Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Saint Kyriaki the Great Martyr

St. Kyriaki the Great Martyr (Feast Day - July 7)

Verses

Kyriaki died before beheading
Voluntarily, yet perfected by the sword.
On the seventh, Kyriaki ascended to her Betrothed.

There was a devout Christian couple named Dorotheos and Eusebia, who were wealthy and philanthropic, yet had neither son nor daughter, which was a cause of grief for them. After supplicating God to grant them offspring, Eusebia conceived and gave birth to a daughter on a Sunday, which is the Lord's day, hence her given name at Holy Baptism was Kyriaki (Gr. Lord's day).

From a young age Kyriaki was modest and mature beyond her age, neither participating in the disorderly games of her peers or participating in their gossip, but she greatly revered her parents and attended to them. The more she aged, the more she grew in wisdom, knowledge and beauty, both physically and spiritually. She was not interested in costly clothes, secular music or dancing, preferring to live an ecclesiastical life and listen to the lives of the saints. Though she was attractive, she did not parade her beauty or adorn herself in any way to enhance it. Rather, she arrayed her soul with fasting, discipline, silence, prayer, guarding her eyes and restraining her tongue. And although many handsome young men sought her hand in marriage, Kyriaki desired to preserve her virginity and devote all her life and love to Christ. When her parents tried to persuade her to get married to bequeath to her all they possessed, she answered among other things: "I desire to become a bride of my Christ and God. What would marriage profit? What woman has ever married and not regretted it? Who became a mother and has not grieved? Sorrow and distress, out of necessity, is most felt at the loss of one's child, husband or relative. Yet, virginity has no sorrow, neither many cares... Therefore, my parents, why would you submit me to such cares and anxieties?"

In those days there was a wealthy magistrate who lived in the same city of Anatolia as Kyriaki, who saw her to be young and beautiful, but also wealthy, and because he desired her wealth, he decided to betroth her to his son. With this hidden motive in mind, he came to an agreement with her parents for their children to be brought together. Because, however, Kyriaki had consecrated both soul and body to God, she replied: "I am a pure bride of my Christ and I desire to die a virgin." This very much angered the magistrate.

The magistrate went straightway to Emperor Diocletian (284-305), who accused Kyriaki of mocking the pagan gods and disdaining his authority. He therefore asked the emperor to have her and her parents sacrifice to the idols to show their loyalty to his rule. This news angered Diocletian, who ordered soldiers to bring Kyriaki and her parents before him.

Dorotheos was first questioned as to why he forsook the worship of his ancestral gods, but he answered that his ancestors were Christians who taught him to worship the true God, while all the idols are depictions of false gods. For this, Diocletian ordered Dorotheos to be spread on the ground and thrashed, until he either submitted to sacrificing to the gods or died from the beating. During this beating, strengthened by Christ, Dorotheos derided and sneered at the idols as deaf and senseless objects. Seeing that Dorotheos would not submit by stripes, nor be persuaded by flattery, he sent both Dorotheos and Eusebia to the city of Melitene, where a man named Justus tortured them without pity and in a savage manner. Unable to persuade them to abandon Christ, he struck off their heads with a sword, thus ending their earthly sojourn.


Meanwhile, Kyriaki was sent to be interrogated by the son-in-law of Diocletian named Maximian (286-305) in Nicomedia. Marveling at her beauty, he tried to persuade her through flattery to abandon her beliefs and venerate the gods, even proposing that he would have her betrothed to a relative of his. To this Kyriaki answered: "Do not think, O king, by these flatteries or by frightening punishments that I shall deny my sweetest Jesus Christ; for there is no torment, no punishment and no torture which can separate me from His love. Though you would give me other riches with my patrimony, or even if you were to give me your earthly kingdom, it would be impossible for me to renounce the piety of my fathers. Moreover, I cannot consent to marry; for I prefer none other to my Christ, to Whom I have given myself, so I may live and die a virgin."

Enraged by this, Maximian ordered her hands and feet tied so that she would be lashed with bullwhips until she either renounced Christ or died. Hoping she would grow timid, the emperor sat and waited. But the young maiden voluntarily dropped to the ground and took the pitiless flogging. She endured to the point that the executioners had to be changed two or three times. Despite this, the countenance of Kyriaki radiated, strengthened by Christ.

Having shamed the emperor, he decided to send her to the eparch of Bithynia named Hilarion, in Chalcedon, who was reputed to have the temperament of a wild beast. His goal was to appear ferocious to the Christians, and by terrorizing them gain the favor not only of the gods, but of all the governors of the realm. When Kyriaki was presented to Hilarion, he flattered her and threatened her with harsh torments in order for her to change or die. Kyriaki responded: "If Emperors Diocletian and Maximian were unable to conquer the power of Christ, how will you be able to overcome me? Therefore, do not labor in vain with such works, but test me with deeds to behold the power of my Christ."

Accepting this challenge, Kyriaki was ordered to be raised aloft from the hairs of her head, where she remained suspended for many hours. They also burnt her flesh with lit torches. Yet Kyriaki endured all courageously, therefore Hilarion ordered her to be taken down and brought to prison. That night Christ appeared in her cell, saying: "Fear not, O Kyriaki, the tortures, for My grace shall be with you, and shall deliver you from every temptation." With this, Christ healed her wounds and vanished.

The next day, when soldiers brought Kyriaki to Hilarion, he marveled at her complete restoration, thinking the gods must love her and pitied her beauty, therefore he tried to persuade her to sacrifice to the gods to give them thanks. To this Kyriaki answered: "It is not your gods, Hilarion, who have restored me, but my Christ, the true God, Whom I believe in and worship. Nevertheless, since you wish to enter the temple of your gods, let us be off and behold which gods you say you worship."

Thinking the young maiden penitent, Hilarion rejoiced as they went to the temple. And when they entered the temple and he saw her bent on her knees to pray, a great earthquake occurred causing the idols of the temple to fall, for she had prayed to Christ to show His power. Instead of Hilarion repenting before this display of the power of Christ before false gods, he blasphemed more strongly. Suddenly a flash of lightning struck Hilarion in the face and burned him, which caused him to fall and expire.


With the death of Hilarion, Apollonios became the eparch of Bithynia. In time he also tried to persuade young Kyriaki through flatteries and threats, but Kyriaki once again confessed Christ with boldness and railed against the idols. For this Apollonios ordered Kyriaki be cast into a great fire. After the great fire was prepared, Kyriaki was thrown in, but just as God preserved the Three Youths in the Babylonian furnace (Dan. 3:21-25), Kyriaki stood in the midst of the flames praying, and a cloud appeared in the cloudless sky, giving off a downpour that quenched the fire.

When Apollonios saw that Kyriaki was not harmed by the fire, he sent two hungry lions after her while she stood before the council. However, as God tamed the lions in the Babylonian den so as not to devour Daniel (Dan. 6:16-22), God also guarded His handmaiden. Though they burst out after her in a wild manner, they became tame as lambs at her feet, rolling and playing. Because of this, many spectators believed in Christ. Enraged by this, Apollonios ordered them to either be slain with a sword or cast into the sea. Kyriaki, meanwhile, was thrown into the dungeon.

The next day, after once again failing in flattering and threatening Kyriaki, Apollonios sentenced her to death by the sword. Taken outside the city by soldiers to be beheaded, Kyriaki first asked to say a prayer, during which she surrendered her soul to God. This astonished the executioners and bystanders, who went and announced the wondrous death of Kyriaki to Apollonios. Meanwhile certain Christians went and recovered the body of Kyriaki, to bury her in an honorable manner. This took place in the year 289.


Apolytikion in the Plagal of the First Tone
Thou didst prove an auspicious and pleasing sacrifice, a holy off’ring, O valiant prizewinner Kyriaki, when thou broughtest thy Creator thine own spotless soul; which Christ in turn hath glorified, for through thee, He poureth forth divine gifts and endless graces upon the faithful who praise thee, since He is the Lover of mankind.

Kontakion
The Martyr of Christ hath called us all together now to praise and acclaim her wrestlings and her godly feats; for possessed of bravery of mind, she hath proved worthy of her name, being lady and mistress of her mind and the passions of unseemliness.

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