May 4, 2015

Holy Martyr Pelagia of Tarsus

St. Pelagia of Tarsus (Feast Day - May 4)


The brazen bull burned with fire,
Placed therein was Pelagia to burn.
On the fourth Pelagia was burned in the brazen bull.

The Holy Martyr Pelagia lived during the reign of Diocletian (284-305). She hailed from Tarsus of Cilicia, which was also the birthplace of the Apostle Paul.

At that time, Bishop Linus catechized and baptized many of the idolaters. Once, in a dream, the blessed Pelagia beheld the visage of this bishop who besought her to go and receive Holy Baptism. When she awoke from sleep, she pondered upon the meaning of her dream. She then sought her mother's permission to visit with her nurse. However, this was a pretext so she could visit with the bishop and receive Baptism. From her youth, she consciously inclined toward the true Creator. She longed to know the true God and forsake her abominable religion. She was even prepared to spurn her mortal bridegroom, the emperor's son.

With God's help, this all came to pass. She then, at the behest of God, was instructed in the faith and was granted Divine Baptism and Holy Communion. Filled with divine illumination, she exchanged her costly purple raiment for a plain white tunic. Her rich apparel and adornments were then distributed among the poor.

Afterwards, the newly-illumined Pelagia, indeed, stopped by to see her nurse. She still wore the same humble tunic that she was still dressed with at Holy Baptism. After visiting with her nurse, Pelagia departed and returned to her mother still garbed in that simple tunic. When her mother beheld her in such a poor dress, she felt an intolerable sorrow.

Pelagia received the word of God like rich and fertile soil. She disdained transitory things, and only sought to be strengthened with divine teachings. Now her worldly mother attempted to have her change her dress and renounce Christ, but was unable to convince her. The holy maiden's mother then made the matter known to Pelagia's betrothed, Diocletian's son.

He deemed Pelagia's course of action as a rebuff to his avowals of love. Therefore, from his inordinate grief, he took his own life. When Diocletian was informed of the circumstances surrounding his son's demise, he was extremely wroth. He had Pelagia arrested. When the maiden was presented to him, he admired her exquisite beauty. He would have taken her himself, but she rejected him. Speaking wisely to the tyrant about the faith of Christ, he would in no wise listen. Instead, he sentenced her to burn inside a brazen bull that had been fired.

Set afire with the love of Christ in her soul, Pelagia bravely entered the flames, saying: "Blessed are You in the temple of Your glory, O Lord!" The virgin Pelagia, as a sacrifice of sweet savor for the Master Christ, received the vesture of incorruption with the sacred crown of martyrdom.

When Diocletian bid that her remains be cast out of the city for wild beasts to devour, God preserved her relics intact. Bishop Linus recovered them and buried them honorably. A church was later built at the site.

From The Lives of the Holy Women Martrys, Holy Apostle's Convent, Buena Vista, CO, pp. 177-179.

(Portions of her sacred relics are in the Monastery of Great Lavra at Mount Athos, Prousos Monastery in Evrytania, the Monastery of Ntaou Penteli in Athens, and the Church of San Giorgio dei Greci in Venice.)

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
Through your knowledge of the Faith you abandoned the darkness of ignorance, fairest virgin of Christ. You were refreshed by dew and finished your contest by fire. Glorious martyr Pelagia, entreat Christ our God to grant us His great mercy.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
Abandoning your mortal betrothed in order to wed the Immortal One, as your dowry you offered chastity and your contest. Therefore, we acclaim you, Pelagia.