July 25 2020 - July 12 2020
Martyrs – Proklos and Ilarion (II); Golinducha, in Holy Baptism Mary (+ 591); Andrew Stratelates, Herakles, Faustus, Minos and their companions. Monks – Michael Maleinos (+ 962); John (+ 998), Euphymios (+ 1028) and Gabriel Svyatogorets (X) (Athos) (Gruzinian).
Martyrs Theodore (Feodor) the Varangian and his son John, at Kiev (+ 983).
Monks Arsenii of Novgorod (+ 1570); Simon of Volomsk (+ 1641).
Righteous Veronica (I).
Icon of the Mother of God, named “Three-Handed” (“Troeruchitsa”).
The Holy Martyrs Proklos and Ilarion were natives of the village of Kalipta, near Ancyra, and they suffered during the time of a persecution under the emperor Trajan (98-117). Saint Proklos was put under arrest first. Brought before the governor Maximus, he fearlessly confessed his faith in Christ. The governor decided to compel the saint by force to submit himself to the emperor to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. During the time of tortures, the martyr predicted to Maximus, that soon he himself would be compelled to confess Christ as the True God. They forced the martyr to run after the chariot of the governor, heading towards the village Kalipta. Exhausted along the way, Saint Proklos prayed, that the Lord would halt the chariot. By the power of God the chariot halted, and no sort of force could move it from the spot. The dignitary sitting in it was as it were petrified and remained unmoving until such time, at the demand of the martyr, that he would sign a statement with a confession of Christ; only after this was the chariot with the governor able to continue on its way.
The humiliated pagan took fierce revenge on Saint Proklos: after many tortures he commanded that he be led out beyond the city, tied to a pillar and executed with arrows. The soldiers, leading saint Proklos to execution, told him to give in and save his life, but the saint said that they should do what they had been ordered.
Along the way to the place of killing, there met them the nephew of Saint Proklos, Ilarion, who with tears hugged his martyr-uncle and also confessed himself a Christian. The soldiers seized him, and he was thrown into prison. The holy Martyr Proklos beneathe the hail of arrows prayed for his tormentors and with prayer gave up his soul to God.
Saint Ilarion, having been brought to trial, with the same fearlessness as Saint Proklos confessed himself a Christian, and after tortures he was sentenced to death. They tied the martyr’s hands and dragged him by his feet through the city, wounded and bloody, and then they beheaded him 3 days after the death of his uncle, the holy Martyr Proklos. Christians buried them together in a single grave.
The Monk Michael Maleinos was born about the year 894 in the Charsian region (Cappadocia) and at Baptism he received the name Manuel. He was of the same lineage with the Byzantine emperor Leo VI the Wise (886-911). At age 18 Manuel went off to Bithynia, to the Kimineia monastery under the guidance of the elder, John Heladites, who vowed him into monasticism with the name Michael. Fulfilling a very difficult obedience in spite of his illustrious lineage, he demonstrated an example of great humility.
After the passage of a certain while he was vouchsafed the grace of the priesthood. Constantly studying the Holy Scripture, the Monk Michael showed how the priesthood ought to be properly conjoined with monasticism, – he attained to an high degree of dispassion and acquired the gift of perspicacity. He was very compassionate and kindly towards people, he could not let remain without help and consolation those who were in need and in sorrow, and by his ardent prayer he accomplished many miracles.
After much monastic effort under the guidance of the elder John, the Monk Michael besought of him blessing for a solitary life in a cave, Five days of the week he spent at prayerful concentration and only on Saturday and Sunday did he come to the monastery for participation in Divine-services and communion of the Holy Mysteries.
By his example of sublime spiritual life the holy hermit attracted many seeking after salvation. In a desolate place called Dry Lake, the Monk Michael founded a monastery for the brethren gathering to him, and gave it a strict ustav (monastic-rule). When the monastery was secure, the Monk Michael went to a still more remote place and built there a new monastery. By the efforts of the holy abba, all the Kumineia mountain was covered over by monastic communities, where constantly prayers were raised up for all the world to the Throne of the Most-High.
