The Holy Martyr Phocas the Gardener

Commemorated on September 22

      The Holy Martyr Phocas the Gardener came from the city of Sinope, situated on the southern shore of the Black Sea. Having a small garden, he lived modestly: he sold what he grew and on the proceeds he maintained himself, he helped the needy and paid the housing of vagrants. The Christian piety of the saint had an influence on other people. Even pagans deferred to him with deep respect. Under his influence they often abandoned their error and accepted the Christian faith.
      But the governor of the district, aware that Saint Phocas was spreading Christian teachings, gave orders to find and kill him. The saint himself accidentally came upon those sent after him, and not mentioning his name he courteously received them, dined them and prepared them a place for night-lodging. At night he went into the garden, he prepared a grave and the place for his burial; he even was able to make arrangements that all his possessions would be distributed after death to the poor. In the morning Saint Phocas declared to the strangers that it was he here for whom they were searching. And he asked that they fulfill the duty entrusted to them. The visitors were distressed, not wanting to kill the kindly saint, they felt honour bound to spare Saint Phocas. But he would not hear of their good intent and bent down humbly his head beneathe the sword.
      They buried the holy Martyr Phocas in the grave that he himself had prepared in the garden. The place of his burial was glorified by miracles, and later a church was built there. An accurate account of the martyr's death was collected by Asterios of Amasia (+ c. 410), through the testimony of whom the memory of the holy Martyr Phocas is especially venerated by sea-farers.

© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.