Lives of all saints commemorated on June 17

Martyrs Manuel, Sabel, and Ismael, of Persia

The Holy Martyrs Manuel, Sabel and Ismael, brothers by birth, were descended from an illustrious Persian family. Their father was a pagan, but their mother was a Christian, who baptized the children and raised them with firm faith in Christ the Savior.

When they reached adulthood, the brothers entered military service. Speaking on behalf of the Persian emperor Alamundar, they were his emissaries in concluding a peace treaty with the emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363). Julian received them with due honor and showed them his favor. But when the brothers refused to take part in a pagan sacrifice, Julian became angry. He annulled the treaty and incarcerated the ambassadors of a foreign country like common criminals.

At the interrogation he told them that if they scorned the gods he worshipped, it would be impossible to reach any peace or accord between the two sides. The holy brothers answered that they were sent as emissaries of their emperor on matters of state, and not to argue about “gods.” Seeing their firmness of faith, the emperor ordered the brothers to be tortured.

They beat the holy martyrs, then nailed their hands and feet to trees. Later, they drove iron spikes into their heads, and wedged sharp splinters under their fingernails and toenails. During this time of torment the saints glorified God and prayed as if they did not feel the tortures.

Finally, the holy martyrs were beheaded. Julian ordered their bodies to be burned, and suddenly there was an earthquake. The ground opened up and the bodies of the holy martyrs disappeared into the abyss. After two days of fervent prayer by the Christians, the earth returned the bodies of the holy brothers, from which a sweet fragrance issued forth. Many pagans, witnessing the miracle, came to believe in Christ and were baptized.

Christians reverently buried the bodies of the holy martyrs Manuel, Sabel and Ismael in the year 362. Since that time the relics of the holy passion-bearers have been glorified with miracles.

When he heard about the murder of his emissaries, and that Julian was marching against him with a vast army, the Persian emperor Alamundar mustered his army and started off toward the border of his domain. The Persians vanquished the Greeks in a great battle, and Julian the Apostate was killed by the holy Great Martyr Mercurius (November 24).

Thirty years later the pious emperor Theodosius the Great (+ 397) built at Constantinople a church in honor of the holy martyrs, and Saint Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople (May 12), then still a hieromonk, wrote a Canon in memory and in praise of the holy brothers.

Martyr Nectan of Hartland

Saint Nectan was born in Wales and lived in the sixth century, but we know few details about his life. He was the oldest of the twenty-four children of Saint Brychan of Brecknock (April 6). While he was still living in Wales, God inspired him to imitate the example of Saint Anthony (January 17) and other ascetics, and to embrace the monastic life.

Seeking greater solitude, Saint Nectan and his companions left Wales, intending to settle wherever their boat happened to land. Divine providence brought them to the northern coast of Devonshire at Hartland, where they lived for several years in a dense forest. The saint’s family would visit him there on the last day of the year. Later, he relocated to a remote valley with a spring.

Once, Saint Nectan found a stray pig and returned it to its owner. In gratitude, the swineherd gave Saint Nectan two cows. The saint accepted the gift, but the cows were soon stolen by two robbers. Saint Nectan found the thieves who took the animals, and tried to preach to them about Christ. They became angry and cut off his head. Then the saint picked up his head and carried it for half a mile, laying it down near the spring by his cell. Seeing this, the man who killed Saint Nectan went out of his mind, but the other thief buried the Saint. From that time, miracles began to take place at Saint Nectan’s tomb.

In 937, on the eve of the Battle of Brunanburgh, a young man from Hartland who was in a tent near King Athelstan’s pavilion suddenly felt himself afflicted with the plague which was then destroying the English army. The young man wept and called upon God and Saint Nectan to help him. His cries were so loud that he woke the king and others around him.

Saint Nectan came to the young man just after midnight and touched the afflicted area of his body, healing him. In the morning, he was brought before the king and admitted that it was he who had disturbed Athelstan’s sleep. The king asked gently why he had been crying out during the night.

The young man explained that he felt himself stricken with the plague, and was afraid that he would die. Therefore, he entreated God and Saint Nectan to help him, and his prayer was answered.

Athelstan asked for more information about the life and martyrdom of Saint Nectan, which the young man provided. He also urged the king to turn to Saint Nectan with faith, promising that he would be victorious in battle if he did so.

The king promised to honor God and Saint Nectan, and so his faith was rewarded. Not only did he win the battle, but the plague disappeared and his soldiers recovered. The first time that King Athelstan visited Hartland in Devonshire, he donated property to the saint’s church. For the rest of his life, the king placed great confidence in the intercession of Saint Nectan.

Saint Nectan is the patron of Hartland, Devonshire. The fullest surviving Life dates from the twelfth century (See Vol. 5 of THE SAINTS OF CORNWALL by G. H. Doble for an English translation).

There is an Orthodox house chapel (Russian diocese of Sourozh) dedicated to Saint Simeon and Saint Anna at Combe Martin, N. Devon where Saint Nectan is venerated.

Saint Shalva of Akhaltsikhe

Saint Shalva of Akhaltsikhe was a brilliant military commander in the army of Queen Tamar and the prince of Akhaltsikhe. After his victory at Shamkori in the Ganja region, Shalva carried with him the flag of the caliph, as a sign of the invincibility of the Christian Faith, and conferred it, along with the wealth he had won, as an offering to the Khakhuli Icon of the Theotokos. For his selfless service, Queen Tamar honored him with the rank of commander-in-chief of the Georgian army.

During the reign of Queen Tamar’s daughter Rusudan (1222-1245), the armies of Sultan Jalal al-Din stormed into Georgia. Rusudan rallied the Georgian forces and appointed a new commander-in-chief by the name of John Atabeg.

Six thousand Georgians confronted a Muslim army of two hundred thousand near the village of Garnisi. Command of the advance guard was entrusted to the brave and valorous brothers Shalva and John of Akhaltsikhe, while John Atabeg remained with the main body of the army for the decisive battle.

The advance guard fought fearlessly, though the enemy’s army greatly surpassed it in number. The brothers fought with great devotion, hoping for support from the commander-in-chief, but John Atabeg was seized with envy—rather than fear—and never offered them his help. “O envy, source of every evil!” wrote one chronicler of the incident.

The enemy devastated the Georgian army, killing four thousand of its most valiant soldiers. Among them was John of Akhaltsikhe, whose brother Shalva was captured and delivered as a slave to Jalal al-Din.

Jalal al-Din was overjoyed to have the famed soldier and military leader brought before him. He received him with proper honor, offered him cities of great wealth, and promised him more if he agreed to convert to Islam.

Jalal al-Din sought with great persistence to convert Shalva to Islam, but his efforts were in vain—Shalva would not be converted, and nothing in the world would change his mind. So the sultan ordered that he be tortured to death.

After hours of torment failed to kill him, Jalal al-Din’s servants cast the half-dead martyr in prison, where he later reposed.

Venerable Botolph of Iken

No information available at this time.

Saint Hervius of Plouvien

No information available at this time.