July 30 2020 - July 17 2020

Commemoration of the Holy Fathers of the First Six OEcumenical Councils.*

Monks: Irinarkh of Solovetsk (+ 1628); Leonid of Ust’nedumsk (+ 1654).

Monk Lazaros of Galiseia (Transfer of Relics).

Svyatogorsk Icon of the Mother of God (1569).

(* Celebrated on the Sunday before or after 16 July).

The Commemoration of the Holy Fathers of the First Six OEcumenical Councils: In the Ninth Section of the Nicea-Constantinople Symbol-Creed of Faith – worked out by the holy fathers of the First and Second OEcumenical Councils, we confess our faith in “One, Holy, Catholico-Conciliar (“Sobornyi”) and Apostolic Church”. By virtue of the Catholico-Conciliar (“Sobornyi”) nature of the Church, the All-Churchly or OEcumenical Council is the Church’s supreme facility, and possessing the plenitude, to resolve the major questions of religious life. An OEcumenical Council is comprised of archpastors and pastors of the Church, and representatives of all the Local Churches, from every land of the “oikumene” (i.e. from all the whole inhabited world, the oecumenical/ecumenical basis of the “Universality” (“Vselennost'") of the Church is implied in the Greek word “kath’olon”, from whence the word “catholic”, which encompasses the evangelisation of the whole world).

[Trans. note: The Church Slavonic word “Sobornyi” – in English usually translated merely as “Catholic”, has actually a deeper and more profound meaning than commonly understood in the West, and it reflects linguistically the Greek word “katholikos” as interpreted by Holy Tradition for Saints Cyril and Methodios. The adjective form “Sobornyi” has its word-root in “Sobor” – meaning an “assembly” or “council”. The erudite might also recognise similarity with the word “Sobornost'” – a term emphasised in ecclesiology by the Russian religious-philosopher A. S. Khomyakov in the 1800’s. “Sobornost'” is translated sometimes as “Catholico-Conciliarity”, but often also as “Communality”. This latter nuance signifies the “Catholicity” of the Church, not as a formal external quality regarding the Church as worldly institution and outward authority, but rather existing as a spiritually inward and dynamic quality within each believer. It is the Gospel that defines the locus of the Church saying: “The Kingdom of God is within you”. This however does not mean the fragmenting individualism of belief often seen in Protestantism. The Church as “ekklesia” (assembly of believers) is “One” in Christ in the Apostolicity and Holiness of its faith in Christ – our own oneness is with the one authentic faith of the Holy Apostles in the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, preserved as Holy Tradition throughout all the generations of believers. The “Communality” or “Communion in Christ Jesus” is not merely with our fellow believers in the Church in the present time, but with all the generations of the “faithful” that have gone before us. All the Four Marks of the Church – One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic – are inter-connected. The Catholicity of the Church extends universally not merely through spatiality, but also back through time – it is the “Church Triumphant” as well as the “Church Militant”.]

The Orthodox Church acknowledges Seven Holy OEcumenical Councils: The First OEcumenical Council (Nicea I) (Comm. 29 May, and also movably, on 7th Sunday after Pascha) was convened in the year 325 against the heresy of Arius, in the city of Nicea in Bithynia under the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine the Great.

The Second OEcumenical Council (Constantinople I) (Comm. 22 May) was convened in the year 381 against the heresy of Macedonias, by the emperor Theodosius the Great.

The Third OEcumenical Council (Ephesus) (Comm. 9 September) – was convened in the year 431 against the heresy of Nestorius, in the city of Ephesus by the emperor Theodosius the Younger.

The Fourth OEcumenical Council (Chalcedon) (Comm. 16 July) – was convened in the year 451, against the Monophysite heresy, in the city of Chalcedon under the emperor Marcian.

The Fifth OEcumenical Council (Constnatinople II) (Comm. 25 July) – “Concerning the Three Chapters”, was convened in the year 553, under the emperor Justinian the Great.

The Sixth OEcumenical Council (Constantinople III) (Comm. 23 January) – during the years 680-681, was against the Monothelite heresy, under the emperor Constantine Pogonatos.

The Seventh OEcumenical Council (Nicea II) (Comm. as moveable feastday on Sunday nearest 11 October) – was convened just like the First Council, at Nicea, but in the year 787 against the Iconoclast heresy, under the emperor Constantine and his mother Irene. (Accounts about the Councils are likewise located under the days of commemoration).

The significance of a special Church veneration of the Holy Fathers of the OEcumenical Councils consists in this, that the OEcumenical Councils, and only they, are of themselves in entirety expressive of the faith, will and mind of the OEcumenical Catholic Church – of an Orthodox Plenitude, by virtue of the immutable promises of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and by the Apostolicity inhering in the hierarchy, – they possess the wherewithal to bring forth infallible and “of benefit to all” definitions in the areas of Christian faith and Church piety.

The dogmatic conciliar definitions – “orosoi” in Greek, are employed in the Orthodox Church as having an inalienable and constant authority, and such definitions always begin with the Apostolic formula: “It hath pleased the Holy Spirit and us” (Acts 15: 28).

The OEcumenical Councils were convened in the Church each time regarding a special need, in connection with the appearance of divergent opinions and heresies, so as to seek out the Orthodox Church teaching of faith and tradition. But the Holy Spirit has thus seen fit, that the dogmas – the truths of faith, immutable in their content and scope, constantly and consequently are revealed by the conciliar mind-set of the Church, and are given precision by the holy fathers within theological concepts and terms in exactly such measure, as is needed by the Church itself for its economy of salvation. The Church, in expounding its dogmas, is dealing with the concerns of a given historical moment, “not revealing everything in haste and thoughtlessly, nor indeed, ultimately hiding something” (Saint Gregory the Theologian).

A brief summary of the dogmatic theology of the First Six OEcumenical Councils is formulated and contained in the First Canon-rule of the Council of Trullo (also known as Quinisext), held in the year 692. The 318 Holy Fathers of the First OEcumenical Council are spoken of in this Canon I of Trullo as having: “with one-mindedness of faith revealed and declared to us the oneness of essence in the three Hypstaseis-Persons of the God-original nature and, … instructing to be worshipped – with one worship – the Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit, they cast down and dispelled the false-teaching about unequal degrees of Divinity”. The 150 Holy Fathers of the Second OEcumenical Council left their mark on the theology of the Church as regards the Holy Spirit, “repudiating the teaching of Macedonias, who wanted to chop apart the Undivided Unity, such that there should not perfectly be the mystery of our hope”. The 200 God-bearing Fathers of the Third OEcumenical Council expounded the teaching about “the One Christ, the Son of God Incarnate” and they confessed that “truly the God-begetter [Theotokos, Bogoroditsa, i.e. Mother of God] without seed hath given birth to Him, whilst being the Immaculate and Ever-Virgin”. The point of faith of the 630 God-chosen Holy Fathers of the Fourth OEcumenical Council promulgated “One Christ, the Son of God… glorified in two natures”. The 165 God-bearing Holy Fathers of the Fifth OEcumenical Council “collectively gave anathema and repudiated Theodore of Mopsuetia, the teacher of Nestorius, and Origen, and Didymas, and Euagrios, renovators of the Hellenic teaching about the transmigration of souls and the transmutation of bodies and the impieties raised against the resurrection of the dead”. The faith-confession of the 170 Holy Fathers of the Sixth OEcumenical Council “explained, that we ought to confess two natural volitions, or two wills [trans. note: the one Divine, and the other human], and two natural operations (energies) in He That hath been incarnated for the sake of our salvation, our One Lord Jesus Christ, True God”.

In decisive moments of Church history, the holy OEcumenical Councils promulgated their dogmatic definitions, as trustworthy delimitations in the spiritual militancy for the purity of Orthodoxy, which will last until such time, as “all shalt come into the oneness of faith in the knowledge of the Son of God” (Eph. 4: 13). In the struggle with new heresies, the Church does not abandon its former dogmatic concepts nor replace them with some sort of new formulations. The dogmatic formulae of the Holy OEcumenical Councils need never to be superseded, they remain always contemporary to the living Tradition of the Church. Wherefore the Church proclaims:

“The faith of all in the Church of God hath been glorified by men, which were luminaries in the world, cleaving to the Word of Life, so that it be observed firmly, and that it dwell unshakably until the end of the ages, conjointly with their God-bestown writings and dogmas. We reject and we anathematise all, whom they have rejected and anathematised, as being enemies of Truth. And if anyone doth not cleave to nor admit the aforementioned pious dogmas, and doth not so think nor preach, let that one be anathema” (from Canon I of the Council of Trullo, ascribed to the Sixth OEcumenical Council).

Besides the dogmatic activity, the Holy Fathers of the OEcumenical Councils exerted great efforts towards the strengthening of churchly discipline. Local Councils promulgated their disciplinary canon-rules, as is obvious, according to the circumstances of the times and place, frequently differing among themselves in various particulars. The universal unity of the Orthodox Church required unity also in canonical practise, i.e. a conciliar deliberation and affirmation of the most important canonical norms by the fathers of the OEcumenical Councils. Thus, according to conciliar judgement, there have been accepted by the Church: 20 Canons from the First, 7 Canons from the Second, 8 Canons from the Third, and 30 Canons from the Forth, OEcumenical Councils. The Fifth and the Sixth OEcumenical Councils concerned themselves with the resolving of exclusively dogmatic questions and did not leave behind any disciplinary canon-rules. The need to establish in codified form in the Church of the customary practises over the years 451-680, and ultimately to affirm the aggregate of a canonical codex for the Orthodox Church, occasioned the convening of a special Council, the activity of which was wholly devoted to the general application of churchly rules. This was convened in the year 692. The Council “in the Imperial Palace” or “Under the Arches” (in Greek “en trullo”), came to be called the Trullo Council. They also called it the “Qunisext” [meaning the “fifth and sixth”], considering it to have completed in canonical matters the activities of the Fifth and Sixth Councils, or rather moreso – that it was simply of the Sixth Council itself, i.e. a direct continuation of the Sixth OEcumenical Council, separated by but a few years.

The Trullo Council, with its 102 Canon-rules (more than of all the OEcumenical Councils combined), had a tremendous significance in the history of the canonical theology of the Orthodox Church. It might be said, that by the fathers of this Council there was a complete compilation of the basic codex from the relevant sources for the Orthodox Church’s canons. Listing through in chronological order, and having been accepted by the Church – the Canons of the Holy Apostles, and the Canons of the Holy OEcumenical and the Local Councils and the holy fathers, the Trullo Council declared: “Let no one be permitted to alter or to annul the aforementioned canons, nor in place of these put forth, or to accept others, made of spurious inscription” (2nd Canon of Trullo Council, ascribed to the Sixth OEcumenical Council).

Church canons, sanctified by the authority of the first Six OEcumenical Councils (including the rules of the Seventh Oecumenical Council in 787, and likewise the Constantinople Councils of 861 and 879, which were added on later under holy Patriarch Photios), form the basis of the books of “The Rudder” or “Kormchaya Kniga” (a law‑canon codex known as “Syntagma” or “Nomokanon” of 14 titles). In its repository of grace is expressed a canonical norm, a connection to every time-period for guidance in churchly practise for all the Local Orthodox Churches.

New historical conditions can lead to the change of this or that particular external aspect of the life of the Church, which causes for it the necessity of creative canonical activity in the conciliar reasoning of the Church, as regards the inclusion of external norms of churchly life in conformity with historical circumstances. The details of canonical regulation are not at all once fleshed out into life for the various eras of churchly organisation. But amidst every push to either forsake the literal-letter of a canon or fulfill and develope it, the Church again and again turns for reasoning and guidance to the eternal legacy of the Holy OEcumenical Councils – to the impoverishable treasury of dogmatic and canonical truths.

The Holy GreatMartyress Marina was born in Asia Minor, in the city of Antioch, into the family of a pagan priest. In infancy she lost her mother, and her father gave her over into the care of a nursemaid, who raised Marina in the Orthodox faith. Upon learning that his daughter had become a Christian, the father angrily disowned her. During the time of the persecution against Christians under the emperor Diocletian (284-305), Saint Marina at fifteen years of age was arrested and locked up in prison. With firm trust in the will of God and His help, the young prisoner prepared for her impending fate. The governor Olymbrios, charmed with the beautiful girl, tried to persuade her to renounce the Christian faith and become his wife. But the saint, unswayed, refused his false offers. The vexed governor gave the holy martyress over to torture. Having beaten her fiercely, they fastened the saint with nails to a board and tore at her body with tridents. The governor himself, unable to bear the horror of these tortures, hid his face in his hands. But the holy martyress remained unyielding. Thrown for the night into prison, she was granted Heavenly aid and healed of her wounds. Tied to a tree, they scorched the martyress with fire. Barely alive, the martyress prayed: “Lord, Thou hast granted me to go through fire for Thine Name, grant me also to go through the water of holy Baptism”.

Hearing the word “water”, the governor gave orders to drown the saint in a large barrel. The martyress besought the Lord, that this manner of execution should become for her holy Baptism. When they plunged her into the water, there suddenly shone a light, and a snow-white dove came down from Heaven, bearing in its beak a golden crown. The fetters put upon Saint Marina of themselves came apart. The martyress stood up in the fount of Baptism glorifying the Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Saint Marina emerged from the fount completely healed, without any trace of burns. Amazed at this miracle, the people glorified the True God, and many came to believe. This brought the governor into a rage, and he gave orders to kill anyone, who might confess the Name of Christ. There then perished 15,000 Christians, and the holy Martyress Marina was beheaded. The sufferings of the GreatMartyress Marina were described by an eye-witness of the event, named Theotimos.

Up until the taking of Constantinople by Western crusaders in the year 1204, the relics of the GreatMartyress Marina were situated in the Panteponteia monastery. According to other sources, they were located in Antioch until the year 908 and from there transferred to Italy. Her venerable hand was transferred to Athos, to the Batopedeia monastery.

The Monk Irinarkh of Solovetsk accepted tonsure at the Solovetsk monastery, and in his monastic life he zealously imitated the Monks Zosima (Comm. 17 April) and Savvatii (Comm. 27 September). In 1614, after the death of the hegumen Antonii, Irinarkh became his successor. During these times the Solovetsk monastery held tremendous significance in the defense of Northern Russia from the Swedes and the Danes. The new hegumen did much to fortify the monastery. Under the Monk Irinarkh there was constructed a stone wall with turrets, deep ditches dug, and with stones spread out. Concerned about the external dangers to the monastery, the monk also devoted much attention to fortifying it inwardly and spiritually. Very humble and meek, constantly immersed in thought on God, he was zealous for supporting in the monks a true monastic spirit. Under the spiritual guidance of the Monk Irinarkh at the Solovetsk monastery there matured many a worthy ascetic. With the blessing of the hegumen and under his assist, the Monk Eleazar (Comm. 13 January), a friend and co-ascetic of the Monk Irinarkh, founded a skete monastery on Anzersk Island.

In an imperial grammota-document to the Solovetsk monastery in the year 1621, the monks were bidden “to live according to the rules of the holy fathers… and in full obedience to their hegumen (Irinarkh) and the elders”.

The last two years of the life of the monk were spent in the exploit of silent prayer.

The saint died on 17 July 1628.

The Monk Leonid of Ust’nedumsk lived in the Poshekhonsk district of the Vologda outskirts, and he was a farmer by occupation. At age fifty, he saw in a dream the Mother of God, Who directed him to go to the River Dvina to the Morzhevsk Nikolaev wilderness-monastery, to take there the Hodegetria Icon of the Mother of God, and at the River Luza and Mount Turin build a church. The Monk Leonid decided not to follow the advice of this vision, thinking it but simply a dream. He went off to the Kozheezersk monastery, accepting monasticism there and spending about three years at work and monastic efforts. From there the monk transferred to the Solovetsk monastery and toiled there in the bakery. The miraculous dream-vision was repeated. The Monk Leonid thereupon set off to the Morzhevsk wilderness-monastery, and after a year he told the monastery-head Kornilii (1599-1623) about the command of the Mother of God. Having received from the monastery-head both a blessing and the Hodegetria icon, the monk reached the River Luza near the Turin Mount, 80 versts from the city of Ustiug, and he built himself an hut from brushwood. But some not so good people compelled him to resettle up along the river, in a marshy wilderness spot. At 30 versts from the city of Lal’sk the elder constructed a cell and set about the building of a monastery. For drawing down the marshes, the ascetic dug out three canals, in length about 2 kilometers, – from the River Luza to Chernoe Ozero (“Black Lake”), and from Chernoe Ozero to Svyatoe Ozero (“Holy Lake”), and from there to the to the Chernaya-Black Rivulet. During this time of heavy work he was bitten by poisonous vipers. Consigning himself to the will of God, the Monk Leonid decided not to take any sort of measures of treatment nor did he think of the consequences – and he remained healthy. In gratitude to the Lord for His mercy, he called the canal the “Nedumaya Reka” (“Unplanned River”), and his monastery – the “Ust’nedumsk” (the “Nedumaya-mouth”) monastery.

