† St. Anthony of Iezeru-Vilcea; St. Amphilochius, bishop of Iconium; St. Gregory, bishop of Agrigentum

Saint Anthony the Hesychast

He was born in the sub-Carpathian Mountains of Vilcea county in Romania, and he loved Christ from his early childhood. He knew many ascetics who lived as hesychasts, and they had a profound effect upon his life. He received the monastic tonsure at the Iezerul Skete, where he lived for several years as a young man.

In 1690, after he had gained experience in the ascetical life, the igumen blessed him to live as a solitary on Mt Iezerul. There he lived in a small cave, glorifying God and struggling against demons. Only real hesychasts know what great temptations and trials face those who wish to live as solitaries.

Saint Anthony labored for three years digging a chapel out of the cliffside with his own hands. He would work during the day, and keep vigil by night. When the chapel was finished, it was consecrated by Bishop Hilarion of Rimnicu Vilcea. Saint Anthony prayed there unceasingly, reading the daily services and making hundreds of prostrations. A hieromonk from the Skete would come from time to time to celebrate the Divine Liturgy on Feast Days and during the fasts.

Saint Anthony’s holy life became known throughout the region, and many of the clergy and laity flocked to him for spiritual advice or consolation in sorrows. He received them with love, gave them the help they needed, and sent them home in peace. Through his influence, a genuine spiritual revival took place in sub-Carpathian Oltenia.

Saint Anthony fell asleep in the Lord in 1714 after twenty-five years of spiritual struggles. His disciples mourned him, and buried him beside his small chapel. The faithful still go there to light candles and to pray, seeking his blessing and assistance.

Saint Anthony the Hesychast was glorified by the Orthodox Church of Romania in 1992.

Troparion, tone 8:
With the streams of your tears you cultivated the barrenness of the desert; and by your deep sighs, you bore fruit a hundredfold in your labours. You became a luminary, shining upon the world with miracles. O our righteous Father Anthony, intercede with Christ God that our souls be saved!

Saint Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium

He was born in Caesarea in Cappadocia, a city which has given the world some of the greatest Fathers and teachers of the Orthodox Church. He was a first cousin to Saint Gregory the Theologian, and a close friend of Saint Basil the Great. He was their disciple, follower and of like mind with them.

Saint Amphilochius toiled hard in the field of Christ. He lived in the wilderness as a strict ascetic for about forty years, until the time when the Lord summoned him for hierarchic service. In the year 372 the Bishop of Iconium died. Angels of the Lord thrice appeared in visions to Saint Amphilochius, summoning him to go to Iconium to be the bishop.

The truthfulness of these visions was proven when the angel, appearing to him the third time, sang together with the saint the angelic song: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Sabaoth.” The heavenly messenger led the saint to the nearest church, where an assembly of angels consecrated Amphilochius bishop.

The saint, on the way back to his cell, encountered seven bishops who were seeking him at the command of God, in order to establish him as archpastor of Iconium. Saint Amphilochius told them that he was already consecrated by the angels.

For many years Saint Amphilochius tended the flock of Iconium entrusted to him by the Lord. The prayer of the righteous one was so intense that he was able to ask the Lord to heal the spiritual and bodily infirmities of his flock. The wise archpastor, gifted as writer and preacher, unceasingly taught piety to his flock.

A strict Orthodox theologian, the saint relentlessly confronted the Arian and Eunomian heresies. He participated in the Second Ecumenical Council (381), and he headed the struggle against the heresy of Macedonius. Letters and treatises of Saint Amphilochius are preserved, which are profoundly dogmatic and apologetic in content. The holy Bishop Amphilochius of Iconium departed peacefully to the Lord in the year 394.

Troparion – tone 4:

O God of our Fathers, always always act with kindness towards us; take not Your mercy from us, but guide our lives in peace through the prayers of the hierarchs Gregory and Amphilochius.

Saint Gregory, Bishop of Agrigentum

He was born on the island of Sicily, in the village of Pretorium, not far from the city of Agrigentum, of the pious parents Chariton and Theodota. The infant Gregory was baptized by the bishop of Agrigentum, Pataimonus. At ten years of age the studious boy mastered writing and was able to read, and to sing church hymns.

At twelve years of age Saint Gregory was given to the clergy, and he was put under the spiritual guidance of the archdeacon Donatus. Saint Gregory spent the next ten years in the Agrigentum church. Then, however, an angel of the Lord appeared to the holy youth, who had a fervent desire to visit Jerusalem, and said that God had blessed his intention.

At Jerusalem Saint Gregory was presented to Patriarch Macarius (563-574), who retained the pious youth for service in his own cathedral church, ordaining him deacon. The soul of Saint Gregory thirsted for monastic labors, and the Patriarch gave his blessing, allowing him go to a monastery on the Mount of Olives.

After a year Saint Gregory departed this monastery for a desert Elder, who for four years taught him spiritual wisdom, humility and the principles of monastic life. The ascetic, foreseeing in Saint Gregory a future great luminary of the Church, gave him a blessing to forsake the solitary life.

Having left the Elder, Saint Gregory dwelt for a certain time at Jerusalem, and then went to Constantinople, where he was received with love by the brethren of the monastery of the holy Martyrs Sergius and Bacchus.

The ascetic efforts of Saint Gregory were noticed by Patriarch Eutychius of Constantinople (552-565), at whose insistence the saint participated in the Fifth Ecumenical Council (553). At the completion of the Council Saint Gregory set off for Rome, to venerate the graves of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul.

During this time the bishop of Agrigentum died. The elder clergy and illustrious citizens of Agrigentum journeyed to Rome with a request for the Pope to determine a successor for their late hierarch from among a list of candidates they were presenting. The Pope, however, declined their proposal through divine inspiration, and instead summoned Saint Gregory to serve them as bishop.

For a few years Saint Gregory peacefully guided the flock entrusted to him by God. He was a defender of the down-trodden, a wise preacher, and miraculous healer. As archbishop, Saint Gregory led the life of an ascetic monk, fervently observing monastic vows. The flock loved their hierarch and trusted in him. But there were also malicious people who had resolved to slander him.

While Saint Gregory was in church, these vicious people secretly led a bribed harlot into his chambers, and then in front of the crowd which accompanied the bishop to the doors of his house after services, they led her out and accused Saint Gregory of the deadly sin of fornication. They placed the holy bishop under guard.

The people attempted to defend their bishop, but were unsuccessful. At the trial the harlot gave false testimony against Saint Gregory. Just as she pronounced the words of slander, she went into a fit of frenzied rage. The judges accused the saint of sorcery. Saint Gregory was sent for judgment to the Roman bishop together with a report about his “crimes.”

The Pope, after reading the charges, did not want to see the accused, and gave orders to remand him to prison. The saint endured his humiliation humbly, dwelling in constant prayer. His prayerful effort and wonderworking gifts quickly became known through the city and the surrounding region. Pious Romans began to gather at the prison, whom the imprisoned saint taught about the righteous life, and he implored the Lord to heal the sick.

After two years, a clairvoyant Elder named Mark, who had known Saint Gregory since youth, came to the Pope. The Elder did not believe the charges and he persuaded the Pope to convene a Council to decide Gregory’s case.

At the invitation of the Pope, many clergy from the city of Agrigentum came to the Council, together with all those making accusations against the saint, including the harlot. From Constantinople three bishops and the imperial dignitary Marcian came to Rome. Along the way Marcian had fallen grievously ill.

On the advice of many people who had received healing through the prayers of Saint Gregory, servants carried the dying man to the prison where the wonderworking saint languished. Through the prayers of Saint Gregory the Lord granted healing to Marcian.

At the Council the slanderers attempted to renew their accusations, and as their chief proof they presented the deranged harlot to the judge, declaring that Gregory had bewitched her. But the saint prayed over her and cast out the devil. The woman came to her senses and told the Council the whole truth. The slanderers were brought to shame and judged. Marcian even wanted to execute them, but Saint Gregory implored forgiveness for them.

Saint Gregory returned in honor to his own cathedral, and surrounded by the love of his flock, he guided the Church until his own peaceful demise.

Troparion – tone 4:

O God of our Fathers, always always act with kindness towards us; take not Your mercy from us, but guide our lives in peace through the prayers of the hierarchs Gregory and Amphilochius.

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