April 8th (IV - 21)
Icon of St. Rufus, Apostle; St. Celestine, Pope of Rome; and St. Agabos
Disciples from the Seventy: Herodion (Rodion, + c. 67), Agabus (Ahab), Asincritos, Rufus, Phlegontos, Hermas and those with them (I). Sainted Celestine, Pope of Rome (+ 432). Sainted Nyphontii, Bishop of Novgorod (+ 1156). Monk Ruphii, Hermit of Pechersk, in the Farther Caves (XIV). Martyrs: Pausilipos (+ c. 117-138); John Naukleros (Shipmaster, + 1669). Saints James and Luke. Spanish Icon of the Mother of God (VIII).
Saints Herodion (Rodion), Agabus (Ahab), Asinkritos, Rufus, Phlegontos and Hermas are among the Seventy Disciples, chosen by Christ and sent by Him to preach (Sobor-Assemblage of Seventy Disciples -- Comm. 4 January).
The holy Disciple Herodion was a kinsman of the Apostle Paul and his companion on many journeys. When Christianity had spread to the Balkan Peninsula, the Apostles Peter and Paul established the Disciple Herodion as Bishop of Patara. The Disciple Herodion zealously preached the Word of God and converted many of the Greek pagans and Jews to Christianity.
Enraged by the preaching of the disciple, the idol-worshippers and Jews with one accord fell upon Saint Herodion, and they began to beat him with sticks and pelt him with stones. One of the mob struck him with a knife, and the saint fell down. But when the murderers were gone, the Lord restored him to health unharmed.
After this, Saint Herodion continued to accompany the Apostle Paul some years further. When the holy Apostle Peter was crucified (+ c. 67), the Disciple Herodion at the same time also and with Saint Olympos was beheaded by the sword.
The holy Disciple Agabus was endowed with the gift of prophecy. He predicted (Acts 11: 27-28) the famine during the time of the emperor Claudius (41-52), and foretold the suffering of the Apostle Paul at Jerusalem (Acts 21: 11). The Disciple Agabus preached in many lands and converted many pagans to Christ.
The Disciple Rufus (Ruphus), to whom the holy Apostle Paul gives greeting in the Epistle to the Romans (Rom. 16: 11-15), was bishop of the Greek city of Thebes. The Disciple Asincritos (Rom. 16: 14) -- was bishop in Hyrcania (Asia Minor). The Disciple Phlegontos -- bishop in the city of Marathon (Thrace). The Disciple Hermas -- bishop in Dalmatia (there is yet another Disciple from the Seventy by the name of Hermas, who occupied a cathedra-seat in the Thracian city of Philippopolis).
All these disciples for their intrepid service to Christ underwent fierce sufferings and were found worthy of a martyr's crown.
Sainted Celestine (Celestinus), Pope of Rome (422-432), a zealous champion of Orthodoxy, lived during the reign of the holy Emperor Theodosius the Younger (408?450). He received quite excellent an education, and he knew philosophy well, but most of all he studied the Holy Scripture and pondered over theological questions. The virtuous life of the saint and his authority as a theologian won him the general esteem and love of the clergy and people. After the death of holy Pope Saint Boniface (418-422), Saint Celestine was chosen to the cathedra-chair of Bishop of Rome.
During these times emerged the heresy of Nestorius. At the Local Council in Rome in the year 430, Saint Celestine denounced this heresy and condemned Nestorius as an heretic. After the Council Saint Celestine wrote a missive to Saint Cyril, Archbishop of Alexandria (Comm. 18 January), stating that if Nestorius after 10 days did not recant his false teachings, then he should be deposed and excommunicated.
Saint Celestine directed also a series of missives to other Churches, Constantinople and Antioch, in which he unmasked and denounced the Nestorian heresy.
The following two years after the Council, Saint Celestine preached incessantly the true teaching about Christ the God-Man, and thus he died at peace on 6 April 432.
The Monk Ruphii, Hermit of Pechersk, asceticised at the Kievo-Pechersk monastery during the XIV Century. He was distinguished for his obedience and glorified as a lover of toil and fasting. He was buried in the Farther Caves. He is celebrated a second time on 28 August, together amidst the Sobor-Assemblage of the Monks of the Farther Caves.
The Holy Martyr Pausilipos suffered under the emperor Adrian (117-138). Through denunciation by pagans he was led to trial before the emperor and staunchly declared himself a Christian. They beat him with iron rods and handed over to the governor named Precius, who for a long time attempted to make the martyr offer sacrifice to idols. The martyr remained steadfast, and finally the governor gave orders to fetter him and take him off to execution. Along the way Saint Pausilipos prayed fervently, that the Lord would spare him from the hand of the executioner and send him a quick death. The Lord hearkened to him: the martyr, beaten up and weak, had such a sensation of power, that the iron fetters shattered and freed him from their hold. These were thrown behind him, but Saint Pausilipos died in flight. Christians buried the body of the martyr with reverence.
The Holy Martyr John the Shipmaster (Naukleros) suffered a psychological sickness. One time, when he was found in an unconscious state, the Turks made over him the rite of conversion to their religion. Coming to his senses, the saint angrily threw from his head the symbol of Islam -- the turban. He bitterly bewailed the indignity that had occurred and continued to live as a Christian. The Turks then threw the martyr into prison. Neither lecturings, nor beatings, nor threats could bend the will of the saint, and he repeatedly replied: "I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and I refuse your faith". After many torments they burnt the martyr in the city of Koe on 8 April 1669.
© 2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos