Beginnings: History of the Orthodox Church

Martyr Thallelaeus at Aegae in Cilicia

Beloved brothers and sisters in the Risen Lord, God, Redeemer and the Only True Savior of the World Jesus Christ,


[Following the reception of the Holy Communion by celebrant priest and deacon. The deacon offers the following prayers:]

Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ, let us worship the Holy Lord Jesus, the only sinless One. We venerate Your Cross, O Christ, and Your Holy Resurrection we praise and glorify; for You are our God, we know no other, it is Your Name we invoke.


Come, all you faithful, let us worship Christ's Holy Resurrection; for behold, through the Cross joy has come to all the world. Ever blessing the Lord, let us praise His Resurrection. For in enduring the Cross for us, He destroyed death by death.


Shine, shine, new Jerusalem! For the glory of the Lord has dawned over you. Dance now and be glad, Sion; as for you, Pure One, rejoice Theotokos in the Resurrection of your Child.


O Divine, O Beloved, O Sweetest voice! You promised truly that You would be with us to the end of the age. With this pledge as the anchor of our hope, we rejoice.


Great and Most Holy Pascha, O Christ; Wisdom, Logos (Word) and Power of God, grant us to partake of You perfectly in the unwaning Day of Your Kingdom.



On May 20th 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 of every righteous soul perfected in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Holy Martyr Thalleleus of Phoenicia; Holy Martyrs Alexander and Asterius, who believed in Christ through Saint Thalleleus, were beheaded in Cilicia; Holy Martyr Asclas of Egypt, who was perfected in martyrdom when he was cast into a river; our three righteous and God-bearing Fathers Nicetas, John, and Joseph, Founders of the sacred and royal New Monastery (that is, Nea Moni) on the island of Chios, Greece; our righteous Father Thalassius of Libya; our Righteous Father Mark the Hermit; Saint Lydia of Philippi; Holy Martyr Baudelius of Nimes in Gaul; Saint Dovmont, Prince of Pskov, who in holy Baptism was renamed Timothy; On this day we commemorate the finding of the holy relics of our Father among the Saints Alexis the Wonderworker, Metropolitan of Moscow and all Russia; our Righteous Father Dodo, disciple of Saint David of Georgia; our Righteous Father Stephen of Piperi in Serbia.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Righteous, Holy Fathers, Holy Mothers, Holy Ascetics, Holy Monks, Holy Hermits, Holy Princes, O Christ, Our God have mercy on us and save us. Amen.


Saint Thalleleus was from the region of Lebanon in Phoenicia, the son of Berucius, a Christian bishops; his mother's name was Romula. Raised in piety, he was trained as a physician. Because of the persecution of Numerian, the Saint departed to Cilicia, and in Anazarbus he hid himself in an olive grove; but he was seized and taken to Aegae of Cilicia to Theodore, the ruler. After many tortures he was beheaded in the year of our Lord 284. Saint Thalleleus is one of the Holy Unmercenaries.

Our holy and Wonderworking Father Alexis, Metropolitan of Moscow, was born in Moscow in 1293 AD, and consecrated bishop in 1350. Chosen as Metropolitan in 1354, he was ordained by Ecumenical Patriarch Philotheos. He founded several monasteries, including the first women's monastery in the city of Moscow. From the Greek he translated and wrote out the Holy Gospel. For the good of the Church and his country he twice journeyed to the Horde and did much to propitiate the Khan and ease the burden of the Tartar yoke; he also healed Taidula, the Khan's wife. His holy relics are laid to rest in the Chudov Monastery in Moscow, which he founded on land granted him by the Khan and his wife in thanksgiving. Today is the feast of the translation of his holy relics, which took place in 1485, and again in 1686.

Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the holy Martyr. Fourth Tone

Thy Martyr, O Lord, in his courageous contest for Thee received as the prize the crowns of incorruption and life from Thee, our immortal God. For since he possessed Thy strength, he cast down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons' strengthless presumption. O Christ God, by his prayers, save our souls, since Thou art Merciful.

Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the holy Hierarch. Second Tone

Like a most precious treasure hidden many years in the earth, thy venerable and miracle-flowing relics were found, O most blessed Father and Hierarch Alexis; and receiving healing from them, we are enriched and we glorify Christ, saying: Glory to Him Who glorifieth His Saints.



Holy Epistle Lesson: Acts 12:25; 13:1-12
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. John 8:51-59


Don't forget to give thanks

"I beg you, dear friends, let the words of the Savior touch our hearts. When by the power of His mercy He had cured ten lepers, He said that only one out of all of them had come back to give thanks--doubtless meaning that, though the ungrateful ones had gained bodily health, yet they failed in this godly duty because of ungodliness of health.

Don't let yourselves be accused of the same kind of ingratitude! Remember the wonders He was pleased to perform among us. Attribute our deliverance not--as the ungodly think--to the influence of the stars, but to the unspeakable mercy of Almighty God, Who has been pleased to soften the hearts of raging barbarians. Then come to the commemoration of such a great benefit with all the enthusiasm of faith" (Saint Leo the Great).


By Metropolitan Kallistos Ware (source: The Orthodox Church)

At many periods in Orthodox history the prospect of red martyrdom has been fairly remote, and the green and white forms prevail. Yet there have also been times, above all in this present century, when Orthodoxy Christians have once again been called to undergo martyrdom of blood.

