July 20th (VIII - 02)
Icon of the Glorious Prophet Elias
The Prophet Elias (Ilias) (Elijah) (IX Century B.C.). Righteous Aaron the First-Priest (XVI Century B.C.). Monks: Avraam (Abraham) of Galich and Chukhlomsk (+ 1375); Leontii of Stromynsk (XIV); Savva of Stromynsk (+ 1392); Kassian the Hegumen. MonkMartyr Athanasii (Afanasii) of Bretsk (Uncovering and Transfer of Relics 1649). Icons of the Mother of God: Galich-Chukhlomsk "Tenderness" (1350), Abalatsk "Sign" (1637).
The Holy Prophet Elias (Ilias) (Elijah) -- one of the greatest of the prophets and the first dedicated to virginity in the Old Testament -- he was born in Galaadian Thesbia (Tishbe) into the Levite tribe 900 years before the Incarnation of the Word of God.
Sainted Epiphanios of Cyprus gives the following account about the birth of the Prophet Elias: "When Elias was born, his father Sobach saw in a vision, that handsome men greeted him, they swaddled him in fire and fed the fiery flame". The name Elias (the Lord's strength) given to the infant defined his whole life. From the years of his youth he dedicated himself to the One God, settled in the wilderness and spent his whole life in strict fasting, Divine-meditation and prayer. Called to prophetic service afront the Israelite king Ahab, the prophet became a fiery zealot of the true faith and piety. During this time the Israelite nation had fallen away from the faith of their fathers, they abandoned the One God and worshipped pagan idols, the worship of which was introduced by the impious king Jereboam. An especial advocate of idol-worship was the wife of king Ahab, the paganess Jezebel. The worship of the idol of Baal led the Israelites towards complete moral decay. Beholding the ruin of his nation, the Prophet Elias began to denounce king Ahab for impiety, and exhorting him to repent and turn to the True God. The king would not listen to him. The Prophet Elias then declared to him, that in punishment there would then be neither rain nor dew upon the ground, and the dryness would cease only through his prayer. And indeed, through the prayer of the prophet the heavens were closed, and there befell drought and famine throughout all the land. The nation suffered from the incessant heat and hunger. The Lord through His mercy, seeing the suffering of the people, was prepared to forgive all and send rain upon the earth, but did not want to annul the words of the Prophet Elias, sorrowed with the desire to turn about the hearts of the Israelites to repentance and return them to the true worship of God. Having saved the Prophet Elias from the hands of Jezebel, the Lord during this time of tribulation sent him into a secret place of the stream Horath. The Lord ordered rapacious ravens to bring food to the prophet, moving him to pity for the suffering nation. When the stream Horath dried up, the Lord sent the Prophet Elias to Sidonian Sarepta to a poor widow, who suffered together with her children in the expectation of death by starvation. At the request of the prophet she prepared him a bread with the last measure of flour and the remainder of the oil. Thereafter through the prayer of the Prophet Elias, flour and oil were not depleted in the home of the widow for all the duration of the famine. By the power of his prayer the prophet did another miracle -- he resuscitated the dead son of the widow. After the end of three years of drought the Merciful Lord sent the prophet to king Ahab to bring an end to the misfortune. The Prophet Elias gave orders to gather upon Mount Carmel all Israel and the pagan-priests of Baal. When the nation had gathered, the Prophet Elias proposed the building of two sacrificial altars: one -- for the pagan-priests of Baal, and the other -- for the Prophet Elias in the service of the True God. "Upon whichever shalt come down upon it fire from the heavens, that one wilt be shewn to have the True God, -- said the Prophet Elias, -- and all shalt be obliged to worship Him, and if not invoking Him shalt be given over to death". The prophets of Baal rushed off first to offer sacrifice: they called out to the idol from morning till evening, but in vain -- the heavens were silent. Towards evening the holy Prophet Elias built up his sacrificial altar from 12 stones -- the number of the tribes of Israel; he placed the sacrifice upon the fire-wood, gave orders to dig a ditch around the altar and commanded that the sacrifice and the fire-wood be soaked with water. When the ditch had filled with water, the fiery prophet turned to God with a prayer and asked, that the Lord send down fire from the heavens to teach the wayward and obdurate Israelite people and turn their hearts to Himself. Through the prayer of the prophet there came down fire from the heavens and it fell upon the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and even the water. The people fell down to the ground, crying out: "In truth the Lord is the One God and there is no other besides Him!". Then the Prophet Elias had put to death all the pagan-priests of Baal and he began to pray for the sending down of rain. Through his prayer the heavens opened and there came down an abundant rain, watering the parched earth.
