April 21, 2018

Life of the Holy Hieromartyr Januarius, Bishop of Benevento, and his Companions

On the twenty-first of April, we commemorate the Holy Hieromartyr Januarius the Bishop of Benevento and his companions: Proculus, Sosius and Festus the Deacons, Desiderius the Reader, Acutius and Eutychius the Laymen.


To Januarius.
Januarius was a noble man,
In the month of April he was beheaded.

To Proculus, Sosius and Festus.
Proculus together with Sosius and Festus,
Bent forward for beheading while the sword was in its sheath.

To Desiderius.
The neck of Desiderius was bound to the sword,
He submitted to beheading and stands before the Lord.

To Acutius and Eutychius.
The voice of Acutius was heard,
Saying "Eutychius my fellow in beheading."

On the twenty-first Januarius was beheaded.

In the time of Diocletian, emperor, and in the fifth consulate of Constantine [Constantius], and seventh [probably "fifth"] of Maximian, there was a great persecution of the Christians. At that time Diocletian appointed Timothy, a pagan, governor in the province of Campania and ordered him to offer sacrifices to idols and to compel all who believed in Christ to do the same. It happened as he was making the customary round of cities, he came to the city of Nola. There he ordered the officials to present themselves before him and when they were present he began to inquire from them concerning the judgments of his predecessors.

To him the officials related their deeds and among them, when they reached the affairs of the blessed martyrs Sosius, deacon of the church at Miseno and Proculus, deacon of the church at Pozzuoli, and Eutychius and Acutius, and how they had been tormented by various tortures and had been recast into prison by the order of the judge, he asked the officials what had been done with them. They replied saying that they for a long time were detained in chains and they uttered in addition evil remarks concerning the Blessed Januarius, bishop of Benevento.

This most unjust Timothy having heard these remarks regarding Januarius, ordered him to be brought before him and when he was presented before his tribunal at Nola, Timothy the judge said to him: "Januarius, having heard of the reputation of your family I exhort you to sacrifice to the gods in obedience to the decrees of the invincible rulers. But if you are unwilling I shall subject you to horrible torments which the God whom you worship when he shall see them he himself shall fear."

St. Januarius however replied: "Be silent, O unhappy man, and do not insult in my hearing Him who created heaven and earth, lest the Lord God may hear such a blasphemy as that which proceeds from you mouth and he may destroy you and you shall be mute and deaf, not hearing and like a blind man not seeing."

Having heard these things the tyrant Timothy says to the saint: "Is it in your power that by any enchantments whatever you or your god can prevail against me?"

St. Januarius replies: "My power is nothing but there is a God in heaven who can resist you and all who obey and abet you." And when he had said this the tyrant ordered him back to prison.

Being very angry he ordered a furnace to be heated for three days and the saint to be cast into it. The holy man made the sign of the cross on his forehead, looked up to heaven sighing and extending his hands, and having entered the fiery furnace he was praising God, saying: "O Lord Jesus Christ for the sake of thy holy name I embrace willingly this suffering and I expect every promise which thou hast promised to those who love Thee. Hear me praying to Thee and deliver me from this flame, thou who wert present with the three children, Ananias, Azarias, Misael in the fiery furnace, and be with me in this my trial to deliver me from the hands of the enemy." Saying these things, Blessed Januarius began to walk with holy angels in the midst of the fire praising the Father and Son and Holy Ghost.

When the soldiers who were around the furnace heard St. Januarius in its depth praising God they feared with a great fear and ran in great haste and told the judge saying, "We beseech thee, sir, not to be angry with us but we have heard the voice of Januarius in the furnace invoking his Lord, and being greatly terrified we fled." Timothy hearing this ordered the furnace to be opened and when it was opened the flames shot out and devoured some incredulous pagans who were around about it. But St. Januarius appeared in the midst glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ so that the fire could not touch either his clothes or his hair.

Timothy however when he had heard this ordered him before him and said to him: "Of what avail is it that the magic you exercise is powerful? By various torments I will make you perish." Bl. Januarius replied: "It will not be well for thee, thou cruel tyrant, to alienate the servant of Christ from the truth of Christ or to cause me to obey through fear. I will hope in the Lord. I will not fear no matter what men may do to me," and thus replying the judge ordered him led back to prison.

