November 4th (XI - 17)
Icon of Ioannikos the Great and Nikandros, Bishop of Myra.
Monk Ioannikes the Great (+ 846). PriestMartyr Nikander, Bishop of Myra, and Hermes the Presbyter (I). Martyr Porphyrios. Saint John the Military Governor. Righteous Saints John, Stephen and Elias (Gruzia). Saint Theodore. Monk Merkurii of Pechersk, in Farther Caves (XIV). Monk Nikandr of Gorodnoezersk (XVI). Blessed Simon of Yur'evetsk (+ 1584).
The Monk Ioannikes the Great was born in Bithynia in the year 752 in the village of Marikat. His parents were destitute and could not provide him even the basics of an education. From childhood he had to tend the family cattle -- their sole wealth. Love for God and prayer completely held sway in the soul of the lad Ioannikes. Often, having shielded the herd with the sign of the Cross, he went to a secluded place and spent the whole day praying, and neither thieves nor wild beasts came near his herd.
By order of the emperor Leo IV (775-780), a multitude of officials spread through the cities and towns to draft fine young men for military service. Young Ioannikes was also drafted into the imperial army. He earned the respect of his fellow soldiers for his good disposition, but also as a brave soldier and fierceness to enemies. Saint Ioannikes served in the imperial army for 6 years. More than once he was rewarded by his commanders and the emperor. But military service weighed heavily on him, his soul thirsted for spiritual deeds and solitude. And the Lord summoned His servant to Him for service.
The Monk Ioannikes, having renounced the world, was intent to go off at once into the wilderness. However, on the advice of an elder experienced in monastic deeds, he spent a further two years at the monastery. Here the saint became accustomed to monastic obedience, to monastic rules and practices, he studied reading and writing, and he learned by heart thirty psalms of David. After this, on the urging by God, the monk withdrew into the wilderness. For three years he remained in deep solitude in the wilderness, and only once a month a shepherd brought him some bread and water. The ascetic spent day and night in prayer and psalmody. After each verse of singing the psalms the Monk Ioannikes made a prayer, which in somewhat altered form the Orthodox Church keeps to this day: "My hope is the Father, my refuge is Christ, and my protection is the Holy Spirit". By chance encountering his former companions from military service, the saint quit the wilderness and withdrew to Mount Konturea. Only after 12 years of ascetic life did the hermit accept monastic tonsure. The saint spent three years after the tonsure in seclusion, wrapped in chains, after which he set off to Chelidon to the great faster Saint George (Comm. 21 February). The ascetics spent together three years. During this time the Monk Ioannikes learned by heart the entire Psalter. Having gotten up in age, the Monk Ioannikes settled in the Antidiev monastery and dwelt there in seclusion until his end.
The Monk Ioannikes spent 70 years in ascetic deeds and attained to an high spiritual perfection. Through the mercy of God the saint acquired the gift of prophecy, as his student Pakhomios has related. The monastic elder during the time of prayer hovered over the ground. One time he traversed a river flooded to overflowing. The saint could make himself invisible for people and make others invisible: one time the Monk and fire, with which the envious wanted to destroy the saint, did him no harm, and predatory beasts did not touch him. It is known, that he freed the island of Thasos from a multitude of snakes. The Monk Ioannikes likewise saved a young nun, who was preparing to quit the monastery on a whim to marry; he took upon himself the agonised maiden's suffering of passion, and by fasting and prayer annihilated the seductive assault of the devil.
Foreseeing his end, Saint Ioannikes expired to the Lord on 4 November 846, at the age of 94.
The Holy PriestMartyrs Nikander, Bishop of Myra, and the Presbyter Hermes (I), were disciples of the holy Apostle Paul's follower and co-ascetic, the holy Disciple Titus (Comm. 25 August), and they were ordained by him to the priestly dignity. Asceticising amidst incessant pastoral works, the saints converted many pagans to Christ. For this they were arrested and brought before the city governor, named Libanius. Neither flattery nor threats swayed the holy martyrs to renounce Christ. Then Libanius gave orders that they be tortured. The saints endured fierce and inhuman torments: they were bound to horses, dragged over stones, their bodies were lacerated with iron hooks and they were cast into an hot oven. The Lord helped them endure things, that a mere man by his own strength could not endue. Towards the end the martyrs were pierced in head and heart with spears, and thrown into a pit, they were covered over with ground.
Blessed Simon of Yur'evetsk was born in the city of Yur'evetsa in the Povolzhsk or Volga region. Forsaken by his parents, the saint took upon himself the exploit of fool-for-Christ. Both winter and summer he went barefoot, in a single shirt, so that his skin became blackened and withered from fasting. Unthinking people often were cruel to him. Blessed Simon was fond of praying in the porticos of various churches. The ascetic exploit of self-denial cleansed his soul, and he received from God the gift of foresight: he foresaw many things and predicted the future. And contemporaries, mentioning his name, beheld various miraculous signs. Just before his end the saint went to the house of the voevoda (military commander) Feodor Petelin. Here, not knowing the saint, in a fit of anger he gave orders to give him a beating. Saint Simon fell grievously ill. He summoned a priest, made his confession, received the Holy Mysteries of Christ and consigned his soul to God. The voevoda became remorseful in his sinfulness. And amidst this, all the city gathered for the funeral of the saint. The body of Blessed Simon was buried in Theophany monastery. This occurred on 4 November 1584. In the year 1635 Patriarch Joasaph ordered the Theophany hegumen Dionysii to compile an account of the life and miracles of Blessed Simon and gave blessing to write his icon. The celebration of Blessed Simon has been made since he year 1635.
© 2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos