June 24 2020 - June 11 2020
Apostle Bartholomew and Disciple Barnabas (I).
Monks: Varnava (Barnabas) of Vetluzhsk (+ 1445); Ephrem of Novotorzhsk (Transfer of Relics, 1572); Vassian of Uglich, Wonderworker.
Martyrs: Maria of Pergamum; Theopemptos and 4 Others with him.
Icons of the Mother of God: “Mete it is” (“Dostoino est”) or “Merciful” (“Miluiuschaya”) (X); Abuleia (692).
The Holy Apostle Bartholomew was born at Cana of Galilee and was one of the Twelve Apostles of Christ. After the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, it fell by lot to the holy Apostles Bartholomew and Philip (Comm. 14 November) to preach the Gospel in Syria and Asia Minor. In their preaching they dispersed through various cities, and then met up together again. Accompanying the holy Apostle Philip was his sister, the holy virgin Saint Mariam.Traversing the cities of Syria and Myzia, they underwent much hardship and tribulations, they were stoned and they were locked up in prison. In one of the villages they met up with the Apostle John the Theologian, and together they set off to Phrygia. In the city of Hieropolis by the power of their prayers they destroyed an enormous viper, which the pagans worshipped as a god. The holy Apostles Bartholomew and Philip with his sister proved their preaching with many a miraculous sign.
At Hieropolis there lived a man by the name of Stakhios, who had been blind for 40 years. When he received healing, he then believed in Christ and was baptised. News of this spread throughout the city, and a multitude of the people thronged to the house where the apostles were staying. The sick and those beset by demons were released from their infirmities, and many were baptised. The city governor gave orders to arrest the preachers and throw them in prison, and to burn down the house of Stakhios. At the trial pagan priests came forth with the complaint, that the strangers were turning people away from the worship of the ancestral gods. Thinking that perhaps some sort of magic power was hidden away in the clothes of the apostles, the governor gave orders to strip them. But Saint Mariam began to seem like a fiery torch before their eyes, and none dared touch her. They sentenced the saints to crucifixion. The Apostle Philip was raised up on the cross upside down. But there then began an earthquake, and a fissure in the earth swallowed up the governor of the city, together with the pagan priests and many of the people. Others took fright and rushed to take down the apostles from the crosses. Since the Apostle Bartholomew had not been put up high, they managed to take him down quickly. The Apostle Philip however had died. Making Stakhios the bishop of Hieropolis, the Apostle Bartholomew and Blessed Mariam left the city and moved on.
Preaching the Word of God, Mariam arrived in Likaoneia, where she peacefully died (Comm. 17 February). The Apostle Bartholomew set off to India, and there he translated from Hebrew the Gospel of Matthew, and he converted many pagans to Christ. He visited likewise Great Armenia (the country between the River Kura and the upper stretches of the Tigrus and Euphrates Rivers), where he worked many a miracle and healed the daughter of the emperor Polimios from the demons afflicting her. The emperor in gratitude sent gifts to the apostle, who however refused to accept them, saying that he sought only for the salvation of the souls of mankind. Then Polimios together with the empress, their healed daughter and many of those close to them accepted Baptism. And people from the ten cities of Great Armenia followed their example. But through the intrigues of the pagan priests, the Apostle Bartholomew was seized by the emperor brother Astiag in the city of Al’ban (now the city of Baku), and crucified upside down. But even from the cross he did not cease to proclaim the good news about Christ the Saviour. Finally, on orders from Astiag, they flayed the skin from the Apostle Bartholomew and cut off his head. Believers placed his remains in a pewter coffin and buried him.
In about the year 508 the holy relics of the Apostle Bartholomew were transferred to Mesopotamia, to the city of Dara. When the Persians seized the city in 574, Christians took the relics of the Apostle Bartholomew with them when they fled to the shores of the Black Sea. But since the enemy overtook them there, they were compelled to leave the coffin at the sea. By the power of God the coffin miraculously arrived on the island of Lipara. In the IX Century, after the taking of the island by the Arabs, the holy relics were transferred to the Neapolitan city of Beneventum in Italy, and in the X Century part of the relics were transferred to Rome.
There is mention about the holy Apostle Bartholomew in the Vita of Joseph the Melodist (+ 883, Comm. 4 April). Having received from a certain man part of the relics of the Apostle Bartholomew, the Monk Joseph conveyed them to his own monastery near Constantinople, and he built a church in the name of the Apostle Bartholomew, placing therein part of the relics. The Monk Joseph ardently desired to compile a laudation in song in honour of the saint, and he fervently besought God to grant him the ability to do so. On the feastday in memory of the Apostle Bartholomew, the Monk Joseph caught sight of him at the altar. He beckoned to Joseph and took the holy Gospel from the altar-table and pressed it to his bosom with the words: “Bless thou the Lord, and let thine song delight the world”. And from that time the Monk Joseph began to write hymns and canons and with them adorn not only the feastday of the Apostle Bartholomew, but also the feastdays of many other saints, – compiling altogether about 300 canons. Saints John Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, Epiphanios of Cyprus and certain other teachers of the Church regard the Apostle Bartholomew as being one and the same person as Nathanael (Jn. 1: 45-51, 21: 2).
The Holy Disciple Barnabas was born on the island of Cyprus into the family of rich Hebrews, and he was named Joseph. He received his education at Jerusalem, being raised with his friend and co-student Saul (the future Apostle Paul) under the then reknown teacher of the law, Gamaliel. Joseph was pious, he frequented the Temple, he strictly observed the fasts and avoided youthful distractions. And during this time period our Lord Jesus Christ began His public ministry. Seeing the Lord and hearing His Divine Words, Joseph believed on Him as the Messiah, he was ardent with love for Him and followed Him. The Lord chose him to be among His Seventy Disciples. And it was amongst the followers of the Lord that Joseph received a second name – Barnabas, which in Hebrew means “son of consolation”. After the Ascension of the Lord to Heaven, Barnabas sold land belonging to him near Jerusalem and he brought the money to the feet of the Apostles, leaving nothing for himself (Acts 4: 36-37).
When Saul after his conversion arrived in Jerusalem and sought to join with the followers of Christ, everyone there was afraid of him as having been a persecutor but a short while before. Barnabas however came with him to the Apostles and reported, how the Lord had appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9: 26-28).
As entrusted him by the Apostles, Saint Barnabas went to Antioch to encourage the believers: “Having come and having seen the grace of God, he rejoiced and he urged all to cleave to the Lord with sincerity of heart” (Acts 11: 23). Then the Disciple Barnabas went to Tarsis, and thereafter he brought the Apostle Paul to Antioch, where for about a year they taught the people in the Church. It was here that the disciples first began to be called Christians (Acts 11: 26). With the onset of famine, and taking along generous alms, Paul and Barnabas returned to Jerusalem. When king Herod killed the Apostle James Zebedaeus, and to please the Jews had the Apostle Peter put under guard in prison, Saints Barnabas and Paul and Peter were led out of the prison by an Angel of the Lord, and they hid out at the house of Barnabas' aunt Maria. Later, when the persecution had quieted down, they returned to Antioch, taking with them Maria’s son John, surnamed Mark. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the prophets and teachers there imposed hands upon Barnabas and Paul, and sent them off on matters to which the Lord had summoned them (Acts 13: 2-3). Arriving in Seleucia, they sailed off to Cyprus and in the city of Salamis they preached the Word of God in the Jewish synagogues. On Paphos they came across a sorcerer and false-prophet named Barjesus, who was close with the proconsul Sergios. Wanting to hear the Word of God, the proconsul invited the saints to come to him. The sorcerer attempted to sway the proconsul from the faith, but the Apostle Paul denounced the sorcerer, who through his words suddenly fell blind. The proconsul believed in Christ (Acts 13: 6-12). From Paphos Barnabas and Paul set sail for Pergamum Pamphylia, and then they preached to the Jews and the Gentiles at Pisidian Antioch and throughout all that region. The Jews made a riot and expelled Paul and Barnabas. The saints arrived in Iconium, but learning that the Jews wanted to stone them, they withdrew to Lystra and Derben. There the Apostle Paul healed a man, crippled in the legs from birth. The people assumed them to be the gods Zeus and Hermes and wanted to offer them sacrifice. The saints just barely persuaded them not to do this (Acts 14: 8-18).
When the question arose, whether those converted from the Gentiles should accept circumcision, Barnabas and Paul set off to Jerusalem. There they were warmly received by the Apostles and elders. The preachers related, “what God had wrought with them and how He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles “Acts 14: 27). After long deliberations the Apostles collectively resolved not to impose upon Gentile-Christians any sort of burden beyond that necessary – to refrain from idol-sacrifice and its blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication, and not to do to others that which they themselves not do (Acts 15: 19-20). Letters were dispatched with Barnabas and Paul, and they again evangelised at Antioch, and after a certain while they decided to visit the other cities, where earlier they had preached. The Disciple Barnabas wanted to take Mark along with him, but the Apostle Paul did not want to, since earlier he had gone off from them. A quarrel arose, and they separated. Paul took with him Silas and set off to Syria and Cilicia, and Barnabas took with him Mark – to Cyprus (Acts 15: 36-41).
Having multiplied the number of believers, the Disciple Barnabas set off to Rome, where he was perhaps the first to preach Christ.
The Disciple Barnabas founded the episcopal seat at Mediolanum (now Milan in Italy), and upon his return to Cyprus he continued to preach about Christ the Saviour. Thereupon the enraged Jews incited the pagans against Saint Barnabas, and they led him out beyond the city and stoned him, and then built a bon-fire so as to burn the body. Later on, having come upon this spot, Mark took up the unharmed body of the Disciple Barnabas and buried it in a cave, placing upon the bosom of Saint Barnabas, in accord with his final wishes, the Gospel of Matthew copied out in his own hand.
