Monthly Archives: January 2016

Saint Gregory of Nyssa +395

Saint Gregory of Nyssa Feast Day January ten on the Orthodox Calenday and twenty three on the civil calendar

Today the Holy Orthodox Church commemorates:
Saint Gregory of Nyssa
Jan 10/23

Saint Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa, was a younger brother of Saint Basil the Great (Jan.1).   His mother, Saint Emmelia and renowned lawyer father raised nine children–five girls and four boys—of whom, one brother Saint Nacratious was a lawyer and another, Saint Peter was the Bishop of Sebasta, a small town on the Mediterranean coast.   Of the other brother and four sisters, little is known.  Macrina, Gregory’s older sister, was widely known and beloved for her devout and holy life, who ultimately was honored as a saint.  She was Gregory’s confidant, sometimes intellectual partner, and deep spiritual influence, who influenced his ordination decision.  Saint Basil was the driving force in Saint Gregory’s decision to pursue holy orders.    In a letter to Saint Peter, Saint Gregory expressed his deep gratitude to their older brother  whom he described as “our father and our master.”

Having received an excellent education, he had trained for and started a career as a teacher of rhetoric, the study of effective pubic speaking and writing.  His family, however, did not support his career choice and tried to convince Saint Gregory to use his talents in the service of the Church.   When he chose to become a teacher, his brother Saint Basil, by then a powerful bishop, objected to and argued against Saint Gregory’s choice with long and impatient letters.  Saint  Basil initially failed to persuade his young brother of his mistake, but ultimately with Gregory’s friends and sister, Saint Macrina, St. Basil persuaded Gregory to become a priest.  Saint Gregory was a reluctant cleric, but shortly thereafter, in the year 372, he was consecrated by Saint Basil as bishop of the city of Nyssa in Cappadocia.

Saint Gregory’s large body of theological work and his many letters constitute an eloquent and intellectually distinctive contribution to Orthodox theology and spirituality.  His Catechism is testimony to his profound grasp of Christian belief. In The Life of Moses, Saint Gregory’s mystical portrayal of God–simultaneously audacious and humble and thoroughly brilliant—has no parallel in Christian thought.  Similarly, his letters are models of elegant grace and beauty, some miraculously anticipating a style of writing and thought not to arise until 1400 years later in the Romantic era of western literature.  He was a gifted writer and speaker who delighted in language and its power to persuade and invoke the senses while illuminating the intellect, a wholly unmatched attribute among writers of his period and unique among the early Church Fathers.

In 787 A.D., roughly four centuries after his repose, the Seventh General Council of the Church honored Saint Gregory of Nyssa by naming him, “Father of Fathers.”

St Gregory was an ardent advocate for Orthodoxy, and he fought against the Arian heresy with his brother Saint Basil.   He was persecuted by the Arians, and falsely accused of improper use of church property, and thereby deprived of his See and sent to Ancyra.

In the following year Saint Gregory was again deposed in absentia by a council of Arian bishops, but he continued to encourage his flock in Orthodoxy, wandering about from place to place.  After the death of the emperor Valens (378), Saint Gregory was restored to his cathedra and was joyously received by his flock.  His brother St Basil the Great died in 379.

With much difficulty Saint Gregory survived the loss of his brother and guide Saint Basil, who reposed in 379.   He delivered a funeral oration for him, and completed Saint Basil’s study of the six days of Creation, the Hexaemeron.  That same year Saint Gregory participated in the Council of Antioch against heretics who refused to recognize the perpetual virginity of the Mother of God.  Others at the opposite extreme, who worshipped the Mother of God as being God Herself, were also denounced by the Council.  He visited the churches of Arabia and Palestine, which were infected with the Arian heresy, to assert the Orthodox teaching about the Most Holy Theotokos.  On his return journey Saint Gregory visited Jerusalem and the Holy Places.

In the year 381 Saint Gregory was one of the chief figures of the Second Ecumenical Council, convened at Constantinople against the heresy of Macedonius, who incorrectly taught about the Holy Spirit.  At this Council, on the initiative of Saint Gregory, the Nicean Symbol of Faith (the Creed) was completed.

Together with the other bishops Saint Gregory affirmed Saint Gregory the Theologian as Archpastor of Constantinople.

In the year 383, Saint Gregory participated in a Council at Constantinople, where he preached a sermon on the divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit.  In 386, he was again at Constantinople, and he was asked to speak the funeral oration in memory of the empress Placilla.  Again in 394 Sainat Gregory was present in Constantinople at a local Council, convened to resolve church matters in Arabia.

