Holy Martyr Callistratus and the Forty-nine Martyrs with Him (288/304)
Callistratus was born in Carthage to Christian parents. In time, he joined the army, where he was the only Christian in his regiment. One of his fellow-soldiers saw Callistratus rise during the night to pray, and reported him to their commander. Callistratus was interrogated, then, when he refused to deny his faith or make sacrifice to the idols, was harshly beaten, then tied in a sack and thrown in the sea. But the sack burst open and Callistratus emerged from the sea unharmed. Seeing this, forty-nine of his fellow-soldiers confessed Christ, and were beaten and thrown into prison with Callistratus. In prison, Callistratus instructed the newly-enlightened Christians in the faith. Finally, all of them were beheaded, according to some sources in 288, according to others in 304.
Holy Apostles Mark, Aristarchus and Zenas of the Seventy
St Mark was also called John; according to Acts 12:12, the apostles gathered for prayer in Jerusalem at his mother Mary’s house, and was later bishop in Byblos. St Aristarchus accompanied St Paul in his travels (Acts 16:29) and was later bishop in Syrian Apamea. St Zenas is mentioned as a lawyer in Titus 3:13, and was bishop in Lydda in Palestine.
Our Venerable Father Sabbatius, Founder of the Monastery of Solovki (1435)
He lived for many years as a monk at the Monastery of St Cyril of White Lake, where his ascetic struggles won him the respect of his brethren. To flee from the admiration of men he moved further north to Valaam Monastery. But he still attracted the good opinion of his community, so he secretly headed still further north, planning to reach the uninhabited Solovki Island in the White Sea (a large bay of the Arctic Ocean). When he reached the coast, everyone who might take him tried to dissuade him from living in such a harsh place. He answered ‘My children, I have a Master who has the power to renew the strength of the old and to enfeeble the young if He so wills. He makes the poor rich, clothes the naked, provides for the destitute and satisfies the starving with a measure of food as he fed five thousand men in the desert.’
While waiting for seasonable sailing weather he met St Germanus (July 30) who lived nearby as a hermit. Together they found a fishing boat and, casting all their trust on the Lord, made the dangerous two-day voyage and set up a hermitage on the island. It became known as a holy place, and thenceforth those living in the world knew not to settle on Solovki, or even to set foot there without good reason. After six years, St Germanus departed, and Sabbatius was left alone.
When he was old, he began to fear that he would die without receiving the life-giving Mysteries, of which he had not partaken since he left Valaam. So he returned to the mainland where he met an abbot Nathanael just as he was taking Holy Communion to a sick man. Sabbatius persuaded the abbot to hear his confession and grant him the priceless gift of Holy Communion. He then settled in a nearby chapel and made ready for his departure from this life. A wealthy merchant from Novgorod visited him to ask for his blessing. The Saint said to him, ‘Spend the night here and you will see the grace of God.’ The next morning the merchant came to Sabbatius’ cell and found that he had reposed during the night; his cell was suffused with a beautiful scent.
The following year, St Germanus, along with St Zosimas (April 17), returned to Solovki island and founded a monastery there, which proved to be the nurturing ground of many Saints.
Holy New Martyr Aquilina (1764)
She lived in the village of Zangliverion near Thessalonika. When she was still an infant, her father killed a Turkish neighbor in an argument and, to save his life, denied his Christian faith. To compound his apostasy he promised that when his daughter came of age she too would convert. Aquilina’s mother, however, held fast to her faith in Christ, and brought up her daughter to love her Savior fervently. When Aquilina reached the age of eighteen, her father told her that the time had come to formally embrace Islam; he was dismayed when she replied that she would rather suffer any torment than deny Christ. Fearing for his own life, her father handed her over to the Turkish authorities. When the usual threats and promises had no effect, she was viciously beaten three times. Some pious Christians returned her, dying, to her mother, to whom she said ‘I have done as you told me, and kept the confession of our faith. Surely you didn’t think I would do anything else?’ With this, the holy Martyr died. The Synaxarion relates, ‘As her body was taken to be buried, every place that it passed was filled with a delightful scent, and a brilliant light came forth from her grave during the night.’