Holy Prophet Zacharias, Father of the Venerable Forerunner
Urban, Theodore, & Medimnos the Hieromartyrs and the 77 Companions at Nicomedea
Τοῦ Ἁγίου Προφήτου Ζαχαρίου, πατρός Ἰωάννου τοῦ Προδρόμου.
READINGS FROM THE BIBLE:
The Reading is from St. Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians 13:3-13
BRETHREN, since you desire proof that Christ is speaking in me, he is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful in you. For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we are weak in him, but in dealing with you we shall live with him by the power of God.
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? - unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed. But we pray God that you may not do wrong - not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. What we pray for is your improvement. I write this while I am away from you, in order that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority which the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.
Finally, brethren, farewell. Mend your ways, heed my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Πρὸς Κορινθίους β' 13:3-13
Ἀδελφοί, ἐπεὶ δοκιμὴν ζητεῖτε τοῦ ἐν ἐμοὶ λαλοῦντος Χριστοῦ, ὃς εἰς ὑμᾶς οὐκ ἀσθενεῖ, ἀλλὰ δυνατεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν· καὶ γὰρ εἰ ἐσταυρώθη ἐξ ἀσθενείας, ἀλλὰ ζῇ ἐκ δυνάμεως θεοῦ. Καὶ γὰρ ἡμεῖς ἀσθενοῦμεν ἐν αὐτῷ, ἀλλὰ ζησόμεθα σὺν αὐτῷ ἐκ δυνάμεως θεοῦ εἰς ὑμᾶς. Ἑαυτοὺς πειράζετε εἰ ἐστὲ ἐν τῇ πίστει, ἑαυτοὺς δοκιμάζετε. Ἢ οὐκ ἐπιγινώσκετε ἑαυτούς, ὅτι Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς ἐν ὑμῖν ἐστίν; εἰ μή τι ἀδόκιμοί ἐστε. Ἐλπίζω δὲ ὅτι γνώσεσθε ὅτι ἡμεῖς οὐκ ἐσμὲν ἀδόκιμοι. Εὐχόμαι δὲ πρὸς τὸν θεόν, μὴ ποιῆσαι ὑμᾶς κακὸν μηδέν, οὐχ ἵνα ἡμεῖς δόκιμοι φανῶμεν, ἀλλʼ ἵνα ὑμεῖς τὸ καλὸν ποιῆτε, ἡμεῖς δὲ ὡς ἀδόκιμοι ὦμεν. Οὐ γὰρ δυνάμεθά τι κατὰ τῆς ἀληθείας, ἀλλʼ ὑπὲρ τῆς ἀληθείας. Χαίρομεν γὰρ ὅταν ἡμεῖς ἀσθενῶμεν, ὑμεῖς δὲ δυνατοὶ ἦτε· τοῦτο δὲ καὶ εὐχόμεθα, τὴν ὑμῶν κατάρτισιν. Διὰ τοῦτο ταῦτα ἀπὼν γράφω, ἵνα παρὼν μὴ ἀποτόμως χρήσωμαι, κατὰ τὴν ἐξουσίαν ἣν ἔδωκέν μοι ὁ κύριος εἰς οἰκοδομήν, καὶ οὐκ εἰς καθαίρεσιν. Λοιπόν, ἀδελφοί, χαίρετε· καταρτίζεσθε, παρακαλεῖσθε, τὸ αὐτὸ φρονεῖτε, εἰρηνεύετε· καὶ ὁ θεὸς τῆς ἀγάπης καὶ εἰρήνης ἔσται μεθʼ ὑμῶν. Ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν ἁγίῳ φιλήματι. Ἀσπάζονται ὑμᾶς οἱ ἅγιοι πάντες. Ἡ χάρις τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, καὶ ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ ἡ κοινωνία τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος μετὰ πάντων ὑμῶν. Ἀμήν.
The Reading is from Matthew 23:29-39
The Lord said to the Jews who had come to him, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, saying, 'If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' Thus you witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zacharias the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all this will come upon this generation.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'"
Κατὰ Ματθαῖον 23.29-39
Εἶπεν ὁ Κύριος πρὸς τοὺς ἐληλυθότας πρὸς αὐτὸν Ἰουδαίους· Οὐαὶ ὑμῖν, γραμματεῖς καὶ Φαρισαῖοι ὑποκριταί, ὅτι οἰκοδομεῖτε τοὺς τάφους τῶν προφητῶν καὶ κοσμεῖτε τὰ μνημεῖα τῶν δικαίων,καὶ λέγετε· εἰ ἦμεν ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις τῶν πατέρων ἡμῶν, οὐκ ἂν ἦμεν κοινωνοὶ αὐτῶν ἐν τῷ αἵματι τῶν προφητῶν.ὥστε μαρτυρεῖτε ἑαυτοῖς ὅτι υἱοί ἐστε τῶν φονευσάντων τοὺς προφήτας.καὶ ὑμεῖς πληρώσατε τὸ μέτρον τῶν πατέρων ὑμῶν.ὄφεις, γεννήματα ἐχιδνῶν! πῶς φύγητε ἀπὸ τῆς κρίσεως τῆς γεέννης; Διὰ τοῦτο ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω πρὸς ὑμᾶς προφήτας καὶ σοφοὺς καὶ γραμματεῖς, καὶ ἐξ αὐτῶν ἀποκτενεῖτε καὶ σταυρώσετε, καὶ ἐξ αὐτῶν μαστιγώσετε ἐν ταῖς συναγωγαῖς ὑμῶν καὶ διώξετε ἀπὸ πόλεως εἰς πόλιν,ὅπως ἔλθῃ ἐφ᾿ ὑμᾶς πᾶν αἷμα δίκαιον ἐκχυνόμενον ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἀπὸ τοῦ αἵματος ῎Αβελ τοῦ δικαίου ἕως τοῦ αἵματος Ζαχαρίου υἱοῦ Βαραχίου, ὃν ἐφονεύσατε μεταξὺ τοῦ ναοῦ καὶ τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου.ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ἥξει ταῦτα πάντα ἐπὶ τὴν γενεὰν ταύτην.῾Ιερουσαλὴμ ῾Ιερουσαλήμ, ἡ ἀποκτέννουσα τοὺς προφήτας καὶ λιθοβολοῦσα τοὺς ἀπεσταλμένους πρὸς αὐτήν! ποσάκις ἠθέλησα ἐπισυναγαγεῖν τὰ τέκνα σου ὃν τρόπον ἐπισυνάγει ὄρνις τὰ νοσσία ἑαυτῆς ὑπὸ τὰς πτέρυγας, καὶ οὐκ ἠθελήσατε.ἰδοὺ ἀφίεται ὑμῖν ὁ οἶκος ὑμῶν ἔρημος.λέγω γὰρ ὑμῖν, οὐ μή με ἴδητε ἀπ᾿ ἄρτι ἕως ἂν εἴπητε, εὐλογημένος ὁ ἐρχόμενος ἐν ὀνόματι Κυρίου.
READINGS FROM THE SYNAXARION:
Θεῖον δι’ ἀμνὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ Ζαχαρίας,
Ὥσπερ τις ἀμνὸς σφάττεται ναοῦ μέσον.
Πέμπτῃ Ζαχαρίαν δαπέδῳ σφάξαν παρὰ νηοῦ.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, ὁ Ἅγιος Ἀβδαῖος, ῥάβδοις ἀκανθώδεσι τυφθείς, τελειοῦται.Ῥάβδων ἀκάνθας Μάρτυς Ἀβδαῖος φέρει,
Στεφθέντα τιμῶν ταῖς ἀκάνθαις Δεσπότην.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, Μνήμη τῶν Ἁγίων Μαρτύρων Μεδίμνου, Οὐρβανοῦ, Θεοδώρου, καὶ τῶν σὺν αὐτοῖς ὀγδοήκοντα ἱερέων καὶ Λευϊτῶν, ἤτοι Διακόνων.Ὕδωρ διελθὼν ψαλμικῶς καὶ πῦρ ἅμα,
Λέγει Μέδιμνος, εἰς ἀναψυχὴν φθάνω.
Σὺν Οὐρβανῷ δὲ καὶ Θεόδωρος μέγας,
Ἆθλον τὸν αὐτὸν ἐκτελεῖ τῷ Μεδίμνῳ.
Ὀκτὰς δεκαπλῆ τῶν καθιερωμένων,
Πρὸς πῦρ, ὕδωρ τε καρτερῶς ἐκαρτέρει.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, Μνήμη τοῦ Ἁγίου Πέτρου τοῦ ἐν τῷ Ἀθήρᾳ.
Ταῖς αὐτῶν ἁγίαις πρεσβείαις, ὁ Θεός, ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς. Ἀμήν.
According to the opinion of many Fathers of the Church, based on an ancient tradition, this is the Zacharias whom, as our Lord said, the Jews slew between the temple and the altar (Matt. 23:35), first, because even after the Virgin Mary gave birth, he continued to refer to her as virgin and number her among the virgins; second, because Zacharias' son John was not found during the slaughter of the Innocents, since the elderly Elizabeth had taken him and carefully hid him while he was yet an infant, in an unnamed place somewhere in the desert, where, according to the Evangelist, "the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel" (Luke 1:80). When the child was not found, his father was slain by Herod's command.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Ιερωσύνης στολισμόν, περιβαλλόμενος σοφέ, κατά τόν νόμον τού Θεού, ολοκαυτώματα δεκτά, ιεροπρεπώς προσενήνοχας Ζαχαρία, καί γέγονας φωστήρ, καί θεατής μυστικών, τά σύμβολα εν σοί, τά τής χάριτος, φέρων εκδήλως πάνσοφε, καί ξίφει αναιρεθείς εν τώ ναώ τού Θεού, Χριστού Προφήτα, σύν τώ Προδρόμω, πρέσβευε σωθήναι τάς ψυχάς ημών
In the vesture of a priest, according to the Law of God, thou didst offer unto Him well-pleasing whole-burnt offerings, as it befitted a priest, O wise Zacharias. Thou wast a shining light, a seer of mysteries, bearing in thyself clearly the signs of grace; and in God's temple, O wise Prophet of Christ God, thou wast slain with the sword. Hence, with the Forerunner, make entreaty that our souls find salvation.
