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1. The Holy Martyr Arethas.

This holy martyr suffered for the Christian faith with more than four thousand other Christians: priests, monks and nuns, townsmen and women and children. Arethas was the local governor of the town of Negran, in the land of Omir in southern Arabia, and was ninety-five years old when he suffered. The land of Omir was governed by a Jew called Dunaan, a vicious persecutor of Christians. Resolving to exterminate Christianity completely in his land,, he laid siege to the Christian town of Negran and told the citizens that, if they did not deny Christ, he would put them all to death. The citizens closed the gates, and Dunaan attacked the city wall for a long time without success. Then the iniquitous governor swore to the citizens that he would do nothing to them if they opened the gate for him to enter and take the tribute owing to him, saying that he would then go away at once. The Christians believed him, and opened the gates. Then the bloodthirsty Jew summoned the aged Arethas to him, along with his clergy and other eminent citizens, and slew them all with the sword, and then indulged in a riot of butchery through the town. Hearing of this, the Byzantine Emperor, Justin, was greatly distressed and wrote a letter to the Ethiopian Emperor Elesbaan, urging him to set out with an army against Dunaan and avenge the Christian blood that had been spilled. Elesbaan obeyed Justin, attacked the governor of Omir, overcame him, slaughtered his entire army and put him to the sword. A devout man called Abramius was installed as ruler of Omir by God's revelation and, as archbishop, also by God's revelation, St Gregory (see Dec. 19th). In Negran, the Christians rebuilt the Church of the Holy Trinity that Dunaan had burned, and built a church to the holy martyr Arethas and the other martyrs of that city. They suffered and received wreaths of martyrdom from the Lord in 523.

2. St Elesbaan, Emperor of Ethiopia.

Inflamed with love for Christ, this devout Emperor raised an army against Dunaan, the wicked persecutor of Christians in the land of Omir, but he was unsuccessful in the early stages of the battle and many of his soldiers perished in the and desert. He then lamented bitterly to God, and promised to become a monk if God would help him overcome the shedder of Christian blood. Defeating Dunaan, Elesbaan returned to Ethiopia and immediately left the imperial court and went to a monastery, where he lived in strict asceticism as a true monk for a whole fifteen years, God giving him wonderworking gifts both before and after his death. He entered into rest in 555.

3. The Icon: 'Joy of all who Sorrow'.

This is the name given to one of the wonderworking icons of the most holy Mother of God, and today is especially the commemoration of the miraculous healing of Euphemia, sister of Patriarch Joachim, in Moscow in 1688. Euphemia had a dangerous wound in the side and, when the doctors were unsuccessful in their treatment of it, she fell down in prayer before the most holy Mother of God. She then heard a voice: 'Euphemia, go to the Church of the Transfiguration of my Son; there you will find the icon "Joy of all who Sorrow". Ask the priest to pray before that icon, and you will be healed.' Euphemia did this, and was immediately completely healed.

4. Our Holy Father Arethas of the Kiev Caves.

He went to the Lord in 1190 (see the passage for consideration below).

Author's note: In the Greek Synaxarion, the holy martyr Sebastiana, a disciple of the Apostle Paul, who suffered for the Faith in the year 82, in the time of the Emperor Dornitian, is also commemorated. She was first tortured in the city of Marcianopolis, where the Apostle Paul appeared to her and said: 'Rejoice, and do not be sad, for you will go from here to your own town to confess your faith in Christ.' And so it came to pass: the judge sent her to her birthplace, Heracleia, where she was tortured and finally beheaded. Her remains were put in a sack and thrown into the sea, but an angel of God took them to a place called Risiston, where Ammia, the wife of a senator, found them and gave them burial. Her relics had healing power and gave off myrrh.


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