk himself.

Venerable Athanasius of Murom

Igumen Athanasius labored in the monastery of Saint Lazarus of Murom, or Murmansk, in the mid-fifteenth century. Unfortunately, there is no information about his godly life. After his repose, the body of Saint Athanasius was placed in a special chapel, and here his chains are kept as evidence of his exploits. The ascetic is revered locally in the monastery of Saint Lazarus along with the latter. The veneration of Saint Athanasius goes back a long time. In the second half of the seventeenth century Igumen Athanasius was described as a “venerable wonderworker.”

A troparion and a kontakion in honor of Saint Athanasius are known to exist.

In iconography Saint Athanasius is depicted with a prayer rope in his left hand, while in his right hand he holds a rolled-up scroll as a symbol of his teaching. If the scroll is open, the inscription reads: “Listen, my brother, and do not sin until the end of the age.” In an icon of Saints Lazarus and Athanasius from Murom’s Dormition Monastery, the Saints are depicted full length, praying to the Savior in heaven.

Sometimes Saint Athanasius is shown with his head uncovered, short hair, and a long dark beard, pointed at the tip. He is wearing a light green robe and a brown mantle with a blue Schema and a kukulion on his shoulders. Above is the inscription: “Saint Athanasius of Murom, Wonderworker.”

Apostle Hermas of the Seventy

The Holy Apostle Hermas of the Seventy was bishop at Philippopolis, and died a martyr in the first century. In the Epistle to the Romans, the holy Apostle Paul commands the Romans to greet Hermas (Rom 16:14) (Rom 16:14).

Hieromartyr Theodoritus of Antioch

Saint Theodoritus was a presbyter and keeper of sacred vessels at the cathedral church in Antioch. This church was built and richly adorned by the emperor Saint Constantine the Great (May 21) and his son Constantius, and the people called it “the Golden church.” Having occupied the throne after the death of the emperor Constantius (337-361), Julian the Apostate (361-363) decided to restore paganism throughout the Roman Empire.

The emperor appointed his uncle, also named Julian, as prefect of Antioch. He ordered him to close the Christian churches, and to send the valuables within them to the imperial treasury. Wanting to please the emperor, the prefect, also an apostate from Christianity, set about his impious task with zeal.

Arriving at Antioch with the dignitary Felix, he gave orders to lock up the priest Theodoritus under guard, and he began his plundering, defiling the altar and the holy altar table. One of those present, Euzoios, tried to admonish him for his impiety, and for this he was killed. Julian accused Theodoritus of hiding the church valuables, but the venerable keeper of vessels denied the accusation and openly denounced Julian for his apostasy.

Despite beastly tortures, the holy martyr maintained his faith in Christ the Savior, and predicted a speedy death for Julian and the emperor for their sacrilege.

The soldiers torturing the faithful presbyter were struck by his firmness and endurance, and by the power of the Word of God. They were converted to Christ, for which they were drowned in the sea.

The holy confessor was beheaded. The mockery and sacrilege of the pagans did not go unpunished, and the predictions of Saint Theodoritus were soon fulfilled. The prefect Julian died in agony from a grievous illness, and the emperor Julian perished in a campaign against the Persians.

Venerable Dometius

It is possible that this Saint Dometius is the same as Saint Dometius the Persian who is commemorated on August 7 with his two disciples.

Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God “of the Sign”

This is a copy of the famous “Kursk Root” Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos commemorated on November 27.

Saint Felix of Burgundy, Bishop of Dunwich, Enlightener of East Anglia

Saint Felix, the Apostle of East Anglia, was born in the Burgundy region of what is now France. He was a bishop who was sent to England by Saint Honorius of Canterbury (September 30) to evangelize East Anglia.

Saint Felix established his See in Dunwich on the Suffolk coast in 631, and labored there successfully for seventeen years. He founded a school for boys with the help of King Siegbert, and brought in teachers from Canterbury.

Saint Felix died in 648 and was buried at Dunwich, but his relics were transferred to Ramsey abbey in Huntingdonshire in 971.

Saint Felix has given his name to Felixstowe in Suffolk, and to Felixkirk in Yorkshire. He is mentioned by Saint Bede (HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH CHURCH AND PEOPLE, Book 3, ch. 18 and 20).

Icon of the Mother of God of “the Sign”

On March 8, 1898, a group of anarchists who hoped to undermine the people’s faith in the Kursk-Root Icon’s wonderworking power, decided to destroy it. They placed a time bomb in the Cathedral of the Sign in the city of Kursk, and at 2 o’clock in the morning there was a devastating explosion that shook the monastery's walls.

The frightened monks ran immediately to the cathedral, where they saw horrible devastation. The force of the blast shattered the gilded canopy above the Icon. The heavy marble base, with several massive steps, had been jolted out of position and had split into several pieces. A huge metal candlestick which had stood in front of the Icon was blown to the opposite side of the cathedral. A cast iron door near the Icon of the Mother of God was torn from its hinges and was thrown outward where it smashed against a wall and made a deep crack. All the windows in the cathedral, including those in the dome overhead, were shattered. Amid the general devastation, the holy Icon remained in one piece and even the glass within the frame was intact. Instead of destroying the Kursk-Root Icon, the anarchists had, on the contrary, become the cause of its greater glorification.

The principal Feast Day of the Kursk-Root Icon is on November 27. It is also commemorated on September 8, the day of its appearance in 1259.