August 21st (IX - 3)
Icon of the Apostle Thaddeus
Disciple from the Seventy, Thaddeus (+ c. 44). Martyress Bassa and her children: Theognios, Agapios and Pistos (+ c. 305-311). Sainted Sarmean, Katholikos of Gruzia (+ 779). Martyrs: Alexander, Dorotheos and Joannikes. Nun Theoklita (829-842). Monk Avraamii (Abraham), Archimandrite of Smolensk (XIII), and his Disciple the Monk Ephrem of Smolensk (XIII). Monk Avraamii (Abraham) the Lover of Toil, of Pechersk in the Nearer Caves (XII-XIII). Monk Avraamii (Abraham) of Paleostrovsk (XV). Monk Kornilii of Paleostrovsk (+ c. 1420).
The Disciple from the Seventy, Thaddeus, was by descent an Hebrew, and he was born in the Syrian city of Edessa. (The holy Disciple from the Seventy Thaddeus mustneeds be distinguished from the Apostle from the Twelve, Jude, also called Thaddeus or Levi, Comm. 19 June). Having come to Jerusalem for a feastday, he heard the preaching of John the Forerunner and, having received from him baptism in Jordan, he remained in Palestine. In beholding the Saviour, he became His follower, and was chosen by the Lord amidst the number of the Seventy Disciples, which He sent by twos for preaching to the cities and locales, which He intended to visit (Lk. 10: 1). After the Ascension of the Saviour to Heaven, the Disciple Thaddeus preached the good-news in Syria and Mesopotamia. He came preaching the Gospel to Edessa and he converted to Christ king Abgar, the people and the pagan-priests. He backed up his preaching with many miracles (about which Abgar wrote to the Assyrian emperor Nerses); he established there priests and built up the Edessa Church. Prince Abgar wanted to reward the Disciple Thaddeus with rich gifts, but he refused and went preaching to other cities, converting many pagans to the Christian faith. Having arrived preaching in the city of Berit (Beirut), he founded there the Church, and it was in this city that he peacefully died in the year 44. (This place for his death is indicated in the Slavonic Meneion, but according to other sources he died in Edessa. According to an ancient Armenian tradition, the Disciple Thaddeus after various tortures was beheaded by the sword on 21 December in the Artaz region in the year 50).
The Martyress Bassa with her sons Theognios, Agapios and Pistos, lived in the city of Macedonian Edessa and she was married to a pagan-priest. From childhood she had been raised in the Christian faith, which she passed on to her sons. During the time of the emperor Maximian Galerius (305-311), the husband reported to the governor on his wife and children. All of them, in spite of threats, refused to offer sacrifice to idols. They took the eldest son, Theognios, and tore at him with iron claws. They flayed the skin of the lad Agapios from head to chest, but the martyr did not utter a sound. Finally, they began to torture also the youngest son Pistos. The mother did not hesitate to encourage them to endure the suffering for Christ. Then they beheaded the lads. (By one account, the three martyred brothers suffered at Edessa in Macedonia; by another account -- at Larissa in Thessaly their homeland). They locked up Saint Bassa in prison and exhausted her with hunger, but an Angel strengthened her with heavenly food. Under successive tortures she remained unharmed from fire, water and beasts. When they brought her to a pagan temple, she shattered the statue of Zeus. Then they threw the martyress into a whirlpool in the sea. But to everyone's surprise a ship sailed up, and three radiant men pulled her up (the Monk Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain suggested, that these were her children, martyred earlier). After 8 days Saint Bassa came by ship to the governor of the island of Alona, not far from Kyzika, in the Prepontid or Marmora Sea. After a beating with canes they beheaded her.
It is known, that around the year 450 there already existed at Chalcedon a church in honour of the holy Martyress Bassa.
The Monk Avraamii (Abraham) of Smolensk, a preacher of repentance and the impending Dread Last Judgement, was born in the mid-XII Century at Smolensk of rich parents, who before him had 12 daughters, and they besought God for a son. From childhood he grew up in the fear of God, he was often in church and had the opportunity to read books. The parents hoped that their only son would enter into marriage and continue their illustrious lineage, but he sought after a different life. After the death of his parents, having given away all his wealth to monasteries, to churches and to the destitute, the saint walked through the city in rags, beseeching God to show him the way to salvation.
He accepted tonsure in a monastery of the MostHoly Mother of God, five versts from Smolensk, at the locale of Selischa. Having passed through various obediences there, the monk fervently occupied himself with the copying of books, culling spiritual riches from them. The Smolensk prince Roman Rostislavich (+ 1170) started a school in the city, in which they taught not only in Slavonic, but also out of Greek and Latin books. The prince himself had a large collection of books, which the Monk Avraamii made use of. He had asceticised for more than 30 years at the monastery, when in the year 1198 the hegumen persuaded him to accept the dignity of presbyter. Every day he made Divine Liturgy and fulfilled the obedience of clergy not only for the brethren, but also for the laypeople.
Soon the monk became widely known. This aroused the envy of the brethren, and then of the hegumen also, and 5 years later the monk was compelled to transfer to the Cross-Exaltation monastery in Smolensk itself. From the offerings by the devout he embellished the cathedral church of the poor monastery with icons, and with curtains and candle-stands. He himself inscribed two icons on themes, which most of all concerned him: on the one he depicted the Dread Last Judgement, and on the other -- the suffering of the trials of life. Lean and pale from extreme toil, the ascetic in priestly garb resembled in appearance Saint Basil the Great. The saint was strict both towards himself, and towards his spiritual children. He preached constantly in church and to those coming to him in his cell, conversing with rich and poor alike.
The city notables and the clergy demanded of Bishop Ignatii to bring the monk to trial, accusing him in the seduction of women and the tempting of his spiritual children. But even more terrible were the accusations against him, of heresy and the reading of forbidden books. For this they proposed to drown or burn the ascetic. At the trial by the prince and the bishop, the monk answered all the false accusations, but despite this, they forbade him to serve as a priest and returned him to his former monastery in honour of the MostHoly Mother of God. A terrible drought occurred in consequence of God's wrath over the unjust sentence, and only when Sainted Ignatii put forth a pardon of the Monk Avraamii permitting him to serve and preach, did the rain again fall on the Smolensk lands.
The bishop Saint Ignatii built a new monastery, in honour of the Placing of the Robe of the MostHoly Mother of God, and he entrusted the guidance of it to the Monk Avraamii, and he himself settled into it, having retired because of age from the diocese. Many were desirous to enter under the guidance of the Monk Avraamii, but he examined them very intensely and only after great investigation, so that at his monastery there were but 17 brethren. The Monk Avraamii, after the death of Saint Ignatii, having become his spiritual friend, -- even moreso than before urged the brethren to reminisce about death and to pray day and night, that they be not condemned in the Judgement by God.
The Monk Avraamii died after the year 1224, having spent 50 years in monasticism. Already at the end of the XIII Century there had been compiled a service to him, conjointly with his student the Monk Ephrem. The terrible Mongol-Tatar invasion, seen as the wrath of God for sin, not only did not stifle the memory of the Monk Avraamii of Smolensk, but rather was a reminder to people of his calling to repentance and recollection of the dread Last Judgement.
The Monk Kornilii of Paleostrovsk died about the year 1420. The account about him is located under 19 May.
© 2000 by translator Fr. S. Janos