FEASTS AND SAINTS CELEBRATED TODAY:
Herman the Wonderworker of Alaska & First Saint of America
Auxentios, Eugene, Mardarios, Orestes, & Eustratios, Martyrs of Sebaste
Lucia the Virgin-martyr
Gabriel the Hieromartyr, Archbishop of Serbia
Τῶν Ἁγίων Μαρτύρων Εὐστρατίου, Αὐξεντίου, Εὐγενίου, Μαρδαρίου καί Ὀρέστου.
Τῆς Ἁγίας Μάρτυρος Λουκίας τῆς Παρθένου.
READINGS FROM THE BIBLE:
The Reading is from St. Paul's First Letter to Timothy 5:11-21
TIMOTHY, my son, refuse to enrol younger widows; for when they grow wanton against Christ they desire to marry, and so they incur condemnation for having violated their first pledge. Besides that, they learn to be idlers, gadding about from house to house, and not only idlers but gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, rule their households, and give the enemy no occasion to revile us. For some have already strayed after Satan. If any believing man or woman has relatives who are widows, let him assist them; let the church not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are real widows. Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching; for the scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain," and, "The laborer deserves his wages." Never admit any charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without favor, doing nothing from partiality.
Πρὸς Τιμόθεον α' 5:11-21
Τέκνον Τιμόθεε, νεωτέρας δὲ χήρας παραιτοῦ· ὅταν γὰρ καταστρηνιάσωσιν τοῦ χριστοῦ, γαμεῖν θέλουσιν, ἔχουσαι κρίμα, ὅτι τὴν πρώτην πίστιν ἠθέτησαν. Ἅμα δὲ καὶ ἀργαὶ μανθάνουσιν, περιερχόμεναι τὰς οἰκίας, οὐ μόνον δὲ ἀργαί, ἀλλὰ καὶ φλύαροι καὶ περίεργοι, λαλοῦσαι τὰ μὴ δέοντα. Βούλομαι οὖν νεωτέρας γαμεῖν, τεκνογονεῖν, οἰκοδεσποτεῖν, μηδεμίαν ἀφορμὴν διδόναι τῷ ἀντικειμένῳ λοιδορίας χάριν. Ἤδη γάρ τινες ἐξετράπησαν ὀπίσω τοῦ Σατανᾶ. Εἴ τις πιστὸς ἢ πιστὴ ἔχει χήρας, ἐπαρκείτω αὐταῖς, καὶ μὴ βαρείσθω ἡ ἐκκλησία, ἵνα ταῖς ὄντως χήραις ἐπαρκέσῃ. Οἱ καλῶς προεστῶτες πρεσβύτεροι διπλῆς τιμῆς ἀξιούσθωσαν, μάλιστα οἱ κοπιῶντες ἐν λόγῳ καὶ διδασκαλίᾳ. Λέγει γὰρ ἡ γραφή, Βοῦν ἀλοῶντα οὐ φιμώσεις· καί, Ἄξιος ὁ ἐργάτης τοῦ μισθοῦ αὐτοῦ. Κατὰ πρεσβυτέρου κατηγορίαν μὴ παραδέχου, ἐκτὸς εἰ μὴ ἐπὶ δύο ἢ τριῶν μαρτύρων. Τοὺς ἁμαρτάνοντας ἐνώπιον πάντων ἔλεγχε, ἵνα καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ φόβον ἔχωσιν. Διαμαρτύρομαι ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ καὶ τῶν ἐκλεκτῶν ἀγγέλων, ἵνα ταῦτα φυλάξῃς χωρὶς προκρίματος, μηδὲν ποιῶν κατὰ πρόσκλησιν.
The Reading is from Mark 8:22-26
At that time, Jesus came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man, and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the village; and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands upon him, he asked him, "Do you see anything?" And he looked up and said, "I see men; but they look like trees, walking." Then again he laid his hands upon his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and saw everything clearly. And he sent him away to his home, saying, "Do not even enter the village."
Κατὰ Μᾶρκον 8.22-26
Τῷ καιρῷ ἐκείνῳ, ἔρχεται ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἰς Βηθσαϊδάν. Καὶ φέρουσιν αὐτῷ τυφλὸν καὶ παρακαλοῦσιν αὐτὸν ἵνα αὐτοῦ ἅψηται. καὶ ἐπιλαβόμενος τῆς χειρὸς τοῦ τυφλοῦ ἐξήγαγεν αὐτὸν ἔξω τῆς κώμης, καὶ πτύσας εἰς τὰ ὄμματα αὐτοῦ, ἐπιθεὶς τὰς χεῖρας αὐτῷ ἐπηρώτα αὐτὸν εἴ τι βλέπει. καὶ ἀναβλέψας ἔλεγε· βλέπω τοὺς ἀνθρώπους ὡς δένδρα περιπατοῦντας. εἶτα πάλιν ἐπέθηκε τὰς χεῖρας ἐπὶ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐποίησεν αὐτὸν ἀναβλέψαι, καὶ ἀποκατεστάθη, καὶ ἐνέβλεψε τηλαυγῶς ἅπαντας. καὶ ἀπέστειλεν αὐτὸν εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ λέγων· μηδὲ εἰς τὴν κώμην εἰσέλθῃς μηδὲ εἴπῃς τινὶ ἐν τῇ κώμῃ.
READINGS FROM THE SYNAXARION:
Τῇ ΙΓ' τοῦ αὐτοῦ μηνός, Ἄθλησις τῶν Ἁγίων ἐνδόξων τοῦ Χριστοῦ Μαρτύρων, Εὐστρατίου, Αὐξεντίου, Εὐγενίου, Μαρδαρίου καὶ Ὀρέστου.
Τὸν Εὐστράτιον καὶ συνάθλους δὶς δύω,
Ἅπαξ δύω κτείνουσι πῦρ τε καὶ ξίφος.
