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Saint Photini the Samaritan Woman & her martyred sisters: Anatole, Phota, Photis, Praskevi, & Kyriaki (26 February)

Saint Photini lived in 1st century Palestine and was the woman that Christ met at Jacob’s Well in Samaria as recorded in the Gospel according to John (4:4-26). After her encounter with Christ, she and her whole family were baptized by the Apostles and became evangelists of the early Church. Photini and her children eventually were summoned before the emperor Nero and instructed to renounce their faith in Christ. They refused to do so, accepting rather to suffer various tortures. After many efforts to force her to surrender to idolatry, the emperor ordered that she be thrown down a well. Photini gave up her life in the year 66.

St. Photini is commemorated on three occasions during the year: February 26 (Greek tradition), March 20 (Slavic tradition), and the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman on the 5th Sunday of Pascha.

This was the Samaritan woman who had the rare fortune to converse with the Lord Christ Himself at the Well of Jacob, near Sychar (John 4:4-31). Believing in the Lord, Photina afterward went to preach His Gospel with her two sons Victor and Josiah, and with her five sisters, Anatolia, Phota, Photida, Parasceva and Cyriaca. They went to Carthage in Africa. There they were arrested, taken to Rome and thrown into prison during the reign of Emperor Nero. By God’s providence, Domnina, the daughter of Nero, came into contact with St. Photina, who converted her to the Christian Faith. After imprisonment they all suffered for the sake of Christ. Photina, who was first enlightened with the light of truth at the well of Sychar, was now thrown into a well where she died and entered the Eternal Kingdom of Christ.

The Holy Martyr Photini (Photinḗ/Svetlana) the Samaritan Woman, her sons Victor (named Photinos) and Iosḗs; and her sisters Anatolḗ, Photó, Photida, Paraskevḗ, Kyriakḗ, Nero’s daughter Domnina; and the Martyr Sebastian.

The holy Martyr Photini was the Samaritan Woman, with whom the Savior conversed at Jacob’s Well (John. 4:5-42).

During the time of the Emperor Nero (54-68), who displayed excessive cruelty against Christians, Saint Photini lived in Carthage with her younger son Iosḗs, and fearlessly preached the Gospel there. Her eldest son Victor fought bravely in the Roman army against barbarians, and was appointed as military commander of the city of Attalia (Asia Minor). Later, Nero called him to Italy to arrest and punish Christians.

Sebastian, an official in Italy, said to Saint Victor, “I know that you, your mother and your brother, are followers of Christ. As a friend I advise you to submit to the will of the Emperor. If you inform on any Christians, you will receive their wealth. I shall write to your mother and brother, asking them not to preach Christ in public. Let them practice their faith in secret.”

Saint Victor replied, “I want to be a preacher of Christianity like my mother and brother.” Sebastian said, “O Victor, we all know what woes await you, your mother and brother.” Then Sebastian suddenly felt a sharp pain in his eyes. He was dumbfounded, and his face was somber.

For three days he lay there blind, without uttering a word. On the fourth day he declared, “The God of the Christians is the only true God.” Saint Victor asked why Sebastian had suddenly changed his mind. Sebastian replied, “Because Christ is calling me.” Soon he was baptized, and immediately he regained his sight. After witnessing the miracle Saint Sebastian’s servants were also baptized.

Reports of this reached Nero, and he commanded that the Christians be brought to him at Rome. Then the Lord Himself appeared to the confessors and said, “Fear not, for I am with you. Nero, and all who serve him, shall be vanquished.”

The Lord said to Saint Victor, “From this day forward, your name will be Photinos, because through you, many will be enlightened and will believe in me.” The Lord then told the Christians to strengthen and encourage Saint Sebastian to persevere until the end. All these things, and even future events, were revealed to Saint Photini. She left Carthage in the company of several Christians and joined the confessors in Rome.

In Rome the Emperor ordered the Saints to be brought before him and he asked them whether they truly believed in Christ. All the confessors refused to renounce the Savior. Then Nero ordered that the joints of the martyrs’ fingers be broken. During their torments, the confessors felt no pain, and their hands remained unharmed.

Nero ordered that Saints Sebastian, Photinos and Iosḗs be blinded and locked up in prison, and Saint Photini and her five sisters Anatolḗ, Photó, Photida, Paraskevḗ and Kyriakḗ were sent to the imperial court under the supervision of Nero’s daughter Domnina. Saint Photinḗ converted both Domnina and all her servants to Christ. She also converted a sorcerer, who had brought her poisoned food.

Three years passed, and Nero sent to the prison for one of his servants, who had been locked up. The messengers reported to him that Saints Sebastian, Photinos and Iosḗs, who had been blinded, had recovered their sight, and that people were visiting them to hear their preaching, and indeed the whole prison had been transformed into a bright and fragrant place where God was glorified.

Nero then commanded the Saints to be crucified, and their naked bodies to be beaten with straps. On the fourth day the Emperor sent servants to see whether the martyrs were still alive. But, approaching the place of the tortures, the servants became blind. An Angel of the Lord freed the martyrs from their crosses and healed them. The Saints took pity on the blinded servants, and restored their sight by their prayers to the Lord. Those who were healed came to believe in Christ and were soon baptized.

Enraged, Nero ordered that the skin to be flayed from from Saint Photini’s body, and then to throw her into a well. Sebastian, Photinos and Iosḗs had their legs amputated, and they were thrown to dogs. Then their was skin flayed off. Saint Photini’s sisters also suffered terrible torments. Nero ordered soldiers to cut off their breasts, and then to flay their skin. An expert in cruelty, the Emperor prepared the most painful execution for Saint Photida. Her feet were tied to the tops of two trees which had been bent to the ground. When the ropes were cut the trees sprang upright, tearing the martyr apart. The Emperor ordered the others beheaded. Saint Photini was removed from the well and locked up in prison for twenty days.

After this Nero had her brought to him and asked if she would now relent and offer sacrifice to the idols. The courageous Photini spat in the Emperor’s face. Mocking him she said, “O most impious of the blind, you profligate and stupid man! Do you think me so deluded that I would consent to renounce my Lord Christ and instead offer sacrifice to idols which are as blind as you are?”

After hearing such words, Nero ordered that the martyr be thrown into the well again. There she surrendered her soul to God (+ ca. 66).

In Greek usage Saint Photini is commemorated on February 26.

In Constantinople there were two churches dedicated to Saint Photini, where many miracles occurred, especially the healing of eye diseases.

The head of Saint Photini is kept at Grigoriou Monastery on Mount Athos.

Apolytikion of Photine, the Samaritan Women

Third Tone

All illumined by the Holy Spirit, thou didst drink with great and ardent longing of the waters Christ Saviour gave unto thee; and with the streams of salvation wast thou refreshed, which thou abundantly gavest to those athirst. O Great Martyr and true peer of Apostles, Photine, entreat Christ God to grant great mercy unto us.

Kontakion of Photine, the Samaritan Women

Third Tone

Photine the glorious, the crown and glory of the Martyrs, hath this day ascended to the shining mansions of Heaven, and she calleth all together to sing her praises, that they might be recompensed with her hallowed graces. Let us all with faith and longing extol her gladly in hymns of triumph and joy.

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