Laurence the Holy Martyr and Archdeacon of Rome
The Romans Martyrs Archdeacon Laurence, Pope Sixtus, Deacons Felicissimus and Agapitus, the Soldier Romanus suffered in the year 258 AD under the emperor Valerian. Holy Pope Sixtus, born at Athens, received a fine education, preached in Spain, and was made Bishop in Rome following the martyr’s death of Holy Pope Stephen (253-257 AD, commemorated on 2 August). These were times when a Pope occupying the Roman throne, was known to choose death for the faith. In a short while, St Sixtus also was arrested and put in prison together with his Deacons Felicissimus and Agapitus.
When the holy archdeacon Laurence visited Pope Sixtus, whom they held in prison, he cried out with tears: “Whither art thou gone, father? Why hast thou forsaken thine archdeacon, with whom always thou hast offered the Bloodless Sacrifice? Take thy son with thee, that I may be thy companion in having bloodshed for Christ!” St Sixtus answered, “I have not forsaken thee, my son. I am old and go to an easy death, but greater sufferings await you. Know, that after three days upon our death you shall follow after me. And now go, take the church treasury and distribute it to the poor and needy Christians”. St Laurence zealously did the bidding of the holy hierarch.
Having heard, that Pope Sixtus had been taken to trial with the Deacons, St Laurence went there so as to witness their deed, and he said to the holy Bishop, “Father, I have already fulfilled your command, and distributed by hand your treasury; forsake me not!” Hearing something about treasure, soldiers put him under guard, and the other martyrs were beheaded (+6 August 258 AD). The emperor locked up St Laurence in prison and ordered the chief jailer Hyppolitus to keep watch over him. In prison, St Laurence with prayer healed the sick gathered together with him and he baptized many.
Astonished by this, Hyppolitus himself believed and accepted Baptism from St Laurence together with all his household. Soon the Archdeacon Laurence was again brought to the emperor and commanded to produce the hidden treasure. St Laurence answered, “Give me a period of three days, and I shall show you this treasure”. During this time, the Saint gathered up a crowd of the poor and the sick, who ate only because of the charity of the Church, and bringing them he explained, “Here are the vessels in which is contained the treasure. And everyone, who puts their treasure in these vessels, will receive them in abundance in the Heavenly Kingdom”.
After this they gave St Laurence over to fierce tortures, urging him to worship idols. The martyr was scourged (with a fine iron flail with sharp needles), they burned his wounds with fire, and struck at him with metal switches. At the time of the martyr’s suffering, the soldier Romanus suddenly cried out, “St Laurence, I behold a bright youth, who stands about you healing your wounds. Beseech your Lord Christ not to forsake me!” After this, they stretched St Laurence on a rack and returned him to prison to Hyppolitus. Romanus brought there a pot with water and besought the martyr to baptize him.
Immediately after the Baptism of the soldier, he was beheaded (+9 August). When they took St Laurence to his final torture, St Hyppolitus wanted to declare himself a Christian and die together with him, but the confessor said, “Conceal for now thy confession in your heart. After some length of time I shall summon you, and you shall hear and come to me. Weep not for me, but rather rejoice, for I go to receive a glorious crown of martyrdom”. They placed him in an iron cage, under which they set an intense fire, and the flames of the fire flicked towards the body of the martyr. St Laurence, glancing at the governor said, “Here now, you burn only but one side of my body, turn over the other and do my whole body”. Dying, he uttered, “I thank You, Lord Jesus Christ, that You have accounted me worthy to enter into Your gates”, and with these words he gave up the spirit.
St Hyppolitus took the body of the martyr by night; he wrapped it in a shroud with ointments and gave it over to the priest Justin. Over the relics of the martyr in the home of the widow Kyriake they made an all-night vigil and Divine Liturgy. All the Christians present partook of the Holy Mysteries and with honour, they buried the body of the holy martyr Archdeacon Laurence in a cave on 10 August 258 AD. St Hyppolitus and other Christians suffered three days after the death of St Laurence (13 August), as he had foretold them of this.
Dismissal Hymn (Fourth Tone)
Your Martyr, O Lord, in his courageous contest for You received the prize of the crowns of incorruption and life from You, our immortal God. For since he possessed Your strength, he cast down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons’ powerless presumption. O Christ God, by his prayers, save our souls, since You are merciful.
Kontakion (Second Tone)
Aflame in your heart, O Laurence, with the fire divine, you burnt away the fire of passions utterly, O firm staff of athletes, O you God-bearing Martyr; and you in truth while contesting did cry with faith, “Nothing shall separate me from the love of Christ”.
Afterfeast of the Transfiguration of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
Apolytikion of Afterfeast of the Transfiguration in the Grave Tone
You were transfigured on the Mount, Christ God revealing Your glory to Your disciples, insofar as they could comprehend. Illuminate us sinners also with Your everlasting light, through the intercessions of the Theotokos. Giver of light, glory to You.
We Also Celebrate Today:
Chitus of Athens, Bishop of Rome
Hippolytus the Martyr of Rome