Holy Martyrs Archdeacon Laurence, Pope Sixtus, the Deacons Felicissimus and Agapitus, and the Warriour Romanos of Rome

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August 10/23
(On the occasion of holy relics of Archdeacon Laurence being brought to our parish)

The holy martyrs Archdeacon Laurence, Pope Sixtus, the Deacons Felicissimus and Agapitus, and the soldier Romanos, were Romans who suffered in the year 258, during the reign of Emperor Valerian (253-259). Pope St. Sixtus, who was from Afia, was well educated, preached in Spain, and was chosen Bishop of Rome following the martyric death of Pope Stephan (253-257, commemorated August 2); this was a time when being chosen to occupy the Roman Cathedra as Pope meant to be chosen for certain death. Shortly thereafter, St. Sixtus was seized and incarcerated, together with his deacons Felicissimus and Agapitus. When Archdeacon St. Laurence saw Pope Sixtus being taken to prison, he tearfully exclaimed, “Where are you going, Father? Why are you abandoning your archdeacon, with whom you would always offer the Bloodless Sacrifice? Take your son with you, so that together we might shed our blood for Christ’s sake!” St. Sixtus replied, “I am not abandoning you, my son. I am an old man, and am going to face an easy death, but you must yet face more difficult suffering. Know that but three days after our death, you also will follow me. Now, go sell the church’s treasures, and distribute the proceeds to the persecuted and needy Christians.” St. Laurence diligently obeyed the Holy Hierarch’s instructions.

Upon hearing that Pope St. Sixtus and his deacons were to be taken to be tried, St. Laurence went to witness their ascetic struggle. He said to the Holy Hierarch, “Father, I have already done as you directed, and have distributed the treasure which you entrusted to me; do not abandon me!” Upon overhearing mention of treasure, the soldiers arrested him; they put the martyrs to the sword, beheading them († August 6, 258). The Emperor had St. Laurence imprisoned and placed under the direct supervision of the prison warden, Hippolytus. By his prayers St. Laurence healed many sick people that gathered around him in the prison, and he baptized many people. Hippolytus was amazed by this; he came to the Faith, and, along with his entire household, was baptized by St. Laurence. Soon Archdeacon Laurence was once again brought before the Emperor and ordered to show him the hidden treasure. St. Laurence replied, “Give me three days, and I will show you the treasure.” Over the course of those three days, he gathered together a multitude of poor and sick who had begged alms of the Church. Bringing them [before the Emperor] he announced, “Here are those vessels into which the treasure has been deposited. Everyone that deposits his treasure into these vessels receives treasures in abundance in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Afterwards, in attempts to compel St. Laurence to worship the idols, he was submitted to cruel tortures. They beat the martyr with scorpions (a thin iron chain studded with sharp barbs), inflicted him with burns, and beat him with switches made of tin. As the Martyr was suffering, a soldier named Romanos suddenly exclaimed, “St. Laurence, I can see a brightly radiant youth standing next to you and wiping away your wounds. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I entreat you not to abandon me!” Afterwards, they took St. Laurence off the rack and returned him to Hippolytus in the prison. Romanos brought a pitcher of water, and begged the Martyr to baptize him. As soon as Romanos had been baptized, other soldiers beheaded him († August 9). When Holy Martyr St. Laurence was about to be brought out for his final trial, St. Hippolytus told him that he wanted to announce that he was also a Christian, so that he might die along with him. However, the Confessor said, “For now, keep your confession hidden in your heart. Soon I will call you, and you will hear and will come to me. Do not weep for me, but rather rejoice that I am going to receive the glorious crown of martyrdom.” He was placed upon an iron grate over burning coals; servants used bear-spears to press the martyr’s body to the grate. Looking upon the authorities, St. Laurence said, “Well, you have baked one side of my body; now turn it over, and consume my body!” Near death, he exclaimed, “I thank Thee, O Lord Jesus Christ, that Thou hast made me worthy to enter into Thy gates.” With those words, he gave up the ghost.

That night, St. Hippolytus took the martyr’s body, bound it with shrouds steeped in aromatic spices, and informed Presbyter Justin. In the house of the widow Kyriakia, the All-night Vigil and Divine Liturgy were served over the martyr’s Holy Relics. All of the Christians present communed of the Holy Gifts, and on August 10, 258, with due honor interred the body of Holy Martyr St. Laurence the Archdeacon in a cave. On August 13, three days after St. Laurence’s death, St. Hippolytus and other Christians were martyred, as he had foretold.

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