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February 5th (II - 18)

Icon of the saint of the day.

Icon of the Martyr Agatha of Sicily

Martyress Agatha (+ 251). Sainted Theodosii (Feodosii), Archbishop of Chernigov (+ 1696). Martyress Theodoulia and the Martyrs Helladios, Makarios, Boethos and Euagrios (+ c. 304). Martyress Basilissa. Sainted Polyeuktos, Patriarch of Constantinople (+ 970). Martyr Anthony of Athens (+ 1774). Icons of the Mother of God: Eletsk-Chernigov (1060), Sicilian or Divnogorsk (1092), and the "In Search of the Perishing" ("Vzyskanie Pogibshikh").

The Holy Martyress Agatha was the daughter of rich and respected Christian parents from the city of Palermo (formerly called Panorum) in Sicily. During the time of the persecution under the emperor Decius (249-251), the city governor of Catana, Centianus, -- having heard about the wealth and beauty of Agatha, sent his soldiers after her to bring her to trial as a Christian. At Catana they housed the saint with a certain rich woman, who had five daughters. They all attempted to provide temptations for Saint Agatha by means of fine clothes, amusements and entertainment, urging her to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, but the saint would not give in to their tricks, and disdaining all the delights, she prayed the Lord to grant her the strength for the act of martyrdom. At the interrogation under Centianus, the holy martyress was swayed neither by the flattery, nor by the threats, and she was subjected to cruel jeering: they tore at her bosom with iron hooks, and finally, they cut off her breasts. In prison the holy Apostle Peter appeared to her and healed her of her wounds. Led again to torture, Saint Agatha astonished Centianus, in that her bosom was unharmed. They thereupon began to torture her anew. At this moment in the city there began an earthquake, and the earth opened up and swallowed the closest companions of Centianus. The terrified inhabitants rushed to Centianus, demanding that he stop the tortures. Fearing a revolt by the people, Centianus sent Saint Agatha back to prison, where the martyress, in offering up thanks to God, peacefully gave up her soul to the Lord.

Sainted Theodosii (Feodosii), Archbishop of Chernigov, was born at the beginning of the decade of the thirties of the XVII Century in Podol'sk governance. He was descended from an old court-nobility lineage, the Polonitsky-Uglitsky's. His parents were the priest Nikita and Maria. The piety prevailing within the family of the future saint contributed greatly to the spiritual growth of the boy. From childhood he distinguished himself with his gentleness and disposition towards prayer. The innate abilities of the youth came to light in the Kievo-Bratsk college at the Kiev Theophany monastery. This was a time of an extensive flourishing of the college (the end of the 1640's), when its rectors were the archimandrite Innokentii (Gizel'), and later the hegumen and afterwards archbishop of Chernigov, Lazar (Baranovich). Among its instructors were: the priestmonk Epiphanii (Slavinetsky), the priestmonk Arsenii (Satanovsky), the Belorus bishop Theodosii (Baevsky), the hegumen Theodosii (Saphonovich) and Meletii Dzik -- all these were indeed men of enlightenment for those times. The comrades of Saint Theodosii at the college were themselves to become future outstanding pastors: Simeon Polotsky, Ioannikii Golyatovsky, Antonii Radivillovsky, Varlaam Yasninsky. The Kievo-Bratsk Theophany school was at this time the chief centre in the struggle of Orthodoxy against the assaults of Catholic clergy, and Jesuits and Uniates.

The vocation of Saint Theodosii to the monastic life ultimately formed during his years of study: he devoted all his free time to prayer, meditation on God and the reading of Sacred Scripture.

It might be surmised, that the saint did not finish the full course of the college studies, since the school ceased its activity for several years following the devastating of Podolia by the Poles. The saint all his life had deep regard for the Kievo-Bratsk monastery that had educated him. In the Synodikon of the Kievo-Vydubitsk monastery is the following remark about Saint Theodosii: "He was a man of fine intellect and generous to the Kiev Bratsk monastery".

Upon receiving his education, the future hierarch accepted monastic tonsure at the Kievo-Pechersk Lavra with the name Theodosii, in honour of the Monk Theodosii (Feodosii) of Pechersk (Comm. 3 May) (worldly name unknown).

The Kiev metropolitan Dionysii (Balaban) made him archdeacon of the Kiev Sophia cathedral, and then appointed him administrator of the metropolitan cathedral house. But soon he left Kiev and resettled at the distant Krutitsk monastery (in Chernigov diocese), near the locale Baturino, which was famed for its strict monastic life. He was consecrated there to the dignity of priestmonk. In the year 1662 Saint Theodosii was appointed hegumen of the Korsunsk monastery in Kiev diocese, and in the year 1664 -- was made head of the ancient Kievo-Vydubitsk monastery. This monastery shortly before had fallen into the hands of the Uniates and was in complete ruin. But thanks to the energy and initiative of Saint Theodosii, the Vydubitsk Mikhailovsk monastery was quickly restored. He concerned himself in particular about the order of churchly property. He formed an excellent choir, which was famed not only in Little Russia, but also in Moscow, where Saint Theodosii in 1685 sent his singers. And concerning himself over the spiritual growth of the monastery inhabitants, being himself a strict ascetic, in 1680 the holy hegumen made on the island of Mikhailovschina, not far from the monastery, a small skete-monastery for brethren wishing solitude. He appointed there to organise and administrate it one of the most zealous monks of his monastery -- the priestmonk Job (Opalinsky).

In his role as hegumen of the Kievo-Vydubitsk monastery, Saint Theodosii had to live through some quite difficult days. He was accused together with other hegumens by Methodii, bishop of Mstislavsk and Orshansk, of betraying the Russian governance in a supposed correspondence with those treasonous to Russia. On 20 September 1668 Saint Theodosii had occasion to give an explanation in the matter. And on 17 November 1668 the slander unraveled, and Saint Theodosii together with the other hegumens received a pardon. His Grace Lazar (Baranovich) esteemed the high spiritual qualities of Saint Theodosii and befriended him. He called him "a sheep of the flock of Christ, teaching by humility", and he prophetically expressed the wish, that the name of Saint Theodosii might be inscribed in Heaven. When His Grace Lazar in 1689 became locum tenens of the Kiev metropolitan see, he appointed Saint Theodosii as his vicar in Kiev, while he himself remained at Chernigov. In his capacity as vicar of the locum tenens of the Kiev metropolitan see, Saint Theodosii had an active role in many a churchly event. In 1685 he participated with the right of a decisive vote in the selection of bishop Gedeon (Chetverinsky) as metropolitan of Kiev, and he was sent to Moscow with news of this event together with the Pereyaslavl' hegumen Ieronim (Jerome) (Dubin). In Moscow both representatives were received with honour and esteem. And indeed, the result of this delegation was the re-uniting of the Kiev metropolitan see with the Russian Orthodox Church.

In 1688 Saint Theodosii was appointed archimandrite of the Chernigov Eletsk monastery, replacing the deceased archimandrite Ioannikii (Golyatovsky). And from the time all the activity of the saint transferred over from Kiev to Chernigov. This appointment comprised primarily, in accord with the wishes of His Grace Lazar, that Saint Theodosii should spare no little toil over putting back the Eletsk monastery in good order, since this monastery had not yet been set aright after the expulsion of the Jesuits and Dominicans, and it was very much in bad shape and disorder. Through the efforts of Saint Theodosii, good results were achieved over the course of two or three years, which then fully guaranteed its existence. The saint in his new position also rendered all kinds of assistance to His Grace Lazar in all kinds of important matters. He participated in composing a conciliar reply to the Moscow Patriarch Ioakim in response to his letters questioning the attitude of the Kiev metropolitan see to the Council of Florence, and its judgement on the question of the transformation of the Holy Gifts as accepted by this Florentine Council. When the Patriarch proved to be unsatisfied by these answers, there was dispatched to him at the beginning of 1689 the Baturinsk hegumen Saint Dimitrii (Tuptalo) (the future metropolitan of Rostov). Saint Theodosii journeyed with him in the capacity of representative of His Grace Lazar. He was entrusted to present the Patriarch a letter of reply and to clear up the misunderstandings. On 11 September 1692 Saint Theodosii was solemnly ordained an archbishop in the Uspenie (Dormition) cathdral of the Moscow Kremlin.

Little in the way of an account of the governance by Saint Theodosii of the Chernigov diocese has been preserved. The saint directed special attention to the rousing and increase in the flock of a true Christian piety. With this end in mind he concerned himself with the upkeep of the old and the building of new monasteries and churches. At the very beginning of his episcopate, with his blessing, there was established the Pecheniksk women's monastery, and he himself consecrated the monastery church in honour of the Uspenie (Dormition) of the MostHoly Mother of God. In 1694, with his blessing, there was founded the Liubetsk skete-monastery, 2 versts from Liubech. In 1694 also the saint consecrated at the Domnitsk men's monastery a temple in honour of the Nativity of the MostHoly Mother of God. And in the Summer of 1695 he consecrated a majestic temple in honour of the MostHoly Mother of God, built on the summit of Boldinsk Hill, near the ancient Il'insk monastery. Under Saint Theodosii may be noted an especial enthusiasm and strengthening of monasticism in the Chernigov diocese. The saint also devoted great attention to the clergy, and he was a strict questioner in the selection of candidates for priesthood. He gave especial patronage to the Chernigov clergy school, he invited learned monks from Kiev, among whom was Saint John (Maksimovich), the future metropolitan of Tobol'sk, but likewise an helper and successor of Saint Theodosii in organising the Chernigov clergy school. Strict uprightness in regard to clergy and flock, deep compassion, concern and Christian love of peace were distinguishing features in the activity of Saint Theodosii. To him often turned not only the Orthodox for aid and advice, but even persons of other confessions.

But Saint Theodosii could not long sustain the Chernigov flock. Sensing the approach of death, he summoned to him the administrator of the Bryansk Svensk monastery, Saint John (Maksimovich), and elevated him from priestmonk to archimandrite of the Chernigov Eletsk monastery. In this new archimandrite he prepared beforehand his successor. On 6 February 1696 Sainted Theodosii died and was buried in the Chernigov Borisoglebsk cathedral church, beyond the right kleros-choir, in a special crypt made for this. His successor Sainted John (Maksimovich) later built over his grave a brick arch with an eulogistic inscription in verse, in gratitude for a miraculous healing from a grievous illness. The special granting of grace to which Saint Theodosii attained, is testified to by his ascetic life and his hidden help to all, who recourse to him in prayer.

The glorification of Saint Theodosii occurred on 9 September 1896.

The Holy Martyress Theodoulia lived in the city of Anazarua (Asia Minor) during the reign of the Roman emperors Diocletian (284-305) and Maximian (305-311). The governor of the city, Pelagios, was a very cruel man. His servants sought out Christians throughout the entire region and brought them to him for trial, at which they had read to them the imperial edict, and were demanded to worship idols. One time they brought to him a Christian woman named Theodoulia. (She feared not so much the tortures, as that she might be defiled by the pagans, and so she had offered them much gold. But the servants would not take the gold, and so they led her off to trial before the governor). Pelagios asked her name and he ordered her to worship the pagan gods; in case of her refusal he threatened her with cruel tortures. Saint Theodoulia answered: "I am a Christian. My very name means servant of the Eternal One, and so people call me Theodoulia. I worship the One True God and will not worship a mere stone".

Pelagios became furious and he gave orders to begin the tortures. The Lord granted Theodoulia His help, and she did not sense any pain. Pelagios however ascribed this to the workings of the gods, which it seemed had spared Theodoulia in the hope, that she would turn to them.

Saint Theodoulia said to the governor: "Where art thine gods, which do spare me, show me them, that I might offer up honour to them". They brought her into the temple of the ["deified" deceased Roman emperor] Adrian, whom they esteemed as a mighty god. The saint however, in praying to the One True God, only but blew a breath at the idol, and it crumbled down into dust. Seeing this, Pelagios was atremble with fright. If a report about the destruction of the idol were to reach the emperor, he himself would be thrown for devouring by wild beasts. He fell down sobbing at the feet of Saint Theodoulia, begging her to restore the idol from its dust, and promising for this to accept Christianity.

The saint made fervent prayer to the Lord Jesus Christ, and the idol, whole and intact, again stood in its place. The governor Pelagios however not only did not fulfill his promise to become a Christian, but with an even greater fury instead he began anew to torture the martyress. At the time of these torments a certain fellow named Helladios came up to the governor, and looking at the captives, he asked to be given the maiden Theodoulia, promising to make her worship the pagan gods, doing this because he wanted to ingratiate himself with the city governor and receive honours.

Helladios subjected Saint Theodoulia to harsh torments, exceeding in cruelty even Pelagios himself. The saint however prayed to God, that He might send down on her the ability to persevere. She immediately received help from God and was healed. The tormentor was awestruck, and Saint Theodoulia turned to him with words of admonition. "Become thou a Christian, -- she said to him, -- to attain instead to honours eternal in the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who shalt judge both the living and the dead and render to each according to his deeds". Thus by her prayers and her precepts Saint Theodoulia led Helladios to the knowledge of truth; he believed in Christ and confessed the True God in front of the governor. For this he also accepted the crown of martyrdom. They cut off his head with a sword, and threw his body into the sea.

Saint Theodoulia was thrown into a blazing oven, but she remained unharmed. After this they stretched her on a sort of frying-pan, they poured on boiling tar, wax and oil, but the red-hot plate shattered into pieces, and the fire scorched many people, including the city governor Pelagios, who indeed died a death of fright, but Saint Theodoulia again remained unharmed.

In view of such a miracle with such an extraordinary result, many of the people believed in Christ, among which were the respected citizens Makarios and Euagrios. The pagans all the more fiercely continued to torture Christians. They fired up an oven and threw into it Saint Theodoulia, Makarios, Euagrios and many others who believed in Christ. With prayer on their lips they all accepted a martyr's death and were translated into life immortal.

The Eletsk-Chernigov (Chernigov Spruce Tree) Icon of the Mother of God appeared on a spruce-fir tree near Chernigov in the year 1060, during the time of the Chernigov prince Svyatoslav Yaroslavich, as was recorded in the Synodikon of the Chernigov bishop Zosima Prokopovich (1655-1657). The icon was placed in a church, built in honour of the Eletsk-Spruce Icon of the Mother of God. The Monk Antonii (Anthony; + 1073, Comm. 10 July), while asceticising on the Boldina Heights in the years 1068-1069), had given his blessing to found a monastery at this place. In 1238 the monastery was pillaged by the Tatars (Mongols), but the icon was hidden inside the monastery walls. In the year 1470 the Kiev prince Simeon Olel'kovich restored the monastery, and they again placed the icon in church. The ultimate fate of the icon is unclear. According to one tradition, a descendant of the Chernigov princes, Baryatinsky, carried off the icon to Moscow in the year 1579, when Chernigov fell into the hands of the Polish king Stefan Bathory. In 1687 a somehow-related prince Daniil Baryatinsky was returning from a campaign in the Crimea. At Kharkov he fell seriously ill and before his death he bestowed the Eletsk Icon to the Kharkov Uspenie (Dormition), being nearby it while on campaign. According to another tradition, the icon vanished from the monastery during its sacking in the XVII Century by the forces of Sigismund III. In 1676 prince Konstantin Ostrozhsky presented the Eletsk monastery a copy of the Eletsk Icon of the Mother of God, brought from Vladimir by the Kozel brothers. Archimandrite Ioannikii (Golyatovsky) was at this time restoring the monastery and he described numerous miracles from this icon in his book, "Skorbnitsa" (or "Sokrovischnitsa", i.e. "Consoler" or "Treasury"), published in 1676 in Northern Novgorod. There is still another Eletsk Icon of the Mother of God that is known of, likewise appearing in the year 1060. It received its name in that it appeared in the city of Elets, in a cathedral church in honour of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God. The feastday of this icon was set under 11 January.

The Divnogorsk-Sicilian Icon of the Mother of God received the first part of its title from its original dwelling place when glorified -- the Uspensk Divnogorsk monastery, in the former Ostrogozhsk district in Voronezh governance. Its title of "Sicilian" is from its place of origin, since by tradition this icon at Diva (i.e. "Wondrous Heights") was brought from Sicily by the pious monastic elders Xenophont and Joasaph. They suggest, that these saints were by birth Orthodox Greeks by descent, and that they had arrived hither, actually no earlier than the end of the XV Century. Xenophont and Joasaph founded a monastery at a scenic spot above the River Don, nigh to the confluence into it of the River Tikha Sosna [i.e. Quiet-Pine River]. The Wild-Wondrous Heights of the locale were called such by those struck by the form of the chalk columns, dispersed throughout the hills.

It has been suggested, that Xenophont and Joasaph made their habitation in a cave (where later was made the church of Saint John the Forerunner), and that the first church in a chalk column was carved out by them, into which also they put the Sicilian Icon of the Mother of God which they had brought with them. Herein moreover they found their eternal repose.

On the Divnogorsk-Sicilian Icon of the Mother of God, the Mother of God is depicted sitting in the clouds. In Her right hand is a white lily blossom, and with Her left arm She supports the Divine Infant, Who sits upright upon Her knees. The Saviour in His left hand holds a lily blossom, and with His right hand He blesses. Around the face of the Mother of God are depicted eight angels, of which the two beneathe are depicted on bended knee and with upraised hands in prayer. Over the head of the Mother of God -- is the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. The especial glorification of the icon began with the year 1831, when cholera was raging. At Korotoyak, located 7-8 versts from the monastery, there appeared in sleep to a certain elderly woman, Ekaterina Kolomenska, the Most-Blessed Virgin (in the form She is depicted in the Divnogorsk Icon), and She commanded that Her icon be brought and a molieben be made before it. The wonderworking icon was brought to Korotoyak, and after a fervent general molieben before the holy icon, the cholera ceased. By the intercession of the Mother of God the city of Ostrogozhsk also was saved from cholera. The people of Korotoyak and Ostrogozhsk likewise in 1847 and 1848 were saved from cholera through the miraculous intercession of the Mother of God, which occurred after a church procession with the holy icon around these towns.

According to tradition, the feastday of the wonderworking icon on 5 February was established already at its original habitation -- by Xenophont and Joasaph.

The Celebration of the Mother of God in Honour of Her Icon Named "In Search of the Perishing" ("Vzyskanie pogibshikh"): From time immemorial the Russian people, with its faith in the all-powerful help of the MostHoly Mother of God, considered sacred Her title "In Search of the Perishing" as a final recourse, a final hope of perishing people.

About the origin of the image, "In Search of the Perishing", credible accounts are not preserved. Several wonderworking icons of this name are known, through which the Mother of God showed forth Her mercy to people, already over the very threshold of perishing.

In the mid-XVII Century, in the village of Bor of Kaluzsk (Kaluga) governance, the pious peasant Fedot Obukhov on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord was overtaken on his way by a blizzard. The horses exhausted their strength and became hung up over an impassable gully. Not seeing any way out of this to save himself, Obukhov lay in his sleigh and began to drowse off, unaware that he was freezing all over. But in these terrible moments he called out with all his being to the Queen of Heaven for help, and he gave a vow to have a copy made for his parish church of the icon, "In Search of the Perishing". And She heard his fervent prayer: in the nearby settlement a certain peasant suddenly heard by his window some sort of voice: "Get up". He went out and saw the half-frozen Obukhov on his sleigh. Having recovered his health, Obukhov immediately fulfilled his vow and commissioned a copy of the icon from the Georgiev {Saint George] church of the city of Bolkhov in Orlov governance. And from that time the Borsk "In Search of the Perishing" Icon was glorified by many manifestations of grace and miracles.

Other "In Search of the Perishing" Icons are known of: from the village of Malizhino in Kharkov governance, manifesting itself in 1770 and thrice delivering the people from cholera; another from the village of Krasnoe in Chernigov governance, and another from Voronezh and Kozlov in Tambov governance. And in the year 1835, at the Moscow Alexandrov Orphanage Institute, there was consecrated a church in honour of the "In Search of the Perishing" Icon.

Of particular interest is an account preserved about an "In Search of the Perishing" Icon, located in the church of the "Glorious Resurrection" in Moscow. This icon had been transferred from the temple in honour of the Nativity of Christ to the Palashevska alley. Its final owner had become widowed and was on the threshold of complete poverty. Fervent prayer to the MostHoly Mother of God saved him from despair and straightened out matters for his daughters. This man reckoned himself unworthy to have in his house this wonderworking image and he gave it over to the church. In 1812 the Palashevsk church was pillaged by the French. The desecrated icon was found broken into three pieces amidst the general rubbish. With the finding of the icon occurred numerous miracles of healing. To this icon recourse brides entering marriage, so that the marriage might be an happy one. People come to it, overwhelmed by drunkenness, perishing in poverty, suffering in illness, and with their prayer they recourse to it as to a Mother over Her perishing children. And for all the Heavenly Queen sends down help and support: "Seek out us the perishing, O MostHoly Virgin, and chasten us not as regardeth our sin, but through Thine love for mankind have pity, deliver us from hell and sickness and necessity, and save us" (Tropar, tone 4).

© 2000 by translator Fr. S. Janos

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