Orthodox River


June 09 2020 - May 27 2020

PriestMartyr Therapontos, Bishop of Sardis (III). Martyrs the Virgin Theodora and Soldier Didymas (+ 304).

Monk Pherapont (Therapont) of Mozhaisk, Belozersk Wonderworker (+ 1426). Moscow Sainted-Hierarchs and Wonderworkers of All Russia: Kiprian, Photii and Jona (Uncovering and Transfer of Relics, 1472). Monk Nil of Stolobensk (Uncovering of Relics, 1667). Righteous John of Russia, Confessor (+ 1730). Monk Pherapont (Therapont) of Monzensk (+ 1597).

Martyr Eusebiotes. Martyr Alipius. Martyr Leontios. Martyr Leonides. Martyress Anastasia. Saint Peter.

The PriestMartyr Therapontos, Bishop of Sardis suffered for Christ during the III Century (the city of Sardis, or Sarda, was situated in the Asia Minor district of Lydia). In fulfilling his priestly service, Saint Therapontos enlightened with the light of the Christian faith and baptised many of the pagan-Hellenes (Greeks). For this, he was brought to trial before the governor Julian and fearlessly declared himself a Christian bishop. They threw him into prison, where for a long time he languished with hunger and thirst, and then they gave him over to cruel tortures, but the torments did not break the saint’s valiant confessing of faith. In chains they led off the saint to the city of Sinaion in Phrygia, and thence to Ancyra. In these cities they again tortured him. They took him to the River Astala, where they stretched him cross-form and bare upon the ground, fastened to four posts driven into the ground, and they beat him fiercely. After this torture, they took the passion-bearer of Christ off to the outskirts of the Satalia diocese, part of the Sardis metropolitanate, and here after long beatings Saint Therapontos ended with his martyr’s deed. The dry posts, to which the saint had been tied, and having soaked up his blood, gave forth green shoots and grew into large trees, the leaves of which were found to have curative powers through which many people received graced healing.

The Holy Martyrs Theodora the Virgin and Didymas the Soldier suffered for Christ during the persecution against Christians under the emperor Diocletian (284-305), in the city of Alexandria in either the year 303 or 304.

The Virgin-Martyr Theodora, standing trial before the Alexandria governor Eustratios, bravely confessed herself a Christian. To the question of the governor as to why she had not married, the saint answered, that she had dedicated herself to God, and had resolved to remain a virgin for the Name of Christ. Eustratios gave orders to take the holy virgin to prison, giving her three days to make up her mind, and he threatened for further disobedience to have her taken off to an house of ill repute. Brought again to trial three days later, Saint Theodora as before remained resolute in her faith. Then they led her off to the house of ill repute, where dissolute youths began to argue which of them should be the first to go at her. At this moment the Christian Didymas in soldier’s garb without hindrance entered the house of ill repute, where he chased out the frightened profligates and saved the holy virgin, having bestowed her his garb. Upon learning what had happened, Eustratios gave orders to interrogate Saint Didymas. Brought before the angry judge, Saint Didymas told how he had set free the holy virgin, and for this he was sentenced to death by execution. At the place of his execution appeared Saint Theodora, and turning to Saint Didymas, she said that she wanted to die together with him. The governor, having caught sight of the holy martyress, gave orders to execute them both. The first to bend the neck beneathe the sword was the holy Martyress Theodora, and after her was the holy Martyr Didymas. The bodies of the holy martyrs were then burnt.

The Monk Pherapont (Therapont) of Mozhaisk (Belozersk, Wonderworker of Luzhetsk, in the world Theodore (Feodor), was born in the year 1337 at Volokolamsk into a family of the nobility, the Poskochini. From his childhood years he was raised in deep faith and piety, which in graced form was reflected throughout all his subsequent years of life as an holy ascetic. At age forty without preliminaries he was tonsured a monk by the hegumen of the Moscow Simonov monastery, the Monk Theodore (Feodor), a nephew of the Monk Sergei (afterwards Archbishop of Rostov, Comm. 28 November). As a monk in this monastery Pherapont became close with the Monk Kirill (Cyril) of Belozersk (Comm. 9 June). Together they passed through their ascetic deeds of salvation in fasting and prayers, and they hearkened to the spiritual guidances of the Monk Sergei of Radonezh (Comm. 25 September and 5 July), who visited the monastery to instruct the brethren. In fulfilling an obedience, the Monk Pherapont set off to the North, to the Belozersk frontier, on monastery matters. The harsh northern land caught the attention of the ascetic, and he decided to remain there for his ascetic efforts. After his return with the Monk Kirill – to whom the Mother of God had appeared also ordering him to go to the North, the Monk Pherapont received the blessing of the hegumen and set off to Beloozero (WhiteLake). For a certain while the ascetics lived together in a cell that they had built, but later and by mutual consent, the Monk Pherapont transferred over to a new place for his ascetic deeds, 15 versts distant from Kirill, betwixt two lakes: Borodava and Pava. Having cleared a not overly large plot for a garden and building a cell in the deep forest at a water channel, the Monk Pherapont continued his ascetic efforts as an hermit and in silence. At first he endured much deprivation and tribulation in his solitude, and more than once he was set upon by robbers, attempting to chase away or even kill the ascetic. But with time monks began to gather to the saint, and the wilderness place was gradually transformed into a monastery, afterwards called the Pherapontov. In the year 1398 the Monk Pherapont built a wooden church in honour of the Nativity of the MostHoly Mother of God, and the monastery was gradually set in order: the monks toiled together with their saintly guide over the construction of cells, the copying of books, and the adornment of the church.* (* At the end of the XV Century on the place of the former wooden church there was built a stone cathedral, in honour of the Nativity of the MostHoly Mother of God, painted in the years 1500-1501 by the reknown Russian iconographer Dionysii and his sons, Vladimir and Theodosii. The frescoes are devoted to the Praise of the MostHoly Mother of God. The unique frescoes (wall-paintings) of the Pherapontov monastery have been preserved up to the present time and are an outstanding memorial of Russian churchly art and painting, of world significance).

At the monastery was introduced a common-life monastic rule, strictly observed by the monks. The Monk Pherapont out of humility declined to head the monastery, and instead entrusted the position of hegumen to one of his disciples. The holy ascetic, endowed himself with the gift of counsel, resorted for spiritual guidance just as before to his friend, the Monk Kirill of Belozersk. News about the ascetic deeds of the saint of God spread far beyond the bounds of the Belozersk frontier.

At the beginning of the XV Century, the lands, on which were situated the Kirillov and Pherapontov monasteries, were part of the appanage-holdings of the Mozhaisk prince Andrei Dimitrievich (1382-1432), son of GreatPrince Dimitrii Ioannovich Donskoy (1363‑1389). And in the year 1408 prince Andrei Dimitrievich, having learned of the high level of spiritual life of the Belozersk ascetic, turned then to the monastic starets-elder Pherapont with a request to establish a monastery in the city of Mozhaisk. It was difficult for the monk to leave his own monastery, at which he had asceticised for more than ten years. The Monk Pherapont was met at Mozhaisk with great honour. Soon, not far from Mozhaisk, in the locality of Lushko on an hilly part of the right bank of the Moscow River, the Monk Pherapont founded his second monastery. Its chief temple was in honour of the Nativity of the MostHoly Mother of God, in memory of the Belozersk monastery. Prince Andrei Dimitrievich, deeply esteeming the saint for his true humility, provided generous help in the construction and establishing of the monastery. With the blessing of Sainted Photii, Metropolitan of Moscow (+ 1431, Comm. 2 July and 27 May), – the monastery was to be headed by an archimandrite, and the Monk Pherapont was elevated to the dignity of archimandrite.

