July 19th (VIII - 1)
Icon of Nun Macrina, Sister of St. Basil the Great
Nun Macrina, Sister of Saint Basil the Great (+ 380). Monk Dios (+ c. 430). Monk Seraphim, Wonderworker of Sarov (Uncovering of Relics, 1903). Nobleborn Prince Roman (Olegovich) of Ryazan (+ 1270). Monk Paisii of Pechersk, in Farther Caves (XIV). Blessed Stefan (Stephen) (+ 1427) and his mother Militsa (+ 1405) of Serbia. Monks: Varlaam, Preacher of the Caucasus; Gregory the New, Confessor.
The Monastic Macrina, Sister of Sainted-Hierarchs Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, was born in Cappadocia at the beginning of the IV Century. Her mother, Emilia, saw in a dream an Angel, naming her yet unborn one Thekla, in honour of the holy First-Martyress Thekla. Saint Emilia (Emily, Comm. 1 January) fulfilled the will of God and named her daughter Thekla. Another daughter that was born they named Macrina, in honour of a grandmother, who suffered during the time of persecution against Christians under the emperor Maximian Galerius.
Besides Macrina, in her family were nine other children. Saint Emila herself guided the upbringing and education of her elder daughter. She taught her reading and writing in the Scriptural books and Psalms of David, selecting those examples from the Sacred books, which instructed of a pious and God-pleasing life. Saint Emilia trained her daughter to attend church services and make private prayers. Macrina was likewise taught the proper knowledge of domestic governance and various handicrafts. She was never left idle and did not participate in childish games or amusements.
When Macrina grew up, her parents betrothed her to a certain pious youth, but the bridegroom soon died. Many young men sought marriage with her, but Macrina refused them all, having chosen the life of a virgin and not wanting to be unfaithful to the memory of her dead fiancee. The Monastic Macrina lived in the home of her parents, helping them fulfill the household tasks as an overseer together with the servants, and she carefully followed after the upbringing of her younger brothers and sisters. After the death of her father she became the chief support for the family.
When all the children grew up and left the parental home, Saint Macrina convinced her mother, Saint Emilia, to leave the world, to set their slaves free, and to settle in a women's monastery. Several of their servants followed their example. Having taken monastic vows, they lived together as one family, they prayed together, they worked together, they possessed everything in common, and in this manner of life nothing distinguished one from another.
After the death of her mother, Saint Macrina guided the sisters of the monastery. She enjoyed the deep respect of all who knew her. Strictness towards herself and temperance in everything were characteristic of the saint over the course of all her life. She slept on boards and had no possessions. Saint Macrina was granted a gift of wonderworking. There was an instance (told by the sisters of the monastery to Saint Gregory of Nyssa after the death of Saint Macrina), when she healed a girl of an eye-affliction. Through the prayers of the saint, at her monastery in times of famine there was no shortage of wheat, necessary for the use of the sisters.
Saint Macrina died in the year 380, after a final sigh of exalting prayers of thanks to the Lord for having received of Him blessings over all the course of her life. She was buried in the same grave with her parents.
The Monk Dios was born in the city of Syrian Antioch towards the end of the IV Century into a pious Christian family. From the years of his youth he was noted for his temperance, he took food in small quantity and not each day, his flesh was humbled by vigil and incessant prayer. For these deeds the Lord granted Saint Dios dispassion and the gift of wonderworking.
The Lord in a vision ordered Saint Dios to go to Constantinople and there to serve both Him and the people. Saint Dios settled beyond the city in a solitary place, where people feared to live. The Monk Dios bravely contended with the evil spirits which tried to expel him from this place. The Lord heard the prayer of His saint: his staff took root, began to grow and with time was transformed into an immense oak, which stood for a long time even after the death of Saint Dios.
The surrounding inhabitants began to come to the saint for advice and guidance, and they besought healing from ills of body and soul. Saint Dios by prayer doctored the infirm, and whatever was offered him he distributed to the poor, the homeless and the sick.
Accounts about Saint Dios reached even the emperor Theodosius the Younger. He came to Saint Dios for a blessing together with the Constantinople Patriarch Atticus (406?425). The emperor wanted that on the place of Saint Dios' efforts there be built a monastery, and he provided the means for its construction. The patriarch ordained the monk into the priestly dignity and made him the hegumen. Soon numerous monastic brethren gathered to Saint Dios. The monastery was in need of a well. They dug at it for a long time without success. Through the prayer of the monk the Lord brought forth a spring of pure water, which soon filled up the entire well. One time through his prayer the monk raised up a drowned man. And many another miracle the Lord worked through His saint.
