The PriestMartyr Autonomus was a bishop in Italy. During the time of the persecution against Christians under the emperor Diocletian (284-305), Saint Autonomus left his own country and resettled in Bithynia, in the locality of Soreia with the wandering-lover Cornelius. Saint Autonomus did his apostolic duty with zeal and converted to Christ so many pagans, that a large Church was formed, for which he consecrated a temple in the name of the Archangel Michael. For this church, the saint at first ordained Cornelius as deacon, and then presbyter. Preaching about Christ, Saint Autonomus visited also Likaonia and Isauria.
The emperor Diocletian gave orders to arrest Saint Autonomus, but the saint withdrew to Claudiopolis on the Black Sea. In returning to Soreia, he had Presbyter Cornelius ordained bishop. Saint Autonomus then set out to Asia, and when he had returned from there, he began to preach in the vicinity of Limna, nearby Soreia. One time, the newly-converted destroyed a pagan temple. The pagans decided to take revenge on the Christians. Seizing their chance, the pagans rushed upon the church of the Archangel Michael when Saint Autonomus was serving Divine Liturgy there, and after torturing Saint Autonomus they killed him, reddening the altar of the church with his martyr's blood. The deaconess Maria extracted the body of the holy martyr from beneath a pile of stones and gave it burial.
During the reign of Saint Constantine the Great a church was built over the place of burial of the saint. In about the year 430 a certain priest had the decaying church pulled down. And not knowing that beneathe the church had been buried the body of the martyr, he rebuilt the church in a new spot. But after another 60 years the relics of the saint were found undecayed, and a church was then built in the name of the PriestMartyr Autonomus.
The Monk Vassian of Tiksnensk [Totemsk], in the world Vasilii, was a peasant from the village of Strelitsa (by other accounts, from the village of Burtsevo), near the city of Tot'ma, and he was by trade a tailor. Leaving his family, he accepted monasticism under the Monk Theodosii (Feodosii) of Totemsk in the Sumorinsk monastery at the River Sukhona, where he spent several years in works and obediences. In 1594 the monk resettled not far from Tot'ma, at the River Tiksna, nearby a church in the name of Sainted Nicholas the Wonderworker. At first he lived at the church portico, but then he made himself a cell nearby the church. The monk visited at each Divine-service. For thirty years he wore chains on his body -- on his shoulders an heavy chain, on his loins an iron belt, and on his head beneathe his head covering an iron cap.
Yearning for solitude, the monk admitted no one to his cell, except his spiritual father. He lived by the alms, which they put by his small window. The Monk Vassian died on 12 September 1624. Only at burial was it discovered, how extremely he had humbled his flesh.
At the place of the efforts of the monk was afterwards formed a monastery in honour of the Not-Wrought-by-Hand Image of the Saviour. Veneration of the Monk Vassian began with the year 1647, when at the time of a deadly plague many received healing at the place of his burial. The life of the monk was written in the year 1745 by the hegumen Joseph.
Righteous Simeon of Verkhotursk (+1642) was a nobleman, but he concealed his origin and led the life of a beggar. He walked through the villages and for free sewed half-coat and other over-clothes, primarily for the poor. While doing this he deliberately failed to sew something -- either a glove, or a scarf, for which he endured abuse from his customers. The ascetic wandered much, but most often he lived at a churchyard of the village of Merkushinsk not far from the city of Verkhotur' (Perm outskirts). Saint Simeon loved nature in the Urals, and joyfully contemplating its majestic beauty, he would raise up a thoughtful glance towards the Creator of the world. In such of his time as was free of toil, the saint loved to go afishing in the tranquility of solitude, since this reminded him of the disciples of Christ, whose work he continued, guiding the local people in the true faith. His conversations were that seed of grace, from which gradually grew the abundant fruits of the Spirit in the Urals and in Siberia, where the saint is especially reverenced.
Righteous Simeon of Verkhotursk died in 1642, when he was but 35 years of age. He was buried in the Merkushinsk graveyard by the church of the Archangel Michael.
On 12 September 1704, with the blessing of the Tobol'sk metropolitan Philothei, the holy relics of Righteous Simeon were transferred from the church of the Archistrategos Michael to the Verkhotursk monastery in the name of Saint Nicholas.
Righteous Simeon worked many a miracle after his death. He frequently appeared in a dream to the sick and healed them, and he brought to their senses those fallen into the disease of drunkenness. A peculiarity in the appearance of the saint was that with the healing of bodily infirmities he gave instruction and guidance for the soul.
The memory of Righteous Simeon of Verkhotursk is celebrated also on 18 December, on the day of his glorification (1694).
The Holy Martyr Julian lived during the IV Century not far from the ancient city of Ancyra. A report was made to the governor of the Galatian district that in a certain cave was hidden the Presbyter Julian with 40 others of the same persuasion, and that he was celebrating Divine-services there. They arrested Saint Julian and demanded that he hand over the remaining Christians who were well hidden, but he refused.
The pagans ordered the holy presbyter to offer sacrifice to their gods, but to this also he would not consent. Then they stripped him and placed him on a red-hot iron grate. The martyr signed himself with the sign of the Cross, and an Angel of the Lord cooled the flame. Saint Julian remained unharmed. To the question of the governor, who he was and how he had quenched the fire, the martyr said: "I am a servant of God." The torturers brought forth an old woman, the mother of the saint, and they threatened her that if she did not persuade her son to offer sacrifice to idols, then they would give her over to torture. The brave woman answered, that if against her will they defiled the body, this would not make her guilty before God, but on the contrary, it would constitute an act of martyrdom. The humiliated torturers sent away the old woman, but Saint Julian they condemned to death by execution. In his pre-death prayer the saint gave fervent thanks to God and besought that he should be given strength to endure the sufferings. Saint Julian asked likewise an especial grace from God: that people, who take ground from the place of his burial, should be granted forgiveness of sins and deliverance from passions, and that upon their fields there not descend harmful insects nor birds. Turning himself towards God with the words: "Lord, in peace accept my spirit!" -- the martyr bent his neck beneathe the sword. There sounded a Voice, summoning the martyr to the Heavenly Kingdom. This Voice was heard also by those Christians, who had hidden themselves in the cave. Emboldened, they come forth to the place of the sufferings of Saint Julian, but they found him already dead. They unanimously confessed themselves Christians, and they were arrested and brought to the governor, who ordered them beheaded.
The PriestMartyr Theodore, Bishop of Alexandria, was born in Egypt in the city of Alexandria. This city was famed in the Church Universal by many a martyr and confessor: from the holy Evangelist Mark, First-Martyr of Alexandria (+63, commemorated 25 April), to Saint Athanasias the Great (commemorated 18 January and 2 May), a pillar and confessor of Orthodoxy (+373). Regrettably, historical records do not provide us precise details about the time of life and the deeds of holy Bishop Theodore, but the Church of Christ throughout all times has preserved the name of the priest-martyr in its diptych lists.
A fiery preacher, powerful of word and church activity, Bishop Theodore evoked an angry hatred within the boisterous Alexandrian pagans, intolerant of evangelisation. During the time of one of his preachings they surrounded and seized hold of the saint. He did not offer resistance. They beat him and they jeered at him: they placed a crown of thorns on his head and amidst mockery they led him through the city. Then they led him to the sea-coast and threw him from a cliff into the sea. But the wind caught hold of him -- and the waves carried him back to dry land. The astonished pagans led Saint Theodore off to the governor of the city, who commanded that he be subjected to harsh tortures. But not a word except prayer to the Lord did the torturers hear from the tortured confessor. Then the holy martyr was handed over to Roman soldiers and executed in the manner of the Apostle Paul -- through beheading by the sword.
The PriestMartyr Cornutus, Bishop of Nicomedia [Iconium], suffered for Christ in the persecution by Decius and Valerian in the III Century. The governor of Iconium, Perennius, forced Christians through his interrogations and persecution to hide themselves away in places of concealment. Saint Cornutus came voluntarily before Perennius. The torturers tightly bound the legs of the bishop with thin cords and led him through the city. The priest-martyr underwent excruciating sufferings, and from the wounds on his legs, being cut by the cords, blood flowed. After terrible tortures Bishop Cornutus was beheaded.
