Martyrdom of Saints
Kobtlas and Aksu his Sister and Tatos his Friend
On this day we commemorate the martyrdom of Saints Kobtlas and his sister Aksu, the children of Sapor, King of Persia, and Kobtlas' friend Tatos.
King Sapor was a worshipper of fire and sun and he used to inflict torture on believers, and no man dared to mention the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ in his country. His son, Kobtlas, had a friend named Tatos who was a ruler over the country of Maydasayeen. Certain people laid an accusation against Tatos that he was a Christian. The King sent the Governor of the region to investigate the rumour.
When the Governor arrived and found that Tatos was a Christian he ordered his men to cast him into a furnace. Tatos made the sign of the Cross over the fire and the fire died out. Kobtlas marvelled and asked him: "Brother, where did you learn this magic?" Tatos replied: "This is not magic but it is through faith in the Lord Jesus". Kobtlas asked: "If I believe, would I be able to do this?" Tatos answered: "With faith you would do more than this". Kobtlas believed in the Lord Jesus, then he drew near the fire and made the sign of the Cross over the fire and the fire backed away a distance of twelve cubits. The Governor sent to the King to inform him what had happened.
The King had them brought to him and he ordered his men to cut off the head of Tatos who thus received the crown of martyrdom. But his son, Kobtlas, was to be tortured by different ways. He cast him in prison and sent for his sister Aksu, so she might persuade him to return to his father's belief. Kobtlas preached her and turned her heart to believe in the Lord Jesus. Then he sent her to a priest who baptized her secretly.
Aksu returned to her father and said to him: "It would be a good thing if you had what I and my brother have, for there is no God but Jesus Christ". The king was angered and ordered to torture her until she yielded up her soul in the hand of the Lord Jesus.
They then tied Kobtlas to the tails of horses and dragged him over the mountains until he gave up his spirit and then they cut his body and cast it out for the birds of the sky to consume it. When the soldiers departed, the Lord commanded saintly priests and deacons to bury Kubtlas, and they went secretly at night, took the holy body who was shining like snow and hid it in a place until the era of persecution ended.
The Lord was with him and he employed three hundred young men who wrote the biography of the martyrs and shipped their relics to their homes. But Julius himself used to minister to the dying martyrs and dress their wounds. The dying martyrs used to bless him saying: "You must shed your blood in the name of our Lord, so you can be counted among the martyrs".
After Diocletian the infidel, came Constantine the righteous to reign. The Lord Jesus wished to fulfil what the saints had prophesied about him so that he would be counted among the martyrs. The Lord directed him to go to Arkanius, the Governor of Samanoud, to confess the Lord Jesus before him. He went to the Governor and was greatly tortured by him, but the Lord strengthened him. When they ordered him to worship the idols, the saint prayed and the earth opened itself and swallowed up seventy idols and the one hundred and forty priests who were serving them. When the Governor beheld the destruction of the idols and their priests, he believed in the Lord Jesus. The Governor went with the Saint to the Governor of Attrib, near the City of Banha, and he tortured him greatly, but the Lord was with him.
On the eve of the festival for the idols, they decorated the temples with ornaments, lamps and with palm branches. They closed the gates till the following morning to begin celebrating the festival. The Saint asked the Lord to blot out their idols and the Lord sent his angel who cut the heads of the idols, blackened their faces with ashes and burnt up all the palms branches in the temple. On the following morning, when the people came dressed to celebrate the feast and saw what had happened to their gods, the Governor of Attrib and a large number of people believed in the Lord Jesus.
The Saint left Attrib and went to the City of Towa and with him were the Governor of Samanoud and the Governor of Attrib, and they met with Alexandros its Governor. First he refrained from torturing them, but later he ordered his men to cut off their heads. Julius and his two sons Tadros and Yunias, his slaves, and the Governors of Samanoud and Attrib and a great many people were martyred. They numbered one thousand five hundred who were martyred together. They took his body with the bodies of his sons to Alexandria his own city.
The PriestMartyrs Dionysius (Denis), Bishop of Athens, Presbyter Rusticus, and Deacon Eleutherius were killed at Lutetium [ancient name of Paris] in Gaul [modern-day France, where Saint Dionysius is honoured as the patron saint of France, under the French name-forms "Denis" or "Denys"]. This occurred in the year 96 (another source suggests the year 110, during the time of persecution under the Roman emperor Dometian (81-96). Saint Dionysius lived originally in the city of Athens. He was raised there and received a fine classical Greek education. He then set off to Egypt, where he studied astronomy at the city of Heliopolis. Together with his friend Apollophonos he witnessed the solar eclipse occurring at the moment of the death by Crucifixion on the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. "Either now the Creator of all the world doth suffer, or this visible world is coming to an end" -- Dionysius said. Upon his return to Athens from Egypt, he was chosen to be a member of the Areopagus Council (Athenian high court) ["Areo-pagus" means literally Mars(Ares)-hill, a location in Athens anciently].
When the holy Apostle Paul preached at the place of the Athenian Areopagus (Acts 17:16-34), Dionysius accepted his salvific proclamation and became a Christian [trans. note: Dionysius was one of the few converts of Saint Paul at Athens. It is very significant and highly symbolic that the pagan Greeks had situated at the Areopagus the "altar to the Unknown God," of whom Saint Paul actually preached the knowledge. The subsequent "via negativa" or "apophaticism" of Saint Dionysius is an especially important contribution to both theology and philosophy]. Over the course of three years Saint Dionysius remained a companion of the holy Apostle Paul in preaching the Word of God. Later on, the Apostle Paul established him as bishop of the city of Athens. And in the year 57 Saint Dionysius was present at the repose of the MostHoly Mother of God.
Already during the lifetime of the Mother of God, Saint Dionysius had journeyed especially from Athens to Jerusalem, so as to meet Her. He wrote to his teacher the Apostle Paul: "I witness by God, that besides the verymost God Himself, there be naught else in such measure filled with Divine power and grace. No one amongst mankind can fully grasp in mind, what I beheld. I confess before God: when I was with John, who did shine out amidst the Apostles, like the sun in the sky -- when I was brought before the countenance of the MostHoly Virgin, I experienced an inexpressible sensation. Before me gleamed a sort of Divine radiance. It transfixed my spirit. I perceived the fragrance of indescribable aromatics and was filled with such delight, that my very body became faint, and my spirit fain but could bear these signs and marks of eternal beatitude and Heavenly power. The grace from Her overwhelmed my heart, and shook my very spirit. Had I not in mind thine instruction, I should have mistaken Her for the very God. It is impossible to stand before greater blessedness than this, which I then perceived."
After the death of the Apostle Paul, and wanting to continue on with his work, Saint Dionysius set off preaching into the Western lands, accompanied by the Presbyter Rusticus and Deacon Eleutherius. They converted many to Christ at Rome, and then in Germany, and then in Spain. In Gaul, during the time of a persecution against Christians by the pagan authorities, all three confessors were arrested and thrown into prison. By night Saint Dionysius made Divine Liturgy with co-serving Angels of God. In the morning the martyrs were beheaded. According to an old tradition, Saint Dionysius took up his head, proceeded with it to the church and only there fell down dead. A pious woman named Catulla buried the remains of the saint.
The writings of Saint Dionysius the Areopagite hold great significance for the Orthodox Church. Four books of his have survived into the present:
and, additionally, there are ten letters to various persons.
The book Concerning the Celestial Hierarchies was written actually in one of the countries of Western Europe, where Saint Dionysius was preaching. In it is expounded the Christian teaching about the Angelic world. The Angelic (or Celestial-Heavenly) hierarchy comprises the nine Angelic Ranks:
(The account about the Sobor-Assemblage of the Bodiless Powers of Heaven is located under 8 November).
The purpose of the Divinely-established Angelic Hierarchy is the ascent towards God-likeness through purification, enlightenment and perfection. The highest ranks are bearers and mediatory-sources of Divine Light and Divine life for the lower ranks. And not only are the mind-endowed, bodiless Angelic hosts included in the spiritual light-bearing hierarchy, but also the human race, created anew and sanctified in the Church of Christ.
The book of Saint Dionysius Concerning the Ecclesiastical Hierarchies is a continuation of his book Concerning the Celestial Hierarchies. The Church of Christ in its universal service is set upon the foundation, just like the Angelic ranks, of sacerdotal principles established by God.
In the earthly world, for the children of the Church, Divine grace comes down imperceptibly in the holy Sacraments of the Church, which are spiritual in nature, though sense-perceptible in form. Only but few even amongst the holy ascetics were able to behold with earthly eyes the fiery-visage in nature of the Holy Mysteries of God. But outside of the Church sacraments, outside of Baptism and the Eucharist, there is not the Light-bearing saving grace of God, -- there is neither Divine-knowledge ["Bogopoznanie"] nor Theosis ["Obozhenie" or Deification].
The book Concerning the Names of God expounds upon the way of Divine-knowledge through a Saint John of the Ladder-like progression of the Divine Names.
