About The Icons
The icons of the Saints of Antioch were introduced at the 37th National Melkite Convention in Newport Beach.
The lives of the saints in the two icons, one of the male saints and one of the female saints, are described below. The icons were donated in memory of Elie & Georgette Sayegh and John & Marie Sidhom. May their memories be eternal.
Guide to the Icon of the Synaxis of the Saints of Antioch venerated at Holy Cross Melkite-Greek Catholic Church, Placentia, California.
Painted by the nuns of the Orthodox Convent of St. Elizabeth the Grand Duchess 2011.
Published for the 47th Annual Melkite National Convention, 2011.
Daniel was born to a childless couple who vowed to dedicate him to the Lord. At twelve he entered the monastery. Influenced by St. Symeon the Stylite, he set up a pillar, upon which he dwelt for 33 years. People thronged to him: the troubled, the sick, emperors, all received help through his prayers and advice. He reposed in his eightieth year.
At age thirteen Symeon sought an experienced Spiritual Father. At eighteen he received monastic tonsure, eventually settling near Aleppo. So many people came seeking healing, prayers, and advice that Symeon isolated himself atop an 80 foot pillar. He told his mother, Martha, who had long searched for him, when he refused to see her, “We shall see one another in the life to come.” She lived at the foot of his pillar in silence and prayer. When she died he reverently bid her farewell and a joyful smile appeared on her face. St. Symeon spent 80 years in his monastic labor, 47 of them upon the pillar.
Saint Isaac lived the monastic life during the sixth century, in present day Iraq. Against his will, he was made Bishop of Nineveh. Once, two Christians asked him to settle a dispute over a loan. Citing the Gospel, he asked the lender to be merciful. The man said, “Leave your Gospel out of this!” Isaac replied, “If you will not submit to the Lord’s Gospel what remains for me to do here?” After only five months as bishop, Isaac resigned. Later, he went to the monastery of Raban Shabur, where he lived until his death, honored by all Christians.
Ephraim was born at the beginning of the fourth century in the city of Nisibis, Mesopotamia to poor farmers. After a difficult youth he finally recovered his senses. A brilliant teacher, musician and poet, he set up schools, attended the First Ecumenical Council, wrote commentaries on Scripture, and liturgical prayers and hymns. St. Basil the Great wanted to ordain him a priest, but he refused. But at Basil’s insistence, he was ordained a deacon, which he remained. They wanted to make him a bishop, but he feigned madness. Toward the end of his life Edessa suffered a devastating famine. Coordinating the relief, the saint persuaded the wealthy to aid those in need. He finally withdrew to a cave to end his days.
Born in Beirut on 15 May, 1793, Joseph was ordained a priest in 1817 for the Eparchy of Damascus. Known for his compassion and brilliant intellect he was director of the patriarchal school from 1836 to 1860. In 1860, at Ottoman instigation, the Druze began to slaughter Christians throughout the Middle East. More than 3,000 Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholics were killed in Damascus. St. Joseph leaped from rooftop to rooftop, bringing Holy Communion to the dying. He was eventually apprehended and killed.
From an influential Damascene family, John was city prefect under the Caliph. Because he openly denounced the Byzantine emperor’s iconoclasm, a treasonous letter was forged causing the Caliph to amputate John’s right hand. The hand was miraculously reattached by the Mother of God. John entered the monastery of Mar Saba with his stepbrother, Cosmas. Their life was difficult under a particularly strict elder. Eventually ordained a priest, the talented writer, preacher, poet and musician, served the Patriarch of Jerusalem. He remained a monk of Mar Saba and only left the monastery to denounce the iconoclasts at Constantinople, surviving imprisonment and torture. He died about the year 780, more than 100 years old. His cell has been preserved at Mar Saba and may be visited by pious pilgrims.
Romanos the Melodist was born in the fifth century in Homs to Jewish parents. Following his conversion to Christianity he moved to Constantinople, where he served at Hagia Sophia. Not a talented reader or singer, he once read so poorly that another reader had to take his place. The other clerics ridiculed him. Than night, the Mother of God appeared to the grief-stricken youth and gave him a scroll to eat. Miraculously he was given the gift of poetry and musical talent. At the following service, Romanos exquisitely said his first Kontakion: “Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent in Essence…” He was ordained a deacon and he composed nearly a thousand hymns, many of which are still extant and sung in our churches today. About eighty survive. He died around 556.
Cyprian, a native of Antioch, was a pagan philosopher and powerful sorcerer. When a Christian virgin, Justina, refused marriage, her suitor asked Cyprian to cast a love spell. But the maiden overcame the magic by prayer and fasting. Seeing this, Cyprian rejection over thirty years of service to the demons, burned his occult books, was baptized and shortly ordained priest then bishop. St. Justina withdrew to a monastery and was chosen Abbess. During the persecution against Christians under the emperor Diocletian, Bishop Cyprian and Abbess Justina were arrested, tortured and beheaded. The printed prayer called the Kibrianos is named after St. Cyprian.
