(†) CHARALAMBOS D. VASILOPOULOS
SAINTS’ LIVES (51)
His memory is celebrated on the 9th May.
ORTHODOXOS TYPOS’ PUBLICATIONS
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He was born of barbarians
Saint Christopher is one of the most popular Martyrs. He is loved and honoured in the east and west. He holds a great position within our church’s Saints (agiologion).
However, nothing indicated that this man, one day, was going to become important, great and a Saint. Everything was against him since his early years.
He was born about 200 A.D. in an eastern barbaric country in Asia among a race of cannibals. When these cannibals captured a weak human being, they chopped him into small pieces, drank his blood as if it was milk, baked his flesh and ate it with great pleasure.
He was even endowed with a body of huge size. He was giant bodied. But he was very ugly too. This is why he was called Reprovos which means deformed i.e. dog faced.
However, deep down, he had a really good soul and this is why God guided him to get to know Christ and learn the Gospel’s truth.
This is how.
How he got to know Christ the King.
Because he had great bodily strength, he left for the west in order to find a king or a lord to serve as a bodyguard.
At that time there were many local kings and lords and he would definitely be useful to one of these. He wanted to find the greatest one.
But while en route, he found a Reverent Father in a desolated place. He was a Hermit. The Hermit welcomed him and hosted him with his poor means. The Hermit’s kindness and love made a great impression on him.
During their conversation, the giant bodied Christopher asked the Hermit whether he knew any great king in order to offer him his services. The Hermit answered him that he indeed knew the greatest king of all, meaning Christ.
The hermit said to him: “If you serve Him, you will be rewarded abundantly.”
Finally and in a few words he catechized him about Christ. He taught him the truth and the teachings of the Gospel.
So he asked the Hermit: “How can I please Christ the King? What shall I do?”
The Hermit answered him: “Fast and pray.”
Reprovos replied to him: “I do not know how to pray and it is not very easy for me to fast.”
Then the Hermit said to him: “Offer your strength and your giant body in His Service.”
“How? Is there any way?”
The Hermit replied: “Of course. Can you see this river? There is no bridge crossing it and a lot of people suffer and are drowned. So, you are going to carry the passersby on your shoulders and take them to the other side of the river. In this way you serve Him. It will be as if you help Him to cross it, and thereby you will save your soul.”
“I will do that with great pleasure.” he said.
Indeed. He built a hut close to the river and carried everyone on his shoulders for free. He did that in order to serve the Lord Christ and save his own soul.
How he carried Christ.
One night that was very dark and frightening, there was a lot of thunder and lightening and it was raining very hard. The water level of the river had increased very much. Reprovos was in his hut praying. During that very dark night while thunder and lighting were cleaving the sky, he heard a young child crying from the one side of the river. The child was asking him to carry him and take him to the other side of the river so that he would not die because of the cold and rain.
Reprovos was in a dilemma. He thought that it was a sin to stay in his hut and not offer his help, because the child would have died out there. On the other hand it was very dangerous to attempt to carry it because the water level of the river was very high.
He decided to make an attempt. He took a big wooden stick, made the sign of the cross and got into the river. He crossed the river and put the child on his shoulder.
When he got back into the river in order to cross it again, he felt that the child was becoming heavier and heavier. He was panting and sweating. He was holding on to the stick with all his might power in order to manage to cross the river without being carried away by it. The effort was great. Finally, he managed to get out on the other bank of the river.
He said to the child: “My child, if I had carried the whole world, it would not have been as heavy as you.”
The child answered him: “Indeed, not only did you carry the whole world, but also The One who created the world. I am the Lord Christ Whom you serve here.”
Straight after that The Child disappeared.
This is why he is portrayed crossing the river, holding onto a stick and carrying The Child – Christ on his shoulder. So, when he was baptized, he was given the name Christopher (which in Greek means Christ-bearer) and not Reprovos, exactly because he had carried Christ.
Due to this incident i.e. carrying Christ, he is the patron Saint of transportation, aviators, drivers, travelers and of the professions that require great physical strength. This is why there is his icon in cars, airplanes and all means of transportation.
Captured in Rome.
He was forced to stop this meritorious work of transferring people from one side of the river to the other. This is because when the Roman legions conquered the country, Christopher was captured and taken to Rome as a slave.
Mighty Rome boasted about its power that was based on violence. He was mistreated there. No one paid any attention to him. They only wanted to take advantage of his physical strength and to mock him. They called him Reprovos i.e. ugly, wild man.
Nevertheless, an uncut diamond was hidden beneath this deformed body. The persecuted Christians noticed that and took him in their meetings. He was amazed by the love that the faithful ones showed him.
It seems that he joined the Roman legions and fought against the Persians under the ruler-ship of Gordius and Philip.
His tongue is loosened.
During the fourth year of Decius’ reign, Decius started persecuting the Christians. He sent commands to all local governors to force the Christians to eat foods that had been offered to idols as sacrifices i.e. foods that had been sprayed with the blood of the offered sacrifices. Furthermore, he ordered that those who did not want to eat and deny Christ would be punished with all sorts of torture and finally would be executed.
Because all the local governors and rulers wanted to be well liked by the Emperor, they executed his commands with accuracy and cruelty. So, the idolaters were protected but the Christians, on the other hand, were always persecuted with cruelty.
Christopher was then in Lycia. He felt very sad watching the idolaters torturing the Christians every day. He wanted to criticize the idolaters for that. Due to his inability to speak clearly and well, he went out of the city to a remote place, kneeled down and prayed to God.
He said: “Please, my God, listen to me and pity me, your unworthy slave. Please, open my lips and give me the voice to criticize the tyrant”.
He had not finished his praying when an Angel, in a white dress, appeared in front of him and told him: “Reprovos your prayer has been granted. Get up so that you receive the gift from the Lord”.
As soon as he got up, the Angel touched the Saint’s lips with his finger and blew into his mouth. Immediately, his tongue was loosened and he spoke freely. He talked as if he was an orator.
He criticizes Christians’ persecutors.
He then returned immediately to the city and saw some Christians being tortured. His heart pained and he felt that he, himself, was being tortured. He criticized the idolaters by saying:
“Why, are you, blinded and obscured men, torturing them? Is it not enough for you that you have given your souls to satan? You are forcing us, who love God, to be lost eternally together with you. I am telling you that I am a Christian and I do not condescend to kneel before these fake, useless and disgusting gods of yours.”
While the Saint was still talking, a servant, called Vacchios, hit him on his lips.
“I do not give any such answer as you did and I do not pay you back as you deserve”, said the Saint with mildness. “My Savior Christ hinders me. But if I get angry, your whole corrupted kingdom will not be able to beat me”.
Vacchios went straight away to the king who was there and reported him that.
“There is, my king, in the last couple of days a fearful giant in our area. His appearance and looks are very wild. His teeth are protruded of his mouth exactly like a dog’s. He is indescribably ugly. The most important thing is that he blasphemes our gods and your reign. This is why I hit him on his face. Then, he boasted that he was not afraid of your whole kingdom. I ran straight away to tell you all these in case the Christians’ God sent this giant bodied one in order to help them.”
When Decius heard the news, he became furious and said to him: “Are you perhaps possessed by an evil spirit and that is why he looked to you as such?”
Straight away he gave a command to 200 soldiers saying: “Go and tie him up and bring him in front of me. If he resists, chop him into thousands of pieces and bring his head to me so that I can see whether he is as fearful as this coward says”.
He multiplies the bread.
Meanwhile, the Saint thrusted his pole into the ground and went into the Church. There, he prayed to God to give him strength and to become more willing to avow Him. When he finished praying and left, he saw that his dried up pole had sprouted like Aaron’s stick. From this miracle he mustered up strength and courage in order to avow Christ and to be martyred.
The soldiers, who were sent by Decius in order to arrest him, were afraid to approach him, when they saw him from distance.
One of them said: “Why are we afraid of him? He is not armed.”
They approached him and asked him: “Man, where are you coming from and why are you crying?”
He replied to them: “I am crying for the mindless humans who deserted the real God and kneel before insensitive idols.”
When the soldiers heard him talking to them with mildness and kindness, they got courage and said to him: “Our king sent us to arrest you and take you to him because you do not kneel before the old gods but someone new.”
He replied to them: “If you do not force me, I will come willingly by myself, but to arrest me and pull me by force is impossible.”
The soldiers then told him: “You can go wherever you want to, if you do not want to come and we will tell the king that we could not find you.”
The Saint answered them: “No, but please wait for a while, until I receive Holy Baptism and then we will go together to the king.”
They said to him: “We cannot do that because we have been looking for you many days and our supplies have run out and we are hungry. If you can find some food for us and feed us, then we can wait for you.”
But Saint Christopher had only one piece of bread for himself.
One of the soldiers said to him: “If you have the power to satisfy our hunger with this piece of bread, then we will very gladly follow your God.”
When he heard that, a heavenly hope was born in Saint Christopher’s heart. So, immediately he kneeled down and prayed.
He said: “My Lord, You Who multiplied in the desert the five breads and fed with them thousands of people, please bless this piece in order to feed the hungry ones so that they are enlightened, become acquaintanted with You, believe in You and avow You.”
The soldiers stared at him praying on his knees. What was this man waiting and hoping for?
But suddenly they all let out a sound of exclamation, because they saw this very piece being multiplied, when an Angel of Christ appeared in front of them and blessed it. It was multiplied to such an extent that they could all be fed and still some would be left over.
He baptizes his persecutors.
After this miracle, the soldiers, who had come to arrest him, were arrested by him. However, not in order to be lost but to be saved.
They, then, forgot their hunger. They fell in front of Saint Christopher’s feet, begging him to talk to them about his God. He told them to eat and then full of joy he catechized them to the teachings of the Lord, which is included in the Gospel. The net was full of fish. Everyone, with no exception, unanimously declared that they would become Christians. They all left full of joy, not to go to the king, but to Antioch and presented themselves to Bishop Vavylan, who was later martyred and became a Saint. He also felt great joy himself, when he was informed about all these wondrous things that God had performed by Christopher. He catechized the soldiers more adequately and baptized them. Together with them he baptized Reprovos and gave him the name Christopher (i.e. the one who carries Christ, in Greek) since he had carried Christ in the past.
Saint Christopher, then, advised the soldiers to return to the king. While en route he was telling them: “My beloved brothers, you have now become acquaintanted with and believed in Christ, the true God. Let us all now suffer injuries and blights for Him in this futile world. Let us all not deny Him no matter what we suffer for Him. We must stand brave and not coward at all, when facing the tyrants’ threats and their cruel punishments. He, from above, will give us strength and aid throughout the martyrdoms. But if you are afraid of tortures, leave and go wherever you want. But you must take care of the salvation of your souls.”
He makes Emperor Decius loose his voice.
But the soldiers did not want to leave. They had all made up their minds to be martyred for their Faith. The Saint was delighted by that and said to them: “Tie me up and take me to Decius as you were commanded by him”.
The soldiers did not consent in any way to tie up their teacher, who had guided them to the True Faith. In the end they tied him up since he insisted.
When they arrived at the royal palace and Decius saw that he was giant bodied and brave, he, Decius, got afraid.
Saint Christopher said to him: “Did you get afraid of me the human being, you poor? How are you going to manage with God’s wrath at the time of judgment, when you face God in order to apologise at that fearful tribunal for all your crimes against the Christians and all these souls you sent to hell, by forcing them to deny Christ?”
The tyrant asked him: “What is your name? Which is your race and faith? Which is your country?”
He asked all these questions kindly in the beginning, because he wanted to bring him round to his ideas. He also thought that as he was brave and robust he would have been useful for his army. But Decius did not manage anything.
Saint Christopher answered him: “I am Christian. My name used to be Reprovos but now since I am baptized I am called Christopher. I am my Christ’s soldier. Him I serve. I fight for Him and I never obey your godless commands.”
Decius said to him: “You have been given a bad and cold name. It is not worth anything to you, fool.”
The Saint answered him: “Your name is cold, because you defy the real God and you kneel before empty stones.”
“Feel sorry for your valour and offer a sacrifice to the gods and I will honour you so much and I will make you a priest of the gods if you do not want to be lost vainly.”
“For God’s sake! How can I deny my True God and kneel before your pointless idols! Keep your goods for yourself and your adherents. I do not feel sorry for my body but for my soul. This is why I worship and kneel before the Immortal God. Your gods are demons and they delude you, until they mislead your souls to loss. Do not lose your words and do not have any hope that I will believe in your fake gods. So, act as you think without any delay.”
The awful tortures.
Decius became furious and he ordered the Saint to be hanged up by the longest hair of his head. Additionally, to hang a heavy stone on his feet and at the same time his body to be struck with swords. The Saint endured all these bravely and while hanged up he said to the tyrant: “Neither do I obey you, the most impious nor do I kneel before your gods and take any notice of the tortures, no matter how awful they are because they are transient and will pass. But the eternal hell is waiting for you, which you are going to inherit together with the demons that you, most wretched, worship!”
