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Monday, 9 February 2015

The Life of St Haralambos the Hieromartyr (Feb 10)

The Orthodox Church also keeps the Memory of St Haralambos' tormentors, Saints Prophyrios and Baptus, who were converted after witnessing the Saint's steadfast Faith and miracles. As well as the Three Holy Women of Magnesia, who beholding his martyrdom believed in Christ and were beheaded.

Our holy, glorious Martyr Haralambos lived during the reign of Emperor Septimus Severus (194-211 AD) in the city of Magnesia, near Ephesus, as a priest. He was 107 years old and ministered in the city converting many to Christ, despite the obvious danger and threats made by the pagans.

He was then accused as a dangerous "trouble-maker" and was brought before the tribunal of Governor Lucian. When asked why he condemned the worship of idols St Haralambos said, ‘You little know what is for my good and well-being. Nothing could be more pleasing to me than to suffer for Christ. So don’t hesitate to put my old body to the tortures you deem the worst, and you will learn that the power of my Christ cannot be overcome’. Governor Lucian commanded the Saint sacrifice to the idols or undergo terrifying tortures. St Haralambos refused to deny Christ.

He was then stripped of his clothes and his flesh torn at with iron claws – but, St Haralambos felt no pain. Upon witnessing this Governor Lucian went into such a rage he torn at the Saint's flesh with his own hands. Then, by an act of God, his hands became severed and remained claw-like and lifeless on the Martyr’s body. Moved by the Governor’s cries, the Saint prayed and Lucian was healed. This miracle demonstrated to the torturers of Christians’ love for their enemies. As a result, Lucian and the tormentors, Porphyrius and Baptus, renounced the worship of idols and were baptised. Three women onlookers also rushed forward and proclaimed faith in Christ. After these events, many people from the region came to St Haralambos, confessed their sins and were baptised. The Saint performed many miracles curing the faithful of many illnesses.

However, when Emperor Severus heard what was happening, he sent 300 soldiers to Magnesia to bring the Saint to his home in Antioch, chained and with nails in his back. The soldiers were very cruel to St Haralambos. But when the horse on which the Saint sat spoke denouncing the Emperor as an enemy of God and the soldiers as slaves of the Devil, the men were so terrified that they did no further harm to him.

Once they reached Antioch, Emperor Severus instructed the Saint be thrown into a blazing furnace with a long skewer through his chest. But, the flames went out as soon as they touched the Saint and nor was he in any pain. When the Emperor asked St Haralambos how he could withstand such excruciating torments, he replied ‘The power of Christ!’ Emperor Severus wanted to test the Saint’s claim and presented him with a man possessed by a demon for 35 years. St Haralambos forced the evil spirit out with a single word. Then, the Emperor brought the corpse of a young man about to be buried. With fervent prayer to God, St Haralambos gave the youth his hand and raised him from the bier on which he lay.

Then, an eparch named Crispus convinced Sevirus to execute the Saint claiming the miracle was achieved with magic. Emperor Severus commanded St Haralambos to sacrifice to the idols. When he refused, Severus ordered the Saint’s beard be set on fire and his jaw broken with rocks. But, God intervened. The flames turned on the tormentors and there was an earthquake.

The Emperor was lifted up off his throne, suspended in the air, whilst being whipped by unseen angels. When the Emperor’s daughter, Galinia, learnt what was happening she confessed to Christ as Almighty. She then implored St Haralambos to release her father. The Saint did this and the Emperor was amazed at the power of God – but this was short lived. He then had St Haralambos thrown into prison and tortured again.

Then, to ensure his daughter would not convert to Christianity, the Emperor threatened her with death unless she sacrificed to the gods. But upon entering the temple she threw the statues to the ground, breaking them. Her father had new statues made and she broke these too in order to humiliate him.

Severus then took his anger out on St Haralambos by ordering more punishments. However, he withstood every infliction and all the onlookers were dazzled by the brilliance of Grace. St Haralambos was then sentenced to death which he welcomed with joy.

At the time of his execution, he raised his hands and eyes to Heaven and thanked God for having brought him to the issue of his contest. He also asked Him to grant salvation of soul, health of body and abundance of good things in this life and in the next to all those who would pray for these things in the name of Christ. Then, a voice from Heaven was heard, ‘Come Haralambos, valiant in flight, to share in the joy and splendour of the Martyrs and holy priests!’ He was beheaded on 10 February and his body was buried by the blessed Galinia.

 Extracts from The Synaxarion - The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church, Volume 3. By Hieromonk Makarios of Simonos Petra, Published by the Holy Convent of The Annunciation of Our Lady, Ormylia (Chalkidike), 2001
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Item Reviewed: The Life of St Haralambos the Hieromartyr (Feb 10) Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Tom Manakis
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