June 22 2020 - June 09 2020
Sainted Cyril, ArchBishop of Alexandria (+ 444).
Monk Kirill, Hegumen of Beloezersk (+ 1427). Monk Alexander, Hegumen of Kushtsk (+ 1439). Blessed Kirill of Bel’sk (XV).
PriestMartyr Alexander, Bishop of Prussa. Martyrs: Ananias; Three Virgins of Chios; Mariamna and Ennatha; Thekla, Martha and Mary of Persia (+ 346). Monk Cyrus. Saints Nikazios and Iliodoros.
Monk John Shavteli (XIII) (Gruzia).
Sainted Cyril, ArchBishop of Alexandria, a distinguished champion of Orthodoxy and a great teacher of the Church, came from an illustrious and pious Christian family. He studied the secular sciences, among which number also was philosophy, but most of all he strove to acquire knowledge of the Holy Scriptures and the truths of the Christian faith. In his youth Saint Cyril entered the skete-monastery of Saint Makarios in the Nitreia hills, where he stayed for six years. The Patriarch of Alexandria Theophilos (385-412) ordained him to the dignity of deacon, numbered him among the clergy and, seeing his giftedness, entrusted him to preach.
Upon the death of Patriarch Theophilos, Saint Cyril was unanimously chosen to the patriarchal throne of the Alexandrian Church. He headed the struggle against the spread in Alexandria of the Novatian heresy, which taught that a Christian, having fallen away from the Church during time of persecution, is not able to be received back by it again.
Saint Cyril, seeing the futility of admonishing the heretics, sought their expulsion from Alexandria. The Jews appeared a greater danger for the Church, repeatedly making riots, accompanied by the brutal killing of Christians. The saint long contended with them. And to end with the remaining paganism, the saint cast out devils from an ancient pagan temple and built on the place a church. Into it were transferred the relics of the holy Unmercenaries Cyrus and John. Still more difficult a struggle awaited the saint with the emergence of the Nestorian heresy.
Nestorius, a presbyter of the Antioch Church, was chosen in 428 to the Constantinople cathedra and therein got the chance to widely spread about his heretical teaching, directed against the dogma about the uncommingled union of two natures in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Nestorius called the Mother of God not the Bogoroditsa (Theotokos or “Birth-giver of God”), but rather Khristoroditsa (Christotokos or “Birth‑giver of Christ”), implying that she gave birth not to God, but only to the man Christ. The holy Patriarch Cyril repeatedly wrote to Nestorius and pointed out his error, but Nestorius continued to persevere in it. Then the saint sent out epistles against Nestorianism to the clergy of the Constantinople Church and to the holy nobleborn emperor Theodosius the Younger (408-450) – two treatises with a denunciation of the heresy. Saint Cyril wrote also to other Churches – to Pope Celestine and to the other Patriarchs, and even to monks of several monasteries, warning about the emergence of a dangerous heresy.
Nestorius started an open persecution against the Orthodox. In his presence one of his partisans, bishop Dorotheos, pronounced from the church cathedra an anathema for anyone who would call the MostHoly Virgin Mary the Bogoroditsa (Theotokos).
Nestorius hated Saint Cyril and brought out against him every kind of slander and fabrication, calling him an heretic. The saint with all his powers continued to defend Orthodoxy. The situation became so aggravated, that it became necessary to convene an OEcumenical Council, which opened in the year 431 in the city of Ephesus. At the Council arrived 200 bishops from all the Christian Churches. Nestorius, awaiting the arrival of the bishop of Antioch John and other Syrian bishops, did not agree to the opening of the Council. But the fathers of the Council began the sessions. The Alexandrian Patriarch Saint Cyril presided. Having examined the teaching of Nestorius, the Council condemned him as an heretic. Nestorius did not submit to the Council, and the arriving bishop John opened a “robber council”, which decreed Saint Cyril an heretic. The unrest increased. By order of the emperor, Patriarch Cyril of Alexandria and Archbishop Memnon of Ephesus were locked in prison. And in this measure, Nestorius also was deposed.
Soon Saints Cyril and Memnon were freed, and the sessions of the Council continued. Nestorius, not submitting himself to the determinations of the Council, was deprived of priestly rank and by order of the emperor sent to the faraway place Sasim in the Libean wilderness, where he died in grievous torments: his tongue, having blasphemed the Mother of God, was overtaken by punishment – in it there developed worms. Even Bishop John of Antioch and the remaining Syrian bishops signed the decretals of the Ephesus Council.
