Lives of all saints commemorated on March 16


Saturday of Cheesefare Commemoration of all our God-bearing Fathers and Mothers who shone forth in asceticism

On this day, we commemorate all the righteous and God-bearing Fathers and Mothers, both known and unknown, who shone forth in asceticism. With these two weeks of Meatfare and Cheesefare, the Church gradually eases us into the full fasting which begins on Monday.

The holy acetics are virtuous men and women who contended against the devil and their own passions. By examining their lives and their struggles against the Enemy, we take courage from the victory they have achieved, and are inspired to imitate their God-pleasing conduct. They also teach us that fasting is not merely abstinence from food, but involves refraining from inappropriate speech and unseemly actions.

Since these holy ascetics share the same human nature that we have, their example is an encouragement to us as we embark on our own spiritual struggles Their lives are a model for us to follow as we seek to acquire and practice the various virtues and to turn away from everything evil. If we undertake these same struggles of prayer, fasting, and good works, we shall receive from God the same reward they did.

Most of the holy ascetics commemorated today have their own separate Feast Day during the year, while some are remembered only on this day.


Martyr Sabinus of Egypt

The Holy Martyr Sabinus was administrator of the Egyptian city of Hermopolis. During a persecution of Christians under the emperor Diocletian (284-305), St Sabinus and some like-minded companions hid in a remote village.

His hiding place was revealed by a certain ungrateful beggar who had brought him food. The saint used to feed him and help him with money, but the man betrayed him for two pieces of gold. Sabinus was seized with six other Christians, and after torture they were all drowned in the Nile in 287.


Martyr Papas of Lyconia

The Holy Martyr Papas lived in the city of Laranda (Asia Minor) during the reign of Maximian (305-311). They arrested and tortured him for his belief in Christ. His feet were put into boots with sharp nails hammered into the soles, and made to walk. They took him to the city of Diocaesarea and later to Seleucia, Isauria to stand trial.

St Papas died bound to a barren tree, which then became fruitful.


St Serapion the Archbishop of Novgorod

No information available at this time.


Apostle Aristobulus of the Seventy the Bishop of Britain

The Holy Apostle Aristobulus of the Seventy was born on Cyprus. He and his brother, the holy Apostle Barnabas of the Seventy, accompanied the holy Apostle Paul on his journeys. St Aristobulus is mentioned by the Apostle Paul in the Epistle to the Romans (Rom 16:10).

St Paul made Aristobulus a bishop and sent him to preach the Gospel in Britain, where he converted many to Christ. He endured the torments and malice of the pagans, and eventually baptized them.

St Aristobulus died in Britain among the people he had evangelized. His memory is celebrated on October 31 and also on the Synaxis of the Seventy Apostles January 4.


Hieromartyr Alexander the Pope of Rome

The Hieromartyr Alexander, Bishop of Rome, served for ten years as the archpastor of Rome. He was burned alive on May 3, 119 by order of the emperor Hadrian (117-138).


Martyr Julian of Anazarbus

The Hieromartyr Julian of Anazauria suffered for Christ in Antioch, Syria under the emperor Maximian Galerius (305-311). His relics were glorified by miracles in the time of St John Chrysostom. Chrysostom mentions the martyr in his 47th homily.


Hieromartyr Trophimus of Laodicea

The Holy Martyrs Trophimus and Thallus, brothers and presbyters of Syria, served in Carian Laodicea. During a persecution under the emperor Diocletian (284-305) and his co-emperor Maximian (284-305), the brothers were taken under guard and brought before the governor Asclepiodotus. He ordered the holy brothers to be stoned, but the stones which they threw at the saints returned and struck those who threw them.

After a second interrogation, the holy brothers were sentenced to be crucified. Going to execution, they glorified God because they were found worthy of dying on a cross, as the Savior did. The holy martyrs of Christ continued to preach from the cross, and their brave mother stood nearby.

A certain Jewess bowed to the saints and cried out, “Blessed is the mother who gave birth to such sons.” When the martyrs surrendered their souls to God, the prison guard said that he saw the souls of the holy brothers being carried upwards to heaven in the company of three angels.

The people stayed with the bodies of the holy martyrs all night, and in the morning the wife of the torturer Asclepiodotus came to the place of execution with her bejeweled veil. She told the people that in a dream she saw the holy martyrs and the angels sent to punish her husband.

The mother of the martyrs and two Christians, Zosimus and Artemon, buried the holy brothers in their native city of Stratonikea, Lydia. The torturer Asclepiodotus soon fell ill and died a horrible death


Hieromartyr Thallus of Laodicea

The Holy Martyrs Thallus and Trophimus, brothers and presbyters of Syria, served in Carian Laodicea. During a persecution under the emperor Diocletian (284-305) and his co-emperor Maximian (284-305), the brothers were taken under guard and brought before the governor Asclepiodotus. He ordered the holy brothers to be stoned, but the stones which they threw at the saints returned and struck those who threw them.

After a second interrogation, the holy brothers were sentenced to be crucified. Going to execution, they glorified God because they were found worthy of dying on a cross, as the Savior did. The holy martyrs of Christ continued to preach from the cross, and their brave mother stood nearby.

A certain Jewess bowed to the saints and cried out, “Blessed is the mother who gave birth to such sons.” When the martyrs surrendered their souls to God, the prison guard said that he saw the souls of the holy brothers being carried upwards to heaven in the company of three angels.

The people stayed with the bodies of the holy martyrs all night, and in the morning the wife of the torturer Asclepiodotus came to the place of execution with her bejeweled veil. She told the people that in a dream she saw the holy martyrs and the angels sent to punish her husband.

The mother of the martyrs and two Christians, Zosimus and Artemon, buried the holy brothers in their native city of Stratonikea, Lydia. The torturer Asclepiodotus soon fell ill and died a horrible death


St Pimen of Salosi the Enlightener of Dagestan and the North Caucasus People

Saint Pimen the Fool-for-Christ and Anton Meskhi (of Meskheti, in southern Georgia) lived in the 13th century, when the Mongols were regularly invading Georgia. The entire country, and the Church in particular, languished under the yoke of Mongol oppression. The Georgian people were once again faced with a terrible choice: to preserve their temporal flesh or attain spiritual salvation. Most would not yield to the temptation of the enemy and chose instead to die as martyrs for Christ.

At that time a monk named Pimen, a fool-for-Christ, labored in the Davit-Gareji Wilderness. His ancestral roots were in the Kakheti region of eastern Georgia. Pimen rebuked kings and condemned the unjust and immoral acts of the nobility. The pious monk Anton Meskhi labored with him.

Enlightened by divine grace, the fathers recognized that the Georgian people were following their king’s poor example. Thus, the monks began a struggle for the spiritual salvation of the nation’s people that demanded the censure of the king. In addition to their labors of foolishness and censuring of kings, the saints preached Christianity among the Dagestani. (located to the northeast of Georgia and borders the Caspian Sea.)

For their great spiritual achievements and struggles on behalf of godly purity, the Christian Faith, and the spread of the Gospel among the Dagestanis, the Georgian Church has counted Pimen the Fool-for-Christ and Anton Meskhi worthy to be numbered among the saints.


St Christodoulos of Patmos

No information available at this time.


St Vitus

No information available at this time.


St Ambrose the Confessor

Saint Ambrose the Confessor (in the world Besarion Khelaia) was born in 1861. He received his primary education at the theological school in Samegrelo and graduated from Tbilisi Seminary in 1885. He graduated and

was ordained to the priesthood in the same year. Fr. Ambrose served as a priest in Sokhumi (in northwestern Georgia) for eight years, at the same time teaching the Georgian language in schools and directing the activity of various philanthropic societies. In 1896 he was widowed, and in 1897 he enrolled at the Kazan Theological Academy.

While in Kazan, Fr. Ambrose followed both the literary-cultural life of the city and the Georgian national independence movement with great interest. He researched the history of Georgia from primary sources and composed several essays based on his findings. His essay, entitled “The Struggle Between Christianity and Islam in Georgia,” was so compelling to one professor that he recommended that Fr. Ambrose continue exploring this theme and present his research for a master’s degree.

In 1901 Fr. Ambrose completed his studies at the Kazan Theological Academy, and in the same year he was tonsured a monk and returned to Georgia. Together with the greatest sons of his nation, he fought tirelessly for the autocephaly of the Georgian Orthodox Church. As a punishment for his uncompromising commitment to this goal, Fr. Ambrose was exiled to Russia in 1905.

Upon his return to Georgia, he was elevated to the rank of archimandrite and appointed abbot of Chelishi Monastery. Chelishi Monastery had at one time been a center for theological education in Georgia, but many years had passed since then and the monastery’s student body was rapidly shrinking. Before long it would be completely deserted. But with the blessing of Bishop Leonid of Imereti (later Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia), St. Ambrose gathered a number of gifted young people to study at the seminary and began to instruct them in chanting and the reading of the Holy Gospel.

St. Ambrose devoted much of his time and energy to finding and restoring the old manuscripts of Chelishi Monastery. Once, while passing through the monastery yard, he heard a muted sound coming from beneath the earth. He began to dig at that place and discovered an ancient copy of the Holy Gospels. It was the “Chelishi Gospel,” a famous Georgian relic from the 9th or 10th century.

Soon St. Ambrose joined the Tbilisi Synodal Council and was enthroned as abbot of Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Tbilisi. But in 1908 he was accused of conspiring in the murder of the exarch Nikon and deprived of the right to serve in the Church. The prosecutors exiled him to the Holy Trinity Monastery in Ryazan, where he spent over a year under strict guard. In 1910 St. Ambrose was acquitted and again permitted to serve in the Church.

In 1917 Archimandrite Ambrose returned to Georgia and rejoined the struggle for an autocephalous Georgian Church. Within a few months the Church’s autocephaly was proclaimed. He was consecrated Metropolitan of Chqondidi, later to be transferred to the Tskum-Abkhazeti region. In 1921 St. Ambrose was enthroned Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia.

The Soviet government began to persecute the Church not long after St. Ambrose’s enthronement. Some 1,200 churches were plundered, converted for other purposes, or destroyed. A great number of clergy were arrested, exiled, and later shot to death.

On February 7, 1922, Catholicos-Patriarch Ambrose, the spiritual father and chief shepherd of his nation, sent a memorandum to participants in the Conference of Genoa (In 1922 representatives of thirty-four nations met in Genoa, Italy to discuss the economic reconstruction of Central and Eastern Europe and to improve relations between the Soviet Union and Western Europe.) in which he defended the rights of the Georgian Church and nation. Every word of his appeal was penetrated with distress for the fate not only of his motherland but of the entire human race. St. Ambrose assured his audience that a nation and government deprived of Christian virtue would have no future and pleaded for help in this time of misfortune.

The receipt of such a memorandum was unprecedented for the Bolshevik regime, and in response the officials had St. Ambrose arrested. Nevertheless, he fearlessly criticized the government’s complaisance with acts of crime, injustice, and sacrilege.

In response to one of the Bolshevik interrogations, the patriarch asserted, “Confession of Faith is a spiritual necessity for every nation— persecution increases its necessity. Faith deepens, being contracted and accumulated, and it bursts out with new energy. So it was in the past, and so it will be in our country. Georgia is no exception to this universal law.”

St. Ambrose spoke these remarkable last words to his persecutors: “My soul belongs to God, my heart to my motherland, and with my flesh you may do whatever you wish.” The court sentenced the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia to seven years, nine months and twenty-eight days in prison.

At the end of 1924 St. Ambrose and the other members of the Synodal Council were granted amnesty, but their grave experience had already taken its toll. The Georgian flock lost its faithful shepherd in 1927.

In 1995 the life of Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ambrose (Khelaia) was discussed at an expanded council of the Holy Synod of the Georgian Church. In recognition of his great achievements on behalf of the Church and nation, Ambrose was canonized as “St. Ambrose the Confessor.”


St Anthony (Meskhi), the Censurer of Kings

No information available at this time.


St Demetrius the Devoted, King of Georgia

Saint Demetre the King, also called “the Devoted,” was a great-grandson of Holy Queen Tamar. God sent St. Demetre many tribulations during his childhood, thus encouraging him in the Faith from an early age. Demetre was still an infant when the Mongols killed his mother, the pious Queen Gvantsa. His father, King Davit V (1258-1269), died when Demetre was just ten years old.

When he reached the age of twelve, the royal court sent him to the Mongol ordu (the military camp and headquarters of the Mongols. This particular camp of the Ilkhanid Mongols lay in Mughan of Azerbaijan.), to the ruler Abaqa Khan (1265-1282) (ruler of the Ilkhanid Mongols (descendents of Qubilay Khan’s brother Hulegu).

As the Georgians were under Mongol dominion, they asked Abaqa Khan to proclaim Demetre king, and their request was honored.

Filled with virtue, King Demetre ruled the nation in wisdom and kindness. At night he would go out in search of the poor, the infirm, and the orphaned to distribute his wealth to them. The king took advantage of comparatively peaceful periods to build and restore churches and monasteries and to strengthen fortifications.

Many of King Demetre’s lofty goals, however, were never realized, because the khan was constantly calling the Georgian soldiers to arms. A vast number of Georgia’s finest soldiers fought and perished in the khan’s battles. Soon Georgia was exhausted from battle and the sacrifice of her sons’ blood in the wars of foreign nations.

Internal strife began to tear at the Georgian people, and in desperation they began to pillage the lands and villages that belonged to their own Church.

During this difficult time, Demetre yielded to a temptation. Although already joined in a marriage of political convenience, he abducted Natela, the daughter of southern Georgia’s ruler, Beka Jakeli. She bore Demetre a son, whom they named Giorgi. He would later be honored with the title Giorgi V “the Brilliant” (1314-1346).

After the death of Abaqa Khan, his brother, Ahmad Tegüder (1282-1284), was proclaimed khan. In the second year of his reign, Ahmad’s brother, Qongurdam, plotted to overthrow him but failed. A short time later, Abaqa Khan’s son, Arghun (1284-1291), rose up against his uncle and seized the throne. Finally, Bugha Chingsang, the

khan’s prime minister, organized a plot against Arghun. On January 17, 1289, Bugha Chingsang was executed along with his fellow conspirators.

Demetre, who had been on friendly terms with the khan, was now summoned to the khan’s ordu as a suspected member of the plot.

King Demetre immediately surmised the reason for this summons: “The khan is very angry and has called me to him,” he told his court. “I am certain he intends to do me evil, but my kingdom will lie defenseless before him if I do not go. How many Christians will die or become his slaves? How many churches will be laid to waste? Truly my life cannot be so valuable that I could live and bear this sin while many Christian souls are left to perish. It is my wish to go to the khan. God’s will be done: if I am killed, I will be certain that my country is saved!”

The royal court tried with all its might to convince Demetre that it was foolish to go, meet certain death, and leave the country without a ruler. Catholicos Abraam alone supported King Demetre’s decision and advised him, “If you sacrifice your own life for your nation, we, the bishops of this land, will bear your sins, and will pray to God that you be numbered among the holy martyrs. For the Lord Himself said, Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). And if it is good for a man to lay down his life for

just one neighbor, how profitable is it for a man to die for the sake of many?”

Upon hearing these words, the king rejoiced exceedingly and began to prepare for his journey to the Mongol ordu. He took with him Catholicos Abraam, a certain priest Mose, his son Davit, and several members of his court. At the ordu the Mongols could find no fault in the young Georgian king, but they imprisoned him nevertheless. Then a group of Georgian faithful forced their way into the prison to see him and offered to help him escape. The king was deeply moved by their compassion, but nevertheless he told them, “I knew from the beginning the death I would suffer, and I offered my life for this nation. If I escape now, the nation will be destroyed. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Mark 8:36).”

The khan ordered his execution. Fully prepared to meet death, King Demetre prayed fervently, received the Holy Gifts, and gave up his soul to the Lord. Those present witnessed a divine miracle: the sun grew dark and an ominous gloom enshrouded the whole city.

The holy relics of the Royal Martyr Demetre were guarded until the catholicos and the priest Mose secretly retrieved the body and, with the help of a group of Tbilisi fishermen, returned the king to his homeland. He was buried in Mtskheta, in the burial vault of his forefathers at Svetitskhoveli Cathedral.