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Saints and Feasts of February 20

Thursday, February 20, 2020

An Update on Vasiliki Plexida, Who Miraculously Survived a Helicopter Crash in 2017

I have received a few requests for an update on Sergeant Vasiliki Plexida, who miraculously survived a helicopter crash in 2017, so I thought I would make the update public.

First, on the two year anniversary she returned to the scene of the crash with others to set up a memorial for both her miraculous deliverance and for the memory of her fellow fallen soldiers. She made the following post on Facebook on April 18, 2019 (translation mine) and posted pictures which are below:

Saint Eucherius, Bishop of Orleans (+ 743)

St. Eucherius of Orleans (Feast Day - February 20)

Saint Eucherius's sanctity was formed by his parents. His mother was a lady of great virtue. While she was carrying her son, she begged God daily for divine grace and offered the unborn Eucherius to the Heavenly Father. At his birth, his parents dedicated him to God. When he was seven, his studies were planned to form both mind and soul. After being well-educated, especially in theology, Eucherius entered the Benedictine abbey of Jumièges on the Seine in the diocese of Rouen around 714.

He spent six or seven years here practicing penitential austerities and obedience, until the senate, people, and clergy of Orléans appointed persons to Charles Martel, mayor of the palace, to beg his permission to elect Eucherius to the see vacated by the death of Eucherius's uncle, Bishop Suavaric. Charles Martel agreed and sent one of his principal officers to conduct Eucherius from his monastery to Orléans. Eucherius was horrified at the notion of being consecrated bishop and sought the protection of his brother monks. But they preferred the public good to their private inclinations, and resigned him up for that important charge. Eucherius was received and consecrated at Orléans with universal applause in 721.

Saint Eleutherius, Bishop of Tournai (+ 531)

St. Eleutherius of Tournai (Feast Day - February 20)

Saint Eleutherius was born in Tournai to Christian parents, whose family had been converted to the Christian faith by Saint Piatus a few centuries prior. Most Christian families after the martyrdom of Saint Piatus reverted to paganism. He grew up with Saint Medardus (June 8), who prophesied to him that he would one day become Bishop of Tournai, where the Kings of the Franks resided. Eleutherius was consecrated Bishop of Tournai by Saint Remigius in 486.

The first years of his episcopate were particularly difficult. In 476 Rome had fallen and the barbarian invasions of the Visigoths, Alemanni and Franks had already begun. The latter still pagans, they had established their own capital in Tournai, so Eleutherius was forced to take refuge, moving the episcopal see to the nearby and safer village of Blandain.

Saint Bolcan, Bishop of Derkan (+ 480)

St. Bolcan of Derkan (Feast Day - February 20);
photo shows Cranfield Church in Armoy

Saint Bolcan (also known as Olcan) was found, when an infant, beside his dead mother, by Darius, a chief of Carsedna. It is said he lay by his dead mother for seven days, and was found on the hill at Drumbolcan, Rasharkin around 443. He was baptized at Dunseverick by Saint Patrick, and sent by him to study in Gaul. Patrick later consecrated him in 474 as Bishop of Derkan (known also as Armoy, Conderkan, Airthir-muge, Rath-mugia) in the northern Ireland province of Ulster. He was the first Bishop of Ireland. Bolcan's school there was one of the best equipped in the island. He reposed after 480. Bolcan was reputedly buried at Cranfield Church in earth brought from Rome. This church has a well known as Olcan's Well which is said to be blessed by the Saint with healing properties.

Saint Agathon the Wonderworker of the Kiev Caves

St. Agathon the Wonderworker of the Kiev Caves (Feast Day - February 20)

Venerable Agathon of the Kiev Caves Lavra was a great ascetic of the 13th or 14th century, who healed the sick by a laying his hands upon them. He also possessed the gift of prophecy and foretold the time of his own death.

Venerable Plotinus

Venerable Plotinus (Feast Day - February 20)


Plotinus was conveyed, carried to the Lord,
Angels conveyed Plotinus to His presence.

On this day we commemorate our Venerable Father Plotinus.

Saint Kindeos, Bishop of Pisidia

St. Kindeos of Pisidia (Feast Day - February 20)


From the earth you were taken and you turned towards her,
At the command of the creator of the earth Kindeos.

On this day we commemorate our Venerable Father Kindeos the Bishop of Pisidia.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Place Where Saint Philothei Was Martyred

On the night of October 2nd into October 3rd of 1588, during an all-night vigil in honor of the patron saint of Athens, Saint Dionysius the Areopagite, in the Metochion of the Holy Apostle Andrew in Patisia, five Turks on their horses entered the church, vandalizing the sacred place. The nuns in a panic ran away to hide. The Turks let them run away, they didn't care. All they wanted was Philothei Benizelou. Her crime: she offered asylum to Christian women fleeing their Turkish masters to preserve their faith and chastity. Philothei courageously stood up, and the Turks grabbed her with force and knocked her down to the floor. They kicked her, beat her with clubs and after binding her to a column they whipped her without mercy. Thinking that they killed her, they then fled. The nuns came to her aid. She was then taken to the Metochion of the Entrance of the Theotokos in Perissos, where a few months later, on 19 February 1589, she died from her injuries. Today the church where she was martyred still stands along with the column she was bound to and beaten.

Synaxarion of our Venerable Father Raboulas

St. Raboulas of Samosata (Feast Day - February 19)


Raboulas' flame made the designs of the demons unsuccessful,
By the design of God he departed thither.

Our Holy Father Raboulas lived during the reign of Emperor Zeno (476-491), and was born in the city known as Samosata. which is now commonly known as Samsat, and can be found in Syria, which is honored with an episcopal throne under the Metropolitan of Edessa. Having been educated by a very glorious man named Barypsabas, he learned the Syrian language. Because he conducted himself in every virtue while still a youth in age, he became a monk. Therefore he went to dwell alone in the mountains and caves, far away from people, just as the great Elijah and John the Baptist lived alone. After a few years he went to Phoenicia together with others. Because his virtues shined even more there, he became apparent to all even against his will.

Saint Theodore of Sanaxar (+ 1791)

St. Theodore of Sanaxar (Feast Day - February 19)

Venerable Theodore was born near the town of Romanov in the province of Yaroslavl in 1719, the son of Prince Ignatius Ushakov and his wife Paraskeva (or Irene). At his Baptism, he was named John.

As a young man, John Ushakov enlisted in the Preobrazhensky Guard Regiment in Petersburg, and attained the rank of sergeant. Life in the capital was fraught with great spiritual danger for a young person, but God delivered John from the wrong path.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Is the Holy Light of Jerusalem a Scam? Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol Responds

Below is translated the response of Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol to certain recent reports that the Holy Light of Jerusalem is a scam and the Patriarch uses a lighter or other light source to light the candles on Holy Saturday. The original video interview from April 2019 is below.

I went to the Holy Land and experienced Holy Week there. I was next to the Patriarch during the ceremony of the Holy Light. Outside of the Tomb, of course. What I can tell you is the following: as to how the Patriarch lights the candles inside the All-Holy Tomb, I did not see. I wasn't inside nor is anyone else inside. Not even the Guardian of the Sepulchre is there. Only the Patriarch knows. Whether he lights it with a lighter or anything else, he knows. We have historical testimonies over many centuries that say the candles of the Patriarch are lit on their own.

Synaxarion of the Holy Martyrs Leo and Paregorios

Sts. Leo and Paregorios (Feast Day - February 18)


To Paregorios.
The bound flesh of Paregorios was assaulted,
Having consolation in great crowns.

To Leo.
Wounded Leo was strengthened by God above,
Forcibly dragged he was steadfast as a lion.

Of these two martyrs, blessed Paregorios was punished with many types of tortures, and received the unfading crown of martyrdom being perfected in Christ. The renowned Leo remained a monk, and was unable to endure being separated from the Martyr Paregorios, and because he did not attain the crown of martyrdom, he bitterly wept and lamented. He therefore left the place where the relic of Saint Paregorios was buried, weeping, and his heart became inflamed with a longing for martyrdom.

Saint Kosmas of Yakhrom (+ 1492)

St. Kosmas of Yakhrom (Feast Day - February 18)

In his youth Saint Kosmas of Yakhrom, due to the lack of material means from his parents, was unable to receive a full education, so he was put in service to a God-fearing nobleman, who educated him. During a prolonged illness of the nobleman he would read books to him.

And so, traveling from city to city in search of a doctor to find a cure, they happened to stop at the River Yakhroma. Here in the woods an icon of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos appeared to Kosmas in a tree covered in a heavenly light, and he heard a voice commanding him to become a monk and to build a monastery. His sick master then received healing from the icon, and Kosmas, having completed his service, went to the Kiev Caves Lavra.

Saint Nicholas, Catholicos of Georgia (+ 1591)

Nicholas Batonishvili was the son of Levan I, King of Kakheti (1520-1574). He lived during the grievous period of the Persian invasion of eastern Georgia. The young prince chose the path of monastic life and bravely helped his elder brother, King Alexander II (1574-1605).

Despite his royal blood, he preferred the monk’s habit and the sweet, light yoke of Christ to the glamour and opulence of his inheritance.

Holy Martyr Pioulios

St. Pioulios the Martyr (Feast Day - February 18)


I hope to suffer all, Pioulios said,
Only to be beheaded, without suffering damage.

The Holy Martyr Pioulios met his end by the sword.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Ecumenical Patriarchate Canonizes Seven New Martyrs of Kastoria

On Friday 14 February 2020 the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate listed among the saints of the Orthodox Church seven New Martyrs of Kastoria. This was done at the proposal of Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria. Though this canonization was announced by the Holy Synod on October 3, 2019, the Act itself was not signed until now.

Saint Auxibios, Bishop of Soli in Cyprus

St. Auxibios of Soli (Feast Day - February 17)


Auxibios was not overlooked by the Word,
Appearing at the end of his life in His presence.

Saint Auxibius was born in Rome to a wealthy family. He was raised with his brother Themistagoras, and from an early age he displayed remarkable talents. In the schools of Rome he easily learned the secular sciences. His parents wanted their son to marry. Learning of this, the youth secretly left Rome and arrived in the village of Limnites, not far from the city of Soli in Cyprus.

Saint Barnabas of Gethsemane (+ 1906)

St. Barnabas of Gethsemene (Feast Day - February 17)

Saint Barnabas was born on January 24, 1831 in the village of Prudishchi of the Venevsky district of the Tula province. His name in the world was Vasily Ilyich Merkulov, the last of seven children born to pious peasant parents Ilya and Daria Merkulov.

On December 23, 1857 he became a novice of the Gethsemane Monastery of the Trinity-Sergius Lavra, and only after almost ten years, on November 20, 1866, he took monastic tonsure under the name of Barnabas.

Saint Theodosius of Trnovo (+ 1363)

St. Theodosius of Trnovo (Feast Day - November 27)

Saint Theodosius began his exploit in the Bulgarian city of Vidin, at the Nikolaev Monastery. After the death of the abbot Job he settled near Trnovo, then the capital city of Bulgaria, at the Holy Mountain Monastery of the Most Holy Theotokos in search of a spiritual guide.

He left the Holy Mountain Monastery and for a long time went from monastery to monastery. Finally, he learned about the monastery called Paroria, so named because it was on the border between Bulgaria and Byazantium, where in pursuit of asceticism Saint Gregory of Sinai had moved from Athos. Saint Theodosius found in him an experienced guide of the hesychastic life.

Saint Theodore the Silent of the Kiev Caves

St. Theodore the Silent of the Kiev Caves (Feast Day - February 17)

Venerable Theodore the Silent of the Kiev Caves Lavra lived in the thirteenth century and was particularly noted for his silence, which he kept in order to dwell constantly in the remembrance of God, and to safeguard himself from temptation even by a word and not sin with his tongue. By this life he pleased the Lord and received from him the gift of wonderworking. According to the results of anthropological research, he died at the age of 40-45 years. His relics rest in the Far Caves.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

A Prayer of Repentance by St. Symeon the New Theologian

A Prayer of Repentance

By St. Symeon the New Theologian

O Master, Lord of heaven and earth,
I know that I have sinned before You,
more than any human being,
more than even the irrational animals and reptiles,
and I am not worthy to ever receive any mercy from You.
Therefore, I would not have dared
to draw near or to fall down before You,
O King, lover of man,
had I not heard your holy voice saying:
"I do not at all desire the death of the sinner,
but that he may return and live."
And again: "There is joy in heaven
over one sinner who repents."
I remember, also, the parable of the Prodigal Son,
which You have said, O Master,
that when he returned,
before he had drawn near to You,
You, O compassionate one, came to him
and fell upon his neck
and kissed him affectionately.
Hence, taking courage from the ocean
of your goodness,
I have come near to You
with pain, sadness, and grief in my heart,
even though I am still hardened
and wounded sorely and lie in misery
In the depths of the Hades
of my transgressions.
But, from now on,
I give you my word, O Lord,
that as long as You order me
to remain alive and in this body,
I will not forsake You,
nor will I turn back,
neither will I ever touch vain and evil things.
But You, O my God, know my weakness,
my wretchedness, my faintheartedness,
and my old predispositions,
which are going to torture and oppress me.
Therefore, as I fall before You,
help me and forsake me not;
neither allow me to be ridiculed
and mocked for long by the enemy,
for from now on I am your servant, O Good One.

From The Discourses, "On Penance", Ch. 30.

"The Prodigal Son is the Perfect Example of the Repentant Sinner" (St. Justin Popovich)

By St. Justin Popovich

Only the gospel of Christ fully knows the mystery of sin and the problem of sin and everything which hides within it. The prodigal son of the Gospel is the perfect example of the repentant sinner. The Gospel shows us that man, through his free will, can share his life with Earth and with Heaven, with Satan and with God, with Paradise and with Hell. Sin gradually strips man of everything divine in him, paralyzes his every divine inclination and desire, until it finally throws him into the bosom of Satan. And then man reaches the plight of grazing the swine of his master, the Devil. The swine are passions, which are always greedy and gluttonous. In such a life, the unfortunate man is nothing more than insane.

"The Week of the Prodigal Speaks So Much To Us!" (St. Theophan the Recluse)

By St. Theophan the Recluse

The week of the prodigal speaks so much to us!

It speaks about our peace and satisfaction in the house of the heavenly Father.

About our mad departure from the Father’s guardianship to unbridled freedom.

About the richness of the heritage given us despite our disobedience.

About its reckless waste on all sorts of indecencies, and about our utter impoverishment as a result.

Sunday of the Prodigal Son: Epistle and Gospel Reading

Sunday of the Prodigal Son

 Epistle Reading

Prokeimenon. Mode 2.
Psalm 117.14,18
The Lord is my strength and my song.
Verse: The Lord has chastened me sorely.

The reading is from St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians 6:12-20


Brethren, "all things are lawful for me," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful for me," but I will not be enslaved by anything. "Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food" -- and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, "The two shall become one flesh." But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body and in your spirit which belong to God.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Saint Dalmatius of Siberia (+ 1697)

Saint Dalmatius is venerated as a pioneer of the movement that took many ascetics to dwell in the wilderness of Siberia, establishing a new company of Desert Fathers and causing the Russian Far North to be called the 'Northern Thebaid.' He was born in Tobolsk and reared in piety by his family, recently-converted Tatars. When grown, he entered the imperial army as a Cossack and served with such distinction that the Tsar awarded him a noble title. He married and lived in Tobolsk in comfort and prosperity. One day — after the destruction of Tobolsk in a great fire in 1643 — struck by a realization of the vanity of worldly things, he left family, wealth and property and went to a monastery in the Ural Mountains, taking with him only an icon of the Dormition of the Theotokos.

