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Martyr Theodotus of Ancyra, and with him the seven Virgin Martyrs: Alexandra, Tecusa, Claudia, Phaine, Euphraisa, Matrona, and Julia, who suffered under Decius (18 May)

The Holy Martyr Theodotus and the Holy Seven Virgins Tecusa, Phaine, Claudia, Matrona, Julia, Alexandra and Euphrasia lived during the second half of the third century in the city of Ancyra, Galatia, and died as martyrs for Christ at the beginning of the fourth century. Saint Theodotus was an innkeeper and was married.

Theoteknos, prefect of Ancyra, issued a proclamation informing Christians that they were obliged to offer sacrifice to idols, and if they refused, they would be tortured and killed. Pagans would deliver Christians over to torture, and then divide up their property.

Theodotus was not afraid to bury the remains of holy martyrs, either carrying them off secretly or ransoming them from the soldiers. When the Christian churches at Ancyra were destroyed and closed, the Divine Liturgy was celebrated in his inn. Knowing that martyrdom awaited him, Saint Theodotus predicted to the priest Phrontonos that soon they would bring him the relics of martyrs, at a place chosen by both of them. In surety of his words, Saint Theodotus gave the priest his ring.

At this time, seven holy virgins died for Christ. The eldest, Saint Tecusa, was the aunt of Saint Theodotus. The holy virgins Tecusa, Phaine, Claudia, Matrona, Julia, Alexandra and Euphrasia had dedicated themselves to God from their youth, living in constant prayer, fasting, temperance and good deeds. All of them had attained to an advanced age.

Brought to trial as Christians, the holy virgins bravely confessed their faith in Christ before Theoteknos and were given over to torture, yet remained steadfast. The prefect then gave them to shameless youths for defilement. The holy virgins prayed intensely, asking help from God. Saint Tecusa fell down at the feet of a youth, and pushing back her veil she showed him her grey hair. The young men were startled, and ran off weeping. The prefect then ordered that the saints take part in offering sacrifice to the idols, but again the holy virgins refused. For this they were sentenced to death. A heavy stone was tied to the legs of each, and all seven of the holy virgins were drowned in a lake.

On the following night Saint Tecusa appeared in a dream to Saint Theodotus, asking him to take her body and give it Christian burial. Saint Theodotus, taking with him his friend Polychronius and several other Christians, went to the lake. It was dark, and a torch illumined their way. The holy martyr Sosander appeared in front of the guard who was posted by the pagans at the shore of the lake. The frightened guard ran off in terror.

The Christians found the bodies of the holy martyrs and carried them to church, where they were buried. Learning that the bodies of the holy martyrs had been stolen, the prefect flew into a rage and gave orders to arrest all Christians and torture them. Polychronius also was seized. Unable to endure the torture, he accused Saint Theodotus of stealing the bodies. Saint Theodotus was prepared to die for Christ. Speaking with other Christians, he bequeathed his body to the priest Phrontonos, to whom he had given his ring.

The account of the life and martyrdom of Saint Theodotus and the suffering of the holy virgins was compiled by Nilus, a contemporary and companion of Saint Theodotus. Nilus lived in the city of Ancyra during the persecution of Christians under the emperor Diocletian, and witnessed the saint’s death.

Saint Theodotus is also commemorated on June 7.

Theodotus was an innkeeper in Ancyra during the reign of Diocletian. Although married, he lived according to the word of the Apostle: They that have wives be as though they had none (1 Corinthians 7:29). He maintained the inn in order to help Christians without attracting suspicion. His inn was a shelter for the persecuted faithful. Theodotus secretly sent help to those Christians who fled to the mountains and he secretly gathered the bodies of those who died, and buried them. At that time, seven maidens were brought to trial, tortured for Christ, ridiculed and finally drowned in a lake. One of them, St. Thecusa, appeared in a dream to Theodotus and told to him to remove their bodies from the lake and bury them. In the dark of night Theodotus went out with a companion to fulfill the wish of the martyr.

Led by an angel of God, he succeeded in locating all seven bodies and burying them. But this companion betrayed Theodotus to the judge, and the judge subjected him to cruel tortures. Theodotus endured all the sufferings as though he were in someone else’s body, keeping his whole mind immersed in the Lord. After the torturer had transformed Theodotus’s body into wounds and knocked out his teeth with a stone, he ordered that the martyr be beheaded. When he was led to the scaffold, many Christians wept for him, but St. Theodotus said to them: “Brethren, do not weep for me, but glorify our Lord Jesus Christ, Who helped me to finish my course and overcome my enemy.” Having said this, he place his head on the block under the sword and was beheaded in the year 303 A.D. A priest honorably buried this martyr’s body on a hill outside the town. Later a church dedicated to St. Theodotus was built on this spot.