Τούς γε σὺν Εὐστρατίῳ δεκάτῃ τρίτῃ ἔκτανεν ἄορ.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ , Μνήμη τῆς Ἁγίας Μάρτυρος Λουκίας τῆς Παρθένου.
Ὡς Παρθένος μέν, ἓν στέφος ἡ Λουκία.
Ὡς δ' ἐκ ξίφους καὶ Μάρτυς, ἄλλο λαμβάνει.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ , Μνήμη τοῦ Ὁσίου Πατρὸς ἡμῶν Ἀρσενίου τοῦ ἐν τῷ Λάτρῳ.
Ὁ Ὅσιος Ἄρης ἐν εἰρήνῃ τελειοῦται,
Μνήμη τοῦ Ἁγίου νέου ἱερομάρτυρος Γαβριὴλ ἀρχιεπισκόπου Σερβίας, τοῦ ἐν Προύσῃ μαρτυρήσαντος κατὰ τὸ 1659.
Ταῖς αὐτῶν ἁγίαις πρεσβείαις, ὁ Θεός, ἐλέησον καὶ σῶσον ἡμᾶς. Ἀμήν.
Saint Herman (his name is a variant of Germanus) was born near Moscow in 1756. In his youth he became a monk, first at the Saint Sergius Hermitage near Saint Petersburg on the Gulf of Finland; while he dwelt there, the most holy Mother of God appeared to him, healing him of a grave malady. Afterwards he entered Valaam Monastery on Valiant Island in Lake Ladoga; he often withdrew into the wilderness to pray for days at a time. In 1794, answering a call for missionaries to preach the Gospel to the Aleuts, he came to the New World with the first Orthodox mission to Alaska. He settled on Spruce Island, which he called New Valaam, and here he persevered, even in the face of many grievous afflictions mostly at the hands of his own countrymen in the loving service of God and of his neighbour. Besides his many toils for the sake of the Aleuts, he subdued his flesh with great asceticism, wearing chains, sleeping little, fasting and praying much. He brought many people to Christ by the example of his life, his teaching, and his kindness and sanctity, and was granted the grace of working miracles and of prophetic insight. Since he was not a priest, Angels descended at Theophany to bless the waters in the bay; Saint Herman used this holy water to heal the sick. Because of his unwearying missionary labours, which were crowned by God with the salvation of countless souls, he is called the Enlightener of the Aleuts, and has likewise been renowned as a wonderworker since his repose in 1837.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Blessed ascetic of the northern wilds and gracious intercessor for the whole world, teacher of the Orthodox Faith, good instructor of piety, adornment of Alaska and joy of all America, holy Father Herman, pray to Christ God that He save our souls.
Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Monk of Valaam, who through ascetic labours didst become an emulator of the desert-dwelling Saints of old, O beloved of the Mother of God and Virgin, having taken prayer as sword and shield, thou wast revealed as the scourge of pagan darkness and the demons' hosts. Hence we cry to thee: O Saint Herman, pray that we be saved.
The Five Martyrs were from Greater Armenia. Like their ancestors, they worshipped Christ in secret; during the persecution of Diocletian, they presented themselves before the Forum authorities, and having been tormented in diverse manners, by Lysius the proconsul, three of them ended their lives in torments. As for Saints Eustratios and Orestes, they survived and were sent to Sebastia to Agricolaus, who governed the whole East; by his command these Saints, received their end as martyrs by fire in 296. Saint Auxentios was a priest. Saint Eustratios was educated and an orator; he was the foremost among Lysius' dignitaries and the archivist of the province. In the Synaxarion he is given the Latin title of scriniarius, that is, "keeper of the archives." The prayer, "Magnifying I magnify Thee, O Lord," which is read in the Saturday Midnight Service, is ascribed to him. In the Third Hour and elsewhere there is another prayer, "O Sovereign Master, God the Father Almighty," which is ascribed to Saint Mardarios.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Οι Μάρτυρές σου, Κύριε, εν τή αθλήσει αυτών, στεφάνους εκομίσαντο τής αφθαρσίας, εκ σού τού Θεού ημών, σχόντες γάρ τήν ισχύν σου, τούς τυράννους καθείλον, έθραυσαν καί δαιμόνων, τά ανίσχυρα θράση. Αυτών ταίς ικεσίαις, Χριστέ ο Θεός, σώσον τάς ψυχάς ημών.
Thy Martyrs, O Lord, in their courageous contest for Thee received as the prize the crowns of incorruption and life from Thee, our immortal God. For since they possessed Thy strength, they cast down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons' strengthless presumption. O Christ God, by their prayers, save our souls, since Thou art merciful.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
Φωστὴρ ἐφάνης λαμπρότατος τοὶς ἓν σκότει, τῆς ἀγνωσίας καθημένοις, Ἀθλοφόρε, πίστιν ὡς δόρυ δὲ περιθέμενος, τῶν δυσμενῶν τὰ θράση, οὐκ ἑπτοήθης Εὐστράτιε, Ῥητόρων ὑπάρχων εὐγλωττότερος.
Thou shonest as a most brilliant light for them that sat in the darkness of ignorance, O prizewinner. And armed with faith as with a spear, thou wast not frightened by the audacity of thine adversaries, O Eustratios, most eloquent of orators.
Saint Lucia was from Syracuse in Sicily, a virgin betrothed to a certain pagan. Since her mother suffered from an issue of blood, she went with her to the shrine of Saint Agatha at Catania to seek healing (see Feb. 5). There Saint Agatha appeared to Lucia in a dream, assuring her of her mother's healing, and foretelling Lucia's martyrdom. When her mother had been healed, Lucia gladly distributed her goods to the poor, preparing herself for her coming confession of Christ. Betrayed as a Christian by her betrothed to Paschasius the Governor, she was put in a brothel to be abased, but was preserved in purity by the grace of God. Saint Lucia was beheaded in the year 304, during the reign of Diocletian.
Kontakion in the Third Tone
Τήν λαμπράν σου άθλησιν, ανευφημούντες εν πόθω, ὠς αγνήν παρθένον σε, καί αθληφόρον τιμώμεν, μόνον γάρ, Χριστού τό κάλλος επιτοθούσα, άπασαν, απεβδελύξω φθαρτών ιδέαν, διά τούτο καί τμηθείσα, αφθάρτου δόξης Λουκία έτυχες.
We extol with fervent love thy most illustrious contest, and we praise and honour thee as a chaste virgin and victor; for since thou didst seek the beauty of Christ and none else, thou didst hate all things corruptible, O wise Lucia. Wherefore, when thou wast beheaded, thou wast adorned with an incorruptible crown.
Παράδειγμα γυναικείας ευψυχίας είναι η αγία Λουκία, της οποίας η Εκκλησία σήμερα γιορτάζει την μνήμη. Ο διάλογος μεταξύ της Μάρτυρος και του διοικητού, που διέταξε τη σύλληψη και τον βασανισμό της, θυμίζει τα λόγια του Αποστόλου Πέτρου προς τους άρχοντας του ιουδαϊκού λαού. "Πειθαρχείν δει Θεώ μάλλον ή ανθρώποις", έλεγε ο Απόστολος. Και η Αγία, όταν την παρακινούσαν να θυσιάσει στα είδωλα και την φοβέριζαν με βασανισμό, απαντούσε στον διοικητή. "Συ εκτελείς τους νόμους του βασιλέως σου κι εγώ τηρώ τις εντολές του Κυρίου μου. Συ φοβείσαι τον αφέντη σου κι εγώ αγαπώ τον Χριστό μου". Τέτοιες απαντήσεις δεν δίνονται εύκολα και μάλιστα από μια νεαρή γυναίκα, αν δεν αισθάνεται μέσα της την δύναμη της πίστεως. Είν' ένας ύψιστος βαθμός ηθικής τελειώσεως, στον οποίο δεν φθάνουν όλοι οι άνθρωποι, παρά μόνον όσοι, χάριν του Χριστού, "ξίφει τελειούνται".
Οἱ Ἅγιοι Εὐστράτιος, Αὐξέντιος, Εὐγένιος, Μαρδάριος καὶ Ὀρέστης
Μαρτύρησαν κατὰ τὸ σκληρὸ διωγμὸ τῶν χριστιανῶν ἐπὶ Διοκλητιανοῦ. Ὁ Εὐστράτιος, ποὺ ἦταν ἀνώτερος ἀξιωματικός, συνελήφθη ἀπὸ τὸν δούκα Λυσία. Αὐτός, ἀφοῦ τὸν βασάνισε μὲ τὸν πιὸ φρικτὸ τρόπο, ἔπειτα τὸν ἔστειλε στὸν ἔπαρχο Ἀγρικόλα. Φημισμένος αὐτὸς γιὰ τὴν ὠμότητά του ἀπέναντι στοὺς χριστιανούς, ἔβαλε τὸν Εὐστράτιο νὰ βαδίσει μὲ σιδερένια παπούτσια, ποὺ εἶχαν μέσα μυτερὰ καρφιά. Κατόπιν τὸν ἀποτελείωσε, ἀφοῦ τὸν ἔριξε μέσα στὴ φωτιά. Τὸν Αὐξέντιο, ποὺ ἦταν ἱερέας καὶ συμπολίτης τοῦ Εὐστρατίου, ὁ ἡγεμόνας τὸν πίεσε νὰ ἀλλαξοπιστήσει μὲ πολλὲς δελεαστικὲς ὑποσχέσεις. Ἀλλὰ ὁ ἄξιος λειτουργός του Χριστοῦ ἀπάντησε: «Δὲν εἶναι ἀνάγκη νὰ λέω πολλὰ λόγια Λυσία. Στὴ ζωὴ αὐτὴ εἶμαι τοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ θὰ εἶμαι δικός Του μέχρι θανάτου. Καὶ ἂν ἀναρίθμητους δαρμοὺς καὶ πληγές μου δώσεις, καὶ ἂν μὲ φωτιὰ καὶ σίδερο μὲ λιώσεις, ὁ Χριστός μου εἶναι παντοδύναμος καὶ ὁ Σταυρός Του ἀκαταμάχητος. Αὐτὸς καθ᾿ ἑαυτὸν ὁ Αὐξέντιος εἶναι ἀδύνατος. Ἀλλὰ τοῦ χριστιανοῦ Αὐξεντίου τὸ φρόνημα δὲ θὰ κάμψεις ποτέ». Ἐξαγριωμένος ὁ ἡγεμόνας ἀπὸ τὴν ἀπάντηση, ἀμέσως τὸν ἀποκεφάλισε. Τὸ Μαρδάριο, ἀφοῦ τρύπησαν τοὺς ἀστραγάλους του τὸν κρέμασαν μὲ τὸ κεφάλι πρὸς τὰ κάτω καὶ τὸν ἔκαψαν. Ὁ ἀξιωματικὸς Εὐγένιος, ἀφοῦ τοῦ ἔκοψαν τὴν γλῶσσα καὶ τὰ χέρια καὶ τοῦ ἔσπασαν τὰ πόδια, ἐξέπνευσε. Τὸν δὲ στρατιώτη Ὀρέστη τὸν θανάτωσαν, ἀφοῦ τὸν ξάπλωσαν σὲ πυρακτωμένο κρεβάτι.
Ἡ Ἁγία Λουκία ἡ παρθένος
Ἡ μεγάλη της πίστη ἔκανε θαύματα, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἡ ἴδια βραβεύτηκε ἀνάλογα. Ἡ Λούκια ἔζησε στὰ μέσα τοῦ 3ου μ.Χ. αἰῶνα καὶ γεννήθηκε στὶς Συρακοῦσες τῆς Σικελίας. Ἦταν μοναχοκόρη, ποὺ εἶχε χάσει νωρὶς τὸν πατέρα της καὶ ἡ εὐσεβὴς μητέρα της ἔπασχε ἀπὸ αἱμόῤῥοια. Ἡ βοήθεια τῶν γιατρῶν δὲν στάθηκε ἱκανὴ νὰ τὴν γιατρέψει, γι᾿ αὐτὸ καὶ περίμενε τὴν γιατρειά της μόνο ἀπὸ τὴν θεία βοήθεια. Στὴν Κατάνη βρισκόταν τὸ λείψανο τῆς ἁγίας Ἀγαθῆς καὶ μητέρα μαζὶ μὲ τὴν κόρη πῆγαν νὰ τὸ προσκυνήσουν. Τὴ νύχτα ποὺ ἔφτασαν, ἡ Λουκία προσευχήθηκε μὲ ὅλη της τὴν δύναμη, ποὺ ἔβγαινε ἀπὸ τὴν μεγάλη πίστη ποὺ φώλευε στὴν καρδιά της, γιὰ τὴν θεραπεία τῆς μητέρας της. Κατόπιν κοιμήθηκε καὶ στὸν ὕπνο της εἶδε τὴν ἁγία Ἀγαθή, ποὺ τῆς εἶπε ὅτι ἡ μητέρα της θὰ θεραπευόταν καὶ ἡ ἴδια θὰ πέθαινε μαρτυρικὰ γιὰ τὸ Χριστό. Τὴν ἑπομένη μέρα, πράγματι ἡ μητέρα της θεραπεύτηκε καὶ οἱ δυὸ μαζὶ τότε εὐχαρίστησαν τὸ Θεὸ καὶ τὴν Ἁγία. Ὅταν ἐπέστρεψαν στὶς Συρακοῦσες, ἡ Λούκια ἔπεισε τὴν μητέρα της καὶ διαμοίρασαν ὅλη τους τὴν περιουσία στοὺς φτωχούς. Ἔπειτα ἡ ἴδια ἡ Λουκία κατέβαλλε κάθε προσπάθεια, γιὰ νὰ μεταδίδει τὸ φῶς τοῦ Εὐαγγελίου καὶ σ᾿ ἄλλες κοπέλες, ποὺ βρίσκονταν στὸ σκοτάδι τῆς πλάνης. Καταγγέλθηκε ὅμως γι᾿ αὐτό, ἐπὶ τοῦ διώκτου βασιλιᾶ Δεκίου καὶ δικάστηκε. Ἀφοῦ ἀπέῤῥιψε μὲ γενναιότητα ὅλες τὶς προτροπὲς γιὰ ν᾿ ἀρνηθεῖ τὸν Χριστό, καταδικάστηκε σὲ θάνατο. Καὶ ἔτσι ἡ νεαρὴ ἀλλὰ γενναία παρθένος, ἀποκεφαλίστηκε γιὰ τὴν πίστη της.
Ὁ Ὅσιος Ἄρης
Ἕνας ἀπὸ τοὺς Ὁσίους καὶ σοφοὺς ἀσκητὲς τῆς Αἰγυπτιακῆς ἐρήμου, τοῦ ὁποίου ἀποφθέγματα ὑπάρχουν στὸν Εὐεργετινό. Ἀπεβίωσε εἰρηνικά.
Ὁ Ὅσιος Ἀρσένιος ποὺ ἀσκήτευσε στὸ Λάτριο ὄρος
Πότε ἀκριβῶς ἔζησε δὲν μᾶς εἶναι γνωστό. Πάντως ἀπὸ τὰ βιογραφικά του στοιχεῖα συμπεραίνουμε ὅτι ἦταν μεταξὺ τοῦ 8ου καὶ 9ου αἰῶνα. Καταγόταν ἀπὸ τὴν Κωνσταντινούπολη, ἀπὸ πλούσια καὶ ἐπίσημη οἰκογένεια. Ὁ ἴδιος ἦταν πατρίκιος καὶ στρατηγός, τῶν Κιβυῤῥαιωτῶν καὶ ἔπειτα στὸν Βυζαντινὸ στόλο. Κάποτε ὅμως, σὲ μία φοβερὴ τρικυμία, ὁ στόλος καταποντίσθηκε καὶ διασώθηκε μόνο αὐτός. Τότε ἀφιέρωσε τὸ ὑπόλοιπο τῆς ζωῆς του στὸ Θεό, ἀφοῦ ἔγινε μοναχὸς καὶ ζοῦσε μὲ αὐστηρὴ νηστεία καὶ προσευχή. Ποῦ πρῶτα μόνασε δὲν τὸ γνωρίζουμε. Ἀργότερα κατέφυγε σὲ τόπο ἀπομονωμένο, ἀπέναντι ἀπὸ τὴν τοποθεσία Ἱερὸ καὶ ἀπὸ ἐκεῖ στὸ Λάτριο ὄρος, ὅπου ἐπιδόθηκε σὲ αὐστηρότατη ἄσκηση. Ἀπὸ ἐκεῖ κλήθηκε νὰ διοικήσει τὴν Μονὴ Κελλιβάρων, ἀλλ᾿ ἐνοχλούμενος καὶ ἐπιζητῶντας τὴν ἡσυχία, ἀναχώρησε καὶ κλείστηκε μέσα σὲ μία τρῦπα ταλαιπωρῶντας τὸ σῶμα του. Ἀλλ᾿ οἱ μοναχοί της Μονῆς τὸν βρῆκαν καὶ τὸν ἐπανέφεραν στὴ Μονή, ὅπου ζοῦσε σ᾿ ἕνα κελὶ καὶ μόνο μία φορὰ τὴν ἑβδομάδα, τὴν Κυριακή, ἔβλεπε τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς καὶ συνέτρωγε μ᾿ αὐτούς. Προαισθάνθηκε τὸ τέλος τῆς ζωῆς του καὶ κάλεσε ὅλους τοὺς μοναχοὺς τῆς Μονῆς καὶ ἀφοῦ τοὺς ἔδωσε κατάλληλες πνευματικὲς συμβουλές, ἀπεβίωσε εἰρηνικά.
Ὁ Ἅγιος Γαβριήλ Ἱερομάρτυρας Ἀρχιεπίσκοπος Πεκίου Σερβίας
Ὁ Γαβριὴλ ἦταν Ἀρχιεπίσκοπος Σερβίας. Μὲ ἄδεια τῶν Τούρκων, εἶχε πάει στὴ Βλαχία καὶ Ῥωσία γιὰ νὰ μαζέψει χρήματα, γιὰ τὶς ἀνάγκες τῆς Σερβικῆς Ὀρθόδοξης Ἐκκλησίας. Τότε κατηγορήθηκε ἀπὸ τὸν ἐπίτροπό του στὴν Ἀρχιεπισκοπή, Βούλγαρο Μάξιμο, ὅτι ἐπιβουλεύεται τὴν Τουρκικὴ ἐξουσία. Ἔτσι, ὅταν ὁ Γαβριὴλ ἐπέστρεψε ἀπ᾿ τὴν Ῥωσία, βρῆκε στὸν ἀρχιεπισκοπικὸ θρόνο τὸν Μάξιμο. Ἀμέσως τότε ὁ Γαβριὴλ προέβη σὲ ἐνέργειες γιὰ τὴν ἔξωσή του. Ὁ Μάξιμος ὅμως πῆγε στὴν Προῦσα, ὅπου βρισκόταν ὁ Σουλτάνος καὶ ὁ Βεζίρης καὶ ἐπανέλαβε τὶς συκοφαντίες ἐναντίον τοῦ Γαβριήλ. Τότε ὁ Βεζίρης κάλεσε τὸν Γαβριὴλ ἀπὸ τὴν Σερβία στὴν Προῦσα. Ἐκεῖ, ἀφοῦ τὸν ἀνέκρινε, πείστηκε μὲν ὅτι πρόκειται γιὰ συκοφαντία, ἀλλ᾿ ἀξίωσε ἀπὸ τὸν μάρτυρα ν᾿ ἀρνηθεῖ τὸν Χριστὸ γιὰ νὰ ἔχει τιμὲς καὶ ἀξιώματα. Ὁ ἱεράρχης ἀπέκρουσε τὶς προτάσεις καὶ παρέμεινε ἀκλόνητος στὴ χριστιανικὴ πίστη. Ἔτσι, ἀφοῦ σκληρὰ τὸν βασάνισαν, δέχτηκε τὸ στεφάνι τοῦ μαρτυρίου μὲ ἀπαγχονισμὸ στὶς 13 Δεκεμβρίου 1659. Ὁ Otto Meinardus τοποθετεῖ τὸ μαρτύριο τοῦ νέου ἱερομάρτυρα αὐτοῦ, στὶς 13 Ὀκτωβρίου 1681.
St Herman, Wonderworker of Alaska (1836). First Martyrs of America Juvenaly (1796) and Peter the Aleut (1815 )
St Herman, for many the Patron of North America, was born near Moscow around 1756 to a pious merchant family, and entered monastic life at the age of sixteen, at the Trinity - St Sergius Lavra near St Petersburg. While there he was attacked by a cancer of the face, but the Mother of God appeared to him and healed him completely. He was tonsured a monk in 1783 with the name of Herman (a form of Germanos), and was received into Valaam Monastery on Lake Ladoga. After some time, he was allowed to withdraw to the life of a hermit in the forest, and only came to the monastery for feast days.
In 1793, in response to a request by the Russian-American Commercial Company for missionaries to Alaska, Valaam Monastery was told to select a company of its best monks to travel to America. Eight were chosen, of whom the hermit Herman was one. The company crossed all of Siberia and , almost a year later, first saw Kodiak Island in September 1794. The missionaries set about their work, and found the native Aleut people so receptive to the Gospel of Christ that in the first year about 7,000 were baptized and 1,500 marriages performed.
Despite severe hardships, the missionaries covered huge distances, on foot and in small boats, to reach the scattered fishing settlements of the Aleuts. In general they found a warm reception, but many of the pagan shamans opposed their message and sometimes stirred up the people against them. It was thus that the Priest-monk Juvenaly was killed in 1796, becoming the First Martyr of North America.
Despite such opposition, the missionaries' major difficulty was with the Russian traders and settlers, who were in the habit of exploiting the Aleuts as they wished, and who had oppressed and disgusted the native people with their immoral behavior. When the missionaries came to the defense of the natives, they were repaid with the opposition of the Russian-American company, whose leadership put countless obstacles in the path of their work. In time, several of the company died at sea, and several more abandoned the mission in discouragement, leaving the monk Herman alone.
He settled on Spruce Island near Kodiak, and once again took up the hermit's life, dwelling in a small cabin in the forest. He spent his days in prayer and mission work, and denied himself every fleshly comfort: he fasted often and lived on a diet of blackberries, mushrooms and vegetables (in Alaska!!). Despite these privations, he founded an orphanage and a school for the natives of the island, cared for the sick in epidemics, and built a chapel where he conducted divine services attended by many. (He was not a priest, but God made up the lack in miraculous ways: at Theophany, Angels descended to bless the waters of the bay, and the Saint would use the holy water to heal the sick). Asked if he was ever lonely or dejected in his solitude, and replied: "I am not alone; God is here as everywhere, and the Angels too. There is no better company."
Saint Herman reposed in peace on Spruce island, at the age of eighty-one, in 1836. At the moment of his departure, his face was radiant with light, and the inhabitants nearby saw a pillar of light rising above his hermitage. His last wish was to be buried on Spruce Island. When some of his well-intended disciples attempted to take his relics back to Kodiak to be buried from the church there, a storm rose up and continued unabated until they had abandoned the plan and buried him as he desired. He was officially glorified in 1970, the first canonized American Saint.
