Fifth Saturday of Lent — Saturday of the Akathist to the Most-Holy Theotokos.
Wine and oil allowed.
Hieromartyr Artemon, Presbyter, of Laodicea in Syria (303). Martyr Crescens, of Myra in Lycia. Woman Martyr Thomaïs, of Alexandria (5th c.).
The Hieromartyr Artemon was born of Christian parents in Laodicea, Syria in the first half of the third century. From his youth, he dedicated himself to the service of the Church. The saint served the Church as a a Reader for sixteen years.
For his zeal in Church services, Bishop Sisinius ordained him deacon. Saint Artemon also fulfilled this service with fervor and diligence for twenty-eight years, then he was ordained to the priesthood. In this position, Saint Artemon served the Church of God for thirty-three years, preaching Christianity among pagans. When the emperor Diocletian (284-305) began his fierce persecution against Christians, Saint Artemon was already old. The emperor issued an edict ordering Christians to offer sacrifice to idols.
Saint Sisinius, knowing of the impending arrival of the military commander Patricius in Laodicea, went with the priest Artemon and other Christians into the temple of the goddess Artemis. There they smashed and burned the idols, reducing them all to dust.
Afterwards, Saint Sisinius and Saint Artemon gathered the flock into the church and fervently exhorted the Christians to remain firm in the Faith and not to fear the threats of torturers.
When he arrived in Laodicea, Patricius celebrated a five-day festival in honor of the pagan gods, and then went to the temple of Artemis to offer sacrifice. He learned who had destroyed the temple, and went with a detachment of soldiers to the church where the Christians were praying.
As he approached the church, Patricius suddenly felt a chill, and then developed a fever, which left him barely alive. They carried him home and put him to bed. “The Christians have put a curse on me, and their God torments me,” he said to those about him. Although Patricius prayed to the idols, they did not relieve his sufferings. He sent a messenger to Saint Sisinius and asked for his help, promising to set up a gold statue of the bishop in the middle of the city. The saint replied, “Keep your gold, but if you believe in Christ, He will heal you.”
Patricius was afraid of dying, so he declared that he believed in Christ, and the affliction left him. But even this miracle did not affect the obdurate soul of the pagan. Although he did not touch Saint Sisinius, he did enforce the imperial edict against other Christians in the city of Caesarea. Along the way he encountered Saint Artemon, who was followed by six wild donkeys and two deer.
When Patricius asked how he was able to control these wild beasts, Saint Artemon replied that he held them with the Word of Christ.
Patricius learned from the pagans that the old man was the same Artemon who had destroyed the pagan temple of Artemis. He ordered that Artemon be arrested and taken to the city of Caesarea. Saint Artemon went with the soldiers without fear, but he ordered the animals to go to Saint Sisinius.
Seeing the animals Bishop Sisinius asked, “Why have these animals come here?” A doe received the gift of speech from God and said, “The servant of God Artemon is being held by the impious Patricius, and is being brought to Caesarea in chains. He commanded us to come here to give you this news.” Do not be astonished that the Lord, Who opened the mouth of Balaam’s ass (Num. 22:28), also permits the doe to speak. The bishop sent Deacon Phileas to Caesarea to verify this information.
In Caesarea Patricius brought Saint Artemon to trial and tried to force him to offer sacrifice in the temple of Asclepius. In this pagan temple there lived many poisonous vipers. The pagan priest never opened the doors, nor did he place the sacrifice before the idol. But Saint Artemon, calling on the Name of Jesus Christ, went into the temple and released the snakes. The pagans fled, but the saint stopped them and killed the snakes by his breath. One of the pagan priests, Vitalius, believed in Christ and asked Saint Artemon to baptize him.
Patricius thought that Saint Artemon killed the snakes by sorcery, and again he interrogated and tortured him. Then the doe which had spoken arrived in Caesarea. The doe lay down at the feet of the martyr, licking his wounds. By God’s command the doe spoke again, denouncing the impious pagans. Addressing Patricius, the doe predicted that he would be seized by two birds of prey, and dropped into a cauldron of burning pitch. Patricius was enraged because he had been censured by a wild beast. He commanded his soldiers to shoot the doe with arrows, but she escaped. Afraid that the miracles performed by Saint Artemon would draw more people to him, Patricius gave orders to execute him.
They filled an enormous cauldron with boiling pitch, intending to throw the saint into it. Patricius rode up to the cauldron on horseback to see if the pitch was indeed boiling. Then two angels in the form of eagles seized Patricius and threw him into the cauldron. His body was consumed so that not a single bone remained.
Seeing the miracle, everyone ran away except Saint Artemon, who blessed and glorified God. When the saint finished his prayer, a spring of water issued from the ground. Saint Artemon baptized the pagan priest Vitalius and many pagans, who had come to believe in Christ. On the following morning Saint Artemon communed the newly-baptized with the Holy Mysteries.
Many of the baptized were ordained to the diaconate and priesthood, and Vitalius was made Bishop of Palestine. The hieromartyr Artemon, instructed by the voice of God, preached the Gospel in Asia Minor. Then an angel appeared to him and transported him to the place which had been revealed to him, where he converted many to Christ. Pagans seized the saint and beheaded him (+ 303).
Saint Artemon is commemorated on March 24 on the Greek calendar.
Troparion of the Akathist, tone 8
When the archangel understood the mysterious command, / he came to the house of Joseph with haste and proclaimed to the unwedded Lady: / The One Who bowed the heavens by His condescension / is contained wholly and without change in you! / As I behold Him in your womb, taking the form of a servant, I am frightened, but cry: / Rejoice, unwedded Bride!
Kontakion of the Akathist, tone 8
Victorious leader of triumphant hosts, / we your servants, delivered from evil, sing our grateful thanks to you, Theotokos! / As you possess invincible might set us free from every calamity, / so that we may sing: Rejoice, unwedded Bride!
Hebrews 9:24-28 (Epistle)
- For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;
- not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another –
- He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
- And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,
- so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.
Hebrews 9:1-7 (Epistle, Theotokos)
- Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary.
- For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary;
- and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All,
- which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant;
- and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.
- Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services.
- But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance;
Mark 8:27-31 (Gospel)
- Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them, “Who do men say that I am?”
- So they answered, “John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”
- He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.”
- Then He strictly warned them that they should tell no one about Him.
- And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
Luke 10:38-42; 11:27-28 (Gospel, Theotokos)
- Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.
- And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word.
- But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”
- And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.
- But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
- And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!”
- But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”