February 4th (II - 17)
Icon of Isidore of Pelusium
Monk Isidor Pelusiotes (+ 436-440). Nobleborn GreatPrince Georgii (George or Yurii) of Vladimir (+ 1238). Monk Kirill (Cyril) of Novoezersk (+ 1532). Monks Avraamii (Abraham) and Koprii of Pechengsk, Vologda (XV). Martyr Jadorus (III). PriestMartyr Abraham, Bishop of Arbilia (in Persia, + 344-347). Monk Nicholas the Confessor, Hegumen of Studite Monastery (+ 868). Sainted John, Bishop of Eirenopolis (IV). Martyr Theoktistos. Monk Jasymus the Wonderworker. Martyr Joseph of Aleppa (+ 1686). Martyr Thalaleos. Monk Evagrios of Shiomgvim (Gruzia).
The Monk Isidor Pelusiotes lived during the IV-V Centuries. He was a native of Alexandria, and was raised amidst pious Christians. He was a kinsman of Theophilos, Archbishop of Alexandria, and of his successor, Saint Cyril. While still a youth he quit the world and withdrew within Egypt to Mount Pelusiotes, which became the site of his monastic efforts. The spiritual wisdom and strict asceticism of the Monk Isidor, in combination with his broad erudition and innate knowledge of the human soul, allowed him in a short while to win the respect and love of his fellow monks. They chose him as their head and had him elevated to the dignity of presbyter. Following the example of Saint John Chrysostom, whom he had managed to see and hear during the time of a journey to Constantinople, the Monk Isidor devoted himself primarily to Christian preaching, -- that "practical wisdom" which, in his own words, is both "the foundation of the edifice and the edifice itself", while at the same time logic is "its embellishment" and contemplation -- its crown". He was a teacher and a willing giver of counsel for anyone recoursing to him for spiritual encouragement: whether it be a simple man, a dignitary, a bishop, the Patriarch of Alexandria or even the emperor himself. He left after him about 10,000 writings, of which 2,090 have survived. A large portion of these writings are profound in theological thought and contain morally edifying interpretations of Holy Scripture. It is here that the Monk Isidor stands out as the finest disciple of Saint John Chrysostom. The love and devotion of the Monk Isidor for Saint John Chrysostom resulted in decisive acts in defense of Saint John during the time of his persecution by the empress Eudoxia and archbishop Theophilos. After the death of Saint John, the Monk Isidor persuaded Theophilos' successor Saint Cyril to inscribe the name of Saint John Chrysostom into the Church diptyches as a confessor. And through the initiative of the Monk Isidor was convened the Third OEcumenical Council at Ephesus (431), at which was condemned the false-teachings of Nestorius concerning the Person of Jesus Christ.
The Monk Isidor lived into old age and died in about the year 436. The Church historian Euagrios (Evagrius, VI Century) writes about the Monk Isidor, that "his life seemed to everyone the life of an angel upon the earth". Another historian, Nicholas Kallistos (IX Century), praises the Monk Isidor thus: "He was a vital and inspired pillar of monastic rules and Divine vision and as such he presented a very lofty image of most fervent example and spiritual teaching".
Holy Nobleborn Prince George (Georgii, diminutive Yurii) was a son of Greatprince Vsevolod, nicknamed "BigNest" ("Bol'shoe Gnesdo"). He was born in the year 1189, and he entered upon the Vladimir greatprincely throne in 1212. He was distinguished for his military valour and his piety. In the year 1237 the Tatar (Mongol) Horde of Batu descended upon the Russian land. Saint George was compelled to leave the capital city in charge of his sons, and set off north to unite up with the other princes. On the day of 4 March 1238 there occurred the Battle at the River Sita, in which the Tatars destroyed the not overly large but nonetheless valiant company of the greatprince. The saint himself fell in this fight. Bishop Kirill buried his body at the Rostov cathedral; two years later, it was with great solemnity transferred to the Vladimir Uspenie (Dormition) cathedral. And in 1645 occurred the Church glorification of the saint.
