Lives of all saints commemorated on March 12


Venerable Theophanes the Confessor of Sigriane

Saint Theophanes the Confessor was born in 759 at Constantinople into a pious and renowned family. His father was a relative of the Byzantine emperor Leo the Isaurian (717-741). Three years after Theophanes was born, his father died, leaving his family under the care of the emperor himself.

Theophanes grew up at the court and became a dignitary under the emperor Leo IV the Khazar (775-780). His position obliged him to enter into marriage, but he persuaded his bride to live with him in virginity.

After the death of his parents, Theophanes and his wife visited monasteries in the Sygrian district (Asia Minor), Theophanes met the Elder Gregory Stratitios, who predicted to Theophanes’ wife that her husband would earn the crown of martyrdom.

Later the wife of Theophanes was tonsured a nun in one of the monasteries in Bithynia, and Theophanes went to a monastery in the Cyzicus region. With the blessing of his Elder, Theophanes founded the Kalonymon monastery on an island in the Sea of Marmara and secluded himself in his cell, transcribing books. Theophanes attained a high degree of skill in this occupation.

Later, St Theophanes founded another monastery in Sygria, at a place called the “Big Settlement”, and became its igumen. He participated in all the work of the monastery, and was an example to all in his love for work and ascetical effort. He received from the Lord the gift of wonderworking, healing the sick, and casting out demons.

The Seventh Ecumenical Council met in Nicea in 787, which condemned the heresy of Iconoclasm. St Theophanes was also invited to the Council. He arrived dressed in his tattered garments, but he revealed his wisdom in affirming the veneration of the holy icons.

At the age of fifty, St Theophanes fell grievously ill and he suffered terribly until the day he died. Even on his deathbed, the saint continued to work. He wrote his CHRONOGRAPHIA, a history of the Christian Church covering the years 285-813. This work has remained an invaluable source for the history of the Church.

During the reign of the emperor Leo the Armenian (813-820), when the saint was advanced in age, the Iconoclast heresy returned. They demanded that St Theophanes accept the heresy, but he firmly refused and was locked up in prison. His “Big Settlement” monastery was put to the torch. The holy confessor died in 818 after twenty-three days in prison.

After the death of the impious emperor Leo the Armenian, the “Big Settlement” monastery was restored and the relics of the holy confessor were transferred there.


Righteous Phineas the grandson of Aaron

The Righteous Phineas, grandson of the High Priest Aaron (also commemorated today) and son of the High Priest Eleazar, was also a priest and zealous in his service.

When the Israelites, after the holy Prophet Moses (September 4) led them out of Egypt, were already near the Promised Land, their neighbors the Moabites and Midianites were overcome by fear and envy. Not trusting in their own strength, they summoned the magician Balaam to put a curse on the Israelites. The Lord revealed His will to Balaam, and Balaam refused to curse the People of God, seeing that God was pleased to bless them (Num. 24:1).

Then the Moabites drew the Israelites into the worship of Baal-Peor. God punished the Jews for their apostasy, and they died by the thousands from a plague. Many, beholding the wrath of God, came to their senses and repented.

At this time a certain man named Zimri, of the tribe of the Simeon, “brought his brother a Midianite woman in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, and they wept at the door of the tabernacle of witness” (Num. 25:6). Phineas, filled with wrath, went into Zimri’s tent and killed both him and the Midianite woman with a spear.

“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Phineas... has caused My wrath against the children of Israel to cease, when I was exceedingly jealous among them.... Behold, I give him a covenant of peace, and he and his descendants shall have a perpetual covenant of priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel’” (Num. 25:10-13).

After this, at the command of God, Phineas went at the head of the Israelite army against the Moabites and brought chastisement upon them for their impiety and treachery. After the death of the High Priest Eleazar, St Phineas was unanimously chosen as High Priest. The high priesthood, in accord with God’s promise, continued also with his posterity. St Phineas died at an advanced age around 1500 B.C.


St Gregory Dialogus, the Pope of Rome

Saint Gregory Dialogus, Pope of Rome, was born in Rome around the year 540. His grandfather was Pope Felix, and his mother Sylvia (November 4) and aunts Tarsilla and Emiliana were also numbered among the saints by the Roman Church. Having received a most excellent secular education, he attained high government positions.

Leading a God-pleasing life, he yearned for monasticism with all his soul. After the death of his father, St Gregory used his inheritance to establish six monasteries. At Rome he founded a monastery dedicated to the holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called, where he received monastic tonsure. Later, on a commission of Pope Pelagius II, St Gregory lived for a while in Constantinople. There he wrote his Commentary on the Book of Job.

After the death of Pope Pelagius, St Gregory was chosen to the Roman See. For seven months he would not consent to accept this service, considering himself unworthy. He finally accepted consecration only after the persistent entreaties of the clergy and flock.

Wisely leading the Church, St Gregory worked tirelessly in propagating the Word of God. St Gregory compiled the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts in the Latin language, which before him was known only in the verbal tradition. Affirmed by the Sixth Ecumenical Council, this liturgical service was accepted by all the Orthodox Church.

He zealously struggled against the Donatist heresy; he also converted the inhabitants of Brittany pagans and Goths, adhering to the Arian heresy to the True Faith.

St Gregory has left behind numerous written works. After the appearance of his book, DIALOGUES CONCERNING THE LIFE AND MIRACLES OF THE ITALIAN FATHERS (DIALOGI DE VITA ET MIRACULIS PATRUM ITALIORUM), the saint was called “Dialogus.” His PASTORAL RULE (or LIBER REGULAE PASTORALIS) was well-known. In this work, St Gregory describes the model of the true pastor. His letters (848), dealing with moral guidance, have also survived.

St Gregory headed the Church for thirteen years, ministering to all the needs of his flock. He was characterized by an extraordinary love of poverty, for which he was granted a vision of the Lord Himself.

Pope St Gregory the Great, as he is known, died in the year 604, and his relics rest in the cathedral of the holy Apostle Peter in the Vatican.


Venerable Simeon the New Theologian

Saint Simeon the New Theologian was born in the year 949 in the city of Galatea (Paphlagonia), and he was educated at Constantinople. His father prepared him for a career at court, and for a certain while the youth occupied a high position at the imperial court. When he was fourteen, he met the renowned Elder Simeon the Pious at the Studion Monastery, who would be a major influence in his spiritual development. He remained in the world for several years preparing himself for the monastic life under the Elder’s guidance, and finally entered the monastery at the age of twenty-seven.

St Simeon the Pious recommended to the young man the writings of St Mark the Ascetic (March 5) and other spiritual writers. He read these books attentively and tried to put into practice what he read. Three points made by St Mark in his work “On the Spiritual Law” (see Vol. I of the English PHILOKALIA) particularly impressed him. First, you should listen to your conscience and do what it tells you if you wish your soul to be healed (PHILOKALIA, p. 115). Second, only by fulfilling the commandments can one obtain the activity of the Holy Spirit. Thirdly, one who prays only with the body and without spiritual knowledge is like the blind man who cried out, “Son of David, have mercy upon me (Luke 18:38) (PHILOKALIA, p. 111). When the blind man received his sight, however, he called Christ the Son of God (John 9:38).

St Simeon was wounded with a love for spiritual beauty, and tried to acquire it. In addition to the Rule given him by his Elder, his conscience told him to add a few more Psalms and prostrations, and to repeat constantly, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me.” Naturally, he heeded his conscience.

Durint the day, he cared for the needs of people living in the palace of Patricius. At night, his prayers grew longer and he remained praying until midnight. Once, as he was praying in this way, a most brilliant divine radiance descended upon him and filled the room. He saw nothing but light all around him, and he was not even aware of the ground beneath his feet.

It seemed to him that he himself became light. Then his mind rose upward to the heavens, and he saw a second light brighter than the light which surrounded him. Then, on the edge of this second light, he seemed to see St Simeon the Pious, who had given him St Mark the Ascetic to read.

Seven years after this vision, St Simeon entered the monastery. There he increased his fasting and vigilance, and learned to renounce his own will.

The Enemy of our salvation stirred up the brethren of the monastery against St Simeon, who was indifferent to the praises or reproaches of others. Because of the increased discontent in the monastery, St Simeon was sent to the Monastery of St Mamas in Constantinople.

There he was tonsured into the monastic schema, and increased his spiritual struggles. He attained to a high spiritual level, and increased his knowledge of spiritual things through reading the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers, as well as in conversation with holy Elders.

Around the year 980, St Simeon was made igumen of the monastery of St Mamas and continued in this office for twenty-five years. He repaired and restored the monastery, which had suffered from neglect, and also brought order to the life of the monks.

The strict monastic discipline, for which St Simeon strove, led to great dissatisfaction among the brethren. Once, after Liturgy, some of the monks attacked him and nearly killed him. When the Patriarch of Constantinople expelled them from the monastery and wanted to hand them over to the civil authorities, St Simeon asked that they be treated with leniency and be permitted to live in the world.

About the year 1005, St Simeon resigned his position as igumen in favor of Arsenius, while he himself settled near the monastery in peace. There he composed his theological works, portions of which appear in the PHILOKALIA.

The chief theme of his works is the hidden activity of spiritual perfection, and the struggle against the passions and sinful thoughts. He wrote instructions for monks: “Theological and Practical Chapters,” “A Treatise on the Three Methods of Prayer,” (in Vol. IV of the English PHILOKALIA) and “A Treatise on Faith.” Moreover, St Simeon was an outstanding church poet. He also wrote “Hymns of Divine Love,” about seventy poems filled with profound prayerful meditations.

The sublime teachings of St Simeon about the mysteries of mental prayer and spiritual struggle have earned him the title “the New Theologian.” These teachings were not the invention of St Simeon, but they had merely been forgotten over time.

Some of these teachings seemed unacceptable and strange to his contemporaries. This led to conflict with Constantinople’s church authorities, and St Simeon was banished from the city. He withdrew across the Bosphorus and settled in the ancient monastery of St Makrina.

The saint peacefully fell asleep in the Lord in the year 1021. During his life he received the gift of working miracles. Numerous miracles also took place after his death; one of them was the miraculous discovery of his icon.

His Life was written by his cell-attendant and disciple, St Nicetas Stethatos.

Since March 12 falls during Great Lent, St Simeon’s Feast is transfered to October 12.


Icon “Not Made by Hands” from Lydda

The wonder-working Lydda Icon is mentioned in the service for the Kazan Icon (July 8 & October 22) in the third Ode of the Canon.

According to Tradition, the Apostles Peter and John were preaching in Lydda (later called Diospolis) near Jerusalem. There they built a church dedicated to the Most Holy Theotokos, then went to Jerusalem and asked her to come and sanctify the church by her presence. She sent them back to Lydda and said, “Go in peace, and I shall be there with you.”

Arriving at Lydda, they found an icon of the Virgin imprinted in color on the wall of the church (some sources say the image was on a pillar). Then the Mother of God appeared and rejoiced at the number of people who had gathered there. She blessed the icon and gave it the power to work miracles. This icon was not made by the hand of man, but by a divine power.

Julian the Apostate (reigned 361-363) heard about the icon and tried to eradicate it. Masons with sharp tools chipped away at the image, but the paint and lines just seemed to penetrate deeper into the stone. Those whom the emperor had sent were unable to destroy the icon. As word of this miracle spread, millions of people came to venerate the icon.

In the eighth century, St Germanus, the future Patriarch of Constantinople (May 12) passed through Lydda. He had a copy of the icon made, and sent it to Rome during the iconoclastic controversy. It was placed in the church of St Peter, and was the source of many healings. In 842, the reproduction was returned to Constantinople and was known as the Roman Icon (June 26).

The oldest sources of information for the Lydda Icon are a document attributed to St Andrew of Crete in 726, a letter written by three eastern Patriarchs to the iconoclast emperor Theophilus in 839, and a work of George the Monk in 886.

The icon still existed as late as the ninth century.


Righteous King Demetrius Tavdadebuli of Georgia

No information on the life of this saint is available at this time.


St Kirion II, Catholicos of Georgia

No information available at this time.