Polycarp the Holy Martyr & Bishop of Smyrna
Proterios, Archbishop of Alexandria
Gorgonia the Righteous, sister of Gregory the Theologian
Damian the New Martyr of Mount Athos
Τῶν Ἁγίων Ἱερομαρτύρων Πολυκάρπου, Ἐπισκόπου Σμύρνης καί Προτερίου, Ἀρχιεπισκόπου Ἀλεξανδρείας.
READINGS FROM THE BIBLE:
St. Paul's Second Letter to Timothy 2:11-19
Prokeimenon. Mode Plagal 2.
Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous.
Verse: Blessed are they whose transgressions have been forgiven.
TIMOTHY, my son, the saying is sure: If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful - for he cannot deny himself.
Remind them of this, and charge them before the Lord to avoid disputing about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. Avoid such godless chatter, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will eat its way like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaios and Philetos, who have swerved from the truth by holding that the resurrection is past already. They are upsetting the faith of some. But God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Let every one who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity."
Πρὸς Τιμόθεον β' 2:11-19
Προκείμενον. Ἦχος πλ β΄.
Εὐφράνθητι ἐπὶ Κύριον, καὶ ἀγαλλιᾶσθε δίκαιοι.
Στίχ. Μακάριοι, ὧν ἀφέθησαν αἱ ἀνομίαι.
Τέκνον Τιμόθεε, πιστὸς ὁ λόγος· εἰ γὰρ συναπεθάνομεν, καὶ συζήσομεν· 12 εἰ ὑπομένομεν, καὶ συμβασιλεύσομεν· εἰ ἀρνούμεθα, κἀκεῖνος ἀρνήσεται ἡμᾶς· 13 εἰ ἀπιστοῦμεν, ἐκεῖνος πιστὸς μένει· ἀρνήσασθαι ἑαυτὸν οὐ δύναται.
14 Ταῦτα ὑπομίμνησκε, διαμαρτυρόμενος ἐνώπιον τοῦ κυρίου μὴ λογομαχεῖν εἰς οὐδὲν χρήσιμον, ἐπὶ καταστροφῇ τῶν ἀκουόντων. 15 Σπούδασον σεαυτὸν δόκιμον παραστῆσαι τῷ θεῷ, ἐργάτην ἀνεπαίσχυντον, ὀρθοτομοῦντα τὸν λόγον τῆς ἀληθείας. 16 Τὰς δὲ βεβήλους κενοφωνίας περιΐστασο· ἐπὶ πλεῖον γὰρ προκόψουσιν ἀσεβείας, 17 καὶ ὁ λόγος αὐτῶν ὡς γάγγραινα νομὴν ἕξει· ὧν ἐστὶν Ὑμέναιος καὶ Φιλητός· 18 οἵτινες περὶ τὴν ἀλήθειαν ἠστόχησαν, λέγοντες τὴν ἀνάστασιν ἤδη γεγονέναι, καὶ ἀνατρέπουσιν τήν τινων πίστιν. 19 Ὁ μέντοι στερεὸς θεμέλιος τοῦ θεοῦ ἕστηκεν, ἔχων τὴν σφραγῖδα ταύτην, Ἔγνω κύριος τοὺς ὄντας αὐτοῦ, καί, Ἀποστήτω ἀπὸ ἀδικίας πᾶς ὁ ὀνομάζων τὸ ὄνομα κυρίου.
The Gospel of Luke 18:2-8
The Lord said this parable, "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor regarded man; and there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, 'Vindicate me against my adversary.' For a while he refused; but afterward he said to himself, 'Though I neither fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will vindicate her, or she will wear me out by her continual coming.'" And the Lord said, "Hear, what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will vindicate them speedily."
Κατὰ Λουκᾶν 18.2-8
Εἶπεν ὁ Κύριος τήν παραβολὴν ταύτην· Κριτής τις ἦν ἔν τινι πόλει, τὸν θεὸν μὴ φοβούμενος, καὶ ἄνθρωπον μὴ ἐντρεπόμενος· χήρα δὲ ἦν ἐν τῇ πόλει ἐκείνῃ, καὶ ἤρχετο πρὸς αὐτόν, λέγουσα, Ἐκδίκησόν με ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀντιδίκου μου. Καὶ οὐκ ἠθέλησεν ἐπὶ χρόνον· μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα εἶπεν ἐν ἑαυτῷ, Εἰ καὶ τὸν θεὸν οὐ φοβοῦμαι, καὶ ἄνθρωπον οὐκ ἐντρέπομαι· διά γε τὸ παρέχειν μοι κόπον τὴν χήραν ταύτην, ἐκδικήσω αὐτήν, ἵνα μὴ εἰς τέλος ἐρχομένη ὑποπιάζῃ με. Εἶπεν δὲ ὁ κύριος, Ἀκούσατε τί ὁ κριτὴς τῆς ἀδικίας λέγει. Ὁ δὲ θεὸς οὐ μὴ ποιήσῃ τὴν ἐκδίκησιν τῶν ἐκλεκτῶν αὐτοῦ τῶν βοώντων πρὸς αὐτὸν ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτός, καὶ μακροθυμῶν ἐπʼ αὐτοῖς; Λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ποιήσει τὴν ἐκδίκησιν αὐτῶν ἐν τάχει.
READINGS FROM THE SYNAXARION:
Σοὶ Πολύκαρπος ὡλοκαυτώθη Λόγε,
Καρπὸν πολὺν δοὺς ἐκ πυρὸς ξενοτρόπως.
Εἰκάδι ἐν τριτάτῃ κατὰ φλὸξ Πολύκαρπον ἔκαυσεν.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, Μνήμη τῶν Ὁσίων πατέρων ἡμῶν, Ἰωάννου, Μωϋσέως, Ἀντιόχου, καὶ Ἀντωνίνου.
Σύνταγμα τετράριθμον ἀνδρῶν τιμίων,
Συντάσσεταί σοι, καὶ μεθίσταται βίου.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, ἡ Ἁγία Γοργονία, ἡ ἀδελφὴ τοῦ Ἁγίου Γρηγορίου τοῦ Θεολόγου, ἐν εἰρήνῃ τελειοῦται.
