Righteous Fathers Slain at the Monastery of Saint Savas
During the reign of Emperor Heraclius, when Saint Modestos was Patriarch of Jerusalem (632-634 A.D.), the area around Jerusalem was subjected to frequent incursions of the Saracens. The monastery of Saint Chariton was devastated and fell into ruin. Twice the Saracens tried to plunder the Lavra of Saint Savvas the Sanctified, but God’s Providence protected the monastery. The monks would have been able to escape the barbarians by going to Jerusalem, but they decided not to forsake the place where they had sought salvation for so many years.
On March 13, the Saracens broke into the monastery and demanded all the valuables. The monks told them that there was nothing in the monastery but a meager supply of food and old clothing. Then the Saracens began to shoot arrows at the monks. Thirteen men were killed and many wounded, and monastery cells were set afire. The Saracens intended also to torch the monastery church, but seeing a throng of people in the distance, they mistook this for an army sent from Jerusalem. The Saracens managed to get away, carrying off the little they were able to plunder. After the enemy fled, Father Thomas, an experienced physician, began to help those who remained alive.
On Great Thursday, March 20, the Saracens again descended upon the Lavra with a larger force and began to beat up the monks. The survivors were driven into the church, where they were tortured in order to force them to reveal where any treasure might be hidden. The monastery was surrounded, so no one could save himself by fleeing. The barbarians seized Saint John, a young monk, who had cared for vagrants. They beat him fiercely, and then they cut the sinews of his hands and feet and dragged him over stones by his feet, which tore the skin from the martyr’s back.
The keeper of the church vessels, Saint Sergios, hid the church vessels and attempted to flee, but he was captured and beheaded. Several of the monks nevertheless managed to hide themselves outside the monastery in a cave, but a sentry on a hill spotted them, and they ordered everyone to come out. Inside the cave, Saint Patrikios whispered to the brethren huddled with him, “Fear not, I will go alone and meet my death. Meanwhile, sit and pray”.
The Saracens asked whether there was anyone else in the cave, and Patrikios said that he was alone. They led him to the Lavra, where the captives awaited their fate. The Saracens demanded of them a ransom of 4000 gold pieces and the sacred vessels. The monks were not able to give such a ransom. Then they led them into the cave of Saint Savvas inside the monastery walls. They lit a fire on which they piled up dung in front of the entrance to the cave, hoping to suffocate the monks with the poisonous fumes. Eighteen men perished in the cave, among whom were Saints John and Patrikios. The Saracens continued to torture those who were still alive, but got nothing out of them. Finally, they left the monastery.
Later, on the night of Great Friday, the monks hidden in the hills returned to the Lavra, they took up the bodies of the murdered Fathers to the church and buried them there. The barbarians who plundered the monastery were punished by God. They were stricken with a sudden illness, and they all perished. Their bodies were devoured by wild beasts.
Dismissal Hymn (Second Tone)
Blessed is the earth that drank your blood, O prizewinners of the Lord, and holy are the tabernacles that received your spirits; for in the stadium you triumphed over the enemy, and you proclaimed Christ with boldness. Beseech Him, we pray, since He is good, to save our souls.
Kontakion (Fourth Tone)
You Who was raised up
Shunning all earthly and corruptible pleasures, you chose a life of great ascetical struggles, disdaining worldly beauty and all fleeting fame; therefore, you dwell joyously in the Kingdom of Heaven with the Martyrs’ holy choirs and the ranks of ascetics. Hence, we revere your memory and cry, “From every peril, O Fathers, deliver us”.
Saint Cuthbert the Wonderworker, Bishop of Lindisfarne
Saint Cuthbert was born in Britain about the year 635 A.D., and in his youth became a monk at the monastery of Melrose by the River Tweed. After `many years of struggle, as a true priest of Christ, in the service both of his own brethren and of the neglected Christians of isolated country villages, he became a solitary on Farne Island in 676 A.D. After eight years as a hermit, he was constrained to leave his quiet to become Bishop of Lindisfarne, in which office he served for almost two years. He returned to his hermitage two months before he reposed in peace in 687.
Because of the miracles he wrought both during his life and at his tomb after his death, he is called the “Wonderworker of Britain”. The English people honoured him, and kings were both benefactors to his shrine and suppliants of his prayers. Eleven years after his death, his holy relics were revealed to be incorrupt; when his body was translated from Lindisfarne to Durham Cathedral in August of 1104 A.D., his body was still found to be untouched by decay, giving off “an odour of sweetest flagrancy”, and “from the flexibility of its joints representing a person asleep rather than dead”. Finally, when the most impious Henry VIII desecrated his shrine, opening it to despoil it of its valuables, the Saint’s body was again found incorrupt, and was buried in 1542 A.D. It is believed that after this the holy relics of St Cuthbert were hidden to preserve them from further desecration.
Dismissal Hymn (Third Tone)
While still in your youth you laid aside all worldly care and took up the sweet yoke of Christ, O godly-minded Cuthbert, and you was shown forth in truth to be nobly radiant in the grace of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, God established you as a rule of faith and shepherd of His rational flock, O converser with Angels and intercessor for men.
Kontakion (First Tone)
Having surpassed your brethren in prayers, fasting, and vigils, you was found worthy to entertain a pilgrim-angel; and having shone forth with humility as a bright lamp set on high, you received the gift of wonderworking. Now as you dwell in the heavenly Kingdom, O our righteous Father Cuthbert, intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved.
Photini the Samaritan Woman
Saint Photini lived in 1st century Palestine and was the woman that Christ met at the well in Samaria as recorded in the Gospel according to John (4:4-26). After her encounter with Christ, she and her whole family were baptized by the Apostles and became evangelists of the early Church. Photini and her children eventually were summoned before the emperor Nero and instructed to renounce their faith in Christ. They reused to do so, accepting rather to suffer various tortures. After many efforts to force her to surrender to idolatry, the emperor ordered that she be thrown down a well. Photini gave up her life in the year 66.
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