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April 15th (IV - 28)

Icon of the saint of the day.

Icon of St. Crescens, Hieromartyr Leonidas of Athens; and St. Pafsolikios, Martyr

Disciples from the Seventy: Aristarchus, Pudas and Trophymos (+ c. 67). Women Martyrs Basilissa and Anastasia (+ c. 68). Mesukevi Martyrs Sukhias and his Companions: Andrew, Anastasias, Talale, Theodorites, Juhirodian, Jordan, Kondrates, Lukian, Mimnenos, Nerangios, Polyeuktos, James, Phoki, Domentian, Victor, Zosima (+ c. 100-130, Gruzia). Martyrs: Theodore the Presbyter (+ c. 117-138); Leonides, Bishop of Athens; Sebastian; Sava the Goth (+ 372). Holy Nobleborn GreatPrince Mstislav (+ 1132).

The Holy Disciples Aristarchus, Pudas and Trophymos were from among the Seventy Disciples, whom the Lord Jesus Christ had sent before him with the good-news of the Gospel (Lk. 10: 1-24).

The holy Disciple Aristarchus, a co-worker of the holy Apostle Paul, became bishop of the Syrian city of Apameia. His name is repeatedly mentioned in the book of the Acts of the Holy Apostles (Acts 19: 29, 20: 4, 27: 2) and in the Epistles of the Apostle Paul (Col. 4: 10, Philemon 1: 24).

The holy Disciple Pudas is mentioned in the 2nd Epistle of the Apostle Paul to Timothy (2 Tim. 4: 21). He occupied high position as a member of the Roman Senate. At his home the saint took in the First-Ranked Apostles Peter and Paul, and believing Christians gathered. His house was converted into a church, receiving the name "Pastorum". In it, according to tradition, the holy Apostle Peter himself served as priest.

The holy Disciple Trophymos hailed from the city of Edessa. His name is mentioned in the book of the Acts of the Holy Apostles (Acts 20: 4) and in the 2nd Epistle of the Apostle Paul to Timothy (2 Tim. 4: 20). He was a student and companion of the holy Apostle Paul, sharing with him all the sorrows and persecution.

All these three holy disciples accepted a martyr's death at Rome under the emperor Nero (54-68), concurrent with that of the Apostle Paul ( c. 67).

The Holy Women Martyrs Basilissa and Anastasia lived in Rome and were enlightened with the light of the Christian faith by the holy Apostles Peter and Paul. They devoted themselves to the service of the Lord. When the emperor Nero (54-68) persecuted Christians and gave them over to torture and execution, Saints Basilissa and Anastasia intrepidly took up the bodies of the holy martyrs and gave them reverent burial. Rumours about this reached Nero. Saints Basilissa and Anastasia were then locked up in prison. They subjected them to cruel tortures: they scourged them with whips, tore at their skin with hooks, and burned at them with fire. But the holy martyresses remained unyielding and bravely confessed their faith in Christ the Saviour. By command of Nero they were beheaded with the sword (+ c. 68).

The Holy Martyr Sukhios and his 16 Gruzian (Georgian) Companions were illustrious dignitaries who served at the court of the Albanian (Hagbanite) ruler (i.e. "Caucasian Albania" -- a realm on the present day territory of Azerbaizhan).

Escorting the Albanian ruler's daughter Satenika, spouse of the Armenian emperor Artaxar (88-123), Saint Sukhios and his 16 Companions arrived in Artashat, the ancient capital of Armenia (the city was later destroyed by the Romans in the year 163). Preaching there at the time was the Greek Christian named Chrysos, who had been enlightened and ordained by the holy Disciple Thaddeus (+ c. 44, Comm. 21 August). The dignitaries came to believe in Christ the Saviour, and they firmly resolved to devote all their life to the service of God. All seventeen of the newly-converted Gruzianians followed Chrysos into Mesopotamia. At the time of their Baptism in the waters of the Euphrates, made over them by Bishop Chrysos, they were vouchsafed to behold the Lord of Glory Jesus Christ.

At the place of their Baptism, the holy martyrs erected a venerable cross and named it the "Cross of the Annunciation". Bishop Chrysos at the Baptism gave all the saints new names: to the eldest -- Sukhios (replacing his old name Bagadras), and to his companions the names -- Andrew, Anastasias, Talale, Theodorites, Juhirodion, Jordan, Kondrates, Lukian, Mimnenos, Nerangios, Polyeuktos, James, Phoki, Domentian, Victor and Zosima.

After the martyr's death of Blessed Chrysos, Saint Sukhios became the spiritual leader of the brethren. All soon resettled in a wild locality on Mount Sukaketi, not far from the mountain village of Bagrevandi. Here the former dignitaries led very strict ascetic lives, the scant mountain vegetation sufficed them for food, and for drink -- a cold spring of water.

The new ruler of pagan Albania, Datianos, learned of this, that his former officials had accepted Christianity and had gone off into prayerful solitude. He commissioned his associate Barnapas with a detachment of soldiers to persuade them to return to court and return also to their former faith. Barnapas searched out Saint Sukhios and his companions, but in keeping of their vow of service to God, they refused all the entreaties.

Then by order of Barnapas, Saint Sukhios and his companions in cross-like form were nailed to the ground and consigned to burning. After the burning, their bodies were dismembered and scattered all about Mount Sukaketi, from which the martyrs received also the title the "Mesukevians" (more correctly -- "Sukaketians"). This occurred in the year 123 (by another account -- in the year 130; although an Athos parchment manuscript of the XI Century from the Iveria monastery indicates the year as 100).

The holy remains of the martyrs remained undecayed and unburied until the time of the IV Century, when they were placed in graves and consigned to earth by local Christians (the names of the holy martyrs were found written on a cliff).

The holy PriestMartyr Gregory, Enlightener of Armenia (+ c. 335, Comm. 30 September), built a church on this spot and established a monastery. And afterwards, a curative spring of water was discovered there.

The Holy Martyr Sava, by descent a Goth, lived during the IV Century. During these times bishop Wulfil preached Christianity among the Goths, and among the many baptised was also Saint Sava.

Having become a Christian, Sava led a virtuous life, devout, peaceful, temperate, plain, quiet (but indeed he had to be quiet with idol-worshippers), he shunned women, all his days he spent in prayer, while often he sang in church and concerned himself over its welfare. And he boldly preached Christianity.

The Gothic princes and judges, under the influence of the pagan priests, began a persecution against the Christians and began to demand that they taste of idol-offered meat. Many of the pagans, to safeguard the lives of their friends and kinsfolk who had accepted Christianity, substituted for them just ordinary meat in place of the idol-offerings. Certain of the Christians did agree to such a ruse, but Saint Sava refused and declared, that Christians ought openly to confess their faith. After this the inhabitants of the village, where Saint Sava lived, threw him out, but then asked him to return. When the persecution of Christians had intensified, the fellow villagers of Saint Sava decided to go to the judge and offer up an oath, that among them there were no Christians. Saint Sava thereupon in a loud voice declared: "Swear not for me, since I am a Christian". The inhabitants then went and gave an oath, that in their settlement was only one Christian. By order of the judge they brought Saint Sava to him. But the judge, seeing his poverty, decided that he could neither help nor hurt anyone, and so he set him free.

Meanwhile the persecution continued. Soon one of the Gothic military commanders, by the name of Atharid, descended upon the village at the time of the feast of Holy Pascha. Saint Sava had gotten ready to greet the Great Feast with bishop Guthik, but along the way an Angel returned him to his own village. Presbyter Sapsal had at this time returned there from Greece. Soldiers arrested the priest Sapsal and Saint Sava, whom they did not allow even to get dressed. The priest they conveyed on a cart, but Saint Sava unclad they led behind the cart through the thorns, and they beat at him with canes and switches. The Lord unseen preserved the martyr, such that in the morning when they reached the city, Saint Sava said to his oppressors: "Look ye on my body, see whether there be any traces of the thorns or of your blows?" The soldiers were astonished, seeing the martyr healthy and unharmed, without the slightest trace of the torments endured. Then they stretched out Saint Sava on the axles of a cart and they beat at him the whole day. During the night a certain pious woman got up to prepare the food for the household, and seeing the tied-up martyr, she set him free. He began to help her with the housework. During the day, by order of Atharid, they suspended Saint Sava from the cross-bean lintel of the house. They placed idol-offering meat beneathe both him and the priest and offered to set them free, if they should taste of it. The priest Sapsal replied: "We should the sooner agree, that Atharid crucify us, than that we taste of meat defiled by devils". Saint Sava asked: "Who hath sent this food?" "Master Atharid", -- answered the servant. "There be only one Master, -- God, Who is in Heaven", -- pronounced the martyr. In anger one of the servants powerfully struck Saint Sava in the chest with a spear. Everyone thought, that the martyr was dead, but the saint did not feel any sort of pain and said to the one who had struck him: "Thine blow was for me no stronger, than if thou hadst struck me with soft wool".

Atharid gave orders to put Saint Sava to death. They left the priest Sapsal tied up, and Saint Sava they led to the River Mussova to drown him. Along the way the saint joyfully gave thanks to God, that He had granted him to suffer for the confession of His Holy Name.

The servants during this while discussed among them: "Why should we not set free this man guiltless of anything? Atharid would not learn of this, that we had freed him". Saint Sava heard them and cried out: "Do what is commanded of ye! For I do see Angels coming with glory to take up mine soul!" They then threw the martyr into the river, having tied to his neck a large beam of wood.

Saint Sava suffered on 12 April in the year 372, when he was 38 years of age. The executioners dragged out the body of the martyr and threw it on shore, but Christians later hid it. And still later one of the Skythe leaders, the Christian Junius Saran, conveyed the relics of Saint Sava to Cappadocia, where they were reverently received by Saint Basil the Great (Comm. 1 January).

Holy Nobleborn GreatPrince Mstislav Vladimirovich (in Holy Baptism Theodore, or Feodor) was born on 1 June 1076. When he was all of 12 years old, his grandfather -- the Kiev GreatPrince Vsevolod (1078-1093), sent off his grandson to be prince of Novgorod. The Novgorod people loved the young prince. In 1995 they expelled prince David, who withdrew to Smolensk, and they went specially to Rostov seeking Prince Mstislav.

After the death of his grandfather, Saint Mstislav had occupied his appanage-land, the Rostov throne. At 19 years of age the young prince gained a brilliant victory over his uncle, the Chernigov prince Oleg. Prince Oleg had killed his brother Izyaslav and attacked Rostov and Suzdal', which belonged to Prince Mstislav.

The saint did not want to shed innocent blood. He wanted to make peace with his uncle, and he besought him to be satisfied with the rights to the city of Ryazan'. But Oleg had already gathered forces on a campaign against Novgorod. Prince Mstislav thereupon defeated him in a battle (1096) and Oleg, having lost out at Suzdal' and Rostov, barely managed to hold on at Murom. Saint Mstislav again offered peace and asked only for the return of captives. Oleg agreed under a ruse, and so Prince Mstislav dispersed his own army. On the feastday of the GreatMartyr Theodore of Tyre, on Saturday of the 1st Week of Great Lent, he was quietly sitting down at Suzdal' to eat, when messengers brought him word, that prince Oleg stood at the Klyaz'ma with an army. In one mere day Prince Mstislav regathered his army, and when his brother arrived 4 days later, he gave new battle. Oleg in fear fled to Ryazan', and Saint Mstislav set free the captives, went through the Murom lands and he then reconciled Oleg with GreatPrince Svyatopolk (1093-1114) and with his own father, Vladimir Monomakh.

Thankful for the mercy of God, the saint in 1099 made a pledge to build a temple in honour of the Annunciation of the MostHoly Mother of God at Gorodischa near Novgorod. And especially just for this church was written the reknown Mstislavovo Gospel, the precious adornments of which were wrought at Constantinople. In 1114 the saint pledged at Novgorod a church in the name of Saint Nicholas. This temple was in gratitude to Saint Nicholas for an healing. During the time of a grievous illness the prince had called out for help to Saint Nicholas, whose relics shortly before this had been transferred to Bari in Italy (1087, Comm. 9 May). Saint Nicholas in a vision gave orders to send to Kiev for his icon, indicating its form and measure. The people sent to bring back the icon found themselves detained on the Island of Lipna by a storm raging there on Lake Il'men. But on the 4th day they found in the water there that same circular icon, indicated in the vision. The sick prince gave kiss to the icon and received healing. And afterwards at the place of appearance of the icon, on the Island of Lipna, there was built a monastery with a stone church in the name of Saint Nicholas.

In 1116 the holy prince again campaigned against the Chud people, and after a victory he restored at Novgorod the fortress -- "he made guarantee of Novgorod the Great" -- and he built out more extensively the lodgings for the Novgorod principality. Then at his orders the posadnik-mayor Pavel situated a fortress at Lake Ladoga, where there was built a stone church in honour of the GreatMartyr George.

In 1117 GreatPrince Vladimir Monomakh (1114-1125) summoned his son to him as an assistant and transferred him to Belgorod. In 1123 holy Prince Mstislav confronted the Volynian prince Yaroslav, who was attempting to seize the Kiev principality by leading against Rus' a Polish and Hungarian army.

In 1125 GreatPrince Vladimir Monomakh died, and holy Prince Mstislav occupied the Kiev throne. During this time he gained a brilliant victory over the old enemies of Rus' -- the Polovetsians, driving them beyond the Volga. Those of the Polovetsian princes, who refused to ally with Mstislav, were dispatched to Greece. In 1127 Saint Mstislav gave an oath to defend the Chernigov prince Yaroslav, banished by a nephew. The clergy and all the people besought him not to spill Christian blood. The holy prince obeyed, but until the end of his life he bewailed, that he had violated his kissing of the cross in this oath.

In 1128 GreatPrince Mstislav set the foundations of a stone church in the name of the GreatMartyr Theodore of Tyre (his patron saint), in memory of a victory gained over the Chernigov prince Oleg. And in 1131, after a successful campaign against Lithuania, Saint Mstislav laid the foundations of a temple in honour of the Pirogoschsk Icon of the Mother of God.

Holy Prince Mstislav died on 14 April 1132 during the Paschal Week, and he was buried in the temple of the GreatMartyr Theodore, built by him.

The holy prince was venerated even during his earthly life. The copyist of the Mstislavovo Gospel called him noble and a lover of Christ. The preparer of the settings of the Mstislavovo Gospel, Naslav, wrote about him: "Much toil and tribulation I experienced. But God did comfort me through the prayer of the good prince... God grant his prayer for all Christians". The vita-life of the holy prince was set under 15 April in the Serbian Divine-service Prologue of the XIII-XIV Centuries. This Prologue was transcribed from the much earlier Bulgarian, the source for which was the Russian original. Likewise under 15 April appears the vita-life of Prince Mstislav in the Bulgarian Synaxarion of the year 1340. (Investigations have shown, that the source of this synaxarion was likewise Russian). In these Prologues the memory of holy Prince Mstislav was placed alongside such reknown Russian commemorations, as that of holy Equal-to-the-Apostles GreatPrincess Ol'ga (Comm. 11 July), and the holy Passion-Bearer Princes Boris and Gleb (Comm. 24 July). These facts testify to the wide veneration of holy Prince Mstislav in the Slavic lands.

© 2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos



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