Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Saints Olga and Vladimir: Equals-to-the-Apostles

A number of saints in our calendar are remembered as "Equals-to-the-Apostles." These holy men and women are so honored because they did what the first Apostles did - they shared the Holy Gospel, typically contributing to the conversion of their people to Christ and His Church.

In the coming days we will commemorate two Russian saints who bear this title: Saint Olga, Princess of Russia (July 11), and Saint Vladimir, the Great Prince and Enlightener of the Russian lands (July 15).

Saint Olga was the Christian wife of the Kievan Great Prince Igor, a pagan. Baptized in Constantinople, she quietly laid the groundwork for the future conversion of her people.

For more on her life, click here.

Her grandson Vladimir is remembered as the first Christian prince of Kiev and the Russian lands. The Prologue to Ochrid (see sidebar for link) tells us that early in life, Vladimir was largely pagan both in his belief and in his lifestyle. Learning that other faiths existed, he carefully began to inquire as to which of them was the very best. For this reason he sent emissaries to Constantinople. When the emissaries returned they informed the prince that they attended a service in the Orthodox Church of the Divine Wisdom and that they were "outside themselves, not knowing whether they were on earth or in heaven." This inspired Vladimir to be baptized and to baptize his people. The main idol, Perun, was removed from the hill of Kiev and hurled into the Dnieper river. After embracing the Christian Faith, Vladimir completely changed his life and exerted all of his efforts to correctly fulfill all the rules of this Faith. In place of the destroyed idols, Vladimir ordered churches to be built throughout his state and he built a beautiful church to the All-Holy Mother of God in Kiev. This church was built on the same spot where St. Theodore and his son, John, earlier suffered martyrdom for Christ (July 12). With that same irresistible effort with which Vladimir earlier protected idolatry, he now spread Christianity. He found repose in the Lord in the year 1015 A.D.

Holy Olga and Vladimir, pray unto God for us!