Dear Brothers & Sisters,

Last week, while in NYC where we traveled to return the Holy Kursk Root Icon of the Holy Theotokos, our parish was gifted 5 beautiful icons with relics that belonged to the ever-memorable Metropolitan Hilarion. On the back of the icons we placed notecards indicating that these icons are from the collection of our beloved late First Hierarch. The fifth icon of the New Martyr priest Vladimir needs to be researched more to establish his exact identity. Below are photos of the icons accompanied by short lives of these saints.

Glory be to God for this wonderful blessing!

In XC,
Fr Victor

Saint Sophia the New Ascetic of Kleisoura

Sophia Saoulidi was born in Pontus, Asia Minor, in 1883, at a time of growing hostility between
the Turkish and Greek populations. Her married life was short-lived following the disappearance of her husband and the death of her new-born son. These events led Sophia to turn completely to God and marked the beginning of her ascetic way of life.

In 1919, Sophia fled the tense environment in Turkey. Upon her arrival to Greece, the Mother of God appeared to her saying, “Come to my house. I am in Kleisoura”. Sophia went to a monastery in Kleisoura, located in Kastoria, West Macedonia, dedicated to the Birth of the Mother of God. She remained there for the rest of her life, although she was never tonsured a nun.

Sophia’s life in the monastery was characterised by poverty, humility and strict asceticism. She lived in the kitchen near the fireplace. When it rained, water would drip on her. She slept for two hours each night, devoting the rest of her time to prayer. People would see her ragged appearance and give her clothes or money which she would pass onto the poor. She fasted very strictly, only eating oil on the weekends.

Despite being labelled “Crazy Sophia” by some, she was granted many spiritual gifts, including the ability to know the names and troubles of people who came to see her before they would speak. People subsequently came to see her from all over Greece.

In 1967 Sophia became very ill with open sores in her stomach resulting in great pain. She would say, “The Panagia will come to take away my pain. She promised me”. She later explained how Panagia, Saint George and the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her and performed surgery on her.

On the 6th of May 1974, Sophia passed away. Her grave is at the monastery in Kleisoura, Kastoria, where many people venerate her relics each day. She was canonised by the Church on 4th October 2011, a powerful reminder to us, that those who humble themselves will be exalted. Her annual feast day is the 6th May, the day of her repose in the Lord.


The Monk Cyril was in the service first of the Rostov prince Konstantin II Borisovich, and then of Konstantin III Vasilyevich, whom he, as one of the closest people to them, more than once accompanied to the Golden Horde. St. Cyril possessed a state of sufficient stature, but according to the simplicity of the then mores, living in the village, did not neglect the usual rural labors.

In the life of St. Sergius it is narrated that at the Divine Liturgy, even before the birth of the son, the righteous Mary and the praying people heard the infant’s threefold exclamation: before reading the Holy Gospel, during the Cherubim song, and when the priest pronounced “Holy to the saints.” Sts Cyril and Mary felt the great

mercy of God on themselves, their piety required that feelings of gratitude to God be expressed in some external feat of piety, in a reverent vow. And the righteous Mary, like St. Anne – the mother of the prophet Samuel, together with her husband promised to dedicate the child to the Benefactor of all – God. God gave them a son called Bartholomew. From the first days of life, the baby surprised everyone by fasting: on Wednesdays and Fridays, he did not take his mother’s milk, on other days, if she ate meat, the baby also refused milk. Noticing this, St. Mary completely refused meat food.

The righteousness of Cyril and Mary was known not only to God. Being strict guardians of all church statutes, they helped the poor, but especially sacredly preserved the commandment of the holy Apostle Paul: do not forget strange love, especially since the angel’s strange friend is not leading (Hebrews 13:2). They taught the same to their children, strictly urging them not to miss the opportunity to call a traveling monk or other tired wanderer to their house. We have not received detailed information about the pious life of this blessed couple, but we can say together with St. Plato that the fruit that came from them showed better than any eloquent praise the kindness of the blessed tree. Happy are the parents whose names are glorified eternally in their children and posterity ! Happy are the children who not only have not disgraced but have increased and exalted the honor and nobility of their parents and glorious ancestors, for true nobility consists in virtue !

Around 1328 the Monks Cyril and Maria moved from Rostov to Radonezh. Verstach three from Radonezh was Khotkovsky Pokrovsky monastery, at that time both male and female. According to the custom common in Russia, monks were accepted under old age by simpletons, princes, and boyars. The spirit of monasticism was communicated from the son to his parents: at the end of their many-suffering life, the righteous Cyril and Mary wished to take the angelic image themselves.

In this monastery they sent their feet to spend the rest of their days in the feat of repentance, preparing for another life. But for a short time, the boyars worked in a new rank. In 1337 they departed to the Lord in peace.

On April 3, 1992, the year of the celebration of the 600th anniversary of the repose of St. Sergius, at the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Church-wide glorification of the schema-monk Kirill and the schema-monk Maria took place. Canonization crowned with dignity the six-century veneration of the parents of the great ascetic, who gave the world an example of holiness and the Christian structure of the family.

Elder St Jonah of Odessa

He was born on October 10, 1925 under the name Ignatenko Vladimir Afanasyevich

He was the ninth child born in the 45th year of mother's life. Orthodox family, lived modestly, poorly, but did not grumble, observed and honored God's commandments.

At that time, atheism was taught everywhere, but thanks to his upbringing, Vladimir kept faith in God. Mother instilled in him honesty and decency, taught love, hard work. From an early age, the boy was deprived of greed and developed spiritually.

In the 30s, the family had to face severe trials. At this time there was a desperate confrontation of the state with religion: the churches were destroyed, the monks were persecuted. But this did not make the seer family grumble: they believed that through difficulties and trials they would open the path to God.

From an early age, Vladimir worked in good faith, without complaining about fatigue and difficulties, and spent a lot of time in prayers. He realized that he had come to earth with a specific mission and waited patiently for the moment when he could fulfill it.

In his youth, after a hard day of work, Vladimir fell asleep right in the field. In the middle of the night, he woke abruptly and saw a woman whose face was illuminated by a bright light. He later realized that the Mother of God had come to him.

The hard, exhausting work throughout life has led to inevitable consequences - in 40 years the saint fell ill with a severe form of tuberculosis. Then he realized. that less time is needed for physical, material, and more to take care of the soul

In the hospital, among the same suffering sufferers, he made a vow in the face of the Lord: if God would not let him die, he promised to become a monk and devote himself to serving the Highest Divine Power

God heard the prayers of Jonah: he recovered. After healing, the monk went to the Caucasus, found a spiritual teacher there and underwent the tonsure rite.

Jonah tried to enlist in the Holy Dormition Monastery, but he was not taken. He did not despair: he built a dugout nearby and settled in it, prayed and waited. As a result, they took him to a grunt job, because there was a shortage of workers in the monastery

He had to work hard and hard, but Jonah was willing to wait patiently for as long as necessary. It bore fruit: from a novice, he became schehiarchimandrite, and in 1964, after the death of the spiritual teacher, the Rev. Kuksha, Jonah replaced him as a post.

St Amphilochius of Pochaev

He was born Yakov Holovatiuk on November 27, 1894, to Varnava and Anna Holovatiuk in the Ukrainian village of Malaya Ilovitsa. He was one of ten children in the family. Varnava, his father, took any work that was available, including making shoe-lasts and sleighs. Varnava also was an experienced setter of broken bones, and during Yakov's youth he helped his father setting broken bones.

In 1912, Yakov served his compulsory military service as a field medic. During World War I, he helped in rescuing wounded companions from the battlefield. Captured by the Germans, he was sent to the Alps where he spent three years as a prisoner working for a farmer. After he escaped in 1919, he returned to his native village. In Malaya Ilovitsa, he resumed his life as a peasant and cared for the sick who came to him for help.

In 1925, Yakov entered the Pochaev Lavra as a novice. At the monastery he performed his duties industriously and with humility. He was tonsured a monk, with the name Joseph, on July 8, 1932, by Metropolitan Dionisy of Warsaw and All Poland. On September 21, 1933, he was ordained a hierodeacon by Bishop Anthony. On September 27, 1936, he was ordained a hieromonk.

Among the tasks and obediences performed by Fr. Joseph at the lavra, he became well known for his skill setting broken bones, such that suffering people were brought to him from all over the district. To limit the disturbance to the brethren of the lavra by all the people coming to Fr. Joseph for treatment, he moved, with the blessing of the prior, to a small house in the monastery cemetery. Here, he lived with Hieromonk Irinarch for the next twenty years. On some days he would receive up to 500 people who were looking for physical and spiritual healing. He dedicated his entire being to serving God and used his God-given gifts to help his neighbor.

In the world of eastern Europe after World War II, he was attacked one night by a group of partisans who burst into his cell, demanding food. After finishing their meals, the group requested that the elder escort them away from the small hut. Upon reaching the gate, the leader of the partisans told him he was to be shot. Facing imminent death, the elder took the news with utter humility, asking only that he be given ten minutes to pray. Granted the time, he read the "Our Father," "O Theotokos," "I believe," and began the prayer for the departure of the soul, when a distraught Fr. Irinarch burst out of the hut, concerned about Fr. Joseph's long absence, and, seeing the machine gun pointed at the elder, knocked the gun down and began pleading with them to show mercy to the elder. Heeding Fr. Irinarch's pleas, the group of partisans then left without any further threats.

During the days of Khrushchev's persecutions of the Church of the late 1950s and 1960s, monastics were evicted from their monasteries and not allowed to return. In 1962, the elder, leading a group of monks, successfully defended the Holy Trinity Cathedral at the lavra. However, after having defended the church, Fr. Joseph was taken away in the middle of the night to a psychiatric hospital where he was placed in the ward for the most "agitated" patients. Here he was "treated" with medications that caused a massive edema of his whole body. Pleas by his spiritual children for his release went for naught. After three months the chief of medicine asked if Fr. Joseph could heal others in the ward, to which he answered yes. After rejecting his request for the Holy Gospels, a cross, and vestments so that he could serve a Moleben with Blessing of the Waters, he was returned to the ward.

Fr. Joseph's release was gained through intervention by Svetlana Alleluieva, Joseph Stalin's daughter, whom Fr. Joseph had once healed of a spiritual illness. Through her efforts he was released and returned to his home village to live with one of his relatives.

With his return home, suffering people began seeking him out again. This conflicted the local authorities, worried about the flood of people coming to the village to seek the elder's blessing. The authorities finally persuaded one of his relatives to their position. The relative, tricking Fr. Joseph, took him on a tractor into the swamps beyond the village. In an isolated spot the elder was beaten and then thrown in the cold December water nearby to die. Some eight hours later some of the elder's spiritual children found him still alive and took him to Pochaev Lavra, where he was immediately tonsured into the schema with the name Amphilochius, honoring the holy Hierarch Amphilochius of Iconium (November 23). Through God's mercy Schema-monk Amphilochius recovered. Since he did not have a residence permit to live at the lavra, he soon returned to his village.

In the village he continued serving a Moleben with a Blessing of the Waters each day in his yard, helping the sick, and maintained an ascetic life. The elder found time for everyone.

On January 1, 1971, the ascetic, Schema-monk Amphilochius, reposed in the Lord. On April 23, 2002, the Pochaev Elder Schema-abbot Amphilochius was glorified a saint.


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