Σάββατο, 21 Απριλίου 2012

Saint Bathilde, Queen of France († 680)

St. Batilda. Other forms of her name are Bathilidis, Bathild, Bathchilde, and Bauteur.
An Anglo-Saxon by birth, St. Batilda was captured in 641 by Danish raiders and sold to Erchinoald, the chief officer of the palace of Clovis II, King of the Franks. She quickly gained favour, for she had charm, beauty, and a graceful and gentle nature. She also won the affection of her fellow-servants, for she would do them many kindnesses such as cleaning their shoes and mending their clothes, and her bright and attractive disposition endeared her to them all.

The officer, impressed by her fine qualities, wished to make her his wife, but Batilda, alarmed at the prospect, both by reason of her modesty and of her humble status, disguised herself in old and ragged clothes, and hid herself away among the lower servants of the palace; and he, not finding her in her usual place, and thinking she had fled, married another woman.

Her next suitor, however, was none other than the king himself, for when she had discarded her old clothes and appeared again in her place, he noticed her grace and beauty, and declared his love for her. Thus in 649, the 19-year-old slave girl Batilda became Queen of France, amidst the applause of the court and the kingdom. She bore Clovis three sons: Clotaire III, Childeric II, and Theodoric III--all of whom became kings. On the death of Clovis (c. 655-657), she was appointed regent in the name of her eldest son, who was only five, and ruled capably for eight years with Saint Eligius (f.d. December 1) as her advisor.

She made a good queen and ruled wisely. Unlike many who rise suddenly to high place and fortune, she never forgot that she had been a slave, and did all within her power to relieve those in captivity. We are told that "Queen Batilda was the holiest and most devout of women; her pious munificence knew no bounds; remembering her own bondage, she set apart vast sums for the redemption of captives." She helped promote Christianity by seconding the zeal of Saint Owen (f.d. August 24), Saint Leodegar (f.d. October 2), and many other bishops.

At that time the poorer inhabitants of France were often obliged to sell their children as slaves to meet the crushing taxes imposed upon them. Batilda reduced this taxation, forbade the purchase of Christian slaves and the sale of French subjects, and declared that any slave who set foot in France would from that moment be free. Thus, this enlightened women earned the love of her people and was a pioneer in the abolition of slavery.

She also founded many abbeys, such as Corbie, Saint-Denis, and Chelles, which became civilised settlements in wild and remote areas inhabited only by prowling wolves and other wild beasts. Under her guidance forests and waste land were reclaimed, cornland and pasture took their place, and agriculture flourished. She built hospitals and sold her jewellery to supply the needy. Finally, when Clotaire came of age, she retired to her own royal abbey of Chelles, near Paris, where she served the other nuns with humility and obeyed the abbess like the least of the sisters.

She died at Chelles before she had reached her 50th birthday. Death touched her with a gentle hand; as she died, she said she saw a ladder reaching from the altar to heaven, and up this she climbed in the company of angels.

She is the patroness of children. Holy Mother Batilda, pray to God for us!

