God is Wonderful in His Saints
Orthodox Saints commemorated in April
- April 1
- Our Holy Mother Mary of Egypt (4th-6th c.)
- Her radiant life is also commemorated on the Fifth Sunday of the Great Fast. The Life of St Mary of Egypt, written by St Sophronios of Jerusalem, is read in its entirety on the Thursday of the Great Canon during Lent. Click on the link to read it.
The date of her repose is very unclear: it is given variously as 378, 437, and 522.
- April 2
- Our Holy Father Titus the Wonderworker (9th c.)
- Very little is known of him. He took up the monastic life while still very young, and gave himself without reserve to the ascetical struggle, so much so that in the virtues of humility and obedience it was said that he exceeded 'not only the brethren, but all men.' In time, he became abbot of a monastery. During the iconoclast heresy, he stood unswervingly for the holy icons. Both in his own lifetime and after his death he was endowed with the gift of wonderworking. He reposed in peace sometime in the ninth century.
- Holy Martyrs Amphianus and Aedesius (~306)
- They were brothers from an eminent pagan family. While studying in Beirut, they embraced the Faith of Christ. Returning home, they found that they could no longer live with their pagan kinsmen, and fled to Caesarea in Palestine, placing themselves under the care of Pamphylus, a holy priest who instructed them in the teachings of the Faith and in the ascetical life.
Amphianus entered a pagan temple while the governor, Urbanus, was offering sacrifice. Seizing the governor's hand, he begged him to abandon his service to dead idols and to come to knowledge of the one God. For this he was put to torture, then cast into the sea with a stone around his neck.
Aedisius was sent to a copper mine in Palestine, then to Egypt. In Alexandria, Hierocles the governor was persecuting Christians by capturing Christian nuns and pious virgins and selling them into prostitution. Filled with holy zeal, Aedesius confronted the governor, denounced him, and struck him. For this he, like his brother, was tortured, then drowned.
- April 3
- Our Holy Father Nicetas the Confessor (824)
- He was born in Caesarea of Bithynia. His widowed father became a monk, leaving Nicetas to the care of his grandmother. Nicetas himself, when he was grown, entered a monastery in Midikion, on the Sea of Marmara. After seven years of monastic life he was ordained hieromonk by Patriarch Tarasios. When Nikephoros, the abbot of the monastery, died, the brethren chose Nicetas as their new abbot.
When Leo the Armenian became Emperor, he revived the iconoclast heresy, even though it had been put down under the Empress Irene and condemned by an Ecumenical Council. The Emperor deposed and exiled the holy Patriarch Nicephoros, putting a heretic in his place. Nicetas, because he was known for his holiness and steadfast reverence for the holy icons, was imprisoned and tortured, but did not waver in his defense of Orthodoxy. Nicetas was taken from prison to prison, torture to torture, and exiled twice, until at last Leo the Armenian died and the Orthodox Emperor Michael came to the throne and freed all those imprisoned for Orthodoxy.
Once freed, Nicetas retired to a secluded hermitage near Constantinople, where he passed the remainder of his life in prayer and thanksgiving. When he died, his body was taken back to his monastery; during the journey, many of the sick who touched his holy body were healed.
- Saint Joseph the Hymnographer (886)
- "Saint Joseph was from Sicily, the son of Plotinus and Agatha. Because Sicily had been subjugated by the Moslems, he departed thence and, passing from place to place, came with Saint Gregory of Decapolis (see Nov. 20) to Constantinople, where he endured bitter afflictions because of his pious zeal. Travelling to Rome, he was captured by Arab pirates and taken to Crete, whence he later returned to Constantinople. He became an excellent hymnographer and reposed in holiness shortly after 886 (according to some, it was in 883). The melismatic canons of the Menaion are primarily the work of this Joseph; they bear his name in the acrostic of the Ninth Ode. He also composed most of the sacred book known as the Paracletike, which complements the Octoechos. For this reason, Joseph is called par excellence the Hymnographer." (Great Horologion)
The "bitter afflictions" which St Joseph suffered were probably due (judging from his dates) to his veneration of the holy icons.
Note: In the Slavic calendar he is commemorated on April 4.
- Saint Seraphim of Vyritsa (1949) (March 21 OC)
Born in 1866, he married and had three children. In 1920, at the age of 54, he and his wife quietly separated and each entered monastic life. Eventually he became the spiritual father of the St. Alexander Nevsky Lavra in St. Petersburg, where, as a clairvoyant staretz, he also confessed thousands of laity. He said, "I am the storage room where people's afflictions gather." In imitation of his patron saint, he prayed for a thousand nights on a rock before an icon of St. Seraphim of Sarov. He reposed in the Lord in 1949 and the Church of Russia glorified him in August of 2000. Thus his whole life as a monk was spent under Communist persecution.
- April 4
- St Zosimas, monk, of Palestine (523)
- This is the monk who met St Mary of Egypt in the desert and preserved her story (See April 1). He reposed in peace at the age of 100, sometime in the sixth century.
- April 5
- Holy Martyrs Agathopous and Theodoulos (303)
- Agathopous was a deacon, very old, and Theodoulos a reader, very young, in the church in Thessalonica. During Diocletian's persecution the two were summoned to trial. They went joyfully, holding one another by the hand and exclaiming to all, 'We are Christians!' After flattery, cajolery, threats, imprisonment and starvation had failed to make them deny Christ, they were condemned to death by drowning. They were bound and a large stone tied to their necks; as they were about to be thrown into the sea, Agathopous cried, 'Behold, by a second baptism we are washed from our sins, and will go cleansed to Christ Jesus!' Their drowned bodies were soon washed ashore, and Christians gave them honorable burial. Not long afterward, Theodoulos appeared to his brethren in the form of a shining angel and told them to give all his goods to the poor.
- Our Holy Father Mark of Trache (~400)
- He is also called 'Mark the Athenian' because he was born in Athens. When his parents died, he pondered the transience of all earthly things, gave his goods to the poor, and embarked on a plank in the sea, asking God to lead him wherever He desired. By God's providence, Mark was cast up on the shores of Libya, where he settled as a hermit on a mountain called Trache. (Some say it was in Ethiopia, but this seems less likely.) There he lived for ninety-five years, never seeing another human being.
Saint Serapion visited him before his death and recorded his life. Serapion asked Mark if there were any Christians whose faith was so great that they could say to a mountain 'Get up and cast yourself into the sea,' and it would be so. Immediately the mountain on which they stood began to move like a wave, but Mark raised his hand and stilled it.
On his deathbed, St Mark prayed for the salvation of all men and gave up his soul to God. Saint Serapion saw an angel carrying Mark's soul, and a hand extended from heaven to receive it. Saint Mark was about 130 years old when he reposed.
- April 6
- St Eutychius, patriarch of Constantinople (582)
- He was born to devout and noble parents in Phrygia. Though his father was a prominent officer, he entered monastic life when young, and became abbot of a monastery in Amasea at the age of thirty. In 553 he was sent to the Fifth Ecumenical Council as the representative of the Metropolitan of Amasea. At the Council, he was one of those who argued, successfully, that heretics could be anathematized after their deaths. The most prominent case in point was Origen, the brilliant Christian philosopher who had written that all will eventually be saved. Eutychius' position thus earned him the enmity of the Origenists, who still made up an influential group in the Church. Saint Eutychius became a trusted confidante of the Emperor Justinian, and when Menas, Patriarch of Constantinople, reposed, Eutychius was chosen to replace him. Eutychius ruled in peace for twelve years, but was then cast into controversy when he boldly opposed one of the most hard-to-pronounce heresies in the history of the Church: Aphthartodocetism, the belief that Christ, before his resurrection, possessed an incorruptible body, not subject to hunger, thirst or pain (though the scriptures plainly speak of Christ being weary, hungry, thirsty, weeping). The Emperor Justinian for a time fell into this variant of the Monophysite heresy, and exiled Eutychius to his monastery for twelve years. During these years Eutychius showed himself to be a wonder-worker, healing many of their diseases through his prayers. Justinian repented shortly before his death, and his successor, Justin II, called Eutychius back to the Patriarchal throne, where he served the Church in peace until his repose at the age of seventy.
- April 7
- Holy Martyr Calliopius, with his mother Theoclea (304)
- Calliopius was the only son of a senator from Pamphylia and his wife Theoclea, who had long prayed to God for a child. The devout Theoclea reared her son in purity of life and love for God from infancy. When persecution of Christians broke out under Maximian, Theoclea put Calliopius aboard a ship bound for Pompeiopolis to save him from the persecutors. But Calliopius, as soon as he disembarked, encountered a pagan festival, where he was arrested when he refused to make sacrifice to the idols. Brought before the governor Maximus, he freely confessed that he was a Christian. For this he was cruelly tortured and thrown into prison. His mother, hearing of his torments, sold her goods and hurried to comfort him and encourage him in his martyrdom.
Calliopius was sentenced to death by crucifixion, as it happened on Holy Thursday; but the holy Theoclea bribed the officials to postpone the execution by one day, so that her son might imitate the Lord's Crucifixion on the day that He endured it; she also prevailed upon the torturers to crucify Calliopius upside-down (like St Peter) in humility toward the Lord. When her son's lifeless body was taken down from the cross, Theoclea cast herself upon it and died.
- St George the Confessor, bishop of Mitylene (~820)
- The righteous George was Metropolitan of Mitylene. In his old age, a persecution was unleashed against the Church by the iconoclast Emperor Leo V (the Armenian). To further his plans, the Emperor summoned a Council of bishops which he expected to support his iconoclasm. At the Council, George and some other faithful bishops refused to follow the Emperor's wishes, and openly stood in defense of the icons. For his stance, George was publicly humiliated, then sent into exile at Cherson on the Black Sea. There, after many years of extreme privation, the holy bishop died. By his prayers many were healed, both during his life and after his repose.
- St Nilus (Nil Sorsky), abbot of Sora (1508)
- St Nilus established the monastic skete (a community of monks living separately like hermits, but sharing some common life) in Russia. He took one side of a religious controversy that troubled the Russian Church's life for many years. St Nilus and his disciples claimed that prayer and ascetic struggle are the whole purpose of monastic life, and opposed monastic ownership of property, or involvement in works such as almshouses, hospitals, and orphanages. Joseph, abbot of Volokalamsk, took up the argument on the other side, insisting that the Church and its monks should be involved in good works (and have the means to do those works) as well as in prayer. The two groups became known as the "Possessors" (Joseph's side) and the "Non-Possessors" (Nilus' side). Each group had reason to be troubled by the other's extremes: Monasteries owned huge amounts of land, kept serfs, and were subject to corruption by involvement in finance; at the same time, the Church formed most of the 'welfare' system of Russia, and the Non-possessors did not suggest how the poor were to be tended, or orphans cared for, without the monasteries' charity. Many of the Non-possessors tended toward a non-Russian and almost un-Orthodox puritanism, condemning beautiful churches and icons as diversions from true spirituality.
The Possessors (not surprisingly) were favored by the Tsarist government, and eventually won out. The artificial division of the Church into mystical and practical 'parties,' and the victory of one of the parties, led to a period of stagnation in the Russian church that was only corrected two hundred years later, when a great renewal of religious life, characterized by such holy Fathers as St Paisios Velichkovsky and St Seraphim of Sarov, restored the fullness and balance of Orthodox life to the Russian church.
An indication of the fullness of Orthodoxy: the Church has glorified not only St Nilus but his opponent St Joseph of Volokalamsk, who is commemorated on Sept. 9.
- Saint Savvas the New of Kalymnos (1948) (March 25 OC)
- He was born in Thrace to a poor family. Early in life he desired to become a monk and, failing to get his parents' consent, left secretly for Mt Athos. After several years there, he traveled to Palestine, where he entered the Monastery of St George the Chozebite. In 1903 he was ordained to the priesthood. From 1907–1916 he lived in severe asceticism as a hermit on the banks of the Jordan. After living in several monasteries in Greece, he served with St Nektarios of Aegina for the last year of the Saint's life (he reposed in 1920). After six more years on Aegina, Fr Savvas moved to the island of Kalymnos, where he spent the remainder of his life. He lived in quietness and asceticism, acquiring a reputation throughout the island as a confessor and spiritual father. He slept only a few hours each night, and gave away any money that came to him the same day, since he believed that it was wrong for a monk to have money in his cell after nightfall.
Saint Savvas reposed on the Old Calendar feast of the Annunciation in 1948. Innumerable miracles and healings have been wrought through his intercession. A striking example occurred in 1957: A group of young islanders were talking about the Saint, and one of them, who doubted his sanctity, said 'If this lamp breaks I'll believe.' At that moment the lamp shattered spontaneously.
The following account is from Mother Nectaria McLees' Evlogeite! A pilgrim's guide to Greece: 'His last words of counsel to his nuns were, "...love... is the bond of perfection," and to the abbess he said, "Love, love, love (Agapa, agapa, agapa)." Then he clapped his hands six times, saying "The Lord, the Lord, the Lord..."
