Lives of all saints commemorated on February 28


Venerable Basil the Confessor, companion of the Venerable Procopius at Decapolis

Saint Basil the Confessor was a monk and suffered during the reign of the iconoclast emperor Leo the Isaurian (717-741). When a persecution started against those who venerated holy icons, St Basil and his companion St Procopius of Decapolis (February 27) were subjected to much torture and locked up in prison. Here both martyrs languished for a long while, until the death of the impious emperor.

When the holy Confessors Basil and Procopius were set free along with other venerators of holy icons, they continued in their monastic struggles, instructing many in the Orthodox Faith and the virtuous life. St Basil died peacefully in the year 750.


Blessed Nicholas (Salos) of Pskov the Fool-For-Christ

Blessed Nicholas of Pskov lived the life of a holy fool for more than three decades. Long before his death he acquired the grace of the Holy Spirit and was granted the gifts of wonderworking and of prophecy. The Pskov people of his time called him Mikula [Mikola, Nikola] the Fool. Even during his lifetime they revered him as a saint, even calling him Mikula the saintly.

In February 1570, after a devastating campaign against Novgorod, Tsar Ivan the Terrible moved against Pskov, suspecting the inhabitants of treason. As the Pskov Chronicler relates, “the Tsar came ... with great fierceness, like a roaring lion, to tear apart innocent people and to shed much blood.”

On the first Saturday of Great Lent, the whole city prayed to be delivered from the Tsar’s wrath. Hearing the peal of the bell for Matins in Pskov, the Tsar’s heart was softened when he read the inscription on the fifteenth century wonderworking Liubyatov Tenderness Icon of the Mother of God (March 19) in the Monastery of St Nicholas (the Tsar’s army was at Lubyatov). “Be tender of heart,” he said to his soldiers. “Blunt your swords upon the stones, and let there be an end to killing.”

All the inhabitants of Pskov came out upon the streets, and each family knelt at the gate of their house, bearing bread and salt to the meet the Tsar. On one of the streets Blessed Nicholas ran toward the Tsar astride a stick as though riding a horse, and cried out: “Ivanushko, Ivanushko, eat our bread and salt, and not Christian blood.”

The Tsar gave orders to capture the holy fool, but he disappeared.

Though he had forbidden his men to kill, Ivan still intended to sack the city. The Tsar attended a Molieben at the Trinity cathedral, and he venerated the relics of holy Prince Vsevolod-Gabriel (February 11), and expressed his wish to receive the blessing of the holy fool Nicholas. The saint instructed the Tsar “by many terrible sayings,” to stop the killing and not to plunder the holy churches of God. But Ivan did not heed him and gave orders to remove the bell from the Trinity cathedral. Then, as the saint prophesied, the Tsar’s finest horse fell dead.

The blessed one invited the Tsar to visit his cell under the belltower. When the Tsar arrived at the cell of the saint, he said, “Hush, come in and have a drink of water from us, there is no reason you should shun it.” Then the holy fool offered the Tsar a piece of raw meat.

“I am a Christian and do not eat meat during Lent”, said Ivan to him. “But you drink human blood,” the saint replied.

Frightened by the fulfillment of the saint’s prophecy and denounced for his wicked deeds, Ivan the Terrible ordered a stop to the looting and fled from the city. The Oprichniki, witnessing this, wrote: “The mighty tyrant ... departed beaten and shamed, driven off as though by an enemy. Thus did a worthless beggar terrify and drive off the Tsar with his multitude of a thousand soldiers.”

Blessed Nicholas died on February 28, 1576 and was buried in the Trinity cathedral of the city he had saved. Such honors were granted only to the Pskov princes, and later on, to bishops.

The local veneration of the saint began five years after his death. In the year 1581, during a siege of Pskov by the soldiers of the Polish king Stephen Bathory, the Mother of God appeared to the blacksmith Dorotheus together with a number of Pskov saints praying for the city. Among these was Blessed Nicholas (the account about the Pskov-Protection Icon of the Mother of God is found under October 1).

