Orthodox River


December 05 2020 - November 22 2020

Disciples from the Seventy: Philemon and Archippos and the Martyress Equal-to the-Apostles Apphia (I). Holy NobleBorn Prince Michael of Tver (+ 1318).

Holy NobleBorn Yaropolk, in Holy Baptism Peter, Prince of Vladimir-Volynsk (+ 1086). Martyress Cecelia (Cesilia) and the Martyrs Valerian, Tiburtius and Maximus (+ c. 230). Martyr Prokopios the Reader (+ 303). Martyr Menignos (+ 250). Monk Hagabba the Ishmaelite (V). Righteous Michael the Soldier, Bulgarian (+ 866). Sainted Kallistos, Second Patriarch of Constantinople (XIV). Martyr Maximus. Martyr Thaddeus. Martyrs Agapios (+ 304) and Agapion (+ 306). Martyress Cyprina.

The Holy Disciple Philemon and his spouse Apphia lived in the city of Colossa in Phrygia. Upon receiving Baptism from the holy Apostle Paul, they converted their house into an house of prayer, where all the Colossian believers in Christ gathered together and made Divine services. They devoted themselves to the service of the sick and downcast. The Disciple Philemon was made bishop of the city of Gaza and he preached the Word of God throughout all Phrygia. The holy Apostle Paul did not cease being his guide, and directed to him his Epistle filled with love, and in which he sends blessings “to Philemon our friend and co-worker, and Apphia our beloved sister, and Archippos our co‑striver, and their household the church” (Phil. 1: 1-3). Onysimos, about whom it speaks in the Epistle, – a Disciple from among the Seventy – was a former servant of Philemon. During the persecution of Nero (54-68) Saints Philemon and Apphia, and likewise the holy Disciple Archippos (who also lived at Colossa), all received the crown of martyrdom. During the time of a pagan feast an enraged crowd rushed into the Christian church when Divine-services were being made. All fled in terror, and only Saints Philemon, Archippos and Apphia remained. They seized hold of them and led them off to the city governor. The crowd like beasts beat up and stabbed at Saint Archippos with knives, and on the way to the court he died. Saints Philemon and Apphia were stoned to death by order of the governor.

The memory of the holy Disciples Philemon and Archippos and Equal-to-the-Apostles Apphia is celebrated also on 19 February.

Holy Nobleborn Prince Michael of Tver was born in the year 1272, already after the death of his father Greatprince Yaroslav Yaroslavich, – a brother by birth of holy Nobleborn Prince Alexander Nevsky (Comm. 23 November). On the journey to the Horde prince Yaroslav had fallen ill, and having taken monastic vows with the name Athanasii (Afanasii), he died. Michael’s mother, Xenia (Ksenia), raised her son in fervent love towards God. Michael was educated and studied under the guidance of the Novgorod archbishop (probably Kliment). He took the place of his older brother Svyatoslav in the Tver principality. In 1285 he built a stone church in honour of the Saviour’s Transfiguration in place of the wooden church of Saints Cosmas and Damian. Upon the death of Greatprince Andrei Alexandrovich (+ 1305), Michael – through right of seniority, received at the Horde the yarlyk-grant to the greatprincely throne. But the Moscow prince Yurii Danilovich would not submit to this, since he sought the greatprincely rule for himself. He was often at the Golden Horde of the new khan Uzbek, who had accepted Mahometanism and was distinguished by his cruelty and fanaticism. Prince Yurii knew how to please the khan, and he married his sister Konchaka and became greatprince. And even with this he did not quiet down, but instead began an internecine war with Tver. In the army of Yurii was also a detachment of Tatars sent by Uzbek, with Kavgadi at the head. But the men of Tver, with holy Prince Michael at the head, on 22 December 1317 defeated Yurii in a route. Many captives were taken, in which number were Kavgadi – whom Saint Michael released, and the Moscow prince’s wife Konchaka, who unexpectedly died at Tver. Prince Yurii slandered Saint Michael afront the khan, accusing him of poisoning Konchaka. The khan became enraged, threatening to destroy the princely votchina-holding of Saint Michael, and demanded that he appear to render an answering. Not wishing to spill Russian blood in an unequal struggle with the khan, Saint Michael humbly set out to the Horde, realising that this meant death for him. He took his farewell from his family and from the Tver people, and received blessing for his exploit of martyrdom from his spiritual father hegumen John. “Father, – said the saint, – I was much concerned about the peace of Christians, but through my sins, I was not able to stop internecine war. Now give me blessing, if it should hold having my blood spilled for them, that they might have some respite, and that for me the Lord forgive my sins”.

