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Orthodox Saint of the Day
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Orthodox Christian Saints & Martyrs Throughout the Liturgical Year
Orthodox Christian Saints & Martyrs Throughout the Liturgical Year

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July 25 - Commemoration of the Holy 165 Fathers of the Fifth Ecumenical Council

The Fifth Ecumenical Council (Constantinople II) was held at Constantinople, under the holy Emperor St Justinian I (527-565) in the year 553, to determine the Orthodoxy of three dead bishops: Theodore of Mopsuetia, Theodoret of Cyrrhus and Ibas of Edessa, who had expressed Nestorian opinions in their writings in the time of the Third Ecumenical Council (September 9).

These three bishops had not been condemned at the Fourth Ecumenical Council (July 16), which condemned the Monophysites, and in turn had been accused by the Monophysites of Nestorianism. Therefore, to deprive the Monophysites of the possibility of accusing the Orthodox of sympathy for Nestorianism, and also to dispose the heretical party towards unity with the followers of the Council of Chalcedon, the emperor St Justinian issued an edict. In it "the Three Chapters" (the three deceased bishops) were condemned. But since the edict was issued on the emperor's initiative, and since it was not acknowledged by representatives of all the Church (particularly in the West, and in Africa), a dispute arose about the "Three Chapters." The Fifth Ecumenical Council was convened to resolve this dispute.

165 bishops attended this Council. Pope Vigilius, though present in Constantinople, refused to participate in the Council, although he was asked three times to do so by official deputies in the name of the gathered bishops and the Emperor himself. The Council opened with St Eutychius, Patriarch of Constantinople (552-565, 577-582), presiding. In accordance with the imperial edict, the matter of the "Three Chapters" was carefully examined in eight prolonged sessions from May 4 to June 2, 553.

Anathema was pronounced against the person and teachings of Theodore of Mopsuetia. In the case of Theodore and Ibas, the condemnations were confined only to certain of their writings, while they personally had been cleared by the Council of Chalcedon, because of their repentance. Thus, they were spared from the anathema.

This measure was necessary because certain of the proscribed works contained expressions used by the Nestorians to interpret the definitions of the Council of Chalcedon for their own ends. But the leniency of the Fathers of the Fifth Ecumenical Council, in a spirit of moderate economy regarding the persons of Bishops Theodore and Ibas, instead embittered the Monophysites against the decisions of the Council. Besides which, the emperor had given the orders to promulgate the Conciliar decisions together with a decree of excommunication against Pope Vigilius, for being like-minded with the heretics. The Pope afterwards concurred with the mind of the Fathers, and signed the Conciliar definition. The bishops of Istria and all the region of the Aquilea metropolia, however, remained in schism for more than a century.

At the Council the Fathers likewise examined the errors of presbyter Origen, a renowned Church teacher of the third century. His teaching about the pre-existence of the human soul was condemned. Other heretics, who did not admit the universal resurrection of the dead, were also condemned.

It pleased the Lord that the Holy Spirit should inspire the Fathers of the Council in a further definition of Orthodoxy that preserves the integrity and dignity both of God and of mankind, without the distortion of either that occurs within the Nestorian or Monophysite heresies.

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July 25 - Holy Woman Olympias (Olympiada) the Deaconess of Constantinople

Saint Olympias the Deaconess was the daughter of the senator Anicius Secundus, and by her mother she was the granddaughter of the noted eparch Eulalios (he is mentioned in the life of St Nicholas). Before her marriage to Anicius Secundus, Olympias's mother had been married to the Armenian emperor Arsak and became widowed. When St Olympias was still very young, her parents betrothed her to a nobleman. The marriage was supposed to take place when St Olympias reached the age of maturity. The bridegroom soon died, however, and St Olympias did not wish to enter into another marriage, preferring a life of virginity.

After the death of her parents she became the heir to great wealth, which she began to distribute to all the needy: the poor, the orphaned and the widowed. She also gave generously to the churches, monasteries, hospices and shelters for the downtrodden and the homeless.

Holy Patriarch Nectarius (381-397) appointed St Olympias as a deaconess. The saint fulfilled her service honorably and without reproach.

St Olympias provided great assistance to hierarchs coming to Constantinople: Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium, Onesimus of Pontum, Gregory the Theologian, St Basil the Great's brother Peter of Sebaste, Epiphanius of Cyprus, and she attended to them all with great love. She did not regard her wealth as her own but rather God's, and she distributed not only to good people, but also to their enemies.

St John Chrysostom (November 13) had high regard for St Olympias, and he showed her good will and spiritual love. When this holy hierarch was unjustly banished, St Olympias and the other deaconesses were deeply upset. Leaving the church for the last time, St John Chrysostom called out to St Olympias and the other deaconesses Pentadia, Proklia and Salbina. He said that the matters incited against him would come to an end, but scarcely more would they see him. He asked them not to abandon the Church, but to continue serving it under his successor. The holy women, shedding tears, fell down before the saint.

Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria (385-412), had repeatedly benefited from the generosity of St Olympias, but turned against her for her devotion to St John Chrysostom.She had also taken in and fed monks, arriving in Constantinople, whom Patriarch Theophilus had banished from the Egyptian desert. He levelled unrighteous accusations against her and attempted to cast doubt on her holy life.

After the banishment of St John Chrysostom, someone set fire to a large church, and after this a large part of the city burned down.

All the supporters of St John Chrysostom came under suspicion of arson, and they were summoned for interrogation. They summoned St Olympias to trial, rigorously interrogating her. They fined her a large sum of money for the crime of arson, despite her innocence and a lack of evidence against her. After this the saint left Constantinople and set out to Kyzikos (on the Sea of Marmara). But her enemies did not cease their persecution. In the year 405 they sentenced her to prison at Nicomedia, where the saint underwent much grief and deprivation. St John Chrysostom wrote to her from his exile, consoling her in her sorrow. In the year 409 St Olympias entered into eternal rest.

St Olympias appeared in a dream to the Bishop of Nicomedia and commanded that her body be placed in a wooden coffin and cast into the sea. "Wherever the waves carry the coffin, there let my body be buried," said the saint. The coffin was brought by the waves to a place named Brokthoi near Constantinople. The inhabitants, informed of this by God, took the holy relics of St Olympias and placed them in the church of the holy Apostle Thomas.

Afterwards, during an invasion of enemies, the church was burned, but the relics were preserved. Under the Patriarch Sergius (610-638), they were transferred to Constantinople and put in the women's monastery founded by St Olympias. Miracles and healings occurred from her relics.

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July 25 - Venerable Macarius the Abbot of Zheltovod and Unzha

Saint Macarius of Zheltovod and Unzha was born in the year 1349 at Nizhni-Novgorod into a pious family. At twelve years of age he secretly left his parents and accepted monastic tonsure at the Nizhni-Novgorod Caves monastery under St Dionysius (June 26). With all the intensity of his youthful soul he gave himself over to the work of salvation. He stood out among the brethren for his extremely strict fasting and precise fulfillment of the monastic rule.

The parents of St Macarius only learned three years later where he had gone. His father went to him and tearfully besought his son merely that he would come forth and show himself. St Macarius spoke with his father through a wall, saying that he would see him in the future life. "Extend your hand, at least," implored the father. The son fulfilled this small request and the father, having kissed his son's hand, returned home.

Burdened by fame, the humble Macarius set off for the shores of the River Volga, and here he pursued asceticism near the waters of Yellow Lake. Here by firm determination and patience he overcame the abuse of the Enemy of salvation. Lovers of solitude gathered to St Macarius, and in 1435 he organized a monastery for them in the Name of the Most Holy Trinity.

Here also he began to preach Christianity to the surrounding Cheremis and Chuvash peoples, and he baptized both Mohammedans and pagans in the lake, which received its name from the saint. When the Kazan Tatars destroyed the monastery in 1439, they took St Macarius captive. Out of respect for his piety and charitable love, the Khan released the saint from captivity and freed nearly 400 Christians with him. But in return, St Macarius promised not to settle by Yellow Lake.

St Macarius reverently buried those killed at his monastery, and he went 200 versts to the Galich border. During the time of this resettlement all those on the way were fed in miraculous manner through the prayers of the saint. Having arrived at the city of Unzha, St Macarius set up a cross 15 versts from the city, and built a cell on the shores of Lake Unzha. Here he founded a new monastery. During the fifth year of his life at Lake Unzha, St Macarius took sick and reposed at age 95.

While yet alive, St Macarius was granted a gift: he healed a blind and demon-afflicted girl. After the death of the monk, many received healing from his relics. The monks built a temple over his grave, and established a cenobitic rule at the monastery.

In 1522, Tatars fell upon Unzha and wanted to destroy the silver reliquary in the Makariev monastery, but they fell blind. In a panic, they took to flight. Many of them drowned in the Unzha. In 1532, through the prayers of St Macarius, the city of Soligalich was saved from the Tatars. In gratitude, the inhabitants built a chapel in the cathedral church in honor of the saint. More than 50 people received healing from grievous infirmities through the prayers of St Macarius. This was certified by a commission sent by Patriarch Philaret in 1619.

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July 25 - Virginmartyr Eupraxia of Tabenna

Saint Eupraxia was daughter of the Constantinople dignitary Antigonos, a kinsman of the holy Emperor Theodosius the Great (379-395).

Antigonus and his wife Eupraxia were pious and bestowed generous alms on the destitute. A daughter was born to them, whom they also named Eupraxia. Antigonos soon died, and the mother withdrew from the imperial court. She went with her daughter to Egypt, on the pretext of inspecting her properties. Near the Thebaid there was a women's monastery with a strict monastic rule. The life of the inhabitants attracted the pious widow. She wanted to bestow aid on this monastery, but the abbess Theophila refused and said that the nuns had fully devoted themselves to God and that they did not wish the acquisition of any earthly riches. The abbess consented to accept only candles, incense and oil.

The younger Eupraxia was seven years old at this time. She liked the monastic way of life and she decided to remain at the monastery. Her pious mother did not stand in the way of her daughter's wish. Taking leave of her daughter at the monastery, Eupraxia asked her daughter to be humble, never to dwell upon her noble descent, and to serve God and her sisters.

In a short while the mother died. Having learned of her death, the emperor St Theodosius sent St Eupraxia the Younger a letter in which he reminded her that her parents had betrothed her to the son of a certain senator, intending that she marry him when she reached age fifteen. The Emperor desired that she honor the commitment made by her parents. In reply, St Eupraxia wrote to the emperor that she had already become a bride of Christ, and she requested of the emperor to dispose of her properties, distributing the proceeds for the use of the Church and the needy.

St Eupraxia, when she reached the age of maturity, intensified her ascetic efforts all the more. At first she partook of food once a day, then after two days, three days, and finally, once a week. She combined her fasting with the fulfilling of all her monastic obediences. She toiled humbly in the kitchen, she washed dishes, she swept the premises and served the sisters with zeal and love. The sisters also loved the humble Eupraxia. But one of them envied her and explained away all her efforts as a desire for glory. This sister began to trouble and to reproach her, but the holy virgin did not answer her back, and instead humbly asked forgiveness.

The Enemy of the human race caused the saint much misfortune. Once,while getting water, she fell into the well, and the sisters pulled her out. Another time, St Eupraxia was chopping wood for the kitchen, and cut herself on the leg with an axe. When she carried an armload of wood up the ladder, she stepped on the hem of her garment. She fell, and a sharp splinter cut her near the eyes. All these woes St Eupraxia endured with patience, and when they asked her to rest, she would not consent.

For her efforts, the Lord granted St Eupraxia a gift of wonderworking. Through her prayers she healed a deaf and dumb crippled child, and she delivered a demon-possessed woman from infirmity. They began to bring the sick for healing to the monastery. The holy virgin humbled herself all the more, counting herself as least among the sisters. Before the death of St Eupraxia, the abbess had a vision. The holy virgin was transported into a splendid palace, and stood before the Throne of the Lord, surrounded by holy angels. The All-Pure Virgin showed St Eupraxia around the luminous chamber and said that She had made it ready for her, and that she would come into this habitation after ten days.

The abbess and the sisters wept bitterly, not wanting to lose St Eupraxia. The saint herself, in learning about the vision, wept because she was not prepared for death. , She asked the abbess to pray that the Lord would grant her one year more for repentance. The abbess consoled St Eupraxia and said that the Lord would grant her His great mercy. Suddenly St Eupraxia sensed herself not well, and having sickened, she soon peacefully died at the age of thirty.

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July 25 - Dormition of the Righteous Anna, the Mother of the Most Holy Theotokos

Saint Anna was the daughter of the priest Matthan and his wife Mary. She was of the tribe of Levi and the lineage of Aaron. According to Tradition, she died peacefully in Jerusalem at age 79, before the Annunciation to the Most Holy Theotokos.

During the reign of St Justinian the Emperor (527-565), a church was built in her honor at Deutera. Emperor Justinian II (685-695; 705-711) restored her church, since St Anna had appeared to his pregnant wife. It was at this time that her body and maphorion (veil) were transferred to Constantinople.

St Anna is also commemorated on September 9.
Troparion - Tone 4
Divinely-wise Anna, you carried in your womb the pure Mother of God, who gave life to our Life.
Therefore, you are now carried joyfully to the inheritance of heaven,
to the abode of those who rejoice in glory,
where you seek forgiveness of sins for those who faithfully honor you, ever blessed one.

Kontakion - Tone 2
We celebrate the memory of the progenitors of Christ,
and with faith we ask their help,
that deliverance from every affliction be granted to those who cry out:
"Be with us, O God, who in Your good pleasure glorified them."

