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December 23rd (I - 5)

Icon of the saint of the day.

Icon of the Ten Holy Martyrs of Crete: Theodulus, Satorninus, Euporus, Gelasius, Eunician, Zoticus, Pompius, Agathopus, Basilides and Evarestus

Ten Holy Martyrs of Crete: Theodulus, Satorninus, Euporus, Gelasius, Eunician, Zoticus, Pompius, Agathopus, Basilides and Evarestus (III). Martyr Schinonos. Sainted Theoktist, Archbishop of Novgorod (+ 1310). Monk Nyphontos, Bishop of Cyprus (IV). Monk Paul, Bishop of Neocaesarea (IV). Saint Naum, Coworker to the Enlighteners of the Slavic Peoples (IX). Saint David of Dvina (+ 693).

The Ten Holy Martyrs of Crete: Theodulus, Satorninus, Euporus, Gelasius, Eunician, Zoticus, Pompius, Agathopus, Basilides and Evarestus suffered for Christ during the III Century under the emperor Decius (249-251). The governor of Crete, named Decius just like the emperor, fiercely persecuted the Cretan Church. One time there were brought before him 10 Christians from various cities of Crete, who at the trial steadfastly confessed their faith in Christ and refused to worship idols. Over the course of 30 days they were subjected to cruel tortures, and with the help of God they all persevered, glorifying God. Before their death they prayed, that the Lord would enlighten their torturers with the light of the true faith. All the saints were beheaded.

Sainted Theoktist, Archbishop of Novgorod, prior to taking the cathedra-seat, was hegumen of the Annunciation monastery near Novgorod. After the death of archbishop Clement in the year 1300, the Novgorod people chose him as their Vladyka, and metropolitan Maxim with the Russian bishops Simeon of Rostov and Andrew of Tver ordained Saint Theoktist as bishop of Novgorod. A chief concern of Vladyka Theoktist was the renovation and building of churches. He himself consecrated cathedrals in the name of Saints Boris and Gleb and in the name of the Holy Fathers of the First OEcumenical Council. Under him was set in good order the monastery at Valaamo. In the year 1307, because of poor health, the saint withdrew to the Annunciation monastery, where he dwelt right up to his death, devoting himself to the ascetic deed of silence. The glorification of Saint Theoktist, owing to miraculous healings by his relics, was made in the year 1664. In 1786 the relics of the saint were transferred to Yur'ev, where archimandrite Photii constructed at the local cathedral a chapel in his honour.

The Monk Nyphontos, Bishop of Cyprus (IV), was born in Paphlagonia, and received his education at Constantinople. In childhood he was gentle and good, and he often attended church services. But in his youth he began to lead a prodigal and sinful life. He sometimes came to his senses, and he was horrified by the extent of his fallenness; but reckoning that he could not receive forgiveness, he resumed with his impious life. He one time came upon a friend, who gazed into his face for a long time with astonishment. To the question of Nyphontos as to what he was looking at, the friend replied: "I never before saw thy face so, for it is black, like that of an AEthiopian". These words showed to Nyphontos the extent of his fallenness, and he began to cry out to the Mother of God, begging Her intercession.

After an intense and long prayer he saw, that the Face of the Mother of God on the holy icon was radiantly bright with a smile.

From that time Nyphontos prayed incessantly to the Queen of Heaven. If he fell into sin, the Face of the Mother of God turned away from him, but after penitential tears and prayers again mercifully turned towards him. Finally, Nyphontos completely turned his life around and began to spend his time in prayer and penitence. After an illness, from which he received healing from the Mother of God, he communed the Holy Mysteries, and then accepted monastic tonsure and intensified his efforts, exhausting his body in the struggle against the passions.

This struggle was one of many years, and many a time devils assaulted Saint Nyphontos, but with the help of God he overcame them. He received from God the gift to discern evil spirits and defeat them, and likewise to see the departure of the soul after death. Already up in age, and arriving at Alexandria, he was pointed out to the Patriarch in a vision as one worthy to assume the dignity of bishop. They made him bishop of the city of Constancia on the island of Cyprus. However, he did not remain there a bishop for long. Saint Nyphontos learned about the time of his day three days beforehand. Saint Athanasias the Great visited him before his death. At the deathbed the saint was granted to see Angels and the All-Pure Mother of God.

The Monk Paul, Bishop of Neocaesarea, suffered under the emperor Licinius (307-324). At trial having firmly confessed his faith, Saint Paul was subjected to beatings. They tortured him also with hunger, but he remained steadfast. Then they scorched his hands with red-hot iron and locked him away in a prison, situated at the banks of the Euphrates. After the execution of Licinius in the year 324, when the Emperor Saint Constantine I became the sole sovereign ruler of the Roman empire, and Christians sitting in prison received their freedom, holy Bishop Paul returned to his flock. He was a participant at the First OEcmenical Council at Nicea, convened in the year 325, at which the Arian heresy was condemned and the Symbol-Creed of Faith adopted. At the end of the Council, the Emperor Constantine solemnly received the Council participants and kissed the burnt hand of Saint Paul. After long years of guiding his flock, Saint Paul peacefully expired to God.

© 2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos

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