Author Archives: synglitiki

Saint George the Confessor, Bishop of Mytilene (ca. 820)

Saint George Bishop of Mytilene

Saint George our holy father among the Saints  was born into a faithful family.  At a young, he was distinguished by his great piety, humility, and charity.  The faithful recognized these virtues in him, and he was eventually ordained Bishop of Mytilene, because of his charity and his enlightening teaching.

Saint George dedicated himself to supporting his flock, and won back those who had been inconoclasts.  He governed his spiritual flock prudently and zealously to a ripe old age.

When  Leo V, the Armenian started a persecution, and was destroying the holy icons, he summoned Saint George to Constantinople to an assembly of bishops convened by him
and whose intention it was to discontinue the veneration of icons.  Saint George not
only refused to carry out the wish of the evil emperor but with other courageous and saintly bishops he stood up in defence of  the holy icons.  Not only was he ridiculed for this
but he was also exiled by the emperor to the region of Cherson.  Here he endured all sorts of physical afflictions and deprivations for the rest of his life.
When Saint George reposed 821, his flock mourned him deeply.  Because of his great Sanctity and love for the Lord Jesus, Saint George was given the grace to become a great Miracle-worker,  during his life and after his repose.

During the reign of Patriarch Methodius, the translation of many relics of Saints who had died in exile was undertaken.   These Saints were Saint Theophylactus of Nicomedia, Saint
Theodore the Studite and Saint Nicephorus I of Constantinople.

The burial place of Saint George was at “Tria Kyparissia” [Three Cypresses] near the chapel of Saint John the Forerunner.   Between 846 and 847, his holy relics were translated to Mytilene with great honour.

Apolytikion Tn 3
“Like a meadow planted by God
You were fruitful with the Grace of the Spirit,
O holy Archpastor of the Mysteries.
You cultivated the souls of the faithful
Refreshing them with living water.
O righteous Father George,
Pray Christ our God
to grant us great mercy!“.

Kontakion Tn 4
“You shone on the world like the sun,
O holy and righteous George,
Inspired initiate of the holy Faith,
Enlightening your disciples!”.

Saint Symeon The New Theologian

simeonthenewtheologian

St Symeon the New Theologian

Feastday   March 12/25

Saint Symeon the New Theologian,  was the abbot of St. Mamas in Constantinople.  He is one of three great Fathers  the Orthodox Church has given the title of “Theologian”, because he is one of a few, in the history of Christianity, to ‘know’ God.  The other two Theologians are Saint John the Evangelist, and Saint Gregory of Nazianzus (390 AD).

Saint Symeon was born in Galatia in Paphlagonia (Asia Minor) in 949 AD.   His parents were Basal and Theophana, who were Byzantine provincial nobles.  St. Symeon only received a primary Greek school education until he was about eleven years old.  He finished his secondary education at the age of 14 in the court of the two brother emperors Basil and Constantine Porphyrogenetes.  At 14, he met St. Symeon the Studite, and he became his spiritual father and  led him into the life of asceticism and prayer.   Saint Symeon wanted to enter the famous monastery of the Stoudion at the age of 14, but his spiritual father told him to wait until he turned 27.   During this time of preparation, Saint Symeon’s elder continued to counsel and guide him, and he prepared him gradually for the monastic life, even in the midst of worldly cares.  Saint Symeon occupied himself with the management of a patrician’s household and possibly entered the service of his emperor as a diplomat and a senator.  While ‘busy in the world’ he also strove to live a monk’s life in the evenings, spending his time in night vigils and reading the spiritual works of Mark the Hermit and Diadochus of Photike.  One of his elder’s advice was, “if you desire to have always a soul-saving guidance, pay heed to your conscience and without fail do what it will instil in you”.

There are many books, in English, on the wealth of work by Saint Symeon.  These include “Symeon the New Theologian, the Discourses” translated by C. J. deCatanzaro for Paulist Press; “The First-Created Man, Seven Homilies” translated by Fr. Seraphim Rose for St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood; and “St. Symeon the New Theologian, Life-Spirituality-Doctrine, in the Light of Christ” by Archbishop Basil Krivocheine for SVS Press.  His writings grew out of his preaching and from the spiritual direction given to those under his charge. He is a writer sharing his experiences in prayer and the Triune. The monks of Mount Athos eagerly read his works today, in this Century’s spiritual renewal. His works are also being discovered by the Roman monasteries, as they start to comprehend to wealth and beauty of his writings and personal experience.

St. Symeon’s words still speak to us today, even though he lived a thousand years ago. Of special note is his emphasises to return to the essence or spirit of the early Orthodox Church, and not merely depend on or shelter under the outward forms of Church life. His burning conviction is that the Christian life must be more than just a routine or habit, but rather it should be a personal experience of the living Christ. St. Symeon urges both monks and baptised laity back to a living spiritual experience of the Triune, calling himself the “enthusiastic zealot” who has personal, mystical experiences. His spiritual emphases is, however, misused by many ‘charismatic Christians’ and others today who claim to have “gifts of the Holy Spirit”, which are probably emotional or ‘scholastic’ rather than spiritual. The following is a quote from St. Symeon on Spirituality,

“Do not say that it is impossible to receive the Spirit of God. Do not say that it is possible to be made whole without Him. Do not say that one can possess Him without knowing it. Do not say that God does not manifest Himself to man. Do not say that men cannot perceive the divine light, or that it is impossible in this age! Never is it found to be impossible, my friends. On the contrary, it is entirely possible when one desires it” (Hymn 27, 125-132).
St. Symeon the New Theologian reposed in peace in 1022 AD.   His feast is celebrated on 12 March.

 

Martyrs Saint Sergios and Saint Bacchus of Syria

Ss-Sergius-and-Bacchus

“The Holy Martyrs Saint Sergios and Saint Bacchus

Feastday Oct 7/20

Saint Sergios and Saint Bacchus who were martyrs and heroes of our holy Orthodox Christian Faith were noblemen of the court of Maximian, who was emperor at that time. The emperor esteemed them greatly because of their courage, wisdom and fidelity. But when the emperor found out that they were Christians, his love turned into rage towards them.

 One day there was sacrificial offering to idols being performed, and the emperor commanded Sergius and Bacchus to offer a sacrifice with him, but they refused to obey the emperor. Filled with rage, Maximian commanded that they be stripped of their military garments, rings and emblems, and that they be dressed in women’s clothing. He then had iron hoops put around their necks and they were paraded through the streets of the city of Rome, so that everyone could mock them.

Later, he had them brought before Antiochus who was his deputy in Asia, to be tortured. Antiochus had received this position because Saint Sergios and Saint Bacchus had referred him to Maximian. When Antiochus saw them, he begged them to deny Christ and save themselves from dishonorable suffering and death, but the saints replied: “Both honor and dishonor, both life and death-all are the same to him who seeks the Heavenly Kingdom.” Antiochus then had Sergius put into prison and commanded Bacchus to be tortured first. His soldiers took turns beating Saint Bacchus until his whole body was broken. Then Saint Bacchus’s holy soul departed his broken and bloodied body, and was brought to the Lord by the angels. Saint Bacchus was tortured in the town of Barbalissos. Then they took Saint Sergios and put him in iron shoes with inward-protruding nails. He was taken, on foot, to Rozapha, a town in Syria, and was beheaded by the sword. His holy soul went straight to Paradise, together with his friend, where he received a crown of immortal glory from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, our King. Saint Sergios and Saint Bacchus suffered for the Orthodox Christian Faith in the year 303.”

Dismissal Hymn
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
As we gather, let us crown with sacred hymns of laudation those two brethren in the Faith, the great and valorous Martyrs: Sergios was the Triune Godhead’s most steadfast warrior; and with him, wise Bacchus manfully suffered torments; and they both confessed Christ Saviour as God, the Maker and sacred Trainer of all.

Saint HIEROTHEOS, the first Bishop of Athens

 

 

Saint Hierotheos was born in Athens, and eventually became a justice of the Supreme Court at Areios Pagos, as did his disciple, Saint Dionysios.

 

When Saint Paul the Apostle went to Athens, he catechized Hierotheos, baptized him, and ordained him first Bishop of Athens.  Then Saint Hierotheos taught the doctrines of our Lord Jesus Christ to Saint Dionysios the Areopagite.

 

Saint Hierotheos was present at the Dormition of the holy Mother of God.  He ascended on a cloud along with the other Apostles and hierarchs.   Hierotheos was totally beside himself when he beheld the Mother of our Lord.

 

Tradition says that, his divine singing and heartfelt joy proved him to be greatly inspired.  The holy Apostles admired his words and kept them in their memory.

 

An encomium by Saint Hierotheos to our Panagia is presented here:  “When was such a wonder of wonders ever seen by men?  How does the Queen of all lie breathless?  How has the Mother of Jesus reposed?  Thou, O Virgin, wast the preaching of the prophets; thou art heralded by us.  All the people venerate thee; the angels glorify thee.  Rejoice, thou who art full of grace, the Lord is with thee, and through thee, with us.  With Gabriel we hymn thee; with the angels we glorify thee; and with the prophets we praise thee, for they announced thee.

 

Abbakoum beheld thee as an overshadowed mountain, for thou art covered with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Daniel beheld thee as a mountain from whom, seedlessly, the solid and strong King, the Christ,, issued forth.  Jacob saw thee as a ladder upon Whom Christ came down to eat and drink with us.  And although we, His slaves, contemplate ascending into the Heavens, yet thou hast ascended before all.  Rejoice, O Virgin, for Gideon beheld thee as a fleece.  David saw thee as the virgin daughter of the King.  Esaias called thee Mother of God, and Ezekiel a gate.  All the prophets prophesied thee!

 

“What shall we call thee, O Virgin?  Paradise.  It is meet, for thou hast blossomed forth the flower of incorruption, Christ, Who is the sweet-smelling fragrance for the souls of men.  Virgin?  Verily, a virgin thou art, for without the seed of man thou gavest birth to our Lord Jesus Christ.  Thou wast a virgin before birth, and virgin at birth, and still a virgin after.  Shall we call thee Mother?  This is meet too;  for as a Mother thou gavest birth to Christ the King of all.  Shall we name thee Heaven?  This thou art also, for upon thee rose the Sun of righteousness.  Therefore, rejoice, O Virgin and hasten to thy Son’s rest and dwell in the tents of His beloved.  Hasten there and make ready a place, and remember us and all thy people also, O Lady Mother of God, for both we and thyself are of the race of Adam.  On account of this, intercede on our behalf; for this supplicate thy Son Whom thou hast held in thine embrace and help us in our preaching, and that afterward we may find rest in our hopes.  Go forward, O Virgin, from earth to Heaven, from corruption to incorruption, from the sorrow of this world to the joy of the Kingdom of the Heavens, from this perishable earth to the everlasting Heaven.  Hasten, O Virgin, to the heavenly light, to the hymns of the angels, to the glory of the saints from all the ages.  Hasten, O Virgin, to the place of thy Son, to His kingdom, to His power, where the angels chant, the prophets glorify and the archangels hymn the Mother of the King, who is the lit lampstand, the firmament above, more spacious than the Heavens, the protection of Christians, and the mediatress of our race.”  With these words of praise to our Panagia, Saint Hierotheos said his farewell and embraced the body of the all-holy one.

 

Saint Hierotheos was a teacher, after the Apostles, supervising the divine hymns.   Everyone who knew and heard him assumed he had been inspired by our Lord.

 

An Encomium  to Saint Hierotheos, by the most wise Efthymios Zigabenos, revised by Monk Agathon:

“To Hierotheos, the holy man of God, I offer this encomium, for it is meet and fitting to extol him.  Just as he was the bearer of the name “Hierotheos,” which means “one sacred or holy to God,” thus did he possess deeds which were deserving of God, by which he was sanctified and dedicated to the Almighty.  His acts were in total accordance with his name.  He was a companion and patron of the Apostles, who were devout servants of God, and was a recipient of the same gifts as they:  that is, the apostolic ministry, and apostolic rank and authority, becoming an apostle himself, not only in name but also in deed.  It is, therefore, proper to honor and praise him with the Apostles, for he spent his entire life on the same mission as they.  He is then deserving of the same respect, the same honors and accolades, for it is fitting that rewards be according to the labors, and the wages equal.

