St. Theodorus, Surnamed Tyro, Martyr
ST. GREGORY of Nyssa begins the panegyric which he pronounced upon this martyr on his festival, at his tomb near Amasea, by gratefully ascribing to his intercession the preservation of that country from the inroads of the Scythians, who had laid waste all the neighbouring provinces. Imploring his patronage, he says: “As a soldier defend us; as a martyr speak for us—ask peace: if we want a stronger intercession, gather together your brother martyrs, and with them all pray for us. Stir up Peter, Paul, and John, that they be solicitous for the churches which they founded. May no heresies sprout up: may the Christian commonwealth become, by your and your companions’ prayers, a flourishing field.” The panegyrist testifies, that by his intercession, devils were expelled, and distempers cured: that many resorted to his church, and admired the stateliness of the buildings, and the actions of the saint painted on the wall; approached the tomb, being persuaded that the touch thereof imparted a blessing; that they carried the dust of the sepulchre, as a treasure of great value, and if any were allowed the happiness to touch the sacred relics, they respectfully applied them to their eyes, mouth, ears, and other organs of their senses. “Then,” says the same St. Gregory, shedding tears of devotion, “they address themselves to the martyr as if he were present, and pray and invoke him, who is before God, and obtains gifts as he pleases.” The venerable panegyrist proceeds to give a short account of the martyr’s triumph. 1
Theodorus was a native of Syria or Armenia, young, and newly enlisted in the Roman army, whence he was surnamed Tyro. With his legion he was sent into winter quarters in Pontus, and was at Amasea when fresh edicts were published by Maximian Galerius and Maximin, for continuing with the utmost rigour the persecution which had been raised by Dioclesian. Our young soldier was so far from concealing his faith, that he seemed to carry it written on his forehead. Being seized and presented to the governor of the province, and the tribune of his legion, he was asked by them how he dared to profess a religion which the emperors punished with death: to whom he boldly made the following declaration: “I know not your gods. Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, is my God. Beat, tear, or burn me; and if my words offend you, cut out my tongue: every part of my body is ready when God calls for it as a sacrifice.” His judges, with a pretended compassion for his youth, allowed him time to give the affair a second thought, and dismissed him for the present. Theodorus employed the interval in prayer for perseverance, and being resolved to convince his judges that his resolution was inflexible, by an extraordinary impulse he set fire to a temple of Cybele, which stood upon the banks of the river Iris, in the middle of the city; and the fabric was reduced to ashes. When he was carried a second time before the governor and his assistant, he was ready to prevent their questions by his confession.
They endeavoured to terrify him with threats of torments, and allure him by promising to make him the priest of the goddess, if he would offer sacrifice. His answer was, that their priests were of all idolaters the most miserable, because the most criminal. His body was unmercifully torn with whips; and afterwards hoisted on the rack. Under all manner of torments the saint maintained his former tranquillity and greatness of soul, and, seemingly insensible to the smart of his wounds, ceased not to repeat those words of the psalmist: I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall be always in my mouth. When the governor’s cruelty was tired, the martyr was remanded to prison, where, in the night, he was wonderfully comforted by God and his holy angels. After a third examination, Theodorus was condemned to be burnt alive in a furnace; which sentence was executed in the year 306, probably on the 17th of February, on which day the Greeks and Muscovites celebrate his festival, though the Latins keep it on the 9th of November, with the Sacramentary of St. Gregory the Great, Bede, &c. The body of this martyr was translated in the twelfth century to Brindisi, and is there enshrined, except the head, which is at Cajeta. The ancient church of Venice, of which he is titular saint, is said to have been built by Narses. A collegiate church in Rome, which originally was a temple of Romulus, and several churches in the East bear his name. 1 See St. Gregory of Nyssa’s Panegyric on this martyr, t. 2, Op. p. 1002, and in Ruinart. His acts in Metaphrastes, though conformable to St. Gregory in the main, have been interpolated. Papebroke, ad 17 Febr. promised another encomium of St. Theodorus Tyro by Nicetas Paphlago; also one by Nectarius of Constantinople. This last Lipomanus and Stirius have published in Latin. Lambecius mentions a Greek copy in the imperial library of Vienna. 2
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