Lives of all saints commemorated on March 3


Beginning of Great Lent

In the Orthodox Church, the last Sunday before Great Lent—the day on which, at Vespers, Lent is liturgically announced and inaugurated—is called Forgiveness Sunday. On the morning of that Sunday, at the Divine Liturgy, we hear the words of Christ:

“If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses...” (Mark 6:14-15).

Then after Vespers—after hearing the announcement of Lent in the Great Prokeimenon: “Turn not away Thy face from Thy child, for I am afflicted! Hear me speedily! Draw near unto my soul and deliver it!”, after making our entrance into Lenten worship, with its special melodies, with the prayer of St Ephraim the Syrian, with its prostrations—we ask forgiveness from each other, we perform the rite of forgiveness and reconciliation. And as we approach each other with words of reconciliation, the choir intones the Paschal hymns, filling the church with the anticipation of Paschal joy.

What is the meaning of this rite? Why is it that the Church wants us to begin the Lenten season with forgiveness and reconciliation? These questions are in order because for too many people Lent means primarily, and almost exclusively, a change of diet, the compliance with ecclesiastical regulations concerning fasting. They understand fasting as an end in itself, as a “good deed” required by God and carrying in itself its merit and its reward. But the Church spares no effort in revealing to us that fasting is but a means, one among many, towards a higher goal: the spiritual renewal of man, his return to God, true repentance and, therefore, true reconciliation. The Church spares no effort in warning us against a hypocritical and pharisaic fasting, against the reduction of religion to mere external obligations. As a Lenten hymn says:

“In vain do you rejoice in not eating, O soul!
For you abstain from food,
But from passions you are not purified.
If you persevere in sin, you will perform a useless fast!”

Now, forgiveness stands at the very center of Christian faith and of Christian life because Christianity itself is, above all, the religion of forgiveness. God forgives us, and His forgiveness is in Christ, His Son, whom He sends to us so that by sharing in His humanity we may share in His love and be truly reconciled with God. Indeed, Christianity has no other content but love. And it is primarily the renewal of that love, a growth in it, that we seek in Great Lent, in fasting and prayer, in the entire spirit and the entire effort of that season. Thus, truly forgiveness is both the beginning of, and the proper condition for, the Lenten season.

One may ask, however: Why should I perform this rite when I have no “enemies?” Why should I ask forgiveness from people who have done nothing to me, and whom I hardly know? To ask these questions is to misunderstand the Orthodox teaching concerning forgiveness. It is true that open enmity, personal hatred, real animosity may be absent from our life, though if we experience them, it may be easier for us to repent, for these feelings openly contradict Divine commandments. But the Church reveals to us that there are much subtler ways of offending Divine Love. These are indifference, selfishness, lack of interest in other people, of any real concern for them—in short, that wall which we usually erect around ourselves, thinking that by being “polite” and “friendly” we fulfill God’s commandments. The rite of forgiveness is so important precisely because it makes us realize—be it only for one minute—that our entire relationship to other men is wrong, makes us experience that encounter of one child of God with another, of one person created by God with another, makes us feel that mutual “recognition” which is so terribly lacking in our cold and dehumanized world.

On that unique evening, listening to the joyful Paschal hymns we are called to make a spiritual discovery: to taste of another mode of life and relationship with people, of life whose essence is love. We can discover that always and everywhere Christ, the Divine Love Himself, stands in the midst of us, transforming our mutual alienation into brotherhood. As I advance towards the other, as the other comes to me—we begin to realize that it is Christ who brings us together by His love for both of us.

And because we make this discovery—and because this discovery is that of the Kingdom of God itself: the Kingdom of Peace and Love, of reconciliation with God and, in Him, with all that exists—we hear the hymns of that Feast, which once a year “opens to us the doors of Paradise.” We know why we shall fast and pray, what we shall seek during the long Lenten pilgrimage.

Forgiveness Sunday: the day on which we acquire the power to make our fasting—true fasting; our effort—true effort; our reconciliation with God—true reconciliation.

—Father Alexander Schmemann


Martyr Eutropius of Amasea

The Holy Martyrs Eutropius, Cleonicus and Basiliscus suffered in the city of Pontine Amasea (Asia Minor) in about the year 308.

The brothers Eutropius and Cleonicus, and Basiliscus the nephew of the Great Martyr Theodore the Recruit (February 17), were comrades. After the martyric death of St Theodore, they wound up in prison and by their preaching brought many of the pagans in prison with them to the Christian Faith.

