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Martyr Menas of Egypt (11 November)

The Holy Great Martyr Menas (Mēnás), an Egyptian by birth, was a military officer and served in the Kotyaeion region of Phrygia under the centurion Firmilian during the reign of Emperors Diocletian (284-305) and Maximian (305-311). He was praised and admired for his bravery in battle, his patience, and his self-discipline.

In 298, the Emperors published an edict ordering everyone to worship the idols. Those serving in the Legions were ordered to capture and persecute Christians. As soon as Saint Menas heard this impious decree he threw down his soldier’s belt (a sign of military rank) and withdrew to a mountain above Kotyaeion, where he lived an ascetical life of fasting and prayer. He spent a long time in the wilderness, suffering great privation and laboring in feats of prayer, fasting, and nocturnal vigils. Thus, the Saint purified himself of every passion of soul and body.

When his heart was strengthened with godly zeal, and his soul aflame with love for God, divine grace came upon him and he had a vision. He regarded this as a sign that he was to follow the path of martyrdom. Therefore, he left the mountain and went into the city, where the people were celebrating a pagan festival.

At that time, Saint Menas was approximately fifty years old. Standing in the midst of the crowd, he shouted: “There is only one true God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Your “gods” are demons, and your idols have been fashioned by craftsmen. These inanimate objects are nothing but metal, wood, and stone.”

Those who heard his voice left their dancing and their games and went to see who had disrupted their idolatrous festival, marveling at his boldness. They seized and beat him, then brought him before Pyrrhus, the City Prefect. When he saw Menas he asked him who he was, and why he was creating a disturbance. The Saint replied, “I am an Egyptian, a servant of Jesus Christ, the Ruler of all things. I was a soldier and I served in the Imperial Army for most of my life. But since the Emperor has chosen to follow the path of idolatry, and to persecute Christians, I chose to dwell with the wild animals in the wilderness rather than obey the impious commands of those who do not know God.”

When the Prefect heard this he became enraged and had the Saint thrown into prison.

The next morning, Pyrrhus urged Saint Menas to return to the Army, offering to restore his former rank if he would offer sacrifice to the pagan “gods.” Menas refused, and so he was subjected to many cruel tortures. The Prefect urged him to submit to the edict and offer sacrifice to the idols, but the Martyr remained firm in his Faith, saying that he would never deny Christ. Pyrrhus ordered further torments, but seeing that he could not persuade Saint Menas, he ordered that he be taken outside the city and beheaded. As he was being led to the place of execution, he asked his friends (who were secret Christians) to take his body back to Egypt for burial when the persecution had ceased. These friends gathered Martyr’s relics at night and hid them until the persecution was over. Later, they were brought to Egypt and placed in a church dedicated to Saint Menas southwest of Alexandria.

Saint Menas received the crown of martyrdom in the year 304. By God’s grace he continues to work miracles for those who entreat him with faith and love. He is known for healing various illnesses, delivering people from demonic possession, and is a protector, especially during times of war.

In 1942, General Erwin Rommel had conquered almost all of North Africa, and was heading toward Alexandria. The Nazis had reached El Alamein,1 where they camped for the night, intending to attack Alexandria in the morning. Saint Menas, however, did not allow this to happen. At midnight (October 23-24). certain people noticed Saint Menas coming out of his ancient church leading camels into the German camp. Overcome by panic, weakness, and confusion, Rommel’s troops fled. The battle ended on November 4th with the enemy in full retreat. It is regarded as a turning point in the whole war. Later, Winston Churchill said: “Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein we never had a defeat.”

The Allies offered that place to Patriarch Christophoros of Alexandria so that the church of Saint Menas could be rebuilt.

We pray to Saint Menas to ask for his help in finding lost objects.

1 A corruption of the name of Saint Menas.

Saint Menas, who had Egypt as his fatherland, contested in Cotyaeion of Phrygia in 296 during the reign of Diocletian and Maximian. A soldier distinguished for his valour in war, he renounced his rank and withdrew to devote himself to ascetical struggles and prayer in the mountains. Filled with zeal and more than human courage, he presented himself in the midst of a pagan festival in Cotyaeion and declared himself to be a Christian. After terrible torments which he endured with astonishing courage, he was beheaded. His martyrium in Egypt became a place of universal pilgrimage; evidence of ancient journeys to his shrine have been found as far away as Ireland. The glory and refuge of the Christians of Egypt, he has been revealed to be a worker of great miracles and a swift defender for all who call on him with faith; besides all else, he is also invoked for help in finding lost objects.

Menas was an Egyptian by birth and a soldier by profession. As a true Christian, he was not able to witness the abominable sacrificial offerings to the idols and left the army, the town, the people and everything else, and went to a deserted mountain, for it was easier for him to live among the wild beasts than with pagans. One day Menas clairvoyantly discerned a pagan celebration in the town of Cotyaeus. He descended into the town and openly declared his faith in Christ the Living God. He denounced idolatry and paganism as falsehood and darkness. Pyrrhus, eparch of that town, asked Menas who he was and where he was from.

The saint replied: “My fatherland is Egypt, my name is Menas. I was an officer, but witnessing the worship of idols, I renounced your honors. I now come before you all to proclaim my Christ as the true God, that He may proclaim me as His servant in the Heavenly Kingdom.” Hearing this, Pyrrhus subjected St. Menas to severe tortures. They flogged him, scraped him with iron claws, burned him with torches, and tortured him by various other means, and finally beheaded him with the sword. They threw his body into a fire so that Christians would not be able to retrieve it, but Christians recovered several parts of his body from the fire nevertheless.

They reverently buried those remains, which were later transferred to Alexandria and buried there, where a church was built over them. St. Menas suffered in about the year 304 A.D. and went to the Kingdom of Christ. He was and remains a great miracle-worker, both on earth and in heaven. Whoever glorifies St. Menas and invokes his help with faith, receives his help. The saint has often appeared as a warrior on horseback, arriving to help the faithful or punish the unfaithful.

Apolytikion of Martyr Menas

Fourth Tone

Thy Martyrs, O Lord, in their courageous contest for Thee received as the prize the crowns of incorruption and life from Thee, our immortal God. For since they possessed Thy strength, they cast down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons’ strengthless presumption. O Christ God, by their prayers, save our souls, since Thou art merciful.

Kontakion of Martyr Menas

Plagal of the Fourth Tone

As godly-minded athletes and Martyrs who strove for piety, the Church doth honour and glorify this day the godly contests and travails of Menas the prizewinner, noble Victor, brave Vincent, and valiant Stephanie, and lovingly doth cry out and glorify Christ, the Friend of man.

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