Thursday, November 4, 2010

St Themelios ‘of Kalymnos’: November 7

In the south-eastern Aegean Sea, belonging to the Dodecanese, lies the Greek island of Kalymnos. The island is roughly rectangular in shape, with a length of 21 km and a width of 13 km, and covers an area of 109 km². The Greek sponge trade was centered close to Dodecanese with Kalymnos being the most prominent for centuries. Sponge diving, with all its traditions and history, still plays a large part in the life of the people of this island. And from this small island came one of Orthodoxy’s most beloved contemporary saints: St Savvas of Kalymnos.
St. Savvas is the patron saint of Kalymnos, where he lived during the last twenty years of his life as the priest and spiritual father of the nuns of the Convent of All Saints. He was a great ascetic, confessor, iconographer and miracle-worker.
Yet on the island one comes across a peculiar name which is immensely popular: Themelios or Themelis (feminine: Themelina). No saint on this island bears this name; in fact no known saint on mainland Greece with this name. As like some kind of mystery, without knowing for certain why, when or how, the names Themelios and Themelina appeared on the island of Kalymnos.
With time, the pious people of Kalymnos consulted the Synaxaria, and there found mention of St Themelios, who was one of the 33 Martyrs of Melitene. Since then the faithful of Kalymnos pay homage to this otherwise unknown saint and an Archimandrite from a monastery of the island compiled the Vespers and Matins services for this saint which currently only take place on the island.
Only the name of the saint is mentioned in the Synaxarion entry for the 33 martyrs of Melitene. It is as follows:
The Holy Martyr Hieron of Melitene and those with him 

The holy martyr Hieron was born in the city of Tiana in great Cappadocia. Raised by a pious mother, he was a kindly and good Christian. 

The co-ruling emperors Diocletian (284-305) and Maximian (284-305) sent a large military detachment headed by Lysias to Cappadocia to eradicate Christianity there, and also to conscript healthy and strong men into the imperial army. Among those pressed into service, Lysias also ordered his men to draft Hieron, who was distinguished by his great physical strength and dexterity. But Hieron refused to serve emperors who persecuted Christians. When they attempted to seize him by force and bring him to Lysias, he took a stick and started beating the soldiers who had been sent to bring him. The soldiers then scattered as they were ashamed of being defeated by a single man. Hieron then hid himself in a cave with eighteen other Christians. Lysias would not risk losing his soldiers by storming the cave. 

Upon the advice of Cyriacus, one of Hieron's friends, Lysias lifted the siege of the cave and withdrew his detachment. Then Cyriacus persuaded Hieron not to offer resistance to the authorities. He and the other new conscripts and accompanying soldiers were sent to the nearby city of Melitene. 

Soon Hieron had a vision in his sleep, in which his impending martyrdom was foretold. Lysias told the soldiers gathered at Melitene to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. Hieron and another thirty-two soldiers refused to do this, and openly confessed their faith in Christ. Then the persecutor gave orders to beat the martyrs, and to cut off Hieron's arm at the elbow. After cruel tortures they threw the martyrs into prison barely alive, and they beheaded them four days later. 

A certain rich and illustrious Christian by the name of Chrysanthus ransomed Hieron's head from Lysias. When the persecutions finally ceased, he built a church on the place where they executed the holy martyrs, and he placed the venerable head in it. The bodies of all the executed saints were secretly buried by Christians. In reign of the emperor Justinian, during the construction of the church of St Irene, the venerable relics were uncovered and found incorrupt. 

The other martyrs are: Hesychius, Nicander, Athanasius, Mamas, Barachius, Callinicus, Theogenes, Nikon, Longinus, Theodore, Valerius, Xanthius, Theodoulus, Callimachus, Eugene, Theodochus, Ostrychius, Epiphanius, Maximian, Ducitius, Claudian, Theophilus, Gigantius, Dorotheus, Theodotus, Castrichius, Anicletus, Themelius, Eutychius, Hilarion, Diodotus and Amonitus.

There is also an icon of St Themelios in the local Church of St Nektarios in Kalymnos:

Μάρτυς Θεμέλιος Μελετινς βλαστς, τν δόλιον δράκοντα, τος τν αμάτων κρουνος, θλήσας πέπνιξε, πίστει γρ ληθείας, μελιδν τετμημένος, φθη τροπαιοφόρος, το Σωτρος πλίτης, πρεσβεύων διαλείπτως πρ τν ψυχν μν.

The Martyr Themelios, the offspring of Meletine, by the streams of your blood you choked the deceitful dragon through your struggle, for having faith in the truth you were beheaded in sweetness; you were seen as a trophy-bearer of the Saviour Soldier and you intercede unceasingly for our souls.

Chronia polla to all who celebrate their name day on this day. May St Themelios intercede to God so that He may grant mercy on our souls.

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Nichole said...
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