November 11th (XI - 24)
Icon of St. Menas, Martyrs Victor & Vincent, St. Theodore, and St. Stephanida
GreatMartyr Menas (+ 304). Martyrs Victor and Stephanida (II). Martyr Vincent (+ 304). Monk Theodore the Studite, Confessor (+ 826). Blessed Maxim, Fool-for-Christ, Moscow Wonderworker (+ 1434). Monk Martyrii of Zelenetsk (+ 1603). Martyr Stefan Dechan (+ c. 1336, Serbia).
The Holy GreatMartyr Menas, an Egyptian by birth, was a soldier and served in the city Kotuan under the centurion Firmilian during the reign of the emperors Diocletian and Maximian (284-305). When the co-emperors began the then fiercest persecution against Christians in history, the saint lost all desire to serve these persecutors and, having left the service, he withdrew to a mountain, where he asceticised in fasting and prayer. Once during the time of a pagan feastday he happened to arrive in the city, in which earlier he had served. At the climax of the festal games, which all the city had come out to see, rang out the accusing voice of the saint of God, preaching faith in Christ, the Saviour of the world.
At trial before the governor Pyrrhos the saint bravely confessed his faith and said, that he had come hither, in order to denounce all of impiety. Saint Menas spurned he suggestion to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, and he was put to cruel tortures, after which he as beheaded. This occurred in the year 304. The body of the holy martyr as ordered to be burnt. Christians by night gathered up from the burnt-out fire the undestroyed remains of the martyr, which later were installed in a church in his name, built after the cessation of the persecution at the place of the suffering and death of the GreatMartyr Menas.
The Holy Martyr Victor was a soldier during the reign of the emperor Marcus Auelius the Philosopher (161-180). When the emperor began a persecution against Christians, Victor refused to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. Such obligatory sacrifices were made as a test of the loyalty of a soldier to the gods, the emperor and the state. The saint was given over to torture, but he came through all the torments unharmed. By the power of prayer he was victorious over a sorcerer, who from that point in time gave up give sorcery and became a Christian. Through the prayer of the saint, blind soldiers were suddenly restored their sight. Beholding the miracle, manifest by the Lord through Saint Victor, a young pious spouse of one of the torturers, Stephanida, openly glorified Christ, for which she was condemned to cruel execution: they tied her to two bended-over palm trees, which in springing back straight tore apart the martyress. The holy Martyr Victor was beheaded. The martyrs suffered in the II Century at Damascus, where also heir venerable remains were consigned to burial.
The Holy Martyr Vincent from his childhood was the student of a wise pastor, the bishop of the city of Augustopolis (now Saragossa, Spain), Blessed Valerian. When he reached mature age, the virtuous, educated and eloquent Vincent was ordained deacon by Bishop Valerian. And since the bishop himself was not adept in speech, he gave the blessing to preach in church and among the people to his deacon, a eloquent orator. By order of Diocletian (284-305), in the city of Valencia in Spain there arrived the governor Dacian with full authority to search out and execute Christians. Denunciations were made to the governor about the wise bishop and his deacon the preacher. The soldiers mounted on horses dragged behind them the elder and his student in chains from Augustopolis to Valencia, and there they threw them beaten and tortured into prison, where they gave them neither food nor water. They subjected the bishop to the first interrogation. The elder spoke quietly, tongue-tied it seemed and uncertain. Then Saint Vincent came forward. The saint made the most eloquent preaching of his life before the judges and assembled people, confessing and glorifying God, proclaimed in the Trinity -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Having dispatched the bishop back to prison, the persecutor gave orders to torture the holy deacon. The martyr underwent many a torment: while crucified on a cross, they whipped and burnt at him with red-hot rods. When he was set loose from the cross, he then himself joyfully climbed back upon it, asking the executioner to again renail him, so that he might suffer the torments of the Cross of the Saviour. After the tortures they threw the martyr back into prison, and the guard at night heard with astonishment how he sang psalms, and beholding in the prison an unearthly radiant light. The next morning the holy martyr was condemned to be burned. This occurred in the year 304.
The Monk Theodore the Studite was born in the year 758 at Constantinople into a family of the imperial tax-collector Photinos and his spouse Theoktista -- both pious Christians. The Monk Theodore received a serious and systematic education from the best rhetoricians, philosophers and theologians within the capital city.