At the Horde an unjust trial was held over the saint, which pronounced him guilty in disobedience to the khan and sentenced him to death. They removed him under guard and put him in an heavy wooden stock. As was his habit, in prison Saint Michael constantly read the Psalter and blessed the Lord for granting him to suffer. He asked not to be abandoned in his present torments. Since the hands of the holy sufferer were secured in the stock, a boy sat before him and turned the pages of the Psalter. The holy prince-captive long languished at the Horde, enduring beatings and ridicule. They suggested that he flee, but the saint bravely answered: “In all my life I never fled an enemy, and if in saving myself my people remained in peril, what glory is it to me? No, let it be as the Lord doth will”. Through the mercy of God, he was not deprived of Christian solace: Orthodox priests attended to him, – the hegumens Aleksandr and Mark, and he each week made confession and communed the Holy Mysteries of Christ, receiving before his death a Christian preparation. At the instigation of prince Yurii and Kavgadi, who took revenge on the holy prince for their defeat, assassins rushed into the encampment where the captive was held. They fiercely beat the martyr and kicked at him with their feet, after which one of them stabbed Saint Michael with a knife (+ 1318).

The stripped body of the holy martyr was exposed for abuse, and later they covered him with a cloth and placed him on a large board, attached to a cart. By night two guards were set to watch the body, but fear seized them and they fled. In the morning his body was not on the board. On the previous night many, not only Orthodox by also Tatars, had seen how two radiant clouds did shine over the place where lay the body of the martyr, and although many wild animals roamed the steppes, not one of them had touched him. In the morning everyone said: “Prince Michael is a saint, and innocently murdered”. From the Horde the body of the prince was transferred to Moscow, where they buried him in the church of the Saviour-Wood in the Kremlin. It was only a year later in 1319 that at Tver they learned about the fate of their prince. At the wish of his spouse, Princess Anna (Comm. 2 October), and at the request of the Tver people, the relics of Saint Michael of Tver were transferred to his native city and on 6 September 1320 were placed in the church built by him in honour of the Transfiguration of the Lord. Local festal celebration of the holy nobleborn prince began soon after the transfer of his relics to Tver, and at a 1549 Sobor (Council) there took place the general Church glorification of the saint. On 24 November 1632 the undecayed relics of Saint Michael were uncovered. The holy prince has often rendered graced help to the Russian land. In 1606 the Polish and Lithuanians besieging Tver saw repeatedly, how from the city there rode out a wondrous horseman upon a white horse with sword in hand, turning them to flight. Later viewing an icon of holy nobleborn Prince Michael, they affirmed with an oath to the Tver archbishop Theoktist, that the horseman was indeed Saint Michael himself.

Holy Nobleborn Prince Yaropolk Izyaslavich, in Holy Baptism Peter, was the grandson of Yaroslav the Wise, and great-grandson of holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Vladimir. He shared the sad fate of his father, the Kievan Greatprince Izyaslav, expelled by his brothers from Kiev. Yaropolk journeyed on various missions for his father to the Polish king, the German emperor, and the Roman Bishop Saint Gregory VII (1073-1085). Upon the death of Greatprince Svyatoslav in 1078, prince Izyaslav was restored to the greatprincely throne, and Yaropolk received Vyzhgorod. After the death of his father there was given him the appanage-holding the city of Vladimir-Volynsk, from whence the Rostislavichi attempted to displace him. On the way from Vladimir to Zvenigorod-Galitsk, Yaropolk was treacherously murdered by Neryadets, one of his retainers (+ 1086). The murderer indeed had been bribed by the Rostislavichi. The body of Yaropolk was transferred to Kiev and on 5 December was buried in the church of Saint Peter, which he himself had begun to build. Many Church memorials, beginning with the Chronicle of the Monk Nestor, testify, that the murdered nobleborn prince Yaropolk be venerated in the rank of Saints well-pleasing to God.

The Holy Martyress Cecelia (Cesilia) and the Holy Martyrs Valerian, Tiburtius and Maximus: The holy Martyress Cecelia was a Roman of rich and noted lineage. From her youth she was raised in the Christian faith and she prayed fervently, she helped those in need, and beneathe her fine clothing she wore an hairshirt. Her parents decided to give her in marriage to the illustrious pagan Valerian. The saint did not dare oppose the will of her parents, but with tears she prayed to God, that her betrothed would believe in Christ, and that she would preserve her virginity. The saint persuaded her fiance to go with her to bishop Urban, hiding away from the persecution in a cave along the Appian Way. The instructions of the wise elder permeated the soul of Valerian, and both he and his brother Tiburtius believed in Christ and were converted to Christianity. The brothers distributed part of their inheritance to the poor, cared for the sick, and buried Christians tortured to death by the persecutors.

The governor Ammachus, having learned of this, gave orders to arrest the brothers and bring them to trial. He demanded that the saints renounce Christ and offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. The brothers refused. Then they mercilessly began to scourge the brothers. Saint Valerian under torture urged Christians not to be afraid of torments, but rather stand firm for Christ.

