Lives of all saints commemorated on December 7


St Ambrose the Bishop of Milan

Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, was born in the year 340 into the family of the Roman prefect of Gaul (now France). Even in the saint’s childhood there appeared presentiments of his great future. Once, bees covered the face of the sleeping infant. They flew in and out of his mouth, leaving honey on his tongue. Soon they flew away so high that they could no longer be seen. Ambrose’s father said that the child would become something great when he reached manhood.

After the death of the father of the family, Ambrose journeyed to Rome, where the future saint and his brother Satyrius received an excellent education. About the year 370, upon completion of his course of study, Ambrose was appointed to the position of governor (consular prefect) of the districts of Liguria and Aemilia, though he continued to live at Mediolanum (now Milan).

In the year 374 Auxentius, the Arian Bishop of Mediolanum, died. This led to complications between the Orthodox and the Arians, since each side wanted to have its own bishop. Ambrose, as the chief city official, went to the church to resolve the dispute.

While he was speaking to the crowd, suddenly a child cried out, “Ambrose for bishop!” The people took up this chant. Ambrose, who at this time was still a catechumen, considered himself unworthy, and tried to refuse. He disparaged himself, and even tried to flee from Mediolanum. The matter went ultimately before the emperor Valentinian the Elder (364-375), whose orders Ambrose dared not disobey. He accepted holy Baptism from an Orthodox priest and, passing through all the ranks of the Church clergy in just seven days, on December 7, 374 he was consecrated Bishop of Mediolanum. He dispersed all his possessions, money and property for the adornment of churches, the upkeep of orphans and the poor, and he devoted himself to a strict ascetic life.

Ambrose combined strict temperance, intense vigilance and work within the fulfilling of his duties as archpastor. St Ambrose, defending the unity of the Church, energetically opposed the spread of heresy. Thus, in the year 379 he traveled off to establish an Orthodox bishop at Sirmium, and in 385-386 he refused to hand over the basilica of Mediolanum to the Arians.

The preaching of St Ambrose in defense of Orthodoxy was deeply influential. Another noted Father of the Western Church, St Augustine (June 15), bore witness to this, having accepted holy Baptism in the year 387 by the grace of the preaching of the bishop of Mediolanum.

St Ambrose also actively participated in civil matters. Thus, the emperor Gracian (375-383), having received from him the “Exposition of the Orthodox Faith” (De Fide), removed, by decree of the saint, the altar of Victory from the halls of the Senate at Rome, on which oaths were wont to be taken. Displaying a pastoral boldness, St Ambrose placed a severe penance on the emperor Theodosius I (379-395) for the massacre of innocent inhabitants of Thessalonica. For him there was no difference between emperor and commoner. Though he released Theodosius from the penance, the saint would not permit the emperor to commune at the altar, but compelled him to do public penance.

The fame of Bishop Ambrose and his actions attracted to him many followers from other lands. From faraway Persia learned men came to him to ask him questions and absorb his wisdom. Fritigelda (Frigitil), queen of the military Germanic tribe of the Markomanni, which often had attacked Mediolanum, asked the saint to instruct her in the Christian Faith. The saint in his letter to her persuasively stated the dogmas of the Church. And having become a believer, the queen converted her own husband to Christianity and persuaded him to conclude a treaty of peace with the Roman Empire.

The saint combined strictness with an uncommon kindliness. Granted a gift of wonderworking, he healed many from sickness. One time at Florence, while staying at the house of Decentus, he resurrected a dead boy.

The repose of St Ambrose, who departed to the Lord on the night of Holy Pascha, was accompanied by many miracles. He even appeared in a vision to the children being baptized that night. The saint was buried in the Ambrosian basilica in Mediolanum, beneath the altar, between the Martyrs Protasius and Gervasius (October 14).

A zealous preacher and valiant defender of the Christian Faith, St Ambrose received particular renown as a Church writer. In dogmatic compositions he set forth the Orthodox teaching about the Holy Trinity, the Sacraments, and Repentance: “Five Books on the Faith” (De Fide); “Explication of the Symbol of the Faith” (Explanatio Symboli); “On the Incarnation” (De Incarnationis); “Three Books on the Holy Spirit” (De Spiritu Sancto); “On the Sacraments” (De Sacramento); “Two Books on Repentance” (De Paenitentia). In writings about Christian morality, he explained the excellence of Christian moral teaching compared to pagan moral teaching.

