St. Euphemia the All-Praised


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Commemorated on September 16

The Holy Great Martyr Euphemia the All-Praised was the daughter of Senator Philophronos and Theodosia, both of whom were Christians. She suffered for Christ in 304 in the city of Chalcedon, on the banks of the Bosphorus opposite Constantinople.

Chalcedon Governor Priscus circulated an order to all the inhabitants of Chalcedon and its surroundings to appear at a pagan festival to worship and offer sacrifice to an idol of Ares, threatening grave torments for anyone who failed to appear. During this festival, forty-nine Christians hid in a house where they secretly attended services praising the One True God.

The young maiden, Euphemia, was also among those praying there. Soon the hiding place of the Christians was discovered, and they were brought before Priscus to answer for themselves. For nineteen days, the martyrs were subjected to various tortures and torments, but none of them wavered in their faith nor consented to offer sacrifice to the idol. Governor Priscus, beside himself with rage and not knowing any other way of forcing the Christians to abandon their faith, sent them for trial to the Emperor Diocletian. Priscus kept the youngest, Euphemia, hoping that she would renounce her faith if she were all alone.

St. Euphemia, separated from her brethren in faith, fervently prayed to the Lord Jesus Christ that He strengthen her in her impending ordeal. At first, Priscus urged her to recant, promising her earthly blessings, but then he gave the order to torture her. St. Euphemia was tied to a wheel with sharp knives. She prayed aloud, and the wheel stopped by itself. An angel of the Lord came down from Heaven and removed Euphemia from the wheel and healed her wounds. She gave thanks unto the Lord with gladness.

Not perceiving the miracle that had occurred, Priscus ordered soldiers to take Euphemia to a red-hot oven. The soldiers, seeing two fearsome angels in the midst of the flames, refused to carry out the order and became believers in God. Boldly proclaiming that they too were Christians, these solders, Victor and Sosthenes, bravely went to their martyrdom. During their execution, they cried out for mercy to God, asking that the Lord receive them into the Heavenly Kingdom. A heavenly voice answered their cries, and they entered into eternal life.

St. Euphemia was cast into the fire by other soldiers, but, with the help of God, she emerged unharmed. Ascribing this to sorcery, Governor Priscus gave orders to dig a pit, and filling it with knives, he had it covered over with earth and grass, so that Euphemia would not notice the preparation for her execution. St. Euphemia remained safe, easily passing over the pit.

Finally, she was sentenced to be devoured by wild beasts at the circus. Before her execution, St. Euphemia implored that the Lord deem her worthy to die a violent death. But none of the beasts, having been set loose in the arena, attacked her. Finally, one of the she-bears gave her a small wound on the leg, and immediately the Holy Great Martyr Euphemia died. Immediately following her martyrdom, an earthquake occurred, and the guards and the spectators ran in terror. St. Euphemia’s parents were able to take her body and reverently buried it not far from Chalcedon.

Later, a majestic church was built over the grave of Great Martyr Euphemia. The Fourth Ecumenical Council held its meetings there in 451 where Great Martyr Euphemia confirmed the Orthodox confession in a miraculous manner and exposed the Monophysite heresy. (Details of this miracle may be found on July 11.)

With the taking of Chalcedon by the Persians in 617, the relics of Euphemia were transferred to Constantinople. During the Iconoclast heresy, the reliquary with her relics was thrown into the sea. However, pious sailors recovered them, and the relics were afterwards taken to the Island of Lemnos. In 796, they were returned to Constantinople.

Troparion (Tone 4) –

Your lamb Euphemia calls out to You, O Jesus, in a loud voice:

“I love You, my Bridegroom, and in seeking You I endure suffering.

In baptism I was crucified so that I might reign in You,

and I died so that I might live with You.

Accept me as a pure sacrifice,

for I have offered myself in love.”

Through her prayers save our souls, since You are merciful!

Kontakion (Tone 4) –

“As You were voluntarily raised...”

You completed your struggle well, all-praised Euphemia;

even after death, you pour out healing on us for our sanctification.

We stand beside your venerable relics

to honor your holy falling asleep,

that in faith we may be delivered from the weaknesses of our nature

and to obtain the grace of your miracles.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)