April 13th (IV - 26)
Icon of St. Martin the Confessor, Pope of Rome
PriestMartyr Artemon, Presbyter of Laodiceia (+ 303), and Sainted Sisinios the Bishop. Martyrs Criscentios of Lycian Myra; Thomaida of Egypt (+ 476); Eleutherios the Persian; Zoilos; Theodosius. Martyr Demetrios of Peloponnesia (+ 1803). Saints Martyrios, George.
The PriestMartyr Artemon was born of Christian parents in Syrian Laodiceia in the first half of the III Century. From the time of his youthful years he dedicated himself to the service of the Church. At 16 years of age the saint was made a reader and in this position he laboured during the course of 12 years. For his zealousness in Divine Services, Sainted-bishop Sisinios ordained him to the dignity of deacon. Saint Artemon did also this service with fervour and diligence for 28 years, after which he was ordained to the priesthood. And in this dignity Saint Artemon served the Church of God for 33 years, preaching the Christian faith amongst pagans. When the emperor Diocletian (284-305) began a fierce persecution against christians, Saint Artemon was already old. The emperor issued an edict, that all christians were to offer sacrifice to idols.
Saint Sisinios, knowing about the impending arrival in the Laodiceian district of the military-commander Patricius, went together with the priest Artemon into the pagan-temple of the goddess Artemis. There they smashed and burnt the idols.
Afterwards, Saint Sisinios and Saint Artemon gathered the flock into the church and heatedly exhorted the christians to remain firm in the faith and not fear the threats of torturers.
Having arrived in Laodiceia, Patricius made a five-day celebration in honour of the pagan gods, and then went off to the temple of Artemis to offer sacrifice. He learnt who it was that had destroyed the temple, and set off with a detachment of soldiers to the church where the christians were praying. Not yet having gotten in front of the church, Patricius suddenly felt a chill, and afterwards heat, such that it left him hardly alive, and they entered into the first house they found along the way. "The Christians have put a curse on me, and this their God tormenteth me", -- he said to those about him. The prayers of Patricius to the idols did not relieve his sufferings. He dispatched a messenger to Saint Sisinios and asked for his help, promising by way of thanks to make a gold statue of the bishop. The Saint answered: "Thy gold keep to thyself, but if thou wishest to be healed, believe in Christ".
Patricius was afraid of dying and he declared that he believed in Christ. Through the prayer of Saint Sisinios the affliction left him. But even a miracle having been worked did not alter the obdurate soul of the pagan. Although he did not touch Saint Sisinios, he however set off to enforce the imperial edict against other christians in the city of Caesarea. Along the way he encountered an old man, for whom there went in pairs six wild donkeys and two deer. This man was the priest Artemon.
To Patricius' query, how he was able to lead after him these wild beasts, Saint Artemon answered, that everything in the world confesses the Name of Christ and with true faith in Christ nothing is impossible.
Patricius learned from the pagans that the old man he met along the way -- was the same Artemon, who had destroyed the pagan temple of Artemis. He gave orders to seize him and take him to the city of Caesarea.
Saint Artemon went along with the soldiers without fear, but he ordered the animals to go to Saint Sisinios.
One of the donkeys received the gift of speech from God and told the sainted-bishop that he had come from Saint Artemon. The sainted-bishop sent him in Caesarea a blessing and prosphora by deacon.
In Caesarea Patricius summoned Saint Artemon to trial and began to try to force him to offer sacrifice in the pagan temple of Asclepios. In this pagan temple there lived many poisonous vipers. The pagan priest never opened up the doors, nor previously carried in the sacrifice to the idol. But Saint Artemon, calling on the Name of Jesus Christ, went into the temple and let out from there the plethora of snakes. The pagans turned in flight, but the saint stopped them and by his breath killed the snakes. One of the pagan priests, Bitalios, believed in Christ and asked Saint Artemon to baptise him.
Patricius thought that Saint Artemon killed the snakes by means of sorcery, and he again started to interrogate and torture him. At this point in time there arrived in Caesarea the donkey which had spoken with Saint Sisinios. The donkey lay down at the feet of the martyr, and afterwards again having received from God the gift of speech, it denounced Patricius, predicting for him an impending death in a boiling cauldron. Patricius was scared, that the miracles done by Saint Artemon would draw still more people to him, and he gave orders to execute him.
