Lives of all saints commemorated on February 26


St Porphyrius the Bishop of Gaza

Saint Porphyrius, Archbishop of Gaza, was born about the year 346 at Thessalonica. His parents were people of substance, and this allowed St Porphyrius to receive a fine education. Having the inclination for monastic life, he left his native region at twenty-five years of age and set off for Egypt, where he lived in the Nitrian desert under the guidance of St Macarius the Great (January 19). There he also met St Jerome (June 15), who was then visiting the Egyptian monasteries. He went to Jerusalem on pilgrimage to the holy places, and to venerate the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord (September 14), then he moved into a cave in the Jordanian wilderness for prayer and ascetic deeds.

After five years, St Porphyrius was afflicted with a serious malady of the legs. He decided to go to the holy places of Jerusalem to pray for healing. As he lay half-conscious at the foot of Golgotha, St Porphyrius fell into a sort of trance. He beheld Jesus Christ descending from the Cross and saying to him, “Take this Wood and preserve it.”

Coming out of his trance, he found himself healthy and free from pain. Then he gave away all his money to the poor and for the adornment of the churches of God. For a time he supported himself by working as a shoemaker. The words of the Savior were fulfilled when the saint was forty-five years old. The Patriarch of Jerusalem ordained St Porphyrius to the holy priesthood and appointed him custodian of the Venerable Wood of the Cross of the Lord.

In 395 the bishop of the city of Gaza (in Palestine) died. The local Christians went to Caesarea to ask Metropolitan John to send them a new bishop who would be able to contend against the pagans, which were predominant in their city and were harassing the Christians there. The Lord inspired the Metropolitan to summon the priest Porphyrius. With fear and trembling the ascetic accepted the office of bishop, and with tears he prostrated himself before the Life-Creating Wood and went to fulfill his new obedience.

In Gaza there were only three Christian churches, but there were a great many pagan temples and idols. During this time there had been a long spell without rain, causing a severe drought. The pagan priests brought offerings to their idols, but the woes did not cease. St Porphyrius imposed a fast for all the Christians; he then served an all-night Vigil, followed by a church procession around the city. Immediately the sky covered over with storm clouds, thunder boomed, and abundant rains poured down. Seeing this miracle, many pagans cried out, “Christ is indeed the only true God!” As a result of this, 127 men, thirty-five women and fourteen children were united to the Church through Holy Baptism, and another 110 men soon after this.

The pagans continued to harass the Christians. They passed them over for public office, and burdened them with taxes. St Porphyrius and Metropolitan John of Caesarea journeyed to Constantinople to seek redress from the emperor. St John Chrysostom (September 14, January 27 and 30) received them and assisted them.

Ss. John and Porphyrius were presented to the empress Eudoxia who was expecting a child at that time. “Intercede for us,” said the bishops to the empress, “and the Lord will send you a son, who shall reign during your lifetime”. Eudoxia very much wanted a son, since she had given birth only to daughters. Through the prayer of the saints an heir was born to the imperial family. As a result of this, the emperor issued an edict in 401 ordering the destruction of pagan temples in Gaza and the restoration of privileges to Christians. Moreover, the emperor gave the saints money for the construction of a new church, which was to be built in Gaza on the site of the chief pagan temple.

St Porphyrius upheld Christianity in Gaza to the very end of his life, and guarded his flock from the vexatious pagans. Through the prayers of the saint numerous miracles and healings occurred. The holy archpastor guided his flock for twenty-five years, and reposed in 420 at an advanced age.


Venerable Sebastian of Poshekhonye

Saint Sebastian of Sokhota, Poshekhonye, founded a monastery in honor of the Transfiguration of the Lord, located at the River Sokhota, 90 versts from the city of Romanov (now Tutaev) in the Yaroslav district. The monks of the monastery themselves cultivated the soil and ate through the work of their own hands. The founder of the monastery taught the ascetics this by his own example and guidance. St Sebastian reposed about the year 1500.

The Transfiguration monastery on the River Sokhota was later annexed to the Cherepovets Ascension monastery, and in 1764 closed down. In the mid-nineteenth century a stone church was built over the relics of St Sebastian. The saint is also commemorated on December 18. .


Martyr Sebastian

The Holy Martyrs Sebastian and Christodoulus died by the sword under Nero (54-68). They were companions of the holy Martyr Photina (March 20).


Martyr Christodoulos

The Holy Martyrs Christodoulus and Sebastian died by the sword under Nero (54-68). They were companions of the holy Martyr Photina (March 20).


New Martyr John Kalphes, the Apprentice

The Holy New Martyr John Kalphes (the Apprentice) lived in a suburb of Constantinople, called Galata. He was a cabinetmaker by profession, and he had acquired great skill in his craft, so that important officials made use of his services. He was entrusted with the inner adornment of the sultan’s palace.

St John Kalphes was distinguished for his Christian charity, he provided for orphans and those locked up in prison, and many turned to him for help. One time a certain dignitary asked St John to take on his nephew as an apprentice. He agreed, and the youth received an honorable position at court upon the completion of his apprenticeship.

Once, encountering his former teacher and benefactor, he asked St John what it says in the Christian books about their “prophet” Mohammed. St John did not want to answer his question, but because of the persistent demands of the youth, he declared that Mohammed was a mere mortal, an uneducated man who did not perform a single miracle during his lifetime. He went on to say that Mohammed was no prophet, but rather an adversary of God. The youth, devoted to Islam, reported to his fellow Moslems that the cabinetmaker had insulted Mohammed.

St John was brought to trial, where they demanded that he renounce Christ, but he bravely confessed his faith in Christ. After torture, they sent the holy martyr off to penal servitude, where he spent six months. Then, for the next three months they beat him in the prison. Seeing that they could not coerce him into submitting to their will, they beheaded him in the crowded city square in Ergat-Bazara, near the Bedestan (a covered bazaar) on February 26, 1575.

The suffering of the holy Martyr John Kalphes were recorded by Father Andrew, the Chief Steward (Megas Oikonomos) of the Patriarch of Constantinople, who communed him with the Holy Mysteries in prison.