Both Galaction and Episteme were born in the city of Edessa, in Phoenicia. Galaction's mother was barren until she was baptized. After her baptism, she converted her husband [Cleitophon] to the true Faith, baptized her son Galaction, and raised him in the Christian Faith. When Galaction was old enough to marry, his good mother, Leucippa, entered into rest, and his father betrothed him to a pagan-born maiden named Episteme. By no means did Galaction want to enter into marriage, and convinced Episteme to be baptized, then to be tonsured a nun at the same time that he became a monk. Both of them withdrew to Mount Publion-Galaction to a monastery and Episteme to a convent. They proved to be shining lights in their monasteries. They were first in labor, first in prayer, first in humility and obedience, and first in love. They neither left their monasteries nor did they see one another until just before their death. A fierce persecution began and both of them were brought before the tribunal. When the pagans mercilessly whipped Galaction, Episteme wept. Then they whipped her. After that, they cut off their hands, their feet and then their heads. Their friend Eutolius took their bodies and honorably buried them. Eutolius had been a slave of Episteme's parents, and then a monk with Galaction. He also wrote the life of these wonderful martyrs of Christ who suffered and received their wreaths in heaven in the year 253.
They were of the Seventy. Patrobas was Bishop of Neapolis, Hermes of Philipopolis (Romans 16:14), Linus of Rome (II Timothy 4:21), Gaius of Ephesus (Roman 16:23), and Philologus of Synope (Romans 16:15). All of them fulfilled the Law of Christ with love and took up their abode in the Kingdom of Christ.
Jonah was born in Novgorod and was orphaned early. A certain God-fearing widow took him and educated him. Seeing him as a child, Michael, the fool-for-Christ of Klops said to him prophetically: ``Ivanushka, study diligently, for you will become archbishop in Novgorod the Great.'' And indeed, following the death of Archbishop Euthymius, Jonah was chosen and consecrated in his place. Jonah was devout and merciful to a rare degree for a mortal man. He built churches and monasteries and cared for his flock as a true good shepherd. He was offered the throne of Moscow as Metropolitan but declined, excusing himself because of his age. He entered into rest peacefully on November 5, 1570, and settled in the joyful heavenly habitations. One hundred years following his death there was a great fire in Novgorod. The relics of this saint did not burn in the furious flames, but on the contrary, from then on manifested healing power and emitted a wonderful fragrance.
The Venerable Martyrs Galaction and Episteme
Galaction, and Episteme with him,
Abandoned the world of passing smoke,
Crucified the passions of the body,
And ascended to heaven in spirit.
Their hearts remembered Christ with every beat,
And were crucified with love for Him.
Then the tormentors arrived.
Galaction went to his torture,
And Episteme hurried after:
``Slower, Brother,'' she said, ``do not hurry!
I was baptized by your hand,
Now take me with you to torture!
Even though I am unworthy, Brother,
I am willing to die for my Christ.''
Galaction, and Episteme with him,
Proclaimed Christ to the unbelievers,
And in bitter tortures they breathed their last.
They gave their souls to Christ:
Now they live with angels in Paradise-
Galaction and Episteme.
Physical love, in comparison to spiritual love, is less than a shadow is to solid substance. Brotherhood and sisterhood of the blood and body is nothing compared to the brotherhood and sisterhood of the spirit. Galaction's father betrothed him to the maiden Episteme. Galaction baptized Episteme and, after that, both received the monastic tonsure. Their physical love was replaced by spiritual love, a love as strong as death. So great was Galaction's spiritual love for Episteme that he never desired to see her with his physical eyes. Neither physical contact nor closeness are necessary for spiritual love. So great was Episteme's spiritual love for Galaction that when she heard that he had been taken for torture she ran after him, begging him not to reject her, but to receive her as a fellow sufferer, as he was her spiritual father and brother. When the merciless torturers flogged holy Galaction's naked body, holy Episteme wept. However, when the torturers cut off their hands and feet for Christ, both rejoiced and glorified God. So great was the power of their love for our Lord Jesus Christ, and so great was the spiritual love with which they loved each other. Truly, physical love is like a colorful butterfly that quickly passes, but spiritual love is enduring.
Contemplate the wondrous action of the Holy Spirit upon the baptized (Acts 19):
1. How Paul, coming to Ephesus, saw men baptized with the baptism of John to repentance;
2. How he placed his hands on them and the Holy Spirit descended upon them;
3. How they were filled with power, and spoke in tongues and prophesied.
on the elevation of man through the Risen Christ
… Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come and hath put all things under His feet (Ephesians 1:21-22).
Behold, the heights to which God exalts the being of man! Here, Christ's Divine Nature is not the subject, but rather His human nature. This is not about the eternal Word of God, but rather about the man Jesus, whom God raised from the dead and exalted-not only above this whole visible and mortal world, but also above the invisible and immortal, far above all the orders of angels and the heavenly powers; far above all the known and unknown wondrous hierarchies of heaven; far above every created being, known and unknown; and far above every name in the material and the spiritual worlds. My brethren, do you see how our All-glorious Creator fulfilled the promise He gave to Adam when he banished him from Paradise, and repeated more clearly to Abraham, and repeated still more clearly through the prophets and David? Do you see how the Lord of Sabaoth began to glorify the human race by glorifying the man Jesus, the Son of God, in Whom was incarnate the divinity of God? As the first in glory, God first glorified Him, and then, in order, all those who are numbered with Him, and who by the grace of the Holy Spirit are named and written in the Book of Life for eternal glory. It is not without cause that the Church sings to the Mother of God: ``More honorable than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim.'' Where the Risen Lord is exalted, His Most-holy Mother is also exalted, as are also His holy apostles, in accordance with His words to His heavenly Father: Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am (John 17:24).
Such is the boundless consequence of God's descent to earth. Such are the ineffable fruits of His sufferings.
O Lord Jesus Christ our Savior, equal only to Thy Father and the Holy Spirit; help us to extricate ourselves from the depth of putrid sin and sensual foolishness before the end.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.