Stephen the New
Irenarchos & his Companion Martyrs at Sebaste
Auxentius, 16 Martyrs of Tiberioupolis
Τοῦ Ὁσίου Πατρός ἡμῶν Στεφάνου τοῦ Νέου καί τοῦ Ἁγίου Μάρτυρος Εἰρηνάρχου.
READINGS FROM THE BIBLE:
The Reading is from St. Paul's Second Letter to the Thessalonians 1:1-10
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren, as is fitting, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast of you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions which you are enduring.
This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be made worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering - since indeed God deems it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant rest with us to you who are afflicted, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all who have believed.
Πρὸς Θεσσαλονικεῖς β' 1:1-10
Παῦλος καὶ Σιλουανὸς καὶ Τιμόθεος τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ Θεσσαλονικέων ἐν θεῷ πατρὶ ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ χριστῷ· χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ. Εὐχαριστεῖν ὀφείλομεν τῷ θεῷ πάντοτε περὶ ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοί, καθὼς ἄξιόν ἐστιν, ὅτι ὑπεραυξάνει ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν, καὶ πλεονάζει ἡ ἀγάπη ἑνὸς ἑκάστου πάντων ὑμῶν εἰς ἀλλήλους· ὥστε ἡμᾶς αὐτοὺς ἐν ὑμῖν καυχᾶσθαι ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τοῦ θεοῦ ὑπὲρ τῆς ὑπομονῆς ὑμῶν καὶ πίστεως ἐν πᾶσιν τοῖς διωγμοῖς ὑμῶν καὶ ταῖς θλίψεσιν αἷς ἀνέχεσθε· ἔνδειγμα τῆς δικαίας κρίσεως τοῦ θεοῦ, εἰς τὸ καταξιωθῆναι ὑμᾶς τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ, ὑπὲρ ἧς καὶ πάσχετε· εἴπερ δίκαιον παρὰ θεῷ ἀνταποδοῦναι τοῖς θλίβουσιν ὑμᾶς θλῖψιν, καὶ ὑμῖν τοῖς θλιβομένοις ἄνεσιν μεθʼ ἡμῶν, ἐν τῇ ἀποκαλύψει τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ ἀπʼ οὐρανοῦ μετʼ ἀγγέλων δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ, ἐν πυρὶ φλογός, διδόντος ἐκδίκησιν τοῖς μὴ εἰδόσιν θεόν, καὶ τοῖς μὴ ὑπακούουσιν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ· οἵτινες δίκην τίσουσιν, ὄλεθρον αἰώνιον ἀπὸ προσώπου τοῦ κυρίου καὶ ἀπὸ τῆς δόξης τῆς ἰσχύος αὐτοῦ, ὅταν ἔλθῃ ἐνδοξασθῆναι ἐν τοῖς ἁγίοις αὐτοῦ, καὶ θαυμασθῆναι ἐν πᾶσιν τοῖς πιστεύσασιν ὅτι ἐπιστεύθη τὸ μαρτύριον ἡμῶν ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ.
The Reading is from Luke 19:37-44
At that time, as Jesus was now drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples." He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out." And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it, saying, "Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you, when your enemies will cast up a bank about you and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another in you; because you did not know the time of your visitation."
Κατὰ Λουκᾶν 19.37-44
Τῷ καιρῷ ἐκείνῳ, ἐγγίζοντος δὲ αὐτοῦ ἤδη πρὸς τῇ καταβάσει τοῦ ὄρους τῶν ἐλαιῶν ἤρξατο ἅπαν τὸ πλῆθος τῶν μαθητῶν χαίροντες αἰνεῖν τὸν Θεὸν φωνῇ μεγάλῃ περὶ πασῶν ὧν εἶδον δυνάμεων λέγοντες· εὐλογημένος ὁ ἐρχόμενος βασιλεὺς ἐν ὀνόματι Κυρίου· εἰρήνη ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις. καί τινες τῶν Φαρισαίων ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄχλου εἶπον πρὸς αὐτόν· διδάσκαλε, ἐπιτίμησον τοῖς μαθηταῖς σου. καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ἐὰν οὗτοι σιωπήσωσιν, οἱ λίθοι κεκράξονται. Καὶ ὡς ἤγγισεν, ἰδὼν τὴν πόλιν ἔκλαυσεν ἐπ᾿ αὐτῇ, λέγων ὅτι εἰ ἔγνως καὶ σύ, καί γε ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ σου ταύτῃ, τὰ πρὸς εἰρήνην σου! νῦν δὲ ἐκρύβη ἀπὸ ὀφθαλμῶν σου· ὅτι ἥξουσιν ἡμέραι ἐπὶ σὲ καὶ περιβαλοῦσιν οἱ ἐχθροί σου χάρακά σοι καὶ περικυκλώσουσί σε καὶ συνέξουσί σε πάντοθεν, καὶ ἐδαφιοῦσί σε καὶ τὰ τέκνα σου ἐν σοί, καὶ οὐκ ἀφήσουσιν ἐν σοὶ λίθον ἐπὶ λίθῳ, ἀνθ᾿ ὧν οὐκ ἔγνως τὸν καιρὸν τῆς ἐπισκοπῆς σου.
