- The Holy Seven Hieromartyrs [Priestly-Martyrs] In Cherson: Basil, Ephraim, Eugene, Elpidius, Agathadorus, Aetherius And Capito
All of them were bishops in Cherson at different times. All suffered and were martyred at the hands of unbelievers: either Jews, or Greeks, or Scythians. Only Aetherius died peacefully. All of them were sent by the Patriarch of Jerusalem as missionaries to bring the light of the Gospel to this wild and uncivilized area. They were tortured and suffered for their Lord. In Cherson, Basil raised the son of a prince from the dead. This embittered the Jews, and they brought an accusation against him. He was bound by the feet and dragged through the streets until his soul departed from his body. Ephraim was beheaded. Eugene, Elpidius and Agathadorus were beaten with rods and stoned until they gave up their souls to God. Aetherius lived during the reign of Emperor Constantine the Great. He governed the Church in freedom and peace, erected a large church in Cherson and died peacefully. When the last of them, Capito, was appointed bishop for the wild and savage Scythians, they sought a sign from him that they might believe. They suggested that he enter a fiery furnace. If he was not consumed, they would all believe in Christ. With fervent prayers and hope in God, Capito placed his episcopal pallium over his shoulders, signed himself with the sign of the Cross and, keeping his heart close to God, entered the fiery furnace. He remained in the flames for about an hour without any injury or damage, either to his body or vesture. He came out in good health. Then all of them cried out at once: “One is God, the God of the Christians, great and mighty, Who protects His servant in the fiery furnace.” All in the city and in the surrounding area were then baptized. This miracle was spoken of at length at the First Ecumenical Council [Nicaea, 325 A.D.]. The participants in the Council all glorified God and praised the steadfast and solid faith of St. Capito. It happened that while Capito was traveling along the Dnieper River, he was captured by the pagan Scythians and drowned. All seven of these hieromartyrs suffered around the beginning of the fourth century.
- The Vererable Emilianus Emilianus was born in Rome and committed many grave sins in his youth. When Emilianus came to his senses, he refrained from sinning and began to tremble just thinking about the judgment of God. Emilianus immediately entered a monastery, and by fasting, vigils and obedience he tamed and withered his body. He was an ideal example to his brethren in every good labor. Often he would step out of the monastery at night and enter a nearby cave to pray. Not knowing where Emilianus was going, the abbot of the monastery secretly followed him one night. The abbot saw Emilianus standing at prayer in reverence and tears. All at once, a heavenly light, brighter than the sun, encompassed the entire mountain–especially the cave and Emilianus. A voice was heard from heaven, saying: “Emilianus, your sins are forgiven you.” Filled with fright, the abbot hurried back to the monastery. The next day he revealed to the brethren what he had seen and heard the previous night. Great respect was shown to Emilianus by the brethren. He lived long and reposed in the Lord.*)
*) On this date St. Lawrence is commemorated in the great Greek
Synaxarion. He was a benefactor of the Phaneromene Monastery on the island of Salamina. He lived in Megara as a married man with two sons. He was righteous and pious. The Most-holy Theotokos appeared to him in a dream and commanded him to go to Salamina and there to restore her church. He went there, and indeed he discovered the ruins and built a new church. There he was tonsured a monk and died on March 7, 1770 A.D. Afterward, many miracles occurred in this monastery over the relics of St. Lawrence.
Hymn Of Praise Saint Emilianus Emilianus was a grave sinner, And from sin the soul aches. Emilianus was disconsolate; He prayed to God for forgiveness: “O Most High, O Most wonderful, From Whom the sun has light, From Whom the angelic choir Receives its wakeful existence, joy and radiance! For Thee only, O God, do I care; With repentance I return to Thee; Only to Thee do I offer thanks, That now I truly comprehend life. Tears, tears, tears I shed; Body and spirit now are fasting; I shut out my vision of the world and my hearing. Forgive, O God, forgive, forgive! Before Thy mercy I am a field: Weed me and cultivate me. Let my soul be alive, And the flesh suffer and feel pain. Of all men I am the worst. Behold, I judge myself; Just do not judge me, O God. I fear Thee, only Thee!”
Reflection A thick rope is made from thin, fibrous strands of hemp. One thin fiber cannot hold you nor can it strangle you. For you will easily, as in jest, break it and free yourself from it. However, if you are tied with a thick rope, you will be held bound and even strangled by it. You can neither easily break it nor free yourself from it. As a thick rope consists of thin and weak fibers, so men’s passions consist of small, initial sins. Man can break off and turn away from the beginnings of small, initial sins. But when sin after sin is repeated, the weave becomes stronger and stronger, until in the end a passion is created, which then turns man into some kind of monster, as only it knows how. You cannot easily cut it off or distance yourself from it, nor can you divorce yourself from it. Oh, if only men would beware and uproot the beginnings of sins! Then, they would not have to endure much in freeing themselves from passions. “To cut off rooted passions is as difficult as cutting off one’s fingers,” said a monk from the Holy Mountain. To free himself from sinful passions, St. Emilianus was helped by the remembrance of death and, naturally, the grace of God, without which it is extremely difficult to rid oneself of the fetters of passion. To think often of impending death, to repent, and to implore grace from Almighty God–these three acts save a man from the bondage of sin. St. Sisoes was asked: “How long does it take to uproot passions?” The saint replied: “As soon as one passion arises in you, uproot it immediately.”
Contemplation Contemplate the Lord Jesus at prayer in Gethsemane:
- How He falls on His face and prays three times, Omy Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me(Matthew 26:39), and again, Thywill be done (Matthew 26:42);
- How He sweated at prayer, And His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22:44);
- How all of this was because of you and me, because of my sins and your sins, and for the sake of my salvation and your salvation.
Homily on the hand of the betrayer “But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth Me is with Me on the table (Luke 22:21). It is most difficult for a general to wage war when he has an enemy within the camp–not only external enemies but also internal enemies in his own ranks. Judas was considered among his own. However, he was the enemy from within. Rows of enemies crowded and closed ranks around Christ while Judas was preparing betrayal from within. His hand was on the table that Christ blessed, but his thoughts were aligned with the enemies, where the darkest evil, hatred and malice seethed against the gentle Lord. Is it not also the same today, that the hands of the many betrayers of Christ are at the table with Him? Which table is not Christ’s? What table does not hold His gifts? He is the Householder and He nourishes and feeds His guests. The guests have nothing of their own, nothing! All good and all abundance which is given to them is given by the hand of Christ. Therefore, is not Christ present at every table as a Householder and as a Servant? Therefore, are not the hands of all who betray Christ today at the table with Him? They eat His bread, and they speak against Him. They warm themselves by His sun, and they slander His name. They breathe His air, and they rise up against His Church. They live by His mercy, and they banish Him from their homes, their schools, their courts, their books and their hearts. They willfully and maliciously trample His commandments and ridicule His law. Are they not the betrayers of Christ and the followers of Judas? Do not be afraid of them! God did not command us to be afraid of them, but to wait to see their end. Our Lord was not afraid of Judas nor is He afraid of all the traitorous hordes to the end of time. He knows their end, and He already has His victory in His hands. Therefore, neither should you be afraid. Adhere faithfully to Christ the Lord, not only when it appears that His work is succeeding and advancing in the world, but also when it appears that His work is failing and perishing. Do not be afraid! If you become frightened, perhaps your hand will be found clenched beneath Judas’s hand at the table of Christ. O Lord, All-victorious, sustain us with Thy power and mercy. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.