At the Trinity cathedral they still venerate the relics of Blessed Nicholas of Pskov, who was “a holy fool in the flesh, and by assuming this holy folly he became a citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem” (Troparion). He also “transformed the Tsar’s wild thoughts into mercy” (Kontakion).


Hieromartyr Proterius the Patriarch of Alexandria

The Hieromartyr Proterius, Patriarch of Alexandria, and those with him. The priest Proterius lived in Alexandria during the patriarchal tenure of Dioscorus (444-451), an adherent of the Monophysite heresy of Eutyches. Proterius fearlessly denounced the heretics and confessed the Orthodox Faith.

In 451 at the Fourth Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, the heresy of Eutyches was condemned and the teaching of Christ as Perfect God and Perfect Man, existing in these two natures “unconfusedly” and “indivisibly” [and “immutably” and “inseparably”] was set forth. The heretic Dioscorus was deposed and exiled, and Proterius, distinguished for his strict and virtuous life, was placed upon the patriarchal throne of Alexandria.

However, many supporters of Dioscorus remained in Alexandria. Rebelling against the election of Proterius, they rioted and burned the soldiers who were sent out to pacify them. The pious emperor Marcian (450-457) deprived the Alexandrians of all the privileges they were accustomed to, and sent new and reinforced detachments of soldiers. The inhabitants of the city then quieted down and begged Patriarch Proterius to intercede with the emperor to restore their former privileges to them. The kindly saint consented and readily obtained their request.

After the death of Marcian the heretics again raised their heads. Presbyter Menignus (“the Cat”), himself striving for the patriarchal dignity, and taking advantage of the absence of the prefect of the city, was at the head of the rioters. St Proterius decided to leave Alexandria, but that night he saw in a dream the holy Prophet Isaiah, who said to him, “Return to the city, I am waiting to take you.” The saint realized that this was a prediction of his martyric end. He returned to Alexandria and concealed himself in a baptistry.

The insolent heretics broke into this refuge and killed the Patriarch and six men who were with him. The fact that it was Holy Saturday and the Canon of Pascha was being sung did not stop them. In their insane hatred they tied a rope to the body of the murdered Patriarch, and dragged it through the streets. They beat and lacerated it, and finally they burned it, scattering the ashes to the wind.

The Orthodox reported this to the holy Emperor Leo (457-474) and St Anatolius, Patriarch of Constantinople (July 3). An army arrived at Alexandria, the rebellion was crushed, and Menignus was brought to trial and exiled.

Regarding the death of the Hieromartyr Proterius, four Thracian bishops of his time wrote: “We consider His Holiness Proterius to be in the ranks and choir of the saints, and we beseech God to be compassionate and merciful to us through his prayers.”


Hieromartyr Nestor the Bishop of Magydos in Pamphylia

The Hieromartyr Nestor, Bishop of Magydos in Pamphylia During a persecution against Christians under the emperor Decius (249-251), he was arrested while praying in his home. He learned of the suffering awaiting him through a peculiar vision. He saw a lamb prepared for sacrifice.

The ruler of the city of Magydos sent him for trial to Perge. On the way there St Nestor was strengthened in spirit when he heard a Voice from Heaven, after which an earthquake occurred. After cruel tortures at Perge the hieromartyr was crucified in the year 250.


Venerable Marana of Syria

Saints Marana and Kyra, sisters by birth, lived during the fourth century in the city of Veria (or Berea) in Syria. Their parents were illustrious and rich, but the sisters left home and departed the city when they had reached maturity.

Having cleared off a small plot of land, the holy virgins sealed up the entrance to their refuge with rocks and clay, leaving only a narrow opening through which food was passed to them. Their little hut had no roof, and so they were exposed to the elements.

On their bodies they wore heavy iron chains and patiently endured hunger. During a three year period, they ate food only once every forty days. Their former servants came to them, wanting to join their ascetic life. The saints put them in a separate hut next to their own enclosure and they spoke to them through a window, exhorting them to deeds of prayer and fasting.

The life of the holy ascetics Marana and Kyra was described by Bishop Theodoret of Cyrrhus in his RELIGIOSA HISTORIA. Out of respect for his hierarchical dignity, the holy virgins allowed him into their dwelling. Theodoret conversed with them and persuaded them to remove the heavy chains they wore under their clothing. Kyra, who was weak in body, was always stooped under their weight and was unable to sit upright. Once he left, however, they resumed wearing the chains.

So they lived in asceticism for forty years. They disturbed their solitude only to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to pray at the Sepulchre of the Lord. During their journey (which took twenty days) they ate no food until they had prayed at the Holy Places. On the way back, they also went without eating. They did the same thing at another time, when they journeyed to the grave of the Protomartyr Thekla (September 24) at Seleucia, Isauria.

Sts Marana and Kyra died in about the year 450. Their ascetical life equalled that of the great male ascetics of the desert, and they received the same crown of victory from Christ the Savior.


Venerable Kyra of Syria

Saints Marana and Kyra, sisters by birth, lived during the fourth century in the city of Veria (or Berea) in Syria. Their parents were illustrious and rich, but the sisters left home and departed the city when they had reached maturity.

Having cleared off a small plot of land, the holy virgins sealed up the entrance to their refuge with rocks and clay, leaving only a narrow opening through which food was passed to them. Their little hut had no roof, and so they were exposed to the elements.

On their bodies they wore heavy iron chains and patiently endured hunger. During a three year period, they ate food only once every forty days. Their former servants came to them, wanting to join their ascetic life. The saints put them in a separate hut next to their own enclosure and they spoke to them through a window, exhorting them to deeds of prayer and fasting.

The life of the holy ascetics Marana and Kyra was described by Bishop Theodoret of Cyrrhus in his RELIGIOSA HISTORIA. Out of respect for his hierarchical dignity, the holy virgins allowed him into their dwelling. Theodoret conversed with them and persuaded them to remove the heavy chains they wore under their clothing. Kyra, who was weak in body, was always stooped under their weight and was unable to sit upright. Once he left, however, they resumed wearing the chains.

So they lived in asceticism for forty years. They disturbed their solitude only to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to pray at the Sepulchre of the Lord. During their journey (which took twenty days) they ate no food until they had prayed at the Holy Places. On the way back, they also went without eating. They did the same thing at another time, when they journeyed to the grave of the Protomartyr Thekla (September 24) at Seleucia, Isauria.

Sts Marana and Kyra died in about the year 450. Their ascetical life equalled that of the great male ascetics of the desert, and they received the same crown of victory from Christ the Savior.


Venerable Domnica (Domnina) of Syria

Saint Domnica (Domnina) was a Syrian nun, and a companion of Sts Marana and Kyra.


Venerable John Cassian the Roman

Saint John Cassian the Roman was born around 360, probably in Lesser Scythia (in Dacia Pontica). His pious Christian parents gave him an excellent classical education, and also instructed him in the Holy Scriptures and in the spiritual life.

St John entered a monastery in the diocese of Tomis, where his friend and relative St Germanus labored as an ascetic. In 380, desiring to venerate the Holy Places, St John went to Jerusalem with his sister and his friend St Germanus. The two monks stayed at a Bethlehem monastery, not far from where the Savior was born.

After five years at the monastery, Sts John and Germanus traveled through the Thebaid and the desert monasteries of Sketis for seven years, drawing upon the spiritual experience of countless ascetics. The Egyptian monks taught them many useful things about spiritual struggles, prayer, and humility. Like honeybees they journeyed from place to place, gathering the sweet nectar of spiritual wisdom. The notes St John made formed the basis of his book called CONFERENCES WITH THE FATHERS in twenty-four chapters.

Returning to Bethlehem for a brief time, the spiritual brothers lived for three years in complete solitude. Then they went back to Egypt and lived there until 399. Because of the disturbances caused by Archbishop Theophilus of Alexandria to the monasteries along the Nile, they decided to go to Constantinople, after hearing of the virtue and holiness of St John Chrysostom. The great hierarch ordained St John Cassian as a deacon and accepted him as a disciple. John and Germanus remained with St John Chrysostom for five years, learning many profitable things from him.

When Chrysostom was exiled from Constantinople in 404, Sts John Cassian and Germanus went to Rome to plead his case before Innocent I. Cassian was ordained to the holy priesthood in Rome, or perhaps later in Gaul. After Chrysostom’s death in 407, St John Cassian went to Massilia [Marseilles] in Gaul (now France). There he established two cenobitic monasteries in 415, one for men and another for women, based on the model of Eastern monasticism.

At the request of Bishop Castor of Aptia Julia (in southern Gaul), Cassian wrote THE INSTITUTES OF CENOBITIC LIFE (De Institutis Coenobiorum) in twelve books, describing the life of the Palestinian and Egyptian monks. Written between 417-419, the volume included four books describing the clothing of the monks of Palestine and Egypt, their schedule of prayer and services, and how new monks were received into the monasteries.The last eight books were devoted to the eight deadly sins and how to overcome them. Through his writings, St John Cassian provided Christians of the West with examples of cenobitic monasteries, and acquainted them with the asceticism of the Orthodox East.

Cassian speaks as a spiritual guide about the purpose of life, about attaining discernment, about renunciation of the world, about the passions of the flesh and spirit, about the hardships faced by the righteous, and about prayer.

St John Cassian also wrote CONFERENCES WITH THE FATHERS (Collationes Patrum) in twenty-four books in the form of conversations about the perfection of love, about purity, about God’s help, about understanding Scripture, about the gifts of God, about friendship, about the use of language, about the four levels of monasticism, about the solitary life and cenobitic life, about repentance, about fasting, about nightly meditations, and about spiritual mortification. This last has the explanatory title “I do what I do not want to do.”

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Books 1-10 of the CONFERENCES describe St John’s conversations with the Fathers of Sketis between 393-399. Books 11-17 relate conversations with the Fathers of Panephysis, and the last seven books are devoted to conversations with monks from the region of Diolkos.

In 431 St John Cassian wrote his final work, ON THE INCARNATION OF THE LORD, AGAINST NESTORIUS (De Incarnationem Domini Contra Nestorium). In seven books he opposed the heresy, citing many Eastern and Western teachers to support his arguments.

In his works, St John Cassian was grounded in the spiritual experience of the ascetics, and criticized the abstract reasoning of St Augustine (June 15). St John said that “grace is defended less adequately by pompous words and loquacious contention, dialectic syllogisms and the eloquence of Cicero (i.e. Augustine), than by the example of the Egyptian ascetics.” In the words of St John of the Ladder (March 30), “great Cassian reasons loftily and excellently.” His writings are also praised in the Rule of St Benedict.

St John Cassian lived in the West for many years, but his spiritual homeland was the Orthodox East. He fell asleep in the Lord in the year 435. His holy relics rest in an underground chapel in the Monastery of St Victor in Marseilles. His head and right hand are in the main church.


Venerable John-Barsanuphius the Bishop of Damascus

Saint John, called Barsanuphius, was a native of Palestine. He was baptized when he was eighteen years old, and later became a monk. Because of his ascetic life, St John was consecrated Archbishop of Damascus. Because of his love for the solitary life, St John gave up his position as hierarch and secretly withdrew to Alexandria, calling himself Barsanuphius. Then he went into the Nitrian desert, arrived at a monastery, and begged the igumen to accept him into the monastery to serve the Elders. He conscientiously fulfilled this obedience by day, and spent his nights in prayer.

Theodore of Nitria saw the monk, and knew that he was a bishop. St John concealed himself again and withdrew into Egypt, where he lived in asceticism until the end of his days.


Martyr Theokteristus

The Holy Martyr Theokteristus, Igumen of the Pelekete monastery, suffered for the holy icons under the impious emperor Constantine Copronymos (741-775). Also subjected to tortures were St Stephen the New (November 28), and other pious monks. St Theokteristus was burned with boiling tar.

The holy martyr was a spiritual writer, and composed a Canon to the Mother of God “Sustainer in Many Misfortunes.”


St Leo of Cappadocia

Saint Leo of Cappadocia fulfilled the commandment to love his neighbor by suggesting to the Saracens, who had captured three sickly monks, that he take the place of these infirm captives with himself, since he was healthy and able to work.

While journeying in the desert, St Leo weakened and was not able to go any farther. He was beheaded with the sword, thereby laying down his life for his neighbor.


St Meletius, Archbishop of Kharkov and Akhtyr

Saint Meletius, Archbishop of Kharkov and Akhtyr (in the world Michael Ivanovich Leontovich), was born November 6, 1784 in the village of Stara Stanzhara in the Poltava district.

In 1808 Michael Leontovich successfully completed the Ekaterinoslav Seminary. As the best student, he was sent by Archbishop Platon of Ekterinoslav to Peterburg, to the St Alexander Nevsky Spiritual Academy [in Russia, “spiritual academy” is higher level of religious training beyond seminary]. Finishing the spiritual academy in 1814 with the degree of “magister” [“teacher”], he was appointed adjunct-professor of Greek.

On March 11, 1817 Michael Leontovich was appointed to the office of secretary of the Academy Building committee.

On July 30, 1817 they transferred him to the Kiev Seminary, to serve as inspector and professor of Church History and Greek. When the Kiev Spiritual Academy opened on September 28, 1819, Michael Leontovich became its first inspector.

On February 11, 1820, on the eve of the Feast of St Meletius of Antioch, in the cathedral church of the Kiev-Bratsk monastery, he was tonsured into monasticism with the name Meletius. The tonsure was done by Metropolitan Eugene (Bolkhovitnikov) of Kiev. On February 22, 1820 St Meletius was ordained deacon by Metropolitan Eugene, and to the priesthood on February 25.

On August 9, 1821 Hieromonk Meletius was appointed rector of the Mogilev Seminary and head of the Kutein Orshansk monastery with the rank of archimandrite. In August 1823 he was made rector of the Pskov Seminary, and on January 24, 1824 Archimandrite Meletius was appointed rector of the Kiev Spiritual Academy.

In October 1826 the Holy Synod decided to appoint Archimandrite Meletius as Bishop of Chigirinsk, a vicar of the Kiev diocese and head of the Zlatoverkh Michaelov monastery. He was elected as bishop on October 19, 1826, and was consecrated on October 21, 1826 at Kiev’s cathedral of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) .

With a fatherly love the saint looked after young foster-children, raising them in a spirit of devotion to the Church of Christ. The saint particularly cared for the needy, widows and orphans. He often visited the imprisoned and provided them the consolation of religious services in the prison churches. The saint also was also concerned for the spiritual nourishment of the brethren of the Michaelov monastery. With edifying discourses and by personal example he inspired in the monks a spirit of true asceticism. St Meletius said, “Humility is the guarding sword, with which we pass over earth and Hades to reach Heaven.”

In April 1828 St Meletius was appointed to the Perm cathedral.

Strict with himself, the saint was also strict towards others. To prepare chosen candidates for ordination, St Meletius himself wrote the so-called “Ordinand’s Catechism” for them. In August 1831 St Meletius was transferred to the See of Irkutsk, with the rank of archbishop.

The saint devoted great attention to the enlightenment of the lesser nations of Russia with the light of the Gospel teaching. He founded churches in the north of Kamchatka, in the northeast parts of the Irkutsk diocese and along the Aldan River, on the tract from Yakutsk to Okhotsk.

He often reviewed his extensive diocese, going to the shores of the Okhotsk and Arctic Seas, to the borders of North America, where the renowned Apostle of Siberia, the priest John Veniaminov, later known as St Innocent the Apostle to America (October 6 and March 31) then labored. Journeying through Siberia and along the shores of the Pacific Ocean, St Meletius frequently interacted with the native peoples who professed Lamaism. The saint urged them to abandon their errors and he explained the Gospel truths to these pagan peoples: the Tungus, the Buryats, the Kamchadali, and also the inhabitants of the Kurile and Aleutian Islands.

Because of his untiring labors, the saint’s health began to deteriorate, and they transferred him in 1835 to the Slobodsk-Ukrainsk cathedra (afterwards the cathedra of Kharkov and Akhtyr).

Here St Meletius devoted his attention to the institutions of spiritual learning, and concerned himself with the life and education of the clergy.

He raised questions about restoring those monasteries and spiritual schools which Empress Catherine II had closed. The saint was also concerned with combating schismatics.

On July 2, 1839 St Meletius led the celebrations in the city of Akhtyr for the tenth anniversary of the appearance of the wonderworking Akhtyr Icon of the Mother of God (July 2).

The blessed repose of the saint occurred on the night of February 29, 1840. After Communion, with the words “Now lettest Thou Thy Servant depart in peace,” the saint signed himself with the Sign of the Cross and, after asking forgiveness of everyone, he departed to the Lord.

On March 4, 1840 St Meletius was consigned to the earth by the Kursk bishop Heliodorus in a crypt beneath the Church of the Cross at the Protection monastery.

From the first days after his death, believing people firmly trusted in the intercession of St Meletius before God, and they received help: healing in sicknesses, comfort in sorrows and deliverance from difficult circumstances. Believers in Kharkov put special trust in St Meletius during the terrible days of the “Great War for the Fatherland” (World War II). The saint predicted the impending deliverance of the city from the enemy.

In 1948, with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Alexis, the coffin with the relics of St Meletius was transferred to the Annunciation cathedral church, where they remain to the present day, providing spiritual recourse and prayerful comfort for believers.


St Germanus of Dacia Pontica

Saint Germanus of Dacia Pontica (Dobrogea) was related to St John Cassian, and accompanied him to Bethlehem. There they lived near the cave where the Lord was born. Later, they visited Egypt and met many of the Fathers there and at Sinai.

St Germanus and St John went to Constantinople in 399 and met St John Chrysostom (November 13). They admired Chrysostom, so when he was exiled, they went to Rome to intercede with Pope Innocent I for him.

It is not known where St Germanus finished the course of his life. He was glorified by the Orthodox Church of Romania in 1992.


St Germanus of Dacia Pontica (Dobrogea)

Saint Germanus the Daco-Roman was born in the mid-fourth century, probably on the borders of Cassian and the Caves in the diocese of Tomis (in what is now Romania), and was related to St John Cassian (February 29). St Germanus, who was older than St John, was tonsured at one of the local monasteries when he was still a young man. The holy bishop St Theotimus I (April 20) may have been his Spiritual Father.

In turn, St Germanus became the Spiritual Father, friend, and teacher of St John Cassian, instructing him in monastic perfection. They both lived at one of the monasteries of Dacia Pontica for a short time, and then worked together in Bethlehem from 380-385. Later, they traveled to Egypt and visited some of its cenobitic monasteries. They also visited the hermits of Nitria and Mount Sinai, seeking to benefit from their holy example and wise counsel.

Sts Germanus and John went to Constantinople in 399 in order to be near St John Chrysostom (November 13), and around this time Germanus was deemed worthy of ordination to the holy priesthood. When Chrysostom was deposed and exiled in 404, the two saints journeyed to Rome in order to plead his case before Pope Innocent I.

St Germanus completed the course of his life in the early fifth century, perhaps at the monastery estabished by St John Cassian at Marseilles, or in one of the monasteries of Dacia Pontica.