Orthodox icon of Saint Catherine, Katherine (4). Copy of an icon of17 cent., Byzantine Museum of Athens..
Commemorated November 25th.
The Holy Great Martyr Catherine was the daughter of Constants, the governor of Alexandrian Egypt during the reign of the emperor Maximian (305-313). Young men from the most worthy families of the empire sought the hand of the beautiful Catherine, but she was not interested in any of them. She told her parents that she would enter into marriage only with someone who surpassed her in nobility, wealth, comeliness and wisdom. Catherine's mother, a secret Christian, sent her to her own spiritual Father for advice.
After listening to Catherine, the Elder said that he knew of a Youth who surpassed her in everything. His countenance is more radiant than the shining of the sun, and all of creation is governed by His wisdom. His riches are given to all the nations of the world, yet they never diminish. His compassion is unequaled. This description of the Heavenly Bridegroom produced in the soul of the holy maiden an ardent desire to see Him. If you do as I tell you, said the monk, you will gaze upon the countenance of this illustrious man.
In parting, the Elder handed Catherine an icon of the Theotokos with the divine Child Jesus on Her arm and told her to pray with faith to the Queen of Heaven, the Mother of the Heavenly Bridegroom, and She would hear Catherine and grant her heart's desire. Catherine prayed all night and was permitted to see the Most Holy Virgin, Who said Her Divine Son, Behold Thy handmaiden Catherine, how fair and virtuous she is. But the Child turned His face away from her saying, No, she is ugly and unbelieving. She is a foolish pauper, and I cannot bear to look at her until she forsakes her impiety. Catherine returned again to the Elder deeply saddened, and told him what she had seen in the dream. He lovingly received her, instructed her in the faith of Christ, admonished her to preserve her purity and integrity and to pray unceasingly. She then received the Mystery of holy Baptism from him. Again St Catherine had a vision of the Most Holy Theotokos with Her Child.
Now the Lord looked tenderly at her and gave her a beautiful ring, a wondrous token of her betrothal to the Heavenly Bridegroom (This ring is still on her hand). At that time the emperor Maximian was in Alexandria for a pagan festival. Christians were condemned to death in the fire. The saint's love for the Christian martyrs and her fervent desire to ease their sufferings compelled Catherine to speak to the pagan priest and to the emperor Maximian. Introducing herself, the saint confessed her faith in the One True God and with wisdom exposed the errors of the pagans.
The beauty of the maiden captivated the emperor. In order to convince her and to show the superiority of pagan wisdom, the emperor ordered fifty of the most learned philosophers and rhetoricians of the Empire to dispute with her, but the saint got the better of the wise men, so that they came to believe in Christ themselves. St Catherine made the Sign of the Cross over the martyrs, and they bravely accepted death for Christ and were burned alive by order of the emperor.
Maximian tried to entice her with the promise of riches and fame. Receiving an angry refusal, the emperor gave orders to subject the saint to terrible tortures and then throw her in prison.On the following day they again brought the martyr to the judgment court where, under the threat of being broken on the wheel, they urged that she renounce the Christian Faith and offer sacrifice to the gods.
The saint steadfastly confessed Christ and she herself approached the wheels; but an angel smashed the instruments of execution, which shattered into pieces with many pagans standing nearby. Having beheld this wonder, the Empress Augusta and the imperial courtier Porphyrius with 200 soldiers confessed their faith in Christ in front of everyone, and they were beheaded. Maximian again tried to entice the holy martyr, proposing marriage to her, and again he was refused. St Catherine firmly confessed her fidelity to the heavenly Bridegroom Christ, and with a prayer to Him she herself lay her head on the block beneath the executioner's sword.
The relics of St Catherine were taken by the angels to Mount Sinai. In the sixth century, the venerable head and left hand of the holy martyr were found through a revelation and transferred with honor to a newly-constructed church of the Sinai monastery, built by the holy Emperor Justinian (November 14). St Catherine is called upon for relief and assistance during a difficult childbirth. Pilgrims to her monastery on Mt Sinai are given souvenir rings as a remembrance of their visit.
