Lives of all saints commemorated on June 24

Nativity of the Holy Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist, John

The Nativity of the Holy Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, John: The Gospel (Luke. 1: 5) relates that the righteous parents of Saint John the Baptist, the Priest Zachariah and Elizabeth (September 5), lived in the ancient city of Hebron. They reached old age without having children, since Elizabeth was barren. Once, Saint Zachariah was serving in the Temple at Jerusalem and saw the Archangel Gabriel, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. He predicted that Saint Zachariah would father a son, who would announce the Savior, the Messiah, awaited by the Old Testament Church. Zachariah was troubled, and fear fell upon him. He had doubts that in old age it was possible to have a son, and he asked for a sign. It was given to him, and it was also a chastisement for his unbelief. Zachariah was struck speechless until the time of the fulfillment of the archangel’s words.

Saint Elizabeth came to be with child, and fearing derision at being pregnant so late in life, she kept it secret for five months. Then her relative, the Virgin Mary, came to share with her Her own joy. Elizabeth, “filled with the Holy Spirit,” was the first to greet the Virgin Mary as the Mother of God. Saint John leaped in his mother’s womb at the visit of the Most Holy Virgin Mary and the Son of God incarnate within Her.

Soon Saint Elizabeth gave birth to a son, and all the relatives and acquaintances rejoiced together with her. On the eighth day, in accordance with the Law of Moses, he was circumcised and was called John. Everyone was amazed, since no one in the family had this name. When they asked Saint Zachariah about this, he motioned for a tablet and wrote on it: “His name is John.” Immediately his tongue was loosed, and Saint Zachariah glorified God. He also prophesied about the Coming into the world of the Messiah, and of his own son John, the Forerunner of the Lord (Luke. 1: 68-79).

After the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ and the worship of the shepherds and the Magi, wicked king Herod gave orders to kill all male infants. Hearing about this, Saint Elizabeth fled into the wilderness and hid in a cave. Saint Zachariah was at Jerusalem and was doing his priestly service in the Temple. Herod sent soldiers to him to find out the abode of the infant John and his mother. Zachariah answered that their whereabouts were unknown to him, and he was killed right there in the Temple. Righteous Elizabeth continued to live in the wilderness with her son and she died there. The child John, protected by an angel, dwelt in the wilderness until the time when he came preaching repentance, and was accounted worthy to baptize the Lord.

Venerable Anthony the Abbot of Dymsk, Novgorod

Saint Anthony of Dymsk was born at Novgorod about the year 1157. Once in church he heard the words of Christ: “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Mt.16:24), the saint resolved to leave the world and receive monastic tonsure under Saint Barlaam of Khutyn (November 6) at his monastery.

When he was dying, Saint Barlaam appointed Saint Anthony as igumen in his place; but Anthony, shunning glory, left the monastery and settled at the shores of Lake Dyma, on the outskirts of the city of Tikhvin. Here he founded a monastery and struggled there until the end of his own life.

According to Tradition, Saint Anthony made a journey to Constantinople, and returned to his monastery on the day that the igumen Barlaam died. Saint Anthony fell asleep in the Lord on June 24, 1224. In the year 1330 his relics were found incorrupt, and from that time they were glorified by many miracles.

Saint Anthony of Dymsk is also commemorated on January 17.

Righteous Youths John and Jacob (James) of Meniugi

The Righteous Youths James and John of Meniugi were brothers by birth, children of the pious couple Isidore and Barbara. They were killed by miscreants (James at three years of age, and John at five years of age).

Between the years 1682-1689 their relics were found incorrupt and were placed in a reliquary at the Trinity church in Meniugi village, Novgorod diocese, on the site of the former Trinity monastery.

Seven Martyred Brothers: Orentius, Pharnacius, Eros, Firmus, Firminus, Cyriacus, and Longinus, in Georgia

The Seven Martyred Brothers Orentius, Pharnacius, Eros, Firmus, Firminus, Cyriacus and Longinus were Roman soldiers. During the reign of Maximian (284-305) the Scythians attacked the Greeks. Saint Orentius was ordered to fight against the Scythian champion Marothom, who was distinguished for his special strength of body. He was also a strong and brave warrior. Orentius was a Christian, as were his six brothers, who were also serving in the imperial army. Calling on the Lord for help, Saint Orentius defeated Marothom and so stopped the invasion of the Scythians.

The emperor intended to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods for this victory and he invited the victor, Saint Orentius, to participate. The saint refused, explaining that he was a Christian, and said that he vanquished the enemy by the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. Neither the promise of honors and riches, nor threats of punishment could induce the saint to renounce Christ. The fierce and ungrateful emperor gave orders to banish both the saint and his six brothers to the Caucasus. During the journey all seven brothers died from hunger or torture.

