June 25, 2018

Holy Martyr Febronia of Nisibis

St. Febronia (Feast Day - June 25)


Saint Febronia is reputed to have been a martyr in Nisibis under Diocletian (284-305), and is said to have been the work of a fellow nun of her from her monastery named Thomais. The psychological insight into the friendship between the widowed Hieria and the young nun Febronia would seem point to a woman as the author.

There can be little doubt that the work was composed in Nisibis, which is in the Mardin Province of Turkey, bordering Syria. Her veneration appears to have become popular only in the late sixth century and later. In the verse Life of the East Syrian monk Rabban bar 'idta, we are told that in 563 his sister "built a nunnery in the name of the martyred woman Febronia who had been martyred in the days of Diocletian;" this convent was not in Nisibis itself but across the Tigris in Marga. In the seventh century the veneration reached Constantinople, where it be­came associated with that of Saint Artemios, and it is probably of significance that the emperor Heraclius (610-41) had a daughter (by his second wife Martina) named Febronia. Saint Febronia also had an oratory in the sanctuary of the famous Church of Saint John the Baptist in the Oxeia Quarter of Constantinople. It would seem plausible to suggest that the veneration and the Greek translation of her Life reached Constantinople at much the same time. Once in Greek, her Life served as a source for several later passions. From the capital her veneration spread to Italy (by way of Naples) and France.

At Nisibis itself the existence of both the Convent and the Church of Saint Febronia (both mentioned in the Life) is attested by the Life of Saint Simeon of the Olives, Syrian Orthodox bishop of Harran (d. 734); the mention in this Life of "the old ruins of Saint Febronia who had been martyred in Nisibis" implies that the church had been built a considerable time previously. Saint Simeon is also said to have revived the convent of Saint Febronia and pro­vided it with new rules.

Life of Saint Febronia

In the days of the emperor Diocletian there was an eparch Anthimos who, as he fell ill and was about to die, summoned his brother Selenos and said, "My brother, I am on the point of leaving human affairs; I entrust into your hands my son Lysima­chos. We have arranged his betrothal to the daughter of the senator Prosphoros: let it be your concern, once I am dead, to arrange the marriage feast; act as their father."

Three days after he had given these instructions the eparch died. Now the emperor summoned together the young Lysima­chos, Anthimos' son, and Selenos his uncle. He addressed the young man as follows, "My young man, mindful of the friend­ship of your father Anthimos, I had decided following his death to appoint you to his office; nevertheless, because I have heard that you take pleasure in the superstition of the Christians, I have for the moment given up the idea of raising you to the seat of office of eparch. Instead I first want to send you to the Orient to silence the superstition of the Christians; then, on your return here, I will raise you to this exalted seat of office and you shall be eparch." When Lysimachos heard this, he did not dare say a word in reply to the emperor. He was, after all, only a young man of some twenty years old. But his uncle Selenos fell down at the emperor's feet and implored him, "I beg your majesty, grant us just a few days respite so that we can arrange the wedding feast for the young man; in this way I too will set out with him and we will carry out whatever the wisdom of your majesty bids." "First of all go the Orient," replied the emperor, "and get rid of the superstition of the Christians. Once you have returned here I will eagerly join you in celebrating Lysimachos' marriage feast."

When they heard these words from the emperor, they did not dare to say anything further. Straightaway they took the imperial instructions and set off for the Orient with a large force of sol­diers. Lysimachos took with him Primus the comes, his cousin, appointing him commander of the force of soldiers.

On reaching Mesopotamia Selenos committed to fire and sword all whom they found confessing that they were Chris­tians, giving orders that their bodies be thrown to the dogs.

The entire Orient was seized by fear and terror at the cruelty of the merciless Selenos.

One night Lysimachos called for Primus the comes and said to him, "My lord Primus, you know that although my father died a pagan, my mother died a Christian, and she was very eager that I too should become a Christian. Nevertheless I was not able to carry this out for fear of my father and the emperor. But I received from her the command that I should not do harm to any Christian, but rather that I should be a friend to Christ. And now here I am seeing Christians falling into the hands of this cruel Selenos and being put to death without mercy; my soul suffers greatly for them. Accordingly I want any Christians who are found to be sent off secretly before they fall into the hands of the merciless Selenos."

When Primus heard this, he stopped giving orders for the ar­rest of Christians; instead he sent messages to the monasteries telling them to take refuge and escape from the clutch of the cruel Selenos.

In the course of their traveling around these regions they wanted to enter Nisibis, a town on the border with the Persian Empire, which was under Roman control. In this town there was a convent of women containing fifty nuns under the direction of the deaconess Bryene. Bryene was a disciple of Platonia, who had also been a deaconess before her, and she kept the traditions and rule handed down to her by Platonia right up to the end. It had been Platonia's practice not to let the sisters do any work at all on Fridays; instead they used to gather in the place for prayer and celebrate the Office of Matins. Then, from dawn to the third hour (9 A.M.) Platonia used to take a book and read to them. After the Office of the Third Hour she would give the book to Bryene and tell her to read to the sisters until vespers. When Bryene took over as head of the convent, she continued this prac­tice. She had two young women who had been brought up by her and who were well instructed in the monastic life; one was called Prokla, the other Febronia. Prokla was twenty-five years old, and Febronia twenty.

Febronia was the daughter of Bryene's brother, and she was of extremely handsome appearance: her face and features were so beautiful that the eye could never be sated by gazing upon her. Her great beauty meant that Bryene had a hard task looking after the girl, and for this reason she ordered Febronia to take food only once every other day, whereas all the other sisters would eat each evening. Febronia, on seeing herself restricted to such a re­gime, did not even satisfy her appetite with bread and water.

