August 20, 2015

Saints Reginos and Orestes of Cyprus

Sts. Reginos and Orestes (Feast Day - August 20)

Saints Reginos and Orestes are not included in the official lists of saints of the Church, but they are commemorated and celebrated particularly in Cyprus, where they were martyred by pagans.

Reginos and Orestes came from Chalcedon in Asia Minor during the persecution of Christians by the Roman authorities. They were friends who were perhaps of noble lineage, though we do not have any information of their parents, youth or upbringing. What we can assume however was that they were raised Christians by their parents.

The Latin name of Reginos was Vonomilix, and upon entering the Roman army he gave all he had to the poor in order to not have any personal obligations. While in the army he did not cease to live a strict Christian life, only eating dry bread once a day to subjugate the flesh, and excelling in the acquisition of the virtues. For this he was betrayed by the pagans to the general Prezentinos. The general questioned Reginos as to the truth of the accusation that he was a Christian, and told him to sacrifice to the gods or risk his life. Reginos replied: "I will not sacrifice to your false gods, but only to the true God, who made the heavens and the earth and all therein, for your gods are lifeless."

The general then ordered nine soldiers to lay him on the ground and beat him, which they did, and the ground became red with the blood of the brave athlete of Christ. When the soldiers grew tired they brought a copper table where they lit a fire, and they laid Reginos on the table in order to be burned. God, however, would extinguish the fire and not allow it to burn Reginos, thus he escaped from these punishments unscathed.

The general was astonished by the perseverance of Reginos, and began to flatter him to renounce Christ, offering him gifts, otherwise he would throw him into the sea to become food for fishes. Reginos replied: "The honors, that you promise me, leave them for yourself in order to take them with you to hell. Also, about throwing me in the sea, I don’t care, because God, who rescued the prophet Jonah from the belly of the big fish, will rescue me from the sea also. For your gods, I repeat to you, all your gods are demons, and only Christ is the true God."

With this response Reginos sealed his fate to become food for the fishes. The general ordered a bag to be brought in order to put Reginos in alive. Soldiers took him forty miles out to sea and threw him in, then they left. Reginos, however, managed to escape from the bag and two dolphins came to his aid which guided him to shore. When it was discovered that he appeared at the beach, many came to witness the event, including Orestes, and the people shouted: "Great is the God of the Christians!" The general however believed Reginos was saved through magic, not even considering the power of Christ. Reginos was thus arrested again, together with Orestes and others present at the beach who accepted the Christian faith. They were thrown in prison and ordered to be executed the next day.

In prison Reginos took the opportunity to catechize the new Christians about the saving truths of the Gospel of Christ, so that they may remain firm in their new faith. After this they prayed. When dawn came, an angel opened the doors of the prison, and each went their own way, while Reginos, Orestes and others fled to Cyprus.

Tomb of Saint Reginos

In Cyprus, where the majority of people were still pagans, some from the group went to live as hermits, while Reginos and Orestes decided to become missionaries, to enlighten the people with the light of Christ. They departed Paphos and reached Neapolis of Limassol where they declared Christianity. They finally reached the village Fasoula, eight kilometers from Limassol. In Fasoula, which was a center of idolatry, Reginos and Orestes were arrested, tortured and decapitated. Some Christians, who secretly witnessed these events, took their bodies and buried them. (It is not certain if Orestes was also martyred at this time, though tradition does include him.)

Over the course of several years Christianity became dominant on the island of Cyprus, and the grave of Saint Reginos was lost. A certain priest of Fasoula, then, had a dream in which Saint Reginos appeared indicating the place of his grave. At the place indicated the relics were found with a sheath bearing their names. This priest had a great temple built in their honor, and on the 20th of August every year the people of Fasoula celebrated their memory. Many miracles have taken place at the tomb of Saint Reginos and there have been many visions of him even riding a horse, indicating this was a soldier who speedily comes to the aid of those who call upon him with faith. The holy relic of Saint Reginos was moved to the Monastery of Saint John the Forerunner on the island of Skopelos in Greece.

Besides Fasoula these Saints are also honored in the village of Apliki in Nicosia, and in the village Tremithousa in Paphos where there are temples dedicated to them. The ancient church of the Saints in Fasoula is now in ruins, but next to it is a new church built in 1981. Their Service was published in 1902 in Limassol.

More can be read about these Saints and their shrine and miracles here.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
The assembly of the Martyrs rejoices, the song of the Angels, we magnify your memory O Saints, singing a melody together and faithfully crying out: Rejoice, dual Martyrs of the Trinity and our boast, Reginos and Orestes, ever intercede for us.

As a very costly treasure of the Master, and a spring welling forth a fountain of miracles, are your relics on the earth which produce cleansing from illnesses and a variety of passions, directing grace which over-flows to our souls, wherefore together with longing we celebrate a festival for Reginos and Orestes.

Rejoice, athletes together on horses, from Chalcedon you had sacred bravery, Reginos and Orestes, together you completely conquered the enemy.