January 2, 2021

Life of Saint Theagenes of Parium

1. Many great martyrs have prevailed over the work of the Evil Adversary because of their power in the name of the Lord, among whom the most holy martyr Theagenes has also been deemed worthy to be counted, having wrestled with the Enemy in every manner and defeated him.

2. During the time of the emperor Licinius, Theagenes, the son of a bishop, was conscripted in Phrygia and sent to the legion entitled the Second Trajan under the tribune Zelicinthius and the praepositus Posidonius. This legion was stationed in Parium in the Hellespontus, which city is superior to Cyzicus. Brought before the tribune and the praepositus, blessed Theagenes was being forced to serve as a soldier. But being faithful and accomplished in the eyes of God, filled with the Holy Spirit, he declared in the middle of the legion, "I am a Christian, and I serve the Immortal King who is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. His soldier and servant am I, and I cannot serve another king." The tribune Zelicinthius said, "Theagenes, take the cloak, tunic and the full armour, and serve Licinius the great king". Holy Theagenes replied, "I serve my King, and I cannot serve another." Zelicinthius said, "Does Licinius not seem to you to be emperor?" Holy Theagenes replied, "I do not know. I am a Christian, and it is not possible for me to desert my Lord and King." Zelicinthius said, "What, so? Are these men standing about not Christians, and they serve?" Theagenes replied, "Each knows how he serves. For I know that I serve King and Master." Zelicinthius said, "Surely, the gods do not mock?" Theagenes replied "I do not know who are gods, except God the Almighty whom I know through His Son. [For the Holy Scripture says, "I said: You are gods, and all sons of the Most High, but you will die like men." For it calls gods the pious and faithful men who have recognised the Truth.]" Posidonius the praepositus said, "And does your God have a son?" Theagenes replied, "Yes, he has a Son, the Word of His Truth, through whom He made all things." Zelicinthius said, "If we want, can we know Him?" Theagenes replied, "Yes, if you are willing, you will quickly know Him." Posidonius said, "If we recognise Him, can we desert our emperor and surrender to him?" Theagenes said, "There is nothing which prevents you from leaving the darkness and the licence which you enjoy for a short time before your temporary and mortal emperor, and surrendering to the Living God, Eternal King, and Master of the Universe, and serving Him, just as I do and many others who have placed their hope in Him, and you will live for eternity."

3. Then the tribune Zelicinthius, exceedingly angered and grinding his teeth like a lion in the wilderness, said to the whole legion, "Let us go off by night to the parade-ground outside the city." When they had arrived there, he marked out the ground and ordered four stakes to be sunk and blessed Theagenes to be stretched out there. When the holy man had been stretched out between the four stakes, he ordered him to be beaten with rough wooden clubs. When eight centurions were changed, Zelicinthius said to him, "Serve the great emperor Licinius." Holy Theagenes replied, "I serve the King of the Ages, Christ the Son of the Living God, who comes to judge the living and the dead, and rewards everyone according to his works. For there is no-one upon the earth, either of the kings, rulers, or the mighty, who will escape Him."

4. Again the tribune ordered him to be beaten. While the holy man was being beaten over a great space of time, he sang psalms and his face changed as if he was experiencing great joy and happiness. And when the tribune changed eighteen centurions, and the clubs with which they were beating him broke upon him, and he was casting their bodies from him like winnowed chaff, he took courage yet still more and rejoicing sang psalms to the Lord, speaking thus, "Blessed be God the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who has deemed me worthy to reach this day and has brought me to this joyous state in which I am now. And blessed be the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the King of heaven and earth and that which is under the earth,6 and the Lord of all, both seen and unseen, because He has counted me worthy to suffer these things on account of His all-holy name and to share in His suffering and that of His holy martyrs."

5. While he was saying these things, the tribune and the praepositus thought that he was asking them to be set free, and said to him, "Are you willing to serve?" Filled with the Holy Spirit the noble athlete of Christ, Theagenes, replied in a louder voice and said, "I have already told you, and I tell you now again, that I am a Christian and I serve the King of Kings and cannot desert my Lord and King. You constrain me by inflicting lengthy tortures upon me. Yet these tortures which you think that you inflict upon me mean nothing." The tribune Zelicinthius said to him, "What? Do you not feel the tortures yet?" Holy Theagenes said, "I am not being tortured at all, nor can you do anything to me. You have power over the body. Torture it whenever you wish. For you cannot separate me from Christ my Master and King. If you want, bring bigger clubs and stronger workmen. For these workmen and clubs of yours are useless against me." ["The Lord is my helper," he said, "and I will not be afraid. What will man do to me? The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and torture will not touch them. They seemed in the eyes of the foolish to be dead, and their passing away was thought an affliction"].

