Pelagia was born in the town of Tarsus of pagan but distinguished and wealthy parents. Hearing about Christ and the salvation of souls from Christians, she burned with love for the Savior and, in her soul, was totally Christian. At that time there was a terrible persecution of Christians. It so happened that the Emperor Diocletian stopped off at Tarsus and during the time of his stay in Tarsus, his son, the crown prince fell deeply in love with Pelagia and wanted to take her as his wife. Pelagia replied through her nefarious mother that she had already been betrothed to her heavenly Bridegroom, Christ the Lord. Fleeing from the profane crown prince and her wicked mother, Pelagia sought and found Bishop Linus, a man distinguished for his holiness. He instructed Pelagia in the Christian Faith and baptized her. Then Pelagia gave away her luxurious garments, much wealth, returned home and confessed to her mother that she is already baptized. Learning of this and having lost all hope that he will gain this holy virgin for his wife, the crown prince stabbed himself with a sword and died. The wicked mother denounced her daughter before the emperor and turned her over to him for trial. The emperor was amazed at the beauty of this young virgin and, forgetting his son, became inflamed with impure passions toward her. But since Pelagia remained unwavering in her faith, the emperor sentenced her to be burned alive in a metal ox, glowing with a red-hot fire. When the executioner stripped her, St. Pelagia made the sign of the cross and with a prayer of thanksgiving to God on her lips, entered the glowing ox where, in the twinkling of an eye, she completely melted like wax. Pelagia suffered honorably in the year 287 A.D. The remains of her bones were acquired by Bishop Linus and he buried them on a hill under a stone. At the time of Emperor Constantine Copronymos (741-775 A.D) and, on that exact spot, a beautiful church was built in honor of the holy virgin and martyr Pelagia, who sacrificed herself for Christ in order to reign eternally with Christ.
At first, Silvanus was in the military service but later, driven by the power of his faith, entered into the spiritual service. Accused of converting pagans to Christianity, at first, he was cruelly tortured and, after that, was beheaded with forty other soldiers in the year 311 A.D. Thus, they all became citizens of heaven.
At first, Nicephorus was a Catholic and later embraced the Orthodox Faith. He lived the life of an ascetic as a monk on Mt. Athos with the wise Theoliptos. He was a teacher of the glorious Gregory Palamas and wrote a work on mental prayer. He presented himself peacefully to the Lord in the fourteenth century. Nicephorus taught: "Gather your mind and force it to enter into the heart and remain there. When your mind is established in the heart, it should not remain empty, but allow it to continually perform this prayer: O LORD JESUS CHRIST, SON OF GOD, HAVE MERCY ON ME [THE JESUS PRAYER]! Never allow it to be silent. Because of this, the entire chain of virtues will enter into you: love, joy, peace and all others, because of which your every petition to God will be fulfilled later."
Pelagia, as an angel bright
Before the emperor stood, for trial and judgment;
Brutish looking emperor, to her spoke:
With the royal diadem, I will crown you,
Among women, be my wife!
Pelagia boldly replied:
A marriage with a heathen, I loathe
Never, O emperor, will yours I be,
To me, what do you offer? A wreath of dust!
Three wreaths have I, with the Lord,
In Christ, my eternal Bridegroom.
The first wreath - for the Faith, I kept,
The second wreath - for my virginity I preserved,
The third wreath - the wreath of martyrdom.
Do not hesitate, godless emperor,
This body of dust - crush,
Crush, cut up, burn and grind,
That the soul, for the wedding soon depart,
That soon, along side my Bridegroom, I stand
The Savior, God and Immortal.
A young and inexperienced man in spiritual combat underlines his every good work by self-praise. But the experienced soldier in the midst of struggles with passions and demons minimizes his every deed and intensifies his prayer for God's help. Abba Matoes used to say: "The closer a man is to God, the more sinful he sees himself to be." He also was known to say: "When I was young, I thought perhaps that I was doing some good; and now when I am old, I see that I do not have any good deed." Did not our Lord say: "No one is good but One, that is God" (St. Matthew 19:17). Therefore, if only the one God is good and the source of all good, how can a good deed be done that is not from God? And, how can someone who does a good deed ascribe it to himself and not to God? If this is so, with what then can mortal man be praised? By nothing, except with God and the goodness of God!
To contemplate the ascended Lord Jesus:
About idolatry as adultery
"Judah as did Israel defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and with wood" (Jeremiah 3:9).
What sort of adultery was that which the people of Israel and Judah committed with stones and wood? It was the worshipping of idols of stone and of wood. Before this sin, they committed another sin; they turned away from worshipping the True God, the Living God and the One God. Why is their idolatry called adultery? Because, they were first bound by love for the True God, the Living God, and the One God and afterwards they betrayed this love and gave up their heart to strange idols of stone and wood. That is why the Lord calls their idolatry, adultery.
Was this reproach of God deserved only in ancient times and not in our own time; and only by Israel and Judah and not by Christians? Unfortunately, this reproach of God is completely deserving even today by many Christians. In whomever love toward the True God, the Living God and the One God has cooled off, and a lesser love enflamed toward things of stone and wood, toward decaying things and mortal creatures, that one commits adultery and that one brings down upon himself the reproach of God. Then, that reproach of God is appropriate today as it was then, for men sinned then without knowing Christ and now men sin knowing Christ.
O brethren, how long will this darkened idolatry be dragged over the earth? How long will the earth reek from the adultery of mankind with their idols of stone and wood, of silver and gold, of flesh and blood? Did not the Almighty Christ destroy all idols into dust and ashes? Why do some now stoop down and again make gods for themselves from that dust? Because of the devil's lies and their own individual self-deception.
O ascended Lord into the highest heavens, protect us from the lies of the devil and our own self-deception. Safeguard us from shameful adultery with destroyed idols by Your honorable Cross. Help us O Lord, help us that we, without ceasing, worship You the only True God, the Living God and the One God.
with prayers for the health of
Moneque on her nameday
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.