April 20th (V - 3)
Icon of St. Theodore the Trichinas; Disciple Zacchaeus and Monk Athanasios of Meteora
Monk Theodore the Trikhinian (? IV - IX). Monk Alexander of Oshevensk (+ 1479). Infant-Martyr Gabriel of Belostock (+ 1690). Disciple Zakhaeus, formerly a Publican (I). Martyress Theodora. Saint Chrysippos, Presbyter of Jerusalem. Saint Stakhios. Sainted Betranes (+ c. 378) and Theotimos (+ c. 412), Bishops of Lesser Skythia. Sainted Gregory, Patriarch of Antioch (+ 593). Sainted Anastasias I the Sinaite, Patriarch of Antioch (+ 599). PriestMartyr Anastasias II, Patriarch of Antioch (+ 610). Monk Anastasias, Hegumen of Mount Sinai (+ c. 695). Monks Athanasias of Meteoreia (born 1310) and Joasaph his Co-Ascetic. Icons of Mother of God: Cyprus (392) and Kypeiazheia (992).
The Monk Theodore the Trikhinian was born into a rich Constantinople family. In his youth he withdrew into a wilderness monastery in Thrace and accepted monasticism. The monk was strict in fasting, and he wore only a coarse prickly hairshirt, which was called a "trikhinia" ("vlasyanitsa"). This name also was given to the monastery in which he pursued asceticism. During his life the monk worked many miracles and healings. After his death there flowed from his holy relics a salubrious myrh, which healed many of the sick and cast out impure spirits.
The years during which the monk Theodore lived is unknown.
The Monk Alexander of Oshevensk was born on 17 March 1427, 80 versts from Belozersk in the Vysheozersk region, several months before the death of the Monk Kirill of Belozersk (+ 9 July 1427), -- with whom he was bound together by later spiritual connections for his whole life.
Alexei (worldly name of the Monk Alexander of Oshevensk) was the fifth son of the rich landowner Nikifor Osheven and his spouse Fotinia; he was a long-awaited child and was born through the fervent prayers of Fotinia. The Mother of God Herself together with the Monk Kirill of Belozersk appeared to her and promised the birth of a son through the intercession of the Monk Kirill. Although Alexei was the youngest son, his parents hoped to see in him their successor and someone to care for them in their old age. In childhood they taught the boy his letters and spoke of him as an enterprising landowner. At 18 years of age they sought to marry off the youth. With the permission of his parents, he went off to pray at the Kirillo-Belozersk monastery and remained there.
The hegumen loved the youth for his humility and soon suggested to him to take monastic vows. But Alexei refused, having decided to test himself. Having studied Holy Scripture, he served the brethren as a novice for six years and only then did he accept monastic vows.During this time his parents settled in the village of Volosovo, -- 30 versts from Kargopol near the River Onega. Soon Nikifor sought of the Novgorod boyar Ioann a place for settling near the River Churiuga, which received the town-name Oshevensk.
The Monk Alexander asked of the hegumen permission to receive from his parents their final blessing and forgiveness, so that afterwards he might go into a solitary life. Not at once did the hegumen give permission to the young monk. He warned him about the dangers of wilderness life. But the Monk Alexander feared the ascetic fame that he had among the brethren, and he requested a second time to be released from the monastery. Finally, the hegumen gave his blessing.
Greeting him with joy, the father suggested to the son that he settle at the River Churiuga and promised to assist in the building of a monastery. The Monk Alexander took a liking to the place. He set up a cross as foundation of the future monastery and gave a vow to dwell there until the end of his life. After this the Monk Alexander returned to the Kirillo-Belozersk monastery and for some time he did obedience in the choir, in the kitchen and in the bakery. They ordained him to the dignity of deacon. Finally, when the Monk Alexander went to the hegumen for the third time and told him, how a miraculous voice had called him to organise a monastery, and how he had vowed to dwell at that place, the hegumen released him, -- blessing him with the icons of the Hodegetria Mother of God and Sainted Nicholas the Wonderworker.
