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

24 July / 6 August

The Holy Martyr Christina

Born in the city of Tyre, she was the daughter of the imperial governor, Urban, an idolater. It is not known why her parents gave her the name Christina, but it carried within itself the mystery of her future following of Christ. She knew nothing of Him until the age of eleven, but, when she reached that age, her father (wanting, because of her beauty, to hide her from the world until she was fully grown) made her live on the top floor of a high tower. He gave her every comfort slaves and gold and silver idols to which to offer daily sacrifice. But the soul of the young Christina was weighed down and suffocated in this idolatrous atmosphere. Looking out of the window by day at the sun, and by night at the wonderful constellations of shining stars, she came, through her natural understanding, to a firm belief in the one, living God. God, in His great mercy, seeing her yearning for the truth, sent His angel to her, who signed her with the sign of the Cross, named her the bride of Christ and instructed her fully in the things of God. Then Christina smashed all the idols in her rooms, incurring her father's terrible wrath. He brought her to trial and had her tortured and thrown into prison, intending that she be beheaded on the following day. But that night, Urban, in full health, gave up the ghost and went to the grave before his daughter. After that, two of the governors, Dion and Julian, continued the interrogation of this holy maiden. Christina's courage in suffering and the marvels which were performed by the power of God brought many of the pagan inhabitants of Tyre to Christianity. During Christina's torture, Dion suddenly fell dead among the people. His successor, Julian, cut off Christina's breasts and cut out her tongue. The martyr took her tongue in her hand and threw it into Julian's face, and he was instantly blinded. Finally, her sufferings for Christ were ended under a sharp sword, but her life went on in the immortal kingdom of the angels. St Christina suffered with honour in the third century; St. Boris and St. Gleb (d. 1015), passion-bearers - sons of St. Vladimir by Anne of Constantinople, these two princes were killed at the instigation of their elder half-brother, Svyatopolk, whose aim was to 'exterminate all his brothers in order to hold all power in his own hands': Boris had been bequeathed Rostov and Gleb Muron. On returning from an expedition against the Pechenegs, Boris learned of Svyatopolk's plans. He would not allow his soldiers to fight for him against his brother. who now stood in his father's place. Instead, after much heart-searching he sent away his armed followers and passively awaited his murderers with prayer. Considering the emptiness of earthly riches and the example of the suffering Christ. whom he invoked for strength to accept his own passion, he was killed near the river Alta by spear and sword. His younger brother Gleb was killed shortly afterwards on the river Dnieper. Invited by Svyatopolk to meet him at Kiev, Gleb suddenly met the boat which carried his murderers. He initially entreated them to spare him but at length voluntarily submitted to his fate, the final blow being a stab in the throat from his own cook. Prayers attributed to the two martyrs include a request for forgiveness for their brother. voluntary acceptance of an unjust death in imitation of Christ's passion, and acknowledgement of Christ's prophecy that his followers would be betrayed by kinsmen and friends. In 1020, Yaroslav of Novgorod, yet another son of Vladimir, invaded Kiev and drove out Svyatopolk, who died in flight to Poland. Yaroslav translated the bodies of Boris and Gleb, reputedly incorrupt, to the church of St. Basil at Vyshgorod, near Kiev; miracles were reported and pilgrimages began. The Greek metropolitan of Kiev hesitated to canonize them: they were neither ascetics nor teachers, neither bishops nor martyrs in the sense of being killed for the faith. They were seen, however. as 'passion-bearers'. innocent men who had renounced violence and accepted death as a sacrifice in the unresisting spirit of Christ. In the West they are sometimes called Romanus and David. Our Holy Father Polycarp, Abbot of the Kiev Caves.

St. Declan, bishop of Ardmore, Ireland (5th c.)

Born at Desi (Decies), Waterford, Ireland, 5th century. Declan, an Irish monk, was baptised by and a disciple of Saint Colman. He appears to have been an Irish evangelist before the arrival of Saint Patrick. He may have made two pilgrimages to Rome and later became the first bishop of Ardmore, a see confirmed by Patrick during the synod of Cashel in 448. Many miracles are attributed to Declan. Five miles or less to the east of Youghal Harbour, on the southern Irish coast, a short, rocky and rather elevated promontory juts, with a south- easterly trend, into the ocean [� 51� 57' N / 7� 43' W]. Maps and admiralty charts call it Ram Head, but the real name is Ceann-a-Rama and popularly it is often styled Ardmore Head. The material of this inhospitable coast is a hard metamorphic schist which bids defiance to time and weather. Landwards the shore curves in clay cliffs to the north-east, leaving, between it and the iron headland beyond, a shallow exposed bay wherein many a proud ship has met her doom. Nestling at the north side of the headland and sheltered by the latter from Atlantic storms stands one of the most remarkable groups of ancient ecclesiastical remains in Ireland--all that has survived of St. Declan's holy city of Ardmore. This embraces a beautiful and perfect round tower, a singularly interesting ruined church commonly called the cathedral, the ruins of a second church beside a holy well, a primitive oratory, a couple of ogham inscribed pillar stones, &c..

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