|St. Abercius of Hierapolis the Wonderworker (Feast Day - October 22)|
Throwing to the ground mortal law Abercius,
You gave the place to God, belonging to God by nature.
On the twenty-second Abercius departed the earth.
Saint Abercius (also spelled Averkios) succeded Papias as Bishop of Hieropolis (now Pamoukkale) in Phrygia Salutaris and flourished during the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180) who, although a reputed philosopher, was a fierce persecutor of Christians. To discover the Christians of his empire, he would order all his subjects to join in celebrations that honored pagan deities, and to offer sacrifices to their idols.
During one such festival, Abercius went into his house alone and prayed with tears that God would have mercy on the ignorant people. Thereupon an Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and ordered him to throw down the altars of Apollo and the other pagan gods. So he did this in the middle of the night, casting down the idols with his staff. When morning came those who were deluded to worship the idols rushed to his house to put him to death. Instead of fleeing, Bishop Abercius went to the public marketplace and confessed his faith in Christ and rebuked the foolishness of submitting to dumb idols. Then seeing three men possessed by evil spirits, he touched them with his staff and they were restored to their right minds. This calmed down the frenzied crowd, and they listened to him, so that five hundred of them came to faith in Christ that day, and were baptized. The Saint became known throughout the region, and many flocked to him seeking his blessing and to be cured of their various ailments. News of him even reached Rome, prompting Marcus Aurelius to invite him to his palace in order to cure his betrothed daughter who was tormented by evil spirits.
When he arrived in Rome, Abercius was immediately taken to the imperial palace, where Empress Faustina awaited him. She brought him to her daughter, who convulsed violently when she saw the Saint. The demon begged the Saint to torment it no longer and allow it to return to Hierapolis from whence it came. Abercius allowed this, but only as long as it took with it a massive stone used for idolatrous rites in Rome. And indeed it did as commanded, while the crowd was amazed to see the stone rise to the sky away from Rome, clearly showing to all the power that Christians can have over demons. Later, this stone was placed over the tomb of Abercius in Hierapolis, as a trophy of victory. For these things, the Empress wanted to reward Abercius with gold, but he would not have it. Rather, he remained in Rome for a short time to strengthen the Christians by his preaching and miracles, until God ordered him to leave for Syria.
Abercius first went to Antioch and then to Apamea, where he was victorious against the heresy of Marcion. He even crossed the Euphrates, reaching Nisibis, and passed through the whole of Mesopotamia, pursuing the same heresy in order to pluck it out of the regions it most infected. From Mesopotamia he went to Cilicia, Lycaonia and Pisidia. Several years later he returned to Phrygia, where his spiritual flock received him with great rejoicing. Having covered such a great distance in his proclamation of the gospel, like no other bishop of his time since the Apostles, for this reason he has come to be known as an Equal to the Apostles.
In Phrygia during some years of peace, Abercius continued teaching, baptizing, healing the sick and casting out demons. He is said to have authored a letter to Marcus Aurelias and a book of spiritual direction for his clergy to guide them after his departure, but both of these are now lost. Having therefore illumined many with his words and deeds and miracles, one day Saint Abercius went up a high mountain to pray. There he made a spring of water miraculously gush forth, and after received a divine revelation that his end was coming near. Therefore he came down from the mountain and prepared his tomb in Hierapolis. And on his tomb he made the following inscription on the stone brought to Hierapolis by the demon from Rome, which can still be read today at the Vatican Museum:
The citizen of a chosen city, this [monument] I made [while] living, that there I might have in time a resting-place of my body, [I] being by name Abercius, the disciple of a holy Shepherd who feeds flocks of sheep [both] on mountains and on plains, who has great eyes that see everywhere. For this [Shepherd] taught me [that the] book [of life] is worthy of belief. And to Rome he sent me to see majesty, and to see a queen golden-robed and golden-sandalled; there also I saw a people bearing a shining seal [baptism]. And I saw the land of Syria and all [its] cities; Nisibis [I saw] when I passed over Euphrates. But everywhere I had brethren. With Paul as my companion [namely the writings of the Apostle Paul] ..., while faith everywhere led me forward, and everywhere provided as my food a Fish of exceeding great size, and perfect, which a holy Virgin drew with her hands from a fountain and this it [faith] ever gives to its friends to eat, it having wine of great virtue, and giving it mingled with bread [the Eucharist]. These things I, Abercius, having been a witness [of them] told to be written here. Verily I was passing through my seventy-second year. He that discerneth these things, every fellow-believer [namely], let him pray for Abercius. And no one shall put another grave over my grave; but if he do, then shall he pay to the treasury of [the] Romans two thousand pieces of gold and to my good native city of Hieropolis one thousand pieces of gold.
Having thus made these preparations, Saint Abercius gathered those near him, bade them farewell, and raising his hands and eyes heavenward, he fell asleep to join the choir of Angels. He was seventy-two years old and reposed in 167 A.D.
Today the skull of Saint Abercius at Panachrandos Monastery in Andros, and portions of his relics can be found at Karakalou Monastery in Mount Athos, Prousos Monastery in Eurytania and Panagia Phaneromeni Monastery in Salaminos.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
A model of faith and the image of gentleness, the example of your life has shown you forth to your flock to be a master of temperance. You obtained thus through being lowly, gifts from on high, and riches through poverty. Abercius, our father and priest of priests, intercede with Christ our God that He may save our souls.
Another Apolytikion in Plagal of the Fifth Tone
Having emulated the zeal of the Apostles, and shone forth like a morning star, and your works showed your God-given power, you guided the erring to God, O Hierarch Abercius.
Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
The Church of all the faithful acclaims you, O Abercius, as a great priest and a worthy companion of the twelve Apostles of the Lord. By your prayers, O blessed Hierarch, keep the Church safe from every vain-minded heresy, unconquered and unshaken forever, O thou most wondrous one.
Another Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
All the Church honors you, Abercius the great Bishop, as equal to the Apostles, O blessed one worthy of all praise. Through your intercessions, keep the Church victorious, calm and unshaken.