Translation of the Relics of Saint Stephen, the Archdeacon and Protomartyr**
When the Jews slew St. Stephen by stoning, they left his body for the dogs to consume. However, God’s providence intended otherwise. The martyr’s body lay in an open place at the foothill of the city for one night and two days. The second night Gamaliel, Paul’s teacher and secretly a disciple of Christ, came and removed the body, taking it to Caphargamala, and buried it there in a cave on his own land. Gamaliel later buried his friend Nicodemus, who died weeping over the grave of Stephen, in the same cave. Gamaliel also buried his godson Abibus there; and, according to his own will, he himself was buried there also. Many centuries passed, until no one living knew where the body of St. Stephen was buried. Then, in the year 415, during the reign of Patriarch John of Jerusalem, Gamaliel appeared thrice in dreams to Lucian, the priest at Caphargamala. Gamaliel related everything concerning the burial of himself, Stephen, and the others, showing him the exact spot of their forgotten grave. Affected by this dream, Lucian informed the patriarch, and, with his blessing, went with a group of men and exhumed the four. Gamaliel had already told him in the dream whose grave was which. A strong, sweet-smelling fragrance, emanating from the relics of the saints, permeated the entire cave. The relics of St. Stephen were then solemnly translated to Zion, and were honorably buried there. The relics of the remaining three were placed in a church, located on the hill above the cave. Many healings of the sick were occasioned by the relics of St. Stephen. Later on, St. Stephen’s relics were translated to Constantinople. Thus the Lord crowned with much glory him who shed his blood for His name.
Seven Holy Youths of Ephesus**
There was a great persecution of Christians during the reign of Decius. The emperor himself went to Ephesus, and there arranged a boisterous and noisy celebration in honor of the lifeless idols – as well as a terrible slaughter of Christians. Seven young men, soldiers, refrained from the impure offering of sacrifices. They earnestly prayed to the one God to save the Christian people. They were the sons of the most influential elders of Ephesus. Their names were Maximilian, Jamblicus, Martinian, John, Dionysius, Exacustodianus and Antonius. When they were accused before the emperor, they retreated to a hill outside of Ephesus called Celion, and there they hid in a cave. When the emperor learned of this, he commanded that the cave be walled shut. Yet, God – according to His far-reaching providence – caused a miraculous and long-lasting sleep to fall upon the young men. The imperial courtiers Theodore and Rufinus (themselves secret Christians) built a small copper box into the wall. It contained lead plaques on which were written the names of these young men, and which recorded their martyric deaths during the reign of Emperor Decius. More than two hundred years passed. During the reign of Emperor Theodosius the Younger (408-450), there was a great dispute about the resurrection of the dead, and there were some who doubted in it. Emperor Theodosius was in great sorrow as a result of this dispute among the faithful, and prayed to God that He, in some way, would reveal the truth to men. Then some shepherds of Adolius, who owned the hill Celion, were building folds for their sheep, using stones from the cave. They removed stone after stone. Suddenly, the youths awoke from their sleep, as youthful and healthy as on the day they fell asleep. The news of this miracle was spread abroad in every direction, so that Theodosius himself came with a great entourage and conversed with the youths, to his delight. After a week, they again fell into the deep repose from which they had awakened, to await the General Resurrection. Emperor Theodosius wanted to place their bodies in gold caskets; but they appeared to him in a dream, and told him to leave them in the earth as they had been laid there.
Transfiguration (Metamorphosis) of Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ**
In the third year of His preaching, the Lord Jesus often spoke to His disciples of His approaching passion, and also of His glory following His suffering on the Cross. So that His impending passion would not totally weaken His disciples, and so that no one would fall away from Him, He, the All-wise, wanted to show them a portion of His divine glory before His passion. For that reason, He took Peter, James and John with Him and went by night to Mount Tabor, and was there transfigured before them: His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light (Matthew 17:2). Moses and Elias, the great Old Testament prophets, also appeared beside Him. Seeing this, His disciples were stunned. Learn More
The Dormition of our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary**
The Lord Who, on Mount Sinai, gave the Fifth Commandment, Honor thy father and thy mother, showed by His own example how one should respect one’s parents. Hanging on the Cross in agony, He remembered His Mother, and indicating the Apostle John He said to her: Woman, behold thy son. After that, He said to John: Behold thy mother. And so, providing for His Mother, He breathed His last. John had a home on Mount Zion, in Jerusalem, in which the Theotokos then lived. She dwelt there to the end of her days on earth. Learn More
Holy Martyr Andrew the Stratelates and his 2,593 faithful soldiers**
Andrew was an officer, a tribune, in the Roman army during the reign of Emperor Maximian. He was a Syrian by birth, and served in Syria. When the Persians menaced the Roman Empire with their military, Andrew was entrusted to command the imperial army in defense against the enemy. Therefore, Andrew was promoted to the rank of general – “Stratelates.” Secretly a Christian, even though he was not baptized, Andrew trusted in the Living God and chose only the best of the many soldiers to enter into battle. Before the battle, he told his soldiers that if they would call upon the help on the one, true God – Christ the Lord – their enemies would scatter as dust before them. Truly, all the soldiers were filled with zeal for Andrew and his faith, and invoked Christ for assistance; then they made the assault. The Persian army was utterly destroyed. When the victorious Andrew returned to Antioch envious men accused Andrew of being a Christian, and the imperial deputy summoned him to court. Andrew openly confessed his unwavering faith in Christ. After bitterly torturing him, the deputy threw Andrew into prison and wrote to the emperor in Rome. Knowing the respect in which the people and the army held Andrew, the emperor ordered the deputy to free Andrew, and to seek another opportunity and reason to kill him. Through God’s revelation Andrew learned of the emperor’s command, and, taking with him his faithful soldiers, 2,593 in number, he departed to Tarsus in Cilicia, where all were baptized by Bishop Peter. Persecuted even there by the imperial authorities, Andrew and his detachment withdrew further into Armenian Mount Taurus. The Roman army caught up with them there while they were at prayer in a ravine, and all of them were beheaded. None of them tried to defend themselves, but all were desirous of a martyr’s death for Christ. On this spot, where the stream of the martyr’s blood flawed, a spring of healing water burst forth, which cured many people of every disease. Bishop Peter secretly brought his people and honorably buried the bodies of the martyrs where they had been slain. Dying honorably, they were all crowned with wreaths of glory and took up their habitation in the Kingdom of Christ our Lord.
