May 3, 2010

Sts. Timothy and Mavra: An Honorable Marriage

Sts. Timothy and Mavra the Martyrs (Feast Day - May 3)

A holy couple, Saints Timothy and Mavra, suffered for the faith at the hands of idolaters. By this they became examples of sacrifice, love and dedication to our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ.

During the Marriage Service, after the couple has been crowned, we sing the following hymn to all the Holy Martyrs: "O holy martyrs, who fought the good fight and have received your crowns: Entreat ye the Lord, that He will have mercy on our souls." We sing this because it characterizes marriage as a martyrdom, since it is a Mystery of love. Love by nature is martyric, it is a cross. For two strangers to come together from two different worlds with two different backgrounds and personalities, as well as different flaws, weaknesses and upbringings, and to live their lives with much patience and love towards each other, indeed requires much sacrificial and martyric love.

Saints Timothy and Mavra embody this love and their lives should be an inspiration for every married couple, with their icon hanging in their home as a reminder of what a Christian marriage is all about.

Lives of Saints Timothy and Mavra

Saints Timothy and Mavra suffered for the faith during the persecution under the emperor Diocletian (284-305). St Timothy came from the village of Perapa (Egyptian Thebaid), and was the son of a priest named Pikolpossos. He was made a reader among the church clergy, and also a keeper and copyist of divine service books. St Timothy was denounced as a keeper of Christian books, which the emperor ordered to be confiscated and burned. They brought St Timothy before the governor Arian, who demanded that he hand over the sacred books. They subjected the saint to horrible tortures for his refusal to obey the command. They shoved two red-hot iron rods into his ears, from which the sufferer lost his eyesight and became blind.

St Timothy bravely endured the pain and he gave thanks to God, for granting him to suffer for Him. The torturers hung the saint head downwards, putting a piece of wood in his mouth, and they tied a heavy stone to his neck. St Timothy's suffering was so extreme, that even those who tortured him implored the governor to ease up on the torture.

About this time they informed Arian that Timothy had a young wife named Mavra, whom he had married only twenty days before. Arian ordered Mavra to be brought, hoping that with her present, they could break St Timothy's will. St Timothy urged his wife not to fear the tortures, but to follow his path. St Mavra answered, "I am prepared to die with you," and she boldly confessed herself a Christian. Arian commanded that the hair be torn from her head, and to cut the fingers off her hands.

St Mavra underwent the torment with joy and even thanked the governor for the torture, which she endured so that her sins might be forgiven. Then Arian gave orders to throw St Mavra into a boiling cauldron, but she did not feel any pain, and she remained unharmed. Suspecting that the servants had filled the cauldron with cold water out of sympathy for the martyr, Arian went up and ordered the saint to splash him on the hand with water from the cauldron. When the martyr did this, Arian screamed with pain and drew back his scalded hand. Then, momentarily admitting the power of the miracle, Arian confessed God in Whom Mavra believed as the True God, and he ordered her to be released. But the devil still held great power over the governor, and soon he again began to urge St Mavra to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. Having gotten nowhere, Arian was overcome all the more by a satanic rage and he came up with new tortures. Then the people began to murmur and demand a stop to the abuse of this innocent woman. But St Mavra, turning to the people, said, "Let no one defend me. I have one Defender, God, in Whom I trust."

Finally, after torturing them for a long time, Arian ordered the martyrs to be crucified. For ten days they hung on crosses facing each other.

On the tenth day of martyrdom the saints offered up their souls to the Lord. This occurred in the year 286. Later, a solemn celebration of the holy martyrs Timothy and Mavra was instituted at Constantinople, and a church was built in their honor.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
O come, you believers all, and let us honor today the martyr Saint Timothy and his co-athlete and wife Saint Mavra the bride of Christ, praising their brave endurance. In their own crucifixion longingly did they follow in the steps of the Savior who was slaughtered for us and who nailed to the Cross the sins of all.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Since ye endured through divers woundings and tortures and have received from God the garlands of vict'ry, rise up in intercession with the Lord for us, who with longing celebrate this, your sacred memorial, O Great Martyr Timothy, and most glorious Mavra, that He grant peace to all His Church and flock, for He is truly the strength of all faithful flock. 

A Reflection and Hymn from St. Nikolai Velimirovich

The fate of these two wonderful martyrs, husband and wife, is amazing! Because of their Christian Faith and only twenty days following their marriage, they were brought to court before Arrianus, the governor of Thebaid, during the reign of Diocletian. Timothy was a lector in his local church. The governor questioned him: "Who are you?" To that Timothy responded: "I am a Christian and a lector of God's Church." The governor further said to him: "Do you not see these instruments prepared for torture surrounding you?" Timothy replied: "And, do you not see all the angels of God who strengthen me?" Then the governor ordered an iron rod be pierced through his ears so that the pupils of his eyes protruded from pain. After that, they hung him upside down and placed a piece of wood in his mouth. At first, Mavra was frightened because of Timothy's sufferings, but when her husband encouraged her, she also confessed her steadfast faith before the governor. The governor then ordered all the hairs of her head pulled out and after that severed the fingers from her hands. After many other tortures, from which they would have succumbed had not the Grace of God strengthened them, they were both crucified facing each other. Thus, hanging on the cross, they lived for nine days counseling and encouraging each other in perseverance. On the tenth day, they gave up their souls to their Lord for Whom they endured death on a cross and so were made worthy of His kingdom. They suffered honorably for Christ in the year 286 A.D. 


Timothy and Mavra, crucified and pale, 
Through the Lord Christ, looked at one another,
And by the spirit see each other better than with the eyes,
By pain exalted, above all things.

And Timothy speaks: "Mavra, my sister,
You are of a female nature, and your pain is greater!
By prayer be encouraged, do not despair sister,
All of your thoughts, affix to Christ."

Mavra replied: "Brother Timothy,
The Spirit of God I feel, in my soul it waves.
He keeps me strong, and helpless He strengthens me,
And the Sweet Jesus, my pains alleviates,
But, about you, my glorious pride, I am concerned,
What kind of pains, with yours can be similar?
But just a little while, a little while, my sweet brother,
From the thorns of sufferings, then the roses will blossom,
To the entire heavenly host, the darling you will be,
Only endure, endure without sound and sobbing
Let us be alert brother, let us not fall asleep,
Perhaps the Lord might come, that we not be ashamed.
Behold, the entire heavens opened, I see
Unseen treasures for us prepared."

Then Timothy to Mavra: "O sister, wonderful,
Bride of Christ, glorious martyr,
For His glorious mercy, let us glorify God,
That such an honorable death, He permitted upon us.
O glory to You O Savior, Who for us suffered;
Our spirit, we now commend into Your hands."