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The GreatMartyr Theodore Stratelates


emem­Com­mem­o­rat­ed on Feb­ru­ary 8/em/em

The Great­Mar­tyr Theodore Strate­lates came from the city of Euchan­tum. He was endowed with many tal­ents and an hand­some appear­ance. For his char­i­ty God enlight­ened him with the per­fec­tive knowl­edge of Chris­t­ian truth. The brav­ery of the saint­ly sol­dier became known to many after he, with the help of God, killed a giant ser­pent liv­ing on a precipice in the sur­round­ings of the city of Euchan­tum. The ser­pent had devoured many peo­ple and ani­mals, hold­ing in ter­ror all the sur­round­ing coun­try­side. Saint Theodore, hav­ing armed him­self with a sword and a prayer to the Lord, van­quished it, glo­ri­fy­ing amongst the peo­ple the Name of Christ. For his brav­ery Saint Theodore was appoint­ed mil­i­tary-com­man­der (stratelatos)in the city of Her­a­cleium, where he as it were car­ried out a dual obe­di­ence, com­bin­ing his offi­cial mil­i­tary ser­vice with an apos­tolic preach­ing of the Gospel among the pagans sub­ject to him. His ardent per­sua­sion, rein­forced by his per­son­al exam­ple of Chris­t­ian life, turned away many from the per­ni­cious “false-gods”. Soon near­ly all of Her­a­cleium had accept­ed Christianity.

Dur­ing this time the emper­or Licinius (307−324) began a fierce per­se­cu­tion against Chris­tians. Want­i­ng to decap­i­tate the new faith, he resort­ed to mak­ing per­se­cu­tion against the enlight­ened adher­ents of Chris­tian­i­ty, in which not with­out foun­da­tion he saw as the fun­da­men­tal threat to the dying pagan­ism. Among such was also Saint Theodore. The saint him­self invit­ed Licinius to Her­a­cleium, hav­ing promised him to offer a sac­ri­fice to the pagan gods. To make this splen­did cer­e­mo­ny, the saint request­ed to be gath­ered up at his house all the gold and sil­ver stat­ues of the gods which they had in Heracleium.

Blind­ed by his hatred for Chris­tian­i­ty, Licinius trust­ed the words of the saint. But his expec­ta­tions were cheat­ed: hav­ing seized hold of the stat­ues, Saint Theodore smashed them into pieces which he then dis­trib­uted to the poor. Thus he shamed the vain faith in soul­less idols and lit­er­al­ly on the shards of pagan­ism he affirmed the laws of Chris­t­ian char­i­ty. Saint Theodore was arrest­ed and sub­ject­ed to fierce and refined tor­ture. The wit­ness was the ser­vant of Saint Theodore – Saint Varos, who bare­ly found in him­self the strength to write down the incred­i­ble tor­ments of his mas­ter. Sens­ing the near­ness of death, Saint Theodore yet turned to God with a last prayer, say­ing: “Lord, Thou hast told me for­mer­ly, I am with thee, where­fore dost Thou now aban­don me? Behold, O Lord, how the wild beasts do tear at me on account of Thee, my eyes are gored out, my flesh lac­er­at­ed with wounds, the face is smashed and teeth bro­ken, and they have my bared bones on a cross: remem­ber me, O Lord, hav­ing suf­fered a cross on account of Thee, the iron and fire, and being raised up on nails for Thee: where­fore accept my spir­it, since my life doth expire”. God how­ev­er, by His great mer­cy, willed that the end of Saint Theodore should be as fruit­ful for those near him as was his life: He healed the bruised body of the saint and brought him down from the cross, on which he had been left all night. In the morn­ing the impe­r­i­al sol­diers found him alive and unharmed; per­suad­ed in their own eyes of the infi­nite might of the Chris­t­ian God, they right there, not far from the place of the unsuc­cess­ful exe­cu­tion, accept­ed holy Bap­tism. Thus Saint Theodore became “like a day of splen­dour” for those pagans dwelling in the dark­ness of idol-wor­ship and he enlight­ened their souls “with the bright rays of his suf­fer­ing”. Not want­i­ng to flee a martyr’s death for Christ, Saint Theodore vol­un­tar­i­ly gave him­self over into the hands of Licinius, pre­vent­ing the peo­ple believ­ing in Christ from ris­ing up against the tor­tur­er, with the words: “Beloved, halt! My Lord Jesus Christ, hang­ing upon the Cross, held back the Angels and did not per­mit them to take revenge on the race of man”. Going to exe­cu­tion, the holy mar­tyr with but a word opened up the prison doors and lib­er­at­ed those locked up from their bonds. The peo­ple also who touched at his robe were restored of body, healed instant­ly from sick­ness­es and freed from demons. By order of the emper­or, Saint Theodore was behead­ed by the sword. Before the death by exe­cu­tion he told Varos: “Neglect not to write down the day of my death, and put my body in Euchan­tum”. Togeth­er with these words he asked for an annu­al remem­brance. Then, hav­ing said “amen”, he bent his neck beneathe the sword. This occurred on 8 Feb­ru­ary 319, on a Sat­ur­day, at the third hour of the day.

© 1996–2001 by trans­la­tor Fr. S. Janos.