Holy Prophet Jeremiah*
Jeremiah was born 650 years before Christ in the village of Anathoth near Jerusalem. He began to prophesy at the age of fifteen, during the reign of King Josiah. He preached repentance to the king and noblemen, false prophets and priests. During the reign of King Josiah, Jeremiah barely escaped death at the murderous hands of the enraged nobles. Concerning King Jehoiakim, he prophesied that the king’s burial would be like the burial of an ass, that is, his dead body would be cast outside Jerusalem and dragged along the ground and without benefit of burial. Because of this, Jeremiah was cast into prison. Not being able to write in prison, he sent for Baruch, who stood near a small window of the prison while Jeremiah dictated to him. When this prophecy was read to King Jehoiakim, the enraged king seized the paper and threw it into the fire. Divine providence saved Jeremiah from prison, and the words of the prophet concerning Jehoiakim were fulfilled. Concerning King Jeconiah (son of Jehoiakim), Jeremiah prophesied that he and his entire family would be carried off to Babylon and that he would die there. All of this came about shortly. Under King Zedekiah, Jeremiah placed a yoke around his own neck and walked through Jerusalem, prophesying the fall of Jerusalem and bondage under the yoke of the Babylonians. Jeremiah wrote to the Hebrew captives in Babylon, telling them not to hope for a speedy return to Jerusalem, for they would remain in Babylon for seventy years, which came to pass. Near Jerusalem in the Valley of Tophet, where the Jews sacrificed children to the idols, Jeremiah took a potter’s clay vessel in his hands and shattered it before the people, prophesying the imminent routing of the Jewish Kingdom. The Babylonians shortly captured Jerusalem, slew King Zedekiah, plundered and destroyed the city, and beheaded a great number of Jews in the Valley of Tophet on the same spot where children had been sacrificed to idols and where the Prophet Jeremiah had smashed the potter’s vessel. Jeremiah, with the Levites, removed the Ark of the Covenant from the Temple to Mount Nebo, where Moses had died. There he hid the Ark in a cave. However, he hid the fire from the Temple in a deep well. Jeremiah was forced by some Jews to accompany them to Egypt, where he lived for four years and was then stoned to death by his countrymen. To the Egyptians, Jeremiah prophesied the destruction of their idols and the arrival of the Virgin and Christ-child in Egypt. There is a tradition that states that Alexander the Great visited the tomb of the Prophet Jeremiah. By Alexander’s order, the body of Jeremiah was translated and buried in Alexandria.
Holy Great-martyr Irene of Thessaloniki*
Irene lived in the Balkans during apostolic times in the town of Magedon. Her father Licinius was a lower-rank nobleman. Some think that she was a Slav. Irene was born a pagan of pagan parents. Penelope – for that was her pagan name – learned about the Christian Faith from her teacher Appelianus. St. Timothy, the disciple of the Apostle Paul, baptized her and her court attendants, and provided her with the Epistles of the Apostle Paul to read. Refusing to marry, she angered her father, and he wanted to torture her. Instead, she converted her father to Christianity in a miraculous manner. Irene was subjected to various tortures by four kings, not including her father, but God spared her through His angels. King Sedechias buried her up to her neck in a ditch filled with snakes and scorpions, but an angel of God destroyed these venomous and repulsive creatures and preserved the holy virgin unharmed. Then this king tried to saw her in half, but the saw broke against her body as against a stone. After that the same king tied her to a wheel under a water mill and released the flow of water, hoping in this manner to drown her. But the water refused to flow, and stood still, and the virgin remained alive and well. King Sapor, the son of King Sedechias, shod her feet with nails, loaded a sack of sand upon her, harnessed her and ordered that she be led like an animal far outside the town. “Truly, I am as a beast before Thee, O Lord!” said the holy martyr, running bound behind her torturers. However, an angel of God shook the earth, and the earth opened up and swallowed her tortures. Having survived all her tortures, through which she converted a countless number of pagans to Christianity, Irene entered the town of Callinicus, where she preached the Christian Faith. The local king Numerian tried to kill her in this manner: he cast her into three flaming hot metal oxen, one after the other. But the virgin was saved and remained alive. Many saw this and came to believe. The Eparch Vavdonos took her to the town of Constantina, where he thought to kill her by placing her on red-hot grates. But that too did not harm St. Irene, and she brought many to the true Faith. Finally, Irene arrived in the town of Mesembria where she was slain by King Shapur, but God restored her to life. The king and many of the people, upon witnessing this, believed in Christ and were baptized. Thus, through her sufferings and miracles, St. Irene converted over one hundred thousand pagans to the Christian Faith. Finally she lay down in a coffin and ordered Appelianus to close it. After four days, when the coffin was opened, her body was not in it. Thus, God glorified forever the virgin and martyr Irene, who sacrificed all and endured all so that God might be glorified among men.
