Lives of all saints commemorated on June 8


Holy Pentecost

In the Church’s annual liturgical cycle, Pentecost is “the last and great day.” It is the celebration by the Church of the coming of the Holy Spirit as the end—the achievement and fulfillment—of the entire history of salvation. For the same reason, however, it is also the celebration of the beginning: it is the “birthday” of the Church as the presence among us of the Holy Spirit, of the new life in Christ, of grace, knowledge, adoption to God and holiness.

This double meaning and double joy is revealed to us, first of all, in the very name of the feast. Pentecost in Greek means fifty, and in the sacred biblical symbolism of numbers, the number fifty symbolizes both the fulness of time and that which is beyond time: the Kingdom of God itself. It symbolizes the fulness of time by its first component: 49, which is the fulness of seven (7 x 7): the number of time. And, it symbolizes that which is beyond time by its second component: 49 + 1, this one being the new day, the “day without evening” of God’s eternal Kingdom. With the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Christ’s disciples, the time of salvation, the Divine work of redemption has been completed, the fulness revealed, all gifts bestowed: it belongs to us now to “appropriate” these gifts, to be that which we have become in Christ: participants and citizens of His Kingdom.

THE VIGIL OF PENTECOST

The all-night Vigil service begins with a solemn invitation:

“Let us celebrate Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit,
The appointed day of promise, and the fulfillment of hope,
The mystery which is as great as it is precious.”

In the coming of the Spirit, the very essence of the Church is revealed:

“The Holy Spirit provides all,
Overflows with prophecy, fulfills the priesthood,
Has taught wisdom to illiterates, has revealed fishermen as theologians,
He brings together the whole council of the Church.”

In the three readings of the Old Testament (Numbers 11:16-17, 24-29; Joel 2:23-32; Ezekiel 36:24-28) we hear the prophecies concerning the Holy Spirit. We are taught that the entire history of mankind was directed towards the day on which God “would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh.” This day has come! All hope, all promises, all expectations have been fulfilled. At the end of the Aposticha hymns, for the first time since Easter, we sing the hymn: “O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth...,” the one with which we inaugurate all our services, all prayers, which is, as it were, the life-breath of the Church, and whose coming to us, whose “descent” upon us in this festal Vigil, is indeed the very experience of the Holy Spirit “coming and abiding in us.”

Having reached its climax, the Vigil continues as an explosion of joy and light for “verily the light of the Comforter has come and illumined the world.” In the Gospel reading (John 20:19-23) the feast is interpreted to us as the feast of the Church, of her divine nature, power and authority. The Lord sends His disciples into the world, as He Himself was sent by His Father. Later, in the antiphons of the Liturgy, we proclaim the universality of the apostles’ preaching, the cosmical significance of the feast, the sanctification of the whole world, the true manifestation of God’s Kingdom.

THE VESPERS OF PENTECOST

The liturgical peculiarity of Pentecost is a very special Vespers of the day itself. Usually this service follows immediately the Divine Liturgy, is “added” to it as its own fulfillment. The service begins as a solemn “summing up” of the entire celebration, as its liturgical synthesis. We hold flowers in our hands symbolizing the joy of the eternal spring, inaugurated by the coming of the Holy Spirit. After the festal Entrance, this joy reaches its climax in the singing of the Great Prokeimenon:

“Who is so great a God as our God?”

Then, having reached this climax, we are invited to kneel. This is our first kneeling since Easter. It signifies that after these fifty days of Paschal joy and fulness, of experiencing the Kingdom of God, the Church now is about to begin her pilgrimage through time and history. It is evening again, and the night approaches, during which temptations and failures await us, when, more than anything else, we need Divine help, that presence and power of the Holy Spirit, who has already revealed to us the joyful End, who now will help us in our effort towards fulfillment and salvation.

All this is revealed in the three prayers which the celebrant reads now as we all kneel and listen to him. In the first prayer, we bring to God our repentance, our increased appeal for forgiveness of sins, the first condition for entering into the Kingdom of God.

In the second prayer, we ask the Holy Spirit to help us, to teach us to pray and to follow the true path in the dark and difficult night of our earthly existence. Finally, in the third prayer, we remember all those who have achieved their earthly journey, but who are united with us in the eternal God of Love.

The joy of Easter has been completed and we again have to wait for the dawn of the Eternal Day. Yet, knowing our weakness, humbling ourselves by kneeling, we also know the joy and the power of the Holy Spirit who has come. We know that God is with us, that in Him is our victory.

Thus is completed the feast of Pentecost and we enter “the ordinary time” of the year. Yet, every Sunday now will be called “after Pentecost”—and this means that it is from the power and light of these fifty days that we shall receive our own power, the Divine help in our daily struggle. At Pentecost we decorate our churches with flowers and green branches—for the Church “never grows old, but is always young.” It is an evergreen, ever-living Tree of grace and life, of joy and comfort. For the Holy Spirit—“the Treasury of Blessings and Giver of Life—comes and abides in us, and cleanses us from all impurity,” and fills our life with meaning, love, faith and hope.