The king got even more furious and ordered the Saint’s armpit to be burnt with large lit candles.
The noblemen, noticing his bravery and astonished by his rigid ideas, advised Decius to treat him in a kind way, in case he obeyed, so that they could use him in any war. When they untied him, the king begged him saying: “Why are you, such a kind man, so stubborn? Avow our gods, because I want you to be the driver of my carriage.”
The Saint replied to him: “If you become Christian I will gladly become the driver of your carriage and thus you will reign together with Christ in Paradise eternally.”
The two corrupt women believe.
The king, having realized that there was no point in making this effort, used another satanic method in order to make the Saint sin and take him away from believing in Christ. He ordered two good looking prostitutes dressed up in precious clothes and fragrant perfumes to be brought. He then locked them up with the Saint in a royal room. He promised them that he would give them a lot of money if they finally managed to make Christopher sin and kneel before the idols.
As soon as they were locked in, the Saint kneeled and prayed loudly: “My Lord, look at the machinations they thought of in order that I might sin and deny You! Save me, my Lord and keep me invulnerable. Do not desert me, my Lord, because you have the power and the glory in the ages.”
The Saint got up and asked the women, what they wanted. They got scared. The Saint asked them again with mildness and they replied: “The king has sent us in order to make you obey him so that he does not kill you in a dreadful way.”
Saint Christopher answered them: “I am not afraid of this temporary death. I struggle and I desire to reign together with Christ eternally. I advise you to believe in Him as well and you will be delighted, because you will inherit every pleasure and exult together with the Saints in Paradise forever.”
These words, with God’s grace and inspiration, made a great impression on the women, who said to each other: “If we believe in Christ, Decius will find it out and kill us. If again we do not believe in Christ, this man will kill us straight away because he is strong-armed and wild. So it is better for us to believe in Christ because if we die for Him, He will give us eternal and immortal life, after death.”
So they turned to the Saint and said to him: “We believe in Christ. Pray to Him in order to forgive our many sins and accept us.”
The Saint asked them: “Have you killed or bewitched anyone?”
They replied to him: “No we have not. We even bought out a lot of slaves and people who were sentenced to death with the money we earned from prostitution. Our sin is prostitution. We have not done anything else bad.”
Then, the Saint, using his hand, blessed them by making the sign of the cross on them, and prayed: “Lord Jesus Christ, receive your slaves Akilina and Kalliniki and make them sheep of your flock so that they can be counted with Your Saints. Forgive them all the sins they committed in consciousness or not.”
After this prayer he taught them the Christian Belief. Being inspired by God’s Grace, they felt unutterable joy. They glorified Christ for becoming acquantanted with and believing in Him.
Akilina, the first to be martyred.
On the next day the two women were brought in front of Decius. He asked them: “Did you manage to make him kneel before idols?”
They replied to him: “We, in the end, believed in Christ, because He is indeed the True God and Savior.”
“So he charmed you too!” Decius said surprised.
Akillina said to him: “There is only one God, The One Who created the Sky and the Earth and saves those who believe in Him. Your gods are just common stones and clay and cannot help you.”
Decius was stunned and his face became red because of anger. Then, he commanded his soldiers to hang her up from the hair of her head and two big stones to be tied to her feet.
Due to burden of the stones her body was just about to be cut in the middle. Being in great pain, she said to the Saint: “Please, slave of God, pray for me because, I am in great pain.”
The Saint then lifted his arms towards the Sky and said: “Lord Jesus Christ, show mercy to your slave. Do not allow her to be tortured even more, but receive her spirit in peace.”
As soon as he finished his prayer, Martyr Akillina delivered her soul in God’s hands. It was the first of April, 251 A.C.
Kalliniki destroys the idols.
Then the tyrant turned towards Kalliniki and said to her: “You saw what happened to her because she was stubborn and quarrelsome. At least you must think wisely and offer a sacrifice to gods, if you wish not to suffer the same or even worse than she did.”
Kalliniki, wanting to mock the religion of idols, said to the tyrant: “Because, you, king, command me, I have to obey your royalty. So, take me to the temple in order to honour the gods, as I am supposed to and as you have ordered me to.”
