- The Holy Great Female Martyr Dominica [Nedelja-Kiriaki]
During the time of the Emperors Diocletian and his son-in-law Maximian, both adversaries of Christ, there lived in Anatolia two pious and elderly souls, Dorotheus and Eusebia. They were devout Christians, wealthy but childless. Through unceasing prayer, they obtained a child from God–the holy Dominica. From her childhood, Dominica consecrated herself to God, abstaining from everything that unruly children do. When she had matured and was beautiful in body and soul, many suitors came to ask for her hand in marriage; but she refused them all, saying that she had betrothed herself to Christ the Lord and desired nothing more than to die as a virgin. One of the rejected suitors denounced Dominica and her parents to Emperor Diocletian as Christians. The emperor ordered that Dominica’s parents be tortured, and after torturing them, banished them to the town of Melitene–where they died, having endured much suffering for Christ. Diocletian sent Dominica herself to Maximian to stand trial. Since Dominica confirmed her faith in Christ before Maximian, he ordered that she be placed on the ground and flogged with oxen whips. After that, the emperor handed her over to the commanders, first to Hilarion and, after his death, to Apollonius. Both of them tortured Dominica in a beastly manner, in all possible ways, but all was in vain. When St. Dominica lay in the prison cell, completely covered with wounds, Christ the Lord appeared to her, healed her, and said: “Dominica, do not be afraid of torture; My grace is with you.” And indeed the grace of Christ saved this martyr from the fire and from the wild beasts, which the godless judges thought would bring about her certain death. Seeing Dominica miraculously saved from such a death, many pagans came to believe in Christ–and they were all beheaded. Dominica said to Apollonius: “In no manner can you turn me away from my Faith. If you throw me into the fire, I have the example of the Three Youths [Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego]; if you throw me before wild beasts, I have the example of Daniel the Prophet; if you toss me into the sea, I have the example of Jonah the Prophet; if you give me over to the sword, I will remember the honorable Forerunner [John the Baptist]. Life, for me, is to die for Christ.” Then Apollonius ordered that Dominica be beheaded. Dominica knelt down, raised her hands to heaven, and prayed to God, that He would save and have mercy on all those who would celebrate her memory, and that He would give rest to her soul together with the souls of her parents. Upon completing her prayer, she rendered her soul to God, before the sword was lowered onto her neck. Dominica suffered honorably in Nicomedia, and she was received into eternal joy, in the year 289 A.D.
The Venerable Thomas Of Malea Thomas was at first a commander distinguished by his bravery and wealth. He was massive of body and struck fear in his enemies. But when Thomas came to love Christ more than the world and everything in the world, he left all and withdrew into the wilderness. There he was tonsured a monk and gave himself over to asceticism. St. Elias the Prophet appeared to him and led him to a mountain called Malea, near Athos, the Holy Mountain. There he lived alone and isolated–alone with God, in prayer day and night. But even though he concealed himself from the world, he could not remain hidden. Upon learning about the sanctity of his life, people began to come to him and bring their sick. And St. Thomas cured people from every infirmity and affliction. Even after he fell asleep in the Lord in the tenth century, his relics continued to help all those who venerated them with faith.
The Venerable Martyrs Epictetus And Astius Astius, the only son of his parents, Alexander and Marcellina, was persuaded to love the Faith of Christ by the priest Epictetus, who baptized him and tonsured him a monk. They later moved from the eastern regions of Scythia and settled in the Scythian town of Almirida (now Ramzina), at the mouth of the Danube on the Black Sea. They were tortured and beheaded for the Faith of Christ in about 290 A.D. After their deaths, they both appeared in great radiance to the parents of St. Astius, Alexander and Marcellina, who subsequently turned to Christ and were baptized by Bishop Evangelus, who himself was later beheaded for Christ: “Evangelus, another angel,” as is sung of him.
Hymn Of Praise
Saint Dominica [Nedelja-Kiriaki]
An only child, Saint Dominica,
Whose parents themselves for the Faith died–
Her parents, God’s saints.
