April 16 2020 - April 03 2020
Monks: Nikita (Nicetas) the Confessor, Hegumen of Mydicia (+ 824); Illyrikos; Nektarii of Bezhetsk (+ c. 1492).
Virgin-Martyr Theodosia of Tyre (+ 307). Martyrs: Elpidiphoros, Dios, Bythonios and Galikos. Sainted Antiochos. Saint Marin. Martyred Monastic Fathers of Davido-Garedzh (XVII).
Icon of the Mother of God “Unfading Blossom” (“Neuvyadaemii Tsvet”).
The Monk Nikita (Nicetas) the Confessor, hegumen of the Mydicia monastery, was born in Bithynian Caesarea (northwest Asia Minor) of a pious family. His mother died 8 days after his birth, and his father – named Philaret, was tonsured into monasticism. The infant remained in the care of his grandmother, who raised him in a true Christian spirit. From his youthful years Saint Nikita attended in church and was an obedient of the hermit Stephanos. With his blessing Saint Nikita set off to the Mydicia monastery, where the hegumen then was Saint Nicephoros (Comm. 13 March).
After seven years of virtuous life at the monastery, famed for its strict ustav (monastic rule), the Monk Nikita was ordained presbyter. And the Monk Nicephoros, knowing the holy life of the young monk, entrusted to him the guidance of the monastery when he himself became grievously ill.
Not wanting power, the Monk Nikita began to concern himself about the enlightening and welfare of the monastery. He guided the brethren by his own personal example of strict monastic life. Soon the fame of the lofty life of its inhabitants of the monastery attracted there many, seeking after salvation. And after several years the number of monks had increased to 100 men.
When the Monk Nicephoros expired to the Lord in his extreme old age, the brethren unanimously chose the Monk Nikita as hegumen.
The Lord vouchsafed Saint Nikita the gift of wonderworking. Through his prayer a deaf-mute lad was restored the gift of speech; two demon-possessed women received healing; he restored reason to one who had lost his mind, and many others of the sick were healed of their infirmities.
During these years under the emperor Leo the Armenian (813-820), the Iconoclast heresy resumed and the oppression over holy icons intensified. Orthodox bishops were deposed and banished. At Constantinople in 815 a council of heretics was convened, at which they dethroned the holy Patriarch Nicephoros (806-815, + 828), and in his place they chose the heretical layman Theodotos. In place of exiled and imprisoned Orthodox bishops they likewise installed heretics. The emperor summoned before him all the heads of the monasteries and tried to draw them over to the Iconoclast heresy. Among those summoned was also the Monk Nikita, who stood firmly for the Orthodox confession. On his example all the hegumens remained faithful to the veneration of holy icons. For this they threw him in prison. The Monk Nikita bravely underwent all the tribulations and encouraged firmness of spirit in the other prisoners.
Then the emperor and the false-patriarch Theodotos to trick with cunning those that persisted. They explained to them, that the emperor would give them all their freedom and permit the veneration to the icons on one condition: if they would take Communion from the pseudo-patriarch Theodotos. For a long time the monk had doubts, whether he should enter into church communion with an heretic, but others of the prisoners besought him to partake together with them. Acceding to their entreaties, the Monk Nikita went into the church, where for the deception of the confessors icons were set out, and he accepted Communion. But when he returned to his monastery and saw, that the persecution against icons was continuing, he then repented of his deed, returned to Constantinople and began fearlessly to denounce the Iconoclast heresy. All threats from the emperor were ignored by him. The Monk Nikita was again locked up in prison, where he spent six years, until the death of the emperor Leo the Armenian. And there, enduring hunger and travail, the Monk Nikita by the power of his prayers worked miracles: through his prayer the Phrygian ruler released two captives without ransom; three men for whom the Monk Nikita prayed, who had suffered shipwreck, were thrown up on shore by the waves. In the year 824 under the new emperor Michael (820-829), the Monk Nikita expired to the Lord. The body of the monk was buried at the monastery with reverence. Afterwards, his relics became a source of healing for those coming to venerate the holy confessor.
The Monk Illyrikos the Wonderworker asceticised on Mount Marsion in the Peloponessus. His date of life and deeds are unknown.
The Monk Nektarii of Bezhetsk was a monastic of the Trinity-Sergiev monastery. In the mid XV Century he settled in a dense forest in the upper part of the Bezhetsk region, where he built himself a cell. The deeds and the spiritual wisdom of the monk attracted to him many, that wanted to live under his guidance. In a short while the monks built a church in honour of the Vvedenie-Entry into the Temple of the MostHoly Mother of God, and they enclosed it about with a fence. The new monastery was one of the poorest, and which in the expression of the chronicler, was built “with tears, fasting and vigil”. By common accord of all the brethren of the monastery, its founder the Monk Nektarii was chosen as hegumen. The Monk Nektarii died on 3 April 1492.
The Holy Martyress Theodosia of Tyre suffered in the year 307. On 29 May is celebrated the transfer of her relics to Constantinople, and later on to Venice.
Once, during a time of persecution against Christians, which then had already lasted for five years, the seventeen year old Theodosia went up to condemned Christian prisoners, situated in the Praetorium. It was the day of Holy Pascha, and the martyrs spoke about the Kingdom of God. Saint Theodosia asked them to remember her before the Lord, when they should come to stand before Him. Soldiers saw that the maiden bowed to the prisoners, and they seized hold of her and led her before the governor, Urban. The governor advised the maiden to offer sacrifice to the idols but she refused, confessing her faith in Christ. Then they subjected the saint to cruel tortures, – her body they struck at with iron claws such that they did lay bare the bones. The martyress was silent and with an happy face endured the sufferings, and to a second suggestion by the governor to offer sacrifice to the idols she answered: “Thou fool, I have been granted to join the martyrs!” They threw the maiden with a stone about her neck into the sea, but Angels drew her out from the depths. Then they gave over the martyress for devouring by wild beasts. Seeing that the beasts would not touch her, they cut off her head. By night Saint Theodosia appeared to her parents, who had tried to talk their daughter into not going to the sufferings. She was in bright garb with a crown upon her head and a luminous gold cross in her hand, and she said: “Behold the great glory that ye did want to deprive me of!”.
The Holy Martyrs Elpidiphoros, Dios, Bythonios and Galikos suffered for their confession of faith in Jesus Christ. They cut off the head of Saint Elpidiphoros with a sword. Saint Dios they stoned. Saint Bythonios was drowned in the sea, and the Martyr Galikos was sent for devouring by wild beasts.
The Martyred Monastic Fathers of the Davido-Garedzh Lavra, numbering more than 6,000, accepted a martyr’s death in Gruzia (Georgia) for confessing the Christian faith at the beginning of the XVII Century, during the time of shah Abbas I. The saints were buried in the temple of the Davido-Garedzh monastery by the emperor Archil II (Comm. 21 June).
The Icon of the MostHoly Mother of God, “Unfading Blossom” (“Neuvyadaemii Tsvet”): On this icon the MostHoly Mother of God holds Her Divine Son upon Her right arm, and in Her left hand – is a bouquet of white lilies. This bouquet symbolically signifies the unfading flower of virginity and immaculateness of the All-Pure Virgin, to Whom thus also Holy Church turns: “Thou art the Root of virginity and the Unfading Blossom of purity”. Copies of this icon were glorified at Moscow, Voronezh and other locales of the Russian Church.
© 1999 by translator Fr. S. Janos