Saints Cyril and Methodios, Equal to the Apostles and Illuminators of the Slavs*
Saints Cyril and Methodios were brothers from Thessalonica, of distinguished and wealthy parents, Leo and Maria. The elder brother Methodios spent ten years as an officer among the Macedonian Slavs and thus learned the Slavic language. After that, Methodios withdrew to Mount Olympus and dedicated himself to monastic asceticism. It was here that Cyril (Constantine) later joined him. When the king of the Khazars, Kagan, requested preachers of the Christian Faith from Emperor Michael III, these two brothers were found and sent among the Khazars by command of the emperor. Converting King Kagan to the Christian Faith, they baptized him along with a great number of his chief assistants and an even greater number of the people. After some time they returned to Constantinople, where they compiled the Slavonic alphabet consisting of thirty-eight letters. They then proceeded to translate ecclesiastical books from Greek into Slavonic. At the request of Prince Rastislav, they traveled to Moravia, where they spread and confirmed the sacred Faith and made more copies of the books, distributing them to the priests to teach the youth. At the request of the pope, Cyril traveled to Rome. There he became ill and died, on February 14, 867. Then Methodios returned to Moravia and labored to strengthen the Christian Faith among the Slavs until his death. Following his death (he reposed in the Lord on April 6, 885) his disciples, the Five Followers, with St. Clement the bishop at their head, crossed the Danube River and traveled south into Macedonia. There, from Ohrid, they continued their labor among the Slavs, which Cyril and Methodios had begun in the north.
Venerable Pachomius the Great*
Pachomius was born in Egypt and was a pagan in his youth. As a soldier, he fought alongside Emperor Constantine in battle against Maxentius. After that, he learned of the One God from Christians and, witnessing their devout life, he was baptized. He withdrew to the Thebaid desert, to the famous ascetic Palamon, with whom he practiced the ascetic life for ten years. Then, at a place called Tabennisi, an angel appeared to him in the robes of a schemamonk and gave him a board upon which was written the rule for a cenobitic monastery. The angel ordered him to establish such a monastery in that place, prophesying to him that to this monastery many monks would come for the sake of the salvation of their souls. Heeding the angel of God, Pachomius began to build many cells, even though no one was at that place except his brother John and himself. When his brother reproached him for building unnecessary cells, Pachomius simply said to him that he was following the command of God without regard as to who would come to live there and when. Soon many men, moved by the Spirit of God, gathered at that place and began to live a life of asceticism according to the Rule of Pachomius, which he had received from the angel. As the number of monks increased Pachomius gradually established six more monasteries. The number of his disciples amounted to about seven thousand. St. Anthony is considered to be the founder of the eremitic life; and St. Pachomius, of the monastic, cenobitic way of life. The humility, love of labor, and abstinence of this Holy Father were and remain rare examples for imitation by a vast number of monks. St. Pachomius worked numerous miracles, but he also endured numerous temptations from demons as well as from men. He served men as both a father and a brother. He inspired many to follow the path to salvation and directed many on the path to truth. He was and remains a great light of the Church and a great witness to the truth and righteousness of Christ. He died peacefully in the year 348 in the seventy-fourth year of his earthly life. The Church has included many of his disciples in the ranks of the saints, such as: Theodore, Job, Paphnutius, Pecusius, Athenodorus, Eponichus, Sorus, Psois, Dionysius, Psentaesis and others.
Holy Emperor Constantine and Empress Helen, Equal-to-the Apostles*
Constantine’s parents were Emperor Constantius Chlorus and Empress Helen. Chlorus had other children by another wife, but from Helen he had only Constantine. After his coronation Constantine fought three great battles: the first against Maxentius, a Roman tyrant; the second against the Scythians on the Danube; and the third against the Byzantines. Before the battle with Maxentius, while Constantine was greatly concerned and doubtful of his success, a brilliant Cross appeared to him in the sky during the day, adorned with stars. Written on the Cross were the words: “By this Sign Conquer.” Astonished, the emperor ordered a large cross to be forged, like the one that had appeared, and that it be carried before the army into battle. By the power of the Cross he achieved a glorious victory over the enemy, which was greatly superior in number. Maxentius drowned in the Tiber River. Immediately after this, in the year 313, Constantine issued the famous Edict of Milan to halt the persecution of Christians. Defeating the Byzantines, Constantine built a beautiful capital on the Bosphorus, which from that time was called Constantinople. Before this, however, Constantine fell ill with the dreaded disease of leprosy. As a cure, the pagan priests and physicians counseled him to bathe in the blood of slaughtered children. However, he rejected that. Then the Apostles Peter and Paul appeared to him and told him to seek out Bishop Sylvester, who would cure him of this dreaded disease. The bishop instructed him in the Christian Faith and baptized him, and the disease of leprosy vanished from the emperor’s body. When a discord began in the Church because of the mutinous heretic Arius, the emperor convened the First Ecumenical in Nicaea in 325, at which the Arian heresy was condemned and Orthodoxy confirmed. St. Helen, the pious mother of the emperor, was very zealous for the Faith of Christ. She visited Jerusalem, discovered the Honorable Cross of the Lord, and built the Church of the Resurrection on Golgotha, as well as many other churches throughout the Holy Land. This holy woman presented herself to the Lord in her eightieth year, in 327. Emperor Constantine outlived his mother by ten years. He reposed in Nicomedia in his sixty-fifth year, in 337. His body was interred in the Church of the Twelve Apostles in Constantinople.
The Third Finding of the Precious Head of St. John the Baptist
John, the holy and glorious prophet, precursor, and Baptist, is celebrated today with reference to his honorable head that was cut off by means of a girl’s voluptuous dance and a sword. There were other revelations of this precious relic, for which its first and second finding is commemorated by the holy Church on the 24th of February. The third discovery was made at Comana of Cappadocia. The relic was entrusted to the bosom of the earth until there passed the destructive days of the iconoclasts in the eighth century. Learn More
Venerable Isaac the Confessor, Abbot of the Monastery of Dalmatus*
During the reign of Emperor Valens, the Arians, with the emperor’s assistance, vehemently persecuted the Orthodox. Hearing of this persecution, Isaac, a hermit somewhere in the east, left the wilderness and came to Constantinople to encourage the faithful and denounce the heretics. At the same time, the Emperor Valens departed to the north with his army against the Goths, who had come down from the Danube toward Thrace. Isaac came before the emperor and said to him: “O Emperor, open the churches of the Orthodox, and God will bless your path.” The emperor ignored the elder and proceeded on his way. The following day, Isaac ran out again before the emperor, and again he repeated his warning. The emperor almost heeded the elder, but a certain advisor of his, a follower of the Arian heresy, prevented him. Isaac ran out before the emperor on the third day, grabbed the emperor’s horse by the reins, begged the emperor to grant freedom to the Church of God, and threatened him with divine retribution if he acted contrary to his petition. The enraged emperor ordered that the elder be thrown into a chasm of mud and thorns. However, three angels appeared and pulled the elder out of the chasm. On the fourth day Isaac came before the emperor and prophesied a terrible death for him if he did not grant freedom to the Orthodox: “I am speaking to you, O Emperor. You will lead the army against the barbarians, but you will not be able to endure their attack. You will flee from them, but you will be captured and burned alive.” Thus is happened. The barbarians cut down the Greek army like grass, but the emperor, with his Arian advisor, fled and hid in a basket. The barbarians arrived at that place and, learning where the emperor was, surrounded the basket and set it afire. Both the emperor and his advisor were burned alive. Following this, Theodosius the Great was crowned emperor. Theodosius, who heard about the prophecy of Isaac and its fulfillment, summoned Isaac and prostrated himself before him. Since peace reigned in the Church and the Arians were exiled, Isaac wanted to return to his wilderness, but he was persuaded to remain in Constantinople. An aristocrat, Saturninus by name, built a monastery for the Elder Isaac, where he lived a life of asceticism until his death, working many miracles. The monastery overflowed with monks and became a great monastery. Before his death, Isaac appointed his disciple Dalmatus as abbot, after whom this monastery was later named. The God-pleasing Elder Isaac entered into eternity in the year 383, to rejoice in the vision of the face of God.