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Feasts and Saints of the Orthodox Church 7 May

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  • Teresa A. Polychronis
    ... From: John Tsapos Sent: Wednesday, May 06, 2009 10:30 PM Subject: Feasts and Saints of the Orthodox Church 7 May Feasts and Saints of the Orthodox Church
    Message 1 of 1 , May 6 8:30 PM
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      ----- Original Message -----
      From: John Tsapos
      Sent: Wednesday, May 06, 2009 10:30 PM
      Subject: Feasts and Saints of the Orthodox Church 7 May

       

       
       
      Feasts and Saints of the Orthodox Church
       
      May 7

      Repose of St Alexis Toth the confessor and defender of Orthodoxy in America

      Our holy Father Alexis, the defender of the Orthodox Faith and zealous worker in the Lord's vineyard, was born in Austro-Hungary on March 18, 1854 into a poor Carpatho-Russian family. Like many others in the Austro-Hungarian empire, the Toths were Eastern Rite Catholics. Alexis' father and brother were priests and his uncle was a bishop in the Uniate church. He received an excellent education and knew several languages (Carpatho-Russian, Hungarian, Russian, German, Latin, and a reading knowledge of Greek). He married Rosalie Mihalich, a priest's daughter, and was ordained on April 18, 1878 to serve as second priest in a Uniate parish. His wife died soon afterwards, followed by their only child - losses which the saint endured with the patience of Job.

      In May, 1879, Fr Alexis was appointed secretary to the Bishop of Presov and also Administrator of the Diocesan Administration. He was also entrusted with the directorship of an orphanage. At Presov Seminary, Father Toth taught Church History and Canon Law, which served him well in his later life in America. St Alexis did not serve long as a professor or an administrator, for the Lord had a different future planned for him. In October, 1889 he was appointed to serve as pastor of a Uniate parish in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Like another Abraham, he left his country and his relatives to fulfill the will of God (Gen 12:1).

      Upon his arrival in America, Father Alexis presented himself to the local Roman Catholic diocesan authority, Archbishop John Ireland, since there was no Uniate bishop in America at that time. Archbishop Ireland belonged to the party of American Catholics who favored the "Americanization" of all Roman Catholics. His vision for the future was founded on a common faith, customs, and the use of the English language for everything except liturgical celebrations. Naturally, ethnic parishes and non-Latin rite clergy did not fit into this vision. Thus, when Father Toth came to present his credentials, Archbishop Ireland greeted him with open hostility. He refused to recognize him as a legitimate Catholic priest or to grant permission for him to serve in his diocese.

      As a historian and professor of Canon Law, Father Toth knew his rights under the terms of the Unia and would not accept Archbishop Ireland's unjust decisions. In October of 1890, there was a meeting of eight of the ten Uniate priests in America at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania under the chairmanship of Father Toth. By this time the American bishops had written to Rome demanding the recall to Europe of all Uniate priests in America, fearing that Uniate priests and parishes would hinder the assimilation of immigrants into American culture. Uniate bishops in Europe refused to listen to the priests' pleas for help.

      Archbishop Ireland sent a letter to his parishes ordering their members not to attend Father Toth's parish nor to accept any priestly ministrations from him. Expecting imminent deportation, Father Toth explained the situation to his parishioners and suggested it might be best for him to leave and return to Europe.

      "No," they said. "Let's go to the Russian bishop. Why should we always submit ourselves to foreigners?" It was decided to write to the Russian consul in San Francisco in order to ask for the name and address of the Russian bishop. Ivan Mlinar went to San Francisco to make initial contact with Bishop Vladimir; then in February, 1891 Father Toth and his church warden, Paul Podany, also made the journey. Subsequently, Bishop Vladimir came to Minneapolis and on March 25, 1891 received Father Toth and 361 parishioners into the Orthodox Church of their ancestors. The parishioners regarded this event as a new Triumph of Orthodoxy, crying out with joy: "Glory to God for His great mercy!"
      This initiative came from the people themselves, and was not the result of any coercion from outsiders. The Russian Orthodox Church was unaware of the existence of these Slavic Uniate immigrants to America, but responded positively to their petition to be reunited to the Orthodox Church.

      The example of St Alexis and his parish in returning to Orthodoxy was an encouragement to hundreds of other Uniates. The ever-memorable one was like a candle upon a candlestick giving light to others (Mt.5:15), and his flock may be likened to the leaven mixed with meal which leavened the whole (Mt.13:33). Through his fearless preaching he uprooted the tares which had sprung up in the wheat of true doctrine, and exposed the false teachings which had led his people astray. Although he did not hesitate to point out errors in the doctrines of other denominations, he was careful to warn his flock against intolerance. His writings and sermons are filled with admonitions to respect other people and to refrain from attacking their faith.

