November 22 2020 - November 09 2020
Martyrs Onesyphoros and Porphyrios (III-IV). Nun Matrona (+ c. 492). Nun Theoktista (+ 881).
Monk Onisiphor of Pechersk, in Nearer Caves (+ 1148). Martyr Alexander of Soluneia (IV). Martyr Anthony (V). Monk John the Short-Statured (Kolobos) (V). Monastics Evstolia (+ 610) and Sosipatra (+ 625). Monks Euphymios and Neophytes of Dokhiareia (X) (Athos). Monk Simeon Metaphrastes (X). Monk Elladios. Martyrs Christopher, Maura and Timothy. Martyrs Narsa and Artemon. Sainted Agrippinus, Bishop of Neapolis (Naples) (c. 200).
Icon of the Mother of God, named “Quickly-Hearing” (X).
The Holy Martyrs Onesyphoros and Porphyrios suffered during the time of persecution against Christians by the emperor Diocletian (284-305). They beat them and burned them with fire. After this, they tied the saints to wild horses, which dragged them over the stones, after which the Martyrs Onesyphoros and Porphyrios died. Believers gathered the lacerated remains of the saints and reverently buried them.
The Nun Matrona was born in the city of Pergium Pamphylia (Asia Minor) in the V Century. They gave her in marriage to a well-off man named Dometian. When her daughter Theodotia was born, they resettled in Constantinople. The twenty-five year old Matrona loved to walk to the temple of God. She spent entire days there, ardently praying to the Lord and weeping for her sins.
At the church the saint made the acquaintance of two pious women-elders, Eugenia and Susanna, who from the time of their youth asceticised there in work and prayer. Matrona began to imitate the God-pleasing life of an ascetic, humbling her flesh by abstinence and fasting, for which she had to endure criticism by her husband. Her soul yearned for a full renunciation of the world. After long hesitation Saint Matrona decided to leave her family and besought the Lord to reveal, whether her intent was pleasing to Him. The Lord heard the prayer of His servant. Once during a light sleep she had a dream that she had fled her husband, who was in pursuit of her. The saint concealed herself in a throng of monks approaching her, and her husband did not notice her. Matrona accepted this dream as a Divine directive to enter a men’s monastery, where her husband would not guess to look for her. She gave over her daughter for raising to the woman-elder Susanna, and having cut her own hair and disguised herself in men’s attire, she went to the monastery of the Monk Bassion (Comm. 10 October). There the Nun Matrona passed herself off as the eunuch Babylos and was accepted into the number of the brethren. Apprehensive lest the monks learn that she was a woman, the saint passed her time in constant quietude and much work. The brethren marveled at the great virtue of Babylos. One time the saint with the other monks was working in the monastery vineyard. The newly-made monk Barnabos noted that her ear-lobe was pierced and asked about it. “It is necessary, brother, to till the soil and not watch other people, which is not proper for a monk”, – answered the saint.
After a certain while it was revealed in a dream to the Monk Bassion, the hegumen of the monastery, that the eunuch Babylos – was a woman. It was likewise revealed to Blessed Akakios, hegumen of the nearby Abrahamite monastery. The Monk Bassion summoned Saint Matrona and strictly demanded an answer, for what purpose she had infiltrated the monastery, whether to corrupt the monks or shame the monastery. With tears the saint told the hegumen about all her past life, about her pursuing husband, hostile to her efforts and prayers, and about the dream-vision, directing her to go to the men’s monastery. Becoming convinced that her intent was pure and chaste, the Monk Bassion sent off Saint Matrona to a women’s monastery in the city of Emesa. In this monastery the saint dwelt for many years, inspiring the sisters by her high monastic achievement. When the hegumeness died, by the unanimous wish of the nuns the Nun Matrona became head of the convent.
The fame about her virtuous activities, and about a miraculous gift of healing, which she acquired from the Lord, spread far beyond the walls of the monastery. Dometian also heard about the deeds of the nun. When Saint Matrona learned that her husband was come to the monastery and wanted to see her, she secretly went off to Jerusalem, and then to Mount Sinai, and from there to Beirut, where she settled in an abandoned pagan temple. The local inhabitants learned of her reclusion, and began to come to her. The holy ascetic turned many from their pagan impiety and converted them to Christ. Women and girls began to settle by the dwelling of the nun and soon there emerged a new monastery. Having fulfilled the will of God, revealed to her in a dream, the saint left Beirut and journeyed to Constantinople where she learned, that her husband had died. With the blessing of her spiritual father, the Monk Bassion, the ascetic founded in Constantinople a women’s monastery, to which transferred also sisters from the Beirut convent founded by her. The Constantinople monastery of the Nun Matrona was known for its strict monastic rule and the virtuous life of its sisters.
In extreme old age Saint Matrona was deigned a vision of the coelestial paradise and the place prepared for her there after 75 years of monastic work. At the age of one hundred, the Nun Matrona, having blessed the sisters, quietly expired to the Lord (about the year 492).
