August 26th (IX - 8)
Icon of the Martyrs Adrian and Natalia, and Righteous Joseph
Meeting of the Vladimir Icon of the MostHoly Mother of God (1395). Martyrs Adrian and Natalia and 23 Martyrs suffering with them (+ c. 305-311). Martyrs Atticos, Sysinios and the Monk Hebestian. Martyr Adrian, son of emperor Probus (+ 320). Monk Tithoe of the Thebaid (IV-V). Monk Adrian of Ondrusovsk (+ 1549). Monk Adrian of Uglich (XVI). Pskovo-Pechersk Icon of the Mother of God, named "Tenderness" ("Umilenie", 1524).
The Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God was written by the Evangelist Luke on a board from the table, at which the Saviour ate together with His All-Pure Mother and Righteous Joseph. The Mother of God, in seeing this image, exclaimed: "Henceforth shalt all generations call Me blessed. Let the grace of both My Son and Me shalt be with this icon".
In the year 1131 the icon was sent from Constantinople to Rus' to holy Prince Mstislav (+ 1132, Comm. 15 April) and was installed in the Deviche monastery in Vyshgorod -- the ancient appanage city of holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Princess Olga.
The son of Yurii Dolgoruky, Saint Andrei Bogoliubsky, in 1155 brought the icon to the city of Vladimir and installed it in the reknown Uspenie-Dormition cathedral built by him. And at this time the icon received its name of "the Vladimir Icon". And in the year 1395 the icon was first brought to Moscow. Thus the blessing of the Mother of God tied the spiritual bonds of Byzantium and Rus' -- via Kiev, Vladimir and Moscow.
The festal celebration of the Vladimir Icon of the MostHoly Mother of God occurs several times during the year (21 May, 23 June, 26 August). The most solemn celebration occurs on 26 August, -- the feast established in honour the Meeting of the Vladimir Icon upon its Transfer from Vladimir to Moscow. In the year 1395 the fearsome conqueror khan Tamerlane (Temir-Aksak) reached the Ryazan frontier, took the city of Elets and advancing towards Moscow he came nigh the banks of the River Don. Greatprince Vasilii Dimitrievich went with an army to Kolomna and halted at the banks of the River Oka. He prayed to the Sainted-Hierarchs of Moscow and the Monk Sergei for the deliverance of the Fatherland, and he wrote to the Metropolitan of Moscow Saint Kiprian (Comm. 16 September), that the pending Uspenie-Dormition Fast should be devoted to zealous prayers for mercy and repentance. Clergy were sent to Vladimir, where the famed wonderworking Vladimir Icon was situated. After Divine Liturgy and a molieben on the feast of the Uspenie-Dormition, they clergy took the icon and in a church procession conveyed it to Moscow. Along the way, on both sides of the road and innumerable number of people prayed kneeling: "O Mother of God, save the land of Russia!" And in that selfsame hour, when the people of Moscow were meeting the Vladimir Icon on Kuchkov Field, Tamerlane was slumbering in his tent. Suddenly he saw in a dream a great mountain, at the summit of which coming towards him were the sainted-hierarchs with golden staffs, and over them in a brilliant radiance shone a Majestic Woman. She commanded him to leave the domains of Russia. Awakening in fright, Tamerlane asked the meaning of the apparition. The experts answered that the Radiant Lady was the Mother of God, the great Protectress of Christians. Tamerlane then gave the order for his troops to turn around. In memory of this miraculous deliverance of the Russian Land from Tamerlane on Kuchkov Field, where the Meeting of the Vladimir Icon took place, they built the Sretensk-Meeting monastery. And on 26 August there was then established the all-Russian celebration in honour of the Meeting of the Vladimir Icon of the MostHoly Mother of God.
Very important events in Russian Church history have occurred in front of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God: the election and elevation of Sainted Jona -- Advocate of Autocephalous Russian Church (1448), and of Sainted Job -- first Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia (1589), and of His Holiness Patriarch Saint Tikhon (1917). And the enthronement of His Holiness Pimen, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, occurred on a day of celebration in honour of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God -- on 21 May (NS 3 June) 1971.
