April 12th (IV -25)
Icon of St. Basil the Confessor, St. Ahakios the New, and St. Anthousa the Virgin
Monastics: Basil the Confessor, Bishop of Para (+ post 754); Isaac the Syrian, at Italian Spoleto (+ 550); Virgin Anthusa (+ 801); Hegumeness Athanasia (+ 860) and Saint Matthew the Presbyter; Akakios the New (+ 1730). PriestMartyr Zenon, Bishop of Verona (+ c. 360). Martyrs Dymos and Protion; Gerontios; Kistion. MonkMartyrs Minas, David and John (+ post 636). Sainted Sergios, Patriarch of Constantinople (+ 1019). Murom (XII) and Belynich (XIII) Icons of Mother of God.
The Monk Basil the Confessor, Bishop of Para, lived during the VIII Century. He was chosen to the bishop's chair by the inhabitants of Para, who venerated the saint as a true pastor of the flock of Christ.
When the Iconoclast heresy broke out, Saint Basil resolutely came out on the side of icon veneration and refused to sign the directives for their abolition (the "Iniquitous Scroll" of the Council of 754 which had convened under the emperor Constantine V Copronymos (741-775). The saint shunned any contact with the heretics and did not permit them into his diocese. For his zeal he suffered much persecution, hunger and deprivation.
To the very end of his life Saint Basil was faithful to the Orthodox confession.
The Nun Athanasia was hegumeness of a monastery on the island of Aegina. She was born into a pious Christian family of parents named Nikita and Marina. Already at seven years of age the maiden studied the Psalter, which she read constantly and with feeling. Once, during the time of work at the weaver's loom, Saint Athanasia saw coming down to her from above a shining star, which touched her bosom and lightened all her being, and then disappeared. From that moment the maiden was illumined in soul and she firmly resolved to enter a monastery.
When Saint Athanasia reached age 16, her parents entreated her to marry. The maiden consented, but lived in wedlock all of only 16 days: her husband was taken into the army and there died.
Left a widow, Saint Athanasia decided to fulfill her old wish. But at this time was promulgated a decree of the emperor Michael the Stammerer (820-829), in accord with which young widows were to enter into marriage with young soldiers. Saint Athanasia married again. In marriage she led a pious and virtuous life: she toiled in the house, helped the sick and those in need, and took in wanderers. On Sundays and feastdays she invited over family and acquaintances and read the Holy Scripture to them. Under her influence, her husband went off to a monastery and gave his wife permission to take monastic vows.
The saint gave away her property, accepted monasticism and together with some devout women she withdrew into a solitary place. After a certain while the sisters besought the Nun Athanasia to become hegumen of the small community. The saint looked upon her being hegumeness as an especial service to God and her sisters. She gave example by meekness and humility. All infractions of the sisters were asked about with love, without anger.
Although Saint Athanasia had the title of hegumeness, she accounted herself least among the sisters and always had in mind the commandment of the Saviour: "Whoso amongst you would be first, let them be servant to all" (Mt. 20: 27). The saint never permitted the sisters to wait upon her, even though it be to pour water over her hands.
The Nun Athanasia wore an hair-shirt, and over it her clothes were of coarse sheep's wool. She slept little, and the better part of the night she prayed. By day she toiled together with the sisters. She partook of food only in the evening, which consisted of morsels of bread and water. Butter, cheese and fish she permitted herself only on the Nativity of Christ and Holy Pascha. During lent she ate once or twice a day only some moist greens. The Nun Athanasia spent four years at this monastery.
On the island of Aegina lived a certain monk-elder, Matthew, who earlier had been an hegumen. He took upon himself a great exploit: each night he read through the Psalter, together with reading also prayers. The saint slept sitting and only very little. During the singing of the Psalms, reading prayers or offering the Bloodless Sacrifice the monk could not refrain from tears. He wore only a coarse hair-shirt and by great temperance and exertions he became completely withered of body. He had an especial love for Saint John the Theologian, and one time during the making of the Divine liturgy he was vouchsafed to see this apostle, standing at the altar-table. The monk with his mantle healed a paralytic, by the sign of the cross he corrected the face of a man distorted by the working of the devil, he cast out demons and worked many other miracles. The Monk Matthew gave blessing to Saint Athanasia to go with her sisters to a still more remote place. She built a monastery on a desolate hill of the island near an ancient church of the FirstMartyr Stephen.