Now an orphan, Saint Dominica,
Gave all she had to the poor:
Only her body and garment remained,
And that, she sacrificed for Christ!
Dominica, as the dew, pure,
Refused the world’s enticements,
Refused the temptations of men,
And disdained the terrors of the earthly life.
She, to suffering as to a wedding, went;
Enduring tortures and deep wounds,
Succored by the sweet name of Jesus!
She suffered bitter pains, harsh humiliations,
Assured of life eternal in God’s Kingdom!
Her whole body ran red with blood,
But the joy of Paradise is sweet!
O Dominica, God’s chosen one,
For Christ, wondrous martyr,
With a sword from the earth you were driven,
But crowned with glory in heaven!
Teach us the Faith to honor:
Encourage us, our lives to give, for the Faith,
By your prayers, help us,
O wonderful spiritual candle,
Amidst the candles of Paradise.
The example of St. Dominica, the beautiful virgin, and that of St. Astius, the rich young man–both of whom submitted themselves to torture and death for Christ the Lord–lead us to the thought that there is nothing in history comparable to the power of Christ, by Whose help young men conquer themselves– and, through that, conquer everything else. To obtain victory over oneself is the greatest victory. The Church numbers such victors by the thousands, and many thousands. In writing about virginity, St. Cyprian says: “To conquer pleasure is the greatest pleasure, neither is there a greater victory than the victory over one’s desires. He who conquers one opponent proves himself stronger than another, but he who conquers passion proves himself stronger than himself. Every other evil is easier to conquer than pleasure, for all other evils are repulsive–while the evil of pleasure is attractive. He who frees himself from desires, frees himself from fear, for fear arises from desire.”
To contemplate the miraculous bringing forth of water from the rock in Horeb (Exodus 17):
- How the thirsty Israelites doubted that God was with them, and murmured against Moses;
- How, by God’s command, Moses struck the rock with his rod, and water flowed from the rock;
- How my heart has been turned to stone by doubt, and how streams of tears begin to flow from it when it is touched by the grace of faith.
Homily About the sincere [and pure] milk of the word
“As newborn babes, desire the sincere [pure] milk of the word, that you may grow thereby: If so be, you have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Peter 2: 2-3).
As newborn babes is how the great apostle regards Christians. Baptism is a new birth, and from baptism man counts his new life. The spiritually newborn must be fed with mild food, as the newborn in the flesh. What kind of food does the apostle recommend for Christians? The sincere and pure milk of the word. The physical child is fed with ordinary milk, which is only an image of the sincere [pure] milk of the word, by which a spiritual child needs to be fed. What then is this sincere and pure milk with which Christians should be fed? The apostle himself answers this when he says: for you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. Thus, it is the Lord Jesus Himself, Living and Life-giving. Christ’s words are the sincere and pure milk. Brethren, blessed are you if you nourish your souls with the words of Christ, as with sweet milk, for your souls will grow fruitful and be blessed, and you will be prepared for the Kingdom of God. Christ’s miracles are the sincere and pure milk. Brethren, blessed are you if you nourish your souls with this sweet milk, for you will be like unto the angels who sing the praises of the miracles of God day and night. The Body and Blood of Christ are the sincere and pure milk. Brethren, blessed are you if you nourish your souls with this sweet milk, for you will become members of the Living and Immortal Body of Christ in the heavens. Christ’s resurrected victory over death is the sincere and pure milk. Brethren, blessed are you if you nourish your souls with this sweet milk, for you–while yet in this life–will walk as victors, and in the life to come you will stand at the right side of Christ the Victor. Brethren, the whole of Christ is the sincere and pure milk. Let us be eager for this milk above all else, that we may grow to salvation. This is the only nourishment for salvation. All else is for decay and the grave. O Lord Jesus, Lamb of God, You Who are the sincere and pure milk, nourish us with Yourself, as You did nourish Your holy apostles–that we too may grow enough to be saved. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.