The filled an enormous cauldron with boiling tar. Soldiers were needed to throw Saint Artemon therein. But when Patricius rode up on horseback to the kettle, wanting to be sure that the tar was indeed boiling, two Angels in the guise of eagles seized and threw him into the cauldron, but Saint Artemon remained alive. Through the prayer of the saint there issued from the ground a spring of water, in which he baptised the pagan priest Bitalios and many pagans, who had come to believe in Christ. On the following morning Saint Artemon communed the newly-baptised with the Holy Mysteries.
The bishop of Caesarea went to visit with Saint Artemon. He cleared off the place where the martyr suffered, and afterwards was built a church there. Many of the baptised were ordained to the deaconate and priesthood, and Bitalios was made bishop of Palestine. The Priestmartyr Artemon, through a calling by the Divine Voice, went preaching the Gospel into Asia, to the settlement of Bulos. Along the way an Angel appeared to him and transported him openly in view of the villagers. He converted many there to faith in Christ. Pagans seized the saint and beheaded him (+ 303).
The Holy Martyr Criscentios was descended from an illustrious family and lived in Lycian Myra. One time, when a throng of city inhabitants were on the way to the pagan temple, he began to urge them to forsake paganism and come to Christ. This incident became known to the city governor.
When the governor asked the saint about his parentage, the saint -- not wishing to bring unpleasantness to his parents -- said nothing except that he was a christian. The governor knew the father of Saint Criscentios and wanting to do him a favour, he suggested to Saint Criscentios to offer sacrifice to idols only in appearance, while in soul remaining a christian.
To this the holy martyr boldly answered: "It would be impossible for the body not to do that which the soul thinks, since the soul governs and moves the body". They beat the holy martyr Criscentios and gnashed at him with iron, and then burnt him in a flaming bon-fire.
Sainted Andrew of Crete (+ 740, Comm. 4 July) mentions about the Martyr Criscentios in his Sermon on the day of memory of Sainted Nicholas the Wonderworker -- 6 December -- also of Lycian Myra.
The Holy Martyress Thomaida was born into a Christian family in the city of Alexandria. In her childhood she was educated in piety and loved to read Holy Scripture.
At 15 years of age the girl entered into marriage with a fisherman, -- also a Christian. The young couple lived in the household of the husband's family, where Saint Thomaida was loved for her mild and gentle disposition, and virtue and prudence.
The father-in-law of Saint Thomaida, at the prompting of the devil, was captivated by her beauty. When his son went out at night for fishing, he began seeking to lead his daughter-in-law into sin. In vain did Saint Thomaida admonish the senseless old man, reminding him about the last Judgement and about the penalty for sin. Infuriated by the steadfastness of Saint Thomaida, he thoughtlessly seized a sword and began to threaten her with death. But Saint Thomaida answered resolutely: "Even if thou cut me in two, I shall not stray from the commandments of the Lord". Overcome with passion, the father-in-law swung the sword and struck Saint Thomaida. The saint received a martyr's death for her prudence and faith in the commandments of God in the year 476.
Divine chastisement befell the murderer. He instantly became blinded and was not able to go out the door to flee. In the morning there arrived companions of the saint's husband. They opened the doors and saw the body of the saint and the blood-stained blind old man. The murderer himself confessed his evil deed and asked to be condemned to death by execution.
During this time there arrived in Alexandria from a wilderness skete the Monk Daniel. He bid the monks of the nearby Oktodecadia monastery to take the body of the martyress to bury in the monastery cemetery. Some of the monks were perplexed, how it should be possible to bury a woman with monks. The monk Daniel answered: "This girl -- is a mother for me and you. She died for purity".
After a solemn funeral the Monk Daniel returned to his own skete. Soon one of the young monks began to complain to him, that fleshly passions tormented him. The monk Daniel ordered him to go and pray at the grave of the holy martyress Thomaida. The monk did the bidding of the elder. During the time of prayer at the grave he fell into a light sleep. Saint Thomaida then appeared to him and said: "Father, have my blessing and go in peace".
Having awakened, the monk felt at joy and peace in his soul. And after this the fleshly struggle no longer disturbed him. Abba Daniel explained to him: "The blessing -- was the gift of the martyress' prudence; the ascetic deeds of purity hold such power before God".
In later times many found at the grave of Saint Thomaida both spiritual joy and release from their passions. The relics of Saint Thomaida were transferred to Constantinople to one of the women's monasteries. In the year 1420 the Russian pilgrim archdeacon Zosima viewed them.
© 1997 by translator Fr. S. Janos.