Lives of all saints commemorated on April 14


4th Sunday of Great Lent: St John Climacus (of the Ladder)

The Fourth Sunday of Lent is dedicated to St John of the Ladder (Climacus), the author of the work, The Ladder of Divine Ascent. The abbot of St Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai (6th century) stands as a witness to the violent effort needed for entrance into God’s Kingdom (Mt.10: 12). The spiritual struggle of the Christian life is a real one, “not against flesh and blood, but against ... the rulers of the present darkness ... the hosts of wickedness in heavenly places ...” (Eph 6:12). Saint John encourages the faithful in their efforts for, according to the Lord, only “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Mt.24:13).


St Martin the Confessor the Pope of Rome

Saint Martin the Confessor, Pope of Rome, was a native of the Tuscany region of Italy. He received a fine education and entered into the clergy of the Roman Church. After the death of Pope Theodore I (642-649), Martin was chosen to succeed him.

At this time the peace of the Church was disturbed by the Monothelite heresy (the false doctrine that in Christ there is only one will. He has a divine, and a human will). The endless disputes of the Monothelites with the Orthodox took place in all levels of the population. Even the emperor Constans (641-668) and Patriarch Paul of Constantinople (641-654) were adherents of the Monothelite heresy. The emperor Constans II published the heretical “Pattern of Faith” (Typos), obligatory for all the population. In it all further disputes were forbidden.

The heretical “Pattern of Faith” was received at Rome in the year 649. St Martin, a firm supporter of Orthodoxy, convened the Lateran Council at Rome to condemn the Monothelite heresy. At the same time St Martin sent a letter to Patriarch Paul, persuading him to return to the Orthodox confession of faith. The enraged emperor ordered the military commander Olympius to bring St Martin to trial. But Olympius feared the clergy and the people of Rome who had descended upon the Council, and he sent a soldier to murder the holy hierarch. When the assassin approached St Martin, he was blinded. The terrified Olympius fled to Sicily and was soon killed in battle.

In 654 the emperor sent another military commander, Theodore, to Rome. He accused St Martin of being in secret correspondence with the enemies of the Empire, the Saracens, and of blaspheming the Most Holy Theotokos, and of uncanonically assuming the papal throne.

Despite the proofs offered by the Roman clergy and laity of St Martin’s innocence, the military commander Theodore with a detachment of soldiers seized St Martin by night and took him to Naxos, one of the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea. St Martin spent an entire year on this almost unpopulated island, suffering deprivation and abuse from the guards. Then they sent the exhausted confessor to Constantinople for trial.

They carried the sick man on a stretcher, but the judges callously ordered him to stand up and answer their questions. The soldiers propped up the saint, who was weakened by illness. False witnesses came forward slandering the saint and accusing him of treasonous relations with the Saracens. The biased judges did not even bother to hear the saint’s defense. In sorrow he said, “The Lord knows what a great kindness you would show me if you would deliver me quickly over to death.”

After such a trial they brought the saint out in tattered clothes to a jeering crowd. They shouted, “Anathema to Pope Martin!” But those who knew the holy Pope was suffering unjustly, withdrew in tears. Finally the sentence was announced: St Martin was to be deposed from his rank and executed. They bound the half-naked saint with chains and dragged him to prison, where they locked him up with thieves. These were more merciful to the saint than the heretics.

In the midst of all this the emperor went to the dying Patriarch Paul and told him of the trial of St Martin. He turned away from the emperor and said, “Woe is me! This is another reason for my judgment.” He asked that St Martin’s torments be stopped. The emperor again sent a notary and other persons to the saint in prison to interrogate him. The saint answered, “Even if they cripple me, I will not have relations with the Church of Constantinople while it remains in its evil doctrines.” The torturers were astonished at the confessor’s boldness, and they commuted his death sentence to exile at Cherson in the Crimea.

There the saint died, exhausted by sickness, hunger and deprivations on September 16, 655. He was buried outside the city in the Blachernae church of the Most Holy Theotokos, and later the relics of the holy confessor Martin were transferred to Rome.

The Monothelite heresy was condemned at the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 680.


Martyr Anthony of Vilnius, Lithuania

The Holy Martyrs Anthony, John, and Eustathius were brothers who suffered for Christ under the Lithuanian Great Prince Olgerd (1345-1377). The prince was married to the Orthodox princess Maria Yaroslavna (+ 1346). He was baptized and during his wife’s lifetime he allowed the preaching of Christianity. Two brothers, Nezhilo and Kumets, received holy Baptism from the priest Nestor, and they received the names Anthony and John. And at the request of Maria Yaroslavna an Orthodox church was built at Vilnius (Vilna).

After the death of his spouse, Prince Olgerd began to support the pagan priests of the fire-worshippers, who started a persecution against Christians. Sts John and Anthony endeavored not to flaunt their Christianity, but they did not observe pagan customs. They did not cut their hair as the pagans did, and on fastdays they did not eat forbidden foods.

The prince soon became suspicious of the brothers, so he interrogated them and they confessed themselves Christians. Then he demanded that they eat meat (it was a fast day). The holy brothers refused, and the prince locked them up in prison. The brothers spent an entire year behind bars. John took fright at the impending tortures and declared that he would obey all the demands of the Great Prince. The delighted Olgerd released the brothers and brought them to himself.

But Anthony did not betray Christ. When he refused to eat meat on a fast day, the prince again locked him up in prison and subjected him to brutal tortures. The other brother remained free, but both Christians and pagans regarded him as a traitor and would not associate with him.

Repenting of his sin, John went to the priest Nestor and entreated him to ask his brother to forgive him. “When he openly confesses Christ, we will be reconciled,” Anthony replied. Once, while serving the prince at the bath, St John spoke privately with him about his reconciliation with the Church. Olgerd did not display any anger and said that he could believe in Christ, but must conduct himself like all the pagans. Then St John confessed himself a Christian in the presence of numerous courtiers. They beat him fiercely with rods and sent him to his brother in prison. The martyrs met with joy, and received the Holy Mysteries that same day.

Many people went to the prison to see the new confessor. The brothers converted many to Christ by their preaching. The prison was transformed into a Christian school. The frightened pagan priests demanded the execution of the brothers, but they did not fear death.

On the morning of April 14, 1347 the Martyr Anthony was hanged on a tree after receiving the Holy Mysteries. This oak, which the pagans considered sacred, became truly sacred for Orthodox Christians.

The pagan priests who hoped that Christian preaching would stop with the death of St Anthony, were disappointed. A multitude of the people gathered before the walls of the prison where St John was being held. On April 24, 1347 they strangled him and hanged his dead body upon the same oak. The venerable bodies of both martyrs were buried by Christians in the church of St Nicholas the Wonderworker.

A third sufferer for Christ was their relative Kruglets. At Baptism the priest Nestor named him Eustathius. Kruglets stood out because of his comeliness, valor and bravery, but even more because of his mind and virtue of soul. A favorite of Olgerd, he could count on a very promising future. However, he also refused to eat meat at the festal table. St Eustathius openly declared that he was a Christian and would not eat meat because of the Nativity Fast.

They began to beat him with iron rods, but the youth did not make a sound. The prince tried refining the torture. Olgerd gave orders to strip the martyr naked, take him out on the street and to pour icy water in his mouth. But this did not break his spirit. Then they broke his ankle bones, and ripped the hair and skin from his head, and cut off his ears and nose. St Eustathius endured the torments with such gladness and courage, that the very torturers themselves were astounded by the divine power which strengthened him. The martyr Eustathius was sentenced to death and hanged on the same oak where Sts John and Anthony received a martyr’s death (December 13, 1347).

For three days no one was permitted to take down the body of the martyr, and a column of cloud protected it from birds and beasts of prey. A church was later built on the hill where the holy martyrs suffered. The trinity of venerable passion bearers glorified the true God worshipped in the Holy Trinity, Father and Son and Holy Spirit. The church was dedicated to the Most Holy Trinity. The altar table was built on the stump of the sacred oak on which the martyrs died.

Soon their relics were found to be incorrupt. In 1364 Patriarch Philotheus of Constantinople (1354-1355, 1364-1376) sent a cross with the relics of the holy martyrs to St Sergius of Radonezh (September 25). The Church established the celebration of all three martyrs on April 14.

The holy martyrs were of immense significance for all the Western frontier. Vilnius’s monastery of the Holy Trinity, where the holy relics are kept, became a stronghold of Orthodoxy on this frontier. In 1915 during the invasion of the Germans, these relics were taken to Moscow.

The relics of the holy passion-bearers were returned to the Vilnius Holy Spirit monastery in 1946. The commemoration of their return (July 13) is solemnly observed at the monastery each year.


Martyr John of Vilnius, Lithuania

The Holy Martyrs John, Anthony, and Eustathius were brothers who suffered for Christ under the Lithuanian Great Prince Olgerd (1345-1377). The prince was married to the Orthodox princess Maria Yaroslavna (+ 1346). He was baptized and during his wife’s lifetime he allowed the preaching of Christianity. Two brothers, Nezhilo and Kumets, received holy Baptism from the priest Nestor, and they received the names Anthony and John. And at the request of Maria Yaroslavna an Orthodox church was built at Vilnius (Vilna).

