May 12 (May 25, New style)
St. Theodore of Cythera
He was the fruit of a barren mother, who regarded him as a gift from God, and therefore baptized him Theodore, which means "gift of God." Marriage and the acquisition of two children did not hinder his ascent to God. When he saw that he could leave them alone, he did so. Less distracted now, he gave himself wholly to God, that God also might give Himself to him. He foresaw his death when he came to the island of Cythera, and was counted worthy of divine signs and the gift of wonderworking. (Peloponnesus and Cythera, 10th c.)
May 13 (May 26, New style)
St. Sergius the Confessor
A famous Byzantine spatharios (a rank of Byzantine nobility), he was the father of St. Photius the Great, and a relative of St. Tarasius. For his veneration of the holy icons, he was sent into exile by the iconoclasts and God-fighters, together with his wife Irene and his children, and he died from the hardships he suffered there. His son, the great Patriarch Photius, wrote that he was distinguished for "correct belief and true faith; he finished his course in exile for the wealth of his witness." And about his mother, who was a relative of the Emperor, he wrote that she also was "God-loving and virtue-loving." (Constantinople, 9th c.)
St. John the Georgian
Glory and wealth could not wither the flower of his piety. He renounced corruptible splendor, the consolation of his wife and small child, his good parents, his fatherland of Georgia, and his title of kouropalatis (the 3rd highest rank of Byzantine nobility, as reserved for members of the imperial family), and went to Constantinople in order to put on the angelic monastic schema and follow the wealth-giving poverty of non-acquisitiveness. Even the fervent entreaties and tears of his father did not make him retrace his steps. His father once visited him with his grandson in his arms in order to persuade him to return; but in a wondrous manner the little child was left in his father's hands, and he was later clothed as a monk himself. They went together to the Holy Mountain and became disciples of St. Athanasius, the builder of the Great Lavra. With the blessing of St. Athanasius, St. John built the great Athonite monastery of Iviron, with the assistance of his relative, General John Tornicius, a friend of Emperor Basil II the Bulgar-Slayer. The work was continued by his son, St. Euthemius, and his nephew, St. George. (Georgia, Constantinople, Mount Athos, +998)
May 15 (May 28, New style)
Hieromartyr Vladimir Zagarsky
Fr. Vladimir was a priest in the village of Kushin-Kubshinskoe, and the father of seven sons. After the communist revolution he was arrested; his church was closed and later destroyed after he was released from prison. One of his sons was pressured at school by the authorities to sign a paper stating that he renounced his father. The son refused to deny his father, even when the father, in his love for his sons, begged him to sign it—for life would be very difficult in Soviet society for the son of a priest. Fr. Vladimir begged his son, saying, "My dearest Sashik, my darling boy. I'm old and will soon be arrested and then die. You have a whole life ahead of you I know that you love me; for my sake, sign this paper which will help you to get along." But the son refused, and left home for his father's sake. Soon after this, Fr. Vladimir was arrested and exiled. He was put to work logging in a swamp drainage project, and he drowned there in 1937. (Russia, Kushin-Kubshinskoe, +1937)
Hieromartyr Nicholas Kedrov
Fr. Nicholas was a widower, and lived with his son in Yaransk. He gave shelter to Fr. Vladimir's son when he refused to denounce his father to the Communist authorities (mentioned above), and to Hieromartyr Pachomius after he was imprisoned and severely tortured in the Soviet prison-camps for refusing to betray Orthodoxy. At one time, a decree was proclaimed that no one was to possess any gold or silver. At the request of a poor parishioner, Fr. Nicholas kept three or four teaspoons for her, which were discovered during a search and served as a pretext for his arrest, imprisonment, and death. (Russia, Yaransk, с 1936)
May 17 Sts. (May 30, New style)
Andronicus and Junia
Sts. Andronicus and Junia, who were husband and wife, were a pair of holy apostles who by their preaching brought many to the Christian faith. In their travels they cast down pagan temples and by their wonderworking power healed many sick people. They were co-workers of the Apostle Paul, who praised them in one of his epistles. (Rome, 1st c.)
May 18 (May 31, New style)
His married state did not at all hinder his godliness. When the ruler Theotecnus sprinkled the food in the markets with libations and sacrifices offered to idols, St. Theodotus purchased wheat and baked prosphora for church and loaves of bread for the Christians, which he gave to the poor for free. Furthermore, he did not cease visiting the prisons and encouraging those held there for their Christian faith. Because of this he was taken to the ruler, and after confessing his faith he was suspended in the air and vinegar and salt were put into his wounds. Finally he was beheaded. (Ancyra, Galatia, +303)
May 21 (June 3, New style)
St. Helen the Empress
The Empress, St. Helen, was not of noble background, being the daughter of an innkeeper. Being fair, not only in appearance, but also in mind and in her rare beauty of soul, she conquered the heart of the well-known warrior, Consrantius Chlorus, and became his lawful wife. God blessed their union with the birth of a son, Constantine (274).
The couple had lived happily together for eighteen years when their family life was cruelly shattered. The Emperor Diocletian appointed Constantius ruler of Gaul, Britain, and Spain (292) and demanded that he divorce Helen and marry his step-daughter, Theodora.
This great trial struck Helen when she was still a woman in her forties, full of life. She had to give up the man she loved to his new family. Apparently she never again in her life saw her husband. Fourteen years passed in which Helen lived in obscurity and poverty. After her son Constantine ascended the throne and ended the persecution of Christians, he issued a decree raising his mother to the rank of Augusta (i.e. Empress).
But St. Helen was already dead to everything earthly. She was attracted neither by honor, nor by the imperial purple. Her heart was given to Christ alone and her thought turned to Palestine, where the Lord had preached the Gospel, had lived, suffered and risen from the dead.
On Golgotha stood a temple of Venus. But now, with the victory of Christianity over paganism, all those places which had been sanctified by the Savior's presence needed to be purified from pagan defilement. The heart of Helen was inflamed with the desire to fulfill this sacred mission. She was frightened neither by the complexity of such a labor, nor by the long difficult journey by sea, nor by her advanced old age—she was already seventy-seven years old.
She arrived in Palestine in the year 326 and discovered the holy Cross of the Lord in a wondrous fashion. She brought back a part of it to Constantinople as a gift to her son.
In all she spent two years in Palestine, erecting many churches—at the Holy Sepulchre, in Bethlehem over the cave of the Nativity of Christ, on the Mount of Olives, at the site of the Ascension of our Lord, at the site of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God near Gethsemane, at the place of the appearance of the most holy Trinity to Abraham at the Oak of Mambre, and at Mount Sinai. In truth this woman was great, and great was the fire that blazed in her soul; the Church has justly named her Equal-to-the-Apostles.
She gave up her holy soul to the Lord just a year after returning from Palestine, in the year 327. (Constantinople, +327)