24 May 2024

Eastern Rite - Feasts of 25 May AM 7532

Today is the Feasts of the Third Finding of the Precious Head of the Holy, Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John and of the Passing into Eternal Life (1951) of Blessed Mykola Tsehelsky, Hieromartyr.

The Third Discovery of the Venerable Head of the Holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John occurred in about the year 850 (see the account of the First and Second Discoveries on February 24). The head of Saint John the Forerunner was first found on the Mount of Olives, where it had been hidden by Joanna, wife of Chusa, after the Saint's beheading; and found the second time in the city of Emesia during a time of unrest at Constantinople connected with the exile of Saint John Chrysostom (November 13).

It was transferred to Komana during the Saracen raids (about 810-820) and it was hidden in the ground during a period of iconoclastic persecution. When the veneration of icons was restored, Patriarch Ignatius (847-857) saw in a vision the place where the head of Saint John the Forerunner was hidden. The patriarch communicated this to the emperor, who sent a delegation to Komana. There the head was found a third time around the year 850.

Afterwards, the head was again transferred to Constantinople, and here on May 25 it was placed in a church at the court. Part of the head is on Mt. Athos. The Third Discovery of the Head of John the Baptist is commemorated on May 25.

Troparion — Tone 4

As a divine treasure hidden in the ground / was your head revealed to us by Christ, O prophet and forerunner. / We have gathered in commemoration of this finding / with inspired hymns of praise to the Savior, / Who saves us from corruption through your prayers!

Kontakion — Tone 4

By giving your venerable head to a sinful woman, / Herod broke the law of God. / But we behold it and cry out for joy, / and say to you, O forerunner: / Pray to the Lord that He may grant mercy to us all!

Blessed Hieromartyr Mykola Tsehelskyi was born on December 17, 1896, in the village of Strusiv, Ternopil District. In 1923 he graduated from the Theological Faculty of Lviv University. On April 5, 1925, Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky ordained him to the priesthood. He was a zealous priest who cared for the spirituality, education and welfare of his parishioners.

After World War II, he was repressed by the Bolsheviks because he refused to convert to Orthodoxy. Father Tsehelskyi drank deep from the bitter cup of intimidation, threats and beatings. On October 28, 1946, he was arrested, and on January 27, 1947, he was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment. He was deported to Mordovia, Russia, but his wife, three children and daughter-in-law were taken to Russia’s Chytynska region. He lived in extremely horrid conditions, in a camp that was notoriously strict and cruel. He suffered from severe pain due to illness, but this did not break his strong spirit. He died a martyr for the faith on May 25, 1951, and is buried in the camp cemetery.

“My dearest wife: the feast of the Dormition was our 25th wedding anniversary. I recall fondly our family life together, and every day in my dreams I am with you and the children, and this makes me happy I give a fatherly kiss to all their foreheads, and I hope to live honestly, behaving blamelessly, keeping far from everything that is foul. I pray for this most of all.” – From the letters of Father Mykola Tsehelskyi written in Mordovia.

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