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The Hieromartyr Saint Eleftherios, Bishop of Illyria and his mother Anthia (15 December)

This wonderful saint was the son of noble and prominent parents. He was born in Rome, where his father was an official in the imperial service, though he died in the saint’s childhood. His mother, Anthia, had heard the Gospel from Saint Paul and was, in fact, baptized by him. Given the fact that she was a widow, she entrusted her son’s education to the Bishop of Rome, Anacletus (or Anectus or Anencletus).

The Bishop saw how promising the young boy was and how he was illumined by the grace of God and so ordained him deacon when he was no more than fifteen, priest at eighteen and bishop at twenty.

He more than made up in wisdom what he lacked in years, and became Bishop of the Illyricum province, with his seat in Valona, in what is now Albania. His flock increased, but the Emperor Hadrian (117-138), persecuted Christians and sent a commander (comes) called Felix, with a detachment of soldiers, to fetch Eleftherios to Rome. Felix arrived in Valona and went into the church there, but when he saw and heard Eleftherios, his heat softened and he became Christian.

When Eleftherios arrived in Rome, he was subjected to dreadful tortures, but withstood them so well that Choribus, the governor in charge of his punishment, was also persuaded to become a Christian. Both he and Felix were tortured and beheaded. Then it was Saint Eleftherios’ turn to be martyred. His mother Anthia found the remains of he dead son and embraced them, before also being beheaded. This was in about the year 126.

Saint Eleutherius, the son of an illustrious Roman citizen, was raised in Christian piety by his mother. His virtue was such that at the age twenty, he had been elevated to bishop of Illyria. In the reign of the emperor Hadrian, Saint Eleutherius was tortured for his bold preaching about Christ, then was beheaded at Rome with his mother Evanthia. The Eparch Caribus, who had tortured Saint Eleutherius, also came to believe in Christ and was executed.

This Saint had Rome as his homeland. Having been orphaned of his father from childhood, he was taken by his mother Anthia to Anicetus, the Bishop of Rome (some call him Anencletus, or Anacletus), by whom he was instructed in the sacred letters (that is, the divine Scriptures). Though still very young in years, he was made Bishop of Illyricum by reason of his surpassing virtue, and by his teachings he converted many unbelievers to Christ. However, during a most harsh persecution that was raised against the Christians under Hadrian (reigned 117-138), the Saint was arrested by the tyrants. Enduring many torments for Christ, he was finally put to death by two soldiers about the year 126. As for his Christ-loving mother Anthia, while embracing the remains of her son and kissing them with maternal affection, she was also beheaded.

Apolytikion of Hieromartyr Eleutherios and Anthia

Fourth Tone

Adorned with flowing priestly vesture and with dripping streams of blood you at once went to your Lord Christ, O blessed wise Eleftherios, annihilator of Satan. Wherefore, do not cease to intercede for those who honor your blessed struggles in faith.

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