Toba 16 : The Martyrdom of St. Philotheus and the Departure of St. John IV, 48th Pope of Alexandria.
1. The Martyrdom of St. Philotheus.
On this day, the honorable St. Philotheus, whose name means "lover of God", was martyred. He was born in the City of Antioch, of pagan parents, who worshipped a bull, which they fed cakes made of fine flour and sesame seed oil mixed with honey. They also anointed the bull with spices and fine perfumed oils three times every day, and they gave it wine and oil to drink. They established two places for the bull, one for the summer, and another for the winter. They put around its neck a collar of gold, and golden rings in its legs.
When Philotheus was ten years old, his father asked him to worship the bull, but he refused, his father left him without punishment, for he loved him as he was his only son. As for St. Philotheus, because of his young age, he did not know the Living God, and he thought that the sun was the god. He stood once looking at the sun and said, "I beseech you, O sun, if you are God, tell me." He heard a voice coming from heaven saying, "I am not God, but I am a servant and a slave to God, Whom you will know, and you will shed your blood for His Name's sake."
When God saw the integrity of the child's heart, He sent His angel to inform him about the creation of the world, and the incarnation of the Lord Christ, for the salvation of mankind. St. Philotheus was pleased, and rejoiced in his heart. From that time on, he fasted, prayed and gave alms to the poor and those who were in distress.
After one year had passed, his parents had a great banquet for their friends, and they asked their son to worship the bull before they ate and drank. The child stood in front of the bull and said, "Are you the God that should be worshipped?" A voice came out of the bull saying, "I am not the God, but the devil has possessed me and I have become a deceiver of men." Then the bull jumped and attacked his parents and killed them instantly. The Saint ordered his servants to kill the bull, burn its body and scatter its ashes.
St. Philotheus prayed to God for the sake of his parents, and the Lord raised them up from the dead. Later on, he was baptized along with his parents in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God granted him the gift of healing the sick, and his repute reached Diocletian, the emperor. He brought him, and ordered him to offer incense to the idols, but he refused. The Emperor tortured him with all kinds of tortures, but the Saint never swayed from his determination. The Emperor tried again to persuade him by deception and flattery, and the Saint promised to worship Apollo as the Emperor commanded. The Emperor was pleased to hear this, and he brought Apollo along with 70 other idols, and 70 pagan priests and a herald went around to call upon the public in the city.
Great multitudes came to watch St. Philotheus worshiping Apollo. On their way, the saint prayed to the Lord Christ, and the earth was opened and swallowed the priests and the idol of Apollo. There was a great excitement and disturbance, and a great multitude believed and confessed the Lord Christ.
The Emperor was exasperated, and ordered them all beheaded, and they received the crown of martyrdom. St. Philotheus was also beheaded, and he received the crown of life.
His prayers be with us. Amen.
2. The Departure of St. John IV, 48th Pope of Alexandria.
On this day also, in the year 792 A.D,, St. John IV, 48th Pope of Alexandria, departed. He became a monk in St. Macarius' monastery. He persevered in intense worship and was reputed for his ascetic life. He was chosen by Pope Michael, 46th Pope of Alexandria and ordained a priest for the Church of St. Mina. Pope Michael entrusted him to manage the affairs of the church and to lead the people and direct all its property and offerings. He excelled in his duties.
When Anba Mina, 47th Pope of Alexandria, departed, the bishops, the priests, and the scholars of the City of Alexandria gathered and nominated several monks. They wrote the name of each of them on a piece of paper, and the name of Father John was among them. The bishops prayed and celebrated the Divine Liturgy for three days. Then, on the third day, they brought a child to draw one of the names. They found it to be the name of this saint, Father John. They returned the paper, mixed it with the other papers, and brought another child, who drew the same paper. This was repeated a third time. They were sure that the Lord had chosen Fr. John to become the next pope. They took him and ordained him patriarch in 768 A.D. He shepherded his flock well. He always preached the people confirming them in the Orthodox faith. He was also merciful to the poor and the needy.
During his days, there was a famine, to the point that one measure of grain (a Bushel) was sold for two Dinari. Many poor from different beliefs gathered every day at his door. He delegated to his disciple Mark to use the money of the churches to feed the poor and satisfy their needs. He offered to everyone without distinction of faith until God removed this famine.
Anba John was dedicated to building many churches. When the time of his departure drew near, he called on the priests and said to them, "On the 16th of Toba, I was born and was also ordained Pope, and on this day also I will depart from this world." When the bishops and the priests heard this, they wept and said, "Who would become our Father after you?" He said to them, "The Lord Jesus Christ has chosen my disciple Fr. Mark to this rank."
After he had completed 23 years and several months in the papacy, he departed in peace.
His prayers be with us and Glory be to our God forever. Amen.
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