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Holy martyr Agatha

On February 18th (the 5th, old style) the Church commemorates the holy martyr Agatha.

Saint Agatha came from Sicily, from the city of Palermo, and was the daughter of noble and wealthy parents who brought her up in Christian piety. When the Christians were persecuted during the reign of emperor Decius (249-251 A.D.), Saint Agatha was brought to the city of Catana to stand before the iniquitous persecutor Quintian, who was inflamed with vile desire for her and at the same time wanted to take possession of her estate. The saint courageously confessed Christ and was cruelly tortured, and afterwards thrown into a dank prison.

Holy martyr Agatha
Holy martyr Agatha.

At midnight the holy apostle Peter appeared to her and healed her wounds, and after that an extraordinary light filled the prison throughout the entire night, so that the prison guards ran away in fear and left the prison unlocked. The other prisoners tried to convince Saint Agatha to escape, but she did not want to be deprived of a martyrs crown. Soon the brutal persecutor once again called Agatha to him, and becoming enraged at the sight of her blooming appearance, gave her over to even crueler tortures. At that time a strong earthquake shook the city, and the frightened citizens demanded from the persecutor to let go the innocent maiden, for whose sake the earthquake had occurred. Quintian, fearing both the earthquake and popular unrest, once more ordered the holy martyr to be taken to prison, where she finally died. Then the inhabitants of the city took her body and buried it with honor.

After that Quintian took his soldiers and set out for the city of Palermo, in order to take Saint Agathas wealth and seize her estates. Along the way he had to cross a deep river. He stepped with his horses onto a ferry boat and sailed across the river, but suddenly the horses went mad and turned against him, wounding him terribly and pushing him into the river, in which the persecutor drowned, ending his evil life with a horrible death. His body was searched for a long time, but never found: it perished together with his soul. After that none of the Emperors governors dared offend any of Saint Agathas relatives. Her fame spread widely, and a church was built over her holy relics; the ragged clothes which she deliberately wore as a symbol of being the servant of Christ were placed on her tomb in remembrance of her humility.

A year after Saint Agathas death, the nearby mountain Etna began erupting fiery lava. The inhabitants of Catana were terrified, fearing the destruction of their city. Then not only Christians but also infidels gathered in the holy martyrs church, took her clothes and used them to defend themselves from the fiery torrents rushing at the city, for as soon as the martyrs clothes appeared, the fire miraculously ran back and became extinguished. Seeing such a great miracle, all the inhabitants gave glory to God and the holy martyr Agatha.

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