January 26 2020 - January 13 2020
Martyrs Ermil and Stratonik (+ c. 315). Monk Irinarch, Hermit of Rostov (+ 1616). Monk Eleazar of Anzersk (+ 1656). Monk James, Bishop of Niziba (+ 350). Monk Maximos Kausokalibites of Athos (+ 1354). Martyrs Athanasias, Pakhomios and Papyrinos. Monks Nicodemos and Nicephoros.
The Holy Martyrs Ermil and Stratonik, by origin Slavs, lived at the beginning of the IV Century during the time of persecution against Christians by the emperor Licinius (307-324). They were friends. Saint Ermil served as deacon in the city of Singedonum (Belgrade). Condemned by Licinius to imprisonment, he was long and cruelly tortured for the Name of Christ, but he remained unyielding. Saint Stratonik was a superintendent of the prison and a secret christian. Seeing the agonising torments of his friend, he was not able to keep from weeping, and he revealed that he was a christian. They subjected him also to torture. After the torturing, they put the martyrs into a net and threw them into the Danube/Dunai. On the third day, the bodies of the saints were discovered on the bank of the river by christians and buried near Singedonum. Their venerable heads are located in the Church of Saint Sophia, where the Russian pilgrim Antonii saw them in the year 1200.
The Monk Irinarch, Hermit of Rostov, was born into a peasant family in the village of Kondakovo in the Rostov district. In Baptism he received the name Ilia. During his 30th year of life took monastic vows at the Rostov Borisoglebsk monastery. There he began fervently to labour at monastic tasks, he attended church services, and by night he prayed and slept on the ground. Once, taking pity on a vagrant who did not have shoes, Saint Irinarch gave him his own boots and from that time he began to go barefoot through the frost. The hegumen did not fancy such an ascetic behaviour, and he began to humiliate him, compelling him to stand for an hour or nearly two on the frost opposite his cell, or to ring the bells for a long time. The saint endured everything with patience but he did not change his conduct. The hegumen continued to be hard-hearted, and the monk was obliged to transfer to the Abramiev Theophany monastery, where he was accepted into the number of the brethren and he was soon chosen as steward. The monk fulfilled his monastic obediences with zeal, but grieved that the monastic brethren and servants did not look after the property of the monastery, wasting it without measure. One time in a dream he saw the Monk Abraham of Rostov (Comm. 29 October), who comforted him and gave him blessing to distribute necessities to all without consternation. Later, during a time of the singing of the Cherubimic hymn, the monk Irinarch sobbed out loudly. To the question of the archimandrite he answered: “My mother has died!”
Leaving Abramiev monastery, the monk Irinarch transferred to the Rostov monastery of Saint Lazarus, settled into a solitary cell and dwelt in it for three years in privation and hunger. Here he was visited by Blessed John the Fool, nicknamed the Big Simpleton. The saints encouraged each other by spiritual conversation. The starets / elder, however, had a desire to return to his original monastery – the Borisogleb monastery. He was accepted back with love by the strict Varlaam and he began even more severely to practise ascetic deeds at the monastery. Having withdrawn into solitude, the monk chained himself with iron chains to a wooden chair, and he placed on himself heavy chains and crosses. For this he endured the mockery and sneers of the monastic brethren. During this time he was visited by his old friend, Blessed John the Fool, predicting the Lithuanian invasion upon Moscow. The Monk Irinarch spent 25 years shackled in chains and fetters at arduous tasks. His ascetic deeds accused those living carelessly at the monastery, and they made up lies to the hegumen, that the starets taught that they should not go to monastic work but rather pursue asceticism like him. The hegumen believed the slander and he banished the holy starets from the monastery. Humbly submitting, the Monk Irinarch again went to Rostov and dwelt in the monastery of Saint Lazarus for one year. Meanwhile the Borisoglebsk hegumen regretted his conduct and sent monks after the monk Irinarch. He returned, blaming himself, that he did not live such as the brethren who underwent righteous work, of which he was lacking. The monk continued to bear his own heavy fetters, and working, he made clothes for the needy, and he knitted hairshirts and klobuks. He slept at night for an hour or two, the remaining time he prayed and beat his body with an iron cane.
