Orthodox River


August 07 2020 - July 25 2020

Falling-Asleep (Dormition-Uspenie) of Righteous Anna, Mother of the MostHoly Mother of God.

Holy Women Olympiada the Deaconess (+ 409) and Eupraxia the Virgin of Tabenneia (+ 413).

Monks: Makarii of Zheltovodsk and Unzhensk (+ 1444); Christopher of Sol’vychegodsk (XVI).

Martyrs: Sactus (Sanctus), Matturus, Attalus, Blandina, Biblius (Viblius), Vittius, Epagathus, Pontinus, Alexander and others (+ 177).

Remembrance of Fifth OEcumenical Council (553).

The Falling-Asleep (Dormition-Uspenie) of Righteous Anna, Mother of the MostHoly Mother of God: The God-wise, God-blest and Blessed Anna was the daughter of the priest Nathan and his wife Mary, from the tribe of Levi by descent of Aaron. According to tradition, she died peacefully in Jerusalem at age 79, before the Annunciation of the MostHoly Virgin Mary. During the reign of the holy Saint Justinian the Emperor (527-565), a church was built in her honour at Deutera. And emperor Justinian II (685‑695; 705-711) restored her church, since Righteous Anna had appeared to his pregnant wife. And it was at this time that her body and omaphorion (veil) were transferred to Constantinople. (The account about Righteous Joakim and Anna is located under 9 September).

Saint Olympiada the Deaconess was the daughter of the senator Anicius Secundus, and by her mother she was the grand-daughter of the noted eparch Eulalios (he is mentioned in the account about the miracles of Saint Nicholas). Before her marriage to Anicius Secundus, Olympiada’s mother had been married to the Armenian emperor Arsak and became widowed. When Saint Olympiada was still very young, her parents betrothed her to a nobleborn youth. The marriage was supposed to take place when Saint Olympiada reached the age of maturity. The bridegroom soon however died, and Saint Olympiada did not wish to enter into another marriage, but instead preferred a life of virginity. After the death of her parents she became the heir to great wealth, which she began top distribute with a general hand to all the needy: the poor, the orphaned and the widowed; she likewise gave significant monies to the churches, monasteries, hospices and shelters for the downtrodden and the homeless.

Holy Patriarch Nektarios (381-397) appointed Saint Olympiada as a deaconess. The blessed saint fulfilled her service honourably and beyond reproach.

Saint Olympiada provided great assistance to hierarchs coming to Constantinople ‑- Amphylokhios, Bishop of Iconium, Onysimos of Pontum, Gregory the Theologian, Saint Basil the Great’s brother Peter of Sebasteia, Epiphanios of Cyprus – and she attended to them all with great love. Her wealth she did not regard as her own but rather God’s, and she distributed not only to good people, but also to their enemies.

Saint John Chrysostom (+ 407, Comm. 13 November) had high regard for Saint Olympiada and he bestowed her his good-will and spiritual love. And when this holy hierarch was guiltlessly and unjustly banished, Saint Olympiada together with the other deaconesses were deeply upset. Leaving the church for the last time, Saint John Chrysostom called out to Saint Olympiada and the other deaconesses Pentadia, Proklia and Salbina, and he said that the matters incited against him would come to an end, but scarcely more would they see him. He asked them not to abandon the church but instead be obedient to the bishop who would be appointed in his place, since the Church is not able to be without bishop. The holy women, shedding tears, fell down before the saint.

The Alexandria patriarch Theophilos (385-412), having repeatedly benefited formerly through the generosity of Saint Olympiada, turned against her for her devotion to Saint John Chrysostom, but also for the additional reason, that she had taken in and fed monks arriving in Constantinople, whom Patriarch Theophilos had banished from the Egyptian wilderness. He levelled unrighteous accusations against her attempted to cast doubt on her holy life.

After the banishment of Saint John Chrysostom, the cathedral church of Saint Sophia caught fire and after this a large part of the city burnt down.

All the supporters of Saint John Chrysostom came under suspicion of arson, and they were summoned for interrogation. And then also did Saint Olympiada suffer. They summoned her to trial, rigourously interrogating her, and although they did not produce any proof, they sentenced her to payment of a large fine of money for the arson, of which she was not guilty. After this the saint left Constantinople and set out to Kyzikos (on the Sea of Marmara). But her enemies did not cease with their persecution: in the year 405 they sentenced her to imprisonment at Nicomedia, where the saint underwent much grief and deprivation. Saint John Chrysostom wrote to her from his exile, consoling her in her sorrow. In the year 409 Saint Olympiada died in imprisonment.

Saint Olympiada appeared in a dream to the Nicomedia bishop and commanded, that her body be placed in a wooden coffin and cast into the sea: “Whither the waves carry the coffin, there let my body be buried”, – said the saint. The coffin was brought by the waves to a place named Brokhti near to Constantinople. The inhabitants, informed of this by God, took the holy relics of Saint Olympiada and put them in the church of the holy Apostle Thomas. Afterwards, during the time of an invasion of enemies, the church was burned, but the relics were preserved and under the Patriarch Sergios (610-638) they were transferred to Constantinople and put at the women’s monastery founded by Saint Olympiada. From her relics miracles occurred and healings made.

The Nun Eupraxia was daughter of the Constantinople dignitary Antigonos, a kinsman of the holy Emperor Theodosius the Great (379-395).

Antigonos and his wife Eupraxia were pious and bestowed generous alms on the destitute. A daughter was born to them, whom they likewise named Eupraxia. Antigonos soon died. The mother withdrew from the imperial court and together with her daughter she set out to Egypt under the pretext of looking over her properties. And there near the Thebaid was a women’s monastery with a strict monastic rule. The life of the inhabitants attracted the pious widow. She wanted to bestow aid on this monastery, but the hegumeness Theophila refused and said, that the nuns had fully devoted themselves to God and that they did not wish the acquisition of any earthly riches. The hegumeness consented to accept only candles, incense and oil.

The younger Eupraxia was at this time seven years old. She liked the monastic manner of life and she decided to remain at the monastery. Her pious mother did not stand in the way of her daughter’s wish. Taking leave of her daughter at the monastery, Eupraxia asked her daughter to be humble, never to dwell upon her nobleborn descent, and to serve God and her sisters fervently. In a short while the mother died. Having learned of her death, the emperor Saint Theodosius sent Saint Eupraxia the Younger a letter, in which he reminded her, that her parents had betrothed her to the son of a certain senator for when she reached age fifteen, and that he desired that she would fulfill the commitment made by her parents. In answer to the letter, Saint Eupraxia wrote to the emperor, that she had already become a bride of Christ and she requested of the emperor to dispose of her properties, distributing the proceeds for the use of the Church and the needy.

Saint Eupraxia, having reached the age of maturity, intensified her ascetic efforts all the more. At first she partook of food once a day, then after two days – three days or more and finally, once a week. She combined her fasting with the fulfilling of all her monastic obediences: she toiled humbly in the kitchen, she washed dishes, she swept the premisses and served the sisters with zeal and love. And the sisters loved the unpretentious Eupraxia. But one of them envied her and explained away all her efforts as a desire for glory. This sister began to trouble and to reproach her, but the holy virgin did not answer her back, and instead humbly asked forgiveness.

The enemy of the human race caused the saint much misfortune. One time in getting water she fell into the well, from which the sisters extracted her; another time Saint Eupraxia was chopping wood for the kitchen and cut herself on the leg with an axe. When she carried an armload of wood up upon the ladder, she stepped on the hem of her garment, she fell and a sharp splinter cut her near the eyes. All these woes Saint Eupraxia endured with patience, and when they asked her to give herself a rest, she would not consent. For her efforts, the Lord granted Saint Eupraxia a gift of wonderworking: through her prayer she healed a deaf and dumb crippled child, and she delivered from infirmity a demon-oppressed woman. They began to bring the sick for healing to the monastery. The holy virgin humbled herself all the more, reckoning herself least among the sisters. Before the death of Saint Eupraxia, the hegumeness had a vision. The holy virgin was transported into a resplendid palace and was greeted with a spot before the Throne of the Lord surrounded by holy Angels, and the All-Pure Virgin showed Saint Eupraxia about the luminous chamber and said to her, that She had made ready for her and that she would come into this habitation after the space of ten days.

The hegumeness and the sisters wept bitterly, not wanting to lose Saint Eupraxia. The saint herself, in learning about the vision, wept that she was not prepared for going into eternity, and she besought the hegumeness to implore the Lord to leave her alive even one year more for repentance. The hegumeness consoled Saint Eupraxia and said, that the Lord would grant her His great mercy. Suddenly Saint Eupraxia sensed herself not well, and having sickened, she soon peacefully died at age thirty (+ 413).