About the year 953 amongst the brethren entered the youth Abraham, flourishing under the guidance of Saint Michael, who gave him the name Athanasias. Later on the Monk Athanasias (Comm. 5 July) himself founded the reknown Athos Laura, the first life-in-common monastery on the Holy Mountain. In the building of the Laura great help was rendered to the Monk Athanasias by the nephew of the Monk Michael – the later Byzantine emperor Nicephoros Phokas (963-969), who in visiting his uncle met also Athanasias. After fifty years of incessant monastic effort the monk Michael Maleinos peacefully expired to the Lord in the year 962.
The Holy Martyrs Theodore (Feodor) the Varangian and his son John lived at Kiev in the X Century, when the Varangians, ancestors of the present-day Swedes and Norwegians accepted a particularly active role in the governance and military life of Rus'. Merchants and soldiers, they opened up new trade routes to Byzantium and to the East, they took part in campaigns against Tsar’grad (i.e. Constantinople), and they constituted a significant part of the populace of ancient Kiev and the princely mercenary retinues. The chief trade route of Rus' – from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea – was then called “the Way from the Varangians to the Greeks”.
The chieftains and organisers of the early Russian realm relied upon their Varangian retinues in their undertakings. Just like the Slavs, among whom they lived, many of the sea-faring newcomers under the influence of the Byzantine Church accepted holy Baptism. Kievan Rus' occupied a middle place between the pagan Scandinavians and the Orthodox Byzantines, whereby there prevailed in the spiritual life at Kiev alternately in turn the vivifying influence of the Christian faith (under Blessed Askol’d in the years 860‑882, under Igor and Saint Ol’ga in the years 940-950), and then in alternation the destructive whirlwind of paganism, blowing down from the North from the Varangian Sea (under the reign of Oleg, killing Askol’d in 882; under the revolt of the Drevliani murdering Igor in 945; under prince Svyatoslav, refusing to accept Baptism despite the insistence of his mother, Equal-to-the-Apostles Ol’ga).
When in 972 (other sources give 970) Svyatoslav was killed by the Pechenegs, the great-princedom of Kiev became the undertaking of his eldest son, Yaropolk. Oleg the middle son held the Drevlianian land, while Vladimir the youngest son held Novgorod. The reign of Yaropolk (970-978), just like that of his grandmother Ol’ga, again became a time of predominating Christian influence in the spiritual life of Rus'. Yaropolk himself, in the opinion of historians, confessed Christianity, although possibly of the Latin rite, and this did not at all correspond to the interests of the Scandinavian mercenary retinue – pagans, who were accustomed to consider Kiev a bulwark of their own influence in the Slavic lands. Their leaders strove to create discord between the brothers themselves, they incited a fratricidal war of Yaropolk with Oleg, and after this when Oleg was killed, they supported Vladimir in a struggle against Yaropolk.
The future Baptiser of Rus' started on his way as a convinced pagan and he relied upon the Varangians, especially those having come to him from over the sea, as his military force. His campaign against Kiev in 978, crowned with complete success, pursued not only military-political aims: it was also a religious campaign of Russo-Varangian paganism against the outgrowth of Kievan Christianity. On 11 June 978 Vladimir “sat on the throne of his father at Kiev”, and the hapless Yaropolk, invited by his brother for negotiations, upon his arrival in the entrance hall was treacherously murdered by two Varangians stabbing him with swords. For the intimidation of the Kievans, among whom were already many Christians both Russian and Varangian, to renew and strengthen with new idols, in the pagan sanctuary human sacrifices were made – til then a practise unknown to the Dniepr' Slavs. In the chronicles it says about the setting up of idols by Vladimir: “And they brought to them sacrifices, acclaiming them gods, and they brought to them their own sons and daughters, and these sacrifices went to the devils… both the Russian land and this hill were defiled with blood”.
Apparently, to this first period of the triumph of paganism at Kiev with the coming to rule of Vladimir, there may have followed the destruction of the holy Martyrs Theodore (Feodor) and his son John, – which possibly in this case would set the date as 12 July 978. But it is probable otherwise, that the exploit of the holy Kievan Varangian-martyrs took place in the year 983, when the wave of pagan reaction rolled not only through Rus', but throughout all the Slavic-Germanic world. Against Christ and the Church almost simultaneously there rose up pagans in Denmark, Germany, the Baltic Slavic principalities, and everywhere the unrest was accompanied by the destruction of churches, and by the killing of clergy and Christian confessors. This was the year Vladimir went on campaign against the Lithuanian tribe of the Yatvyagi, and gained victory over them. In recognition of this victory the Kievan pagan-priests also decided again to make a bloody sacrificial offering.
