The Holy Virgin Martyrs Susanna, Archelais, and Thekla sought salvation in a small monastery near Rome. During the persecution by Diocletian in the third century, the holy virgins dressed themselves in men’s clothing, cut their hair and went to the Italian province of Campagna. Settling in a remote area, they continued to pursue an ascetical life of fasting and prayer. They received the gift of healing from God, treated the local inhabitants, and converted many pagans to Christ.
When the governor of the district heard of these healings, he had the holy women brought to Salerno. He threatened St. Archelais with torture and death if she did not offer sacrifice to idols. With firm hope in the Lord, the saint refused and denounced the folly of worshipping soulless statues. The governor ordered the saint to be torn apart by hungry lions, but the beasts meekly lay at her feet. In a rage, the governor ordered the lions to be killed, and locked the holy virgins in prison.
In the morning, having suspended St. Archelais from a tree, the torturers began to rake her with iron utensils and pour hot tar on the wounds. The saint prayed even more loudly, and suddenly a light shone over her and a voice was heard, “Fear not, for I am with you.”
St. Archelais was defended by the power of God. When they wanted to crush her with an immense stone, an angel pushed it to the other side, and it crushed the torturers instead. A judge ordered the soldiers to behead the holy virgins, but the soldiers did not dare to put their hands upon the saints. Sts. Archelais, Thekla and Susanna then said to the soldiers, “If you do not fulfill the command, you shall have no respect from us.” Thus, the holy martyrs were beheaded in 293.
In the nineteenth century, St. Susanna appeared to a disciple of Elder Boniface saying, “We must pray to God with the soul, the mind, and the heart.” She is described as a maiden of untold beauty, with a soft, pleasant voice.
By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org )