Saint Irinarch had a vision that Lithuania would invade Moscow, and that churches there would be destroyed. He began to weep bitterly about the impending disaster, and the hegumen ordered him to go to Moscow and warn tsar Vasilii Ioannovich Shuisky (1606-1610) about the terrible misfortune. The Monk Irinarch carried out the order. He refused the gifts offered him and having returned, he began to pray fervently, that the Lord would show mercy on the Russian land.
Enemies appeared against Russia, they began the conquest of the city, beat up the inhabitants, and robbed churches and monasteries. The False-Dimitrii and a second Pretender sought to conquer Russia for the Polish king. Borisogleb monastery was also overrun by the enemy, who came to the holy hermit and were amazed at the direct and bold talk of the elder, predicting catastrophe for them.
Sapega, remaining at the Borisogleb monastery, wanted to see the elder sitting in chains, and he was amazed at such an ascetic exploit. When the Polish nobles in company with Sapega told him, that the elder prayed for Shuisky, the monk boldly said: “I am born and baptised in Russia, and for the Russian tsar I pray to God”. Sapega answered: “The truth in granddad there is great – in what land one lives, that land also one serves”. After this the monk Irinarch began to urge Sapega to leave Russia, predicting death for him otherwise.
The Monk Irinarch paid attention to the course of the war and sent his blessings and a prosphora to prince Dimitrii Pozharsky. He gave an order for him to come nigh Moscow, predicting: “Ye shall see the glory of God”. To assist Pozharsky and Minin the monk handed over his cross. With the help of god the Russians vanquished the Lithuanians, prince Pozharsky took possession of the Kremlin, and in the Russian land peace gradually began to return. Starets Irinarch as before incessantly prayed God with tears for the deliverance of Rus' from enemies and, possessing the power to work miracles, he healed the sick and demoniacs.
The day of his death was revealed to him, and summoning his students Alexander and Kornilii he gave them his instructions, After taking leave from all he quietly expired to the Lord into eternal peace (+ 13 January 1616). The holy elder left behind 142 copper crosses, seven shoulder chains, chains in length 20 sazhen which he carried on his neck, iron foot shackles, eighteen hand fetters, “bonds” which he wore on his belt, by weight in poods, and iron canes by which he thrashed his body to drive away demons. In these works, as the elder called them, he spent 38 years, and having lived in the world for 30 years, he died in his 68th year from birth. After the death of the Monk Irinarch many miracles occurred at his grave, especially the healing of the sick and the demoniac by the laying upon them of the crosses and chains of the saintly ascetic.
The Monk Eleazar of Anzersk was born in the city of Kozel’sk into the merchant family Sevriukin. With the blessing of his parents he went off to the Solovetsk monastery, where he took monastic vows from the hegumen Saint Irinarch (+ 1628, Comm. 17 July). At the monastery he displayed an astonishing artistic gift: he learned carving imagery on wood and he took part of the embellishing of the Transfiguration cathedral. With the blessing of the hegumen, he went off in 1612 to the island of Anzersk, where he became an hermit and dwelt constantly in prayer and meditation on God. In order to obtain subsistence for himself on the island wilderness, the Monk Eleazar carved wooden goblets, which he left at the landing place. In the year 1616 the Monk Eleazar was elevated to schema-monk. Monastics, having gathered round the monk, organised a skete with a strict rule of monastic life along the ancient form. Monastic cells were built far away from one another. The hermits gathered together only for Saturday and Sunday Divine-services. Among the disciples of the Monk Eleazar was the priest-monk Nikita – the future Patriarch Nikon. Tsar Mikhail Feodorovich (1613-1645), learning about the ascetic life of the saint, summoned him to Moscow. The Monk Eleazar there predicted for him the birth of a son, and in return the tsar generously gave him help to build on the island a stone church in the Name of the Holy Trinity and a monastery. The Monk Eleazar was interested in the writing of books. He composed and copied out three books – “Flower-beds”, in which he relates ancient accounts. There belongs to him also a commentary on the order of the rule on monastic cell life. The Monk Eleazar died in extreme old age.