During this time in the Byzantine empire the Iconoclast heresy had become widespread, and it was supported also by the impious emperor Constantine Kopronymos (741-775). the views of the emperor-iconoclast and his court decidedly conflicted with the religious sensitivity of Photinos, who was fervently an adherent of Orthodoxy, and so he left government service. Later on the parents of Saint Theodore, by mutual consent, gave away their substance to the poor, took their leave of each other and accepted monastic tonsure. Their son Theodore soon became widely known in the capital for his participation of the then numerous disputes concerning icon-veneration. Accomplished in the oratorical art, and with a free command of terminology and logic of the philosophers, and chief thing of all, a profound knowledge of Christian dogmatics, adept in the letter and the spirit of the Holy Scriptures, -- all this invariably brought victory in the disputes to Saint Theodore, the zealous denouncer of the Iconoclast heresy.
The VII OEcumenical Council put an end to the Church dissensions. It was convened through the initiative and under the auspices of the pious Empress Irene. The OEcumenical Council through its settings as he highest authority in the life of the Church forever denounced and spurned Iconoclasm.
Among the fathers of the Council was Blessed Platon (Comm. 5 April), an uncle of Saint Theodore, and who for a long time had asceticised on Mount Olympos. An elder and lofty of life, Blessed Platon at the conclusion of the Council summoned his nephews -- Theodore together with his brothers Joseph and Euthymios -- to the monk's life in the wilderness. The brothers gratefully accepted the guidance of their kinsman, experienced in the spiritual life.
Having departed Constantinople, they set off to the locale of Sakudian, not far from Olympos. The solitude and the beauty of the place, its difficulty of access for unaspiring people, met with the approval of the elder and his nephews, and they ecided to remain here. The brothers built a church in the name of Saint John the Theologian, and gradually there began to throng here those thirsting for monastic deeds. And thus arose a monastery, the hegumen of which was Blessed Platon.
The life of the Monk Theodore was truly ascetic. He toiled at his own heavy and dirty work. He strictly kept fast, and each day he made confession to his spiritual father -- the starets-elder Platon, revealing to him all his doings and thoughts, and carefully he fulfilled all his counsels and guidances. Theodore daily made time for spiritual reflection, he bared his soul to God, unburdened of any earthly concern, making as it were a certain secret service to Him. The Monk Theodore unfailingly read the Holy Scripture and works of the holy fathers, among them finding his closest affinity to the works of Saint Basil the Great.
After several years of the monk's life, the Monk Theodore accepted the dignity of presbyter at the guidance of his spiritual father. When Blessed Platon went to his repose, the brethren unanimously chose the Monk Theodore as hegumen of the monastery. Swayed at the wish of his confessor, the Monk Theodore accepted being chosen, but imposed upon himself still greater deeds of asceticism. He taught the brethren by the example of his own virtuous life and also by fervent fatherly instruction.
When the emperor transgressed against the Church's canons, the events of outside life disturbed the tranquillity in the monastic cells. The Monk Theodore bravely distributed a circular missive through the monasteries, in which he declared the emperor Constantine VI (780-797) excommunicated from the Church for abusing the Divine regulations concerning Christian marriage. The Monk Theodore and ten of his co-ascetics were sent into exile to the city of Soluneia (Thessalonika). But there also the accusing voice of the monk continued to ring out. Upon her return to the throne, Saint Irene in 796 set free the Monk Theodore, and gave over to him the desolate Studite monastery near Kopronyma. The saint soon gathered to the monastery about 1,000 monks. For governing the monastery the Monk Theodore wrote an ustav-rule of monastic life, since called the "Studite rule". The Monk Theodore likewise came out with many missives against the Iconoclasts. For his dogmatic works, and also the canons and triodes written by him, Blessed Theoktistos termed the Monk Theodore "a fiery teacher of the Church".
When Nicephoros seized the imperial throne, deposing the pious Empress Irene, he likewise crudely transgressed against Church regulations by restoring to the Church on his own authority an earlier excommunicated presbyter. The Monk Theodore again came out with denunciation of the emperor. After torture the monk was again sent into exile, where he spent more than two years. The monk was then set free by the gentle and pious emperor Michael, who succeeded to the throne upon the death of Nicephoros and his son Staurikios in a war against barbarians. Their death for a long while had been foretold by the Monk Theodore.
