Lives of all saints commemorated on September 20


Afterfeast of the Elevation of the Cross

From September 15 until the Leavetaking, we sing “O come, let us worship and fall down before Christ. O son of God crucified in the flesh, save us who sing to Thee: Alleluia” at weekday Liturgies following the Little Entrance.


Greatmartyr Eustathius (Eustace) Placidas with his wife and children of Rome

The Holy Great Martyr Eustathius was named Placidas before his Baptism. He was a military commander under the emperors Titus (79-81) and Trajan (98-117). Even before he came to know Christ, Placidas performed acts of charity, helping the poor and destitute. Therefore, the Lord did not leave the virtuous pagan remain in the darkness of idolatry.

Once while hunting in a forest, he saw a stag which would stop now and then to look him right in the eye. Placidas pursued it on horseback, but could not catch up. The stag leaped over a chasm and stood on the other side facing him. Placidas suddenly saw a radiant Cross between its antlers. In surprise the military commander heard a voice coming from the Cross saying, “Why do you pursue Me, Placidas?”

“Who are You, Master?” asked Placidas.The Voice replied, “I am Jesus Christ, Whom you do not know, yet you honor Me by your good deeds. I have appeared here on this creature for your sake, to capture you in the net of My love for mankind. It is not fitting that one as righteous as you should worship idols and not know the truth. It was to save mankind that I came into the world.”

Placidas cried out, “Lord, I believe that You are the God of Heaven and earth, the Creator of all things. Master, teach me what I should do.” Again the Lord replied, “Go to the bishop of your country and receive Baptism from him, and he will instruct you.”

Placidas returned home and joyfully recounted everything to his wife Tatiana. She in turn told him how the evening before, in a mysterious dream, she had been told, “Tomorrow you, your husband and your sons shall come to Me and know that I am the true God. The spouses then proceeded to do as they had been bidden.

They hastened to the Christian bishop, who baptized all their family, and communed them with the Holy Mysteries. Placidas was renamed Eustathius, his wife was called Theopiste, and their children, Agapius and Theopistus.

On the following day, St Eustathius set out to the place of his miraculous conversion and in fervent prayer he offered up thanks to the Lord for having called him onto the path of salvation.

Again St Eustathius received a miraculous revelation. The Lord Himself foretold his impending tribulations: “Eustathius, you shall suffer many misfortunes, as did Job, but in the end you will conquer the devil.”

Soon St Eustathius was plunged into misfortune: all his servants died of the plague and his cattle perished. Brought to ruin, but not despairing in spirit, St Eustathius and his family secretly abandoned their home, to live unknown, humble and in poverty.

They went to Egypt to board a ship sailing for Jerusalem. During the voyage a new woe beset the saint. The ship owner, enchanted by Theopiste’s beauty, cruelly set Eustathius and his children ashore, keeping the wife for himself.

In great sorrow the saint continued on his way, and new woe beset him. Coming to a tempestuous river, he went to carry his two sons across in turn. When he had brought one across, the other was seized by a lion and carried off into the wilderness. As he turned back towards the other, a wolf dragged that child into the forest.

Having lost everything, St Eustathius wept bitterly, but he realized that Divine Providence had sent him these misfortunes to test his endurance and devotion to God. In his inconsolable grief, St Eustathius went on farther, prepared for new tribulations.

In the village of Badessos he found work and spent five years in unremitting toil. St Eustathius did not know then that through the mercy of God, shepherds and farmers had saved his sons, and they lived right near him. He also did not know that the impudent shipowner had been struck down with a terrible disease and died, leaving St Theopiste untouched. She lived in peace and freedom at the place where the ship landed.

During this time it had become difficult for the emperor Trajan to raise an army for Rome to deal with a rebellion, for the soldiers would not go into battle without their commander Placidas. They advised Trajan to send men out to all the cities to look for him.

Antiochus and Acacius, friends of Placidas, sought him in various places. Finally, they arrived in the village where St Eustathius lived. The soldiers found Eustathius, but they did not recognize him and they began to tell him of the one whom they sought, asking his help and promising a large reward. St Eustathius, immediately recognized his friends, but did not reveal his identity to them.

He borrowed money from one of his friends and fed the visitors. As they looked at him, the travellers noted that he resembled their former commander. When they saw a scar on his shoulder from a deep sword-wound, they realized that it was their friend there before them. They embraced him with tears and told him why they were seeking him.

St Eustathius returned to Rome with them and again became a general. Many new recruits were drafted into the army from all over the empire. He did not know that two young soldiers who served him, and whom he loved for their skill and daring, were actually his own sons. They did not know that they were serving under the command of their own father, nor that they were brothers by birth.

While on campaign, the army led by Eustathius halted at a certain settlement. The soldier-brothers were talking in their tent. The elder one spoke about his life, how he had lost his mother and brother, and how in a terrifying way he had been parted from his father. The younger brother then realized that before him was his very own brother, and told him how he had been rescued from the wolf.

