Update
Home / CHRISTIAN FIGURES & SAINTS / Saint Fevronia (Febronia) of Nisibis – Feastday: 25th June

Saint Fevronia (Febronia) of Nisibis – Feastday: 25th June

St Fevronia of Nisibis01

Foreword

A few words should be noted with regards to the life and sufferings of our Holy Mother amongst the Saints, Fevronia of Nisibis (Assyria – Northern Iraq, North-Eastern Syria and South-Eastern Turkey). The most detailed account of her biography and struggles come from an eyewitness that is said to be Mother Thomais, who was a fellow nun in the same monastery in which the Saint had dwelt. Most of the surviving texts of Fevronia’s account have survived in Greek and Syriac, with the most reliable and detailed texts according to scholarship and Church Tradition are to be found in the monasteries of the Great Lavra and Iveron on Mount Athos. It is from these Greek texts that we predominately draw upon. However we should also note that according to various Syriac texts, the figure of Ieria (Hieria) who features quite prominent within Fevronia’s hagiography, was the young widow of a senator. But due to her husband’s death, as was Middle Eastern and Mediterranean custom, she had returned to live at home with her parents, (or any next of male kin’s household, if her parents were not living).

A final thought and warning to the reader, is that we should cite that the torments and martyrdoms of many of Christianity’s female martyrs, bear the shocking and troubling focus upon sadistic and sexual violence meted out to them, such as the threat of rape, forced marriage, the cutting off of breasts and other hideous mutilations. Of course we should remember that this focus reflected the attitudes of social and political relationships of those times which placed an emphasis on power and dominance, and thus accorded little value upon the dignity of women. Christian hagiographers who wrote in those very difficult times, often made note of these details and in their own way, voiced advocacy for the rights and respect for the value of women within society. The hagiographers would draw upon the writings of the Scriptures to justify such perspectives, to indicate the equality of men and women, since God had created Adam and Eve, not Adam and a slave. It is to the Christian witness within the world, and the sufferings of women like St. Fevronia, by which modern-day women in egalitarian societies owe their liberty to, and not to the so-called feminist movements, which were merely a consequence of these sacrifices made by such Christian women.

Lysimachus and Selinus of Rome

Christ’s holy Martyr Fevronia, struggled during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian (284-305AD). In 303, Diocletian began the empire’s last and bloodiest persecution of early Christians. During the reign of this emperor, there was a man named Anthimus who was a prefect (eparch) residing in Rome. His son, Senator Lysimachus, was at that time engaged to the daughter of Senator Prosphorus. When Prefect Anthimus succumbed to grave illness, he called upon his brother Selinus to attend to him and gave his final directives by saying: “Into your hands I entrust my son Lysimachus. He shall be as your own son, and he shall have you as his father. In the event of my death, arrange the celebration of his marriage”.

After confiding these final instructions to his brother, he died some three days later. At this point, the Emperor Diocletian then summoned Lysimachus to appear before him in the presence of his uncle Selinus, and declared to him: “I, young man, am considering elevating you to the rank of prefect on account of the love I had towards your father. However, I am concerned, for I have heard from some that you have gone astray through the influence of your mother in revering Christ. Nevertheless, I have put off verifying this accusation until now. Therefore I have decided to dispatch you out East where you will carry out my directive in waging war and subduing those who believe in Christ. When you shall return from this commission, know that I will honour you as I did your father”.[1]

Upon hearing the emperor’s words, the young Lysimachus, who was a mere twenty year old, did not dare to hazard an answer to the emperor’s commission. Yet his uncle Selinus implored the emperor to allow his nephew to finalise the marriage before he and Lysimachus departed for the East. However the emperor remained adamant and insisted by saying: “Go to the East first to exterminate the Christians. When you return, I shall help you myself in celebrating the nuptials”. Not wishing to counter the emperor’s command, Selinus and Lysimachus took the imperial orders and some divisions of soldiers and departed. They arrived in Syria and journeyed overland towards the oasis city of Palmyra which is some 140 miles northeast of Damascus out in the Syrian Desert. It was from here that Selinus deigned that their main base of operations would be conducted from, even though they would travel the length and breadth of Syria and Mesopotamia to carry out the emperor’s commission. Now Lysimachus had a nephew who had also accompanied them named Primus, whom he appointed to be in charge of their forces.

Mesopotamia identified on modern map

Mesopotamia we should note, is the land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in western Asia, it is bounded by the Anatolian plateau to the north, the Iranian plateau to the east, the Persian Gulf to the south, and the Arabian and Syrian Deserts on the west. The unsparing Selinus slaughtered as many Christians as he could find in that area. Some of the Christians were consumed by fire, whereas others were made to undergo cruel and violent deaths. Whereupon those lovers of Christ, feared and trembled before the Christ-hating oppressor Selinus, who, by nature, exhibited ferocity and misanthropy.

Privately though, Lysimachus bitterly lamented all these sadistic atrocities, because as was noted earlier, his mother was a Christian, and who had taught him about the Faith. Therefore one evening, Lysimachus took his nephew aside and said to him; “You know quite well that my mother was a Christian. She rendered great care and attention to lead me unto Christ. Moreover she compelled me to love Christ and to become a Christian. Yet, because I feared my father and the emperor, I was unable to deny our polytheism. Nevertheless, I have a command from my mother never to put a Christian to death. When I observe those Christians murdered at the hands of my uncle, my soul is filled with pain”. His sympathies clearly lying with the prisoners, Lysimachus took his nephew into his confidence, and said, “All those Christians that are captured alive, I desire that you allow them to escape”. Receiving Lysimachus’ order, Primus no longer incarcerated Christians. In fact, he informed the Christian and their monastic communities in advance of their raids, so they might have ample time to hide from the Roman persecutors.

The Monastery (Convent) of Abbess Bryene

In Nisibis of Mesopotamia, still a Roman pale near the Parthian (Persian) frontier, there was a certain monastery of fifty ascetics, whose abbess, was the virtuous Deaconess Bryene, a disciple of the pious Deaconess Platonida. In emulating the virtues of her teacher and predecessor, whose rule Bryene kept with diligence, helped ensured the convent’s good order (evnomia). Part of this rule of Mother Platonida, was to dispense with all other tasks (obediences) every Friday, so that it would be a day dedicated solely to prayer and meditation. Thus the nuns would begin the day in the early hours of darkness by gathering to celebrate the Orthros (Matins). Then from daybreak till the Third Hour (9:00 am), Bryene would read to the sisterhood, after which, the sisters would then begin to celebrate the service of the Third Hour. After the service of the Third Hour was concluded, Bryene would read to the sisterhood till Vespers (usually 4 pm or in some places at 5 pm). This custom had originally began as a personal devotion that Bryene was assigned when she was still a disciple, but seeing the spiritual benefit of this custom, she continued it even when she assumed responsibility as abbess.

