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March 8th (III - 21)

Icon of the saint of the day.

Icon of St. Theopylaktos

Monks: Theophylaktos the Confessor, Bishop of Nicomedia (+ c. 842-845); Theodosius; Lazar (+ 1391) and Athanasii (Afanasii) (XV) of Murmansk and Olonetsk. Disciple from the 70, Hermas (I). PriestMartyr Theodorit, Presbyter of Antioch (+ c. 361-363). MonkMartyr Domitios the Persian (+ 363). Martyr Dionos. 1,000 Martyrs at Saboreia. Kursk "Sign" Icon of the Mother of God (1898).

Saint Theophylaktos lived at Constantinople in the VIII Century during the time of the Iconoclast heresy. After the death of the iconoclast emperor Leo IV the Khazar (775-780), there entered upon the throne the emperor Constantine VI (780-797). There occurred also a change of Patriarchs: the holy Patriarch Paul (Comm. 30 August), not having the strength to continue guiding the flock afront the powerfully spread iconoclasm, voluntarily resigned the cathedra/chair (784). In his place was chosen Saint Tarasios (Comm. 25 February) -- at that time an eminent imperial counselor. Under the supervision of the new Patriarch was convened the Seventh OEcumenical Council (787), condemning the Iconoclast heresy. For Orthodoxy a relatively peaceful time began. Monasteries again began to fill with residents.

Saint Theophylaktos, a gifted student of Saint Tarasios and with the blessing of this the Patriarch, settled together with Saint Michael (Comm. 23 May) in a monastery on the coast of the Black Sea. The zealous ascetics by their God-pleasing labours and intense efforts of prayer were granted by God the gift of wonderworking. By their prayers, during the time of an intense drought when the workers in the field were weakened by thirst, an empty vessel became filled with so much water, that it sufficed for the entire day.

After several years in the monastery they were both consecrated by Patriarch Tarasios to the dignity of bishop: Saint Michael was made bishop of Synada, and Saint Theophylaktos was made bishop of Nicomedia.

Heading the Church of Nicomedia, Saint Theophylaktos constantly concerned himself about the flock entrusted to him. He built churches, hospices, homes for wanderers, he generously distributed alms, was guardian for orphans, widows and the sick, and himself attended to those afflicted with leprosy, not hesitating to wash their wounds.

When the iconoclast Leo the Armenian (813-820) came upon the imperial throne, the terrible heresy burst forth with new strength.

But the iconoclast emperor was not able to sway the successor of the holy Patriarch Tarasios -- Saint Nicephoros (806-815, Comm. 2 June), who together with the bishops vainly urged the ruler not to destroy churchly peace. Present at the negotiations of the emperor with the Patriarch was Saint Theophylaktos, denouncing the heretics, and he predicted a speedy perishing to Leo the Armenian. For his bold prophesy the saint was sent into exile to the fortress Strobil (in Asia Minor). He languished for thirty years until his end, which occurred in about the year 845.

After the restoration of icon-veneration in the year 847, under the empress Saint Theodora (842-855; + 867, Comm. 11 February) and her son Michael, the holy relics of Bishop Theophylaktos were transferred back to Nicomedia.

The Monk Lazar of Murmansk was a Greek by nationality, born at Constantinople. In his native city he accepted monasticism at the High-Mount monastery under the elder (starets) Athanasias Diskotes -- builder of many a monastery. Eight years later the monk was situated under the guidance of the Caesarea Bishop Basil. In the year 1343 Bishop Basil, wanting to encourage the Russian Church with spiritual blessing, sent the Monk Lazar as a noted iconographer together with monks and gifts to the Novgorod Sainted-hierarch Vasilii (Basil) (Comm. 10 February, 4 October, 3 June).The Monk Lazar was obliged to make for the Caesarea diocese a copy from the great Novgorod sacred-item -- the Icon of Sophia, the Wisdom of God (Comm. 15 August), and to compile an account of Novgorod churches and monasteries. Meeting the monk, the Novgorod hierarch bowed to the ground to his guest and blessed him to remain in a monastery built by him. For ten years the Monk Lazar faithfully served Saint Vasilii, and in 1352 upon the death of the holy arch-pastor, he "by his own hands dressed the holy body in the prepared clothing and shed many tears".

Grieved by this, that he was deprived of both his guides (about the death of the Caesarea bishop the monk had learned of earlier through letters), the Monk Lazar considered returning to his native land, but soon in a dream the Novgorod sainted-hierarch appeared to him and directed him "to go northwards towards the sea, to Mucha Island in Lake Onega" (Murmansk Island in Lake Onega), and in a short while his first guide -- the bishop of Caesarea, commanded him in a dream to go to that same place and found a monastery. From the chronicles is known, that at this time the Novgorodians were undertaking their first attempts to convert to the Christian faith the peoples inhabiting the White Sea coastal region.

But Saint Lazar was not able to get to this island at once -- the controller of the island, the Novgorod merchant Ivan, for a long time would not permit him. The monk prayed fervently to the MostHoly Mother of God and to Saint John the Forerunner and he wept at the grave of Sainted Vasilii. And the resistance of the land-controller was removed: Sainted Vasilii himself once appeared to him in a "dream visage" and ordered him to bestow the island "to our friend Lazar", so as there "to extol the name of the Mother of God".

Saint Lazar arrived alone at the blessed spot. He set up a cross, an hut, and "a small temple" -- a chapel. Soon the Lopari and Chud natives living on the island heard about him, and he had much suffering to endure from them: they burned down his hut and what damage they were able to, and not only once did they beat him, they chased him from the island and pursued him so as to kill him. But God and the Queen of Heaven guarded Their saint. At the place of the burned hut there appeared to the Monk Lazar there again appeared the icon of the Uspenie (Dormition) of the MostHoly Mother of God, miraculously undamaged by the fire. It was this icon with which they had blessed him at the taking of monastic vows, and from it was heard a commanding Voice: "The faithless people shalt become faithful, and there wilt be one Church and one flock of Christ. Establish upon this place a church of the Dormition (Uspenie) of the MostHoly Mother of God". Another time the saint saw how this very place was blessed by "a Woman of majesty, radiant with golden hue, and resplendid men that did make reverence to Her". And soon there came to the monk the very eldest of the Lopari and besought him to heal a child born blind: "... then we shalt go from the island, as thy servants be commanded". The Monk Lazar perceived that this was an Heavenly Angel, and he raised up thanks unto the Lord. He healed the blind child, having read over it a prayer and sprinkling it with holy water. After this, the "bad people" quit the island, and the father of the healed child afterwards became a monk, and all his sons were baptised.

From that time there began to come to the monk many from faraway places -- he baptised them, and vowed them into monasticism. There came to him even his fellow countrymen from Constantinople -- the holy Monks Eleazar, Evmenii and Nazarii (Comm. 4 June) -- future founders of the Forerunner monastery in the Olonetsk region.

Visiting at Novgorod, Saint Lazar received from Bishop Moisei (1352-1360) blessing for the construction of a monastery, together with an antimins (corporal) and priestly vessels. A church was built in honour of the Uspenie of the MostHoly Mother of God -- the first in all the sea-coast region; also a church of the Resurrection of Lazarus, and even a wooden church of Saint John the Forerunner together with a refectory.

The Murmansk Uspenie monastery was built up and strengthened by its zealous head the Monk Lazar into the time of his old age.

The time of his end was revealed to him in a vision by his faithful protector -- Saint Vasilii of Novgorod. Having chosen with the brethren a worthy successor to himself -- the Athos elder Theodosii, and having communed the Holy Life-Creating Mysteries and blessed all, Saint Lazar expired to the Lord on 8 March 1391 at the age of 105 years. They buried him in a chapel alongside the church in honour of the Uspenie of the MostHoly Mother of God.

The Life of the Saint was written by the starets Theodosii from the words of the monk himself.

The Monk Athansii (Afanasii) was hegumen at the monastery of the Monk Lazar during the mid-XV Century. After his death the body of the ascetic was buried in a separate chapel, where the chains of the saint were preserved -- evidence of his exploits. The veneration of this saint goes way back. In the second half of the XVII Century they called Hegumen Athanasii "a wonderworking monk". A tropar and kondak to the saint are known of.

The Holy Disciple from the 70, Hermas, was bishop at Philippopolis, and died a martyr in the I Century. In the Epistle to the Romans the holy Apostle Paul summons the Romans to greet the Disciple Hermas (Rom. 16: 14).

Saint Theodorit was a presbyter and maintainer of vessels at the cathedral church in Antioch. This church was built and richly adorned by the emperor -- holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Constantine the Great (306-337, Comm. 21 May) and his son Constantius, and it was called among the people "the Golden church". Having occupied the throne after the death of the emperor Constantius (337-361), Julian the Apostate (361-363) decided to restore paganism throughout all the Roman empire. The emperor appointed his uncle, also named Julian, as governor of Antioch. He ordered him to close the Christian temples, and in seizing the valuables within them to hand it over to the imperial treasury. Wanting to please the emperor, the governor -- also an apostate from the Christian faith, set about his impious task with zeal. Arriving at Antioch with the dignitary Felix, he gave orders to lock up the presbyter Theodorit under guard, and he set about to his plundering, defiling the altar and the holy altar-table. One of those present, Euzoios, tried to admonish the impiety, and for this he was killed. Julian accused Theodorit of hiding the church valuables, but the venerable maintainer of vessels denied the accusation and openly denounced Julian for his apostasy.

Despite beastly tortures, the holy martyr defended to the end his faith in Christ the Saviour, and predicted a speedy death to Julian and the emperor for their sacrilege.

The soldiers, torturing the faithful presbyter, struck by his firmness and endurance and the strong power of the Word of God, were converted to faith in Christ, for which they were drowned in the sea.

The holy confessor was himself beheaded. The mockery and sacrilege over sacred things did not go unpunished -- the predictions of Saint Theodorit soon occurred: the governor Julian died in agony from grievous illness, and the emperor Julian perished in a campaign against the Persians.

© 1998 by translator Fr. S. Janos.

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