The Monk Makarii of Zheltovodsk and Unzhensk was born in the year 1349 at Nizhni-Novgorod into a pious family. At twelve years of age he secretly left his parents and accepted monastic tonsure at the Nizhegorodsk Pechersk monastery under Saint Dionysii (afterwards Archbishop of Suzdal’; + 1385, Comm. 26 June). With all the intensity of his youthful soul he gave himself over to the work of salvation: extremely strict fasting and exact fulfilling of the monastic rule distinguished him amongst the brethren.

The parents of the Monk Makarii only learned three years later where he had taken himself off to. His father went to him and tearfully besought his son merely that he would come forth and show himself. The Monk Makarii conversed with his father through a wall and said, that he would see him in the future life. “Extend me at least thine hand,” – implored the father. The son fulfilled this small request and the father, having kissed the extended hand of his son, returned home. Burdened by fame, the humble Makarii set out to the shores of the River Volga and here he pursued asceticism near the waters of Lake Zhelta. Here by firm determination and patience he overcame the abuse of the enemy of salvation. Lovers of solitude gathered to the Monk Makarii, and in 1435 he organised for them a monastery in the Name of the MostHoly Trinity. Here also he began to preach Christianity to the surrounding Cheremis and Chuvash peoples, and he baptised both Mahometans and pagans in the lake, which received its name from the saint. When the Kazan Tatars destroyed the monastery in 1439, they took captive the Monk Makarii. Out of respect for his piety and charitable love, the khan released the saint from captivity and set free together with him nearly 400 Christians. But in return they accepted the word of the Monk Makarii not to settle by Lake Zhelta. The Monk Makarii reverently buried those killed at his monastery, and he set out 200 versts to the Galich border. During the time of this resettlement all those on the way were fed in miraculous manner through the prayers of the monk. Having arrived at the city of Unzha, the Monk Makarii 15 versts from the city set up a cross and built a cell on the shores of Lake Unzha. And here he founded a new monastery. During the fifth year of his life at Lake Unzha the Monk Makarii took sick and reposed at age 95.

While yet alive, the Monk Makarii was granted a graced gift: he healed a blind and demon-afflicted girl. After the death of the monk, many received healing from his relics. The monks erected over his grave a temple and established a life-in-common rule at the monastery. In 1522 Tatars fell upon Unzha and wanted to tear apart the silver reliquary in the Makariev monastery, but they fell blind, and in a panic they took to flight. Many of them drowned in the Unzha. In 1532, through the prayers of the Monk Makarii, the city of Soligalich was saved from the Tatars, and in gratitude the inhabitants built a chapel in the cathedral church in honour of the saint. More than 50 people received healing from grievous infirmities through the prayers of the Monk Makarii, – this was certified to by a commission, dispatched by Patriarch Philaret in 1619.

The Monk Christopher of Sol’vychegodsk and Koryazhemsk was a student and novice under the Monk Longin, hegumen of the Koryazhemsk monastery. After the death of his teacher, the Monk Christopher dwelt for yet another ten years at the Koryazhemsk monastery, and then he settled along the upper tributaries of the Large Koryazhemka, where he lived in solitude.

When novices began to come to him, the Monk Christopher founded a monastery and built a church in honour of the Hodegetria Icon of the Mother of God, which he brought with him to this place, and from which they received many healings. The monastery of the Monk Christopher was famed for the strictness of life of its residents, and also for a curative water-spring, from which there was received a relief from illness by Anastasia (1457-1460), the spouse of Ivan the Terrible (1533-1584). In 1572 the Monk Christopher left the monastery and he secretly settled alone in an unknown place. They say, that the Monk Christopher died between the years 1572-1582.

The Holy Martyrs Sactus (Sanctus), Maturus, Attalus, Blandina, Biblius (Viblius), Vittius, Epagathus, Pontinus, Alexander and 43 Others were tortured by the pagans for their belief in Christ in the city of Lyons (then named Lugdunum) under the emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180), in the year 177. After a vicious death, their bodies were burned, and the ashes thrown into the River Rhone.

The Fifth OEcumenical Council (Constantinople II) was at Constantinople, held under the holy Emperor Saint Justinian I (527-565) in the year 553, to resolve the question about the Orthodoxy of three long-since dead bishops: Theodore of Mopsuetia, Theodoret of Kyr (Cyr) and Ibas of Edessa, who had expressed Nestorian opinions in their writings way back in the time of the Third OEcumenical Council (at Ephesus in year 431, Comm. 9 September). These three bishops had not been condemned later at the Fourth OEcumenical Council (at Chalcedon in year 451, Comm. 16 July), which condemned the Monophysites, and in turn had been accused by the Monophysites of Nestorianism. And therefore, to remove from the Monophysites the stance of accusing the Orthodox of sympathy for Nestorianism, and also to dispose the heretical party towards unity with the followers of the Chalcedon Council, the emperor Saint Justinian issued an edict: in it were condemned three “Chapters” of the three deceased bishops. But since the edict was issued on the emperor’s initiative, and since it was not acknowledged by representatives of all the Church (particularly in the West, and in part, in Africa), a dispute arose about the “Three Chapters”. The Fifth OEcumenical Council was convened for resolving this dispute.

At this Council were present 165 bishops. Pope Vigilius, while being present in Constantinople, refused to participate in the Council, although he was three times asked to do so by official deputies in the name of the gathered bishops and the emperor himself. The Council was opened with Sainted Eutykhios, Patriarch of Constantinople (552-565, 577-582), presiding. In accordance with the imperial edict, the matter of the “Three Chapters” was carefully examined in eight prolonged sessions from 4 May to 2 June 553. Anathema was pronounced against the person and teachings of Theodore of Mopsuetia unconditionally. But as regards Theodore and Ibas the condemnations were confined only to certain of their treatises, while they as persons had been cleared without doubt by the Chalcedon Council because of repentance, and they were thus spared from anathema. The need of this measure was that certain of the proscribed works contained expressions used by the Nestorians to interpret to their own ends the definitions of the Chalcedon Council. But the leniency of the fathers of this Fifth OEcumenical Council, in a spirit of moderating economy as regards the persons of bishops Theodore and Ibas, instead embittered the Monophysites against the decisions of the Council. Besides which, the emperor had given the orders to promulgate the Conciliar decisions together with a chastening of excommunication against Pope Vigilius, as being like-minded with the heretics. The Pope afterwards concurred with the general frame of mind of the fathers and gave his signature on the Conciliar definition. But the bishops of Istria and all the region of the Aquilea metropolia remained more than a century in schism.

At the Council the fathers likewise examined the errors of presbyter Origen, a long since dead reknown Church teacher of the III Century. His teaching about the pre-existence of the human soul was condemned. Other heretics were also condemned, who did not admit of the universal resurrection of the dead.

[trans. note: Both the Monophysite and the Nestorian heresies ultimately deny the Chalcedon Fourth OEcumenical Council’s definition of the Son of God our Lord Jesus Christ as One Divine Person – the 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity – in a mysteried hypostatic union (without mixture or confusion) of His perfect Divine Nature and His perfect Human Nature. The Monophysite (OneNature) heresy affirms only the Divine Nature of Christ, and denies His Human Nature. At the opposite pole, the earlier Nestorian heresy in various forms asserts that there are two persons in Christ: the one Divine, the other Human; which is to say that there is a Christ Who is God and a Christ Who is man – but they are not one and the same Person, which is ultimately to say that the Only-Begotten Son of God did not truly become humanly the Son of Man, but remains separate. Nestorianism is also a Mariological heresy, asserting that Mary is only “Christotokos” (bearer of Christ), but that She is not “Theotokos” (“Bogoroditsa”, i.e. Mother of God, “Bogomater”, “Mater tou Theou”). Both these heresies originate in an attempt to quell the “intellectual scandal”, that in Christ, God truly has become Man, while perfectly preserving the dignity and integrity of both the Divine and the Human Natures – that our Lord Jesus Christ is truly the God-Man, rather than being “merely God” or “merely Man”. Both heresies are imperfect attempts to deal with the abyss separating God and man – which is overcome in the salvific Divine Person of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The imperial intrusion of Justinian on the Church’s perogatives obviously but worsened matters. The innovation of retroactively anathemising those long since dead was in general greeted with dismay by many, and Justinian himself is alleged to have for a time flirted with the Monothelite heresy whilst persecuting the Orthodox. The secular considerations of restoring under Justinian’s rule the Roman “Western Empire” underlay the captivity and rough treatment of Pope Vigilius, and the need for Byzantium to placate Monophysite Egypt, in vain, as indeed our account relates. But amidst all the external considerations, it pleased the Lord that the Holy Spirit should inspire the fathers of the Council in a further definition of Orthodoxy, that preserves the integrity and dignity both of God and of mankind, without the distortion of either that transpires within the Nestorian or Monophysite heresies.]

© 1999 by translator Fr. S. Janos