Orthodox River


August 09 2020 - July 27 2020

GreatMartyr and Healer Panteleimon (+ 305).

Monk German (Herman) of Alaska, Apostle to America (+ 1837). Blessed Nikolai Konchanov, Novogorod Fool-for-Christ (+ 1392). Sainted Joasaph, Metropolitan of Moscow (+ 1555). Monastic Anthysa the Hegumeness and her 90 Sisters (VIII). Equal-to-the-Apostles: Clement, Bishop of Okhrid (+ 916), Naum, Savva, Gorazd and Angelyar (Bulgaria). Martyr Christodoulos (+ 1777). Monk Manuel. 153 Thracian Martyrs.

The GreatMartyr and Healer Panteleimon was born in the city of Nikomedia into the family of the illustrious pagan Eustorgias, and he was named Pantoleon. His mother Ebbula was a christian. She wanted to raise her son in the Christian faith, but she died when the future greatmartyr was still a young lad. His father sent Pantoleon to a fine pagan school, at the completion of which the youth began to study the medical art at Nikomedia under the reknown physician Euphrosynos, and he came to the attention of the emperor Maximian (284-305), who wished to see him at court.

During this time there dwelt secretly at Nikomedia the Priest-Martyr presbyters Hermolaos, Hermippos and Hermocrates – survivors in the Nikomedia Church after the burning of 20,000 Christians in the year 303. Saint Hermolaos saw Pantoleon time and again, when he came to their hideout. One time the presbyter summoned the youth to the hideout and spoke about the Christian faith. After this Pantoleon visited every day with the priestmartyr Hermolaos.

One time the youth saw upon a street a dead child, bitten by a viper, which was still alongside. Pantoleon began to pray to the Lord Jesus Christ for the resuscitation of the dead child and for the death of the venomous reptile. He firmly resolved, that if his prayer were fulfilled, he would become a follower of Christ and accept Baptism. The child revived, and the viper shattered into pieces before the eyes of Pantoleon.

After this miracle Pantoleon was baptised by Saint Hermolaos with the name Panteleimon (meaning “all-merciful”). Conversing with Eustorgias, Saint Panteleimon prepared him for the acceptance of Christianity, and when the father beheld, how his son healed a blind man by invoking the Name of Jesus Christ, he then believed in Christ and was baptised together with the blind man restored to sight.

After the death of his father, Saint Panteleimon dedicated his life to the suffering, the sick, the misfortunate and the needy. He treated without charge all those who turned to him, healing them in the Name of Jesus Christ. He visited those held captive in prison – being usually christians, who filled all the prisons, and he healed them of their wounds. In a short while accounts about the charitable physician spread throughout all the city. And forsaking the other doctors, the inhabitants began to turn only to Saint Panteleimon.

The envious doctors made a denunciation to the emperor, that Saint Panteleimon was healing Christian prisoners. Maximian urged the saint to disprove the denunciation and offer sacrifice to idols, but Saint Panteleimon confessed himself a Christian and right in front of the eyes of the emperor he healed a paralytic in the Name of Jesus Christ. The ferocious Maximian executed the healed man who was glorifying Jesus Christ, and gave Saint Panteleimon over to fierce torture.

The Lord appeared to the saint and strengthened him before his sufferings. They suspended the GreatMartyr Panteleimon from a tree and tore at him with iron hooks, burned him with fire and then stretched him on the rack, threw him in boiling oil, and cast him into the sea with a stone about his neck. Throughout all these tortures the greatmartyr remained unhurt and with conviction he denounced the emperor.

During this time there was brought before the court of the pagans the Presbyters Hermolaos, Hermippos and Hermocrates. All three firmly confessed their faith in the Saviour and were beheaded (the account about them is located under 26 July).

By order of the emperor they threw the GreatMartyr Panteleimon to wild beasts for devouring at the circus. But the beasts lay at his feet and shoved at each other in trying to be touched by his hand. The spectators gathered together and began to shout: “Great God of the Christians!” The enraged Maximian ordered the soldiers to stab with the sword anyone who glorified the Name of Christ, and to cut off the head of the GreatMartyr Panteleimon.

They led the saint to the place of execution and tied him to an olive tree. When the greatmartyr prayed, one of the soldiers struck him with a sword, but the sword became soft like wax, and inflicted no wound. The saint ended the prayer, and a Voice was heard, calling the passion-bearer by name and summoning him to the Heavenly Kingdom. Hearing the Voice from Heaven, the soldiers fell down on their knees before the holy martyr and begged forgiveness. The executioners refused to continue with the execution, but the GreatMartyr Panteleimon bid them to fulfill the command of the emperor, saying that otherwise they would have no share with him in the future life. The soldiers tearfully took their leave of the saint with a kiss.

