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February 17, 2017

Sources for the Veneration of Saint Theodore

5th-Century Sources

Pawstos Buzand, Epic Histories 4.10

Writing sometime in the 470s, the Armenian historian Pawstos Buzand attributes the death of the Arian emperor Valens (364-78) to Ss. Theodore and Sergius. The story is very similar to one also told of St. Mercurius, that he had killed the pagan emperor Julian (360-63).

Then King Valens gave an order for an expert to be sought and found who would be able to confront the Christian faith in writing. And he was told that there was a skilled sophist in a certain city. And so, the emperor sent his magistrianoi to him so that they might hasten to go and bring the man to him without delay, and they hurriedly fetched him.

When they had traveled for two stages, they happened to chance on another city at the martyrium of the holy lady Thecla [which lay] outside the city. When they arrived there the sophist got down and chose the inside of the martyrium for his lodging, while the magistrianoi lodged in the city. When the sophist had eaten, he made his bed, locked the doors of the martyrium, sat down on the bed, and intended to lie down [to sleep]. [But], while he was still awake, he saw with open eyes that the door of the martyrium had suddenly opened and there was assembled a great multitude of martyrs who appeared in great glory. And the holy lady Thecla went to meet them adorned in such brilliance that radiance like light seemed to emanate from her. They greeted each other and the lady Thecla said to them: "Welcome, dear friends and labourers of Christ." After mutual greetings, each brought himself a seat and they sat down according to rank. Then the saints began to converse and said: "The saints of the Lord who have not yet departed from this earth are still oppressed here: some are in bonds, some in prison, some in exile, and some suffer other violence through injust exactions and excruciating torments. Therefore, we have hastened to assemble together so that we should not be carelessly neglectful of seeking redress for those who believe in the Lord, especially because many of the Lord's workers are impeded, many fields left untended, and many vinyards deserted. We must restrian Valens, who impedes the workers, so that every labourer may be vigilant in his task. And the valiant labourer Basil is likewise impeded in his task. Therefore, come, let us arise and send two from amongst us who shall go and deprive the evil Valens of life." Then they sent out one from among them whose name was Sergius and another named Theodorus, and they set a time limit for them, and said, "Come [back] at this same time, and so shall we." Then they rose up and separated.

The sophist who was in the martyrium heard all of this and saw this vision with open eyes, and he was amazed and remained sleepless until break of day. At early dawn, the magistrianoi came and said to the sophist: "Come, let us be on our way !" But he feigned sickness and could not budge from the spot. And when they began to compel him, he grew weak, sighed, and panted, and was unable to answer them until the evening. When the evening came, the magistrianoi left him in the martyrium and returned to their own lodgings in the city. Then the sophist locked the doors of the martyrium and lay down in his place. And suddenly he saw again the doors of the martyrium open, and the same martyrs come and assemble so that the martyrium was filled with them. They met one another with great joy and greeted one another; then they sat down individual chairs, arranged them in order, and sat down. Then both St. Sergius and St. Theodorus came back from the task for which they had been sent and entered the assembly of the saints. And the multitude of assembled martyrs asked of them: "How did you carry out the task for which you were sent?" And answering they said: "As soon as we left you we killed the enemy of the truth Valens; we have returned at the same hour, and here we are come to you." Then the whole of the assembled multitude rose up and gave thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ, and they separated each to his own place. and the sophist remained terrified until break of day.

Then at dawn, the magistrianoi came and said to the sophist, "Come, let us go to the emperor !" And he answered and said: "The emperor is dead, to whom shall we go ?" And a great quarrel broke out among them over these words, and they made a pledge up to three days' duration over these words. "If", he said, "goods are not pillaged, cities not devastated, and the emperor still the same [by that time], let me be beheaded for daring to say this." Then the magistrianoi granted him the three days, and after the term of three days, the news was confirmed that the emperor had died.

Source of Translation: N.G. Garsoïan, The Epic Histories Attributed to Pawstos Buzand (Cambridge, MA, 1989), 130-32.

6th-Century Sources

Cyril of Scythopolis, Life of St. Sabas 78

Cyril of Scythopolis (c.525-58), monk and priest, spent the whole of his life in his native Palestine. He produced seven biographies of famous Palestinian monks beginning after his arrival at the monastery of the New Laura in 555. The extract records the appearance of St. Theodore to a suppliant in his shrine in the "holy city", i.e. Jerusalem, shortly after the death of St. Sabas (Savvas) on 5 December 532.

As for his spirit, it has been privileged with great access to God, the radiance of which I shall try to show by a few examples. There is in the holy city a silversmith, of Damascus by birth, named Romulus, archdeacon of holy Gethsemane. This Romulus told me the following story: "At the time of the death of blessed Sabas, my shop was burgled and I lost nearly one hundred pounds of silver. Going at once (he continued) to the shrine of St. Theodore, I supplied illumination for the church for five days and stayed there day and night weeping on the sanctuary rails. Around midnight of the fifth day I was rapt in sleep when I saw the holy martyr of Christ Theodore, who said to me, "What is the matter ? Why are you in such distress, and weeping ?" I replied, "I have lost my own property and that of others, and I have spent days here without gaining anything." The saint said to me, "Believe me, I was not here, but I was ordered to hasten to meet the holy soul of Abba Sabas and guide it to the place of repose. But now, go to this place and you will find there the thieves and the money." Getting up at this very hour and taking some others with me, I went to the place announced by the saint, and we found it just as had been announced in the vision."

Source of Translation: R.M. Price, Cyril of Scythopolis: The Lives of the Monks of Palestine (Cistercian Studies 114: Kalamazoo, 1991), 193.

Anonymous, Life of St. Nicholas of Sion 32-33

The life of St. Nicholas of Sion was written by one of his followers shortly after his death in 564. Nicholas was abbot of the Monastery of Holy Sion near Myra in Lycia and bishop of Pinara in western Lycia. The above extract records an oversea visit to the village of Diolko in Egypt. Nicholas had taken passage on an Egyptian ship destined for Ascalon as part of a trip to Jerusalem, but a great storm blew the ship of course. It also killed a crew-member whom Nicholas then brought back to life. He stayed for a brief while at Diolko before boarding the ship for Ascalon once more.

And the servant of God entered the village called Diolko, and took up lodging in the Church of St. Theodore. And he prayed to God without interruption at all hours, since the Lord Jesus Christ had resurrected the man and brought him back to life, and he stood before him whole. And he spent four days in the Church of St. Theodore. There was a blind man named Anthony, who dwelt in the holy church, unable to see anything at all. And when the servant of God Nicholas saw him, he said to him: "How many years have you been without your sight?" And the blind man said to him: "It is now three years since I saw the sun. And I spent much money on doctors so that they would restore my sight. But it has been all of no avail, though I spent on them all that I had." The servant of God Nicholas said to him: "And why did you not put your faith in the saints? You would have been cured free of charge." And the blind man said to him: "Now that I have been found to be without faith, what should I do?" The servant of God Saint Nicholas said to him: "Will you believe from now on that the saints have the power to cure you ?" The blind man said to him: "I put my faith in God and in your holy prayers, that you can persuade God to have mercy on me." Moved with compassion, the servant of God stood praying over him. And he took oil from the lamp of Saint Theodore, and made the sign of the cross upon his eyes, and said to him: "I have faith in God that tomorrow you will see the glory of God with your own eyes." And the following day the eyes of the blind man were opened , and he walked around seeing, and glorified God that he had recovered his sight through the prayer of the servant of God.

Source of Translation: I. Sevcenko and N.P. Sevcenko, The Life of St. Nicholas of Sion (The Archbishop Iakovos Library of Ecclesiastical and Historical Sources 10: Brookline, 1984), 57-59.

Anonymous, Life of St. Nicholas of Sion 56

Nicholas celebrates a festival at a shrine of St. Theodore at Kausai in Lycia during a wider tour of such shrines.

And plenty of blessed bread was left over, so that Nicholas, the servant of God, left Karkabo rejoicing, and went to the shrine of Saint Theodore at Kausai. And there he slaughtered a pair of oxen, and called together al the people who were there. and when they were filled, they glorified the Lord God. and because so much of the loaves was left over at Saint Theodore, he went from there to the shrine of the holy Archangel in Nea Kome.

Source of Translation: I. Sevcenko and N.P. Sevcenko, The Life of St. Nicholas of Sion (The Archbishop Iakovos Library of Ecclesiastical and Historical Sources 10: Brookline, 1984), 89.

Anonymous, Life of St. Nicholas of Sion 80

Nicholas was buried in the Monastery of Holy Sion in Lycia which possessed a large number of relics, including some of St. Theodore. The fact that the other relics apart from those of New Testament figures belonged to military martyrs also suffices to identify St. Theodore as the military martyr of that name.

And his holy remains, beloved of God, were buried inside holy and glorious Sion, where are deposited the remains of the glorious, victorious, triumphant, and holy martyrs, Saint John the Forerunner and Baptist, Saint Stephen the Protomartyr, and Saint Theodore, and Saints Sergios and Bakchos and the Holy Forty [Martyrs]. He was buried in the right part of the right section for women. He fulfilled his life, and is interceding for all who believe in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, as always, so now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Source of Translation: I. Sevcenko and N.P. Sevcenko, The Life of St. Nicholas of Sion (The Archbishop Iakovos Library of Ecclesiastical and Historical Sources 10: Brookline, 1984), 113.

9th-Century Sources

Ignatius the Deacon, Life of Patriarch Nikephorus I of Constantinople

Writing c.843, Ignatius the Deacon records that Patriarch Nikephoros of Constantinople (806-28) was exiled to a monastery of St. Theodore near Constantinople which he himself had founded and where he spent his last 13 years. The exact location of the monastery remains unknown. It is noteworthy that Nikephoros' own father was called Theodore.

After offering the first fruits of his prayerful and holy elquence in this way, [Nikephoros] placed himself upon a stretcher and albeit with unwilling heart set forth upon his journey in the direction that the violent wished to lead him. The sea spread wide her surface beneath him, received the just man in a light boat, and conveyed him to the monastery he had built [called] the [Monastery] of Agathos. After being allowed to spend a brief amount of time there, [Nikephoros] was again transferred by those who had initiated violence, [this time] to the holy monastery of the great martyr Theodore, situated at a greater distance [from Constantinople] and also founded by [Nikephoros]. For [his persecutors] could not endure seeing the just man established anywhere near their own foul conduct.

Source of Translation: From the translation by E. Fisher in Alice-Mary Talbot (ed.), Byzantine Defenders of Images: Eight Saints' Lives in English Translation (Washington, 1998), 118.