†) Martyrs Attalos, Kamasis, Zotikos and Philippos from Niculiţel; St. Metrophanes the first Patriarch of Constantinople; Righteous Mary and Martha the sisters of Lazarus

Martyrs Attalos, Kamasis, Zotikos and Philippos of Niculitsel

The graves of Saints Zoticus, Atallus, Camisius and Philippos were discovered in 1971.

Lesser Scythia (modern Romania), between the Danube and the Black Sea in the northeastern territory of the Roman Empire, was a place of exile or death for Christians who refused to worship the pagan gods. During the persecutions of Decius (249-251), Diocletian and Maximilian (284-305), and Licinius (308-324) thousands of people died there from cold, hunger, or torture.

The relics of those who endured martyrdom because they openly proclaimed their faith in Christ were taken by Christians and buried in secret places. Accounts of the lives and sufferings of these holy martyrs were written and preserved so they would not be forgotten.

When the persecutions ended, the relics were moved from their temporary resting places and placed in special crypts (martyria). Churches were built over these crypts, and the ruins of some of them may be seen today in Dobrogea.

In September 1971 a creek overflowed its banks near the village of Niculițel in the county of Tulcea, revealing one of the oldest of these martyria. The crypt, which is made of bricks, is divided into two rooms, one on top of the other. In the upper room, the relics of four martyrs were found in a single wooden coffin.

All had been decapitated. The heads of three martyrs were found atop their necks, while the head of the fourth martyr was resting on his chest. An inscription on the left wall reads: “Christ’s martyrs.” The names of the four martyrs (Zoticus, Attalus, Camasius, and Philip) were scratched into the right wall.

According to the records which have been preserved, these martyrs were tried by the Roman authorities of Noviodunum (modern Isaccea) and sentenced to death. They were beheaded, then buried at Niculițel. The exact date of their martyrdom is not known.

Some believe that they were slain early in the fourth century during the persecutions of Diocletian or Licinius. Others, however, think the four men may have been martyred north of the Danube during the persecution of the Gothic king Athanaric (370-372) against the Christians.

About a hundred fragments of the bones of two men (aged between 45-50) were found in the lower crypt. It is thought that they died during the persecution of Decius, and then their relics were reinterred at Niculițel around 370-380. The names of these martyrs are not known.

The Syrian Martyrologion and Saint Jerome’s Martyrologion give June 4 as the date of the martyrs’ execution. The Synaxaria list these four martyrs along with six others: Eutychius, Quirinus, Julia, Saturninus, Ninita, Fortunio. Twenty-five others were also beheaded with these martyrs, but are not named.

The relics of these holy martyrs were moved to the Cocoș Monastery in 1971, where they are venerated by the faithful.

Troparion – Tone 4

Your holy martyrs Attalos, Kamasis, Zotikos and Philippos, through their sufferings have received incorruptible crowns from You, our God. For having Your strength, they laid low their adversaries, and shattered the powerless boldness of demons. Through their intercessions, save our souls!

St. Metrophanes, Patriarch of Constantinople

Saint Metrophanes, Patriarch of Constantinople, was a contemporary of Saint Constantine the Great (306-337). His father, Dometius, was a brother of the Roman emperor Probus (276-282). Seeing the falseness of the pagan religion, Dometius came to believe in Christ.

During a time of terrible persecution of Christians at Rome, Saint Dometius set off to Byzantium with two of his sons, Probus and Metrophanes. They were instructed in the law of the Lord by Bishop Titus, a man of holy life.

Seeing the ardent desire of Dometius to labor for the Lord, Saint Titus ordained him presbyter. After the death of Titus first Dometius (272-303) was elevated to the bishop’s throne, and thereafter his sons, Probus (303-315) and in 316 Saint Metrophanes.

The emperor Constantine once came to Byzantium, and was delighted by the beauty and comfortable setting of the city. And having seen the holiness of life and sagacity of Saint Metrophanes, the emperor took him back to Rome.

Soon Constantine the Great transferred the capital from Rome to Byzantium and he brought Saint Metrophanes there. The First Ecumenical Council was convened in 325 to resolve the Arian heresy. Constantine the Great had the holy Fathers of the Council bestow upon Saint Metrophanes the title of Patriarch. Thus, the saint became the first Patriarch of Constantinople.

Saint Metrophanes was very old, and was not able to be present at the Council, and he sent in his place the chorepiscopos (vicar bishop) Alexander. At the close of the Council the emperor and the holy Fathers visited with the ailing Patriarch.

At the request of the emperor, the saint named a worthy successor to himself, Bishop Alexander. He foretold that Paul (at that time a Reader) would succeed to the patriarchal throne after Alexander. He also revealed to Patriarch Alexander of Alexandria that his successor would be the archdeacon Saint Athanasius.

Saint Metrophanes reposed in the year 326, at age 117. His relics rest at Constantinople in a church dedicated to him.

It should be noted that the Canons to the Holy Trinity in the Midnight Office in the Octoechos were not composed by this Metrophanes, but by Bishop Metrophanes of Smyrna, who lived in the middle of the ninth century.

Troparion — Tone 1

You proclaimed the great mystery of the Trinity, O good shepherd, / and manifested Christ’s dispensation to all, / dispersing the spiritual wolves who menaced your rational flock, / saving the lambs of Christ who cry: / Glory to him who has strengthened you! / Glory to him who has exalted you! / Glory to him who through you has fortified the Orthodox Faith!

Righteous Mary and Martha, sisters of Righteous Lazarus

The righteous sisters Martha and Mary were believers in Christ even before He raised their brother Saint Lazarus (October 17) from the dead. After the murder of the holy Archdeacon Stephen a persecution against the Jerusalem Church broke out, and Righteous Lazarus was cast out of Jerusalem.

The holy sisters then assisted their brother in the proclaiming of the Gospel in various lands.

Sts Martha and Mary are also commemorated on the Sunday of the Myrrh-bearing Women.

Tr by oca.org

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