Lives of all saints commemorated on July 7


Synaxis of the Saints of North America

On the second Sunday after Pentecost, each local Orthodox Church commemorates all the saints, known and unknown, who have shone forth in its territory. Accordingly, the Orthodox Church in America remembers the saints of North America on this day.

Saints of all times, and in every country are seen as the fulfillment of God’s promise to redeem fallen humanity. Their example encourages us to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily besets us” and to “run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). The saints of North America also teach us how we should live, and what we must expect to endure as Christians

Although it is a relatively young church, the Orthodox Church in America has produced saints in nearly all of the six major categories of saints: Apostles (and Equals of the Apostles); Martyrs (and Confessors); Prophets; Hierarchs; Monastic Saints; and the Righteous. Prophets, of course, lived in Old Testament times and predicted the coming of Christ.

The first Divine Liturgy in what is now American territory (northern latitude 58 degrees, 14 minutes, western longitude 141 degrees) was celebrated on July 20, 1741, the Feast of the Prophet Elias, aboard the ship Peter under the command of Vitus Bering. Hieromonk Hilarion Trusov and the priest Ignatius Kozirevsky served together on that occasion. Several years later, the Russian merchant Gregory I. Shelikov visited Valaam monastery, suggesting to the abbot that it would be desirable to send missionaries to Russian America.

On September 24, 1794, after a journey of 7,327 miles (the longest missionary journey in Orthodox history) and 293 days, a group of monks from Valaam arrived on Kodiak Island in Alaska. The mission was headed by Archimandrite Joasaph, and included Hieromonks Juvenal, Macarius, and Athanasius, the Hierodeacons Nectarius and Stephen, and the monks Herman and Joasaph. St Herman of Alaska (December 13, August 9), the last surviving member of the mission, fell asleep in the Lord in 1837.

Throughout the Church’s history, the seeds of faith have always been watered by the blood of the martyrs. The Protomartyr Juvenal was killed near Lake Iliamna by natives in 1799, thus becoming the first Orthodox Christian to shed his blood for Christ in the New World. In 1816, St Peter the Aleut was put to death by Spanish missionaries in California when he refused to convert to Roman Catholicism.

Missionary efforts continued in the nineteenth century, with outreach to the native peoples of Alaska. Two of the most prominent laborers in Christ’s Vineyard were St Innocent Veniaminov (March 31 and October 6) and St Jacob Netsvetov (July 26), who translated Orthodox services and books into the native languages. Father Jacob Netsvetev died in Sitka in 1864 after a life of devoted service to the Church. Father John Veniaminov, after his wife’s death, received monastic tonsure with the name Innocent. He died in 1879 as the Metropolitan of Moscow.

As the nineteenth century was drawing to a close, an event of enormous significance for the North American Church took place. On March 25, 1891, Bishop Vladimir went to Minneapolis to receive St Alexis Toth (May 7) and 361 of his parishioners into the Orthodox Church. This was the beginning of the return of many Uniates to Orthodoxy.

St Tikhon (Belavin), the future Patriarch of Moscow (April 7, October 9), came to America as bishop of the diocese of the Aleutians and Alaska in September 1898. As the only Orthodox bishop on the continent, St Tikhon traveled extensively throughout North America in order to minister to his widely scattered and diverse flock. He realized that the local church here could not be a permanent extension of the Russian Church. Therefore, he focused his efforts on giving the American Church a diocesan and parish structure which would help it mature and grow.

St Tikhon returned to Russia in 1907, and was elected as Patriarch of Moscow ten years later. He died in 1925, and for many years his exact burial place remained unknown. St Tikhon’s grave was discovered on February 22, 1992 in the smaller cathedral of Our Lady of the Don in the Don Monastery when a fire made renovation of the church necessary.

St Raphael of Brooklyn (February 27) was the first Orthodox bishop to be consecrated in North America. Archimandrite Raphael Hawaweeny was consecrated by Bishop Tikhon and Bishop Innocent (Pustynsky) at St Nicholas Cathedral in New York on March 13, 1904. As Bishop of Brooklyn, St Raphael was a trusted and capable assistant to St Tikhon in his archpastoral ministry. St Raphael reposed on February 27, 1915.

The first All American Council took place March 5-7, 1907 at Mayfield, PA, and the main topic was “How to expand the mission.” Guidelines and directions for missionary activity, and statutes for the administrative structure of parishes were also set forth.

In the twentieth century, in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, countless men, women, and children received the crown of martyrdom rather than renounce Christ. Sts John Kochurov (October 31) and Alexander Hotovitzky (December 4 and August 7) both served the Church in North America before going back to Russia. St John became the first clergyman to be martyred in Russia on October 31, 1917 in St Petersburg. St Alexander Hotovitzky, who served in America until 1914, was killed in 1937.

In addition to the saints listed above, we also honor those saints who are known only to God, and have not been recognized officially by the Church. As we contemplate the lives of these saints, let us remember that we are also called by God to a life of holiness.


Venerable Thomas of Mt. Maleon

Saint Thomas of Mt. Maleon was a military commander before he became a monk. Strong and brave, he had participated in many battles, and brought victory to his countrymen, for which he gained glory and esteem. But, striving with all his heart towards God, Thomas abandoned the world and its honors, and he took monastic vows.

With great humility he visited monastic Elders, asking for guidance in the spiritual life. After several years Thomas received the blessing for solitary wilderness life and, led by a pillar of fire at night by the holy Prophet Elias, he settled on Mount Maleon (on the eastern part of Athos). Dwelling in complete seclusion, St Thomas fought with invisible enemies with as much courage as he had displayed against the visible enemies of his country.

The life and deeds of St Thomas could not be concealed from the surrounding area. People began to flock to him seeking spiritual guidance, and even those suffering from sickness, since he received from God the blessing to heal infirmities.

Many believers received help through the prayers of the holy monk. Even after his death, he does not cease to heal those who seek his aid, from every passion and sickness.


Venerable Acacius of Sinai, who is mentioned in the Ladder

Saint Acacius of Sinai lived during the sixth century and was a novice at a certain monastery in Asia. The humble monk distinguished himself by his patient and unquestioning obedience to his Elder, a harsh and dissolute man. He forced his disciple to toil excessively, starved him with hunger, and beat him without mercy. Despite such treatment, St Acacius meekly endured the affliction and thanked God for everything. St Acacius died after suffering these torments for nine years.

Five days after Acacius was buried, his Elder told another Elder about the death of his disciple. The second Elder did not believe that the young monk was dead. They went to the grave of Acacius and the second Elder called out: “Brother Acacius, are you dead?” From the grave a voice replied, “No, Father, how is it possible for an obedient man to die?” The startled Elder of St Acacius fell down with tears before the grave, asking forgiveness of his disciple.

After this he repented, constantly saying to the Fathers, “I have committed murder.” He lived in a cell near the grave of St Acacius, and he ended his life in prayer and in meekness. St John Climacus (March 30) mentions him in THE LADDER (Step 4:110) as an example of endurance and obedience, and of the rewards for these virtues.

St Acacius is also commemorated on November 29.


St Eudokia, in Monasticism Euphrosyne, the Grand Duchess of Moscow

Saint Euphrosyne, in the world Eudokia, was the daughter of the Suzdal prince Demetrius Constantovich (+ 1383), and from 1367 was the wife of the Moscow Great Prince Demetrius of the Don. Their happy union was for Russia a pledge of unity and peace between Moscow and Suzdal.

St Alexis, Metropolitan of Moscow, and even St Sergius of Radonezh, who baptized one of the sons of Demetrius and Eudokia, had a great influence upon the spiritual life of Princess Eudokia. St Demetrius of Priluki (February 11) was the godfather of another son.

The holy princess was a builder of churches. In 1387 she founded the Ascension women’s monastery in the Moscow Kremlin. In 1395, during Tamerlane’s invasion into the southern regions of Russia, the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God was transferred to Moscow upon her advice, miraculously defending the Russian land. During Lent, the princess secretly wore chains beneath her splendid royal garb. By her patronage the famous icon of the Archangel Michael was painted, and later became the patronal icon of the Kremlin’s Archangel Cathedral.

After raising five sons (a sixth died in infancy), the princess was tonsured as a nun with the name Euphrosyne. She completed her earthly journey on July 7, 1407 and was buried in the Ascension monastery she founded.

An old Russian church poem has survived, the lament of the princess for her husband, who had died at the age of thirty-nine.

St Euphrosyne is also commemorated on May 17.


Martyr Peregrinus of Dyrrachium in Macedonia

The Holy Martyrs Peregrinus, Lucian, Pompeius, Hesychius, Papius, Saturninus and Germanus were natives of Italy. They suffered for Christ under the emperor Trajan in the city of Dirrachium, located at the shore of the Adriatic sea.

Witnessing the martyrdom of Bishop Astius, who was crucified by the Romans, they openly praised the courage and firmness of the holy confessor. Because of this, they were seized, and as confessors of faith in Christ, they were drowned in the sea. Their bodies, carried to shore by the waves, were hidden in the sand by Christians. The martyrs appeared to the Bishop of Alexandria ninety years later, ordering him to bury their bodies and to build a church over them.


