March 20th (IV - 2)
Icon of Holy Marytr Claudia and Martyr Myron of Crete
Monks John, Sergios, Patrikios and Others, Murdered in the Monastery of Saint Sava (+ 796). Monk Evphrosyn of Sinozersk, Novgorod (+ 1612). Martyrs: Photina (Svetlana) the Samaritan and her sons, Victor named Photinos, and Josiah. Martyrs: Anatolia, Photo, Photida, Paraskeva, Kyriakia, Domnina and Sebastian (+ c. 66); Alexandra, Claudia, Euphrasia, Matrona, Juliania, Euthymia and Theodosia (+ 310); Rodion; Aquila the Eparch; Lollion the Elder; Maria. Martyr Myron of Crete (+ 1793). Saint Iconias, Presbyter of Smyrna. Monk Vissarion. Saint Germanos. Saint Maximus. Sainted Nikita the Confessor, Archbishop of Apolloniada (+ c. 813-820).
The Monks John, Sergios, Patrikios and Others Murdered in the Monastery of Saint Sava: During the VIII Century the surroundings of Jerusalem were subjected to frequent incursions of the Saracens. The monastery of Saint Chariton was devastated and fell into ruin. Twice the Saracens tried to plunder the Lavra monastery of Saint Sava the Sanctified, but Divine Providence protected the monastery. The Lavra monks would have been able to escape the barbarian incursions by going to Jerusalem, but they decided not to forsake the spot where they had sought salvation for so many a year.
At the end of Great Lent in the week before Palm Sunday, on 13 March, the Saracens broke into the monastery and demanded all the valuables be given them. Upon receiving the reply of the monks, that in the monastery was nothing besides a scant supply of food and old clothing, the Saracens began to shoot arrows at the monastery inhabitants. Thirteen men were killed and many wounded, and monastery cells were set afire. The Saracens intended also to torch the monastery church, but seeing in the distance a throng of people, they mistook this for an army force sent out from Jerusalem. The Saracens managed to get away, carrying off the little they had succeeded to plunder. After the enemy fled, Father Thomas, an experienced physician, began to render help to those remaining alive.
On Great Thursday, 20 March, the Saracens with a yet larger force again descended upon the Lavra and began to beat up the monks. Those remaining alive were driven into the church, so as to learn from them under torture where any treasure might be hidden. The monastery was surrounded, so that no one could save themself by fleeing. The barbarians seized hold of Saint John, a quite still young monk, who before had cared for the vagrant. They beat him fiercely, then they cut through the sinews of his hands and feet and dragged him by the feet over stones with the woeful effect of tearing the skin of the back of the martyr.
The keeper of the church vessels, the Monk Sergios, hid the church-ware and attempted to flee, but he was captured and beheaded. Several of the monks nevertheless managed to hide themselves away outside the monastery in a cave, but this was spotted by a sentry on an hill and they ordered everyone to come out. Inside the cave the Monk Patrikios in a whisper said to the brethren huddled with him: "Fear not, I alone on your behalf will emerge and meet my death, meanwhile sit ye and pray". The Saracens questioned whether there was anyone else in the cave, and the monk answered that he was alone. They led him off to the Lavra church, where those yet alive awaited their fate. The Saracens demanded of them a ransom of 4,000 gold pieces and the sacred vessels. The monks were not able to give such a ransom. Then they led them around into the cave of the Monk Sava, located at the monastery enclosure, and in front of the entrance to the cave they set a bon-fire, on which they piled up dung, so as to suffocate the imprisoned with the poisonous fumes. In the cave perished eighteen men, among which were the Monks John and Patrikios. Those remaining alive the Saracens continued to torture, but getting nothing out of them, they finally left the monastery.
Later in the night on Great Friday the monks hidden in the hills returned to the Lavra, they took up the bodies of the murdered monastic fathers to the church and in grief buried them there.
The barbarians that plundered the monastery were punished by God. They fell victim to a sudden illness, in which they perished all every one, and their bodies became the spoil of wild beasts.
