Lives of all saints commemorated on June 30


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. Saint 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, Saint 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 Saint Innocent Veniaminov (March 31 and October 6) and Saint 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 Saint 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.

Saint 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, Saint 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.

Saint 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. Saint 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.

Saint 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 Saint Nicholas Cathedral in New York on March 13, 1904. As Bishop of Brooklyn, Saint Raphael was a trusted and capable assistant to Saint Tikhon in his archpastoral ministry. Saint 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. Saints John Kochurov (October 31) and Alexander Hotovitzky (December 4 and August 7) both served the Church in North America before going back to Russia. Saint John became the first clergyman to be martyred in Russia on October 31, 1917 in Saint Petersburg. Saint 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.


Synaxis of the Holy, Glorious and All-Praised Twelve Apostles

The Synaxis of the Glorious and All-Praiseworthy Twelve Apostles of Christ appears to be an ancient Feast. The Church honors each of the Twelve Apostles on separate dates during the year, and has established a general commemoration for all of them on the day after the commemoration of the Glorious and First-Ranked among the Apostles Peter and Paul.

The holy God-crowned Emperor Constantine the Great (May 21) built a church in Constantinople in honor of the Twelve Apostles. There are instructions for celebrating this Feast which date from the fourth century. For lists of the Apostles’ names, see: Mt.10:2, Mark 3:14, Luke 6:12, Acts 1:13, 26.

The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle Andrew the First-called is also commemorated on November 30. He was the brother of Saint Peter (June 29).

The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle James is also commemorated on April 30. He and his brother John are the sons of Zebedee, and were called “sons of Thunder” (Mark 3: 17).

The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle and Evangelist, virgin, and beloved friend of Christ, John the Theologian is also commemorated on September 26 and May 8. He and his brother James are the sons of Zebedee, and were called “sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17).

The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle Philip is also commemorated on November 14.

The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle Bartholomew is also commemorated on June 11 and August 25.

The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle Thomas is also commemorated on October 6 and on the Sunday after Pascha.

The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle and Evangelist Matthew is also commemorated on November 16.

The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle James, the son of Alphaeus, is also commemorated on October 9.

The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle Jude is also commemorated on June 19. He is also known as Thaddeus (but should not be confused with Saint Thaddeus of the Seventy, who is commemorated on August 21), and was the brother of Saint James (October 23).

The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle Simon the Zealot is also commemorated on May 10.

The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle Matthias is also commemorated on August 9.


St. Peter the Prince of Ordinsk, Rostov

Saint Peter, Prince of the Horde, was the nephew of Bergai Khan of the Golden Horde. In the year 1253 Saint Cyril, Bishop of Rostov (May 21), went to the Horde to petition for church needs in his diocese and he told the khan about the Christian Faith, and of the miracles and healings worked by the relics of Saint Leontius of Rostov (May 23). Among the retinue was the young nephew of the khan, upon whom the holy bishop made a very strong impression. After some length of time the son of Bergai fell ill. Remembering the account of the Russian bishop about the healings, he summoned Saint Cyril, and through his prayers the sick one was healed. The khan richly rewarded Saint Cyril and sent him off to his diocese.

Along the way the lad, the nephew of Bergai Khan, overtook the holy hierarch, and entreated him to take him along to Rostov. At Rostov the boy was baptized with the name Peter, and he married. Saint Peter distinguished himself with a love for silence, contemplation, and prayer. After a miraculous appearance to him of the Apostles Peter and Paul he built a monastery near Lake Nera in their honor. After the death of his wife, shortly before his own death in 1290, the saint embraced monasticism at the monastery he had founded.

Local veneration of the holy Prince Peter began in the fourteenth century. A general celebration was established at the Council of 1547.


Translation of the relics of St Sophronius the Bishop of Irkutsk

Saint Sophronius, Bishop of Irkutsk and All Siberia, reposed on March 30, 1771, the second day of Holy Pascha. While they awaited a decision of the Holy Synod concerning the burial, his body remained unburied for six months, and during this time it was not subject to decay. Then, in view of this circumstance, and also knowing about the strict ascetic life of Saint Sophronius, the flock began to venerate him as a saint of God. Frequently (in 1833, 1854, 1870, 1909) his relics were seen to be incorrupt, and a source of grace-filled miracles. A fire occurring on April 18, 1917 at the Theophany Cathedral at Irkutsk left only the bones of the holy bishop. This did not diminish, but on the contrary, it increased the reverent veneration of the saint by the faithful of the nation.

A local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in its deliberations of April 10/23, 1918 decided to glorify Bishop Sophronius, numbering him among the holy saints of God. This solemnity of adding Saint Sophronius to the list of the saints was done on June 30. At a second session of this Council under the presidency of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon (now Saint Tikhon) a Service to Saint Sophronius was approved, with a Troparion composed by Archbishop John, who at that time guided the Irkutsk diocese, so that all believers would have the possibility of adding prayer to the holy saint into the voice of the Siberian churches, deeply venerating the memory of their illuminator and intercessor.

And at the present time believers turn for help to Saint Sophronius. Prayers witness to this, having been composed on the day of the 40th year celebration of the glorification of the holy hierarch on July 13,1958, by Metropolitan Nestor (Anisimov), then Metropolitan of Novosibirsk and Barnaulsk, and a solemn feast of the 200 year anniversary of the day of death of Saint Sophronius took place at the Zolotonoshsk Krasnogorsk women’s monastery and in the Irkutsk diocese (Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, 1971, No. 9), and he is venerated by all believers of the Russian Orthodox Church.


Icon of the Mother of God of Balikin

The Balikin Icon of the Mother of God is from the Chernigov Province. The child Christ is clothed only around the waist, and rests in His Mother’s arms. The hands of the Theotokos are joined in prayer.


St. Gelasius of Rimet

Saint Gelasius was the igumen of the Rimet Monastery in Transylvania. He had lived as a solitary near Rimet creek, and he was granted the grace of working miracles.

The saint fasted on weekdays, eating only on Saturdays and Sundays, and his only food was the Eucharist. During the day he fulfilled his monastic obediences, and at night he kept vigil.

St Gelasius was the spiritual Father of many hermits of Rimet Mountain, whom he would visit during Great Lent. He healed the sick, and cast out demons from those who were possessed. It is said that a spring of water appeared through his holy prayers.

His later years were spent as a bishop, and he departed to the Lord after many labors on behalf of his flock.

St Gelasius was glorified by the Orthodox Church of Romania in 1992.


Holy Queen Dinar

The Russian Church has preserved chronicles of the life of Queen Dinar, a woman who achieved much on behalf of the Christian Faith. For years scholars have disputed about the historical figure discussed in great depth in the Russian Church. Many believed that the sources described Holy Queen Tamar, but the period of Tamar’s rule does not match that of the figure described in the chronicles. The Georgian chronicle Life of Kartli, however, has preserved information about a certain Dinar, Queen of Hereti (southeastern Georgia), who, along with her son Ishkhanik, converted Hereti to the Orthodox Faith and delivered its people from the Monophysite heresy in the 10th century. Queen Dinar’s story resembles that recounted in the Russian Chronicles more closely than any other.

According to the Armenian historian Moses of Kalankaytuk, Slavic tribes that carried out incursions in the southernmost Caucasus often journeyed through the Transcaucasus, and it was with these tribes that the story of Queen Dinar made its way to Russia. The Georgian Church renders great honor to Holy Queen Dinar. As a result of her zealous labors and achievements, a large part of the eastern Transcaucasus was saved from the Monophysite heresy that dominated the region.

Today, on the north wall of the Throne Hall in the Moscow Kremlin, there hangs an image of Holy Queen Dinar mounted on a white horse, victorious over the enemy.