St Lucian of Dyrrachium in Macedonia

The Holy Martyrs Lucian, Peregrinus, Pompeius, Hesychius, Papius, Saturninus and Germanus were natives of Italy. They suffered for Christ under the emperor Trajan in the city of Dirrachium, located at the shore of the Adriatic sea.

Witnessing the martyrdom of Bishop Astius, who was crucified by the Romans, they openly praised the courage and firmness of the holy confessor. Because of this, they were seized, and as confessors of faith in Christ, they were drowned in the sea. Their bodies, carried to shore by the waves, were hidden in the sand by Christians. The martyrs appeared to the Bishop of Alexandria ninety years later, ordering him to bury their bodies and to build a church over them.


Martyr Pompeius of Dyrrachium in Macedonia

The Holy Martyrs Pompeius, Peregrinus, Lucian, Hesychius, Papius, Saturninus and Germanus were natives of Italy. They suffered for Christ under the emperor Trajan in the city of Dirrachium, located at the shore of the Adriatic sea.

Witnessing the martyrdom of Bishop Astius, who was crucified by the Romans, they openly praised the courage and firmness of the holy confessor. Because of this, they were seized, and as confessors of faith in Christ, they were drowned in the sea. Their bodies, carried to shore by the waves, were hidden in the sand by Christians. The martyrs appeared to the Bishop of Alexandria ninety years later, ordering him to bury their bodies and to build a church over them.


Martyr Hesychius of Dyrrachium in Macedonia

The Holy Martyrs Hesychius, Peregrinus, Lucian, Pompeius, Papius, Saturninus and Germanus were natives of Italy. They suffered for Christ under the emperor Trajan in the city of Dirrachium, located at the shore of the Adriatic sea.

Witnessing the martyrdom of Bishop Astius, who was crucified by the Romans, they openly praised the courage and firmness of the holy confessor. Because of this, they were seized, and as confessors of faith in Christ, they were drowned in the sea. Their bodies, carried to shore by the waves, were hidden in the sand by Christians. The martyrs appeared to the Bishop of Alexandria ninety years later, ordering him to bury their bodies and to build a church over them.


Martyr Papius of Dyrrachium in Macedonia

The Holy Martyrs Papius, Peregrinus, Lucian, Pompeius, Hesychius, Saturninus and Germanus were natives of Italy. They suffered for Christ under the emperor Trajan in the city of Dirrachium, located at the shore of the Adriatic sea.

Witnessing the martyrdom of Bishop Astius, who was crucified by the Romans, they openly praised the courage and firmness of the holy confessor. Because of this, they were seized, and as confessors of faith in Christ, they were drowned in the sea. Their bodies, carried to shore by the waves, were hidden in the sand by Christians. The martyrs appeared to the Bishop of Alexandria ninety years later, ordering him to bury their bodies and to build a church over them.


Martyr Saturninus of Dyrrachium in Macedonia

The Holy Martyrs Saturninus, Peregrinus, Lucian, Pompeius, Hesychius, Papius, and Germanus were natives of Italy. They suffered for Christ under the emperor Trajan in the city of Dirrachium, located at the shore of the Adriatic sea.

Witnessing the martyrdom of Bishop Astius, who was crucified by the Romans, they openly praised the courage and firmness of the holy confessor. Because of this, they were seized, and as confessors of faith in Christ, they were drowned in the sea. Their bodies, carried to shore by the waves, were hidden in the sand by Christians. The martyrs appeared to the Bishop of Alexandria ninety years later, ordering him to bury their bodies and to build a church over them.


Martyr Germanus of Dyrrachium in Macedonia

The Holy Martyrs Germanus, Peregrinus, Lucian, Pompeius, Hesychius, Papius, and Saturninus were natives of Italy. They suffered for Christ under the emperor Trajan in the city of Dirrachium, on the shores of the Adriatic Sea.

Witnessing the martyrdom of Bishop Astius, who was crucified by the Romans, they openly praised the courage and firmness of the holy confessor. Because of this, they were seized, and as confessors of faith in Christ, they were drowned in the sea. Their bodies, carried to shore by the waves, were hidden in the sand by Christians. The martyrs appeared to the Bishop of Alexandria ninety years later, ordering him to bury their bodies and to build a church over them.


Martyr Evangelicus the Bishop of Tomis, Constanta in Romania

Saint Evangelicus, a follower of the holy Apostle Andrew (November 30), is the first known bishop of the diocese of Tomis (Constantsa) in Dacia Pontica (Lesser Scythia, or Dobrogea). He was active around the mouths of the Danube toward the end of the third century.

Bishop Evangelicus converted many pagans of Dacia Pontica to Christianity. He is mentioned in the account of the martyrdom of Sts Epictetus and Astion (July 8), where he is described as the founder of churches in the province. The parents of these holy martyrs were baptized by St Evangelicus after being converted by the priest Bonosus.