 

Those who fulfill their sacred obligation, and honor and exalt with respect this holy man of God Hierotheos, shall have the following reward and recompense:  They shall become worthy of the same respect and honor as the saint, and shall be lauded and praised by all.  For this, all those who are God-loving should gather together and sing hymns of praise to him, and gather benefit from his teachings.  Particularly this is so on this day of his celebration, when all the beloved of God are called to attend.

 

Concerning the birth and heritage of this saint, and his upbringing and training, and how he became so prominent that he exceeded even the most noted men of his day in fame, none of the historians has recounted.  From his writings, however, and from his great knowledge, it is possible to discern something about his noble background and superior education, for a man’s expression is the most vivid image of his character.  This, therefore, indicates  that his heritage, upbringing, and education were of the highest order.  The quality of his writings was so high that he surpassed not only the other hierarchs and theologians in wisdom, but also even the very Apostle Timothy, the disciple of Saint Paul, as the latter states.

 

Hierotheos was a performer of good works and deeds from childhood.  At an early age, he combined his natural intelligence with his good and noble intentions, so that he became expert in almost every type of knowledge and science.  He was not concerned about personal gain.  Indeed, he was much more concerned with acquiring virtue and knowledge, which he did not conduct in a negligent way.   With a zealous heart and fervent soul, he still preferred, in his own person, the possession of virtue over that of knowledge.  On the one hand, he strove to obtain virtue, and on the other hand, he studied to master every science and general knowledge, knowing that the study of philosophy and science is guarded by good and high morals.  “In a wicked soul, wisdom does not enter (Wisdom of Solomon 1:4).

 

Those who wish to adorn their souls with the garment of virtue know what degree of study and effort is required to accomplish these ends.  For he who learns by experience has firsthand knowledge, and his word is true and reliable.  In order to possess a certain virtue or to comprehend knowledge, years of rigor are required, for the fruit of learning is sweet, but the roots are bitter and painstaking.  A serene and tranquil mind is needed, and one that does not wander, as well as one that is vigilant in many hardships and afflictions.  Our holy father, Hierotheos, knew all these things and made every effort to surpass all the prominent men in his day.  Thus our holy father, Hierotheos, using his practical virtue as a base for his theory, reached the highest degree of virtue and learning possible for a human being, even before he believed in our Lord Jesus Christ and was Baptized.   Having thus cleansed himself, he became worthy of our blameless and holy Faith.

 

During that time,  Saint Paul the Apostle was evangelizing the nations.  He arrived in the renowned city of Athens.  As he taught about Jesus and the resurrection, some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers assumed that his teaching was contrary to the gods or of a hostile deity, and blasphemous.  They urged him to appear at the famous tribunal of Areios Pagos to be judged and condemned for his blasphemies.  Then Saint  Paul stood before the justices and delivered his magnificent oration, using as a starting point the epigraph on the platform of the altar “To an unknown God”, by which he attracted some of the most noted philosophers to the Faith.  Among these were  Dionysios the Areopagite and a woman by the name of Damaris, and also others, as Saint Luke relates in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:7).

 

Our holy father, Hierotheos, having been trained by Saint Paul, was baptized long before Dionysios.  It is evident, that had he become a believer at the same time as Dionysios, Saint Luke would have mentioned him, for he was better known than the former.

 

When Hierotheos and Dionysios accepted Christ, Saint Paul taught them the doctrines of the Faith and ordained them bishops for the faithful who had been converted.  Dionysios was a disciple of Hierotheos, in both secular and sacred knowledge.  We can understand the greatness of Hierotheos’  secular and theological education, for according to the Lord’s decree no student is superior to his teacher.  “But this student of Hierotheos surpasses every eloquent teacher; so how much more so his instructor Hierotheos,” says Efthymios Zigabenos.  This is evidence that Dionysios who was taught by Saint Paul and Saint Hierotheos, was initiated into the wisdom of Heaven and earth.

 

In his work Concerning Divine Names, Saint Dionysios offers many words of gratitude to his teacher and praises his immortal writings, calling him a luminous sun, a celebrated leader, a divine teacher, a holy mystic, an hymnologist inspired by our Lord, and other things.  Dionysios declares that his sacred writings were highly spiritual, that he composed them with the sobriety of an elder, and that they should be considered as part of Holy Tradition.  He considered his words second only to those of the Scriptures, and similar to those of the holy Apostles.  In a certain chapter devoted to the Apostle Timothy, Saint Dionysios reveals that Saint Timothy, having received from Saint Dionysios the most difficult of all of Saint Hierotheos’ writings and being unable to understand its content, gave it back to Saint Dionysios and asked him to interpret it for him, and to put it into a more simple form, since it was one of the writings of his teacher.  This shows the wisdom of Saint Hierotheos, since his books were beyond the understanding of even the Apostle Timothy.

 

Saint Hierotheos was present at the Dormition of the most Holy Theotokos.  He had been carried on a cloud.  He chanted hymns to the glory of our Panagia, which were so far superior to those of the other hierarchs that the Apostles retained them in their memory.  They recited them to others, as Saint Dionysios tells us, addressing the Apostle Timothy:  “I recall, O Timothy, that numerous times I heard from your mouth remnants of those divine hymns and praises.”  Even if we call him a haven, a luminous sun and moon, it is proper; for by his enlightening words and deeds, he shone as brightly as a star, proclaimed the glory of God and the providence of the Logos, and dissolved the darkness of idolatry by God’s wisdom, reviving all the earth.  Even if we call him an elect vessel, the same as Saint Paul, or a son of thunder as Saint John the Theologian, we would not be praising him in excess.  He had a zeal for preaching no less than Saint Paul, and he was no less a theologian than Saint John.  It is impossible to extol that soul which has gathered all the merits and virtues.  Our holy father Hierotheos reached a very old age and then reposed, attaining the same state as the patriarchs, prophets, martyrs, hierarchs, and all the saints, interceding tirelessly before the Lord that we cross the sea of life without peril, reaching safely the calm harbors of Heaven.

 

Receive, O righteous father, our reverent encomium, and give us thy blessing by thine intercessions; that is, well-being of body and soul, remission of sins, deliverance from temptation, and an end pleasing to God.  In the afterlife, grant us assurance that we shall stand among the saints at the right hand of Christ our God, to Whom we give glory, honor, worship, and thanksgiving, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and  unto the ages of ages.  Amen.

 

Dismissal Hymn.  Fourth Tone

Since thou hadst been instructed in uprightness thoroughly and wast vigilant in all things, thou wast clothed with a good conscience as befitteth one holy.  Thou didst draw from the Chosen Vessel ineffable mysteries; and having kept the Faith, thou didst finish a like course, O Hieromartyr Hierotheus.  Intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.

 

Kontakion.  Plagal of Fourth Tone

As Athens’ Hierarch, we acclaim thee, since through thee we have received instruction in things awesome and ineffable; for thou wast a God-inspired writer of divine hymns.  O Hierotheos all-blessed, do thou pray to God, so that we may be redeemed from all calamities, that thus we may cry:  Rejoice, O Father wise in things divine.

 

 

 

The Great-Martyr Saint Eustathios Placidas and his family

 

 

At the  time of the reign of Emperor Trajan, there lived in Rome a general named Placidas who was of noble birth, renowned, and possessed of great wealth.  He was so courageous and valiant in battle, his very name was feared by every foe. At the time when the Roman Emperor Titus conquered the land of Judea, Placidas distinguished himself as the most eminent of the Roman officers, and he was very brave in combat.

 

By faith Placidas was an idolater,  but he was like a Christian in his manner of life: he fed the hungry, clothed the naked, helped those who had fallen into misfortune, and freed many who were fettered or imprisoned. He rejoiced more when he had occasion to do good to someone or to extend a helping hand to someone in distress than when he triumphed over his adversaries. He was like another Cornelius, of whom mention is made in the Acts of the Apostles.He was lacking only in the holy faith which is in our Lord Jesus Christ, without which every good work is dead.  Saint Theopiste, his wife, had bore him two sons, who were like him in every way.  Placidas and his wife were kind and merciful to everyone.   They only lacked the knowledge of the one true God, Whom they honored unknowingly by their good deeds.  God, however, Who loves mankind and desires that all be saved and Who looks upon those who do good, did not overlook this virtuous man and did not allow him to perish in the darkness of idolatry.   So in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him, the Lord was pleased to accept Placidas and to reveal to him the path to  life and salvation.

At on time when Placidas was hunting with his servants,  he came upon a herd of deer.  Having pointed them out to the horsemen accompanying him, he chased after them.   He went aftert he largest deer in the group when the deer became separated from the herd. The servants followed Placidas, but their horses became exhausted, and they were left behind.  Placidas, whose horse was the fastest, ran after the deer far into the wilderness. After he chased the deer for a long time, it climbed on top of a big rock and stood there.  Placidas went close to look at it, thinking how he was going to take the deer. But the compassionate God, Who in various ways effects a man’s salvation and by means which He alone knows sets him upon the true path, ensnared the hunter.  He manifested Himself, not through the agency of another as He did to Cornelius through Peter, but directly, as He did to Paul. Placidas remained for a long time staring at the deer, and the Lord  Jesus appeared to him in a vision. A most brilliant cross appeared between the deer’s antlers, and as Placidas gazed upon it, he beheld the likeness of Jesus Christ, Who was crucified for us. He was astonished by this strange vision, and he heard a voice saying to him, “Why do you pursue Me, 0 Placidas?”

 

When he heard this divine voice, Placidas was stricken with fear, and he fell from his horse to the ground and lay as though he were dead. When he came to himself somewhat, he said, “Who art Thou, 0 Lord, that speakest to me?”

 

The Lord told him, “I am Jesus Christ, Who being God, clothed Myself in flesh for the salvation of man, underwent suffering willingly, and bore crucifixion. Even though you do not know Me, you honor Me by your good works, and your many alms are like a fragrant sacrifice coming up before Me, and I wish to save you. Therefore, I have appeared to you from above this beast, that I might bring you to know Me and unite you to My faithful servants. I do not desire that a man who works deeds of righteousness should perish in the snares of the foe.”

Placidas got up from the ground, but he did not see anyone. He cried out, “Now, 0 Lord, do I believe that Thou art the God of heaven and earth and the Maker of all creation. Thee alone do I worship, and henceforth I desire to know no God other than Thee. Wherefore, I pray Thee, 0 Lord, show me what I am to do.”

Again he heard the same voice, saying, “Go to a Christian priest and be baptized, and he shall indicate to you the path to salvation.”

 

As soon as Placidas heard these things, he was filled with  great joy and compunction.  He fell to the ground with  tears and worshipped the Lord Who had appeared to him. He was sad that until now he had not known the truth and did not know the true God, but he rejoiced in spirit that he had been deemed worthy of grace and had been brought to the knowledge of the truth and set upon the path of righteousness.  He then mounted his horse and  returned to his servants.  His spirit joyful, but he did not tell anyone what had happened.

 

Placidas  then returned home and told his wife all that he had seen and heard.  She told him, “Last night, I heard someone say to me, ’In the morning you, your husband, and your sons will come to know Me, Jesus Christ, the true God, Who bestows salvation upon those who love Me.’ Therefore, let us not wait but rather hasten to do that which we have been commanded.”

 

Placidas  then ordered his servants to find the house  where the Christian priest lived.  When they found the priest, Placidas took his wife and children and several of his servants and went to the priest, whose name was John.  Saint Placidas told  him everything about the Lord appearing to him, and he asked to be baptized. When Father John heard these things, he glorified God, Who calls from among the nations those who are pleasing to Him.  He taught Saint Placidas and his family and servants about the Holy Orthodox Faith and told them of all God’s commandments.  As soon as he thought they were taught sufficiently he prayed and baptized them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Placidas received the name Eustathius in Holy Baptism, and his wife the name Theopiste, and their sons  were given the names Agapius and Theopistus.   Father John communed them of the divine Mysteries and dismissed them in peace and told them, “May God be with you, and may He enlighten you with divine knowledge. He has summoned you to the inheritance of life eternal; therefore, when you are deemed worthy to behold Him, remember me, your spiritual father.”

Having been born again through holy Baptism and filled with unutterable joy, they went back to their home. The grace of God illumined their souls and filled their hearts with such sweetness, they felt like they were not on earth but in heaven.

 

The next day,  Eustathius got on his horse, and having taken a few of his servants, he made as though he were setting out on a hunt. He went to the place where he had seen the Lord, that he might give thanks there to Him for His great blessings.  When he arrived at that same place, he told his servants,  “Go and search for some game.” He then got down from his horse, fell upon his face on the ground, and prayed, weeping and thanking God for His unutterable mercy, in that He chose to enlighten him and his family with the light of faith. He committed himself to his Lord and cast himself upon His good and perfect will, trusting that according to God’s goodness, in a way known only to Him and pleasing to Him, He would dispose all things in a profitable manner.   It was then revealed to Placidas what misfortunes and sorrows would happen to him, for he heard the Lord say to him, “Eustathius, it behooves you to make manifest your faith and undoubting hope and the fervor of your love for Me. These things are proven not in circumstances of fleeting wealth and vain prosperity but in poverty and tribulation. Therefore, many sorrows shall befall you, and you shall be tested by misfortunes like another Job, that, having been tried like gold in a crucible, you might prove worthy of Me and receive a crown from My hand.”

Then Saint Eustathius said, “0 Lord, I stand before Thee; do Thou with me as Thou willest. I am prepared to accept all things thankfully from Thy hand, for good and gracious art Thou. As a Father, Thou dost temper punishment with mercy. Wherefore, shall I not accept chastisement at Thy merciful and fatherly hands? Yea, as a bondsman am I ready to bear and to suffer all that is laid upon me; only let Thine almighty help be with me.”

The Lord then said, “Do you wish to undergo suffering now or in the final days of your life?”

Eustathius replied, “Lord, if it be not possible that temptation should pass me by, then let me bear these misfortunes now. Only send Thine aid, that evil might not overcome me and separate me from Thy love.”

The Lord said, “Take courage, Eustathius; My grace shall be with you and shall preserve you. When you are plunged into the abyss of humiliation, I will raise you up and will glorify you before My angels in heaven. Likewise will I exalt you before men, and after you have borne many sorrows, I will comfort you once more and return to you your former rank. However, do not rejoice in fleeting honors but only in that your name is written in the Book of life.”

Receiving from Him this divine revelation and being filled with spiritual joy and the grace from the Lord, he returned to his home, aflame with divine love. He did not hide these things from Saint Theopiste, but told her all that God had disclosed in the revelation: how many misfortunes and sorrows would befall them, which they must endure manfully for the Lord’s sake, and how, if they would suffer all these things patiently, the Lord would grant them Eternal Life.

Then his noble wife said, “May the Lord’s will guide us! Only let us fervently pray that in His compassion He grant us patience.” And so they began to live honorably in piety, patiently abiding in fasting and prayer, giving alms more abundantly than before to the poor, and exercising themselves in every virtue more zealously than they had in their previously.

 

A few days later, by God’s allowance, sickness and death came to Eustathius’ home, and all his household, men and beasts alike, were stricken with illness. Within a short time, almost all his servants, men and women, and even his animals, died. Thieves stole his possessions by night, for even though a few of the servants remained alive, they were confined to their beds by sickness, and there was no one to keep watch over his valuables. In a short time Saint Placidas and his family became quite poor, but he was not troubled nor was he sorrowful. Eustathius did not fall into the sin of despair as all these things came to pass, but he gave thanks to God like another Job, saying, The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. As the Lord hath willed, so let it be; blessed be the name of the Lord unto the ages.

Saint Eustathius comforted his wife so that she would not be saddened by what happened to them, and she also consoled him.  Together they bore these things patiently, trusting in the will of our Lord, and were consoled by hope in God’s mercy.  Seeing himself reduced to poverty, Eustathius determined to hide himself in a far-off country from all his acquaintances and to conceal his high rank and nobility amid commoners, living humbly and in poverty so that, far from every hindrance and all tumult, he might labor for Christ our Lord, Who impoverished and humbled Himself for the sake of our salvation. He and his wife decided to leave by night.   They left behind their few remaining servants, all of whom were ill.   They took their two sons, and removing their costly apparel, they clothed themselves in rags.  Having taken a small portion of their possessions they could carry, they left their home forsaking all for God’s sake:  glory, honor, and wealth.   Even though Eustathius lost everything, he could easily have acquired them again, for he was a great noble and a man of high rank, beloved of the Emperor and respected by all; but he counted all the passing things of this world as dung in order that he might have God alone as his Helper. They wandered through distant and unfamiliar lands, concealing their identity, living among the lowliest peasants.   After having abandoned the beautiful chambers of his home, this emulator of Christ wandered about, having no place to lay his head.   Soon there after it became known to the Emperor and to all the nobles that their beloved General Placidas was nowhere to be found.   They wondered what had become of him: had he been murdered by some enemy, or did he die?   So they questioned themselves concerning him and were greatly saddened. They searched for him, but they could not penetrate the mysteries of God which were wrought in Eustathius. For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been His counsellor?

 

At that time, as Eustathius lived in this manner, his wife said to him, “Shall we remain in this place for a long time, my lord? Let us go away into a country even further away so that we will not be recognized by anyone and become a reproach to them that know us.”

 

So they left together with their children, and went to Egypt.   After travelling for a few days, they came to the sea and found a boat there, which was ready to sail to Egypt. They boarded it and departed. The master of the ship was a very violent barbarian.   When he saw that Eustathius’ wife was very beautiful, he lusted for her, and he pondered evil in his heart, thinking that he would take her from her husband. When they arrived at the place where Eustathius was to get off the boat and continue along his way, the ship’s captain demanded Eustathius’ wife in place of the fare.   Eustathius refused and would not agree to give her up.   He was unable to thwart the captain, for that violent and inhuman barbarian drew his sword and attempted to kill Eustathius and cast him into the sea.  There was no one to help Eustathius, who fell at the feet of that wicked man, weeping and pleading with him that he not separate him from his beloved wife.  But that evil captain would not listen to him.   Finally the captain said, “Either depart from here in silence if you wish to live, or you shall straightway perish by this sword, and the sea will be your tomb!”

So Eustathius, together with his two sons, left the ship lamenting.  The captain cast the boat off from the shore and set sail. How grievous was the separation of that God-pleasing man from his chaste and honorable wife! They gazed upon each other as they were parted: Eustathius and his children wept as they stood upon the shore, and his wife wailed in the ship as it sailed away, separating her from her husband and taking her to a land she did not know.   Eustathius stood by the shore gazing at the boat until it could no longer be seen.  Then, he left weeping along with his young sons. The husband wept for his wife, and the children wept for their mother.   Saint Theopiste could only console herself by reflecting on how this misfortune had visited them at the hand of the Lord, contrary to Whose will nothing can come to pass, and how she had been called to the holy faith, that by patience she might attain the heavenly homeland.

But Eustathius’ misfortunes had not yet come to an end, for sorrows were to befall him yet greater than those which had already come to pass. He had not yet recovered from the tribulations which had occurred when other trials beset him.  For after he was parted from his wife, his children were also taken from him.

 

As they were walking there was a deep and swiftly flowing river.   There was no bridge. so they could cross over to the other side.   And since Eustathius had to cross the river, it was not possible for him to carry both of his children at the same time to the other shore.   So he left one child on the bank and put the other upon his shoulder, taking him across the river.   When he reached the other side, he set him down and returned to bring the other child across the river. When he was in the middle of the river, one of the children cried out, and when Eustathius looked up, he saw a lion approach and snatch the child and then run off into the wilderness.   Eustathius stood there looking on and lamenting pitifully until the lion had run so far with the child he had seized that he could no longer be seen. Then he turned around and started toward the other child.  But  before he had stopped weeping for one son, he was compelled to lament for the other. As he was returning toward the other child, a wolf suddenly appeared and took that child and carried him off into the woods. Overtaken from every side by misfortunes, Eustathius stood in the river, drowning, as it were in his tears.   Who can tell of his heart’s sufferings, of his lamentations and much weeping? He was deprived of his holy and chaste wife, who shared his faith and comforted him in his woes, and he was deprived of his children, from whom he derived consolation in his sorrows.   Truly, it was a wonder that he remained alive and did not slip beneath the waters.   The good Lord had strengthened him in patience, for only He Who permitted such temptations to come upon him could bestow such fortitude.

Coming up from the river, Eustathius stayed there by the bank weeping for a long time, and then he went on his way sorrowing, having as his only consolation God, in Whom he believed and for Whose sake he bore all these things. He did not murmur against God nor did he say, “Hast Thou called me to know Thee, 0 Lord, that I might be deprived of my wife and children? Of what profit to me is faith, if I am become the most wretched of all men? Is Thy love for Thy faithful such that they must perish, sundered from one another?” That righteous and patient man said nothing of the sort: he only bowed his head and in humility fell down before God, thanking Him for these visitations and thanking Him that it pleased Him that His servants should not enjoy worldly prosperity and vain diversions. Eustathius thanked Him, too, that they should abide in sorrows and misfortunes in order that He might console them with eternal joy in the age to come. God, Who works all things to our benefit and Who allows tribulations to befall the righteous man, does not seek to inflict punishment through this means but, rather, tries one’s faith and courage. His desire is not that a man should suffer but that he should display good courage and that he give thanks to God in all things.

As the Lord once kept Jonah unharmed in the belly of the whale, so did He preserve whole both of Eustathius’ children, who had been snatched away in the mouths of the beasts. When the lion crossed over the river upstream, carrying unharmed the child it had taken into the wilderness, shepherds caught sight of it, and crying out, began to chase after it. The lion dropped the child uninjured and fled. Likewise, the wolf, which was carrying the other child, who was still alive, was seen by farmers, who chased after it shouting, and so it left the child to them unharmed. The shepherds and the farmers, who were from the same village, took the children and cared for them. But Eustathius knew nothing of their deliverance and continued along his way, now in patience giving thanks to God, now overcome by nature, weeping and saying, “Woe is me, who once basked in glory but now am abased! Woe is me, who was once the master of a great household but am now homeless! Once I was as a tree having many leaves, which bore much fruit, but now am I but a withered branch. In my home was I surrounded by friends; when in the streets, by my servants; in battle, by my soldiers: but now am I left alone in the wilderness. But forsake me not, 0 Lord! Do not disdain me, Thou Who beholdest all things! Forget me not, 0 All-good One! 0 Lord, forsake me not until the end! I remember, 0 Lord, the words which Thou spakest at the place where Thou didst appear unto me, saying, ’Like Job shalt thou undergo misfortunes’; but lo, I have been subjected to more than Job. For although he was deprived of his possessions and honours, he, nevertheless, sat upon his own dunghill; but I find myself in a strange land and know not where to turn. He had friends to comfort him, but my consolation, my beloved children, have been seized by wild beasts to be consumed in the wilderness. Although Job was deprived of his children, he could obtain from his wife some comfort and care, but my good companion hath fallen into the iniquitous hands of a barbarian, and I, like a reed in the wilderness, am shaken by the storms of my bitter woes. But be not angered with Thy servant, who voiceth the sorrow of his heart, 0 Lord; as a man do I speak. In Thee am I established, 0 Thou Who carest for me and dost guide me. In Thee do I hope, and by Thy love, as though by a cool dew and a breath of wind, do I quench the fire of my sorrows. By the sweetness of my desire for Thee the bitterness of my misfortunes is made sweet!”

