(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 saint, St. Theodore of Teron, comes from Volume 1 of the series.)
The life of St. Theodore parallels that of St. Auxentios because both came out of the military ranks to enlist in the service of the King of Kings. Unlike his counterpart, Theodore was not born of high station and did not scale mountains, in addition to which the state which he served cut short his life. He had his own individuality and identity in an approach to heaven not far removed from that of other saints, however, in whose company he is very much at home.
The origins of Theodore are not known, but had he been born into a family of prominence, it would no doubt have thus been recorded, so it is assumed he was one of the thousands whose physical equipment was such that they were drawn into the military service. He is said to have made a striking figure, a six-footer whose military prowess and straightforward manner caused him to be selected for service in what was known as the “Terian Legion,” an elite group noted for integrity and courage. The word Terian means “chosen” and Theodore was just that, except that at the time neither he nor his friends knew that he was chosen of God.
Although he had demonstrated an interest in Christianity while still a boy, Theodore had not become one until he was twenty-three, when, after some secret sessions with a kindly monk, he was baptized into the New Faith in about the year 305. Once baptized, he was not the passive Christian that accepts Christ into his heart and then does nothing to indicate that he is a follower of the Savior, the best indication of which is worship in the house of God. Unbeknownst to other members of the Legion, to whom Christianity was a mark of disrespect for the emperor, Theodore attended the morning liturgical services every day, kneeling with genuine humility before the cross.
Theodore managed to attend the Sunday services and to mark the holy days as well without incurring the suspicion of those who would have had him executed. Gradually, however, his faith in Jesus Christ was of such magnitude that he considered it a disservice to the Lord to withhold his abiding faith from anyone, so that he could no longer contain himself. He openly vowed his Christianity and made no further attempt to demean himself by surreptitiously striking a posture of humility in church and thereafter going about like other soldiers pretending not to know the love of Jesus Christ.
After one particularly sanguinary campaign in which he distinguished himself on the battlefield, Theodore knelt to offer prayers of thanksgiving for having been spared from the death suffered by so many of his comrades in arms. This was noted by those nearby, all of whom were his friends and who held him in such high regard, not one would dare reveal him in betrayal. This did not prevent them from cautioning him, however, to be more careful lest he be seen by someone envious of his popularity.
On the return from this particular campaign, the Terian Legion was cited for its extreme bravery and given a well-deserved rest, which for Theodore meant a pause to make up for the services he had missed while in the field of battle. He was further warned by friends, however, that the Emperor Maximian had stepped up his persecutions of Christians, sparing no one who would not accept him as a god to be worshiped along with the other gods of paganism. Theodore thanked his friends for their concern and said nothing else, but he was even more determined not to hide his faith in shame when he could scarely suppress a yearning to go to the public forum and speak out for the Savior.
The emperor had ordered the commander of the Terian Legion to bring his bravest officers to the temple of the god Rheas, where each could offer a sacrifice to the god as well as the emperor, thereafter to be honored for his heroism. Theodore used the torch with which he was to march before Rheas to set the temple afire. Later he passionately poured out his heart for the love of the Messiah. For this act, he was ordered to be burned to death, as he had burned the temple. Though he died in a fire, his body remained intact. He gave his life for Christ on February 17, 306 and was buried in a chapel in the province of Pontos, Turkey. When interred his body showed not the slightest scar, not even a singed hair, proving to all that he was favored of God.
Text from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints. Image from GoArch.org.