A well-known work of St Ambrose, “On the Duties of the Clergy” (De Officiis Ministrorum) evidences his deep awareness of pastoral duty. He stresses that those who serve in the Church should have not only the proper knowledge of Church services, but also the proper knowledge of moral precepts.

St Ambrose was also a reformer of Church singing. He introduced antiphonal singing (along the Eastern or Syrian form) into the Western Church, which became known as “Ambrosian Chant.” He also composed twelve hymns which were used during his lifetime. The hymn, “Thee, O God, we praise” (Te Deum), attributed to St Ambrose, entered into the divine services of the Orthodox Church (Molieben).


Venerable Anthony the Abbot of Siya, Novgorod

Saint Anthony of Siya, in the world Andrew, was born into a family of rich farmers in the village of Kekhta near the North Dvina river. In childhood he received a fine education, read much and learned iconography. After the death of his parents, Andrew went to Novgorod, and for five years worked for a boyar [nobleman] there. He later married, but his wife died after a year.

Then Andrew decided to devote himself to monasticism. He distributed his goods to the poor and as a wanderer came to the Pachomiev wilderness monastery at the River Kena. St Pachomius tonsured him with the name Anthony. Soon he was ordained a hieromonk, and Anthony, with the blessing of the igumen, celebrated the divine services by himself.

He went out with the other monks of the monastery to work for the monastery’s needs. Out of love for solitude St Anthony eventually left the Pachomiev wilderness, after choosing two companions from the monastic brethren, and he settled upon Mikhailov Island, on the one side washed by the River Sii, and on the other, by encircling lakes.

In this harsh frontier within the dense thickets Anthony built a chapel in 1520. But to clear the forest required difficult work, and Anthony’s companions began to grumble against him. Then quite unexpectedly an unknown man furnished them with the means of subsistence, offering money for good measure. The Siya monastery became famous, and inhabitants of surrounding villages often visited it. And again St Anthony, taking one disciple, withdrew to a still more remote place on Lake Palun. There, in a solitary cell, he dwelt for three years. When the igumen Theoctistus refused to guide the Siya monastery any longer, the brethren tried to persuade St Anthony to return to them. He finally acceded to the request of the monks, again became igumen and piously guided the monastery until his death in the year 1556, when he was seventy-nine years old.


Venerable Nilus of Stolbensk Lake

Saint Nilus of Stolobnoye was born into a peasant family in a small village of the Novgorod diocese. In the year 1505 he was tonsured at the monastery of St Sava of Krypetsk (August 28) near Pskov. After ten years in ascetic life at the monastery he set out to the River Sereml, on the side of the city of Ostashkova; here for thirteen years he led a strict ascetic life in incessant struggle against the snares of the devil, who took on the appearance of reptiles and wild beasts. Many of the inhabitants of the surrounding area started coming to the monk for instruction, but this became burdensome for him and he prayed God to show him a place for deeds of quietude. Once, after long prayer he heard a voice saying, “Nilus! Go to Lake Seliger. There upon the island of Stolobnoye you can be saved!” St Nilus learned the location of this island from people who visited him. When he arrived there, he was astonished by its beauty.

The island, in the middle of the lake, was covered over by dense forest. St Nilus found a small hill and dug out a cave, and after a while he built a hut, in which he lived for twenty-six years. To his exploits of strict fasting and stillness [ie. hesychia] he added another—he never lay down to sleep, but permitted himself only a light nap, leaning on a prop set into the wall of the cell.

The pious life of the monk frequently roused the envy of the Enemy of mankind, which evidenced itself through the spiteful action of the local inhabitants. One time someone set fire to the woods on the island where stood the saint’s hut, but the flames went out in miraculous manner upon reaching the hill. Another time robbers forced their way into the hut. The monk said to them: “All my treasure is in the corner of the cell.” In this corner stood an icon of the Mother of God, but the robbers began to search there for money and became blinded. Then with tears of repentance they begged for forgiveness.

St Nilus performed many other miracles. He would refuse gifts if the conscience of the one offering it to him was impure, or if they were in bodily impurity.

Aware of his approaching end, St Nilus prepared a grave for himself. At the time of his death, an igumen from one of the nearby monasteries came to the island and communed him with the Holy Mysteries. Before the igumen’s departure, St Nilus prayed for the last time, censing around the holy icons and the cell, and surrendered his soul to the Lord on December 7, 1554. The translation of his holy relics (now venerated at the church of the Icon of the Mother of God “Of the Sign” in the city of Ostashkova) took place in the year 1667, with feastdays established both on the day of his death, and on May 27.


Venerable John the Faster of the Kiev Near Caves

No information available at this time


Martyr Athenodorus of Mesopotamia

The Holy Martyr Athenodorus, from Syrian Mesopotamia, led a monastic life from his youth. Denounced as a Christian, he was arrested and condemned to fierce tortures by the governor of the land, Eleusius. Miracles accompanied the martyrdom of the saint, which converted many of the pagans to the Christian Faith.

He was beheaded in the year 304.


Venerable Paul the Obedient

Saint Paul the Obedient We do not know when he lived. There is only a short Life which says that he was the son of wealthy parents. He left secular life upon reaching maturity.

The appellation “Obedient” was bestowed upon the monk for his deep humility, and for the complete renunciation of his own will. Once, the monk stirred boiling tar with his hand, and received not the slightest burn from it. Some of the brethren regarded him as a God-bearing ascetic, but others became suspicious of him.

After fervent prayer, the monks received a unique vision proving that their brother was a true ascetic. By night they were all transported to Paradise and they conversed with St Paul, who permitted them to take a flower or twig with them as a remembrance. Awakening from sleep, they found in their hands the flowers and twigs from Paradise. After this St Paul went to Jerusalem, and then to Cyprus.

Having led a solitary life, he ended his life on Mount Paregoros [Mount Solace]. Before his death the voice of God said to him, “Ascend the mountain, Paul, and accept the end of life.”


St Philothea of Thrace, the Protectress of Romania

Saint Philothea (Philofthea) of Argesh was born in Trnovo, the old capital of Bulgaria, around 1206. Her father was a farmer, and her mother was from Wallachia. She died when Philothea was still a child, and her father remarried.

The child was often punished by her stepmother, who accused her of being disobedient, and of giving their possesions away to the poor. Her father chastised her for this, but Philothea continued to attend church services and to do good to others, just as her mother had taught her. As she grew older, she was adorned with the virtues of prayer, virginity, and almsgiving.

St Philothea used to bring food to her father, who was out working in the fields. Not all of the food reached him, however, because the girl would give some of it to the poor children begging in the street. When he complained to his wife that she did not prepare enough food for him, she replied, “I send you plenty of food. Ask your daughter what she does with it.”

Becoming angry with Philothea, her father decided to spy on her to see what happened to the food. From a place of concealment, he saw her giving food to the poor children who came to her. In a violent rage, he took the axe from his belt and threw it at the twelve-year-old girl, hitting her in the leg. The wound was mortal, and she soon gave her pure soul into God’s hands.

The man was filled with fear and remorse, and tried to lift his daughter’s body from the ground, but it became as heavy as a rock. Then the wretch ran to the Archbishop of Trnovo to confess his sin and explain what had happened. The Archbishop and his clergy went with candles and incense to take up the martyr’s body and bring it to the cathedral, but even they were unable to lift it.

The Archbishop realized that St Philothea did not wish to remain in her native land, so he began to name various monasteries, churches, and cathedrals to see where she wished to go. Not until he named the Monastery of Curtea de Argesh in Romania were they able to lift her holy relics and place them in a coffin. The Archbishop wrote to the Romanian Voievode Radu Negru, asking him to accept the saint’s relics.

The Archbishop and his clergy carried the holy relics in procession as far as the Danube, where they were met by Romanian clergy, monastics, and the faithful. Then they were carried to the Curtea de Argesh Monastery.

Many people have been healed at the tomb of St Philothea in a small chapel in the belltower behind the monastery church, and those who entreat her intercession receive help from her. Each year on December 7 there is a festal pilgrimage to the Monastery, and people come from all over Romania. The relics of St Philothea are carried around the courtyard in procession, and there are prayers for the sick.

The holy Virgin Martyr Philothea is venerated in Romania, Bulgaria, and throughout the Orthodox world.


Venerable Gregory the Founder of Grigoriou Monastery of Mt Athos

St Gregory of Mount Athos was born in Serbia, and pursued asceticism on Mt Athos. He built and dedicated the monastery of St Nicholas, which was later renamed Grigoriou in his honor.

In the records of Mt Athos the saint’s signature dating from 1405 was discovered. According to Tradition, the relics of St Gregory were taken from Athos by Serbian monks.


Icon of the Mother of God of Vladimir of Seligersk

The Vladimir Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos of Seliger comes from the island of Seliger in the Tver Province of Russia.