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 9th of May, Our Holy Orthodox Church Commemorates Saint CHROSTOPHOROS (CHRISTOPHER)
THE GREAT MARTYR.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Martyr. Fourth Tone
Made comely with garments woven from thy venerable blood,
thou standest before the Lord, the King of Heaven and earth, O
famed Martyr Christopher. With the choirs of Angels and the Martyrs
thou chantest, singing the thrice-holy hymn and most awesome praises,
Thus, by thine intercessions with God, save us, thy worthless slaves.
Kontakion Hymn of the Martyr. Fourth Tone
Thou who wast terrifying both in strength and in countenance, for thy Creator’s
sake thou didst surrender thyself willingly to them that sought thee; for thou
didst persuade both them and the women that sought to arouse in thee the fire
of lust, and they followed thee in the path of martyrdom. And in torments, thou
didst prove to be courageous. Wherefore, we have gained thee as our great
protector, O Great Christopher.
Saint Christophoros (Christopher), the holy and Great Martyr of Christ, was vouchsafed the Crown of Martyrdom during the reign of the pagan and unjust Roman Emperor Docius (249-251 A.D.). From his youth, the Saint had been called Reprobus. During that epoch, the rulers were possessed by a frenzied madness against the pious Christians. The lawless emperors had issued an outrageous decree. His foul command urged the ill use of the righteous and godly slaves of the Christians, with the application of violence, if they could not be coerced into eating meats offered and sacrificed to pagan idols. These foods had been defiled by the sprinkling of the blood of sacrificial victims. Those who consented not to deny Christ were to be subjected to torture which led to death in a most horrifying manner. All the rulers and governors of the cities of the realm made it a point to appear compliant and obedient to the crown. The impious, as a result, were afforded no small protection by law while the pious were being persecuted.
One of the emperor’s military commanders, at that time, who was engaged in a campaign against other nations, encountered the blessed Reprobus. The latter hailed from the Tribe of the dog-faced, whom the general apprehended. The dog-faced one, according to the Greek compilers, must signify that the Saint was not comely but rather had an ill-favored facial appearance. His features were not deformed so that he had the aspect of a canine, even as some unlearned painters have depicted him. He possessed a human countenance, as other men. Although he had a look that was displeasing to the senses, and even frightening and wild looking, yet his inner man was Christ-like. The blessed Reprobus did not bear the least character resemblance to his countrymen. Indeed, he may be described as prudent and noble-minded, and as one who kept the divine words in his heart. The man of God observed how the idol-worshippers were torturing each of the Christians, which was ushering in no small grief such a one as Reprobus who was predisposed toward sympathy. With such a compassionate turn of mind, his love for the sufferers stirred him. Since, however, he was ignorant of the language of the idol madmen who had captured him, he was unable either to reason with or to rebuke the benighted ones. There was no one with whom he could speak and come to an understanding. He, consequently, managed to betake himself to a place contiguous but outside of the city. He prostrated himself to the ground, supplicating the Lord with tears that he might be endowed with the power to converse with his pagan captors. He noetically offered up this prayer: "O Lord God, the Almighty, hearken to my low estate and humiliation. Show Thy compassion to me, the unworthy one. Open my lips and grant me to speak as the men of this place that I might be able to reprove the tyrant." While Reprobus was praying in this manner, he found before him a certain light-bearing youth who addressed him and said, "Thine entreaty has been heard, O Reprobus. So then, rise up and receive grace from the Lord."
The holy man rose up, at which point the light-bearing being touched Reprobus’s lips. Straightway, as the Angel breathed upon his mouth, Reprobus was enabled to speak freely. He then, at once marched into the city. He viewed the Christians undergoing punishment, which brought pain to his heart. It was as if he were receiving those tortures himself. He, thereupon, directed his words to the idolaters, speaking on behalf of his fellow Christians, saying, "O guides of the darkness and those full of every transgression, does it not suffice to surrender your souls to Satan, but must you compel even us, who fear the one God, to perish along with you? I am a Christian and I do not condescend to venerate your vain gods and useless abominations." As the holy Reprobus was speaking, Vachthios, one of the pagan officers, happened to be near him. He struck Reprobus on the mouth. The blessed man, not giving reign to anger, turned to him and said modestly, "My Savior Christ is preventing me from retaliating, thus, I shall not render a fitting recompense. But should I become angry, all of thy perverse kingdom would not be able to vanquish me." Vachthios, frightened by this statement, turned on his heel and departed for the city where the emperor was abiding.
Vachthios reported to the emperor that there appeared a young man in the midst of the people who can only be described as a dreadful giant. That he had the form and look of a wild man, and his teeth jut out of his mouth, even as a swine. That he had a head like a dog and was blaspheming both the gods and the realm. The anger of the emperor, while hearing this report, was great indeed. Decius deemed it prudent to investigate the matter and immediately summoned two hundred soldiers and dispatched them with these orders: "Bind this giant, named Reprobus, and conduct him here before me. In the event he should resist, cut him into a thousand pieces. Only being forward his head that I may see for myself if he is the frightening ogre that his coward claims."
Now the soldiers, whom Decius dispatched to arrest the righteous man, arrived at the place where Reprobus was and who stood outside the doors of a Christian church praying. From a distance, they described his features and became frightened. As a result, they did not dare to get near him. But one of the soldiers found the courage and rallied his comrades, saying, "Why should we fear one lone man who is unarmed?" Thus, they approached him. Reprobus said to them, ‘If you will let me, I will come of my own volition; for thou shall not be able to drag me bound before the emperor." I implore you, however, that you delay the order until I should receive holly Baptism and thereafter we shall go together. The soldiers, attempting to oblige him, answered, "Our expedition is finished, because for many days we have searching for you and, furthermore, we hardly have any rations." The Saint remarked, "Bring what little remains that you may see the power of my God." The soldiers brought the Saint their small supply. Reprobus went to his knees and besought the Lord, saying, "O Lord God, Who blessed the five loaves and filled countless crowds, hear Thy slave! Multiply these few slices of bread that they may behold Thy Wonders and may believe that Thou art True God Who art able to do all things."
An Angel of the Lord came to him and said, "Take courage, O athlete of Christ, Christopher! For He has sent me forth to come unto thine aid, commanding me to fulfill all thou hast set thy heart upon." After the Angel blessed the soldiers’ bread, they were marvelously multiplied. The soldiers, witnessing this miracle-working, were astonished and cried aloud with one mouth, "Great is the Christians’ God, the One Who saves His slaves!" They began revering the Saint saying, "We too, believe in the only True God!" Then the Saint, becoming filled with joy, began teaching them the saving preaching of the Lord. After this took place, Reprobus led them all forth to Antioch and to the sainted Babylas, bishop of that city. Once there, Reprobus recounted the entire matter. When the hierarch was apprised of the history, he offered up heartfelt thanksgiving to God. He catechized and baptized all the soldiers, including the former Reprobus whom he named CHRISTOPHOROS.
When this was completed, Christophoros (Christopher) counseled the soldiers to return to headquarters at the palace, As they marched on their way, Saint Christopher was strengthening them with words of advice, "…Let us endure, therefore, for His sake, both wounds and scourges in this vain world. And let us not deny Him, no matter what they should perpetuate against us. Upon hearing these admonitions, the soldiers began to weep. When they arrived at the palace and Decius set his eyes on the righteous man, the emperor cringed. After the tyrant composed himself from his fear, he forced himself to address Christ’s witness, "State thy religion, race, and name." The holy martyr answered, "I am a Christian, and my former name was Reprobus, but now, through holy Baptism, I was named Christophoros. My race appears on my face. Soon after the Saint was imprisoned and two harlots were sent to seduce him, but he converted them also and encouraged them in their martyrdom.
Decius ordered the hanging of the Saint and said to the executioners, "Suspend him by the hairs of his head. Bind a heavy stone to his feet. Submit his whole body to a thrashing with the flat side of the sword." The emperor then commanded that lit torches be applied to the martyr’s armpits. After the Saint was savagely burned, some of the noblemen began urging Decius to alter his strategy. "Flatter the Christian." After many horrific tortures, Decius handed down his final decision and said, "Since this most incorrigible and useless fellow foolishly slights my own commands, I command the severing of is revolting and ugly head."
The beheaders, thereupon, drew him to the place of execution. When they arrive at the site, Saint Christophoros requested leave from the headsman so that he might first pray. Having received permission, the Saint prayed to God in the hearing of the whole company. He uttered these words: "O Lord God, the Almighty, I give thanks to Thee…Receive my spirit in peace and number me with the least of Thy slaves…O most compassionate Lord, grace to my body, so that, wheresoever the least portion of my relics should be found, demons would be dispelled, and, moreover, that neither famine nor hail would harm that place. Indeed, do not permit any other affliction ever to occur in that place. All those who celebrate the feast of my martyric contest and read of it, preserve them safe and sound, that they may glorify Thee, the Most Good Lord, for blessed art Thou to the ages of the ages. Amen."
The decapitator, drawing near to Saint Christopher with much fear and reverence, then swung his sword and severed that honorable head. It should be noted that, after the execution, the same executioner took his own life and died upon the sacred body of the Martyr. The day of the Martyrdom was the 9th day of May. After the repose of the Saint, Bishop Peter of Attaleia on the Mediterranean ventured forth. He bribed the soldiers for the purchase of the holy Martyr’s body. Bishop Peter wrapped the holy relics in spice and transferred them to his own city.
May we the faithful be delivered from all evil and wicked temptations by the intercessions of Our Ever-Virgin Lady Theotokos, the holy and Great Martyr Christophoros, and all the Saints. 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 Divine and Glorious Resurrection,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God