May 15 2020 - May 02 2020
Martyrs Hesperos, Zoa and their Children Kyriakos and Theodoulos (II). Sainted Athanasias the Great, Archbishop of Alexandria (+ 373). Nobleborn Princes Boris and Gleb, in Holy Baptism – Roman and David (Transfer of Relics: 1072 and 1115). Sainted Athanasias, Patriarch of Tsaregrad, Wonderworker of Lubensk (+ 1656). Nobleborn Equal-to-the-Apostles Tsar Boris, in Holy Baptism – Michael (+ 907). Monk Athanasii (Afanasii) of Svirsk (XVI).
Icons of the Mother of God: Putivl’sk (1635); Vutivansk.
The Holy Martyrs Hesperos, his Wife Zoa, and their Children Kyriakos and Theodoulos suffered for their faith in Christ in the II Century, during the persecution under Hadrian (117-138). The holy spouses had accepted Christianity in their childhood and likewise they raised their children in deep faith. They were all slaves of the illustrious Roman named Catullus, living in the Asia Minor city of Attalia. While serving their earthly master, the saints never defiled themselves with idol-worship food, the use of which by pagans was obligatory. One time Catullus sent Hesperos on business to Tritoneia. During this while Saints Kyriakos and Theodoulos decided to run away, not wishing to be in constant contact with pagans. But Saint Zoa did not give her sons blessing for such conduct. Then the youths besought their mother’s blessing for an open confession of their faith in Christ, and they received it. When the brothers explained to Catullus that they were Christian, he was surprised, but he did not deliver them over to torture, he instead sent them together with their mother to Saint Hesperos at Tritoneia, hoping that the parents would persuade their children into repudiating the Christian faith. Being at Tritoneia, the saints for a certain while dwelt in tranquility, preparing for the deed of martyrdom facing them. For the birthday of a son of Catullus all the slaves returned to Attalia, and at the house was prepared a feast in honour of the pagan goddess Fortuna. Food from the table of the master was sent round to the slaves, and amongst this was idol-worship meat and wine. But the saints would not partake of the food. Zoa poured the wine upon the ground and threw the meat to the dogs. Having learned of this, Catullus gave orders to torture the sons of Zoa – Saints Kyriakos and Theodoulos.
The brothers, being stripped, were suspended from a tree and lacerated with iron implements before the eyes of their parents, who during the time of torture counselled their children to persevere to the end for the faith.
Then also the parents themselves, Saints Hesperos and Zoa, were subjected to terrible tortures. Finally, they threw all four martyrs into a red-hot furnace, where prayerfully they gave up their souls to the Lord. Their bodies were preserved in the fire unharmed, and there was heard Angelic singing, glorifying the act of the confessors of the Lord.
Sainted Athanasias the Great, Archbishop of Alexandria, was a great father of the Church and a pillar of Orthodoxy. He was born in about the year 297 in the city of Alexandria into a family of pious Christians. He received a fine secular education, but still more he acquired profound knowledge by diligent study of the Holy Scripture. From his childhood years the future great hierarch Athanasias became known to the Alexandrian Patriarch, Saint Alexander (Comm. 29 May), through the following circumstances. One time a group of children, among whom was the lad Athanasias, was playing at the shore of the sea. The Christian children decided to baptise their pagan playmates. The lad Athanasias, whom the children chose as “bishop”, performed the baptism, precisely repeating the words, heard by him in church during this sacrament. Patriarch Alexander observed all this from a window. He then commanded that there be brought him the children and their parents, and having conversed with them for a long while, and having attested that the baptism performed by the children at play was in everything in accord with the Church ustav (rule), he acknowledged the Baptism as real and supplemented it with the sacrament of Chrismation. From this moment the Patriarch looked after the spiritual upbringing of the youth Athanasias and in time brought him into the clergy, at first as a reader, and then he ordained him to the dignity of deacon.
It was in this dignity of deacon that Saint Athanasias accompanied Patriarch Alexander in the year 325 to the First OEcumenical Council at Nicea. At the Council, Saint Athanasias stepped forth with a refutation of the heresy of Arius. This speech met with the approval of the Orthodox fathers of the Council, but the Arians – those openly so and those concealed – came to hate Athanasias and subjected him to persecutions for all the rest of his life.
After the death of holy Patriarch Alexander, Saint Athanasias was unanimously chosen his successor to the Alexandria cathedra-seat. He long refused, accounting himself unworthy, but at the insistence of all the Orthodox populace that it was in agreement, at age 28 he was ordained to the dignity of bishop and put at the head of the Alexandrian Church. For 47 years Saint Athanasias guided the Church, and during this time he suffered much persecution and grief from his antagonists. Several times he was expelled from Alexandria and hid himself from the Arians in desolate places, since they repeatedly tried to kill him. Saint Athanasias spent more than 20 years in his exiles, and returned then to his flock, and then again was subjected to banishment. There was a moment in time when he remained as the only Orthodox bishop, a moment when all the other bishops had deviated into heresy. At the false-councils of Arian bishops he was declared deprived of the bishop’s dignity. Despite the persecution of many years, the saint continued firmly to defend the purity of the Orthodox faith, and he wrote incessantly both missives and tracts against the Arian heresy. When Julian the Apostate (361-363) began a persecution against Christians, his wrath then first fell upon Saint Athanasias, whom he considered the great pillar of Orthodoxy. Julian intended to kill the saint so as to strike Christianity a grievous blow, but he himself soon perished infamously. Mortally wounded by an arrow during the time of a battle, he cried out with despair: “Thou art victorious, Galilean”. After the death of Julian, Saint Athanasias guided the Alexandrian Church for seven years and died in 373, at age 76.
Numerous works of Saint Athanasias have been preserved: four “Orations”, directed against the Arian heresy; likewise an Epistle to Epictetos, bishop of the Church of Corinth, about the Divine and Human natures in Jesus Christ; four Epistles to Serapion, bishop of Thmuis, about the Divine Holy Spirit and Its Equality with the Father and the Son – directed against the heresy of Macedonias. There have been preserved also other works of apologetical character in defence of Orthodoxy, among which is the Letter to the emperor Constantius. Commentaries of Saint Athanasias on Holy Scripture are known of, and also books of a moral didactic character, as well as a detailed biography of the Monk Anthony the Great (Comm. 17 January), with whom Saint Athanasias was very close. Saint John Chrysostom advised every Orthodox Christian to read this life. The memory of Sainted Athanasias is celebrated also on 18 January conjointly with the memory of Sainted Cyril of Alexandria.
The Transfer of the Relics of the Holy Passion-Bearers, Princes of Russia Boris and Gleb, – in Holy Baptism Roman and David: – GreatPrince of Kiev Yaroslav the Wise (1019-1054) deeply esteemed his brothers, the holy Martyrs Boris (+ 1015, Comm. 24 July) and Gleb (+ 1015, Comm. 5 September). It was known that the murdered Prince Boris was buried at Vyshgorod near Kiev. And soon the holy relics of noble Prince Gleb were found at Smyadyno, not far from Smolensk, from whence they were conveyed on the Dneipr River to Kiev. The Kiev Metropolitan Ioann I (1008-1035) with an assemblage of clergy solemnly met the undecayed remains of the holy passion‑bearer and placed them in the temple of Saint Basil the Great at Vyshgorod, where the remains of the Martyr Boris were situated. Soon the burial place was glorified by the working of miracles. Then the relics of the holy brothers Boris and Gleb were removed from the ground and placed in a specially constructed chapel. On 24 July 1026 was consecrated the temple of five cupolas built by Yaroslav the Wise in honour of the holy martyrs.
In the years following the Vyshgorod Borisogleb church containing the relics of the holy passion-bearers became the familial temple of the Yaroslavichi, their sanctuary of brotherly love and conjoined service to the “Rodina” (“Native-country”). The symbol of their unity became the celebration of the Transfer of the Relics of Boris and Gleb, observed on 2 May. The history of the establishing of this feastday is bound up with the preceding events of Russian history. On 2 May 1069 there entered into Kiev the GreatPrince Izyaslav, having been expelled from the princedom for seven months until this time (i.e. from September 1068) as the result of an uprising of the Kievans. In gratitude for God’s help in establishing peace in the Russian land, the prince constructed, in place of the 1026 weather-decayed temple, a new church “at the summit all one”. At its consecration there participated two metropolitans, George of Kiev and Neophyt of Chernigov, together with other bishops and hegumens and clergy. The transfer of the relics, in which participated all three of the Yaroslavichi (Izyaslav, Svyatoslav, Vsevolod) was set for 2 May, and affirmed as an annual celebration.
Svyatoslav Yaroslavich, being prince at Kiev during the years 1073-1076, undertook an effort to transform the Borisogleb temple into a stone church, but he succeeded to raise up the stonework of the walls only to eight cubits high. And later Vsevolod (+ 1093) finished the church construction, but it collapsed by night.
The veneration of Saints Boris and Gleb developed strongly during the era of the grandsons of Yaroslav, often producing a peculiar pious competition among them. The son of Izyaslav, Svyatopolk (+ 1113), built for the saints silver reliquaries, and the son of Vsevolod, Vladimir Monomakh (+ 1125), in the year 1102 secretly by night sent master craftsmen and finished up the silver reliquaries with leaves of gold. But the son of Svyatoslav, Oleg (+ 1115), outdid them. He was called “Gorislavich”, and was mentioned in the “Tale about Igor’s Campaign”. He “intended to raise up the collapsed stone (church) and, having brought builders, he gave in abundance everything that was necessary”. The church was readied in the year 1111. Having adorned it, Oleg “much pressured and besought Svyatopolk, so as to transfer into it the holy relics”. Svyatopolk did not desire to, “since he did not build this church”.
The death of Svyatopolk Izyaslavich (+ 1113) brought to Kiev a new insurrection, which nearly killed Vladimir Monomakh, who had become greatprince in the city. Having decided to cultivate friendship with the Svyatoslavichi by a conjoined solemn transfer of the relics into the Oleg church, he made it known to Oleg and David (+ 1123). “Vladimir, having gathered his sons, and David and Oleg with their sons, all arrived at Vyshgorod. And all the hierarchs, hegumens, monks and priesthood did come, filling all the town and along the walls was not left space for the citizenry”. In the morning on 2 May 1115, the Sunday of the Myrh-Bearing Women, they began to sing matins at both churches – old and new, and there was begun the transfer of relics. And during this there occurred a peculiar separation: “and they did convey in vehicles at first Boris, and with him went Vladimir, the metropolitan and clergy”. After him on other vehicles they conveyed Saint Gleb: “with him went David with bishops and clergy”. (Oleg awaited all in the church).
This separation was adhered to in future generations. Saint Boris was considered an heavenly protector pre-eminently of the Monomashichi; Saint Gleb – pre-eminently of the Ol’govichi and the Davidovichi. It went so far as this, that Vladimir Monomakh in his “Testament”, speaking about Boris, does not mention Gleb, and in the Ol’govichi lineage conversely, they gave none of the princes the name Boris.
In general the names Boris and Gleb, and so also Roman and David, were esteemed in many generations of Russian princes. The brothers of Oleg Gorislavich bore the names Roman (+ 1079), Gleb (+ 1078), David (+ 1123), and one of his sons bore the name Gleb (+ 1138). From Monomakh were the sons Roman and Gleb; from Yuri Dolgoruky – Boris and Gleb; of Saint Rostislav of Smolensk – Boris and Gleb; of Saint Andrei Bogoliubsky – holy Saint Gleb (+ 1174); of Vsevolod BigNest – Boris and Gleb. Among the sons of Vseslav of Polotsk (+ 1101) – was the full levy of “Borisogleb” names: Roman, Gleb, David, Boris.
The Vyshgorod sanctuaries were not the sole centre of Church liturgical veneration of the holy Passion-Bearers Boris and Gleb, it was spread throughout all the Russian land. First of all, there existed churches and monasteries at specific locales connected with the martyrdom act of the saints and of their miraculous help for people: the temple of Boris and Gleb at Dorogozhich on the road to Vyshgorod, where Saint Boris by tradition yielded up the spirit; the Borisogleb monastery at Tmo near Tver where the horse of Gleb injured its leg; a monastery of the same name at Smyadyno – at the place of the murder of Gleb; and at the River Tvertsa near Torzhok (founded in 1030), where there was preserved the head of Saint George the Ugrian/Hungarian [trans. note: the beloved servant of Saint Boris, beheaded to seize from his neck the gold medallion given him by Saint Boris]. Borisogleb temples were erected at the Al’ta – in memory of the victory of Yaroslav the Wise over Svyatopolk the Accursed on 24 July 1019; and at Gzena near Novgorod – at the place of a victory of Gleb Svyatoslavich over a sorcerer.
The Ol’govichi and the Monomashichi vied with each other in the building of great‑cupola churches to the holy martyrs. Oleg himself, in addition to the Vyshgorod church, erected in 1115 the Borisogleb cathedral in Old Ryazan (wherefore the diocese was later called Borisoglebsk).And his brother David built likewise at Chernigov (in 1120). In the year 1132 Yuri Dolgoruky built a church of Boris and Gleb at Kideksh at the River Nerla, “where had been the encampment of Saint Boris”. In 1145 Saint Rostislav of Smolensk “put a stone church at Smyadyno”, at Smolensk. In the following year the first (wooden) Borisogleb church was erected in Novgorod. In 1167 a stone foundation replaced the wood, and it was completed and consecrated in the year 1173. The Novgorod chronicles name as the builder of the church Sotko Sytinich – the legendary Sadko.
The holy Passion-Bearers Boris and Gleb were the first Russian saints, canonised by the Russian and Byzantine Churches. The service to them was compiled soon after their death, and its compiler was Sainted Ioann (John) I, Metropolitan of Kiev (1008-1035), which writings in the Meneion of the XII Century corroborate. The innumerable copies of the lives, the accounts about the relics, the miracles and eulogies in the manuscripts and printed books of the XII- XIX Centuries serve to witness the especial veneration in Rus' of the holy Martyrs Boris and Gleb. [trans. note: neither this account nor those of the individual feastdays present details of their acts of martyrdom. Perhaps it is assumed that the reader is well familiar with this, and perhaps the sublime poignancy and tragic pathos make it painful to recount. Rather than take up arms to defend themselves, or even just flee away to safety, both martyrs voluntarily accepted the passion of their suffering and death for Christ’s sake, just as our Lord had voluntarily accepted His Passion of Suffering and the Cross and Death for our sakes – to which these holy brothers allude in their final prayers from the pens of the chroniclers. And hence the meaning of their unique title “Strastoterptsy” “Passion-Bearers”].
Sainted Athanasias III Patelarios, Patriarch of Tsaregrad, Wonderworker of Lubensk, in the world Alexis, was born in 1560 on the island of Crete, into the pious Greek family Patelarios. Despite his education and position in society, the life of Christian ascetics attracted Alexis. After the death of his father he took vows as a novice in one of the Thessalonika monasteries with the name Ananias, from whence he later went to the monastery of Hesthymenes at Athos, where he did obedience in the refectory. From Athos he undertook a journey to the Palestinian monasteries and in one of them he took monastic tonsure with the name Athanasias. Upon his return to Thessalonika he was made presbyter and spread the teaching of Christ among the Valachs and the Moldovians, for whom he translated the Psalter from the Greek into their own languages. On occasion the saint journeyed to Mount Athos for prayerful solitude and the blessing of God upon his pastoral work. The holiness of his life attracted a multitude of Christians, wishing to see a true preacher of the Orthodox faith in Christ.
By his remarkable abilities and spiritual gifts he attracted the attention of the Patriarch of Constantinople, Cyril I (Lukaris) (1621-1623), who having summoned the ascetic, appointed him preacher for the Patriarchal cathedra-see. Soon Saint Athanasias was elevated to the dignity of bishop and made Metropolitan of the Church of Soluneia (Thessalonika).
At this time Patriarch Cyril I (Lukaris) was slandered before the sultan and imprisoned on the island of Tenedos, and Saint Athanasias was chosen upon the Patriarchal throne on 25 March 1634, on the day of the Annunciation of the MostHoly Mother of God.
Situated upon the archpastoral cathedra-seat, Patriarch Athanasias led an incessant struggle against heretics, Jesuits and Mahometans. Being on the Patriarchal throne but about 40 days, he was deposed through the intrigues of the enemies of Orthodoxy, and upon the cathedra-seat Cyril I (Lukaris) was returned. The saint set off to Athos, where for a certain time he pursued asceticism in solitude. Then he was again elevated to the Patriarchate, but again after a year he was deposed, after which he returned to the city of Thessalonika and kept up his connections with Athos. In view of the intolerable persecutions of the Christians by the Mahometans, Saint Athanasias was repeatedly obliged to send (from 1633 to 1643) petitions to the Russian tsar Mikhail Feodorovich (1613-1645) concerning the bestowing of alms for the hapless Church of Constantinople.
When dwelling at Thessalonika became for the saint impossible, he was forced to journey to Moldavia under the protection of its sovereign, Basilos Lukulos, and he settled there in the monastery of Saint Nicholas near Galats. And here he constantly turned his gaze towards Mount Athos, he visited it often and hoped to finish his life there. But the prescience of God judged otherwise.
In 1652 after the martyr’s death of Patriarch Cyril I (Lukaris), Saint Athanasias was again elevated to the OEcumenical cathedra. But he was on it for only 15 days, since this preacher of the Orthodox faith in Christ was not pleasing to the Mahometans and Catholics. During the time of his final Patriarchal service he preached a sermon, in which he denounced the papal pretensions to be head of the OEcumenical Church and the pretensive apostolic pre-eminence. Persecuted by the Mahometans and Jesuits, physically weakened, he transferred the running of the Constantinople Church to the Metropolitan of Laureia, Paisios, and he withdrew to Moldavia, where he received from the sovereign to be administrator of the monastery of Saint Nicholas at Galats. Knowing the deep faith and responsiveness of the Russian nation, Saint Athanasias undertook a journey to Russia. In April 1653 he was met with great honour in Moscow by Patriarch Nikon (1652-1658) and tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich. Having received generous alms for the needs of the monastery, in December 1653 Patriarch Athanasias left for Galats. On the way he fell ill and stayed at the Transfiguration Mgarsk monastery in the city of Lubno in February 1654. Sensing his impending death, the saint compiled a final testament and on 5 April expired to God. Hegumen Petronios with the brethren of the monastery made the burial of the Patriarch. By Greek custom the saint was buried in a sitting position. On 1 February 1662 Saint Athansias was glorified into the ranks of the Saints and his feastday established under 2 May, on the day of co-memory of Saint Athanasias the Great.
