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1. St Martin the Confessor, Pope of Rome.

Martin became Pope on July 5th, 649, at the time of a furious quarrel between the Orthodox and the Monothelite heretics. Constans the Second, Heraclius' grandson, was on the throne at the time, and Paul was Patriarch of Constantinople. To restore peace in the Church, the Emperor himself wrote a dogmatic decree, the Typos, which leaned heavily towards heresy. Pope Martin summoned a Council of 105 bishops, at which the Emperor's statement was condemned. At the same time, the Pope wrote a letter to Patriarch Paul, begging him to uphold the purity of the Orthodox faith and to counsel the Emperor to reject the theories of the heretics. This letter infuriated both the Patriarch and the Emperor. The Emperor sent one of his generals, Olympius, to take the Pope to Constantinople in bonds. The general did not dare to bind the Pope with his own hands, but instructed one of his soldiers to kill him with the sword in church. But, when the soldier entered the church with his sword concealed, he was instantly blinded. So, by the providence of God, Martin escaped death. At that time, the Saracens fell upon Sicily, and Olympius went off there, where he died. Then, by the intrigues of the heretic Patriarch Paul, the Emperor sent a second general, Theodore, to bind and take the Pope on the charge that he, the Pope, was in collusion with the Saracens and that he did not reverence the most holy Mother of God. When the general arrived in Rome and read the accusation against the Pope, he replied that it was libel; that he had no contact of any sort with the Saracens, the opponents of Christianity, 'and whoever does not confess the most holy Mother of God and do her reverence, let him be damned in this age and in that which is to come'. But this did not affect the general's decision. The Pope was bound and taken to Constantinople, where he lay long in prison in great sickness, tortured by both anxiety and hunger, until he was finally sentenced to exile in Cherson, where he lived for two years before his death. He gave his soul into the hands of the Lord, for whom he had suffered so greatly, in 655. The evil Patriarch, Paul, died two years before him and, when the Emperor visited him on his deathbed, he smote his head against the wall, confessing with tears that he had greatly sinned against Pope Martin and asking the Emperor to set Martin free.

2. The Holy Martyrs Antony, John and Eustace.

These three were all at first pagans and fire-worshippers. They were slaves at the court of the Lithuanian Prince Olgard in Vilna. Their former names were Krugletz, Kumetz and Neghilo. All three were baptised by a priest called Nestor. The three of them were hanged, one behind the other, from the same oak tree in 1347. Christians cut down this oak and built a church dedicated to the Holy Trinity, in which they laid the precious relics of these martyrs, making the Holy Table from the stump of the tree. Their relics are preserved in Vilna.

3. The Holy Martyr Ardalion the Actor.

He was at first an actor, a comedian. For the merriment of the crowd, his favourite role was a burlesque of martyrs for the Faith that mocked the Christians in every possible way. But when a persecution of Christians arose under Maximian, his spirit changed entirely. He called out in a loud voice before the crowd that he was a Christian, and that they must not laugh. For this, Ardalion was tried and suffered for Christ, and died bound on a red-hot iron litter, playing the role of martyr in very truth and with honour.

From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK