Holy Martyr Eustraty
Commemorated March 28
The good soldier of Christ Eustraty, as his name suggests, showed himself to be a warrior in deed.* For, he strove to be like and imitate his chosen Commander, Christ the Saviour. This courageous warrior willingly endured the very same sufferings as He had suffered, and thus he could truly say of himself, “I bear the wounds of the Lord on my body.” [Gal. 6:17]
St. Eustraty was a native of Kiev. He felt a strong desire to array himself in the armaments of God, that is, to receive the monastic image. He understood that no-one can be a warrior pleasing to Christ until he casts aside his ties with worldly matters, and so he gave away all his possessions to the poor. Having become poor himself, he received tonsure in the Caves Monastery. Here in this holy place, he began to struggle under the Sign of Christ, Who had become poor for our sakes. Following Him, Eustraty conquered, with a spiritual sword – with prayer and the struggle of great restraint – not only his flesh, but also the bodiless enemies. Eustraty humiliated and conquered them by his own humility and obedience, remembering that the Great Struggler, Jesus Christ, prayed diligently, fasted for forty days and humbled Himself in obedience. Saint Eustraty always bore in mind that our first ancestor were defeated and fell because of unrestraint, and so he himself struggled diligently in fasting and self-restraint.
When, by God’s allowance, the Polovstian Tribes, led by Bonyak, overran the lands of Rus, Blessed Eustraty, together with several other monks, was captured and they were all later sold as slaves to a certain Jewish man in Korsun. In all, fifty persons were sold: thirty from the monastery and twenty citizens of Kiev. The slave-owner began trying to force the prisoners to renounce Christ. At length, he threatened to chain and starve those who refused. The courageous monk Eustraty taught and gave strength to everyone with such words:
"Brethren! We have been made worthy to receive baptism and to believe in Christ, let us not be apostates from Him or violators of the promise we gave at Baptism. Christ regenerated us by water and the Spirit; Christ redeemed us by His blood and made us inheritors of His kingdom. If we live, we live by the Lord; if we die, we die by the Lord, and by temporary death, obtain eternal Life. l Let us imitate him who said, ‘For me, to live is Christ, to die is gain'".2
Strengthened by such edifying words from the blessed one, the captives resolved to sacrifice temporary food and drink, to suffer for Christ in order to gain the True Bread and Source of eternal life. Thus, they all died, having suffered much from hunger and been tormented by thirst, each according to his or her own strength: one died after three days, others after four, some after seven, and the hardiest after ten days. Only Eustraty remained alive after fourteen days. The Saint had become accustomed to fasting and restraint from his early years, and he was little harmed by this prolonged fast.
The hateful tormentor, judging that Eustraty was the cause of his losing the gold he had paid for the slaves, decided to get revenge on the Saint for his loss. As the Jewish passover and the great feast of Pascha (the Christian passover) were approaching, the Jewish master resolved to condemn Eustraty to the same fate as Christ had suffered. The Jew and his friends made a cross and nailed the Saint to it. But the Saint, thanking God for this trial, still remained alive on the fifteenth day: The tormentor and his friends mocked the crucified Eustraty saying, “Here, eat today, idiot, of the lawful passover, and you will live and avoid the curse, for Moses, who brought the law from God and gave it to us, said in his books, ‘accursed is anyone that is hanging on the tree. ‘”3
The Saint replied, “The Lord, by a great gift of Grace, made me worthy and deigned to allow me to suffer for His holy name on a cross, like His own suffering, and I believe that He will also say to me, as He once said to the thief, ‘Today, you will be in paradise with Me.’4 I do not need your passover, and I do not fear the curse, for our Passover - Christ - has been partaken of for us,5 He Who destroyed the mortal curse of the law which is of the tree and introduced the blessing of life by the tree of the Cross upon which He was hanged. He is the Life of all. Concerning this feast, David said, ‘This is the day which the Lord made; let us rejoice exceedingly and be glad therein.’6 But you who have crucified me will begin to weep, and on this day you will lament, for the blood of myself and the other Christians, will be brought down on you. The Lord hates your sabbath, and will turn your feasting into lamentation, for the slaying of the leader of your lawlessness is already at hand.”
When the Jew heard this he became enflamed with anger, seized a spear, and thrust it into the suffering-one. In this manner did the good soldier of Christ, Eustraty, receive his blessed repose in a manner characteristic of a warrior. As the radiant soul of the trophy-bearer ascended heavenward, a voice was heard from heaven, saying in Greek, “Here is a worthy citizen of the heavenly city.”
The murderers removed the holy body from the cross and cast it into the sea. The relics were washed ashore, into a cave, and a stream of great miracles began to pour forth through them. Because of these great wonders, many of the Jews were converted. The prophecy which St Eustraty had made was fulfilled in the following manner:
A certain famous and wealthy Jewish man accepted baptism. After this, the king appointed him eparch (governor) of this distant province. As soon as he received this rank, he secretly apostasized from Christ and His faith, and permitted the Jews of the region to enslave Christians. This impious eparch was then detected in his evil-doing, and the king ordered his execution, and commanded that all these slave-holders be driven from the region. During this event, the Jew who has slain Saint Eustraty was hanged on a tree, like Judas who had hanged himself on a tree.
Yet, many turned to Christ and were saved by the witness of the miracles and sufferings of the Saint, and followed the victorious warrior into the heavenly kingdom, giving praise and thanksgiving to Christ, with His un-Originate Father and the Life-Giving Spirit, unto the ages of ages.
* From Eustratos: a strategist, or military leader, a general.
1. see Ga1. 3:13; Rm. 14:8, etc.
2. Phil. 1:21
3. see Deut. 21:23
4. Lk. 23:43
5. see 1 Cor. 5:6
6. Ps.117:24 - [Orthodox Psalter, Copyright 2011, Holy Apostles Convent, Buena Vista, Colorado. Page 179.]
Taken from The Kiev Caves Paterikon, Translated from the Russian by Rev. Lev Puhalo and Vasili Novakshonoff, Synaxis Press, Copyright 1980 by Sts. Kyril and Methody Orthodox Christina Educational Society.
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