April 19th (V - 2)
Icon of Martyr Paphnutios, Monk Martyr Agathangelos and St. Simeon the Bare Foot
Monks: John of the Old-Cave (VIII); Nicephoros the Hegumen; Simeon Bosoi (Bare-Foot) (Athos). Martyrs Theon, Christopher and Antoninus (+ 303). PriestMartyr Paphnutios of Jerusalem. Sainted George the Confessor, Bishop of Pisidian Antioch (+ c. 813-820). Sainted Tryphonos, Patriarch of Constantinople (+ 933). MonkMartyr Agathangelos of the Esthygmena monastery (Athos, + 1819).
The Monk John of the Old-Cave is called such because he asceticised during the VIII Century in the Laura of the Monk Chariton (+ 450, Comm. 28 September). This was called the "Old", or ancient one, as among the oldest of Palestinian monasteries. The Laura was situated not far from Bethlehem, near the Dead Sea. Saint John in his early years left the world, went to venerate at the holy places of Jerusalem and settled at the Laura, where he attained high spiritual accomplishment. He was ordained to the dignity of presbyter and glorified by his ascetic life.
The Holy Martyrs Christopher, Theon and Antoninus were spearsmen-soldiers of the emperor Diocletian (284-305). They were present at the sufferings of the GreatMartyr George (Comm. 23 April), they beheld the miracles accomplished by the power of God, and they witnessed the faith and unshakable courage of Saint George. The soldiers came to believe in the Saviour, threw down their golden military belts and afront of the emperor declared themselves Christians. They were immediately thrown into prison. The next day the emperor began to urge the former soldiers to renounce Christ, but they firmly confessed their faith and glorified the Saviour as the True God. The emperor gave orders to beat the martyrs with iron rods and to lacerate their bodies with hooks. The holy martyrs endured all the torments and remained unyielding. Then Diocletian gave orders to burn them. The martyr's death of Saints Christopher, Theon and Antoninus occurred in the year 303.
The Monk Nicephoros was born at Constantinople into a rich and illustrious family. His parents, Andrew and Theodora, raised their son in the Christian faith. After their death, young Nicephoros distributed all his wealth to the poor and set off to Chalcedon. The strict manner of monastic life at the monastery of Saint Andrew appealed to Nicephoros, and he remained amidst the brethren there.
From the very start the monk displayed an unusual fervour in prayer and at work. He had such strength of endurance at asceticism, that soon the hegumen sent the saint to a Phoenician island for preaching faith in Christ, and he was made hegumen of a monastery in honour of the MostHoly Mother of God.
The Monk Nicephoros dwelt on the island for thirty-three years and he brought many pagans to Christ. On the place of a pagan-temple on the island was built a church of God.
Sensing the approach of death, the monk gave orders to carry him to a ship and said to the ship-captain: "Take care, since I do expire to the Lord, but carry off my body to Chalcedon to the monastery of Saint Andrew". With these words he died. The ship made fine voyage to Chalcedon, and the brethren of the monastery of Saint Andrew reverently buried the body of the holy ascetic.
The Monk Simeon the Bare-Foot (Bosoi) was the son of a priest. At 15 years of age he came under the spiritual guidance of the bishop of Demetriada (Laryssa diocese), Pakhomios, who gave him monastic vows and ordained him to monk-deacon. In order to better learn strict monastic life, Saint Simeon soon withdrew to a monastery near Mount Olympos, and from there he settled on Holy Mount Athos, at the Laura of Saint Athanasias. By his humility and zealous obedience he there gained the respect of the brethren and was ordained to priest-monk. When the monk transferred to the Philotheon monastery, he intensified his God-pleasing-toil, he became an example for the brethren, gained their overall love and was unanimously chosen as head of this monastery. Afterwards, through the sly cunning of the enemy of good, Saint Simeon had to put up with unjust grumbling on the part of weak-souled monks. Leaving it to the will of God to bring judgement upon the culprits, Saint Simeon quit the monastery and withdrew to Mount Phlamuria. There, in solitude and quiet, without roof nor fire, in old clothing, and almost without food, in constant prayer either standing or on bended-knees, the holy hermit carried on the inner struggle. After three years certain God-loving people came upon him, and inspired with reverence for his lifestyle, they besought him to accept them to live with him.
