19 February 2019

Saint Anastasia the Great-Martyr and Deliverer from Potions

The Great Martyr Anastasia the Deliverer from Potions, a Roman by birth, suffered for Christ at the time of Diocletian’s persecution of Christians. Her father was a pagan, but her mother was secretly a Christian. Saint Anastasia’s teacher in her youth was an educated and pious Christian named Chrysogonus. After the death of her mother, her father gave Saint Anastasia in marriage to a pagan named Publius, but feigning illness, she preserved her virginity.

Clothing herself in the garb of a beggar, and accompanied by only one servant, she visited the prisons. She fed, doctored and often ransomed captives who were suffering for their faith in Christ. When her servant told Publius about everything, he subjected his wife to a beating and locked her up at home. Saint Anastasia then began to correspond secretly with Chrysogonus, who told the saint to be patient, to cleave to the Cross of Christ, and to accept the Lord’s will. He also foretold the impending death of Publius in the sea. After a certain while Publius did indeed drown, as he was setting out with a delegation to Persia. After the death of her husband, Saint Anastasia began to distribute her property to the poor and suffering.

Diocletian was informed that the Christians who filled the prisons of Rome stoically endured tortures. He gave orders to kill them all in a single night, and for Chrysogonus to be sent to him at Aquileia. Saint Anastasia followed her teacher at a distance.

The emperor interrogated Chrysogonus personally, but could not make him renounce his faith. Therefore, he commanded that he be beheaded and thrown into the sea. The body and severed head of the holy martyr were carried to shore by the waves. There by divine Providence, the relics were found by a presbyter named Zoilus who placed them in a coffer, and concealed them at his home.

Saint Chrysogonus appeared to Zoilus and informed him that martyrdom was at hand for Agape, Chione and Irene (April 16), three sisters who lived nearby. He told him to send Saint Anastasia to them to encourage them. Saint Chrysogonus foretold that Zoilus would also die on the same day. Nine days later, the words of Saint Chrysogonus were fulfilled. Zoilus fell asleep in the Lord, and Saint Anastasia visited the three maidens before their tortures. When these three martyrs gave up their souls to the Lord, she buried them.

Having carried out her teacher’s request, the saint went from city to city ministering to Christian prisoners. Proficient in the medical arts of the time, she zealously cared for captives far and wide, healing their wounds and relieving their suffering. Because of her labors, Saint Anastasia received the name Deliverer from Potions (Pharmakolytria), since by her intercessions she has healed many from the effects of potions, poisons, and other harmful substances.

She made the acquaintance of the pious young widow Theodota, finding in her a faithful helper. Theodota was taken for questioning when it was learned that she was a Christian. Meanwhile, Saint Anastasia was arrested in Illyricum. This occurred just after all the Christian captives there had been murdered in a single night by order of Diocletian. Saint Anastasia had come to one of the prisons, and finding no one there, she began to weep loudly. The jailers realized that she was a Christian and took her to the prefect of the district, who tried to persuade her to deny Christ by threatening her with torture. After his unsuccessful attempts to persuade Saint Anastasia to offer sacrifice to idols, he handed her over to the pagan priest Ulpian in Rome.

The cunning pagan offered Saint Anastasia the choice between luxury and riches, or grievous sufferings. He set before her gold, precious stones and fine clothing, and also fearsome instruments of torture. The crafty man was put to shame by the bride of Christ. Saint Anastasia refused the riches and chose the tools of torture.

But the Lord prolonged the earthly life of the saint, and Ulpian gave her three days to reconsider. Charmed by Anastasia’s beauty, the pagan priest decided to defile her purity. However, when he tried to touch her he suddenly became blind. His head began to ache so severely that he screamed like a madman. He asked to be taken to a pagan temple to appeal to the idols for help, but on the way he fell down and died.

Saint Anastasia was set free and she and Theodota again devoted themselves to the care of imprisoned Christians. Before long, Saint Theodota and her three sons accepted a martyrdom. Her eldest son, Evodus, stood bravely before the judge and endured beatings without protest. After lengthy torture, they were all thrown into a red-hot oven.

Saint Anastasia was caught again and condemned to death by starvation. She remained in prison without food for sixty days. Saint Theodota appeared to the martyr every night and gave her courage. Seeing that hunger caused Saint Anastasia no harm whatsoever, the judge sentenced her to drowning together with other prisoners. Among them was Eutychianus, who was condemned for his Christian faith.

The prisoners were put into a boat which went out into the open sea. The soldiers bored holes in the boat and got into a galley. Saint Theodota appeared to the captives and steered the ship to shore. When they reached dry land, 120 men believed in Christ and were baptized by Saints Anastasia and Eutychianus. All were captured and received a martyr’s crown. Saint Anastasia was stretched between four pillars and burned alive. A certain pious woman named Apollinaria buried her body, which was unharmed by the fire, in the garden outside her house.

In the fifth century the relics of Saint Anastasia were transferred to Constantinople, where a church was built and dedicated to her. Later the head and a hand of the Great Martyr were transferred to the monastery of Saint Anastasia Deliverer from Potions, near Mount Athos.

Troparion — Tone 4
Your lamb Anastasia, calls out to You, O Jesus, in a loud voice:
“I love You, my Bridegroom, and in seeking You I endure suffering.
In baptism I was crucified so that I might reign in You, and I died so that I might live with You.
Accept me as a pure sacrifice,
for I have offered myself in love.”
Through her prayers save our souls, since You are merciful.

Troparion — Tone 5
As a martyr you emulated the deeds of the martyrs,
To whom you ministered,
And, striving valiantly, you overcame the enemy.
You are an abundant and overflowing source of grace
For all who come to you, O godly-minded Anastasia!

