Commemorated the Sunday of the Forefathers and always before Christmas.
The life of Abraham can be found in the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament, Chapters 12-25. His constant obedience to God has earned him the title of "Righteous" and is a wonderful example so that we may offer our own obedience and love to God.
Anna, the Prophetess icon
Orthodox icon of Prophetess Anna, Hannah, the mother of Prophet Samuel.
Commemorated December 9.
The Holy Prophetess Hannah dwelt in marriage with Elkanah, but she was childless. Elkanah took to himself another wife, Phennena, who bore him children. Hannah grieved strongly over her misfortune, and every day she prayed for an end to her barrenness, and vowed to dedicate her child to God.
Once, as she prayed fervently in the Temple, the priest Heli thought that she was drunk, and he began to reproach her. But the saint poured out her grief, and after she received a blessing, she returned home. After this Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son, whom she named Samuel (which means “Asked from God”).
When the child reached the age of boyhood, the mother herself presented him to the priest Heli, and Samuel remained with him to serve before the Tabernacle (1 Kings/1 Samuel 2: 1-21).
Apostles' Council Icon
Orthodox Icon of the Council (Synaxis) of the Twelve Apostles of Christ.
Commemorated on June 30.
The Synaxis of the Glorious and All-Praiseworthy Twelve Apostles of Christ appears to be an ancient Feast. The Church honors each of the Twelve Apostles on separate dates during the year, and has established a general commemoration for all of them on the day after the commemoration of the Glorious and First-Ranked among the Apostles Peter and Paul. SAINT PETER June 29 and January 16, SAINT ANDREW November 30, SAINT JAMES, THE SON OF ZEBEDEE April 30, SAINT JOHN THE THEOLOGIAN September 26 and May 8, SAINT PHILIP November 14, SAINT BARTHOLOMEW June 11 and August 25, SAINT THOMAS October 6, SAINT MATTHEW THE EVANGELIST November 16, SAINT JAMES, THE SON OF ALPHAEUS October 9, SAINT THADDEUS OR JUDE, THE BROTHER OF JAMES June 19, SAINT SIMON THE ZEALOT May 10, SAINT MATTHIAS August 9, SAINT PAUL June 29.
Here is how each of them died: St. Peter was crucified upside down.St. Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross.Saint James, the son of Zebedee was beheaded.Saint John the Theologian died in a miraculous manner.St. Philip was crucified.St. Bartholomew was crucified, scraped and beheaded.St. Thomas was pierced with five spears.Saint Matthew the Evangelist was burned alive.Saint James, the son of Alphaeus was crucified.Saint Thaddeus or Jude, the Brother of James was crucified.Saint Simon the Zealot was crucified.Saint Matthias was stoned and then was beheaded after death.Saint Paul was beheaded. Emperor Constantine the Great built a grand church in Constantinople in honor of the Twelve Apostles were their relics were collected. Most Emperors and many patriarchs and bishops were also buried in the church. The Church was looted during the Fourth Crusade in 1204. In 1461, following the fall of Constantinople to Mehmed, the church was taken over by the Ottomans who demolished it to make way for the Fatih Mosque.
Orthodox icon of the Holy Forefathers, Abraham, Isak and Jacob.
Orthodox icon of the Holy Parents Anna and Joachim with Theotokos.
Ss. Anna and Joachim icon
Orthodox icon of Saints Joachim and Anna, parents of the Most Holy Theotokos and Ancestor of God.
Commemorated September 9th.
Saint Joachim, the son of Barpathir, was of the tribe of Judah, and was a descendant of King David, to whom God had revealed that the Savior of the world would be born from his seed. The couple lived at Nazareth in Galilee. They were childless into their old age and all their life they grieved over this. They had to endure derision and scorn, since at that time childlessness was considered a disgrace. They never grumbled, but fervently prayed to God, humbly trusting in Him.
Once, during a great feast, the gifts which Joachim took to Jerusalem as an offering to God were not accepted by the priest Reuben, who considered that a childless man was not worthy to offer sacrifice to God. This pained the old man very much, and he, regarding himself the most sinful of people, decided not to return home, but to settle in solitude in a desolate place. When St Anna learned what humiliation her husband had endured, she sorrowfully entreated God with prayer and fasting to grant her a child. In his desolate solitude the righteous Joachim also asked God for this. The prayer of the saintly couple was heard.
