May 21st (VI - 3)
Icon of Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine and his mother, Helen
Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God (1521). Equal-to-the-Apostles Emperor Constantine (+ 337), and his mother, the Empress Helen (+ 327). Nobleborn Prince Konstantin (Constantine, + 1129), and his sons Michael and Theodore (Feodor), Murom Wonderworkers. Monk Kassian (Cassian) the Greek, Uglich Wonderworker (+ 1504). Sainted Kirill (Cyril), Bishop of Rostov (+ 1262). MonkMartyr Agapit of Makrushevsk (+ 1584). Venerable Copies from the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God: Pskovo?Pechersk "Umilenie-Tenderness" (1524), Zaonikievsk (1588), Krasnogorsk or Chernogorsk (1603), Oransk (1634), Tupichevsk-Rostovsk, Phlorischevsk (XVII), Syrkovsk (1548).
The Celebration of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God was established in memory of the saving of Moscow in the year 1521 from an invasion of Tatars led by khan Makhmet-Girei. The Tatar hosts approached towards Moscow, burning and destroying Russian cities and villages, and exterminating their inhabitants. Greatprince Vasilii gathered an army against the Tatars, and the Moscow metropolitan Varlaam together with the people of Moscow prayed fervently for deliverance from destruction. During this grim time a certain pious blind nun had a vision: from the Saviour gates of the Kremlin the Moscow sainted-hierarchs were exiting, forsaking the city and bearing with them the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God -- the chief holy thing of the city of Moscow, -- in the chastisement of God for the sins of its inhabitants. At the Saviour-gates the sainted-hierarchs were met by the Monks Sergei of Radonezh and Varlaam of Khutynsk, tearfully imploring them not to quit Moscow. All of them together offered up intense prayer to the Lord about the forgiving of transgressions and the deliverance of Moscow from its enemies. After this prayer the sainted-hierarchs returned to the Kremlin and they carried back the holy Vladimir Icon. There was a similar vision also to a Moscow saint, Blessed Vasilii, to whom it was revealed, that through the intercession of the Mother of God and the prayers of the saints, Moscow would be saved. The Tatar khan likewise had a vision of the Mother of God amidst a fearsome host, contending against his forces. The Tatars fled in fear, and the capital of the Russian realm was saved.
The celebration of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God is made likewise on 23 June and 26 August.
The Holy Emperor Constantine (306-337), has received from the Church the title "Equal-to-the-Apostles", and in world history he received the name "the Great". He was the son of Caesar Constantius Chlorus (305-306), governing the lands of Gaul and Britania. The immense Roman empire was at this time divided into a Western and an Eastern empire, at the head of which were two independent emperors and also co-rulers titled "Caesars", -- such in the Western half of the Roman empire was the aforementioned father of Saint Constantine. Saint Contantine's mother was the empress Helen, who was a Christian. The future ruler of all the whole Roman empire -- Constantine -- was raised to have respect for the Christian religion. His father did not persecute Christians in the lands governed by him, this at a time, when through all the rest of the Roman empire Christians were subjected to fierce persecutions by the emperors Diocletian (284-305) together with his co-ruler Maximian Galerius (305-311) in the East, and the emperor Maximian Hercules (284-305) in the West. After the death of Constantius Chlorus, his son Constantine in 306 was proclaimed by the army as emperor of Gaul and Britania. The first act of the new emperor was to promulgate in the lands subject to him the freedom of confession of the Christian faith. The pagan-fanatic Maximian Galerius in the East and the fierce tyrant Maxentius in the West hated the emperor Constantine and they plotted to overthrow and kill him, but Constantine bested them in a series of battles, and he defeated his opponents with the help of God. He prayed to God to give him a sign, which should inspire his army to fight valiantly, and the Lord manifest to him in the heavens a radiant Sign of the Cross with the inscription "With this Sign thou wilt conquer". Having become sole ruler of the Western half of the Roman empire, Constantine in the year 313 issued the Edict of Milan concerning religious toleration, and in the year 323, when he came to rule as the sole ruler over the whole Roman empire, he extended the conditions of the Milan Edict also over the Eastern half of the Roman empire. After three hundred years of persecution, Christians finally received the possibility to openly confess their faith in Christ.
Renouncing paganism, the emperor did not let his capital remain in ancient Rome, the former centre of the pagan realm. He transferred his capital to the East, to the city of Byzantium, which also was renamed Constantinople ["Constantinopolis" means "the city of Constantine"]. Constantine was deeply convinced, that only the Christian religion could unify the immense Roman empire with its diverse peoples. He supported the Church in every way, he brought back from banishment the Christian confessors, he built churches, and he showed concern for the clergy. The emperor deeply revered the victory-bearing Sign of the Cross of the Lord, and he wanted also to find the actual Life-Creating Cross, upon which was crucified our Lord Jesus Christ. For this purpose he dispatched to Jerusalem his own mother -- the holy Empress Helen, granting manifold plenitude of power and material means. Together with the Jerusalem Patriarch Makarios, Saint Helen set about the search, and through the Will of God the Life-Creating Cross was discovered in a miraculous manner in the year 326. (The account about the finding of the Cross of the Lord is located under the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, 14 September). Situated in Palestine, the holy empress did much of benefit for the Church. She gave orders, that all places connected with the earthly life of the Lord and His All-Pure Mother, should be freed of all traces of paganism, and she commanded that churches should be built at these places of memory. Over the Cave of the Sepulchre of the Lord the emperor Constantine himself gave orders to construct a magnificent church to the glory of the Resurrection of Christ. Saint Helen gave the Life-Creating Cross to the Patriarch for safe-keeping, and part of the Cross she took with her for the emperor. Having distributed generous alms at Jerusalem and seeing to the feeding of the needy, during which times she herself attended them, the holy Empress Helen returned to Constantinople, where she soon after died in the year 327.
For her great services to the Church and her efforts in finding the Life-Creating Cross, the empress Helen is titled "Equal-to-the-Apostles".
The peaceful state of the Christian Church was rent by the rise from within the Church by dissensions and quarrels from heresies which had appeared. Already at the beginning of the emperor Constantine's reign there had arisen in the West the heresies of the Donatists and the Novatians, demanding a second baptism over those who lapsed during the times of the persecutions against Christians. These heresies, repudiated by two local Church councils, were finally condemned at the Milan Council of 316. But particularly ruinous for the Church was the rise in the East of the heresy of Arius, daring to repudiate the Divine Essence of the Son of God, and teaching that Jesus Christ was a mere creature. By order of the emperor, in the year 325 there was convened the First OEcumenical Council in the city of Nicea. At this Council were gathered 318 bishops. Among its participants were confessor-bishops from the period of the persecutions and many other luminaries of the Church, among whom -- was Sainted-hierarch Nicholas of Myra in Lycia. (The account about the Council is located under 29 May). The emperor was present at the sessions of the Council. The heresy of Arius was condemned and a Symbol-Creed of Faith compiled, in which was included the term "of One-Essence with the Father", always confirming in the consciousness of Orthodox Christians the truth of the Divinity of Jesus Christ, Who took on and assumed upon Himself human nature for the redemption of all the human race.
The deep churchly awareness and feeling of Saint Constantine might possibly surprise one, where the working-out of the definition "of One-Essence"heard by him in the disputes of the Council, was at his insistence included within the Symbol-Creed of Faith.
After the Council of Nicea, Saint Constantine continued with his active role in the welfare of the Church. He accepted holy Baptism at the end of his life, having prepared for it all his whole life. Saint Constantine died on the day of Pentecost in the year 337 and was buried in the church of the Holy Apostles, in a crypt earlier prepared by him.
The Blessed Holy Princes Konstantin (Constantine) and his sons Michael and Theodore (Feodor) of Murom lived during the XI-XII Centuries. Blessed Prince Konstantin, a descendant of Equal-to-the-Apostles Vladimir, besought of his father, prince Svyatoslav of Chernigov, to give him as his appenage-holding the city of Murom, which was inhabited by pagans, so as to enlighten this land with the light of the Christian faith. The prince sent his son Michael in the capacity of emissary to the Muromsk people, but the pagans murdered him. When prince Konstantin arrived in the city with his retinue, the people quieted down and accepted him, but for a long time they would not consent to give up their paganism. One time they made their way down to the dwelling of the prince, with the intent to kill him, but the prince intrepidly came out to the crowd with the Icon of the Murom Mother of God. The mutinous people unexpectedly quieted down and consented to accept holy Baptism, which was made over them at the River Oka. At the place of the murder of his son Michael, Saint Konstantin built a church in honour of the Annunciation, and later on another church in the name of the holy Passion-Bearers Boris and Gleb. In the propagation of the Christian faith amongst the Muromsk people, prince Konstantin zealously assisted his son, prince Theodore. In 1129 Saint Konstantin died and was buried in the church of the Annunciation alongside his sons, Blessed Michael and Theodore.
The Monk Kassian (Cassian) of Uglich: On this day is celebrated the "name-in-common" ("tezoimenitstvo") of the Monk Kassian (in the world Konstantin/Constantine). The account about him is located under 2 October.
Sainted Kirill (Cyril), Bishop of Rostov, was chosen to the hierarchical seat whilst hegumen of the Vladimir Nativity monastery, and he administered the Rostov diocese from 1231 to 1262. The chronicler of his time relates, that to hear the preachings of Saint Kirill people gathered not only from Rostov, but they came even from surrounding cities. The Ordynsk prince Peter accepted Christianity under the influence of his preaching. Saint Kirill has left a series of writings -- "About the Fear of God", "About the Heavenly Powers", "About Evil Spirits", "About Publicans", and many others. Sainted Kirill died on 21 May 1262.
The MonkMartyr Agapit of Makrushevsk, the founder of the Makrushevsk Nikolaev monastery, was a companion of the Monk Longin of Koryazhemsk. At one point at the Sol'vychegodsk Borisoglebsk monastery, during a time of illness he was granted a vision from an icon of Saint Nicholas, through whom he was healed. Setting out to the place indicated in the vision, he at first built there a chapel, and when a monastery formed, in 1578 he erected two churches -- the one in name of Saint Nicholas and the other in honour of the Annunciation of the MostHoly Mother of God. The local inhabitants wanted to eradicate the monastery. They murdered the Monk Agapit on 21 May 1584 and threw his body in a river. But the monks found the body and gave it burial betwixt the temples, building at the place of burial a chapel, and at the crypt they put the chains of the saint. Afterwards the relics were transferred and placed beneathe a crypt in the monastery church. In the year 1712 the Kholmogorsk bishop Varnav (Barnabas) gave blessing to the brethren to gather together an account about the life of the Monk Agapit and about the miracles from the Velikoretsk Icon. And with his blessing, in 1715 was written the Vita-Life of the MonkMartyr Agapit.
The "Umilenie-Tenderness" Pskovo-Pechersk Icon of the Mother of God was written and brought to the Pskovo-Pechersk monastery through the efforts of the Pskov merchants Vasilii and Feodor in about the year 1521. It was glorified especially by miracles of healing in the year 1524. This holy icon and also the "Uspenie-Dormition" Icon were glorified in 1581 during the time of the siege of Pskov by the Polish king Stefan Bathory. The 7 October feastday of the "Umilenie" Icon was established in memory of the deliverance of Pskov from the invasion of Napoleon in 1812.
The Vladimir-Zaonikievsk Icon of the Mother of God takes its name from the Zaonikiev monastery. This icon came to attention in 1588 under the following circumstances: a blind man named Ilarion from the village of Obukhov, in Vologda diocese, was healed after fervent prayer before the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God, Who miraculously pointed out to him a certain place in a dream. Healed by the Mother of God, Ilarion built a church with the help of the local inhabitants. Later on at this place grew up a monastery, where Ilarion accepted monastic tonsure under the name Joseph. And from the Vladimir-Zaonikievsk Icon of the Mother of God have occurred many miracles.
The Krasnogorsk (Chernogorsk) Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God is known of from the year 1603. Hegumen Varlaam, serving at the church of the Resurrection of Christ at Keurola, had as his own this icon of the Vladimir Mother of God. In 1603 he heard a gentle feminine voice in a dream, directing him to give over the Vladimir icon to the priest Miron. And after a certain while there actually came to hegumen Varlaam for discussion a priest with news of the Urals, and named Miron. The hegumen told him about his dream and learned, that near the Urals was a desolate mountain, suitable for the forming of a monastery. Hegumen Varlaam gave over his icon to the priest Miron, who put it into a local church. This icon brought healing to a local woman there named Martha, and to her in a dream the Mother of God appeared and indicated the place, whither the priest Miron should convey Her image, which the priest then did. Having erected a cross on Black Mountain, Miron set about construction of the church, having the help of the monk Jona who had come from Moscow. The priest Miron accepted monastic tonsure from hegumen Varlaam, taking the name Makarii. He undertook a journey to Moscow, carrying back the grammota-document for the construction of the church and the forming of a monastery on Black Mountain. In 1608 the church in honour of the Praise (Pokhvala) of the Mother of God was completed, and priestmonk Makarii was elevated to the dignity of hegumen. The Vladimir icon was installed in the church. The monastery received the name Krasnogorsk.
The Oransk Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God came to attention in the year 1634 under the following circumstances: the Nizhni Novgorod landowner Petr Gladkov had a deep devotion to the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God situated in the Moscow Uspenie-Dormition cathedral. He commissioned a copy from this icon and took it back with him to his native region. After several years he received directives in a dream to build a church in honour of the Vladimir Icon on an hill indicated in the dream. Having set off in search of it, Petr in an impassable part of the forest came upon a place over which there was a radiance. Gladkov recognised this as the hill shown him in the dream. This was Mount Slovensk. Having related to Patriarch Joseph about all this, he received a grammota-document granting permission for the building of a church. Having set up a marble cross upon the hill, Petr set about the construction of the church, into which also was placed the icon of the Mother of God, which was given the title Oransk, deriving from the place-name -- Orano Pole ("Orano Field") -- where the icon had been discovered when the healings began from it. Tsar Mikhail Feodorovich commanded a monastery be built at the church.
© 2000 by translator Fr. S. Janos