This is how Eustathius prayed sighing and weeping.  He  then arrived at a place called Badessos, where he settled and began to labor, hiring himself out to those that lived there, that by the work of his own hands he might feed himself. He toiled at such tasks as were unfamiliar to him and labored at chores which he had never undertaken before. Later, he requested the villagers to permit him to guard their granary, for which they paid him a very small sum. And so he lived in that village for fifteen years in great poverty and humility, laboring much and eating his bread by the sweat of his brow. Who can tell of his virtues and struggles? They may be imagined, should one consider how, while homeless and living in poverty, he exercised himself in nothing but prayer, fasting, weeping, and vigils, with sighings of the heart, lifting up his eyes, hands, and heart unto God and awaiting mercy from His compassion. His children were being reared nearby in another village, but he knew nothing of them, neither did the children know anything of one another, even though they lived in the same village. His wife was preserved by God from the lusts of that barbarian, for in the hour when he took her from her righteous husband, he was stricken with illness; whereupon he returned to his own land and died, leaving his captive untouched and undefiled. Thus did God preserve His faithful handmaiden, so that finding herself among snares, she was not entrapped, but like a bird was delivered from the nets of the hunters. The snare was broken, and she was delivered with the help of the Most High. After the barbarian’s death, that honorable woman was free, and she lived untroubled and in peace, obtaining her food by the labor of her own hands.

During this time some foreign tribes made war against Rome and wrought much havoc, overrunning a number of cities and provinces. The Emperor Trajan was greatly saddened, and he remembered his valiant General Placidas and said, “If Placidas were with us, our enemies would not mock us, for he was frightful to our foes. Our adversaries feared his very name, since he was courageous and fortunate in battle.”

 

The Emperor and all his nobles still wondered as to how Placidas, together with his wife and children, could have disappeared, and they resolved to search throughout the Empire for him. The Emperor said to his suite, “I will bestow great honor and numerous gifts upon the man who finds Placidas.”

And lo, two good soldiers, Antiochus and Acacius, who were once devoted friends of Placidas and had lived in his palace, stepped forth and said, “0 Emperor, supreme in power, give the command that we make a search for that man, without whom the Empire will be lost. Even if we must go to the ends of the earth to find him, we will do so with all haste!”

The Emperor rejoiced at their eagerness, and he immediately dispatched them in search of Placidas. They passed through many lands, cities, and towns, searching for the beloved General; and they asked all whom they met whether they had seen such a man anywhere. Finally, they drew near to the village where Eustathius lived. At that time Eustathius was in the fields, watching over the granary. When he saw the soldiers approaching, he looked carefully at them and recognized them from afar as his friends. He rejoiced and wept out of joy, and he cried out to God, sighing in the depths of his heart. He went and stood alongside the road on the which the soldiers were to pass. When they drew near to Eustathius, they greeted him in the usual manner and asked him the name of the village and who was lord over it. Likewise, they inquired whether there was a certain man living there who was a stranger, whose height was such and his countenance of this sort, whose name was Placidas. Eustathius asked them, “Why do you seek him?”

They answered, “He is our friend, and for a long time we have not seen him, and we do not know where he or his wife and two children are to be found. If someone would apprise us concerning him, we would give him much gold.”

Eustathius said, “I do not know him, neither have I heard of this Placidas. Nevertheless, my lords, I pray you, come to the village and rest in my hut. I see that you and your horses have been wearied by your journey. Therefore, rest in my dwelling place, and later you may inquire concerning him whom you seek.”

The soldiers agreed and went with the saint into the village, but they did not recognize him. Eustathius, however, certainly knew them, and tears began to flow from his eyes. Nevertheless, he restrained himself so that they might not perceive who he was.

Now there lived in that village a certain good man on whose property Eustathius lived. Eustathius took the soldiers to that man, and he asked him to offer them hospitality and to feed them.

“I will recompense you by my labor for whatever you spend on them,” he said, “for they are my friends.”

Out of the goodness of his heart, and because he was moved by Eustathius’ entreaties, and also since he had work to give the saint, he provided abundant hospitality for the strangers. Eustathius served them and brought in the food, and he placed it before them. He remembered how in his previous life those whom he now waited upon served him, and overcome by nature, he wished to weep, but he restrained himself so that he would not be discovered. He left the room, and having wept somewhat and then wiped away his tears, he immediately returned and continued to serve like a slave or the simplest peasant. The soldiers, who had looked frequently at him, gradually came to recognize him, and they said quietly to one another, “This man is like Placidas; perhaps he is actually Placidas himself.”

 

They likewise said, “We remember that Placidas bore a deep scar upon his neck from a wound suffered in battle. If this man has such a scar, then he truly must be Placidas.”

 


When they beheld that scar, they immediately arose from the table and fell at his feet. They wept much out of joy and said, “You are Placidas, whom we seek! You are the favorite of the Emperor, concerning whom he has long been grieved! You are the commander of the Romans, on account of whose absence the whole army has not ceased to lament!”

Eustathius then perceived that the time had come when, as the Lord had promised him, his former rank and estate should be restored; and he said, “Brethren, I am he whom you seek. I am Placidas, together with whom you long campaigned. I am he who was once the glory of Rome, fearful to aliens, and beloved of you. Now am I poor, however, useless, and utterly obscure.”

Eustathius and the soldiers rejoiced greatly and wept for joy. They clothed him in the costly vesture of a general and gave him the Emperor’s letter, and they earnestly entreated him to come without delay to the Emperor, saying, “Lo, our enemies have lifted up their horn, for there is no one of valor like you, who might overcome and scatter our adversaries.”

Hearing these things, the master of that household and all the domestics were amazed and perplexed, and it was noised throughout the village that the presence of a great man had been revealed in that house. And all went forth as if to behold a mighty wonder, and they marvelled, seeing Eustathius arrayed as a general and receiving honor from the soldiers. Antiochus and Acacius told the people of Eustathius’ deeds and bravery and of his glory and noble birth. Hearing that Eustathius was a Roman general, the people were astonished and said, “How is it that this great man labored for us as a hired servant?” And falling down before him, they did reverence to him, saying, “Why, 0 master, did you not tell us of your great estate and rank?”

Likewise, Eustathius’ lord, with whom he had dwelt, fell down before him and entreated him that he be not angry with him for not having held him in high esteem. And all the men of that village were put to shame inasmuch as they had employed such a man as a hired servant. The soldiers seated Eustathius upon a horse, and with all the people of that village escorting them off in great honor, they set forth to return to Rome.

Along the way, Eustathius conversed with the soldiers, and they made inquiry concerning his wife and children. He related to them everything as it had occurred, and they wept upon hearing of his ill fortune. Likewise, they told him how the Emperor had been cast into grief on his account. “Not only the Emperor,” said they, “but the entire court and army were saddened by your disappearance.”

Conversing thus, within a few days they arrived in Rome. The soldiers informed the Emperor that they had found Placidas, and they told Trajan of the circumstances in which they had discovered him. The Emperor, together with all his nobles, received him with honor and joyfully kissed him, asking him how it was that he had left his home. Eustathius related all that had come to pass and the things concerning his wife and children, and all who heard were moved to pity. Then the Emperor restored Eustathius to his former rank and bestowed upon him wealth greater than that which he had previously enjoyed. All Rome rejoiced at Eustathius’ return, and the Emperor entreated him to take up arms against the barbarians, to defend Rome by his valor against their attacks, and to punish them for having subdued a number of cities. Eustathius collected all his forces and saw that they were insufficient for a campaign such as that which he was compelled to undertake, and so he asked the Emperor to send forth a decree throughout his dominions, ordering that suitable youths be impressed in every city and town and that they be dispatched to Rome for military training. And so it came to pass: the Emperor issued the ordinance, and a multitude of young and strong men, fit to be soldiers, were brought to Rome. Among them were Eustathius’ two sons, Agapius and Theopistus, who had already reached manhood and who were fair of countenance, as well as of great stature and strength. When these young men were brought to Rome, the General beheld them and loved them greatly, for nature itself draws a father to his children; therefore, he was overcome by love for them. Eustathius did not know that they were his children, however, even though he loved them as sons. He kept them always in his presence and shared his table with them, and they were pleasing in his sight. Thereafter, Eustathius went forth to do battle, and having engaged the barbarians, by the power of Christ he emerged victorious. Not only did he liberate the cities and lands overrun by them; he conquered the entire country of the barbarians and utterly overwhelmed their forces. Strengthened by his Lord, he displayed much valor and won a victory greater than any of his previous triumphs.

When the war was concluded and Eustathius was returning home in peace, he chanced upon a certain village which was situated on a beautiful spot by a river. It was a pleasant place, conducive to repose. Therefore, Eustathius rested there with his troops for three days, for it was pleasing to God that His faithful servant be reunited with his wife and children and that the flock which had been scattered be gathered together. It was in that village that his wife lived. She had a garden from which she obtained her food with much labor. By God’s providence, Agapius and Theopistus, knowing nothing of their mother, pitched their tent alongside her garden, for inasmuch as they hailed from the same village, they determined to share the same tent and to stay together. They loved one another as brothers, even though they did not know that they were brothers, and although they did not suspect the fraternal bond between them, they shared a fraternal love for each other. Therefore, they took their rest together by the garden of the one who had borne them, not far from their commander’s camp.

At noontime one day, while Eustathius was encamped with his troops in that village, the mother of Agapius and Theopistus was working in her garden, and she heard the two young men talking as they rested nearby in their tent. They were asking each other about their origin, and the elder of the two said, “I remember that my father was a general in Rome, but I do not know why he left Rome with my mother, taking me and my younger brother (for there were two of us). We went to the sea and boarded a ship. We then set sail, and when we reached our destination, my father left the ship with me and my brother, but my mother remained on the ship although I do not know why. I remember only that my father wept much over her, and we wept also and continued to lament as we went along our way. When we came to a river, my father left me on the bank, put my younger brother on his shoulder, and took him to the other side of the river. After he had carried him to the opposite bank, and as he was returning for me, a lion came, snatched me up, and took me into the wilderness. However, shepherds rescued me from him, and thus I came to be reared in the village that you know.”

Then the younger brother arose quickly and embraced him joyfully, and weeping, he said, “Truly you are my brother, for I remember all that you have recounted. I saw with my own eyes how the lion seized you. At the same time, a wolf snatched me away, but farmers delivered me from him.”

And so the brothers recognized one another, and they rejoiced exceedingly, embracing and kissing one another, weeping copiously out of joy. Their mother, hearing their conversation, marvelled and lifted up her eyes to God, sighing and shedding tears. She was convinced that they were truly her children, and her heart, after so many bitter woes, was refreshed. Nevertheless, being a prudent woman, she did not venture without indubitable proof to reveal her identity to them, for she was impoverished and clad in vile raiment while they were eminent and distinguished soldiers. She decided to go to the General and to ask him to be allowed to return to Rome with his troops, that there she might more conveniently disclose who she was to her sons and might also learn of her husband, whether he was alive or not. She went to the General and was brought into his presence, and bowing down before him, she said, “I entreat you, sir, to permit me to accompany your forces into Rome, for I am a Roman and was taken captive by barbarians in this land sixteen years ago. Now am I free, but I wander about a strange country and suffer from great want.”

The compassionate Eustathius immediately granted her request and commanded that she be allowed to return untroubled to her native land. As she stood before the General and gazed upon him, she clearly perceived that he was her husband. In astonishment she remained standing there, as though in a stupor, but Eustathius did not recognize his wife. Thus, she was granted joy upon joy even as once she had known sorrow upon sorrow. Within she cried out unto God with sighing, but she feared to tell her husband that she was his wife, for she saw that he was most majestic and of a dread countenance and that he was surrounded by a multitude of attendants while she was reduced to a state of extreme poverty. She departed from his presence and prayed to God her Master that He would Himself cause her to be recognized by her husband and children. At a convenient time she returned to the General and was ushered into his presence. He looked upon her and said, “What else do you require of me, aged woman?”

She prostrated herself to the ground before him and said, “I entreat you, my lord, be not angry with me, your handmaiden. I wish to inquire of your lordship about a certain matter. Only be patient, my lord, and hear out your handmaid.”

He said to her, “Very well; speak.”

