Such inquiries gave root to this project where each of the twenty four icons is portrayed below accompanied by a biography of the saint. The saints are predominately from the Old Testament but have definite influence on our Orthodox Faith of today. We hope that this entry on our website will be of interest to you as well as educational and inspirational.
Eve was Adam's companion, his helper, the one who would complete him and share equally in his responsibility over creation. She too was made in God's image, displaying a portion of the characteristics of God. Together only could Adam and Eve fulfill God's purpose in the continuation of creation. With Eve, God brought human relationship, friendship and marriage into the world.
Eve was made in the image of God, and to be a helper to Adam. Together she and Adam would fulfill God's purpose in multiplying God's creation of humankind on the Earth.
Eve was tempted by Satan when he got her to doubt God's goodness, by focusing on the one thing she couldn't have. She forgot all of the good things God had blessed her with in the garden. She became discontented, feeling sorry for herself, because she could not share in God's knowledge of good and evil. Eve allowed Satan to subvert her trust in God.
Although she shared a close relationship with God and her husband, Eve failed to consult either one of them when confronted with Satan's suggestions. She acted impulsively, independent of her authority. Once entangled in sin, she invited her husband to join her. Like Adam, when confronted with her sin, Eve blamed someone else (Satan), instead of taking personal responsibility for what she had done.
We learn from Eve that women share in God's image. There are feminine qualities to the character of God. God's purpose for creation could not be fulfilled without the equal participation of "womankind." Just like we learned from Adam's life, Eve also teaches us that God wants us to freely choose to follow and obey him out of love. Nothing we do is hidden from God. Likewise, it does not benefit us to blame others for our own failings. We must accept personal responsibility for what we do.
Adam was the first man on earth, and for a short time he lived alone. He had no childhood, no parents, no family and no friends. Perhaps Adam's loneliness moved God to quickly present him with a companion, Eve. Before God created Eve, he had given Adam the Garden of Eden. It was his to enjoy, but he also had the full responsibility of taking care of it. Adam knew that one tree was off-limits, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Adam would have taught Eve the rules of the garden. Even though she knew it was forbidden to eat the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden, when Satan tempted her, Eve was deceived. When she offered the fruit to Adam, the fate of the world was on his shoulders. As they ate the fruit in that one act of rebellion, man's independence and disobedience separated him from God.
But God already had a plan in place to deal with man's sin. The Bible is the story of God's plan for man. Adam is "our" beginning, and we are all his descendants.
God chose Adam to name the animals, making him the first zoologist. He was also the first landscaper and horticulturist, responsible to work the garden and care for the plants. He was the first man, the father of humankind. He was the only man without a mother and a father.
Adam was made in the image of God and shared a close relationship with his Creator.
We see that Adam avoided his God-given responsibility. He blamed Eve and made excuses for himself when he committed a sin. He hid from God in shame, rather than facing his error and admitting the truth.
We see from Adam's life that God wants us to freely choose to follow and obey him out of love. We also learn that nothing we do is hidden from God. Likewise, it does not benefit us to blame others for our own failings. We must accept personal responsibility.
Melchizedek was one of those puzzling people in the Bible who appear only briefly but are mentioned again as examples of holiness and right living.
His name means "king of righteousness," and his title King of Salem also means "king of peace."
The startling fact about Melchizedek is that although he was not a Jew, he worshiped God Most High, the one true God. Melchizedek blessed Abram, later to be renamed Abraham, after Abram rescued his nephew Lot from enemy captivity and brought back other people and goods. Abram honored Melchizedek by giving him one tenth of the plunder of battle, or a tithe. Melchizedek's graciousness is contrasted with the rudeness of the King of Sodom.
God revealed himself to Abraham, but we don't know how Melchizedek learned of the true God. Monotheism, or worship of one god, was rare in the ancient world. Most of the people worshiped several gods. Some even had dozens of local or household gods, which were represented by man made idols.
The Bible does not shed any light on Melchizedek's religious rituals either, except to mention that he brought out "bread and wine" for Abram. This act and Melchizedek's holiness have led some scholars to describe him as a type of Christ, one of those Bible people who show the same qualities as Jesus Christ, Savior of the World. With no record of father or mother, and no genealogical background in Scripture, this description is fitting. Other scholars go a step further, theorizing that Melchizedek may have been a theophany of Christ, or a manifestation of deity in temporary form.
Understanding Jesus' status as our high priest is a key point in the book of Hebrews. Just as Melchizedek was not born into the Levitical priesthood but was appointed by God, so Jesus was named our eternal high priest, interceding with God the Father on our behalf:
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5:8-10, )
Melchizedek lived a holy and righteous life. He recognized Abram as a follower of the true God and blessed him.
In an era of paganism and idolatry, Melchizedek clung to God Most High and served him faithfully. Many "gods" compete for our attention, but there is only one true God. He is worthy of our worship and obedience. If we keep our focus on God instead of frightening circumstances, God will strengthen and encourage us so we can live a life pleasing to him.
In a world taken over by evil, violence and corruption, Noah was a righteous man. However, Noah wasn't just a righteous man, he was the only follower of God left on the earth. The Bible says he was blameless among the people of his time. It also says he walked with God. Living in a society saturated with sin and rebellion against God, Noah was the only man alive that pleased God. It's hard to imagine such unwavering faithfulness in the midst of such godlessness. Over and over again, in the account of Noah's life we read, "Noah did everything just as God commanded." His life of 950 years, exemplified obedience.
Since the wickedness of man had covered the earth like a flood, God decided to start over again with Noah and his family. Giving very specific instructions, the Lord told Noah to build an ark in preparation for a catastrophic flood that would destroy every living thing on earth. You can read a Bible story summary of Noah's Ark and the Flood here. The ark-building project took longer than the average lifespan today, yet Noah diligently accepted his calling and never wavered from it. Appropriately mentioned in the book of Hebrews "Hall of Faith," Noah was truly a hero of the Christian faith.
Noah had a weakness for wine. In Genesis 9, the Bible tells of Noah's only recorded sin. He became drunk and passed out in his tent, making himself an embarrassment to his sons.
We learn from Noah that it is possible to remain faithful and pleasing to God even in the midst of a corrupt and sinful generation. Surely it wasn't easy for Noah, but he found favor in God's eyes because of his remarkable obedience. God blessed and saved Noah, just as he will faithfully bless and protect those of us who follow and obey him today. Our call to obedience is not a short-term, one-time call. Like Noah, our obedience must be lived out over a lifetime of faithful commitment. Those who persevere will finish the race.
The story of Noah's drunken transgression reminds us that even the most godly people have weaknesses and can fall prey to temptation and sin. Our sins not only affect us, but they have a negative influence on those around us, especially our family members.
born in the city of Ur of the Chaldeans (present day Iraq). He traveled 500
miles to Haran (now southeast Turkey) with his family and stayed there until his
father's death. When God called Abraham, he moved 400 miles south to the land
of Canaan and lived there most of the rest of his days.
Abraham, the founding father of the Jewish nation of Israel, was a man of great faith and obedience to the will of God. His name in Hebrew means "father of a multitude." Originally called Abram, or "exalted father," the Lord changed his name to Abraham as a symbol of the covenant promise to multiply his descendants into a great nation that God would call his own.
Prior to this, God had already visited Abraham when he was 75, promising to bless him and make his offspring into an abundant nation of people. All Abraham had to do was obey God and do what God told him to do.
Accompanied by his wife and nephew Lot, Abraham prospered as a rancher and shepherd, as he made his new home surrounded by pagans in the Promised Land of Canaan. Still childless, however, Abraham's faith wavered in subsequent times of testing.When famine struck, rather than waiting on God for provision, he packed up and took his family to Egypt.
God tested Abraham severely in more than one instance, and Abraham demonstrated extraordinary faith, trust and obedience to the will of God. He was well-respected and successful in his occupation. He also had courage to face a powerful enemy coalition.
Isaiah the prophet lived in Jerusalem about 2700 years ago, during the time in which the Assyrian Empire conquered the northern part of the Jewish homeland. The book of Isaiah contains many prophecies that are interpreted by Christians as being about the Messiah Jesus Christ.
Below is a partial listing of Isaiah's prophecies:
Isaiah 7:14 Isaiah foreshadowed the virgin birth of Jesus:
the prophet Isaiah addresses the "house of David," meaning the family and descendants of King David, and speaks of a virgin being pregnant with a child, and giving birth to the child. Isaiah says this in the context of it being a sign from God. He also says that the child would be referred to as "Immanuel," which means, "God is with us."
Isaiah 9:6-7 There would be a son called God
Written about 700 years before the time of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah speaks of a son who would be called "Mighty God" and "Eternal Father." Isaiah also indicates that this son would reign on the throne of King David and that this reign would be everlasting. King David is the great, God-obeying king who reigned from about 1010 BC to about 970 BC. God had promised King David that the reign from David's throne would be everlasting. Christians acknowledge that this promise is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who is a descendant of King David, and whose reign is everlasting. Today, the teachings of Jesus govern the lives of as many as an estimated 2 billion Christians worldwide. The New Testament also says that Jesus will return in the future and that his kingdom will have no end. Isaiah 9:6-7: 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
Isaiah 14:23 Babylon would be reduced to
The prophet said that Babylon, which had been a world power at two different times in history, would be brought to a humble and final end. It would be reduced to swampland. After Cyrus conquered Babylon in 539 BC, the kingdom never again rose to power. The buildings of Babylon fell into a gradual state of ruin during the next several centuries. Archaeologists excavated Babylon during the 1800s. Some parts of the city could not be dug up because they were under a water table that had risen over the years. Isaiah 14:23: "I will turn her into a place for owls and into swampland; I will sweep her with the broom of destruction," declares the Lord Almighty.
Isaiah 35:4-6 He would perform miracles
Isaiah 40:1-5,9 The Messiah would be preceded by a messenger
Isaiah 45:1 Babylon's gates would open for Cyrus
The prophet said God would open the gates of Babylon for Cyrus and his attacking army. Despite Babylon's remarkable defenses, which included moats, and walls that were more than 70-feet thick and 300-feet high, and 250 watchtowers, Cyrus was able to enter the city and conquer it. Cyrus and his troops diverted the flow of the Euphrates River into a large lake basin. Cyrus then was able to march his army across the riverbed and into the city. Isaiah 45:1: "This is what the Lord says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut:
Isaiah 49:6 God's salvation would reach the ends of the earth
The prophet speaks of a servant of God who would be a light to Gentiles (non-Jews) so that God's salvation could reach the ends of the earth. Christians acknowledge that Jesus is the fulfillment of this promise. The followers of Jesus helped spread Christianity about 2000 years ago. Christianity is unique in how it was spread - through evangelism - and to the extent to which it was spread, becoming the first to be taken to people all over the world. Christians believe that salvation, forgiveness, and eternal life in heaven are available to anyone who follows Jesus Christ's teachings and as savior: "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved" (Romans 10:9-10).Isaiah 49:6: "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth."
The Lord makes it clear that even though the people of Israel are to be exiled from their land, the Lord will never forget them, and the Lord would eventually bring the exiles back to their homeland. Isaiah lived about 2700 years ago. At about that time, the Assyrians invaded the northern part of the land of Israel and had forced many of the people into exile. More than a century later, the Babylonians conquered the southern part of the land of Israel, bringing an end to sovereignty, destroying Jerusalem and the Temple, and forcing people into exile.
Despite the hardships, verses 15 and 16 remind us that the Lord will never forget the people of Israel. In fact, it says that even if a mother could forget her child, the Lord would not forget his children, for they are "engraved" on the palms of his hands. And, verses 17 and 18 show that the descendants of Israel would return, as they did after the fall of the Babylonian Empire. Isaiah 49:13-17: 13 Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. 14 But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me." 15 "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! 16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. 17 Your sons hasten back, and those who laid you waste depart from you.
The prophet writes about a servant of God who endures abuse at the hands of sinful people. This servant offers his back to those who beat him, his face to those who rip out his beard, and himself to those who mock and taunt him. Christians historically have acknowledged this Old Testament prophecy as being fulfilled by Jesus Christ. Jesus, as explained in the New Testament, was beaten, mocked and taunted shortly before his crucifixion by the Romans. In Matthew 26:67, for example, it says: Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, "Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?" Isaiah 50:6: I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.
The prophet foreshadowed the life and mission of Jesus. In Isaiah 53:3, the prophet said that a servant of God would be rejected and despised. Jesus was indeed rejected by many people living in the land of Israel, and He was later crucified. Isaiah 53:1-3: 1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
53:4-6, prophet described a servant as being punished for the sins of others,
and that others would be healed by the wounds of this person. As explained in
the New Testament - such as in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - Jesus was
crucified for our sins, and he was sinless. Christians believe that this
ultimate sacrifice redeemed us all from sin in the same way that lambs and
other animals were once sacrificed as a symbolic way of cleansing people from
sin. All of us can be accepted into the Kingdom of God, as though we were
sinless, if we accept Jesus as our savior and follow His teachings. Christians
believe that we are healed through the wounds that Jesus suffered. Isaiah 53:4-6: 4 Surely he
took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken
by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was
pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the
punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all,
like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the
LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:7 God's servant would be silent before his accusers
The prophet wrote about a servant of God. Many people believe that this was a prophecy about the life of Jesus Christ. In Isaiah 53:7, the prophet said that the servant would be afflicted and accused, and that he would remain silent like a lamb being led to slaughter. As explained in Matthew 27:12-14, which was recorded about 700 years after the time of Isaiah, this is what happened to Jesus. He was falsely accused but remained silent and did not protest the accusations. Jesus was crucified a short time later. Isaiah 53:7: He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
The prophet Isaiah wrote about a sinless servant being put to death with the wicked and buried with the rich. Jesus was put to death along with two criminals and was buried in a tomb owned by a wealthy man, as explained in the New Testament. The New Testament also says that Jesus was resurrected three days later and ascended into Heaven. Isaiah 53:9: He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
The prophet wrote about a servant who would bear the sins of others and be punished side-by-side with criminals. Christians acknowledge that Isaiah's description of this servant was a prophecy that was fulfilled during the life of Jesus Christ. As explained in the book of Matthew, Jesus, though sinless, was "numbered with the transgressors" and crucified along with two criminals. Isaiah 53:12: Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
The Holy Martyr Longinus the
Centurion, a Roman soldier, served in Judea under the command of the Governor,
Pontius Pilate. When our Savior Jesus Christ was crucified, it was the
detachment of soldiers under the command of Longinus which stood watch on Golgotha,
at the very foot of the holy Cross. Longinus and his soldiers were eyewitnesses
of the final moments of the earthly life of the Lord, and of the great and
awesome portents that appeared at His death. These events shook the centurion's
soul. Longinus believed in Christ and confessed before everyone, "Truly
this was the Son of God" (Mt. 27:54).
According to Church Tradition, Longinus was the soldier who pierced the side of the Crucified Savior with a spear, and received healing from an eye affliction when blood and water poured forth from the wound.
After the Crucifixion and Burial of the Savior, Longinus stood watch with his company at the Sepulchre of the Lord. These soldiers were present at the All-Radiant Resurrection of Christ. The Jews bribed them to lie and say that His disciples had stolen away the Body of Christ, but Longinus and two of his comrades refused to be seduced by the Jewish gold. They also refused to remain silent about the miracle of the Resurrection.
Having come to believe in the Savior, the soldiers received Baptism from the apostles and decided to leave military service. St Longinus left Judea to preach about Jesus Christ the Son of God in his native land (Cappadocia), and his two comrades followed him.
The fiery words of those who had actually participated in the great events in Judea swayed the hearts and minds of the Cappadocians; Christianity began quickly to spread throughout the city and the surrounding villages. When they learned of this, the Jewish elders persuaded Pilate to send a company of soldiers to Cappadocia to kill Longinus and his comrades. When the soldiers arrived at Longinus's village, the former centurion himself came out to meet the soldiers and took them to his home. After a meal, the soldiers revealed the purpose of their visit, not knowing that the master of the house was the very man whom they were seeking. Then Longinus and his friends identified themselves and told the startled soldiers to carry out their duty.
The soldiers wanted to let the saints go and advised them to flee, but they refused to do this, showing their firm intention to suffer for Christ. The holy martyrs were beheaded, and their bodies were buried at the place where the saints were martyred. The head of St Longinus, however, was sent to Pilate.
Pilate gave orders to cast the martyr's head on a trash-heap outside the city walls. After a while a certain blind widow from Cappadocia arrived in Jerusalem with her son to pray at the holy places, and to ask that her sight be restored. After becoming blind, she had sought the help of physicians to cure her, but all their efforts were in vain.
The woman's son became ill shortly after reaching Jerusalem, and he died a few days later. The widow grieved for the loss of her son, who had served as her guide.
St Longinus appeared to her in a dream and comforted her. He told her that she would see her son in heavenly glory, and also receive her sight. He told her to go outside the city walls and there she would find his head in a great pile of refuse. Guides led the blind woman to the rubbish heap, and she began to dig with her hands. As soon as she touched the martyr's head, the woman received her sight, and she glorified God and St Longinus.
Taking up the head, she brought it to the place she was staying and washed it. The next night, St Longinus appeared to her again, this time with her son. They were surrounded by a bright light, and St Longinus said, Woman, behold the son for whom you grieve. See what glory and honor are his now, and be consoled. God has numbered him with those in His heavenly Kingdom. Now take my head and your son's body, and bury them in the same casket. Do not weep for your son, for he will rejoice forever in great glory and happiness."
The woman carried out the saint's instructions and returned to her home in Cappadocia. There she buried her son and the head of St Longinus. Once, she had been overcome by grief for her son, but her weeping was transformed into joy when she saw him with St Longinus. She had sought healing for her eyes, and also received healing of her soul.
Prophet Zacharias and Elizabeth:
The prophet Zacharias was the son of Barachias, a priest of the Old Testament. He performed the priest’s office in Jerusalem during the reign of Herod, and was of the daily course of Aiba. His duty was to burn incense in the temple, while performing the priest’s office before God.
On one occasion, a large crowd of people was gathered to pray when an angel of the Lord appeared before him, standing on the right side of the altar. When Zacharias saw him he was afraid, but the angel spoke to him saying, “Fear, not Zacharias,” and comforted him by assuring him that his prayer was well pleasing to God and it had inclined God to a great act of mercy: He visited Zacharias’ wife Elizabeth and loosed the bonds of her barrenness. She would give birth to a son who shall be called John, whose name signifies grace. His birth would make a multitude of people rejoice. Furthermore, the angel said that John would be filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb and that he would turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.
W hen Zacharias heard the word of the angel, he did not believe what he had been told, for Elizabeth was barren and they were both old. Zacharias said to the angel, “Whereby shall I know this? For I am an old man and my wife is well stricken in years.” The angel answered, “I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to show thee these glad tidings. And, behold, thou shall be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things be performed, because thou believes not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.” Zacharias waited in the altar as he spoke with the angel causing the people to wonder. When he came out he could not speak, and the people understood that he had seen a vision in the temple. He departed for his own house in Hebron, a city of Judah.
T hen the prophecy was fulfilled and John was born from Elizabeth. After Zacharias had written John’s name on a writing tablet, his mouth was opened and his tongue was immediately loosed, and he spoke, praising God and was filled with the Holy Spirit.
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem and the Magi came from the East, they told Herod of the newborn king. Herod sent soldiers to slay all the children in Bethlehem, and remembering John, for he had been informed of all that had occurred at John’s birth, since everyone who lived in the country spoke of the wonder, Herod laid up all he had in his heart concerning John, saying, “What manner of child shall this be? Will this child be the King of the Jews?” He decided to kill John and sent executioners to Zacharias’ house. The executioners did not find John there and the slaughter of children began. When Elizabeth heard these cries and the reason for them, she took John and fled into the mountains. At this time Zacharias was serving as a priest in Jerusalem. When she saw soldiers drawing near, she prayed to God and cried out to the rocky mount nearby and said, “O mountain of God, receive a mother and her child!” Immediately the mountain was split and she entered hiding herself and John from the executioners. The soldiers returned to Herod, having not found the child, and Herod sent word to Zacharias in the temple saying, “ Surrender your son John to me.” Saint Zacharias replied, “I serve the Lord God of Israel. As for my son, I do not know where he is.”
