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February 5, 2011

Saint Agatha the Virgin Martyr

St. Agatha the Martyr (Feast Day - February 5)

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Agatha, this glorious virgin and martyr for Christ, was born in the Sicilian town of Palermo of noble and wealthy parents. When Emperor Decius began a persecution against Christians, St. Agatha was arrested and brought to trial before Judge Quintian. The judge, seeing Agatha beautiful in countenance, desired to have her for his wife. When he suggested this, Agatha answered that she is the bride of Christ and cannot be unfaithful to her Betrothed. Quintian subjected her to cruel tortures. Agatha was ridiculed, whipped, bound to a tree and flogged until blood flowed. After that, the judge again tried to persuade her to deny Christ and to avoid any further torture and suffering. To that the bride of Christ replied: "These tortures are very beneficial for me; just as wheat cannot arrive at the granary before it is cleansed from the chaff, so my soul cannot enter into Paradise if my body, beforehand, is not humbled by tortures." Then, the torturer ordered that her breasts be cut off and that she be cast into prison. St. Peter appeared to Agatha in prison and restored her to health and wholeness of body. Again, Agatha was led out for torture and again, cast into prison where she gave up her soul to God in the year 251 A.D. in the town of Catania during the reign of Emperor Decius. After her death, the torturer Quintian departed for Palermo to usurp her estate. However, along the way, his horse and the horses of his soldiers became wild with rage. Quintian was bitten on the face, thrown to the ground and trampled to death. Swift was the punishment of God that reached out for this savage crime perpetrated against St. Agatha.


Dark is the dungeon; radiant is the martyr,
In the darkness, Saint Agatha glows,
Over the courtyard of the dungeon, drenched with light,
There the tormentor lives, covered with shame,
Thinking up new tortures for the virgin Agatha,
Torments himself and contemplates, darkened in the midst of light,
Who is wedded to Christ, the dungeon is bright,
The palace, a place of despair, to the enemy of justice!

Miracle of St. Agatha

Etna is the largest volcano in Europe, the highest mountain in Italy, and located in Catania, Sicily. St. Gregory the Dialogist once commented, figuratively, that Etna was one of the mouths of Hades.

One year after the repose of St. Agatha, Etna erupted and gushed forth lava as a fiery river. As it approached Catania it burned and destroyed all that lay in its path. Both pagans and Christians, in fear, ran to the tomb of St. Agatha (Sant' Agata). The silk mantle that draped her tomb was placed on a pole, and everyone, clergy and laity, left. Then the wonder occurred, when the grace emanating from the mantle caused the lava to cease in its path and turn back towards the mountain.

As a result of this miracle the esteem of St. Agatha grew among both pagans and Christians. In fact, many pagans became Christians as a result.

The virgin-martyr is also invoked against any outbreak of fire.

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
Thou wast a fragrant flower of virginity, and an undefiled bride of the Lifegiver; thou didst desire the Source of all good and excel in martyrdom. O glorious Agatha, intercede by thy holy prayers for those who lovingly honour thy contest.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Let the Church be arrayed today in glorious purple, dyed with the chaste blood of the Martyr Agatha, and let us cry: Rejoice, thou boast of Catania.