Venerable Sisoes The Great Sisoes was an Egyptian by birth and a disciple of St. Anthony the Great. Following the death of his great teacher, St. Sisoes settled on a desert mountain called St. Anthony’s Mount, where Anthony had earlier lived in asceticism. By imposing difficult labors on himself, he tamed himself to such an extent that he became meek and guileless as a lamb. Therefore God endowed Sisoes with abundant grace–so that he was able to heal the sick, drive out unclean spirits, and resurrect the dead. For sixty years Sisoes lived in asceticism in the wilderness, and was a source of living wisdom for all the monks and laymen who came to him for counsel. Before his death, his face shone as the sun. The monks stood around him and they were astonished at this manifestation. And when the saint gave up his soul, the entire room was filled with a sweet-smelling fragrance. Sisoes died in extreme old age, in the year 429 A.D. St. Sisoes taught the monks: “Whatever way temptation comes to man, a man should give himself over to the will of God, and recognize that the temptation came because of his sins. If something good happens, it should be said that it happened according to God’s providence.” One monk asked Sisoes: “How can I please God and be saved?” The saint answered: “If you wish to please God, withdraw from the world, separate yourself from the earth, put aside creation, draw near to the Creator, and unite yourself to God with prayers and tears–then you will find rest in this age and in the age to come.” A monk also asked Sisoes: “How can I attain humility?” The saint replied: “When a person learns to acknowledge every man as being better than himself, then he has attained humility.” Ammon complained to Sisoes that he could not memorize the wise sayings that he read, in order to be able to repeat them in conversation with men. The saint replied to him: “That is not necessary. It is necessary to attain purity of mind and to speak from that purity, placing your hope in God.”
The Holy Martyrs Marinus [Marius] And Martha, With Their Sons Audifax And Abachum [Habakkuk], Valentine The Presbyter, Cyrinus, Astyrius [Asterius] And Many Others They all suffered in Rome during the reign of Emperor Claudius Flavius, in the year 269 A.D. Marinus and Martha were wealthy people from Persia, who sold all their property in Persia and went to Rome with their sons in order to venerate the sacred relics of the holy apostles and the other martyrs. When the emperor asked them why they had come from such a distance, abandoning their household gods to seek dead men in Rome, they responded: “We are servants of Christ, and we have come to venerate the holy apostles, whose immortal souls live with God, so that they may be our intercessors before Christ our God.” Cyrinus was thrown into the Tiber River, from which his body was removed by Marinus and Martha, who honorably buried it. The priest Valentine was handed over to a commander, Astyrius, so that he would counsel him to deny Christ. But Valentine by his prayers healed Astyrius’s blind daughter, who had been blind for two years, and then baptized Astyrius and his entire household. All of them, in various ways, underwent suffering and death for Christ, Who received them into His Immortal Kingdom, to rejoice eternally.
The Finding Of The Relics Of Saint Juliana The Virgin Juliana was the daughter of the Prince of Olshansk. She died in about the year 1540 A.D., as a virgin of sixteen years of age. Two hundred years after her death, men who were digging a new grave beside the great church in the Monastery of the Kiev Caves found the relics of this holy virgin completely intact and uncorrupt, as though she had just fallen asleep. Many miracles occurred from these relics, and Juliana herself appeared many times to certain individuals. The renowned [Metropolitan] Peter Mogila had one such vision.
The Holy Female Martyr Lucy Lucy was taken captive by the barbarian Emperor Austius in Campania. The emperor wanted Lucy as his concubine, but she protested. He then left her in peace, so that she could live a life of asceticism. She even converted the emperor to the Faith after he gained a victory in battle through her prayers. In the end, they both suffered for Christ in Rome, in about the year 300 A.D.
Hymn Of Praise
Saint Astyrius [Asterius]
Astyrius was a slave to the idol Zeus
And Valentine the presbyter was a slave to Astyrius.
“Who is Christ?” of Valentine he asked.
“About the Son of God, are you asking me?
He is the Light of the world; He is the Light of men;
Of everything and all good beings, He is the Light.
