Saints Theodore Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
Buffalo, New York

The Lives of Saint Theodore Tyro and Saint Theodore Stratelates

Homily of St. Gregory of Nyssa on the Holy Great-Martyr Theodore Tyro

[J.61 & M.736] You, the people who belong to Christ, a holy flock, a royal priesthood which had come from every place, city and the countryside, what is the source of that sign which brought you to this sacred place? Who are you who hasten here and planned this [journey] beforehand? Is it not the season of winter which is untroubled by war, when armed soldiers are not present, sailors set sail over the foamy [waves] and the farmer puts to rest the ox used for plowing in the stall? It is not clear that the holy martyr sounded the trumpet from among the roster of warriors, rouses people from diverse regions to a place of rest, [M.737] proclaims a home, not in preparation for war but to a sweet and attractive peace for Christians? We believe that in the year when the barbarian invasion stopped and the horrible war against the savage Scythians came to an end we witnessed no frightening, terrible war, no triple crested helmet nor a brandished sword glittering in the sun, [J.62] but the all-powerful cross of Christ which wards them off, the means by which he obtained glory through his suffering.

Furthermore, I ask you to consider closely those who keep blameless religious observance such as the martyrs who compose an outstanding assembly of the just as well as those deemed worthy of recompense while still in the world, [Jms 1.27]. Let me affirm that they are still with us. Their great honor is open for all to see: by recognizing the fruit of piety, you must strive to share in their reverence. Desire the honors which Christ dispenses according to the worthiness of his athletes. But if it pleases him that we may enjoy future benefits which a pure hope offers to the just when the judge of our lives comes to us, we may see the company of the saints which is so magnificent and glorious. For the soul which is ascending is fond of residing in its own inheritance and converses in an incorporeal manner with its own brethren; the body a deserving and immaculate vehicle for that purpose which never allows the harm originating from its own passions to reside with incorruptibility. Enwrapped with much honor and solicitude, it dwells in this holy place as an inestimable treasure reserved for the time of regeneration and shares the uniqueness with regard to other bodies. For this common death which is similar in nature has no comparison. There are other abominable matters, for example, no one should lightly disregard the tomb but is this person opens himself to persuasion, he is liable to have no share in the repugnance of this present age, thereby avoiding the burden of the human condition.

Should a person come to a place similar to our assemble today where the memory of the just and the rest of the saints is present, first [J.62] consider this house's great dignity to which souls are lead. God's temple is brightly adorned with magnificence and is embellished with decorations, pictures of animals which masons have fashioned with delicate silver figures. It exhibits images of flowers made in the likeness of the martyr's virtues, his struggles, sufferings, the various savage actions of tyrants, assaults, that fiery furnace, the athlete's blessed consummation and the human form of Christ presiding over all these events. They are like a book skillfully interpreting by means of colors which express the martyr's struggles and glorify the temple with resplendent beauty. The pictures located on the walls are eloquent by their silence and offer significant testimony; the pavement [M.740] on which people tread is combined with small stones and is significant to mention in itself.

These spectacles strike the senses and delight the eye by drawing us near to [the martyr's] tomb which we believe to be both a sanctification and blessing. If anyone takes dust from the martyr's resting place, it is a gift and a deserving treasure. Should a person have both the good fortune and permission to touch the relics, this experience is a highly valued prize and seems like a dream both to those who were cured and whose wish was fulfilled. The body appears as if it were alive and healthy: the eyes, mouth, ears as well as the other senses are a cause for pouring out tears of reverence and emotion. In this way one implores the martyr who intercedes on our behalf [J.64] and is an attendant of God for imparting those favors and blessings which people seek.

From all this, oh devout people, learn that "the death of his holy ones is admirable before the Lord" [Ps 115.6], for all men comprise one and the same body; they share the same substance as one dough and are carried off to death. However, the martyr's suffering bestows grace which is lovable, joyful and undeniable as the text above teaches. Therefore we believe that appearances hold out the promise of future blessings procured from trials endured in the world. Many are those who pursue [pleasures of] the stomach, vainglory and the rubbish of all this world's charms while neglecting that which is to come; rather, such persons believe that death puts an end to all these things [Phil 3.19]. But a thoughtful person will learn about great matters from that which is small and about archetypes from shadows. To whom will the honor of kings go? Who will be remembered among men with regard to that arrogance resulting from visible reality? Which general who has captured fortified cities and has enslaved many peoples is celebrated as this soldier, poor man and conscript whom Paul has armed [Eph 6.11] and whom the angels have anointed for combat and whom Christ has crowned with victory [2Tim 4.8]? Since these words unite you to the martyr's trials, follow the saint's uncommon example and forsake any useless pursuit because everyone loves such things.

The fatherland is majestic by reason of beholding the sun. Job [J.65] is noble because he came from the [land of the] sun's rising and continued to observe those customs with which he was acquainted [Job 1.3]. On the other hand, the martyr possesses the entire earth and every citizen who dwells under the sun. However, a list of armed men is taken [M.741] from that vicinity when their regiment is transferred to our region where its leaders post them to rest during the winter. But when war suddenly arises not by an incursion of barbarians but by Satan's ordinance and decree which God opposes (for every Christian is put under the ban of a severe prescription and is condemned to death), the thrice blessed [Theodore] reveals his piety and gives witness everywhere to his faith in Christ in addition to being inscribed upon the forehead with a confession. He is no longer a novice nor untried by battle and combat but has fortified his soul to resist dangers; he is neither afraid nor a coward reluctant to speak. The evil spirits have convened a court along with their leaders and taxiarchs which is reminiscent of Herod and Pilate who condemned the Lord to be crucified by a similar judgment. They said, "What is the source of your courage, you who dare to mock the king's decree? Do you [J.66] not submit in trembling to those royal decrees? Do you not worship the authorities who are in power?" Maximianus was then king whom these leaders served.