She had a stool on which she would rest when the time to sleep came; it measured three and a half cubits by one. Sometimes she would throw herself down on the ground, neglecting her body in order to subdue it. When she happened to be tempted by the devil by hallucinations at night, she would get up straightaway and beseech God, amid abundant tears, to remove the tempter Satan from her; then she would open the Bible and lovingly medi­tate on its living and spiritual words. She also had a great love of learning, so that many people, including the abbess, were as­tonished at the extent of her knowledge.

On Fridays, when all the sisters were gathered in the place of prayer, Bryene used to tell Febronia to read the divine words to them. Because, however, young married women used to come to the place of prayer on Sundays and Fridays to hear the word of God, Bryene instructed Febronia to sit behind a curtain and read from there.

She never saw any worldly finery and did not know what a man's face looked like. But she was the subject of much talk throughout the entire town-people spoke of her learning, beauty, humility, and gentleness. When Hieria, who had been married to a senator, heard all this, she was fired by divine love and became very eager to see Febronia. Now Hieria had not yet come to baptism, but she was still a pagan, and when she had only lived seven months with her husband, he died, leaving her a widow; for this reason she returned to her own town to her par­ents, who were also still pagans.

Accordingly Hieria came to the convent and through the door­keeper notified Bryene of her presence. When Bryene came out to her, Hieria fell down at her feet and did obeisance to her, grasping her feet and saying, "I adjure you by the God who made heaven and earth, do not repulse me, seeing that I am still a foul pagan and a plaything of the demons; do not deprive me of the chance to talk to and learn from the lady Febronia. Through you nuns I will learn the path of salvation and as I travel upon it I will discover what is in store for the Christians. Save me from the emptiness of this world and from the unclean worship of idols. You see, my parents are forcing me to marry again: the torment of the former error in which I have been living is quite sufficient for me to have to cope with: please let me acquire new life through the teaching and conversation of my sister Febronia."

As Hieria spoke she drenched Bryene's feet with her tears. Much affected and moved by this, Bryene said, "My lady Hieria, God knows that ever since I first received Febronia into my hands at the age of two-and it is now eighteen years that she has been in the convent-she has not seen the face of a single man or any worldly finery and clothing. Not even her governess saw her face from that moment onward, even though she often besought me, sometimes even bursting into tears, to allow her a glimpse. For I do not allow Febronia to have any association with laywomen. Nevertheless, in view of the love you have toward God and to­ward her, I will bring you in to her. But you must wear nun's clothing."

When Bryene introduced Hieria under this guise to Febronia, the latter, on seeing the monastic habit, fell down before her feet, supposing that she was a nun from somewhere else who had come to her. After they had greeted one another and sat down, Bryene told Febronia to take the Bible and read to Hieria. As Febronia read, Hieria's soul was so filled with sorrow and com­punction as a result of the sight of Febronia and of the teaching that she heard that the two of them spent the whole night with­out any sleep: Febronia did not cease or tire from reading, and Hieria never had enough as she listened to her teaching, in tears while she groaned and sighed.

When morning came, Bryene could scarcely persuade Hieria to come down and return to her parents' home. When they had bidden farewell to one another, Hieria departed, her eyes brim­ming with tears.

She went home and urged her parents to abandon the empty tradition of idolatry that they had received from their own par­ents, and instead recognize God, the Creator of all.

Afterward Febronia asked Thomais, who was next in authority to the abbess, "I beg of you, mother, tell me who is this stranger sister who was so given to tears as though she had never before heard God's Book?"

"Don't you know who this sister is?" replied Thomais.

"How could I recognize her, seeing that she is a stranger?" said Febronia.

"She is Hieria, the wife of a senator," said Thomais, "who has just come to live here."

"Why did you deceive me, and not tell me," said Febronia. "I addressed her as though she were a sister."

"These were the instructions of the abbess," replied Thomais.

Now it so happened that at that time Febronia fell gravely ill and lay on her pallet at the point of death. When Hieria heard the news, she came along and did not leave Febronia's side until she had recovered from her illness.

It was during this time that news reached the town that Se­lenos and Lysimachos were about to arrive and they would com­pel the Christians to sacrifice to idols. Accordingly all the Chris­tians in the town, clergy and monks, left their homes and fled. Even the bishop of the town hid out of fear. When the sisters in the convent learnt of this, they assembled before the deaconess and asked, "What should we do, mother? Those cruel men have come here as well, and everyone has taken to flight at their threats." Bryene said, "What do you want me to do for you?" To this they replied, "Tell us to go into hiding for a short period, in order to save our lives."

"Are you already thinking of flight before you have seen the battle?" asked Bryene. "You have not entered the contest; are you already defeated? No, my daughters, no, I beg you, let us rather stand up and resist; let us die for the sake of Him who died for us in order that we may live with Him."

On hearing these words the sisters fell silent. The following day one of them, whose name was Etheria,22 said to them, "I know that it is because of Febronia that the lady abbess will not let us leave. Does she want us all to perish just because of her? I have a suggestion: let us go in to her and I will speak on your behalf, saying whatever is appropriate. "

Hearing this, some of the sisters agreed to Etheria's proposi­tion, while others found fault with it. A big argument ensued between them, and finally all of them went together to the dea­coness to see what advice she would give them. Bryene, aware of Etheria's suggestion, looked straight at her and asked, "What is it you want, my sister Etheria?" "I want you to bid us to go into hiding to escape from this wrath that has come upon us," she re­plied; "We are not any better than the clergy or the bishop. You should keep in mind the fact that there are some quite young girls among us; you do not want them to be carried off by the Roman soldiers to have their bodies violated, thus losing the re­ward of their ascetic life. Or there is a danger that we might deny Christ, unable to endure the pain of torture; in that case we would become a laughing stock for the demons and we would lose our own souls. If, however, you give us the word to save our lives, we will take with us Febronia as well, and we will take to flight."

