August 21, 2015

Holy Martyrs Vassa and Her Three Sons Theognios, Agapios and Pistos

St. Vassa of Edessa and Her Three Sons (Feast Day - August 21)


One mother and three fair children,
Vassa as a mother was beheaded with them as one soul.
Vassa and her children were beheaded by a sword on the twenty-first.

Vassa was born in Edessa and flourished during the years when Emperor Maximian reigned (286-305). She married a man named Valerian, who was a priest of idols, and gave birth to three sons, Theognios, Agapios and Pistos. Being a Christian, she raised her children in godly piety.

Due to her Christian faith, Vassa suffered much at the hands of her pagan husband, who hauled her and her three sons before the Proconsul Vicarius. After she confessed that she was a Christian, he cast her and her two eldest sons into prison. Theognios, the eldest, was suspended aloft and his flesh was cruelly lacerated in his chest. They also tore out his nails, but he suffered everything bravely and boldly called upon God. His mother Vassa encouraged him to endure to the end.

After torturing Theognios, they scourged the second son, Agapios. The pagans flayed his flesh from his head to his chest, stripping his skin. Christ's athlete endured the pain with the encouragement of his mother and by repeating the words: "Nothing is more gratifying than suffering for Christ."

Later they also brought forward the youngest son, Pistos, who also confessed Christ and endured torments. Astonishing all by his confession, the pagans broke his bones and joints. Then they beheaded him with his two brothers. Thus, the children Vassa nurtured with her milk and her faith attained full Christian stature, receiving triumphant ends.

Meanwhile, Vassa remained in prison, where she was nourished by an angel. When Vicarius went to Macedonia he ordered Vassa be taken with him. She was compelled to sacrifice to the idols there. Refusing to do so, they tried to drown her and burn her and stone here, but she endured all these things and remained uninjured. Then she was taken to the pagan temple by Vicarius, where she smashed to pieces the idol of Zeus. Maddened by this, Vicarius cast her to the animals as prey, but she was preserved unharmed.

Whereupon, the pagans flung her into the sea about 3 1/2 miles from land to drown her. But the holy woman was borne aloft by three radiant men (probably her three sons) who deposited her upon a ship. Within eight days Vassa appeared on the island of Alonos which lies below the Hellespont.

There was a certain man named Philip who informed Vicarius in Macedonia of the whereabouts of Vassa. In turn, Vicarius wrote the consul of Kyzikos in the Hellespont to arrest Vassa. Having investigated and arrested her, he also tried to persuade Vassa to sacrifice to the idols, but failed, so he had her hands tied behind her back and her limbs crushed and bruised. She was then beheaded, surrendering her soul and receiving the everlasting crown of martyrdom like her three sons.

Apolytikion in the First Tone
Thou wast a mother of fair children, O trophy-bearer Vassa; thou didst bring to the Trinity the fruits of thy womb. At thy word Theognios, Pistos and Agapios bravely contested and with thee partake of glory. Save those who cry to thee: Glory to Him Who has crowned thee; glory to Him Who has glorified thee; glory to Him Who through thee works healings for all.

Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Valiantly following the footsteps of Solomone, thou gavest courage to thy sons to suffer martyrdom, O divinely-blessed Vassa, thou rock of courage. And when thou hadst thrice endured thy three sons' sufferings, thou through many grievous torments wast joined unto them. Hence, we cry to you: Rejoice, O victors in martyrdom.