Troparia to Saint Philothei
The Faithful of Athens and all the world
honors Philothei the martyred nun
and rejoices in her holy relics.
For she has exchanged this passing life
for the life that knows no end
through her struggle and martyrdom;
and she begs the Savior to have mercy on us all.
Philothei’s feast is celebrated on February 19th. Translated, her name means "friend of God."
Philothei was born in 1550 Athens into a very affluent family. Her family was loving and caring as well as patient, and she was married to a young man and widowed before she was even sixteen. After returning to live with her parents, she took on an active position in the family as well as the church and city. She was only content when she was helping others, and this peace of mind drew her closer to God and the Church. Her family’s wealth assisted in her charitable work, and before she had reached adulthood she had earned the love and respect of the community.
After her family had passed away, Philothei became the sole owner of extensive wealth, but desiring to become a nun, she assigned control of her belongings to the care of others in order to move to an Orthodox convent. In the meantime her money continued helping the poor and also funded the building of several churches and nunneries in and around Athens. At her own convent, Philothei transferred the nuns’ interests from passive to active. She taught them to supplement their worship and devotions with crafts that could benefit the Church community. Her work set the example for the handiwork that has been the trademark of nunneries for years.
During this time in history, Turkish Moslems were holding Greece hostage, challenging Christianity. However, they became frustrated because their attempts at conversion were unsuccessful. They had hoped the mere pressure of their presence would lead to the gradual replacement of Christianity by their own Moslem faith. Eventually the Turks endeavored to discredit the many faithful Christian leaders in Athens, but this was also unsuccessful. Philothei and other spiritual leaders only gained stronger resolve and greater devotion to God.
When it became apparent that Islam could not reach the hearts of the Christian Athenians, the Turks deliberately chose Philothei as a target, not only because of her open defiance but because they considered her sex to be a weakness and hoped she would succumb to surrender more easily. However, she remained a faithful and strong guide for the Athenians. Enraged, the Turks began a brutal course of terrorism.
During a service in Saint Andrew church, one of the beautiful chapels erected by her magnanimity, Philothei and some of her friends were attacked. The women were brutally beaten with clubs and stones, then dragged into the street to be murdered in front of the devastated townspeople. Philothei was carried out alive from this barbaric scene, but yielded to her wounds and gave up the spirit on February 19th, 1589.
Several miracles have been attributed to the Holy Martyr Philothei, mostly at the Cathedral in Athens and the Saint Andrew Church, still standing today and where her relics are enshrined. The many churches and nunneries she funded are still evident, and many organizations of women are named to honor this Athenian Saint.
"Saint Philothei’s story is an inspiration, especially in our world today. So often we get caught in the clutches of material things, but Philothei’s generosity and willingness to give everything up for God sets an example up for us all to follow. She truly was a "friend of God."
~Philothei Maria Papas-