St. Barbara died with St. Elizabeth on July 5, 1918, the day after the murder of Tsar Nicholas and his family. The two nuns, who had been confined at the nearby village of Alopaevsk, were thrown into a mineshaft by Soviet executioners, and grenades were tossed in after them. St. Elizabeth remained alive for several hours, and could be heard singing hymns by nearby villagers who crawled up to the mineshaft after the murderers had left the area.
A few days later, the bodies of St. Elizabeth and St. Barbara were recovered from the mineshaft after the pro-Tsarist armies took Alopaevsk. They were ultimately taken to Jerusalem in 1920, and buried in the church of St. Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives.
Troparion (Tone 4) –
Emulating the Lord's self-abasement on the earth,
You gave up royal mansions to serve the poor and disdained,
Overflowing with compassion for the suffering.
And taking up a martyr's cross,
In your meekness
You perfected the Saviour's image within yourself,
Therefore, with Barbara, entreat
Him to save us all, O wise Elizabeth.
Kontakion (Tone 3) –
In the midst of worldliness,
thy mournful heart dwelt in Heaven;
in barbaric godlessness,
Your valiant soul was not troubled;
You longed to meet your Bridegroom
as a confessor,
and He found you worthy of your martyric purpose.
O Elizabeth, with Barbara,
Your brave companion,
Pray to your Bridegroom for us.
The Economissa (or Stewardess) Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos depicts the Mother of God seated on a throne, with Her Son on her left knee. St. Athanasius of Mt. Athos stands on her right, holding a model of the Great Lavra. On her left is St. Michael of Synnada. Two angels hold a crown above her head.
The Mother of God has been considered the Stewardess of Mt. Athos ever since the tenth century when the Great Lavra was being built. St. Athanasius walked away from the half-built Lavra after he was abandoned by his monks because there was a shortage of food and money. He began walking toward Karyes, intending to ask for advice about whether or not to beg the emperor for the funds needed to complete the building. After about two hours, he saw a beautiful woman standing before him wearing a long blue veil.
“I know your sorrow,” she said, “and I would like to help. Where are you going?”
St. Athanasius explained everything that had happened, and she asked, “Have you deserted your monastery for a morsel of bread? Go back! You will have everything you need in abundance, if you do not abandon your monastery.”
“Who are you?,” the astonished saint inquired.
“I am the Mother of your Lord,” she responded.
St. Athanasius was doubtful, as he was afraid of being deceived by the Evil One. He asked Her how he could be sure that Her words were true.
“Do you see this rock?,” she asked, pointing to the side of the path.
The holy women Cyprilla, Lucia, and Aroa were executed with St. Theodore of Cyrene during the reign of Emperor Diocletian in the third century, as were all who were baptized by the holy bishop.
By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)
St. Martha, mother of Saint Simeon of Wonderful Mountain, lived during the sixth century and was a native of Antioch. From her early years she yearned for monasticism, but her parents persuaded her to marry. Her husband, John, soon died, and Martha devoted herself to the raising of her son. She often visited the temple of God, she attended church services attentively and with piety, and frequently received the Holy Mysteries of Christ.
St. Martha rose up to pray each night, and her prayers were offered with heartfelt warmth. She particularly venerated St. John the Forerunner, who was for her a protector, frequently appearing to her in visions. St. Martha was charitable towards the poor, fed and clothed them, visited the convalescent and attended to the sick, buried the dead, and for those preparing to receive holy Baptism made the baptismal garments with her own hands.
St. Martha was reserved, and no one heard from her a frivolous, false or vain word, no one saw her angry, nor fighting with anyone nor bitter. She was a model of chaste and pious life and by her example she guided many on the pathway to salvation. When her son, St. Simeon, became a renowned ascetic, she urged him not to exalt himself for his own efforts, but to thank God for everything.
The time of her death was revealed to St. Martha. She beheld angels with candles saying that they would come for her in another year’s time.
St. Bertha was born in France in 644. She was the daughter of Count Rigobert, who served in the court of Clovis II, and Ursanna, daughter of the King of Kent.
At twenty years of age, Bertha married a cousin of the king, the noble Siegfried. They had four daughters, two of whom died in infancy while two others, Gertrude and Deotila, followed their mother’s path of monasticism.
