A Life of Charismatic Witness

St. Theodora the Empress

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

(Saint John Chrysostom)

O Jesus Christ, the Good Name above all names, my sweetness, my longing and my hope, You became man for us and in wisdom planned and assigned everything for our salvation. With all my heart, O Lord my God, I confess to You. I bow down upon the knees of my body and my soul and recount before You, my God all my sins. May I hope that You too will incline Your ear to my supplication and will forgive the irreverence of my heart. Amen.


On February 11th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors, and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers, and every righteous spirit made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith:  Saint Blaise (Vlasios), Bishop of Sevaste; Saint Theodora the Empress, protectress of Orthodoxy; New holy Martyr George of Serbia (1515 A.D.); Saint Demetrius of Priluki; Saint Vsevolod, Prince of Pskov;  Finding of the holy relics of Prophet Zacharias, father of Saint John the Baptist and Forerunner.

HOLY HIEROMARTYR BLAISE, BISHOP OF SEVASTE AND OF HIS COMPANIONS. Born in the province of Armenia and a physician by profession, Saint Blaise led a life like righteous Job, "being blameless and upright, and one who feared God and eschewed evil" (Job 1:1). His virtues having won him the affection of all his fellow-citizens, he was elected Bishop of Sevaste (Sivas) in Eastern Anatolia. During the Great Persecution, he boldly confessed the Faith and encouraged the holy Martyrs "to fight the good fight" to the end. He visited Saint Efstratios in his dungeon before his glorious martyrdom and served the Divine Liturgy for him. Afterwards he took it upon himself to collect the precious holy relics of the Five holy Martyrs in order to present them for the veneration of the Christian people (cf. 13 December).

After some time, he withdrew to Mount Argea, a short distance from Sevaste, where he lived enclosed in a cave, sending up to God pure prayers free of all distraction. Attracted by the scent of his virtues, wild animals approached him as a second Adam and waited quietly at the mouth of the cave for him to complete his prayer and give them his blessing or heal their wounds.

In the reign of the pagan Roman Emperor Licinius (c. 316 A.D.), Agricolaos, the Governor of Cappadocia came to Sevaste, intent on rounding up the Christians. As he planned to feed those who persisted in the Faith to the beasts in the amphitheatre, he detailed a part of soldiers to trap wild animals on Mount Argea. However, to their amazement they came upon a large group of fierce animals, lions, tigers, bears, wolves and others grazing peacefully together outside Saint Blaise's cave. They informed the Governor, who sent them back to arrest the holy hermit. He greeted them cheerfully and told them that he knew from a vision that they were coming for him. Many pagans who encountered the Saint on his way back to Sevaste experienced the peace and unutterable gentleness, which emanated from him, and were converted to Christ. The diseases of both men and animals were cured as he went by. A distraught mother brought him her child, who was choking to death on a fish bone. The Saint put his hand down the child's throat and took out the fish bone. He prayed to the Lord to restore the child to health, as well as all those who in time to come would invoke his intercessions in case of similar accidents. Then he returned the infant to his mother in perfect health.

When they reached Sebaste, Saint Blaise was brought before the tribunal. He was unflinching in his response to Agricolaos and roundly condemned the vain cult of vacuous idols. He was beaten with rods, which he bore joyfully, and was then thrown into prison. When put to new torments he told the Governor, "I am not afraid of your tortures because I am looking forward to the good things to come."

Having failed in his efforts to break Saint Blaise's resolve, Agricolaos condemned him to be drowned in the lake. The holy Martyr made the sign of the Cross at the water's edge and began walking across the surface of the lake as the Savior had done on the Sea of Galilee. On reaching the middle, he invited the pagans to join him, if they believed they could trust themselves to their gods. Sixty eight of them took up the challenge and drowned, while a bright Angel appeared and invited the Saint to return to the shore in order to receive the crown of glory.

When he and the two undaunted children were condemned to be beheaded, Saint Blaise, shining with the divine light, sent up a prayer on behalf of all who in time to come would call for his aid in illnesses and trials. Thereupon the Lord appeared to him in all His glory, saying. "I have heard your prayer and grant your request." The bodies of the holy Martyrs were laid to rest with honor and became a source of blessings for those who met annually at their place of burial to commemorate them. Saint Blaise is one of the most venerated of holy healers in both East and West. His precious head is kept at the Monastery of Konstamonitou on Mount Athos.

SAINT THEODORA THE EMPRESS. A Greek Empress, she was the wife of the wicked Emperor Theophilos the Iconoclast. After the death of Theophilos, Saint Theodora reigned with her son, Michael III, the veneration of holy icons being immediately restored at the Council of Constantinople in 842 A.D. This was the occasion of the institution of the Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, which is celebrated to this day on the first Sunday of Great and Holy Lent. This holy woman, who gave such service to the Church, gave her soul to God on February 11th, 867 A.D. By the wonderful and Divine Providence of God, it was at that time of the total triumph of Orthodoxy over all heresies that Saints Cyril and Methodios were sent as missionaries to the Slav peoples.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, holy Empress, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.


Holy Epistle Lesson: Saint James 2:14-26
Holy Gospel Lesson: Saint Mark 6:54-56, 7:1-8


"If he trespasses against you seven times in a day, and seven times in day turns again to you, saying, I repent; you shall forgive him" (St. Luke 17:4). As the Searcher of hearts, the Lord knows that men are liable to very frequent trespass, and that, having fallen, they often rise up again; therefore He has given us the commandment to frequently forgive trespasses, and He Himself is the first to fulfill His Holy word. As soon as you say from your whole heart, "I repent," you will be immediately forgiven." (Saint Ignatius of Antioch).

by Archdimandrite George Capsanis, Egoumenos (Abbot) of the Monastery of Osiou Gregoriou at the Mt. Athos [source: The Eros of Repentance]

Properly, what makes the sanctified monk the world's joy and light is his preservation of the image of God. In the midst of the unnatural condition of sin which we experience, we forget and lose sight of the measure of the true man. That which man was before the Fall, and that which is man deified--that is, the image of God-this is what the sanctified monk reveals to us.

For at least as many as are able to discern the deeper and true human nature, without the prejudice of passing ideologies, the monk remains the hope of mankind. If man cannot be deified--or if we have not personally known deified men--it would be difficult to hope in the possibility that man can surpass his fallen condition, can attain to the purpose for which the Good God made him; deification (theosis) by grace. As Saint John of the Ladder (Climacus) says: "The Angels are light for monks, and their way of life is light to all men". (Saint John Climacus--Discourse 26).

Already possessing the grace of deification (theosis) in this life, the monk becomes a sign and witness of the Kingdom of God in the world. According to the holy Fathers the Kingdom of God is the gift and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. By means of the deified monk, the world is given to know 'in ignorance'--to see 'without seeing' the character and glory of the deified man and of the Kingdom of God which is to come, and which is not of this world.

It is thus through monasticism that the eschatological conscience of the Apostolic Church is preserved in the Church of today. By eschatological conscience, we mean both eagerly awaiting the Lord's Coming (maranatha; Lord, come!) and the awareness of His Mystical Presence among us even now; that: 'The Kingdom of God is within us.'

His charismatic remembrances of death, and his fruitful virginity, extend the monk into the age to come. As Saint Gregory the Theologian teaches: 'Christ is born of the Virgin, and enjoins virginity as that which leads us out of the world, cuts off the world for the world to come...turning from that which is, to that which is unseen.' The monk who lives the life of virginity according to Christ, transcends not only that which is unnatural, but nature itself. Attaining to that which is beyond nature, he partakes of the Angelic mode of being concerning which the Lord also spoke: "For in the resurrection they are neither married nor given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in Heaven" (St. Matthew 22:30). Just as the Angels, so the monks are not virgins in order to accomplish matters of practical importance for the Church (missionary work, etc.), but in order to worship God in their body and spirit (1 Corinthians 6:20).

Virginity sets a boundary to death. In the words of Saint Gregory of Nyssa: "Just as in the case of the Theotokos, Mary, death which had reigned from Adam until her, stumbled against the fruit of her virginity as at a rock when it came against her, and shattered round about her; so in the case of every soul which passes through fleshly life in virginity, the power of death is somehow shattered and abolished, as having nowhere to insert its sting." (Saint Gregory of Nyssa).

The evangelical and eschatological spirit which Monasticism preserves, also serves to protect the Church in the world from secularization and from allying itself with sinful conditions which are antithetical to the evangelical spirit.

Physically above, and silent but spiritually and mystically in the midst of the Church, the monk preaches as from an elevated pulpit the precepts of Almighty God and the necessity for a wholly Christian life. He orients the world toward the Jerusalem which is on high, and toward the glory of the Holy Trinity as the true and catholic goal of creation.

This is the Apostolic preaching which Monasticism has authentically preached in every epoch, which grounds the Apostolic renunciation of all things in the crucified life of apostolic work. Just as the Apostle, even so the monks, 'having abandoned all things', follow Jesus and fulfill his word: "Everyone who leaves their houses, or brothers or sisters, or father, or mother or wife, or children, or fields for My Name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold and shall inherit life everlasting" (St. Matthew 19:29). 

"Owning nothing and possessing all things", the monks share in the sufferings, the deprivations, the hardships, the vigils, and the worldly insecurity of the holy Apostles.

They are made worthy, however, as were the holy Apostles, of becoming "Eyewitnesses of His Majesty", (2 Peter 1:16) and of receiving a personal experience of the grace of the Holy Spirit, so that they are enabled to say not only that: "Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first" (1 Timothy 1:15), but also that: "what we have heard we have seen with our eyes, what we have beheld our hands have touched, concerning the word of life…and the life has been manifested, and we have seen and we bear witness and declare to you the life everlasting, which was with the Father and has appeared to us" (1 John 1:1-2).

This vision of the Glory of God, and the most sweet visitations of Christ, these justify all the monk's apostolic struggles and make of monastic life the "the true and blessed life" which he would exchange for no other--however lowly he may be, and however short the time he, by God's grace, may have been given to know it.

The monk radiates this grace even to his brothers in the world, so that all may see, may repent, may be consoled, may rejoice in the Lord and glorify the Merciful God: "Who gives such authority to men" (St. Matthew 9:8).

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George