Τιμῶ τελευτὴν σὴν σιγῇ, Γοργονία,
Γρηγορίου μέλψαντος αὐτὴν ἐκ λόγων.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, ὁ Ἅγιος Μάρτυς Κλήμης ξίφει τελειοῦται.
Κλήμης, τὸ κλῆμα τῆς νοητῆς ἀμπέλου,
Καινόν τι γλεῦκος, αἷμα τμηθεὶς ἐκχέει.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, ἡ Ἁγία Μάρτυς Θεὴ ξίφει τελειοῦται.
Θεὴν ἀποσκώπτουσαν εἰς θεοὺς πλάνους,
Οἱ τῆς πλάνης κτείνουσι προστάται ξίφει.
Τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ, Μνήμη τῶν Ὁσίων πατέρων ἡμῶν Ζεβινᾶ, Πολυχρονίου, Μωσέως, καὶ Δαμιανοῦ.
Θεῖος Ζεβινᾶς λῆξιν εἰς θείαν φθάνει,
Λήξαντος αὐτῷ τοῦ παρ' ἀνθρώποις βίου.
Πολυχρόνιος, καὶ συνασκηταὶ δύω.
Οἱ τρεῖς ὁμοῦ πληροῦσι τοὺς ζωῆς χρόνους.
Ταῖς αὐτῶν ἁγίαις Πρεσβείαις, ὁ Θεὸς ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς. Ἀμήν.
This apostolic and prophetic man, and model of faith and truth, was a disciple of John the Evangelist, successor of Bucolus (Feb. 6), and teacher of Irenaeus (Aug. 23). He was an old man and full of days when the fifth persecution was raised against the Christians under Marcus Aurelius. When his pursuers, sent by the ruler, found Polycarp, he commanded that they be given something to eat and drink, then asked them to give him an hour to pray; he stood and prayed, full of grace, for two hours, so that his captors repented that they had come against so venerable a man. He was brought by the Proconsul of Smyrna into the stadium and was commanded, "Swear by the fortune of Caesar; repent, and say, 'Away with the atheists.'" By atheists, the Proconsul meant the Christians. But Polycarp, gazing at the heathen in the stadium, waved his hand towards them and said, "Away with the atheists." When the Proconsul urged him to blaspheme against Christ, he said: "I have been serving Christ for eighty-six years, and He has wronged me in nothing; how can I blaspheme my King Who has saved me?" But the tyrant became enraged at these words and commanded that he be cast into the fire, and thus he gloriously expired about the year 163. As Eusebius says, "Polycarp everywhere taught what he had also learned from the Apostles, which also the Church has handed down; and this alone is true" (Eccl. Hist., Book IV, ch. 14,15).
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Τὴν κλῆσιν τοῖς ἔργοις σου, ἐπισφραγίσας σοφέ, ἐλαία κατάκαρπος, ὤφθης ἐν οἴκῳ Θεοῦ, Πολύκαρπε ἔνδοξε. Σὺ γὰρ ὡς Ἱεράρχης, καὶ στεῤῥὸς Ἀθλοφόρος, τρέφεις τὴν Ἐκκλησίαν, λογικῇ εὐκαρπίᾳ, πρεσβεύων Ἱερομάρτυς, ὑπὲρ τῶν ψυχῶν ἡμῶν.
As a sharer of the ways and a successor to the throne of the Apostles, O inspired of God, thou foundest discipline to be a means of ascent to divine vision. Wherefore, having rightly divided the word of truth, thou didst also contest for the Faith even unto blood, O Hieromartyr Polycarp. Intercede with Christ our God that our souls be saved.
Kontakion in the First Tone
Καρπούς τούς λογικούς, τώ Κυρίω προσφέρων, Πολύκαρπε σοφέ, αρετών δι' ενθέων, εδείχθης αξιόθεος, Ιεράρχα μακάριε, όθεν σήμερον, οι φωτισθέντες σοίς λόγοις, ανυμνούμέν σου, τήν αξιέπαινον μνήμην, δοξάζοντες Κύριον.
Through godly virtues, thou broughtest forth for the Lord God much spiritual fruit, O thou most blessed Hierarch, and so didst prove worthy of God thy Lord, O wise Polycarp. Wherefore, on this day we who have all been enlightened through thy holy words extol thy praiseworthy mem'ry and glorify Christ the Lord.
Σήμερα η Εκκλησία επιτελεί την μνήμη ενός από τους πρώτους Πατέρας και Μάρτυρας, του αγίου Πολυκάρπου Επισκόπου Σμύρνης. Όταν διαβάζουμε το Μαρτύριο του αγίου Πολυκάρπου, έν' από τα αρχαιότερα χριστιανικά γραπτά μνημεία, βλέπομε την αγιότητα, την καλωσύνη, την πίστη και την αγάπη στον Χριστό του αγίου αυτού Επισκόπου. Όταν τον προκάλεσαν να αρνηθή και να βλασφημήση τον Χριστό, εκείνος απάντησε· "Ογδόντα χρόνια υπηρετώ τον Κύριό μου...και τώρα να τον υβρίσω; Να βλασφημήσω τον Θεό και Σωτήρα μου; Ποτέ!". Πώς να μη θαυμάσουμε τέτοια πιστή αφοσίωση και τέτοιο υψηλό φρόνημα και πώς να μην αισθανώμαστε βαθειά λύπη, όταν ακούμε τους χριστιανούς να βλασφημούν το όνομα του Θεού και τα άγια της πίστεώς των; Τίποτα περισσότερο δεν εκθέτει τον άνθρωπο σαν ασεβή και ανάγωγο, όσο όταν υβρίζη και βλασφημή τα θεία.