The historical days of 21 May, 23 June and 26 August, connected with this holy icon, have become memorable days for the Russian Orthodox Church.
The Martyrs Adrian and Natalia were married in their youth for one year prior to their martyrdom. They lived in Bithynian Nicomedia during the time of the emperor Maximian (305-311). Having started his persecution, the emperor promised a reward to whomever would inform on Christians to bring them to trial. There began the denunciations, and through one of these there were seized 23 Christians, hiding in a cave near Nicomedia. They were tortured, urged to worship idols, and then taken to the judgement palace, in order to record their names and responses. Adrian, the head of the judgement palace, looking on as they brought in the people suffering with such courage for their faith, and how firmly and fearlessly they confessed Christ, asked: "What rewards do ye expect from your God for suffering?" The martyrs replied: "Such rewards, as we are not able to describe, nor thy mind comprehend". Inspired, Saint Adrian told the scribes: "Write me down also, that I be a Christian and with joy I do die for Christ God". The scribes reported about this to the emperor, who summoned Saint Adrian and asked: "Really, hast thou gone mad, that thou dost want to die? Come, cross out thine name from the lists and offer sacrifice to the gods, asking their forgiveness". Saint Adrian answered: "I am not mad, but the rather have been converted to health of mind". Maximian then ordered Adrian to be thrown into prison. His wife, Saint Natalia, knowing that her husband was suffering for Christ, rejoiced, since she herself was secretly a Christian. She hastened to the prison and encouraged her husband saying: "Blest be thou, mine lord, in that thou hast believed on Christ, wherein thou hast obtained a great treasure. Regret not anything of earth, neither beauty, nor youth (Adrian was then 28 years of age), nor riches. Everything worldly -- is dust and ashes. Only faith and good deeds be pleasing to God". On the pledge of the other martyrs, they released Saint Adrian from prison to relate to his wife about the day of execution. Saint Natalia at first thought, that he had renounced Christ and thus had been set free, and she did not want to let him into the house. The saint persuaded his wife, that he had not fled martyrdom, but rather had come to give her the news of the day of his execution.
They tortured Saint Adrian cruelly. The emperor advised the saint to have pity on himself and call on the gods, but the martyr answered: "Let thine gods say, what blessings they promise me, and then I shalt worship them, but if they cannot speak thus, then why should I worship them?" Saint Natalia did not cease to encourage her husband. She asked him also to convey for her a foremost prayer to God, that they would not compel her into a marriage with a pagan after his death. The executioner ordered the hands and the legs of the saints to be broken on the anvil. Saint Natalia, fearing that her husband would hesitate in seeing the sufferings of the other martyrs, besought the executioner to begin the execution with him and let her herself put his hands and legs on the anvil. They wanted to burn the bodies of the saints, but a strong storm arose and the fire went out. Many of the executioners even were struck by lightning. Saint Natalia took the hand of her spouse and kept it at home. Soon an army commander asked the emperor's approval to wed Saint Natalia, who was both young and rich. But she hid herself away in Byzantium. Here Saint Adrian appeared to her in a dream and said, that she would soon be at rest in the Lord. The anemic martyress, worn down by her former sufferings, in fact soon expired to God.
The Monk Adrian of Ondrusovsk (in the world the nobleman Andrei Zavalushin), was the owner of a rich estate (Andreevschina), 9 versts from the monastery of the Monk Alexander of Svirsk (+ 30 August 1533). He accidentally encountered the Monk Alexander of Svirsk at the time of a stag hunt in 1493, and after this he went often to him for guidance, and supplied bread for the ascetics. Forsaking his estate, he took monastic tonsure at the Valaamo monastery with the name Adrian. Several years later, with the blessing of the Monk Alexander of Svirsk, the Monk Adrian settled in a solitary place on the peninsula of Lake Ladoga. There he built a church in honour of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker. Opposite the settlement of monks in the deep forest was an island, Sala (the Thicket), on which hid out a gang of robbers, under the leadership of Ondrusa as their ataman. Encountering the monks, the ataman demanded that they get off his land. Saint Adrian, knowing that he did not have money to offer to buy the place, promised the ataman to intercede for him before God. The robber laughed at the monk, but that one entreated him so long and so humbly, that the ataman softened and said: "Live".
