Lives of all saints commemorated on March 2


Sunday of Cheesefare: Explusion of Adam from Paradise

As we begin the Great Fast, the Church reminds us of Adam’s expulsion from Paradise. God commanded Adam to fast (Gen. 2:16), but he did not obey. Because of their disobedience, Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden and lost the life of blessedness, knowledge of God, and communion with Him, for which they were created. Both they and their descendents became heirs of death and corruption.

Let us consider the benefits of fasting, the consequences of disobedience, and recall our fallen state. Today we are invited to cleanse ourselves of evil through fasting and obedience to God. Our fasting should not be a negative thing, a mere abstention from certain foods. It is an opportunity to free ourselves from the sinful desires and urges of our fallen nature, and to nourish our souls with prayer, repentance, to participate in church services, and partake of the life-giving Mysteries of Christ.

At Forgiveness Vespers we sing: “Let us begin the time of fasting in light, preparing ourselves for spiritual efforts. Let us purify our soul, let us purify our body. As we abstain from food, let us abstain from all passion and enjoy the virtues of the spirit....”


Hieromartyr Theodotus the Bishop of Cyrenia

The Hieromartyr Theodotus, a native of Galatia in Asia Minor, was Bishop of Cyrenia in Cyprus. During a time of persecution against Christians under the impious emperor Licinius (311-324), St Theodotus openly preached Christ, calling on the pagans to abandon idolatry and turn to the true God. Sabinus, the governor of Cyprus, ordered that Bishop Theodotus be arrested and brought to trial.

When he heard about this order, the saint did not wait for the soldiers to be sent after him, but immediately went to the governor saying, “I, whom you seek, am here. I have shown myself in order to preach Christ my God.”

The governor ordered that the saint be beaten without mercy, suspended from a tree, raked with sharp implements, and then be taken to prison. Five days later St Theodotus was brought to the governor, who presumed that after his tortures the bishop would prefer to renounce Christ, rather than endure new sufferings.

However, St Theodotus did not cease to preach about Christ. At first they put the saint on an iron grate, under which they lit a fire, and then hammered nails into his feet and let him go. Many witnessed the sufferings of the martyr. Astonished at the saint’s endurance and his divinely-inspired speech, they came to believe in Christ. Learning of this, Sabinus gave orders to stop the torture and throw the saint into prison.

During the reign of St Constantine the Great (May 21), the freedom to confess their faith was given to all Christians, and among those set free from prison was St Theodotus. The saint returned to Cyrenia and after two years serving as bishop he peacefully fell asleep in the Lord in about the year 326.


St Arsenius the Bishop of Tver

Saint Arsenius, Bishop of Tver, was born at Tver, and in his early years received monastic tonsure in the Kiev Caves monastery. Even among the monks of this ancient monastery, distinguished for their piety, Arsenius was noted for his saintly life as well as for his strictness in keeping his monastic vows, his knowledge of the Church typikon, his study of Holy Scripture, and his love for work.

Under Metropolitan Cyprian of Kiev (1380-1382) he served as archdeacon, and when the Metropolitan was absent, he governed the administration of the Kiev metropolitanate. On July 3, 1390 he went with Metropolitan Cyprian to Tver, where at the request of Prince Micjae of Tver, a Council of Russian and Greek hierarchs had been convened to pass judgment upon Bishop Euthymius of Tver.

The prince and the bishop were involved in a lengthy dispute, and many of the people of Tver made serious accusations against the bishop. After unsuccessful attempts to restore peace to the Tver church, Metropolitan Cyprian deposed Euthymius as bishop and sent him off to Moscow to the Chudov monastery.

St Arsenius was appointed to the Tver cathedra, but he was both troubled and afraid to accept this position, in view of the great enmity and spite in that place. Upon the return of Metropolitan Cyprian and archdeacon Arsenius to Moscow, the Prince sent his nobles to the Metropolitan with a petition to consecrate Arsenius as Bishop of Tver. This time Arsenius also refused. In the words of the chronicle for the year 1390 “even at the Metropolitan’s entreaty, Archdeacon Arsenius would not go to Tver.”

After threatening Arsenius with suspension, the Metropolitan and the Prince finally got him to agree to accept episcopal consecration, which took place on August 15, 1390. Among the bishops taking part in the laying on of hands was St Stephen, Bishop of Perm (April 26).

Bishop Arsenius, as a man of great prayer and peacemaker, was able to end much of the discord in the Tver principality. During his episcopacy, from 1390 to 1409, cathedrals were built and consecrated in honor of the Archangel Michael at Staritsa and Mikulina, and the Savior-Transfiguration cathedral was restored with the construction of a cathedral belltower. The saint founded the Zheltikov monastery on the river Tmaka near Tver, where a church was built in honor of Sts Anthony and Theodosius of the Kiev Caves (1394), and a stone Dormition cathedral.

Desiring that the monks of this new monastery would always be edified by the asceticism of the Fathers of the Caves, St Arsenius gave orders to compile a list from the Kiev Caves Paterikon, using the most ancient manuscripts of this precious memorial of Russian literature. This compilation was known as the Arseniev Redaction.

The saint died on March 2, 1409, and was buried in the Zheltikov monastery of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, which he founded. In 1483 his relics were found incorrupt and were placed in the monastery cathedral. In the same year hieromonk Theodosius composed a Life and a Canon in honor of the holy bishop.

At a Council of 1547 St Arsenius’ commemoration was established throughout all the Church.