Ὁ Ἅγιος Πολύκαρπος ἐπίσκοπος Σμύρνης
Γεννήθηκε 60 χρόνια περίπου μετὰ τὸ Χριστό. Στὸν 20ό χρόνο τῆς ἡλικίας του ἔγινε χριστιανός. Ὅπως γράφει ὁ μαθητής του Εἰρηναῖος, ὁ Πολύκαρπος ἦταν στολισμένος μὲ μεγάλη σωφροσύνη, αὐστηρότητα ἠθῶν καὶ ὁλόψυχη ἀφοσίωση στὴ διδασκαλία τοῦ θείου λόγου. Τὰ προτερήματά του αὐτὰ καὶ ἡ γενναιοψυχία του, τὸν ἔκαναν πολὺ ἀγαπητὸ στὸν εὐαγγελιστὴ Ἰωάννη, ποὺ ἀργότερα τὸν ἀνέδειξε ἐπίσκοπο Σμύρνης. Στὸ ἀξίωμα αὐτό, ἐπιτελοῦσε τὰ καθήκοντά του μὲ ζῆλο καθαρὰ ἀποστολικό. Ἀναδείχθηκε ὁ διδάσκαλος, ὁ πατήρ, ὁ ποιμήν, ὁ φρουρός. Ὅταν ἄρχισαν οἱ διωγμοὶ κατὰ τῶν χριστιανῶν, ἐπὶ αὐτοκράτορα Ἀντωνίου Πίου, ὁ ἀνθύπατος τῆς Μ. Ἀσίας Στάτιος Κοδράτος, μετὰ ἀπὸ μανιώδη ἀπαίτηση τοῦ εἰδωλολατρικοῦ ὄχλου, συνέλαβε τὸν Πολύκαρπο καὶ τὸν διέταξε νὰ βλασφημήσει δημόσια τὸ Χριστό. Ὁ γέροντας ἐπίσκοπος ἀπάντησε: «Ἐπὶ 86 χρόνια Τὸν ὑπηρετῶ, χωρὶς καθόλου νὰ μὲ ἀδικήσει. Καὶ πὼς μπορῶ τώρα νὰ βλασφημήσω τὸν Βασιλέα καὶ Σωτῆρα μου;» Ἀμέσως τότε, τὸν ἔριξαν στὴ φωτιὰ νὰ καεῖ ζωντανός. Ἀλλ᾿ ἡ φωτιὰ τὸν ἀφήνει ἀνέγγιχτο! Τότε, ἕνας δήμιος τὸν χτυπᾷ μὲ τὸ ξίφος του καὶ τὸν θανατώνει. Ἔτσι στὶς 23 Φεβρουαρίου τοῦ 167, ὁ μέγας ἀθλητὴς τῆς πίστης τερματίζει τὴν ζωή του. Στὸ πρόσωπό του, βέβαια, ἐφαρμόστηκε πλήρως ὁ λόγος τοῦ Θεοῦ στὴν Ἀποκάλυψη: «Μηδὲν φοβοῦ, ἃ μέλλεις παθεῖν... Γίνου πιστὸς ἄχρι θανάτου καὶ δώσω σοι τὸν στέφανον τῆς ζωῆς». Δηλαδή, μὴ φοβᾶσαι γι᾿ αὐτὰ ποὺ πρόκειται νὰ πάθεις. Φρόντιζε νὰ εἶσαι πιστὸς μέχρι θανάτου καὶ ἐγὼ θὰ σοῦ δώσω τὸ στεφάνι τῆς αἰώνιας ζωῆς.
Οἱ Ἅγιοι Ἰωάννης, Μωϋσῆς, Ἀντίοχος καὶ Ἀντώνιος (ἢ Ἀντωνῖνος)
Ἀπ᾿ αὐτοὺς ὁ Ἰωάννης, ὑπῆρξε μαθητὴς τοῦ Ὁσ. Λιμναίου (22 Φεβρουαρίου). Διακρίθηκαν καὶ οἱ τέσσερις γιὰ τὴν ἐγκράτεια καὶ τὴν πνευματικότητα, ποὺ ἔδειξαν στὴν ἀσκητικὴ ζωή τους. Δὲν ὑπῆρξαν μόνο ἀκτήμονες, ἥρωες τῆς ἀγρυπνίας καὶ ἀθλητὲς τῆς προσευχῆς- ἀλλὰ ἔλαμψαν καὶ γιὰ τὴν πραότητά τους, τὴν μετριοπάθεια, τὴν ἐπιείκεια, τὴν γλυκύτητα τῆς ὁμιλίας καὶ τὴν ἠπιότητα τῆς συμπεριφορᾶς τους. Ἡ ἐρημικὴ ζωὴ μέσα στὴ φύση, δὲν τοὺς ἔκανε σκληροὺς ἀλλὰ τοὺς ἐξευγένιζε. Ἔτσι ἔτρεφαν τὴν πίστη τους καὶ ἐνίσχυαν τὴν ἀγάπη τους. Ἀλλὰ καὶ σὲ διάφορες εὐκαιρίες, εἴτε πρὸς ἄλλους μοναχοὺς εἴτε πρὸς τὸν κόσμο, ἔδειξαν εἰλικρινὴ ἀδελφικὴ ἀγάπη, διότι εἶχαν ἐννοήσει καλὰ τὸ λόγο τοῦ Εὐαγγελίου, ὅτι δηλαδὴ ἡ ἀγάπη πρὸς τὸν Θεὸ μένει διεστραμμένη καὶ ἀνώφελη, ὅπου νεκρώνεται καὶ δὲν ἀνθεῖ ἡ ἀγάπη πρὸς τὸν πλησίον.
Οἱ Ὅσιοι Ζεβινᾶς, Πολυχρόνιος, Μωϋσῆς καὶ Δαμιανός
Τοὺς βίους τους συνέγραψε ὁ Κύρου Θεοδώρητος στὴ Φιλόθεο Ἱστορία του. Ἀναφέρεται ὅτι ἦταν ἀπὸ τὴν Συρία καὶ ὁ μὲν Ζεβινᾶς κατασκεύασε ἕνα κελλὶ σὲ κάποιο ὄρος, καὶ ἐκεῖ ὑπέβαλλε τὸν ἑαυτό του μέχρι τὰ βαθιὰ γεράματά του σὲ ἀσκητικοὺς ἀγῶνες. Μαζὶ δὲ μ᾿ αὐτόν, ἦταν καὶ οἱ μαθητές του Πολυχρόνιος, Μωϋσῆς καὶ Δαμιανός. Ἀφοῦ ὅλοι πέρασαν τὴν ζωή τους μὲ ἀκατάπαυστες προσευχὲς καὶ νηστεῖες, ἀπεβίωσαν εἰρηνικά.
Ἡ Ἁγία Γοργονία ἀδελφὴ Γρηγορίου Θεολόγου
Ἦταν νεότερη ἀδελφὴ τοῦ ἁγίου Γρηγορίου τοῦ Θεολόγου καὶ κόρη τῆς εὐσεβέστατης Νόννας καὶ τοῦ ἐπισκόπου Ναζιανζοῦ Γρηγορίου. Ἀφοῦ ἀνατράφηκε μὲ εὐσέβεια, ἀναδείχτηκε ἰσάξια στὴν ἀρετὴ πρὸς τοὺς γονεῖς καὶ τοὺς ἀδελφούς της Γρηγόριο τὸν Θεολόγο καὶ Καισάριο τὸν ἰατρό. Ὁ δὲ ἀδελφός της Γρηγόριος ὁ Θεολόγος γράφει, μεταξὺ ἄλλων, γι᾿ αὐτή: «Σὰν νοικοκυρά, σὰν σύζυγος, σὰν μητέρα, ὑπῆρξε ἀνώτερη ἀπὸ τὴν ἐνάρετη γυναῖκα, ποὺ τὸν τύπο περιγράφει τὸ τελευταῖο κεφάλαιο τῶν Παροιμιῶν τοῦ Σολομῶντος. Ἦταν ὀξύτατη διάνοια, γνώριζε τὶς Γραφές, δίδασκε καὶ ἔπραττε σύμφωνα μὲ τὶς θεῖες ἐντολές. Ἦταν ἱλαρὴ καὶ σεμνή, κόσμια, συνετή, ἤρεμη, κυρίαρχη τῆς γλώσσας της καὶ τῆς ἀκοῆς της, καὶ ἡ χριστιανικὴ τελειότητά της ἦταν γεμάτη ταπεινοφροσύνη. Ἀγαποῦσε τὴν προσευχή, τὴν ψαλμῳδία, τὶς κοινὲς καὶ τόσο κατανυκτικὲς τῶν χρόνων ἐκείνων ἀγρυπνίες. Ὅλη της ἡ ζωὴ ὑπῆρξε κάθαρση καὶ τελείωση». Μία ἀῤῥώστια τὴν ἔστειλε πρόωρα στὶς αἰώνιες Μονές.
Οἱ Ἅγιοι Κλήμης καὶ Ἀντώνιος
Μαρτύρησαν διὰ ξίφους. (Ὁ δὲ Ἀντώνιος, ἴσως εἶναι ὁ ἴδιος μ᾿ αὐτὸν τῆς 25ης Φεβρουαρίου).
Ἡ Ἁγία Θέη
Μαρτύρησε διὰ ξίφους.
Ὁ Ὅσιος Δαμιανὸς ὁ Ἐσφιγμενίτης
Πότε καὶ ποὺ γεννήθηκε δὲν γνωρίζουμε. Ὁ βίος του σῴζεται σὲ νεότερο χειρόγραφό της Ἱ. Μονῆς Ἐσφιγμένου. Σύμφωνα μὲ προφορικὴ παράδοση, ὁ Ὅσιος Δαμιανὸς ἀπὸ νεαρὸς ἀκόμα, ἐγκατέλειψε τὰ ἐγκόσμια καὶ ἔγινε μοναχὸς στὴ Μονὴ Ἐσφιγμένου του Ἁγίου Ὄρους. Ἦταν τύπος καὶ παράδειγμα μοναχοῦ στοὺς ἐκεῖ μοναχούς. Μετὰ ἀπὸ ἄδεια τοῦ ἡγουμένου τῆς Μονῆς, γιὰ περισσότερη ἄσκηση, ἀποσύρθηκε στὸ ἀπέναντι ἀπὸ τὸ κοινόβιο ὄρος, τῆς Σαμάρειας ὅπως τὸ ἔλεγαν. Κάποτε πῆγε σὲ κάποιο φίλο του μοναχό, ἀλλὰ δὲν τὸν βρῆκε στὸ κελλί του καὶ κάθισε καὶ τὸν περίμενε μέχρι τὸ βράδυ ποὺ ἦλθε. Ἀφοῦ συζήτησαν μαζί, ξεκίνησε νὰ φύγει. Ἡ ὥρα ὅμως ἦταν περασμένη καὶ ἔξω εἶχε ἀρχίσει καταῤῥακτώδης βροχή. Ἀλλ᾿ ἐπειδὴ ὁ Γέροντάς του τοῦ εἶπε νὰ μὴ κοιμᾶται ποτὲ ἔξω ἀπὸ τὸ καλύβι του, ὁ Ὅσιος ἔκανε τέλεια ὑπακοὴ καὶ κάτω ἀπ᾿ αὐτὲς τὶς ἀντίξοες καιρικὲς συνθῆκες ξεκίνησε γιὰ τὸ κελλί του. Σὲ κάποια στιγμὴ ὅμως χάθηκε καὶ δὲν μποροῦσε νὰ κάνει βῆμα μπροστὰ ἀπὸ τὴν νεροποντή. Ἡ φωνή του ἀμέσως ὑψώθηκε πρὸς τὸν Θεὸ καὶ εἶπε: «Κύριε σῶσε με, χάνομαι». Καὶ τὸ θαῦμα ἔγινε. Βρέθηκε χωρὶς νὰ τὸ καταλάβει μπροστὰ στὸ κελλί του. Ἔτσι θεάρεστα ἀφοῦ ἔζησε ἀπεβίωσε εἰρηνικὰ τὸ 1280 καὶ γιὰ 40 μέρες μετὰ τὴν κοίμησή του, ἔβγαινε ἀπὸ τὸν τάφο του θαυμάσια εὐωδιὰ μύρου, ποὺ οἱ Πατέρες στὸ μοναστήρι τοῦ Ἐσφιγμένου τὴν καταλάβαιναν ἀπὸ ἕνα μίλι μακριὰ καὶ δόξαζαν τὸν Θεό.
(Ἀπὸ ὁρισμένους Συναξαριστές, περιττῶς ἀναφέρεται τὴν ἡμέρα αὐτὴ καὶ ἡ μνήμη τοῦ Ὁσιομάρτυρα Δαμιανοῦ (1568), ποὺ ἡ κυρίως μνήμη του ἑορτάζεται τὴν 14η Φεβρουαρίου).
Hieromartyr Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna (167)
He was born at Ephesus around the year 70. St Irenaeus of Lyons, his disciple, says that St Polycarp was 'a disciple of the Apostles and acquainted with those who had seen the Lord.' His parents died as martyrs, and he was given into the care of a devout lady named Callista. As a child, the Saint was so eager to follow the commandments of Christ that he repeatedly emptied his foster-mother's pantry to feed the poor. Since her supplies were always miraculously renewed, Callista changed his name from Pancratius to Polykarpos, meaning 'Much fruit.'
When grown, Polycarp became a disciple of St John the Theologian, and in time became Bishop of Smyrna; it is told that the messages to the Church at Smyrna in the Book of Revelation are addressed to St Polycarp and his flock. He knew St Ignatius of Antioch personally, and some of their correspondence is preserved.
Polycarp led his Church in holiness for more than fifty years, and became known throughout the Christian world as a true shepherd and standard-bearer of the Faith. About the year 154 he traveled to Rome and consulted with Pope Anacletus on the defense of the Faith.
Not long after he returned to Smyrna, a fierce persecution was unleashed against Christians in Asia Minor; along with many others, St Polycarp was arrested, having predicted his imminent martyrdom. (The account of his martyrdom that follows is based on eyewitness accounts gathered immediately after his death.)
On the evening of Holy Friday, soldiers burst into the farmhouse where he was staying. The Bishop welcomed them cheerfully, and ordered that a meal be prepared for them. He was granted some time to pray, and for two hours stood commemorating everyone that he had known and praying for the Church throughout the world. His captors sorrowed that they had come to take such a venerable man, and reluctantly took him to the Proconsul. When urged to deny Christ and save his life, the aged Saint replied, 'For eighty-six years I have been his servant, and he has wronged me in nothing; how can I blaspheme my King and Savior?' Told that he would die by fire if he did not apostatize, Polycarp replied 'You threaten me with a fire that burns for a short time and then goes out, while you know nothing of the fire of the judgment to come and of the everlasting torment awaiting the wicked. Why wait any longer? Do what you will!'
Placed on the pyre, Polycarp lifted his eyes heavenward and gave thanks to God for finding him worthy to share with the holy Martyrs of the cup of Christ. When he had said his Amen, the executioners lit the fire. The eyewitnesses write that the fire sprang up around him like a curtain, and that he stood in its midst glowing like gold and sending forth a delightful scent of incense. Seeing that the fire was not harming him, the executioners stabbed him with a sword. His blood flowed so copiously that it put out the fire, and he gave back his soul to God. His relics were burned by the persecutors, but Christians rescued a few fragments of bone, which were venerated for many generations on the anniversary of his repose.
Saint Gorgonia (372)
She was the elder sister of St Gregory the Theologian (Jan. 25), and the daughter of St Gregory Nazianzen the Elder (January 1) and St Nonna (August 5). She married Alypius, a citizen of Iconium, and with him had three daughters. She became a holy guide to countless Christians whose lot it was to live out their Faith in the world. The Synaxarion says, "Her wisdom and knowledge of all that pertains to godliness made her the very model of a Christian wife. Her relatives, fellow-citizens, and numerous strangers relied on her as a counsellor who would indicate the Christian response in any of the knotty problems which they encountered while living in the world. She was foremost in her care for the churches of God, and in her respect for the priests and clergy, to whom the doors of her house were always open. Neither had she her equal in almsgiving nor in compassion for all the afflicted, so that you could well say that, like righteous Job, she was eyes to the blind, feet to the lame, a mother to the orphans."
She received holy Baptism late in life, as was common at that time, and soon afterward the day of her death was revealed to her. She fell ill on the appointed day and, gathering her family and friends around her bed, gave them her final counsels. She then reposed in peace.
Our Venerable Father Alexander the Unsleeping (430)
He was born sometime in the mid-fourth century on an island in the Aegean. For a time he lived successfully in the world, receiving a good education in Constantinople, then serving for a time for the Prefect of the Praetorium. But, becoming aware of the vanity of worldly things, he answered Christ's call, gave away all his goods to the poor and entered a monastery in Syria. After four years in obedience, he came to feel that the security of monastic life was inconsistent with the Gospel command to take no thought for the morrow; so he withdrew to the desert, taking with him only his garment and the Book of the Gospel. There he lived alone for seven years.
At the end of this period he set out on an apostolic mission to Mesopotamia, where he brought many to Christ: the city prefect Rabbula was converted after Alexander brought down fire from heaven, and a band of brigands who accosted the Saint on the road were transformed into a monastic community. He finally fled the city when the Christians there rose up demanding that he be made bishop. He once again took up a solitary life in the desert beyond the Euphrates, spending the day in prayer and part of the night sheltered in a barrel. There he remained for forty years. His holiness gradually attracted more than four hundred disciples, whom Alexander organized into a monastic community. Each disciple owned only one tunic, and was required to give away anything that they did not need for that day. (despite this threadbare life, the monastery was able to set up and run a hospice for the poor!)
Alexander was perplexed as to how the admonition Pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17) could be fulfilled by frail human flesh, but after three years of fasting and prayer, God showed him a method. He organized his monks into four groups according to whether their native language was Greek, Latin, Syriac or Coptic, and the groups prayed in shifts throughout the day and night. Twenty-four divine services were appointed each day, and the monks would chant from the Psalter between services. The community henceforth came to be known as the Akoimetoi, the Unsleeping Ones.
[Note: Similar communities later sprang up in the West, practicing what was there called Laus Perennis; St Columban founded many of these.} Always desiring to spread the holy Gospel, Saint Alexander sent companies of missionaries to the pagans of southern Egypt. He and a company of 150 disciples set out as a kind of traveling monastery, living entirely on the charity of the villages they visited. Eventually they settled in some abandoned baths in Antioch, setting up a there a monastery dedicated to the unceasing praise of God; but a jealous bishop drove them from the city. Making his way to Constantinople, he settled there with four monks. In a few days, more than four hundred monks had left their monasteries to join his community. The Saint organized them into three companies — Greeks, Latins and Syrians &mash; and restored the program of unsleeping prayer that his community had practiced in Mesopotamia. Not surprisingly, his success aroused the envy and anger of the abbots whose monasteries had been nearly emptied; they managed to have him condemned as a Messalian at a council held in 426. (The Messalians were an over-spiritualizing sect who believed that the Christian life consisted exclusively of prayer.) Alexander was sent back to Syria, and most of his monks were imprisoned; but as soon as they were released, most fled the city to join him again. The Saint spent his last years traveling from place to place, founding monasteries, often persecuted, until he reposed in 430, 'to join the Angelic choirs which he had so well imitated on earth.' (Synaxarion)
The practice of unceasing praise, established by St Alexander, spread throughout the Empire. The Monastery of hte Akoimetoi, founded by a St Marcellus, a successor of Alexander, was established in Constantinople and became a beacon to the Christian world. 'Even though it has not been retained in today's practice, the unceasing praise established by Saint Alexander was influential in the formation of the daily cycle of liturgical offices in the East and even more so in the West.' (Synaxarion)
Sainted Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, was born about the year 80 and lived in Asia Minor in the city of Smyrna. He was left an orphan at an early age, but through the direction of an Angel, he was raised by the pious widow Kallista. After the death of his adoptive mother, Polycarp gave away his possessions and began to lead a chaste life, caring for the sick and the infirm. He was very fond of and close to the holy bishop of Smyrna Bukolos (Comm. 6 February). He ordained Polycarp as deacon, entrusting to him to preach the Word of God in church.
At this time the holy Apostle John the Theologian was still alive. Saint Polycarp was especially close to Saint John the Theologian, whom he accompanied on his apostolic wanderings. Sainted Bukolos ordained Saint Polycarp presbyter, and shortly before his death expressed last wishes that he be made bishop upon the Smyrna cathedra. When the ordination of Saint Polycarp to bishop was accomplished, the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him. Saint Polycarp guided his flock with apostolic zeal. He was also greatly loved among the clergy. With great warmth did Saint Ignatios the God-Bearer regard him. Setting out to Rome where execution awaited him (he was torn asunder by wild beasts), he wrote to Saint Polycarp: "Just as the winds and turbulence require the rudder -- for coming ashore, so likewise are the present times necessary, in order to reach God".
The emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180) came upon the Roman throne and started up a most fierce persecution against christians. The pagans demanded that the judge seek out Saint Polycarp -- "the father of all the christians" and "the seducer of all Asia". During this while Saint Polycarp, at the persistent urging of his flock, stayed at a small village not far from Smyrna. When the soldiers came for him, he went out to them and led them in to eat, and at this time he began to pray, having prepared himself for the deed of martyrdom. His suffering and death are recorded in "An Epistle of the Christians of the Church of Smyrna to the other Churches" -- one of the most ancient memorials of Christian literature. Having been brought to trial, Saint Polycarp firmly confessed his faith in Christ and was condemned to burning. The executioners wanted to tie him to a post, but he calmly told them that the bon-fire would not work, and they could merely tie him with ropes. The flames encircled the saint but did not touch him, coming all together over his head. Seeing that the fire did him no harm, the throng of pagans demanded that he be killed with a sword. When they inflicted the wound upon Saint Polycarp, there flowed from it so much blood, that it extinguished the flames. The body of the priestmartyr Polycarp was then committed to flame. The Christians of Smyrna reverently gathered up his venerable remains, honouring his memory as sacred.
A story has been preserved about Saint Polycarp by his disciple, Sainted Ireneios of Lyons, which Eusebios cites in his "Ecclesiastical History" (V, 20): "I was still very young when I saw thee in Asia Minor at Polycarp's, -- writes Saint Ireneios to his friend Florinus, -- ...but I would still be able to point out the place where Blessed Polycarp sat and conversed, -- be able to depict his walk, his mannerisms in life, his outward appearance, his speaking to people, his companionable wandering with John, and how he himself related, together with other eye-witnesses of the Lord, -- those things that he remembered from the words of others and in turn told what he heard from them about the Lord, His teachings and miracles ... Through the mercy of God to me, I then already listened attentively to Polycarp and wrote down his words not on tablets, but in the depths of my heart ... Wherefore, I am able to witness before God, that if this blessed and apostolic elder heard something similar to thy fallacy, he would immediately stop up his ears and express his indignation with his usual phrase: 'Good God! That Thou hast permitted me to be alive at such a time!' ".
During his life the sainted bishop wrote several Epistles to the flock and letters to various individuals. There has survived to the present his Epistle to the Philippians which, on the testimony of Blessed Jerome, was read in the churches of Asia Minor at Divine-services. It was written by the saint in response to the request of the Philippians to send them a letter of the PriestMartyr Ignatios, which had been preserved by Saint Polycarp.
The Monk Polykarp of Bryansk, so they conjecture, was in the world prince Peter Ivanovich Boryatinsky, a descendant of Saint Michael, Prince of Chernigov (Comm. 20 September). This supposition has been put forward because of the Boryatinsky in the destiny of the Bryansk Saviour Transfiguration (Spaso-Preobrazhensk) monastery. His life transpired during the course of the XVI Century. The name of prince Peter Boryatinsky is often encountered in documents of the XVI Century. Thus, he was among those sent off to wage war against the Swedish king at the river Sestra. In 1576 he was named voevoda at Tula. In 1580 Boryatinsky, having been appointed voevoda at Kholm, was captured by the Lithuanians under a siege headed by Panin. Upon his release from captivity under Boris Godinov, Boryatinsky returned in disgrace. In 1591 he was named voevoda at Tiumen', but after several years he left the world, settled at Bryansk and took monastic vows with the name Polykarp. From his means the monk built a monastery of the Transfiguration of the Lord and established in it strict ascetic life. Saint Polykarp was the first head of this monastery. He died and was buried there in 1620 or 1621.
The Monk John, disciple of Saint Limnios (Comm. 22 February), lived in Syria in the V Century, and chose for himself the ascetic deed of "a shelterless life". He settled on an hill, closed off from the wind on all sides, and lived there for 25 years. He nourished himself but with bread and salt, and he exhausted his body under heavy chains. When one of the nearby ascetics planted an almond tree on the hill so that the monk might get under its shade and out of the vicious heat, the saint bid him to cut it down, so as not to give his body any respite.
The Monk Moses, copying Saint John, settled on an high mountain near the village of Rama.
The Monks Antiochos and Antoninos likewise pursued asceticism with him. Until extreme old age they continued with their ascetic deed, offering an example of spiritual strength, and having surmounted every obstacle.
The Monk Zevinos pursued ascetic life on the same mountain. He reached extreme old age, but never did he sit down during his rule of prayer, though sometimes he merely leaned on his staff. The neighbouring inhabitants venerated the monk Zevinos, and they received through his prayers great help in their sorrows and needs.
Saint Polychronios, a disciple of the monk Zevinos, copying the life of his elder spent both day and night in fasting and vigil. Chains the monk Polychronios had not, but at the time of prayer he put upon his shoulders an heavy oaken root, which he himself had extracted from the earth. By his prayer Saint Polychronios interceded with God for rain during a time of drought, and for the needy he filled up a stone vessel with oil.
With the monk Polychronios there lived his student the Monk Moses. Copying his elder in everything, Saint Moses was the very model of austere ascetic life.
Another student -- the Monk Damian, withdrew to a monastery named Ieros and there pursued asceticism, having in his cell only a small box of lentils from which he ate.
All these monastic fathers died peacefully in the V Century in Syria.
The Monk Alexander, Founder of the "Unceasing Vigilance" Monastery, was born in Asia and received his education at Constantinople. He spent some time in military service but, sensing a calling to other service, he left the world and accepted monastic vows in one of the wilderness monasteries near Antioch under the guidance of hegumen Elias. Having advanced bit by bit through the degrees of monastic obedience, he received blessing from the hegumen to dwell in the wilderness. The monk pursued asceticism in the wilderness with but the Holy Gospel, which alone he took with him. Afterwards, the Lord summoned him to preach to pagans. He converted to the faith the local city-head Rabbul, who afterwards prospered in the service of the Church, being granted the dignity of bishop and for all of 30 years he occupied the bishop's cathedra (chair) at the city of Edessa.
Finally, the monk Alexander settled not far from the Euphrates River. Monks gathered around him, attracted by the loftiness of his prayerful asceticism and spiritual experience. A monastery arose numbering 400 monks. Then the holy hegumen in his prayerful zeal decided to make at the monastery both by day and by night never-ceasing praise to the Lord. For three years the holy abba prayed, that God might reveal to him, whether it should be pleasing to Him to establish such a monastic rule. And by a Divine revelation it was brought about in the following manner: all the monks were divided by him into 24 watches of prayer. Changing shifts each hour, they sang in two choirs both day and night the holy psalms, with the exceptions when Divine-services were celebrated in church. Hence the name "Monastery of Unceasing Vigilance", since unceasing song was offered up by the ascetics to God.
The monk Alexander guided the monastery on the Euphrates for twelve years. Thereafter, having left as its hegumen the experienced elder Trophymos, he set off with some chosen brethren through the cities bordering on Persia, to preach the Gospel and conversion to spiritual life. Having arrived at Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine empire, he also established there a monastery with his favoured ustav (rule) of "unceasing vigilance". The monastic abba died in extreme old age after fifty years of incessant monastic striving. His death occurred in the year 430.
The commemoration of the Monk Alexander is also celebrated on 3 July.
Saint Gorgonea, Sister of Sainted Gregory the Theologian, was distinguished for her great virtue, piety, meekness, sagacity and toil. Her house was ever an haven for the poor. She died at age 39 in about the year 372 with the words of the psalm: "In peace I do both fall asleep and expire".
The Monk Moisei (Moses) of Belozersk was an ascetic at the Troitsky / Trinity monastery at Beloozero (White Lake) at end of XV -- beginning XVI Century. The Trinity Ustishekhansk in which the monk Moisei practised asceticism, was transferred by him from the mouth of the river Sheksna to the environs of Belozersk in about the year 1480. About the monk Moisei is known, that he was distinguished by the gift of perspicacity.
The Monk Damian practised silence on Athos, in the skete Esthigmena monastery, on a mountain in Samaria, and in one of the caves wherein asceticism had been pursued by the Father of Russian Monasticism -- the Monk Antonii of Pechersk (Comm. 10 July). Blessed Damian enjoyed the especial friendship of Saint Kozma of Zografsk (Comm. 22 September). Having been a true obedient and having kept firmly the injunctions of the fathers, the monk was glorified upon his death by a miraculous fragrance, which issued from his grave during the course of 40 days.
