December 20th (I - 2)
Icon of the Martyr Ignatios the God-Bearer
PriestMartyr Ignatios the God-Bearer (+ 107). Monk Ignatii, Archimandrite of Pechersk, in the Farther Caves (+ 1435). Sainted Philogonios, Bishop of Antioch (+ 323). Sainted Daniel, Archbishop of Serbia (+ 1338). Martyr the Lad John (+ 1654). Novgorod and Len'kovsk (Novgorod-Seversk) Icon of the Mother of God, named "Saver of the Drowning" ("Spasitel'nitsa utopaiuschikh").
The PriestMartyr Ignatios the God-Bearer, a native of Syria, was a disciple of the holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian, as was also Sainted Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna (Comm. 23 February). Saint Ignatios was the second bishop of Antioch, and successor to Bishop Evodus, Disciple from amongst the Seventy.
Tradition suggests, that when Saint Ignatios was a little boy, the Saviour hugged him and said: "If ye wilt not turn and be as little children, ye shalt not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven" (Mt. 18: 3). The saint was termed "God-Bearer" since he had the Name of the Saviour in his heart and prayed unceasingly to Him. Saint Ignatios was zealous and spared no efforts for toiling in the fields of Christ. To him is attributed the establishing within church services of antiphonal singing (for two parts or choirs). During time of persecution he was a source of strength to the souls of his flock, and was himself ardent in the wish to suffer for Christ.
In the year 106 the emperor Trajan (98-117), on the occasion of a victory over the Skyths, gave orders to everywhere offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, and put to death any Christians refusing to worship idols. And in the year 107, during the time of a campaign against the Armenians and Parthians, the emperor Trajan happened to pass through Antioch. Here they made denunciation to him that Bishop Ignatios openly confessed Christ, and with this taught to contemn riches, to lead a virtuous life and preserve virginity. At this moment Saint Ignatios himself came voluntarily before the emperor, so as to avert persecution against the Christians in Antioch. The persistent requests of the emperor Trajan were resolutely rejected by Saint Ignatios. The emperor then decided to have him taken away for devouring by wild beasts at Rome. Saint Ignatios joyfully accepted the sentence imposed upon him. His readiness for the deed of martyrdom was attested to by eye-witnesses, accompanying Saint Ignatios from Antioch to Rome.
On the way to Rome, the ship having set out from Seleucia stopped over at Smyrna, where Saint Ignatios met with his friend the Smyrna Bishop Polycarp. Clergy and believers from other cities and towns thronged to Saint Ignatios. Saint Ignatios exhorted everyone not to fear death and not grieve over him. In his Epistle of 24 August 107 to the Roman Christians, he asked them to assist him with their prayers, so as to beseech God to strengthen him in his impending act of martyrdom for Christ: "I seek Him Who hath died for us, I desire Him Who hath risen for us... My love wast crucified, and within me is no fire loving material things, but rather the living water that speaketh within me, from within calling unto me: 'I go unto the Father'".
From Smyrna Saint Ignatios went to the Troiad. Here he met with the happy news about the cessation of persecution against Christians in Antioch. From the Troiad Saint Ignatios sailed to Neapolis (in Macedonia) and then to Philippi.
Along the way to Rome Saint Ignatios visited churches, and gave discourses of teaching and guidance. He also then wrote six epistles: to the Ephesians, to the Magnezians, to the Trallians, to the Philadelphians, and to the Smyrna Bishop Polycarp. All these epistulary letters were preserved and have survived to our present day.
The Roman Christians met Saint Ignatios with great joy and profound sorrow. Certain of them had hopes to persuade the people to give up on making it a bloody spectacle, but Saint Ignatios implored them not to do this. Bending down upon his knees, he prayed together with all the believers for the Church, for love between the brethren and for an end to the persecution against Christians. On the day of a pagan feast, 20 December, they led Saint Ignatios into the circus arena, and he turned to the people: "Men of Rome, ye do know, that I am sentenced to death not because of any wrong-doing, but in love of my One God, by love for Whom I am embraced and unto Whom I do aspire. I am His wheat and by the teeth of wild beasts I shall be grinded, so as for Him to be a pure bread". Right after this the lions were released. Tradition relates that in going to execution, Saint Ignatios unceasingly repeated the Name of Jesus Christ. When they asked him why he was doing this, Saint Ignatios answered, that he carried this Name in his heart, "He that is imprinted in mine heart, is He Whom I confess with my lips". When the saint was torn to pieces, it turned out that his heart was not touched. Having cut open the heart, the pagans beheld within it in gold lettering : "Jesus Christ". On the night after his execution Saint Ignatios appeared to many of the faithful in their sleep to comfort them, and certain of them saw him at prayer.
Hearing about the great courage of the saint, Trajan thought well of him and stopped the persecution against the Christians. The relics of Saint Ignatios were transferred to Antioch (the account about this is located under 29 January), and again at a later time on 1 February were returned with glory and put in the church named for the PriestMartyr Clement, Pope of Rome (91-100).
