November 22, 2016

Holy Apostles Philemon, Apphia, Archippus and Onesimus of the Seventy

Sts. Philemon, Archippus, Onesimus, Apphia (Feast Day - November 22)


To Philemon
A bright green land cherishes Philemon,
Who is beaten by the bloodthirsty with the shoots of a willow.

To Archippus
Archippus longed for the cornerstone,
And stones fulfilled this longing.

To Onesimus
Onesimus laid out his legs for crushing,
Legs which bravely ran the roads for Paul.

To Apphia
Apphia is laid out and struck on the ground,
To the heavens having the eyes of her heart.

On the twenty second Philemon was carried off.

These four Apostles were all disciples of the Apostle Paul, and are mentioned individually in his Epistle to Philemon. In the first verse of this epistle, he writes: "Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker - also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier — and to the church that meets in your home."

Philemon was made the Bishop of Gaza by the Apostle Paul. He drove away from the inhabitants the darkness of ignorance and illuminated them with the light of the knowledge of God. Then he and his wife, Apphia, with the Apostle Archippus his son, ministered to the town of Colossae from its Christian center, Philemon's home. There also they preached the word of truth.

During a pagan feast to the goddess Artemis, the Christians of Colossae had gathered in Philemon's home for prayer. When the pagans learned of it they became enraged and raided the home and took the Apostles Philemon, Apphia, and Archippus to be killed. The other Christians managed to flee in fear. At first, they were whipped and afterwards they were buried up to their waists and the pagans began to stone them. They then killed Philemon and Apphia by laying them on the ground and beating them with sticks. Archippus they removed from the pit barely alive and left him to the amusement of the children. The children pierced him throughout with knives, and then he was stoned to death. 

In his youth Onesimus was a servant of Philemon. Fearing punishment for an offense against his master, Onesimus fled to Rome, but he was imprisoned for being a runaway slave. In prison he came across the Apostle Paul and was enlightened by him, and was baptized. Paul was personally acquainted with Philemon, and wrote him a letter filled with love, asking him to forgive the runaway slave and to accept him like a brother. He sent Onesimus with this letter. After Philemon received the letter, he not only forgave Onesimus, but also sent him back to the Apostle Paul in Rome. After the death of Paul he became a bishop and traveled to many places preaching the gospel. In Rome Onesimus was arrested and brought to trial before the Eparch Tertillus, during the reign of Emperor Trajan. He held the Saint in prison for eighteen days, and then sent him to prison in the city of Puteoli. After a while, the eparch sent for Onesimus and had him stoned and beheaded for still maintaining his faith in Christ.

It should be mentioned that the Apostle Onesimus is celebrated separately by the Church on February 15th, and the Apostle Archippus is celebrated on February 19th. Therefore today the primary celebration is for the Apostle Philemon and his wife Apphia.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
The four Apostles of Christ who were chosen by God, Philemon and Archippus with Apphia and Onesimus, shone with the light of knowledge on those in darkness; they contested and destroyed error, and now pray to the Lord for us all.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
We praise Philemon, Onesimus, Archippus and Apphius, as bright stars illuminating the world, and we cry: Pray unceasingly for us all.