February 19 2020 - February 06 2020
Sainted Bukolos, Bishop of Smyrna (+ c. 100). Monk Barsonophios the Great and Saint John the Prophet (VI).
Women-Martyrs Dorothea, Christina, Callista and the Martyr Theophilos (+ c. 288-300). Martyr Julian (+ 312). Martyress Fausta and Martyrs Euvilasias and Maximus (+ c. 305-311). Women-Martyrs Martha and Mary and their brother, MonkMartyr the Lad Likarion. Sainted Photios, Patriarch of Constantinople (IX). Monk Arsenios of Ikaltoi (+ 1127) (Gruzia). Martyrs Faustus, Basil, Sylvanus and others. Saint Sebastian.
The Monk Bukolos, Bishop of Smyrna, was a disciple of the holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian, and was established by him as the first bishop of the Smyrna Church (Asia Minor).
By the grace of God, Saint Bukolos converted to Christ and baptised many of the pagans, and as an experienced and wise guide he defended his flock from the darkness of heresy. He died at peace in about the years 100-105. He passed his flock on to Saint Polycarp (Comm. 23 February), one of the apostolic fathers, who likewise was a disciple of the holy Apostle John the Theologian. At the grave of Saint Bukolos grew a myrtle tree, which healed the sick.
The Monks Barsonophios the Great and John the Prophet lived during the VI Century during the reign of the emperor Justinian I (483-565). They pursued asceticism at the monastery of Abba Serid in Palestine, near the city of Gaza.
The Monk Barsonophios was born in Egypt (the year of his birth is unknown). From his youthful years he began to lead an ascetic life. It is known, that having arrived at the monastery of Abba Serid, he constructed himself a small cell aside the monastery (cells in the East frequently were dug out in the form of a cave).
Later on in this cell the Monk John, – disciple of the Monk Barsonophios, lived for 18 years until his death. The Monk John imitated his teacher in silence, ascetic deeds and acquired virtues. For his gift of perspicacity he received the appelation “Prophet”.
The Monk Barsonophios after a certain while passed on to another cell, also near the monastery. For complete solitude he withdrew himself from people, seeing no one, eating only bread and water, and he dwelt for 50 years in work and ascetic deeds. When the Patriarch of Jerusalem Eustokhios heard about the ascetic, the manner of life of the Monk Barsonophios appeared to him unbelievable. He decided to see for himself. For this he arranged to enter the cell of the monk unexpectedly. But those attempting to make the climb into the narrow quarters of the saint were singed by flames spewing forth. In his hermitage the Monk Barsonophios gave himself over entirely to prayer, and he attained an high degree of spiritual perfection. Accounts are preserved in manuscripts about the life, the deeds and graced talents of Saints Barsonophios and John. During the lifetime of the Elder Paisii, they were translated into the Moldavian and Slavonic languages. The publication of these manuscripts, and also their translation into the Russian language, was realised during the XIX Century by the startsi-elders of the Vvedenie-Visitation Optina Monastery. The precepts of the Monks Barsonophios and John show clearly the degree of their moral perfection, their love towards people, but it holds scant facts about their lives. We do not know exactly when the Monk Barsonophios died: some sources say the year of his death was 563, others say more cautiously – before the year 600. Having spent a long time in seclusion, the Monk Barsonophios thereafter and until the death of the Monk John the Prophet, – about which Abba Dorotheos (Comm. 5 June) testifies, began to serve people by instructing on the path to salvation. It is known, that Saint Barsonophios transmitted his answers to questioners through the Monk John, sometimes instructing him to give the answers, or even through the hegumen Abba Serid, who wrote down the answers of the saint. In the answers of the Monks Barsonophios and John the Prophet, having become guides for the spiritual life not only for their contemporaries, but also for succeeding generations, it is clearly possible to see a gradual spiritual ascent “from power to power” of the monks. By deeds of fasting, silence, guarding the heart, and unceasing prayer, the Monk Barsonophios attained the heights of humility, reasoning and fiery love. The Lord gave him the gifts of perspicacity, foresight and wonderworking, and even the power by prayer to purify from sins the souls of people. Sometimes he took the sins of another upon himself. The monk knew the dispositions of hearts, wherefore he instructed in accord with the trend of thought of each person. By the Name of the Lord he resuscitated the dead, he cast out demons, he healed the hopelessly sick; things blessed by him bestowed help (for example, kukol' or furrow-weed took away the headache of a monk). Through the prayer of the Monk Barsonophios God sent rain upon the earth, withdrawing His wrath from the multitudes of the people, and predictions of the monk always happened. Thus, he predicted of a silent one from that monastery – the Elder Euthymios, that he would be placed with him in a single grave, which indeed happened, and many other things. All these great talents the Monk Barsonophios acquired after many years of patiently enduring great temptations and illness. (Besides Barsonophios the Great, the Orthodox ascetic, there lived almost at the same time another Barsonophios – an heretic and Monophysite. Sophronias, Patriarch of Jerusalem, spoke about him in his “Confession of Faith”, sent to the Sixth OEcumenical Council).
When it was that he arrived at the monastery of Abba Serid, and also from whence was the Monk John the Prophet, remains unknown. Having followed the instructions of the Monk Barsonophios, John attained the heights of perfection, having become like his teacher in all things. But, through his humility, those turning directly to him with questions he dispatched to Abba Barsonophios. The Monk John foresaw and predicted much, thus even his own death, following after the death of Abba Serid. The young hegumen of this monastery – Elian – besought the monk to live on even though it be two weeks, to teach him the ustav-rule and the running of the monastery. The Monk John fulfilled his request and actually died after the two weeks. The Monk Barsonophios the Great survived his disciple and friend. We know about these two ascetics from the book, “Guidance towards the Spiritual Life of the Monastics Fathers Barsonophios the Great and John in Answers to the Questionings of Disciples”. This book was known to many of the saints, living later in time, as evidenced by the wrings of the Monk Theodore the Studite (Comm. 11 November and 26 January), the priestmonk Nikon Chernogorets (+ 1060), the Monk Simeon the New Theologian (Comm. 12 March), and other Orthodox ascetics and writers (Euagrios).
The Holy Martyress Dorothea, together with the Martyresses Christina and Callista and the Martyr Theophilos lived in Caesarea Cappadocia and suffered under the emperor Diocletian in either the year 288 or 300.
Saint Dorothea was a pious Christian maiden, distinguished by her great beauty, humility, prudence, and wisdom bestown by God, which astonished many. Arrested upon orders of the governor Saprikios, she steadfastly confessed her faith in Christ and was subjected to tortures. Failing to break the will of the saint, the governor sent to her two women, the sisters Christina and Callista, who formerly were Christians, but in fearing the tortures they abjured Christ and began to lead impious lives. He ordered them to talk Saint Dorothea into offering sacrifice to the pagan gods. But just the reverse happened: persuaded by Saint Dorothea, that the mercy of God is granted to all that repent, they repented themselves and again were converted to Christ. For this they tied them back to back and burned them in a tar barrel. The holy sisters Christina and Callista died suffering, offering up a prayer of repentance to the Lord and atoning for the sin of apostacy.
Saint Dorothea was again subjected to tortures, and she very gladly endured them and accepted the death sentence. When they led the saint to execution, a certain student, (the Scholastic) Theophilos, with mockery said to her: “Bride of Christ, throw to me rose blossoms and apples from the garden of thy Bridegroom”. In reply the martyress nodded to him. Before death, the saint requested time to pray. When she finished the prayer, an Angel appeared before her in the form of an handsome youth presenting her on a pure linen cloth three apples and three rose blossoms. The saint requested all these be handed over to Theophilos, after which she was beheaded by the sword. Having received the gracious gift, the recent mocker of Christians was shaken, and he believed in the Saviour and confessed himself a Christian. Subjected to cruel tortures because of this, Saint Theophilos accepted a martyr’s death through beheading by the sword.
The relics of Saint Dorothea are located at Rome in a church in her name, and her head likewise is at Rome, in a church of the Mother of God at Trastevero.
The Holy Martyr Julian was a native of the Phoenician city of Emesa, and he suffered in the year 312 under the emperor Maximian. He was a skilled physician, and healed illnesses not only of body but also of soul, and he converted many people to faith in Christ the Saviour.
When they led away the holy Martyrs Bishop Sylvanus, Deacon Luke and the Reader Mokios (Comm. 29 February) – to be devoured by wild beasts, Julian encouraged them and urged them not to fear death for the Lord. For this he was also arrested and locked up in a narrow cranny where they killed him, having pierced him in the head, hands and feet with long nails.
The Holy Virgin Martyress Fausta and with her, Euvilasias and Maximus, suffered during the time of the persecution against Christians by the emperor Diocletian in the city of Kyzika (Mezium), between the years 305-311.
