Saint of the Day: St. Hermione

(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. Hermione, whose account is found in Volume 3 of the series.)
Saint Hermione

A little-known heroine of the Christian faith, Hermione was the daughter of one of Christ’s apostles. Although she might have made her way to heaven on the coattails of her father, she not only made it on her own, but became a saint herself. Her father was Philip, who at the time of his calling had four daughters. All four daughters of St. Philip were very beautiful and quite talented, but of the four, only Hermione was to follow in her father’s footsteps.

According to Church records, after her father’s death, Hermione journeyed to Asia Minor to find John, the one remaining apostle of the original twelve. But John, who had been preaching at Ephesus when Hermione left her home, died before she could reach him, the only one of the twelve to die a peaceful death. Hermione then resolved to labor in the vineyard of Christ in the tradition of her father.

In 105 she took up the challenge for Christ by working with a highly-respected clergyman, a missionary named Petronius, whose reputation for pious zeal was already established. It was then that Hermione’s skill as a physician was discovered and, with the help of Petronius, she concentrated on the care of the sick and the handicapped. During this time Hermione also began to display the power of prophecy. Her uncanny predictions consistently proved accurate and thus she acquired renown throughout the Roman Empire as a healer and prophet.

On his way to Ephesus to engage the Persians in combat, the Emperor Trajan, who had heard of Hermione’s gifts and had attributed them to some kind of sorcery, summoned her before him. Thinking her talents might be put to his own useful purpose, he insisted that she accompany him in his quest for world domination. When she adamantly refused, he had her flogged in the public square and left her in disgust.

After the death of Trajan, his successor Hadrian summoned Hermione to his court to pass sentence on her. The smoldering envy which he had for Hermione before assuming the throne flared up and he alleged that she had committed various crimes against the state. Well aware of both her father’s and her own Christian devotion, he prodded her with a barrage of questions about the legitimacy of her faith. Finally he demanded that she denounce Christ or suffer punishment. When she refused, Hadrian had her tortured; when she courageously withstood the cruelty, he had her cast into prison, surrounded by several guards. While Hadrian was considering his next move, Hermione was quietly preaching to her captors. They were on the brink of conversion when the order came to place her in the pagan temple, there to be mocked by the pagan gods and the public. God answered Hermione’s prayer by destroying the temple in a violent earthquake, whereupon the enraged ruler sent Hermione back to her captors while he planned her death.

By then the guards had been completely won over to the Christian faith. In one of the most remarkable turnabouts in Church history they whisked their captive away to the safety of the surrounding hills. So committed were they to her safekeeping that the irate emperor was never able to find any trace of either Hermione or of the guards who defied him and had converted to Christianity.

The escape to Christian freedom was an early example of snatching victory from the jaws of death – with assistance from those who held St. Hermione but were won over by her convincing piety. A daughter of an apostle, she proved herself a daughter of the Christian cause as well as a daughter of all mankind in her devotion to Jesus Christ, a devotion she would have had if she had been born the daughter of a beggar.

Thus, although Hermione had faced a certain agonizing death, she was spared so that she might live out her life in peace. When death did come to Hermione, she was in the company of the faithful Christians whom she had converted. After she departed from this life, they carried on her holy work in her memory as well as that of her father.

Text from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints. Image from GOArch.org.



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