The Nun Theoktista was born on the island of Lezbia (or Lesbos)in the city of Mithymna (Asia Minor). At an early age she was left a total orphan, and relatives gave her over for raising to a monastery. The girl was happy removed from the world of sin, and she liked the attraction of monastic life, the long Church services, the monastic obedience, the strict fasting and unceasing prayer. She learned by heart much of the singing, prayer and psalmody. In the year 846 when she was already 18 years old, with the blessing of the hegumeness, she set off on the feast of the Resurrection of Christ to a neighbouring village to visit her sister by birth and she remained there for overnight. Arabs invaded the settlement by night, and they took captive all the inhabitants, boarded them on a ship and by morning they were on the sea.
The brigands took the captives to the desolate island of Paros so that, having examined them, they might assign a value to each in conveying them to the slave-market. The Lord helped the young maiden to flee, and the Arabs did not catch her. From that time the Nun Theoktista dwelt on the island for 35 years (+ 881). An old church in the name of the MostHoly Mother of God served as her dwelling, and her food – was sunflower seeds. All her time she spent in prayer.
One time a group of hunters landed upon the island. One of them, pursuing his prey, went far off from the coast into the forest and suddenly he saw the church. He went into the church so as to offer up a prayer to the Lord. After the prayer the hunter saw in a dim corner, not far from the holy altar-table, through thick cob-webs a certain semblance of an human form. He went closer and heard a voice: “Stay there, fellow, and come no closer to shame me, since I am a naked woman”. The hunter gave the woman his outer clothing and she came out from concealment. He beheld a grey-haired woman with worn face, calling herself Theoktista. With a weak voice she told about her life fully devoted to God.
Having finished her story, the saint entreated the hunter, that if only he happened to come upon this island again, that she should bring her a particle of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts. During all her time of living in the wilderness she not once was granted to commune the Holy Mysteries of Christ. A year later the hunter again arrived upon the island and brought a small vessel with a particle of the Holy Mysteries. Saint Theoktista met the Holy Gifts in the church, fell down to the ground and prayed long with tears. Having gotten up, she took the vessel and with reverence and in the fear of God she communed the Body and Blood of Christ. On the following day the hunter beheld within the church the dead body of the Nun Theoktista. Having dug a shallow grave, the hunter placed the venerable body of the nun in it and during this he impudently cut off her hand, so as to take with him part of the relics of the great saint of God. All night the ship sailed upon a tempestuous sea, and in the morning it found itself at the very place from which it began. The man then perceived in taking up the relic that this was not pleasing to God. He returned to the grave and placed the hand with the body of the saint. After this the ship sailed off unhindered. On the journey the hunter told his companions about everything that had happened on the island. Listening to him, they all decided immediately to return to Paros, so as to venerate together the relics of the great ascetic, but they could not find her holy body in the grave.
The Monk Onisiphor of Pechersk pursued asceticism at the Kievo-Pechersk monastery. He was a presbyter and had the gift of perspicacity. He died in the year 1148 and was buried in the Nearer Caves alongside the Monk Spiridon. His memory is also 28 September and on the 2nd Sunday of Great Lent.
The Holy Martyr Alexander of Soluneia was arrested by pagans for confessing the Christian faith. Under the emperor Maximian (305-311) he not only openly called himself a Christian, but in answer to the demand to offer sacrifice to the gods, he overturned the idolatrous sacrifice in indignation. The emperor gave orders to behead the saint. When the execution was done, the emperor and the executioner saw how an Heavenly Angel came forth bearing up to the heavens the soul of the holy Martyr Alexander. The emperor permitted Christians to bury the body of the saint with honour in the city of Soluneia, which they did with joy.
The Holy Martyr Anthony, a Syrian, lived during the V Century and was a stone-mason. With the blessing of the bishop of the Syrian city of Apameia, he began to construct a church in the Name of the Holy Trinity. Pagan townspeople, having learned of this, rushed by night into his house and murdered him with a sword.
The Monk John the Short-Statured (Kolobos) asceticised in the Egyptian wilderness in the V Century in the monastery of the Monk Pimen the Great (Comm. 27 August). From the name of this monastery, monastic wilderness monasteries began to be called “sketes”, in which monks pursued asceticism in strict solitude and silence. The Monk John was a gentle, humble and work-loving monk. It was to this monastery that the young John came with his brother Daniel. At first John asceticised without spiritual guidance, but the Lord brought him to his senses, in that strict ascetic deeds need to be done under the observation of an elder (starets) experienced in the spiritual life. One time the Monk John told his brother that he did not want to be concerned about clothing and food, and that he wished to live like the Angels. Having removed his clothing, he went out from the cell. At night it was very cold, and the scantily-clad John soon began to tap on the door of the cell. Daniel did not immediately remind his brother the saying that an Angel is not concerned about its body. The Monk John realised, that he relied too much on himself and bitterly he wept. After being brought to his senses the Monk John went to the Monk Pimen, known for his firm and steadfast will, and having asked guidance, he promised to be obedient in all things. Testing the patience of the young monk, Saint Pimen gave him an unusual obedience. For three years the Monk John carried water and poured it on a dried-up tree, and it became covered with leaves and gave abundant fruit, and was given the name “the tree of obedience”. The Monk John afterwards himself became a guide of many people on the way of salvation, among which were the Monk Arsenios the Great (Comm. 8 May) and Blessed Taisia (Comm. 10 May).
