St. Zoe with her husband and sons
Holy Martyr Zoë was the wife of St. Hesperus. They suffered in the second century during the persecutions under Emperor Hadrian. Zoë and Hesperus had been Christians since their childhood, and they also raised their children, Cyriacus and Theodulus, in the Faith. They were all slaves of an illustrious Roman named Catullus, who lived in Asia Minor. While serving their earthly master, the saints never defiled themselves with food offered to idols.
Once, Catullus sent Hesperus on business to Tritonia. Sts. Cyriacus and Theodulus decided to run away, unable to endure the constant contact with pagans. However, Zoë, did not bless her sons to take this action. They returned and asked their mother’s blessing to confess their faith in Christ openly.
When the brothers explained to Catullus that they were Christian, he was surprised, but he did not deliver them to be tortured. Instead, he sent them with their mother to St. Hesperus at Tritonia, hoping that both parents would persuade their children to deny Christ. At Tritonia, the family lived in tranquility, but prepared for martyrdom.
All the slaves returned for the birthday of Catullus’ son, and a feast was prepared at the house in honor of the pagan goddess Fortuna. Food was sent to the slaves from the master’s table, including meat and wine that had been sacrificed to the idols. However, Zoë and her family refused to eat the food. She poured the wine on the ground and threw the meat to the dogs. When he learned of this, Catullus gave orders to torture Zoë’s sons.
The brothers were stripped, suspended from a tree, and raked with iron hooks before the eyes of their parents, who counseled their children to persevere to the end.
Sts. Hesperus and Zoë were then subjected to terrible tortures. Finally, all four martyrs were thrown into a red-hot furnace, where they surrendered their souls to the Lord. Their bodies were preserved in the fire unharmed, and angelic singing was heard, glorifying the confessors of the Lord.
By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)