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   Major Christian Saints, Bishops and Martyrs

Gregory of Nyssa (SB)

St. Gregory of Nyssa is one the greatest theologians. He was born at Caeserea C.335 and the younger brother of St. Basil. Gregory was married to Theosebia, who was also a good Christian Lady. Until he was invited by St. Gregory of Nazianus to devote his abilities as a rhetoric teacher to the church, Gregory didn't take a part in church affairs. Later, his brother St. Basil appointed him as the bishop of Nyssa, however St. Basil complained about his easy-going behavior. And finally he was left out of his position for two years, because of his wasting the church property. After Basil's death in 379, we see Gregory back on the stage as a strong opponent of Arianism, and he was proclaimed to be the Pillar of Orthodoxy by the general council that met at Constantinople in 381. His works are extant that include "On the Soul and the Resurrection", which is a dialogue between him and his sister St. Macrina, and another one "Against Fate". One of his letters complains about the abuse of religious pilgrimage to the holy lands.
 
Gregory of Sinai (S)

He was born at Smyrna (modern Izmir) in C.1290 and died in 1346 at the monastery he built on the Black Sea coast in Bulgaria. Driven away from Selcuk raids, he went to join the monastery at Mt. Sinai, where had some disagreements with local monks, and left there and went to Crete where he learned mental prayer from another Monk. When he went to Mt. Athos, he was disappointed with the inhabitants who knew little about true contemplation. As he was prepared to teach his ideas to locals, another raid on the area drove him away from Athos. This time, he went to build a monastery near the town Sozopol on the Black Sea coast, and he spent the rest of his life there and died there.
 
Gregory the Enlightener (B)

He was born in Armenia C. 240 and died there in C. 326. His title the e Enlightener comes from the idea that he brought the light of Jesus Christ to Armenia and its people. The story says he comes from a Parthian family and his father had murdered King Khosrov I of Armenia, and the baby Gregory, for safety reasons, was taken to Caeserea in Cappadocia. He was baptized and raised up there, and had two sons from his marriage. He was chosen as bishop of Caeserea, and spent the rest of his life preaching and organizing the church in Armenia. Despite he had suffered a lot from the King Tirdates, eventually Gregory was the one who converted this King to Christianity. Before his death, he appointed his son the chief bishop of Armenian church, and died in solitary.
 
Helena the Empress (S)

Helena the mother of Constantine the great was born at Drepanum (Helenopolis), (modern Izmit, Turkey). The Emperor Constantius Chlorus took her as his wife and their son Constantine was born to them in 274. Constantius, probably for the reason that Helena became a Christian, repudiated his wife in 292. After his son Constantine the great has become emperor and tolerated Christianity in his empire, Helena devoted herself to the promotion of the new official religion of the state. The records say that she had made a long visit to the Holy Land, and found the pieces of the True Cross on which Jesus Christ suffered to his death, and brought these pieces with her back to Constantinople. She is also known that she has raised funds to build more churches and help the poor people. Even her position as a saint is still in question.
 
Ignatius of Antioch (MB)

Where he was born is unknown, but for sure, he was martyred at Rome in C. 108. What is known about his life and ideas comes from the seven letters he wrote to the Christian communities of Asia Minor, on his way to Rome to be executed there. He was one of the earliest bishops, and probably the second bishop of Antioch. He stopped at Smyrna on his way and had chance to meet St. Polycarp. The first four of his letters were addressed to the Christians of Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles and Rome, then of Lystra, and before crossing over into Europe, to the Christians at Philadelphia, Smyrna and the last one, a farewell letter to the St. Polycarp. Ignatius believed that he possessed the Holy Spirit's Gift of Prophecy, though he considered himself lower in rank than the Apostles. His enthusiastic and strong will to be a martyr came true, before he was thrown onto the beasts at Coliseum, he begged the Christians of Rome not to move to prevent his execution. His strong argument based on that there should be only one bishop for each congregation to prevent the splits in the church and to make sure that the correct and original beliefs were preserved.
 
