May 23rd (VI - 5)
Icon of Hieromartyr Synesius of Cyprus and Michael the Confessor, Bishop of Synada
Saint Mary Cleopa (Wife of Cleophas) the Myrh-Bearer (I). Monk Michael the Confessor, Bishop of Synada (+ 821). Martyr Michael the Black-Robed (IX). Martyr Salonus the Roman. Martyr Seleukos. Saint Athanasias. Sainted Leontii, Bishop of Rostov (Uncovering of Relics, 1164). Nun Evphrosynia, Hegumeness of Polotsk (+ 1173). Monk Paisii of Galich (+ 1460). Sobor-Assemblage of Rostov-Yaroslav Saints: * Hierarchs and Wonderworkers of Rostov: Bishop Leontii (+ 1073), Bishop Isaiah (+ 1090), Bishop Ignatii (+ 1288), Bishop Yakov (James) (+ 1391), Bishop Theodore (Feodor) (+ 1394), Metropolitan Dimitrii (+ 1709), Monk Avraam (Abraham) the Archimandrite (XII), Monk Irinarch the Hermit (+ 1616), Nobleborn Prince Vasilii (Vasil'ko) (+ 1238), Nobleborn Peter, Tsarevich of Ordynsk (+ 1290), Blessed Isidor the Repeater, Fool-for-Christ (+ 1474), Blessed John of the Hair-Shirt (the Merciful), Fool-for-Christ (+ 1580). Yaroslav Wonderworkers: Nobleborn Princes Vasilii (+ 1249), Konstantin (+ 1257), Theodore (Feodor) (+ 1299) and his sons David (+ 1321) and Konstantin (XIV). Pereslavl' Wonderworkers: Monk Nikita the Pillar-Dweller (+ 1186), Monk Daniel the Archimandrite (+ 1540), Nobleborn Prince Alexander Nevsky (+ 1263), Nobleborn Prince Andrei (Andrew) of Smolensk (XV). Uglich Wonderworkers: Monk Paisii (+ 1504), Monk Kassian (+ 1504), Monk Ignatii of Lomsk (+ 1591), Nobleborn Prince Roman (+ 1285), Nobleborn Tsarevich Dimitrii (+ 1591). Poshekhonsk Wonderworkers: Monk Sylvester of Obnorsk (+ 1379), Monk Sebastian (+ 1542), MonkMartyr Adrian (+ 1550), Monk Gennadii of Liubimograd and Kostroma (+ 1565). (* The celebration of the Sobor of the Rostov-Yaroslav Saints on 23 May was established by resolution of His Holiness Patriarch Alexei (+ 1970) and the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, on 10 March 1964).
Saint Mary Cleopa (Wife of Cleophas) the Myrh-Bearer, by Church tradition was a daughter of Righteous Joseph, Betrothed to the MostHoly Virgin Mary (Comm. 26 December) from his first marriage, and she was still very young when the MostHoly Virgin was betrothed to Righteous Joseph and came into his household. The Holy Virgin Mary lived together with the daughter of Righteous Joseph, and they became close like sisters [whence the terminology in John's Gospel, 19: 25]. Righteous Joseph, upon his return with the Saviour and the Mother of God from Egypt to Nazareth, gave his daughter in marriage to his younger brother Cleophas, wherefore she is called Mary Cleopa, i.e. wife of Cleophas. The blessed fruition of this marriage was the PriestMartyr Simeon, Disciple from the Seventy, kinsman of the Lord, and the Second Bishop of the Jerusalem Church (Comm. 27 April). The memory of Saint Mary Cleopa is celebrated also on the 3rd Sunday after Pascha, the Sunday of the Holy Myrh-Bearing Women.
Sainted Hierarch Michael the Confessor yearned from his youthful years for the monastic life and was directed by His Holiness Patriarch Tarasios (784-806) to a monastery, located at the coast region of the Black Sea. There also entered the monastery together with him -- Saint Theophylaktos (Comm. 8 March), the future bishop of Nikomedia. At the monastery both monks proceeded through the efforts of salvation and soon were glorified by graced gifts from the Lord. Once during a time of harvest, when the people were weakened by thirst, by the prayer of the monks an empty metal vessel was filled with water.
His Holiness Patriarch Tarasios ordained Saint Michael as bishop of the city of Synada. Through his holy life and wisdom, Saint Michael gained the deep love of believers and the particular notice of the emperors Nicephoros I (802-811) and Michael I Rangaves (811-813). In the year 787 Saint Michael was present at the Seventh OEcumenical Council at Nicea.
When the Iconoclast heretic Leo the Armenian (813-820) entered upon the throne, he began to expel Orthodox hierarchs from their cathedrae-seats, appointing in their place his like-minded heretics.
Saint Michael during this time firmly defended Orthodoxy, bravely opposing the heretics and denouncing their error. Leo the Armenian brought Saint Michael to trial, but not fearing torture he answered resolutely: "I venerate the holy icons of my Saviour Jesus Christ and the All-Pure Virgin, His Mother, and all the saints, and it is to them I bow down. Thine decrees about the removal of icons from churches I shall not fulfill". Leo the Armenian then banished Saint Michael to imprisonment in the city of Eudokiada, where the confessor died in about the year 821. The head of Saint Michael is preserved in the Laura of Saint Athanasias on Mount Athos, and part of the relics -- are at the Iversk monastery.
The Holy MonkMartyr Michael the Black-Robed lived in the IX Century, and came from the city of Edessa (Mesopotamia) of Christian parents. He was a zealous disciple of Saint Theodore of Edessa (Comm. 9 July). Having distributed to the poor the inheritance left him by his parents, he set off to Jerusalem to venerate the Holy Places. Jerusalem at the time was in the grips of the Mahometans. Saint Michael remained in Palestine and settled in the monastery of Saint Sava. One time he was sent from the monastery to Jerusalem to sell goods for the monks. At the marketplace, the eunuch of the Mahometan empress Seida, having noticed that the monastery goods were both fine and well-made, took him along to the empress. The young monk caught the fancy of the empress, who tried to entrap him in the snare of sin, but her intent proved to be in vain. Then by order of the enraged Seida they beat the monk with canes, and then accused him before the emperor of being an enemy of Mahometanism. Having interrogated the monk, the emperor began to urge him to accept the Mahometan faith, but Saint Michael answered: "I implore thee -- either send me back to the monastery to my instructor, or be baptised in our Christian faith, or cut off my head, and I shall then expire to Christ my God". The emperor gave orders to give the saint a cup with deadly poison, which Saint Michael drank and remained unharmed, so after this the emperor gave orders to cut off his head. The death of the martyr occurred in Jerusalem, but the monks of the monastery of Saint Sava transported the body of the saint to their Laura and buried it there with reverence. At the beginning of the XII Century the relics of the holy martyr were seen there by Daniel, the hegumen of the Kievo-Pechersk monastery, in his making of pilgrimage to the Holy Places.
The Nun Evphrosynia, Hegumeness of Polotsk, was in the world named Predslava, daughter of prince Georgii Vseslavich. From her childhood years she was noted for her love of prayer and book learning. Having rejected a proposal for marriage, Predslava took monastic vows with the name Evphrosynia. With the blessing of the Polotsk bishop Ilia, she began to live near the Sophia cathedral, where she occupied herself by the copying of books. In about the year 1128 Bishop Ilia entrusted the nun the task of organising a women's monastery. Setting out for Sel'tso -- the place of the future monastery, -- the ascetic took only her holy books -- "all her possessions". At the newly constructed Saviour-Transfiguration monastery the saint taught the girls the copying of books, singing, sewing and other handicrafts. By her zeal in 1161 there was constructed a cathedral, preserved til now. The Nun Evphrosynia founded also the Bogoroditsk men's monastery, to which by her request the Constantinople Patriarch Luke sent a copy of the wonderworking Ephesus Icon of the Mother of God. Somewhat before her death, the Nun Evphrosynia together with her nephew David and sister Evpraxia journeyed in pilgrimage to the Holy Places. Having venerated the holy things at Tsar'grad, she arrived in Jerusalem, where at the Russian monastery of the MostHoly Mother of God the Lord granted her a peaceful end on 24 May 1173. And later on in 1187 the body of the saint was transferred to the Kievo-Pechersk monastery, and in 1910 the relics were transferred to Polotsk to the monastery founded by her.
The Nun Evphrosynia of Polotsk was glorified in the Russian Church as a patroness of women's monasticism.
© 1999 by translator Fr S Janos