The Great Martyr Theodore the General
(Commemorated 8th February)
Great Martyr Theodore the General (Ό Στρατηλάτης) lived in the Black Sea coastal city of Heraclea Pontica, where he served as a military commander during pagan emperor Licinius’ reign (308 – 324 AD).
When Licinius learnt that St Theodore was a Christian who had converted many through his heroic actions and eloquent preaching, he summoned him to Nicomedia. St Theodore responded: “I cannot come at present, because the Heracleans are in an uproar. They have forsaken our gods and are worshipping Christ. Therefore, I entreat you to come, and to bring with you the most eminent gods to help re-establish our ancient beliefs.”
The delighted emperor immediately set out, accompanied by eight thousand soldiers and his most precious gold and silver idols. Upon their greeting, St Theodore assured Licinius that he would sacrifice to the gods publicly after privately sacrificing to the idols at home. That night, St Theodore smashed the idols into pieces and secretly distributed them to the poor.
Two days later, a centurion reported that he had seen a beggar holding goddess Artemis’ golden head. Arrested, and summoned to give an explanation, St Theodore confessed his Christian faith and denounced the idolatry of the pagans saying to the emperor: “It is clear that if the idols were unable to help themselves, they will never be able to help you.”
The infuriated emperor commanded that the Saint be stripped naked, stretched out and flogged ceaselessly. As he remained steadfast in his faith, St Theodore was then nailed to a cross where his flesh was torn with iron claws, arrows were shot at his eyes, and spikes were driven into his bowels. During the night an angel healed his body and took him down from the cross.
Seeing St Theodore unharmed the next morning, seventy centurions immediately believed in Christ and were subsequently executed. St Theodore was finally beheaded on the 8th of February 319 surrendering his holy soul to Christ.
Source: Lychnos Feb 2019 / Mar 2019