A woman overheard the soldiers’ conversation, since their tent was pitched right next to her house, and this woman realized that these were her sons. Still not identifying herself to them, but not wanting to be separated from them, she went to their commander, St Eustathius, to ask him to take her to Rome with him. She said she had been a prisoner, and wanted to go home. Then she came to recognize the commander as her husband, and with tears she told him about herself and about the two soldiers who were actually their sons. Thus, through the great mercy of the Lord, the whole family was happily reunited.

Soon thereafter the rebellion was crushed, and St Eustathius returned to Rome with honor and glory. The emperor Trajan had since died, and his successor Hadrian (117-138) wanted to celebrate the event of victory with a solemn offering of sacrifice to the gods. To the astonishment of everyone, St Eustathius did not show up at the pagan temple. By order of the emperor they searched frantically for him.

“Why don’t you want to worship the gods?” the emperor inquired. “You, above all others, ought to offer thanks to them. They not only preserved you in war and granted you victory, but also they helped you find your wife and children.” St Eustathius replied: “I am a Christian and I glorify and give thanks to Him, and I offer sacrifice to Him. I owe my life to Him. I do not know or believe in any other god than Him.”

In a rage, the emperor ordered him to take off his military belt and brought him and his family before him. They did not succeed in persuading the steadfast confessors of Christ to offer sacrifice to idols. The whole family of St Eustathius was sentenced to be torn apart by wild beasts, but the beasts would not touch the holy martyrs.

Then the cruel emperor gave orders to throw them all alive into a red-hot brass bull, and St Eustathius, his wife Theopiste, and their sons Agapius and Theopistus endured a martyr’s death. Before being placed in the bull, St Eustathius prayed, “Grant, O Lord, Thy grace to our relics, and grant to those who call upon us a place in Thy Kingdom. Though they call upon us when they are in danger on a river or on the sea, we entreat Thee to come to their aid.”

Three days later, they opened the brass bull, and the bodies of the holy martyrs were found unscathed. Not one hair on their heads was singed, and their faces shone with an unearthly beauty. Many seeing this miracle came to believe in Christ. Christians then buried the bodies of the saints.


Martyr Theopiste with her husband and her children of Rome

Saint Theopiste was the wife of the Great Martyr Eustathius, and was born in the first century.

Once while hunting in a forest, Placidas (the name of St Eustathius before his Baptism) saw a stag with a radiant Cross between its antlers. The military commander heard a voice coming from the Cross saying, “Why do you pursue Me, Placidas?”

“Who are You, Master?” asked Placidas. The Voice repied, “I am Jesus Christ, Whom you do not know, yet you honor Me by your good deeds. I have appeared here on this creature for your sake, to capture you in the net of My love for mankind. It is not fitting that one as righteous as you should worship idols and not know the truth.”

The Savior told him to go to the bishop and be baptized. With joy Placidas returned home and recounted everything to his wife Tatiana. She in turn told him how the evening before in a mysterious dream she had been told, “Tomorrow you, your husband and your sons shall come to Me and know that I am the true God. The spouses then proceeded to do as they had been bidden.

They hastened to the Christian bishop, who baptized all their family, and communed them with the Holy Mysteries. Placidas was renamed Eustathius, his wife was called Theopiste, and their children, Agapius and Theopistus.

On the following day, St Eustathius set out to the place of his miraculous conversion and in fervent prayer he offered up thanks to the Lord for having called him onto the path of salvation.

Again St Eustathius received a miraculous revelation. The Lord Himself foretold his impending tribulations: “Eustathius, you shall suffer many misfortunes, as did Job, but in the end you will conquer the devil.”

Soon St Eustathius was plunged into misfortune: all his servants died of the plague and his cattle perished. Brought to ruin, but not despairing in spirit, St Eustathius and his family secretly abandoned their home, to live unknown, humble and in poverty.

They went to Egypt to board a ship sailing for Jerusalem. During the voyage a new woe beset the saint. The ship owner, enchanted by Theopiste’s beauty, cruelly set Eustathius and his children ashore, keeping the wife for himself.

In great sorrow the saint continued on his way, and new woe beset him. Coming to a tempestuous river, he went to carry his two sons across in turn. When he had brought one across, the other was seized by a lion and carried off into the wilderness. As he turned back towards the other, a wolf dragged that child into the forest.

Having lost everything, St Eustathius wept bitterly, but he realized that Divine Providence had sent him these misfortunes to test his endurance and devotion to God. In his inconsolable grief, St Eustathius went on farther, prepared for new tribulations.

In the village of Badessos he found work and spent five years in unremitting toil. St Eustathius did not know then that through the mercy of God, shepherds and farmers had saved his sons, and they lived right near him. He also did not know that the impudent shipowner had been struck down with a terrible disease and died, leaving St Theopiste untouched. She lived at the place where the ship landed in peace and freedom.

During this time it had become difficult for the emperor Trajan to raise an army for Rome to deal with a rebellion, for the soldiers would not go into battle without their commander Placidas. They advised Trajan to send men out to all the cities to look for him.

Antiochus and Acacius, friends of Placidas, sought him in various places. Finally, they arrived in the village where St Eustathius lived. The soldiers found Eustathius, but they did not recognize him and they began to tell him of the one whom they sought, asking his help and promising a large reward. St Eustathius, immediately recognized his friends, but did not reveal to them his identity.

He borrowed money from one of his friends and fed the visitors. As they looked at him, the travellers noted that he resembled their former commander. When they saw a scar on his shoulder from a deep sword-wound, they realized that it was their friend there before them. They embraced him with tears and told him why they were seeking him.

St Eustathius returned to Rome with them and again became a general. Many new recruits were drafted into the army from all over the empire. He did not know that two young soldiers who served him, and whom he loved for their skill and daring, were actually his own sons. They did not know that they were serving under the command of their own father, nor that they were brothers by birth.

While on campaign, the army led by Eustathius halted at a certain settlement. The soldier-brothers were talking in their tent. The elder one spoke about his life, how he had lost his mother and brother, and how in a terrifying way he had been parted from his father. The younger brother then realized that before him was his very own brother, and told him how he had been rescued from the wolf.

A woman overheard the soldiers’ conversation, since their tent was pitched right next to her house, and this woman realized that these were her sons. Still not identifying herself to them, but not wanting to be separated from them, she went to their commander, St Eustathius, to ask him to take her to Rome with him. She said she had been a prisoner, and wanted to go home. Then she came to recognize the commander as her husband, and with tears she told him about herself and about the two soldiers who were actually their sons. Thus, through the great mercy of the Lord, the whole family was happily reunited.

Soon thereafter the rebellion was crushed, and St Eustathius returned to Rome with honor and glory. The emperor Trajan had since died, and his successor Hadrian (117-138) wanted to celebrate the event of victory with a solemn offering of sacrifice to the gods. To the astonishment of everyone, St Eustathius did not show up at the pagan temple. By order of the emperor they searched frantically for him.

“Why don’t you want to worship the gods?” inquired the emperor. “You, above all others, ought to offer thanks to them. They not only preserved you in war and granted you victory, but also they helped you find your wife and children.” St Eustathius replied: “I am a Christian and I glorify and give thanks to Him, and I offer sacrifice to Him. I owe my life to Him. I do not know or believe in any other god than Him.”

In a rage, the emperor ordered him to take off his military belt and brought him and his family before him. They did not succeed in persuading the steadfast confessors of Christ to offer sacrifice to idols. The whole family of St Eustathius was sentenced to be torn apart by wild beasts, but the beasts would not touch the holy martyrs.

Then the cruel emperor gave orders to throw them all alive into a red-hot brass bull, and St Eustathius, his wife Theopiste, and their sons Agapius and Theopistus endured a martyr’s death. Before being placed in the bull, St Eustathius prayed, “Grant, O Lord, Thy grace to our relics, and grant to those who call upon us a place in Thy Kingdom. Though they call upon us when they are in danger on a river or on the sea, we entreat Thee to come to their aid.”

Three days later, they opened the brass bull, and the bodies of the holy martyrs were found unscathed. Not one hair on their heads was singed, and their faces shone with an unearthly beauty. Many seeing this miracle came to believe in Christ. Christians then buried the bodies of the saints.


Martyr Agapius and his family of Rome

Sts Agapius and Theopistus were sons of the Holy Great Martyr Eustathius, a military commander under the emperors Titus (79-81) and Trajan (98-117).

The family went to Egypt to board a ship sailing for Jerusalem. During the voyage a new woe beset the saint. The ship owner, enchanted by Theopiste’s beauty, cruelly set Eustathius and his children ashore, keeping the wife for himself.

In great sorrow the saint continued on his way, and new woe beset him. Coming to a tempestuous river, he went to carry his two sons across in turn. When he had brought one across, the other was seized by a lion and carried off into the wilderness. As he turned back towards the other, a wolf dragged that child into the forest.

Having lost everything, St Eustathius wept bitterly. But he realized that Divine Providence had sent him these misfortunes to test his endurance and devotion to God. In his inconsolable grief, St Eustathius went on farther, prepared for new tribulations.

In the village of Badessos he found work and spent five years in unremitting toil. St Eustathius did not know then that through the mercy of God, shepherds and farmers had saved his sons, and they lived right near him. He also did not know that the impudent shipowner had been struck down with a terrible disease and died, leaving St Theopiste untouched. She lived at the place where the ship landed in peace and freedom.

During this time it had become difficult for the emperor Trajan to raise an army for Rome to deal with a rebellion, for the soldiers would not go into battle without their commander Placidas. They advised Trajan to send men out to all the cities to look for him.

Antiochus and Acacius, friends of Placidas, sought him in various places. Finally, they arrived in the village where St Eustathius lived. The soldiers found Eustathius, but they did not recognize him and they began to tell him of the one whom they sought, asking his help and promising a large reward. St Eustathius, immediately recognized his friends, but did not reveal to them his identity.

He borrowed money from one of his friends and fed the visitors. As they looked at him, the travellers noted that he resembled their former commander. When they saw a scar on his shoulder from a deep sword-wound, they realized that it was their friend there before them. They embraced him with tears and told him why they were seeking him.

St Eustathius returned to Rome with them and again became a general. Many new recruits were drafted into the army from all over the empire. He did not know that two young soldiers who served him, and whom he loved for their skill and daring, were actually his own sons. They did not know that they were serving under the command of their own father, nor that they were brothers by birth.

While on campaign, the army led by Eustathius halted at a certain settlement. The soldier-brothers were talking in their tent. The elder one spoke about his life, how he had lost his mother and brother, and how in a terrifying way he had been parted from his father. The younger brother then realized that before him was his very own brother, and told him how he had been rescued from the wolf.

A woman overheard the soldiers’ conversation, since their tent was pitched right next to her house, and this woman realized that these were her sons. Still not identifying herself to them, but not wanting to be separated from them, she went to their commander, St Eustathius, to ask him to take her to Rome with him. She said she had been a prisoner, and wanted to go home. Then she came to recognize the commander as her husband, and with tears she told him about herself and about the two soldiers who were actually their sons. Thus, through the great mercy of the Lord, the whole family was happily reunited.

Soon thereafter the rebellion was crushed, and St Eustathius returned to Rome with honor and glory. The emperor Trajan had since died, and his successor Hadrian (117-138) wanted to celebrate the event of victory with a solemn offering of sacrifice to the gods. To the astonishment of everyone, St Eustathius did not show up at the pagan temple. By order of the emperor they searched frantically for him.

“Why don’t you want to worship the gods?” inquired the emperor. “You, above all others, ought to offer thanks to them. They not only preserved you in war and granted you victory, but also they helped you find your wife and children.” St Eustathius replied: “I am a Christian and I glorify and give thanks to Him, and I offer sacrifice to Him. I owe my life to Him. I do not know or believe in any other god than Him.”

In a rage, the emperor ordered him to take off his military belt and brought him and his family before him. They did not succeed in persuading the steadfast confessors of Christ to offer sacrifice to idols. The whole family of St Eustathius was sentenced to be torn apart by wild beasts, but the beasts would not touch the holy martyrs.

Then the cruel emperor gave orders to throw them all alive into a red-hot brass bull, and St Eustathius, his wife Theopiste, and their sons Agapius and Theopistus endured a martyr’s death. Before being placed in the bull, St Eustathius prayed, “Grant, O Lord, Thy grace to our relics, and grant to those who call upon us a place in Thy Kingdom. Though they call upon us when they are in danger on a river or on the sea, we entreat Thee to come to their aid.”

Three days later, they opened the brass bull, and the bodies of the holy martyrs were found unscathed. Not one hair on their heads was singed, and their faces shone with an unearthly beauty. Many seeing this miracle came to believe in Christ. Christians then buried the bodies of the saints.


Martyr Theopistus and his family of Rome

Sts Theopistus and Agapius were sons of the Holy Great Martyr Eustathius, a military commander under the emperors Titus (79-81) and Trajan (98-117).

The family went to Egypt to board a ship sailing for Jerusalem. During the voyage a new woe beset the saint. The ship owner, enchanted by Theopiste’s beauty, cruelly set Eustathius and his children ashore, keeping the wife for himself.

In great sorrow the saint continued on his way, and new woe beset him. Coming to a tempestuous river, he went to carry his two sons across in turn. When he had brought one across, the other was seized by a lion and carried off into the wilderness. As he turned back towards the other, a wolf dragged that child into the forest.

Having lost everything, St Eustathius wept bitterly. But he realized that Divine Providence had sent him these misfortunes to test his endurance and devotion to God. In his inconsolable grief, St Eustathius went on farther, prepared for new tribulations.

In the village of Badessos he found work and spent five years in unremitting toil. St Eustathius did not know then that through the mercy of God, shepherds and farmers had saved his sons, and they lived right near him. He also did not know that the impudent shipowner had been struck down with a terrible disease and died, leaving St Theopiste untouched. She lived at the place where the ship landed in peace and freedom.

During this time it had become difficult for the emperor Trajan to raise an army for Rome to deal with a rebellion, for the soldiers would not go into battle without their commander Placidas. They advised Trajan to send men out to all the cities to look for him.

Antiochus and Acacius, friends of Placidas, sought him in various places. Finally, they arrived in the village where St Eustathius lived. The soldiers found Eustathius, but they did not recognize him and they began to tell him of the one whom they sought, asking his help and promising a large reward. St Eustathius, immediately recognized his friends, but did not reveal to them his identity.

He borrowed money from one of his friends and fed the visitors. As they looked at him, the travellers noted that he resembled their former commander. When they saw a scar on his shoulder from a deep sword-wound, they realized that it was their friend there before them. They embraced him with tears and told him why they were seeking him.

St Eustathius returned to Rome with them and again became a general. Many new recruits were drafted into the army from all over the empire. He did not know that two young soldiers who served him, and whom he loved for their skill and daring, were actually his own sons. They did not know that they were serving under the command of their own father, nor that they were brothers by birth.

While on campaign, the army led by Eustathius halted at a certain settlement. The soldier-brothers were talking in their tent. The elder one spoke about his life, how he had lost his mother and brother, and how in a terrifying way he had been parted from his father. The younger brother then realized that before him was his very own brother, and told him how he had been rescued from the wolf.

A woman overheard the soldiers’ conversation, since their tent was pitched right next to her house, and this woman realized that these were her sons. Still not identifying herself to them, but not wanting to be separated from them, she went to their commander, St Eustathius, to ask him to take her to Rome with him. She said she had been a prisoner, and wanted to go home. Then she came to recognize the commander as her husband, and with tears she told him about herself and about the two soldiers who were actually their sons. Thus, through the great mercy of the Lord, the whole family was happily reunited.

Soon thereafter the rebellion was crushed, and St Eustathius returned to Rome with honor and glory. The emperor Trajan had since died, and his successor Hadrian (117-138) wanted to celebrate the event of victory with a solemn offering of sacrifice to the gods. To the astonishment of everyone, St Eustathius did not show up at the pagan temple. By order of the emperor they searched frantically for him.

“Why don’t you want to worship the gods?” inquired the emperor. “You, above all others, ought to offer thanks to them. They not only preserved you in war and granted you victory, but also they helped you find your wife and children.” St Eustathius replied: “I am a Christian and I glorify and give thanks to Him, and I offer sacrifice to Him. I owe my life to Him. I do not know or believe in any other god than Him.”

In a rage, the emperor ordered him to take off his military belt and brought him and his family before him. They did not succeed in persuading the steadfast confessors of Christ to offer sacrifice to idols. The whole family of St Eustathius was sentenced to be torn apart by wild beasts, but the beasts would not touch the holy martyrs.

Then the cruel emperor gave orders to throw them all alive into a red-hot brass bull, and St Eustathius, his wife Theopiste, and their sons Agapius and Theopistus endured a martyr’s death. Before being placed in the bull, St Eustathius prayed, “Grant, O Lord, Thy grace to our relics, and grant to those who call upon us a place in Thy Kingdom. Though they call upon us when they are in danger on a river or on the sea, we entreat Thee to come to their aid.”

Three days later, they opened the brass bull, and the bodies of the holy martyrs were found unscathed. Not one hair on their heads was singed, and their faces shone with an unearthly beauty. Many seeing this miracle came to believe in Christ. Christians then buried the bodies of the saints.


Martyr and Confessor Michael the Wonderworker of Chernigov

The Holy Prince Michael of Chernigov, son of Vsevolod Ol’govich the Dark-Red (+ 1212), was noted from childhood for his piety and mildness. His health was very poor, but in 1186, trusting in the mercy of God, the young prince asked for the holy prayers of St Nikita the Stylite of Pereyaslavl (May 24), who during these years received renown by his prayerful intercession before the Lord.

After he received a wooden staff from the holy ascetic, the prince was healed at once. In 1223 Prince Michael took part in a council of Russian princes at Kiev, debating whether to aid the Polovetsians against the approaching Mongol-Tatar hordes. With the death of his uncle, Mstislav of Chernigov in the Battle at the Kalka River in 1223, St Michael became Prince of Chernigov.

In 1225 he was invited to be prince of the Novgorod people. Through his sense of justice, compassion and firmness he gained the love and respect of Old Novgorod. This was particularly important for the Novgorodians, since the accession of Michael as prince signified a reconciliation of Novgorod with the city of Vladimir’s holy Great Prince George Vsevolodovich (March 4), whose wife was the holy princess Agatha, sister of Prince Michael.

But St Michael did not long remain prince at Novgorod. He soon returned to his native Chernigov. To the stipulations and requests of the Novgorodians to remain prince he answered that Chernigov and Novgorod ought to become kindred lands, and their inhabitants like brothers, and he would forge the bonds of friendship of these cities.

