March 27th (IV - 9)
Icon of the Martyr Matona of Salonika and St. Lydia
Martyress Matrona of Soluneia (Thessalonika) (III-IV). Martyrs Manuel and Theodosius (+ 304). Monk John the Perspicacious, of Egypt (+ c. 395). Monk Cyrikos of Thrace. Monk Paul, Bishop of Corinth (IX). Saint Eutykhios. Saint Macarius. PriestMartyr Codratus. Sainted Ephrem, Archbishop of Rostov (+ 1454). Monk Alexander of Vocha and Galich (XVI).
The Holy Martyress Matrona of Soluneia (Thessalonika) suffered in the III or IV Century. She was a slave of the Jewess Pautila, wife of one of the military-commanders of Soluneia. Pautila forced her slave into apostasy and conversion to Judaism, but Saint Matrona, having her faith in Christ since her youthful years, still firmly believed in Christ and went to church secretly unbeknownst to her vengeful mistress.
One time Pautila, having learned that Blessed Matrona had been in church, asked: "Why hast thou not come to our synagogue, but instead did walk to the Christian church?" Saint Matrona boldly answered: "Because in the Christian church God is present, but He is gone away from the Jewish synagogue". Pautila went into a rage and mercilessly beat Saint Matrona, and having tied her shut her into a dark closet. In the morning Pautila discovered, that Saint Matrona had been freed of her bonds by an unknown Power. In a rage Pautila beat the martyress almost to death, then tied her again even more tightly and locked her in the closet, having sealed the door, so that no one might offer help to the sufferer. The holy martyress was there over the course of four days without food or water, and when Pautila opened the door, she again beheld Saint Matrona out of her bonds standing at prayer. In a fierce rage Pautila began to beat the holy martyress with a stout cane and, when the saint was barely breathing, the fierce woman locked her in the room, wherein also the Martyress Matrona gave up her spirit to God.
The body of the holy martyress was thrown from the city wall, by order of Pautila. Christians took up the much-suffered body of the holy martyress and reverently gave it over to burial. And later on, the bishop of Soluneia, Alexander, built a church in the name of the holy martyress, in which they put her holy relics, glorified by miracles.
The judgement of God soon overtook the tormentor Pautila at that very place, where the body of Saint Matrona had been throw from the high wall, -- she herself stumbled, fell off it and was smashed, having received her just reward.
The Holy Martyrs Manuel and Theodosius suffered for their faith in Christ in the year 304 in Sirmium. Seeing, how daily the pagans gave Christians over to death, they believed in Christ and resolved to suffer for their faith. They boldly confessed themselves as Christians in front of the governor. The governor and those around him marvelled at their bravery. By order of the governor, they locked up Saints Manuel and Theodosius in prison and put a strict watch over them. After several days the governor gave orders to bring the saints from prison and he began to urge them to renounce Christ and instead offer sacrifice to the idols. The holy martyrs however were steadfast in their confession. Then the governor gave orders to suspend Saints Manuel and Theodosius from a tree and to tear at them with sharp iron hooks, after which they impaled the martyrs on a sharp trident, and finally, they beheaded them.
The Monk John the Perspicacious of Egypt was born at the beginning of the IV Century. He lived in the city of Likopolis (Middle Egypt) and was a carpenter. At the age of twenty-five he went off to a monastery, where he accepted monastic tonsure. Over the course of twenty-five years the Monk John asceticised at various monasteries, and then wanting complete solitude, he withdrew into the Thebaid onto Mount Bolcha. Saint John then spent twenty-five years in solitude, never leaving the spot. He conversed with people coming to him through a small aperture, through which he also accepted frugal amounts of food brought him. The Monk John already after thirty years in seclusion was granted by God the graced gift of perspicacious foresight. Thus, he predicted to the emperor Theodosius the Great (379-395) the victory over his adversaries Maximus and Eugenius, and a military victory over the Gauls. For many visiting him he foretold events in their lives and gave them guidance. The holy ascetic distributed blessed oil to the sick visiting him, and anointing with it he healed them from various maladies.
The Monk John predicted to the monk Palladios, who wrote down his life, that he would become a bishop. The prediction of the seer was fulfilled, and Palladios was made bishop of Bithynia (Asia Minor).
The Monk John in his directives commanded first of all to have humility: "Imitate in the measure of your strength the virtuous life of the holy fathers and, if ye fulfill everything, then hope not upon yourself nor praise yourself. For there are many such people, which, having reached perfection in virtue and becoming puffed up with pride, plunge from the heights into the abyss. Observe carefully: is your prayer fervent? your purity of heart not transgressed? your mind undisturbed by extraneous thoughts during time of prayer? observe, do you reject the world with all your soul? or go about to spy out the virtues of others, in vain then with your own particular virtues? Are ye concerned to put forth your good example before other people? Take heed, art ye become conceited in your own righteousness, puffed up with pride somehow by your good deed? Take heed, that during time of prayer thoughts about worldly things do not enter your head, since there is nothing more silly, than to converse with the lips to God, while in thought to be far off from Him. This often happens with those, which not so much renounce the world, as rather that they are concerned to comply with the world. A man, thinking about many things, is given over to cares about things worldly and perishable, but being subjected to concern about things worldly, a man cannot yet with his spiritual eyes behold God. For a man, meditating always about God, extraneous thoughts ought to be all in vain. For this man, who has attained to a certain knowledge of God (full knowledge of God no one can attain to), the mysteries of God are revealed to him, and he sees the future as the present, and like a saint he works miracles and receives through his prayer everything that he beseeches of God...
Love silence, child, dwelling always in Divine-meditation and praying God always, that He grant you a pure mind, free from sinful thoughts. Worthy of praise certainly is that ascetic who, living in the world, practises the virtues, rendering kindliness to strangers or distributing alms, or aiding in the work of others, or dwelling constantly without anger. Such a man is praiseworthy, since he dwelleth in virtue, fulfilling the commands of God, while yet not leaving off from earthly affairs. But better than this and more worthy of praise would be that one who, dwelling constantly in Divine-meditation, would ascend from the corporeal to the incorporeal, letting go of the care and concern of others, himself striving towards the Heavenly, constantly standing before God, having relinquished everything worldly and being not still attached to the world by earthly cares. Such a man is in proximity to God, Whom he doth glorify in prayers and psalmody".
With these and similar salvific instructions, and with directive discourse and example of like-angelic life, the monk brought much spiritual benefit to people.
The Monk John of Egypt survived into old age and expired to the Lord in the year 395, at the age of ninety.
Sainted Ephrem, Archbishop of Rostov, was ordained and installed upon the Rostov cathedra-chair on 13 April 1427 by the holy Metropolitan of Moscow Photii (Comm. 2 July). In 1449 he was elevated to the dignity of archbishop by Sainted Jona, Metropolitan of Moscow (Comm. 31 March). Over the course of 27 years Saint Ephrem guided the Rostov flock, and reposed on 27 March 1454. They buried the body of the holy archpastor in the Rostov Uspensky cathedral. The commemoration of Sainted Ephrem is made also on 23 May, in the Sobor-Assemblage of the Rostovo-Yaroslavsk Saints.
The Monk Alexander of Vocha and Galich pursued asceticism during the XV?XVI Centuries. He founded a monastery in honour of the Transfiguration (Preobrazhenie) of the Lord on the banks of the River Vocha 50 versts distant from Galich. The Monk Alexander reposed at the beginning of the XVI Century and was buried in the church of the Transfiguration monastery founded by him. Soon after the death of the holy ascetic there began the veneration of him, his image was written and set up over the relics, buried beneathe a crypt.
© 2000 by translator Fr. S. Janos