When Febronia heard these words, she exclaimed, "As Christ lives-the Christ to whom I have been betrothed and to whom I have offered up myself-I will not resort to flight; but let what­ ever God wills take place." Bryene said, "Etheria, you know what you have earned; I forgive you for this." Then she turned to the other sisters: "Each of you knows what is best for herself; choose what you want."

Once they had prayed and said farewell to Bryene and Feb­ronia, they all left the convent out of fear, beating their breasts in great sorrow and tears.

Prokla, who had been brought up with Febronia, fell on her neck, sobbing as she said, "Farewell, Febronia, pray for me." Febronia took her by her hands and would not let her leave. "Fear God, Prokla," she said; "do you at least not leave me; don't you see that I am still unwell. What happens if I should die? Our lady abbess could not carry me to the grave alone. Stay with us, so that if it so happens that I die, you can help carry me to the grave."

"You have given your command, my sister: I will not abandon you," said Prokla.

"Now you have promised before God not to leave me." When it was evening, Prokla left and disappeared.

On seeing the convent thus stripped of sisters, Bryene went into the place of prayer and threw herself down on the ground, groaning in grief. Thomais, next to her in authority, sat with her, trying to console her: "Stop crying, mother; God is able to effect a way out of affliction and temptation; he will enable us to bear up. Who has had faith in God and then regretted it? Who has persevered in serving him and then found himself abandoned?"

"Yes, my lady Thomais," said Bryene, "I know that it is just as you say. But what am I to do with Febronia? Where can I hide her to keep her safe? How could I ever bring myself to look upon her if she was taken captive by barbarians?"

Thomais replied, "Have you forgotten what I told you? He who can even raise people from the dead can certainly strengthen Febronia and save her. Just stop crying and let us go to cheer Feb­ronia up; she is still lying there unwell. "

The moment she reached the raised platform on which Feb­ronia was reclining, Bryene wept out loud bitterly. Overcome with sobbing, she bent down her face. Seeing her thus, Febronia asked Thomais, "I pray you, mother, what is the reason for the lady abbess' tears? A little while ago, too, when she was in the place of prayer I heard the sound of her groans."

Thomais, herself in tears, replied, "My daughter Febronia, it is for your sake that the lady abbess is groaning and weeping, because of all the terrible things that are going to come upon us at the hands of these tyrants. It is because you are young and beautiful that she is tormented and full of grief."

Febronia said, "I beg of you both, just pray for your maidser­vant, for God is able to look to my low estate and strengthen me; he will grant me endurance, just as he does to all his servants who love him."

Thomais said, "My daughter Febronia, the hour of battle is at hand; if we are arrested by the soldiers, the tyrants will quickly put us two to death as we are both old women; but they will grab you, seeing that you are young and beautiful, and they will upset you with their advances and words of seducement. Don't listen to them. And if they try to win you over by promising gold and silver, make sure you don't pay any attention, my daughter; otherwise you will lose the reward for all your past life; you will become a laughingstock for the demons and an object of mock­ery to the pagans. For nothing is more honorable and choice be­fore God than virginity: great is the reward that it will receive. Virginity's Bridegroom is immortal and he grants immortality to those who love him. Show yourself eager, Febronia, to see him to whom you have betrothed your soul. Don't let him down or play false with his pledge to you and your covenant  with him. Full of awe is that day when a person is rewarded in accordance with his works."

As she listened to these words, Febronia plucked up courage and valiantly prepared herself against the forces of the devil. "You do well, my lady," she replied to Thomais, "by encourag­ing your handmaid; my soul has greatly taken on strength at your words. Had I wished to escape from this battle, I too would have departed with the other sisters and taken to hiding; but be­cause I am in love with him to whom I have offered my soul, I am eager to come to him, if he holds me worthy to suffer and endure the fight that is for his sake."

Hearing this, Bryene too added some words of precaution, saying to Febronia,24 "Remember how you followed my instruc­tion, remember that you too taught others; remember that when you were two years old I received you from your nurse into my hands: up to the present moment no man has set eyes upon your face, and I have not allowed laywomen to talk to you. Up to this very day have I preserved you, my daughter, as you yourself are very much aware. But now, my daughter, what can I do with you? Do not disgrace Bryene's old age, do not do anything that will render profitless the work of your spiritual mother. Remem­ber the wrestlers who went before you, who underwent a glorious martyrdom, receiving a crown of victory from the heavenly ringmaster of the fight. These people were not just men, but they include women and children as well; remember the glorious mar­tyrdoms of Lewbe and Leonida:25 Lewbe was crowned at her death by the sword, Leonida by burning. Remember the girl Eutropia, who, at the age of twelve, was martyred along with her mother for the sake of our Lord's name. Weren't you always amazed and filled with wonder at Eutropia's submissiveness and endurance? When the judge gave orders that arrows be shot in her direction in order to make her run away frightened by the arrows, she heard her mother call out, 'Don't run away, Eutropia my daughter,' and clasping her hands behind her back she did not run away; instead she was hit by an arrow and fell down dead on the ground. She showed complete obedience to her mother's command. Was it not her perseverance and obedience that you always admired? She was just an unschooled girl, whereas you have actually been teaching others."

So the night passed as they spoke thus, and much more, to her.

The next morning when the sun had risen there was an up­roar with shouting emanating from the inhabitants of the town: Selenos and Lysimachos had taken control of the city and the soldiers had seized a large number of Christians, throwing them into prison. Some of the pagans came forward and informed Selenos about the convent. He at once dispatched some soldiers to it and they broke down the door with hatchets. Entering the convent they seized Bryene, and some of the soldiers drew their swords, wanting to kill her straightaway; but Febronia, on seeing the danger, got up from the pallet and threw herself at the soldiers' feet, crying out at the top of her voice, "I adjure you by the God of heaven, kill me first so that I do not behold my mis­tress' death."