The righteous Stephen was born in Constantinople in 715 to pious parents named John and Anna. His mother had prayed often to the most holy Theotokos in her church at Blachernae to be granted a son, and one day received a revelation from our Lady that she would conceive the son she desired. When Anna had conceived, she asked the newly-elected Patriarch Germanus (see May 12) to bless the babe in her womb. He said, "May God bless him through the prayers of the holy First Martyr Stephen." At that moment Anna saw a flame of fire issue from the mouth of the holy Patriarch. When the child was born, she named him Stephen, according to the prophecy of Saint Germanus.
Stephen struggled in asceticism from his youth in Bithynia at the Monastery of Saint Auxentius, which was located at a lofty place called Mount Auxentius (see Feb. 14). Because of his extreme labours and great goodness, he was chosen by the hermits of Mount Auxentius to be their leader. The fame of his spiritual struggles reached the ears of all, and the fragrance of his virtue drew many to himself.
During the reign of Constantine V (741-775), Stephen showed his love of Orthodoxy in contending for the Faith. This Constantine was called Copronymus, that is, "namesake of dung," because while being baptized he had soiled the waters of regeneration, giving a fitting token of what manner of impiety he would later embrace. Besides being a fierce Iconoclast, Constantine raised up a ruthless persecution of monasticism. He held a council in 754 that anathematized the holy icons. Because Saint Stephen rejected this council, the Emperor framed false accusations against him and exiled him. But while in exile Saint Stephen performed healings with holy icons and turned many away from Iconoclasm. When he was brought before the Emperor again, he showed him a coin and asked whose image the coin bore. "Mine," said the tyrant. "If any man trample upon thine image, is he liable to punishment?" asked the Saint. When they that stood by answered yes, the Saint groaned because of their blindness, and said if they thought dishonouring the image of a corruptible king worthy of punishment, what torment would they receive who trampled upon the image of the Master Christ and of the Mother of God? Then he threw the coin to the ground and trampled on it. He was condemned to eleven months in bonds and imprisonment. Later, he was dragged over the earth and was stoned, like Stephen the First Martyr; wherefore he is called Stephen the New. Finally, he was struck with a wooden club on the temple and his head was shattered, and thus he gave up his spirit in the year 767.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Ασκητικώς προγυμνασθείς εν τώ όρει, τάς νοητάς τών δυσμενών παρατάξεις, τή πανοπλία ώλεσας παμμάκαρ τού Σταυρού, αύθις δέ πρός άθλησιν, ανδρικώς απεδύσω, κτείνας τόν Κοπρώνυμον, τώ τής Πίστεως ξίφει, καί δι' αμφοίν εστέφθης εκ Θεού, Οσιομάρτυς αοίδιμε Στέφανε.
Trained on the mountain in ascetical labours, with the whole armour of the Cross thou didst vanquish the spiritual arrays of unseen enemies; and when thou hadst stripped thyself with great courage for contest, thou didst slay Copronymus with the sword of the true Faith. For both these things hast thou been crowned by God, O righteous Martyr, blest Stephen of great renown.
Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Εορτάζει σήμερον, η Εκκλησία, εορτήν ευφρόσυνον, εν τή σή μνήμη καί πιστώς, ανευφημούσα κραυγάζει σοι, Στέφανε θείε, οσίων τό καυχημα.
With songs and hymns, O ye feast-lovers, let us all extol the godly Stephen, that great lover of the Trinity, for he honoured with his whole heart the comely image of the Master, of His Mother, and of all the Saints. Now with one accord, with longing, and with joy of heart, let us cry to him: Rejoice, O Father most glorious.
Saint Irenarchos, who was from Sebastia, lived during the reign of Diocletian. In his youth he ministered to the holy Martyrs during the time of their punishment in prison. Once, on beholding seven women being tormented in behalf of Christ, and marvelling at their courage, and seeing how, although they were weak in body, they nonetheless became like men before the tyrant and put him to shame, the Saint was enlightened by divine grace and confessed Christ with boldness. Tried by fire and water, he was beheaded together with the holy women in the year 298.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Ο Μάρτυς σου Κύριε, έν τή αθλήσει αυτού, τό στέφος εκομίσατο τής αφθαρσίας, εκ σού τού Θεού ημών, έχων γάρ τήν ισχύν σου, τούς τυράννους καθείλεν, έθραυσε καί δαιμόνων, τά ανίσχυρα θράση, αυτού ταίς ικεσίαις Χριστέ, σώσον τάς ψυχάς ημών.