THE PROLOGUE FROM ORCHID:
1. THE HOLY PRIESTLY-MARTYR POLYCARP, BISHOP OF SMYRNA
Polycarp, this great apostolic man, was born a pagan. St. John the Theologian converted him to the Faith of Christ and baptized him. In his childhood, Polycarp became an orphan and according to a vision in a dream Callista, a noble widow, took him as her own son, raised and educated him. From his childhood Polycarp was devout and compassionate. He strove to emulate the life of St. Bucolus, then the Bishop of Smyrna, as well as the holy Apostles John and Paul, whom he knew and heard. St. Bucolus ordained him a presbyter and before his death, Bucolus designated him as his successor in Smyrna. The apostolic bishops, who gathered at the funeral of Bucolus, consecrated Polycarp as bishop. From the very beginning, Polycarp was gifted with the power of working miracles. He expelled an evil spirit from the servant of a prince and through prayer stopped a terrible fire in Smyrna. Upon seeing this, many pagans regarded Polycarp as one of the gods. He brought down rain in times of drought, healed illnesses, discerned, prophesized and so forth. He suffered during the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Three days before his death, St. Polycarp prophesized: "In three days, I will be burned in fire for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ!" And on the third day when the soldiers arrested him and brought him to trial, he cried out: "Let this be the will of the Lord my God." When the judge counseled him to deny Christ and to acknowledge the Roman gods, Polycarp said: "I cannot exchange the better for the worse!" The Jews especially hated Polycarp and endeavored to have Polycarp burned alive. When they placed him bound at the stake, he prayed to God for a long while. He was very old, grey and radiant as an angel. The people witnessed how the flame encircled him but did not touch him. Frightened by such a phenomenon, the pagan judges ordered the executioner to pierce him with a lance through the fire. When he was pierced, so much blood flowed from him that the entire fire was extinguished, and his body remained whole and unburned. At the persuasion of the Jews, the judge ordered Polycarp's lifeless body be incinerated according to the custom of the Hellenes. So the evil ones burned the dead body of the lifeless one whom they could not burn while alive. St. Polycarp suffered on Great and Holy Saturday in the year 167 A.D.
2. THE VENERABLE DAMIAN
Damian, a monk of the Monastery of Esphigmenou on Mt. Athos, was a contemporary and companion of the great Cosmos of Zographou. He lived a life of asceticism on Mount Samareia between Esphigmenou and Hilendar. He died peacefully in the year 1280 A.D. When he died, a pleasant and sweet-smelling aroma emitted from his body for forty days.
HYMN OF PRAISE
His holy ones, God preserves
That until their appointed time, they do not perish,
Until they complete their task, they perish not.
The Elder Polycarp and saint of God
With his deacon, journeyed,
In a road inn, spent the night.
The Elder prays while the deacon sleeps.
Until an angel of God appeared to the Elder
And commanded that they immediately arise,
And from this road inn to depart,
For the inn is soon to be destroyed.
The young deacon, the Elder awakes,
But the deacon fatigued, slept on.
In that, the angel appeared again,
And again, the same warning gave,
Again, the Elder, his deacon awakes,
But, a heavy sleep, the deacon, overpowered
One moment he awakes, the next moment he is drowned in sleep.
And a third time, the angel appeared,
And a warning he issues for the third time.
That this was not a deceit, the Elder perceived,
But a warning from God, verily.
The saint jumped and the deacon he lifted,
And from the road inn, walked out.
And as soon as they walked out from the inn,
To the foundation, the entire house was destroyed,
All who were in it perished
Because of certain kinds of secret transgressions.
With fright, the young deacon was filled,
But in prayer, the saint was silent.
To the Most High God, they offered thanks,
They continued their way, under the stars.
St. Polycarp writes the following to the Philippians about a priest Valentine who fell into the sin of avarice and secretly hid money belonging to the church: "I was deeply saddened because of Valentine who, at one time, was a presbyter among us, who had forgotten the rank [the priesthood] bestowed upon him. That is why I beg you, beware of greed and remain pure and just. Restrain yourself from every vice. He who cannot restrain himself, how will he be able to teach others restraint. He who submits to avarice pollutes himself with idolatry and numbers himself among the ranks of pagans. Who is not aware of God's judgement? As Paul teaches: "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?" (1 Corinthians 6:2). In other words, I have not noticed anything similar among you neither have I heard anything among you; among those whom Blessed Paul lived a life of asceticism and about whom he speaks with praise at the beginning of his Epistle to the Philippians. He boasts of you throughout the churches, which, at that time, knew God, and we did not yet know him, i.e., Polycarp and the inhabitants of Smyrna. Brethren, that is why I am very saddened because of Valentine and his wife. May God grant them true repentance. "And you, be prudent in that and `not count him as an enemy' (2 Thessalonians 3:15), but endeavor to correct them as suffering and prodigal members, that your entire body be sound. Acting thusly, you build yourselves up." Thus, the saints dealt with sinners: cautiously and compassionately; cautiously to prevent others from a similar sin and compassionately in order to correct and save sinners.
To contemplate the Lord Jesus in conversation with the woman of Samaria
(St. John, Chapter 4):
1. How at first, the mind of the woman was smothered completely by carnal sophistry;
2. How the meek Lord gradually leads her mind toward a loftier and spiritual reasoning;
3. How this encounter culminated in the conversion of many to Christ;
4. How the scattered seeds of the Lord, at first, seemingly decays in the physical mind, and how later it resurrects, grows, ripens and brings forth much spiritual fruit.
About the works of Christ
"For the works which theFather has given Me to finish -the very works that I do, bearwitness of Me, that the Fatherhas sent Me" (St. John 5:36).
Brethren, what are those works of Christ? Those are the works of the Householder Who had returned from a journey and found the home robbed and desolate. Those are the works of the Physician Who entered into the most contaminated hospital and brought medicines and began to heal. Furthermore, those are the works of the King Who returned to his country and found it divided and ruined and his subjects as slaves in a strange land. Those are the works of the elder Brother who journeyed to a distant land to seek his younger brothers who, wandering and prodigal impoverished and became wild. Those are also the works of the Healer, Shepherd, Hero and Provider. Truly, these are not minor works! The average man with the greatest worldly knowledge, skill and courage would not be able to accomplish even in three-thousand years; those works which Christ completed in three years. Not only one man, but all men of all times, together, would not be able to complete the works of Christ for all eternity.
How did the Lord complete so many works? He completed them with the aid of five main miracles: Humility, Words, Deed, Blood and Resurrection.
What do the works of Christ witness? First, the works witness that the earth did not send Him, but Heaven; Second, that an angel did not send Him, but the Heavenly Father Himself; Third, that, for such works no one is sufficient except Him Who is as great as God, Who is as wise as God, as almighty as is God, as merciful as God; Yes, Who Himself is equal to God.
O, how all of our works are insignificant compared to the works of Christ! With only one kernel of Christ's goodness and zeal, diligence and truthfulness can we complete our work perfectly. Grant us that kernel, O Lord Jesus, for we cannot either find this kernel on earth nor deserve it.