Lives of all saints commemorated on November 11


Martyr Menas of Egypt

The Holy Great Martyr Menas of Egypt, an Egyptian by birth, was a military officer and served in the Kotyaeion region of Phrygia under the centurion Firmilian during the reign of the emperors Diocletian (284-305) and Maximian (305-311). When the emperors began the fiercest persecution against Christians in history, the saint refused to serve these persecutors. He removed his soldier’s belt (a sign of military rank) and withdrew to a mountain, where he lived an ascetic life of fasting and prayer.

Once he happened to arrive in the city during a pagan festival. At the climax of the games the saint’s accusing voice rang out, preaching faith in Christ, the Savior of the world. At his trial before the prefect Pyrrhus, the saint bravely confessed his faith, saying that he had come to denounce the impious. The prefect was angered, and had Menas arrested.

Pyrrhus offered to restore the saint’s former rank if he would offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. When he refused, he was put to cruel tortures, then he was beheaded. This occurred in the year 304. Christians gathered up the martyr’s relics by night and hid them until the end of the persecution. Later, they were brought to Egypt and placed in a church dedicated to St Menas southwest of Alexandria.

The saint received grace from God to work miracles, and to help those in need. St Menas is noted for healing various illnesses, delivering people from possession by demons, and as a protector, especially during times of war. We also ask his help in finding lost objects.


Martyr Victor at Damascus

The Holy Martyr Victor at Damascus was a soldier during the reign of the emperor Marcus Aurelius the Philosopher (161-180). When the emperor began a persecution against Christians, Victor refused to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. Such obligatory sacrifices were a test of a soldier’s loyalty to the gods, the emperor and the state. The saint was given over to torture, but he came through all the torments unharmed. By the power of prayer he was victorious over a sorcerer, who from that point gave up give sorcery and became a Christian.

Through St Victor’s prayers, blind soldiers suddenly received their sight. Witnessing the miracle worked by the Lord through St Victor, Stephanida, the young Christian wife of one of the torturers, openly glorified Christ, for which she was condemned to a cruel death. She was tied to two palm trees bent to the ground, which when released, sprung back and tore her apart. She was fifteen years old.

The torturer ordered that the holy Martyr Victor be beheaded. Hearing the commander’s order, St Vincent told his executioners that they would all die in twelve days, and that the commander would be captured by the enemy in twenty-four days. As he foretold, so it came to pass.

The martyrs suffered in the second century at Damascus, where their venerable relics were buried.


Martyr Vincent of Spain

The Holy Martyr Vincent of Spain from his childhood was the disciple of a wise pastor Valerian, the bishop of the city of Augustopolis (now Saragossa, Spain). When he reached mature age, the virtuous, educated and eloquent Vincent was ordained deacon by Bishop Valerian. Since the bishop himself was not adept in speech, he gave a blessing to his deacon, an eloquent orator, to preach in church and among the people.

Diocletian (284-305) sent the governor Dacian to the city of Valencia, Spain with full authority to find and execute Christians. People denounced the wise bishop and his deacon to the governor, who arrested them. The soldiers, mounted on horses, dragged the Elder and his disciple behind them in chains from Augustopolis to Valencia, and there they cast them into prison beaten and tortured, giving them neither food nor water.

They subjected the bishop to the first interrogation. The Elder spoke quietly, but seemed tongue-tied and uncertain. Then St Vincent came forward and made the most eloquent speech of his life before the judges and assembled people. After he sent the bishop back to prison, the persecutor gave orders to torture the holy deacon.

The martyr underwent many torments: while nailed to a cross, he was whipped and burned with red-hot rods. When he was removed from the cross, he then himself joyfully climbed back upon it, saying that the executioners were lazy and had not fulfilled their master’s orders. They became angry and tortured him again, until they were all exhausted.

After the tortures they threw the martyr back into prison. That night the astonished guard heard him singing Psalms, and saw an unearthly radiant light in the prison. The next morning the holy martyr was condemned to be burned on a gridiron. Christians took the saint’s body and buried it with reverence. This occurred in the year 304.


Martyr Stephanida of Spain

Saint Stephanida witnessed the martyrdom of the Holy Martyr Victor at Damascus, a soldier during the reign of the emperor Marcus Aurelius the Philosopher (161-180). He was tortured, but he came through all the torments unharmed. By the power of prayer he was victorious over a sorcerer, who from that point gave up give sorcery and became a Christian.