When the comes Primus arrived and saw what the soldiers had done, he angrily ordered them out of the convent. He then ad­dressed Bryene, "Where are the women who live here?" Bryene replied, "They have all left out of fear for you."

Primus said, "I only wish you too had escaped! There is still a possibility even now; go off and save yourselves wherever you like."

Therewith he removed the force of Roman soldiers and left the convent, not even stationing a guard there.

On arrival at the praetorian he went in to Lysimachos who asked him, "Was it true what we learnt about that convent?"

"What we heard was true," replied Primus, who then took him aside and added, "All the women living in the convent have fled, and we only found left there two old women and one young one. I am filled with wonder when I tell you what I saw in that convent: I beheld a young woman the like of whom I have never set eyes upon; no, I have never seen such beauty and shapeliness in any other woman. The gods know that when I saw her lying on a raised pallet, my mind was stunned. Had she not been poor and wretched she would have made a suitable wife for you, my lord."

Lysimachos replied, "If I am under orders not to shed Chris­tian blood, but instead to be a friend of Christ, how can I harm any who belong to Christ? No, certainly not. But I beg of you, Primus, remove the women from the convent and act as their protector, lest they fall into the hands of my merciless uncle Selenos."

Now one of these wicked soldiers ran off to Selenos and told him, "We have found an extremely pretty young woman in the convent, and the comes Primus is talking about her to Lysimachos as a suitable wife for him."

On hearing this, Selenos was filled with wrath and anger. He sent some men to guard the convent in order to prevent the women escaping, and then he sent out heralds to proclaim throughout the town that "tomorrow there is to be a public gath­ering," in other words, Febronia was to be judged publicly in the theater.

When the inhabitants of the town and those who lived around about heard this, they all came thronging, both men and women, to watch the spectacle of Febronia's "contest."

The following day the soldiers turned up at the convent and seized Febronia from the pallet on which she was lying. They se­cured her firmly in irons, put a heavy iron collar round her neck, and then dragged her out of the convent.

Bryene and Thomais clung to Febronia, and besought the sol­diers with tears and groans to allow them just a little time so that they could speak to Febronia. They acceded to their supplication and gave them some time. After this the women asked the soldiers to take them off to the "contest" as well, so that Febronia should not be left all by herself; otherwise, if she were left all alone, she might get frightened. But the soldiers replied, "We have not been instructed to bring you as well before the judge's tribunal, only Febronia on her own."

Then the two women began to encourage Febronia and to give her precautions; Bryene said, "My daughter Febronia, you are going off to the 'contest.' Remember that the heavenly Bride­groom is watching this contest of yours, and the hosts of angels are standing there before him carrying the crown of victory, as they wait for your end. See that you are not frightened by the tortures-that would give pleasure to the devil. Do not pity your body when it is collapsing under blows, for this body, whether it likes it or not, will shortly disintegrate and become dust in the tomb. I will stay in the convent in mourning, as I await the ar­rival of news about you, whether for good or for bad: I beg you, my daughter, let it be good news I hear of you. Let someone tell me, 'Febronia has yielded up her soul in the tortures'; let some­one announce to me that 'Febronia has met her end and is reck­oned amongst the martyrs of Christ.'"

Febronia said, "I have faith in God, mother; just as in the past I have never transgressed your commandments, so now I will not do so or be neglectful of your admonitions. Rather, let the peoples see and be astounded, let them congratulate the aged Bryene and say, 'Truly this is a plant belonging to Bryene.' In a woman's body I will manifest a man's valiant conviction. Let me go off now."

Thomais said, "As the Lord lives, my daughter Febronia, I will put on a laywoman's dress and come to see your contest."

As the soldiers were in a hurry to get going, Febronia said to them, "I beg you, mothers, send me on my way with blessings and pray for me. Let me go now."

Bryene then stretched out her hands toward heaven and said in a loud voice, "Lord Jesus Christ, who appeared to your servant Thekla in the guise of Paul, turn toward this poor girl at the time of her contest."

With these words she embraced Febronia and kissed her. She then sent her on her way, and the soldiers took her off. Bryene returned to the convent, threw herself down on the ground in the place of prayer, and groaned deeply as she supplicated God in her tears on behalf of Febronia.

Thomais put on laywoman's clothing and went out to watch the spectacle of the contest, as did all those lay women who used to come to the convent on Fridays to listen to the Scriptures. As they ran toward the place where the spectacle was to take place they were weeping and beating their breasts, mourning at the loss of their teacher.

When Hieria, the senator's wife, learnt that the nun Febronia was to be tried before the judge's tribunal, she got up and gave a loud wail. Her parents and everyone in the house asked her in amazement what was the matter. "My sister Febronia has gone to the court house," she replied. "My teacher is on trial for being a Christian." Her parents tried hard to get her to calm down, but she lamented and wept all the more. "Leave me alone to weep bitterly for my sister and teacher Febronia," she begged them.

Her words so affected her parents that they started mourning for Febronia. Having asked them to allow her to go and see the con­test, she set off with a number of servants and handmaids. As she came running in tears to the spectacle, she met on the road throngs of women also running and lamenting. She also came across Thomais, and having recognized one another, they came together, lamenting and weeping, to the site of the spectacle.

When a huge crowd had gathered there, along came the judges. When Selenos and Lysimachos had taken their seat on the tribunal, they gave orders that Febronia be fetched. They brought her in, with her hands tied and the heavy iron collar around her neck. When the crowds saw her, they were all re­duced to tears and groans. As she stood there in the middle, Selenos gave orders that the clamor cease. As a great hush fell, Selenos said to Lysimachos, "Put the questions and take down the replies."

Lysimachos addressed her, "Tell me, young girl, what are you, slave or freeborn?"

Febronia replied, "Slave."

"Whose slave are you, then?" asked Lysimachos.

"Christ's," said Febronia.

"What is your name?" asked Lysimachos.

"The poor Christian woman," replied Febronia.

"It is your name I want to know," said Lysimachos.

"I have already told you," replied Febronia, "the poor Chris­tian woman. But if you want to know my name, then I am called Febronia by my mistress."

At that point Selenos told Lysimachos to stop asking the questions, and he himself began to interrogate Febronia: "The gods know very well that I had not wanted to give you the chance of being questioned; nevertheless your gentle and meek disposi­tion and your beautiful looks have overcome the force of my anger against you. I am not going to question you as though you were guilty, but instead I will urge you as though you were my own beloved daughter. So listen to me, my daughter. The gods are aware that I and my brother Anthimos have arranged the be­trothal of a wife for Lysimachos, involving the transfer of a great deal of money and property. Today, however, I will annul the be­trothal documents we made with the daughter of Prosphoros, and we will make a firm agreement with you, and you shall be wife to Lysimachos whom you can see sitting here now at my right. He is very handsome, just as you are. So listen to my ad­vice as though I were your father; I will make you glorious upon earth. Have no fears on the grounds that you are poor: I have no wife alive or any children, and I will make over to you all that I possess; I will make you mistress of everything I have, and you shall have all this written down in your dowry. You shall recog­nize the lord Lysimachos as your husband and I shall take on the role of your father. You shall be the object of praise through­out the world, and all women will count you happy for having attained to such honor. Our victorious emperor will also be pleased and he will shower the pair of you with presents. For he has given his promise to raise my lord Lysimachos to the exalted throne of the glorious eparch, and he will take on that office.

Now that you have heard all this, give a reply to me, your father, which will please the gods and give joy to myself. If, however, you resist my wishes and do not listen to my words, the gods know very well that you will not stay alive in my hands for an­other three hours. So reply as you wish."

Febronia began, "O judge, I have a marriage chamber in heaven, not made with hands, and a wedding feast that will never come to an end has been prepared for me. I have as my dowry the entire kingdom of heaven, and my Bridegroom is immortal, in­corruptible, and unchangeable. I shall enjoy him in eternal life. I will not even entertain the idea of living with a mortal husband who is subject to corruption. Do not waste your time, sir; you will not achieve anything by coaxing me, nor will you frighten me by threats."

On hearing these words, the judge became exceedingly angry. He ordered the soldiers to tear off her clothes, tie her up with rags, and let her stand there undressed, an object of shame in front of everyone. "Let her see herself naked like this and lament her own folly, now that she has fallen from honor and respect to shame and ignominy."

The soldiers quickly tore off her clothes, tied her up with rags, and made her stand undressed in front of everyone.

Selenos asked her, "What have you got to say, Febronia? Do you see what a good opportunity you have lost, and to what ig­nominy you have been reduced?"

"Listen, judge," Febronia replied, "even if you should have me stripped completely naked, I would not think anything of this nakedness, for there is but one Creator of males and of females.

In fact I am not just expecting to be stripped naked from my clothes, but I am prepared for the tortures of fire and sword, should I be considered worthy to suffer for him who suffered on my behalf."

"You impudent woman," exclaimed Selenos, "you deserve every kind of disgrace. I know very well that you are proud of your shapely features, and that is why you do not think it a shame or a disgrace to stand there with your body naked; you even imagine it adds to your splendor."

Febronia replied, "Listen, judge, my Lord God knows that I have never seen a man's face up to this very moment, and just be­cause I have fallen into your hands I am called a shameless and impudent woman! You stupid and imperceptive man, what ath­lete entering the contest to fight at Olympia engages in battle wrapped up in all his clothes? Doesn't he enter the arena naked, until he has conquered his adversary? I am waiting in expectancy for tortures and burning by fire; how could I do battle with these while I have my clothes on? Should I not meet torture with a naked body, until I have vanquished your father Satan, throwing scorn upon all your threats of tortures?"

Selenos said, "Seeing that she is bringing tortures upon her­self, and makes light of the threat of fire, stretch her out between four men and apply fire beneath her; let four soldiers stand over her and lacerate her back with rods."

His orders were carried out and they went on striking her for a long time. Drops of blood ran down from both sides of her back onto the ground like rain. A fire was lit and it burnt her intes­tines. They added oil to the fire so that the flames became hotter and started consuming Febronia's body.

When they had been beating her mercilessly like this for a con­siderable time, all the people begged the judge, saying, "O mer­ciful judge, spare the girl." He paid no attention but instead told them to go on striking her. When he saw that her flesh was all lacerated and was beginning to come off in bloody strips, he told them to stop the beating. Thinking that she was already dead, they threw her off the fire.

When Thomais saw the terrible things that were happening to Febronia, she fainted, collapsing on the ground at Hieria's feet. Hieria herself cried out with a loud voice, "Alas, Febronia, my sister, alas my lady and my teacher. Today we have been deprived of your instruction, and not just yours, but also that of the lady Thomais, for here she is dead as well."

When Febronia heard Hieria's voice as she lay on the ground, she asked the soldiers to bring some water for her face. They brought it at once and applied it to her face. This at once revived her and she asked to see Hieria. The judge, however, told her to stand up and answer his questions.

"What have you got to say, Febronia?" he asked. "How have you fared in the first bout of the fight?"

"You have learnt from this first trial that I cannot be van­quished and that I despise your tortures," replied Febronia.

Selenos gave orders: "Stretch her out on a plank and comb her flanks with iron nails; then apply fire until you burn her very bones."

When the soldiers had done as they were ordered, they began combing her with nails until bloody strips of her flesh fell down onto the ground. Then they applied the fire and burnt her sides. Febronia kept her eyes toward heaven, saying, "Come to my help, Lord. Do not desert me at this hour." Having said this, she fell silent, severely burnt by the fire.

Many of the onlookers left the scene of tortures, shocked by the merciless cruelty of Selenos. Others cried out to the judge, "Let the fire be removed from her." Having ordered the removal of the fire, he wanted to interrogate her as she lay strung on the plank, but when she was unable to answer, he ordered that she be taken down from the plank and tied to another bit of wood, seeing that she could not stand on her feet.

He also called for a doctor and told him, "Since this accursed and foul woman will not reply to the judiciary, let her tongue be cut out."

Febronia put out her tongue and motioned to a man holding a sword to cut it off. The man approached to cut it off, but the crowd cried out, urging the judge with oaths not to have her tongue cut out.

So instead the foul and accursed Selenos gave orders that her teeth be pulled out. The doctor took an iron instrument and started to pull them out, throwing them onto the ground.

When he had extracted seven and a great deal of blood was coming from her mouth, running down to the ground, the judge ordered the doctor to stop the blood, because she was fainting from loss of blood. The doctor applied some medicament and stopped the flow.

The wicked Selenos began questioning her again, "What have you got to say, Febronia? Will you obey the judiciary now? Will you acknowledge the gods?"

Febronia replied, "May you be under a curse, you ill-fated and accursed man, for you are holding up my journey by not letting me go straight to my betrothed. Hurry up and remove me from the mire of this body, for my lover is watching and waiting for me."

Selenos said, "I will destroy your body little by little in the fire and with the sword. I am aware that so far the courage of your youthfulness has helped on your impudence, but you have got nothing to gain by this, for your pride has ensured that much worse things will come upon you."

Febronia was unable to reply because of the severe pain. This merely made the judge Selenos even angrier, and he gave instruc­tions to the doctor, "Let those members of the impudent girl's body that provide milk be cut off and thrown to the ground." The doctor straightaway took a surgeon's knife and approached Febronia.

At this the crowds gave a groan and they supplicated the judge with the words, "My lord judge, we beseech you, let the girl be spared this torture." As they cried out begging him, he said an­grily to the doctor, "Cut them off, you accursed man, stranger to the life that derives from the gods." So the doctor took up the surgeon's knife, and as he was starting to cut off the girl's right breast, she raised her voice heavenward and gasped in agony, say­ing, "Lord my God, look at my dire affliction; may my soul come into your hands." She spoke no more.

When her two breasts had been cut off and thrown to the ground, the judge ordered that fire be applied to the wounds. They applied fire for quite a while and it burnt right into her.

Crowds of people could not endure these cruel and merciless torments and so left the spectacle with the words, "Accursed be Diocletian and his gods."

Thomais and Hieria sent a message to the convent to tell Bryene all that had taken place. When the girl arrived at the convent, she said to Bryene in a loud voice, "The lady Hieria and the lady Thomais say, 'Do not let your hands that are stretched out to heaven rest a second; do not let your heart cease gasping out to God in prayer.'"

On receiving this message, Bryene cried out to God, "Lord Jesus Christ, come to the aid of your maidservant Febronia." She threw herself down onto the ground in prayer for a long time, weeping and saying, "My daughter, my daughter Febronia, where are you?"

The girl returned to the spectacle, whereas Bryene kept groan­ing out. with her hands stretched heavenward, "Lord. look upon the dire state of your servant Febronia; come to her help. May my eyes see that Febronia has been crowned and numbered with the blessed martyrs."

The judge next ordered that Febronia be untied from the plank. When she was untied, she collapsed on the ground, unable to stand. Primus then said to Lysimachos, "Why should this young woman perish?" Lysimachos replied, "Let it be, Pri­mus, her labors are for the forgiveness of many-maybe for my own forgiveness. For I used to hear many such things from my mother. In any case it is not in my power to have her released and rescued. Let her gain her victory, for she has entered this contest for the salvation of many."

Hieria got up and shouted at the judge, "You are an enemy to the equilibrium of human nature: are you not satisfied with the terrible things you have already brought upon this wretched girl? Are you not reminded of your own mother, who had the same body and wore the same sort of clothes as her? Are you not mindful of the ill-fated day when you were born, how you too received nourishment at those breasts flowing with milk? I am amazed that your savage and merciless heart has not been touched by such things. May the heavenly King not spare you. just as you have not spared this poor girl. "

The judge was enraged by Hieria's words and gave orders that she too be brought down to be tried. On hearing this, Hieria hurriedly came down, full of happiness, saying, "O God of Febronia, receive me too, a poor pagan, along with my lady Febronia. "

As she was making her way down, Selenos' friends advised him not to bring her down in public, otherwise the entire city would join her in martyrdom and the city would be lost. Selenos accepted the advice, and so did not make Hieria stand there in public; instead, flaring up in a rage, he simply addressed her: "Listen, Hieria, as the gods live, you have become the cause of many further sufferings for Febronia." Whereupon he ordered both Febronia's hands and her right foot to be cut off. The execu­tioner immediately brought along a block, placed it under her right hand and struck it off with a single blow of the axe. He did the same with her left hand. Then the executioner placed the block under her right foot and brought down the axe, but failed to sever the foot; he struck a second time but failed again. The crowd in the meantime uttered gasps and groans. When he struck her the third time with the axe, he only just managed to sever Febronia's foot. The blessed woman's body was quivering all over, and she was on the point of expiring; nevertheless, she tried to put her other leg on the wooden block, asking for it to be cut off as well. When the judge saw what she was doing, he ex­claimed, "Just look at the perseverance of the impudent woman," and in a great fury he said to the executioner, "Go on, cut it off."

When her other foot had been cut off, Lysimachos got up and said to Selenos, "What else have you got in store for this wretched girl? Come on, it is time to go and eat."

The wicked Selenos said, "As the gods live, I shall not leave her still alive: I shall stay here until she is dead."