With stern countenance and resolute mind [Theodore] responded to their charges by saying, "I do not know the gods because they are false, whereas you err by honoring and addressing them, having been influenced by demons who have deceived you from [the worship of] God [cf. Jn 3.18]. But as for me, Christ is God, the Only Begotten Son of God. Therefore on behalf of the true religion and by confessing him, let him who inflicts wounds go ahead and cut; let him who strikes thrash; let him who burns lead to the flame, and let him who is grieved by my words cut out my tongue. Each member of the body needs patience bestowed by the Creator." The tyrants were at a loss by these words and could not sustain the first refutation of his integrity because this youth was bursting with passion and sought death as if it were a sweet drink.

For a brief period the [persecutors] were at a loss and took counsel with regard to future action. One of the military leaders with a refined demeanor scorned the martyr by the following response: "Theodore, are you the Son of God? Was he born to suffer as a man? My god was not born for this purpose, but I believe that he is a son and that his birth befits his divinity. But you and your childish, pathetic reasoning should make you blush and hide due to your profession in an effeminate god whom, like a mother, you worship her twelve sons who gave birth to [J.67] a multitude of demons just like a hare or a sow which effortlessly conceive and give birth!"

The tyrants mocked the saint by this two pronged attack of idolatry and under the guise of clemency said, "Give us a short time to consider such madness. Perhaps by giving him [M.744] a brief rest he might change his mind for the better." These [despots] called wisdom insanity, reckoned madness and label derangement eloquence just like drunks who vehemently berate sober persons. However, this pious man and soldier of Christ made full use of manly behavior in the respite allotted to him.

What did he do? You certainly have enough time to ponder over his tale with joy. The gods' temple erected to their mythical mother was located in the capitol city of Amasea by a river bank where such mislead persons devised their folly. But the noble man remained fearless while his detractors watched for an opportune moment and a occasion because they yearned to accuse him of setting a fire and impatiently expected him to admit it. Once everyone learned of this incident (for a blazing fire started in the midst of the city), [Theodore] did not disclose the deed nor hasten to speak about it. However, it was certainly clear to [his accuser's] arrogance and to the confusion of their great joy that this incident was a source of distress for the temple and its graven image. It was reported to the magistrates that he was responsible for burning the temple and a judgment more fearful than the first resulted due to his provocation.

Once the [judges] took their seats in court, the magistrate eloquently questioned Theodore who stood in their midst [J.68] and who quickly turned the interrogation into a confession [of faith]. Since they could not accuse him and their fearful threats had no effect, they changed their tactics and benignly attempted to withdraw the accusation by offering him promises. "If you wish to submit to our counsel," they said, "we will at once reinstate your renown from such disgrace, change your ignominy into honor and will swear that you share in the glory which belongs to the office of chief priest." When he heard of this honor, the thrice-blessed [Theodore] said, "I judge the priests of idols as wretched men and pity the attendants of such vain practices. I both greatly feel for and loath the chief priest. He is among the worst and most miserable of men, a fact which is more unimaginable than any unjust circumstance; he is the cruelest of murderers and is more wanton than any dissolute person. Therefore let your devastating actions run their course. Tell me, you who make such depraved promises, by choosing a life of piety and righteousness with respect to God, it is better to be a outcast in God's house than to dwell in the tents of the wicked [Ps 83.11]? I pity the kingdom's subjects to whom you continuously read the iniquitous law because its authority is considerable. They can keep the title of chief priest for themselves, cloth themselves with dark purple in imitation of evil chief priests and wrap their melancholy with bright dignity. When approaching the impure altar, [M.745] they sacrifice butchered birds before kings, [J.69] examine the entails of wretched cattle, sell meat stained with blood and defile their clothing."

After the just man had uttered these words, the leaders no longer feigned goodwill but accused him as being most disrespectful of the gods, contemptuous of kings and a blasphemer. First they tortured him by tearing his body which they had suspended upon a tree. While the executioners were vigorously at work, he remained steadfast, constant and sang about his torments from the Psalm, "I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise ever in my mouth" [Ps 33.2]. Those torments of the flesh diminished while he sang and were as though another man were being mistreated. In this fashion the prison sanctioned his punishment. Another phenomenon occurred with regard to the saint: at night he heard a multitude singing, and those outside saw their radiant splendor in the dead of night. This marvelous visitation troubled the prison guard and a sound emanated from inside the cell; no one was present except the martyr who remained at peace with the other sleeping prisoners.

After many such events, [Theodore] was strengthened by his confession and piety, and they brought a vote of condemnation upon him. He was ordered to be burned and in the way finished his wonderful, blessed journey to God. However, [Theodore] left behind a lesson from his agony: he summoned the people, taught the church, put demons to flight, brought angelic peace, implored benefits from God, healed various illnesses in that place, provided a safe haven for those tossed by afflictions, was a rich treasury [J.70] for the poor, a quiet inn of rest for travelers and a continuous festal celebration. If we keep the yearly festival, an enthusiastic multitude will always be in attendance; the highway leading there bore them along like ants with some going and other departing.