On another day early in the morning Timothy had Januarius before him: "How long, unhappy man, will you refuse to sacrifice to the immortal gods? Approach now and offer incense. If not I shall order you to be beheaded and if he can, let your God free you from my hands." The saint replied: "You do not know that the power of God is great. Would that you would repent so that my God might pardon you whom you say to be unable to free me from your hands! When you speak thus you are heaping up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath."

The judge not liking this speech ordered his shackels [-nervi-] to be removed. Januarius prayed God saying: "O Lord Jesus Christ who hast not abandoned me from my mother's womb now hear thy servant crying to thee and command me to depart this world and obtain thy mercy." The judge thinking how he would kill him sent him back to prison.

While guarded by soldiers in hard captivity, two of his clergy, the deacon Festus and the reader Desiderius, learned of their bishop's captivity and being moved by the Holy Ghost they immediately set out from Beneventum and came to Nola, and there weeping they cried: "Why is such a man in custody? What crimes did he commit? When did he fail to aid those in trouble? What sick man was visted by him without regaining health? Who approached him weeping and went away not rejoicing?"

Their words were reported to Timothy who ordered them at once to be detained and along with Januarius to be brought before him, whereupon he asked Januarius who were these two and the saint replied: "One is my deacon and the other is my reader." "Do they proclaim themselves Christians?" "Certainly, for if you ask them, I hope in my Lord Jesus Christ that they will not deny themselves to be Christians," and being asked, they said: "We are Christians and we are prepared to die for the love of God."

Then Timothy filled with anger ordered Januarius the bishop, along with Festus the deacon and Desiderius the reader, to be bound in chains and to be dragged before his chariot to the city of Pozzuoli, determining that there along with Sosius, Proculus, Eutychius and Acutius, they should be delivered up to wild beasts. When they were come to Pozzuoli, they were kept in prison until the arena was prepared. On the day appointed they were led into the amphitheatre and Timothy coming ordered the wild beasts to be let loose; and when this was done, St. Januarius cried: "O brethren, seize the shield of faith and let us pray to the Lord our Helper in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth." And the mercy of God was so present that to the feet of Januarius like sheep with heads down ran the wild beasts.

The unbelieving judge had the beasts removed and the saints of God taken from the arena and brought before his tribunal, where sitting in state he dictated their sentence: "We order to be beheaded, Januarius bishop, Sosius, Proculus and Festus deacons, Desiderius reader, Eutychius and Acutius, citizens of Pozzuoli, who have professed themselves Christians and have despised the sacrifices of the gods and the commands of the emperor." But Bl. Januarius looking up to heaven said: "Lord Jesus Christ who descended from on high for the redemption of the human race, deliver me and free me from the hand of this enemy and I beg thee my God that you punish Timothy for the things he did against me thy servant and that thou blind his eyes so that he may not see the light of heaven."

When he had finished his prayer darkness fell on his [Timothy's] eyes and suddenly he was made blind. Then prayed Januarius to the Lord, and said: "I give thanks to thee, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hast heard thy servant and destroyed the eyes of the impious Timothy because many souls on account of him have been perverted to the evil spirits."

Then Timothy was suffering with his stricken eyes and the pain was increasing. Repentant he began to cry out and say to the officials: "Go, bring Januarius to me." And they going found him lead along by the executioners on the incline that leads to the Solfatara and bringing him back they set him before the judge and a great multitude of people was attracted by the sight. But Timothy began to cry out with a great cry and to say to Bl. Januarius: "Januarius, servant of the most high God, pray the Lord, thy God, for me blind that I may recover the sight which I have lost."

Then Januarius raising his eyes to heaven prayed: "God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, hear my prayer and restore to Timothy though unworthy his eyes that all the people present may know that thou art God and there is no other but thee; for we may not return evil for evil." And when St. Januarius had finished his prayer his were opened.

The multitude seeing the wonderful things which the Lord wrought by Januarius his martyr, many of the bystanders believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, almost five thousand, and they cried out raising their voices: "Will not the God of such and so great a man be feared? Will he not perhaps take revenge for their sufferings and death and will we not all likewise perish?" Januarius was very beautiful both in body and disposition. Then the impious judge Timothy seeing such a crowd turned toward the Lord was troubled and (lest the servant of the Lord Jesus Christ might be deprived of his crown) fearing the commands of the emperor the judge ordered the soldiers to take him away quickly and to behead him with the holy martyrs.