When the saint was beheaded, the olive tree – to which the saint was tied, at the moment of his death was covered with fruit. Many that were present at the execution believed in Christ. The body of the saint – thrown into a bonfire – remained in the fire unharmed and was buried by christians (+ 305). The GreatMartyr Panteleimon’s servants Lawrence, Bassos and Probios saw his execution and heard the Voice from Heaven. They recorded the account about the life, the sufferings and death of the holy greatmartyr.

The holy relics of the GreatMartyr Panteleimon were distributed in parts throughout all the Christian world: his venerable head is now located at the Russian Athonite monastery of the GreatMartyr Panteleimon.

The veneration of the holy martyr in the Russian Orthodox Church was already known in the XII Century. Prince Izyaslav – in Baptism Panteleimon – son of Saint Mstislav the Great, had an image of Saint Panteleimon on his helmet. Through the intercession of the saint he remained alive during a battle in the year 1151. On the day of memory of the GreatMartyr Panteleimon, Russian forces won two naval victories over the Swedes (in 1714 near Hanhauze and in 1720 near Grenham).

The GreatMartyr Panteleimon is venerated in the Orthodox Church as a mighty saint, the protector of soldiers. This aspect of his veneration is derived from his first name Pantoleon, which means “a lion in everything”. His second name, Panteleimon – given him at Baptism, which means “all-merciful”, reveals it self in the veneration of the greatmartyr as healer. The connection between these two patronages of the saint is readily apparent in that soldiers, receiving wounds more frequently than others, are more in need of a physician-healer. Wherefore Christians in waging spiritual warfare also have recourse to this saint with a petition to heal the wounds of the soul.

The name of the holy GreatMartyr and Healer Panteleimon is invoked in the Sacrament of Anointing the Sick, at the Blessing of Water and in the Prayer for the Sick.

The day of commemoration of the holy GreatMartyr and Healer Panteleimon at the Russian monastery on Athos is its temple-feast. The forefeast starts 8 days before the feast, on which days after vespers are sung moliebens with kanons in 8 tones, whereby each day has its own particular canon. The second day of the feast is the monastery feastday. On this day of the feast after vespers is made a collective panikhida in memory of the founders and benefactours of the monastery, and there is blessed and distributed koliva (kutia – wheat or rice boiled with honey). The verses of the 9th Ode of the Kanon of the GreatMartyr and Healer Panteleimon from the manuscript of the Athonite service are reprinted in the “Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate” (1975, No.3, pp. 45-47).

The Monk German (Herman) of Alaska, Apostle to America, was born in the city of Serpukhov, nigh to Moscow, in the year 1757 into a merchant’s family. His worldly name and family name are unknown. At sixteen years of age he entered upon the path of monasticism. At first the monk did his obedience at the Sergiev-Trinity monastery, situated in the environs of Peterburg on the shore of the Bay of Finland (the monastery belonged to the Sergiev-Trinity Lavra).

The future missionary pursued asceticism at the monastery for about five years. Wanting complete solitude and silence, the Monk German settled at Valaamo. The Valaamo monastery, situated on the islands of Lake Ladozh (Ladoga), was cut off from the outer world for 8 months of the year.

After careful testing by various obediences the hegumen Nazarii gave blessing to the youthful ascetic for constant life in the forest, in a solitary wilderness. On feastdays, having come back to the monastery, the monk did choir obedience (he had a fine voice). Saint German took monastic vows at the Valaamo monastery.

It seems probable, that Saint German arrived at Valaamo in the year 1778. In this year the Monk Seraphim arrived at the Sarov monastery. The monastic life of the Monk German brings to mind the deeds of solitude of his great contemporary – the Sarov wonderworker. Like the Monk Seraphim, the Valaamo ascetic distinguished himself with an exceptional and pervasive knowledge of the spirit and books of Holy Scripture, the works of the holy fathers and teachers of the Church.

The spiritual guide and father confessor of the future missionary was the hegumen Nazarii, a Sarov elder (starets), who introduced the Sarov ustav (rule) at Valaamo. By such manner, the grace-bearing methodology of Sarov asceticism – in which was accomplished the spiritual growth of the Monk German at Valaamo – became an integral part of his soul and made him related and exceptionally close in spirit to the Monk Seraphim, the Sarov Wonderworker. There is an account, that the Monk Seraphim made use in his turn of the guidance of the starets Nazarii during the time of his living at Sarov.

