February 22 2020 - February 09 2020

Martyr Nicephoros of Syrian Antioch (+ c. 257).

Sainted Innokentii (Innocent), Bishop of Irkutsk (Uncovering Relics, 1805).

Monk Pankratii of Pechersk, in Farther Caves (XIII). Monks Gennadii (+ c. 1516) and Nikiphor (+ 1557) of Vazheozersk. PriestMartyrs Marcellus Bishop of Sicily, Philagrios Bishop of Cyprus, and Pankratios Bishop of Tauromeneia (I). PriestMartyr Peter Damascene (+ 743).

The Holy Martyr Nicephoros lived in the city of Syrian Antioch. In this city lived also the presbyter Sapricios, with whom Nicephoros was very friendly, such that they were considered like kindred brothers. Through the onset of a disagreement they quarreled, and their former love changed into enmity and hate. After a certain while Nicephoros came to his senses, repented of his sin and more than once through mutual friends asked forgiveness of Sapricios, who did not wish to forgive him. Nicephoros then went himself to his former friend and fervently asked forgiveness, but Sapricios was adamant. At this time the emperors Valerian (253-259) and Gallius (260-268) started up persecutions against christians, and one of the first taken before the judgement court was presbyter Sapricios. He firmly confessed himself a Christian, underwent tortures for his faith and was condemned to death by beheading with a sword. When they took him to execution, Nicephoros tearfully entreated his forgiveness, calling on him as an holy martyr who would soon stand before the Lord and receive of Him a crown.

But presbyter Sapricios remained hardened of heart and even before death he refused to forgive his brother-christian. Because of this the Lord withheld His blessing from Sapricios, having formerly strengthened him during the time of enduring torture; but now, having nearly reached the blessed end of his ordeal, he suddenly became afraid of death and consented to offer sacrifice to idols. In vain did Saint Nicephoros tearfully urge on Sapricios, that he not destroy himself by apostasy, since already he was standing at the threshold of the Heavenly Kingdom. Saint Nicephoros then said to the executioner: “I am a Christian and I believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom Sapricios hath recanted. Execute me in place of Sapricios”. The executioners reported about this to the governor. He issued an edict: to free Sapricios, and in place of him to behead Nicephoros with a sword. Thus did Saint Nicephoros receive his martyr’s crown.

Sainted Innokentii, Bishop of Irkutsk. The account about him is located under 26 November.

The Monk Gennadii of Vazheozersk was the son of rich parents but, having given away everything, he became a disciple and novice under the monk Alexander of Svir' and pursued asceticism with him as an hermit at the river Svira. Afterwards, with blessing of the monk Alexander, he went to Vazheozersk, located 12 versts from the Svir' monastery. And here, having built a cell, he spent his solitary ascetic life with two of his disciples.

Before death the monk Gennadii told his disciple: “At this place shalt be a church and monastery”. The ascetic reposed on 8 January 1516.

The Monk Nikiphor of Vazheozersk came to the monk Alexander of Svir' (Comm. 17 April) in the year 1510 and was warmly received by him. In 1518 he made a visit, with the blessing of his mentor, to Kirill of Novoezersk (Comm. 4 February). When Nikiphor approached New-Lake (ie. Novo-ezero), he was fatigued by his long journey and laid down in the darkness and fell asleep. Saint Kirill through his perspicacity hastened by boat to row across the lake and awoke him. The monk Nikiphor spent eight days in spiritual conversation with the saint. Nikiphor then journeyed to Kiev to venerate the relics of the Pechersk saints.

Upon his return, and with the blessing of the monk Alexander, he settled at Vazheozersk, – there where the monk Gennadii pursued asceticism. Saint Nikiphor raised up the Church of the Transfiguration and a monastery there, in which he established community life, and pursued asceticism until his own death.

In the second half of the XIX Century in the Zadne-Nikiforovsk wilderness was built a church in the name of the monks Nikiphor and Gennadii of Vazheozersk. The relics of the saints were put to rest under a concealed place in the monastery established by them.

The PriestMartyrs Marcellus, Philagrios and Pankratios were disciples of the holy Apostle Peter and were made bishops by him: Saint Marcellus – of Sicily, Philagrios – of Cyprus, and Pankratios – of Tauromeneia. For spreading the faith of Christ amongst the pagans they received a martyr’s end.

© 1999 by translator Fr. S. Janos