With the blessing of the Rostov Metropolitan Philaret (afterwards the All-Russia Patriarch, 1619-1633), the Monk Leonid in 1608 was ordained priest-monk. In the newly-erected church in honour of the Vvedenie-Entrance into the Temple of the MostHoly Mother of God, Priest-monk Leonid installed the Hodegetria icon, as commanded him by the Mother of God. By his not so easy efforts on the frontier, called the “Luzsk Permtsa”, which means “the pocket-land of the wild Permians”, God’s saint merited rightful veneration as one of the first enlighteners of these remote lands.

The monk had many a struggle with the severe and inhospitable forces of nature. Although his canal-system had drained the marsh, in times of floodings the River Luza overflowed the wilderness-monastery. Towards the end of his life the tireless toiler undertook construction on a point of land at Chernoe-Black Lake. At the new locale was likewise erected a church, consecrated in 1652. The Monk Leonid died at age 100, on 17 July 1654. He was buried at the monastery Vvedenie-Entrance church – where for a long time they preserved his coarse and heavy hair-shirt – a reminder of the ascetic toils of the holy saint.

They have a tropar to the Monk Leonid, and his holy icons are in churches at the places of his toilings.

The Svyatogorsk Icon of the Mother of God: In the year 1563, during the times of Ivan the Terrible, in the environs of Pskov to a native of Voronicha – a fifteen year old shepherd and fool named Timothy, not far from the stream Lugovitsa, there appeared with a miraculous shining in the air an “Umilenie” (“Tenderness”) icon of the Mother of God. This icon was thereafter situated in the Voronicha parish church of Saint George. The voice from the icon announced, that after six years upon this hill would shine forth the grace of God.

In 1569 to this same youth upon the Sinicha hill, there appeared an Hodegetria icon of the Mother of God upon a pine-tree. Timothy spent forty days at this place in fasting and prayer. The miraculous voice from the icon commanded, that the clergy and the people should come to the Sinicha heights with the Umilenie-Tenderness icon on the Friday, following the Sunday of All Saints. When the church procession, made at the command of the Mother of God, reached the hill and began the molieben, at the time of the reading of the Gospel there suddenly shone a light, the air was filled with fragrance and everyone saw upon the pine-tree the Hodegetria icon. Both holy icons, the Hodegetria and the Umilenie, were put into the church of the GreatMartyr George. From them began many miraculous signs and healings, about which reports were made to tsar Ivan IV. Through his ukaz-decree, upon the Sinicha Hill – called from that time the “Svyata” (“Holy”), there was built a chapel, into which were transferred the wonderworking icons. But soon, on the feastday of the Pokrov-Protection of the MostHoly Mother of God, when a church procession with icons was made to Holy Hill, the chapel that night suddenly burned. The fire destroyed everything else inside, but the holy things remained unharmed.

On this sacred spot they erected a stone church in honour of the Uspenie-Dormition of the MostHoly Mother of God, the altar of which was situated on the place where the Hodegetria icon had appeared. Both glorified icons were placed into the lower tier of the iconostas: the Hodegetria – on the right side (a chapel in honour of which was built in 1770), and the Umilenie – on the left (a chapel was built in 1776).

In that same year of 1569 on Svyata-Holy Hill was founded the Svyatogorsk (“Holy-Hill”) Uspenie monastery.

Annually on the 1st Friday of the Peter and Paul Lent, the icons are conveyed to the Trinity cathedral of the city of Pskov, and on the following Sunday there is made a procession with them along the inner walls of the city.

The celebration in honour of the Umilenie icon is made on 19 March and on the 9th Friday after Pascha, and in honour of the Hodegetria – on 17 July and on the day of the Pokrov-Protection of the MostHoly Mother of God (i.e. 1 October).

© 1999 by translator Fr. S. Janos