Thursday, November 24, 2016

Holy Martyr Theodore of Antioch

St. Theodore the Martyr of Antioch (Feast Day - November 24);
Photo shows the Sanctuary of Delphi

Verses

A gift of God Blessed One was your beheading by the sword,
A gift of God was the blood of your neck that you brought.*

By Theodoret

(Ecclesiastical History Ch. 2 Bk. 6 & 7)

Julian [the Apostate], wishing to make a campaign against the Persians, dispatched the trustiest of his officers to all the oracles throughout the Roman Empire, while he himself went as a suppliant to implore the Pythian oracle of Daphne to make known to him the future. The oracle responded that the corpses lying nearby were becoming an obstacle to divination; that they must first be removed to another spot; and that then he would utter his prophecy, for, said he, "I could say nothing, if the grove be not purified." Now at that time there were lying there the relics of the victorious martyr Babylas and the lads who had gloriously suffered with him, and the lying prophet was plainly stopped from uttering his wonted lies by the holy influence of Babylas. Julian was aware of this, for his ancient piety had taught him the power of victorious martyrs, and so he removed no other body from the spot, but only ordered the worshipers of Christ to translate the relics of the victorious martyrs. They marched with joy to the grove, put the coffin on a carriage and went before it leading a vast concourse of people, singing the psalms of David, while at every pause they shouted: "Shame be to all them that worship molten images." For they understood the translation of the martyr to mean defeat for the demon.

Julian could not endure the shame brought upon him by these doings, and on the following day ordered the leaders of the choral procession to be arrested. Sallustius was prefect at this time and a servant of iniquity, but he nevertheless was anxious to persuade the sovereign not to allow the Christians who were eager for glory to attain the object of their desires. When however he saw that the emperor was impotent to master his rage, he arrested a young man adorned with the graces of a holy enthusiasm while walking in the Forum, hung him up before the world on the stocks, lacerated his back with scourges, and tore his sides with claw-like instruments of torture. And this he did all day from dawn till the day was done; and then put chains of iron on him and ordered him to be kept in prison. Next morning he informed Julian of what had been done, and reported the young man's constancy and added that the event was for themselves a defeat and for the Christians a triumph. Persuaded of the truth of this, God's enemy suffered no more to be so treated and ordered Theodore to be let out of prison, for so was named this young and glorious combatant in truth's battle. On being asked if he had had any sense of pain on undergoing those most bitter and most savage tortures he replied that at the first indeed he had felt some little pain, but that then had appeared to him one who continually wiped the sweat from his face with a cool and soft kerchief and bade him be of good courage. "Wherefore," said he, "when the executioners stopped I was not pleased but vexed, for now there went away with them he who brought me refreshment of soul."

But the demon of lying divination at once increased the martyr's glory and exposed his own falsehood; for a thunderbolt sent down from heaven burnt the whole shrine and turned the very statue of the Pythian into fine dust, for it was made of wood and gilded on the surface. Julianus the uncle of Julian, prefect of the East, learned this by night, and riding at full speed came to Daphne, eager to bring succor to the deity whom he worshiped; but when he saw the so-called god turned into powder he scourged the officers in charge of the temple, for he conjectured that the conflagration was due to some Christian. But they, maltreated as they were, could not endure to utter a lie, and persisted in saying that the fire had started not from below but from above. Moreover some of the neighboring rustics came forward and asserted that they had seen the thunderbolt come rushing down from heaven.

Notes:

* These events, described here by Theodoret which took place in 361, do not inform us of the end of Theodore, who is said to have been recaptured for mocking the idols, and for this was beheaded.

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