The first to die was Saint Eros on June 22 at Parembol; after him Saint Orentius suffered martyrdom. They tied a stone around his neck and cast him into the sea. The Archangel Raphael took him from the water to dry land at Riza, on the south shore of the Black Sea, where the holy martyr surrendered his soul to God. Saint Pharnacius went to the Lord on July 3 at Kordila.

Saints Firmus and Firminus died on July 7 at Aspara, on the eastern shore of the Black Sea. Saint Cyriacus departed this transitory life at Ziganeia on July 14, and Saint Longinus died on the ship on July 28. Battered by a storm, the ship went aground at Pitindeia (Pitsunda), where the body of the holy martyr was buried.

St. Athanasius Parios

Saint Athanasius Parios, the distinguished theologian and great teacher of the Greek nation, was born in the village of Kostos on the island of Paros around 1721—1722. His father, Apostolos Toulios, was from Siphnos, and his mother was a native of Paros.

The future saint was a leading member of the Kollyvades movement which began on Mount Athos in the middle of the eighteenth century. The movement derives its name from the koliva (boiled wheat) which is used during memorial services. Its proponents were Athonite monks who adhered strictly to holy Tradition, and were opposed to unwarranted innovations. They were in favor of the frequent reception of Holy Communion, and they practiced unceasing prayer of the heart. They insisted that memorial services should not be performed on Sundays, because that is the day of the Lord’s Resurrection. In the Orthodox Church Saturday is the usual day for the commemoration of the dead.

Saint Athanasius went to Mount Athos in 1752. There he was ordained to the holy priesthood by Saint Macarius of Corinth (April 17), but was forced to leave the Holy Mountain when some of the monks rose in opposition to the Kollyvades. The righteous one was unjustly slandered for his views on frequent Communion and for his opposition to memorial services on Sundays.

As the result of personal attacks and intrigues against him, Saint Athanasius was suspended from exercising his priestly office from 1776—1781, and was even accused of being a heretic. When the charges against him were later proven to be absurd and unfounded, his suspension was lifted, and he was restored to his former rank.

Saint Athanasius knew and influenced many of his fellow Kollyvades, such as Saint Macarius of Corinth, Saint Nicephorus of Chios (May 1), Saint Arsenius of Paros (January 31), and Saint Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain (July 14). He taught Saint Nicephorus, and he encouraged Saint Nicodemus to publish a collection of the writings of Saint Gregory Palamas (November 14). Unfortunately, his manuscript was lost before it could be printed.

After teaching at the Athonias Academy and in Thessalonica, Saint Athanasius journeyed to the island of Chios in 1788, where he taught in the gymnasium for twenty-five years, and also served as Director of schools. He was a leading educator and distinguished theologian who revived the art of eloquent speech on Chios by teaching logic, rhetoric, metaphysics, and theology. His TREATISE ON RHETORIC, an analysis of some of the orations of Demosthenes, was a most influential work.

Saint Athanasius wrote many other useful books and treatises on various topics such as A HANDBOOK OF APOLOGETICS, “The Great Blessing of Water,” “On the Second Sunday of Great Lent,” “The Kneeling Prayers on Pentecost,” “On the Holy Icons,” “On Memorial Services,” “On the New Martyrs,” “On the Angels and Divine Beauty,” as well as numerous letters dealing with diverse subjects. His most important book was the EPITOME, which deals with Orthodox dogma.

Saint Athanasius was also a prolific writer of saints’ Lives and of liturgical services in their honor. He wrote the lives of Saint Mark the New (June 5) and Saint Macarius of Corinth, among others. He also wrote the Preface for the NEW LEIMONARION (New Spiritual Meadow), a collection of saints’ lives and services begun by Saint Macarius, with additional material contributed by Saint Nicephorus of Chios and by Saint Athanasius himself.

Saint Athanasius retired as Director of schools in 1812, and went to join Saint Nicephorus at the Hermitage of Saint George at Resta, Chios where he spent his final days. He departed to the Lord on June 24, 1813 at the age of ninety.

Saint Athanasius was very zealous for the teachings of Christ and His Church, and patiently endured persecution and suffering during his life because of his beliefs. Since he was opposed to the so-called Age of Enlightenment and fought against the “progressive” spirit of his time, he was censured by some of his contemporaries. Although his detractors enjoyed a certain fame during their lifetime, they are all but forgotten today. On the other hand, Saint Athanasius has been glorified by God and was officially recognized as a saint of the Orthodox Church in 1995.

Venerable Barlaam of Khutin

In Slavonic practice, Saint Barlaam is commemorated during the Proskomedia along with the venerable and God-bearing Fathers who shone forth in asceticism (sixth particle).

Saint Barlaam is also commemorated on November 6 and February 10.