When Febronia had spent a considerable time in agony, Se­lenos asked the executioner, "Is the accursed woman still alive?" "Yes," he replied, "we beg to inform you that she still has some life in her."

Then Selenos gave orders for her head to be cut off. The exe­cutioner took a sword, grabbed hold of her long hair-like someone going to slaughter a lamb-and thus dispatched her, cutting off her holy head.

The judges straightaway got up and went off to eat. Lysima­chos, however, went off full of tears, while the crowd dashed for­ward wanting to seize Febronia's body. Lysirnachos accordingly ordered some soldiers to stay and guard her body. He himself was full of grief and tears; he could not eat or drink, but instead shut himself up in a room, lamenting Febronia's death.

When his uncle Selenos learnt that Lysimachos was so dis­tressed, he too could not eat or drink but got up and took a stroll in the courtyard of the praetorian. He too was overcome by a painful depression, when all of a sudden as he was walking he looked up to the sky, stood there dazed for a while, and then, roaring like a bull, he leapt up and struck his head against one of the columns, whereupon he fell down dead.

When the cry was raised, Lysimachos rushed up and stood over the corpse, asking what had happened. On being informed he shook his head over him, exclaiming, "Great is Febronia's God: he has avenged her blood that was impiously shed." With these words he gave orders that Selenos be taken out. Once this had been done, Lysimachos called for Primus the comes and said to him, "I adjure you by the God of the Christians, do not dis­obey my instructions: quickly see to the construction of a coffin for Febronia, to be made of the best hardwood; and send heralds in every direction to proclaim throughout the town that any Chris­tians who so desire should come without any fear to join Febronia's funeral procession-all the more now that my cruel uncle is dead. But do you, Primus, take those soldiers you want and get them to carry Febronia's body and convey it to her convent to Bryene. Do not let anyone from the crowd snatch away anything from her body, or any of her limbs that have been cut off; and do not let any dogs or any other unclean animals get a chance to lick any of the holy woman's blood that has been shed; but rather, col­lect up the earth where Febronia's blood was shed and convey it to her convent."

On receiving these orders from Lysimachos, the comes Pri­mus carried them out to the word. He had some soldiers carry Febronia's body, while he himself took her head, feet, and hands, all the parts of the blessed girl's body that had been removed, and wrapped them up in his mantle; thus he came to her convent. The crowds, however, rushed up, trying to snatch away some part of her limbs that had been cut off, so that the comes Primus was in considerable danger from the violence of the crowds, and in the end the soldiers had to hold the people off by drawing their swords.

When they reached the convent, hard pressed by the crowds, they managed to take in the saint's body without allowing any­one else to enter, apart from Thomais and Hieria. The soldiers held back the mass of the crowds outside, preventing them from entering the convent.

On seeing Febronia's body thus mutilated, Bryene fell down in a faint and lay on the ground for some time. Primus, having ap­pointed guards to protect the convent, returned to Lysimachos to the praetorian.

Eventually, after a considerable time, Bryene got up and em­braced Febronia's corpse, groaning as she said, "O my daughter Febronia, today you are taken away from the sight of your mother Bryene. Who will read the Scriptures to the sisters? What fingers will handle your books?"

As Bryene was speaking, all the sisters of the convent, to­gether with Etheria, turned up. They too fell upon the holy body in tears, along with Etheria too, groaning and saying, "I do homage to these holy feet that have trampled upon the head of the dragon. Let me kiss the wounds and gashes on this holy body, for by means of them have the scars of my own soul been healed. Let me crown with the flowers of praise this head that has crowned our race with the beauty of these glorious achievements."

Such were Hieria's words as she sobbed, along with the rest of the sisters.

The time arrived for the service of the Ninth Hour (3 P.M.), and the abbess cried out, "My daughter Febronia, the time for prayer has come." Then she started calling to Febronia in Syriac, saying, "Where are you, Febronia my daughter, my little daugh­ter, rise up, little child, rise up, come." To which Thomais said, "My sister Febronia, you have never disobeyed the word of our lady abbess, why do you not listen now?"

As they were saying all this, there was a great commotion among the sisters as they sobbed.

When evening came, they washed the holy body of the blessed woman and placed it on a bier. They put each of her limbs ex­actly in place, and then Bryene gave instructions for the doors to be opened for the crowds. When they had entered, they gave glory to God. All the laywomen as well were weeping, mourning the loss of their teacher.

Some of the holy fathers and many monks turned up, spend­ing the whole night in a vigil service. Lysimachos called for the comes Primus and said to him, "Primus, I am renouncing all my ancestral customs, all my inheritance and belongings. I shall go over to Christ." To which Primus replied, "I too, my lord, anathematize Diocletian and his rule; I renounce everything to do with my parents, and I too will go over to Christ." They left the praetorian and joined all the people in the convent.

When morning arrived, the coffin was brought along all ready. They went in procession with the holy body of Febronia, accompanied by prayers and tears; then they laid it in the coffin, arranging each of her limbs in its proper place-that is to say, her head, feet, and hands and the other parts, whereas her teeth were placed on her chest. The crowds filled the coffin with so much myrrh, must, and fine unguents that her body could not be seen for all the fragrant herbs.

There was a great noise and clamor from the crowds who would not allow the coffin to be closed. The bishop of the town and the rest of the monks and clergy tried hard to get them to put the lid on but without success. Then Bryene went up to a raised position of vantage and begged the crowds, "I beseech you, sisters and brothers, allow her to go to her due place." Thus the entire people yielded to Bryene's words, and amidst prayers and tears and songs of praise, they processed with the body of the saint, placing it in a holy spot in the convent, all of them praising God the while.