Through St Victor’s prayers, blind soldiers suddenly received their sight. Witnessing the miracle worked by the Lord through St Victor, Stephanida, the young Christian wife of one of the torturers, openly glorified Christ, for which she was condemned to a cruel death. She was tied to two palm trees bent to the ground, which when released, sprung back and tore her apart. She was fifteen years old.

The martyrs suffered in the second century at Damascus, where their venerable relics were buried.


Venerable Theodore the Confessor the Abbot of the Studion

Saint Theodore the Confessor, Abbot of the Studion was born in the year 758 at Constantinople into a family of the imperial tax-collector Photinus and his spouse Theoctiste, both pious Christians. St Theodore received a good education from the best rhetoricians, philosophers and theologians in the capital city.

During this time the Iconoclast heresy had become widespread in the Byzantine Empire, and it was supported also by the impious emperor Constantine Kopronymos (741-775). The views of the emperor and his court conflicted with the religious beliefs of Photinus, who was a fervent adherent of Orthodoxy, and so he left government service. Later, St Theodore’s parents, by mutual consent, gave away their substance to the poor, took their leave of each other and accepted monastic tonsure. Their son Theodore soon became widely known in the capital for his participation of the numerous disputes concerning icon-veneration.

St Theodore was accomplished in oratory, and had a command of the terminology and logic of the philosophers, so he frequently debated with the heretics. His knowledge of Holy Scripture and Christian dogma was so profound that no one could get the better of him.

The Seventh Ecumenical Council put an end to dissension and brought peace to the Church under the empress Irene. The Ecumenical Council, as the highest authority in the life of the Church, forever condemned and rejected Iconoclasm.

Among the Fathers of the Council was St Platon (April 5), an uncle of St Theodore, and who for a long time had lived the ascetic life on Mount Olympos. An Elder filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit, St Platon, at the conclusion of the Council, summoned his nephew Theodore and his brothers Joseph and Euthymius to the monastic life in the wilderness.

After leaving Constantinople, they went to Sakkoudion, not far from Olympos. The solitude and the beauty of the place, and its difficulty of access, met with the approval of the Elder and his nephews, and they decided to remain here. The brothers built a church dedicated to St John the Theologian, and gradually the number of monks began to increase. A monastery was formed, and St Platon was the igumen.

St Theodore’s life was truly ascetic. He toiled at heavy and dirty work. He strictly kept the fasts, and each day he confessed to his spiritual Father, the Elder Platon, revealing to him all his deeds and thoughts, carefully fulfilling all his counsels and instructions.

Theodore made time for daily spiritual reflection, baring his soul to God. Untroubled by any earthly concern, he offered Him mystic worship. St Theodore unfailingly read the Holy Scripture and works of the holy Fathers, especially the works of St Basil the Great, which were like food for his soul.

After several years of monastic life, St Theodore was ordained a priest according to the will of his spiritual Father. When St Platon went to his rest, the brethren unanimously chose St Theodore as Igumen of the monastery. Unable to oppose the wish of his confessor, St Theodore accepted the choice of the brethren, but imposed upon himself still greater deeds of asceticism. He taught the others by the example of his own virtuous life and also by fervent fatherly instruction.

When the emperor transgressed against the Church’s canons, the events of outside life disturbed the tranquility in the monastic cells. St Theodore bravely distributed a letter to the other monasteries, in which he declared the emperor Constantine VI (780-797) excommunicated from the Church by his own actions for abusing the divine regulations concerning Christian marriage.

St Theodore and ten of his co-ascetics were sent into exile to the city of Thessalonica. But there also the accusing voice of the monk continued to speak out. Upon her return to the throne in 796, St Irene freed St Theodore and made him igumen of the Studion monastery (dedicated to St John the Baptist) in Constantinople, in which there were only twelve monks. The saint soon restored and enlarged the monastery, attracting about 1,000 monks who wished to have him as their spiritual guide.

St Theodore composed a Rule of monastic life, called the “Studite Rule” to govern the monastery. St Theodore also wrote many letters against the Iconoclasts. For his dogmatic works, and also for his Canons and Three-Ode Canons, St Theoctistus called St Theodore “a fiery teacher of the Church.”

When Nicephorus seized the imperial throne, deposing the pious Empress Irene, he also violated Church regulations by restoring to the Church a previously excommunicated priest on his own authority. St Theodore again denounced the emperor. After torture, the monk was sent into exile once again, where he spent more than two years.

St Theodore was freed by the gentle and pious emperor Michael, who succeeded to the throne upon the death of Nicephoros and his son Staurikios in a war against barbarians. Their death had been predicted by St Theodore for a long while. In order to avert civil war, the emperor Michael abdicated the throne in favor of his military commander Leo the Armenian.

The new emperor proved to be an iconoclast. The hierarchs and teachers of the Church attempted to reason with the impious emperor, but in vain. Leo prohibited the veneration of holy icons and desecrated them. Grieved by such iniquity, St Theodore and the brethren made a religious procession around the monastery with icons raised high, singing of the troparion to the icon of the Savior Not-Made-by-Hands (August 16). The emperor angrily threatened the saint with death, but he continued to encourage believers in Orthodoxy. Then the emperor sentenced St Theodore and his disciple Nicholas to exile, at first in Illyria at the fortress of Metopa, and later in Anatolia at Bonias. But even from prison the confessor continued his struggle against heresy.

Tormented by the executioners which the emperor sent to Bonias, deprived almost of food and drink, covered over with sores and barely alive, Theodore and Nicholas endured everything with prayer and thanksgiving to God. At Smyrna, where they sent the martyrs from Bonias, St Theodore healed a military commander from a terrible illness. The man was a nephew of the emperor and of one mind with him. St Theodore told him to repent of his wicked deeds of Iconoclasm, and to embrace Orthodoxy. But the fellow later relapsed into heresy, and then died a horrible death.

Leo the Armenian was murdered by his own soldiers, and was replaced by the equally impious though tolerant emperor Michael II Traulos (the Stammerer). The new emperor freed all the Orthodox Fathers and confessors from prison, but he prohibited icon-veneration in the capital.

St Theodore did not want to return to Constantinople and so decided to settle in Bithynia on the promontory of Akrita, near the church of the holy Martyr Tryphon. In spite of serious illness, St Theodore celebrated Divine Liturgy daily and instructed the brethren. Foreseeing his end, the saint summoned the brethren and bade them to preserve Orthodoxy, to venerate the holy icons and observe the monastic rule. Then he ordered the brethren to take candles and sing the Canon for the Departure of the Soul From the Body. Just before singing the words “I will never forget Thy statutes, for by them have I lived,” St Theodore fell asleep in the Lord, in the year 826. At the same hour St Hilarion of Dalmatia (June 6) saw a vision of a heavenly light during the singing and the voice was heard, “This is the soul of St Theodore, who suffered even unto blood for the holy icons, which now departs unto the Lord.”

St Theodore worked many miracles during his life and after his death. Those invoking his name have been delivered from fires, and from the attacks of wild beasts, they have received healing, thanks to God and to St Theodore the Studite. On January 26 we celebrate the transfer of the relics of Theodore the Studite from Cherson to Constantinople in the year 845.

Those with stomach ailments entreat the help of St Theodore.


Repose of the Blessed Maximus of Moscow

Saint Maximus of Moscow, the Fool for Christ. Nothing is known about his parents, or the time and place of birth. St Maximus chose one of the most difficult and thorny paths to salvation, having taken upon himself the guise of a fool for the sake of Christ. Summer and winter Maximus walked about almost naked, enduring both heat and cold. He had a saying, “The winter is fierce, but Paradise is sweet.”

Russia loved its holy fools, it esteemed their deep humility, it heeded their wisdom, expressed in the proverbial sayings of the people’s language. And everyone heeded the holy fools, from the Great Princes down to the least beggar.

Blessed Maximus lived at a difficult time for the Russian people. Tatar incursions, droughts, epidemics were endemic and people perished. The saint said to the unfortunate, “Not everything is by the weave of the wool, some is opposite... They have won the fight, submit, and bow lower. Weep not, you who are beaten; but weep, you who are unbeaten. Let us show tolerance, and in this at least, we shall be human. Gradually, even green wood will burn. God will grant salvation if we bear all with patience.”

But the saint did not only speak words of consolation. His angry denunciations frightened the mighty of his world. Blessed Maximus would often say to the rich and illustrious, “The house has an icon corner, but the conscience is for sale. Everyone makes the Sign of the Cross, not everyone prays. God sees every wrong. He will not deceive you, nor will you deceive Him.”