When he tortured St Theodore, Publius perished shamefully, struck down by divine wrath. Asclepiodotus was chosen as ruler of Amasea, and was more inhumane than his predecessor. Knowing the comrades of St Theodore the Recruit were all in prison, the governor commanded that they be brought to him. Sts Eutropius, Cleonicus and Basiliscus thus firmly confessed their faith in Christ before this new governor. They were mercilessly beaten, so that their bodies were entirely bruised.

As he was being tortured St Eutropius prayed loudly to the Savior, “Grant us, O Lord, to endure these wounds for the sake of the crown of martyrdom, and help us, as You helped Your servant Theodore.” In answer to the saint’s prayer, the Lord Himself appeared to the martyrs with His angels and the holy Great Martyr Theodore the Recruit, saying to them: “Behold, the Savior has come to help you, that you may know life eternal.”

Soldiers and many of the people standing nearby were also granted to behold the Savior. They urged Asclepiodotus to halt the tortures. Seeing that the people were distraught and ready to believe in the true God, the governor commanded the martyrs to be taken away. The governor then invited St Eutropius to supper and urged him to offer public sacrifice to the pagan gods, yet remain a Christian in soul. Eutropius refused this offer.

On the following day they brought the martyrs to a pagan temple, to force them to offer sacrifice. Eutropius entreated the Savior: “Lord, be with us, and destroy the raging of the pagans. Grant that on this place the Bloodless Sacrifice of the Christians be offered to You, the true God.” No sooner had these last words been spoken, than an earthquake began. The walls of the temple collapsed, and the statue of the goddess Artemis was smashed to bits. Everyone fled from the temple to avoid being crushed among the rubble. In the noise of the earthquake a voice was heard from on high: “Your prayer has been heard, and on this place a house of Christian prayer shall be built.”

When the earthquake ended, the governor Asclepiodotus, barely recovered from his fright, gave orders to drive high wooden stakes into the ground, tie the martyrs to them and pour boiling tar over them. The saints began to pray to God, and Eutropius cried out turning to the torturers: “May the Lord turn your deed against you!”

The tar began to flow beside the bodies of the martyrs, like water with marble, scorching the torturers. Those seeing this fled in terror, but the governor in his bitterness gave orders to rake their bodies with iron hooks and to sting their wounds with mustard mixed with salt and vinegar. The saints endured these torments with remarkable firmness.

The night before their execution the saints spent their time at prayer, and again the Lord appeared to them and strengthened them.

On the morning of March 3, Sts Eutropius and Cleonicus were crucified, but Basiliscus was left in prison.

St Basiliscus was executed on May 22 in the city of Komana. They beheaded him, and threw his body into a river, but Christians found his relics and buried them in a ploughed field. Later at Komana a church was built and dedicated to St Basiliscus.

An account of the life of the holy martyr is found under May 22.


Martyr Cleonicus of Amasea

The Holy Martyrs Cleonicus, Eutropius and Basiliscus suffered in the city of Pontine Amasea (Asia Minor) in about the year 308.

The brothers Eutropius and Cleonicus, and Basiliscus the nephew of the Great Martyr Theodore the Recruit (February 17), were comrades. After the martyric death of St Theodore, they wound up in prison and by their preaching brought many of the pagans in prison with them to the Christian Faith.

When he tortured St Theodore, Publius perished shamefully, struck down by divine wrath. Asclepiodotus was chosen as ruler of Amasea, and was more inhumane than his predecessor. Knowing the comrades of St Theodore the Recruit were all in prison, the governor commanded that they be brought to him. Sts Eutropius, Cleonicus and Basiliscus thus firmly confessed their faith in Christ before this new governor. They were mercilessly beaten, so that their bodies were entirely bruised.

As he was being tortured St Eutropius prayed loudly to the Savior, “Grant us, O Lord, to endure these wounds for the sake of the crown of martyrdom, and help us, as You helped Your servant Theodore.” In answer to the saint’s prayer, the Lord Himself appeared to the martyrs with His angels and the holy Great Martyr Theodore the Recruit, saying to them: “Behold, the Savior has come to help you, that you may know life eternal.”

Soldiers and many of the people standing nearby were also granted to behold the Savior. They urged Asclepiodotus to halt the tortures. Seeing that the people were distraught and ready to believe in the true God, the governor commanded the martyrs to be taken away. The governor then invited St Eutropius to supper and urged him to offer public sacrifice to the pagan gods, yet remain a Christian in soul. Eutropius refused this offer.

On the following day they brought the martyrs to a pagan temple, to force them to offer sacrifice. Eutropius entreated the Savior: “Lord, be with us, and destroy the raging of the pagans. Grant that on this place the Bloodless Sacrifice of the Christians be offered to You, the true God.” No sooner had these last words been spoken, than an earthquake began. The walls of the temple collapsed, and the statue of the goddess Artemis was smashed to bits. Everyone fled from the temple avoid being crushed among the rubble. In the noise of the earthquake a voice was heard from on high: “Your prayer has been heard, and on this place a house of Christian prayer shall be built.”

When the earthquake ended, the governor Asclepiodotus, barely recovered from his fright, gave orders to drive high wooden stakes into the ground, tie the martyrs to them and pour boiling tar over them. The saints began to pray to God, and Eutropius cried out turning to the torturers: “May the Lord turn your deed against you!”

The tar began to flow beside the bodies of the martyrs, like water with marble, scorching the torturers. Those seeing this fled in terror, but the governor in his bitterness gave orders to rake their bodies with iron hooks and to sting their wounds with mustard mixed with salt and vinegar. The saints endured these torments with remarkable firmness.

The night before their execution the saints spent their time at prayer, and again the Lord appeared to them and strengthened them.

On the morning of March 3, Sts Eutropius and Cleonicus were crucified, but Basiliscus was left in prison.

St Basiliscus was executed on May 22 in the city of Komana. They beheaded him, and threw his body into a river, but Christians found his relics and buried them in a ploughed field. Later at Komana a church was built and dedicated to St Basiliscus.

An account of the life of the holy martyr is found under May 22.


Martyr Basiliscus of Amasea

The Holy Martyrs Basiliscus, Eutropius and Cleonicus suffered in the city of Pontine Amasea (Asia Minor) in about the year 308.

The brothers Eutropius and Cleonicus, and Basiliscus the nephew of the Great Martyr Theodore the Recruit (February 17), were comrades. After the martyric death of St Theodore, they wound up in prison and by their preaching brought many of the pagans in prison with them to the Christian Faith.

When he tortured St Theodore, Publius perished shamefully, struck down by divine wrath. Asclepiodotus was chosen as ruler of Amasea, and was more inhumane than his predecessor. Knowing the comrades of St Theodore the Recruit were all in prison, the governor commanded that they be brought to him. Sts Eutropius, Cleonicus and Basiliscus thus firmly confessed their faith in Christ before this new governor. They were mercilessly beaten, so that their bodies were entirely bruised.

At the time of torture St Eutropius prayed loudly to the Savior: “Grant us, O Lord, to endure these wounds for the sake of the crown of martyrdom, and help us, as You helped Your servant Theodore.” In answer to the saint’s prayer, the Lord Himself appeared to the martyrs with His angels and the holy Great Martyr Theodore the Recruit, saying to them: “Behold, the Savior has come to help you, that you may know life eternal.”

Soldiers and many of the people standing nearby were also granted to behold the Savior. They began to urge Asclepiodotus to halt the tortures. Seeing that the people were distraught and ready to believe in the true God, the governor commanded the martyrs to be taken away. The governor then invited St Eutropius to supper and urged him to offer public sacrifice to the pagan gods, yet remain a Christian in soul. Eutropius refused this offer.

On the following day they brought the martyrs to a pagan temple, to force them to offer sacrifice. Eutropius began to entreat the Savior: “Lord, be with us, and destroy the raging of the pagans. Grant that on this place the Bloodless Sacrifice of the Christians be offered to You, the true God.” These last words of prayer had no sooner been spoken, than an earthquake began, the walls of the temple collapsed, and the statue of the goddess Artemis was smashed to bits. Everyone fled from the temple so as not to be crushed among the rubble. In the noise of the earthquake a voice was heard from on high: “Your prayer has been heard, and on this place a house of Christian prayer shall be built.”

When the earthquake ended, the governor Asclepiodotus, barely recovered from his fright, gave orders to drive high wooden stakes into the ground, tie the martyrs to them and pour boiling tar over them. The saints began to pray to God, and Eutropius cried out turning to the torturers: “May the Lord turn your deed against you!”

The tar began to flow beside the bodies of the martyrs, like water with marble, scorching the torturers. Those seeing this fled in terror, but the governor in his bitterness gave orders to rake their bodies with iron hooks and to sting their wounds with mustard mixed with salt and vinegar. The saints endured these torments with remarkable firmness.

The night before their execution the saints spent their time at prayer, and again the Lord appeared to them and strengthened them.

On the morning of March 3, Sts Eutropius and Cleonicus were crucified, but Basiliscus was left in prison.

St Basiliscus was executed on May 22 in the city of Komana. They beheaded him, and threw his body into a river, but Christians found his relics and buried them in a ploughed field. Later at Komana a church was built and dedicated to St Basiliscus.

An account of the life of the holy martyr is located under May 22.


Virginmartyr Piama

The Virgin Piama lived in asceticism not far from Alexandria. The saint lived in the home of her mother, as in a hermitage. She partook of food at the end of the day, and after prayer she spun flax.

St Piama was granted the gift of discernment. The people of a more populous village, blinded with greed, planned to destroy the small village of the holy maiden in order to divert water to their own fields when the Nile overflowed its banks. St Piama saw their wicked intent and reported it to the village elders. The startled elders fell on their knees before the saint, imploring her to go to the neighboring people and dissuade them from their evil purpose.

The nun Piama did not go to meet them, since for a long time she shunned contact with people. The saint spent all night at prayer, and in the morning the people of the neighboring village armed themselves and set off for the village of the holy maiden. Suddenly, they froze in their tracks and were not able to proceed farther. The Lord revealed to the impious people that the prayer of St Piama held them back. The people came to their senses and repented of their wicked intent. They sent messengers to the village with a request for peace and said, “Thanks be to God, Who through the prayers of the maiden Piama has delivered us.”

The saint peacefully fell asleep in the Lord in the year 337.


St Zeno

No information available at this time.


St Zoilus

No information available at this time.


Icon of the Mother of God of Volokolamsk

The Volokolamsk Icon of the Mother of God is a copy of the Vladimir Icon of the Moscow Dormition cathedral. The icon was brought from Zvenigorod to the Dormition monastery of St Joseph of Volokolamsk on March 2, 1572, during the second week of Great Lent and was solemnly met by Igumen Leonid (1563-1566; 1568-1573) and all the monastic brethren.

It is distinguished by its particular depiction on the margins of St Cyprian (right) and St Gerontius (left), Metropolitans of Moscow.

The name of Metropolitan Cyprian is associated with the first arrival of the ancient Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God from Constantinople to Moscow in the year 1395, and under Metropolitan Gerontius in 1480 the Vladimir Icon came finally to Moscow.

In the year 1588 the Volokolamsk Icon was dedicated atop the gate in the church at the south gates of the St Joseph of Volokolamsk monastery in honor of the Meeting of the Vladimir Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos (August 26).

At the end of the seventeenth century, when a church of the same name was built in Moscow at Staraya Basmanna, the church atop the gate of St Joseph of Volokolamsk was rededicated in honor of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul. The Volokolamsk Icon was transferred to its proper place on the iconostasis of the new cathedral Dormition church of the monastery of St Joseph of Volokoamsk.

In 1578, the icon was recognized as wonderworking.


St John (Chrysostom) IV, the Catholicos of Georgia

The Holy Catholicos John IV (Chrysostom) led the Apostolic Church of Georgia from approximately 980 to 1001.

Catholicos Basil III’s “Story of St. Shio’s Miracles” describes how the hitherto childless parents of St. John prayed at length to St. Shio of Mgvime. After the birth of John, his God-fearing parents sent him to be raised at Shio-Mgvime Monastery.

There he acquired the sanctity and wisdom for which he would later be called “Chrysostom,” meaning “golden mouth” in Greek. By this name he has been known throughout the history of the Georgian Church.

There is yet another John called “Chrysostom” who was also a Catholicos, from 1033 to 1049. This John was a disciple of Holy Catholicos-Patriarch Melchizedek I and his successor as chief shepherd of the Georgian Church.

His life and labors were full of the same holiness as those of the holy catholicos John who is commemorated on this day. For this reason John IV and John V are often erroneously believed to be one and the same person.


Venerable Shio Mgvime

The Georgian Orthodox Church commemorates St. Shio of Mgvime several times throughout the year. St. John of Zedazeni and his twelve disciples, among whom was St. Shio of Mgvime, are commemorated on May 7; the repose of St. Shio is celebrated on May 9; and on Cheese-fare Thursday the Church celebrates the miracle that, for centuries, occurred every year at St. Shio’s grave.

The 19th-century historian Marie Brosset wrote that every year prior to the 18th century, on Cheese-fare Thursday, the relics of St. Shio rose up out of the ground from the place of their burial. Those who approached them in faith and reverence received healing of their afflictions.

In the 18th century the Persian shah Nadir (1736-1747) invaded Georgia. Hearing about this miracle and becoming convinced of its truth, the enraged shah assailed the monastery and destroyed the shrine containing the saint’s holy relics. A group of Christians later gathered St. Shio’s holy relics and reburied them in their former place, but to this day they have never risen again.