In order to avert civil war, the emperor Michael abdicated the throne to his military commander Leo the Armenian. The new emperor proved to be an iconoclast. The hierarchs and teachers of the Church attempted to reason with the impious emperor, but in vain. Leo prohibited the veneration of holy icons and gave them over for abuse. In answer to such iniquity, the Monk Theodore with the brethren made a religious procession around the monastery with highly raised icons and the singing of the tropar to the image of the Saviour Not-Made-by-Hand (Comm. 16 August). The emperor angrily threatened the saint with death, but the monk openly continued to encourage believers in Orthodoxy. Then the emperor sentenced the Monk Theodore and his student Nicholas to exile, at first in Illyria at the fortress of Metopa, and later in Anatolia at Boneta. But even from prison the confessor continued his struggle against heresy.
Tormented by the executioners which the emperor sent to Boneta, deprived almost of food and drink, covered over with sores and barely alive, Theodore and Nicholas endured everything with prayer and thanksgiving to God. At Smyrna, where they dispatched the martyrs from Boneta, the Monk Theodore healed from a terrible illness a military commander -- a nephew of the emperor and like-minded with him, by having ordered him to repent of the wicked doings of Iconoclasm. But the fellow again later relapsed into heresy, and then died.
Having been murdered by his own soldiers, Leo the Armenian was replaced by the equally impious though tolerant emperor Michael II Traulos (the Stammerer). The new emperor set free all the Orthodox fathers and confessors from prison, but in the capital he prohibited icon-veneration. The Monk Theodore did not want to return to Constantinople and so decided to settle in Bithynia in the city of Chersonessus, near the church of the holy Martyr Tryphon. In spite of serious illness, the Monk Theodore celebrated Divine Liturgy daily and instructed the brethren. Foreseeing his end, the saint summoned the brethren and in last wishes bid them to preserve Orthodoxy, to venerate holy icons and observe the monastic ustav-rule. Then he ordered the brethren to take candles and sing the canon for the parting of the soul from the body. Just before the singing of the words "I forget not Thine commandments ever, for in them hath I lived" -- the Monk Theodore expired to the Lord, in the year 826.
At this selfsame hour there occurred a vision to the Monk Ilarion of Dalmatia (Comm. 6 June). An heavenly light shone amidst singing and the voice was heard: "This is the soul of the Monk Theodore, having suffered even to the extent of its blood for holy icons, which now departeth unto the Lord".
The Monk Theodore during his life and after his death worked many a miracle: those invoking his name have been delivered from conflagrations, from attack of wild beasts, they have received healing, thanks to God and to His holy saint -- the Monk Theodore the Studite.
On 26 January is celebrated the memory of the transfer of the relics of the Monk Theodore the Studite from Chersonessus to Constantinople in the year 845.
Blessed Maxim, Fool-for-Christ, lived at Moscow. About his parentage, time and place of birth, nothing is known. Saint Maxim chose one of the most difficult and thorny paths to salvation, voluntarily for the sake of Christ having taken upon himself the guise of a fool. Summer and winter Maxim walked about almost naked, bearing with prayer both the heat and cold. He had a saying: "Fierce though be the winter, yet sweet be paradise". Rus' very much loved its holy fools, it esteemed their deep humility, it heeded their wisdom, expressed profitably and aphoristically in the proverbial sayings of the people's language. And everyone heeded the holy fools: everyone from the great princes on down to the least beggar.
Blessed Maxim lived at a difficult time for the Russian people. Tatar incursions, droughts, epidemics were endemic and people perished. The saint said to the unfortunate: "Not everything is by the weave of the wool, some be opposite... They have won the fight, admit it, and bow the lower; weep not for the beaten, weep rather the unbeaten; let us show tolerance and in this we shalt at least be human; gradually even raw firewood ignites; for toleration may God grant salvation". But the saint did not only speak words of consolation. His angry denunciations frightened the mighty of his world. Blessed Maxim was wont to say to the rich and illustrious: "An idolatrous house, and a conscience corrupted; everyone is baptised, let everyone pray; God doth detect every wrong. He deceiveth not thee, nor deceivest thou He".
Blessed Maxim died on 11 November 1434 and as buried at the church of the holy Princes Boris and Gleb. Miraculous healings began occurring from the relics of the saint of God. In a circular missive of 1547, metropolitan Makarii enjoined "the singing and celebration at Moscow to the new Wonderworker Maxim, Fool-for-Christ". That same year on 13 August the relics of Blessed Maxim were uncovered undecayed. The church f Saints Boris and Gleb, at which the saint was buried, burned in the year 1568. On its place was built a new church, which they consecrated in the name of Saint Maxim, Fool-for-Christ. And into this church was put the venerable relics of Saint Maxim.
© 2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos