Saint Olympiada the Deaconess

Commemorated on July 25

      Saint Olympiada the Deaconess was the daughter of the senator Anicius Secundus, and by her mother she was the grand-daughter of the noted eparch Eulalios (he is mentioned in the account about the miracles of Saint Nicholas). Before her marriage to Anicius Secundus, Olympiada's mother had been married to the Armenian emperor Arsak and became widowed. When Saint Olympiada was still very young, her parents betrothed her to a nobleborn youth. The marriage was supposed to take place when Saint Olympiada reached the age of maturity. The bridegroom soon however died, and Saint Olympiada did not wish to enter into another marriage, but instead preferred a life of virginity. After the death of her parents she became the heir to great wealth, which she began top distribute with a general hand to all the needy: the poor, the orphaned and the widowed; she likewise gave significant monies to the churches, monasteries, hospices and shelters for the downtrodden and the homeless.
      Holy Patriarch Nektarios (381-397) appointed Saint Olympiada as a deaconess. The blessed saint fulfilled her service honourably and beyond reproach.
      Saint Olympiada provided great assistance to hierarchs coming to Constantinople ‑- Amphylokhios, Bishop of Iconium, Onysimos of Pontum, Gregory the Theologian, Saint Basil the Great's brother Peter of Sebasteia, Epiphanios of Cyprus and she attended to them all with great love. Her wealth she did not regard as her own but rather God's, and she distributed not only to good people, but also to their enemies.
      Saint John Chrysostom (+ 407, Comm. 13 November) had high regard for Saint Olympiada and he bestowed her his good-will and spiritual love. And when this holy hierarch was guiltlessly and unjustly banished, Saint Olympiada together with the other deaconesses were deeply upset. Leaving the church for the last time, Saint John Chrysostom called out to Saint Olympiada and the other deaconesses Pentadia, Proklia and Salbina, and he said that the matters incited against him would come to an end, but scarcely more would they see him. He asked them not to abandon the church but instead be obedient to the bishop who would be appointed in his place, since the Church is not able to be without bishop. The holy women, shedding tears, fell down before the saint.
      The Alexandria patriarch Theophilos (385-412), having repeatedly benefited formerly through the generosity of Saint Olympiada, turned against her for her devotion to Saint John Chrysostom, but also for the additional reason, that she had taken in and fed monks arriving in Constantinople, whom Patriarch Theophilos had banished from the Egyptian wilderness. He levelled unrighteous accusations against her attempted to cast doubt on her holy life.
      After the banishment of Saint John Chrysostom, the cathedral church of Saint Sophia caught fire and after this a large part of the city burnt down.
      All the supporters of Saint John Chrysostom came under suspicion of arson, and they were summoned for interrogation. And then also did Saint Olympiada suffer. They summoned her to trial, rigourously interrogating her, and although they did not produce any proof, they sentenced her to payment of a large fine of money for the arson, of which she was not guilty. After this the saint left Constantinople and set out to Kyzikos (on the Sea of Marmara). But her enemies did not cease with their persecution: in the year 405 they sentenced her to imprisonment at Nicomedia, where the saint underwent much grief and deprivation. Saint John Chrysostom wrote to her from his exile, consoling her in her sorrow. In the year 409 Saint Olympiada died in imprisonment.
      Saint Olympiada appeared in a dream to the Nicomedia bishop and commanded, that her body be placed in a wooden coffin and cast into the sea: "Whither the waves carry the coffin, there let my body be buried", said the saint. The coffin was brought by the waves to a place named Brokhti near to Constantinople. The inhabitants, informed of this by God, took the holy relics of Saint Olympiada and put them in the church of the holy Apostle Thomas. Afterwards, during the time of an invasion of enemies, the church was burned, but the relics were preserved and under the Patriarch Sergios (610-638) they were transferred to Constantinople and put at the women's monastery founded by Saint Olympiada. From her relics miracles occurred and healings made.

1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.

Close window

Saint Olympiada
the Deaconess

Close window