This ataman was soon taken captive by another gang, hidden not far from the stoney Cape of Storozhev. The hapless fellow knew, that after suffering torture death awaited him, and he bitterly repented of his former life. Suddenly he saw before him the Monk Adrian, who said: "Through the mercy of the Lord, for Whom wast besought of thee mercy for the wilderness brethren, thou art freed" -- and he vanished. The ataman saw himself without fetters at the shore and with no one around. Astonished, he rushed to the monastery of Saint Adrian and found all the ascetics at psalms. And it seemed that the monk had not left the monastery. The robber fell at the knees of the saint and besought to be accepted amidst the brethren. He finished his life in repentance at the monastery. The robber of another gang likewise repented. Through the prayers of Saint Adrian he took monastic tonsure with the name Kiprian. And afterwards at the place of a tributary he built a monastery and was glorified by miracles.
The monastery of the Monk Adrian received an endowment from tsar Ivan the Terrible (1533-1584). In August 1549 the Monk Adrian was god-father for Anna, daughter of tsar Ivan the Terrible. When the saint was returning from Moscow to the monastery, robbers killed him near the village of Obzha, hoping to find money. The brethren waited for a long time for their head, and 2 years afterwards he appeared in a vision by night to a few elders and told them about his end. On another day, 17 May, the brethren found his undecayed body in a swamp and committed it to burial in the wall of his church in honour of Saint Nicholas. The memory of the Monk Adrian, having received the martyr's crown, has come to be celebrated twice: on the day of the finding and transfer of his relics -- 17 May, and on the day of repose and name-in-common (tezoimenitstvo) with the Martyr Adrian.
The Monk Adrian of Uglich was one of the first ten students of the Monk Paisii of Uglich (+ 1504, Comm. 6 June), for whom he was the closest cell-attendant, student and co-ascetic. Together with the Monk Paisii, the Monk Adrian was vouchsafed worthy of the Heavenly appearance of the MostHoly Mother of God in 1472. The Monk Paisii was in one of the cells together with the Monk Kassian of Uglich (the account about him is under 2 October), and the Monks Gerasim and Adrian. They were singing an akathist to the MostHoly Mother of God. Suddenly throughout all the monastery there shone an extraordinary light, and the monks heard a voice, calling them to come out from the cell. The ascetics came out in fear and in confusion, and an Angel pointed out to them the appearance of the Mother of God, sitting on an airy throne and holding on Her arms the Divine Infant. The ascetics fell frightened to the ground, but the Angel raised them up and related to the Monk Paisii the command of the Mother of God to build on this place a church in honour of the Pokrov-Protection of the MostHoly Mother of God. The vision ended, and the monks spent the whole night in vigil and laudation.
In 1482 the Monk Adrian participated in the building of the stone church in honour of the Pokrov-Protection of the MostHoly Mother of God on the place indicated by the Angel. And afterwards there was witnessed the finding of an icon of the Pokrov-Protection of the MostHoly Mother of God. In 1489 the Monk Adrian assisted the Monk Paisii in the building of a monastery in the name of Saint Nicholas, near the Grekhova stream, on the right bank of the Volga. As an experienced and virtuous starets-elder, the Monk Adrian was put there as its head and priestmonk. He was at the funeral of the Monk Paisii on 6 June 1504 and later, according to his last wishes, he was himself buried near the grave. The memory of the Monk Adrian is made on 26 August (on account of the tezoimenitstvo name-in-common with the Martyr Adrian), and also on Cheesefare Saturday.
The Pskovo-Pechersk Icon of the MostHoly Mother of God, named the "Umilenie" or "Tenderness" (1542), is famous particularly for the defense of Pskov and the Pskovo-Pechersk monastery from the army of Stefan Bathory in 1581. Its celebration is made likewise on 21 May, 23 June and 7 October.
© 2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos