The Holy Great Martyr Saint Procopius Procopius was born in Jerusalem of a Christian father and a pagan mother. At first his name was Neanias. Following the death of his father, his mother raised her son completely in the spirit of Roman idolatry. When Neanias had grown up, Emperor Diocletian saw him, took a liking to him, and brought him to his palace for military service. When this nefarious emperor began to persecute Christians, he ordered Neanias to go to Alexandria with a garrison of soldiers in order to exterminate the Christians. But on the way, something happened to Neanias like that which once happened to Saul [Paul]. In the third hour of the night there was a strong earthquake and, at that moment, the Lord appeared, and a voice was heard: “Neanias, where are you going, and against whom are you rising up?” In great fear, Neanias asked: “Who are You, Lord? I am unable to recognize You.” Then there appeared in the air an exceedingly luminous cross, as of crystal, and from the cross came a voice saying: “I am Jesus, the crucified Son of God.” And the Lord further said to him: “By this sign that you have seen, conquer your enemies, and My peace will be with you.” Commander Neanias’s life was completely changed. He issued an order to make a cross such as he had seen, and instead of going against the Christians, he and his soldiers used their force against the Agarians, who were attacking Jerusalem. He entered Jerusalem as a victor, and revealed his Christian faith to his mother. Brought before the court, Neanias removed his commander’s belt and sword, and threw them before the judge, thereby showing that he was a soldier only of Christ the King. After being tortured extensively, he was cast into prison. There the Lord Christ appeared to him again, baptized him, and gave him the name Procopius. One day twelve women appeared before his prison window and said to him: “We too are servants of Christ.” Accused for this, they were thrown into the same prison. St. Procopius taught them the Faith of Christ, and prepared them to receive their “martyr’s crowns.” (This is why St. Procopius, along with the God-crowned Emperor Constantine and Empress Helena, is mentioned in the order of crowning during the wedding ceremony.) Subsequently, the twelve women were brutally tortured. Witnessing their suffering and bravery, the mother of Procopius also came to believe in Christ, and all thirteen were slain. When St. Procopius was led to the scaffold, he raised his hands toward the east and prayed to God for all the poor, the needy, the orphans and the widows, and especially for the Holy Church, that it would grow and spread, and that Orthodoxy would shine to the end of time. And from heaven it was made known to him that his prayers were heard, after which he joyfully laid his head under the sword and went to his Lord in eternal joy. St. Procopius honorably suffered at Caesarea in Palestine, and was crowned with a wreath of immortal glory, on July 8, 303 A.D.
Saint Procopius, Fool For Christ Procopius was a miracle-worker from Ustiug who died in the year 1303 A.D. He was of Varangian (Norse) descent and a merchant by profession. Coming to Novgorod on business, he was awed by the beauty of Orthodoxy and embraced the Orthodox Faith. Desiring to be a perfect Christian, he distributed his estate to the poor and began to practice all the other virtues. He pretended insanity, so that men would not praise him, and he was able to see into the hearts of men as well as their destinies, and to predict natural events, which afterward would indeed occur. By his tearful prayers before the icon of the Birth-giver of God, Procopius averted a terrible hailstorm from the town of Ustiug, and thus brought the sinful town to repentance. His body was found dead on the street, completely covered with snow. A church was built over his miracle- working relics.
The Venerable Theophilus The Myrrh-Gusher [Mirotocivi] Theophilus was born in Macedonia in the village of Ziki. He was a very educated man and a great ascetic. By order of Patriarch Niphon of Constantinople, he traveled to Alexandria to make inquires as to whether it was true that Patriarch Joachim had moved a mountain by his prayers and had drunk poison without harmful effects, being forced to do this by the Jews and Muslims. Convinced of the truthfulness of these miracles, Theophilus returned to the Holy Mountain (Athos), where he lived in asceticism, first in Vatopedi, then in Iveron, and finally in the cell of St. Basil near Karyes. They offered the archbishopric of Thessalonica to this holy man, but he refused. Through profound silence, divine meditation and heartfelt prayer, he succeeded in purifying his mind of all passionate thoughts, and thus he became a pure vessel of the Holy Spirit in which Christ dwelt. In speaking of his imminent falling asleep in the Lord, he instructed his disciple Isaac not to bury him when he ws dead, but to tie a rope around his legs, drag him, and toss him into the river. With great fear the disciple carried this out. By by God’s providence, the relics of St. Theophilus were revealed, and when they brought them to his cell, a miraculous myrrh began to flow from them. He entered into rest on July 8,
Hymn Of Praise
When it is the will of the Omniscient God,
Persecutors become His servants;
God-haters, wonderful apostles;
And pagans, zealots for the Faith.
