Monday, September 24, 2018

Saint Dorothy of Kashin (+ 1629)

St. Dorothy of Kashin (Feast Day - September 24)

By Fr. Seraphim Rose

Saint Dorothy was born in 1549, in the prosperous early part of the reign of Ivan IV (the Terrible), and died in 1629 during the peaceful reign of the first Romanov Tsar, Michael Theodorovich; but her whole life, beginning when she was twelve years old, passed in the midst of the most frightful conditions of rebellion, anarchy, famine, plague, and foreign invasion.

This holy nun of the latter times was of noble blood, and some say that she was of the family of the Princes Korkodinov, but neither her place of birth nor her name before receiving the monastic tonsure are known to us. She was given in marriage to Theodore Ladygin and by him had a son, Michael; they lived in the region north of Moscow, where the city of Kashin is located. In the first decade of the 17th century, Kashin was laid waste by invading Poles and Lithuanians, and St. Dorothy's husband fell on the field of battle in defence of the city.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Encomium on the Conception of Saint John the Baptist (St. Sophronios of Jerusalem)

By St. Sophronios of Jerusalem

Let us speak of the wonderful conception of the Honorable Forerunner - since it could stand as the beginning of the whole narrative - and put in order what we are triumphantly about to mention, insofar it pleases him whom we are praising today to give us the power of speech. But it might be better to begin our talk with events that preceded the conception. In this way we can demonstrate that, even before his conception, it was clear that he would become a great and important person and that he would meet the expectations of people in matters of salvation, since he would not be exempt from the consequences which the fall of the Adam and Eve had for the whole of humankind. As a result of this fall, we had reached the point where we were living on earth in misery and degeneracy, as the general legatees of God’s decision: “You are dust and shall return to dust” (Gen. 3, 19).

Conception of Saint John the Baptist Resource Page

Conception of St. John the Forerunner (Feast Day - September 23)


The man received a prophetic oracle from the Archangel,
You will beget a Prophet, and even greater than the prophets.
On the twenty-third the Forerunner appeared and received the womb.

Synaxarion for the Conception of the Honorable Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John

The Conception of Saint John the Forerunner

Encomium on the Conception of Saint John the Baptist (St. Sophronios of Jerusalem)

Saturday, September 22, 2018

A Weeping Icon of the Holy Mandylion in Patmos

On the island of Patmos, in the main church of the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian, is a western-style image of the Holy Mandylion dating to the end of the 18th or beginning of the 19th century. It seems almost out of place inside the old temple filled with Byzantine-styled frescoes. Artistically it is less interesting than anything around it, being a simple image on wood with a wood-carved frame, but it has a fascinating history in and of itself, especially how it came to be displayed in the most sacred church on the island.

Holy Martyrs Isaac and Martin

Sts. Isaac and Martin the Martyrs (Feast Day - September 22)


To Isaac.
Isaac the child of Sarah came short of suffering,
Isaac the new paid in full by being slain.

To Martin.
Inspired from above with the courage of Christ,
Martin hastened to the sword and expired.

The Holy Martyrs Isaac and Martin were perfected by the sword.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Holy Martyrs Eusebius, Nestabus and Zeno who were Brothers

Sts. Eusebius, Nestabus and Zeno of Gaza (Feast Day - September 21)


Eusebius, Nestabus, as well as Zeno,
Died for their pious faith by a sword.

By Sozomen

(Ecclesiastical History, Bk. 5, Ch. 9)

Martyred During the Reign of Emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363).

As I have advanced thus far in my history, and have given an account of the death of George and of Theodoritus, I deem it right to relate some particulars concerning the death of the three brethren, Eusebius, Nestabus, and Zeno. The inhabitants of Gaza, being inflamed with rage against them, dragged them from their house, in which they had concealed themselves and cast them into prison, and beat them. They then assembled in the theater, and cried out loudly against them, declaring that they had committed sacrilege in their temple, and had used the past opportunity for the injury and insult of paganism. By these shouts and by instigating one another to the murder of the brethren, they were filled with fury; and when they had been mutually incited, as a crowd in revolt is wont to do, they rushed to the prison. They handled the men very cruelly; sometimes with the face and sometimes with the back upon the ground, the victims were dragged along, and were dashed to pieces by the pavement. I have been told that even women quitted their distaffs and pierced them with the weaving-spindles, and that the cooks in the markets snatched from their stands the boiling pots foaming with hot water and poured it over the victims, or perforated them with spits. When they had torn the flesh from them and crushed in their skulls, so that the brain ran out on the ground, their bodies were dragged out of the city and flung on the spot generally used as a receptacle for the carcasses of beasts; then a large fire was lighted, and they burned the bodies; the remnant of the bones not consumed by the fire was mixed with those of camels and asses, that they might not be found easily.

Holy Six Martyrs, who were Armor-Bearers of Emperor Maximian

Holy Six Martyrs (Feast Day - September 21)


For God who bent his head on the wood,
Six Martyrs bent their heads to the sword.

In the year 298 the Holy Six Martyrs, who were armor-bearers of Emperor Maximian, were beheaded for confessing Christ.

Holy Martyr Eusebius

St. Eusebius the Martyr (Feast Day - September 21)


The impious slew Eusebius with a sword,
He who lived piously and was a friend of Christ.