Saint Cyril guided the Alexandrian Church for 32 years: towards the end of his abundant activity the flock was cleansed of heretics. Gently and cautiously Saint Cyril approached towards anyone, who by their own simpleness and lack of knowledge fell into false wisdom. To a certain elder, an ascetic of profound life, – who incorrectly considered the Old Testament Righteous HighPriest Melchisedek to be the Son of God, – Saint Cyril turned with a request to pray to the Lord so that He should reveal, correctly how to consider that righteous one. After three days the elder came to Saint Cyril and said, that the Lord revealed to him, that Melchisedek was high-priest and a mere man.
Saint Cyril learned to overcome his prejudice against the memory of the great Sainted-hierarch John Chrysostomos (Zlatoust') (+ 407, Comm. 13 November). The Patriarch of Alexandria Theophilos, by birth an uncle of the saint, was an antagonist of Sainted John, and presided in a council in judgement of him. Saint Cyril from his youthful years found himself thus in a circle antagonistic to John Chrysostom and involuntarily acquired prejudice against him. The Monk Isidoros Pelusiotes (+ c. 436-440, Comm. 4 February) repeatedly wrote to Saint Cyril and urged him to include the name of the great father of the Church into the diptych-list of the saints, but Saint Cyril would not agree. But once in a dream he saw a wondrous temple, in which was present the Mother of God surrounded by an host of Angels and saints, in which number stood also Saint John Chrysostom. When Saint Cyril wanted to approach the MostHoly Lady and offer to Her veneration, Saint John Chrysostom would not let him. The Mother of God asked Saint John to forgive Saint Cyril, for having sinned against him through ignorance. Seeing that Saint John hesitated, the Mother of God said: “Forgive him for Me, since he hath laboured much for My honour, and hath glorified Me among the people calling Me the Mother of God, the Theotokos Bogoroditsa”. Saint John answered: “By Thy intercession, Lady, I do forgive him”, – and then with love he hugged and embraced Saint Cyril.
Saint Cyril repented himself that he had maintained anger against the great saint of God. Having convened all the Egyptian bishops, he made a solemn festal celebration in honour of Sainted John Chrysostom.
Saint Cyril died in the year 444, leaving behind many works. In particular ought to be mentioned: Commentaries – On the Gospel of Luke, On the Gospel of John, On the Epistles of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians and to the Hebrews; also an Apologia in Defence of Christianity against the Emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363). Of vast significance are: Five Books against Nestorius; a work About the MostHoly Trinity; – under the title “Thesaurus”, written against Arius and Eunomios; also two dogmatic compositions About the MostHoly Trinity, – distinguished by a precise exposition of the Orthodox teaching about the Procession of the Holy Spirit. Saint Cyril wrote a composition – Against Anthropomorphism, for several Egyptians, who through ignorance depicted God in human form. Amidst a number of works by Saint Cyril are also the “Discussions”, among which is the moving and edifying “Discourse on the Exodus of the Soul”, inserted in the Slavonic “Following Psalter”.
The Monk Kirill (Cyril), Hegumen of Beloezersk, (in the world Kosma) was born in Moscow of pious parents. In his youthful years he was left an orphan and lived with his kinsman, the boyar (nobleman) Timofei Vasil’evich Vel’yaminov, in the surroundings of the court of the GreatPrince Dimitrii Donskoi (1363-1389). Secular life bored the youth. At the request of the Monk Stephan of Makhrisch (+ 1406, Comm. 14 July), Kosma was dismissed to the Simonov monastery, where he took vows under Saint Theodore (+ 1395, Comm. 28 November) – with the name Kirill. The Monk Kirill fulfilled his monastic obediences under the guidance of the starets (elder) Michael, who afterwards was Bishop of Smolensk. By night the elder read the Psalter, and the Monk Kirill bowed making poklons, but at the first clang of the bell he went to matins. He asked the elder permission to partake of food every 2nd or 3rd day, but the experienced elder did not allow this, but blessed him rather to eat with the brethren, only not to the extent of being full. The Monk Kirill carried out his obedience in the bread-bakery: he carried water, chopped firewood, and distributed bread. When the Monk Sergei of Radonezh came to the Simonov monastery, he then before any others visited and affectionately conversed with the Monk Kirill. They transferred the Monk Kirill from the bread-bakery to the kitchen, and the saint told himself, gazing at the burning fire: “Beware, Kirill, lest thou fall into the fire eternal”. The Monk Kirill toiled for nine years in the kitchen and he attained to such tender emotion, that he was not able to eat bread without tears, blessing the Lord. Fleeing the glory of man, the monk at times began to be a fool-for-Christ. In punishment for the transgressing of propriety, the monastery head punished him on bread and water for 40 days; the Monk Kirill underwent this punishment with joy. But the saint could not conceal his spirituality, and the experienced elders understood him and against his will they compelled him to accept the dignity of priest-monk. During free time from services, the Monk Kirill took himself a turn as novice and occupied himself with heavy work. When Saint Theodore was ordained archbishop of Rostov, the brethren in 1390 chose the Monk Kirill as archimandrite of the monastery.