The Monk Athanasii [Afanasii] of Serpukhov, in the world Andrei, was born at Obonezhsk Pyatinainto the family of the priest Avksentii and his wife Maria. He was from youth inclined towards prayerful self-absorption and renunciation of the world, and he sought for a worthy guide in monastic doings.
At this time, news about the efforts of the Monk Abba Sergei of Radonezh had already spread throughout the whole of Rus'. The monastery of the Life-Originating MostHoly Trinity at Makovets had become for everyone a luminous model of monastic organisation. Here in the monastic life-in-common was transformed "the hateful discord of this world," creating an oneness of spirit in an unity of love on the example of the Divine Trinity Itself. To Abba Sergei, to the Trinity at Makovets, headed also in his footsteps in search of spiritual perfection the youth Andrei, from the far off Novgorod outskirts.
Named Athanasii [Afanasii] in monasticism, in honour of Saint Athanasias the Great, the student and copyist of the life of Abba Anthony the Great, the founder of Egyptian monasticism. Abba Athanasii in turn became a worthy student of the great Hegumen Sergei, the father and teacher of Russian monasticism.
The students of the Monk Sergei, besides the usual monastic obediences, received blessing of the holy abba for special church services: book-writing (i.e. copying), icon-writing, temple construction. This was a genuine church-ification of life, imparting within it churchly beauty and versification, a liturgical transfiguration of God's world. The favourite obedience, which Abba Athansii imposed upon himself, was book-writing. The holy books were regarded by the fathers as right alongside holy icons, as being the most important material form of imparting churchly ideas, those of theological and liturgical creativity. The school of the Monk Sergei, revealing to the Russian and to the Universal Church the whole extent of theological experiential knowledge about the Holy Trinity, is closely connected with the flourishing of church bookishness, with the necessity of interactive enrichment of the Russian Church by the literary-works of the Byzantine Church, and the theologians of Byzantium -- by the deep spiritual experience of the Russian ascetics.
In the year 1374, the Serpukhov prince Vladimir Andreevich the Brave, a colleague of Dimitrii Donskoi, turned to the Monk Sergei with a request to found a monastery on his land-holdings. Abba Sergei came to Serpukhov with his beloved disciple Athanasii, and having situated the monastery of the Conception of the MostHoly Mother of God, he gave blessing to the Monk Athanasii to organise it, and then to be its hegumen.
The monastery of Saint Athanasii was built nearby the city of Serpukhov, on the high bank of the River Nara. They therefore called it "the monastery on the heights," or "Vysotskoi" ["of the heights"]. Hence also its title, with which entered into Russian Church history its founder and first hegumen -- the Monk Athanasii of Vysotsk.
Abba Athanasii zealously set about the organisation of the monastery entrusted to him. Many a Russian ascetic arrived here, "on the heights," for an heightened schooling in monasticism.
In accord with the teaching of Abba Athanasii, preserved for us by Epiphanii the Wise, -- to be a monk was no easy thing. "The duty of the monk doth consist in this, that he be vigilant in prayer and in Divine precepts until midnight, and sometimes the whole night; he should eat nothing besides bread and water, oil even and wine will be altogether improper." Through the words of the saint of God, many came to him at the monastery on the Heights, "but then they did slacken, and unable to endure the work of ascetic abstinence, they did flee." Those ascetics of higher monastic worth remained with the holy abba. Therefore, it was to this monastery, to his disciple and fellow-ascetic Athanasii, that the God-bearing Abba Sergei of Radonezh sent off for tonsure and guidance in monastic deeds his future successor, the Monk Nikon (commemorated 17 November). The Monk Athanasii taught him: "Monks are called voluntary martyrs. Many an holy martyr did suffer within a single hour and then die, but monks each day do endure sufferings not from torturers, but from within, from the properties of the flesh and from mental enemies, there exist struggles, and until the last breath they suffer."
