Saturday, October 16, 2021

St. Hedwig, Duchess of Silesia

St. Hedwig,
Duchess and widow
Hedwig was born to Bertold III and his wife Agnes. These were the grandparents of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. Hedwig was therefore the Aunt of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. She had three sisters and four brothers. Her sister Agnes was married to Philip Augustus, King of France; her sister Gertrude was married to Andrew, King of Hungary, and her third sister was the Abbess of Lutzingen in Franconia. Her brothers Bertold and Elebert were bishops of Aquileia and Bamberg respectively, and her brothers Henry and Otho divided up their father's principalities and became renowned generals. Hedwig was placed in the monastery of Lutzingen at a very young age where she would begin her studies. At age 12, she would be married to Henry, Duke of Silesia. Hedwig bore him six children: sons Henry, Conrad, and Boleslas, and daughters Agnes, Sophia, and Gertrude.

In 1233, the nobility of Poland expelled their Duke Ladislas, and conferred upon Henry the principalities. Always bearing in humility, Hedwig pleaded to her husband not to accept the offer, but it was to no avail and Henry gathered an army and took possession of the lands. From that point on, he was known as the Duke of Poland. He desired to leave his dominions to his second son, Conrad, but Hedwig supported that the oldest should hold the inheritance. This unfortunate disagreement between the Duchess and her husband led to the two sons clashing in military combat. Henry would prevail and Conrad would perish. This became one of the crosses that the Duchess would have to bear throughout her life.

She and her husband founded numerous monasteries including the Augustinian nunnery of Naumberg on the Bober which was later transferred to Sagan, the Cistercian monastery of Heinrichau, the priory of the Augustinian Canons at Kamenz, the Dominicans were brought to Bunzlau and Breslau, the Franciscans to Goldberg and later to Krossen, and the Templars would establish a house at Klein-Oels. In addition, she and her husband founded the monastery of the Cistercian nuns at Trebnitz where she spent most of her time doing many penances. The Hospital of the Holy Ghost at Breslau was founded by her husband and she would spend much time serving the leper women in the hospital in Neumarkt.

Her daughters Agnes and Sophia would die in infancy. Her son Boleslas would also die at an early age as well. She would carry the burden of child loss for most of her life but in all things, she looked to God and she desired to fulfill what was pleasing to God. Even in her marriage, she only carried out her penances to the extent that her husband would allow as she believed that the marital life was what God had called her to and wives are to honor their husbands. Seeing his wife so pious and devout, Henry would be more than willing to allow her to carry out her penances, and he too would find himself attired as a monastic within his royal courts. The two would make a pledge of virginity after their sixth child, and after being tonsured, Henry never once shaved his beard. For this, he was known as Henry the Bearded.

She would fast regularly throughout the year, only breaking such fasts on Sundays and Holy Days. She would kneel in Church on the stone floor without any mat between her knees and the ground. She would wear a hair cloth underneath her dress and would wear simple clothes. She taught her husband and her maids many prayers. She would even walk barefoot in the Winter to the Church, her feet bleeding on the way, yet the saint seemed unaffected by the cold while her maids, who were dressed more fittingly for the weather, would suffer greatly from the harsh weather as they made their way to Mass.

She would serve the poor and needy, and made the monastery of Trebnitz a place for orphans and young girls to receive their dowries. She had with her 13 impoverished people who would symbolize Christ and His Apostles for her. She would make certain they were fed with all sorts of meats and foods before she even gave herself her own refection. She did all of this out of her pure love for God and nothing falling short. She even showed sympathy for prisoners asking their sentences to be commuted. When the Lesko the White had died, he would be succeeded by his infant son, Boleslas V with his mother Grzymislawa as regent. Boleslas V would later marry St. Cunegund but he and his mother and his sister Salome would be taken into captivity by Conrad, Duke of Masovia, and brother of the late King. Henry wished to settle this with Conrad but Conrad took him captive. Hedwig expressed her desire to Conrad to see her husband in good health again. Conrad refused. And as her son Henry was about to assemble an army, Hedwig took matters into her own hands and traversed all the way to see the Duke. The Duke, upon seeing her, relented immediately and gave up her husband. In 1233, the people of Cracow and Sadomir would revolt against the tyranny of the Duke and Grzymislawa and her son entrusted themselves to the care of the Duke and Duchess of Silesia.

