Orthodox America


  Great-Martyr Marina


July 17

Human reality is powerless over those who sincerely believe. In the darkness of prisons and amidst great poverty the Lord grants them that joy which is above all earthly delight. How comforting for the true Christian to know that nothing can separate him from the love of the Lord!

 

ST. MARINA was born in the third century in Pisidian Antioch, in what is now central Turkey. Her parents were noble people, but pagans, and she was raised to worship idols. Her mother died when she was a child and her father, the pagan priest Edesius, entrusted her upbringing to a nurse maid with whom she lived in the tranquility of the countryside.

      It was a time of severe persecution of Christians. Some concealed themselves in the wilderness, but others courageously went about spreading the light of Christ. It was from one of these that the twelve-year-old Marina first heard about the Lord Jesus Christ. When she learned that the only begotten Son of God had come down from heaven and became man, that He endured suffering and death in order to save a sinful and unworthy people, her heart filled with love for Him, and she sought every opportunity to hear more about her Lord. She wanted so much to he baptized, but because of the persecution she couldn't find a priest to perform the holy Mystery. She left it up to God's holy will and meanwhile loudly confessed the name of the Lord to anyone who would listen, even though she knew she might suffer because of it.

      Indeed, her first persecutor was her own father. When he discovered that his daughter had adopted the faith of the Christians, he was furious and became hateful, even cruel towards her. But she took refuge in the love of her Heavenly Father, Who never abandons His faithful children.

      One day, when she was fifteen years old, she was on her way to the fields to look at her father's sheep, when she was met by the regional governor, Olymbrius, a cruel persecutor of Christians. He was attracted by the girl's beauty and struck up a conversation. "Where are you from? Who is your father? What is your name?" Marina answered his questions and boldly added that she believed in the God of the Christians and that she hoped to dedicate herself to His service. The governor ordered his soldiers to bring her with them to Antioch. Hopeful that he would have little difficulty in convincing her to give up her faith, he did not mistreat her, as he saw in her a good prospect for marriage.

      The next day the governor ordered Marina to be brought for questioning and tried everything to persuade her to bring sacrifice to the gods, but the bride of Christ remained steadfast. "I have learned to know the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, one Divinity in Trinity, and to bring to Him the sacrifice of praise," replied the girl. "I cannot give to lifeless idols that honor which belongs to my Creator.'' The governor tried various tactics: he tried to win her over through promises, then he tried to frighten her with threats. Nothing availed. "I want to remain a faithful slave of my God,' said Marina, "Who voluntarily suffered for my sake. He did not spare His most pure Body for my sake and endured death on the Cross. Should I not be prepared to suffer and die for Him? You do not frighten me with your threats. In the midst of sufferings, my Lord, in Whom I have placed my hope, will strengthen me."

      When Olymbrius realized that Marina would never renounce her heavenly Bridegroom, his pity for the young Christian vanished and he gave her over to cruel tortures. Marina was beaten mercilessly with rods so that blood poured forth from the deep wounds. As the crowd watched the young martyr, many wept and urged her to obey the governor, but the young martyr remained steadfast in her sufferings.

      The enraged governor then ordered that she be fastened to a column and her flesh torn apart with iron hooks. Pieces of flesh fell to the ground, exposing her bones; the earth was crimson with her blood. Even the cruel governor covered his face with his hands and turned away, unable to bear the bloody spectacle. Finally, the young martyr, barely alive, was thrown into a dark, dank prison cell.

      "Mereiful God Who livest on high," prayed the suffering Marina, "revive my spirit. Heal my wounded body. Give me strength to overcome my adversary that in me Thy name be glorified."

      As night fell the devil struck at the young girl with fear and despair. Dreadful phantoms appeared before her eyes, strange rumblings issued from underground... But the martyr concentrated her mind on God and never ceased praying. And the Lord confirmed her faith with a miraculous sign.

      She suddenly saw over her head a dazzling gold cross, on top of which sat a snow-white dove, and a voice came from above:

      'Rejoice Marina, dove of Christ. You have vanquished the evil foe. Rejoice and be glad, daughter of Mount Zion. For soon, like the wise virgins, you will enter the bridal chamber of your immortal Heavenly Bridegroom"

      An indescribable joy seized Marina's heart. At the same time she became aware that her tortured flesh was being healed and she felt her strength returning. The rest of the night she spent praising and thanking God.

      In the morning the governor had the great martyr brought forth from the prison. Yesterday barely alive, she now stood before him, beautiful and healthy. The astonished governor attributed her miraculous recovery to the pagan gods. "It is my God who healed me," replied the great martyr. "He is the healer of souls and bodies."

      Again she was subject to torture. The outraged governor ordered a bunch of burning candles to be brought and with them they singed her miraculously restored flesh. The saint, directing her mind to God, suffered in silence The singed areas became black, yet stoically she endured the pain.

      "Lord," she prayed, "Thou grantest me to go through this fiery trial. Make me worthy to pass through the water of baptism, that washed of sins I may enter Thy rest!"

      Hearing the saint speak about water, the governor conceived of the idea to drown the Saint. An enormous vat was brought and filled to the brim. Marina was tied up and thrown into it. The Saint rejoiced; here at last was an answer to her prayer.

"Lord Jesus Christ, Thou Who didst loose the bonds of death and hell, look upon Thy servant and loose my bonds. And may this water be for me the longdesired water of holy baptism unto regeneration and life eternal?

      As soon as they plunged her into the vat the ropes on her body snapped, her head was illumined with heavenly rays, and a white dove, carrying in its beak a golden wreath, began circling overhead. Lower and lower descended the paradisiacal messenger, and, touching the head of the great martyr, rose again into the heavens. At the same time a voice was heard: "Peace to you, Bride of Christ. Receive now from God's hand an unfading crown and honor in the Heavenly Kingdom." The crowd trembled. All had seen how Marina emerged from the water cured of her terrible burns and shining with unearthly beauty. Now they witnessed the descent of a fiery pillar and above it a cross, shining with wondrous light. The crowd began glorifying God. "We, too, are Christians! We, too, are Christians, ready to die for Christ."

      The governor was enraged by the multitude of converts, and ordered his soldiers to kill the new Christians without mercy. That very day fifteen thousand were added to the ranks of martyrs.

      Marina was likewise sentenced to die by the sword. Before her execution the great martyr turned to the crowd, strengthening the people in their confession. She prayed at length for everyone and was vouchsafed to see Christ Himself, Who called her to eternal rest, before she quietly bowed her head beneath the executioner's sword.

      Thus the holy great martyr Marina accomplished her martyric exploit on the seventeenth of July. The servant of God Theotim was a witness of her sufferings and was granted to see the heavenly visions and all this he wrote down for the benefit of the faithful, in honor of the beloved bride of Christ, Marina, and to the glory of our Man-loving God, to Whom, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit may we give honor and glory, now and ever and unto the ages. Amen.

(Adapted from A. N. Bakhmeteva, Zhitia Sviatikh, Moscow 1872)


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