(Welcome to our Saint of the Day series! Each weekday, we present you with an excerpt from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints series, published by Holy Cross Orthodox Press. Today we commemorate St. Hermias the Martyr, whose account is found in Volume 2 of the series.)
Saint Hermias the Martyr
Although he was to follow by more than a century the apostles who served Christ, St. Hermias conducted a personal mission of the Savior that paralleled the original Christian missionaries with an exactness that suggests he was born a hundred years too late. He deserved to be in the company of those who walked with the Lord when he trod the earth as man, but before he was through with his life of service to Christ, he joined them in spirit very much as the Savior promised to all men and women who take Jesus Christ to their hearts.
The efforts of Hermias seem to have duplicated the efforts of those who preceded him by a century, principally because, like the original St. Philip who was called upon to combat the forces of evil practiced by one Simon the Sorcerer, he was called upon to destroy the forces of evil that would have annihilated the Christians and all that they stood for. The story of the conversion of the people of Samaria by Philip, followed by his successful stand against a notorious sorcerer of the day called Simon, is noted in the Acts of the New Testament, but the exploits along the same lines of Hermias are recorded elsewhere in obscure papers of the church fathers.
Hermias lived during the reign of Marcus Aurelius and Antonius Pius. In about the year 164 he moved to Komana, Cappadocia (in Asia Minor), after making a name for himself as a defender of the Faith during his youth and early manhood. In this area he established himself as a spiritual leader, ever ready to assist those in need, denying himself on many occasions to help others less fortunate than himself. There was no avenue of religion which he failed to travel, carrying himself into the heart of the Christian community which looked to him for guidance. He was never found wanting, whatever the need, and was well into the autumn of his years before he was really put to the test in a stand against evil in the form of sorcery and cults out to destroy the Christian Church.
At a time when he could look back on years of fruitful labor, he looked instead to the travail and demands of assuring the permanence of Christianity with the elimi-
nation of the impediments blocking the path of Christian progress.
The persecution of Christians was taking a fearsome toll, decimating the ranks of the followers of Jesus Christ; in addition, there appeared in this early century the evil forces that sought the complete elimination of Christianity. A provincial governor with the undeserved name of Sebastianos was a particular thorn in the side of the Christian community. Not content with the harassment already heaped upon innocent families, he sought to discredit their spiritual leader and thus bring about a swift end to the Christian Church. To this end, he hailed before him the venerable Hermias, heaping indignities upon him in public, and when this failed to stir the aging theologian, he resorted to physical punishments.
Hermias displayed an amazing durability for a man of years. Nevertheless, he was in a considerably weakened state, so much so that it was thought that in this debilitated condition he could be outsmarted by a youthful and vigorous adversary adept in the art of sorcery and the voodoo of the day. An anonymous soothsayer noted for his guile and cunning was summoned to overpower the weakened captive with his potions and forked tongue.
To the derisive verbiage thrust at Hermias in argument against the Son of God came only an outpouring from the ancient ascetic quoting the Bible and the word of God with ever-increasing fervor. To the alarm of the wretched Sebastianos, it was a convincing and compelling theological delivery that not only discredited completely the arguments of the sorcerer, but actually, in slow but sure manner, won him over to the side of the Christian defender. The rest of the onlookers not only witnessed a transformation that could never have been anticipated, but most certainly left giving serious thought to what they had seen and heard. The sorcerer was not the only one in the end to have taken Christ to his bosom.
The inevitable conclusion to this affair came with the pronouncement of the death sentence on Hermias and his anonymous convert on May 31, a date which, to all intents and purposes, marks the end of the black arts which sought to discredit Christianity.