August 30, 2013

Holy Hieromartyr Philonides, Bishop of Kourion

Saint Philonides of Kourion (Feast Day - June 17 and August 30)


Before Philonides offered his sacrifice,
He offered the sacrifice of his prudence.

The Hieromartyr Philonides was born in Cyprus around 250 AD. As a young man he was chosen to serve the Church of Christ as a clergyman and eventually the Bishop of Kourion (Latin: Curium), a great city and renowned for its worship of Apollo. In fact, Saint Philonides is the first known bishop of Kourion.

When the terrible persecution of Diocletian broke out, the ruler of Cyprus at that time was Maximus, who the holy bishop arrested and imprisoned. He was imprisoned with three of his spiritual children - the priest Aristokles, the deacon Dimitrianos, and the reader Athanasios (who are celebrated by the Church together on June 23rd). One morning, when this holy companionship ended their devout prayers, three executioners came into the cell and dragged out and brutally killed the three companions of Bishop Philonides. Then they told Philonides that he must sacrifice to idols, or else they would strip him naked and drunk satyrs would sexually assault his body.

The Holy Hierarch literally froze when he heard this, and having prayed for a long time with tears, he stood up, and called forward some of his fellow brother prisoners and revealed to them the stance of the ruler and his decision to sacrifice himself. He did this because he did not want anyone to be scandalized by the manner of his death. It should be noted that this decree to corrupt Bishop Philonides did not only apply to the Bishop, but to all Christians in order to corrupt them and humiliate them physically.

To escape a shameful death, Bishop Philonides slowly crawled through a secret passageway and came to a high cliff. Having knelt in prayer for some time, he then covered his face with his cloak, made the sign of the Cross three times, then threw himself off the cliff. Before his body touched the ground, the soul of the Holy Hieromartyr flew to the Heavens.

Shortly after his death, the Saint appeared in a vision to two travelers, running before them naked and bathed in perfume, holding a palm branch and having a crown on his head. They heard the Saint say: "Thank you, my Christ, for by You I was victorious. From the door of the earth, You raised me up to the door of heaven." The vision led the two men to the spot where the dead body of the Saint was lying, then he disappeared. However, the pagans took the Saint's body and threw it into the sea in order for it to disappear. But the sea washed the corpse back on the shore from where eventually the Christians took it and buried it with honors.

A Bishop named Aristos, who had been arrested by the pagans and set free, is responsible for writing about the glorious life and martyrdom of Saint Philonides. His death is placed in the period between 303 and 305. In the Synaxarion of Constantinople his commemoration is set for August 30th. However, according to the Synaxarion of Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite his memory is celebrated on June 17th.