In extreme old age the Monk Dios became grievously ill. He took his leave from the brethren, communed the Holy Mysteries and lay upon his cot, like one dead. At the monastery for making the funeral service His Holiness Patriarch Atticus (Comm. on Cheesefare Saturday) and also the Alexandria Patriarch Alexander, who was then at Constantinople. The holy elder unexpectedly rose up from his death bed and said: "The Lord hath given me yet fifteen years of life". Great was the joy of the brethren.
Saint Dios actually did live another 15 years, helping all with guidance and counsel, healing the sick, and being concerned for the poor and homeless. Shortly before death a radiant man in priestly garb appeared to him in the altar of the church and forespoke to him about the impending day of death. Having given thanks to the Lord for this news, Saint Dios quietly died and was buried in his monastery (about the year 430).
Uncovering of the Relics of the Monk Seraphim, Wonderworker of Sarov: At the beginning of the last century (i.e. the 1800's) a new bright taper blazed upon the candle-tiara of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Lord deigned to send to us on earth a great man of prayer, an ascetic and wonderworker.
In 1903 occurred the glorification of the Monk Seraphim of Sarov, 70 years after his repose (the Vita (Life) of the saint is located under 2 January, the day of his repose). On 19 July, the birthday of the saint, his relics were opened with great solemnity and placed in a prepared reliquary. The long awaited event was accompanied by numerous miraculous healings of the sick, who in large number had gathered at Sarov. Very widely esteemed while yet alive, the Monk Seraphim became one of the most beloved saints of the Russian Orthodox nation, indeed like the Monk Sergei of Radonezh.
The spiritual path of the Monk Seraphim was marked by great modesty, inherent to the Russian saint. From childhood having been chosen by God, the Sarovsk ascetic without hesitation or misgiving ascended from strength to strength in his striving for spiritual perfection. Eight years of novitiate tasks and eight years of temple service in the dignity of deacon and priestmonk, wilderness-dwelling and pillar-dwelling, hermitage and solitude followed upon each other and crown his eldership. His deeds, by far exceeding natural human abilities (for example, the prayer upon the stone for a thousand days and nights), harmoniously and readily enter into the life of the saint.
The mystery of a living and prayerful communality defines the spiritual legacy of the Monk Seraphim, but he left to the Church still another precious thing -- a short but fine directive, written in part by himself, and in parts by those listening to him. Shortly before the glorification of the saint there was found and printed in 1903 his "Conversation of the Monk Seraphim of Sarov, Concerning the Goal of Christian Life", compiled at the end of November 1831, roughly a year before his repose. This conversation was a very precious contribution of the ascetic into the treasury of teachings of Russian holy-fathers. Besides his teaching about the essence of Christian life, in it are contained new explanations of many important places of Holy Scripture.
"Fasting, prayer, vigil and every good deed, -- taught the Monk Seraphim, -- being howso no less fine in themselves, yet however in fact the goal of our Christian life does not consist only but in them, though they serve as means for its attainment. The true goal of our Christian life is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God". Once however situated in the Spirit of God, the monk glimpsed all the Russian land, and it was filled and as it were covered over by the incense-cloud of the prayers of the faithful, rising up in supplication to the Lord.
In the recorded life and deeds of Saint Seraphim are quoted many eye-witness accounts of the graced gift of perspicacity (i.e. insight), which he utilised for stimulating within people repentance of sins and moral rectification.
"The Lord hath revealed to me, -- said he, -- that there shalt be a time, when the hierarchs of the Russian land and other spiritual persons will deviate from the preservation of Orthodoxy in all its purity, and for this the wrath of God wilt strike them. For three days I stood, I besought the Lord to have mercy on them and besought it better to deprive me, the wretch Seraphim, of the Kingdom of Heaven, than to punish them. But the Lord inclined not to the plea of the wretch Seraphim and said, that there would be not mercy for them, since they will teach human teachings and commandments, while their hearts stand far from Me".
