For all the Saints: Fevronia
In the Orthodox Church, at a service before each Divine Liturgy, the breads for Holy Communion are prepared for use. In this service, called the proskomedia, we cut out small portions of the bread to commemorate universal saints along with the local living and faithful departed. This beautiful service is full of prayer and praise and memory of those loved at home and abroad. In many parishes people buy loaves called prosphora (“gift”) that are used to commemorate family members or friends during the proskomedia. These loaves are returned at the end of the liturgy and then consumed in honor of the living or the departed.
St Fevronia is remembered each time at the preparatory service. The Orthodox Church also remembers her on June 25th, Roman Catholics on February 12th. Each time we cut out a portion of a loaf to commemorate the venerable fathers and mothers of faith, we recall St Fevronia in love and admiration.
Fevronia came from the family of a Roman Senator named Prosphorus. Apparently she received some education. Fevronia’s family contained a number of Christians, and she traveled east to be received into a monastery in Assyria (today Iraq) where her aunt Bryaena was abbess.
Diocletian was emperor at Rome during this time (284-313). His reign was marked by political consolidation but also by cruel persecution. After his reign, Constantine made Christianity legal and the era of persecutions ended.
Diocletian sent legates across the empire to stamp out Christians. Silenus and Lysimachus were sent to Assyria, and in 310, found the monastery where Braena and Fevronia lived at Nisibis.
Fevronia was reader; that is, she read sacred books to the sisters during meals – a practice continued in monasteries to this day. Fevronia was only twenty years old, but she had much wisdom and was respected in the community. Silenus tried to persuade her both to leave the convent and to marry him, but she refused both offers. She was, instead, cruelly disfigured and murdered. Lysimachus returned her body to the monastery and was received into the faith, along with some soldiers, because of her courage in martyrdom.
Fevronia lived long ago and far away. Yet we remember her often, especially in Orthodoxy, as one of those Lights of faith who illumined the path for the expansion of Christianity, thus proving once again the famous epithet of the early writer Tertullian: “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”