Saints Anthousa, Athanasios, Charisimos and Neophytos
If any era can be called the age of miracles, it was that period of the third century, particularly during the age of Valerian.
When death approached him, Theophanes summoned his fellow monks, all of whom assured him that his work would be carried on with the same excellence that he had assumed throughout his lifetime of service to God.
When they had served their apprenticeship, the brothers had become not only master stonemasons but also deeply religious followers of Jesus Christ as well.
Myron was a native son of Patras, born in the third century to a man of considerable property, an estate which he passed to a son who did not bother to count or estimate it.
The Transfer of the Icon of Christ from Edessa
The many well-intentioned Crusaders that trekked across Europe centuries ago are remembered as hapless Christians whose missions were never fulfilled, but there are few items not taken by them in their capacity as souvenir hunters who made off with priceless treasures of the early Church, the most priceless of which was the miraculous linen icon of Jesus Christ.
As they stood in the sand of the arena praying for strength, a hungry lion was loosed in the arena. He made a charge at the praying figures, but stopped short as if held back by some unseen barrier.
History has proved that when a patriarch becomes a saint, he is so honored in spite of the fact that he was a patriarch and not because he was one, indicated by the few so honored who have been in and out of favor and so assailed by detractors.
Prior to his death, this saint named Laurentios had given evidence of his scorn for the enemies of the Savior by yet another expression of his figurative humor, offensive to Rome but not to heaven.
Saint Herman of Alaska
A courageous Russian monk with the highly improbable anglicized name of Herman (from the Greek Germanos and Slavonic German) is the first Orthodox saint canonized in the New World for his dedicated and heroic efforts in bringing the faith of Jesus Christ to the half-civilized natives of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska. The frigid wastes of the bleak islands, as well as Alaska, were inhabited by the descendants of the nomadic tribes that had crossed the Bering Sea, many of them presumed to be from the Siberian area of Russia. For that reason, the Aleuts had a sense of kinship with the Russian missionaries.
The man who was to become St. Herman of Alaska was born in 1756 in the city of Serpukhov, which was within the diocese of Moscow and was therefore influenced by the great prelates of the Russian capital. From childhood, Herman showed a predilection for the Church and while yet in his early youth was admitted to the Monastery of Trinity-Sergius near the Gulf of Finland, about ten miles from St. Petersburg. While serving his novitiate, he had an experience that was to inspire him to a lifetime of intense devotion to the word of Jesus Christ. He became seriously ill and when it seemed he could not survive, he resigned himself to an untimely end; however, as he prayed for deliverance, the Virgin Mary appeared to him in a vision, after which he was completely cured. The miraculous event was a constant inspiration throughout a lifetime of rugged frontier service to the Lord.
While in the Lord’s service at the Monastery of Valaam, on Lake Ladoga, he was selected with nine other monks by the Church of Russia to serve in the remote outposts of the Aleutian Islands, the outermost reaches of the sprawling country of Russia which exceed even the stark Siberia in desolation and rigor. The missionary work of these hardy monks had been made more difficult by privateers who had preceded them and had exploited the harmless seal hunters, most of whom considered all strangers in their midst to be intruders bent on their own selfish manipulation. The natives soon found that Herman and his company were men of goodwill whose spiritual trading posts brought them nourishment for the soul.
A monastic center was formed on Spruce Island of the Aleutian chain and was named New Valaam by Herman out of respect for the cloister whose relative comfort and security he had left for the harshness of this isolated strand. It was from this spiritual center that Herman served the people of Alaska, as well as the islands, for forty years, during which time his fellow monks dwindled in number until the sole survivor was the venerable Herman. His work for the good of the Aleuts and Alaskans was carried on alone until it was augmented by replacements from Mother Russia. Under the direction of
Herman, the natives were taught how to make the most of the tillable land that their short summer season would allow.
Each passing day saw Herman converting to Orthodox Christianity a people who, after eighteen centuries, still had not heard the name of Jesus Christ. Seemingly abandoned by the rest of the world, these hardy souls came to know the meaning of faith, with churches in which they could worship and schools in which their children could be educated. Even the traders and mariners who had once considered this desolate land a stopping place where they could replenish their supplies, now remained for a time to visit with an enlightened colony. Herman and his monastery were visited because of his reputation for piety and hospitality as well.