Therefore, oh blessed anniversary graciously provided by the Creator, we flock to your festival with the martyrs' holy band which worships a common God. By recalling the victory of our many struggles, you return to us, and when you arrive, you provide us with a day of celebration. We beseech you, whether you dwell in the air above or in some celestial circle or angelic [M.748] chorus, that you assist the Lord or worship him as a faithful servant with the powers and virtues. Come from that place to those who beseech you, invisible friend! You have learned of his death, a means by which you might give double thanks to God who conferred this favor through one passion and one pious confession that you may rejoice in the blood he shed and in the grievous fire he endured. As a result you will have as worthy ministers those who witnessed the spectacle. We lack many benefactors. Intercede on behalf of the people that they may share one kingdom because the martyr's country is one of affliction whose citizens and brethren and kinsmen have died and have been honored. We fear afflictions and expect danger because we are close to the ungodly Scythians who grieve us with war. As a soldier, fight for us; as a martyr, grant courage to your fellow servants. Since you have prevailed over this life yet are familiar with humanity's sufferings and needs, grant peace that the festivals may continue, that the furious, insolent, mad barbarians might not triumph over the temples or altars and that they might not tread the holy place.

We who have been kept safe and unharmed ponder [J.71] your beneficence and implore protection for the future. Should we experience stress and dishonor, let your people beseech the chorus of your fellow martyrs; the prayers of many just people will exonerate sin. Remember Peter, awaken Paul along with John the theologian and beloved disciple, who are solicitous on behalf of the churches which they have founded and on whose behalf they endured dangers and death. They did not engage in idol worship which was inimical to our head [Christ] in order that heresy may resemble thorns to pluck out vines, that weeds might not suffocate wheat, that no rock hinder the true, rich dew and that anything without root may show the power of the fertile word [cf. Mt 13.25, 7, 20]. But by the power of your intercession and those with you, oh marvelous and most bright among the martyrs, the young shoot will return to you, the flourishing citizenship of Christians will endure to the end in the splendid, fruitful field of faith in Christ which always bears the fruit of eternal life in Christ Jesus Lord. To him with the Father and Holy Spirit be glory, power and honor now and forever. Amen.

The Passion of St. Theodore the Recruit (BHL 8077)

1. During their time Maximianus and Maximinus sent throughout all the territory of their empire an edict against all the followers of the true religion of Christ, that they could escape tortures and live by tasting food which had been offered in sacrifice, and that those who spoke against this were to be surrendered to the judges and subjected to many different punishments. At this time Theodore was conscripted for military service, and together with him many other recruits, and was assigned to a legion entitled the legio Marmaritarum under the command of the praepositus Brincas. This legion was staying in the city of Amasea in the province of Hellespontus, where all were being compelled to offer sacrifice to the idols in accordance with the imperial edict.

2. When he spoke out against these things blessed Theodore was brought to the praepositus Brincas. Brincas said to him, "Why do you not obey the commands of the emperors' and offer sacrifice to the immortal gods ?" Blessed Theodore, since he was faithful to God and filled with the Holy Spirit, replied, stand- ing in the midst of the legion, "It is because I am a Christian that I have not accepted the command to offer sacrifice to evil images; for I have as my king Christ in heaven." The praepositus Brincas said to him, "Take your arms, Theodore, and accept military service; agree to sacrifice to the immortal gods, and obey the victorious emperors." But saint Theodore said in reply, "I serve my emperor and cannot serve another." The praepositus Brincas said, "All these standing about are Christians, and they serve." Theodore said, "Each knows how he serves. But I serve my lord and king of heaven, God, and his only son Jesus Christ." The ducenarius Possidonius said, "So, your God has a son ?" Saint Theodore replied, "He has a son who is the Truth through whom all things were made." The praepositus said to him, "Can we know him ?" Saint Theodore replied, "I wish that he would give such understanding to you as to recognise him." Possidonius the ducinarius asked, "And if we recognise him, will we be able to leave the earthly emperor and go to him ?" Saint Theodore replied, "There is nothing which prevents you from deserting the darkness, and the trust which you hold in the house of your temporal and mortal earthly king, and going over to the Lord, the living and eternal heavenly king, in order to become soldiers like me." The praepositus Brincas said, "Let us give him a truce for a few-days in order to take stock with himself and be converted to what is best."

3. When he had received this time to think blessed Theodore remained in prayer. The officials, troubled also about the other Christians, went about the city to capture whoever else they found believing in Christ. When they had seized some they brought them to jail. Blessed Theodore, sitting with them, taught them the way of salvation and perseverance, saying, "Do not fear these tortures which are being inflicted upon you in order for you to deny the heavenly king and lord, Jesus Christ." When he had said these and similar things to those who had been locked-up, he waited for an opportune time and entered by night the temple of the mother of the gods. He set fire to it, and burned it. But he was seen by someone, and accused. The book-keeper Cronides was terrified when he learned what had been done. He seized blessed Theodore and brought him to the governor Publius, saying, "This pest, a recent con- script, came into our city, set fire to the ancient temple of the mother of the gods, and harmed our gods. Thus I seized him, and have brought him to your highness in order for him to pay the penalty, in accordance with the command of our victorious emperors, for his bold deeds against our gods." The judge, when he had listened to the praepositus Brincas who had been summoned, said to him, "Did you give him amnesty in order to set fire to the temple of our gods ?" In response he said, "I exhorted him often, and gave him an amnesty in order for him to think matters over with himself, and to compromise with us and make sacrificial offerings to the gods. If he has done this, since you are the judge, charge him in accordance with your authority as one who has con- tempt for the gods and despises the commands of our victorious emperors." Thus, seated on his platform, the governor ordered blessed Theodore to be brought to him."

4. When he had been brought the governor said to him, "Why have you set fire to and burned our goddess instead of sacrificing to her with incense and libations ?" Blessed Theodore said, "I do not deny what I have done. I have burned her with fire. Such is your goddess, and her power, that fire can touch and burn her. I have burned wood in order to set fire to stone." Then, filled with fury, the governor ordered that he be beaten, saying, "Do not answer me with speeches. The most bitter tortures await you in order to make you obey the commands of the emperors." Blessed Theodore said, "I do not surrender to you, nor do I fear your punishments, even if they are extremely fearful. So do what you want. For the expectation of good things calls me to be confident on account of the hope which has been placed in me and the crown which My Lord Jesus Christ has prepared for me." The judge said, "Sacrifice to the gods and save yourself from the tortures which have been prepared for you." Saint Theodore said, "Those tortures which you are bringing are not fearful to me. My Lord and king, Jesus Christ, stands before my face, he who will rescue me from your punishments, whom you do not see because you do not see with the eyes of your heart." Thus the judge was angered, and roaring like a lion he ordered him to be thrown into prison, that the door of the prison be sealed, and that he be left there to die of hunger.

5. But blessed Theodore was nourished by the Holy Spirit. Moreover that same night there appeared to him the Lord, saying, "Take courage, my servant Theodore, because I am with you. So do not accept either food or drink from those men. For there is everlasting food for you in heaven." And when he had said these things he left him. And when the Lord had ascended away from him blessed Theodore began to rejoice and sing psalms to the Lord. Moreover there were many people listening to him. When the prison-guards heard these things and saw that the door was closed and the seal intact, they looked through the window and saw a great crowd dressed in white singing together with saint Theodore. They went away in fear and reported these things to thejudge. And when he heard these things the judge rose and ran with haste. He reached the door of the prison, saw the prison was indeed locked, and heard the voices of those singing with blessed Theodore. When he had heard these the governor ordered that armed soldiers stand on guard in a circuit outside the prison, thinking that some Christians were inside with blessed Theodore. He opened it up, went inside and found no-one except only the holy servant of God Theodore pushed-down on the wooden [floor]. And great fear seized him and those who were with him. They went out bewildered and locking the prison again departed. Then the governor ordered that a loaf of bread and a cup of water be given daily to blessed Theodore. But Christ's faithful martyr, in accordance with scripture that the just man lives on faith, did so and did not accept any food from them, but only said to himself, "Christ, My Lord and King, nourishes me."

6. When it was morning the governor ordered blessed Theodore to be brought to him, and said to him, "Acquiesce, Theodore, save yourself from the tortures and offer sacrifice to the gods, so that I may quickly write to the emperors, lords of the world, that Theodore has become a priest, receives great honours from us and will be our companion." Blessed Theodore, looking up at Heaven and crossing himself, said to the governor, "Even if you burn my flesh with fire, inflict various punishments and surrender me to the sword until I breathe-out my last, I will not deny My Lord." Thus the governor, when he had heard these things and taken counsel with the praepositus, ordered the torturers to hang him up on a wooden frame and scrape his sides with iron claws. These scraped him to such an extent that his ribs were laid bare. However blessed Theodore made no answer to the governor, but recited the psalms, saying, "I will bless the Lord for all time, his praise will be upon my lips always." The governor, amazed at such great endurance by the blessed martyr, said to him, "Are you not ashamed, you most wretched of all men, to hope in a man who is called Christ, and who died so badly ? Are you surrendering yourself in this way, without reason, to such punishments and tortures ?" But the holy martyr said, "This madness of mine is that of all who call upon the name of My Lord Jesus Christ." The crowds were shouting to take him down because he had already been killed, and then the governor interogated him through a herald, saying, "Are you willing to offer sacrifice or do you want to be tortured still further by me ?" In reply blessed Theodore said confidently to the governor, "O you most wicked man, filled with every evil, you son of the devil, truly worthy of Satan's work, do you not fear the Lord who gave you this power, through whom kings rule and tyrants obtain land, but compel me to desert the living God and worship lifeless stones ?" Then the judge, with much shuffling of [papers], said to the holy martyr, "What do you want ? to be with us or with your Christ ?" To which the holy martyr replied with great joy, "I have been, am, and shall be with my Christ."

7. Seeing that he could not overcome the endurance of the holy martyr through tortures [the governor] passed sentence against him, speaking thus, "I order that Theodore, who does not obey the command of the victorious emperors and the power of the gods, who believes in Jesus Christ who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, as I hear from the Jews, be surrendered to fire." Immediately as he passed sentence the instruction was performed simultaneously with his command. The torturers, who had been continuously gathering wood from the traders and the baths, led him to the place which had been prepared. When fire had been kindled, laying aside his clothes and unloosing his belt, he wished also to undo his shoes, and each of the faithful was hurrying to be the first to touch his perspiration. They were all coming and touching him before his passion. They brought to him imnmediately those necessities which had been gathered for the fire. To those who wished to pierce him the blessed martyr said, "Support me; he who has given me endurance in my punishments will him- self grant also that I endure untouched the force of the fire." They did not pierce him then, but only tied him up and went away. But the holy martyr, speaking the words of the sign of the cross, with his hands tied behind his back, like a ram chosen from a great flock readied and accepted as a holocaust to God, looked up to heaven and said, "Lord God Almighty, Father of your blessed Son Jesus Christ through whom we received knowledge of you, God of virtues and of every creature and every nation of just men who live in your presence, I bless you because you have made me worthy of this day and hour that I may receive a part with the holy martyrs before Christ the Saviour at the resurrection, and eternal life of body and soul through the preserving gift of the Holy Spirit. I will be taken up among the martyrs into your sight today as a rich and acceptable sacrifice which you have beforehand tested, tried and discovered to be without fault. For you are the true God, and I praise you accordingly, asking and beseeching you through Our Lord Jesus Christ, your beloved Son. Grant also, Lord, that those who have been detained with me will reach this palm."

