The Protonartyr and Equal-to-the-Apostles Thekla of Iconium, still a pagan, was betrothed at 18 years of age to the young Thamyris when she heard the preaching of the Apostle Paul in Iconium. She stayed at her bedroom window for three days where she could hear his blessed words. Being struck by the notion of preserving virginity for Christ, she decided she would no longer get married. Her decision despised by her mother and fiancé, they imprisoned the Apostle Paul, blaming him for Thekla’s change of heart. Thekla secretly fled her house and found the prison where the apostle was kept, bribing the guards with much gold and jewellery to enter and speak with him. She sat at the Apostle Paul’s feet for another three days, being instructed on the path to Christ. Noticing her absence, they searched the holy virgin down and eventually found her. Her enraged mother sentenced her to be burnt at the stake, but as soon as Saint Thekla ran into the fire, a large storm cloud came and washed away the flames, leaving her unharmed. Believing her to be some sort of witch, the townspeople sent her away. In her new city of dwelling, the young Prince Alexander, enchanted by her beauty, demanded her hand in marriage. She adamantly refused and so was thrown to the lions, only to find that they sat meekly at her feet guarding her from her enemies. She was once again released, and Saint Thekla spent the remainder of her life in the desert, preaching and healing anyone who approached her. Because of her great spreading and mass conversions, she is titled Equal-to-the-Apostles. At 90 years of age, the magicians of the city noticed all their clients were fleeing to “some healing woman” in the desert, and thus losing their income. Driven with the vice of avarice, the magicians gathered some young men, intoxicated them with wine, and sent them to defile the holy virgin. As they approached, Saint Thekla prayed that the Lord spare her, and an earthquake shook the mountains, forming a crevice large enough for the Saint to enter. Having entered the mountain, the rocks closed on her and thus she gave up her soul. Saint Thekla is considered the first female Martyr after Saint Stephen and is petitioned to in the service for a nun’s tonsure. On the site of her martyrdom in Maaloula, Syria, the Monastery of Saint Thekla was built. In around 2014, ISIS extremists took the nuns of Saint Thekla’s captive and bombed the monastery. God’s providence protected the nuns and they escaped without harm.
Ἦχος δ’. Ταχὺ προκατάλαβε.
Τοῦ Παύλου συνέκδημος, ὡς καθαρα τὴν ψυχήν, καὶ πρώταθλος πέφηνας, ἐν γυναιξὶν εὐκλεῶς, Χριστὸν ἀγαπήσασα, σὺ γὰρ τῆς εὐσέβειας, πτερωθεῖσα τῷ πόθῳ, ἤθλησας ὑπὲρ φύσιν, Ἰσαπόστελε Θέκλα διὸ σὲ ὁ Πανοικτίρμων νύμφην ἠγάγετο.
Ἦχος γ΄. Θείας πίστεως.
Θείου κήρυκος διδασκαλίας, πόθῳ κτίστου σου ἀναφλεχθεῖσα, τῶν γεηρῶν ὡς ῥεόντων ἠλόγησας· καί σεαυτήν ἱερόν καλλιέργημα, τῷ Θεῷ δοῦσα ποινῶν κατετόλμησας. Θέκλα ἔνδοξε, Παύλου τοῦ θείου συνέκδημε, τόν σόν Νυμφίον Χριστόν ἱκέτευε, δωρήσασθαι ἡμῖν τό μέγα ἔλεος.
Ἦχος πλ. δ’. Ὡς ἀπαρχὰς
Τῆς παρθενίας τῷ κάλλει ἐξέλαμψας, μαρτυρίου στεφάνῳ κεκόσμησαι, ἀποστολὴν πιστεύῃ Παρθένε ὡς ἔνδοξος, καὶ τοῦ πυρὸς μὲν τὴν φλόγα, εἰς δρόσον μετέβαλες, τοῦ ταύρου δὲ τὸν θυμόν, προσευχῇ σου ἡμέρωσας ὦ Πρωτόαθλε.
Troparion – Tone 3
O glorious Thekla, companion of Paul the divine, you were enflamed with the love of your Creator, by the teaching of the divine preacher. You despised the passing earthly pleasures, and offered yourself to God as an acceptable and pleasing sacrifice, disregarding all suffering. Intercede with Christ your Groom to grant us His great mercy.