Lives of all saints commemorated on March 17


Venerable Alexis the Man of God

St Alexis was born at Rome into the family of the pious and poverty-loving Euphemianus and Aglais. The couple was childless for a long time and constantly prayed the Lord to grant them a child. And the Lord consoled the couple with the birth of their son Alexis.

At six years of age the child began to read and successfully studied the mundane sciences, but it was with particular diligence that he read Holy Scripture. When he was a young man, he began to imitate his parents: he fasted strictly, distributed alms and beneath his fine clothing he secretly wore a hair shirt. Early on there burned within him the desire to leave the world and serve God. His parents, however, had arranged for Alexis to marry a beautiful and virtuous bride.

On his wedding night, Alexis gave her his ring and his belt (which were very valuable) and said, “Keep these things, Beloved, and may the Lord be with us until His grace provides us with something better.” Secretly leaving his home, he boarded a ship sailing for Mesopotamia.

Arriving in the city of Edessa, where the Icon of the Lord “Not-made-by-Hands” (August 16) was preserved, Alexis sold everything that he had, distributed the money to the poor and began to live near the church of the Most Holy Theotokos under a portico. The saint used a portion of the alms he received to buy bread and water, and he distributed the rest to the aged and infirm. Each Sunday he received the Holy Mysteries.

The parents sought the missing Alexis everywhere, but without success. The servants sent by Euphemianus also arrived in Edessa, but they did not recognize the beggar sitting at the portico as their master. His body was withered by fasting, his comeliness vanished, his stature diminished. The saint recognized them and gave thanks to the Lord that he received alms from his own servants.

The inconsolable mother of St Alexis confined herself in her room, incessantly praying for her son. His wife also grieved with her in-laws.

St Alexis dwelt in Edessa for seventeen years. Once, the Mother of God spoke to the sacristan of the church where the saint lived: “Lead into My church that Man of God, worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven. His prayer rises up to God like fragrant incense, and the Holy Spirit rests upon him.” The sacristan began to search for such a man, but was not able to find him for a long time. Then he prayed to the Most Holy Theotokos, beseeching Her to clear up his confusion. Again a voice from the icon proclaimed that the Man of God was the beggar who sat in the church portico.

The sacristan found St Alexis and brought him into the church. Many recognized him and began to praise him. The saint secretly boarded a ship bound for Cilicia, intending to visit the church of St Paul in Tarsus. But God ordained otherwise. A storm took the ship far to the West and it reached the coast of Italy. The saint journeyed to Rome and decided to live in his own house. Unrecognized, he humbly asked his father’s permission to settle in some corner of his courtyard. Euphemianus settled Alexis in a specially constructed cell and gave orders to feed him from his table.

Living at his parental home, the saint continued to fast and he spent day and night at prayer. He humbly endured insults and jeering from the servants of his father. The cell of Alexis was opposite his wife’s windows, and the ascetic suffered grievously when he heard her weeping. Only his immeasurable love for God helped the saint endure this torment. St Alexis dwelt at the house of his parents for seventeen years and the Lord revealed to him the day of his death. Then the saint, taking paper and ink, wrote certain things that only his wife and parents would know. He also asked them to forgive him for the pain he had caused them.

On the day of St Alexis’ death in 411, Archbishop Innocent (402-417) was serving Liturgy in the presence of the emperor Honorius (395-423). During the services a Voice was heard from the altar: “Come unto Me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt.11:28). All those present fell to the ground in terror.

The Voice continued: “On Friday morning the Man of God comes forth from the body; have him pray for the city, that you may remain untroubled.” They began to search throughout Rome, but they did not find the saint. Thursday evening the Pope was serving Vigil in the Church of St Peter. He asked the Lord to show them where to find the Man of God.

After Liturgy the Voice was heard again in the temple: “Seek the Man of God in the house of Euphemianus.” All hastened there, but the saint was already dead. His face shone like the face of an angel, and his hand clasped the paper, and they were unable to take it. They placed the saint’s body on a cot, covered with costly coverings. The Pope and the Emperor bent their knees and turned to the saint, as to one yet alive, asking him to open his hand. And the saint heard their prayer. When the letter was read, the righteous one’s wife and parents tearfully venerated his holy relics.

The body of the saint was placed in the center of the city. The emperor and the Pope carried the body of the saint into the church, where it remained for a whole week, and then was placed in a marble crypt. A fragrant myrrh began to flow from the holy relics, bestowing healing upon the sick.

The venerable relics of St Alexis, the Man of God, were buried in the church of St Boniface. The relics were uncovered in the year 1216.

The Life of St Alexis, the Man of God, was always very popular in Russia.


Venerable Macarius the Abbot and Wonderworker of Kalyazin

Saint Macarius of Kalyazin (in the world Matthew) was born in 1400 in the village of Gribkovo (Kozhino), near the city of Kashin, into the family of the boyar Basil Kozha. From youth he yearned for monasticism, but he married at the insistence of his parents.

