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lived at Chalcedon in the reign of Diocletian (284-305). Her parents
were rich and devout and brought her up in the love of Christ. At that
time, Priscus became Proconsul of Asia. He was an enthusiastic devotee
of Mars, and ordered all the inhabitants of the Province to come to
Chalcedon to celebrate the feast of his god, under pain of death. As a
result, Christians fled in small groups to isolated houses or to the
deserts in order to escape the tyrant and safeguard their faith. Saint
Euphemia was among those who went into hiding.
They were soon discovered and brought before the Proconsul, who
tried to persuade them to sacrifice by flattering their youth and good
sense. “Do not waste your time and your words on us,” the Saint
answered him. “We are people endowed with reason, for whom it would be
the greatest disgrace to abandon the one true God, the Maker of heaven
and earth, in order to worship dumb, senseless idols. We are not afraid
of torments you threaten us with. They will be easy for us to bear and
will show the power of our God.”
These words enraged the Proconsul, and he had Euphemia and
her companions tortured continuously for twenty days. Finding their
faith completely unshaken, and seeing that Euphemia was the leading
spirit of the group, he ordered her limbs to be crushed by iron wheels.
But the Martyr called upon the help of God and was discovered to be
completely unscathed. Then she was cast into a furnace with flames
forty feet high, but God came to Euphemia’s aid there also, and sent an
angel who drew the flames away from her. Seeing this miracle, the
executioners Victor and Sosthenes turned to Christ, and died as Martyrs
some days later. The Saint had many more torments to endure, from which
God each time delivered her, showing how much stronger Grace is than
any torture devised by man. In the end, she was thrown to the beasts,
and gave up her soul to God through the mere bite of a bear.
When the persecution of Diocletian ended, the Christians laid
Saint Euphemia’s relics in a golden sarcophagus, placed
within a church that was dedicated to her. Her relics attracted
crowds of pilgrims for centuries. They were moved to Constantinople
in 616 at the time of the Persian invasions, and remain intact
to this day in the church of the Patriarchate at the Phanar. The
feast day of Saint Euphemia is celebrated on September 16.
Portions of the preceding text are from “The
Synaxarion: The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church”
by Hieromonk Makarios of Simonos Petra, and translated from the
French by Christopher Hookway