Saint Stephen the New
Righteous Stephen was born in Constantinople in 715 AD to pious parents named John and Anna. His mother had prayed often to the most holy Theotokos in her church at Blachernae to be granted a son, and one day received a revelation from our Lady that she would conceive the son she desired. When Anna had conceived, she asked the newly elected Patriarch Germanus (commemorated May 12) to bless the babe in her womb. He said, “May God bless him through the prayers of the holy First Martyr Stephen”. At that moment, Anna saw a flame of fire issue from the mouth of the holy Patriarch.
When the child was born, she named him Stephen, according to the prophecy of St Germanus. Stephen struggled in asceticism from his youth in Bithynia at the Monastery of St Auxentios, which was located at a lofty place called Mount Auxentios (commemorated February 14). Because of his extreme labours and great goodness, he was chosen by the hermits of Mount Auxentios to be their leader. The fame of his spiritual struggles reached the ears of all, and the fragrance of his virtue drew many to himself.
During the reign of Constantine V (741-775 AD), Stephen showed his love of Orthodoxy in contending for the Orthodox Faith. This Constantine was called Copronymus, that is, “namesake of dung”, because while being baptized he had soiled the waters of regeneration, giving a fitting token of what manner of impiety he would later embrace. Besides being a fierce Iconoclast, Constantine raised up a ruthless persecution of monasticism. He held a council in 754 AD that anathematized the holy icons. Because St Stephen rejected this council, the Emperor framed false accusations against him and exiled him. However, while in exile St Stephen performed healings with holy icons and turned many away from Iconoclasm. When he was brought before the Emperor again, he showed him a coin and asked whose image the coin bore. “Mine”, said the tyrant. “If any man trample upon your image, is he liable to punishment?” asked the Saint.
When they that stood by answered yes, the Saint groaned because of their blindness, and said if they thought dishonouring the image of a corruptible king worthy of punishment, what torment would they receive who trampled upon the image of the Master Christ and of the Mother of God? Then he threw the coin to the ground and trampled on it. He was condemned to eleven months in bonds and imprisonment. Later, he was dragged over the earth and was stoned, like Stephen the First Martyr; therefore he is called Stephen the New. Finally, he was struck with a wooden club on the temple and his head was shattered, and thus he gave up his spirit in 767 AD.
Dismissal Hymn (Fourth Tone)
Trained on the mountain in ascetical labours, with the whole armour of the Cross you vanquished the spiritual arrays of unseen enemies; and when you stripped yourself with great courage for contest, you slayed Copronymus with the sword of the true Faith. For both these things you have been crowned by God, O righteous Martyr, blest Stephen of great renown.
Kontakion (Plagal of the Fourth Tone)
With songs and hymns, O feast-lovers, let us all extol the godly Stephen, that great lover of the Trinity, for he honoured with his whole heart the beautiful image of the Master, of His Mother, and of all the Saints. Now with one accord, with longing, and with joy of heart, let us cry to him: Rejoice, O Father most glorious.
Irenarchos & his Companion Martyrs at Sebaste
Saint Irenarchos, who was from Sebastia, lived during the reign of Diocletian. In his youth he ministered to the holy Martyrs during the time of their punishment in prison. Once, on beholding seven women being tormented in behalf of Christ, and marvelling at their courage, and seeing how, although they were weak in body, they nonetheless became like men before the tyrant and put him to shame, the Saint was enlightened by divine grace and confessed Christ with boldness. Tried by fire and water, he was beheaded together with the holy women in the year 298.
Apolytikion of Martyr Irenarchos in the Fourth Tone
Thy Martyr, O Lord, in his courageous contest for Thee received the prize of the crowns of incorruption and life from Thee, our immortal God. For since he possessed Thy strength, he cast down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons’ strengthless presumption. O Christ God, by his prayers, save our souls, since Thou art merciful.
Kontakion of Martyr Irenarchos in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
As a triumphant man of war enlisted with the Prince of Peace, the prince of darkness didst thou destroy utterly in thy courageous martyrdom. And now, by thine entreaties, do thou ever preserve in peace and in godliness, O Martyr Irenarchos, all them that acclaim thy valiant deeds.
We also celebrate today
Auxentius, 16 Martyrs of Tiberioupolis