(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, Sts. Clement and Agathangelos, come from Volume 1 of the series.)
The hapless conspirator against a queen of England (while dangling at the end of a hangman’s noose) was disemboweled while there was yet life within him, a practice to which the royal house ordered a halt once and for all. But in the third century, an indomitable Christian defender of the faith met with all manner of cruelty calculated to bring him to the brink of death and back again by a succession of cruel monarchs who took fiendish delight in torturing a man whose only guilt was the preaching of love of the Savior.
The name of this venerated saint was Clement, more than half of whose noble life was spent in degradation and heinous abuse. Nevertheless, he held out to the end of a quarter century of intermittent torture in a display that only a man endowed with a divine grace could have endured for so prolonged a period of agony and remain steadfast in his allegiance to Jesus Christ.
Clement was a boy of twelve when his mother, a devout Christian who had foreordained the life of suffering for her son, fell ill and followed her husband in death, leaving Clement to the care of monks in a monastery near the city of Ankyra (Ankara). It was not unusual for monks to be entrusted with the care and education of a young orphan until he could fend for himself in the outside world. But the more Clement remained in the cloister, the greater he felt the urge to serve Jesus Christ. By the time he was twenty, his eight years of training convinced his elders that he was destined for greatness, although none could have foreseen the burden the brilliant young man would have to bear.
Clement served the city of Ankyra with such distinction that the Christians looked on him as their spiritual leader, one whose incessant efforts for the children and the underprivileged led to his appointment, at the tender age of twenty-one, to the post of bishop of the city of Ankyra and its province. The public exposure of such a Christian luminary inevitably drew the attention of envious pagan elements whose mounting hostility was ignored by a bishop pledged to preach the faith of Jesus Christ.
The youthful Bishop Clement was not yet twenty-two when he was snatched from his growing number of Christian friends by the vengeance-seeking pagans who set a course of utter misery for the plucky bishop that was to last an agonizing twenty-eight years. The records show that Clement was subjected to abuse and debasement under two Roman emperors, the infamous Diocletian (284-304) and the diabolical Maximianus (286-305), in a parade of horror fashioned by no less than nine regional rulers.
Under a relay team of torturers that seemed endless, the indestructible Clement faced a formidable array of persuaders who succeeded only in convincing themselves that their quarry was the superhuman product of sorcerers. They did not realize that he drew his strength and will to resist from the Divinity they blindly refused to acknowledge. The redoubtable bishop was taken from city to city in the empire, where he was not only tortured, but held up to ridicule and scorn for his beliefs. This was calculated to stem the rising tide of Christianity, but rather than be discouraged, the onlooker was drawn closer to Christianity at the sight of the Christian valor of a hierarch who refused to abandon the Messiah.
Clement’s parade of infamy led him to Rome, where he was cast into prison. There he met a fellow Christian named Agathangelos whom he embraced with the mutual love of the Messiah and each other. While authorities pondered their next move, the two Christian prisoners comforted each other. When finally led from the prison, they appeared so calm and resolute it was decided not to risk embarrassment in the capital city. Instead they were taken to a small town in the province of Galatia, where they were systematically put to every form of torture; they were stretched on the dreaded rack, whipped at the stake, seared with hot irons, and eventually flung onto beds of nails.
The last of the rulers wearied of this deadly game and had Clement and Aganthangelos returned to Ankyra, where Clement had served as bishop. They were beheaded, bringing to a close one of the grimmest chapters in ecclesiastical history on January 23.
Text from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints. Image from Wikimedia.