St. Eulita, along with her son, Kyriacos
Commemorated on July 14
St. Eulita was born in Asia Minor (present-day Turkey) at the end of the third century. As the daughter of nobility, she grew up to be a rich woman. She was also a good Christian, who spent her time in prayer and helping the poor. Eulita was married at a young age, and she bore her husband a son, named Kyriacos. However, shortly after his birth, tragedy struck the family when Eulita’s husband suddenly died.
When Kyriacos was about three years old, Emperor Diocletian began his persecutions against the Christians. Worried about her son, Eulita took Kyriacos, along with two of her maids, and fled to Seleucia in Syria. However, the situation there was no better than where they had come from, so they left and traveled to Tarsus. The governor of Tarsus, Alexandros, was also very cruel and blood-thirsty, and was known for killing Christians with his bare hands.
Eulita and her companions lived as strangers among the people of Tarsus, and were soon arrested and brought before Alexandros. Eulita realized that it was an invitation from God to martyrdom, since she could not escape persecution. She decided in her heart to remain faithful, and to endure all kind of pain until the end. Her only concern was the well-being of her son, Kyriacos. When Eulita was presented to Governor Alexandros, he asked her, “What is your name, you beautiful woman?” Eulita answered, “I am Christian.” Showing irritation, he said, “So you follow Jesus whom the Jews crucified!” Her reply was, “I call upon His holy name, though I am not worthy.” The Governor then asked, “Do you know that our emperor ordered the extermination of all the Christians?” Eulita answered, “Yes, I know.” Finally, Alexandros shouted and her saying, “Aren’t you scared of death? Don’t you want to save your beauty?,” to which Eulita replied, “Governor, you must know by now that all Christians are willing to die for their Lord the Christ. Your cruel tactics and severe abuse will only strengthen their faith.”
Alexandros became even more angry, telling his men, “Bring me that child from the Christian woman, throw her on the ground, and whip her with lashes made of cow’s nerves. She must learn how to answer me.” The soldiers grabbed Kyriacos from the arms of his mother and gave him to Alexandros. Eulita was then thrown to the ground, and they began to whip her.
The governor looked at Eulita, who was now covered with blood, and asked, “Why don’t you come back to your senses and save your life, and your son’s too? For if you agree to sacrifice to the idols, I promise to release both of you.” Eulita replied, “You surprise me with such an offer, which even a child like my son would not accept.” Alexandros then said, “In this case, let us ask the child.” He looked at Kyriacos and said, “Son, would you agree to worship the idols?” However, to everyone’s surprise, Kyriacos answered, “Your idols are made of stone and wood. My real God is Jesus Christ.” When Eulita heard her son’s words, she was filled with courage, and shouted, “I am Christian; I worship the real God Jesus Christ who made heaven and earth.” Kyriacos then started yelling, “I am Christian, I am Christian.”
The soldiers started beating Eulita again, but she endured the pain with joy, giving her son a practical example on how to remain faithful until the end. In the meantime, Alexandros was trying to attract the child’s attention by playing with him. Kyriacos kept shouting, “I am Christian! I am Christian!” The governor became even more angry and threw Kyriacos with all his power to the ground. Kyriacos hit his head against one of the concrete steps, and died instantly, to receive the crown of martyrdom. He was only three years old.
When Eulita saw her son fall dead in front of her, she sighed with relief, since she was sure that he went to Jesus in Paradise, and that she did not have to worry about his future. She lifted up her eyes to heaven and prayed, “Thank you my Lord because you considered Kyriacos worthy of receiving this glorious crown. I ask you now my Savior to take me also, for this is my ultimate desire to be with my son in the Heavenly Kingdom, where we can enjoy Your presence with us for eternity.”
Eulita’s words angered the Roman governor, and he ordered that she be beheaded. He also ordered that the two bodies be thrown in a garbage dump.
Eulita was executed on July 22, 305 while repeating the words, “I am Christian. I am Christian.” At night, her two maids took the bodies and hid them in a cave near Tarsus. When Emperor Constantine ascended the throne, he built a church in the same place where the mother and her child were martyred. Today, parts of the relics of those two saints are preserved in St. Mary’s Monastery in the valley of Nitron. There is also a historical church bearing their names in Tahta.
By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)