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Jul. 12 - Sts. Proclus and Hilarion, Martyrs of Ancyra

The Holy Martyrs Proclus and Hilarion were natives of the village of Kallippi, near Ancyra, and they suffered during the time of a persecution under the emperor Trajan (98-117). Saint Proclus was put under arrest first. Brought before the governor Maximus, he fearlessly confessed his faith in Christ. The governor decided to compel the saint to submit himself to the emperor and offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. During his tortures, the martyr predicted to Maximus that soon he himself would be compelled to confess Christ as the true God. They forced the martyr to run after the chariot of the governor, heading towards the village Kallippi. Exhausted, Saint Proclus prayed that the Lord would halt the chariot. By the power of God the chariot halted, and no force could move it from the spot. The dignitary sitting in it became petrified. The martyr told him that he would remain unmoving until such time as he would sign a document with a confession of Christ. Only after this could the chariot continue on its way with the governor.

The humiliated pagan took fierce revenge on Saint Proclus. He commanded that Proclus be led out beyond the city, tied to a pillar and shot with arrows. The soldiers, leading Saint Proclus to execution, told him to give in and save his life, but the saint said that they should follow their orders.

Along the way to the place of execution, they met Hilarion, the nephew of Saint Proclus, who with tears embraced his uncle and also confessed himself a Christian. The soldiers seized him, and he was thrown into prison. The holy Martyr Proclus prayed for his tormentors and surrendered his soul to God beneath a hail of arrows.

Saint Hilarion was brought to trial and, with the same courage as Saint Proclus, confessed himself a Christian. After tortures he was sentenced to death. They tied the martyr’s hands and dragged him by his feet through the city, wounded and bloody, and then they beheaded him three days after the death of his uncle, the holy Martyr Proclus. Christians buried them together in a single grave.

Apilytikion Your holy martyrs Proclus and Hilary, O Lord, through their sufferings have received incorruptible crowns from You, our God. For having Your strength, they laid low their adversaries, and shattered the powerless boldness of demons. Through their intercessions, save our souls!

Kontakion Like the morning star, your glorious sufferings enlighten us with holy miracles. We celebrate your memory, Proclus and Hilary; pray to Christ God for us that He will save our souls.

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Jul. 11 - St. Olga, Princess of Kiev and Equal-to-the-Apostles

Saint Olga, Equal of the Apostles, was the wife of the Kievan Great Prince Igor. The struggle of Christianity with paganism under Igor and Olga, who reigned after Oleg (+ 912), entered into a new phase. The Church of Christ in the years following the reign of Igor (+ 945) became a remarkable spiritual and political force in the Russian realm. The preserved text of a treaty of Igor with the Greeks in the year 944 gives indication of this: it was included by the chronicler in the “Tale of Bygone Years,” under the entry recording the events of the year 6453 (945).

The peace treaty had to be sworn to by both the religious communities of Kiev: “Baptized Rus”, i.e. the Christian, took place in the cathedral church of the holy Prophet of God Elias; “Unbaptized Rus”, i.e. the pagans, in turn swore their oath on their weapons in the sanctuary of Perun the Thunderer. The fact, that Christians are included in the document in the first place, indicates their significant spiritual influence in the life of Kievan Rus.

Evidently at the moment when the treaty of 944 was being drawn up at Constantinople, there were people in power in Kiev sympathetic to Christianity, who recognized the historical inevitability of involving Rus into the life-creating Christian culture. To this trend possibly belonged even prince Igor himself, whose official position did not permit him personally to go over to the new faith, nor at that time of deciding the issue concerning the Baptism of the whole country with the consequent dispersal throughout it of Orthodox Church hierarchs. The treaty therefore was drawn up in the circumspect manner of expression, which would not hinder the prince to ratify it in either the form of a pagan oath, or in the form of a Christian oath.

But when the Byzantine emissaries arrived in Kiev, conditions along the River Dneipr had essentially changed. A pagan opposition had clearly emerged, at the head of which stood the Varangian voevoda (military-leader) Svenel’d (or Sveinald) and his son Mstislav (Mtsisha) to whom Igor had given holdings in the Drevlyani lands.

Strong also at Kiev was the influence of the Khazar Jews, who could not but be displeased with the thought of the triumph of Orthodoxy in the Russian Land.

Unable to overcome the customary inertia, Igor remained a pagan and he concluded the treaty in the pagan manner, swearing an oath on his sword. He refused the grace of Baptism and was punished for his unbelief. A year later, in 945, rebellious pagans murdered him in the Drevlyanian land, cut down betwixt two trees. But the days of paganism and the lifestyle of the Slavic tribes basic to it were already numbered. The burden of government fell upon the widow of Igor -- the Kiev Great-princess Olga, and her three-year-old son Svyatoslav.

The name of the future enlightener of the Russian Land and of her native region is first to be met with in the “Tale of Bygone Years,” in the phrase where it speaks about the marriage of Igor: “and they brought him a wife from Pskov, by the name of Olga.” She belonged, so specifies the Joakimov Chronicle, to the lineage of the Izborsk princes, -- one of the obscure ancient-Russian princely dynasties, of which in Rus during the 10th-11th Centuries there numbered no less than twenty, but who were all displaced by the Rurikovichi or merged otherwise with them through marriage. Some of them were of local Slavic descent, others -- Varangian new-comers. It is known, that the Scandinavian Viking “koenigs” (kinglets) called to become princes in the Russian cities -- invariably assimilated to the Russian language, and often, they soon became genuinely Russian with Russian names and lifestyle, world-outlook and even physical appearance of attire.

Thus, Igor’s wife also had the Varangian name “Helga,” which in Russian is pronounced Olga. The feminine name Olga corresponds to the masculine name “Oleg” (Helgi), which means “holy” [from Germanic “heilig” for “holy”]. Although the pagan understanding of holiness was quite different from the Christian, it also presupposed within a man a particular frame of reference, of chastity and sobriety of mind, and of insight. The fact that people called Oleg the Wise-Seer (“Veschi”) and Olga the Wise (“Mudra”) shows the spiritual significance of names.

Rather later traditions regard her a native of a village named Vybuta, several kilometers from Pskov up along the River Velika. They still not so long ago used to point out at the river the Olga Bridge, the ancient fording place, where Olga was met by Igor. The Pskov geographic features have preserved several names connected with this great descendent of Pskov: the village of Ol’zhinets and Ol’gino Pole (Olga Field); the Olga Gateway, one of the branches of the River Velika; Olga Hill and the Olga Cross near Lake Pskov; and the Olga Stone at the village of Vybuta.

The beginning of the independent rule of Princess Olga is connected in the chronicles with the narrative about her terrible revenge on the Drevlyani, who murdered Igor. Having sworn their oaths on their swords and believing “only in their swords”, the pagans were doomed by the judgment of God to also perish by the sword (Mt. 26: 52). Worshipping fire among the other primal elements, they found their own doom in the fire. And the Lord chose Olga to fulfill the fiery chastisement.

The struggle for the unity of Rus, for the subordination to the Kievan center of mutually divisive and hostile tribes and principalities paved the way towards the ultimate victory of Christianity in the Russian Land. For Olga, though still a pagan, the Kiev Christian Church and its Heavenly patron saint the holy Prophet of God Elias [in icons depicted upon a fiery chariot] stood as a flaming faith and prayer of a fire come down from the heavens, and her victory over the Drevlyani—despite the severe harshness of her victory, was a victory of Christian constructive powers in the Russian realm over the powers of a paganism, dark and destructive.

The God-wise Olga entered into history as a great builder of the civil life and culture of Kievan Rus. The chronicles are filled with accounts of her incessant “goings” throughout the Russian land with the aim of the well-being and improvement of the civil and domestic manner of life of her subjects. Having consolidated the inner strengthening of the might of the Kiev great-princely throne, thereby weakening the influence of the hodge-podge of petty local princes in Rus, Olga centralized the whole of state rule with the help of the system of “pogosti” (administrative trade centers). In the year 946 she went with her son and retinue through the Drevlyani land, “imposing tribute and taxes”, noting the villages, inns and hunting places, liable for inclusion in the Kiev great-princely holdings. The next year she went to Novgorod, establishing administrative centers along the Rivers Msta and Luga, everywhere leaving visible traces of her activity. “Her lovischa (hunting preserves) were throughout all the land, the boundary signs, her places and administrative centers, wrote the chronicler, and her sleighs stand at Pskov to this very day, as are her directed places for snaring of birds along the Dneipr and the Desna Rivers; and her village of Ol’zhicha stands to the present day.”

The “pogosti” established by Olga, as financial-administrative and law-court centers, represented sturdy props of great-princely power in these places.

Being first of all, and in the actual sense of the word, centers of trade and exchange (the merchant as “guest”) gathered together and became organized around the settlements (and in place of the “humanly arbitrary” gathering of tribute and taxes, there now existed uniformity and order with the “pogosti” system). Olga’s “pogosti” became an important network of the ethnic and cultural unification of the Russian nation.

Later on, when Olga had become a Christian, they began to erect the first churches at the “pogosti”; from the time of the Baptism of Rus the “pogost” and church (parish) became inseparably associated. (It was only afterwards with the existence of cemeteries alongside churches that there developed the current meaning of the Russian word “pogost” to nowadays signify “parish graveyard”.)

Princess Olga exerted much effort to fortify the defensive might of the land. The cities were built up and strengthened, Vyshgorod (or Detintsa, Kroma) they enclosed with stone and oak walls (battlements), and they bristled them with ramparts and pallisades. Knowing how hostile many were to the idea of strengthening the princely power and the unification of Rus, the princess herself lived constantly “on the hill” over the Dneipr, behind the trusty battlements of Kievan Vyshgorod (“Verkhna-gorod” or “Upper-city”), surrounded by her faithful retainers. Two thirds of the gathered tribute, as the chroniclers testify, she gave over for the use of the Kiev “veche” (city-council), and the remaining one third went “to Olga, for Vyshgorod” -- for the needs of building fortifications. And to the time period of Olga, historians note the establishment of the first state frontiers of Russia -- to the west, with Poland. Heroic outposts to the south guarded the peaceful fields of the Kievans from the peoples of the Wild Plains. Foreigners hastened to Gardarika (“the land of cities”), as they called Rus, with merchandise and craftwares. Swedes, Danes, Germans all eagerly entered as mercenaries into the Russian army. The foreign connections of Kiev spread. This furthered the development of construction with stone in the city, the beginnings of which was initiated under Olga. The first stone edifices of Kiev -- the city palace and Olga’s upper enclosure -- were discovered by archaeologists only but in this century. (The palace, or more properly its foundations and remains of the walls were found in excavations during the years 1971-1972).