8. And watching with his eyes he saw Cleonicus, who had been conscripted with him, standing and weeping in the crowd, and crying-out he said, "Cleonicus, I await you. Hurry and join me. For we did not desert each other in this earthly life and let us not be separated from each other in the heavenly life." And when he had finished talking he prayed, saying, "Lord Jesus Christ, Mediator between God and men, you who have shown me worthy to win this contest, I thank and praise and glorify the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit throughout the ages. Amen." And when he had finished praying the servants of the devil lit the great fire. But while a great flame flickered we to whom it was granted to see saw a miracle, and we were preserved in order to report to others the things which occurred. For the flame took the shape of an arched roof, like a ship's sail filled by the wind, and surrounded the body of the holy martyr. And it was not so much like a corpse burning but like bread being baked. The Holy Spirit arrived, and the holy martyr, without harm in the midst of the flame, praised and glorified God, and returned his spirit to Christ. He was taken into the heavens on 9 November. We were all filled with the most pleasant fragrance. Moreover a voice came down to him from the heavens, saying "Come, my beloved, Theodore, enter into the joy of your Lord because you have faithfully completed the course of your struggle." We who were standing about saw and heard all these things, and we also saw the heavens opened above him.

9. A certain woman of noble birth by the name of Eusebia came and sought the body of the holy martyr Theodore. Embalming his holy body with wine and pre- cious ointments she wrapped it in clean cloth, placed it in a casket, and took it to her estate which was one day's journey distant from the city of Amasea, into an area called Euchaita. She decided to turn her estate into a church. She made her house there perfect and holy. And she celebrated everyday there the commemoration of the blessed martyr Theodore. In that place many were cleansed of evil spirits and various infirmities through him, even to the present day, to the praise and glory of God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit who lives and reigns now and forever and until the end of time. Amen.

The Passion of St. Theodore the General

(Translation by Conybeare (1896), 220-37)

1. Unsearchable and wonderful are the heavenly gifts which the Creator has freely bestowed in miraculous wise on the ranks of His holy martyrs. Unspeakable is the patience with which they entered and won the struggle, and too varied are their virtues for it to be possible to relate them, even for those who loved them and fought beside them. Nor is it easy to tell even in metaphor of the fair seeming and brightness of the richly burgeoning wreaths and of the unfading and varied chaplets which they wove. It is hard to relate how, by their strength in martyrdom, they locked together and surrounded themselves with the shields of the Spirit, and were tried like gold which is tried in the fire. Thus they crossed over the dark sea and turbulent of this wicked life, and displayed their victory over the antagonism of the devil. None of those who are in the flesh can worthily commemorate their excellence; for the Divine Spirit alone is able to describe it. 2. Yet although it is beyond the compass of man to relate it, we must not be altogether silent. Nay, let it be told as according to the apportioning of the divine grace of the Spirit one has the ability to publish it to pious souls. In order that by means [p. 221] of the recollection of the valiant and spiritual soldiers of Christ, the children of the church may be awakened, and may aspire to enter into the pavilion of rest to which they are called, armed with the armour of God; in order that in the time of persecution, and when trials arise, they may be able to participate with those who were found to share the cross of Christ. 3. Let us then begin the commemoration of this noble martyr of Christ, the holy Theodorus, albeit we are not able to do full justice to his bravery and excellence. Yet we may tell a little out of much. We can say who he was, whence he came, and how his martyrdom began and ended, and we will relate the story of the time of his persecution. For he was not the Theodorus the Tiro, whose commemoration is held on the first sabbath of the forty days' fast; but our saint was his nephew, and was held in high honour by the emperors from whom he received a command in the army. For he (i.e. the Tiro) was martyred under the King Maximianus, in the city of Amasia in Cappadocia; so that they were not far from one another, either in point of time or of family.

4.But in the times of the lawless and impious Emperor Licinius, a blazing storm of cruel persecution swept over the church of God, and everywhere the altars all over the Roman empire were heaped up with the molten images of devils, and [p. 222] in all places the edict of apostasy was circulated, and commands of the following kind posted up in every village and city with all sternness, to the effect that they shoud do homage to stones, and to trees fashioned by the hands of men, and that they should offer up holocausts and sacrifices to the so-called gods, and should content themselves with foul food. And those who obeyed this edict received honour and promotion from the Emperor, but those who refused to do so were compelled, and were subject to stripes and to torture, and punishment by sword and fire. For an inextricable mist of darkness and disturbance encompassed us all, for they took many of those who believed and gave thenm over to the judges, that they might confine them in dark places, and subject them to cruel and pitiless tortures, and after long tribulation die by the sword.

5. At that time there blazed forth a star of dazzling brilliancy, a lamp that scattered its radiance far and wide, and illuminated the mist and darkness of idolatry, appearing victorious over all, I mean the brave champion and soldier of the King Christ, the holy Theodorus. For when this edict of the impious and lawless Emperor Licinius went forth, that all who believed in Christ should be taken and thrown into prison, and bound and subjected to intolerable privations and tortures; then the blessed and famous witness of Christ, Theodorus, had been born of Christian and religious parents, in the village of Eukhaita. He was brought up and trained in all good discipline [p. 223], and grew in stature and wisdom, and was schooled in the teachings of religion. While he was still in the flower of youth and prime of life, fair to look upon and filled with all wisdom, he became on that account the friend and intimate of the kings and princes of that day. For in the wars of the barbarians, the saint was ever victorious and won all praise; for which he received the very highest honour in the army, and was promoted to the very highest grade of command. 6. Now some malignant satellites of the devil obtained the ear of the Emperor, and laid information that the saint was a Christian, and not only he, but his whole country and city; "for under his influence," they said, "they have been perverted by him along with your army, and have turned away from the worship of idols, and have disobeyed your commands; they no longer keep the mysterious festivals of the gods, nor do they taste of their holy sacrifices." 7. When the Emperor heard this, he was dumbfoundered; and, though he was full of wrath, he wavered in his counsels, and did not know how he would be able to take in his deadly net so conspicuous a man. He did not think it suitable to write and summon him to come before him, for he feared that he would see through his crafty designs, and be afraid, and disregard his commands. So he formed this plan, that he would make the conduct of the war a pretext for his coming to those regions, and so take him in the city itself. And having formed this design, the lawless prince determined to send some of his nobles [p. 224] together with a force to Heraclea, a city of Cappadocia, where the saint dwelt. And he wrote to him a letter in complimentary terms as follows: "If it should be pleasing and acceptable to you, come and see us, and do homage to our gods in the city of Nicomedia, and come with a great suite and with much pomp. But if there is any reason to prevent you, it is meet that we should come and see your district, and the city in which you dwell, for we are very desirous to see you and enjoy your good will." And when the captains came to him, and brought the letter of command, Theodorus took and read it, and was delighted and thanked God; for he had thought already in his heart of declaring himself for the true religion, and of becoming a witness of Christ; and now on a sudden the good wil and pleasure of God was about to be really accomplished. So on that occasion he received the king's men with great honour, and made them presents; but he excused himself from going to meet the king on the score of the requirements of the province, and begged them, and promised them riches, if they would go and persuade the Emperor to come to the city of Heraclea, bringing with him the full number of his gods. "You will behold," he wrote, "all the population of the town and country, and they will be glad and rejoice, and will hold a great festival with sacrifice and adoration." So the men went back to the Emperor, and gave him the answer which had been despatched to him. And this the ruler took and read, and was deceived and taken [p. 225] in by it, like an unreflecting child; for he determined to set out for those regions, thinking in his wickedness that all his designs were already accomplished. So forthwith he took a number of cavalry, and arrived at the city of Heraclea. And when the holy Theodore heard of the arrival of the Emperor, he went out to meet him with great pomp and rich suite. 8. But on that night, as he slept in his house, the saint beheld in a vision that the ceiling of his house was lifted up, and a shower of corruscating sparks of fire descended upon him; and a voice was heard saying to him: "Be strong, and of good cheer, Theodorus, for I am with thee." And when the saint woke up, he told his dream to those who were nearest to him, and said: "God is pleased that in this place my blood should be shed for the name of Christ." And then he arose and knelt down, and prayed; and when he had finished his prayer and wept, he thanked the Lord.

9. And then he arose, and washed the fair glory of his countenance, and put on precious raiment of byssus, and he ordered them to equip his horses in gold trappings. And then he rode out with his horses and met the Emperor. And when he beheld his ruler, he did homage to him, and after the manner of kings, he wished him well, saying, "Hail to thee, most powerful and autocratic Emperor, sent by God." But the Emperor, when he heard this, and saw the magnanimity of the saint, instantly embraced him with much tenderness, and welcomed him fondly, and kissed him, and said: "Hail to thee, O prince, fair as the sun to look upon, for it is meet that thou also shouldst reign along with me." And they entered together into the city along with the multitude of their men, who had gone out to meet the king; and he prepared a resting-house in the royal quarters, decorated after the manner of the palace, with canopies and imperial throne. And when the Emperor saw this he was overjoyed, and praised the city and the citizens, and he bade Theodorus sit down, and said to him: "Behold, according to the prayer that thou hast written to me, O Theodorus, I have come as the guest and recipient of thy hospitality to visit thee and thy city; and I have brought with me the most precious and the most illustrious of our gods, in order that thou mayest worship them, and offer sacrifice to them." The holy Theodorus made answer, and said: "O victorious and great Emperor, thou hast done well in fulfilling the request of thy servant, by making us glad with thine advent; and yet more hast thou honoured us by bringing with thee thy gods, in order that all may behold them, and may be confirmed in the ordinances of religion. But I pray thy highness to rest a little from the labour of the journey, and to give me thy most illustrious gods, all of them, in order that I may take them to my house, and anoint them with fragrant oil, and offer frankincense to them, and cense them, and in order that I may prostrate myself and offer sacrifice in my own private house, and then after that may bring them out into public before all, and sacrifice; in [p. 227] order that all men, marking and beholding this, may be encouraged to emulate me in my piety." And when the Emperor heard this, he was very satisfied and pleased with the words of the saint, and believed that which he had said. And he ordered them to bring and to give to him all his idols fashioned of gold and silver. And the saint took them, and carried them to his palace to put them to rest. But he arose that night, and he broke and ground to powder all those gods, and then he took the bits and distributed them to the poor and needy.

10.But after three days had passed, the prince commanded that they should summon before him the great Theodorus, and he said to him: "O most honourable and illustrious of the princes who were before myself, and thou who hast been still more promoted and honoured by my own majesty, now therefore give proof of thy enthusiasm and love which thou hast towards my gods and towards us. Bring a sacrifice and offer it to them before the whole people, in order that they may all behold thee, and may fulfil our edict with all readiness." But whilst the saint was on the point of making answer to the Emperor, a certain man stood forward who was a person of authority, and whose name was Maxentenes, and said: "O noble prince, thou hast not known and understood the treason of this impious general, nor how he hath falsely deceived thy majesty in respect of [p. 228] thy all-victorious gods; for yesterday night, going forth from my quarters, I beheld a certain poor man, who was going along full of joy, holding in his hand the golden head of our great queen Artemis."