At this new monastery Saint Pherapont dwelt for 18 years, reposing to God at an advanced age, on 27 May 1426. His body was buried at the north wall of the cathedral of the Nativity of the MostHoly Mother of God. At the place of burial was afterwards built a church in honour of the Monk John of the Ladder (Comm. 30 March), and renamed in 1730 for the Monk Pherapont. Veneration of the saint began soon after his death. In 1514 the incorrupt relics of the holy ascetic were uncovered, and glorified by numerous miracles. After the Moscow Sobor-Council of 1547 there occurred the canonisation of the Monk Pherapont of Mozhaisk, Luzhetsk Wonderworker – resulting from the hegumen of the Pherapontov monastery having brought to metropolitan Makarii (1543-1564) a Life and Account of the sanctity of the saint of God. Set amidst the numerous disciples and conversers of the Monk Sergei of Radonezh, the Russian Church venerates the memory of the Monk Pherapont, who in following the counsel of his great teacher and guide, combined the ascetic feats of silence and solitude with that of active service to neighbour and the spiritual enlightening of his Fatherland.

The memory of the Monk Pherapont is celebrated twice: 27 May (Repose 1426), and 27 December (Uncovering of Relics 1514).

The Uncovering and Transfer of Relics of Sainted-Hierarchs Kiprian, Photii and Jona occurred on 27 May 1472 during the time of construction of the new stone Uspensky-Dormition cathedral in the Kremlin, under Metropolitan Philip (+ 1473, Comm. 9 January) and GreatPrince Ivan III (1462-1505). Separate days of memory of the saints are also made: Metropolitan Kiprian (+ 1406, Comm. 16 September), Metropolitan Photii (+ 1431, Comm. 2 July), Metropolitan Jona (+ 1461, Comm. 31 March).

The Monk Nil of Stolobensk reposed on 7 December 1554 (the account about his life is located under this day).

Many years afterwards, on the Island of Lake Seliger, where the holy ascetic had asceticised, there came the priest-monk German and immediately after him the hill-dweller and wanderer Boris. They settled together on the island and built a church in honour of the Theophany, with a chapel in the name of Saint Vasilii (Basil) the Moscow Wonderworker. At this site where the Monk Nil had asceticised there in time grew up a monastery, named after him. An icon of the Monk Nil was written by the monks of the Orshin monastery, and numerous miracles of healings of the sick began to occur at the gravesite of the saint. Later at the monastery lived Sainted Nektarii, Archbishop of Sibirsk and Tobol’sk, and he decided to build a stone church to replace the former wooden one. During the time of the laying of the foundations, the earth crumbled away and revealed the incorrupt relics of the Monk Nil. The Uncovering of the Relics occurred on 27 May 1667, and simultaneously with this was established a feastday to the monk in honour of the event.

The Holy Confessor John the Russian was born towards the end of the XVII Century in Little Russia and was raised in piety and love for the Church of God. Upon attaining the age of maturity he was called up into military service, and he served as a simple soldier in the army of Peter I and took part in the Russo-Turkish War. During the time of the Prutsk Campaign of 1711 he together with other soldiers was taken captive by the Tatars, who handed him over to the commander of the Turkish cavalry, who took his Russian captive home with him to Asia Minor, to the village of Prokopia (in Turkish, Urkiul). The Turks tried to convert the captive Christian soldiers to Mahometanism: some with threats and allurements, while others that were more stoically hardy, they beat and tortured. Saint John was not swayed by the promise of earthly blessings and he bravely endured the ferocity, the humiliations and beatings. His master tortured him often in the hope, that his slave would accept Mahometanism. But Saint John resolutely resisted the will of his master and he answered: “Neither by threats, nor with promises of riches and delights wilt thou be able to turn me away from my holy faith. I was born a Christian, and a Christian I shalt die”. The bold words and firm faith of the confessor, his fearlessness and righteous life, finally humbled the fierce heart of the master. He ceased to torment and revile the captive, and no more urged him towards a renunciation of Christianity, but had him only instead take care of the cattle and keep up the stable, in a corner of which was the bed-cot of Saint John.

From morning until late evening the saint of God served his Turkish master, judiciously fulfilling all his commands. In the winter cold and summer hear, half naked and bare of foot he did his duty. Other slaves frequently mocked him, in seeing his zeal. Righteous John never became angry with them, on the contrary, as occasions arose he helped them in their servitude and comforted them in their misfortune. Such sincere kindness of heart of the saint had its effect on the souls of both the master and the slaves. The master began to confide in Righteous John so much, and to esteem him for his integrity and decency, that he offered him to live as though free and to resettle, wheresoever he desired. But the ascetic suggested that he should remain in the vicinity of the horse-stable, where each night he could without hindrance asceticise in solitary prayer, strengthening people in goodness and love for God. Sometimes he left his quiet shelter and under cover of night he went to the church of the GreatMartyr George, where on the portico he prayed fervently on bended knees. And in this church on feastdays he communed the Holy Mysteries of Christ.

During this while Righteous John continued as before to serve his master, and despite his own poverty, he always helped the needy and the sick and shared with them his meagre food.

Towards the end of his difficult and ascetic life Saint John became infirm, and sensing the nearness of his end, he summoned the priest, so as to receive the final blessing for the departure of the soul. The priest, fearing to go with the Holy Gifts to the house of the Turkish commander, enclosed the Holy Gifts in an apple and so without problem gave them to Righteous John. Having glorified the Lord, he communed the Holy Mysteries of Christ and then expired to God. The righteous end of the holy Confessor John the Russian occurred on 27 May 1730. When they reported to the master that his servant John had died, he summoned the priests and gave over to them the body of Saint John, and they gave him burial befitting a Christian. At the funeral there gathered almost all the Christian inhabitants of Prokopia, and they accompanied the body of the saint to the Christian cemetery.

Three and an half years later the priest was miraculously informed in a dream, that the relics of Saint John had remained incorrupt. Soon the relics of the saint were transferred to the church of the holy GreatMartyr George and placed in a special reliquary. The new saint of God began to be glorified by innumerable miracles of grace, accounts of which spread to the remote cities and villages. Christian believers from various places came to Prokopia to venerate the holy relics of Saint John the Russian and they received through his prayers graced healings. The new saint came to be venerated not only by Orthodox Christians, but also by Armenians, and even Turks, recoursing with prayerful petition to the Russian saint: “Servant of God, disregard us not in thine mercy”.

In the year 1881 part of the relics of Saint John were transferred to the Russian monastery of the holy GreatMartyr Panteleimon by the monks of Holy Mount Athos, after they were miraculously saved by the saint of God during the time of a dangerous journey. Through the means of both this monastery and the inhabitants of Prokopia, in 1886 there was started construction of a new church, since the church of the holy GreatMartyr George, where the relics of Saint John were situated, – had become decrepit.

On 15 August 1898 the new church in the name of Saint John the Russian was consecrated by the Caesarea metropolitan John, with the blessing of the oecumenical patriarch Constantine V.

In 1924 the inhabitants of Caesarea Prokopia, having resettled to the Island of Eubeia, took with them also part of the relics of Saint John the Russian. For several decades the relics were situated in the church of the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine and Helen at New Prokopia on Eubeia, but in 1951 they were transferred into a new church in the name of Saint John the Russian. Thousands of pilgrims flocked here from all the corners of Greece, particularly on the day of his memory, 27 May. Righteous John the Russian is widely venerated on Holy Mount Athos, particularly in the Russian Panteleimonov monastery.

The Monk Pherapont (Therapont) of Monzensk (+ 1597): On this day is celebrated the holy ascetic’s name-in-common (tezoimenitstvo) with Saint Therapontos. The account about the Monk Pherapont is situated under 12 December, the day of his repose.

© 1999 by translator Fr. S. Janos