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1. Our Holy Father Bessarion.

Born and educated in Egypt, he devoted himself to the spiritual life at an early age, and 'never soiled the spiritual garment in which he was clothed at his baptism'. He visited St Gerasim by the Jordan and learned from St Isidore of Pefusium. He conquered his flesh in strict fasting and vigils, but, as far as possible, hid his asceticism from men. He once spent forty days in prayer, neither eating nor sleeping, and had one single garment that he wore summer and winter. He had a great gift of wonderworking. He had no fixed abode, but lived in the mountains and forests, healing the sick and performing many other miracles to help men and glorify God. He entered peacefully into rest in 466. (In the Greek Prologue, this saint is commemorated on February 20th.)

2. Our Holy Father Hilarion the New.

Abbot of the Dalmatian monastery in Constantinople, he was a disciple of Gregory of Decapolis and an imitator of the life of Hilarion the Great, whose name he took. Strong in prayer, enduring and courageous in suffering, he suffered much for the sake of the holy icons in the days of the iconoclast Emperors, Leo the Armenian and others. Then the Emperor Leo was killed by his personal bodyguard in the very church and at the very spot where he had first scoffed at the holy icons and from which he had removed the first icon, and holy Hilarion was let out of prison - but only for a while. He was again tortured and held in prison right up to the time of the Orthodox Empress Theodora. He was gifted with insight and discernment, and saw angels of God taking the soul of St Theodore the Studite to heaven. Being pleasing to God, he entered into rest in the Kingdom of heaven in 845, at the age of seventy.

3. Our Holy Mothers, the Martyrs Archelais, Thecia and Susanna.

As pure and virginal nuns, they lived the ascetic life in an unknown monastery near Rome. When a persecution of Christians arose under the wicked Emperor Diocletian, they fled to Campania and settled near the town of Nola. Their holy life could not be concealed, and people from nearby began to come to them for counsel, instruction and help in various trials and sicknesses, and they were finally seized by the pagans and taken for trial. They publicly and freely confessed their faith in Christ. When the judge, Leontius, questioned holy Archelais about the Christian faith, she replied: 'It is by the power of Christ that I overcome the power of the devil and teach the people understanding and knowledge of the one, true God. By the name of my Lord Jesus Christ, the onlybegotten Son of God, it is given that, through me His servant, the sick find healing.' All three maidens were whipped, flogged with heavy staves, left to languish in prison and finally beheaded. When they were led out to the scaffold, angels appeared to them, which were seen by some of the executioners and inspired such fear in them that they dared not lift up their swords against the holy maidens. They, however, urged the executioners to finish their task. And thus, as lambs, were they beheaded in the year 293, and went to the Kingdom of Christ to rest in eternity and delight in beholding the face of God.


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