St. Philopatere Mercurius
St. Mercurius was born to pagan parents in the year 225 A.D. in Rome. He was named Philopatere (a Greek name meaning “lover of the Father”). His father, Gordianus, was miraculously saved from death by an angel of the Lord, and he and his wife soon converted to Christianity. They preached, gave alms, and raised their son according to Christian teachings.
+ By the age of 17, St. Mercurius had already joined the Roman army and gained a reputation as a great swordsman and tactician. He was promoted to the rank of commander and given the name “Mercurius,” after the planet Mercury, which was supposed to signify good luck and glory.
+ During that time, the emperor Decius issued a decree that everyone in the empire must raise incense and sacrifice to the pagan gods or else suffer severe torture. The emperor declared that if any Christians were discovered, they would be subjected to this punishment.
+ Soon after this decree, Decius ordered his army to fight against the barbarians, and St. Mercurius was sent to battle. One day, at the peak of battle, the saint had a vision of man surrounded by light, who said, “O Mercurius, servant of Jesus Christ, fear not, nor be downcast, for I have been sent to help you and lead you to victory. Take this sword from my hand by which you will achieve victory, and when you overcome your enemies, remember the Lord, your God.” When St. Mercurius took the sword from the angel, he felt the Holy Spirit overwhelm him, and he fought with great bravery. He conquered the barbarians and their king, and the rest fled in terror. For this reason, the great saint is called “of the two swords” (Abu-Saifain); one sword is the military sword, and the other is the sword of divine power.
+ When Decius heard of St. Mercurius’ bravery, he made him supreme commander over the entire Roman army, at the young age of twenty-five. One night, the angel again appeared to the saint and reminded him to remember the Lord, saying, “I am the angel of the Lord who met you in the battlefield and gave you the victorious sword with which you have conquered the enemy and asked you to remember the Lord your God after victory. Now, I tell you, do not be afraid or troubled by the emperor’s decree; God has sent me to tell you that you shall suffer greatly for His name and you shall receive a crown of victory in Heaven. I will strengthen you until you fulfill your testimony. Your patience and good fight of faith will be heard of in every quarter and God’s name will be glorified in you.”
+ After the angel of the Lord left, the great saint was moved by God’s care and encouragement. He remembered the words and teachings of his father regarding the faith, and began to confess his weaknesses to the Lord: “Woe to me, sinful as I am and like a fruitless tree. I have nothing to count upon except God’s mercy. Look upon me, my God and my Lord. Strengthen me and preserve me in Your holy name until the last breath of my life.” St. Mercurius longed with his whole heart to be in God’s presence and be one of the heavenly King’s soldiers. He spent the entire night in prayer and spiritual ecstasy.
+ As he was finishing his prayers, two messengers sent from the emperor summoned him, but the great saint apologized and excused himself from the emperor. The next day, the emperor sent for St. Mercurius again, and this time the saint appeared before him. The emperor told him, “Let us go together to the great temple of Artemis and make an offering to her.” The hero Mercurius gave no answer, but quietly withdrew from the crowd.
+ However, the devil, in his animosity toward all good, seized the opportunity to discredit St. Mercurius in front of the emperor. One of the soldiers of the saint’s regiment informed the emperor that St. Mercurius refused to worship the pagan gods and persuaded others to cease worshiping pagan gods. Decius answered, “Perhaps you are jealous of the man against whom you have said such things. I will not listen to you unless I learn the truth by myself, face-to-face with Mercurius. Keep silent now and do not utter another word against this great man. And if you have said such things against him out of jealousy or hatred, you know that you will receive severe punishment. But if what you have said is true, then you shall receive many blessings from our gods and will be greatly rewarded by me.”
+ The emperor ordered the hero Mercurius to appear before him. Decius said to him, “Mercurius, was it not I who bestowed upon you great honor and promotion? Didn’t I make you supreme general over all the governors because of your intelligence and the victory which the gods bestowed upon us in war? Why should you change this great affection into bitter hatred? Is it true that you refused to worship the gods who gave you victory in the war?”
+ St. Mercurius said to Decius in a brave but gentle tone, “Let this honor that you speak of be yours, for even though I did go to war and fight, it was not I who conquered, but God Who has been gracious to me in Christ. Take away this honor that you have given me, for ‘naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return.’” (Job 1:21)
+ And taking off his military cloak and his golden belt, he threw them at the emperor’s feet, and cried, “I am a Christian. Hear, all of you, that I am a Christian. Here are your titles and your dignities. Take them back, for they will perish with every vanity in the world.”
