Lives of all saints commemorated on October 21


Venerable Hilarion the Great

Saint Hilarion the Great was born in the year 291 in the Palestinian village of Tabatha. He was sent to Alexandria to study. There he became acquainted with Christianity and was baptized. After hearing an account of the angelic life of St Anthony the Great (January 17), Hilarion went to meet him, desiring to study with him and learn what is pleasing to God. Hilarion soon returned to his native land to find that his parents had died. After distributing his family’s inheritance to the poor, Hilarion set out into the desert surrounding the city of Maium.

In the desert the monk struggled intensely with impure thoughts, vexations of the mind and the burning passions of the flesh, but he defeated them with heavy labor, fasting and fervent prayer. The devil sought to frighten the saint with phantoms and apparitions. During prayer St Hilarion heard children crying, women wailing, the roaring of lions and other wild beasts. The monk perceived that it was the demons causing these terrors in order to drive him away from the wilderness. He overcame his fear with the help of fervent prayer. Once, robbers fell upon St Hilarion, and he persuaded them to forsake their life of crime through the power of his words.

Soon all of Palestine learned about the holy ascetic. The Lord granted to St Hilarion the power to cast out unclean spirits. With this gift of grace he loosed the bonds of many of the afflicted. The sick came for healing, and the monk cured them free of charge, saying that the grace of God is not for sale (MT 10:8).

Such was the grace that he received from God that he could tell by the smell of someone’s body or clothing which passion afflicted his soul. They came to St Hilarion wanting to save their soul under his guidance. With the blessing of St Hilarion, monasteries began to spring up throughout Palestine. Going from one monastery to another, he instituted a strict ascetic manner of life.

About seven years before his death (+ 371-372) St Hilarion moved back to Cyprus, where the ascetic lived in a solitary place until the Lord summoned him to Himself.


Translation of the relics of St Hilarion the Bishop of Meglin in Bulgaria

The Transfer of the Relics of Saint Hilarion, Bishop of Meglin, to the Bulgarian city of Trnovo, occurred in the year 1206. Prior to this event, the body of the saint rested in the city of Meglin.

St Hilarion received a fine Christian upbringing. At eighteen, he entered a monastery. Because of his virtuous and strict life he was chosen to be igumen of the monastery. He was very concerned about the salvation of the monks’ souls. He unceasingly exhorted those souls entrusted to him not to waste precious time intended to prepare for salvation. Particularly persistent, Hilarion eradicated drunkenness in the monastery.

In 1134, when the Bogomil heresy was spreading through Bulgaria, he was consecrated bishop of Meglin. The followers of the heresy believed that “good and evil manifest themselves as independent principles, and a struggle between the two ensues.” St Hilarion tirelessly fought against the Bogomils with apostolic zeal and fervent prayer. He continually unmasked their heresy and exposed their hypocritical guise of piety. In refuting the teaching of the heretics, St Hilarion said:

“You are not Christians at all, since you are hostile to the Cross of Christ the Savior. You do not acknowledge the One God, you slander the teachings of the Old Testament venerated by Christians. You deceive people by hypocritical meekness while full of pride. True piety is not possible in those who do not see their own heart’s corruption, but by those who ask God’s grace with prayer and humility. Evil thoughts, envy, vanity, greed, lies are not the deed of some evil thing within man to be conquered by mere fasting. These vices are the fruit of self- love which demands rooting out by spiritual efforts.”

Because of the saint’s exhortations many of the heretics abandoned their false teaching and returned to the holy Church. St Hilarion also successfully struggled against the rise of the Armenian Monophysite heretics in Bulgaria, who acknowledged only the divine nature of Christ. The saint fell asleep in the Lord in 1164.


Venerable Hilarion the Schemamonk of the Kiev Caves

Saint Hilarion, Schemamonk of Kiev Caves, a strict ascetic, was a disciple and co-ascetic with St Theodosius (May 3). Imitating the example of his teacher, St Hilarion prayed to God with tears day and night, while observing a strict fast. His contemporaries knew him as a chronicler, who toiled over the copying of books in the cell of St Theodosius. During this time his teacher chanted Psalms and spun wool. St Hilarion lived an ascetic life during the eleventh century. His memory is also celebrated on August 28 and on the second Sunday of Great Lent.


Venerable Hilarion the Abbot of Gdov and Pskov Lake

St Hilarion of Gdov and Pskov Lake, was a disciple of St Euphrosynus of Pskov (May 15). In 1460 on the banks of the River Zhelcha, not far from Gdov, he founded the Ozersk [Lake] Monastery of the Protection of the Mother of God. The monastery bordered the territory of the Livonian Knights, and the monks constantly suffered the incursions of that military order. Despite harsh conditions and insufficient means, St Hilarion maintained a high level of pious and ascetic life at the monastery, and made great efforts to adorn and build up the monastery.

St Hilarion reposed on March 28, 1476 and was buried in the church of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos in the monastery he founded. Afterwards, a church was built at the monastery in honor of the Nativity of Christ. The left chapel was dedicated to the founder of the Gdov monastery. St Hilarion of Gdov is also commemorated on October 21, on the Feast of his heavenly patron and namesake.


Venerable Theophilus the Abbot of Omutch, Pskov

Saint Theophilus and James, Abbots of Omucha in Pskov, lived the ascetic life on the island of Konev with St Arsenius (June 12). In the year 1396, in the Pskov diocese at the River Omucha, not far from the city of Porkhov, Sts Theophilus and James established a wilderness monastery in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos. They fell asleep in the Lord about the year 1412.


Venerable James the Abbot of Omutch, Pskov

Saint James and Theophilus, Abbots of Omucha in Pskov, lived the ascetic life on the island of Konevets together with St Arsenius (June 12). In the year 1396, in the Pskov diocese at the River Omucha, not far from the city of Porkhov, Sts Theophilus and James established a wilderness monastery in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos. They fell asleep in the Lord about the year 1412.


Martyr Dasius at Nicomedia

The Martyrs Dasius, Gaius and Zoticus of Nicomedia suffered martyrdom in the year 303, under the emperor Diocletian (284-305) because they destroyed a pagan temple. After enduring many tortures, stones were tied around their necks, and they were drowned in the sea.


Martyr Gaius at Nicomedia

The Martyrs Gaius, Dasius, and Zoticus at Nicomedia suffered martyrdom in the year 303, under the emperor Diocletian (284-305) because they destroyed a pagan temple. After enduring many tortures, stones were tied around their necks, and they were drowned in the sea.


Martyr Zoticus at Nicomedia

The Martyrs Zoticus, Dasius, and Gaius of Nicomedia suffered martyrdom in the year 303, under the emperor Diocletian (284-305) because they destroyed a pagan temple. After enduring many tortures, stones were tied around their necks, and they were drowned in the sea.


Venerable Philotheus of Dionysiou of Mt Athos

Saint Philotheus of Dionysiou, Mt. Athos was a native of Elateia. Fearing the Turks, his parents moved away to Chrysopolis in Macedonia, where his father soon died. The child Philotheus and his brother were snatched by the Turks and thrown into prison.

They were delivered in a miraculous manner by the Mother of God Herself. She appeared to the children in the image of their mother and led them to the monastery of the Most Holy Theotokos in the city of Neapolis in Asia Minor. At this monastery the brothers accepted monastic tonsure. By progressing through the obediences assigned by the igumen they attained the position of ecclesiarchs.

Meanwhile, Eudokia, the mother of St Philotheus, had herself settled into a women’s monastery in this same city, through the mysterious guidance of Divine Providence, and for many years knew absolutely nothing of the fate of her children. Visiting a men’s monastery with several other nuns for a temple Feastday, Eudokia recognized her sons. In answer to her question about how they chanced to be there they replied, “You know, for you yourself freed us from the Turks and led us from prison.” Thus Eudokia became convinced of the intercession of the Mother of God, for it had only been in prayers to the Theotokos that she had found any consolation. The brethren, learning of the joyful reunion of the mother and her sons, as well as their miraculous deliverance, gathered around them and glorified the Lord.

Upon the repose of his mother, St Philotheus went to the Holy Mountain. He joined the brethren of the Dionysiou monastery, and then withdrew into complete solitude. Devoting himself to deeds of prayer, St Philotheus attained high spiritual perfection and was granted the gift of clairvoyance.

