(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. Phlegon, whose account is found in Volume 2 of the series.)
Saints Phlegon, Agabos, Herodion, Rufus, Hermes and Asynkritos
Not even the most discerning Christian, with the possible exception of the avid Bible reader, has been able to see beyond the inner circle of the disciples of Jesus Christ, of whom there were, as everyone knows, a full dozen, to see in the outer fringe of the holy circle of the Savior that there was a larger group of apostles who were seventy in number. The names of the twelve original apostles can be readily called to mind, at least a few, if not all. Yet hardly anyone can call out the name of any of the seventy apostles, each of whose service to Christ was no less a contribution individually than the sanctified dozen.
If the roll were called for a representative group of seventy of those privileged to serve the Savior while he walked the earth, a sacred six would answer to the names of Phlegon, Asynkritos, Herodion, Agabos, Rufus and Hermes, a holy sextet which is commemorated in April in symbolic memory of the entire group who gave their lives to Jesus Christ. The entire seventy were as unnamed and faceless members of a holy symphony that struck the first and lasting chords of a great Amen to the word of Jesus Christ, a mighty sound that echoes still and will reverberate as long as there is a follower of Christ left to sustain it.
The 8th of April has been selected by Church Fathers to commemorate by name the little-known band of apostles, while yet commemorating the remainder who, though nameless on this occasion and therefore unknown, are known to God to the last man, each of whom occupies a special place in the kingdom of heaven. The six have been made immortal through the Epistles of St. Paul, and whether they were selected at random or in any other manner taken from the ranks of the seventy, the common purpose served in honoring them is that by so doing all are honored.
The first, Herodion, is mentioned by the great St. Paul when he wrote to the Christians of Rome, “Salute Herodion my kinsman, greet them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lord” (Romans 16:11). In referring to his kinsman, St. Paul reminds in a brief wording that Herodion has served the Messiah with decided fervor and extreme devotion. He was at the side of St. Peter himself as both preached the message of Jesus Christ in the New Patras area of Greece and was one of the first to die for Christ at the hands of the merciless pagans.
Agabos was not only an apostle but a prophet as well, who foretold of the agony of St. Paul in Acts (21:10), which reads, “And there came down from Judea a certain prophet named Agabos, when he was come unto us he took Paul’s girdle and bound his own hands and feet and said, ‘Thus saith the Holy Spirit. So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle and shall deliver him into the hands of the gentiles.’” Agabos also prophesied a great famine: “And there stood up one of the prophets named Agabos and signified by the Spirit that there should be great death throughout all the world, which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar” (Acts 11:28). Ever serving the Messiah, Agabos died in Antioch.
Rufus was ordained bishop of Thebes and is said by St. Paul to have been “chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine” (Romans 16:13). His ministry as bishop of Thebes was one of the longest and most glorious in the service of Christ. He was the prime mover of the Christian movement in the area of Thebes for a good number of years.
Phlegon was appointed bishop of Marathon, Achaia, Greece at about the same time that Asynkritos was made bishop of Hyrcania, each preaching the gospel with a convincing fervor that won many converts and in the end won them envious enemies as well. Both of these men were martyred in the name of the Savior.
Appointed to serve as bishop of Philippi, Hermes was the equal of any of his peers in the first hierarchy as noted by St. Paul, who said, “Salute Asynkritos, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes and the brethren which are with them.” The brethren of which St. Paul speaks are the gallant seventy who gave themselves to Jesus Christ.
Text from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints. Image from GoArch.