But it was not only the strengthening of the civil realm and the improvement of domestic norms of the manner of life for people that attracted the attention of the wise princess. Even more urgent for her was the fundamental transformation of the religious life of Rus, the spiritual transfiguration of the Russian nation. Rus had become a great power. Only two European realms could compare with it during these years in significance and might: in Eastern Europe -- the ancient Byzantine empire, and in the West the kingdom of Saxony.

The experience of both empires, connected with the exaltation in spirit of Christian teaching, with the religious basis of life, showed clearly, that the way to the future greatness of Rus lay not through military means, but first of all and primarily through spiritual conquering and attainment. Having entrusted Kiev to her teenage son Svyatoslav, and seeking grace and truth, Great-princess Olga in the Summer of 954 set off with a great fleet to Constantinople. This was a peaceful “expedition”, combining the tasks of religious pilgrimage and diplomatic mission, but the political considerations demanded that it become simultaneously a display of the military might of Rus on the Black Sea, which would remind the haughty “Romaioi” [Byzantine Greeks] of the victorious campaigns of Askold and Oleg, who in the year 907 advanced in their shields “to the very gates of Constantinople.”

The result was attained. The appearance of the Russian fleet in the Bosphorus created the necessary effect for the developing of Russo-Byzantine dialogue. In turn, the southern capital struck the stern daughter of the north with its variety of beauty and grandeur of architecture, and its jumbled mixture of pagans and peoples from all over the world. But a great impression was produced by the wealth of Christian churches and the holy things preserved in them. Constantinople, “the city of the imperial Caesar,” the Byzantine Empire, strove in everything to be worthy of the Mother of God, to Whom the city was dedicated by Saint Constantine the Great in 330. The Russian princess attended services in the finest churches of Constantinople: at Hagia Sophia, at Blachernae, and others.

In her heart the wise Olga found the desire for holy Orthodoxy, and she made the decision to become a Christian. The sacrament of Baptism was made over her by the Constantinople Patriarch Theophylactus (933-956), and her godfather was the emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitos (912-959). At Baptism she was given the name Helen in honor of the holy Equal of the Apostles Helen, the mother of Saint Constantine, and she also had been the discoverer of the Venerable Wood of the Cross of the Lord. In an edifying word spoken at the conclusion of the rite, the Patriarch said: “Blessed are you among Russian women, for you have forsaken the darkness and have loved the Light. The Russian people shall bless you in all the future generations, from your grandson and great-grandson to your furthermost descendants.” He instructed her in the truths of the Faith, the churchly rules and the rule of prayer, he explained the commands about fasting, chastity and charity. “She, however,” says the Monk Nestor, “bowed her head and stood, literally like a sponge absorbing water, listening to the teaching, and bowing down to the Patriarch, she said, “By your prayers, O Master, let me be preserved from the wiles of enemies”.

It is in precisely this way, with a slightly bowed head, that Saint Olga is depicted on one of the frescoes of the Kiev Sophia cathedral, and likewise on a Byzantine miniature contemporary to her, in a manuscript portrait of the Chronicles of John Scilitius in the Madrid National Library. The Greek inscription, accompanying the miniature, terms Olga “Archontissa (i.e. ruler) of Rus,” “a woman, Helga by name, who came to the emperor Constantine and was baptized”. The princess is depicted in special head attire, “as a newly-baptized Christian and venerable deaconess of the Russian Church.” Beside her in the same attire of the newly-baptized -- is Malusha (+ 1001), the future mother of the Equal of the Apostles Saint Vladimir.

For one who had originally so disliked the Russians as did the emperor Constantine Porphyrigenitos, it was no trivial matter for him to become the godfather to the “Archontissa of Rus”. In the Russian chronicles are preserved narratives about this, how resolutely and on an equal footing Olga conversed with the emperor, amazing the Greeks by her spiritual depth and wisdom of governance, and displaying that the Russian nation was quite capable of accepting and assimilating the highest attainments of the Greek religious genius, the finest fruition of Byzantine spirituality and culture. And thus by a peaceful path Saint Olga succeeded in “taking Constantinople”, something which no other military leader before her had ever been able to do. According to the witness of the chronicles, the emperor himself had to admit, that Olga “had given him the slip” (had outwitted him), and the popular mind, jumbling together into one the traditions about Oleg the Wise and Olga the Wise, sealed in its memory this spiritual victory in the bylina or folk-legend entitled “Concerning the Taking of Constantinople by Princess Olga”.

In his work “About the Ceremonies of the Byzantine Court,” which has survived to the present day in just one copy, Constantine Porphyrigenitos has left us a detailed description of the ceremony surrounding the stay of Saint Olga at Constantinople. He describes a triumphant reception in the famed Magnaura palace, beneath the singing of bronze birds and the roars of copper lions, where Olga appeared with an impressive retinue of 108 men (not counting the men of Svyatoslav’s company). And there took place negotiations in the narrower confines of the chambers of the empress, and then a state dinner in the hall of Justinian. And here during the course of events, there providentially met together at one table the four “majestic ladies”: the grandmother and the mother of holy Equal of the Apostles Saint Vladimir (Saint Olga and her companion Malusha), and the grandmother and the mother of Saint Vladimir’s future spouse Anna (the empress Helen and her daughter-in-law Theophano). Slightly more than half a century would pass, and at the Desyatin church of the Most Holy Theotokos at Kiev would stand aside each other the marble tombs of Saint Olga, Saint Vladimir and “Blessed Anna”.

During the time of one of these receptions, as Constantine Porphyrogenitos relates, the Russian princess was presented a golden plate inset with jewels. Saint Olga offered it to the vestry of the Sophia cathedral, where at the beginning of the thirteenth century it was seen and described by the Russian diplomat Dobrynya Yadeikovich (who afterwards was to become the Novgorod archbishop Anthony): “The large golden official plate of Olga of Russia, when she took it as tribute, having come to Constantinople; upon the plate be precious stones, and upon it is written in these stones the name Christ”.

Moreover, the wily emperor, after reporting such details as would underscore how “Olga had given him the slip”, also presents a difficult riddle for historians of the Russian Church. This is it: Saint Nestor the Chronicler relates in the “Tale of Bygone Years” that the Baptism of Olga took place in the Biblical year 6463 (955 or 954), and this corresponds to the account of the Byzantine chronicles of Kedrinos. Another Russian Church writer of the eleventh century, Yakov Mnikh, in his work “Eulogy and Laudation to Vladimir... and how Vladimir’s Grandmother Olga was Baptized”, speaks about the death of the holy princess (+ 969) and he notes that she lived as a Christian for fifteen years, and he places the actual date of Baptism as the year 954, which corresponds within several months to the date indicated by Nestor. In contrast to this, describing for us the stay of Olga at Constantinople and providing the precise dates of the receptions given in her honor, Constantine Porphyrogenitos has us to understand in no uncertain terms that all this occurred in the year 957.

To reconcile the cited chronicles, on the one hand, with the testimony of Constantine on the other hand, Russian Church historians are led to suppose one of two things: either Saint Olga made a second journey to Constantinople in the year 957 to continue negotiations with the emperor, or she was not baptized at Constantinople, having previously been baptized at Kiev in 954, and that she was merely making a pilgrimage to Byzantium, since she was already a Christian. The first supposition is the more credible.

As for the immediate diplomatic outcome of the negotiations, there were basic matters for Saint Olga that had been left unsettled. She had gained success on questions concerning Russian trade within the territories of the Byzantine Empire, and also the reconfirmation of the peace accord with Byzantium, concluded by Igor in the year 944. But she had not been able to sway the emperor on two issues of importance to Rus: the dynastic marriage of Svyatoslav with a Byzantine princess, and the conditions for restoring an Orthodox metropolitan to Kiev as had existed at the time of Askold. The evidently inadequate outcome of her mission is detected in her answer, when she had already returned home, which was given to emissaries sent out by the emperor. To the emperor’s inquiry about promised military aid, Saint Olga curtly replied through the emissaries: “If you had spent time with me at Pochaina, as I did at the Court, then I would send the soldiers to help you.”

Amidst all this, in spite of her failed attempts at establishing the Church hierarchy within Rus, Saint Olga, after becoming a Christian, zealously devoted herself to efforts of Christian evangelization among the pagans, and also church construction: “demanding the distressing of demons and the beginning of life for Christ Jesus”. She built churches: of Saint Nicholas and the church of the Holy Wisdom at Kiev, of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos at Vytebsk, and of the Holy Life-Creating Trinity at Pskov. Pskov from that period has been called in the chronicles the Domicile of the Holy Trinity. The church, built by Olga at the River Velika at a spot pointed out to her from on high, according to the chronicler, by a “light-beam of the Thrice-Radiant Divinity”, stood for more than one and an half centuries. In the year 1137 holy Prince Vsevolod-Gabriel (February 11) replaced this wooden temple with one made of stone, which in turn in 1363 was rebuilt and replaced finally with the presently existing Trinity cathedral.

Another very important monument of Russian “Monument Theology”, as Church architecture frequently is termed, connected with the name of Saint Olga, is the temple of the Wisdom of God at Kiev, which was started soon after her return from Constantinople, and consecrated on May 11, 960. This day was afterwards observed in the Russian Church as a special Church feastday.

In the Mesyatseslov (calendar supplement)of a parchment Epistle-book from 1307, under May 11 is written: “On this day the consecration of Saint Sophia took place at Kiev in the year 6460.” The date is indicated in the so-called “Antiochian” rather than generally-accepted Constantinople chronology, and it corresponds to the year 960 from the Birth of Christ.