Saint Kosmas of Aetolia, the Hieromartyr and Equal to the Apostles+
Saint Kosmas the Aitolian, or Patrokosmas, as he is called, is a figure in both church and national history who in the 18th century cast his light upon the path which the Greeks would follow a little before the outbreak of the Struggle for Liberation. He was the son of devout parents who brought him up accordingly, and he came from the village of Mega Dendron in Aitolia.
His aptitude for learning took him to the school run by the Vatopedi Monastery on the Holy Mountain, where he studied under teachers famed for their learning. When the Athonite Academy fell into decay, the young Kostas (his name in the world) went to the Philotheou Monastery. There he was tonsured a monk and given the name of Kosmas and zealously engaged in many ascetic practices. At the request of the fathers of the Monastery, he was ordained a priest.
St. Kosmas had a burning desire to be of service to his brothers in Christ who were suffering so many hardships. The enslavement of many years with the subsequent degradation of life, ignorance, and the decline into barbarity in behaviour were the scourges of the mass of Christians. The reflections of St. Kosmas on this situation led him to go out to the people and begin a series of preaching tours. As his thoughts matured, with the permission of the fathers of the Monastery, around 1760 he left for Constantinople, where he received the blessing of the Patriarch Seraphim II.
St. Kosmas began his preaching from the enslaved Capital itself. He then went to Nafpaktos, Mesolonghi, and other areas, returning to Constantinople in 1774. With the permission of the new Patriarch Sophronius II, the Saint resumed his apostolic task. He returned for a little while to Athos, but his love for the Church’s flock led his steps to Thessaloniki, Veria, and other parts of Macedonia. From there, he moved on to Acarnania and Aitolia, as far as Arta and Preveza.
Because of the large crowds which followed him, the Saint used to preach on open plains, always with the permission of the local bishop and aga (local Turkish official). His words were simple, but filled with the Holy Spirit. It was his custom wherever he was going to preach to tell the people to construct a wooden cross. He would then place a stool which he carried with him against the cross and preach standing upon it. The cross would remain as a reminder of his preaching. The Saint urged the Christians to build schools so that their children could learn about the Faith and be well-grounded in Christian piety. He would speak to them about the services of the Church, explain to them the value of repentance and confession, warning them against sin and urging them to lead lives of goodness.
As with the Apostles, St. Kosmas’ preaching was often confirmed by miraculous signs. The Saint was admired and even feared by many Turks, and hated by many Jews. They spread unfounded accusations against him and slandered him to Kurt Pasha, to whom they offered money if he would put St. Kosmas to death. Kurt Pasha conspired with the hodja of the village of Kolikontasi in Albania that a trap would be set for St. Kosmas. On the pretext that the Pasha wished to see him, they took the Saint to a remote spot and hung him on August 24th, 1779. His murderers stripped the sanctified body of the Saint, tied a stone to it, and threw it into the river. The local Christians looked for his corpse, but could not find it. In a miraculous manner it rose to the surface and was pulled out by Papa Markos, the priest of the All-Holy Theotokos of the Presentation Monastery, which is near Kolikontasi, and buried it at the back of the sanctuary. Many other miracles followed the martyr’s death of the Saint, and he was quickly established in the mind of the people not only as a martyr but as a true apostle.
+Source: St. Kosmas Aitolos Monastery
The Beheading of the Holy and Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John**
Herod Antipas (son of the Herod who slew the children of Bethlehem at the time of Christ’s birth) was ruler of Galilee when John the Baptist was preaching. He was married to the daughter of Aretas, an Arabian prince. But Herod, an evil sprout of an evil root, put away his lawful wife and unlawfully took Herodias as his concubine. Herodias was the wife of his brother Philip, who was still alive. John the Baptist stood up against the lawlessness and strongly denounced Herod. Herod then cast John into prison. During a banquet in his court at Sebastia in Galilee, Salome – Herodias and Philip’s daughter – danced before the guests. Herod, drunk with wine, was so taken by this dance that he promised Salome anything she asked of him, even if it were half of his kingdom. Salome was persuaded by Herodias to ask for the head of John the Baptist. Herod gave the order, and John was beheaded in prison – and his head was presented to her on a platter. John’s disciples took the body of their teacher by night and honourably buried it, but Herodias pierced John’s tongue with a needle repeatedly, and buried his head in an unclean place. However, God’s punishment quickly befell this group of evildoers. Prince Aretas, avenging his daughter’s honour, waged war against Herod with his army and defeated him. The defeated Herod was sentenced by the Roman Caesar, Caligula, to exile (at first to Gaul, then later to Spain). Herod and Herodias lived lives of poverty and humiliation in exile, until the earth opened up and swallowed them. Salome died an evil death on the Sikaris (Sula) River. St. John’s beheading occurred just before Passover, but its celebration on August 29 was established because a church that had been built over his grave in Sebastia (by Emperor Constantine and Empress Helena) was consecrated on August 29. The relics of John’s disciples Eliseus and Audius were also placed in that church.