      While it is true that he made some strong comments, especially in his private correspondence with the church administration, it must be remembered that this was done while defending the Orthodox Church and the American Mission from unfounded accusations by people who used much harsher language than Father Toth. His opponents may be characterized by intolerance, rude behaviour, unethical methods and threats against him and his parishioners. Yet, when Father Alexis was offended or deceived by other people he forgave them, and he would often ask his bishop to forgive his omissions and mistakes.

      In the midst of great hardships, this herald of godly theology and sound doctrine poured forth an inexhaustible stream of Orthodox writings for new converts, and gave practical advice on how to live in an Orthodox manner. For example, his article "How We should Live in America" stresses the importance of education, cleanliness, sobriety, and the presence of children in church on Sundays and Holy Days.

      Although the Minneapolis parish was received into the Orthodox Church in March, 1891, it was not until July, 1892 that the Holy Synod of Russia recognized and accepted the parish into the Diocese of Alaska and the Aleutians. This resolution reached America only in October, 1892. During that time there was a climate of religious and ethnic hostility against the new converts. Father Alexis was accused of selling out his own Carpatho-Russian people and his religion to the "Muscovites" for financial gain.

      In reality he did not receive any financial support for a long time, for his parish was very poor. Until his priestly salary began to arrive from Russia, the righteous one was obliged to work in a bakery in order to support himself. Even though his funds were meager, he did not neglect to give alms to the poor and needy. He shared his money with other clergy worse off than himself, and contributed to the building of churches and to the education of seminarians in Minneapolis. He was not anxious about his life (Mt.6:25), what he would eat or drink or wear. Trusting in God to take care of him, St Alexis followed the admonition of Our Savior to "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Mt.6:33). So he bore the tribulation, slander, and physical attacks with patience and spiritual joy, reminding us that "godliness is stronger than all" (Wisdom of Solomon 10:12).

      Bishops Vladimir, Nicholas, St Tikhon, and Platon recognized the special gifts of Father Toth, so they often sent him forth to preach and teach wherever there were people of Slavic background. Even though he was aware of his shortcomings and inadequacies, yet he was obedient to the instructions of the bishops. He did not hesitate or make excuses, but went immediately to fulfill his mission. St Alexis visited many Uniate parishes, explaining the differences between Orthodoxy, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism and Uniatism, stressing that the true way to salvation is in Orthodoxy.

      Like Josiah, "he behaved himself uprightly in the conversion of his people" (Sir 49:2). He was instrumental in the formation or return of seventeen parishes, planting a vineyard of Christ in America, and increasing its fruitful yield many times over. By 1909, the time of his blessed repose, many thousands of Carpatho-Russian and Galician Uniates had returned to Orthodoxy. This was a major event in the history of the North American Mission, which would continue to shape the future of Orthodoxy in this country for many generations to come. Any future growth or success may truly be regarded as the result of Father Toth's apostolic labors.

      Who can tell of the saint's spiritual struggles? Who can speak of the prayers which his pious soul poured forth unto God? He did not make a public display of his piety, but prayed to God in secret with all modesty, with contrition and inward tears. God, Who sees everything done in secret, openly rewarded the saint (Mt.6:6). It is inconceivable that St Alexis could have accomplished his apostolic labors unless God had blessed and strengthened him for such work. Today the Church continues to reap the fruits of his teaching and preaching.

      Father Toth's efforts did not go unrecognized in his own lifetime. He received a jeweled miter from the Holy Synod, as well as the Order of St Vladimir and the Order of St Anna from Czar Nicholas II for distinguished service and devotion to God and country. In 1907, he was considered as a candidate for the episcopal office. He declined this honor, however, humbly pointing out that this responsibility should be given to a younger, healthier man.

      At the end of 1908, St Alexis' health began to decline due to a complication of illneses. He went to the seashore in southern New Jersey in an attempt to regain his health, but soon returned to Wilkes-Barre, where he was confined to bed for two months. The righteous one reposed on Friday, May 7, 1909 (April 24 on the Old Calendar), the feast of Sts Sava and Alexius the Hermit of the Kiev Caves. St Alexis' love and concern for his spiritual children did not cease with his death. Before closing the account of his life, it would be most appropriate to reveal but one example of his heavenly intercession:

      In January, 1993 a certain man prayed to St Alexis to help him obtain information about his son from whom he had been separated for twenty-eight years. Placing his confidence in the saint's boldness before God, he awaited an answer to his prayer. The very next day the man's son telephoned him. It seems the young man was in church when he was suddenly filled with an overwhelming desire to contact his father. He had been taken to another state by his mother, and she changed his name when he was a child. This is why his father was unable to locate him. Having learned from his mother that his father was an Orthodox Christian, he was able with the help of an Orthodox priest to obtain his father's phone number in a distant city. As a result of that telephone call, the young man later visited his father, who rejoiced to see what sort of man his son had become. The father gave thanks to God and to St Alexis for reuniting him with his son.