Father Alexander Schmemann (1974)


Translation of the relics of the Greatmartyr Theodore Stratelates

The Holy Great Martyr Theodore Stratelates suffered for Christ in Heraklea on February 8, 319. At the time of his sufferings the holy Great Martyr Theodore ordered his servant Varus to bury his body on the estate of his parents in Euchaita. The transfer of the relics of the Great Martyr Theodore took place on June 8, 319.

On this day we also recall a miracle of the icon of the Great Martyr Theodore in a church dedicated to him at a place called Karsat, near Damascus. A group of Saracens had turned this church into their residence. There was a fresco on the wall depicting Theodore. One of the Saracens shot an arrow into the icon of the Great Martyr. From the saint’s face, where the arrow had stuck into the wall, blood flowed before the eyes of everyone. A short while later, the Saracens who had settled in the church killed each other. Accounts of this miracle are given by the Anastasius of Mt. Sinai (April 20) and John of Damascus (December 4).


St Theodore the Bishop of Rostov and Suzdal

No information available at this time.


Finding of the relics of St Basil the Prince of Yaroslavl

The holy Princes Basil and Constantine Vsevolodovich of Yaroslav.

In their youth they lost their father, Vsevolod, who fell in battle with the Tatars (Mongols). St Basil, the elder brother, succeeded to the throne. As prince, he had to face a multitude of concerns, tasks and sorrows. The city and the villages were devastated from the invasion of the Tatars, many households remained without shelter and food, and he had to concern himself about everything and about everyone. Besides this, it was necessary to gain the good will of the Tatar Khan, and the holy prince more than once journeyed for this reason to the Horde. He suffered also a family misfortune, the loss of his only son.

All his tribulations the holy prince suffered without complaint, and he ruled the princedom, like a true Christian. He did not enter into disputes with other princes, he concerned himself with the unfortunate among his subjects, and he built churches. But soon his life, filled with many sorrows, exhausted the strength of the prince, and he took sick and died in the year 1249.

After him holy Prince Constantine succeeded to the throne. He strove to imitate his brother, but to his great dismay, everywhere he saw pillage and murdering done by the Tatars. In 1257 the Tatars fell upon Yaroslavl itself. The prince came out to fight the enemy, but here in this battle he gave up his life for his country. In the year 1501 the incorrupt relics of the holy princes were uncovered and now rest in the Yaroslav cathedral.


Finding of the relics of St Constantine the Prince of Yaroslavl

The holy Princes Basil and Constantine Vsevolodovich of Yaroslav.

In their youth they lost their father, Vsevolod, who fell in battle with the Tatars (Mongols). St Basil, the elder brother, succeeded to the throne. As prince, he had to face a multitude of concerns, tasks and sorrows. The city and the villages were devastated from the invasion of the Tatars, many households remained without shelter and food, and he had to concern himself about everything and about everyone. Besides this, it was necessary to gain the good will of the Tatar Khan, and the holy prince more than once journeyed for this reason to the Horde. He suffered also a family misfortune, the loss of his only son.

All his tribulations the holy prince suffered without complaint, and he ruled the princedom, like a true Christian. He did not enter into disputes with other princes, he concerned himself with the unfortunate among his subjects, and he built churches. But soon his life, filled with many sorrows, exhausted the strength of the prince, and he took sick and died in the year 1249.

After him holy Prince Constantine succeeded to the throne. He strove to imitate his brother, but to his great dismay, everywhere he saw pillage and murdering done by the Tatars. In 1257 the Tatars fell upon Yaroslavl itself. The prince came out to fight the enemy, but here in this battle he gave up his life for his country. In the year 1501 the incorrupt relics of the holy princes were uncovered and now rest in the Yaroslav cathedral.


St Ephraim the Patriarch of Antioch

Saint Ephraim, Patriarch of Antioch, a Syrian, was a military general under the emperors Anastasius (491-518) and Justin (518-527). The saint was distinguished for his virtue, piety, and compassion for all the destitute.

In the year 526 the Lord punished Antioch for Christians falling into the heresies of Nestorius and Eutyches, an earthquake destroyed this magnificent city. A large number of the inhabitants perished. Patriarch Euphrasios was crushed beneath a fallen column.

The emperor summoned Ephraim to oversee the restoration of the ruined city. Among the workers was a bishop who left his see for unknown reasons. He predicted to Ephraim his election to the patriarchal throne and asked him not to abandon deeds of charity, and to struggle firmly against the heretics. In the year 527 Ephraim was indeed elected to the patriarchal throne. He governed his flock firmly and wisely by the example of his life. He also defended it against heretical teachings through his sermons and letters.

The following event gives some idea of his faith. Near Herakleia was a stylite practicing asceticism, who had fallen into heresy. Learning about the ascetic, Ephraim went to him and urged him to be reunited to the Orthodox Church. The stylite was not agreeable. He decided to frighten the patriarch and he offered to kindle a large bonfire, so that they both might enter the fire. The bonfire was set, but the stylite did not dare to go into it. The patriarch prayed to the Lord Jesus Christ to show that his was the correct faith and, removing his omophorion, he put it in the bonfire. After three hours the firewood was consumed, but the omophorion of the saint was taken out unharmed. The stylite was converted from his heresy and reunited to the Church.

Ephraim fell asleep in the Lord in the year 545 AD.

Among his labors, Ephraim defended the teaching of the Orthodox Church on the union of two natures, the divine and the human, in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ.


Venerable Zosimus of Phoenicia, Syria

Saint Zosimus of Phoenicia was born in the Syrian village of Synda, near the city of Tyre. He accepted monasticism and was zealous in his fasting, prayer, labors and other virtues. The monk received from God the gift of clairvoyance. When he was at Caesarea, he foresaw the terrible earthquake which destroyed Antioch in the year 526.

Once, the patrician Arkesilaos visited the monk. During this time a messenger informed Arkesilaos that his wife had punctured her eye with a needle and was in terrible pain. But the monk put his guest at ease and said that the holy Bishop John the Chozebite (October 3) had his wife.

Zosimus attained such a degree of spiritual accomplishment that wild beasts were submissive to him. Once on the way to Caesarea a hungry lion pounced upon the monk’s donkey, and dragged it away to eat it. Finding the beast, the monk said, “Friend, I have not the strength to carry the load because of old age. You carry it, and then return into the wilderness and again be fierce according to your nature.” The lion meekly carried the load to Caesarea, then the monk set him free.


Glorification of St John of Kronstadt

Saint John of Kronstadt was glorified by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1990. He is also commemorated on December 20.


Icon of the Mother of God of Yaroslavl

The Yaroslavl Icon of the Mother of God Little is known of this, one of the earliest Russian icons, except that it belonged to the holy Princes Basil and Constantine (July 3). The lower chapel of the Ilinsk church in Yaroslavl was dedicated to the wonderworking****


Icon of the Mother of God of White Lake

This holy icon belonged to St Cyril of White Lake (June 9), and he kept it in his cell.

St Cyril was living at the Simonov Monastery, but his soul yearned for solitude, and he asked the Mother of God to show him a place conducive for salvation. One night he was reading an Akathist in his cell before the Hodigitria icon of the Mother of God, and had just reached the eighth Kontakion, “Seeing the strange Nativity, let us become strangers to the world and transport our minds to heaven.” Then he heard a voice say, “Go to White Lake (Belozersk), where I have prepared a place for you.”

He left the Simonov Monastery and at the desolate and sparsely populated White Lake, he found the place which he had seen in the vision. St Cyril and his companion St Therapon of White Lake and Mozhaisk (May 27), set up a cross and dug a cell in the ground near Mount Myaura at Siversk Lake.

The White Lake Icon is also commemorated on July 28.


Hieromartyr Theodore of Kvelta

Saint Tevdore was a simple priest who labored in the 16th century in the village of Kvelta. At that time the Ottoman Empire and Persia were locked in a bitter feud over control of the Near East. At the beginning of 1609 the Ottomans conquered first the city of Baghdadi, then part of Samtskhe

in southern Georgia. In June of that year they launched an attack on eastern Georgia.

At that time the Georgian ruler was the young King Luarsab II. When the Ottomans penetrated Kartli, the king was absent, abiding in his summer residence, Tskhireti Castle. But the Ottomans knew the location of his castle, and they also knew that his troops were small in number. They plotted to lay siege to the castle, capture the king, and ultimately annex all of Georgia.

The Ottomans quickly crossed the Trialeti mountain range and advanced into Manglisi, pillaging the lands and laying waste to the people as they went. Miraculously, the Manglisi Church of the Most Holy Mother of God remained unharmed. One chronicler wrote: “A dense fog surrounded the church and village, concealing it from the enemy__”

St. Luarsab had received no warning of the attack, and the enemy was just minutes from his castle.

In the village of Kvelta, not far fromManglisi, the Turks captured the priest Tevdore, a man sincere before God and devoted to his king and motherland. Fr. Tevdore was unable to escape to the woods with the other villagers, so he locked the doors to the church and concealed its sacred treasures. When the Ottoman Turks found Fr. Tevdore, they commanded him to lead them to Tskhireti Castle and threatened to kill him if he refused.

Hoping to deceive them, Tevdore led the Ottomans along a narrow, rocky mountain path away from Tskhireti Castle. Many horses and soldiers fell from the path to their deaths.

But after some time the Ottomans realized that the priest had led them in the wrong direction. Embittered and hungry for revenge, they beheaded Fr. Tevdore.

As a result of St. Tevdore’s great sacrifice, St. Luarsab had time to strengthen his fortifications, assemble his armies, and finally annihilate the enemy.