It was only natural that the bishops, who, as St. Cyprian emphasized, share in the one episcopate, should meet together in a council to discuss their common problems. Orthodoxy has always attached great importance to the place of councils in the life of the Church. It believes that the council is the chief organ whereby God has chosen to guide His people, and it regards the Catholic Church as essentially a conciliar Church. In the Church there is neither dictatorship nor individualism, but harmony and unanimity; men remain free but not isolated, for they are united in love, in faith, and in sacramental communion. In a council, this idea of harmony and free unanimity can be seen worked out in practice. In a true council no single member arbitrarily imposes his will upon the fest, but each consults with the others, and in this way they all freely achieve a 'common mind'. A council is a living embodiment of the essential nature of the Church.

Byzantium, I: The Church of the Seven Councils

"All profess that there are seven holy and Ecumenical Councils, and these are the seven pillars of the faith of the Divine Word on which He erected His Holy mansion, the Catholic and Ecumenical Church". (John II, Metropolitan of Russia [1080-89])


Constantine stands at a watershed in the history of the Church. With his conversion, the age of the martyrs and the persecutions drew to an end, and the Church of the Catacombs became the Church of the Empire. The first great effect of Constantine's vision was the so-called 'Edict' of Milan, which he and his fellow Emperor Licinius issued in 313 AD, proclaiming the official toleration of the Christian faith. And though at first Constantine granted no more than toleration, he soon made it clear that he intended to favor Christianity above all the other tolerated religions in the Roman Empire. Theodosius, within fifty years of St. Constantine's death, had carried this policy through to its conclusion: by his legislation he made Christianity not merely the most highly favored but the only recognized religion of the Empire. The Church was now established. 'You are not allowed to exist,' the Roman authorities had once said to the Christians. Now it was the turn of paganism to be suppressed.

Constantine's vision of the Cross led also, in his lifetime to two further consequences, equally momentous for the later development of Christendom. First, in 324 AD he decided to move the capital of the Roman Empire eastward from Italy to the shores of the Bosphorus. Here, on the site of the Greek city of Byzantium, he built a new capital, which he named after himself, 'Constantinoupolis' (the city of Constantine). The motives for this move were in part economic and political, but they were also religious: the Old Rome was too deeply stained with pagan associations to form the center of the Christian Empire which he had in mind. In the New Rome things were to be different: after the solemn inauguration of the city in 330 AD, he laid down that at Constantinople no pagan rites should ever be performed. Constantine's new capital has exercised a decisive influence upon the development of Orthodox history.

Secondly, Constantine summoned the First General Ecumenical Council of the Christian Church at Nicaea in 325 AD. If the Roman Empire was to be a Christian Empire, then Constantine wished to see it firmly based upon the one orthodox faith. It was the duty of the Nicene Council to elaborate the content of that faith. Nothing could have symbolized more clearly the new relation between Church and State than the outward circumstances of the gathering at Nicaea. The Emperor himself presided, 'like some heavenly messenger of God' as one of those present, Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, expressed it. At the conclusion of the Council the bishops dined with the Emperor. 'The circumstances of the banquet,' wrote Eusebius (who was inclined to be impressed by such things), 'were splendid beyond description. Detachments of the bodyguard and other troops surrounded the entrance of the palace with drawn swords, and through the midst of these the men of God proceeded without fear into the innermost of the imperial apartments...Matters had certainly changed since the time when Nero employed Christians as living torches to illuminate his gardens at night. Nicea was the first of Seven General Councils; and these, like the city of Constantine, occupy a central position in the history of Orthodoxy.

Nicolas Zernov wrote about the First Ecumenical Council the following: "The First Ecumenical Council is one of the great landmarks in the history of the Church. At the Emperor's orders and at the expense of the state several hundred bishops gathered in Nicaea, a small town near Nicomedia, then the capital. Most of the bishops came from Asia Minor, Palestine, Syria, and Egypt. Two presbyters represented Sylvester (314-335 AD), the aged bishop of Rome; North Africa also sent delegates, and four or five bishops came from outside the Empire. It was an impressive assembly: Some of its participants were renowned for learning; others for holiness; others bore the marks of torture suffered during the recent persecution. Constantine showed these last special signs of respect. The personality of the Emperor dominated the Synod, which lasted from May to June, 325 AD. Constantine was fifty-one, and at the height of his glory and power. His solemn entrance so much impressed the bishops that Eusebius (a Church historian) compared him to an Angel of God. Clothed in purple raiment, adorned with gold and precious stones, he addressed the representatives of the Church as their friend and fellow believer:

'It was for some time my chief desire to enjoy the spectacle of your united presence, and now that this wish is fulfilled I feel myself bound to render thanks to God the Universal King...Delay not, dear friends,  delay not, ye ministers of God and faithful servants of Him Who is our common Lord and Savior: begin to discard the causes of that disunion which exists among you and remove the perplexity of controversy by embracing the principles of peace...By such conduct you will please the Supreme God and confer an exceeding favor on me, your fellow servant.' (Eastern Christendom)

The three events--the Edict of Milan, the foundation of Constantinople, and the Council of Nicaea-- mark the Church's coming of age.

(To be continued)

With sincere agape in Our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George