THEODORE THE COMMANDER & GREAT MARTYR
Theodore the Commander & Great Martyr, The Holy Prophet Zacharias (Zachariah), Nicephoros & Stephanos the Martyrs, Afterfeast of the Presentation of Our Lord and Savior in the Temple, Cuthman of Steyning
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE EPHESIANS 2:4-10
Brethren, God who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God: not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
The Lord said to his disciples, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.”
The sixth day of the Afterfeast of the Meeting of the Lord falls on February 8. The hymns of the day speak of Christ fulfilling the Law by being brought to the Temple, and of how the Theotokos “reveals to the world its Creator, and the Giver of the Law.”
The Great Martyr Theodore Stratelates came from the city of Euchaita in Asia Minor. He was endowed with many talents, and was handsome in appearance. For his charity God enlightened him with the knowledge of Christian truth. The bravery of the saintly soldier was revealed after he, with the help of God, killed a giant serpent living on a precipice in the outskirts of Euchaita. The serpent had devoured many people and animals, terrorizing the countryside. Saint Theodore armed himself with a sword and vanquished it, glorifying the name of Christ among the people.
For his bravery Saint Theodore was appointed military commander [stratelatos] in the city of Heraclea, where he combined his military service with preaching the Gospel among the pagans subject to him. His gift of persuasion, reinforced by his personal example of Christian life, turned many from their false gods. Soon, nearly all of Heraclea had accepted Christianity.
During this time the emperor Licinius (311-324) began a fierce persecution against Christians. In an effort to stamp out the new faith, he persecuted the enlightened adherents of Christianity, who were perceived as a threat to paganism. Among these was Saint Theodore. Licinius tried to force Saint Theodore to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. The saint invited Licinius to come to him with his idols so both of them could offer sacrifice before the people.
Blinded by his hatred for Christianity, Licinius trusted the words of the saint, but he was disappointed. Saint Theodore smashed the gold and silver statues into pieces, which he then distributed to the poor. Thus he demonstrated the vain faith in soulless idols, and also displayed Christian charity.
Saint Theodore was arrested and subjected to fierce and refined torture. He was dragged on the ground, beaten with iron rods, had his body pierced with sharp spikes, was burned with fire, and his eyes were plucked out. Finally, he was crucified. Varus, the servant of Saint Theodore, barely had the strength to write down the incredible torments of his master.
God, however, in His great mercy, willed that the death of Saint Theodore should be as fruitful for those near him as his life was. An angel healed the saint’s wounded body and took him down from the cross. In the morning, the imperial soldiers found him alive and unharmed. Seeing with their own eyes the infinite might of the Christian God, they were baptized not far from the place of the unsuccessful execution.
Thus Saint Theodore became “like a day of splendor” for those pagans dwelling in the darkness of idolatary, and he enlightened their souls “with the bright rays of his suffering.” Unwilling to escape martyrdom for Christ, Saint Theodore voluntarily surrendered himself to Licinius, and discouraged the Christians from rising up against the torturer, saying, “Beloved, halt! My Lord Jesus Christ, hanging upon the Cross, restrained the angels and did not permit them to take revenge on the race of man.”
Going to execution, the holy martyr opened up the prison doors with just a word and freed the prisoners from their bonds. People who touched his robe were healed instantly from sicknesses, and freed from demonic possession. By order of the emperor, Saint Theodore was beheaded by the sword. Before his death he told Varus, “ Do not fail to record the day of my death, and bury my body in Euchaita.” He also asked to be remembered each year on this date. Then he bent his neck beneath the sword, and received the crown of martyrdom which he had sought. This occurred on February 8, 319, on a Saturday, at the third hour of the day.
Saint Theodore is regarded as the patron saint of soldiers. He is also commemorated on June 8.
The Prophet Zachariah the Sickle-Seer the eleventh of the twelve Minor Prophets. He was descended from the tribe of Levi, and seems to have been a priest (Nehemiah 12:4,16). He was called to prophetic service at a young age and became, in the wondrous expression of church hymnology, “a spectator of supra-worldly visions.”
The Book of the Prophet Zachariah contains inspired details about the coming of the Messiah (Zach 6:12); about the last days of the Savior’s earthly life, about the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem on a young donkey (Zach 9:9); about the betrayal of the Lord for thirty pieces of silver and the purchase of the potter’s field with them (Zach 11:12-13); about the piercing of the Savior’s side (Zach 12:10); about the scattering of the apostles from the Garden of Gethsemane (Zach 13:7); about the eclipse of the sun at the time of the Crucifixion (Zach 14:6-7).
“Enlightened by dawnings all above,” the Prophet Zachariah, “saw the future as it were the present.” According to Tradition, this “most true God-proclaimer” lived to old age and was buried near Jerusalem, beside his illustrious contemporary and companion, the Prophet Haggai (December 16). The title “Sickle-Seer” given Zachariah comes from a vision in which he saw a sickle flying in the air, destroying thieves and perjurors (Zach 5:1-3).
The holy Prophet Zachariah died around 520 B.C. His tomb was discovered in 415 in a village near Eleutheropolis (Sozomen, Hist. Eccles. VI:32, IX:17). At the prophet’s feet was the body of a child dressed in royal accoutrements. His holy relics were transferred to the church of Saint James the Brother of the Lord (October 23) in Constantinople.
Born Predislav Nemanjic, the son of Saint-King Stephen Prvovencani the First-Crowned (September 24) and the nephew of Saint Savva I, the first Archbishop of Serbia (January 14), Saint Savva II distinguished himself in monastic life by his ascetic practices, in imitation of his sainted uncle.
He succeeded Saint Arsenius (October 28) as Archbishop of Serbia in 1266. He guided the Church with great love and dedication until his repose, variously dated as 1268, 1269 and 1271. His holy relics are at Pec, the site of the ancient Serbian Patriarchate.