Herod was enraged and sent word to Zacharias again ordering that he be killed if he did not surrender his son. The executioners made haste and demanded of Zacharias, “Where have you hidden your son? Give him to us and obey the King’s command! If you do not give us your son, you shall be put to death immediately.” Saint Zacharias replied, “You will kill my body, but the Lord will receive my soul.” The executioners straightway fulfilled Herod’s command and fell upon Zacharias between the temple and the altar. His blood was spilt on the floor and became hardened like rock as a testimony against Herod and a witness to his eternal condemnation. He is remembered on the 5th of September.
The name Elizabeth, which has been borne by several saints, means in Hebrew "worshiper of God." All that we know of Elizabeth, wife of Zachary and mother of John the Baptist, is to be found in the book of Luke. A descendant of the priestly line of Aaron, she was a kinswoman—how close we are not told—of the Virgin Mary. According to the Gospel, Elizabeth had lived a blameless life with her husband in one of the hill-towns of Judea. Having reached an advanced age with her prayers for a son unanswered, she thought that her barrenness was a reproach. One day, while Zachary was serving in the temple, the Angel Gabriel appeared at the right of the altar, and announced that a son would be born to Elizabeth. It was in the sixth month of her pregnancy that the Virgin Mary came to visit her—a touching and beautiful scene pictured by many great artists. The Angel Gabriel, having lately announced to Mary the destiny that awaited her, also told her that her kinswoman Elizabeth was with child. The Virgin Mary, eager to share in Elizabeth's happiness and to confide that she too would bear a child, traveled down the dusty road from Nazareth. On Mary's arrival, she was amazed when Elizabeth, having foreseen knowledge, greeted her as "mother of my Lord." Elizabeth's salutation was in these words: "Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And how have I deserved that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, the moment that the sound of thy greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who has believed, because the things promised her by the Lord shall be accomplished." The Gospel story tells us further that at Elizabeth's delivery her friends and neighbors rejoiced with her, and when the child was brought to be circumcised, they were going to call him after his father Zachary, but his mother said, "His name shall be John."
According to the witness of Holy Scripture, the old Simeon was a man “just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Ghost was upon him.” (Luke 2, 25). From God, Simeon had been foretold about the coming of the True Messiah. Ancient historians teach us the following about Saint Simeon.
The great and divinely inspired work of translating the Old Testament Books from the Hebrew to the Greek language was begun by Ptolemy Philadelphus, King of Egypt (Seventy-two (sometimes referred to as 70) Hebrew elders from the twelve tribes of Israel were selected for the work of translation. Each Hebrew elder was a teacher of Mosaic Law, a Scriptural Scholar, and proficient in both the Greek and Hebrew languages. These divinely inspired men brought forth the Septuagint version of the Old Testament. Among these scholars who translated the Books of the Old Testament into Greek on the island of Pharos, near the city of Alexandria was the elder Simeon.
While translating the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, Simeon came to the words; “Behold a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son” (Isaiah 7, 14). Reading them, he became confused, thinking that it was impossible for a Virgin without husband to give birth. Simeon took a knife and was ready to erase the word — Virgin — and substitute the word — wife. At this time an angel of God appeared, held Simeon’s hand and said:
“Have faith in the written word, and you yourself will see its fulfillment. You will not die until you yourself see the one who is to be born of a pure Virgin — the Lord Christ.”
With a strong belief in the prophetical words of the angel, Simeon impatiently waited the coming to earth of the Anointed One. For many, many years he led a righteous and immaculate life, avoiding all temptation and evil. Daily he prayed at the Temple that God would grant peace and mercy on His earth and save mankind from the all-vain Devil. His eyes gazed upon many infants who were brought to the Temple Forty Days after birth according to the Law of Moses (Exodus 13, 2). With all the infirmities of old age, and perhaps even a wish for release, Simeon continued to believe, and hope, and pray.
Forty Days after Christmas, Saints Mary and Joseph carried the Infant Jesus from Bethlehem to Jerusalem to present Him in thanksgiving at the Temple. When Simeon saw the Eternal Infant, he immediately recognized the predicted Messiah; and here at last stood she through whom the prophecy of Isaiah was accomplished. Seeing the Holy Family surrounded by a heavenly glow and crowned by a Godly light, Simeon with fear and joy came forth, received the God-Infant, and while carrying Him exclaimed: “Lord now lettest thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word; for mine eves have seen Thy Salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people: a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.” (Luke 2, 29-32).
After this Simeon foretold the Passion of Christ, the Crucifixion, and the sorrow of the Theotokos seeing her Son on the Cross. (Luke 2, 34-35). He soon fell asleep in the Lord at an age likened to the patriarchs of the first biblical era. God had willed that he should live to the moment awaited for many ages — the birth of the Ageless Son from a Virgin to Whom be glory forever. Amen.
Saints Joachim and Ann
|The holy and righteous Joachim and Anna are the parents of the Theotokos and the grandparents of Jesus Christ.|
St. Joachim was of the tribe of Judah, and a descendant of King David. St. Anna was the daughter of Matthan the priest, of the tribe of Levi as was Aaron the High Priest. Matthan had three daughters: Mary, Zoia and Anna. Mary was married in Bethlehem and bore Salome; Zoia was also married in Bethlehem and bore Elizabeth, the mother of St. John the Forerunner (Baptist); and Anna was married in Nazareth to Joachim, and in old age gave birth to the Theotokos .
Sts. Joachim and Anna had been married for fifty years, and were barren. They lived devoutly and quietly, using only a third of their income for themselves and giving a third to the poor and a third to the Temple. Joachim had done this since he was 15-years-old, and God multiplied his flocks, so the couple was well provided for. They longed for a child but remained childless into their old age. When they were in Jerusalem to offer sacrifice to God, the High Priest, Issachar, upbraided Joachim, "You are not worthy to offer sacrifice with those childless hands." Others who had children jostled Joachim, thrusting him back as unworthy. In despair, he consulted the geneological records of the tribes of Israel and discovered every righteous man in the nation had been blessed with children, except him. This caused the aged saint great grief, and he and his wife left with heavy hearts. Then the two of them gave themselves to prayer to God that He would work in them the wonder that He had worked in Abraham and Sarah, and give them a child to comfort their old age.
St. Joachim took his flocks and went to a high mountain, refusing to return home in shame. Meanwhile, St. Anna prayed in her garden. God sent the Archangel Gabriel to each of them, who gave them tidings of the birth of "a daughter most blessed, by whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed, and through whom will come the salvation of the world." Each promised to have their child raised in the Temple as a holy vessel of God. The archangel told St. Joachim to return home, where he would find his wife waiting for him in the city gate. St. Anna he told to wait at the gate. When they saw one another, they embraced, and this image is the traditional icon of their feast.
St. Anna conceived shortly thereafter, and in the ninth month gave birth to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Sts. Joachim and Anna took Mary, at the age of three, to the temple to be dedicated to the service of the Lord, and presented her to the priest Zechariahs. The parents then, after offering up her sacrifice (according to the custom of the time), left the Virgin with other maidens in the apartments of the temple to be brought up therein.
Saint John the Baptist (Forerunner)
St John the Forerunner, the cousin of Christ and last of the prophets.
The glorious Prophet and Forerunner John the Baptist is also referred to as John the Forerunner because he was the forerunner of Christ. He was an ascetic and great prophet, who baptized Christ and became one of the most revered saints in the Orthodox Church. John is a cousin of Christ through his mother Elizabeth who was the daughter of Zoia. Zoia is the sister of Christ's grandmother. He was later beheaded by Herod in the first century to satisfy the request of Herod's stepdaughter, Salome, and wife Herodias. Because he baptized Christ, he is the patron saint of godparents. He is sometimes called the Angel of the Desert; because of this title, he is sometimes depicted with wings.
Isaiah 40:3-5 is commonly read as a prophecy of John. His father, Zacharias, was a priest of the course of Abia (1 Chr. 24:10), and his mother, Elizabeth, was of the daughters of Aaron (Luke 1:5). John held the priesthood of Aaron, giving him the authority to perform baptisms of God.
His birth took place six months before that of Jesus, and according to the Gospel account was expected by prophecy (Matt. 3:3; Isa. 40:3; Mal. 3:1) and foretold by an angel. Zacharias lost his power of speech because of his unbelief over the birth of his son, and had it restored on the occasion of John's circumcision (Luke 1:64).
John was a Nazarite from his birth (Luke 1:15; Num. 6:1-12). He spent his early years in the mountainous tract of Judea lying between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea (Matt. 3:1-12). He led a simple life, wearing rope (gamla) fiber clothing and eating "locusts and wild honey" (Matt. 3:4).
As an adult John started to preach in public, and people from "every quarter" were attracted to his message. The essence of his preaching was the necessity of repentance and turning away from selfish pursuits. He denounced the Sadducees and Pharisees as a "generation of vipers," and warned them not to assume their heritage gave them special privilege (Luke 3:8). He warned tax collectors and soldiers against extortion and plunder. His doctrine and manner of life stirred interest, bringing people from all parts to see him on the banks of the Jordan River. There he baptized thousands unto repentance.
