The Third Sunday of Lent is that of the Veneration of the Cross. The cross stands in the midst of the church in the middle of the lenten season not merely to remind men of Christ’s redemption and to keep before them the goal of their efforts, but also to be venerated as that reality by which man must live to be saved. “He who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Mt.10:38). For in the Cross of Christ Crucified lies both “the power of God and the wisdom of God” for those being saved (1 Cor.1:24).
Hieromartyr Basil was a presbyter in Ancyra, Galatia. Fighting against the Arian heresy, he urged his flock to cling firmly to Orthodoxy. Because of this Saint Basil was deposed from his priestly rank by a local Arian council, but a Council of 230 bishops in Palestine reinstated him.
Saint Basil openly continued to preach and denounce the Arians. Therefore, he became the victim of persecution and was subjected to punishment as a man dangerous to the state. Two apostates, Elpidios and Pegasios, were ordered to turn Saint Basil from Orthodoxy. The saint remained unshakable, and was again subjected to tortures.
When the emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363) arrived in the city of Ancyra, Saint Basil bravely confessed Christ before him at the trial, and denounced the emperor for his apostasy. Julian ordered that strips of skin be cut from the saint’s back. Saint Basil endured the gruesome torture with great patience.
When they began to beat his shoulders and stomach with red-hot rods, he fell down upon the ground from the torments and cried out, “O Christ, my Light! O Jesus, my Hope! Quiet Haven from the stormy sea. I thank You, O Lord God of my fathers, that You have snatched my soul from the pit of Hell and preserved Your Name in me unstained! Let me finish my life a victor and inherit eternal life according to the promise You gave my fathers. Now accept my soul in peace, remaining steadfast in this confession! For You are merciful and great is Your mercy, You Who live and sojourn throughout all the ages. Amen.”
Having made such prayer, and lacerated all over by the red-hot rods, the saint fell into a sweet slumber, giving up his soul into the hands of God. The Hieromartyr Basil died June 29, 362. His commemoration was transferred to March 22 because of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul.
This saint should not be confused with Saint Basil of Ancyra (January 1), a layman.
The Holy Martyr Drosis, together with Five Virgin-Martyrs Agalida, Apollinaria, Daria, Mamthusa and Thais: Saint Drosis was daughter of the emperor Trajan (98-117), a fierce persecutor of Christians. In the year 99 he revived an earlier law which forbade secret gatherings and was indirectly aimed against Christians. In the year 104 he issued a special law against Christians.
Beginning in that year, the persecutions continued until the end of his reign. During this time the bodies of martyred Christians often remained unburied in order to intimidate others. Five Christian virgins: Aglaida, Apolliniaria, Daria, Mamthusa and Thais, took upon themselves the task of burying such Christians. They secretly gathered up the bodies of martyrs, anointed them with spices, wrapped them in shrouds and buried them. When she learned of this, Drosis, a secret Christian but not yet baptized, asked the holy virgins to take her with them when they went to bury Christians.
On the advice of the court dignitary Adrian, a guard was set over those who had been killed, to arrest anyone who tried to bury them. On the very first night, Saint Drosis and the five virgins were caught. Learning that one of the captives was his own daughter, Trajan gave orders to hold her separately, in the hope that she would change her mind.
The remaining holy virgins were sentenced to burning in a furnace for melting copper. They bravely accepted execution and were granted crowns of martyrdom. The copper, mingled with the ashes of the martyrs, was used to make tripods for a new bath of Trajan. But as long as these tripods stood in the bath-house, no man was able to enter it. Anyone crossing the threshold fell down dead. When the pagan priests realized why this happened, they advised that the tripods be removed.
Adrian told the emperor to melt the tripods and to make five statues of naked virgins, in the likeness of the Martyrs. Then he said that these statues should be placed before the entrance to the imperial bath. Trajan agreed. When the statues were set up, the emperor saw in a dream five pure lambs pastured in Paradise, and the Shepherd who said to him, “O most wanton and wicked Caesar! Those whose images you placed there to be mocked have been taken away from you and brought here by the Good and Merciful Pastor. In time your daughter, the pure lamb Drosis, shall also be here.”
When he awoke, Trajan flew into a rage and ordered two huge furnaces to be heated. At the ovens an imperial edict was posted: “You who worship the Crucified, save yourselves many agonies, and spare us also from these labors. Offer sacrifice to the gods. If you do not wish to do this, however, then let each of you voluntarily cast himself into this furnace.” Many Christians willingly went to martyrdom.