The Mystery of the Apostle Onesimus

We read about Onesimus in Saint Paul's Epistle to Philemon, where we read that he had fled to Paul while he was in prison probably in Rome to escape punishment for a theft of which he was accused. After hearing the gospel from Paul, Onesimus converted to Christianity. Paul, having earlier converted Philemon to Christianity, sought to reconcile the two by writing the letter to Philemon. Some believe Onesimus was a servant of Philemon, and since Philemon was converted by Paul, Onesimus fled to Paul to mediate on his behalf.

Saint Paphnutius the Recluse of the Kiev Caves

St. Paphnutius the Recluse of the Kiev Caves (Feast Day - February 15)

Of the little we know about Venerable Paphnutius, we are told that he constantly wept and sighed throughout his life about the time of the separation of his soul from his body, how angels and demons would surround his soul at that hour, and reminds him of his sins by thought, word or deed, known and unknown to him. He therefore walled himself up in his cell, completely renouncing the world and its pleasures. His fellow monks at the Kiev Caves Lavra would daily leave him a cup of water and some bread at his window. This was the custom at the Kiev Caves Lavra for those who lived as recluses, and if the water and bread were left untouched, it indicated to them that the recluse had died. He reposed around the 13th century.

The Church of the Holy Apostle Onesimos in the Exokionion Quarter of Constantinople

In the 10th century Book of Ceremonies (Bk. 1, Ch. 17) by Emperor Constantine Porphyrogennetos we read that on the feast of Mid-Pentecost, which landed on a Wednesday, the Emperor would lead a procession from his palace in Constantinople to the Church of Saint Mokios. There we have a reference to a church dedicated to Saint Onesimos, which the procession would pass when they entered the Exokionion district, and when they arrived at this church, they turned right and passed the Church of Saint James the Persian. This is the earliest reference to a church in Constantinople dedicated to this disciple of the Apostle Paul and slave of Philemon, who is commemorated in the Synaxarion of Constantinople on February 15th.

Friday, February 14, 2020

The Myth of the Pagan Origins of Valentine's Day

By John Sanidopoulos

Many of the events and actions of the celebrants on Valentine's Day are derived from the ancient and pagan Roman feast of Lupercalia. One of the customs of the young people in this feast of Lupercalia was name-drawing. On the eve of the festival the names of Roman girls were written on slips of paper and placed into jars. The boys individually drew girls' names from a box, and became paired with them until the following Lupercalia. The girl whose name was chosen was to be the boy's sweetheart during the feast and for the remainder of the year. The activities between the "sweethearts" at the feast was pretty wanton and very sexually oriented. Later, when Catholic priests wanted to abolish heathen customs, they assimilated the pagan custom by "Christianizing" it as a celebration of some "Christian" character or characteristic. In this case they substituted the names of saints for the names of girls in the drawing lot and later Pope Gelasius, who didn't like or believe in the Roman gods, turned the celebration into a church holiday by honoring St. Valentine's death on this day.

If you rely on what the majority of sources say about the history of Valentine's Day, the above summary is pretty much what you will get, often with additions to make the whole history of Valentine's Day appear more seedy and sinister. What you won't read however is the truth, because pretty much everything in the paragraph above is a lie. The truth of the matter is that the origins of Valentine's Day has absolutely nothing to do with a pagan holiday, nor is there anything seedy and sinister about it.

But why does everyone get it so wrong?

It all begins in the year 1756. This is the year Alban Butler published his Lives of the Saints, where we read the following about St. Valentine the Martyr commemorated on February 14th: "To abolish the heathens' lewd superstitious custom of boys drawing the names of girls, in honor of their goddess Februata Juno, on the 15th of this month, several zealous pastors substituted the names of Saints in billets given on this day."

Next we will jump to 1807, when the antiquarian Francis Douce embellished this explanation of Butler by offering a fuller description of the Roman festival, which he assumed to be Lupercalia, saying that it was celebrated "during the great part of the month of February...in honor of Pan and Juno.... On this occasion, amidst a variety of ceremonies, the names of young women were put into a box, from which they were drawn by the men as chance directed." Douce then goes on to repeat Butler's account of the attempt to transform the Roman custom by substituting saint's names. He concluded that "as the festival of the Lupercalia had commenced about the middle of February, [the Christians] appear to have chosen Saint Valentine's day for celebrating the new feast; because it occurred nearly at the same time."

Finally, we come to 1972 when Alfred Kellogg and Robert Cox published Chaucer, Langland, Arthur. These two men offered the most complex version of the story - linking Lupercalia, Valentine and Chaucer. There we read how Pope Gelasius in 495 abolished Lupercalia and replaced it with a Christian festival of comparable importance that took place forty days after the birth of Christ - the Presentation of Christ or Purification of the Virgin or Candlemas celebrated on February 14th. They based this on a study by Cardinal Baronius in the 16th century. When the feast of the Presentation was transferred from February 14th to February 2nd (to accord with the transfer of the Christmas from January 6th to December 25th), Kellog and Cox assume Saint Valentine accidentally became associated with purification and fertility.

This is the history in summary of how Valentine's Day became associated with the pagan festival of Lupercalia.

However, recent scholarship has thoroughly debunked all these claims, which are based on faulty assumptions and misunderstood data. Professor Jack B. Oruch of the University of Kansas ("St. Valentine, Chaucer, and Spring in February," 1981), Henry Ansgar Kelly of the University of California, Los Angeles (Chaucer and the Cult of Saint Valentine, 1986) and Associate Professor Michael Matthew Kaylor of the Masaryk University (Secreted Desires: The Major Uranians: Hopkins, Pater and Wilde, 2006) are the academics and researchers who have dismissed these antiquated claims.

These scholars charge that the traditions associated with "Valentine's Day", first documented in Geoffrey Chaucer's Parlement of Foules and set in the fictional context of an old tradition, did not exist before Chaucer. He argues that the speculative explanation of sentimental customs, posing as historical fact, had their origins among 18th century antiquaries, notably Alban Butler. The claim that the modern customs of Saint Valentine's Day originate from the Roman Lupercalia customs they find to be unconvincing: they say there is no proof that the modern customs of Saint Valentine's Day can be traced to the Lupercalia, and the claim seems to originate from misconceptions about the festivities. They further argue that there is no written record of Pope Gelasius ever intending a replacement of Lupercalia.

Below are some facts to consider:

1. The name Valentine was popular in the Roman Empire. Several emperors and a pope bore the name. It is estimated that about thirty Valentine's and a few Valentina's were recognized as saints, primarily through martyrdom. The two most noteworthy were a Roman priest and the Bishop of Terni, both of whom were supposedly beheaded on February 14th by an emperor named Claudius, and buried on the Flaminian Way within sixty miles of each other. The earliest biographies of these two saints we know of date to the 6th or 7th century.

2. The name Valentine does not appear in the earliest list of Roman martyrs in 354, but there was a Saint Valentine venerated at this time based on the fact that Pope Julius I in the mid-4th century built a basilica to Saint Valentine in Rome. In the seventh century it was a major shrine, the first encountered by pilgrims coming from the north, and the Flaminian Gate nearby was then called the Gate of Saint Valentine. By the 13th century, Saint Valentine was widely venerated, his relics were in various churches, and shrines were built in his honor, including four churches in Rome.

3. The feast of the Presentation of Christ indeed was at one time celebrated on February 14th, but this only took place in the Christian East and never in Rome or the West. Furthermore, by the late 4th century Christians in the East and the West were celebrating Christmas on December 25th, which transferred at that time the feast of the Presentation from February 14th to the 2nd in the East. Pope Gelasius did not institute the feast of the Presentation, nor did he celebrate it on February 14th, nor did he celebrate it at all. In fact, the feast was not celebrated in the West until around the middle of the 7th century.

4. Pope Gelasius had nothing to do with the canonization of St. Valentine nor did he have anything to do with establishing February 14th as a feast of St. Valentine. St. Valentine was probably already honored on February 14th, or this started within a few centuries, but there is no record of associating the feast with Pope Gelasius.

5. There is no doubt that the Lupercalia continued till the time of Pope Gelasius (A.D. 494‑96). It is mentioned by Augustine in the latter part of the City of God (written not far from 426), and it is included in the calendar of the Christian Polemius Silvius, of 448/9. When it was finally abolished by the efforts of Gelasius, he addressed to a group of senators an epistle defending the step, which approximates the length of an apologetic treatise. He admits that the old pagan rite had continued under his predecessors, through the days of Alaric, Anthemius, and Ricimer, and had been abolished only in his own time; but he defends the earlier popes by saying that ills could not be healed at once, and that perhaps they had tried to remove this superstition but had failed to win the support of the imperial court.

6. It must be stated that even in the days of Pope Gelasius, Lupercalia was merely a folk custom, a feeble survival of old pagan Rome in what was then a very Christian Rome. In fact, Lupercalia had entirely lapsed decades before, but the customs revived in order to bring some happiness into the gloomy lives of the people of Rome at the time. When Pope Gelasius condemned this revival, he made absolutely no attempt to replace it with anything nor did he compromise in any way with pagan customs. He merely threatened with excommunication anyone who celebrated the pagan customs.

7. The first time we encounter an association between St. Valentine and love is in Geoffrey Chaucer's Parlement of Foules from the late 14th century. He associated Valentine's Day with the spring mating season of birds. This association immediately gained popularity, striking the literary and poetic imagination in places like England and France. Before Chaucer, St. Valentine was associated with healing sick and handicapped children, but these stories did not inspire the poetic imagination. Chaucer was likely aware that the head of St. Valentine was venerated in the English capital of Winchester, and though the name was not popular in England it was considered beautiful and aristocratic. Valentine's Day therefore began to emerge simply because it coincided with events in nature and the beginning of farming on his feast day (February 14th at that time being equivalent to the weather of late February in modern times) because the weather began to warm.