Thy Martyr, O Lord, in his courageous contest for Thee received the prize of the crowns of incorruption and life from Thee, our immortal God. For since he possessed Thy strength, he cast down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons' strengthless presumption. O Christ God, by his prayers, save our souls, since Thou art merciful.
Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Ως στρατιώτης άριστος, τού τής ειρήνης άρχοντος, τού σκότους Μάρτυς καθείλες τόν άρχοντα, τή καρτερά ενστάσει σου, καί ταίς σαίς ιδεσίαις, εν ειρήνη φυλάττοις Ειρήναρχε, τούς πίστει ευφημούντας, τά θειά σου κατορθώματα.
As a triumphant man of war enlisted with the Prince of Peace, the prince of darkness didst thou destroy utterly in thy courageous martyrdom. And now, by thine entreaties, do thou ever preserve in peace and in godliness, O Martyr Irenarchos, all them that acclaim thy valiant deeds.
READINGS FROM THE SYNAXARION:
Τῇ ΚΗ' τοῦ αὐτοῦ μηνός, Μνήμη τοῦ Ὁσίου Πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ Ὁμολογητοῦ Στεφάνου τοῦ Νέου.
Πληγεὶς νέε Στέφανε τὴν κάραν ξύλῳ,
Εὗρες πρεπόντως οὐχὶ γηράσκον στέφος.
Εἰκάδι ὀγδοάτῃ Στεφάνου Νέου κράτα θραῦσαν.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ ὁ Ἅγιος Ἀνδρέας, συρόμενος κατὰ γῆς, διὰ τὴν τῶν ἁγίων Εἰκόνων προσκύνησιν, τελειοῦται.
Ἐκ γῆς ἐπλάσθην, γῆ με δὴ καὶ κτεινάτω.
Πλάστου γὰρ αὐτῆς Ἀνδρέας τιμῶ τύπους.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, ὁ Ἅγιος Πέτρος, τυπτόμενος ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁγίων Εἰκόνων, τελειοῦται.
Ἂν εἰκόνων τύπτωσι τὸν Πέτρον χάριν,
Εὕρωσιν αὐτὸν πέτρινον τῷ σαρκίῳ.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, ἡ Ἁγία Ἄννα, τυπτομένη πρὸς τὸ κατειπεῖν τοῦ Ἁγίου Στεφάνου, τελειοῦται.
Μάστιξιν Ἄνναν εὐτόνως τετυμμένην,
Ἔδειξε Χριστὸς εὐπρεπῶς ἐστεμμένην.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, Μνήμη τῶν ἁγίων Μαρτύρων, τῶν συμμαρτυρησάντων τῷ Ἁγίῳ Στεφάνῳ, ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁγίων Εἰκόνων.
Τιμῶντες εἰκόνισμα σαρκός σου Λόγε,
θνῄσκουσιν οἱ ἅγιοι βίαιον μόρον.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, Μνήμη τοῦ Ἁγίου Μάρτυρος Εἰρηνάρχου, καὶ τῶν σὺν αὐτῷ ἑπτὰ Ἁγίων γυναικῶν.
Τὸν Εἰρήναχον ἡ φονεύτρια σπάθη
Σῷ Σῶτερ εἰρήναρχε συντάττει μέρει.
Ἔδειξε νεκρὰς ἐν Σεβαστείᾳ πόλει
Γυναῖκας ἑπτὰ πανσεβάστους τὸ ξίφος.
Οἱ Ἅγιοι Μάρτυρες Τιμόθεος καὶ Θεόδωρος οἱ Ἐπίσκοποι. Πέτρος, Ἰωάννης, Σέργιος, Θεόδωρος καὶ Νικηφόρος οἱ ἱερεῖς, Βασίλειος καὶ Θωμᾶς οἱ διάκονοι, Ἱερόθεος, Δανιήλ, Χαρίτων, Σωκράτης, Κομάσιος, Εὐσέβιος οἱ μοναχοί, καὶ Ἑτοιμάσιος, ἐν Τιβεριουπόλει τελειοῦνται.
Ταῖς αὐτῶν ἁγίαις πρεσβείαις, ὁ Θεός, ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς. Ἀμήν.
