The Holy Martyr Nicephoros

Commemorated on February 9

      The Holy Martyr Nicephoros lived in the city of Syrian Antioch. In this city lived also the presbyter Sapricios, with whom Nicephoros was very friendly, such that they were considered like kindred brothers. Through the onset of a disagreement they quarreled, and their former love changed into enmity and hate. After a certain while Nicephoros came to his senses, repented of his sin and more than once through mutual friends asked forgiveness of Sapricios, who did not wish to forgive him. Nicephoros then went himself to his former friend and fervently asked forgiveness, but Sapricios was adamant. At this time the emperors Valerian (253-259) and Gallius (260-268) started up persecutions against christians, and one of the first taken before the judgement court was presbyter Sapricios. He firmly confessed himself a Christian, underwent tortures for his faith and was condemned to death by beheading with a sword. When they took him to execution, Nicephoros tearfully entreated his forgiveness, calling on him as an holy martyr who would soon stand before the Lord and receive of Him a crown.
      But presbyter Sapricios remained hardened of heart and even before death he refused to forgive his brother-christian. Because of this the Lord withheld His blessing from Sapricios, having formerly strengthened him during the time of enduring torture; but now, having nearly reached the blessed end of his ordeal, he suddenly became afraid of death and consented to offer sacrifice to idols. In vain did Saint Nicephoros tearfully urge on Sapricios, that he not destroy himself by apostasy, since already he was standing at the threshold of the Heavenly Kingdom. Saint Nicephoros then said to the executioner: "I am a Christian and I believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom Sapricios hath recanted. Execute me in place of Sapricios". The executioners reported about this to the governor. He issued an edict: to free Sapricios, and in place of him to behead Nicephoros with a sword. Thus did Saint Nicephoros receive his martyr's crown.

1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.

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