And so she began, saying, “Are you not Placidas, who in Holy Baptism was named Eustathius? Did you not see Christ on the Cross between the deer’s antlers? Did you not depart from Rome with your wife and two children, Agapius and Theopistus, for God’s sake? Was your wife not taken from you by a barbarian while you were on a ship? Christ the Lord Himself, for Whose sake I have suffered many tribulations, is my sure Witness in heaven that I am truly your wife and that I have been preserved by His grace from defilement. That barbarian perished in the same hour in which he took me from you, punished by the wrath of God; therefore, I remained unsullied and until now wander about in want.”

When Eustathius heard her, it was as though he had been awakened from sleep. He straightway recognized his wife, arose, and embraced her, and out of joy they shed abundant tears. Then Eustathius said, “Praise and gratitude do we render unto Christ our Saviour, Who in His mercy has not forsaken us, but even as He promised that He would grant us consolation after we had undergone tribulations, so has He caused it to be.”

And thus they rejoiced and wept much, giving thanks unto God. When Eustathius had ceased weeping, his wife asked him, “And where are our children?”

He sighed from the depths of his heart and said, “They were eaten by beasts.”

His wife replied, “Be no longer sorrowful, my lord, for as God has unexpectedly granted us to encounter one another, so will He enable us to find our children.”

Eustathius said, “Did I not tell you that they were consumed by beasts?”

Theopiste then began to relate to him all that she had heard the day before as she labored in her garden, what she had heard said by the two soldiers as they conversed with each other, and how she had perceived that they were her sons. Eustathius immediately summoned them and asked them, “Who were your parents? Where were you born? Where were you reared?”

Then the elder brother began to tell him of their childhood, saying, “We, sir, were very young when we were separated from our parents, and we remember very little. We do recall, however, that our father was a Roman general, like your lordship, but we do not know what happened to him. We left Rome together by night, but when we took ship across the sea, our mother remained on the ship although we do not know why. Weeping for her, our father came with us to a certain river, across which he decided to carry us one at a time. When he was in the midst of the river, beasts snatched us up; a lion took me, and a wolf seized my brother. However, we were both delivered from being eaten by the beasts–I by shepherds and my brother by farmers, who took us and reared us.”

When Eustathius and his wife heard these thing, they realized that these were their children. They embraced them and wept for a long time, and there was great joy in the soldiers’ camp even as once there had been in Egypt when Joseph was made known to his brethren. Every cohort learned that its General had found his wife and sons. All joined together in rejoicing, and there was a celebration exceeding that which had ensued following the troops’ great victory. Thus did God grant consolation to his faithful servants, for He puts to death and makes alive, makes poor and makes rich, casts down into sorrows and lifts up to joy and jubilation. Then could Eustathius have said with David, Come and hear, and I willdeclare unto you, all ye that fear God, what things He hath done for my soul.I will remember Thee, 0 Thou Who hast shewn mercy unto me. The right hand of the Lord hath wrought strength, the right hand of the Lord hath exalted me.

And so Eustathius returned from battle, rejoicing both over his victory and because he had found his wife and sons. Before he arrived in Rome, the Emperor Trajan died. He was succeeded by Hadrian, who was exceedingly wicked and who hated the good and persecuted the pious. Eustathius entered the city in great pomp, as was the custom with Roman generals, bringing with him many captives and countless valuable spoils. He was received with honor by the Emperor and by all the Romans. They praised his valor yet more than they had before, and he was held in still greater esteem than he had been previously. Nevertheless, God, Who does not wish that His servants be honored and glorified overmuch in this perverted and inconstant world, Who has prepared eternal and immutable honor and glory for them in the heavens, and Who had restored Eustathius to his former exalted estate, transforming his sorrow into joy, ordained that martyrdom be his path to heaven. In but a short while He returned Eustathius to a state of dishonor and sorrow, which he gladly accepted for Christ’s sake. When the impious Hadrian wished to worship and to sacrifice to the demons in gratitude for the victory over his enemies, he went into the temple of the idols, together with his nobles. Only Eustathius did not enter the temple, but remained without. The Emperor asked him, “Why do you not wish to enter the temple with us and worship the gods? You should be the first to render thanksgiving to the gods inasmuch as they not only preserved you whole and hale and have granted you victory over your enemies but have restored your wife and sons to you.”

Eustathius answered, “I am a Christian, and I know Jesus Christ alone to be my God. Him do I honor and thank, and I worship Him, for He has granted me every blessing: health, victory, my wife, and my children. I will not worship the idols, which are deaf, dumb, and powerless.” And so Eustathius returned to his own home.

The Emperor was enraged and considered how he might punish the saint for the disrespect he had shown toward his gods. First, he stripped Eustathius of his rank and commanded that he be brought into his presence as a commoner. Likewise, he had Eustathius’ wife and sons brought before him. He enjoined them to sacrifice to the idols, but since he was unable to separate them from Christ, he sentenced them to be eaten by beasts. Thus Saint Eustathius, the glorious and valorous soldier, together with his family, was sentenced to be put to death in the arena. He was not ashamed to be subjected to such dishonor, neither did he fear death for the sake of Christ, Whom he zealously served, but instead he finished his course eagerly, faithfully, and well, confessing Christ’s holy name openly before all. He exhorted his honorable wife and beloved children not to fear death for the Lord, Who grants life unto all, and they likewise strengthened one another by their words and hope for rewards to come so that they went forth to their deaths as though to a feast. The beasts were loosed upon them, but they did not harm them, for whenever one of the beasts began to approach them, it would immediately turn about and retreat with its head bowed down. Thus the beasts were made calm, but the Emperor became yet more enraged. He ordered that they be led out of the arena and cast into prison. In the morning he commanded that a brass ox be heated and that Saint Eustathius, his wife, and two sons be placed therein. That blazing ox was cooled with dew for the holy martyrs, as once the Chaldean furnace was cooled for the Three Youths. Therein the holy martyrs prayed, and they surrendered their sacred souls into the hands of God, being translated unto the heavenly kingdom.

 

After three had passed, Hadrian went to the ox, wanting to see the ashes of the martyrs, but when he opened the doors, he saw that the saints’ bodies  were whole and unharmed.   Not a hair of their heads had been burnt; they seemed, rather, to be alive and but sleeping, radiant with a most wondrous and supernatural beauty. All the people cried out, “Great is the God of the Christians!” Thus the Emperor returned in humiliation to his palace, and all the people reviled him for his cruelty and for having needlessly put to death a general so indispensable to Rome. The holy relics of the saints were then buried with much  reverence.

The Nativity of our Most Holy Theotokos

 

 

  
When people had reached such a degree of moral decay, it was then that our Most Holy Theotokos was born.    It was often said that God must come into the world to bring faith and not allow the ruin of mankind.
For our salvation, our Lord chose to become man, and chose as His Mother the All-Pure Virgin Mary, who alone was worthy to give birth to Him, the Source of purity and holiness.
It was in Nazareth, a small city of Galilee, that the Most Holy Virgin Mary was born.  The Righteous Joachim of the tribe of the Prophet-King David, and Anna from the tribe of the First Priest Aaron were her parents.  They were without child, since St Anna was barren.
Even though they had reached old age, Joachim and Anna never lost hope in the Lord’s mercy. They knew that with God everything is possible, and that He would bless Anna, even in her old age to overcome her barreness, just as He had once overcame the barrenness of Sarah, the wife of Abraham.  Saint Joachim and Saint Anna made a vow to dedicate their child to the Lord, and to His service in the Temple.
It was believed by the Isrealites, to be a punishment from God, because of sin to be childless.   And the righteous St. Joachim and St. Anna endured ridicule and abuse from their own people.  During one of the feastdays at the Temple in Jerusalem Saint Joachim brought a sacrifice to offer to the Lord, but it was not accepted by the High Priest since he considered him unworthy since he was childless.
In grief Saint Joachim left for the wilderness to stay there and pray to the  Lord for a child. Saint Anna stayed at home and wept bitterly when she found out what happened at theTemple in Jerusalem.  She never once complained to the Lord, but instead Saint Anna prayed to God for His mercy.
Their prayers were eventually answered by the Lord when this pious couple were in old age and had prepared themselves by a holy life for a sublime calling: to become the parents of the Most Holy Theotokos, who was to be the future Mother of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
The Lord sent to them the Archangel Gabriel to bring  the most joyous message that their prayers had been heard by God.  To them would be born a most blessed daughter Mary.  And through their holy daughter Salvation would come to the whole World.
The Theotokos was more pure and virtuous than all of mankind, and even the angels. She was the living Temple of God, as our holy Church chants in the festal hymn:  “the East Gate… bringing Christ into the world for the salvation of our souls” (2nd Stikhera on “Lord, I Have Cried”, Tone 6).
Our holy Church teaches us that the Most Holy Theotokos’s father  Joachim was from the lineage of King David, and Anna was from the lineage of Aaron.  Our Panagia  was of royal birth by her father, and of priestly birth by her mother.   She foreshadowed Him Who would be born of her as King and High Priest.  The Almighty and All-seeing God rewarded Panagia’s parents with a joy that surpassed all their expectations and all their most beautiful dreams.  Because He blessed  them with not just a daughter, but the Mother of God.  He blessed them not only with temporal joy, but with eternal joy as well.   Mary, Full of grace, Blessed among women, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the Altar of the Living God, the Table of the Heavenly Bread, the Ark of God’s Holiness, the Tree of the Sweetest Fruit, the Glory of the race of man, the Praise of womanhood, the Fount of virginity and purity-this was the child that was granted to them by God.   When the Most Holy Theotokos turned three years of age, her holy parents brought her to the Temple in Jerusalem.  Then when she reached the age of 15 or 16, returned again to Nazareth, and a short time after heard the Annunciation of the Holy Archangel Gabriel concerning the birth of our Lord Jesus, the Savior of the world.
St. Dionysius the Areopagite writes of the immeasurable joy, the outer and inner radiance, and the indescribable fragrance that he sensed in the presence of the Holy Theotokos when he visited her in Jerusalem. In his zeal, he says that if he had not known the One True God, he would have recognized her, the Holy Virgin Mary, as God. The Holy Virgin made such a powerful and unique impression on men during her earthly life-and she received an incomparably greater power and glory after her physical death when, by the will of God, she was exalted above the heavenly hosts. Her power comes from her ceaseless prayer for the faithful, for all those who turn to her for help. When St. John of Novgorod and his people prayed to her for help against a hostile army, he understood that she was simultaneously praying to the Lord with tears in their behalf, and Novgorod was miraculously saved. As she was compassionate toward her crucified Son, so the Holy Most-pure One is also compassionate toward all those in need, and who turn to her for help. It could be said that the entire earth is covered by the miracles of her mercy. Even today, there lives in Belgrade a café owner (C. J.), who was born in the village of Labuni te (Macedonia) outside Struga. His mother brought him blind to the Monastery of Kali to, where, after the priest prayed over him before the icon of the Holy Theotokos, he received his sight. The first monk at Pochaev saw a fiery pillar extending from earth to heaven, and in that flaming pillar he saw the Holy Theotokos. She was standing on a rock. On the spot where she stood, a spring of healing water sprang forth: even today, it heals many of the sick.”
Apolytikion – 4th Tone
Thy Nativity, O Theotokos, hath proclaimed joy to the whole world; for from thee hath dawned the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, annulling the curse and bestowing the blessing, abolishing death and granting us life everlasting.
Kontakion – 4th Tone
Joachim and Anna were freed from the reproach of childlessness, and Adam and Eve from the corruption of death, O immaculate one, by thy holy Nativity, which thy people, redeemed from the guilt of offences, celebrate by crying to thee:  The barren woman giveth birth to the Theotokos, the nourisher of our life.

The Holy Prophet Zacharias and the Righteous Elizabeth

Prophet Zacharias and Saint Elizabeth

Feastday – Sept 5/18

Zacharias was a holy prophet of God.  His father was Barachias, a priest of the Lord.  Zacharias was married to Elizabeth, one of the daughters of Aaron.  Elizabeth was a sister to Anna, who was the mother of the Theotokos.   This holy couple was filled with all the virtues, they were blameless in the laws of the Lord.  Their son, Saint John the honorable and glorious prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, was the fruit of their righteousness and holy lives, as it is written in the Holy Bible: “Ye shall know them by their fruits; a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, and if the root be holy, so are the branches.”

It was during the reign of king Herod that Saint Zacharias was performing his priestly duties.  His course of service was that of the eighth week in the temple.  The descendants of Aaron were so many, that it was impossible for them to serve together in the temple at one time.  So King David, the prophet, divided them into twenty-four divisions.  Each group of priests would take turns performing its office at different times, so they were all able to  serve in the temple.  Only the most honorable priests among them were chosen as chiefs over each group, so that each division had its own head priest.

It was Zacharias’ duty to burn incense in the temple when it was his turn to serve the Lord.  At one time while Zacharias was performing his priestly duties, and many people came to pray, an angel of the Lord appeared to Zacharias, at the right side of the altar of incense.  Great fear came over Zacharias, so the angel comforted him and said, “Fear not, Zacharias.”  The angel  told him that his prayer was well pleasing to God,  and that the Lord would be merciful to Zacharias.   The angel visited Zacharias’ wife and loosed the bonds of her barreness, even though she was quite old.  The angel told Zacharias that Elizabeth would give birth to a son, and his name was to be John, whose name signifies grace.  This birth would bring much joy, not only to his parents, but to a multitude of people.  The angel said’ “And many shall rejoice at his birth.”  ( Lk. 1)   Zacharias was told many good things by the angel about his future son John.  He was told that John would be great in the sight of the Lord, not in body, but in spirit, and no one would ever display such abstinence and fasting as he would.  For as the Lord said, “John came neither eating nor drinking.”  The angel told Zacharias that their son would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb, and that because of him, many of the Isrealites would turn to the Lord.  Zacharias was told by the angel that John would be the Forerunner of the Christ, going before Him in the spirit and power of Elias, making ready the people prepared for the Lord.

These words of the angel seemed unbelievable to Zacharias, and he marvelled, for Elizabeth was barren, and they were quite old.  So he asked the angel, “Whereby shall I know this?  For I am an old man and my wife is well stricken in years.”

The angel then told him, “I am Gabriel, that stands in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and shew thee these glad tidings.  And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.

The people began to wonder why Zacharias tarried so long in the altar.  But when he came out and was not able to speak, they realized that he had seen a vision.

When Zacharias completed his days of ministry, he left from the temple and went to his home which was in the hill country of Hebron, a city of Judah.  This city was appointed as the dwelling place of the priests.

When Saint John the Baptist, their son was born, Zacharias wrote John’s name on a tablet.   His  tongue was then loosed and he was able to talk.  He spoke and praised the Lord.  He was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied saying, ” Blessed be the Lord God of Isreal, for He hath visited and wrought redemption for His people, and hath raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, as He spake by the mouth of His holy ones, the prophets of old.  And thou, O child shalt be called the prophet of the Most High; for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord, to prepare His ways.

Six months later, our Lord Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem.   And when the Magi came from the east, they told Herod of the birth of the newborn King.  Now Herod had heard of the birth of Saint John and thought to himself, “What manner of child shall this be?  Will this child be the King of the Jews?”  He then decided to kill Saint John and sent his soldiers to Zacharias’ house.  When  the executioners were not able to find the baby, Herod had his soldiers slay all the little children who were 2 years old and under.   This is when the slaughter of the children in Bethlehem began.  The cries from the infants’ mothers became known to Saint Elizabeth, she quickly took her son, who was about two and a half years old, and fled to the mountains.  During this time Zacharias was at the temple performing his priestly duties.  Saint Elizabeth prayed to the Lord with many tears, imploring Him to protect her and her baby.  She suddenly saw the soldiers from afar searching for them, she prayed, “O mountain of God, receive a mother with her child!”  All of a sudden the mountain split open, and she was able to hide with her child, and not be found by the soldiers.

When the executioners returned to Herod without having killed Saint John.  He sent word to Zacharias saying, “Surrender your son John to me!”

Then Saint Zacharias said, “I serve the Lord God of Israel.  As for my son, I do not know where he is.”

When Herod sent his soldiers a second time to ask Zacharias the whereabouts of Saint John, Saint Zacharias again told them he did not know where his son was.  The soldiers then told him that Herod would have him put to death for not surrendering Saint John.  Saint Zacharias said, “You will kill my body, but the Lord will receive my soul.”

The soldiers immediately fell upon Zacharias and killed him between the temple and the altar.  His blood was spilled on the marble floor.  It became hard as rock, and was a testimony against Herod and a witness to his eternal condemnation.

In the meantime, Saint Elizabeth and Saint John remained hidden.  The Lord had commanded a cave to be formed inside the mountain.  He caused a spring of water to spring up so they could have fresh water to drink, and a date palm tree filled with dates for them to eat.  When they were hungry, the date tree would bend down so they could easily pick the dates, and then the tree would stand up straight again when they had finished.

Forty days after the martyrdom of her husband Saint Zacharias, Saint Elizabeth reposed, and from then on an angel would come to feed Saint John until he grew up.  He remained in the desert until the time of his preaching to the Isrealites.

 

 

Saint Susanna was married to Varsken, prince of Georgia, the ruler of  Hereti.  She was raised in a pious Christian family,  and she had much love and the fear of God.

 During that time Kartli was under heavy political pressure from Persia.  So Prince Varsken went to visit the Persian king Peroz hoping to acquire a more friendly relationship between their countries.  He willingly chose to deny the true Orthodox Faith, and converted to the worship of fire (Zoroastrianism).  He told the Persian king that his to wife and children would also convert to this pagan religion upon his return to Hereti.

When Varsken reached the border of Hereti, he sent  his messengers to Tsurtavi, the city that he ruled, to make sure that his subjects met him with due respect.  When Saint Susanna found out that her husband betrayed the true Orthodox Faith, she fell to the ground and wept over him with bitter tears.  She then  took their four children, deserted the palace, and found refuge in a nearby church.

That night, Susanna was visited by her spiritual father,  elder Iakob.  He predicted that Varsken was going to treat her with cruelty and mercilessness.   He said, “know that terrible trials await you. Will you be firm and unbending in your position?”  Susanna said, “I would rather die than unite with him and destroy my soul!” she answered.

After three days  the prince arrived in Tsurtavi. And just as he promised, he tried to make Susanna convert, but  she said firmly, “As you have renounced your Creator, so I am renouncing you.  I will no longer take part in your affairs, no matter what suffering I must endure!”

Then Varsken sent his younger brother Jojik and Bishop Apots to convince Susanna to come back to the palace.  She refused, but after a while she gave in to their persuasion.  Susanna then went back to the palace with the Holy Gospel and the Lives of the Saints, and when she arrived she locked herself in a small cell.

Varsken returned  a couple days later to the palace and invited Susanna, his brother Jojik, and his sister-in-law to supper.   But the queen, could not bring herself to share a meal with one who had betrayed Christ.   When Jojik’s wife offered her a cup of wine, the woman of God said sternly, “Whenever has it been the custom for men and women to drink and dine together?”  So she stretched out her hand and spilled the contents of the glass.  This made Varsken very angry, and he then  began to beat his wife mercilessly.  He kicked her with his foot.  Then he took a piker from the fireplace and hit her on the head, cracking her skull, and injuring one of her eyes.  He  was so terribly violent with her that his brother Jojik got up from the table and attempted to protect Saint Susanna.  Jojik finally was able to get Susanna away from Varsken’s powerful grasp, she was like a lamb in the jaws of a wolf.  He then had her locked up, and told the guards not  to let anyone in to see or come near her.

Susanna’s spiritual father then went to the prison  and talked to the prison guard into letting him in to see her.  When Father Iakob  Susanna, he wepted bitterly.  But she told him, “Weep not for me, since this night has been for me the beginning of joy.”  The holy elder said, “Let me wash the blood from thy face and the dust which has fallen into thine eyes.   I can apply ointment and medicine that I have brought with me.  Allow me to attend thee with this small ministration, for I beg God that thou mayest recover.”  But the saintly Susanna replied, “Do not propose that my father, as this blood is for the cleansing of my sins.”  Father Iakob then tried to persuade her to take some food that had been sent by Bishops Samuel and John, who secretly watched over her and saw to her welfare.  Saint Susanna then told her spiritual father that she wasn’t able to eat because her lower and upper jaws and several of her teeth were broken.  So he gave her some bread moistened with wine, and she partook a little of this.

Saint Susanna spent  a total of six years in prison.  And during that time she gladly gave all her jewelry back to her husband.  She helped the poor that came to her, and through her prayers the sick were healed and children were born to the childless.

At this time during one of the Great Fasts, Varsken left to campaign against the Huns.  While he was gone, Saint Susanna found the opportunity to stay in a small cell near a church.  But when her husband returned from fighting, he went to see Bishop Photios and demanded his wife to be given back to him.   He then took her back with him to the palace by force.  She was like a lamb and did not fight with him.  He then had her beaten again and made fun of the true Orthodox Faith saying, “Now dost thou realize that thy Church is of no help?  Where are thy Christian supporters and their God?”  She neither moaned or complained.  Varsken then had her thrown into prison again.  She was led forth outside, walking barefoot with her hair all messed up.  She looked more like a peasant than a queen.  No one dared to cover her head, because her husband followed behind her.  Many cried bitterly for her, but Saint Susanna said, “Weep not, my brothers, my sisters, and my children, but remember me in your prayers now that I am taking leave of you from this world.  For you will not see me leave the castle alive.                                                                                                                                                                                               Saint Susanna was then put into a small dark hut near the castle.   Chains were left round about her neck and the rest of her body.  Varsken then departed.

Eventually her husband allowed the chain around her neck to be taken off of her, but not the chains from the rest of her body.  Susanna was not released from the rest of her shackles til the time of her death. Susanna  blossomed forth with her religious observances.  She always fasted and kept vigil.  Without warying, she read holy books.  The whole palace was made radiant and beautiful by the lyre of her spirit.

 Before her death, Holy Martyr Susanna blessed those around her.  Men and women would come to her for the fulfillment of their vows.  Whatever they needed was bestowed upon them through her holy prayers.  She then was informed that all her children had been converted to the pagan religion of their father.  With a steady flow of tears, she offered up entreaties to God.  Suasanna made many prostrations, striking her head upon the ground as she groaned,  “I give thanks to Thee, O Lord God of mine!  For my children were not mine but gifts from Thee!  As Thou wilt, let Thy will be done, O Lord! Save me from the schemes of the evil one!”

Varsken then let Susanna know through his messengers that if she did not submit to him, he would send her to the Persian court.  She then sent word to him saying, “O wretched and stupid man, if thou shouldest send me to the Persian court, who knows if some good would not come to me and this evil would be averted?”  Her husband thought about this and realized that perhaps one of the princes might take the former vicereine to wife.  From then on he allowed no one to go near her.   But tried one more time to make her come back to him.   She refused.

After being in prison for six years, excessive weariness from her struggles, and devotion brought sickness upon her.  The prison was infested with fleas and lice.  The summer heat and sun burned like fire. The winds were torrid and the waters were infected.  Even the inhabitants of this region were afflicted with various diseases.  Their lives were brief, for nobody reached old age in that district.

In the seventh year of Saint Susanna’s imprisonment, she was afflicted with an ulcer of the flesh, and suffered terribly.  Because of her tireless acts of piety, her feet swelled up, and the ulcers became large and infested with worms.  She took one of these creatures and held it in her hand, and showed her spiritual father.  She gave thanks to God, saying, “Father, do not let the sight of this upset thee.  There, in the fiery everlasting puishment of Gehenna, the worm is not only greater but never dies.”  Father Iakob wepted bitterly.  But Susanna told him, “Father, why art thou sorrowing?  Rather than being eaten by those deathless worms, it is better to be consumed here in this life by mortal ones!”