Kontakion in the Third Tone
Ο Προφήτης σήμερον, καί ιερεύς τού Υψίστου, Ζαχαρίας προύθηκεν, ο τού Προδρόμου γενέτης, τράπεζαν τής αυτού μνήμης Πιστούς εκτρέφων, πόμα τε δικαιοσύνης τούτοις κεράσας, Διό τούτον ευφημούμεν, ως θείον μύστην Θεού τής χάριτος.
On this day the Prophet and ven'rable priest of the Most High, even Zacharias, who begat the Forerunner, hath now mixed for us the draught of virtue and set the table of his sacred mem'ry nourishing all the faithful; for this cause do we extol him as a most godly initiate of grace divine.
Η Εκκλησία γιορτάζει σήμερα την μνήμη του προφήτου Ζαχαρία, του πατέρα του Προδρόμου και Βαπτιστού Ιωάννου. Ο θαυμαστός τρόπος, με τον οποίον γεννήθηκε ο τελευταίος και μεγαλύτερος των Προφητών της Παλαιάς Διαθήκης, δηλαδή ο Ιωάννης ο Βαπτιστής, περιγράφεται από τον Ευαγγελιστή Λουκά στην αρχή του Ευαγγελίου του. Από τον ύμνο που έψαλε ο Προφήτης Ζαχαρίας, όταν οκτώ ημέρες μετά την γέννηση του Προδρόμου λύθηκε η γλώσσα του και ξαναβρήκε την λαλιά του, αναφέρομε εδώ τα εξής λόγια· "...επεσκέψατο ημάς ανατολή εξ ύψους επιφάναι τοις εν σκότει και σκιά θανάτου καθημένοις, του κατευθύναι τους πόδας ημίν εις οδόν ειρήνης". Δηλαδή, ήλθε στον κόσμο το φώς του Θεού στο πρόσωπο του Ιησού Χριστού, για να φωτίση εκείνους που κάθονταν στο σκοτάδι του θανάτου, και για να τους κατευθύνη στον δρόμο της ειρήνης. Η ειρήνη ήταν το αίτημα των Προφητών - "Κύριε ο Θεός ημών, ειρήνην δος ημίν".
Ὁ Προφήτης Ζαχαρίας καὶ ἡ σύζυγός του Ἐλισάβετ
Ὁ Ζαχαρίας, πατέρας τοῦ Ἰωάννη τοῦ Βαπτιστῆ, ἔζησε στὰ χρόνια του Ἡρῴδη, βασιλιᾶ τῆς Ἰουδαίας. Κατὰ τὴν γνώμη τοῦ Χρυσοστόμου, καθὼς καὶ ἄλλων Πατέρων τῆς Ἐκκλησίας, ὁ Ζαχαρίας δὲν ἦταν ἁπλὸς Ἱερέας, ἀλλὰ ἀρχιερέας ποὺ ἔμπαινε στὰ ἅγια τῶν ἁγίων. Σύζυγο εἶχε τὴν Ἐλισάβετ καὶ δὲν εἶχαν παιδί. Κάποια μέρα λοιπόν, τὴν ὥρα τοῦ θυμιάματος μέσα στὸ θυσιαστήριο, εἶδε ἄγγελο Κυρίου ποὺ τοῦ ἀνήγγειλε ὅτι θὰ ἀποκτοῦσε γιὸ καὶ θὰ ὀνομαζόταν Ἰωάννης. Ὁ Ζαχαρίας σκίρτησε ἀπὸ χαρά, ἀλλὰ δυσπίστησε. Ἡ γυναῖκα του ἦταν στεῖρα καὶ γριά, πῶς θὰ γινόταν αὐτὸ ποὺ ἄκουγε; Τότε ὁ ἄγγελος τοῦ εἶπε ὅτι θὰ μείνει κωφάλαλος μέχρι νὰ πραγματοποιηθεῖ ἡ βουλὴ τοῦ Θεοῦ. Πράγματι, ἡ Ἐλισάβετ συνέλαβε καὶ ἔκανε γιό. Ὅταν θέλησαν νὰ δώσουν ὄνομα στὸ παιδί, ὁ Ζαχαρίας ἔγραψε πάνω σὲ πινακίδιο τὸ ὄνομα Ἰωάννης. Ἀμέσως δὲ λύθηκε ἡ γλῶσσα του καὶ ὅλοι μαζὶ δόξασαν τὸ Θεό. Βέβαια, ἡ χάρη αὐτὴ ἔγινε ἀπὸ τὸ Θεὸ στὸ Ζαχαρία, διότι αὐτὸς ἦταν «δίκαιος ἐνώπιον τοῦ Θεοῦ, πορευόμενος ἐν πάσαις ταῖς ἐντολαῖς καὶ δικαιώμασι τοῦ Κυρίου ἄμεμπτος». Ἦταν, δηλαδή, δίκαιος μπροστὰ στὸ Θεὸ καὶ ζοῦσε σύμφωνα μὲ ὅλες τὶς ἐντολὲς καὶ τὰ παραγγέλματα τοῦ Κυρίου, ἄμεμπτος ἀπὸ κάθε σοβαρὴ ἐνοχή.
