April 18 2020 - April 05 2020
Martyrs Agathopodos the Deacon, Theodoulos the Reader and those with them (+ c. 303).
Martyrs: Fermus and his Sister together with her Servant; Zinon; Claudian the Persian (IV); Hypomonea; George in New Ephesus (+ 1801). Saint Dydimos of Alexandria.
Monastics: Puplios of Egypt (IV); Theon, Simeon and Forvinus (IV); Mark of Athens (+ 400); Platon (Plato), Confessor of Studite monastery (+ 814); Theodora of Soluneia (+ 892).
The Holy Martyrs Agathopodos the Deacon and Theodoulos the Reader lived in Thessalonika during the reign of the emperor Diocletian (284-305) and Maximian (284‑305) and were among the church clergy: the holy Deacon Agathopodos was very old, and Saint Theodoulos very young.
Both distinguished themselves by righteous life and piety. One tine Saint Theodoulos saw in his sleep a vision, in which an unknown person in radiant garb placed in his hand some object. When he awoke, he then saw in his hand a beautiful ring with the image of the Cross and he realised, that this was a sign of his future martyrdom. By the power of the Cross imaged on the ring the saint healed many of the sick and turned pagans to faith in Christ the Saviour.
When the emperor Diocletian issued an edict (303) of a persecution against Christians, many attempted to hide themselves from pursuit, but Saints Agathopodos and Theodoulos undauntedly continued to proclaim the Gospel preaching.
The Thessalonika governor Faustinus, having learned of this, gave orders to bring them to him for trial. Seeing the youth and excellence of Saint Theodoulos, Faustinus attempted by flattery to persuade him to renounce Christianity and return to the decreed offering of sacrifice. To this the Martyr Theodoulos answered, that he long since had renounced the error and that he pitied Faustinus, who by his offer of paganism was condemned himself to eternal death. The governor offered the martyr a choice: the fortune of life or immediate death. The saint answered, that certainly he would choose life, but as life eternal, and that temporal death he feared not.
When Faustinus lost hope to persuade the Martyr Theodoulos, he began to talk with Saint Agathopodos. The governor attempted to deceive him and said, that Saint Theodoulos had already agreed to offer sacrifice to the gods. But the Martyr Agathopodos did not believe this. He was convinced, that Saint Theodoulos was prepared to offer his life for his True God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Not having any success, Faustinus commanded to remove the martyrs to prison. The holy martyrs prayed fervently and boldly preached the Word of God to the imprisoned, such that many were converted to Christianity. The head of the prison Eutinios reported about this to the governor.
Faustinus again summoned them to trial and again he urged them to renounce Christ. Before the eyes of Saint Theodoulos they brought forth to offer sacrifice those, who earlier were Christians, but betrayed the faith. “Ye have conquered the weak, but strong warriors of Christ ye in no way wilt see to conquer, even if ye do invent yet greater torments!” – exclaimed Saint Theodoulos. The governor commanded the martyr to produce the Christian books. “Here, my body is given for torture, – answered the martyr, – do with it what thou wish; torture me in a very fierce manner, but nonetheless I shalt not hand over the Holy Books for mockery by the impious!”
Faustinus gave orders to bring Saint Theodoulos to the place of execution, where an executioner readied a sword in order to cut off his head. The martyr bravely and with joy cried out: “Glory to Thee, O God, Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, Who deigned to suffer for us. Here by His grace I go unto Thee, and with joy I do die for Thee!” Then Faustinus halted the execution and again locked up the martyrs in prison. There the holy martyrs prayed fervently and both saw the same dream. They were sailing in a ship, which during the time of storm was suffering shipwreck. The waves cast them up upon shore, arrayed in white radiant raiment. The saints told each other about the vision, and they gave thanks to God for their impending martyr’s end.
In the morning, when the martyrs were again brought to Faustinus, they declared to him: “We – are Christians and for the Name of Christ we are prepared to undergo whatever the suffering”. Faustinus gave orders to cast them into the sea. The waves carried Saint Agathodoros to the rocks, and he loudly exclaimed: “This shalt be for us a second Baptism, which will wash away our sins, and we shalt come unto Christ with purity”. After him Saint Theodoulos was also cast into the sea (+ 303).
The sea cast on shore the bodies of the saints in radiant garb, without the ropes and weight-stones. Christians took their holy bodies and gave them reverent burial.
The Martyr Fermus died from fire, and his sister with her servant – from the sword.
The Monk Puplios pursued asceticism in the Egyptian wilderness during the reign of the emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363). Before the military campaign against the Persians, the emperor sent a devil to explore the way for the army to go. The Monk Puplios foresaw in spirit the intent of the emperor. He stood at prayer with up-raised hands, praying thus day and night, and blocked the path of the devil. For ten days the evil spirit waited until the monk concluded his prayer. Unable to proceed, he returned to the emperor and reported about his thwarting. In a rage against the Monk Puplios, Julian the Apostate gave an oath to avenge himself on the saint upon his return from the campaign. But he did not fulfill his oath, since he soon perished.
After the death of Julian, one of his military commanders distributed his effects and took monastic vows at the hand of the Monk Puplios.
The Monk Mark was born in Athens. He related about his life to Abba Serapion, who by the will of God visited him before his death.
In his youth he had studied philosophy. After the death of his parents, Saint Mark withdrew into Egypt and settled into a cave of the Thracian Mount (in Ethiopia). The monk spent ninety-five years in seclusion and during this while not only did he not see an human face, but not even a beast or bird. The first thirty years were for the Monk Mark the most difficult time. Barefoot and bedraggled, he suffered in winter from the cold, and in summer from the heat. The sparse wilderness plants served him for food, and sometimes he was reduced to eat the dust and drink bitter sea-water. Unclean spirits chased after the Monk Mark, promising to drown him in the sea, or if they caught hold of him to drag him off down from the mountain, with shouts of: “Depart from our land! From the beginning of the world no one amongst mankind hath come hither – why hast thou dared to come?”
After thirty years of tribulation, Divine grace came upon the ascetic. Angels brought him food, and on his body there grew long hair, which protected him from the cold and heat. “I beheld, – said he to the Monk Serapion, – the likeness of the Divine paradise and in it the prophets of God Elias and Enoch, and everything that I sought, – the Lord set forth to me”. During the time of his conversation with Abba Serapion the Monk Mark enquired, how things stood in the world with the law of Christ, and whether persecutions against Christians still continued. Hearing, that idol-worship had long since ceased, the saint rejoiced and asked: “Are there now amidst the world saints working miracles, as the Lord did speak of in His Gospel: `If ye have faith even as a grain of mustard seed, ye will say to this mountain: move hither from there, and it wilt move, – and nothing shalt be impossible for you' (Mt. 17: 20)”. At this moment, as the saint pronounced these words, the mountain moved from its place 5,000 cubits (approximately 2.5 kilometers) and was shifted nigh towards the sea. The Monk Mark saw that the mountain had moved, and he turned to it: “I did not order thee to move from thine place, but did converse with a brother; wherefore go thou to thine own place!” After this the mountain actually returned to its own place. Abba Serapion fell down in fright. The Monk Mark took him up by the hand and asked: “Hast thou not then seen suchlike miracles in thy lifetime?” – “No, father” – answered Starets Serapion. Then the Monk Mark wept bitterly and said: “Woe unto the earth, since upon it live Christians in name only, and not in deeds”.
After this the Monk Mark invited Abba Serapion to a meal. An Angel brought the food. Abba Serapion said, that never had he eaten such tasty food nor drank such sweet water. “Brother Serapion, – answered the Monk Mark, – didst thou see, what beneficence God doth send His servants! In all mine days there was sent from God only one breadloaf and one fish, and now on account of thee He hath doubled the meal – and sent us two loaves and two fishes. By suchlike meal the Lord God hath nourished me during all the course of time after my first sufferings from evil”.
Before his end, the Monk Mark raised up prayers for the salvation of Christians, the earth and everything in the world living upon it in the love of Christ. He gave final instruction s to Abba Serapion to bury him in the cave and cover over the entrance to it. Abba Serapion was a witness of how the soul of the one hundred thirty year old elder – the Monk Mark, was conveyed to Heaven (+ 400).
After the burial of the saint, two Angels in the form of hermits guided Abba Serapion into the inner wilderness to the great Starets John. Abba Serapion recounted to the monks of this monastery about the life and end of the Monk Mark.
