St. Theodula of Anazarbus in Cilicia
Commemorated on February 5
St. Theodula lived in the city of Anazarbus (Asia Minor) during the reign of the Roman emperors Diocletian (284-305) and Maximian (305-311). The prefect of the city, Pelagius, was very cruel. His servants sought out Christians throughout the entire region and brought them to trial, where the imperial edict was read to them, and they were ordered to worship idols.
Theodula was brought before him, and Pelagius ordered that she worship the pagan gods, threatening her with torture if she refused. St. Theodula replied, “I am a Christian. My very name means ‘servant of God,’ and so people call me Theodula. I worship the One True God and will not worship a mere stone.”
Pelagius became angry and gave orders to begin the torture. The Lord granted Theodula His help, and she did not feel any pain. Pelagius, however, said this was done by the gods, who had spared Theodula in the hope that she would turn to them.
St. Theodula said to the prefect, “Where are your gods who spare me? Show them to me, that I might show honor to them.” They brought her into the temple of the “deified” Roman emperor Hadrian, whom the pagans regarded as a mighty god. Theodula, in praying to the One True God, merely blew a breath at the idol, and it crumbled into dust. Seeing this, Pelagius was terrified. If the idol’s destruction was reported to the emperor, he himself would be thrown to the wild beasts. He fell down at St. Theodula’s feet, begging her to restore the idol, and promising to accept Christianity.
Theodula prayed to the Lord Jesus Christ, and the idol again stood in its place, whole and intact. Pelagius, however, not only did not keep his promise to become a Christian, but instead began to torture Theodula with an even greater fury.
During these torments, a man by the name of Helladius appeared before Pelagius, and looking at the captive, asked to be given Theodula, promising to make her worship the pagan gods, because he wanted to ingratiate himself with Pelagius and receive honors.
Helladius subjected Theodula to harsh torments, exceeding Pelagius in cruelty. The saint prayed that God would grant her the ability to persevere. She immediately received help from God and was healed. Helladius was awestruck, and St. Theodula admonished him. “Become a Christian,” she said, “and attain eternal honors in the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who shall judge both the living and the dead and render to each man according to his deeds.”
By her prayers and her words, St. Theodula led Helladius to the knowledge of the Truth. He believed in Christ and confessed the True God before Pelagius. He received the crown of martyrdom when they cut off his head with a sword and threw his body into the sea.
St. Theodula was thrown into a blazing oven, but remained unharmed. After this, she was stretched out on a metal plate where boiling tar, wax and oil were poured on her, but the red-hot plate shattered into pieces, and the fire scorched many people, including Pelagius, who died of fright. However, St. Theodula remained unharmed.
Seeing this miracle, many people came to believe in Christ, among whom were Macarius and Evagrius. The pagans continued to torture the Christian through the heating of an oven. They threw Sts. Theodula, Macarius, Evagrius and many others who believed in Christ into it. They all suffered martyrdom, and were translated into life immortal.
Troparion (Tone 4) –
Your holy martyr Theodula, O Lord,
Through her sufferings has received an incorruptible crown from You, our God.
For having Your strength, she laid low her adversaries,
And shattered the powerless boldness of demons.
Through her intercessions, save our souls!
By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)