Manifesting the graced gifts and power of God to people, the Monk Seraphim instructed those coming to him, on how to transverse the narrow path of salvation. He commanded obedience of his spiritual children and to the end of his life he was faithful to it. Having spent all his life in ascetic deeds beyond the power of ordinary people, his advice was to go by "the royal (middle) way" of the holy-fathers and not take upon oneself excessive difficult works: "to take on excessive measure of exploit is not necessary; but strive, so that the other aspect -- our flesh -- be true and capable for the doing of good deeds".
The monk considered prayer to be the prime exploit and means for the acquisition of the Holy Spirit. "Every good deed, done on account of Christ, bestows the grace of the Holy Spirit, but... prayer most of all beareth the Holy Spirit, and it is most convenient of all for each to improve".
The Monk Seraphim advised during the time of Divine-services to stand in temple now with eyes closed, and then to turn one's gaze upon an image or burning candle and ponder this thought, -- that it would suggest the fine comparison of human life with a waxen candle.
If someone complained to the holy elder about the impossibility to fulfill the rule of prayer, he then advised them to pray unceasingly: both during the time of work, and when going wherever, and even in bed. And if anyone can make the time, said the monk, let them take on soul-edifying prayers and readings of prayer-canons, akathists, psalms, the Gospel and Epistles. The saint also advised to study the order of Divine-services and to commit them to memory.
The Monk Seraphim regarded a lengthy rule of prayer as non-obligatory and he gave his Diveevsk community of women monastics a light rule. The Mother of God forbade Father seraphim to obligate novices with the reading of long akathists, so as not to impose an excessive burden on the incapable. But with this the saint strictly mentioned, that prayer ought not to be a formality: "Those monks, who do not unite external prayer with the inner, are not monks, but black torch-heads!" There thus became known the Seraphim Rule for those laypeople, who under the circumstances of life were not able to read the customary morning and evening prayers -- in the morning, before lunch and at evening to read the "Our Father", thrice the "Hail Mary, Virgin Mother of God", the Creed "I Believe" once; attending to necessary tasks, from morning til dinner to do the Jesus Prayer "Lord, Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner" or but simply "Lord, have mercy", and from dinner til evening the prayer "MostHoly Mother of God, save me a sinner" or "Lord, Jesus Christ, through the Mother of God have mercy on me a sinner".
"In prayers be attentive to thyself, -- advised the ascetic, -- that is, prepare the mind and unite it with the soul. On the first day, twice or more make this prayer with the whole mind, attending separately to each particular word. Later on, when the Lord heats thy heart with His warm grace and unites that in thee in one spirit: then flows within thee unceasingly that prayer and always will it be with thee, delighting and nourishing thee..." The monk said that in fulfilling this rule with humility, it is possible to attain Christian perfection even in worldly life.
"One mustneeds provide the soul with the Word of God. Most of all one ought to exercise in the reading of the New Testament and the Psalter. From this occurs enlightenment of the intellect, which is transformed by a Divine transformation", -- advised the holy ascetic of Sarov, himself constantly reading through all the New Testament during the course of the week.
Communing the Holy Mysteries each Sunday and each feastday without fail, -- to the question of how often one should approach for Communion, the Monk Seraphim answered: "the more often, the better". He said to the priest of the Diveevsk community, Vasilii Sadovsky: "The Grace, given us by Communion, is so great, that though a man be unworthy and sinful, if such a man in humility conscious of his all-sinfulness approacheth nigh [for Communion] to the Lord, Who hath redeemed us all, though he be covered head to foot by the bounds of sin, yet shalt he be cleansed by the grace of Christ, for all the more and more it illumineth him, and altogether it doth enlighten and save him".
"I believe, that through the great blessing of God grace doth make its mark also upon those communing..." The saint however did not give everyone the identical advice regarding frequent Communion. For many he advised to make the preparatory fast during all four lenten periods and during all the twelve feastdays. But it is necessary to remember his warning about the possibility of communing unto condemnation: "Sometimes thus it doth happen: here on earth they indeed do commune, but with the Lord they remain non?communicants!"