Saint Gregory was a fiery defender of Orthodox dogmas and a zealous teacher of his flock, a kind and compassionate father to his spiritual children, and their intercessor before the courts.  He was distinguished by his magnanimity, patience and love of peace.

Saint Gregory of Nyssa reposed in 395, having reached old age.  Together with his great contemporaries, Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory the Theologian, he had a significant influence on the Church life of his time.  His sister, Saint Macrina, wrote to him: “You are renowned both in the cities, and gatherings of people, and throughout entire districts.  Churches ask you for help.” Saint Gregory is known in history as one of the most profound Christian thinkers of the fourth century.  Endowed with philosophical talent, he saw philosophy as a means for a deeper penetration into the authentic meaning of divine revelation.

Gregory left behind many remarkable works of dogmatic character, as well as sermons and discourses. He has been called “the Father of Fathers.”

O holy Saint Gregory of Nyssa, please intercede for us all that we will be saved!


Troparion — Tone 4

O God of our Fathers, / always act with kindness towards us; / take not Your mercy from us, / but guide our lives in peace / through the prayers of the hierarchs Gregory and Dometian.

Troparion — Tone 4

In truth you were revealed to your flock as a rule of faith, / an image of humility and a teacher of abstinence; / your humility exalted you; / your poverty enriched you. / Hierarch Father Gregory, / entreat Christ our God / that our souls may be saved.

Kontakion — Tone 1

You kept watch with the eyes of your soul, holy bishop, / revealing yourself as a watchful pastor for the world. / With the staff of your wisdom and your fervent intercession, / you drove away all heretics like wolves. / You preserved your flock free from harm, most wise Gregory!

The Holy Virgin Martyr Saint Parthena of Edessa +1375

Saint Parthena the Holy Virgin Martyr of Edessa Macedonia

Saint Parthena was born in the city of Edessa in Macedonia in the 14th century.  As was her name, so was her life, for she was a virgin, living in asceticism and modesty.

In about the year 1375, the Turks attacked Edessa, and the citizens of Edessa opposed them with a strong defense.  They were strengthened and encourage by Hieromonk Seraphim, who was the parish priest of the cathedral of the Dormition of the Theotokos.   But unfortunately the enemy was numerous and well organized.

One of the elders of the town by the name of Peter, who was the father of Saint Parthena, was paid a lot of money by the Pasha to betray the city.   The Turks invaded Edessa on December 26, 1375 from the southeastern part, which he guarded, where one of the main bastions of the city was.   Immediately they started a battle, they slaughtered and enslaved its inhabitants with plunders and dishonors.   They arrested Father Seraphim, and after cruel tortures, they drowned him in a great waterfall.

Saint Parthena’s evil father, then denied Christ and became a muslim.   He then handed over his daughter to be the concubine of the Pasha, after having tried to convince her to renounce Christ.   When Saint Parthena heard these words of her father, like another Saint Barbara, she shuddered and rebuked with spiritual bravery her miserable father, and confessed that she would never betray her heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.   Instead of repenting and being remorseful, he became enraged and was like a wild beast.   He began to beat the Saint until blood was spilled and she couldn’t feel anything.   He then unclothed her and handed her over to  the Turks.   The soldiers tortured her for three days.  Finally she was led naked to a hill and they buried her alive.  This hill is still called “Hill of the Virgin”.

O Holy Saint Parthena, please intercede for us all that we be saved!


Apolytikion – Tone 3

Divine offspring, Edessa’s provider, and equal in honor with the renowned Martyrs, Champion who bears the name Parthena, and rebuked the wickedness of your father, with a godly mind you endured the contest for Christ, wherefore intercede for those who honour you, that our sins be remitted and for great mercy.


Kontakion – Tone 3

Celebrating today, is the city of Edessa, your holy memory, Virgin Martyr Parthena, rejoicing for faithfully rearing you in the Lord, singing of the struggle of your martyrdom, which you accomplished courageously, for the glory of Christ all-praised one.



Rejoice, beauty of the people of Edessa, godly minded Parthena, incorrupt bride of Christ;  rejoice amusement of the Orthodox, modest Virgin Martyr worthy of wonder.




Saint Domnica of Constantinople +395

Saint Domnica, her Feastday is January eight on the True Orthodox Calendar and January twenty first on the civil calendar


Today the Holy Orthodox Church commemorates:
Saint Domnica of Constantinople  +395
Jan 8/21

Saint Domnica was born in Rome and reared in the love of Christ. She secretly left her parents’ house and traveled by ship to Alexandria, where she found lodging with four virtuous pagan maidens. By her example and counsel these four were in time led to abandon idolatry and embrace Domnica’s faith. The five then sailed to Constantinople, where it is said that the Patriarch Nectarius (October 11) was notified of their coming by an angel and met them at the dock. The Patriarch baptized the four maidens himself, giving them the names Dorothea, Evanthia, Nonna and Timothea, then settle them and Domnica in a monastery.

