September 23rd (X - 6)
Icon of the Conception of St. John the Baptist, the Prophet Zacharias and St. Elizabeth
Conception of the Venerable Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, John. Monastic Women Xanthippa and Polyxenia (+ 109). Holy Virgin-Martyress Iraida (+ c. 308). Holy Martyrs Andrew and John, and John's Children: Peter and Antoninus (IX). Holy Martyr Nicholas Pantopolis (+ 1672). Martyr John (+ 1814). Sainted Innocent (Innokentii), Metropolitan of Moscow (Glorified 1977). Nun Rebecca. Slovensk Icon of the Mother of God (1635).
The Conception of the Venerable Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, John: The holy Prophet Malachi prophesied that before the Messiah would appear His Forerunner, who would indicate His coming. The Jews therefore in awaiting the Messiah also awaited the appearance of His Forerunner. In a city of the hills of Judea in the land of Palestine lived the righteous priest Saint Zachariah and his wife Saint Elizabeth, assiduously observing the commandments of the Lord. The couple however had a misfortune: getting up in years they remained childless and they prayed unceasingly to God, that He should grant them a child. One time, when Saint Zachariah was in turn priest at the Temple of Jerusalem, he went during the time of Divine-services into the Sanctuary for making an incensing. Having gone in behind the Sanctuary veil, he beheld an Angel of God, standing at the right side of the incense altar. Saint Zachariah was astonished and halted in fear, but the Angel said to him: "Fear not, Zachariah, thine prayer is heard, and thy wife Elizabeth will bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John". But Righteous Zachariah did not believe the words of the heavenly messenger, and then the Angel said to him: "I -- am Gabriel, that standeth before God and am sent to announce this unto thee. But now, thou shalt be mute until the day of birth, since that thou hast not believed my words". Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zachariah and they were astonished, that he had not come out from the Sanctuary after so long a time. And when he did come out, he was supposed to pronounce a blessing upon the people, but could not pronounce it since he had been struck speechless. When Zachariah explained by gestures that he was unable to speak, the people then understood that he had experienced a vision. The prophecy of the Archangel was fulfilled, and Righteous Elizabeth was delivered from her barrenness, having given birth to the Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, named John.
The Monastic Women Xanthippa and Polyxenia were sisters by birth and they lived in Spain during the time of the holy Apostles. They were among the first to hear the Divine teaching of Christ the Saviour from the holy Apostle Paul, when he preached in their land. Saint Xanthippa together with her husband Probus accepted Christianity, but Saint Polyxenia was still a paganess, when a certain man became entranced with her extraordinary beauty and forcibly carried her off to Greece. But the Lord preserved her unharmed. On the ship voyage, the saint heard the preaching of the holy Apostle Peter and believed in Christ. Upon arriving in Greece Saint Polyxenia turned to the Christians for protection and defense and was hidden by them in the city of Patra in the Achaia region, where she formal acceptance Christianity and was baptised by the holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called himself. She became a witness to his miracles, and also to his patient and humble endurance of his sufferings and death. She stood at the cross upon which they crucified the holy Apostle Andrew. After his martyr's end, Saint Polyxenia returned to Spain, where together with her older sister Xanthippa she converted many a pagan to Christ. Saint Polyxenia toiled for about forty years at preaching the Gospel in Spain. Saint Xanthippa shared in the exploit and toil of her sister and preached in the populous city of Toledo.
Saint Polyxenia reposed in about the year 109, up to the end of her earthly life having preserved her virginity.
The Holy Martyress Iraida lived at Alexandria. One time, having gone to a well to draw water, she saw a ship at the shore, upon which were situated a large number of men, women, clergy and monks, all fettered in chains for their confession of the Christian faith. Having cast aside her water pitcher, the saint voluntarily joined in with the prisoners for Christ, and fetters were placed on her too. When the ship arrived in the Egyptian city of Antipolis, Saint Iraida was the first to undergo fierce torments and was beheaded with the sword. After her, the other martyrs sealed their confession of faith in Christ with their blood.
The Holy Martyrs Andrew and John, and John's Children Peter and Antoninus (IX), suffered during the time of the cruel African ruler Ibrahim. After the taking and destruction of the Sicilian city of Syracuse, Ibrahim took captive and brought to Africa Saint John and his two children, Peter and Antoninus, whom he compelled to study the Arab language and sciences. When the youths had grown, prince Ibrahim was so fond of them for their wisdom and virtuous life, that he named Antoninus his kinsman, and Peter he appointed as his chief steward. One time however, having learned that the youths secretly confessed faith in Christ, Ibrahim fell into a furious rage and ordered them thrown into iron shackles and beaten with knotted rods. After prolonged scourging, they put Saint Antoninus on a donkey, and secured on by straps they drove him through the city, beating and ridiculing him with abuse. The martyr endured all the insults and gave thanks to God. Saint Peter after fierce beating with the rods was thrown into prison. The father of the holy martyrs, John, was ordered to be arrested. The brutal Ibrahim grabbed him by the neck with his left hand, and with his right he thrust a knife into his throat. They threw the body of the father together with the bodies of his sons. They then lighted up a large bonfire, into which they cast the bodies of the holy martyrs.
Concerning Saint Andrew, the torturer for a long time wore him down with hunger, and then ran him through with a spear in the chest. When the martyr prayerfully began to give thanks to God, Ibrahim ran him through a second time. As he lay expiring from loss of blood, they then beheaded the righteous martyr with a sword.
Sainted Innocent (Innokentii), Metropolitan of Moscow (in the world Ivan Evseevich Popov-Veniaminov), was born on 26 August 1797 in the village of Anginsk of Irkutsk diocese, into the family of a sacristan. The boy mastered his studies at an early age and at age 7 he was reading the Epistle in church. In 1806 they sent him to the Irkutsk seminary. Here, to the betterment of lineage, they gave the youth the family name of Veniaminov, in honour of the deceased Irkutsk archbishop Veniamin (Benjamin, + 8 July 1814). On 13 May 1817 he was ordained deacon for the Irkutsk Annunciation church, and on 18 May 1821 -- he was ordained priest.
The missionary service of the future Apostle of America and Siberia began with the year 1823. Saint Innocent spent 45 years at the labour of enlightening the peoples of Kamchatka, the Aleutian Islands, North America, Yakutia, the Khabarovsk frontier, performing his apostolic exploit in severe conditions and at great risks to life. Saint Innocent baptised ten thousand people, and built churches, alongside which he founded schools and he himself taught in them the fundamentals of the Christian life. And together with this, his knowledge of various crafts and arts aided him much in his work.
Saint Innocent was a remarkable preacher. In making liturgies, moliebens and the all-night vigil, he incessantly guided his flock. During his time of endless journeying, Saint Innocent studied the languages, customs and habits of the peoples, among whom he preached. His work in geography, ethnography and linguistics received worldwide acclaim. He composed an alphabet and grammar of the Aleut-Lisiev language and translated into it the Catechism, the Gospel and many prayers. One of the finest of his works was the "Directions of the Way to the Heavenly Kingdom" (1833), translated into the various languages of the peoples of Siberia and appearing in more than 40 editions. Thanks to the toil of Saint Innocent, the Yakut people in 1859 first heard the Word of God and Divine-services in their own native language.
On 29 November 1840 the Metropolitan of Moscow Philaret made the tonsuring of Father John-Ivan into monasticism with the name Innokentii (Innocent), in honour of Saint Innocent of Irkutsk. On 15 December Archimandrite Innokentii was consecrated bishop of Kamchatka, the Kurile and Aleutian Islands. On 21 April 1850 Bishop Innocent was elevated to the dignity of archbishop.
By the Providence of God on 5 January 1868 Saint Innocent succeeded Metropolitan Philaret on the cathedra-seat of Moscow. Through the Holy Synod Metropolitan Innocent consolidated the secular missionary efforts of the Russian Church (already in 1839 he had proposed a project for improving the organisation of missionary service). Under the care of Metropolitan Innocent there was created a Missionary Society, and the Moscow Pokrov-Protection monastery was reorganised for missionary work: in 1870 was set up the Japanese Orthodox Spiritual Mission headed by Archimandrite Nikolai Kasatkin (afterwards Sainted Nikolai of Japan, Comm. 3/16 February), to whom Saint innocent had passed on much of his own spiritual experience. Quite fruitful also was the guidance by Saint Innocent of the Moscow diocese. By his efforts, the church of the Pokrov-Protection of the MostHoly Mother of God was built up into the Moscow Spiritual Academy.
Saint Innocent reposed to the Lord on 31 March 1879, on Great Saturday, and was buried at the Holy Spirit temple of the Trinity-Sergiev Lavra. On 6 October 1977, Saint Innocent was glorified into the rank of the Saints by the Russian Orthodox Church. His memory is established to be celebrated twice during the year: on 31 March / 13 April, the day of his blessed repose, and on 23 September / 6 October -- the day of his glorification.
The Slovensk Icon of the Mother of God manifest itself on 23 September 1635 at the village of Slovenka, Kostroma district. A certain hunter while hunting by chance discovered a small rickety church, overgrown with moss. He went inside and saw, that all the church utensils had rotted with time, save only the altar icon of the Mother of God, which was perfectly unharmed. A monastery was afterwards built at this place.
© 2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos