Venerable Hilarion the New, Abbot of Pelekete
Commemorated on March 28
Saint Hilarion the New, Igumen of Pelekete Monastery (“Pelekete”, means “hewn with an axe” in Greek, and refers to its location on a steep rock near the Dardanelles). From his youth St Hilarion devoted himself to the service of God and spent many years as a hermit. Because of his holy and blameless life he was ordained to the holy priesthood, and later he was made igumen of the Pelekete monastery. Saint Hilarion was granted gifts of clairvoyance and wonderworking by the Lord.
Through prayer he brought down rain during a drought, and like the Prophet Elisha he separated the waters of a river, he drove harmful beasts from the fields, he filled the nets of fishermen when they had no success in fishing, and he did many other miracles. In addition to these things, he was able to heal the sick and cast out demons.
Saint Hilarion suffered on Holy Thursday in the year 754, when the military commander Lakhanodrakon suddenly descended upon the Pelekete monastery, boldly forcing his way into the church, disrupting the service and throwing the Holy Gifts upon the ground. Forty-two monks were arrested, slapped into chains, sent to the Edessa district and murdered. The remaining monks were horribly mutilated: they beat them, they burned their beards with fire, they smeared their faces with tar and cut off the noses of some of the confessors. Saint Hilarion died during this persecution.
Saint Hilarion left behind spiritual works containing moral directives for spiritual effort.
Mark, Bishop of Arethusa, who suffered under Julian the Apostate
Commemorated on March 29
Mark, Bishop of Arethusa, suffered for his faith in Christ under the emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363). By order of the emperor Constantine (May 21), Saint Mark had once destroyed a pagan temple and built a Christian church.
When Julian came to the throne, he persecuted Christians and tried to restore paganism. Some citizens of Arethusa renounced Christianity and became pagans. Then Saint Mark’s enemies decided to take revenge on him. The old bishop hid himself from the persecutors at first, but then gave himself up when he learned that the pagans had tortured many people in their search for him.
The holy Elder was led through the city and given over to torture. They tore out his hair, slashed his body, dragged him along the street, dumped him in a swamp, tied him up, and cut him with knives.
The pagans demanded that the holy bishop pay them a large sum of money to rebuild the pagan temple, and he refused to do so. The persecutors invented several new torments: they squeezed the Elder in a foot-press, and they cut off his ears with linen cords. Finally, they smeared the holy martyr’s body with honey and grease, then hung him up in a basket in the hot mid-day sun to be eaten by bees, wasps, and hornets. Saint Mark did not seem to notice the pain, and this irritated the tormentor all the more.
The pagans kept lowering the price he had to pay for their temple, but Saint Mark refused to give them a single coin. Admiring him for his courage and endurance, the pagans stopped asking him for money and set him free. Many of them returned to Christ after hearing his talks.
Saint Gregory the Theologian (January 25) describes the sufferings of Saint Mark in his First Oration against Julian.
Theodoritus of Cyrrhus also mentions him in his Church History (Book 3, Ch. 6)
St John Climacus (of the Ladder)
Commemorated on March 30
Saint John of the Ladder (Climacus), is the author of the most helpful spiritual counsel works, The Ladder of Divine Ascent. The abbot of Saint Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai (6th century) stands as a witness to the violent effort needed for entrance into God’s Kingdom (Mt.10: 12). The spiritual struggle of the Christian life is a real one, “not against flesh and blood, but against … the rulers of the present darkness … the hosts of wickedness in heavenly places …” (Eph 6:12). Saint John encourages the faithful in their efforts for, according to the Lord, only “those who enduresto the end will be saved” (Mt.24:13).
Saint Hypatius the Wonderworker, Bishop of Gangra
Commemorated on March 31
Hypatius, Bishop of Gangra, was bishop of the city of Gangra in Paphlagonia (Asia Minor). In the year 325 he participated in the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea, at which the heresy of Arius was anathematized.
When Saint Hypatius was returning in 326 from Constantinople to Gangra, followers of the schismatics Novatus and Felicissimus fell upon him in a desolate place. The heretics ran him through with swords and spears, and threw him into a swamp. Like Christ Himself and St. Stephen, Saint Hypatius prayed for his murderers.
An heretical Arian woman struck the saint on the head with a stone, killing him. The murderers hid his body in a cave, where a Christian who kept straw there found his body. Recognizing the bishop’s body, he hastened to the city to report this, and the inhabitants of Gangra carefully buried their beloved Bishop.
After his death, the relics of Saint Hypatius were famous for miracles, particularly for casting out demons and for healing the sick.