Ὁ Ἅγιος Ἀβδαῖος Ἐπίσκοπος
Ἀτρόμητος κήρυκας τοῦ Εὐαγγελίου, ποὺ ἔζησε τὸν πέμπτο αἰῶνα μετὰ Χριστόν. Κήρυττε ἄφοβα τὸν Χριστὸ καὶ καταγγέλθηκε μπροστὰ στὸν Πέρση βασιλιὰ Ἰσδιγέργη, ὁ ὁποῖος τὸν παρέπεμψε στὸν ἀρχιμάγο τοῦ παλατιοῦ. Μετὰ ἀπὸ πολύωρη συζήτηση μ᾿ αὐτόν, ὁ Ἀβδαῖος στήριξε τὴν ἀλήθεια τῆς θεότητας τοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ δήλωσε ὅτι κανένα μαρτύριο δὲν εἶναι ἱκανὸ νὰ τὸν ἀποσπάσει ἀπὸ τὴν ὁμολογία αὐτή. Τότε ὁ ἀρχιμάγος διέταξε καὶ τὸν κτύπησαν μὲ βέργες τριανταφυλλιᾶς, ποὺ ἦταν γεμάτες ἀγκάθια. Ἔτσι ὁ Ἀβδαῖος, γεμάτος αἵματα καὶ πληγὲς μεταφέρθηκε μισοπεθαμένος στὸ σπίτι του, ὅπου καὶ παρέδωσε στὸ Θεὸ τὴν τίμια ψυχή του. (Ἡ μνήμη τοῦ Ἁγίου Ἀβδαίου, ἑορτάζεται -σὰν Αὐδᾶς- καὶ τὴν 31η Μαρτίου).
Οἱ Ἅγιοι Μέδιμνος, Οὐρβανός, Θεόδωρος καὶ 80 Ἱερεῖς καὶ Διάκονοι
Οἱ Ἅγιοι αὐτοὶ διώχθηκαν ἀπὸ τὸν ἀρειανόφιλο βασιλιὰ Οὐάλεντα (364) καὶ ἀφοῦ ὑπέφεραν πολλὰ βάσανα καὶ ταλαιπωρίες, τελικὰ τοὺς ἔβαλαν μέσα σὲ πλοῖο καὶ τοὺς ἄφησαν στ᾿ ἀνοιχτὰ τῆς θάλασσας. Ὅταν ἔφτασαν στὸν Ἀστακινὸ κόλπο, οἱ Ἀρειανοὶ ἔστειλαν δικούς τους ἀνθρώπους μὲ μία βάρκα καὶ ἔβαλαν φωτιὰ στὸ πλοῖο. Ἔτσι ὅλοι αὐτοὶ οἱ Ἅγιοι παραδόθηκαν ἀνήμποροι στὶς φλόγες τῆς φωτιᾶς καὶ στὸ βυθὸ τῆς θάλασσας (35ος τόμος Migne).
Ὁ Ἅγιος Πέτρος ὁ Ἀπόστολος «ὁ ἐν τῷ Ἀθηρᾷ»
Μᾶλλον πρόκειται περὶ ἐγκαινίων ναοῦ τοῦ Ἀποστόλου Πέτρου στὸ συγκεκριμένο τόπο.
Ἡ Ἁγία Ραΐς (ἢ Ἠραΐς)
Βλέπε βιογραφία της τὴν 23η Σεπτεμβρίου.
Ὁ Ὅσιος Ἀθανάσιος
Ἡγούμενος Μονῆς Μπρέστ, Ρῶσος (+ 1648).
Ὁ Ἅγιος Alto (Σκωτσέζος)
Λεπτομέρειες γιὰ τὴν ζωὴ αὐτοῦ τοῦ ἁγίου τῆς ὀρθοδοξίας, μπορεῖ νὰ βρεῖ ὁ ἀναγνώστης στὸ βιβλίο «Ὅι Ἅγιοι τῶν Βρεττανικῶν Νήσων», τοῦ Χριστόφορου Κων. Κομμοδάτου, ἐπισκόπου Τελμησσοῦ, Ἀθῆναι 1985.
Holy and Glorious Prophet Zacharias, Father of St John the Baptist
Much of his story is told in the first chapter of Luke's Gospel. The Synaxarion continues:
'After the birth of Christ, Zacharias plainly declared the virginity of Mary and showed her truly to be the Mother of God; for he appointed her a place in that part of the Temple reserved for the virgins and so brought upon himself the hatred of the priests and levites.
'When John was six months old, Zacharias hid him and his mother in a cave beyond the Jordan because King Herod, hearing of the birth in Bethlehem of the king of the Jews and fearing a rival of his own worldly power, sent soldiers to kill all the male children of Bethlehem. His enemies seized this opportunity to denounce Zacharias to Herod, who had him pursued and put to death within the precinct of the Temple, at the very place the Mother of God abode for a witnes to her virginity. As the Prophet's blood flowed within the sanctuary, it signified the withdrawing of the divine Presence. Priests came to take up his body and they buried him with his fathers. From that moment signs and prodigies occurred in the Temple, indicating that the rites of the Law would soon be abolished. No longer would the priests behold the angels of God, or have the grace of prophecy; no longer would they be able to deliver oracles or enlighten the people upon the dark places of holy Scripture, as they had been wont to do.'
Holy Hieromartyr Athanasius of Brest-Litovsk (1649)
"Saint Athanasius was born in the province of Minsk in 1596, the same year as the false Union of Brest-Litovsk was concluded between Rome and some Russian bishops. His father was a Lithuanian nobleman of modest means, but Athanasius acquired a breadth and depth of learning that were exceptional at that time. Besides modern and ancient languages and the writings of the holy Fathers, he was familiar with the works of Western philosophers and theologians.
"In 1627, after spending several years as a private tutor, he became a monk at the Monastery of Khutyn near Orsha in Little Russia. This monastery was independent of the Polish occupying forces and, by tradition, deeply committed to the preservation of Orthodoxy, so that it was able to offer great encouragement to the Orthodox people in the face of Roman Catholic propaganda. Athanasius went on to follow his monastic path in other renowned monasteries, and was ordained priest. The Metropolitan of Kiev, Peter Moghila, gave him the task of restoring the Monastery of Kupyatitsk. In obedience to a divine revelation, Athanasius set out for Moscow, a long and dangerous journey through territory under Polish occupation, in order to ask for financial assistance for the restoration, and to acquaint the Tsar with the fate intended for the Orthodox Church in the lands to the south-west of Russia. He was successful in his quest and with the help of the Mother of God, the restoration works were begun. Two years later, Athanasius was appointed Abbot of the Monastery of St Symeon the Stylite in Brest-Litovsk. From then on, he was to be a resolute and tireless fighter against Roman proselytism, clothed in Orthodox rites and customs known as the Unia. For the next eight years, by prayer, preaching and through his writings, the Saint devoted all his strength to refuting the false Union, and to bringing back to the holy sheep-fold of Christ those who had strayed.
"The population of the occupied territories was brutally treated by the Polish soldiers and colonists, nor did the Jesuit missionaries, for their part, abstain from any measure that might serve to lead the peoples of Little Russia to accept their faith. In this situation, Saint Athanasius decided to petition the King of Poland, Vladislav IV, that the Orthodox be treated with more humanity. The King was moved by his request and issued a decree forbidding the abuses that had occurred, but his officials ignored it. The condition of the Orthodox in Warsaw was particularly bad. It was not unknown for the Poles and Uniates to set fire to Orthodox churches on feast days when they were full of the faithful, just as had happened in the time of the great Persecutions.
"Athanasius kept up the fight, aided and comforted by none but the Mother of God, and in 1643, following a new revelation, he again appealed for redress on behalf of the Orthodox to the Polish Council of State. He received a favourable hearing and the Orthodox were granted some legal protection. But certain Orthodox men of rank, fearing for their privileges, claimed that the Saint was mad and succeeded in having him deprived of his abbacy, deposed from the priesthood and sent to Kiev to answer before a church court.
"The humble Athanasius was completely exonerated and restored to his position, but he did not have peace for long, since persecution of the Orthodox soon began again. He drew up a petition intended for the King of Poland, but was arrested and thrown into prison before he was able to complete it. He was released after three years' detention but, in 1648, a persecution broke out that was more terrible than ever before. So bloody was it that the people of Little Russia rose up and demanded the departure of the Polish-Lithuanian army and the restoration of Russian territory to the Tsar. The Polish authorities immediately arrested the rebel leaders and prominent Orthodox dignitaries. Saint Athanasius was imprisoned, and endured physical and mental torments of all kinds at the hands of his gaolers and of the Roman Catholic authorities, but he never ceased to cry, 'Anathema to the Union!' After being tortured with red-hot coals, he was flayed and burnt alive. As he was still not dead, his executioners shot him.
"They threw his decapitated corpse into a pit, where it was found some time later incorrupt. In the years that followed, the relics of the holy Martyr worked many miracles." (Synaxarion)
Holy Martyrs Abda the bishop, Hormizd and Sunin of Persia (4th c)
Saint Abda lived in Persia during the reign of the Emperor Theodosius II and of the Persian king Yazgerd I; as bishop of the Christians there, he labored tirelessly to care for his own flock and bring the pagans to Christ. One day, full of zeal, he entered the temple at which the king made sacrifice, overturned the sacred fire and set the temple on fire. The enraged king forbade the worship of the Christian God, ordered the destruction of all the churches and monasteries, and arrested all of the clergy. Abda was brought before the king and ordered to rebuild the pagan temple; when he refused, he was cruelly and lengthily tortured until they gave up their souls to God. This was the beginning of a thirty-year period of terrible persecution for Christians in Persia. Of the many who perished for Christ during this time, St Benjamin is commemorated on October 13, and Sts Hormizd and Sunin today.
Saint Hormizd was the son of a Persian governor who became a Christian in his youth. For this, his father condemned him to labor as a naked camel-herder in the desert. Some time later, the King sent Hormizd a linen tunic, promising to restore him to favor if he would return to the religion of the Persians. The Saint tore up the tunic and retured it to the king, for which he was executed.
Saint Sunin was a high Persian official who turned to Christ and was rewarded with a crown of martyrdom.
