August 31st (IX - 13)
Icon of the Placing of the Sash of our Most Holy Theotokos
Placing of the Venerable Belt of the Mostholy Mother of God (c. 395-408). PriestMartyr Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage (+ 258). Sainted Gennadios, Patriarch of Tsargrad (+ 471). Martyrs: Phileortes; Diadochus; Basiliskos; 366 of Nicomedia; 4 from Pamphygonian Pergium. 7 Virgin Martyrs of Gaza. Monk Kyprian of Tropeia (XVI).
The Placing of the Venerable Belt of the MostHoly Mother of God in the Constantinople Blakhernae Church was during the reign of the emperor Arcadius (395-408). Before this the holy relict, entrusted to the Apostle Thomas by the Mother of God Herself, was after Her Dormition thereafter kept at Jerusalem by pious Christians. After many years, during the reign of emperor Leo the Wise (886-911), from the Belt of the Mother of God was accomplished a miraculous healing of his spouse Zoa, suffering from an unclean spirit.
The empress had a vision, that she would be healed of her infirmity when the Belt of the Mother of God would be placed upon her. The emperor turned with his petition to the Patriarch. The Patriarch removed the seal and opened the vessel in which the relict was kept: the Belt of the Mother of God appeared completely whole and undamaged by time. The Patriarch placed the Belt on the sick empress, and she immediately was freed from her infirmity. They served a solemn thanksgiving molieben to the MostHoly Mother of God, and the venerable Belt they placed back into the vessel and resealed the seal.
In commemoration of the miraculous occurrence and the twofold Placing of the venerable Belt, the feast of the Placing of the Venerable Belt of the MostHoly Mother of God was established. Parts of the holy Belt are in the Athos Batopedia monastery, in Trier monastery and in Gruzia (Georgia).
The PriestMartyr Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, was born in about the year 200 in the city of Carthage (Northern Africa), where all his life and work took place. Thasius Cyprianus was the son of a rich pagan senator, and received a fine secular education becoming a splendid orator, teacher of rhetoric and philosophy in the school of Carthage. He often appeared in the courts to plea and defend the deeds of his townsmen. Cyprian afterwards recollected, that for a long while "he remained in a deep dark myst..., far from the light of Truth". His fortune -- received from his parents and from his vocational activity, he expended on sumptuous banquets, but they were not able to quench in him the thirst for truth. Having become curious about Christianity, he became acquainted with the writings of the Apologist presbyter Tertullian (born about the year 160). The sainted-bishop later wrote, that it then seemed impossible for him because of his habits to attain to the regeneration promised by the Saviour.
From such a burdened and undecided state of mind he was helped out by his friend and guide -- the presbyter Cecilius. At 46 years of age the studious pagan was received into the Christian community as a catechumen. And before accepting Baptism, he distributed his property to the poor and moved into the house of the presbyter Cecilius. Strengthened by the power of the regenerative grace of God -- received by him in Baptism, Sainted Cyprian wrote in a letter to his friend Donatus: "When the surge of regeneration cleansed the impurity of my former life, a light -- steady and bright, shone down from Heaven into my heart. When the second birth by the Heavenly Spirit transformed me into a new man, then in a miraculous manner I was strengthened against doubt, mysteries were revealed, and darkness was made light... and I learned, that my having lived in the flesh for sin belonged to the earthly, but now was begun a Divine living by the Holy Spirit. In God and from God is all our strength; from Him is our might. Through Him we, living upon the earth, have the hint of a condition of future bliss". Exemplarily a year after his Baptism the saint was ordained to the priesthood, and when bishop Donatus of Carthage died, all unanimously chose Saint Cyprian as bishop. He gave his consent, having complied with his guide's request, and was ordained bishop of Carthage in about the year 248.
The saint first of all concerned himself about the welfare of the Church and the eradication of vices amidst the clergy and flock. The saintly life of the archpastor evoked in everyone a desire to imitate his piety, humility and wisdom. The fruitful activity of Saint Cyprian became reknown beyond the bounds of his diocese. Bishops from other sees often turned to him for advice, as how to deal with this or that other matter. A persecution by the emperor Decius (249-251) -- revealed to the saint in a dream vision, forced him to go into hiding. His life was necessary to his flock for the strengthening of faith and courage among the persecuted. Before his departure from his diocese, the saint distributed the church treasury among all the clergy for the rendering of help to the needy, and in addition he dispatched further funds.
He kept in constant touch with the Carthaginian Christians through his epistles, and he wrote letters to presbyters, confessors and martyrs. Some Christians, broken by torture, offered sacrifice to the pagan gods. These lapsed Christians appealed to the confessors, asking to give them what is called a letter of reconciliation, i.e. an interceding certificate about accepting them back into the Church. Sainted Cyprian wrote to all the Carthaginian Christians a general missive, in which he indicated that those lapsed during a time of persecution might be admitted into the Church, but this needed to be preceded by an investigation of the circumstances under which the falling-away came about. An examination was necessary of the sincerity of contrition of the lapsed. To admit them was possible only after a Church penance and with the permission of the bishop. Some of the lapsed insistently demanded their immediate re-admittance into the Church and by this caused unrest in the whole community. Saint Cyprian wrote the bishops of other dioceses asking their opinion, and from all he received full approval of his directives.
During the time of his absence the saint authorised four clergy to examine the lives of persons preparing for ordination to the priesthood and the deaconate. This met resistance from the layman Felicissimus and the presbyter Novatus, roused to indignation against their bishop. Saint Cyprian excommunicated Felicissimus and six of his accomplices. In his letter to the flock, the saint touchingly admonished all not to separate themselves from the unity of the Church, to be subject to the lawful commands of the bishop and to await his return. This letter held the majority of Carthaginian Christians in fidelity to the Church.
In a short while Saint Cyprian returned to his flock. The insubordination of Felicissimus was put to an end at a Local Council in the year 251. This Council rendered a judgement about the possibility of receiving the lapsed back into the Church after a church penance and it affirmed the excommunication of Felicissimus.
During this time there occurred a new schism, put forward by the Roman presbyter Novatian, and joined by the Carthaginian presbyter Novatus -- a former adherent of Felicissimus. Novatian asserted that the lapsed during time of persecution could not be admitted back, even if they repented of their sin. Besides this, Novatian with the help of Novatus convinced three Italian bishops during the lifetime of the lawful Roman bishop Celerinus to place another bishop on the Roman cathedra. Against such iniquity, Saint Cyprian wrote a series of circular missives to the African bishops, and afterwards a whole book, "On the Unity of the Church".
When the discord in the Carthage church began to quiet down, a new calamity began -- a pestilential plague flared up. Hundreds of people fled from the city -- leaving the sick without help, and the dead without burial. Saint Cyprian, providing an example by his firmness and his courage, himself tended the sick and buried the dead, not only Christians but pagans also. The pestilential plague was accompanied by drought and famine. An horde of barbarian Numidians, taking advantage of the misfortune, fell upon the inhabitants taking many into captivity. Saint Cyprian moved many rich Carthaginians to offer up means for feeding the starving and ransoming captives.
When a new persecution against Christians spread under the emperor Valerian (253-259), the Carthaginian proconsul Paternus ordered the saint to offer sacrifice to idols. He steadfastly refused both to do this and to name names and abodes of the presbyters of the Carthage Church. The sent off the saint to the locale of Corubisum. Deacon Pontus voluntarily followed his bishop into exile. On the day when the saint arrived at the place of exile he had a dream vision, predicting for him a quick martyr's end. Situated in exile, Saint Cyprian wrote many letters and books. Wanting to suffer at Carthage, he himself returned there. Taken before the court, he was set at liberty until the following year. Nearly all the Christians of Carthage came to take their leave of their bishop and receive his blessing. At the trial Saint Cyprian calmly and firmly refused to offer sacrifice to idols and was sentenced to beheading with a sword. Hearing the sentence, Saint Cyprian said: "Thanks be to God!" and all the people with one voice cried out: "And we want to die with him!" Coming to the place of execution, the saint again gave his blessing to all and arranged to give 25 gold coins to the executioner. He himself then covered over his eyes, and gave his hands to be bound to the presbyter and archdeacon standing near him and lowered his head. Christians with lamentation put their shawls and veils by him so as to gather up the priestly blood. The martyr's death occurred in the year 258. The body of the saint wasn by night and given burial in a private crypt of the procurator Macrovius Candidianus.