      St Alexis was a true man of God who guided many Carpatho-Russian and Galician immigrants through the dark confusion of religious challenges in the New World and back to the unity of the Orthodox Church through his grace-filled words and by his holy example. In his last will and testament St Alexis commended his soul to God's mercy, asking forgiveness from everyone and forgiving everybody. His holy relics now rest at St Tikhon Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania where the faithful may come to venerate them and to entreat St Alexis' intercessions on their behalf.

      St David Gareji of Zaden, in Georgia

      Saint David of Gareji was one of the twelve disciples of St John Zedazeni They were ascetics of Syria (Cappadocia), and were the founders of Georgian monasticism, arriving in Georgia from Cappadocia in the mid-sixth century. The holy Thirteen Cappadocian Fathers were actually Georgians, who received their spiritual schooling at the renowned Lavra of St Simeon the Stylite and at other monasteries of Syria and Mesopotamia, intending to return to their native land and assist in its Christian enlightenment.

      St David is also commemorated on the Thursday after the Ascension.

      Repose of the Venerable Nilus the Abbot of Sora

      Saint Nilus of Sora, a great ascetic of the Russian Church, was descended from the Maikov nobility. He accepted monasticism at the monastery of St Cyril of White Lake (June 9). Here he made use of the counsels of the pious Elder Paisius Yaroslavov, who was afterwards igumen of the Trinity-Sergiev Lavra.

      St Nilus journeyed much through the East, studying the monastic life in Palestine and on Mt. Athos. Returning to Rus, he withdrew to the River Sora in the Vologda lands, and built a cell and a chapel, where there soon grew up a monastery with a new (for that time in Rus) skete Rule adopted by St Nilus from Mt. Athos. Following the command of St Nilus, the monks had to sustain themselves by the work of their own hands, to accept charity only in extreme need, and to shun the love of things and splendor even in church. Women were not permitted in the skete, monks was not allowed to leave the skete under any pretext, and the possession of lands or estates was forbidden.

      The monks lived in the forest around the small church in honor of the Meeting of the Lord, in separate cells of one or two but not more than three men. They gathered together in church for divine services. Moreover, readings from the holy Fathers were prescribed at the All-Night Vigil, which actually lasted the whole night. On other days, each one prayed and worked in his own cell.

      The saint struggled constantly with his own thoughts and passions. Then peace would be born in his soul, clarity in his mind, contrition and love in his heart. In his written works, "A Tradition for my Disciple, Wishing to Live in the Wilderness," and the "Rule," St Nilus describes the steps of this salvific mental activity in detail. The first step is renunciation of the world, particularly, from every worldly distraction. The second is unceasing prayer, accompanied by the remembrance of death.

      The saint was distinguished for his non-possessiveness and love for work. He dug a pond and a well, whose water had healing power. For his sanctity of life the Elder Nilus was deeply venerated by the Russian hierarchs of his time. He participated in the Councils of 1490 and 1503. Disdaining the honors and glories of this world, he told his disciples before his death either to throw his body to be eaten by beasts and birds, or to bury it without honor at the place of his struggles.

      The saint died in his seventy-sixth year of life, on May 7, 1508. His relics, buried in the monastery he founded, were glorified by many miracles. The Russian Church has numbered him among the saints.

      [In English, fragments of his "Tradition" and "Rule" may be found in G. Fedotov's TREASURY OF RUSSIAN SPIRITUALITY.]

      St John Zedazneli of Zaden, in Georgia with his 12 Disciples

      Saint John Zedazeni and his Twelve Disciples: Abibus, Bishop of Nekressi, Anthony of Martkob, David of Gareji, Zeno of Ikalto, Thaddeus of Stepantsmind, Ise (Jesse) Bishop of Tsilkan, Joseph, Bishop of Alaverdi, Isidore of Samtavro, Michael of Ulumbi, Pyrrhus of Breti, Stephen of Khyri, Shio of Mgvime. They were ascetics of Syria (Cappadocia), and were the founders of Georgian monasticism, arriving in Georgia from Cappadocia in the mid-sixth century. The holy Thirteen Cappadocian Fathers were actually Georgians, who received their spiritual schooling at the renowned Lavra of St Simeon the Stylite and at other monasteries of Syria and Mesopotamia, intending to return to their native land and assist in its Christian enlightenment.

