October 02 2020 - September 19 2020
Martyrs Trophymos, Sabbatios and Dorimedontos (+ 276). Nobleborn Prince Theodore (Feodor) of Smolensk (+ 1299) and his two sons, the Princes David and Constantine (Konstantin), Yaroslavsk Wonderworkers. Martyr Zosima the Wilderness-Dweller (IV). Holy Nobleborn Prince Igor of Chernigov (+ 1147). Saint Dios (+ c. 310). Monk Makarii of Vysokoezersk (+ 1683).
The Holy Martyrs Trophymos, Sabbatios and Dorimedontos suffered for Christ during the reign of the Roman emperor Probus (276-282). One time in the city of Antioch a pagan feastday was being celebrate – the sacrificial offerings were brought, the wine was poured, and the vile acts were done. The Christians Trophymos and Sabbatios arrived in the city, and with grief looking upon this loud and indecent spectacle, they besought the Lord to guide the errant onto the way of salvation. They were arrested and taken to the governor. At the interrogation, the saints firmly confessed their faith, and to the demand that they renounce their faith, they answered with a resolute refusal. During the time of fierce tortures Saint Sabbatios died, and Saint Trophymos was sent off, for even more terrible tortures, to the city of Synnada to the governor Frigius Dionysius, infamous as a torturer and executioner. Shod in iron sandals with sharp nails, Saint Trophymos for three days went on foot, driven on by a cavalry guard. The skilled torturer used all manners of torture to break the will of the brave Christian – but Saint Trophymos merely repeated the words of Scripture: “many an affliction hath the righteous one, but from them all wilt the Lord deliver him” (Ps. 33 : 20). They threw the sufferer into prison, where he was visited by a secret Christian – the senator Dorimedontos. He attended to Saint Trophymos, washing and binding his wounds. When this came to the attention of the torturers, they began to demand Saint Dorimedontos renounce Christianity, and then they threw him together with Saint Trophymos for devouring by wild beasts. But the martyrs remained untouched. Then they beheaded them with the sword.
Holy Nobleborn Prince Theodore (Feodor) of Smolensk and Yaroslavl', nicknamed the “Black” (i.e. “dark” or “swarthy”), was born in years terrible for Rus' – those of the Mongol invasion, about 1237-1239, and at Baptism he was named after the holy GreatMartyr Theodore Stratilates (Comm. 8 February), who was particularly esteemed by the Russian warrior-princes. And holy Prince Theodore also was destined by God to be famed in the Russian Land by military exploits. In the year 1239, when through the prayers of the MostHoly Mother of God, the holy Warrior-Martyr Merkurii (Comm. 24 November) delivered Smolensk from being captured by Batu, the child Theodore was not in the city: they had taken him away and hidden him in a safe place during the warfare. In the following year of 1240 died his father, prince Rostislav, who was a great-grandson of holy Prince Rostislav of Smolensk and Kiev (+ 1168, Comm. 14 March).
His elder brothers as heirs divided among themselves the lands of their father, allotting to the infant child Theodore the small holding of Mozhaisk. Here passed his childhood, and here he studied Holy Scripture, the church-services and the military art.
In the year 1260 holy Prince Theodore was married to Maria Vasil’evna, daughter of holy Nobleborn Prince Vasilii of Yaroslavl' (+ 1249, Comm. 3 July), and Theodore became prince of Yaroslavl'. From their marriage was born a son Mikhail, but Saint Theodore was soon widowed. He spent much of his time at military efforts and campaigns, and his son was raised by his mother-in-law, princess Xenia.
In the year 1277 the allied forces of the Russian princes, in union with the Tatar forces, took part in a campaign in the Osetian land and in the taking of “its famed city Tetyakov”. In this war the allied forces gained a total victory. From the times of Saint Alexander Nevsky (+ 1263, Comm. 23 November), the khans of the Golden Horde – seeing the uncrushable spiritual and the military strength of Orthodox Rus', were compelled to change their attitude towards it, and they began to draw the Russian princes into alliances, and the khans then turned to them for military assistance. The Russian Church providentially made use of this drawing closer, for the Christian enlightenment of the foreigners. Already in the year 1261, through the efforts of Saint Alexander Nevsky and Metropolitan Kirill III at Sarai, the capital of the Golden Horde, there was established a diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church. In the year 1276, a Constantinople Council presided over by the patriarch John Bekkos (1275-1282) gave reply to questions of the Sarai Russian bishop Theognost about the order for baptising Tatars, and also the receiving into Orthodoxy of the Monophysite and Nestorian Christians among them. During these years also, holy Prince Theodore was at the Horde. Having distinguished himself by military exploits on the Osetian campaign, he gained special favourable attention from khan Mengu-Temir, who regarded the Orthodox Church with respect, and who as khan issued the first “yarlyk” (“decree” or “grant”) about church tax-exemption for Metropolitan Kirill. In the chronicles it said: “And prince Feodor Rostislavich the emperor Mengu-Temir and his empress did favour fondly and did not want to permit him return back to Rus' on account of his bravery and the handsomeness of his face”. Saint Theodore spent three years at the Horde. Finally, “the emperor did send him off with great honour”, and the prince arrived in Yaroslavl'. His wife Maria had already died, and in the city ruled princess Xenia with her grandson Mikhail. The Yaroslavians would not let in the prince returning from the Horde: “not accepting him onto the city but saying to him: “this be the city of princess Xenia and Mikhailo is our prince””.
Saint Theodore had to return to the Horde. The empress, wife of khan Mengu-Temir, “did have exceedingly great fondness for him and did wish for him to give the hand of her own daughter”. Such a marriage had tremendous significance for Rus'. For a long time the khan would not consent to this, considering the Russian princes to be “ulusniki” (i.e. “vassals” or “subjects”). To give in marriage his daughter to a Russian prince meant to acknowledge him as an equal in worthiness. And even more important: this meant the khan would acknowledge the primacy of Orthodoxy, since before the wedding rite of crowning it required that the Tatar princess would accept holy Baptism. The khan went along with this, since union with Russia was very important for him: “and he ordered his daughter be given to prince Feodor, and ordered first to baptise her, and he ordered the Orthodox faith not be desecrated”. Thus was Saint Theodore married to the daughter of the mighty khan, who was baptised with the name Anna. “The emperor didst esteem exceedingly and commanded him be seated opposite himself, he built him a palace, and gave princes and bolyarini-nobles in retinue”.
There at the Horde also were born Saint Theodore’s sons – holy Nobleborn Prince David (+ 1321) and holy Nobleborn Prince Konstantin. The tremendous influence, which Saint Theodore gained at the Horde, he used to the glory of the Russian Land and the Russian Church. Orthodoxy became all the more strengthened amongst the Tatars, and the Horde began to assimilate Russian customs, morals and piety. Russian merchants, architect-builders and skilled craftsmen carried Russian culture to the shores of the Don, the Volga, the Urals and farther even into Mongolia itself. From this period archeologists find Orthodox icons, and crosses and lampadas, throughout all the former territories of the Golden Horde, since included into the makeup of Russia. Thus began a great missionary movement of the Russian Church towards the East, and the enlightening with the light of the Gospel truth of all the tribes – all the way to the Great Ocean (i.e. the Pacific). Russian Orthodox princes and their retinues, participating as confederates in the Mongol campaigns, learned of and became familiar with the boundless expanses of Asia, Siberia and the Far East. In the year 1330, more than thirty years after the death of Saint Theodore, Chinese chronicles write about Russian retinues in Peking.
Saint Theodore lived in Sarai until 1290, when “news reached him from Rus', from the city of Yaroslavl', that his first son, prince Mikhail, had died”. Having bestown the prince rich gifts and a large retinue, the khan sent him back to Rus'. Having become again the prince at Yaroslavl', Saint Theodore began zealously to concern himself over the strengthening and building up of his city and principality. He had an especial love for the monastery of the Transfiguration of the Lord. His fame resounded throughout all Rus', and all the princes sought friendship and alliance with him. But most of all, he was fond of the son of Saint Alexander Nevsky, – Andrei Aleksandrovich, supporting him in all undertakings, and when this prince Andrei became great-prince of Vladimir, he went with him on military campaigns; he was gladdened over the victories, and he grieved over his being cut down in defeat. In 1296 a bloody fratricidal war was just breaking out between two groups of princes: on the one side was Saint Theodore and Great-prince Andrei, and on the other side – Saint Michael of Tver (+ 1318, Comm. 22 November) and Saint Daniel of Moscow (+ 1303, Comm. 4 March). But with the help of God the bloodshed was successfully averted. At a Vladimir “sitting of princes” (year 1296) the Vladimir bishop Simeon and the Sarai bishop Izmail managed to bring peace to both sides. This fact, that holy Prince Theodore and the Sarai Vladyka Izmail participated in the sitting, points out that Saint Theodore employed all his diplomatic talents and influence at the Horde, to enable the establishing of peace in the Russian Land.
The connections of Saint Theodore the Black with his paternal origins – Smolensk, were not sundered, though for him to be prince there would have been complicated. Thus, in the year 1297, Saint Theodore went on a campaign to Smolensk to renew his lawful right to the Smolensk principality, which had been usurped by his nephews. But to take the city and become anew the Smolensk prince did not transpire.
Soon after this campaign the holy warrior-prince took sick. On 18 September 1299 the saint of God gave orders that he be carried to the Saviour-Transfiguration monastery, and there he took monastic tonsure. Towards the end of the ritual, Saint Theodore asked to interrupt the service. With the blessing of the hegumen, and to fulfill the will of the dying prince, they carried him into the monastery courtyard, whither had already come a throng of the Yaroslavl' people. “And the prince did confess before all the people, whether he had sinned against anyone or held ill-feelings against anyone. And whoever had sinned against him or borne him enmity – he blessed all and begged them pardon and in everything took upon himself the guilt before God and mankind”. Only after this did the humble warrior complete his resolve to finish his unusual and much-troubled life’s path with the acceptance of the angelic form.
All night the hegumen and the brethren prayed over the holy prince. At the second hour of the night they began to ring for matins. Administered the Holy Mysteries of Christ, Saint Theodore lay silently upon his monk’s cot. When the monks began the third “Glory” of the Psalter, he made the sign of the Cross and gave up his soul to the Lord. His appearance at the grave was extraordinary: “Wondrous indeed was the look of the blessed one, upon the cot lay he not as one dead, but as one actually alive. His face did shine like as the rays of the sun, adorned by his venerable grey of hair, witnessing to his purity of soul and heart without malice”.
After him at Yaroslavl' ruled his son – Saint David (+ 1321). The second of his two younger sons, Konstantin, had evidently died earlier. The Church veneration of holy Prince Theodore within the Yaroslavsk lands began soon after his death. During the years 1322-1327, with the blessing and commissioning of the Rostov bishop Prokhor, – in memory by the Vladyka of the venerable Saint Theodore, – there was written and adorned with miniatures the reknown Theodorov Gospel. Bishop Prokhor at first had been hegumen of the Saviour-Transfiguration monastery at Yaroslavl'. Actually, he knew the holy prince personally, and was able to be an eye-witness at his tonsure and public repentance before the people. Historians think, that the fine miniatures, sewn into this precious manuscript, had belonged to a rather earlier Gospel, the owner of which had been Saint Theodore the Black himself, and which he had brought with him to Yaroslavl' as a blessing from his native Smolensk.
On 5 March 1463, there were opened at Yaroslavl' the relics of holy Prince Theodore and his sons, David and Konstantin. The chronicler, an eye-witness to the event, recorded under the year: “At the city of Yaroslavl' in the monastery of the Holy Saviour they did bring up three great princes, prince Feodor Rostislavich and his sons David and Konstantin, and above the ground they did lay them. Great-prince Feodor was a man of great stature, and of his sons David and Konstantin they did lay them alongside, and their stature was less than his. They did lay within a single grave”. This feature of the physical appearance of the holy prince so struck the senses of the eye-witnesses and those present at the time of the uncovering of the relics, that an account of this was entered into the Prologue’s Saints-lives concerning Saint Theodore, and also into the text of the Iconographic Originals.