The Holy Prophet Zachariah and Holy Righteous Elizabeth were the parents of the holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, John. They were descended from the lineage of Aaron: Saint Zachariah, son of Barach, was a priest in the Jerusalem Temple, and Saint Elizabeth was the sister of Saint Anna, -- the mother of the MostHoly Mother of God. The righteous spouses, "comporting themselves through all the commandments of the Lord blameless (Lk. 1: 5-25), suffered barrenness, which in the Old Testament times was considered a punishment from God. One time during the occasion of service in the Temple, Saint Zachariah received the news from an Angel, that his aged wife would bear him a son, who "wilt be great before the Lord" (Lk. 1: 15) and "wilt go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias" (Lk. 1: 17). Zachariah was doubtful of the possibility of the fulfilling of this prediction, and for his weakness of faith he was punished by becoming unable to speak. When Righteous Elizabeth gave birth to a son, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit she announced that his name was John, although earlier in their family line no one had been given such a name as this. They asked Righteous Zachariah and he likewise wrote down on the writing-board the name John. Immediately the gift of speech returned to him, and inspired of the Holy Spirit, he began to prophesy about his son as being the Forerunner of the Lord.
When impious king Herod heard from the Magi about the birth of the Messiah, he decided to kill at Bethlehem and its surroundings all the infants up to 2 years old, hoping that in this number would be also the new-born Messiah. Herod well know about the unusual birth of John and he wanted to kill him, fearing that he was the foretold King of the Jews. But Righteous Elizabeth hid herself away with the infant in the hills. The murderers searched everywhere for John. Righteous Elizabeth, catching sight of her pursuers, began tearfully to implore God concerning their safety, and immediately the hill opening up concealed her together with the infant from their pursuers. In these tragic days Saint Zachariah was taking his turn making services at the Jerusalem Temple. Soldiers sent by Herod tried in vain to learn from him the whereabouts of his son. Then, by command of Herod, they murdered this holy prophet, having stabbed him betwixt the offertory and the altar (Mt. 23: 35). Righteous Elizabeth died 40 days after her spouse, and Saint John, preserved by the Lord, dwelt in the wilderness until the day of his appearance to the nation of Israel.
Nobleborn Prince Gleb, in Holy Baptism David, was one of the first Russian martyrs -- "Passion-Bearers" ("Strastnoterptsi"); he suffered together with his brother Prince Boris (in Holy Baptism named Roman). After the murder of Saint Boris, Svyatopolk the Accursed sent to his younger brother Prince Gleb a messenger with false information concerning their father, Great-prince Vladimir -- who had died from illness, thereby using deceit to murder another possible claimant to the Kiev throne. The deceived Prince Gleb hastened off towards Kiev with a small company. His apprehensive brother Yaroslav, having caught up with him at Smolensk, was unable to delay the saint, who did not suspect such wickedness on the part of his brother Svyatopolk. Not far from Smolensk the assassins came upon the boat of Saint Gleb, who made no resistance, but only mildly besought that they should spare him because of his yet still young life. At the command of the murderers the cook of Gleb slit his throat. The body of the prince was buried in a desolate place not far from Smolensk, "betwixt two tree-trunks", i.e. in a simple wooden coffin (+ 1015). In the year 1019-1020 his brother Yaroslav found the grave of Saint Gleb, and the body being incorrupt, was transferred to Vyshgorod near Kiev and buried alongside holy Prince Boris. Later on, the relics of the brothers were transferred (Comm. 2 May) into a church of Saint Basil the Great, and there at the crypts of these holy passion-bearers many miracles were worked. The Kiev metropolitan John compiled a service to the passion-bearer princes and also established a feastday for them together on 24 July, which was made from the first half of the XI Century. The Russian Church from of old has venerated these passion-bearer brothers, who unceasingly have rendered prayerful assist to their native land, particularly in years of grievous tribulation. Thus, just before the Nevsky battle in 1240, the Passion-Bearers Boris and Gleb appeared in a vision to one of the soldiers of holy Nobleborn Prince Alexander Nevsky (Comm. 23 November, 30 August and 23 May), and they aided the Russians during the combat. The chronicles are filled with the accounts about the various manifestations of graced mercy, witnessed at their tombs, and about the victories gained through their help. In honour of the holy Passion-Bearers Boris and Gleb many churches and monasteries were built throughout all the various ends of Russia.
The MonkMartyr Athansii (Afanasii) of Bretsk was Belorussian and was born in about the year 1597 into a pious Christian family named Philippovich. He received a serious upbringing, and he knew the theological and historical literature, as is evidenced in the diary of the saint, which has been preserved.
In his youthful years Saint Athanasii for a certain while was a teacher in the houses of Polish merchants. In the year 1627 he accepted tonsure under hegumen Joseph at the Vilensk monastery of the Holy Spirit. The Monk Athanasii was ordained priest-monk in the year 1632 and made head of the Duboisk (Dubovsk) monastery near Pinsk. Saint Athanasii, with a special blessing of the Mother of God, self-denyingly re-established Orthodoxy within the boundaries of the ancient Russian territories that had been seized by the Polish Reche. Between the years 1638-1648 Saint Athanasii fulfilled his obedience as hegumen of the Bretsk Simeonov monastery. The monk endured much abuse from the Uniates and illegal persecution from the civil authorities -- he thrice suffered being locked up in prison. The saint was sent off to the authorities at Kiev to appear before a religious tribunal, but he was acquitted, and returned again to his own monastery. Over the course of ten years the Monk Athanasii, finding himself amidst persons maliciously disposed towards him, led a constant struggle for Holy Orthodoxy, -- his faithfulness to which is evidenced by his sufferings.
