St. Theopiste with Her Husband and Children
Commemorated on September 20
St. Theopiste was the wife of the Great Martyr Eustathius, and was born in the first century.
While hunting in a forest, Placidas (the name of St. Eustathius before his Baptism) saw a stag with a radiant Cross between its antlers. He heard a voice coming from the Cross saying, “Why do you pursue Me, Placidas?” “Who are You, Master?,” asked Placidas. The Voice replied, “I am Jesus Christ, Whom you do not know, yet you honor Me by your good deeds. I have appeared here on this creature for your sake, to capture you in the net of My love for mankind. It is not fitting that one as righteous as you should worship idols and not know the truth.” The Lord told him to go to the bishop and be baptized.
With joy, Placidas returned home and told what happened to his wife, Tatiana. She told her husband how the evening before in a mysterious dream she had been told, “Tomorrow you, your husband and your sons shall come to Me and know that I am the true God.”
They hastened to the Christian bishop, who baptized all their family, and communed them with the Holy Mysteries. Placidas was renamed Eustathius, his wife was called Theopiste, and their children, Agapius and Theopistus.
On the following day, St. Eustathius set out to the place of his miraculous conversion and in fervent prayer offered up thanks to the Lord for having called him onto the path of salvation. Again, St. Eustathius received a miraculous revelation. The Lord Himself foretold his impending tribulations by saying, “Eustathius, you shall suffer many misfortunes, as did Job, but in the end you will conquer the devil.”
Soon St. Eustathius was plunged into misfortune – all his servants died of the plague, and his cattle perished. Brought to ruin, but not despairing in spirit, St. Eustathius and his family secretly abandoned their home, to live unknown, humble and in poverty.
They traveled to Egypt and boarded a ship sailing for Jerusalem. During the voyage, the ship’s owner, enchanted by Theopiste’s beauty, cruelly set Eustathius and his children ashore, keeping Theopiste for himself. In great sorrow, Eustathius continued on his way. Coming to a tempestuous river, he attempted to carry his two sons across. After he had brought one across, the other was seized by a lion and carried off into the wilderness. As he turned back towards his other child, a wolf dragged his son into the forest.
Having lost everything, St. Eustathius wept bitterly, but he realized that Divine Providence had sent him these misfortunes to test his endurance and devotion to God. In his inconsolable grief, St. Eustathius continued to travel.
In the village of Badessos, he found work and spent five years in unremitting toil. He did not know then that through the mercy of God, shepherds and farmers had saved his sons, and they lived nearby. He also did not know that the ship owner had been struck down with a terrible disease and died, leaving St. Theopiste untouched. She lived in the city where the ship had landed in peace and freedom.
During this time, it became difficult for the Emperor Trajan to raise an army for Rome to deal with a rebellion because the soldiers would not go to battle without their commander, Placidas. They asked Emperor Trajan to send men out to the cities to look for him.
Antiochus and Acacius, friends of Placidas, sought him in various places. Finally, they arrived in the village where St. Eustathius lived. The soldiers found him, but did not recognize him and began to tell him of the one whom they sought, asking his help and promising a large reward. St. Eustathius immediately recognized his friends, but did not reveal his identity.
Eusthathius borrowed money from one of his friends and fed the visitors. As they looked at him, the travelers noted that he resembled their former commander. When they saw a scar on his shoulder from a deep sword-wound, they realized that it was their friend there before them. They embraced him with tears and told him why they were seeking him.
St. Eustathius returned to Rome and was made a general. Many new recruits were drafted into the army from all over the empire. He did not know that two young soldiers who served him, and whom he loved for their skill and daring, were actually his own sons. They did not know that they were serving under the command of their own father, nor that they were brothers by birth.
While on the military campaign, the army led by Eustathius halted at a certain settlement to rest. The soldier-brothers began to talk, with the elder one speaking about his life, how he had lost his mother and brother, and how in a terrifying way he had been parted from his father. The younger brother then realized that before him was his very own brother, and told him how he had been rescued from the wolf.
A woman standing nearby overheard the soldiers’ conversation, and realized that these were her sons. Still not identifying herself, but not wanting to be separated, she went to their commander, St. Eustathius, to ask him to take her to Rome. She said she had been a prisoner, and wanted to go home. She came to recognize the commander as her husband, and with tears told him about herself and the two soldiers who were actually their sons. Thus, through the great mercy of the Lord, the whole family was happily reunited.
Soon thereafter the rebellion was crushed, and St. Eustathius returned to Rome with honor and glory. Emperor Trajan had since died, and his successor Hadrian (117-138) wanted to celebrate the event of victory with a solemn offering of sacrifice to the gods. To the astonishment of everyone, St. Eustathius refused to appear at the pagan temple. By order of the emperor, they searched frantically for him.
When found, the emperor asked Eustathius, “Why don't you want to worship the gods? You, above all others, ought to offer thanks to them. They not only preserved you in war and granted you victory, but they also helped you find your wife and children.” St. Eustathius replied, “I am a Christian and I glorify and give thanks to Him, and I offer sacrifice to Him. I owe my life to Him. I do not know or believe in any other god than Him.”
In a rage, the emperor ordered Eusthathius to take off his military belt, and that the family be brought before him. The emperor did not succeed in persuading the steadfast confessors of Christ to offer sacrifice to idols. St. Eustathius and his entire family were sentenced to be torn apart by wild beasts, but the beasts would not touch the holy martyrs. The emperor then gave orders to throw all of them alive into a red-hot brass furnace, and St. Eustathius, his wife Theopiste, and their sons Agapius and Theopistus endured martyrs’ deaths. Before their execution, St. Eustathius prayed, “Grant, O Lord, Thy grace to our relics, and grant to those who call upon us a place in Thy Kingdom. Though they call upon us when they are in danger on a river or on the sea, we entreat Thee to come to their aid.”
Three days later, the furnace was opened, and the bodies of the holy martyrs were found unscathed. Not one hair on their heads was singed, and their faces shone with an unearthly beauty. Many seeing this miracle came to believe in Christ. The bodies of the saints were then buried by Christians.
Troparion (Tone 4) –
O glorious Theopiste,
You were hunted from heaven and captured in the net of faith.
Together with your husband and sons
You were tested and tempted but triumphed in contest.
You gladden those who cry to you:
Glory to Christ who glorified you!
Glory to him who has crowned you!
Glory to him who proved you a second Job!
Kontakion (Tone 2) -
O Holy Theopiste,
You were an imitator of Christ in His passion;
You drank of His cup with courage and became a partake of His glory:
Therefore the God of all gave you divine power to work wonders!
By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)