It was no mere coincidence that Saint Olga received in Baptism the name of Saint Helen, who found the Venerable Wood of the Cross at Jerusalem (March 6). The foremost sacred item in the newly built Kiev Sophia temple was a piece of the Holy Cross, brought by this new Helen from Constantinople, and received by her in blessing from the Constantinople Patriarch. The Cross, by tradition, was hewn out from an entire piece of the Life-Creating Wood of the Lord. Upon the Cross-Wood was inscribed: “The Holy Cross for the Regeneration of the Russian Land, Received by Noble Princess Olga.”

Saint Olga did much to memorialize the first Russian confessors of the Name of Christ: over the grave of Askold the Saint Nicholas church was built, where according to certain accounts, she herself was afterwards interred. Over the grave of Dir was built the afore-mentioned Sophia cathedral, which stood for half a century and burned in the year 1017. On this spot Yaroslav the Wise later on built a church of Saint Irene in 1050, but the sacred items of Olga’s Sophia temple were transferred into a stone church of the same name now standing as the Kiev Sophia, started in 1017 and consecrated about the year 1030. In the Prologue of the thirteenth century, it says about the Olga Cross: “for It is now at Kiev in Saint Sophia in the altar on the right side.” The plundering of Kiev’s holy things, which after the Mongols was continued by the Lithuanians who captured the city in 1341, did not spare even this. Under Jagiello in the period of the Liublin Unia, which in 1384 united Poland and Lithuania into one state, the Olga Cross was snatched from the Sophia cathedral and carried off by the Catholics to Lublin. Its further fate is unknown.

But even in Olga’s time there were at Kiev among the nobles and retainers no few people who, in the words of Solomon, “hated Wisdom”, and also Saint Olga, for having built Wisdom’s temple. Zealots of the old paganism became all the more emboldened, viewing with hope the coming of age of Svyatoslav, who decidedly spurned the urgings of his mother to accept Christianity, and even becoming angry with her over this. It was necessary to hurry with the intended matter of the Baptism of Rus. The deceit of Byzantium, at the time not wanting to promote Christianity in Rus, played into the hands of the pagans. In search of a solution, Saint Olga looked to the west. No contradiction here yet existed. Saint Olga (+ 969) belonged still to the undivided Church (i.e. before the Great Schism of 1054), and she had scant possibility to study the theological points involved between the Greek and Latin Creeds. The opposition of West and East presented itself to her first of all as a political rivalry, of secondary importance in comparison with her task, the establishment of the Russian Church and the Christian enlightenment of Rus.

Under the year 959, the German chronicler named “the Continuant of Reginon,” records: “to the king came emissaries of Helen, queen of the Russes, who was baptized in Constantinople, and who sought for their nation to have bishop and priests” King Otto, the future founder of the German Empire, willingly acceded to Olga’s request, but he urged that the matter not be decided in haste. It was only on Nativity of the following year 960, that there was established a Russian bishop Libutius, from the monastery brethren of Anatolius Alban am Mainz. But he soon died (March 15, 961). In his place was ordained Adalbert of Trier, whom Otto “generously furnishing all needs” finally sent to Russia. It is difficult to say what would have happened, had the king not delayed for so long a while, but when in 962 when Adalbert showed up at Kiev, he “did not succeed in the matter for which he had been sent, and did consider his efforts to be in vain.” Furthermore, on the return journey “certain of his companions were murdered, and the bishop himself did not escape mortal danger.”

It turned out that after the passage of years, as Olga indeed had foreseen, matters at Kiev had twisted ultimately in favor of paganism, and Rus having become neither Orthodox nor Catholic, had second thoughts about accepting Christianity. The pagan reaction thus produced was so strong, that not only did the German missionaries suffer, but also some of the Kiev Christians who had been baptized with Olga at Constantinople. By order of Svyatoslav, Saint Olga’s nephew Gleb was killed and some of the churches built by her were destroyed. It seems reasonable, that this transpired not without Byzantium’s secret diplomacy: given the possibility of a strengthened Rus in alliance with Otto, the Greeks would have preferred to support the pagans, with the consequent intrigues against Olga and various disorders.

The collapse of the mission of Adalbert had providential significance for the future Russian Orthodox Church, escaping papal dominion. Saint Olga was obliged to accede to the humiliation and to withdraw fully into matters of personal piety, handing over the reigns of governance to her pagan-son Svyatoslav. Because of her former role, all the difficult matters were referred over to her in her wisdom of governance. When Svyatoslav absented himself from Kiev on military campaigns and wars, the governance of the realm was again entrusted to his mother. But the question about the Baptism of Rus was for a while taken off the agenda, and this was ultimately bitter for Saint Olga, who regarded the good news of the Gospel of Christ as the chief matter in her life.

She meekly endured the sorrow and grief, attempting to help her son in civil and military affairs, and to guide matters with heroic intent. The victories of the Russian army were a consolation for her, particularly the destruction of an old enemy of the Russian state—the Khazar kaganate. Twice, in the years 965 and 969, the armies of Svyatoslav went through the lands of “the foolish Khazars,” forever shattering the might of the Jewish rulers of Priazovia and lower Povolzhia. A subsequent powerful blow was struck at the Mahometan Volga Bulgars, and then in turn came the Danube Bulgars. Eighteen years were spent on the Danube with the Kiev military forces. Olga was alone and in worry: it was as though, absorbed by military matters in the Balkans, Svyatoslav had forgotten about Kiev.

In the Spring of 969 the Pechenegs besieged Kiev: “and it was impossible to lead out the horses to water, for the Pechenegs stood at the Lybeda.” The Russian army was far away, at the Danube. Having sent off messengers to her son, Saint Olga herself headed the defense of the capital. When he received the news, Svyatoslav rode quickly to Kiev, and “he hugged his mother and his children and was distressed, with what had happened with them from the Pechenegs.” But after routing the nomads, the warrior prince began anew to say to his mother: “It does not please me to sit at Kiev, for I wish to live at Pereslavl’ on the Dunaj (Danube) since that is the center of my lands.”

Svyatoslav dreamed of creating a vast Russian holding from the Danube to the Volga, which would unite all Rus, Bulgaria, Serbia, the Near Black Sea region and Priazovia (Azov region), and extend his borders to those of Constantinople itself. Olga the Wise understood however, that all the bravery and daring of the Russian companies could not compare against the ancient Byzantine Empire, and that the venture of Svyatoslav would fail. But the son would not heed the admonitions of his mother. Saint Olga thereupon said, “You see that I am ill. Why do you want to forsake me? After you bury me, then go wherever you wish.”

Her days were numbered, and her burdens and sorrows sapped her strength. On July 11, 969 Saint Olga died: “and with great lament they mourned her, her son and grandsons and all the people.” In her final years, amidst the triumph of paganism, she had to have a priest by her secretly, so she would not evoke new outbursts of pagan fanaticism. But before death, having found anew her former firmness and resolve, she forbade them to make over her the pagan celebration of the dead, and she gave final instructions to bury her openly in accord with Orthodox ritual. Presbyter Gregory, who was with her at Constantinople in 957, fulfilled her request.

Saint Olga lived, died, and was buried as a Christian. “And thus having lived and well having glorified God in Trinity, Father and Son and Holy Spirit, having worshipped in the blessed faith, she ended her life in the peace of Christ Jesus, our Lord.” As her prophetic testament to succeeding generations, with deep Christian humility she confessed her faith concerning her nation: “God’s will be done! If it pleases God to have mercy upon my native Russian Land, then they shall turn their hearts to God, just as I have received this gift.”

God glorified the holy toiler of Orthodoxy, the “initiator of faith” in the Russian Land, by means of miracles and incorrupt relics. Yakov Mnikh (+ 1072), a hundred years after her death, wrote in his work “Memory and Laudation to Vladimir”: “God has glorified the body of His servant Olga, and her venerable body remains incorrupt to this day.”

Saint Olga glorified God with good deeds in all things, and God glorified her. Under holy Prince Vladimir, ascribed by some as occurring in the year 1007, the relics of Saint Olga were transferred into the Desyatin church of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos and placed within a special sarcophagus, such as was customary to enclose the relics of saints in the Orthodox East. “And hear ye concerning a certain miracle about her: the grave of stone is small in the church of the Holy Mother of God, this church built by the blessed Prince Vladimir, and in the grave is the blessed Olga. And an opening was made in the tomb to behold Olga’s body lying there whole.” But not everyone was given to see this miracle of the incorrupt relics of the saint: “For whoever came with faith, the aperture opened up, and there the venerable body could be seen lying intact, and one would marvel at such a miracle -- the body lying there for so many years without decay. Worthy of all praise is this venerable body: resting in the grave whole, as though sleeping. But for those who did not approach in faith, the grave aperture would not open up, and they would not see this venerable body, but only the grave.”

Thus even after death Saint Olga espoused life eternal and resurrection, filling believers with joy and confounding non-believers. She was, in the words of Saint Nestor the Chronicler, “a precursor in the Christian land, like the dawn before sunrise or the twilight before the light.”

The holy Equal of the Apostles Great Prince Vladimir, himself giving thanks to God on the day of the Baptism of Rus, witnessed before his countrymen concerning Saint Olga with the remarkable words: “The sons of Rus bless you, and also the generations of your descendants.”

Apolytikion Giving your mind the wings of divine understanding, you soared above visible creation seeking God the Creator of all. When you had found Him, you received rebirth through baptism. As one who enjoys the Tree of Life, you remain eternally incorrupt, ever-glorious Olga.

Kontakion Today let us praise God the Benefactor of all, who glorified divinely-wise Olga, that through her prayers, He may grant our souls remission of sins.

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Jul. 10 - The 45 Holy Martyrs of Nicopolis in Armenia

The Forty-five Martyrs of Nicopolis in Armenia suffered during the reign of Emperor Licinius (311-324), who was then co-regent with Saint Constantine the Great. Licinius, the ruler of the Eastern Empire, fiercely persecuted Christians and issued an edict to put to death any Christian who would not return to paganism. When the persecutions began at Nicopolis, more than forty of those being persecuted for Christ decided to appear voluntarily before their persecutors, to confess openly their faith in the Son of God, and to accept martyrdom. The holy confessors were headed by Leontius, Mauricius, Daniel, Anthony, Alexander, Sisinius, Meneus, and Belerad (Virilad), and they were distinguished by their virtuous life.

