June 2, 2017

Synaxarion of the Holy Hieromartyr Erasmus of Ochrid

St. Erasmus of Ochrid (Feast Day - June 2)


To Erasmus.
Erasmus contested by your grace O Savior,
With love hastening towards heaven, he is received.

To the 20,000 Martyrs.
The heads of the athletes were decapitated by the sword,
Two times ten thousand were found fallen.

Saint Erasmus was from Antioch, and flourished during the reigns of Diocletian (284-305) and Maximian (286-305). Having lived a life of asceticism, he attained such perfection, that he would receive food by means of a raven, and he was made worthy by God of many gifts, so that even against his will he was made a Hierarch. Being granted divine zeal in his soul, he journeyed everywhere in the manner of the apostles, preaching the word of the gospel, and working numerous miracles.

Arriving in the town of Lychnidos on the shores of the Lake Ochrid, there he resurrected a dead child, and the father of the child, whose name was Anastasios, he baptized along with many others. Also, the idols he found there he destroyed, and over the course of seven days he taught the people, leading them to the light of the knowledge of God.

At that time Maximian was in Hermopolis in the region of Illyria, and a certain one went to him revealing that a man from Antioch was destroying their gods, and was preaching that Jesus the crucified was God. The emperor therefore sent men to have him brought before him. When the Saint stood before him, the emperor asked: "Who are you and which god do you worship?" Because the Saint remained silent, the tyrant became enraged, and he ordered for him to be struck in the face. The Saint asked to find out the cause for which he was struck, and the tyrant responded: "Because you do not worship the gods." The Martyr responded: "And which gods do you want me to worship? I worship and adore my Lord Jesus Christ?"

When he said "which gods do you want me to worship?" the emperor rejoiced in his words, so he took him out to the Temple of Zeus. The Saint prayed to God, and said to the emperor: "Which god do you want me to worship?" The emperor showed him the idol of Zeus, which was made of bronze and twelve feet in height by six feet in width. The Saint looked at it with fierce eyes, and - O the miracle! - it immediately fell and was shattered in pieces. Out of the idol came forth a fearsome dragon which slaughtered a large amount of people. The emperor himself returned to his palace with haste. Meanwhile the people were terrified of the dragon, therefore they fell at the feet of the Martyr, and they believed in Christ, so that twenty thousand people were baptized by the Saint.

After the Saint killed the dragon, he was arrested by soldiers together with all the people he had baptized, and they stood before the emperor. The twenty thousand people that were baptized he had beheaded, but the Saint was delivered over to be tortured. They had him dressed in an outfit made of bronze that was heated in fire, but by the grace of God the fire became as cool as a crystal. Then the Saint was imprisoned, but the Archangel Michael appeared to him and freed him from prison, just as the Foremost Apostle Peter was freed from prison under Herod.

When the Saint was freed by the Archangel, he went to a city of Campania called Formia, in order to preach there the word of the gospel, and turn many people to God, which he accomplished.* Lastly the athlete of Christ and Equal to the Apostles went to Hermelia in Ochrid, where he settled in a cave.

Before his death, he bowed down three times toward the east and with uplifted arms prayed to God that He forgive the sins and grant eternal life to all those who, with faith, would invoke His name. At the completion of his prayer a voice from heaven was heard: "So let it be as you prayed, and even more so, My servant Erasmus." Completely joyful, the Saint gazed up at the heavens once more and saw a very bright crown as it was descending upon him and saw the choirs of Angels, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs and the righteous of all orders who came toward him to receive his holy soul. Wherefore he cried out: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit," and he ascended with joy into heaven.**


*  In western traditions Saint Erasmus is also known as Saint Elmo, and he is said to have been a Bishop of Formia. It seems like the Bishop of Formia and the Bishop from Antioch are two different individuals and the traditions surrounding them have become somewhat confused.

Pope Gregory the Great recorded in the 6th century that the relics of Erasmus were preserved in the cathedral of Formia. When the old Formiae was razed by the Saracens in 842, the veneration of Erasmus was moved to Gaeta. He is currently the patron of Gaeta, Santeramo in Colle and Formia.

** The cave with a small church dedicated to Saint Erasmus, exists today not far from Ochrid and, from it, even today the great power of the chosen one of God, Erasmus the Hieromartyr, is manifested.

Saint Erasmus may have become the patron of sailors because he is said to have continued preaching even after a thunderbolt struck the ground beside him. This prompted sailors, who were in danger from sudden storms and lightning, to claim his prayers. The electrical discharges at the mastheads of ships were read as a sign of his protection and came to be called "Saint Elmo's Fire".