The Monk James, Bishop of Niziba, was the son of prince Gefal' (Armenia) and received a fine upbringing. From the time of his youth he loved solitude, and for a long time he lived in the mountains around about the city of Niziba (on the border of the Persian and Roman empires), where he carried out strict ascetic exploits: he lived under the open sky, fed himself with tree fruits and greens, and dressed himself in goat-skins. The monk passed all this time in prayerful conversations with God. During a persecution by the emperor Maximian (305-311) he was glorified by a courageous confession of faith. Because of his strict and pious life the inhabitants of Niziba chose him as their bishop (not later than the year 314). Saint James was glorified by his ardent zeal for the Orthodox faith, by great miracles and by the gift of perspicacity. By his prayers Niziba was saved from an invasion by Sapor, the emperor of Persia. Saint James, amongst the fathers of the I OEcumenical Council, was one of the prominent defenders of the Orthodox faith. A wise and educated pastor, he constructed at Niziba a public school, in which he himself was an instructor. He made a strong impression on the hearts of his listeners by the high morality of his life. Sainted Gregory, bishop of great Armenia, turned to him with a request to write about the faith, and the Nizibite pastor sent to him by way of reply a detailed Discourse (18 Chapters): about the faith, about love, fasting, prayer, spiritual warfare, the resurrection of the dead, the duties of pastors, about circumcision against the Jews, about the choice of foods, about Christ as the Son of God, and so on. His composition distinguishes itself by its persuasive clear exposition and warmth.
Saint James died peacefully in about the year 350.
The Monk Maximos Kausokalibites was educated at the church of the MostHoly Mother of God at Lampsakos. At seventeen years of age he left his parental home, accepted monasticism and passed his obedience under the finest spiritual instructor in Macedonia – the starets Mark. Upon the death of his instructor, the monk pursued asceticism under the guidance of several desert fathers of extremely strict life. Having arrived in Constantinople, the Monk Maximos was constantly at the Blakhernai church of the MostHoly Mother of God, as though he had taken up his abode at the entrance. In order to conceal his ascetic deeds of fasting and prayer, and to avoid celebrity, the monk conducted himself like a fool. On Athos the Monk Maximos fulfilled his obedience in the Lavra of the Monk Athanasias, and on the summit of the Holy Mountain he was deigned a vision of the Mother of God. The Monk Maximos told about his vision to a certain elder, pursuing asceticism by the church of the holy Prophet of God Elias at Carmel, who declared the monk fascinating. But this disbelief also the monk turned to good, under the appearance of vanity and pride having concealed his prodigious ascetic deeds, and privation, wandering hardship and solitude. For the greater disdain through common gossip about his being a fool, the Monk Maximos did not establish a settled abode, rather he wandered from place to place like a lunatic, having burned his hut – a grass shelter (kausokalibit' – signifies “hut-burner”). Those of the Holy Mountain, knowing about the extreme deprivations and sorrows of the Monk Maximos, for a long time regarded him with contempt, even then when the monk had attained the heights and perfections of contemplative life. When the Monk Gregory of Sinai (+ c. 1310, Comm. 8 August) arrived on Athos, having spent his life in mental prayer, he encountered the pretendingly distracted one, and striking up a conversation with him, he began to call him nothing other than an earthly angel. The Monk Gregory persuadingly besought Saint Maximos to leave off from the aspect of fool and to take up an abode in one place, so that others might learn from his spiritual experience. Heeding the words of Saint Gregory and the advice of other elders, the monk selected for himself a permanent dwelling in a cave nearby the reknown elder Isaiah. Knowing about his gift of perspicacity, the Byzantine emperors John Paleologos (1341-1376) and John Kantakeuzenos (1341-1355) visited the monk and were surprised by the fulfilling of his predictions. The hegumen of Batopedeia monastery, Theophanes, wrote about the Monk Maximos: “I invoke God in witness, that I was an eyewitness to several of his miracles: once, for instance, I saw him going through the air from one place to another; I listened, as the monk forecast a prediction concerning me, that first I would be an hegumen, and then Metropolitan of Okhrid; he even revealed to me about my sufferings for the Church”. Just only before his death did Saint Maximos abandon his solitude, and settle near the Lavra of the Monk Athanasias, where he offered up his soul to the Lord at 95 years of age (+ 1354). Just as during life, so also in death the Monk Maximos was glorified by many miracles.
© 1999 by translator Fr. S. Janos