Friday, November 18, 2016

Holy Martyrs Alphaeus and Zacchaeus of Caesarea

Sts. Alphaeus and Zacchaues (Feast Day - November 18)

Verses

To Zacchaeus
Previously Zacchaeus distributed half his riches,
Now Savior he pours out all his blood by the sword.

To Alphaeus
Alphaeus persevered in the cutting off of his head,
And is allotted to possess the indivisible Trinity.

HISTORY OF THE MARTYRS IN PALESTINE

By Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea

THE CONFESSION OF ALPHAEUS AND ZACCHAEUS

In the First Year of the Persecution of our Days (303 A.D.)

It happened, at the same time, that the festival, which is celebrated on the twentieth year of the emperor's reign,* was at hand, and a pardon was announced at that festival for the offences of those who were in prison. The governor, therefore, of the country came before the festival, and instituted an inquiry respecting the prisoners which were in confinement, and some of them were set at liberty through the clemency of the emperors; but the martyrs of God he insulted with tortures, as though they were worse malefactors than thieves and murderers.

Zacchaeus, therefore, who had been a deacon of the Church in the city of Gadara,** was led like an innocent lamb from the flock, for such indeed he was by nature, and those of his acquaintance had given him the appellation of Zacchaeus as a mark of honor, calling him by the name of that first Zacchaeus, for one reason, because of the smallness of his stature, and for another, on account of the strict life which he led; and he was even more desirous of seeing our Lord than the first Zacchaeus. When he was brought in before the judge, he rejoiced in his confession for the sake of Christ, and when he had spoken the words of God before the judge, he was delivered over to all the tortures of punishment, and after having been first scourged, he was made to endure dreadful lacerations, and then after this he was thrown into prison again, and there for a whole day and a whole night his feet were strained to four holes of the rack.***

Alphaeus, also, a most amiable man, endured afflictions and sufferings similar to these. His family was of the most illustrious of the city Eleutheropolis,**** and in the Church of Caesarea he had been honored with the dignity of Reader and Exorcist.***** But before he became a confessor he had been a preacher and teacher of the word of God; and had great confidence towards all men, and this of itself was a good reason for his being brought to his confession of the truth. And because he saw that there was fallen upon all men at that time laxity and great fear, and many were swept along as it were before the force of many waters, and carried away to the foul worship of idols, he deliberated how he might withstand the violence of the evil by his own valor, and by his own courageous words repress the terrible storm. Of his own accord, therefore, he threw himself into the midst of the crowd of the oppressors, and with words of denunciation reproached those, who through their timidity had been dragged into error; and held them back from the worship of idols, by reminding them of the words which had been spoken by our Savior, respecting confession. And when Alphaeus, full of courage and bravery, had done these things openly with boldness, the officers seized him, and took him at once before the judge. But this is not the time for us to relate what words he uttered with all freedom of speech, nor what answers he gave in words of godly religion, like a man filled with the Spirit of God. In consequence of these things he was sent to prison. And after some days he was brought again before the judge, and his body was torn all over by severe scourgings without mercy, but the fortitude of his mind still continued erect before the judge, and by his words he withstood all error. Then he was tortured on his sides with the cruel combs,****** and, at last, having wearied out the judge himself, and those who were ministering to the judge's will, he was again committed to prison, together with the other fellow-combatant, and stretched out a whole day and night upon the wooden rack.

After three days they were both of them brought together before the judge, and he commanded them to offer sacrifice to the emperors: but they confessed, and said, "We acknowledge one God only, the supreme sovereign of all;" and when they had uttered these words in the presence of all the people they were numbered among the company of Holy Martyrs, and were crowned as glorious and illustrious combatants in the conflict of God, for whose sake also their heads were cut off. And better than all the course of their lives did they love their departure, to be with Him in whom they made their confession. But the day that they suffered martyrdom was the seventh of Teshri the latter, on which day the confession of those of whom we have been speaking was consummated.

Notes:

* That is, Diocletian's Vicennalia.

** Gadara was a strong city situated near the river Hieromax, six miles southeast of the Sea of Galilee, over against Scythopolis and Tiberias, and 16 Roman miles distant from each of those places.

*** The fashion of this engine for punishment, and the manner how persons were punished in it, seems to have been this. It was a piece of timber wherein five pairs of holes were made at a certain distance one from the other. Into these holes, as it were into boots, they put the feet of the offenders, and fastened them therein with cords and fetters. The meaning of their feet being strained to the fifth hole is, they forced them to straddle so wide as to put their feet into the last pair of holes, which posture (those holes being at the greatest distance one from the other) was the sharpest degree of torture in this engine.

**** Eleutheropolis was a Roman city in Syria Palaestina, some 53 km southwest of Jerusalem. Its remains still straddle the ancient road to Gaza. City's remains are now located within the Beit Guvrin National Park.

***** There was in former times a twofold use of the Exorcists in the Church; for their business was to cleanse both those possessed with devils, and also the catechumens, who were exorcised more than once; for after every examination in their catechism they were brought to the Exorcist ungirt and with their shoes off, that they might be purged by him.

****** Combs were specifically iron claws.


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