The relics of holy Patriarch Athansias, glorified by numerous miracles and signs, rest in the city of Khar’kov, in the Annunciation cathedral church.
The Holy Nobleborn Equal-to-the-Apostles Tsar Boris, in Holy Baptism Michael: His Equal-to-the-Apostles exploits were foretold him by an uncle, Saint Boyan. The first years of the reign of tsar Boris unfolded with misfortune. The Bulgarians happened frequently to be at war with surrounding nations, famine and plague beset the land, and in the year 860 Bulgaria found itself in dire straits. Tsar Boris saw the salvation of his land, which dwelt in paganism, in its enlightenment by the faith in Christ. During the time of one of the battles of the Bulgarians with the Greeks he took captive the illustrious courtier Theodore Kuphares, who earlier had taken monastic vows. He was the first man planting the seed of the Gospel in the soul of the Bulgarian tsar. In one of the campaigns with the Greeks the young sister of tsar Boris was taken captive and raised at the court of the Byzantine emperor in the Orthodox faith. When the emperor Theophilos died, tsar Boris decided to take advantage of the favourable circumstance so as to take revenge upon the Greeks for his former defeats. But the widow of the emperor, Theodora, showed courage and sent a messenger to the Bulgarian tsar with the suggestion, that she herself was prepared to defend the empire and humiliate its opponents. Tsar Boris chose to have a peace alliance, and in sign of conciliation exchange was made of the captives Theodore Kuphares for the Bulgarian princess, who all the more swayed her brother towards the Christian faith. A while later there was sent into Bulgaria Saint Methodios, who together with his brother Saint Cyril was enlightening the Slavic peoples with the light of faith in Christ. Saint Methodios baptised tsar Boris, his family and many of the boyar-nobles. The pagan Bulgarians, having learned of this, wanted to kill tsar Boris, but their plot was frustrated by the tsar, and deprived of their rebellious leaders, the Bulgarian people voluntarily accepted Baptism. Between Byzantium and Bulgaria was concluded a peace, based on an oneness of faith, which was not broken until the end of the reign of the noble tsar. The Greek Patriarch Photios took great interest in the spiritual confirmation of the Bulgarian nation. In 867 preachers from the Roman pope were sent into Bulgaria, from which time over the course of three years discord prevailed in Bulgaria between the Greek and Roman Churches. A Council at Constantinople in 869 put an end to the quarrel, and on 3 March 870 Bulgaria was definitively conjoined to the Eastern Church, and Orthodoxy in it was affirmed even more. In Bulgaria were glorified the holy ascetics: Saints Gorazd (Comm. 27 July) and Clement of Okhrid (Comm. 27 July). Nobleborn tsar Boris adorned the land with churches and furthered the spread of piety, and afterwards in Bulgaria was established a Patriarchal cathedra-seat. In his declining years, holy tsar Boris withdrew to a monastery, leaving the throne to his sons Vladimir and Simeon. While in the monastery the saint learned that Vladimir, who succeeded to reign after him, had started on a path of renunciation from Christianity. Distressed by this, Saint Boris again donned his garb as tsar, punished his disobedient son and placed him in prison. Having entrusted the rule to his younger son Simeon, Saint Boris returned to the monastery. But he came out from it once more for the repelling of an invasion of the Vengrians/Hungarians. Holy tsar Boris, in holy Baptism named Michael, – reposed on 2 May 907.
The Monk Athanasii (Afanasii) of Svirsk pursued asceticism during the XVI Century and was one of the disciples of the Monk Alexander of Svirk (Comm. 17 April and 30 August). The holy ascetic was buried at the Ostrovsk monastery in honour of the Entrance of the MostHoly Mother of God.
The Putivl’sk Icon of the Mother of God appeared on 2 May 1635 in the city of Putivl' of Kursk region on the city’s Nikol’sk gates (by some sources, the icon was first appeared in the year 1238). The wonderworking image was for a long time situated on the city-gates and glorified by numerous miracles and signs.
© 1999 by translator Fr. S. Janos