Holy Martyr Themistocles of Myra
(Commemorated 21st December)
Themistocles was a shepherd during the reign of Emperor Decius in the 3rd century, quietly attending to his sheep in the mountains of Lycia. It was at this time that the governor of the region, Asclepius, began to persecute Christians. Dioscorides was a fellow Christian from the city who appeared at Themistocles’ door seeking refuge. Just minutes behind him were Asclepius’ soldiers.
They commanded Themistocles to give him up, but Themistocles asked them to show mercy: “Let him go, brothers… Don’t hand him over to the judge, and you’ll have given him the gift of life… Even though he’s a Christian like me, he’s a man like yourselves”. The soldiers only responded with anger, so Themistocles offered to be arrested in the place of Dioscorides. At the tribunal before Asclepius, Themistocles astonished the onlookers! Appearing in his simple shepherd’s dress, the holy man of God spoke with great wisdom.
Asclepius demanded the truth of Dioscorides’ whereabouts, to which Themistocles responded: “The only truth I know is Christ, who said, I am the Truth and the Life!” Decrying the vain worship of idols, Themistocles was sent to be tormented. He responded with joy: “You want to torture me, so get on with it… I shall offer a sacrifice to the glory of my Master, for my salvation and for that of the servant of God Dioscorides…”
The tormentors tore his limbs from their sockets. He was beaten, hung and scraped. Despite these sufferings, Themistocles was increasingly hopeful. He said to Asclepius: “Don’t you know that Life has appeared to us and we have been saved by the Wood of the Cross? The world has been saved and Christ is glorified by the whole universe!”
Asclepius ordered that he be dragged through a mass of thorns until he died. After his martyrdom, the faithful planted his shepherd’s staff on his grave. It took root there, blossomed into an almond tree and its fruit had miraculous healing powers.
Source: Lychnos December 2017 / January 2018