St. Cecilia of Rome icon.
Orthodox icon of Saint Cecilia, Cecelia, Cecellia of Rome.
Commemorated November 22.
The Holy Virgin Martyr Cecilia and the Holy Martyrs Valerian, Tiburtius and Maximus: St Cecilia was born in Rome of wealthy and illustrious parents. From her youth she was raised in the Christian Faith. She prayed fervently, she helped those in need, and beneath her fine clothing she wore a hairshirt. Though she had vowed to preserve her virginity for Christ, her parents decided to give her in marriage to the noble pagan Valerian.
The saint did not dare oppose the will of her parents, but with tears she prayed to God that her betrothed would believe in Christ, and that He would send an angel to preserve her virginity. On the night of their marriage, Cecilia told her husband that an angel stood by to guard her. She warned him that he would be slain if he dared to touch her. Valerian asked to see this angel, but his bride told him that he could not see the angel until he had been cleansed of the impurity of unbelief. How may I be cleansed? he asked.
She said that if he asked Bishop Urban for Baptism, he would be able to see the angel. The saint persuaded her fiancé to go with her to Bishop Urban, who was hiding from the persecution in a cave along the Appian Way. The instructions of the wise bishop permeated the soul of Valerian, and both he and his brother Tiburtius believed in Christ and were converted to Christianity. The brothers distributed part of their inheritance to the poor, cared for the sick, and buried Christians tortured to death by the persecutors.
The governor Almachius, having learned of this, gave orders to arrest the brothers and bring them to trial. He demanded that the saints renounce Christ and offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, and the brothers refused. Then they mercilessly began to scourge the brothers. St Valerian under torture urged Christians not to be afraid of torments, but to stand firm for Christ. The governor, wanting to prevent the holy preacher from influencing the people, ordered that the martyrs be taken outside the city limits and executed there.
The detachment of soldiers accompanying the martyrs to execution was commanded by Maximus. He was amazed at the courage of the saints, and asked them why they did not fear death. The holy brothers answered that they were relinquishing this temporal life for life eternal. Maximus wanted to learn the teaching of Christians in detail. He took Sts Valerian and Tiburtius to his own house and conversed with them all night. When she heard of this, St Cecilia went with a priest to Maximus, and he with all his family accepted holy Baptism.
On the following day when they beheaded the Martyrs Valerian and Tiburtius, St Maximus confessed before everyone that he saw how their holy souls had gone up to Heaven. For this confession the holy Martyr Maximus was scourged to death with whips. The governor wanted to confiscate the property of the executed, but when he was told that St Cecilia had already distributed all her remaining wealth to the poor and by her preaching had converted 400 men, he ordered her execution.
For three days they tormented her with fire and smoke in a red-hot bath-house, but the grace of God helped her. Then they decided to behead her. The executioner struck the saint three times with a sword, but only wounded her. The holy Martyr lived three more days in full consciousness, encouraging those around her, and died with prayer on her lips.
Orthodox icon of Saint Chionia, Xionia, Χιονία, the Virgin- Martyr of Illyria. Copy of a contemporary icon.
Commemorated April 16.
The Holy Martyrs Agape, Irene, and Chionia were sisters who lived at the end of the third century to the beginning of the fourth century, near the Italian city of Aquilea. They were left orphaned at an early age.
The young women led a pious Christian life and they turned down many offers of marriage. Their spiritual guide was the priest Xeno. It was revealed to him in a vision that he would die very soon, and that the holy virgins would suffer martyrdom. Also at Aquilea and having a similar vision was the Great Martyr Anastasia (December 22), who is called “Deliverer from Potions,” because she fearlessly visited Christians in prison, encouraging them and healing them from potions, poisons, and other harmful things. The Great Martyr Anastasia visited the sisters and urged them to endure all things for Christ. Soon what was predicted in the vision came to pass. The priest Zeno died, and the three virgins were arrested and brought to trial before the emperor Diocletian (284-305).
Saint Chionia (“snow” in Greek) preserved the purity of her baptism according to the words of the Prophet-King David, “You will wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Ps. 50/51:7).
Seeing the youthful beauty of the sisters, the emperor urged them to deny Christ and he promised to find them illustrious bridegrooms from his entourage. The holy sisters replied that their only Bridegroom was Christ, for Whom they were ready to suffer. The emperor demanded they renounce Christ, but neither the elder sisters, nor the youngest, would consent. They called the pagan gods mere idols made by human hands, and they preached faith in the true God.
By order of Diocletian, who was leaving for Macedonia, the holy sisters were also to be brought there. And they brought them to the court of the governor Dulcititus.
When he saw the beauty of the holy martyrs, he was aroused with impure passion. He put the sisters under guard, and he told them that they would receive their freedom if they agreed to fulfill his desires. But the holy martyrs replied that they were prepared to die for their Heavenly Bridegroom, Christ.
Then Dulcititus decided to have his way by force. When the holy sisters arose at night to glorify the Lord in prayer, Dulcititus came to the door and tried to enter, but an invisible force prevented him. He staggered about, unable to find his way out. Then he fell down in the kitchen among the cooking utensils, the pots and pans, and he was covered all over with soot. The servants and the soldiers recognized him only with difficulty. When he saw himself in a mirror, he then realized that the holy martyrs had made a fool of him, and he decided to take his revenge on them.
At his court, Dulcititus gave orders to strip the holy martyrs. But the soldiers were not able to do this, no matter how much they tried. Their clothing seemed to be stuck to the bodies of the holy virgins. During the trial Dulcititus suddenly fell asleep, and no one could rouse him. Just as they carried him into his house, he immediately awoke.
When they reported to the emperor Diocletian everything that had happened, he became angry with Dulcititus and he gave the holy virgins over to Sisinius for trial. He began with the youngest sister, Irene. Seeing that she remained unyielding, he sent her to prison and then attempted to sway Saints Chionia and Agape. He also failed to make them renounce Christ, and Sisinius ordered that Saints Agape and Chionia be burned. On hearing the sentence, the sisters gave thanks to the Lord for their crowns of martyrdom. In the fire, Agape and Chionia surrendered their pure souls to the Lord.
When the fire went out, everyone saw that the bodies of the holy martyrs and their clothing had not been scorched by the fire, and their faces were beautiful and peaceful, as if they were asleep. On the day following, Sisinius gave orders to bring Saint Irene to court. He threatened her with the fate of her older sisters and he urged her to renounce Christ. Then he threatened to hand her over for defilement in a brothel. But the holy martyr answered, “Even if my body is defiled by force, my soul will never be defiled by renouncing Christ.”
When the soldiers of Sisinius led Saint Irene to the brothel, two luminous soldiers overtook them and said, “Your master Sisinius commands you to take this virgin to a high mountain and leave her there, and then return to him and report to him that you have fulfilled his command.” And the soldiers did so.
When they reported back to Sisinius, he flew into a rage, since he had given no such orders. The luminous soldiers were angels of God, saving the holy martyr from defilement. Sisinius went to the mountain with a detachment of soldiers and saw Saint Irene on the summit. For a long while they searched for the way to the top, but they could not find it. Then one of the soldiers wounded Saint Irene with an arrow. The martyr cried out to Sisinius, “I mock your impotent malice, and I go my Lord Jesus Christ pure and undefiled.” Having given thanks to the Lord, she lay down upon the ground and surrendered her soul to God on the very day of Holy Pascha (+ 304).
The Great Martyr Anastasia heard about the end of the holy sisters, and she buried their bodies with reverence.
St. Christina icon
Orthodox icon of Saint Christina, the Great Martyr of Tyre.
Commemorated July 24th.
The Martyr Christina lived during the third century. By the age of 11 the girl was exceptionally beautiful, and many wanted to marry her. Christina's father, however, envisioned that his daughter should become a pagan priestess. To this end he placed her in a special dwelling where he had set up many gold and silver idols, and he commanded his daughter to burn incense before them. Enlightened in her heart to believe in Christ, she broke her father's idols, made of gold and silver, and distributed the pieces to the poor. When her father learned this, he punished her ruthlessly, then cast her into prison. The rulers subjected her to imprisonments, hunger, torments, the cutting off of her breasts and tongue, and finally impalement.
Orthodox icon of Saint Christodoulos, the founder of the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian in Patmos.
Commemorated March 16th.
Saint Christodoulos, who was from the region of Nicaea of Bithynia, was the son of Theodore and Anna, and was given the name John. He assumed the monastic habit in his youth and was renamed Christodoulos ("slave [or servant] of Christ" in Greek). At first, he lived the ascetical life in various places, then he received permission and monetary aid from the Emperor Alexis I Comnenos (reigned 1081-1118 AD), and built on the island of Patmos a church and monastery named in honour of St John the Evangelist. These buildings stand to this day. However, when the Arabs attacked that place, he fled with his disciples and went to Euboia (Euripus), where also he completed the course of his life about the end of the eleventh century on the 16th of March. The disciples of this righteous man took his sacred incorrupt remains and transferred them to his own monastery, where they repose to this day for the sanctification of those who have recourse to them with faith.
St. Christopher icon
Orthodox icon of Saint Christopher of Lycia.
Protector of the drivers.
Commemorated May 9.
The Holy Martyr Christopher lived during the third century and suffered about the year 250, during the reign of the emperor Decius (249-251). There are various accounts of his life and miracles, and he is widely venerated throughout the world. St Christopher is especially venerated in Italy, where people pray to him in times of contagious diseases. In Greece, many churches place the icon of St Christopher at the entrance so that people can see it as they enter and leave the building. There is a rhyming couplet in Greek which says, When you see Christopher, you can walk in safety.This reflects the belief that whoever gazes upon the icon of St Christopher will not meet with sudden or accidental death that day.
St. Christopher icon (2)
Orthodox icon of Saint Christopher. Icon of 16th cent. Monastery of Anapsafsa, Mereora.
Commemorated May 8th.
St. Christos the Gardener icon
Orthodox icon of Saint Christos the Gardener, protector Saint of the gardeners.
Commemorated February 12th.
St. Chrysanthe icon
Orthodox icon of Saint Chrysanthe.
Commemorated October 25th.
St. Chryse the Virgin- Martyr of Rome icon
Orthodox icon of Saint Chryse, Chrysoula the Virgin Martyr of Rome.
Commemorated January 30th.
Martyr Chryse the Virgin and 20 Others suffered in the year 269. Chryse was arrested and bravely confessed herself a Christian. As a result she was subjected to torture and then drowned in the sea. With St Chryse suffered the martyrs Ares, Felix, Maximus, Herculianus, Venerius, Stiracius, Mennas, Commodus, Hermes, Maurus, Eusebius, Rusticus, Monagrius, Amandinus, Olympius, Cyprus, Theodore the Tribune, Maximus the Presbyter, Archelaus the Deacon, and Cyriacus the Bishop.
When the Moslems saw that they could not weaken the resolve of the saint, they tormented her for three months, beating her with clubs. Later, they peeled strips of skin from her body so that the earth was reddened by her blood. Then they heated a skewer and passed it through her ears. Nearby was her spiritual Father, the hieromonk Timothy of Stavronikita Monastery on Mt. Athos. She sent word to him to pray that she would successfully complete the course of martyrdom.
It was he who recorded her martyrdom. Finally, the Moslems fell into a fury at having been conquered by a woman, so they tied her to a tree and cut her to pieces with their knives. Her pure soul was received by Christ, Who bestowed on her the double crowns of virginity and martyrdom. Certain Christians gathered her relics secretly and buried them with reverence. St Zlata suffered for Christ in the year 1795.
St. Cleopatra the Martyr icon
Orthodox icon of Saint Cleopatra. Contemporary icon.
Commemorated September 1st.
St. Climis icon
Orthodox icon of Saint Climis of Viotia.
Commemorated September 10.
St. Columba of Iona, the Enlightener of Scotland icon.
Orthodox icon of Saint Columba of Iona, the Enlightener of Scotland.
Commemorated June 9.
