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1. The Holy Martyr Pelagia of Tarsus.

Born in the town of Tarsus of pagan but noble and wealthy parents, she heard about Christ and the salvation of the soul from Christians, became inflamed with love for the Saviour and was a Christian in her soul. There was at that time a terrible persecution of Christians. It happened that the Emperor Diocletian himself stopped in Tarsus and that, during the time of his stay in the town, his son, the heir, fell deeply in love with Pelagia and wanted to make her his wife. Pelagia replied through her mother - a wicked woman - that she was already promised to her betrothed husband, Christ the Lord. Fleeing from the foul heir and her wicked mother, Pelagia sought and found Bishop Linus, a man renowned for his holiness. He instructed her in the Faith and baptised her. Then Pelagia gave away her luxurious clothing and great wealth, returned home and confessed to her mother that she was already baptised. Hearing of this, the Emperor's son, losing all hope of getting this holy maiden as his wife, ran himself through with a sword and died. Then the wicked mother denounced her daughter to the Emperor and she was taken for trial. The Emperor marvelled at the girl's beauty and, forgetting his son, burned with an impure passion for her. But when Pelagia remained unfaltering in her faith, the Emperor condemned her to be burned in a metal ox heated by fire. When they stripped the martyr, she signed herself with the sign of the Cross and, with prayers of thanksgiving to God on her lips, went into the ox, where, in the twinkling of an eye, she melted like wax. She suffered with honour in 287. Bishop Linus hunted for the remains of her bones and buried them on a hill under a stone. In the time of the Emperor Constantine Copronymos (741-775), a beautiful church was built on that site in honour of this holy virgin and martyr Pelagia, who was sacrificed for Christ to reign eternally with Him.

2. The Hieromartyr Silvanus, Bishop of Gaza.

He was at first in military service, but later, urged by the strength of his faith, he transferred to spiritual service. Accused of bringing many pagans to Christianity, he was at first brutally tortured then beheaded with forty other soldiers in 31 1, and thus became a citizen of heaven.

3. Our Holy Father Nicephorus the Hesychast.

He was at first a Catholic, but then became Orthodox. He lived in asceticism on the Holy Mountain as a monk, with the wise Theoleptus. He was a teacher of the famous Gregory Palamas, and wrote a work on mental prayer. He went peacefully to the Lord in the 14th century. He taught: 'Gather your mind and compel it to enter into your heart and remain there. When your mind is firmly in your heart, it must not remain empty, but must incessantly make the prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me!" And it must never fall silent. Through this the whole string of the virtues: love, joy, peace and the others, will make their abode in you, by which, then, every request of yours to God will be fulfilled.


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