September 7th (IX - 20)
Icon of the Forefeast of the Birth of theTheotokos, Marytr Sozon and St. Onisiphros
Martyr Sozontes (+ c. 304). Sainted John, Archbishop of Novgorod (+ 1186). MonkMartyr Makarii of Kanevsk, Archimandrite of Ovrucha, and of Pereyaslavsk (+ 1678). Monk Serapion of Pskov (+ 1480). Disciples from the 70: Evodus (+ 66) and Onysiphoros (+ post 67). Martryr Eupsykhias (II). Monk Luke (+ post 975). Martyr Eutykhias Synklitikos. Saint Sava in Troas.
The Martyr Sozontes, a native of Likaonea, was a shepherd. He read the Holy Scriptures attentively, and he loved to share his knowledge about the One God with the shepherds who gathered together with him. He brought many to the faith in Christ and to Baptism. By night-time once, when he sat under an oak tree, he had a vision foretelling his deed of martyrdom for Christ. He set off to the city of Cilician Pompeiopolis, where a festal pagan celebration was being prepared for a golden idol, standing in a pagan temple. Unseen by anyone, saint Sozontes went into the pagan temple and broke off the hand of the idol, and having smashed it he gave the gold to the poor. The missing hands of the idol caused an uproar and commotion in the city: many were under suspicion, given over to interrogation and torture. Not wanting to be the cause ofd suffering for other people, Saint Sozontes went to the emperor Maximian (284-305) and declared, that it was he that broke the hand from the idol. "I did this, -- he said, -- so that ye might see the lack of power of your god, which offered me no resistance. It is not a god, but rather a deaf and dumb idol. I wanted to smash it all into pieces, so that people would no longer worship its wrought hands". The emperor in a fitful rage commanded that Saint Sozontes be tortured mercilessly. They hung him up and struck at him with iron claws, and then they put on his legs iron shackles with nails inside and took him through the city. After this they again suspended him and beat him with iron rods until his bones broke. In these terrible torments Saint Sozontes gave up his spirit to God (+ c. 304). By decree of the emperor, slaves set a strong fire so as to burn the body of the martyr, but suddenly lightning flashed, it thundered loudly and a strong rain poured down over the flames of the fire. Christians took the body of the martyr by night and gave it over to burial. By his grave and at the place where he had the vision, there occurred healing of many of the sick. A church later was built in memory of the sufferings of the holy martyr.
Sainted John, Archbishop of Novgorod, was born at Novgorod of the pious parents Nikolai and Christina. He passed his childhood in quiet and peaceful surroundings.
After the death of the parents John and his brother Gabriel, having received a small inheritance, decided to make on their inherited property a small monastery in honour of the Annunciation (Blagoveschenie) of the MostHoly Mother of God. At first they built a wooden church, but a short time later built also a stone church. Their good intentions were not without difficulties. Before they finished construction on the stone temple, the brothers totally exhausted their means. Only their steadfast and living faith inspired them to continue what they had started. They turned for help with it to the Queen of Heaven, on Whose account this God-pleasing matter was begun. Through their unflagging prayer She manifested to them Her mercy -- She foretold in a dream, that everything necessary for the completion of the temple would be provided. On the following morning the brothers saw a splendid horse, loaded with two sacks of gold. No one came by for it, and when the brothers took hold of the sacks, the horse then vanished. Thus did the Mother of god send means for the monastery.
Upon completion of the monastery construction, -- here under the protection of the Mother of God, the brothers took monastic vows. Saint John took the name of Ilia, and Saint Gabriel -- the name Gregory.
The chronicles speak about Saint John being made bishop under the entries for the year 1162. His first archpastoral missive was directed to the clergy of his diocese. It was embued with an endearing concern about his flock, written in a spirit of fatherly guidance: "It pleased God and the MostHoly Mother of God, through your prayers, that I but a mere man, should not refrain from this high dignity, of which I am unworthy. Wherein that ye yourselves have encouraged me to this service, now hearken to me..." The saint spoke about the vocation of the pastor -- he is concerned about his sheep, he not only chastises but also heals those that lead a sinful life. "At the beginning of my discourse I ask you, be not strongly attached to this world, but rather be instructive to people. Look first of all, that they not give themselves over to strong drunkenness. Yet ye yourselves know, that through this most of all do not only the simple people perish, but we also. When your spiritual children approach you in repentance, then question them with mildness. It is not seemly to impose harsh penances. Scorn not the reading of books, since if we do not make a start of doing this, then what will distinguish us from the simple unschooled people?... Do not impose penances upon orphans.... Let everything be seemly, in that the yoke of Christ ought to be light..."
In the year 1165 Saint John was elevated to archbishop (from that time the Novgorod cathedra became archbishopal).
The winter of 1170 was a very difficult time for Novgorod. Suzdal' forces with their allies laid siege to the city for two days since the Novgorod people would not accept prince Svyatoslav, and likewise the took the tribute-tax of the Dvina district which was not subject to them.
In grief the Novgorod people prayed God and the MostHoly Mother of God for the salvation of the city. On the third night, while he was praying before an image of the Saviour, Saint John heard a voice, ordering him to go to the church of the Saviour on Il'ina street, to take the icon of the MostHoly Mother of God and put it up upon a trident-hook. In the morning the saint told the assembly about the command and sent the archdeacon with clergy to the Sophia church for the icon. Going into the church, the archdeacon bowed down before the icon and wanted to take hold of it, but the icon would not budge. The archdeacon returned to the archbishop and told him about what happened. Then the saint with all the assembly went to the Il'ina church and on their knees began to pray before the icon. They began to sing a molieben canon, and at the 6th ode at the kondak " Mediatrix of Christians" the icon itself moved from the place. The people with tears cried out: "Lord, have mercy!" Then Saint John took the icon and together with two deacons carried it on the trident-hook. The Novgorod people in terror foresaw their doom, since the Suzdal' forces with their allies had made their way ready for pillage. In the sixth hour of the evening there began an assault, and the arrows fell like rain. Then by the Providence of God the icon turned its visage towards the city, and from the eyes of the MostHoly Mother of God there trickled down tears, which the saint gathered on his phelon. A darkness like ashes covered over the Suzdal' forces, they became unable to see and with terror they fell back. This occurred on 25 February 1170. Saint John established in honour of this a solemn feastday for Novgorod -- the Sign (Znamenie) of the MostHoly Mother of God (celebrated 27 November).
The Suzdal' army wreaked great harm on the Novgorod region. Here also the archpastor did not remain on the sidelines. He showed fatherly concern about devastated households suffering hunger, and he distributed aid to hapless orphans. Just like other Russian hierarchs, by prayer and by virtue he calmed and soothed the internecine strife in much-suffering Rus'. Thus, in 1172 the archpastor himself journeyed to Vladimir to reconcile the nobleborn prince Andrei Bogoliubsky with the Novgorod people.
The saint not only shared in the adversity of his people, but most of all he concerned himself about their spiritual enlightenment. Saint John devoted great attention to spiritual conversations, which often occurred in the circle of the clergy and the laypeople. There are preserved about 30 of his instructions: concerning Baptism, Confession, the Holy Eucharist. The Guidance for Monks is filled with spiritual grandeur: "Once having followed after Christ, monks as actualisers of spiritual life by the cross ought to live in solitary places, separate from worldly folk. Let them pilfer nothing for themself, nor not wholly be dedicated to God. A monk ought always to be a monk, at every time and at every place -- both in sleep and in wakefulness they should preserve the memory of death, and in flesh to be fleshless. Not for everyone does the monastery serve as a doctoring for sensual-love, just as silence -- is to anger, and death -- to greed for money, and the tomb -- to avarice... Monastic life and worldly life are incompatible, -- just as they do not harness together a camel and horse. The monk bends his neck beneathe the yoke of the Creator and ought to pull the plow in the valley of humility, in order to multiply the fine wheat by the warmth of the Life-bestowing Spirit and to sow the seed-grains of the reason of God. The black-robed is not his own master; being like gods take care not to rot in likeness to people, nor fall from the heights like the light-bearing prince [i.e. of angels, Lucifer-satan]... for from human glory is begotten haughty pride..."
The saint's spiritual powers of grace were unusual. For his simplicity of soul and purity of heart God gave him power against devils. One time, when the saint as was his custom prayed by night, he heard in the wash-bowl something splashing the water. Seeing that there was no one alongside him, the saint perceived, that this was the doing of a devil trying to scare him. The saint made the sign of the cross over the wash-bowl and restrained the devil. Soon the evil spirit could no longer bear the prayer of the saint, which scorched it with fire, and it began to implore to be released from the wash-bowl. The saint was agreeable, but set a condition, that the devil carry him from Novgorod to Jerusalem to the Sepulchre of the Lord, and back all in one night. The devil fulfilled the command of the saint, but asked him to tell no one about his shaming.
In one of his conversations the saint told his flock, that he knew a man, who by night visited the Holy Land. The revenge of the evil spirit was not slow in coming. It began to scatter about women's things in the cell of the saint. One time when a large crowd of city-folk, stirred up by jealous and unvirtuous people, had gathered at the cell of the monk, the devil appeared to them, looking like a woman which ran out from the cell. The saint came out to the racket and gently asked: "What has happened, my children, what is the noise all about?" The unruly crowd, shouting various charges of perverse life against the saint, dragged him to the River Volkhov. They put the saint on a raft and released it down along the current of the river, reckoning to be rid of it. But the raft, contrary to expectation, sailed against the current straight to the men's Yur'ev monastery, situated three versts from Novgorod. Seeing this, people took shame and with weeping and shouts they went along the river-bank after the raft, beseeching the saint to forgive them and to return to the city. The heart of the simple-souled archpastor was filled with thankful joy, not only for himself but just as much for his flock: ""Lord, hold this not in sin against them!" -- he prayed and granted pardon to all.
This occurrence happened not long before the death of the saint. Sensing its approach, he put off the hierarch's omophor and took the schema with the name John, -- the same name he had in his youth. As successor to himself he appointed his brother, Sainted Gregory (Comm. 24 May). The saint died on 7 September 1186 and was put in the portico of the Sophia church.
In 1439 through the zeal of Sainted Evphymii repairs were being made at the Sophia cathedral; in the portico chapel-temple of Saint John the Fore-Runner a stone suddenly came loose and powerfully cracked the lid of the tomb standing there. Sainted Evphymii gave orders to lift off the boards broken by the stone, and the temple was filled with fragrance. In the tomb they beheld the undecayed relics of the saint, but no one was able to identify whom this archpastor was. In his cell Sainted Evphymii began fervently to pray God to reveal to him the name of this saint. By night there appeared before him a man, clothed in hierarchical garb, and said that he was Archbishop John, found worthy to serve the miracle of the MostHoly Mother of God in honour of Her Sign (Znamenie). "I proclaim thee the will of God, -- continued the saint, -- to make the memory of the archbishops and princes lying here, on 4 October, and I shall pray Christ for all Christians". His memory is celebrated likewise with the Assemblage (Sobor) of Novgorod Sainted-hierarchs on 10 February; in 1630 a feastday was also established on 1 December.
The MonkMartyr Makarii of Kanevsk lived in the XVII Century. This was a most terrible of times for Orthodox Christians in western Rus'. The vital effort, made by the monkmartyr, was an effort of defence of the Orthodox Faith under conditions of inequitably exhaustive struggle, when it was possible only to defend the future of the Russian Orthodox Church, which was preserved from the brusque passing of the hurricane of the Unia, endured together with Tatar incursions.
The holy MonkMartyr Makarii was born in 1605 in the city of Ovrucha in Volynia -- into the illustrious Tokarevsky family, reknown adherents of Orthodoxy. In the years between 1614-1620 the saint studied at the Ovruchsk Dormition (Uspenie) monastery, and upon the death of his parents he became a monk at this monastery, having begun his service in the minor monastic rank of novice. In 1625 the Monk Makarii, with the blessing of the archimandrite, left the Uspensk monastery and was sent to the Pinsk bishop, -- Avramii, who assigned him to the Pinsk Kupyatichsk monastery. In 1630 he was ordained to the dignity of monk-deacon, and in 1632 -- to the dignity of priest-monk. Fame about the excellence of the monastic life of the priest-monk Makarii spread beyond the bounds of the Kupyatichsk monastery, and in 1637 the brethren of the Bretsk Simonovsk monastery turned with a request to the hegumen of the Kupyatichsk monastery -- Ilarion (Denisevich), to send them Saint Makarii to be their head. But the Kupyatichsk hegumen also had need of the priest-monk Makarii. In 1637 the head of the Kupyatichsk monastery sent him to the Kiev metropolitan Peter Moghila to hand over money collected by the brethren for the rebuilding of the Kiev Sophia temple, and for the solicitation of help for the construction and repair of damaged monastery churches. Seeing in the priest-monk Makarii a talented son of God's Church, the metropolitan issued him an universal certificate for the collection of offerings, and in 1638 appointed him head of the Kamenetsk Resurrection (Voskresenie) monastery (in Grodnensk district). Until the pillaging and seizing of the monastery by the Uniates in 1642, the Monk Makarii guided the brethren of the Voskresensk monastery. In these harsh times the brethren of the Kupyatichsk monastery summoned as hegumen the Monk Makarii, who held the monastery until 1656. From 1656 through 1659 the Monk Makarii headed the Pinsk monastery, and from 1660 in the dignity of archimandrite the Monk Makarii guided the brethren of his original Ovruchsk Uspenie monastery. More than ten years passed in incessant struggle with the Latino-Polish in Ovrucha. But neither the tearing-away by the Dominicans of the farm-lands belonging to the monastery, nor the rapacious pillaging of moveable property, nor thrashing, -- nothing was able to compel the brethren to quit the monastery. Only in the year 1671, after the devastation of Ovrucha by the Tatars, did the holy archimandrite Makarii leave the monastery, in which there remained not a single monk, and he set off for spiritual deeds to the Kievo-Pechersk Lavra. But the defenders of Orthodoxy, like the Monk Makarii, were needed not only at Kiev, but even moreso outside of Kiev. Metropolitan Joseph (Neliubovich-Tukal'sky) assigned Archimandrite Makarii as head of the Kanevsk monastery. Thus, after thirty years of struggle with the Uniates, the Monk Makarii was again on the front lines of giving battle for the Orthodox Faith.
In 1672 at the Kanevsk monastery the son of Bogdan Khmel'nitsky, -- Yuri, sought shelter. The hetman Doroshenko, having petitioned Metropolitan Joseph for the assignment of the Monk Makarii, repeatedly visited Kanevsk monastery and in 1675 switched to Russian allegiance, having renounced allegiance to the Turks, evidently, not without counsel from the Monk Makarii. In response the Turkish powers dispatched an army to Little Russia. On 4 September 1678 the aggressors rushed on the monastery. Saint Makarii met the enemy with cross in hand at the entrance to the church. The Turks demanded from the monk to hand over to them the monastery treasury. Hearing the answer of the monk, that his treasure was in Heaven, the furious robbers hung the saint hand and foot between two posts. After two days they beheaded the monkmartyr (+ 7 September 1678). Witnesses to the martyr's death of Archimandrite Makarii carried his body to the monastery church, in which for safety they were hidden. But the returning Turks placed firewood around the church and burnt everything concealed in the temple. When the citizens of Kanev that survived began removing the bodies of those that perished, then only one body was found whole and as though alive -- this was the body of the MonkMartyr Makarii, attired in hairshirt, with a cross on the breast and another cross in the hand. The holy body was buried in this temple beneathe the altar on 8 September 1678.
The holy MonkMartyr Makarii was a man of highly righteous and spiritual life, glorified while still alive by miracles and the gift of perspicacity. At Kanev he healed the blind and the dying.
In 1688, during renovation of the temple, the grave of the monkmartyr was opened and in it was found the undecayed body of the saint. In connection with the danger of invasion for the Kanevsk monastery, on 13 May 1688 the holy relics were solemnly transferred to the Pereyaslavl' regimental Resurrection church. There also they transferred the beloved book of the monkmartyr -- "Discourse of John Chrysostom on the 14th Epistle of the holy Apostle Paul" (Kiev edition 1621-1623) with his signature on one of the page-leafs. Under Bishop Zakharii (Kornilovich) the relics were transferred in 1713 to a new-built temple of the Pereyaslavl' Mikhailovsk monastery, and after its closing the relics reposed from 4 August 1786 at the Pereyaslavl' Resurrection monastery.
In 1942 the relics were transferred to the Trinity church in the city of Cherkassa, and from 1965 they are situated in a temple in honour of the Nativity of the MostHoly Mother of God in that same city.
The commemoration of the MonkMartyr Makarii is made twice: 7 September -- on the day of repose, and on 13 May -- on the day of transfer of the holy relics.
The Monk Serapion of Pskov was born at Yur'ev (now Tartu), which then was under the rule of Germans, who sought to stamp out Orthodoxy. His parents were parishioners of a Russian church in the name of Saint Nicholas. The Monk Serapion was versed in the Holy Scripture and more than once he entered into the defense of Orthodoxy. When they wanted to convert him by force to the foreign faith, he departed to the Tolvsk wilderness, not far from Pskov, where the Pskov ascetic monk Evphrosyn (Comm. 15 May) began his prayerful work. Under his nurturing the Monk Serapion began to acquire the wisdom of wilderness life. But soon he happened to undergo temptations: on the basis of his own powers he wanted without blessing to quit his guide and in complete solitude to start independent ascetic life. But the Lord brought the inexperienced novice to his senses: having seriously hurt his leg, he repented his self-will and disobedience and returned to the elder. Having taken on the great schema, for 55 years he dwelt constantly with the Monk Evphrosyn, strictly keeping the vow of silence. Brethren began gradually to gather around the Monk Evphrosyn, for which the elder built a temple in the name of the Three Hierarchs and gave a skete ustav (rule). The Monk Serapion zealously fulfilled everything commanded of him and was a role-model for the monks. The monk so strictly fulfilled the monastic vow of uncovetousness, that a copyist of his life called him "an unburied corpse". He bore every insult with extraordinary humility, always blaming only himself alone, and he himself asked forgiveness of his insulter. The monk deeply sensed the power of in-common church-prayers and he said, that "the order of the twelve psalms" sung alone in the dell cannot equal one "Lord, have mercy" sung in church.
