Augustin Sokolovski 

Today, January 12, the Church celebrates the memory of the St.Anysia of Salonika. The saint suffered for Christ during the great persecution of Diocletian (303-313) around the year 304 in Thessaloniki.

The testimony of the suffering of the holy martyr is extremely brief. Anysia was very young. At the same time, she was a consecrated virgin. It was a special church ministry, the specific features of which have not come down to us.

Consecration took place through the laying on of hands by the bishop. Perhaps in this rite there was something from the early Christian ministry of the deaconess.

As a sign of their initiation, the virgins wore a veil on their heads. In this outward appearance they were like the married women of that time. However, God alone was the Lord of their soul and body through consecration.

When the decree of persecution became known in Thessaloniki, the Christians hurried to pray. Usually they celebrated the Eucharist outside the city, on the tombs of the saints who suffered for their faith.

When in this way Anysia went to a common prayer, one of the soldiers stopped her near the city gates. Most likely, he guessed that she was a Christian. The combination of youth and the covered head betrayed in her a sign of consecratoon.

The soldier deliberately invited Anisia to go with him to a pagan festival and sacrifice to the gods there. When she refused, he tried to rip off the veil. In response, the saint spat in his face with the words: ‘May the Lord Jesus forbid you!’. (Jude 1:9). This cry was a Christian biblical confession of faith for protection from God. The soldier in anger cut the holy virgin in half with his sword.

The frantic Roman idolater rejoiced in his supposed victory over the 'God of the Christians'.

He did not know that he himself had been cut by the Hand of God. ‘The hands of God are Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit’, writes the holy martyr Irenaeus of Lyon (130-200)

Virginity in Christ is service to God in the Spirit. ‘The blasphemy on the Spirit will not be forgiven either in this age or in the future’, - as the Lord says in the Gospel (Matthew 12:31).

From the entire biography of the saint, we know only a few brief details. But these details make us understand what exactly in the martyrdom of the saint was precious for the memory of the Church. They help to look at a person in the beauty of his standing before God. They let us understand gestures of saints as a communication of biblical images and words. They talk about the Gift of Grace. And grace is communication.

In fact, in the indignant reaction of St. Anysia to the desire to mock her faith and rip off the sign of consecration, the words of the Lord Jesus addressed to those who are not able to believe because of their convinced mockery of all that is good, and therefore theomachism and hatred of God, were visible. ‘For the Lord is good’ (Ps. 33:9).

In the virgin’s spontaneous and defenseless indignation, which was naive and in fact completely doomed, the power of divine words shone. ‘I will cast you out of my mouth!’, says the Lord Himself in the Apocalypse (Rev. 3:16). 

So the saints, in their everyday, seemingly habitual gestures, became an icon of the Lord, mediators of His biblical words. This gesture of the virgin was a prophecy. Inspired by the Lord Himself. it meant that the soldier who killed her with a sword, was ‘already spit out by God’ and already condemned by the sword of his word (Rev.1:16).

According to the life, the body of Anysia was buried outside the walls of the city. A few decades later, when the persecution ceased, a martyrium was created on the site where an early Christian cemetery had formed during the era of persecution.

So in ancient times they called those churches that were built in memory of the ancient martyrs. The place of the commemoration of the martyr became a place of pilgrimage and worship, but its traces were gradually lost for centuries. Indeed, in 618, the shrine and the adjacent ancient cemetery were destroyed during the siege of the city by the Avars.

‘Can a mother forget the child that is at her breast, and not pity the child she has given birth to? But even if she forgets, I will not forget you!’, says the Lord (Is. 49:15).

In 1980 in Thessaloniki, during modern construction works, ancient burial places were unintentionally touched. At the same time, a martyrium was discovered, and an ark with the relics of St. Anysia of Thessalonica.

Now, in anticipation of the universal resurrection of the flesh, she rests in the Cathedral of the city. Blessed are the meek, for God smiles at them.