King Ahab acknowledged his error and repented his sins, but his wife Jezebel threatened to kill the prophet of God. The Prophet Elias fled into the kingdom of Judea and, grieving over his failure to eradicate idol-worship, he asked of God his death. An Angel of the Lord came before him, strengthened him with food and commanded him to go upon a long journey. The Prophet Elias went for forty days and nights and, having arrived at Mount Horeb, he settled in a cave. Here after a terrible storm, an earthquake and a burst of flame the Lord appeared "in a quiet wind" (3 Kings 19: 12) and revealed to the grieving prophet, that He preserved seven thousand faithful servants who were not worshippers of Baal. The Lord commanded the Prophet Elias to anoint Elisei (Elisha) unto prophetic service. Because of his fiery zeal for the Glory of God the Prophet Elias was taken up alive to Heaven on a fiery chariot. The Prophet Elisei (Elisha) began with the testimony of the ascent of the Prophet Elias to the heavens on a fiery chariot and received together with his fallen-down mantle (cloak) a gift of prophetic spirit twice as great, than the Prophet Elias had possessed.
According to the tradition of Holy Church, the Prophet Elias will be a Fore Runner of the Terrible Second Coming of Christ upon the earth and during the time of preaching will be a sign of bodily death.
The life of the holy Prophet Elias is recorded in the Old Testament books (3 Kings; 4 Kings; Sirach/Ecclesiastes 48: 1-15; 1 Maccabees 2: 58). At the time of the Transfiguration [Preobrazhenie] the Prophet Elias conversed with the Saviour upon Mount Thabor (Tabor) (Mt. 17: 3; Mk. 9: 4; Lk. 9: 30).
For the day of the fiery ascent to Heaven of the Prophet Elias his veneration in the Church of Christ was constant over the centuries. The Russian Orthodox Church venerates the Prophet Elias among the saints. The first church, built at Kiev under prince Igor, was in the name of the Prophet Elias. After Baptism the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles princess Ol'ga (Comm. 14 July) built a temple of the holy Prophet Elias in his native region, at the village of Vibuta.
The iconographic tradition portrays the Prophet Elias rising up on a chariot with fiery wheels, which are encircled on all sides with flames and harnessed to four winged horses.
Holy Righteous Aaron the First-Priest: about him is contained an account in the Bible, in the book "Exodus".
The Monk Avraam (Abraham) of Galich, Chuklomsk, lived and pursued asceticism at the monastery of the Monk Sergei of Radonezh during the XIV Century. After long years of novitiate he was deemed worthy of the priestly dignity. Yearning after the perfection of silence, he petitioned the blessing of the Monk Sergei and in the year 1350 settled in the Galich countryside, settled by foreign tribes of people. Having settled in a place of wilderness, the Monk Avraam through a revelation went up upon a mountain, where he found an icon of the Mother of God shining with an indescribable light. The appearance of the holy icon became known to the Galich prince Dimitrii, who entreated the monk to bring it to the city. The Monk Avraam came with the icon to Galich, where he was met by the prince and a throng of clergy. Numerous healings were worked from the icon of the Mother of God. Prince Dimitrii bestowed upon the monk the means for construction of a church and monastery near Chukhlomsk Lake, at the place of the appearance of the icon of the MostHoly Mother of God. The church was built and dedicated in honour of the Dormition [Uspenie] of the MostHoly Mother of God. The newly built monastery of the Monk Avraam became a source of spiritual enlightenment for the local foreign peoples. When the monastery was built up, he established in his place as head his student Porphyrii, and he himself withdrew 30 versts away in search of a solitary place, but there also disciples found him. Thus rose up still another monastery with a temple in honour of the Placing of the Robe of the Mother of God, called "the great Avraamite wilderness-monastery". The Monk Avraam twice withdrew off to a quiet place, after which there gathered about him anew the disquieters. Thus were founded two more monasteries -- one in honour of the Sobor (Assemblage) of the MostHoly Mother of God, the hegumen of which the Monk Avraam made Porphyrii; and the other -- in honour of the Protection [Pokrov] of the MostHoly Mother of God, where the Monk Avraam finished his earthly life. He died in 1375, having the year before his blessed end given over the governance to his disciple Innokentii. The Monk Avraam was an enlightener of the Galich land, having founded in it four monasteries dedicated to the Mother of God, granting him Her icon at the beginning of his prayerful exploits.
The Monk Leontii of Stromynsk was the first hegumen of the Stromynsk Uspenie monastery, founded by the Monk Sergei of Radonezh at the request of GreatPrince Dimitrii Donskoi (1363-1389) -- in honour of the victory over the Tatars 50 versts from Moscow, on the way to Yur'ev. The Monk Sergei established as hegumen of the monastery his student, the Monk Leontii. The Monk Leontii died at the end of the XIV Century.
The Monk Savva of Stromynsk, a student of the Monk Sergei of Radonezh, established the Stromynsk monastery together with the Monk Leontii. From 1381 through 1392 he was hegumen of the monastery. The Monk Savva died in the year 1392 and was buried at a wooden chapel of the Stromynsk monastery.
The Holy MonkMartyr Athanasii (Afanasii) of Bretsk (Uncovering and Transfer of Relics 1649): The martyr's death of the holy Passion-bearer Athanasii, Hegumen of Bretsk, transpired on 5 September 1648 (the account about his life and deeds are located under this day). For the space of eight months the body of the sufferer for Orthodoxy lay in the ground without church funeral. On 1 May 1649 a boy pointed out to the brethren of the Simeonovsk monastery the place of burial of the hegumen. The ground in which the martyr was buried belonged at the time to the Jesuits, and therefore they had to go to work secretly. At night the monks dug up the undecayed body of the hegumen and immediately took it off to another place, and in the morning -- to their monastery, where after several days, on 8 May, they buried him with honour at the right-side kleros (choir) in the main church of the monastery dedicated in honour of the Monk Simeon the Stylite.
