April 18th (V -1)
Icon of St. John of Decapolis and St. Athanasia the Wonderworker
Monks: John, Disciple of Gregory Dekapolites (+ c. 820-850); Evthymii (+ 1435); Antonii (Anthony) and Felix of Karelia (+ 1418); Auxentios (+ c. 815-820). Martyrs: Victor, Zoticus, Xeno, Acindinus, Severian and Caesarius (+ 303); John the New from Ianina (+ 1526); John Kulikos (+ 1564). Sainted Kozma the Confessor, Bishop of Chalcedon (+ c. 815-820). Saint Basil (Ratishvili) (XII) (Gruzia). Maximovsk Icon of the Mother of God (1299).
The Monk John was born at the end of the VIII Century. At a young age he became a disciple of the Monk Gregory Dekapolites (+ c. 820, Comm. 20 November) and accepted monastic tonsure from him at the Soluneia (Thessalonika) monastery. Under the guidance of this experienced teacher, the Monk John attained to high spiritual accomplishment.
When the emperor Leo the Armenian (813-820) renewed the persecution against Orthodox Christians because of their veneration of holy icons, the Monk Gregory Dekapolites together with the Monk Joseph the Writer of Church-Song (+ c. 863, Comm. 4 April) and his student the Monk John set off from Soluneia to Constantinople, to muster opposition to the Iconoclast heresy. In spite of persecution, for several years Saints Gregory and John fearlessly defended Orthodoxy, and preached veneration of holy icons. After many hardships the Monk Gregory died (in about the year 820), and soon after him his faithful student John also expired to the Lord. The Monk Joseph the Song-Writer transferred the relics of Saints Gregory and John and placed them in a church of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker.
The Holy Martyrs Victor, Zoticus, Acindinus, Xeno, Severian and Caesarius suffered under the emperor Diocletian (284-305). When he began a fierce persecution against Christians, one of the first to suffer was the holy GreatMartyr and Victory-Bearer George (+ 303, Comm. 23 April). Saint George's unshakable faith and bravery during the time of his suffering led many pagans to Christ. The saints were struck with astonishment that Saint George suffered no harm from the tortuous wheel, and they declared within earshot of all, that they too did believe in Christ. By order of the judge the holy martyrs were beheaded at Nicomedia (+ 303).
Sainted Kozma, Bishop of Chalcedon, and his companion the Monk Auxentios, lived during the IX Century, at a time when the Iconoclasts oppressed the adherents of Orthodoxy. Saint Kozma while still in his youth had withdrawn to a monastery and accepted monastic tonsure. Afterwards he was ordained to the dignity of bishop of Chalcedon and he zealously defended the Orthodox faith against the Iconoclast heretics. The Monk Auxentios was an helper to the saint in this struggle.
The Iconoclasts tried in manifold ways to sway the saint over to their side, but he remained faithful to Orthodoxy to the very end. Saint Kozma did not obey the decree of the emperor Leo the Armenian (813-820) about the discarding of holy icons from the churches. For this he was expelled from his cathedra-seat and exiled to prison. When the saint returned from exile, he continued with Saint Auxentios to defend the veneration of holy icons. At the mitigation of the persecution, Saint Kozma was weak in body, but remained all the more strong in spirit. Sainted Kozma (+ c. 815-820) and the Monk Auxentios to their very end steadfastly preserved the Orthodox faith.
The Holy Martyr John Kulikos was born in the Greek district of Epirus, in the city of Ianina. His parents were pious, but he was orphaned at an early age, and he set off to Constantinople. Of the means left him by his parents, he built a small stall in the city bazaar and was occupied with trade.
He loved to work, he honourably filled all his orders, and his business was successful. But the soul of the saint yearned not for earthly blessing, but for the Kingdom of Heaven.
Saint John lived during difficult times. Constantinople was under the dominion of the Turks, and Christians were subjected to oppressions. Many a Christian tradesman and merchant went over to Mahometanism. Saint John reproached them for their betrayal of Christ and he sustained also the unwavering in their faith. The apostates were thus filled with hatred towards Saint John and they desired his ruin. The saint knew this, but was not afraid: in his soul grew the yearning to suffer for the faith in Christ.
On Great Friday he went to his spiritual father and asked blessing for the deed of martyrdom. The priest counselled the youth to examine himself and to prepare himself for the deed by fasting and prayer, so that at the time of torture he would not abjure Christ. Saint John prayed ardently to the Lord to strengthen his powers. At night on Great Saturday he saw himself in a dream, standing in a fiery furnace and singing praise to the Lord. Interpreting this vision as an indication to go to martyrdom, Saint John received the Holy Mysteries and asked of the priest blessing to enter into the act of martyrdom.
When Saint John arrived at the market, vexed tradesmen there began to reproach him that he had promised to renounced Christ, but that he was not fulfilling his given word. In answer to this the martyr in earshot of all declared, that he was a Christian and had never renounced nor would he ever renounce Christ. Then the envious had him arrested. The judge tried to persuade Saint John to go over to Mahometanism, since he esteemed him as a skilled and respected master-craftsman. But the martyr steadfastly confessed himself a Christian. Over the course of several days they wearied him with hunger and thirst, and beat him without mercy. They sentenced the martyr to burning in a bon-fire. Saint John met his sentence with joy. When they led him to the blazing bon-fire, he went boldly into the very midst of the flames. The torturers, seeing that Saint John was readied to be burnt in the bon-fire, pulled him out and beheaded him with the sword (+ 1526). They then threw the head and body of the martyr into the bon-fire.
Christians gathered up the bones of the martyr which remained from the fire, and reverently they transferred them to the cathedral church.
The Monks Evthymii, Antonii (Anthony) and Felix started their ascetic deeds in the Karelian land in about the year 1410. The Monk Evthymii founded the Karelian Nikolaev monastery. But scarcely had he succeeded in building a church in the name of Saint Nicholas and several cells, when in 1419 Norwegians descended upon the monastery, burnt the church and killed several of the monks. The Monk Evthymii again set about construction.
The boyarina-noble Martha asked prayers at the monastery for her sons who died in 1418 (they were the sons of the Novgorod posadnitsa-mayoress Martha's first husband, Philip Vasil'evich). Exploring their land, the young brothers perished at the mouth of the North Dvina River, and they were buried at the Karelian Nikolaev monastery. In life they were distinguished for their works of charity. In the manuscripts of the Saints of the Karelian monastery their names were entered into the ranks of the Saints. Over the graves of the holy brothers was built a chapel, and in the year 1719 -- a church in honour of the Meeting (Sretenie) of the Lord. The Monk Evthymii was glorified by his apostolic labours in the enlightening of the Karelian peoples. He died in the year 1435, and in 1647 his relics were uncovered. There is a service to the Monks Evthymii, Antonii and Felix. The memory of the monk Evthymii in the "Iconographic Originals" is placed also under 20 January because of his name-in-common with the Monk Euthymios the Great.
The Maximovsk Icon of the Mother of God was written in the year 1299 through a vision to Sainted Maxim, Metropolitan of Vladimir (+ 1305, Comm. 6 December). On it is depicted the Mother of God in full stature with the Praeternal Christ-Child, and with Metropolitan Maxim on his knees accepting the hierarch's omophor. The icon was written in memory of the appearance of the Mother of God to Saint Maxim, when he arrived in Vladimir from Kiev. In the vision, the Mother of God entrusted to him the omophor with the words: "My servant Maxim, it is good that thou hast come to visit My city. Take this omophor and shepherd thou the flock in My city". When the saint awoke, in his hands lay the omophor. The appearance of the Mother of God was a signal of the Heavenly blessing of the metropolitanate from Kiev to Vladimir. The omophor, bestown by the Mother of God, was preserved at the Uspenie (Dormition) cathedral in Vladimir for 112 years. In the year 1412, during an incursion of the Tatars, the omophor was hidden by the cathedral doorsman Patrikii, martyred by the Tatars.
© 1999 by translator Fr S Janos