Virginmartyr Euthalia of Sicily

The Holy Martyr Euthalia lived with her mother and brother in Leontina on the island of Sicily. Euthalia’s mother, a pagan, suffered for a long while with an issue of blood. Once, the Martyrs Alphaeus, Philadelphus and Cyprian (May 10) appeared to her in a dream and told her she would be healed only if she believed in Christ and was baptized.

After being baptized with her daughter, she was healed of her infirmity. When Euthalia’s pagan brother Sirmianus learned of the baptism, went into a violent rage. The mother succeeded in fleeing, but St Euthalia confessed herself a Christian and suffered martyrdom. After fierce tortures, the saint was beheaded with a sword.


Martyr Troadius of Neocaesarea

The Holy Martyr Troadius suffered for Christ in Neocaesarea, Pontus under the emperor Decius (249-251), enduring horrible tortures. St Gregory of Neocaesarea (November 17) foretold his martyrdom and witnessed his sufferings in a vision. He also saw the soul of St Troadius departing from his body and hastening joyfully to Heaven.


Venerable Agathon of Egypt

Saint Agathon of Egypt, a contemporary of St Macarius the Great (January 19) and a disciple of St Lot (October 22), he lived in asceticism in a skete in Egypt. He was distinguished by exceptional meekness, accounting himself the most sinful of men.

Once, monks who had heard of his discernment came to St Agathon to see if they could make him lose his temper. They asked him, “Are you Abba Agathon, a fornicator and a proud man?”

“Yes, that is true,” the monk replied.

“Are you the Agathon who is always talking nonsense?” the monks inquired.

“I am,” the saint agreed.

“Are you Agathon the heretic?” the monks persisted.

St Agathon said, “I am not a heretic.”

They asked the saint why he agreed with them when they accused him of vices, but then denied this last charge. Agathon replied, “I accepted the first accusations, since that was beneficial for my soul. But heresy is separation from God, and I do not wish to be separated from God.”

Astonished at his discernment, they returned to their monastery, edified.

When asked which was more important for salvation, bodily asceticism or interior vigilance, St Agathon said, “Man is like a tree. Bodily asceticism is the foliage, but interior vigilance is the fruit. Holy Scripture says that “every tree which does not bring forth good fruit shall be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Mt.3:10). Therefore, we should focus our attention on the fruit. But a tree also needs the protection of its foliage, which is bodily asceticism.”

St Agathon died in about the year 435. For three days before his repose the monk sat in silence and concentration, as though disturbed about something. When the monks questioned him, he answered that he saw himself before the Judgment Seat of God. “How is it possible that you, Father, should fear judgment?” they asked him.

“I have done my best to keep the commandments of the Lord, but I am a man. How can I be certain that my deeds have been pleasing to God?”

“Do you not trust that all the good deeds which you have accomplished are pleasing to God?” asked the monks.

“I have no such hope until I see God. His judgment is not man’s judgment.” Having said this, the saint departed to the Lord.

St Agathon is commemorated on January 8 on the Greek calendar.


440 Martyrs slain by the Lombards in Sicily

400 Martyrs Slain by the Lombards in Sicily refused to participate in idol worship and were massacred by the Lombards (a Germanic tribe) in the year 579. Among those who perished, the names of the presbyter Sanctulus and the hermit Hospicius have been preserved.

St Gregory Dialogus (March 12) has written of them.


St Sabbatius of Tver

Saint Sabbatius of Tver pursued asceticism with the blessing of St Arsenius, Bishop of Tver, at a distance 15 versts from Tver. St Sabbatius established a monastery there, known for the strictness and holiness of its rule. Such ascetics as St Joseph of Volokolamsk (September 9) and St Cornelius of Komel (May 19) went there to be instructed in monasticism. The chains found in the cave where St Sabbatius practiced silence testify to his ascetic deeds. He died no later than the year 1434.


Icon of the Mother of God “Enthroned”

The “Enthroned” (or “Reigning”) Icon of the Mother of God appeared on March 2, 1917, the day of Tsar Nicholas’s abdication, in the village of Kolomskoye near Moscow.

In February 1917, an elderly woman named Eudokia saw the Mother of God in a dream telling her to go to Kolomskoye to find a large blackened icon in a church. After the vision was repeated three times, she went to Kolomskoye to search for the icon with the priest Nicholas.

In the basement of the church they found the icon and started wiping off the accumulated dust. Then they were able to see the Most Holy Theotokos wearing a crown and sitting on a throne. Immediately, Father Nicholas celebrated a service of Thanksgiving and an Akathist.

News of the icon’s discovery spread throughout Russia, and there were several miracles of healing from physical and mental infirmities. As time went by, the icon renewed itself and became brighter and brighter. Particularly striking was the blood-red robe of the Virgin.

Since the icon was revealed just as the Tsar abdicated, many people believed that the Queen of Heaven had assumed royal authority over the Russian land, and so the icon became known as the “Enthroned” (or Reigning) icon. It was discovered that the icon had come from the Ascension convent in Moscow. In 1812, before Napoleon’s invasion, this icon and others were sent to Kolomskoye’s Ascension church for safekeeping. Apparently forgotten, the icons were never returned to Moscow.

A Service and Akathist to the “Enthroned” Icon were composed with the assistance of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon (+ 1925). Many copies of the icon were venerated throughout Russia, but these were confiscated by the Soviets. The Service and Akathist to the icon were also forbidden to be served.

The original icon is said to be in the Novodevichy Museum in Moscow, and there is a copy in the Church of the Kazan Mother of God in Kolomskoye.

The “Enthroned” or “Reigning” Icon, which belongs to the Panachranta type, shows the Theotokos seated on a throne with Her Son.