+ Decius was stupefied. He marveled at the saint’s handsomeness, greatness, and strength. Decius tried to persuade the great saint to change his mind, for he loved the honorable youth. St. Mercurius refused to yield to the emperor’s pleas: “I will never stop worshiping my Master Jesus Christ for temporary honors, but by His grace, I will remain faithful to Him until death.”
+ Decius became furious and ordered St. Mercurius to be thrown into prison, saying, “Let this man who did not appreciate honor experience some disgrace.” While he was being led away to prison, the martyr rejoiced in the spirit and glorified God that he had been “counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” (Acts 5:41)
+ That night, the angel of the Lord appeared to the great saint, saying, “Rejoice, Mercurius, and do not fear the tortures of this tyrant. Trust in Christ, to Whom you have testified openly, for He will save you from every tribulation.” The angel disappeared and St. Mercurius was strengthened by these words.
+ The following day, Decius seated himself at the tribunal and called St. Mercurius before him, trying to persuade and threaten the great saint to renounce Christ. The martyr remained unmoved and replied, “I do not fear tortures, and I am not moved by death, because Jesus, our Lord, taught us in the Scriptures, saying: ‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you who you should fear: fear Him Who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell.’ (Luke 12:4-5) You have no power over me except over my body; you can do with it whatever you please.”
+ Despite the saint’s straightforward answers, Decius still tried to persuade him to change his mind by offering to make the saint second to the emperor in the kingdom. St. Mercurius replied, “Your majesty, your gods are the ones that our master King David sang about in the psalms: ‘Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak. Eyes they have, but they do not see. They have ears, but they do not hear; noses they have, but they do not smell… Those who make them are like them, so is everyone who trusts in them.’” (Psalm 115:4-6,8)
+ Even still, Decius tried to appeal to the saint to raise incense to the gods by telling him how much he loved him. St. Mercurius daringly replied, “Being tortured for the name of Christ is a great honor for me. I have voluntarily taken off all of your perishable honors and dignities. As a Christian, all I want is to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. My master and king, I have told you that I will never take your advice. Save yourself the trouble and do not ask me again. I am ready not only to suffer, but also to die for His holy name. Therefore, whatever you want to do to me, do not hesitate.”
+ The emperor asked about the saint’s origin and background. St. Mercurius said, “If you want to know about my race and my native land, I will tell you. My father’s name was Gordianus, a native of Scythia. He served as a commander in the Martusian regiment. He is a follower of the true God Jesus Christ, my heavenly Father. Thus, my native city is the heavenly new Jerusalem, the city of the great King, the King of kings.” The emperor asked the saint about who gave him the name “Mercurius.” The martyr replied, “My father named me Philopatere, but I was called Mercurius by my commander when I joined the army.”
+ The emperor gave the great saint one last opportunity to raise incense to the pagan gods. The great saint replied, “I have come to this place to conquer you and your father, Satan, through whom all evil exists. And when I conquer, a crown will be placed upon my head by the true Master, my Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, whatever you wish to do to me, do it quickly. For I am wearing the armor of God, and the shield of faith, by which I will overcome all your schemes and tricks set against me.”
+ The emperor, filled with fury, ordered soldiers to tie the saint’s body to four stakes, so that he would be stretched and suspended above the ground. Then Decius ordered the soldiers to strike St. Mercurius with nails instead of scourges. The great martyr endured these tortures with patience. Decius mocked the great saint, saying, “Where is your armor that you have spoken about? Where is your courage and great military power? Where is your God to save you from Decius?” The saint did not reply to the emperor, but instead looked up to heaven and said, “My Lord Jesus Christ, help me.”
+ Decius then ordered the soldiers to tear off the saint’s flesh with sharp blades and light red-hot coals beneath him in order to burn him alive. The flames were gradually extinguished by the flowing blood of the righteous man. The great saint endured all these sufferings calmly and bravely by the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. To prevent the great saint from dying quickly, Decius ordered St. Mercurius to be sent to prison again and watched strictly. The soldiers carried the saint’s half-dead body to the dark prison cell, and there was little breath left in him. Decius thought the saint would surely die in prison that night.
+ An angel of the Lord appeared to him that night, saying, “Grace and peace be yours, O valiant fighter! Have courage, for God has not forgotten you. He will support you to overcome the emperor and reveal the truth about his idols. Do not fear torture, ‘for our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.’” (2 Cor. 4:17) The angel healed all of St. Mercurius’ wounds and restored him to health, so that he stood up and praised God, Who had not abandoned him in his time of need.