The Monk Kirill (Cyril) of Novoezersk was born into a pious family. The Lord marked him among the chosen while still in the womb of his mother. One time when Kirill's mother, having her son beneathe her heart, was praying in church during the time of Divine Liturgy, the infant within her womb thrice cried out -- at the reading of the Gospel, during the Cherubimic Hymn, and at the moment of the transformation of the Holy Gifts.
From the time of his childhood the saint was fond of solitude and prayer, and he dreamt of monastic life. At fifteen years of age Kirill secretly left his parental home, intending to enter the Pskovo-Pechersk monastery. He did not know directions for the way to the monastery, and having taken along nothing from home for the journey he went his way, putting all his trust in the Lord and His All-Pure Mother. At 20 versts from the city the lad met up with a magnificent monastic-elder, who led him to the monastery and at parting blessed him with the words: "May God bless thee, my child, and grant thee the Angelic form, and may thou be a chosen vessel of the Divine Spirit". Having said this, the starets-elder became invisible. The lad perceived that this had been a messenger from God, and he gave thanks to the Lord.
The monastery head -- the Monk Kornilii (Comm. 20 February) saw with his perspicacious eye the grace manifest in the lad. He provided him with much guidance and tonsured him into the monastic form with the name Kirill (Cyril). The fifteen year old monk astonished the brethren with his efforts: by fasting and prayer he emaciated the flesh, zealously he fulfilled obediences, day and night he was ready to study the Word of God; and already then he thought to finish his days in the wilderness, in solitude.
The parents of the lad bewept him as one dead, but one time an elder of the monastery of the Monk Kornilii came to them and told them about their son and his life at the monastery. The joyful news confirmed in the mother of the Kirill her love for God. Having spoken with her husband about leaving to the monastery her portion of the inheritance, she herself left the world and assumed the monastic form with the name Elena (Helen), and then soon peacefully died. The father of the monk came to the monastery, and Hegumen Kornilii bid Kirill to meet with him. The monk was troubled, but not daring to disobey the hegumen, he fell down at the feet of his father, imploring forgiveness for having secretly left home. The father forgave his son, and he himself remained henceforth at the monastery, with the Monk Kornilii tonsuring him into monasticism with the name Varsonophii, and gave him over for instruction to his son. Three years later he peacefully died. His son continued all the more fervently to toil for the Lord, disdaining his own will in making obediences not only to the hegumen, but also to the brethren. He thirsted to go about all the Russian land, venerating its holy things and to choose for himself a wilderness place for a life in quietude. Having received the blessing of the Monk Kornilii, the Monk Kirill left the monastery, in which he had grown strong spiritually, and he went off to the seacoast regions, roaming about through the forests and the wild places, eating tree roots and forest berries. In this difficult exploit of wanderer the saint spent about twenty years, and he went about on the outskirts of Moscow, and Novgorod and Pskov, but he never entered any house nor took alms. By day he wandered, nights he spent at prayer on church porches, and did not pass up the church services.
One time while at prayer, an heavenly light shone forth for the Monk Kirill, indicating the direction where he should found a monastery. He at once set off on his way, and having reached the Tikhvinsk monastery, he spent three days and three nights at it in incessant prayer to the MostHoly Lady Mother of God. In his sleep the Mother of God appeared to him. Showing Her approval of him, She said: "Thou pleaser of the MostHoly Trinity, My servant Kirill, go to the Eastern region of Beloozero (WhiteLake), and the Lord My Son wilt show thee the place of rest for thine old age".
The monk proceeded on to Beloozero, with tears of humility at the miraculous vision. On the lake he caught sight of a not-large island, from which a pillar of fire rose up to the sky. There, beneathe a many-centuries old spruce tree, Blessed Kirill built himself an hut and then he set up two cells: one for himself, the other for future brethren; the hermit also erected two small churches, one in honour of the Resurrection of Christ and the other in honour of the Mother of God Hodegetria ("Way-Guide"). He underwent many a temptation here from enemies invisible and from idlers roving about, but he overcame everything by brave endurance and constant prayer. News about his holy life spread everywhere, and brethren gathered about him.
