November 7, 2010

Holy Thirty-Three Martyrs of Melitene, Including Saint Hieron

33 Martyrs of Melitene (Feast Day - November 7)

To Saint Hieron
O how Hieron is not without boldness,
Seeing those not yet born go to the sword!

To the Thirty-two Martyrs
Three times ten men were snatched away by a sword,
Along with a pair by wicked men.

On the seventh Hieron was beheaded by the sword.
By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Hieron was born in Tyana in Cappadocia of a good and devout mother, Stratonika, who was blind. Hieron was a very zealous Christian and served his blind mother with great filial love. For two reasons he did not wish to join the army, and he resisted and drove off those who had been sent to take him. Hieron was loath to leave his helpless mother, and it was grievous for him even to consider that, as a soldier, he would be compelled to offer sacrifices to idols. Finally, Hieron was arrested along with other Christians, and they were all taken before the eparch of the town of Melitene.

While they were still on the road, a man clad in a brilliant white garment appeared to Hieron one night and said: "Behold, Hieron, I proclaim salvation to you: you shall not wage war for an earthly king, but for the Heavenly King you will complete your struggle, and you shall soon come to Him to receive honor and glory." At this, Hieron's heart was filled with inexpressible joy.

In Melitene they were all thrown into prison and Hieron, with great zeal, strengthened all the prisoners in the faith, urging that not even one of them fall away, but that all willingly offer their bodies to torture and death for Christ. All but one confessed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The exception was Hieron's kinsman Victor, who fell away from the faith. The tormentors cut one of Hieron's hands off, then flogged and tortured him in various ways until they beheaded him and the others. Going to the place of execution, these thirty-three martyrs chanted the Psalm: "Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord" (Psalms 118:1).

Here we will name the honorable martyrs whose names are written with his in the Book of Life: Hesychios, Nicander, Athanasios, Mamas, Barachios, Kallinikos, Theogenes, Nikon, Longinus, Theodore, Valerius, Xanthios, Theodoulos, Kallimachos, Eugenios, Theodochos, Ostrichios, Epiphanios, Maximian, Ducitius, Claudian, Theophilos, Gigantios, Dorotheos, Theodotos, Kastrichios, Anikletos, Themilios, Eutychios, Hilarion, Diodotos and Amonitos.

A man named Chrysanthos purchased Hieron's severed head and honorably buried it, later building a church over it in the Saint's name. The Martyr's severed hand was brought to his blind mother. Saint Hieron, with his companions, suffered in the year 298 and entered the glory of Christ.

St. Eugenios


There are decisive moments in life upon which a man's eternal life or eternal death depend. We do not know when this decisive moment will come for us-perhaps today-and because of this we must be unceasingly vigilant. Victor, a kinsman of St. Hieron, was arrested with him. On the day before their torture, Victor, in terror of the impending tortures, went to the prison warden and begged him to take his name off the list of the condemned and release him, promising to give him his land. The warden removed his name and released him. However, upon returning home, Victor died of natural causes in the same moment that St. Hieron and his companions died in torments for Christ. Thus Victor vainly missed the decisive moment: he lost his land, his friends and both his earthly and heavenly life. In that same decisive moment, Hieron gained all. No one vied for Victor's body, while many vied for Hieron's body. When Christians sought the head of Hieron from the eparch, he asked as much gold for it as it weighed. Chrysanthus, a wealthy and devout man, paid that much gold for the martyr's honorable head. Anthony and Matronian hid one of St. Hieron's severed hands and brought it to Hieron's mother, the blind Stratonika. She took her son's hand and wept bitterly: "O my beloved son, I gave birth to you whole, and now I have only one part of you!''

St. Themelios

The Holy Martyr Hieron and his Companions

Prisons are peculiar palaces!
In prison, St. Hieron spoke:
"O my brethren, thirty companions,
Hold to God's word,
To God's word and His law.
Behold, from time immemorial, the serpent has risen up,
Seeking to ensnare you with a glance,
So that, one by one, you would follow it to hell.
Do not succumb, brethren, true believers,
Oh, hearken to humble Hieron!
Whatever the serpent promises you
Is as fleeting as the green grass.
Courageously endure your sufferings:
Do not trade the eternal for the temporal;
Today or tomorrow, death will arrive,
Then all must go to the judgment of God.
Blessed is he who is not ashamed
When he sees his Judge before him.
Even more so is he who can show the Judge
The blood he has shed for Him,
And the wounds he bears for His name.
Such a one will reign eternally with Him.''

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Your thirty-three holy martyrs, O Lord, through their sufferings have received incorruptible crowns from You, our God. For having Your strength, they laid low their adversaries, and shattered the powerless boldness of demons. Through their intercessions, save our souls!  

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
The choir of Martyrs, shining far and light-bearing, hath dawned today and with the bright shafts of wonders hath made the Church resplendent with noetic light; wherefore, as we celebrate their most solemn remembrance, O our Saviour, we entreat that through their intercessions Thou rescue us from dangers of all kinds, as the most merciful God and the Friend of man.