Wednesday March 24, 2021 / March 11, 2021
St. Sophronius, patriarch of Jerusalem (638). St. Euthymius, Bishop of Novgorod, wonderwoker (1458). Venerable Alexis of Goloseyevsky Skete, Kiev Caves (1917). Venerable Patrikius confessor (1933). New Hieromartyr Basil, priest (1937). Venerable Sophronius, recluse of the Kiev Caves (13th c.). Hieromartyr Pionius of Smyrna and those with him: Asclepiades, Macedonia, Linus and Sabina (250). Translation of the relics of Martyr Epimachus of Pelusium to Constantinople (250). St. Sophronius of Vratsa (1815) (Bulgaria
Commemorated on March 11
Sainted Evthymii, in Baptism Ioann (John), was born at the fervent prayers of the presbyter Mikhei and his spouse Anna. For long years they had been childless, and they gave a vow: if a son were born, they would dedicate him to God. The reading of priestly books and frequent visits to Divine-services, which the boy served at with his father – a priest at a not-large temple named for Saint Theodore, – all this gave sanctity to the soul of young Ioann. And at the age of fifteen, in the year 1411, he departed his parental home for a monastery.
Twelve versts from Novgorod, in a wilderness spot named Vyazhisch, amidst the forests and the swamps there had settled three monks – Evphrosyn, Ignatii and Galaktion. There soon joined them the priest Pimen, who accepted tonsure with the name Pakhomii. Here they asceticised in complete solitude at a wooden chapel built by them in the name of Christ’s Saint Nicholas, living in unceasing prayer and in the harsh struggle with the severe conditions of nature in the Northern regions.
The young Ioann in seeking salvation came also to these ascetics. The hegumen Pakhomii accepted him fondly and tonsured him into monasticism with the name Evthymii. Tonsure at so early an age reflects the outstanding spiritual traits of the young ascetic, which were evident to the perspicacious Pakhomii. During this period in time the Novgorod archbishop’s cathedra-seat was occupied by archbishop Simeon, a simple monk elevated to archbishop. The virtuous life of the Monk Evthymii became known to the archbishop. Saint Evthymii was summoned to Novgorod and after a long talk with the vladyka he was appointed the archbishop’s steward. During these times Novgorod archbishops occupied quite unique a position: independent of princely authority, they were elected directly by the veche-assembly and they assumed a large role in secular matters; moreover, it imposed upon them the administration of vast land-holdings. And an archbishop’s steward under these conditions had to combine administrative talent with the utmost non-covetousness and deep Christian humility. Saint Evthymii fervently entreated the archpastor to send him away back again to Vyazhisch, but then he yielded.
In his new duty, Saint Evthymii evoked general astonishment and esteem, in that while occupying so important a position, and being at the centre of business life in a large crowded city, he as a monk asceticised as fervently as he would have in the deep forest. In 1421 archbishop Simeon died. Under the new hierarch, Evthymii I, Saint Evthymii again withdrew to his monastery. Soon however the monks of a monastery on Lisich Hill chose the saint as their hegumen. With the death of the Novgorod archbishop Evthymii I in 1429, the hegumen Saint Evthymii was then chosen archbishop of his native city, and on 29 November he entered into the temple of Saint Sophia. For four years the saint administered the Novgorod diocese, whilst putting off being acclaimed archbishop, and it was only on 24 May 1434 that he was consecrated at Smolensk. The archepiscopal laying on of hands was headed by metropolitan Gerasim.
Saint Evthymii wisely governed his diocese over the course of 29 years, zealous in the fulfilling of his archpastoral duty. Saint Evthymii toiled much at the construction and restoration of churches, especially after the devastating conflagrations of the years 1431 and 1442. The Sophia cathedral was richly embellished by the saint, and in the Novgorod Kremlin there was built several new churches. “If thou dost wish to see, – writes Pakhomii the Logothete, – some few from the number of his great works, go to the temple of Saint Sophia. There thou wilt catch glimpse the temples of saints built by him, standing like hillocks. Not by the voice, but in the deed do they bespeak their varied charm. This was bestowed me by archbishop Evthymii, – proclaims the one church; while another sayeth – so magnificently hath he adorned me; and yet a third one doth relate – he did build me up from the very foundations. The temple of great John Chrysostom, tall and beautiful, with the hand of a Chrysostomos he blesses and from its face is proclaimed: “In as thou hast erected me a temple-habitation, I in turn shalt beseech the Creator to prepare thee habitation in Heaven”. The cathedral temple of the Wisdom of God, Saint Sophia, answering from over the years in its restoration by him, proclaimeth: “He hath returned me to mine original grandeur, he hath adorned me with holy icons, he – is my praise and beauty”. Saint Evthymii built also a church in honour of his Guardian Angel [i.e. Russian idiom for “patron saint”], and in 1438 he built at Vyazhitsk monastery a stone church in honour of Saint Nicholas; and in the following year – a stone church in honour of Saint John the Theologian with a refectory and consistory. Zealous for the Glory of God, Saint Evthymii concerned himself over the increase of spiritual books. From this period is found quite many a Divine-service book, transcribed “under authority of archbishop Vladyka Evthymii”. Despite his abundant works, the saint always promptly fulfilled the monastic rule: whatever he did not succeed doing by day he accomplished by night. An hour before Matins the saint rose up for cell prayer. Often the whole night he spent without sleep; he wore chains, but no one knew about them until his end. The first week of Great Lent the saint spent at Vyazhitsk monastery in silent prayer, eating nothing.
In 1446 the great-princely throne was usurped by Shemyaka, who entered into relations with Novgorod. The political situation in Novgorod was often quite strained. Sainted Jona (Comm. 31 March) in a special missive in 1451 urged the Novgorod people to cease their rowdiness and to heed their archpastor – “be ye in everything heedful to our son and brother, your father and teacher, the God-beloved archbishop Evthymii”. Saint Evthymii, quite up in age, was troubled in soul that the actions of Shemyaka might cast a pall over his relations with the church primate he so deeply revered, and he dispatched a letter to Saint Jona. Sensing the nearness of his death, Saint Evthymii besought for himself prayers and pardon. Saint Jona in the reply letter – a grammota of pardon, wrote: “We call to mind for thee, my son, that thou didst comport thyself too simply: one, who was excommunicated for transgressions by our humility, ye did accept unto yourself and find worthy of your blessing. And do thou, my son, offer repentance in this before God”. And with this Saint Jona gave orders: if the grammota of pardon should arrive after the blessed end of the Novgorod archpastor, then it should be read over his grave. Sainted Evthymii reposed on 10 March 1458. The priest Evmenii, dispatched by Saint Jona with the grammota of pardon, arrived in Novgorod 16 days after the death of Saint Evthymii, whose grave at his bequest stood at the church of the Vyazhitsk monastery. When they opened the grave so as to read the grammota of pardon, they then saw that no decay had touched the body of the saint. Saint Evthymii lay there as though asleep, and his fingers were positioned in blessing. “God preserve yet Novgorod, for which Sainted Evthymii doth pray”, – loudly exclaimed Evmenii, and reading the grammota of Saint Jona, he placed it into the hand of the deceased hierarch.
Soon after the death of the saint, the Lord glorified him in blessing with grace those, who recoursed to his prayerful intercession. Highly revering the saint, the monks of the Vyazhitsk monastery in gratitude erected a church in honour of Saint Evthymii, which was noted in the census of 1500. The celebration of the memory of Saint Evthymii was established at the Moscow Sobor of 1549. The Vita (Life) of Saint Evthymii was written by Pakhomii the Logothete, having been commissioned by Saint Jona, Archbishop of Novgorod (+ 1470, Comm. 5 November).
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.
HYMNS OF PRAISE
Pionius speaks while being tortured:
“O citizens of famous Smyrna,
Fellow townsmen of the renowned Omar,
I know that which all of you know,
But not one of you knows that which I know:
I know the sweet pleasure of dying,
And sweeter yet, of hoping in Christ.
I know that death will not destroy me
But only separate the body from the soul.
I know that the angels are waiting for me
In the mansions of the Heavenly King,
Together with prophets and saints,
Many armies of those chosen by God,
And the wonderful martyrs for Christ.
I know that I am returning to my homeland,
Whence I came here.
I know the goal of my suffering
(But you know not why you are torturing me!)
Seethe, O malice, and against me rage!
With outstretched arms, the Savior awaits me.
Strike me, all of you, with greater tortures.
The more difficult the suffering, the sooner the dawn,
The quicker the death, the more joyful the soul.”
“Good works are accomplished not by our efforts alone, but by the power and will of God. Nevertheless, God demands effort on our part in conforming to His will.” These are the words of Saints Barsanuphius and John–few words, but much is said in them. We are obliged to labor, cultivate and prepare every good thing, and if some good will take root, grow, and bring forth fruit, that is up to the power and will of God. We plow the furrows, and God sows–if He wills it. We cleanse the vessels of the Spirit, and God pours the Spirit into these vessels–if He wills it. He can do anything if He wills it. And He will do everything that answers to the highest wisdom and wholeness, that is, to His plan of man’s salvation. In interpreting the words of our Lord, Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16), St. John Chrysostom writes that our Lord gave this commandment to His disciples that “they themselves should cooperate in some way, so that it will not appear that all effort is of grace alone and so that they will not think that they received the wreaths of glory for nothing.” And so, both of them are indispensable for our salvation: our effort and the power of God’s grace.
Contemplate the Lord at judgment before Caiaphas:
1. How the Jewish high priest detains our Lord in his home, surrounded by men almost as wretched as he himself;
2. How Peter sits outside in the courtyard by the fire; and how, before the servants, he denies our Lord Jesus three times;
3. How even today it happens that some Christians, out of fear of the world, deny the Lord in this manner: they also purport not to be Christians, not to be familiar with the commandments of the Lord, and not to be concerned about the Lord.
on the Second Coming of Christ
“When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory” (Matthew 25:31).
This is how our Lord spoke just before His most horrible humiliations, before being bound, before being spat upon, before being slapped, and before being ridiculed prior to His Crucifixion. In His darkest hour, He speaks about His greatest and most glorious hour. Before His most terrible and miserable departure from this world, He speaks about His Second Coming in His glory. At His first appearance, He came from the cave in Bethlehem, humble and unseen. The second time He will come on the clouds of His angels. The first time He appeared like a nobody from the earth, and the second time He will appear from the heavens. The first time He stood and knelt on the ground, and the second time He will sit on His throne of glory.
When He comes again on His throne of glory, He will not be unseen by anyone. No one will ask, as did the Magi before his first coming: “Where is the King?” (Matthew 2:2). Everyone will see the King and recognize Him as the King. But this vision and recognition will be unto joy for some, and unto fear and terror for others. Just think of the joy of those who have fulfilled His commandments, those who have prayed in His name, those who have performed good works and especially those who have suffered for His name! Just think of the fear and terror of all those who have spat on Him, struck Him, and crucified Him in Jerusalem.
O Merciful Lord, forgive all of us who call upon Thy name, and who, because of our weaknesses, sin against Thee; forgive us before that great and marvelous hour when Thou shalt appear in Thy glory with all Thy holy angels.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.