10 / 23 October
This Council was held in 787 in Nicaea, in the reign of the devout Empress Irene and her son Constantine, and in the time of Patriarch Tarasius. This Council finally upheld the veneration of icons, expounding it from Holy Scripture, the witness of the holy fathers and the examples of miracles in connection with the holy icons. Among other examples cited, the Cypriot bishop, Constantine, brought forward this one: A herdsman from the city of Constantia, driving his flock out to pasture one day, saw an icon of the Mother of God adorned with flowers by the devout. 'Why give so much honour to a rock?', said the herdsman, obviously brought up in iconoclasm, and threw his iron stave at the icon, damaging the right eye of the Mother of God. As soon as he had left that spot, he stumbled over the same stave and put out his own right eye. Returning blinded to the city, he cried out tearfully that it was a punishment from the Mother of God. This Council also decided that the relics of the martyrs be placed in the antimins (the cloth spread on the Holy Table for the celebration of the Liturgy). Three hundred and sixty-seven fathers took part in the Council. May the Lord have mercy on us and save us by their prayers.
They gave grace-filled advice to people of all stations in life, including great Russian writers and statesmen. In the 19th – early 20th century the monastery renewed the ancient ladder of eldership, which allowed entire generations of people to ascend into the Heavenly Kingdom. The Optina elders were healers, clairvoyants, comforters, accusers. “The widespread stabs of the young generation at great activity for the benefit of mankind are similar to a person’s not graduating from high school and yet dreaming of becoming a professor in a university... One must first avoid evil himself, and only then concern himself with the benefit of others,” – wrote elder Ambrose at the end of the 19th century. There words, as well as everything that has been said and written by him and other Optina elders, sound extraordinarily applicable to our own times. The elders taught people to live not according to their passions, but according to the commandments. “The zeal which wishes to destroy great evil without appropriate preparation is a great evil in itself,” – said the elder Joseph, a disciple of Saint Ambrose. The Optina elders were the defenders and invariable champions of the Orthodox faith. “Apostle Paul writes: ‘I have stayed the course and kept the faith.’ This means that it is a very difficult task... Children, guard the holy faith, which is a priceless treasure, for with it you will enter the Kingdom,” – instructed the elder Barsonuphius. From Optina proud mankind was called to embrace humility. “People are truly losing their minds if they rely on their minds and expect everything from them. Our teacher is humility. God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble,” – declared the elder Anatoly on the eve of the revolution. The rules of life that were offered to people could be followed in any rank or profession on earth. “Holiness is simplicity, presented to people in a reasonable manner. Good sense is higher than all virtues,” – such was the spiritual testament left us by the last elder, Saint Nectarius, on the eve of his repose in 1928.
Prayer (the Optina Elders): Grant to me, my Lord, that with peace of mind I may face all that this new day is to bring. Grant me grace to surrender myself completely to Your holy will. For every hour of this day instruct and prepare me in all things. Whatsoever tidings I may receive during the day, do You teach me to accept tranquilly, in the firm conviction that all eventualities fulfill Your holy will. Govern my thoughts and feelings in all I do and say. When things unforeseen occur, let me not forget that all comes down from You. Teach me to behave sincerely and reasonably toward every member of my family, that I may bring confusion and sorrow to none. Bestow on me, my Lord, strength to endure the fatigue of the day and to bear my part in all its passing events. Guide my will and teach me to pray, to believe, to hope, to suffer, to forgive and to love. Amen. The Holy Martyrs Eulampius and Eulampia; The Holy Martyrs of Zographou; Our Holy Father Theophilus the Confessor; The Holy Martyr Theotecnus; Our Holy Father Bassian; St. Paulinus, archbishop of York (644).