Artemios was a prominent military governor who served the emperors Constantine the Great, and his son Constantius. They were succeeded by Julian the Apostate who tried to annihilate the Christian Faith. Artemios publicly denounced Julian, was tortured and still refused to honor the pagan gods. Julian resorted to even more savage tortures and finally decapitation.
Meletios was Bishop of Antioch. Through Arian intrigue he was thrice deposed, hiding during the reign of Julian the Apostate. He ordained St. Basil the Great a deacon and also baptized St. John Chrysostom and ordained him deacon. In 380 the saint presided over the Second Ecumenical Council at Constantinople. He died during the Council and his relics were brought back to Antioch.
Ignatius, the second bishop of Antioch, was a disciple of the holy Apostle and Evangelist John. A tradition suggests that he was the child the Savior held while saying: “Unless you become as little children, you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt. 18:3). Thus the name Theophoros that means God-Bearer or God Borne. In the year 107 he was sent to Rome to be thrown to the wild beasts in the arena. St. Ignatius joyfully accepted the sentence impose upon him. His Seven Letters written on his way to martyrdom are still widely read.
John’s father died soon after his birth in 347. He was raised by his young, widowed mother. A brilliant student of philosophy and rhetoric, he turned to Holy Scripture and contemplation. At about age twenty he was baptized then eventually tonsured reader. When his mother died, he embraced monasticism with his friend Basil. They were considered candidates for the episcopacy and fled, but Basil was apprehended and consecrated. His strictness of life obliged John to return to Antioch for health reasons. He was ordained deacon in 381 and priest in 386. A splendid preacher, his words earned him the name Golden Mouthed, (Chrysostom). For twelve years the saint preached, often daily. He was known for his care for the poor. His fame grew, and in 397 St. John Chrysostom was elected to the see of Constantinople. The saint compiled a Liturgy, denounced the dissolute morals of the capital, and was exiled numerous times, eventually dying from his mistreatment. Receiving the Holy Mysteries, he fell asleep in the Lord on September 14, 407. His last words were, “Glory to God for all things!”
In 1860 Raphael Hawaweeny was born in Beirut to refugees from the slaughter of Christians in Damascus. He was intellectually gifted. He was eventually tonsured a monk, ordained a deacon, and appointed preacher by Gerasimos of Antioch. He was elected to the Theological Academy of Kiev. He was ordained priest and in 1885 began to serve Arabic speaking Christians scattered throughout North America. He translated Services into Arabic and English. In 1903 he became the first Orthodox bishop consecrated on American soil. He fell asleep in the Lord in 1915.
The Holy Martyr Julian of Homs was a skilled physician who healed illnesses of body and soul. In 312 he encouraged the martyrs, Bishop Silvanus, the Deacon Luke and the Reader Mocius in their sufferings, and was himself arrested. Nails were driven into his head, hands and feet.
The Holy Apostle Ananias of the Seventy was the first bishop of Damascus. He baptized the former persecutor Saul, the Apostle Paul (Acts 9). Because he refused to offer sacrifice to idols, he was tortured and stoned to death.
Neonilla, her husband Terence, their children, Sarbelus, Photius, Theodulus, Hierax, Nita, Vele and Eunice, were all martyred under Decius. Subjected to terrible tortures, they were finally beheaded.
Epistime was converted to Christ by her betrothed, Galacteon. They canceled the wedding and went to two nearby monasteries where the monastics were old and infirm. During a persecution, soldiers were sent to apprehend the monastics. Galacteon would not flee. He was led away. Epistime went to witness with her former fiancé and teacher. Their hands and legs were cut off, their tongues cut out, and they were then beheaded.
Saint Athanasia and her husband Andronicus lived in Antioch in the fifth century. When they lost their children, they dedicated themselves to the service of the poor and eventually entered separate monasteries in Egypt. After twelve years Andronicus went to the holy places in Jerusalem. He met Athanasia, who had donned men’s attire for safety’s sake. Unrecognized, both settled in a single cell and for many years lived the ascetic life in silence. St. Athanasia wrote a note to Andronicus, to be read after her death, revealing her secret. St. Andronicus died soon after St. Athanasia.
At his martyrdom in second century Damascus, St. Victor restored the sight of his blinded executioners. Witnessing this miracle, Stephanie, the young Christian wife of one of the torturers, confessed Christ and was condemned to death. Tied to two bent palm trees, she was torn apart when they were released. She was fifteen years old.
A much sought after dancer and courtesan, Pelagia was converted to Christianity by St. Nonnus, Bishop of Edessa. Three days after her baptism, she gave her considerable wealth to Bishop Nonnus who distributed it among the poor saying, “Let this be wisely dispersed, so that these riches gained by sin may become a wealth of righteousness.” She settled in a cell on the Mount of Olives, disguised as a monk, attaining great spiritual gifts. When she died, she was buried in her cell.
Zenobia and her brother Zenobius distributed their inheritance to the poor. Zenobius had the gift of healing and was chosen Bishop of Cilicia. Arrested during the persecution of Diocletian, he was nailed to a cross and tortured. Unable to remain silent his sister joined him. They were tortured with red-hot iron and boiling water and ultimately beheaded.
