March 3, 2017

Synaxarion of the Holy Hieromartyr Theodoret of Antioch

St. Theodoret the Martyr of Antioch (Feast Day - March 3)


The land of Eden has a place,
For Theodoret the great within.

During the reign of the impious and apostate Julian (361-363), his wretched uncle also named Julian, who was a Christian and a faithful servant of God, and a Reader in the Church of Antioch, was persuaded by his nephew the impious and apostate emperor, not only to deny - alas! - the faith in Christ and to venerate the idols, but the impious one gave to the tyrant on behalf of the idols all the wealth and sacred vessels Constantine the Great dedicated to the Church of Antioch, and so the former pious uncle was appointed by his irreverent nephew, to be a persecutor and tyrant against the Christians. Then the other Clergy and Priests of Antioch scattered to various places, while Saint Theodoret alone, who was a Presbyter in the Antiochian Church, remained with the other Christians, preaching to them to be bold in their faith in Christ and confession. Therefore the uncle of Julian the Apostate captured him, and had him imprisoned. Then he stood before him, and first ordered for the legs of the Saint to be beaten, and then to have his head beaten. After this they stripped him and hung him from a wooden pole and lacerated him harshly. Because the Saint was lacerated for three hours, blood ran from his body like a faucet, while his face looked more beautiful and bright.

Because the Saint heard the defiled Julian say to him, "Sacrifice to the gods you wretch, and if you are in debt to the royal treasury, or anyone else, my nephew the emperor would like to free you of your debt, so you won't wrongfully renounce your soul." The Saint said to him, "You O miserable one are the wretch, you and your emperor. For you left Christ and followed the Antichrist. Hence you will both become tinder in the eternal fire of hell. I have no debts towards anybody, except my Lord Jesus Christ. I am indebted to Him to keep the true faith until my last breath." When the impure and God-hating tyrant heard this, he ordered that the sides of the Saint be burned with lit lamps. Meanwhile the Saint lifted his eyes up to Heaven and secretly prayed, and - O the miracle! - those who held the lamps fell down as if dead, and they believed in Christ. Then Julian and his companions became enraged, and the thrice-cursed one lifted up the executioners, saying, "Why did you drop your lamps and not thoroughly burn the impious and most-wretched one, instead being conquered by weariness and negligence?" The Saint responded, "You are impious and thrice-cursed and thoroughly blinded in the eyes of your soul. For you do not see, O wretch, the Angels guarding me the servant of God, and they do not allow you to touch me. Do not lament therefore, since the God of the Christians is great." When the tyrant heard this, he was very shamed. He then ordered for those soldiers to be cast into the sea. When Saint Theodoret saw them being brought to the sea, he told them, "Go, O my children, in peace, go to that blessed army, for shortly I also will follow, that I may rejoice together with you in the eternal Kingdom of Heaven."

Because the impious uncle of Julian was trying to force Saint Theodoret to sacrifice to the idols, for this reason the Saint responded, "You, the most irreverent and most wretched of all men, in a few days all your entrails will rot away, and by this you will be forced to cast your defiled soul into the eternal fire of hell. And your nephew the tyrant Julian, who you say is more irreverent than you, in the land of Persia will be pierced with a heavenly lance, and will be cast into the fire of gehenna, and will not return, and so the both of you together will receive the wages and justice for your wickedness. I in turn will sacrifice to my God the sacrifice of praise." The Saint having said this, the impious Julian immediately ordered his beheading. As the Martyr was going to the place of his execution, he prayed with joy in his soul, and being beheaded, he was raised up to God to receive the crown of the contest. His holy relic was then taken by some Christians, and was buried with honors. And the above words prophesied by the Saint were fulfilled not many days after. For, as the Saint foretold, the two Julians, the wicked uncle and the more wicked nephew, these wicked ones were wickedly killed, and their souls were delivered to the punishments of Hades.*


* Regarding the death of Julian, the uncle of Julian the Apostate, Theodoret of Cyrus writes in his Ecclesiastical History (Bk. 3, Ch. 9): "Julian immediately fell sick of a painful disease; his entrails rotted away, and he was no longer able to discharge his excrements through the normal organs of excretion, but his polluted mouth, at the instant of his blasphemy, became the organ for their emission. His wife, it is said, was a woman of conspicuous faith, and thus addressed her spouse: 'Husband, you ought to bless our Savior Christ for showing you through your castigation his peculiar power. For you would never have known who it is who is being attacked by you if with his wonted long suffering he had refrained from visiting you with these heaven-sent plagues.' Then by these words and the heavy weight of his woes the wretched man perceived the cause of his disease, and besought the emperor to restore the church to those who had been deprived of it. He could not however gain his petition, and so ended his days."