(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, Aquila and Priscilla, come from Volume 1 of the series.)
Saints Aquila and Priscilla
There are few saints who are commemorated twice in the Church’s calendar, but such is the case of Aquila. He is remembered by the Church both singly on July 14 and together with his wife on February 13. The name of Aquila’s remarkable wife who attained sainthood with him was Priscilla. Her name is synonymous in ecclesiastical history with piety and Christian zeal of the greatest magnitude.
Born a God-fearing Hebrew in a remote region of the Black Sea, Aquila, together with his equally devout and highly intelligent wife Priscilla, settled in the ancient city of Corinth in the year 48 during the reign of Claudius, emperor of Rome. Aquila was a tentmaker, a trade which he shared with the great St. Paul. In fact, he met St. Paul in Corinth and this event changed the course of his life as well as that of his wife. After listening to St. Paul, Aquila and Priscilla converted to Christianity. As a matter of fact, St. Paul was so impressed by his new converts that he himself baptized them into the Christian faith. That St. Paul greatly loved them is evidenced by the fact that they were mentioned several times in his Epistles (Romans 16:3; 1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Timothy 4:19).
St. Paul, the greatest of the apostles, carried the message of Christ to more people and more nations than any other apostle, and it was evident that throughout his magnificent crusade no one was closer to him than Aquila and Priscilla. The fact that this couple had such a close relationship with St. Paul is itself enough to ensure their immortality. Yet they were much more than favorites of Christ’s chief vicar. Their mutual affection stemmed from their common purpose of bringing the hope of Jesus Christ to all people, a glorious effort in which all three were to share joys and sorrows.
At a dangerous time for Christians, when Roman agents were lurking in every corner and were bent on throwing Christians to the lions, Aquila and Priscilla labored for Christ without regard for their own safety. They were not fed to the lions, but the Church Fathers tell us that they were put to death for their steadfast belief in Jesus Christ. They were beheaded, as was their beloved St. Paul, because the law specified death by the sword for Roman citizens.
Not everyone mentioned in the New Testament or associated with the great St. Paul has been made a saint, but the exceptions are the husband and wife, Aquila and Priscilla, a team whose missionary efforts on behalf of Jesus Christ are shrouded for lack of written record, except for the mention of their names by St. Paul himself. There are accounts, the Bible aside, of their having gone afield to preach the gospel, but exactly where and for how long is a matter of speculation. The manner in which they died is also a matter of speculation as well. Despite scattered and unconfirmed reports that vary from author to author, one thing is a certainty.
Unlike others who had been approached by St. Paul but declined, Aquila and Priscilla enthusiastically took up the cause of the New Faith and, with St. Paul as their mentor, took to the road to preach the word of Christ. Inasmuch as the ultimate end for those who dared to go forth for Christ was an ignominious and barbarous death, it is assumed that this husband and wife team finally came to a violent end by being put to the sword.
Whatever their end, however, there is evidence enough that, as protégés of St. Paul, they did preach the word of the Savior. Where they went and how long their mission lasted is subordinate to the fact that they both gave their lives over for Jesus Christ and can be numbered among the first saints of the Greek Orthodox Church.This gentle pair was a source of great joy to St. Paul, the supreme apostle of Christ, and for that alone they merited a place in heaven. Moreover, they were an inspiration to countless Christians. It is because of the selfless devotion of men and women like Aquila and Priscilla that we enjoy the strong faith of Christianity today.
Text from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints. Image from Wikimedia.