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The Holy Virgin Pelagia

holy-virgin-pelagiaThe Holy Vir­gin Pela­gia lived dur­ing the III Cen­tu­ry in the city of Tar­sis in the Cili­cian dis­trict of Asia Minor. She was the daugh­ter of illus­tri­ous pagans and when she heard preach­ing from her Chris­t­ian acquain­tances about Jesus Christ the Son of God, she believed in Him and desired to pre­serve her chasti­ty, ded­i­cat­ing her whole life to the Lord. The heir of emper­or Dio­clet­ian (a youth adopt­ed by him), hav­ing seen the maid­en Pela­gia, was cap­ti­vat­ed by her beau­ty and want­ed to take her to be his wife. But the holy vir­gin told the youth, that she was betrothed to the Immor­tal Bride­groom, – the Son of God, and there­fore she had renounced earth­ly mar­riage. This answer of Pela­gia caused great anger in the impe­r­i­al youth, but he decid­ed to leave her in peace for awhile, hop­ing, that she would change her frame of mind. This same while Pela­gia con­vinced her moth­er to send her off to her nurse who had raised her in child­hood – secret­ly hop­ing to locate the bish­op of Tar­sis Kli­non, who had fled to a moun­tain dur­ing a time of per­se­cu­tion against Chris­tians, and to accept Holy Bap­tism from him. In a dream vision there appeared the form of the bish­op – Kli­non, pro­found­ly impress­ing itself upon her mem­o­ry. Saint Pela­gia set off to her nurse in a char­i­ot, in rich clothes and accom­pa­nied by a whole ret­inue of ser­vants, as her moth­er had desired her to. Along the way Saint Pela­gia, through some par­tic­u­lar order­ing of events by God, met bish­op Kli­non. Pela­gia imme­di­ate­ly recog­nised the bish­op, whose image had appeared to her in the dream. She fell at his feet, request­ing bap­tism. At the prayer of the bish­op there flowed from the ground a spring of water. Bish­op Kli­non made the sign of the cross over Saint Pela­gia, and dur­ing the time of the mys­tery (sacra­ment) Angels appeared and cov­ered the cho­sen one of God with a bright man­tle. Hav­ing com­muned the pious vir­gin with the Holy Mys­ter­ies, bish­op Kli­non raised him­self up in prayer of thanks­giv­ing to the Lord togeth­er with her, and then sent her off to con­tin­ue her jour­ney. Hav­ing returned to the ser­vants await­ing her, Saint Pela­gia preached to them about Christ, and many of them were con­vert­ed and believed. She tried to con­vert her own moth­er to faith in Christ, but the obdu­rate woman sent a mes­sage to the impe­r­i­al youth, – that Pela­gia was a Chris­t­ian and did not wish to be his spouse. The youth com­pre­hend­ed that Pela­gia was lost for him, and not wish­ing to give her over to tor­ture, he fell upon his sword. Pelagia’s moth­er there­upon became fear­ful of the wrath of the emper­or, tied her daugh­ter and led her to the court of Dio­clet­ian as being a Chris­t­ian and also the prob­a­ble cause of the death of the heir to the throne. The emper­or was cap­ti­vat­ed by the unusu­al beau­ty of the maid­en and tried to sway her from her faith in Christ, promis­ing her every earth­ly bless­ing and to make her his own wife. But the holy maid­en refused the offer of the emper­or with con­tempt and said: “Thou art insane, emper­or, telling me such a speech. Know, that I wilt not do thine bid­ding, and I loathe thy vile mar­riage, since I have a Bride­groom – Christ, the King of Heav­en. I desire not thy impe­r­i­al, world­ly, short-dura­tioned crowns, since my Lord in the Heav­en­ly King­dom has pre­pared for me three imper­ish­able crowns. The first for faith – since I have believed with all my heart in the True God; the sec­ond for puri­ty – because I have entrust­ed to Him my vir­gin­i­ty; the third for mar­tyr­dom – since I want to accept for Him every suf­fer­ing and to offer up my soul because of my love for Him”. Dio­clet­ian there­upon sen­tenced Pela­gia to be burnt in a glow­ing red-hot cop­per oven. Not per­mit­ting the exe­cu­tion­ers to touch her body, the holy mar­tyress her­self – sign­ing her­self with the sign of the cross, went with a prayer into the red-hot oven – in which her flesh melt­ed like myrh, fill­ing all the city with fra­grance; the bones of Saint Pela­gia remained unharmed and were removed by the pagans to out­side the city. Four lions then came from out of the wilder­ness and sat around the bones – let­ting get at them nei­ther bird nor wild beast. The lions pro­tect­ed the remains of the saint until such time as bish­op Kli­non came to that place. He gath­ered them up and buried them with hon­our. Dur­ing the reign of emper­or Con­stan­tine (306−337), when the per­se­cu­tions against Chris­tians had stopped, there was built a church at the place of bur­ial of Saint Pela­gia.

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