The life and martyrdom of the holy martyrs –
Eustathius and his wife Theopiste and their children –
Agapius and Theopistus
God bless us!
The present legal teaching is for people to distinguish goodness and perform good deeds. It teaches them to do the same things that they wish for themselves from others; It also trains them to thank the merciful God in a way they expect from whom they had done good to. This teaching about the goodness taken from the Scriptures, and the deeds of the saints represent spiritual icons that appeal people to imitate their kindness.
Talking about the teaching of certain books does not make sense – they are so numerous. I selected the legal teaching from the numerous books, which at that time was useful to the listeners and noteworthy to those who thought that it was impossible to display such courage as the first martyrs showed at the time. Let everyone know that neither time, nor peril or upbringing can hinder good deeds in any way; and whoever wants to follow the right confession and the teachings of the Fathers, he will easily find the way of life, as was found by those I am are speaking of and telling you about their lives and their good deeds.
During the reign of King Trajan, when idolatry swept away the country, the king appointed a man named Placidas Commander-in-Chief, who was a kinsman of Majesty and had all-powerful wealth – gold, silver, slaves, and other riches. He was a pagan by his creed and distinguished by being just in his activities: he helped those in need, released many from court by paying a fee, clothed the naked, and fed the hungry. With such charity, he became the new Cornelius.
His virtuous wife, who had borne him two sons, was like him in all things. God, however, Who loves mankind and desires that all be saved and Who looks upon those who do good, did not disregard this virtuous man and did not allow him to perish in the darkness of the deception of idolatry.
One day, as Placidas was hunting together with his servants, as was his custom, he came upon a herd of deer. Having pointed them out to the horsemen accompanying him, he set out in pursuit. Picking out the largest deer in the group, he chased after it, and the deer became separated from the herd. The servants followed Placidas, but became exhausted, and were left behind. Placidas pursued the deer alone far into the wilderness. After he chased the deer for a long time, it climbed atop a great rock and stood there. Placidas drew near and looked at it, considering how he might take the deer. But the compassionate God, Who in various ways effects a man’s salvation and by means which He alone knows sets him upon the true path, ensnared the hunter. He manifested Himself, not through the agency of another as He did to Cornelius through Peter, but directly, as He did to Paul. Placidas remained for a long time gazing at the deer, and Christ the Lord appeared to him in a vision. A most radiant cross appeared between the deer’s antlers, and as Placidas gazed upon it, he beheld the likeness of Jesus Christ, Who was crucified for us. He was astonished by this strange vision, and he heard a voice saying to him, “Why do you pursue Me, O, Placidas?”
As soon as he heard this divine voice, Placidas was stricken with fear, and he fell from his steed to the ground and lay as though dead. When he came to himself somewhat, he said, “Who art Thou, O, Lord, that speaks to me?”
The Lord said unto him: “I am Christ who divided indivisible, created the heavens and the earth out of nothing, who created the brightness and made the darkness invisible; I am the One who created the sun to make the day bright, and the moon and the stars – to possess the night; the One who created time – days and minutes, created a man from the earth and came to this world to save him; I appeared incarnate, was crucified, buried, and resurrected on the third day.”
Placidas arose from the ground, crying out, “Now, 0 Lord, do I believe that Thou art the God of heaven and earth and the Maker of all creation.
Again, he heard a voice, saying, “Go to a Christian priest and be baptized, and he shall indicate to you the path to salvation.” Placidas asked for permission to tell everything to his wife and children so that they too could believe in Christ. Christ allowed and instructed the whole family to be baptized, hen to return to the same place where Christ would tell them what awaited them in the future and reveal the mystery of life.
Placidas told everything to his wife at night. She said, “Last night, I heard someone say to me, ’In the morning you, your husband, and your sons will come to know Me, Jesus Christ, the true God.’ Therefore, let us not wait but rather hasten to do that which we have been commanded.”
That night, Placidas took his wife and children and several of his devoted servants and went to the priest. He told everything to him and asked to be baptized. When the priest heard these things, he glorified God, Who calls from among the nations those who are pleasing to Him. He instructed them in the holy faith and told them of all God’s commandments. When he had taught them sufficiently and prayed, he baptized them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Placidas was given the name Eustathius in Holy Baptism, and his wife the name Theopiste, and to their sons the names Agapius and Theopistus were given. The priest communed them of the divine Mysteries and dismissed them in peace, saying to them, “May God be with you, and may He enlighten you with divine knowledge. He has summoned you to the inheritance of life eternal; therefore, when you are deemed worthy to behold Him, remember me, your spiritual father.”
The next morning, Eustathius took a few of his servants and went to the place where he had seen the Lord. When he arrived at that place, he sent forth his servants, saying, “Go in search of game.” He then dismounted, fell upon his face on the ground, and prayed, weeping and thanking God for His unutterable mercy. He committed himself to his Lord and cast himself upon His good and perfect will, trusting that according to God’s goodness, in a way known to Him and pleasing to Him, He would dispose all things in a profitable manner. There it was revealed to him what misfortunes and sorrows should befall him, for he heard the Lord say unto him, “Eustathius, it behooves you to make manifest your faith and undoubting hope and the fervor of your love for Me. These things are proven not in circumstances of fleeting wealth and vain prosperity but in poverty and tribulation. Therefore, many sorrows shall befall you, and you shall be tested by misfortunes like another Job, that, having been tried like gold in a crucible, you might prove worthy of Me and receive a crown from My hand.”