'In 1957 his relics were uncovered in the presence of Metropolitan Isidoros of Kalymnos, who described them as "the bones being perfectly joined, and the vestments intact." When the sepulchre was opened a divine and otherworldly fragrance covered the area, even to the outskirts of town far below. In 1961, an iconographer of the Skete of Kapsokalyvia on Mount Athos painted an icon of St. Savvas at Abbess Philothei's request. The icon arrived by ferry, and as it was being transferred from the post office to the customs house where the nuns would pick it up, the convent bell began ringing by itself and continued until the icon was brought to the monastery.'
- St Justin (Popovic) of Chelije in Serbia (1979) (March 25 OC)
- He was born on the Feast of the Annunciation 1894, in Vranje, South Serbia, to a family whose seven previous generations had been headed by priests (Popovich means 'family or son of a priest' in Serbian). He began reading the scriptures at a young age, and as an adult carried a New Testament with him, reading three chapters every day. He studied at the Seminary of St Sava in Belgrade while St Nikolai Velimirovic (March 18) was on the faculty. In 1914, Blagoje (as he was called before his tonsure) completed the nine-year seminary program. He desired to become a monk, but postponed entry into the monastic ranks due to the outbreak of war and the poor health of his parents. He spent the war caring for his parents and serving as a student nurse.
In 1915 he was tonsured a monk under the name Justin, after St Justin the Philosopher. Shortly thereafter he traveled to Petrograd to study at the seminary; there he acquired a deep, first-hand knowledge of the Russian ascetical tradition and a lifelong love of Russian spirituality, especially that of the common people. He then attended Oxford University from 1916 to 1919, writing a doctoral dissertation which was rejected. After a brief return to Belgrade, he entered the Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Athens. As in Russia, he used his time there not merely to study but to drink in the Orthodox spirituality of the Greek people. He was ordained to the diaconate while in Greece, then to the priesthood after returning to Belgrade in 1922. He wept 'as a newborn babe' throughout his ordination service. One of his first labors as a priest was to translate the Divine Liturgy into modern Serbian. During this period he came to know Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky (later first hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church abroad) and St John Maximovich, both of whom were living in Serbia as exiles from the Russian Revolution.
Father Justin's preaching, writing and spiritual counsel became known throughout his country. In 1931 he was sent to Czechoslovakia to help in reorganizing the Church there (then under the jurisdiction of the Serbian Church), which was greatly tried and weakened by Uniatism. Realizing the people's crying need a clear exposition of the Faith in their own language, he began in 1932 his three-volume Dogmas of the Orthodox Church. The first volume was so well-received that Fr Justin was made Professor of Dogmatics at the Seminary of St Sava, where he remained, completing the Dogmas and several other books, until the end of World War II. The new atheistic Communist regime then banned him from the university system, and Fr Justin lived from that time on in various Serbian monasteries.
In 1948 he entered Chelije Monastery, where he remained until his repose in 1979. He became Archimandrite and spiritual head of the Monastery. It was during this period that he emerged as a great light of Orthodoxy: pious believers from all parts of Yugoslavia, from Greece, and from all over the world traveled to Chelije to hear the holy Justin's preaching and seek his counsel.
Saint Justin reposed in peace in 1979 at the age of 85, on the Feast of the Annunciation — the date of his birth. Since his repose, many miracles have been witnessed at his grave: healings, flashes of unearthly light from his tomb, and conversions of unbelievers by his prayers. His many writings are increasingly recognized as a fount of pure Orthodox teaching in the midst of our dark time.
Note: St Justin is commemorated on the anniversary of his repose, so his commemoration only coincides with the Feast of the Annunciation on the Old Calendar.
- April 8
- Holy Apostles Herodion, Agabus, Rufus, Asyncritus, Phlegon and Hermas
- All of these are numbered among the Seventy, and all are mentioned in the Epistles of St Paul.
Herodion was a kinsmen of St Paul: 'Salute Herodion my kinsman' (Romans 16:11). After many sufferings for the Gospel, he worked with the Apostle Peter in Rome, and was beheaded with him.
Agabus was granted a spirit of prophecy: two of his prophecies are important in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 11:28, 21:11).
Rufus was Bishop of Thebes. 'Salute Rufus, chosen in the Lord' (Romans 16:13).
Asyncritus (Romans 16:14) was Bishop of Hyrcania in Asia.
Phlegon, (Romans 16:14) was Bishop of Marathon in Thrace.
Hermas (Romans 16:14) was a bishop in Dalmatia.
- Saint Celestine, Pope of Rome (432)
- A champion of the Orthodox faith, he sent an epistle to the Third Ecumenical Council, refuting and condemning the Nestorian heresy. He reposed in peace.
- April 9
- Martyr Eupsychius of Caesarea in Cappadocia (362)
- This holy martyr was a married man, living in Cappadocia. During the reign of Julian the Apostate he, along with some other Christians, destroyed the pagan temple to the goddess Fortuna. (The Prologue says that it was his wedding day). For this he and his companions were cruelly tortured, then beheaded.
At that time St Basil the Great governed the Church in that part of Cappadocia. When the apostate Emperor, going to fight the Persians, came to the town in which Eupsychius was martyred, St Basil went to meet him, bringing three barley loaves as a sign of honor and welcome. The Emperor, ever hostile to Christians, ordered that the bishop be given a fistful of hay in return. Saint Basil said to the Emperor 'You ridicule us now, O King; we bring you bread, by which we are fed, and you give us miserable food that you, with all your power, are unable to turn into nourishment for men.' The Emperor perished in the Persian campaign.
- April 10
- Martyrs Terence, Africanus, Maximus, Pompeius and 36 with them, beheaded at Carthage (250)
- These African Christians suffered during the persecution of the Church by the emperor Decius, during which a great many Christians denied the faith rather than suffer.
These faithful few boldly upheld the Faith and, after many torments, were condemned to death
by beheading. The went to their execution singing psalms and hymns of thanksgiving, and
received the crown of martyrdom in 250.
In the early centuries of the Church, North Africa, especially the region of Carthage, was one of the centers of the Christian Faith, comparable to Asia Minor.
