Saints of July

Yeah, I missed a few weeks.  I’ve had my kids with me for the summer.  But there was a bunch of VIPs we missed:

VLADIMIR of Kiev (15th July, 958-1015AD)
st_vladimirA devout pagan King of the Russians, with multiple wives, his curiosity about other belief systems (including the Christianity of his grandmother Olga) got the better of him.  He sent envoys to various parts of the globe to explore the faiths, including to Muslims, Jews and Latin Christians.  None proved satisfactory, until the emissaries to Constantinople attended a service of the Divine Liturgy in Hagia Sophia, and reported “We no longer knew whether we were in Heaven or on Earth”.  This, along with the political convenience that an alliance with the Romans provided, convinced Vladimir, and he ordered that the pagan idols be smashed and “strongly encouraged” his citizens to be baptized.  This “Baptism of Holy Rus” occurred in 988AD, and is to this day the largest mass conversion to Christianity in its two thousand year history.  The change in both Vladimir, and Kievan Rus, was dramatic – a hitherto rapacious and warlike King became a man of peace who kept only one wife.

Vladimir is given the title Equal to the Apostles in the Church, and is rightly venerated as the father of the Russian nation, as well as a holy Saint.

ELIZABETH of Russia (18th July, 1864-1918AD)
stelizabethnewmartyrA granddaughter of Queen Victoria, who was raised at Buckingham Palace following the death of her parents, the Duke and Duchess of Hesse am Rhein, Elizabeth was chrismated Orthodox of her own free will, adopting the faith of her husband, Grand Duke Sergei of Russia.  She devoted herself to her new faith with great gusto.

In 1905 Sergei was murdered by a communist terrorist who had planted a bomb in his car.  Elizabeth famously visited the perpetrator in prison, forgiving him for what he did, but warning him that he needed to repent and giving him a copy of the gospels to read.  A short time afterwards, she decided to accept tonsure and become a nun, liquidating her many assets and jewels to build the convent of Saints Mary and Martha in Moscow, of which she became the first Abbess.

grandduchesselizabethFollowing the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, Elizabeth was taken from her monastery and imprisoned.  She, with several other members of the nobility and their employees, were thrown down a mine shaft and blasted with grenades.  These, however, failed to kill her, and she was eventually martyred by asphyxiation from a fire that had been set in the shaft.

Saint Elizabeth is my daughter Bella’s name Saint, and has become very popular among modern Orthodox Christians, especially converts to the faith, for her piety, her willingness to forgive, and her devotion to the poor of Moscow as an Abbess.

MACRINA (19th July, 330-379AD)
macrinaMacrina was from the famous Cappadocian family of Saints that also gave us Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa.  Though she herself wrote no texts, her younger brother Gregory wrote extensively about her, her virginity and asceticism for Christ, and liberally quoted her, referring to her as “the Teacher”.  She is therefore, through Gregory’s writings, regarded as a Church Mother along with the many Church Father.

She is famous for having refused any further suitors following the tragic death of her betrothed fiancee, instead opting to live the life of a monastic, and convincing her mother, Saint Emilia, to free their slaves and give away their possessions.

Macrina was renowned for her skills as a philosopher, as can be seen through Gregory’s work On the Soul and Resurrection, and other texts.  She reposed in peace in 379 or 380AD.

MARY Magdalene (22nd July)
mary-magdalene-xlgOther than Christ’s mother, Mary Magdalene is regarded as the woman who was closest to Him in His earthly ministry.  Because of this, there is much speculation about her from some who would like to discredit Christ’s sexual purity, or to claim he was married to her, or had children by her (a view that Dan Brown based a notorious novel on).  There has also been through the centuries, attempts to paint her as a reformed prostitute or scarlet woman, but there is certainly no evidence of any of this from either the Gospels, or the Holy Tradition, which states that she was merely beset by seven demons, whom Christ cast out.

While not an Apostle (an office given only to men), she is given the title Apostle to the Apostles, as she was blessed to be the first person to see the resurrected Christ, and report this fact to the Apostles, thus she holds a special place in the Church.  Following Pentecost, she joined in the ministry of the Apostles, preaching the Gospel around the Roman Empire.

It is to Mary Magdalene that the tradition of Easter Eggs is ascribed.  She is reputed to have met with, and directly confronted, the Emperor Tiberius, discussing Christ’s resurrection with him over dinner.  The Emperor bragged to her that a man could no more be resurrected than the boiled eggs before him could change colour, at which point the eggs turned bright red.  She then began to use coloured eggs as a symbol of Christ’s resurrection in her preaching.

The date of Mary’s repose is unknown, but Tradition suggests that it was peaceful, in Ephesus, at some time in the late 1st Century.

Keep calm and carry on

Suppose I’m trying to live a Christian life.

Jesus is the Word, and the Word clearly says that the most important rules in life are to love God and to love others.


Then one of [the Pharisees], which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,

Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

This is the first and great commandment.

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (KJV)

I’m an abject sinner. Nonetheless, I do try to do what’s right. In fact, I’ve mostly always tried to do what’s right. Even before I turned to Christ. You see, I have an inbuilt moral compass. A God-given moral compass. God is the font of morality.

Just as we all have an inbuilt knowledge of God, so, too, we all have an inbuilt moral compass. What is a moral compass, exactly? The term ‘moral compass’ is shorthand for a set of moral sentiments, certain basic moral beliefs and the ability to engage in moral deliberation. And empathy. Hence the Golden Rule.

Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them. (ESV)

Your moral compasss is kind of like a speedometer in a car. If you’re trying to keep to the speed limit (as, of course, you should) then respect what your speedometer tells you.


We’re all supposed to have a God-given moral compass, one that points due moral north. Just in case it’s a bit broken and wavery, our parents are supposed to teach us right from wrong.

Not all parents are perfect, however. As a result of imperfect parenting, sometimes our children turn out to be gluttonous, stubborn, rebellious drunkards, who curse us.

Sometimes our children even commit heinous crimes and end up in jail.

I was in prison and you came to me. (ESV)

Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them. (ESV)

As parents, we stand by our children. We love them, no matter what. At least, that’s what most parents do or would do and it’s what my moral compass tells me is how parents should treat their prodigal offspring. (I’m lucky in that my own children are model citizens. 🙂 )

But certain passages in the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament, also known as the Pentateuch) tell an entirely different story.

For anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother; his blood is upon him. (ESV)

If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear. (ESV)


Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (ESV)

I wish that others wouldn’t batter me with rubble.

I was once a stubborn and rebellious son who didn’t obey the voice of his father. Had I been stoned to death with stones by all the men of the city I wouldn’t be writing this here today. Luckily all that happened was an interview with my school headmaster. Hang all the Law and the Prophets!

When my moral compass and the Torah collide, I follow Jesus.