April 16th (IV -29)
Icon of the Virgin Martyrs, Irene, Agape, and Chionia
Women-Martyrs: Agapia, Irene, Chionia (+ 304); Irene (+ 258); Chariessa, Nika, Galina, Kalisa (Kalida), Nunekhia, Basilissa and Theodora together with the Martyr Leonides. Martyr Michael Burliotes (+ 1172). Saints Paul and Timothy. Nun Theodora of Nizhegorod (+ 1378). Il'insk-Chernigov (1658) and Tambov (1692) Icons of the Mother of God.
The Holy Martyresses Agapia, Irene and Chionia were sisters by birth and they lived at the end-III Century to beginning-IV Century, near the Italian city of Aquilea. They were left orphaned at an early age. The young women led a pious Christian life and they turned down many an offer of marriage. Their spiritual guide was the priest Xeno. It was revealed to him in a dream-vision, that at a very soon time he would die, and the holy virgins would suffer martyrdom. Situated also at Aquilea and having a similar vision was the GreatMartyress Anastasia (+ c. 304, Comm. 22 December), who is entitled "Alleviatrix-of-Captives" ("Uzoreshitel'nitsa") because that she fearlessly made visit to Christians locked up in prison, encouraging them and helping them. The GreatMartyress Anastasia made visit to the sisters and urged them to bravely endure for Christ. Soon what was predicted in the vision came to pass. The priest Xeno died, and the three virgins were arrested and brought to trial before the emperor Diocletian (284-305).
Seeing the youthful beauty of the sisters, the emperor urged them to recant from Christ and he promised to find them illustrious bridegrooms from his entourage. But the holy sisters answered, that they have only the Heavenly Bridegroom -- Christ, for the faith in Whom they were ready to suffer. The emperor demanded they renounce Christ, but neither the elder sisters, nor the youngest of them, would consent. They called the pagan gods mere idols, wrought by human hands, and they preached faith in the True God.
By order of Diocletian, who was setting off for Macedonia, the holy sisters were also to be conveyed there. And they brought them to the court of the governor Dulcetius.
When he saw the beauty of the holy martyresses, he was aroused with impure passion. He put the sisters under guard and he informed them, that they would receive their freedom, if they agreed to fulfill his desires. But the holy martyresses replied, that they were prepared to die for their Heavenly Bridegroom -- Christ. Then Dulcetius decided secretly by night to have his way by force. When the holy sisters arose at night and were glorifying the Lord in prayer, Dulcetius edged up to the door and wanted to enter. But an invisible force struck him, he lost his senses and staggered away. Unable to find his way out, the torturer on his way fell down in the kitchen amidst the cooking utensils, the pots and pans, and he was covered all over with soot. The servants and the soldiers recognised him only with difficulty. When he saw himself in a mirror, he then realised, that the holy martyresses had made a fool of him, and he decided to take his revenge on them.
At his court Dulcetius gave orders to strip bare the holy martyresses before him. But the soldiers, no matter how much they tried, were not able to do this: the clothing as it were clung to the bodies of the holy virgins. And during the time of trial Dulcetius suddenly fell asleep, and no one was able to rouse him. But just as they carried him into his house, he immediately awoke.
When they reported to the emperor Diocletian about everything that had happened, he became angry with Dulcetius and he gave the holy virgins over for trial to Sisinius. This one began his interrogation with the youngest sister, Irene. Having convinced himself of her unyielding, he despatched her to prison and then attempted to sway into renunciation Saints Chionia and Agapia. But these also it was impossible to sway into a renunciation of Christ, and Sisinius gave orders that Saints Agapia and Chionia be burned. The sisters upon hearing the sentence gave up thanks to the Lord for the crowns of martyrdom. And in the fire Agapia and Chionia prayerfully expired to the Lord.
When the fire went out, everyone saw, that the bodies of the holy martyresses and their clothing had not been scorched by the fire, and their faces were beautiful and peaceful, like people quietly asleep. On the day following Sisinius gave orders to bring Saint Irene to court. He threatened her with the fate of her older sisters and he urged her to renounce Christ, and then he began to threaten to hand her over for defilement in an house of ill repute. But the holy martyress answered: "Let my body be given over for forceful defilement, but my soul will never be defiled by renunciation of Christ".
When the soldiers of Sisinius led Saint Irene to the house of ill repute, two luminous soldiers overtook them and said: "Your master Sisinius commands you to take this virgin to an high mountain and leave her there, and then return to him and report to him about fulfilling the command". And the soldiers did so. When they reported back to Sisinius about this, he flew into a rage, since he had given no such orders. The luminous soldiers were Angels of God, saving the holy martyress from defilement. Sisinius with a detachment of soldiers set off to the mountain and saw Saint Irene on its summit. For a long while they searched for the way to the top, but they could not find it. Then one of the soldiers wounded Saint Irene with an arrow from his bow. The martyress cried out to Sisinius: "I do mock thine impotent malice, and pure and undefiled I do expire to my Lord Jesus Christ". Having given up thanks to the Lord, she lay down upon the ground and gave up her spirit to God, on the very day of Holy Pascha (+ 304).
