Orthodox River


June 11 2020 - May 29 2020

Virgin-Martyr Theodosia of Tyre (+ 307-308).

Blessed John, Fool-for-Christ, of Ustiug (+ 1494). Righteous John and Mary of Ustiug (XIII).

Memory of First OEcumenical Council (325). Monastic Virgin-Martyr Theodosia of Tsar’grad-Constantinople (+ 730). Sainted Alexander, Patriarch of Alexandria (+ 326). Martyr Constantine the Emperor. Saint Phaina. Martyr Theodotus. Martyred Men and Women. Holy Virgin Maria. Martyr Andrew of Chios (+ 1465). Martyr John (Nannos) of Soluneia (+ 1802).

Icons of the Mother of God: “Pledge for Sinners” (“Sporuchnitsa Greshnykh”), “Non-Slumbering Eye” (“Nedremliuschee Oko”), Matelikeia (991), Imperial-Borovsk (XII).

The Holy Martyress Theodosia of Tyre suffered for Christ in the year 307 or 308, and the account of her life is under 3 April. On 29 May is celebrated the memory of the transfer of her relics to Constantinople and Venice.

Blessed John, Fool-for-Christ, Ustiug Wonderworker, was born in the village of Pukhovo, near Old Ustiug, of pious parents Savva and Maria. From his youthful years he distinguished himself by a strict life of fasting, on Wednesdays and Fridays he ate nothing, and on the remaining days he ate only bread and water. His parents relocated to the city of Orlets along the River Iug’, 40 versts from Ustiug. Left widowed, the saint’s mother took monastic tonsure at the Orletsk Trinity monastery. The lad John began with the keeping of silence, and then he asceticised as a fool. Going about the city of Ustiug, he settled in an hut built for him and spent his nights at unceasing prayer. By day however, barefoot and in torn tatters of clothing the whole year long he went about the streets of the city, resting sometimes on a dung heap and bearing much abuse and derision by the people of the city. While still alive the saint had been granted a gift of wonderworking. He died young on 29 May 1494, and was buried near the Uspensky cathedral in the city of Ustiug. Afterwards over his relics was built a church in his name. The Service to Blessed John Ustiuzhsky was written in the XVI Century. In 1554 with the recollections of people who had known him in life his life was compiled, and somewhat afterwards – an eulogy. The holy ascetic was famed as an intercessor during invasions of enemies, and by graced healings of those sick with various maladies.

The Remembrance of the First OEcumenical Council is celebrated by the Church of Christ from the times of antiquity. The Lord Jesus Christ left the Church a great promise: “I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shalt not prevail against It” (Mt. 16: 18). In this joyous promise is the prophetic declaration that, although the life of the Church of Christ on the earth will pass through difficult struggle with the enemy of salvation, victory is on its side. The holy martyrs witnessed to the veracity of the words of the Saviour, undergoing suffering in confessing the Name of Christ, but the sword of the persecutor doth yield before the victory-bearing Sign of the Cross of Christ.

During the IV Century the persecutions of Christians ceased, but within the Church itself arose heresies, the struggle with which occasioned the Church to convene OEcumenical Councils. One of the most pernicious of heresies was Arianism. Arius, an Alexandrian presbyter, was a man of immense pride and ambition. In repudiating the Divine dignity of Jesus Christ and of His equality with God the Father, Arius falsely taught that the Son of God is not One-in-Essence with the Father, but was rather created by the Father in time. The Local Council, convened with the Alexandria Patriarch Alexander presiding, condemned the false-teachings of Arius. But Arius would not submit, and having written to many bishops a letter of complaint against the determinations of the Local Council, he spread his false-teaching throughout all the East, therein receiving support in his errors from certain of the Eastern bishops. Making investigation into the arising dissentions, the holy emperor Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine (Comm. 21 May) took recourse of bishop Hosius of Cordova and, having received from him assurance, that the heresy of Arius was directed against the most fundamental dogma of Christ’s Church, he decided to convene an OEcumenical Council. With Saint Constantine presiding, in the city of Nicea in the year 325 there gathered together 318 bishops – the representatives of Christian Churches from various lands.

Among the bishops present was many a confessor, who had suffered during the time of persecutions and who bore upon their body the marks of torture. Among the participants of the Council were likewise great luminaries of the Church – Saint Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia (Comm. 6 December and 9 May), Saint Spiridon, Bishop of Trimiphuntum (Comm. 12 December), and others, venerated by the Church as holy fathers.

With the Alexandria Patriarch Alexander came his deacon, Athanasias (himself afterwards Patriarch of Alexandria, Comm. 2 May), – termed the “Great”, in proving a zealous champion for the purity of Orthodoxy. The emperor, Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine, presided over the sessions of the Council. In his speech, pronounced in reply to the welcoming by bishop Eusebios of Caesarea, he said: “God hath helped me cast down the impious might of the persecutors, but incomparably more distressful for me than any soldier, any bloodspilling of battle and incomparably more ruinous is the inner internecine strife in the Church of God”.

Arius, having among his supporters 17 bishops, remained arrogant, but his teaching was repudiated and he was excommunicated from the Church. The holy deacon of the Alexandrian Church Athanasias in his speech conclusively confuted the blasphemous conjectures of Arius. The fathers of the Council declined the acceptance of a symbol of faith as proposed by the Arians. Instead, they affirmed the Orthodox Symbol (Creed) of the Faith. The Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine proposed to the Council to insert into the text of the Symbol-Creed of the Faith the wording “One-in-Essence” (“Edinosuschnyi”) which he frequently had heard in the speeches of the bishops. The fathers of the Council unanimously accepted this suggestion. In the Nicean Creed the holy fathers formulated the Apostolic teachings about the Divine dignity of the Second Person of the MostHoly Trinity – the Lord Jesus Christ [trans. note: i.e. that He is “homo-ousios” (“one selfsame essence”) rather than merely “homoi-ousios” (“similar in essence”) with God the Father – this being the very significant “controversy over a mere iota”]. The heresy of Arius, as an error of haughty reason, was exposed and repudiated. After resolving this chief dogmatic question, the Council established also Twelve Canons (Regulae-Rules) on questions of churchly governance and discipline. There was decided likewise the question about the day of celebration of Holy Pascha. By decision of the Council, Holy Pascha ought to be celebrated by Christians not on the same day with the Jewish (Passover), but invariably on the 1st Sunday after the day of the Vernal Equinox (which in the year 325 came on 22 March).

