+ 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.”