St. Eugenia at Rome
Commemorated on December 24
The Holy Martyr Eugenia was a Roman by birth. She lived in Alexandria, where her father Philip was sent by Emperor Commodus (180-192) to be Prefect of Egypt. Eugenia received a fine upbringing and was noted for her beauty and good disposition. Many illustrious youths sought her hand, but she did not wish to marry anyone, for she was determined to preserve her virginity.
She became acquainted with the Epistles of the Apostle Paul, and yearned with all her soul to become a Christian, but kept this a secret from her parents. During that time, Christians were banished from Alexandria by the command of the emperor. Wishing to learn more about Christianity, she asked for permission to visit one of the family estates outside the city, supposedly to enjoy the countryside. She left with her two servants, Protus and Hyacinthus, dressed in men’s clothes. She and her companions were baptized at a monastery by Bishop Elias, who learned about Eugenia in a vision. He blessed her to pursue asceticism at the monastery disguised as the monk Eugene.
By her ascetic labors, St. Eugenia acquired the gift of healing. Once, a rich young woman named Melanthia turned to her for help. Seeing “Eugene,” this woman burned with an impure passion, and when she was spurned, she falsely accused the saint of attempted rape. St. Eugenia came to trial before the Prefect of Egypt (her father), and she was forced to reveal her secret. Her parents and brothers rejoiced to find the one for whom they had long grieved.
The entire family accepted holy Baptism. Philip, after being denounced by pagans, was dismissed from his post. However, the Christians of Alexandria chose him as their bishop. The new Prefect, fearing the wrath of the people, did not dare to execute Philip openly, but sent assassins to kill him. They inflicted wounds upon St. Philip while he was praying, from which he died three days later.
St. Eugenia traveled to Rome and continued with monastic life, bringing many young women to Christ. She, along with St. Claudia, built a wanderers’ hostel and aided the poor. After several peaceful years, Emperor Galienus (260-268) intensified the persecution against the Christians, and many of them found refuge with Sts. Claudia and Eugenia.
Basilla, an orphaned Roman girl of imperial lineage, heard about the Christians and St. Eugenia. She sent a trusted servant to the saint asking her to write her a letter explaining Christianity. St. Eugenia sent her friends and co-ascetics, Protus and Hyacinthus, who enlightened Basilla, and she accepted holy Baptism. Basilla’s servant then told her fiancé Pompey that his betrothed had become a Christian. Pompey complained to the emperor about the Christians preaching celibacy and denouncing idolatry. Basilla refused to enter into marriage with Pompey, and so they killed her with a sword.
The pagans dragged Sts. Protus and Hyacinthus into a temple to make them sacrifice to the idols, but just as they entered, the idol fell down and shattered. The holy Martyrs Protus and Hyacinthus were then beheaded. They also brought St. Eugenia to the temple by force, but she had not even entered it, when the pagan temple collapsed with its idol. They threw the holy martyr into the Tiber River with a stone about her neck, but the stone became untied and she remained unharmed. They then cast her into a pit, where she remained for ten days. During this time, the Savior Himself appeared to her and said that she would enter into the heavenly Kingdom on the day He was born. When this radiant Feast came, the executioner put her to death with a sword. After her death, St. Eugenia appeared to her mother to tell her the day of her own death.
Troparion (Tone 4) –
Your lamb Eugenia, O Jesus,
Calls out to You in a loud voice:
I love You, O my bridegroom,
And in seeking You, I endure suffering.
In Baptism I was crucified so that I might reign in You,
And died so that I might live with You.
Accept me as a pure sacrifice,
For I have offered myself in love.
By her prayers save our souls, since You are merciful.
Kontakion (Tone 4) –
You left the passing glory of the world to follow Christ,
Keeping spotless the brilliance of your soul,
O inspired Martyr Eugenia, worthy of all praise!
By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)