Lives of all saints commemorated on March 23


3rd Sunday of Great Lent: Veneration of the Cross

The Third Sunday of Lent is that of the Veneration of the Cross. The cross stands in the midst of the church in the middle of the lenten season not merely to remind men of Christ’s redemption and to keep before them the goal of their efforts, but also to be venerated as that reality by which man must live to be saved. “He who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Mt.10:38). For in the Cross of Christ Crucified lies both “the power of God and the wisdom of God” for those being saved (1 Cor.1:24).


Martyr Nikon in Sicily

The Monk Martyr Nikon was born at Neapolis (Naples). His father was a pagan, and his mother a Christian. He was not baptized, but his mother secretly instructed him in the tenets of Christianity. Nikon was still a pagan when he reached adulthood. He served as a soldier, and showed unusual courage and strength.

Once, Nikon and his military company were surrounded by enemies. In deadly peril, he remembered the Christian precepts of his mother and, signing himself with the Sign of the Cross, he prayed to God, vowing to be baptized if he were saved. Filled with unusual strength, he killed many of the enemy, and put the rest to flight.

He managed to return home, giving thanks to God for preserving his life. With the blessing of his mother, he set off in search of a priest. This was no easy thing to do in a time of persecution. St Nikon took a ship to the island of Chios. He went up on a high mountain and spent eight days in fasting and prayer, entreating the Lord to help him.

An angel of God appeared to St Nikon in a dream, showing him the way. St Nikon went to Mount Ganos, where many monks were hidden, headed by Theodosius the Bishop of Cyzicus. St Nikon received from the bishop both the mystery of Baptism and the angelic schema (i.e., monastic tonsure). Living in the cave church, St Nikon became an example for all the brethren.

When St Nikon had lived on the mountain for three years, an angel revealed to the bishop that St Nikon should be consecrated bishop, and should move to the province of Sicily with all the monks. Bishop Theodosius obeyed the angel, and then died after he had entrusted the 190 monks to St Nikon. After he buried Bishop Theodosius, St Nikon sailed to Sicily with the brethren, and so was saved from approaching barbarians.

By God’s grace, St Nikon came to his native city Neapolis. He found his mother still alive, and he remained with her for the final day of her life. His mother collapsed on his chest with tears of joy and kissed him. Making a prostration to the ground, she said, “I give thanks to You, O Lord, for You have permitted me to see my son as a monk, and as a bishop. Now, my Lord, hear Your servant, and receive my soul.” When she had finished this prayer, the righteous woman died. Those present glorified God and buried her with psalmody.

Rumors of St Nikon’s arrival spread through the city, and ten soldiers, his former companions, came to see him. After conversing with the saint they believed and were baptized, and went with him to Sicily. Having arrived on the island, St Nikon settled with the monks in a desolate area, called Gigia, near the river Asinum.

Many years passed, and there was another persecution against Christians. Quintilian, the governor of Sicily, was informed that Bishop Nikon was living nearby with many monks. All 199 monks were seized and beheaded, but they left St Nikon alive in order to torture him.

They burned him with fire, yet he remained unharmed. They tied him to the tails of wild horses to be dragged over the ground, but the horses would not budge from the spot. They cut out the saint’s tongue, threw him off a high cliff, and finally beheaded him. The body of the hieromartyr Nikon was left in a field to be eaten by wild beasts and birds.

A certain shepherd, possessed by an evil spirit, went to that place, and finding the body of the saint, he immediately fell to the ground on his face. The unclean spirit, vanquished by the power of the saint, had thrown him to the ground and gone out from him with a loud shriek: “Woe is me, woe is me, where can I flee from Nikon?”

The healed shepherd related this to the people. The bishop of the city of Messina also learned of this, then he and his clergy buried the bodies of St Nikon and his disciples.


Martyred 199 Disciples of the Martyr Nikon in Sicily

Quintilian, the governor of Sicily, was informed that St Nikon was living nearby with many monks. All 199 monks were seized and beheaded during a persecution against Christians in 251. St Nikon was killed later.

The bishop of the city of Messina and his clergy buried the bodies of St Nikon and his disciples.


Venerable Nikon the Abbot of the Kiev Far Caves

Saint Nikon of the Kiev Caves was the first disciple and fellow-ascetic of St Anthony (July 10), the founder of the Kiev Caves monastery, to which he came as a priest. At the monastery he tonsured all the new monks, and among their number was St Theodosius of the Caves (May 3 and August 14).

For tonsuring the favorites of the Great Prince Izyaslav, Sts Barlaam (November 19) and Ephraim (January 28 ), St Nikon brought the wrath of the prince down upon himself, but he refused to force the new monks to leave the monastery. The princess calmed Izyaslav, and he left St Nikon in peace.

When the number of brethren in the monastery had increased, St Nikon desired to go into seclusion and live as a hesychast. He went to the Tmutarakan peninsula (on the eastern banks of the Kerchensk straits) and settled in an unpopulated spot. When news of his holy life and spiritual gifts spread throughout the region, many gathered about him, wishing to follow his example. Thus a monastery and a church were founded in the name of the Most Holy Theotokos.

When he returned to the Kiev Caves monastery, St Nikon was obedient to St Theodosius as his spiritual Father. According to St Nestor the Chronicler (October 27), when St Theodosius had to go somewhere, he entrusted all the brethren to the care of St Nikon. Sometimes he asked St Nikon to offer instruction to the brethren in place of himself. Often, when St Nikon was binding books, St Theodosius sat near him and spun the thread for the binding.

When Prince Svyatoslav drove out his brother Izyaslav from Kiev, St Nikon returned to the monastery he founded. He returned under the igumen Stephen. When St Stephen (April 27) left the Kiev Caves monastery, St Nikon was chosen as igumen of the monastery. He toiled much to adorn his monastery with spiritual books and icons. He died at a great old age (+ 1088) and was buried in the Near Caves of St Anthony.


Martyr Philetus the Senator, his wife and sons in Illyria

St Philetus was a dignitary at the court of the emperor Hadrian (117-138), a persecutor of Christians. For openly confessing his faith in Christ the Savior, St Philetus was brought to trial with his wife St Lydia and their sons Macedonius and Theoprepius. By Hadrian’s order, St Philetus was sent with his family to Illyria to the military governor Amphilochius to be tortured.

Amphilochius gave orders to suspend them from a tree and to torture them with knives. After this, they were locked up in prison with the jailer Cronides, who believed in Christ. An angel came to them by night and eased their sufferings.

On the following day the martyrs were plunged into a cauldron of boiling oil, but the oil cooled instantly, and the saints remained unharmed. The military governor Amphilochius was so astonished at this miracle that he himself believed in Christ and went into the boiling oil saying, “Lord, Jesus Christ, help me!” and he remained unharmed. The tortures were repeated when the emperor Hadrian came to Illyria. They threw the holy martyrs into the boiling oil again and again, but by the power of God they remained alive.

The humiliated emperor returned to Rome, and the holy martyrs gave thanks to God, then they surrendered their holy souls to Him.


Martyr Lydia in Illyria

Holy Martyrs Lydia, Philetus, Macedonius and Theoprepius, and those with them: St Philetus was a dignitary at the court of the emperor Hadrian (117-138), a persecutor of Christians. For openly confessing his faith in Christ the Savior, St Philetus was brought to trial with his wife St Lydia and their sons Macedonius and Theoprepius. By Hadrian’s order, St Philetus was sent with his family to Illyria to the military governor Amphilochius to be tortured.

Amphilochius gave orders to suspend them from a tree and to torture them with knives. After this, they were locked up in prison with the jailer Cronides, who believed in Christ. An angel came to them by night and eased their sufferings.

On the following day the martyrs were plunged into a cauldron of boiling oil, but the oil cooled instantly, and the saints remained unharmed. The military governor Amphilochius was so astonished at this miracle that he himself believed in Christ and went into the boiling oil saying, “Lord, Jesus Christ, help me!” and he remained unharmed. The tortures were repeated when the emperor Hadrian came to Illyria. They threw the holy martyrs into the boiling oil again and again, but by the power of God they remained alive.

The humiliated emperor returned to Rome, and the holy martyrs gave thanks to God, then they surrendered their holy souls to Him.


Martyr Macedonius in Illyria

Holy Martyrs Macedonius, Philetus, Lydia, and Theoprepius, and those with them: St Philetus was a dignitary at the court of the emperor Hadrian (117-138), a persecutor of Christians. For openly confessing his faith in Christ the Savior, St Philetus was brought to trial with his wife St Lydia and their sons Macedonius and Theoprepius. By Hadrian’s order, St Philetus was sent with his family to Illyria to the military governor Amphilochius to be tortured.

Amphilochius gave orders to suspend them from a tree and to torture them with knives. After this, they were locked up in prison with the jailer Cronides, who believed in Christ. An angel came to them by night and eased their sufferings.

On the following day the martyrs were plunged into a cauldron of boiling oil, but the oil cooled instantly, and the saints remained unharmed. The military governor Amphilochius was so astonished at this miracle that he himself believed in Christ and went into the boiling oil saying, “Lord, Jesus Christ, help me!” and he remained unharmed. The tortures were repeated when the emperor Hadrian came to Illyria. They threw the holy martyrs into the boiling oil again and again, but by the power of God they remained alive.

The humiliated emperor returned to Rome, and the holy martyrs gave thanks to God, then they surrendered their holy souls to Him.


Martyr Theoprepius in Illyria

Holy MartyrsTheoprepius, Philetus, Lydia, Macedonius, and those with them: St Philetus was a dignitary at the court of the emperor Hadrian (117-138), a persecutor of Christians. For openly confessing his faith in Christ the Savior, St Philetus was brought to trial with his wife St Lydia and their sons Macedonius and Theoprepius. By Hadrian’s order, St Philetus was sent with his family to Illyria to the military governor Amphilochius to be tortured.

Amphilochius gave orders to suspend them from a tree and to torture them with knives. After this, they were locked up in prison with the jailer Cronides, who believed in Christ. An angel came to them by night and eased their sufferings.