At the age of eighty-four the venerable one peacefully fell asleep in the Lord. Before his death he bade his disciples not to bury his body, but rather to cast it dishonorably into the forest to be eaten by beasts and birds. His disciples fulfilled the wish of their Elder, but the Lord glorified his relics of the saint with a wondrous radiance, after which his relics were returned to the monastery.


Venerable Bessarion Sarai the Confessor in Romania

Saint Bessarion (Sarai) was a Serb who was born in Bosnia in 1714. Longing for the monastic life, he was tonsured at the Monastery of St Sava in the Holy Land in 1738. He returned to Serbia and lived in a cave for several years as a hesychast, and received from God the grace of working miracles.

About this time there was a great deal of unrest in the regions of the Banat and Transylvania because many Romanian Orthodox Christians had been forced into union with Rome. At Karlovits, Patriarch Arsenius had heard of St Bessarion’s holy and ascetical life, and asked to see him. After ordaining him to the holy priesthood, he sent him to defend the Orthodox Faith northwest of the Carpathian Mountains.

St Bessarion left for the Banat in January of 1774, and was warmly received by the local people. Hundreds of people came to hear him preach, and many of them returned to the Orthodox Church. He encouraged his listeners not to abandon the faith which their fathers had passed down to them, but to remain firm and steadfast in it.

Preaching at Timishoara, Lipova-Arad, Deva, Orashtie, Salishtea of Sibiu, and other places, he would set up a wooden cross in the middle of each village, and people would gather to hear him. In each place, he was able to bring most of the people back into the fold of the Orthodox Church. This, of course, did not please the Roman Catholic authorities.

On April 26, 1744, St Bessarion was arrested by the Austrian army while on his way to Sibiu. They took him to Vienna, where he was placed on trial, and then thrown into the Kufstein prison on the orders of Empress Maria Teresa. There he endured much suffering because of his confession of the Orthodox Faith. After about a year in chains and tortures, he surrendered his soul to God.

St Bessarion the Confessor was glorified by the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church in 1950, and the date of his annual commemoration was designated as October 21.


St Sophronius the Confessor of Ciorara in Romania

Saint Sophronius was originally from Ciorara-Sebesh in Alba county in Romania. From his childhood, he demonstrated a great love for Christ and the Church, so it was not surprising that he eventually received the monastic tonsure.

He returned to his village in 1756, and established a small hermitage called Cioara Skete in the forest. Several disciples came to join him there, drawn by reports of his holy life. Seeing the persecution of the Orthodox by the Catholic authorities at that time, St Sophronius traveled through many villages of Ardeal, encouraging people to remain firm in the Orthodox Faith.

St Sophronius was so effective in his preaching that the Crai of Ardeal ordered him thrown into prison, where he was beaten. After his release from prison, he went to preach in the villages of the Apuseni Mountains, and once again he was incarcerated and tortured for Christ.

After being freed on February 14, 1761, St Sophronius assembled a great crowd of people in the city of Alba Iulia, and demanded equal rights under the law for Romanians. He also demanded an Orthodox bishop for Ardeal. That very year his demands were granted, and he retired to the Curtea de Argesh Monastery. He departed to the Lord not long afterward.

The Orthodox Church of Romania numbered St Sophronius among the saints in 1955, appointing October 21 as the date of his annual commemoration.


Martyr Oprea of Salistie in Romania

Saint Oprea Nicholas of Salistie suffered martyrdom in Romania at the hands of Roman Catholics in 1776.


St Hilarion, Metropolitan of Kiev

Saint Hilarion, Metropolitan of Kiev, lived during the era of the Great Prince Yaroslav the Wise (+ 1054), son of St Vladimir. In the history of the Russian Church he is remembered as the first Russian installed as Metropolitan by a Council of Russian bishops. The Russian Church up to that time had been a Metropolitan See, under the patriarchate of Constantinople. Russia’s first metropolitans were Greeks, and they were appointed by Constantinople.

St Hilarion, priest of the prince’s village of Berestovo near Kiev, was the spiritual Father and companion of Prince Yaroslav. St Nestor the Chronicler relates:

“God-loving prince Yaroslav loved Berestovo, and built the church of the Holy Apostles there, and he honored many priests. Among them was the presbyter Hilarion, a man of virtue, knowledge, and given to fasting. He made his way from Berestovo to the Dniepr, where the old Kiev Caves monastery is now, and he made his prayer in the deep forest there. Having dug out a shallow 14 foot cave, he chanted the Hours and prayed in solitude to God....”

St Hilarion, as his works attest, was not simply a “man of books”, but was endowed with great spiritual gifts and profound theological knowledge. He devoted all his efforts to the service of the Russian Church. When Metropolitan Theopemptus died, Rus was in a state of war against Byzantium. By decision of a Council of the Russian hierarchs, a resolution was made to establish a Metropolitanate at Kiev, not subject to Constantinople.

St Hilarion was famed among the Russian clergy for his heightened spiritual life and gift for preaching. Prior to this, he gave a eulogy in the “Tithe” church of Kiev to the holy Prince Vladimir with his acclaimed “Discourse Concerning Law and Grace,” in which he provided a theological explanation of the place of the Russian Church in the history of the divine economy of Salvation.

The choice of the Council hierarchs was dear to the heart of Yaroslav the Wise. St Hilarion was installed as Metropolitan at the Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) cathedral in the year 1051 and was later confirmed by the Patriarch of Constantinople. He was not the primate of the Russian Church for long. The chronicle does not mention the year of his death, but the saint was not at the death of Prince Yaroslav the Wise (February 20, 1054), and in the year 1055 a new metropolitan had arrived at Kiev. Evidently, St Hilarion had died in 1053.

His spiritual legacy lives on in the Russian Church especially in a fine example of Russian church literature, the “Discourse Concerning Law and Grace.” Its content is profound and multi-faceted. At the heart of the “Discourse” is the teaching concerning salvation and grace. Secondly, great attention is devoted to the question of the superiority of Christianity over Judaism. This theme was essential during those times in Kievan Rus. The Jews had approached St Vladimir, hoping to convert him to their faith, and St Theodosius of the Kiev Caves (May 3) had gone to the “Jewish Quarter” in Kiev to preach Christ Crucified. It is also known that the Jews had attempted to convert the holy hierarch Nikita the Hermit to Judaism when he was still a monk of the Kiev Caves monastery (1088). St Simon relates this in the KIEV CAVES PATERIKON. This explains the attention which St Hilarion devotes to the question “about the Law given to Moses, and about grace and truth, through the coming of Jesus Christ.”

And finally, the third theme, the occasion of the uttering of the “Discourse” was the glorification of the apostolic work of holy Prince Vladimir. The kingdom of nature, the kingdom of grace and the future Kingdom of Glory are perceived in the spiritual experience of the Church as inseparably connected. The Law is only the forerunner and servant of grace and truth. Truth and grace are but servants of the future age and true life. St Hilarion teaches thus about the superiority of the Church: “Moses and the prophets foretold the Coming of Christ, whereas Christ and His Apostles bore witness to the Resurrection and the future age.”

The saint explains that from the moment the Savior came into he world, the Old Covenant of man with God ceased to be in effect. With the theological symbols of the Old and New Covenants the saint employs images borrowed from the holy Apostle Paul (Gal. 4:22-31) relating to the two wives of Abraham: the freeborn Sarah and the maidservant Hagar. “Hagar was cast out, a slave, together with her son Ishmael; and Isaac, the free son, was heir to Abraham. Thus also were the Jews cast out and dispersed through the lands, whereas the sons of grace, the Christians, have become heirs to God the Father. As the light of the moon fades at the shining of the sun, so also the Law fades at the shining forth of grace. The cold of night vanishes when the warmth of the sun heats the earth, and mankind is no longer bent over under the burden of the Law, but instead walks freely in grace.”

The joy of Christ fills the holy preacher when he speaks about the entry of his native Rus into the host of Christian peoples. “The grace of Christ has filled all the earth,” and especially, the youthfully alive peoples, to which the Russian people also belong. “It becomes grace and truth to shine forth in new peoples. They do not, in the words of the Lord, pour new wine (this being the teaching of grace) into old wineskins (referring to the Jews) but the rather put the new teaching, into new wineskins, into new peoples,” Thus the faith “throughout all the earth has spread and reached our Russian tongue. Here now we too, glorify the Holy Trinity with all Christians, and the Jews be silent Pagans are accepted, but the Jews are spurned.”

