Theodosia, the fanatical pagan mother of Prokopios, who loathed Christians, did all in her power to raise her son a pagan, and she was successful. In his youth, Prokopios was a typical pagan. Yet, God had other plans for this young man. His daily contact with Christians, from whom he heard many astonishingly beautiful things about Christ and His Holy Apostles, slowly interested him in the faith he up to then had despised. He began to see that the Christians, though lacking beautiful temples embellished with statues and decorous splendour, possessed another kind of beauty not to be found in any other religion or philosophical system. They possessed the truth, indeed, the ultimate truth about God, man, salvation, and eternal life.
With the passing of time, he was baptised to live ever after as a very devout Christian. Thus, by the grace of Almighty God, a former typical pagan had now been transformed to an ideal Christian. In fact, this is how Eusebios, a noted church historian and contemporary of Prokopios, described the saint and his martyrdom.
“He was a man so filled with divine grace that he had devoted himself to chastity and the practice of all virtues. He had reduced his body until he had given it, so speak, the appearance of a corpse, but his soul drew from the word of God so great a vigour that the body itself was refreshed by it”.
Studying on the Divine Word so filled his being that he remained absorbed in it day and night without fatigue. Filled with goodness and gentleness, regarding himself as the least of men, he edified everyone by his discourses. The Word of God was his sole study, and he had but little knowledge of profane science, Born at Aelia (the pagan name of Jerusalem), he had taken up his residence at Scythopolis to Caesarea.
He had scarcely passed the city gates when he was conducted into the presence of the governor, and even before he had had a taste of chains or prison walls, he was urged by the judge, Flavian, to sacrifice to the gods. But he, in a loud voice, proclaimed that there were not several gods, but one alone, the creator and author of all things.
This answer made a vivid impression on the judge. Finding nothing to say in reply, he tried to persuade Prokopios, at least, to sacrifice to the emperors. This martyr of God spurned his entreaties. ‘Listen,” he said, ‘it is not good to have several masters; let there be one chief, one king”‘. At these words, as though he had uttered insults against the emperors, the judge ordered him to be executed.
They cut off his head, and he passed happily to eternal life on the eighth day in the month of July. This was the first martyrdom that took place in Caesarea. And so a beautiful soul, that for years served as an ideal example of Christian virtue, through a tragic death, inherited the Kingdom of God’s elect in 303 AD.
Dismissal Hymn (Fourth Tone)
Your Martyr, O Lord, in his courageous contest for You received the prize of the crowns of incorruption and life from You, our immortal God. For since he possessed You strength, he cast down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons’ powerless presumption. O Christ God, by his prayers, save our souls, since You are merciful.
Kontakion (Second Tone)
Devoutly aflame with godly zeal for Christ your Lord, and armed with the strength and power of the precious Cross, you cast down headlong thy foes’ exalted pride, O Procopios, exalting Christ’s holy Church, advancing in faith and shedding light on us.
Appearance of the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos of Kazan
In Kazan, in 1579, the nine-year old Matrona, whose parents’ home had burned down in a fire, had a dream in which she beheld an icon of the Theotokos and heard a voice commanding her to recover this icon from the ashes of the ruined house. The icon was found wrapped in an old piece of cloth under the stove, where it may have been hidden during the Tartar invasions. The icon was finally brought to the Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Theotokos, where it became renowned for the healings that the Mother of God wrought through it for the blind; hence the custom of praying before this holy icon for help in blindness and eye diseases. Tsar Ivan the Terrible had a convent built at the place of the icon’s discovery; this, however, was destroyed by the Bolsheviks after the Revolution, and a factory was built in its stead. The feast was established in 1595. The icon of Kazan is one of the most beloved icons of the Mother of God in Russia.
Apolytikion of Icon of the Theotokos of Kazan in the Fourth Tone
O Fervent intercessor, Mother of the Lord Most High, thou prayest for all to thy Son, Christ our God, and thou causest all to be saved who have recourse to thy powerful protection. O Sovereign Lady and Queen, help and defend all of us who in troubles and trials, in pain and burdened with many sins, stand before thy most pure icon in thy presence, and pray to thee with compunction of soul, contrition of heart, and with tears, and who have unflagging hope in thee. Grant to all what is good for us, deliverance from all evil, and save us all, O Virgin Theotokos, for thou art a divine protection to thy servants.
Kontakion of Icon of the Theotokos of Kazan in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Let us run, O ye peoples, to that quiet and good haven, to the speedy helper, to the ready and warm salvation, to the Virgin’s protection. Let us hurry to prayer and hasten to repentance; for the most pure Theotokos poureth out of us unfailing mercy, anticipateth our needs with her help, and delivereth from great disasters and evils her upright and God-fearing servants.
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Theophilos the Myrrhbearer of Pantokrator Monastery