When the Emperor heard this, he was much enraged, and stood agape and could not believe what he heard; but he said to the saint: "Is this that they said true ?" The saint made answer and said: "Yes, it is true and just, I deny it not; for I have done justly what I have done. For surely if thy gods have not been able to help themselves, how will they be able to help thee ?" Then the countenance of the Emperor changed colour with rage, and filled with wrath he said: "Woe to me, for I have been deceived like a little child, and have been turned to ridicule before the eyes of all. And now I know not what I shall do or how I shall act; for I who am emperor and ruler of all these forces and of the world, have come along with all my forces to be deceived at the feet of this miscreant; I have become the shame of the province and of the city, losing all my victorious gods." And when the holy Theodorus saw the Emperor filled with such folly, he laughed in his soul, and said: "O thou senseless demon, filled full with all lawlessness, didst thou not take note beforehand, that I was a Christian and a servant of Christ; how could I be deceived by thy deceitful and pernicious edicts ? But in order that thou mayest know that thou art truly tricked like a simple child, therefore have I shown [p. 229] unto thee the weakness of thy gods, in order to put to shame thy impiety. Thou art puffed up with thy empty and transitory greatness, and thou hast not any hope or expectation of the greatness which passes not and of the light which is eternal, and thou knowest not Him who gave thee thy temporary greatness; but thou art infatuated by the crafty illusion of the devil, and darkened so that thou mayest not see the light of the glory of the only-born Son of God, and in the presumption with which the evil one inspires thee, thou dost not know what thou sayest. But I hold vain all this glory of created things, which estrange a man from God, in order that I may inherit immortal life, which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, and which God has prepared for those who love Him. But for thee and for thy material gods isa reserved the fire eternal, which is made ready and kept for Satan and his hosts."

The Emperor said: "O insolent miscreant, Theodorus, I could tolerate thy insults to me, for as regards obedience to myself, thou shalt be reformed; but why hast thou insulted the gods ?" The saint made answer and said: "Herein is the very demonstration of thy want of wit, for thou beholdest the nothingness of thy molten images of demons, and yet after this thou hast the rashness to give them the name of gods, who are like horses and mules, for there is no understanding in them, hewn out by the hands of mechanics." 11. And the Emperor was filled with wrath, and said: "Henceforth I will not tolerate thee, but I [p. 230] give thee over to miserable torture." And he ordered the executioners to strip the saint, and to stretch out his hands on fourfold pinions, and to scourge him with green switches, without spare, upon shoulders and chest and stomach; and they scourged the blessed one, so that the godless torturers were wearied and faint. And they carded the flesh of the saint with their cruel blows, and the blood poured forth from him. And then the Emperor ordered him to be smitten without spare on the neck with leaden hammers. And as they smote him, he ordered that all that was remaining of the body of the holy martyr should be scraped with iron needles, and then that fire should be brought and that they should burn all the wounds in his body. So they burned and roasted his whole body according to the command of the Emperor. But the holy martyr shewed yet more patience than before amid the throes of his cruel anguish, and thanked God that his desires were fulfilled; and as if he reckoned for nothing all this intolerable torture, he said to the Emperor: "O thou minister and servant of Satan, and enemy of all righteousness, dost that not see that thy torturers flag, and that thy foolhardy pride is humbled, and thy violence overcome, and thy father the devil Satan is put to shame; and however much my outer man is destroyed by thy torture, so much the more is my inner man renewed unto eternal life ?"

But the Emperor was very wroth, and ordered his soldiers to take the saint to prison, in order [p. 231] that he might deliberate about him, by what death he should slay him. And when they had cast him into prison after a few days he ordered him to be brought before him; and he tempted him with many words and questioned him, but yet could not persuade the blessed one. So then he ordered them to crucify him, and he made the entire number of his army shoot at him with arrows. But the martyr of Christ with great gladness went after the soldiers, and when he came to the cross they bound his hands and feet, and took and fastened him upon the tree. And a number of soldiers shot at him with arrows, and hit the face and eyes of the saint, But the champion of Christ endured it patiently, and gave thanks to God, and reckoned for nothing all the anguish and pain. And after that they came and mutilated his manhood, and all the multitude that stood round wept, all of them. 12. And I Abgar, the slave and secretary of the saint, who had received his command to write down all, point by point, when I beheld such cruelty, I threw away my paper from my hands, and I went and fell at his feet, weeping bitterly; and the saint, when he saw my tears, said to me in a gentle but weak voice: "O Abgar, grieve not, nor be remiss in thy task, but accomplish that which thou hast begun, and obey me yet a little longer that thou mayest see the end of my consummation, and write it down." And when he had said this, he raised his eyes to heaven, and said: "Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, my God, [p. 232] who in Thy unspeakable goodness dost control and arrange all things; who also by the hand of Thy only-born Son, and true and Holy Spirit, hast bestowed upon me strength to bear; for Thou, Lord, didst erewhile make promise to me, saying: "I have not abandoned thee, but for all time I will be with thee, and will save thee;" and now, O my God, wherefore hast Thou forsaken me, and hast withrawn from me Thy pity ? For the wild animals have torn my flesh because I loved Thy name; the pupils of mine eyes have been put out, and my flesh has been consumed with fire, and my fingers have been crushed, and my face has been altered so that it is no longer like that of a human being, and my soul reels and trembles with the fear of the tortures of the cross. And now, O my Lord and my God, for Thee have I borne all this, being given up to fire and sword, and to all anguish. Wherefore I beseech Thee receive my spirit forthwith, and refresh me according to Thy good pleasure, for Thou art all powerful."

And when he had said this he was silent, for all the members of the flesh of the martyr were weak, and the hollow of his stomach was lacerated and crushed because of the harrowing and of the tortures inflicted. But the lawless and impious Licinius, thinking that the saint was dead, ordered his guards to remain there, in order that for a whole day and a night his body might be exposed upon the cross. 13. But in the first watch of the night, an angel was sent from God, and took him down from the cross and made whole all his body, and said: "Rejoice and be strong, for the Lord was with thee and is with thee, and shall be for ever. Why therefore didst thou say that thou wast abandoned by Me ? Forasmuch as the course of thy martyrdom is accomplished, and thou comest to the Saviour Jesus, and shalt receive the indestructible crown in the kingdom of the just." And when he had said this, the angel rose up to heaven; but the holy Theodorus, beholding his body entirely healed of its wounds, lifted his hands to heaven, and magnified the Lord and said: "I magnify Thee, my God and my King, and I bless Thy name for ever and ever." And after praying for a long while, he uttered the Amen.

