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November 5, 2016

Holy Martyrs Galaktion and Episteme of Emesa

Sts. Galaktion and Episteme (Feast Day - November 5)


The unpaired couple are beheaded by a sword,
Having a coupling of their souls by love.
On the fifth Episteme and Galaktion were beheaded.

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Both Galaktion and Episteme were born in the city of Edessa, in Phoenicia. Galaktion's mother was barren until she was baptized. After her baptism, she converted her husband, Cleitophon, to the true Faith, baptized her son Galaktion, and raised him in the Christian Faith [they had been catechized by a monk named Onouphrios]. When Galaktion was old enough to marry, his good mother, Leukippa, entered into rest, and his father betrothed him to a pagan-born maiden named Episteme. By no means did Galaktion want to enter into marriage, and convinced Episteme to be baptized, then to be tonsured a nun at the same time that he became a monk.

Both of them withdrew to Mount Publion (near Mount Sinai) - Galaktion to a monastery and Episteme to a convent. They proved to be shining lights in their monasteries. They were first in labor, first in prayer, first in humility and obedience, and first in love. They neither left their monasteries nor did they see one another until just before their death. A fierce persecution began and both of them were brought before the tribunal [in Alexandria under the governor Ursus]. When the pagans mercilessly whipped Galaktion, Episteme wept. Then they whipped her. After that, they cut off their hands, their feet and then their heads. Their friend Eutolmios took their bodies and honorably buried them. Eutolmios had been a slave of Episteme's parents, and then a monk with Galaktion. He also wrote the life of these wonderful Martyrs of Christ who suffered and received their wreaths in heaven in the year 253. [Galaktion was 30 years old at his martyrdom, while Episteme was 16 years old].

The Spiritual Love of the Saints

Physical love, in comparison to spiritual love, is less than a shadow is to solid substance. Brotherhood and sisterhood of the blood and body is nothing compared to the brotherhood and sisterhood of the spirit. Galaktion's father betrothed him to the maiden Episteme. Galaktion baptized Episteme and, after that, both received the monastic tonsure. Their physical love was replaced by spiritual love, a love as strong as death. So great was Galaktion's spiritual love for Episteme that he never desired to see her with his physical eyes. Neither physical contact nor closeness are necessary for spiritual love. So great was Episteme's spiritual love for Galaktion that when she heard that he had been taken for torture she ran after him, begging him not to reject her, but to receive her as a fellow sufferer, as he was her spiritual father and brother. When the merciless torturers flogged holy Galaktion's naked body, holy Episteme wept. However, when the torturers cut off their hands and feet for Christ, both rejoiced and glorified God. So great was the power of their love for our Lord Jesus Christ, and so great was the spiritual love with which they loved each other. Truly, physical love is like a colorful butterfly that quickly passes, but spiritual love is enduring.

The Venerable Martyrs Galaktion and Episteme

Galaktion, and Episteme with him,
Abandoned the world of passing smoke,
Crucified the passions of the body,
And ascended to heaven in spirit.
Their hearts remembered Christ with every beat,
And were crucified with love for Him.
Then the tormentors arrived.
Galaktion went to his torture,
And Episteme hurried after:
"Slower, Brother," she said, "do not hurry!
I was baptized by your hand,
Now take me with you to torture!
Even though I am unworthy, Brother,
I am willing to die for my Christ."
Galaktion, and Episteme with him,
Proclaimed Christ to the unbelievers,
And in bitter tortures they breathed their last.
They gave their souls to Christ:
Now they live with angels in Paradise -
Galaktion and Episteme.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Thy Martyrs, O Lord, in their courageous contest for Thee received as the prize the crowns of incorruption and life from Thee, our immortal God. For since they possessed Thy strength, they cast down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons' strengthless presumption. O Christ God, by their prayers, save our souls, since Thou art merciful.

Another Apolytikion in the First Tone
Let us the faithful honour these two betrothed athletes, Galaktion and modest Episteme. Their ascetic labours blossomed in martyrdom, therefore we cry to them: Glory to Him Who has strengthened thee; glory to Him Who has crowned thee; glory to Him Who through thee works healings for all.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
The Martyrs of Christ, received Thee in their companies, who through mighty trials contested most resplendently; O renowned Galaktion and thy hallowed spouse and co-sufferer Episteme, ye both entreat the one God and Lord on behalf of us all.

Another Kontakion in the Second Tone
Thou wast numbered among the hosts of martyrs, for thou wast illustrious in mighty contests, O Galaktion with thy fellow sufferer Episteme. Pray unceasingly to the One God for us all.