Martyr Agathopodes the Deacon, and those with him, at Thessalonica

The Holy Martyrs Agathopodes the Deacon and Theodulus the Reader lived in Thessalonica during the reign of the emperor Diocletian (284-305) and Maximian (284-305) and were among the church clergy. The holy Deacon Agathopodes was very old, and Saint Theodulus very young.

Both distinguished themselves by righteous life and piety. Once, St Theodulus had a vision in his sleep, in which an unknown person in radiant garb placed some object in his hand. When he awoke, he saw in his hand a beautiful ring with the image of the Cross and he realized that this was a sign of his future martyrdom. By the power of the Cross depicted on the ring, the saint healed many of the sick and converted pagans to faith in Christ the Savior.

When the emperor Diocletian issued an edict of a persecution against Christians (303), many attempted to hide themselves from pursuit, but Sts Agathopodes and Theodulus fearlessly continued to proclaim the Gospel.

Governor Faustinus of Thessalonica heard of this, and gave orders to bring them to him for trial. Seeing the youth and excellence of St Theodulus, Faustinus attempted flattery to persuade him to renounce Christianity and to offer sacrifice. St Theodulus replied that he had long ago renounced error and that he pitied Faustinus, who by embracing paganism had condemned himself to eternal death. The governor offered the martyr a choice: the fortunes of life, or immediate death. The saint said that he would certainly choose life, but life eternal, and that he did not fear death.

When Faustinus saw that he would not persuade Theodulus, he began to talk with St Agathopodes. The governor attempted to deceive him and said that St Theodulus had already agreed to offer sacrifice to the gods. But Agathopodes did not believe this. He was convinced that St Theodulus was prepared to offer his life for the Lord Jesus Christ.

Not having any success, Faustinus commanded the martyrs to be taken to prison. The holy martyrs prayed fervently and boldly preached the Word of God to the imprisoned, so that many were converted to Christianity. Eutinios, the head of the prison, reported this to the governor.

Faustinus again summoned them to trial and again he urged them to renounce Christ. Before the eyes of St Theodulus they brought forth some who had been Christians, but betrayed the Faith. “You have conquered the weak, but you will never conquer the strong warriors of Christ, even if you invent greater torments,” exclaimed St Theodulus. The governor commanded the martyr to produce the Christian books. “Here, is my body given for torture,” he answered, “do with it what you wish; torture me fiercely, but I shall not hand over the sacred writings to be mocked by the impious!”

Faustinus gave orders to bring St Theodulus to the place of execution, where an executioner readied a sword in order to cut off his head. The martyr bravely and with joy cried out, “Glory to You, O God, the Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, Who deigned to suffer for us. Here, by His grace, I am coming to You, and with joy I die for You!”

Then Faustinus halted the execution and again locked up the martyrs in prison. There the holy martyrs prayed fervently and both had the same dream. They were sailing in a ship, which was in danger of being wrecked in a storm. The waves cast them up on shore, arrayed in radiant white clothing. The saints told each other about the vision, and they gave thanks to God for their impending martyrdom.

In the morning, when the martyrs were again brought to Faustinus, they declared to him: “We are Christians and we are prepared to undergo any suffering for Christ.” Faustinus gave orders to cast them into the sea. The waves carried St Agathopodes to the rocks, and he loudly exclaimed, “This shall be for us a second Baptism, which will wash away our sins, and we shall come to Christ in purity.” St Theodulus was also cast into the sea (+ 303).

The bodies of the saints were washed up on shore. They were dressed in radiant garb, but the ropes and stones used to weight them down were gone. Christians took their holy bodies and gave them reverent burial.