Saint Eusebius appeared of his own free will before the prefect of Phoenicia, and said to him: "What senseless deed are you doing, O prefect, persecuting the flock of Christ?" This enraged the prefect, who ordered for the athlete of Christ to be suspended and lacerated. Then with hair cloths tied together, the wounds of his members were rubbed down. The Martyr rejoiced and was glad, as if it was someone else suffering, and not himself. This bewildered the prefect, and not knowing what to do, he ordered for his beheading. In this way the blessed one ascended into the heavens, in order to receive the unfading crown of martyrdom.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Holy Prince Oleg of Briansk, who was Tonsured with the name Basil (+ 1285)

St. Oleg of Briansk (Feast Day - September 20)

Holy Prince Leontius Oleg Romanovich of Briansk was grandson of the holy martyr Prince Michael of Chernigov. According to the chronicle histories, Prince Oleg together and his father, Prince Roman Mikhailovich of Briansk, participated in a war against Lithuania in 1274.

Holy Martyrs Michael the Prince of Chernigov and Theodore his Boyar (+ 1246)

St. Michael of Chernigov and Theodore his Boyar (Feast Day - September 20)

Saint Michael (Mikhail) of Chernigov was the son of Vsevolod Svyatoslavich (who later became grand prince Vsevolod IV the Red of Kiev), by Anastasia, the daughter of grand duke Casimir II of Poland. The patrimonial domain of his father was located in the northwestern part of the Vyatichi lands where he undoubtedly spent his childhood. He was noted from childhood for his piety and mildness.

Holy Venerable Martyr John the Egyptian and the Forty Martyrs With Him

St. John of Egypt together with Forty Martyrs (Feast Day - September 20)


John together with the decad of four,
Firmly approached decapitation by the sword.

Because the lawless and impious Maximian could not endure the boldness through Christ of Saint John, he ordered that he be killed by a sword with forty others in the year 295. In this way the blessed ones received crowns of martyrdom.

Holy Martyrs Artemidoros and Thallos

Sts. Artemidoros and Thallos the Martyrs (Feast Day - September 20)


Artemidoros and Thallos were slain by the sword,
For not venerating Artemis the slayer of strangers.

The Holy Martyrs Artemidoros and Thallos were perfected by the sword because they refused to deny Christ and worship idols.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


Dear Readers:

Welcome to the Mystagogy Ecclesiastical Store!

Most of the items for sale here come from my own personal collection. For many years, after moving around numerous times, most of these items have never been put to use, and been boxed away. Therefore, in an effort to raise funds for the ministry of the Mystagogy Resource Center, I will be selling most of my ecclesiastical items, hoping they will find a better home where they can be appreciated and put to their proper use. Please look through my items, and if you have any interest, email me at to confirm its availability before I instruct you how to make the purchase, including shipping and handling charges.

Thank you and happy shopping,

John Sanidopoulos

P.S. Please check back often, as new items will be added frequently.


St. Nicholas of Myra, handpainted, 10x8. 

Christ and the Samaritan Woman, handpainted, 11x8.

St. Haralambos, 8x6.

Sts. Raphael, Nicholas and Irene, 10x7.

Mother of God "Axion Estin", 10x7.

Elevation of the Holy Cross, 10x8.

St. John the Theologian, Made in Patmos, Silver encased, 7x6.

Jesus Christ, silver encased, 9x7.

Christ the Bridegroom, silver encased, wrapped in plastic, 10x8.

Mother of God, 10x8.

All Saints, 10x8.

Ladder of Divine Ascent, white wooden frame, glass covered, 15x12. 

St. Gregory Palamas, white wooden frame, glass covered, 15x12.

Apostle Peter, wooden frame, glass covered, 8x6.

Apostle Paul, wooden frame, glass covered, 8x6.

 St. Nicholas of Myra, 6x4.

Life of St. Constantine the Great,  Ceramic tile, 8x6.

Virgin Mary embracing Christ Child, 7x5. (Qty. 3)

Standing Crucifix with image of Christ, 7x4.


Wedding Crowns

Oxyrhynchus, the Egyptan City Once Full of Saints

Rufinus visited Oxyrhynchus in the 370's, and was the first to describe in the Latin language an Egyptian city so thoroughly Christian, it can be adequately described as a city of God on earth. The city had a population of male and female monastics which were more in number than regular inhabitants, with twelve churches and numerous monasteries. Some believe Rufinus was exaggerating his account to rouse the imaginations of Christians in the West, but we know that the twelve churches he describes in the city of his time had increased to forty or more by 535 A.D. No doubt it was an important Christian center in its time, and the disappearance of its numerous churches and monasteries especially due to the Islamic conquest is much to be regretted. Today relics of its Christian past can still be seen in some pillars in the chief mosque of Behnesa, and a single Corinthian column in the modern Coptic cemetery in the desert to the southwest of the town ruins.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Holy Martyrs Bidzina, Shalva and Elizbar, Princes of Georgia (+ 1661)

Sts. Bidzina, Shalva and Elizbar the Princes of Georgia (Feast Day - September 18)

In the 17th century the Persian aggressors razed churches, monasteries, and fortresses and drove out thousands of Georgian families to resettle them in remote provinces of Persia. The deserted territories were settled by Turkic tribes from Central Asia. In the chronicle The Life of Kartli it is written: “The name of Christ was not allowed to be uttered, except in a handful of mountainous regions: Tusheti, Pshavi, and Khevsureti.”