Saint Peter was a young Aleut convert to the Orthodox faith. In 1812 the Russian- American Company set up a post in California, where Russians and Aleuts farmed and traded to supply the needs of the Alaskans; Peter was one of these. The Spanish, who at the time ruled California, suspected the Russians of territorial ambitions, and in 1815 captured about twenty Orthodox Aleuts and took them to San Francisco. Fourteen of these were put to torture in an effort to convert them to the Roman Catholic faith. All refused to compromise their faith, and Peter and a companion were singled out for especially vicious treatment: Peter's fingers, then hands and feet, were severed, and he died from loss of blood, still firm in his confession. The Latins were preparing the same fate for the others when word came that they were to be transferred; eventually they returned to Alaska. When he heard a first-hand account of Peter's martyrdom, Saint Herman crossed himself and said "Holy New Martyr Peter, pray to God for us!" Saint Peter the Aleut is the first recognized Saint of American birth.
St Herman appears several times on the Church's calendar. The Synaxis of St Herman and the American Protomartyrs is celebrated today. St Herman is commemorated on November 15, the day of his repose; but (partly because pilgrimage to Alaska is so difficult in the winter) the day of his glorification, July 27 / August 9 is kept there as his primary feast day.
Following is a fragment of a conversation between St Herman and some officers of a Russian ship, recorded by his disciple Yanovsky; it includes perhaps the most familiar quotation from St Herman.
"But do you love God?" asked the Elder. And all answered: "Of course we love God. How can we not love God?" "And I, a sinner, have tried to love God for more than forty years, and I cannot say that I perfectly love Him," answered Father Herman, and began to explain how one must love God. "If we love someone," he said, "then we always think of that one, we strive to please that one; day and night our heart is preoccupied with that object. Is it in this way, gentlemen, that you love God? Do you often turn to Him, do you always remember Him, do you always pray to Him and fulfill His Holy commandments?" We had to admit that we did not. "For our good, for our happiness," concluded the Elder, "at least let us give a vow to ourselves, that from this day, from this hour, from this minute, we shall strive above all else to love God and to do His Holy Will!"
Saint Herman is also commemorated on December 12.
Martyrs Eustratius, Auxentius, Eugene, Mardarius, and Orestes at Sebaste
"These five courageous men shone like five resplendent stars in the dark days of the anti-Christian Emperors Diocletian and Maximian. St Eustratius was a Roman general in the city of Satalios, Eugene was one of his comrades in arms and Orestes likewise a respected soldier. Auxentius was a priest and Mardarius a simple citizen who came, like Eustratius, from the town of Aravraca. The imperial governors, Lysias and Agricola, tortured Auxentius first as he was a priest. Beholding the innocent suffering of the Christians, Eustratius presented himself before Lycias and declared that he also was a Christian. While Eustratius was being tortured, Eugene stood up before the judge and cried out: 'I am a Christian too, Lycias!' When they were driving Eustratius and the other martyrs through the town, Mardarius saw them from the roof of his house, and he took leave of his wife and two frail daughters and hastened after them, shouting into the faces of their tormentors: 'I am a Christian too, like the Lord Eustratius!' Orestes was a young and handsome soldier, who stood head and shoulders above all the other soldiers. One day, when he was at target practice in Lycias's presence, the Cross he was wearing fell from his breast, and Lycias realised that he was a Christian. Orestes openly confessed his faith, and was martyred with the others. Auxentius was beheaded, Eugene and Mardarius died under torture, Orestes was exposed on a red-hot iron grid and Eustratius died in a flaming furnace. St Blaise (see Feb. 11th) gave Communion to St Eustratius in prison before his death. Their relics were later taken to Constantinople, and are preserved in the church dedicated to them — The Holy Five Companions. They were seen alive in that church, and St Orestes appeared to St Dimitri of Rostov (see Oct. 28th). A beautiful prayer by St Eustratius is extant, which is read at the Midnight Service on Saturdays: 'I glorify Thy majesty, 0 Lord for Thou hast regarded my lowliness and hast not shut me up in the hands of my enemies, but hast saved my soul from want...'. " (Prologue)
Holy Virgin Maryr Lucy of Syracuse (304)
During Diocletian's persecutians, the Christian maiden Lucy went with her mother on pilgrimage to the tomb of St Agatha (February 5), to pray for her mother's healing from an ailment. Saint Agatha appeared to Lucy in a dream and said 'Lucy, my sister, why do you ask from me what your own faith can obtain? Your mother is healed. You will soon be the glory of Syracuse as I am of Catania.' Lucy's mother was healed from that day, and Lucy determined to consecrate herself entirely to God. She broke off an engagement to a nobly-born young man and gave her large dowry of land and jewels to the poor. Her would-be husband angrily denounced her as a Christian to the Governor of Syracuse.
At the tribunal, Lucy firmly confessed her faith in Christ and refused to make sacrifice to the gods. The Governor ordered that she be placed in a brothel, but his minions were unable to move her from the place where she stood, even when they tied her with ropes and attempted to drag her with oxen. The Governor asked what witchcraft she used, to which she answered 'I do not use witchcraft — it is the power of God that is with me. Bring ten thousand of your men if you wish; they will not be able to move me unless God wills it.' The men then lit a fire around her, but it did not harm her. Finally they beheaded her where she stood. With her last words, she predicted the deaths of Maximian and Diocletian, and the coming of peace to the Church.