On the following day the martyrs were plunged into a cauldron of boiling oil, but the oil cooled instantly, and the saints remained unharmed. The military governor Amphilochius was so astonished at this miracle that he himself believed in Christ and went into the boiling oil saying, “Lord, Jesus Christ, help me!” and he remained unharmed. The tortures were repeated when the emperor Hadrian came to Illyria. They threw the holy martyrs into the boiling oil again and again, but by the power of God they remained alive.

The humiliated emperor returned to Rome, and the holy martyrs gave thanks to God, then they surrendered their holy souls to Him.


Martyr Cronides the Notary in Illyria

Saint Cronides was a notary who believed in Christ. For this crime he was thrown into prison with the holy martyrs Philetus, Macedonius, Theoprepius and others.

Amphilochius gave orders to suspend them from a tree and to torture them with knives. After this, they were locked up in prison with the jailer Cronides, who believed in Christ. An angel came to them by night and eased their sufferings.

On the following day the martyrs were plunged into a cauldron of boiling oil, but the oil cooled instantly, and the saints remained unharmed. The military governor Amphilochius was so astonished at this miracle that he himself believed in Christ and went into the boiling oil saying, “Lord, Jesus Christ, help me!” and he remained unharmed. The tortures were repeated when the emperor Hadrian came to Illyria. They threw the holy martyrs into the boiling oil again and again, but by the power of God they remained alive.

The humiliated emperor returned to Rome, and the holy martyrs gave thanks to God, then they surrendered their holy souls to Him.


Martyr Amphilochius the Captain in Illyria

Saint Amphilochius endured martyrdom in the second century with Sts Philetus, Lydia, Macedonius and Theoprepius, and those with them. St Philetus was arrested and brought to trial with his wife St Lydia and their sons Macedonius and Theoprepius for openly confessing his faith in Christ. By Hadrian’s order, St Philetus and his family were sent to Illyria to the military governor Amphilochius to be tortured.

Amphilochius gave orders to suspend them from a tree and to torture them with knives. After this, they were locked up in prison with Cronides, who believed in Christ. An angel came to them by night and eased their sufferings.

On the following day the martyrs were plunged into a cauldron of boiling oil, but the oil cooled instantly, and the saints remained unharmed. The military governor Amphilochius was so astonished at this miracle that he himself believed in Christ and went into the boiling oil saying, “Lord, Jesus Christ, help me!” and he remained unharmed. The tortures were repeated when the emperor Hadrian came to Illyria. They threw the holy martyrs into the boiling oil again and again, but by the power of God they remained alive.

The humiliated emperor returned to Rome, and the holy martyrs gave thanks to God, then they surrendered their holy souls to Him.


Righteous Basil of Mangazea in Siberia

Righteous Basil of Mangazea: St Basil was born in the town of Yaroslavl around 1587. His father was a merchant, but the family was very poor. As a child, Basil spent much of his time in church, praying fervently and participating in the divine services.

When he was twelve, the boy set out to earn his living. After a difficult journey through wild forests, he came to the Russian village of Mangazea in Siberia on the River Taz. This was an area inhabited by Mongols and indigenous peoples of Siberia.

After stopping to pray in the village church, St Basil found a job with a local merchant. The merchant was a person of low moral character and did not believe in God, so while he appreciated Basil’s work, he did not care for the boy’s religious inclinations. Soon the cruel merchant came to hate his clerk and began to mistreat him.

During the Matins of Pascha, thieves robbed the merchant’s shop. The merchant discovered the theft and went to the governor, accusing Basil of being one of the thieves. So great was the merchant’s hatred of Basil that he falsely accused the young man. The governor did not even bother to investigate the charges, but had Basil arrested and tortured to make him admit his guilt. In spite of unbearable tortures, the saint kept saying, “I am innocent.”

Enraged by Basil’s endurance and meekness, the merchant struck him in the head with a ring of keys. St Basil fell to the floor and surrendered his soul to God. The governor ordered that the saint’s body be placed in a coffin and buried in a swamp.

After several years, the servants who disposed of the body began to speak about the child’s murder. Soon all the residents of Mangazea knew that the saint’s relics were in the swamp. Because of many signs that took place, people began to address prayers to St Basil. Forty-two years after the unjust murder of the saint, his coffin was removed from the swamp and his holy relics were found to be incorrupt. A chapel was built over his grave, and in 1670 the relics were placed in the church of Holy Trinity Monastery near Turakhanov.

In 1719 the holy Metropolitan Philotheus of Siberia (May 31) sent a carved reliquary to the monastery. Many miracles took place there, and St Basil helped Metropolitan Philotheus on many occasions

A new stone church was built at Holy Trinity Monastery in 1787, and the relics were transferred there.

In iconography, St Basil is portrayed as a young man with light brown hair, bare-footed and wearing only a shirt. He is also depicted on the Abaletsk Icon “Of the Sign” (July 20, November 27).


Monkmartyr Luke of St Anne’s Skete on Mt Athos and Odrin

No information available at this time.


Venerable Sergius (Srebryansky), the New Confessor of Tver

No information available at this time.