Ο βίος και η άθληση του οσίου και ομολογητού Στεφάνου του νέου, του οποίου σήμερα η Εκκλησία γιορτάζει την μνήμη, συνδέεται με την αίρεση της Εικονομαχίας, που επί πολλά χρόνια ετάραξε την Εκκλησία, πολλούς Αγίους έριξε στις φυλακές ή έστειλε στην εξορία και πολλούς παρέδωκε σε θάνατο. Αφήνοντας τα ιστορικά αίτια, που προκάλεσαν τον διωγμό των εικόνων και των μοναχών, ένα έχομε να πούμε, ότι δηλαδή και τούτος ο διωγμός ανάδειξε πλήθος Ομολογητών και Μαρτύρων κι έδειξε, πως η Εκκλησία είναι κι εξακολουθεί να μένη πάντα έργο του Θεού και σαν τέτοιο δεν έχει να φοβηθεί ποτέ εγκόσμιους εχθρούς: "πύλαι άδου ου κατισχύσουσιν αυτής". Ως προς τις ιερές εικόνες, "ιστορού-μεν ταύτας εις καλλωπισμόν των ναών, και ιν' ώσι βιβλία των αμαθών και προς μίμησιν των αρετών των αγίων και ανάμνησιν... Έστι γαρ η ζωγραφική σιωπώσα τις ιστορία, ως και η ιστορία φθεγγομένη τις ζωγραφία".
Ὁ Ὅσιος Στέφανος ὁ Ὁμολογητής, ὁ Νέος
Γεννήθηκε στὴν Κωνσταντινούπολη καὶ οἱ εὐσεβεῖς γονεῖς του Ἰωάννης καὶ Ἄννα τὸν ἀνέθρεψαν κατὰ τὸν καλύτερο χριστιανικὸ τρόπο. Ὅταν μεγάλωσε, μορφώθηκε ἀρκετὰ καὶ ἀργότερα ἀναδείχθηκε ἡγούμενος στὸ περίφημο ὄρος τοῦ Ἁγίου Αὐξεντίου. Ὅταν ξέσπασε ὁ πόλεμος ἐναντίον τῶν ἁγίων εἰκόνων, ὄχι μόνο δὲ συμμορφώθηκε μὲ τὶς αὐτοκρατορικὲς διαταγές, ἀλλὰ καὶ χαρακτήρισε αἱρετικοὺς τοὺς εἰκονομάχους βασιλεῖς. Καταγγέλθηκε στὸν αὐτοκράτορα Κωνσταντῖνο τὸν Κοπρώνυμο, ὁ ὁποῖος ἤλπιζε μὲ τὴν προσωπική του ἐπιβολή, ὅταν τὸν ἔφερνε μπροστά του, νὰ δαμάσει τὸ φρόνημα τοῦ Στεφάνου. Συνέβη ὅμως τὸ ἀντίθετο. Ὁ Στέφανος, ἀπὸ τοὺς ἀνθρώπους μὲ «πολλὴν παῤῥησία ἐν πίστει τὴν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ», δηλαδὴ μὲ πολλὴ παῤῥησία καὶ θάῤῥος στὸ νὰ διακηρύττει τὴν πίστη ποὺ ὁμολογοῦν ὅσοι εἶναι σὲ κοινωνία μὲ τὸν Ἰησοῦ Χριστό, ἤλεγξε αὐστηρὰ κατὰ πρόσωπο τὸν Κοπρώνυμο. Αὐτὸς τότε τὸν ἔκλεισε στὴ φυλακὴ καὶ μετὰ ἀπὸ μέρες διέταξε νὰ τὸν θανατώσουν. Ἀφοῦ, λοιπόν, τὸν ἔβγαλαν ἀπὸ τὴν φυλακή, ἄρχισαν νὰ τὸν λιθοβολοῦν καὶ νὰ τὸν κτυποῦν μὲ βαρειὰ ῥόπαλα. Ἕνα ἰσχυρὸ κτύπημα στὸ κεφάλι ἔδωσε τέλος στὴ ζωὴ τοῦ Στεφάνου (τὸ 767 μ.Χ.). Κατόπιν τὸ σῶμα του τὸ ἔριξαν στὴ θάλασσα, ἀλλὰ εὐλαβεῖς χριστιανοὶ ποὺ τὸ βρῆκαν ὅταν τὰ κύματα τὸ ἔφεραν στὴν παραλία, τὸ ἔθαψαν μὲ τὴν ἁρμόζουσα τιμή.
Ὁ Ἅγιος Ἀνδρέας
Ἦταν ἀσκητὴς καὶ διέμενε σὲ κάποιο κελὶ κοντὰ στὶς Βλαχερνές. Ἐπίσης ἦταν συναγωνιστὴς τοῦ ὁσίου Στεφάνου τοῦ ὁμολογητῆ, ποὺ βιογραφικό του σημείωμα ἀναφέραμε πιὸ πάνω. Ὁ Ἀνδρέας μαρτύρησε ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁγίων εἰκόνων, συρόμενος στὴ γῆ ἀπὸ τοὺς εἰκονομάχους μέχρι θανάτου.
Ὁ Ἅγιος Πέτρος
Ἦταν καὶ αὐτὸς ἀσκητὴς στὸν Ὄλυμπο. Φυλακίστηκε ἀπὸ τὸν Κοπρώνυμο μαζὶ μὲ τὸν Στέφανο τὸν νέο, διότι προσκυνοῦσε τὶς ἅγιες εἰκόνες. Κατόπιν τὸν χτύπησαν μέχρι θανάτου καὶ ἔτσι ἔλαβε τὸ στεφάνι τοῦ μαρτυρίου.
