May 28, 2019

Venerable Philothea the Virgin-Martyr

Venerable Philothea the Virgin-Martyr (Feast Day - May 28)

The Venerable Virgin-Martyr Philothea was born in Molyvoto in Pamphylia of Asia Minor. Her parents, the Patrician John and his wife Irene, gave her a Christian upbringing, but they died when Philothea was still young. From her youth she was interested in the ascetic life. When she was fourteen years old she was obliged to marry a seventeen year old named Constantine, however she was able to convince him that they should preserve their virginity, and not know each other, following the example of Venerable Ammoun of Egypt (Oct. 4) and his wife.

Philothea became an orphan at a young age. She lost her mother when she was three, and her father shortly after her marriage. Her husband became a priest but died six years later. Philothea then liberated her servants and sold all the family wealth, giving the proceeds to the poor, to churches, and to monasteries, and she withdrew to an island in the middle of a lake, near Molyvoto. There she practiced fasting, prayer, and all-night vigils, and her asceticism became well-known in the region, and God blessed her as a Wonderworker.

Four days before her repose she called for the priests of the area and gave her last counsels. She reposed in peace, and her holy relics were enshrined in the Church of the Most Holy Theotokos, which was also known as Hagia Sophia. Later her holy relics were transferred from Eastern Thrace to Tarnovo, capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, by decree of Tsar Kaloyan of Bulgaria (1197-1207). In Tarnovo, her sacred relics were placed in the Church of the Most Holy Theotokos and were credited with many miracles and curing the sick.

In 1395, after Tarnovo was captured by the Ottoman Turks, her holy relics were transferred in a grand procession to Vidin. However in 1396 the Ottoman Turks captured Vidin as well, and the Virgin-Martyr's holy relics were lost in the ensuing chaos. They were discovered again in the second half of the sixteenth century in Argesh of Wallachia, Romania.*


* This is perhaps the same person as Philothea of Arges who is commemorated on December 7th, which is why the Philothea above is called a "Virgin-Martyr" despite not having been martyred. However, the details of their biographies are very different. Unless there are two different "Philotheas" who are wonderworkers in Romania, then the Philothea commemorated on May 28th by the Greeks and the Philothea commemorated on December 7th by the Slavs are the same person.