Saturday, July 4, 2015

St. Theodore the Bishop of Cyrene with Sts. Cyprilla, Aroa and Lucia

Sts. Theodore of Cyrene with Cyprilla, Aroa and Lucia (Feast Day - July 4);
St. Lucius the Councillor (Feast Day - August 20)

The holy hieromartyr Theodore was born in Cyrene of Libya and flourished during the reign of Emperor Diocletian (r. 284-305). Theodore, who was Bishop of Cyrene, was an excellent calligrapher and writer, whose books were treasured by the Church. One day his son, Leontius, betrayed him before Governor Dignianus, telling him how many idolaters were turning to Christianity as a result of Bishop Theodore's writings.

The hierarch was brought before the governor with a group of Christians following him, including the holy women Cyprilla, Aroa and Lucia. Cyprilla was also born in Cyrene and had been married two years when her husband died, leaving her a widow for twenty-eight years.

When these Christians appeared before Dignianus, he not only demanded the sacred books, but bid that the bishop disavow Christ. The holy man did neither. For this he was harshly thrashed with rods and thongs with lead embedded at the ends. Afterwards, when he was brought forward to offer sacrifice to the idols, the holy martyr kicked the platform of sacrifices, hurling it down headlong.

Maddened, the pagans hoisted him aloft upon wood and lacerated his entire body. Then they rubbed his wounds with hair cloths doused with vinegar and salt. After, they severed his tongue with a razor. However, those three godly women laid hold of that treasured tongue when the hieromartyr was returned to prison.

In the meantime, Cyprilla was sorely afflicted by a pain in her head. She besought her parent to give her leave to hasten to the prison of the venerable Theodore, believing that she could receive healing from Christ's athlete. With Aroa and Lucia she visited Bishop Theodore in prison, and having been cured of her malady through his prayers, they remained and served the holy bishop.

As mentioned earlier, these holy women had taken up the bishop's severed tongue. Hence, they delivered the sacred organ to the bishop, laying it upon his chest. Then a dove appeared above him, as well as a peacock which ascended to the window of the cell. The pagan Lucius, who was the chief councillor of Cyrene, saw this strange wonder and came to believe in Christ. After the holy bishop was healed of his injuries, he surrendered his soul into the hands of God. The dove then saluted him and flew from the prison.

With the blessed repose of the holy bishop, Cyprilla was slandered to the governor. Refusing to sacrifice to the idols, the pagans laid lit charcoals upon one of her hands. After placing incense upon the coals, they forced her to offer a sacrifice of incense to the idols. The holy Cyprilla replied, "This is not a freewill sacrifice of mine, but satanic and involuntary." Indeed, this was the truth, because the executioners applied much strength to hold her hand until it was entirely burned.

Afterwards they took the holy woman and raised her aloft upon wood, and lacerated her flesh. Though blood spilled forth from her injuries, milk flowed from her wounded breasts. Unable to bear the torments, Cyrilla surrendered her holy soul to Christ, from Whom she received an unfading crown.

Lucia and Aroa took up her relics according to the command of the governor, and buried it as they chanted melodious hymns. Not much time passed when the tomb of St. Cyprilla proved to be a well-spring of healing for every kind of sickness. In turn, the holy women Lucia and Aroa were beheaded by Governor Dignianus, and joined St. Cyprilla in Paradise.

St. Lucius the Councillor

With the deaths of these three holy women, Dignianus soon learned of the conversion of Lucius. Indeed, any other pagans who had come to believe in Christ and were baptized by Theodore were also sentenced to death. However, after Lucius was baptized, he prevailed upon the governor to acknowledge Christ as true God. Whereupon, the two men boarded a ship and set sail for Cyprus.

Once in Cyprus, the men encountered another governor who took vengeance upon all those that invoked the name of Christ. Lucius, without Dignianus' knowledge, gave himself over to torments. He was beheaded when, with his foot, he cast down the platform of the idols. Dignianus then took up Lucius' honorable relics and interred them.

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