In 1478 after the death of the Metropolitan of Moscow, Saint Alexei, there arrived in Moscow the new Metropolitan -- Saint Kiprian (commemorated 16 September). But Great-prince Dimitrii Donskoi wanted to establish as metropolitan his own priest and colleague Mikhail [Mitaya], and he would not accept Metropolitan Kiprian, and instead expelled him from Moscow. Saint Kiprian was in a difficult position. But he found support and sympathy among the pillars of Russian monasticism -- the Monks Sergei of Radonezh and Athanasii of Vysotsk. From the very beginning they saw the canonical propriety of the metropolitan in his dispute with the great-prince and they supported him in the prolonged struggle (1478-1490) for the restoration of canonical order and unity in the Russian Church. Saint Kiprian several times during these years had to journey to the Constantinople Patriarch for participation in council deliberations in regard to the governace of the Russian Church. On one of these journeys, with the blessing of holy Abba Sergei, there set off to Constantinople with the metropolitan also his friend the Monk Athanasii of Vysotsk, leaving as the hegumen of the Vysotsk monastery his own disciple, the Monk Athanasii the Younger (+1395).
At Constantinople the Monk Athanasii settled into the monastery of the holy ForeRunner and Baptist of the Lord John, where he found himself a cell with several disciples that had come with him, meanwhile concerning himself with prayer and theological salvific books. The monk spent about twenty years in the then capital of Church culture, in constant work at translating from the Greek language and copying Church books, which he then sent off to Rus', transferring over to the Russian Church not only a legacy of great Orthodox thought, but also the traditions of the Constantinople book-copyist masters, with their elegant writing-script and artistry of textual miniatures, achieving an harmony of content and form. A continuing creative connection was established between the book-copyist mastery of the Monk Athanasii at Constantinople and the calligraphic and iconographic school of the Vysotsk monastery at Serpukhov.
It was not by chance that it was especially at the Vysotsk monastery that the Monk Hegumen Nikon guided the future great iconographer-monk Saint Andrei Rublev (commemorated 4 July), as once previously the God-bearing Abba Sergei had guided him himself in this monastery for spiritual maturity and grasp with a rejuvenating and transformative spirit of pure churchly beauty. In this sacred service of churchly beauty, in constant liturgical activity to the glory of the Life-Originating Trinity, there matured and consolidated the life-bearing genius of the Monk Andrei, which God foreordained for the great visual rendering of the theological and liturgical legacy of the monk Sergei -- within the immortal wonderworking icon of the MostHoly Trinity for the iconostas of the Trinity cathedral. In the iconographic creativity of the Monk Andrei Rublev, just as in the temple-building activity of the Monk Hegumen Nikon, and in the hagiographic works of Epiphanii the Wise, we find embodiment and synthesis of the finest traditions of the Byzantine and Russian artistry.
This creative synthesis was served also by the Monk Athanasii of Vysotsk all his whole life. Living at Constantinople, he continued to work for the Russian Church, and for his native-land. In but one example, he sent to the Vysotsk monastery10 icons of the finest Greek style. By him and his disciples were rendered into the Slavonic language and copied the "Four Hundred Chapters" of the Monk Maximos the Confessor, the Chapters of Mark about church-services, and the Discourses of the Monk Simeon the New Theologian.
In the year 1401, just before his death, the venerable elder copied, and possibly himself translated, a Church ustav [rule], distributed within the Russian Church under the title, "The Ecclesial Eye."
The Monk Athanasii spent his life in constant work with books. He died at Constantinople in old age in the year 1401 (or perhaps a bit later). Russian chroniclers note him as an elder "virtuous, learned, knowing the Holy Scriptures", to which "at present his writings give witness." His life was written in the year 1697 by the priest-monk Karion [Istomin] of the Moscow Chudov monastery.
About the Monk Athanasii's successor and student, Blessed Athanasii the Younger, it is known that he successfully directed the spiritual life of the brethren and gave example by his own God-pleasing life. Saint Athanasii the Younger reposed after a long illness on 12 September 1395. In the ancient manuscripts of the saints it says about him: "The Monk Athanasii, hegumen of Vysotsk Conception monastery at Serpukhov, a new wonderworker who did repose in the year 6904 (1395) on the 12th day of September, a student of the Monk Athanasii, wondrous student of the Monk Sergei, who later was at Tsar'grad and there reposed."