After seven years by the efforts and zeal of Saint Simeon a whole monastery was formed. A church was built in the Name of the MostHoly Trinity, wherein the monk made daily Divine liturgy. When the life of the brethren in the wilderness monastery had been put in order, the wise servant left the monastery and began to preach the Word of God in Epirus, Thessaly and Athens. By his instructions and teaching the saint affirmed the wavering in their faith, those in error he set aright on the way to salvation, the strong in their faith he made even stronger, and he taught al to love one another, and to observe Sundays and feastdays with a visit to the churches of God.
The boldness of the holy confessor aroused the wicked malice of the opponents of the Christian faith. In the city of Euripa they slandered the Monk Simeon in front of the city-governor, Ayan, accusing him of making a Turk accept Christianity. The saint was arrested and sentenced to public burning. But the providence of God did not permit of the culmination of the injustice. At the interrogation where the condemned one had been led to in shackles, barefoot (bosoi) and in an old ryasa, Saint Simeon -- inspired by the Holy Spirit -- so wisely gave answer to the governor, that Ayan was not able to impose the death sentence. The saint received his freedom and continued with his efforts, sealing the preaching of Christianity by healings and miracles. Many followed after the Monk Simeon and entrusted themselves into full obedience to him. Everyone he accepted, he gave blessing for the monastic life and sent them on to his monastery. The work of Saint Simeon finished at Constantinople. He peacefully expired to the Lord and was buried reverently by the patriarch himself at Chalkas, in a church in honour of the MostHoly Mother of God. After 2 years, when the monks of the Phlamuria monastery decided to transfer his holy relics to the monastery, and the grave with his body was opened, fragrance wafted forth and here already began healings.
The Vita and the Service to the Monk Simeon were published at Smyrna in the year 1646.
The PriestMartyr Paphnutios of Jerusalem was a bishop. He underwent many sufferings from the pagans and was tortured by fire, by beasts, and finally was beheaded by the sword.
Some suggest, that the PriestMartyr Paphnutios was an Egyptian bishop and suffered together with many other Egyptians, exiled to the Palestinian mines during the persecution by Diocletian (284-305).
The myrh-flowing relics of the priest-martyr were glorified by miracles. The kanon to him was compiled during the Iconoclast period (pre-842). In the final ode to him is done a petition about the aid of the priest-martyr in putting an end to the heresy disrupting the Church.
Sainted George the Confessor, Bishop of Pisidian Antioch, lived during the Iconoclast period. In his youth he became a monk, was known for his holiness of life and was made bishop of Pisidian Antioch.
During the time of persecution against holy icons under the emperor Leo the Armenian (813-820), Saint George was at Constantinople and at a Council of bishops he denounced the Iconoclast heresy, calling on the emperor to forsake it. When Saint George refused to remove the icons from the church by decree of the emperor, he was exiled to imprisonment (+ c. 813-820).
Sainted Tryphonos, Patriarch of Constantinople, was from his youthful years a monk, distinguished by his meekness, lack of malice, full submission to the will of God, firm faith and love for the Church. At this time in Byzantium ruled the emperor Romanos (919-944), who wanted to raise up onto the patriarchal throne his younger son Theophylaktos. When Patriarch Stephanos (925-928) died, Theophylaktos was only 16 years old. The emperor then suggested to the Monk Tryphonos to be a "locum tenens" of the patriarchal throne until the coming of age of Theophylaktos.
The Monk Tryphonos meekly accepted upon himself the burden of patriarchal service and over the course of three years he wisely governed the Church. When Theophylaktos turned age twenty (931), the emperor proposed to Saint Tryphonos that he resign the patriarchal throne. But Saint Tryphonos did not consider it proper to hand over the throne to an inexperienced youth and so he refused to do so. The emperor could not find pretense to intimidate Saint Tryphonos, since his life was blameless. Then Romanos employed the cunning counsel of the bishop of Caesarea, Theophilos.
