Holy Great-martyr Irene of Thessaloniki

May 5

Irene lived in the Balkans during apostolic times in the town of Magedon. Her father Licinius was a lower-rank nobleman. Some think that she was a Slav. Irene was born a pagan of pagan parents. Penelope – for that was her pagan name – learned about the Christian Faith from her teacher Appelianus. St. Timothy, the disciple of the Apostle Paul, baptized her and her court attendants, and provided her with the Epistles of the Apostle Paul to read. Refusing to marry, she angered her father, and he wanted to torture her. Instead, she converted her father to Christianity in a miraculous manner. Irene was subjected to various tortures by four kings, not including her father, but God spared her through His angels. King Sedechias buried her up to her neck in a ditch filled with snakes and scorpions, but an angel of God destroyed these venomous and repulsive creatures and preserved the holy virgin unharmed. Then this king tried to saw her in half, but the saw broke against her body as against a stone. After that the same king tied her to a wheel under a water mill and released the flow of water, hoping in this manner to drown her. But the water refused to flow, and stood still, and the virgin remained alive and well. King Sapor, the son of King Sedechias, shod her feet with nails, loaded a sack of sand upon her, harnessed her and ordered that she be led like an animal far outside the town. “Truly, I am as a beast before Thee, O Lord!” said the holy martyr, running bound behind her torturers. However, an angel of God shook the earth, and the earth opened up and swallowed her tortures. Having survived all her tortures, through which she converted a countless number of pagans to Christianity, Irene entered the town of Callinicus, where she preached the Christian Faith. The local king Numerian tried to kill her in this manner: he cast her into three flaming hot metal oxen, one after the other. But the virgin was saved and remained alive. Many saw this and came to believe. The Eparch Vavdonos took her to the town of Constantina, where he thought to kill her by placing her on red-hot grates. But that too did not harm St. Irene, and she brought many to the true Faith. Finally, Irene arrived in the town of Mesembria where she was slain by King Shapur, but God restored her to life. The king and many of the people, upon witnessing this, believed in Christ and were baptized. Thus, through her sufferings and miracles, St. Irene converted over one hundred thousand pagans to the Christian Faith. Finally she lay down in a coffin and ordered Appelianus to close it. After four days, when the coffin was opened, her body was not in it. Thus, God glorified forever the virgin and martyr Irene, who sacrificed all and endured all so that God might be glorified among men.

Source: St. Nikolai Velimirovic, The Prologue of Ohrid – Volume One.

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