Siegfried died in 672, and St. Bertha took the veil in a monastery which she had built at Blangy in the district of Artois. The monastery was consecrated in January, 682. Bertha’s daughters, Gertrude and Deotila, impressed by their mother’s act, soon followed.
Bertha was persecuted by Rotgar, a young lord of the court of King Thierry III, who was furious over her refusal to give him Gertrude in marriage. He slandered Bertha as being involved with the English royalty in a conspiracy. The King sent for Bertha to defend herself. However, upon witnessing her holiness, he took her under his protection, and the persecution was halted.
On her return to the monastery, Bertha had three churches built to honor Ss. Omer, Vaast, and Martin of Tours, and completed the construction of her convent. After establishing a prayer rule for her community, she named her daughter, Deotila, to replace her as abbess, and retired to a solitary cell to spend the remainder of her days in prayer.
At the age of 79, after the death of Deotila, she left her other daughter, Gertrude, as Abbess of the monastery of Blangy, and died peacefully on July 4, 723.
Commemorated on July 4
St. Alexandra was born in 1872 as Princess Alice of Hesse-Darmstadt, a small Germany principality. Her mother, also named Princess Alice, was the daughter of Queen Victoria of Great Britain. At the age of six, Alexandra’s mother and youngest sister died from typhus, and her father, in his grief, sent the young princess and her siblings to live with their grandmother.
Princess Alice was raised in the ways of an English princess in the Protestant faith. Her older sister, Elizabeth, entered into marriage with Grand Duke Serge of Russia, and it was during their courtship that Princess Alice met the young Tsarevich of Russia, Nicholas.
Nicholas proposed, but the celebration of their engagement was cut short with the news that Nicholas’ father, Tsar Alexander III, was dying. Nicholas and his fiancée traveled back to Russia where they witnessed his father’s last breaths after receiving confession from St. John of Kronstadt.
The next day, Princess Alice of Hesse married Tsar Nicholas II, converted to Orthodoxy and received the name Alexandra.
Nicholas and Alexandra reigned Holy Orthodox Russia from 1894 to 1917. They had five children: Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and the Tsarevich, Alexis.
Nicholas was forced to abdicate the throne in March 1917 during the Russian Revolution, and he and his family were subjected to house arrest.
The Galatea Icon of the Mother of God is found in Galatea (one of the districts of Constantinople) at Perge.
In honor of the holy icon a monastery was formed, which existed until the seventeenth century.
An exact copy of the icon is located in Moscow in the Church of St. Tikhon.
By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)
Little is known to us of the monastic life of St. Nectaria. To understand what little there is is possible only through an acquaintance with her life in the world.
St. Nectaria’s father, Count Boris Petrovich Sheremetiev, was a close friend and collaborator of Tsar Peter I. At the same time he was true to the best qualities of the Russian past and to the discipline of the Orthodox Church. He was devoted to the Tsar without fear or flattery. The Tsar, in turn, valued and respected him for his lofty spiritual and intellectual gifts, while the people loved him for his generosity and kindness. Upwards of fifty needy people a day were fed at his table. At his estate of Borisovk in the vicinity of Poltava, he founded the St. Boris-Tikhvin Convent in accordance with a vow given before the Battle of Poltava. His second wife, Anna Petrovna, was the widow of the Tsar’s uncle, Lev Kirillovich Narishkin. She was very attentive to the moral upbringing of her daughter Natalia, who referred to her as “my gracious mother.” Natalia was only 14 when her mother died, and she wrote that this grief was “the beginning of my troubles.” She had already lost her father, who died in 1719 when she was only five years old.
Natalia Borisevna grew up to be worthy of her parents. After her mother died she spent two years in complete seclusion in the home of her brother Peter.
The “Milk-Giver” Icon of the Mother of God was originally located at the Lavra of St. Sava the Sanctified near Jerusalem. Before his death, the holy founder of the Lavra foretold that a royal pilgrim having the same name as himself would visit the Lavra. St. Sava told the brethren to give the wonderworking icon to that pilgrim as a blessing.
In the thirteenth century, St. Sava of Serbia visited the Lavra. As he approached the reliquary of St. Sava the Sanctified, the saint’s staff fell at his feet. The brethren asked the visitor his name, and he told them he was Archbishop Sava of Serbia. Obeying the instructions of their founder, the monks gave St. Sava his staff, the “Milk-Giver” Icon, and the Icon “Of the Three Hands” (celebrated on June 28 & July 12).