8. In his 1882 article "St. Valentine's Day," John W. Hales correctly pointed out that the Lupercalia never involved the pairing of lovers or a lottery. The first suggestion of a lottery for lovers on Valentine's Day occurs in the 15th century in the poems of Lydgate and Charles d'Orleans. The only known attempt to suppress the practice and substitute the names of lovers with those of saints was St. Francis de Sales early in his career as bishop at Annecy in 1603. Butler's ideas were prompted, in all probability, by a confused knowledge of the date of this isolated event; a less charitable explanation would attribute his remarks to wishful or pious fantasy.

Much more can be said, but the academic studies on this subject mentioned above can satisfy those with a keen interest in the details. What we do find is that there are still modern scholars and hundreds of internet articles who subscribe to the false beliefs about Valentine's Day that have been thoroughly refuted since at least the 1980's. The problem is that when people write about a subject, they repeat rumors and myths without checking the facts. Checking the facts requires research, and research takes time because you have to base your findings on original sources. Fortunately for us, this research has been done by accomplished scholars, and from now on there should be no excuse for lazy writers in associating Valentine's Day with myths and false information.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Saint Seraphima of Sezenovo (+ 1877)

St. Seraphima of Sezenovo (Feast Day - February 13)

Saint Seraphima, in Baptism named Euphemia Morgacheva, was born on September 14, 1806 in the village of Nisne-Lomov in the diocese of Ryazan to a large peasant family. She refused to marry, and her parents did not interfere, seeing her natural tendency to solitude.

When she was eighteen she went on a pilgrimage to Kiev, and on the way received the blessing from the clairvoyant recluse John of Sezenovo. He advised her to not stay in Kiev, saying that the hens and the chickens will soon need her to watch over them. By this he predicted her future as abbess of the Sezenovsky Monastery.

Saint George, Archbishop of Mogilev (+ 1795)

St. George of Mogilev (Feast Day - February 12)

Saint George, in the world known as Gregory Iosifovich Konissky, was born into a prominent family on November 20, 1717 in the town of Nizhyn in Ukraine.

He studied at the Kiev Theological Academy from 1728 to 1743, where he perfectly mastered the Latin, Polish, Greek, Hebrew and German languages.

On August 11, 1744 he became a monk at the Kiev Caves Lavra.

In 1745, he became a teacher of poetry (theory of versification) at the Kiev Theological Academy.

Holy Martyrs Father and Son

Holy Martyrs Father and Son (Feast Day - February 13)


A Father with his Son, suffered the crucifixion passion,
In the same way as the Father gave His Son to the passion.

The Holy Martyrs Father and Son met their end by crucifixion.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Saint Anthony III the Studite, Patriarch of Constantinople (+ 983)

St. Anthony III the Studite (Feast Day - February 12)


Anthony cared not for things below,
For which he was justly made worthy of the good things above.

Saint Anthony* was a monk at Stoudios Monastery in Constantinople. He became private secretary to Basil I, Patriarch of Constantinople. In the struggle for the papal throne waged by Pope Benedict VII (974–983) and the antipope Boniface VII, who was suspected of having executed the previous pope, Benedict VI, Basil supported the claims of the legitimately elected Benedict VII. Because of Emperor John I Tzimiskes’ support of the antipope, who was a guest at the court in Byzantium, Basil was deposed and Anthony installed as patriarch in 974.

Saint Alexis, Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia (+ 1378)

St. Alexis of Moscow (Feast Day - February 12 and May 20)

Saint Alexis was born in the year 1292 (or according to another source, 1304) at Moscow into the family of the noble Theodore Byakont, a descendant of the Chernigov princely line, and Maria. His name at Baptism was Eleutherius. He received an excellent education, eventually acquiring such competence in Greek that his translation of the Gospels was used as the basis of the printed Slavonic edition.

Saint Prochorus the Georgian (+ 1066)

St. Prokhor the Georgian (Feast Day - February 12)

Saint Prochorus the Georgian, a descendant of the noble Shavteli family, was born at the end of the 10th century and grew up in a monastery. When he reached manhood he was ordained a hieromonk and labored for one year at the Lavra of Saint Savvas in Jerusalem. Then, with the blessing of his spiritual father Ekvtime Grdzeli, he began the reconstruction of the Holy Cross Georgian Monastery near Jerusalem.

According to tradition, at this spot Abraham’s nephew Lot planted three trees — a cypress, a pine, and a cedar. Eventually these three trees miraculously grew into one large tree. When the Temple of Solomon was being built, this tree was cut down but left unused. It is said that the Cross on which Christ our Savior was crucified was constructed from the wood of this tree.

Saint Bassian of Uglich (+ 1509)

St. Bassian of Uglich (Feast Day - February 12);
photo shows what is left of the Trinity Ryabovsky Forest Monastery and
the area where the relics of St. Bassian are likely located

Saint Bassian of Uglich was a disciple of Saint Paisius of Uglich (June 6). He was born in the village of Rozhalov, in the Kesov district of the city of Bezhetsk Verkha. He was descended from the Shestikhin princes, whose ancestor was the prince Saint Theodore of Smolensk (Sept. 19).

Saint Bassian came to the Protection Monastery when he was thirty-three years of age in 1473, and was soon tonsured by Saint Paisius. He fulfilled his obediences without complaint and lived in great abstinence. In 1482, Saint Bassian discovered the Protection Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos on the banks of the Volga. Having spent twenty years at the Monastery of Saint Paisius, Saint Bassian then asked a blessing to live in silence. His teacher blessed him saying, “Go my child, be guided by Christ with the blessed yoke of the Lord as it pleases Him. Soon you yourself shall form your own monastery and gather a monastic flock to the glory of the the Most Holy Trinity.”

Holy Martyr Nikoloz Dvali of Jerusalem (+ 1314)

St. Nokoloz Dvali (Feast Day - February 12)

The Holy Martyr Nikoloz Dvali was born at the end of the 13th century to a God-fearing couple who directed his path toward the spiritual life.

At the age of twelve Nikoloz traveled to the Klarjeti Wilderness and was tonsured a monk. From there he made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and remained in the holy city, settling at the Holy Cross Monastery. Burning with desire for the apostolic life, Monk Nikoloz was determined to die a martyr’s death.

Holy Martyr Luka of Jerusalem (+ 1273)

St. Luka of Jerusalem (Feast Day - February 12)

The Holy Martyr Luka of Jerusalem lived in the 13th century. He was born to an honorable, pious Georgian family by the name of Mukhaisdze. After the repose of Luka’s father, his mother left her children and went to labor at a monastery in Jerusalem.

When Luka reached the age of twenty, he traveled to Jerusalem to visit his mother and venerate the holy places. After spending some time there he decided to remain and be tonsured a monk at Holy Cross Monastery. He was later ordained a deacon and became fluent in Arabic. Soon the brothers of the monastery recognized his wisdom and asked him to guide them as abbot. For three years Luka directed the monastery in an exemplary manner.

Holy Martyrs Plotinus and Satorninus

Sts. Plotinus and Satorninus the Martyrs (Feast Day - February 12)


The carcasses of those beheaded,
Satorninus and Plotinus were brought forth.

The Holy Martyrs Plotinus and Satorninus met their end by the sword.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Holy New Martyr George of Kratovo (+ 1515)

St. George of Karatovo (Feast Days - February 11 and May 26)


George not being afraid of the fire,
Remained unconsumed by the fire.

The Holy New Martyr George was born in 1497 in Kratovo of Serbia. His parents were Demetrios and Sarah. Young George received a fine upbringing, he attentively studied the Holy Scriptures, and he was pious and chaste. His father died when he was ten, so he had to support his family by taking on the trade of a goldsmith. Being a handsome young boy, in order to avoid being abducted, molested and indoctrinated by the Turks, he fled with his mother's approval to Sofia in Bulgaria when he was twelve. There he lived with a devout priest named Peter.

Saint Gobnata of Ballyvourney

St. Gobnata (Feast Day - February 11)

Saint Gobnata (or Gobnait, Gobnet, Deborah, Abigail) was born in County Clare of Ireland at the end of the fifth, or the beginning of the sixth century. Later she fled to the Aran Islands to escape from some enemy. An angel appeared to her one day and told her to leave that place, for it was not to be the place of her resurrection, and to keep walking until she found nine white deer.

She saw three white deer at Clondrohid, County Cork, and decided to follow them. Then at Ballymakeera, she saw six white deer. Finally, at Ballyvourney she came upon nine white deer grazing in a wood. There she was given land donated by the O'Herlihy family for a women’s monastery by her spiritual father Saint Abban of Kilabban, County Laois (March 16), and he installed her as abbess. Excavations in 1951 proved that indeed there had been an early Christian settlement on the site.

Saint Demetrius of Priluki the Wonderworker (+ 1406)

St. Demetrius of Priluki (Feast Day - February 11)

Saint Demetrius of Priluki the Wonderworker was born into a rich merchant’s family in Pereyaslavl-Zalessk. Receiving monastic tonsure and ordination at one of the Pereyaslavl monasteries, the Saint later founded the Saint Nicholas Monastery on the Saints Boris and Gleb Hill at the shore of Lake Plescheevo near the city, and became its abbot.

Holy Prince Vsevolod (in Baptism Gabriel), Wonderworker of Pskov (+ 1138)

St. Vsevolod-Gabriel of Pskov (Feast Day - February 11)

Holy Prince Vsevolod of Pskov, in Baptism Gabriel, the patron saint of the city of Pskov, ruled as Prince of Novgorod in 1117–32, Prince of Pereslavl in 1132 and Prince of Pskov in 1137–38. A grandson of Vladimir Monomakh, he was born at Novgorod, where in the years 1088-1093 and 1095-1117 his father ruled as prince. His father was the Holy Prince Mstislav-Theodore the Great (April 15) and his mother was Christina Ingesdotter of Sweden. In the year 1117, when Great Prince Vladimir Monomakh gave Mstislav Kievan Belgorod as his “udel” (land-holding), practically making him co-ruler, young Vsevolod remained as his father’s vicar in the Novgorod principality. He was married to a Chernigovian princess in Novgorod in 1123.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Saint Haralambos and the Outbreak of Scarlet Fever in the 1930's

Around 1930 in the village of Avra in Kalambaka, an infectious disease called scarlet fever struck. More than fifty children died. Some households lost two or three children at once. When one child died, there was no time to bury them when another child got sick and died. Shovels would be left at cemeteries in order to expedite the digging of graves. In an act of desperation, the faithful took recourse to Saint Haralambos, who is widely known for banishing infectious diseases and plagues. They sought help from the nearby Monastery of Saint Stephen at Meteora, and monks there brought to their village the wonderworking skull of Saint Haralambos. As the monks came bearing the sacred skull, the bells rang and all the people went out to greet the Saint. A Sanctification of the Waters ceremony took place and a procession brought the skull to every part of the village. Immediately after this, death became suppressed and the disease was banished by the grace of the Saint. From that day forward not a single child in the village died again from scarlet fever.

Saint Ioannikios, Father Confessor of the Dormition Holy Mountain Hermitage (+ 1882)

By Bishop Nikodim (Kononov) of Belgorod

Hieromonk Ioanikkios (in the world Trophimos N. Averkiev) was born in 1823 and was named Trophimos in Holy Baptism. His parents were Government-owned peasants in Orlov Province, and they had a large family. Trophimos was one of the younger children. The boy was quite bright and also very pious. He loved to be in church, and if his mother went to church for the Feast Days he always begged to go along. This, however, was not easy. The village where they lived was not near the church. They had to cross a stream on the way, and the bridge was so old and rotten that once Trophimos fell in and caused his mother to be delayed. Therefore, she did not always take him with her. Most of the time, she left him at home. When he stayed at home, Trophimos wept bitterly because she would not bring him to church. He felt drawn there by some “overpowering force,” as he expressed himself later in life.

Holy Princess Anna of Novgorod (+ 1051)

St. Anna of Novgorod (Feast Days - October 17 and February 10)

The Holy Princess Anna of Novgorod, who before becoming a nun was called Ingigerd, was the eldest daughter of the Swedish king Saint Olof Shotkonung (994-1022), nicknamed "the most Christian king," and Estrid of the Obotrites. In 1008, the king, his family and friends received Holy Baptism. Ingigerd received an exceptional education for a woman of that time: she studied scripture, literature, and history. She was a true daughter of the Scandinavian Viking Age and therefore from an early age enjoyed great freedom, participated in the public life of her homeland, traveled, received guests, and had a good command of weapons. Historical sources especially note her intelligence, courage, and great influence on others.

Saint Longinus of Koryazhemsk (+ 1540)

St. Longinus of Koryazhemsk (Feast Day - February 10)

Saint Longinus of Koryazhemsk first pursued asceticism at the Monastery of Saint Paul of Obnora, and then lived at the Saints Boris and Gleb Solvychegod Monastery. From there he settled with his friend Simon Soiginsky near Vychegda, toward the mouth of the Koryazhema river.

Saint John Chimchimeli the Philosopher

St. John of Petritsi (Feast Day - February 10)

Little information about the life of Saint John of Chimchimeli (or John of Petritsi) has been preserved, but we know that he was a great translator, philosopher, and defender of the Georgian Christian faith from the 11th-12th century.

He is reported to have been born into an aristocratic family from the province of Samtskhe, and educated at Constantinople under the tutelage of Michael Psellos and John Italus. After the fall of Italus, John seems to have fled to the Georgian Monastery of Petritsoni in Bulgaria, whence comes his epithet "Petritsi."

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Homily on Humility (St. Basil the Great)

Homily on Humility

By St. Basil the Great

Would that man had abided in the glory which he possessed with God he would have genuine instead of fictitious dignity. For he would be ennobled by the power of God, illumined with divine wisdom, and made joyful in the possession of eternal life and its blessings. But, because he ceased to desire divine glory in expectation of a better prize, and strove for the unattainable, he lost the good which it was in his power to possess. The surest salvation for him, the remedy of his ills, and the means of restoration to his original state is in practicing humility and not pretending that he may lay claim to any glory through his own efforts but seeking it from God. Thus will he make amends for his error, thus will he be cured of his malady, thus will he return to the observance of the holy precept which he has abandoned. For the Devil, having caused man’s ruin by holding out to him the hope of false glory, ceases not to tempt him still by the same allurements and he devises innumerable schemes to this end. For instance, he represents a large fortune to him as a great good, so that man will regard it as a cause for boasting and expend effort to obtain it. Wealth, however, leads not to glory but to great peril. To build a fortune is to lay the foundation for avarice and the acquisition of money bears no relation to excellence of character. Rather, it blinds a man to no purpose, arouses vain conceit, and produces in his soul an effect something like an inflamed swelling. Now, a tumour combined with inflammation is neither healthful nor beneficial to the body, but unwholesome, injurious, a source of danger, and a cause of death.

Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee: Epistle and Gospel Reading

Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee

 Epistle Reading

Prokeimenon. Mode 1.
Psalm 32.22,1
Let your mercy, O Lord, be upon us.
Verse: Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous.

The reading is from St. Paul's Second Letter to Timothy 3:10-15


Timothy, my son, you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, my sufferings, what befell me at Antioch, at lconion, and at Lystra, what persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

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