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August 14, 2015

Saint Markellos, Bishop of Apamea

St. Markellos (Marcellus) of Apamea (Feast Day - August 14)


With a noetic sacrifice you delighted God,
And your flesh also was a delightful sacrifice Father.

Hieromartyr Markellos was born of illustrious parents on the island of Cyprus. Having received a fine education, he occupied a high civil office. Everyone marveled at his goodness, righteousness, kindness and eloquence. In the year 375, Markellos went to Apamea in Syria on some practical matter, and they elected him as bishop, leaving behind his family in Cyprus.

From the account of Theodoret (Ecclesiastical History, Bk. 5, Ch. 21)) we learn that Bishop Markellos received permission from the emperor Theodosius the Great (379-395) to destroy a strongly built temple of Zeus in Apamea. Theodoret records:

"On the death of John, bishop of Apamea, whom I have already mentioned, the divine Markellos, fervent in spirit, according to the apostolic law, was appointed in his stead.

Now there had arrived at Apamea the prefect of the East with two tribunes and their troops. Fear of the troops kept the people quiet. An attempt was made to destroy the vast and magnificent shrine of Zeus, but the building was so firm and solid that to break up its closely compacted stones seemed beyond the power of man; for they were huge and well and truly laid, and moreover clamped fast with iron and lead.

When the divine Markellos saw that the prefect was afraid to begin the attack, he sent him on to the rest of the towns; while he himself prayed to God to aid him in the work of destruction. Next morning there came uninvited to the bishop a man who was no builder, or mason, or artificer of any kind, but only a laborer who carried stones and timber on his back. 'Give me,' said he, 'two workmen's pay; and I promise you I will easily destroy the temple.' The holy bishop did as he was asked, and the following was the fellow's contrivance.

Round the four sides of the temple went a portico united to it, and on which its upper story rested. The columns were of great bulk, commensurate with the temple, each being sixteen cubits in circumference. The quality of the stone was exceptionally hard, and offering great resistance to the masons' tools. In each of these the man made an opening all round, propping up the superstructure with olive timber before he went on to another. After he had hollowed out three of the columns, he set fire to the timbers. But a black demon appeared and would not suffer the wood to be consumed, as it naturally would be, by the fire, and stayed the force of the flame. After the attempt had been made several times, and the plan was proved ineffectual, news of the failure was brought to the bishop, who was taking his noontime sleep.

Markellos immediately hurried to the church, ordered water to be poured into a pail, and placed the water upon the divine altar. Then, bending his head to the ground, he besought the loving Lord in no way to give in to the usurped power of the demon, but to lay bare its weakness and exhibit His own strength, lest unbelievers should henceforth find excuse for greater wrong. With these and other like words he made the sign of the cross over the water, and ordered Equitius, one of his deacons, who was armed with faith and enthusiasm, to take the water and sprinkle it in faith, and then apply the flame. His orders were obeyed, and the demon, unable to endure the approach of the water, fled. Then the fire, affected by its foe the water as though it had been oil, caught the wood, and consumed it in an instant. When their support had vanished the columns themselves fell down, and dragged other twelve with them. The side of the temple which was connected with the columns was dragged down by the violence of their fall, and carried away with them. The crash, which was tremendous, was heard throughout the town, and all ran to see the sight. No sooner did the multitude hear of the flight of the hostile demon than they broke out into a hymn of praise to God.

Other shrines were destroyed in like manner by this holy bishop. Though I have many other most admirable doings of this holy man to relate — for he wrote letters to the victorious martyrs, and received replies from them, and himself won the martyr's crown — for the present I hesitate to narrate them, lest by over prolixity I weary the patience of those into whose hands my history may fall."

When soldiers near Aulona in the Apamea district demolished another pagan temple, the Saint, watching from a distance, was seized by pagans and thrown into a fire. The killers were found, and the Saint’s sons wanted to take revenge. A local Synod in 391 forbade them to do this, decreeing that it would be wrong to avenge such a death as the Saint had received. Instead, they ought to give thanks to God.

According to Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite, the act of Saint Markellos by sprinkling the holy water gave rise to the practice of chanting the Small Sanctification of the Waters Service on the first of each month, sprinkling homes and lands, the sick and demonically influenced, to drive away evil and sanctify through the sprinkling of holy water. Other accounts of sprinkling with holy water besides the day of Theophany are recorded in Cyprian of Carthage (Epistle 26) and Epiphanios of Salamis (Panarion, Ch. 12).