The artos, which was blessed after the Liturgy of Pascha, is cut and distributed after Liturgy on Bright Saturday. The prayer read today speaks of Christ as the Bread of Life.
Saint Basil, the Elder of Saint Paisius Velichkovsky (November 15), was born toward the end of the seventeenth century. He received monastic tonsure at Dalhautsi-Focshani Skete in 1705 or 1706, laboring in asceticism with great fervor.
Saint Basil was ordained to the holy priesthood, and became igumen of Dalhautsi in 1715. He remained in that position for twenty years, and was a wise instructor of monks, teaching them obedience, humility, and the art of the Jesus Prayer.
The fame of this great spiritual Father began to spread, so that even Prince Constantine Mavrocordat heard of him. Saint Basil’s community became known as a spiritual school of hesychasm, based on the wisdom of the Holy Fathers. When the number of his disciples increased until there was no longer room for all of them at Dalhautsi, they settled in other Sketes in the area. In this way, his influence and teaching spread to other places, inspiring a spiritual renewal of Romanian monastic life in the eighteenth century.
Saint Basil renovated the Poiana Marului (Apple Orchard) Skete near the city of Romni-Sarat between 1730-1733, then moved there with twelve disciples. In addition to his duties as Igumen of Poiana Marului, Saint Basil was the spiritual guide of all the Sketes in the Buzau Mountains. One of his most famous disciples was Saint Paisius Velichkovsky, whom he tonsured on Mount Athos in 1750.
The holy Elder Basil also wrote introductions to the writings of Saints Gregory of Sinai, Nilus of Sora, and others who wrote about the spiritual life, guarding the mind, and on the Jesus Prayer. He taught that the Holy Scriptures are a “saving medicine” for the soul, and recommended reading the Holy Fathers in order to obtain a correct understanding of Scripture, and to avoid being led astray through misunderstanding. Saint Basil also warned against any inclination to excuse ourselves and our sins, for this hinders true repentance.
Saint Basil fell asleep in the Lord on April 25, 1767, leaving behind many disciples. His influence has been felt in other Orthodox countries beyond the borders of Romania.
The Holy Apostle and Evangelist Mark, also known as John Mark (Acts 12:12), was one of the Seventy Apostles, and was also a nephew of Saint Barnabas (June 11). He was born at Jerusalem. The house of his mother Mary adjoined the Garden of Gethsemane. As Church Tradition relates, on the night that Christ was betrayed he followed after Him, wrapped only in a linen cloth. He was seized by soldiers, and fled away naked, leaving the cloth behind (Mark 14:51-52). After the Ascension of the Lord, the house of his mother Mary became a place where Christians gathered, and a place of lodging for some of the Apostles (Acts 12:12).
Saint Mark was a very close companion of the Apostles Peter and Paul (June 29) and Barnabas. Saint Mark was at Seleucia with Paul and Barnabas, and from there he set off to the island of Cyprus, and he traversed the whole of it from east to west. In the city of Paphos, Saint Mark witnessed the blinding of the sorcerer Elymas by Saint Paul (Acts 13:6-12).
After working with the Apostle Paul, Saint Mark returned to Jerusalem, and then went to Rome with the Apostle Peter. From there, he set out for Egypt, where he established a local Church.
Saint Mark met Saint Paul in Antioch. From there he went with Saint Barnabas to Cyprus, and then he went to Egypt again, where he and Saint Peter founded many churches. Then he went to Babylon. From this city the Apostle Peter sent an Epistle to the Christians of Asia Minor, in which he calls Saint Mark his son (1 Pet 5:13).
When the Apostle Paul came to Rome in chains, Saint Mark was at Ephesus, where Saint Timothy (January 22) was bishop. Saint Mark went with him to Rome. There he also wrote his holy Gospel (ca. 62-63).
From Rome Saint Mark traveled to Egypt. In Alexandria he started a Christian school, which later produced such famous Fathers and teachers of the Church as Clement of Alexandria, Saint Dionysius of Alexandria (October 5), Saint Gregory Thaumatourgos (November 5), and others. Zealous for Church services, Saint Mark composed a Liturgy for the Christians of Alexandria.
Saint Mark preached the Gospel in the inner regions of Africa, and he was in Libya at Nektopolis.
During these journeys, Saint Mark was inspired by the Holy Spirit to go again to Alexandria and confront the pagans. There he visited the home of Ananias, and healed his crippled hand. The dignitary happily took him in, listened to his words, and received Baptism.
Following the example of Ananias, many of the inhabitants of that part of the city where he lived were also baptized. This roused the enmity of the pagans, and they wanted to kill Saint Mark. Having learned of this, Saint Mark made Ananias a bishop, and the three Christians Malchos, Sabinos, and Kerdinos were ordained presbyters to provide the church with leadership after his death.
