March 25 2020 - March 12 2020
Monk Theophanes the Confessor, of Sygrianeia (+ 818). Righteous Phinhas (+ c. 1500 B.C.). Sainted Gregory Dialogus, Pope of Rome (+ 604). Monk Simeon the New Theologian (+ 1021). Holy Nobleborn Emperor Demetrios the Self-Sacrificed (+ 1289, Gruzia).
Lydda Not-Wrought-by-Hand (on Pillar) Icon of the Mother of God (I).
The Monk Theophanes the Confessor was born at Constantinople into a pious and reknown family. the father of Theophanes was a kinsman of the Byzantine emperor Leo the Isaurian (717-741). Three years after Theophanes was born, his father died, leaving his family under the care of the emperor himself. Theophanes grew up at the court and became a dignitary under the emperor Leo the Khozar (775-780). His position obliged him to enter into marriage. With the consent of his bride, Theophanes preserved his chastity, since in his soul matured the desire to assume the monastic form. Visiting upon a time with his spouse at monasteries in the Sygreian district (Asia Minor), Theophanes met the perspicacious elder Gregory Stratitios, who predicted to Theophanes' wife, that her husband would merit the crown of martyrdom. Awhile later the spouse of Theophanes was tonsured a nun in one of the monasteries in Bithynia, and Theophanes accepted monastic tonsure under the monastic elder Gregory. With the blessing of the elder, Theophanes built a monastery on the Island of Kalon in the Sea of Marmara and secluded himself in his cell, being occupied with the transcription of books. And in this occupation Theophanes attained an high degree of mastery. Later on the Monk Theophanes founded yet another monastery in the Sygreian district, at a place called the “Big Settlement”, and became its hegumen. The monk himself took part in all the monastic tasks and for everyone he gave example by his love for work and effort. He was granted by the Lord the gift of wonderworking: he healed the sick and cast out devils. In the year 787 at Nicea was convened the Seventh OEcumenical Council, which condemned the heresy of the Iconoclasts. The Monk Theophanes was also invited to the Council. He arrived dressed in his patch-tattered attire, but he shone forth by his God-inspired wisdom in affirming the dogmas of the true Orthodoxy.
At age 50 the Monk Theophanes fell grievously ill and right up to his very end he suffered terribly. Situated on his sick-bed, the monk toiled incessantly: he wrote his work, “The Chronographia”, – an history of the Christian Church covering the years 285-813. This work even up into the present has remained an invaluable source in the history of the Church.
During the reign of the emperor Leo the Armenian (813-820), when the saint was already well up into age, the Iconoclast heresy made a comeback. They demanded of Saint Theophanes that he accept the heresy, but he firmly refused and was locked up in prison. His “Big Settlement” monastery was put to the torch. In prison for 23 days, the holy confessor died (+ 818). After the death of the impious emperor Leo the Armenian, the “Big Settlement” monastery was restored and the relics of the holy confessor were transferred there.
Righteous Saint Phinehas, grandson of the High-Priest Aaron and son of the High-Priest Eleazar, was also a priest and zealous in his service.
When the Israelites, having been led out from Egypt by the holy Prophet Moses (Comm. 4 September), were already near to the Promised Land, their neighbours the Moabites and Midianites were overcome by fear and envy. Not trusting in their own strength, they decided to resort to sorcery and they summoned the magician Balaam to put a curse on the Israelites. But the Lord in a revelation to Balaam announced His will, and Balaam filled with the Spirit thrice blessed the People of God (Num. 23-24). Then the Moabites with prodigality drew the Israelites into the idol-worship of Baal-Peor. God punished the Jews for their apostasy, and they died by the thousands from a pestilential plague. Many, beholding the wrath of God, came to their senses and turned to repentance. At this time a certain fellow named Zimri, a chief man of the tribe of the Simeonites, “brought to his brethren a Midianite woman in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the community of the sons of the Israelites, whilst they did weep at the entrance of the tabernacle of the gathering” (Num. 25: 6). Phinehas, filled with wrath at the insult to the people, went into Zimri’s tent and with a spear ran through both him and the Midianite woman. “And said the Lord to Moses: Phinehas… hath averted Mine anger away from the sons of the Israelites, wherein amongst them having been zealous for Me; wherefore, I do give unto him Mine covenant of peace, and it shalt be for him and his descendants a covenant of eternal priesthood, for that he hath shewn fervour for his God and made propitiation for the sons of the Israelites” (Num. 25: 10-13). After this, at the command of God, Righteous Phinehas went at the head of the Israelite army against the Moabites and brought chastisement upon them for their impiety and treachery. After the death of the High-Priest Eleazar, Saint Phinehas was unanimously chosen as high-priest. The high‑priesthood, in accord with the Divine promise, continued also with his posterity. Saint Phinehas died well up in age (+ c. 1500 B.C.).
Sainted Gregory Dialogus, Pope of Rome, was born in Rome in about the year 540. His grandfather was Pope Felix, and his mother Sylvia and aunts Tarsilla and Emiliana were likewise enumerated by the Roman Church to the rank of saints. Having received a most excellent secular education, he attained to high governmental positions. And leading a God-pleasing life, he yearned with all his soul for monasticism. After the death of his father, Saint Gregory used up all his inheritance on the establishing of six monasteries. At Rome he founded a monastery in the name of the holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called, and having exchanged his capacious chambers for a narrow cell, he accepted there monastic tonsure. Afterwards, on a commission entrusted to him by Pope Pelagius II, Saint Gregory lived for a long while in Byzantium. And there he wrote his “Exposition on the Book of Job”. After the demise of Pope Pelagius, Saint Gregory was chosen to the Roman cathedra-see. But reckoning himself unworthy, over the course of seven months he would not consent to accept so responsible a service, and having acceded only through the entreaties of the clergy and flock, he finally accepted the consecration.
Wisely leading the Church, Sainted Gregory worked tirelessly at propagating the Word of God. Saint Gregory compiled in the Latin language the rite of the “Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts”, which before him was known of only in the verbal tradition. Affirmed by the Sixth OEcumenical Council, this liturgical rite was accepted by all the Orthodox Church.
He zealously struggled against the Donatist heresy; he likewise converted to the True Faith the inhabitants of Brittany – pagans and Goths, adhering to the Arian heresy.
Saint Gregory left after him numerous works of writing. And after the appearance of his book, “Dialogues concerning the Life and Miracles of the Italian Fathers” (“Dialogi de vita et miraculis patrum Italiorum”), the saint became called “Dialogus”, i.e. “teaching by dialogue conversations”. Particular reknown was enjoyed by his “Pastoral Rule” (or “Concerning Pastoral Service” – “Liber regulae pastoralis”). In this work Saint Gregory describes from every side the model of the true pastor. There have likewise reached us his letters (848), comprised of moral guidances.
Sainted Gregory headed the Church over the course of 13 years, concerning himself over all the needs of his flock. He was characterised by an extraordinary love of poverty, for which he was vouchsafed a vision of the Lord Himself.
Pope Saint Gregory I the Great, as he is otherwise known, died in the year 604, and his relics rest in the cathedral of the holy Apostle Peter in the Vatican.
The Monk Simeon the New Theologian was born in the year 946 in the city of Galata (Paphlagonia), and he received the basic secular education at Constantinople. His father prepared him for a career at court, and for a certain while the youth occupied an high position at the imperial court. But at age 25 he felt the draw towards monastic life, and he fled his house and withdrew to the Studite monastery, where he entered into obedience under the then reknown elder Simeon the Reverent. The basic ascetic deed of the monk was the unceasing Jesus Prayer in its short form: “Lord, have mercy!” For greater prayerful concentration he constantly sought out solitude, and even at liturgy he stood separately from the brethren, and he often remained alone at night in the church; in order to accustom himself to mindfulness concerning death, he would spend nights in the graveyard. The fruit of his fervour was a special condition of ecstasy: in these moments the Holy Spirit in the form of a luminous cloud descended upon him and made oblivious to his sight everything surrounding. With time he attained to a constant high spiritual enlightened awareness, which was especially evident when he served the Liturgy.
In roughly the year 980 the Monk Simeon was made hegumen of the monastery of Saint Mamant and continued in this dignity for 25 years. He set in order the neglected management of the monastery and restored order to its church.
The Monk Simeon combined kindliness with strictness and steadfast observance of the Gospel commands. Thus, for example, when his favourite disciple Arsenios killed ravens which were pecking away at moist bread, the hegumen made him tie the dead birds to a rope, and wear this “necklace” on his neck and stand in the courtyard. In the monastery of Saint Mamant for the atoning of his sin was a certain bishop from Rome, unrepentingly having murdered his young nephew, and the Monk Simeon assiduously brought him around to good and spiritual attentiveness.
The strict monastic discipline, which the Monk Simeon constantly strove for, led to a strong dissatisfaction amongst the monastic brethren. One time after liturgy, the particularly irked among the brethren pounced on him and nearly killed him. When the Constantinople patriarch expelled them from the monastery and wanted to hand them over to the city authorities, the monk obtained pardon for them and aided them to live in the world.
In about the year 1005, the Monk Simeon handed over the hegumen position to Arsenios, while he himself settled nearby the monastery in peace. He composed there his theological works, fragments of which entered into the 5 volumed “Philokalia” (“Dobrotoliubie”). The chief theme of his works – is the hidden activity of a spiritual perfecting, with struggle against the passions and sinful thoughts. He wrote discursive instructions for monks, – “Practical Theological Chapters”, “A Tract on Three Forms of Prayers”, and “A Tract on Faith”. Moreover, the Monk Simeon was an outstanding churchly poet. To him belong the “Hymns of Divine Love” – about 70 poems, filled with profound prayerful ponderings.
The teachings of the Monk Simeon about the new man, about the “divinisation of the flesh”, with which he wanted to replace the teachings concerning the “mortification of the flesh” (for which also they termed him the New Theologian), – were difficult for his contemporaries to assimilate. Many of his teachings sounded for them unacceptable and strange. This led to conflict with Constantinople church authorities, and the Monk Simeon was subjected to banishment. He withdrew to the coasts of the Bosphorus and founded there a monastery of Saint Marina.
The saint reposed peacefully to God in the year 1021. While still during his life he received a gift of wonderworking. Numerous miracles occurred also after his death; one of them – was a miraculous discovery of his image. His Life (Vita) was written by his cell-attendant and disciple, the Monk Nikita Stethatos.
The Holy Nobleborn Gruzinian Emperor Demetrios the Second, called the Self-Sacrificed by the people, was descended from the Bagratid dynasty and was the son of the emperor David V (+ 1269). The Emperor Demetrios exerted much effort in the enlightening and peaceful prospering of his land. During his reign were annexed the Armenian provinces adjacent to it, which roused the displeasure of neighbouring Persia. But thanks to the wise actions of Saint Demetrios II, rendered in a series of services to the Persian sultan Akhmed, a clash with Persia was successfully averted over the course of some several years.
The new Persian sultan Argun, however, heeding the complaints of his court Jewish physician, conceived a strong hatred within him towards the Orthodox Emperor Demetrios, and he set out with a large army to the borders of Gruzia. Sultan Argun set up his encampment on the Mugan plain. Holy Emperor Demetrios, wanting to save his land from being overrun with devastation, came himself into the camp of the enemy and attempted to assure him of his peaceful intentions.
The sultan in an uncontrollable rage offered the saint a choice – death or the despoiling of Iveria. Saint Demetrios answered the tyrant: “I shalt sacrifice my life for the welfare of my subjects”. Saint Demetrios was executed (+ 1289). The Gruzian and Armenian historians relate, that several hours after the martyr’s end of Saint Demetrios the sun suddenly darkened and terror overcame sultan Argun and his army. The Persians in fear quit Gruzia, without wreaking ruin upon it. “The memory of holy emperor Demetrios, named the Self-Sacrificed by the Iverians, is revered as holy in the land, which he did save from the tyrant by the sacrifice of his own life”.
The Lydda Not-Wrought-by-Hand Icon of the Mother of God (in Lydda on a Pillar): When the holy Apostles Peter (Comm. 29 June and 16 January) and John the Theologian (Comm. 8 May and 26 September) preached about the Lord Jesus Christ in the city of Lydda (afterwards Diospolis), not far from Jerusalem, a church in the name of the MostHoly Mother of God were made there for the newly-converted. Having journeyed to Jerusalem, the apostles besought the Mother of God to visit it and by Her presence to consecrate and bless the church. The All-Pure Virgin replied: “Go in peace, I shalt there be with ye”. Entering into the church, they beheld the beautiful and wondrous Not-Wrought-by-Hand Image of the MostHoly Mother of God. Later on, the Mother of God Herself visited the Lydda church and bestowed upon the image Her especial grace and power.
During the time of the rule of the emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363) there occurred at Lydda a new miracle. Stone-masons were despatched into the church to destroy the wonderworking image. However, as they attempted to chip away at the image, it would not disappear, but rather receded more and more within the column. News of the graced image spread throughout all the world. A copy was made from it, which was conveyed to Rome and which likewise received miraculous power (Comm. 26 June).
There existed also another Lydda Not-Wrought-by-Hand Image of the Mother of God. It was situated in a church built at Lydda by Aeneas, who had been healed by the Apostle Peter (Acts 9: 32-35). When the pagans and the Jews wanted to take this church away from the Christians, the governor gave orders that the church be locked up for three days, until some sign should appear for resolving the dispute. And when they opened the church three days later, they saw within it the Not-Wrought-by-Hand Image of the Mother of God.
Three of the Eastern Patriarchs (from Jerusalem, Antrioch and Alexandria) wrote about both of the Not-Wrought-by-Hand Lydda icons in a Letter to the Iconoclast emperor Theophilos (829-842). The emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitos (912-959) spoke about the Letter in an historical account about the Not-Wrought-by-Hand Image of the Saviour at Edessa (Comm. 16 August).
The Memory of 9 Martyrs Perishing in a Fire, and Martyrs Killed by Soldiers, is likewise to be noted under this day. The date and place of their martyr’s deed is unknown.
© 1999 by translator Fr. S. Janos