When they were on their way to martyrdom a certain old and very poor man, hoping favor from Januarius placed himself in his way and fell at his feet and besought him that he might receive some of his clothes. But Januarius said to that old man: "When my body has been buried thou wilt see that I myself will give thee my orarium with which I will have bound my eyes." The mother also of St. Januarius residing at Benevento, three days before her son suffered, saw in a dream that Januarius was flying in the air to heaven and when she was puzzled by the dream and would inquire what it meant, suddenly it was announced to her that her son was imprisoned for the love of God. She however greatly terrified, prostrating herself in prayer before the Lord, gave up her spirit.

In the meantime when the saints had arrived at the place where they were to be beheaded, that is at the Solfatara, St. Januarius kneeling prayed: "O Lord, omnipotent God, into thy hands I commend my spirit" and then rising he took his orarium and bound his eyes and kneeling again he placed his hand on his neck and asked the executioner to strike. The executioner struck with great force and cut off at the same time a finger of the saint's hand and his head. The other saints received likewise their crown.

St. Januarius after his execution appeared to the old man and offered him as he had promised the orarium which had bound his eyes and said: "Behold what I promised you, take it as I promised it," and he took it and hid it in his bosom with great reverence.

The executioners and two other officials seeing the old man, laughingly asked him: "Have you got what he who was beheaded promised?" But he said, "Yes," and showed them the orarium which they recognized and wondered greatly.

On the very same hour at which St. Januarius and the holy martyrs were beheaded the cruel Timothy began to suffer very much and he was exclaiming aloud: "I suffer these pains for having treated Januarius the servant of God so impiously. The angels of God torment [me]." And when he had been long tormented he gave up the ghost.

The Christians of various cities were guarding the bodies of the saints that they might carry them off at night to their own cities and they kept a careful though secret watch; and when night was come and all were sleeping, St. Januarius in the silence of the night appeared to one of those who were prepared to take away his body and said to him: "Brother, when you take away my body know that the finger of my hand is missing. Seek it and place it with my body." And so it was done as the saint himself had admonished. The bodies of the saints lay at the Solfatara where later was founded a church worthy of St. Januarius the martyr.

Here ends the passion of Januarius Martyr.

APPENDIX ONE: Additional paragraph found in some codices.

At night when each group was seeking to carry away the bodies of their own as patrons, the Neapolitans taking the Bl. Januarius as their patron were favored by the Lord, whose body at first indeed they hid at Marcian's farm. Afterwards when peace was restored venerable bishops, together with all the relatives of St. Januarius, and with the clergy taking his body brought it amidst hymns and canticles to Naples and deposited it in the basilica where it now rests. Who through his merits with Jesus Christ ceases not to confer memorable favors down to the present day: his Natal day is celebrated September 19. His fellow-citizens of Miseno took the deacon St. Sosius and placed him in the basilica where he now rests, September 23: and their fellow-citizens of Pozzuoli took the deacon St. Proculus, and St. Eutychius and St. Acutius and deposited them in the villa of Falcidius which is adjoining the basilica of St. Stephen at the junction of the three roads. In the same way their fellow-citizens brought St. Festus and St. Desiderius to Beneventum.

APPENDIX TWO: from the Martyrology of Bede as given by the Bollandists.

Sept. 19, at Naples in Campania the feast of Saints Januarius, bishop of Beneventum with Sosius of Mesenum a deacon and Festus his deacon and Desiderius his lector; who after chains and prison were beheaded at Pozzuoli under Diocletian, emperor and Dracontius, judge. When they were being led to death they saw among others, Proculus of Pozzuoli deacon, and two laymen, Eutychius and Acutius, and these asked why were the just sentenced to be killed, whom when the judge saw they were Christians he ordered them to be beheaded with the others. So all seven equally suffered death. And the Christians took their bodies by night; the Neapolitans placed St. Janaurius in a basilica near the city, and the Misenese, Sosius also in a basilica, and the Puteolani, Proculus and Eutychius and Acutius in the basilica of St. Stephen, and the Beneventians took Festus and Desiderius.

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
Naples has found thee a champion in dangers, O Januarius, glorious Father; thou hast saved her from plague, famine and affliction, and from the fire of Vesuvius. We venerate thee with faith and love,/and honour thy sacred head and blood.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
The Master has granted thee to Naples, O Saint, as a precious treasure and fountain of healings; thou art a guardian and protector of the people, and dost avert the evils of Vesuvius' fire. Hence we cry to thee with faith: Rejoice, O Januarius, our Father and Protector.