Lives of all saints commemorated on October 23

St Macarius the Roman of Mesopotamia

One day, the cave where holy ascetic Makarios lived was found by three monks from the Monastery of St Asclepius in Mesopotamia. Sergius, Hyginos and Theophilos had left the monastery in order to wander through the world, seeking a sign from God which would be beneficial for their salvation. Suddenly, as they approached the cave, they noticed a marvelous fragrance issuing forth from it. Then they saw an old man walking toward them, covered only by his hair and a beard which reached his knees. He threw himself to the ground and remained there for several minutes, until he was sure the three strangers were not really demons. When he was satisfied that he was not experiencing some sort of delusion, he invited them into his cave. The oldest monk asked him to relate his story, which he did.

St Makarios told them that he was born in Rome and was the son of a wealthy Senator named John. When he was old enough to be married, his parents betrothed him against his will. There was a celebration following the wedding, but instead of entering the bridal chamber, he fled to the home of a pious widow, where he spent seven days secretly weeping and entreating God to help him. When he left her house, Makarios met a well-dressed old man of noble demeanor. This man ordered Makarios to accompany him. Makarios did follow him for three years, until one day they came to a cave, and then the old man vanished. He appeared to Makarios in a dream soon afterward and revealed that he was the Archangel Raphael, who had guided Tobias in his travels. Before he vanished, the Archangel entrusted him to God’s mercy.

Soon after he first moved into the cave, Makarios saw a most beautiful young woman standing before him, who said that she also had fled from an unwanted marriage in Rome. In spite of his caution, St Makarios did not have sufficient discernment to escape the devil’s snare, and so he allowed the girl to spend the night in his cave. For the first time in his life, he was assaulted by the fiery darts of carnal desire, and he sinned with the girl. Suddenly she disappeared, and the devil rejoiced because he had tempted the ascetic to sin.

At that moment St Makarios realized the seriousness of his fall. Weeping bitterly, he decided to leave the cave and find another place where he might do penance. Along the way, the Archangel Raphael appeared to him once again and urged him to return. He told him that God would hear his prayers if he remained in the cave. So he went back and subjected his flesh to severe fasting, vigils and absolute self-denial for many years, so that he might recover the purity of his soul in order to contemplate God.

After he had edified the three brethren with the story of his struggles, St Makarios sent them on their way in peace. His sin was very great, but so was his repentance; therefore, he fell asleep in the Lord in the presence of the angels and the saints.

The precise date of the saint’s repose is not known, but it was probably at the end of the fourth century, or the beginning of the fifth.

Apostle James, the Brother of the Lord

Holy Apostle James, the Brother of God (Adelphotheos) was the son of Righteous Joseph the Betrothed of the Most Holy Theotokos (December 26). From his early years James was a Nazarene, a man especially dedicated to God. The Nazarenes vowed to preserve their virginity, to abstain from wine, to refrain from eating meat, and not to cut their hair. The vow of the Nazarenes symbolized a life of holiness and purity, commanded formerly by the Lord for all Israel. When the Savior began to teach the nation about the Kingdom of God, St James believed in Christ and became His apostle. He was chosen as the first Bishop of Jerusalem.

St James presided over the Council of Jerusalem and his word was decisive (Acts 15). In his thirty years as bishop, St James converted many of the Jews to Christianity. Annoyed by this, the Pharisees and the Scribes plotted together to kill St James. They led the saint up on the pinnacle of the Jerusalem Temple and asked what he thought of Jesus. The holy Apostle began to bear witness that Christ is the Messiah, which was not the response the Pharisees were expecting. Greatly angered, the Jewish teachers threw him off the roof. The saint did not die immediately, but gathering his final strength, he prayed to the Lord for his enemies while they were stoning him. St James’ martyrdom occurred about 63 A.D.

The holy Apostle James composed a Divine Liturgy, which formed the basis of the Liturgies of Sts Basil the Great and John Chrysostom. The Church has preserved an Epistle of St James, one of the books of the New Testament.

In 1853, Patriarch Hierotheus of Alexandria sent to Moscow a portion of the relics of St James. The Church distinguishes between the holy Apostle James the Brother of God, and St James the son of Zebedee (April 30) and St James the son of Alphaeus (October 9).

Translation of the relics of Blessed James of Borovichi the Wonderworker of Novgorod

Translation of the relics of Blessed James of Borovichi, Wonderworker of Novgorod St James took upon himself the arduous task of foolishness for Christ in his youth. Most of the details of his life are unknown, but the Lord glorified him after death.

In the year 1540, on the third day of Pascha, a large block of ice floated up against the current along the River Msta to the village of Borovichi (in Novgorod district), and on this block of ice stood the coffin (made from an oak log) without cover, in which the body of the youth lay. Shunning the holy relics, peasants with poles pushed the block of ice back into the river, but it returned to the shore. This was repeated three times. That night the youth appeared in a dream to the elders of the village, who had seen him upon the ice-flow, and said, “I am also a Christian just like you. Don’t push me away. My name is James. I am the namesake of St James, the Brother of God.”

The relics of the holy youth were first placed in a chapel, then in 1544 were transferred to the Descent of the Holy Spirit church. Then the annual commemoration of the saint every year on October 23 was established. The Lord, having glorified his God-pleasing one, granted the relics of St James a curative power. A Feastday with Matins was established in 1572. The Iconographic Manuals describe St James: “A youth, bare, girded with a piece of cloth.” In 1657 Patriarch Nikon sent part of the relics to Valdai, to the Iveron monastery.

St Ignatius the Patriarch of Constantinople

Saint Ignatius, Patriarch of Constantinople (847-857; 867-877), in the world Nicetas, was of imperial lineage. When his father, the emperor Michael I (811-813), was deposed from the imperial throne by Leo the Armenian (813-820), the fifteen-year-old youth Ignatius was imprisoned in a monastery. Life in the monastery strengthened St Ignatius in faith and in piety. Soon he was made igumen of the monastery, and later he was chosen Patriarch of Constantinople.

When Michael III (855-867) ascended the throne he was still a minor, so the country was actually governed by his uncle, Bardas, an impious and unchaste man. Patriarch Ignatius urged Bardas to forsake his sinful life and when he refused, Ignatius boldly denounced him for his iniquity.

Bardas attempted to force St Ignatius to tonsure the holy Empress Theodora, mother of the emperor, in order to remove her from governance of the realm. Patriarch Ignatius did not consent to this, and also publicly excommunicated Bardas. Bardas had Ignatius tortured for fifteen days to force him to resign, and then they sent him into exile. When the new emperor came to power, St Ignatius was recalled from prison and was Patriarch for another ten years. He died in the year 877 in a monastery.

Venerable Elisha of Lavreshev

Saint Elisha was the Igumen of Lavreshev in Belarus in the thirteenth century.