The Monk Alexander dedicated the chosen spot with the icons, and received from his father supervision for building a church, and he himself set off to the Archbishop of Novgorod Jona (1459-1470). Archbishop Jona ordained him to the dignity of presbyter and appointed him hegumen of the monastery. The boyarina Anastasia and her son Yurii were prepared to offer the monastery the whole district, but the Monk Alexander accepted the gramota (deed) for only the necessary ground. The constructed church was dedicated in the name of Sainted Nicholas. With determination and energy the monk began to work at organising the monastery. An elder, who had accompanied him from the Kirillo-Belozersk monastery, was not able to endure the harsh wilderness life and went back. By little by little brethren gathered. The monk enacted a strict ustav (rule) of common life, which required complete silence in temple and at refectory, -- when saint-lives were read, in monk cells there was to be no idleness, and at the time of fulfilling obediences it was necessary to do the Jesus Prayer or read psalms. "Brethren, -- said the monastic hegumen, -- let us not shirk work nor the way of sorrow. Ye know, that the way of sorrow leads to the Heavenly Kingdom. Live in mutual love and humility. God is love, and He loveth the humble".
Many even from the layfolk came to the monk and put themselves under his spiritual guidance. Two nephews of the saint accepted monastic orders at his monastery, who offended one of the brethren, -- the monk Ambrosii. The Monk Alexander gently calmed the religious brother, but the nephews cooled in their zeal for asceticism and they left the monastery. Grief over the salvation of his spiritual children wrecked the health of the monk. He lay down and was not able to life up his hand nor his head, nor even to utter a word. In such a state of exhaustion the Monk Alexander prayed to the Monk Kirill, his patron. The Monk Kirill appeared in a white robe and, signing the sick man with the sign of the cross, he said: "Grieve not, brother! I intercede and thou shalt be well. Only forget not thy vow, nor leave this place. I shall assist thee". Having fallen asleep, the monk regained his strength and in the morning went to church. To encourage the brethren he told about the visit of the Monk Kirill. The monk laboured for 27 years in the monastery founded by him, and died peacefully on 20 April 1479.
After the death of the hegumen, the monastery began quickly to go into decline. But the monk did not cease to care for it. One time, the monastic attendant Mark had a vision in a dream: the monastery was full of people; a grey-haired elder in bishop's garb signed with a cross those working on the building. Another elder, with a long beard, sprinkled with holy-water; and a third, of moderate stature and blond hair, censed. A fourth one, a youth, followed after them at a distance. The third elder, -- this was the Monk Alexander Oshevensk -- explained, that Sainted Nicholas the Wonderworker and the Monk Kirill of Belozersk assisted him, and the youth standing at the distance was the cantor Matfei, who was soon vowed under the name Maxim and chosen hegumen of the monastery, as predicted in the vision of the Monk Alexander. The monk Maxim was established as hegumen by the Archbishop of Novgorod Sergei (1483-1485), and he restored the monastery. He was the monastic head until 1525.
At the time of building of a new temple in the name of Sainted Nicholas, during an appearance of the Monk Alexander and at his command, -- his relics were found undecayed. His image was then painted in accord with how he appeared as a monk and in accord with the accounts of those who knew the elder: the Monk Alexander of Oshevensk was of moderate stature, with parched face and sunken cheeks, with a small thin beard, grizzled with blond hairs. He is thus depicted on icons.
Sainted Betranes and Theotimos were bishops of Lesser Skythia, where the mouth of the Dunaj (Danube) flows into Thrace. Their diocesan cathedral was situated in the city of Toma (Kiustendji). They were Skythians.