- Six Thousand Holy Martyrs in Georgia (1615)
- "In the wilderness of David-Garejeli in Georgia there were twelve monasteries, in which monks had lived the ascetic life for centuries. In 1615, Shah Abbas I invaded Georgia, laid it waste and slew innumerable Christians. One day, while out hunting at dawn on Easter Day intself, he saw the light of many candles shining in the hills. This was the monks of all twelve monasteries in procession all round the Church of the Resurrection, walking with candles in their hands. When the Shah discovered that it was monks, he asked in disbelief: 'Isn't the whole of Georgia put to the sword by now?', and ordered his generals to go and slaughter the monks at once. An angel of God appeared to Abbot Arsenius, and revealed their imminent death to him, and Arsenius informed the brethren. They then all received Communion in the Holy Misteries and prepared for death. Then the attackers arrived, hacked the abbot to pieces when he came out ahead of the others, and then killed all the rest. They all suffered with honour and were crowned with unfading wreaths in 1615. Thus ended the history of these famous monasteries, which had been like a flame of spiritual enlightenment in Georgia for more than 1,000 years. There remain just two today: St David and St John the Baptist. The King of Georgia, Archil, gathered the remains of all the martyrs and buried them. Their relics are to this day full of myrrh for the healing of those in sickness." (Prologue)
- New Hieromartyr Gregory, Patriarch of Constantinople (1821)
- He was born on the Peloponnese, and became Archbishop of Smyrna in 1785. He served at a time when revolutionary feeling and activity was increasing among the Greek people, and witnessed the cruel retribution that the Ottoman Turks visited on any evidence of rebellion among their subject people.
Once in Smyrna, seeing that an action he had taken was causing discord in his dioceses, he came down from the hierarchical throne during a service, prostrated himself before the faithful and asked their forgiveness.
He was elected Patriarch of Constantinople in 1797. Under the Turkokratia, the Patriarch was not only the head of the Greek churches but the secular ruler of the Greek people, bound by oath to respect the authority of the Sultan. This, combined with Gregory's personal experience of the treatment of Greek rebels, made him a staunch opponent of revolutionary activity among his people. Still, when revolutionaries on the Peloponnese declared Greek independence from Turkey on March 25, 1821, Turkish retribution was harsh: On Pascha, April 10, after serving the Paschal Liturgy, the aged Patriarch was arrested by the Turkish authorities. He was tortured in an effort to have him reveal the names of those heading the revolution, then was offered his freedom if he would convert to Islam. Gregory answered, 'You ask in vain: the Patriarch of Christians dies a Christian.' He (along with other clergy and hierarchs) was hanged as a traitor on the gate of the patriarchal compound. An eyewitness, a British clergyman visiting Constantinople, wrote: 'His body, attenuated by abstinence and emaciated by age, had not sufficient weight to cause immediate death. He continued for a long time in pain which no friendly hand dared abridge, and the darkness of night came on before his final convulsions were over.' His body was left hanging for three days, then sold by the Turkish authorities to a Jewish mob, who mutilated the body, then weighted it about the neck with a stone and threw it into the sea. Despite this, the body was found floating at sea by a Greek merchant ship captain. When the body was identified as that of the martyred Patriarch, it was secretly taken to Odessa, where Orthodox church leaders took it under their care. Tsar Alexander I ordered a state funeral for the holy hierarch, which was celebrated on June 17 1821 in Odessa.
In 1871 the relics were returned to Greece by Tsar Alexander III. They were incorrupt, though fifty years had passed since his death. Saint Gregory was officially glorified in 1921. His relics may be venerated at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Athens.
- April 11
- Hieromartyr Antipas, bishop of Pergamum (92), disciple of St John the Theologian
- He is mentioned by name in the book of Revelation, where Christ says to the Church of
Pergamum "I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is; and thou
holdest fast to My Name, and hast not denied My Faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was
my faithful Martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth" (Rev. 2:13). He was bishop
of Pergamum and, during the reign of Domitian, when he was very old, was put into a bronze bull which was then heated in fire until he died.
The Great Horologion notes that the faithful pray to St Antipas for ailments of the teeth.
- Holy Martyrs Processus and Martinian (1st c.)
- They were jailers in the Roman prison that held Sts Peter and Paul, and came to faith in Christ through the witness of the two holy Apostles. After receiving baptism, Processus and Martinian released the saints from prison. As the Apostles were leaving Rome, the Lord appeared to Peter on the Appian way. When Peter asked him where he was going, he replied, 'To Rome, to be crucified once again.' Abashed, the Apostles returned to Rome to face their martyrdom. Processus and Martinian were beheaded along with St Paul.
- April 12
- St Isaac the Syrian, abbot of Spoleto, Italy (~550)
- This is not the famed Isaac of Syria (commemorated Jan 28) who wrote the Ascetical Homilies, but a monk who settled in Spoleto and was famed for his holy, solitary life, his miracles, and his discernment. The people of Spoleto sought to honor him with money and other gifts, but he refused everything and withdrew to a cell in the forest. Soon a large monastery grew up there as others joined him in his life of prayer.
Once, two nearly naked men came begging clothing from Isaac. He told a monk to go to a hollow tree some distance away, and to bring back what he found there. The monk returned with some clothing, and gave it to the beggars. They were shamed to find that it was their own clothing, which they had hidden in the tree.
A man gave two beehives to the monastery. A monk hid one of them and brought the other to the abbot. Isaac said to him, 'Be careful when you go back to the beehive that you hid: it has been taken over by poisonous snakes. Be careful that they do not bite you.'
- St Basil the Confessor, bishop of Parium (~760)
- In the dark days of iconoclasm, this holy bishop refused to sign the imperial order condemning the veneration of icons, and for this was cruelly persecuted in many ways by the heretics for the remainder of his life; all the while he remained 'firm as a diamond in his Orthodoxy.' (Prologue)
- Our Holy Mother Athanasia (860)
- "Born on the island of Aegina of rich and eminent parents, she gave her goods to the poor and went off to a monastery, where she heaped greater and greater asceticism on herself. She took food only once a day, and that only bread and water, and in the Great Fast only once every two days. Only at Christmas and Easter did she taste flesh and oil. Although she was abbess of the monastery, she was the servant of all the other sisters and was ashamed that any should wait on her. She was made worthy of the great gift of wonderworking, both during her lifetime and after her death." (Prologue)
- April 13
- Hieromartyr Artemon, presbyter of Laodicea in Syria (303)
- At the time of Diocletian's persecutions, he was a very old man, having served as a reader for sixteen years, then a deacon for twenty-eight years, and finally as a priest for thirty years, for a total of seventy-four years. The pagan judge put him in the Temple of Aesculapius, where large snakes were kept and worshiped as gods. Though the judge meant for Artemon to be attacked by the snakes, the holy priest immobilized them with the sign of the Cross, brought them out of the temple and, in front of the pagan priests, breathed on the snakes, which died instantly. The chief priest, Vitalis, fell to his knees and cried 'Great is the Christian God!' Artemon baptised him along with several of his friends.
The unrepentant judge then condemned Artemon to be thrown into burning pitch, but the judge himself was thrown off his horse into the pitch and died. After this, Artemon went free for a time and spent his time teaching the Faith to his people ("accompanied always by two tame deer," says St Nikolia Velimirovic!). But he was arrested again and beheaded in the year 303.
- St Martin the Confessor, pope of Rome (655)
- "Martin became Pope on July 5th, 649, at the time of a furious quarrel between the Orthodox and the Monothelite heretics. Constans the Second, Heraclius' grandson, was on the throne at the time, and Paul was Patriarch of Constantinople. To restore peace in the Church, the Emperor himself wrote a dogmatic decree, the Typos, which leaned heavily towards heresy. Pope Martin summoned a Council of 105 bishops, at which the Emperor's statement was condemned. At the same time, the Pope wrote a letter to Patriarch Paul, begging him to uphold the purity of the Orthodox faith and to counsel the Emperor to reject the theories of the heretics. This letter infuriated both the Patriarch and the Emperor. The Emperor sent one of his generals, Olympius, to take the Pope to Constantinople in bonds. The general did not dare to bind the Pope with his own hands, but instructed one of his soldiers to kill him with the sword in church. But, when the soldier entered the church with his sword concealed, he was instantly blinded. So, by the providence of God, Martin escaped death. At that time, the Saracens fell upon Sicily, and Olympius went off there, where he died. Then, by the intrigues of the heretic Patriarch Paul, the Emperor sent a second general, Theodore, to bind and take the Pope on the charge that he, the Pope, was in collusion with the Saracens and that he did not reverence the most holy Mother of God. [!!] When the general arrived in Rome and read the accusation against the Pope, he replied that it was a libel; that he had no contact of any sort with the Saracens, the opponents of Christianity, 'and whoever does not confess the most holy Mother of God and do her reverence, let him be damned in this age and in that which is to come.' But this did not affect the general's decision. The Pope was bound and taken to Constantinople, where he lay long in prison in great sickness, tortured by both anxiety and hunger, until he was finally sentenced to exile in Cherson, where he lived for two years before his death. He gave his soul into the hands of the Lord, for whom he had suffered so greatly, in 655. The evil Patriarch, Paul,died two years before him and, when the Emperor visited him on his deathbed, he smote his head against the wall, confessing with tears that he had greatly sinned against Pope Martin and asking the Emperor to set Martin free.' (Prologue)
In some menaia he is commemorated on April 14.
- April 14
- Apostles Aristarchus, Pudens and Trophimus of the Seventy
- All three are mentioned by name by the Apostle Paul.
Aristarchus is mentioned in Acts 19:29, Colossians 4:10 and Philemon 24. He was bishop of Apamea in Syria; St Paul calls him 'my fellow-prisoner' and 'my fellow-laborer'.
Pudens is mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:21. He was a prominent Roman citizen who gave refuge to Christians; his house was first a place of refuge for the Apostles, then one of the first churches in Rome.
Trophimus is mentioned with Pudens in 2 Timothy 4:21, and in Acts 21:29, where we learn that he was from Ephesus. He accompanied the Apostle Paul on some of his missions.
All three, like St Paul, were beheaded during Nero's persecutions.
- Holy Martyr Ardalion the Actor (3rd c.)
- He was a comic actor whose specialty was an act which mocked the Christian martyrs. But during an especially fierce persecution under the Emperor Maximian, his heart was changed in an unknown way, and during one of his performances he called out to the crowd that he was a Christian and that they must not laugh. For this, Ardalion was arrested and tried, and died by torture, as the Prologue says, "playing the role of martyr in very truth and with honour."
- April 15
- Holy Martyr Sabbas the Goth (372)
- In the kingdom of Wallachia (in modern-day Romania) the Goths undertook a brutal persecution of Christians. A Gothic prince came to the village of Buzau and asked the villagers if any Christians lived there. They swore to him that there were none. At this, Sabbas came before the Prince and said 'Let no one swear an oath on my behalf. I am a Christian.' Touched by his courage, the prince let Sabbas go, saying 'This one can do neither harm nor good.'
The following year a priest named Sansal came to the village and celebrated Pascha with Sabbas (who was truly the only Christian there). When the pagans heard of this, they attacked Sabbas' house and seized both men. They dragged Sabbas naked through thorns, then tied both him and Sansal to trees and tried to make them eat meat offered to idols. Neither man would touch the sacrifices. The prince then sentenced Sabbas to death and gave him over to the soldiers. Sabbas walked to the place of execution joyfully, singing and praising God. Seeing his goodness, the soldiers tried to free him on the way, but Sabbas refused, telling them that it was their duty to carry out the prince's command.
The soldiers took him to a river, tied a rock to his neck and cast him into the waters, where he gave back his soul to God. Some Christians later recovered his body and gave it honorable burial. The saint was 31 years old at the time of his martyrdom. In the reign of the Emperor Valens, the Greek commander Ionnios Soranos found the Saint's body during a war against the Goths, and took it to Cappadocia.
- April 16
- Virgin Martyrs Agape, Irene, and Chionia in Illyria (295 or 304)
- These three sisters lived in Aquilea. When the Emperor Diocletian was visiting there, he learned that they were Christians and had them brought to him. When they would not deny Christ, they were cast into prison, then handed over to a general named Dulcitius for torture. Dulcitius conceived a passion for the sisters, and entered the prison planning to defile them; but when he tried to enter, he was deprived of his reason and fell upon the dirty pots at the entrance, embracing and kissing them until he was completely black with soot. Hearing of this, the Emperor appointed another general to torment the sisters. After terrible tortures Agape and Chionia were burned, but the sadistic general, knowing her pledge of virginity to the Lord, ordered Irene to be put in a brothel. By God's providence she was shot with an arrow before she could be forced to endure this fate.
So ends the version given in the Great Horologion. The Prologue gives a slightly different version: When Irene was being led to the brothel, an angel turned the soldiers back and led Irene to the top of a high hill. The next day the general came with his soldiers to capture her, but were unable to climb it. The general then ordered that Irene be shot with arrows.
St Anastasia, a prophetess in that town, gathered the bodies of all three sisters and gave them burial.
- April 17
- Hieromartyr Simeon, Bishop in Persia, and those with him (343)
- The Holy Symeon was bishop of the royal cities of Seleucia and Ctesiphon in Persia, during a great persecution under King Sapor II. The king had been incited by (Zoroastrian) Magi jealous of the growth of the Faith in their territory, and by some Jews living in Persia. The king was already displeased with the holy bishop: his eunuch, Ustazan, a secret Christian, had denied Christ, but when reprimanded by Symeon, had confessed the Faith before the King, for which he was executed. On Holy Friday of 343 Symeon, along with at least a hundred other servants of the Church, was sent out to be slain. Symeon exhorted each to be of good courage, and was himself slain last. One year later, again on Holy Friday, the King's eunuch Azat was executed for Christ, along with a great number of the faithful. It is said that more than 1,000 Christians died as martyrs during this persecution.
The Zoroastrians still live in parts of Iran as a small, somewhat persecuted minority under the Islamic government.
