St. Philothea the Monastic
Commemorated on February 19
The Monastic Martyr Philothea was born in Athens in 1522. Her parents, Syriga and Angelos Benizelos, were renowned not only for being eminent and rich, but also deeply devout. Often, the kind-hearted Syriga had implored the Most Holy Theotokos for a child. Her fervent prayers were heard, and a daughter was born to the couple. They named her Revoula.
The parents raised their daughter in deep piety, and when she was twelve years old, they gave her away in marriage. Her husband turned out to be a cruel man, who often beat and tormented his wife. Revoula patiently endured the abuse and prayed to God that He might bring her husband to his senses.
After three years, Revoula’s husband died, and she began to labor in fasting, vigil and prayer. The saint founded a women’s monastery in the name of the Apostle Andrew the First-Called. When the monastery was completed, she was the first to accept monastic tonsure, with the name Philothea.
During this time, Greece was suffering under the Turkish Yoke, and many Athenians had been turned into slaves by their Turkish conquerors. St. Philothea utilized all her means to free her fellow countrywomen, ransoming many from servitude. Once, four women ran away from their Turkish masters, who demanded that they renounce their Christianity, and took refuge in the monastery of St. Philothea.
The Turks, having learned where the Greek women had gone, burst into the saint’s cell, and beat her. They took her to the governor, who threw St. Philothea into prison. In the morning, a mob of Turks gathered, and they led her out of the prison. The governor told her that if she did not renounce Christ, she would be hacked to pieces.
Just as St. Philothea was ready to accept a martyr’s crown, a crowd of Christians assembled by the grace of God. They pacified the judges and freed St. Philothea. Returning to her monastery, St. Philothea continued with her efforts of abstinence, prayer and vigil, for which she was granted the gift of wonderworking. In Patesia, a suburb of Athens, she founded a new monastery, where she struggled in asceticism with the sisters.
During the Vigil for St. Dionysius the Areopagite, the Turks again seized St. Philothea and tortured her. Finally, they threw her down on the ground half-dead. The sisters tearfully brought the holy martyr, flowing with blood, to Kalogreza, where she died on February 19, 1589. Shortly thereafter, the relics of the holy Monastic Martyr Philothea were brought to the Athens cathedral church.
By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)