"There is no worse a sin and nothing is more terrible and harmful of spirit than despondency", -- said Saint Seraphim. He himself shone with a spiritual joy, and with this quiet peaceful joy he in abundance filled the hearts of those about him, greeting them with the words: "My joy! Christ is Risen!" Every burden of life became light while being close to the ascetic, and a multitude of the grieving people and seekers of God crowded about his cell and together with them hermits, wanting to share in the graces radiating from the God-pleasing saint. In the eyes of all was affirmed the truth, expressed by the saint himself in a great angelic calling-out: "Acquire peace, and around thee a thousand wilt be saved". This command about the acquisition of peace leads up to the teaching about the acquisition of the Holy Spirit, but of itself it appears as a most important step on the way of spiritual growth. The Monk Seraphim, in experience having passed through all the ancient Orthodox science of ascetic deed, foresaw how the spiritual activity of coming generations would be, and he taught to seek out peace of soul and to condemn no one: "Whoso goeth about in a worldly manner, that one as though a liar draweth up spiritual gifts". "For preserving peace of soul... everyone ought to flee the judging of others... In order to be delivered from judgement, one ought to attend to oneself, and not from whomever to adopt extraneous ideas and become deadened towards everything".
The Monk Seraphim rightly can be called a disciple of the Mother of God. The MostHoly Mother of God thrice healed him from grievous illness, and repeatedly She appeared to him, guiding and encouraging him. While still at the beginning of his way he heard, how the Mother of God in directing him as he lay upon his sick bed, said to the Apostle John the Theologian: "This one is of our kind".
Upon emerging from seclusion the monk devoted much effort to the building up of the women's monastic community at Diveevo and he himself said, that he gave no particular directives on his own, but rather he gave everything through the will of the Queen of Heaven.
The Monk Seraphim stands at the head of a remarkable upwards-flight of Russian Orthodox spirituality. With great strength resounds his recollection: "The Lord seeketh out the heart, overflowing with love towards God and neighbour; here is the throne, upon which He doth love to preside and appear in the fullness of His supra-heavenly Glory. "Son, give Me thine heart, -- sayeth He, -- and all else I Myself wilt provide thee", -- wherefore it is in the human heart that the Kingdom of Heaven can be realised".
The Holy Nobleborn Prince Roman Olegovich of Ryazan was from a line of princes, who during the time of the Tatar (Mongol) Yoke won glory as defenders of the Christian faith and of their Fatherland. Both his grandfathers perished for the Fatherland in the struggle with Batu. Raised in love for the holy faith (the prince lived in tears and prayers) and for his Native-land (Rodina), the prince with all his strength concerned himself about his devastated and oppressed subjects, and he defended them from the coercion and plundering of the khan's "baskaki" ("tax-collectors"). The "baskaki" hated the saint and they slandered him before the Tatar khan Mengu-Timur. Roman Olegovich was summoned to the Horde, where khan Mengu-Timur declared that he had to choose either of two things: either a martyr's death or the Tatar faith. The noble prince answered, that a Christian cannot change from the true faith to a false one. For his firmness in the confession of faith he was subjected to cruel torments: they cut out his tongue, gouged out his eyes, cut off his ears and lips, chopped off his hands and feet, tore off from his head the skin and, having chopped off his head, they impaled him upon a spear. This occurred in the year 1270.
The veneration of the prince-martyr began immediately with his death. The chronicle says about the saint: "Thou hast gained by thy suffering the Kingdom of Heaven and a crown bestown from the hand of the Lord together with thy kinsman Mikhail Vsevolodovich, co-sufferers with Christ for the Orthodox Christian faith".
From the year 1854 there was made at Ryazan a church procession and molieben on the day of memory of Saint Roman. In 1861 at Ryazan was consecrated a church in honour of holy Prince Roman.
The Monk Paisii of Pechersk was a monk of the Kievo-Pechersk monastery. From the general canon to the Kievo-Pechersk monks, venerated in the Farther Caves, it is known, that he was connected by oneness of mind and brotherly love with the Monk Merkurii (the account about him is under 24 November). Both saints were inseparable, they lived in the same cell, and after death were put into the same grave. At the present time their relics rest in separate reliquaries.
Blessed Stefan (Stephen) was the son of prince Saint Lazar of Serbia (Comm. 15 June). In the terrible times of the Turkish Yoke Saint Stefan became the great benefactor of his enslaved countrymen. He built up the city, constructed churches and expended his treasury on the help of the needy. Saint Stefan exceeded many a ruler by his wisdom, his charity and his faith. He died peacefully in the year 1427.
Saint Militsa was the mother of Blessed Stefan. She founded the Liubostin women's monastery, in which she took vows with the name Evgenia. She died at the monastery a schema-monastic on 11 November 1405.
© 1998 by translator Fr. S. Janos