Lives of all saints commemorated on March 28


4th Saturday of Great Lent: Memorial Saturday

Saturday is the day which the Church has set aside for the commemoration of Orthodox Christians departed this life in the hope of resurrection and eternal life. Since the Divine Liturgy cannot be served on weekdays during Great Lent, the second, third, and fourth Saturdays of the Fast are appointed as Soul Saturdays when the departed are remembered at Liturgy.

In addition to the Liturgy, kollyva (wheat or rice cooked with honey and mixed with raisins, figs, nuts, sesame, etc.) is blessed in church on these Saturdays. The kollyva reminds us of the Lord’s words, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).The kollyva symbolizes the future resurrection of all the dead. As Saint Simeon of Thessalonica (September 15) says, man is also a seed which is planted in the ground after death, and will be raised up again by God’s power. Saint Paul also speaks of this (I Cor. 15:35-49).

It is also customary to give alms in memory of the dead. The angel who spoke to Cornelius testifies to the efficacy of almsgiving, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God” (Acts 10:4).

Memorial services for the dead may be traced back to ancient times. Chapter 8 of the Apostolic Constitutions recommends memorial services with Psalms for the dead. It also contains a beautiful prayer for the departed, asking that their voluntary and involuntary sins be pardoned, that they be given rest with the Patriarchs, Prophets, and Apostles in a place where sorrow, suffering, and sighing have fled away (Isaiah 35:10). Saint John Chrysostom mentions the service for the dead in one of his homilies on Philippians, and says that it was established by the Apostles. Saint Cyprian of Carthage (Letter 37) also speaks of our duty to remember the martyrs.

The holy Fathers also testify to the benefit of offering prayers, memorial services, Liturgies, and alms for the dead (Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, Saint John of Damascus, etc.). Although both the righteous and those who have not repented and corrected themselves may receive benefit and consolation from the Church’s prayer, it has not been revealed to what extent the unrighteous receive this solace. It is not possible, however, to transfer a soul from a state of evil and condemnation to a state of holiness and blessedness through the Church’s prayer. Saint Basil the Great points out that the time for repentance and forgiveness of sins is during the present life, while the future life is a time for righteous judgment and retribution (Moralia 1). Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Gregory the Theologian, and other patristic writers concur with Saint Basil’s statement.

By praying for others, we bring benefit to them, and also to ourselves, because “God is not so unjust as to forget your work and the love which you showed for His sake in serving the saints...” (Heb. 6:10).


Venerable Hilarion the New, Abbot of Pelekete

Saint Hilarion the New, Igumen of Pelekete Monastery, from his youth devoted himself to the service of God and spent many years as a hermit. Because of his holy and blameless life he was ordained to the holy priesthood, and later he was made igumen of the Pelekete monastery (near the Dardanelles). Saint Hilarion was granted gifts of clairvoyance and wonderworking by the Lord.

Through prayer he brought down rain during a drought, and like the Prophet Elisha he separated the waters of a river, he drove harmful beasts from the fields, he filled the nets of fishermen when they had no success in fishing, and he did many other miracles. In addition to these things, he was able to heal the sick and cast out demons.

Saint Hilarion suffered on Great and Holy Thursday in the year 754, when the military commander Lakhanodrakon suddenly descended upon the Pelekete monastery in pursuit of icon-venerators, boldly forcing his way into the church, disrupting the service and throwing the Holy Gifts upon the ground. Forty-two monks were arrested, slapped into chains, sent to the Edessa district and murdered. The remaining monks were horribly mutilated: they beat them, they burned their beards with fire, they smeared their faces with tar and cut off the noses of some of the confessors. Saint Hilarion died for the veneration of icons during this persecution.

Saint Hilarion left behind spiritual works containing moral directives for spiritual effort. Saint Joseph of Volokolamsk (September 9 and October 18) was well acquainted with the work of Saint Hilarion, and he also wrote about the significance of monastic struggles in his own theological works.


Venerable Stephen, Wonderworker, Abbot of Triglia

Saint Stephen the Confessor, Igumen of Triglia Monastery, suffered under the iconoclast emperor Leo the Armenian (813-820). From a young age, the holy ascetic dedicated his life to God and received monastic tonsure. He later became head of the Triglia monastery near Constantinople.

When persecution again began against holy icons, the saintly igumen was summoned for questioning, and they tried to force him to sign a document rejecting the veneration of icons. Saint Stephen steadfastly refused to betray Orthodoxy and he boldly denounced the emperor for his impiety. They subjected the saint to cruel torments, after which they sent him to prison in the year 815. Weakened and sick, the holy Confessor Stephen soon died in prison from his sufferings.


Monastic Martyr Eustratius of the Kiev Near Caves

Martyr Eustratius of the Caves was born in the eleventh century at Kiev into a wealthy family. As an adult, he received monastic tonsure at the Kiev Caves monastery, after giving away all his possesions to the poor. Saint Eustratius humbly underwent obediences at the monastery, strictly fulfilling the rule of prayer and passing his days in fasting and vigilance.

In 1096 the Polovetsians captured Kiev and ravaged the monastery of the Caves, doing away with many of the monks. Saint Eustratius was taken into captivity, and was sold into slavery with thirty monastic laborers and twenty inhabitants of Kiev to a certain Jew living in Korsun.

The impious Jew tried to make the captives deny Christ, threatening to kill those who refused by starving them. Saint Eustratius encouraged and exhorted his brother Christians, “Brothers! Let none of us who are baptized and believe in Christ betray the vows made at Baptism. Christ has regenerated us through water and the Spirit. He has freed us from the curse of the Law by His Blood, and He has made us heirs of His Kingdom. If we live, we shall live for the Lord. If we die, we shall die in the Lord and inherit eternal life.”

Inspired by the saint’s words, the captives resolved to die of starvation, rather than renounce Christ, Who is the food and drink of Eternal Life. Exhausted by hunger and thirst, some captives perished after three days, some after four days, and some after seven days. Saint Eustratius remained alive for fourteen days, since he was accustomed to fasting from his youth. Suffering from hunger, he still did not touch food nor water. The impious Jew, seeing that he had lost the money he had paid for the captives, decided to take revenge on the holy monk.

The radiant Feast of the Resurrection of Christ drew near, and the Jewish slave owner was celebrating the Jewish Passover with his companions. He decided to crucify Saint Eustratius. The cruel tormentors mocked the saint, offering to let him share their Passover meal. The Martyr replied, “The Lord has now bestown a great grace upon me. He has permitted me to suffer on a cross for His Name just as He suffered.” The saint also predicted a horrible death for the Jew.

Hearing this, the enraged Jew grabbed a spear and stabbed Saint Eustratius on the cross. The martyr’s body was taken down from the cross and thrown into the sea. Christian believers long searched for the holy relics of the martyr, but were not able to find them. But through the Providence of God the incorrupt relics were found in a cave and worked many miracles. Later, they were transferred to the Near Caves of the Kiev Caves monastery.

The prediction of the holy Martyr Eustratius that his blood would be avenged was fulfilled soon after his death. The Byzantine Emperor issued a decree expelling all Jews from Korsun, depriving them of their property, and putting their elders to death for torturing Christians. The Jew who crucified Saint Eustratius was hanged on a tree, receiving just punishment for his wickedness.


Venerable Hilarion of Pskov, Lake Gdov

Saint Hilarion of Gdov and Pskov Lake, was a disciple of Saint Euphrosynus of Pskov (May 15). In 1460 on the banks of the River Zhelcha, not far from Gdov, he founded the Ozersk [Lake] Monastery of the Protection of the Mother of God. The monastery bordered the territory of the Livonian Knights, and the monks constantly suffered the incursions of that military order. Despite harsh conditions and insufficient means, Saint Hilarion maintained a high level of pious and ascetic life at the monastery, and made great efforts to adorn and build up the monastery.

Saint Hilarion reposed on March 28, 1476 and was buried in the church of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos in the monastery he founded. Afterwards, a church was built at the monastery in honor of the Nativity of Christ. The left chapel was dedicated to the founder of the Gdov monastery. Saint Hilarion of Gdov is also commemorated on October 21, on the Feast of his heavenly patron and namesake.


Martyred brothers Barachisius and Jonah, and those with them, in Persia

Saint Barachisius was the brother of Saint Jonah. They were Christians who lived in the village of Yasa in Persia during the time of the emperor Sapor (310-331), a fierce persecutor of Christians.

Learning that Christians were being tortured in the city of Baravokh, they went there to the prison where Saints Zanithas, Lazarus, Maruthas, Narses, Elias, Marinus, Habib, Sembeeth (Sivsithina), and Sava were being held.

They encouraged them to adhere to the Christian Faith until the very end. The holy brothers were arrested and brought to trial before the Persian princes Masdrath, Siroth and Marmis, who urged them to worship the sun, fire, and water. The holy martyrs firmly confessed their faith in Christ and would not agree to the demands of the pagans. Therefore, they were subjected to fierce torments and death.

Saint Jonah suffered first. They tied the holy martyr to a tree and beat him for a long time, then they dragged him across the ice of a frozen lake. They also cut off his fingers and toes, and cut out his tongue. Then they peeled the skin from his head, and finally sawed his body in half and threw it in a ditch.

They placed red-hot shackles on the wrists of Saint Barachisius, poured molten tin in his nose, ears and mouth, and they raked him with sharp instruments, after they tied him to a turning wheel. The holy martyr surrendered his soul to God after they poured boiling tar in his mouth.

The bodies of the holy martyrs Jonah, Barachisius and the other martyrs were buried by a pious Christian named Habdisotes.


Martyr Boyan, Prince of Bulgaria

The Holy Martyr Boyan, Prince of Bulgaria, suffered for Christ around the year 830. When his pagan brother Malomir [Vladimir] ascended the Bulgarian throne, Prince Boyan asked him to free the learned Christian Kinamon, who had been in prison for a long time for refusing to participate in pagan sacrifices under Prince Obrit (Krutogon), Prince Malomir’s predecessor.

Malomir consented and gave Kinamon to Prince Boyan as a slave. Kinamon spoke to Boyan about Christianity, telling him of the errors of paganism and that belief in Christ is necessary for salvation. At the end of their conversation he told the prince, “Without Jesus Christ there is no light for the mind, no life for the soul. He alone is the Teacher of mankind and our Savior. By His death, He has reconciled fallen mankind with God. If you do not wish to perish, believe in the Lord Jesus.” Prince Boyan recognized the truth of his words, and was inspired to ask for Baptism.

The newly-converted prince was filled with a love of prayer, fasting and contemplation of God. Malomir, learning about the conversion of his brother to Christianity, demanded that he renounce the Christian Faith and return to paganism. Instead, the holy Prince Boyan answered, “I despise the pagan idols and I revere Christ, the true God. No one shall separate me from the love of Christ.” Malomir, hearing his brother’s reply, sentenced him to death.

Before his martyric death, the holy martyr-prince declared: “The faith for which I now die will spread throughout the Bulgarian land. You vainly imagine that you will stop it by killing me. Temples to the true God will be built, and priests will offer Him true worship. The idols and their foul sacrifices, however, will vanish.” Then he said to his brother Malomir, “You will gain nothing from your cruelty, and death will soon overtake you.”

The holy martyr was killed by the sword, and his predictions to his brother were the first to be fulfilled. Malomir soon died, and since he had no heir, his elder brother Presian (836-852) succeeded to the throne. Prince Presian’s son, the holy Prince Boris, in holy Baptism Michael (May 2) later Christianized the Bulgarian nation. Thus the prophecy of the holy Martyr Prince Boyan was fulfilled.


Venerable John, Bishop of Manglisi

Saint John (Saakadze) of Manglisi was born in 1668 and spiritually nurtured in the Davit-Gareji Wilderness. Outstanding in virtue, John was quickly ordained a hieromonk, and soon after consecrated bishop of Manglisi.

In 1724 Saint John left Davit-Gareji for Derbend, Dagestan, where he constructed a wooden church and began to preach Christianity among the local people. He labored there with eleven other pious believers. Saint John’s humble life and the miracles he performed attracted the attention of the Muslim Dagestanis, and even the government took notice of his tireless evangelical activity.

At that time the Georgian King Vakhtang VI (1703-1724) and Tsar Peter the Great of Russia were corresponding regularly about the evangelization of the Caspian seacoast. Both kings recognized the importance of Saint John’s activity in regard to this matter, and they generously contributed to his efforts. With their help, Saint John built one church in honor of the Nativity of the Theotokos and another in honor of Great-martyr Catherine.

In 1737 John left his disciples in Dagestan and journeyed to Astrakhan, near the place where the Volga flows into the Caspian Sea. There he constructed a church in honor of Saint John the Evangelist, which was converted into a monastery in 1746. Archimandrite Herman, one of Saint John’s disciples, was elevated as abbot of this monastery.

While in Astrakhan, Saint John discovered that many ethnic Georgians were passing through the city of Kizliar in Ossetia, but they did not have a church in which to celebrate the divine services. So he traveled to Kizliar and, with help from his kinsmen, built a church and opened a preparatory school for clergy nearby.

On March 28, 1751, Saint John reposed in Kizliar at the age of eighty. He was buried in the church that he himself had constructed.

Later, by order of King Teimuraz II (1744-1761), the myrrh-streaming relics of Saint John were translated to Tbilisi and buried in Sioni Cathedral, in front of the Manglisi Icon of the Mother of God.