Τρίτη, 10 Απριλίου 2012

Saint Rupert (Robert) of Salzburg, Apostle to Bavaria and Austria

March 27th is the feast of St Rupert, a most holy and blessed man. This feast commemorates the day of his repose, which brings spiritual joy to devout minds and refreshes hearts throughout the entire year. As the Scriptures say, "The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance." He who passes into the angels' joy is made worthy of men's remembrance: as the Scriptures say, "A wise son is the glory of the father," and how great is his glory, who redeemed so many barbarian nations through the knowledge of God in Christ Jesus through the Gospel!
When Childebert the king of the Franks was in the second year of his reign, the Bishop of Worms was the Holy Confessor Rupert, who was born into the ranks of the Frankish nobility, but was far more noble in faith and piety. He was gentle and chaste, simple and prudent, devout in praise of God, full of the Holy Spirit. He was also circumspect in his decisions and righteous in his judgment. He possessed great spiritual discernment, and his good deeds formed his flock into true images of Christ, for he inspired them not only with his words, but by the example of his works. He often kept vigil, weakened himself with fasting, and adorned his works with compassion. He gave away his riches that the poor might not go hungry, believing himself to be one who should clothe the naked and help the destitute.
When the great fame of this most venerable man had spread to the ends of the world, powerful men, not only in that region but from other nations, poured in to hear his most holy teaching. Some with many sorrows came to receive consolation through his holy words, and other churchmen came to learn the purity of true Orthodoxy from him. Many were freed from the snares of the ancient enemy by his loving spiritual advice, and were able to set out on the path to salvation. But unbelievers, who were numerous in the vicinity of Worms, not understanding his holiness, exiled him from the city in a most shameful manner. They caused him terrible suffering and beat him with rods. At that time Theodo, the Duke of Bavaria, hearing about the miracles which this most holy man had performed and of his blessedness, desired to meet him. With firm resolve he dispatched his most trusted men to summon him to his court and to enquire of him how long might he consent to visit the regions of Bavaria, and could he instruct him in the way of life-giving faith? The blessed bishop, having received such a sincere and heartfelt request knew that it came from Divine dispensation and thanked the Merciful One, because "those who sat in the darkness and the shadow of death" longed to know the author of life, Jesus Christ.
As a result of this he sent his own priests, as if they were rays of faith, to return with the ambassadors of the Duke, and he himself after a short time undertook the journey to Bavaria. When the Duke heard the news that the blessed one was on his way he was overcome with great joy, and he and a large retinue hastened to meet St Rupert, overtaking the saint in the city of Regensburg. Although exhausted and hungry from his long journey, St Rupert, right away began to reveal to the Duke the mystery of the heavens and instructed him in the Orthodox faith. He convinced the Duke to renounce the worship of idols, and baptized him in the name of the Holy and Indivisible Trinity. The nobles and the simple people were also baptized with the noble duke, praising Jesus Christ the Saviour of the world, who considered them worthy to be called wondrously into His light from their darkness through His confessor, the most blessed Rupert. By his holy words their darkened hearts were enlightened and the souls of the unbaptized thirsted for the fountain of life.