The Monk Evphrosyn of Sinozersk (Blue-Lake), in the world Ephrem, was born in Karelia near Lake Ladoga. In his youthful years he lived near the Valaamo monastery, and later he resettled to Novgorod the Great. Having there spent some length of time, the saint then withdrew to one of the Novgorod outskirts -- the Bezhetsk "pentary" [a "fifth" of the "Pyatiny Novgorodskiya" -- comprising anciently five strategically situated outlying village-districts of Novgorod the Great]. He became helper at church-services in the village of Dolossk, 20 versts from the city of Zhelezopol'sk Ustiug. The monk accepted tonsure at the Tikhvinsk Uspenie-Dormition monastery. In the year 1600 he began his wilderness life in the wild marsh-lands at the shore of Blue-Lake. Having set up a cross and dug out a cave, the monk dwelt here for two years, eating only wild vegetation. Unexpectedly, surrounding inhabitants came upon him, and they began coming to the monk for guidance, and several remained to live with him. In 1612, when Polish military detachments were laying waste to Russia, many a person was saved from pillage at his wilderness place. One time, the Monk Evphrosyn predicted that the Polish would come into this wilderness, and he advised everyone to flee. Many did not believe him. "Why then dost thou not withdraw from this sacred spot?" -- they asked. The starets-elder replied: "I came hither to die for Christ". Those that obeyed the saint and left the monastery remained safe, but all those who stayed died an horrible death. Among the inhabitants of the monastery had also been the Monk Jona. Terrified at the prediction of the Monk Evphrosyn, he wanted to flee together with the others. But the Monk Evphrosyn held him back, firing up within the monk fervour for the house of God and a readiness to dwell in the monastery to his very end. "Brother Jona, -- said the Monk Evphrosyn, -- why this cowardly fear in thine soul? When starteth the battle, then mustneeds be shown courage. We gave a vow to live and die in the wilderness. We mustneeds be faithful to our word, given before the Lord. In such instance death results in peace. It is another matter for the layfolk: they are not bound in this by their word, and they mustneeds spare themselves for the sake of their children".
After this the Monk Evphrosyn invested himself in the schema and spent the whole night in prayer. On the following day, 20 March, the Polish forces fell upon the monastery. The monk attired as schema-monk emerged from his cell and stood with upraised cross. The enemy flung themselves at him: "Old man, give us the monastery valuables". "All the valuables both mine and of this monastery -- are in the church of the All-Pure Mother of God", -- answered the monk, meaning by this the unstealable riches, which for believers are hidden within God. Not understanding this, the thugs rushed to the church, and one of them drew out a sword and struck the Monk Evphrosyn on the neck. His neck was cut half way through, and the holy elder fell to the ground dead. When the Polish, angered that they had found nothing in the church, returned -- the murderer of the monk, not satisfied that the saint was already breathless, struck him on the head with a war-axe. The Monk Jona also perished. At the monastery also with the monks had stayed a certain pious Christian, Ioann Suma. When the enemy had burst onto the scene, he was in the cell of the monk. Despite his grievous wounds received from the foreign ruffians, Ioann remained alive. With the departure of the Polish, he regained his senses and reported to his returning son the things that had transpired. The surrounding inhabitants learned from them about the destruction of the monastery and the cruel end of the Monk Evphrosyn. The body of the monk was reverently buried on 28 March. On this same day they buried also the Monk Jona and all the others who had perished under the sword. And 34 years after the death of the saint, at his monastery was erected by a builder named Moisei a new church in the Name of the MostHoly Trinity and a bell-tower with a passage-way. With the blessing of the Novgorod metropolitan Makarii, on 25 March 1655 the relics of the Monk Evphrosyn of Sinozersk were transferred by the builder Jona beneathe the bell-tower.
The Holy Martyress Photina (Svetlana) the Samaritan Woman, her sons Victor named Photinos and Josiah; and the Martyress-Sisters: Anatolia, Photo, Photida, Paraskeva, Kyriakia, Domnina; and the Martyr Sebastian: The holy Martyress Photina was that selfsame Samaritan Woman, with whom the Saviour conversed at Jacob's Well (Jn. 4: 5-42).
During the time of the emperor Nero (54-68), who displayed an excessive cruelty in his struggle against Christianity, Saint Photina lived in Carthage with her younger son Josiah and fearlessly preached the Gospel there. Her older son Victor fought bravely in the Roman army against barbarians, and for his meritorious service was appointed military commander in the city of Attalia (Asia Minor).
The Attalia city governor Sebastian upon meeting Saint Victor said to him: "I quite verily do know, that thou, thy mother and thy brother -- art followers of the teachings of Christ. But as a friend I advise thee -- submit to the will of the emperor, and thou canst receive the wealth of any Christians, which thou mightest inform on for us. Thou mother and thy brother I shalt write, that they not preach Christ openly. Let them secretly confess their faith". Saint Victor replied: "I myself want to be a preacher of Christianity, just like my mother and brother". To this Sebastian answered: "O Victor, we all do well know what woes await thee, and thine mother and brother, in this". After these words Sebastian suddenly sense a sharp pain in his eyes, and he became dumbfounded and his face sombre.
For three days he lay there blind, and not uttering a word. On the fourth day he loudly declared: "Only the faith of the Christians is true, and there be no other true faith". To Saint Victor, who came there next beside him, Sebastian said: "Christ doth call unto me". Soon he was baptised and immediately regained his sight. The servants of Saint Sebastian, witnessing the miracle, were themselves then baptised on the example of their master.
Reports of the occurrence reached Nero, and he commanded that the Christians be brought to him for trial ar Rome. Then the Lord Himself appeared to the confessors and said: "I shalt be with ye, and Nero wilt be vanquished, and all who serve him". To Saint Victor the Lord announced: "From this day henceforth thy name wilt be Photinos -- "Lightning-flash", since that many, enlightened by thee, wilt turn to Me". To Saint Sebastian the Lord spake in encouragement: "Blest be he that endureth to the end". Saint Photina, having been informed by the Saviour concerning the forthcoming sufferings, herself set off in the company of several Christians from Carthage to Rome and joined in with the confessors.
At Rome the emperor gave orders to bring him the saints and he asked them, whether actually and truly they believed in Christ. All the confessors resolutely refused to renounce the Saviour. Then the emperor gave orders to smash the palms of the hands of the holy martyrs. But at the time of the torments the confessors sensed no pain, and the hands of the Martyress Photina remained unharmed. Nero ordered that Saints Sebastian, Photinos and Josiah be blinded and locked up in prison, and Saint Photina with her five sisters -- Anatolia, Photo, Photida, Paraskeva and Kyriakia -- be sent off to the imperial court under the supervision of Nero's daughter Domnina. But Saint Photina converted to Christ both Domnina and all her servants, who then accepted holy Baptism. She also converted to Christ a sorcerer, who had brought poisoned food to kill her.
Three years had passed, and Nero sent to the prison for one of his servants, who had been locked up. The messengers reported to him, that Saints Sebastian, Photinos and Josiah -- who had been blinded, had completely recovered, and that people were constantly visiting them to hear their preaching, and indeed the whole prison had been transformed into a bright and fragrant place wherein God was glorified. Nero then gave orders to crucify the saints and over the course of three days and also to beat them upon their bared bodies with straps. On the fourth day the emperor sent servants to see, whether the martyrs were still alive. But, approaching the place of the tortures, the servants forthwith fell blind. During this time an Angel of the Lord freed the martyrs and healed them. The saints took pity on the blinded servants and by their prayers to the Lord restored them to sight; those healed then came to believe in Christ and were soon baptised.
In an impotent rage Nero gave orders to flay the skin from Saint Photina and to throw the martyress down a well. The Martyrs Sebastian, Photinos and Josiah, had their legs cut off, and were thrown to dogs, and then had their skin flayed off. The sisters of Saint Photina also suffered terrible torments. Nero gave orders to cut off their breasts and then to flay their skin. An expert in cruelty, the emperor readied the fiercest execution for Saint Photida: they tied her by the feet to the tops of two bent-over trees, which when cut loose tore apart the martyress. The emperor ordered the others beheaded. Saint Photina they extracted from the well and locked up in prison for 20 days.
After this Nero had her brought to him and asked, whether she would now give in and offer sacrifice to the idols. Saint Photina spit in the face of the emperor, and laughing at him, said: "O most impious of the blind, thou profligate and stupid man! Wouldst thou reckon me so much deluded, that I should consent to renounce my Lord Christ and instead offer sacrifice to idols as blind as thee?!"
Hearing such words, Nero gave orders to again throw the martyress down the well, where she offered up her spirit to the Lord (+ c. 66).
The Holy Virgin-Martyrs Alexandra, Claudia, Euphrasia, Matrona, Juliania, Euthymia and Theodosia were arrested in the city of Amisa (on the coast region of the Black Sea) during the time of the persecution against Christians under the emperor Maximian Galerius (305-311). Under interrogation they confessed their faith and were subjected to cruel tortures for this. They scourged and beat them with canes, cut off their breasts, after which they were suspended and torn at with sharp hooks. Finally the holy virgins were burned alive in a red-hot oven (+ 310).
Saint Nikita (Nicetas) the Confessor, Archbishop of Apolloniada, was noted for his profound knowledge of Sacred Scripture, and was as well a pious and kindly man. During the reign of the Iconoclast emperor Leo the Armenian (813-820), the saint stood up firmly for the veneration of holy icons, and so was exiled and died imprisoned.
The Martyr Myron of Crete suffered under the Turks for his refusal to accept Islam in the year 1793.
© 2000 by translator Fr. S. Janos