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Church Mother of God Peribleptos
Theodore the Tyro
The Great Martyr Theodore the Tyro, also Theodore the Recruit,
Theodore the Soldier, and Theodore of Amasea, was a soldier who served in the
Roman army during the time of the great persecution of Maximian of the turn of
the third to fourth centuries. His feast day is February 17.
The Martyr Theodore was a native of Amasea, in Pontus. Although a Christian from childhood, he served in the Roman army but kept his faith secret, not out of cowardice, but because he had not received a sign from God to offer himself to martyrdom. Stationed with the army units near the village of Euchdita in Pontus he learned that the local inhabitants were being terrorized by a fearsome dragon hiding in the forest. Feeling that this situation was the test by which God would show if the time had come to offer himself to martyrdom, he plunged boldly into the forest to find the dragon. He soon came to a village that was abandoned by its inhabitants except only for a noble Christian princess of imperial rank, Eusebia, who told Theodore of the location of the dragon's lair. Arming himself with the sign of the Cross, Theodore rushed towards the beast that roared and spit flames. Swiftly, Theodore brought the beast down with a spear into its head.
Now convinced, by the Grace of God, that he could also defeat the dragon-like spirit that is the devil as he had killed the visible monster, St. Theodore returned to his camp without fear of his revealing himself as a Christian. When the commander of the troops ordered that all were to offer sacrifice to the gods of the Empire, Theodore remained in his tent. When he was called and told to take part in the sacrifice, he replied, "I am a Christian. It is Christ alone that I love. He is the King whom I serve, and to Him alone that I want to offer a sacrifice!" After being questioned about his announcement, he was left alone and proceeded to exhort the other Christians. Inflamed with divine zeal, he encouraged his companions to show that they were worthy to have enlisted in Christ's army of heaven.
At night, he went to the pagan temple and destroyed the altar of the goddess Rhea, the mother of the gods, which caused great confusion in the city of Euchaita. Theodore was caught by one of the servants of the temple and taken to the governor Puplius. Theodore did not resist and calmly responded to the questions from the Governor. Theodore averred that it was absurd to consider God as an inanimate piece of wood that, in an instant, had been reduced to ashes, to which Puplius threatened him with the worst tortures. Theodore replied, "Your threats do not frighten me, because the power of Christ will be my joy and gladness in torment." Grinding his teeth with rage, the governor then had Theodore thrown into a dungeon without food. That night, Christ appeared to Theodore, to comfort and promise him that His grace is His valiant servant for both food, joy, and protection. Thus comforted, Theodore spent his time singing hymns, accompanied by angels, so that his captors believed other Christians had joined him in his locked cell.
Later, when he was brought bread and water, he refused it, saying that Christ had promised him a heavenly food. He was then again brought before the governor, who proposed to raise Theodore to the dignity of high priest of the idols. This only provoked Theodore to laugh mockingly as he certainly was ready to be cut into pieces for the love of Christ. He was then hung upside down as the executioners exhausted themselves in vain tearing his body with iron hooks. Before the indomitable strength shown by the Martyr, the governor, fearing that others might follow his example, gave the order to have him burnt alive.
When he arrived at the bonfire, Theodore undressed and after addressing a fervent prayer to God for the confirmation of other confessors, he indulged himself in the fire. But, as if they wanted to honor him, the flames surrounded him without touching his body in a sort of triumphal arch, as if giving thanks that St. Theodore then gave his soul to God.
His body was buried in the town of Euchait (presently Marsivan in Turkey). His relics were later transferred to Constantinople into the Church that bears his name. His head rests in Gaeta, Italy.
Procopius of Scythopolis (died July 7, 303 AD) is venerated as an early martyr and saint. Eusebius of Caesarea writes of his martyrdom, which occurred during the persecution of Diocletian, and states that he was born at Jerusalem, but had gone to live in Scythopolis, where he held three ecclesiastical offices. He was reader and interpreter in the Syriac language, and cured those possessed of evil spirits. Eusebius writes that Procopius was sent with his companions from Scythopolis to Caesarea Maritima, where he was decapitated.
Byzantine fresco from 1295. Ohrid, Macedonia
Great-martyr Mercurius (224250) was a Christian saint and
martyr. Born Philopater in the city of Eskentos in Cappadocia, Eastern Asia
Minor, his original name means "lover of the Father". Saint Mercurius is also
known by the name Abu-Seifein, which in Arabic means, "the holder [literally,
father] of two swords", referring to a second sword given to him by Archangel
Philopateer was the son of a Scythian officer in the Roman army. One day his father, Yares, was hunting in the forest with his grandfather, when they were attacked by a wild beast. The animal jumped on the grandfather, causing Yares to faint. While Yares was unconscious, he had a vision. He saw a brilliant light and heard a voice saying:
Yares, I am your God Who loves you. I know that you have a good heart and that you hate the pagan idols. I want to inform you that your son, Philopatyr, will become like a tree bearing good fruits, and because of him, I will bless you and your wife. Philopatyr will be My witness and will defy all prejudice in My Name.
