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Martyr Sozon of Cilicia (7 September)

Saint Sozon lived in the late III century. He was from Lykaonia in Cilicia, and originally his name was Tarasios. When he became a Christian, he was baptized and received the name Sozon. A shepherd by profession, he tried to imitate the meekness of the sheep, at which he marveled. “I am ashamed,” he said, “that I am inferior to sheep.”

He studied the Holy Scriptures attentively, and he also guided Christ‘s rational sheep to good pastures. One day, while watering his flock at a spring, Sozon fell asleep under an oak tree, where he had a vision which foretold his impending martyrdom for Christ. He was also informed that the spring would become a source of blessing and of healing for many, since it would be sanctified by God‘s grace. When he awakened, he entrusted his flock to another shepherd and journeyed to Pompeiopolis in Cilicia. Seeing what impiety there was in that city, his heart was profoundly grieved.

Entering one of the temples of the idolaters, he beheld a golden statue representing a pagan “god.” Then, with great courage, he broke off the statue‘s right hand with his shepherd‘s crook and smashed it into tiny pieces, which he distributed to the poor. This caused a great uproar in the city. Maximian, the governor of Cilicia, became very angry, and a search was made to find the culprit. Many innocent people were arrested and tortured in an attempt to force a confession from them.

When Saint Sozon heard about this, he could not permit others to suffer for something he had done. Therefore, he presented himself before the governor and responded to his threats in a calm manner, saying that the statue was not doing anyone much good inside the temple, and so he used the gold for the benefit of the poor.

Maximian asked the Saint how he dared to dishonor their “god” in such a way. Sozon replied, “I did this so that you might know that your ‘god’ is powerless. When I struck off his hand, he did not protest or make any attempt to stop me, nor did he cry out with pain. How could he? Your idol is deaf and dumb and without breath. It cannot see, hear, speak, or defend itself. If your ‘god’ was real, I would not have been permitted to break it.”

When Maximian heard these words, he ordered that Saint Sozon be tortured without mercy. He was suspended and his body was raked with iron claws. Then iron boots were nailed to the soles of his feet, and he was paraded through the city. Throughout his torments, he never ceased to glorify the Savior Christ. Once again he was suspended from a tree and beaten with iron rods, so that his body was mangled and his bones were broken. Amid such torture, the Saint surrendered his soul to God in the year 304.

Seeing that he was dead, the soldiers took him down from the tree and built a large fire to burn his body so that the Christians would not be able to claim it and venerate it. Suddenly, there was thunder and lightning, rain and hail, which put out the fire. The pagans fled in fear, and the holy relics were not damaged. The faithful came at midnight, when it was very dark. They were troubled because they could not find the relics, but a light from Heaven shone upon Christ‘s holy martyr to guide them. Gathering the Saint‘s relics, the Christians gave them an honorable burial.

Many miracles took place at the tomb, and also at the spring where the Saint had his vision under the oak tree. Later, a church was built by the spring, and was dedicated to Saint Sozon. In that holy place praise was offered to the one true God, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, to Whom be glory throughout all the ages. Amen.

This holy Martyr was a shepherd in Lycaonia. Born a pagan, named Tarasius, he received holy Baptism and was renamed Sozon. Filled with zeal for the truth, he taught his countrymen to desist from the worship of idols. Once he entered the temple of Artemis in Pompeiopolis of Cilicia, cut off the golden hand of the idol, and breaking it in pieces, distributed it among the poor. When he saw that many were being unjustly punished for the theft, of his own accord he gave himself up to Maximian the Governor. He was beaten with rods until his bones were broken. According to some, he suffered martyrdom in 288; according to others, in 304.

Sozon was born in Lyconia. He was a shepherd and kept all of God’s laws, instructing his peers and friends in his pious Faith. In a vision he was shown that he would suffer martyrdom for Christ. This was in the time of Maximian, magistrate of Cilicia, who perpetrated a terrible persecution of Christians in the nearby city of Pompeiopolis. In that city there was a certain golden idol which the pagans worshiped.

Sozon left his flock, went to the city, entered the pagan temple and broke the arm off the golden idol. He crumbled it into bits and distributed it to the poor. There was a great uproar because of this, and the pagans sought out the guilty one. So that no one else would suffer for his deed, Sozon went to the magistrate and declared himself to be a Christian and the perpetrator of that act.

His torturers first beat him, then suspended him from a tree and scraped his body with iron combs. When he was nearly dead, they cast him into a fire, where St. Sozon gave up his holy soul to God. He suffered in about the year 304. St. Sozon’s relics were miracle-working, and a church in his name was built over them.

Apolytikion of Martyr Sozon

Fourth Tone

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

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