Lycias, the procurator of the Armenian district, before whom the holy confessors presented themselves, was amazed at the boldness and bravery of those who condemned themselves voluntarily to torture and death. He tried to persuade them to renounce Christ and offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, but the saints remained steadfast. They refuted all the ruler’s arguments, pointing out to him the falseness of their vile and vice-filled pagan gods, leading those who worship them to ruin. The procurator ordered the confessors to be beaten about the face with stones, and then to be shackled and imprisoned.

In the prison the saints rejoiced and sang the Psalms of David. Saint Leontius inspired and encouraged the brethren, preparing them to accept new tortures for the true Faith, and telling them of the bravery of all those who had suffered previously for Christ. In the morning, after repeated refusals to offer sacrifice to the idols, the saints were subjected to further tortures.

Saint Leontius, seeing the intense suffering of the martyrs, and fearful that some of them might falter and lose faith, prayed to God that these torments would end quickly for all of them.

When the holy martyrs were singing Psalms at midnight, an Angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to them, and the prison blazed with light. The Angel declared to the martyrs that their contest was coming to an end, and their names already were inscribed in Heaven. Two of the prison guards, Meneus and Virilad, saw what was happening and believed in Christ.

On the following morning, Lysias decided to ask them if they had changed their minds and were willing to worship the idols. With one mouth, the Saints replied: “We are Christians! We are Christians!” Insane with rage, Lysias ordered that their hands and feet be cut off, and then threw them into the fire. After this, their bones were tossed into a river. Later on, when freedom had been given to the Church of Christ, a church was built on the spot and was dedicated to the 45 Holy Martyrs of Nikopolis.

Apolytikion You were chosen from on high as a holy army, O Forty-five Martyrs of Christ, lawfully contesting for the glory of Christ, and by your struggles you freed us from the delusion of polytheism. Because of these struggles, we glorify all of you.

Kontakion You endured many torments for the sake of Christ, O Martyrs. You destroyed idolatrous polytheism and godless error by the power of Christ. Teach us to cry aloud with faith: Alleluia.

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Jul. 9 - St. Pancratius the Hieromartyr, Bishop of Taormina in Sicily

The Hieromartyr Pancratius, Bishop of Taormina, was born when our Lord Jesus Christ yet lived upon the earth.

The parents of Pancratius were natives of Antioch. Hearing the good news of Jesus Christ, Pancratius’ father took his young son with him and went to Jerusalem in order to see the great Teacher for himself. The miracles astonished him, and when he heard the divine teaching, he then believed in Christ as the Son of God. He became close with the disciples of the Lord, especially with the holy Apostle Peter. It was during this period that young Pancratius got to know the holy Apostle Peter.

After the Ascension of the Savior, one of the Apostles came to Antioch and baptized the parents of Pancratius together with all their household. When the parents of Pancratius died, he left behind his inherited possessions and went to Pontus and began to live in a cave, spendng his days in prayer and deep spiritual contemplation. The holy Apostle Peter, while passing through those parts, visited Pancratius at Pontus. He took him along to Antioch, and then to Sicily, where the holy Apostle Paul then was. There the holy Apostles Peter and Paul made Saint Pancratius Bishop of Taormina in Sicily.

Saint Pancratius toiled zealously for the Christian enlightenment of the people. In a single month he built a church where he celebrated divine services. The number of believers quickly grew, and soon almost all the people of Taormina and the surrounding cities accepted the Christian Faith.

Saint Pancratius governed his flock peacefully for many years. However, pagans plotted against the saint, and seizing an appropriate moment, they fell upon him and stoned him. Thus, Saint Pancratius ended his life as a martyr.

The saint’s relics are in the church named for him in Rome.

Apolytikion As a flaming arrow You were sent from on high to the throne of Taormina to wound godless impiety and to illumine the hearts of the faithful, confirming them in the faith through the word of God. And having completed your course You did suffer unto bloodshed. O Hieromartyr Pancratius, pray for all who praise your memory.

Kontakion Pancratius, you were revealed as a brilliant star for the people of Taormina; you were also shown to be a sufferer for Christ. Since you now stand before Him, O blessed one, pray for those who honor you.

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Jul. 8 - Procopius the Greatmartyr of Caesarea in Palestine

The Holy Great Martyr Procopius, in the world Neanius, a native of Jerusalem, lived and suffered during the reign of the emperor Diocletian (284-305). His father, an eminent Roman by the name of Christopher, was a Christian, but the mother of the saint, Theodosia, remained a pagan. He was early deprived of his father, and the young child was raised by his mother. Having received an excellent secular education, he was introduced to Diocletian in the very first year of the emperor’s accession to the throne, and he quickly advanced in government service. Towards the year 303, when open persecution against Christians began, Neanius was sent as a proconsul to Alexandria with orders to mercilessly persecute the Church of God.

On the way to Egypt, near the Syrian city of Apamea, Neanius had a vision of the Lord Jesus, similar to the vision of Saul on the road to Damascus. A divine voice exclaimed, “Neanius, why do you persecute Me?”

Neanius asked, “Who are you, Lord?”

“I am the crucified Jesus, the Son of God.”

At that moment a radiant Cross appeared in the air. Neanius felt an inexpressible joy and spiritual happiness in his heart and he was transformed from being a persecutor into a zealous follower of Christ. From this point in time Neanius became favorably disposed towards Christians and fought victoriously against the barbarians.

The words of the Savior came true for the saint, “A man’s foes shall be those of his own household” (Mt. 10:36). His mother, a pagan herself, went to the emperor to complain that her son did not worship the ancestral gods. Neanius was summoned to the procurator Judaeus Justus, where he was solemnly handed the decree of Diocletian. Having read through the blasphemous directive, Neanius quietly tore it up before the eyes of everyone. This was a crime, which the Romans regarded as an “insult to authority.” Neanius was held under guard and in chains sent to Caesarea of Palestine, where the Apostle Paul once languished. After terrible torments, they threw the saint into a dark prison. That night, a light shone in the prison, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself baptized the suffering confessor, and gave him the name Procopius.

Repeatedly they led Saint Procopius to the courtroom, demanding that he renounce Christ, and they subjected him to more tortures. The stolidity of the martyr and his fiery faith brought down God’s abundant grace on those who witnessed the execution.

Inspired by the example of Procopius, many of the holy martyr’s former guards and Roman soldiers went beneath the executioner’s sword together with their tribunes Nikostrates and Antiochus. Twelve Christian women received martyr’s crowns, after they came to the gates of the Caesarea Praetorium.

Struck by the great faith and courage of the Christians, and seeing the firmness of her son in bearing terrible sufferings, Theodosia became repentant and stood in the line of confessors and was executed. Finally the new procurator, Flavian, convinced of the futility of the tortures, sentenced the holy Great Martyr Procopius to beheading by the sword. By night Christians took up his much-tortured body, and with tears and prayers, they committed it to the earth. This was the first martyrdom at Caesarea (303).

Apolytikion Your holy martyr Procopius, O Lord, through his suffering has received an incorruptible crown from You, our God. For having Your strength, he laid low his adversaries, and shattered the powerless boldness of demons. Through his intercessions save our souls!

Kontakion Set ablaze by divine zeal for Christ and protected by the might of the Cross, you cast down the insolence and boldness of the enemy, Procopius. You exalted the honorable Church, excelling in faith and giving light to us all!

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Jul. 7 - St. Thomas of Mt. Maleos

Saint Thomas of Mount Maleos (Maleós) was a military commander before becoming a monk. Strong and brave, he participated in many battles, and brought victories to his countrymen, for which he won much glory and honor. But, striving toward God with all his heart, Saint Thomas forsook the world and its vanity, and was tonsured as a monk.

With great humility he visited several Elders, asking for guidance in the spiritual life. After several years, Thomas received a blessing to live a solitary life in the wilderness. According to his biographers, Saint Thomas said that he was led by a pillar of fire to Mount Maleos by the Prophet Elias, while in an ancient Syaxarion of Constantinople it is written that Saint Thomas also appeared as a pillar of fire when the Holy Prophet Elias appeared to him, whose zealous way of life he emulated.

Dwelling in complete seclusion, Saint Thomas fought with invisible enemies with as much courage as he had displayed against the visible foes of his country. Reports of Saint Thomas's holy life could not be concealed from those living in the surrounding area. People began to flock to him seeking spiritual guidance, and those who suffered from sickness recovered, since he received from God a blessing to heal their infirmities.

He was always helping others, because even during his solitude, he prayed for everyone, and he trained himself to become a worthy instrument of God for the benefit of his neighbor.

Many of the faithful received help through the prayers of the Righteous Thomas. Even after his repose in the X century, he continues to heal those who seek his aid, from every passion and sickness.

Some of the Saint's Holy Relics are located in the Metropolis of Monemvasia and Sparta. He is particularly venerated in Lakonia (Lakonίa).

Apolytikion O God of our Fathers, always act with kindness towards us; take not Your mercy from us, but guide our lives in peace through the prayers of Saints Thomas and Acacius.

Kontakion Inflamed with divine love, you courageously showed us a great victory: you spurned the mortal king and all earthly beauty. You completed your worldly sojourn on Mount Maleos, from where you went up to Heaven to the King of kings. Unceasingly pray for us all, O Thomas.

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Jul. 6 - St. Sisoes the Great

Saint Sisoes the Great (+ 429) was a solitary monk, pursuing asceticism in the Egyptian desert in a cave sanctified by the prayerful labors of his predecessor, Saint Anthony the Great. For his sixty years of labor in the desert, Saint Sisoes attained to sublime spiritual purity and he was granted the gift of wonderworking, so that by his prayers he once restored a dead child back to life.

Extremely strict with himself, Abba Sisoes was very merciful and compassionate to others, and he received everyone with love. To those who visited him, the saint first of all always taught humility. When one of the monks asked how he might attain to a constant remembrance of God, Saint Sisoes remarked, “That is no great thing, my son, but it is a great thing to regard yourself as inferior to everyone else. This leads to the acquisition of humility.” Asked by the monks whether one year is sufficient for repentance if a brother sins, Abba Sisoes said, “I trust in the mercy of God that if such a man repents with all his heart, then God will accept his repentance in three days.”