The king was fooled and believed her. He thought that she really meant that and got happy, the poor fool. He ordered white carpets to be laid out on the streets from the palace to the temple of idols. His lancers escorted her with great happiness, sprinkling her with fragrant and precious myrrh throughout the whole route.
When they arrived in front of the temple, Kalliniki asked the priests of the idols: “Which god is the greatest?”
They pointed to Jupiter’s statue.
Kalliniki grasped it by its hand and said to it: “If you are a god speak up and tell me what to do, because I have come to serve you.”
Since there was no response she screamed: “God of the Idolaters, speak to me.”
But still there was no answer.
Then she laughed and said: “Alas, I, the sinful one, that the gods got angry with me, because I contempted them and they do not want to forgive me. Or is it maybe that they are asleep and they cannot hear.”
Then the idols’ priests said to her: “Repent with all the strength of your soul in order that you are forgiven by them, because you denied them.”
The martyr took off her belt and tied it to the statue. She then looked up to the sky and prayed: “Lord Jesus Christ, God and Savior of our souls help me on this occasion. She then pulled her belt as hard as she could and brought down Jupiter’s statue and then Hercules’ and Apollo’s and as many as she could, saying: “Go away and disappear gods of the idolaters.”
The priests of the idols got furious because of anger and grabbed her so that she could not bring down the rest of the statues but she mocked them saying: “Pick up the bones of your gods and bring oil and salt in order to heal them.”
Then all the idolaters and their priests went to Decius and said to him: “This woman, whom you sent to us and is possessed by an evil spirit, brought down our gods and destroyed the most significant ones. Had we not arrested her on time, she would have crashed them all down.”
The king being furious said: “Didn’t you, evil woman, promise me that you would offer a sacrifice to the idols? How did you, bitch, dare to bring them down?”
She answered him: “I did not destroy gods; I only destroyed stones so that you could use them to build houses, if you need them. Alas, you fools that you called these gods, which were beaten by a woman. How do you expect those to help you, if they were not able to protect themselves?”
How much inspiration and strength did Christ give invisibly to His Martyr!
Then, the tyrant got angry and commanded that she had to be hanged up on a scaffold and have a long skewer thrusted from the heel up to the shoulder and have two big stones hung from her legs.
The pains of the blessed one were great and intolerable. She pleaded with the Saint to pray to God to take her. And that, indeed happened. After the Saint’s prayer, Kalliniki, the well victorious one, delivered her soul, into God’s hands, cleaned now by the blood of martyrdom,. It was on the second of April 251 A.C.
The martyrdom of the 200 soldiers.
Decius turned towards the Saint and swore at him in madness: “You, dog-face should have died and not these two beautiful women, who were seduced by your sorcery. Now, what do you say? Are you going to offer a sacrifice to the gods or do you still insist on your stubbornness?”
The martyr laughed and said to him: “You being called Decius is appropriate, because you accept to cooperate with satan, whose a vessel and an instrument you are and you fulfill all his wishes. Why are you wasting your time trying me? I told you so many times that I do not kneel before idols. I wanted to bring you, if I could, to the state of Knowledge of God. But you are not a simple atheist. You are completely blind and you cannot see The Sun of justice. So, come on, torture the righteous ones unjustifiably.”
Having said this, the Saint saw the soldiers, who had previously believed in Christ, all gathered in a place and said to them: “Come on Christ’s brave men, join the battle!”
So, they threw their belts, weapons and suits of arm on the floor, approached the Saint and started embracing Him saying: “Thank you for enlightening and guiding us to Christ, for Whom we are willing to die.”
When Decius saw the soldiers embracing the Saint, he got afraid in case Saint Christopher overthrew him and took over his kingdom. This is why he said to him: “Have you now become a rebel and a revolutionist?”
The Saint answered him: “Do not be afraid. I am not going to take over your kingdom. You, yourself, are going to inherit the eternal fire, together with those who follow you.”
The soldiers said: “We, king, believed in Christ when you sent us out to arrest Christ’s slave. It was then, when we ate Heaven-sent bread. We are not going to deny such a faith, no matter how many tortures we suffer.”
Decius said: “What did I do to you, my children and you have deserted me? Did you lack horses, clothes and money? Please, return to me and I shall double your wages. Do not abandon me!”
The soldiers replied to him: “Keep you wealth for yourself and enjoy it. Neither are we in need of your goods nor are we afraid of your punishments.”