      St John Zedazeni, the head of these ascetics, received his spiritual schooling at Antioch. Accounts have not been preserved about the place of his birth nor about his family. In his youth he became a monk and devoted himself to the solitary ascetic life, gaining afterwards an amazing geniality, humility and gift of wonderworking. The fame of his spiritual exploits attracted to him a number of disciples, from which he chose twelve men by lot. Following the command of the Mother of God, he went with them to Georgia. Along the way they received the blessing of St Simeon Stylite the Younger (+ May 24, 596). They crossed the River Kura "with dry feet." At Mtshketa, the ancient capital of Georgia, they were joyfully met by the people, by the emperor Parsman (542-557), and by the Archbishop-Katholikos Eulabius (552-560).

      The Chronicles relate that the holy Cappadocian Fathers spoke in the Georgian language to those who met them. In the Svetitskhoveli cathedral they prostrated themselves before the Life-Creating Pillar (October 1), and they glorified and gave thanks to God. With the blessing of Katholikos Eulabius, St John and his disciples settled on Mount Zedazeni (from which St John gets his name, Zedazeni), where formerly there had been a pagan temple and an idol. The ascetics lived in huts, they ate grass and roots, and they were constantly occupied with prayer and spiritual meditation. A multitude of the sick flocked to them, receiving healing through their prayerful intercession.

      After Sts Abibus and Ise were chosen as bishops, the Mother of God appeared to St John in a dream and commanded him to send his disciples into various parts of Georgia to preach the Word of God, and for pastoral edification. Heeding the instructions of St John, certain of the disciples went to Kakhetia (Xeno, and later Stephen), others to Kartalin (Pyrrhus, Michael, Thaddeus and Isidore).

      The other saints are Anthony (January 19) Abibus (November 29), David (Thursday after the Ascension), Ise (December 2), Joseph (September 15), and Shio (May 9).

      "They all ... taught the nation, they instructed it in the faith, they abolished the darkness of superstition and they did away with what remained in the mountain gorges of pagan temples and idol worship, in place of which they set up the holy Cross and built holy churches, and they established within the nation a civil sense...."

      St Xeno, "a pillar of sweet obedience," while preaching in the mountains of Upper Kakhetia, founded a monastery at Ikalto, where he was buried in the cathedral church in honor of the Icon of the Savior Not-Made-by-Hands.

      St Thaddeus [in Georgian "Tate"] at first remained at Mtshketa. At the bidding of St John, he founded the monastery at the foot of Mount Zedazeni, to instruct those who had come. After the death of St John, St Thaddeus preached in Kartalin, where he founded many churches, among which was a temple in honor of the holy Protomartyr Stephen in the city of Urbnisi. Later, he settled in a cave on Mount Tslevi near the city of Kaspi, at which summit he also founded a church in honor of the holy Protomartyr Stephen. The relics of St Thaddeus, "an image of pure truth and faith," were buried in this cave at the church which he founded.

      St Isidore, "a vineyard of virtues," after his prolonged apostolic exploits, established a monastery at Samtavisi in honor of the Icon of the Savior Not-Made-by-Hands, and here his relics also rest.

      St Michael toiled much to spread Christianity in the mountains of Upper Kartalin and Osetia. In the vicinity of Ulumbi he founded a large monastery. His holy relics rest in the katholikon of this monastery, which was converted into a parish church in the nineteenth century.

      St Pyrrhus, "a divine image of tears," founded a monastery on the left bank of the River Dvanis-Tskhali, near the vicinity of Breti. His venerable relics were placed in the monastery church.

      St Stephen, "combining knowledge with strength," founded a monastery in the vicinity of Khrysa. He was buried in the cathedral church in honor of the holy Protomartyr Stephen, on the left side of the altar at the Table of Oblation.

      Sending forth his disciples, St John Zedazeni kept Deacon Elias with him and devoted himself to spiritual struggles.

      St John withstood the snares of evil spirits, which he expelled from the outskirts of Mtshketa. Through the prayer of St John, a spring of healing flowed forth on Mount Zaden. Receiving a revelation about his approaching death, St John summoned his disciples to him, the holy Deacon Elias and St Thaddeus of Stepantsmind, ordering them to bury him in his cave on the mountain, at the place of his struggles.

      After receiving the Holy Mysteries, St John saw the heavens opened and the hosts of the Bodiless Powers of Heaven together with a multitude of the saints. He surrendered his righteous soul to the Lord. The repose of St John occured between the years 557 and 560, during the time of the Katholikos Macarius (553-569). His disciples, who had forgotten his command, transported the saint's body to the monastery at the foot of Mount Zaden, and placed it in a special crypt.

      The earth around that place quaked and the tremors did not cease until the body of St John was placed in the cave atop the mountain, as the monk had commanded. During the tenth century under Katholikos-Archbishop Clement (908-923), a church was built on the south side of this cave in honor of St John the Baptist, so that the holy relics of St John Zedazeni were in its chapel in the Prothesis. They were glorified by many signs of the Lord's mercy.

      St Shio Mgvime, in Georgia

      Saint Shio was one of the twelve disciples of St John Zedazeni. They were holy Syrian (Cappadocian) ascetics, the founders of Georgian monasticism, who arrived in Georgia from Cappadocia in the mid-sixth century. The holy Thirteen Cappadocian Fathers were actually Georgians, who received their spiritual schooling at the renowned Lavra of St Simeon the Stylite and at other monasteries of Syria and Mesopotamia, intending to return to their native land and assist in its Christian enlightenment.


      Martyr Acacius the Centurion at Byzantium

      Saint Acacius lived in the third century, and was an officer in the Roman army during the time of Maximian. At his interrogation he declared that he had received a devout faith from his parents, and that he would remain steadfast in it, for he had seen many miracles of healing which took place at the relics of the saints.

      After enduring many tortures in the city of Pyrrinthus, Thrace, he was taken to Byzantium. There he suffered further torments and was beheaded with a sword in the year 303.

      St Anthony Martmkofeli of Zaden, in Georgia

      Saint Anthony the Stylite of Martomq'ophi (Martkob), Georgia was one of the twelve disciples of StJohn Zedazeni. They were holy Syrian (Cappadocian) ascetics, the founders of Georgian monasticism, who arrived in Georgia from Cappadocia in the mid-sixth century. The holy Thirteen Cappadocian Fathers were actually Georgians, who received their spiritual schooling at the renowned Lavra of St Simeon the Stylite and at other monasteries of Syria and Mesopotamia, intending to return to their native land and assist in its Christian enlightenment.

      Saint Thaddeus of Stepantsminda
      Was one of the twelve disciples of St John Zedazeni. They were holy Syrian (Cappadocian) ascetics, the founders of Georgian monasticism, who arrived in Georgia from Cappadocia in the mid-sixth century. The holy Thirteen Cappadocian Fathers were actually Georgians, who received their spiritual schooling at the renowned Lavra of St Simeon the Stylite and at other monasteries of Syria and Mesopotamia, intending to return to their native land and assist in its Christian enlightenment.

      The Mother of God appeared to St John in a dream and commanded him to send his disciples into various parts of Georgia to preach the Word of God. St Thaddeus was sent to Kartalin with Pyrrhus, Michael, and Isidore).

      St Thaddeus [in Georgian "Tate"] at first remained at Mtshketa. At the bidding of St John, he founded the monastery at the foot of Mount Zedazeni, to instruct those who had come.

      Knowing the time of his death beforehand, St John summoned his disciples St Elias the deacon and St Thaddeus of Stepantsmind to him, ordering them to bury him in his cave on the mountain, at the place of his struggles. His disciples forgot his command, transported the saint's body to the monastery at the foot of Mount Zaden, and placed it in a special crypt. The earth around that place quaked and the tremors did not cease until the body of St John was placed in the cave atop the mountain, as he had commanded.

      After the death of St John, St Thaddeus preached in Kartalin, where he founded many churches, among which was a temple in honor of the holy Protomartyr Stephen in the city of Urbnisi. Later, he settled in a cave on Mount Tslevi near the city of Kaspi, at which summit he also founded a church in honor of the holy Protomartyr Stephen.

      The relics of St Thaddeus, "an image of pure truth and faith," were buried in this cave at the church which he founded.

      Saint Zeno Ikaltoeli was one of the twelve disciples of St John Zedazeni. They were holy Syrian (Cappadocian) ascetics, the founders of Georgian monasticism, who arrived in Georgia from Cappadocia in the mid-sixth century. The holy Thirteen Cappadocian Fathers were actually Georgians, who received their spiritual schooling at the renowned Lavra of St Simeon the Stylite and at other monasteries of Syria and Mesopotamia, intending to return to their native land and assist in its Christian enlightenment.

      St John Zedazeni, the head of these ascetics, received his spiritual schooling at Antioch. Accounts have not been preserved about the place of his birth nor about his family. In his youth he became a monk and devoted himself to the solitary ascetic life, gaining afterwards an amazing geniality, humility and gift of wonderworking. The fame of his spiritual exploits attracted to him a number of disciples, from which he chose twelve men by lot. Following the command of the Mother of God, he went with them to Georgia. Along the way they received the blessing of St Simeon Stylite the Younger (+ May 24, 596). They crossed the River Kura "with dry feet." At Mtshketa, the ancient capital of Georgia, they were joyfully met by the people, by the emperor Parsman (542-557), and by the Archbishop-Katholikos Eulabius (552-560).

      The Chronicles relate that the holy Cappadocian Fathers spoke in the Georgian language to those who met them. In the Svetitskhoveli cathedral they prostrated themselves before the Life-Creating Pillar (October 1), and they glorified and gave thanks to God. With the blessing of Katholikos Eulabius, St John and his disciples settled on Mount Zedazeni (from which St John gets his name, Zedazeni), where formerly there had been a pagan temple and an idol. The ascetics lived in huts, they ate grass and roots, and they were constantly occupied with prayer and spiritual meditation. A multitude of the sick flocked to them, receiving healing through their prayerful intercession.

      After Sts Abibus and Ise were chosen as bishops, the Mother of God appeared to St John in a dream and commanded him to send his disciples into various parts of Georgia to preach the Word of God, and for pastoral edification. Heeding the instructions of St John, certain of the disciples went to Kakhetia (Xeno, and later Stephen), others to Kartalin (Pyrrhus, Michael, Thaddeus and Isidore). The accounts about the other saints (Abibus, Anthony, David, Ise, Joseph, Shio) are found under November 29, January 19, December 2, September 15, and May 9.

      "They all ... taught the nation, they instructed it in the faith, they abolished the darkness of superstition and they did away with what remained in the mountain gorges of pagan temples and idol worship, in place of which they set up the holy Cross and built holy churches, and they established within the nation a civil sense...."

      St Xeno, "a pillar of sweet obedience," while preaching in the mountains of Upper Kakhetia, founded a monastery at Ikalto, where he was buried in the cathedral church in honor of the Icon of the Savior Not-Made-by-Hands.

      St Thaddeus [in Georgian "Tate"] at first remained at Mtshketa. At the bidding of St John, he founded the monastery at the foot of Mount Zedazeni, to instruct those who had come. After the death of St John, St Thaddeus preached in Kartalin, where he founded many churches, among which was a temple in honor of the holy Protomartyr Stephen in the city of Urbnisi. Later, he settled in a cave on Mount Tslevi near the city of Kaspi, at which summit he also founded a church in honor of the holy Protomartyr Stephen. The relics of St Thaddeus, "an image of pure truth and faith," were buried in this cave at the church which he founded.

      St Isidore, "a vineyard of virtues," after his prolonged apostolic exploits, established a monastery at Samtavisi in honor of the Icon of the Savior Not-Made-by-Hands, and here his relics also rest.

      St Michael toiled much to spread Christianity in the mountains of Upper Kartalin and Osetia. In the vicinity of Ulumbi he founded a large monastery. His holy relics rest in the katholikon of this monastery, which was converted into a parish church in the nineteenth century.

      St Pyrrhus, "a divine image of tears," founded a monastery on the left bank of the River Dvanis-Tskhali, near the vicinity of Breti. His venerable relics were placed in the monastery church.

      St Stephen, "combining knowledge with strength," founded a monastery in the vicinity of Khrysa. He was buried in the cathedral church in honor of the holy Protomartyr Stephen, on the left side of the altar at the Table of Oblation.

      Sending forth his disciples, St John Zedazeni kept Deacon Elias with him and devoted himself to spiritual struggles.

      St John withstood the snares of evil spirits, which he expelled from the outskirts of Mtshketa. Through the prayer of St John, a spring of healing flowed forth on Mount Zaden. Receiving a revelation about his approaching death, St John summoned his disciples to him, the holy Deacon Elias and St Thaddeus of Stepantsmind, ordering them to bury him in his cave on the mountain, at the place of his struggles.

      After receiving the Holy Mysteries, St John saw the heavens opened and the hosts of the Bodiless Powers of Heaven together with a multitude of the saints. He surrendered his righteous soul to the Lord. The repose of St John occured between the years 557 and 560, during the time of the Katholikos Macarius (553-569). His disciples, who had forgotten his command, transported the saint's body to the monastery at the foot of Mount Zaden, and placed it in a special crypt.

      The earth around that place quaked and the tremors did not cease until the body of St John was placed in the cave atop the mountain, as the monk had commanded. During the tenth century under Katholikos-Archbishop Clement (908-923), a church was built on the south side of this cave in honor of St John the Baptist, so that the holy relics of St John Zedazeni were in its chapel in the Prothesis. They were glorified by many signs of the Lord's mercy.

      Venerable Nilus the Myrrhgusher of Lavra of Mt Athos

      Today we commemorate the uncovering of the relics of St Nilus in 1815.

      On his deathbed, St Nilus told his disciples to bury his body in a small cave beneath the cave where he lived, sternly forbidding anyone to disturb his body. Although the saint did not seek human glory during his life or after his death, the Lord glorified him in the following way. From his grave, a fragrant myrrh began to flow through a small opening in the cave and down the side of the cliff into the sea. Soon this miracle became widely known, and ships would come to collect the myrrh. The myrrh had curative properties, and many people were healed of their illnesses.

      Once, two monks came to the cave and tried to find the relics of St Nilus. While they were digging, a large rock fell from above, crushing the foot of one monk. Unable to help his companion, the other monk went to get a mule and someone to help him carry the injured brother from that place.

      As he lay there in agony, the monk saw St Nilus before him. He asked the monk what was the matter. The monk explained what they intended to do and how he had been injured. The saint said, "How dare you, poor man, attempt something so dangerous without the saint's express wish? Take care in future that you do not attempt a task beyond your ability, and without the will of God."

      St Nilus touched the monk's leg, and he was made well. With great joy he started back to his cell. On the way, he met his companion who was leading a mule. The monk who was healed told the other how he had been healed by St Nilus. Then they both glorified God and St Nilus. After this, no one dared to disturb the saint's relics.

      In 1815, a certain monk called "Prisoner" was troubled by a demon, and he also had a hernia. St Nilus appeared to him several times and healed him. The saint predicted the Greek Revolution (1821), and many dangers which the Holy Mountain would face from the Turks. Then St Nilus told him he wanted a path made to his cave so that monks could go there to pray. He also wanted the Liturgy to be served in the cave church he himself had built.

      When the Fathers heard this, they wished to build a new church in honor of St Nilus. As they were digging the foundation, they found the saint's grave. From his relics an ineffable fragrance came forth. This took place on May 7, 1815.
      Then the monks informed the Fathers of the Great Lavra of their discovery. They came and transferred the relics to the Lavra, leaving only a portion of the saint's jaw at the cave to be venerated by those who came there.

      Icon of the Mother of God of Zhirovits

      The Zhirovits Icon of the Mother of God appeared in the year 1470 in the vicinity of Zhirovits on the Grodnensk frontier. In the forest, belonging to the Orthodox Lithuanian dignitary Alexander Solton, shepherds beheld an extraordinarily bright light, while peering through the branches of a pear tree that stood over a brook at the foot of a hill. The shepherds came closer and saw a radiant icon of the Mother of God on the tree. With reverence, the shepherds took the icon to Alexander Solton. Alexander Solton did not pay any attention to the report of the shepherds, but he took the icon and placed it in a chest.

      On the following day Solton had guests, and he wanted to show them what had been found. To his amazement, he did not find the icon in the chest, although he had seen it shortly before this. After a certain time the shepherds again found the icon in the same place, and again they brought it to Alexander Solton. This time, however, he received the icon with great reverence and vowed to build a church in honor of the Most Holy Theotokos at the place of the icon's discovery. Around the wooden church a settlement soon gathered and a parish was formed.

      Around the year 1520 the church was completely burned, despite the efforts of the inhabitants to extinguish the blaze and save the icon. Everyone thought that the icon had been destroyed. However, some peasant children returning from school beheld a miraculous vision. The Virgin, extraordinarily beautiful and radiant, sat upon a stone at the burned church, and in Her hands was the icon which everyone believed had been destroyed. The children did not dare approach Her, but they hastened to tell their relatives and acquaintances about the vision.

      Everyone accepted the story about the vision as a divine revelation and they went to the hill with the priest.The Zhirovits Icon of the Mother of God, totally unharmed by the fire, stood on a stone with a burning candle before it. For awhile they placed the icon in the priest's house, and the stone was fenced in. When they built a stone church, they placed the wonderworking icon there. A men's monastery later grew up around the church. Its brethren headed the struggle for Orthodoxy against the Unia and Latinism.

      In 1609, the monastery was seized by the Uniates and remained in their hands until 1839. During this time the Zhirovits Icon of the Mother of God was venerated by both Uniates and Catholics. In 1839, the monastery was returned to the Orthodox and became the first place where Orthodox services were restored on the West Russian frontier.