Each nun, in accordance to her own God-given strength, would fast, maintain prayerful vigil, read, and perform works of prayer (IE. Charity, or assume another sister’s tasks). Within this sisterhood, there dwelt the most virtuous and humble Procla and Fevronia. Procla was twenty-five years of age and Fevronia was twenty years old. At the age of two, Fevronia had been placed by her parents under the charge of her father’s sister, her aunt, the Abbess Bryene. Although Fevronia may have been ignorant of the outside world, she was however wise in spiritual matters, and consequently she had never beheld any worldly finery or clothing, nor did she look upon men. Yet Fevronia grew to be an exceptional beauty with a fair form, unequalled in those parts of the world. Such was the loveliness and brilliance of her countenance that it would be impossible for an artist to depict her exquisite features. Due to this, Abbess Bryene harboured great trepidation and distress, bearing in mind the ever present dangers of state-sponsored persecutions of the Christians, by which Fevronia may become the unwilling target of violation by the profane pagan Romans.

Even though it was the custom and rule of the convent, that the sisters were permitted to eat one meal a day, Abbess Bryene set down a different rule for Fevronia. The rule was that Fevronia would only partake of food once every two days, in the hope that through undernourishment her unsurpassed beauty could be withered, and thus make her unattractive. Fevronia unquestioningly adhered to this strict rule, and enjoined to it hard manual labour and toil as part of her ascetical struggles. She never allowed herself to satisfy the desire of her stomach with bread and water, but only consumed what was only necessary to sustain life. Likewise, she slept little, and even then, it would not be upon a bed, but either seated upon a small stool or lying on the bare ground as a means to toughen and mortify her flesh. Yet whenever the devil would tempt her with rest, she would immediately arise and supplicate to God with tears to expel the temptation.

To all this, Mother Fevronia also diligently dedicated herself to the reading of books, because by nature, she was one who loved learning. For even after struggling against temptation posed by the enemy, she would open the Scriptures and lovingly meditate upon its words. Consequently, by the time she was eighteen, she had become quite learned, so much so, that the abbess herself was filled with wonder. So every Friday, Fevronia was appointed to read the divine words to her fellow sisters or to the female pilgrims, noble or common, who would visit the convent. However, Abbess Bryene ensured that this reading was always conducted from behind a curtain, so that even those who had brought Fevronia up, would not gaze upon her comely countenance. Nonetheless, Mother Fevronia soon became widely known within Nisibis for her learning, humility, beauty and gentleness.

Roman Senate

Ieria (Hieria), The Senator’s Daughter

One day, a certain young maiden named Ieria, who was of noble lineage and whose father was a senator, came to the convent. Without any fear or reserve, she had sought to gain an audience with Mother Fevronia, who had become well known in the region as “a lily blossoming forth in the vales of God”. Hence, in desiring to quench her pious thirst for the Faith, Ieria went to Bryene with tears beseeching her: “I appeal to you by God Who made all of creation, do not reject me because I am an unclean pagan and the sport of demons. Deny me not the opportunity to speak and learn from the nuns the paths of salvation, and to know of those good things laid in store for Christians. Rescue me from the vanity of this world and from the defilement of idolatry. Know, also, that my parents are enjoining me to marry. However, it is enough now to deal with my former error; therefore, let me now partake of new life through the words of my sister Fevronia”.

Due to Ieria’s tears and persistence, Bryene, despite the fact that she never permitted Fevronia any association with laywomen, conceded to Ieria’s entreaty. Thus Ieria was permitted to enter the virgin’s quarters provided that she would be dressed only in monastic garb. Ieria’s thirst and love for God, as well as her profound desire to converse with the elect Fevronia, agreed to wear black. However, Mother Fevronia, believing that Ieria was a visiting nun, fell down before her feet. Then, after exchanging greetings and other such formalities, the abbess ordered that Fevronia conduct the reading from the soul-saving book (the Scriptures). Through Fevronia’s reading and teaching, Ieria was led to that blessed state that we call sincere compunction. The two women keeping prayerful vigil all that night, without sleep. Neither the one tired of reading, nor the other grew drowsy from listening. If anything, Ieria, the child of pagan parents, poured forth abundant tears to the point of soaking the earth, because she had never heard such beautiful words in all her life. When daybreak came, it was only with constraint that abbess Bryene could persuade Ieria to return home.

Mother Fevronia and Ieria embraced, and tearfully bade each other farewell. Then Fevronia questioned Mother Thomais, the one who was second in authority to the abbess (parhegumene), about the identity of the young woman who profusely wept, saying; “I beg you, mother, who was that visiting nun who wept so much as though she never heard the sacred Scriptures?” Mother Thomais answered; “My lady, she is Ieria, the senator’s daughter”. Fevronia then asked; “And how is it that you deceived me into conversing with her as though she were a nun?” Mother Thomias continued; “Thus did our elderess order”. Nothing more was uttered after that.

In the meantime, Ieria returned home to her parents and told them of all that she heard at the convent. In relating these things, she gave much attention to every detail, instructing her parents as one would conduct a catechism. And due to the persuasiveness of her words, Ieria brought her parents to also seek and receive the saving Mystery of Holy Baptism. However it happened in those days that Mother Fevronia became seriously ill, and so Ieria went to her side, caring for her during that entire period, never leaving Fevronia for one moment.

St Fevronia05

Division within the Convent

Not long afterwards, Selinus and Lysimachus entered Nisibis of Mesopotamia, whereby all the Christians whether laity, clergy, or monastics, including the bishop of the city, abandoned their residences and fled. They found refuge within the nearby mountains and caves, making every effort to conceal themselves from imminent danger. The nuns of course, learnt of the impending state-sanctioned attacks, and so they sought abbess Bryene’s permission to depart from their convent until the danger had passed. However the wise and prudent Bryene answered in her customary dry and sober fashion; “You have not even seen battle, and yet you cower? You have not entered the contest, and yet you are already defeated? I beg of you, my children, do not depart. Indeed let us die for Christ that we may live with Him eternally”. Upon hearing their abbess’ advice, there was a silence amongst the nuns.

However, the following day, one of the nuns named Aetheria, remarked to the sisterhood; “It is because of Fevronia that the abbess will not consent to our departure. So she might not lose Fevronia, we shall all be destroyed!” Then continuing, she said; “I have a suggestion: Let us go to the lady abbess, and I will speak upon your behalf”. Yet there was discord amongst the sisterhood, since there were those who agreed with Aetheria, while the other half deemed it both a mistake and a mark of disobedience. Nevertheless, after much argument amongst themselves, they decided to see the abbess.

They went and confronted the elderess who knew of their dissension, and so she looked directly at Aetheria and asked; “What is it that you desire, my sister?” Aetheria answered; “Grant us leave to hide, for we are not superior to the clerics or the bishop. First, you know that certain virgins dwelling here are in danger of being defiled by the soldiers. Secondly, we are unable to withstand torture; therefore we wretched ones shall be despoiled of the rewards of the asceticism we have laboured with.[2] Therefore, if you so direct, we shall take Fevronia and hide her in a certain place”. Fevronia then answered for herself, saying; “As the Lord, my Christ, lives, to Whom I have betrothed and consecrated my soul, I shall not depart this place. It is here that I shall die and be buried for my Master”. Abbess Bryene then said to Aetheria; “You know what you have done this very day, but I forgive you”. Then, turning, she addressed her other spiritual daughters, saying; “Each of you know what is to your advantage, therefore, do as you wish”. Thereafter, each nun, one by one, took leave of the abbess and Mother Fevronia.

Mother Procla, a companion of Mother Fevronia, fell upon Fevronia’s neck and said; “Pray on my behalf, my lady”. Fevronia responded; “At least fear God and do not leave me alone. I am still weak from my illness, and I might die. The abbess is unable to inter my body”. Out of love, Procla agreed to stay behind. However, later on, Procla was gripped by cowardice, and so she departed by night in secret from the convent.

Upon beholding the convent bereft of nuns, Abbess Bryene entered the church and fell prostrate upon the ground, crying. Mother Thomais sought to console her, and said; “Cease weeping mother. Our God can deliver us from affliction and temptation, or, He can give us strength to bear up trials. Who has had faith in God and fell into regret? Who has continued in service to Him and found themselves empty and abandoned?” Bryene, however, answered, “My lady Thomais, I am not sorrowed on our behalf. It is for Fevronia that I am embittered, because I do not know where to conceal her from being violated by the Christ-hating pagans”. Again, Thomais, trying to reassure her, said, “Do not forget what I just said. He Who raises the dead most certainly can strengthen and save Fevronia. Let us now go and cheer Fevronia who is still sick”.

It happened though, that Fevronia overheard the abbess’ lamenting within the church, and inquired the reason from Thomais. Thomais answered; “On your account do we fear that some spiritual harm or misfortune may befall you, therefore, pray unto the Lord. For, when the soldiers of that tyrant apprehend us, bringing us before the judgement seat, they shall put us old ones to death. You, however, as a very beautiful young woman, they will keep. They will attempt to defile your virginity by either deceitful flattery or other devices; or to dominate you with threats of torments to betray your piety. Therefore, for the love of your heavenly Bridegroom, do not betray your honour nor your Faith by being deceived by gold, silver, rich apparel, and other transitory and vain things. Thus you might lose the reward of your ascetic struggles and become the plaything of the devils. Nothing is more honourable than virginity which renders an immeasurable recompense. The heavenly Bridegroom bestows deathless immortality upon them who desire Him and do not defile themselves. Therefore, remain steadfast and keep the promises you have made, because dreadful is the day of judgement when each will receive according to their works”.

Fevronia listened to everything, and then answered; “You have advised me well, because, by such soul-saving exhortation, you have established me better. If I had so chosen, I could have left with the others. Yet since I desire to die for my Master, if He counts me worthy of His grace, I shall remain behind”.

Upon hearing Fevronia’s stirring words, Abbess Bryene also began to counsel her, saying, “Remember, my child, how I took you as a two-year old nursling and raised you myself. I taught you letters and, to this day, I have kept you as the apple of my eye. I beseech you, therefore, do not let them sully you, thereby spoiling all your labours. Bring to mind the holy martyrs who endured so many dread and fearful torments, so they might win the crown of victory from the Master Christ. The martyrs were not only men, but women and young children. Remember the women martyrs Libye, whose head they struck off, and Leonida, whom they burned. Recall twelve-year old Evtropia who, with her mother, was brought before the unjust judge. Ready to shoot her full of arrows, but they did not bind her, so she might cower and flee death. Nevertheless, Evtropia hearkening to her mother, stood motionless receiving arrow wounds and then gave up her soul. Though Evtropia was an uneducated child, she exhibited such courage and bravery. Wherefore, may it never be that you, who has taught others, should be vanquished by the enemy”.[3] Abbess Bryene said this and many more things, as all three women passed that day into the depths of night.

Roman soldiers in Amman

The Takeover of Nisibis

The following morning, at sunrise, a great agitation and commotion descended upon Nisibis, for Selinus had entered the city commanding his men to seize and imprison any Christians who had remained within Nisibis, and subject them to various tortures. Then certain pagans sought Selinus’ audience, where they informed him about the presence of the convent, and so Selinus dispatched a detachment of soldiers to arrest the nuns and bring them back to his judgement seat. The soldiers went to the convent and upon their arrival began breaking down the convent doors with hatchets, the soldiers entered only to find the three nuns. One of the soldiers then wielded his sword to strike down the abbess, only to be stopped by Mother Fevronia who fell before the soldier’s feet saying; “I adjure you before God Who dwells in the heavens, slay me first, so that I may not witness the death of my lady!”

At that moment, Primus arrived at the convent and dismissed the soldiers. Once the soldiers were outside of the convent and beyond earshot, he asked the abbess about the whereabouts of the other nuns. She answered that due to fear they had fled, to which Primus responded; “It had been better if you left also, because I have grave concerns for you. For now you must go somewhere else, so that when the commander dispatches other soldiers, they will not find you”. At that, Primus then departed and returned to report to Lysimachus who was at the praetorium, (that is, the official residence of a local governor). In making his report he commented; “I went to the convent, and all the women living there had fled, except two old women and one young one. When I beheld the beauty of the young woman, indeed, I marveled. By the gods, I have never beheld a more beautiful woman! She, indeed, is worthy of you”. However Lysimachus replied; “I have a command from my mother not to mistreat a Christian. How, therefore, can I commit treachery against the handmaids of Christ? Thus, I beseech you to protect them in piety, lest they fall into the hands of my uncle Selinus”.

St Fevronia of Nisibis

The Saint is Apprehended

At that time, one of the evil soldiers made a report to Selinus about the raid on the convent. He told him that they had found a young woman there who was truly a remarkable vision of beauty. This angered Selinus, who then ordered his men to bring the young woman to the judgement hall. So, like wild beasts, the soldiers went and seized Mother Fevronia, who was lying sick on a pallet. They clapped a heavy iron collar around her neck, and began pushing her about. Now the abbess and Mother Thomais desired to accompany the blessed one, so they might exhort her and give her courage, but the soldiers refused permission.

