The structure of the holidays and remembrances of Great Lent is surprising in its thoughtfulness. So, on the first Saturday the Church honors the memory of the Great Martyr Theodore the Tyro. In everyday usage, this Saturday is called St Theodore Saturday. The name Theodore in Greek means "Gift of God". The word "tyro" is translated as "recruit".
Theodore is one of those many ancient Christian martyrs who bore their martyr's testimony as soldiers of the Empire. This alone should attract special attention. For it testifies that Christ was very popular in the Roman army. It is surprising and paradoxical that warriors, even those who were by no means Christians, chose as their ideal not some deity, hero, or animal, such as Hercules or a dragon, but the Great Sufferer Jesus Christ.
Theodore Tyro suffered for Christ in an era known in history as the Great Persecution. It was a special, short-lived in terms of world historical scale, but for truth and history, the most important Era of Martyrs - the period between 303 and 313. From him, some ancient Oriental Orthodox Churches began their new chronology.
This persecution of Christians was deliberately initiated by the Emperor Diocletian and continued under his successors. He carried out reforms of imperial administration and apparently wished for the Empire to enter a new reformed life without Christianity. How it is reminiscent of the present!
Indeed, at that moment, the once powerful and invincible, but shattered Roman Empire, received a new breath. Like the apocalyptic beast, “which was wounded by the sword, but turned out to be alive” (Rev. 13:13), the Empire rushed to destroy Christianity. As in all times, the “holding back”, the katechon in Greek (2 Thess. 2:6-7), the great mysterious power, delaying the Coming of Christ, tried to keep the Christian faith from spreading worldwide.
This battle of ancient Rome against the intensified Christianity seemed to many to be the last battle of the devil against the Church. Armageddon of the Apocalypse (cf. Rev. 16:16).
The memory of the martyrs of the Great Persecution constitutes the most significant part of Orthodox liturgical commemoration of saint. Then, during the Great Persecution, Theodore became a martyr.
The first Christians called the days of the death of the martyrs "birthdays". They did not celebrate their biographical birthdays, but they celebrated the memory of the martyrs on the days of their birth into Heavenly Glory.
The "Birthday" of Theodore Tyrone is annually celebrated by the Orthodox Churches of the Julian calendar on March 2. It was on this day that he ascended, as a witness of Christ, to Heaven. In 306 he suffered for the Faith of Christ in the city of Amasia in the north of Asia Minor. The saint was burned alive.
The Early Christian Community believed that on the Blood of the Lord Jesus, the First Martyr (Apocalypse 3:14), and the martyrs joined to it by the shedding of their own blood, the Church of Christ is established.
The martyrs of the Great Persecution were very numerous. Those of them who were of royal or very noble origin, the Ancient Church called "great." This is what the word "Great Martyr" means. The original Christianity was the faith of the common people. Paul writes about this (1 Cor. 1:26). Therefore, the testimony of people of the royal family was very significant, in modern terms, of exceptional strength, extraordinary, universal.
“O abyss of the riches of God, His ways are inscrutable,” writes the Apostle (Rom. 11:33). The Lord decided that the name of Theodore entered the memory of the Church not only due to his origin and martyrdom, but in a special and unique way. The prayer for eternal memory was literally fulfilled. The Universal Church forever, for all time, remembered Theodore. This was due to a miracle performed by him around the year 362 in Constantinople.
Shortly after the Great Persecution, Emperor Constantine (+337) legalized Christianity. From the "new faith" forbidden according to Roman traditions and laws, it became permissible and legal. This event was a true revolution in Christ, it was unexpected, paradoxical, revolutionary. After him, all other "revolutions" turned into tragic imitations of the prototype.
By the middle of the 4th century, the number of Christians in the Roman Empire had greatly increased. It seemed that paganism was about to be finally defeated. The era of persecution was replaced by an era of dogmatic disputes.
However, in 361, a new Emperor, Julian, entered Constantinople. Educated, cultured, noble, and, most importantly, brought up in the basics of the Christian faith, Julian was catechumen. He was an "unbaptized Christian," as we would say today. It is important to remember that many Christians of that time, having already been catechumenized, preferred to be baptized on their deathbed.
Before Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430), the doctrine of original sin had not yet been formulated. Therefore, the truth about the inability of human nature, without baptism, to love goodness for the sake of God alone, has not yet been experienced and and fully understood.
In his youth Julian studied philosophy in Athens together with the future Saint Gregory of Nazianzus. He knew Christianity very well, understood how Orthodoxy differs from heresies. He took from him all the best and unique that he considered necessary and necessary, after which ... he proclaimed himself a pagan and renounced the Faith of Christ. He went down in history under the name of the Apostate.
The Church, as a Society of Believers, was in a state of confusion. Indeed, by that time, under the influence of the works of Eusebius of Caesarea, glorifying Constantine the Great, among Eastern Christians there was a conviction that the Providence of God irreversibly leads the Empire, and hence the Universe, to Christianization. Suddenly everything was reversed.
Julian the Apostate ruled for a short time. He persecuted Christians. But he did not pursue with cruelty, in the manner of the previous persecutions, but tried to destroy him with ridicule. In this he was remarkably modern, reminiscent of our post-modern times.
Julian tried to bring everything he knew about the Church to the point of absurdity. Thus, he brought back Orthodox bishops from exile, so that when they returned, they could fight the Arians, who, during the reign of the sons of Constantine and his successors, managed to occupy episcopal chairs.