Attempts to wear down the spiritual endurance of the saint were to no avail. He again went to trial, by the decision of which, for his cursing of the Unia, the monk was sentenced to death by execution. Saint Athanasii died a martyr on the night of 4-5 September 1648 (the Uncovering of Relics was on 20 July 1679).
The Martyrs Thiphael and his sister Thivea (or Vivea) (+ c. 98-138) suffered for their bold and effective preaching of Christianity among the pagans. After long and intense torture the pagans suspended the holy Martyr Thiphael on a tree and cut at him with a saw, and his sister the Martyr Thivea they killed with a spear thrust in the neck.
The Martyred Soldiers Juventinus and Maximus suffered during the reign of the emperor Julian the Apostate, whom they served as bodyguards. One time while he was at Antioch, Julian decided to make a defilement of Christians, having besprinkled with idol-offering blood all the food-supplies offered in the market-places. Saints Juventinus and Maximus openly condemned the emperor's course of action and they boldly denounced him for his apostasy from the Christian faith. After merciless beatings they were both put to death on orders of the impious emperor (+ c. 361-363).
The Martyrs Urban, Theodore, Medimnos and with them 77 Men of Churchly Rank suffered at Nikomedia during the reign of the Arian-heretic emperor Valentus (Valens) (364-378 or 379). Under this Arian heretic they banished from the Constantinople Church the Orthodox bishop Euagrios, and Christians not wishing to consort with this heresy were locked up into prison and subjected to various outrages. Having then been driven to the point of despair, the Orthodox Christians decided to petition protection from the emperor and they dispatched 80 chosen men of religious rank, headed by Saints Urban, Theodore and Medimnos. Hearing their justified complaints, the emperor flew into a rage. But he know how to hide his wrath, and quietly he summoned the eparch Modestus and ordered him to put the delegates to death. Modestus put them upon a ship, having initially given them to understand the false news that they all would be sent off to imprisonment, while he instead gave orders to the ship-officers to burn the ship on the open sea. The ship was set afire and in the embrace of its flames it thus for awhile floated upon the sea. Finally, reaching a place called Dakizis, the ship burnt up completely together with all the holy martyrs on board it (+ 370).
The Martyr Avdi (or Habib) suffered in Persia during the reign of the emperor Izdegerd I for his refusal to renounce Christ and instead worship the sun and fire. He died after tormenting tortures and until his final gasp he gave thanks to God, for blessing His chosen one to die for His Holy Name.
THE PROLOGUE FROM ORCHID:
1. The Holy Prophet Zacharias
He was the father of St. John the Forerunner. Zacharias was the son of Barachias, from the lineage of Abia, of the sons of Aaron. Zacharias was a high priest who held the eighth degree of service in the Temple at Jerusalem. His wife Elizabeth was the daughter of Sophia and sister of St. Anna, who was the mother of the Holy Theotokos. During the reign of King Herod the child-slayer, Zacharias was serving one day at the Temple of Jerusalem according to his turn. An angel of God appeared to him in the sanctuary, and Zacharias had great fear. The angel said to him: Fear not, Zacharias (Luke 1:13), and announced that Elizabeth would bear a son, in answer to their prayers. But both Zacharias and Elizabeth were old. When Zacharias doubted the words of the heavenly herald, the angel said: I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God (Luke 1:19). Zacharias was struck dumb from that hour, and could not speak until his son was born and he had written on a tablet: His name is John (Luke 1:63). Then his speech returned, and he magnified God. Some time later, when the Lord Jesus had been born and Herod began to slaughter the children of Bethlehem, he sent men to find and kill the son of Zacharias-for Herod had heard all that had happened to Zacharias, and how John had been born. Upon seeing the soldiers coming, Elizabeth took John into her arms-he was a year and a half old at that time-fled from the house with him, and ran to a rocky and desolate place. When she saw the soldiers following her, she cried out to the mountain: "O mountain of God, receive a mother with her child!" and the rock opened and hid the mother and child. Then Herod, enraged that the child John had not been slain, ordered that Zacharias be slain before the altar. The blood of Zacharias was spilled on the marble and dried solid as stone, and remained as a witness to Herod's evil deed. In the place where Elizabeth hid with John a cave opened, water flowed out of it, and a fruit-bearing palm grew, all by the power of God. Forty days after the death of Zacharias, the blessed Elizabeth died. The child John remained in the wilderness, fed by an angel and protected by God's providence, until the day he appeared at the Jordan.
2. The Holy Martyrs Juventius and Maximinus
Little is known about the life of these two holy men, but their suffering for Christ is known from a sermon by St. John Chrysostom praising them. They were soldiers during the rule of Emperor Julian the Apostate. In conversation with others during a military feast, they condemned the emperor for his persecution of Christians. Someone told the emperor of this, and he had them thrown into prison. Some of the emperor's men visited them with the intention of turning them away from the true Faith. They told Juventius and Maximinus that many of their companions had denied Christ. To this, the two nobly replied: "Then we must stand bravely, and offer ourselves as a sacrifice for their apostasy." They were beheaded with the sword in the dark of night, but their relics were found and were revealed to be miracle-working.