When she heard of this, Saint Drosis also decided to endure martyrdom for Christ. In her prison she offered prayers asking the Lord to release her. God heard her prayer, and the guards fell asleep. Saint Drosis went off to the ovens, but began to wonder: “How can I go to God without a wedding garment (i.e., without being baptized), for I am impure. But, O King of Kings, Lord Jesus Christ, for Your sake I give up my imperial position, so that I may be the lowliest handmaiden in Your Kingdom. Baptize me Yourself with your Holy Spirit.”
After praying in this manner, Saint Drosis anointed herself with myrrh [chrism], which she had taken along with her, and immersing herself in water three times, she said: “the servant of God Drosis is baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” For seven days the saint hid, spending her time in fasting and prayer. Christians found her and learned from her everything that occurred. On the eighth day, the holy Martyr Drosis went to the red-hot ovens and cast herself into the fire.
Saint Isaac lived during the fourth century, received monastic tonsure and pursued ascetic labors in the desert. During the reign of the emperor Valens (364-378), a zealous adherent of the Arian heresy, there was a persecution of the Orthodox, and churches were closed and destroyed.
Hearing of the persecution, Saint Isaac left the wilderness and went to Constantinople to console and encourage the Orthodox, and to fight against the heretics. At that time, barbarian Goths along the River Danube were making war against the Empire. They seized Thrace and advanced toward Constantinople.
When the emperor Valens was leaving the capital with his soldiers, Saint Isaac cried out, “Emperor, unlock the churches of the Orthodox, and then the Lord will aid you!” But the emperor, disdaining the words of the monk, confidently continued on his way. The saint repeated his request and prophecy three times. The angry emperor ordered Saint Isaac to be thrown into a deep ravine, filled with thorns and mud, from which it was impossible to escape.
Saint Isaac remained alive by God’s help, and he emerged, overtook the emperor and said, “You wanted to destroy me, but three angels pulled me from the mire. Hear me, open up the churches for the Orthodox and you shall defeat the enemy. If, however, you do not heed me, then you shall not return. You will be captured and burned alive.” The emperor was astonished at the saint’s boldness and ordered his attendants Saturninus and Victor to take the monk and hold him in prison until his return.
Saint Isaac’s prophecy was soon fulfilled. The Goths defeated and pursued the Greek army. The emperor and his Arian generals took refuge in a barn filled with straw, and the attackers set it afire. After receiving news of the emperor’s death, Saint Isaac was released and honored as a prophet.
Then the holy Emperor Theodosius the Great (379-395) came to the throne. On the advice of Saturninus and Victor, he summoned the Elder, treating him with great respect. Obeying his instructions, he banished the Arians from Constantinople and restored the churches to the Orthodox. Saint Isaac wanted to return to his desert, but Saturninus and Victor begged him not to leave the city, but to remain and protect it by his prayers.
Saturninus built a monastery for the saint in Constantinople, where monks gathered around him. Saint Isaac was the monastery’s igumen and spiritual guide. He also nourished laypeople, and helped many of the poor and suffering.
When he had reached an advanced age, Saint Isaac made Saint Dalmatus (August 3) igumen. The monastery was later named for Dalmatus.
Saint Isaac died in the year 383, and his memory is also celebrated on May 30.
This holy New Martyr of Christ was born in Demitsana in the Peloponnesos. His parents were Panagiotes and Maria, and he was given the name Eleutherius in Baptism. Eleutherius was the youngest of five children (the others were George, Christos, John, and Katerina).
After attending school in Demetsana, Eleutherius and John traveled to Constantinople to enroll in the Patriarchal Academy. Later, they went to Jassy, Romania where their father and brothers were in business. Some time afterwards, Eleutherius decided to go to Mt. Athos to become a monk. Because of a war between Russia and Turkey, he was able to travel only as far as Bucharest. There he stayed with the French consul, then with an employee of the Russian consul.
Eleutherius began to pursue a life of pleasure, putting aside his thoughts of monasticism. When hostilities ceased, Eleutherius made his way to Constantinople in the company of some Moslems. On the way, he turned from Orthodoxy and embraced Islam. He was circumcised and given the name Reschid. Soon his conscience began to torment him for his denial of Christ. The other Moslems began to notice a change in his attitude, so they restricted his movements and kept a close watch on him.
One day Eleutherius was seen wearing a cross, so the others reported him to the master of the house, Rais Efendi. The master favored Eleutherius, which made the others jealous. He told them it was still too early for Eleutherius to give up all his Christian ways.
Rais Efendi and his household journeyed to Adrianople, arriving on a Saturday. Metropolitan Cyril, who later became Patriarch of Constantinople, was serving Vespers in one of the city’s churches. Eleutherius pretended to have letters for Metropolitan Cyril, but he sent someone else to receive them. When Eleutherius told this man that he wanted Christian clothes, he became suspicious and sent him away.
Back in Constantinople, Rais Efendi gave Eleutherius costly presents, hoping to influence him to remain a Moslem. Eleutherius, however, prayed that God would permit him to escape. He ran off at the first opportunity, seeking out a priest from the Peloponnesos who lived near the Patriarchate. After relating his story, Eleutherius asked the priest to help him get away. The priest refused to assist him, fearing reprisals if he should be caught. He gave Eleutherius some advice, then sent him away.
With some assistance from the Russian embassy, Eleutherius boarded a ship and sailed to Mt. Athos. At the Great Lavra Eleutherius was chrismated and received back into the Orthodox Church, and also became a monk with the name Euthymius.
Euthymius read the NEW MARTYROLOGION of Saint Nicodemus (July 14), and was inspired by the example of the New Martyrs. He then became consumed with a desire to wipe out his apostasy with the blood of martyrdom.
Saint Euthymius went to Constantinople with a monk named Gregory, arriving on March 19, 1814. A few days later, on Palm Sunday, he received Holy Communion. Removing his monastic garb, he dressed himself as a Moslem and went to the palace of the Grand Vizier, Rusud Pasha. Saint Euthymius, holding palms in his hand, confessed that he was an Orthodox Christian, and wished to die for Christ. He denounced Mohammed and the Moslem religion, then trampled upon the turban he had worn on his head, which led the Vizier to believe that he was either drunk or crazy.
The valiant warrior of Christ assured the Vizier that he was in his right mind, and was not drunk. Euthymius was thrown into a dark cell and bound with chains. After an hour or so, they brought him out again. With flattery and promises of wealth, the Vizier tried to convince Euthymius to return to the Moslem faith. The saint boldly declared that Islam was a religion based on fables and falsehood, and that he would not deny Christ again even if he were to be tortured and slain.
The Grand Vizier ordered the saint to be beaten and returned to prison. After three hours, Saint Euthymius was brought before Rusud Pasha, who said to him, “Have you reconsidered, or do you remain stubborn?”
Euthymius replied, “There is only one true Faith, that of the Orthodox Christians. How can I believe in your false prophet Mohammed?”
Now the Vizier realized that he would never convince Euthymius to return to Islam, so he ordered him to be put to death by the sword. When the executioner attempted to tie the saint’s hands he said, “I came here voluntarily, so there is no need to bind my hands.Allow me to meet my death untied.”
Saint Euthymius was allowed to walk to the place of execution unbound. He went joyfully and unafraid, holding a cross in his right hand, and palms in his left. When they arrived at the site, Euthymius faced east and began to pray. He thanked God for making him worthy of martyrdom for His sake. He also prayed for his family and friends, asking God to grant all their petitions which are unto salvation.
Then Saint Euthymius kissed the cross he was holding, then knelt and bent his neck. The executioner struck a fierce blow with the sword, but this did not behead him. He struck again, and failed to kill him. Finally, he took a knife and slit the martyr’s throat.
Saint Euthymius was killed about noon on March 22, 1814 in Constantinople, thereby earning a place in the heavenly Kingdom where he glorifies the holy, consubstantial, and life-creating Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, forevermore.
The head of Saint Euthymius is in the Russian monastery of Saint Panteleimon on Mt Athos.
Saints Basilissa (Βασίλισσα) and Kalliniki (Καλλίνικη) were from Galatia. Since Saint Basilissa was wealthy, she gave money to Saint Kalliniki to go to the prison and distribute it to the Christians who were confined there for their sustenance, and so they would pray for her. She wished to prepare them for martyrdom and to stand by them so that they would not lose their courage amid their tribulations.
One day Saint Kalliniki was arrested and they asked her why she was giving the prisoners money. Since she did not know how to lie, she admitted the truth. That is why they tied her up and handed her over to the ruler. Afterward, Saint Basilissa was arrested and was brought before him in court. Both women boldly confessed Christ and were subjected to various tortures, in an attempt to make them deny their faith and offer sacrifice to the idols.
Since they could not be persuaded to do so, their sacred heads were cut off with swords. In this manner they defeated the devil and rejoiced in the Kingdom of Heaven. The martyrdom of the Holy Martyrs Basilissa and and Kalliniki took place in the year 252, during the reign of Emperor Gallus (251-253).