Decius became afraid in case other soldiers copied their example and returned to Christ. Therefore, he commanded them to be decapitated outside the city. When his command was executed, their relics were thrown into a furnace in order to be burnt. But they remained intact by the fire.
Some pious men took the relics secretly and buried them with great reverence. It was on the seventh of April 251 A.C.
The fire respects him and another thousand believe.
After that, Decius imprisoned the Saint and a couple of days later he was brought again in front of the tribunal.
“Now, listen you fool” said the emperor. “If you do not listen to me and kneel before the gods, I am going to exterminate you through a great number of tortures. This is it! Enough! I will not wait anymore.”
“Do not bully me, you, son of the devil and heir of eternal hell” said the Saint. “I have The True God as my aider and I am not afraid of your punishments.”
Then, Decius became even more furious and commanded Saint Christopher to be put to sit on a copper chair. Underneath that chair they accumulated a lot of logs and pour 20 jugs of oil on them. Then, they lit a fire. The flames surrounded the Saint and were very high. Everyone was praying. But the Saint felt as if he was in a cool and a pleasant place. After a long time, when the fire went out, the Saint came out completely healthy and intact. Not even a piece of hair on his head was burnt; his clothes were untouched by the fire
The approximately one thousand people who saw this miracle, believed in Christ and said loudly: “We believe in Christ too. The God of Christians is Great. Help us Heavenly God.”
At the same time, they knelt at the Saint’s feet saying: “It is absolutely just that you have been called Christopher (meaning in Greek the one who carries Christ) because, indeed, you have Christ in your soul and you did not become a coward when facing the tyrant’s punishments.
Then they turned towards Decius and said to him courageously: “Shame on you, ruler Decius, shame. There is nothing you can do. You are beaten by the powerful God of the Christians.”
Decius, seeing the people’s enthusiasm and agitation became afraid and ran through the revolted people and hid himself in his palace.
So, the Saint, free at last, remained at the agora and started talking to those people who had believed in Christ. With his words, he strengthened the people in the true Christ’s faith.
The idolaters went to the palace, met the king and asked him to kill the Saint. “If you let him free like that, your kingdom is in danger” they said to him.
Indeed, on the next day, when the idolaters had a big feast, the emperor stepped on the tribune , and he commanded a great number of soldiers to go and arrest the Christians and decapitate them.
Saint Christopher encouraged them by saying: “Do not be afraid of this temporary death. This is the only way to live eternally in Heaven.”
Listening to his words, they happily accepted death like pure and benignant lambs. It was on the 9th of April 251 A.C.
He is sentenced to death.
After all these, Decius thought about various ways of killing the Martyr. So, he ordered his soldiers to hang a big stone from the Saint’s neck. Then, they tied him up hand and foot and threw him into a deep well. They thought that that would have been the Saint’s end.
But God did not abandon his slave. An Angel of the Lord came down to the well and took him out of there alive and uninjured. When Decius saw the Saint again, he got furious from anger. He twirled frantic and soliloquising. He could not digest that. It shamed him as an emperor, as an authority. He then turned to the Saint and said to him: “Enough! Until when are you going to resist using sorcery? Until when are you going to endure tortures?”
The Saint replied to him: “Until I complete this ephemeral life. With God’s aid I am going to endure and disregard the tortures.”
But then the tyrant thought of another satanic torture. He commanded a copper uniform to be made. Then it was taken and put into the fire. When the copper became red hot, it was put on the Saint and they waited for him to be burnt.
But a great miracle took place. The fire of the burning copper did not touch the Saint at all. He was left untouched and sound.
The emperor got really furious, but he continued inciting the Saint to offer a sacrifice to the idols. The Saint steadily repeated: “I said it and declared it. You have heard it so many times. You know well that I am not going to change my opinion. Why do you insist? I am not going to kneel before the idols. So, why do you make yourself tired and waste your time? I, king, only kneel before my God. I worship the existing, since the beginning of time, God.”
Seeing the steady faith of the Saint, Decius, shaking from anger, pronounced the death sentence of the Martyr and said: “I, the emperor of the Romans, command this difficult to punish and useless Christian to be decapitated, because he scorned my commands.”
He is decapitated.
The executioners then took the Saint and brought him to the place of his execution. Crowds also arrived at the place where the Saint was going to be beheaded.
There, Christ’s Martyr asked the executioner to respect his last wish and permit him a bit of time to pray.
