Lives of all saints commemorated on June 16


Commemoration of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council

On the seventh Sunday of Pascha, we commemorate the holy God-bearing Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council.

The Commemoration of the First Ecumenical Council has been celebrated by the Church of Christ from ancient times. The Lord Jesus Christ left the Church a great promise, “I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt. 16:18). Although the Church of Christ on earth will pass through difficult struggles with the Enemy of salvation, it will emerge victorious. The holy martyrs bore witness to the truth of the Savior’s words, enduring suffering and death for confessing Christ, but the persecutor’s sword is shattered by the Cross of Christ.

Persecution of Christians ceased during the fourth century, but heresies arose within the Church itself. One of the most pernicious of these heresies was Arianism. Arius, a priest of Alexandria, was a man of immense pride and ambition. In denying the divine nature of Jesus Christ and His equality with God the Father, Arius falsely taught that the Savior is not consubstantial with the Father, but is only a created being.

A local Council, convened with Patriarch Alexander of Alexandria presiding, condemned the false teachings of Arius. However, Arius would not submit to the authority of the Church. He wrote to many bishops, denouncing the decrees of the local Council. He spread his false teaching throughout the East, receiving support from certain Eastern bishops.

Investigating these dissentions, the holy emperor Constantine (May 21) consulted Bishop Hosius of Cordova (Aug. 27), who assured him that the heresy of Arius was directed against the most fundamental dogma of Christ’s Church, and so he decided to convene an Ecumenical Council. In 325, 318 bishops representing Christian Churches from various lands gathered together at Nicea.

Among the assembled bishops were many confessors who had suffered during the persecutions, and who bore the marks of torture upon their bodies. Also participating in the Council were several great luminaries of the Church: St Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia (December 6 and May 9), St Spyridon, Bishop of Tremithos (December 12), and others venerated by the Church as holy Fathers.

With Patriarch Alexander of Alexandria came his deacon, Athanasius (who later became Patriarch of Alexandria (May 2 and January 18). He is called “the Great,” for he was a zealous champion for the purity of Orthodoxy. In the Sixth Ode of the Canon for today’s Feast, he is referred to as “the thirteenth Apostle.”

The emperor Constantine presided over the sessions of the Council. In his speech, responding to the welcome by Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea, he said, “God has helped me cast down the impious might of the persecutors, but more distressful for me than any blood spilled in battle is for a soldier, is the internal strife in the Church of God, for it is more ruinous.”

Arius, with seventeen bishops among his supporters, remained arrogant, but his teaching was repudiated and he was excommunicated from the Church. In his speech, the holy deacon Athanasius conclusively refuted the blasphemous opinions of Arius. The heresiarch Arius is depicted in iconography sitting on Satan’s knees, or in the mouth of the Beast of the Deep (Rev. 13).

The Fathers of the Council declined to accept a Symbol of Faith (Creed) proposed by the Arians. Instead, they affirmed the Orthodox Symbol of Faith. St Constantine asked the Council to insert into the text of the Symbol of Faith the word “consubstantial,” which he had heard in the speeches of the bishops. The Fathers of the Council unanimously accepted this suggestion.

In the Nicean Creed, the holy Fathers set forth and confirmed the Apostolic teachings about Christ’s divine nature. The heresy of Arius was exposed and repudiated as an error of haughty reason. After resolving this chief dogmatic question, the Council also issued Twelve Canons on questions of churchly administration and discipline. Also decided was the date for the celebration of Holy Pascha. By decision of the Council, Holy Pascha should not be celebrated by Christians on the same day with the Jewish Passover, but on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the vernal equinox (which occured on March 22 in 325).

The First Ecumenical Council is also commemorated on May 29.


St Tikhon the Bishop of Amathus in Cyprus

Saint Tikhon, Bishop of Amathus, was born in the city Amathus on the island of Cyprus. His parents raised their son in Christian piety, and taught him the reading of sacred books. It is said that the gift of wonderworking appeared in St Tikhon at quite a young age.

His father was the owner of a bakery, and whenever he left his son alone in the shop, the holy youth would give free bread to those in need. Learning of this, his father became angry, but the son said that he had read in the Scriptures, that in giving to God one receives back a hundredfold. “I,” said the youth, “gave to God the bread which was taken,” and he persuaded his father to go to the place where the grain was stored. With astonishment the father saw that the granary, which formerly was empty, was now filled to overflowing with wheat. From that time the father did not hinder his son from distributing bread to the poor.

