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April 17th (IV - 30)

Icon of the saint of the day.

Icon of St. Symeon of Persia and St. Makarios of Corinth

PriestMartyr Simeon, Bishop of Persia, and with him the Martyrs -- Priests Habdelai and Ananios, Khusdazades (Usphazanes) the Eunuch, Phusikos, Azates, Askritea and 1250 Others (+ 344). Martyr Adrian (+ 251). Monks: Akakios, Bishop of Melitinea (+ 435); Patapios, Thomas and Others; Simeon; Ephrem the Great of Matshvereli (IX) (Gruzia). Monk Zosima, Hegumen of Solovetsk (+ 1478). Monk Alexander of Svirsk (Uncovering of Relics, 1641). Saints Moses, Bakhazes. Sainted Agapitus, Pope of Rome (+ 536). Sainted Makarios, Archbishop of Corinth (+ 1805).

The PriestMartyr Simeon, Bishop of Persia, suffered during the time of a persecution against Christians under the Persian emperor Sapor II (310-381). He was the bishop of Seleucia -- Xeziphon. They accused the saint of being in collaboration with the Greek realm and of subversive activities against the Persian emperor.

In the year 344 the emperor issued an edict, which imposed a grievous tax upon Christians. When certain of them refused to pay it (this was fancied to be a rebellion), the emperor started a fierce persecution against Christians. They brought Saint Simeon to trial in iron fetters as a supposed enemy of the Persian realm, together with the two Presbyter-Martyrs Habdelai and Ananios. The holy bishop would not even bow to the emperor, who asked, why he would not show him the obligatory respect. The saint answered: "Earlier I did bow to thy dignity, but now, when I am led forth for this, to renounce my God and quit my faith, it doth not become me to bow to thee".

The emperor urged him to worship the sun, and in case of refusal he threatened to wipe out Christianity in the land. But neither urgings nor threats could shake the bravely steadfast saint, and they led him off to prison. Along the way the eunuch Usphazanes, a counsellor of the emperor, caught sight of the saint. He rose up and bowed to the bishop, but the saint turned away from him in reproach that he, a former Christian, out of fear of the emperor, now worshipped the sun. The eunuch repented with all his heart, he replaced his fine attire for coarse garb, and sitting at the doors of the court, he cried out bitterly: "Woe to me, when I stand before my God, from Whom I am cut off. Here -- was Simeon, and he hath turned his back on me!" The emperor Sapor learned about the grief of his beloved tutor and asked him what had happened. That one said openly to the emperor, that he bitterly regretted his apostasy and would no more worship the sun, but only the One True God. The emperor was surprised at such sudden decisiveness in the old man and he flatteringly urged him not to abjure the gods, whom their fathers had reverenced. But Usphazanes was unyielding, and they condemned him to death by execution. The only request of the Martyr Usphazanes was that the city heralds report, that he died not for crimes against the emperor, but for being a Christian. The emperor granted his request.

Saint Simeon also learned about the end of the Martyr Usphazanes and with tears he offered up thanks to the Lord. When they brought him a second time before the emperor, Saint Simeon again refused to worship the pagan gods and he confessed his faith in Christ. The enraged emperor gave orders, in front of the eyes of the saint, to behead all the Christians in the prison. Without fear the Christians went to execution, blessed by the sainted-hierarch, and they themselves put their heads beneathe the sword. Thus also was beheaded the companion of Saint Simeon, the Priest Habdelai. When the line reached down to the Priest Ananios, he suddenly trembled. Then one of the dignitaries, Saint Phusikos, a secret Christian, became frightened that Ananios would renounce Christ, and he cried out loudly: "Fear not, elder, the sight of the cutting, and thou immediately wilt see the Divine Light of our Lord Jesus Christ". By this outburst he betrayed himself. The emperor gave orders to pluck out the tongue of Saint Phusikos and to flay the skin from him. Together with Saint Phusikos was martyred his daughter, the Martyress Askitrea. Saint Simeon went last to the executioner and with a prayer he placed his head on the chopping-block (+ 13 April 344). The whole of the Paschal Week until 23 April executions continued. Also to accept a martyr's death was Saint Azates the Eunuch, a close official to the emperor. The sources indicate, that 1,000 Martyrs accepted suffering, and then still another 100 or 150 more.

The Monk Akakios, Bishop of Melitinea, was born into a pious family in the Armenian city of Melitinea. His parents for a long time were childless, and in praying for a son, they vowed to dedicate him to God. Therefore the lad Akakios was given over to the Melitinea bishop Ostrios for the service of the Church. Sainted Ostrios was a firm supporter of Orthodoxy. When the heresy of Macedonias arose, it was Saint Ostrios at the Second OEcumenical Council (381) that set forth the Orthodox teaching about the Holy Spirit as the Third Person of the Holy Trinity One-in-Essence and Undivided.

The sainted-hierarch with love raised Akakios, made him a reader, and then ordained him to the dignity of deacon and then to priest. Saint Akakios devoutly served the Church. He instructed both adults and children in the Holy Scripture, and in the Orthodox Confession of faith.

Among his students was such a luminary of the Church as the Monk Euthymios the Great (Comm. 20 January).

After the death of Saint Ostrios, by general acclamation Saint Akakios was elevated to the bishop's throne of Melitinea. He wisely governed his diocese. By his firm faith, humility and deeds, the saint acquired the gift of wonderworking. One time, when during a dry Summer the saint made Liturgy in an open field, the wine in the Holy Chalice was mixed suddenly by the falling rain, which fell throughout all the land. Through his prayer during a time of flooding an advancing river flowed off and did not come higher than the stone which he had placed at the riverbank. On one of the islands of the River Azar, despite the opposition of the pagans, the saint built a temple in honour of the MostHoly Mother of God. The builders of the church either through carelessness or through malice defectively built the dome. During the time of Liturgy the dome gave way and was ready to collapse. The people in terror rushed out of the church. But the saint halted the fleeing with the exclamation: "The Lord is Defender of my life, of what shalt I be afraid?" (Ps. 26 [27]: 1). The dome remained as though suspended in the air. Only when the Divine-services were ended, and the saint was the last one to emerge from the church, did the dome collapse, causing harm to no one. After this the church was rebuilt again.

Sainted Akakios was a participant in the Third OEcumenical Council (431) and he defended the Orthodox Confession of the Two Natures (Divine and Human) of the Saviour, and of His Birth without seed from the MostHoly Virgin Mother of God. Saint Akakios peacefully expired to the Lord in about the year 435.

The Monk Zosima, Hegumen of Solovetsk, -- a great luminary of the Russian North, was the founder of monastic common-life on Solovetsk Island. He was born in Novgorod diocese, in the village of Tolvui near Lake Onega. From his early years he was raised in piety, and after the death of his parents Gavriil and Varvara he gave away his possessions and accepted monastic tonsure.

In search of a solitary place the monk set off to the shores of the White Sea and at the mouth of the Suma he met the Monk German (Comm. 30 July), who told him about a desolate sea island, where formerly he had spent six years with the Monk Savvatii (Comm. 27 September).

In about the year 1436 the hermits, felicitously having made the sea voyage, landed at the Solovetsk islands. God blessed the place of their settlement with a vision to the Monk Zosima of a beautiful church in the sky. The monks with their own hands built cells and an enclosure, and they began to cultivate and sow the land. One time in late Autumn the Monk German set off to the mainland for necessary provisions. Because of the Autumn weather he was not able to return. The Monk Zosima remained all Winter alone on the island. He suffered many a temptation in struggle with the devils. Death by starvation threatened him, but miraculously two strangers having appeared left him a supply of bread, flour and oil. In Spring the Monk German returned to Solovetsk together with the fisherman Mark, and he brought supplies of food and rigging-tackle for fish nets.

When several hermits had gathered on the island, the Monk Zosima constructed for them a small wooden church in honour of the Transfiguration (Preobrazhenie) of the Lord, together with a refectory. At the request of the Monk Zosima, an hegumen was sent from Novgorod to the newly formed monastery with antimins for the church. Thus occurred the start of the reknown Solovetsk monastery. In the severe conditions of the remote island the monks knew how to arrange their economy. But the hegumens, sent from Novgorod to Solovetsk, could not withstand life in the unwontedly harsh conditions, and so the brethren chose as hegumen the Monk Zosima.

The Monk Zosima concerned himself with the building up of the inner life of the monastery, and he introduced a strict life-in-common. In 1465 he transferred to Solovetsk from the River Vyg the relics of the Monk Savvatii. The monastery suffered vexation from the Novgorod boyars (nobles), who confiscated catches of fish from the monks. The monk was obliged to set off for Novgorod and seek the protection of the archbishop. On the advice of the archbishop, he made the rounds of homes of the boyars and requested them not to allow the ruin of the monastery. The influential and rich boyarina Martha Boretskaya impiously gave orders to throw out the Monk Zosima, but then repented her action and invited him to a meal, during the time of which he suddenly beheld, that six of the illustrious boyars sat without their heads. The Monk Zosima told about this vision to his disciple Daniel and predicted for the boyars an immanent death. The prediction was fulfilled in the year 1478, when during the taking of Novgorod by Ivan III (1462-1505) the boyars were executed.

Shortly before death the monk prepared himself a grave, in which he was buried beyond the altar of the Transfiguration church (+ 17 April 1478). Later on, over his relics was built a chapel. His relics together with the relics of the Monk Savvatii were transferred on 8 August 1566 into a chapel consecrated in their memory at the Transfiguration cathedral.

Many a miracle was witnessed to, when the Monk Zosima with the Monk Savvatii appeared to fishermen perishing in the depths of the sea. The Monk Zosima is likewise a patron of bee-keeping and preserver of bee-hives, and to him is even bestown the title "Bee-keeper" ("Pchel'nik"). To the Monk Zosima often hasten those in sickness. The many hospital churches dedicated to him testify to the great curative power of his prayer before God.

The Monk Alexander of Svirsk died on 30 August 1533. His incorrupt relics were uncovered in the year 1641 during re-construction of the Transfiguration cathedral. The account about the Monk Alexander is located under 30 August.

The Holy Martyr Adrian suffered during the time of the reign of the emperor Decius (249-251). They had locked him up in prison. During the time of a pagan feast they brought out all the imprisoned Christians so that they should offer sacrifice to the idols. They ordered Saint Adrian to throw on the sacrifice some aromatic resin. But the holy martyr rushed at the laid-out sacrificial offering, scattered the fire and wrecked the sacrifice. The pagans in a rage flung themselves upon him, beating at him with canes and iron rods, striking at him with stones, and they then threw him into a red-hot fire (+ 251).

Sainted Agapitus, Pope of Rome, was a zealous adherent of Orthodoxy. By his pious life he won the general esteem and was elevated to the papal throne in the year 535.

The Gothic king Theodoric the Great dispatched Pope Agapitus to Constantinople for peace negotiations. Along the way Saint Agapitus encountered a lame and speechless man. He healed him from his lameness, and after partaking the Holy Mysteries the mute one spoke. At Constantinople the saint healed a blind beggar.

In Constantinople at this time was convened the Local Church-Council. Saint Agapitus took part in it and zealously defended the Orthodox teaching against the heretic Severus, who taught, that the Body of the Lord Jesus Christ was subject to decay similar to every man's body.

Saint Agapitus died at Constantinople in the year 536.

© 2000 by translator Fr. S. Janos



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