Ἡ Ἁγία Ἄννα ἡ Ὁσιομάρτυς
Συμμαρτύρησε μαζὶ μὲ τὸν Ἅγιο Στέφανο τὸν νέο, γιὰ τὶς ἅγιες εἰκόνες, ἀφοῦ τὴν χτύπησαν μέχρι θανάτου.
Οἱ Ἅγιοι Μάρτυρες ποὺ συμμαρτύρησαν μὲ τὸν Ἅγιο Στέφανο τὸν νέο γιὰ τὶς ἅγιες εἰκόνες Βασίλειος, Στέφανος, Ἰωάννης ὁ ἀπὸ Λεγαταρίων ἢ Λεγατοκρίων, δυὸ Γρηγόριοι καὶ ἄλλοι
Ἡ λύσσα τοῦ Κοπρωνύμου καὶ τῶν γύρω του δὲν περιορίστηκε μόνο σὲ ἕνα θῦμα. Μετὰ τὸν Στέφανο ὑπέστησαν βασανισμοὺς καὶ θανάτους καὶ ἄλλοι ὁμολογητὲς τῆς Ὀρθοδοξίας. Ἔτσι ἕνας ἀπὸ αὐτούς, ὁ Βασίλειος, τυφλώθηκε ἀπὸ τοὺς δήμιους, ἐξακολουθῶντας νὰ διακηρύττει τὴν Ὀρθόδοξη πίστη του, καὶ στὴ συνέχεια τὸν σκότωσαν μὲ κλωτσιές. Ἄλλος ἔπειτα, ὁ Ἰωάννης ὁ ἀπὸ Λεγαταρίων ἐξορίστηκε στὴ Δαφνούσια, ὅπου καὶ πέθανε ἀπὸ συνεχεῖς δαρμούς. Ἄλλοι δὲ πάλι μὲ ἄλλο βάρβαρο τρόπο θανατώθηκαν ἢ ἐξορίστηκαν καὶ περνοῦσαν συνεχῆ μαρτυρικὴ ζωή.
Ὁ Ἅγιος Εἰρήναρχος καὶ οἱ Ἑπτὰ Ἅγιες Γυναῖκες ποὺ μαρτύρησαν μαζὶ μὲ τὸν ἅγιο Εἰρήναρχο
Ἀντιπαθοῦσε τοὺς χριστιανοὺς καὶ βοηθοῦσε τοὺς βασανιστὲς κατὰ τὸν διωγμὸ ποὺ ἔκαναν κατὰ τῆς Ἐκκλησίας. Ὁ Εἰρήναρχος γεννήθηκε εἰδωλολάτρης στὴν πόλη Σεβάστεια, ὅταν βασιλιὰς ἦταν ὁ Διοκλητιανός. Ἀλλ᾿ ἡ προσέγγιση, ἔστω καὶ μ᾿ αὐτὴ τὴν μορφή, στοὺς μάρτυρες τοῦ Χριστοῦ, φώτιζε σιγὰ-σιγὰ τὴν ψυχὴ τοῦ Εἴρηναρχου. Ἔβλεπε ἐκεῖ ἥρωες πράους σὰν τ᾿ ἀρνιά, ἀλλὰ πιὸ ἀνδρείους καὶ ἀπὸ τὰ λιοντάρια. Ἔμενε ἔκπληκτος ἀπὸ τὴν ἀνέκφραστη καλοσύνη τῶν θυμάτων ἀκόμα καὶ σ᾿ αὐτοὺς τοὺς δημίους τους. Θαύμαζε ἐπίσης, ὅτι καὶ τρυφερὲς παρθένες συμμετεῖχαν στὸν μοναδικὸ ἐκεῖνο ἡρωισμὸ καὶ τὴν ὑπέροχη αὐταπάρνηση. Ἡ βαθμιαία αὐτὴ μεταβολὴ στὴν ψυχὴ τοῦ Εἰρήναρχου κατάληξε στὴν ὁμολογία τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἀπ᾿ αὐτόν, τὴν ὥρα ποὺ ἑπτὰ χριστιανὲς γυναῖκες ὑπέμεναν καρτερικότατα γιὰ τὴν πίστη τους, ὅλες τὶς τιμωρίες καὶ τὰ μαρτύρια. Ἡ ὁμολογία ἐκείνη τοῦ Εἰρήναρχου στοίχισε τὸ θάνατό του μὲ ἀποκεφαλισμό. Καὶ τὸν ὑπέστη ὁ Εἰρήναρχος γεμάτος ἀγαλλίαση, διότι ἔλαχε καὶ σ᾿ αὐτὸν τὸ ἔνδοξο καὶ μακάριο αὐτὸ τέλος (303 μ.Χ.).