The Church historian Sozomenes gives an account about Sainted Betranes. When the emperor Valens (364-378) stayed in Toma, he began in church to urge the saint to enter into communion with Arian heretics. Saint Betranes boldly answered, that he adhered to the teaching of the holy Nicean fathers and, in order to avoid bantering, he went off to another of the city churches. And all the people followed after him. There remained in the deserted church only the emperor with his retinue. For such audacity the emperor condemned the saint to exile, but he feared the grumbling of the crowd and let him go free. The Skyths loved their archpastor and they cared about him as a good and saintly man.
Another historian, Theodorit, writes about the sainted-bishop: "And Betranes, radiant with every virtue and archpastoral power, governing the cities of all the Skythians, was enflamed with zeal of spirit and denounced the heretics for their dogmatic deficiency and their iniquitous attitude towards the saints. He said with the Divine-inspiration of David: "I shall speak Thy testimonies before the king and not be shy" (Ps. 18:46).
Sainted Betranes died, probably soon after the denunciation of emperor Valens. His commemoration in the "Acts of the Saints" indicates 25 January. At the II OEcumenical Council in 381 it mentions already the successor to Sainted Betranes, -- the Toma bishop Gerontios, and after him the cathedra was occupied by Sainted Theotimos.
In the year 392 Sainted Theotimos was already known to Blessed Jerome (Comm. 15 June) as a writer and bishop. Sainted Theotimos participated in the Council of 399, where Sainted John Chrysostom (Comm. 13 November) examined the acts of the bishop of Ephesus. In the year 403, when Sainted Epiphanios of Cyprus (+ 403, Comm. 12 May) insistently demanded of Saint John Chrysostom and the other bishops to carry out a condemnation of Origen, Sainted Theotimos wrote: "It is impious to further offend the dead and to rise up in judgement against the ancients and re-question their sanction". He took out one of the works of Origen, read from it and, pointing out that which was read was of good purpose to the Church, added: "Those who condemn this book, slander also that which it says here".
Sainted Theotimos journeyed much throughout his diocese. His Christian love flowed even upon the Huns, -- then as yet unenlightened by the light of the Gospel. By means of beneficence and gentleness the sainted-bishop strove to win them over to the true faith. The impressive miracles, worked by the saint in the Name of Jesus Christ, so astonished the pagans, that they called him a Roman god.
Once, when during the time of a journey the saint and his companions were under the threat of deadly peril from the Huns, the sainted-bishop began to pray intensely, and all were left invisible to them. Another time, when a certain Hun tried to catch the saint with a rope, his hand froze in the air and only then was it released from its invisible hold, when Sainted Theotimos at the request of other Huns prayed to God for him.
Sainted Theotimos kept to a simple form of life: he partook of nourishment not at this or that time, but only when he experienced hunger or thirst. Blessed Jerome wrote about him: "Theotimos, Skythian bishop of Tomum, produced in dialogues in the form of ancient rhetoric powerfully fine tracts and, as I have heard, he wrote other works". It is known, that Sainted Theotimos wrote: "About the Teachings of the Saviour", "Against Idols", a "Commentary on Genesis", a "Commentary on the Text -- `I shall bear the Gift unto the Altar", "About Fasting" (from the last 4 works the Monk John Damascene makes comparison in several places in his own parallels).
Sainted Theotimos died peacefully in about the year 412. His commemoration in the "Acts of the Saints" is indicated as 20 April.
Sainted Gregory, Patriarch of Antioch (573-593), was hegumen of the Pharan monastery, located not far from Mount Sinai. The monk was distinguished for his fervent faith, merciful and compassionate to the fallen, and humble and forgiving.
Once, when Saint Gregory was still an hegumen, he visited a certain wilderness-dweller, who in a cave sought salvation. The wilderness-dweller greeted him with honour and washed his feet. When the saint asked why he was shown such honour, the elder answered, that through Divine-revelation he saw before himself a future Patriarch. In fact, after the banishment of Patriarch Anastasias the Sinaite from the Antiochian throne, Saint Gregory was -- against his own wishes -- raised up upon the Antiochian Patriarchal throne and, yielding to the will of God, until his death (+ 593) he bore with dignity the burden of patriarchal service.
Sainted Anastasias I the Sinaite, Patriarch of Antioch, began his monastic deeds on Mount Sinai, wherefore he was called the Sinaite. He entered upon the Patriarchal throne in the year 562 during the reign of the emperor Justinian (527-565).
The Monophysite heresy was spreading about during this time. The emperor himself inclined towards the side of the heretics. Sainted Anastasias was outspoken against the heresy. He distributed a missive throughout all the churches and daily elucidated in his own temple the Orthodox teaching about the two natures of the Lord Jesus Christ. All those questioning or wavering in the faith awaited with hope the words of the holy Patriarch Anastasias.
Justinian, angering upon learning of this, wanted to depose Sainted Anastasias from the Antioch throne, but suddenly he became grievously ill. Before his death he made Church penance and composed the beautiful prayer "Only-begotten Son Word of God", which has entered into the order of the Divine Liturgy. In it he expressed the Orthodox teaching about the two natures of the Lord Jesus Christ.
After Justinian, there came upon the throne emperor Justin the Younger (565-578), who resumed the persecution against Sainted Anastasias and in 572 sent him into imprisonment. Returning from exile in 593, Sainted Anastasias governed the Church for six years and died peacefully (+ 21 April 599).
In exile, Saint Anastasias wrote several dogmatic and moral works, and even rendered into the Greek language the work of Sainted Gregory Dialogus (+ 604, Comm. 12 March) "About Pastoral Service".
Sainted Anastasias II, Patriarch of Antioch, entered upon the throne after the holy Patriarch Anastasias I the Sinaite (561-572; 593-599). He governed the Church for 10 years and was killed in 609 by Jews, -- when emperor Phocas (602-610) issued an edict, forcing all to accept baptism.
The Monk Anastasias, hegumen of Mount Sinai, was born at the end of the VI Century. He received in his youth a fine secular education, which he completed by the study of theology. In a sermon on Thomas Sunday the Monk Anastasias wrote: "Having beheld Christ in the flesh they reckoned Him for a prophet; and we, although we have not seen him with bodily eyes, but rather from the tips of our fingers, then still when we were small children and lads, we recognised in Him God, and learned to confess Him as Lord of the universe, Creator of the ages, and Radiance of the Glory of the Father. With such a faith do we hear His Holy Gospel, as though we behold Christ Himself. When we only but look at an icon depiction of His Divine likeness, as of Him Himself, we attain to Heaven for ourselves, and we honour, we worship and fall down".
Already in his youth the Monk Anastasias had accepted monasticism, and he later set off to Jerusalem and settled on Mount Sinai. During this period, the hegumen of Mount Sinai was the Monk John of the Ladder (Lestvichnik, Climaticus; Comm. 30 March), and afterwards his brother George. After Saint George, the Monk Anastasias became hegumen, from which they bestowed upon him the title "Sinaite".
The Monk Anastasias put much work into the struggle with the Akephaloi heresy, which was opposed by the decrees of the IV OEcumenical Council at Chalcedon (451), and which defined the dogma about the union in the One Person of the Lord Jesus Christ in two natures -- the Divine and the human. Spreading the Orthodox faith, the Monk Anastasias visited Egypt, Arabia and Syria. For the struggle with the Monophysites he left to his students an epistolary guide in the form of answers to questions under the title "Guide-book" in 24 chapters. The Monk Anastasias also had dialogues with heretics which he also wrote down; -- these have come down to us in his work "Explanation of the Sixth Day" (12 book-chapters), Sermons, Instructions, Vitae of certain ascetics, and Commentaries on many places in Holy Scripture.
The Monk Anastasias the Sinaite died in deep old age (+ c. 695).
The Cypriot Icon of the Mother of God appeared in the year 392 on the island of Cyprus and was situated in a monastery built on the place of its appearance. The celebration of this icon is done also on 9 July and on the day of the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles.
© 1997 by translator Fr. S. Janos.