Lives of all saints commemorated on December 15


Sunday of the Forefathers

The Sunday that falls between December 11-17 is known as the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers. These are the ancestors of Christ according to the flesh, who lived before the Law and under the Law, especially the Patriarch Abraham, to whom God said, “In thy seed shall all of the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:3, 22:18).


Righteous Priest Aaron

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Righteous Benjamin

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Righteous Deborah

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St Ezra

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Righteous Isaac

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Righteous Jacob

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St Judith

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St Miriam

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Prophet Nathan

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Prophet Nehemiah

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Righteous Noah

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Righteous Rebecca

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St Sarah

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Prophet Solomon

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St Susanna

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Hieromartyr Eleutherius the Bishop of Illyria, and His Mother

Hieromartyr Eleutherius, his mother Evanthia and Caribus the Eparch: St Eleutherius, the son of an illustrious Roman citizen, was raised in Christian piety by his mother. His virtue was such that at the age twenty, he had been elevated to bishop of Illyria. In the reign of the emperor Hadrian, St Eleutherius was tortured for his bold preaching about Christ, then was beheaded at Rome with his mother Evanthia. The Eparch Caribus, who had tortured St Eleutherius, also came to believe in Christ and was executed.


Venerable Paul of Latros

Saint Paul of Latros was a native of the city of Aelen in Pergamum. Early bereft of his father, he was educated at the monastery of St Stephen in Phrygia. After the death of his mother, he devoted himself completely to monastic deeds at a monastery on Mount Latra, near Miletos.

Seeking even loftier accomplishments, he secluded himself in a cave. For his ascetic deeds he gained the gifts of clairvoyance and wonderworking. The emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitos (912-959) often wrote to him, asking his prayers and counsel. St Paul twice withdrew to the island of Samos, where he established a monastery and restored three monasteries ravaged by the Hagarenes (Arabs). Foretelling his end, the monk reposed in the year 955.


St Stephen the Confessor the Archbishop of Surozha in the Crimea

Saint Stephen the Confessor, Archbishop of Surrentium (Surozh), was a native of Cappadocia and was educated at Constantinople. After receiving the monastic tonsure, he withdrew into the wilderness, where he lived for thirty years in ascetic deeds.

Patriarch Germanus of Constantinople (May 12) heard of Stephen’s humility and virtuous life, and wished to meet him. He was so impressed with Stephen that he consecrated him bishop of the city of Surrentium (presently the city of Sudak in the Crimea). Within five years, St Stephen’s ministry was so fruitful that no heretics or unbaptized pagans remained in Surrentium or its environs.

St Stephen opposed the iconoclasm of the emperor Leo III the Isaurian (716-741). Since he refused to obey the orders of the emperor and the dishonorable Patriarch Anastasius to remove the holy icons from the churches, he was brought to Constantinople. There he was thrown into prison and tortured. He was released after the death of the emperor. Already quite advanced in years, he returned to his flock in Surrentium, where he died.

There is an account of how the Russian prince Bravlin accepted Baptism at the beginning of the ninth century during a campaign into the Crimea, influenced by miracles at the saint’s crypt.


Venerable Tryphon the Abbot of Pechenga (Kolsk)

Saint Tryphon of Pechenga and Kola, in the world Metrophanes, was born in the Novgorod governia into a priestly family. The pious parents raised their son in the fear of God. From his early years Tryphon had resolved to devote his life to apostolic deeds and to go to the pagan Laplanders and proclaim the Gospel of Christ. He knew of them only through the accounts of fish vendors.

Once, while praying in the forest he had heard a voice, “Tryphon, this is not your place. An empty and thirsty land awaits you.” Forsaking his parental home, the saint went out onto the Kola Peninsula and halted at the banks of the Pechenga River, where the Lapps lived. There he began to carry on trade with them. The saint first acquainted himself with the pagan beliefs of these people and studied their language, and then began to preach the Christian Faith to them. The Lapps greeted the words of the saint with great mistrust. The holy preacher suffered much hardship, enduring hostility and even beatings. But gradually, through his wise and kindly words and meekness, many were converted to Christ.

With the blessing of Archbishop Macarius of Novogord, St Tryphon and St Theodoretos built a church for the newly-converted. In 1532 he founded the Pechenga-Trinity monastery for those eager for the monastic life, “on the cold sea, on the frontier of Murmansk.”

Tsar Ivan the Terrible helped him and richly endowed the monastery. The Enlightener of the Lapps died in old age in 1583, having lived at the Pechenga almost 60 years. Local veneration of St Tryphon began soon after his death.

In 1589, the Swedes destroyed the Pechenga monastery. Later, by order of Tsar Theodore, the monastery was transferred to the Kola Peninsula. On the site of the restored monastery a church was built and named for St Tryphon. Over the saint’s grave a church was constructed in honor of the Meeting of the Lord. St Tryphon has often come to the aid of perishing seamen, who call upon his name with faith.


Martyr Jonah the Disciple of Tryphon of Pechenga

Saint Jonah of Pechenga and Kola was, as tradition tells us, a priest in the city of Kola. After the death of his daughter and wife he went off to the Pechenga-Trinity monastery near Kola, and became a disciple of its founder, St Tryphon. After the death of his teacher, he settled in 1583 at the site of what was to become his grave in the neighboring Dormition wilderness, where he was killed by the Swedes in the year 1590.


Martyr Eleutherius at Constantinople

The Holy Martyr Eleutherius Cubicularius was an illustrious and rich chamberlain [“cubicularius”] at the Byzantine court. With all his courtly privileges, Eleutherius was not beguiled by worldly possessions and honors. Instead, he thought of imperishable and eternal things. Having accepted holy Baptism, he began daily to glorify God with psalmody and to adorn his life with virtuous deeds.

But one of his servants through diabolic promptings, informed against his master to the [then still pagan] emperor. The emperor tried to turn Eleutherius from his faith in Christ, but after the unsuccessful attempts the emperor gave orders to behead him, and to throw his body to be eaten by dogs and vultures. A certain Christian priest took up the saint’s body and buried it.

There is a second commemoration of the martyr on August 4.


Venerable Pardus the Hermit, of Palestine

St Pardus the Hermit, a Roman, was involved in his youth with the teamster’s craft. Once, when he traveled to Jericho, a boy accidentally fell under the legs of his camels. The camels trampled the boy to death. Shaken by this occurrence, Pardus became a monk and withdrew to Mount Arion.

Thinking himself as a murderer, and deserving of death, St Pardus entered the den of a lion. He poked the wild beast and prodded it with a spear so that the lion would tear him apart, but the creature would not touch the hermit. St Pardus then took off his clothes and lay down upon the path that the lion would take for water. But even here, the lion merely leaped over the hermit. And the Elder then understood that he had been forgiven by the Lord. Returning to his mountain, St Pardus dwelt there in fasting and prayer until the end of his days. He died in the sixth century.


Hieromartyr Hilarion, Archbishop of Vereiya

The holy New Martyr Archbishop Hilarion (Vladimir Alexeevich Troitsky in the world), an outstanding theologian, an eloquent preacher, and a fearless defender of Christ’s holy Church, was born around 1885.

Vladika Hilarion wrote many books and articles on various topics, including “The Unity of the Church.” His Master’s thesis, “An Outline of the History of the Church’s Dogma,” was over five hundred pages long, and was a well-documented analysis of the subject.

During the Council of 1917 he delivered a brilliant address calling for the restoration of the Moscow Patriarchate, which had been dissolved byTsar Peter I in the eighteenth century. When St Tikhon (April 7) was chosen as Patriarch, St Hilarion became his fervent supporter.

St Hilarion was consecrated as bishop on May 20, 1920, and so the great luminary was placed upon the lampstand (Luke 11:33). From that time, he was to know less than two years of freedom. He spent only six months working with Patriarch Tikhon.

Vladika was arrested and exiled in Archangelsk for a year, then he spent six years (1923-1929) in a labor camp seven versts from Solovki. There at the Filomonov Wharf he and at least two other bishops were employed in catching fish and mending nets. Paraphrasing the hymns of Pentecost, Archbishop Hilarion remarked, “Formerly, the fishermen became theologians. Now the theologians have become fishermen.”

Archbishop Hilarion was one of the most popular inmates of the labor camp. He is remembered as tall, robust, and with brownish hair. Personal possessions meant nothing to him, so he always gave his things away to anyone who asked for them. He never showed annoyance when people disturbed him or insulted him, but remained cheerful.

In the summer of 1925, Vladika was taken from the camp and placed in the Yaroslav prison. There he was treated more leniently, and received certain privileges. For example, he was allowed to receive religious books, and he had pleasant conversations with the warden in his office. St Hilarion regarded his time at the Yaroslav Isolated Detention Center as the best part of his imprisonment. The following spring he was back at Solovki.

In 1929 the Communists decided to exile Archbishop Hilarion to Alma-Atu in central Asia. During his trip southward from the far north, St Hilarion was robbed and endured many privations. When he arrived in Petrograd, he was ill with typhus, infested with parasites and dressed in rags. When informed that he would have to be shaved, he replied, “You may now do with me whatever you wish.” He wrote from the prison hospital, “My fate will be decided on Saturday, December 15. I doubt I will survive.”

St Hilarion died at the age of forty-four in the hospital of a Petrograd prison on December 15, 1929. His body was placed in a coffin hastily made from some boards, and then was released to his family. The once tall and robust Archbishop Hilarion had been transformed by his sufferings into a pitiful white-haired old man. One female relative fainted when she saw the body.

Metropolitan Seraphim (Chichagov) provided a set of white vestments for the late Archbishop. He was also placed in a better coffin.

Metropolitan Seraphim presided at the funeral of St Hilarion, assisted by six bishops and several priests. The saint was buried at Novo-Divichy Monastery.


Martyr Evanthia of Illyria

Hieromartyr Eleutherius, his mother Evanthia and Caribus the Eparch: St Eleutherius, the son of an illustrious Roman citizen, was raised in Christian piety by his mother. His virtue was such that at the age twenty, he had been elevated to bishop of Illyria. In the reign of the emperor Hadrian, St Eleutherius was tortured for his bold preaching about Christ, then was beheaded at Rome with his mother Evanthia. The Eparch Caribus, who had tortured St Eleutherius, also came to believe in Christ and was executed.


St Nectarius of Bitel

Saint Nectarius of Bitel was born in the small town of Bitl (or Butili) in Bulgaria. In the world he was named Nicholas. Before a Turkish invasion he mother had a vision: the Most Holy Virgin Herself appeared and told her to flee and go into hiding with her husband and children. Nicholas’s father, having taken the boy with him, withdrew to a monastery dedicated to the Holy Unmercenaries (Sts Cosmas and Damian), not far from Bitel, where he became a monk with the name Pachomius.

Nicholas, having reached adolescence, went on to Athos. The clairvoyant Elder Philotheus accepted him and tonsured him into the angelic schema with the name Nectarius. The monk suffered for a long time from the envy and spite of one of the novices, but he displayed complete humility. He was distinguished for his charity. Any money he obtained from his handicraft was distributed to the poor. St Nectarius died in the year 1500.