Saint Fausta was raised by Christian parents and, early having been orphaned, she led a strict and virtuous life. The report about her as a Christian reached the governor, and the saint was sent to the 80 year old pagan-priest Euvilasias, to induce her into a renunciation from Christ. The saint bravely confessed her faith and was subjected to many cruel tortures, but strengthened by the Lord, she did not sense the pain. They locked her up in a wooden trunk, but the torturers got tired of trying to saw it and burn it in the fire: not only the holy martyress herself, but the truck also remained unharmed, guarded by Divine power. The pagan-priest Euvilasias was shaken by the evident and manifest power of God, he believed in the Saviour and confessed himself a Christian.
The eparch Maximus was sent to make inquiry into the matter for the emperor, and he began to torture the old man who had come to believe in Christ. Euvilasias turned to Saint Fausta and asked her to pray for him, after which he bravely endured the tortures. They gave Saint Fausta over for devouring by vultures, but the creatures would not touch her. Then they pierced her with nails in the head and other parts of her body and finally, they threw her into a boiling cauldron together with Saint Euvilasias. During this time the martyrs prayed for their torturers.
Having seen the faith and endurance of the saints and vouchsafed the heavenly vision, the eparch Maximus likewise was converted to Christ, and he prayed to God for the forgiveness of his sins, and having been thrown into the cauldron, in which Saints Fausta and Euvilasias suffered, he merited with them a martyr’s end.
The Holy Virgin Martyresses Martha and Mary were sisters by birth, they lived in Asia Minor and were ardent in the desire to suffer for the Lord Jesus Christ. Once a pagan military commander marched past their house. The sisters went out to him and loudly declared that they were Christians. At first the commander paid no attention to them, but they persistently shouted after him, repeating their confession. Then they were both arrested together with their brother – the lad Likarion. All three were put on crosses, and during the execution their mother came to them, encouraging them in their sufferings for Christ. The sisters were pierced with spears, and the lad Likarion was beheaded by the sword.
Sainted Photios, Patriarch of Constantinople, lived during the IX Century, and came from a family of zealous Christians. His father had died a martyr’s death in defence of holy icons. Saint Photios received an excellent education and, having family relations with the imperial house, he occupied the position of first state secretary in the Senate. His contemporaries said of him: “He so distinguished himself with knowledge in almost all the secular sciences, that it rightfully might be possible to take into account the glory of his age and compare it with the ancients”. The young successor to the throne, Michael, and the future Enlightener of the Slavs, the Equal-to the-Apostles Cyril, were taught the sciences by him. Deep Christian piety protected Saint Photios from being seduced with the charms of court life – with all his soul he yearned towards monasticism.
In 857 the co-ruler with emperor Michael, Bardas, expelled Patriarch Ignatios from the Constantinople cathedra-see. The bishops, knowing the piety and extensive knowledge of Photios, informed the emperor about him as a man worthy to occupy the arch-pastoral throne. Saint Photios with humility accepted the proposal. Over the course of 6 days he was led through the hierarchical positions, and on the day of the Nativity of Christ he was ordained bishop with elevation to the patriarchal throne. Soon however there began discord within the Church, stirred up by the expulsion of Patriarch Ignatios from the cathedra. In the year 861 there was convened a Council for ending of the unrest, and at which was affirmed the deposition of Ignatios and the affirming of Photios as patriarch. Pope Nicholas I, the envoys of whom were present at this Council, hoped by affirming Photios as patriarch therein to subordinate him to his power, but not having received what he expected, he betrayed Photios with an anathema at a Roman Council. From that moment there began for Saint Photios, and lasting to the very end of his life, his opposition to the papal bullying and enroachment upon the Orthodox Church of the East. In 864 the Bulgarian land voluntarily converted to Christianity. The Bulgarian prince Boris was baptised as they proposed, by Patriarch Photios himself, after which Saint Photios dispatched an archbishop and priests for the Baptism of the Bulgarian people, and in the year 865 – Saints Cyril and Methodios were dispatched for the preaching of Christ in the Slavonic language. But the partisans of the pope incited the distrust of the Bulgarians towards the preachers of the Eastern Church. The calamitous situation in Bulgaria because of an invasion by the Germans forced them to seek help in the West, and the Bulgarian prince turned to the pope with a request to send his bishops. Having arrived in Bulgaria, the papal legates began actively to affirm there Latin teachings and useages in place of the Orthodox. Saint Photios, being a firm defender of truth and denouncer of untruth, informed the Eastern Church by means of a circular letter about the deeds of the pope, indicating that the falling away of the Roman Church from its ancient Orthodoxy was not only in rituals, but also in confession of faith. A Council was convened, censuring the arrogance of the West.
In 867 Basil the Macedonian seized the imperial throne, having murdered the emperor Michael. Saint Photios denounced the murderer and did not permit him to partake of the Holy Mysteries of Christ. For this he was removed from the patriarchal throne and locked up in a monastery under guard. In his place was again put Patriarch Ignatios. A Council was convened for an investigation into the conduct of Saint Photios: this Council was made with the participation of papal legates, who demanded of the Council the signing of a document about the unconditional subordination of all the Church to the judgement of the pope. The Eastern bishops, not in agreement with this, entered into an argument with the legates. Summoned to the Council, Saint Photios answered all the accusations of the legates with silence, and only to the question of the judges as to whether he wished to repent, did he reply: “Wherefore do ye consider yourselves judges?” The opponents of Photios after long disputes gained the victory, and their judgement being baseless, they pronounced an anathema upon Patriarch Photios and the bishops defending him. The saint was sent to prison for 7 years, and by his own testimony, “he thanked the Lord, for patiently enduring His judges…”.
During this period of time the Latin clergy were expelled from Bulgaria because of the arrogance of the pope, and Patriarch Ignatios sent there his bishops. In 679, after the death of Patriarch Ignatios, there was convened a Council (many fathers of the Church call it the Eighth OEcumenical), and again Saint Photios was acknowledged as the lawful pastor of the Church. Pope John, knowing Photios personally, through his envoys declared at the Council the annulling of all the former papal decisions about Photios. The Council acknowledged the inalterable invariability of the Nicean-Constantinople Creed, rejecting the Latin distortion (“filioque”), and it acknowledged the independence and equality of both thrones and both Churches (Western and Eastern). The Council decided to abolish in Bulgaria church useages and rituals introduced by the Latins, which ended their governance there.
Under emperor Basil’s successor, Leo, Saint Photios again suffered through false denunciations, being accused of speaking against the emperor. Again deposed from his cathedra-see in the year 886, the saint finished his days at the Armoneia monastery in 891.
The Orthodox Church venerates Saint Photios as a zealous defender of the Orthodox East from domination by the pope, and as a theologian, leaving behind him various works, exposing the errors of the Latins, refuting various heresies, explicating Holy Scripture, and exploring various topics of the faith.
The Monk Arsenios of Ikaltoi was descended from the Gruzian/Georgian princely line of the Vachnadze. He was born in Kakhetia (Eastern Gruzia), – according to certain sources, in the village of Ikaltoi. Raised by pious parents, the Monk Arsenios distinguished himself from childhood by his love for church services and prayer. He received religious education at the Constantinople academy, where he studied not only the theological, but also the natural sciences.
At the completion of academy he accepted monasticism and bore obedience in one of the Gruzian monasteries of the Black Hill (near Antioch) under the guidance of Saint Ephrem Mtsira (+ 1101, Comm. 18 January). Here the Monk Arsenios zealously occupied himself with theological and translating activity, investigating in particular the causes of the breaking away of the non-Chalcedonian Churches from Orthodoxy.
To Saint Arsenios belongs the translation into the Gruzinian language of the “Great Nomocanon” of Saint Photios, Patriarch of Constantinople (857-867, 887-886), the “Golden Nectar” of Saint John Damascene, and also the compiled collection of translated works in the “Dogmatikon” with commentaries, directed against various heretical teachings. After the death of his teacher, the Monk Arsenios returned to Constantinople and continued his teaching activities.
Defending the purity of Orthodoxy, the Monk Arsenios while still during his lifetime gained fame for his instructive encyclopedia (theology, philosophy, philology, logic, physics, anatomy, poetics). Upon the invitation of the Gruzian emperor David III the Restorer (1089-1125), he returned to Gruzia in the year 1114 and for a certain while taught at the Gerat academy (Western Gruzia). Then the Monk Arsenios headed the founding, under his active participation, of the Ikaltoi academy (where he was born in Kakhetia, in the village of Ikaltoi, at the monastery of the Saviour Image-not-Wrought-by-Hand, during the years 1114-1120). At this academy, by tradition, he taught the great Gruzian poet Shota Rustaveli.
The Monk Arsenios was one of the initiators and an active participant of a Church Council in the Armenian city of Ano; under his influence part of the Armenian Monophysite bishops inclined towards an acceptance of Orthodoxy. Over the course of many years the Monk Arsenios was priest for the holy emperor David III the Restorer and by his good counsels contributed immensely to the enlightenment of the Gruzian Church. His astute intelligence and spiritual wisdom, the purity and righteousness of his life, are esteemed holy by the Gruzian Orthodox Church. The memory of the Monk Arsenios of Ikaltoi is celebrated on 6 February, the day of his blessed death.
© 1999 by translator Fr. S. Janos