When her brother-in-law heard that she was near to death, he went with his wife, their children, and their servants.  They asked for her forgiveness, and to receive her blessings.  When Susanna forgave them and blessed them, she said, “All the present life is transient and inconstant, it is a life of a flower of the fields.  One plants it, and another is pleased.  One squanders it on trivia, while another gathers.”  She told them “to walk worthily of God Who calleth you to His own kingdom and glory (1 Thess. 2:12).”  Susanna then let them go in peace.  Many others including those of high nobility came to recieve a blessing from her also, and to pay their last respects.  They bade farewell to their mistress as their eyes were filled with tears.  They then all offered up praise to God for her glorious works.

The day arrived when she was to be called from this earthly life.  Knowing of her coming translation, she called to her side the Bishop Photios , and her spiritual father (who was the biographer of Saint Susanna’s life), and requested that she be buried at the place from which her unbelieving husband had  first dragged her to, from the palace.  She then told them, “Though I am but a worker of the eleventh hour in the vineyard, yet, if I should have any merit, you shall be blessed forever and ever.”  Then Susanna gave thanks to God, saying, “Blessed is our Lord God!  In peace in the same place I shall lay me down and sleep.  For Thou, O Lord, alone hast made me to swell in hope (Ps. 4:9)”  She then entrusted her soul to the Lord Jesus.

This happened in the year 475. The clergy and people alike wept bitterly over Susanna’s tragic fate. Her holy relics were buried in according to her will.

Varsken was captured and killed only a few years after Saint Susanna’s repose.  His assassination was followed by a rebellion directed at the Persian rule in southern Georgia.

In 578, with the blessing of Catholicos Kirion I, St. Susanna’s holy relics were translated to Tbilisi, where they remain today, in the Metekhi Church of the Most Holy Theotokos.   This church symbolically resembles the church built over the Virgin Mary’s tomb in the Garden of Gethsemane at Jerusalem.

O Holy Shushanik, because of thy husband’s transgression thou wast adorned with a martyr’s crown, and thou didst deny the rank of earthly queen in favor of the Heavenly Kingdom. Now thou dost stand boldly before the Bridegroom, the Immortal Christ. Protect us who praise thy name!

The Holy and Glorious Great-Martyr Saint Phanourios the Newly-Appeared

 

Saint Phanourios is the hero of our biography.  But no one knows where he came from, what his parentage is, what time or during which reign he struggled.  We only know the following:  When the Hagarenes ruled the island of Rhodes (because of our sins), they wanted to rebuild the city walls, because of previous battles that had left them in ruins.  From these ruins the Hagarenes gathered up stones for the construction.

At the site where they were digging, a beautiful church was found underground.  As they dug down deeper and deeper they found many holy icons that were either destroyed or unrecognizable.  But one icon they found was whole and unharmed.  It looked like it had just been painted.  With these discoveries , the hierarch of the island, Neilos (1355-1369), a holy and learned man, came to study the inscription on the icon, which read: “Saint Phanourios”.

In the icon the saint is portrayed as a young man in military garb, holding a cross with his right hand.  A lighted taper is depicted on the top of the cross.  The icon is quite large.  And all around the perimeter there are twelve scenes from the martyrdom of Saint Phanourios.
Bishop Neilos asked the governor of that place  if he would be able to restore the church, but he was denied his request.  The hierarch then went to Constantinople, and it was there that he was given permission to carry out the restoration of the church.  This church is there until this very day.  It is located outside of the city.  Many miracles have   happened and are still happening, to the delight of pious Orthodox Christians who love and reverence Saint Phanourios.

At one time when the island of Rhodes was ruled by the Latins, those who were Orthodox and wanted to enter holy orders had to go to the island of Kythera for ordination.  There happened to be three deacons on one such occasion that left from Crete to go to Kythera, and were going to be ordained to the priesthood.  After their ordination on their voyage back to Crete, they were captured by Hagarenes, who kidnapped them and took them to Rhodes to sell them as slaves. Those poor newly ordained priests lamented their misfortune day and night.

Eventually the three priests learned of the wonderworkings of the Great Martyr Saint Phanourios.  At once they prostrated themselves, shedding bitter tears before the saint, and besought Saint Phanourios to deliver them from slavery.  At this time the three priests did not know the whereabouts of each other, since they were sold to different masters.  But by the dispensation of the Lord Jesus Christ, each priest was given permission from his master to offer veneration at the church of Saint Phanourios, and by the grace of God they happened to be at the church at the same time.  They venerated the saints holy icon, and wept so profusely, that the floor of the church was completely watered with their tears.  Together with supplications they prayed to Saint Phanourios to deliver them from the Hagerenes.  When the time came for them to return to their masters, they felt somewhat consoled.  During that same night, the saint appeared to each of the Hagarene masters in their sleep and said, “Let the slave of God go and let him offer veneration in my temple lest some evil should befall thee.”  Each one of the Hagarene masters thought that some kind of sorcery had been performed.  So they loaded down each priest with heavy chains, making their sufferings very burdensome.

That night Saint Phanourios went and removed the chains from the three priests.  Encouraging them he said, “By all means it must be that tomorrow I will free you.”  Then Saint Phanourios appeared to the Hagarenes and rebuked them severely and said, ” Peradventure that even tomorrow thou shouldest not release the captive priest, thou shalt behold the power of God.”  Then the saint departed.  All the Hagarenes in each of the three households awoke to find themselves blind and paralyzed, and they were all greatly tormented.  Out of their grief they called for the three priests and ask them, “Perhaps thou art able to render a cure?”  Each priest answered, “I shall supplicate God, and let His will be done.”

Three nights later Saint Phanourios appeared to each Hagarene once again, since the three priests were not set free.  He told  each one of them, “Peradventure thou shouldest not dispatch to my house the writ of the priest’s liberty, then thou shouldest expect to possess neither health nor sight.  the much-desired light of thine eyes will not be restored until the priest is set free.”  Each Hagarene had their relatives deliver a written paper to the saint’s icon stating that the three priests were to be set free. Behold the marvel! Even before these papers were delivered the blind and paralyzed Hagarenes were healed.  From their profound happiness, the Hagarenes paid for the voyage of the three priests , so they could go back to their homeland.  While the priests were waiting for preparations to be made for their trip home, they made an icon of Saint Phanourios.  This icon they brought back with them to Crete, and each year is celebrated the memory of the saint, by whose hallowed intercessions, O Christ God, have mercy on us. Amen.

Saint Phanourios whose name is similar to the Greek word “to make manifest” (faneros) is famous for his discovery of lost persons, animals, or things – even the most hopeless of cases.  He is a remarkable swift intercessor for those with the loss of anything.  It is a tradition out of gratitude for help from the Saint  to offer a sweet bread or cake (phanouropita), for the soul of Saint Phanourios’ mother.  Why his mother? There is a tradition concerning his mother that she was a great sinner.  And he loved his mother so much that he prayed for her incessantly.  He didn’t even forget about her during his martyrdom.  So he prayed to the Lord,  “For the sake of these my sufferings, Lord, help all those who will pray to Thee for salvation of Phanourios’ sinful mother.”  Phanouropita is not baked for the saint himself, but for the soul of his mother.  According to some accounts, the Phanouropita is to be given to the poor as alms in the name of Saint Phanourios’ mother.  Saint Phanourios is not only invoked for lost persons and articles, but also for helping those in affliction and sickness.                                                  Through the intercessions of Thy Saint, O Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us.  Amen.

The Dormition of our Most Holy Lady Theotokos

The Dormition of our Most Holy Theotokos

Feastday – Aug. 15/28

After the Ascension of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the Mother of God was the one consolation for His disciples.  Everything that Panagia had laid up in her heart from the beginning, she then told them.  She told the disciples  about the glad tidings of Archangel Gabriel regarding the seedless conception and the Birth of Christ from her virgin womb.  She told them about His early years before His Baptism by Saint John the Baptist.

She was together with all the disciples at the Lord’s Ascension and Holy Pentecost.  The Theotokos was filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit in greater abundance than all the apostles, for she had been a worthy temple of Christ in which He dwelt.  Panagia possessed all the holy virtues.  She is higher than the Apostles, Prophets, and all the Saints. According to Saint Gregory Palamas, “Mary is the cause of what had gone before, the pioneer of what has come after her; she distributes eternal goods.  She is the thought of the prophets, the head of the apostles, the support of the martyrs, the certainty of the holy fathers.  She is the glory of the earth, the joy of heaven, the ornament of creation.  She is the summit and the fulfillment of all that is holy.  “No divine gifts can reach either angels or men, save through her mediation.”  Saint Gregory Palamas says that Panagia received gifts of knowledge precociously.  The mutual love between her and Jesus was perfect.

The Dormition of our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary: After the Ascension of the Lord, the Mother of God remained in the care of the Apostle John the Theologian, and during his journeys She lived at the home of his parents, near the Mount of Olives. She was a source of consolation and edification both for the Apostles and for all the believers. Conversing with them, She told them about miraculous events: the Annunciation, the seedless and undefiled Conception of Christ born of Her, about His early childhood, and about His earthly life. Like the Apostles, She helped plant and strengthen the Christian Church by Her presence, Her discourse and Her prayers.

The reverence of the Apostles for the Most Holy Virgin was extraordinary. After the receiving of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the Apostles remained at Jerusalem for about ten years attending to the salvation of the Jews, and wanting moreover to see the Mother of God and hear Her holy discourse. Many of the newly-enlightened in the Faith even came from faraway lands to Jerusalem, to see and to hear the All-Pure Mother of God.

During the persecution initiated by King Herod against the young Church of Christ (Acts 12:1-3), the Most Holy Virgin and the Apostle John the Theologian withdrew to Ephesus in the year 43. The preaching of the Gospel there had fallen by lot to the Apostle John the Theologian. The Mother of God was on Cyprus with St Lazarus the Four-Days-Dead, where he was bishop. She was also on Holy Mount Athos. St Stephen of the Holy Mountain says that the Mother of God prophetically spoke of it: “Let this place be my lot, given to me by my Son and my God. I will be the Patroness of this place and intercede with God for it.”

The respect of ancient Christians for the Mother of God was so great that they preserved what they could about Her life, what they could take note of concerning Her sayings and deeds, and they even passed down to us a description of Her outward appearance.

According to Tradition, based on the words of the Hieromartyrs Dionysius the Areopagite (October 3), Ignatius the God-Bearer (December 20), St Ambrose of Milan (December 7) had occasion to write in his work “On Virgins” concerning the Mother of God: “She was a Virgin not only in body, but also in soul, humble of heart, circumspect in word, wise in mind, not overly given to speaking, a lover of reading and of work, and prudent in speech. Her rule of life was to offend no one, to intend good for everyone, to respect the aged, not envy others, avoid bragging, be healthy of mind, and to love virtue.”

When did She ever hurl the least insult in the face of Her parents? When was She at discord with Her kin? When did She ever puff up with pride before a modest person, or laugh at the weak, or shun the destitute? With Her there was nothing of glaring eyes, nothing of unseemly words, nor of improper conduct. She was modest in the movement of Her body, Her step was quiet, and Her voice straightforward; so that Her face was an expression of soul. She was the personification of purity.

All Her days She was concerned with fasting: She slept only when necessary, and even then, when Her body was at rest, She was still alert in spirit, repeating in Her dreams what She had read, or the implementation of proposed intentions, or those planned yet anew. She was out of Her house only for church, and then only in the company of relatives. Otherwise, She seldom appeared outside Her house in the company of others, and She was Her own best overseer. Others could protect Her only in body, but She Herself guarded Her character.”

According to Tradition, that from the compiler of Church history Nicephorus Callistus (fourteenth century), the Mother of God “was of average stature, or as others suggest, slightly more than average; Her hair golden in appearance; Her eyes bright with pupils like shiny olives; Her eyebrows strong in character and moderately dark, Her nose pronounced and Her mouth vibrant bespeaking sweet speech; Her face was neither round nor angular, but somewhat oblong; the palm of Her hands and fingers were longish…

In conversation with others She preserved decorum, neither becoming silly nor agitated, and indeed especially never angry; without artifice, and direct, She was not overly concerned about Herself, and far from pampering Herself, She was distinctly full of humility. Regarding the clothing which She wore, She was satisfied to have natural colors, which even now is evidenced by Her holy head-covering. Suffice it to say, a special grace attended all Her actions.” (Nicephoros Callistus borrowed his description from St Epiphanius of Cyprus (May 12), from the “Letter to Theophilus Concerning Icons.”

