Augustine Sokolovski

On May 3, according to the Julian calendar, that is, May 16 according to the secular calendar, the Church celebrates the memory of the holy martyrs Timothy and Maura. Saints are one of those very few ancient martyrs in the Orthodox Menologion who are glorified by the Ancient Church as spouses. Unlike many other holy martyrs and martyrs, the life and circumstances of suffering emphasize their family status. Like other holy spouses, Adrian, and Natalia of Nicomedia (305-311), Chrysanthus and Daria of Rome (+283), Timothy and Maura of Egypt are precious stars in the firmament of marital church memories.

Such veneration of the holy spouses is especially important in our time, when the very institution of marriage in secular society is going through a tragic period of oblivion, marginalization, and decay. In the modern world, marriage is under pressure, economically, ideologically, and legally, just as the first Christians were once persecuted by the Roman pagans for their neglect of generally accepted values.

In 386, Timothy and Maura suffered for Christ in the Egyptian city of Antinopolis in southern Egypt on the banks of the Nile near modern-day Luxor. It is known that at the same time, by decree of Emperor Diocletian, the city became the capital of Thebaid. Obviously, this change in status drew the attention of the Roman pagans to the Christians living in the city.

According to the vita, Timothy was an ordained reader. In addition, he was engaged in rewriting sacred and liturgical books. By order of the local ruler called Arian, he was captured. The pagans forced the renunciation of Christ and the sacrifice to idols. In the case of Timothy, the most important element of this renunciation in the eyes of the Gentiles would have been the handing over of the books he had transcribed.

It is important to note that during periods of persecution of Christians, pagans often wanted to get their hands on the sacred books. Christians carefully concealed them. This ancient custom of keeping books separate from the places of prayer meetings is connected with the small entrance with the Gospel preserved in Orthodox worship. Nowadays, it's just transferred from altar to the same altar table. However, according to the original meaning, it should have been brought, for example, from the altar from outside, as it happens at the great entrance with the prepared gifts of Bread and Wine.

Those Christians who agreed to hand over the books to the persecutors were severely condemned by the communities and were called "traditores". Literally, this word means "transmitter" or "traitor". In addition to the ancient etymological play on words along the line “tradition - transmission - traitor”, which is already visible in the Gospel of John in the conversation between Jesus and Pilate (cf. John 19:11), an interesting semantic line between betrayal and the mass media emerges here!

So, unlike the secret discipline of the sacraments, when the content of the latter was carefully hidden from the uninitiated, that is, those who were not baptized in the Orthodox Church, the Books of Scripture were not apocrypha, that is, literally, from Greek secret, for example, in the library in principle could be available to everyone. However, with their direct transmission to the pagans, a different causal relationship arose.

It was an analogy with betrayal, that is, the transfer of Christ - the true book of the Living God - by Judas and Pilate to enemies cannot be ignored in this case. Judas was a private individual and a disciple, Pilate was a representative and bearer of authority. Jesus, the God-man, the true Messiah and the true private individual, was betrayed twice. Judas tried to master messianism, and Pilate tried to usurp the Throne. To paraphrase the words of the Liturgy and the Holy Fathers, this was a double betrayal, saving the world!

So, indulgence towards those who handed over books under the influence of circumstances sometimes became the cause of serious schisms and divisions in the Ancient Church.

At the same time, such reverence for the Holy Books was associated not only with the value of texts in the era of persecution, but also with the perception of Scripture as a kind of stage of the incarnation of God in history. Remembering Origen and Augustine, one could say that initially God was incarnated in creation, then in Scripture, in order to finally, in the last times, be incarnated from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary.

According to the passion, Timothy the Reader refused to hand over the books to the pagans. For this he was tormented. Hoping that his wife would lead him to renunciation, Maura was also brought to the place of suffering. But in an effort to testify to faith in Christ together with her husband, by the power of grace, she was in solidarity with Timothy.

This is how the marriage of the martyrs was revealed as an accomplished sacrament, how authentic solidarity in Christ. Both were tortured, mutilated, and then crucified. In such a cruel way, the persecution of Christians under Diocletian once began in Egypt.

Of particular importance in the suffering of Timothy and Maura was the semantics of the third day.

According to the vita, the saints were crucified against each other. So, they remained for nine days, three times like icons of flesh, blood, and tears in their co-crucifixion with Christ (cf. Gal. 2:19), revealing the great life-giving mystery of Christ's Resurrection. Jesus the Resurrected appeared to the Apostle Thomas on the ninth day, while the holy spouses visibly for nine days witnessed His death. “We proclaim Your death, O Lord, we confess Your Resurrection,” says the ancient Eucharist.

Belief in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the dead on the third day is an article of faith. Among the most important truths of Christian doctrine, he is mentioned in the Creed. Theological interpretation allows us to understand that the third day in the language of Scripture is synonymous with death. The third day in the tomb is the day when, according to the Gospel, the deceased is finally and irrevocably dead (cf. John 11:39). The third day is the time when not only the body of the deceased, but also all human hope is dead. The third day is the moment when God Himself begins to act.

It is known that the ancient Christians were not in the habit of celebrating personal dates. They also neglected their own birthdays. The birthday of the righteous in the community was considered the day of his departure to the Lord, or the subject of genuine spiritual thirst of believers in Christ of that time, the day of martyrdom - the birth of the righteous into eternity in Jesus Christ. On this day, the veneration of the righteous among the saints of God in subsequent generations was also supposed to be. It is important to remember that most of the saints' commemoration days in the liturgical calendar are birthdays understood in this original sense. So, the wish for «a happy birthday to you», so often heard around in song, can sound like an eschatological warning!