Our Holy Father, Confessor and Martyr Stephen the New (767)
He was born in Constantinople in 715 to pious parents named John and Anna. His mother had prayed often to the most holy Theotokos to be granted a son, and received a revelation from our Lady that she would conceive the son she desired. When the child was born, she named him Stephen, following a prophecy of the Patriarch St Germanos (commemorated May 12). Stephen entered monastic life as a youth, and so distinguished himself in asceticism and virtue that the hermits of Mt Auxentius appointed him their leader at a young age.
'During the reign of Constantine V (741-775), Stephen showed his love of Orthodoxy in contending for the Faith... Besides being a fierce Iconoclast, Constantine raised up a ruthless persecution of monasticism. He held a council in 754 that anathematized the holy icons. Because Saint Stephen rejected this council, the Emperor framed false accusations against him and exiled him. But while in exile Saint Stephen performed healings with holy icons and turned many away from Iconoclasm. When he was brought before the Emperor again, he showed him a coin and asked whose image the coin bore. "Mine," said the tyrant. "If any man trample upon thine image, is he liable to punishment?" asked the Saint. When they that stood by answered yes, the Saint groaned because of their blindness, and said if they thought dishonouring the image of a corruptible king worthy of punishment, what torment would they receive who trampled upon the image of the Master Christ and of the Mother of God? Then he threw the coin to the ground and trampled on it. He was condemned to eleven months in bonds and imprisonment. Later, he was dragged over the earth and was stoned, like Stephen the First Martyr; wherefore he is called Stephen the New. Finally, he was struck with a wooden club on the temple and his head was shattered, and thus he gave up his spirit in the year 767.' (Great Horologion)
The Holy MonkMartyr and Confessor Stephen the New was born in 715 at Constantinople into a pious Christian family. His parents, having two daughters, prayed the Lord for the birth of a son. The mother of the new-born Stephen took him to the Blakhernae church in honour of the MostHoly Mother of God and dedicated him to God.
During the time of the emperor Leo the Isaurian (716-741) there began persecution against holy icons and against those venerating them. With the support of the emperor, the adherents of the Iconoclast heresy seized control of the supreme positions of authority in the empire and in the Church. Persecuted by the powers of this world, Orthodoxy was preserved in monasteries distant from the capital, in solitary cells and in the brave and faithful hearts of its followers. The Orthodox parents of Saint Stephen, grieved by the surrounding impiety, fled from Constantinople to Bithynia, and they gave over their sixteen year old son in obedience to Blessed John, who asceticised in a solitary place on the Mount of Saint Auxentios. Saint Stephen dwelt more than 15 years with Blessed John, having devoted himself totally to this spirit-bearing elder, and learning monastic activity from him. Here then Stephen received the news that his father was dead, and his mother and sisters had taken monastic tonsure.
After a certain while his teacher, Blessed John, also died. With deep sorrow Saint Stephen buried his venerable body, and by himself continued with monastic effort in his cave. Soon monks began to come to the ascetic, desiring to learn from him the virtuous and salvific life, and there gradually emerged a monastery, the hegumen of which was Saint Stephen. At forty-two years of age Stephen left the monastery founded by him, and he went to another mountain, on the summit of which he dwelt in deep seclusion in a solitary cell. But here also soon gathered a community of monks, seeking the spiritual guidance of Saint Stephen.
Leo the Isaurian was succeeded by Constantine Copronymos (741-775), a still more fierce persecutor of the Orthodox pious, and still more zealous an iconoclast. The emperor convened an Iconoclast council, to which came 358 bishops from the Eastern provinces. However, except for the archbishop of Constantinople Constantine, -- illegitimately raised up onto the patriarchal throne by the power of Copronymos, not one of the other patriarchs bothered to participate in the wicked doings of this council, thus making it all the less able to usurp the term "oecumenical". This council of heretics, at the instigation of the emperor and the archbishop, described icons as idols, and proscribed anathema on all who venerate icons in the Orthodox manner, and it described icon veneration as heresy.
Meanwhile, the monastery of Saint Stephen and its hegumen became known of in the capital. They told the emperor about the ascetic life of the monks, about their Orthodox piety, about the gift of wonderworking of the hegumen Stephen, and about how the news of Saint Stephen had spread far beyond the region of the monastery, and that the name of its head was accorded universal respect and love. The open encouragement of icon-veneration and therein the rebuff to the persecutors of Orthodoxy within the monastery of Saint Stephen especially angered the emperor. Archbishop Constantine perceived, that in the person of Saint Stephen he had a strong and implacable opponent to his iconoclastic intentions, and he took great efforts -- either to draw him over to his side or else destroy him.
They tried to entice Saint Stephen into the Iconoclast camp, at first with flattery and bribery, then by threats, but in vain. Then they slandered the saint, accusing him of co-habiting with nuns. But his guilt was not proven, since the slandered nun courageously denied guilt and died under torture and beatings. Finally, the emperor gave orders to lock up the saint in prison, and to destroy his monastery. Iconoclast-bishops were sent to Saint Stephen in prison, trying to persuade him of the dogmatic correctness of the Iconoclast position. But the saint easily refuted all the arguments of the heretics and he remained true to Orthodoxy.
Then the emperor gave orders to exile the saint to one of the islands in the Sea of Marmora. The monk settled into a cave, and there also soon gathered his disciples. After a certain while the saint left the brethren and took upon himself the exploit of pillar-dweller. News about the Pillar-Dweller Stephen, and about the miracles worked by his prayers, spread throughout all the empire and strengthened the faith and spirit of Orthodoxy in the people.
The emperor gave orders to transfer Saint Stephen to prison on the island of Pharos, and then to bring him to trial. At the trial, the saint refuted the arguments of the heretics sitting in judgement upon him. He explained the dogmatic essence of icon-veneration, and he denounced the Iconoclasts for this, -- that in blaspheming icons, they gave blasphemy to Christ and the Mother of God. The saint pointed to a golden coin in proof, upon which was the depiction of the emperor. He asked the judges, what they would do with a man, who having thrown down the money, would then trample it under his feet. They answered him, that such a man would certainly be punished for having dishonoured the image of the emperor. To this the saint said, that an even greater punishment awaited anyone who would dishonour the image of the King of Heaven and His Saints, and with that he cast down the coin upon the ground and began to grind it underfoot.
The emperor gave orders to take away the saint to prison, where already there were languishing 342 elders, condemned for the veneration of icons. And In this prison Saint Stephen spent eleven months, consoling the imprisoned. Together with them he made the singing of prayer, often doing the tropar to the Image of the Saviour Not-Wrought-by-Hand. The people in crowds came to the prison and asked Saint Stephen to pray for them.
The emperor, -- having learned that in prison the saint had organised a monastery, where constantly there was prayer amidst which they venerated holy icons, -- sent two of his own dearest servants, twin-brothers, to beat the saint to death. When these brothers went to the prison and beheld the face of the monk shining with a Divine light, they fell down on their knees to him, asking his forgiveness and prayers, but they told the emperor that his command had been carried out. But the emperor learned the truth and he resorted to still another lie. Informing his soldiers, that the saint had intentions to topple him from the throne, he dispatched them to the prison. The holy confessor himself came out half the way to the furious soldiers, who seized hold of him and dragged him through the streets of the city. They then threw the lacerated body of the martyr into a pit, where they were wont to bury criminals.
On the following morning over Mount Auxentios there appeared a fiery cloud, and then an heavy darkness descended upon the capital with a fierce thunderstorm, which struck at much.
THE PROLOGUE FROM ORCHID:
1. The Venerable Martyr Stephen the New
As at one time Hannah, the mother of Samuel, prayed to God to give her a son, so did Anna, the mother of Stephen. Praying thus in the Church of Blachernae before the icon of the Most-holy Theotokos, a light sleep overcame her, and she saw the Most-holy Virgin as radiant as the sun, and heard a voice from the icon: ``Woman, depart in peace. In accordance with your prayer, you have a son in your womb.'' Anna indeed conceived and gave birth to a son, the holy Stephen. At sixteen, Stephen received the monastic tonsure on Mount Auxentius near Constantinople, from the elder John who also taught him divine wisdom and asceticism. When John entered into rest in the Lord, Stephen remained on the mountain in a life of strict asceticism, taking upon himself labor upon labor. His holiness attracted many disciples to him. When Emperor Constantine Copronymus was persecuting icons more ferociously than his foul father, Leo the Isaurian, Stephen showed himself a zealous defender of the veneration of holy icons. The demented emperor accepted various obscene slanders against Stephen and personally plotted intrigues to break Stephen and get him out of the way. Stephen was banished to the island of Proconnesus, then taken to Constantinople, chained and cast into prison, where he was met by 342 monks, brought from all over and imprisoned for their veneration of the icons. There, in prison, they carried out the whole church typicon as in a monastery. Then the wicked emperor condemned Stephen to death. The saint foresaw his death forty days in advance, and asked forgiveness of the brethren. The emperor's servants dragged him from prison and, beating and pulling him, dragged him through the streets of Constantinople calling upon all those loyal to the emperor to stone this ``enemy of the emperor.'' One of the heretics struck the saint on the head with a piece of wood, and the saint gave up his soul. As St. Stephen the Protomartyr suffered at the hands of the Jews, so this Stephen suffered at the hands of the iconoclastic heretics. This glorious soldier of Christ suffered in the year 767 at the age of fifty-three, and was crowned with unfading glory.