Now the Orthodox Russians “are not termed idolaters, but rather Christians. No longer do we build heathen temples, but rather the churches of Christ. No longer do we sacrifice others to the demons (Varangian Martyrs July 12), but instead, Christ has been slain for us in sacrifice to God the Father. The Blessed God has had mercy on all lands, and has not despised us, for He also desired to save us and bring us to our senses in truth.”

The great apostolic exploit of the enlightening of the Russian Land was made by holy Prince Vladimir (15 July 15), “like St Constantine,” who “commanded throughout all his land that they be baptized in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In a clear and loud voice, he ordered all in the cities to glorify the Holy Trinity and to be Christians, the small and great, slave and free, young and old, rich and poor.” St Hilarion speaks with pride about his native land, “St Vladimir did not exercise sovereignty in a bad or ignorant land, but the rather in Russia, which is known and heard of by all the ends of the earth.”

The “Discourse Concerning Law and Grace” was the first work of its time in the Russian Church in which the holy Baptizer of Rus is acclaimed blessed among the ranks of the equals-to-the-Apostles. “Rejoice in the midst of sovereigns, O apostle, not in having dead bodies resurrected, but our deadened souls resurrecting: for by you have we been made alive in God and given to know life in Christ.” Such is the content of this remarkable memorial of ancient Russian theology. Among the other works of St Hilarion is his episcopal “Confession,” having become the model for a bishop’s vow in the Russian Church. Usually appended to the manuscripts of the “Discourse Concerning Law and Grace” is the “Prayer of St Hilarion.” This work of the saint also possesses a long history within the tradition of his native church. In the year 1555, upon his journey to the newly-formed Kazan diocese, St Gurias ordered that there be read to him the prayer, “The Work of Metropolitan Hilarion the Russian”, at Moscow and in the other cities, through which he was to travel.

St Hilarion was buried in the Kiev caves. In the inscribed titles to his works, in the manuscripts of saintly literature and lists of holy hierarchs, St Hilarion is invariably termed a saint and described as a wonderworker. His assured literary veneration as a saint is evidenced in the services to the Fathers of the Kiev Caves. Both in the service of the Synaxis of Fathers of the Near Caves (September 28), and also in the service to all the Kiev Caves Saints (second Sunday of Great Lent), St Hilarion is numbered among the saintly hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church.


St Moses (Macinic), Martyr and Confessor

Saint Moses Macinic was ordained to the holy priesthood in Bucharest around 1746, and worked to oppose the Unia. Because of his activities he was arrested and jailed in Sibiu for seventeen months. Ultimately, he was released with the understanding that he would cease to function as a priest, and live as an ordinary peasant.

In 1752 he was chosen to go to Vienna with St Oprea Nicholas of Salistie to deliver a petition to Empress Maria Theresa. The petition asked her to recognize the rights of the Orthodox Church in Transylvania. She received them, but she had them thrown into the Kufstein Prison in the Tyrolean Mountains.

Although representatives from Transylvania repeatedly asked the Hapsburg rulers to free the two saints, they denied all knowledge of them.

St Moses Macinic was glorified as a martyr by the Orthodox Church of Romania in 1992.


St John of Galesh

Saint John of Galesh was a priest who was consecrated bishop at Bucharest, since there was no bishop for Transylvania. He resisted the plans of the Hapsburg authorities to persuade Orthodox Christians to convert to Catholicism. He was arrested and thrown into prison at Sibiu in 1756, then Empress Maria Theresa ordered him confined in the prison of Deva Castle until he died.

St John was transferred to a prison in Graz, Austria at the end of 1757. Later, he was brought to the notorious Kufstein Prison, where many Orthodox from Transylvania ended their lives.

In 1780, Gennady Vassie, a Serb who was incarcerated there, was able to send a letter to Empress Catherine II of Russia asking her to intervene on behalf of the Orthodox prisoners. In his letter he mentioned a Romanian priest named John, who had been kept there for twenty-four years because of his Orthodox faith.

St John of Galesh died in prison, and was glorified as a martyr by the Orthodox Church of Romania in 1992.