Saints Martyrs Anthony, John and Eustathius of Vilnius

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Photo: oca.org

The holy martyrs Antony, John and Eustathius suffered for Christ under Prince Algirdas of Lithuania (1345-1377). The prince was married to the Orthodox Princess of Vitebsk Maria Yaroslavna († 1346). He himself was baptized and he allowed the preaching of Christianity during his wife’s lifetime. Two brothers, courtiers Nizilas and Kumetis, were baptized by the princess’s spiritual father, Fr. Nestor, with the names Anthony and John. An Orthodox church was even built in Vilnius at Maria’s request.

But after the death of his wife, Prince Algirdas began to openly support the priests of fire worshipers, who had begun to persecute Christians. Saint John and Antony tried not to show that they were Christians, but they no longer observed pagan customs – they did not cut their hair as the pagans did, and they observed fasting days.

Soon the prince suspected the brothers of apostasy. He questioned them and they confessed that they were Christians. Then he tried to force them to eat meat (it was a day of fasting). The holy brothers refused and the prince imprisoned them. The brothers languished in captivity for an entire year. Jean feared the torments that awaited him and announced that he would carry out all the Prince’s orders. Overjoyed, Algirdas released the brothers and called them back to him.

But Anthony did not betray Christ. When he again refused to eat meat on a day of fasting, the prince again imprisoned him and subjected him to cruel tortures. The brother who renounced Christ remained free, but no one spoke to him, neither Christians nor pagans, considering him a traitor. Repenting of his sin, John went to see Fr. Nestor and asked him to intercede with his brother, so that he would forgive him and receive him. “When he confesses Christ openly, then we will have all things in common,” replied the martyr Antony.

One day, while serving the prince in the sauna, Saint John privately told him of his reconciliation with the Church. Algirdas showed no anger and he made it clear that this was his personal matter and that he could believe in Christ, but he should behave like a heathen. Then Saint John confessed himself a Christian in the presence of many courtiers. He was severely beaten with sticks and sent back to prison with his brother. The martyrs joyfully gathered in prison, and on that day they took communion in the Holy Mysteries.

Crowds of people came to the prison to see the new confessor. Through their prayers, the brothers converted many to Christ. The prison turned into a Christian school. The frightened pagan priests demanded that the brothers be executed, but they no longer feared a temporary separation. On the morning of April 14, 1347, after receiving the Holy Mysteries, the martyr Antony was hanged from a tree. This oak tree, considered sacred by the pagans, now became truly sacred for the Orthodox Lithuanians.

The hopes of the priests that the preaching of Christ would cease with the death of Saint Anthony were not realized. Many people were still gathered around the prison where Saint-Jean was. On April 24, 1347, he was strangled and hanged from the same oak tree. The precious bodies of the two martyrs were buried by Christians in the Church of Saint Nicholas the Wonderful.

The third to suffer for faith in Christ was Krulis, whom Fr. Nestor named Eustathius at Baptism. He was a relative of the holy brothers. Among the retinue of the Lithuanian prince, Krulis stood out for his beauty, bravery and bravery, but even more so for his wit and spiritual goodness. A favorite of Algirdas, he had a bright future ahead of him. But one day, like the martyr brothers, he refused to eat meat during a festive meal. Saint-Eustache openly declared himself a Christian and said he would not eat meat because it was the Nativity fast. They immediately started beating him with iron bars, but the young man did not let out a single moan.

The Prince then refined his tortures. There was a heavy frost. Algirdas ordered the martyr to be stripped naked, taken outside, and ice water poured into his mouth. But that could not break the saint’s spirit. Then they broke his leg bones from heels to knees, tore out his hair and scalp with them, and cut off his ears and nose. Saint-Eustache endured the tortures with such joy and vitality that the torturers themselves were amazed at the divine power that strengthened him. After being tortured, the martyr Eustathius was condemned to death and hanged from the same oak tree († December 13, 1347) on which Sts. John and Anthony met their martyrdom ends earlier.

For three days no one was allowed to remove his body, and a pillar of cloud protected him from birds of prey and beasts. A temple was then erected on the hill where the holy martyrs suffered. The trinity of honorable passion bearers glorified the true God, worshiped in the Holy Trinity – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – therefore the church was consecrated in the name of the Most Holy Trinity. The altar was built on the stump of the sacred oak on which the martyrs were killed.

Their intact relics were soon discovered. Already in 1364, Patriarch Philomena of Constantinople (1354-1355, 1362-1376) sent a cross to Saint Sergius of RadonezhUndoubtedly, the most notable founder of the truly selfless “equal life with angels” in 14th century Russia is St. Bergius of Radonezh, the founder of the famous Holy Trinity St. Mary. Bergius Monastery, which embodied in its historical heritage its blessed precepts, and gradually became a kind of spiritual heart for all of Orthodox Russia.

“>St. Sergius of Radonezh († 1392) with the relics of the holy martyrs. The Church resolved to celebrate the memory of the three martyrs together on April 14. The feat of the holy martyrs was of great significance for the entire western region. The Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity in Vilnius, where their holy relics were kept, became a stronghold of Orthodoxy and peace in the region. In 1915, when the Germans attacked, their relics, as the most precious sacred treasure of the Baltic region, were transported to the heart of Russia, to Moscow.

The relics of the Passion-bearing saints were festively welcomed upon their return to Vilnius, at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, in 1946. The date of their return, July 13/26, has been celebrated festively at the monastery ever since. .

In August 2019, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church established the feast of All Saints who shone on Lithuanian soil, which will also be celebrated on July 13 and 26, on the feast of Saints. Antoine, Jean and Eustathius.

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