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July 23 - Icon of the Mother of God "the Joy of All who sorrow" (with coins) in St Petersburg

The Icon of the Mother of God "Joy of All Who Sorrow" (With Coins) was glorified in the year 1888 in Petersburg, when during the time of a terrible thunderstorm lightning struck in a chapel. All was burned or singed, except for this icon of the Queen of Heaven. It was knocked to the floor, and the poor box broke open at the same time. Somehow, twelve small coins (half-kopeck pieces), became attached to the icon. A church was built in 1898 on the site of the chapel.

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July 23 - Icon of the Mother of God of Pochaev

The Pochaev Icon of the Mother of God is among the most venerable sacred items of the Orthodox Church. Located at the Dormition Cathedral, Pochaev, Ukraine, the icon is renowned throughout the Slavic world and is venerated by Orthodox Christians throughout the world. Christians of other confessions also come to venerate the wonderworking image of the Most Holy Theotokos, together with the Orthodox. The wonderworking icon has been kept at the Pochaev Lavra, an ancient bastion of Orthodoxy, for about 400 years. (The account of the transfer of the icon to the Pochaev monastery is found under September 8). The miracles which issued forth from the holy icon are numerous and are testified to in the monastery books with the signatures of the faithful who have been delivered from unclean spirits, liberated from captivity, and sinners brought to their senses.

In the year 1721, Pochaev was occupied by Uniates. Even in this difficult time for the Lavra, the monastery chronicle notes 539 miracles from the glorified Orthodox icon. During the time of the Uniate rule in the second half of the eighteenth century, for example, the Uniate nobleman Count Nicholas Pototski became a benefactor of the Pochaev Lavra through the following miraculous circumstance. Having accused his coachman of overturning the carriage with frenzied horses, the count took out a pistol to shoot him. The coachman, turning towards Pochaev Hill, reached his hands upwards and cried out: "Mother of God, manifest in the Pochaev Icon, save me!" Pototski several times tried to shoot the pistol, which had never let him down, but the weapon misfired. The coachman remained alive. Pototski then immediately went to the wonderworking icon and decided to devote himself and all his property to the building-up of the monastery. From his wealth the Dormition cathedral was built, as well as buildings for the brethren.

The return of Pochaev into the bosom of Orthodoxy in 1832 was marked by the miraculous healing of the blind maiden Anna Akimchukova, who had come on pilgrimage to the holy things together with her seventy-year-old grandmother from Kremenets-Podolsk, 200 versts away. In memory of this event, the Volhynia archbishop and Lavra archimandrite Innocent (1832-1840) established the reading of the Akathist on Saturdays before the wonderworking icon. During the time of Archimandrite Agathangelus, Archbishop of Volhynia (1866-1876), a separate chapel was constructed in the galleries of the Holy Trinity church in memory of the victory over the Tatars, which was dedicated on July 23, 1875.

The Pochaev Icon is also commemorated on Friday of Bright Week and on September 8.

Troparion - Tone 5
Those who pray before your holy icon, O Lady,
Are vouchsafed healing and receive the knowledge of the true faith,
And they repel the attacks of the Hagarenes.
Therefore entreat remission of sins
For us who fall down before you.
Enlighten our hearts to thoughts of piety,
And raise a prayer to your Son to save our souls.

Kontakion - Tone 1
Your icon of Pochaev, O Theotokos,
Is become a source of healing and the confirmation of the Orthodox Faith.
Therefore deliver us who have recourse to you
From calamity and temptation.
Preserve your monastery unharmed.
Confirm Orthodoxy in the surrounding lands,
And forgive the sins of those who pray to you;
For you can do as you will.

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July 22 - Myrrhbearer and Equal of the Apostles Mary Magdalene

The Holy Myrrh-Bearer Equal of the Apostles Mary Magdalene. On the banks of Lake Genesareth (Galilee), between the cities of Capharnum and Tiberias, was the small city of Magdala, the remains of which have survived to our day. Now only the small village of Mejhdel stands on the site.

A woman whose name has entered forever into the Gospel account was born and grew up in Magdala. The Gospel tells us nothing of Mary's younger years, but Tradition informs us that Mary of Magdala was young and pretty, and led a sinful life. It says in the Gospels that the Lord expelled seven devils from Mary (Luke. 8:2). From the moment of her healing Mary led a new life, and became a true disciple of the Savior.

The Gospel relates that Mary followed after the Lord, when He went with the Apostles through the cities and villages of Judea and Galilee preaching about the Kingdom of God. Together with the pious women Joanna, wife of Choza (steward of Herod), Susanna and others, she served Him from her own possessions (Luke 8:1-3) and undoubtedly shared with the Apostles the evangelic tasks in common with the other women. The Evangelist Luke, evidently, has her in view together with the other women, stating that at the moment of the Procession of Christ onto Golgotha, when after the Scourging He took on Himself the heavy Cross, collapsing under its weight, the women followed after Him weeping and wailing, but He consoled them. The Gospel relates that Mary Magdalene was present on Golgotha at the moment of the Lord's Crucifixion. While all the disciples of the Savior ran away, she remained fearlessly at the Cross together with the Mother of God and the Apostle John.

The Evangelists also list among those standing at the Cross the mother of the Apostle James, and Salome, and other women followers of the Lord from Galilee, but all mention Mary Magdalene first. St John, in addition to the Mother of God, names only her and Mary Cleopas. This indicates how much she stood out from all the women who gathered around the Lord.

She was faithful to Him not only in the days of His Glory, but also at the moment of His extreme humiliation and insult. As the Evangelist Matthew relates, she was present at the Burial of the Lord. Before her eyes Joseph and Nicodemus went out to the tomb with His lifeless Body. She watched as they covered over the entrance to the cave with a large stone, entombing the Source of Life.

Faithful to the Law in which she was raised, Mary together with the other women spent following day at rest, because it was the great day of the Sabbath, coinciding with the Feast of Passover. But all the rest of the peaceful day the women gathered spices to go to the Grave of the Lord at dawn on Sunday and anoint His Body according to the custom of the Jews.

It is necessary to mention that, having agreed to go on the first day of the week to the Tomb early in the morning, the holy women had no possibility of meeting with one another on Saturday. They went separately on Friday evening to their own homes. They went out only at dawn the following day to go to the Sepulchre, not all together, but each from her own house.

The Evangelist Matthew writes that the women came to the grave at dawn, or as the Evangelist Mark expresses, extremely early before the rising of the sun. The Evangelist John, elaborating upon these, says that Mary came to the grave so early that it was still dark. Obviously, she waited impatiently for the end of night, but it was not yet daybreak. She ran to the place where the Lord's Body lay.

Mary went to the tomb alone. Seeing the stone pushed away from the cave, she ran away in fear to tell the close Apostles of Christ, Peter and John. Hearing the strange message that the Lord was gone from the tomb, both Apostles ran to the tomb and, seeing the shroud and winding cloths, they were amazed. The Apostles went and said nothing to anyone, but Mary stood about the entrance to the tomb and wept. Here in this dark tomb so recently lay her lifeless Lord.

Wanting proof that the tomb really was empty, she went down to it and saw a strange sight. She saw two angels in white garments, one sitting at the head, the other at the foot, where the Body of Jesus had been placed. They asked her, "Woman, why weepest thou?" She answered them with the words which she had said to the Apostles, "They have taken my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him." At that moment, she turned around and saw the Risen Jesus standing near the grave, but she did not recognize Him.

He asked Mary, "Woman, why weepest thou? Whom dost thou seek?" She answered thinking that she was seeing the gardener, "Sir, if thou hast taken him, tell where thou hast put Him, and I will take Him away."

Then she recognized the Lord's voice. This was the voice she heard in those days and years, when she followed the Lord through all the cities and places where He preached. He spoke her name, and she gave a joyful shout, "Rabbi" (Teacher).

Respect and love, fondness and deep veneration, a feeling of thankfulness and recognition at His Splendor as great Teacher, all came together in this single outcry. She was able to say nothing more and she threw herself down at the feet of her Teacher to wash them with tears of joy. But the Lord said to her: "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and tell them: "I ascend to My Father, and your Father; to My God and to your God."

She came to herself and again ran to the Apostles, to do the will of Him sending her to preach. Again she ran into the house, where the Apostles still remained in dismay, and proclaimed to them the joyous message, "I have seen the Lord!" This was the first preaching in the world about the Resurrection.

The Apostles proclaimed the Glad Tidings to the world, but she proclaimed it to the Apostles themselves.

Holy Scripture does not tell us about the life of Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection of Christ, but it is impossible to doubt, that if in the terrifying minutes of Christ's Crucifixion she was the foot of His Cross with His All-Pure Mother and St John, she must have stayed with them during the happier time after the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ. Thus in the Acts of the Apostles St Luke writes that all the Apostles with one mind stayed in prayer and supplication, with certain women and Mary the Mother of Jesus and His brethren.

Holy Tradition testifies that when the Apostles departed from Jerusalem to preach to all the ends of the earth, then Mary Magdalene also went with them. A daring woman, whose heart was full of reminiscence of the Resurrection, she went beyond her native borders and went to preach in pagan Rome. Everywhere she proclaimed to people about Christ and His teaching. When many did not believe that Christ is risen, she repeated to them what she had said to the Apostles on the radiant morning of the Resurrection: "I have seen the Lord!" With this message she went all over Italy.

Tradition relates that in Italy Mary Magdalene visited Emperor Tiberias (14-37 A.D.) and proclaimed to him Christ's Resurrection. According to Tradition, she took him a red egg as a symbol of the Resurrection, a symbol of new life with the words: "Christ is Risen!" Then she told the emperor that in his Province of Judea the unjustly condemned Jesus the Galilean, a holy man, a miracleworker, powerful before God and all mankind, had been executed at the instigation of the Jewish High Priests, and the sentence confirmed by the procurator appointed by Tiberias, Pontius Pilate.

Mary repeated the words of the Apostles, that we are redeemed from the vanity of life is not with perishable silver or gold, but rather by the precious Blood of Christ.

Thanks to Mary Magdalene the custom to give each other paschal eggs on the day of the Radiant Resurrection of Christ spread among Christians over all the world. On one ancient Greek manuscript, written on parchment, kept in the monastery library of St Athanasius near Thessalonica, is a prayer read on the day of Holy Pascha for the blessing of eggs and cheese. In it is indicated that the igumen in passing out the blessed eggs says to the brethren: "Thus have we received from the holy Fathers, who preserved this custom from the very time of the holy Apostles, therefore the holy Equal of the Apostles Mary Magdalene first showed believers the example of this joyful offering."

Mary Magdalene continued her preaching in Italy and in the city of Rome itself. Evidently, the Apostle Paul has her in mind in his Epistle to the Romans (16: 6), where together with other ascetics of evangelic preaching he mentions Mary (Mariam), who as he expresses "has bestowed much labor on us." Evidently, she extensively served the Church in its means of subsistence and its difficulties, being exposed to dangers, and sharing with the Apostles the labors of preaching.

According to Church Tradition, she remained in Rome until the arrival of the Apostle Paul, and for two more years following his departure from Rome after the first court judgment upon him. From Rome, St Mary Magdalene, already bent with age, moved to Ephesus where the holy Apostle John unceasingly labored. There the saint finished her earthly life and was buried.

Her holy relics were transferred in the ninth century to Constantinople, and placed in the monastery Church of St Lazarus. In the era of the Crusader campaigns they were transferred to Italy and placed at Rome under the altar of the Lateran Cathedral. Part of the relics of Mary Magdalene are said to be in Provage, France near Marseilles, where over them at the foot of a steep mountain a splendid church is built in her honor.

The Orthodox Church honors the holy memory of St Mary Magdalene, the woman called by the Lord Himself from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God.

Formerly immersed in sin and having received healing, she sincerely and irrevocably began a new life and never wavered from that path. Mary loved the Lord Who called her to a new life. She was faithful to Him not only when He was surrounded by enthusiastic crowds and winning recognition as a miracle-worker, but also when all the disciples deserted Him in fear and He, humiliated and crucified, hung in torment upon the Cross. This is why the Lord, knowing her faithfulness, appeared to her first, and esteemed her worthy to be first to proclaim His Resurrection.

Troparion - Tone 1
By keeping His commandments and laws, holy Mary Magdalene,
you followed Christ, Who for our sake was born of the Virgin,
and in celebrating your most holy memory today,
we receive forgiveness of sins by your prayers.

Kontakion - Tone 4
Podoben: “Today the Virgin...”
Standing before the Cross of the Savior,
suffering with the Mother of the Lord,
the most glorious Mary Magdalene
offered praise with tears.
She cried out: “What is this strange wonder?
He Who holds the whole creation in His hand chooses to suffer.
Glory to Your power, O Lord.”

Kontakion - Tone 3
Standing before the Cross of the Savior,
Suffering with the Mother of the Lord,
The most glorious Mary Magdalene offered praise with tears.
She cried out: What is this strange wonder?
He who holds the whole creation in His hand chooses to suffer:
Glory, O Lord to Your power!

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July 22 - Martyr Marcella of Chios

Saint Markella lived in the village of Volissos, Chios sometime after the middle of the fourteenth century. Her parents were Christians, and among the wealthiest citizens of Volissos. The saint’s mother died when she was young, and so her father, the mayor of the village, saw to her education.

She had been trained by her mother to be respectful and devout, and to guard her purity. She avoided associations with other girls who were more outgoing than she was so that she would not come to spiritual harm through such company. Her goal was to attain the Kingdom of Heaven, and to become a bride of Christ.

St Markella increased in virtue as she grew older, fasting, praying, and attending church services. She tried to keep the commandments and to lead others to God. She loved and respected her father, and comforted him in his sorrow. She told him she would take care of him in his old age, and would not abandon him.