According to ancient canons, two bishops cannot reside in the same city. Perhaps, being the first in history to create parallel church structures, he thereby provoked a canonical labyrinth in the Church, Julian was well aware of this!
“An idol is nothing in the world,” wrote the Apostle Paul. Therefore, everything sold on the market is fit for consumption (cf. 1 Cor. 8:4). Even if, perhaps, this food was dedicated to the gods, that is, it was considered idolatrous.
Julian knew these words very well. Therefore, as part of his logic of mockery, he ordered that the food sold in Constantinople be secretly sprinkled with idolized blood.
It is important to remember that the new capital of the Empire on the Bosporus was originally established by Constantine in 330, as a city free from ancient temples and idols, the City of God and originally Christian. Therefore, Julian's initiative was a truly daring, anti-Christian plan!
However, according to the words of St. Augustine in his opus magnum “On the City of God”, Constantine created the ‘City’ of his own name. And in this, perhaps without knowing it himself, he became like Cain. Therefore, the danger of paganization, that is, falling away into paganism, always remained. Julian hoped so.
At the same time, it should be recalled that the heretic Eudoxius (360-370) was the bishop of the city at that moment. It was an Arian bishop. He basically denied the deity of Christ. He did not confess the divinity of the Son of God, the Word, the Logos made flesh. Thus, a new circle of hell arose. Or, better, like a post-modern novel built from many parallel narratives, a new plot was created in a story called mockery of Christians. Evidently, Julian believed, this was creating an absurd impasse for the Сhristians.
But the Lord is a God who knows how to bring down. Theodore visibly appeared to Bishop Eudoxius and warned him not to touch the food offered. In return, he commanded the Christians to cook their own food.
So, during this new persecution, in Constantinople, for a brief moment, there was a return to the times of the Apostles. Christians nourished each other. This custom, which has become sacramental for us, that is, akin to a one-time sacrament, is reproduced by the Church every year in memory of Theodore. On this day, Saint Theodore invites the Church to join in his hospitality.
At that moment, as in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, "none of his possessions called anything his." “The multitude of those who believed had one heart and one soul, and they had everything in common” (Acts 4:32). So that even Bishop Eudoxius was not called by name in the narrative. This happened not only and not so much because he was a formal heretic, but due to the fact that, just as the Church is built on the blood of the martyrs, so in fellowship and brotherly love in the face of trials, it truly becomes the One True Body of Christ. It was an icon of the Unity of God, the History of the One Living One - the Lord Jesus Christ. “Where there is no Greek, no Jew, no circumcision, no uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free, but Christ is all and in all” (cf. Col. 3:11).
This celebration has many meanings. It simultaneously has a historical, moral, and dogmatic content.
After all, on the first Saturday of Great Lent the Church, using the example of the miracle performed by St Theodore the Tyro in Constantinople, celebrates the symbolic victory of Christianity over paganism in the person of Emperor Julian the Apostate.
It is important that this holiday precedes the Day of Orthodoxy on the first Great Lent Sunday, dedicated to the grateful remembrance of the victory of the Orthodox Faith over errors and heresies. Just as Julian is chosen as the archetype of pagan delusion, the Triumph of Orthodoxy is mainly dedicated to the victory over the Byzantine iconoclasm that raged in Constantinople and the entire Imperial Church in the 7th-8th centuries. In this case, for one liturgical day, it became the embodiment of all heresies.
Julian for all time became the prototype of the struggle of a godless or atheist state with Christianity and the Church. Historically, the Apostate pursued the goal of a return to paganism. As an emperor, and, at the same time, a philosopher and thinker, having previously been catechumenized in the Church, he knew Orthodoxy well. Therefore, he used many aspects of the external and internal life of the Catholic Church of that time to reform paganism.
In their writings, the Fathers of the Church paid special attention to Julian. For all time, he became the prototype of the struggle of a godless or anti-Christian state with Christianity and the Church. Historically, the Apostate pursued the goal of a return to paganism. As an emperor, and, at the same time, a philosopher and thinker, having previously been catechumenized in the Church, he knew Christianity well. Therefore, he used many aspects of the external and internal life of the Catholic Church of that time to reform paganism.
In this sense, he became the archetype of the process of secularization, as the use of the religious resources of the Church to create a new ideology, a civil or state religion.
Indeed, among other meanings, secularization is the use of symbols, rituals, buildings and even property of the Church for its own purposes, in particular the creation of a state or civil religion.
Thus, he became the archetype of the process of secularization, as the use of the religious resources of the Church to create a new ideology, or quasi-religiosity. Indeed, among other meanings, secularization is the use of symbols, rituals, buildings, and even property of the Church for its own purposes, alien to the original intention, in particular, the creation of a state or civil religion.
So, it becomes obvious that the celebration in honor of Theodore Tyrone is not just a memory of the one-time miracle of this saint in the history of Constantinople. As a symbol and personification of the victory of Christianity over paganism in all its forms, it is extremely important.
In 360, Julian was proclaimed emperor in Paris by the army. For the first time in history, this happened in such a way that the soldiers, in a solemn gesture of apotheosis, hoisted him onto a shield.
The heavenly hosts follow the Christ of Glory in the Apocalypse (Rev. 19:14). The same thing is sung in the Cherubic Hymn at the Divine Liturgy... Before his accession, Julian hid his paganism. Having proclaimed himself a pagan at the time of the coronation, by the very solemnity of what happened then, he imitated the one he opposed. In 363 Julian was killed in battle with the Persians. ‘You defeated me, Galilean! ' - his last words were this appeal to Christ.