Kontakion — Tone 2
Those in temptations and afflictions hasten to your temple
And are restored by the grace that dwells in you,
For you ever pour forth healings for all the world,
O great Martyr Anastasia!

17 February 2019

Saint Nicholas of Japan, Apostle to the Japanese

Saint Nicholas, Enlightener of Japan, was born Ivan Dimitrievich Kasatkin on August 1, 1836 in the village of Berezovsk, Belsk district, Smolensk diocese, where his father served as Deacon. At the age of five he lost his mother. He completed the Belsk religious school, and afterwards the Smolensk Theological Seminary. In 1857 Ivan Kasatkin entered the Saint Peterburg Theological Academy. On June 24, 1860, in the academy temple of the Twelve Apostles, Bishop Nectarius tonsured him with the name Nicholas.

On June 29, the Feast of the foremost Apostles Peter and Paul, the monk Nicholas was ordained deacon. The next day, on the altar feast of the academy church, he was ordained to the holy priesthood. Later, at his request, Father Nicholas was assigned to Japan as head of the consular church in the city of Hakodate.

At first, the preaching of the Gospel in Japan seemed completely impossible. In Father Nicholas’s own words: “the Japanese of the time looked upon foreigners as beasts, and on Christianity as a villainous sect, to which only villains and sorcerers could belong.” He spent eight years in studying the country, the language, manners and customs of the people among whom he would preach.

In 1868, the flock of Father Nicholas numbered about twenty Japanese. At the end of 1869 Hieromonk Nicholas reported in person to the Synod in Peterburg about his work. A decision was made, on January 14, 1870, to form a special Russian Spiritual Mission for preaching the Word of God among the pagan Japanese. Father Nicholas was elevated to the rank of archimandrite and appointed as head of this Mission.

Returning to Japan after two years in Russia, he transferred some of the responsibility for the Hakodate flock to Hieromonk Anatolius, and began his missionary work in Tokyo. In 1871 there was a persecution of Christians in Hakodate. Many were arrested (among them, the first Japanese Orthodox priest Paul Sawabe). Only in 1873 did the persecution abate somewhat, and the free preaching of Christianity became possible.

In this year Archimandrite Nicholas began the construction of a stone building in Tokyo which housed a church, a school for fifty men, and later a religious school, which became a seminary in 1878.

In 1874, Bishop Paul of Kamchatka arrived in Tokyo to ordain as priests several Japanese candidates recommended by Archimandrite Nicholas. At the Tokyo Mission, there were four schools: for catechists, for women, for church servers, and a seminary. At Hakodate there were two separate schools for boys and girls.

In the second half of 1877, the Mission began regular publication of the journal “Church Herald.” By the year 1878 there already 4115 Christians in Japan, and there were a number of Christian communities. Church services and classes in Japanese, the publication of religious and moral books permitted the Mission to attain such results in a short time. Archimandrite Nicholas petitioned the Holy Synod in December of 1878 to provide a bishop for Japan.

Archimandrite Nicholas was consecrated bishop on March 30, 1880 in the Trinity Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky Lavra. Returning to Japan, he resumed his apostolic work with increased fervor. He completed construction on the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in Tokyo, he translated the service books, and compiled a special Orthodox theological dictionary in the Japanese language.

Great hardship befell the saint and his flock at the time of the Ruso-Japanese War. For his ascetic labor during these difficult years, he was elevated to the rank of Archbishop.

In 1911, half a century had passed since the young hieromonk Nicholas had first set foot on Japanese soil. At that time there were 33,017 Christians in 266 communities of the Japanese Orthodox Church, including 1 Archbishop, 1 bishop, 35 priests, 6 deacons, 14 singing instructors, and 116 catechists.

On February 3, 1912, Archbishop Nicholas departed peacefully to the Lord at the age of seventy-six. The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church glorified him on April 10, 1970, since the saint had long been honored in Japan as a righteous man, and a prayerful intercessor before the Lord. He is commemorated on February 16th in the New Calendar and February 3rd on the old calendar. For his successful apostolic and evangelistic efforts, he was named Equal-to-the-Apostles and the Apostle to Japan.

Troparion — Tone 4
O holy saint Nicholas
The enlightener of Japan,
You share a dignity and the throne of the Apostles;
You are a wise and faithful servant of Christ,
A temple chosen by the Divine Spirit,
A vessel overflowing with the love of Christ.
O hierarch equal to the Apostles,
Pray to the Life-Creating Trinity
For all your flock and for the whole world.

16 February 2019

HOW TO: Find Orthodox Theological Academies in the United States of America

So, you've decided that youy would like attend an Orthodox Christian pastoral or theological academy, college, house of studies, institute, seminary, university, etc., but not sure what is available for you in America? Then this blog post is for you. Here are the 12 solid higher learning facilities in the U.S.A. that you will want to consider, sorted by the states in which they reside followed by alphabetic order:

ALASKA
  1. Saint Herman Theological Seminary in Alaska (OCA)

CALIFORNIA
  1. Great Martyr Euphemia Orthodox Theological Academy in California (JP)
  2. Saint Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology in California (AOCANA)
  3. Saints Cyril & Athanasius Institute for Orthodox Studies in California (ROCOR)

ILLINOIS
  1. Orthodox Pastoral School in Illinois (ROCOR)
  2. Saint Sava School of Theology in Illinois (SOCNASA)

NEW JERSEY
  1. Saint Sofia Orthodox Theological Seminary in New Jersey (UOCUSA)

NEW YORK
  1. Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary in New York (ROCOR)
  2. Saint Vladimir Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York (OCA)

PENNSYLVANIA
  1. Christ the Saviour Seminary in Pennsylvania (ACROD)
  2. Saint Stephen House of Studies in Pennsylvania (AOCANA)
  3. Saint Tikhon Orthodox Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania (OCA)

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