1. The Venerable Martyr Eustratius Of The Monastery Of The Kiev Caves Eustratius was very wealthy, but being moved by love for Christ he distributed his entire estate for the sake of Christ, and entered the Monastery of the Caves (Pecer), and was tonsured a monk. When the Polovtsians waged war against Kiev in 1097 A.D., they plundered the monastery and slew many Christians, including monks. Eustratius and some of the faithful were sold as slaves to a Jew in the city of Cherson. This Jew ridiculed the Christian Faith and tried to coerce the Christians into embracing the Jewish religion. Seeing that they had no other alternative, they all agreed to starve themselves to death rather than deny the true Faith. Eustratius encouraged the Christians to follow that decision. They all died of hunger–some after three days, some after four, and some after seven. Being accustomed to fasting, Eustratius was the only one to remain alive–enduring fourteen days without food. The Jew, angered because he had lost the money he had used to purchase the slaves, took out his revenge on Eustratius by nailing him to a cross. Eustratius praised God from the cross and prophesied a severe and imminent death for the Jew. Wild with rage, the Jew pierced him with a spear. The saint of God gave up his soul to his Savior. His body was thrown into the sea, but it floated to the surface. Great miracles occurred over this martyr’s body. Shortly after the death of Eustratius, the Byzantine emperor decreed that the Jews of the city of Cherson be punished for their wickedness toward Christians. This tormentor of Christians was hanged on a tree and received the reward of Judas.

  2. The Venerable Hilarion The New Confessor Hilarion was the abbot of the Monastery of Pelekete, near the Hellespont. He shone like the sun with the spirit of God, healed people and expelled evil spirits. This man of God suffered at the time when Leo the Armenian began the iconoclastic persecution. With forty of his monks, Hilarion was sent into exile near Ephesus and died there in prison. He took up his habitation in the Kingdom of Christ in 754 A.D.

  3. The Venerable Hesychius Of Jerusalem A presbyter and profound theologian, Hesychius was a disciple of St. Gregory the Theologian and a contemporary of St. Euthymius the Great. One should read his well-known work, “On Sobriety and Prayer.” He reposed peacefully in the year 434 A.D.

  4. The Holy Martyr Boyan, Bulgarian Prince Boyan was the son of Krutogan and the nephew of Grubash. Boyan confessed his faith in Christ; however, his brother Milomir was a pagan. By decree of his brother, Boyan was beheaded for the true Faith in the year 827 A.D.

  5. The Miraculous Experience Of Taxiotis Taxiotis was a soldier from Carthage. He spent his whole life in grievous sins but finally repented, left the military service and lived a God-pleasing life. While with his wife on his estate near the city, he committed adultery with the wife of his farm worker. Immediately afterward, he was bitten by a snake and died. Taxiotis was dead for six hours, after which he arose. On the fourth day, he finally spoke and related how he had passed through all of the toll-houses until he came to the toll-house for adultery. There he fell into the dark abode of demons, but was led out by an angel who vouched for him. He was then sent back to his body to repent for his latest sin. He repented for forty days, going from church to church, beating his head against the doors and thresholds, crying and telling of the terrible sufferings which sinners undergo in the other world. He implored men to cease from sin and to repent for those sins already committed. On the fortieth day, with rejoicing, Taxiotis took up his habitation in the Kingdom of the Merciful God.

