Lives of all saints commemorated on June 22


Synaxis of the Saints of North America

On the second Sunday after Pentecost, each local Orthodox Church commemorates all the saints, known and unknown, who have shone forth in its territory. Accordingly, the Orthodox Church in America remembers the saints of North America on this day.

Saints of all times, and in every country are seen as the fulfillment of God’s promise to redeem fallen humanity. Their example encourages us to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily besets us” and to “run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). The saints of North America also teach us how we should live, and what we must expect to endure as Christians

Although it is a relatively young church, the Orthodox Church in America has produced saints in nearly all of the six major categories of saints: Apostles (and Equals of the Apostles); Martyrs (and Confessors); Prophets; Hierarchs; Monastic Saints; and the Righteous. Prophets, of course, lived in Old Testament times and predicted the coming of Christ.

The first Divine Liturgy in what is now American territory (northern latitude 58 degrees, 14 minutes, western longitude 141 degrees) was celebrated on July 20, 1741, the Feast of the Prophet Elias, aboard the ship Peter under the command of Vitus Bering. Hieromonk Hilarion Trusov and the priest Ignatius Kozirevsky served together on that occasion. Several years later, the Russian merchant Gregory I. Shelikov visited Valaam monastery, suggesting to the abbot that it would be desirable to send missionaries to Russian America.

On September 24, 1794, after a journey of 7,327 miles (the longest missionary journey in Orthodox history) and 293 days, a group of monks from Valaam arrived on Kodiak Island in Alaska. The mission was headed by Archimandrite Joasaph, and included Hieromonks Juvenal, Macarius, and Athanasius, the Hierodeacons Nectarius and Stephen, and the monks Herman and Joasaph. St Herman of Alaska (December 13, August 9), the last surviving member of the mission, fell asleep in the Lord in 1837.

Throughout the Church’s history, the seeds of faith have always been watered by the blood of the martyrs. The Protomartyr Juvenal was killed near Lake Iliamna by natives in 1799, thus becoming the first Orthodox Christian to shed his blood for Christ in the New World. In 1816, St Peter the Aleut was put to death by Spanish missionaries in California when he refused to convert to Roman Catholicism.

Missionary efforts continued in the nineteenth century, with outreach to the native peoples of Alaska. Two of the most prominent laborers in Christ’s Vineyard were St Innocent Veniaminov (March 31 and October 6) and St Jacob Netsvetov (July 26), who translated Orthodox services and books into the native languages. Father Jacob Netsvetev died in Sitka in 1864 after a life of devoted service to the Church. Father John Veniaminov, after his wife’s death, received monastic tonsure with the name Innocent. He died in 1879 as the Metropolitan of Moscow.

As the nineteenth century was drawing to a close, an event of enormous significance for the North American Church took place. On March 25, 1891, Bishop Vladimir went to Minneapolis to receive St Alexis Toth (May 7) and 361 of his parishioners into the Orthodox Church. This was the beginning of the return of many Uniates to Orthodoxy.

St Tikhon (Belavin), the future Patriarch of Moscow (April 7, October 9), came to America as bishop of the diocese of the Aleutians and Alaska in September 1898. As the only Orthodox bishop on the continent, St Tikhon traveled extensively throughout North America in order to minister to his widely scattered and diverse flock. He realized that the local church here could not be a permanent extension of the Russian Church. Therefore, he focused his efforts on giving the American Church a diocesan and parish structure which would help it mature and grow.

St Tikhon returned to Russia in 1907, and was elected as Patriarch of Moscow ten years later. He died in 1925, and for many years his exact burial place remained unknown. St Tikhon’s grave was discovered on February 22, 1992 in the smaller cathedral of Our Lady of the Don in the Don Monastery when a fire made renovation of the church necessary.

St Raphael of Brooklyn (February 27) was the first Orthodox bishop to be consecrated in North America. Archimandrite Raphael Hawaweeny was consecrated by Bishop Tikhon and Bishop Innocent (Pustynsky) at St Nicholas Cathedral in New York on March 13, 1904. As Bishop of Brooklyn, St Raphael was a trusted and capable assistant to St Tikhon in his archpastoral ministry. St Raphael reposed on February 27, 1915.

The first All American Council took place March 5-7, 1907 at Mayfield, PA, and the main topic was “How to expand the mission.” Guidelines and directions for missionary activity, and statutes for the administrative structure of parishes were also set forth.

In the twentieth century, in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, countless men, women, and children received the crown of martyrdom rather than renounce Christ. Sts John Kochurov (October 31) and Alexander Hotovitzky (December 4 and August 7) both served the Church in North America before going back to Russia. St John became the first clergyman to be martyred in Russia on October 31, 1917 in St Petersburg. St Alexander Hotovitzky, who served in America until 1914, was killed in 1937.

