March 07 2020 - February 23 2020
PriestMartyr Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna (+ 167).
Monk Polykarp of Bryansk (+ 1620 or 1621). Monks John, Antiochos, Antoninos, Moses, Zevinos, Polychronios, another Moses and Damian, Widerness-Dwellers of Syria (V). Monk Alexander the Monastic, Founder of the “Unceasing Vigilance” Monastery (+ c. 420). Saint Gorgonea (+ 372). Martyr Clement. Martyress Thea. Monk Damian of Esthigmena (+ 1281). Monk Moisei (Moses) of Belozersk (+ c. 1492). Saint Adelphios, Bishop. Martyr Lazarus. Monk Kosma of Zografsk (+ c. 1281). MonkMartyr Damian (+ 1568). Sokol’sk Icon of Mother of God (1772 and 1737).
Sainted Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, was born about the year 80 and lived in Asia Minor in the city of Smyrna. He was left an orphan at an early age, but through the direction of an Angel, he was raised by the pious widow Kallista. After the death of his adoptive mother, Polycarp gave away his possessions and began to lead a chaste life, caring for the sick and the infirm. He was very fond of and close to the holy bishop of Smyrna Bukolos (Comm. 6 February). He ordained Polycarp as deacon, entrusting to him to preach the Word of God in church.
At this time the holy Apostle John the Theologian was still alive. Saint Polycarp was especially close to Saint John the Theologian, whom he accompanied on his apostolic wanderings. Sainted Bukolos ordained Saint Polycarp presbyter, and shortly before his death expressed last wishes that he be made bishop upon the Smyrna cathedra. When the ordination of Saint Polycarp to bishop was accomplished, the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him. Saint Polycarp guided his flock with apostolic zeal. He was also greatly loved among the clergy. With great warmth did Saint Ignatios the God-Bearer regard him. Setting out to Rome where execution awaited him (he was torn asunder by wild beasts), he wrote to Saint Polycarp: “Just as the winds and turbulence require the rudder – for coming ashore, so likewise are the present times necessary, in order to reach God”.
The emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180) came upon the Roman throne and started up a most fierce persecution against christians. The pagans demanded that the judge seek out Saint Polycarp – “the father of all the christians” and “the seducer of all Asia”. During this while Saint Polycarp, at the persistent urging of his flock, stayed at a small village not far from Smyrna. When the soldiers came for him, he went out to them and led them in to eat, and at this time he began to pray, having prepared himself for the deed of martyrdom. His suffering and death are recorded in “An Epistle of the Christians of the Church of Smyrna to the other Churches” – one of the most ancient memorials of Christian literature. Having been brought to trial, Saint Polycarp firmly confessed his faith in Christ and was condemned to burning. The executioners wanted to tie him to a post, but he calmly told them that the bon-fire would not work, and they could merely tie him with ropes. The flames encircled the saint but did not touch him, coming all together over his head. Seeing that the fire did him no harm, the throng of pagans demanded that he be killed with a sword. When they inflicted the wound upon Saint Polycarp, there flowed from it so much blood, that it extinguished the flames. The body of the priestmartyr Polycarp was then committed to flame. The Christians of Smyrna reverently gathered up his venerable remains, honouring his memory as sacred.
A story has been preserved about Saint Polycarp by his disciple, Sainted Ireneios of Lyons, which Eusebios cites in his “Ecclesiastical History” (V, 20): “I was still very young when I saw thee in Asia Minor at Polycarp’s, – writes Saint Ireneios to his friend Florinus, – …but I would still be able to point out the place where Blessed Polycarp sat and conversed, – be able to depict his walk, his mannerisms in life, his outward appearance, his speaking to people, his companionable wandering with John, and how he himself related, together with other eye-witnesses of the Lord, – those things that he remembered from the words of others and in turn told what he heard from them about the Lord, His teachings and miracles … Through the mercy of God to me, I then already listened attentively to Polycarp and wrote down his words not on tablets, but in the depths of my heart … Wherefore, I am able to witness before God, that if this blessed and apostolic elder heard something similar to thy fallacy, he would immediately stop up his ears and express his indignation with his usual phrase: ‘Good God! That Thou hast permitted me to be alive at such a time!’ “.
During his life the sainted bishop wrote several Epistles to the flock and letters to various individuals. There has survived to the present his Epistle to the Philippians which, on the testimony of Blessed Jerome, was read in the churches of Asia Minor at Divine-services. It was written by the saint in response to the request of the Philippians to send them a letter of the PriestMartyr Ignatios, which had been preserved by Saint Polycarp.
The Monk Polykarp of Bryansk, so they conjecture, was in the world prince Peter Ivanovich Boryatinsky, a descendant of Saint Michael, Prince of Chernigov (Comm. 20 September). This supposition has been put forward because of the Boryatinsky in the destiny of the Bryansk Saviour Transfiguration (Spaso-Preobrazhensk) monastery. His life transpired during the course of the XVI Century. The name of prince Peter Boryatinsky is often encountered in documents of the XVI Century. Thus, he was among those sent off to wage war against the Swedish king at the river Sestra. In 1576 he was named voevoda at Tula. In 1580 Boryatinsky, having been appointed voevoda at Kholm, was captured by the Lithuanians under a siege headed by Panin. Upon his release from captivity under Boris Godinov, Boryatinsky returned in disgrace. In 1591 he was named voevoda at Tiumen', but after several years he left the world, settled at Bryansk and took monastic vows with the name Polykarp. From his means the monk built a monastery of the Transfiguration of the Lord and established in it strict ascetic life. Saint Polykarp was the first head of this monastery. He died and was buried there in 1620 or 1621.
The Monk John, disciple of Saint Limnios (Comm. 22 February), lived in Syria in the V Century, and chose for himself the ascetic deed of “a shelterless life”. He settled on an hill, closed off from the wind on all sides, and lived there for 25 years. He nourished himself but with bread and salt, and he exhausted his body under heavy chains. When one of the nearby ascetics planted an almond tree on the hill so that the monk might get under its shade and out of the vicious heat, the saint bid him to cut it down, so as not to give his body any respite.
The Monk Moses, copying Saint John, settled on an high mountain near the village of Rama.
The Monks Antiochos and Antoninos likewise pursued asceticism with him. Until extreme old age they continued with their ascetic deed, offering an example of spiritual strength, and having surmounted every obstacle.
The Monk Zevinos pursued ascetic life on the same mountain. He reached extreme old age, but never did he sit down during his rule of prayer, though sometimes he merely leaned on his staff. The neighbouring inhabitants venerated the monk Zevinos, and they received through his prayers great help in their sorrows and needs.
Saint Polychronios, a disciple of the monk Zevinos, copying the life of his elder spent both day and night in fasting and vigil. Chains the monk Polychronios had not, but at the time of prayer he put upon his shoulders an heavy oaken root, which he himself had extracted from the earth. By his prayer Saint Polychronios interceded with God for rain during a time of drought, and for the needy he filled up a stone vessel with oil.
With the monk Polychronios there lived his student the Monk Moses. Copying his elder in everything, Saint Moses was the very model of austere ascetic life.
Another student – the Monk Damian, withdrew to a monastery named Ieros and there pursued asceticism, having in his cell only a small box of lentils from which he ate.
All these monastic fathers died peacefully in the V Century in Syria.
The Monk Alexander, Founder of the “Unceasing Vigilance” Monastery, was born in Asia and received his education at Constantinople. He spent some time in military service but, sensing a calling to other service, he left the world and accepted monastic vows in one of the wilderness monasteries near Antioch under the guidance of hegumen Elias. Having advanced bit by bit through the degrees of monastic obedience, he received blessing from the hegumen to dwell in the wilderness. The monk pursued asceticism in the wilderness with but the Holy Gospel, which alone he took with him. Afterwards, the Lord summoned him to preach to pagans. He converted to the faith the local city-head Rabbul, who afterwards prospered in the service of the Church, being granted the dignity of bishop and for all of 30 years he occupied the bishop’s cathedra (chair) at the city of Edessa.
Finally, the monk Alexander settled not far from the Euphrates River. Monks gathered around him, attracted by the loftiness of his prayerful asceticism and spiritual experience. A monastery arose numbering 400 monks. Then the holy hegumen in his prayerful zeal decided to make at the monastery both by day and by night never-ceasing praise to the Lord. For three years the holy abba prayed, that God might reveal to him, whether it should be pleasing to Him to establish such a monastic rule. And by a Divine revelation it was brought about in the following manner: all the monks were divided by him into 24 watches of prayer. Changing shifts each hour, they sang in two choirs both day and night the holy psalms, with the exceptions when Divine-services were celebrated in church. Hence the name “Monastery of Unceasing Vigilance”, since unceasing song was offered up by the ascetics to God.
The monk Alexander guided the monastery on the Euphrates for twelve years. Thereafter, having left as its hegumen the experienced elder Trophymos, he set off with some chosen brethren through the cities bordering on Persia, to preach the Gospel and conversion to spiritual life. Having arrived at Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine empire, he also established there a monastery with his favoured ustav (rule) of “unceasing vigilance”. The monastic abba died in extreme old age after fifty years of incessant monastic striving. His death occurred in the year 430.
The commemoration of the Monk Alexander is also celebrated on 3 July.
Saint Gorgonea, Sister of Sainted Gregory the Theologian, was distinguished for her great virtue, piety, meekness, sagacity and toil. Her house was ever an haven for the poor. She died at age 39 in about the year 372 with the words of the psalm: “In peace I do both fall asleep and expire”.
The Monk Moisei (Moses) of Belozersk was an ascetic at the Troitsky / Trinity monastery at Beloozero (White Lake) at end of XV – beginning XVI Century. The Trinity Ustishekhansk in which the monk Moisei practised asceticism, was transferred by him from the mouth of the river Sheksna to the environs of Belozersk in about the year 1480. About the monk Moisei is known, that he was distinguished by the gift of perspicacity.
The Monk Damian practised silence on Athos, in the skete Esthigmena monastery, on a mountain in Samaria, and in one of the caves wherein asceticism had been pursued by the Father of Russian Monasticism – the Monk Antonii of Pechersk (Comm. 10 July). Blessed Damian enjoyed the especial friendship of Saint Kozma of Zografsk (Comm. 22 September). Having been a true obedient and having kept firmly the injunctions of the fathers, the monk was glorified upon his death by a miraculous fragrance, which issued from his grave during the course of 40 days.
© 1999 by translator Fr. S. Janos