When the saint had revealed Divine Truth by having baptized the Duke and his people, Theodo came to understand the mystery of saving baptism. He begged the holy Rupert to carry the light of Orthodoxy to others and the saint, fulfilling his desire, boarded a ship and sailed down the River Danube. Through the towns, villas, and forts, he declared the gospel of Christ in a great voice. To the ends of Noricum, into the lower parts of Pannonia, he brought the light of the teachings of Christ which illumines all. Having returned by land, he entered Lauriacum (torch on the River Enns), in whose water he baptized many, freeing them from the worship of idols. In the name of Jesus Christ he healed many who had been oppressed by various illnesses and passions. After he left Lauriacum he saw the spiritual darkness of the tribes in that region; he boldly undertook to smash images and to proclaim everywhere the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ as well as His most holy incarnation. He brought them to believe that He truly is both God and man, truly begotten of the Father before all ages. He taught them that Christ is the Word of God conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary for the salvation of mankind.
Having accepted the episcopacy after being entreated to do so by the Duke and his people, he went to the placid waters of Lake Wallersee, where a church had been built in honour of the chief apostle Peter. He moved from there to the Juvavian (Salzach) River, the site of the city of Juvavia, which had been erected in ancient, tumultuous times. At one time it had had great importance among Bavarian cities, but by the time St Rupert arrived it had become overgrown with trees and weeds and only a few people lived among the ruins. The servant of God considered this a suitable place for his episcopal cathedral, because being situated high in the mountains, it was far from the tumult and distractions of crowds. He went before the duke, and spoke to him with great enthusiasm about his plan to build a basilica there in honour of the blessed Peter, Chief of the Apostles. He was granted the vast sums needed to build the splendid church by the generosity of Theodo. When the church was finished he ordained priests, and commanded them to celebrate the daily offices in canonical order. The saint of God then wished to enlarge his holdings in the vicinity of the cathedral, so he petitioned the Duke for yet another donation, and with the funds donated to him he purchased the estate known as Piding for thousands of solidi, a great sum of money at the time. Thus, by the will of God and the bequests of kings, noblemen, and the faithful, the centre of spiritual life for the kingdom began to grow.
Here is an account of a wondrous event in the life of St Rupert. Some very reliable men came to the blessed hierarch and told him of an amazing phenomenon which had taken place when they had gone into an unnamed wilderness area now called Bongotobum (Pongau). Three or four times they had seen heavenly lights shining like bright lamps in the sky and they had also experienced a wonderful fragrance in the same place. The pious bishop sent the priest Domingus to Bongotobum because of the reports which he received concerning these lights. It was his desire that the priest would verify the authenticity of these wonders by erecting in that location a wooden cross which the holy one had made and blessed with his own hands. When Domingus arrived, he at once began the First Hour with the monks who had come with him. They saw a bright heavenly light which descended from the sky and lit up the entire region with the brightness of the sun. Domingus saw this vision on three nights in a row, and experienced the wondrous fragrance as well. He erected the blessed cross in that place, and it was miraculously transported to a spot above the dwelling of St Rupert, confirming the truthfulness of what had been reported to him! St Rupert took word of the miraculous occurrence to Theodo and then he himself went into the wilderness to the very spot, and seeing that it was suitable for habitation, began to cut down aged oaks and brought in building materials that he might build a church with dwellings for a monastic community..
At about the same time, Theodo fell into ill health, and felt the end of his life approaching. He called to his bedside his son Theodobert, appointing him the Duke of Noricum, admonishing him to be obedient to St Rupert and to aid him in his holy work as well as to firmly establish and support the Juvavian church with love, honour, and dignity. He also adjured him to protect and exalt it. When he had instructed his son in all good things and had given him his final testament, he ended his earthly life and fell asleep in the Lord. After the repose of his God-fearing father, Duke Theodobert along with his nobles remained followers of St Rupert because of his great sanctity. Having travelled to see the saint in his far hermitage, the duke honoured him with pious affection and went to pray in the church which the saint had built there. The duke donated three parcels of land in honour of St Maximilian and gave property on all sides of the forest, as well as an estate in the Alps. He gave gifts to support the monastery and the hieromonks whom the most blessed Rupert had ordained for the Service of God.
When this had been accomplished, the man of God saw that the most noble man of Bavaria had submitted himself to the yoke of Christ and had left worldly concerns to the lesser men of his kingdom. St Rupert then accompanied the duke back to his homeland and then returned with twelve of his closest spiritual children (among whom were Kuniald and St Gisilarius, both priests and both holy men). His niece, St Ermentrude, a virgin dedicated to Christ also accompanied them to the city of Juvavia. There in the main fortress of the city he built a monastery in honour of Our Lord Jesus Christ the Saviour and His Most Pure Mother, the Ever-Virgin Mary. He placed as abbess in that monastery St Ermentrude, that she might serve the King of Heaven. With the generous support of Duke Theodobert, who gave many gifts to the nuns, he established a monastery which had all its spiritual and physical needs well taken care of.
When all this had been accomplished, the blessed man became eager to complete the missionary efforts he had begun with the help of Christ. Accompanied by clergy and monastics, he resolved to visit his followers in the Norican kingdom. Having left the city of Juvavia he visited people on whom the light of faith had not yet shown, and he sowed the wheat of faith amid tares. The deception of the devil fled from the hearts of these barbarian tribes, and Rupert sowed in its place faith, love, mercy, and humility, for through these Christ, the giver and source of all good, is able to take up residence in the human heart. He travelled to all the ends of Bavaria, and converted the people to faith in Christ, and strengthened those who had remained steadily faithful. Having sent out several priests and men of God who brought the Divine Mysteries to the people, he became anxious to return to Juvavia. Because he had the gift from God of knowing the future, he knew that the day of his repose was at hand. He revealed this to his disciples, who were filled with sorrow and anguish. Because of this, there was much weeping and great mourning when he took leave of his newly enlightened Christian flock.
Filled with certainty and faith in Christ, St Rupert commended the city, the Norican people, and all who had been received into holy Orthodoxy to the Most High and All-Knowing God. He chose Vitale, a holy man whom the people themselves had accepted, as his successor. When the forty days of Great Lent had passed, Bishop Rupert became very ill and was exhausted by a high fever. When the most holy day of the Resurrection of Our Saviour Jesus dawned, he celebrated the solemn Liturgy, and was fortified for his final journey with the precious Body and Blood of Christ. He comforted his priests, monastics and flock with a beautiful sermon filled with much love. Then, surrounded by his weeping spiritual children he breathed his last and returned his most pure soul to God. A host of angels were sent by Christ and the saints in the heavens who bore his holy soul with melodious voices to eternal happiness. Thus the faithful servant of God rested in peace. He whose life was praiseworthy and blameless was in death equally blessed. Thus it is written: "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." Shortly after his repose many miracles were attributed to him, for God was gracious through the relics of His saint and manifested His tender mercy. By the prayers of the friend of God, St Rupert, the faithful were comforted and the Church adorned through innumerable miracles. Indeed the Blessed God, One in three Persons, lives and reigns; to Him be all praise and glory unto the ages of ages. Amen

Κυριακή, 8 Απριλίου 2012

Saint Ansgar (Anskar, Anschar, Anscharius, Scharies) of Germany and Evangelist of Scandinavian lands († 865)

Born near Amiens, Picardy, France in 801, died in Bremen, Germany on February 3, 865.
With the coming of the barbarians after the death of Charlemagne, darkness fell upon Europe. From the forests and the fjords of the north, defying storm and danger, came a horde of pirate invaders, prowling round the undefended coasts, sweeping up the broad estuaries, and spreading havoc and fear. No town, however fair, no church, however sacred, and no community, however strong, was immune from their fury. Like a river of death the Vikings poured across Europe.
It's hard to believe that there would be an outbreak of missionary activity at such a time, but in Europe's darkest hour there were those who never faltered, and who set out to convert the pagan invader. St.Ansgar was such a man. As a young boy of a noble family he was received at Corbie monastery in Picardy and educated under Saint Abelard and Paschasius Radbert. Once professed, he was transferred to New Corbie at Westphalia. He once said to a friend, " One miracle I would, if worthy, ask the Lord to grant me, and that is, that by his grace, he would make me a good man."
In France a call was made for a priest to go as a missionary to the Danes, and Ansgar, a young monk, volunteered. His friends tried to dissuade him, so dangerous was the mission. Nevertheless, when King Harold, who had become a Christian during his exile, returned to Denmark, Ansgar and another monk accompanied him. Equipped with tents and books, these two monks set out in 826 and founded a school in Denmark. Here Ansgar's companion died, and Ansgar was obliged to move on to Sweden alone when his success in missionary work led King Bjørn to invite him to Sweden.
On the way his boat was attacked by pirates and he lost all his possessions, arriving destitute at a small Swedish village. After this unpromising start, he succeeded forming the nucleus of a church -- the first Christian church in Sweden -- and penetrated inland, confronting the heathen in their strongholds and converting the pagan chiefs.
Ansgar became the first archbishop of Hamburg, Germany and abbot of New Corbie in Westphalia c. 831. The Pope Gregory IV appointed him legate to the Scandinavian countries and confides the Scandinavian souls to his care. He evangelized there for the next 14 years, building churches in Norway, Denmark and northern Germany.
He saw his accomplishments obliterated when pagan Vikings invaded in 845, overran Scandinavia, and destroyed Hamburg. Thereafter the natives reverted to paganism. Ansgar was then appointed archbishop of Bremen around 848, but he was unable to establish himself there for a time and Pope Nicholas 1 united that See with Hamburg. Nicholas also gave him jurisdiction over Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.
Ansgar returned to Denmark and Sweden in 854 to resume spreading the Gospel. When he returned to Denmark he saw the church and school he had built there, destroyed before his eyes by an invading army.
His heart almost broke as he saw his work reduced to ashes" The Lord gave," he said, "and the Lord have taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." With a handful of followers he wandered through his ruined diocese, but it was a grim and weary time. "Be assured my dear brother, " said the primate of France, who had commissioned him to this task, "that what we have striven to accomplish for the glory of Christ will yet, by God's help, bring forth fruit."
Heartened by these words, and with unfailing courage, Ansgar pursued his Swedish mission. Though he had but four churches left and could find no one willing to go in his place, he established new outposts and consolidated his work.
King Olaf had cast a die to decide whether to allow entrance of Christians, an action that Ansgar mourned as callous and unbefitting. He was encouraged, however, by a council of chiefs at which an aged man spoke in his defense. "Those who bring to us this new faith," he said" by their voyage here have been exposed to many dangers. We see our own deities failing us. Why reject a religion thus brought to our very doors? Why not permit the servants of God to remain among us? Listen to my council and reject not what is plainly for our advantage."
As a result, Ansgar was free to preach the Christian faith, and though he met with many setbacks, he continued his work until he died at the age of 64 and was buried at Bremen. He was a great missionary, an indefatigable, outstanding preacher, renowned for his austerity, holiness of life, and charity to the poor. He built schools and was a great liberator of slaves captured by the Vikings. He converted King Erik of Jutland and was called the "Apostle of the North", yet Sweden reverted completely to paganism shortly after Ansgar's death.
Ansgar often wore a hair shirt, lived on bread and water when his health permitted it, and added short personal prayers to each Psalm in his Psalter, thus contributing to a form of devotion that soon became widespread.
Miracles were said to have been worked by him. After Ansgar's death, the work he had begun came to a stop and the area reverted to paganism. Christianity did not begin to make headway in Scandinavia until two centuries later with the work of Saint Sigfried and others. A life story was written about Ansgar by his fellow missionary in Scandinavia, Saint Rembert (Attwater, Attwater2, Benedictines, Bentley, Coulson, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Fanner, Gill, Robinson, White)
In art Ansgar is shown with converted Danes with him (White), wearing a fur pelisse (Roeder). He may sometimes be shown otherwise in a boat with King Harold and companions or in a cape and miter Hamburg Cathedral (Roeder).

Saint Ansgar is the patron of Denmark, Germany and Iceland (White). He is venerated in Old Corbie (Picardy) and New Corbie (Saxony) as well as in Scandinavia (Roeder).

Τετάρτη, 4 Απριλίου 2012

Saint Severinus, Apostle of Austria († 482)

St. Severinus came to the borderland of present-day Germany and Austria from the east — possibly the Egyptian desert — to care for the Roman Christians who were endangered by invading barbarians during the collapse of the Roman Empire.
He remained there until the end of his life. While he was there he advised both common people and kings to put eternal life first, and taught them to be generous to one another and to lead a true Christian life.
He built a monastery and protected from harm those who gathered around him. As he foretold, the monks and other Christians who had followed him escaped to saftety in Italy, taking St. Severinus' incorrupt relics with them.
 His relics are still honored in Frattamaggiore, Italy (near Naples).

 —from the 2006 Saint Herman Calendar

Source: http://www.abbamoses.com/months/january.html

The Orthodox Saints of France

Archbishop Seraphim (Igor Aleksandrovich Dulgov) was born in 1923 in Moscow. In 1928 he left with his mother, first to Berlin and later to France. He received his primary education in a Russian school and in the Cadet Corps in the suburbs of Paris, where he had the obedience of serving in the altar and as a reader. During World War II, he studied at a French engineering school. After the war he graduated from the St. Serge Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris (1946-1950). He then worked at a factory in Versailles. He served as a sub-deacon to Bishop (later Archbishop) Nathanael (Lvov). In 1961 he was ordained a deacon and priest in Geneva, and then served at the Church of the Archangel Michael in Cannes. In 1971 he became an archpriest and dean of southern France, and later the rector of the St. Nicholas Church in Lyons. He had the intention of retiring to a skete of the Lesna Convent in France. In September 1993 he was tonsured a monk with the name of Seraphim. He was consecrated as Bishop of Lesna on September 19, 1993, in Geneva and became vicar of the Western European Diocese. On November 3, 1993, he became the ruling bishop of the Western European Diocese with the title of Bishop of Lesna and Western Europe; in 1995 he was named Archbishop of Brussels and Western Europe. After his retirement he settled in the Lesna Convent in France, and there departed in Christ on November 24, 2003.

How to Identify Whether a Saint is Orthodox or Catholic

The question of the Orthodox saints of France can be an historical one – one is interested in learning the history – or it can be a matter of curiosity, veneration, or a topic for pious reading.
For us, in addition to all of the above, there is also a practical issue. Why? For instance, when a Frenchman or a Swiss converts to Orthodoxy, what name should he take? We have a priest named Fr. Quentin. But name me a single Russian priest in pre-revolutionary Russia who would have known that there was such a name! Yet St. Quentin is a perfectly Orthodox saint of Western Europe. A priest will fly from South America to London to venerate the relics of St. Edward (and I am sure that when our priests see for “the health” or “the repose of” an Edward they would pass it off as non-Orthodox). But it turns out that Edward is a perfectly Orthodox name. And there are many such examples.
For example, when someone becomes Orthodox, what name should he take? He may, of course, retain his name if there is such a saint, such as the name John (there are St. John Chrysostom, St. John of Kronstadt, St. John the Damascene, St. John the Baptist), or he may intentionally take a new name. We had one boy named Charles. There is no saint named Charles. So when he became Orthodox, he was given the name of the Hieromartyr Harlampus (Charles and Harlampus are consonant in French).
I told you yesterday about our pilgrimages, when we searched for Orthodox saints in one location or another in France, read their lives, and sometimes painted their icons. You may ask: how can we determine who is an Orthodox saint and who is not? I implore you never to think of 1054 as some milestone, that one day prior to 1054 it was exactly one way, and the day after it was different. Rather, this was a lengthy process that began in the seventh century and ended with the seizure of Constantinople by the Crusaders in the thirteenth century.
The year 1054 was pulled out of history by the Latin Cardinal Baronius, who wanted to determine the exact moment when we were still Catholic (in his understanding) and then at what moment we ceased to be Catholic. Therefore, when we celebrated the millenium of Christianity in Russia, many Catholics approached me in Lyon and said: “Turns out you were Baptized by Catholics, since it happened before 1054!”
According to Bishop Nathaniel, when defining who is an Orthodox saint and who is not, we need first of all to understand that a holy saint of God has no not need of our glorification; he is glorified by the Lord, and whether or not he enters our church calendar is of no significance to him. Yet we ourselves need to know whose example we should or should not follow. Thus we believe all Western pre-seventh century saints to be Orthodox, but after the eighth century we should seriously study their influences. For example, if the saint lived here in northern France, then he was influenced by England, which remained Orthodox longer than any other Western European country. But if he lived nearer to Germany, then there were early heretical currents in that area. Do not forget that two centuries before 1054 the Creed had already been changed in the West! So Western saints from the ninth century on are, of course, venerable people, but not Orthodox saints. However, Bishop Nathaniel notes two or three cases of Orthodox saints in Bohemia even after 1054.

The Origins of Christianity in France

When our Lord Jesus Christ ascended, He instructed the Apostles to preach the Gospel to all creation. Their preaching, which began in Jerusalem and Rome and, according to the Apostle Paul, continued to Corinth and Ephesus, then spread even further. You know that the Apostle Paul made several missionary journeys. The Lord came at the right historical moment, for Christianity could spread rapidly by the roads of the Roman Empire, despite persecution. Although we are unaware of apostolic preaching in France,* the country quickly developed spiritually, and became famous for its outstanding preachers and martyrs.
Martyrs are the blood of the Church; martyrs are the Church’s foundation. From this we see that the Christian message resonated with the Gallo-Romans. Tertullian, an ecclesiastical writer of the second century, wrote: “we were born only yesterday, but we have completely covered the Earth.” Two centuries later the Blessed Augustine echoes him: “the greatest miracle is that yesterday we were nothing, yet now we entirely cover the universe.” Of course, the “universe” in their understanding was the Roman Empire.


Lyon is the ancient center of France, called Lugdunum in the Roman Empire. Christianity came to Lyon not from the Apostles, but from the Orthodox East (from which St. Pothinus came, while St. Irenaeus of Lyon was a disciple of St. Polycarp, who was a disciple of St. John the Evangelist). In 177, there were already many Christians in Lyon who were being persecuted (note that we Russians became Christian only in the ninth century!). Letters from Christians have been preserved from that time, and they describe the terrible persecutions that suddenly began on Holy Friday. A statue of a pagan goddess was erected and Christians were compelled to venerate it with everyone else (refusal meant being guilty of treason against Caesar). The Christians refused. At first, the weakest (children, girls, women) were taken in hope that they would not endure trial. On the contrary, the women and children were the most zealous. Then servants were bribed. They betrayed their Christian masters, saying that they “drink blood, do all sorts of other horrible things and, most significantly, do not worship Caesar.” Following their testimony, thirty-five to forty people were thrown into prison. Among them were the maiden Blandina, the boy Ponticus, and the ninety-year-old Bishop Pothinus (who died of starvation in prison). Those who survived were thrown to wild beasts in the amphitheater. Blandina was first tied to a post in the Lyon arena – yet when the raging lions came, they lay down at her feet. Recall St. Gerasimus of the Jordan! From the lives of the saints we know that wild animals do not touch God’s saints. But then she was bound in a net and thrown on the horns of an angry bull, which trampled her death.

The Suffering of the Martyr Blandina
We know the names of the martyrs from the first persecution, and the priest at our church in Lyon commemorates them during Proskomedia. When the amphitheater was excavated, the first divine service (amazing but true!) was served by the Orthodox in Lyon – although because of this the archaeologist, I believe, later got into trouble with the Catholics but, nevertheless, the first service was ours.

The Lyon Arena
After the persecution of 177 came the persecution of 178, and then the third persecution, in 203. In that year, 19,000 Christians suffered martyrdom, including Bishop Irenaeus of Lyon. This demonstrates that by the beginning of the third century Lyon was already a completely Christian city. Saint Ireaneus wrote against the heresies. Yet it just so happened that the penultimate Roman Catholic Cardinal of Lyon built an ecumenical center there – so, in other words, a heresy center was built exactly on the spot where St. Irenaeus had once written a book against the heresies! Following the third persecution Lyon emptied.
So, when a Frenchman becomes Orthodox (I am referring to France, but this is also applicable to Germany and Switzerland), we should not say that he changed his faith, but rather that he returned to the original faith that once predominated in his land. We must revere the saints of the first centuries as our own. Those saints are our saints.



In Marseille there are also many saints. Cannes is located across from the island of St. Honorat, where the first monks lived that came from the East in the fourth and fifth centuries. Among them, I especially want to remind you of Sts. Victor of Marseilles and Vincent of Lerins (Lerins is the name of an island). St. Vincent of Lerins wrote an essay in which he defined the true Church.

Martyr Victor of Marseilles

Saint Vincent of Lerins
I remember a Baptism in Lyon. We often baptize in French. During the Baptism, as you know, we read the Creed. In Slavonic it goes: “I believe in One, Holy, Universal, and Apostolic Church.” And in French: “I believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.”
A Catholic who was present heard the word “catholic” and asked: “So you are Catholic?”
I replied: “We are the real ‘catholics.’”
He said: “The real Catholics are Roman Catholics, and you don’t have a Pope.”
I replied: “So this means, in your opinion, that those without a Pope cannot be members of the Church?”
So then I said to him: “Bear in mind that across from Cannes is the island of Lerins, where a Western saint in the fourth and fifth centuries defined the true catholic Church, calling all to maintain that which is believed ‘everywhere, always, and by all.’”
Even St. Ambrose of Milan characterized these islands as a place where saints struggle. You know that we celebrate the memory of the Holy Fathers that suffered martyrdom in Sinai and Raithu. And here on the island of Lerins monks were also martyred by the Saracens.


I want to dwell in particular on the life of St. Genovefa (Genevieve) of Paris. When Gallic merchants came to St. Simeon the Stylite, the latter said: “You have the great St. Genovefa.” On top of his pillar he knew that Gaul is the home of St. Genevieve. In the fifth century Attila attacked Paris. The men intended to defend Lutetia, the island on which the Notre Dame cathedral today stands. But at the sight of Attila’s hordes they lost spirit. A young woman, the thirty-year-old Genovefa approached them and declared: “Do not be afraid, but turn to fasting and prayer, and ask God to be saved!” Though they laughed at her, she again admonished them: “Call upon our Heavenly Father, take hold of the arms of prayer and fasting. I predict to you that by doing so, you and your families will be saved.” She was a nun, born in Nanterre. From Nanterre she often went through the woods to the city of Saint-Denis, where the relics of St. Dionysius reposed, and so is often portrayed with the candle that lit her path. The men unexpectedly heeded her appeal. And indeed Attila’s troops, which advanced in two columns, joined up in front of Paris, but for unknown reasons they went around the city.

St. Genevieve of Paris
I want to remind you of words from a sermon by Bishop Nathaniel, that the power of God is shown through those who most clearly, fully, and humbly acknowledge their own insignificance before God, their total dependence on God’s will, and on the good and almighty love of God. They place complete trust in Him rather than in their own strength. All of these qualities are more often present in women than in men, because men have preserved a kind of ancient, pagan, and haughty arrogance. Men feel that they are strong and sturdy, while God’s glory shines more greatly in women through their weakness.
The relics of St. Genovefa were vandalized in 1789 by the revolutionaries. The place and exact boulder on which the relics were burned is known. Likewise, Russian revolutionaries destroyed the relics of saints first of all, taking an example from their French teachers, who immediately destroyed the relics of Paris’s patron saint.

The Return of Orthodoxy to the West

I want to remind you of a decree by St. John [of Shanghai and San Francisco] that asserts that we that who live in Western Europe should locate and venerate local Orthodox saints. Now we commemorate all the martyrs by name: St. Clodoald of Saint- Cloud, St. Germaine of Auxerre, St. Saturninus of Toulouse, and many others. Some time ago, our Archbishop Ambrose of Geneva compiled a service to the Orthodox saints of Switzerland.
Some Orthodox Saints of France are included in church calendars: for example, St. Irenaeus, St. Pothinus, and the Lyon martyrs. At one time during our diocesan conventions, the late Vladyka Anthony (Bartoshevich) had our priests find the names of Western Orthodox saints and include them in church calendars. Now such calendars with these names have been published.
Orthodoxy in France and Western Europe gradually disappeared – later in England, and sooner, the closer to Germany; in our area it happened later due to the influence of England. Orthodoxy returned to Western Europe with the Russians that immigrated here after the Russian revolution, bringing with them the faith that was once here.
Text compiled by Alexandra Nikiforova from audio recordings.
* Tradition says that when the Apostle Paul sailed to Spain, he disembarked near the Byzantine city of Aleria, Corsica. I have been there and the locals showed me the place of disembarkment