The Iconostasis Arch
Saints from the Old and New Testaments
Through the connection of the holy Ancestors and Patriarchs, Our Saviour Jesus Christ is Himself also, in a way, the fruit of the faith of Abraham. So, when God makes his voice known to each of us while we are still in the strange land of the passions and worldly vanities, we must like Abraham unhesitatingly leave all that is ours, and follow the divine calling with faith until we reach the Promised Land where, in our turn, we shall be able to give birth spiritually to Christ For, planted in us by faith and Baptism, He has to grow in us through the virtues so as to shine in the light of contemplation. We descendants of Abraham, 'children of the promise' as Isaac was, having become 'sons of God' through the gift of the Holy Spirit, out therefore to see Christ form in us... Let us then for our part become forebears of Christ and continue steadfast in the faith, so that we may keep the feast of his Nativity, saying: It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me." (Synaxarion)
Holy Prophet Isaiah (7th c. BC)
He is counted as the greatest of the Old Testament Prophets. His incomparably beautiful verses foretell Christ in many places. He chastised, comforted, and counseled the pious king Hezekiah; but when he denounced the impiety and lawlessness of Hezekiah's son Manasseh, he was sawn in two outside Jerusalem, receiving a martyr's crown. His name means "The Lord is helper."
The Holy and Righteous Prophetess Sarah is a key figure in the Lord's Covenant with Israel. She was married to Abraham, the Old Testament Patriarch; eventually she bore him a son, Isaac, though she had previously been barren. Sarah died at 127 years of age. She is included in the commemoration of the ancestors of the Lord on the Sunday of the Forefathers in December.
The book of St. Ruth tells the story of Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth. Naomi's husband and her two sons died. She was left without a way to redeem her portion of the land. Naomi was too old to remarry and have children. Ruth and the other daughter-in-law were from Moab. They were women without standing and without land. Times were tough. Naomi urged her daughters-in-law to return to Moab to find other husbands and make their way. Ruth refused to go and instead said, "Thy people shall be my people and thy God my God." They lived by gleaning (harvesting the left-over grain after the reapers had passed). Boaz, who was a relative of Ruth's husband fell in love with Ruth. He instructed his servants to intentionally leave grain for her to pick. This is why she is shown with the sheaf of grain. He married her and became her "kinsman redeemer". According to the law of Moses, his firstborn son of Ruth would not be considered his heir, but Ruth's husband's heir. In doing this as an unmarried man, he was essentially giving up his place in his father's house to save these women from poverty, starvation and hopelessness. Thus he did for Ruth what Ruth had done for Naomi. This is a picture of Christ's self-emptying love. Boaz and Ruth are mentioned in the genealogy of Christ.
Holy Prophet Ezekiel - He is counted as the third-ranked of the Major Prophets. Read the Old Testament book that bears his name, in which the Church recognizes prophecies of the Lord's Incarnation by the Virgin and of the general resurrection of mankind.
Holy and Righteous Symeon the God-Receiver "There is an ancient tradition that the holy, righteous elder Symeon, who came from Egypt, was one of the Seventy learned Jews chosen in the days of the Pharoah Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-246 BC) for the task of rendering the Hebrew Bible into Greek, and that to Symeon was assigned the translation of the book of the Prophet Isaiah. When he reached the famous passage where the Prophet foretells the virgin birth of Christ, saying: Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (Is. 7:14), he was so perplexed that he took a penknife to erase the word 'virgin' in order to replace it by 'young woman'. At that moment, an angel of God appeared and prevented him from altering the sacred text, explaining that what seemed impossible to him was, in fact, a prophecy of the coming into this world of the Son of God. To confirm the truth of this, he promised that Symeon would not see death until he had seen and touched the Messiah born of the Virgin. When, after many long years, Christ was brought into the Temple at Jerusalem by the All-Holy Mother of God, the Holy Spirit revealed to the Elder Symeon that the time of fulfilment of the promise had come. He hurried to the Temple and, taking the Child in his arms, he was able to say wholeheartedly to God: Lord, now lettest thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation (Luke 2:29). For indeed, the Elder Symeon was the living image of the ancient Israel of the Old Testament, which having awaited the coming of the Messiah was ready to fade away and give place to the light and truth of the Gospel. The relics of the holy and righteous Symeon were venerated at Constantinople in the church of St James, built at the time of the Emperor Justin.
"The Prophetess Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, was eighty-four years old. Since the early death of her husband, she had spent her whole life in the Temple in hope of the coming of the Saviour. She is the pattern for holy widows, virgins and monks, who have freed themselves of worldly cares in order to dwell always in the Temple, offering their fasts, hymns and prayers in eager expectation of the Lord's coming. And when, like Anna and Symeon, they have seen the indwelling Christ with the eyes of their heart and touched Him through their spiritual senses, they proclaim with joy and assurance to all mankind that the Saviour is still coming into the world: A light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of His people Israel (Luke 2:32)." (Synaxarion)
They descended from the stock of Aaron: Saint Zacharias, the son of Barachias, was a priest in the temple at Jerusalem, while Saint Elizabeth was the sister of Saint Anna, the mother of the Most Pure Theotokos. The righteous spouses, "walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless" (Luke 1:6), suffered from barrenness, which in Old Testament times was con-sidered to be a great chastisement from God. Once, during his service in the temple, Saint Zacharias received tidings from an angel that his aged wife would bear him a son, who "shall be great in the sight of the Lord" (Luke 1:15) and "shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias" (Luke 1:17). Zacharias doubted the possibility of this prophecy's fulfillment and was punished with dumbness for lack of faith. When a son was born to the righteous Elizabeth, she declared by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that the babe would be called John, although among their kin such a name had not been given to anyone before. The righteous Zacharias was asked, and he likewise wrote on a tablet the name John. At once the gift of speech returned to him, and he, filled with the Holy Spirit, began to prophesy about his son as the Forerunner of the Lord.