Rich and important people began to visit the monk to hear his guidance. This disturbed the humble spirit of the saint, and he despite the entreaty of the brethren would not remain head of the monastery, but rather secluded himself in his former cell. But even here frequent visitors troubled the monk, and he crossed over to old Simonovo. The soul of the Monk Kirill yearned for quietude, and he prayed the Mother of God to show him a place, conducive for salvation. One time at night, reading as always an akathist before the Hodigetria icon of the Mother of God, he heard a voice: “Go to Beloozero (White Lake), there is the place for thee”.
At the Beloezero lakeside, then desolate and sparsely populated, he long went in search of the place, which in the vision was destined for his dwelling. In the surroundings of Mount Myaura at Siversk Lake, he together with his companion the Monk Pherapont (Comm. 27 May), set up a cross and dug up the ground.
The Monk Pherapont soon set off for another place, and the Monk Kirill pursued asceticism in his underground cell not even one year in solitude. One time Saint Kirill, troubled by a strange dream, lay down to sleep under a pine tree, but just hardly as he closed his eyes, he heard a voice: “Run, Kirill!” The Monk Kirill only just managed to jump away, as the pine tree came crashing down. From this pine tree the ascetic made a cross. Another time the Monk Kirill nearly perished from flames and smoke when it cleared away the forest, but God preserved His saint. A certain peasant attempted to burn down the cell of the monk, but as much as he tried, he did not succeed. Then having repented with tears, he confessed his sin to the Monk Kirill, who vowed him into monasticism.
To the monk there came from Simonov monastery the monks Zevedei and Dionysii, beloved by him, and then Nathanael, afterwards steward of the monastery. Many began to come to the monk and asked to be deemed worthy of monasticism. The holy elder perceived, that his time of silence was ended. In the year 1397 he constructed a temple in honour of the Uspenie (Dormition or Repose) of the Mother of God.
When the number of brethren had multiplied, the monk gave for the monastery an ustav (rule) of community-life, which he sanctified by the example of his own life. Thus, in church no one should make conversation, no one ought to leave from it before the end of services; and to the Gospel they came according to the eldest. At refectory meals they sat each at their own place, and in the refectory there was silence. From the refectory each went quietly to his own cell. No one was able to receive either letters or gifts, without having shown them to the Monk Kirill; without his blessing they did not write a letter. Money was kept in the monastery treasury, nor did anyone possess anything personal. Even to drink water they went to the refectory. The cells were not locked, and in them, besides icons and books, nothing was kept. In the final years of the Monk Kirill’s life, the boyar (nobleman) Roman decided to gift the monastery with a village and sent off the deed of gift. The Monk Kirill discerned, that if the monastery came to possess a village, then for the brethren it would prompt concerns about the land, settlements would emerge to shatter the monastic quietude, and so he refused the gift.
The Lord rewarded His saint with the gift of perspicacity and healing. A certain Feodor, having entered into the monastery out of love for the monk, and then so hated him, that he could not look at the saint, felt impelled to leave the monastery. He approached the cell of the Monk Kirill and, glancing at his grey hair, from shame he was not able to say a word. The monk said to him: “Sorrow not, my brother, for all are mistaken about me; thou alone knowest the truth and all my unworthiness; I am actually a worthless sinner”. Then the Monk Kirill blessed Feodor, and added that he should no more be troubled by such thought. From that time Feodor lived at peace in the monastery.
One time there was no wine for Divine Liturgy, and the sexton told the saint about this. The Monk Kirill gave commands to bring him the empty vessel, which he opened full of wine. During a time of famine the Monk Kirill distributed bread to all the needy, and he did not stop, despite that the normal reserves hardly sufficed for the brethren.
The monk tamed a storm on the lake, which threatened the fishermen, and he predicted that none of the brethren would die until his end, despite that a plague would rage, and afterwards many would follow after him.
The monk did his final Divine-services on the day of the Holy Trinity. Having giving final instructions to the brethren to preserve love amongst themselves, the Monk Kirill blessedly reposed in the 90th year of his life on 9 June 1427 – on the same-name (“tezoimennie”) day of memory with him of Saint Cyril, Archbishop of Alexandria. In the first year after the death of the monk – from the 53 brethren 30 men died. The monk often appeared to the remaining in dreams with advice and guidance.
The Monk Kirill loved spiritual enlightenment and he brought this love to his disciples. Among the works at the monastery in 1635 there were numbered more than two-thousand books, among them sixteen “of the Wonderworker Kirill”. Three letters of the monk to Russian princes, existing down to our time, reveal remarkable specimens of his spiritual instruction and guidance, love, love of peace and consolation.