The bishop went to Saint Tryphonos and deceitfully began to urge him not to comply with the emperor and not to resign the patriarchal throne. He began to advise Saint Tryphonos to take beforehand a measure of caution and dispel the impression of the emperor about his illiteracy. And to do this bishop Theophilos craftily suggested to Saint Tryphonos to write down on a clean sheet of paper his full name and title, and to give it over to the emperor. Not perceiving the fraud, the guileless saint at a Council of bishops took a clean sheet of paper and put on it his titled signature: "Tryphonos, by the Mercy of God the ArchBishop of Constantinople, and of New Rome the OEcumenical Patriarch". When they presented this paper to the emperor, he gave orders to write atop the signature of the saint: "I resign the position of Patriarch for no other reason than this, that I consider myself unworthy of this dignity". When this fraud was read at a gathering of imperial dignitaries, servants removed Saint Tryphonos from the patriarchal chambers. The Monk Tryphonos patiently endured the deception done him, and returned to his own monastery. He lived in it as a modest monk but for a year until his death (+ 933). His body was taken to Constantinople and buried in the burial place of the Patriarchs.
The MonkMartyr Agathangelos, in the world Athanasias, was born in the city of Aena, the Thracian district, and was raised in a strict Orthodox family. After the death of his parents he became a sailor. The Turks decided to convert the skilled and intelligent youth to Islam. They knew, that he would not renounce Christ of his own good will, and in the city of Smyrna they pounced on the saint, inflicted a wound on him and threatening him with death, demanded that he accept Islam. The youth was terrified and promised to call himself a musselman in the hope of soon to be free of the bullies and disdain this promise. But for a long time he did not succeed, he was tormented by the stings of conscience and finally he found the opportunity to quit the city to seek refuge on Holy Mount Athos. At the Esthygmena monastery the hegumen, Euthymios, confessed him and gave him blessing to become a novice, which Saint Athanasias entered into with great fervour.
But even by his most intense efforts Saint Athanasias considered it insufficient to atone for his sin of apostasy. He sensed, that it would be necessary for him to give up his life for the faith in Christ, and he began fervently to pray concerning this.
On the fourth Sunday of the Great Lent the nineteen year old youth took monastic vows with the name Agathangelos.
Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker appeared to the newly-made monk in a dream and promised him his help. The hegumen of the monastery saw in this a special sign and gave blessing to Saint Agathangelos to confess his faith in Christ at Smyrna in front of those very ones who forced him into renunciation.
In the Ottoman courtroom the confessor told, how by force they had compelled him to accept an alien faith, and he publicly renounced Islam and confessed himself a Christian. They began to cajole and admonish Saint Agathangelos. He replied: "I will not give in to you, neither by your threats nor by your promises. Christ only do I love, my Christ only do I follow, in my Christ only do I hope to know bliss". The judge began to threaten him with death by torture. "I am prepared to endure all for my Christ! I accept every manner of torment with the greatest joy! I ask only that thou not tarry in carrying out thy word", -- answered the saint.
They bound Saint Agathangelos and slapped him in heavy chains, hammered his feet into wooden boots and threw him in prison. Together with him were situated there two other wrongly condemned Christians. One of them, Nicholas, after the death of the monkmartyr gave an account of his torture.
On the following day Saint Agathangelos in fetters was again brought before the judge. Bravely enduring all the torments which the Turks had readied for him, he again was sent off to prison. Nicholas reported to him, that a certain influential man would intervene before the judge for his release, but Saint Agathangelos in a note to this man asked not to gain him freedom, but rather that he might pray to God that he be strengthened for the deed of martyrdom.
The saint readied himself for the final trial. At midnight in a vision it was revealed to him, that they would execute him not later than five o'clock, and he joyfully began to await the appointed hour. At about the fourth hour a watch was put over him. Not seeing any possibility to convert the steadfast confessor from his faith in Christ, the judges decided to execute him. Absorbed in prayer, the martyr did not take notice the preparations for executions nor the large throng of people. He was beheaded at about the fifth hour of the morning, on 19 April 1819. Christians gathered up the holy remains of the martyr and buried them in the city of Smyrna, in the church of the GreatMartyr George.
In the year 1844 part of the remains of the MonkMartyr Agathangelos were transferred to Holy Mount Athos to the Esthygmena monastery.
© 1998 by translator Fr. S. Janos.