The Life of holy Prince Theodore the Black was written, shortly after the uncovering of the relics, by the priest-monk Antonii of the Yaroslavsk Saviour monastery, with the blessing of the Metropolitan of Moscow and All Rus', Philip I. Another redaction of the Life was written by Andrei Yur’ev at the Kirillo-Belozersk monastery. A third and most detailed Life of Saint Theodore was included in the “Book of Ranks of Imperial Geneology”, compiled under tsar Ivan the Terrible and metropolitan Makarii. The Russian people put together spiritual songs about holy Prince Theodore, which over the span of centuries they sang in “the destitute wanderings”. In them, the verses glorify the piety and the right-discernment, the beneficence and kind-heartedness of the saint, and his concern over the building and adorning of churches. The complexity of historical destinies, the roughness of the era, the numerous multitude of enemies – not personal, but enemies of Russia and the Church, – stress for us all the more clearly the great exploits of the saintly builders of the Russian Land.
The Martyr Zosima the Wilderness-Dweller lived during the IV Century. One time while hunting, the governor of Cilicia named Dometian caught sight of the elder, who calmly and amiably conversed with the beasts around him. Seeing the hunters, the beasts fled. They then interrogated the elder, – who was he and why did he live in the wilderness. The elder answered, that he was called Zosima, that he was a Christian, and that he was not able to live in the city with the enemies of the Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore he lived alone amongst the wild animals. Then Dometian said threateningly: “If thou dost worship the Nazarene, at Nazareth I shalt hand thee over publicly to fierce tortures, and thou wilt renounce Christ”. To the question of what kind of magic Zosima used to tame wild beasts, the elder answered only: “I – am a Christian”. At Nazareth the tortures began. They tied the elder head downwards, and to his neck a large stone, and they began to lacerate at his body with iron hooks. The torturers taunted the sufferer: “If the beasts do hearken unto thee, direct one of them to come forth here, and we then will believe in thine God”. The holy martyr turned with a prayer to God, and suddenly an huge lion sprang forth. Everyone fled in terror, and the lion went up to the elder, and with its paw began to lift the stone, tied to the neck of the martyr. The governor began to implore the martyr to keep the lion calm, and he gave orders to untie the saint, so as to convey him off to the emperor, but Saint Zosima was already dead, having given up his pure soul to God.
The Holy Nobleborn Prince Igor of Chernigov: The mid-XII Century was for Rus' a grievous time of incessant internecine strife over the Kiev principality between two princely groupings: the Ol’govichi and the Mstislavichi. They were all close relatives, they were all – great-grandsons of Yaroslav the Wise. The Mstislavichi were called such after the name of their father – Saint Mstislav the Great (+ 1132), son of Vladimir Monomakh (from whence their other name: “Monomashichi”). The Ol’govichi were called such after the name of Oleg Svyatoslavich (+ 1115), termed because of his bitter (“gore”) fate “Gorislavich”. Oleg Gorislavich was the son of the Kiev prince Svyatoslav (+ 1076), – who participated in the year 1072 in the Transfer of the Relics of the holy Passion-Bearers Boris and Gleb (Vide account under 2 May), and who is of note in the history of the Russian Church as the owner of two of the most remarkable theological collections of this time – the “Svyatoslav Izbornik [holy fathers selections] of 1073” and the “Izbornik of 1076”.
In certain of the old Mesyateslovs (Saint-accounts), even prince Svyatoslav himself was esteemed as a saint of God, but particularly famed were his two grandsons: the Monk Nikola Svyatosha (+ 1143, Comm. 14 October), and Nikola’s first-cousin, the son of Oleg Gorislavich – the holy Martyr Prince Igor Ol’govich (+ 1147).
The Monk Nikola Svyatosha and Saint Igor Ol’govich represent two different paths of Christian sanctity in Ancient Rus'. The Monk Nikola, having given up the world and princely duties, became a simple monk and died peacefully, having spent nearly forty years at the monastery. Saint Igor, by the will of God involved in the struggle for the Kiev principality, by his deed of martyrdom would redeem the legacy of the sin of princely strife.