Eustathius said, “0 Lord, I stand before Thee; do Thou with me as Thou willest. I am prepared to accept all things thankfully from Thy hand, for good and gracious art Thou. As a Father, Thou dost temper punishment with mercy. Wherefore, shall I not accept chastisement at Thy merciful and fatherly hands? Yea, as a bondsman am I ready to bear and to suffer all that is laid upon me; only let Thine almighty help be with me.”
Then he heard the voice say again, “Do you wish to undergo suffering now or in the final days of your life?”
Eustathius replied, “Lord, if it be not possible that temptation should pass me by, then let me bear these misfortunes now. Only send Thine aid, that evil might not overcome me and separate me from Thy love.”
The Lord said, “Take courage, Eustathius; my grace shall be with you and shall preserve you.”
Eustathius returned home and told his wife everything. After a few days, by God’s allowance, sickness and death came to Eustathius’ home, and all his household, men and beasts alike, were stricken with illness. Within a short time, almost all his servants, men and women, and even his animals, died.
In those days, a great feast was being held in the country to celebrate the victory of the Persians. The king and the people rejoiced. It was necessary for Eustathius to be present at the feast as a Commander-in-Chief. However, he never went there: they were looking for him everywhere and could not find him and everyone was left surprised.
At that time, as Eustathius dwelt in a hidden place, his wife said to him, “Shall we remain in this place for a long time, my lord? Let us go away into a country even further away.” Therefore, they departed, together with their children, and took the road leading to Egypt. When they had travelled for a few days, they came to the sea and found a boat there. They boarded it and departed. The master of the ship was a most violent barbarian. Seeing that Eustathius’ wife was exceedingly fair, he was wounded with lust for her, and he pondered evil in his heart, thinking that he would take her from her husband. He demanded a fee from Eustathius to take him to the other shore, which the latter did not have, and the evil man kept his wife.
Eustathius resisted the boatman, but when he saw that he was about to be thrown into the water, he was forced to stop resisting and tried to save the children at least. He picked them up and set off in a daze. He approached the river with high-water level, which was dangerous to cross with two children. He left one child on the bank and put the other upon his shoulder, taking him across the river. When he reached the far shore, he set him down and was returning to bring the other child across the river. When he was in the middle of the river, he saw a lion snatch the child and then run. As he returned toward the other child, a wolf suddenly appeared which seized that child and carried him off. In grieve, Eustathius was crying bitterly and was pulling out his hair, but could not help his children. He decided to drown in the river, but he remembered God’s will and this made him change his mind and he came out of the river.
When the lion crossed over the river upstream, carrying unharmed the child it had taken into the wilderness, shepherds caught sight of it, and crying out, began to chase after it. The lion dropped the child uninjured and fled. Likewise, the wolf, which was carrying the other child, who was still alive, was seen by farmers, who chased after it shouting, and so it left the child to them unharmed. The shepherds and the farmers, who were from the same village, took the children and cared for them. But Eustathius knew nothing of their deliverance and continued along his way, now in patience giving thanks to God, now overcome by nature, weeping and saying, “Woe is me, who once basked in glory but now am abased! Woe is me, who was once the master of a great household but am now homeless! Once I was as a tree having many leaves, which bore much fruit, but now am I but a withered branch. In my home was I surrounded by friends; when in the streets, by my servants; in battle, by my soldiers: but now am I left alone in the wilderness. But forsake me not, 0 Lord! Do not disdain me, Thou Who beholdest all things! Forget me not, 0 All-good One! 0 Lord, forsake me not until the end! I remember, 0 Lord, the words which Thou spakest at the place where Thou didst appear unto me, saying, ’Like Job shalt thou undergo misfortunes’; but lo, I have been subjected to more than Job. For although he was deprived of his possessions and honours, he, nevertheless, sat upon his own dunghill; but I find myself in a strange land and know not where to turn. He had friends to comfort him, but my consolation, my beloved children, have been seized by wild beasts to be consumed in the wilderness. Although Job was deprived of his children, he could obtain from his wife some comfort and care, but my good companion hath fallen into the iniquitous hands of a barbarian, and I, like a reed in the wilderness, am shaken by the storms of my bitter woes. But be not angered with Thy servant, who voiceth the sorrow of his heart, 0 Lord; as a man do I speak. In Thee am I established, 0 Thou Who carest for me and dost guide me. In Thee do I hope, and by Thy love, as though by a cool dew and a breath of wind, do I quench the fire of my sorrows. By the sweetness of my desire for Thee the bitterness of my misfortunes is made sweet!”
Thus spoke Eustathius, sighing and weeping. He arrived at a certain village named Badessos. There he was appointed to guard the vineyard – he worked and thus supported himself. Therefore, he lived in that village for fifteen years. His children were being reared nearby in another village, but he knew nothing of them, neither did the children know anything of one another.
The owner of the boat took Eustathius’s wife to his country, but he failed to marry her – as a result of the woman’s plea, God protected her and she remained undefiled. Some time later, the man died and the woman was released from him.
At that time, foreign tribes made war against Rome and wrought much havoc, overrunning a number of cities. The King worried a lot and remembered Commander-in-Chief Placidas, who had defeated the barbarians many times. He wondered as to how Placidas, together with his wife and children, could have disappeared, and they resolved to search throughout the Empire for him. The Emperor said to his suite, “I will bestow great honor and numerous gifts upon the man who finds Placidas.”
Two men went in search of Placidas – Acacius and Antiochus – who had previously been Commander-in-Chief’s soldiers. They passed through many lands and towns. Finally, they drew near to the village where Eustathius lived. When he saw the soldiers, he recognized them from afar as his friends. Placidas recognized the soldiers from afar, remembering both his former glory and his days spent with his wife and children. He prayed and begged Christ to let him see his wife and children abducted by the beasts.
A voice from heaven told him that he would soon regain his original glory and his wife and children, and his name would spread from tribe to tribe. As soon as he heard this, he left the vineyard and set out on his way. Seekers did not recognize him and asked him about Placidas if he knew him. Eustathius asked them, “Why do you seek him?” They answered, “He is our friend, and for a long time we have not seen him, and we do not know where he or his wife and two children are to be found. If someone would apprise us concerning him, we would give him much gold.” Eustathius said, “I have not seen such a man, nevertheless, come to the village and rest in my hut.”
Eustathius, certainly knew them and tears began to flow from his eyes. He asked the owner of the vineyard for wine and food to host them, adding that he would pay him after receiving the fee. He remembered how in his previous life those whom he now waited upon served him, and overcome by nature, he wished to weep, but he restrained himself so that he would not be discovered. He left the room, and having wept somewhat and then wiped away his tears, he immediately returned and continued to serve like a slave or the simplest peasant. The soldiers, who had looked frequently at him, gradually came to recognize him, and they said quietly to one another, “This man is like Placidas; perhaps he is actually Placidas himself.” One of them recalled that Placidas had a scar from wounds on his neck and decided to check. They checked and made sure he was Commander-in-Chief Placidas, which he denied at first, but finally admitted everything. Placidas told them about his family’s dramatic adventures. He did not hide the story of the apparition of Jesus Christ either. The rejoicing horsemen clothed him in the garment of the Commander-in-Chief and brought him to the king. The inhabitants of the town said with a pity: “What a man we had to guard the vineyard.”
The soldiers communicated him the King’s order, clothed him and took to the Emperor. Along the way, Eustathius conversed with the soldiers about his wife and children. 15 days later, they came to the king. The Emperor received him with honor and joyfully kissed him, asking him how it was that he had left his home. Eustathius related all that had happened and the things concerning his wife and children. Then the Emperor passed his army at his disposal, the number of which Eustathius considered insufficient to fight the barbarians. He asked for gathering all military forces in every city and town.
There were two young men among them who had been raised in one settlement and were more handsome than the others. When Eustathius saw them, he liked them so much that he asked them to be his fellow diners and treated them with love. He kept them always in his presence and shared his table with them, and they were pleasing in his sight. Thereafter, Eustathius went forth to do battle. Not only did he liberate the cities and lands overrun by them; he conquered the entire country of the barbarians and utterly overwhelmed their forces. Strengthened by his Lord, he displayed much valor and won a victory.
Eustathius chanced upon a certain village, which was situated on a beautiful spot by a river. It was a pleasant place, conducive to repose. Therefore, Eustathius rested there with his troops for three days. It was in that village that his wife lived. She had a garden. By God’s providence, her sons knowing nothing of their mother pitched their tent alongside her garden.
At midnight, the mother heard the two young men were asking each other about their origin, and the elder of the two said, “I remember that my father was a general and my mother was a beautiful woman. They had two children: my younger brother and me. They took us and went in a ship. When we left the country, my mother remained on the ship although I do not know why. When we came to a river, my father left me on the bank, put my younger brother on his shoulder, and took him to the other side of the river. After he had carried him to the opposite bank, and as he was returning for me, a lion came, snatched me up, and took me into the wilderness. However, shepherds rescued me from him, and thus I came to be reared in the village that you know.”
Then the younger brother arose quickly and embraced him, and weeping, he said, “Truly you are my brother, for I remember all that you have recounted. At the same time, a wolf snatched me away, but farmers delivered me from him.”
They embracing and kissing one another. Their mother, hearing their conversation, lifted up her eyes to God, sighing. She was convinced that they were truly her children. Next day she went to the General and said, “I am from Rome and was taken captive in this land. I entreat you, sir, to take me to my homeland.”
Telling that, she perceived that he was her husband, but she feared to tell him the truth. Finally, she dared and said, “I entreat you, my lord, be not angry with me, your handmaiden. Only be patient, my lord, and hear out your handmaid. Are you not Placidas, who in Holy Baptism was named Eustathius? Did you not see Christ on the Cross between the deer’s antlers? Did you not leave for Egypt with your wife, who I am, and two children, Agapius and Theopistus? Was your wife not taken from you by a barbarian? I remained unsullied thanks to God and until now wander about in want.”
When Eustathius heard her, he recognized his wife, and said: “I am you are speaking about!” They rejoiced, giving thanks unto God. Then the wife asked him, “And where are our children?” He said: “They were eaten by beasts.” He told everything what happened to them.
His wife replied: “We should be thankful to God, as we found each other, He gave us our sons.”
Eustathius said: “I told you that they were consumed by beasts.”
Theopiste then began to relate to him all that she had heard the day before by the two soldiers as they conversed with each other, and how she had perceived that they were her sons. Eustathius immediately summoned them and asked where they were from and what happened to them.
Then they told everything. Eustathius realized that these were his children. They embraced them and wept. All joined together in rejoicing, and there was a celebration exceeding that which had ensued following the troops’ great victory. Placidas organized a great feast during which kind Christ was glorified for these wonders.
And so Eustathius returned from battle, rejoicing both over his victory. He entered the city in great pomp, bringing with him many captives and countless valuable spoils. At that time King Trajan died and he was succeeded by Hadrian, who was exceedingly wicked and who hated the good and persecuted the pious. Eustathius was welcomed with honor by the Emperor, who arranged a great celebration.
When Hadrian wished to worship and to sacrifice to the demons in gratitude for the victory over his enemies, he went into the temple of the idols. Only Eustathius did not enter, but remained outside. The Emperor asked him, “Why do you not wish to enter the temple with us and worship the gods? You should be the first to render thanksgiving to the gods inasmuch as they not only preserved you whole and hale and have granted you victory over your enemies but have restored your wife and sons to you.”
Eustathius answered, “I am a Christian, and I know Jesus Christ alone to be my God. Him do I honor and thank, and I worship Him, for He has granted me every blessing: victory, my wife, and my children.”
The Emperor stripped Eustathius of his rank and commanded that he be brought into his presence as a commoner. He took him and his family to the hippodrome and let the lions inside, who instead of tearing them down, worshiped them and ran back. Seeing this, the king was surprised and ordered to heat the iron furnace and throw them inside.
The entire nation flocked to see the merits of Eustathius and his family. They heated the furnace created by some devilry; the convicts begged the tormentors to let them pray. They prayed to Christ with their hands raised to the heaven for grace to be given to their remains, and to help those in need by mentioning their names. They also prayed that the intensity of the fire would be reduced to dews and that their corpses would be left without dismemberment. After the prayer, a voice came from heaven: “Let everything be as you have asked for it, you deserve even more, because you have endured great trials and have not been defeated, take the crowns of victory instead of the plague”. They then fearlessly entered the fire, the sharpness of which suddenly subsided. They praised the glorious Trinity, sang the hymn of victory, and thus surrendered their souls to the Lord.
Three days later the king came to the place of punishment and ordered the furnace to be dismantled to see the corpses. They saw whole corpses that looked like living beings and whose hair did not even show traces of fire, as if they had not even been touched. They were taken out and rested on the ground. The king was frightened and quickly left the place. And when the people saw it, they cried out: “Great is the God of Christians. Truly there is only Jesus Christ and there is no other God but Him.”
Christians secretly stole their corpses and buried them in a place of honour. After the persecution of the Christians, a church was built on the site and their remains were laid to rest to honour their celebration day, which is in the month of September.
This is the work of these saints, this is the end of their glorious deeds. All who will be worthy of their remembrance, and will regard them as helpers, will find the goodness which is by the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, which is the glory and steadfastness with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.
The martyrdom of Theodore, the holy and glorious martyr,
and his fellow martyrs in April, who were tortured in
the country Pamphylia
Antoninus was a ruler in Rome at that time, and Diodorus, a man of evil and an enemy of Christians, ruled in the Phrygian city of Perge. He received an order from the ruler to gather brave young men, form an army of cavalry from them, assign salaries to them, give them weapons, donkeys, reserve horses, all that was needed for the army, and appoint a commander, and send him to Rome.
Diodorus sent horsemen to quickly carry out the ruler’s order to look for the brave young men and bring them to the ruler. During their search, they met a handsome young man named Theodore, a devout Christian who was going to pray. The horsemen liked the young man and told each other that he could help other riders as well, they immediately stopped him telling that the ruler was inviting him. Theodore, realizing that this would lead to his sacrifice for Christ, raised his eyes to heaven and offered thanks to the Lord. Theodore followed the cavalry, who introduced him to the ruler. Diodorus and all who were with him rejoiced at the sight of the handsome young man. The ruler asked for his name and ordered that a ring be affixed to him (to appoint him a knight).
Theodore did not accept the ring, he threw it away, and said that from the time he was in his mother’s womb he was appointed as the knight of the Lord, who created the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that dwells here. When asked by the ruler whether he wished to become the king’s main rider, Theodore replied that he would neither become his rider nor obey him, and would not make any sacrifices to pagan idols. The ruler reminded that many Christians were tortured and killed for this reason and a similar fate awaited him, and if he agreed, he would be honored and appointed a civil servant. Theodore got interested in which idol he would have to sacrifice. In response, when he heard the name of Dio, he described him as a whale created by the art of witchcraft, who kidnapped Ulimpia and decapitated her, and then resembled Pelican and desecrated Lydia’s virginity. The ruler rebuked that he should not be accused of believing in the great God, to which Theodore explained why he did not care what the devils they served were.
Diodorus then offered a sacrifice to the virgin Artemis. In response, Theodore described her life: Artemis, a hunter in the mountains, was assisted by demons, accompanied by the 12 men who admired Artemis and who fulfilled her every wish, and who finally went out of their mind and died. When the ruler heard this, he addressed Theodore as an abuser of the temples and a blasphemer of their gods, accusing himself of having allowed so much to be said and ordering to lie him down on the ground and beat him with cowhide whips until he offered sacrifice to their gods.
Theodore suffered while being beaten, but still chanted Christ and kept saying that he was grateful that he too had a share with the saints, that he too took part in the torture, that he recognized him as King, God and Savior, who from time immemorial created inexpressible wonders, helped Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all righteous people as well; He begged to be taken away from this worldly impurity and to assist in the execution of his plan to glorify his name forever.
The executioners tormented him until they got tired. The chief again offered Theodore to sacrifice to their gods and thus save his youth. And Theodore again denied it, he was ready to sacrifice himself to Christ and to suppress pagan idols. The chief then ordered to heat the iron grille and place Theodore on it so that everyone could see how Christ would help him.
The executioners immediately brought a large grille on which a man could fit, lit a fire underneath, and from above they poured candles, wax, and sulfur. As the fire intensified and the grille became heated, the ruler ordered his torture. Naked Theodore ran to the instrument of torture like a helpless lamb and lied on it and as if lying on a dew, so rested, then looked up to heaven and asked the glorified Lord of all to hear him, to send an angel and save him from fire and smoke, for it was all done in his name. As soon as he said it, everyone saw a miracle: a voice came out of the depths, and the earth shook, and water appeared under the grille, which extinguished the flames of the fire; The martyr got up as if awakened from sleep and addressed the ruler: “Ask one of the horsemen to lie down on the grille now and see if his gods would help him”. The horseman Aquiline rejected this idea and advised the ruler to bring in a priest and thus test the strength of their gods.
The ruler made to bring a priest named Dioscorus, a servant of Dios and Athena, who was told of the miracle. The ruler asked him how Theodore had enchanted the fire by not touching it. According to Dioscuros, Christians do not have magic: wherever the name of Christ is uttered, all magic is destroyed and the devils are persecuted, therefore, this name is dangerous. To the ruler’s remark that Christ is stronger than our God, the priest replies that Zeus is an idol, sculpted by men. The ruler suspected that the priest was on the side of Christians, but the latter justified himself by saying that he had never had faith and served idols because of poverty and hardship, and now he saw how Theodore had defeated their gods and wished to become his fellow. He advised the ruler to test Zeus himself; If he could withstand the force of fire, he would save others from the fire.
The ruler did not like Dioscorus’ offer and ordered to throw him on the heated grille. Before being placed on the grille, Dioscorus asked Theodore to pray for him. Having prepared for torture, he asked Christ to accept his soul with peace through Theodore’s prayer. As soon as he said that, he breathed his last. Then the Christians there took his body, embalmed it and buried it with honor. Blessed Theodore was thrown into prison by the order of the ruler, where he prayed for the soul of Dioscorus.
That night Bishop Peghasse came to the prison and asked for permission to visit Theodore, which the prisoner gladly granted. The bishop fell at the feet of Theodore, who was praying, and thanked him that Christ had chosen the holy lamb in his flock in the person of Theodore, who would lead the flock on its way to him. On the other hand, he begged Theodore to bring the matter to an end so that others could follow in his footsteps.
The next day, on Thursday, the ruler ordered to bring Theodore in front of him. He again advised him to sacrifice to the pagan idols, to which Theodore replied that they should first ask Dios if he wished to be offered a sacrifice from him. Instead of deaf and dumb idol, the devil in the idol answered to Theodore’s question in a loud voice for everyone to hear: he had been looking for Theodore for three years to fight, lead him into sin, and cast him out of the flock of Christ. He heated the heart and kidneys of sleeping Theodore, and he wished to take him to the brothel, which he failed to achieve; Awakened Theodore began to pray and called to Christ. On hearing this, the devil shook with fear and fled. He was also going to run away from this place, because he met Theodore here as well. The devil lists the places from which the followers of Christ expelled him: Macedonia, Nicomedia (Tryphon), Perge… During his stay in Macedonia, many warriors appeared in front of him and expelled him from there, Tryphon expelled him from Nicomedia to another place, and the martyr Thyrsus demolished his dwelling. He no longer knows where to go to rest from the followers of Christ and not fall into eternal fire. The devil begs Theodore, but the young man curses him, commanding him in the name of Christ to be silent and to hurt no one.
Then the devil smashed the idol, turned it to dust, and before fleeing said to the ruler: “Evil ruler, why hast thou seized this young man to damn me? Take him out of this life quickly not to incense him, not to let him pray while crucified, so that not to burn you and all of your people with fire. He also recalled that he and his friends had been watching Theodore since childhood and felt that he would do them great harm. The chief called Theodore and asked him what power he had to defeat the gods, why he was not afraid of torture, and why the fire could do him no harm. If he told him his secret, he would release him.
Theodore replied: “You promise to let me free, as if I want to be in this earthly world. I do not value this country and I strive unceasingly for eternal good. How should I make you understand the goodness of the Lord when your heart is evil and distorted? Scripture claims: “Do not give purity to dogs, do not throw pearls to pigs. How can I reveal the secret of God to you when your heart is not right?”
The ruler became angry and ordered to tie Theodore to the wild colts so that he could be executed by dragging. They brought the colts with ropes to tie the blithesome to the horses. Theodore asked for seclusion so that he could pray; He raised his eyes to heaven and said: “True light, hope of the doomed, leader of the wicked, rescuer of the captives, ressurector of the dead, I beg you, good Lord, who raised Elijah with the chariot of fire, and saved Daniel from the clutches of the lion, gather strength and help me, have a good miracle upon me, so that our haters may see it; Have mercy on those two horsemen who believed in you.
He then told the horsemen to obey the ruler’s order. They refused to do so, the other horsemen tied him to the wild horses and beat the horses with a whip making them drag him into the field. And Theodore asked the Lord: “Lord Jesus Christ, know well how I wish to abandon this earthly world, but, to glorify thy name, save me from such death, and let all know that thou are the God of gods and King of kings”. After these words he saw a fiery chariot coming down from heaven, which took the martyr and set him at the door of the wicked ruler. The horses, frightened by the angels, ran away and disappeared into the abyss.
Theodore was thrown into prison, and the ruler discussed with his friends and relatives what kind of death Theodore should be sentenced to. Before that he once again offered Theodore to bring sacrifice to his gods and thus save his youth. Theodore again denied and advised him to repent his iniquity, to condemn pagan idols if he wished to be saved from eternal flame.
The ruler then ordered a large oven to be built, to heat it for three days, and to throw Theodore into it, also instructing that those who would protect the martyr would be punished there as well. Being imprisoned, Theodore prayed and begged the Lord to see his mother, who had been held captive in a foreign land. As soon as he finished the request, the angel of the Lord informed him that he would see his mother before the end.
Three days later, when the oven was very hot, Theodore was brought in and placed there all tied up. Saddened by this, the horsemen, Socrates and Dionysus, said to the heathen ruler: “Ruler, full of much imprudence, what did Theodore do wrong to be punished like this? After all, he endured all kinds of suffering and came out healthy, but you still fail to understand this”. At the command of the ruler, they too were thrown into the oven, where Theodore sang hymns to the Lord and encouraged the horsemen not to be frightened, and to recite the various verses of his chant ‘hallelujah’. After the chant, Theodore asked the Lord to put out the fire, as in the case of the Babylonian juveniles, and to show his omnipotence to all. The fire was extinguished and all three fell asleep. On that very day, by the grace of God, Theodore’s mother, Philippa, came from a distant land, and when she heard the story of her son thrown into the oven, she tore her clothes, pulled out her hair, and ran to the oven lamenting. She was asking the Lord why he sacrificed Theodore, who, while still in his mother’s womb, promised glory.
Seeing his mother barefoot and in torn clothes, St. Theodore told her that she should rejoice at the sight of his martyrdom, he asked her to go and clothe herself like a bride of Christ. The mother did what she was told to do. She went to the oven and told her son that according to the vision, he would be crucified, then she turned to Christ asking him to sacrifice Theodore.
At dawn, the ruler told his relatives and friends that not even the bones would be left untouched in the oven. Then one of the servants informed the ruler that the fire could do nothing to punish him. As soon as Theodore was thrown, he mentioned the name of the Lord with a request to help the doomed, and immediately strong fire was extinguished. His mother Philippa is there too, teaching Theodore patience and rejoicing as if she were at her son’s wedding. When the ruler heard this, he went to the oven and told Philippa to advise her son to sacrifice to pagan idols, and thus she would no longer remain childless. She replied that they did not offer sacrifices to the devils and informed him that Theodore would be executed on the cross. The ruler liked this idea and ordered to crucify Theodore and to behead Philippa. Two horsemen thrown into the oven were killed by spears.
Theodore was brought to the place where the cross was erected. He looked up at the cross and said: “The cross, annihilator of sins, pride of the righteous, ladder to heaven, pillar of baptism, ark of men, scepter of strength, infallible path, oppressor of the devils, preacher of the passions of Christ, have mercy on me who came to you with joy, so that I, crucified on you, may glorify the Lord and sing to him forever and ever.” Theodore asked the executioners to crucify him not as Christ, but upside down. The tormentors did not listen to his request and told him that according to the order, he should be properly crucified. Hanging on the cross, Theodore said: “Now, I have overcome you, devil, I have shamed of you, Samael, I am no longer afraid of you, because I have climbed the high tower.” At this time Theodore’s mother was brought to the cross and beheaded in front of her son. Before she was punished, she addressed Christ: “The cup you drained for the life of men, now my son is draining in your name. Reveal us, sinners, your mercy!”
Theodore was hanging on the cross for 3 days, in the end, he addressed the Lord: “Have mercy on my soul with the grace and love of mankind of my only begotten Son, with whom you are blessed with all holiness, kind and life-giving spirits to eternity, Amen!” As soon as he uttered these words, he gave his soul to the Lord. Christians gathered, collected the parts of the martyr, and buried them in a place of honor. Then a beautiful church was built there to glorify the Lord.
“Theodore, his mother Philippa, and two horsemen were executed on the 20th of August, during the reign of Antoninus, and our Ruler is Christ God, who is our glory and endurance with the Holy Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen forever and ever!”
The month of September C (3) The martyrdom of Saint and Blessed Anthimus, archbishop of Nicomedia. God, bless us!
In the country of Bithynia, on the other side of Byzantium, there is a city called Nicomedia, which in ancient times was large and glorious, full of people and well-known all over the surrounding countries and regions. A beautiful branch emerged in this city, full of beautiful and fragrant fruits. This is Anthimus, a man of profound faith, the jewel of the priesthood and the torture of beauty. He adorned this city and church the most with all his possessions and wealth, and converted to Christianity not only the inhabitants of this city but the whole region. The rumours of his work and miracles spread in every country.
Anthimus learned all the good rules from infancy and the grace of God came upon him. As he was getting older, his desire to understand more and his fear for God were getting stronger. When he reached his youth, he became a manly and hardworking man – he could fast often, he was also unhurried and compassionate at praying. He completely got rid of anger and carnal desires in his life. He hated fame and arrogance and spent time praying and reading books. He embraced with his soul and mind the mother of virtues – the love of God, he parted with laughter and joy as evil enemies, and fell in love with daily mourning and tears. Being adorned with humility, his virtues manifested the dignity as well. As a result, his visitors imitated his kindness and generosity. Living this way, he shone and deserved the attention of the clergy. The archbishop of the town church forced him to join the priesthood and appointed him archdeacon; After some time, he was ordained. By the force of the priests and other connoisseurs of his virtues, Anthimus agreed with fear and respect to the offer of honour, and from this time his work and virtue increased even more, equal to that of an angel.
Cyril, high priest of Nicomedia, died shortly afterwards. The church lost its protector and great sorrow settled among the Christians there. Then the bishops, the priests, the believers of Nicomedia gathered from other regions and decided to appoint Blessed Anthimus as a priest. Before making this decision, they went into the church to find out if this idea was pleasant to the Lord. During the prayer a great and surprising light shone and a voice was heard that Anthimus deserved this honour.
After receiving consent from the Lord, they immediately performed the Divine Liturgy and consecrated Blessed Anthimus as Archbishop. The throne found its leader, immaculate and adorned with every virtue. And mourning was transformed into joy.
Blessed Anthimus took the helm of the church and hastened to save the entrusted to him souls from the torment of iniquity by the Lord, and to take them to the harbor of life. The power of his teachings is attested to by the excellent and glorious, marvelous man Inde, the servant of the king’s palace. As a result of the teachings of the great Anthimus, he abandoned the pleasures of the king and the royal court, and placed the crown of torture on the head together with the maid of honour Domna, who had been baptized by the previous high priest Cyril. At the time of Anthimus, 20 000 martyrs were burned, including Mardonius, Migdonius, Peter, Dorotheus, and Zeno, brave men who voluntarily shed their blood for the love of Christ. Such was the miraculous and great priesthood of Anthimus, and such congregation he presented to the Lord for the wonderful sacrifice.
A fierce winter and a strong wind came upon the Christians at that time: Maximian conquered the kingdom and began to persecute the Christians – he tortured with various torments all those who disobeyed his command and did not worship the deceitful idols. He rewarded the disbelievers of Christ and those who obeyed him (the king) – with great honour, wealth, and power for their infidelity.
Then the wicked men denounced Anthimus to the king, accusing him of being a teacher and leader of the Christians: Maximian immediately sent twenty horsemen to look for him and bring him.
Blessed Anthimus was in the town of Simane, preaching the word of truth and multiplying the talent which the Lord had bestowed upon him. This small town was in a desert place, and Anthimus went there every day, praying with bitter tears to the Lord. When Christ was chanted and praised, the hunters of the field would gather and stand around Anthimus, listening to his chant, and praising the Creator with him. When Anthimus finished chanting, he would bless them and the hunters would return to their asylums. Blessed was Anthimus not only for humans but for cattle as well.
King’s sleuths roamed the villages and settlements in search of Anthimus. They also came to Simane, where he lived in a small tent on the outskirts of the settlement. The horsemen did not know that he was Anthimus and asked him if he had seen the latter – the Christian bishop. He wondered why they were looking for him. The horsemen replied that the king had ordered to bring him. Anthimus offered them to go to his dwelling, where they would rest and find the man they were looking for. The horsemen followed Anthimus. He accommodated them in a tent and served them bread and sourdough because he had nothing else to eat. After resting, Anthimus revealed his name – that he is the one they were looking for. The astonished and ashamed horsemen could not even dare to look at him, for they knew well what the king was calling Anthimus for. The embarrassed horsemen offered him to stay in a tent, or hide somewhere safe, and they would report to the king that they were searching everywhere but could not find his trace.
Anthimus, a follower of the law of the Lord day and night, did not consider it necessary for the seekers to lie about him to the king and prevented them from carrying out their plan because he had a great desire to be tormented for the sake of Christ. He invited the horsemen to go to the king together and find out what he was calling him for, adding that he was not afraid of anything because the Lord was his protector. As soon as he said that, he took the cane and they all headed for the king. The horsemen saw his innocence and sincerity, they were surprised and revered him as an angel. On the way, Anthimus advised them to renounce the evil temptation of idols, to believe in the creator of heaven and earth, and of every visible or invisible creature, telling of the good things prepared for the eternal followers of Christ, and of the torment that awaits the ungodly and sinners; He also explained all the secrets of Christianity. The horsemen believed the words of Anthimus, believed in the teachings of Christ, and asked Anthimus to baptize them.
They came to a river, at the foot of which Christ’s servant placed horsemen, uttered the set prayers, and baptized them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. They then continued their way to the king. The horsemen forced their spiritual father to reconsider coming to the king, but in vain. They informed the king of their arrival to the city, and the latter ordered to bring Anthimus in. The Blessed was tied up like a wicked man (such was the custom for Christians in that city), and Anthimus, who was looking up to heaven, fearlessly approached the king. Maximian ordered to place the torture tools in front of Anthimus: large sticks, whips, heavy cauldrons, metal scrapers, meat grinder, sharpened swords, chariot wheels, iron shoes, all in order to frighten Blessed Anthimus. He laughed at the king and replied angrily to his words that he is a man who has been misled by Christ and calls foolish people to blaspheme the idol: “It would be appropriate if I did not answer, but the apostle tells us to be ready to answer to all who expect the answers, and the Lord also said to us: I have given you the word and the wisdom, which cannot be resisted, as well as the words to reply to resisters, and therefore I will say: Before coming here I was amazed at the darkness of your mind, for you are so bound up with the iniquity of idolatry that you do not see the light of worship, and do not obey the Father who gave birth to everything, who, too, gave birth to you, ungrateful, and gave you the kingdom. And now I am even more astonished at your foolishness in trying to frighten the tied up man standing in front of you with torture tools. You seem to be intimidating others who like this world and find it difficult to separate from it. I call the earthly body a prison because the soul is hindered from achieving the desired goal soon. And your threats and tools for torture I find ridiculous, for they will soon summon me to death, which will deliver me from the bonds of the flesh, and send me to eternal haven.
