March 23th (IV - 5)
Icon of the Martyr Nicon
MonkMartyr Nikon, Bishop, and his 199 Disciples (+ 251). Monk Nikon, Hegumen of Kievo-Pechersk Lavra (+ 1088). Martyrs Philetos, his wife Lydia, their children Macedonos and Theoprepios, Cronides and Amphylokios (+ c. 117-138). Monk George at Dyippa. Monk Eusebios. Monk Pakhomii of Nerekhtsk (+ 1384). Sainted Vassian, ArchBishop of Rostov (+ 1481). MonkMartyr Luke of Mytilenian Athos (+ 1812).
The MonkMartyr Nikon was born at Neapolis (Naples). His father was a pagan, and his mother -- a christian. Having reached maturity, Nikon remained a pagan. He served as a soldier and showed unusual courage and strength. One time, Nikon with his military company was surrounded by enemies. In deadly peril, he remembered the christian precepts of his mother and, signing himself with the sign of the cross, he prayed to God, vowing in the event of being saved to be baptised. He managed to escape inescapable death and, having returned home, with the blessing of his mother he set off in search of a priest, -- which in this time of persecution was no easy thing to do. Saint Nikon reached the island of Chios on a ship. He went up on an high mountain there and spent 8 days in fasting and prayer, entreating the Lord to help him. In a dream vision an Angel of God appeared to Saint Nikon, showing him the way. Saint Nikon set off to Mount Ganos, where many monks were hidden, headed by Theodosios the bishop of Kyzikos. Saint Nikon received from the bishop both the mystery of Baptism and the Angelic form (ie. monasticism). Having settled at the cave-church, Saint Nikon became an exemplar for all the brethren. When the monk Nikon had dwelt on the mountain for three years, it was revealed to the bishop by an Angel, -- that he should ordain the monk Nikon to the dignity of bishop, and should order him to re-settle with all the monks to the province of Sicily. Bishop Theodosios fulfilled this and, having entrusted the 190 monks to Saint Nikon, he died. Having buried bishop Theodosios, Saint Nikon sailed off with the brethren to Sicily, thereby being saved from approaching barbarians. But through Divine Providence, Sainted Nikon came to his native city Neopolis / Naples. He found his mother there among the living, and he remained together with her for the final day of her life. His mother, seeing him, collapsed on his chest with tears of joy and kissed him. Making a poklon (prostration) to the ground, she said: "I do give thanks to Thy MostHoly Name, O Lord, in that Thou hast granted me to behold my son in Angelic form and in bishop's dignity; and now, my Lord, my Lord hear me Thy servant, and accept my soul into Thine hand". Having made this prayer, the righteous woman died. Those present glorified God and buried her with psalmody.
Rumours about the arrival of Saint Nikon spread through the city, and ten soldiers -- his former companions, came to see him. After conversing with the saint they believed and were baptised, and proceeded with him to Sicily. Having arrived on the island, Saint Nikon settled together with the monks in a desolate area, called Gigia, not far from the river Asinum. Many years passed, and again there began a persecution against christians. The governor of Sicily Quintilian was informed that bishop Nikon lived with many monks not far away. All 199 monks were seized and beheaded, but they left Sainted Nikon among the living, so as to give him over to torture. They burned him with fire, but he remained unharmed; they tied him by the legs to wild horses to be dragged over the ground, but the horses would not budge from the spot. They cut out the saint's tongue, beat him with stones, and finally they beheaded him. The body of the priest-martyr Nikon was thrown to be devoured by wild beasts and birds. A certain shepherd, possessed of by an evil spirit, went to that place, and finding the body of the saint, he immediately fell on his face to the ground because of the unclean spirit -- having been vanquished by the power of the saint -- had thrown him to the ground and gone out from him with a loud shriek: "Woe is me, woe is me, whither might I flee, from the face of Nikon?"
The healed shepherd told about this to the neighbouring people. The bishop of the city of Messina learned also about this, and together with his clergy he buried the bodies of the priest-martyr Nikon and his disciples.
The Monk Nikon was the first disciple and fellow-ascetic of the Monk Antonii (Comm. 10 July), the founder of the Kievo-Pechersk monastery, to which he came being already a priest. At the monastery he vowed all the newly-arrived monks, and amongst their number was the Monk Theodosii (Feodosii) of Pechersk (Comm. 3 May and 14 August). For giving monastic vows to the favourites of the Great-prince Izyaslav -- the Monks Varlaam (Comm. 19 November) and Ephrem (Comm. 28 January), Saint Nikon brought down upon himself the wrath of the prince, and he boldly refused to force them to leave the monastery. When many brethren had been gathered up into the monastery, the monk Nikon desired to go into solitude and keep silence. He withdrew onto the Tmutarakan' peninsula (on the eastern banks of the Kerchensk straits) and settled in an unpopulated spot. When news about his life spread throughout the region, there gathered about him those wishing to lead a monastic life. A monastery thus was founded together with a church in the name of the MostHoly Mother of God. When he returned to the Kievo-Pechersk monastery, the monk Theodosii rendered to him his own respectful love as his spiritual father. According to the words of the Monk Nestor the Chronicler (Comm. 27 October), the monk Theodosii, -- having absented himself somewhere, entrusted all the brethren to the care of the monk Nikon. Sometimes he entrusted to the monk Nikon to offer instruction to the brethren in place of himself. Often, when the monk Nikon bound books, the monk Theodosii sat near him and spun the thread needed for the binding. When prince Svyatoslav drove out his brother Izyaslav from Kiev, the monk Nikon again went off to the monastery founded by him. He returned under the hegumen Stephan. Upon the withdrawal of Hegumen Stephan (Comm. 27 April) from the Kievo-Pechersk monastery, Saint Nikon was chosen hegumen of the monastery. He toiled much to adorn his monastery with monastic writings and mosaic. The monk died in extreme old age (+ 1088) and was buried in the Nearer Caves of the Monk Antonii.
Martyrs Philetos, his wife Lydia, their sons Macedonos and Theoprepios, together with Cronides and Amphylokios: Saint Philetos was an illustrious dignitary at the court of the emperor Adrian (117-138), a persecutor of christians. For openly confessing his faith in Christ the Saviour, Saint Philetos -- together with his wife Saint Lydia and their sons Macedonos and Theoprepios -- was brought to trial. By order of Adrian, Saint Philetos was sent off with his family to Illyria to the military-governor Amphylokios to subject them to torture. This one gave orders to suspend them from a tree and torture them with knives. After this act of martyrdom they were locked up in prison with the believing head-jailer Cronides. An Angel came to them by night and eased their sufferings. On the following day the martyrs were plunged into a cauldron of boiling oil, but the oil cooled down instantly, and the saints remained unharmed. The military-governor Amphylokios was so astonished at this miracle, that he himself believed on Christ and went into the boiling oil with the prayer "Lord, Jesus Christ, help me!" -- and remained alive. The tortures were repeated when the emperor Adrian came to Illyria. They threw the holy martyrs again and again into the boiling oil, and by the power of God they remained alive.
The humiliated emperor returned to Rome, and the holy martyrs began to give thanks and praise God and in prayer they offered up to Him their holy souls (+ c. 117-138).
The Repose of the Monk Pakhomii of Nerekht -- the account about him is located under 15 May.
Sainted Vassian I, ArchBishop of Rostov, was a kinsman of Saint Joseph of Volotsk (+ 1515; Comm. 9 September and 18 October). He was also a beloved disciple of the Monk Paphnutii of Borovsk (+ 1477; Comm. 1 May), from whom he accepted monastic vows. In the year 1455 he became head of the Trinity-Sergiev monastery; in 1466 -- archimandrite of the Novospassky; and in 1467 -- archbishop of Rostov. In 1479 the saint participated in the transfer of the relics of Saints Kiprian, Photii and Jona -- Sainted-hierarchs of Moscow and Wonderworkers of All Russia (Comm. 27 May). Sainted Vassian was known for his gift of edifying words of wisdom, and he often came forward as mediator in princely quarrels. At Rostov he built and beautified churches. In 1480 the saint wrote a famous missive to Great-prince Ivan III at Ugra, calling on him for decisive action against the Tatars -- as an high form of Christian patriotism. Saint Vassian also wrote a Life of Saint Paphnutii of Borovsk.
The saint died in extreme old age on 23 March 1481 and was buried in the Rostov Uspenie/Dormition cathedral.
Copyright 1997 by translator Fr. S. Janos.