The holy archbishop took the icon to Hilandar Monastery on Mount Athos and put it on the right side of the iconostasis in the church of St. Sava at the kellion of Karyes, which is attached to Hilandar. The icon was later named Typikonissa, since the Rule (Typikon) of St. Sava was preserved there.
By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)
St. Monegundis was a French hermit who lived during the sixth century. A native of Chartres, she married and bore her husband two daughters.
When her daughters died in childhood, she decided to enter a monastery after receiving permission from her husband. She founded a hermitage, consisting of a private room, at Chartres but later moved to a site near the tomb of St. Martin in Tours.
She acquired a reputation for holiness. She was joined by other women, and Monegundis devised a monastic rule, eventually founding the convent of St. Pierre-le-Puellier.
By permission of www.orthodoxeurope.org
During the reign of Byzantine Emperor Leo the Great in the early fifth century, the brothers Galbius and Candidus traveled from Constantinople to Palestine to venerate the holy places. They stayed in the home of an old Jewish woman in a small settlement near Nazareth. They noticed a room in her house where many lamps were lit, incense burned, and sick people were gathered. When they asked her what the room contained, the pious woman did not answer for a long time. After persistent requests, she said that she had a very precious sacred item: the Robe of the Mother of God, which performed many miracles and healings. Before Her Dormition, the Most Holy Virgin bequeathed one of her garments to a pious Jewish maiden, an ancestor of the old woman, instructing her to leave it to another virgin after her death. Thus, the Robe of the Mother of God was preserved in this family from generation to generation.
The jeweled chest, containing the sacred Robe, was ultimately transferred to Constantinople. St. Gennadius, Patriarch of Constantinople, and Emperor Leo, having learned of the sacred treasure, were convinced of the incorrupt state of the holy Robe, and they certified its authenticity. At Blachernae, near the coast, a new church in honor of the Mother of God was constructed. On June 2, 458, St. Gennadius transferred the sacred Robe into the Blachernae church with appropriate solemnity, placing it in a new reliquary.
Afterwards, the outer robe of the Mother of God and part of Her belt were also put into the reliquary.
The Akhtyr Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos appeared on July 2, 1739 in the village of Akhtyr in the area of Kharkov, east of Kiev, Russia.
Father Basil Danilov, a righteous man of strong faith, was the priest of the Dormition Church in Akhtyr. He wanted to try out a new scythe, and so he went out to a field by the church. As he began to cut the tall grass, Father Basil noticed an icon of the Mother of God shining with a radiant light. Dropping the scythe, he fell to his knees and began to pray, then took the icon to his home.
The icon remained in the priest’s home for three years. No one could spend the night in the same room as the icon, because an inexplicable fear would force them to leave.
One night the Theotokos appeared to Father Basil in a dream, reproaching him because he had not cleaned the icon in the three years since he had found it. When he awoke, he dusted the icon off and washed it with water, then went back to sleep. That night he had another dream in which he saw himself going to the river in order to pour out the water he had used to wash the icon. The Mother of God appeared to him again and ordered him to return home with the water, explaining that it would cure people of malaria and fever.
When Father Basil’s daughter became ill with malaria, he gave her some of the water to drink and she was immediately healed. Others also received healing in this way. The priest decided that the icon should not remain in his home, so he took it to the church.
An iconographer named John was commissioned to restore the icon.
St. Juthwara was a virgin-martyr from Dorset, England, who lived in the sixth century.
She was a pious girl who was the victim of a jealous stepmother. St. Juthwara prayed and fasted often, and frequently gave alms. Upon the death of her father, she began to suffer from pains in her chest. Its source was ascribed to her sorrow. As a remedy, her stepmother recommended two soft cheeses be applied, but the stepmother told her own son, Bana, that Juthwara was pregnant. Bana felt Juthwara’s undergarments and found them moist, whereupon he immediately struck off her head. A spring of water appeared at the spot. Juthwara then miraculously picked up her head and carried it back to the church. Bana repented of his deed and became a monk, founding a monastery at Gerber (later known as Le Relecq) on a battlefield.
Juthwara’s death took place at Halyngstoka, generally accepted as Halstock in Dorset, where a field is still called by her name, modernized to “Judith.” There is also a church in North Cornwall named for St. Julitta, which originally bore Juthwara’s name.
Her relics were translated to Sherborne Abbey in the early 11th century and her shrine remained a place for pilgrimages.
By permission of www.orthodoxeurope.org
St. Angelina was the daughter of Prince George Skenderbeg of Albania. Her mother’s name is not known, but she raised her daughter in Christian piety and taught her to love God.
St. Stephen Brancovich, the ruler of Serbia, had come to Albania to escape those who wished to kill him. Before he arrived in Albania, St. Stephen was blinded by the Turkish Sultan for a perceived offense. St. Stephen bore his affliction with courage.
St. Stephen was not only Prince George’s guest, but he was also treated as a member of his family. Not surprisingly, Stephen and Angelina eventually fell in love. With her parents’ blessing, they were married. After a few years, they were blessed with two sons, George and John.
When the boys were grown, St. Stephen and his family were forced to flee to Italy for their safety. At that same time, the Turks invaded Albania and began to slaughter men, women, and children.
St. Stephen died in 1468, leaving Angelina a widow. St. Angelina left Italy with her sons in 1486, stopping in Serbia to bury St. Stephen’s remains in his native land.
The children of these pious parents also became saints – George gave up his claim to the throne in favor of his brother John, then entered a monastery and received the name Maximus. John was married, but had no sons. He died in 1503 at a young age, and many miracles took place before his holy relics.
St. Angelina survived her husband and both of her sons. Mindful of her soul’s salvation, she entered a women’s monastery.
St. Everilda (also spelled Everildis, Everild, Averil) of Everingham was a Saxon saint in the seventh century who was born into the Wessex nobility
In 635, she was converted to Christianity by St. Birinus, along with King Cynegils of Wessex. While still a young girl, she fled from home to become a nun, and was joined by Sts. Bega and Wuldreda.
St. Wilfrid of York made them all nuns at a place called the Bishop’s Farm, later known as Everildisham. This place has been identified with present-day Everingham.
St. Everilda eventually became abbess of a monastery where she gathered some eighty women.
She fell peacefully asleep in the Lord in 700.
By permission of www.orthodoxeurope.org
All Saints Orthodox Christian Church traces its roots to the early 1970s and the pioneering effort of a small group of Orthodox Christians to bring a place of worship to their home in Bloomington. Greeks, Arabs, Russians, Romanians, Serbians and Americans met together in rented rooms on Saturdays to continue in the tradition of the Faith. The Antiochian Archdiocese welcomed the worshipers as a mission in 1989 and as a church in 1997. That original handful of families has now grown to over 187 members.
While various priests and deacons have served the community on a part time basis since its inception, in 1994 V. Rev. Fr. Athanasius Wilson became the first full-time priest. Fr. Athanasius served faithfully until his retirement in the summer of 2006, when Fr. Peter Jon Gillquist was assigned to pastor All Saints. The community has continued to grow and develop under Fr. Peter Jon’s leadership.
by Nadia Koblosh
from The Word, February 1994
THE PRIORITY OF WORSHIP
These are what I consider to be some of the goals of Lent and I would like my children to understand and experience it. But we know that Lent is not just a set of theoretical goals; it is also the discipline necessary to achieve them. Highest of all these disciplines is Lenten worship. Here, I do not allow compromise by letting any other activity take precedence. In my own family as a child, we were told by my mother not to plan anything for the first week of Lent, or Holy Week or on the nights when there were Lenten services. That’s simply the way it was, and that is the way it is with us. No school activities, sports — or protestations over the same — are allowed to take priority. The special Lenten melodies, the Lenten texts and quiet somberness of Lenten worship, the long periods of fasting for evening communion, the prostrations: these things, I think, are so very essential for a child to experience if Lent is to have any lasting meaning at all. I really feel that Orthodox parents are not fulfilling their duties by being lenient or lazily giving in to the inevitable complaining and protests that there is “church again.”
Metropolitan PHILIP writes:
March 4, 2009
Beloved Hierarchs and Clergy, Members of the Board of Trustees of the Archdiocese, Parish Councils and Faithful of this God-Protected Archdiocese:
Greetings and blessings during this Holy Lenten Season!
There have been some questions raised regarding the February 24th decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch which addressed the status of bishops across the entire See of Antioch. The purpose of this letter is to try to answer these questions so that confusion may be avoided.
The first question deals with whether or not I am supportive of the decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch which was taken on February 24, 2009. I am supportive of this decision, for a simple reason. I am convinced that the institutional structure of our Archdiocese here requires it at this time.
Metropolitan PHILIP writes:
To all clergy of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America:
We greet you in the spirit of this Great Lent.
Some of our clergy have inquired about hierarchical commemorations in the divine services. In order to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding, we would like to direct your attention to the following:
by Hieromonk Jonah
Fr. Jonah: To forgive means to restore a bond of love and communion when there has been a rupture. Sin ruptures our relationship with God and others, as also do offenses taken and given among people.
When the bond is broken with other people, we tend to objectify them and judge them, not seeing them as persons, but only as objects of our anger and hurt. This is our sinful reaction. We categorize people in terms of their transgression against us. The longer we nurture the anger and alienation, the more deeply the resentment takes hold in our heart, and the more it feeds on our soul. Resentment is a cancer that will destroy us if we don’t forgive! It also leaks out and damages our relations with others when we slander and gossip about those who have offended us and try to draw others to our own side. Of course, no one should want to hear such things—but we do!
Forgiveness means overlooking the sin or transgression, and restoring a bond of love. It does not mean justifying the offensive action or accepting it as right, nor does it mean justifying one’s own anger or sinful reaction. Forgiveness means laying aside our judgments of the other person and our own sinful reactions, and accepting others for who they are.
What do you get when you mix together one hundred people who live in a forty mile radius around the capitol city of Ohio, with a range of ages from newborns to those long retired, from almost every populated continent on the earth? You get St. Barnabas Mission in Columbus, Ohio. Many more people have come and gone with moves and job transfers in and out of a city that contains one of the largest universities in the country, major facilities of large financial institutions, major retail businesses, and large manufacturing enterprises.
It was because of the potential for growth of a new mission that five families began meeting in 1999 to begin the mission. Meeting in homes for a short while, the new group began renting the church of St. John Chrysostom Byzantine Catholic Church and meeting on Sunday evenings. Fr. Gordon Walker, with a special love for Columbus, was appointed to shepherd the new mission. Divine Liturgies were held on Sunday evenings with visiting clergy and Fr. Gordon when he was able to get to Columbus from Tennessee. New families began to come and slow growth began to occur.
Let’s be honest: how do we moms feel when we suddenly realize while we are in Liturgy, that the Gospel reading for the Sunday is the Prodigal Son, which cues us that Lent is around the corner? If you’re like me, you start doing a mental checklist of all the meat that needs to be used up in the next few weeks, and what upcoming events are going to conflict with the fast and services. When does Holy Week fall? And whose birthday is getting trumped by Lent? (We have three family birthdays in late February and early March!)
by John Truslow, Archdiocesan Stewardship Team
Originally published in The Word, March 2009
Giving is only truly giving if it is done in the love of Christ. We are told to love the Lord our God with all our heart, to love our neighbor as ourself, and to love one another as Christ has loved us. Giving for any lesser reason (to control others, to get glory for yourself, to escape false guilt) is a perversion of the gospel (see Galatians 1:7). These commands can be called Christ’s law of love. (Note that neither “law,” “rule”, “standard”, nor “precept” is a “dirty word” when rightly used and understood.)
St. Basil the Great said that this life is no accident, but is a training ground so that we rational beings may learn to know God. This is relevant to our stewardship of what we have, and to our giving, especially during the period from September through December, our annual “Giving in Stewardship Emphasis Season.” How shall we apply Christ’s law of love to our giving in Christian stewardship?
Let us review what we have considered together over the years. God’s word written, Holy Scripture, and Holy Patristics, our chief Orthodox sources, address three major topics in giving: motives, methods, and results. If we internalize what our sources have to say on these themes for our lives and our parishes, we will do well!
Before you roll your eyes, be glad that we have largely reviewed motives already. God loves us. For God so loved the world – us – that He gave his only begotten Son to the end that all who believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). This is good news (gospel), and it is good news that motivates us to give!
A tranquil mind gives life to the flesh, but passion makes the bones rot. (Pv 18:30)
Genuine love in marriage is modeled after the love between the three persons of the All Holy Trinity. The revelation of this love for us is the self-emptying kenotic love that the Son of God has for mankind. By assuming human flesh, suffering, being crucified and rising from the dead, Christ conquered sin and death so that we might be, as St. Peter (2 Pt 1:4) informs us, “partakers of the divine nature.” (Morelli, 2008)