- April 18
- Our Holy Father John, Disciple of St Gregory of Decapolis (820)
- He entered monastic life when young and became a disciple of St Gregory of Decapolis (Nov. 20). In the days of the iconoclast heresy, he was privileged to be tortured along with his teacher St Gregory and St Joseph the Hymnographer (April 3) for their defense of the holy icons. When Gregory died, John became Abbot of the Decapolite monastery in Constantinople. He reposed in peace around 820; St Joseph buried him near St Gregory's grave.
- The Holy Martyr John the New of Ioannina (1526)
- He moved as a young man to Constantinople to work as a craftsman. After the Turkish conquest of Constantinople, many Christians had denied Christ and embraced Islam. John spoke with many of these about the Faith and challenged them for their betrayal of Christ. Shamed and angered, some of them had him arrested, falsely stating that he had earlier accepted Islam and then returned to Christianity, which is punishable by death in Islamic law. He was tortured and cast into prison. When he was brought out for more torture on the day of Pascha, John came forward full of joy and singing 'Christ is risen from the dead!' To his torturers he cried, 'Do what you will to me, and send me as quickly as possible from this transient life into life eternal. I am Christ's servant; I follow Christ, and I die for Christ that I may live with Him.' He has bound in chains and taken to be burned, but when he ran joyfully into the fire, his tormentors pulled him from the flames and beheaded him instead, then threw his head and body into the fire. Christians were able to gather a few of his wonderworking relics and bury them in the Great Church in Constantinople.
- April 19
- St John of the Ancient Caves in Palestine (8th c.)
- Filled in his youth with the love of Christ and a hunger for holiness, he travelled among the holy places of the Middle East seeking the counsel of holy men. Finally he settled as a monk in the Ancient Caves of the Lavra of Chariton the Great in Palestine. Living in Chariton's own cave, he spent his days in fasting, prayer and vigil, becoming known in his own lifetime for his holiness. He reposed in peace in the 8th century.
- Our Holy Father Agathangelos (1819)
- "From Thrace, his worldly name being Anastasios, he was a slave to some Turks, and they compelled him to embrace Islam in Smyrna. As a penitent, he was tonsured at the monastery of Esphigmenou on the Holy Mountain. Tormented by his conscience, he desired to wash his sins in his own blood, so he went to Smyrna, where he showed a Cross and an icon of Christ's Resurrection to the Turks. He was beheaded on April 19th, 1819, at the age of nineteen. He appeared to his spiritual father, Germanos, after his death." (Prologue)
- Blessed Matrona (the Blind) of Moscow (1952) (New Calendar commemoration May 2)
- She was born in 1881 to a poor family in the village of Sebino-Epifaniskaya (now Kimovski). Though she was born blind — her eyes were without pupils — she showed a gift of spiritual insight from an early age, and by her prayers healed many who came to her.
At about the age of fourteen she made a pilgrimage to several Russian holy sites. When she came to Kronstadt to receive the blessing of St John (20 Dec.), the holy priest, who had never met her, cried out "Matrona, come here!" and proclaimed "She will be my heir, the eighth pillar of Russia."
At the age of seventeen she was stricken with paralysis and was never able to walk again. For the rest of her life she lived in a room filled with icons, where she would sit cross-legged on her bed and receive visitors. She never bemoaned her blindness or paralysis; once she said "A day came when God opened my eyes, and I saw the light of the sun, the stars and all that exists in the world: the rivers, the forests, the sea and the whole creation."
In 1925 she settled in Moscow. After the death of her mother in 1945, she moved frequently, living secretly in the homes of the faithful. Despite this, throngs of believers found their way to her for counsel and healing. The Communist authorities, knowing her holy influence, sought many times to arrest her; but she always knew in advance when they were coming, and would be moved to a different secret location. She fasted much, slept rarely, and it is said that her forehead was dented by the countless signs of the Cross that she made.
Of the persecution of the Church by the Communists, she simply said that this was due to the sins and lack of faith of the Christians, and added, "Difficult times are our lot, but we Christians must choose the Cross. Christ has placed us on His sleigh, and He will take us where He will."
Having foreseen the day of her death, she said, "Come close, all of you, and tell me of your troubles as though I were alive! I'll see you; I'll hear you, and I'll come to your aid." She reposed in peace on April 19, 1952 (May 2 on the new calendar). Many miracles occurred at her tomb. In 1998 her relics were moved to the women's Monastery of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God, where thousands of Orthodox Christians come to venerate her and, as she asked, to bring her their problems and concerns as though she were alive on earth.
She was glorified by the Church of Russia in 1999, for local veneration in the Diocese of Moscow.
- April 20
- St Theodore Trichinas (the Hair-shirt wearer), hermit near Constantinople (400)
- He was born in Constantinople to well-off and pious parents. He became a monastic in Thrace, and subjected himself to many ascetic labors, one of which was always to dress in a hair-shirt, from which he was called "Trichinas" (meaning "hairy"). He was granted the gift of working miracles, both during his lifetime and after his repose. His relics exuded a healing myrrh.
- Holy Apostle Zaccheus
- This is the tax-collector Zaccheus whom Jesus called down from the tree in Jericho (Luke ch. 19). He became a faithful disciple and, after the Resurrection, a companion of the Apostle Peter. He became Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, where he served faithfully and reposed in peace.
- April 21
- Hieromartyr Januarius and those with him (305)
- These martyrs gave glorious witness to Christ during the persecutions of Diocletian. St Januarius, Bishop of Benevento in Italy, was arrested and cast into a burning furnace, but he stood in the midst of the flames, singing praises to God, and emerged unharmed. After other cruel tortures, he was bound and cast in prison in Pozzuoli, along with his deacon Faustus and his reader Desiderius. With them in prison were two deacons from Pozzuoli, Proclus and Sossus, and two laymen, Eutychius and Acutius. All seven were cast to wild beasts; but when the animals came near the Saints, they fell affectionately at their feet and refused to harm them. Finally, all seven Christians were beheaded. Some Christians from Naples secretly took the body of Januarius and buried it in their church. Countless wonders have been worked at his grave, including the restoration of a dead man to life.
- April 22
- Our Holy Father Theodore of Sykeon (613)
- He was born in Sykeon in Galatia in Asia Minor. (The Great Horologion says that he was born out of wedlock; the Prologue that his mother, Maria, was a rich widow; in either case, he was reared by his mother alone). At the age of ten, Theodore took up a life of strict asceticism, devoting himself to prayer, fasting and vigils. His mother planned for him to enter the military; but St George appeared to her in a dream, telling her that Theodore was to serve the King of Heaven rather than any earthly king. After this, Saint George appeared to Theodore many times, sometimes instructing him, sometimes saving him from danger. After a trip to the Holy Land, Theodore became a monk in Galatia — we should say "officially became a monk," since he had been living as a monk from the age of ten. Once he had taken monastic vows, Theodore redoubled his ascetical labors, which exceeded those of any other monk of his time: for his asceticism, he was sometimes called the "Iron-eater." Around 584 was ordained Bishop of Anastasiopolis in Galatia, much against his will. He served his flock faithfully for ten years, then begged to be relieved of his episcopal duties so that he might return to his beloved monastic life. Even during his lifetime, he was famed for his miracles and his authority to cast out demons. He departed this life in peace in 613.
- Holy Martyr Leonidas (202)
- He was the father of Origen, the great early Christian writer. For
his constant faith in Christ, he was first deprived of all his property, then condemned to death. Origen wrote to his father in prison: "Father, do not worry about us, and do not flee from martyrdom on our account."
- Our Holy Father, the monk Vitalis
- See his main commemoration on January 11.
- April 23
- † Holy Glorious Great-martyr, Victory-bearer and Wonderworker George (303)
- "George, this truly great and glorious Martyr of Christ, was born of a father from Cappadocia and a mother from Palestine. Being a military tribune, or chiliarch (that is, a commander of a thousand troops), he was illustrious in battle and highly honored for his courage. When he learned that the Emperor Diocletian was preparing a persecution of the Christians, Saint George presented himself publicly before the Emperor and denounced him. When threats and promises could not move him from his steadfast confession, he was put to unheard-of tortures, which he endured with great bravery, overcoming them by his faith and love towards Christ. By the wondrous signs that took place in his contest, he guided many to the knowledge of the truth, including Queen Alexandra, wife of Diocletion, and was finally beheaded in 296 in Nicomedia." (Great Horologion)
The Empress Alexandra, along with a pagan priest who confessed Christ due to George's witness, were executed together with the Great Martyr. St Alexandra is commemorated on April 21/May 4.
Neither the Great Horologion nor the Prologue, nor the Church's services to St George, mention the most popular story of St George, his slaying of a dragon. Though many icons of the Saint show him mounted on horseback, slaying a dragon with a spear, the story is thought by many to be legendary, and the dragon in the icon symbolic.
- April 24
- Martyr Sabbas Strateletes ("the General") of Rome, and 70 soldiers with him (272)
- He came from a noble Gothic family. Like St George, he was an officer in the imperial army. He lived a life of great purity, fasted greatly, and often visited imprisoned Christians. Because of this his Christian faith became known, and when he was summoned before the Emperor, he boldly confessed his faith. He was tortured in many ways, but emerged unharmed. Seeing this miracle, seventy of his fellow-soldiers confessed Christ and were beheaded at the Emperor's command. Sabbas himself was condemned to death by drowning, and gave his soul to God in 272.
- April 25
- † Holy Apostle and Evangelist Mark (68?)
- "Mark was an idolater from Cyrene of Pentapolis, which is near Libya. Having come to the Faith of Christ through the Apostle Peter, he followed him to Rome. While there, at the prompting of Peter himself and at the request of the Christians living there, he wrote his Gospel in Greek... Afterwards, travelling in Egypt, he preached the Gospel there and was the first to establish the Church in Alexandria. The idolators, unable to bear his preaching, seized him, bound him with ropes, and dragged him through the streets until he, cut to pieces on rocks, gave up his soul. It is said that he completed his life in martyrdom about the year 68. He is depicted in holy icons with a lion next to him, one of the living creatures mentioned by Ezekiel (1:10), and a symbol of Christ's royal office, as St Irenaeus of Lyons writes." (Great Horologion)
- Saint Ananias, Second Bishop of Alexandria (1st c.)
- When St Mark the Apostle first came to Alexandria, he tore one of his shoes and took it to a cobbler. While the cobbler, whose name was Ananias, was working, he drove his awl through his hand, injuring himself badly. The Apostle mixed dust with his spittle and anointed the hand, which immediately became whole. Amazed at the miracle, Ananias invited St Mark to his house, listened to him as he proclaimed the Gospel, believed, and was baptized along with his household. Such was Ananias' zeal for the Gospel that St Mark made him bishop of the Christians in the city. He was the second Bishop of Alexandria.
- April 26
- Hieromartyr Basil, bishop of Amasia and Righteous Virgin Glaphyra (322)
- Licinius was co-emperor with Constantine the Great. At his accession, he had agreed to tolerate Christianity in his territories, but soon turned to persecuting the Christians, and to a variety of carnal sins. He conceived a passion for Glaphyra, a Christian virgin handmaid of the Empress Constantia. When Glaphyra told Constantia of this, the Empress sent her away to Amasia in the East for her protection. There she was received and protected by Bishop Basil of that city. Licinius learned where Glaphyra was hiding and ordered that both she and the bishop be brought to him as prisoners. The soldiers who came for her found that she had already died, so they returned with only Bishop Basil, who was subjected to cruel tortures, then beheaded. His body was cast into the sea, but, with the help of an angel of God, his people found his body, retrieved it from the sea, and returned it to Amasia.
The Prologue adds, "The Emperor Constantine raised an army against Licinius, overcame him, arrested him and sent him into exile in Gaul, where he ended his God-hating days."
- St Stephen,Bishop of Perm (1396)
- As a young man he entered monastic life at the monastery of St Gregory the Theologian in Rostov. Learning that the land of Perm (on the western slopes of the Ural Mountains) was still immured in paganism, he was filled with a desire to bring the Gospel to its people. He set about learning the language, created an alphabet and translated the service books. With the blessing of the Metropolitan of Moscow he then set out and began his apostolic labors. When, after much difficulty and many sufferings, he had gathered a community of baptised Christians, he was made Bishop of the region. Once, in his old age, he returned to Moscow, where he reposed in 1396.
- April 27
- † Hieromartyr Symeon the Kinsman of the Lord (107)
- He was the nephew of Joseph the Betrothed, and one of the Seventy. When the Apostle James, first Bishop of Jerusalem, was martyred, St Symeon was named to replace him. As second Bishop of Jerusalem he governed the Church there to a very great age. In the time of the Emperor Trajan a persecution broke out in Palestine against both Christians and Jews; Symeon was condemned on both counts, and was privileged to die, like his Lord, by crucifixion. He was 120 years old.
- Our Holy Father Stephen, Abbot of the Kiev Caves and Bishop of Vladimir (1094)
- He was a disciple of St Theodosius of the Kiev Caves (commemorated May 3), and became abbot of the Monastery of the Caves. After many years of faithful service he fell victim the intrigues of a monk against him, lost his abbacy and was even driven from the monastery. In God's time the holy monk was vindicated and made Bishop of Vladimir. There he guided the Church for many years, reposing peacefully in old age in 1094.
- Burning of the relics of St Sava I of Serbia by the Turks (1594)
- At the time of the Turkish occupation, so many Serbian Christians gathered around the relics of St Sava (at Mileseva), pleading for his intercession, that the Ottoman ruler, Sinan Pasha, feared that the relics would become the focus of a popular rebellion. He therefore had the relics brought to Belgrade and burned. The Pasha is long gone; the Saint continues to intercede for his people and for the world.
- April 28
- The Nine Martyrs at Cyzicus (3rd c.)
- These nine holy Martyrs were from various places, but when they refused to offer sacrifice to idols or to deny Christ, all were beheaded together in Cyzicus, a city in Asia Minor on the coast of the Sea of Marmara. Their names were Theognis, Rufus, Antipater, Theostoichus, Artemas, Magnus, Theodotus, Thaumasilas and Philemon. During the reign of the Emperor Constantine a church was built in Cyzicus in their honor, and their incorrupt relics were deposited there.
They are commemorated April 29 on the Slavic calendar.
- April 29
- Apostles Jason and Sosipater
- Both were disciples of the Apostle Paul, who mentions them in his Epistle to the Romans: "Jason and Sosipater my kinsmen greet you" (16:21). Jason was born in Tarsus of Cilicia (as was the Apostle Paul), and became bishop of that town. Sosipater was from Patras of Achaia (now Greece), and became bishop of Iconium. After serving their flocks for many years, these two travelled together to Corfu, where they were the first to preach the Gospel. They were furiously opposed by the ruler of that island, but when he died, the new king came to faith in Christ and was baptised with the name Sebastian. Jason and Sosipater remained on Corfu, freely preaching the Gospel and building up the Church until they reposed in great old age. An ancient church in the city of Corfu, dating from the first centuries, bears inscriptions that mention the Saints by name.
They are commemorated April 28 on the Slavic calendar.
- St Basil, bishop of Ostrog in Montenegro (Serbia) (1671)
- As a monk, he was known for his very severe asceticism. Against his will, he was made Bishop of Zahum, where he served his flock faithfully for many years, "keeping it from the cruelty of the Turks and the guile of the Latins" (Prologue). When his monastery was destroyed by the Turks he moved to Ostrog, where he reposed. His body has remained whole, incorrupt, healing and wonderworking to this day. Innumerable miracles have been worked at his grave; both Christians and Muslims seek out his relics for healing
from sicknesses and sufferings.
(A story heard from a parishioner at St Basil of Ostrog Church in Illinois: while the Saint's relics remain intact, reputedly his shoes wear out from time to time and need to be replaced.)
- St Nektary of Optina (1928)
- April 30
- † Holy Apostle James, the brother of St John the Theologian (45)
- "The son of Zebedee and brother of John, he was one of the Twelve. At the call of the Lord Jesus, he left his fishing nets and his father and, together with John, immediately followed Christ. He was one of the three apostles to whom the Lord revealed the greatest mysteries: before whom He was transfigured on Tabor and before whom He was in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane before His Passion. After receiving the Holy Spirit, he preached the Gospel in various places, going as far as Spain. On his return from Spain, a violent quarrel broke out between the Jews and himself on the Holy Scriptures, and, being unable to withstand him, they hired a magician, Hermogenes. But Hermogenes and Philip his pupil were overcome by the power and truth that James preached, and were baptised. Then the Jews denounced him to Herod, and persuaded one Josias to slander the Apostle. This Josias, seeing James's manly bearing and hearing his clear preaching of the truth, repented and came to faith in Christ. When James was condemned to death, this Josias was also condemned. Mounting the scaffold, Josias begged James's forgiveness for the sin of slander, and James embraced him, kissing him and saying: 'peace be to thee, and forgiveness.' And they both laid their heads under the sword and were beheaded for the sake of the Lord whom they had loved and served. St James suffered in Jerusalem in the year 45. His body was taken to Spain, where to this day miracles of healing are performed at his tomb." (Prologue)
His relics are venerated at his shrine in Compostela, Spain.
- St Ignatius (Brianchaninov), Bishop of Stavropol and Kavkaz (1867)
- He was born in 1807 into Russian aristocracy — his father was a wealthy provincial gentleman. From a very early age he felt strongly called to monastic life, but at that time it was almost unheard of for a nobleman to take such a path, and Dimitri (as he was called in baptism) entered the Pioneer Military School in St Petersburg. There he distinguished himself, and even attracted the attention of Grand Duke Nicholas Pavlovich, an event which would profoundly affect his later life.
Despite his excellent record at the academy, young Dimitri still longed only for the things of God. In 1827 he graduated from the school and was commissioned as an officer in the army, but soon fell critically ill, and was granted a discharge. This proved to be providential: when he recovered his health, he immediately became a novice, living at several different monasteries and coming under the spiritual care of Starets Leonid, one of the celebrated fathers of the Optina monastery. In 1821 he took his monastic vows and received the name Ignatius. Soon afterwards he was ordained to the priesthood.
Soon after the newly-professed Fr Ignatius had entered the seclusion that he sought, Tsar Nicholas I — the former Grand Duke Nicholas — visited the Pioneer Military School and asked what had become of the promising cadet he had met a few years before. When the Tsar learned that the former Dimitri was now a monk, he sought him out, had him elevated to the rank of Archimandrite (at age 26!) and made him Superior of the St Sergius Monastery in St Petersburg. Tsar Nicholas instructed him to make the monastery a model for all Russian religious communities. Though he had desired only a life of solitude and prayer, the new Archimandrite devoted himself conscientiously to fulfilling the Tsar's charge. The monastery did in fact become a kind of standard for Russian monasticism, and its abbot acquired many spiritual children, not only among his monks but among the laity in the capital.
After twenty-four years as superior of the monastery, St Iganatius was elevated to the episcopate in 1857, first as Bishop of Stavropol, then as Bishop of Kavkaz. Only four years later (aged 54) he resigned and spent the rest of his life in reclusion at the Nicolo-Babaevsky Monastery in the diocese of Kostromo. There he continued the large body of spiritual writings for which he is well known. His printed Works fills five volumes; of these, at least two major works have been translated into English: On the Prayer of Jesus and The Arena: an offering to contemporary monasticism. Both are gems of spiritual writing, profitable to every serious Orthodox Christian.
St Ignatius reposed in peace in 1867. He was glorified in 1988 by the Moscow Patriarchate, during the millennial celebrations in that year. Saints Andrei Rublev, Xenia of Petersburg, Theophan the Recluse and others were glorified in the same observances.