When Saint Sisoes lay upon his deathbed, the disciples surrounding the Elder saw that his face shone like the sun. They asked the dying man what he saw. Abba Sisoes replied that he saw Saint Anthony, the prophets, and the apostles. His face increased in brightness, and he spoke with someone. The monks asked, “With whom are you speaking, Father?” He said that angels had come for his soul, and he was entreating them to give him a little more time for repentance. The monks said, “You have no need for repentance, Father.” Saint Sisoes said with great humility, “I do not think that I have even begun to repent.”

After these words the face of the holy abba shone so brightly that the brethren were not able to look upon him. Saint Sisoes told them that he saw the Lord Himself. Then there was a flash like lightning, and a fragrant odor, and Abba Sisoes departed to the Heavenly Kingdom.

Apolytikion Dweller of the desert and angel in the body, you were shown to be a wonder-worker, our God-bearing Father Sisoes. You received heavenly gifts through fasting, vigil, and prayer: healing the sick and the souls of those drawn to you by faith. Glory to Him who gave you strength! Glory to Him who granted you a crown! Glory to Him who through you grants healing to all!

Kontakion In asceticism you were revealed to be an earthly angel, continually enlightening the thoughts of the faithful with divine signs. Therefore we honor you with faith, venerable Sisoes.

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Jul. 5 - St. Athanasius of Athos

Saint Athanasius of Athos, in holy Baptism named Abraham, was born in the city of Trebezond. He was orphaned at an early age, and being raised by a certain good and pious nun, he imitated his adoptive mother in the habits of monastic life, in fasting and in prayer. Doing his lessons came easily and he soon outpaced his peers in study.

After the death of his adoptive mother, Abraham was taken to Constantinople, to the court of the Byzantine emperor Romanus the Elder, and was enrolled as a student under the renowned rhetorician Athanasius. In a short while the student attained the mastery of skill of his teacher and he himself became an instructor of youths. Reckoning as the true life that of fasting and vigilance, Abraham led a strict and abstinent life, he slept little and then only sitting upon a stool, and barley bread and water were his nourishment. When his teacher Athanasius through human weakness became jealous of his student, blessed Abraham gave up his teaching position and went away.

During these days there had arrived at Constantinople Saint Michael Maleinos, igumen of the Kyminas monastery. Abraham told the igumen about his life, and revealed to him his secret desire to become a monk. The holy Elder, discerning in Abraham a chosen vessel of the Holy Spirit, became fond of him and taught him much in questions of salvation. One time during their spiritual talks Saint Michael was visited by his nephew, Nikēphóros Phocas, a military officer and future emperor. Abraham’s lofty spirit and profound mind impressed Nikēphóros, and all his life he regarded the saint with reverent respect and with love. Abraham was consumed by his zeal for the monastic life. Having forsaken everything, he went to the Kyminas monastery and, falling down at the feet of the holy igumen, he begged to be received into the monastic life. The igumen fulfilled his request with joy and tonsured him with the name Athanasius.

With long fasts, vigils, bending of the knees, with works night and day Athanasius soon attained such perfection, that the holy igumen blessed him for the exploit of silence in a solitary place not far from the monastery. Later on, having left Kyminas, he made the rounds of many desolate and solitary places, and guided by God, he came to a place called Melanos, at the very extremity of Athos, settling far off from the other monastic dwellings. Here the monk made himself a cell and began to live an ascetical life in works and in prayer, proceeding from exploit to exploit towards higher monastic attainment.

The enemy of mankind tried to arouse in Saint Athanasius hatred for the place chosen by him, and assaulted him with constant suggestions in thought. The ascetic decided to suffer it out for a year, and then wherever the Lord should direct him, he would go. On the last day of this year’s length of time, when Saint Athanasius set about to prayer, a heavenly light suddenly shone upon him, filling him with an indescribable joy, all the thoughts dissipated, and from his eyes welled up graced tears. From that moment Saint Athanasius received the gift of tenderness , and he became as strongly fond of the place of his solitude as he had formerly loathed it.

During this time Nikēphóros Phocas, having had enough of military exploits, remembered his vow to become a monk and from his means he besought Saint Athanasius to build a monastery, i.e., to build cells for him and the brethren, and a church where the brethren could commune of the Divine Mysteries of Christ on Sundays.

Tending to shun cares and worries, Saint Athanasius at first would not agree to accept the hateful gold, but seeing the fervent desire and good intent of Nikēphóros, and discerning in this the will of God, he set about the building of the monastery. He built a large church in honor of the holy Prophet and Forerunner of Christ, John the Baptist, and another church at the foot of a hill, in the name of the Most Holy Theotokos. Around the church were the cells, and a wondrous monastery arose on the Holy Mountain. In it were a trapeza (dining area), a hospice for the sick and for taking in wanderers, and other necessary structures.

Brethren flocked to the monastery from everywhere, not only from Greece, but also from other lands, simple people and illustrious dignitaries, desert-dwellers having labored in asceticism for long years in the wilderness, igumens from many monasteries and hierarchs wanting to become simple monks in the Athos Lavra of Saint Athanasius.

The saint established at the monastery a cenobitic monastic Rule on the model of the old Palestinian monasteries. Divine services were served with all strictness, and no one was so bold as to talk during the services, nor to come late or leave the church without necessity.

The Heavenly Patroness of Athos, the All-Pure Mother of God Herself, was graciously disposed towards the saint. Many times he was privileged to see Her with his own eyes. By God’s dispensation, there once occurred such a hunger, that the monks one after the other quit the Lavra. The saint remained all alone and, in a moment of weakness, he also considered leaving. Suddenly he beheld a Woman beneath an ethereal veil, coming to meet him. “Who are you and where are you going?” She asked quietly. Saint Athanasius from an innate deference halted. “I am a monk from here,” Saint Athanasius replied, and spoke about himself and his worries.

“Would you forsake the monastery which was intended for glory from generation unto generation, just for a morsel of dry bread? Where is your faith? Turn around, and I shall help you.” “Who are you?” asked Athanasius. “I am the Mother of the Lord,” She answered, and bid Athanasius to strike his staff upon a stone. From the fissure there gushed forth a spring of water, which exists even now, in remembrance of this miraculous visitation.

The brethren grew in number, and the construction work at the Lavra continued. Saint Athanasius, foreseeing the time of his departure to the Lord, prophesied about his impending end and besought the brethren not to be troubled over what he foresaw. “For Wisdom disposes otherwise than as people judge.” The brethren were perplexed and pondered the words of the saint. After giving the brethren his final guidance and comforting all, Saint Athanasius entered his cell, put on his mantiya and holy kukolion (head covering), which he wore only on great feasts, and emerged after prolonged prayer. Alert and joyful, the holy igumen went up with six of the brethren to the top of the church to inspect the construction. Suddenly, through the imperceptible will of God, the top of the church collapsed. Five of the brethren immediately gave up their souls to God. Saint Athanasius and the architect Daniel, thrown upon the stones, remained alive. All heard the saint call out to the Lord, “Glory to Thee, O God! Lord, Jesus Christ, help me!” The brethren with great weeping began to dig out their father from the rubble, but they found him already dead.

Apolytikion The ranks of Angels were awed by your life in the flesh, how in the body, you went forth toward invisible struggles, O renowned one, and smote the hordes of demons with mortal wounds; for this reason, Athanasios, Christ rewarded you with abundant gifts. Therefore, O Father, pray that our souls may be saved.

Kontakion Taking the yoke of Christ upon yourself, you bore your cross on your shoulders, O Athanasios; you became a most virtuous imitator of His sufferings, and a sharer of His glory, partaking of endless joy.

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Jul. 4 - St. Andrew, Archbishop of Crete, Author of the Great Canon

Saint Andrew, Archbishop of Crete, was born in the city of Damascus into a pious Christian family. Up until seven years of age the boy was mute and did not talk. However, after communing the Holy Mysteries of Christ he found the gift of speech and began to speak. And from that time the lad began earnestly to study Holy Scripture and the discipline of theology.

At fourteen years of age he went off to Jerusalem and there he accepted monastic tonsure at the monastery of Saint Savva the Sanctified. Saint Andrew led a strict and chaste life, he was meek and abstinent, such that all were amazed at his virtue and reasoning of mind. As a man of talent and known for his virtuous life, over the passage of time he came to be numbered among the Jerusalem clergy and was appointed a secretary for the Patriarchate -- a writing clerk. In the year 680 the locum tenens of the Jerusalem Patriarchate, Theodore, included archdeacon Andrew among the representatives of the Holy City sent to the Sixth Ecumenical Council, and here the saint contended against heretical teachings, relying upon his profound knowledge of Orthodox doctrine. Shortly after the Council he was summoned back to Constantinople from Jerusalem and he was appointed archdeacon at the church of Hagia Sophia, the Wisdom of God. During the reign of the emperor Justinian II (685-695) Saint Andrew was ordained bishop of the city of Gortineia on the island of Crete. In his new position he shone forth as a true luminary of the Church, a great hierarch -- a theologian, teacher and hymnographer.

Saint Andrew composed many inspired writings, including the Great Canon of Repentance which is sung on Monday through Thursday of the first week of Lent, after the usual beginning of Compline, and following Psalm 69/70. In current Greek practice the Great Canon begins after the Doxology. The Great Canon of Repentance includes 250 troparia within its 9 Odes. Before each Troparion of the Canon, we make the Sign of the Cross and bow and sing "Have mercy upon me, O God, have mercy upon me." On Thursday of the fifth week, the Great Canon is sung continuously in its entirety. After Psalm 90/91 "God is with us," is read plainly and without a melody (outside of Great Lent). During Lent, however, the verses are sung slowly by the choir with the refrain "For God is with us" after each verse.1

Saint Andrew has also composed the Canon for the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, three Odes for Compline of Palm Sunday, and also in the first four days of Passion Week, as well as verses for the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord, and many other Church hymns. His hymnographic legacy was continued by other great composers of following ages: Saints John of Damascus, Cosmas of Maiuma, Joseph the Hymnographer, Theophánēs the Branded, etc.

Church historians are not of the same opinion as to the date of death of the saint. One suggests the year 712, while others -- the year 726. He died on the island of Mytilene, while returning to Crete from Constantinople, where he had been on churchly business. His relics were transferred to Constantinople. In the year 1350 the pious Russian pilgrim Stephen Novgorodets saw the relics at the Constantinople monastery named for Saint Andrew of Crete.