Afterwards, during the time of king Charles the Great (i.e. Charlemagne, 771-814), his holy relics were transferred to France.
Sainted Cyprian of Carthage left the Church a precious legacy: his writings and 80 letters. The works of Saint Cyprian were accepted by the Church as a model of Orthodox confession and read at OEcumenical Councils (III Ephesus and IV Chalcedon). In the writings of Saint Cyprian is stated the Orthodox teaching about the Church -- having its foundation upon the Lord Jesus Christ, and proclaimed and built by the Apostles. The inner unity is expressed in an unity of faith and love, and the outer unity is actualised by the hierarchy and sacraments of the Church. In the Church Christ comprises all the fulness of life and salvation. Those having separated themselves from the unity of the Church do not have in themself true life. Christian love is shewn as the bond holding together the Church. "Love, -- is the foundation of all the virtues, and it continues with us eternally in the Heavenly Kingdom".
Sainted Gennadios, Patriarch of Tsargrad, placed on the throne of the Constantinople Church in the year 458, during the reign of the holy nobleborn emperor Leo the Great (457-474). His life is known about from the book "Spiritual Meadows" in which were inscribed tales of the monks of Salamis monastery (near Alexandria), -- the Monks Sophronios and John. These monks were clergy of the Constantinople Church under Patriarch Gennadios. Sainted Gennadios was distinguished for his mildness, tolerance, purity and abstinence. About his power of prayer one might judge from the following instance: in the church of the holy Martyr Eleutherios at Constantinople was a disreputable clergyman Charisimos, spending his life in idleness, impurity and even occupying himself with theft and sorcery. For a long time Saint Gennadios admonished him with gentleness and patience, but Charisimos did not change his conduct. The patriarch resorted to strictness and gave orders to give the disreputable cleric several blows for comprehension. But even after the punishment he did not straighten out. Patriarch Gennadios then entrusted his emissary in his name to turn to the holy Martyr Eleutherios (Comm. 4 August) in whose church Charisimos served. Entering the temple, the emissary of the patriarch came before the altar, stretched out his hand to the grave of the martyr and said: "Holy Martyr Eleutherios! Patriarch Gennadios announces to thee through me a sinner, that the cleric Charisimos, serving in thy temple, doth do much iniquity and create great scandal; wherefore do thou either improve him or cut him off from the Church". On the following morning Charisimos was found dead. Another instance, displaying the great strength of prayer of Saint Gennadios, occurred with one of the portrait painters who dared to paint an image of Christ, giving the Saviour the features of the pagan god Zeus. The hand of the painter, having done such blasphemy, immediately withered. The repentant painter was brought in the church and confessed all his sins to the patriarch. Saint Gennadios prayed over the sinner, the hand of the painter was healed.
To settle iniquitous actions and false teachings arising in the Church, Saint Gennadios summoned a Local Council at which were condemned the Eutykhian heresy and which interdicted simony (the buying of the dignity of ordination). The saint concerned himself that a person wishing to accept the priestly dignity would be quite knowledgeable in Holy Scripture and know the Psalter by heart.
During the time of the patriarchate of Saint Gennadios, there was built a temple in honour of Saint John the Precursor. Then a certain senator Studius having come from Rome founded a monastery, which afterwards became known as the "Studite". The church steward under the holy Patriarch Gennadios was the Monk Marcian (Comm. 10 January). The patriarch also ordained to the priesthood the Monk Daniel the Stylite (Comm. 11 December). Saint Gennadios was the author of dialogues and commentaries on the Prophet Daniel (the works have not survived). There is known also his Circular Missive against Simony", affirmed by a Council of the year 459. Sainted Gennadios governed the Constantinople Church for 13 years. He died peacefully in the year 471.
Once during the time of night prayer it was made known to the saint that a powerful enemy would fall upon his flock. He incessantly offered up prayer for the peace of the Church, that the Lord would preserve it invincible against the gates of Hades.
© 1997 by translator Fr. S. Janos.