February 2019 - St. Agatha, February 5

St. Agatha is one of the best loved and most venerated Martyrs of the West. She was born to a noble family in Palermo in Sicily.

At an early age she consecrated herself to the Lord and, though very beautiful, sought only to adorn herself with the virtues. During the persecution under Emperor Decius (251), she was arrested as a Christian; at this time she was about fifteen years old.

                Quintinian, the Governor of Sicily, was taken by her beauty and offered to marry her, thinking in that way not only to possess her body but her riches as well. When she spurned his advances, and continued to mock the idols, he grew angry and decided to have her tortured. She was gruesomely tormented and cast bleeding into a dungeon to die; but in the night her Guardian Angel brought the Apostle Peter to her, and he healed her wounds. The following day, the Governor ordered that she be subjected to further torments, but at his words the city was shaken by an earthquake and part of the palace collapsed. The terrified people stormed the palace and demanded that Agatha be released, lest they be subject to the wrath of her God. The Saint was returned to her prison cell, where in response to her prayers she was allowed to give up her soul to God.
                At Agatha's burial, attended by many, her Guardian Angel appeared and placed a marble slab on her tomb, inscribed with the words 'A righteous mind, self- determining, honor from God, the deliverance of her fatherland.'   Quintinian died soon thereafter, thrown from his chariot.

                On the first anniversary of Agatha's death, Mt. Etna erupted and the city of Palermo was about to be engulfed in lava. Christians and pagans together, remembering the inscription on her tomb, took the slab from the tomb and bore it like a shield to the river of lava, which was immediately stopped. The same miracle has happened many times in the following centuries, and Saint Agatha is venerated as the Protectress of Palermo and Sicily, loved and honored by Christians of both the East and the West.

                St. Agatha is buried at the ‘Badia di Sant'Agata’ church in Palarmo. She is listed in the Synaxarion, the calendar of the Orthodox Church of Carthage in North Africa, ca. 530. Saint Agatha is the patron saint of rape victims, breast cancer patients and nurses.

                Two early churches were dedicated to her in Rome, notably the Church of ‘Sant'AgatadeiGoti’, a titular church with apse mosaics of ca. 460 and traces of a fresco cycle depicting the Saint. Agatha is also depicted in the mosaics of ‘Sant'ApollinareNuovo’ in Ravenna, where she appears, richly dressed, in the procession of female martyrs along the north wall. Her image forms an initial I in the Sacramentary of Gellone, which dates from the end of the 8th century.


Troparion of St. Agatha (Tone 4)

Your lamb Agatha, calls out to You, O Jesus, in a loud voice:

"I love You, my Bridegroom, and in seeking You I endure suffering.

In baptism I was crucified so that I might reign in You, and I died so that I might live with You.

Accept me as a pure sacrifice, for I have offered

myself in love."

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