My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
THE TWENTY-FOURTH DAY OF SEPTEMBER OUR HOLY ORTHODOX CHURCH COMMEMORATES THE FEAST-DAY OF THE GREAT MARTYR AND EQUAL-TO-THE APOSTLES THECLA (THEKLA)
Saint Thecla came from the city of Iconium in Asia Minor and was the daughter of a rich pagan called Theocleus. She was betrothed at the age of eighteen to a young man called Thamyris, who loved her dearly. It was the time that Saint Paul, coming down from Antioch, stayed in Iconium at the house of Onesiphorus, a neighbor of Thecla, and taught the word of God there night and day.
To all those listening to him with great joy, he said: 'Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God. Blessed are those who guard the chastity of their flesh for they shall be the temple of God. Blessed are those who have renounced this world for they shall be acceptable to God. Blessed are those who fear the words of God for they shall be comforted. Blessed are those who embrace the wisdom of Jesus Christ for they shall be called sons of the Most High. Blessed are those who have guarded their baptism for they shall find rest with the Father and the Son. Blessed are those who have understood the knowledge of Jesus Christ for they shall be in the light. Blessed are those who have rejected the outward appearances of this world for the love of God for they shall judge the Angels and shall be glorified at the right hand of the Father. Blessed are the bodies of the virgins for the word of the Father shall be their justification in the Day of His Son and they shall enjoy rest forever and ever.
As she listened to Saint Paul's heavenly words from behind a curtain where she stayed hidden for three days, Thecla, overcome by joy, was drawn as it were irresistibly to the faith. When they saw her unmindful of everything earthly, attaching herself to the words of this stranger who advocated turning aside from marriage, Theocleus and Thamyris were most disturbed. The whole city too was in uproar, which is why Saint Paul was seized and brought before the Governor, who ordered him to put in chains and taken to prison. That night Thecla came in search of him. She gave her bracelets to the jailor and sat at Saint Paul's feet, kissing his chains as he spoke to her of the mighty works of God.
When Thecla was discovered in the company of Saint Paul in the same bond of divine love, both of them were brought before the Governor. As she gave no answer to his questions, Thecla's own mother cried out, 'Burn this enemy of marriage in the middle of the amphitheater as a terrifying example to all other women!' In order to satisfy the crowd, the Governor reluctantly had Saint Paul flogged and driven out of the city, and he condemned Thecla to be burnt alive. She was led naked to the place of execution while young men and women, in a fever of activity, collected wood for the stake. Then, under the appearance of Saint Paul, Thecla saw the Savior, Who filled her with Divine power as she looked upon Him. Arming herself with the sign of the Cross, she mounted the stake. The flames flared up but the fire did not touch her. Moved by her love, God sent a heavy fall of rain that quenched the flames and filled the amphitheater with water. Saint Paul was hiding with Onesiphorus and his household (family) in a tomb outside the city. Thecla was brought by God to join him there, and together they set out for Antioch. Attracted by Thecla's beauty, an elder of the city attempted to take her by force, but Thecla tore herself out of his grasp. The elder denounced her to the Governor as a Christian who was averse to marriage. The Governor condemned her to death and threw her to the wild beasts, but the animals would not touch the body of this holy virgin. Amazed at this, the Governor asked: 'Who are you, and what is the power that you have in you, that nothing can do you harm?' Thecla replied: 'I am a servant of the Living God.' Then the Governor let her go free, and she began to preach the Gospel and succeeded in bringing many to the True Faith, among whom was an eminent and honored widow, Tryphena. After this, Saint Thecla, with the blessing of the holy Apostle Paul, withdrew to a solitary place near Seleucia. She lived a long time there in asceticism, healing the sick with miraculous power and in this way bringing many to Christianity. The pagan doctors in Seleucia were jealous of her and sent some young men to assault her, hoping that, in losing her virginity, she would lose also her miraculous power. Saint Thecla fled from these insolent young men and, when she saw that they would catch her, prayed to God for help in front of a rock, and the rock opened and hid the holy maiden and bride of Christ. This rock was her hiding-place and her tomb. Saint John Chrysostom says of this wonderful Christian heroine and Saint: "I seem to see this blessed virgin going to Christ with virginity in one hand and martyrdom in the other." (Sources: The Synaxarion, The lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church and Prologue from Ochrid)
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God