St Dimitri (Demetrius) of Rostov (1709)
Born near Kiev, he was raised in piety and, at the early age of eleven, entered the Ecclesiastical Academy of Kiev. At the age of seventeen he was professed as a monk. A few years later he was ordained to the priesthood. Despite his constant desire to retire into a life of asceticism and solitude, his many gifts were needed by the Church and, much against his will, he spent most of his life engaged in writing and other labors. The Abbot of the Lavra of the Kiev Caves, knowing his scholarly abilities, called him to compile a Russian-language Lives of the Saints, a work to which he devoted himself tirelessly for twenty-five years.
This compilation was not a dry exercise for him; he approached each Saint’s life with prayer, and was often granted visions. The holy Martyr Barbara appeared to him in his sleep in 1685; when he asked her to intercede for him to the Lord, she chided him for praying “in the Latin Way,” that is, for using short prayers. Seeing his distress at being so rebuked, she smiled and said “Do not be afraid!”
St Demetrius was elevated to the episcopal throne (of Metropolitan of Tobolsk and Siberia) in 1701, but asked to be transferred due to ill health, and because the Siberian see would not allow him to continue his research. So he was appointed to the Diocese of Rostov in 1702; he received a divine revelation that he would end his years there. He completed his monumental Lives of the Saints in 1705; thereafter he devoted his energies to the care of his flock, the education of priests, and many spiritual writings, including several addressed to the schismatic “Old Believers,” pleading with them to rejoin the canonical Church.
Despite his poor health, he maintained a life of strict prayer and fasting, and encouraged his faithful, in his sermons and writings, to do the same. He predicted his own death three days beforehand. The Synaxarion concludes: “the holy Bishop fell at the feet of his servants and chanters, and asked their forgiveness. Then, with an ardent prayer on his lips, he shut himself in his cell. The next morning, 28 October 1709, they discovered him dead upon his knees. The relics of Saint Demetrius were found incorrupt in 1752 and they wrought many healings. He was formally glorified by the Church in 1757.”
Our Holy Father Firmilian, Bishop of Caesarea (268)
Born to a noble family of Caesarea in Cappadocia, he studied under Origen with his friend St Gregory the Wonderworker (November 17). He became Bishop of Caesarea around 230. In 252 he took part in the Council of Antioch, which condemned the schismatic Novatian and his followers, who denied all hope of repentance and restoration to the Church for those who had denied the Faith to avoid persecution.
Firmilian devoted much energy to defending the churches of Asia and Africa from unlawful domination by Pope Stephen of Rome. The Asian and African churches baptized heretics who returned to the Church; Rome reconciled them simply by the laying on of hands. Firmilian did not condemn the Roman practice, but zealously defended the local churches’ right to keep their practice, rather than have the Pope dictate the practices of the entire Church.
The holy Bishop was then called upon to combat the heresy of Paul of Samosata, Bishop of Antioch. Paul taught that the Word of God is not one in essence with the Father, but is only a word of divine inspiration sent to the man Jesus. (This is undoubtedly the belief of many ‘Christians’ today!) Seeing in this teaching a complete denial of our salvation in Christ, fully man and fully God, Firmilian called three successive Councils (in 263, 266 and 268) to deal with the heresy. The first two were undermined by Paul and his party; but at the third the heresy was finally condemned and Paul of Samosata excommunicated. Saint Firmilian died in the city of Tarsus while traveling to this Council.
Holy Hieromartyr Cyriacus, Bishop of Jerusalem, and his mother Anna (4th c.)
Cyriacus was born a Jew and bore the name Judas before believing in Christ. He was one of the workers employed by Saint Helena when she came to Jerusalem to uncover the Cross of Christ. Thus, he was an eye-witness to the Cross’ discovery and the many miracles wrought by it; he believed in Christ, was baptized, and in time became a Bishop in the Church of Jerusalem. He lived into the reign of Julian the Apostate (361-363). The tyrannical Emperor, who was passing through Palestine on the way to Persia (where he would die), had the holy bishop seized and subjected to horrid tortures to force him to deny Christ. Cyriacus’ mother Anna rushed to his side to encourage him and bid him farewell; she also was seized, and the two gave up their souls to God on the same day.