Saint Edmund, King and Martyr of East Anglia
The holy and right-believing King Edmund the Martyr was a king and martyr of East Anglia in the ninth century. He succeeded to the throne of East Anglia in 855 as a fourteen year old. He died a martyr’s death battling the “Great Heathen Army”, a large army of Vikings that pillaged and conquered much of England in the late ninth century. He was venerated early and became popular among the Anglo-Norman nobility. His feast day is November 20.
Edmund was born in 841. Early accounts and stories provide a cloud over who is his father. The sources considered the most reliable represent Edmund as descended from the preceding kings of East Anglia. When King Ethelweard died in 854, it was Edmund, while only fourteen years old, who succeeded to the throne.
Little is known of Edmund’s next fourteen years. His reign was said to be that of a model king. He was said to have treated all with equal justice and was unbending to flatterers. He was said to have spend a year at his residence at Hunstanton learning the Psalter which he was able to recite from memory.
The sources’ description of his martyrdom vary. The Danes of the Great Heathen Army advanced on East Anglia in 869 and were confronted by King Edmund and his army. While Edmund may have been killed in battle, popular traditions are that Edmund refused the heathen Danes’ demands that he renounce Christ or that he could hold his kingdom as a vassal under heathen overlords. Both stories date from soon after his death and it is not known which may be correct.
According to an early biographer, Abbo of Fleury, Edmund chose, in the manner of Christ, not to strike arms with the heathen Danes and was captured and taken to Hoxne in Suffolk. There he was beaten and then tied to a stout tree where he was again beaten. Hearing Edmund’s calls to Christ for courage, the Danes further attacked him, shooting many arrows into the bound king who showed no desire to renounce Christ. Finally, he was beheaded on November 20, 869.
Edmund’s body was interred at Beadoriceworth, the modern Bury St Edmunds. This place became a shrine of Edmund that greatly increased his fame. His popularity among the nobility of England grew and lasted. His banner became a symbol among the Anglo-Normans in their expeditions to Ireland and to Caerlaverock Castle. His crest was borne on a banner at the Battle of Agincourt. Churches and colleges throughout England have been named after St Edmund.
In recent years, moves were made in England to restore St Edmund as the patron saint of England. Edmund had been replaced by St George as the patron saint through King Edward III’s association of St George with the Order of the Garter. The attempt failed. However, St Edmund was named the patron saint of the County of Suffolk in 2006.
Saints Salome of Ujarma and Perozhavra of Sivnia (4th century)
Memory 15 (28) January
Salome was the wife of Revi, the son of King Mirian, and Perozhavra was married to the ruler of the Kartli region. Both women were queens, but they succeeded in serving St. Nino while retaining their imperial roles. St. Nino taught them to pray, and the women fasted regularly and performed good works. As a result of their influential social status, the two queens were able to help St. Nino tremendously in spreading the Christian Faith.
After the conversion of Kartli, with inspiration from St. Nino and by the order of King Mirian, St. Salome erected a cross in Ujarma in the Kakheti region. When St. Nino fell ill in the village of Bodbe, the queens Salome and Perozhavra stood by her bed and wept bitterly at having to part with their beloved teacher and healer. They entreated St. Nino, who was finishing her last hours on this earth, saying, “Tell us, our Queen, how did you come to our country to free our souls, and where were you raised? Tell us how to continue your good works. You who have delivered us from bondage to the enemy, tell us, what shall we do?” From the information that St. Nino then related to them, Sts. Salome and Perozhavra wrote The Life of St. Nino, Enlightener of Georgia. The Apostolic Orthodox Church of Georgia commemorates them on January 15, the day following the commemoration of St. Nino.
O Holy Saints Salome and Perozhavra, standing before Christ our King and our God, have mercy on us and save us!
Archpriest Zakaria Machitadze
St.Thomas the Apostle
St. Thomas the Apostle of Jesus the Saviour is also known as Judas Thomas or Didymus. He is also known as the ‘Doubting Thomas’ as it is believed that he demanded to feel Jesus’ wounds before being convinced that the Saviour has truly risen. St. Thomas was also the first person to proclaim the divinity and humanity of Jesus by declaring ‘My Lord and my God’ and hence he is also called “Thomas the Believer”. The position of St.Thomas in the Holy Bible is clear from St.John 20:24 where it is mentioned – Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came, and also from St.John 11:16 where it has been mentioned that – “Then Thomas, who is called Didymos, said to his fellow disciples: ‘Let us go, that we may die with him’ ”.
The detail about the saint’s family life and profession is very limited. He is believed to be an architect by profession. Thomas preached the gospel in the eastern countries, including India. ‘According to The Passing of Mary’, a writing attributed to Joseph of Arimathaea, Thomas was the only witness at the assumption of Mary into heaven. The other apostles were miraculously transported to Jerusalem to witness her death. Thomas was left in India at the time of the death of Mary. However, after her burial, he was transported to her tomb, and he witnessed her bodily assumption into heaven, during which she dropped her girdle (sunoro). In an inversion of the story of Thomas’s doubts, the other apostles are sceptical of Thomas’s story until they see the empty tomb and the girdle. It is the tradition that St. Thomas the Apostle also preached in Syria.
St. Thomas is known as the Apostle of India. He had been to Kerala, India to spread Christianity where he established a small Christian community, the St.Thomas Christians. He erected several churches.. These churches are at Kodungallur, Kollam, Niranam, Nilackal Chayal, Kokkamangalam, Kottakkayal Paravoor, Palayoor Chattukulangara and Thiruvithamcode. The St. Thomas Christians are now divided into various denominations like the Orthodox, Roman Catholics and Protestants. The division among St.Thomas Christians was the result of European colonial occupation of Kerala. .
It is also said that there remained a small Christian Community baptized by St. Thomas on the isolated island of Socotra south of Yemen in the Arabian Sea. But this Christian community came to an end as the Mahra sultans from the Horn of Africa conquered Socotra in fifteen eleven. Various Eastern Churches in China and Japan claim that St. Thomas personally brought Christianity to China and Japan in AD 64 and 70 respectively. Some traditions also associate St.Thomas with Latin America where he preached Gospel to the Mesoamerican civilization.
It is believed that the saint has also written the ‘Acts of Thomas’. Besides the Acts of Thomas there was a widely circulated ‘Infancy Gospel of Thomas’ probably written in the later 2nd century, and probably also in Syria, which relates the miraculous events and prodigies of Jesus’ boyhood. The best known in modern times of these documents is the “sayings” document which is known as the Gospel of St.Thomas. It is a noncanonical work which, some scholars believe, may actually predate the writing of the Biblical gospels themselves. The opening line claims it is the work of “Didymos Judas Thomas” who has been identified with Thomas the Apostle. This work was discovered in a Coptic translation in 1945 at the Egyptian village of Nag Hammadi, near the site of the monastery of Chenoboskion. Once the Coptic text was published, the scholars recognized that an earlier Greek translation had been published from fragments of papyrus found at Oxyrhynchus in the 1890s.
There is a tradition in India that St. Thomas received martyrdom in A.D. 72 . A part of the relics of St Thomas is preserved at the Catholicate Chapel in Kottayam, Kerala, India which is the official residence of the Catholicos of the East, A part of his relics is also preserved at St.Mary’s Orthodox Church, Niranam, one of the original churches founded by the Apostle. The feast of St. Thomas is celebrated on the twenty first of December.
-George Alexander @ TVOO
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