Orthodox River


December 07 2020 - November 24 2020

Holy GreatMartyr Mercurius (Mercury) (III). Holy GreatMartyress Catherine (+ 305-313). Martyr Merkurii of Smolensk (+ 1239).

Monk Merkurii, Faster of Pechersk, in Farther Caves (XIV). Martyress Augusta. Martyrs Porphyry the General and 200 Soldiers (+ 305-311). Nun Mastridia. Martyress Philothea (+ 1060) (Rouman.). Monk Simon of Soiginsk (+ 1562). Sainted Hermogenes, Bishop of Acragantum. Saints Philumenus and Christopher. Martyr Eugene. Martyrs Procopius and Christopher. Monk Gregory of Khrisipetreia. Martyr Alexander. Monk Mark of Trigleia.

The Holy GreatMartyr Mercurius (Mercury), a Skyth by descent, served as a soldier in the Roman army. The impious emperors Decius (249-251) and Valerian (253-259) issued a law, ordering all Roman citizens to worship the pagan gods and condemning Christians to death.

During these times barbarians attacked the Roman empire, and the emperor Decius went on campaign with a large army. In one of the battles an Angel of the Lord appeared to Mercurius and presented him a sword with the words: “Fear not. Go forth bravely against the enemy. And when thou art victorious, forget not the Lord thy God”. With this sword the holy warrior broke through the ranks of the barbarian horde; he destroyed an hoste of the enemy and killed the leader of the barbarians, winning victory for the Romans. The grateful emperor rewarded Saint Mercurius for his bravery, and made him a military commander.

The Angel of the Lord appeared again to the holy warrior, who had received great honours and riches, and reminded him by Whom the victory had been given, and bidding him to serve the Lord. Saint Mercurius recalled that his father Gordian had also confessed the Christian faith; – he himself had been baptised and with all his soul he yearned for Christ. He refused to participate in the solemn offering of sacrifice to the pagan gods and was summoned before the dread emperor. Openly declaring himself a Christian, Mercurius threw down at the feet of the emperor his soldier’s belt and mantle and he repudiated all the honours. The Angel of the Lord again appeared to Saint Mercurius in the prison, encouraging him and inspiring him to bravely endure all the suffering for Christ.

They stretched the holy martyr over fire; they cut at him with knives, and lashed at him so much, that the blood from his wounds extinguished the fire. But each time, when they threw him back into the prison nearly dying from his wounds, Saint Mercurius received complete healing from the Lord, manifesting before the impious the great power of faith in Christ. Condemned to a sentence of death, the saint was deemed worthy of a vision of the Lord Himself, promising him a quick release from his sufferings. The GreatMartyr Mercurius was beheaded at Caesarea Cappadocia. His holy body exuded fragrant myrh and incense, bestowing healing on many of the sick.

Even after his death the warrior of Christ, united unto the Heavenly Church, served a soldier’s service for the good of the earthly Church. Through the prayer of Sainted Basil the Great (Comm. 1 January) in front of an icon of the MostHoly Mother of God for deliverance of Christians under persecution of the Christian faith by the emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363), the Mediatrix for Christians dispatched the holy Warrior Mercurius in assist from the Church Triumphant unto the Church Militant. The image of the holy GreatMartyr Mercurius, depicted on the icon alongside the image of the MostHoly Mother of God, became invisible. It reappeared again later with a bloodied spear.

At this very moment Julian the Apostate on his Persian campaign was pierced by the spear of an unknown assailant, who disappeared immediately. The mortally wounded Julian, as he lay dying, cried out: “Thou hast conquered, Galileian!”

The Holy GreatMartyress Catherine was the daughter of the governor of Alexandrian Egypt Constus during the reign of the emperor Maximian (305-313). Living in the capital – the centre of Hellenistic knowledge, and possessed of an uncommon beauty and intellect, Catherine received a most splendid of educations, having studied the works of the finest philosophers and teachers of antiquity. Young men from the most worthy families of the empire sought the hand of the beautiful Catherine, but none of them was chosen. She declared to her parents that she would be agreeable to enter into marriage only with someone who surpassed her in illustriousness, wealth, comeliness and wisdom.

