The Protection of the Most-holy Theotokos**
From time immemorial, the Church has celebrated the Most-holy Theotokos as the patroness and protectress of the Christian people, who, by her intercessory prayers, implores God’s mercy for us sinners. The help of the Most-holy Mother of God has been clearly shown numerous times, to individuals and to nations, in peace and in war, in monastic deserts and in densely populated cities. The event that the Church commemorates and celebrates today confirms the Theotokos’ consistent protection of Christian people. On October 1, 911, during the reign of Emperor Leo the Wise, there was an All-night Vigil in the Blachernae Church of the Mother of God in Constantinople. The church was full of people. St. Andre the Fool-for-Christ was standing in the rear of the church with his disciple Epiphanius. At four o’clock in the morning, the Most-holy Theotokos appeared above the people, holding her omophorion outstretched as a protective covering for the faithful. She was clothed in gold-encrusted purple, and shone with an ineffable radiance, surrounded by apostles, saints, martyrs and virgins. St. Andrew said to Blessed Epiphanius: “Do you see, brother, the Queen and Lady of all praying for the whole world?” Epiphanius replied: “I see, Father, and am struck with amazement!” The Feast of the Protection was instituted to commemorate this event, and to remind us that we can prayerfully receive the unceasing protection of the Most-holy Theotokos in any time of difficulty.
Holy Hieromartyr Dionysius the Areopagite
Saint Dionysius, who came of a rich and noble family, lived in Athens at the time of the Apostles. On account of the wisdom and virtue pagan learning afforded him, he was chosen one of the nine counsellors of the Areopagus, the high court and parliament of the city. As such, it was he who invited the great Apostle Paul, whom the Holy Spirit had brought to the city, to proclaim the good tidings of Salvation on the Areopagus. From the height of this rock overlooking the city, the simple tent-maker pulled to pieces the sophistries of the Athenian philosophers, and clearly showed that the unknown God, whom their unassisted reason had given them a vague notion of, was the Lord of heaven and earth, who made the world and everything in it, and who does not live in temples made by hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life, and breath and every thing (Acts 17:23 25). Learn More
Saint Methodia the Righteous of Kimolos
Saint Methodia was born in 1865 on the island of Kimolos in the Cyclades to pious and God-fearing parents. From childhood she wanted to devote herself entirely to the service of God and Holy Church. She set at a distance all worldly pleasures, and delighted only in what profits the soul. Contrary to her own wishes, her parents married her to a sailor from Chios but, shortly after their wedding, her husband was drowned on a voyage to Asia Minor. She mourned his loss but took it as a sign from God to do what, in the depths of her heart, she had always desired. Learn More
The Holy and Glorious Apostle Thomas**
Thomas was one of the Twelve Apostles. Through his doubt in the Resurrection of Christ our Lord, a new proof was given of that wonderful and saving event. The resurrected Lord appeared to His disciples a second time, in order to convince Thomas. The Lord said to Thomas: Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas replied: My Lord and my God (John 20: 27-28). After the descent of the Holy Spirit, when the apostles cast lots to see where they would each go to preach, the lot fell to Thomas to go to India. He was a little saddened that he had to go so far away, but the Lord appeared to him and encouraged him. In India, St. Thomas converted many, both aristocrats and poor, to the Christian Faith, and established the Church there, appointing priests and bishops. Among others, Thomas converted two sisters to the Faith – Tertiana and Migdonia – both wives of Indian princes. Because of their faith, both sisters were ill-treated by their husbands, with whom they no longer wanted to live after their baptism. Eventually, they were allowed to go. Being freed of marriage, they lived God-pleasing lives until their repose. Dionysius and Pelagia were betrothed, but when they heard the apostolic preaching they did not marry, but devoted themselves to the ascetic life. Pelagia ended her life as a martyr for the Faith, and Dionysius was ordained a bishop by the apostle. Prince Mazdai, Tertiana’s husband, whose son, Azan, was also baptized by Thomas, condemned the apostle to death. Mazdai sent five soldiers to kill Thomas. They ran him through with their five spears, and thus the Holy Apostle Thomas rendered his soul into the hands of Christ. Before his death, he and the other apostles were miraculously brought to Jerusalem for the burial of the Most-holy Theotokos. Arriving too late, he wept bitterly, and the tomb of the Holy Most-pure One was opened at his request. The Theotokos’ body was not found in the tomb: the Lord had taken His Mother to His heavenly habitation. Thus, in his tardiness St. Thomas revealed to us the wondrous glorification of the Mother of God, just as he had once confirmed faith in the Resurrection of the Lord by his unbelief.
Our Holy Mother Pelagia the Righteous
Saint Pelagia lived at Antioch in the second half of the fifth century, where she was the best-known harlot of that great city. Her devotion to dancing and unchaste pleasures made her a great fortune that she spent entirely on adorning her body with costly raiment and voluptuous perfumes, in order to attract new victims into her net. She had many slaves and servants who escorted her whenever, seated in a luxurious chariot, she went about the city. One day, the Archbishop of Antioch invited Nonnus, the holy Bishop of Edessa (10 Nov.), to address some of his bishops in the Church of St Julian, for he was a man of inspired utterance, able to bring those who heard him to repentance and love of virtue. It so happened that Pelagia, with her usual retinue, passed by the doors of the church near where Nonnus was speaking. Learn More
Holy Apostle Philip of the Seventy, one of the Seven Deacons
Saint Philip was born at Caesarea in Palestine. He was married, and had four daughters who consecrated their virginity to God and were given the gift of prophecy (Acts 21:8). The Apostles ordained him deacon at the same time as Stephen (Acts 6), to assist in the service of tables and in charitable works. When the Apostolic college dispersed to proclaim the Gospel, Philip spread the Glad Tidings of Salvation throughout Samaria. He baptized Simon the magician who feigned conversion in the hope of making money by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Then the Lord sent him along the Gaza road to the minister of the Ethiopian Queen Candace, as he travelled south from Jerusalem in his chariot, reading the prophecy of Isaiah. Learn More
Holy Martyr Longinus the Centurion
Saint Longinus lived in the reign of the Emperor Tiberius (AD 15-34). He came from Cappadocia and served as a centurion in the Roman army, under the orders of Pilate, the Governor of Judaea. He and his men were commanded to carry into effect Pilate’s sentence regarding the holy Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and to guard the tomb for fear the disciples should come and steal away His body to lend credence to His resurrection. So it came about that Longinus witnessed all the astonishing miracles that accompanied Christ’s Passion: Learn More
The Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke**
Luke was born in Antioch. In his youth, he excelled in his studies of Greek philosophy, medicine and art. During the ministry of the Lord Jesus on earth, Luke came to Jerusalem, where he saw the Savior face to face, heard His saving teaching and was witness to His miraculous works. Coming to belief in the Lord, St. Luke was numbered among the Seventy Apostles, and was sent out to preach. With Cleopas, he saw the resurrected Lord on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24). After the descent of the Holy Spirit, Luke returned to Antioch and there became a fellow worker of the Apostle Paul and traveled to Rome with him, converting Jews and pagans to the Christian Faith. Luke, the beloved physician, … greets you, writes the Apostle Paul to the Colossians (Colossians 4:14). At the request of Christians, he wrote his Gospel in about the year 60. Following the martyrdom of the great Apostle Paul, St. Luke preached the Gospel throughout Italy, Dalmatia, Macedonia and other regions. He painted icons of the Most-holy Theotokos – not just one, but three – and icons of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. Hence, St. Luke is considered to be the founder of Christian iconography. In old age, he visited Libya and Upper Egypt. From Egypt he returned to Greece, where he continued to preach and convert many with great zeal despite his old age. In addition to his Gospel, St. Luke wrote the Acts and dedicated both works to Theophilus, the governor of Achaia. Luke was eighty-four years old when the wicked idolaters tortured him for the sake of Christ and hanged him from an olive tree in the town of Thebes, in Boethia. The miracle-working relics of this wonderful saint were transported to Constantinople in the reign of Emperor Constantius, the son of Constantine.
Saint Gerasimus of Cephalonia
Our holy Father Gerasimus came from Peloponnese. In his youth, his devout parents put him to the study of sacred literature, in which he showed outstanding ability. As a young man, he left home for the island of Zakynthos and travelled thence all over Greece. From Thessaly he made his way to the Black Sea, Constantinople, the Propontus and Chalcedon. Everywhere he went, he sought out men who, being perfect in the ascetic life, could teach him ‘the Art of arts and the Science of sciences’. He arrived, at last, on Mount Athos, where he gathered nectar from all the flowers of the virtues that he found flourishing among the many ascetics he visited, in order to produce within himself, the honey of purity of heart. Learn More
James (Iakovos) the Holy Apostle, Brother of the Lord**
James is called the Lord’s brother because he was the son of the righteous Joseph, the betrothed of the Most-holy Theotokos. When the righteous Joseph was near death, he divided his estate among his sons, and wanted to leave a portion to the Lord Jesus, the son of the Most-holy Virgin, but all the other brothers opposed this, not regarding Jesus as their brother. James greatly loved Jesus and declared that he would include Jesus in his share. That is why he is called the Lord’s brother. From the beginning, James was devoted to the Lord Jesus. According to tradition, he traveled to Egypt with the Most-holy Virgin and Joseph, when Herod sought to slay the newborn King. Later, as soon as he heard Christ’s teaching, James lived by it. It is said of him that he never ate fat or oil, but lived on just bread and water, and was a virgin to the end of his life on earth. He often kept vigil at night and prayed to God. The Lord numbered him among His Seventy Apostles. Following His glorious Resurrection, the Lord appeared to him especially, as the Apostle Paul testifies (I Corinthians 15:7). He was Bishop of Jerusalem for thirty years and zealously governed the Church of God. At the instruction of the Lord, James compiled the first Liturgy, which seemed very long for later Christians, and St. Basil and St. John Chrysostom shortened it. He converted many Jews and Greeks to the Christian Faith, and even the unbelieving Jews were amazed at his righteousness, referring to him as “James the Just.” When Ananias became High Priest, he and other Jewish elders determined to kill James for being a preacher of Christ. Once, during the feast of Passover, when many people had gathered in Jerusalem, the elders forced James to climb onto the roof of the Temple, and tried to make him speak against Christ. He climbed up and spoke to the people of Christ as the Son of God and the true Messiah, of His Resurrection and His eternal glory in the heavens. The infuriated priests and elders pushed him off the roof; he fell and was severely injured, but was still alive. Then, one man ran up and struck him on the head with a fuller’s club with such force that his brains spilled out. Thus, this most glorious apostle of Christ died a martyr’s death, and went to live eternally in the Kingdom of his Lord. James was sixty-six years old when he suffered for Christ.
The Holy Great Martyr Demetrios the Myrrh-streamer**
This glorious and wonderworking saint was born in Thessalonica of noble and devout parents. Implored of God by childless parents, Demetrios was their only son, and so was raised and educated with great care. Demetrios’s father was a commander in Thessalonica. When his father died, Emperor Maximian appointed Demetrios as commander in his place. As he appointed him, Maximian, an opponent of Christ, particularly recommended that he persecute and exterminate the Christians in Thessalonica. Learn More
Holy Virgin Martyr Anastasia the Roman
Saint Anastasia lived at Rome in the middle of the third century, during the reign of the Emperor Decius and of his successor Valerian, when Probus was Governor of the City. She was young and beautiful and possessed all the good things of this life, whose pleasures tend to make us forget heavenly things. But she gave up everything that bound her to this world and embraced the angelic life in a little monastery in Rome, directed by a wise and most virtuous nun called Sophia. When the Devil saw the young Anastasia warring valiantly against fleshly passions, he decided to tempt her by the final test of confessing Christ in the shedding of her blood. Her refusal to worship the gods of the City and consequent contempt for the imperial religion were reported to the Governor as shameless impiety. Learn More