The fame of John reached the ears of Jesus in Nazareth (Matt. 3:5), and he came from Galilee to Jordan to be baptized by John, on the special ground that it became him to "fulfill all righteousness" (Matt. 3:15). John's special office ceased with the baptism of Jesus, who must now "increase" as the King come to his kingdom. He continued, however, for a while to bear testimony to the Messiahship of Jesus. He pointed him out to his disciples, saying, "Behold the Lamb of God." His public ministry was suddenly (after about six months probably) brought to a close by his being cast into prison by Herod, whom he had reproved for the sin of having taken to himself the wife of his brother Philip (Luke 3:19). He was shut up in the castle of Machaerus, a fortress on the southern extremity of Peraea, 9 miles east of the Dead Sea, and here he was beheaded at the instigation of Herodias; later tradition also implicates Salomé. His disciples, having consigned the headless body to the grave, went and told Jesus all that had occurred (Matt. 14:3-12). John's death occurred apparently just before the third Passover of Jesus' ministry.
Jesus himself testified regarding John that he was a "burning and a shining light" (John 5:35). John was the last of the Old Testament prophets, thus serving as a bridge figure between that period of revelation and Jesus. They also embrace a tradition that, following his death, John descended into Hell and there once more preached that Jesus the Messiah was coming.
The book of Job tells the story of an extremely righteous man named Job, who was very prosperous and had seven sons and three daughters. Constantly fearing that his sons may have sinned and "cursed God in their hearts", he habitually offered burnt offerings as a pardon for their sins. The "sons of God" and Satan (literally "the adversary") present themselves to God, and God asks Satan his opinion on Job. Satan answers that Job is pious only because God has put a "wall around" him and "blessed" his favourite servant with prosperity, but if God were to stretch out his hand and strike everything that Job had, then he would surely curse God. God gives Satan permission to test Job's righteousness.
All of Job's possessions are destroyed; the 500 yoke of oxen and 500 donkeys carried off by Sabeans, the 7000 sheep were burned up by 'The fire of God which fell from the sky,' the 3000 camels were stolen by the Chaldeans and the house of the firstborn collapsed, due to a mighty wind, killing all of Job's offspring, but Job does not curse God but instead shaves his head, tears his clothes and says, "Naked I came out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return: Lord has given, and Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of Lord."
As Job endures these calamities without reproaching God, Satan solicits permission to afflict his person as well, and God says, "Behold, he is in your hand, but don't touch his life." Satan, therefore, smites him with dreadful boils, and Job, seated in ashes, scrapes his skin with broken pottery. His wife prompts him to "curse God, and die" but Job answers, "You speak as one of the foolish speaks. Moreover, shall we receive good from God and shall not receive evil?"
Three friends of Job, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, come to console him. (A fourth, Elihu the Buzite (Heb: Alieua ben Barakal the Buzite), begins talking in Chapter 32 and plays a significant role in the dialogue, but his arrival is not described). The friends spend seven days sitting on the ground with Job, without saying anything to him because they see that he is suffering and in much pain. Job at last breaks his silence and "curses the day he was born."
God responds saying that there are so many things Job does not know about how this world was formed or how nature works, that Job should consider God as being greater than the thunderstorm and strong enough to pull in the leviathan with a fishhook. God then rebukes the three friends and says, "I am angry with you....you have not spoken of me what is right."
The story ends with Job restored to health, with a new family and twice as much livestock.
King David, perhaps the greatest ruler of Israel and ancestor of the Lord.
The holy and righteous King David was the second king of all Israel, after Saul, around approximately 1000 B.C. He was also a prophet, having written a great number of the Psalms, and one of the Forefathers of Christ. The Church commemorates him together with all the ancestors of Christ on the Sunday of the Forefathers (December 11-17, depending on the day on which the Nativity falls) and also on the first Sunday after the Nativity, along with Joseph the Betrothed and the Apostle James the Just.
David was born in Bethlehem as the eighth and youngest son of Jesse. After Saul's disobedience to God (see 1 Sam 15), the Lord ordered the Prophet Samuel to Bethlehem to visit Jesse and anoint one of his son's as the new king. As the youngest, David was left in the fields to tend the sheep while the holy man was visiting his father; however, the Lord revealed to Samuel that none of the first seven sons was his Chosen One, and Samuel inquired of Jesse whether he had another son. Then David was called, and Samuel was told to anoint him. A notable quotation concerning David's righteousness occurs in this passage:
But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his [i.e. Eliab, another of Jesse's sons] height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. (1 Sam 16:7) 1
Thus David became the Anointed One of the Lord at a young age. Soon he was called upon to visit the court of Saul, who, having forsaken the Lord, was tormented by demons. David was already a talented harp player, and the music he made soothed Saul. Saul liked David and made him his armor-bearer; David also became fast friends with Saul's son Jonathan.
Next, the Israelites were having somewhat of a military stand-off against the Philistines, and two of David's brothers were waiting in the encampment. Jesse sent David with supplies and to get news of his siblings. Now, at this time a huge Philistine champion (either nine or twelve feet tall) had everyday for forty days emerged into the no-man's land between the two armies to taunt the Israelites, also declaring that man-to-man combat between him and whatever Israelite took up his challenge would effectively determine which side won the battle. David, outraged, took it upon himself to fight the Philistine with the blessing of Saul. Before the two even came to blows, David had felled Goliath using his sling and a stone that hit Goliath in the forehead. He then cut off Goliath’s head with the Philistine’s own sword, and the Philistine armies fled in terror.
David's popularity among the people soon grew; their refrain "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands,"1 implying that David was a mightier warrior, began to haunt Saul, and he became increasingly jealous. Twice while David was playing the harp for Saul, Saul tried to kill him; after the second time he ran away into the field, where he met with his dear friend, Saul's son Jonathan. Together they devised a way to find out Saul's intentions towards David and an inconspicuous signal for Jonathan to give to David. When Saul's anger flared upon finding out that David supposedly had gone home to Bethlehem, Jonathan knew that his father intended to kill David, and told him so. Thus began David's lengthy exile.
David fled from Saul first to Nob in Israel, where he was helped by the high priest. He then went to the neighboring states of Gath and Moab before coming back to Judah. By then, Saul had the high priest of Nob and (almost) all his sons killed for aiding David. By his time, David had a small force behind him, and the priest of Nob’s one remaining son came and joined them. David’s men next, by the guidance of the Lord, went and defeated a band of Philistines at the city of Keilah.
At this time, David learned that Saul was coming to Keilah to kill him, and so he escaped. Twice during this time David spared Saul's life, not wishing to lay a hand on the Anointed of the Lord. David and his men continued to hone their fighting skills, all the while running from Saul; they returned to Philistine territory (Gath) again and were protected by the king there for a year and four months. When the Philistines were about to battle the Israelites, though, they sent David away due to fears about his allegiance to them. So he went instead to fight the Amakelites, a tribe that had just plundered parts of both Philistine land and Judah; this victory was a great success for David.
Things weren't looking up for Saul, however. In a battle with the Philistines three of his sons were killed, and Saul was surrounded and critically wounded. He ended up committing suicide, having himself run through with his own sword. When David heard the news, he lamented the deaths bitterly, particularly that of his friend Jonathan. He then had an Amakelite who Saul had asked to kill him executed for harming the Lord’s Anointed.
So David went up to Hebron in Judah and was anointed its king there. He still was not the ruler of Israel proper, though, and Abner son of Ner, commander of Saul's army, set up another of Saul's sons on its throne, dividing Israel. Infighting between the houses of Saul and David plagued the land for seven years. Over time David grew continually stronger while the house of Saul was weakened. Eventually Abner came to David and offered to give him the kingship of all Israel, and David agreed with the condition that his first wife, Michal, Saul's daughter (who had already remarried) be returned to him.
Then the leaders of all Israel's tribes joined together at Hebron, anointing David king over Israel. At this time David was thirty years old and had ruled Judah for seven years; he went on to rule all Israel for another thirty-three.
Next David captured Jerusalem, which was controlled by the Jebusites, and established its capital there. Ever after it would be known as The City of David.
David next decided to have the Ark of the Covenant brought to Jerusalem; however, after one of the delegation sent to retrieve it, Uzzah, was struck down by God when he touched the Ark, attempting to steady it, David had second thoughts and had it placed in the home of a man near the city. Eventually, seeing the prosperity of this man's household increase, he brought the Ark into Jerusalem with great ceremony. Seeing the magnificence of his own palace but the Ark only protected by a tent, King David wished to build a temple to house the holy artifact. But the Prophet Nathan came to David and told him of a revelation he received from the Lord, saying that David was not the one chosen to build the Temple, though one of his sons would.
All throughout his reign, David was impressively victorious in military matters: "The Lord gave David victory wherever he went"1 (1 Chr 18:13b). He defeated the Philistines, capturing Gath, and defeating the Edomites, the Moabites, the Arameans, Hadadezer king of Zobah, and numerous other tribes/nations whose names none of us can recognize today.
At least eight of David's wives are named in Holy Scripture. The first, Michal, Saul's daughter, is noted for scorning David’s prophetic dance upon receiving the Ark of the Covenant; this is why she was said to be barren. The second, Abigail, had lived with her husband Nabal in Carmel when David came through in his flight from Saul. While Nabal refused any aid, Nabal secretly interceded, bringing David many supplies. Afterwards, when Abigail told her husband of the help she had given David, he dropped dead from (seemingly) a heart attack, leaving Abigail free to marry David. The other wives listed (see 1 Chr 3) were Maacha, daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; Haggith; Abital; Eglah; and Bathsheba, mother of Solomon. He also took "more wives" in Jerusalem. In all, 1 Chronicles lists by name nineteen sons of David.
Several episodes in David’s family life are noteworthy. The first is the famous affair with Bathsheba, one of the few happenings that shows any weakness in King David. One evening the King began to walk around the rooftop of his palace, which overlooked the surrounding city. He saw below him a beautiful woman taking a bath and was seized with lust. He summoned the woman, Bathsheba, to his palace and slept with her. Unfortunately, Bathsheba conceived a child because of this encounter, and her husband Uriah the Hittite had been away on the spring military campaign for some time, making it impossible to claim he was the father. So she sent a message to King David, who immediately called Uriah back to Jerusalem, hoping that he would sleep with his wife. Uriah, however, refused to enter his home, sleeping outside on the steps, out of solidarity with his fellow soldiers camped in tents far from home. The next day David tried to get him drunk and have him go to his house, but this failed as well. So David panicked and sent Uriah back to his commander with an order to put him on the front lines and then withdraw from him, effectively having him killed. Uriah the Hittite then died in battle, and David married Bathsheba. The Lord would not let the affair go unpunished, though, and sent the Prophet Nathan to David to rebuke him, finally telling David that the child would die. David mourned for his son, spending seven days fasting, weeping, and entreating the Lord for the life of his son, but the child died after this time. Solomon, the future king, was born to David and Bathsheba following the death of their first son.
The next family drama involves Amnon, one of David’s sons, and Tamar, sister of Absalom (another of David's sons). Amnon fell in love with Tamar, but Tamar was a virgin and refused to have Amnon. Thus Amnon devised a scheme, pretending to be sick and requesting that only Tamar come to his bed and make him food. After he had ordered everyone to leave, Amnon overpowered the resistant Tamar and raped her. Afterwards she pleaded with Amnon to at least marry her and take away her shame, but Amnon sent her away. She went to live in her brother Absalom’s house, despairing her remaining days. Absalom harbored a terrible grudge against Amnon ever after, and two years following the rape he gathered a banquet to which he invited all the king’s sons. Then he killed his brother Amnon.
Absalom continued to cause further trouble after this. Despite the fact that several years later David summoned his son back to Jerusalem and eventually forgave him, after a few more years Absalom rose in popularity amongst the people. He then told David he wished to go to Hebron and worship, but while away he sent messages to all the tribes of Israel, fomenting a revolt to take the throne for himself. David was finally forced to flee Jerusalem because of the uprising, and Absalom claimed his father's palace and all his concubines. But David had an advisor loyal to him claim to defect to Absalom, and this advisor gave advice that defeated Absalom. David sent specific orders to all his men to only capture Absalom and bring him back unharmed; however, when Absalom got stuck in some low-hanging tree branches riding his horse, David's military commander Joab (who liked to take matters into his own hands and kill people) drove three javelins into Absalom’s heart while he was still hanging from an oak tree. David mourned bitterly for his son, after which he returned to Jerusalem.
David’s son by Bathsheba, Solomon, who ascended to the throne upon David’s death.
Finally, when David was on his deathbed, another son, Adonijah, conspired with Joab to have himself made king. Bathsheba and the Prophet Nathan counter conspired, though, pleading with David to make Solomon king and informing him of the rebellion of Adonijah. So David had Solomon anointed King of Israel. Adonijah accepted this, with the condition that he be given David’s bedside nurse Abishag as a wife.
After several more episodes of turmoil, David called Solomon to his deathbed and gave him advice on how to rule the kingdom. He died at the age of sixty-three and was buried in his city, Jerusalem.
King David prefigures our Lord Jesus Christ in numerous ways. He was the Lord's Anointed One, or Messiah, a now title applied almost exclusively to Christ. Also, David was a shepherd before he was called to be king; likewise, Christ used herding imagery often in his earthly ministry, as in the Parables of the Good Shepherd, of the Lost Sheep, and of the separation of the sheep and the goats at the Last Judgment. When David was fleeing from Saul, he was an illustration of the Suffering Servant, most famously described in Isaiah 53; afterwards, though, he became the victorious king, gaining control over all Israel and defeating its enemies with ease. David’s story is mirrored by Christ's persecution by the Jews and Crucifixion, followed by his glorious Resurrection and his eventual Second Coming. David's humble origins and the fact that he was the least imposing son of Jesse when Samuel anointed him also parallel Christ's humble earthly status.
Furthermore, David consistently relied on the Lord and thus served as a model king. The Scripture accounts regarding David go out of their way to show his sense of fairness and justice. For example, David rewards all of his men equally, even those too exhausted to continue the chase, after his great victory over the Amakelites (1 Sam 30:23). This episode may be seen as reminiscent of Christ's Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20). He refused to ever touch his adversary King Saul, was furious about the rape of Tamar, and lamented the death of his rebellious son Absalom, whom he had ordered that no one injure, etc.
The concept of the Davidic line (i.e. that the ruler of Israel be directly related to David) became extremely important in Jewish history ever after David. Much of the reason for this can be seen in God's "Promise to David":
...I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name....I will be his father, and he will be my son…Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.1 (2 Sam 7:12-16)
On the surface, this passage refers to Solomon, David's son, but it may also be extended to Christ. Christ was related to David through Joseph the Betrothed, who was of the Davidic line.
Besides his role as Saul's harpist, David composed a large number of the Psalms; whether every single one was written by the king is uncertain. Most of the psalms are prefaced by a few words in both the Septuagint and Masoretic texts, and 73 of the 150 (or 151, if the one deuterocanonical psalm is included) explicitly name David as their author. Other introductions give even more detail. For example, Psalm 51 (50 in the Septuagint), our most famous psalm of repentance, is said to have been written by David after Nathan confronted him about his affair with Bathsheba. In any case, David’s contribution to church music and liturgics cannot be ignored, as the Psalms figure prominently in Orthodox worship.
Athough the Lord would not allow David himself to construct the First Temple in Jerusalem, he set aside much gold and finery from his spoils of war to be used in it. He bought the sight of the future Temple, where he built only an altar. According to 1 Chr 28, David himself wrote out the plans for the Temple, which he gave to Solomon, and also arranged the priests who would serve there into divisions, as well as designating numerous weights and measures important in the Temple’s function.
Solomon, David's son, completed and dedicated the Temple after his father's death. It stood until approximately 586 B.C., when Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians captured Jerusalem.
Saint Jegudiel the Archangel also Jhudiel or Jehudiel ( Heb. יהודיאל Yehudiel "laudation of God") is one of the seven Archangel in Eastern Orthodox tradition. He is often depicted in iconography holding a crown and a three-thonged whip. Jeguidiel is the patron of all who work in some field of endeavor, and the crown he holds symbolizes the reward for successful spiritual labors. Along with his subordinate angels he is the advisor and defender of all who work in positions of responsibility to the glory of God, and as such is resorted to by kings , judges and others in positions of leadership. Jegudiel is also known as the bearer of God's merciful love.
Archangel Gabrielhe is explicitly called "the man Gabriel".
Here is the passage written in Luke 1:10 And
the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.
11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.
16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.
17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.
19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.
20 And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
Archangel Gabriel, is mentioned in In Luke 1:26:
And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of
Galilee, named Nazareth,
27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.
38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrate his Feast Day on 8 November (for those churches that follow the traditional Julian Calendar , 8 November currently falls on 21 November of the modern Gregorian Calendar , a difference of 13 days). Eastern Orthodox commemorate him, not only on his November feast, but also on two other days: 26 March is the "Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel" and celebrates his role in the Annunciation. 13 July is also known as the "Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel", and celebrates all the appearances and miracles attributed to Gabriel throughout history. The feast was first established on Mount Athos when, in the ninth century, during the reign of Emperor Basil II and the Empress Constantina Porphyrogenitus, while Nicholas II Chrysoberges|Nicholas Chrysoverges was Patriarch of Constantinople , the Archangel appeared in a cell near Karyes , where he wrote with his finger on a stone tablet the hymn to the Theotokos , "It is truly meet..."
In Hebrew, Michael means "who is like God" (mi-who, ), which is traditionally interpreted as a rhetorical question: "Who is like God?" (which expects an answer in the negative) to imply that no one is like God. In this way, Michael is reinterpreted as a symbol of humility before God.
"...there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven."
A reference to an "archangel" also appears in the 1st Epistle to the Thessalonians (4:16):
"... the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first;"
The early Christians regarded some of the martyrs such as Saints George and Theodore as military patrons ; but to St Michael they gave the care of their sick and he was first venerated as a healer in Phrygia (Turkey).
The earliest and most famous sanctuary to Saint Michael in the ancient near east was also associated with healing waters. It was the Michaelion built in early 4th century by Emperor Constantine in Chalcedon , on the site of an earlier Temple called Sosthenion.
The standard iconography of Archangel Michael is a warrior saint slaying a dragon. The Michaelion was a magnificent church and in time became a model for hundreds of other churches in which spread devotions to the Archangel.
In the 4th century, Saint Basil the Great's homily (De Angelis) placed Saint Michael over all the angels. He was called "Archangel" because he is the prince of the other angels. Orthodoxy accords him the title "Archistrategos", or "Supreme Commander of the Heavenly Hosts." In the Eastern Orthodox Church , Saint Michael's principal feast day is November 8 (November 21).
In many depictions Michael is represented as an angelic warrior, fully armed with helmet, sword, and shield. The iconography of Michael slaying a serpent goes back to the early 4th century, when Emperor Constantine defeated Licinius at theBattle of Adrianople in 324 AD, not far from the Michaelion a church dedicated to Archangel Michael. Constantine felt that Licinius was an agent of Satan, and associated him with the serpent described in the Book of Revelation (12:9). After the victory, Constantine commissioned a depiction of himself and his sons slaying Licinius represented as a serpent - a symbolism borrowed from the Christian teachings on the Archangel to whom he attributed the victory. A similar painting, this time with the Archangel Michael himself slaying a serpent then became a major art piece at the Michaelion and eventually lead to the standard icon of Archangel Michael as a warrior saint.
Raphael ("It is God who heals", "God Heals", "God, Please Heal", ) is an Archangel in the Judais, Christian and Islamic religions , who in the Judeo-Christian tradition performs all manners of healing.Raphael is mentioned by name only in the Book of Tobit , which is accepted as canonical by Catholics, Anglicans and Orthodox.
The Book of Tobit is considered canonical by Roman Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox Christians. Raphael first appears disguised in human form as the travelling companion of Tobit's son, Tobiah (Gr.: Τωβίας/Tobias), calling himself "Azarias the son of the great Ananias". During the adventurous course of the journey the archangel's protective influence is shown in many ways including the binding of the demon in the desert of upper Egypt. After the return and the healing of the blindness of Tobit, Azarias makes himself known as "the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord" Tobit 12:15. Compare the unnamed angels in John's Revelation 8:2. He is often venerated and patronized as Saint Raphael the Archangel.
Regarding the healing powers attributed to Raphael, we have little more than his declaration to Tobit (Tobit, 12) that he was sent by the Lord to heal him of his blindness and to deliver Sarah, his future daughter-in-law, from the demon Asmodeus , who abducts and kills every man she marries on their wedding night before the marriage can be consummated. Among Catholics, he is considered the patron saint of medical workers, matchmakers , and travelers and may be petitioned by them or those needing their services.
In the New Testament, only the archangels Gabriel and Michael are mentioned by name (Luke 1:9-26; Jude 1:9). Later manuscripts of John 5:1-4 refer to the pool at Bethesda , where the multitude of the infirm lay awaiting the moving of the water, for "an angel of the Lord descended at certain times into the pond; and the water was moved. And he that went down first into the pond after the motion of the water was made whole of whatsoever infirmity he lay under". Because of the healing role assigned to Raphael, this particular angel is generally associated with the archangel.
Raphael is sometimes shown (usually on medallions) as standing atop a large fish or holding a caught fish at the end of a line. This is a reference to Book of Tobit (Tobias), where he told Tobias to catch a fish, and then uses the gallbladder to heal Tobit's eyes, and to drive away Asmodeus by burning the heart and liver.
A man who saw God, a wonderworker and zealot for faith in God, Elias was of the tribe of Aaron, from the city of Tishba, whence he was known as "the Tishbite." When Elias was born, his father Sabah saw angels of God around the child, swaddling it with fire and feeding it with flames. This was a foreshadowing of Elias’ fiery character and his God-given fiery powers. He spent his whole youth in prayer and meditation, withdrawing often to the desert to ponder and pray in tranquility.
The prophet Elias came into the greatest conflict with the Israelite king, Ahab, and his evil wife Jezebel, for they worshipped idols and turned the people from the service of the one, living God. On top of this, Jezebel, being a Syrian, persuaded her husband to build a temple to the Syrian god, Baal, and appointed many priests to the service of this false god. Elias performed many miracles by the power of God: he closed the heavens, that no rain should fall for three years and six months; called down fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice to his God, while the priests of Baal were unable to do this; brought rain from the heavens at his prayers; miraculously multiplied corn and oil in the widow’s house at Zarephath, and restored her dead son to life; prophesied to Ahab that the dogs would lick up his blood, and to Jezebel that the dogs would devour her--which came to pass; and performed many other miracles and foretold many events.
He talked with God on Horeb, and heard His voice in the calm after the great wind. At the time of his death, he took Elisha and appointed him his heir as a prophet; he parted the Jordan with his mantle and was finally borne to heaven in a fiery chariot drawn by fiery horses. He appeared, together with Moses, to our Lord Jesus Christ on Mount Tabor at the Transfiguration. At the end of the world, Elias will appear again, to break the power of the antichrist (Rev. 11). Orthodox tradition teaches that only two people throughout history were taken to heaven soul and body, the Virgin Mary and Prophet Elias.
Growing up, Aaron had glimpsed his mother's tears many
times. She didn't necessarily know he was watching but he saw how she yearned
to be near her son--his brother—Moishe (Moses). Aaron had escaped the death
sentence of the Pharaoh by being just old enough not to fall under its
judgment. But Moishe had been the right age and was, therefore, condemned
to death. Their mother--Jochebed--secreted him away and freed him from his
death sentence by secretly giving him over into the hands of those close to the
Pharaoh. Moishe was far away. He was not geographically distant from his true
family but, rather, he was ideologically miles away as he grew up in affluence
and wealth under the care of the daughter of the Pharaoh.
They had tried to keep Aaron from finding out about brother Moishe's fate because they were worried that he might reveal their family's deep and cherished secret--one of their own sat in the lap of Mitzrayim (Egypt). It was better, they thought, that Aaron assume Moishe dead and forgotten. "Better he thinks his brother dead and gone, then know he lives but cannot be near. He will soon forget his baby brother whom he knew for such a little time" they might have rationalized. But, Aaron had found out the secret that was his inheritance and was consequently initiated into the family secret with an unexpressed vow of ignorance and silence. Mitzrayim could not know or it would crush Moishe's--and Aaron's--people.
Eventually, Moishe found out about his heritage and people. While traveling through the land, he saw an Egyptian beating an Israelite and he killed the Egyptian in a fit of rage. He had made a choice that could not easily be undone. He had sided himself with the poor and oppressed even though so very few of them knew him. He fled into the desert where he would encounter God. Aaron would remain in the clutches of Mitzrayim with their people and continue to encounter the God that Moishe found only in the wilderness.
When Moishe returned, Aaron met him along the way and revealed his identity more clearly. As Moishe tried to rally the people of Israel around God's calling, Aaron stood in the gap between the people and the agent of their deliverance. Aaron became a bridge between the deliverer they never knew and the people so crushed and beaten by Mitzrayim. Aaron's trust in Moishe allowed the people to learn to trust this wandering leader. Further, Moishe insisted that Aaron was to be his "navi" or mouthpiece. Moishe wasn't known for his eloquence and, perhaps, had a stutter but God had chosen him. God had called Aaron to stand in the gap between Moishe and the world and be the prophet and mouthpiece for Moishe. Aaron lived into this calling.
Aaron was present for the ten plagues. Aaron was present for the exodus. Aaron was present for the pursuit of Israel by Pharaoh. Aaron was present for the crossing of the Red Sea. In all these things, Aaron stood in the gap between the people and Moishe. Further, he stood in the gap between a people with a vague yearning for a loving God and the loving God who reached out desperately for a people that could not and would not see God. In this way, the consecration of Aaron as a priest was a formal recognition of the calling that Aaron was already living out. He had stood before the people and pointed to God and God's movement all the while interceding for the people before the God they simultaneously sought and rejected.
Aaron's life and faith were far from perfect --he and Moishe did not always get along, his sons lose their lives by making the sacred profane, and he later built a golden calf for the people when they became fearful--but he must be remembered for standing in the gap for the people when Moishe was being called into the desert. Often, we focus on the great leadership of Moishe but it could not have been easy for Aaron to stay behind in the grip of Mitzrayim while his brother seemed to be able to escape it. Aaron did not leave his people and reminds us that God is not present solely in the wild and wonderful places but also in the places of death and oppression. Aaron--a High Priest of the Israelites--was committed to both his God and his people and held onto both even as they struggled with each other.
Aaron died many years later and his son took the role of High Priest. In his office and calling, he had served his God, his people, and his brother well and faithfully. His death was mourned for thirty day by all those who had depended upon him.
Saint Mary of Magdalene
The Eastern Orthodox Church maintains that Mary Magdalene, distinguished from Mary of Bethany and the "sinful woman", had been a virtuous woman all her life, even before her conversion. They have never celebrated her as a penitent. This view finds expression both in her written life (βίος or vita) and in the liturgical service in her honor that is included in the Menainon and performed on her annual feast-day. There is a tradition that Mary Magdalene led so chaste a life that the devil thought she might be the one who was to bear Christ into the world, and for that reason he sent the seven demons to trouble her.
Mary Magdalene is honored as one of the first witnesses of the Resurrection of Jesus , and received a special commission from him to tell the Apostles of his resurrection. tombMyrrhbearer. According to Eastern traditions, she retired to Ephesus with the Theotokos and there she died. Her relics were transferred to Constantinople in 886 and are there preserved. Mary Magdalene is referred to as "the apostle to the apostles". Eastern Christianity refers to her as "Equal to the Apostles."
Saint Alexis- Metropolitan of Moscow
Alexius, whose name at birth was Elephtherios, was a son of Fyodor (Theodore) Biakont, a boyar from Chernigov who settled in Moscow and founded the great Pleshcheev boyar family. He took monastic vows at the Epiphany Monastery of Moscow around 1313, at which time he was given the religious name of Alexius. In 1333 or so, he joined the household of Metropolitan Theognostus. In 1340, Alexius was appointed the Metropolitan's deputy in Vladimir and twelve years later was consecrated as Bishop of Vladimir.
By the will of Symeon the Proud, Alexius was appointed adviser to his brothers - Ivan and Andrew. After visiting Constantinople, he was chosen to become the Metropolitan of Moscow and all Russia in 1354. When Dmitrii Donskoi and Vladimir the Bold were young, Alexius was their spiritual tutor and served as regent at the same time. He took the side of Dmitrii Donskoi in his struggle against Tver and Nizhny Novgorod, where he once sent St. Sergius of Radonezh to suspend divine service in churches and monasteries, until the political strife was over.
In 1360s, Alexius founded the Andronikov, Chudov, and Alekseyevsky monasteries. He promoted Metropolitan Peter's canonization by the Russian Orthodox Church. Shortly before his death, Alexius fruitlessly tried to convince Sergius of Radonezh to become his successor.
Alexius was also an author of a number of sermons and epistles. He was glorified (canonized) by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1448 and has been revered as one of the patron saints of Moscow. His relics were venerated in the Chudov Monastery that he had founded.
Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk
He was born in the village of Korotsk, in the Novgorod region, Russia. He was tonsured a monk at the age of thirty-four. He was later consecrated Bishop of Voronezh. He served as bishop for a little under seven years and retired to the monastery of Zadonsk because of poor health and lived there until he died. During his lifetime he created many spiritual works and because of his great wisdom, holiness, and asceticism, he is considered an equal to the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Christian Church.
On May 14, 1846, during the construction of the new cathedral at Zadonsk, Saint Tikhon's relics were uncovered and were found to be incorrupt. His relics were kept in Zadonsk, and due to the reports of the many miracles that occurred near his relic he was made a saint by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1861. His feast day is celebrated on August 13, Julian calendar (August 26, Gregorian Calendar). As a result, another feast day, the Uncovering of the Relics of Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk was instituted to be celebrated annually on May 14.
Several sayings of Tikhon of Zadonsk:
"Try to know yourself, your own wickedness. Think on the greatness of God and your wretchedness. Meditate on the suffering of Christ, the magnitude of Whose love and suffering surpass our understanding. Ascribe the good that you do to God alone. Do not think about the sin of a brother but about what in him is better than in yourself .... Flee from glory, honors and praise, but if this is impossible, be sorry that such is your lot. Be benevolent to people of low origin. Be freely and willingly obedient not only to those above you but to those below .... The lowlier we are in spirit, the better we know ourselves, and without humility we cannot see God."
"Just as the body has an ear, so also does the soul. Not everybody has an ear that is open, nor does every soul. God commands the soul: do not kill, do not steal, do not commit adultery, turn away from evil and do good, etc. The soul whose ears are open, hears and listens to God speaking and does what God commands. Truly, such a soul cannot but hear God and obey His commandments if it has its ears open. Men listen and carry out the commands of earthly kings and lesser authorities, and will not a soul listen to God speaking if it has its ears open? Of course ! And with what fervor and delight will it not listen and say to Him: Ready is my heart, O God, ready is my heart (Ps. 107:2)"
"For love does not seek its own, it labors, sweats, watches to build up the brother: nothing is inconvenient to love, and by the help of God it turns the impossible into the possible .... Love believes and hopes .... It is ashamed of nothing. Without it, what is the use of prayer? What use are hymns and singing? What is the use of building and adorning churches? What is mortification of the flesh if the neighbor is not loved? Indeed, all are of no consequence .... As an animal cannot exist without bodily warmth, So no good deed can be alive without true love; it is only the pretence of a good deed."
Saint Dimitri of Rostov
Saint Dimitry of Rostov (sometimes Latinized as Demetrius, sometimes referred to simply as Dmitri Rostovsky) was a leading opponent of the Caesaropapist reform of the Russian Orthodox church promoted by Feofan Prokopovich. He is representative of the strong Ukrainian influence upon the Russian Orthodox Church at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries. He is separately credited as composer or compiler of the first Russian opera, the lengthy Rostov Mysteries of 1705, though the exact nature of this work, as well as its place in history, is open to debate.
Born Danylo Savvich Tuptalo (or Tuptalenko, according to some sources) into a Cossack family in 1651. Soon thereafter his family moved to Kiev, and he entered the Kievo-Mohyla Academy at the age of 11. On 9 July 1668 he took his religious vows at St. Cyril's Monastery in Kiev and was given the monastic name of Dimitry (after Saint Demetrius of Thessalonika). After a brief period in Chernigov, Dimitry went to venerate the Byzantine Slavic Christian shrines of Belarus (at the time property of the Byzantine Rite Belorusian and Ukrainian Catholic metropolitans of the Uniate churches), still located in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth at that time. In 1678 he returned from Vilno to Baturyn and settled at the court of the hetman Ivan Samoylovych.
During the 1680s, Dimitry lived mostly at the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, while his sermons against hard drinking and lax morals made his name known all over Russia. He was appointed hegumen (superior) of several major monasteries of Ukraine, but concentrated his attention upon the ambitious project of integrating all the lives of Russian saints into a single work, which he published as Monthly Readings (Четьи-минеи) or Menologion in 1684-1705. He also found time to study ecclesiastical history of the Russian Orthodox Church.
In 1701 Dimitry was appointed Metropolitan of Siberia but, pleading ill health, preferred to stay in Moscow until he was invested with the archbishopric of Rostov. During his life in Russia, Dimitry opposed both the Old Believers' and Peter the Great's ecclesiastical policies, gradually drifting towards the party of Eudoxia Lopukhina and Tsarevich Alexis. He also made invaluable contributions to the Russian education, opening a school and a small theatre in Rostov, where his own plays could be staged.
Dimitry was also active as a composer, although his musical education is undocumented aside from the standard music curriculum established by Feofan Prokopovich at the Kiev-Mohyla Academy. Many of his Penitential Psalms achieved wide circulation, not only in the Ukraine but in the Balkans too, and many have become an integral part of Ukrainian folk-song tradition through the kobzari, itinerant blind singers.
Dimitry is credited as composer or compiler of the first Russian opera, the six-hour-long Rostov Mysteries of 1705. Though this has been staged, notably by Boris Pokrovsky's Moscow Chamber Musical Theatre, in Moscow and at the Brighton Festival (1993), it may best be judged an oratorio on the lives of Russian saints. Its basis is the "Cheti-Minei" (Четьи-Минеи), published in four volumes in 1689, 1690, 1700 and 1705 — the same source that inspired Pushkin in 1825 to write Boris Godunov.
Upon Dimitry's death on October 28, 1709 his relics were placed at St. Jacob's Monastery, which his followers would rebuild as Dimitry's shrine. A fortress on the Don River was named after him; today it is known as Rostov-on-the-Don.
Saint Germogen Patriarch of Moscow
Our father among the saints Hieromartyr Hermogenes (or Germogen) (+ 1612) was the Patriarch of Moscow and of All Russia from 1606 to 1612. He is commemorated by the Church on February 17 and May 12, also with the Synaxis of the Hierarchs of Moscow on October 5.
St Hermogenes was born in Kazan around 1530 and was descended from the Don Cossacks. He served as a priest in Kazan in a church dedicated to St Nicholas, near the Kazan bazaar. While he was a priest there in 1579, the wonderworking Kazan Icon of the Mother of God was discovered. With the blessing of Archbishop Jeremiah of Kazan, he carried the newly appeared icon from the place of its discovery to the Church of St Nicholas.
Metropolitan of Kazan
On May 13, 1589, he was consecrated bishop and became the first Metropolitan of Kazan. In 1591 the saint gathered newly baptized Tatars into the cathedral church, and for several days he instructed them in the Faith.
On January 9, 1592, St Hermogenes asked Patriarch Job for permission to commemorate in his See of Kazan those Orthodox soldiers who gave their lives for the Faith and the nation in a battle against the Tatars. He mentioned three martyrs who had suffered at Kazan for their faith in Christ, one of whom was a Russian named John (January 24), born at Nizhny Novgorod and captured by the Tatars. The other two, Stephen and Peter (March 24), were newly converted Tatars. The patriarch issued a decree on February 25 which said to celebrate throughout all the Kazan Metropolitanate a panikhida for all the Orthodox soldiers killed at Kazan and the environs of Kazan, on the Saturday following the Feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos (October 1). The patriarch also ordered that the three Kazan martyrs be inscribed in the Synodicon.
St Hermogenes displayed passion in the observance of Church traditions, and he devoted himself to enlightening the Kazan Tatars with the faith of Christ.
Metropolitan Hermogenes was elected to the primatial see on July 3, 1606. He was installed as patriarch by the Assembly of the Holy Hierarchs at Moscow's Dormition Cathedral. Metropolitan Isidore handed the patriarch the staff of the Holy Hierarch Peter, Moscow Wonderworker, and the tsar gave as a gift to the new patriarch a panagia embellished with precious stones, a white klobuk, and a staff. Patriarch Hermogenes made his entrance riding upon a donkey, as was the ancient way.
The new first hierarch devoted all his powers to the service of the Church and the nation. But this was a time of troubles for the Russian state with the appearance of the false Demetrius (or Dmitr(i)y, an impostor claiming to be the son of Ivan the Terrible) and the Polish king Sigismund III. The patriarch stood up against the traitors and enemies of the nation, who wanted to spread Uniatism and Western Catholicism throughout Russia and to wipe out Orthodoxy while enslaving the Russian nation.
When the impostor arrived at Moscow and settled himself at Tushino, Patriarch Hermogenes sent two letters to the Russian traitors reminding them of their faith and their country. False Dmitry was killed by his own close associates on December 11, 1610. But Moscow continued to remain in peril, since the Poles and traitors, loyal to Sigismund III, remained in the city.
Documents sent by Patriarch Hermogenes throughout the cities and villages urged the Russian nation to liberate Moscow and to choose a lawful Russian tsar. The Muscovites rose up in rebellion. The Poles burned the city, shutting themselves up in the Kremlin. Together with Russian traitors, they forcefully seized Patriarch Hermogenes and imprisoned him in the Chudov Monastery.
While still in prison, the Hieromartyr Hermogenes sent a final epistle to the Russian nation, blessing the liberating army to fight the invaders. He suffered for more than nine months in confinement, and on February 17, 1612, he died a martyr's death from starvation. The body of the hieromartyr was buried in the Chudov Monastery and in 1654 before being transferred to the Moscow Dormition Cathedral. The glorification of Patriarch Hermogenes occurred on May 12, 1913.
Saint John of Tobolsk (1651–1715) was born in Uman, in the Kiev Oblast of Ukraine. He was the only one of the seven sons of Maxim Vasilkovsky Maximovitch to choose a career in the Eastern Orthodox Church, in which service he was appointed Ekonom (manager) of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra by 1678. But since Theodore of Uglich wanted someone to succeed him as Bishop of Chernigov, he appointed John Archimandrite of the Eletsky monastery there in 1695. Then, when Theodore died in 1696, John became Archbishop of Chernigov.
During his pastorate in Chernigov, John distinguished himself with running a Spiritual Academy, writing prose and poetry inspired by faith, and inspiring faith in others. His most famous work, which is still the standard work on Theodicy (Proof of the presence of an omnipotent God) among the Eastern Orthodox, is "Iliotropion", which he wrote in Latin, translated into Slavonic and then into Russian.
John died peacefully in 1715, inside his quarters while at prayer. St. John was honoured as a saint in Siberia by longstanding local veneration. In 1916 the Russian Orthodox Church officially glorified (canonized) him for veneration throughout the church. His feast day is celebrated annually on June 10, the anniversary of repose.
Saint John of Tobolsk is related to a later, 20th century saint, Saint John Of Shanghai and San Francisco.
Saint Mitrofan of Voronezh
Having remained faithful to the Apostolic Tradition, the Russian Church never called for the kind of doctrinal reforms which revolutionized Europe in the 16th century. Nevertheless, it had its own weaknesses born of historical circumstances and human failings. The effect of more than two centuries of Mongol rule, the shameful witness of the Greeks at the Council of Florence, the subsequent Fall of Constantinople, and interference by the Catholic Poles during the Time of Troubles had combined to encourage a protectionist policy on the part of both Church and State. On a more general level this was translated into a provincial attitude which showed itself suspicious of anything and anyone foreign. The Church in particular, conscious of its position as the 'Third Rome" and the bastion of an Orthodoxy undefiled by compromise, was on guard against anything that might undermine the Faith, and placed great emphasis on uniformity, not only m matters of dogma but also in ritual practice. The vision of universal Orthodoxy--which allows for variation in ritual among local Churches gradually narrowed to a belief that Russian practice alone provided the criterion for truth. At the same time, due in large measure to a lack of educated clergy, ritual--the external signs of faith-had come to represent the key to salvation.
Under such circumstances, it is not surprising that the reforms in ritual insisted upon by Patriarch Nikon reforms based on the usage of the "tainted" Greeks roused such fearful anxiety and determined opposition. Following the Council of 1666 1667 which anathematized the Old Rite, the rift between the "Old Ritualists" or "Old Believers,'' as they came to be called, and the rest of the Russian Church exploded into a great religious upheaval that very nearly rivaled the revolutionary effect of Europe's Reformation a century earlier. The ultimate victor in Russia's "civil war" of religion was the State. In their stubborn "all or nothing" attitude, Nikon and the Old Ritualists' leader Avvakum both contributed to weaken the very Church which each had sought so zealously to defend. But if this tragic period in the history of the Russian Church exposed her weaknesses, it also gave opportunity for men of spiritual stature to stand tall and prove themselves by turning people's attention to the soul-saving essentials of Orthodox Christianity. Among those hierarchs who endeavored to do just that were St. Theodosius of Chernigov, St. Dimitri of Rostov and St. Mitrofan of Voronezh.
St. Mitrofan was born in 1623 in the province of Vladimir. According to his own testimony, he was brought up by devout parents "in the unsullied piety of the Eastern Church, in the Orthodox Faith." He began his adult life as a married village priest, and even later, as a hierarch, he continued to manifcst a tender concern for his son, Ivan, who became a scribe in a monastery. Widowed at the age of 39, he decided to concentrate his devotion to God by leaving the world, and the following year he entered the Zolotinsk-Dormition monastery near Suzdal, where he was soon tonsured.
Already a practiced Christian, it is not surprising that within three years he was chosen to be abbot by the brethren of the nearby Yakhromsky monastery, a position he accepted out of obedience rather than desire. He was strictly ascetic in his personal life, while he expressed himself as a loving father towards his monks who reciprocated his care for them with filial respect and obedience. The Saint's success in meeting the challenges of his abbatial responsibilities was communicated to the Patriarch of Moscow and All-Russia, Joachim, and after ten years at Yakhromsk he was entrusted with a larger monastery of some renown in the province of Kostroma, outside Moscow. Under his guidance the monastery flourished and expanded still further. One of his major undertakings there was the construction of a splendid heated church with a refectory and bell tower. The Saint's accomplishments in both the spiritual and physical arenas prompted the Patriarch to place several other monasteries under his supervision. Everywhere he won the hearts of men.
He was a particular favorite with the young and pious Tsar Feodor who, together with the Patriarch, saw in St. Mitrofan a prime candidate for the episcopacy in a time which demanded forceful and enlightened leadership. The consecration took place in April 1682, just weeks before the death of the frail Tsar Feodor precipitated a bloody crisis over the question of succession between his much younger brothers--the mentally retarded Ivan, from Tsar Alexis' first wife, and the bright, high spirited Peter from Tsar Alexis' second marriage. Patriarch Joachim was among those whose support of Peter as heir to the throne threatened the ambitious designs of Ivan's older sister Sophia. Anxious to secure power for herself, she enlisted the support of the Streltsy, an unruly force of musketeers who not infrequently meddled in government affairs. The result was a bloody uprising which abated only when a compromise was reached with the double crowning of the two half-brothers, aged 15 and 10, and the recognition of Sophia as regent. The recently consecrated Bishop Mitrofan participated in the coronation where the tension between the two rival families was still all too apparent.
The Streltsy in particular were dissatisfied with the double crown solution, and when the Old Believers took advantage of the change in power to raise their grievances in a debate with the official Church, the Streltsy were only too willing to take their side. The confrontation took place in the presence of the Patriarch, various bishops, the two young tsars and their imperious regent. Here, too, Bishop Mitrofan witnessed the clash of inflexible wills, of anarchy and autocracy, defiance and despotism, an atmosphere which precluded any meaningful dialogue, any effort towards reconciliation. The debate very soon degenerated into a frenzy of insults and, instigated by the Streltsy, spread into the streets in the form of mob violence. It was several months before Sophie managed to subdue her erstwhile supporters, which she did by executing their leaders. At the same time she sanctioned an intensified persecution of the Old believers who had long been pitted against the State by virtue of its rigorous enforcement of the Nikontan reforms.
The fires of rebellion had not yet subsided when Bishop Miltofan left the capital to take up his archpastoral responsibilities in the newly formed diocese of Voronezh. It was a difficult assignment which placed him in the midst of those very elements whose disruptive influence on the life of Church and State he had just witnessed. Located along the Don some distance from Moscow, Voronezh was a vast area which attracted malcontents of every description: fiercely independent Cossacks, Old Believers and' schismatics, outlaws... Although formerly under the jurisdiction of Ryazan, its remoteness discouraged frequent visits by its ruling hierarchs; there was a shortage of priests, and most of the existing clergy were poorly educated and ill-equipped to battle against the loose morals and pagan influences still present among the populace; resentment towards authority extended even into the ranks of clergy and monastics, many of whom had lost sight of their high calling. Indeed, the holy bishop discovered that "people of every class have grown accustomed to live as they pleased."
Despite such formidable obstacles, Bishop Mitrofan proved himself worthy of the Patriarch's confidence in appointing him to such a post. He turned his attention first to raising the spiritual level of the clergy, exhorting them to set examples of righteous living: "You, the shepherds, must offer to the sheep of the Scriptures the prepared manna of the Word of God, like the angels prepared the physical manna in the desert. You, as intercessors, must in your prayers imitate Moses and Paul, who prayed with such fervor for their people...!" He chastized severely and even defrocked priests guilty of serious offenses, while he upheld the authority of those priests who suffered from disrespectful parishioners. He visited all the monasteries of his diocese and shored up their spiritual foundations, recalling the monks to a disciplined life of prayer and fasting and putting a stop to the worldly influence exercised for so long by lay benefactors. Among the rest of his flock he worked hard to root out superstition, to correct immoral behavior-unlawful cohabitation was widespread, to teach them the principles of true Orthodoxy, and to win back into the Church's fold those who had strayed into heresy. The episcopal residence became a haven for the poor and homeless, and the saintly bishop set an example for his clergy in paying frequent visits to hospitals and prisons. To everyone he recommended the same rule: "Employ labor, preserve moderation--and you 'will be rich; drink with restraint, eat little--and you will be healthy; do good, flee from evil--and you will find salvation."
The combined effect of his actions, his preaching and his prayers was to renew the strength of the Church's authority among the people. This was symbolized in the construction of the large, Annunciation cathedral in Voronezh. The magnificent hierarchical services attracted not only the local populace to prayer, but also the young Tsar Peter who spent long periods of time in Voronezh overseeing the building of his fledgling navy. A deep friendship developed between the youthful tsar and the aging hierarch. Bishop Mitrofan helped to dispel the hostility which many natives bore towards the 'heretical' foreigners employed in the shipyards and to develop respect for their technical innovations. At the same time he strictly cautioned his flock not to mix too freely with the foreigners so as not to be influenced by their bad morals and erroneous religious beliefs.
This concern gave rise to a confrontation between Bishop Mitrofan and the Tsar – the most memorable incident in the Saint’s life. At the Tsar’s invitation, the Bishop was approaching his island residence on a visit when he noticed that the entrance was adorned with statues of pagan gods. The holy Bishop was offended by the display of these enemies of Christianity, seeing in them a great temptation for his flock. He refused to go further and returned home. On hearing of this, the Tsar – who was stubbornly attached to European fashion and to having his own way – flew into a rage and demanded that the Bishop present himself or accept the penalty of death for disobeying the royal will. “To me to live is Christ,” quoted the Bishop, “and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). Preparing worthily to meet his fate, he ordered the bell to be rung for a solemn vigil. The Bishop’s strength of conviction brought the Tsar to his senses and he ordered the statues to be immediately removed. One has to know the Tsar’s character to appreciate the height of respect which this action represented.
In August, 1703, the Bishop became ill unto death and took the great schema with the name Macarius. He reposed in peace a few months later on Nov. 23, having left a final exhortation to his flock in a will expressive of the great beauty of his soul. News of his repose reached the Tsar on his way to Voronezh, and he asked that the funeral be postponed a few days until his arrival. The monarch himself was among those who bore the hierarch’s coffin to his resting place in the Annunciation Cathedral Afterward he said to his entourage: “No more do I have such a holy elder. May his memory be eternal!”
Miracles attributable to the Saint’s intercession and the discovery in 1831 of the incorrupt condition of his relics were reported to the Holy Synod which prepared for St. Mitrofan’s official glorification on August 6, 1832.
Professor N. Talberg ends his Life of this great hierarch with the following tribute:
“Saint Mitrofan exemplified the devout prelate, ascetic, and benefactor, who is strict with those who trespass against the teachings of the Church and kind towards all others. This is what made him so dear to the devout Russian people, who keenly recognize those who are true servants of God.”
Tsar Peter did not, alas, heed the warnings of his spiritual benefactor, and even encouraged those Western influences which so disastrously undermined the Church’s authority and invited the intellegentsia’s departure from an Orthodox worldview. But those faithful to the true spirit of Orthodox Christianity found – and will always find – in St. Mitrofan, a sure guide to the values and virtues which bring eternal life.