The Disciple Barnabas died in about the year 62, at age 76. Over the course of time the place of burial of the Disciple Barnabas was forgotten. But numerous signs appeared at this place. In the year 448, during the time of the emperor Zeno, the Disciple Barnabas thrice appeared in a dram-vision to the Cyprus archbishop Anthymos and indicated the place of burial of his relics. Starting to dig at the indicated spot, Christians found the incorrupt body of the saint, and upon his chest was the Holy Gospel. It was from these times that the Cyprus Church began to be termed Apostolic in origin and received the right of autonomously choosing its head. And thus the Disciple Barnabas defended Cyprus against the pretensions of the opponent of the Fourth OEcumenical Council, the heretic surnamed Knapheios, who had usurped the patriarchal throne at Antioch and sought to gain dominion over the Cyprus Church.
The Monk Varnava (Barnabas) of Vetluzhsk was born in Great Ustiug. Before going off into the wilderness he was a priest in one of the city churches. In 1417 the monk settled at one of the banks of the River Vetluga at Red Hill (Krasnaya Gora), where he asceticised in solitude over the course of 28 years, “toiling for God in psalmody and prayer, he subsisted on grass and acorns”. In the words of the author of the Life of the saint, there came also to Saint Varnava “wild animals, and many a bear did live nigh to his cell… He however did walk amongst them, as though amongst cattle, watching after them and delighting with them; rejoicing in the great God that these beasts were become tame for him”.
In the surroundings of Red Hill as far off as 50 versts, there was not a single human habitation. Occasionally wilderness people would visit “for a blessing”, and he would predict to them, that after his repose on the banks of the River Vetluga “God would multiply the human habitation, and upon the place of his dwelling monks would live”.
According to tradition, in 1439, before he settled at the River Unzha, the Monk Makarii (Comm. 25 July) came hither for instruction and guidance. The Monk Varnava died in old age on 11 June 1445. After the end of the ascetic, at the place of his efforts there came to dwell “from various lands” many a monk and “after them farmers” and “many people did spread all along this river all the way to the great River Volga”. At Red Hill the monks built two churches – the one in honour of the MostHoly Trinity, and the other, over the grave of the monk – in the name of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker, and they founded a common-life monastery, which received as its name “the Varnavinsk wilderness-monastery”. The Vita of Saint Varnava was written in 1639 by a monk of the Varnavinsk monastery – “the very venerable priest-monk Iosif (Dyadkin), who was afterwards in the imperial city of Moscow the chief director of the directory of book printing”. For the authentication and verification of the miracles, which occurred at the grave of the monk, in that same year of 1639 there was a witnessing of the holy relics under the direction of Patriarch Joasaph.
With the passing of time at the place of the Varnavinsk monastery there arose the district town Varnavin, and the chief church of the monastery became the cathedral church in the name of the Disciple Barnabas.
The Transfer of the Relics of the Monk Ephrem of Novotorzhsk (+ 28 January 1053) was done in the year 1572 by the Novgorod archbishop Leonid. The feastday was established under the Moscow Metropolitan Daniel (1584-1587).
The “Mete it is” (“Dostoino Est”) Icon of the Mother of God is situated at the high place of the altar of the cathedral church of the Kareia monastery on Mount Athos.
On a certain Sunday, and living not far off from Kareia, an elder went to the monastery for the all-night vigil. In the cell remained a novice, and with the onset of night there was a knock from an unknown monk. At the time of the all-night vigil, when it was necessary to sing the “More Honourable than the Cherubim…”, both stood before the Icon of the Mother of God, called “The Merciful” (“Miluiuschaya”), and the guest remarked that they should sing “Mete it is in Truth…”. During the time of the singing of the previously unheard song the Icon of the Mother of God brightened with an heavenly light, and the novice wept with joy. At his request this wondrous song, for want of paper, was written on stone, which became softened like wax, under the hand of the strange singer. Calling himself Gabriel, the stranger then became invisible. The Icon of the Mother of God, before which was first sung the “Mete it is”, was transferred to the cathedral church of the Dormition of the MostHoly Mother of God at Kareia (the administrative centre of Athos). The stone-tablet, with the song inscribed on it by the Archangel Gabriel, was taken to Constantinople during the time when the Patriarch was Sainted Nicholas Chrysoberges (+ 995, Comm. 16 December). Numerous copies of the “Mete it is” (“Merciful”) Icon are revered as holy in Russian churches. At the Galerna Harbour of Peterburg there was erected a church with five cupolas in honour of the Merciful Mother of God, and into it they put a grace-bearing “Merciful” icon sent from Athos.
© 1999 by translator Fr. S. Janos