An angel told them that a daughter would be born to them, Who would be blessed above all other women. He also told them that She would remain a virgin, would be dedicated to the Lord and live in the Temple, and would give birth to the Savior. Obeying the instructions of the heavenly messenger, Sts Joachim and Anna met at the Golden Gate in Jerusalem. Then, as God promised, a daughter was born to them and they named her Mary. St Joachim died a few years later at the age of 80, after his daughter went to live in the Temple.
St Anna died at the age of 70, two years after her husband. Sts Joachim and Anna are invoked by couples trying to have children. Saint Anna was the daughter of Matthan the priest, who was of the tribe of Levi. St Anna's family came from Bethlehem. St Anna lived with her husband Joachim at Nazareth in Galilee. They were childless into their old age and all their life they grieved over this. They had to endure derision and scorn, since at that time childlessness was considered a disgrace. They never grumbled, but fervently prayed to God, humbly trusting in Him.
Once, during a great feast, the gifts which Joachim took to Jerusalem as an offering to God were not accepted by the priest Reuben, who considered that a childless man was not worthy to offer sacrifice to God. This pained the old man very much, and he, regarding himself the most sinful of people, decided not to return home, but to settle in solitude in a desolate place. When St Anna learned what humiliation her husband had endured, she sorrowfully entreated God with prayer and fasting to grant her a child. In his desolate solitude the righteous Joachim also asked God for this. The prayer of the saintly couple was heard. An angel told them that a daughter would be born to them,
Who would be blessed above all other women. He also told them that She would remain a virgin, would be dedicated to the Lord and live in the Temple, and would give birth to the Savior. Obeying the instructions of the heavenly messenger, Sts Joachim and Anna met at the Golden Gate in Jerusalem. Then, as God promised, a daughter was born to them and they named her Mary. St Joachim died a few years later at the age of 80, after his daughter went to live in the Temple. St Anna died at the age of 70, two years after her husband.
Ss. Aquila and Priscilla the Apostles icon
Orthodox icon of the Apostles and Martyrs Aquila, and Priscilla.
Commemorated on February 13
Protectors Saints of: Spouses
Aquila and his wife Priscilla (or Prisca) were Jews from Pontus who settled in Rome, where they worked as tent-makers. When the Emperor Claudius expelled all Jews from Rome in 49-50, they moved to Corinth. (They may already have been Christians; at that time the Empire made no distinction between Christians and Jews.) In Corinth they hosted the Apostle Paul, who lived and worked with them for awhile (Acts 18:1-3). They worked diligently with the Apostle, traveled with him, and were considered worthy to bring Apollos (December 8) to a full knowledge of the Faith (Acts 18:26)
Priscilla and Aquila returned to Rome around 58, and later went to Ephesus; they were living there when St Paul asked his disciple Timothy, Bishop of Ephesus, to greet them (2 Tim. 4:19). It was probably in Ephesus that they were martyred by the pagans.
Ss. Arsenius the Cappadocian and Paisios icon
Orthodox icon of Saints Arsenius, Arsenios the Cappadocian and Paisios, Paisius the Elder of Mount Athos.
Ss. Athanasius and Cyril icon
Orthodox icon of Saints Athanasios and Cyril, Patriarchs of Alexandria Icon of 13th cent.
Commemorated January 18.
Ss. Athanasius and Cyril icon (2)
Orthodox icon of Saints Athanasius and Cyril, Patriarchs of Alexandria (2).
Commemorated January 18th.
NOTE: the sizes are approximately.
In the half-century after the First Ecumenical Council held in Nicea in 325, if there was one man whom the Arians feared and hated more intensely than any other, as being able to lay bare the whole error of their teaching, and to marshal, even from exile or hiding, the beleaguered forces of the Orthodox, it was Saint Athanasios the Great. This blazing lamp of Orthodoxy, which imperial power and heretics' plots could not quench when he shone upon the lampstand, nor find when he was hid by the people and monks of Egypt, was born in Alexandria about the year 296. He received an excellent training in Greek letters and especially in the sacred Scriptures, of which he shows an exceptional knowledge in his writings.
Even as a young man he had a remarkable depth of theological understanding; he was only about twenty years old when he wrote his treatise "On the Incarnation." Saint Alexander, the Archbishop of Alexandria, brought him up in piety, ordained him his deacon, and after deposing Arius for his blasphemy against the Divinity of the Son of God, took Athanasios to the First Council in Nicea in 325. Saint Athanasios was to spend the remainder of his life laboring in defense of this Holy Council. In 326, before his death, Alexander appointed Athanasios his successor.
In 325, Arius had been condemned by the Council of Nicea; yet through his hypocritical confession of Orthodox belief, Saint Constantine the Great was persuaded by Arius's supporters that he should be received back into the communion of the Church. But Athanasios, knowing well the perverseness of his mind, and the disease of heresy lurking in his heart, refused communion with Arius. The heresiarch's followers then began framing false charges against Athanasios. Finally Saint Constantine the Great, misled by grave charges of the Saint's misconduct (which were completely false), had him exiled to Tiberius (Treves) in Gaul in 336.
When Saint Constantine was succeeded by his three sons Constantine II, Constans, and Constantius, in 337, Saint Athanasios returned to Alexandria in triumph. But his enemies found an ally in Constantius, Emperor of the East, and he spent a second exile in Rome. It was ended when Constans prevailed with threats upon his brother Constantius to restore Athanasios (see also Nov. 6). For ten years Saint Athanasios strengthened Orthodoxy throughout Egypt, visiting the whole country and encouraging all: clergy, monastics, and lay folk, being loved by all as a father.
After Constans's death in 350, Constantius became sole Emperor, and Athanasios was again in danger. On the evening of February 8, 356, General Syrianus with more than five thousand soldiers surrounded the church in which Athanasios was serving, and broke open the doors. Athanasios's clergy begged him to leave, but the good shepherd commanded that all the flock should withdraw first; and only when he was assured of their safety, he also, protected by divine grace, passed through the midst of the soldiers and disappeared into the deserts of Egypt, where for some six years he eluded the soldiers and spies sent after him. When Julian the Apostate succeeded Constantius in 361, Athanasios returned again, but only for a few months.
Because Athanasios had converted many pagans, and the priests of the idols in Egypt wrote to Julian that if Athanasios remained, idolatry would perish in Egypt, the heathen Emperor ordered not Athanasios's exile, but his death. Athanasios took a ship up the Nile. When he learned that his imperial pursuers were following him, he had his men turn back, and as his boat passed that of his pursuers, they asked him if he had seen Athanasios. "He is not far," he answered. After returning to Alexandria for a while, he fled again to the Thebaid until Julian's death in 363.
Saint Athanasios suffered his fifth and last exile under Valens in 365, which only lasted four months because Valens, fearing a sedition among the Egyptians for their beloved Archbishop, revoked his edict in February, 366. The great Athanasios passed the remaining seven years of his life in peace. Of his fifty-seven years as Patriarch, he had spent some seventeen in exiles. Shining from the height of his throne like a radiant evening star, and enlightening the Orthodox with the brilliance of his words for yet a little while, this much-suffering champion inclined toward the sunset of his life, and in the year 373 took his rest from his lengthy sufferings, but not before another luminary of the truth - Basil the Great - had risen in the East, being consecrated Archbishop of Caesarea in 370.
Besides all of his other achievements, Saint Athanasios wrote the life of Saint Anthony the Great, with whom he spent time in his youth; ordained Saint Frumentius first Bishop of Ethiopia; and in his Paschal Encyclical for the year 367 set forth the books of the Old and New Testaments accepted by the Church as canonical. Saint Gregory the Theologian, in his "Oration On the Great Athanasios", said that he was "Angelic in appearance, more angelic in mind; ... rebuking with the tenderness of a father, praising with the dignity of a ruler ... Everything was harmonious, as an air upon a single lyre, and in the same key; his life, his teaching, his struggles, his dangers, his return, and his conduct after his return ... he treated so mildly and gently those who had injured him, that even they themselves, if I may say so, did not find his restoration distasteful." Saint Cyril was also from Alexandria, born about the year 376.
He was the nephew of Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria, who also instructed the Saint in his youth. Having first spent much time with the monks in Nitria, he later became the successor to his uncle's throne in 412. In 429, when Cyril heard tidings of the teachings of the new Patriarch of Constantinople, Nestorius, he began attempting through private letters to bring Nestorius to renounce his heretical teaching about the Incarnation. When the heresiarch did not repent, Saint Cyril, together with Pope Celestine of Rome, led the Orthodox opposition to his error.
Saint Cyril presided over the Third Ecumenical Council of the 200 Holy Fathers in the year 431, who gathered in Ephesus under Saint Theodosius the Younger. At this Council, by his most wise words, he put to shame and convicted the impious doctrine of Nestorius, who, although he was in town, refused to appear before Cyril. Saint Cyril, besides overthrowing the error of Nestorius, has left to the Church full commentaries on the Gospels of Luke and John. Having shepherded the Church of Christ for thirty-two years, he reposed in 444.
St. Achilles icon
Orthodox icon of Saint Achilles.
Commemorated May 15.
Saint Achilles, Bishop of Larissa, lived during the fourth century, during the reign of St Constantine the Great. He became Bishop of Larissa in Thessaly. St Achilles participated in the First Ecumenical Council, denouncing the teaching of the heretic Arius. He preached the Gospel in his city, destroyed pagan temples, and built and adorned churches. St Achilles had the gift of healing sickness, especially demonic possession, and he worked many miracles. Saint Achilles died about the year 330. His relics have been in Prespa, Bulgaria (now the village of Akhila, renamed in honor of the saint) since 978.
St. Adamantine the Virgin- Martyr icon
Orthodox icon of Saint Adamantine the Virgin-Martyr.
Commemorated September 1st.
Saint Adamantine is one of the 40 Woman Martyrs of Thrace.The 40 Holy Virgins and Saint Ammoun the Deacon, were from Adrianopolis in Macedonia (Greece). Deacon Ammoun was their guide in Christian Faith. They were captured by Baudos the governor, and were tortured because they would not offer sacrifice to idols. The holy martyrs endured many cruel torments, which were intended to force them to renounce Christ and worship idols. Later, they were sent to Heraklea in Thrace to appear before the tyrant Licinius. The valiant martyrs remained unshakeable, however. St Ammoun and eight of the virgins were beheaded, ten virgins were burned, six of them died after heated metal balls were put into their mouths, six were stabbed with knives, and the rest were struck in the mouth and stabbed in the heart with swords.
St. Agatha of Palermo icon
Orthodox icon of Saint Agatha of Palermo.
Commemorated February 5th.
This Martyr, who was from Panormus (that is, Palermo) or perhaps Catania of Sicily, was a most comely and chaste virgin. After many exceedingly harsh torments, she gave up her spirit in prison at Catania in 251, because she did not consent to the seductions of Quintian, the Governor of Sicily. At her burial, an Angel placed a stone tablet on her grave inscribed with the words, "A righteous mind, self-determining, honor from God, the deliverance of her father-land." The following year this was fulfilled when Mount Etna erupted, spewing forth violent fire from which Catania was manifestly saved by Saint Agatha's prayers. The holy Martyr Agatha, the protectress and chief patroness of Sicily, is, with perhaps the exception of Saint Agnes of Rome, the most highly venerated Virgin Martyr of the West. Saint Damasus, Pope of Rome, and Saint Ambrose of Milan both wrote in praise of her.
St. Aglaia of Rome icon
Orthodox icon of Saint Aglaia of Rome, Aglaida, Aglae,
Commemorated December 19.
Saint Aglaida (Aglae) was a rich Roman woman and carried on an immoral relationship with her slave St Boniface. But they both felt the sting of conscience and they wanted somehow to be cleansed of their sin. And the Lord granted them the possibility to wash away their sin with their blood and to finish their life in repentance. Aglaida learned that whoever keeps relics of the holy martyrs in the home and venerates them receives great help in gaining salvation. Under their influence, sin is diminished and virtue prevails.
She arranged for Boniface to go to the East, where there was a fierce persecution against Christians, and she asked him to bring back the relics of some martyr, who would become a guide and protector for them. As he was leaving, Boniface laughed and asked, My lady, if I do not find any relics, and if I myself suffer for Christ, will you accept my body with reverence? Aglaida scolded him, saying that he was setting off on a sacred mission, but he was not taking it seriously. Boniface pondered her words, and during the whole journey he thought that he was unworthy of touching the bodies of the martyrs. Arriving in Tarsus, Boniface witnessed the sufferings of the martyrs and his heart was changed.
He cried out, I am also a Christian.He was arrested, tortured, and put to death, then slaves took his body back to Aglaida in Rome. On the eve of their arrival an angel appeared to Aglaida in her sleep and told her to prepare herself to receive her former slave, now the brother and fellow-servant of the angels. Aglaida summoned the clergy, and she received the holy relics with great reverence. Then she built a church on the site of his grave and dedicated it to the holy martyr. There she enshrined his relics, glorified by numerous miracles.
After distributing all her wealth to the poor, she withdrew to a monastery, where she spent fifteen years in repentance, then fell asleep in the Lord. She was buried beside St Boniface. The sins of the one were washed away by his blood, the other was purified by her tears and asceticism. Both were found worthy to appear unsullied before our Lord Jesus Christ, Who desires not the death of a sinner, but that he should turn from his wickedness and live (Ezek. 33:11).