Orthodox River


June 27 2020 - June 14 2020

Prophet Elisha (Elisei) (IX Cent. BC). Sainted Methodios, Patriarch of Constantinople (+ 847).

Nobleborn Prince Mstislav the Brave of Novgorod, in Holy Baptism George (+ 1180). Monastics: Methodii, Hegumen of Peshnosh (+ 1392); Elisei of Sumsk (XV-XVI); Nyphontes of Athos; Julitta.

The Holy Prophet Elisha (Elisei) lived in the IX Century before the Birth of Christ, and was a native of the village of Abelmaum, near Jordan. By the command of the Lord he was called to prophetic service by the holy Prophet of God Eliah (Ilias, Elijah) (Comm. 20 July).

When it became time for the holy Prophet Eliah to be taken up to Heaven, he said to Elisha: “Ask, what shalt I do for thee, before that I be taken from thee”. Elisha boldly asked for a double portion of the grace of God: “The Spirit, which be in thee, let it be upon me twofold”. The Prophet Eliah said: “Thou dost ask the difficult; if thou seest as I be taken from thee, then so shalt it be for thee, but if thou seest not, it wilt not be” (4 [2] Kings 2: 12). And when they went along the way and conversed, there appeared a fiery chariot and horses and parted them both. Elisha cried out: “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horse!” (4 [2] Kings 2: 12). Picking up the cloak (mantle) of his teacher which fell from the sky, Elisha received the power and prophetic gift of Eliah. He spent more than 65 years in prophetic service, under six Israelite kings (from Ahab to Joash). “And in those days he trembled not before the prince, and no one could overcome him” (Sirach 48: 13 [“Sirach” in the canon of Old Testament books is found in Catholic but not Protestant English translations of the Bible, rendered as “Ecclesiasticus”]). The holy prophet worked numerous miracles. He divided the waters of the Jordan, having smitten it with the mantle of the Prophet Eliah; he made fit for drinking the waters of a Jericho spring; by an abundant bringing forth of water by his prayer he saved the armies of the kings of Israel and Judah that stood in an arid wilderness; he delivered a poor widow from death by starvation through a miraculous increase of oil in a vessel. The Shunamite woman showing hospitality to the prophet was gladdened by the birth of a son through his prayer, and when the child died, he was raised back to life by the prophet. The Syrian military-commander Namaan was healed from leprosy but the servant of the prophet, Gehazi, was afflicted since he disobeyed the prophet and on the sly took money from Namaan. Elisha predicted to the Israelite king Joash the victory over his enemies and by the power of his prayer worked many other miracles (4 [2] Kings 3-13). The holy Prophet Elisha died in old age at Samaria. “And in life he worked miracles, and at death astounding was his deed” (Sir. 48: 15). A year after his death, a corpse was thrown into the cave wherein lay his remains, and came alive by a mere touch to his bones. The Prophet Elisha, just like his teacher the Prophet Eliah, left behind them no books, since their prophetic preaching was but oral. Jesus, son of Sirach, inscribed eulogistic praise to both the great prophets (Sir. 48: 1-15).

Saint John Damascene compiled a canon in honour of the Prophet Elisha, and at Constantinople a church was built in his name.

Julian the Apostate (361-363) gave orders to burn the relics of the Prophet Elisha, Abdia (Obadiah) and John the Forerunner, but the remains of the holy relics were preserved by believers, and part of them were transferred to Alexandria.

Sainted Methodios, Patriarch of Constantinople, was born in Sicily into a rich family. Having a vocation to God, he went while still in his youth off to a monastery on the island of Chios and renovated it with his means. During the reign of the iconoclast Leo the Armenian (813-820), Saint Methodios held the high position of “apokrisiaros” (“advocate for Church matters”) under the holy Patriarch Nicephoros (Comm. 2 June). He was dispatched by the patriarch to Rome on a mission to the papacy and he remained there. During this period Leo the Armenian removed Nicephoros from the patriarchal throne and put on it the iconoclast Theodotos of Melissinea, given the nickname “Kassiter” (“Tinman”) (815-822). After the death of Leo the Armenian, Saint Methodios returned, and in the dignity of presbyter he struggled incessantly against the Iconoclast heresy. The emperor Michael the Stammerer (820-829) at first was noted for his benevolence and he set free many imprisoned by his predecessor for their veneration of icons, but after a while he renewed the persecution against Orthodoxy. Saint Methodios was locked up in prison in Akrita. After the death of Michael the Stammerer, the ruler was Theophilos (829-842), who also was an iconoclast. More refined a man than his father, he set free Saint Methodios, who likewise was a man of learning, superbly skilled in matters not only ecclesial, but also civil. Having received his freedom, Saint Methodios renewed the struggle with the heretics, and for a while the emperor tolerated this.