3. Seventy Holy Martyrs
Headed by Urban, Theodore and Medimnus, these men were chosen from among the Christians of Constantinople during the Emperor Valens's persecution of Orthodoxy, as the most respected and distinguished citizens of the capital, to go to Nicomedia to implore the heretical emperor (an Arian) to at least spare the lives of Orthodox Christians. The emperor became enraged and told them to go back, but secretly ordered his sailors to set the boat on fire when they were at sea, and to save themselves in a dinghy. The wicked servants of the even more wicked master did this. The bodies of these glorious seventy martyrs were burned and drowned in the sea, but their souls swam on to the haven of eternal blessedness.
4. The Venerable Athanasius
He labored in asceticism in Vilnius, and was later the abbot of a monastery in Brest. Because of his unwavering faith in Orthodoxy, he was beheaded by the Roman Catholics on September 5, 1648. His miracle-working relics repose in Brest.
HYMN OF PRAISE
The Seventy Holy Martyrs
Why is the midnight sea so bright?
What manner of terrible flame springs from the water?
It is the tongue of malice, which speaks with fire,
And burns a ship at sea.
The heretical emperor mocks Orthodoxy,
And burns seventy friends with fire.
It is the feast of Valens, a bestial emperor-
A heretic is often more cruel than an unbeliever.
Seventy deaths! For what crime?
For having stood before the emperor's face with an appeal,
Imploring that he spare the innocent-
For this, he burned them with fire.
The dry boat burned like straw in a stack,
The flame ascended to heaven like an accusation:
The men all knelt in the flames
And raised up a prayer to God and the saints:
"Accept our sacrifice, O All-seeing God!
Help us to sail to the Heavenly Kingdom!"
In the raging flames, the bodies gave off a fragrance,
Like pure incense before the holy altar.
These are the pure sacrifices of Holy Orthodoxy
Strengthened by torture, and glorifying God.
The sea cools the seventy bodies,
And seventy souls take delight in Paradise!
In the Church, their glory is proclaimed,
But the disgraced Valens faces God's punishment.
Men strive in vain to discover those things that God intentionally conceals from them. If God had not permitted, men would never have found gold and silver beneath the earth, or the power of steam or the glow of electrical light. In vain, Herod slaughtered countless children in Bethlehem in order to slay One. That One was hidden from the sight and sword of Herod. In vain did Herod seek John. Behold the wonder: soldiers pursued the aged Elizabeth, who was fleeing with John in her arms-and could not catch up with her! The enraged Herod summoned Zacharias and demanded: "Give me your son John!" The aged priest meekly replied: "I am now serving the Lord God of Israel. I know not where my son is." Insane with rage, Herod ordered Zacharias slain in place of John. The servants of the king entered the Temple and asked Zacharias: "Where have you hidden your son? Give him to us for the king has so ordered. If you do not give him to us, you yourself will die." Zacharias replied: "You will kill my body but the Lord will receive my soul." Thus Zacharias was slain, but Herod was not content with that. The wicked king had no peace, day or night, for he was tormented by a foreboding that John could be that newborn king proclaimed by the Magi from the East. Herod tried to find him, but in vain, for God had intentionally hidden him.
Contemplate God's punishment of David for his sins (II Samuel 17):
1. How Absalom warred with his father and how many people died in that war;
2. How Absalom perished;
3. How David wept bitterly.
on the necessity of a second or spiritual birth
Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God (John 3:3).
Thus the Lord Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, and Nicodemus asked in amazement: "How can this be?" That is, how can a man be born again? Even to this day, many ask: "How can a sensual man become a spiritual man?" "How can a sinner become a righteous one?" "How can the grace of God enter a man and replace his sensual thoughts and will?" "How can the Holy Spirit illuminate the heart of man?" "How can water be changed into wine?" We know that when the Spirit of God descended upon the apostles, they became different men-new men, reborn men. We also know, from thousands of examples, how men of sensual thoughts and sensual life became spiritual men, regenerated men. Therefore, we know that it happened then and happens now, by the action of the grace of God the Holy Spirit. It is not necessary for us to ask how this happens. It is enough for us to know that it does happen, and to strive that it happen in us, for the grace of the Spirit is given to everyone who seeks it and prepares himself to be able to receive it. There is no more difficult task than to explain spiritual things to men who think and judge only sensually. St. John Chrysostom says: "A soul which is given over to passions cannot achieve anything great and noble, for it suffers from a grievous blindness, like that of eyes darkened by the flow of pus." Usually the most sensual men inquire about the greatest divine mysteries. They do not inquire about that in order to know how they can be saved, but rather to confuse the faithful and to ridicule the Faith, and to justify their own sinful and passionate life. Unable to raise themselves to the first rung of the heavenly ladder, they fantasize about the last rung. Brethren, when such as these inquire about the profoundest mysteries of the regeneration of the soul and the Kingdom of Heaven, ask them, first of all, to fulfill the ten basic commandments of God. If they do this, then their souls will be opened to the understanding of the Divine Mysteries, inasmuch as that understanding is necessary for the cleansing of their sins and passions, and for eternal salvation.
O Lord Jesus Christ, our Most-gracious and All-wise Teacher, help us to understand with our minds, and embrace with our hearts, as much of Thy wisdom as is necessary for our salvation. Help us to keep ourselves from undue curiosity.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.