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St. Macrina the Elder

Grandmother of St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Peter of Sebaste, and St. Macrina the Younger

Commemorated on May 30 (also on January 14)

St. Macrina was the mother of St. Basil the Elder, and the grandmother of St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Peter of Sebaste, and St. Macrina the Younger.

St. Macrina lived in Neocaesarea during the persecution of Christians under Galerius in the late third and early fourth centuries. In her childhood, she became acquainted with St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, the first bishop of Neocaesarea, who was responsible for converting the entire Christian population of that city to Christianity.

During the persecution of Christians under Emperor Diocletian, Macrina fled with her husband to the forest near their home. They endured many hardships, but patiently waited and prayed for the persecutions to end. They survived on vegetables and wild game for over seven years. When they were free to return, they discovered that their belongings and property had been taken from them.

She raised her grandchildren in the Christian faith, and St. Basil was one of her favorites. As an adult, he praised her for all the good she had done to him and thanked her for teaching him to love Christ.

St. Macrina survived her husband and died around 340.

By permission of www.abbamoses.com

and www.orthodoxwiki.org

St. Emilia, Mother of Ss. Macrina, Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa

St. EmiliaCommemorated on May 30 (also on January 3)

The holy and righteous Emilia (also Emily or Emmelia), is the mother of St. Basil the Great and several other children who are saints of the Church. Churches of the Russian tradition keep her feast on January 3, along with her son Basil. Greek churches keep her feast on May 30, along with her husband, St. Basil the Elder, and her mother-in-law, St. Macrina the Elder.

There are very few descriptions of St. Emilia’s life. She was the daughter of a martyr and the daughter-in-law of Macrina the Elder. Along with her husband, Basil the Elder, she gave birth to ten children. She instilled the Orthodox faith in her children, teaching them to pray and devote their lives to the service of the Church. As a result of her zealous yet maternal instruction of her children, five of them are commemorated as saints on the Church calendar: Sts. Macrina, Basil, Peter of Sebaste, Gregory of Nyssa, and Theosebia, a deaconess. Therefore, St. Emilia is often called “the mother of saints.”

When her son, Naucratius, suddenly died at the age of twenty-seven, she was consoled by her eldest daughter, Macrina. Macrina reminded her that it was not befitting a Christian to “mourn as those who have no hope” and inspired her to hope courageously in the resurrection promised to us by the Pascha of the Lord.

St. Theodosia, Virginmartyr, of Tyre

St. Theodosia of TyreCommemorated on May 29 (also on April 3)

St. Theodosia of Tyre lived during the third and fourth centuries. During a persecution against the Christians, seventeen-year-old Theodosia went up to the condemned prisoners in the Praetorium in Caesarea. It was Holy Pascha, and the martyrs spoke of the Kingdom of God. St. Theodosia asked them to remember her before the Lord, when they should come to stand before Him.

The soldiers saw that the maiden bowed to the prisoners, and they seized her and led her before Governor Urban. The governor directed the maiden to offer sacrifice to the idols but she refused, confessing her faith in Christ. She was then subjected to tortures. Her body was raked with iron claws and her bones were exposed.

St. Theodosia was silent and endured the sufferings with a happy face. In response to the governor’s second suggestion to offer sacrifice to the idols she answered, “You fool, I have been granted to join the martyrs!” She was then thrown into the sea with a stone around her neck, but angels pulled her out of the water. She was then thrown to the wild beasts to be eaten. Seeing that the animals would not touch her, St. Theodosia was beheaded.

After her martyrdom, St. Theodosia appeared to her parents, who had tried to talk their daughter into not confessing her faith in Christ. She was in bright garb with a crown upon her head and a luminous gold cross in her hand. She told her parents: “Behold the great glory of which you wanted to deprive me!”

St. Theodosia, Virginmartyr, of Constantinople

St. Theodosia of ConstantinopleCommemorated on May 29

St. Theodosia of Constantinople lived during the eighth century and was born in answer to the fervent prayers of her parents. After their deaths, she was raised at the women’s monastery of the Holy Martyr Anastasia in Constantinople. After distributing what remained of her parental inheritance to the poor, she became a nun. She also used part of the money to commission gold and silver icons of the Savior, the Theotokos, and St. Anastasia.