As an adult, St Markella was loved by everyone for her beauty and for her spiritual gifts. The Enemy of our salvation tried to lure her into sin by placing evil thoughts in her mind. She resisted these temptations, and so the devil turned away from a direct confrontation with the young woman. Instead, he incited her father with an unnatural desire for his daughter.

Markella’s father changed in his behavior toward her. He became moody and depressed, forbidding her to go into the garden or to speak with the neighbors. Unable to understand the reason for this change, the saint went to her room and wept. She prayed before an icon of the Mother of God, asking Her to help her father. Soon she fell asleep, only to be awakened by her father’s shouting.

The unfortunate man had spent a long time struggling against his lust, but finally he gave in to it. At times he would speak to his daughter roughly, then later he would appear to be gentle. He wanted to be near her, and to stroke her hair. Unaware of her father’s intentions, St Markella was happy to see him emerge from his melancholy state, thinking that her prayer had been answered.

One day, her father openly declared the nature of his feelings for her. Horrified, the saint tried to avoid him as much as she could. Even the neighbors realized that there was something wrong with the man, so they stopped speaking to him.

A shepherd was tending his sheep near the beach one morning, and was leading them into the shade of a plane tree to avoid the hot July sun. Just as he was about to lie down, he heard a noise and looked up. He saw a young woman with a torn dress running down the hill. She hid in a nearby bush, ignoring its thorns.

The shepherd wondered who was chasing her, and how she had come to this spot. Then he heard the sound of a horse approaching, and recognized the mayor of the village. He asked the shepherd if he had seen his daughter. He said that he had not seen her, but pointed to her hiding place with his finger.

The mayor ordered Markella to come out of the bush, but she refused. Therefore, he set fire to the bush in order to force her out. She emerged on the side opposite her father, and ran toward the rocky shore, calling out to the Mother of God for help.

Markella continued to run, even though blood was flowing from her face and hands. Feeling a sharp pain in her leg, she saw that she had been shot with an arrow. She paused to pull it out, then took to flight once more. She scrambled over the rocks, staining them with her blood. Hearing her father getting closer, she prayed that the earth would open up and swallow her.

The saint sank to her knees, her strength all gone, and then a miracle took place. The rock split open and received her body up to the waist. Her father drew near with wild-eyed joy shouting, “I have caught you. Now where will you go?

Drawing his sword, he began to butcher his helpless daughter, cutting off pieces of her body. Finally, he seized her by the hair and cut off her head, throwing it into the sea. At once the calm sea became stormy, and large waves crashed to the shore near the murderer’s feet. Thinking that the sea was going to drown him because of his crime, he turned and fled. His ultimate fate has not been recorded.

In later years, pious Christians built a church on the spot where St Markella hid in the bush. The spot where she was killed became known as “The Martyrdom of St Markella,” and the rock that opened to receive her is still there. The rock appears to be a large stone that broke off from a mountain and rolled into the sea. Soil from the mountain covers the spot on the side facing the land. On the side facing the ocean is a small hole, about the size of a finger. A healing water flows from the opening, which cures every illness.

The flow of water is not due to the movements of the tide, because when the tide is out, there would be no water. This, however, is not the case. The water is clear, but some of the nearby rocks have been stained with a reddish-yellow color. According to tradition, the lower extremities of St Markella’s body are concealed in the rock.

The most astonishing thing about the rock is not the warmth of the water, nor the discoloration of the other rocks, but what happens when a priest performs the Blessing of Water. A sort of steam rises up from the water near the rock, and the entire area is covered with a mist. The sea returns to normal as soon as the service is over. Many miracles have occurred at the spot, and pilgrims flock there from all over the world.

Troparion - Tone 1
By keeping His commandments and laws, holy Mary Magdalene,
you followed Christ, Who for our sake was born of the Virgin,
and in celebrating your most holy memory today,
we receive forgiveness of sins by your prayers.

Kontakion - Tone 4
Podoben: “Today the Virgin...”
Standing before the Cross of the Savior,
suffering with the Mother of the Lord,
the most glorious Mary Magdalene
offered praise with tears.
She cried out: “What is this strange wonder?
He Who holds the whole creation in His hand chooses to suffer.
Glory to Your power, O Lord.”

Kontakion - Tone 3
Standing before the Cross of the Savior,
Suffering with the Mother of the Lord,
The most glorious Mary Magdalene offered praise with tears.
She cried out: What is this strange wonder?
He who holds the whole creation in His hand chooses to suffer:
Glory, O Lord to Your power!

