November 12th (XI - 25)
Icon of St. John the Merciful and St. Nilus
Sainted John the Merciful, Patriarch of Alexandria (+ 612). Monk Nilos the Faster (V). Blessed John the Hairy, of Rostov (+ 1580). Prophet Akhiah (Ahijah) (+ 960 B.C.). Monk Nilos the Myrh-Exuding (XVII) (Athos). Martyr Arsakios. Saint Leo, Pope of Rome. Martyr Sava of Nigdelina (+ 1726). Martyr Nicholas (+ 1732). Saints Athanasias and Stephen. Icon of Mother of God, named "the Merciful" ("Milostivaya").
Sainted John the Merciful, Patriarch of Alexandria, was born on Cyprus in the VII Century into the family of the illustrious dignitary Epiphanios. At the wish of his parents he entered into marriage and had children. When the wife and the children of the saint died, he became a monk: strict at fasting, prayer and love for brother.
His spiritual exploits gain him reknown, and when the Patriarchal cathedra-seat at Alexandria fell vacant, the emperor Heraclius and all the clergy besought Saint John to occupy the Patriarchal throne.
The saint worthily assumed his archpastoral service, concerning himself over the moral and dogmatic welfare of his flock. During his time as patriarch he denounced and drove out from Alexandria the heresy of the Antioch Monophysite Phyllonos.
But his chief task he considered to be charity and beneficence towards all those in need. At the beginning of his patriarchal service he ordered an accounting of all the poor and downtrodden in Alexandria, which turned out to be over seven thousand men. To all these unfortunates the saint daily distributed food, gratis and for free. Twice during the week, on Wednesdays and Fridays, he emerged from the doors of the Patriarchal cathedral, and sitting on the church portico, he received everyone in need: he settled quarrels, aided the wronged, and distributed alms. Three times a week he visited in the sick-houses, and rendered help to the suffering. It was during this period that the emperor Heraclius led a tremendous army against the Persian emperor Chosroes II. It resulted with the Persians ravaging and burning Jerusalem, and taking a multitude of captives. The holy Patriarch John gave over a large portion of the church treasury for their ransom.
The saint never refused suppliants. One time along the road to the sick-house he encountered a beggar and commanded that he be given 6 silver coins. The beggar, having made a change of clothes, ran on ahead of the Patriarch and again began to entreat alms. Saint John again gave him 6 silver coins. When however the beggar a third time besought charity, and the servants began to thrust away the obtrusive fellow, the Patriarch ordered that he be given 12 pieces of silver, saying: "Is Christ not indeed putting me to the test?" Twice the saint gave money to a merchant that had suffered shipwreck, and a third time gave him a ship belonging to the Patriarchate and filled with grain, with which the merchant had a successful journey and repaid his obligations.
Saint John the Merciful was known for his gentle attitude towards people. One time the saint was compelled because of some offense to remove from the Church a certain clergyman. This fellow was angry at the Patriarch, and so the saint wanted to summon him and talk it out, but it slipped his mind. But when he was celebrating the Divine Liturgy, the saint was suddenly reminded by the words of the Gospel: when thou bringest forth thine gift to the altar and do recollect, that thine brother hath something against thee, leave hold thine gift and first make peace with thine brother (Mt. 5: 23-24). The saint came out of the altar, called over the offending clergyman to him, and falling down on his knees before him, in front of all the people he asked forgiveness. The clergyman, shaken with surprise, repented his doings and afterwards became a pious priest.
Likewise there was a time when a certain citizen insulted George, a nephew of the Patriarch. George asked the saint to avenge the wrong. The saint promised to reward the offender, in a manner that all Alexandria would see. This calmed George down, and Saint John began to instruct him, speaking about the necessity of meekness and humility, and then, having summoned the insulter, he declared, that he would release him from payment of a church tax on his land. Alexandria indeed was amazed by such a "revenge", and George learned the lesson in the teaching of his uncle.
Saint John, a strict ascetic and man of prayer, was always mindful of his soul, and of death. He commissioned for himself a crypt-coffin, but he did not bid the master-craftsmen to finish it off, instead each feastday he would have them come and ask, if it was time to finish the work.
Shortly before his death, Saint John through illness was compelled to resign his cathedra and set off to the island of Cyprus. On the ship-journey the saint in his illness had a sign: in a sleep-vision a resplendent man appeared to him and said: "The King of kings doth summon thee unto Himself". The vision announced the impending death of the Patriarch. Having arrived at Cyprus, in his native city of Amaphunteia, the saint in peace expired to the Lord (616-620).
