April 22nd (V - 5)
Icon of Holy Apostle Nathaniel and St. Theodore the Sykeote
Monk Theodore Sikeotes, Bishop of Anastasiupolis (+ 613). Disciples of the Seventy: Nathanael, Luke, Clement (I). Martyr Nearches. Monk Vitalios (+ c. 609-620). Transfer of Relics of Nobleborn Prince Vsevolod, in Holy Baptism Gabriel, of Pskov (1834).
The Monk Theodore Sikeotes was born in the mid VI Century in the village of Sikea, not far from the city of Anastasiupolis (Asia Minor), in a pious family. When his mother Maria conceived the saint, she had in a dream a vision, that a bright star had overshadowed her womb. A perspicacious elder, to whom she turned, then explained that this was the grace of God overshadowing the infant conceived in her.
When the boy reached six years of age, his mother presented him a golden sash, since she intended that her son should become a soldier. But in a dream vision by night there appeared to her the GreatMartyr George (Comm. 23 April), and he bid her not think about military service for her son, since the boy was destined to serve God. The saint's father, Kosma, had served as a messenger of the emperor Justinian the Great (527-565), and he died early. The boy remained in the care of his mother, with whom lived also his grandmother Epidia, his aunt Dispenia and his little sister Vlatta.
In school, Saint Theodore displayed great talents for his study, chief of which was an unchildlike ability for reasoning and wisdom: he was quiet, mild, he always knew how to calm his comrades, and he did not permit fights or quarrels amongst them. At his mother's house lived also the pious elder, Stephen. Imitating him, Saint Theodore at age 8 began during Great Lent to eat only a small morsel of bread in the evenings. In order that his mother should not force him to take supper with everyone, the boy returned home from school only towards evening-time, after he had communed the Holy Mysteries together with the elder Stephen. At the request of his mother, the teacher began to send him off to supper at the end of lessons. But Saint Theodore nonetheless skipped off to the church of the GreatMartyr George, where the patron saint of the temple appeared to him in the form of a youth and ushered him into the church.
When Saint Theodore reached age 10, he fell deathly ill. They brought him to the church of Saint John the Baptist and placed him in front of the altar. The boy was healed by two drops of dew, fallen from the face of the Saviour on the dome of the temple. At this time by night the GreatMartyr George began appearing to the boy, and also leading him off to his own temple to pray until morning. His mother, fearing the night-time dangers of the forest path, spoke with her son about not going at night. One time, when the boy had already gone, she angrily went after him to the church, and she dragged him out by the hair and tied him to his bed. But that very night in a dream vision the GreatMartyr George appeared to her, and threateningly she commanded her not to hinder the lad from going to church. And both Elpidia and Dispenia had the same vision. The women then became persuaded of the special vocation of Saint Theodore and they no more hindered him from his efforts, and even his little sister Vlatta began to imitate him.
At twelve years of age the saint was granted in a vivid dream to behold Christ on the Throne of the Kingdom of Glory, and Who said to him: "Asceticise, Theodore, so as to obtain perfected reward in the Heavenly Kingdom".
From that time Saint Theodore began to toil all the more fervently. Both the First Week and the Cross-Veneration Week of Great Lent he spent in complete silence.
The devil thought upon how to destroy him. He appeared to the saintly lad in the form of his class-mate Gerontios, and urged him to jump off a precipice, and even showed him in what manner how to. But his protector the GreatMartyr George saved the boy.
One time the boy set off for a blessing to the wilderness elder Glykerios. During this time there was a terrible drought throughout all the land, and the elder said: "Child, on bended knee let us pray to the Lord, that He send rain. And in such manner shalt we learn, whether our prayers be pleasing to the Lord". The old man and the boy, on bended knee, began to pray -- and immediately it began to rain. Then the elder said to Saint Theodore, that upon him was the grace of God, and he blessed him to become a monk, when the time should come.
At fourteen years of age Saint Theodore left home and lived nearby the church of the GreatMartyr George. His mother brought him food, but Saint Theodore left everything on the stones by the church, and he ate over the course of a day only a single prosphora loaf of bread. And even at so young an age, the Monk Theodore was granted the gift of healing: through his prayer a demon-possessed youth was restored to health.
The Monk Theodore then fled human glory and he withdrew into complete solitude. Under a large boulder not far from the church of the GreatMartyr George, he dug out a cave and persuaded a certain deacon to cover over the entrance with ground, leaving only a small opening for air. The deacon brought him bread and water and he told no one, where the monk had hidden himself.
For two years the Monk Theodore lived in this seclusion and complete quiet. His kinsfolk bewept the saint and they thought, that he had been devoured by wild beasts.
But the deacon finally revealed the secret, since he was afraid that the Monk Theodore would perish in the narrow cave, and moreover he pitied the weeping mother. They plucked the Monk Theodore out of the cave half-alive.
The mother wanted to take her son home and restore him back to health, but the saint remained nearby the church of the GreatMartyr George, and after several days he was completely well.
News about the exploits of the youth reached the local bishop Theodosios. And thus in the church of the GreatMartyr George he was ordained to the dignity of deacon, and later -- to priest, although the monk was only 17 years of age.
After a certain while the Monk Theodore set off for veneration to the holy places in Jerusalem, and there at the Khozebite Laura near Jordan, he accepted monasticism.
When he returned to his native land, he again continued to live nearby the church of the GreatMartyr George. His grandmother Elpidia, his sister Vlatta and his mother on the advice of the monk withdrew to a monastery, and his aunt died in a good confession.
The ascetic life of the young priestmonk attracted to him people seeking salvation. The monk tonsured into monasticism the youth Epiphanios, and later on a pious woman, healed of sickness by the saint, brought him her son Philumenos. Then came also the virtuous youth John. Brethren thus gradually gathered around the monk.
The Monk Theodore continued to bear his burdensome exploits. At his request a blacksmith made for him an iron cage without a roof, and so tight that in it, it was possible only to stand. In this cage in heavy chains the monk stood from Holy Pascha until the Nativity of Christ. From the Baptism of the Lord until Holy Pascha he secluded himself in his cave, from which he emerged only for the making of Divine-services on Saturdays and Sundays. Throughout the whole of the Forty-Day Great Lent the saint ate only greens, and on Saturdays and Sundays spring-grain bread.
Asceticising in such manner, he received from the Lord the power over wild animals. Bears and wolves came up to him and took food from his hand. Through the prayer of the monk, those afflicted with leprosy were healed, and from whole districts devils were cast out. In the nearby village of Magatia, when locusts threatening the crops appeared, its people turned with a request for help to the Monk Theodore. He sent them off to church. After Divine Liturgy, which he served, the villagers returned home and learned that during this while all the locusts had died.
When the military-commander Maurice was returning to Constantinople by way of Galatia after a Persian war, the monk predicted to him, that he would become emperor. The prediction came true, and the emperor Maurice (582-602) fulfilled the request of the monk -- he sent the monastery bread each year for the multitude of people being fed there.
The small temple of the GreatMartyr George could not accommodate all those that wanted to pray in it. Then through the efforts of the saint a beautiful new church was built. During this while the Anastasiupolis bishop happened to die. The people of the city besought the Ancyra metropolitan Paul to install the Monk Theodore as their bishop.
So that the saint should not resist, the messengers of the metropolitan and the Anastasiupolis people dragged him out of his cell by force and carried him off to the city.
Having become bishop, Saint Theodore toiled much for the welfare of the Church. But his soul yearned for the solitary communion with God. After several years he set off to venerate at the holy places in Jerusalem. And there, concealing his identity, he settled at the Laura monastery of the Monk Sava, where he lived in solitude from the Nativity of Christ until Pascha. Then the GreatMartyr George led him to return to Anastasiupolis.
Secret enemies tried to poison the saint, but the Mother of God gave him three small pieces of grain. The saint them and remained unharmed. Saint Theodore felt weighed down with the burden of being a bishop and he besought the Constantinople patriarch Kyriakos (595-606) for a release to return to his own monastery and celebrate Divine-services there.
The sanctity of the monk was so evident, that during the time of his celebrating the Eucharist, the grace of the Holy Spirit, in a visage of radiant porphyry, overshadowed the Holy Gifts. One time, when the monk lifted the discus with the Divine Lamb and proclaimed "Holy Things unto the Holy", -- the Divine Lamb raised itself up into the air, and then resettled itself again upon the discus.
All the Orthodox Church venerated the Monk Theodore as a saint, even while he was yet alive.
In one of the cities of Galatia, a terrible event occurred: during the time of a church procession the wooden crosses being carried began of themselves to strike and chip at one another, with the result that the Constantinople Patriarch Thomas (607-610, Comm. 21 March) summoned to him the Monk Theodore, asking of him the secret of this terrible portent. Having the gift of foresight, the Monk Theodore explained, that this was a sign of coming misfortunes for the Church of God (he was thus prophetically indicating the future heresy of the Iconoclasts). In grief the holy Patriarch Thomas besought the monk to pray for him for a quick death, so that he should not see the coming woe.
In the year 610 the holy Patriarch Thomas reposed, having besought blessing of the Monk Theodore. And in the year 613 the Monk Theodore Sikeotes also expired to the Lord.
The Holy Disciples from the Seventy -- Nathanael, Luke and Clement: accounts about them are located under 11 June, 18 October and 10 September.
The Monk Vitalios,onk of the monastery of Saint Serid, arrived in Alexandria when the Patriarch of Alexandria was Sainted John the Merciful (609-620, Comm. 12 November).
The saint, already up in age (he was 60 years old), made bold to take upon himself an extraordinary exploit: he wrote down for himself in memory all the harlots of Alexandria and he began fervently to pray for them. The monk toiled from morning to evening and he earned each day 12 copper coins. In the evening the saint bought himself a single bean, which he ate not earlier than sunset. The remaining money he would give to one of the harlots, to whom he went at night and said: "I beseech thee, for this money preserve thyself in purity this night, and sin with no one". Then the monk shut himself in with the harlot in her room, and while she slept, the elder spent the whole night at prayer, reading the psalms, and in the morning he quietly left. And such he did each day, visiting by turns all the harlots, and he took from them a promise, to keep secret the purpose of his visit. The people of Alexandria, not knowing the truth, became indignant over the behaviour of the monk, and they every which way reviled him, but he meekly endured all the mockery and he only asked that they not judge others.
The holy prayers of the Monk Vitalios saved many a fallen woman. Some of them went off to a monastery, others got married, and yet others started respectable work. But to tell the reason of straightening out their life and lift the abuse heaped upon the Monk Vitalios they could not: they were bound by an oath, given to the saint. And when of the woman began to break her oath to stand up in defense of the saint, she fell into a demonic frenzy. After this, the Alexandria people had no doubt concerning the sinfulness of the monk.
Certain of the clergy, scandalised by the behaviour of the monk, made denunciation against him to the holy Patriarch John the Merciful. But the Patriarch did not believe the informers and he said: "Cease to judge, especially monks. For know ye not, what transpired at the First Nicea Council? Certain of the bishops and the clergy brought written letters of denunciation against each other to the emperor of blessed memory Constantine the Great. He commanded that a burning candle be brought, and not even reading the writings, he burned them and said: "If I perchance with mine own eyes had seen a bishop sinning, or a priest, or a monk, then I would have veiled such with his garb, so that no one might see his sin". Thus the wise hierarch shamed the calumniators.
The Monk Vitalios continued on with his difficult exploit: appearing himself before people under the guise of a sinner and a prodigal, he led the prodigal to repentance.
One time, emerging from an house of ill repute, the monk encountered a young man going there -- a prodigal fellow, who with an insult struck him on the cheek and cried out, that the monk was a disgrace to the Name of Christ. The monk answered him: "Believe me, that after me, humble man that I be, thou also shalt receive such a blow on the cheek, that will have all Alexandria thronging to thine cry".
A certain while afterwards the Monk Vitalios settled into a small cell and in it at night he died. In that selfsame hour a terrifying demon appeared before the youth who had struck the saint, and the demon struck the youth on the cheek and cried out: "Here for thee is a knock from the Monk Vitalios". The youth went into a demonic madness. In a frenzy he thrashed about on the ground, tore the clothing from himself and howled so loudly, that a multitude of people gathered.
When the youth finally came to his senses after several hours, he then rushed off to the cell of the monk, calling out: "Have mercy on me, O servant of God, in that I have sinned against thee". At the door of the cell he came fully to his senses and he told those gathered there about his former encounter with the Monk Vitalios. Then the youth knocked on the door of the cell, but he received no answer. When they broke in the door, they then saw, that the monk was dead, on his knees before an icon. In his hand was a scroll with the words: "Men of Alexandria, judge not beforehand, til cometh the Lord, the Righteous Judge".
At this moment there came up the demon-possessed woman, punished by the monk for wanting to violate the secret of his exploit. Having touched the body of the saint, she was healed and told the people about everything that had happened with her.
When the women who had been saved by the Monk Vitalios learned about his death, they gathered together and told everyone about the virtues and mercy of the saint.
Saint John the Merciful also rejoiced, in that he had not believed the calumniators, and that a righteous man had not been condemned. And then together with the throng of repentant women, converted by the Monk Vitalios, the holy Patriarch solemnly conveyed his remains throughout all the city and gave them reverent burial. And from that time many of the Alexandria people made themselves a promise to judge no one.
The Transfer of the Relics of Holy Nobleborn Prince Vsevolod-Gabriel of Pskov (1834): account about him is located under 11 February.
© 2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos