St. John the Baptist Parish, A Parish of the Russian Orthodox Church, Canberra, Australia

17 / 30 June

The Holy Martyrs Manuel, Sabel and Ishmael

These three brothers were Persians, of a pagan father and a Christian mother. Brought up in a Christian spirit and baptised, they were high officials at the court of King Balanos, and were sent to the Emperor Julian the Apostate to conduct negotiations and confirm the peace between the Persian and Graeco-Roman Empires. The apostate Emperor had arranged some sort of vile celebration in honour of the idols at Chalcedon, and he went there with his nobles bearing sacrifices for the idols. The Persian delegates absented themselves from the celebration. The Emperor summoned them and ordered them to take part in the festivities and offer sacrifice to the gods. They then declared that they were foreign envoys who had come from the King of Persia to establish peace between the two Empires, and not for any other reason. They said that they were Christians and considered it unworthy to bow down before lifeless idols and offer them sacrifice. The Emperor, in fury, had them thrown into prison. They were brought out the next day, and he began to dispute with them about the Faith, but the holy brothers were irrefutable and unwavering. They were then bound naked to trees and struck and flayed with iron flails. During their torture, they prayed to God, thanking Him for it: 'O sweet Jesus, these pains are sent to us for love of Thee.' An angel of God appeared to them, comforted them and took away all their pain. Contrary to all understanding of the rights of foreign envoys, the wicked Emperor Julian finally issued the order that the three brothers were to be slain with the sword. There was a great earthquake at their execution, thus making it impossible for the pagans to burn them as the Emperor had commanded. The earth later gave up the martyrs' bodies for Christians to find and bury. Many miracles were worked over their relics, bringing many pagan witnesses to the Christian faith. When the Persian king heard of the inhuman death that Julian had provided for the envoys, he prepared for war against him. Julian set out for Persia convinced of victory, but he was beaten to his knees and perished miserably. Our Holy Father Pior; St. Nectan of Hartland, martyr (Devon, 6th c.) and St. Bostolph of Boston, England, abbot and confessor (680).

St. Nectan of Hartland, martyr (Devon, 6th c.)

Icon of St Nectan The Welsh saint Nectan has always been venerated as a martyr killed by robbers, although we have no details about his life. He is the patron of Hartland, Devonshire, which is near the site of his hermitage. The fullest surviving vita dates only to the 12th century in the Gotha manuscript. This work describes Nectan as the oldest of the 24 children of Saint Brychan of Brecknock. It tells us that Nectan was already a monk when he and his many relatives sailed from southern Wales to northern Devonshire. Seeking solitude, he settled in the dense forests. His family would meet him at his hermitage the last day of each year. After several years he found an even more remote valley with a spring. There he helped a swineherd find his pigs; later the owner rewarded Nectan with a gift of two cows, which were stolen. Nectan found them, remonstrated with the thieves, and tried to convert them to Christ. They rewarded his efforts by cutting off his head. After his death, we are told, he carried his head for half a mile to the spring by his hut. Bishop Lyfing of Crediton (1021-1046) provided treasures for the church at Hartland, including bells, lead for the roof, and a sculpted reliquary. Nectan's staff was decorated with gold, silver, and jewels. Manors were built around the church to give it some protection from the Danish invaders. Five churches are dedicated to Nectan in Devon and Cornwall and possibly two Breton placenames may be connected with him. His feast is commemorated at Launceston, Exeter, Wells, and elsewhere. The date of his death is thought to be May 18.

St. Botolph of Boston, England, abbot and confessor (680)

Icon of St Botolph (also known as Botulf, Bostolph) Died c. 680; feast of his translation is December 1. Botulph and his brother, Saint Adulph, were two noble English brothers at the dawn of Christianity on that island. They were probably born in East Anglia. At some point they traveled into Belgian Gaul to learn more about Christian discipline in a monastery because they were then scarce in England. They progressed in the spiritual life to the point that Adulph is said to have been raised to the episcopate, though this is questioned. Botulph is said to have been chaplain to the convent where two of his king's sisters lived, possibly at Chelles. (Liobsynde, the first abbess of Wenlock (Salop), was from Chelles and Wenlock was initially dependent on Ikanhoe.) Botulph returned to England with the treasure he had found and begged King Ethelmund of the South Saxons for land on which to set it. The king gave him the wilderness of Ikanhoe (Icanhoh), formerly thought to be near Boston (Botulf's stone) in Lincolnshire but now believed to be Iken in Suffolk. (Others relate that the land was provided by the king of East Anglia, either Ethelhere, 654, or more likely Ethelwold, 654-64.) There he built an abbey and taught the assembled brethren the rules of Christian perfection and the institutes of the holy fathers. He became one of the foremost missionaries of the 7th century. Everyone loved Botulph: He was humble, mild, and affable. He always practiced what he preached, finding an upright example far more important than sermons. Nevertheless, Saint Ceolfrid travelled all the way from Wearmouth to converse with this man "of remarkable life and learning" before joining Saint Benedict Biscop at Wearmouth. Botulph thanked God in good times and in bad, knowing that God works all things to the good of those who love Him. He lived to a venerable age and was purified by a long illness before his happy death Although his monastery was destroyed by the Danes, his relics were carried to Ely (the head) and Thorney Abbeys. It is said that when Ethelwold sent his disciple Ulfkitel to collect the relics of Botulph for Thorney Abbey, he found that he could not move them without also taking those of Adulph as well. Saint Edward the Confessor gave some of them to Westminster and others are at Bury Saint Edmunds. More than 70 English churches were dedicated to Saint Botulph, including four parishes in London. Other place names also recall his sanctity including the town of Boston in Lincolnshire and Botulph's bridge, now Bottle-bride, in Huntingdonshire.

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