Lives of all saints commemorated on December 29


Sunday after the Nativity: Commemoration of the Holy Righteous David the King, Joseph the Betrothed, and James the Brother of the Lord

The Holy Prophet-King David, St Joseph the Betrothed, and St James the Brother of the Lord are commemorated on the Sunday after the Nativity. If there is no Sunday between December 25 and January 1, their commemoration is moved to December 26.

At an early date, some churches in the East began to commemorate certain important figures of the New Testament at the time of Theophany, and later during the Nativity season. In Syria, for example, St Stephen (December 27), Sts James (April 30) and John (September 26), and Sts Peter and Paul (June 29) were commemorated near the end of December.

In Jerusalem, the saints mentioned above were combined with a feast that the Jews of Hebron celebrated on December 25 or 26 in honor of the Old Testament Patriarch Jacob. Later on, the Christians substituted St James (October 23) for Jacob, and then the commemoration of the Brother of the Lord became associated with his ancestor King David. In time, St. Joseph was linked with Sts David and James.


Holy Righteous Joseph the Betrothed, along with David the King, and James the Brother of the Lord

Saint Joseph the Betrothed was of the lineage of King David. In his first marriage, he had four sons and two daughters. After he became a widower, St Joseph led a life of strict temperance. He was chosen to be the husband and guardian of the Most Holy Theotokos, who had taken a vow of virginity.

An angel told him of the Incarnation of the Son of God through her. St Joseph was present when the shepherds and the Magi worshiped the new-born divine Infant. On the orders of the angel, he fled into Egypt with the Mother of God and the Infant Jesus, saving them from the wrath of King Herod. He lived in Egypt with the Virgin Mary and the divine Child, working as a carpenter. St Joseph reputedly died at the age of one hundred.

St Joseph is commemorated on the Sunday after the Nativity. If there is no Sunday between December 25 and January 1, his Feast is moved to December 26. The Righteous Joseph is also commemorated on the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers.


Righteous James the Brother of the Lord, along with Joseph the Betrothed, and David the King

The Holy Prophet-King David was a forefather of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh. The youngest son of Jesse, David shepherded a flock of sheep belonging to his father. He was distinguished by his deep faith, and he zealously fulfilled the will of God.

During a battle with the Philistines, he vanquished the giant Goliath in single combat, which decided the outcome of the war in favor of the Israelites. He endured many things from King Saul, who saw him as a favorite of the people and his rival. David, however, showed his own decency and magnanimity. Twice, when he had the possibility of killing Saul, he did not do so.

After Saul and his son perished, David was proclaimed king of the southern part of Israel, and after Saul’s second son was killed, he became king of all Israel. He built a new capital, Jerusalem (“the City of Peace”), and a new tabernacle. His great wish to build a Temple was not realized. It was foretold to him that his son would build the Temple.

The life of the Prophet David was darkened by a grievous falling: he took Uriah’s wife for himself, and sent Uriah to his death in battle. He was also an example of great repentance, humbly and with faith bearing the sorrows sent in punishment for his sins. St David gave a model for repentance in Psalm 50/51. King David died in great old age with steadfast faith in the coming of the promised Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ. His divinely-inspired Psalter is widely used in the divine services and in personal prayers. (See the Books of Kings and Chronicles).

The holy Prophet-King David is invoked by those facing a difficult situation, such as an interview, etc.


Sunday after the Nativity: Commemoration of the Holy Righteous David the King, Joseph the Betrothed, and James the Brother of the Lord

The Holy Apostle James, Brother of the Lord, was the eldest son of Joseph the Betrothed from his first marriage with Solomonia. The Apostle James is remembered after the Feast of the Nativity of Christ together with his father Joseph and the Prophet-King David, since he accompanied his family on the Flight into Egypt and lived there with the Infant Jesus, the Mother of God and Joseph. Later, he returned to Israel with them.

After the Ascension of the Lord, St James was the first Bishop of Jerusalem, gaining the great esteem not only of Christians, but also of Jews. He was thrown from the roof of the Jerusalem Temple because he had publicly preached to the people about the God-manhood of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Apostle James is also commemorated on October 23.


Afterfeast of the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

On December 29, the Afterfeast of the Nativity, we commemorate the 14,000 holy infants who were put to death by King Herod in his attempt to kill the new-born Messiah (Mt. 2:16).

Today there is also a commemoration of all Orthodox Christians who have died from hunger, thirst, the sword, and freezing.


14,000 Infants (the Holy Innocents) slain by Herod at Bethlehem

14,000 Holy Infants were killed by King Herod in Bethlehem. When the time came for the Incarnation of the Son of God and His Birth of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, Magi in the East beheld a new star in the heavens, foretelling the Nativity of the King of the Jews. They journeyed immediately to Jerusalem to worship the Child, and the star showed them the way. Having worshipped the divine Infant, they did not return to Jerusalem to Herod, as he had ordered them, but being warned by God in a dream, they went back to their country by another way. Herod finally realized that his scheme to find the Child would not be successful, and he ordered that all the male children two years old and younger at Bethlehem and its surroundings be killed. He thought that the divine Infant, Whom he considered a rival, would be among the dead children.

The murdered infants thus became the first martyrs for Christ. The rage of Herod fell also on Simeon the God-Receiver (February 3), who declared before everyone in the Temple that the Messiah had been born. When the holy Elder died, Herod would not give permission for him to be properly buried. On the orders of King Herod, the holy prophet and priest Zachariah was also killed. He was murdered in Jerusalem between the Temple and the altar (Mt. 23:35) because he would not tell the whereabouts of his son John, the future Baptist of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The wrath of God soon fell upon Herod himself: a horrid condition struck him down and he died, eaten by worms while still alive. Before his death, the impious king murdered the chief priests and scribes of the Jews, and also his brother, and his sister and her husband, and also his own wife Mariam, and three of his sons, and seventy men of wisdom who were members of the Sanhedrin. He initiated this bloodbath so that the day of his death would not be one of rejoicing, but one of mourning.


Venerable Marcellus the Abbot of the Monastery of the “Unsleeping Ones”

Saint Marcellus, igumen of the Monastery called “the Unsleeping Ones,” was a native of the city of Apamea in Syria. His parents were wealthy, but died when he was young. He received his education first at Antioch, and then at Ephesus. All his possessions left him by his parents he distributed to the poor, thereby sundering his ties to the world.

Under the guidance of an experienced elder at Ephesus, Marcellus entered upon the path of asceticism. He later went on to Byzantium to St Alexander, igumen of the monastery named “the Unsleeping.” The monastery received its name because in it psalmody was done constantly, both day and night, by alternating groups of monks. St Alexander accepted Marcellus and tonsured him into the monastic schema. Zealous in the works of watchfulness, fasting and prayer, the saint received great spiritual talents and the gift of clairvoyance. Marcellus foresaw the day of Abba Alexander’s death and his own election as igumen. However, since he was still young, he did not want to rule others. So he slipped out of the monastery to visit other provinces and other monasteries, where he received edification from the monks who lived there.

After the death of St Alexander, when Abba John had already been chosen as igumen, Marcellus returned to the great joy of the brethren. Abba John made Marcellus his own closest assistant. After John’s death, St Marcellus was chosen igumen of the monastery in spite of his own wishes, and in this position he remained for sixty years.

News of his saintly life spread far. People came to Marcellus from afar, both the illustrious and the common, rich and the poor. Many times they saw angels encircling the saint, attending and guarding him. With the help of God, the monastery of “the Unsleeping Ones” flourished. So many monks came to place themselves under the direction of St Marcellus that it became necessary to enlarge the monastery and the church.

St Marcellus received donations from believers for expansion, and built a beautiful large church, a hospital, and a hostel for the homeless. By his prayers the monk treated the sick, cast out devils and worked miracles. For example, one of the monks was sent to Ankara and fell ill. Being near death, he called out mentally to his abba. At that very hour St Marcellus heard his disciple in the monastery, and he began to pray for him. He who was sick recovered at once.

