On June 20, the longest day of summer, the Church honors the memory of the Holy Martyr Theodotus of Ancyra. The saint suffered for Christ during the Great Persecution of Diocletian (303-313).
In the Ancient Church, he was revered as a benefactor and unmercenary. In the Russian Church, Saint Theodotus received special veneration at the turn of the 16th-17th centuries since he was the heavenly patron of Tsar Boris (1552-1607). The saint was depicted on the Godunov family icons.
According to the place of his origin and suffering, the saint is called Theodotus of Ancyra. Angora or Ancyra, the modern capital of Turkey Ankara, was the main city of the ancient historical region of Galatia. In the era of the Ecumenical Councils, Ankara was the church metropolis in the central part of Asia Minor.
About a century and a half after the martyrdom of the saint, the diocese of the city was headed by a bishop named after the martyr. In some ancient menologions, his memory, also called Theodotus of Ancyra (+446), was laid on November 2. Theodotus was a zealous supporter of the Christological teachings of Cyril of Alexandria (+444). However, prior to this, his theology was not impeccable. This is the reason why his veneration in the Ancient Church was not universal. It is surprising that such a coincidence of the names of the martyr and the bishop from Ankara gave rise to one proverb «Феодот да не тот» in Russian folk piety, which is literally translated as “Same Theodotus only different”.
Many martyrs of that time were clergy or served in the Roman Army. By the way, the Ancient Church saw a certain asymmetric analogy of the predestination of belonging between serving the earthly emperor and the Lord Jesus. Unlike them, Theodotus was "merely" a layman. Before his call to martyrdom, and the ancient Christians perceived suffering for Christ as the exclusive choice of grace, Theodotus literally and daily fulfilled the biblical commandments.
By the name of his profession, the saint is also called "Theodotus the Innkeeper". Interestingly, some ancient Church canons forbade Christians, especially clerics, from visiting drinking establishments and inns. Scripture and the testimony of Theodotus' martyrdom involuntarily make us exclaim with Peter: "Truly I know that God does not show partiality, but in every nation he who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him" (cf. Acts 10:35).
Let us recall that the Apostle uttered these words when he witnessed the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Cornelius the Centurion. He came to faith not being a Jew, but a Gentile. In its significance for the fate of all subsequent Christianity, the event described in the Book of Acts was truly revolutionary. The Jews considered the Gentiles unclean; they considered communication with them forbidden (cf. Acts 10:28). It served as the beginning of the worldwide preaching of Christianity. In fulfillment of the words of the Gospel (cf. Matt. 28:18), the whole universe, and not only the Jewish people, as the Apostles formerly believed, from now on turned to Christ.
Similarly, the Christian testimony of Saint Theodotus, which took place in an entirely pagan setting, had an apostolic dimension. If all the Jewish people had believed in Christ, then Christianity would not have become universal. If Theodotus had carried out his ministry surrounded by fellow believers, and not in a “tavern”, she could have remained just a pious pastime.
Being the owner of an inn, the saint received and treated wanderers. Like the righteous Tobit from the biblical book of the same name, he buried the dead who remained without burial. (Tov.1;18). Imitation of the saints, especially the biblical ones, allows you to inherit their blessing. But before blessing, the righteous often must go through in practice precisely those trials that previously befell the great saints.
“Secretly I buried those whom the king killed. And the king searched for the corpses, but they were not found. One of the Ninevites went and reported to the king that I was burying them,” it is written in the Book of Tobit (1; 18-19). These words, spoken several centuries before the birth of Christ about the times of the people of God in dispersion because of the Babylonian captivity, were also fulfilled in the life of Theodotus.
Learning that in Ankara seven Christian virgins were killed for confession of faith, whose bodies the pagans threw into the sea, Theodotus made every effort not to leave their bodies without burial. Then he was reported to the authorities and forced to renounce his faith.
The names of the virgin martyrs are known Alexandra, Teсusa, Claudia, Phaine, Euphrasia, Matrona and Julia. The memory of the Seven Virgin Martyrs is also celebrated on another day, May 18 (31), together with St. Theodotus, the Angel of their last minute.
According to the life, Theodotus refused to sacrifice to the idols, endured many torments, and was so cruelly killed that his body ceased to be recognizable. After that, the murdered saint was loaded onto a donkey, which he had previously possessed, apparently in the hope that this person, who so “absurdly loved” the commandments, would thus himself remain without burial.
However, the animal carried its owner home, where the presbyter, named Fronton, recognized him by the ring that the saint wore in memory of the martyrs in the hope of inheriting their blessing. According to the beliefs of biblical times, the Messiah was to enter Jerusalem on a donkey. This was fulfilled at the Entrance of the Lord Jesus into Jerusalem (Mt. 21:1-7).
In imitation of the Lord, the mournful end of his life is a sign of the glory bestowed upon him. The ring of fatherly embraces (Lk. 15:22), the onset of the messianic time, when those who weep now will laugh (Lk. 6:21), and the dumb animals, like the donkey in Scripture, will speak (cf. 2 Pet. 2:16).