1. Saint Nicetas The Confessor Nicetas was born in Bithynia, in the city of Caesarea. His father, Philaret, was tonsured a monk after the death of his spouse, while Nicetas remained with his paternal grandmother. After reaching maturity and completing all of his studies, Nicetas entered the Monastery of Medikion, where the Abbot Nicephorus tonsured him a monk. After seven years of hardship and ascetic labors, Patriarch Tarasius ordained him a hieromonk (priest-monk). Following the deaths of Abbot Nicephorus and Athanasius (Nicetas’s faithful companion), the monastic brotherhood elected Nicetas abbot, against his will. For many years St. Nicetas was an example to his brethren of asceticism and a holy life. When Leo V, the Armenian, was crowned emperor (after the pious Irene and the right-believing Emperors Nicephorus and Michael), the iconoclastic struggle was again inflamed. The emperor deposed Patriarch Nicephorus and sent him into exile and, in his place, elevated the heretic Theodotus Cassiteras, a man of impure life. Nicetas was also imprisoned and tortured, but he remained steadfast in his Orthodoxy. He was led from prison to prison, suffering from hunger, thirst, chills, oppressive heat and mockery. But he did not permit himself to waver. He was particularly bothered by the laughter and scorn of a certain Nicholas. One night, Nicholas’s deceased father appeared to Nicholas in a dream and rebuked him, saying: “Leave that servant of God alone!” From that moment, Nicholas repented and not only did not annoy the saint anymore, but turned others away from annoying him also. When Leo the Armenian met with a wicked death, the rule of the empire was taken up by the Orthodox Emperor Michael Balbus (the “Stammerer”) who liberated all the Orthodox sufferers. Nicetas then withdrew to an isolated place near Constantinople, where in prayer and thanksgiving to God for all things he spent the remaining days of his earthly life. During his lifetime he worked many miracles through prayer. When he died, his body was translated to his monastery. During the funeral procession, many of the sick reached out and touched his body, and were healed. His relics were placed next to the grave of Nicephorus, his spiritual father, and Athanasius, his companion. This great hierarch reposed in the year 824 A.D.

  2. Saint Paul The Sorrowful Paul was a Russian by birth. In his youth he was enslaved by the Turks. Not wanting to deny the Christian Faith or to embrace Islam, he was tortured and slain by the sword in Constantinople in the year 1683 A.D.

  3. The Holy Martyr Ulphianus Ulphianus was a young man from the city of Tyre. He suffered for Christ at the hands of Urban, the governor of the city of Tyre, who was also the torturer of Amphianus (April 2). Finally, he was tied in a sack with a dog and a snake, and was thrown into the sea. He suffered and was glorified in the year 306 A.D.

Hymn Of Praise Saint Paul The Apostle

Saint Nicetas The Confessor “I bear on my body the wounds of Christ,*) “And only in the Cross of the Lord do I boast.”**) Thus said Paul the chosen Apostle. After him there followed a company of those who have repented, A company of penitent ones, who received wounds And spent their days in many sufferings For the sake of the Living Christ, the Savior and Lord, As did St. Paul, the Apostle of the people. And the wonderful Nicetas bore a heavy cross; Suffering and scorn he endured for Christ. A spirit of steel In a fragile body– In holy Nicetas the courageous martyr. He conquered the emperor and outlived empires; Therefore, the earth and the heavens are amazed at him. Now crowned with glory among the angels, He helps all who are persecuted for the Cross. Before God his prayer ascends, And to earth his help descends.

*) Galatians 6:17 **) Galatians 6:14

Reflection “I await a thousand deaths for myself,” wrote St. Athanasius the Great to his flock in Egypt at the time of the terrible Arian heresy. Every spiritual man, who has looked in spirit and seen the net which contains every human soul in this world, can say this about himself. The more spiritual a man is, the denser the net looks. Such is the will of God: that the most spiritual are saved by the most narrow path. The Psalmist David also says: Many are the afflictions of the righteous (Psalm 34:19). However, in the end, victory and glory belong to the righteous. They need only to arm themselves with faith and forbearance. Whoever believes also understands their sufferings. He who clothes himself with patience will see victory and glory. To him who loves the Lord, even the narrowest path is sufficiently wide, the greatest pain an easy yoke, and the most violent death a joyful wedding feast.

Contemplation Contemplate the Lord Jesus in hades:

  1. How He descended into hades with great power, at which hades trembled;
  2. How the evil spirits, who were then lords of hades, fled before His Face;
  3. How the souls of the righteous ancestors and prophets overwhelmingly rejoiced at His coming.

Homily on the great desire of God “Who will have all men to be saved” (1Timothy 2:4). God desires that all men be saved; that is why He descended into hades to save those who had lived on earth before His coming. For, had He not descended into hades, an enormous number of righteous souls would have perished forever. Moreover, had He not descended into hades, the main habitat of malice against God and the human race, hades would have remained undestroyed. There were two reasons that motivated Christ, the Giver of Life, to descend into hades in the Spirit: first, to destroy the nest of the powers of ades and, second, to bring from hades to heaven the souls of the ancestors, prophets and righteous men and women who had fulfilled the Old Law of God (dispensation) and had thus pleased God. Before Satan had done exulting at the sight of Christ humiliated and lifeless on the Cross, Christ appeared and lifeless on the Cross, Christ appeared alive and almighty in the midst of hades, the primary abode of Satan. What unexpected and dreadful news for Satan! For three years Satan had woven snares against Christ on earth, and in three days, behold, Christ destroyed Satan’s kingdom and carried away the most precious booty, in the form of a throng of righteous souls. O Lord, Thou desirest that all men be saved. We pray to Thee: save even us. For there is no salvation or Savior outside of Thee. In Thee do we hope, Thee alone do we worship–Thee, the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and always. Amen.