September 24th (X - 7)
Icon of the Virgin Mary (Myrtithiotissa) & St. Thecla
First-Martyress and Equal-to-the-Apostles Thekla (I). Monk Nikandr of Pskov (+ 1581). MonkMartyr Galaktion of Vologda (+ 1612). Monk Koprios (+ 530). Saint Stefan (Stephen) of Serbia (+ 1224). Saint Vladislav of Serbia (+ 1239). Saint David (XIII). Monk Avraamii (Abraham) of Mirozhsk (+ 1158). Sainted Anthony the New, Bishop of Monembasa. Monk Eusebios. Mirozhsk Icon of the Mother of God (1567).
The Holy First-Martyress and Equal-to-the-Apostles Thekla was born in the city of Iconium. She was the daughter of rich and illustrious parents, and moreover she was distinguished by extraordinary beauty. At 18 years of age they betrothed her to an eminent youth. But having heard the preaching of the holy Apostle Paul about the Saviour, Saint Thekla with all her heart came to love the Lord Jesus Christ, and she steadfastly resolved not to enter into marriage, but rather to devote all her life to preaching the Gospel. The mother of Saint Thekla was opposed to her daughter's plans and demanded that she enter into marriage with the bridegroom betrothed to her. Saint Thekla's fiancee likewise made a complaint to the governor of the city against the Apostle Paul, accusing him of turning his bride against him. The governor locked up Saint Paul in prison. During the night Saint Thekla secretly ran away from her house, and she bribed the prison guards, giving them all her gold ornaments, and so made her way into the prison to the prisoner. For three days she sat at the feet of the Apostle Paul, hearkening to his fatherly precepts. The disappearance of Thekla was discovered, and servants were sent out everywhere in search of her. Finally they found her in the prison and brought her home by force.
At his trial the Apostle Paul was sentenced to banishment from the city. And with Saint Thekla they again began urging her to consent to the marriage, but she would not change her mind. Neither the tears of her mother, nor her wrath, nor the threats of the governor were able to separate Saint Thekla from her love for the Heavenly Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ. Her mother in a insane rage demanded from the judges a death sentence against her unyielding daughter, and Saint Thekla was sentenced to burning. Without flinching, the holy martyress went into the bon-fire and made the sign of the cross over herself. At this moment the Saviour appeared to her, blessing her present deed, and inexpressible joy filled her holy soul. The flames of the bon-fire shot up high, but the martyress was surrounded by an halo and the flames did not touch her. Thunder boomed, and a strong downpour of rain with hail extinguished the bon-fire. The torturers scattered in fear. Saint Thekla, kept safe by the Lord, quit the city and with the help of a certain Christian youth searched out the Apostle Paul. The holy apostle and his companions, among which was also the Disciple Barnabas, were hidden away in a cave not far from the city, praying fervently, that the Lord would give strength to Saint Thekla in her sufferings.
After this, Saint Thekla went together with them preaching the Gospel in Antioch. In this city she was pursued by a certain dignitary named Alexander, who was captivated by her beauty. Saint Thekla refused his offer to enter into marriage, and so for being a Christian she was condemned to death. Twice they set loose upon her hungry wild animals, but they would not touch the holy virgin, but instead lay down meekly and licking at her feet. The Providence of God preserved the holy martyress unharmed through all her torments. Finally, they tied her to two oxen and began to chase after her with red-hot rods, but the strong cords broke asunder like cob-webs, and the oxen ran off, leaving Saint Thekla unharmed. And the people began shouting: "Great is the God of the Christians!" The governor himself became terrified, reasoning it out finally, that the holy martyress was being kept safe by the Almighty God, Whom she served. He then gave orders to set free the servant of God Thekla.
With the blessing of the Apostle Paul, Saint Thekla then settled in the desolate surroundings of Isaurian Seleucia and dwelt there for many years, constantly preaching the Word of God and healing the sick through her prayer. Saint Thekla converted many pagans to Christ, and the Church names her worthily as "Equal-to-the-Apostles" ("Ravnoapostol'na"). Even a pagan priest, seeking to assault her purity and punished for his impudence, was brought by her to holy Baptism. More than once the enemy of the race of man tried to destroy Saint Thekla through people blinded by sin, but the power of God always preserved this faithful servant of Christ.
When Saint Thekla was already a 90 year old woman, pagan sorcerers became incensed at her for treating the sick for free. They were unable to comprehend that the saint was healing the sick by the power of the grace of Christ, and they presumed that the virgin-goddess Artemis (Diana) was her especial patroness. Out of envy against Saint Thekla, they sent their followers to defile her. When they had already approached quite close to her, Saint Thekla cried out for help to Christ the Savior, and the hill split open and hid the holy virgin, the bride of Christ. And thus did Saint Thekla offer up her holy soul to the Lord.
Holy Church glorifies the "First-Suffering" Thekla as "of women the glory and guide for suffering, opening up the way through every torment". From of old many a temple was dedicated to her, one of which was built at Tsargrad (Constantinople) by the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine (Comm. 21 May). And then too, the name of the First-Martyress Equal-to-the-Apostles Thekla, a prayer intercessor for the ascetic, is remembered during the tonsure of women into monasticism.
The Monk Nikandr of Pskov (at Baptism Nikon) was born on 24 July 1507 into the peasant family of Philip and Anastasia in the village of Videlebo in the Pskov lands.
From childhood he dreamed of continuing the ascetic exploits of his fellow villager -- the Monk Evphrosyn of Spasoeleazarsk, the original Pskov wilderness-dweller (Comm. 15 May). The first in Nikon's family to accept monasticism was his older brother Arsenii. After the death of his father, the seventeen year old Nikon was able to convince his mother also to disperse the property and withdraw into a monastery, where she lived til her own end. Having made the rounds of the monasteries in the Pskov lands, and having venerated at the relics of the Monk Evphrosyn and his disciple the Monk Savva of Krypetsk (Comm. 28 August), Nikon became firmly convinced in his striving for the hermit's life.
In order to have possibility to read the Word of God, Nikon took employ as a worker for the Pskov inhabitant Philip, who to reward his ardour sent him off for studying to an experienced teacher. Seeing the zeal of the youth, the Lord Himself directed him to the place of ascetic effort. Intensely praying in one of the Pskov churches, he heard a voice from the altar commanding him to go into the wilderness place, which the Lord would point out through His servant Theodore (Feodor). The peasant Theodore led him off to the River Dem'yanka, betwixt Pskov and Porkhov. (Afterwards both Philip and Theodore, who helped the Monk Nikandr attain his commanded goal, were themselves to enter upon the path of monasticism, and tonsured at the Krypetsk monastery with the names Philaret and Theodosii (Feodosii).
Having spent several years in silence and severe ascetic deeds, emaciating his flesh, Nikon went to the monastery founded by the Monk Savva of Krypetsk. The hegumen, seeing his weakened body, would not at once agree to accept him, fearing that the difficulties of monastic life would be too much for him. Nikon thereupon, falling down at the crypt of the Monk Savva, began as though to one alive beseeching him to take him into his monastery. The hegumen relented and tonsured Nikon with the name Nikandr.
The Monk Nikandr lived through many a temptation and woe on the straitened path of asceticism. Blessed Nikolai (Comm. 28 February) while still at Pskov foretold him about the "wilderness sufferings". Through the prayers of all the Pskov Saints and the Monk Alexander of Svirsk (Comm. 30 August and 17 April), who twice appeared to him, guiding and strengthening him, and with the help of the grace of God, he overcame all the manifold snares of the evil one. By the power of prayer the monk conquered the weakness of flesh, human failings and diabolical apparitions. One time robbers nearly killed him, running off with the hermit's sole and very precious possessions -- his books and icons. Through the prayers of the saint, two of them, taking fright at the sudden death of one of their comrades, repented of their wicked deeds and received forgiveness from the starets-elder.
The Monk Nikandr did not long live at the Krypetsk monastery, and with a blessing he returned to his own wilderness. Afterwards he once again came to live at the Krypetsk monastery, where he fulfilled the obediences of rubrics-regulator and cellerer of supplies, and then thereafter again he went off into the wilderness and lived there in fasting and prayer, meditating the Word the God. Once a year during Great Lent the Monk Nikandr came to the Damianov monastery, where he made his confession and communed the Holy Mysteries of Christ. Eight years before his end he accepted there the monastic great-schema. Many people began to come to the monk "for benefit", since in the words of the Monk John of the Ladder, "monastic life is a light for all mankind". Believers turned to the Monk Nikandr for prayerful help, since the Lord had bestown on him many gifts of grace. The wilderness-dweller with love and concern had regard for all the needs of the visitors and he even built for them for night-lodging "the guest-house at the oak", and which he provided heat for. The monk did not permit himself to show off his spiritual gifts. Going secretly to his cell, people always heard that he prayed with bitter weeping. And he, perceiving the people nearby, immediately began entreaty, concealing from them the gift of tears that he had received.
The Monk Nikandr to the end of his life remained a wilderness-dweller (and thus they praise him as "Monk Nikandr the Wilderness-Dweller"), but he gave final instructions that after his death the place of his ascetic efforts not be forsaken, promising his protection to the settlers of a future monastery. The monk gave final directions to the deacon Peter of the Porkhov women's monastery to build a church at his grave and transfer thither the icon of the Annunciation of the MostHoly Mother of God from the Tishanka church-cemetery. He foresaw his own death, predicting that he would die when enemies invaded the fatherland, and foretelling them of this immanent assault. On 24 September 1581, during the time of invasion by the army of the Polish king Stefan Bathory, a certain peasant found the monk dead: he lay on his cot with hands in cruciform position. From Pskov came out clergy and people who revered the monk, and among whom was also the deacon Peter, and they performed the rite of Christian burial.
In 1584 at the graced place of the ascetic deeds of the Monk Nikandr, sanctified by his almost half-century of prayer, there was built a monastery, which they began to call the Nikandrov wilderness-monastery. The builder of this monastery was the monk Isaii (Isaiah), who had been healed through prayer to the saint. Under Patriarch Joakim in 1696 occurred the glorification of the Monk Nikandr and the feastdays in his memory were established for 24 September, the day of his repose, and on the temple feast of the monastery -- the Annunciation of the MostHoly Mother of God. During a reconstruction of the monastery cathedral church the relics of the Monk Nikandr were discovered, concealed in a wall: 29 June is celebrated as the day of the uncovering of his venerable relics. And at present strong bonds of prayers connect believers with the Monk Nikandr, whom they deeply venerate in the Pskov lands.
The MonkMartyr Galaktion of Vologda: Fearing the wrath of tsar Ivan the Terrible, kinsmen of the disgraced prince Ivan Ivanovich Bel'sky secretly conveyed his seven year old son Gavriil (Gabriel) to the city of Staritsa. In the years of his growing up, and seeing the malice of the tsar towards his family, the young prince withdrew to Vologda and settled in with a shoemaker, from whom he learned the cobbler's craft. And his marriage was not for long, since his wife soon died, leaving prince Gavriil to raise his infant daughter.
The adversities of his earthly life strengthened in him the intent to devote himself to God. Having sought out a place at the River Sodima, he dug himself a pit and made his cell round about a church in the Name of the MostHoly Trinity, and having taken monastic vows with the name Galaktion, he began to asceticise in fasting and prayer. The ascetic did not give up on his cobbler's craft, and the money which he received from the work he divided into three portions: one part he dedicated to God, another portion he gave to the poor, and the third part provided him sustenance.
Advancing in spiritual life, the Monk Galaktion secluded himself in his cell, having chained himself to the wall. God-fearing Christians provided him food through a small window. The ascetic rested little, on his knees and holding on the chain, and he ate only dry bread and water. In the cell of the Monk Galaktion was nothing, besides old matting with which he covered himself.
People soon began to come to the hermit for spiritual guidance. And he received both the rich and the poor; his words were filled with spiritual power, whereof he consoled the grieving and brought to their senses the proud. In prayer the Monk Galaktion achieved an especial spiritual grace. One time, when the Vologda region had gone a long time without rain, bishop Antonii with a church procession came to the church of the Holy Trinity and dispatched a request to the hermit to pray together with everyone for deliverance from the common woe. The Monk Galaktion obediently left his cell and prayed in the church, and the Lord sent abundant rain upon the parched earth. The ascetic had a revelation from God about impending Vologda misfortunes. He emerged from his cell in his chains, went to an earthen hut and declared: "Sins have called forth the Poles and Lithuanians upon us. Let there be undertaken fasting and prayer, and preparation to build a temple in honour of the Sign (Znamenie) of the Mother of God, so that the Heavenly Queen as before Novgorod (the commemoration of the Sign Icon of the Mother of God of Novgorod is 27 November) might deliver Vologda from the wrath of God". One of those present, Nechai Proskurov, said: "Not for us, but for himself is he concerned; he doth but want to have a church near him. And what will become of the temple when thou die, starets?" The Monk Galaktion answered gravely: "Wrath is nigh to Vologda. As for me, there at my place God is glorified -- and there also wilt be built a monastery", -- and he said moreover, that the Trinity church built by Nechai, would be burnt and the house of Nechai laid waste. And going on past the church in honour of the Monk Dimitrii of Prilutsk (Comm. 11 February), he said: "The Wonderworker Dimitrii hath prayed the Saviour for the city, but they pay him insult -- around his church they set up shops and noise about their wares. And this church wilt be destroyed".
The prophecy of the righteous one was soon fulfilled. In September 1612 the Polish and Lithuanians stormed into Vologda, and they killed many of the inhabitants, they defiled and plundered the churches of God, and they set afire the city and its surroundings. As the Monk Galaktion predicted, the house and church built by Nechai were burnt, as was also the city church named for the Monk Dimitrii.
