The Monastic Martyress Philothea

Commemorated on February 19

      The Monastic Martyress Philothea was born in Athens in 1522. Her parents, Siriga and Angel Benizelos, were reknown not only for being eminent and rich, but also deeply pious. Often the kind-hearted Siriga had turned with prayer imploring the MostHoly Mother of God for a child. Her fervent prayers were heard, and the spouses had born to them a daughter, which they named Rigula. The parents raised their daughter in deep piety and right belief, and with her coming of age they gave her off in marriage. Her husband turned out to be a man impious and crude, who often beat and tormented his wife. Rigula patiently endured the abuse and she prayed to God, that He might bring her husband to his senses. After three years Rigula's husband died, and she in her freedom began to asceticise in fasting, vigil and prayer. The saint founded a women's monastery in the name of the Apostle Andrew the First-Called (Comm. 30 November and 30 June). When the well-constructed monastery was completed, the saint was the first of those there to accept monastic tonsure, with the name Philothea. During this time Greece was suffering under the Turkish Yoke. Many of the Athenians had been turned by their Turkish conquerors into slaves. The Nun Philothea utilised all her means for the freeing of her fellow country-women; she saved many, ransoming them from servitude. One time four women fled to the monastery of Saint Philothea, having run away from their Turkish masters, who demanded that they renounce their Christianity. The Turks, having learned where the Greek women had taken asylum, burst into the cell of the nun, and having given her a beating they led her off to the governor of the city, who threw the holy ascetic into prison. In the morning, when a mob of Turks had already gathered, they led her out of the prison. The governor of the city said that if she did not renounce Christ, she would be hacked apart. Just when the Nun Philothea was ready to accept a martyr's crown, Divine Providence gathered a crowd of Christians, who freed the holy ascetic. Having returned to her monastery, the Nun Philothea continued with her efforts of abstinence, prayer and vigil, for which she was vouchsafed a graced gift of wonderworking. In an Athens suburb, Patisia, she founded a new monastery, where she started to asceticise with the sisters. During the time of the feast of Saint Dionysios the Areopagite (Comm. 3 October), the Turks seized hold of the Nun Philothea and for a long time they tortured her, and finally they threw her half-alive down on the ground. The sisters with tears carried away the holy martyress, flowing with blood, to the locale of Kalogreza, where she died on 19 February 1589. Shortly thereafter the relics of the holy Monastic Martyress Philothea were conveyed into the Athens cathedral church.   

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