Catherine’s mother, a secret Christian, sent her for advice to her own spiritual father – a saintly elder pursuing prayerful deeds in solitude in a cave not far from the city. Having listened to Catherine, the elder said that he knew of a Youth, who surpassed her in everything, such that “His beauty was more radiant than the shining of the sun, His wisdom governed all creation, His riches were spread throughout all the world – this however did not diminish but rather added to the inexpressible loftiness of His lineage”. The image of the Heavenly Bridegroom produced in the soul of the holy maiden an ardent desire to see Him. Truth, to which her soul yearned, revealed it to her. In parting, the elder handed Catherine an icon of the Mother of God with the God-Child Jesus on Her arm and bid her to pray with faith to the Queen of Heaven – the Mother of the Heavenly Bridegroom – for the bestowing of the vision of Her Son.

Catherine prayed all night and was given to see the MostHoly Virgin, Who sent Her Divine Son to look upon the kneeling of Catherine before Them. But the Child turned His face away from her saying, that He was not able to look at her because she was ugly, of shabby lineage, beggarly and mindless like every person – not washed with the waters of holy Baptism and not sealed with the seal of the Holy Spirit. Catherine returned again to the elder deeply saddened. He lovingly received her, instructed her in the faith of Christ, admonished her to preserve her purity and integrity and to pray unceasingly; he then performed over her the mystery / sacrament of holy Baptism. And again Saint Catherine had a vision of the MostHoly Mother of God with Her Child. Now the Lord looked tenderly at her and gave her a ring – a wondrous gift of the Heavenly Bridegroom.

At this time the emperor Maximian was himself in Alexandria for a pagan feastday. Because of this, the feast was especially splendid and crowded. The cries of the sacrificial animals, the smoke and the smell of the sacrifices, the endless blazing of fires, and the bustling crowds at the arenas filled Alexandria. Human victims also were brought – because they consigned to death in the fire the confessors in Christ, those not recanting from Him under torture. The Saint’s love for the Christian martyrs and her fervent desire to lighten their fate impelled Catherine to go to the pagan head-priest and ruler of the empire, the emperor-persecutor Maximian.

Introducing herself, the saint confessed her faith in the One True God and with wisdom denounced the errors of the pagans. The beauty of the maiden captivated the emperor. In order to convince her and show the superiourity of pagan wisdom, the emperor gave orders to gather 50 of the most learned men (rhetoricians) of the empire, but the Saint got the better of the wise men, such that they themselves came to believe in Christ. Saint Catherine shielded the martyrs with the sign of the cross, and they bravely accepted death for Christ and were burnt by order of the emperor.

Maximian, no longer hoping to convince the saint, tried to entice her with the promise of riches and fame. Having received an angry refusal, the emperor gave orders to subject the saint to terrible tortures and then throw her in prison. The Empress Augusta, who had heard much about the saint, wanted to see her. Having prevailed upon the military-commander Porphyry to accompany her with a detachment of soldiers, Augusta went to the prison. The empress was impressed by the strong spirit of Saint Catherine, whose face glowed with Divine grace. The holy martyress explained the Christian teaching to the newly-arrived, and they in believing were converted to Christ.

On the following day they again brought the martyress to the judgement court where, under the threat of being broken on the wheel, they urged that she recant from the Christian faith and offer sacrifice to the gods. The saint steadfastly confessed Christ and she herself approached the wheels; but an Angel smashed the instruments of execution, which broke up into pieces with many pagans passing nearby. Having beheld this wonder, the empress Augusta and the imperial courtier Porphyry with 200 soldiers confessed their faith in Christ in front of everyone, and they were beheaded. Maximian again tried to entice the holy martyress, proposing marriage to her, and again he received a refusal. Saint Catherine firmly confessed her fidelity to the Heavenly Bridegroom – Christ, and with a prayer to Him she herself put her head on the block under the sword of the executioner. The relics of Saint Catherine were taken by the Angels to Mount Sinai. In the VI Century, through a revelation, the venerable head and left hand of the holy martyress were found and transferred with honour to a newly-constructed church of the Sinai monastery, built by the holy emperor Justinian (527-565; Comm. 14 November).