Pure His Light is, with darkness unmixed;
Though into darkness He descended, and brought light.
The living He illumined with His works and teaching,
The dead He illumined–with His radiant Resurrection.
By His brilliance, the entirety of hades was destroyed,
And by His love, the human race was inflamed;
Inflamed by love, enlightened with wisdom,
With God reconciled, with a tender smile.
This is Christ the Lord, for Whom I am dying,
And in Whose Name, the idols I trample.”
So Valentine said, then Astyrius answered:
“Those words, as purest gold, I receive;
If, my sightless daughter, you heal,
Then I, O Valentine, your Faith will embrace.”
Hearing this, the priest on his knees fell
And to God Most-High, a fervent prayer prayed.
And laying his hands on her blind eyes,
The maiden, her sight restored! Astyrius leaped,
In light of God’s great work. Christ he acknowledged,
And for Christ, in martyrdom, his life he gave.
From where do we know that there is life after death? We know from Christ the Lord–on the basis of His words, His Resurrection, and His many appearances after death. Philosophers who recognize life after death recognize it on the basis of their thinking, but we recognize it on the basis of experience, especially the experience of holy men who neither knew how to proclaim falsehoods nor were even capable of it. When Sisoes lay on his deathbed, his face was radiant. The monks, his disciples, stood around him. St. Sisoes gazed around and said: “Behold, here comes Abba Anthony!” He remained silent for a while and then said: “Behold, here comes the prophets!” In that moment his face glowed even more and he said: “Behold, here come the apostles!” Then he said: “Behold, here come the angels to take away my soul!” Finally, his face shone as the sun and all were overcome by great fear, and the elder said: “Behold, here comes the Lord. Look at Him, all of you.” Behold, He is saying: “Bring to me the chosen vessel from the desert.” After that the saint gave up his soul. And how many similar visions have been seen–and all by the most reliable witnesses!
To contemplate the miraculous falling of manna from heaven for the feeding of the people in the wilderness (Exodus 16):
- How for forty years the Lord gave the Israelites in the wilderness manna from heaven–a heavenly food, sweet as honey;
- How this manna from heaven prefigured the Lord Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, Who came down from heaven that He Himself might feed the spiritual hunger of mankind in the wilderness of paganism;
- How nothing can satisfy my hungry soul, except Christ the Living Lord, sweeter than honey.
About the terrible price of redemption
“For as much as you know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1: 18-19).
Brethren, has anyone ever been able to purchase a medicine against sin with silver and gold? No one, ever. Brethren, has anyone ever been able to forge arms against the devil with silver and gold? No one, ever. Brethren, has anyone ever been able to redeem from death with the help of silver and gold? No one, ever. Something far more precious than silver and gold was needed to be a cure, the weapon and the ransom. The Precious Blood of the Son of God was needed to be applied on the wounds of sin in order for them to be healed. The Precious Blood of the Son of God was needed to be directed against evil spirits, and by its power to burn them and drive them away from man. The Precious Blood of the Son of God was needed to sprinkle on the earthly graves, in order to destroy death and raise the dead. As a Lamb without blemish and without spot, the Lamb of God was slain for us, to pull us out from the three-fold jaws of the beast. A woeful, but life- giving, banquet arranged by Go–a costly banquet to announce freedom to man. Sin, the devil and death attacked with all their might the mild and All-pure Lamb of God. And they killed Him, but they were poisoned by His blood. His blood was shed to be poison for them–but life and salvation for mankind. O my brethren, if you do not know how venomous sin is, how wicked the devil is, and how bitter death is, judge by the greatness of the ransom by which we have been redeemed from their bondage. The Precious Blood of Christ–that is our ransom from bondage! Remember, brethren, that if we are again–in our recklessness and evil–willingly give ourselves over to that terrible three- fold slavery, there is no one on earth or in heaven who can give a ransom for us. For there is but one precious ransom, and it was given once and forever. O merciful Lord, strengthen us, that we may be preserved in the freedom that You have given us. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.