The two elderly nuns were however able to persuade the soldiers to allow them to pray with Fevronia to the Lord, before they took her away. Thus, when they were permitted to enter the church, Bryene and Thomais emboldened and confirmed Fevronia for what lay ahead. They said; “Behold, o bride of the heavenly King for you are proceeding towards the contest. And He now stands invisibly by you, preserving you while the angels hold the victor’s crown. Therefore do not fear the torments or mourn for your corruptible flesh which tomorrow shall lie motionless in the tomb as food for worms. Instead, for the Lord’s sake, deliver your body up to scourging and punishment, so that you might live eternally with Him in Paradise. Behold, we shall remain here, but we shall not cease entreating the Lord on your behalf, so that He may empower you to complete the course of your contest”.

The blessed and holy Fevronia answered; “My spiritual mothers, I hope in God that I might accomplish this obedience also; for you know that I never disobeyed any of your commands. My confidence is in Christ and in the Ever-virgin Mother of God that they might endow me with a brave and courageous mind, so that the people shall see and be amazed. Then they shall exclaim; ‘Truly this plant was raised by the great Bryene’. Therefore grant me leave and pray for me”. Mother Thomais then said; “As the Lord God lives, I shall don men’s clothing that I might behold your contest!

When Abbess Bryene noticed that the soldiers were hard pressed on leaving, she raised her hands to the heavens, saying; “Lord Jesus Christ Who appeared in the likeness of (Apostle) Paul before Your handmaiden Thecla[4], emboldening her, likewise, stand by and manifest Yourself to this humble maiden at the hour of her contest, vouchsafing her Your help”. Weeping, Bryene embraced and kissed Fevronia. The soldiers then took the blessed Fevronia, ushering her out of the convent. Abbess Bryene, taking refuge in the church, fell prostrate to the ground, and supplicated God on behalf of Fevronia. Meanwhile, Mother Thomais, dressed in men’s apparel, followed from behind, together with some secular women who had previously visited the convent and were taught by Fevronia. They too, sought to witness Fevronia’s contest, while beating their breasts in lamentation in the knowledge that they would soon have to forfeit a great spiritual guide to be sacrificed by the pagans as an offering to God’s glory, and to the shame of those pagans who unjustly persecuted the faithful. They thus followed behind the military guard escorting their beloved mother in Christ.

Of course such a commotion did not go unnoticed within the environs of Nisibis, for when Ieria from her home, learned of Fevronia’s capture, she wept bitterly. She turned to her parents and exclaimed; “My sister and teacher Fevronia is being judged, and shall I sit here in ease?” Ieria then persuaded her parents to allow her to go to the amphitheatre where the trial would be used as a public event to deter others seeking to discover the Truth of the Way. And so in continuing to weep, she departed with her maidservants, and as she came running, Ieria passed the throngs of women hastening to Fevronia’s trial.

Trial before Selinus

A great multitude had assembled within the city’s amphitheatre when the saint, with an iron collar and tied hands, was brought forward. Everyone within the crowd was moved to compassion seeing this figure made frail by illness, being treated in such an undignified and harsh fashion; while being mindful of the many virtues that this young maiden of the Lord possessed and the humble comfort which she had lavished upon those who sought her compassion and prayers.

The unfortunate Lysimachus, had the dreaded responsibility of beginning the initial enquiries before being compelled to delegate the blessed Fevronia’s fate to the cross-examination of his sadistic uncle. He thus begun speaking; “Maiden, are you a slave or a freeborn woman?” Fevronia answered; “Slave”. Lysimachus continued; “Whose slave are you?” She responded; “I am the handmaid of the Lord”. Lysimachus then asked; “What is your name?” She answered; “The poor Christian woman”. Lysimachus retorted; “No, it is your name that I desire to know”. Fevronia responded; “I have already told you, ‘the poor Christian woman’ is my name. However, if you wish to know what my mistress calls me, it is Fevronia”.

The commander Selinus then interjected; “I had already decided within my own mind that I would not speak to you at all[5]. Nevertheless, due to your beauty and noble countenance, I have put away my great indignation. Therefore, not as a condemned prisoner do I speak to you, but I advise and beseech you as a beloved child to hearken to my reasoning. By the gods, my brother Anthimus and I have betrothed my lord Lysimachus to a wealthy and beautiful woman of Rome. Yet this day, I consent to the annulment of this betrothal, so that you might take him as your husband. The man I speak of is this handsome young man who sits together with me. Have no fear if you are poor and bereft of money, because I have no children; yet, I shall bestow my wealth upon both of you, so that you will have me as your father. You shall have immeasurable glory, and all women shall call you blessed. Emperor Diocletian shall bestow upon you countless gifts. He also promised to make Lysimachus prefect, a rank above which there exists nothing higher. Therefore, give me a good answer that I might rejoice in my soul; because, if you will not do my bidding, I will not leave you three hours of life within this world”.

The holy Fevronia answered; “I have an indissoluble bridal chamber in the heavens that is not made by hands, and a dowry which is the Kingdom of the heavens, and a deathless Bridegroom. Therefore it is not possible to cohabit with a man. Do not be deceived, nor should you labour to test me with flatteries and threats, for you will never defeat me”.

Upon hearing this challenge, the tyrant flew into a violent rage, and he ordered that the holy woman be disrobed and displayed before all, so that she might be shamed by her indecent exposure. His hope was that this would cause her immense dismay and that she would reconsider her fall from the prospect of worldly glory to such public dishonour, on account of her intransigence and disobedience. After the soldiers removed her monastic garb and presented her naked, the perverse tyrant said; “Do you see Fevronia, from what good things that you could attain, you have now fallen, and to what extent of contempt have you descended?” Fevronia, a very pure person in body and soul, answered; “There is but One Creator Who, in the beginning, made us male and female. Wherefore, I am not only willing to endure this nakedness, but to have each of my limbs dismembered for my Christ, if He vouchsafes me His grace to suffer dreaded torments for His love”.

The unashamed sadistic persecutor Selinus remarked; “Shameless woman, and deserving of every dishonour, I know your vainglory is on account of your beauty, deeming it a public compliment when others gaze upon your form!” The venerable woman answered; “My Christ knows that until today I have never gazed upon the face of a man. Yet you who are ignorant, call me shameless when you yourself are truly without any sense of shame or decency? Whoever desires to contend in the Olympic contests does not wrestle fully clothed, but naked he engages in close fight to defeat his opponent. Therefore, I too, must tolerate this nakedness that I might contend with the devil, who is also your father”.

Amphitheatre seats and stairs

The Martyric Witness of the Saint

Moved to wrath once again, the commander ordered that four men stretch and bind the nun, so that her front parts be burned with fire, while four other men mercilessly struck her back. The pitiless men continued to beat her for a long time, while others would stoke and sprinkle the fire with oil, in order to cause her worse burns. In witnessing this atrocious punishment, the crowd cried out aloud entreating Selinus; “Have compassion on the young woman, O philanthropic judge!” On the contrary, Selinus ordered his men to increase the scourging and beating, in the false hope that Fevronia would submit or at least cower. When it was seen that strips of her flesh fell to the ground and that she appeared to be dead, he commanded that she be cast to one side.

Mother Thomais, believing that the holy Fevronia had given up her soul, became faint-hearted and swooned at the feet of Ieria. Ieria, weeping then cried aloud; “Woe is me, my Lady Fevronia, for this day I am bereft of your teaching. Moreover, Thomais has fainted because of you”. When Fevronia heard Ieria speak thus, she asked the soldiers to pour water over her face. When they did this, she was somewhat renewed and asked to see Ieria. Selinus, however was in no mood to grant such a request. If anything, that gutless excuse of a so-called man, further examined her by saying; “How did the first match seem to you, Fevronia?” Christ’s martyr (witness[6]) answered; “Know that, in the first trial, with Christ helping me, I not only remained unconquered, but I regarded your tortures with contempt”. Selinus then commanded; “Suspend her upon the wooden pole and lacerate her sides with iron claws. Then burn her rent members to the bones!

Thus they tore at the Saint, so that her flesh fell to the ground and her blood streamed forth as a river. Later they bought fire and burned her entrails. Looking steadfastly up into Heaven she said; “Come to my aid O Lord, and do not despise Your handmaiden”. She then fell silent after uttering this prayer, because she was being burned by the fire. Many of the spectators left, unable to bear the commander’s raw pitilessness. Indignant, others remained and begged him to withdraw the torment by fire. Though he yielded to their pleas by having the fire extinguished, he left her hanging from the pole, wishing to further interrogate her, but Christ’s athlete was unable to answer.

Saint Fevronia was then taken down and tied to a stake. Selinus, angered because she would not answer upon examination, ordered that a physician cut and remove her tongue and burn it. Hearing this, the Saint straightaway, extended her eloquent tongue, nodding to the physician to cut it in accordance to the commander’s order. When the physician removed his iron surgical instrument, the crowd once again entreated Selinus to leave her for awhile. That savage of course seeking to pander to public opinion granted their request, but instead confounded the crowd by commanding the physician to break all her teeth. Hence the physician began to extract her teeth, until he removed all seventeen of her teeth. From the pain and haemorrhaging, Fevronia fell unconscious. The sadistic commander then ordered the physician to stop and begin applying therapeutic herbs to stop the excessive bleeding.

Selinus then asked her; “What do you say Fevronia? Will you worship the gods?” The holy woman answered; “Anathema to you, thrice accursed old man! Why do you not slay me quicker that I might go to my beloved Christ, instead of impeding my path?” With the maelstrom of his great crimes whirling about him, Selinus answered saying; “Shameless woman, I will spoil and disfigure your body by fire and sword, until I might humble your haughtiness”. Then, alas, he commanded that her breasts be cut off, so her chest might be further burned. The crowd stood and supplicated Selinus, saying; “O, our lord judge, we implore you to spare the girl this torture!” However, goaded by his macabre lust for blood, Selinus ignored their pleas. When her right breast was first cut and thrown to the ground, the saint prayed; “O Lord, my God, behold my affliction, and let my soul come into Your hands”. After the removal of her left breast, she fell silent. The soldiers then proceeded to burn her, consuming the muscles of the chest wall. All those who witnessed this spectacle cursed the commander and his gods.

Meanwhile, Mother Thomais and Ieria sent a messenger informing Abbess Bryene of all that took place, so that she might not cease praying on her behalf of the martyr. When the abbess learned of the harrowing contest of Christ’s martyr, she cried out unto the Lord, saying; “Lord Jesus Christ, assist Your handmaid, and count me worthy to behold her perfected in Your confession and numbered among Your holy martyrs”.

The lawless commander then had Fevronia removed from the stake, to inflict other tortures upon her. Once removed, Fevronia was unable to stand on her own or to speak. She fell prone to the earth as one dead. Primus then said to Lysimachus; “Why is this beautiful maiden being cruelly destroyed?” Lysimachus answered; “For the salvation of many and, perhaps, even myself. I do not have it within my power to release her. Thus, I tolerate this, so many might profit by her good example. I used to hear of such feats from my mother. Therefore, let the maiden gain the victory”.[7]

Ieria Challenges Selinus

The Ieria came forward when it was evident that the depraved Selinus was about to subject Fevronia to other torments. Rebuking him, Ieria said; “Are you not appeased by your many disgraceful deeds inflicted upon this holy maiden, O inhumane one? In inflicting these torments, neither have you considered nor remembered your own mother’s breast which sustained you, even though it was a grave mistake she had even given birth to you?[8] Is this why you have shown such great savagery against this humble maiden? I pray that the heavenly King does not pardon you, but that He punishes you in this life and in the future one!

When the unjust depraved judge heard Ieria’s censure he became enraged even further. He then ordered that Ieria be bound as a criminal to be chastised for insulting him, yet Ieria rejoiced and hastened to enter the arena, and said; “My Lord Jesus Christ, receive me, the lowly one, with my Lady Fevronia”. Selinus’ advisors then counseled him not to publicly mistreat Ieria for he would lose the city, because the whole crowd held her in great esteem.

The Final Torments and Witness

Not wishing to stir up further public disfavour, the commander did not wish to risk Ieria’s protests turning public opinion against him. He reeked, however, his revenge upon what he considered Ieria’s boldness and obstinacy, by ordering the severing of both Fevronia’s hands and one foot. Righteous Fevronia had both her hands cut off. Then, when the executioner attempted to remove her foot, the axe missed the joint of the ankle bone. Only after three swings was the merciless one able to sever her foot from the leg. Despite experiencing excruciating pain from this indescribable affliction, Fevronia extended her other foot upon the wooden block, so that the executioner would lop off that limb also. Consumed with the love for the Master, she did this so that she might give up her spirit and endure no more torments.

Nonetheless, the unjust Selinus, quick to observe this, became even more hardened, and said; “Do you see the strength of this shameless woman?” He then said to the executioner; “Cut that off too”. When Fevronia’s other foot was dismembered, Lysimachus said to Selinus; “Let us go and eat, and leave this ill-fated one, since you have punished her excessively”. Selinus, unwilling, answered, “By the gods, I am not leaving until she gives up her spirit!