The earthly life of the MonkMartyr Athanasii had come to an end, but the remembrance of him remained always alive and sacred among the Orthodox inhabitants of the west Russian frontier. The profound veneration of believers here for his holy name, and the undecayed relics of the monk-martyr -- placed in a copper reliquary, were glorified by grace-abundant gifts of wonderworking and attracted a vast number of believers.
On 8 November 1815 at the time of a fire occurring at the Bretsk Simeonovsk monastery, the wooden monastery church burned, and the copper reliquary, in which the relics of the monk-martyr were kept, melted in the flames of the conflagration. The day following the fire an unharmed portion of the relics were found by the priest Samuel of Lisovsk and placed by the pious inhabitants of the city of Bretsk beneathe the altar of the monastery refectory church. In the year 1823, with the blessing of the archbishop of Minsk Anatolii, the holy relics were placed in a wooden vessel by the head of the monastery and put in church for veneration.
It pleased God to bestow miraculous power and by this preserved a portion of the relics of the MonkMartyr Athanasii.
In finely drawn traces there rises up before us this priestly image of the great champion of Orthodoxy, unsparing for faith and neighbour. Deeply religious, inexorably devoted to the faith of the holy fathers, he became bold of spirit and expressed by word and by deed his priestly indignation against the oppression of Orthodox Christians by the haughty Latino-Uniates. With fervent faith in his calling by God he entered into the struggle for his oppressed brethren. "I am not a prophet, but only a servant of God my Creator, sent in accord with the times, in order to speak to everyone the truth... He for this hath sent me, so that I might proclaim beforetime the destruction of the accursed Unia". Suchlike were the words of the fervent, unyielding and inspired struggler for Orthodoxy, deeply believing in the victorious power of the true faith-confession.
The complete affirmation of Orthodoxy and the final and total undoing of the Unia -- Saint Athanasii saw in this his single goal, the realisation for which he gave up his holy life. Besides this end, there was naught other than as he already lived in his personal life. Having submitted to the will of God, he had no thought for dangers, nor considered the obstacles, to fulfill his holy duty. His daring, spiritually-inspired speech and writings of petition, his published grievances against the gatherings and voluntary folly in Christ -- the MonkMartyr Athanasii tried all these expedients for the attainment and triumph of his sacred goal -- the affirmation of Orthodoxy in the ancient Russian land. One time, having repudiated the Unia, he was inspired with a deep sense of pity and love towards those who had become the victims of Uniate complicity. The righteousness and sincerity of Saint Athanasii in relation to those nearby defined the course of all his deeds. By his existence in the solitary life, surrounded by open and hidden enemies, the holy ascetic remained a steadfast defender and pillar of Orthodoxy, strengthened only by the light of faith in its solemnity and veracity. A martyr's death did not frighten him, wherefore he preached the fulfillment of his prophetic prediction: "The Unia will die out, but Orthodoxy will flourish".
The Icon of the Mother of God of Galich-Chukhlomsk "Tenderness" [Umilenie] appeared in the year 1350 to the Monk Avraam of Galich, having come there from the north for ascetic deeds with the blessing of the Monk Sergei of Radonezh. On the wild shores of the Galich lake near the large mountain, hidden in the dense forest, he turned with prayer to the Mother of God, asking Her blessing for his labours. After prayer the monk sat at rest and suddenly there appeared on the nearby mountainside a bright light and he heard a voice: "Avraam, come up the mountain, where is set an icon of My Mother". The monk went up the mountain where the light shone, and indeed on a tree found an icon of the Mother of God with the Praeternal Infant. With tenderness and in gratitude to God, the holy ascetic took the revealed image and, strengthened by prayers to the MostHoly Mother of God, he built a the blessed place a chapel, in which he put the icon. After a certain length of time the Galich prince Dimitrii Feodorovich, having learned about a trip of the elder, turned to him with a request to bring the icon. The Monk Avraam rowed across the Galich lake in a boat and, accompanied by clergy and a throng of people, he took the wonderworking icon to the cathedral church of the city of Galich. On this day a large number of the sick were healed from this icon. When the Monk Avraam told about the appearance of the icon, the prince offered money for the building of a monastery. Soon there was built a church in honour of the Dormition of the MostHoly Mother of God, around which arose a monastery. Afterwards the Monk Avraam founded several more monasteries, the last being founded was the Chukhlomsk, not far from the city of Chukloma, -- from the name of this monastery the ascetic was named "of Chukhlomsk", and the wonderworking icon took on the name "Galich-Chukhlomsk. The commemoration of this icon is also on 28 May and 15 August.
The Abalatsk "Sign" [Znamenie] Icon of the Mother of God: the account about this icon is located under 27 November.
© 1997 by translator Fr. S. Janos.