The all-Russian veneration of the monk began not later than 1447-1448. The Life of Saint Kirill was written, commissioned by Metropolitan Theodosii and GreatPrince Vasilii Vasil’evich, by the priest-monk Pakhomii the Logothete, who dwelt at the Kirillov monastery in 1462 and met with many of the eye-witnesses and disciples of the Monk Kirill, in whose number was also the Monk Martinian (Comm. 12 January), at that time guiding the Ferapontov monastery.
The Monk Alexander, Hegumen of Kushtsk, of Vologda, was born about the year 1371 in Vologda, and in the world he had the name Alexei. He was vowed a monk at the Saviour-Stone (Spaso-Kamenni) monastery by the hegumen Dionysii Svyatogorets (i. e. Dionysii “of the Holy Mountain”), who brought the Athos ustav (rule) to the monastery. Here the Monk Alexander underwent all the aspects of obedience and strict fasting and was granted the dignity of priest-monk. He dwelt constantly at work and prayer. The brethren looked upon him as upon an Angel of God, and this troubled the Monk Alexander. He left the monastery secretly by night and came to the River Syazhem, where there was a thick forest and lake. Here he built himself a cell and lived life in prayer and extreme abstinence. But little by little people began to come to him. The Monk Alexander went from this place to the shore of Lake Kuben, at the mouth of the Kushta rivulet. Here at this time lived the Monk Evphymii (+ c. 1465, Comm. 11 April). Saint Alexander offered him to exchange cells. Saint Evphymii was agreeable and at parting left to the Monk Alexander his cross for blessing. The quiet wilderness was very dear to the Monk Alexander. Going to the lake, he immersed the cross in the water and prayed to God, that he would collect here those zealous of the way of the cross. After some time there came to the Monk Alexander a certain starets (elder), with whom he dwelt for 5 years. When a third brother arrived, the Monk Alexander decided to build a church in honour of the Uspenie (Dormition) of the MostHoly Mother of God. The saint set off to Rostov to Archbishop Dionysii (1418-1425), his former hegumen, who blessed the construction of the temple. One time, in the absence of the Zaozersk prince Dimitrii Vasil’evich the Tatars came, and five of them galloped up to the Kushtsk monastery. The Monk Alexander calmly met them and blessed with the cross. The Tatars fell down as though dead, and they lay senseless for several hours, after which time the Monk Alexander roused them from their numbness by the Name of the Life-Originating Trinity.
Upon the death of prince Dimitrii, his widow princess Maria, – who quite revered the Monk Alexander, offered in remembrance of her husband a village for the aid of the monastery. One time she came to the monastery and went into the church, where the Monk Alexander, with a bare chest whereon insects made attack, read the Psalter. The monk seemed distressed by her visit and said: “It does not become thee, princess, to look upon our poverty”. The princess humbly asked pardon. The monk blessed her, but said: “Nourish thy poverty at home”. Having returned, the princess fell sick and came to ask prayers for recovery of health. But the Monk Alexander foresaw her end and said: “Be prepared for this life”. Princess Maria died 20 days later.
Upon the monastery floor was gathered wheat. A certain peasant decided to steal a sack, but he was not able to lift it. The monk came upon him and said: “My son, thou dost lift in vain”. The surprised thief threw himself at the feet of the saint, asking forgiveness, but the Monk Alexander ordered him to put in more wheat, and having admonished him in future not to take away from others, he blessed him to take the sack and go with God. The forgiven peasant easily shouldered the blessed burden, thanking the magnanimous elder.
Having sensed the nearness of his end, the Monk Alexander said to those dwelling with him: “I weaken, but do ye endure in this place, preserving humility and mutual love”. On Sunday he made the Divine Liturgy, and communed the Holy Mysteries. Then on his knees he prayed for himself and for his monastery, and at age 68 he peacefully gave up his spirit to the Lord on 9 June 1439.
According to the last-will instructions of the Monk Alexander, his body was placed at the mid-day side of the altar. A year afterwards there grew over his grave a rowen-berry tree. One time on the feastday of the Uspenie (Dormition) of the MostHoly Mother of God, a peasant child broke off a branch from this tree and suddenly his hand began to hurt. His parents with prayers led their son to the grave of the monk, and he was healed. From that time people began to pick berries from this tree for healing. His disciples built over the grave of the Monk Alexander a warm church in honour of Saint Nicholas and dedicated it on the day of memory of the Monk Alexander. Many of the sick, which they brought to the church, saw the Monk Alexander together with Saint Nicholas, praying together or censing the temple. The sick received healing at the grave of the Monk Alexander of Kushtsk.
The Holy Women-Martyrs Thekla, Martha and Mary on 6 June 346 were beheaded with a sword during the reign of the Persian emperor Sapor II.
The Monk John Shavteli (the account about him is located under 1 April).
© 1999 by translator Fr. S. Janos