Though a good deal of time passed, the Saint, tried as gold in a crucible, was gasping her last. The executioners were asked; “Does that thrice-damned woman still live?” They answered; “Yes”. This response by the executioners, splendidly put to shame, that most wicked Selinus who then commanded that Fevronia’s head be struck off. It was the 25th June when the executioner took up his sword and, grabbing her by her long tresses, cut off the head of Fevronia, the adornment of virgins and the ornament of nuns. Having empurpled her body with streams of blood, with divine strength, she treaded the path of martyrdom without faltering. Now, the righteous Fevronia gazes upon the incomprehensible beauty of Christ and received the gift of theosis.[9]

Pride Quote

The Violent and Timely Demise of Selinus

In having accomplished his desire, the lawless commander went to eat. However, Lysimachus, remaining indoors began shedding heartfelt tears of extreme grief for the martyr. He refused permission to the Christians who desired to appropriate her precious relics for distribution (as is Christian custom). Instead, he posted guards to safeguard the complete recovery and return of Fevronia’s relics to her holy convent. After issuing these orders, Lysimachus chose not to join his uncle for lunch. He decided to remain within his chambers and mourn the Saint’s repose.

This turn of actions had a profound effect upon Selinus, who upon learning of his nephew’s disposition, became extremely embittered and lost his appetite and did not eat. He became very sad and distressed, and what many would call divine retribution, overtook Selinus. He began to lose his mind, pacing restlessly from one place to another within the compounds of the praetorium. He then began gazing at the sky, screaming and shouting out senselessly like the bellows of a raging bull, and his actions corresponded to those who are demonized or lunatic. In his building hysteria, he then had a sudden fit of madness whereby he began to violently strike his head against a pillar. Whereupon, the unjust and merciless Selinus died an evil death through his fit of hysteria, thus receiving a just reward for the wickedness he had perpetrated against so many innocent people, especially the righteous handmaiden of the Lord, Fevronia.

These events caused great turmoil within the praetorium, for all came to behold the evil demise of that wicked man. Lysimachus, seeing his uncle dead, questioned the soldiers as to what had transpired. The soldiers hesitantly related the turn of events in all their entirety. To which Lysimachus remained silent for quite some time shaking his head, and, in the hearing of all kept on uttering; “Great is the God of the Christians Who has avenged the righteous and unjustly shed blood of Fevronia”.

The Transference of the Saint’s Relics to the Convent

Lysimachus then summoned his nephew, Count Primus, and said; “Speedily order a woodcarver to fashion a casket of incorruptible acacia wood for Fevronia. Send heralds to publish abroad that the Christians may gather, without fear or alarm, at the funeral of the holy martyr, since my uncle is dead. When all the people have assembled, let the soldiers take up her august relics and transfer them to the convent of Abbess Bryene. Allow no one to snatch any part of her body, not even the smallest particle. In no way are any dogs or other unclean animals to lick those places that drunk up her honourable blood. In fact, even the soil, stained with her blood, is to be conveyed to the convent”.

Primus carefully carried out each order. While his best men took the main body of her relics, Primus, in his cloak, wrapped up Fevronia’s honourable head, hands, feet and other bodily parts. As he hastened to reach the convent, Primus was followed by an immense crowd, which made his journey very difficult, and it was only through using military force that they were able reach the convent. The crowds were jostling and trying to forcibly seize some portion of the Martyr’s precious body, but it was only through the drawing of the soldier’s swords that they were barred from snatching any portion of the Saint. Primus took further measures by detailing additional guards about the body as a preventative measure. At the entrance of the convent, no one from the crowd was allowed access, except Mother Thomais and Ieria. Primus then went to see Lysimachus to receive further directives.

Though, when Abbess Bryene beheld the mutilated and dismembered body of the Martyr, she fainted, collapsing on the floor. Only after a long interval of time did she revive and rise. Embracing the relics, she said; “Woe is me, my daughter, for today I am bereft of your most sweet presence. We have no other teacher to read the books with such diligence and mastery”. The other nuns who had returned from their place of hiding wept bitterly. Yet none wept more bitterly or lamenting Fevronia’s absence from within their midst than the pious Ieria who exclaimed; “O my sweetest Fevronia! O most wise one! What recompense shall I give you for the great boon which you had rendered to me, leading me out of the darkness of ignorance? I venerate your holy feet, which trampled upon the head of the serpent. I kiss the wounds of your reverend members, which healed my soul. I crown with flowery encomia the august crown of your head, which crowned our race with the beauty of your struggles”. Other women from the sisterhood also said many other words of praise, until the hour of Vespers.

The sisterhood, as part of their rule, read the service. Now Fevronia’s absence was woefully missed, when the nuns wept and said; “Sister Fevronia, the time for prayer has arrived: Arise and read the service with your eloquent tongue!” Mother Thomais, with bitter tears, also added; “We know that you have never disobeyed any command of the abbess; how come now O beloved sister and lady, do you not obey us? Why do you not rise to read, in accordance to your custom, the Office of the Ninth Hour?” Uttering this, there arose an outpouring lamentation and turmoil. Meanwhile the door of the convent was then opened, so all who gathered from that region might enter, including priests and monastics. Standing till morning, thy conducted an all-night vigil, chanting unto the Lord.

The Repentance of Lysimachus and Primus

Lysimachus then said to Count Primus; “I, my beloved Primus, from this day, renounce the error of my father, together with all mine inheritance and I believe in my Master Jesus Christ”. Primus responded in similar fashion; “I shall do likewise, my lord. I anathematize Diocletian and all the gods; and I submit to Christ with all my heart”. The two then went to the convent with an innumerable crowd, carrying the casket. The precious relics, including the Saint’s revered severed limbs, were placed in each of their respective position. Only Fevronia’s teeth were laid on her chest, so no part of her body would be missing. Each part was anointed with myrrh and aromatic spices. The casket was then placed in a distinguished location within the convent, while glorifying and thanking the Lord.

Many pagans also attended the services, and having witnessed the Martyr’s contest, had come to believe in Christ, thus entering amongst the ranks of the newly-illumined by receiving Holy Baptism. Similarly, Primus and Lysimachus were amongst those who received Baptism and utterly renounced the world, but they chose to not to return to the impious emperor Diocletian. Instead they chose to enter into the angelic life of monasticism, and they sought out the pious Archimandrite Marcellinos as their spiritual father and who tonsured them as monks. As a result, both men concluded their lives in asceticism, within a God-pleasing manner. Yet we should also mention, that an immense multitude of the soldiers that Diocletian had dispatched to carry out the persecutions as well as those who were serving within the garrison of Nisibis, came to be baptized and ended their lives as Christians.

