Commemorated on March 20
The Holy Martyress
Photina (Svetlana) the Samaritan Woman, her sons Victor named Photinos and
Josiah; and the Martyress-Sisters: Anatolia, Photo, Photida, Paraskeva,
Kyriakia, Domnina; and the Martyr Sebastian: The holy Martyress Photina was
that selfsame Samaritan Woman, with whom the Saviour conversed at Jacob's Well
(Jn. 4: 5-42).
During the time of
the emperor Nero (54-68), who displayed an excessive cruelty in his struggle
against Christianity, Saint Photina lived in Carthage with her younger son
Josiah and fearlessly preached the Gospel there. Her older son Victor fought
bravely in the Roman army against barbarians, and for his meritorious service
was appointed military commander in the city of Attalia (Asia Minor).
The Attalia city
governor Sebastian upon meeting Saint Victor said to him: "I quite verily
do know, that thou, thy mother and thy brother – art followers of the
teachings of Christ. But as a friend I advise thee – submit to the will of the
emperor, and thou canst receive the wealth of any Christians, which thou
mightest inform on for us. Thou mother and thy brother I shalt write, that they
not preach Christ openly. Let them secretly confess their faith". Saint
Victor replied: "I myself want to be a preacher of Christianity, just like
my mother and brother". To this Sebastian answered: "O Victor, we all
do well know what woes await thee, and thine mother and brother, in this".
After these words Sebastian suddenly sense a sharp pain in his eyes, and he
became dumbfounded and his face sombre.
For three days he lay
there blind, and not uttering a word. On the fourth day he loudly declared:
"Only the faith of the Christians is true, and there be no other true
faith". To Saint Victor, who came there next beside him, Sebastian said: "Christ
doth call unto me". Soon he was baptised and immediately regained his
sight. The servants of Saint Sebastian, witnessing the miracle, were themselves
then baptised on the example of their master.
Reports of the
occurrence reached Nero, and he commanded that the Christians be brought to him
for trial ar Rome. Then the Lord Himself appeared to the confessors and said:
"I shalt be with ye, and Nero wilt be vanquished, and all who serve him".
To Saint Victor the Lord announced: "From this day henceforth thy name
wilt be Photinos – "Lightning-flash", since that many, enlightened
by thee, wilt turn to Me". To Saint Sebastian the Lord spake in
encouragement: "Blest be he that endureth to the end". Saint Photina,
having been informed by the Saviour concerning the forthcoming sufferings,
herself set off in the company of several Christians from Carthage to Rome and
joined in with the confessors.
At Rome the emperor
gave orders to bring him the saints and he asked them, whether actually and
truly they believed in Christ. All the confessors resolutely refused to
renounce the Saviour. Then the emperor gave orders to smash the palms of the
hands of the holy martyrs. But at the time of the torments the confessors
sensed no pain, and the hands of the Martyress Photina remained unharmed. Nero
ordered that Saints Sebastian, Photinos and Josiah be blinded and locked up in
prison, and Saint Photina with her five sisters – Anatolia, Photo, Photida,
Paraskeva and Kyriakia – be sent off to the imperial court under the
supervision of Nero's daughter Domnina. But Saint Photina converted to Christ
both Domnina and all her servants, who then accepted holy Baptism. She also
converted to Christ a sorcerer, who had brought poisoned food to kill her.
Three years had
passed, and Nero sent to the prison for one of his servants, who had been
locked up. The messengers reported to him, that Saints Sebastian, Photinos and
Josiah – who had been blinded, had completely recovered, and that people were
constantly visiting them to hear their preaching, and indeed the whole prison
had been transformed into a bright and fragrant place wherein God was
glorified. Nero then gave orders to crucify the saints and over the course of
three days and also to beat them upon their bared bodies with straps. On the
fourth day the emperor sent servants to see, whether the martyrs were still
alive. But, approaching the place of the tortures, the servants forthwith fell
blind. During this time an Angel of the Lord freed the martyrs and healed them.
The saints took pity on the blinded servants and by their prayers to the Lord
restored them to sight; those healed then came to believe in Christ and were
In an impotent rage
Nero gave orders to flay the skin from Saint Photina and to throw the martyress
down a well. The Martyrs Sebastian, Photinos and Josiah, had their legs cut
off, and were thrown to dogs, and then had their skin flayed off. The sisters of
Saint Photina also suffered terrible torments. Nero gave orders to cut off
their breasts and then to flay their skin. An expert in cruelty, the emperor
readied the fiercest execution for Saint Photida: they tied her by the feet to
the tops of two bent-over trees, which when cut loose tore apart the martyress.
The emperor ordered the others beheaded. Saint Photina they extracted from the
well and locked up in prison for 20 days.
After this Nero had
her brought to him and asked, whether she would now give in and offer sacrifice
to the idols. Saint Photina spit in the face of the emperor, and laughing at
him, said: "O most impious of the blind, thou profligate and stupid man!
Wouldst thou reckon me so much deluded, that I should consent to renounce my
Lord Christ and instead offer sacrifice to idols as blind as thee?!"
Hearing such words,
Nero gave orders to again throw the martyress down the well, where she offered
up her spirit to the Lord (+ c. 66).
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.