The governor, wanting to prevent the holy preacher from influencing the people, gave orders to take the martyrs beyond the city limits and there execute them. The detachment of soldiers accompanying the martyrs to execution was commanded by Maximus. He was amazed at the courage of the saints. He asked them why they did not fear death. The holy brothers answered, that they were relinquishing temporal life for life eternal. Maximus wanted to learn in detail the teaching of Christians. He took Saints Valerian and Tiburtius to his own house and all night engaged them in conversation. Having learned of this, Saint Cecelia went with a priest to Maximus, and he with all his family accepted holy Baptism.

On the following day when they beheaded the Martyrs Valerian and Tiburtius, Saint Maximus confessed before everyone that he saw how their holy souls had gone up to Heaven. For this confession the holy Martyr Maximus was scourged to death with whips (+ 230).

The governor wanted to confiscate the property of the executed, but having learned that Saint Cecelia had already distributed all her remaining wealth to the poor and by her preaching had converted 400 men, he gave orders to execute her. For three days they tormented her with fire and smoke in a red-hot bath-house, but the grace of God succoured her. Then they decided to behead her. The executioner struck the saint with a sword, but only wounded her. The holy martyress suffered yet three more days in full consciousness, encouraging in the faith those around her, and died with prayer on her lips.

The Holy Martyr Prokopios was a reader in the Jerusalem Church. He led a strict ascetic life, for which he acquired from the Lord the gift to cast out demons. The zealous preacher of the Word of God was arrested and brought to trial in Palestinian Caesarea. For his refusal to offer sacrifice to idols, he was beheaded.

The Holy Martyr Menignos was a simple artisan, occupied in the making of linen. The Lord granted him His especial mercy. Twice in his life he heard a voice from Heaven, calling on him to suffer for Christ. During the time of the persecution of Christians under the emperor Decius (249-251) there occurred a miracle: an Angel led Christians out of prison. Having learned of this, Saint Menignos rejoiced and loved the Saviour with all his heart. Calling to mind the Heavenly summons to suffer for Christ, he therewith destroyed the decree of the impious Decius which hung in the city square, and which ordered the persecution of Christians. The saint declared himself a follower of Christ. For this he was arrested and after fierce tortures he was beheaded (+ 250). From the mouth of the martyr flew out a snow-white dove.

The Monk Hagabba was by birth an Ishmaelite (Arab) and pursued asceticism in Syria. He was a novice under the Monk Eusebios, from whom he learned inner prayer and silence, and he lived 38 years as an hermit. The saint always went barefoot, wore chains on his loins and never sat nor lay down. The Monk Hagabba spent both day and night standing or kneeling, constantly at prayer. His ascetic life finished with a peaceful end.

Holy Michael the Warrior, among the first Christians of Bulgaria, lived in the city of Potok during the reign of the Byzantine emperor Michael III P’yanos (“the Fat”) (855-867). He was descended from an old Bulgarian line. While still an infant they had called him a “saintly child”. From his youth he led an immaculate life, possessed the fear of God, fasted, generously distributed alms to the poor and visited the sick, and was meek and humble. At 24 years of age Saint Michael was made head of a troop of soldiers. The Turks were warring against Christians. Saint Michael inspired all his troop by his bravery in battle. When the allies of the Bulgarians, the Greeks, fled from the field of battle, he fell to the earth and prayed with tears for the saving of Christians. Then he led his own soldiers against the enemy. Rushing at the centre of the enemy formation, he put it into disarray and himself remained unharmed.

Returning homewards after the war, he rescued the inhabitants of a certain city in the Raipha wilderness from an huge snake, which emerged from a lake and attacked children. Having returned home, Saint Michael some days later gave up his spirit to the Lord, Whom he had loved since his youth. He wrought many miracles after death, granting healing to those recoursing to him with reverence.

The transfer of the relics of the saint from Potok to Tyrnovo occurred in the year 1206, and at the beginning of the XIX they were transferred to Valakhia.

Sainted Kallistos II, known under the name Kallistos Xanthopoulos, pursued asceticism at the Xanthopulos monastery on Holy Mount Athos (apparently, in the monastery of the Pantokrator). In 1397 he was elevated to the patriarchal throne and was hierarch during the days of Manuel Paleologos (1391-1425). Resigning the guidance of the Constantinople Church, he withdrew into solitude. Together with his fellow ascetic Ignatios of Xanthopulos he compiled the Hundred Chapters located in the second part of the Slavonic edition of the “Dobrotoliubie” (“Philokalia”). As asserted by their contemporary, Sainted Simeon of Soluneia-Thessalonika, Saints Kallistos and Ignatios of Xanthopulos witnessed the Divine Radiance, as had the apostles on Mount Tabor. Their faces seemed “shining like the sun”.

© 1999 by translator Fr. S. Janos