In the year 1138 the Kiev Great-principality was assumed by Igor’s elder brother, Vsevolod Ol’govich (great-grandfather of Saint Michael of Chernigov). Although his rule lasted only but several years and was filled with constant wars, prince Vsevolod considered Kiev as his own dominion to bequeathe [a view partly in conflict with the complex “appanage” system, rotating princes on basis of seniority], and he decided to bequeathe it as an inheritance to his brother Igor. On this he cited the example of prince Vladimir Monomakh and said, almost as if intentionally provoking the Monomashichei: “Vladimir did seat Mstislav, his son, to follow after him in Kiev, and Mstislav – his brother Yaropolk. And herewith I declare: if God should take me, I then after me give Kiev over to my brother Igor'”. But opposes the proud. The haughty words of Vsevolod, whom also the Kievans did not much love, became the pretext for inciting enmity against his brother Igor and all the Ol’govichi. “We want not to be in inheritance” – resolved the Kievan “veche” (council). The ill-will and arrogance of the prince evoked in response the ill-will and arrogance of the Kievans: Saint Igor, against his will dragged into the very centre of events, became an innocent victim of the growing hatred.
The terrible events unfolded impetuously. On 1 August 1146 prince Vsevolod died, and the Kievans kissed the cross to Igor as their new prince, and Igor kissed the cross to Kiev – that he would rule the people justly and defend them. But the Kievan boyar-nobles violated their kissing of the cross, and immediately invited the Mstislavichi with their forces. Beneathe Kiev occurred a battle between the forces of Prince Igor and those of Izyaslav Mstislavich. Once again breaking their oath given in kissing the cross, the Kievan forces in the height of battle went over to the side of Izyaslav. For four days Igor Ol’govich hid himself in the marshes about Kiev. Then they took him captive, and took him to Kiev and put him in the “blockhouse”. This was on 13 August, and the whole of his time as prince lasted but two weeks.
In the “blockhouse” (“porub” – this was a dank log house, without windows or doors; in order for a man to get free, it was necessary to “vyrubit'” (“chop”) him out from there), the much-suffering Igor fell grievously ill. They thought that he was dead. Under these conditions the enemies of the prince decided “to chop him out” from imprisonment and have him tonsured a schema-monk at the Kiev Theodorov monastery. With the help of God the prince recovered health and, remaining a monk at the monastery, he spent his time at tears and prayer.
The struggle for Kiev continued. Incited by pride and blind hatred, neither one of the sides wanted to give in. Wanting to wipe out the line of the Ol’govichi, and at the same time all its princes, the Kievan veche-council in the following year set about to do away with the prince-monk.
The metropolitan and the clergy tried to reason with them and stop them. The prince ruling at Kiev, Izyaslav Mstislavich, and in particular his brother Vladimir, tried to avert this senseless bloodshed, and indeed to save the holy martyr, but they themselves were in danger from the vicious mob.
The mob rushed into church during the time of the Holy Liturgy, they grabbed hold of Igor who was praying before the icon of the Mother of God, and they dragged him out to massacre him. Prince Vladimir halted the mob at the gates of the monastery. Igor said to him: “Yoi, brother, wilt thou forsake me?” Vladimir jumped down from his horse, wanting to help, and covered him with his “korzno” (princely cloak) while saying to the Kievans: “Brethren, no murder!”. “And Vladimir did lead Igor' to the palace of his mother, and they began to rush forth against Vladimir”. Thus reports the chronicle. Vladimir succeeded in pushing Igor into the palace and locking the gates. But the people broke down the gates, and catching sight of Igor “in the lofts” (closed gallery on the second floor in old Kievan garretts), they smashed open the loft, dragging down the holy martyr and murdering him on the lower steps of the stairway. The vicious mob was so intense, that they subjected the dead body of the sufferer to further beatings and abuse, and they dragged him with ropes to his feet to the Desyatina (Tithe) church, and then having thrown him on a cart, they went off with it and “hung him up in the marketplace”.
Thus did the holy martyr give up his spirit to the Lord, “and he did take off the perishable robe of mankind, and was clothed in the imperishable and much-suffering robe of Christ”. When on the evening of the same day the body of Blessed Igor was transferred to the church of Saint Michael, “God did manifest a great sign, and the candles over him were set alight in this church”. On the second morning the holy sufferer was buried in the monastery of Saint Simeon, on the outskirts of Kiev.
In the year 1150 the Chernigov prince Svyatoslav Ol’govich transferred the relics of his brother, Saint Igor, to Chernigov and put them in the Saviour cathedral. The wonderworking icon of the Mother of God, named the Igorevsk, – before which the martyr prayed before his murder, is located in the Great Uspenie church of the Kievo‑Pechersk Lavra (celebration of the icon is 5 June).
© 1999 by translator Fr. S. Janos