Lives of all saints commemorated on March 31


2nd Sunday of Great Lent: St Gregory Palamas

This Sunday was originally dedicated to St Polycarp of Smyrna (February 23). After his glorification in 1368, a second commemoration of St Gregory Palamas (November 14) was appointed for the Second Sunday of Great Lent as a second “Triumph of Orthodoxy.”

Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica, was born in the year 1296 in Constantinople. St Gregory’s father became a prominent dignitiary at the court of Andronicus II Paleologos (1282-1328), but he soon died, and Andronicus himself took part in the raising and education of the fatherless boy. Endowed with fine abilities and great diligence, Gregory mastered all the subjects which then comprised the full course of medieval higher education. The emperor hoped that the youth would devote himself to government work. But Gregory, barely twenty years old, withdrew to Mount Athos in the year 1316 (other sources say 1318) and became a novice in the Vatopedi monastery under the guidance of the monastic Elder St Nicodemus of Vatopedi (July 11). There he was tonsured and began on the path of asceticism. A year later, the holy Evangelist John the Theologian appeared to him in a vision and promised him his spiritual protection. Gregory’s mother and sisters also became monastics.

After the demise of the Elder Nicodemus, St Gregory spent eight years of spiritual struggle under the guidance of the Elder Nicephorus, and after the latter’s death, Gregory transferred to the Lavra of St Athanasius (July 5). Here he served in the trapeza, and then became a church singer. But after three years, he resettled in the small skete of Glossia, striving for a greater degree of spiritual perfection. The head of this monastery began to teach the young man the method of unceasing prayer and mental activity, which had been cultivated by monastics, beginning with the great desert ascetics of the fourth century: Evagrius Pontikos and St Macarius of Egypt (January 19).

Later on, in the eleventh century St Simeon the New Theologian (March 12) provided detailed instruction in mental activity for those praying in an outward manner, and the ascetics of Athos put it into practice. The experienced use of mental prayer (or prayer of the heart), requiring solitude and quiet, is called “Hesychasm” (from the Greek “hesychia” meaning calm, silence), and those practicing it were called “hesychasts.”

During his stay at Glossia the future hierarch Gregory became fully embued with the spirit of hesychasm and adopted it as an essential part of his life. In the year 1326, because of the threat of Turkish invasions, he and the brethren retreated to Thessalonica, where he was then ordained to the holy priesthood.

St Gregory combined his priestly duties with the life of a hermit. Five days of the week he spent in silence and prayer, and only on Saturday and Sunday did he come out to his people. He celebrated divine services and preached sermons. For those present in church, his teaching often evoked both tenderness and tears. Sometimes he visited theological gatherings of the city’s educated youth, headed by the future patriarch, Isidore. After he returned from a visit to Constantinople, he found a place suitable for solitary life near Thessalonica the region of Bereia. Soon he gathered here a small community of solitary monks and guided it for five years.

In 1331 the saint withdrew to Mt. Athos and lived in solitude at the skete of St Sava, near the Lavra of St Athanasius. In 1333 he was appointed Igumen of the Esphigmenou monastery in the northern part of the Holy Mountain. In 1336 the saint returned to the skete of St Sava, where he devoted himself to theological works, continuing with this until the end of his life.

In the 1330s events took place in the life of the Eastern Church which put St Gregory among the most significant universal apologists of Orthodoxy, and brought him great renown as a teacher of hesychasm.

About the year 1330 the learned monk Barlaam had arrived in Constantinople from Calabria, in Italy. He was the author of treatises on logic and astronomy, a skilled and sharp-witted orator, and he received a university chair in the capital city and began to expound on the works of St Dionysius the Areopagite (October 3), whose “apophatic” (“negative”, in contrast to “kataphatic” or “positive”) theology was acclaimed in equal measure in both the Eastern and the Western Churches. Soon Barlaam journeyed to Mt. Athos, where he became acquainted with the spiritual life of the hesychasts. Saying that it was impossible to know the essence of God, he declared mental prayer a heretical error. Journeying from Mount Athos to Thessalonica, and from there to Constantinople, and later again to Thessalonica, Barlaam entered into disputes with the monks and attempted to demonstrate the created, material nature of the light of Tabor (i.e. at the Transfiguration). He ridiculed the teachings of the monks about the methods of prayer and about the uncreated light seen by the hesychasts.

St Gregory, at the request of the Athonite monks, replied with verbal admonitions at first. But seeing the futility of such efforts, he put his theological arguments in writing. Thus appeared the “Triads in Defense of the Holy Hesychasts” (1338). Towards the year 1340 the Athonite ascetics, with the assistance of the saint, compiled a general response to the attacks of Barlaam, the so-called “Hagiorite Tome.” At the Constantinople Council of 1341 in the church of Hagia Sophia St Gregory Palamas debated with Barlaam, focusing upon the nature of the light of Mount Tabor. On May 27, 1341 the Council accepted the position of St Gregory Palamas, that God, unapproachable in His Essence, reveals Himself through His energies, which are directed towards the world and are able to be perceived, like the light of Tabor, but which are neither material nor created. The teachings of Barlaam were condemned as heresy, and he himself was anathemized and fled to Calabria.

But the dispute between the Palamites and the Barlaamites was far from over. To these latter belonged Barlaam’s disciple, the Bulgarian monk Akyndinos, and also Patriarch John XIV Kalekos (1341-1347); the emperor Andronicus III Paleologos (1328-1341) was also inclined toward their opinion. Akyndinos, whose name means “one who inflicts no harm,” actually caused great harm by his heretical teaching. Akyndinos wrote a series of tracts in which he declared St Gregory and the Athonite monks guilty of causing church disorders. The saint, in turn, wrote a detailed refutation of Akyndinos’ errors. The patriarch supported Akyndinos and called St Gregory the cause of all disorders and disturbances in the Church (1344) and had him locked up in prison for four years. In 1347, when John the XIV was replaced on the patriarchal throne by Isidore (1347-1349), St Gregory Palamas was set free and was made Archbishop of Thessalonica.

In 1351 the Council of Blachernae solemnly upheld the Orthodoxy of his teachings. But the people of Thessalonica did not immediately accept St Gregory, and he was compelled to live in various places. On one of his travels to Constantinople the Byzantine ship fell into the hands of the Turks. Even in captivity, St Gregory preached to Christian prisoners and even to his Moslem captors. The Hagarenes were astonished by the wisdom of his words. Some of the Moslems were unable to endure this, so they beat him and would have killed him if they had not expected to obtain a large ransom for him. A year later, St Gregory was ransomed and returned to Thessalonica.

St Gregory performed many miracles in the three years before his death, healing those afflicted with illness. On the eve of his repose, St John Chrysostom appeared to him in a vision. With the words “To the heights! To the heights!” St Gregory Palamas fell asleep in the Lord on November 14, 1359. In 1368 he was canonized at a Constantinople Council under Patriarch Philotheus (1354-1355, 1364-1376), who compiled the Life and Services to the saint.


Synaxis of the Venerable Fathers of the Kiev Caves Lavra

On the second Sunday of Great Lent, we commemorate all the Holy Fathers whose relics lie in the Near and Far Caves of the Kiev Caves Lavra.


Repose of St Innocent the Metropolitan of Moscow the Enlightener of the Aleuts and Apostle to the Americas

St Innocent (Veniaminov), Metropolitan of Moscow and Kolomensk (August 26, 1797—March 31, 1879), was glorified by the Russian Orthodox Church on October 6, 1977. He was born in the village of Anginsk in the Irkutsk diocese. The Apostle of America and Siberia proclaimed the Gospel “even to the ends of the earth”: in the Aleutian islands (from 1823), in the six dialects of the local tribes on the island of Sitka (from 1834), among the Kolosh (Tlingit); in the remotest settlements of the extensive Kamchatka diocese (from 1853); among the Koryak, Chukchei, Tungus in the Yakutsk region (from 1853) and North America (in 1857); in the Amur and the Usuriisk region (from 1860).

Having spent a large part of his life in journeys, St Innocent translated a Catechism and the Gospel into the Aleut language. In 1833, he wrote in this language one of the finest works of Orthodox missionary activity INDICATION OF THE WAY TO THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.

In 1859, the Yakut first heard the Word of God and divine services in their native language. Twice (in 1860 and 1861) St Innocent met with St Nicholas the Apostle to Japan (February 3), sharing with him his spiritual experience.

A remarkable preacher, St Innocent said, “Whoever abounds in faith and love, can have mouth and wisdom, and the heart cannot resist their serving it.”

Having begun his apostolic work as a parish priest, St Innocent completed it as Metropolitan of Moscow (January 5, 1868—March 31, 1879). He obeyed the will of God all his life, and he left behind a theme for the sermon to be preached at his funeral: “The steps of a man are rightly ordered by the Lord” (Ps 36/37:23).

St Innocent is also commemorated on October 5 (Synaxis of the Moscow Hierarchs) and on October 6 (his glorification).


St Hypatius the Wonderworker and Bishop of Gangra

Hieromartyr Hypatius, Bishop of Gangra, was bishop of the city of Gangra in Paphlagonia (Asia Minor). In the year 325 he participated in the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea, at which the heresy of Arius was anathematized.

When St Hypatius was returning in 326 from Constantinople to Gangra, followers of the schismatics Novatus and Felicissimus fell upon him in a desolate place. The heretics ran him through with swords and spears, and threw him into a swamp. Like the Protomartyr Stephen, St Hypatius prayed for his murderers.

An Arian woman struck the saint on the head with a stone, killing him. The murderers hid his body in a cave, where a Christian who kept straw there found his body. Recognizing the bishop’s body, he hastened to the city to report this, and the inhabitants of Gangra piously buried their beloved archpastor.

After his death, the relics of St Hypatius were famous for numerous miracles, particularly for casting out demons and for healing the sick.

From of old the hieromartyr Hypatius was particularly venerated in the Russian land. Thus in the year 1330 the Ipatiev monastery was built at Kostroma, on the place where the Mother of God appeared with the Pre-eternal Christ Child, the Apostle Philip, and the hieromartyr Hypatius, Bishop of Gangra. This monastery later occupied a significant place in the spiritual and social life of the nation, particularly during the Time of Troubles.

The ancient copies of the Life of the hieromartyr Hypatius were widely distributed in Russian literature, and one of these was incorporated into THE READING MENAION of Metropolitan Macarius (1542-1564). In this Life there is an account of the appearance of the Savior to St Hypatius on the eve of the martyr’s death.

The entry for the saint’s Feast consists of his Life, some prayers, and words of praise and instruction. The pious veneration of St Hypatius was also expressed in Russian liturgical compositions. During the nineteenth century a new service was written for the hieromartyr Hypatius, distinct from the services written by St Joseph the Studite, contained in the March MENAION.


Repose of St Jonah the Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia

Saint Jonah, Metropolitan of Moscow and Wonderworker of All Russia, was born in the city of Galich into a pious Christian family. The father of the future saint was named Theodore. The youth received monastic tonsure in one of the Galich monasteries when he was only twelve years old. From there, he transferred to the Moscow Simonov monastery, where he fulfilled various obediences for many years.

Once, St Photius, Metropolitan of Moscow (May 27 and July 2), visited the Simonov monastery. After the Molieben, he blessed the archimandrite and brethren, and also wished to bless those monks who were fulfilling their obediences in the monastery.

When he came to the bakery, he saw St Jonah sleeping, exhausted from his work. The fingers of the saint’s right hand were positioned in a gesture of blessing. St Photius said not to wake him. He blessed the sleeping monk and predicted to those present that this monk would be a great hierarch of the Russian Church, and would guide many on the way to salvation.

The prediction of St Photius was fulfilled. Several years later, St Jonah was made Bishop of Ryazan and Murom.

St Photius died in 1431. Five years after his death, St Jonah was chosen Metropolitan of All Russia for his virtuous and holy life. The newly-elected Metropolitan journeyed to Constantinople in order to be confirmed as Metropolitan by Patriarch Joseph II (1416-1439). Shortly before this the nefarious Isidore, a Bulgarian, had already been established as Metropolitan. Spending a short time at Kiev and Moscow, Isidore journeyed to the Council of Florence (1438), where he embraced Catholicism.

A Council of Russian hierarchs and clergy deposed Metropolitan Isidore, and he was compelled to flee secretly to Rome (where he died in 1462). St Jonah was unanimously chosen Metropolitan of All Russia. He was consecrated by Russian hierarchs in Moscow, with the blessing of Patriarch Gregory III (1445-1450) of Constantinople. This was the first time that Russian bishops consecrated their own Metropolitan. St Jonah became Metropolitan on December 15, 1448. With archpastoral zeal he led his flock to virtue and piety, spreading the Orthodox Faith by word and by deed. Despite his lofty position, he continued with his monastic struggles as before.

In 1451 the Tatars unexpectedly advanced on Moscow; they burned the surrounding area and prepared for an assault on the city. Metropolitan Jonah led a procession along the walls of the city, tearfully entreating God to save the city and the people. Seeing the dying monk Anthony of the Chudov monastery, who was noted for his virtuous life, St Jonah said, “My son and brother Anthony! Pray to the Merciful God and the All-Pure Mother of God for the deliverance of the city and for all Orthodox Christians.”

The humble Anthony replied, “Great hierarch! We give thanks to God and to His All-Pure Mother. She has heard your prayer and has prayed to Her Son. The city and all Orthodox Christians will be saved through your prayers. The enemy will soon take flight. The Lord has ordained that I alone am to be killed by the enemy.” Just as the Elder said this, an enemy arrow struck him.

The prediction of Elder Anthony was made on July 2, on the Feast of the Placing of the Robe of the Most Holy Theotokos. Confusion broke out among the Tatars, and they fled in fear and terror. In his courtyard, St Jonah built a church in honor of the Placing of the Robe of the Most Holy Theotokos, to commemorate the deliverance of Moscow from the enemy.

St Jonah reposed in the year 1461, and miraculous healings began to take place at his grave.

In 1472 the incorrupt relics of Metropolitan Jonah were uncovered and placed in the Dormition Cathedral of the Kremlin (the Transfer of the holy Relics is celebrated May 27). A Council of the Russian Church in 1547 established the commemoration of St Jonah, Metropolitan of Moscow. In 1596, Patriarch Job added St Jonah to the Synaxis of the Moscow Hierarchs (October 5).


Venerable Hypatius the Healer of the Kiev Caves

Saint Hypatius the Healer of the Caves, attained glory through his severe fasting and prayerful vigilance. By night he stood at prayer, slept very little, and ate only bread and water.

St Hypatius devoted himself entirely to the service of the sick, and received from God the gift of healing. Those sick with various illnesses often hastened to his prayerful intercession.

The memory of St Hypatius is celebrated also on August 28, on the Synaxis of the Saints of the Far Caves.


Venerable Apollonius, Ascetic, of Egypt

Saint Apollonius, when he was a fifteen-year-old youth, withdrew into the inner Thebaid desert (Lower Egypt), where he spent forty years in monastic struggles. Directed by God, he founded a monastery near Hermopolis, where eventually about five hundred monks gathered. St Apollonius was strict in fasting, only on Sundays did he eat cooked food, and on other days he ate wild plants.

All the monks followed the example of St Apollonius, engaging in spiritual struggles at the monastery. The holy ascetic died in the fourth century.


Hieromartyr Audas the Bishop of Persia

The Hieromartyrs Audas (Abdas), the Bishop and the Deacon Benjamin.

St Audas was Bishop of Bethchasar in Persia. He destroyed a temple of the fire-worshippers, and was brought to trial before the Persian emperor Izdegerd I (401-402), who ordered the saint to rebuild the temple. When Bishop Audas refused, the emperor ordered soldiers to destroy all the Christian churches, persecute the Christians, and to torture them.

St Audas was the first to be martyred. He was beheaded after lengthy tortures. After thirty days, the other martyrs were also executed. Among them was the deacon Benjamin, who suffered particularly cruel torments. They stuck sharp needles under his nails and impaled him on a spear.

The hieromartyrs died in the old Persian city of Suza.


Martyr Benjamin the Deacon

The Hieromartyrs Audas (Abdas) the Bishop of Persia and the Deacon Benjamin.

St Audas was a bishop in Persia. He destroyed a temple of the fire-worshippers, and was brought to trial before the Persian emperor Izdegerd I (401-402), who ordered the saint to rebuild the temple. When Bishop Audas refused, the emperor ordered soldiers to destroy all the Christian churches, persecute the Christians, and to torture them.

St Audas was the first to be martyred. He was beheaded after lengthy tortures. After thirty days, the other martyrs were also executed. Among them was the deacon Benjamin, who suffered particularly cruel torments. They stuck sharp needles under his nails and impaled him on a spear.

The hieromartyrs died in the old Persian city of Suza.


Venerable Hypatius the Abbot of Rufinus in Chalcedon

Saint Hypatius, Igumen of Rufinus in Chalcedon was born in Phrygia (Asia Minor) into the family of a lawyer and he received a fine education. Once, when he was eighteen years old, his father punished him, after which the youth left home and went to Thrace (Balkans).

There he herded cattle for a time, and then he lived with a priest who taught him how to chant the Psalms. Soon the chosen one of God was tonsured in one of the monasteries. Struggling against the temptations of the flesh, the holy ascetic spent fifty days in a strict fast. One night, with the blessing of the igumen, he drank some wine and ate some bread in the presence of the brethren, and was healed of his passions.

In search of a new place for ascetic struggles, St Hypatius settled with two other monks in the neglected Rufinus monastery near Chalcedon (Asia Minor). The monastery was rebuilt and soon many monks gathered about the holy ascetic, and the monastery began to flourish spiritually once more.

At the age of forty, St Hypatius was chosen igumen and he guided the monastery for forty years. Many monks, imitating their guide, attained spiritual perfection. For his strict ascetic life and love for others, St Hypatius was granted the gifts of wonderworking and healing by the Lord. Through his holy prayers bread was multiplied at the monastery, those afflicted with demons, and the blind, the withered and the hemorrhaging, came to the monastery and were healed.

St Hypatius reposed in 446, at eighty years of age. On the eve of his death, he predicted misfortunes to come: a devastating hailstorm, an earthquake, and Attila the Hun’s invasion of Thrace.


Appearance of the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God

The Iveron Icon of the Mother of God (which is preserved on Mt. Athos) was kept in the home of a certain pious widow, who lived near Nicea. During the time of the emperor Theophilus, the Iconoclasts came to the house of this Christian, and one of the soldiers struck the image of the Mother of God with a spear. Blood flowed from the place where it was struck.

The widow, fearing its destruction, promised the imperial soldiers money and implored them not to touch the icon until morning. When the soldiers departed, the woman and her son (later an Athonite monk), sent the holy icon away upon the sea to preserve it. The icon, standing upright upon the water, floated to Athos.

For several days, the Athonite monks had seen a fiery pillar on the sea rising up to the heavens. They came down to the shore and found the holy image, standing upon the waters. After a Molieben of thanksgiving, a pious monk of the Iveron monastery, St Gabriel (July 12), had a dream in which the Mother of God appeared to him and gave him instructions. So he walked across the water, and taking up the holy icon, he placed it in the church.

On the following day, however, the icon was found not within the church, but on the gates of the monastery. This was repeated several times, until the Most Holy Theotokos revealed to St Gabriel Her will, saying that She did not want the icon to be guarded by the monks, but rather She intended to be their Protectress. After this, the icon was installed on the monastery gates. Therefore this icon came to be called “Portaitissa” or “Gate-Keeper” (October 13). This comes from the Akathist “Rejoice, O Blessed Gate-Keeper who opens the gates of Paradise to the righteous.”

There is a tradition that the Mother of God promised St Gabriel that the grace and mercy of Her Son toward the monks would continue as long as the Icon remained at the monastery. It is also believed that the disappearance of the Iveron Icon from Mt. Athos would be a sign of the end of the world.

The Iveron Icon is also commemorated on February 12, October 13 (Its arrival in Moscow in 1648), and Bright Tuesday (Commemorating the appearance of the Icon in a pillar of fire at Mt. Athos and its recovery by St Gabriel).


St Acacius the Confessor

Saint Acacius the Confessor lived during the Decian persecution, and was Bishop of Melitene, Armenia.

Arrested as a Christian, St Acacius was brought before the governor Marcianus, who ordered that he be tortured. He was not put to death, but was set free after a while, bearing the wounds of Christ on his body. He died in peace.

St Acacius the Confessor is also commemorated on September 15. He should not be confused with another St Acacius of Melitene (April 17) who lived in the fifth century.


Righteous Joseph the Patriarch

No information available at this time.