September 22nd (X - 5)
Icon of St. Phocas and the 26 Holy Martyrs
PriestMartyr Phocas, Bishop of Sinope (+ 117). Prophet Jonah (VIII Century B.C.) Monk Jonah the Presbyter (IX), father of Saints Theophanes the Composer of Kanons, and Theodore the Scribe. Monk Jona of Yashezersk (+ 1589-1592). Martyr Phocas the Gardener (+ c. 320). Righteous Peter, formerly a Publican (VI). Monk Kozma of Zographia Monastery (+ 1323). Martyrs Isaac, Martin and Nicholas. Saint Alexander. Monk Makarii of Zhabynsk and Belevsk. Icon of the Mother of God "She that Heareth" (Zographsk, XIV).
The Priestmartyr Phocas was born in the city of Sinope. From youth he led a virtuous Christian life, and in his adult years he was elevated to bishop of Sinope. Sainted Phocas converted many pagans to faith in Christ. At the time of a persecution against Christians under the emperor Trajan (98-117), the governor demanded the saint to renounce Christ. After fierce torture they closed Saint Phocas into an hot bath, where he died a martyr's death in the year 117.
In the year 404 the relics of the saint were transferred to Constantinople (Commemoration of the Transfer of Relics is 22 July).
The Priestmartyr Phocas is especially venerated as a defender against fires, but also as giving aid to the drowning.
The Holy Prophet Jonah lived in the VIII Century before the Birth of Christ and was a successor of the Prophet Elisha. The Book of the Prophet Jonah is included in the compilation of the Bible and has prophecies about the judgements on the Israelite nation, the sufferings of the Saviour, the downfall of Jerusalem, and the end of the world. Besides the prophecies, in the Book of Jonah is related, how he was sent to the Ninevites with a preaching of repentance (Jon. 3: 3-10).
Our Lord Jesus Christ, in conversation with the Scribes and the Pharisees demanding a sign from Him, said that no sign would be given, save for the sign of the Prophet Jonah: "As Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so also shalt the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights (Mt. 12: 40). From these words the Lord shows clearly the symbolic meaning of the Book of the Prophet Jonah in relation to the Death on the Cross, the Descent into Hell, and the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Reproaching the lack of penitence and recalcitrance of the Jews, the Lord said: "The Ninevites shalt rise up to judgement with this generation and wilt condemn it -- wherein that they had repented themselves from the preaching of Jonah; and here, is He greater than Jonah" (Mt. 12: 41).
The Monk Jonah the Presbyter, Father of Saints Theophanes the Composer of Canons (Comm. 11 October) and Theodore the Scribe (Comm. 27 December), lived in Palestine at the late VIII to early IX Centuries. The Monk Jonah lived a virtuous and holy life. He had two sons -- glorified afterwards for their martyr's confession of Orthodoxy during the time of the Iconoclast heresy. After the death of his spouse, Saint Jonah withdrew to the Laura of the Monk Sava the Sanctified (Comm. 5 December), where both his sons earlier had taken monastic vows. The Monk Jonah dwelt at the Laura until his death in the IX Century. The Lord bestowed upon His saint the gift of graced healing.
The Holy Martyr Phocas the Gardener came from the city of Sinope, situated on the southern shore of the Black Sea. Having a small garden, he lived modestly: he sold what he grew and on the proceeds he maintained himself, he helped the needy and paid the housing of vagrants. The Christian piety of the saint had an influence on other people. Even pagans deferred to him with deep respect. Under his influence they often abandoned their error and accepted the Christian faith.
But the governor of the district, aware that Saint Phocas was spreading Christian teachings, gave orders to find and kill him. The saint himself accidentally came upon those sent after him, and not mentioning his name he courteously received them, dined them and prepared them a place for night-lodging. At night he went into the garden, he prepared a grave and the place for his burial; he even was able to make arrangements that all his possessions would be distributed after death to the poor. In the morning Saint Phocas declared to the strangers that it was he here for whom they were searching. And he asked that they fulfill the duty entrusted to them. The visitors were distressed, not wanting to kill the kindly saint, they felt honour bound to spare Saint Phocas. But he would not hear of their good intent and bent down humbly his head beneathe the sword.
They buried the holy Martyr Phocas in the grave that he himself had prepared in the garden. The place of his burial was glorified by miracles, and later a church was built there. An accurate account of the martyr's death was collected by Asterios of Amasia (+ c. 410), through the testimony of whom the memory of the holy Martyr Phocas is especially venerated by sea-farers.