After the death of his spouse, Prince Olgerd began to support the pagan priests of the fire-worshippers, who started a persecution against Christians. Sts John and Anthony endeavored not to flaunt their Christianity, but they did not observe pagan customs. They did not cut their hair as the pagans did, and on fastdays they did not eat forbidden foods.

The prince soon became suspicious of the brothers, so he interrogated them and they confessed themselves Christians. Then he demanded that they eat meat (it was a fast day). The holy brothers refused, and the prince locked them up in prison. The brothers spent an entire year behind bars. John took fright at the impending tortures and declared that he would obey all the demands of the Great Prince. The delighted Olgerd released the brothers and brought them to himself.

But Anthony did not betray Christ. When he refused to eat meat on a fast day, the prince again locked him up in prison and subjected him to brutal tortures. The other brother remained free, but both Christians and pagans regarded him as a traitor and would not associate with him.

Repenting of his sin, John went to the priest Nestor and entreated him to ask his brother to forgive him. “When he openly confesses Christ, we will be reconciled,” Anthony replied. Once, while serving the prince at the bath, St John spoke privately with him about his reconciliation with the Church. Olgerd did not display any anger and said that he could believe in Christ, but must conduct himself like all the pagans. Then St John confessed himself a Christian in the presence of numerous courtiers. They beat him fiercely with rods and sent him to his brother in prison. The martyrs met with joy, and received the Holy Mysteries that same day.

Many people went to the prison to see the new confessor. The brothers converted many to Christ by their preaching. The prison was transformed into a Christian school. The frightened pagan priests demanded the execution of the brothers, but they did not fear death.

On the morning of April 14, 1347 the Martyr Anthony was hanged on a tree after receiving the Holy Mysteries. This oak, which the pagans considered sacred, became truly sacred for Orthodox Christians.

The pagan priests who hoped that Christian preaching would stop with the death of St Anthony, were disappointed. A multitude of the people gathered before the walls of the prison where St John was being held. On April 24, 1347 they strangled him and hanged his dead body upon the same oak. The venerable bodies of both martyrs were buried by Christians in the church of St Nicholas the Wonderworker.

For three days no one was permitted to take down the body of the martyr, and a column of cloud protected it from birds and beasts of prey. A church was later built on the hill where the holy martyrs suffered. The trinity of venerable passion bearers glorified the true God worshipped in the Holy Trinity, Father and Son and Holy Spirit. The church was dedicated to the Most Holy Trinity. The altar table was built on the stump of the sacred oak on which the martyrs died.

Soon the martyrs’ relics were found to be incorrupt. In 1364 Patriarch Philotheus of Constantinople (1354-1355, 1364-1376) sent a cross with the relics of the holy martyrs to St Sergius of Radonezh (September 25). The Church established the celebration of all three martyrs on April 14.

The relics of the holy passion-bearers were returned to Vilnius’s Holy Spirit monastery in 1946. The commemoration of their return (July 13) is solemnly observed at the monastery each year.


Martyr Eustathius of Vilnius, Lithuania

The Holy Martyrs Eustathius, Anthony, and John were brothers who suffered for Christ under the Lithuanian Great Prince Olgerd (1345-1377). The prince was married to the Orthodox princess Maria Yaroslavna (+ 1346). He was baptized and during his wife’s lifetime he allowed the preaching of Christianity. Two brothers, Nezhilo and Kumets, received holy Baptism from the priest Nestor, and they received the names Anthony and John. And at the request of Maria Yaroslavna an Orthodox church was built at Vilnius (Vilna).

After the death of his spouse, Prince Olgerd began to support the pagan priests of the fire-worshippers, who started a persecution against Christians. Sts John and Anthony endeavored not to flaunt their Christianity, but they did not observe pagan customs. They did not cut their hair as the pagans did, and on fastdays they did not eat forbidden foods.

The prince soon became suspicious of the brothers, so he interrogated them and they confessed themselves Christians. Then he demanded that they eat meat (it was a fast day). The holy brothers refused, and the prince locked them up in prison. The brothers spent an entire year behind bars. John took fright at the impending tortures and declared that he would obey all the demands of the Great Prince. The delighted Olgerd released the brothers and brought them to himself.

But Anthony did not betray Christ. When he refused to eat meat on a fast day, the prince again locked him up in prison and subjected him to brutal tortures. The other brother remained free, but both Christians and pagans regarded him as a traitor and would not associate with him.

Repenting of his sin, John went to the priest Nestor and entreated him to ask his brother to forgive him. “When he openly confesses Christ, we will be reconciled,” Anthony replied. Once, while serving the prince at the bath, St John spoke privately with him about his reconciliation with the Church. Olgerd did not display any anger and said that he could believe in Christ, but must conduct himself like all the pagans. Then St John confessed himself a Christian in the presence of numerous courtiers. They beat him fiercely with rods and sent him to his brother in prison. The martyrs met with joy, and received the Holy Mysteries that same day.

Many people went to the prison to see the new confessor. The brothers converted many to Christ by their preaching. The prison was transformed into a Christian school. The frightened pagan priests demanded the execution of the brothers, but they did not fear death.

On the morning of April 14, 1347 the Martyr Anthony was hanged on a tree after receiving the Holy Mysteries. This oak, which the pagans considered sacred, became truly sacred for Orthodox Christians. St John was strangled and hanged on April 24, 1347

A third sufferer for Christ was their relative Kruglets. At Baptism the priest Nestor named him Eustathius. Kruglets stood out because of his comeliness, valor and bravery, but even more because of his mind and virtue of soul. A favorite of Olgerd, he could count on a very promising future. However, he also refused to eat meat at the festal table. St Eustathius openly declared that he was a Christian and would not eat meat because of the Nativity Fast.

They began to beat him with iron rods, but the youth did not make a sound. The prince tried refining the torture. Olgerd gave orders to strip the martyr naked, take him out on the street and to pour icy water in his mouth. But this did not break his spirit. Then they broke his ankle bones, and ripped the hair and skin from his head, and cut off his ears and nose. St Eustathius endured the torments with such gladness and courage, that the very torturers themselves were astounded by the divine power which strengthened him. The martyr Eustathius was sentenced to death and hanged on the same oak where Sts John and Anthony received a martyr’s death (December 13, 1347).

For three days no one was permitted to take down the body of the martyr, and a column of cloud protected it from birds and beasts of prey. A church was later built on the hill where the holy martyrs suffered. The trinity of venerable passion bearers glorified the true God worshipped in the Holy Trinity, Father and Son and Holy Spirit. The church was dedicated to the Most Holy Trinity. The altar table was built on the stump of the sacred oak on which the martyrs died.

Soon their relics were found to be incorrupt. In 1364 Patriarch Philotheus of Constantinople (1354-1355, 1364-1376) sent a cross with the relics of the holy martyrs to St Sergius of Radonezh (September 25). The Church established the celebration of all three martyrs on April 14.

The holy martyrs were of immense significance for all the Western frontier. Vilnius’s monastery of the Holy Trinity, where the holy relics are kept, became a stronghold of Orthodoxy on this frontier. In 1915 during the invasion of the Germans, these relics were taken to Moscow.

The relics of the holy passion-bearers were returned to the Vilnius Holy Spirit monastery in 1946. The commemoration of their return (July 13) is solemnly observed at the monastery each year.


Martyr Ardalion the Actor

The Holy Martyr Ardalion suffered for Christ under the emperor Maximian Galerius (305-311). St Ardalion was a talented actor.

Once, he played the role of a Christian. In the play, the actor at first refused to offer sacrifice to idols, but then consented to renounce Christ. Suddenly the saint ordered everyone to be quiet and declared that he actually was a Christian.

St Ardalion continued to confess his faith in Christ. Then the governor ordered the martyr to be thrown onto a red-hot iron grill. So St Ardalion attained a martyr’s crown.


Martyr Azades (Azat) the Eunuch of Persia

Saint Azades (Azat) was a wealthy man who served in the household of King Shapur II of Persia, and enjoyed his confidence. He was arrested for professing Christianity, and then suffered martyrdom with 1000 other Christians. After this, the king repented and ordered an end to the persecution of Christians.


1,000 Martyrs of Persia

These holy martyrs were executed with St Azades (Azat), a wealthy man who served in the household of King Shapur II of Persia, and enjoyed his confidence. He was arrested for professing Christianity, and then suffered martyrdom with 1000 other Christians. After this, the king repented and ordered an end to the persecution of Christians.


Icon of the Mother of God of Vilnius

The Vilnius (Vilna) Icon of the Mother of God was painted by the holy Evangelist Luke. For a long time it was in the family of the Greek emperors at Constantinople. In 1472 Sophia Paleologina, wife of the Moscow Great Prince Ivan III (1462-1505), transferred the icon to Moscow.

In 1495 the Great Prince blessed his daughter Elena with this icon before giving her in marriage to the Lithuanian king Alexander. The Church celebrates the transfer of this icon to Vilnius on February 15.

Later, the holy icon was placed in the church of St John the Forerunner, in which Princess Elena was buried. Afterwards, they transferred the icon to Vilnius’s HolyTrinity monastery.

The Vilnius icon is also commemorated on February 15.