The book of Saint Dionysius Concerning Mystical Theology likewise sets forth the teaching about Divine-knowledge. The theology of the Orthodox Church is totally based upon what is experienced of Divine-knowledge. In order to know God -- it is necessary to be in propinquity to Him, to have some measure to come close nigh unto Him, so as to attain to a condition of Communion-with-God ["Bogoobschenie"] and Deification ["Theosis" or "Obozhenie"]. This condition is most of all accomplished by prayer. This is not because prayer in itself brings us close to the Incomprehensible God, but rather that the purity of heart in true prayer brings us in appropinquity to God.
The written works of Saint Dionysius the Areopagite (they are entitled "Areopagitic") are of extraordinary significance in the Theology of the Orthodox Church [and also for late Medieval Western theology]. And over the expanse of almost four centuries -- until the beginning of the VI Century, the works of this holy father of the Church were preserved in an obscure manuscript tradition, primarily by theologians of the Alexandrian Church. The concepts in these works were known and utilised by Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Dionysios the Great -- pre-eminent figures of the catechetical school in Alexandria, and also by Sainted Gregory the Theologian. Saint Dionysios of Alexandria wrote to Saint Gregory the Theologian a Commentary on the "Areopagitum." The works of Saint Dionysius the Areopagite received general Church recognition during the VI-VII Centuries. Particularly relevant are the Commentaries written on them by the Monk Maximos the Confessor (+ 662, the account about him is under 21 January). [trans. note: although many scholars suggest that the "Areopagitum" was actually written by an anonymous VI Century figure who employed the in-antiquity common pious device of borrowing an illustrious name, this in no way diminishes the profound theological significance of the works, nor discredits the sainthood of the one, or possibly subsumed sainthood of the other; it is of no essential relevance here outside of historical speculations, the "ad authoritatem" methodology of which often are of questionable veracity.]
In the Russian Orthodox Church the teachings
of Saint Dionysius the Areopagite about the spiritual sacerdotal-principles
and Deification were at first known of through the "Theology"
of the Monk John Damascene (commemorated 4 December). The first
Slavonic translation of the "Areopagitum" was done on
Athos in about the year 1371 by a monk named Isaiah. Copies of
it were widely distributed in Russia. Many of them have been preserved
to the present-day in historic-manuscript collections -- among
which is a parchment manuscript "Works of Saint Dionysius
the Areopagite" belonging to Sainted Kiprian, Metropolitan
of Kiev and All Rus' (+1406) -- in his own handwriting.
The Monk Dionysii, Hermit
of Pechersk, called Schepa, was a presbyter. In the year 1463
at the time of the Pachal Matins, Dionysii made the rounds of
the relics of each of the God-pleasing ones buried in the Antoniev
Caves. When the monk cried out: "Holy fathers and brethren!
Christ is Risen!", like thunder there resounded the reply:
"In Truth He is Risen!" On this very day the Monk Dionysii
went into seclusion as an hermit and after many labours he expired
to the Lord. The miracle involving Saint Dionysii is spoken of
in the 8th Ode of the Canon of the Kievo-Pechersk Saints. His
memory is observed also on 28 August and on the 2nd Sunday of
The Monk John Khozebites,
Bishop of Palestinian Caesarea (587-596), was famed for his struggle
against the Eutykhian heresy, but also for his graced gifts of
perspicacity and wonderworking. He was born in the Egyptian city
of Thebes and while still a youth he asceticised for a long time
with his uncle in the Thebaid wilderness. Having learned of his
holy life, by order of the emperor, they made him bishop of the
city of Caesarea. But the saint, yearning solitude, withdrew into
the Khuzebite wilderness (betwixt Jerusalem and Jericho) and pursued
asceticism there until the end of his life (VI).
Blessed Hesykhios Khorebites the Hesychiast ["Bezmolvnik"], lived during the VI Century at one of the monasteries on Athos, and at first he was not very fervent a monk. After a serious illness Hesykhios died, but through a wondrous act of Divine Providence, after an hour he came back to life. After this the blessed saint secluded himself in his cell as an hermit, and for 12 years he dwelt in complete solitude. The brethren heard only the singing of Psalms and penitent weeping. Before his death, Blessed Hesykhios said to the gathered monks: "Forgive me, brethren. He that is mindful of death sinneth no more."
With the name Hesykhios is connected the Athonite skete-form of the Hesychiasts ["Bezmolvni" or "Silents"], striving after an unique experience by the mental Jesus Prayer.