The Holy Martyr Hyacinth A young man and a courtier at the court of Emperor Trajan, Hyacinth was a secret Christian. Once, when Emperor Trajan and his entire court solemnly offered sacrifices to the idols, Hyacinth refrained from this abominable activity. For that he was accused and brought before the emperor to be judged. The emperor counseled him to deny Christ and offer sacrifices to the idols. But Hyacinth remained as firm as a diamond and said to the emperor: “I am a Christian and I honor Christ. I worship Him, and to Him alone do I offer myself as a living sacrifice.” Beaten, spat upon and flayed, this holy martyr was thrown into prison. By order of the emperor, he was given nothing to eat except sacrifices offered before the idols. Hyacinth refused to partake of them and after eight days died in prison. Then the prison guards saw two radiant angels in the prison: One angel covered the body of the martyred Hyacinth with his radiant vesture, and the other angel placed a glorious wreath on his head. The entire prison was illuminated and fragrant. The youthful Hyacinth honorably suffered and was crowned with eternal glory in the year 108 A.D.
Saint Anatolius, Patriarch Of Constantinople Anatolius was at first a presbyter in the Church at Alexandria, but following the death of Patriarch Flavian, he was elevated to the patriarchal throne of Constantinople, in the year 449 A.D. During his time, the throne of Constantinople was recognized as equal to the throne of Rome, by the Ecumenical Council held in Chalcedon in 451 A.D. He struggled greatly for the purity of the Orthodox Faith and suffered much at the hands of the heretics, until he was slain by them in the year 458 A.D., during the reign of Pope Leo the Great. Anatolius governed the Church for nearly nine years, and took up his heavenly habitation among the holy hierarchs in the Kingdom of God.
The Venerable Alexander [Akimetes] Alexander was born in Asia and educated in Constantinople. After the completion of his schooling, he devoted himself to military service and became an officer. Reading Holy Scripture, he came across the words of the Savior: If you seek perfection, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor. You will then have treasure in heaven. Afterward come back and follow me (St. Matthew 19:21). These words had such an effect on Alexander that he immediately sold and distributed all that he had, and withdrew into the wilderness. After long ascetic struggles and labors in purifying himself, he established the monastery of the Sleepless Ones, with a special rule. According to this rule, the divine services [offices] in his community were carried on night and day without interruption. The brotherhood was divided into twenty-four relays [cursus]. Each relay knew its appointed hours of the day and night, and went to church to continue the reading and singing of the preceding relay. Carrying nothing with him, Alexander traveled much throughout the eastern regions, enlightening men with the Faith of Christ, disputing with heretics, working miracles by the grace of God, and growing old in service to the Lord. He finally ended his earthly life in Constantinople in the year 430 A.D.–where his relics manifested the miraculous power and glory through which God glorifies His holy servants.
Venerable Isaiah, The Recluse [Anchorite] Isaiah lived a life of asceticism at Scetis in Egypt, during the fifth and sixth centuries. He is mentioned in the book of Saints Barsanuphius and John (Answer 249 and others) as a man possessing exceptional sanctity. He wrote many instructions for monks and anchorites. But very few of his writings remain, many having been destroyed by the Muslims. St. Isaiah said: “The mind, before it awakens from the sleep of slothfulness, resides with the demons.” “The crown of all good works consists in this: that a man place all his hope in God; that he find recourse in Him once and for all with his heart and strength; that he be filled with compassion for all, and that he weep before God, imploring His help and mercy.” What is the sign to a man that a certain sin is forgiven? “The sign that a sin is forgiven is that the sin does not generate any activity in your heart and that you have forgotten it to such a degree that, in conversation about a similar sin, you do not feel any inclination toward that sin, but rather consider it something totally foreign to you. That is the sign that you are completely pardoned.” Prayer and asceticism are in vain for a man who conceals within himself malice toward his neighbor and the desire for revenge. “Watch with all your strength that you do not speak one thing with your mouth and have something else in your heart.” “The crown of good works is love; the crown of passions is the justification of one’s sins.”