But after defeat in a war with the Arabs, Theophilos vented his anger against Saint Methodios, saying, that God had punished him because he had let come close to him an “icon-worshipper” (such was what the iconoclasts called those who venerate holy icons). Saint Methodios objected, saying that the Lord was angry with him for the insults upon His holy icons. They gave the saint over to tortures, and struck him much about the face, from which his jaw was broken. On his face remained ugly scars. Saint Methodios was sent off to the island of Antigonos and he was locked up there with two robbers in a deep cave. In this dark prison where the light of day penetrated not, Saint Methodios languished for 7 years until the death of the emperor Theophilos.

During this time, the holy Icon-Confessors Theodore and Theophanes the Lettered‑Upon (Comm. 27 December), likewise banished to prison, sent Saint Methodios greetings in verse, and the prisoner likewise answered with greetings in verse.

After the death of Theophilos, his son Michael III (842-867) began to rule, but not being of mature age, the Byzantine empire was actually ruled by his mother, the empress Blessed Theodora, a venerator of icons.

The empress tired to extirpate the Iconoclast heresy, and gave orders to free the confessors imprisoned for icon veneration. The heretic Annios occupying the patriarchal throne was banished, and Saint Methodios chosen in his place. At Constantinople was convened a Local Council with Saint Methodios presiding (842). The Council restored icon veneration and established an annual celebration of the triumph of Orthodoxy. The “Rite of Orthodoxy” compiled by Saint Methodios is done on the First Sunday of the Great Lent.

Attempting to undermine the authority of Saint Methodios, and also the love and esteem of his flock for him, the heretics slandered him as having transgressed chastity. The slandering was exposed as such, and the enemies of the saint put to shame. The final years of the saint passed peacefully, he toiled much, wisely guided the Church and his flock, renovated temples ruined by the heretics, gathered up the relics of saints scattered about by the heretics, and transferred the relics of Patriarch Nicephoros from the place of his imprisonment back to Constantinople. Saint Methodios died in the year 846. He was spiritually close to the Monk Ioannikos (Comm. 4 November), who had foretold him his becoming patriarch and also the time of his end. Besides the “Rite of Orthodoxy”, the holy hierarch also compiled a rule for those converted to the faith, three rites of marriage and several pastoral sermons and church songs.

The Monk Methodii, Hegumen of Peshnozh (XIV), was the founder of the Peshnozh monastery. In his youth he went to the Monk Sergei of Radonezh and spent several years under his guidance; later on, with the blessing of the Monk Sergei he withdrew into a solitary place and built himself a cell in the forest beyond the River Yakhroma. Soon in this deep and marshy locale several disciples came to him, wanting to imitate his life. The Monk Sergei visited him and advised him to build a monastery and church. The Monk Methodii himself toiled at the construction of the church and the cells, “on foot carrying” (“pesh nosya”) wood along the river, and the monastery from that time began to be called “the Peshnozh”.

In 1391 the Monk Methodii became hegumen of this monastery. At times he withdrew two versts from the monastery and here he asceticised in prayer, and here also the Monk Sergei came to him for spiritual conversation, wherefore this locale received the name “Beseda” (“Conversation-place”).

The Monk Methodii was buried (+ 1392) at the monastery founded by him. In 1732 over his relics was erected a church in the name of the Monks Sergei of Radonezh and Methodii of Peshnozh. The beginning of his local celebration dates to the late XVII - early XVIII Centuries.

The Monk Elisei of Sumsk – took monastic vows at the Solovetsk monastery. He was occupied with the plaiting of fishing nets. Before death he became a schemamonk. In 1688 miracles began from the grave of the monk, resting beneathe a crypt in the Nikol’sk church of the city of Suma, Archangel’sk diocese.

The Monk Nyphontes of Athos (XIV) was the son of a priest and from childhood he was raised under the principles of strict Christian morality. Upon taking monastic vows he soon was ordained to the dignity of presbyter. But the thirst for perfect quietude and solitary deeds led the monk to the Holy Mountain, where he asceticised for many years with the reknown Athonite elder – the Monk Maximos Kausokalites (“the Hut-burner”, Comm. 13 January). The Monk Nyphontes died at age 96, glorified by gifts of wonderworking and perspicacity.

© 1999 by translator Fr. S. Janos