The Priestly-Martyr Athenogenes, Bishop Of Sebaste In Armenia Athenogenes lived in a monastery near the town of Sebaste with ten of his disciples. During the reign of Diocletian, Philomarchus, a cruel persecutor of Christians, came to Sebaste. He arrested and murdered many Christians in the town. When he saw Athenogenes and his disciples, he told the elder to offer a sacrifice to the idols so as not to perish, as had the other Christians. Athenogenes replied to him: “O persecutor, those whom you mention as having perished have not perished, but are in the heavens and are rejoicing with the angels.” Just then, a doe [a female deer] that the merciful Athenogenes usually fed with his own hand ran up to him and, seeing him in great jeopardy, began to shed tears. Even the wild beasts of the mountains had greater pity toward the martyrs of Christ than the heathens did! After cruel tortures, during which an angel of God comforted the martyrs, they were all beheaded, first the priests and all the fellow laborers of Athenogenes, and then Athenogenes himself. All were received into the heavenly homeland in the year 311 A.D.
The Holy Female Martyr Julia The Virgin Julia was born in Carthage of a distinguished lineage. When the Persians captured Carthage, many people were taken into slavery. Saint Julia was captured and enslaved, and fell into the hands of a pagan merchant in Syria. Seeing that Julia was a Christian, he counseled her on many occasions to deny Christ and become one in faith with him, but Julia would in no way agree to this. Since Julia was faithful and trustworthy in service, the merchant left her in peace and did not speak to her about faith again. On one occasion, the merchant loaded his boat with goods and took Julia along with him on a business trip to distant lands. When they arrived at Corsica, there was a pagan feast, and the merchant joined in this blasphemous offering of sacrifice, but Julia remained aboard the boat, weeping that so many men lived in foolish error and did not know the truth. But somehow the pagans discovered her, removed her from the boat against the objections of her master, and began to brutally torture her. They severed her breasts and threw her onto a rock, and then they crucified her on a cross, upon which St. Julia gave up her soul to God. Her death was revealed by an angel of God to the monks on the nearby island of Margarita (or Gorgona), and they honorably buried the body of the martyr. Over the centuries many miracles have occurred at the grave of St. Julia, and the saint herself has appeared from the other world to some. She suffered honorably in the sixth century. After many years, the faithful wanted to erect a new church in honor of St. Julia in another place, since the old church was small and dilapidated. Therefore, they gathered building material on a new site: stone, bricks, sand, and all else that was required. It so happened that at night, on the eve of the day when they intended to lay the foundation, all of this material was moved by an invisible hand to the site of the old church. In confusion, the men again carried the materials to the new site, but the same thing happened again: the material was mysteriously returned to the old site beside the old church. The night watchman saw a shining maiden using white oxen to carry the material to the old church. From this, everyone understood that St. Julia did not wish her church to be built in another place, so they demolished the old church and on that same site built a new one.
The Holy 15,000 Martyrs These fifteen thousand martyrs were beheaded for the Faith of Christ in Persia.
The Holy Martyr Athenogenes Athenogenes was the author of the hymn sung at Vespers: “O Gladsome Light” [“Svete Tihi” - Fos Ilaron."] He died for Christ by fire, and was made worthy of eternal glory in the Kingdom of God.
The Commemoration Of The First Six Ecumenical Councils This common commemoration of the first Six Ecumenical Councils occurs on the Sunday between the 13th and the 19th of July.
Hymn Of Praise
The Holy Martyr Julia The Virgin
The martyr Julia
Was crucified for her Christ.
The power of Christ, she called upon,
The power of the Honorable Tree.
Blood poured from six wounds,
And blood stained the earth,
For, in Christ, she believed,
And her faith she did not conceal.
Nor did Christ conceal her,
But to the world, proclaimed her,
And in the Kingdom Immortal,
In heaven, He glorified her.
When Julia breathed her last,
Her spirit, pure and holy,
Flew from her mouth–a white dove
To the heights soaring!
When men saw this
All, in fear, cried out:
“Woe to the evil judges–
That righteous blood, they have shed!”
The Ecumenical Councils are the greatest duels between Orthodoxy and heretics. Today the Church jointly commemorates the first Six Ecumenical Councils(*):
- The First Ecumenical Council at Nicea in 325 A.D., with 318 Holy Fathers participating. It is commemorated separately on May 29 and on the Seventh Sunday of Pascha. This Council refuted the heresy of Arius against the Son of God.
- The Second Ecumenical Council was held at Constantinople in 381 A.D., with 150 Holy Fathers participating. It is commemorated separately on May 22. This Council refuted the heresy of Macedonius against God the Holy Spirit.
- The Third Ecumenical Council was held at Ephesus in 431 A.D., with 200 Holy Fathers participating. It is commemorated separately on September 9. This Council refuted the heresy of Nestorius against the Mother of God.
- The Fourth Ecumenical Council was held at Chalcedon in 451 A.D., with 630 Holy Fathers participating. It is commemorated separately on July 16. This Council refuted the Monophysite heresy.
- The Fifth Ecumenical Council was held at Constantinople in 553 A.D., with 160 Holy Fathers participating. It is commemorated separately on July 25. This Council refuted the heresy of Origen.
- The Sixth Ecumenical Council was held at Constantinople in 680-81 A.D., with 170 Holy Fathers participating. It is commemorated separately on January 23. This Council refuted the Monothelite heresy.
- The Seventh Ecumenical Council which was convened at Nicaea in 787 A.D., with 367 Holy Fathers participating. It is not commemorated on this occasion, but is commemorated separately on October 11. This Council refuted the heresy of Iconoclasm. Through the operation of the Holy Spirit, the Councils condemned all these heresies, and the Faith of Orthodoxy was defined and confirmed for all time. (*) In some Orthodox traditions, this Sunday commemorates the 4th Ecumenical Council only.
To contemplate the miraculous bringing forth of water from the rock in Kadesh (Numbers 20):
- How Moses, at God’s command, struck the rock with his rod, but without faith; and how, through the will of God, water flowed forth;
- How God punished Moses and Aaron for their little faith by not permitting them to enter the Promised Land;
- How this shows that even a great righteous one like Moses is prone to sin, and that no mortal should be carried away into pride by his virtues.
About the participation of the faithful in God’s nature
“That by these you might be partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).
Brethren, how can a mortal man have a part in God’s nature? How can the eternal join with temporal, the glorious with the inglorious, the incorruptible with the corruptible, the pure with the impure? It is impossible without particular conditions, and the Apostle Peter tells us what they are: one condition on the part of God and one on the part of men. As the condition on the part of God, the apostle states: According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). And as the condition on the part of man: Having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust (2 Peter 1:4). God has fulfilled His condition and has given us His power, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue (2 Peter 1:3). Now it is man’s turn to fulfill his condition, i.e., in order to know Christ the Lord, to escape from the bodily desires of this world. The Lord Christ opened heaven and all the treasures of heaven; then He called people to draw near and to receive these treasures. How did He invite them? Did He invite them only by words? By words, but not only by words, but by glory and virtue. By glory, i.e., by His glorious Resurrection; by virtue, i.e., by His miraculous service and suffering. In this way, He invited us to receive the exceeding great and precious promises (2 Peter 1:4), that by them we may partake in God’s nature. But in order to know Christ and hear His invitation, we must first escape the physical desires of this world. If we do not escape them, we will remain blind before Him–before His glory and virtue–and deaf to His invitation! O brethren, how enormous is the mercy of God toward us! According to this great mercy, God offers to us mortals adoption by the Immortal One; to us sinners He offers us to be built up into the glorified Body of the Lord Jesus, but only under this condition, which is neither a great yoke nor a heavy cross. O Lord Jesus, the Fulfillment of all promises and the Source of all good, heal us from our blindness and deafness, and grant us power to escape the physical desires of this world. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.