The Monk Ignatii, Archimandrite of Kievo-Pechersk: In the general service to the Kievo-Pechersk saints, it says of him: "Ignatii, monastic pastor and healer of the sick, in our infirmities thou dost aid us by thine reverence, wherefore let us offer song of praise unto thine memory" (Song 1 of the Canon). He was buried in the Farther (Theodosiev) Caves, and his memory is celebrated together with the Monks of these Farther Caves, on 28 August. The commemoration of the Monk Ignatii was placed under 20 December on the basis of his name-in-common with the PriestMartyr Ignatios the God-Bearer. There is also another commemoration -- in common with the Sobor (Assemblage) of all the Fathers of the Kievo-Pechersk monastery on the 2nd Sunday of Great Lent.
Sainted Philogonios, Bishop of Antioch, before his installation upon the bishop's cathedra-seat, was a laywer-advocate, who came forth in defense of the poor, the widowed and the orphaned. When his wife died, they chose him as bishop of Antioch. Distinguished by profound theological knowledge, Saint Philogonios successfully defended Orthodoxy against the Arian heresy and by this prevented unrest in the Church. During the time of persecution against Christians under the emperors Maximian (305-311) and Licinius (307-324), Saint Philogonios proved himself a confessor of the Orthodox faith. He died peacefully in about the year 323. In the year 386 Saint John Chrysostom preached an eulogy to Saint Philogonios.
Sainted Daniel of Serbia, the only son of rich and reknown parents, was a close associate of the Serbian king Stefan Urosh Miliutin. Having renounced a secular career, he took monastic vows under the hegumen of a monastery named for Saint Nicholas in the locale of Konchul on the banks of the River Ibro. The ascetic life of the Monk Daniel was an example for all the brethren. The Archbishop of Serbia Evstathii ordained him presbyter and took him into his cell. When it became time to choose the hegumen for the Khilendaria monastery on Holy Mount Athos, Saint Daniel then received the appointment. The saint was hegumen at a most difficult time for the Holy Mount, when the crusaders were expelled from Palestine, and having mingled together with the Arabs, they plundered and looted the Athonite monasteries, "not sparing anything sacred". Saint Daniel bravely dwelt at the Khilendaria monastery, which underwent storming and siege and hunger. When peace came to the Holy Mountain, the saint resigned being hegumen and withdrew into complete silence in the cell of Saint Savva of Serbia (at Karea). During the time of an internecine war of Urosh Miliutin with his brother Stefan Dragutin, the ascetic was summoned to Serbia, where he reconciled the brothers. In his native land Daniel was made Bishop of Bransk and head of the reknown monastery of Saint Stefan -- a royal treasury. Having finished at Bansk the construction of a cathedral church in the name of the holy Disciple and ArchDeacon Stephen, Saint Daniel again returned to his monastic efforts on the Holy Mountain.
The saint was summoned from Athos yet another time in 1325, for his elevation to Archbishop of Serbia, taking place on the feastday of the Elevation of the Cross of the Lord. The "protos" ("head") of the Holy Mountain, Garbasios, and other Athonite elders took part in the solemnities. Archbishop Daniel was a model of piety, and a wise archpastor. Complete non-covetousness, incessant concern and toil for the needs of the Church and the flock along with the appearance of holy temples distinguished his service as bishop. In 1335 at Dechakh the saint erected a church in honour of the Ascension of the Lord -- one of the finest Christian monuments in Serbia. Having gathered accounts about the Serbian past, the saint compiled the "Rodoslov" (Account about the Native-land"), writing about the lives of Serbian rulers and Serbian archpastors. Sainted Daniel even during his lifetime was granted the gift of wonderworking and healing. After fourteen years as archbishop, Saint Daniel expired to the Lord on 19 December 1338.
The Holy Martyr the Lad John was born on the island of Paphos in the village of Mariesa. In his youth he was seized by the Turks and accused of offending Mahometanism. They tried to force him to accept Islam, but he would not agree to renouncing the Christian faith, for which he was beheaded at Constantinople at a mere 13 years of age in the year 1652.
The Novgorod Icon of the Mother of God was written by holy Sainted Peter, Metropolitan of Moscow (Comm. 21 December), during his stay as hegumen of a monastery on the River Rata at the boundary of the Malyi Dvorets. During the time of subsequent persecution by the Uniates plundering the Novgorod monastery, the icon was transferred by the priestmonk Yakov to the Eletsk Chernigov monastery. The Chernigov Vladyka Antonii (Stakovsky) later blessed with this icon Simeon, the organiser of the Surozhsk monastery (Chernigov diocese). On 14 August 1677, at the time of a church procession from the old church to a new, the icon gracedly manifest miraculous signs.
© 1998 by translator Fr. S. Janos