A certain gardener brought the dried prunings of vines from the vineyard. St Tikhon gathered them, planted them in his garden and besought the Lord that these branches might take root and yield fruit for the health of people. The Lord did so through the faith of the holy youth. The branches took root, and their fruit had a particular and very pleasant taste. It was used during the lifetime of the saint and after his death for making wine for the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist.

They accepted the pious youth into the church clergy, made him a reader. Later, Mnemonios, the Bishop of Amathus ordained him a deacon. After the death of Bishop Mnemonios, St Tikhon by universal agreement was chosen as Bishop of Amathus. St Epiphanius, Bishop of Cyprus (May 12), presided at the service.

St Tikhon labored zealously to eradicate the remnants of paganism on Cyprus; he destroyed a pagan temple and spread the Christian Faith. The holy bishop was generous, his doors were open to all, and he listened to and lovingly fulfilled the request of each person who came to him. Fearing neither threats nor tortures, he firmly and fearlessly confessed his faith before pagans.

In the service to St Tikhon it is stated that he foresaw the time of his death, which occurred in the year 425.

The name of St Tikhon of Amathus was greatly honored in Russia. Temples dedicated to the saint were constructed at Moscow, at Nizhni Novgorod, at Kazan and other cities. But he was particularly venerated in the Voronezh diocese, where there were three archpastors in succession sharing the name with the holy hierarch of Amathus: St Tikhon I (Sokolov) (+ 1783, August 13), Tikhon II (Yakubovsky, until 1785) and Tikhon III (Malinin, until 1788).


Venerable Tikhon of Kaluga Or Medin

Saint Tikhon of Medin and Kaluga, in his youth received monastic tonsure at the Chudov monastery in Moscow, but through his love for solitude he settled at an isolated spot near Maloyaroslavl. He lived in asceticism in a deep dense forest, on the bank of the River Vepreika, in the hollow of an ancient giant oak. Once, during a hunt, Prince Basil Yaroslavich (grandson of Vladimir the Brave), came upon St Tikhon, angrily ordered him to leave his property immediately, and dared to raise his whip against the monk. At once, the hand of the prince grew numb. Taken aback by such punishment, the prince repented of his conduct and with humility asked forgiveness.

He received healing through the prayer of St Tikhon. The prince entreated the monk to remain always on his property and to build a monastery there for monks, promising to provide it with everything necessary. St Tikhon built a monastery in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, which he headed. He guided the monastery until he reached a great old age, and he died in the year 1492, after receiving the great schema.

St Tikhon’s body was buried at the cathedral church of the monastery he founded. The celebration of St Tikhon was established at the Council of 1584.


Venerable Tikhon of Luchov, Kostroma

St Tikhon of Lukh, and Kostroma (in the world Timothy), was born within the bounds of the Lithuanian princedom and was in military service there. In the year 1482, not wanting to accept Uniatism, he went from Lithuania to Russia. The saint gave away everything that he had, accepted monastic tonsure with the name Tikhon, and settled in the Kostroma diocese in the Lukhov region. The city of Lukh was at that time given to Prince Theodore Belsky, with whom St Tikhon had come from Lithuania. On the banks of the boundary of the Kopitovka St Tikhon built his cell. When two monks, Photius and Gerasimus, came to him in the wilderness, because of them Tikhon moved three versts from the Koptovka to a more satisfactory location.

The monks earned their living by the work of their hands. St Tikhon copied books with skill, and was a fine lathe turner. Out of humility he did not become a priest. St Tikhon died on June 16, 1503 in such poverty that his disciples did not know how they would bury him. But to their comfort the Archbishop of Suzdal sent a monastic burial shroud, in which to bury him. Soon after his death, at the place of his labors, a monastery was built in honor of St Nicholas the Wonderworker.

In 1569 there were healings of the sick at the grave of St Tikhon, and his relics were found to be incorrupt. But the igumen Constantine, who uncovered the relics, was struck blind. After repenting and then recovering his eyesight, he placed the relics of St Tikhon back into the ground. The veneration of St Tikhon dates from this time. His Life and an account of 70 posthumous miracles was compiled in the year 1649.


Martyr Tigrius the Presbyter of Constantinople

Hieromartyr Tigrius the Presbyter and the Martyr Eutropius the Reader were contemporaries of St John Chrysostom (November 13) and were among his clergy. The holy presbyter Tigrius was a mild and kindly pastor, and St Eutropius was distinguished for his prudence and purity of life. When St John Chrysostom was banished from Constantinople in 404, St Tigrius and the reader Eutropius were arrested as his partisans and were accused of setting fire to churches and buildings belonging to the opponents of St John Chrysostom.

