Saint Anna was the daughter of the priest Matthan and his wife Mary. She was of the tribe of Levi and the lineage of Aaron. According to Tradition, she died peacefully in Jerusalem at age 79, before the Annunciation to the Most Holy Theotokos.
During the reign of Saint Justinian the Emperor (527-565), a church was built in her honor at Deutera. Emperor Justinian II (685-695; 705-711) restored her church, since Saint Anna had appeared to his pregnant wife. It was at this time that her body and maphorion (veil) were transferred to Constantinople.
Portions of Saint Anna’s holy relics may be found on Mount Athos: Stavronikita Monastery (part of her left hand), Saint Anna’s Skete (part of her incorrupt left foot), Koutloumousiou Monastery (part of her incorrupt right foot). Fragments of her relics may also be found in her Monastery at Lygaria, Lamia, and in the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian at Sourota.
Part of the saint’s incorrupt flesh is in the collection of Saints’ relics of the International Catholic Crusaders. The church of Saint Paul outside the Walls in Rome has one of the saint’s wrists.
Saint Anna is also commemorated on September 9.
The Fifth Ecumenical Council (Constantinople II) was held at Constantinople, under the holy Emperor Saint Justinian I (527-565) in the year 553, to determine the Orthodoxy of three dead bishops: Theodore of Mopsuetia, Theodoret of Cyrrhus and Ibas of Edessa, who had expressed Nestorian opinions in their writings in the time of the Third Ecumenical Council (September 9).
These three bishops had not been condemned at the Fourth Ecumenical Council (July 16), which condemned the Monophysites, and in turn had been accused by the Monophysites of Nestorianism. Therefore, to deprive the Monophysites of the possibility of accusing the Orthodox of sympathy for Nestorianism, and also to dispose the heretical party towards unity with the followers of the Council of Chalcedon, the emperor Saint Justinian issued an edict.
In it “the Three Chapters” (the three deceased bishops) were condemned. But since the edict was issued on the emperor’s initiative, and since it was not acknowledged by representatives of all the Church (particularly in the West, and in Africa), a dispute arose about the “Three Chapters.” The Fifth Ecumenical Council was convened to resolve this dispute.
165 bishops attended this Council. Pope Vigilius, though present in Constantinople, refused to participate in the Council, although he was asked three times to do so by official deputies in the name of the gathered bishops and the Emperor himself. The Council opened with Saint Eutychius, Patriarch of Constantinople (552-565, 577-582), presiding.
In accordance with the imperial edict, the matter of the “Three Chapters” was carefully examined in eight prolonged sessions from May 4 to June 2, 553.
Anathema was pronounced against the person and teachings of Theodore of Mopsuetia. In the case of Theodore and Ibas, the condemnations were confined only to certain of their writings, while they personally had been cleared by the Council of Chalcedon, because of their repentance. Thus, they were spared from the anathema.
This measure was necessary because certain of the proscribed works contained expressions used by the Nestorians to interpret the definitions of the Council of Chalcedon for their own ends. But the leniency of the Fathers of the Fifth Ecumenical Council, in a spirit of moderate economy regarding the persons of Bishops Theodore and Ibas, instead embittered the Monophysites against the decisions of the Council.
Besides which, the emperor had given the orders to promulgate the Conciliar decisions together with a decree of excommunication against Pope Vigilius, for being like-minded with the heretics.
The Pope afterwards concurred with the mind of the Fathers, and signed the Conciliar definition. The bishops of Istria and all the region of the Aquilea metropolia, however, remained in schism for more than a century.
At the Council the Fathers likewise examined the errors of presbyter Origen, a renowned Church teacher of the third century. His teaching about the pre-existence of the human soul was condemned. Other heretics, who did not admit the universal resurrection of the dead, were also condemned.
It pleased the Lord that the Holy Spirit should inspire the Fathers of the Council in a further definition of Orthodoxy that preserves the integrity and dignity both of God and of mankind, without the distortion of either that occurs within the Nestorian or Monophysite heresies.
Saint Olympias the Deaconess was the daughter of the senator Anicius Secundus, and by her mother she was the granddaughter of the noted eparch Eulalios (he is mentioned in the life of Saint Nicholas). Before her marriage to Anicius Secundus, Olympias’s mother had been married to the Armenian emperor Arsak and became widowed.
When Saint Olympias was still very young, her parents betrothed her to a nobleman. The marriage was supposed to take place when Saint Olympias reached the age of maturity. The bridegroom soon died, however, and Saint Olympias did not wish to enter into another marriage, preferring a life of virginity.
After the death of her parents she became the heir to great wealth, which she began to distribute to all the needy: the poor, the orphaned and the widowed. She also gave generously to the churches, monasteries, hospices and shelters for the downtrodden and the homeless.
Holy Patriarch Nectarius (381-397) appointed Saint Olympias as a deaconess. The saint fulfilled her service honorably and without reproach.
Saint Olympias provided great assistance to hierarchs coming to Constantinople: Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium, Onesimus of Pontum, Gregory the Theologian, Saint Basil the Great’s brother Peter of Sebaste, Epiphanius of Cyprus, and she attended to them all with great love. She did not regard her wealth as her own but rather God’s, and she distributed not only to good people, but also to their enemies.
Saint John Chrysostom (November 13) had high regard for Saint Olympias, and he showed her good will and spiritual love. When this holy hierarch was unjustly banished, Saint Olympias and the other deaconesses were deeply upset.
Leaving the church for the last time, Saint John Chrysostom called out to Saint Olympias and the other deaconesses Pentadia, Proklia and Salbina. He said that the matters incited against him would come to an end, but scarcely more would they see him. He asked them not to abandon the Church, but to continue serving it under his successor. The holy women, shedding tears, fell down before the saint.
Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria (385-412), had repeatedly benefited from the generosity of Saint Olympias, but turned against her for her devotion to Saint John Chrysostom. She had also taken in and fed monks, arriving in Constantinople, whom Patriarch Theophilus had banished from the Egyptian desert. He levelled unrighteous accusations against her and attempted to cast doubt on her holy life.
After the banishment of Saint John Chrysostom, someone set fire to a large church, and after this a large part of the city burned down.
All the supporters of Saint John Chrysostom came under suspicion of arson, and they were summoned for interrogation. They summoned Saint Olympias to trial, rigorously interrogating her. They fined her a large sum of money for the crime of arson, despite her innocence and a lack of evidence against her. After this the saint left Constantinople and set out to Kyzikos (on the Sea of Marmara).
But her enemies did not cease their persecution. In the year 405 they sentenced her to prison at Nicomedia, where the saint underwent much grief and deprivation. Saint John Chrysostom wrote to her from his exile, consoling her in her sorrow. In the year 409 Saint Olympias entered into eternal rest.
Saint Olympias appeared in a dream to the Bishop of Nicomedia and commanded that her body be placed in a wooden coffin and cast into the sea. “Wherever the waves carry the coffin, there let my body be buried,” said the saint.
The coffin was brought by the waves to a place named Brokthoi near Constantinople. The inhabitants, informed of this by God, took the holy relics of Saint Olympias and placed them in the church of the holy Apostle Thomas.
Afterwards, during an invasion of enemies, the church was burned, but the relics were preserved. Under the Patriarch Sergius (610-638), they were transferred to Constantinople and put in the women’s monastery founded by Saint Olympias. Miracles and healings occurred from her relics.
Saint Eupraxia was daughter of the Constantinople dignitary Antigonos, a kinsman of the holy Emperor Theodosius the Great (379-395).
Antigonus and his wife Eupraxia were pious and bestowed generous alms on the destitute. A daughter was born to them, whom they also named Eupraxia. Antigonos soon died, and the mother withdrew from the imperial court. She went with her daughter to Egypt, on the pretext of inspecting her properties.
Near the Thebaid there was a women’s monastery with a strict monastic rule. The life of the inhabitants attracted the pious widow. She wanted to bestow aid on this monastery, but the abbess Theophila refused and said that the nuns had fully devoted themselves to God and that they did not wish the acquisition of any earthly riches. The abbess consented to accept only candles, incense and oil.
The younger Eupraxia was seven years old at this time. She liked the monastic way of life and she decided to remain at the monastery. Her pious mother did not stand in the way of her daughter’s wish. Taking leave of her daughter at the monastery, Eupraxia asked her daughter to be humble, never to dwell upon her noble descent, and to serve God and her sisters.
In a short while the mother died. Having learned of her death, the emperor Saint Theodosius sent Saint Eupraxia the Younger a letter in which he reminded her that her parents had betrothed her to the son of a certain senator, intending that she marry him when she reached age fifteen.
The Emperor desired that she honor the commitment made by her parents. In reply, Saint Eupraxia wrote to the emperor that she had already become a bride of Christ, and she requested of the emperor to dispose of her properties, distributing the proceeds for the use of the Church and the needy.
Saint Eupraxia, when she reached the age of maturity, intensified her ascetic efforts all the more. At first she partook of food once a day, then after two days, three days, and finally, once a week. She combined her fasting with the fulfilling of all her monastic obediences. She toiled humbly in the kitchen, she washed dishes, she swept the premises and served the sisters with zeal and love.
The sisters also loved the humble Eupraxia. But one of them envied her and explained away all her efforts as a desire for glory. This sister began to trouble and to reproach her, but the holy virgin did not answer her back, and instead humbly asked forgiveness.
The Enemy of the human race caused the saint much misfortune. Once,while getting water, she fell into the well, and the sisters pulled her out. Another time, Saint Eupraxia was chopping wood for the kitchen, and cut herself on the leg with an axe.
When she carried an armload of wood up the ladder, she stepped on the hem of her garment. She fell, and a sharp splinter cut her near the eyes. All these woes Saint Eupraxia endured with patience, and when they asked her to rest, she would not consent.
For her efforts, the Lord granted Saint Eupraxia a gift of wonderworking. Through her prayers she healed a deaf and dumb crippled child, and she delivered a demon-possessed woman from infirmity. They began to bring the sick for healing to the monastery. The holy virgin humbled herself all the more, counting herself as least among the sisters.
Before the death of Saint Eupraxia, the abbess had a vision. The holy virgin was transported into a splendid palace, and stood before the Throne of the Lord, surrounded by holy angels. The All-Pure Virgin showed Saint Eupraxia around the luminous chamber and said that She had made it ready for her, and that she would come into this habitation after ten days.
The abbess and the sisters wept bitterly, not wanting to lose Saint Eupraxia. The saint herself, in learning about the vision, wept because she was not prepared for death. She asked the abbess to pray that the Lord would grant her one year more for repentance. The abbess consoled Saint Eupraxia and said that the Lord would grant her His great mercy. Suddenly Saint Eupraxia sensed herself not well, and having sickened, she soon peacefully died at the age of thirty.