After a 15 year stay of the Monk German at Valaamo, the Lord summoned the humble monk to apostolic service and sent him to preach the Gospel and baptise the pagans of the sparsely populated and austere territory of Alaska and the islands of North America bordering on it. For this purpose there was organised in the year 1793 a spiritual Mission – receiving the title Kodiaksk, with its centre on the island of Kodiak. Archimandrite Joasaph (Bolotov), a monk of Valaamo monastery, was appointed leader of the Mission. Amidst the number of other co-workers of the Mission were also five other monks of Valaamo monastery – including among them the Monk German, whom the Lord gave blessing to labour at evangelisation longer and more fruitfully, than some other members of the Mission.

Upon arrival on Kodiak Island the missionaries quickly set about the construction of a church and the conversion of the pagans. “The year 1794, September – I live with 24 on the island of Kodiak. All glory to God, more than 700 Americans are baptised, more than 2,000 marriages joined together, a church built, and as time allows – we shall make another, then two, and then it will be necessary to make five” – remarks the archimandrite Joasaph in one of his letters.

Father German at this new place bore the obedience of baker and concerned himself with the domestic cares of the Mission.

Under the guidance of Archimandrite Joasaph (afterwards a bishop), the Mission was short-lived: during the time of a storm (in 1799) His Grace Joasaph with his companions perished in the waves of the ocean. To assist the missionaries remaining alive there was dispatched only one priest-monk from the Alexander Nevsky Lavra, – Gedeon. He headed the Mission for some time. He was concerned with the building up of a school for the children of the baptised Aleuts. In the year 1807 Priest-monk Gedeon left forever from the settlement of the missionaries, having placed all the responsibilities on the Monk German, who until the end of his life remained a spiritual father, pastor, and guardian of human souls entrusted to him by the Mission. They wanted to ordain the monk to the dignity of priest-monk and make him archimandrite, but the humble monk refused thus to be elevated and until the end of his days he dwelt as a simple monk.

For the local inhabitants, the Monk German was a true good pastor and he defended them, insofar as he was able, from evil and plundering persons, who saw the island people only as an object for merciless exploitation. It would be no wonder, if the newly-converted repudiated their faith of the new-comer, who came most frequently in the role of exploiter and oppressor (having come for the purpose of mercantile profit), returning to their own superstitions. That this did not happen is due to the great merit of the Monk German. Firmly and insistently, having no power save for his intense faith, the starets continued on with his defense of the outraged and the oppressed, seeing in this his duty and calling, the essence of which he wonderfully expressed with the simple words: – “I am the most humble servant and nurse of the local peoples”.

The secret labours and cell prayers of the elder remained unknown to the world, but are seen as a light surrounding his grace-bearing life, having gone through conditions of complete self-renunciation, non-avariciousness and austere disregard for all comforts. His clothes were quite poor and very decrepit. By his whole appearance and all his habits, starets German in life reminded his contemporaries of the ancient hermits, glorified by the deeds of abstention and saintliness. In conversation the elder produced in irresistible impression on listeners. Those who conversed were particularly struck by the clarity of his mind, and his distinctness and rapidity of his discernment. The Divine grace, permeating the soul of the Monk German, transformed the hearts of people having contact with him. Vividly testifying about this occurrence was S. I. Yanovsky, governor administrator of the Russian-American Company, having entered upon his duties in the year 1817. Semen Ivanovich Yanovsky, an aristocrat by birth, was a man of manifold education and scholarship, but his religio-philosophic outlook consisted in the fashionable deism of the period. (Deism – a religio-philosophic teaching, which spread about in the XVII-XVIII Centuries, conceived of the existence of God only as a first-principle of the world and denied the existence of God as Person).

Christianity in its essence he did not know (although he was formally accounted a christian). Orthodoxy, the Church, the Sacraments – were for him mere notions, not worthy of serious consideration. The Monk German spoke much with him. S. I. Yanovsky afterwards wrote: “By such constant conversations and prayers of the holy elder, the Lord turned me completely around onto the way of truth, and I was made into a real Christian”. He termed the starets “an holy man”, “a great ascetic”, and like a precious gem he kept his own letters from the Monk German. Many others of his contemporaries also experienced such reverence towards the person of the saint. Father German at first lived nearby the Mission temple on Kodiak, but later he settled on Elov (Spruce) Island, which he called “New Valaamo”. Spruce Island was the final refuge in the multi-laboured apostolic wanderings of the holy elder.

The Monk German foretold to his spiritual children the time of his death and gave instructions how to bury him. On 13 December 1837 he requested candles be lit before the icons and to read the Acts of the Holy Apostles. During the time of the reading about the labours of the holy evangelists, the holy starets German passed over from earthly labours to heavenly rest, in his 81st year of life. Over the grave of the elder was at first constructed a simple wooden memorial, and afterwards was erected a modest wooden church, dedicated in the name of the Monks Sergei and German, Wonderworkers of Valaamo.

In this church is preserved an old-fashioned depiction of the Monk Seraphim of Sarov. This was situated in the cell of the Monk German during his lifetime: the elder loved and respected his celebrated contemporary and was of one accord with him in the great task in the fields of the Lord. It pleased the Lord to simultaneously bestow blessing on the great deeds of service to people of these two reverent lovers of silence and of mental action. The Monk German responded with love to the needs and sorrows of people during the days of his earthly life. And he does not leave in their misfortune those calling on him even after his death. The most famous case of the prayerful intercession of the Monk German is located in the autobiography of the first Orthodox Bishop in America – Sainted Innocent (Comm. 31 March and 23 September). In the year 1842 the sainted bishop on the brig “Okhotsk” was headed for Spruce Island. Because of a storm the ship was not able for a long while to come into port, and the lives of the crew and passengers was in peril. Sainted Innocent turned with prayer to the Monk German: “If thou, Father German, art pleasing to the Lord, then allow the wind to shift”. And there passed not even a quarter of an hour as the wind shifted and became fair. And shortly thereafter the sainted bishop, having been saved from the storm, served a panikhida on the grave of the Monk German. In the 1860’s the Russian Orthodox Church learned about the great local veneration of the memory of the elder German at Kodiak. In 1867 one of the Alaskan bishops compiled a record of his life and miracles. The first public report about Father German was published at Valaamo monastery in Finland in 1894. In the 1930’s another Russian Orthodox monk – archimandrite Gerasim (Shmal’ts) arrived on Elov (Spruce) Island and for a long time he lived there, as did the Monk German an hundred and some years before him. Before his death in 1969, archimandrite Gerasim uncovered the remains of his famous predecessor and built there a small chapel. The healings, connected with the prayerful intercession of Saint German, have been recorded during the course of a long period (from the time of his life through 1970). In March 1969 the Sobor of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Greek-Catholic Church in America under the presiding of the Archbishop of New York, Metropolitan of All America and Canada, Irenei – made the glorification of the Alaskan monk. The Church through this canonisation formally stamped with its seal that which many native Alaskans always knew: the Monk German worthily achieved his Christian calling and now continues to intercede before God for the living.

Blessed Nikolai Konchanov, Novgorod Fool-for-Christ (+ 1392), was born at Novgorod in the family of rich and illustrious parents. From his youthful years he loved piety, he went to church zealously, he loved fasting and prayer. Seeing his virtuous life, people began to praise him. Blessed Nikolai, disdaining glory “from men”, began to practise folly for the Lord’s sake. He ran about the city in bitter frost in mere rags, enduring beatings, insults and mockery. Blessed Nikolai and another Novgorod fool Blessed Feodor (Comm. 19 January) conducted themselves as irreconcilable foes and graphically portrayed to the Novgorod people the pernicious character of their internecine strife. One time, having overcome his sham opponent, Blessed Nikolai went along the Volkhov, as along dry land, and threw at Blessed Feodor an head of cabbage, – wherefore he was called “Konchanov” (i.e. “cabbage-head”). The Lord glorified Blessed Nikolai with the gift of miracles and perspicacity. Thus, having been turned away by servants from an invited feast, he left, but together with him there vanished the wine from out of the barrel, and only upon the return of the fool and through his prayer did it reappear again. Upon his death Blessed Nikolai was buried at the end of the cemetery, spread about the Yakovlev cathedral.

The relics of Blessed Nikolai rest under a crypt in a church of the GreatMartyr Panteleimon built over his grave.

The Nun Anthysa lived at Paphlygonian Mantinea in Asia Minor during the VIII Century. Early on having left behind the world, Saint Anthysa pursued asceticism in the mountains in complete solitude. Having taken monastic vows from the priestmonk Sisinias, she became hegumen at a monastery where 90 sisters had gathered. The Nun Anthysa suffered during the reign of the emperor Constantine Kopronymos, who demanded the saint renounce veneration of holy icons. For not obeying the orders of the emperor, the Nun Anthysa was subjected to torture. At the torture was present the spouse of the emperor, for whom the saint predicted the birth of a son and daughter. When the prediction of the martyress was fulfilled, they set her free to her own convent, where she died in extreme old age. The daughter born of the emperor’s wife was named Anthysa. Having lived a life pleasing to God, she was accepted by the Lord into the rank of the Saints.

The Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles: Clement – Bishop of Okhrid, Naum, Savva, Gorazd and Angelyar were Slavs, disciples of Saints Cyril and Methodius (Comm. 11 May). They at first pursued asceticism in the fields of enlightenment in Moravia, where in succession to Sainted Methodius, Saint Gorazd then became bishop. He was a man fluent in the Slavonic, Greek and Latin languages. Saints Clement, Naum, Angelyar and Savva were presbyters.

The Slavic-Enlighteners were opposed by a strong Latin-German group of missionaries, resting upon the support of the then pope and the patronage of the Moravian prince Svyatopolk. The struggle centered around the questions of the need of Divine-services in the Slavonic language, the Filioque and Saturday fasting. Pope Stephen VI prohibited Divine-services in the Slavonic language.

The proponents of the three-tongued heresy, having consigned to oblivion the ancestral language of the Slavic peoples, with the help of the princely powers brought to trial the disciples of Saint Methodius, among whose number was Saint Clement. They subjected them to fierce torture: dragging them bent over through thorn bushes, and holding them in prison for a long time – just as they had earlier done with their spiritual father, Saint Methodius. Afterwards with some of the prisoners (in the year 886) – they sold the young to slave-traders, who found themselves on the Venice marketplace. The ambassador of the Byzantine emperor to Venice, Basil the Macedonian, ransomed the Slavic-Enlighteners and transported them to Constantinople. Others of the Slavic confessors, those of elderly age, they subjected to banishment. It is not known, where Saint Gorazd set off to, nor where Saint Savva found shelter. Naum and Angelyar went to Bulgaria.

In the year 907 Moravia collapsed under the blows of the Magyars, and Moravian refugees slipped through along those same paths, along which earlier went the holy enlighteners exiled by them.

The Bulgarians received the Slavonic confessors with respect and requested them to conduct Divine-services in the Slavonic language. The Bulgarian prince Boris “with great fervour sought out” suchlike people as the disciples of Saint Methodius, seeking with great zealousness for the enlightenment of his nation. The enlighteners immediately set about to the study of Slavonic books, gathered by Bulgarian notables.

Saint Angelyar soon died, and Saint Clement received the appointment to teach at Kutmichivitsa – a region in southwest Macedonia. In the Eastern Church for the rank of teacher was chosen a man of worth, known for his pious life and possessed with a gift of words. Saint Clement while still in Moravia was in the “rank of those in the standing of teacher”. In Bulgaria Saint Clement fulfilled the office of instructor until the year 893. He organised in the primary form a school at the princely court, which attained high esteem during the reign of Simeon, and in southwest Macedonia he created schools separately for grown-ups and for children. Saint Clement instructed the children in reading and in writing. The total number of his students was enormous: merely those chosen and accepted towards the clergy amounted to 3500 men. In the year 893 Saint Clement was elevated to the dignity of Bishop of Dremvitsa or Velitsa, and Saint Naum took his place.

Sainted Clement was the first Bulgarian hierarch to serve, preach and write in the Slavonic language. To this end he systematically prepared clergy from among the Slavic people. The sainted bishop laboured for the glory of God into his extreme old age. Having become thus weakened, that he was already not able to attend to the cathedral tasks, , he turned with a request to tsar Simeon with a request for retirement. The tsar urged the saint not to forsake the cathedral, and Saint Clement decided to continue his bishop service. After this he set off for the duration to Okhrid, to a monastery founded by him. There the saint continued with his translation activity and translated important parts of the Bright Triodion. Soon the saint became seriously ill and expired to the Lord in the year 916. The body of the saint was placed in a coffin, made by his own hands, and buried in the Okhrida Panteleimon monastery.

Sainted Clement is considered the first Slavonic author: he not only continued with the translation work, begun by Saints Cyril and Methodius, but also left behind works of his own composition – the first samples of Slavonic spiritual literature.

Many of the lessons and sermons of Equal-to-the-Apostles Clement were transferred to Russia, where they were read and copied out with love by pious Russian Christians.

The relics of Saints Gorazd and Angelyar rest near Berat in Albania, the remains of Saint Naum – in a monastery with his name, near Lake Okhrida.

© 1999 by translator Fr. S. Janos