The Holy Martyrs Theopemptus and Theonas suffered in Nicomedia in the year 303. St Theopemptus was bishop in Nicomedia in the time of Diocletian. Speaking out against idolatry, he defended the faith in Christ. Because of this, he became one of the first victims of the Diocletian persecution. The saint refused to obey the emperor’s order to worship an idol of Apollo. St Theopemptus was thrown into a red-hot furnace, but by the power of God he remained alive. The emperor came to the furnace by night with a detachment of soldiers, and there he saw the saint alive and praying to God. Ascribing the miracle to magic, Diocletian thought to exhaust St Theopemptus by depriving him of food and drink for twenty-two days, but the martyr was preserved by the will of God. The emperor brought the famous sorcerer Theonas to overcome Bishop Theopemptus’ supposed magical power. Theonas prepared a poison for St Theopemptus, put it into a little cake, and offered it to him to eat. The poison did no harm at all to St Theopemptus. Then Theonas tried an even stronger poison on the martyr. Seeing that St Theopemptus remained unharmed, he came to believe in Christ. They threw him into prison together with the holy bishop, who taught and baptized him, giving him the name Synesios (which means “full of understanding”).
At dawn Diocletian summoned St Theopemptus, and again tried to turn him to pagan impiety. Seeing that the bishop remained firm in his faith, he subjected him to many grievous tortures, after which the saint was beheaded. The holy martyr Theonas refused to offer sacrifice to idols, so he was buried alive in a deep ditch. This occurred at Nicomedia in the year 303.
Saint Syncletica was a native of Alexandria, the daughter of rich parents. She was very beautiful, but from a young age she thought only about things pleasing to God. Loving the purity of virginity, she refused to marry anyone, and spent all her time in fasting and prayer. After the death of her parents, she distributed her inheritance to the poor. She left the city together with her younger sister, and lived in a crypt for the rest of her life. News of her ascetic deeds quickly spread throughout the vicinity, and many devout women and girls came to live under her guidance. During the course of her ascetic life the saint zealously instructed the sisters by word and by deed. In her eightieth year she was struck by an intense and grievous illness. The nun bore her ordeal with true Christian endurance, and the time of her death was revealed to her in a vision. After giving final instructions to her nuns, she surrendered her soul to God around the year 350.
Saint Apollinaria was a daughter of Anthemias, a former proconsul of the Byzantine Empire during the minority of Theodosius the Younger (408-450). Disdaining marriage, she requested her parents’ permission to make a pilgrimage to the holy places of the East. Arriving in Alexandria from Jerusalem, she slipped away from her servants and changed into monastic garb. She hid in a marsh, where she practised asceticism for several years in strict fasting and prayer. An angel appeared to her in a dream and told her to go to the monastery of Sketis, which was under the spiritual direction of St Macarius of Egypt (January 19), and to call herself Dorotheus. St Macarius accepted her as one of the brethren, and she quickly distinguished herself by her ascetical life. St Apollinaria’s parents had another daughter who was possessed by demons. They sent her to Sketis to St Macarius, who brought the afflicted girl to Dorotheus (Apollinaria). By her prayers, the maiden received healing. After she returned home, the maiden was attacked by a violent demon, who made her appear pregnant. The demon spoke through the girl’s lips, saying that Dorotheus had forced himself on her. Her outraged parents sent soldiers to the monastery to find the one who had defiled their daughter. St Apollinaria took the blame and accompanied the envoys to the home of her parents. There she revealed her secret to her parents, healed her sister, and returned to Sketis. She died shortly thereafter in the year 470. Only after the death of Dorotheus was it revealed that “he” was actually a woman. The saint was buried in a cave in the monastery church of St Macarius of Egypt.
Saint Gregory of Akrita was born on the island of Crete in the year 760, and was raised by pious parents. At this time the iconoclast heretics persecuted the Orthodox. The youth Gregory, wanting to preserve his Orthodox Faith, went to Seleukia and led a life of piety.
At the age of twenty, St Gregory went to Jerusalem and lived there for twelve years, enduring fierce persecution from the Jews. From there St Gregory journeyed to Rome, where he entered a monastery. He became acquainted with St Michael, Bishop of Synnada (May 23), who took him along and settled in a monastery on the Cape of Akrita (Sea of Marmora). The saint accomplished great ascetic deeds and died there around the year 820.
New Martyr Romanus of Karpenisi was born in Karpenisi in central Greece. He was a monk on Mt. Athos for a time, and suffered for Christ at Constantinople, beheaded by the Turks in the year 1694. His relics were taken by ship to England.
Saint Menas of Sinai lived in asceticism for more than fifty years in the monastery of Sinai, where he died peacefully in the second half of the sixth century. Myrrh flowed from his holy relics. St John Climacus speaks of this wonderful man in THE LADDER OF DIVINE ASCENT (Step 4:34).
Saint Phosterius the Hermit led an ascetical life on a lofty mountain, where he was fed by an angel. He brought many back to the Church from the heresy of Iconoclasm by his miracles and saintly life.