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June 17th (VI - 30)

Icon of the saint of the day.

Icon of the Martyr Isaurus, Hermit Pior, and the Martyr Innocent

PriestMartyr Philonides, Bishop of Cureia (+ c. 306). Martyrs Manuel, Sabel and Ismael (+ 362). Monks Joseph the Wilderness-Dweller and Pior (IV). Alphanov Monastic Brethren -- Nikita, Kirill (Cyril), Nikiphor, Kliment and Isaakii (Isaac), of Novgorod (XIV). Monk Ananii of Novgorod (+ 1581). Martyr Shalva, Prince of Akhaltsikh (+ 1227) and 10,000 Gruzian (Georgian) Martyrs. Disciple Aetius.

The Holy Disciple Aetius was an eunuch and had the duty of protector of the treasury of the Ethiopian empress Candice. On the way from Jerusalem to Gaza he was baptised by the holy Apostle Philip (Acts 8: 26-40) and became the Enlightener of Ethiopia.

The PriestMartyr Philonides, Bishop of Cureia, suffered martyrdom on Cyprus in about the year 306 in a persecution under the emperor Maximian Galerius (305-311).

The Monks Joseph the Wilderness-Dweller and Pior pursued asceticism in the IV Century, and were students of the Monk Anthony the Great (Comm. 17 January).

The Holy Martyrs Manuel, Sabel and Ismael, brothers by birth, were descended from an illustrious Persian lineage. Their father was a pagan, but their mother was a Christian, who baptised the children and raised them with firm faith in Christ the Saviour. Having grown into adults, the brothers entered military service. Speaking on behalf of the Persian emperor Alamundar, they were his emissaries in the concluding of a peace treaty with the emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363). Julian received them with due honour and showed them his favour. But when the brothers refused to take part in a pagan sacrificial offering, Julian became angry, and annulling the treaty, he locked up the peace emissaries of a foreign country in prison, like common criminals. At the interrogation he told them, that if they scorned the gods worshipped by him, it would be impossible to reach any peace or accord between the two sides. The holy brothers answered that they were sent as emissaries of their emperor on matters of state, and not arguments about gods. Seeing the firmness of faith of the holy brothers, the emperor gave orders to subject them to fierce tortures. They suspended the holy martyrs, having nailed their hands and feet to wood, at their heads they thrust nails, and under their finger-nails and toe-nails they wedged sharp needles. During this time of torment the saints, as though not feeling the tortures, glorified God and prayed. Finally, they beheaded they holy martyrs. Julian ordered their bodies to be burned. But suddenly there occurred an earthquake, and the ground opened up and took the bodies of the holy martyrs into its bosom. After two days, following upon the fervent prayers of Christians, the earth returned the bodies of the holy brothers, from which issued forth a fragrance. Many pagans, having witnessed the miracle, came to believe in Christ and were baptised. Christian reverently buried the bodies of the holy Martyrs Manuel, Sabel and Ismael. This occurred in the year 362. And since that time the relics of the holy passion-bearers have been glorified with wonderworking.

Having learned about the murder of his emissaries, and that the law-transgressor Julian was marching against him with a numerous army, the Persian emperor Alamundar gathered up his army and started off towards the border of his domain. In a large battle the Persians vanquished the Greeks. Julian the Apostate was killed by the holy GreatMartyr Mercurius (Mercury, Comm. 24 November).

Thirty years later the pious emperor Theodosius the Great (+ 397) built at Constantinople a church in honour of the holy martyrs, and Sainted Germanos, Patriarch of Constantinople (Comm. 12 May), then still a priestmonk, wrote a canon in memory and in praise of the holy brothers.

The Alphanov Monastic Brethren -- Nikita, Kirill (Cyril), Nikiphor, Kliment and Isaakii (Isaac), of Novogorod: On this day is celebrated the general commemoration of the death of the holy ascetics. The account about them is located under 4 May, on the day commemorating the Transfer of Relics.

The Monk Ananii of Novgorod, an iconographer of the Novgorod Antoniev monastery, asceticised during the XVI Century. An account about him is included in the narration about the miracles of the Monk Antonii the Roman, from which it is known, that the iconographer Ananii wrote "marvelous icons of many holy wonderworkers" and, fulfilling a monastic vow, not once in 33 years did he go outside the monastery walls. Historical records impute the time of his blessed end as the year 1581.

The Holy Martyr Shalva was distinguished by his many Christian virtues. For his bravery and valour, the holy nobleborn Empress Tamara the Great (Comm. 1 May) appointed him governor of the Akhaltsikh district (in southern Gruzia-Georgia).

While leading the Gruzian army, he gained a splendid victory over the Turkish sultan Nokardin, in consequence of which peace and prosperity accompanied the duration of the reign of Saint Tamara of Gruzia.

But during the reign of the empress Rusudan (+ 1237), Gruzia suffered invasion by the Persian shah Jelal-ed-din. In the battle against the numerously superior forces of the opponent, Prince Shalva was grievously wounded and captured.

Shah Jelal-ed-din surrounded Prince Shalva with frivolous concerns, but after the course of a year when he had recovered from his wounds, he urged him to accept Mahometanism. The promise of high position and all manner of honours were not able to sway the Gruzian confessor. He refused all these things and did not fear to suffer torture, and to his torturer he calmly answered: "I speak to thee with the words of Saint Ignatios the God-Bearer: "I seek not to gain anything, save the preservation of the Divine image, through which I was created".

The enraged shah gave orders to drag the naked confessor along the ground, and be beaten all over. During the time of torment the holy martyr joyfully cried out: "Rejoice, Shalva! Together with the clothing thou hast stripped off from thyself the old man and freed thyself from eternal perdition". Half dead and with fractured bones, they threw the holy martyr in prison where he died in June 1227.

After this, Jelal-ed-din overran Armenia and with a numerous army headed towards Tbilisi. The Gruzian army gave heroic resistance, but because of the treachery of the Persian citizenry they were unable to hold the city. Tbilisi was taken. "Not only public and private buildings, but also all the churches and sanctuaries were given over to fire and ruin; there was not left to rest in place even the bones of the dead, an inhuman sacrifice was made of altar servers and all the churchly clergy; in a word, Tiflis now presented the view of how Jerusalem looked under its destruction by Titus".

The fierce shah gave orders to take down the cupola from the Sion cathedral church in honour of the Dormition-Uspenie of the Mother of God, and therein to make his quarters, so as to look down upon the burning of the city and the torturing of Christians. He ordered the captured Gruzians to convert to Islam. Ten thousand men were driven to the bridge across the River Kura, near the Sion cathedral. They offered the captives freedom and generous gifts from the shah, if they recanted from Christ and spit at the holy icons put upon the bridge.

The Christians, approaching by turns the holy icons, in place of insult rendered them due honour and veneration. These the executioners beheaded and threw the headless bodies into the Kura. Thus were executed all the ten thousand Gruzian confessors. It was possible to cross the river from one bank to the other on the bodies of the holy martyrs, without wetting one's feet in the water. The water in the river, mixed together with the blood of the martyrs, became red.

This terrible execution continued all day until late evening. At night there shone over the bridge a pillar of light illumining the bodies of the sufferers for Christ. After this there occurred a powerful earthquake, during the time of which the quarters of the wicked shah crashed down from the heights of the Sion cathedral.

The commemoration of the holy Ten Thousand Tbilisi Martyrs is made by the Gruzian Orthodox Church on the same day with the memory of the holy Martyr Shalva.

© 2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos



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