The pagans seized Saint Mark when he was serving the Liturgy. They beat him, dragged him through the streets and threw him in prison. There Saint Mark was granted a vision of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who strengthened him before his sufferings. On the following day, the angry crowd again dragged the saint through the streets to the courtroom, but along the way Saint Mark died saying, “Into Your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.”
The pagans wanted to burn the saint’s body, but when they lit the fire, everything grew dark, thunder crashed, and there was an earthquake. The pagans fled in terror, and Christians took up the body of Saint Mark and buried it in a stone crypt. This was on April 4, 63. The Church celebrates his memory on April 25.
In the year 310, a church was built over the relics of Saint Mark. In 820, when the Moslem Arabs had established their rule in Egypt and oppressed the Christian Church, the relics of Saint Mark were transferred to Venice and placed in the church named for him.
In the ancient iconographic tradition, which adopted symbols for the holy Evangelists borrowed from the vision of Saint John the Theologian (Rev 4:7) and the prophecy of Ezekiel (Ez. 1:10), the holy Evangelist Mark is represented by a lion, symbolizing the might and royal dignity of Christ (Rev 5:5).
Saint Mark wrote his Gospel for Gentile Christians, emphasizing the words and deeds of the Savior which reveal His divine Power. Many aspects of his account can be explained by his closeness to Saint Peter. The ancient writers say that the Gospel of Mark is a concise record of Saint Peter’s preaching.
One of the central theological themes in the Gospel of Saint Mark is the power of God achieving what is humanly impossible. The Apostles performed remarkable miracles with Christ (Mark 16:20) and the Holy Spirit (Mark 13:11) working through them. His disciples were told to go into the world and preach the Gospel to all creatures (Mark 13:10, 16:15), and that is what they did.
Saint Sylvester of Obnora was a disciple and novice under Saint Sergius of Radonezh (September 25 and July 5). After completing his obedience at the Trinity monastery, Saint Sylvester received a blessing to live alone in the wilderness.
In the deep forest at the River Obnora, flowing into the River Kostroma, he set up a cross at his chosen spot and began his ascetical labors. For a long time no one knew about the holy hermit. His cell was discovered by a peasant who had lost his way. He told the distraught hermit that people had seen bright rays, and a pillar of cloud above his habitation. The monk shed tears of sorrow, because the place of his solitude had been discovered. The pilgrim besought the saint to tell about himself.
Saint Sylvester said that he had been living there a long time, and that he ate tree bark and roots. At first he became weak without bread, and fell on the ground from his weakness. Then an angel appeared to him in the guise of a wondrous man and touched his hand. From that moment Saint Sylvester did not experience any distress. Another time, the peasant came back to the saint and brought him bread and flour for reserve supply.
This one meeting was sufficient for the exploits of the hermit to become known to many. Soon peasants began to come to him from the surrounding settlements. Saint Sylvester allowed them to build cells near his.
When the brethren had gathered, Saint Sylvester went to Moscow and petitioned Saint Alexis (February 12) to bless the construction of a temple in honor of the Resurrection of Christ. The hierarch gave him an antimension (a cloth containing relics of martyrs, necessary for celebrating the Divine Liturgy), and made him igumen of the monastery.
With the construction of the church the number of brethren quickly grew, and the saint frequently withdrew for solitary prayer in the dense forest. This spot received the name “Commanded Grove,” since Saint Sylvester commanded that no trees should be cut there. In this grove he dug three wells, and a fourth on the side of a hill at the River Obnora. When the saint returned from his solitude, a number of people awaited him at the monastery, and each wanted to receive his blessing and hear his advice.
The saint fell into a fatal illness, and the brethren, who were distressed whenever he went into seclusion, were even more distressed about his approaching death. “Do not grieve about this, my beloved brethren,” he said to console them, “for everything is according to the will of God. Keep the commandments of the Lord and don’t be afraid to suffer misfortune in this life, so you may receive a reward in Heaven. If I have found boldness before the Lord and my life is pleasing to Him, then this holy place will not diminish after my departure. Pray to the Lord God and His All-Pure Mother, that you may be delivered from temptation.” Saint Sylvester died on April 25, 1479 and was buried on the right side of the wooden Resurrection church.
A record of the saint’s miracles has been preserved from the year 1645, in which twenty-three miracles are described. The saint healed twelve people from demonic possession and delirium, and six others from eye afflictions.
An edifying miracle occurred in 1645. The hieromonk Job of the monastery ordered peasants to cut down the forbidden forest grove for firewood, and he was struck blind. After four weeks he acknowledged his sin, repented and vowed not to act on his own will, but to follow the advice of the brethren. The hieromonk served a Molieben in church, after which he was brought to the reliquary of Saint Sylvester, and there he regained his sight.
The Constantinople Icon of the Theotokos is locally venerated at Moscow’s Dormition church on Malaya Dimitrovka. This image is different from the Constantinople Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos celebrated on September 17, although it appears to be a copy of it.
The wonderworking Constantinople Icon appeared on April 25, 1071.