There was many an instance of graced healing through the prayers of the monk, and the Lord granted His saint also the gift of foresight. Sensing his impending end, the monk summoned the brethren. With tears of humility the saint instructed his spiritual children one final time, until his voice gave out. For a long time then he was silent, but suddenly he cried out with loud sobbing. "I go off to the Lord into life eternal; ye however I do entrust to God the Word and His Grace, bestowing an inheritance and sanctification to all. May it help you. But I beseech ye, slacken not in fasting and prayers, guard yourself from the snares of the enemy, and the Lord in His ineffable mercy will not contemn your humility".
Having said this, the saint gave a final kiss to the brethren, communed the Holy Divine Mysteries, signed himself with the Sign of the Cross, and with the words "Glory to God for everything!", he gave up his pure soul on 4 February 1532.
The Monks Avraamii (Abraham) and Koprii of Pechengsk in 1492 founded the Saviour wilderness monastery at the River Pechenga, in Gryazovetsk district, 21 versts from Vologda. There was much work and need also to transport in the necessities to the wilderness spot, which was lacking in means, so as to build the monastery and set everything in proper order. The blessed toilers did not spare themselves, zealously asceticising right up to their very end.
The PriestMartyr Abraham, Bishop of Arbilia, suffered during a time of persecution against Christians in Persia under the emperor Sapor II. When they demanded the saint to renounce Christ and worship the sun, he answered: "How foolish to forsake the Creator and instead worship creatures! Is not the sun but a creation of my God?" After this, they fiercely beat and tortured him. During the time of torture Saint Abraham prayed, echoing the words of the Saviour: "Lord, impute not to them the sin, since they know not what they do!" The priestmartyr was beheaded by the sword in the village of Felman.
The Monk Nicholas the Confessor, Hegumen of the Studite Monastery, lived during the IX Century. He was born on the island of Crete in the village of Kedonia into a Christian family. At age 10 his parents sent him off to Constantinople to his uncle, Blessed Theophanes, who was a monk at the Studite monastery. On the approval of the Monk Theodore, the head of the Studite monastery, the lad was settled into the monastery school. And at the completion of school, when he was 16 years of age, he was tonsured a monk, and after several years was vouchsafed the dignity of priest.
During this time there raged a fierce persecution, initiated by the Byzantine emperor Leo the Armenian (813-820) against those that venerated holy icons, and the Monk Nicholas shared the fate of the Monk Theodore the Studite: they were repeatedly locked up in prison, tortured every which way, and insulted. They however zealously continued to spread Orthodoxy among the Christians. With the reign of the Blessed Empress Theodora (+ 867), ruling the realm while her son Michael was still in age a minor, icon-veneration was restored and there ensued a time of relative peace. The Monk Nicholas returned to the Studite monastery and was chosen its head. But the calm did not long continue. The Empress Theodora was stripped of rule, and there came to power the emperor's uncle, Bardas, -- a man defiling himself by open cohabitation with the wife of his son. The attempts of His Holiness Patriarch Ignatios to wield his spiritual power and restrain the impiety of Bardas proved unsuccessful. On the contrary, he was deposed from the patriarchal throne and sent off into exile. Not wanting to be a witness to the triumph of iniquity, the Monk Nicholas left Constantinople. He spent 7 years at various wilderness monasteries. Later on, as a prisoner, he was returned to the Studite monastery, where he spent two years imprisoned, right up to the death of the emperor Michael (855-867) and Bardas. With the ascent to the throne of the emperor Basil I the Macedonian (867-886), the Monk Nicholas was set free, and on the orders of the emperor again became hegumen. For his life as a confessor and ascetic he received from God the gift of healing, which did not cease even after his repose in the year 868.
© 2000 by translator Fr. S. Janos