The Holy Monk Nilos the Faster, a native of Constantinople. He lived during the V Century and was a student of Saint John Chrysostom. Having received a fine education, the saint while still a young man was appointed to the important post of prefect of the capital. During this period, Nilos was married and had children. But the pomp of courtly life bothered the couple. Saint John Chrysostom exerted a tremendous influence upon their lives and their strivings. The spouses decided to separate and devote themself to monastic life. The wife and daughter of Nilos set out to one of the women's monasteries in Egypt, and the Monk Nilos and his son Theodoulos went to Sinai, where they settled in a cave dug out by their own hands. For forty years this cave served as the dwelling of the Monk Nilos. By fasting, prayer and works, the monk attained to an high degree of spiritual perfection. People began to come to him from every occupation and social rank -- from the emperor down to the farmer, and each found counsel and comfort from the saint. In solitude the Monk Nilos wrote much. A letter of his is known of -- in which there is an angry denunciation of the emperor Arcadius, who had exiled Saint John Chrysostom. And widely known are the ascetic works of the Monk Nilos: they are perfectly executed in form, profoundly Orthodox, and filled with sincere sense and clear thought.
The Monk Nilos suffered many a misfortune in the wilderness. Thus, for example, Saracens captured his son Theodoulos, whom they intended to offer as a sacrifice to their pagan gods. Through the prayers of the saint the Lord saved Theodoulos, and the monk found him with the bishop of Emessa, who had ransomed the young man from the barbarians. And this bishop ordained both of them as presbyters. After ordination they returned to Sinai, where they asceticised together until the death of the Monk Nilos.
Blessed John the Hairy, of Rostov -- the account about him is to be found under 3 September.
The Holy Prophet Akhiah (Ahijah), (cf. 1  Kings 11: 29ff) -- was a contemporary of Solomon, and was born in the city of Silom. The prophet predicted to Jeroboam his kingly rule over the 10 Tribes of Israel, which God would grant him, snatching them away from the hands of Solomon. Afterwards Akhiah predicted to Jeroboam the perishing of all his line. All the predictions of the prophet were fulfilled. The Prophet Ahiah died in old age 960 years before the Birth of Christ.
The Monk Nilos the Myrh-Exuding was born in Greece, in a village named for Saint Peter, in the Zakoneia diocese. He was raised by his uncle, the priestmonk Makarios. Having attained the age of maturity, he took monastic tonsure and was found worthy of ordination to monk-deacon, and then to priestmonk. The desire for great effort at monastic deeds brought the monastic uncle and nephew to Athos, where Makarios and Nilos asceticised, at a place called the Holy Rocks. Upon the repose of Blessed Makarios, the Monk Nilos in undertaking still more intense spiritual efforts resettled in a place well nigh inaccessible for any living thing. Upon his departure to the Lord, the Monk Nilos was glorified by an abundant flow of curative myrh, for which Christians journeyed from the most distant lands of the East.
The Icon of the Mother of God, named the "Merciful" ("Kykkiotisa", "Milostivaya"): This icon was written, according to tradition, by the holy Evangelist Luke. It received its name "Kykkiotisa" from Mount Kykkos, on the Island of Cyprus. Here it was situated in an imperial monastery, in a church named after it. Before its coming to the Island of Cyprus, the wonderworking image of the Mother of God long wandered about through the will of God: at first it was situated in one the earliest Christian communities in Egypt, and then it was taken to Constantinople, where it remained during the time of Alexius Comnenius (end-XI to early-XII Century). During these years it was revealed to the hermit-elder Isaiah through a miraculous sign, that by his efforts the wonderworking image written by the Evangelist Luke would come to reside on the Island of Cyprus. The elder exerted much toil into fulfilling the Divine revelation. When the icon of the Mother of God arrived on the island, many a miracle was worked by it. From of old through the present to the monastery of the Mother of God the Merciful there throng those from every side afflicted by every sort of infirmity, and they receive healing through faith. In the miraculous power of the holy icon believe not only Christians, but also those of other faith who hearken to it in misfortune and illness. Inexhaustible is the mercy of the MostHoly Mother of God, Mediatrix for all the suffering, and Her image accurately bears the name, the "Merciful". The wonderworking "Kykkiotisa" Icon of the Mother of God possesses a remarkable peculiarity: from what time-period is unknown, but it is covered by an half shroud from the upper left corner to the lower right, such that the faces of the Mother of God and the Divine Infant no one is able to make bold to see. The depiction of the Mother of God appears to be of the Hodegetria type, as is also the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God. The head of the Mother of God is adorned with a crown.
At present a copy of this icon is particularly venerated at the women's Nikol'sk monastery in the city of Mukachev.
© 2000 by translator Fr. S. Janos