May 4th (V - 17)
Icon of the Monk Nikephoros and the Martyr Pelagia
Martyress Pelagia, Maiden of Tarsis (+ c. 290). Monks Nikita, Kirill, Nikiphor, Kliment and Isaakii, the Alphanov (Sokol'nitsk) Brethren, of Novgorod (XIV-XV). PriestMartyrs Erasmus, Bishop of Formium (+ 303); Albian, Bishop of Aneium, and his Disciples (+ 304); Sylvanus, Bishop of Gaza, and with him 40 Martyrs (+ 311). Martyrs Aphrodisius, Leontios, Anthony, Melus, Valerian, Macrovius, and 60 others. Monks Nikephoros, Hegumen of Mediceia (+ 814); Nicephoros, teacher of Saint Gregory Palamas (XIV). Transfer of Relics of Righteous Lazarus and Mary Magdalene to Tsar'grad and Restoration of the Church (809-898). Sainted Athanasias, Bishop of Corinth (X-XI). Starorusskaya Icon of Mother of God (1570).
The Holy Virgin Pelagia lived during the III Century in the city of Tarsis in the Cilician district of Asia Minor. She was the daughter of illustrious pagans and when she heard preaching from her Christian acquaintances about Jesus Christ the Son of God, she believed in Him and desired to preserve her chastity, dedicating her whole life to the Lord. The heir of emperor Diocletian (a youth adopted by him), having seen the maiden Pelagia, was captivated by her beauty and wanted to take her to be his wife. But the holy virgin told the youth, that she was betrothed to the Immortal Bridegroom, -- the Son of God, and therefore she had renounced earthly marriage. This answer of Pelagia caused great anger in the imperial youth, but he decided to leave her in peace for awhile, hoping, that she would change her frame of mind. This same while Pelagia convinced her mother to send her off to her nurse who had raised her in childhood -- secretly hoping to locate the bishop of Tarsis Klinon, who had fled to a mountain during a time of persecution against Christians, and to accept Holy Baptism from him. In a dream vision there appeared the form of the bishop -- Klinon, profoundly impressing itself upon her memory. Saint Pelagia set off to her nurse in a chariot, in rich clothes and accompanied by a whole retinue of servants, as her mother had desired her to. Along the way Saint Pelagia, through some particular ordering of events by God, met bishop Klinon. Pelagia immediately recognised the bishop, whose image had appeared to her in the dream. She fell at his feet, requesting baptism. At the prayer of the bishop there flowed from the ground a spring of water. Bishop Klinon made the sign of the cross over Saint Pelagia, and during the time of the mystery (sacrament) Angels appeared and covered the chosen one of God with a bright mantle. Having communed the pious virgin with the Holy Mysteries, bishop Klinon raised himself up in prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord together with her, and then sent her off to continue her journey. Having returned to the servants awaiting her, Saint Pelagia preached to them about Christ, and many of them were converted and believed. She tried to convert her own mother to faith in Christ, but the obdurate woman sent a message to the imperial youth, -- that Pelagia was a Christian and did not wish to be his spouse. The youth comprehended that Pelagia was lost for him, and not wishing to give her over to torture, he fell upon his sword. Pelagia's mother thereupon became fearful of the wrath of the emperor, tied her daughter and led her to the court of Diocletian as being a Christian and also the probable cause of the death of the heir to the throne. The emperor was captivated by the unusual beauty of the maiden and tried to sway her from her faith in Christ, promising her every earthly blessing and to make her his own wife. But the holy maiden refused the offer of the emperor with contempt and said: "Thou art insane, emperor, telling me such a speech. Know, that I wilt not do thine bidding, and I loathe thy vile marriage, since I have a Bridegroom -- Christ, the King of Heaven. I desire not thy imperial, worldly, short-durationed crowns, since my Lord in the Heavenly Kingdom has prepared for me three imperishable crowns. The first for faith -- since I have believed with all my heart in the True God; the second for purity -- because I have entrusted to Him my virginity; the third for martyrdom -- since I want to accept for Him every suffering and to offer up my soul because of my love for Him". Diocletian thereupon sentenced Pelagia to be burnt in a glowing red-hot copper oven. Not permitting the executioners to touch her body, the holy martyress herself -- signing herself with the sign of the cross, went with a prayer into the red-hot oven -- in which her flesh melted like myrh, filling all the city with fragrance; the bones of Saint Pelagia remained unharmed and were removed by the pagans to outside the city. Four lions then came from out of the wilderness and sat around the bones -- letting get at them neither bird nor wild beast. The lions protected the remains of the saint until such time as bishop Klinon came to that place. He gathered them up and buried them with honour. During the reign of emperor Constantine (306-337), when the persecutions against Christians had stopped, there was built a church at the place of burial of Saint Pelagia.
The Monastic Brethren Nikita, Kirill, Nikiphor, Kliment, Isaakii -- Alphanovi (Sokol'nitskie) lived during the XIV Century at Novgorod. They led a righteous life and founded the Sokol'nitsk monastery. As the chronicles relate: "On the Sokol' hill was erected a wooden church of Saint Nichola and a monastery organised" in 1389. The righteous Alphanovi were kinsmen according to the information of the chronicler Yakov Anphalov or Alphanov, who fled to the Dvina, saving himself from pursuit for dealings with Moscow, and the righteous ones were subject to misfortune because of their ties of kinship with Yakov, and by the grievous agony of innocent suffering cleansed themselves for eternal blessedness. In the "Tale" about the brothers is recorded a miracle, arising from their relics after death. The celebration of their memory is placed under 4 May and 17 June. As the result of a fire which destroyed the Sokol'nitsk monastery, the relics of the monastic brethren were transferred to the Antoniev monastery on 4 May 1775.
Saint Erasmus zealously served the Lord from the time of his youth. And in his mature years he was elevated to the dignity of bishop of the city of Formium (Italy). During the time of a persecution against Christians under the emperors Diocletian (284-305) and Maximian Hercules (284-305), Saint Erasmus left his diocese and withdrew onto Mount Libanus, where he hid for seven years. One time however an Angel appeared to him and said: "Erasmus! No one vanquishes enemies, if he is asleep. Go into your own city, pursue it bravely and thou shalt vanquish thine enemies". Heeding the voice of the Angel, Saint Erasmus left his seclusion. The first ones who asked him about his faith were soldiers, having encountered him along the way. Saint Erasmus confessed himself a Christian. They took him to trial at Antioch to the emperor Diocletian, before whom the saint fearlessly confessed his faith in Christ and audaciously denounced the emperor for his impiety. Saint Erasmus was subjected to fearsome tortures, but remained unbending. After the tortures the saint was bound in iron chains and thrown into prison, whither in miraculous form there appeared an Angel, saying: "Follow after me -- I lead thee to Italy. There thou shalt bring many people to salvation". In the city of Lycia Saint Erasmus preached boldly to the people about Christ and raised up the son of a certain illustrious citizen. After this miracle at Lycia 10,000 men were baptised. The emperor of the Western half of the Roman empire -- Maximian Hercules, gave orders to seize the saint and bring him to trial. And in front of this emperor Saint Erasmus also bravely confessed his faith. They beat him and threatened him with crucifixion if he did not recant from Christ. They then forced him to go to an idolatrous temple, but along the going of the saint all the idols situated there fell and were destroyed, and from the temple there came fire which fell upon many of the pagans. Having been set free, Saint Erasmus baptised many pagans, and afterwards went to the city of Sirmium, where he was again seized and subjected to torture. They seated him in a red-hot oven, but he remained alive and unharmed. This miracle so shook up those were presiding, that the emperor, fearing civil unrest, retired into his own chambers. The Angel freed Saint Erasmus from his fetters and took him to the city of Formium, i.e. to his own diocese, where the saint baptised many people. The saint died there in the year 303. Christians buried the remains of the holy priestmartyr with honour.
Saint Albian was bishop of the city of Aneium in the Aseian district, and suffered for Christ in about the year 304 in a persecution against Christians under the emperor Diocletian and his co-ruler Maximian. Saint Albian was ordered to offer sacrifice to idols under the threat of death, but the saint with firmness confessed his faith in Christ and refused to serve idols. They tortured him with red-hot iron and beat him mercilessly, but he remained unyielding. They tortured also together with him his student, who likewise remained faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ. Both of the holy martyrs were sentenced to death and thrown into a red-hot oven, in which they died, having won the crowns of martyrdom.
Saint Sylvanus came from the vicinity of the city of Gaza. In the world Sylvanus was a soldier. Wishing to serve the Heavenly King, he became a priest, and was ordained bishop of Gaza. Saint Sylvanus converted many pagans to faith in Christ. During the time of the persecution against Christians under the emperor Diocletian he was taken for trial to the city of Caesarea, he underwent torture and bravely endured it, and was then sentenced to harsh labour in the copper mines. At this work the holy bishop reached the edge of exhaustion, but always cheerful of spirit, he incessantly preached Christ to all those around him. This occurrence angered the pagans, who beheaded him. Such death there also accepted together with him 40 holy martyrs, who through the words of the bishop believed in Christ. Their death followed in the year 311.
The Monk Nicephoros -- was the teacher of Saint Gregory Palamas (Comm. 14 November). Saint Nicephoros pursued asceticism on Athos in the XIV Century and left after him the profound spiritual work "The Wise Method of the Jesus Prayer".
The Starorusskaya Icon of the Mother of God was titled such because for a long time it was located Stara Russa, whither it had been brought by the Greeks from Olviopolis during the very first period of Christianity in Russia. The icon was situated in Stara Russa until the XVII Century. In 1655 during the time of a plague it was revealed to a certain inhabitant of the city of Tikhvin that the pestilence would cease, if the wonderworking Starorusskaya Icon were transferred there, and the Tikhvin Icon sent to Stara Russa. After the transfer of the icons the plague ceased, but the Tikhvin people did not return the icon and only in the XVIII Century did they give permission to make a copy from the Starorusskaya Icon, which on 4 May 1768 was sent to Stara Russa. A feast was established in honour of this event. On 17 September 1888 the original was also returned to Stara Russa and a second festal date established.
© 1997 by translator Fr. S. Janos.