Friday, February 26, 2016

Synaxarion of Saint Photini the Samaritan Woman and Those Martyred With Her

St. Photini and those with her (Feast Day - Gr. February 26, Slav. March 20; Fourth Sunday of Pascha)

On the twenty-sixth of this month [February], we commemorate the Holy Martyr Photini the Samaritan Woman, who conversed with Christ at the well, and those with her, namely her five sisters, her two sons, Sebastian the military commander and Theokletos the former magician.

Verses

Your Samaritan was cast into the well,
Who at the well you mutually greeted O Word.

The Holy and Great Martyr Photini, was the Samaritan woman who conversed with Christ at Jacob’s well in Samaria. The Gospel of John records how Christ knew about and revealed her history of many husbands. She was baptized along with her two sons and five sisters after Pentecost. They went with the Apostles preaching Christ, bringing many idolaters to the truth, for their teaching was filled with the power of Holy Spirit which they had received.

During the reign of Emperor Nero (54-68), there had begun a great persecution of the Christians. After the two chief Apostles Peter and Paul were martyred by Nero, he sought to kill all the disciples of the Apostles. At that time Saint Photini was in Carthage, a city of Africa, with her son Joses, where they boldly preached the Gospel of Christ. Meanwhile Victor, the oldest son of the Saint, in a manly manner was victorious in war against the Avars, who were attempting to overthrow the Romans, and for this reason he became a soldier, even a general, of the emperor. Not knowing that Victor was a Christian, the Emperor called him to return to Italy and ordered him to chastise the Christians that were found there.

When the military commander Sebastian heard this, he said to Victor, "I know very well, O General, that you are a Christian, and that your mother together with your brother Joses also are Christians, because they once followed the martyred Apostle Peter. Wherefore do what you were ordered to do by the Emperor, in order to not endanger your life." Victor replied, "I want to do the will of my heavenly and immortal King Christ, while the command of the earthly king, that I chastise the Christians, this command, I say, I cannot even bear to hear it." The Commander replied, "I am advising you, brother, as a close friend, to do what is to your advantage. Because if you sit at the judgment seat to examine and chastise the Christians, know that you will please the emperor, and the wealth of the Christians will be yours. Furthermore, write to your mother and brother, telling them not to boldly teach the Greeks to deny their ancestral religion, so that you will not be in danger on their account, but rather keep your faith in Christ a secret, as you will." Victor responded, "May it not be that I should do as you have spoken, to chastise the Christians in order to gain from them, or to advise my mother and brother to not proclaim that Christ is God. For I also am a voluntary preacher of the divinity of Christ, as they are." The Commander said, "I have advised you as to what is to your advantage. You, however, can ponder about what you will do."

When the Commander said this, straightway he was blinded, and due to the exceeding pain in his eyes he fell to the ground and remained mute. Those who were nearby lifted him up and placed him in bed, where he remained for three entire days without uttering a sound. After three days, he cried out with a loud voice, "One is the God of the Christians!" Victor all the more quickly went to him, and asked, "Why have you changed your mind?" The Commander responded, "Christ calls me, most-sweet Victor." Therefore he was quickly catechized by Victor, baptized, and when he came out of the holy font, he immediately received back his sight, and glorified God. When the crowds of Greeks saw this astonishing miracle, they became frightened lest the same happen to them, which is why they ran to Victor in order to be baptized.


When these rumors reached the ears of Nero, that the general of Italy Victor and the commander Sebastian, were proclaiming the message of Peter and Paul, and that all the Greeks were coming to Christ through faith, and that the mother of the general, Photini with her son Joses, went to Carthage to do the same, upon hearing this the Emperor became enraged, and immediately sent soldiers throughout Italy, to bring before him the Christian men and women they could find. However, the Lord appeared to the Christians, saying, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Fear not, for I am with you, and I desire that Nero be vanquished together with his companions." And He also separately appeared to Victor and said, "From henceforth, I want your name to be Photinos, because many have been illumined through you, and have brought them to Me through faith. Strengthen Sebastian towards martyrdom through your words, and blessed is whoever struggles until the end."

Having said these things, the Lord ascended into the Heavens. God revealed also all these things which were to take place to Saint Photini. Wherefore she departed Carthage with a multitude of Christians, and went to Rome to proclaim Christ. The entire city inquired, "Who is this woman, who came here with such a multitude? Who is she who proclaims Christ with such boldness?" Then the soldiers brought Photinos, the son of the Saint, to Rome, along with the commander Sebastian. Saint Photini went forth and stood before Nero with her son Joses and the other Christians. When Nero saw them, he asked, "For what reason have you come to us?" The Saint responded, "To teach you to believe in Christ."

The rulers who stood by said to the Emperor, "The commander Sebastian and the general Victor, who do not trust in the gods, have come from Italy." The Emperor said, "Let them come forward." When they stood before him, he said to them, "What are these things I have heard on your behalf?" The Saints responded, "What you have heard on our behalf, O Emperor, is true." The Emperor looked upon the Saints with a fierce glance, and said, "Deny Christ, or do you prefer to die a wicked death?" The Saints lifted their eyes to the Heavens, and responded, "May it never happen! May it never happen that we are separated, O Christ our King, from the faith and Your love!" The Emperor once again asked the Saints, "What are your names?" The Saint responded, "I am the first sister, named by Jesus Christ my God, Photini. The second sister is Anatoli; the third is called Photo; the fourth Photis {Photida); the fifth is Paraskevi and the sixth is Kyriaki. Regarding my sons, the first is called Victor, who was renamed Photinos by our Lord Jesus Christ, and the second who is with me is called Joses." Then Nero said to them, "Have you all agreed to be chastised and die for the Nazarene?" The Saint responded, "Yes, we all rejoice and are glad to die for His love." The Emperor then ordered that their finger joints be crushed with iron balls. Immediately then an anvil was brought, and the hands of the Saints were placed on it, and the servants began striking at them from the third hour of the day until the sixth hour. And they changed three times while striking at the hands of the Saints. The Saints meanwhile in no way felt their torments, nor were their hands shattered.

When the Emperor learned of this, he shuddered, and ordered that the hands of the Saints be cut off. Immediately the servants had their hands tied, and they placed them on the anvil, and struck down at them seven times with a short sword, and failing to achieve their intention, they became paralyzed and fell down dead. The Saint remained unharmed, being protected by the grace of God, and joyfully spoke the words of David, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear what man can do to me." The Emperor then wondered and thought by what means and techniques he could overcome the Saints. So the men were ordered to be placed in a most dark prison. The Saint and her sisters were ordered to enter a golden chamber, where there were seven golden beds made up, with a golden table and seven golden thrones, and there were many coins and golden ornaments, along with golden garments and belts. He then ordered his daughter Domnina to enter therein with her servants, and converse with the Saints. When Saint Photini saw Domnina, she said to her, "Rejoice, bride of Christ." Domnina also responded, "Rejoice also my lady Photini, the torch of Christ." When Saint Photini heard the name of Christ, she thanked the Lord, and embracing Domnina she kissed her. Then she was catechized with her one hundred servants, and all were baptized. And Domnina she renamed Anthousa, and her highest ranking servant she renamed Stephanida. Saint Anthousa then immediately ordered that all the coins and ornaments in the chamber be distributed to the poor.


When the Emperor learned of this, he became greatly enraged, and ordered that they be burned for seven days in a furnace, and to place therein Saint Photini and all her male and female companions. So it came to pass, and the Saints remained in the furnace for three days. Thinking that they were thoroughly burned in the fire, the tyrant ordered for the furnace to be opened, and for the bones of the Saints to be cast into the river. And when it was opened, they found, O the miracle! all the Saints whole and unharmed, glorifying and blessing God. All marveled that in no wise were they touched by the fire. This astonishing miracle was seen and heard by the people of Rome, and they were baffled and also glorified God. The Emperor was unable to understand, so he ordered that the Holy Martyrs be given a deadly potion. A magician was called, whose name was Lampadios, in order to prepare the poisonous potion, which was first taken by Saint Photini, who said to the magician, "I should not touch the potion from your hands to drink, because you are unclean. But that you, O Emperor, may know, along with you magician who prepared the potion, the power of Christ my God, behold I drink first of all in the name of my Jesus, and then all those with me will drink."

After they all drank, they remained unharmed, and the magician was dumbfounded. Turning to Saint Photini, he said, "I have concocted another potion which is more powerful. If you drink it and not instantly die, then I too will believe in your Christ." When they all drank from this as well, and nothing bad happened, for this reason the magician took his magic books and cast them into the fire, and he believed in Christ, was baptized and renamed Theokletos. When the Emperor learned of this, he ordered that he be captured in the midst of the Saints, and that he be taken outside the walls of the city and beheaded. Thus the first of all of them to complete their martyrdom was the renowned Theokletos, and he received from the Lord the incorruptible crown. The other Saints with the Great Martyr Photini were then taken, and it was ordered that their nerves be severed. As this was being carried out, the Saints derided the Emperor and his gods. Then the cruel tyrant ordered that Saint Photini drink molten lead and sulfur, and that it be poured into the ears of the other Saints.

Because all remained unharmed by this torment, they said, "We thank you, Lord our God, that through the molten lead You refreshed our hearts, which were thirsty from the great burning." Nero, in wonder and astonishment, ordered that the Saints be hanged up, in order for their entire bodies to be harshly flogged, and to be burned with lit torches. Because the Saints prayed, they were strengthened by divine grace, and for this Nero was enraged, and he ordered that ash be mingled with vinegar, that it may be poured into the noses of the Saints. Receiving such torments, the Saints said, "Your vinegar, O Emperor, looks sweeter to us than honey and beeswax."

This angered the tyrant even more, and he ordered that the eyes of the Saints be removed, then for them to thrown into a dark prison filled with poisonous snakes and other living things. And O the wonder! the poisonous snakes died, and the odor coming from therein was changed to a fragrance, while the darkness was made brilliant with light. Christ then appeared among the Saints, and said unto them, "Peace be with you." And taking Saint Photini by the hand, he lifted her up and said, "I am with you always, therefore do not be afraid, but rather rejoice." And with these words, immediately the scales fell from their eyes, and the Saints received back their sight, and they saw the Lord and venerated Him. The Lord blessed them, and said, "Be brave and strong." And with this He ascended into the Heavens.


Meanwhile the impious Nero left the Saints in prison for three years, that they may have a miserable completion to their lives with a bitter death. When three years had passed, the Emperor had a servant shut in prison and it was ordered that he be removed. When the men were sent to remove the servant, they immediately saw the Holy Martyrs healthy and strong, and they revealed to the Emperor that the blinded Galileans could see and were healthy. And that the prison was shining with a light, and it was fragrant with myrrh, having been changed into a house of God, to which the Greeks run, and are baptized by them, believing in the Christ they proclaim. When the Emperor heard this, he was astounded. He sent his servants to have the Saints brought before him, and he said to them, "Have I not charged you with a royal order to not preach Christ in this city of the Romans? How then do you preach Christ while you are shut in prison? Know that because of this, I will torment you with many and great punishments." The Saints responded, "Do that which you want, for we will not cease to proclaim Christ, Who is the true God and the Maker of all things." This angered Nero, and he ordered the Saints be crucified upside down for three days, and that their flesh be lacerated with the sinews of an ox, until their tendons are disbanded. When this took place, it was ordered that they remain hanging for four more days. On the fifth day the people went to go see them, to see if the Saints were still alive, and when they were seen hanging the people were blinded. An Angel of the Lord then descended from the Heavens, and untied the Saints. After greeting them, he left them healthy.

Saint Photini had pity on the blinded people, so she prayed, and immediately they all received their sight. Hence they believed in Christ and were baptized. When Nero heard this, he was enraged, and he ordered that Saint Photini be flayed of her flesh. While this was being done, the Saint chanted saying, "Lord You have tried me and known me" (Ps. 138:1). When her flesh was removed, they threw it into the river, and the Saint was hurled into a dry well. They took Saints Sebastian, Photinos and Joses, and they cut off their genital members and threw them to the dogs, then they were confined to an old bathhouse. The five sisters of Saint Photini were brought before Nero. First it was ordered that their breasts be cut off, then for their skin to be removed. When the people went to flay Saint Photida, the fourth sister, she would permit none of the men to take hold of her, like the rest of her sisters, but she stood there bravely, and they flayed off her skin. The Emperor marveled at her bravery and resolute soul.

For this he was greatly enraged, so that after this torment the beastly man considered another for Saint Photida, most-grievous and deadly. He ordered that two tree tops be forced to bend with ropes, and to tie the Saint to them. He then ordered to allow them to return to their former position. By this the Saint was torn in two, and she delivered her blessed soul into the hands of God, and received through her martyrdom an unfading crown. Then it was ordered that all the Saints be decapitated, while only Saint Photini should be removed from the dry well and be placed in prison. This saddened her, because she remained alone and would not be crowned with her sisters. For this she prayed to God, Who appeared to her, and sealing her with the sign of the Honorable Cross three times, and filling her with joy, He restored her health. After many days, while singing hymns and blessing God, she delivered her soul into His hands.


On this day also Saint Anatoli, the second sister of Saint Photini, who was perfected by the sword.

Verses

In the east Anatoli found what she perceived,
And was beheaded bravely-minded.


On this day Saint Photo, the third sister of Saint Photini, who was perfected by the sword.

Verses

Her dowry is of infinite worth on the scale,
Photo brings to You, the Father of lights, her head.


On this day Saint Photida, the fourth sister of Saint Photini, who was perfected by being tied to two trees and torn in two.

Verses

You were given the prize for your contest on the tree Photida,
God the Word's most revered tree of Eden.


On this day Saint Paraskevi, the fifth sister of Saint Photini, who was perfected by the sword.

Verses

Paraskevi was brought to the sword and decapitated,
Ready and prepared.

On this day Saint Kyriaki, the sixth sister of Saint Photini, who was perfected by the sword.

Verses

Kyriaki was not even afraid of the sword,
Placing her divine fear in the Lord.


On this day the the Holy Martyr Victor, who was perfected by the sword.

Verses

Victor your head I have on my shoulders,
Before the earth lay greatly outstretched great one.

On this day the Holy Martyr Photinos, the first son of Saint Photini, who was perfected by the sword.

Verses

What is this steam from the boiling blood?
Even the decapitated head of Photinos the Martyr.


On this day the Holy Martyr Joses, the second son of Saint Photini, who was perfected by the sword.

Verses

You were cut clean at the neck by the sword,
The neck of Joses was not frightened by the sword.


On this day Saint Sebastian the Military Commander, who was perfected by the sword.

Verses

Sebastian spoke the word,
I revere your decapitated head.


Apolytikion in the Third Tone
Thou wast illumined by the Holy Spirit and refreshed by the streams of Christ the Saviour. Having drunk the Water of Salvation thou didst give copiously to the thirsty. O holy Great Martyr Photini, Equal-to-the Apostles, entreat Christ our God that our souls may be saved.

Another Apolytikion in the First Tone
Let us praise Photini and Photida and Photo, with Anatoli, Photinos and Joses with divine songs, with Kyriaki, Paraskevi, the radiant Martyrs of Christ, they seek divine grace and illumination for the faithful who cry out: Glory to Him Who strengthened you, Glory to Him Who crowned you, Glory to Him Who grants to us through you healings for all.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
Today Photini who is the summit and glory of martyrs is ascending into heaven. She invites all who are partakers of her graces to glorify God. Wherefore let us all praise her with the fitting honours of faith.

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