Ieria Enters into the Life of the Convent

Ieria, together with her parents who were of senatorial rank, renounced the world and were tonsured at the convent where they donated all their fortunes. The blessed Ieria then besought the Abbess, saying; “I entreat you, O mother and lady, have me as your handmaid to take the place of Fevronia, so I might perform all your commands”. Ieria then spent her entire dowry on the embellishment of the convent church. She then melted all her gold and silver jewelry, so she could guild the Saint’s reliquary casket, where countless miracles took place.

The Return of the Saint

The following year, on the eve of the anniversary of St. Fevronia’s repose, when the nuns were chanting the vigil service, the holy Fevronia appeared in their midst at about midnight. She was seen standing in her usual place until the Third Hour. Now she was seen by the entire sisterhood, but none dared approach her or inquire of her anything. All the nuns were fearful and thus none approached her. Then, Abbess Bryene cried aloud; “Behold Fevronia, my child!” When the abbess was just about to bend forward and embrace Fevronia, she vanished. Therefore, after that experience, when Fevronia would appear, none of the nuns chanced approaching her. They simply looked upon her weeping from their joy at such a wonderful vision.

Nisibis Church Interior - St Jacob

The Church of Saint Fevronia

The Bishop of Nisibis dedicated himself to the pious task of constructing a church dedicated to the memory of Fevronia. This undertaking took some six years, whereupon its completion, he invited all the other neighbouring bishops to attend the church’s consecration. An all-night vigil was celebrated within the church on the eve of the 25th June, the date of her repose. Such a multitude had assembled that not everyone could fit inside the church. In the morning, after the conclusion of the service, the bishops proceeded to the Saint’s convent, seeking to translate (convey) her holy relics to the newly-built church.

After the faithful reached the convent, they sat down and called for the abbess. Addressing her, they said, “The fruits of your monasticism and God-pleasing labours are acknowledged throughout the world. No one can render you fitting praise. It is proper that those appointed as abbess to offer up to God such fruits as yours. We remain silent since we cannot utter adequate praise for this great and holy martyr. No one can chant her praises. Though, we have now come to you as our own sister, and I ask you to share with us in St. Fevronia’s honour. Give her precious relics to us, so that she may dwell in the shrine built in her honour”.

When Abbess Bryene and all the sisterhood learned of their intention, they prostrated themselves before the bishops with tears, saying; “For the Lord’s sake, have mercy upon us. Do not deprive us of this encouragement and consolation by taking away our treasure”. The bishop then spoke to the abbess, saying; “Listen, my sister, you know fully well how much I have spent and afflicted myself for six years till this very day, with great exertion and expense, to the glory of the holy martyr. Therefore, do not allow my labour to remain fruitless”. The abbess answered; “If this work is pleasing to the Saint and to your holiness, who am I to prevent it? Go therefore, and take her up, if it is God’s will”.

The bishops then went to the Saint’s tomb. After reading prayers, they attempted to raise up the reliquary. Ieria, loudly shouting, said; “Woe unto us, the wretches. What orphanhood and affliction has befallen us this day that we should give up our pearl? What are you doing our lady and headmistress? On account of Fevronia, I have renounced all the world and sought refuge in your hands, and now am I to be deprived of my joy?” Abbess Bryene in her customary sober manner replied; “Why afflict yourself my child? If this is pleasing to the righteous one, she shall go. If this is not God’s will, it will be impossible to transfer her”.

After the bishops completed their prayers, and spread their hands preparing to lift the reliquary, straightaway, a fearful thunderclap filled the air. All fell to the earth trembling. After a little time passed and all recovered from their intense fear, they attempted again to lift the reliquary. Once more, they were unsuccessful when a great and terrible earthquake took place. It seemed of such a magnitude that the entire city would collapse.

It thus became apparent that it was not the Saint’s will to depart from her convent, thus creating great joy amongst the sisterhood. However, the citizens were aggrieved, especially the pious bishop, who then besought the abbess to donate at least one portion of the holy relics. The Abbess Bryene, hearkening to their request, opened the reliquary with a key. A brilliant flash of lightning emitted from the Saint, a light more radiant than the rays of the sun. As Abbess Bryene stretched forth her right hand to take up one of the martyr’s hands for the bishop, straightaway, the abbess’ hand withered and remained motionless and could not be torn away from the reliquary. This frightening wonder held the attention of all present, and to which the Abbess cried aloud to the Saint saying; “I entreat you, Fevronia, my child, do not be angered with me, the lowly one. Instead, recall my labours and do not make an example of me in my old age”. The righteous one then pardoned her and healed her hand.

The Abbess then said to the Saint; “Grant us some blessing, my Lady Fevronia, please do not disappoint us”. Abbess Bryene then took up one of the teeth laying across the Saint’s chest. She then gave it to the bishop who, with much reverence, received it on a gold dish. Then, accompanied by chanting, candles, and incense, all went to the new church, and laid the relic in the Holy Altar. Much later, in 363, the relics of Saint Fevronia were translated to Constantinople.

As for Abbess Bryene, she lived for another two years before her repose in the Lord. The abbacy then fell upon Mother Thomais, who is attributed with the hagiography of St. Fevronia’s passion, and whose story reminds us that suffering in some form is both an unavoidable fact of life and quite often, a necessary preliminary for the attainment of the noetic bridal chamber. To avoid suffering and its didactic purpose is merely postponing its inevitability which will find us one way or another, and therefore we should not cower, but confront it with all its pain. Just in like manner as iron is placed within fire and hammered, before it is formed to make strong implements or tools that are useful for work by its user. So too, are we hammered and formed by the Lord in order to serve as instruments of grace within His hands.

Miracles of the Saint

With regards our holy martyr Fevronia, the Almighty Trinitarian God showed forth His great and extraordinary wonders in that small portion (the Saint’s tooth) of the relics. The Saint bestowed miracles unstintingly. The blind were made to see, the lame were restored, the paralytics walked, and demons were cast out of the infirm. This excellent report spread everywhere, causing people to hasten from every country and city. All the sick, whether carried upon cots or beasts of burden, receiving healing. The wonder-workings never ceased. Not only then, but at all times, does the philanthropic and supremely-good God work miracles for all those who glorify His most-glorious and triumphant righteous martyr. This is because the ever-memorable one, who laboured much, glorified Him in the struggle of her dread contest. Whereupon, she was counted worthy of such confidence, boldness, and grace in our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom is due all glory and honour and worship unto the ages, Amen.

Apolytikion (Tone 3)

Like a fragrant rose in the ascetic life, you breathed forth the myrrh of Christ. Therefore He has glorified you as a righteous martyr, Fevronia. Now intercede with Him for those who cry: “Rejoice, O noble and blessed martyr!”

Ἀπολυτίκιον – Ἦχος γ’. Τὴν ὡραιότητα.

Ὡς τῆς ἀσκήσεως ῥόδον ἡδύπνευστον, ὀσμὴν ἀθλήσεως τῷ κόσμῳ ἔπνευσας, εἰς ὀσμὴν μύρων τοῦ Χριστοῦ δραμοῦσα ἀσχέτῳ πόθῳ, ὅθεν ὡς παρθένον σὲ καὶ ὁσίαν καὶ μάρτυρα, θαυμαστῶς ἐδόξασε Φεβρωνία ὁ Κύριος, ᾧ πρέσβευε ὑπὲρ τῶν βοώντων, χαῖρε σεμνὴ ὁσιομάρτυς.

Kontakion (Tone 3)

You were adorned with the grace of virginity and the beauty of martyrdom, O Fevronia, bride of Christ. You wisely carried your lamp and ran to your Bridegroom receiving an incorruptible crown. Pray for those who faithfully sing hymns of praise to you!

St Nikolai Velimirovich01

Hymn of Praise to Saint Fevronia – By Saint Nikolai Velimirovich

The virgin Fevronia, confesses Christ;

Before judgment standing, bloody and pale.

 

As a palm branch, the young Fevronia;

From beautiful fruit, a branch became heavy.

 

And to Selinus she speaks: “A Bridegroom, have I,

And no type of honour, from you do I accept.

 

Christ is my glory, Christ is my pride;

O yes, the beautiful countenance of my Bridegroom!

 

Cut off, cut off my feet – paths they have travelled!

Cut off, cut off my hands – work they have completed!

 

Cut out, cut out my tongue – with my heart I will pray!

Smash, smash my mouth – with my heart, I will speak!

 

Whip, crush the body – why do I need the body?

A more beautiful garment, the Bridegroom has prepared;

 

Among many holy ones, in the heavens above;

Among the angels, in sweet Paradise.

 

Do not think Selinus, that when I depart,

That the fury of your life will die.

 

But hear me and remember: behold the same day

Before the Living God, together we will go:

 

You as a torturer and I, tortured by you,

Each, his deeds, will bring with him.

St Fevronia06

Dedication

We firstly wish to dedicate this article to the memory of Rita (Hariklia) Comino who had faithfully served the Church for many decades, your presence will be sorely missed. However we also wish to dedicate this article to those women, monastic or lay, who with immense devotion serve the Lord and His Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church with great love, care and self-sacrifice. May your example continue to transfigure the world, and be of particular inspiration to the confusion and directionless of modern-day women who are confronted with the crisis and trials of identity, and their role within society.

May they find strength in your examples, and we pray that they become open to the workings of Faith, and not to mass-consumerism and atheism, which seeks to delude them with fool’s gold and to dishonour the image of womanhood.

– V. M.

Rita Comino


[1] Part of the key reasons why the Emperor was insistent, if not paranoid about the presence of Christians within the East of his domains, particularly Syria and Mesopotamia, is due to the fact that these were borderlands that adjoined the only major threat to Rome, Parthia (Persia). It was seen that given the fact that there was much trade and movement between both empires along these borderlands, and that fugitives from the authorities could merely cross-over boundaries it was a continual concern. For Diocletian, he perceived the Christians as a threat to socio-political stability and towards the pagan cults of Rome, whose gods were punishing the Roman state for not according their proper due. He also perceived the Christians as potential spies of the Parthians who bestowed a slightly greater degree of tolerance towards them than the Roman state. It not surprising that as the account unfolds we see Selinus making great lengths to pursue and kill the Christians, but as we see he was someone who had sadistic inclinations who took great pleasure in such genocides.

[2] In other words, not all of us are ready or have the spiritual strength to endure what may await for us, and thus fail the crucial test of martyrdom and deny Christ, hence invalidating all our ascetical efforts.

[3] It is worth noting that the virgin Martyrs Libye, Leonida (Leonis), and Evtropia were all from Syria, and were commemorated locally. The Church commemorates their memory the same day as St Fevronia on the 25th June.

[4] Holy Virgin Proto-Martyr and Equal to the Apostles, St. Thecla, whose memory is honoured on the 24th September.

[5] Apparently Selinus had decided that if and when he was going to conduct his cross-examination, he was going to do so through an official representative who would speak on his behalf and follow his instructions. Thus he would not even dignify Fevronia’s presence by acknowledging her, as a way of insulting her and her Christian belief, which he perceived, made her an unclean deceiver that threatened to contaminate the allegiance of empire’s citizens towards the empire and their emperor. Given Nisibis’ strategic location, this point had to be emphasised to a greater degree, and thus even before the trial was conducted, people like Fevronia had already been judged before even being heard, for they were to be made examples of, as a deterrent to others, while making sport of them for public spectacles. This of course was to also please Diocletian, and meet with his desires to wipe out the Christians once and for all.

[6] There is an evident play on words, because within Greek and the Semitic languages, the word for witness is the same word for martyr. The implication is that a Christian bears witness to their Faith even to the point of death and torture, thus giving the meaning and overtones in which the word martyrdom means in the English language ever since.

[7] We must also remember that many of the things which we take for granted within our modern world such as the charter of human rights, public education, social welfare support, women’s rights and so forth, were founded upon the example of such martyrdoms like that of St. Fevronia; in the hope to inspire others to manifest within our world a small foretaste of the love, beauty and joy that is the Kingdom of Heaven. That reality which we seek to attain or experience within prayer, the Divine Liturgy, the various mysteries (sacraments) and our philanthropic works to become the norm of human life and reality, and try as best we can to not only be living images of God but to become manifestations of His likeness.

[8] In other words, where is your respect for the honour and place of women?

[9] The irony of the account is how it illustrates what pride can do to a person, as shown with Selinus, and demonstrates that it is the worst sin of all which can destroy any sense of proportion or purpose within any person. Of course to add insult to injury, Selinus was not able to break Fevronia’s resolve which was a great defeat for his pride, especially given the norms of society in those days, since that defeat came from a woman! A woman who had spurned all his promises of social standing and worldly glories, because she insisted on living in all poverty and lowliness, thus bringing scorn and contempt on his own social status and authority! Thus, for a man of authority, to be publicly challenged and berated in the process, only to lose the support of public opinion, shows how contemptible Selinus had become, and how a woman brought him to heel, after he had brought so many others down.

About admin

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*