Soon the fame of Domnica’s pure life, wise teaching, and wondrous healings spread throughout the city, and even the Emperor Theodosius, with the Empress and his court, came to see her. Soon the crowds made it impossible for her and her sisters to live the heavenly life for which they had entered the monastery; so they relocated the monastery to a remote, demon-haunted location where executions had once commonly been performed, since everyone avoided the area. Here a new monastery was built by order of the Emperor, and the sisters found peace.

Saint Domnica’s fame continued, and she became not only a healer but an oracle for the city of Constantinople, prophesying the death of the Emperor Theodosius and the unrest which followed it. She reposed in peace, having first entrusted the care of the monastery to Dorothea. At the moment of her death, the whole monastery was shaken, and those present saw Saint Domnica dressed as a bride, being borne heavenward escorted by a company of white-clad monks and nuns.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Love for Christ illumined thy nous, and thou didst shine in asceticism like a radiant lamp, O Domnica.  Hence the Master revealed thee as a light-bearing guide of monastics in life and word.  Intercede with Him, O God-bearer, that we may all be saved.

Kontakion in the First Tone
Thou didst gather a choir of virgins by thy holy works and wise teachings.  Thou didst lead them to the bridal chamber where in is the tree of life.   By thy prayers grant life to my deadened soul, God-inspired, Mother Domnica.



Hieromartyr Saint Zoticus the Priest of Constantinople, Feeder of Orphans +340

Saint Zoticus Keeper of Orphans

The Holy Orthodox Church commemorates:
Martyr Zoticus of Constantinople, feeder of orphans
December 30/Jan 12 and Dec 31/Jan 7

Hieromartyr Saint Zoticus, Protector of Orphans, an illustrious and rich Roman, was in the service of Saint Constantine the Great (306-337). When the emperor transferred the capital from Rome to Constantinople, Saint Zoticus also moved there. Soon, however, spurning worldly honors, Saint Zoticus was ordained to the holy priesthood. An outbreak of leprosy in the new City became so severe that the Emperor ordered that all lepers, whatever their rank, be driven from the city or drowned in the sea. Zoticus, moved by compassion for these people, went to the Emperor and asked him for a large amount of gold to buy gems and pearls to enhance the glory of the city, ‘For, as Your Majesty knows, I am well-qualified in this field.’ The Saint then used the gold to ransom all those being led into exile or to drowning, and to establish for them a camp on the hill of Olivet on the opposite shore of the Bosphorus. There he brought the sick and provided for their care. Then, receiving funds from Saint Constantine, he built a place of treatment for the sick, a shelter for the homeless, where he took in those afflicted with leprosy, rescuing them from the soldiers, who had been ordered to drown them in the sea.

In the year 337 Constantius, an Arian heretic, and the son of Saint Constantine, took the throne upon the death of his father. Some of Saint Zoticus’ enemies at court, seeing an opportunity, denounced Zoticus to the new Emperor, saying that he not only held subversive views, but had misappropriated public money. When he learned of these charges, Zoticus presented himself to the Emperor, finely dressed, and offered to take Constantius to see the gems and pearls that he had bought on his behalf. When they reached the hill of Olivet, Constantius was astonished to see a company of lepers coming to greet him with lighted candles, honoring and praising him and their patron Saint Zoticus. Then the holy Zoticus said to the Emperor, ‘These are the precious stones and brilliant pearls that give luster to the crown of the heavenly Kingdom that you will inherit by their prayers. I bought them for the salvation of your soul.’

The heartless Emperor, instead of being grateful, ordered that Zoticus be tied behind wild mules and dragged until he died. The mules ran down the hill, breaking the Saint’s body upon the rocks and brush. Then, of their own accord, they returned to the top of the hill, still dragging the body, and, like Balaam’s donkey (Numbers ch. 22), spoke and proclaimed that the Martyr must be buried on that hill. The astonished and repentant Emperor ordered the Martyr buried with honor, and commanded that a hospital for lepers be built there, staffed by the best physicians and caretakers.

Saint Zoticus is also called Orphanotrophos, ‘Cherisher of Orphans,’ because in later years a large orphanage was added to the leprosarium. The orphanage included a general hospital and a home for the aged. The Saint was honored throughout Byzantine history as the patron of the orphanage.