Blessed Maximus died on November 11, 1434 and is buried at the church of the holy Princes Boris and Gleb. Miraculous healings began occurring from the relics of God’s saint. In an encyclical of 1547, Metropolitan Macarius enjoined “the singing and celebration at Moscow for the new Wonderworker Maximus, Fool-for-Christ.” That same year on August 13 the incorrupt relics of Blessed Maximus were uncovered. The church of Sts Boris and Gleb, where the saint was buried, burned in the year 1568. On the site a new church was built, which they consecrated in the name of St Maximus, Fool-for-Christ. The venerable relics of St Maximus were placed in this church.


Venerable Martyrius the Abbot of Zelenets, Pskov

Saint Martyrius was a monk in the Veliki Luki (Great Meadows) Monastery, and shared a cell with Elder Bogolep. These holy ascetics ate only once a day. After the services in church, they would fulfill the rule of prayer in their cell, then they would work during the night milling corn.

Later, St Martyrius went to live at Zelenets (Green Island), and founded a monastery in the midst of the swamps. By 1582, he was already the igumen of the monastery, which had twelve monks. Several benefactors donated to the monastery, including Theodore Syrkov, Simeon Bekbulatov (the ruler of Kasim), and Tsar Theodore, who donated land.

St Martyrius fell asleep in the Lord in 1603. He is also commemorated on March 1.


Repose of St Stephen of Dechani, Serbia

Saint Stephen was the son of King Milutin and the father of King Dushan. He was blinded on the orders of his father. St Nicholas (December 6) appeared to him in the church of Ovche Polje (Sheep Pasture) and said, “Do not be afraid.Your eyes have been given to me, and I shall return them to you at the appropriate time.

St Stephen lived in Constantinople for five years at the Monastery of the Pantocrator. He surpassed not only the monks, but also all the inhabitants of Constantinople, in his spiritual struggles, patience, and meekness. At the end of the five years, St Nicholas appeared to him again. Making the Sign of the Cross over his eyes, he restored Stephen’s sight. In gratitude for this miracle, Stephen built the Dechani Monastery in Serbia.

In his old age, St Stephen was drowned by his son, receiving the crown of martyrdom in 1336.


St Martin the Merciful the Bishop of Tours

Saint Martin the Merciful, Bishop of Tours, was born at Sabaria in Pannonia (modern Hungary) in 316. Since his father was a Roman officer, he also was obliged to serve in the army. Martin did so unwillingly, for he considered himself a soldier of Christ, though he was still a catechumen.

At the gates of Amiens, he saw a beggar shivering in the severe winter cold, so he cut his cloak in two and gave half to the beggar. That night, the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to the saint wearing Martin’s cloak. He heard the Savior say to the angels surrounding Him, “Martin is only a catechumen, but he has clothed Me with this garment.” The saint was baptized soon after this, and reluctantly remained in the army.

Two years later, the barbarians invaded Gaul and Martin asked permission to resign his commission for religious reasons. The commander charged him with cowardice. St Martin demonstrated his courage by offering to stand unarmed in the front line of battle, trusting in the power of the Cross to protect him. The next day, the barbarians surrendered without a fight, and Martin was allowed to leave the army.

He traveled to various places during the next few years, spending some time as a hermit on an island off Italy. He became friendly with St Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers (January 14), who made Matrin an exorcist. After several years of the ascetic life, St Martin was chosen to be Bishop of Tours in 371. As bishop, St Martin did not give up his monastic life, and the place where he settled outside Tours became a monastery. In fact, he is regarded as the founder of monasticism in France. He conversed with angels, and had visions of Sts Peter and Paul (June 29) and of other saints. He is called the Merciful because of his generosity and care for the poor, and he received the grace to work miracles.

After a life of devoted service to Christ and His Church, the saint fell ill at Candes, a village in his diocese, where he died on November 8, 397. He was buried three days later (his present Feast) at Tours. During the Middle Ages, many Western churches were dedicated to St Martin, including St Martin’s in Canterbury, and St Martin-in-the-Fields in London.

In 1008, a cathedral was built at Tours over the relics of St Martin. This cathedral was destroyed in 1793 during the French Revolution, together with the relics of St Martin and St Gregory of Tours (November 17). A new cathedral was built on the site many years later. Some fragments of the relics of St Martin were recovered and placed in the cathedral, but nothing remains of St Gregory’s relics.

St Martin’s name appears on many Greek and Russian calendars. His commemoration on October 12 in the Russian calendar appears to be an error, since ancient sources give the November date.