Our venerable and God-bearing Father Columba of Iona, Enlightener of Scotland (December 7, 521- June 9, 597) (also known as Columcille, meaning "Dove of the Church") was an Irish missionary who helped re-introduce Christianity to Scotland and the north of England. He was born to Fedhlimidh and Eithne of the Ui Neill clan in Gartan, near Lough Gartan, Donegal.
On his father's side he was great-great-grandson of Niall of the Nine Hostages, an Irish king of the fourth century. He became a monk and soon rose in the church hierarchy to the rank of priest. Tradition asserts that, sometime around 560, he became involved in a copyright wrangle with St.Finnian of Moville over psalter. The dispute eventually led to the pitched Battle of Cul Dremhe in 561, during which many men were killed. (Columba's copy of the psalter has been traditionally associated with the Cathach of St. Columba.).
As penance for these deaths, Columba was ordered to make the same number of new converts as had been killed. He was also ordered to leave Ireland and move such that he could not see his native country. He travelled to Scotland, where it is reputed he first landed at the southern tip of the Kintyre peninsula, near Southend. However, being still in sight of his native land he moved further north up the west coast of Scotland.
In 563 he founded a monastery on the island of Iona off the west coast of Scotland which became the centre of his evangelizing mission to Scotland. There are many stories of miracles which he performed during his mission to convert the Picts. Columba is also the source of the first known reference to the Loch Ness Monster. According to the story, in 565 he came across a group of Picts who were burying a man killed by the monster, and brought the man back to life.
In another version, he is said to have saved the man while the man was being attacked, driving away the monster with the sign of the cross. St. Columba's feast day June 9, and with St.Patrick of Ireland (March 17) and St. Brigid of Kildare ( February 1) is one of the three patron saints of Ireland. The three are buried together in Downpatrick in County Down, deep within the famous Hill of Down.
St. Constantine the Emperor icon
Orthodox icon of Saint Costantine, the Emperor, Equal of the Apostles. Icon of 14 cent by Panselinos, Church of Protato Karyes Mount Athos.
Commemorated May 21.
St Constantine was born in 274, possibly at Nish in Serbia. In 294, Constantine, the future ruler of all the whole Roman Empire, was raised to respect Christianity. His father did not persecute Christians in the lands he governed. This was at a time when Christians were persecuted throughout the Roman.
After the death of his father in 306, Constantine was acclaimed by the army at York as emperor of Gaul and Britain. The first act of the new emperor was to grant the freedom to practice Christianity in the lands subject to him. The pagan Maximian Galerius in the East and the fierce tyrant Maxentius in the West hated Constantine and they plotted to overthrow and kill him, but Constantine bested them in a series of battles, defeating his opponents with the help of God.
He prayed to God to give him a sign which would inspire his army to fight valiantly, and the Lord showed him a radiant Sign of the Cross in the heavens with the inscription "In this Sign, conquer". After Constantine became the sole ruler of the Western Roman Empire, he issued the Edict of Milan in 313 which guaranteed religious tolerance for Christians. Christians could finally practice their faith without fear. Renouncing paganism, the Emperor did not let his capital remain in ancient Rome, the former center of the pagan realm. He transferred his capital to the East, to the city of Byzantium, which was renamed Constantinople, the city of Constantine (May 11). Constantine was deeply convinced that only Christianity could unify the immense Roman Empire with its diverse peoples.
He supported the Church in every way.The peaceful state of the Christian Church was disturbed by quarrels, dissensions and heresies which had appeared within the Church. Particularly ruinous for the Church was the rise of the Arian heresy in the East, which denied the Divine Nature of the Son of God, and taught that Jesus Christ was a mere creature. By order of the emperor, the First Ecumenical Council was convened in the city of Nicea in 325. 318 bishops attended this Council.
The heresy of Arius was condemned. After the Council of Nicea, St Constantine continued with his active role in the welfare of the Church. He accepted holy Baptism on his deathbed, having prepared for it all his whole life. St Constantine died on the day of Pentecost in the year 337 and was buried in the church of the Holy Apostles, in a crypt he had prepared for himself.