Orthodox River


March 12 2020 - February 28 2020

Monk Basil the Confessor (+ 750). Sainted Meletii, Archbishop of Khar’kovsk and Akhtyrsk (+ 1840). Blessed Nikolai of Pskovsk (+ 1576). PriestMartyr Proterias, Patriarch of Alexandria (+ 457). PriestMartyr Nestor, Bishop of Magiddisum (+250). Nuns Marina and Kyra (+ c. 450). Holy Disciples Nympha and Euboulos. Martyr Aurician. Martyress of Cyr – Anna (+ 1751). Saint Cyprian of Cyprus. 6 Egyptian Martyrs. Saint Evagrius. Saint Nymphontos.

The Monk Basil the Confessor was a monastic and suffered during the reign of the iconoclast emperor Leo the Isaurian (717-741). When a persecution started against those that venerated holy icons, Saint Basil together with his companion the Monk Prokopios (Comm. 27 February) was subjected to much torture and locked up in prison. here both martyrs languished for a long while, until the death of the impious emperor. When the holy Confessors Basil and Prokopios were set free together with other venerators of holy icons, they continued with their monastic efforts, instructing many in the Orthodox faith and the virtuous life. The Monk Basil died peacefully in the year 750.

Sainted Meletii, Archbishop of Khar’kov and Akhtyrsk (in the world Mikhail Ivanovich Leontovich), was born 6 November 1784 in the village of Stara Stanzhara in the Poltava district.

In 1808 Mikhail Leontovich successfully completed the Ekaterinoslav religious Seminary. As the best student, he was sent on by the Ekterinoslav archbishop Platon to Peterburg, to the Alexandro-Nevsky Spiritual Academy [in Russia, “spiritual academy” is higher level of religious training beyond “seminary”]. Finishing the spiritual academy in 1814 with the degree of “magister” [“teacher”], he was appointed adjunct-professor of Greek language.

On 11 March 1817 they appointed Mikhail Leontovich to the office of secretary of the Academy Building committee.

On 30 July 1817 they transferred him to the Kiev religious Seminary, to serve in the office of inspector, as well as professor of Church history and Greek language. When the Kiev Spiritual Academy opened on 28 September 1819, Mikhail Leontovich became its first inspector.

On 11 February 1820, on the eve of the day of memory of Sainted Meletios of Antioch, in the cathedral church of the Kievo-Bratsk monastery, he was tonsured into monasticism with the name Meletii. The tonsure was made by the Kiev metropolitan Evgenii (Bolkhovitnikov). On 22 February 1820 the Monk Meletii was ordained by metropolitan Evgenii to the dignity of deacon, and on 25 February – to priestmonk.

On 9 August 1821 Priest-monk Meletii was appointed rector of the Mogilevsk religious Seminary and head of the Kuteinsk Orshansk monastery with elevation to the dignity of archimandrite. In August 1823 they transferred him to the office of rector of the Pskov religious Seminary, and on 24 January 1824 Archimandrite Meletii was appointed rector of the Kiev Spiritual Academy.

In October 1826 the Holy Synod followed with a decision to appoint Archimandrite Meletii as bishop of Chigirinsk, a vicar of the Kiev diocese and head of the Zlatoverkh Mikhailovsk monastery. On 19 October 1826 was his appointment as bishop, and on 21 October 1826 was made the archpastoral consecration at the Kiev Sophia cathedral.

With a fatherly love the saint concerned himself about young foster-children, raising them in a spirit of devotedness to the Church of Christ. The saint had particular concern for the needy, and widows and orphans. He often visited the imprisoned and provided them the consolation of Divine-services in the prison-churches. The saint also was no little concerned about the spiritual nourishment of the brethren of the Mikhailovsk monastery. With edifying discourse and personal example he inspired in the monks of the monastery a spirit of true asceticism. Saint Meletii said: “Humility – is the guarding sword, with which to pass over earth and hades, to reach Heaven”.

In April 1828 Sainted Meletii received appointment to the Perm cathedral.

Strict towards himself, the saint was strict also towards others. To prepare chosen candidates for the accepting of the dignity, Saint Meletii himself wrote for them the so‑called “Ordinant’s Catechism”. In August 1831 Saint Meletii was transferred to the Irkutsk cathedra-seat, with elevation to the dignity of archbishop.

The saint devoted great attention to the enlightenment of the lesser nations of Russia with the light of the Gospel teaching. The saint founded churches in the north of Kamchatka, in the northeast parts of the Irkutsk diocese and along the Aldan River, on the tract from Yakutsk to Okhotsk. He often reviewed his extensive diocese, going to the shores of the Okhotsk and Arctic Seas, to the boundary lines of North America, where there then laboured the reknown Apostle of Siberia – the Priest Ioann Veniaminov, later known as the Apostle to America Sainted Innocent (Innokentii, Comm. 23 September and 31 March). Journeying through Siberia and along the shores of the Pacific Ocean, Saint Meletii frequently interacted with the native peoples who professed Lamaism. The saint with gentleness urged them to leave behind their errors and he explained the Gospel truths to these pagan peoples: the Tungus, the Buryats, the Kamchadali, and also the inhabitants of the Kurile and Aleutian Islands.

With his untiring efforts the health of the saint began to deteriorate, and they transferred him in 1835 to the Slobodsk-Ukrainsk cathedra-seat (afterwards the cathedra of Khar’kov and Akhtyrsk).

And here Sainted Meletii devoted great attention to the institutions of spiritual learning, and much concerned himself about the life and education of the clergy.

He raised questions about the restoration of those monasteries and spiritual schools, which the empress Catherine II had closed up. The saint also allotted great attention to the struggle with the schismatics.

On 2 July 1839 Saint Meletii led the solemnity in the city of Akhtyrk with the 10 year anniversary of the appearance of the wonderworking Icon of the Mother of God, named the Akhtyrsk.

The blessed end of the saint occurred on the night of 29 February 1840. After Communion, with the words “Now lettest Thou Thy Servant depart in peace”, the saint signed himself with the sign of the cross and, having turned to everyone with the words “Forgive me”, – he expired to the Lord.

On 4 March 1840 Saint Meletii was consigned to the earth by the Kursk bishop Iliodor within a burial crypt beneathe the Church of the Cross at the Pokrov monastery.

From the first days after his death believing people firmly trusted on the intercession of Saint Meletii before God, and they received the help of grace: healing in sicknesses, comfort in sorrows and deliverance from difficult circumstances. Believers in Khar’kov put especial trust in Saint Meletii during the terrible days of the “Great War for the Fatherland” (World War II). With miraculous advice the saint predicted the impending deliverance of the city from the enemy.

In 1948, with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Alexei, the coffin with the relics of Saint Meletii was transferred to the Annunciation cathedral church, where they remain to the present day, manifesting spiritual recourse and prayerful comfort for believers.

On the day of affirmation in 1977 by His Holiness Patriarch Pimen and the Holy Synod of a service with an akathist to sainted Meletii, Khar’kov believers hastened to the cathedral on a Wednesday evening, there to ask the prayerful intercession of the saint for the welfare of Holy Church, for peace and for the prosperity of their Fatherland.

Blessed Nikolai of Pskov for more than three decades assumed the exploit of holy fool. And quite a long while before death he acquired the gifts of grace of the Holy Spirit and was granted the gift of wonderworking and of prophecy. The Pskov people of his time called him Mikula (Mikola, Nikola) Sallos, which in translation from the Greek means “blessed, fool”, and even during his lifetime they revered him as a saint, even calling him Mikula the Holy.

In February the year 1570, after a devastating campaign with an army of the Oprichniki against Novgorod, tsar Ivan the Terrible moved against Pskov, suspecting treason and preparing it a like fate of Novgorod. As the Pskov chronicler relates, “the tsar was come… with great fierceness, like a roaring lion, as though to tear apart innocent people and to shed much blood”.

All the city prayed for the averting of the tsar’s wrath. Hearing the peal of the bell for matins throughout all of Pskov, the tsar was reading the inscription on the wonderworking Liubyatovsk (at Liubatov stood the tsar’s army) Umilenie-Tenderness Icon of the Mother of God (Comm. 19 March). “Be kind of heart, – said he to his soldiers, – lay down the swords upon the stones, and let the killings cease”.

All the inhabitants of Pskov came out upon the streets, and each family was on their knees at the gate of their house, bearing bread and salt for the meeting of the tsar. On one of the streets Blessed Nikolai ran out towards the tsar, astride a stick as though galloping an horse, and cried out to the tsar: “Ivanushko, Ivanushko, eat the bread-salt, and not Christian blood”.

The tsar gave orders to catch the holy fool, but he disappeared.

Having forbidden the killings, Ivan the Terrible still intended to punish the city. The tsar heard the molieben at the Trinity cathedral, he venerated the relics of holy nobleborn Prince Vsevolod-Gabriel (Comm. 11 February), and he desired to receive the blessing of Blessed Nikolai.

When the tsar arrived at the cell of the saint, that one said: “Hush, come in, (wouldst thou have nothing, traveller), to have a drink of water from us, there is no reason thou shouldst shun it”. The holy fool offered the tsar for a bite a piece of raw meat. “I be a Christian and do not eat meat during Lent”, – said Ivan to him. “Thou drinkest human blood”, – the saint answered him, instructing the tsar “by many terrible sayings”, that he should cease the killings and not plunder the holy churches of God. But Ivan did not heed him and gave orders to take the bell from the Trinity cathedral, and then, in accord with the prophecy of the saint, the finest horse of the tsar collapsed.

The prayer and the lecture of the saint awakened the conscience of the tsar. Frightened by the coming to pass of the prophecy and denounced in his wicked deeds, Ivan the Terrible ordered a stop to the plunder and fled from the city. The Oprichniki, witnessing this, wrote: “The mighty tyrant… departed beaten and shamed, driven off as though by an enemy. Thus did a worthless beggar terrify and drive off the tsar with his multitude of a thousand soldiers”.

Blessed Nikolai died on 28 February 1576 and was buried in the Trinity cathedral of the city saved by him. Such honours were granted only to the Pskov princes, and later on, archpastors.

The local veneration of the saint began all of 5 years after his death. In the year 1581, during a siege of Pskov by the soldiers of the Polish king Stefan Bathory, to the blacksmith Dorofei appeared the Mother of God together with a gathering of Pskov saints praying for the city, among whom also was Blessed Nikolai (the account about the Pskovo-Pokrovsk Icon of the Mother of God is located under 1 October).

And still now also at the Trinity cathedral do they venerate the relics of Blessed Nikolai of Pskov, who “of the flesh of folly wast, … being manifest a citizen of Mount Jerusalem, … having transformed the tsar’s might and fierce mind to mercy”.

The PriestMartyr Proterias, Patriarch of Alexandria, and those suffering with him: During the time of the patriarchal tenure of Dioskoros (444-451), who was an adherent of the Monophysite false-teaching of Eutykhios, – at Alexandria there lived the presbyter Proterias, who fearlessly denounced the heretics and confessed the Orthodox faith. In the year 451 at the Fourth OEcumenical Council at Chalcedon, the heresy of Eutykhios was condemned and the definition established, by which Christ is confessed to be Perfect God and Perfect Man, existing in these two natures “unconfusedly” and “indivisibly” [and “immutably” and “inseparably”]. The heretic Dioskoros was deposed and exiled, and upon the Alexandria patriarchal throne was elevated Proterias, distinguished for his strict and virtuous life.

However, many supporters of Dioskoros remained in Alexandria, and rebelling against the choice of Proterias, they rioted and burned the soldiers, sent out to pacify them. The pious emperor Marcian (450-457) deprived the Alexandrians of all the privileges they were accustomed to, and dispatched new and re-inforced detachments of soldiers. The inhabitants of the city then quieted down and besought Patriarch Proterias to intercede before the emperor to restore them their former privileges. The kindly saint consented and readily gained the request.

After the death of Marcian the heretics again raised their heads. Presbyter Timothy, himself striving for the patriarchal dignity, and taking advantage of the absence of the governor of the city, came forth at the head of the rioters. Saint Proterias decided to leave Alexandria, but that night he saw in a dream the holy Prophet Isaiah, who said to him: “Return to the city, and there I shalt await thee”. The saint realised that this – was a premonition about his martyr’s end. He returned to Alexandria and concealed himself in a baptistry.

The rioting heretics broke into this refuge and killed the patriarch and six men who were with him. It did not even stop them, that this occurred during the Canon of Pascha – on Holy Saturday. In their raging they went so far, that they tied a rope to the body of the murdered patriarch, and they dragged it on the street, struck at and lacerated it, and finally they burnt it, and scattered the ashes to the wind (+ 457).

The Orthodox reported about this to the holy Emperor Leo (457-474) and Saint Anatolios, Patriarch of Constantinople (449-458). An army arrived at Alexandria, the rebellion was crushed, and Timothy brought to trial and exiled.

Regarding the death of the PriestMartyr Proterias, four Thracian bishops of his time wrote: “We do consider His Holiness Proterias in the ranks and choir of the Saints, and we beseech God to be compassionate and merciful to us through his prayers”.

The PriestMartyr Nestor, Bishop of Magiddisum, during a time of persecution against Christians under the emperor Decius (249-251), was arrested in his home while at prayer. He was informed about the suffering awaiting him by a peculiar revelation – the sight of a lamb, readied for killing. The governor of the city of Magiddisum sent him for trial to Pergium. On the way there Saint Nestor was strengthened in spirit – he heard a Voice from Heaven, after which there occurred an earthquake. After cruel tortures at Pergium the priestmartyr was crucified on a cross.

The Nuns Marina and Kyra, sisters by birth, lived during the IV Century in the city of Beria (or Beroea) in Asia Minor. Their parents were illustrious and rich, but the sisters upon reaching mature age left home and departed the city. Having parcelled off a small plot of land, the holy virgins sealed up the entrance to their refuge with stones and clay, leaving merely a narrow opening, through which food was passed through to them, and they lived under the open sky. On their bodies they wore heavy iron chains and patiently they endured hunger: during the course of three years they accepted food one time in 40 days. Their former servants came to them, wanting to join their ascetic life. The saints situated them in a separate cottage hut not far from their enclosure and they guided them, exhorting them to deeds of prayer and fasting. The life of the holy ascetics Marina and Kyra was well known to Blessed Theodorit, Bishop of Cyr: he alone, out of respect for his hierarchical dignity, did the holy virgins allow into their dwelling. Blessed Theodorit conversed with them and persuaded them not to overburden themselves with the bearing of chains, which were so heavy that Kyra being weak in body was always stooped under their weight and unable to straighten up. Thus did they pursue asceticism over the course of 40 years. They disturbed their solitude only to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to pray at the Sepulchre of the Lord. During the time of travel they partook of no food until they prayed at the Holy Places, and returning back they likewise partook of nothing. Such an exploit they did yet another time, when they journeyed to the grave of the First-Martyress Equal-to-the-Apostles Thekla at Isauria. The Nuns Marina and Kyra died in about the year 450.

© 1999 by translator Fr. S. Janos