In addition to the saints listed above, we also honor those saints who are known only to God, and have not been recognized officially by the Church. As we contemplate the lives of these saints, let us remember that we are also called by God to a life of holiness.


Hieromartyr Eusebius the Bishop of Samosata

The Hieromartyr Eusebius, Bishop of Samosata, stood firmly for the Orthodox Confession of Faith proclaimed at the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea in the year 325. For this he underwent persecution by the Arians, being repeatedly deprived of his see and banished. The emperor Constantius (337-361), patron of the Arians, learned that St Eusebius kept a conciliar decree regarding the election of the Orthodox Archbishop Meletius to the See of Antioch. He commanded him to give up the decree. The saint boldly refused to do as ordered. The enraged emperor sent a message that if he did not give up the decree, then his right hand would be cut off. St Eusebius stretched out both hands to the emissary saying, “Cut them off, but I will not give up the Decree of the Council, which denounces the wickedness and iniquity of the Arians.” The emperor Constantius marveled at the audacity of the bishop, but did not harm him.

During the reign of Justin the Apostate (361-363), even more difficult times ensued, and an open persecution against Christians began. St Eusebius, having concealed his identity, went about in the garb of a soldier across the whole of Syria, Phoenicia and Palestine, urging Christians to the Orthodox Faith. He established priests and deacons in desolated churches, and he consecrated bishops who renounced the Arian heresy. After Julian the Apostate’s death, he was succeeded by the pious emperor Jovian (363-364), during whose reign the persecutions stopped. Returning from exile, St Meletius (February 12) convened a local Council at Antioch in the year 379 on the advice of St Eusebius. Twenty-seven bishops participated, and it reaffirmed the Orthodox teaching of the First Ecumenical Council. The Arians signed the conciliar definition, fearing the steadfast defenders of Orthodoxy, the holy hierarchs Meletius, Eusebius and Pelagios, who had great influence with the emperor. After the death of Jovian the Arian Vanlentus (364-378) came to power.

The Orthodox were again subjected to persecution. St Meletius was banished to Armenia, St Pelagius to Arabia, and St Eusebius was condemned to exile in Thrace. Having received the imperial decree, St Eusebius left Samosata by night so as to prevent tumult among the people that esteemed him. Having learned of of the bishop’s departure, believers followed after him and with tears entreated him to return. The saint refused the entreaty of those who had come, saying that he had to obey the authorities. The saint urged his flock to hold firm to Orthodoxy, blessed them and set off to the place of exile. The Arian Eunomios became Bishop of Samosata, but the people did not accept the heretic. The Orthodox would not go to the church and avoided meeting with him. The heretical Arian perceived that it was impossible to attract the independent flock to him.

The emperor Gracian (375-383) came upon the throne, and all the Orthodox hierarchs banished under the Arians were brought back from exile. St Eusebius also returned to Samosata and continued with the task of building up the Church. Together with St Meletius he supplied Orthodox hierarchs and clergy to Arian places. In the year 380 he arrived in the Arian city of Dolikhina to establish the Orthodox bishop Marinus there. An Arian woman threw a roof tile at the holy bishop’s head. As he lay dying, he asked her for wine and requested those around not to do her any harm. The body of St Eusebius was taken to Samosata and was buried by his flock. The saint’s nephew, Antiochus, succeeded him and the Samosata Church continued to confess the Orthodox Faith, firmly spread through the efforts of the holy Hieromartyr Eusebius.


Martyr Zeno of Philadelphia

The Holy Martyrs Zeno and Zenas lived in the Arabian city of Philadelphia, and led a pious life. St Zeno possessed a large fortune, but he distributed his substance to the poor and manumitted slaves. Together with his devoted servant Zenas, he went to the governor and urged him to give up idolatry and accept Christ. They were tied to pillars, struck with iron hooks, and their wounds were rubbed with vinegar and salt.

Their sides and chests were scorched with fire, they were thrown in a pit, and boiling oil was poured over the sufferers. The saints endured all the tortures with forbearance and by the power of God they remained alive. Finally, the martyrs were beheaded with a sword (+ 304).


Martyr Zenas the Servant, of Philadelphia

Saint Zenas was the servant of St Zeno. They lived in the Arabian city of Philadelphia, and led a pious life. St Zeno possessed a large fortune, but he distributed his substance to the poor and manumitted slaves. Together with his devoted servant Zenas, he went to the governor and urged him to give up idolatry and accept Christ. They were tied to pillars, struck with iron hooks, and their wounds were rubbed with vinegar and salt.

Their sides and chests were scorched with fire, they were thrown in a pit, and boiling oil was poured over the sufferers. The saints endured all the tortures with forbearance and by the power of God they remained alive. Finally, the martyrs were beheaded with a sword in 304.


Martyr Galacteon of Constantinople

The Holy Martyrs Galacteon, Juliania and Saturninus: St Galacteon was drowned in the sea for confessing faith in Christ.


Martyr Juliana of Constantinople

The Holy Martyrs Galacteon, Juliana and Saturninus. St Juliana was burned together with her son Saturninus because she was a Christian.


Martyr Saturninus of Constantinople

The Holy Martyrs Galacteon, Juliana and Saturninus: St Galacteon was drowned in the sea for confessing faith in Christ, and Saturninus was burned together with his mother St Juliana.


St Alban the Protomartyr of Britain

Saint Alban (or Albanus), the protomartyr of Britain, was a Roman citizen who lived at Verulamium (modern St Albans), a few miles northwest of London, during a time of persecution. Nothing is known about his family or his occupation.

The chief magistrate of the city had orders to arrest all Christian clergy. One of them, a priest named Amphibalus, fled to Alban’s home in order to hide from the soldiers who wished to kill him. Alban was impressed by the priest’s constant prayer and vigil, and so he questioned Amphibalus about his beliefs. As a result, Alban came to believe in Christ and asked to be baptized.

Eventually, Amphibalus was forced to move on, and Alban changed clothes with him so that he could get away. The soldiers heard there was a priest hiding in Alban’s

house, so they came to search it. Seeing Alban dressed in the priest’s clothes, they arrested him and brought him before the judge.

The magistrate was offering sacrifice to idols when St Alban appeared before him. After questioning him, he discovered how Alban and the priest had switched clothes. Furious because Alban had allowed a fugitive to escape, the magistrate threatened him with death unless he returned to paganism and revealed where Amphibalus had gone. St Alban replied, “I am also a Christian, and I worship the true God.”

After having the saint beaten and tortured, the magistrate threatened him with execution. St Alban rejoiced and glorified God. The magistrate ordered the soldiers to take St Alban to the Holmhurst Hill to be beheaded. When they came to the river Ver, they saw that the bridge was crowded with people who had come to witness Alban’s martyrdom. Since they could not proceed because of the multitude of people, St Alban p rayed and made the Sign of the Cross over the river. At once, the waters parted so that they were able to cross over to the other side.

The executioner was so astonished by the miracle that he threw down his sword and refused to behead the saint. He was arrested, and another man was found to behead them both. There is a tradition that St Alban became thirsty while climbing the hill and asked for water. A small spring gushed forth near the top of the hill, and he was able to drink from it. Pilgrims used to come and drink from St Alban’s well, but it is now dry.

The date of St Alban’s martyrdom is uncertain, but it is believed that it took place during the reign of Decius (ca. 251) or Valerian (ca. 257). The eighteenth century Turin manuscript (which may be based on a fifth century source) suggests that St Alban may have been executed as early as 209, when the emperor Septimus Severus and his two sons were in Britain. The name of the executioner who was converted has not been preserved. The priest Amphibalus was ultimately caught and put to death at a place called Redbourn, four miles from Verulamium.

When people began to cry out against the magistrate, he put an end to the persecution. In later years a cathedral was built on the site of the martyrdom, and the relics of St Alban, the priest Amphibalus, and perhaps even the executioner were enshrined within. St Bede (May 27) tells us that miracles frequently took place at St Alban’s tomb. When the Danes invaded England in 860, the relics were removed for safekeeping, then later returned.

A new chapel and shrine were built for the relics in the early fourteenth century. Two hundred years later, during the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, the marble shrine was destroyed. Much later, the fragments of the s hrine were reassembled on its former site. What happened to the relics is uncertain, but it is probable that they were either destroyed or buried in an unmarked spot.

Although St Alban is sometimes depicted in military garb, there is no evidence that he was a soldier. After all, he was living in a private home when he was arrested, and not in a barracks. There is a medieval painting in the south aisle beside the Choir in the Abbey which depicts St Alban with red hair. A medieval seal, now in the Durham Cathedral Chapter Library, shows him with a thick beard. He is stocky, with a high, round and balding forehead, and a cloak covers his left side and right shoulder.


Hieromartyr Nicetas of Remesiana

No information on the life of this saint is available at this time.


Martyr Nicetas the Dacian

No information on the life of this saint is available at this time.


St Gregory, Metropolitan of Wallachia

Saint Gregory (Dascalu) was Metropolitan of Wallachia.

St Gregory was glorified by the Romanian Orthodox Church in 2005, and is commemorated on June 22.


Venerable Anastasia of Serbia

No information on the life of this saint is available at this time.