The Monk Serapion died on 8 September 1480, on the feastday of the Nativity of the MostHoly Mother of God. Since the day of repose of the Monk Serapion coincides with the twelve great-feasts, his memory is made on 7 September. A tropar and kondak to the monk were compiled.
The Monk Evphrosyn himself gave over to the earth the body of his disciple, who from his fervent deeds had transformed himself into mere "bones, covered by skin". The Monk Serapion was not separated from his spiritual father even after death: their holy relics were placed alongside each other, and to the Monks Evphrosyn and Serapion there was composed a common service on 15 May, wherein the Monk Serapion is glorified as the first co-ascetic, "companion and friend" of the Monk Evphrosyn.
The Holy Disciple from the 70 -- Evodus was, after the holy Apostle Peter, the first bishop in Syrian Antioch. About him there reminisces his successor the PriestMartyr Ignatios the God-Bearer (Comm. 20 December) -- disciple of the holy Apostle John the Theologian, in Ignatios' Letter to the Antiochenes: "Remember your blessed father Evodus, who was made first pastor for you by the Apostles..."
Saint Evodus served in the dignity of bishop for 27 years and died a martyr's death under the emperor Nero (54-68). Saint Evodus wrote several compositions. In one of them he writes about the MostHoly Virgin Mary, that She gave birth to the Saviour of the world at age 15.
Other compositions of the saint have not survived. Of them there is known a book under the title "the Star" mentioned by the XIV Century church historian Nicephoros Kallistos. The martyr's death of Saint Evodus occurred in the year 66.
About the Holy Disciple Onysiphoros the holy Apostle Paul (+ 67, Comm. 29 June) gives witness: "God grant mercy to the house of Onysiphoros for that repeatedly he hath given me rest and was not ashamed of my bonds, but being at Rome, with great diligence he searched after and did find me. May the Lord grant him to find the mercy of the Lord on that day; and how much he did serve me at Ephesus, thou well knowest" (2 Tim. 1: 16-18). Saint Onysiphoros was bishop at Colophon (Asia Minor), and later -- at Corinth. He died a martyr in the city of Parium (not far from Ephesus) at the shores of the Hellespont, whither he had set out to proclaim the faith in Christ amongst the local pagans. Here the holy disciple Onysiphoros was arrested and brought to an idolous pagan-temple. For his refusal to burn incense to the pagan gods, the disciple Onysiphoros, together with his servant Porphyrios, was tied to wild horses and dragged along the ground. In the Roman Martyrology the day of death of Saint Onysiphoros is reckoned as 16 September. The Orthodox Church honours his memory together with the holy disciple Evodus on 7 September, and likewise on 4 January in the Assemblage (Sobor) of the holy 70 Disciples.
The Holy Martyr Eupsykhias was born in Caesaria Cappadocia. In one of the synaxaria (saints-accounts) he is called the son of a senator Dionysios. During a time of a persecution against Christians under Adrian he was arrested and subjected to torture. After the torture they threw him into prison, where he was healed of his wounds by an Angel. When they set the martyr free, he distributed all his property to the poor, besides which he gave away a certain portion even to his enemies, who had reported on him and given him over to torture. Under the changeover to a new governor Saint Eupsykhias was again arrested. They hung him up and cut at his body with iron, and then they cut off his head with a sword. The martyr died under the emperor Adrian (117-138).
The Monk Luke was the third holy hegumen (from the year 975) at the Saviour monastery, named "Deep Rivers" (near Constantinople in the Cythian Gulf). The first holy hegumen was the Monk Basil (he died at the beginning of the IX Century, and his memory in the Greek Church is 1 July); the second holy hegumen -- was the Monk Ignatios (c. 963-975, Comm. 27 September). The monastery was famed for the especial strictness of the ascetic life of its residents. The Monk Luke died at the end of the X Century.
© 1997 by translator Fr. S. Janos.