After these words the enraged king ordered that stones be thrown at the back of the head of Anthimus. He, rejoiced at the beginning of the torment, thanked the Lord and said aloud: “Maximian’s gods are the inanimate idols of the devil, who created neither heaven nor earth.” Upon hearing this, Maximian was mad with rage. He ordered the long nails of iron to be heated and hammered into the legs of the martyr. Anthimus knew that this cruel and bitter torment would bring him good, and said to the king: “I blame you for idolatry but I am grateful for the suffering inflicted on me, for with this little suffering you will give me innumerable goodness”. Seeing his patience, the king diligently tried to overcome his courage and fortitude of mind, and ordered more torments to the executioners. This time he ordered the broken debris to be thrown to the ground, the naked Anthimus to be thrown on top of them, and beaten with sticks mercilessly, to be doubly tormented, on the one hand, by the beating and, on the other hand, by the debris penetrating into the body. The mighty martyr cried out to the Lord: “Thank you, Reverend, for giving me the strength to endure – suppress my enemies and destroy my haters, bring the superiors beneath me.”
The martyr was being beaten for a long time. Rivers of blood flowed out of him; His flesh was torn and the bones were fragmented. His lips were praising the Lord and his mind was unshaken by the love of Jesus Christ. The raging beast, Maximian, watched Anthimus’s incredible patience with astonishment, and offered a new torment to the executioners: heated iron-clad shoes were put on him so that his feet would burn, the patience of which would be inaccessible to the mind. Then grace descended from heaven on Anthimus, and a voice was heard saying: “Encourage and strengthen yourself, my servant, defeat your enemies, for your deeds will be rewarded: you will be given an unfading crown”.
The voice filled him with joy – his mouth and heart shone and he did not pay attention to his torment. Maximian was surprised by his patience and said: This man is a connoisseur of witchcraft, because he showed patience beyond his reach. And he said to Anthimus: “Tell me the art of your sorcery that helps you to endure so much suffering”. Anthimus replied: “The Lord Jesus Christ, the true God and Reverend, has given me the strength to overcome your iniquity and to expose your arrogance and greed. You could not overcome one old man with your gods, because they are powerless even by human power and represent nothing, so I can defeat you and your gods, because the Lord is my helper and companion of my soul, he is able to destroy the evil of my enemies with his truth, I will sacrifice to him of my own free will and glorify his name, for he has saved me from every plague”.
After these words the enraged king ordered him to be tied up on the wheel of the chariot to spin: some of the executioners were turning the wheel, while others were burning the body of the Blessed with a lamp in their hands. Suddenly, by the grace of Christ, the wheel of the chariot stopped moving; The executioners dropped their lamps and lay on the ground as if asleep. Seeing this, the king became angry and threatened the executioners to be punished because they did not obey his order and fell asleep on the ground. The executioners told him about their vision: three men, dressed in white and with brilliant faces, approached Anthimus, greeted him, comforted him and encouraged him. It was at this time that the wheel of the chariot stopped, and they, too, with their lamps, lay on the ground asleep. Blessed Anthimus thanked God and sang with a fervent heart. The king then ordered Anthimus to be removed from the chariot and offered him two conditions: to offer an offering to the idols, thus earning more honour than all the princes, or to be beheaded. Anthimus replied that it was his greatest wish to leave this world soon and arrive at the abode of 30,000 martyrs, and he said with joy: “Behold, I and the children whom my Father hath given me”.
When the king heard his answer, he said that he had heard of the longing for glory of the Christians to inherit the name of a brave and patient man, he also knew that they preferred death, which is the end of all evil, but this time he refused to please Anthimus with a quick death, he would first severely torture and only then separate him from this life with a bitter death. He was then ordered to bind his hands and feet in iron and throw him into prison.
In prison Anthimus prayed incessantly and praised the Lord that he had rewarded him with patience so that he could endure the torture. Then he wished peace to the prisoners _ he taught the life of the soul and preached the true worship. The prisoners were soon educated by his teachings, believed in Christ, and begged Anthimus to baptize them. The kind shepherd did not hesitate to enroll them in his flock. They brought water to the dungeon and properly performed prayers, and he baptized them all.
This was reported to the king, who angrily ordered to bring Anthimus to him at dawn. When the latter was brought, the king said to him in an angry voice: “Your unruly soul has not yet been touched by so much suffering, nor has the multiple beatings taught you to be wise, and locked in the dungeon you dared to deceive many and convert them to your religion, as I was informed”.
St. Anthimus replied: “I am a priest of Christ the High Priest, and I can preach in every holy place in the name of my High Priest, who is willing to listen, for he himself has commanded his disciples: Go and preach to all the pagans, and baptize them in the name of the Holy Father, Son and Holy Spirit. With the subsequent tortures inflicted on me, you became dangerous in the execution of my ministry, but you added more strength and courage, and I had more grace and help from my Reverend. Your encouragement, Lord, my heart encourages my soul because of my pain, and you, the mighty heathen, do not be mistaken and don’t get tired, for you will not be able to overcome my desire and longing for Christ. Then the mighty and helpless Maximian gave the order to take the Blessed Anthimus out of the city and behead him.
Anthimus was brought to the place of the execution. The executioner moved with compassion towards him, because the Lord, who wants to save all people, brought him (the executioner) the dew of his mercy. The executioner begged the martyr to make him worthy of the grace of Christ. Blessed Anthimus, who taught worship with great diligence, said: “May the grace of the Lord be with you”.
At the place of punishment, St. Anthimus fell to his knees, prayed to God and offered a hymn of thanksgiving to him, then told the executioner to obey the king’s order. This is how Blessed Anthimus was beheaded on September 3, and that executioner had since become a Christian.
The Christians came at dusk, took the honored corpse, and buried it in a place of honour as fragrant ointment, a treasure of healing, and the light of believers, with the grace and humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the true God and Father, glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, from everlasting to everlasting, Amen!