When a ship with his monks came into danger on the Black Sea, the saint calmed the tempest by his prayers. Another time, when they told him that a fire was raging at Constantinople, he prayed tearfully for the city, and the fire subsided as if extinguished by the tears of the monk.

John, the servant of a certain Arian nobleman named Ardaburios, was unjustly accused of something, and he hid out at the monastery to escape his master’s wrath. Ardaburios twice demanded that St Marcellus hand John over to him, but he refused. Ardaburios then sent out a detachment of soldiers, who surrounded the monastery, threatening to slay anyone who interfered with their mission. The brethren went to the abba, asking him to surrender John and save the monastery. St Marcellus signed himself with the Sign of the Cross, then boldly went out alone through the monastery gate towards the soldiers. Lightning flashed in the sky, thunder rumbled, and the Cross appeared shining brighter than the sun. The soldiers threw down their weapons and took to flight. Ardaburios, learning from the soldiers what had happened, was frightened, and because of St Marcellus he pardoned the servant.

St Marcellus peacefully departed to the Lord in the year 485. His faithful disciple Lukian grieved terribly over him, but on the fifth day after the death St Marcellus appeared to him and comforted him, foretelling his own impending end.


Venerable Mark the Grave-Digger of the Kiev Near Caves

Saints Mark the Grave-Digger, Theophilus and John are mentioned in the Kiev Caves Paterikon. Two brothers being monastics, Sts Theophilus and John, so loved each other that they prevailed upon St Mark to prepare a double grave so they could be buried side by side.

Many years later, the older of the two brothers was away on monastery business. During this time his brother John fell ill and died. Several days later, St Theophilus returned and went with the brethren to view his brother’s body. Seeing that he lay at the higher place in their common grave, he became indignant with St Mark and said, “Why did you put him in my place? I am older than he.”

The cave-dweller Mark, bowed humbly to St Theophilus and asked that he forgive him. Turning to the dead man, he said, “Arise, give this place to your older brother, and you lie down in the other place.” And the dead man moved to the lower place in the grave. Seeing this, St Theophilus fell down at the knees of St Mark begging his forgiveness. The cave-dweller Mark told Theophilus that he ought to be concerned for his own salvation, because soon he would join his brother in that place.

Hearing this, St Theophilus became terrified and decided that he would soon die. He gave away everything that he possessed, keeping only his mantle, and every day he awaited the hour of death. No one was able to stop his tears, nor to tempt him with tasty food. Tears were his bread by day and by night (Ps 41/42:3). God granted him several years more for repentance, which he spent in fasting and lamentation. He even went blind from continuous weeping.

St Mark forsaw the hour of his death and told Theophilus he would soon depart this life. Theophilus pleaded, “Father, either take me with you, or restore my sight.” St Mark said to Theophilus, “Do not desire death, it shall come in its own time, even if you do not wish it. Let this be the sign of your impending end: three days before you depart this world, your eyesight will return.”

The words of the saint were fulfilled. The body of St Theophilus was placed in the Antoniev Cave in the grave together with his brother St John, near the relics of St Mark. Their memory is celebrated also on September 28 and on the second Sunday of Great Lent.


Venerable Theophilus of the Kiev Near Caves

Saints Mark the Grave-Digger, Theophilus and John are mentioned in the Kiev Caves Paterikon. Two brothers being monastics, Sts Theophilus and John, so loved each other that they prevailed upon St Mark to prepare a double grave so they could be buried side by side.

Many years later, the older of the two brothers was away on monastery business. During this time his brother John fell ill and died. Several days later, St Theophilus returned and went with the brethren to view his brother’s body. Seeing that he lay at the higher place in their common grave, he became indignant with St Mark and said, “Why did you put him in my place? I am older than he.”

The cave-dweller Mark, bowed humbly to St Theophilus and asked that he forgive him. Turning to the dead man, he said, “Arise, give this place to your older brother, and you lie down in the other place.” And the dead man moved to the lower place in the grave. Seeing this, St Theophilus fell down at the knees of St Mark begging his forgiveness. The cave-dweller Mark told Theophilus that he ought to be concerned for his own salvation, because soon he would join his brother in that place.

Hearing this, St Theophilus became terrified and decided that he would soon die. He gave away everything that he possessed, keeping only his mantle, and every day he awaited the hour of death. No one was able to stop his tears, nor to tempt him with tasty food. Tears were his bread by day and by night (Ps 41/42:3). God granted him several years more for repentance, which he spent in fasting and lamentation. He even went blind from continuous weeping.

St Mark forsaw the hour of his death and told Theophilus he would soon depart this life. Theophilus pleaded, “Father, either take me with you, or restore my sight.” St Mark said to Theophilus, “Do not desire death, it shall come in its own time, even if you do not wish it. Let this be the sign of your impending end: three days before you depart this world, your eyesight will return.”

The words of the saint were fulfilled. The body of St Theophilus was placed in the Antoniev Cave in the grave together with his brother St John, near the relics of St Mark. Their memory is celebrated also on September 28 and on the second Sunday of Great Lent.


Venerable John of the Kiev Near Caves

Saints Mark the Grave-Digger, Theophilus and John are mentioned in the Kiev Caves Paterikon. Two brothers being monastics, Sts Theophilus and John, so loved each other that they prevailed upon St Mark to prepare a double grave so they could be buried side by side.

Many years later, the older of the two brothers was away on monastery business. During this time his brother John fell ill and died. Several days later, St Theophilus returned and went with the brethren to view his brother’s body. Seeing that he lay at the higher place in their common grave, he became indignant with St Mark and said, “Why did you put him in my place? I am older than he.”

The cave-dweller Mark, bowed humbly to St Theophilus and asked that he forgive him. Turning to the dead man, he said, “Arise, give this place to your older brother, and you lie down in the other place.” And the dead man moved to the lower place in the grave. Seeing this, St Theophilus fell down at the knees of St Mark begging his forgiveness. The cave-dweller Mark told Theophilus that he ought to be concerned for his own salvation, because soon he would join his brother in that place.

Hearing this, St Theophilus became terrified and decided that he would soon die. He gave away everything that he possessed, keeping only his mantle, and every day he awaited the hour of death. No one was able to stop his tears, nor to tempt him with tasty food. Tears were his bread by day and by night (Ps 41/42:3). God granted him several years more for repentance, which he spent in fasting and lamentation. He even went blind from continuous weeping.

St Mark forsaw the hour of his death and told Theophilus he would soon depart this life. Theophilus pleaded, “Father, either take me with you, or restore my sight.” St Mark said to Theophilus, “Do not desire death, it shall come in its own time, even if you do not wish it. Let this be the sign of your impending end: three days before you depart this world, your eyesight will return.”

The words of the saint were fulfilled. The body of St Theophilus was placed in the Antoniev Cave in the grave together with his brother St John, near the relics of St Mark. Their memory is celebrated also on September 28 and on the second Sunday of Great Lent.


Venerable Theophilus of Luga and Omutch

No information available at this time


Venerable Thaddeus the Confessor of the Studion

Saint Thaddeus the Confessor, a disciple of Theodore the Studite, was a defender of the veneration of holy icons. He was brought to trial and suffered during the reign of Leo V (813-820). The heretics, mocking St Thaddeus, put an icon of the Savior on the ground, picked the saint up, and stood him upon it.

After this the judge said, “You have trampled upon the icon of Christ. There is no point in further resistance, so join us.” Thaddeus replied that he had been placed upon the icon involuntarily, and he cursed the impiety of the iconoclasts. Enraged by his bold words, they beat him with cudgels. Then they dragged the martyr by the legs and threw him outside the city walls. He appeared to be dead, but he was still alive. A certain Christian took him into his own home and washed his wounds. St Thaddeus lived another three days, and then surrendered his soul to God.