The divinely-blessed St. Peter was from Bethsaida of Galilee. He was the son of Jonas and the brother of Andrew the First-called. He was a fisherman by trade, unlearned and poor, and was called Simon; later he was renamed Peter by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, Who looked at him and said, "Thou art Simon the son of Jonas; thou shalt be called Cephas (which is by interpretation, Peter)" (John 1:42). On being raised by the Lord to the dignity of an Apostle and becoming inseparable from Him as His zealous disciple, he followed Him from the beginning of His preaching of salvation up until the very Passion, when, in the court of Caiaphas the high priest, he denied Him thrice because of his fear of the Jews and of the danger at hand. But again, after many bitter tears, he received complete forgiveness of his transgression. After the Resurrection of Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit, he preached in Judea, Antioch, and certain parts of Asia, and finally came to Rome, where he was crucified upside down by Nero, and thus he ascended to the eternal habitations about the year 66 or 68, leaving two Catholic (General) Epistles to the Church of Christ.
St. Paul, the chosen vessel of Christ, the glory of the Church, the Apostle of the Nations and teacher of the whole world, was a Jew by race, of the tribe of Benjamin, having Tarsus as his homeland. He was a Roman citizen, fluent in the Greek language, an expert in knowledge of the Law, a Pharisee, born of a Pharisee, and a disciple of Gamaliel, a Pharisee and notable teacher of the Law in Jerusalem. For this cause, from the beginning, Paul was a most fervent zealot for the traditions of the Jews and a great persecutor of the Church of Christ; at that time, his name was Saul (Acts 22:3-4). In his great passion of rage and fury against the disciples of the Lord, he went to Damascus bearing letters of introduction from the high priest. His intention was to bring the disciples of Christ back to Jerusalem in bonds. As he was approaching Damascus, about midday there suddenly shone upon him a light from Heaven. Falling on the earth, he heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" And he asked, "Who art Thou, Lord?" And the Lord said, "I am Jesus Whom thou persecutest; it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." And that heavenly voice and brilliance made him tremble, and he was blinded for a time. He was led by the hand into the city, and on account of a divine revelation to the Apostle Ananias (see Oct. 1), he was baptized by him, and both his bodily and spiritual eyes were opened to the knowledge of the Sun of Righteousness. And straightway- O wondrous transformation! - beyond all expectation, he spoke with boldness in the synagogues, proclaiming that "Christ is the Son of God" (Acts 9:1-21). As for his zeal in preaching the Gospel after these things had come to pass, as for his unabating labors and afflictions of diverse kinds, the wounds, the prisons, the bonds, the beatings, the stonings, the shipwrecks, the journeys, the perils on land, on sea, in cities, in wildernesses, the continual vigils, the daily fasting, the hunger, the thirst, the nakedness, and all those other things that he endured for the Name of Christ, and which he underwent before nations and kings and the Israelites, and above all, his care for all the churches, his fiery longing for the salvation of all, whereby he became all things to all men, that he might save them all if possible, and because of which, with his heart aflame, he continuously traveled throughout all parts, visiting them all, and like a bird of heaven flying from Asia and Europe, the West and East, neither staying nor abiding in any one place - all these things are related incident by incident in the Book of the Acts, and as he himself tells them in his Epistles. Having completed the work of his ministry, he likewise ended his life in martyrdom when he was beheaded in Rome during the reign of Nero, at the same time, some say, when Peter was crucified.
Holy Myrrh-bearer and Equal-to-the-Apostles St. Mary Magdalene
She was from the town of Magdala on the Sea of Galilee, for which reason she is called "Magdalene." The Lord Jesus cast out seven demons from her, after which she became His faithful disciple, following Him even to the Cross when most of His disciples had fled. With the other holy Myrrh-bearers, she prepared the spices to anoint His body and carried them to His tomb. There she was one of the first witnesses to the Resurrection, and the first to proclaim it. Various traditions hold that, after Christ's ascension, she traveled to Rome, where she presented the Emperor with a red egg and proclaimed "Christ is Risen!" For this reason her icons often show her holding a red egg, and from this the tradition of distributing red eggs at Pascha is said to have arisen. She is then said to have travelled to Ephesus where she helped St John the Theologian in his gospel ministry before reposing there.
Mary Magdalene is sometimes identified with the "sinful woman" of the Gospels, but this is not the Church's tradition. Neither the Gospels nor the sacred hymnography of the Church make this connection.
Holy Myrrh-bearers St. Mary and St. Martha, sisters of St Lazarus (1st c.)
Mary and Martha, with their brother Lazarus, were especially devoted disciples of our Lord; their story up to the time of the Resurrection can be found in Luke 10 and John 11-12. Mary and Martha were among the Myrrh-bearing women. They, with their brother, reposed in Cyprus, where Lazarus became first Bishop of Kition after he was raised from death by Christ.