The Monk Platon (Plato) was born in the year 735 into a pious Christian family of the parents, Sergios and Euphemia. Orphaned early on, the boy was taken for raising by relatives, who gave him a fine education. When he grew up he began life on his own. The saint occupied himself in the first years in the management of his property, which his parents had left him upon their death. He was very temperate and hard-working and acquired by his toil great wealth. But in his heart the monk-to-be blazed with love for Christ. He gave away all his property, set his servants free and withdrew into a monastery named “Ensymboleion” near Mount Olympos.
His prayerful zeal, love of work and geniality won him the love of the brethren. In his free moments from prayer the monk copied Divine-service books, and compiled anthologies from the works of the holy fathers. When the head of the monastery Theoktistos died in 770, the brethren chose the Monk Platon as hegumen, despite that he was a mere 35 years of age. after the death of the emperor Constantine Kopronymos (775), the Monk Platon set out to Constantinople. He resigned from the administration of the Nicomedia metropolitan and in 782 together with his nephews – Saints Theodore (+ 826, Comm. 11 November) and Joseph (+ 830, Comm. 26 January), he withdrew to the desolate place of Sokudion. They built on the mount a church in honour of the holy Apostle John the Theologian, and founded a monastery, the head of which became the Monk Platon. When Saint Tarasios together with the empress Irene convened in Nicea in 787 the Seventh OEcumenical Council, the Monk Platon took an active part in its work. Being learned and erudite in Holy Scripture, he successfully unmasked the error in the Iconoclast heresy and defended the veneration of holy icons. When the Monk Platon approached old age, he transferred guidance of the monastery to the Monk Theodore.
In 795 the emperor Constantine VI (78-797) by force compelled his spouse to accept monasticism and decided to marry with one of his kinswomen, Theodotia.
Even though the holy Patriarch Tarasios condemned this marriage, one of the conspicuous Constantinople priests, Joseph, violated the prohibition of the Patriarch and celebrated the marriage of the emperor.
Having learned of this, the Monks Platon and Theodore excommunicated the emperor from the Church and dispatched a letter about this to all the monks. The enraged emperor gave orders to lock up Saint Platon in prison and to banish the Monk Theodore to Soluneia. Only after the death of the emperor in 797 did they receive their freedom. The Monk Theodore settled in Constantinople and became hegumen of the Studite monastery. The Monk Platon lived as a simple monk at this monastery under the obedience of his nephew.
When the new emperor Nicephoros (802-811) on his own returned to the Church the excommunicated priest Joseph, the Monks Platon and Theodore again came forward with a denunciation of the unlawful activities of the emperor. For this the brave confessors were again in 807 subjected to punishment. They were imprisoned for four years. The Monk Platon was freed from imprisonment in 811 after the death of the emperor and he returned to the Studite monastery.
He survived three years more at work and prayer, and expired to the Lord on Lazarus Saturday at age 79, on 8 April 814. For his fearless speaking out in defense of holy icons, the Monk Platon received the title of “confessor”.
The Nun Theodora of Soluneia was born of Christian parents, Anthony and Chrysantha, living on the island of Aegina. At mature age Saint Theodora entered into marriage, and soon gave birth to a daughter. During an invasion of the Saracens (823) the young spouses moved away to the city of Soluneia (Thessalonika). Here Saint Theodora dedicated her daughter to the service of God in a monastery, and after the death of her husband she also accepted monasticism at this monastery.
By works of obedience, fasting and prayer she so pleased God, that she received the gift of wonderworking and worked miracles not only during her lifetime, but also upon her death (+ 892). When the hegumeness of the monastery died, they wanted to put her grave alongside the grave of the Nun Theodora. Then the nun, as though alive, pushed herself beneathe the grave and vacated the spot for her superiour, showing even after death an example in humility. From her relics flowed myrh. When the Turks seized Soluneia in 1430, they hacked apart the holy remains of the Nun Theodora.
Five Holy Virgin Martyrs are remembered on this day, having died from the sword on the island of Lesbos. There is also remembrance of the Terrible Shaking (Earthquake) at Antioch in the year 526.
© 1999 by translator Fr. S. Janos