Ignatius of Constantinople (B)

He was born at Constantinople and died there. Ignatius was the oldest son of the Emperor Michael I who ruled the Byzantine Empire from 811 to 813 when he was exiled to Proti. By that time, Ignatius was castrated so that he could never succeed to the throne. When he was of age, he became a monk, and his superior qualifications and personality made him a leader in the monastic community. When Theodora ruled as Regent during the first year of Michael III the sot's reign, appointed Ignatius Patriarch of Constantinople. However, when Michael came on the throne, deposed Ignatius and made Photius Patriarch of Constantinople, the reason being that was that Ignatius' criticism of the emperor and his court about their misbehaviors and scandals. Ignatius was first exiled to his monastery on Terebinthos (modern Sedef) island off the Asian Shores of Constantinople. Later, he was dragged from one prison to another and humiliated and subjected to inhuman tortures. Widespread reaction from the public at this treatment of St. Ignatius forced the emperor Michael to allow him to return to his Monastery at Terebinthos. The time was working in favor of St. Ignatius. Basil I murdered Michael and usurped the throne in 867 and restored St. Ignatius as Patriarch of the City. He maintained this position until his death in 877, and his body was brought back to his monastery at Terebinthos and buried there.
 
Irenaeus (SB)

The great theologian and one of the most important figures of the second century. He was born at Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey) in C. 130 and died at Lyons in C. 202. St. Polycarp the bishop of Smyrna influenced young Irenaeus strongly, and he said "Polycarp's teachings are not on the paper but in my heart". The emperor Marcus Aurelius' persecutions forced Irenaeus to leave Asia Minor, and he went to Lyons. As he was on his way back from a mission to Rome, he succeeded St. Pothinius as Bishop of Lyons. His principal work is about the false teachings of Gnostics.
 
Joannicius (S)

Joannicius was born in Bithynia in C. 754 and died at Antidium C. 846. After being in the service as a soldier of the Byzantine Army, he left the service to become a monk and hermit at the age forty on the mount Olympus near Prussia (modern Bursa, Turkey). While he was at a monastery near Bursa, second iconoclastic movement came in 818, although Joannicius earlier supported the iconoclasts, but this time we see him as a strong opponent of them. He was a respected saint along with other saints of his time, and on occasions consulted by St. Theodore the Studite and St. Methodius of Constantinople.
 
John Chrysostomos (SB)

John Chrysostomos was born at Antioch in C. 345, and died in exile at Comana in Pontus area C. 407. John Chrysostom was one the greatest Christian preachers. He was born to a wealthy family, his father was a general officer in the Roman army. But his mother Anthusa was left a widow at the age twenty with baby John. He was raised as a Christian boy by his mother, though he was baptized at the age of eighteen. He was intended to be a lawyer and a student of Libanius the famous Pagan orator who also provided financial aid for John's mother. He became a regular attendant at the church and a good reader. However, when he lived in a cave alone for his ascetic devotion, that almost ruined his health. No returning to his home city was chosen a deacon in 381, later somewhat after 386, he was the preacher at the principal church of Antioch where he built his reputation as a disciplined preacher. In 397 John was made bishop of Constantinople against his will and he refused this position until 398 when he came to the city and accepted his title.
 
John the Evangelist and Apostle (SB)

St. John's birth place is unknown, but for sure he died at Ephesus C. 98 AD. He and his brother St. James the Greater were the active apostles of Jesus Christ. He and his brother were fishermen of Galilee and the fishing miracle of Jesus caused these young brothers converted to Christianity. St. John and St. Peter were the apostles chosen by Jesus to witness his transfiguration and agony in Gethsamene. St. John, again was the first to run to the tomb on the morning of Resurrection, and see the tomb empty, and the risen Jesus near the Sea of Tiberias. Also tradition relates St. John to "the disciple whom Jesus loved" who leaned on Jesus' breast at the last supper. Also we know that Jesus, before he gave his soul on the cross, trusted his mother Mary to St. John, thereafter St. John and Mary had come to the cosmopolitan center of Ephesus. St. Paul describes St. John and St. Peter as the pillars of the church in Jerusalem, a reference probably because of their strong faith. Later, St. John was exiled to the island Patmos by the Roman governor, because he was preaching the word of the Lord, and also the little island Patmos was the place where he had written his "Book of Revelation" in which he addressed to the seven churches of Asia Minor. The fourth of the Gospels and three epistles of the Bible and the Book of Revelation are his works that came to us. St. John was the only apostle who died of natural causes, at a very advanced age, he was close to his 100 when he died. The Christian community of Ephesus built a small grave for him, which was replaced by one of the largest Cathedrals of Asia Minor, built by Justinian the Great in the 6th C, whose remains are still visible today in Ephesus area.

 

 
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