My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE
THE LIFE OF THE HOLY MARTYR THEODORE
Theodore flourished during the reigns of the joint pagan Roman Emperors (Augusti) Diocletian (284-305 A.D.) and Maximian (286-305 A.D.), and the junior colleague Maximinus Daia (310-313 A.D.) in the east. He hailed from the village of Houmiala of Amaseia, a city of Cappadocia. Diocletian issued an order requiring all men-in-arms and administrators to sacrifice to the gods. Those who refused were made to resign. This policy was in force for six years. Among the crypto-Christians (secret-Christians) would come forth the Great-martyr Theodore. At first, he was a hidden Christian, not out of any terror regarding martyrdom, but because he believed that it was not yet from God for him to undergo martyrdom. While serving in Efchaita, he met the elderly lady Evsevia, who cautioned him to flee from the local dragon. Theodore, however, wishing to test his mettle to endure martyric contents, decided to contend with that fearsome creature that terrorized the inhabitants. God helping him, he slew the dragon.
Now when Theodore’s commander, named Vrigan, summoned the men in order to fulfill the imperial order and offer sacrifice. Theodore remained in his tent. When asked to explain his absence. Theodore confessed Christ before all. Commander Vrigan and Theodore’s squad leader decided to give Theodore time to reconsider his allegiance to Christ. In the meantime, Theodore sought out other Christians and urged them not to deny The Christ. As the pagan tyrants were arresting and incarcerating other Christians, Theodore went by night to the Greek altar dedicated to the goddess Rhea, the so-called "mother of the gods." His heart was ablaze with divine zeal when he entered the temple. He set the temple on fire that he might demonstrate that he was a Christian not only in word but also in deed. He further wished to prove to the Greek pagans that the idols to which they were making obeisance were deaf and made of insensible wood. As a result of the destruction of the pagan’s shrine to the idolaters’ chief goddess, Efchaita was in turmoil and confusion.
The minister of that defiled altar, one named Kronides, had seen the soldier Theodore set fire to it. Since he feared that he should be held responsible for the burning of the altar, he took hold of Theodore and brought him before Governor Puplios. After Puplios listened carefully to the accusations, he quickly dispatched a message that Commander Vrigan should be brought to him. When Vrigan arrived, Puplios questioned him: "Did you give leave to this ungodly soldier to burn down the altar of Rhea our goddess?" Vrigan answered, "I gave him permission to gather his thoughts and reflect upon what is best. I did not give him leave to ignite our altar. He was many times told that he ought to offer sacrifice, but he refuses to listen. Instead, he scorns me by saying that he is a soldier of the Nazaraean Jesus and that he denies the army of our mighty emperors."
Governor Puplios addressed the holy Theodore, threatening him with a multitude of tortures. Theodore was conveyed to prison, clapped him in chains, flogged, and left to die of starvation and thirst. Christ appeared to Theodore, strengthening him and warning him not to partake of the victuals from the pagans. After Theodore was placed in stocks, Puplios ordered that Theodore might receive twenty-six grams of bread daily and a little water. When the guards fulfilled the order and brought Theodore’s rations, he would not accept them. Instead, he told them, "I have heavenly food, that is, my Christ and His power, I do not want thy polluted food. I, therefore, say with the Prophet-King David, ‘But oil of a sinner, let it not anoint my head’ (Psalm 140-6).
Governor Puplios, after offering promises and freedom, still met with Theodore’s stalwart resistance. Puplios ordered his executioners to suspend the saint upside down. The executioners flayed his body with iron claws. "Administer this," bellowed Puplios, "until the prisoner should die or state that he shall offer sacrifice." The minister of tortures performed their office to the extreme so that the Saint’s sides were laid open, exposing his ribs. At length, the executioners became exhausted from their brutal scraping and carving. The holy Theodore made no outward response. He chanted secretly, "I WILL BLESS THE LORD EVERY TIME, HIS PRAISE CONTINUALLY SHALL BE IN MY MOUTH" (Psalm 33:1). Puplios, at length, issued the final sentence: "Let the fire devour him, as he consumed the temple of Rhea the goddess."
Forthwith, the soldiers bound him to the execution site. Upon arrival, he was unfettered. Theodore then loosened his belt, took off his outer garment, and removed his footwear. The soldiers intended to affix him to the ground, lest he should bolt or make any sharp or quick movements. The Saint wished to be left alone and said, "Do not tie me to a stake. Christ, Who empowered me to withstand even the flame of the fire." The soldiers obliged the prisoner, but they still tied his hands in front of him. The Saint, lifting up his hands to God with tears, besought Christ in prayer for his fwllow soldiers who were found in the prison with him for the sake of Christ. The whole burnt offering Theodore, after uttering his prayer, straightway, jumped inside the fiery furnace that had been prepared. In the midst of the roaring flames, he was chanting and glorifying God! With a view to make manifest the miracles and glorify His Saint, God dispensed in His oeconomy the following marvelous occurrence. The flame of that fire arched and became as a vault that surrounded the Saint. The fire in no wise touched or injured Theodore! The Saint, who scorned death in the flames, kept giving thanks and glorifying the Lord, as he surrendered his soul into the hands of God.
The Saint’s grace-flowing relics were retrieved by means of an exorbitant sum paid by Evsevia. She returned them to her home, Efchaita, where yearly the Saint’s memory was celebrated. In every circumstance, the holy Martyr proved an excellent helper, healing every ailment of soul and body.
By the intercessions of Saint Theodore,
O God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
[Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church]
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George