2. The New Martyr Christos
Christos was an Albanian Christian living in Constantinople and a gardener by trade. As he was selling his vegetables one day, he offended a Turk, who then slandered him before a judge, saying that Christos had promised to become a Moslem and then recanted. After interrogation, he was chained and cast into prison. In prison, someone offered him food, which Christos refused, saying: ``It is better that I appear before my Christ hungry.'' After that, he pulled out some money he had concealed under his belt and gave it to one of his fellow prisoners, requesting that the money be used for several Liturgies to be celebrated for his soul. He was beheaded by the Turks in the year 1748, and was glorified forever in the Kingdom of Christ God.
3. The Venerable Anna
Anna was a woman of noble birth who, after her husband's death, was tonsured into monasticism by St. Stephen the New. Emperor Constantine Copronymus urged her to say that she had engaged in illicit physical relations with St. Stephen, in order to humiliate him before the people. However, this holy woman refused to join in the emperor's intrigue against the saint, whom she venerated as her spiritual father. For that, she was whipped and then cast into prison, where she gave up her holy soul to God.
4. The Holy and Devout Emperor Maurice
Maurice was murdered with his six sons by Emperor Phocas in the year 602 (see ``Reflection'' below).
HYMN OF PRAISE
The Venerable Martyr Stephen the New
Of the same name as the first Stephen,
Stephen the New gave his life in battle, too.
The proud heretical emperor, coarse power incarnate,
Was armed to the teeth with earthly weapons.
Stephen's weapon was power not of a physical source,
A spiritual weapon, heavenly truth.
The emperor had soldiers, defenders of falsehood,
While Stephen was set at ease by the invisible God.
Serene as heaven, Stephen awaited torture,
Death and eternal life beyond this age.
While in his rage, the emperor roared
And signed the order for death and torment for the righteous man.
Stephen was not dismayed, though beaten and pressed,
Bound as he was by spirit and prayer to the heavens.
The emperor, stronger than the saint's body, crushed his body;
Yet the saint was stronger in spirit, and finished in victory.
O Saint Stephen, spiritual knight,
Help us avoid the nets of the devil,
And to venerate the holy icons with honor,
And that we might always follow your wondrous example.
Reading the examples of perseverance in the Faith and generosity of the saints of God, we also become persevering in the Faith and generous. When Copronymus's men urged St. Stephen to reject the veneration of icons to please the iconoclastic emperor, Stephen extended his hand, clenched his fist and said: ``If I had in myself only a fist full of blood, I would shed it for the icon of Christ.''
Emperor Maurice had six sons of which the sixth and youngest was not yet weaned. For this youngest son, the emperor kept a special wet-nurse at court who fed it. A terrible fate came upon Emperor Maurice: Phocas ousted him from the throne and condemned him to death together with all of his six sons. Before Maurice's eyes, his sons were slain, one after the other. When the wet-nurse had to hand over the emperor's sixth son to be slain, she genuinely felt sorrow over the fate of the unfortunate emperor and his children, and in a moment, decided to save the life of at least one of the emperor's sons. So, when they sought the emperor's son from her breast, she gave them her own young son and he was beheaded. Finally, the Emperor Maurice was beheaded. The emperor's youngest son grew up believing his wet-nurse to be his mother. However, when the wet-nurse revealed the secret to him, he became very serious, then resolutely left the world and withdrew to Mount Sinai, where he was tonsured a monk and dedicated himself to God. He did this to requite that innocent young child who was put to death in his place.
Contemplate God's wonderful Paradise (Genesis 2):
1. How it was a kingdom of innocence, purity and righteousness;
2. How there was not a trace of sickness or death, for there was not even a thought of sin.
on how the faithful must grow
But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ (Ephesians 4:15).
Brethren, here is all that is asked of us on this earthly journey: that we hold to the truth and that we live in love. Truth is revealed by Christ the Lord, and the example of love is given in Christ the Lord. Neither can one come to the truth apart from Christ the Lord nor find an example of true love apart from Him. Seeing this only true path to light and salvation in the confusion of many false paths, the Apostle Paul reminds us beforehand: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14). Only God can reveal the truth; only God can show true love. One man can know more than another man, but only God can reveal the truth. Thoughts come to man like the wind, and illusions can seem to be truth to him. Deluded by his own thoughts, one man deludes another; deceived by illusions, one man then deceives another; but truth is in God and of God. Brethren, Christ is our whole truth and our whole love. When we think of Christ, we think of truth; when we act according to Christ, we act correctly; when we love Christ, we love Love itself. By Christ we live, by Christ we grow, by Christ we become immortal and are glorified. He is our Head-not merely the titular head of a group, but the actual head of a living body, of which we are members. Adhering to truth and love, we are made worthy to dwell eternally in this Body of Christ.
O Lord Christ, our most wonderful truth and our endearing love, enter into us and receive us into Thyself.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.