Apolytikion Emulating David you sang a new song in the assembly of the righteous. As an initiate of the Holy Spirit you guided us with hymns of grace and the word of righteousness for our salvation, O Andrew, glory of the Fathers.

Kontakion Trumpeting forth divine melodies, you were shown as a far-shining luminary for the world. You shone forth with the radiant light of the Trinity, O Venerable Andrew. Therefore we all cry to you: "Do not cease to intercede for us all.

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Jul. 3 - St. Hyacinth the Martyr of Caesarea

Saint Hyacinth, a native of Caesarea in Cappadocia, was raised in a Christian family. The emperor Trajan made the boy his “cubicularius” (chamberlain), unaware that he was a secret Christian.

One day, while the emperor and his entourage were offering sacrifice to idols, the young Hyacinth remained at the palace, shut himself up in a small room, and prayed fervently to the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the servants overheard him praying and denounced him to the emperor. He said that although Hyacinth was entrusted with an imperial position, he did not honor the Roman gods, and was secretly praying to Christ.

Hyacinth was brought to trial before Trajan, who tried to persuade him to deny Christ and sacrifice to the deaf and dumb idols, but the holy martyr remained steadfast and declared that he was a Christian. He was whipped and thrown into prison, where the only food given to him was what had already been offered to the idols. They hoped that he would be overcome with hunger and thirst and eat it. Saint Hyacinth did not eat the food, and he died after thirty-eight days. When they came to torture him again, they found his dead body.

The jailer saw two angels in the cell. One covered the saint’s body with his own garment, and the other placed a crown of glory on his head.

The twelve-year-old Hyacinth suffered for Christ in the year 108 in the city of Rome. Later, the saint’s relics were transferred to Caesarea.

Apolytikion Like a fragrant hyacinth of the Church of Christ, O all-blessed Hyacinth, you radiate grace to the ends of the world. By the brilliance of your confession of faith, you were illustrious in contest in emulation of God the Word and you ever illumine those who acclaim you.

Kontakion Come, you faithful, plait a crown of unfading hyacinths today for the Martyr Hyacinth, and let us cry to Him: “Rejoice, glory of martyrs.”

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Jul. 2 - St. Juvenal, Patriarch of Jerusalem

Saint Juvenal, Patriarch of Jerusalem, occupied the throne of the Holy City during the years 420-458. During this period great luminaries of the Church enlightened the world: Saints Euthymios the Great, Simeon the Stylite, Gerasimos of Jordan, and many others.

Saint Juvenal was a friend and converser with Saint Euthymios the Great. During Saint Juvenal’s archpastoral service, the Eastern Church was troubled by dangerous false teachings, which he opposed with a pastoral zeal, safeguarding the flock of Christ.

The Third Ecumenical Council was convened in the city of Ephesus in 431. It condemned the heresy of Nestorius, which was opposed to the Orthodox teaching about the divine nature of Jesus Christ. Saint Cyril of Alexandria presided at this Council, and among his colleagues was Patriarch Juvenal.

In 451, the Fourth Ecumenical Council met in the city of Chalcedon. It condemned the Eutchian [Monophysite] heresy, which taught that the human nature in Christ was completely swallowed up and absorbed by the divine nature. The Holy Fathers, among them Saint Juvenal, condemned the heresy of Eutychios and affirmed the Orthodox doctrine of the union of two natures in the Lord Jesus Christ, the divine and the human, without separation and without mixture. The heretics, however, continued to confuse the minds of Christians.

At the head of the heretics stood Theodosius, who lived at Jerusalem, and who had won to his side Eudokia, the widow of Emperor Theodosios the Younger (+ 450), who lived at Jerusalem. He demanded that Patriarch Juvenal repudiate the Council of Chalcedon; that is to say, that he should renounce the Orthodox dogma of the two natures in Christ.

Saint Juvenal would not agree to embrace falsehood, and bravely confessed the Chalcedonian doctrine before the heretics. Theodosius and his adherents then deposed Patriarch Juvenal from the patriarchal throne. The Saint fled to Constantinople, to Patriarch Anatolios and the Emperor Marcian. The heretic Theodosios, under Eudokia's patronage, occupied the patriarchal throne in Palestine, but only for twenty months. Emperor Marcian, holding Saint Juvenal in high esteem, placed him on the patriarchal throne once more, and so the Holy Confessor returned to Jerusalem.

The Saint made many efforts to restore Church peace. At the suggestion of Saint Simeon the Stylite, Empress Eudokia repented before Saint Juvenal and returned to communion with the Orthodox. A large part of the Jerusalem flock, who had been led astray by the heretics, followed her. After defeating the pernicious heresies, and establishing oneness of mind and propriety, Patriarch Juvenal reposed peacefully among his faithful flock, after serving as a bishop for thirty-eight years.

Apolytikion O successor of the Brother of the Lord on the archpastoral throne of the holy city of Jerusalem, you are worthy of praise. With the divinely-wise Fathers of Chalcedon you expounded the Incarnation of the Son of God, Who came to renew the world and to deify all men, united with Him in His Church. O Hierarch Father Juvenal, now as you stand before the throne of Father of Lights in the Kingdom, pray for those who lovingly honor you, and may the peace and mercy of the Savior be with us.

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Jul. 1 - The Holy Unmercenaries, Sts. Cosmas and Damian, Wonderworkers and Martyrs of Rome

The Holy Martyrs, Wonderworkers and Unmercenary Physicians Cosmas and Damian were born at Rome, brothers by birth, and physicians by profession. They suffered at Rome in the reign of the emperor Carinus (283-284). Brought up by their parents in the rules of piety, they led strict and chaste lives, and they were granted by God the gift of healing the sick. By their generosity and exceptional kindness to all, the brothers converted many to Christ. The brothers told the sick, “It is not by our own power that we treat you, but by the power of Christ, the true God. Believe in Him and be healed.” Since they accepted no payment for their treatment of the infirm, the holy brothers were called “unmercenary physicians.”

Their life of active service and their great spiritual influence on the people around them led many into the Church, attracting the attention of the Roman authorities. Soldiers were sent after the brothers. Hearing about this, local Christians convinced Saints Cosmas and Damian to hide for a while until they could help them escape. Unable to find the brothers, the soldiers arrested instead other Christians of the area where the saints lived. Saints Cosmas and Damian then came out of hiding and surrendered to the soldiers, asking them to release those who had been arrested because of them.

At Rome, the saints were imprisoned and put on trial. Before the Roman emperor and the judge they openly professed their faith in Christ God, Who had come into the world to save mankind and redeem the world from sin, and they resolutely refused to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. They said, “We have done evil to no one, we are not involved with the magic or sorcery of which you accuse us. We treat the infirm by the power of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and we take no payment for rendering aid to the sick, because our Lord commanded His disciples, ‘Freely have you received, freely give’ (Mt. 10: 8).”

The emperor, however, continued with his demands. Through the prayer of the holy brothers, imbued with the power of grace, God suddenly struck Carinus blind, so that he too might experience the almighty power of the Lord, Who does not forgive blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mt. 12:31). The people, beholding the miracle, cried out, “Great is the Christian God! There is no other God but Him!” Many of those who believed besought the holy brothers to heal the emperor, and he himself implored the saints, promising to convert to the true God, Christ the Savior, so the saints healed him. After this, Saints Cosmas and Damian were honorably set free, and once again they set about treating the sick.

But what the hatred of the pagans and the ferocity of the Roman authorities could not do, was accomplished by black envy, one of the strongest passions of sinful human nature. An older physician, an instructor, under whom the holy brothers had studied the art of medicine, became envious of their fame. Driven to madness by malice, and overcome by passionate envy, he summoned the two brothers, formerly his most beloved students, proposing that they should all go together in order to gather various medicinal herbs. Going far into the mountains, he murdered them and threw their bodies into a river.

Thus these holy brothers, the Unmercenary Physicians Cosmas and Damian, ended their earthly journey as martyrs. Although they had devoted their lives to the Christian service of their neighbors, and had escaped the Roman sword and prison, they were treacherously murdered by their teacher.

The Lord glorifies those who are pleasing to God. Now, through the prayers of the holy martyrs Cosmas and Damian, God grants healing to all who with faith have recourse to their heavenly intercession.

The Unmercenary Saints Cosmas and Damian of Rome should not be confused with the Unmercenary Saints Cosmas and Damian of Asia Minor, or the Unmercenary Saints Cosmas and Damian of Arabia.

Part of the skulls of Saints Cosmas and Damian are located in the sacred Pantokrator Monastery on Mount Athos. Pieces of the Holy Relics of Saints Cosmas and Damian may be found in the Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Unmercenaries in Rome.

Apolytikion Holy unmercenaries and wonderworkers, Cosmas and Damian, visit our infirmities. Freely you have received; freely give to us.

Kontakion Having received the grace of healing, you grant healing to those in need. Glorious wonder workers and physicians, Cosmas and Damian, visit us and put down the insolence of our enemies, and bring healing to the world through your miracles.

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Jun. 30 - Synaxis of the Holy, Glorious, and All-Laudable Twelve Apostles

The Synaxis of the Glorious and All-Praiseworthy Twelve Apostles of Christ appears to be an ancient Feast. The Church honors each of the Twelve Apostles on separate dates during the year, and has established a general commemoration for all of them on the day after the commemoration of the Glorious and First-Ranked among the Apostles Peter and Paul.

The holy God-crowned Emperor Constantine the Great built a church in Constantinople in honor of the Twelve Apostles. There are instructions for celebrating this Feast which date from the fourth century. For lists of the Apostles' names, see: Mt.10:2, Mark 3:14, Luke 6:12, Acts 1:13, 26.

The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle Andrew the First-called is also commemorated on November 30. He was the brother of Saint Peter.

The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle James is also commemorated on April 30. He and his brother John are the sons of Zebedee, and were called “sons of Thunder” (Mark 3: 17).

The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle and Evangelist, virgin, and beloved friend of Christ, John the Theologian is also commemorated on September 26 and May 8. He and his brother James are the sons of Zebedee, and were called “sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17).

The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle Philip is also commemorated on November 14.

The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle Bartholomew is also commemorated on June 11 and August 25.

