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November 14, 2016

Holy Martyrs Antoninus, Nicephorus, Germanus and Manetha of Caesarea

Sts. Antoninus, Nicephorus, Germanus & Manetha (Feast Day - November 13)

By Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea

In the Sixth Year of the Persecution in our Days in Caesarea (308 A.D.)

And when some time had elapsed after these things which I have related, another company of God's martyrs, amounting in number to one hundred and thirty, was sent from the land of Egypt into our country. And all of these had also undergone the same tortures in their eyes and legs as the former martyrs; and some of them were sent to the mines of Palestine, and some of them were delivered over to the judges in Cilicia to be chastised with injurious and insulting tortures. But from us the flame of the persecution ceased a little, the sword having been satiated with the blood of the holy martyrs; and a little rest and cessation threw some check upon the persecution which took place in our days. And continuously the scourge of God was sent upon Maximinus, the wicked tyrant, of all these evils, of which the governors of the countries were the instructors and cunning ministers, and that duke who was the general of the army of the Romans. And because of those things which took place, they urged the Logistae of the cities, and the military commander, and the Tabularii to rebuild with diligence what was fallen of the temples of idols, and to compel all the men, together with their wives and children and slaves, and even the infants at the breast, to sacrifice and offer libations to devils, and also to force them to eat of the sacrifices. And a command was given that every thing that was sold in the market should be polluted with the libations and the sprinkling of the blood of the sacrifices. When these things, therefore, were done in this manner, these actions which were performed were abominated, even by the heathen who were without faith.

Great tumult, therefore, and consternation, such as there had never been the like before, overwhelmed all those who belonged to us in every place; and the souls of every one were set in affliction and trouble. But the Divine Power, on account of those things which had taken place, gave encouragement to such as belonged to Him, so that they were able to tread under foot the threats of the judges, and to despise their tortures.

But some servants of Christ's people, who in the stature of their bodies were only youths, but their soul was armed with the worship of God, both came of themselves, and when the governor was offering libations to idols in the midst of the city, suddenly rushed upon him, and called upon him to abandon his error, "For there is no other God but one, the Maker and Creator of all things;" and when they were asked [by Governor Firmillian] who they were, they confessed they were Christians. No sooner, then, were these words uttered than they received sentence of death, and so passed on easily and without delay to Him in whom they made their confession. The name of the first of them was Antoninus, and the second was called Zebinas, and the third's name was Germanus; and these things were done on the thirteenth of Teshri [November] the latter.

And they had at the same time a companion, a sister, one of the Lord's virgins, a chaste and courageous maiden, who came from the city of Baishan. She, however, had not acted in the same manner as those had done with whom she became confessor; for she had been brought by force from Baishan, and suffered insults and cruel tortures from the judge before she was condemned. But one of those who was set over the streets of the city was the originator of these evils. His name was Maxys, and he proved to all men that he was worse even than his name. This same blessed woman he stripped naked, and she was only left covered from the groin downwards, in order that he might indulge his lustful eyes in looking at the rest of her limbs; and he carried her about through the whole city, being tortured with straps; and afterwards took her before the tribunal of the governor, where with great boldness of speech she made the confession of her faith that she was a Christian; and there also displayed her courage and patience under every kind of torture; and was afterwards delivered over by the governor to be burnt with fire.

Moreover, the same judge became day by day more ferocious, displaying both his merciless disposition and cruelty, and he was carried away even beyond the laws of nature, so that he wreaked his vengeance and hatred even upon the lifeless corpses of the Christians, and forbade their burial. And of this same maiden of whom it has been just spoken, and of those who on the same day were consummated by confession, orders were issued that their bodies should be devoured by animals, and be carefully guarded night and day till they should be consumed by birds. Persons were therefore appointed to watch over this barbarous order from a distance, and to keep guard to prevent the bodies of the confessors from being carried away by us by stealth. So the beasts of the field, and the dogs, and the fowls of the heaven, were here and there tearing to pieces the flesh of men, so that men's bones and entrails were found even in the middle of the city; and all men were clad in sorrow on account of these things, because never before had such atrocities been done. And great sorrow and grief came even upon those who were aliens from us in the faith, because of these things which their own eyes beheld; for even before the gates of the city was exhibited the dreadful spectacle of men's bodies devoured by wild beasts.

When, therefore, things had continued in this manner for many days, there happened in the midst of the city a prodigy which will scarcely be believed. The atmosphere was perfectly calm and clear, when, all on a sudden, many of the columns of the porticos in the city emitted spots as it were of blood, while the market-places and the streets became sprinkled and wet as with water, although not a single drop had fallen from the heavens. And it was declared by the mouth of every one, that the stones shed tears and the ground wept; for even the senseless stones and the ground without feeling could not endure this foul and barbarous deed; and that the blood which flowed from the stones, and the earth which without any rain emitted as it were tears from its body, rebuked all these godless folk. And perhaps it may seem to such as did not see with their own eyes the things which I have described, that what I have related must be attributed to a fable devoid of truth. Far from it, for these things which we have described were actually seen by those who were living at that time, some of whom are alive unto this very day.

Such then was the consummation of those holy martyrs of God; whose struggles and conflicts against error were exhibited before our eyes.

Source: From History of the Martyrs in Palestine.