July 29 2020 - July 16 2020
PriestMartyr Athenogoras and his Ten Disciples (+ c. 311). Martyr Paul and Women-Martyrs Aleutina (Valentina) and Chionea (+ 308). Martyrs: Antiochos the Physician (IV); Maiden Julia (+ c. 440 or 613); Faustus; 15,000 Pisidian Martyrs; Senatorus, Viatorus and Cassiodorus and their mother Dominata.
Memory of Holy Fathers of Fourth OEcumenical Council (451).
Chirsk (Pskovsk) Icon of the Mother of God (1420).
The PriestMartyr Athenogoras and his Ten Disciples suffered for Christ during the time of persecution against Christians in the city of Sebasteia. The governor Philomarkhos made a large festival in honour of the pagan gods and summoned the Sebasteia citizenry to offer sacrifice to the idols. But the inhabitants of Sebasteia, Christian in the majority, refused to participate in the impious celebration with its offering of sacrifice to idols. Soldiers were ordered to kill people, and many Christians then accepted a martyr’s crown.
It came to the governor’s attention, that Christianity was being widely spread about by the graced preaching of Bishop Athenogoras. Orders were issued to seek out the elder and arrest him. Saint Athenogoras and ten of his disciples lived not far from the city in a small monastery. But not finding the bishop there, the soldiers arrested his disciples. The governor gave orders to slap them into chains and throw them in prison.
Saint Athenogoras came then to Sebasteia and began reproaching the judge that those thrown into prison were guiltless. He was arrested. In prison, Saint Athenogoras encouraged his spiritual children for their impending deed. Led forth to trial, all the holy martyrs confessed themselves Christians and refused to offer sacrifice to idols. After undergoing fierce tortures, the disciples of the holy bishop were beheaded. And after the execution of the disciples, the executioners were ordered to put the elder to the test of torture. Strengthened by the Lord, Saint Athenogoras underwent the tortures with dignity. His only request was – that he be executed in the monastery.
Taken to his own monastery, the saint in prayer gave thanks to God, and he rejoiced in the sufferings that he had undergone for Him. Saint Athenogoras besought of the Lord the forgiveness of sins of all those people, who should remember both him and his disciples.
The Lord granted the saint to hear His Voice before death, announcing the promise given to the penitent thief: “Today with Me thou shalt be in paradise”. The priestmartyr himself bent his neck beneathe the sword.
The Holy Martyrs Paul, Aleutina and Chionea were from Egypt. During the time of the persecution against Christians under the emperor Maximian (305-313), they were taken to Palestine Caesarea. Without the slightest fear before the governor they confessed themselves followers of Christ. In the year 308 the sisters Aleutina and Chionea were burnt, and Paul was beheaded.
The Holy Martyr Antiochos, a native of Cappadocian Sebasteia, was the brother by birth of the holy Martyr Platon (Comm. 18 November), and he was a physician. The pagans learned that he was a Christian, and they brought him to trial and subjected him to fierce tortures. Thrown into boiling water, the saint remained unharmed, and given over for devouring by wild beasts – he did not suffer with them, for the beasts lay peacefully at his feet. Through the prayers of the martyr many miracles were worked and the idolatrous statues crumbled into dust. The pagans beheaded the Martyr Antiochos. And seeing the guiltless suffering of the saint, Kyriakos, a participant in the execution, was converted to Christ. He confessed his faith in front of everyone and likewise was beheaded (IV). They buried the Martyrs aside each other.
The Holy Martyress Julia was born in Carthagena into a Christian family. While still a maiden she fell into captivity to the Persians. They carried her off to Syria and sold her into slavery. Fulfilling the Christian commandments, Saint Julia faithfully served her master, and she preserved herself in purity, kept the fasts and prayed much to God.
No amount of urging by her pagan master could sway her to idol-worship.
On time the master set off with merchandise for Gaul and took Saint Julia with him. Along the way the ship stooped over at the island of Corsica, and the master decided to take part in a pagan festivity, but Julia remained on the ship. The Corsicans plied the merchant and his companions with wine, and when they had fallen into a drunken sleep, they took Julia from the ship. Saint Julia was not afraid to acknowledge that she was a Christian, and the savage pagans crucified her on a cross.
An Angel of the Lord reported about the death of the holy martyress to the monks of a monastery, situated on a nearby island. The monks took the body of the saint and buried it in a church in their monastery.
In about the year 763 the relics of the holy Martyress Julia were transferred to a women’s monastery in the city of Breschia (historians give conflicting years of the death of the saint: as either the V or VII Century).
The Fourth OEcumenical Council, at which 630 bishops participated, was convened in the year 451 in the city of Chalcedon under the emperor Marcian (450-457). Still back in the time of the emperor Theodosius II (408-450), the bishop of Dorileuseia Eusebios in 408 reported to a Council held at Constantinople under the holy Patriarch Flavian (Comm. 18 February), concerning a personage of one of the monasteries of the capital, the archimandrite Eutykhios, who in his undaunted zeal against the soul-destroying heresy of the Nestorius – went to the opposite extreme and began to assert, that within Jesus Christ the human nature under the hypostatic union was completely absorbed by the Divine nature, in consequence of which it lost everything characteristic of human nature, except but for the visible form; wherein, such that after the union in Jesus Christ there remained only one nature (the Divine), which in visible bodily form lived upon the earth, suffered, died, and was resurrected.
The Constantinople Council condemned this new false-teaching. But the heretic Eutykhios had patronage at court, and was in close connection with the heretic Dioskoros, the successor to Sainted Cyril (Comm. 18 January) upon the patriarchal cathedra-seat at Alexandria. Eutykhios turned to the emperor with a complaint against the injustice of the condemnation against him, and he demanded the judgement of an OEcumenical Council against his opponents, whom he accused of Nestorianism. Wanting to restore peace in the Church, Theodosius had decided to convene a Fourth OEcumenical Council in the year 449 at Ephesus. But this Council became branded in the chronicles of the Church as the “Robbers Council”. Dioskoros, appointed by the emperor to preside as president of the Council, ran it like a dictator, making use of threats and outright coercion. Eutykhios was exonerated, and Saint Flavian condemned. But in the year 450 the emperor Theodosius died. The new emperor Marcian raised up onto the throne with him the sister of Theodosius, Pulcheria.
Restoring peace to the Church was a matter of prime importance. An OEcumenical Council was convened in the year 451 at Chalcedon. The Patriarch of Constantinople, Saint Anatolios (Comm. 3 July) presided over the Council. Dioskoros at the first session was deprived of his place among those present, and at the third session he was condemned with all his partisans. The Sessions of the Council were 16 in all. The Chalcedon holy fathers pronounced anathemas against the heresy of Eutykhios. On the basis of Letters Saint Cyril of Alexandria and Pope Saint Leo the Great, the fathers of the Council resolved: “Following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach to confess as one and the same the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, perfect in Divinity and perfect in humanity, truly God, truly man, of Whom is a reasoned soul and a body, One in Essence with the Father through Divinity and that Same-One one-in-essence with us through humanity, in all things like unto us except for sin, begotten before the ages from the Father in Divinity, but in these latter days born for us and our salvation from Mary the Virgin Mother of God in humanity. This self-same Christ, Son and Lord, the Only-Begotten, is in two natures perceived without mingling, without change, without division, without separation [Greek: “asugkhutos, atreptos, adiairetos, akhoristos”; Slavic: “neslitno, neizmenno, nerazdel’no, nerazluchno”], such that by conjoining there be not infringement of the distinctions of the two natures, and by which is preserved the uniqueness of each nature conjoined in one Person and One Hypostasis, – not split nor separated into two persons, but rather the One and Self-same Son, the Only-Begotten, the Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, as in antiquity the prophets taught of Him and as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself taught us, and as the Creed-Symbol of the fathers has passed down to us”.
In the two final Sessions of the Council, 30 Canon-rules were promulgated concerning ecclesial hierarchies and disciplines. Beyond this, the Council affirmed the decrees not only of the three preceding OEcumenical Councils, but also of the Local Councils of: Ancyra, Neocaesarea, Gangra, Antioch and Laodiceia, which had occurred during the IV Century.
The Chirsk (Pskovsk) Icon of the Mother of God was initially situated in the Chirsk village church of Pskov diocese, from whence its name “Chirsk”. On 16 July 1420, during the time of Great-prince Vasilii Dimitrievich, the archbishop of Novgorod and Pskov Simeon and the Pskov prince Feodor Aleksandrovich were present in Pskov during a time of a deadly pestilence: tears trickled down from the eyes of the Chirsk Icon of the Mother of God. This was reported to authorities in the city of Pskov. Clergy-servers transported the wonderworking icon to Pskov. A church procession was made in meeting the icon. They placed the icon in the cathedral church of the Holy Trinity.
© 1999 by translator Fr. S. Janos