The noble prince assiduously concerned himself with the building up of his appenage realm. But it was difficult for him in these troubled times. His activity provoked unease in the Kursk Prince Oleg, and in 1227 internecine strife nearly erupted, but Metropolitan Cyril of Kiev reconciled them. And in this same year Prince Michael peacefully resolved a dispute between the Kiev Great Prince Vladimir Rurikovich and the Galich prince. In 1235 Prince Michael occupied the throne of Kiev.

Troublesome times ensued. In 1238 the Tatars (Mongols) laid waste to Ryazan, Suzdal, and Vladimir. In 1239 they moved against South Russia, and ravaged the left bank of the Dniepr River, and the lands of Chernigov and Pereyaslavl. By the autumn of 1240 the Mongols were coming close to Kiev. The khan’s emissaries proposed that Kiev surrender voluntarily, but the prince would not negotiate with them.

Prince Michael rode urgently to Hungary, to persuade the Hungarian king Bela to organize allied forces to resist the common enemy. St Michael tired to recruit both Poland, and the German emperor into the struggle against the Mongols, but the moment for a combined resistance was lost. Rus was devastated, and later Hungary and Poland. With no foreign support, Prince Michael returned to the ruins of Kiev and for a certain time he lived near the city on an island, and then he resettled in Chernigov.

The prince did not abandon hope in the possibility of an united Christian Europe against the Asiatic nomads. In 1245, at the Council of Lyons in France, his co-worker Metropolitan Peter (Akerovich) was sent as emissary by St Michael, calling for a crusade to march against the pagan Horde. Catholic Europe in the persons of its chief spiritual leaders, the Roman Pope and the German emperor, betrayed the interests of Christianity. The Pope was involved in a war with the German emperor, and the Germans took advantage of the Mongol invasion to attack Rus themselves.

In these circumstances affecting Christianity in general, there is a universal significance to the confessor’s deed of the martyred Orthodox Prince St Michael of Chernigov in the midst of the pagan Horde. In Rus emissaries of the khan soon appeared, in order to conduct a census of the Russian population and to impose taxes upon it.

The prince was ordered to make full submission to the Tatar khan, and for his princely realm, the khan would grant a special charter. The emissaries informed Prince Michael that it was necessary for him to journey to the Horde for an affirmation of rights to rule the princedom under the khan’s charter. Seeing the woeful plight of Rus, Prince Michael recognized the need to obey the khan, but as a fervent Christian he knew that he would not deny his faith before the pagans. From his spiritual Father, Bishop John, he received a blessing to journey to the Horde and be a true confessor of the Name of Christ.

With the holy Prince Michael on the journey to the Horde went his faithful friend and companion, the noble Theodore. At the Horde they knew about Prince Michael’s attempts to organize an uprising against the Tatars in concert with Hungary and the other European powers. His enemies had long sought the opportunity to destroy him.

In 1246 when Prince Michael and the boyar Theodore arrived at the Horde, they were instructed on how to go to the khan, to proceed through a fire to cleanse them of their evil intents, and to worship the primal elements considered gods by the Mongols: the sun and fire. In answer to the pagan priests commanding them to perform the pagan rituals, the holy Prince replied, “A Christian worships only God, the Creator of the world, and not creatures.”

They reported to the khan about the firmness of the Russian Prince. Batu’s attendant El’deg delivered the conditions: either fulfill the demands of the pagan priests, or die in torments. But this also was followed by the resolute answer of holy Prince Michael, “I am prepared to submit to the emperor, since that God has entrusted him with the destiny of the earthly kingdoms, but as a Christian, I cannot worship idols.” The fate of the brave Christians was sealed.

Taking courage in the words of the Lord: “Whoever would save his life, shall lose it, and whoever will lose his life for My sake shall save it” (Mt.16:25), the holy prince and his devoted boyar prepared for a martyr’s death and received the Holy Mysteries, which their spiritual Father gave them, foreseeing this possibility. The Tatar executioners seized the prince and for a long time they beat him fiercely, until the ground ran crimson with blood. Finally, Domanus, an apostate from the faith in Christ, cut off the head of the holy martyr.

The Tatars deceitfully promised St Theodore great honor and his lord’s princely rank if he would fulfill the pagan ritual. But St Theodore was not swayed by this, and he followed in the path of his prince. After quite vicious torments they beheaded him. The bodies of the holy passion-bearers were thrown to be eaten by dogs, but the Lord miraculously guarded them for several days, until faithful Christians could secretly bury them with reverence. Later on, the relics of the holy martyrs were transferred to Chernigov.

The confessor’s act of St Theodore amazed even his executioners. Persuaded of the Russian people’s steadfast fidelity to the Orthodox Faith , and their readiness to die for Christ with joy, the Tatar khans decided not to try the patience of God as before, and ceased demanding that Russians at the Horde perform any pagan rituals. But the struggle of the Russian nation and the Russian Church against the Mongol Yoke continued for yet a long time. The Orthodox Church was adorned in this struggle by new martyrs and confessors. Great Prince Theodore was poisoned by the Mongols. Also martyred were St Roman of Ryazan (+ 1270), St Michael of Tver (+ 1318), his sons Demetrius (+ 1325) and Alexander (+ 1339). All of these took courage from the example and holy prayers of the Russian Protomartyr of the Horde, St Michael of Chernigov.

On February 14, 1572, at the wish of Tsar Ivan Vasilievich the Terrible, and with the blessing of Metropolitan Anthony, the relics of the holy martyrs were transferred to Moscow, to the temple dedicated to them. From there in 1770 they were transferred to the Visitation cathedral, and on November 21, 1774 to the Archangel cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin.

The Lives and service to Sts Michael and Theodore were compiled in the mid-sixteenth century by the renowned church writer, St Zenobios of Otonsk.

“The generation of the upright shall be blessed,” says the holy Psalmodist David (Ps. 111/112:2). This occurred in full measure for St Michael. He is at the head of many famous families in Russian history. His children and grandchildren continued the holy Christian service of St Michael. The Church also numbers his daughter St Euphrosyne of Suzdal (September 25), and his grandson St Oleg of Briansk (September 20) among the saints.


Martyr Theodore the Counselor of Michael the Confessor the Wonderworker of Chernigov

The Holy Prince Michael of Chernigov, son of Vsevolod Ol’govich the Dark-Red (+ 1212), was noted from childhood for his piety and mildness. His health was very poor, but in 1186, trusting in the mercy of God, the young prince asked for the holy prayers of St Nikita the Stylite of Pereyaslavl (May 24), who during these years received renown by his prayerful intercession before the Lord.

After he received a wooden staff from the holy ascetic, the prince was healed at once. In 1223 Prince Michael took part in a council of Russian princes at Kiev, debating whether to aid the Polovetsians against the approaching Mongol-Tatar hordes. With the death of his uncle, Mstislav of Chernigov in the Battle at the Kalka River in 1223, St Michael became Prince of Chernigov.

In 1225 he was invited to be prince of the Novgorod people. Through his sense of justice, compassion and firmness he gained the love and respect of Old Novgorod. This was particularly important for the Novgorodians, since the accession of Michael as prince signified a reconciliation of Novgorod with the city of Vladimir’s holy Great Prince George Vsevolodovich (March 4), whose wife was the holy princess Agatha, sister of Prince Michael.

But St Michael did not long remain prince at Novgorod. He soon returned to his native Chernigov. To the stipulations and requests of the Novgorodians to remain prince he answered that Chernigov and Novgorod ought to become kindred lands, and their inhabitants like brothers, and he would forge the bonds of friendship of these cities.

The noble prince assiduously concerned himself with the building up of his appenage realm. But it was difficult for him in these troubled times. His activity provoked unease in the Kursk Prince Oleg, and in 1227 internecine strife nearly erupted, but Metropolitan Cyril of Kiev reconciled them. And in this same year Prince Michael peacefully resolved a dispute between the Kiev Great Prince Vladimir Rurikovich and the Galich prince. In 1235 Prince Michael occupied the throne of Kiev.

Troublesome times ensued. In 1238 the Tatars (Mongols) laid waste to Ryazan, Suzdal, and Vladimir. In 1239 they moved against South Russia, and ravaged the left bank of the Dniepr River, and the lands of Chernigov and Pereyaslavl. By the autumn of 1240 the Mongols were coming close to Kiev. The khan’s emissaries proposed that Kiev surrender voluntarily, but the prince would not negotiate with them.

Prince Michael rode urgently to Hungary, to persuade the Hungarian king Bela to organize allied forces to resist the common enemy. St Michael tired to recruit both Poland, and the German emperor into the struggle against the Mongols, but the moment for a combined resistance was lost. Rus was devastated, and later Hungary and Poland. With no foreign support, Prince Michael returned to the ruins of Kiev and for a certain time he lived near the city on an island, and then he resettled in Chernigov.

The prince did not abandon hope in the possibility of an united Christian Europe against the Asiatic nomads. In 1245, at the Council of Lyons in France, his co-worker Metropolitan Peter (Akerovich) was sent as emissary by St Michael, calling for a crusade to march against the pagan Horde. Catholic Europe in the persons of its chief spiritual leaders, the Roman Pope and the German emperor, betrayed the interests of Christianity. The Pope was involved in a war with the German emperor, and the Germans took advantage of the Mongol invasion to attack Rus themselves.

In these circumstances affecting Christianity in general, there is a universal significance to the confessor’s deed of the martyred Orthodox Prince St Michael of Chernigov in the midst of the pagan Horde. In Rus emissaries of the khan soon appeared, in order to conduct a census of the Russian population and to impose taxes upon it.

