Saint Stephen was the younger son of King Stephen Urosh I, and grandson of First-Crowned King St Stephen (September 24). He ruled Serbia from 1275 to 1320. Stephen Milutin received the throne from his elder brother Dragutin, a true Christian, who after a short reign transferred power over to his brother, and he himself in loving solitude withdrew to Srem, where he secretly lived as an ascetic in a grave, which he dug with his own hands. During his righteous life, St Dragutin toiled much over converting the Bogomil heretics to the true Faith. His death occurred on March 2, 1316.
St Stephen Milutin, after he became king, bravely defended, by both word and by deed, the Orthodox Serbs and other Orthodox peoples from their enemies. St Stephen did not forget to thank the Lord for His beneficence. He built more than forty churches, and also many monasteries and hostels for travelers. The saint particularly concerned himself with the Athonite monasteries.
The Martyr Anastasia the Roman lost her parents in infancy, and was then taken to be reared by the abbess of a women’s monastery, named Sophia. She raised Anastasia in fervent faith, in the fear of God and obedience.
The persecution against Christians by the emperor Decius (249-251) began at that time. The city administrator, Probus, on the orders of the emperor commanded that Anastasia be brought to him. Blessed by her abbess to suffer for Christ, the young martyr Anastasia humbly came out to meet the armed soldiers. Seeing her youth and beauty, Probus first attempted flattery to make her deny Christ.
“Why waste your youth, deprived of pleasure? What is there to gain by enduring tortures and death for the Crucified? Worship our gods, marry a handsome husband, and live in glory and honor.”
Saint Demetrios suffered in Thessalonica during the reign of Galerius Maximian (c. 306). He belonged to one of the most distinguished families of the province of Macedonia and was widely admired not only because of his noble ancestry and grace of bearing, but also for virtue, wisdom and goodness of heart surpassing that of his elders.The military expertise of Saint Demetrios led Galerius, as Caesar of the Eastern Empire, to appoint him commander of the Roman forces in Thessaly and Proconsul for Hellas. But for all this, Demetrios remained ever aware of the underlying realities of life. Since faith in Christ had touched his heart, all the glory of this world meant nothing to him, and there was nothing he preferred to teaching and preaching the word of God.
Holy Apostle James, the Brother of God (Adelphotheos) was the son of Righteous Joseph the Betrothed of the Most Holy Theotokos (December 26). From his early years James was a Nazarene, a man especially dedicated to God. The Nazarenes vowed to preserve their virginity, to abstain from wine, to refrain from eating meat, and not to cut their hair. The vow of the Nazarenes symbolized a life of holiness and purity, commanded formerly by the Lord for all Israel. When the Savior began to teach the nation about the Kingdom of God, St James believed in Christ and became His apostle. He was chosen as the first Bishop of Jerusalem.
Saint Luke was born a Greek and a Gentile in Antioch, Syria. He was a physician and it is believed that he may have also been a slave, as it was not uncommon in his day for slaves to be educated in medicine so the family would have a resident physician.
Luke became a close companion of Paul of Tarsus and accompanied him on his missionary journeys. It is very possible that Luke provided medical assistance to Paul when he had been beaten, stoned or nearly drowned while evangelizing to the Western Roman Empire.
Luke is the only Gentile to have written books in the Bible. He is the writer of the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles and his writings have been proven to be historically accurate.
The Elevation of the Venerable and Life-Creating Cross of the Lord: The pagan Roman emperors tried to completely eradicate from human memory the holy places where our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and was resurrected for mankind. The Emperor Hadrian (117-138) gave orders to cover over the ground of Golgotha and the Sepulchre of the Lord, and to build a temple of the pagan goddess Venus and a statue of Jupiter.
Pagans gathered at this place and offered sacrifice to idols there. Eventually after 300 years, by Divine Providence, the great Christian sacred remains, the Sepulchre of the Lord and the Life-Creating Cross were again discovered and opened for veneration. This took place under the Emperor Constantine the Great (306-337) after his victory in the year 312 over Maxentius, ruler of the Western part of the Roman empire, and over Licinius, ruler of its Eastern part. In the year 323 Constantine became the sole ruler of the vast Roman Empire.