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May 20th (VI - 2)

Icon of the saint of the day.

Icon of the Martyrs Thalaleas, Thalassios, and Lydia

Martyrs: Thalaleas, Alexander and Asterias (+ c. 284); Askalon (+ c. 287). Sainted Alexei, Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia the Wonderworker, at the Uncovering and Transfer of Relics (1431). Nobleborn Prince Dovmont, in Holy Baptism Timothy (Timothei), of Pskov (+ 1299). Monks: Thalassios of Libeia (+ c. 660); Nikita, John, Joseph (XI).

The Martyrs Thalaleas, Alexander and Asterias: During the reign of Numerian (283-284), the governor of the city of Aegea dispatched soldiers to seek out Christians. They brought to him Thalaleas, an 18 year old blond-haired youth. To the governor's interrogation Saint Thalaleas answered: "I am a Christian, a native of Lebanon. My father, by the name of Beruchius, was a military commander, and my mother was named Romilia. My brother has the dignity of sub-deacon. I however am a student of medicine under the physician Makarios. During a former time of persecution against Christians in Lebanon I was brought before the governor Tiberias, and just barely escaped execution. But now I stand before this court, do with me what thou dost wish. I desire to die for Christ the Saviour and my God, hoping from Him help to endure all torments".

The enraged governor ordered the two torturers Alexander and Asterias to pierce the legs of the martyr with rope and suspend him head downwards. But the executioners, by the design of God, bored into a block of wood, which they hung up in place of the martyr. When the governor saw that they had deceived him, he then ordered that Alexander and Asterias be fiercely whipped, and they too confessed themselves Christians and glorified God. The governor gave orders to immediately cut off their heads. Twice he himself attempted to carry out the execution, and to pierce the leg-bones of the saint, but the grace of God prevented him, and he in his impotence then commanded that Saint Thalaleas be drowned.

The returning servants reported to the governor that they had carried out the execution, but suddenly, just as they finished their report, Saint Thalaleas appeared in white raiment. For a long while everyone was numbed with terror, but finally the governor said: "Behold, this sorcerer hath bewitched even the sea". Then one of his advisers, the magician Urvician, advised the governor to have the martyr thrown for devouring by wild beasts, but neither the vicious bear, not the hungry lion and lioness, would touch the saint, all meekly but laying down at his feet. Seeing this happen, the people began loudly to shout: "Great is the God of the Christians, O God of Thalaleas, have mercy on us!". The crowd seized hold of Urvician and threw him to the beasts, which did not hesitate to tear apart the magician. Finally, the governor gave orders to kill the holy martyr with a sword. They led away the martyr of Christ to the place of execution, called Aegea, where he prayed to God and bent his neck beneathe the sword. This occurred in the year 284. The relics of the holy martyr Thalaleas are situated in the church of Saint Agathonikos of Constantinople and have made many miracles. The holy Martyr Thalaleas, as a physician without payment treating the sick, is called by the Church an UnMercenary, and is called on in prayers over the sick in the Sacrament of Anointing-with-Oil and during the Blessing of Waters.

The Holy Martyr Askalon was a Christian, born in the city of Great Hermopolis (Middle Egypt). The saint suffered in the III Century under Diocletian (284-305). Brought before the governor Arrian, Saint Askalon boldly confessed his faith and refused to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. And the saint predicted to Arrian, that there would come an hour, when he himself would be forced to call Jesus Christ as the One True God. By order of Arrian, they began to torture the saint cruelly, they suspended him and tore at him with iron instruments, such that pieces of his flesh fell to the ground. Saint Askalon quietly endured the torments. When one of those present, going up to him said: "See, he is already unconsciousness and near to death", -- the holy martyr answered, -- "I have not lost consciousness and unceasingly I do glorify my God and Saviour".

The governor Arrian gave orders to convey the martyr to the city of Antineia, located on the opposite bank of the Nile, for a continuation of the tortures, whither he himself soon intended to go. But the martyr turned with prayer to God, beseeching Him to hold back the boat of Arrian until such time, that he confess the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ before all the people. And thus the boat of Arrian suddenly halted in the middle of the river and even oars could not move it from this spot. Arrian ascribed the miracle to the working of a magic spell by Askalon. In drawing up the sentencing of the saint the governor happened to dictate the confession of One True God, and then the boat sailed on to shore. Going into the city, Arrian again gave orders to suspend Saint Askalon and scorch at him with fire, after which he gave orders to drown him in the deep river. The martyr said to the Christians accompanying him: "Strive, brethren, to receive the rewards of the Lord God. On three days hence, my children, come to the north part of the city and there find my body. Bury it together with a stone attached to it". The death of the Martyr Askalon occurred in about the year 287, not far from the city of Antineia. On the third day Christians found the body of the martyr and in accord with his last wishes buried it reverently together with a stone.

The UnCovering of the Relics of Sainted Alexei, Metropolitan of Moscow and All Rus': Before his blessed end in 1378 Saint Alexei, Metropolitan of Moscow, gave final instructions to place his body in the Chudov monastery at the Kremlin and directed the place of burial outside the altar of the church, not wishing in his humility, to be buried in the temple. But the pious GreatPrince Dimitrii Ivanovich Donskoy (1363-1389), deeply esteeming the great Hierarch, gave orders to place the body of Metropolitan Alexei inside the church, near the altar.

On 20 May 1431 the stairway of the temple, at which the saint rested, crumbled from old age. During the time of construction of a new temple, the undecayed remains of Saint Alexei were uncovered. At a Sobor-Council of Russian hierarchs celebration of Metropolitan Alexei was established on the day of his repose, 12 February, and on the day of the uncovering of his relics, 20 May. In 1485 the relics of the saint were transferred into a church consecrated in his name. At present they rest at the Patriarchal Theophany cathedral in Moscow. The account about Saint Alexei is located under 12 February.

The Holy Nobleborn Prince Dovmont (Domant) of Pskov, prince of Nal'shinaisk (Nal'shensk), was a native of Lithuania, and at first he zealously professed paganism. In 1265, escaping from internecine strife amongst the Lithuanian princes, he was forced to flee Lithuania and with 300 families he arrived in Pskov. The land of Pskov became his second native-country. Here, in the expression of the chronicler, "the grace of God was breathed upon him", when with all his retainers he accepted Holy Baptism with the name Timothei (Timophei) and was bestown the great gifts of the Lord. Within a year's time, the people of Pskov chose him as their prince for his bravery and his true Christian virtues. Over the course of 33 years he ruled the city and was the sole prince in all the history of Pskov who died, having lived for so long in peace and in harmony with the Pskov veche (city-council). He was just and strict in pursuing justice for others, he gave alms generously, took in the poor and strangers, piously he observed the church feasts, he was a patron for the churches and monasteries and he himself founded a monastery in honour of the Nativity of the MostHoly Mother of God. After his marriage to the daughter of GreatPrince Dimitrii, grandson of holy Prince Alexander Nevsky (Comm. 23 November and 30 August), he became related to the Russian great-princely lineage. Prince Dovmont, just like Saint Alexander Nevsky, was a glorious defender of the Russian Land. The prime importance of Prince Dovmont as a military leader and activist for the realm consists in this, that over the course of many years he firmly defended the north-west boundaries of the Russian realm from hostile incursions.

In 1268, Prince Dovmont was one of the heroes of the historic battle before Rakovor, where Russian forces gained the victory over the Danish and German armies. Before each battle, Saint Dovmont went into church, set down his sword at the steps of the holy altar and accepted blessing from the priest, who girded on the sword for him.

Saint Dovmont made the Pskov fortress impregnable. In memory of the glorious defender of the city, a stone protective wall, raised up by the holy prince alongside the Krom at the end of the XIII Century, was named the Dovmontov, and the territory enclosed by the wall, to the present say is called Dovmontov town. The "House of the Holy Trinity" of the saintly defender was yet another pious matter: in gratitude to the Lord in Whose Name he had gained victory unharmed, holy Prince Dovmont alongside the Pskov Kremlin erected a temple in honour of the feastday, on which he won the victory. Other inhabitants of Pskov also build churches there in fulfilling of vows. The not overly large territory of present day Dovmontov town was completely covered with churches (the first temple in honour of Saint Dovmont-Timothei was built in Dovmontov town in 1574).

The brave warrior-prince gained his final victory on 5 March 1299 on the banks of the River Velika, where with a small company he defeated a large German army. Meanwhile the Livonian Knights unexpectedly invaded the suburbs of Pskov, they seized the nigh to the city Snetnogorsk and Mirozhsk monasteries and burned them, cruelly murdering the inhabitants. They killed the founder of the Snetnogorsk monastery, the Monk Joasaph, together with 17 monks, and also the Monk Vasilii, Hegumen of Murozhsk (Comm. 4 March). Holy Prince Dovmont, not waiting to gather up a large Pskov force, went to engage the enemy with his retainers and he expelled the sacrilegious defilers from the bounds of the Russian Land.

Several months later, holy Prince Dovmont-Timothei died and was buried in the Trinity cathedral of Pskov. The chronicler relates, that "there was then great sadness in Pleskov for the men and woman and small children on account of their good lord noble Prince Timothei". The Pskov people remembered, how the holy prince had concerned himself over them during peaceful times and in particular, when the city was threatened by danger, how he led them into battle with the words: "Good men of Pskov! Whoso of you is old, that one is my father, whoso is young, that one is my brother. Stand fast for the Holy Trinity!"

Soon after the death of the prince there began the veneration of him as an holy intercessor before God, prayerfully guarding the land from enemies and misfortune. More than once after death did the holy prince defend Pskov. Thus, in the year 1480, when more than an hundred thousand Germans besieged the city, he appeared in a dream to a certain citizen and said: "Take my grave garb (cover), carry it three times around the city with a cross and fear not". The people of Pskov fulfilled his instructions and the Germans departed from the city. A service was established to the holy prince after this miraculous deliverance from enemies. Alongside with the relics of the saint, there was put up his battle sword (at the present time the sword is preserved at the Pskov historico-artistic and architectural preservation museum), which was thereafter handed to Pskov princes upon their elevation to the princely throne.

Holy Prince Dovmont-Timothei and his spouse, later to be the Schema-Monastic Nun Martha (+ 1300, Comm. 8 November), were granted the special honour to be depicted upon the wonderworking Murozhsk Icon of the Mother of God (Comm. 24 September): "Thou hast bestown blessing unto the all-pure image of Thine icon, O Mother of God, inscribed of visage the likeness of our in battle steadfast intercessor prince Dovmont with his pious spouse" (Sedalion of Service to holy Prince Dovmont-Timothei). During an appearance of the Mother of God to the starets-elder Dorothei (Dorophei) at the time of a siege of Pskov by the Polish on 27 August 1581, holy Prince Dovmont-Timothei was among the chosen of God, accompanying the Heavenly Protectress of Pskov (the related account about the Pskovo-Pokrov Icon of the Mother of God is located under 1 October).

The relics of holy Prince Dovmont-Timothei rest in the Pskov cathedral of the Life-Originating Trinity.

The holy Princes Vsevolod and Dovmont more than once aided Russian armies in defense of the western borders of the Fatherland. And then the hour struck, when with their sacred intrepidness they were dispatched by the Valiant Leader of the heavenly Hosts to rise up in defense of the eastern frontiers.

In the year 1640 the great national movement to the East -- "the meeting of the sun" -- resulted in the appearance of Russian explorers at the mouth of the Amur River and the Pacific Ocean. Rus' on these frontiers collided with pagan China. The bulwark if Orthodoxy became the Russian fortress of Albazin, famed by the wonderworking Albazinsk Icon of the Mother of God (Comm. 9 March) and the heroic "Albazinsk defense" (1685-1686).

...Summer of the year 1679, during the Peter Lent, a company of cossacks with Gavril Florov set out from Albazin on exploration in the Zea River valley. For three years the cossacks did patrol duty on the Zea, they made the rounds of the surrounding settlements, the brought under Russian rule the Tungus settlers, and they established winter quarters and a stockade. One time, cossack riders encountered in the hills two horsemen on white horses, arrayed in armour and armed with bows and swords. These were Saints Vsevolod and Dovmont. Having entered into conversation with the cossacks and learning that they were from Albazin, the holy warrior-princes predicted soon afterwards the approach of Chinese armies upon the Amur, with a difficult defense but ultimate triumph of Russian arms. "And again the Chinese wilt come, and enter into a great battle, and in these struggles we shalt aid the Russian people. And the Chinese wilt not trouble the city".

Several times during 1684-1686 the horde of Chinese advanced towards Albazin, but did not take the city. By the miraculous help of the Albazinsk Icon of the Mother of God and the holy Princes Vsevolod and Dovmont of Pskov, the enemy onslaughts were rendered powerless against the Far-Eastern Orthodox fortress.

"The Account about the Miracles of Holy Nobleborn Princes Vsevolod and Dovmont" was written by Gavril Florov at Yakutsk on 23 October 1689. The fealty of God's holy retinue did not end. New generations arise to change the face of the earth, but steadfast in sacred patrol of their fatherland stand the Russian warrior-defenders -- Saints Vsevolod and Dovmont.

The Monk Thalassios, head of a monastery in Libeia, pursued asceticism during the VII Century. He was a friend of Saint Maximos the Confessor (Comm. 21 January), with whom for many years he corresponded. The holy ascetics, as their letters testify, addressed themselves to dealing with difficulties in the spiritual life. The Monk Thalassios, well versed in Holy Scripture, combined deep knowledge with the spiritual enlightenment of believers. He expounded his theological positions under the guise of instructive aphorisms in his work, "On Love, Temperance and the Spiritual Life". The composition of Abba Thalassios consists of 400 chapters, each of which is written in the form of an acrostic, which evidences the obvious literary talent of the author. In this composition, together with spiritual ethics there are stated questions of dogmatic character: concerning the Incarnation of God the Word, and concerning the redemption of mankind. The Monk John Damascene (Comm. 4 December) in his theological works makes use of the composition of the Monk Thalassios. The fundamental thought of the Monk Thalassios is concentrated upon the inner spiritual effort, involved in the struggle with the passions. "If thou dost wish, -- he says, -- to be freed totally from every evil, then make renunciation from the mother of evils -- self-love. Self-love precedeth all the passions, and behind all of them there follows, finally, bitterness. The three primary thoughts of lust are begotten from the passion of self-love, behind which follow all the other passionate thoughts, but not all together". The Monk Thalassios died in old age in about the year 660, and his relics were glorified by a flow of fragrant myrh.

© 2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos



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