The prince was ordered to make full submission to the Tatar khan, and for his princely realm, the khan would grant a special charter. The emissaries informed Prince Michael that it was necessary for him to journey to the Horde for an affirmation of rights to rule the princedom under the khan’s charter. Seeing the woeful plight of Rus, Prince Michael recognized the need to obey the khan, but as a fervent Christian he knew that he would not deny his faith before the pagans. From his spiritual Father, Bishop John, he received a blessing to journey to the Horde and be a true confessor of the Name of Christ.

With the holy Prince Michael on the journey to the Horde went his faithful friend and companion, the noble Theodore. At the Horde they knew about Prince Michael’s attempts to organize an uprising against the Tatars in concert with Hungary and the other European powers. His enemies had long sought the opportunity to destroy him.

In 1246 when Prince Michael and the boyar Theodore arrived at the Horde, they were instructed on how to go to the khan, to proceed through a fire to cleanse them of their evil intents, and to worship the primal elements considered gods by the Mongols: the sun and fire. In answer to the pagan priests commanding them to perform the pagan rituals, the holy Prince replied, “A Christian worships only God, the Creator of the world, and not creatures.”

They reported to the khan about the firmness of the Russian Prince. Batu’s attendant El’deg delivered the conditions: either fulfill the demands of the pagan priests, or die in torments. But this also was followed by the resolute answer of holy Prince Michael, “I am prepared to submit to the emperor, since that God has entrusted him with the destiny of the earthly kingdoms, but as a Christian, I cannot worship idols.” The fate of the brave Christians was sealed.

Taking courage in the words of the Lord: “Whoever would save his life, shall lose it, and whoever will lose his life for My sake shall save it” (Mt.16:25), the holy prince and his devoted boyar prepared for a martyr’s death and received the Holy Mysteries, which their spiritual Father gave them, foreseeing this possibility. The Tatar executioners seized the prince and for a long time they beat him fiercely, until the ground ran crimson with blood. Finally, Domanus, an apostate from the faith in Christ, cut off the head of the holy martyr.

The Tatars deceitfully promised St Theodore great honor and his lord’s princely rank if he would fulfill the pagan ritual. But St Theodore was not swayed by this, and he followed in the path of his prince. After quite vicious torments they beheaded him. The bodies of the holy passion-bearers were thrown to be eaten by dogs, but the Lord miraculously guarded them for several days, until faithful Christians could secretly bury them with reverence. Later on, the relics of the holy martyrs were transferred to Chernigov.

The confessor’s act of St Theodore amazed even his executioners. Persuaded of the Russian people’s steadfast fidelity to the Orthodox Faith , and their readiness to die for Christ with joy, the Tatar khans decided not to try the patience of God as before, and ceased demanding that Russians at the Horde perform any pagan rituals. But the struggle of the Russian nation and the Russian Church against the Mongol Yoke continued for yet a long time. The Orthodox Church was adorned in this struggle by new martyrs and confessors. Great Prince Theodore was poisoned by the Mongols. Also martyred were St Roman of Ryazan (+ 1270), St Michael of Tver (+ 1318), his sons Demetrius (+ 1325) and Alexander (+ 1339). All of these took courage from the example and holy prayers of the Russian Protomartyr of the Horde, St Michael of Chernigov.

On February 14, 1572, at the wish of Tsar Ivan Vasilievich the Terrible, and with the blessing of Metropolitan Anthony, the relics of the holy martyrs were transferred to Moscow, to the temple dedicated to them. From there in 1770 they were transferred to the Visitation cathedral, and on November 21, 1774 to the Archangel cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin.

The Lives and service to Sts Michael and Theodore were compiled in the mid-sixteenth century by the renowned church writer, St Zenobios of Otonsk.

“The generation of the upright shall be blessed,” says the holy Psalmodist David (Ps. 111/112:2). This occurred in full measure for St Michael. He is at the head of many famous families in Russian history. His children and grandchildren continued the holy Christian service of St Michael. The Church also numbers his daughter St Euphrosyne of Suzdal (September 25), and his grandson St Oleg of Briansk (September 20) among the saints.


St Oleg the Prince of Briansk

Holy Prince Oleg Romanovich of Briansk (in Baptism Leontius) was grandson of the holy martyr Prince Michael of Chernigov. According to the chronicle histories, Prince Oleg together and his father, Prince Roman Mikhailovich of Briansk, participated in a war against Lithuania in 1274.

After 1274, he resigned as prince and became a monk with the name Basil at the Briansk monastery of Sts Peter and Paul, built through his generosity. The holy prince died at this monastery as a strict ascetic in the year 1285, and was buried in the monastery church.


Monkmartyr Hilarion of St Anne Skete on Mt Athos

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