My beloved brothers and sisters in Our Risen Lord, God, and Savior JESUS CHRIST,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
On the 5th of May, Our Holy Orthodox Church Commemorates
the holy and Great-Martyr IRENE.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn, Fourth Tone
O Lord Jesus, unto Thee Thy lamb doth cry with a great voice;
"O my Bridegroom, Thee I love; and seeking Thee, I now contest,
and with Thy baptism am crucified and buried. I suffer for Thy
sake, that I may reign with Thee; for Thy sake, I die, that I may live
in Thee: accept me offered out of longing to Thee as a spotless
sacrifice. Lord, save our souls through her intercessions, since
Thou art great in mercy.
Kontakion Hymn. Third Tone
Being fair adorned before with pure and virginal beauty, thou
becamest fairer still in thy brave contest, O virgin; for when
thou, in thine own spilt blood, wast stained and reddened, O
Irene, thou overthrewest ungodly error. Hence, thou hast
received the prizes of thy good victory from thy Creator’s
Saint Irene, the holy Great-Martyr, was born in the city of Magedon or Magedo. She lived during the reign of Saint and Emperor Constantine the Great (306-337 A.D.). She was the sole offspring of her pagan parents, Licinius, who was a certain kinglet, and Licinia. Irene has been given the name of Penelope at birth. Since she was the most fair of maidens and surpassed in beauty all the others of her day, her father, who feared for his daughter, built a lofty tower to isolate Penelope. He also lodged thirteen other young maidens with her, amid whom she lived in luxury and wealth. She received such items as a throne, a table, and a lamp made of solid gold. She was six years of age when her father confirmed her to the tower. He also assigned a certain elderly Apellianos to supervise his sheltered little daughter’s education.
One day, the Saint observed a dove had entered the tower. The dove, bearing an olive branch in its beak, placed it on the golden table. Subsequent to this, she beheld an eagle fly into the tower. The creature was holding a wreath of plaited flowers in its beak, which it deposited on the table. Following close upon this delivery, she then noticed that a raven came in through the window, carrying a snake, which it also dropped on the golden table. Witnessing all this, the blessed virgin was perplexed and wondered at the meaning of these signs.
Apellianos interpreted all these signs for her, saying, "The dove makes known thy superior education, the olive branch signifies many wondrous events, and is a symbol of Baptism. The eagle, being the king of birds, foretells, by the royal crown of flowers, future success in future endeavors. But the raven and serpent disclose thy future sufferings and anguish." By these hidden meanings, the elderly teacher revealed the great struggle of martyrdom, which the Saint was to undergo one day for the sake of her love for God. All the events that followed concerning the holy Irene, which have been committed to writing, are indeed supernatural and paradoxical.
It is said that an Angel of the Lord gave her the name of Irene, changing it from Penelope. That incorporeal being instructed her in the Faith of the Christ, and foretold that myriads of souls would be saved by means of her. Furthermore, Apostle Timothy, a Disciple of Saint Paul, would visit her in a paradoxical manner and baptize her. When this latter prophecy was fulfilled, the Blessed Irene cast her father’s idols to the ground, shattering them. At first, Irene was questioned by her father who, upon seeing that she persisted in the beliefs of the Christian Faith, was intensely dissatisfied. He ordered that she be bound. Irene was then cast between many horses so that they might trample upon her. However, one of the horses, instead of harming the Saint, turned on Licinius. It struck him down, crushing his right hand and slaying him. The horse then magnified the Saint with a human voice!
The Martyr was thereafter released from her bonds. At the request of the bystanders, she prayed and resurrected her father. Licinius came to believe in God and did his wife Licinia. In fact, another three thousand people received holy Baptism. Thenceforth, Irene’s father abandoned his dominion and lived in the tower which he had built for his daughter, passing the rest of his life in repentance.
After her father renounced this world, another kinglet, named Sedekias, rose to power. He attempted to force the Saint to sacrifice to idols. Since she opposed his demand, he ordered that the Blessed maiden be cast headlong into a deep pit filled with a nest of venomous snakes and reptiles. The Blessed maiden, nevertheless, persevered in that cavity of the earth. After fourteen days, she emerged unscathed. Following this trial, the pagans cruelly amputated her fee with a saw; yet, by the aid of a holy Angel, she was restored to health and stood on her feet. Next, the idolaters bound her to a wheel that turned by the force of water. When the waters miraculously ceased flowing, the sacred maiden remained unharmed. As a result of this miracle, eight thousand people came to believe n Christ Jesus.
Saint Irene endured other horrific tortures from the son of Sedekias, Savor, who ordered that her heels be pierced with spikes and burdened her back with a cumbrous sack of sand. In this manner, she was led on a march for three miles. Then, suddenly, the earth was rent asunder, swallowing ten thousand infidels. Due to this, thirty thousand other souls accepted the Faith of Christ. The holy maiden was able to walk unhindered through the city, accompanied by a priest, named Timothy. Through her God-inspired teachings, she succeeded in converting, in the Faith of Christ, five thousand idolaters who then received holy Baptism. Among them were thirty-three men who were designated to guard the tower.
Following this episode, the Saint came to a city called Kallinikos (Callinicus). It was the seat of Numerianos the kinglet, the son of Sebastianos. Once there, Irene appeared before him and proclaimed Christ. He, as a result, confined her to the interior of three bronze oxen, which figures were heated until they glowed red. He then had her transferred from the first to the second, and from the second to the third. The third ox, albeit it was inanimate, walked miraculously and then split asunder. The Saint, thereupon, exited uninjured, without the least trace of burn or singed hair and attire. Throngs of pagans who beheld this wonder (miracle) accepted Christ, numbering as many as one hundred thousand souls.
Hence, by 330 A.D., the fame of the Saint’s marvels reached the impious ears of Shapur the great king of the Persians, who ordered the beheading of the Saint. The victorious champion of Christ, Irene, was apprehended and her head was struck off. Though the Martyr was interred, yet was she was resurrected by an Angel of God. He magnified her because she had been martyred for Christ. Moreover, those who honor her name and commemorate the day of her martyrdom also bring blessings upon themselves. After her resurrection, it is said that she entered the city of Masembria, bearing an olive branch in her hand. Saint Irene appeared before the kinglet who, upon seeing her, straightway, accepted Christ and was baptized with myriads of other people by the Priest Timothy.
Since Saint Irene had taught and exhorted the populace of Ephesus, she departed there in the company of six followers, including Apellianos. Not too far from its outskirts, she came upon a newly constructed tomb wherein none had lain. She entered the tomb, and Apellianos sealed it with a stone. While Saint Irene was still among the living, the Saint ordered that, for four days, no one was to move the stone which Apellianos had placed over the grave. Two days later, he returned to the tomb, and–lo, the miracle!–he discovered the stone overturned and the body of the Saint missing. All these accounts may seem improbable to the limited intelligence of man, but to God, they are possible. [Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church]
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in Our Risen Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God