Shortly after, Yares, his wife, and his son were baptized, and they were given new names. Yares became Noah, his wife became Saphina, and Philopater became Mercurius. The news of their baptism spread quickly in the city and the prince ordered them to be arrested and thrown to the wild animals. However, the animals did not harm them, and the prince decided to release Noah and his family.
When the Berbers attacked Eskentos, Noah went to fight them. He was taken prisoner and was brought to their country, where he was kept for seventeen months. When the war finally ended, he went back to his city and joined his family, but died shortly after.
St. Philopater Mercurius is also said to be the cousin of St. George the Cappadocian.
After the death of Noah, the pagan Roman Emperor Decius chose Mercurius to replace his father. Described as very strong and highly courageous, he managed to earn the respect of his fellow soldiers. When the Berbers attacked Rome, Decius went out to fight them, but when he saw how many they were, he became afraid. Mercurius then came to him and told him, "Do not be afraid, because God will destroy our enemies and will bring us victory."
After several days of fighting, the Archangel Michael appeared to Mercurius holding a shining sword. He said:
Mercurius, servant of Jesus Christ, don't be afraid. Take this sword from my hand and fight the Berbers with it. Don't forget your God when you come back victoriously. I am Michael the Archangel, whom God sent to inform you that you should suffer for the Lord's name. I shall be with you and support you until you complete your testimony. The name of our Lord Jesus Christ will be glorified in you.
The saint took the sword from the archangel, hence the name Abu-Seifein - "the holder of two swords", a military sword and a divine sword. He conquered the Berbers, feeling the assurance of divine strength. When Decius heard the news about the triumphant victory, he appointed Mercurius prince.
Nonetheless, in 249, Decius began his persecution of Christians, compelling everyone to offer sacrifices to his pagan gods. The Archangel Michael allegedly "appeared" to Mercurius and told him to remember God and not be fearful of the persecution. The saint was encouraged and spent the whole night praying fervently, and confessing his weakness to God.
The next morning, the Emperor sent some messengers to summon Mercurius to the palace, but he excused himself, saying that he was tired. The day after, the Emperor sent for Mercurius again. He told him: "Dear Mercurius, let us go offer incense to the gods who helped us attain victory in the war." Mercurius did not say anything, but as they were leaving he slipped through the crowd and went away. However, one of the guards reported his absence, and the Emperor called Mercurius and asked him, "Is it true that you refused to worship the idols who helped us during the war?"
Mercurius answered with courage:
Your Majesty, the victory was not due to dumb idols made by human hands. It was accomplished by the grace of our lord and saviour, Jesus Christ, who sent his archangel to give me a sword and strengthened me. I cannot deny my God and worship statues.
The Emperor was infuriated, and tried to persuade him to no avail. Mercurius' faith was unshaken. He stripped him of his ranks and ordered him to be thrown in jail.
That did not stop the saint from praying and singing hymns in prison. During the night, Michael the Archangel appeared to him and told him: "Do not be afraid of the tortures. Confess your faith in Jesus publicly because he is the only one able to save you".
The next morning, Decius' soldiers hung the saint between two poles so that they could hit him with sharp nails. They tried also to cut his body with sharp blades and burn it, but Mercurius endured all these tortures in silence. Back in jail, the archangel appeared and touched Mercurius' body. He was instantly healed. When the king saw that the saint was in perfect health, he attributed it to witchcraft. Mercurius told him that it was Jesus who is the true healer of the soul and the body.
Fearing a revolt because the people loved him, the emperor had him bound in iron fetters, and sent him to Caesarea.
St. Arethas with Saint Eustratius. In the roundels, Mercurius and Thomas the Apostle. From the Harbaville Tryptych.
After Decius tried many different tortures without success, he decided to have him beheaded. Mercurius lifted up his arms and prayed fervently, asking the Lord to accept him in paradise. Then, suddenly, he saw Jesus Christ in a glorified vision, surrounded by many angels, saying:
My chosen son, Mercurius, come to your eternal rest with the saints. Your prayers have risen up to Me like the aroma of good-smelling incense. Miracles will be performed in any church bearing your name. And I will save those who ask Me through your intercession. Whoever writes or reads the story of your life will have their names written in the Book of Life.
Then, after he was blessed, Mercurius was so happy that he ran to his executioners, begging them to carry out the king's orders immediately. Then he knelt down and said, "Lord, do not count this sin against them." Mercurius was beheaded on 4 December 250. He was only 25 years old.
Saint George (c. 275/281 23 April 303) was, according to tradition, a Roman soldier from Syria Palaestina and a soldier in the Guard of Diocletian, who is venerated as a Christian martyr. In hagiography Saint George is one of the most venerated saints in the Catholic (Western and Eastern Rites), Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and the Oriental Orthodox churches. He is immortalized in the tale of Saint George and the Dragon and is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. His memorial is celebrated on 23 April, and he is regarded as one of the most prominent military saints.
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