Hymn Of Praise
Saint Alexander [Akimetes]
Venerable Alexander, saint of God,
Established the temple of the “Sleepless Ones”, a holy monastery,
That in it the Lord might be glorified, hymned and magnified.
Of this holy monastery, the story still carrys on.
Even in our hearts, the community of heaven lives–
In your heart you must glorify the Living God.
In our hearts, let sleepless prayer be counted;
As a flame let unquenchable love stand,
With grace let the Holy Spirit warm our hearts,
Let Christ, His words throughout our heart, sow,
And let the angels in that temple keep vigil day and night.
Farther from us, farther from them, let the furious ones hide.
Let the Holy Virgin exude myrrh in that temple,
And with her, include the apostles and all of the saints,
And all the chosen ones of God–glorious martyrs,
And all virgins for the sake of Christ, and all hermits.
In our hearts, let the Liturgy be served,
And let the Wisdom of God be magnified unremittingly.
Love is all-powerful. It can, among other things, ease the lot of the souls of deceased sinners. The Orthodox Church confirms this resolutely, and endeavors on behalf of the deceased to offer prayers and perform corporal works of mercy. Abundantly rich in every spiritual experience, the Church knows that prayers and works of mercy on behalf of the deceased help those in the other world. Before her death, St. Athanasia the Abbess (April 12) made her sisterhood promise that, for forty days after her death, they would prepare a table for the poor and needy. The sisterhood carried out her command for only ten days and then ceased. The saint then appeared, in the company of two angels, and said to the sisters: “Why have you transgressed my commandment? Know that God’s mercy is invoked by works of mercy and by the prayers of the priest for the souls of the deceased, over the course of forty days. If the souls of the departed are sinful, they receive through this forgiveness of sins from God– and if they are not sinful, then the corporal works of mercy performed for them serve to aid the salvation of the benefactor himself.” Naturally, works of mercy and prayer are thought of here in connection with great love toward the departed souls. In truth, such works of mercy and prayer do help.
To contemplate the miraculous transformation of the rod into a serpent, and again, the serpent into the rod (Exodus 4):
- How the Lord, Who created the serpent and the rod from dust, can–by His own power, and for the sake of higher goals–transform the dead into the living, and the living into the dead;
- How the Lord can, according to my faith and prayer, return my soul (withered and deadened by sin) to life.
About the joy of faith in Christ
“Although you have never seen Him, you love Him, and without seeing you now believe in Him and rejoice with inexpressible joy touched with glory” (1 Peter 1:8).
These are the words of the Holy Apostle Peter. He saw the Lord and loved Him. He looked at the Lord and believed in Him. Precisely because of that, he praises the love of those who have not seen the Lord and the faith of those who have not seen Him with their eyes. Our Lord Himself said: Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (St. John 20:29). Blessed are they who have not seen the Lord as the apostle saw Him, but nevertheless love Him with apostolic love. Blessed are they who have not seen the Lord as the apostle saw Him, but nevertheless believe in Him with apostolic faith! O my brethren, even if we do not see the Lord, we see His works, which have enlightened the entire history of mankind, from one end to the other, and have illumined every created thing under the heavens with a spiritual significance. Even if we do not see the Lord, we see His Holy Church–built upon His All-holy and Pure Blood–of the great number of saints and righteous ones and the countless souls baptized in His Name throughout the ages of ages. Even if we do not see the Lord face to face, as the apostles saw Him, we believe that He is among us in the Body and Blood by which we receive according to His commandment; and in receiving His Body and Blood we rejoice with unspeakable joy. Brethren, the Lord is alive and the Lord is near! That is our unwavering faith, and that is the spark of fire that ignites our hearts into a flame of love for the Lord, living and near. To know that, out of love, our Lord the Creator descended to the earth, and revealed Himself as a man for our sake, and to further know that He was dead and that He showed Himself alive–what stronger foundation does our faith need, and what stronger justification does our love require? Brethren, the Lord is alive and near. Even in our own day. He reveals Himself to many righteous souls who serve Him with patience. O Living Lord, You Who were dead and are alive, enliven in us faith and love until our last breath on earth–that by faith and love we may be made worthy to see You face to face, as did Your holy apostles. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.