But the All-merciful Lord aroused a strong desire in the valiant prince Bidzina Choloqashvili of Kakheti and, together with Shalva and his uncle Elizbar, princes of Aragvi and Ksani provinces, he led a struggle to liberate Kakheti from the Tatars. (The Persian governor of Kakheti, Salim Khan (1656-1664), had been encouraging the Tatar tribesmen to profane the Christian churches.)

Holy Martyr Kastor

St. Kastor the Martyr (Feast Day - September 18)


Kastor was not a wild beast, but a noble man,
Or rather we should say he was a brave man who was assaulted.

All we know of Saint Kastor is that he was martyred for his faith in Christ.

Holy Martyrs Sophia and Irene of Egypt

Sts. Sophia and Irene the Martyrs (Feast Day - September 18)


The heads of Irene and Sophia were cut off,
They beheld You who are peace beyond comprehension O Word.

The Holy Martyrs Sophia and Irene were from Egypt and were beheaded for confessing Christ during the reign of Emperor Aurelian (270-275), when Claudius was governor in Egypt. They are commemorated the day after the Holy Martyr Sophia and her daughters Faith, Hope and Love. There is an Athonite fresco with a scene of their martyrdom from 1547 at Dionysiou Monastery.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Holy Hieromartyrs Herakleides and Myron, Bishops of Tamassos in Cyprus

Sts. Herakleides and Myron of Tamassos (Feast Day - September 17)


Herakleides and Myron were assigned to the fire,
They approached Christ as fragrant myrrh.

Herakleides was the son of a pagan priest and lived in the village Lambadistis, in Cyprus. His father, although a pagan, was hospitable and did not hesitate to accommodate the Apostle Paul together with Barnabas and Mark when they came to Cyprus. The Apostles however refused to dine with one who sacrificed to idols, but instead asked for a guide around the island. Herakleides' father gladly volunteered his son. The Apostles led Herakleides to the faith of Christ, since he was eager to learn, and he in turn, led his parents. It is said that his name was first Herakleon but changed by Saint Paul upon his baptism to Herakleides. Saint Barnabas on his second trip to Cyprus appointed him Bishop of Cyprus and placed him in Tamassos. He is said to have built churches, cured diseases, raised the dead, cast out demons, and worked innumerable wonders. Herakleides worked with great zeal along with his disciple Myron, his successor as Bishop of Tamassos, for the dissemination of Christianity with impressive results, and many pagans believed in Christ. His successes however agitated the unbelievers, who killed them by burning them alive.

Holy Martyrs Haralambos and Panteleon with their Companions

Sts. Haralambos and Panteleon and those with them (Feast Day - September 17)


On his way to the slaughter Haralambos rejoiced,
And Panteleon was like a lion on his way to the knife.

The Holy Martyrs Haralambos and Panteleon with their companions suffered martyrdom for Christ. Their synaxis was celebrated in their Martyrium at the Deuteron district of Constantinople.

Holy Martyrs Maximos, Theodotos, Hesychios and Asklepiodota


For September 17

To Maximos, Theodotos and Asklepiodota.
One woman and two young men,
Went to decapitation with one burning heart.

For February 19

To Maximos, Theodotos and Hesychios.
Three strong men contested together,
Being brave even to decapitation for you Trinity.

To Asklepiodota.
Christ crowned Asklepiodota,
She whose head was cut off by the sword.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Gospel Commentary for the Sunday After the Holy Cross (St. Theophylact of Ochrid)

Sunday After the Holy Cross

Mark 8:34-38; 9:1

From the Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Mark

By Blessed Theophylact of Ochrid

34-37. And when He had called the people unto Him with His disciples also, He said unto them, Whosoever desireth to follow after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whosoever desireth to save his life, shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the Gospels, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

[In this passage of St. Mark, and in the following commentary, the single Greek word, psyche, has been translated as either "life" or "soul" as it has both these meanings. See also Theophylact's Explanation of St. Matthew, pp. 30, 61, and 193. Tr.]

Since Peter had rebuked Him for wanting to be crucified, the Lord called the people unto Him, and said in the hearing of all, but directing His words mostly towards Peter, "Do you find fault with Me, Peter, because I take up the cross? I say to you, that neither you, nor anyone else, will be saved unless you die for the sake of goodness and truth." See that Christ does not compel a man to die on a cross against his own will. Instead He said, Whosoever desireth. The Lord is saying: "I compel no one. I invite him to something good, not to something bad to which he must be forced. Whoever does not want these things is not worthy of them." We can learn what it means to deny oneself if we understand what it means to deny another. He who denies another is he who, when he sees his brother, or servant, or father, being flogged or even murdered, does not turn towards him and pity him in his suffering, but acts as if he were a stranger to him. In this same manner the Lord wants us to show no pity towards our own bodies, so that even if we are flogged, or worse, let it make no difference to us. Let him take up his cross, that is, accept a most shameful death, for at that time to die on a cross was considered the most shameful of deaths. But since many were crucified for being bandits, the Lord added to the crucifixion something else: that one ought to have virtue. This is what it means to follow Me. Although His command that one give oneself over to death seemed hard and cruel, the Lord straightway shows this commandment is given out of love for mankind. For whosoever shall lose his life for My sake shall find life. (But the death of a condemned man, or of one who hangs himself, is not for Christs sake and brings no such reward.) And, on the contrary, he who appears to have saved his life, far from finding life, shall lose it by not remaining steadfast during his time of martyrdom. Do not say to Me, "But he has saved his life", it means nothing. Even if you say that he has gained the whole world as well, it is of no benefit. No one can exchange money for his salvation, for if that were so, a man who had gained the world but lost his soul, could, while burning in the flames of hell, use his money to buy innocence. But at that time and in that place no such trade can be made. Here let us shut the mouths of those who say, following Origen, that all the souls in hell will be restored [and reunited with those in heaven] after they have been punished in accordance with their sins. (1) Let them hear that there is no exchange that can be made there for ones soul. No one is kept in hell as a punishment. Rather, it is the weight of his own sins which holds him there.

38-9:1. Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when He cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels. And He said unto. them, Verily I say unto you, that there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.

Intellectual faith does not suffice, but confession of faith with ones mouth is required as well. Since man himself is two-fold, let his sanctification be two-fold as well. The soul is sanctified by faith, but the body is sanctified by confessing. Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed to confess that the Crucified One is his God, of him also shall the Crucified One be ashamed. For the Lord shall judge that man to be an unworthy servant, when He comes with glory, escorted by the angels, and no longer in lowly form. At the second coming He will not appear, as He did before, to be of base origin and circumstance, and an object of scorn. Since He speaks of His own glory, He desires to show that He is not vainly boasting, and says, There be some of them that stand here, namely, Peter, James, and John, who shall not die until I have shown them at the Transfiguration the glory with which I shall appear at the second coming. For the Transfiguration was nothing less than a foreshadowing of the second coming, and as He appeared in radiance then, so will He shine at the second coming, as will also all the righteous.


1. This false teaching of Origen, apokotastasis, the general restoration of all fallen creation, was condemned by the Church as heresy at the Fifth Ecumenical Council held at Constantinople in 553 AD.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Origins of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

By Louis van Tongeren

The roots of the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross lie in Jerusalem and go back to the fourth century. The oldest sources associate the observance with the annual feast of Dedication of two churches built at sacred sites in Jerusalem: the Martyrium on Golgotha and the Anastasis rotunda, located over Jesus' tomb and therefore also called the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or the Church of the Resurrection. According to the oldest stratum of the Armenian Lectionary, which goes back to the liturgical customs of Jerusalem circa 415, the feast of the Dedication of the two churches, which was celebrated for eight days, began on September 13 in the Anastasis. On the second day (September 14) people gathered in the Martyrium and "the venerable, life-giving Holy Cross was displayed for the whole congregation." Here we do not yet find an independent feast of the Cross with a name of its own. The feast focuses on commemorating the Dedication of the two churches. The term "Exaltation" is first used in the sixth century by the monk Alexander of Cyprus (527-565), when he reports that "the Fathers, commanded by the Emperor, determined that the day of the Exaltation of the venerable Cross and of the Dedication should be celebrated annually on September 14, in honor of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." For Alexander too the celebration is a combination of Exaltation and Dedication.

Why Every Christian Should Wear A Cross

By St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite

The Christians of old were accustomed to carry on themselves the Cross of Christ, made either out of wood, gold, silver or some other metal, for their protection and salvation. For this reason Saint Pankratios the Bishop of Taormina, who is celebrated on the ninth of July, when he baptized Christians, he gave to each of them a Cross made from cedar to carry on them. And Gregory the Theologian carried a Cross towards the averting of every adversary. For this reason he spoke to the devil in meter:

Holy Martyr Valerianos the Infant

St. Valerianos the Infant (Feast Day - September 14)


To small Valerianos the great God gave,
A great big crown in heaven.

The Holy Martyr Valerianos the Infant was perfected by the sword.

Holy Martyr Theokles

St. Theokles the Martyr (Feast Day - September 14)


Theokles was brought to his calling above,
Having as a chariot the cutting of the sword.

The Holy Martyr Theokles was perfected by the sword.

Hagia Sophia To Remain a Museum

The Constitutional Court of Turkey, Turkey's top court, decided on Thursday 13 September 2018 that Hagia Sophia will not be turned into a place of Muslim worship after an appeal made by a private organization called “Authority for Historical Monuments and Environment”.

The Temple that was built in the 6th Century AD by the Roman Emperor Justinian as a Christian Cathedral, is now a Museum and will remain a Museum.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Saint John of Prislop

Saint John of Prislop, locally known as Saint John of Silvas, became a monk at a young age in the Prislop Monastery, then known as Silvas Monastery, in southwestern Romania at the turn of the sixteenth century. After several years in that place, he went into the mountains five hundred meters from the monastery to lead a solitary ascetical life, struggling against the assaults of the demons.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Historical Development of the Feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos

By Mikhail Skaballanovich, Ph.D.

Although St Andrew of Crete calls the Nativity (nativitas) of the Most Holy Theotokos the “Beginning of All Feasts,” it was likely the last of the twelve major Christian holidays to appear in the calendar.

As a rule, holidays dedicated to the Mother of God appear later than the ones dedicated to the Lord. Although the first report of the holiday of the Nativity of the Mother of God dates back to the 5th century, viz., the homilies of Proclus, Patriarch of Constantinople (439-446) in the East and Sacramentarium of Pope Gelasius (492-496) in the West, these accounts are not fully reliable: the authenticity of Proclus’s words is contested, while the earliest copies of the Sacramentarium of Pope Gelasius date to a much later time (8th century). A recently discovered Syrian menologion (AD 412) does not mention the Nativity of Theotokos and, for that matter, neither does it mention any of the other Marian holidays; it mentions only two of the holidays dedicated to Jesus Christ, i.e. the Nativity of Christ and Theophany. This menologion commemorates “Presbyter Faustus and Ammonius and 20 martyrs with them” on September 8 (O.S.).

This holiday apparently originated in the Greek Church and soon spread to Rome and its affiliated churches. It is noteworthy that this holiday is celebrated by Nestorians (the Nativity of Our Lady Mary) as well as by Jacobites, on September 8 (with the exception of several ancient Coptic menologions, where this holiday is celebrated on April 26). It may mean that this holiday appeared in the Eastern Church before these heretics parted ways with the Church, i.e. in the 5th century.

St Andrew of Crete († ca. 712) wrote two homilies and a canon for this holiday.
He already considered this holiday as a solemnity. He insists in his canon that all creation must rejoice (Ode 1); the heaven must be glad and the earth must be joyful (Ode 4); barren women and mothers must join the chorus (Ode 6). St Andrew probably wanted to put this holiday on par with other Marian feasts. If you read his canon, full of deep emotion and admiration, you will surely see that a 7th-century Christian like St Andrew, who died in the early 8th century, perceived the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos as a day when his heart trembled in awe and his soul was overflowing with exalted feelings.

Only a person who had been reared in veneration of this day and maybe heard enthusiastic hymns composed by earlier authors could have the inspiration to write such masterpieces as the 2nd Canon for the Nativity of Theotokos. This holiday is highlighted in a 7th-century Jerusalem Book of Canons, and a Georgian version refers to it as significantly different from other days. This feast is also referred to by name in the Festive Gospel, which Emperor Theodosius III (715 – 717) gave as a present to St Catherine Monastery on Mt Sinai. This Gospel was written with golden letters and apparently contained readings only for the most important holidays of the ecclesiastical year (it contains readings only for 21 days of the year: aside from the current twelve major feasts – with the exception of Palm Sunday, which might have been omitted by mistake – there are readings for September 1, December 24, January 5, February 7, March 9, April 23, May 8 and 10, June 29).

In the West, this holiday is first mentioned in the Roman Pseudo-Hieronymus Martyrology (7th century), in the statutes of Bishop Sonnatius of Rheims (614 – 631) as one of the 13 days of the year when public affairs are forbidden, and in the Martyrology of St Bede the Venerable (†735). Holy Pope Sergius (687-701) is said by Anastasius the Librarian (9th century) to have appointed a litany (a procession) from St Mary Church to St Adrian Church on this day. The rules of St Boniface (8th century) name this feast as one of the holidays that merit special honor (sabbatizandae a populis cum singulari devotione). King Charles the Bald mentions this holiday in one of his charters (on distribution of monastery lands). An 8th-century Anglo-Saxon Pontifical contains a bishop’s blessings for this feast.

However, this holiday was not common in the West even in the 7th – 9th centuries. There is no such holiday in the Gothic-Gallican Calendar (7th – 8th centuries), Calendarium Luxoviensis (7th century), the list of holidays found in the Acts of the Council of Mainz (813), in the 10th-century Toledo Calendar and ancient Mozarabic calendars, all of which mention the Assumption. 17th-century liturgics scholars even asserted that it was Fulbert of Chartres (†1028) who first popularized it; instead, he might have been instrumental in the expansion of this holiday to Northern France. The earliest Latin sermons on this feast belong to him, and the feast is characterized as a new one.

Although it took a long time to become commonly known and celebrated in the West, this holiday took even longer to become as solemnly celebrated as it is nowadays. The most ancient calendar of Corbie Abbey (8th – 9th centuries) contains the following note on September 8: “Memory (natale) of St Adrian and of the Nativity of Blessed Virgin Mary.” Later records assign one Mass to the Nativity of the Mother of God and another Mass to the commemoration of St Adrian; then two Masses to the Nativity and one to St Adrian; then St Adrian is left with only the early Mass; and then finally St Adrian has only a commemoration (commemoratio). Bruno von Hildesheim is characterized in a chronicle dated 1155 as “this most venerable prelate (praesul) was God-loving: he shone with ardent reverence towards His Most Glorious Mother Virgin Mary and diligently did whatever he could to venerate her. Among other things, he was the only bishop who ordered an eight days long octave (apodosis) of Her Nativity to be observed in his diocese, which was later adopted by the entire Holy Mother Church.” Bishop Guido Autissiodensis (†1270) also made this feast a solemn annual celebration in his diocese. Pope Innocent IV made the eight days long octave of this holiday mandatory for the entire Western Church during the Council of Lyon in 1245. Pope Gregory XI (1370-1378) determined a vigil and a fast for this feast, as well as a special rite of mass.

It was in the West and around that time that an explanation for the date of this holiday (September 8) was found. Durandus (†1296) writes that a pious man heard joyful singing of Angels every year on that day and he wondered why they were singing. It was revealed to him that the Angels rejoiced because Virgin Mary had been born on this day; as soon as the Pope learned about it, he ordered a celebration of the Nativity of the Holy Virgin on earth like in the heaven.

* * *

Church chants dedicated to the holiday of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos must have appeared from its very beginning. Unfortunately, our current service hardly retains any of the 5th or 7th century hymns dedicated to this feast. Liturgical manuscripts that date back to 7th and 8th century (e.g., some Georgian manuscripts) contain chants that are totally different from our current ones.

We do not have a kontakion for the Nativity of Theotokos composed by St Roman the Melodist who lived in the 6th century and wrote many of our current kontakia for the twelve major feasts. It is only the troparion Thy Nativity, O Theotokos Virgin that belongs to these ancient times — the 5th – 7th centuries, given that the same chant is a part of both the Roman Catholic mass and the Eastern Orthodox liturgy, and that this is practically the sole case where worship hymns in the Orthodox Church and the Roman Church coincide.

On the contrary, the 8th and the 9th centuries were the time when a number of church hymns dedicated to the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos appeared. Less than half of them made it into our current rite of celebration of this feast and its eve. The majority of these chants were introduced into the rite of worship by ancient rubrics but later faded out of use. Currently, there are chants by the following authors used during church services of the Nativity of the Mother of God: St Andrew of Crete († ca. 712) — the Second Canon of the feast; St John of Damascus († ca. 780) — the First Canon of the feast; Patriarch Herman of Constantinople († 740) — the aposticha; Anatoly, bp. of Thessalonica (?) — several stichera chanted during the litiya; Stephen and Sergius of the Holy City, i.e. monks of St Sabbas Monastery in the Holy City (Jerusalem), fl. 9th century — the Canon of the Eve of the feast. The following authors once had their chants used in old times, e.g. according to the Hypotyposis of the Monastery of the Theotokos Evergetis, Constantinople, but were later rejected by our current Typikon: Emperor Leo VI († 916) — Canon, tone 4 I Shall Open My Mouth (according to the Evergetis Hypotyposis, it was chanted during “pannikhida” of the feast) and another canon with the same initial irmos (according to the same document, it was chanted during “pannikhida” on September 11); George, bishop of Nicomedia (?), fl. 9th century — Canon, tone 4 I Shall Open My Mouth (the same Hypotyposis assigns this canon for the Matins on the Eve of the feast) and Canon, tone 4, The Powerful Generals during the “pannikhida” on September 10. The same Evergetis Hypotyposis requires (during the “pannikhida” on September 9) another canon, tone 4, I Shall Sing To Thee, O Lord My God, by John (of Damascus?). It is worth noting that St Cosmas of Maiuma did not leave us a canon for this feast: nor did he leave canons for Easter, Ascension, Annunciation, and Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple.

The extant sources do not allow us to say anything definitive about the kind of service and the hymns and readings that the holiday of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos had before the 7th century. Luckily, we have a 7th-century source that sheds light on the rite of this service: a translation into the Georgian language of the so called Jerusalem Canonarium, that is, a collection of liturgical instructions, or rather an index of readings during worship in the Church of Jerusalem. We read, “The Nativity of Theotokos. Troparion, tone 1: Thy Nativity, O Theotokos Virgin. Prokeimenon, tone 1: Thou Hast Sanctified Thy Dwelling; verse: God Is Our Refuge and Strength.” This note is followed by a list of readings, viz., 1. The Wisdom of Solomon 8:2-4 (mistakenly cited as Proverbs); 2. Isaiah 11:1 ff.; and an unnumbered reading of Hebrews 8:7-9,10. Hallelujah, tone 8: Hear O Daughter. Gospel Luke 11:27-32. Washing of hands, tone 1, “Thy Nativity, O Most Pure Virgin.” Apparently, these are the instructions for the Liturgy only; more important feasts have rubrics for the Vespers and the Matins, too. Perhaps, the Vespers and the Matins of this feast did not differ too much from everyday services. We see Old Testament readings during the Liturgy and a special troparion “on washing of hands”, which might have been a substitute of the Cherubic Song. Remarkably, the Gospel reading in this source begins with “And it came to pass, as he spake these things…”, i.e. with the last words of the current Gospel reading. The second earliest source that contains liturgical instructions for this feast is the so called Canonarium of Mt Sinai, i.e. a similar book, which was meant to be used in a certain Church (maybe the Church of Constantinople), found alongside a Gospel book in St Catherine Monastery on Mt Sinai and attributed to the 9th century. The Vespers prokeimenon in this book is “Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God” and the verse is God loves the Gates of Zion. The OT readings, the troparion, the Epistle and Gospel readings, and the Koinonikon are already the same as today.

The information about the order of the services on the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos is available to us since the 11th century, when this service was already very close to the current one. We will mention only the few differences between the known ancient manuscripts and the current Typikon.

Thus, the manuscript of a Georgian translation of the Typikon (the 11th -century Synaxarion of Iveron Monastery on Mt Athos) requires a special prokeimenon on the Vespers of this feast: “The holy place of the tabernacles of the most High, God is in the midst of her” and the verse was God Is Our Refuge. There was no litiya during the Vespers according to this book; it stipulated current stichera for Lord I Cried during the Aposticha (this book does not determine stichera for Lord I Cried; the same is true for all other great feasts); the troparion is the current one but in the first tone; the usual Matins kathisma is replaced with Psalms 43, 44, and 132; the Antiphons during the Liturgy are It Is Good — apparently the usual weekday ones — with the following refrains: 1). By the Prayers of Theotokos, 2). and 3). Save Us, O Son of God Born of a Virgin, For We Sing Thee: Hallelujah.

The 11th-century practice of celebration of the feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos in the Evergetis Monastery in Constantinople as recorded in a 12th-century manuscript has the following differences from the current practice. Only three initial stichera are chanted during the Lord I Cried at Vespers: the first and the second ones are repeated three times, and the third sticheron is repeated twice. There was no litiya during Vespers according to this Typikon. The Aposticha had the following verses: 1) Lord, remember David, and all his afflictions: how he sware unto the Lord, and vowed unto the mighty God of Jacob; 2) The Lord hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it;

Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne. Only two first stichera of the Aposticha coincide with the current ones, while the third one, Thy Most Honorable Nativity, is now the last during the Vespers; the fourth, Today the Barren Gate, is currently the fourth sung at Lord I Cried. The troparion is in tone 1. The first kathisma at the Matins was the usual one, and the second was a special one, appropriate for the feast, i.e. the sixth kathisma, O Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath. The sessional hymn after the first kathisma is the one which is now read after the second kathisma; the sessional hymn after the second kathisma is the one that is read after the third ode of the canon today; the sessional hymn after the polieley is the one that is now read after the first kathisma. Canons: First Canon has irmoses repeated twice, troparia by 4, the 2nd by six (no mention of irmoses here); consequently, the canon itself is read by 12 (today by 16). The current 1st sessional hymn after the polieley is read after Ode 3 of the canon; the exapostilarion Holy is the Lord our God is read after Ode 9, like on other, mainly medium-importance feasts and, “optionally, another exapostilarion, sung to the tune of Hearken O Women: The ends of earth rejoice.” The Lauds included six stichera but the book names only two of them (probably the first two of the current ones), Glory: Now: the sixth one currently at Lord I Cried, Today the Barren Anna. The Beatitudes during the Liturgy are unique to this feast, in tone 8 “Remember us” — a troparion, a troichen and a theotokion. The following readings from the “Book of Praises to the Theotokos” were incorporated into the service according to this book of rubrics: the First Homily of St John of Damascus, beginning with Come All Nations, during the panikhida; the Second and the Third Homilies of St John of Damascus during the Matins after the First and the Second Kathisma, beginning with the following words, “If the Earth is measured by cubits” and “Various other subjects of feasts”; a homily by St Andrew of Crete “This feast is the beginning of all feasts” after the polieley; a “historical account by St James in his Metaphrastos” after Ode 3 of the Canon (currently, there remain the following readings: the Second Homily by St John of Damascus, referred to as the Homily by St Andrew of Crete; the First Homily by St John of Damascus after the 2nd Kathisma; a homily by Gregory the Hieromonk; and an unspecified “reading of the feast” after the 1st Kathisma).

We see that the service according to that Typikon is different from our current one in just a few ways, such as lack of several stichera (e.g. stichera during the litiya), another order of stichera and sessional hymns, and an abridged canon. The Hypotyposis of Evergetis Monastery is an important document in the history of liturgy because it recorded the practice of worship, which was the middle ground between the so call Studite and Jerusalemite Typika. The Hypotyposis of Evergetis is closer to the Studite Typikon in its earliest form, which we cannot find in the full copies that exist today, due to the fact that these remaining copies date back to the 12th-13th centuries and are very close to the Jerusalem (the present) Typikon; they are much closer to it than the Hypotyposis of Evergetis.

According to these copies of the Studite Typikon, which are a Slavonic-Russian edition of this Typikon made in 12th or 13th centuries, the worship on this feast has the following differences from the current one. There are six verses for the stichera on Lord I Cried, and the stichera are the current first three ones; there is no litiya during Vespers according to this Typikon; the Aposticha stichera go in the following order: the 1st Sticheron is the same as today; the 2nd Sticheron is the same as the 3rd Sticheron now; the 4th Sticheron is the same as the 4th Sticheron on Lord I Cried today. Glory: Now: tone 2, to the tune of House of Ephratha, unspecified text — possibly the current aposticha sticheron from the Small Vespers; troparion, tone 1. The prokeimenon Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, which was sung after the Gospel at Matins during other feasts, was likewise sung after the Gospel at Matins of this day. The canons were chanted as follows: the First Canon had irmoses read once and verses repeated twice in Odes 1, 3, 4 and 6; both irmoses and verses were repeated twice in Odes 5, 7, 8, and 9 (because the first odes contained three verses, while the last odes contained just two verses each); the Second Canon had irmoses and verses recited once: all verses were by 12; there was the exclamation Holy Is The Lord Our God after Ode 9. The current three stichera at the Lauds were chanted twice each, then Glory: Now, followed by the first one of them. This Typikon always required Aposticha, too: Matins aposticha in tone 2, to the tune of House of Ephratha (unspecified), Glory: Now: One of those. Liturgy had “designated Psalms and they sing canons in tone 2, odes 3 and 5 with irmoses, during the Beatitudes.”

According to the earliest copies of the current Jerusalem Typikon, the service of the Nativity of Theotokos is only slightly different from the current (printed) Typikon. The two first stichera are repeated at Lord I Cried. Some manuscripts require singing the Second Canon by 6 with just the troparia without irmoses; other (Slavonic) manuscripts note that “we say its irmoses and troparia once, for they are plentiful.” The exapostilarion of the feast is chanted twice. It is either not specified or the one that Greeks use today. (Sessional hymns aren’t specified either, so we cannot be certain if they are meant to be the same as today or not). The odes of the Liturgy are taken only from the First Canon.

Finally, there are minor inconsistencies between our current rubrics of that feast and the modern Greek or Old Rite rubrics. The Greek rubrics have more differences, albeit insignificant. Thus, according to the Greek Menaia, the first two stichera at Lord I Cried are read twice. The First Sessional Hymn after the Polieley and the Sessional Hymn after Ode 3 of the Canon are chanted one in the place of the other, and there is no second sessional hymn after the polieley. The First Canon has irmoses by 8, the Second Canon has troparia by 6. There is a kontakion and an ikos after the Sixth Ode, together with a brief synaxarion (description) of the feast with preceding verses. The Ninth Ode does not have any refrains. The exapostilaria we use nowadays aren’t there; instead, they use one exapostilarion, mentioned in ancient books, and sing it three times to the tune of Hearken O Women: “The ends of earth today rejoice of Thy Nativity, O Virgin Theotokos Mary and the Unwedded Bride; it is through it that thy parents’ woeful malediction of infecundity was untied, as well as the curse of birth of Foremother Eve.”

According to the liturgical instructions used in the Patriarchate of Constantinople for parish churches, this service has the following differences from ours. They sing stichera by 6 at Lord I Cried; they do not have a litiya during Vespers; the litiya accompanied with singing of a troparion goes before Matins, which is served separately from the Vespers, similarly to other great feasts. The Matins contains Psalter (kathismas) and a polieley to Theotokos My heart is inditing; then hypakoe (in fact, it is a sessional hymn) after the Third Ode of the Canon. During the Liturgy, they sing antiphons consisting of the verses of what is known to us as the select Psalm for the Exaltation, viz., verses 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11 (see below), with insertions of Ps. 132:17 between verses 7 and 8, and Psalm 132:14 between verses 9 and 11. The chorus of the First Antiphon is By the Prayers of Theotokos; and of the Second Antiphon, Save Us O Son of God, Wondrous Art Thou In Thy Saints…; of the Third Antiphon, a troparion. They sing Come Let Us Worship… Wondrous Art Thou in Thy Saints during the Entrance.

According to the liturgical instructions used by Old Rite believers, the second and the third stichera at Lord I Cried are sung twice; they sing Today The Barren Gate sticheron in tone 6 after the Gospel reading; they have no refrains after Ode 9; instead they have a katavasia Mysterious Is The Paradise. Instead of It Is Truly Meet they sing Virginity Is Alien to Mothers and repeat the Photogogikon (Svetilen) three times. Apparently, the photogogikon is the same as in the Greek Menaia.

Our account of the history of the service in honor of this feast makes it clear how slowly and gradually this service was developed. Its authors were holy monks and confessors of the 8th and 9th centuries and this fact, coupled with high artistic qualities of their works, was the reason why their chants replaced earlier and doubtlessly simpler and less sophisticated hymns used in the 5th-7th centuries. Later, quite a few famous hymnographers brought the fruit of their inspiration to this feast, which came to be more and more venerated and honored by the Christian oikumena; however, the Church was so demanding that their works were not adopted for use during worship because they were found to be less brilliant than the former ones. It is also worth noting the care with which the liturgical instructions replaced certain hymns with others in the course of their centuries-long formation and development: texts formerly used at the Aposticha were then moved to Lord I Cried; texts originally chanted between odes of the canons were later moved to kathismas and the polieley. The rubrics were hesitant even in the seemingly unimportant issues, such as where to repeat a sticheron and which one to repeat; which number to sing canons by; whether to sing irmoses of the second canon or not. All this guarantees that the current rite of church service on this day is a harmoniously balanced single whole.

Saint Athanasius of Serpukhov the Elder (+ 1401) and Saint Athanasius the Younger (+ 1395)

Sts. Athanasius the Elder and Athanasius the Younger (Feast Day - September 12)

Saint Athanasius of Serpukhov was born at Obonezh Pyatina with the name Andrew into the family of the priest Auxentius and his wife Maria. He was, from youth, inclined towards prayer and renunciation of the world, and he sought a worthy guide in monastic labors.

At this time, news of Saint Sergius of Radonezh had already spread throughout the whole of Rus. The Monastery of the Life-Creating Trinity at Makovets had become for everyone a luminous model of monastic organization. Here in the monastery, the cenobitic life transformed “the hateful discord of this world,” creating a oneness of spirit in a unity of love based on the example of the Divine Trinity. The youth Andrew went from the outskirts of Novgorod to Abba Sergius at Makovets, following in his footsteps in search of spiritual perfection.

Saint Bassian of Tiksnensky in Vologda (+ 1624)

St. Bassian of Tiksnensky (Feast Day - September 12)

Venerable Bassian of Tiksnensky (or Totemsky) was born with the name Basil, and was a peasant from the village of Strelitsa (by other accounts, from the village of Burtsevo), near the city of Totma. Married with two children, he was by trade a tailor. Leaving his family, he became a monk under Elder Therapon in the Spaso-Sumorinsky Monastery at the River Sukhona, founded by Saint Theodosius of Totemsky, where he spent several years in asceticism and obedience. At first they were hesitant in accepting him as a monk, since he had abandoned his family, but they eventually admitted him and he took the name Bassian at tonsure.

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