Commemorated on September 20
GreatMartyr Eustathius before Baptism had the name "Placidus"
[meaning "placid" or "calm" in Latin]. He was a military
commander under the emperors Titus (79-81) and Trajan (98-117). Even before he
came to know Christ, Placidus did acts of charity, helping the poor and
destitute. And the Lord deigned not to leave the virtuous pagan remain within
the darkness of idol-worship.
One time ahunting he
chased upon his speedy mount after a stag, which halted its run atop an high
hill, and Placidus suddenly saw amidst its antler-rack a radiant Cross, and
upon it – the Crucified Son of God. In surprise Placidus heard a voice saying:
"Why pursuest thou Me, Placidus?" "Who art Thou, Master, Who
dost speak with me?" – in fright asked Placidus. In reply he heard:
"I – am Jesus Christ, God, Who wast incarnated for the salvation of
mankind and didst endure voluntary suffering and death by the Cross. Thou
honourest Me even without knowing Me, since thy good deeds and abundant alms
art come to Me. I have appeared here, to convert and to conjoin thee unto Mine
true servants. For I want, that the man working righteous deeds, shouldst not
perish in the snares of enemies".
Placidus cried out:
"Lord, I do believe that Thou – art the God of Heaven and earth, the
Creator of all creatures. I beseech Thee, O Master, teach me what I should
do". And again resounded the Divine voice: "Go thou unto the
Christian priest, receive from him Baptism, and he wilt instruct thee unto
With joy Placidus
returned home, and told everything to his wife. She in turn told him, how the
evening before in a mysterious dream-vision she had been told: "Thou, thy
husband and thy sons on the morrow shalt come unto Me and know Me – Christ
Jesus, the True God, sent unto the salvation of those that do love Me".
The spouses then proceeded to do as they had been bidden.
They hastened to the
Christian presbyter, who baptised all their family, and communed all with the
On the following day
Saint Eustathius set out to the place of his miraculous conversion and in
fervent prayer he offered up thanks to the Lord, for having called him onto the
path of salvation.
And again Saint
Eustathius was vouchsafed a miraculous revelation – the Lord Himself foretold
him about impending tribulations: "Eustathius, thou mustneeds prove thine
faith in deeds. Before thee, like unto Job, art many a sorrow, so that being
put to the test like gold in the forge, thou be shewn worthy of Me and receive
the crown from My hands". Saint Eustathius humbly answered: "Thy will
be done, O Lord. I am prepared to accept all things at Thine hands with
gratitude, but let Thine almighty help be with me".
Soon Saint Eustathius
was plunged into misfortune: all his servants died and his cattle perished.
Brought to ruin, but not despairing in spirit, Saint Eustathius with his family
secretly abandoned their home, to live unknown, humble and in poverty. He set off
on a ship to Egypt. During the time of sailing a new woe beset the saint. The
ship owner, enchanted by the beauty of the wife of Eustathius, cruelly set him
ashore with his children, keeping the wife for himself. In great grief the
saint continued on his way, and new woe beset him. Crossing a tempestuous river
ford, he went to carry in turn his two sons, but when he had carried across the
one, the other on shore was seized by a lion and carried off into the
wilderness, and while he returned towards the other, a wolf dragged that one
off into the forest.
everything, Saint Eustathius wept bitterly. But he realised, that Divine
Providence had sent him these misfortunes, to test his endurance and devotion
to the will of God. In prayer lifting up to God his inconsolable grief, Saint
Eustathius went on further, prepared for new tribulations. In the village of
Badiss he found work and spent five years in unremitting toil. But Saint
Eustathius did not then know, that through the mercy of God shepherds and
farmers had saved his sons, and they lived right nearby him; he also did not
know, that the impudent shipowner was soon struck down – he died from a
terrible disease, and the wife of Saint Eustathius had been left untouched, and
she lived at peaceful work.
During this time
period it had become difficult for the emperor Trajan to levy an army for Rome.
He then remembered the valiant regimental commander Placidus and dispatched
Antiochus and Acacius, friends of Placidus, to find him.
Having gone round a
multitude of places, finally they arrived in the village, where Saint
Eustathius lived. The soldiers came upon Eustathius in a field, where he was
guarding the bread-grain, but they did not recognise him and they began to tell
him about the one whom they sought, asking his help and promising a large
reward. But Saint Eustathius, immediately recognising his friends, did not
reveal to them his identity. He brought them to the home of his master and fed
them. Gazing at him, the travellers noted that he very much resembled their
regimental commander, and when they saw on his knee a peculiar mark – the scar
from a deep war wound, they realised that in front of them – was their friend.
They hugged him with tears and said why they were seeking him. Saint Eustathius
returned to Rome and again became an imperial commandant. Many a new recruit
entered the army for him, and he did not know, that the two young
soldier-friends, to whom he often gave orders and whom he loved for their skill
and daring, were actually his own sons, and they did not know, that they were
serving under the command of their own father, nor that they each the other –
were brothers by birth.
One time while on
campaign the army, led by Eustathius, halted at a certain settlement. The
soldier-brothers were talking in their tent. The elder one spoke about his lot:
how he had lost his mother and hapless brother, and how in a terrifying way he
had been parted from his father. And the younger brother with joy realised,
that in front of him was his very own brother, and told him so and also about
A woman overheard the
soldiers' conversation – their tent was pitched right next to her house – and
this woman was their mother! She realised that these were her sons. Still not
yet identifying herself to them, and not wanting to be separated from them, she
went to their commander – Saint Eustathius, to ask permission to follow along
with his army. And this commander she recognised as her husband, and with tears
she told him about herself and about the two soldiers, who were actually their
sons. Thus, through the great mercy of the Lord, the whole family was happily
Soon thereafter the
war ended in victory. Saint Eustathius returned to Rome with honours and glory.
The emperor Trajan had since died, and his successor Adrian (117‑138)
wanted to celebrate the event of victory with a solemn offering of sacrifice to
the gods. To the astonishment of everyone Saint Eustathius did not show up at
the pagan temple. By order of the emperor they searched frantically for him.
thou not to worship the gods? – enquired the emperor, – It becomest thee
before all others to offer up thanks unto them. They not only preserved thee in
war and granted thee victory, but also they did help thee find thy wife and
children". Saint Eustathius replied: "I – am a Christian and I know
as the One God Christ Jesus, I revere and give thanks to Him, and I worship
Him. He hath given me everything: health, victory, He returned my family and
hath sent down His help unto the overcoming of tribulations".
In a rage the emperor
stripped him of his rank and summoned him with his family to trial. But there
also they did not succeed in swaying the steadfast confessors of Christ into
offering sacrifice to idols. The whole family of Saint Eustathius was sentenced
to be torn apart by wild beasts. But the beasts would not touch the holy
martyrs. Then the cruel emperor in his wrath gave orders to throw them all
alive into a red-hot copper ox, and here Saint Eustathius, his wife Theopistia
and their sons Agapius and Theopistus, accepted a martyr's end. Three days
later they opened the fiery grave, and the bodies of the holy martyrs were
found unscathed – not one hair on their heads was singed, and their faces
shone with an unearthly beauty. Many seeing this miracle came to believe in
Christ. Christians then gave burial to the bodies of the saints.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.