Orthodox America


Martyrs Chrysanthus and Daria


He that loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matt. 10:39)

In the third century, when there was a fierce persecution of Christians, a nobleman by the name of Polemius came from Alexandria to Rome for the sake of his son's education. He was received with honor, and the emperor favored him with the rank of senator. His son, Chrysanthus, was enrolled with the best tutors and, being a capable and diligent student, he made rapid progress.

Among other texts, Chrysanthus came across some New Testament writings, which he read with interest. These had considerable impact on his young soul, and he began eagerly to study the Word of God. His faith in his former teachers wavered; he understood that he who does not know Christ does not yet know anything and is still lost in darkness, for without Christ we are all like sheep without a shepherd. Chrysanthus began searching for a teacher who could instruct him in the law of God. He soon made the acquaintance of a Christian hermit, who lived in a solitary place and spent his time in prayer and fasting.

The hermit-elder took a liking to the youth. He reminded him of the young man in the Gospel, who asked the Saviour what he should do to inherit eternal life. Chrysanthus had a similar desire to know what kind of life would lead to salvation.

Many youth live without thinking about why they are given life and how it will end. But Chrysanthus was full of such questions, and at his first encounter with the hermit-elder, he was asking what happened to a man after death, and did good and evil people really share the same fate, and why was it that some people led a life of luxury while others were poor, and why was there so much evil in the world?

The holy hermit answered all these questions with a long narrative. He told Chrysanthus about how God created the world, about the fall into sin of the first people, about sickness and suffering which entered the world on account of the sin of Adam and Eve. Then he told Chrysanthus about Jesus Christ, Who, as the Son of God, came to earth and taught people to believe that they were children of God, that God loved the righteous and that He pitied sinners and desired that none of them perish, but that all repent and be saved. He also told him that all those who believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God are given hope that they will be resurrected and will reign eternally with Christ.

When he was convinced that Chrysanthus truly believed in Christ, the hermit baptized him in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Chrysanthus came out of the baptismal waters, renewed in spirit and filled with love for God. He became a new person. When he was called to go to the pagan temple, he refused, saying, "What have I to do there?" When he was invited to parties, he replied with the words of the Apostle: Do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation! And whenever there was talk of worshipping the gods, Chrysanthus boldly declared that the idols were not gods, that they were demons, and that he, as a Christian, would never consent to offer sacrifice to them. On hearing of this, his relatives became alarmed.

"Just look at what your son is doing," they said to Polemius. "He is blaspheming the gods and saying that a certain Jesus Christ is the one and only true God. Should Caesar learn of this, you will not escape his wrath."

Polemius was uneasy. He called his son and tried to persuade him to adhere to the old gods and not to forsake them for Christ. When he saw that his words had no effect, he resorted to harsher methods. He locked Chrysanthus into a cellar, hoping that the privations and loss of freedom would discourage him from his new faith. But this accomplished nothing. To the contrary, in solitude Chrysanthus gave himself over to prayer with yet greater zeal. The relatives then made another suggestion to Polemius:

"Christians are not afraid of prisons or torture: they gladly endure suffering for the sake of their God, and persecution only heightens their zeal. You would do better to surround Chrysanthus with luxuries and pleasures. In the midst of worldly comforts he will soon forget his God."

Polemius heeded their advice. He adorned the house with rich furnishings, and, releasing Chrysanthus from his confinement, he surrounded him with all manner of delights. There was music and singing, and the house was full of young men and maidens. Tables were laden with delectable foods and costly wines. In short, everything possible was done to divert the young man and to implant in him a love for pleasure. But Chrysanthus did not succumb to such temptations; he asked God for help, and God enabled him to resist the enticements and to preserve purity of soul and firmness of faith.

The despairing father did not know what to do. Then some friends made another suggestion. "In the temple of the goddess Minerva, there is a young woman by the name of Daria. She is uncommonly beautiful and intelligent. Why don't you betroth your son to her, and she will then be able to convert him."

Daria agreed to the proposal and came to live in Polemius' house. With tears he begged her to save his son.

Daria was very pretty and did everything she could to attract Chrysanthus. She dressed in fine clothes and tried to captivate the young man with her sweet conversation. But Chrysanthus, striving towards God with his whole heart, remained indifferent to her charms.

"O maiden!" he said to her one day, "you adorn yourself with such care, you make such efforts, you speak so tenderly-all in order to turn my soul away from its good intention and draw to yourself my heart, which is full of another love! You would do better to gain the goodwill of the eternal God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as you now adorn yourself with costly apparel, so should you adorn your soul with purity and faith. In this way you will find Christ Himself, Who will write your name in the book of life and grant you endless bliss!"

The maid listened to his words with amazement. Her mind and heart had not been enlightened by faith and truth; she knew nothing about eternal life and, having been raised as a pagan, she considered earthly happiness to be the aim of our life. She began talking about the joys of earthly life, about the great pagan sages who studied the ways of nature and knew many mysteries.

Chrysanthus responded to all her arguments with words of Christian wisdom and, at last, the light of truth illumined the soul of the young pagan. She came to believe in the one true God and desired to be baptized. Then Chrysanthus told his father that he agreed to marry Daria. Meanwhile, among themselves they agreed to lead a holy life, dedicated entirely to God.

Polemius soon died. Then Daria was baptized, and she and Chrysanthus focused their lives on serving God and their neighbor. They settled in two separate houses; in one Daria received young women who had converted to Christianity; they prayed together and studied the Law of God. In the other Chrysanthus lived with Christian men who, like himself, had renounced the world and family life in order to devote themselves wholly to the Lord.

Several years passed in this way, until the Roman governor was informed that Chrysanthus and Daria were preaching the Gospel, and that many of those whom they converted were choosing not to marry. He gave the order to arrest Chrysanthus and Daria and to give them over to torture. However, God miraculously preserved His servants. The thick ropes with which they were bound became loose and the iron fetters fell off. When Chrysanthus was put in a dark dungeon, it suddenly became illumined with an extraordinary light. The frightened guards told the tribune Claudius about all this, and he came to see for himself if it were true. Attributing these miracles to some magical powers, the tribune said to Chrysanthus:

"Cease from your magic and your false faith and bow down before the gods as becomes a person of distinction."

"I am helped not by any magic,"replied Chrysanthus, "but by the power of God. You will soon understand this, for the Lord is seeking your salvation, too!"

Meanwhile, Claudius ordered the soldiers to tie Chrysanthus to a pillar and to beat him with rods, but the blows did not leave even a trace on the body of the martyr. All were astonished, and Claudius finally acknowledged that Chrysanthus was being protected by a higher power. He turned to the soldiers:

"Stop torturing him. I now understand that his God is great and mighty. We can only ask his forgiveness for the offenses he has endured."

Falling down at the feet of the holy martyr, Claudius and the soldiers exclaimed:

"Truly, your God is the only almighty God. We beg you, lead us to Him and make us His slaves!"

Chrysanthus explained to them that God is close to every man who seeks Him with his heart. He spoke about His omnipotence, about His merciful kindness and goodness. They all listened with great attention, and then began to bring their relatives. Within a matter of a few days, scores of pagans had come to faith in God. Claudius, his wife Hilary, two sons, and many of the soldiers were baptized. When news of this reached the emperor, he ordered that Claudius be drowned in the sea, and that his sons and the soldiers be executed. They all went joyfully to their deaths and were beheaded with a sword.

Meanwhile, Chrysanthus and Daria were given over to new tortures, but here, too, the power of God miraculously preserved them, and the signs which the Lord manifest on their account brought many pagans to faith in the true God. Finally, they were led out of the city and were buried alive in a pit. Later,

Christians often came to pray on this spot, and many miraculous healings took place there.

Translated from Izbranniye Zhitia Sviatykh compiled by Archpriest Viktor Ilienko; Russian Orthodox Youth Committee, 1991.

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