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Building an Orthodox Christian Home

By Virginia Nieuwsma

Kicking off my sandals and lowering myself into one of the rental company’s wooden chairs, I took in the sights and sounds of our daughter’s wedding reception. Our son-in-law and daughter were standing under the birch trees, juggling our grandson; godchildren danced after bubbles blown in the breeze; beloved clergy were chatting across a table; relatives and friends from as far away as England had joined us. A second stellar son-in-law was joining our family, and our other five children were there with us to participate as bridesmaids, a groomsman, a ring bearer, and a photographer, and all we could do was thank God for His mercy.

Yet the day flew by in a flurry of activity, and before we knew it, Tim and I were standing in our kitchen at one in the morning, surveying the damage—mountains of food to be stored, glasses and streamers and half-full plastic bubble bottles everywhere, our checkbook emptied of checks and cash, and our feet and backs aching. Not for the first time, it occurred to me that this event was a snapshot of Orthodox family life today. That is, those brief moments of achievement and accomplishment, while joyous and deeply satisfying, don’t happen without a ton of hard work!

Glorification of Ss. Sosana and Zabulon, Parents of St. Nino

Ss. Nino, Zabulon and SosanaCommemorated on May 20

According to Holy Tradition, St. Nino and Great-martyr George were blood relatives. At the same time as St. George’s martyrdom, a nobleman, Zabulon, arrived in Rome from Cappadocia. Zabulon began to serve in the emperor’s army, and before long was widely recognized as a courageous cavalryman and fine soldier.

During a battle with the Franks, the Lord granted victory to Zabulon – the Frankish king and his suite were captured and delivered to the Roman emperor. The emperor sentenced them to death, but before they were executed they confessed their desire to be baptized into the Christian Faith. Zabulon relayed this to the emperor, with Zabulon himself becoming their godfather. Zabulon then pleaded with the emperor to have mercy on his godchildren, and the emperor set them free.

Nearly all the Franks were converted to Christianity as a result of Zabulon’s struggles on behalf of the Faith. A ninth-century Georgian hymnographer wrote, “Zabulon converted Gaul with his sword, and Blessed Nino converted Georgia with the Life-giving Cross.”

Some time later, St. Zabulon journeyed to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage. While there, he distributed all his possessions to the poor and began to serve Patriarch Juvenal of Jerusalem. He met Sosana (Susanna), the sister of the patriarch, and they were married shortly thereafter.

St. Theotima, Martyr, of Nicomedia

Ss. Patrikios and TheotimaCommemorated on May 19

No information available at this time.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (

Entrance of St. Nino the Enlightener into Georgia

St. Nino, Enlightener of GeorgiaCommemorated on May 19

The holy Apostles Andrew the First-called and Simon the Canaanite preached the Christian Faith in Georgia in the first century, but by the fourth century, the country had reverted to paganism.

After the Theotokos revealed God’s will for the country’s future, Equal-to-the-Apostles Nino set off for Georgia to enlighten the Iberian people. She arrived in Armenia with the holy martyrs and virgins Rhipsimia, Gaiana and their fifty companions. The holy virgins were martyred in Armenia and, according to God’s will, St. Nino journeyed on alone to Lake Paravani, entering Georgia from the Javakheti Mountains. She arrived in the spring, but the weather was unseasonably cold.

The Apostolic Church of Georgia has honored the Entrance of the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Nino as a major feast day. The Church also commemorates St. Nino on January 14, the day of her repose.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (

St. Tecusa, Virginmartyr, along with Sts. Alexandra, Tecusa, Claudia, Phaine, Euphrasia, Matrona, and Julia

Commemorated on May 18

St. Tecusa was the aunt of St. Theodotus of Ancyra. She was the eldest of seven holy virgins who had dedicated themselves to Christ at an early age, living in constant prayer, fasting, temperance and good deeds. They were drowned in a lake at an advanced age.

The following night after their martyrdom, St. Tecusa appeared to St. Theodotus in a dream, asking him to take her body for Christian burial. St. Theodotus went to the lake, taking his friend Polychronius and several other Christians with him. It was dark, and a torch illumined their way. The holy martyr Sosander appeared in front of the guard who had been posted there by the pagan authorities. Seeing him, the frightened guard ran off.

The Christians found the bodies of the holy martyrs and carried them to the church, where they were buried. St. Theodotus was martyred for Christ on June 7, 303 or 304, but he is also commemorated on May 18, when the holy virgins were executed.

The account of the life and martyrdom of St. Theodotus and the suffering of the holy virgins was compiled by Nilus, a contemporary and companion of St. Theodotus. Nilus lived in the city of Ancyra during the persecution of Christians under Emperor Diocletian, and witnessed the saints’ deaths.

Troparion (Tone 4):

St. Tagine of Georgia, Mother of Martyrs Davit and Tarichan

Commemorated on May 18

Ss. Davit and Tarichan were born to Vardan and Tagine, pious Christians and relatives of the king. Vardan died while his sons were still young, and Tagine’s pagan brother, Theodosius, seized the family’s possessions.

Concerned that the brothers would eventually claim their legal inheritance, Theodosius became determined to convert his sister and nephews to paganism. “Leave behind the Faith of the crucified Christ and receive mine, and I will adopt your children,” he told Tagine. But Tagine firmly guarded the family against her brother’s evilness. “It is enough that you have seized my sons’ estates,” she said. “But you cannot seize the inheritance they will receive from their Father in heaven!”

Theodosius was thwarted by his sister’s resoluteness, so he tried to convert his nephews directly. He called them to him, embraced them warmly, and tempted them with sweets. “Now you are my sons, and everything I have belongs to you,” he told them. “Trust me like obedient sons of a beloved father. Turn from the Faith of your father, and I will show you a better way!”

The holy youths answered, “We are perfectly content with our father’s Faith and will remain loyal to this Faith until the day our souls depart from our flesh. We are prepared to suffer everything for the love of our Lord and Heavenly Father!”

St. Christina of Ancyra, Virginmartyr, who suffered under Emperor Decius

Commemorated on May 18

St. Christina suffered under Emperor Decius in the third century. She watched the trial of Dionysius, Nikomachus, and two soldiers, Andrew and Paul, who had been transferred from Mesopotamia. They all confessed their faith in Christ and refused to offer sacrifice to the idols, so they were tortured. To the great sorrow of the Christians, Nikomachus did not persevere. He denied the Lord Jesus Christ, and entered a pagan temple to offer sacrifice to the idols. He fell down in a terrible frenzy and died foaming at the mouth, tearing the skin from his body with his teeth.

The sixteen-year-old Christina who was standing nearby shouted, “You cursed and lost man! Instead of enduring pain for a single hour, you have made yourself worthy of eternal torment!” Hearing this, the prefect gave orders to seize the holy virgin. Learning that she was a Christian, he gave her over to dissolute men for their pleasure.

An angel appeared at the house where the men had taken St. Christina. Frightened by the terrible vision, the men tearfully begged her to forgive them and asked her to pray that the Lord not punish them.

The following morning, Sts Dionysius, Andrew and Paul were again brought before the prefect. For confessing their faith in Christ, they were given to the pagans to be put to death. They bound the saints by the feet, dragged them to the place of execution, and stoned them to death.

St. Junia, martyred along with the Seventy

Ss. Andronicus, Junia and AthanasiosCommemorated on May 17

Ss. Junia and Andronicus of the Seventy were relatives of the holy Apostle Paul. They traveled extensively and preached the Gospel to pagans. St. Paul mentions them in his Epistle to the Romans: “Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and fellow prisoners, who are of note among the Apostles, who also were in Christ, before me” (Romans 16:7).

St. Andronicus was made Bishop of Pannonia, but his preaching also took him and St. Junia to other lands, far from the boundaries of their diocese. Through the efforts of Sts. Andronicus and Junia, the Church of Christ was strengthened with pagans being converted to Christianity. Many of the pagan temples were closed, and in their place Christian churches were built. The service in honor of these saints states that they suffered martyrdom for Christ.

In the fifth century, during the reigns of Emperors Arcadius and Honorius, these saints’ holy relics were uncovered on the outskirts of Constantinople together with the relics of other martyrs at the Gate of Eugenius.

It was revealed to the pious cleric, Nicholas Kalligraphos, that among the relics of these martyrs were the relics of the holy Apostle Andronicus. Afterwards, a magnificent church was built on this spot.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (

St. Euphrosyne, Princess of Moscow

St. Euphrosyne, Princess of MoscowCommemorated on May 17 (also on July 7)

St. Euphrosyne (in the world Eudokia) was the daughter of Prince Demetrius Constantovich and was the wife of Moscow Great Prince Demetrius of the Don. Their happy union brought a pledge of unity and peace between Moscow and Suzdal.

St. Alexis, Metropolitan of Moscow, and even St. Sergius of Radonezh, who baptized one of the sons of Demetrius and Eudokia, had a great influence upon the spiritual life of Princess Eudokia. St. Demetrius of Priluki was the godfather of another son.

St. Euphrosyne was a builder of churches. In 1387 she founded the Ascension Women’s Monastery in the Moscow Kremlin. In 1395, during Tamerlane’s invasion into the southern part of Russia, the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God was transferred to Moscow upon her advice, miraculously defending the Russian land. During Great Lent, the princess secretly wore chains beneath her splendid royal garb. By her patronage, the famous icon of the Archangel Michael was written and later became the patronal icon of the Archangel Cathedral in the Kremlin.

After raising five sons, the princess was tonsured as a nun with the name Euphrosyne. She completed her earthly journey on July 7, 1407 and was buried in the Ascension Monastery that she founded.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (

St. Musa of Rome

St. Musa of RomeCommemorated on May 16

St. Musa lived during the fifth century and was distinguished for her pure life. St. Gregory Dialogus included her story in his DIALOGUES, saying that he had been given the information by Musa’s brother, Probus.

The Most Holy Theotokos once appeared to Musa in a dream, surrounded by girls who were dressed in white. She asked her, “Do you wish to live together with these maidens in my court?” “Yes, I do,” the girl replied.

The Holy Mother then said, “Do not do anything silly, as little girls often do. Avoid frivolity and joking. In thirty days I shall come for you and you will be with us.”

From that moment, Musa’s character was changed. She began to pray and live a strict life. In answer to the questions of her astonished parents, St. Musa told them about the vision.

On the twenty-fifth day, the maiden developed a fever, and on the thirtieth day she again saw the Mother of God coming to her with the same girls as before. The blessed child died with the words, “I am coming, I am coming to you, my Lady!”

St. Musa departed this earthly life and was gathered into the heavenly Kingdom, where she glorifies the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit unto ages of ages.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (

St. Crescentia at Lucania

Commemorated on May 16 (also on June 15)

St. Crescentia suffered for Christ in 303 during the reign of Emperor Diocletian, along with the holy martyrs Vitus and Modestus. She was the governess of St. Vitus, and tried to save the boy when his father wanted to kill him because he would not abandon his faith in Christ.

St. Crescentia and the boy’s tutor, St. Modestus, who were also Christian, secretly took the boy from his parental home. They found a boat at the river, with an angel entering the boat with them. They reached the Italian district of Lucanium, where the saints lived quietly, hiding from those who sought to persecute them. The holy youth continued to heal the sick and convert pagans to Christianity, with his fame soon spreading throughout the region.

Sts. Vitus and Modestus were arrested and thrown into prison, with Diocletian ordering that they both be tortured. St. Crescentia came out of the crowd and confessed that she was also a Christian. She reproached the emperor for his cruelty, and he sentenced her to be tortured along with the others.

St. Vitus called out to God, “O God, save us by Thy power and deliver us.” An earthquake then struck the city, and many pagans died beneath the collapsed buildings. Diocletian fled in fear. An angel released the martyrs and took them to Lucanium.

