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

1 / 14 August

Procession of the Precious Wood of the Life-Giving Cross

This feast was established jointly by the Greeks and Russians in the time of the Greek Emperor Manuel and the Russian Prince Andrei, as a memorial of the simultaneous victories of the Russians over the Bulgars and the Greeks over the Saracens. In both battles, the soldiers carried crosses, from which a heavenly radiance shone forth, with the army. It was therefore instituted that, on August 1st, the Cross be carried from the Church of St Sophia, first around the interior of the church and then through the streets, to give the people the chance to venerate it, as a memorial of the miraculous help given by the Cross in earlier wars. This was not just any cross, but the true Precious Cross itself, which was kept in the church of the imperial court. On July 31st, the Precious Cross was taken from the imperial court to St Sophia's, and thence carried through the streets, to consecrate the earth and the air. Finally, on August 14th, it was taken back to the church in the imperial palace.

Holy Seven Maccabees, their Mother Solomonia and Eleazar the Priest

Icon of the Seven Maccabees They all suffered for the purity of the Israelite faith under King Antiochus, called by some 'Epiphanes'-God manifest-and by others, 'Epimanes'-mad. For the great sins of Jerusalem, and especially for the wresting-away of the high-priestly power and the wickedness that ensued, the Lord let loose great calamity on the Holy City. Antiochus desired after that to bring the Jews to idolatry in place of their faith in the one, living God, and did all he could to this end. He was helped in his intention by several disaffected high priests and elders of Jerusalem. The king once came himself to Jerusalem and commanded that all Jews eat pork, which was against the Law of Moses and was therefore a recognisable sign of apostasy from the Jewish faith. The elder Eleazar, a priest and one of the seventy translators of the Old Testament into Greek, refused to eat pork . He was therefore tortured and burned . Returning to Antioch, the king took the seven young men, the Maccabees, and their mother Solomonia (II Macc. 6:18-7:41). The seven Maccabean brothers were called: Avim, Antonius, Eleazar, Gurius, Eusebon, Achim and Marcellus. Before their mother's eyes, the wicked king tortured her sons one after the other, flaying the skin from their faces and then throwing them into the flames. They all endured torture and death with courage, remaining steadfast in their faith. Finally their mother, when she saw her three-year-old son in the fire, threw herself into the flames and perished, giving her soul into God's hands. They all suffered with honour for their faith in the one, living God in about 167BC.

St. Ethelwold, bishop of Winchester (984)

Born there of good parentage in the early years of the tenth century; d. 1 Aug., 984. After a youth spent at the court of King Athelstan, Ethelwold placed himself under Elphege the Bald, Bishop of Winchester, who gave him the tonsure and ordained him priest along with Dunstan. At Glastonbury, where he was dean under Saint Dunstan, he was a mirror of perfection. In 955 he became Abbot of Abingdon; and 29 November, 963, was consecrated Bishop of Winchester by Dunstan, with whom and Oswald of Worcester he worked zealously in combating the general corruption occasioned by the Danish inroads. At Winchester, both in the old and in his new minster , he replaced the evil-living seculars with monks and refounded the ancient nunnery. His labours extended to Chertsey, Milton (Dorsetshire), Ely, Peterborough, and Thorney; expelling the unworthy, rebuilding and restoring; to the rebellious "terrible as a lion", to the meek "gentler than a dove". The epithets "father of monks" and "benevolent bishop" summarize Ethelwold's character as reformer and friend of Christ's poor. Though he suffered much from ill-health, his life as scholar, teacher, prelate, and royal counsellor was ever austere. He was buried in Winchester cathedral, his body being translated later by Elphege, his successor. Abingdon monastery in the twelfth century had relics of Ethelwold.

On the same day: The Nine Holy Martyrs: Leontius, Attus, Alexander, Cindeus, Mnesitheus, Cyriacus, Menaeus, Catunus and Eucleus; St. Nicholas, enlightener of Japan

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