The GreatMartyress Anastasia learned about the end of the holy sisters and reverently she buried their bodies.
The Holy Martyress Irene suffered in Greece in the year 258 on the day of Holy Pascha. She lived with other Christians in a cave and spent her time in constant prayer. Reported on by the pagans, Saint Irene was arrested by soldiers of the governor and locked up in prison. For her fearless confession of Christ as the True God, Saint Irene was cruelly tortured. They cut out her tongue, knocked out her teeth, and finally they beheaded her with the sword.
The Holy Martyr Leonides and the Holy Martyresses Chariessa, Nika, Galina, Kalisa (Kalida), Nunekhia, Basilissa and Theodora suffered at Corinth in the year 258. They threw them into the sea, but they did not drown, and instead they walked upon the water as though upon dry land, singing spiritual hymns. The torturers overtook them in a ship, hung stones on their necks and drownded them.
The Nun Theodora of Nizhegorod, in the world Anastasia (Vassa), was the daughter of the Tver' boyar-noble Ioann and his spouse Anna. She was born in the year 1331. At 12 years of age they gave her in marriage to the Nizhegorod prince Andrei Konstantinovich. after 12 years of childless married life, the prince died, having accepted monasticism (+ 2 June 1365). The holy princess continued to live in the world for another four years, and then she set free her servants, distributed off her substance and entered the Nizhegorod Zachat'ev monastery. She was tonsured by Sainted Dionysii, afterwards the archbishop of Suzdal' (+ 1385, Comm. 15 October and 26 June). In monastic life the saint often went without food for a day or two, and sometimes even five; her nights she spent in tearful prayers, and on her body she wore an hairshirt. She attained the gift of humility and love and she bore every abuse without malice. The example of the strict life of the Nun Theodora attracted others also: in her common-life monastery were tonsured princesses and boyaresses, and in all there about 100 sisters. The Nun Theodora died in the year 1378.
The Holy Martyr Michael Burliotes was born in about the year 1754 into a farm family. the boy was raised piously, but his character was flawed.
The handsome and ruddy youth caught the attention of the owner of a coffee-house in the city of Smyrna. The Turk flattered him and urged him to accept Mahometanism, so as to work at the coffee-house. The youth consented and with delight he began his employment. But then came Holy Pascha, and he heard the triumphant song of Christians: "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tomb bestowing life!" With all his soul he sensed, that he also -- was of Christ, that the Lord was summoning him into His joy, and the youth went down to the singers, but he heard reproaches for his apostasy. "Tomorrow ye will see, what I am", -- he said sadly to the Christians.
He immediately set off to the Mussulman judge and asked, whether it was lawful to barter in exchange swine for gold? If the barter exchange were made by deceit, then could the defrauded take back the gold? "Both possible and lawful", -- answered the Mahometan judge. "If that is so, -- said Saint Michael, -- take back thine swine which thou didst give me for gold, -- take back thine faith and return me my gold -- the faith of my fathers". After these words the martyr openly confessed Jesus Christ as the True God, the Judge of both the living and the dead.
The Turks locked up the confessor in prison, and after two days they cut off his head (+ 1772). His body lay for three days without burial and remained without decay. The Turks threw it into the sea, but sailors took up the body and buried it at the church of Saint Photinia.
The Il'insk-Chernigov Icon of the Mother of God was written in the year 1658 by the iconographer Grigorii Konstantinovich Dubensky, -- in monasticism Gennadii. In 1662 over the course of 8 days, from 16 to 24 April, tears flowed from the icon. In this same year Tatars descended upon Chernigov and devastated it. At midnight they burst into the Trinity monastery, went into the church, overturned all the icons and grabbed all the utensils, -- but the wonderworking icon with its adornment remained untouched. An invisible power held back the impious from the holy icon. The Queen of Heaven likewise once had not permitted, that the enemy should enter into the cave of the Monk Antonii of Pechersk, where the brethren of the monastery had hidden. As though terrified by an incomprehensible vision, the Tatars turned to flight.
The miracle of the Mother of God from Her Chernigov Icon was described by Sainted Dimitrii of Rostov (Comm. 28 October and 21 September), in his book, "The Moistened Fleece" ("Runo Oroshennoe"). Later on Sainted John of Tobol'sk (+ 1715, Comm. 10 June) also wrote about the Chernigov Icon. A wonderworking copy of the Chernigov Icon of the Mother of God, situated in the Gethsemane skete-hermitage of the Trinity-Sergiev Lavra, was glorified in the year 1869 (account is under 1 September).
The Tambov Icon of the Mother of God was manifest in the year 1692. Before its glorification it was situated in the Tambov cemetery church in the name of the holy ArchDeacon Stephen. The icon was taken from the cemetery at the request of a certain seriously ill person. It had been revealed to him in a dream, that he would be healed, if a molieben were served before this icon. After fervent prayer of a molieben for the sick, he was healed. The celebration of the icon was established by decree of the MostHoly Synod on 29 March 1888.
© 2000 by translator Fr. S. Janos