Prophet Samuel; Martyrs Severus, Heliodorus and Theocharis

The Prophet Samuel was the fifteenth and last of the Judges of Israel, living more than 1146 years before the Birth of Christ. He was descended from the Tribe of Levi, and was the son of Elkanah from Ramathaim-Zophim of Mount Ephraim.

He was born, having been besought from the Lord through the prayers of his mother Hannah (therefore he received the name Samuel, which means “besought from God”). Even before birth, he was dedicated to God. Her song, “My heart exults in the Lord,” is the Third Ode of the Old Testament (1 Sam/1 Kings 2:1-10).

When the boy reached the age of three, his mother went with him to Shiloh and in accord with her vow dedicated him to the worship of God. She gave him into the care of the High Priest Eli, who at this time was a judge over Israel.

The prophet grew in the fear of God, and at twelve years of age he had a revelation that God would punish the house of the High Priest Eli, because he did not restrain the impiety of his sons. Eli’s whole family was wiped out in a single day.

The prophecy was fulfilled when the Philistines, having slain in battle 30,000 Israelites (among them were also the sons of the High Priest, Hophni and Phinees), gaining victory and capturing the Ark of the Covenant. Hearing this, the High Priest Eli fell backwards from his seat at the gate, and breaking his back, he died.

The wife of Phinees, upon hearing what had happened in this very hour, gave birth to a son (Ichabod) and died with the words: “The glory has departed from Israel, for the Ark of God is taken away” (1 Sam/1 Kgs 4: 22).

Upon the death of Eli, Samuel became the judge of the nation of Israel. The Ark of God was returned by the Philistines on their own initiative. After returning to God, the Israelites returned to all the cities that the Philistines had taken. In his old age, the Prophet Samuel made his sons Joel and Abiah judges over Israel, but they did not follow the integrity and righteous judgment of their father, since they were motivated by greed.

Then the elders of Israel, wanting the nation of God to be “like other nations” (1 Sam/1 Kgs 8: 20), demanded of the Prophet Samuel that they have a king. The Prophet Samuel anointed Saul as king, but saw in this a downfall of the people, whom God Himself had governed until this time, announcing His will through His chosen saints.

Resigning the position of judge, the Prophet Samuel asked the people if they consented to his continued governance, but no one stepped forward for him.

After denouncing the first king, Saul, for his disobedience to God, the Prophet Samuel anointed David as king. He had offered David asylum, saving him from the pursuit of King Saul. The Prophet Samuel died in extreme old age. His life is recorded in the Bible (1 Sam/1 Kgs; Sirach 46:13-20).

In the year 406 A.D. the relics of the Prophet Samuel were transferred from Judea to Constantinople.

Troparion, tone 2:
You were given as a precious gift to a barren womb, and offered as a fragrant sacrifice to your Lord. You served Him in truth and righteousness; wherefore we honor you, O Samuel prophet of God, as an intercessor for our souls.

The martyr Severus suffered in Philippopolis, Thrace under the emperor Diocletian (284-305).

When the governor learned that the Saint Severus had converted the centurion Memnon to Christ, he ordered that Memnon be tortured. They cut three strips of skin from Saint Memnon’s back.

Saint Severus was raked with iron hooks. Then they put red-hot rings on his fingers and girded him with a red-hot iron belt. After these tortures, he was blinded.

The others had their hands and feet cut off and were thrown into a fiery oven.

The Martyr Heliodorus suffered for Christ in Persia under the emperor Sapor II, in the year 380.

In the year 1740 Sultan Ahmed and Ibrahim Pasha, the governor of Asia Minor, a decree was issued that Christian boys should be placed in concentration camps. The orphan Theocharis was among them. On a certain day, however, the judge of Neapolis (Nevsehir) in Cappadocia, saw Theocharis in the camp, he liked him, and brought him home to care for his animals.

Theocharis’s piety and comeliness prompted the judge to suggest that he become his son-in-law, after first becoming a Moslem. Theocharis answered courageously, “My master, I was born a Christian, and I cannot deny the faith of my Savior and of my fathers.” The Ottoman judge, considered the answer to be offensive and threatened him with torture, and then he sentenced him to death by starvation.

Theocharis went to church to confess and to partake of the spotless Mysteries, and then returned to his master. When he repeated his refusal and confessed his faith, they threw him into prison without food for many days. He was nourished by prayer, however and did not feel hunger; he was satisfied with a little water once in a while.

When the judge repeated his offer to let marry his daughter, Theocharis firmly refused. Then, after frightful torture, they took him an hour’s journey from the city of Neapolis, where he was stoned and then hanged at noon on a white poplar tree on August 20, 1740.

In 1923, the right hand of St. Theocharis was brought to Thessaloniki and was placed in the Church of St. Katherine, where it remains today.

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