When Leo the Isaurian ascended the throne, he issued an edict that holy icons be destroyed everywhere. Above the Bronze Gates at Constantinople was a bronze icon of the Savior, which had been there for more than 400 years. In 730, the iconoclast Patriarch Anastasius ordered that the icon be destroyed.

The Virgin Martyr Theodosia and other women rushed to protect the icon and toppled the ladder with the soldier who was carrying out the command. The women then stoned Patriarch Anastasius.

Emperor Leo ordered the women to be beheaded. St. Theodosia, an ardent defender of icons, was thrown in prison. She was given one hundred lashes a day for over one week. On the eighth day, she was led through the city, being beaten along the way. Ultimately, one of the soldiers stabbed her in the throat with a ram’s horn, and she received the crown of martyrdom.

The body of the holy virgin martyr was reverently buried by Christians in the St. Euphemia Monastery in Constantinople, near a place called Dexiokratis. The tomb of St. Theodosia was glorified by numerous healings of the sick.

Icon of the Mother of God "Surety of Sinners"

Icon of the Mother of God Surety of SinnersCommemorated on May 29 (also on March 7)

The Icon of the Mother of God “Surety of Sinners” is known by this name because of the inscription on the icon: “I am the Surety of sinners for My Son Who has entrusted Me to hear them, and those who bring Me the joy of hearing them will receive eternal joy through Me.” The Mother of God embraces Her Child, Who holds Her right hand with both His hands so that Her thumb is in His right hand, and Her small finger in His left hand. This is the gesture of one who gives surety for another.

Although it is not known when or by whom the icon was originally written, it is believed that the basis of the icon is to be found in the Akathist to the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos: “Rejoice, You Who offer Your hands in surety for us to God.”

This icon was first glorified by miracles at the St. Nicholas Odrino Monastery in the former Orlov province of Russia in the mid-nineteenth century (the “Assuage My Sorrows Icon” is also from this monastery). The “Surety of Sinners” icon of the Mother of God was in an old chapel beyond the monastery gates, and stood between two other ancient icons. Because it was so faded and covered with dust, it was impossible to read the inscription.

St. Heliconis, Martyr, of Thessalonica

Commemorated on May 28

St. Heliconis lived during the third century in the city of Thessalonica. She arrived in the city of Corinth during a persecution of Christians, and urged the pagans to stop serving idols and to worship the one true God, the Creator of the Universe.

For preaching the Gospel of Christ, St. Heliconis was arrested and brought before Governor Perinus, who attempted to persuade her to offer sacrifice to idols by using flattery and threats. By refusing his overtures, St. Heliconis was subjected to tortures, but she bravely endured them. She was thrown into a hot furnace, but emerged from it unharmed when an angel of the Lord came and cooled the flames.

Thinking St. Heliconis was a sorceress, the governor invented new ways to persecute her. The skin was torn from her head, and her breasts and head were burned with fire. After stopping the torture, Perinus again attempted to urge St. Heliconis to offer sacrifice to the idols, promising her honors and the title of priestess. It appeared that Heliconis consented, and the pagan priests and the people led her to their temple.

Icon of the Mother of God "The Unbreakable Wall"

Commemorated on May 28

The “Unbreakable (or Indestructible) Wall” Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos is commemorated on the Sunday of All Saints. It is an icon of the Blachernae type, in which the Virgin is shown with Her hands raised and the palms facing forward. Christ is depicted within a roundel, or mandorla. This is an oval or circle symbolizing the glory of Heaven, or Divine Light.

Perhaps the name of this particular Icon is derived from Amos 7:7 where the Lord is said to be standing on “a wall of adamant” (LXX).

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

Icon of the Mother of God "Softener of Evil Hearts"

Icon of the Mother of God Softener of Evil HeartsCommemorated on May 28

The “Softener (or “Consoler”) of Evil Hearts” Icon of the Mother of God is similar to the “Seven Swords” Icon (August 13). It depicts the Theotokos with seven swords piercing Her heart (Luke 2:35). There are three swords on the right side, three on the left, and one from below. The icon appears to be of Western origin.

The “Softener of Evil Hearts” icon is commemorated on the Sunday of All Saints.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

Icon of the Mother of God of Nicea

Icon of the Mother of God of NiceaCommemorated on May 28

No information available at this time.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

St. Theodora, Virginmartyr, of Alexandria

Commemorated on May 27

The Holy Martyrs Theodora the Virgin and Didymus the Soldier suffered for Christ during the persecution against Christians under Emperor Diocletian in Alexandria in either 303 or 304.

St. Theodora, standing trial before the prefect Eustratius of Alexandria, bravely confessed herself a Christian. When he asked why she had not married, the saint replied that she had dedicated herself to God, and had resolved to remain a virgin for the name of Christ.

Eustratius ordered the holy virgin to be taken to prison, giving her three days to renounce Christ, and he threatened to have her taken to a brothel if she persisted. Brought again to trial three days later, St. Theodora remained as resolute in her faith as before.

She was taken to a brothel, where the young men argued over which of them should be the first to have her. However, Didymus, dressed in soldier’s garb, entered and chased the frightened men out. He gave the holy virgin his clothes so she could escape.

Upon learning what had happened, Eustratius had Didymus arrested and interrogated. Brought before the angry judge, St. Didymus told how he had set the holy virgin free, and for this he was sentenced to death. St. Theodora appeared at the place of execution, and said that she wanted to die with him. The prefect gave orders to execute both of them. The first to bend the neck beneath the sword was the holy martyr Theodora, and then the holy Martyr Didymus. The bodies of the martyrs were then burned.

St. Restituta of Sora

Commemorated on May 27

St. Restituta was a Roman noble maiden who fled to Sora, Campania, Italy with the aid of an angel to escape the persecution of the Church by Emperor Aurelian. In Sora, she healed a boy who suffered from leprosy. Upon seeing this miracle, almost forty individuals became Christians.

For believing in Christ, St. Restituta was arrested, tortured and thrown into prison in the year 271. She was rescued by an angel, but was eventually found and was beheaded, along with three others.

By permission of www.orthodoxwiki.org

St. Helen, Daughter of the Apostle Abercius

Commemorated on May 26

According to Tradition, the Holy Martyrs Helen and Abercius, were children of the holy Apostle Alphaeus.

For confessing her faith in Christ, St. Helen was pelted with stones.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

Memory Eternal: Fr. Richard Ballew

Fr. Richard Ballew: Memory Eternal!Fr. Richard Ballew of St. Athanasius Church in Sacramento, California fell asleep in the Lord the morning of Saturday, December 13, 2008. His services will be held at:

St. Katherine Greek Orthodox Church
9165 Peets Drive
Elk Grove, CA

Tuesday, December 16th: The Funeral Service for a Priest at 7:00PM
Wednesday, December 17th: Hierarchical Divine Liturgy at 8:30AM, followed by Trisagion Service and Burial.

Condolences may be sent to Khouria Sylvia and the Ballew family c/o glen.whitcomb@comcast.net.

May his memory be eternal!

Sunday of the Samaritan Woman

Christ and the Samaritan Woman Commemorated on May 25 (also on February 26 and March 20)

St. Photini lived in first century Palestine. She was the Samaritan woman who Christ visited at the well asking her for water. It was she who accepted the “living water” offered her by Christ Himself after repenting from her many sins (John. 4:5-42). She went and told her townspeople that she had met the Christ. For this, she is sometimes recognized as the first to proclaim the Gospel of Christ. She converted her five sisters (Ss. Anatole, Photo, Photis, Paraskeve, and Kyriake) and her two sons (Victor and Joses). They all became tireless evangelists for Christ.

The apostles of Christ baptized her and gave her the name of Photini which means “the enlightened one.” She is remembered by the Church as a Holy Martyr and Equal to the Apostles. After Sts. Peter and Paul were martyred, St. Photini and her family left their homeland of Sychar, in Samaria, to travel to Carthage to proclaim the Gospel of Christ there.

During the reign of Emperor Nero in the first century, excessive cruelty was displayed against the Christians. St. Photini lived in Carthage with her younger son, Joses. Her eldest son, Victor, fought bravely in the Roman army against the barbarians, and was appointed military commander in the city of Attalia (Asia Minor). Later, Nero called him to Italy to arrest and punish Christians.

Icon of the Mother of God "Helper of Sinners"

Mother of God: Helper of SinnersCommemorated on May 25

The prayer for the “The Helper of Sinners” Icon comes from the Theotokos addressing us with the words, “I am the Helper of sinners before My Son, Who hast agreed to always heed Me when I pray for them.”

By permission of www.orthodoxwiki.org

St. Euphrosyne, Abbess of Polotsk

Commemorated on May 23

St. Euphrosyne, Abbess of Polotsk, was named Predslava in the world, and was the daughter of Prince George Vseslavich. From her childhood she was known for her love of prayer and book learning. After turning down a proposal of marriage, Predslava received monastic tonsure with the name Euphrosyne. With the blessing of Bishop Elias of Polotsk, she began to live near the Sophia Cathedral, where she copied books.

Around 1128, Bishop Elias entrusted St. Euphrosyne with the task of organizing a women’s monastery. Setting out for Seltso, the site of the future monastery, she took only her holy books. At the newly constructed Savior-Transfiguration Monastery, the saint taught the girls to copy books, as well as singing, sewing and other handicrafts.

Through her efforts, a cathedral was built in 1161, which survives to the present day. St. Euphrosyne also founded a men’s monastery dedicated to the Mother of God. Patriarch Luke of Constantinople sent a copy of the wonderworking Ephesus Icon of the Mother of God at her request. Shortly before her death, St Euphrosyne journeyed on pilgrimage to the Holy Places with her nephew, David, and sister, Eupraxia.

After venerating the holy places in Constantinople, she arrived in Jerusalem, where at the Russian Monastery of the Most Holy Theotokos the Lord granted her a peaceful end on May 24, 1173.

In 1187, St. Euphrosyne’s body was transferred to the Kiev Caves Monastery. In 1910, her relics were transferred to Polotsk to the monastery she founded.

1,218 Martyred Soldiers with women and children who suffered in Galatia

Commemorated on May 24

The holy martyr Meletius was a military commander of the Galatia district of Asia Minor during the reign of Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius. He was a Christian and prayed fervently that the Lord would put an end to the pagans. Terrified by his prayer, the devils inhabiting the pagan temples entered into dogs, which frightened the inhabitants of the district with their howling.

St. Meletius and his soldiers killed the mad dogs, and destroyed the temples, but were then arrested and brought to trial before Governor Maximian. For refusing to offer sacrifice to idols, St. Meletius was tortured, and he died confessing his faith in Christ. The tribunes of his regiment, the holy martyrs Stephen and John, were beheaded for their confession of Christ as true God.

The remaining soldiers of the regiment, also declaring themselves Christians, were beheaded by the sword, together with their wives and children.

1,218 perished, although some historians put the number at 11,000.

Among the women and children who suffered were the holy martyrs Marciana, Susanna, Palladia, and the infants Cyriacus and Christian.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

St. Mary the Myrrhbearer and Wife of Cleophas

Commemorated on May 23

St. Mary was one of the “three Marys” who followed our Lord, stood at the foot of the Cross when he died, and were the first to hear the good news of His Resurrection at the side of His tomb. She was the wife of St. Cleophas, and mother of St. Simon, St. James the Less, St. Jude, and St. Salome (the mother of St. James and St. John).

In 47, St. Mary, along with others, was placed on a boat without sails or oars and pushed out into the open sea. The boat miraculously landed in France, and a church was established there known as “Holy Mary of the Sea.”

She also traveled to Spain as a missionary, and died at Ciudad Rodrigo.

By permission of www.orthodoxwiki.org

St. Quiteria, Virgin and Martyr

Commemorated on May 22

St. Quiteria was a fifth century virgin martyr and saint. Her name comes from the title that the Phoenicians gave to the goddess Astarte – Kythere, Kyteria, or Kuteria – which means “the red one.” She may have been named after the pagan goddess.

St. Quiteria was the daughter of a Galician prince. Her father wanted her to marry and renounce Christianity, but Quiteria fled. Her father’s men found her at Aire-sur-l’Adour, in Gascony, and she was beheaded on the spot.

The Church of Sainte-Quitterie in Aire-sur-l’Adour is dedicated to her. This church was on the pilgrimage route called the Way of St. James. St. Quiteria was especially venerated in the border region shared by France and Spain, which included Navarre. However, there are many churches dedicated to her in France, Spain, Portugal, and Brazil.

Her relics were buried at Aire-sur-l’Adour, but were scattered by the Huguenots.

By permission of www.orthodoxwiki.org

Icon of the Mother of God of Cyprus

Icon of the Mother of God of CyprusCommemorated on May 22 (also on April 20 and July 9)

In this icon. the Mother of God is depicted sitting on a throne with the Divine Infant in Her arms. There is an angel on either side of Her.

The prototype of this holy icon manifested itself in 392 on the island of Cyprus at the tomb of Righteous Lazarus, the friend of Christ, and is kept there in a monastery. Renowned copies of the Cyprus Icon are at Moscow’s Dormition Cathedral, and in the Nikolo-Golutvin Church in the village of Stromyn outside of Moscow.

During the week of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, the Greek Synaxarion has an account of an icon which is probably the Cyprus Icon. On the island of Cyprus, a certain Arab was passing by a church dedicated to the Most Holy Theotokos. In order to display his hatred for Christianity, the man shot an arrow at an icon of the Mother of God which hung by the gate. The arrow struck the Virgin’s face, from which blood began to flow. Overcome with fear, the Arab spurred his horse and rode for home, but was struck dead before he could get there. In this way, he was punished for his impiety.

Other days commemorating the Cyprus Icon are the Day of the Holy Spirit, April 20, and July 9. Some copies of the Cyprus Icon have additional names such as “Cleansing,” “Knife,” and “Hawk.”

St. Helen, Mother of Emperor Constantine, Equal of the Apostles

St. Helen, Equal to the ApostlesCommemorated on May 21

St. Helen was the mother of St. Constantine the Great, and was born at Drepanum (Helenopolis) in Asia Minor to parents of humble means. She married Constantius Chlorus, and their son Constantine was born in 274. Constantius divorced her in 294 in order to further his political ambitions by marrying a woman of noble rank. After he became emperor, Constantine showed his mother great honor and respect, granting her the imperial title “Augusta.”

After St. Constantine became the sole ruler of the Western Roman Empire, he issued the Edict of Milan in 313 which guaranteed religious tolerance for Christians. St. Helen, who was a Christian, may have influenced him in this decision. In 323, when he became the sole ruler of the entire Roman Empire, he extended the provisions of the Edict of Milan to the Eastern half of the Empire. After three hundred years of persecution, Christians could finally practice their faith without fear.

The emperor deeply revered the victory-bearing Sign of the Cross of the Lord, and wanted to find the actual Cross upon which our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified. He sent his mother, Helen, to Jerusalem, providing her with a letter to St. Macarius, Patriarch of Jerusalem.

Icon of the Vladimir Mother of God

Commemorated on May 21 (also on June 23 and August 26)

The Celebration of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God was established to commemorate the deliverance of Moscow from an invasion of Tatars led by Khan Makhmet-Girei in 1521. The Tatar hordes approached Moscow, burning and destroying Russian cities and villages, and killing their inhabitants.

