SAINTS

SEPT. 16: ST. EUPHEMIA

(4th century)               
A detailed account of the martyrdom of today’s saint reveals her many sufferings.
Euphemia was the daughter of Christians, the senator Philophronos and Theodosia and suffered for Christ in the year 304 A.D. in the city of Chalcedon, on the banks of the Bosphorus opposite Constantinople.
The Chalcedon governor Priscus circulated an order to all the inhabitants of Chalcedon and it surroundings to appear at a pagan festival to worship and offer sacrifice to an idol of Ares. Those who did not appear would suffer grave torments. During the pagan festival, 49 Christians were hidden in one house, where they secretly attended services to the true God.
The young maiden Euphemia was among those praying there. Soon the hiding place of the Christians was discovered, and they were brought before Priscus to answer for themselves. For 19 days the martyrs were subjected to various tortures and torments, but none of them wavered in their Christian faith nor consented to offer sacrifice to the idol.
The governor, beside himself with rage and not knowing any other way of forcing the Christians to abandon their faith, sent them for trial to the Roman Emperor Diocletian. He kept the youngest, the virgin Euphemia, hoping that she would not remain strong if she were all alone.
St. Euphemia, separated from her brethren in faith, prayed for Jesus to strengthen her in her impending ordeal. Priscus at first urged the saint to recant, promising her earthly blessings, but then he gave the order to torture her.
The girl was tied to a wheel with sharp knives, which cut her body. Euphemia prayed aloud, and the wheel stopped by itself and would not move even with all the efforts of the executioners. An angel of the Lord came down from Heaven, removed Euphemia from the wheel and healed her of her wounds. The saint thanked God for his blessing.
Not perceiving that a miracle had occurred, the torturer ordered the soldiers Victor and Sosthenes to take the saint to a red-hot oven. But the soldiers, seeing two fearsome angels in the midst of the flames, refused to carry out the order of the governor and became believers in the God whom Euphemia worshipped.
Boldly proclaiming that they, too, were Christians, Victor and Sosthenes bravely went to suffering. They were sent to be eaten by wild beasts.
During their execution, they cried out for mercy to God, asking that the Lord would receive them into the heavenly kingdom. A heavenly voice answered their cries, and they entered into eternal life. The beasts, however, did not even touch their bodies.
St. Euphemia was cast into the fire by other soldiers. She remained unharmed from that and many other tortures and torments. Ascribing this to sorcery, the governor gave orders to dig out a new pit, and filling it with knives, he had it covered over with earth and grass, so that the martyr would not notice the preparation for her execution.
Here also St. Euphemia remained safe, easily passing over the pit. Finally, they sentenced her to be devoured by wild beasts at the circus. Before execution the saint asked that the Lord deem her worthy to die a violent death. But none of the beasts, set loose at her in the arena, attacked her.
Finally, one of the she-bears gave her a small wound on the leg, from which came blood, and immediately Euphemia died. During this time there was an earthquake, and the guards and the spectators ran in terror, so that the parents of the saint were able to take up her body and reverently bury it not far from Chalcedon.
A majestic church was afterward built over the grave of Euphemia. At this temple the sessions of the Fourth Ecumenical Council took place in the year 451 A.D.
With the taking of Chalcedon by the Persians in the year 617 A.D., the holy relics of the Euphemia were transferred to Constantinople (in about the year 620). During the Iconoclast heresy, the relics of St. Euphemia appear to have thrown into the sea. Pious sailors recovered them. They were taken to the Island of Lemnos, and in the year 796 A.D. they were returned to Constantinople.
Adapted by A.J. Valentini