St. Eugenia of Rome icon (1)
Orthodox icon of Saint Eugenia, Nun-Martyr of Rome.
Commemorated December 24.
Holy Martyr Eugenia was brought up in a pagan family in Alexandria. Her Father Phillip was the prefect of Alexandria and a highly respected man who governed fairly. He appreciated the Christian's orderly way of life. He let them remain in a place outside the city walls where they had settled. Eugenia was a learned and beautiful young woman. The counsel of Rome, Aquilius, asked Phillip's permission to marry Eugenia. But she wished to remain a virgin. Since she enjoyed learning she had read many books about Christianity and believed there was a True God but she hid this view from her parents.
One day she was allowed to go outside the city accompanied by two eunuchs for her protection. As they traveled they came upon a Christian church and she began to tell the eunuchs her belief in Christ, telling them only the Christians know the truth which can be seen by their way of life. She told them she desired to become a Christian and if they wanted to remain as her servants they too should become Christians.
They agreed and left the carriage carrying Eugenia unknown to the others. The others continued with the empty not knowing it was empty. Eugenia and her two servants found a monastery where Bishop Elenos was. She disguised herself as a man by cutting her hair and putting on men's clothing. They joined a procession which was part of a vigil being held. Later they approached the Bishop and asked to be baptized and he made arrangements for them to stay on the monastery. Meanwhile, the carriage had returned to the palace and her family discovered she was missing and began to weep.
Soon the entire city was weeping for her loss and no one knew her whereabouts. Now the Bishop had a vision which revealed the identity of Eugenia but he kept it as a secret. Eugenia was a virtuous monk and received the Schema of monks. She kept all the monastic vows and eagerly participated in all the services. Shortly, she received powers for healing and worked wonders for those who came to visit the monastery with various sicknesses. After three years the abbot dies and they ask Fr. Eugenius (Eugenia) to become the abbot. She accepted with great humility and proceeded to perform the lowest of duties.
One day a wealthy woman of Alexandria became ill and sought healing from the Fr. Eugenious. She was healed and then offered a gift of gold and silver which was refused, asking her to distribute them to the poor and needy. But she then went to the monastery and beseeched them to accept her gift which they did so not to cause her any grief. This woman whose name was Melanthia began to visit the monastery regularly and developed a desire for Fr. Eugenius. She pretended to be ill again and sought Fr Eugenius to come to her house. While there she disclosed her lust and Fr. Eugenius rejected her and left for the monastery.
Melanthia in fear that she would be shamed, set out to defame Fr Eugenius and accused him of attempted rape. The abbot was brought to trial by the prefect Phillip and he ordered all the monks of the monastery to be held in prison. Unable to way Phillip to save the lives of the pious monks, Eugenia chose to reveal her true identity. She tore open her upper garment revealing that she was a woman. She then said to her father, I am your daughter, Eugenia. He along with the rest of her family were joyous. In their joy they were baptized along with many others. Phillip gave orders that Christians would no longer be prevented from living in the city.
Those with pagan roots in the city then plotted against Phillip fearing their religion would become extinct and took their case to Rome. Phillip was ordered to honor the pagan gods or to be stripped of rank and wealth. Phillip on hearing this he sold all his possessions distributing the proceeds to the church and the poor. The local citizens wanted to make him their bishop which the Church did. When the Roman emperors heard about this they set in motion a plan to kill Phillip. They appointed men to impersonate Christians and then while Phillip was at prayer stabbed him. Phillip lived for three days and encouraged the newly made Christians to be steadfast in their faith. He surrendered his soul to God after 13 months as Bishop.
Eugenia's mother, Claudia, built a hospice near the church where her husband was buried. After awhile she and her sons and Eugenia returned to Rome. At this time a woman named Vasilla who was betrothed to Pompeius one of the chief princes, desired to learn from Eugenia about becoming a Christian. They secretly corresponded and eventually Vasilla converted her uncle who was her guardian so the two of them could meet regularly. This was the time when Valerian and Gallienus reigned and commenced brutal persecutions agains the Christians. One of Vasilla's servants went to Pompeius to advise him that she had become a Christian along with her uncle.
He become angry and immediately sought to arrange for the marriage ceremony. But When he went to Vasilla's house she refused to marry him desiring to remain a virgin. He became demonized and took his plight to the emperors. He obtained the order to have Vasilla and Eugenia killed if they refused to honor the pagan gods. When Vasilla heard of this she confessed her faith and was immediately beheaded. Next Eugenia's brothers were killed. Then Eugenia was brought to trial.
After Eugenia had proclaimed her faith in Christ and discredited the pagan gods the prefect of Rome ordered her to be brought to the temple of Diana along with the executioner. At the temple she stood in prayer which was followed by an earthquake smashing the idol of Diana. The emperor ordered that Eugenia be bound with a huge rock tied around her neck and cast into the sea. But when she was cast into the sea the rock detached. Next she was thrown into a fiery furnace which did not harm her. She was then cast into prison to die of hunger. But the angels brought her food. Eventually the Emperor ordered that she be beheaded which happened on the day of the Nativity, December 25th.
We Also Recommend