After a year his parents died, and after three more years his wife Elena also reposed. Having nothing to bind him to his former life, Matthew became a monk at the Nikolaev Klobukov monastery. Desiring solitude, he left the city monastery with the abbot’s blessing, and he found a suitable place between two lakes, eighteen versts from Kashin. Here the monk raised a cross and founded a solitary wilderness monastery.

The boyar Ivan Kolyaga, to whom the nearby lands belonged, began to fear that a monastery would grow up there, and that monks would begin to cultivate the wastelands. The Enemy of our salvation planted such spite and enmity in the boyar, that he decided to kill the saint. Suddenly, he was stricken with a grievous illness. Fear of death awakened repentance in the boyar. Ivan Kolyaga was carried to the saint and told him of his evil intent, asking forgiveness.

“God forgive you”, the humble ascetic replied. Wishing to expiate his sin and to help the saint, the boyar gave his lands to the growing monastery. The monks built a temple dedicated to the Most Holy Trinity. Word of the boyar Kolyaga’s conversion brought many people to the monk, seeking salvation. St Macarius tonsured Kolyaga and named the monastery Kalyazin for him. aS

It became necessary to choose an igumen. St Macarius was then fifty-three years of age, but he considered himself unworthy of this dignity and he asked each of the older men coming to him to become the monastery’s priest and igumen. Yielding to the common will, the saint was made igumen by Bishop Moses of Tver.* The new igumen prepared for his first service at the altar of God with long solitary prayer, and then communed all the brethren with the Holy Mysteries.

In the rank of igumen, St Macarius labored to guide the brethren. The monastery had two chalices, a diskos and two plates fashioned by St Macarius on a lathe. He guided not only the monks, but also laypeople coming to the monastery, dealing with both the educated and the simple.

Despite his noble origin and his position of igumen, the saint wore ragged, frayed and patched clothing. In his conduct and his way of life St Macarius was so simple that the haughty heretic Vassian, sneeringly called him the “peasant of Kalyazin.” The saint preferred to hear himself mocked rather than praised. He went to solitary places, delighted to be alone with nature. Wild animals, sensing his holiness, walked with him like sheep, they submitted to him, and sometimes took food from him.

The spiritual stature of St Macarius was close to the spiritual stature of St Paphnutius of Borov (May 1, 1477). Not by chance did St Paphnutius’ disciple, St Joseph of Volokolamsk (September 9, 1515), visit St Macarius in 1478 and write down his impressions of him: “When I arrived at this place,” said St Macarius, “seven Elders came with me from the monastery of Klobukov. They were so excellent in virtues, fasting and monastic life, that all the brethren came to them to receive instruction and benefit. They enlightened all and taught them for their benefit. They affirmed the virtuous life, and censured those inclined to misconduct, and neither did they seek to do their own will.”

Though the humble igumen was silent about his own efforts, they were not hidden from St Joseph. Perceiving the holiness of the igumen, he accounted him blessed and spoke about the life of the monastery: “Such piety and decorum were in that monastery, where everything was done in harmony with the patristic and communal traditions, that even the great Elder Metrophanes Byvaltsev was amazed. He had just come from Mount Athos, where he spent nine years, and said to the brethren: “My efforts and my journey to the Holy Mountain were in vain, because one can find salvation in the Kalyazin monastery. Life here is similar to life in the cenobitic monasteries of the Holy Mountain.”

From the moment St Macarius settled in the wilderness, his did not abandon his strict Rule because of old age. Even during his lifetime the saint repeatedly healed the paralyzed and the demon-possessed.

The saint reposed on March 17, 1483. At the time of his death they found heavy chains on him, about which no one knew. The incorrupt relics of St Macarius were uncovered on May 26, 1521 when ditches were dug for a new church. A Council of 1547 established his local festal celebration.

* The successor of Bishop Moses was St Macarius’ brother, Bishop Gennadius (Kozhin) (1460-1477). The nephew of St Macarius, St Paisius of Uglich (January 8 and June 6) was also famed for his sanctity. The Kalyazin monastery had a collection of the sermons of St Gregory the Theologian, which St Macarius had copied in his own hand.


Martyr Marinus

Saint Marinus, inspired by ardent love for Christ the Savior, destroyed a temple of the idolaters during one of the pagan festivals, trampling the sacrifices underfoot and confessed himself a Christian. After cruel tortures, the saint was beheaded.


St Patrick the Bishop of Armagh and Enlightener of Ireland

Saint Patrick, the Enlightener of Ireland was born around 385, the son of Calpurnius, a Roman decurion (an official responsible for collecting taxes). He lived in the village of Bannavem Taberniae, which may have been located at the mouth of the Severn River in Wales. The district was raided by pirates when Patrick was sixteen, and he was one of those taken captive. He was brought to Ireland and sold as a slave, and was put to work as a herder of swine on a mountain identified with Slemish in Co. Antrim. During his period of slavery, Patrick acquired a proficiency in the Irish language which was very useful to him in his later mission.

He prayed during his solitude on the mountain, and lived this way for six years. He had two visions. The first told him he would return to his home. The second told him his ship was ready. Setting off on foot, Patrick walked two hundred miles to the coast. There he succeeded in boarding a ship, and returned to his parents in Britain.

Some time later, he went to Gaul and studied for the priesthood at Auxerre under St Germanus (July 31). Eventually, he was consecrated as a bishop, and was entrusted with the mission to Ireland, succeeding St Palladius (July 7). St Palladius did not achieve much success in Ireland. After about a year he went to Scotland, where he died in 432.

Patrick had a dream in which an angel came to him bearing many letters. Selecting one inscribed “The Voice of the Irish,” he heard the Irish entreating him to come back to them.

Although St Patrick achieved remarkable results in spreading the Gospel, he was not the first or only missionary in Ireland. He arrived around 432 (though this date is disputed), about a year after St Palladius began his mission to Ireland. There were also other missionaries who were active on the southeast coast, but it was St Patrick who had the greatest influence and success in preaching the Gospel of Christ. Therefore, he is known as “The Enlightener of Ireland.”

His autobiographical Confession tells of the many trials and disappointments he endured. Patrick had once confided to a friend that he was troubled by a certain sin he had committed before he was fifteen years old. The friend assured him of God’s mercy, and even supported Patrick’s nomination as bishop. Later, he turned against him and revealed what Patrick had told him in an attempt to prevent his consecration. Many years later, Patrick still grieved for his dear friend who had publicly shamed him.

St Patrick founded many churches and monasteries across Ireland, but the conversion of the Irish people was no easy task. There was much hostility, and he was assaulted several times. He faced danger, and insults, and he was reproached for being a foreigner and a former slave. There was also a very real possibility that the pagans would try to kill him. Despite many obstacles, he remained faithful to his calling, and he baptized many people into Christ.

The saint’s Epistle to Coroticus is also an authentic work. In it he denounces the attack of Coroticus’ men on one of his congregations. The Breastplate (Lorica) is also attributed to St Patrick. In his writings, we can see St Patrick’s awareness that he had been called by God, as well as his determination and modesty in undertaking his missionary work. He refers to himself as “a sinner,” “the most ignorant and of least account,” and as someone who was “despised by many.” He ascribes his success to God, rather than to his own talents: “I owe it to God’s grace that through me so many people should be born again to Him.”

By the time he established his episcopal See in Armargh in 444, St Patrick had other bishops to assist him, many native priests and deacons, and he encouraged the growth of monasticism.

St Patrick is often depicted holding a shamrock, or with snakes fleeing from him. He used the shamrock to illustrate the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Its three leaves growing out of a single stem helped him to explain the concept of one God in three Persons. Many people now regard the story of St Patrick driving all the snakes out of Ireland as having no historical basis.

St Patrick died on March 17, 461 (some say 492). There are various accounts of his last days, but they are mostly legendary. Muirchu says that no one knows the place where St Patrick is buried. St Columba of Iona (June 9) says that the Holy Spirit revealed to him that Patrick was buried at Saul, the site of his first church. A granite slab was placed at his traditional grave site in Downpatrick in 1899.


Hieromartyr Gabriel the Lesser

Saint Gabriel the Lesser was a major figure in the eighteenth-century Georgian Church. Few details of his life are known, but it is evident that the education he received was quite good for the period. Striving toward the monastic life but still living in the world, Gabriel tried in every way to close himself off from the vanity of the world. He kept a small sewing shop in Tbilisi and distributed most of his profits to the poor.

One day St. Gabriel abandoned his business and set off for the Davit-Gareji Wilderness, where he was tonsured a monk.

St. Gabriel occupied much of his time with writing, and his works left a significant mark on the spiritual literature of Georgia. He compiled several collections of patristic writings, and he also wrote original works of a theological nature. His original writings include An Explanation of the Hierarchical Liturgy, which describes in detail the meaning of every part of the service, Spiritual Stories of the Pious, The Life and Labors of Venerable Schemamonk Onisphore, A Short Story of Porphyry, and writings on the Nomocanon of the Sixth Ecumenical Council.

Among the brothers at his monastery, St. Gabriel was distinguished by a remarkable capacity for love and a fervent desire to help others: he helped all, cared for all, and encouraged all. During the Great Fast in 1802, a certain archdeacon came from Tbilisi to Davit-GarejiMonastery, desiring to draw closer to the ascetic way of life. After some time, however, he became anxious to see his family and decided to return home. St. Gabriel accompanied him on his way, but the two men were suddenly assailed by Dagestanis, and the holy father was killed. The brothers carried his relics back to the monastery and buried them there with great honor.