By God’s will, Saul became Paul,
And Neanias–Saint Procopius!
Procopius, against Christ, went to war,
Yet a Christian to his mother came!
Tortures he once prepared, yet now received them.
Like lightning, truth he recognized,
And before the Son of God bowed down,
And from the earthly king turning,
Of the King on High, a servant became.
The King of Heaven on him a gift bestowed–
The gift of strength, the afflicted to help.
And as it was then, so is it now:
Procopius is friend to the downcast.
For today as of old, he helps.
St. Anthony teaches: “Be fearful that you do not become famous because of some work that you do. If they begin to praise you because of your work, do not rejoice or take delight in it, but keep your works secret as much as you can, and do not allow anyone to speak about them.” How much more peace and joy would there be among men on earth, if a part of mankind would take these holy words to heart! Even though St. Theophilus lived as a simple monk secluded on Holy Mt. Athos, he was famous in all the patriarchates of the east, as much for his learning as for his virtuous, ascetical life. It once happened that Theoleptus, the Patriarch of Constantinople, visited Thessalonica. At that time the arch- episcopal throne of Thessalonica was vacant. The Christians of Thessalonica unanimously implored the patriarch to appoint Theophilus as their archbishop. The patriarch, a compatriot and friend of Theophilus, wrote a personal letter to him, in which he invited him to accept the arch-episcopal throne. Fearing the glory of men, yet not easily being able to refuse the patriarch, the humble Theophilus immediately received the “great angelic habit” [The Great Schema], and informed the patriarch of this, adding: “If God so wills, we will see each other in the Kingdom of Heaven.” Such were the spiritual giants, whom the Church calls saints–shunning vanity and the glory of men.
To contemplate the miraculous changing of bitter water into sweet water (Exodus 15):
- How the thirsty Israelites came upon bitter water in Marah and were unable to drink it, and the people began to murmur against Moses;
- How God commanded Moses to cast a tree (wood) into the water, and the water became sweet;
- How this tree foreshadowed the Cross of Christ, by which the bitterness of our life is transformed into sweetness;
- How my entire being is bitter water, until I bring Christ Crucified into myself.
About the Living Stone
“To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men but chosen of God and precious, You also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2: 4-5).
Brethren, what does the stone signify, if not stability? Brethren, what does the stone teach us, if not stability? The living stone signifies immortality. The apostle calls Christ the Lord the Living Stone, because He is immortal and the Giver of immortality. The apostle calls Christians living stones, as partakers of the immortality of Christ. Brethren, what do unbelievers think, concerning man’s fate at the end of time? They think that the same thing happens to man as to a stone: a man dies, becomes senseless, and is transformed into dust. Yet a stone is already dead and senseless, and under certain conditions it is transformed into dust. So both the unbelievers and the believers compare man with a stone. The unbelievers, because of the deadness and the insensibility of the stone; and the believers, because of the durability and the stability of the stone. For the former [unbelievers], the stone is a symbol of death, but for the latter [unbelievers], the stone is a symbol of immortality. In truth, without Christ, mankind has always been and will always be like dead stones. But Christ is like a living stone. Only adhere to Him, and you will become as living stones. In building a house, the builder chooses only those stones that are chiseled into shape and prepared to fit easily with the other stones in the wall. The builder rejects the unchiseled, the unprepared, the unpolished and the fragile stones. Building the home, or a temple, of His Immortal Kingdom, Christ chooses men as the builder chooses stones, with one characteristic–life, spiritual life. The Lord rejects spiritually dead men as bad building blocks, and accepts only those who are alive, who resemble Him and who fit into place with the other living stones. These other living stones are the angels, prophets, apostles and saints. Brethren, let us endeavor to be a holy material for the holy house of the Kingdom of Christ–which He is building day and night, and which He will finish completely in the fullness of time. O Lord Jesus, Builder of the Kingdom of Heaven, enliven us with Your Holy Spirit, and build us also, as living stones, into the house of Your eternal glory. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.