14. And at dawn early the Emperor called a certain twain of his nobles, and said: "Go ye along with a force of men, and take down from the cross the wretched body of yonder ill-starred impostor, and drag it before me, in order that I may command it to be placed in a coffin of lead and cast into the depths of the sea, lest the christians should snatch it away, and take it and honour it according to their custom." And when the captains had gone, and while they were yet afar off, they beheld the cross empty and void of the body of the holy martyr, and they began to gape with astonishment. Antiochus said to Patricius: "Verily it is true, that which the Christians say, that Christ after three days arose from the dead, for now we behold this word of theirs literally fulfilled." But Patricius ran to the cross and beheld the holy martyr Theodorus sitting [p. 234] near to the cross with his body entirely healed, and he began to tell the multitude of the great miracles of God which had happened unto him, so that both cried out with a loud voice, and said: "Great is the God of the Christians, and there is none other God but He." And they came and threw themselves at the feet of the saint along with the soldiers who were with them, in number eighty and two, and they said: "We too are Christians, and servants of Christ; we beseech thee, receive us who have gone astray through ignorance from the path of truth, and pray in our behalf to God the Creator, in order that He may make us worthy of the compassion of His grace." 15. When the Emperor heard this, he was exceeding wroth, and ordered the Consul whose name was Cestus, to take three hundred of his soldiery, and to go and behead them. But when they had gone, they too, by the favour of God, beheld the miracle of God, and believed like the others in Christ. And there was there a crowd and great multitude who all cried with loud voice and said: "Great is the God of the Christians; He that hath done such wonders, He alone is God. Come then, let us stone the lawless Licinius; for God is our Emperor, the God whom Theodorus preached." And when this disturbance arose, they began to raise a tumult one with another, and there was much shedding of blood in the conflict of the rabble. But a certain evildoer [p. 235] whose name was Leander drew his sword and rushed upon the holy Theodorus; but the Consul saw this and drew back his hand, and delivered the saint from him, and slew the lawless Leander. But another, whose name was Merpas, came forward amidst the crowd, and threw himself upon the Consul, and drawing his sword slew him. 16. But the blessed saint, when he saw the disturbance and riot of the crowd, went into the midst of them, and by his entreaties he appeased the crowd; and the multitude took the saint with them and returned to the city with great joy. And as they passed and came near to the doors of the prison, in which were confined all who were in bonds, these all cried out from prison and said: "Pity us, servant of God on high." But the crowd, when they heard it, said: "Command us that we at once pull down the doors of the prison, and set free them that are confined therein." But the saint restrained them from carrying out their counsel; and he himself approached the door and prayed to God, and made upon it the sign of the cross. And of its own accord it opened wide, and their bonds were loosened, and those who were confined came forth and threw themselves at his feet, and gave thanks to God and His saint. But he said to them: "Go ye in peace each to his own place"; and many other miracles did God accomplish by means of him, for the sick and the suffering and they who were possessed by devils were healed by his prayers.

17. And when the impious Licinius saw that [p. 236] all the people of the Greeks repudiated and cast from themselves the worship of the gods, and believed in Christ, he was very wroth, and sent a force of soldiers, that they might go without the knowledge of the multitude and cut off the head of the saint; and they went and at once executed his command, cutting off the head of the blessed one with a sword. And thus ended the victorious and mighty champion of Christ, the holy Theodorus, in the month of August, on the twenty-seventh day thereof, to the glory of God.

But after the martyrdom of the saint, Abgar, his slave, according to his command as he had been aforetime commanded to do, took the body of the saint and wrapped it in clean linen with fragrant spices, and they laid it in a coffin and took it and laid it to rest in his paternal inheritance in the village of Eukhaita. 18. And the multitude of the people of Heraclea followed the relics of the saint with lighted tapers and fragrant incense and spiritual songs, according to the custom of the Christians, and laid it in its resting place. And many miracles were accomplished by God by means of the tomb in which reposes until to-day the relis of the saint, for those who approach it with faith. For on the day of the commemoration of the martyr, there comes a multitude of people of all races, who keep his memory with great honour and with offerings, for God glorifies those who glorify Him. 19. For this saint outshone the sun in splendour and with inextinguishable brilliancy lit up a fire of virtue [p. 237] by his unblemished and correct faith, and repulsed the lawless ruler with all his servants. He kept his confession unshaken in the sure hope, and in his own life glorified the living God. He as martyr shared in the cross and in the death of our Lord, who of his own free will submitted to torture and death, and, following Him, offered up his life as a fragrant offering and pleasing to Him. For his true death was an expiation for angels and men, a lifting of the curse and an act of reconciliation to God. By the shedding of his blood he extinguished the folly of the idolaters and became a pillar of the faith, a seal of the Church, a door to those who would enter into heaven. He it is whom we honour by bearing him in memory and by conducting his festival with splendour; writing down the history of his martyrdom and handing it on the generations to come, that we may be ourselves witnesses to him who bore witness, until we all come to Christ who appoints the lists of martyrdom. He in our behalf for ever intercedes with the merciful God, that unto us also may be opened the door of pity, so that we may enjoy with him the goods which have no end. Those then who in faith and fear and with all goodwill keep the commemoration of the martyr of Christ, whatsoever they ask of the Lord, it shall be unto them; and they shall be partakers of the reward of their works along with all the saints in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.

 




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