The Holy Martyrs Eustratios, Auxentius, Eugene (Eugenios), Mardarias and Orestes suffered for Christ under the emperor Diocletian (284-305) at Sebasteia, in Armenia. Among those first Christians then undergoing torture then was the presbyter of the Arabian Church, the Martyr Auxentios, locked up in prison. Looking on at the steadfastness of the Christians was the nobleborn military-commander Saint Eustratios, city-governor of the city of Sataleon. He was secretly a Christian, and he decided on an open confession of faith, for which he was subjected to torture: they beat him, put iron sandals on his feet, and burnt at him with fire. And after these cruel torments they burned him, and beheaded the Martyr Auxentios. Witnessing their death by martyrdom, one of the common people, Saint Mardarias, likewise confessed his faith and was suspended upside down. Before death he uttered the prayer: "O Master Lord God, Father Almighty...", which is read at the end of the 3rd Hour and at the All-Night Vigil. For the Martyr Eugene (Eugenios) they cut out his tongue, they cut off his hands and feet and then they cut off his head with a sword. The young soldier Saint Orestes confessed himself a Christian and for this stood trial. He was sentenced to burning upon a red-hot iron bed, whither he went encouraged by the prayer of Saint Eustratios ("Greatly I do exalt Thee, O Lord...") which is read at the Saturday All-Night Vigil. The Martyr Eustratios died on 13 December.
The Monk Arkadii of Vyazemsk and Novotorzhsk was from the city of Vyaz'ma of common folk pious parents, who from childhood taught him prayer and obedience. The gentle, perceptive, prudent and good youth chose for his ascetic deed being a fool-for-Christ. He ate by alms, and slept where he put himself, -- whether in the forest, or on the church portico. His blessed unconcern and closeness to nature imparted to the figure of young Arkadii a peculiar spiritual aspect and distance from worldly vanity. In church, absorbed in prayer, Saint Arkadii often wept tears of tenderness and spiritual joy. His advice was precise, his predictions happened, and his look intelligent. An experienced guide, the Monk Ephrem -- Wonderworker of Novotorzhsk (Comm. 28 January, helped the young ascetic to avoid the spiritual dangers in passing through the difficult and in this time uncommon exploit of foolishness. And after this the people of Vyaz'ma became witnesses of several miracles, done through the prayer of Blessed Arkadii, but he fled human fame and set out along the upper Tvertsa River. Here the Monk Arkadii divided the work with his spiritual guide the Monk Ephrem of Novotorzhsk, and shared together with him in the founding of a church and monastery in honour of the holy Nobleborn Passion-Bearers Boris and Gleb (+ 1015; first transfer of their holy relics was in 1072; General Comm. 2 May).
Entering into the new-built monastery, the Monk Arkadii accepted monasticism and took upon himself the exploit of full obedience to his spiritual father, the Monk Ephrem. The Monk Arkadii never missed Liturgy and for Matins he appeared first together with his spiritual guide. After the repose of the Monk Ephrem (28 January 1053), the Monk Arkadii continued to pursue asceticism in accord with the last-wishes of his starets-elder, dwelling in prayer, fasting and quietude. And with the subsequent passage of some years he likewise expired to the Lord (13 December 1077).
In 1594 a chapel in the name of the Monk Arkadii was built at one of the churches of Vyaz'ma. A combined celebration to the Monks Arkadii and Ephrem was established under Metropolitan Dionysii in the years 1584-1587. The relics of the Monk Arkadii, glorified by miracles of healing, were uncovered on 11 July (in earlier times his memory was celebrated on this day) 1677, in a stone crypt of the Borisoglebsk cathedral of the city of Torzhk. In 1841 on the left side of the Borisogleb cathedral church was built a chapel in honour of the Monk Arkadii. Solemn celebration of the 300 years from the time of the uncovering of the holy relics of the Monk Arkadii took place in the city of Torzhk in the year 1977.
The Monk Mardarii, Hermit of Pechersk, asceticised in the Farther Caves during the XIII Century. According to the manuscript calendar, in the tropar and kondak he is called "non-covetous", and by the superscription over the relics -- "without cell". His name is remembered in the 7th Ode of the Service of the Sobor-Assemblage of the Fathers of the Farther Caves (28 August) together with the Monk Ammon (Comm. 4 October), where he is called a "zealot of poverty". He was buried in the Farther Caves. His memory is celebrated also on 28 August and on the 2nd Sunday of Great Lent.
The Monk Arsenios, the son of rich, illustrious and pious parents, was born at Constantinople. The emperor decorated him and made him military-commander and a patrician of the Cyberrhiote military thema. One time, when he was sailing with his soldiers upon the sea, a storm came up. The ships sank. Of all the soldiers only Saint Arsenios was saved. After this he accepted monasticism and he wearied the flesh by fasting, vigil and fetters. After such doings he came to a certain place on Mount Latros, situated in Asia Minor. There he killed a poisonous viper by his prayer and the sign of the cross, and then he settled in the nearby Kelliboreia monastery on the north side of the mountain, where he was chosen hegumen. From the monastery the Monk Arsenios set off to a cave, where he repelled wild beasts by prayer. Brethren gathered to him. Usually he sat the entire week in the narrow cell, and on Sunday he took food and instructed the brethren. Finally, the Monk Arsenios attained such perfection, that he was nourished by an Angel. By his staff he changed bitter water into sweet, and having done many other miracles, he peacefully died amidst the brethren.
They suggest the lifetime of the Monk Arsenios as between the VIII and X Centuries.
THE PROLOGUE FROM ORCHID:
1. The Holy Martyrs Eustratius, Auxentius, Eugene, Mardarius and Orestes
These five courageous men shone like five shining stars in the dark days of the Christ-persecuting Emperors Diocletian and Maximian. St. Eustratius was a Roman commander in the city of Satalionus; Eugene was his companion in the army; Orestes was likewise a distinguished soldier; Auxentius was a priest; and Mardarius was an ordinary citizen who came, like Eustratius, from the town of Arabrak. The imperial deputies Lysias and Agricolus tortured Auxentius first since he was a priest. Seeing the innocent suffering of Christians, Eustratius appeared in front of Lysias and declared that he was also a Christian. While Eustratius was being tortured, Eugene appeared before the judge and cried out: "Lysias, I too am a Christian." When Eustratius was led through the town of Arabrak with the other martyrs, Mardarius saw them from the roof of his house. He took leave of his wife and two young children and rushed after the martyrs, shouting into the faces of the tormentors: "I too am a Christian, like my lord Eustratius." When St. Orestes was target-practicing in the presence of Lysias, the cross he was wearing fell from his chest and Lysias realized that he was a Christian, after which Orestes openly confessed his faith. Orestes was a young and handsome soldier and towered above all the other soldiers in stature. Auxentius was beheaded, Eugene and Mardarius died while being tortured, Orestes expired on a red-hot iron grid, and Eustratius died in a fiery furnace. St. Blaise (February 11) administered Holy Communion to St. Eustratius in prison before his death. Their relics were later taken to Constantinople and buried in the church dedicated to them: The Holy Five Companions. They were seen alive in that church, and St. Orestes appeared to St. Dimitri of Rostov (October 28). A beautiful prayer by St. Eustratius is extant, which is read at the Midnight Service on Saturday: "Most highly do I magnify Thee, O Lord."