The Holy Martyr Merkurii of Smolensk was a Slav by birth, probably from Moravia, the descendant of a princely line. Brought up in Orthodoxy, Saint Merkurii in zeal for the true faith set off from his own native land to Rus’, where he served in the army of the Smolensk prince. The saintly soldier secretly led an ascetic life – he was strict in fasting, chaste, spending his nights at prayer, and spiritually preparing himself to suffer for faith in Christ. In the year 1239 an horde of Tatars (Mongols), having already laid waste to many a Russian city, appeared in the vicinity of Smolensk and set up camp 25 versts from it at Dolgomost’, threatening with ruin the city and its holy places. A church-warden, praying by night in the Smolensk cathedral in front of a wonderworking image of the Mother of God, heard the voice of the Queen of Heaven, commanding him to find the holy warrior and say to him: “Merkurii, go forth into military foray, as the Sovereign Lady doth summon thee”. The soldier himself came into the cathedral and heard the voice of the All‑Pure Virgin, sending him to fight the enemy and promising him Heavenly help.

The warrior of Christ set off that very night to the Tatar camp at Dolgomost’. He fought there with the leader of the Tatar army – a giant possessed of immense strength. He killed him and entered into single-combat with the enemy host. Invoking the Name of the Lord and of the All-Pure Mother of God, the holy warrior destroyed many of the enemy. The Tatar warriors watch with terror as lightning-bearing men and a radiant Woman aided Saint Merkurii in the fight, and unable to stand up against the warrior of Christ, they retreated in flight. Saint Merkurii in the battle was himself killed by the son of the Tatar giant killed by him.

The inhabitants of Smolensk, saved through the miraculous intervention of the Lord and the MostHoly Mother of God, reverently buried the body of the soldier-martyr in the cathedral of the Dormition of the MostHoly Mother of God. Soon after his death, Saint Merkurii appeared in a vision to the church-warden and ordered that his armour be hung over the grave, promising the Smolensk people constant help and intervention in every sorrow and struggle. Even now at present in the Smolensk cathedral church are still preserved the sandals of the holy Martyr Merkurii. The festal celebration to him was established at the end of the XVI Century, and already in 1509 the inhabitants of Smolensk were calling him their especial patron.

The Monk Merkurii of Kievo-Pechersk pursued asceticism in the Farther Caves in the XIV Century, and was strict at fasting. During his lifetime the Monk Merkurii had a deep spiritual friendship with the Monk Paisii, and at death they were buried in the same grave. The 24 November memory of the monk is made because of his name in common with the holy GreatMartyr Mercurius. Also on 28 August – together with the Sobor (Assemblage) of the Farther Cave; and on the 2nd Sunday of Great Lent – with the Sobor of all the monastic fathers of Kievo-Pechersk.

The Nun Mastridia lived in Egyptian Alexandria. She gave a vow of virginity and, keeping the fasts and silence, she dwelt in unceasing prayer. The pure life of the holy virgin was beset by trials. A certain young man, attracted to her with impure desire, began to pursue her such that she could not go from her home even for church. Grieving over the fact that she had unwillingly led the youth into temptation, and being zealous for his salvation, the saint invited him into her home. Knowing that it was her pretty eyes especially that attracted him, the nun with complete selflessness put them out with a linen weaving instrument. Having saved herself and the youth from temptation, Saint Mastridia brought him to repentance. He accepted monasticism and lived as a strict ascetic, and Saint Mastridia finished her life in works for the Lord.

The Monk Simon of Soiginsk belonged to the Komel’sk branch of students of the Monk Sergei of Radonezh. He was born at Sol’vychegodsk, and took monastic vows under the Monk Kornilii (Comm. 19 May) at the Komel’sk monastery. He passed through his obediences amidst such ascetics and disciples of Kornilii of Komel’sk as – Gennadii of Liubimsk (Comm. 23 January), Kirill of Novoezersk (Comm. 4 February), Irodion of Iloezersk (Comm. 28 September), Adrian of Poshekhonsk (Comm. 5 March), Lavrentii of Komel’sk (Comm. 16 May). After the death of his preceptor the Monk Kornilii, the Monk Simon for a certain while was companion of the Monk Longin (Comm. 10 February) – the founder of the Koryazhemsk monastery, and went off together with him into wilderness-life. After this he settled at the River Soiga, 60 versts from Koryazhma. There he established a church in honour of the Transfiguration of the Lord, consecrated on 17 May 1541. Having founded a monastery by this church, the monk was chosen hegumen by the brethren. The Monk Simon died on 24 November 1562 and was buried in the monastery founded by him in a church named for the holy GreatMartyr Catherine, whose memory likewise is observed on 24 November.

© 1999 by translator Fr. S. Janos