Great Prince Basil raised an army against the Tatars, while His Eminence Metropolitan BARLAAM and the people of Moscow prayed fervently. At this same time a pious blind nun had a vision. She saw Moscow’s bishop-saints exiting from the Kremlin’s Savior Gates, abandoning the city and taking with them the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God, the holiest object in Moscow. This was God’s punishment for the sins of Moscow’s citizens.

At the Savior Gates the holy hierarchs were met by Sts. Sergius of Radonezh and Barlaam of Khutyn who tearfully urging them not to leave Moscow. All of them offered intense prayers to the Lord for the forgiveness of their sins and the deliverance of Moscow from its enemies. After these prayers, the bishop-saints returned to the Kremlin, and they carried back the holy Vladimir Icon.

St. Basil the Blessed saw a similar vision. It was revealed to him that Moscow would be saved, through the intercession of the Theotokos and the prayers of the saints. The Tatar Khan also had a vision of the Mother of God with a fearsome host, contending against his forces. The Tatars fled in fear, and the capital of Russia was saved.

Icon of the Mother of God "Tenderness"

Mother of God: TendernessCommemorated on May 21 (also on October 7)

The Pskov Caves “Tenderness” Icon of the Mother of God was written and brought to the Pskov Caves Monastery through the efforts of two local merchants, Basil and Theodore, in 1521. It was glorified by miracles of healing in 1524. This holy icon and also the Dormition Icon were glorified in 1581 during the siege of Pskov by Polish King Stephen Bathory.

The icon is also commemorated on October 7 in memory of the deliverance of Pskov from the invasion of Napoleon in 1812.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

St. Lydia of Philippisia

Commemorated on May 20

St. Lydia of Philippisia was born in Asia Minor in the city of Thiatira in the first century. Looking for work, she traveled to the city of Philippi in Greek Macedonia. St. Luke writes that St. Lydia was a “porfiropolis,” that is a merchant of purple cloth, an expensive type of Roman clothing. She was also a religious woman, showing great respect to the pagan gods. However, the One True God decided to make her the first Christian in Greece, and the first Christian in Europe .

During this same time, St. Paul was preaching in the area of Troy when he had a dream. In it, a man told him, “Come to Macedonia and help us.” St. Paul, along with Silas, traveled to Philippi through Samothrace. At the Gaggitis River, they discovered a crowd praying to the pagan gods. Leading the group in prayer was St. Lydia.

After learning from St. Paul of Our Savior Jesus Christ, St. Lydia was baptized in the Gaggitis River and many idolaters became Christians. St. Lydia made her home a place for Christian meetings. She converted her family as well as many in the area to Christianity through her teachings.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)

Unless the Lord Comes to Us: Advent Reflections

By Virginia Nieuwsma

“Unless the Lord comes to us, we are completely helpless.”
--St. Maximos, Greek ascetic, the 4th Century

It is November 16 as I write this. My mailbox is now brimming every day with glossy catalogs proclaiming the virtues of the triumphant, capitalistic existence of comfort and indulgence that we have all imbibed to one degree or another.

Yet on this second day of the Orthodox Advent season, I am acutely aware of my spiritual poverty. I have charged through my days heedless, as the mellowed northern California fall sun has illumined a fiery display of gold and magenta, flaming orange and russet red. Glory to God! the colors have shouted, but most of the time I have been too busy to stop and notice. My cell phone rings, my car needs gas, my errand list is a mile long, my work beckons, and my children need rides or tutoring or food. Squeezing in morning prayers here and there and attending church on Sunday, I nod to God before getting back to the “real” business at hand.

Sometimes I am running from Him, burying myself with my busyness because I don’t want to be alone with Him. I’m avoiding the silence of prayer and time spent before our icons, because it is there that I confront myself stripped away of any false pretense of piety. This confrontation with my sin and hard heartedness is painful; indeed, trying to practice the disciplines of the Church in the midst of Christmas season is definitely an uphill climb! I don’t want to think about fasting, or almsgiving, or being more consistent in prayer. When I first turned over my calendar this year and saw the November 15 date, my first thought was that I simply didn’t have the strength or the desire to enter into the fast this year.

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