The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle Thomas is also commemorated on October 6 and on the Sunday after Pascha.

The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle and Evangelist Matthew is also commemorated on November 16.

The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle James, the son of Alphaeus, is also commemorated on October 9.

The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle Jude is also commemorated on June 19. He is also known as Thaddeus (but should not be confused with Saint Thaddeus of the Seventy, who is commemorated on August 21), and was the brother of Saint James.

The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle Simon the Zealot is also commemorated on May 10.

The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle Matthias is also commemorated on August 9.

Apolytikion First-enthroned of the apostles, teachers of the universe: Entreat the Master of all to grant peace to the world, / and to our souls great mercy!

Kontakion O Lord, receive the steadfast and divinely voiced preachers, the pinnacle of Your disciples, unto their rest and the enjoyment of Your blessings. You received, above every offering, their labors and their life. You alone know what the heart holds.

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Jun. 29 - The Holy Glorious and All-Laudable Leaders of the Apostles, Sts. Peter and Paul

The divinely-blessed Peter was from Bethsaida of Galilee. He was the son of Jonas and the brother of Andrew the First-called. He was a fisherman by trade, unlearned and poor, and was called Simon; later he was renamed Peter by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, Who looked at him and said, "Thou art Simon the son of Jonas; thou shalt be called Cephas (which is by interpretation, Peter)" (John 1:42). On being raised by the Lord to the dignity of an Apostle and becoming inseparable from Him as His zealous disciple, he followed Him from the beginning of His preaching of salvation up until the very Passion, when, in the court of Caiaphas the high priest, he denied Him thrice because of his fear of the Jews and of the danger at hand. But again, after many bitter tears, he received complete forgiveness of his transgression. After the Resurrection of Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit, he preached in Judea, Antioch, and certain parts of Asia, and finally came to Rome, where he was crucified upside down by Nero, and thus he ascended to the eternal habitations about the year 66 or 68, leaving two Catholic (General) Epistles to the Church of Christ.

Paul, the chosen vessel of Christ, the glory of the Church, the Apostle of the Nations and teacher of the whole world, was a Jew by race, of the tribe of Benjamin, having Tarsus as his homeland. He was a Roman citizen, fluent in the Greek language, an expert in knowledge of the Law, a Pharisee, born of a Pharisee, and a disciple of Gamaliel, a Pharisee and notable teacher of the Law in Jerusalem. For this cause, from the beginning, Paul was a most fervent zealot for the traditions of the Jews and a great persecutor of the Church of Christ; at that time, his name was Saul (Acts 22:3-4). In his great passion of rage and fury against the disciples of the Lord, he went to Damascus bearing letters of introduction from the high priest. His intention was to bring the disciples of Christ back to Jerusalem in bonds. As he was approaching Damascus, about midday there suddenly shone upon him a light from Heaven. Falling on the earth, he heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" And he asked, "Who art Thou, Lord?" And the Lord said, "I am Jesus Whom thou persecutest; it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." And that heavenly voice and brilliance made him tremble, and he was blinded for a time. He was led by the hand into the city, and on account of a divine revelation to the Apostle Ananias, he was baptized by him, and both his bodily and spiritual eyes were opened to the knowledge of the Sun of Righteousness. And straightway- O wondrous transformation! - beyond all expectation, he spoke with boldness in the synagogues, proclaiming that "Christ is the Son of God" (Acts 9:1-21). As for his zeal in preaching the Gospel after these things had come to pass, as for his unabating labors and afflictions of diverse kinds, the wounds, the prisons, the bonds, the beatings, the stonings, the shipwrecks, the journeys, the perils on land, on sea, in cities, in wildernesses, the continual vigils, the daily fasting, the hunger, the thirst, the nakedness, and all those other things that he endured for the Name of Christ, and which he underwent before nations and kings and the Israelites, and above all, his care for all the churches, his fiery longing for the salvation of all, whereby he became all things to all men, that he might save them all if possible, and because of which, with his heart aflame, he continuously traveled throughout all parts, visiting them all, and like a bird of heaven flying from Asia and Europe, the West and East, neither staying nor abiding in any one place - all these things are related incident by incident in the Book of the Acts, and as he himself tells them in his Epistles. His Epistles, being fourteen in number, are explained in 250 homilies by the divine Chrysostom and make manifest the loftiness of his thoughts, the abundance of the revelations made to him, the wisdom given to him from God, wherewith he brings together in a wondrous manner the Old with the New Testaments, and expounds the mysteries thereof which had been concealed under types; he confirms the doctrines of the Faith, expounds the ethical teaching of the Gospel, and demonstrates with exactness the duties incumbent upon every rank, age, and order of man. In all these things his teaching proved to be a spiritual trumpet, and his speech was seen to be more radiant than the sun, and by these means he clearly sounded forth the word of truth and illumined the ends of the world. Having completed the work of his ministry, he likewise ended his life in martyrdom when he was beheaded in Rome during the reign of Nero, at the same time, some say, when Peter was crucified.

Apolytikion O foremost of the Apostles and teachers of the inhabited earth, intercede with the Master of all to grant peace to the world and great mercy to our souls.

Kontakion You received the steadfast and divinely-inspired Heralds, O Lord, the Foremost Apostles, for the enjoyment of Your blessings and repose. For You recognized their labors and death as greater than any burnt offering, for You alone know what is in the hearts of men.

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Jun. 28 - St. Paul the Physician of Corinth

Saint Paul lived around the seventh century and was from the city of Corinth. He was born to Christian parents who raised him in piety. While still young, he withdrew to a monastery to devote his life to God, and with much labor he became an experienced ascetic. He had an especially difficult struggle with the impure spirit of fornication. One night, as Paul stood in prayer, a demon appeared to him and said that if he did not satisfy his carnal lust at least one time, he would come against him in a brutal way. With the power of the Cross and the name of Christ he drove the impure spirit of fornication away from himself, and in turn that spirit created a malicious falsehood against the Saint.

One day a depraved woman came to the monastery with a newborn infant and said that the venerable Paul was the father. The holy elder received the child with joy as if it was truly his own, enduring the slander as a trial permitted by God for his benefit. Certain men then dragged him from the monastery, placed the child in his arms and forced him to walk throughout the town for the people to ridicule and spit on him, to expose him as a false monk. The baby was only a few days old. The venerable Paul then prayed fervently to God and said to the people: "Behold, let the child himself say who is his father." The child stretched out its hand from the swaddling clothes and pointed to a blacksmith and said: "That man is my father and not Paul the monk!" The adversaries of Paul then became ashamed and asked his forgiveness.

God granted great healing powers to Paul so that when he placed his hand on the sick, they became whole. For this reason he became known as "the Physician". Paul reposed peacefully at the age of seventy, pleasing God by his life on earth.

Apolytikion By a flood of tears you made the desert fertile, and your longing for God brought forth fruits in abundance. By the radiance of miracles you illumined the whole universe! O our holy father Paul, pray to Christ our God to save our souls!

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  • Jun. 27 - St. Sampson the Hospitable of Constantinople

    Saint Sampson (Σαμψών) was born in Rome, the son of wealthy, but devout and virtuous parents. He received an excellent education, studying philosophy and medicine, among other subjects. From his earliest childhood, he lived an exemplary Christian life. After the death of his parents he transformed the family estate into a clinic for the sick. Word of his healing skills spread, and so many people came to him that he had to hire a staff to care for the increasing numbers of people who sought his help. When he had an adequate staff, he donated all of his wealth to the clinic, and was content to live in poverty (Luke 12:33-34).

    Saint Sampson went to Constantinople, where he hoped to spend the rest of his life in asceticism. He found, however, that there was just as much need for his skill in Constantinople as there had been in Rome. He bought a modest home and began to treat the sick. God blessed Saint Sampson's work and gave him the grace of working miracles. He healed the sick not only by his medical skill, but also as one filled with the grace of God. News of Saint Sampson spread rapidly throughout the Queen of Cities.

    His piety and love for his neighbor brought him to the attention of Patriarch Menas of Constantinople, who ordained him to the holy priesthood. When Emperor Justinian became ill, and his physicians were unable to provide any relief for him, Patriarch Menas suggested that he send for Sampson, who healed the Emperor. Justinian offered him gold and silver to show his gratitude, but the saint refused, saying that he had already given all his wealth away. Instead, he asked Justinian to build a hospice for travelers.

    His Life was written by Saint Symeon Metaphrastes. The historian Procopius, however, implies that Sampson lived before the sixth century, and that the hospice had existed before his own time (Buildings, I, 2, 14). When Sampson's hospice (xenon) was burnt and destroyed in 532, Justinian rebuilt it and endowed it with a generous annual income. It was intended for the destitute, and those who suffered from serious illnesses, as well as those who had lost their property or their health.

    Saint Sampson reposed quietly, following a brief illness, in the year 530 at a ripe old age. He was buried in the church of Saint Mokios (Μώκιος), which was built by Saint Constantine the Great. Many miracles of healing took place at the tomb of Saint Sampson.

    Even after his death, the Saint continued to watch over his hospice. Twice he appeared to a lazy worker, and chastised him for his negligence. Later, the hospice became a church, and a new building for the homeless was constructed beside it. A terrible fire once raged in Constantinople, but did not damage the church or the new building. Through the prayers of Saint Sampson, a heavy rain extinguished the flames.

    Through the prayers of Saint Sampson, may we also find the treasure which does not fail, in Heaven.

    Apolytikion Through your patience, your unceasing prayer, your love for the poor and the help you gave to them, you became worthy of your reward, O holy Sampson. Intercede with Christ God that He may save our souls.

    Kontakion We honor your relics, for you are an excellent physician and powerful intercessor; as we gather to praise you with psalms and hymns, divinely-wise and Venerable Sampson, we glorify Christ, who granted you the grace of healing.

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    Jun. 26 - St. David the Righteous of Thessalonica

    Saint David of Thessalonica pursued asceticism at the monastery of the holy Martyrs Theodore and Mercurius. Inspired by the example of the holy stylites, he lived in an almond tree in constant prayer, keeping strict fast, and enduring heat and cold. He remained there for three years until an angel told him to come down.

    Saint David received from God the gift of wonderworking, and he healed many from sickness. The holy ascetic gave spiritual counsel to all who came to him. Having attained to passionlessness, he was like an angel in the flesh, and he was able to take hot coals into his hands without harm. He died the year 540.

    Apolytikion The image of God was truly preserved in you, O Father, for you took up the Cross and followed Christ. By so doing you taught us to disregard the flesh for it passes away but to care instead for the soul, since it is immortal. Therefore your spirit, venerable David, rejoices with the angels.

    Kontakion We bless you, servant of God David; you are like the angels and estranged from earthly things. Now you rejoice in divine gifts. Grant us to share in them also, O holy and righteous Father!

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    Jun. 25 - St. Febronia the Virgin Martyr of Nisibis

    The Virgin Martyr Febronia suffered during the reign of Diocletian (284-305). She was raised at a monastery in the city of Sivapolis (Assyria). The head of the women’s monastery was the abbess Bryaίnē, the aunt of Saint Febronia. Being concerned about her niece’s salvation, she assigned her a stricter form of life than the other nuns. According to their monastic rule, on Fridays the sisters put aside their other duties and spent the whole day in prayer and the reading of Holy Scripture. The abbess usually assigned the reading to Saint Febronia.

    News of her pious life spread throughout the city. The illustrious young widow Hieria, a pagan, began to visit her, and under the influence of her guidance and prayer she accepted holy Baptism, bringing her parents and kinsfolk to the Christian Faith.

    Diocletian sent a detachment of soldiers to Assyria under the command of Lysimachus, Selinus and Primus for the destruction of Christians. Selenos, the uncle of Lysimachus, was noted for his fierce attitude against Christians, but Lysimachus was of a different frame of mind from him, since his mother had sought to inspire love for the Christian faith in her son, and she had died a Christian. Lysimachus had discussed with his kinsman Primus how it would be possible to deliver Christians from the hands of the torturer. When the detachment of soldiers approached the convent, its inhabitants hid. There remained only the abbess Bryaίnē, her helper Thomais and Saint Febronia, who was seriously ill at the time.

    It grieved the abbess terribly that her niece might fall into the hands of the torturers, who might defile her. She prayed fervently that the Lord would preserve her and strengthen her in the confession of Christ the Savior. Selinus gave orders to bring him all the nuns of the convent. Primus with the detachment of soldiers found no one, except the two old women and Saint Febronia. He regretted that they had not hidden, and he suggested to the nuns that they flee. But the nuns decided not to leave the place of their labors and they entrusted themselves to the will of the Lord.

    Primus told Lysimachus about the particular beauty of Saint Febronia and advised him to take her for himself. Lysimachus said that he would not seduce a virgin dedicated to God, and he asked Primus to hide the other nuns somewhere so that they would not fall into the hands of Selinus. One of the soldiers overheard the conversation and told Selinus. They led Saint Febronia off to the military commander with her hands bound and a chain around her neck. Selinus urged her to deny Christ, promising her honors, rewards, and marriage with Lysimachus. The holy virgin firmly and fearlessly answered that she had an Immortal Bridegroom, and she would not exchange Him for any mortal man. Selinus subjected her to fierce torture. The saint prayed, “My Savior, do not abandon me in this terrible hour!”

    They beat the martyr for a long time, and blood flowed from her wounds. In order to intensify the suffering of Saint Febronia, they tied her to a tree and set a fire under it. The tortures were so inhuman, that the people began to demand an end to the torture, since there was no confession of guilt by the girl. Selinus continued to mock and jeer at the martyr, but Saint Febronia became silent. Because of weakness she was unable to utter a word. In a rage Selinus gave orders to tear out her tongue, smash her teeth, and finally, to cut off both hands and feet. The people were unable to bear such a horrid spectacle and they left the scene of the torture, cursing Diocletian and his gods.

    Among the crowd was the nun Thomais, who afterwards recorded Saint Febronia’s martyrdom in detail, and also her student Hieria. She came forth out of the crowd and in the hearing of all reproached Selinus for his boundless cruelty. He gave orders to arrest her, but learning that Hieria was of illustrious standing whom he could not readily subject to torture, he said, “By your speech you have brought on Febronia even greater torment.” Finally, they beheaded the holy Martyr Febronia.

    Departing the place of execution, Lysimachus wept and withdrew to his quarters. Selinus made ready to eat, but he was not able to take food, and went off to the quiet of his own chambers. Suddenly, he became like one deranged. Looking up to the heavens, he raved and bellowed like a bull, then fell down and struck his head on a marble column and died. When Lysimachus learned of this, he said, “ Great is the God of the Christians, Who has avenged Febronia’s blood, so unrighteously shed!” He prepared a coffin, placed the martyr’s body in it, and took it to the convent.

    Abbess Bryaίnē fell senseless, seeing the mutilated remains of Saint Febronia. Later, she recovered her senses and gave orders to open the convent gates so that all would be able to come and venerate the holy martyr and glorify God Who had given her such endurance in suffering for Christ. Lysimachus and Primus renounced their idol worship and accepted both Baptism and monasticism. Hieria gave her wealth to the convent and petitioned Abbess Bryaίnē to accept her at the convent in place of Saint Febronia.

    Every year, on the day of the martyric death of Saint Febronia, a solemn feast was celebrated at the convent. During the time of the all-night Vigil the nuns always saw Saint Febronia, at her usual place in church. From the relics of Saint Febronia occurred numerous miracles and healings. The Life of Saint Febronia was recorded by the nun Thomais, an eyewitness to her deeds.

    In the year 363 the relics of Saint Febronia were transferred to Constantinople.

    Soon after the death of Saint Febronia, Saint James the Bishop of Nisibis built a church and transferred into it a portion of the of the holy martyr’s relics.

    Apolytikion Your lamb Febronia, calls out to You, O Jesus, in a loud voice: “I love You, my Bridegroom, and in seeking You I endure suffering. In baptism I was crucified so that I might reign in You, and I died so that I might live with You. Accept me as a pure sacrifice, for I have offered myself in love.” Through her prayers save our souls, since You are merciful.

    Kontakion You were adorned with the grace of virginity and the beauty of martyrdom, O Febronia, bride of Christ. You wisely carried your lamp and ran to your Bridegroom receiving an incorruptible crown. Pray for those who faithfully sing hymns of praise to you!

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    Jun. 24 - Nativity of the Holy Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist, St. John

    The Nativity of the Holy Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, John: The Gospel (Luke. 1: 5) relates that the righteous parents of Saint John the Baptist, the Priest Zachariah and Elizabeth, lived in the ancient city of Hebron. They reached old age without having children, since Elizabeth was barren. Once, Saint Zachariah was serving in the Temple at Jerusalem and saw the Archangel Gabriel, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. He predicted that Saint Zachariah would father a son, who would announce the Savior, the Messiah, awaited by the Old Testament Church. Zachariah was troubled, and fear fell upon him. He had doubts that in old age it was possible to have a son, and he asked for a sign. It was given to him, and it was also a chastisement for his unbelief. Zachariah was struck speechless until the time of the fulfillment of the archangel’s words.

    Saint Elizabeth came to be with child, and fearing derision at being pregnant so late in life, she kept it secret for five months. Then her relative, the Virgin Mary, came to share with her Her own joy. Elizabeth, “filled with the Holy Spirit,” was the first to greet the Virgin Mary as the Mother of God. Saint John leaped in his mother’s womb at the visit of the Most Holy Virgin Mary and the Son of God incarnate within Her.

    Soon Saint Elizabeth gave birth to a son, and all the relatives and acquaintances rejoiced together with her. On the eighth day, in accordance with the Law of Moses, he was circumcised and was called John. Everyone was amazed, since no one in the family had this name. When they asked Saint Zachariah about this, he motioned for a tablet and wrote on it: “His name is John.” Immediately his tongue was loosed, and Saint Zachariah glorified God. He also prophesied about the Coming into the world of the Messiah, and of his own son John, the Forerunner of the Lord (Luke. 1: 68-79).

    After the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ and the worship of the shepherds and the Magi, wicked king Herod gave orders to kill all male infants. Hearing about this, Saint Elizabeth fled into the wilderness and hid in a cave. Saint Zachariah was at Jerusalem and was doing his priestly service in the Temple. Herod sent soldiers to him to find out the abode of the infant John and his mother. Zachariah answered that their whereabouts were unknown to him, and he was killed right there in the Temple. Righteous Elizabeth continued to live in the wilderness with her son and she died there. The child John, protected by an angel, dwelt in the wilderness until the time when he came preaching repentance, and was accounted worthy to baptize the Lord.

    Apolytikion Prophet and Forerunner of the coming of Christ, although we cannot praise you worthily, we honor you in love at your nativity, for by it you ended your father’s silence and your mother’s barrenness, proclaiming to the world the incarnation of the Son of God!

    Kontakion Today the formerly barren woman gives birth to Christ’s Forerunner, who is the fulfillment of every prophecy; for in the Jordan, when he laid his hand on the One foretold by the prophets, he was revealed as Prophet, Herald, and Forerunner of God the Word.

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    Jun. 23 - St. Agrippina the Virgin Martyr of Rome

    The Holy Martyr Agrippina was by birth a Roman. She did not wish to enter into marriage, and totally dedicated her life to God. During the time of persecution against Christians under the emperor Valerian (253-259) the saint went before the court and bravely confessed her faith in Christ, for which she was given over to torture. They beat the holy virgin with sticks so severely that her bones broke. Afterwards they put Saint Agrippina in chains, but an angel freed her from her bonds.

    The holy confessor died from the tortures she endured. The Christians Bassa, Paula and Agathonike secretly took the body of the holy martyr and transported it to Sicily, where many miracles were worked at her grave. In the eleventh century the relics of the holy Martyr Agrippina were transferred to Constantinople.

    Apolytikion Your lamb Agrippina calls out to You, O Jesus, in a loud voice: "I love You, my Bridegroom, and in seeking You I endure suffering. In baptism I was crucified so that I might reign in You, and I died so that I might live with You. Accept me as a pure sacrifice, for I have offered myself in love." Through her prayers save our souls, since You are merciful.

    Kontakion The day has come on which the Church commemorates your radiant contest and martyrdom. She calls upon all to cry to you with gladness: “Rejoice, all-honored virgin-martyr Agrippina.”

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