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July 21 - Venerable Simeon of Emessa the Fool-For-Christ and his Fellow-Ascetic John

The Monks Simeon, Fool-for-Christ, and his Fellow-Ascetic John were Syrians, and they lived in the sixth century at the city of Edessa. From childhood they were bound by close ties of friendship. The older of them, Simeon, was unmarried and lived with his aged mother. John, however, although he was married, lived with his father (his mother was dead) and with his young wife. Both friends belonged to wealthy families. When Simeon was thirty years old, and John twenty-four, they made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Venerable and Life-Creating Cross of the Lord. On the journey home the friends spoke of the soul’s path to salvation. Dismounting their horses, they sent the servants on ahead with the horses, while they continued on foot.

Passing through Jordan, they saw monasteries on the edge of the desert. Both of them were filled with an irrepressible desire to leave the world and spend their remaining life in monastic struggles. They turned off from the road, which their servants followed to Syria, and they prayed zealously that God would guide them to the monasteries on the opposite side. They besought the Lord to indicate which monastery they should choose, and they decided to enter whichever monastery had its gates open. At this time the Lord informed Igumen Nikon in a dream to open the monastery gates, so that the sheep of Christ could enter in.

In great joy the comrades came through the open gates of the monastery, where they were warmly welcomed by the igumen, and they remained at the monastery. In a short while they received the monastic tonsure.

After remaining at the monastery for a certain time, Simeon desired to intensify his efforts, and to go into the desert to pursue asceticism in complete solitude. John did not wish to be left behind by his companion, and he decided to share with him the work of a desert-dweller. The Lord revealed the intentions of the companions to Igumen Nikon, and on that night when Sts Simeon and John intended to depart the monastery, he himself opened the gates for them. He prayed with them, gave them his blessing and sent them into the wilderness.

When they began their life in the desert, the spiritual brothers at first experienced the strong assaults of the devil. They were tempted by grief over abandoning their families, and the demons tried to discourage the ascetics, subjecting them to weakness, despondency and idleness. The brothers Simeon and John remembered their monastic calling, and trusting in the prayers of their Elder Nikon, they continued upon their chosen path. They spent their time in unceasing prayer and strict fasting, encouraging one another in their struggle against temptation.

After a while, with God’s help, the temptations stopped. The monks were told by God that Simeon’s mother and John’s wife had died, and that the Lord had vouchsafed them the blessings of Paradise. After this Simeon and John lived in the desert for twenty-nine years, and they attained complete dispassion (apathia) and a high degree of spirituality. St Simeon, through the inspiration of God, considered that now it was proper for him to serve people. To do this, he must leave the desert solitude and go into the world. St John, however, believing that he had not attained such a degree of dispassion as his companion, decided not to leave the wilderness.

The brethren parted with tears. Simeon journeyed to Jerusalem, and there he venerated the Tomb of the Lord and all the holy places. By his great humility the holy ascetic entreated the Lord to permit him to serve his neighbor in such a way that they should not acknowledge him. St Simeon chose for himself the difficult task of foolishness for Christ. Having come to the city of Emesa, he stayed there and passed himself off as a simpleton, behaving strangely, for which he was subjected to insults, abuse and beatings. In spite of this, he accomplished many good deeds. He cast out demons, healed the sick, delivered people from immanent death, brought the unbelieving to faith, and sinners to repentance.

All these things he did under the guise of foolishness, and he never received praise or thanks from people. St John highly esteemed his spiritual brother, however. When one of the inhabitants of the city of Emesa visited him in the wilderness, asking for his advice and prayers, he would invariably direct them to “the fool Simeon”, who was better able to offer them spiritual counsel. For three days before his death St Simeon ceased to appear on the streets, and he enclosed himself in his hut, where there was nothing except for bundles of firewood. Having remained in unceasing prayer for three days, St Simeon fell asleep in the Lord. Some of the city poor, his companions, had not seen the fool for some time. They went to his hut and found him dead.

Taking up the dead body, they carried him without church singing to a place where the homeless and strangers were buried. While they carried the body of St Simeon, several of the inhabitants heard a wondrous church singing, but could not understand from whence it came.

After St Simeon died, St John also fell asleep in the Lord. Shortly before his death, St Simeon saw a vision of his spiritual brother wearing a crown upon his head with the inscription: “For endurance in the desert.”

Troparion — Tone 1

Having heard the voice of Your Apostle Paul: / We are fools for Christ’s sake! / Your servant Simeon, O Christ God, / Lived the life of a fool here on earth for Your sake. / Therefore as we venerate his memory, / We entreat You, O Lord, to save our souls!

Kontakion — Tone 2

Let us praise with fervent love, / This man who lived in the flesh as an angel, / Adorning his soul with the most radiant virtues! / Simeon, the equal to the Apostles and the Bearer of God. / Together with him, let us honor his companion John, / For they both ever stand before God, interceding for us all!

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