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You endured beheading with a mighty heart, Offspring of Rome Martyr Anastasia. On the twenty-ninth Anastasia submitted to a sharp sword.
The Venerable Martyr Anastasia the Roman was born in Rome of well-born parents and left an orphan at the age of three. As an orphan, she was taken into a women’s monastery near Rome, where the abbess was one Sophia, a nun of a high level of perfection. She raised Anastasia in fervent faith, in the fear of God and obedience. After seventeen years, Anastasia was known to the Christians as a great ascetic and to the pagans as a rare beauty.
The persecution against Christians by the emperor Decius (249-251)* began around that time. The pagan administrator of the city, Probus, heard of her and sent soldiers to bring Anastasia to him. The good Abbess Sophia counselled Anastasia for two hours on how to keep the faith, how to resist flattering delusion and how to endure torture. Anastasia said to her: “My heart is ready to suffer for Christ; my soul is ready to die for my beloved Jesus.” Blessed by her abbess to suffer for Christ, the young martyr Anastasia humbly came out to meet the armed soldiers.
Brought before the governor Probus, Anastasia openly proclaimed her faith in Christ the Lord. Probus asked for her name. She replied: “My name is Anastasia [“Resurrection”], because the Lord resurrected me, so that I could shame you today, and your father the devil.” On seeing her youth and beauty, Probus first attempted flattery to make her deny Christ and dissuade her from the faith, “Why waste your youth, deprived of pleasure? What is there to gain by enduring tortures and death for the Crucified One? Worship our gods, marry a handsome husband, and live in glory and honor.” The holy maiden steadfastly replied, “My spouse, my riches, my life and my happiness are my Lord Jesus Christ, and you will not turn me away from Him by your deceit! I am ready to die for my Lord, not once but – oh, if it were only possible! – a thousand times.”
Probus then subjected Anastasia to fierce tortures. The holy Martyr bravely endured them, glorifying and praising the Lord. First she was struck in the face, then they stripped her naked, to humiliate her. She cried out to the judge: “This disrobing isn’t shameful at all for me, because it’s a brilliant, most fitting adornment. I’ve been stripped of the old person and have donned the new, in righteousness and truth. I’m now ready to suffer this death you hope to terrify me with. I want it so much. Even if you cut up my members, rip out my tongue, my nails and my teeth, you’ll be granting me an even greater blessing. I devote my whole being to my Creator and Savior. I desire that He be glorified in all my members. I’ll present them to him as jewels, with the adornment of faith.”
The governor then ordered that four posts be driven into the ground, on which they stretched out the Martyr and tied her, face-down. Underneath, they lit a fire with oil, pitch and brimstone, as well as other inflammable materials, by which her breasts, stomach and internal organs were burned. From above, the heartless torturers beat her back with sticks. She suffered and was thus tortured for a good long time and her spine and all her back were cut to pieces from the beating. On her front, the flesh, the veins and her blood were all thoroughly burned and she underwent such pain and agony that it was frightening to hear her. Only with her prayers, which were like dew, was she able to moderate the fierceness of the heat, because she remembered God’s former miracles, such as the Babylonian furnace.
When the brutal and inhuman beast saw that the Martyr was not cowed by these tortures, he ordered her to be tied to a wheel. No sooner said than done, and, when the wheel was turned by some mechanical device, all the Saint’s bones were shattered, her tendons and joints stretched, her body was pulled out of its natural, harmonious shape and she became a pitiful sight.
When the tyrant saw that the Saint was able to withstand this dreadful torture, he determined to defeat her immense resilience with other tortures. So he had all her teeth and nails pulled out and her breasts cut off. Again, the Saint thanked the Lord that she had become a sharer and participant in His sufferings. At the same time, she cursed the tyrant’s gods, calling them forces of darkness, demons and perdition for the soul.
The judge could not bear to hear such words and, because the light was so hateful to his feeble eyes, he ordered that her tongue be torn out from the root. Yet again, the Saint was not cowed by this punishment; she merely asked for a little time in which to glorify the Lord with her organs of speech. Having finished her prayer, she told the executioner to set about his work, which he did, cutting off her tongue. She fainted from the pain and a Christian called Cyril gave her a little water to drink. When Probus heard this, he was so enraged that he ordered his head to be cut off.
An Angel of God appeared to Anastasia and upheld her. The people, seeing the inhuman and disgusting treatment of the Saint, became indignant, and the ruler was compelled to end the tortures. She was finally beheaded with the sword outside the city. The body of the Saint was thrown out beyond the city to be eaten by wild animals, but the Lord did not permit her holy relics to be dishonored. At the command of a holy Angel, Abbess Sophia went to find Anastasia’s mutilated body, and with the help of two Christians buried it in the earth.
In this manner, Saint Anastasia received the crown of martyrdom. Her feast day is celebrated on October 29th.** Her shinbone with skin on it as well as her right hand are kept today at Gregoriou Monastery in Mount Athos.
* Some say it was during the reign of Diocletian.
** There is another Roman martyr named Anastasia who is celebrated on October 12th, but it is likely the same person. However, this Anastasia should not be confused with Saint Anastasia the Pharmakolytria celebrated on December 22nd.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
O holy Virgin Anastasia, thou didst redden thy robe of purity with the blood of thy martyr’s contest. Thou dost illumine the world with the grace of healing, and intercede with Christ our God for our souls.
Kontakion in the Third Tone
Purified by the streams of thy virginity, and crowned by the blood of martyrdom, thou dost grant healing to those in sickness, and salvation to those who lovingly pray to thee. For Christ has given thee strength which flows to us as a stream of grace, O Virgin Martyr Anastasia.