Saint Dionysios the Areopagite upon beholding the Virgin Mother of our Lord was filled with great and immeasurable spiritual joy.  He then wrote a letter to Saint Paul about his visit to the Theotokos:  “I have seen with my own eyes the most holy Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, who surpasses in sanctity all the angels of heaven.  By the grace of God, the good favor of the Apostles, and the unutterable goodness and mercy of the gracious Virgin, I was granted this meeting.  Again I confess before the almighty God, before the grace of the Saviour, before the great glory of the Virgin, His Mother, that when I was introduced to the beautiful and most pure Virgin, together with John-the first among the evangelists and prophets, who, while living in the flesh, shines like the sun in heaven-a great divine radiance shone about me from without and lit up my soul.  At the same time, I sensed such a wonderful fragrance that my spirit and body could hardly bear this manifestation of glory and foretaste of everlasting bliss.   From divine grace and glory, my heart and spirit were prostrated.    “I bear witness before God, Who dwelt in that most honorable virginal womb, that I would have taken her for the true God and would have honored her with the adoration due to God alone, if my newly-enlightened soul had not retained thy divine instructions and laws.   No honor and glory of men can compare with that beatitude that I experienced, unworthy though I be.  That moment in time for me was one of extreme happiness.  I thank my most high and most gracious God, the Divine Virgin, the great Apostle John, and thee, O Paul, the adornment of the Church and invincible leader, for having mercifully granted me such a great blessing!”

The circumstances of the Dormition of the Mother of God were known in the Orthodox Church from apostolic times.  Already in the first century, the Hieromartyr Dionysius the Areopagite wrote about Her “Falling-Asleep.” In the second century, the account of the bodily ascent of the Most Holy Virgin Mary to Heaven is found in the works of Meliton, Bishop of Sardis. In the fourth century, St Epiphanius of Cyprus refers to the tradition about the “Falling Asleep” of the Mother of God. In the fifth century, St Juvenal, Patriarch of Jerusalem, told the holy Byzantine Empress Pulcheria: “Although there is no account of the circumstances of Her death in Holy Scripture, we know about them from the most ancient and credible Tradition.” This tradition was gathered and expounded in the Church History of Nicephorus Callistus during the fourteenth century.

At the time of Her blessed Falling Asleep, the Most Holy Virgin Mary was again at Jerusalem. Her fame as the Mother of God had already spread throughout the land and had aroused many of the envious and the spiteful against Her. They wanted to make attempts on Her life; but God preserved Her from enemies.

Day and night She spent her time in prayer. The Most Holy Theotokos went often to the Holy Sepulchre of the Lord, and here She offered up fevent prayer. More than once, enemies of the Savior sought to hinder Her from visiting her holy place, and they asked the High Priest for a guard to watch over the Grave of the Lord. The Holy Virgin continued to pray right in front of them, yet unseen by anyone.

In one such visit to Golgotha, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Her and announced Her approaching departure from this life to eternal life. In pledge of this, the Archangel gave Her a palm branch. With these heavenly tidings the Mother of God returned to Bethlehem with the three girls attending Her (Sepphora, Abigail, and Jael). She summoned Righteous Joseph of Arimathea and other disciples of the Lord, and told them of Her impending Repose.

The Most Holy Virgin prayed also that the Lord would have the Apostle John come to Her. The Holy Spirit transported him from Ephesus, setting him in that very place where the Mother of God lay. After the prayer, the Most Holy Virgin offered incense, and John heard a voice from Heaven, closing Her prayer with the word “Amen.” The Mother of God took it that the voice meant the speedy arrival of the Apostles and the Disciples and the holy Bodiless Powers.

The faithful, whose number by then was impossible to count, gathered together, says St John of Damascus, like clouds and eagles, to listen to the Mother of God. Seeing one another, the Disciples rejoiced, but in their confusion they asked each other why the Lord had gathered them together in one place. St John the Theologian, greeting them with tears of joy, said that the time of the Virgin’s repose was at hand.

Going in to the Mother of God, they beheld Her lying upon the bed, and filled with spiritual joy. The Disciples greeted Her, and then they told her how they had been carried miraculously from their places of preaching. The Most Holy Virgin Mary glorified God, because He had heard Her prayer and fulfilled Her heart’s desire, and She began speaking about Her imminent end.

During this conversation the Apostle Paul also appeared in a miraculous manner together with his disciples Dionysius the Areopagite, St Hierotheus, St Timothy and others of the Seventy Apostles. The Holy Spirit had gathered them all together so that they might be granted the blessing of the All-Pure Virgin Mary, and more fittingly to see to the burial of the Mother of the Lord. She called each of them to Herself by name, She blessed them and extolled them for their faith and the hardships they endured in preaching the Gospel of Christ. To each She wished eternal bliss, and prayed with them for the peace and welfare of the whole world.

Then came the third hour (9 A.M.), when the Dormition of the Mother of God was to occur. A number of candles were burning. The holy Disciples surrounded her beautifully adorned bed, offering praise to God. She prayed in anticipation of Her demise and of the arrival of Her longed-for Son and Lord. Suddenly, the inexpressible Light of Divine Glory shone forth, before which the blazing candles paled in comparison. All who it saw took fright. Descending from Heaven was Christ, the King of Glory, surrounded by hosts of Angels and Archangels and other Heavenly Powers, together with the souls of the Forefathers and the Prophets, who had prophesied in ages past concerning the Most Holy Virgin Mary.

Seeing Her Son, the Mother of God exclaimed: “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God My Savior, for He hath regarded the low estate of His Handmaiden” (Luke 1:46-48) and, rising from Her bed to meet the Lord, She bowed down to Him, and the Lord bid Her enter into Life Eternal. Without any bodily suffering, as though in a happy sleep, the Most Holy Virgin Mary gave Her soul into the hands of Her Son and God.

Then began a joyous angelic song. Accompanying the pure soul of the God-betrothed and with reverent awe for the Queen of Heaven, the angels exclaimed: “Hail, Full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee, blessed art Thou among women! For lo, the Queen, God’s Maiden comes, lift up the gates, and with the Ever-Existing One, take up the Mother of Light; for through Her salvation has come to all the human race. It is impossible to gaze upon Her, and it is impossible to render Her due honor” (Stikherion on “Lord, I Have Cried”). The Heavenly gates were raised, and meeting the soul of the Most Holy Mother of God, the Cherubim and the Seraphim glorified Her with joy. The face of the Mother of God was radiant with the glory of Divine virginity, and from Her body there came a sweet fragrance.

Miraculous was the life of the All-Pure Virgin, and wondrous was Her Repose, as Holy Church sings: “In Thee, O Queen, the God of all hath given thee as thy portion the things that are above nature. Just as in the Birth-Giving He did preserve Thine virginity, so also in the grave He did preserve Thy body from decay” (Canon 1, Ode 6, Troparion 1).

Kissing the all-pure body with reverence and in awe, the Disciples in turn were blessed by it and filled with grace and spiritual joy. Through the great glorification of the Most Holy Theotokos, the almighty power of God healed the sick, who with faith and love touched the holy bed.

Bewailing their separation from the Mother of God, the Apostles prepared to bury Her all-pure body. The holy Apostles Peter, Paul, James and others of the Twelve Apostles carried the funeral bier upon their shoulders, and upon it lay the body of the Ever-Virgin Mary. St John the Theologian went at the head with the resplendent palm-branch from Paradise. The other saints and a multitude of the faithful accompanied the funeral bier with candles and censers, singing sacred songs. This solemn procession went from Sion through Jerusalem to the Garden of Gethsemane.

With the start of the procession there suddenly appeared over the all-pure body of the Mother of God and all those accompanying Her a resplendent circular cloud, like a crown. There was heard the singing of the Heavenly Powers, glorifying the Mother of God, which echoed that of the worldly voices. This circle of Heavenly singers and radiance accompanied the procession to the very place of burial.

Unbelieving inhabitants of Jerusalem, taken aback by the extraordinarily grand funeral procession and vexed at the honor accorded the Mother of Jesus, complained of this to the High Priest and scribes. Burning with envy and vengefulness toward everything that reminded them of Christ, they sent out their own servants to disrupt the procession and to set the body of the Mother of God afire.

An angry crowd and soldiers set off against the Christians, but the circular cloud accompanying the procession descended and surrounded them like a wall. The pursuers heard the footsteps and the singing, but could not see any of those accompanying the procession. Indeed, many of them were struck blind.

The Jewish priest Athonios, out of spite and hatred for the Mother of Jesus of Nazareth, wanted to topple the funeral bier on which lay the body of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, but an angel of God invisibly cut off his hands, which had touched the bier. Seeing such a wonder, Athonios repented and with faith confessed the majesty of the Mother of God. He received healing and joined the crowd accompanying the body of the Mother of God, and he became a zealous follower of Christ.

When the procession reached the Garden of Gethsemane, then amidst the weeping and the wailing began the last kiss to the all-pure body. Only towards evening were the Apostles able to place it in the tomb and seal the entrance to the cave with a large stone.

For three days they did not depart from the place of burial, praying and chanting Psalms. Through the wise providence of God, the Apostle Thomas was not to be present at the burial of the Mother of God. Arriving late on the third day at Gethsemane, he lay down at the tomb and with bitter tears asked that he might be permitted to look once more upon the Mother of God and bid her farewell. The Apostles out of heartfelt pity for him decided to open the grave and permit him the comfort of venerating the holy relics of the Ever-Virgin Mary. Having opened the grave, they found in it only the grave wrappings and were thus convinced of the bodily ascent of the Most Holy Virgin Mary to Heaven.

On the evening of the same day, when the Apostles had gathered at a house to strengthen themselves with food, the Mother of God appeared to them and said: “Rejoice! I am with you all the days of your lives.” This so gladdened the Apostles and everyone with them, that they took a portion of the bread, set aside at the meal in memory of the Savior (“the Lord’s Portion”), and they exclaimed : “Most Holy Theotokos, save us”. (This marks the beginning of the rite of offering up the “Panagia” (“All-Holy”), a portion of bread in honor of the Mother of God, which is done at monasteries to the present day).

The sash of the Mother of God, and Her holy garb, preserved with reverence and distributed over the face of the earth in pieces, have worked miracles both in the past and at present. Her numerous icons everywhere pour forth signs and healings, and Her holy body, taken up to Heaven, bears witness to our own future life there. Her body was not left to the vicissitudes of the transitory world, but was incomparably exalted by its glorious ascent to Heaven.

The Feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos is celebrated with special solemnity at Gethsemane, the place of Her burial. Nowhere else is there such sorrow of heart at the separation from the Mother of God, and nowhere else such joy, because of Her intercession for the world.

The holy city of Jerusalem is separated from the Mount of Olives by the valley of Kedron on Josaphat. At the foot of the Mount of Olives is the Garden of Gethsemane, where olive trees bear fruit even now.

The holy Ancestor-of-God Joachim had himself reposed at 80 years of age, several years after the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple (November 21). St Anna, having been left a widow, moved from Nazareth to Jerusalem, and lived near the Temple. At Jerusalem she bought two pieces of property: the first at the gates of Gethsemane, and the second in the valley of Josaphat. At the second locale she built a tomb for the members of her family, and where also she herself was buried with Joachim. It was there in the Garden of Gethsemane that the Savior often prayed with His disciples.

The most-pure body of the Mother of God was buried in the family tomb. Christians honored the sepulchre of the Mother of God, and they built a church on this spot. Within the church was preserved the precious funeral cloth, which covered Her all-pure and fragrant body.

The holy Patriarch Juvenal of Jerusalem (420-458) testified before the emperor Marcian (450-457) as to the authenticity of the tradition about the miraculous ascent of the Mother of God to Heaven, and he sent to the empress, St Pulcheria (September 10), the grave wrappings of the Mother of God from Her tomb. St Pulcheria then placed these grave-wrappings within the Blachernae church.