By St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite
Saints Eustratios, Auxentios, Eugenios, Mardarios and Orestes lived at the time of the emperors Diocletian and Maximianus (284-305 AD) who were persecuting the Christians. At that time, Diocletian appointed the duke Lysias as governor of the province of Limitanea and Agricolaus as lord of all the provinces of the East.
These five Martyrs respected and believed in Christ from the time of their ancestors, but hid the fact that they were Christians, out fear of these tyrants and persecutors of Christians. Of these, Saint Eustratios* came from the city of Aravraka, and was an officer of the Royal Army. He had the desire to express his faith in Christ, but feared the outcome of this action. For this reason he gave his officer belt to a servant and commanded him to go to the church of the city of Aravraka and leave it there. The Saint tooks this action having in mind the following: if his belt, which was left at the entrance of the Holy Sanctuary, was found and taken by priest Auxentius, it would have been a divine indication that he could step forth and reveal his faith and suffer a martyr's death for which he desired. But if the belt was found and taken by someone else, it meant that he would keep his faith in secret because it was not time yet to express it.
The servant complied with the mandate of the Saint, and upon returing, informed him that his belt was found and taken by the priest Auxentius. Thus the Saint took the view that his testimony for the sake of Christ will have a good outcome. Indeed, he then presented himself to Lysias and told him with frankness that he believed in Christ. In addition, the Saint came forth before Lysias as the leader among other saints who came from the military class, and was the first to declare himself a Christian and harshly scrutinized Lysias. After this, Lysias, became furious and immediately deposed him from his office. Then, he commanded the executioners to make him go through a terrible torture. Firstly they removed his clothes and left him naked, and after streaching his body on the ground with a special machine, they started beating him mercilessly with whips. Then, he was tied with a rope and lifted up. They lit a big fire under his body and burnt him. They then mixed salt and vinegar and poured the mixture over his burned body parts. After all these, they destroyed his sides with stones. The Saint and Martyr, however, after the miraculous intervention of God, was perfectly healthy. This led Saint Eugenios to join the faith of Christ.
Then the executioners put iron shoes on the feet of Saint Eustratios which had spikes inside them, and led him to Sebaste of Nicopolis in Armenia along with Eugenios. On the way to Nicopolis, Saint Mardarios saw him driven this way and started blessing him much for his endurance and patience. Then, he consulted his wife, who encouraged him to also become a martyr for the love of Christ. Then Mardarios came running to Saint Eustratios who was walking, tied himself on the shackles, and told the soldiers that he was a Christian.
As soon as Lysias sat in his judging room, he commanded his soldiers to bring Saint Auxentios before him. There, the tyrant attempted to persuade him to return to paganism, but the Saint refused categorically by stating that he remains steadfast in the faith of Christ. Lysias then became incensed and commanded his executioners and they beheaded Auxentios.
Then Saint Mardarios was led to trial. But despite the efforts of the tyrant to dissuade him, he stayed committed to Christ. Lysias resented this fact and made the Saint go through torture. Therefore, they firstly pierced his ankles with a iron, and after passing through the holes ropes, they hung him facing down. Then, they burnt his kidneys and back with hot rods. So, in this way, Saint Mardarios became a Martyr and delivered his spirit to the Lord.
Then the judges led Saint Eugenios in. But he also remained steadfast to his faith in Christ. That is why the executioners cut off his tongue from the root and crushed his legs with clubs. From this suffering the Martyr, Saint Eugenios surrendered his soul into the hands of the Lord.
After this, Lysias went to the exercise field in order to exercise his soldiers. Among them, there was a soldier named Orestes. This soldier was a Christian, but until that time, he hid his faith. At some point during his throwing of the javelin, the Cross that he was wearing came out of his clothes and appeared in the open. So after this incident, he had to confess his faith. Lysias was left dumbfounded by this revelation and with his dictates, the other soldiers tied Orestes with iron chains together with Saint Eustratios. But he did not keep them in Nicopolis to judge them himself, but sent them to Sebaste to be judged by Agricolaus. Lysias, perhaps feared, that by making miracles the Saint would attract many others to the faith of Christ.
In front of Agricolaus, Saint Eustratios who was very well educated and had excellent theological and philosophical training, analyzed throughout Christ's teachings for the salvation of man. With his words, the Saint caused a big surprise but also an unspeakable anger to the tyrant. After this, the Saint was imprisoned. There, in prison, during the night, he was visited by the Bishop of Sebaste, Saint Vlassios (Blaise), and was given Communion. Then, Saint Eustratios give him the text of his will and asked him for its faithful execution. After some time the tyrant commanded his executioners and they first layed Saint Orestes over a burning iron bed. There, the Saint finished his life and delivered his spirit to the Lord. Then, the executioners lit a furnace and threw Saint Eustratios inside it. This is how his life was finished and how he received from the Lord, the wreath of martyrdom.
The memory of the Five Saint Martyrs, Eustratios, Auxentios, Eugenios, Mardarios and Orestes** is celebrated by the Orthodox Church on December 13.
* In the Synaxarion Eustratios is given the Latin title of scriniarius, that is, "keeper of the archives". The prayer, "Magnifying I magnify Thee, O Lord," which is read in the Saturday Midnight Service, is ascribed to him. In the Third Hour and elsewhere there is another prayer, "O Sovereign Master, God the Father Almighty," which is ascribed to Saint Mardarius.
** Their relics were later taken to Constantinople, and are preserved in the church dedicated to them - The Holy Five Companions. They were seen alive in that church.
Read also: Two Miracles of the Holy Five Martyrs of Sebaste
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Thy Martyrs, O Lord, in their courageous contest for Thee received as the prize the crowns of incorruption and life from Thee, our immortal God. For since they possessed Thy strength, they cast down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons' strengthless presumption. O Christ God, by their prayers, save our souls, since Thou art merciful.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
Thou shonest as a most brilliant light for them that sat in the darkness of ignorance, O prizewinner. And armed with faith as with a spear, thou wast not frightened by the audacity of thine adversaries, O Eustratius, most eloquent of orators.
Monday, December 13, 2010
The Holy Five Martyrs of Sebaste
By St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite