THE HOLY FEMALE MARTYR AGATHA
Agatha, this glorious virgin and martyr for Christ, was born in the Sicilian town of Palermo of noble and wealthy parents. When Emperor Decius began a persecution against Christians, St. Agatha was arrested and brought to trial before Judge Quintian. The judge, seeing Agatha beautiful in countenance, desired to have her for his wife. When he suggested this, Agatha answered that she is the bride of Christ and cannot be unfaithful to her Betrothed. Quintian subjected her to cruel tortures. Agatha was ridiculed, whipped, bound to a tree and flogged until blood flowed. After that, the judge again tried to persuade her to deny Christ and to avoid any further torture and suffering. To that the bride of Christ replied: "These tortures are very beneficial for me; just as wheat cannot arrive at the granary before it is cleansed from the chaff, so my soul cannot enter into Paradise if my body, beforehand, is not humbled by tortures." Then, the torturer ordered that her breasts be cut off and that she be cast into prison. St. Peter appeared to Agatha in prison and restored her to health and wholeness of body. Again, Agatha was led out for torture and again, cast into prison where she gave up her soul to God in the year 251 A.D. in the town of Catania during the reign of Emperor Decius. After her death, the torturer Quintian departed for Palermo to usurp her estate. However, along the way, his horse and the horses of his soldiers became wild with rage. Quintian was bitten on the face, thrown to the ground and trampled to death. Swift was the punishment of God that reached out for this savage crime perpetrated against St. Agatha.
THE HOLY FEMALE MARTYR THEODULA
Theodula suffered for Christ during the reign of the nefarious Roman Emperor Diocletian. During her torture, Theodula brought one of her torturers, Heladius, to his senses and converted him to the Faith of Christ. When Heladius openly confessed his faith in Christ, he was beheaded. Theodula held up very courageously at her trial at which time the judge referred to her as being "deranged." To that Theodula responded: "You, who have forgotten the One True God and bow down before lifeless stones, are deranged." The judge then subjected Theodula to cruel tortures, which she heroically endured and, by her heroism during this torturing, she astonished many and converted them to Christ. Among those were two distinguished citizens: Macarius and Evgarius. With these two and many others, Theodula was thrown into a fiery furnace where they all honorably died and were made worthy of the kingdom of Christ.
SAINT POLYEUCTUS, PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE
Because of his great mind, religious zeal and eloquence, Polyeuctus was called "a second Chrysostom." During the time that Patriarch Polyeuctus governed the Church and Emperor Constantine Porphryogenitus ruled the empire, the Russian Princess Olga traveled to Constantinople and was baptized in the year 957 A.D. The patriarch baptized her and the emperor was her godfather. Prophetically, St. Polyeuctus said to her: "Blessed are you among Russian women, for you have loved light and cast off darkness; the sons of Russia will bless you to the last generation." From among the simple monks, Polyeuctus was elevated as patriarch in the year 946 A.D., and remained on the patriarchal throne until his death in 970 A.D.
HYMN OF PRAISE
Dark is the dungeon; radiant is the martyr,
In the darkness, Saint Agatha glows,
Over the courtyard of the dungeon, drenched with light,
There the tormentor lives, covered with shame,
Thinking up new tortures for the virgin Agatha,
Torments himself and contemplates, darkened in the midst of light,
Who is wedded to Christ, the dungeon is bright,
The palace, a place of despair, to the enemy of justice!
Dark is the dungeon; radiant is the martyr,
St. Theodula, as soon as she heard of Christ,
After Christ she followed, a pure dove.
Because of Christ, the mob pressed her into darkness,
But joyfully, Theodula stands,
Joyfully stands, not fearing anyone.
While her enemies, with malice filled,
Wretched despair in the midst of the enchanting palace,
Only of evil, think; only of malice, serve
Everything for them is empty and about everything, they complain,
For they do not possess God, for they know not Christ,
All the mysteries of life, erroneously they read!
The monks ask of the great Abba Ischyrion: "What have we done?" "We have fulfilled the commandments of God," Ischyrion replied. "And, what will those do who come after us?" "They will be doing what we are doing, but only half as much." "And those after them?" "Before the end of time, they will not keep the monastic practice [rule] but such misfortunes and temptations will befall them that, through their patience during those assaults and temptations, they will prove themselves greater than us and our fathers in the kingdom of God."
To contemplate the Lord Jesus as the only true Enlightener:
1. As the Enlightener of every individual man;
2. As the Enlightener, consequently, of both society and the entire human race;
3. As the Enlightener Who enlightens the mind, the heart and the will of man with eternal light.
About death as sleeping
"Our friend Lazarus isasleep, but I am going to awaken him" (St. John 11:11).
The Lord of life calls death "sleeping." O what an inexpressible comfort that is for us! O what sweet news for the world! Physical death, therefore, does not mean the annihilation of man rather only sleeping from which only He can awaken; He Who awakened the first dust to life by His word.
When the Lord cried out: "Lazarus!" (St. John 11:43), the man awoke and lived. The Lord knows the name of each of us. When Adam knew the names of every creature of God, why would not the Lord know each one of us by name? Not only does He know but He also calls us by name. O, the sweet and life-creating voice of the only Lover of mankind! This voice can create sons of God from stones. Why, then, can He not awaken us out of our sinful sleep?
It is told that a certain man raised a stone to kill his brother. But, at that moment, it seemed to him that he heard the voice of his mother calling him by name. He only heard the voice of his mother and his hand began to quiver. He dropped the stone and was ashamed of his evil intention. The voice of his mother awakened him from committing a deadly sin. If the voice of a mother saves and awakens from death, how much more, then, the voice of the Creator and Life-giver!
Whenever the Lord cried out to someone who was dead in the body [physically dead] all of them awoke and arose. But, everyone did not awaken and arise among those who were dead in the soul [spiritually dead] when the Lord cried out to them. But, for this awakening, for this resurrection, the agreement of the will of the deceased is necessary. Judas! Do you betray with a kiss? "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?" (St. Luke 23:48). That is how the Life-creating Voice cried out, but the dead man [Judas] remained dead and the sinner did not awaken. "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" (Act of the Apostles 9:4). The same Life-creating Voice cried out and he who was asleep in sin awakened and the dead man became alive. In truth, deeper is the sleep of sin than the sleep of death and the one who is asleep [in sin] does not easily awaken.
O Sweet Lord, awaken us from the sleep of sin; awaken O Lord!
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.