The Monastic Martyress Theodosia lived during the VIII Century. She was born through the fervent prayer of her parents, and after their death, she was raised at the Constantinople women’s monastery in honour of the holy Martyress Anastasia. Saint Theodosia accepted monasticism at the women’s monastery after she distributed to the poor of what remained of her parental inheritance. Part of the money she used for writing icons of the Saviour, the Mother of God and the Martyress Anastasia. When Leo the Isaurian (717-741) ascended to the imperial throne, and being a fierce persecutor of icon-veneration, he issued an edict to destroy holy icons everywhere. At Constantinople there then existed gates called the “Bronze Gates”, and up over them for more than 400 years was a bronzen image of the Saviour. In the year 730 the Iconoclast pseudo-patriarch Anastasias gave orders to remove the image. Orthodox people, at the head of which was the Monastic-Martyr Theodosia together with other nuns, rushed to the defense of the icon and toppled the ladder with the soldier atop, who was carrying out the command. The pseudo-patriarch Anastasias, fearing that the riot would intensify, informed the emperor about the incident, on whose orders soldiers went around beating up all the nuns, and Saint Theodosia being a very ardent defender of icons was locked up in prison. Over the course of a week they each day dealt her an hundred lashes, and on the eighth day they led her about the city, fiercely beating her along the way. One of the soldiers began to strike at the martyress and inflicted upon her a mortal wound, from which the martyress immediately died. The body of the holy monastic martyress, left cast upon the ground, was reverently buried by Christians in the Diokritis monastery in Constantinople. The place of burial of Saint Theodosia was glorified by numerous healings of the sick.

Sainted Alexander, Patriarch of Alexandria, was the chief defender of the Orthodox Faith destined to engage in struggle with the heretic Arius. Saint Alexander governed the Alexandria Church from the years 313 to 326. The life of the saint occurred during a difficult period in the history of the Church, when it became necessary to defend the Orthodox confession of faith from the heresy of Arius. Striving to preserve the unity of the Orthodox Church, Saint Alexander with all his resolve rose up in struggle for the truth. In numerous written missives and talks he denounced the false teachings and errors of the arch-heretic Arius and his followers. Seeing the irreconcilability of Arius, the saint convened a Local Council (around the year 320), at which the heresy of Arius and his confederates was condemned, and they themselves excommunicated from the Church. Arius however continued to sow dissension with the Alexandrian and other Churches. At the proceedings of the First OEcumenical Council at Nicea in the year 325 Saint Alexander was one of the chief participants. The Council condemned and bestowed anathema upon the heresy of Arius. The activity of Saint Alexander, a brave defender of Apostolic dogmas, made possible the preserving of the truthful integrity of the Christian teaching about the Holy Trinity. The blessed end of the saint followed in the year 326.

The Church historians, Blessed Theodorit of Cyr (Comm. 8 March), Sokrates and Sozomen, report Saint Alexander as being an eminent theologian and archpastor of the Church of Christ.

The Holy Martyr John (Nannos) of Soluneia (Thessalonika) was martyred by the Turks in the year 1802 in the city of Smyrna.

The Icon of the Mother of God “Pledge for Sinners” (“Sporuchnitsa Greshnukh”): The account about the wonderworking image is located under 7 March, on the day of its second celebration.

The Icon of the Mother of God “Non-Slumbering Eye” (“Nedremliuschee Oko”) was presented as a gift offering by the daughter of a formerly reknown preacher Rodion Putyatin, and situated in a monastery chapel in the city of Rybinsk. The wonderworking image was famed for numerous healings. The title “Non-Slumbering Eye” bestown upon the icon is in connection with the inscription beneathe the image: “I may sleep, but My heart is awake” (Song of Solomon 5: 2).

Another ancient wonderworking image of the Mother of God “Non-Slumbering Eye” is known of, situated in the city of Uglich in the Theophany monastery. This icon was presented to the monastery in 1848 by the Uglich resident A. V. Lebedeva. Through the prayers of the Mother of God the wonderworking image was glorified by numerous and graced healings.

The Icon of the Mother of God “Imperial” (“Tsesarkaya”) Borovsk is known of from the XII Century. At first the wonderworking image appeared in the locality of Usvyat, Vitebsk district. The icon was found nearby a cemetery church, located in the vicinity of Bor, from whence it received the name Borovsk. The Imperial-Tsesarsk is called such because it was a copy from the ancient wonderworking Imperial Icon, glorified in the year 792 (Comm. 9 April).

From the cemetery church the icon was transferred to the Saviour-Transfiguration church at Usvyat. About the miraculous signs and healings from the image of the Mother of God, numerous accounts are preserved. In 1859 at Usvyat and its surroundings there raged a cholera epidemic, taking away many lives. With deep faith the inhabitants turned for help to the image of the Heavenly Queen, and the sickness ceased.

In that same year of 1859 the MostHoly Synod established the celebration of the Tsesarsk-Borovsk Icon of the Mother of God under 29 May.

© 1999 by translator Fr. S. Janos