The Placing of the Robe of the Theotokos in the Church of Blachernae in Constantinople**
In the time of Emperor Leo the Great (457-474) and Empress Verina and Patriarch Gennadius, two noblemen from Constantinople, Galibus and Candidus, were traveling in the Holy Land to venerate the holy places. They stopped in Nazareth for a while, at the home of a Jewish maiden who kept the robe of the All-holy Mother of God in a secret room. Learn More
Venerable Athanasius of Mount Athos**
Athanasius was born in Trebizond of God-fearing parents. He was orphaned at an early age, but by the providence of God a military officer took him under his care and brought him to Constantinople to be educated. Because of his meekness and humbleness, he was the favorite of his peers. During their games, the children chose one to be an emperor, another a commander – and Athanasius an abbot, as though it were a prophecy! Having completed his education, Athanasius (who before tonsure was called Abraham) withdrew into the desert of Maleinos near the Holy Mountain, where he lived the life of an ascetic, as a disciple of the then renowned Michael Maleinos. Desiring a more difficult life of asceticism, Athanasius moved to Mount Athos, to live in silence. But many that were desirous of a life of asceticism began to gather around him, and he was compelled to build his famous Lavra. Learn More
Holy Great-martyr Kyriake**
During the time of the Emperors Diocletian and his son-in-law Maximian, both adversaries of Christ, there lived in Anatolia two pious and elderly souls, Dorotheus and Eusebia. They were devout Christians, wealthy but childless. Through unceasing prayer, they obtained a child from God – the holy Kyriake. From her childhood, Kyriake consecrated herself to God, abstaining from everything that unruly children do. When she had matured and was beautiful in body and soul, many suitors came to ask for her hand in marriage; but she refused them all, saying that she had betrothed herself to Christ the Lord and desired nothing more than to die as a virgin. Learn More
Sunday of the Holy Fathers (Commemoration of the Ecumenical Councils) **
This common commemoration of the first Six Ecumenical Councils occurs on the Sunday between July 13 and 19. The Seventh Ecumenical Council is not commemorated on this occasion, but is commemorated on or immediately after the eleventh of October. The Ecumenical Councils are the greatest duels between Orthodoxy and heretics. Today the Church jointly commemorates the first Six Ecumenical Councils:
1. The First Ecumenical Council was held at Nicaea in 325, with 318 Holy Fathers participating. It is commemorated separately on May 29 and on the Seventh Sunday of Pascha. This Council refuted the heresy of Arius against the Son of God.
2. The Second Ecumenical Council was held at Constantinople in 381, with 150 Holy Fathers participating. It is commemorated separately on May 22. This Council refuted the heresy of Macedonius against God the Holy Spirit.
3. The Third Ecumenical Council was held at Ephesus in 431, with 200 Holy Fathers participating. It is commemorated separately on September 9. This Council refuted the heresy of Nestorius against the Mother of God.
4. The Fourth Ecumenical Council was held at Chalcedon in 451, with 630 Holy Fathers participating. It is commemorated separately on July 16. This Council refuted the Monophysite heresy.
5. The Fifth Ecumenical Council was held at Constantinople in 553, with 160 Holy Fathers participating. It is commemorated separately on July 25. This Council refuted the heresy of Origen.
6. The Sixth Ecumenical Council was held at Constantinople in 680-81, with 170 Holy Fathers participating. It is commemorated separately on January 23. This Council refuted the Monothelite heresy.
(7. The Seventh Ecumenical Council was convened at Nicaea in 787, with 367 Holy Fathers participating. This Council refuted the heresy of iconoclasm.)
Through the operation of the Holy Spirit, the Councils condemned all these heresies, and the Faith of Orthodoxy was defined and confirmed for all time.
Holy Great-martyr Marina**
Marina was born in Pisidian Antioch of pagan parents. At the age of twelve, Marina learned about the Lord Jesus Christ: how He became incarnate of the All-pure Virgin and how He worked many miracles, suffered death on the Cross and gloriously resurrected. Her young heart became inflamed with love for the Lord and she vowed that she would never marry, and in her soul she further desired to suffer for Christ and be baptized in the blood of martyrdom. Learn More
The Holy and Glorious Prophet Elias**
Prophet Elias – the God-seer, miracle-worker and zealot for faith in God – was born of the tribe of Aaron in the town of Tishba, for which he was called Tishbite. When Elias was born, his father Sabbas saw angels of God hovering around the child, wrapping the child in fire and feeding him flames. That was a foreshadowing of Elias’s fiery character and his God-given fiery power. He spent his entire youth in divine contemplation and prayer, withdrawing frequently into the wilderness to contemplate and pray in tranquility. At that time the Jewish kingdom was divided into two unequal parts: the kingdom of Judah consisting of only two tribes – the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, with their capital in Jerusalem; and the kingdom of Israel consisting of the remaining ten tribes, with their capital in Samaria. The former was governed by the descendants of Solomon, and the latter was governed by the descendents of Jeroboam, a servant of Solomon. The greatest confrontation that the prophet Elias had was with the Israelite King Ahab and his evil wife Jezebel for they worshipped idols and were turning the people away from serving the One Living God. In addition Jezebel, a Syrian, persuaded her husband to erect a temple to the Syrian god Baal and appointed many priests to the service of this false god. Through great miracles Elias displayed the power and authority of God. He closed up the heavens, so that there was no rain for three years and six months; he called fire down from heaven to consume the sacrifice to God, which the pagan priests were unable to do for the false god, Baal; he brought rain by his prayer; he miraculously multiplied flour and oil in the home of the widow at Zarephath, and resurrected her son; he prophesied to Ahab that the dogs would lick up his blood, and to Jezebel that the dogs would consume her flesh – all of which came to pass; and he performed many other miracles, and prophesied other events as well. He spoke with God, and heard the voice of God in the calm after the wind, earthquake and fire on Mount Horeb. Before his death, he designated Elisha as his successor in the prophetic calling; and, with his mantle, he divided the waters of the Jordan. Finally, he was taken up into the heavens in a fiery chariot drawn by fiery horses. On Mount Tabor he appeared together with Moses beside our Lord Jesus Christ. At the end of the world, Elias will appear again, to put an end to the power of Antichrist (Revelation 11).
Saint Mary Magdalene**
One of the myrrh-bearing women and equal to the apostles, Mary was born in the town of Magdala, along the shore of Lake Gennesaret, of the tribe of Issacher. She was tormented by seven evil spirits – from which she was freed by the Lord Jesus and made whole. She was a faithful follower and servant of the Lord during His earthly life. She stood beneath the Cross on Golgotha, and grieved bitterly with the All-holy Theotokos. After the death of the Lord she visited His sepulcher three times. When the Lord rose again she saw Him on two occasions: once by herself, and once with the other myrrh-bearing women. She traveled to Rome and appeared before Tiberias Ceasar, presenting him with a red egg, and giving him the salutation: “Christ is Risen!” She also denounced Pontius Pilate to Caesar for his unjust condemnation of the Lord Jesus. Caesar accepted her accusation, and transferred Pilate from Jerusalem to Gaul where, in disfavor with the emperor, this unjust judge died of a dread disease. After this, she returned from Rome to Ephesus, to assist St. John the Theologian in the work of preaching the Gospel. With great love toward the resurrected Lord, with great zeal for the Faith and as a true apostle of Christ, she proclaimed the Holy Gospel to the world. She died peacefully in Ephesus. According to tradition, the cave she was buried in was the same cave in which the Seven Youths (August 4) later slept a wondrous sleep for hundreds of years, then came to life and again died. The relics of St. Mary Magdalene were later transferred to Constantinople. There is a beautiful Russian Orthodox convent dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene near the Garden of Gethsemane.
Christina the Great Martyr of Tyre**
Christina was born in the city of Tyre. She was the daughter of Urban the imperial deputy, an idol-worshiper. The reason her parents gave her the name of Christina is unknown, but it contained within itself the mystery of her future following of Christ. Until the age of eleven she knew nothing of Christ. When she reached that age, her father made her live in the top of a high tower, in order to protect her from the world, because of her extraordinary beauty. He planned to have her live there until she reached full maturity. All the comforts of life were afforded her – slaves to serve her, and gold and silver idols that she might offer sacrifices to them daily. However, the soul of young Christina was saddened in this isolated, idolatrous environment. Looking out the window each day at the sun and all the beauty of the world, and again at night at the wondrous constellations of shining stars, Christina came to a firm belief in the One Living God through her own natural understanding. The merciful God, seeing her longing for the truth, sent His angel to trace the sign of the Cross upon Christina. The angel called her the bride of Christ, and instructed her fully in the knowledge of divine things. Then Christina smashed all the idols in her quarters, thus provoking wild fury in her father. He brought her to trial, and had her tortured. Then he had her thrown into prison, intending to have her beheaded the next day. That night Urban, who had been in full health, spewed forth his soul and went to the grave before his daughter. After this, two imperial deputies, Dion and Julian, continued to torture this holy virgin. Christina’s courageous endurance and the miracles she worked by the power of God converted many pagans of Tyre to Christianity. During the torturing of Christina, Dion suddenly fell dead in the midst of the people. Dion’s successor, Julian, severed Christina’s breasts and tongue. The martyr threw her severed tongue into Julian’s face, and he was instantly blinded. Finally, her suffering for Christ ended beneath the sharp sword, but her life continues in the Immortal Kingdom of the angels. St. Christina suffered honorably in the third century.
Paraskevi the Righteous Martyr of Rome**
Paraskevi was born in Rome of Christian parents, and from her youth was instructed in the Faith of Christ. With great fervor, St. Paraskevi endeavored to fulfill all the commandments of God. Believing firmly and living according to her faith, Paraskevi directed others on the path of salvation and in the pious life. When her parents died, Paraskevi distributed all of her property to the poor, and was tonsured a nun. As a nun, she preached the Christian Faith with an even greater zeal, not hiding from anyone, even though at that time the Roman authorities were conducting a bloody persecution against the Christian Faith. Then the pernicious Jews denounced St. Paraskevi for preaching a forbidden faith and she was brought to trial before Emperor Antoninus. All the flatteries of the emperor did not shake the faith of this handmaiden of God. They then subjected her to torture by fire, and placed a red-hot helmet on her head. The Lord miraculously saved her, and Paraskevi was freed, and left Rome. She continued traveling from city to city to convert pagans to the true Faith. She was brought before princes and judges in two more cities, and was tortured for her Lord, at which time she worked great miracles and, by the power of God, quickly recovered from her pains and wounds. The pagans, as always, ascribed her miracles to magic and her swift recoveries to the mercy of their gods. St. Paraskevi once said to the prince who was torturing her: “O Prince, it is not your gods who have healed me, but my Christ, the true God.” Finally, a certain Prince Tarasius beheaded her with the sword. Thus, this saint gloriously ended her fruitful life. Her relics were later translated to Constantinople. She suffered honorably for Christ in the second century.
Holy Panteleimon the Great Martyr and Healer**
Panteleimon was born in Nicomedia of a Christian mother and a pagan father. His mother was named Eubula and his father Eustorgius. As a young man, he studied the science of medicine. The priest Hermolaus befriended him, taught him the Christian Faith and baptized him. Panteleimon miraculously cured a blind man whom other doctors had treated in vain; he healed him by the name of Christ and baptized him. The doctors, full of envy, accused Panteleimon as a Christian, and he went before the Emperor Maximian to stand trial. “He stood before the earthly king in body but in mind he stood before the heavenly King.” He freely declared to the emperor that he was a Christian, and in his presence healed a paralytic of his long-standing illness. This miracle drew many pagans to the Christian Faith. The emperor subjected Panteleimon to torture, but the Lord appeared to him on several occasions, and delivered him whole and unharmed. Then St. Hermolaus, along with Hermippas and Hermocrates suffered. Sentenced to death, St. Panteleimon knelt in prayer. At that moment, the executioner struck him on the neck with the sword, but it broke as though made of wax. The executioner was unable to execute Panteleimon until the saint completed his prayer and gave him permission to do so. His relics possess the ability to heal. Panteleimon was executed under an olive tree which was thereafter adorned with much faith. “Panteleimon” means “all-merciful,” or “all-compassionate.” The All-merciful God received his righteous soul and glorified him among His great saints. This wonderful martyr honorably for Christ in his youth, on July 27, 304. St. Panteleimon is invoked during the prayers of the Blessing of Waters and in the Sacrament of Holy Unction, together with St. Hermolaus and the other unmercenary and wonderworking saints. A most beautiful church dedicated to this saint is located on the Holy Mountain.