Saint John was the author of the Life of the Monk Paisias the Great (Comm. 19 June).
Saint Evstolia, a native of Rome, came to Constantinople and entered one of the women’s monasteries. The virtuous and strict monastic life of the blessed saint gained her the love and respect of the sisters. Not only monastics, but also many laypeople came to her for advice and consolation.
Saint Sosipatra, daughter of the emperor Maurice (582-602), being inclined towards monasticism, met the Nun Evstolia at Blakhernai, in the church in honour of the MostHoly Mother of God. After conversation with the saint, Sosipatra finally decided to leave the world and give her will over altogether to her guide, the Nun Evstolia. In the palace building, which the pious emperor bestowed upon his daughter, there gradually emerged a monastery, known for its strict monastic rule.
Saint Evstolia died in the year 610, and Saint Sosipatra – in the year 625.
The Monks Euphymios and Neophytes of Dokhiareia, an uncle and his nephew, belonged to the highest Byzantine aristocracy. The Monk Euphymios, while still in the world, merited honour to be the friend of the Monk Athanasias of Athos (Comm. 5 July), and he afterwards became a novice and disciple of the great ascetic. For his sincere love of the brethren, gentleness and his particular zeal in the ascetic life, Saint Athanasias granted the monk the duty of steward (dokhiar or economos), which the Monk Euphymios fulfilled as though entrusted on him by God Himself.
Saint Euphymios settled with several of the monks in the locale of Daphnos, where he founded a monastery in the name of Saint Nicholas, and called by him Dokhiareia in memory of his obedience. Guiding his own younger brethren, the Monk Euphymios taught the necessity of attention towards self, to all the stirrings of the soul, explaining that the struggle of Christians – according to the Apostle Paul, is not “against flesh and blood, but against principalities, and against powers, and against the world-rulers of darkness of this age” (Eph. 6: 12). The peaceful ascetic life of the monks was disturbed by the Saracens. The monk led all the brethren into the forest. Returning, they found the monastery wrecked to its very foundations. The Monk Euphymios did not lose heart, and the monastery was rebuilt again. The Monk Neophytes in the world was a companion of the emperor Nicephoros Phocas (963-969). Upon the death of his parents he came to Athos, where he took vows in the monastery of his uncle the Monk Euphymios. Before his death, the Monk Euphymios transferred the running of the monastery to his nephew. Under the spiritual guidance of the Monk Neophytes the small monastery grew into a Laura. Having proposed to the emperor Nicephoros to become an endower (contributor) of the monastery, the Monk Neophytes enlarged the monastery to the present Dokhiareia dimensions. The Monk Neophytes was deigned to be chosen “proton” (heading the “protatum” – the council of elders of the Holy Mountain) and for many years he laboured there. After taking leave of the protatum in his declining years, the monk returned to the Dokhiareia monastery, where peacefully he expired to the Lord (X).
The Icon of the Mother of God, named “Quickly-Hearing” – an ancient wonderworking image, is located on Holy Mount Athos at the Dokhiareia monastery. The monastery tradition suggests that its time of writing belongs to the X Century, during the time of the monastery head Saint Neophytes (Comm. this same day). In the year 1664 the kitchener Nilos, coming at night to the kitchen with a burning torch, heard a voice from the image of the Mother of God raised up over the door, summoning him in future not to walk here and not to soot the icon. The monk thought that this was a prank of some one of the brethren; he disregarded the warning and continued to walk into the kitchen with the sooty torch. Suddenly he fell blind. With fervent repentance the Monk Nilos prayed before the icon of the Mother of God, begging forgiveness. And again he heard the wondrous voice, proclaiming forgiveness and return of sight and a command to announce to all the brethren: “From this time this My icon shalt be name Quickly-Hearing, since quickly to all hastening to it shalt appear mercy and fulfillment of entreaty”. The MostHoly Mother of God did then fulfill and now fulfills Her promise – quick help and consolation manifest for all who with faith hasten unto Her.
In Russia copies of the wonderworking Athonite image “Quickly-Hearing” were always availed to with great love and veneration. Many of them were glorified by miracles. In particular, instances were noted of healing from the sickness of plague and demonic-possession.
In the year 1938 the Athos Dokhiareia monastery presented to the Russian Spiritual Mission at Jerusalem a copy of the wonderworking Icon of the Mother of God “Quickly-Hearing”.
© 1999 by translator Fr. S. Janos