Marina was the daughter of a pagan priest. A nursemaid raised her as a Christian. Learning this, her father disowned her. At fifteen, she was arrested during the persecution of Diocletian. Tortured with fire and various instruments she prayed to be tortured with water that her execution might become her Baptism. When she was plunged into water, a light, a dove, and a crown appeared, her fetters broke and her burns and wounds healed. She was beheaded with 15,000 others. There is an eyewitness account.
Abramius the hermit and Blessed Maria, his niece, were contemporaries and fellow countrymen of St. Ephraim the Syrian. Maria was raised by her uncle but at twenty-seven fell into sin with a man. Ashamed, she ran away and lived by prostitution. St. Abramius disguised himself as a soldier and went off to find his niece. Pretending to be a client, with tears and exhortations he brought her to repentance and took her back to her cell. The Lord forgave her and even granted her the gift of healing. She died five years after St. Abramius.
The sisters Myranna and Kyra lived in fourth century Syria. They sealed themselves in a roofless enclosure with a small opening. They wore heavy iron chains. During a three-year period, they ate once every forty days. Their former servants joined them nearby. So they lived for forty years, only leaving to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Mar Takla. Sts. Myranna and Kyra died about the year 450.
Eudokia was a Samaritan, a native of Baalbek, who led a sinful life. Repenting she embraced the monastic life. One of her former lovers, aflame with passion, came to the monastery disguised as a monk. “May God rebuke you and not allow you to leave these premises,” Eudokia cried. The impostor fell dead. Taken aback, Eudokia raised him by her prayers. He begged forgiveness, was baptized, and lived and exemplary life. By her prayers Eudokia raised the dead a number of times. She lived the monastic life for fifty-six years. During a persecution in 107, she was beheaded on March 1st.
The holy virgin Justina lived in Antioch. She refused marriage and her suitor asked a famous sorcerer, Cyprian, for a love spell. But the maiden overcame all the wiles of the devil by prayers and fasting. Cyprian, seeing the devil’s impotence, burned his occult books, was baptized and shortly ordained a priest then bishop. St. Justina withdrew to a monastery and was chosen Abbess. During the persecution under the emperor Diocletian, Bishop Cyprian and Abbess Justina were arrested, tortured, and beheaded.
Febronia was raised at a monastery in Assyria where her aunt Bryaena was abbess. Diocletian sent soldiers there under the command of Selinus, Lysimachus, and Primus to eradicate the convent. Selinus was noted for his hatred of Christians, but his nephew Lysimachus, whose mother had died a Christian, was sympathetic. Lysimachus plotted with his kinsman Primus to save Christians. The nuns hid except for the abbess Bryaena, her helper Thomais and Febronia, who was seriously ill at the time. Primus and Lysimachus tried to save Febronia. Lysmachus even offered to marry her but she refused. The vile Selinus subjected her to fierce torture and finally beheaded the holy martyr. Leaving the execution, Selinus became like one deranged, raving and bellowing. He fell, struck his head on a marble column and died. Abbess Bryaena, moved by seeing her niece’s remains gave order to open the convent so that all could venerate the holy martyr. The repentant Lysimachus and Primus, accepted both Baptism and monasticism.
Christina’s father was governor of Tyre in the third century. At age of 11, he sent her to be trained as a pagan priestess. Instead she smashed the idols and confessed Christ. In a rage he brought her to trial. Tortured with fire and water, she was saved by an angel. He father suddenly died. The next governor resumed he various torments She survived five days in a red-hot furnace and was finally beheaded.
Barbara was the daughter of the governor of Damascus, or Baalbek. He enclosed her in a tower but she managed to find Christianity, which enraged her father. He tortured her along with a bystander, Juliana, who protested the mistreatment. He beheaded his daughter with his own hand and was then stuck by lightening. In the Western Church she is the patroness of artillerymen and all who work with explosives. Sweetened wheat is prepared for her feastday.
At eighteen the beautiful princess Thecla heard the Apostle Paul and fled an arranged marriage. He mother demanded her death. Surviving burning, she sought Sts. Paul and Barnabas who were preaching in Antioch. She again refused marriage and was tortured. Again preserved, she lived as a healer in solitude. Thecla was ninety when jealous pagan healers tried to attack her. St. Thecla prayed and the rock split and enveloped her. This spot, present day Maaloula in Syria, is still a place of pilgrimage and healing. The first woman martyr, she is invoked during the monastic tonsure of women.
Saint Martha and her husband Sisotion were the parents of St. Simeon the Stylite. At eighteen, Simeon had left home and received the monastic tonsure without his parents’ knowledge. Many years later St. Martha went to see him. When he refused to see her, she spent the rest of her life in silence and prayer near his pillar. When she died, St. Simeon ordered that her body be brought to him. He prayed over his mother’s body for some time, shedding many tears. Witnesses said that a smile appeared on St. Martha’s face.