The permission was granted. In an atmosphere of absolute silence, the crowds heard in contrite agitation the Saint praying in this way:
“My Lord, God, Ruler of everything, thank You. In and with everything You helped me. You shamed my enemy, the devil and its servants. Now, my most gracious God, that the time of the end of my earthly life has come, please help me. Receive my spirit in peace. Place me among Your most vile slaves. Judge the unrighteous Decius according to his acts of impiety. His punishment will be righteous and the demons will dominate him and eat up his flesh until he is consumed. Additionally, I beg You, my God, help the Christians and release them from the scandals of evil. Most merciful God, give Your grace to my body to dismiss the demons, wherever there is a part of my relic. Give your grace, Lord, so that there is no hunger, catastrophe from hail or anything else bad, wherever there is even a small piece of my relic. Keep safe, sound and untouched by anything bad, those who read and celebrate the memory of my martyrdom. Thus, Your blessed name will be glorified.”
While the Saint was concluding his prayer in this way, a voice came from the sky, as an answer saying: “Everything that you have asked me for I fulfill, so that you are pleased. But I even tell you something more. If somebody calls for my help in his prayer and remembers your name, he will get my help immediately, very soon. So, come, I am waiting for you. Come now in order that you enjoy the great and incomparable joy that I prepared for you. You have struggled, suffered, fought and won. The wreath of victory which is waiting for you is precious.”
When the Saint heard all these, he got filled with joy and happiness. He looked at the executioner kindly with his eyes shining with heavenly brightness and said to him: “Do, my child, what you have been commanded.”
The executioner, with mixed feelings, approached the Saint reverently and then shaking, he beheaded him.
So, he executed a command that he did not agree with. Then, this miserable one, without knowing what he was doing, having qualms about what he had done, flooded with the Martyr’s blood, he slaughtered himself and died on top of the honourable body of the Saint.
It was a spring day. The field was flowering with multicoloured and fragrant flowers. Among these flowers, the pure and innocent blood of the Martyr Saint Christopher was running.
It was the 9th May 251 A.C.
After the Saint’s decapitation, Peter, the Bishop in Attalia came and managed to take the Martyr’s body by bribing the guards and the firing squad with couple silver coins. He anointed it with myrrh, wrapped it in clear sheets and brought it to the city.
Somewhere there, there was a river that often burst its banks and thus destroyed the agricultural production. On the banks of this river the Bishop buried the relic of Saint Christopher. Since then the river never again destroyed the city or the farmland.
The awful end of Decius.
The punishment of the barbaric and bloodthirsty tyrant did not take a long time to come. Decius got an awful and horrific illness. His body started decomposing as the Saint said in his prayer. But his soul did not come out of his body. He felt pain and suffered greatly. He could not find peace anywhere.
He understands that he suffers due to the terrible and indescribable tortures he made the Christians go through. He also suffers for the cruel Martyrdom he subjected Saint Christopher to.
He tries to find a small piece of the Saint’s relic in order to put it on himself so that he can die.
The queen told him: “I warned you to be careful, not to torture sacred people. But you did not pay any attention to me.”
Decius suffering from great pain yelled to his soldiers saying: “All of you run. Search for Christopher’s relic. Find me a piece from his clothes or soil from his grave. Run! I am suffering. I am tortured. I am dissolving alive.”
The soldiers ran of course everywhere. But they found nothing. So, they went and got some soil from the place where the Saint was decapitated, where his blood was poured.
A bit of this soil was mixed with water. From this mixture the bloodthirsty tyrant drank and died. Decius’ punishment was a small taste of the eternal punishment which was waiting for him.
I know you Christopher as bearing Christ, for Christ, the God, you were sacrificed, by the swords.
You are beautified wearing the costumes made of blood, modest Christopher you stand next to the Lord, the King of Heaven; from where together with the chorus of the Incorporeals and Martyrs, you chant the Thrice Holy and frightful melody; therefore through your supplications, save your slaves.
You, glorious, carry Christ, in your soul, you seized strongly the opponents’ principles; therefore Christopher intercede to Christ persistently for our souls.
Your prayers being like an iron pole, Martyr Christopher expel the infectious diseases from us and award us peace, those who with faith have a commemoration mass for you.
Christopher being an incomprehensible and sound Martyr, you changed the idea and the notion of the opposites, you astonished the thick crowds, struggling prodigiously, for you have the desire for God.
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