O Lord Thou shalt open my lips and my mouth shall declare Thy praise.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Miracle of St. Theodore

On the First Saturday of Lent, the Byzantine Churches commemorate the miracle of St. Theodore the Recruit. St. Theodore was a soldier in Alasium in Asia Minor martyred in 306. Upon being commanded to sacrifice to idols, he loudly proclaimed himself to be a Christian exclaiming, "I am a Christian. It is Christ alone that I love. He is the King whom I serve, and to Him alone that I want to offer a sacrifice!" They left him alone, but at night he went to the pagan temple and burnt it to the ground. The governor was furious, but St. Theodore mocked him saying that it was absurd to consider God to be an inanimate piece of wood so easily reduced to ashes. Threatened with tortures he said, "Your threats do not frighten me, because the power of Christ will be my joy and gladness in torment." He was condemned to death by starvation. That night Christ appeared to him to comfort him and provide him with spiritual food. He was joined by angels in singing hymns such that the guards thought that Christians had snuck into his locked cell. Upon being offered bread and water, he refused it, saying Christ had given him heavenly food. The governor offered to make him high priest if he recanted and worshiped idols, but St. Theodore only laughed at him. He was hung upside-down and cut with hooks, but they did him no harm. He was thrown into a bonfire, but the flames leapt up around him forming a triumphal arch before he died.

In 361, when the Emperor Julian the Apostate decided to persecute the Christians at the beginning of Lent by tainting all the food with the blood of sacrifices to idols. St. Theodore appeared in a vision to Patriarch Eudoxius to warn him. The Patriarch ordered that none of the food be purchased and that the faithful are to eat only the Kollyva/Kutia, the boiled wheat grains, they had at home. Kutia is still eaten today in honor of the dead and on this Saturday in commemoration of the miracle.

St. Theodore the Recruit is also known for appearing to a widow and returning her only son captured by the Saracens and for saving those trapped in storms. Come to think of it, we could have used him last weekend here in New England...