Herman acquired with the years a nearness to the Divine which gave him powers of healing, but this served to make him all the more humble and seek complete isolation for meditation and prayer. He was denied this eremitic asceticism by the clamor of scores who sought not only his healing but also his counsel. He managed to divide his time between the service to these people in churches and hospitals and the serenity of his monastic cell, to which he would retire ever mindful of the vision he had received in his youth.
A monk in the purest sense to the last, Herman never returned to his native Russia. He died miles away from his homeland, and, in accordance with his last wish, was buried on Spruce Island. He was canonized as a saint August 9, 1970.
Saint Myron of Crete
The Christian charity of a humble Cretan farmer was carried to such an extreme in one of his many acts of kindness that he was looked upon as a saintly man long before he became a priest. Ultimately, he became one of the best-loved saints of the Orthodox Church. Known and respected as a kindly man, Myron was born and raised in that part of the island known as Knossos, tilling the soil with an industriousness inherited from generations of hardworking peasants who loved the earth and its Creator. It took ceaseless hours of toil to wrest from this land the life-sustaining crops which are harvested with greater ease and abundance with the scientific rotation of crops and other soil conservation methods known today.
Compared to most on this poverty-stricken island, Myron was a man of affluence, but it was only through tireless effort that his farm prospered. Others were less yielding for lack of hard labor born of dedication to a high purpose in life, to say nothing of Christian dedication that allows only one day of rest per week and oftentimes less than that. As a result of his industry and resourcefulness, he had more to market than most. But some of his customers, if not most, were lacking ready cash, and Myron’s flourishing farm took on all aspects of a nonprofit organization.
The greater the need, the harder Myron worked and the more he gave away. Finally, he was threatened with bankruptcy, but a highly unusual incident of generosity proved him once and for all to be a man of divine purpose. One night he surprised two thieves who were stuffing a small sack with grain. They dropped the sack in terror and were about to flee when Myron calmly told them that the sack they had brought with them was not much larger than a purse, and he proceeded to give them a much larger sack. He told them to fill it with grain, and if that was not enough, they could come back for more.
He added that they need not come under the cover of darkness, but were free to come in God’s daylight with the assurance they would not be turned away. This marvelous exhibition of Christian charity was soon public knowledge, and he was besieged not only with well-wishers, but by those offering to help him. This eased his burden to give him more time for the church he was also assisting.
Eventually, Myron turned his farm over to a group sworn to its proper maintenance and development in the interest of charity only. This accomplished, he answered the call to Christ that had been within him for many years and entered into formal study for the priesthood. He was ordained after years of study in which he displayed not only a keen intellect and warm heart, but a proximity to God manifested in deeds that could be called nothing but miracles. These were not just miracles of faithful healing, but other manifestations of the power of God through His pious servant.
Known as the “Merciful Myron,” he served with selfless devotion, denying himself for the sake of others less fortunate. Eventually, he was rewarded by being named bishop of Knossos, an office he was to hold for the incredibly long period of seventy years, in the course of which there was an abundance of his touch of grace in too many instances to be enumerated. One account of unusual circumstances has to do with the relief of a community whose flocks were being systematically killed by one or more of the wild beasts that roamed the region, in some cases becoming man-killers.
Myron took up a vigil with a herd of sheep, and his patience was rewarded when a much-feared beast appeared. But, as it was about to pounce on an innocent lamb, the bishop pointed accusingly, and the animal dropped dead on the spot. From there on, there were no more marauders to prey on the herds, and the scattered peasants resumed their peaceful ways, freed from the fear of the beast whose companions, if any, never reappeared.
On another occasion Myron was traveling on an errand of mercy when he was forced to cross the Triton River, swollen from recent rains and flowing with a current that made passage impossible. While his companions watched, Myron placed his staff in the river and the raging waters were calmed. On the return trip the waters were found to have become brackish. After re-crossing, the staff again was dipped and the river resumed its flow.
He is said to have been one hundred years old when he died on August 8, c. 350.