In 1238, Henry fell ill and died. All of the people mourned the Duke's repose but the widow remained the only one with a dry eye. Hedwig proclaimed, "Would you oppose the will of God? Our lives are his. We ought to find our comfort in whatever he is pleased to ordain, whether as to our own death, or as to that of our friends." All of her life, she always sought the will of God. Whether in marriage or in the loss of her children, or now in widowhood. She embraced all things as being wholly intended by the will of God and gave herself up to where God had placed her. She would now take the habit at the Cistercian Abbey of Trebnitz which she herself had built and live the remainder of her days in subjection to her daughter.

Anne of Bohemia,
widow of Henry II
She would witness the death of her son, Henry II, not long after. The Tartars were on the move through Russia and Bulgaria, and were now coming into Hungary and Poland. They had destroyed the city of Cracow, leaving only the Church of St. Andrew standing. They laid siege on Silesia which was protected by its walls and the prayers of St. Ceslas. The Duke raised an army and pushed them back but he was killed in the battle. His corpse was carried back to be interred in the convent of the Franciscans in Legnitz. His wife Anne and had retired with her mother-in-law at the fortress of Chrosne. Hedwig, seeing her daughter-in-law distraught, counseled her to accept the will of God.
“God hath disposed of my son as it hath pleased him. We ought to have no other will than his.” Then, lifting up her eyes to heaven, she prayed as follows: “I thank you, my God, for having given me such a son, who always loved and honored me, and never gave me the least occasion of displeasure. To see him alive was my great joy; yet I feel a still greater pleasure in seeing him, by such a death, deserve to be forever united to you in the kingdom of your glory. Oh, my God, with my whole heart, I commend to you his dear soul.” (St. Hedwiges, or Avoice, Duchess of Poland, W.)
Hedwig would teach her daughter-in-law much in the areas of humility and Anne would learn from her mother-in-law's sufferings to accept and grow in the will of God, putting all things into the hands of the Lord. God honored Hedwig with the gift of miracles and she would even cure a blind nun of Trebnitz. Her daughter-in-law was venerated as a saint in Poland too but never formally canonized. St. Hedwig's Feast Day is October 17.*

See also,
A.B.C. Dunbar, Dictionary of Saintly Women

*I rarely write about Western Saints after the first millennium because I am canonically Melkite but if I see an interesting royal saint or even just an interesting Western Saint, I'll definitely try to write about them.

The Law of Emperor Justinian

The Justianianic Code, which establishes the principles of equality under the law and the presumption of innocence, forms the basis of many of the legal codes today. It had tremendous influence on Napoleon Bonaparte who included many of its principles in his own Napoleonic Code. The legal legacy of Justinian the Great is so tremendous that if one walks into the Halls of U.S. Congress, they will see, in the House of Representatives, images of the great influencers and legal thinkers of American law. Among these are Pope Innocent III, Louis IX, and Justinian the Great. Justinian is considered the founder of Roman law though what he really did was right Roman law down into written format, giving it a more explicitly Christian emphasis.

Justinian practiced this law and governed as was due. During the Nika riots, of which the Blue faction of the chariot fanatics would often persecute relentlessly other factions, burning their homes down, murdering, and looting. Justinian did not lean himself in the governance to be in favor of one faction over another despite whatever perceived leanings he had toward the chariot factions. He ministered due justice, putting to death whoever caused harm, even if it was the Blue faction that he may have been sympathetic toward (Evagrius Scholasticus, Ecclesiastical History, Bk. 4, ch. XXXII). According to John Malalas, Justinian would cut the genitals off of clerics who practiced pederasty causing the deaths of many priests caught in pederasty (Chronicle, Bk. 18.18) and he ended the Gothic wood and oil taxes (Bk. 18.20). The Empress Theodora, his consort, also punished severely brothel keepers (Bk. 18.24).

Justinian was a proponent of federalism, as explained by Paul the Deacon. He divided up his laws into different rubrics, reducing the amount of laws to fifty for special magistrates or judges in a work called  "Digests", and one book he called "The Institutes" in which he further explained and expounded on his own laws (History of the Langobards, Bk. 1, XXV). These laws were further reduced to one volume called the "New Code". Despite his more despotic leanings and sub-Christian thought, the philosopher Thomas Hobbes can be cited here as an exponent of the legal code of the Holy Emperor. He elaborates on the essential seven characteristics of the civil code of Justinian the Great. Justinian the Great had seven sorts of Civil Laws.

1. Those that were edicts, constitutions, and epistles of the Emperor himself.
2. The decrees of the whole people of Rome when put to question by the Senate.
3. The decrees of the common people, excluding the Senate.
4. The orders of the Senate.
5. The edicts of the Praetors, which were comparable to the Chief Justices in England.
6. The sentences and opinions of lawyers to whom the Emperor gave authority to interpret the Law.
7. The unwritten customs, which by the tacit consent of the Emperor, were not contrary to the Law of Nature and were very Laws. (Leviathan, ch. XXVI)

One reading this will recognize a very common theme between our current system of presidential parliamentary republics and constitutional monarchies. These systems of government, in general, respect the two-fold aspect of Catholic social doctrine regarding the subsidiarian and the solidaritarian nature of relationship. Federalism is respected. The individual is respected. Yet all are in solidarity with each other through the common rule and governance of one Emperor. The concept of full equality under the law also has its roots in Galatians 3 where St. Paul declares that there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, for all have been baptized into Christ. Under the law of Christ, all will have the same hearing at Judgment Day, so also in the civil government, all shall have a fair and equal hearing under the law, regardless of political ideology or political alignment with the civil authorities. The Blue Faction may have been favored by the Emperor, but the rioters were still rioters and they were put to death as a consequence for their actions. A rioter is still a rioter regardless of their political views and if one rioter is locked away in jail but another rioter is let out back onto the streets because of the "cause" they fought for, then the law has no equal application: it is tyranny.

Justinian also recognized the concept of symphony, and acknowledged the harmony between the Church and State. He accepted that the two needed cooperation together. In the Preamble to the Edict of April 17, 535, he writes:
"The greatest gifts which God in His heavenly clemency bestows upon men are the priesthood and the Imperial authority. The former ministers to Divine things, the later presides and watches over human affairs; both proceed from one and the same source and together they are the ornaments of human life. Therefore nothing is so close to the hearts of Emperors as the moral wellbeing of the priesthood since priests have the task of perpetual prayer to God on behalf of Emperors themselves. For if the priesthood is in all matters free from vice and filled with faith in God, and if the Imperial authority with justice and efficiency sets in order the commonwealth committed to its charge, there shall be an ideal harmony to provide whatever is useful for the human race. We therefore have the greatest anxiety for the true doctrines of God and for the moral wellbeing of the priesthood by which, if it is preserved, we believe that the greatest gifts will be given to us by God and we shall preserve undisturbed those things which we have and in addition acquire benefits which are at present lacking to us. But all things are done rightly and efficiently if a beginning is made which is fitting and agreeable to God. We believe that this will come about if there is due care for the observance of the holy canons, which the justly praised Apostles and venerated eyewitnesses and servants of the word of God handed down and which the holy Fathers preserved and interpreted." (in Thornton, Pious Kings and Right-Believing Queens, 255)
The Codes of Justinian became foundational in Roman law and legal theory. It was Roman law that led to the birth of the Medieval system of feudalism, especially in the Frankish law. Roman law influenced the great Pope Innocent III and the philosopher Thomas Hobbes also recognizes the impact of Roman law in the English common law. Roman law was also a strong component and inspiration of the Napoleonic Code which forms the basis of all modern day presidential parliamentary republics and constitutional monarchies. As mentioned, Justinian does not go unrecognized in the United States of America. In the House of Representatives, an icon of the Holy Emperor is raised up among the chief influencers of the legal system of the United States. If only we could commit ourselves to following the influence of this Holy Emperor once again. St. Justinian, pray for our nation!

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Holy Angels

What is an angel? What are angels? These are questions that Mother Alexandra addresses in her work, The Holy Angels. We turn to the Scriptures first to explain the angels. "If we are so little aware of [angels], it is because we do not as a rule see them with our mortal eyes, and our spiritual perception is either dulled or underdeveloped." (24) According to St. Basil, they become visible to those who are worthy to see them. The angels stand in the presence of God and "[t]heir being is sustained by God's goodness, and they participate in his might, wisdom, and love." (25)

The angels are typically divided into the nine categories of Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominions, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Archangels, and Angels. These nine categories of angelic beings, from earliest times, were divided into three hierarchies. According to St. Dionysius the Aeropagite, they are to be called choirs. The first of these choirs are the Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones who have no direct relation to man but are always, constantly beholding the presence of God. They are absorbed in unending love and adoration of God, "[n]o other creature is so intensely capable of loving God." (26) The Dominions, Virtues, and Powers govern the stars in our universe, our orb, and our galaxy, but otherwise, we have no direct connection to these beings. It is the Principalities, Archangels, and Angels that we come into  contact with the most. They execute the will of God and it is their joy to do the will of God.

Four Archangels have been given names. Michael, who is like unto God. Gabriel, man of God. Raphael, healer of God. And Uriel, the fire of God. "Here in the utter simplicity of the interpretations of the archangelic names, we get momentary glimpses of their personalities, through which their relationship to God becomes more apparent, as does their power and influence." (27) The names of angels reveal to us their personality, their characteristics that God has given them, and their very nature. Michael's name is a challenge to Lucifer. Lucifer, the light-bearer, who was of the most beautiful of Seraphim, defied God in his rebellion, proclaiming himself to be like the Most High, and Michael challenged the claim of Lucifer. The question is a dare. "Who is like unto God? Dost thou thinkest thyself so highly that thou canst not see thyself for what thou art? A creature. Who is like unto God?"

"We cannot fully comprehend [the angels'] role in man's destiny unless we are familiar with the role of Satan, the 'prince of this world,' and his angels, the angels of darkness." (27) In the fall of Lucifer, we see the role of angels at play. Lucifer defies his role. As a Seraph, he was supposed to be of the highest ranking, looking ever longingly toward his maker, but in defiance, he tried to the ascend to the heights and make himself out to be his creator. And thus, Michael, "Who is Like Unto God?" challenges Lucifer and his angels. War in Heaven breaks out, not between God and the angels of Lucifer, but between the Devil and his angels, and Michael and his angels.

It is this battle that man finds himself caught up in. For it is after the fall of Lucifer that men are led astray by the serpent in the Garden of Eden. It is interesting to note that Mother Alexandra fortifies her position that man is not at war with God but at war amongst the angels. The angels did not break out into war against God but with each other. God wars with no one for all is His creation. Thus, the spiritual warfare that man finds himself caught up in is not a war between us and God or us and the Devil or the Devil and God. It is a war that is being carried out between the fallen Lucifer and his emissaries, both human and angelic, and the angels and their emissaries, both human and angelic. Those who do the will of God are fighting with the angels. Those who disobey the will of God and follow the will of self, are on the side of the Devil. This is the war that humanity has been thrust into. That is why our community with the angels is so fundamentally important to the Gospels.

Monday, October 11, 2021

The Classics of Western Spirituality: Celtic Spirituality

I normally don't recommend anything from Paulist Press, and for the most part, Their Classics of Western Spirituality is largely a hit-or-miss with quality texts that you may not be able to get any where else but problematic introductions containing large amounts of heresy throughout. But Celtic Spirituality was a stand-out. It is organized very neatly. The introduction is actually of high quality. And the texts introduced are so unique, that there are very few places one can even find them. I was brought to Catholicism largely through two Irishmen...err...one was technically a woman. There is a heavy passion for the Catholic faith in its most ancient forms among the Irish Catholics still. Having read more in Eastern Christian spirituality lately, I wanted to go back to the early texts of the Western Christian world. There is much to be appreciated among the Western texts, especially being a former Anglican.

The book itself is divided into sections consisting of hagiography, monastic texts, poetry, devotion, liturgy, homilies, and theology. Though homilies sometimes overlap with theology and there is certainly no hagiography bereft of theology. The hagiographies are some of the most exotic to ever come across, and yet still, this is the Western world we are in. They show a movement of the Celtic peoples from Paganism to Christianity. The poetry heavily focuses on the saints and specifically the angels. It also shows a seasonal cycle reflecting the nature of the seasons in Celtic worship.

The hagiographical texts are wonderfully organized and very entertaining to read. They also display a Christian conquest of Paganism. Many Christians are given holy names when they enter into the Faith, but the Celtic Christians were given the names of the Celtic deities. St. Ite was baptized as Deirdre, the name of a Pagan Celtic god. St. Brigit of Kildare, whom I am quite fond of, beholds the name of the Celtic deity Brigid. The deity has found itself replaced with a holy figure. This is a rare practice in Christianity, yet it seems that the Celts did it regularly. The hagiographical texts contain the Patrick tradition, the Brigittine tradition, the narrative of St. Brendan's voyage, St. David, St. Beuno, and St. Melangell. Almost mythic at times, and in many instances adventurous. St. Patrick's dispute with the King Coroticus is narrated in these texts in which St. Patrick, by the power of God, commands the King to be turned into a fox. St. Brigit also has her own narrative with a fox where she saves a man from death. St. Brendan's voyage is a true seafarer's tale filled with sea monsters, an unknown island as the goal, temptations distracting the brothers as they sail forth, and various other dangers. St. David, St. Beuno, and St. Melangell read more like biographies, though some heathens will mock the miracles that are recorded to their own damnations.

The monastic texts shows how consistent the Celtic Christians were with the Egyptian world. Many scholars have also made the conclusion that the Celtic monastic tradition was heavily influenced by the Egyptian movement of the Desert Fathers. The monastic texts contain practical guides of spirituality for both laity and monastics. Though the different groups of laity and monastics are judged quite differently. The monastic rule of Cummean, Gildas, and Columbanus are all included in this work.

The poetry is mostly of two different traditions, that of the Welsh and that of the Irish. There are thirty poems in all. The poems elaborate on the nature of the Trinity, the nature of angels, and the Virgin Mary. They are quite beautiful reads. One such poem lists the seven archangels by name and is a prayerful plea for all the angels to be with him every single day of the week. I especially loved this poem. But the poems on the Trinity were also quite beautiful. St. Columba also has a poem in the devotional texts. In fact, some of the devotional texts may have been better listed under the poetical texts. The texts on the liturgy show how the Celts carried out their liturgical devotions. Though there is also certain clues hinted at in liturgical practice within the Brigittine narratives.

Next, we move into the homilies and the theological texts. Columbanus's sermons are included in here, as well as homilies of different Celtic traditions, an old Cambrai homily, and a Celtic catechesis. Not all of the authors appear to be known. Striking is the inclusion of the British monk Pelagius's text on The Christian Life. Some might want to skip this text, though it is important to note that just because a man falls into heresy, doesn't necessarily mean his entire life's work is invalidated. There does not seem to be dismissal or an argument made against any orthodox Christian doctrine on sin within the pages written by Pelagius that were included in this text. More of St. Columba's beautiful poetry is included among the theological texts. The work finishes off with a piece of John Scotus Eriugena's The Food of the Soul, which has a practical guide to Christian morality, a definition of the seven deadly sins, and their counterparts in the virtues.

It is rare that I can recommend unequivocally a work published by Paulist Press, yet I do so for this book, particularly because of my own enrichment by Irish Christians over the years. I am very fond of the Celtic Christians and their spirituality. There is a connection between East and West through the pages of these Christians and their spirituality is among the most adventurous. Excluding St. George's slaying of the dragon, there may not be a more adventurous and imaginative spirituality. Their spirituality is needed to be reflected on more-so than ever as a war is waged against the spirits of imagination and creation by many living among us today. It is important to recover this aspect of the Celtic spirituality. I highly recommend Celtic Spirituality, especially to my Irish-Scotch friends out there!

Saturday, October 9, 2021

The Campaigns of Justinian the Great

Part of his effort to rebuild the Roman Empire included the seizing of lands that once belonged to the Roman Empire. This Emperor was glorified for his adherence to orthodoxy and his zeal for the Christian faith. God granted him many victories through his general Belisarius and afterward his general Narses. According to St. Robert Cardinal Bellarmine, "Justinian the Elder, while he was Catholic, most happily conquered, so that Italy, Africa and many other provinces were restored to the Roman Empire" (On the Church, Bk. IV). Though Bellarmine cites Evagrius Scholasticus who is in error on the status of this Holy Emperor at death, we can see that God blesses his saints and the rulers who faithfully serve him, but of those who reject the will of God, God shall smite and stall.

"Saint Justinian's thoughts hearkened back to the time of Saints Constantine I and Theodosius I, when the Empire stretched from the British Isles to the Euphrates: '[H]e believed the Roman Empire to be one and indivisible, the political manifestation of Christendom." (Thornton, 251) It was an affront to the Will of God that these lands should fall into the hands of the barbarians and the heretics. There was also a sense of thinking in the Byzantine mindset that the lands never actually ceased to belong to the Roman Empire but were only merely occupied by vassals of the Roman Empire that could be rightfully seized once more should the Empire will it. According to Evagrius Scholasticus, the Vandal king Huneric was viciously persecuting Christians. Huneric was a fierce supporter of Arianism. The Arians, as recorded by St. Gregory of Tours, subjected Christians to tortures more heavy than the Pagan Emperors of old. Disturbed by this, Justinian ordered Belisarius to seize the territory of the Vandals and bring it back under the authority of the Empire. And in 533, the Patrician Belisarius began a campaign through Africa which would subdue nearly the entirety of Northern Africa underneath the Roman Empire.

The Emperor Justinian began his campaign in Italy after discoursing with the Gothic Queen Amalasuntha, who, ruling on behalf of her son Atlaric, had granted passage for the Emperor's armies through Italy as he campaigned against the Vandals. However, Atlaric began to wither away from a disease and Theodatus seized the throne of the Goths in Italy and began a reign contrary to the wishes of Amalasuntha (Procopius, History of the Wars). Belisarius was able to compel the Franks into taking up arms against the Goths in Italy as the Goths had embraced Arianism and were persecuting Christians. As mentioned, Childebert, Lothar, and Theudebert were enraged at Theodatus for having killed their cousin. So it was easy for Belisarius to persuade these men to wage a war against the Gothic King. Belisarius was able to take Italy under his control very easily. However, Theudebert wanted to regain control of Italy for Frankish rule and his general Buccelin would drive out Belisarius, winning many campaigns against him (History of the Franks, Bk. III, ch. 32). Justinian would demote Belisarius and replace the Patrician with the general Narses. Narses would be pushed back by Buccelin, but after long heated battles against the Frankish general, Narses would eventually kill Buccelin. That was the turning point, and in 555 A.D., Narses would have the whole of Italy subjected under the Roman Empire (Bk. IV, ch. 9).

Justinian's campaigns against the Vandals would also stretch all the way into Spain. His goal was to remove the tyrant Agila who was persecuting the Christians. Spain, unlike Africa, was under the rule of both the orthodox faithful and the heretics. During Justinian's campaigns against Agila, he seized the entirety of Spain under his control. But when Athanagild assassinated Agila, Athanagild had to also seize back territory for Spain that was wrongly conquered and subdued by the Imperial Army.

These great military accomplishments of Justinian the Great through his general Belisarius and his general Narses has earned him a reputation as a rebuilder of the Roman Empire. Justinian was elevated to the Throne when the Empire was at its weakest, ravaged by barbarians and heretics on all sides. Justinian's campaigns asserted the dominance of Christian orthodoxy in the Roman Empire, freed Christians abroad from the persecutions they suffered under heretic kings, and re-established Roman dominance over the Mediterranean. Because Justinian was building up the Empire for the purpose of the Kingdom of God on Earth, he was blessed with many victories and many territorial gains. From out of nowhere, Justinian revived an Empire that found itself near death.

St. Justinian, pray for us!

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Saints Tertiana, Mygdonia and the Holy Apostle Thomas in India

Saint Tertiana was the wife of the Indian King, Mazdai. Her sister Mygdonia was the wife of a kinsman of the King, Prince Karizius. It was when Saint Thomas the Apostle, of whom holy tradition upholds as having had missionary work in India after the dispersement of the apostles, that the Queen's sister Mygdonia became attracted to the teachings of this Holy Apostle. Mygdonia disguised herself as a beggar and would venture out to hear the words of the Holy Apostle. Mygdonia would convert to Christianity. Upon her conversion, it was observed that she refused to submit to her husband. The Queen began to probe her on this, asking as to why Mygdonia refused to submit in good-manner to her husband to which Mygdonia revealed she had become a Christian by the preaching of the Holy Apostle Thomas. As her husband was a Pagan, she could no longer submit to him for his was a false faith.

The Queen's interest was piqued by the words of her sister and she asked if she could meet this Holy Apostle. So her sister took her to the Holy Apostle Thomas who taught her the faith. Convinced, the sisters were both baptized by the Holy Apostle Thomas. Tertiana, upon her baptism, also refused conjugal relations with the King for he was still a Pagan. When he learned that it was through the Holy Apostle Thomas that the sisters were refusing conjugal relations with their husbands, he ordered the Holy Apostle to be put to death. The abuse of these two sisters continued for some time after but they lived godly lives until their deaths. Many years later, the King saw the error of his ways. Mygdonia is honored on March 27 and Tertiana is honored on October 6.

According to The Consummation of the Apostle Thomas, the King Mazdai (Misdeus) had the Holy Apostle locked up in prison when Tertiana, Mygdonia, his son Juzanes, and Markia had all become believers yet were not deemed worthy of baptism. They visited Saint Thomas while he was locked behind the bars of the prison cell, at which a miracle occurred where a young man, leading them by a light, unlocked the doors and the Holy Apostle was allowed to commune them with the Holy Eucharist and confirm them in the orthodox faith. Saint Thomas then returned to his prison cell. The King's men believed this to be a work more akin to that of a sorcerer rather than a fisherman.

The King questioned the Apostle and the Apostle proclaimed the faith of the Gospel. He was a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ who was also the Lord of Misdeus. Misdeus accused the Apostle of sorceries. Saint Thomas prophesied that the things that had followed him which the King referred to as sorceries shall always remain with the people of India. And as the soldiers surrounded the Apostle, he cried out, 
"O the hidden mysteries of You, O Lord! For even to the close of life is fulfilled in us the riches of Your grace, which does not allow us to be without feeling as to the body. For, behold, four have laid hold of me, and one leads me, since I belong to One, to whom I am going always invisibly. But now I learn that my Lord also, since He was a stranger, to whom I am going, who also is always present with me invisibly, was struck by one; but I am struck by four."
And he prayed that those spearing him to death would have their eyes open to the light and that they would see the faith of Christ. And he called out to the King's son Juzanes that he ought to give what is due to those who are to fulfill the will of Misdeus.

Saint Thomas would appear after his martyrdom to Syphorus and Juzanius, making them Syphorus a presbyter and Juzanius a deacon in the service of the Lord. He also appeared to Tertiana and Mygdonia to endure the sufferings they faced at the hands of their abusers, Misdeus and Karizius (Charisius). It was when Misdeus and Charisius saw they could not persuade the two saintly women to repudiate their newly held Christian views that they would relent. The brethren assembled together under Syphorus and Juzanius and the Lord blessed the helped his people, increasing their faith.

Much later, it happened that one of the sons of Misdeus was a demoniac. Misdeus was determined to heal his son and he sought out the tomb of the Holy Apostle for one of his bones to heal his son with. But the Holy Apostle appeared to Misdeus, rebuking him for not believing him when he was alive, how shall he believe the Apostle when he is dead! But the Apostle also informed Misdeus that the Lord Jesus Christ was kindly deposed to the King and while Misdeus could find no bones for no body remained there, he did bring home dust to his ailing son. Taking home the dust, Misdeus submitted himself to the faith of Christ and entreated the rest of the brethren, with Syphorus who ruled them, to pray for him that he might obtain the mercy from Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever!

The Apostle Thomas's Feast Day is celebrated on October 6 in the Eastern calendar and he also holds a Feast Day the First Sunday After Pascha, called Thomas Sunday.

Sources:
Thornton: Pious Kings and Right-Believing Queens
The Consummation of the Apostle Thomas

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Saint Helena-Elizabeth and Saint Stephen Štiljanović

St. Stephen Štiljanović, the Prince of Serbia, ruled Serbia during a most difficult time Serbia was ravaged by famine and their people were in struggle against both the Turks and the Latins. During the famine caused by the war against the Turks, he opened his barns and distributed corn freely to the people. He was even captured by the Turks who released him on account of his bravery and nobility. He is also credited with the founding of the monastery of Kuvedžin. He reposed in 1543 and was buried atop a mountain in called "Djuntir". The Turks, seeing his grave surrounded by a heavenly light, thought there might be a treasure hidden there and opened up the grave. Indeed, they found the Saint's body incorrupt and giving off a sweet fragrance.

The Turkish commander allowed Orthodox monks to retrieve the holy relics and they were translated to the monastery of Šišatovac, which his wife, Helena-Elizabeth, had founded. Helena-Elizabeth, viewed the relics and said to her deceased husband: "Do thou remember me who would speak with thee in time past of holy things, that I too may receive some portion of that which thou hast in the Lord." Soon thereafter, she was tonsured a nun and gave herself to a life of asceticism. They are honored together on October 4. His relics remained at the monastery of Šišatovac until the breakout of World War II.