The Nun Athanasia was granted of God the gift of healing. After she healed a man afflicted with a malady of the eyes, a throng of people began to flock to her, to receive healing from infirmities of both soul and body. From the abundant gifts brought to the monastery, the nun built at the monastery three churches: one in the name of the MostHoly Mother of God, another in the name of the holy Prophet John the Forerunner, and the third in the name of Sainted Nicholas the Wonderworker.
The spreading celebrity distressed the saint, and she took the two sisters closest to her in spirit (Maria and Eupraxia) and withdrew in secret to Constantinople. There, as a simple monastic, the nun entered one of the women's monasteries, where she dwelt for 7 years.
But her holy life again attracted attention. The sisters of the Aegina monastery learned whither their hegumeness had gone, and they set off to her imploring her to return. Submitting to the Will of God, the nun returned to the monastery founded by her. Soon after this she was granted a vision of two radiant men, bestowing upon her a document with the words: "Here is thine freedom, take and rejoice".
The twelve days before her death the Nun Athanasia spent at unceasing prayer. On the eve of the feast of the Dormition (Uspenie) of the MostHoly Mother of God she summoned the sisters and said, that she was able to read the Psalter only up to the twelfth psalm. The saint asked them to continue reading the Psalter for her in church. The sisters went to church and there fulfilled her request, and then they came to take their farewell from the saint. She blessed them and besought them to solemnly and joyfully make the feast of the Dormition of the MostHoly Mother of God, and also to give a meal for the poor and destitute, and after Divine liturgy to give burial to her body. With these words the Nun Athanasia expired to the Lord (+ 14 August 860).
On the fortieth day, after Divine liturgy two devout sisters were granted to see, how Saint Athanasia appeared before the royal doors. Two radiant men adorned her head with a crown beset with crosses, they entrusted to her a gleaming staff and led her through the royal doors into the altar.
Before her death, Saint Athanasia gave orders to feed the poor in her memory through the 40 days. The sisters, however, did not fulfill her request and they set out the memorial meal for only 9 days. The saint appeared to certain of the sisters and said: "In vain ye fulfilled not my last wish -- the forty day commemoration of the dead in church and the feeding of the poor would have been much help for sinful souls, and from righteous souls would have been sent down Heavenly mercy upon those making remembrance". With this she thrust her staff into the ground and became invisible. The staff left behind sprouted the next day and became a live tree. A year after the death of the saint, they led to the grave a demoniac woman. When they dug up the ground, they then perceived a fragrance and took out the coffin. Having touched it, the demoniac was immediately healed. Then they opened the lid of the coffin and beheld the undecayed body of the nun, from which flowed myrh. The Nun Athanasia was as though asleep, her face shone brightly, all her body was preserved incorrupt and soft, and even her hands were supple. The priests decided to place the body of the saint in church. When they transferred the body into a new coffin, the nuns took hold the hair-shirt from her holy remains and wanted to dress her in silken clothes, but the hands of the Nun Athanasia were so firmly clasped to her bosom, that the nuns could not dress her in the silken garb. Thus even in death the saint displayed her love for poverty. Thereupon one of the sisters, having bent down on her knees, began to pray to the saint, saying: "Our lady, as undeniably thou didst hearken to us when thou lived with us, so now also be graciously pleased to hearken to us and be dressed in these clothes, our humble gift offered unto thee". The Nun Athanasia, as though alive, lifted and extended her hands into the clothing.
The holy relics of the Nun Athanasia were put into a constructed crypt and became a source of graced healings.
The PriestMonk Zenon, Bishop of Verona, was born a Greek and came from Syria. In his early years he accepted monasticism and toiled over the study of Holy Scripture. Wandering through the monasteries, the saint came to the city of Verona and settled there. The people chose him bishop of the city.
The emperors who then ruled, Constantius (353-361) and Valens (364-378), were advocates of the Arian heresy, which had been condemned at the First OEcumenical Council at Nicea in the year 325. Under their patronage the Arians began a persecution against the Orthodox. Saint Zenon bravely endured all the oppression from the heretics. In his sermons and missives he firmly asserted the Orthodox teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ as the Only-Begotten Son of God, Born of the Father before all ages. Saint Zenon wrote 16 lengthy and 77 short discourses and directives. He died in about the year 360.
Sainted Gregory Dialogus (Comm. 12 March) speaks of a miracle, worked in the year 558 on the day of memory of Saint Zenon. Springtime in Italy, it was heavily flooded. The River Tiber overflowed its banks and inundated the surrounding area; the River Atesis flowing past Verona also flooded. The water reached the church built in the name of the PriestMartyr Zenon, and came up to the very windows of the church. The doors of the temple were open, but the water did not rush into it, but stopped at the wall, not harming the church.
The Monk Isaac the Syrian lived during the mid-VI Century. He arrived in the Italian city of Spoleto from Syria. The monk asked permission of the church wardens to remain in the temple and he prayed in it for all of two and an half days. One of the church wardens began to reproach the monk with hypocrisy and struck him on the cheek. The punishment of God then befell the church warden. The devil threw him down at the feet of the saint and cried out: "Isaac, cast me out!" Just as the monk bent over the man, the unclean spirit fled.
News about the occurrence quickly spread throughout the city. People began to throng to the monk, offering him help and the means for building a monastery. But the humble monk refused all this. He left the city and settled in a desolate place, where he built himself a small cell. Around the ascetic gathered disciples, and thus was formed a monastery. When his disciples inquired of the elder, why he had shunned the gifts, he answered: "A monk in acquiring possessions is no longer a monk".
The Monk Isaac was endowed with the gift of perspicacity. About this Sainted Gregory Dialogus (Comm. 12 March) relates in his "Conversations about the Lives and Miracles of the Italian Fathers". One time the Monk Isaac bid the monks to leave behind their spades in the garden for the night, and in the morning he asked them to prepare food for the workers. It seems that robbers, as many as there were spades left behind, had come to rob the monastery. The power of God forced them to change their evil intent. They took in hand the spades and began ardently to work, such that at the arrival of the monks all the ground had been dug up. The monk greeted the toilers and invited them to refresh themselves with food. Then he gave them an admonition to quit their thievery, and gave them permission always to come openly and make use of the fruits of the monastery garden.
Another time there came to the monk wanderers, attired in rags, and they besought clothing of the saint. He bid them to wait a bit, and sent a monk into the forest, where in the hollow of a tree the wanderers had hidden their fine clothes, wanting to deceive the holy hegumen. The monk dispatched brought back the clothes, and the Monk Isaac gave them to the wanderers. Seeing, that their fraud was uncovered, the moochers fell into great distress and shame.
It happened likewise, that a certain man sent the monk his servant with two baskets of food. The servant hid one of these baskets along the way. The monk took the offered basket and quietly said: "I accept the gifts, but thou however ought not to touch the basket hidden by thee -- into it has creeped a snake, and if thou reach out thy hand, it wilt bite thee". Thus wisely and without malice the saint unmasked the sins of people, desiring salvation for all.
The Monk Isaac died in the year 550. This saint mustneeds be distinguished from another ascetic, the Monk Isaac the Syrian, Bishop of Ninevah, who lived during the VII Century (Comm. 28 January).
The MonkMartyrs Minas, David and John asceticised in Palestine. They received a martyr's death in the VII Century from the Arabs, who shot them through with arrows (+ post 636, when Jerusalem was captured by the Arabs).
The Nun Anthusa was daughter of the Iconoclast emperor Constantine Copronymos (741-775) from his first wife from among the Khazars. She and her brother, the future emperor Leo the Khazar (775-780), were twins born on 25 January 750. The empress suffered very much with their birth. Constantine Copronymos summoned from prison the Hegumeness Anthusa (Comm. 27 July) and besought her prayers. The Nun Anthusa foretold the birth of twins and their fate. The daughter, born with the prediction of the Nun Anthusa, was named in her honour. When she grew up, the emperor began to urge her to marry. But Saint Anthusa from the time of her youth yearned for monasticism and would not agree to his suggestions. After the death of her father, she used all her personal property for the aid of the poor and the orphaned. The pious empress Irene (780?802), spouse of Leo the Khazar, regarded Saint Anthusa with love and esteem and invited her to be a co-regent. But Saint Anthusa did not wish for worldly honours. Being at court, she put on clothes corresponding to her position as an imperial daughter, but beneathe it she wore an hair-shirt.
Saint Anthusa took monastic vows from the holy Patriarch Tarasios (784-806). She founded at Constantinople the Omonea monastery, known for its strict rule (ustav). The Nun Anthusa was herself an example of humility -- she herself did hard work, she cleaned the church and carried water; during mealtime she never sat at table but instead served the sisters. She kept strict watch, that no one left the monastery without especial need. The humble and gentle ascetic lived to age 52, and died peacefully in the year 801.
Sainted Sergios, Patriarch of Constantinople, a monk from the monastery of Saint Manuel, directed the Church from 999 to 1019.
The Monk Akakios the New took monastic vows at the Holy Trinity monastery of Saint Dionysios of Olympos (Comm. 24 January) at Zagorakhos. Having gone off to Holy Mount Athos, the monk on the advice of his father-confessor, Father Galaktion, settled in the skete monastery of Saint Maximos the Hut-Burner ("Kausokalibites", Comm. 13 January), who repeatedly appeared to the ascetic. The exploits of the Monk Akakios were extremely severe: in place of bread he ate dry grass, broken up by pounding with a piece of marble. To the question of how much a monk ought to sleep, he answered, that for a true monk half an hour even was sufficient. And he himself in spite of age and illness gave example of this.
About the humility of the monk there is the following instance. One time, when the Monk Akakios had come on Sunday to the skete church, the arch-hegumen Neogrites handed him his own cane and said: "Father, take the staff, and we wilt lead the gathered brethren". Having kissed the hand of the arch-hegumen, the Monk Akakios accepted the staff without any contradiction. But, in order to humble his mind, he from that time not only never took the lead staff in his hand, but also refrained from the particular staff usual for old age.
For his exalted exploits the Monk Akakios was granted the gifts of unceasing mental prayer and Divine revelations. He expired to the Lord on 12 April 1730, being almost an hundred years old.
The Muromsk Icon of the Mother of God was transferred to Murom from Kiev by the enlightener of this remote region, the holy Nobleborn prince Constantine (+ 1129, Comm. 21 May).
Saint Constantine urged the pagans to accept Christianity, but they were stubborn and decided to murder the prince. Having learned of this, the saint came out to the conspirators with the Icon of the Mother of God. The grace, issuing forth from Her Countenance, touched the hearts of the pagans. They changed their minds and themselves began to ask that Baptism be made over them.
With this icon Sainted Vasilii of Ryazan (Comm. 3 July) sailed on his mantle from Muron to Ryazan.
The Belynich Icon of the Mother of God initially was situated in one of the Orthodox churches of the Mogilevsk district. After the emergence of the Unia (1596) the icon passed over to the Catholics and was set up in a church of the Belynich Catholic monastery, founded in 1622-1624 by the hetman of Great Lithuania, Lev Sapega, on the banks of the River Druta, 45 versts from Mogilev. The icon was venerated both by Catholics and by Orthodox. In 1832 the monastery was dissolved, and the Catholic church became a parish church.
In 1876 it was given over to the Orthodox with a restoral of the monastery. On 12 April of that year in this temple was made a first Divine liturgy at the altar-table consecrated by an Orthodox bishop, in honour of the Nativity of the MostHoly Mother of God. The Belynich Icon of the Mother of God is something regarded holy in-common through the Christian world.
On this day is remembered the Transfer of the Venerable Belt (Poyas) of the Mother of God from Zila to Tsar'grad in the year 942.
© 1998 by translator Fr. S. Janos.