St Tigrius was put to torture, beaten with leather and banished to Mesopotamia, where he was imprisoned and died. St Eutropius was flogged, suspended, struck with iron rods, and thrown into prison. When the torments were repeated, he died. His body, which had been thrown to the dogs, was taken by night and buried by Christians. As they took his body for burial, angelic singing was heard in the sky above them.


Martyr Eutropius the Reader of Constantinople

Hieromartyr Tigrius the Presbyter and the Martyr Eutropius the Reader were contemporaries of St John Chrysostom (November 13) and were among his clergy. The holy presbyter Tigrius was a mild and kindly pastor, and St Eutropius was distinguished for his prudence and purity of life. When St John Chrysostom was banished from Constantinople in 404, St Tigrius and the reader Eutropius were arrested as his partisans and were accused of setting fire to churches and buildings belonging to the opponents of St John Chrysostom.

St Tigrius was put to torture, beaten with leather and banished to Mesopotamia, where he was imprisoned and died. St Eutropius was flogged, suspended, struck with iron rods, and thrown into prison. When the torments were repeated, he died. His body, which had been thrown to the dogs, was taken by night and buried by Christians. As they took his body for burial, angelic singing was heard in the sky above them.


St Kaikhosro the Georgian

The life of St. Kaikhosro the Georgian has been passed down to our century in the works of Archbishop Timote (Gabashvili), a famous Church figure and historian of the 18th century.

In a passage describing the frescoes and commemoration books of the Holy Cross Monastery in Jerusalem, Bishop Timote writes that an image of St. Kaikhosro the Georgian is among the sacred

frescoes.

According to the commemoration books of the Holy Cross Monastery, St. Kaikhosro the Georgian was tortured to death by Shah Abbas I in 1612 for his pious veneration of the holy icons.


Venerable Moses of Optina

Saint Moses (Putilov) was born on January 15, 1782 in the city of Borisogleb in the Yaroslavl province, and was baptized with the name Timothy. His siblings were called Jonah, Basil, Cyril, Anysia, and Alexander. John Putilov named all his children after the saint commemorated on the eighth day after their birth, so the future St Moses was named for the holy Apostle Timothy of the Seventy (January 22). The children were educated at home, since their parents feared they would be corrupted in some way if they were sent away to school.

When Timothy was nineteen, his father sent him and his younger brother Jonah to work in Moscow. While in Moscow they met the Elders Alexander and Philaret of the Novospassky Monastery, who had spiritual ties to St Paisius Velichkovsky (November 15). Through their aquaintance with these two ascetics of piety, the brothers decided that they also wished to become monks. In May of 1805 they visited the Sarov monastery (which their widowed brother-in-law Cosmas Krundishev had entered in November 1804) and spoke with St Seraphim (January 2). The brothers remained at Sarov for two and a half years. At first they were assigned to the bakery, and then to other obediences.

In 1811, following the advice of Hieromonk Alexis of Moscow’s Simonov Monastery, Timothy went to live with the hermits of the Roslavl forests. There he was placed under the guidance of Elder Athanasius, a disciple of St Paisius Velichkovsky. In time, he received the monastic tonsure from Fr Athanasius and was named Moses. His sponsor at his tonsure was Elder Dositheus, who had lived in the Rostov forests for forty years.

Alexander, the youngest brother of Fr Moses, came to the Roslavl forest on January 15, 1816 to share the life of the monks. Four years later, he was tonsured with the name Anthony. He was placed in the care of Fr Moses, to whom he remained obedient for the rest of his life.

In 1821 Bishop Philaret of Kaluga (later Metropolitan of Kiev) suggested that the Putilov brothers move to the Optina Hermitage with a few monks and establish a skete near the monastery, where they could live in greater solitude. Sts Moses and Anthony arrived at Optina on July 6, 1822 to begin their labors. Their first task was to clear away some trees from the place they had chosen, and to uproot the stumps. They built a small cell and enclosed it with a fence, and also built a church dedicated to St John the Baptist.

Bishop Philaret suggested that Fr Moses be ordained, but he absolutely refused to consider it. The bishop said, “If you do not agree to this, I will call you to account for it at the Dread Judgment of the Lord.” Only then would Fr Mose consent. He was ordained as a deacon on December 22, 1822, and to the holy priesthood on December 25. At the same time, he was appointed Father Confessor for the whole monastery.

Fr Moses was chosen to be the Superior of Optina Hermitage in 1826 when he was forty-three, serving in this capacity for thirty-seven years. He was prepared for this service by his years of living in the wilderness under the guidance of his Elder, and by his study of patristic writings. He was mature in years, and he had also acquired a spiritual maturity through his patient endurance of tribulations and acceptance of God’s will in all things.

Optina underwent many changes during this time, and the number of monks increased. The size of the monastery’s property was doubled, orchards of fruit trees and berry bushes were planted, a library was established, and many buildings were constructed, including a cathedral and two churches.

St Moses did not have the money for all these projects, but he undertook them anyway, trusting in God to provide the means. Sometimes he would even travel to Moscow to solicit donations to the monastery. When people asked if he had enough money for his projects, he would show them a few roubles. Someone would say, “Father, that is nothing!” Then Fr Moses would reply, “Are you forgetting about God? I may have nothing, but He has everything.”

During a time of famine there was scarcely enough food to feed the monks. It was just then that Fr Moses began the construction of guest houses on the monastery grounds and hired people from the neighboring towns and villages to do the work. The monastery not only paid their wages, but also fed their families. One of the monks was concerned that the coming famine would force them to postpone the construction and lay off the workers. St Moses told him that the people would not starve, because as long as God sent gifts to the monastery they would share them with the people.

Though he was short-tempered by nature, St Moses struggled to acquire patience and meekness. If he felt himself becoming angry, he would leave to pray by himself for a while. Once he had calmed down, he would return. He would also advise people to keep the rule of St Dorotheus (June 5) for being at peace: “Do not desire that things turn out the way you would like, but desire whatever happens. That way you will be at peace” (Seventeenth Instruction).

St Moses did not sleep much. He would arise before midnight, and usually came to church for Matins. He said that the Bloodless Sacrifice was offered for us at Liturgy, and so the monk should sacrifice his own rest at Matins.

During Fr Moses’ time the monastery published sixteen volumes of patristic writings under the direction of St Macarius (September 7). St Moses would send these books free of charge to various monasteries and individuals for their spiritual benefit.

Although St Moses concerned himself with every aspect of the monastery’s life, his greatest achievement was to establish eldership at Optina. He received St Leonid (October 11) and St Macarius into the monastery, yet he submitted his will to them. He made no decisions, and would not tonsure any monk without first seeking their counsel. St Moses had the gift of eldership himself, but preferred not to offer spiritual counsel to the brethren. He left this to Fr Leonid or Fr Macarius.

The saint endeavored to hide his spiritual gifts from others, but people knew that he was clairvoyant, and that his holy prayers were answered by God. Whenever anyone praised him for anything, he would smile and say, “I do not agree with you. I have my doubts.”

On June 15, 1862 Father Archimandrite Moses became very weak, and had to be supported by others when he received Holy Communion because he did not wish to partake of the Holy Mysteries of Christ while lying down. That evening he listened as the Gospel according to St John was being read for him. At midnight he received Holy Communion again, although this time he received lying down.

A few hours later, St Moses raised his right hand and those in the room came to receive his blessing. He continued to bless, even when there was no one there. Evidently, he was blessing people he knew in other places. Later the monastery received a letter from a person in St Petersburg who said that he had seen St Moses in a dream at the very hour when he was dying and blessing those who were absent. He seemed to see the Elder lying on a bed and blessing each individual member of this person’s family.

Then it was decided to resume reading the Gospel over Fr Moses. The monks took turns reading until about ten o’clock when the Elder breathed a little sigh and surrendered his soul to God. At that very moment, the monk who was reading reached the end of the sixtenth chapter of the Gospel of St Matthew: “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Truly I say unto you, there are some standing here who shall not taste of death until they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:27-28).

Early in his life, when he visited the Sarov monastery and saw the life of the monks there, he resolved not to possess anything during his life. Ironically, he was forced to deal with raising money for building projects, and with paying the workers at Optina. After his death the money coffer in which he kept the monastery funds was opened. Inside they found a single ten kopek coin stuck between the bottom and side of the chest. His brother St Anthony remarked, “Fr Moses probably did not notice it, otherwise he would have spent it.”

Several years after his death, the holy relics of St Moses were found to be incorrupt.

The Moscow Patriarchate authorized local veneration of the Optina Elders on June 13,1996. The work of uncovering the relics of Sts Leonid, Macarius, Hilarion, Ambrose, Anatole I, Barsanuphius and Anatole II began on June 24/July 7, 1998 and was concluded the next day. However, because of the church Feasts (Nativity of St John the Baptist, etc.) associated with the actual dates of the uncovering of the relics, Patriarch Alexey II designated June 27/July 10 as the date for commemorating this event. The relics of the holy Elders now rest in the new church of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God.

The Optina Elders were glorified by the Moscow Patriarchate for universal veneration on August 7, 2000.