2. The Holy Martyr Lucy the Virgin
With her mother, Lucy visited the grave of St. Agatha in Catania, where St. Agatha appeared to her. Her mother, who had dropsy, was then miraculously healed in the church. Lucy distributed all her goods to the poor, and this embittered her betrothed, who accused her of being a Christian before Paschasius the judge. The wicked judge ordered that she be taken to a brothel in order to defile her. However, by the power of God she remained immovable, as if rooted to the earth, and not even a multitude of people was able to move her from that spot. Then an enraged pagan pierced her throat with a sword and she gave up her soul to God and took up her habitation in the Kingdom of Eternity. Lucy suffered in the year 304.
3. The Hieromartyr Gavril, Patriarch of Serbia
During the terrible period of Turkish rule over Serbia, this great hierarch traveled to Russia, where he participated in the Moscow Synod of 1655. Upon returning, he was accused of high treason. Certain evil Jews also accused him of having converted several Jews to the Christian Faith. In their accusation, the Jews cited that he was attempting to convert the Turks. The Jews did this to enrage the Turkish authorities even more. Brought before the tribunal, he was condemned and sentenced to embrace Islam. Since Gavril would not even hear of this, he was, after a period of imprisonment, sentenced to death and hanged in Brusa in the year 1659. Thus, he departed for his beloved Christ to receive from Him a double crown, that of a hierarch and that of a martyr.
HYMN OF PRAISE
The Holy Martyrs Eustratius, Auxentius, Eugene, Mardarius and Orestes
O Five Companions, soldiers of Christ,
Fearless heroes, honorable martyrs-
Mockery and tortures, fire and scaffolds
Were merely childish games for you.
None of you consented to the wantonness of Rome.
With joyful hearts you suffered for Christ.
Eustratius, the wonderful and heroic commander,
Despised imperial clemency and this weeping world.
ith him, as with a living fire that burns leaves,
The other companions went to torture.
Auxentius the priest, a faithful servant of Christ,
Endured much mockery for the sake of Christ.
Eugene the soldier and wondrous Orestes
Ridiculed death, being conscious of the Resurrection.
Mardarius left his wife and children,
So that both they and he would be forever glorified.
O heroic clan, children of grace,
Only the Church can give such men as you;
Only the Spirit of God creates such hearts as yours-
He that transforms the dark abyss into flame!
Glorious martyrs, remember us also;
And by your prayers, strengthen the Church.
To give alms out of that which one needs: this is true almsgiving. Not to sin when one is most exposed to sinning: this has value before God. When St. Lucy saw her sick mother miraculously healed, she suggested to her that she use her possessions as alms for the needy. To this her mother replied that she did not want to part from her possessions until her death, but she agreed that after her death her possessions could be used for the good that Lucy wished. "First, cover my eyes with earth," her mother said, "and then do what you wish with my possessions." Lucy said: "It is not very pleasing to God for a person to give to Him that which he cannot take with him to the grave or which he himself does not need. But if you want to do a God-pleasing deed, give to Him that which you yourself need. Otherwise, after death, when you need nothing, you will be offering Him that which you could not take with you. But while you are still alive and healthy, give to Christ what you possess, and all of that which you intended for me begin even now to give to Him." The good mother of the wise daughter agreed to this. When the torturer Paschasius was attempting to force this holy virgin to carnal sin, Lucy did not, even in thought, assent to this. And when the torturer threatened that his men would defile her by force, saying with a smirk, "When you become defiled, the Holy Spirit will flee from you," Lucy, full of grace, replied: "The body cannot be defiled without the consent of the mind." Thus St. Lucy went to her death, having distributed all her goods beforehand and guarded her young and pure body from defilement.
Contemplate the fulfillment of Noah's words upon his descendants (Genesis 9):
1. How the sons of Japheth spread throughout the whole world;
2. How they settled in the tents of Shem, that is, in the Church, in the spiritual tent of Christ, which began with the Semites, the Jews.
And the Lord appeared unto him the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee (Genesis 26:24).
Brethren, from time immemorial, the path upon which the righteous walk has always been difficult. From time immemorial, they have been hard pressed either by those who do not believe in God or by those who maintain an incorrect belief. Abel was hard pressed by his brother Cain; Noah and Lot, by a completely corrupt generation; and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, by the pagans. However, God does not forsake the righteous to walk the difficult path alone. This we also see with Isaac: I am the God of Abraham thy father; fear not. Isaac understood these very meaningful words. By these words, God encouraged and reminded him. He was saying: "Because of Abraham, I will bless thee also; and, as I protected Abraham among the pagans, so in a like manner will I protect thee." And further: "Be faithful to Me as was Abraham thy father." Isaac followed the example of his father and did not turn away from God at any time in his life. Isaac was a farmer and a cattle-breeder as was his father; he was righteous and meek, avoiding strife with men and doing good for people. We saw certainly that the Lord was with thee (Genesis 26:28), as his haters and persecutors finally had to admit. And Isaac was made worthy that God be called His God: just as God was called the God of Abraham, so later He was called the God of Isaac.
O Lord, wondrous in Thy saints, remember our names also along with the names of Thy righteous ones and saints in Thy Kingdom.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.