Departure of St. Agatho the Stylite
On this day we commemorate the departure of St. Agatho the Stylite. He was from the City of Tenis. The name of his father was Matra and his mother's Mariam. They were righteous, feared God and they loved to give alms and gifts to the poor and needy. The thought of monasticism came in his mind frequently. When he was 35 years he was ordained a priest and he devoted himself to the Church. He prayed day and night to the Lord Jesus to facilitate for him his exit from this world to the desert. The Lord answered his prayers and took him out from the City to Ternot (Metranah) near Marriot and then to the desert.
The Angel of the Lord appeared to him in the form of a monk and journeyed with him and brought him to the monastery of St. Macarius. He came to the holy elders Abba Abraam and Abba Gawergah, became their disciple and lived with them for three years.
Then they took him before the altar and in the presence of the Hegumen Abba Yoanis and for three days they prayed over his monastic clothes, then they ordained him a monk.
From that hour he fought a great fight with continuous fasting and prayer. He used to sleep on the ground until his skin stuck to his bones. He read continually the life and the striving of Abba Simeon the Stylite and thought of leading a solitary life. He took council with the holy fathers and they encouraged him. They prayed for him as he left and came near the City of Sakha in the Province of Gharbia where he dwelt in a small church. The believers built a place for him on a pillar and he went up on it and laboured strenuously leading an ascetic life for fifty years. The following are some of the wonders and miracles which God performed through him.
There was a man in whom there was an obstinate devil and who led many people astray. The Saint called this man to the church, prayed over him and cast out the devil from him.
A woman who had an unclean spirit in her claimed that St. Mina conversed with her and she commanded the people of her city to dig a well after the name of St. Mina, the water of which would heal anyone who bathed in it. St. Agatho prayed over that woman until he cast out the unclean spirit from her and he commanded the people to fill up the well with earth.
A man used to beat up the mentally handicapped people in order "to stifle the unclean spirits" dwelling in them, and the people thought that this man had the power to cast out devils. St. Agatho asked to meet him, but the man would not respond to the invitation of St. Agatho. Yet as the Governor of the city was passing by, the mentally handicapped people insulted and swore at him. The Governor arrested the man and tortured him till he died.
At the hands of St. Agatho, God worked many miracles, healed sick people and cast out devils. The devils appeared to him in the form of angels chanting sweet songs and praises, but by the power of the Lord Jesus Christ he knew their deceit. He made the sign of the Cross over them and they fled away defeated.
When the Lord wanted to relieve him from his labors, he fell sick for a short while and gave up his spirit into the hands of God. The people who had benefited from his sermons and teachings gathered around him and wept bitterly. He lived for one hundred years of which he spent forty years in the world, ten years in the desert and fifty years in solitude in a place upon that pillar.
The Monk Sergei of Radonezh was born in the village of Varnitsa, near Rostov, on 3 May 1314. His parents were the pious and illustrious boyar-nobles Kirill and Maria. The Lord forechose him while still in his mother's womb. In the Vita of the Monk Sergei it reports, that at Divine Liturgy even before the birth of her son, Righteous Maria and those praying heard the thrice-repeated cry of the infant: before the reading of the Holy Gospel, during the time of the Cherubim hymn, and when the priest pronounced: "Holy Things to the Holy." God gave Kirill and Maria a son, whom they named Bartholomew. From his very first days of life the infant amazed everyone by his fasting, on Wednesdays and Fridays he would not accept milk from his mother, and on other days, if Maria used oil in the food, the infant likewise refused the milk of his mother. Noticing this, Maria refrained altogether from food with oil. At seven years of age Bartholomew was sent to study together with his two brothers -- his older brother Stefan and his younger brother Peter. His brothers learned successfully, but Bartholomew fell behind in his studies, even though the teacher gave him much special attention. The parents scolded the child, the teacher chastised him, and his fellow-classmates made fun of his lack of comprehension. Finally in tears Bartholomew besought of the Lord to grant him the bookish understanding. One time his father sent Bartholomew out after the horses in the field. Along the way he met an Angel sent by God under the guise of appearance of a monk : the starets-elder stood at prayer beneath an oak amidst the field. Bartholomew approached him, and bowing, waited for the elder's finish of prayer. The monk blessed him, gave him a kiss and asked, what he wanted. Bartholomew answered: "With all my soul I want to learn reading and writing, holy father, pray for me to God, that He help me to become literate." The monk fulfilled the request of Bartholomew, raising up his prayer to God, and in blessing the lad he said to him: "From henceforth God giveth thee, my child, to understand reading and writing, and in this wilt thou surpass thy brothers and peers." With this the elder took forth a vessel and gave Bartholomew a portion of prosphora-bread: "Take, child, and eat," -- said he -- "This is given thee as a sign of the grace of God and for the understanding of Holy Scripture." The elder wanted to depart, but Bartholomew asked him to visit at the home of his parents. His parents received their guest with joy and offered him their hospitality. The starets answered that first it is proper to partake of spiritual nourishment, and he bade their son to read the Psalter. Bartholomew began harmoniously to read, and his parents were amazed at the change that had happened with their son. In parting, the elder prophetically predicted about the Monk Sergei: "Great shalt be your son before God and the people. He shalt become a chosen habitation of the Holy Spirit." After this the holy lad read without difficulty and understood the contents of books. And with an especial fervour he became immersed in prayer, not missing a single Divine-service. Already in childhood he imposed upon himself a strict fast, he ate nothing on Wednesdays and Fridays, and on the other days he sustained himself on bread and water. [Translators note: for this incident -- "he met an Angel sent by God under the guise of appearance of a monk" -- see the famous M Nesterov painting "Vision of Bartholomew".]
In about the year 1328 the parents of the Monk Sergei resettled from Rostov to Radonezh. When their older sons married, Kirill and Maria shortly before their death accepted the monastic schema at the Khot'kov monastery of the Protection of the MostHoly Mother of God, not far from Radonezh. And later on, the older brother Stefan as a widower accepted monasticism at this monastery. Having buried his parents, Bartholomew together with his brother Stefan withdrew for wilderness-dwelling into the forest (12 versts from Radonezh). At first they made cells, and then a not-large church, and with the blessing of metropolitan Theognost, it was consecrated in the Name of the MostHoly Trinity. But soon, unable to bear the difficulties of life in the wilderness, Stefan left his brother and went on to the Moscow Theophany monastery (where he became close with the Monk Alexei, afterwards Metropolitan of Moscow -- commemorated 12 February).
Bartholomew on 7 October 1337 accepted tonsure into monasticism from hegumen Mitrophan, taking the name of the holy Martyr Sergios (commemorated 7 October), and he set about the start of a new habitation to the glory of the Life-Originating Trinity. Suffering temptations and demonic apparitions, the Monk Sergei advanced from strength to strength. Gradually he became known to other monks, seeking his guidance. The Monk Sergei accepted all with love, and soon in the small monastery were gathered a brethren of twelve monks. Their experienced spiritual guide distinguished himself by an extraordinary love for work. With his own hands he built several cells, he carried water, he chopped wood, baked bread, sewed clothing, prepared food for the brethren and humbly took on other tasks. The Monk Sergei combined the heavy work with prayer, vigil and fasting. The brethren were amazed that with such severe exertion the health of their guide did not deteriorate, but rather became all the more hearty. It was not without difficulty that they implored the Monk Sergei to accept being hegumen over the monastery. In 1354 the Volynsk bishop Athanasii consecrated the Monk a priest-monk and elevated him to the dignity of hegumen. Just as before at the monastery, monastic obediences were strictly fulfilled. With the expansion of the monastery grew also its needs. Often the monks had only scant food, but through the prayers of the Monk Sergei unknown people provided the necessities.
Reports about the exploits of the Monk Sergei became known even at Constantinople, and Patriarch Philotheos sent to the Monk a cross, a "paraman" [or "paramandia" -- a monk's article of clothing, a four-cornered cloth tied with cords to the chest and worn beneathe other garb, and adorned with symbols of the Lord's Passion] and schema-robe in blessing for new deeds, and a grammota-document of blessing, in which the patriarch counselled the chosen of God to organise a coenobitic [life-in-common] monastery. The Monk set off with the Patriarchal missive to Saint Alexei, and received from him the counsel to introduce a strict manner of life-in-common. The monks began to grumble at the strictness of the monastic ustav-rule, and the Monk Sergei was compelled to forsake the monastery. At the River Kirzhach he founded a monastery in honor of the Annunciation of the MostHoly Mother of God. Matters at the former monastery went quickly into disarray, and the remaining monks recoursed to Saint Alexei that he should get the saint to return.
The Monk Sergei unquestioningly obeyed the sainted-hierarch, and left in place of himself at the Kirzhachsk monastery his disciple, the Monk Roman.
Already during his lifetime the Monk Sergei had been vouchsafed a graced gift of wonderworking. He resuscitated a lad, at a point when the despairing father had given up on his only son as lost. Reports about the miracles worked by the Monk Sergei began quickly to spread about, and the sick began to come to him, both from the surrounding villages and also from remote places. And no one left from the Monk without receiving healing of infirmities and edifying counsel. Everyone gave glory for the Monk Sergei, and reverenced him on an equal with the ancient holy fathers. But human glory did not hold allure for the great ascetic, and as before he remained the example of monastic humility.
One time Sainted Stephen, Bishop of Perm (commemorated 27 April), who deeply revered the Monk Sergei, was on journey from his diocese to Moscow. The roadway passed eight versts distant from the Sergiev monastery. Intending to visit the monastery on his return trip, the saint stopped, and having recited a prayer, he bowed to the Monk Sergei with the words: "Peace be to thee, spiritual brother." At this instant the Monk Sergei was sitting at refectory-meal with the brethren. In reply to the blessing of the sainted-hierarch, the Monk Sergei rose up, recited a prayer, and made a return blessing to Saint Stephen. Certain of the disciples, astonished at the extraordinary action of the Monk Sergei, hastened off to the indicated place, and became convinced of the veracity of the vision.
Gradually the monks began to witness also other similar actions. One time during Liturgy an Angel of the Lord served together with the Monk, but the Monk Sergei in his humility forbade anyone to tell about this before the end of his life on earth.
The Monk Sergei was connected with Saint Alexei by close bonds of spiritual friendship and brotherly love. Sainted Alexei in his declining years summoned the Monk Sergei to him and besought him to accept to be Russian Metropolitan, but Blessed Sergei in humility declined to be primate.
The Russian Land at this time suffered under the Mongol-Tatar Yoke. Having gathered an army, Great-prince Dimitrii Ioannovich Donskoy went to monastery of the Monk Sergei to ask blessing in the pending struggle. The Monk Sergei gave blessing to two monks of his monastery to render help to the great-prince: the schema-monk Andrei [Oslyaba] and the schema-monk Aleksandr [Peresvet], and he predicted the victory for prince Dimitrii. The prophecy of the Monk Sergei was fulfilled: on 8 September 1380, on the feastday of the Nativity of the MostHoly Mother of God, Russian soldiers gained a total victory over the Tatar hordes at Kulikovo Pole (Kulikovo Field), and set in place the beginning of the liberation of the Russian Land from the Mongol Yoke. During the time of the fighting the Monk Sergei together with the brethren stood at prayer and besought God to grant victory to the Russian forces.
For his angelic manner of life the Monk Sergei was granted an heavenly vision by God. One time by night Abba Sergei was reading the rule of prayer beneath an icon of the MostHoly Mother of God. Having completed the reading of the canon to the Mother of God, he sat down to rest, but suddenly he said to his disciple, the Monk Mikhei (commemorated 6 May), that there awaited them a wondrous visitation. After a moment the Mother of God appeared accompanied by the holy Apostles Peter and John the Theologian. Due to the extraordinary bright light the Monk Sergei fell down, but the MostHoly Mother of God touched Her hands to him, and in blessing him promised always to be Protectress of his holy monastery.
Having reached old age, and foreseeing his own end six months beforehand, the Monk summoned the brethren to him and blessed as hegumen his disciple the Monk Nikon (commemorated 17 November), who was experienced in the spiritual life and obedience. In tranquil solitude the Monk reposed to God on 25 September 1392. On the eve beforehand the great saint of God summoned the brethren a final time and turned to them with the words of last-instruction: "Brethren, be attentive to yourselves. Have first the fear of God, purity of soul and love unhypocritical. ..."
The Nun Evphrosynia, Princess of Suzdal', was born in the year 1212. In holy Baptism she was given the name Theodulia and she was the eldest daughter of the holy Martyr Michael, Great-prince of Chernigov (commemorated 20 September). Noble Prince Michael and his wife Theophania for a long time did not have children and they often visited the Kievo-Pechersk monastery, where they prayed the Lord for the granting of children. Noble Princess Evphrosynia was their first daughter, besought of the Lord in prayer. Three times the MostHoly Mother of God appeared to them and related, that their prayer was heard and that the Lord would grant them a daughter.
Theodulia was raised in deep faith and piety. The educated boyar-noble Theodore [Feodor, commemorated 20 September] had a large influence on her upbringing. The diverse education and uncommon beauty of the princess attracted many.
The princess was betrothed to holy Nobleborn Prince Theodore [Feodor, +1233, commemorated 5 June), a brother of Saint Alexander Nevsky, but he died on the very day of his wedding. The princess withdrew to the Suzdal' women's monastery named in honour of the Placing of the Robe of the Mother of God, where she soon accepted tonsure with the name Evphrosynia, in honour of Saint Euphrosynia of Alexandria.
As altogether still a young nun she fulfilled the monastic rule of life with an amazing zeal, and she remarkably excelled over the other residents of the monastery in her firmness of reason, spiritual insight and extreme abstinence. The Lord Himself visited the ascetic, commanding her to be vigilant and positive in her efforts. The Nun Evphrosynia to the very end of her life kept to the directives of the Saviour, and overcoming an innumerable number of sly temptations. The extraordinary ascetic life of the Nun Evphrosynia was quickly learned of at Suzdal' and beyond its borders. A multitude of people made visit to the monastery, in order to hearken to the instructions of the Nun Evphrosynia concerning love, prayer, obedience and humility. Often after suchlike talks many accepted the monastic form and began a more zealous service to God. The monastery hegumeness herself had recourse to the counsels of the nun. At the request of the ascetic, the sisters of the monastery were divided into two halves: virgins and widows. This facilitated the spiritual growth and affirming in purity of the sisters of the monastery. After the death of the hegumeness, the Nun Evphrosynia became head of the monastery.
In an unique revelation the Lord foretold to the blessed hegumeness about the martyr's death of her natal father, and also about the Mongol-Tatar invasion of Rus'. In the year 1238 vast Tatar-Mongol hordes did actually descend upon the Russian realm. Destroying everything in their path, they came to Suzdal'. The city was completely devastated and burned by them, and only the monastery of the Nun Evphrosynia was spared through her prayers.
The Nun Evphrosynia reposed to God on 25 September 1250. At her grave believers continued to receive graced help in the healing of various infirmities. And on 18 September 1698, with the blessing of Patriarch Adrian, the Suzdal' metropolitan Ilarion made the glorification of the Nun Evphrosynia.
The Holy Martyr Paphnutios hailed from Egypt and asceticised in the wilderness. During the time of persecution against Christians under Diocletian (284-305), the governor Adrian commanded that Saint Paphnutios be brought to him, but the ascetic, not awaiting those sent for him, himself instead appeared before the governor, confessed his faith in Christ, and was given over for torture. The soldiers involved in his torture, Dionysios and Callimachos, seeing how the power of God preserved the martyr, themselves believed in Christ the Saviour, for which they were then beheaded. Cast into prison after the tortures, Saint Paphnutios converted to the faith 40 prisoners. They were all burnt. After a certain while Saint Paphnutios was set free, and a Christian named Nestorios gladly took him in. He and all his family, after spiritual guidances, became all the more steadfast in the faith, and ultimately accepted a martyr's end. The saint strengthened many another Christian in the confession of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and they all accepted a martyr's end: some were chopped up with swords, others were burnt -- there were 546 men in all. Saint Paphnutios himself was thrown by the torturers into a river with a stone about his neck, but he miraculously floated with the stone to shore. Finally, they sent off the holy martyr to the emperor Diocletian himself, who commanded him crucified on a date tree.
The Nun Euphrosynia was born at the beginning of the V Century in the city of Alexandria. She was the only child in her family of illustrious and rich parents. Her mother died early. She was raised by her father, Paphnutios, a deeply believing and pious Christian. He frequented a monastery, the hegumen of which was his spiritual guide. When Euphrosynia turned age 18, her father wanted her to marry. He set off to the monastery to his spiritual guide to receive blessing for the planned wedding of his daughter. The hegumen conversed with the daughter and gave her his blessing, but Saint Euphrosynia yearned for the monastic life. Secretly having accepted tonsure from a wandering monk, she left her father's house and decided to enter a monastery in order to lead her life in solitude and prayer. She feared, however, that in a women's monastery her father would find her. Calling herself the eunuch Izmaragdos, she went to that very selfsame men's monastery, which since childhood she had visited with her father. The monks did not recognise Euphrosynia dressed in men's garb, and so they accepted her into the monastery. Here in a solitary cell, in works, fasting and prayer, Saint Euphrosynia spent 38 years and attained to high spiritual accomplishment. Her father grieved over the loss of his beloved daughter and more than once, on the advice of the hegumen, he conversed with the monk Izmaragdos, revealing his grief and receiving spiritual comfort. Before her death, the Nun Euphrosynia revealed her secret to her grieving father and asked that no one except him should prepare her body for burial. Having buried his daughter, Paphnutios distributed all his wealth to both the poor and to the monastery, and then he accepted monasticism. For ten years right up to his own death, he asceticised in the cell of his daughter.