The Monk Galaktion was murdered by the invaders on 24 September 1612. Pious Christians buried the body of the monkmartyr in his cell. Over the place of his burial began to occur miraculous healings. During the time of bishop Varlaam (1627-1645), over the relics of the MonkMartyr Galaktion was built a church in honour of the Sign (Znamenie) Icon of the Mother of God, and a monastery was founded. With the blessing of archbishop Markell (1645-1663), at the monastery was built a cathedral church in the Name of the Holy Spirit, and the monastery took its name from this church.
The Monk Koprios was found as a newborn infant by monks of the monastery of the Monk Theodosios in Palestine. He lay upon a dung-hill (in Greek "kopria"), where his mother left him, in fleeing pursuit during an invasion of the Hagarites (i.e. Arabs). The monks took up the infant, named him Koprios, fed him goat's milk and raised him in their monastery. Saint Koprios afterwards accepted monastic tonsure and spent his whole life in his native monastery. Having attained to an high degree of virtue and the gift of wonderworking, the Monk Koprios died peacefully at 90 years of age.
Holy King Stefan of Serbia was the first ruler of Serbia crowned to reign with the king's crown. His father was Saint Stefan Nemanya (Comm. 13 February). In 1224 holy King Stefan died, having accepted before death monastic tonsure with the name Simeon, and he was buried in the "Studenitsa" monastery.
Holy King Vladislav of Serbia was the son of holy King Stefan, and he reigned for 7 years. He was noted for his virtue and charity towards the poor, the vagrant and the misfortunate, and he built a monastery at Milesheva, where he died in 1239 and was buried.
The Monk David, a nephew of holy King Stefan, in the world had the name Dimitrii. He built a monastery at Brodarova, at the River Lima, and there he accepted monastic tonsure with the name David and asceticised to the end of his days.
The Monk Avraamii (Abraham) of Mirozhsk was the builder and first hegumen of the Pskov Saviour-Transfiguration monastery on the banks of the River Velika, at the confluence into it of the Rivulet Mirozha. The Mirozhsk monastery was founded in about the year 1156, during the princedom of Svyatopolk Mstislavich, by both the Monk Avraamii and by Sainted Nyphont, Bishop of Novgorod (tonsured at the Kievo-Pechersk monastery, Comm. 8 April), a brother by birth of holy Prince Vsevolod-Gavriil (Comm. 11 February). This monastery, the most ancient in Pskov, was the first seed of monasticism transported to the Pskovsk soil from Kiev. On a chalice of the Monk Nyphont is inscribed: "Holy Bishop Nyphont... enthroned, many an holy monastery and church did he build with approval of prince Vsevolod of Pskov, and upon the demise of prince Vsevolod he came.. to Pskov and did construct... the church of the Transfiguration of the Lord, and a monastery of fame and beauty, and did gather brethren and establish an hegumen". Towards the end of the XIX Century during a remodeling of the Transfiguration cathedral there were discovered beautiful frescoes of the XII Century, with which the church had been painted, and which now receive universal reknown. (The Monk Nyphont built also a similar church at Ladoga, dedicated to Sainted Clement of Rome, but in the present day only the foundations there have been preserved).
About the life of the Monk Avraamii the accounts contain little, since the monastery was situated inside the city walls and often it was laid waste and served as quarters for enemy soldiers. The monk died on 24 September 1158. His relics lay beneathe a crypt of the cathedral church in honour of the Transfiguration of the Lord in the monastery built by him.
Four centuries later, on 24 September 1567, on the day of memory of the Monk Avraamii at the Mirozhsk monastery there occurred a miraculous sign from an ancient icon of the MostHoly Mother of God. The Mirozhsk Icon had manifest itself at the monastery in the year 1198. But later, during the reign of Ivan the Terrible, at a time when a pestilential epidemic raged at Pskov, an ancient report tells how from this icon, "Our Sovereign Lady Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary in mystery did effect Her venerable sign: from the All-Pure image were tears from both eyes, and like streams did flow, and many a benefit and healing for man did occur from the image of the Mother of God". The Mirozhsk Icon was written on the style of the "Orans" ("Praying"). In front of the MostHoly Mother of God stand the Pskov Saints: on the right -- holy Nobleborn Prince Dovmont-Timothy (Comm. 20 May), on the left -- his spouse, the holy Nun Martha, in the world named Maria Dimitrievna (+ 8 November 1300). Tsar Ivan Vasil'evich took away the wonderworking image from Pskov, but at the monastery there remained a copy "measure for measure" -- the so-called "Great Panagia" from the Saviour-Mirozhsk monastery. The celebration of the Sign Icon of Mirozh was established in that same year of 1567, with the blessing of archbishop Pimen of Novgorod and Pskov. A special service to this icon was compiled, published in the 1666 Menaion.