It is believed that St Evangelicus suffered martyrdom during the persecution of Diocletian (284-305).


Martyr Kyriake of Nicomedia

Saint Kyriake was the only child of Dorotheus and Eusebia. Since she was born on a Sunday (Kyriake, in Greek), she was named Kyriake.

One day a wealthy magistrate wished to betroth Kyriake to his son. Not only was she young and beautiful, but her parents were wealthy, and the magistrate wished to control that wealth. The magistrate went to her parents to request her hand, but St Kyriake told him that she wished to remain a virgin, for she had dedicated herself to Christ.

The magistrate was angered by her words, so he went to the emperor Diocletian to denounce the saint and her parents as Christians who mocked the idols, and refused to offer sacrifice to them.

Diocletian sent soldiers to arrest the family and have them brought before him. He asked them why they would not honor the gods which he himself honored. They told him that these were false gods, and that Christ was the one true God.

Dorotheus was beaten until the soldiers grew tired and were unable to continue. Since neither flattery nor torment had any effect, Diocletian sent Dorotheus and Eusebia to Melitene on the eastern border between Cappadocia and Armenia. Then he sent St Kyriake to be interrogated by his son-in-law and co-ruler Maximian at Nicomedia.

Maximian urged her not to throw her life away, promising her wealth and marriage to one of Diocletian’s relatives if she would worship the pagan gods. St Kyriake replied that she would never renounce Christ, nor did she desire worldly riches. Enraged by her bold answer, Maximian had her flogged. The soldiers who administered this punishment became tired, and had to be replaced three times.

Shamed by his failure to overcome a young woman, Maximian sent St Kyriake to Hilarion, the eparch of Bithynia, at Chalcedon. He told Hilarion to either convert Kyriake to paganism, or send her back to him.

Making the same promises and threats that Diocletian and Maximian had made before, Hilarion was no more successful than they were. St Kyriake challenged him to do his worst, because Christ would help her to triumph. The saint was suspended by her hair for several hours, while soldiers burned her body with torches. Not only did she endure all this, she also seemed to become more courageous under torture. Finally, she was taken down and put into a prison cell.

That night Christ appeared to her and healed her wounds. When Hilarion saw her the next day, he declared that she had been healed by the gods because they pitied her. Then Hilarion urged her to go to the temple to give thanks to the gods. She told him that she had been healed by Christ, but agreed to go to the temple. The eparch rejoiced, thinking that he had defeated her.

In the temple, St Kyriake prayed that God would destroy the soulless idols. Suddenly, there was a great earthquake which toppled the idols, shattering them to pieces. Everyone fled the temple in fear, leaving Hilarion behind. Instead of recognizing the power of Christ, the eparch blasphemed the true God as the destroyer of his pagan gods. He was struck by a bolt of lightning and died on the spot.

St Kyriake was tortured again by Apollonius, who succeeded Hilarion as eparch. When she was cast into a fire, the flames were extinguished. When she was thrown to wild beasts, they became tame and gentle. Therefore, Apollonius sentenced her to death by the sword. She was permitted time to pray, so she asked God to receive her soul, and to remember those who honored her martyrdom.

Just as St Kyriake ended her prayer, angels took her soul before the soldiers could strike off her head. Pious Christians took her relics and buried them in a place of honor.


Translation of the “Blachernae” Icon of the Mother of God to Russia

The Blachernae Icon of the Mother of God was discovered at Jerusalem by the empress Eudokia during the time of St Juvenal, Patriarch of Jerusalem (July 2), and St Euthymius the Great (January 20). The holy icon was sent to Constantinople, where the empress Pulcheria placed it in the Blacernae Church, where the Venerable Robe of the Mother of God (July 2) was preserved.

This holy icon is also called the Hodigitria, or “She who leads the way.” It was with this icon that Patriarch Sergius (610-631) made the rounds of the walls of Constantinople in the year 626 with Moliebens during a siege of the capital by the Avars. In memory of this and other victories, which were won thanks to the intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos, an annual celebration was established on Saturday of the Fifth Week of the Great Fast to offer Praises to the Most Holy Theotokos (Saturday of the Akathist). At first the celebration took place only at the Blachernae church in Constantinople. In the ninth century the Feast was included in the Typikon of St Sava the Sanctified, and in the Studite Rule. Later, it was included in the Lenten Triodion and made universal for all the Orthodox Church.

After the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Blachernae Icon was transferred to Mt. Athos, and in 1654 it was sent by the Athonite monks to Moscow as gift to the Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich.

The Blachernae Icon is celebrated on July 2, and in the Fifth Week of Great Lent (Saturday of the Akathist).