Saint Peter, formerly a Publican, was the chief collector of taxes in Africa in the service of the emperor Justinian (527-565). He was a cruel and merciless man. One day he threw a morsel of bread to a beggar incessantly begging alms. By night in a dream Peter saw himself as having died and there, -- how the holy Angels weighed his deeds on the scale of the righteous judgement of God. On the side of good deeds nothing was placed except a morsel of bread, annoyedly thrown to the beggar, but this halted the opposite side being pulled down by vicious deeds. Peter pondered the meaning of the dream, and having repented, he completely changed his life. He liberally distributed alms to the needs, and fed and clothed many. On day in a dream Peter saw Jesus Christ. The Lord was dressed in clothes which the saint once gave to a beggar. Peter thereupon distributed his substance to the poor and ordered his slave to sell him himself into slavery and to give the money to the poor. The slave carried out the order of his master. for many years Saint Peter worked diligently and humbly for his master. One day he was recognised by tradesmen, to whom he had been known earlier. They told the master who his servant was. Having overheard this conversation, the saint quickly fled from the city. In departing, he worked a miracle: the gatekeeper slave, a deaf-mute, received from the righteous Peter the command to open the gates in the Name of Jesus Christ. He fulfilled the command and at once had his hearing and speech. He rushed around everywhere to tell his master and added moreover, that from the mouth of the saint, when he commanded him to open the gates, fire came forth touching his face, after which he began to hear and speak. Everyone set out to look for Peter, but the search proved in vain: the saint hid and until his death remained hidden.
The Vita (Life) of Saint Peter was passed along by Sainted John the Merciful, Patriarch of Alexandria (Comm. 12 November), who in turn knew it from a man personally acquainted with the saint.
The Monk Jona of Yashezersk was born in the village of Shoksha, 16 versts from the monastery afterwards established by him. The beginning of the monastery took place in 1580, when a wooden church was built in honour of the Annunciation of the MostHoly Mother of God, and eight monks joined together with the monk for their joint ascetic deeds.
The Monk Jona toiled with great concern over the building up of the monastery. Thus for example, in order to ease the catching of fish, he himself dug across a channel-ditch from Yashozero to the nearby Lake Senno. He often rode atop horseback along the solitary paths of the forest in search of necessities for the monastery. The ascetic made vessels from wood for use at the time of Divine services. In time the monk became known for his holy life far beyond the bounds of the monastery. Many pilgrims brought in gift things, among which also were Church service books. The boundaries of the monastery expanded, and the number of churches increased. Profound love and reverence were had towards the ascetic by the Novgorod Metropolitan Isidor, by the hegumen of the Solovetsk monastery Jakov and the Monk Irinarch (Comm. 17 July), and likewise by many other contemporaries.
The Monk Jona died at the end of the XVI Century and was buried in the Annunciation monastery founded by him.
The Monk Kozma, Hermit of Zographia, was a Bulgarian. In his youth he avoided entering into marriage, and left secretly from his parents for Holy Mount Athos. Then already on his way to the Holy Mountain, the devil tried to rattle the yearning of the youth, vexing him with an apparition of the infinite abyss of the sea, surrounding the Holy Mountain. The fervent prayer of the youth dispelled the demonic temptation. On Athos Saint Kozma was accepted in the Zographia monastery. There he was for a long time a novice, and then he took monastic vows and was appointed ecclesiarch [ie. kliuchar' or church-doorman]. Saint Kozma received a special mercy to be a secret-seer of the Heavenly Hegumeness Herself of Mount Athos, Who on the feast of the Annunciation at the Batopedeia monastery deigned to reveal to him a glimpse of Her care for Her earthly appanage: he saw a Woman of royal majesty and grandeur, Who attended to both in church for services, and in refectory, and all the monks were Her obedients and servers. Soon the saint was ordained to deacon, and then to presbyter, which moved him to new exploits. Zealous for salvation, the saint through fervent prayer to the MostHoly Mother of God was granted a particular sign of Her especial patronage: he heard the voice of the Mother of God, issuing from Her holy icon and asking Her Son: "How wilt Kozma be saved?" The answer of the Lord was suchlike: "Let him withdraw from the monastery into silence". Having besought the blessing of the monastic head, Saint Kozma withdrew into the wilderness, and there in a cave, cut into a cliff, he began his new deed of silent seclusion. God did not forsake the faithful man of prayer: the saint was granted the gift of perspicacity.
Just as at the start of his ascetic life, the enemy of the race of mankind again tried to dissuade the saint from his intended path, and so also the final days before the death of the righteous one were for him a grievous trial. Not long before the death of God's chosen one, he was granted a vision of Christ Himself, Who informed the saint that before his soul would expire to the heavenly Kingdom, satan himself with his hosts would beat and gnash at him. Prepared for the suffering by the Divine solace, the saint bravely underwent the permitted by God terrible demonic assault and on the third day after furious beatings, having communed the All-Pure Mysteries, and with words of praise on his lips, he peacefully expired to the Lord. God, "glorifying those that do glorify Him", miraculously at death also glorified the Monk Kozma: at the time of the burial of the saint there flocked to his cave a multitude of beasts and birds, as though sensing the common loss of the Holy Mountain, and when they put the body in the grave and began to cover it over with ground, each of the speechless creatures let out a mournful cry, bestowing final respect to the saint of God. When, by custom, 40 days afterwards after the all-night vigil the brethren opened the holy remains of the saint, so as to transfer them with honour to the monastery, in miraculous manner they were not to be found -- the Lord hid them. This occurred in the year 1323.
© 1997 by translator Fr. S. Janos.