6. When he had said these things, the tribune ordered him to be brought into the city. It was about the ninth hour of the night, and he stretched him out publicly in the city in the market-place. And there he was stretched out to four columns. Passing by and seeing him, the optio of the legion said, "Where is the God and King whom you serve? Why does He not rescue you from these tortures?" To him the holy man replied, "I told you earlier, and I tell you now again, that these things being inflicted upon me are not tortures, but a cause of delight and exultation. For my Lord and King, whom you do not see, since you do not look with the eyes of the soul, is before me, saving me from the tortures." The optio said to him, "If I had the right of execution, I would count you as a waste of time and throw you to the dogs." To which blessed Theagenes replied, "You can do nothing to me, but the days will come not long hereafter when your legs and those of your tribune will be hurled into the wilderness and burned by the sun. Your bodies will be consumed by the beasts and reptiles of the earth, and all who do not believe in my Lord and King will themselves be killed shortly afterwards also by those pursuing them. Great affliction, pain, and great destruction will befall those of you who serve."

7. And when blessed Theagenes had said these things, the tribune ordered him to be thrown into the cell, and to be stretched out upon the rack up to four points. And having sealed the door of the cell, he left him there to die of starvation. That night the Lord appeared to him and said, "Theagenes, my dear and faithful servant, take courage and rejoice, since I am with you and share your suffering. So do not accept food or drink from these men. For you will have eternal and incorruptible life with me in heaven." And when he had said these things, the Lord left him. Blessed Theagenes was nourished by the Holy Spirit, and having seen the fearful vision of the Lord, he began to sing psalms and rejoice and praise God. A large crowd, as it were, replied to him, and those standing guard ran to the door of the prison. Seeing the door locked and the seal intact, they watched carefully through the door and saw a large crowd dressed in white singing psalms with blessed Theagenes, and fearful, they reported to the tribune.

8. He rose immediately and went running to the door of the cell. And when he saw the chain secure and the seal intact, and heard the sound of those singing in company with blessed Theagenes, he made the soldiers stand guard in a circle about the cell with shields and full-armour, and opened and entered it, thinking that there were Christians with blessed Theagenes. Entering he found no-one except the servant of God stretched out alone upon the rack, rejoicing and singing psalms. So great dread seized him and the soldiers present with him, and they locked the doors and left. Then the tribune ordered the blessed man to accept a bit of bread and a mixed cup of water. In accordance with scripture which says that "The just man will live on faith", and that "I am the Bread descended from Heaven", the holy martyr did not care to eat or accept anything from them, saying that "My Lord and King nourishes me."

9. When it was morning, the tribune wrote to the emperor Licinius telling him all these things and as much as the martyr Theagenes did and resisted before him in his unwillingness to serve an earthly king. The emperor Licinius wrote back in reply ordering him to be thrown into the sea so that his body would not be recovered. Thus, when he received this command on the 3rd day before the None of January, the tribune treated him as ordered. When this sentence had been delivered to him, holy and blessed Theagenes set off giving thanks for eternal life. His appearance was graceful and radiant, as if he was returning from a bath or great party.

10. See, having boarded the ship and reached the place where he was about to be thrown overboard, he asked the soldiers and the sailors to grant him a small favour, that he might pray to God! And when he received this, the holy servant of Christ stood facing towards the East and spread out his hands. He prayed for about three hours, since even the sailors were ashamed to be afraid to touch him. But he turned to them and said, "Brothers, carry out your command without fear and returning to the city in peace, believe in the Lord with your whole heart, and receive eternal life." When he had said these things, and signed himself thrice, they threw him into the sea.

11. And returning to the city, they detailed all that they had seen blessed Theagenes do, and they themselves believed in the Lord as did another large crowd from the legion on that day. But Zelicinthius and his officers were deprived off their legs by the emperor twelve miles from the city not many days afterwards. Furthermore even, the whole legion went off to war and was destroyed.

12. Three days after the holy man had been thrown into the sea, the brothers Eutyches, Eustathius, Zoticus, Germanus, and many others, gathered together and collected his body which had been cast up by the sea safe and sound. Having secretly readied him for burial, they placed him in a coffin and carried him by night along the walls of the city to the estate of Adamantius, a most faithful and very pious man, and there they set him beneath the ground. Great cures are worked in this place now, the possessed are cleansed, the feverish are cured, and every other disease and malady is remedied through the grace given to him by our Lord Jesus Christ.

13. He spent forty days in his cell, neither eating anything at all nor drinking water. For he had the abundance from heaven. So we have written this very account to the churches of God dwelling beside Nicomedia and in Byzantium, Heraclea, and Cyzicus, in order that, recognised among the whole people of God, the confessions of faith of the blessed martyr Theagenes might make the brothers more steadfast in the faith and impel the unbelievers and those in two minds about the Word to believe, we who believe in God the Almighty Father and Lord Jesus Christ, our Hope together with the Holy Spirit, to whom be the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

(Translated from the Greek recension, BHG 2416, written by Euticus, who was probably the Macedonian bishop of Parium in the mid-380s.)