Large crowds of pagans came to believe in our Lord and were baptized. Lysimachos and Primus themselves were bap­tized, and renouncing the world, they went off with the abbot Markellinos to live a life pleasing to Christ, completing their days in peace. Many of the soldiers believed in our Lord and were baptized, as were Hieria and her parents. Hieria left her parents, renounced the world, and went off to the convent, which she en­dowed with all that she possessed. She requested Bryene, asking her, "I beg you, mother, let your handmaid take the place of the lady Febronia: I will toil as she did." So Hieria threw off all her jewelry, and she had the blessed girl's coffin covered with gold and pearls all over.

On the anniversary of the blessed girl's victory and repose, when they celebrate her memorial, the women's convent and many other people as well gather together. The particular reason for this is the portent that takes place at midnight: as they say the prayers of the night office, the blessed Febronia is seen standing in her old place until the prayers of the Third Hour: a great fear grips everyone for that period, and no one dares to approach or question her. This is because the first year that she appeared, whereas all the other sisters were very much afraid, Bryene had cried, "It is my daughter Febronia," and she rushed to embrace her-whereupon Febronia vanished. Thus no one again dared approach her; nevertheless many tears were shed at their joy in just seeing her.

Skull of St. Febronia at the Monastery of Saint Paul in Mount Athos

The bishop of the town built a splendid and beautiful shrine to the blessed woman, completing it in six years. When it was finished, he invited the bishops from the surrounding towns and gave a huge reception, holding a vigil on 24 June. So many people gathered that the shrine and the convent could not contain them all; and so the service was celebrated in several places at once. When morning came and they had completed the hymns for the light, the bishops came to the convent to take up the saint and lay her in the newly built shrine. A large crowd followed them, with candles, torches, and censers. When they had gone in to the convent and prayed there, they sat down and called for Bryene, addressing her as follows, "The fruits of your monastic way of life and of your glorious labors are recognized all over the world, and no one is able to give fitting praise. It is appropriate for all those who are appointed abbesses to offer up to God simi­lar fruits. Since, however, we are unable to express fitting praise for this holy martyr; we will be silent, because no tongue is ca­pable of singing her praises. Since we can neither do nor say any­thing that is worthy of her, we have come to you, as though to our own sister, asking you to join us in honoring the glorious martyr. Give her to us, so that she can dwell in the shrine that has been built in her name."

On hearing this, the sisters fell down at the feet of the bish­ops, imploring them, "By your holy footsteps, we beseech you have pity on us poor women: do not deprive us of our pearl." After much time had passed while they wept and besought the bishops, the bishop of Nisibis spoke to Bryene, "Listen, my sis­ter, you know what zeal I had in building this shrine in honor and glory of this saint who is clothed in victory; it is now six years that we have been toiling away at its construction. Do not let it be your desire that all our labor should prove useless and bear no fruit."

When she had heard this, Bryene said, "I beg you, my lords, if it seems good in your eyes and if it seems good to the blessed girl herself, who am I to prevent it? Come in, then, and take her off."

The bishops got up and entered to say the Office, whereupon Hieria started weeping and exclaiming, "Alas for us, you are de­priving our convent of a great blessing today! Alas for us, today bereavement and affliction are come to our convent! Alas for us, we are handing over our pearl!" She came sobbing to Bryene, saying, "What are you doing, mother? Why are you depriving me of my sister for whose sake I left everything to take refuge here with you?" Bryene, seeing Hieria in such a state, asked her, "Why are you crying, my daughter Hieria? If she wants to go, she will go."

When the bishops had finished praying and everyone had said" Amen" after them, they approached to take up the blessed girl's coffin. At that moment there was a clap of thunder in the sky, and all the people fell down in fright. Then after a while they put out their hands to take the coffin, but this time there was a great earthquake, so that they imagined the entire town would be ruined.

The bishops and all the people thus realized that the holy mar­tyr did not want to leave her convent. Sorrowfully, the bishops said to Bryene, "If the blessed woman does not want to leave the convent, let her give us just one of her limbs that were cut off as a blessing: we will take it and be off."

So Bryene took a key and opened up the coffin: Febronia's body was like a ray of the sun, and it was as though fire and light­ning were flashing out from her. Full of trepidation Bryene stretched out her hand and touched the hand of Febronia, want­ing to give it to the bishop; but her hand was held fast as she tried to pick it up. "I beseech you, lady Febronia, do not be angry with your mother," implored Bryene in tears; "remember all the toils Bryene has been through; do not put my old age to shame." Having said this, she returned the hand to its former place. Then she stretched out her own hand again, this time gasping out, "Grant us some blessing, my lady; do not disappoint us." And she took one of her teeth that had been placed on her chest. This she gave to the bishop and straightaway she closed the coffin.

The bishops received this pearl on a gold dish and went off rejoicing, preceded by a large crowd singing psalms as they carried candles and censers. When they reached the shrine, the bish­ops went up to a raised area and exposed the relic to the people: all the blind, lame, and possessed were healed. When news of this became known, boys came running up carrying the sick on their shoulders or on beds, while others were brought on ani­mals; everyone was healed of whatever disease he had.

The crowds did not allow the pearl to be put in its proper place until people had stopped bringing the sick. Once those with various illnesses had been healed and had given praise to God, then the pearl was put away. This was on 25 June.

Having enjoyed such wonderful gifts, the people returned home in peace, rejoicing and praising our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever, amen.

Bryene lived for a further two years after the dedication of the blessed woman's shrine. Having arranged everything, she then fell asleep in peace.

After the repose of my lady Bryene, I, the poor Thomais took her place. Because I had a knowledge of everything that hap­pened to the blessed Febronia from the very first, and had learnt the rest from my lord Lysimachos, I have written down this martyrdom to the praise and glory of the glorious woman, and for the salvation and encouragement of those who hear it, in the hopes that their minds may be awakened at this contest for the faith, and that they too may be held worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom belongs the glory and the power, for ever and ever, amen.

May her prayers and intercession be with us and Glory be to God forever. Amen.