Hymn Of Praise Taxiotis The Soldier Throughout all of Carthage, Taxiotis sobbed, Recounting to everyone the horrors he had seen: “Oh, the horrors my soul saw, my brethren! Oh, the malodorous abyss to which my soul descended! Oh, the terrible monsters, and mire and shrieks! Oh, the weeping without tears, wailing and screaming! Not six hours, but a hundred years Did I think that I was an inhabitant in the world of hades! Until a radiant angel offered a pledge for me. He raised me up and lowered me near Carthage, That I, clothed again in the body (he said), Might repent for my latest misdeed. When I gazed upon my body, a stinking corpse, My strength left me and my joy perished: Oh, how can I enter this stinking corpse? How can I be clothed in this loathsome carrion? Oh how, until now, could I have remained therein, To lose my soul for the sake of pleasure, that dung? O radiant angel, spare me the pain, Force me not back into that foetid shame! At my cry the angel became angry: He who sins in the body must repent in the body! This he said sternly, and added: Will you enter your body, or will you enter hades again? When he made mention of hades, I fell painfully silent, I rapidly approached my body and into it crawled. Forty days for repentance have I, And a lesson to all, and a warning. Repent, O brethren, quickly repent; Do not stumble with your sins into hades. Repent quickly–only repent. Repentance will not be allowed you there. Taxiotis is relating to you what he himself saw– Oh, the foetid abyss into which my soul has descended!”

Reflection In speaking about a handsome twenty-year-old youth named George–who, despite his beauty, youth and life among the conceited of the world, recognized the path of salvation and was enlightened by spiritual wisdom–St. Simeon the New Theologian concludes with these words: “Do you understand how youth does not hinder nor does old age help a man, if he does not have reason and the fear of God?” What prevented the young Apostle John from believing in Christ the Lord? What were the benefits of age to the Jewish elders when they were blinded in mind and in their blindness sentenced the Son of God to death? Youth in absolutely no way prevents the young, even in our time, from giving their faith and love to Christ, who created them out of love. Age does not benefit the aged in our time if their souls are poisoned with maliciousness toward Christ. Young and old bodies are nothing more than new and old garments of the soul. Either of these garments can conceal a healthy or a sick soul. Our goal is a healthy and clean soul.

Contemplation Contemplate the Lord Jesus in death:

  1. How all of nature trembled when He gave up the spirit, as though to protest against this criminal act of the race of men;
  2. How the earth quaked, the sun was darkened, the rocks were split, the veil of the temple was rent, and the graves were opened.

Homily on the horror of nature at the death of Christ “The earth did quake, and the rocks rent” (Matthew 27:51). Oh, what a terrible reproach against mankind! Even dead nature recognized Him Whom men were unable to recognize. All mute things trembled and began to protest, each in its own way and in its own language. The mute earth quakes– that is its language. The stones are split apart–that is their language. The sun withholds its light–that is its language. All of creation protests in its own way. All of creation is submissive to Him as it was to Adam at one time in Paradise, because all of creation recognizes Him as it did Adam in Paradise. How is it that irrational creation knew Him and was obedient to Him, we do not know. It is some kind of inner instinct of irrational creation, which came to it from the Word of God, by Whom it was created. That instinct of irrational creation is more valuable than the mind of man when the latter is darkened by sin. Of all the things that are in existence, nothing is more blind than the mind of man when darkened by sin. Not only does man fail to see that which was created to be seen, but also he sees that which is contrary to being, contrary to God, and contrary to the truth. These are the degrees of blindness beyond blindness; these are numbers below zero. This is man lower than creation. For when the priests of God in Jerusalem did not recognize their God, the storms and winds recognized Him; plants and animals recognized Him; the seas, the rivers, the earth, the stones, the stars, the sun and even the demons recognized Him. Oh, what shame this is for mankind! The earth quaked, the rocks split and the sun hid its rays, as much in anger as in sorrow. All creation grieved over the pain of the Son of God, over Whose pain the priests in Jerusalem rejoiced. Protests, sorrow–and fear! The whole of creation was frightened at the death of Him Who had cried to it: “Arise from nothing and rejoice in your existence,” as though it wanted to say: “With whom do we remain, and who will now uphold us, now that the Almighty has given up the spirit?” O brethren, let us be ashamed of this protest, these sorrows and this fear of the mute creation! With repentance let us cry out to the Lord, the Victor: “Forgive us, O Compassionate Lord, for indeed, whenever we sin and offend Thee, we do not know what we are doing.” To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.