February 9, 2018

Holy Virgin Martyr Apollonia of Alexandria

St. Apollonia of Alexandria (Feast Day - October 30 & February 9)

Ecclesiastical historians have claimed that in the last years of Emperor Philip the Arabian (reigned 244–249), during festivities to commemorate the millennium of the founding of Rome (traditionally in 753 BC, putting the date about 248 AD), the fury of the Alexandrian mob rose to a great height, and when one of their poets prophesied a calamity, they committed bloody outrages on the Christians, whom the authorities made no effort to protect.

Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria (247–265), relates the sufferings of his people in a letter addressed to Fabius, Bishop of Antioch, of which long extracts have been preserved in Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History. After describing how a Christian man and woman, Metras and Quinta, were seized and killed by the mob, and how the houses of several other Christians were pillaged, Dionysius continues:

"But they also seized that most admirable virgin Apollonia, then in advanced life, and knocked out all her teeth, and crushed her jaws; and then kindling a fire before the city, they threatened to burn her alive unless she would repeat along with them their expressions of impiety. And although she seemed to deprecate her fate for a little, on being let go, she leaped eagerly into the fire and was consumed."

Thus, Saint Apollonia asked the pagans to let go of her for a moment so that she could pray. As soon as they did, she leaped into the flames of her own free will and was consumed, receiving a double crown of martyrdom and virginity. Because of the nature of her torments, she is sometimes depicted with a golden tooth hanging from a necklace, or holding a tooth in a pair of pincers. She is invoked by those suffering from toothache.

Though Saint Apollonia is commemorated on February 9th in the West, where she is more popular than in the East, where she is not officially recognized on that date, in the year 2000 the Church of Greece decided to officially recognize her sainthood and honors her memory on October 30th. Furthermore, in Greece she was considered the patron saint of dentists until 1967, but in 1967 they officially recognized Saint Antipas of Pergamum as their patron saint.

Apolytikion in Plagal of the First Tone
Enduring the rooting out of your teeth and the crushing of your jaw, revered Apollonia, elect Virgin Martyr, you delivered your divine body to the fire, that you may receive the pleasure of the divine dew in the bridal chamber and the grace to banish the pain and affliction of the teeth.