December 30, 2015

Saint Theodora of Caesarea

St. Theodora of Caesarea (Feast Day - December 30)

Saint Theodora lived during the reign of Emperor Leo III the Isaurian (717-741), the son of Emperor Constantine V the Copronymos, and was the scion of a splendid and distinguished family. Her father was Theophilos, who held the rank of patrician, and her mother was Theodora, and had been barren for many years. Saddened by her inability to bear a child, she entreated God and the Most Holy Theotokos to grant her a child. God heard her prayer, and granted her the favor she sought, through the intercessions of Saint Anna, the mother of the Theotokos. Therefore she gave birth to the Venerable Theodora, who upon reaching a mature age, was brought to the Temple of Saint Anna, and became dedicated to her Monastery in the area of Rigidion, as a divine offering. And in a God-fearing and orderly manner, she was guided by the Abbess and taught sacred letters.

As the Saint conducted her life in a God-pleasing manner, the wicked devil was unable to see himself trampled on by such a tender young woman. Therefore he stirred up the God-fighting Leo the Isaurian, who sought a wife for his son Christopher, whom he had proclaimed Caesar. Thus he violently and forcefully separated this lamb of the Lord from her Monastery, and compelled her to go to Constantinople. When she arrived, she prepared everything carefully for the wedding, as well as the bridal chamber. Though this was the plan of the emperor, God had another plan. Just as in ancient times, when God brought fear to the Pharaoh of Egypt when he sought to take Sarah as his own (Gen. 12:10-20), and later through the virgin Rhipsimia (Sept. 30) was victorious over Tiridates, so also with Saint Theodora He kept her without blemish and pure from coming together and having intercourse with her earthly bridegroom.

Therefore at that time, as the wedding was under preparation, suddenly and beyond all hope, the armies of the Scythians entered Europe. Hence the son of the emperor and future bridegroom was quickly sent to fight against the barbarians. And in the first battle engagement, he was struck by the Scythians and killed. When the unblemished lamb Theodora received the news, and perceived it to be God's Providence, she gathered up gold, silver and pearls and expensive garments and secretly left the palace. After boarding a ship, she returned to her Monastery, rejoicing and thanking the God of all. When the departure of the Saint was revealed, the second son of Leo went to the Monastery to find her. When he found her, however, he saw that she had been tonsured a nun and dressed in old and rugged garments, he therefore left her alone (of course through Divine Providence), and did not bother her.

Thus the Saint was completely liberated, and she mortified her body so much that one could see her joints and bones, for her food consisted solely of an ounce, or eight drams, of bread, which she ate every two or three days, eating nothing else. Her only garment was a coarse hair shirt, made from goat hair, and her bedding was similarly made of coarse material, underneath of which were stones, making her sleep in short durations and uncomfortably. Often she kept vigil throughout the night. However, the blessed one was not satisfied with such sufferings. Thus she wore chains, the weight of which bruised her members, and were wounded so much that a foul odor came from them. She struggled in this manner for many years, and shined forth in every virtue. Wherefore the renowned woman entered the ageless and blessed life.

From the Synaxarion of Constantinople, translated by John Sanidopoulos.