…There lived among the Kievans, – reports the Monk Nestor the Chronicler, – a Varangian by the name of Feodor, for a long time before this in military service at Byzantium and there having accepted holy Baptism. His pagan name, preserved in the term “Turov pagan-temple”, was Tur (Scandinavian Thor) or Utor (Scandinavian Ottar), and in the old manuscripts is met with also this other signature. Feodor had a son John, a pious and handsome youth, confessing Christianity like his father.
“And said the elders and boyars: let us cast lots upon the lads and maidens, upon whom it fall, that one we shall slaughter in sacrifice to the gods”. Evidently not unintentionally the lots, thrown by the pagan priests, fell upon the Christian John.
When the messengers told Feodor, that his son “the gods themselves had chosen, that we may offer him to them in sacrifice”, the old warrior decisively answered: “This is not a god, but wood. Today it is, and tomorrow it rots. They do not eat, nor drink nor speak, but are crafted by human hands from wood. God however is One, He it is the Greeks do serve and worship. He created heaven and earth, the stars and the moon, the sun and man, and foreordained him to live upon the earth. But these gods what have they created? They themselves are made. I shalt not give my son over to devils”.
This was a direct challenge by the Christian to the customs and beliefs of the pagans. An enraged crowd of pagans rushed at Feodor, smashed up his courtyard, and surrounded the house. Feodor, in the words of the chronicler, “stood at the entrance-way with his son”, and bravely with weapon in hand he met the enemy. (The entrance-way in old Russian houses as mentioned was set up on posts of a roofed gallery of the second storey, to which a ladder led up). He calmly gazed upon the devil-driven pagans and said: “If they be gods, let them dispatch one of the gods to take my son”. Seeing, that in a fair fight with them there would be no overcoming Feodor and John – brave and seasoned warriors, the besiegers knocked down the gallery posts, and when they were broken, the crowd rushed upon the confessors and murdered them…
Already during the era of the Monk Nestor, less than an hundred years after the confessor’s deed of the Varangians, the Russian Orthodox Church venerated them within the assembly of the saints. Feodor and John became the first martyrs for the holy Orthodox faith in the Russian land. They were called the first “Russian citizens of the heavenly city” by the transcriber of the Kievo-Pechersk Paterikon, Sainted-Bishop Simon of Suzdal' (+ 1226, Comm. 10 May). The last of the bloody pagan sacrifices at Kiev became the first holy Christian sacrifice – with a co-suffering for Christ. The pathway “from the Varangians to the Greeks” became for Rus' the pathway from paganism to Orthodoxy, from darkness to light.
On the place of the martyrdom of the Varangians, holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Vladimir later on erected the Desyatin Church of the Uspenie (Dormition, Repose) of the MostHoly Mother of God, consecrated on 12 May 996 (celebrated 12 May). The relics of the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Ol’ga were transferred into it in the year 1007. Eight years later it was destined to become the final resting place of Saint Vladimir himself, – the Baptiser of the Russian land, and in 1044 his son, Yaroslav the Wise, transferred into the church the remains of his uncles, Yaropolk and Oleg, previously “having baptised the bones”. Evidently, this final matter was called for by the requirement of a church rule about repeating a baptism of a Christian in the absence of reliable witnessing of a first baptism. But on the other hand, in old Kiev they ascribed great significance to ancient-Christian sayings about the possibility through an especial mercy of God of an after-death making of the sacrament of Baptism over people, having died outside the community of the Church. Such an account is read, for example, in the reknown artifact of old-Russian instructive literature – “the Izbornik [article-collection] of 1076”, belonging to the son of Yaroslav the Wise, noble prince Svyatoslav (+ 1076).
…Wondrous is God in His saints. Time does not spare stones and bronze, but the lower framework of the wooden house of the holy Varangrian martyrs, burned a thousand years previous, have been preserved to our day: it was discovered in the year 1908, during the time of excavation at Kiev at the altar of the Desyatin church.
The MonkMartyr Simon of Volomsk, in the world Simeon, son of the peasant Mikhail from the vicinity of Volokolamsk, was born in the year 1586. At 24 years of age, after long pilgrimage through Orthodox monasteries, he took monastic vows at the Pinegsk Makar’ev monastery, and in the year 1613 he settled 80 versts to the southwest of Ustiug at the River Kichmenga, in the Volomsk forest. Here he spent five years alone, remote from people; he nourished himself with vegetables which he himself cultivated, and sometimes indeed asked for bread in some settlement. When lovers of the quiet life began to gather to him, the Monk Simon, through a grant of tsar Mikhail Feodorovich and with the blessing of the Rostov metropolitan Varlaam, erected a temple in honour of the Cross of the Lord, and in 1620 was made head of the monastery founded by him. A strict ascetic, serving as an example to all in virtue, love of toil, fasting and prayer, he was wickedly murdered in his own monastery on 12 July 1641. The body of the Monk Simon with reverence was buried on the left side of the church built by him.
Veneration of the monk began in 1646 after gracious manifestations witnessed to of his relics. His life was compiled in the XVII Century.
The Holy Martyress Golinducha, in Baptism Mary, lived in Persia during the reign of Chosroes I the Elder. She was the wife of the chief magician of the Persian empire. Endowed with a lucid mind, Golinducha perceived the falseness of the pagan wisdom, and she pondered much about what the true faith might be. Having learned about the existence of Christianity, she very much wanted to learn what it taught. Soon through the providence of God, her wish was fulfilled. In sleep an Angel showed Golinducha the place of torment of sinners and the paradise, in which dwell the believers in Christ, the True God. After this dream she began fervently to pray to the True God, so that He might help her become a Christian. The Angel of God directed Golinducha to a Christian priest, from whom she received holy Baptism with the name Mary.
After Baptism she left her magician-husband, and he made complaint to the emperor Chosroes. The emperor himself, and dignitaries sent by him, and illustrious women all urged Golinducha to return to her husband. For her decisive refusal the emperor sentenced her to be locked up in life imprisonment. In prison Saint Mary-Golinducha spent 18 years.
During the reign of the successor of the emperor Chosroes, his son Ormisdas, in Persia there had arrived an ambassador of the Byzantine emperor Mauricius, – Aristoboulos. Having learned, that for many years already Mary the Christian was languishing in prison, Aristoboulos with the permission of the emperor repeatedly visited her in prison and taught her to sing the Psalms of David. After the departure of Aristoboulos, Ormisdas gave orders to present Saint Mary-Golinducha before him and for a long time he tortured her, subjecting her to all sorts of beatings and torments. But in all the torments through the intercession of God the saint was preserved unharmed. When they gave her over for defilement, the Lord made her invisible to the impious and preserved her purity. Finally the emperor gave orders to cut off the head of the martyress, but the Lord sheltered her from the hand of the executioner and brought her to Christians living in concealment.
When the persecution against Christians in Persia ceased during the reign of Chosroes II, – who occupied the throne with the help of the Byzantine emperor Mauricius, Saint Mary-Golinducha began openly to preach the Christian faith.
At the end of her life Saint Mary made pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where she prayed at the tomb of the Lord and other holy places. On the return journey she died (+ 591) in the church of the holy Martyr Sergios at Niziba.
Righteous Veronica was, according to tradition, that woman with the issue of blood, who received healing by a touch to the hem of the robe of Christ (Mt. 9: 20-22). She gave the Lord a veil, with which the Lord wiped His face, when He went to crucifixion. On the veil was imaged the Face of the Lord.
The Icon of the Mother of God, named “Three-Handed”: The wonderworking image, before which the Monk John Damascene (Comm. 4 December) received healing of a cut-off hand, was given over by him to the Laura of the Monk Sava the Sanctified. In the XIII Century the icon was situated in Serbia, and afterwards it was miraculously transported to Athos to the Khilendaria monastery. A more detailed account about the icon is located under 28 June.
© 1999 by translator Fr. S. Janos