St. Dymphna, Martyr, in Belgium

Commemorated on May 15

St. Dymphna was the daughter of a pagan king of Ireland, but became a Christian and was secretly baptized. After the death of her mother, who was known for her beauty, her father offered his own hand in marriage to his daughter. However, Dymphna ran away with the assistance of a priest, Gerebernus. Landing in Antwerp, Belgium, they traveled to the village of Gheel, where they lived near a local chapel.

In 650, St. Dymphna’s father found her and renewed his offer of marriage. Realizing that she would never accept him in this way, he demanded that Fr. Gerebernus be killed. Dymphna received a martyr’s crown when her father cut off her head with a sword.

The bodies were placed in coffins and entombed in a cave where they were later found by local Christians. Eventually, the relics of St. Dymphna were buried in the church at Gheel, while St. Gerebernus was buried in Kanten.

In Christian art, St. Dymphna is depicted with a sword in her hand and a devil at her feet. She has been invoked as the patroness against insanity. The church where Dymphna was buried in Gheel (25 miles from Antwerp) was destroyed by a fire in 1489. A new church was consecrated on the same site in 1532 and still stands to this day.

By permission of

December 17, 2008 + Christmas Meditation

by Metropolitan PHILIP

from The Word, December 1970


What shall I offer you on your birthday in return for your infinite love?
I have neither gold nor silver, neither myrrh nor frankincense.
My house is without a roof.  I have no room for you; not even a manger.
My soul is even darker than the clouds of my passion.
My eyes are too dim to look beyond the horizon of myself.
Help me behold your bright star; "For in thy light we shall see light."


You have been knocking on my door for thirty-nine years, but I never dared let you in because my garment is not white as snow.
Forgive me if I do not invite you to my table, for my table is full of everything you despise.  I have denied you more than Peter.
I have doubted you more than Thomas.
I have betrayed you more than Judas.
My hands are empty.  My lips are not clean to sing your praise.
And my heart is wrinkled with sorrow like a withered leaf under autumn's wind.


The only thing I can offer you on your birthday is myself.
Drown me in the ocean of your love.
Feed me with your heavenly bread, for the bread of this world will never satisfy my hunger.
Quench my thirst with your divine fountain, for the water of this earth will never satisfy my thirst.
Give me your eyes to see what you see, your ears to hear what you hear and your heart to love what you love.
Take me with you to Mount Tabor and let me bathe in your eternal light.


Icon of the Mother of God "Sweet-Kissing"

Commemorated on May 14

This icon comes from the 17th century and was written in the Glykophilousa style. The Theotokos is seen bending over to tenderly embrace and kiss her Divine Son. Christ is seen bending his head back and bringing his cheek to rest up against His mother’s cheek. His left hand is resting in her open palm. The relationship between the two shows not only reverence, but intimacy and respect.

By permission of

Icon of the Mother of God of Chelnsk and Pskov Caves

Commemorated on May 14

In the city of Yaroslavl, the townswoman Alexandra Dobychkina suffered for seventeen years from emotional and bodily illness. In 1823, she saw in a dream a church with an icon of the Mother of God. She decided to seek out the Yaroslavl temple and icon she had seen in the vision.

This church turned out to be the temple in honor of the Procession of the Venerable Wood of the Cross of the Lord (August 1), under the belltower of the archbishop's residence. Entering the church, the afflicted Alexandra saw on the wall the depiction of the Kiev Caves Mother of God. Suddenly she had a powerful attack of fever, after which there was some relief at first, and later a full healing from the grievous illness.

From that time, miraculous healings took place when people prayed to the Most Holy Theotokos.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (

St. Glyceria, Virginmartyr, of Novgorod

Commemorated on May 13

Righteous Virgin Glyceria of Novgorod was the daughter of Panteleimon, a starets from Novgorod.

She died in 1522. According to the second Novgorod Chronicle, her incorrupt relics were uncovered on July 14, 1572 near the stone church of Sts. Florus and Laurus. Archbishop Leonid of Novgorod buried the holy relics in this church. During her interment, healings occurred at the relics of the saint.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (

St. Glyceria, Virginmartyr, at Heraclea

Virgin Martyr GlyceriaCommemorated on May 13

St. Glyceria suffered as a martyr for her faith in Christ in the second century during the persecutions against Christians under Emperor Antoninus. She came from an illustrious family, and her father, Macarius, was a high-ranking Roman official. Later, the family moved to the Thracian city of Trajanopolis.

St. Glyceria lost both her father and mother at an early age. Befriending some Christians, she converted to the true Faith and visited the church every day. Sabinus, the prefect of Trajanopolis, received the imperial edict ordering Christians to offer sacrifice to idols, and designated a certain day for the citizens to worship the idol, Zeus.

St. Glyceria made firm her decision to suffer for Christ. She told her fellow Christians of her intentions and begged them to pray that the Lord would give her the strength to undergo suffering. On the appointed day, St. Glyceria made the Sign of the Cross on her forehead and went to the pagan temple.

The saint stood on a raised spot in the rays of the sun, and removed the veil from her head, showing the holy Cross traced on her forehead. She prayed fervently to God to bring the pagans to their senses and destroy the stone idol of Zeus. Suddenly, thunder was heard, and the statue of Zeus crashed to the floor and smashed into little pieces.

St. Rictrudis of France

Commemorated on May 12

St. Rictrudis was born in Gascony, France in the seventh century. She married St. Adalbald, by whom she had four children and who all became saints: Maurontius, Eusebia, Clotsindis and Adalsindis.

After her husband was murdered by her relatives, she became a nun and founded the convent of Marchiennes in the north of France.

She fell asleep in the Lord on May 12, 688.

By permission of

Sunday of the Holy Myrrhbearing Women

Holy Myrrhbearing WomenCommemorated on May 11

The myrrh-bearers had brought funeral spices and ointments to finish committing Christ’s body to the grave. They were the first to see the empty tomb and were instructed by the risen Lord to bring the joyful news to the apostles. Sts. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus are also commemorated on this day.

There are eight women who are generally identified as the myrrh-bearers. Each of the four Gospels gives a different aspect of the roles of these eight women at the cross and at the tomb on Easter morning, perhaps since the eight women arrived in different groups and at different times. The eight were:

Mary Magdalene
Mary, the Theotokos (the Virgin Mary)
Mary the wife of Cleopas (mother of James)
Mary of Bethany (sister of Lazarus)
Martha of Bethany (sister of Lazarus)

These eight women had been together throughout Jesus’ public ministry. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and others (Luke 8:3) are described as providing for Jesus out of their possessions. These same women also faithfully followed him from Galilee and came up with him to Jerusalem.

Troparion (Tone 2) –

St. Thais of Egypt

St. Thais of EgyptCommemorated on May 10

St. Thais lived in Egypt in the fifth century. Left an orphan after the death of her wealthy parents, she led a pious life, distributing her wealth to the poor and giving shelter to pilgrims on her estate. She decided that she would never marry, but would devote her life to serving Christ.

After spending all her inheritance, Thais was tempted to acquire more money by any means and began to lead a sinful life. The Elders of Sketis near Alexandria heard of her fall, and asked St. John the Dwarf to go to Thais and persuade her to repent. “She was kind to us,” they said, “now perhaps we can help her. You, Father, are wise. Go and try to save her soul, and we will pray that the Lord will help you.”

The Elder went to her home, but Thais’s servant refused to let him into the house. St. John said, “Tell your mistress that I have brought her something very precious.” Knowing that the monks sometimes found pearls at the seashore, Thais told her servant to admit the visitor. St. John sat down and looked her in the face, and then began to weep. Thais asked him why he was crying. “How can I not weep,” he asked, “when you have forsaken your Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ, and are pleasing Satan by your deeds?”

St. Solangia, Martyr, of France

Commemorated on May 10

St. Solangia was a shepherdess in France who was very beautiful. In 880, the Count of Auvergne offered her his hand in marriage. When she declined, he seized her, intending to carry her to his castle. However, as they approached a stream, Solangia threw herself on the ground. The count became upset, drew his sword and cut off her head, but Solangia caught it in her hands, pronouncing the name of Jesus three times.

Solangia carried her head from Villemont to St. Martin du Cros, where she was buried. In the early tenth century, an altar was erected at the cemetery in her honor.

By permission of

St. Isidora, the Fool of Tabenna Monastery

Commemorated on May 1

St. Isidora, Fool-for-Christ, struggled in the Tabenna Monastery in Egypt during the sixth century. She acted like someone who was insane, and refused to eat with the other sisters of the monastery. Many of them regarded her with contempt, but Isidora bore her troubles with great patience and meekness, blessing God for everything.

She worked in the kitchen and fulfilled the dirtiest, most difficult tasks at the monastery, cleaning it of every impurity. Isidora covered her head with a plain rag, and instead of cooked food, she drank the dirty wash water from the pots and dishes. She never became angry, never insulted anyone, and never grumbled against God or the sisters.

St. Pitirim, a desert monk, had a vision of St. Isidora. An angel appeared to him and said, “Go to the Tabenna Monastery. There you will see a sister wearing a rag on her head. She serves them all with love, and endures their contempt without complaint. Her heart and her thoughts rest always with God. You, on the other hand, sit in solitude, but your thoughts flit about all over the world.”

The Elder traveled to the Tabenna Monastery, but he did not see St. Isidora among the sisters. They then led Isidora to him, as they thought she was a demoniac. Upon seeing him, Isidora fell down at the knees of the Elder and asked for his blessing. St. Pitirim bowed down to the ground and said, “Bless me first, venerable Mother!”

Icon of the Mother of God Kiev-Bratsk

Icon of the Mother of God Kiev-BratskCommemorated on May 10 (also on June 2, September 6, & the Saturday of the Fifth Week of Great Lent)

The Kiev-Bratsk Icon of the Mother of God was originally located in the Church of Ss. Boris and Gleb in the city of Vyshgorod (Kiev). In 1662, during Russia’s war with Poland, the city was dealt heavy losses by the Crimean Tatars fighting on the side of the Poles. The Temple of the Holy Passion-Bearers Boris and Gleb was destroyed and defiled. However, the Providence of God preserved the holy wonderworking icon of the Mother of God, which was taken out of the church beforehand and set off along the River Dnieper.

The Dnieper carried the icon to the Podol section of Kiev, where it was joyfully taken up by the Orthodox and with due reverence transferred to the Bratsk (Brotherhood) Monastery. The icon is described in the records of church property of the Kiev-Bratsk Monastery written in 1807.

There existed a “Song about the Wonderworking Kiev-Bratsk Icon of the Mother of God,” compiled soon after 1692. The Kiev-Bratsk Icon of the Mother of God is commemorated four times during the year: September 6, May 10, June 2, and on Saturday of the Fifth Week of Great Lent. All these days are dedicated to the miraculous appearance of the holy icon in 1654. Unfortunately, the original icon has not been preserved. The copy that now exists was painted from it “measure for measure,” and is presently located in the Kiev monastery of the Protection of the Mother of God.

Ss. Aquilina and Callinike, Martyrs of Lycia

Commemorated on May 9

Sts. Aquilina and Callinike were converted by St. Christopher and suffered for Christ in the third century.

When St. Christopher was summoned to appear before the emperor, the emperor tried to make him renounce Christ, not by force but by cunning. The emperor summoned two profligate women, Callinike and Aquilina, and commanded them to persuade Christopher to deny Christ, and to offer sacrifice to the idols. Instead, the women were converted to Christ by St. Christopher.

When they returned to the emperor, they declared themselves to be Christians. They were subjected to fierce beatings, and received the crown of martyrdom.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (

St. Ida of Belgium

Commemorated on May 8

St. Ida was born around 600 and was a daughter of the Duke of Aquitania in southwest France. Her brother was the Bishop of Trier. She was married to Pepin of Landen, with whom she had several children.

Upon her husband’s death in 640, Ida founded the famous convent at Nivelles in Belgium, along with her daughter. St. Gertrude.

St. Ida fell asleep in the Lord on May 8, 652.

By permission of

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