(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's saints, Menas and his companions, comes from Volume 4 of the series.)
Saints Menas, Hermogenes and Eugraphos
The gifted speaker not only knows how to say something, but has something to say. Consequently, among the world’s greatest orators are clerics, because their main topic is the faith in Jesus Christ. Out of the countless preachers of merit who have come down to us through the centuries, the greatest was St. John Chrysostom (Golden Mouth). But in his shadow there was a voice which belonged to a man named Menas, whose reputation as a public speaker was well-known. It was only when he voiced his Christian philosophy that he established himself as a defender of the faith only to pay for it with his life, which he willingly gave for Christ.
Born in 235, some two centuries before St. John Chrysostom, he entered public life in Rome, rising to high office in the service of the state, while managing to keep his Christianity, which he cherished. Like so many others, he was a loyal citizen of Rome but his heart belonged to Christ. But in order to keep it that way, he was forced to keep his devotion to the Savior a secret.
His reputation as an orator earned him the title of Kallikelados, which translates into “sweet and beautiful voice.” In addition to possessing matchless speaking ability, he was an excellent administrator and became a troubleshooter for Emperor Maximianus. That is to say, when things seemed to be getting out of hand, one person the emperor trusted most to come up with solutions was the highly-regarded Menas. He not only had the backing of the emperor, but his own powers of persuasion as well, thus placing him in the ranks of the highest officials in the empire.
He had a trusted friend and ally in his secretary, a man named Eugraphos, who was also a devout Christian, and who was of incalculable assistance to him in his state work as well as a devoted comrade in Christ. It was not until he was assigned to Alexandria that Menas revealed himself as a true Christian. At the same time, the city that had been founded by Alexander the Great was a seat of unrest, primarily because it permitted freedom of expression. Free to express themselves as in no other city in the Roman Empire, philosophers, intellectuals and religious leaders gathered in daily sessions that sometimes grew too stormy, creating great unrest. It was at the height of confusion that Menas appeared with his secretary, and in a very short space of time had restored a semblance of order. It was at this time that the Christian leanings of Menas were brought out in a final, furious burst of oratory. He lashed out at the enemies of Christ, much to the delight of the Christians, but very much to the consternation of pagan Roman officials who did not know what to make of this well-placed official with unquestionable loyalty to the Messiah. It was a perplexed city official that sent back word to Rome of the defection of one of their most highly-respected citizens.
An unbelieving Maximianus read and reread the dispatches from Alexander, taking some time to regain his composure. At last he sent his magistrate, Hermogenes, an Athenian but still a loyal pagan, to see that justice was done. Menas knew of the coming of the magistrate but made no effort to escape, placing his faith in the Lord and in his own abilities. Meanwhile, the loyal secretary Eugraphos had come to the side of Menas in open declaration of his Christian faith, and both awaited the Roman contingent with courage and resolve.
When the trial began, Menas was allowed to speak in his own defense, and in an opening statement that lasted four hours he outdid himself in an unbroken torrent of words which defended the faith in Jesus Christ and made a mockery of the stone idols and rituals of the day. His thundering statements reached out to everyone present in convincing eloquence, except the flint-hearted magistrate who managed to turn a deaf ear to the most persuasive voice he had ever heard. His response was to halt all proceedings and to order Menas tortured and his tongue cut out. After a time, both the tongueless Menas and Eugraphos were summoned before Hermogenes, who expected to hear nothing but grunts from Menas, but heard instead the sweet voice, pure as ever. Hermogenes fell to his knees, now convinced and converted to Christ. The result was that all three – Menas, Eugraphos, and Hermogenes – were put to the sword at the command of the Roman governor.
Text from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints. Image from Wikimedia.