      During the First World War, they brought the Zhirovits Icon of the Mother of God to Moscow, and at the beginning of the 1920s it was returned to the monastery. At present it is in the Dormition cathedral of the Zhirovits monastery, Minsk diocese, and it is deeply revered for its grace-filled help. The icon was carved in stone and measured 43x56 cm.

      Icon of the Mother of God of Lubech

      The Liubech Icon of the Mother of God received its name from the city of Liubech, on the outskirts of Chernigov. The icon manifested itself during the eleventh century. The miracles of this icon were described by St Demetrius of Rostov. In 1653, when an invasion of the Poles against Liubech was imminent, they sent the icon to Kiev. In 1701 after the restoration, they returned the icon to the Liubech church in honor of the Resurrection of Christ, and an exact copy was left in the cathedral of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) in Kiev.
      Commemoration of the Apparition of the Sign of the Precious Cross Over Jerusalem, in 351 AD

      The Precious Cross appeared in the sky over Jerusalem on the morning of May 7, 351 during the reign of the emperor Constantius, the son of St Constantine (May 21).

      At that time the heresy of Arianism, which taught that Christ was merely a creature and not God, was causing great turmoil and division throughout the Empire. Even after the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea in 325, many people were drawn to this false teaching, and the Orthodox found themselves in the minority in many places.

      Constantius, the ruler of the eastern part of the Empire, was a fervent supporter of Arianism. His brothers Constantine II and Constans, who were pious Orthodox Christians, ruled in the west. They were both killed in separate battles around 350, leaving Constantius as sole ruler. Also in 350, St Cyril (March 18) became Patriarch of Jerusalem and began his zealous struggle against Arianism.

      In May of 351 a luminous Cross appeared over Jerusalem, stretching from Golgotha to the Mount of Olives, a distance of about five and a half miles. The Cross was wide as it was long, and shone more brightly than the sun. Many people left their homes and workplaces to gather in the church and glorify Christ. The historian Sozomen says that this wondrous sign led to the conversion of multitudes of pagans and Jews to Christianity.

      A letter from St Cyril to the emperor describing this phenomenon, and admonishing him to become Orthodox, has been preserved. The apparition of the Cross remained over the city for a whole week.

      The vision of the Cross over Jerusalem strengthened the Orthodox faithful and contributed to the return of many Arians to the Church. It is also a reminder of the awesome Second Coming of Christ, when "the sign of the Son of man shall appear in heaven (Matthew 24:30).
      On Pride, Self-Reproach, and Humility
       
           Always reckon yourself as very sinful and polluted, so that Jesus Christ may have sympathy for you and send you mercy and forgiveness of your many sins. Have obediance to all the brethren; become last of all, the lowest, if you want your passions and weaknesses to depart from you. Never justify yourself, neither in word or in thought, but always condemn yourself as the one being at fault and deserving many blows. Have faith in the Elder, obediance and love to his words, and confess frankly each of your thoughts, for frank confession is characteristic of a humble soul.         
                                
      Selected from Counsels from the Holy Mountain from the Letters and Homilies of Elder Ephraim

      "The invisible enemies that oppress me seek with great zeal to make me prefer pleasure. This pleasure provokes malcontent before all arduous work, to the point that one even plans to abandon the divine commandment which is being carried out with great effort. But stronger than pleasure and than our enemies which are extolling it, it is that which has been given by God if one is 'wise in Thy commandment, ' while pleasure is of short duration and transient. That is why, in his hymn of gratitude, addressing God, he said: 'Thou made me wise in Thy commandment, ' from which it follows also that I am 'above mine enemies.' (Ps. 118:98)"

      St. Didymus the Blind

      Sometimes God allows a relative or fellow worker to cause us problems in order to exercise our patience and humility; however, instead of being grateful for the chance God gives us, we react and refuse to be cured. It is like refusing to pay the doctor who is going to give us a shot when we are ill.

      Fr. Paisios Eznepides (+1994)

      From St. John of Kronstadt (My Life in Christ; Holy Trinity Monastery pg. 96):
       
          "Besides loving each other, we must bear with each other and pardon – 'forgive them that trespass against us' – in order that our heavenly Father may 'forgive us our trespasses' (Mt. 6:14). Thus, with all your soul honor and love in every man the image of God, not regarding his sins, for God alone is Holy and without sin; and see how He loves us, how much He has created and still creates for us, punishing us mercifully and forgiving us bounteously and graciously. Honor the man also, in spite of his sins, for he can always amend."

       
       
       




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