Hieromartyr Theodore, the Bishop of Cyrene in Libya, the holy women martyrs Cyprilla, Lucia and Aroa, and all who had accepted Baptism from the holy bishop / St. Lucius the Councillor (Feast Day August 20)
The ruins of Cyrene (from here)
The holy hieromartyr Theodore was born in Cyrene of Libya and flourished during the reign of Emperor Diocletian (r. 284-305). Theodore, who was Bishop of Cyrene, was an excellent calligrapher and writer, whose books were treasured by the Church. One day his son, Leontius, betrayed him before Governor Dignianus, telling him how many idolaters were turning to Christianity as a result of Bishop Theodore's writings.
The hierarch was brought before the governor with a group of Christians following him, including the holy women Cyprilla, Aroa and Lucia. Cyprilla was also born in Cyrene and had been married two years when her husband died, leaving her a widow for twenty-eight years.
When these Christians appeared before Dignianus, he not only demanded the sacred books, but bid that the bishop disavow Christ. The holy man did neither. For this he was harshly thrashed with rods and thongs with lead embedded at the ends. Afterwards, when he was brought forward to offer sacrifice to the idols, the holy martyr kicked the platform of sacrifices, hurling it down headlong.
St Theodoros of Cyrene, icon from the site of Metropolitan of Cyrene Athanasios
Maddened, the pagans hoisted him aloft upon wood and lacerated his entire body. Then they rubbed his wounds with hair cloths doused with vinegar and salt. After, they severed his tongue with a razor. However, those three godly women laid hold of that treasured tongue when the hieromartyr was returned to prison.
In the meantime, Cyprilla was sorely afflicted by a pain in her head. She besought her parent to give her leave to hasten to the prison of the venerable Theodore, believing that she could receive healing from Christ's athlete. With Aroa and Lucia she visited Bishop Theodore in prison, and having been cured of her malady through his prayers, they remained and served the holy bishop.
As mentioned earlier, these holy women had taken up the bishop's severed tongue. Hence, they delivered the sacred organ to the bishop, laying it upon his chest. Then a dove appeared above him, as well as a peacock which ascended to the window of the cell. The pagan Lucius, who was the chief councillor of Cyrene, saw this strange wonder and came to believe in Christ. After the holy bishop was healed of his injuries, he surrendered his soul into the hands of God. The dove then saluted him and flew from the prison.
Icon from this article about Sts Cyprilla, Aroa & Lucia
With the blessed repose of the holy bishop, Cyprilla was slandered to the governor. Refusing to sacrifice to the idols, the pagans laid lit charcoals upon one of her hands. After placing incense upon the coals, they forced her to offer a sacrifice of incense to the idols. The holy Cyprilla replied, "This is not a freewill sacrifice of mine, but satanic and involuntary." Indeed, this was the truth, because the executioners applied much strength to hold her hand until it was entirely burned.
Afterwards they took the holy woman and raised her aloft upon wood, and lacerated her flesh. Though blood spilled forth from her injuries, milk flowed from her wounded breasts. Unable to bear the torments, Cyprilla surrendered her holy soul to Christ, from Whom she received an unfading crown.
Lucia and Aroa took up her relics according to the command of the governor, and buried it as they chanted melodious hymns. Not much time passed when the tomb of St. Cyprilla proved to be a well-spring of healing for every kind of sickness. In turn, the holy women Lucia and Aroa were beheaded by Governor Dignianus, and joined St. Cyprilla in Paradise.
St. Lucius the Councillor
With the deaths of these three holy women, Dignianus soon learned of the conversion of Lucius. Indeed, any other pagans who had come to believe in Christ and were baptized by Theodore were also sentenced to death. However, after Lucius was baptized, he prevailed upon the governor to acknowledge Christ as true God. Whereupon, the two men boarded a ship and set sail for Cyprus.
Once in Cyprus, the men encountered another governor who took vengeance upon all those that invoked the name of Christ. Lucius, without Dignianus' knowledge, gave himself over to torments. He was beheaded when, with his foot, he cast down the platform of the idols. Dignianus then took up Lucius' honorable relics and interred them.
...Christianity is reputed from its beginning to have links with Cyrene. All three synoptic Gospels mention a Simon of Cyrene as having been forced to help carry the cross of Jesus. In the Acts of the Apostles there is mention of people from Cyrene being in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.
Cyrene is also mentioned in the New Testament. A Cyrenian named Simon carried the cross of Christ (Mark 15:21 and parallels). See also Acts 2:10 where Jews from Cyrene heard the disciples speaking in their own language in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost; 6:9 where some Cyrenian Jews disputed with a disciple named Stephen; 11:20 tells of Jewish Christians originally from Cyrene who (along with believers from Cyprus) first preached the Gospel to non-Jews; 13:1 names Lucius of Cyrene as one of several to whom the Holy Spirit spoke, instructing them to appoint Barnabas and Saul (later Paul) for missionary service (here).According to the tradition of the Coptic Orthodox Church, its founder, Saint Mark was a native of Cyrene and ordained the first bishop of Cyrene. The Roman Martyrology mentions under 4 July a tradition that in the persecution of Diocletian a bishop Theodorus of Cyrene was scourged and had his tongue cut out. Earlier editions of the Martyrology mentioned what may be the same person also under 26 March. Letter 67 of Synesius tells of an irregular episcopal ordination carried out by a bishop Philo of Cyrene, which was condoned by Athanasius. The same letter mentions that a nephew of this Philo, who bore the same name, also became bishop of Cyrene. Although Cyrene was by then ruined, a bishop of Cyrene name Rufus was at the Robber Council of Ephesus in 449. And there was still a bishop of Cyrene, named Leontius, at the time of Greek Patriarch Eulogius of Alexandria (580-607). No longer a residential bishopric, Cyrene is today listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see. The Greek Orthodox Church has also treated it as a titular see.
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