+ The next day, Decius called St. Mercurius before him, and was astonished to find that the great saint, who had previously been at death’s door, stood before him with no wounds. Decius ordered his spear-bearers to thoroughly examine the saint’s body, and questioned if any physician had been allowed to see the saint during the night. But the guards told the emperor that no one had been allowed to see St. Mercurius, because they all thought the saint would die during the night. The emperor said, “You see what the magic of the Christians is like! How is it that yesterday he was fit for burial, and yet today he is standing up in perfect health?”
+ St. Mercurius replied, “I believe in my Lord Jesus Christ. It is true that you have power over my body, but you have no power over my soul, and all your punishments will not make me renounce my faith, for our Lord said: ‘Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him Who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.’” (Matt. 10:28)
+ The emperor ordered burning irons to be applied to the saint’s limbs, cheeks and sides. When this was done, instead of the expected smoke and stench of burned flesh, a strong sweet smell of spices rose from St. Mercurius’ body, so that everyone there could smell it. And, although St. Mercurius was suffering from the tortures, he did not utter a groan or shed a tear.
+ Decius said to the saint, “Where is your physician? Let him come and heal you. You even said that He has the power to raise you if you died.” St. Mercurius replied, “Do whatever pleases you. You have power over my body, but God is the Master of my soul. Even if you destroy my body, my soul shall live, for it is incorruptible.”
+ The emperor ordered the saint to be hung upside down from a tree with a very large stone tied around his neck, so that the great martyr would suffocate and die. But by the power of the Lord, the great saint was able to endure this torture for a long period of time. Decius, growing impatient, commanded that St. Mercurius be thrown in prison for the night and bound by chains.
+ Despite all the deadly tortures, St. Mercurius spent the whole night in fervent prayer. While he was praying, a great light filled the room, and immediately all of the chains fell off him. The angel of the Lord appeared to him, saying, “O beloved of Christ, have courage and win. Do not worry about these temporary tortures.” The angel wiped away all of St. Mercurius’ wounds, and then disappeared. The great saint was filled with peace and continued in fervent prayer, glorifying God Who had consoled him in his hour of suffering.
+ The next day, Decius again became angered when his officers told him that St. Mercurius had been healed of all his wounds. Decius pleaded with the saint to raise incense to the pagan gods, but the great saint remained firm in the faith. The emperor ordered his soldiers to flog St. Mercurius with a leather whip with four prongs, until the ground became saturated with the saint’s blood. During this torture, St. Mercurius prayed: “I give thanks to You, my Lord Jesus Christ, that You have held me worthy to suffer for Your holy name.”
+ Seeing that the prince Mercurius would not yield or waiver, and that many of the soldiers and people in the crowd became attached to the saint and publicly declared their faith in his God, Decius ordered that St. Mercurius be executed by the sword. The soldiers tied the saint’s nearly lifeless body to a horse and took him to the city of Caesarea in Cappadocia to execute him.
+ Arriving at the spot of his execution, the great saint and martyr asked for a little time to pray. While he was praying, a great light appeared; it was our Lord Jesus Christ, in great glory with His archangels and angels. The Lord, with His sweet gentleness, addressed St. Mercurius, saying: “Peace be to you, my beloved Mercurius. Your prayers and pleadings have ascended before me as good incense. Come and rest with Me in My Kingdom, for you have struggled well and kept your faith, and finished your course. Come now to receive the crown of glory which has been appointed to you. You were sincere and testified to My name before kings and princes regardless of sufferings. I will let your name be known in every part of the world and great miracles will be performed in churches that bear your name. Whoever writes down the story of your testimony and suffering, I will write his name in the book of eternal life. He who prepares your body for burial on earth, I will give him a celestial body on the day of judgment.
+ And the martyr, being strengthened in peace and joy by the vision of the Savior, said to those who were appointed to execute him, “Do what you have been commanded to do quickly, for the Lord Who invites everyone to repentance shall make you worthy of His grace, for He is rich and shows grace to those who go to Him with a gift and without envy.” After saying these words, the great saint and martyr, St. Philopatere Mercurius Abu-Saifain, offered his head to executors and was beheaded. After he was executed, his body became as white as snow and emitted a sweet odor of the best incense and herbs. Witnessing these things, many people became Christians.
+ On the twenty-fifth day of the blessed month of Hatour, St. Philopatere Mercurius received the crown of martyrdom.