(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. Lucian, whose account is found in Volume 4 of the series.)
Saint Uaros of Egypt
Any man branded with the strange-sounding name of Uaros would not have been faulted if he changed it and ran away from home. But in the case of this man who was to become a saint, it was a challenge to make his name respected rather than ridiculed. In this he was eminently successful, albeit in a somewhat unusual fashion. The best place for displaying one’s mettle was in the army, which is quite conceivably the only reason he had for enlisting, proving in the end that he vacillated between bravery and cowardice in a behavior as strange as his name.
Enlisting as a young man in one of the legions stationed in Egypt, Uaros turned the ripple of laughter, as his name was called out, into a torrent of praise for his heroism in battle. The harassed legions of Egypt were constantly called upon to repel the thrusts of marauders who skirted the border. Uaros had numerous occasions to be tested, and he was never found wanting. A skilled swordsman, he was more than a match for any single one of the undisciplined and untrained hordes that dared engage the legion in combat, and on more than one occasion he put not one, but a number of confused enemies to rout.
When the garrison was at peace, Uaros showed another side of his character with his sympathy towards Christians, which no soldier sought to question lest they feel the point of his sword. What no one knew was that this sympathy masked the truth. He was not merely the good-natured soldier his comrades pictured him to be, but a devout Christian who was determined to use whatever influence he had in the military to ease the suffering of his fellow Christians. He was able to bribe many a guard in effecting the escape of some condemned prisoner scheduled for the arena, but he would not admit his Christianity even to the Christians he was helping.
Uaros knew in his heart that the instinct of self-preservation was strong enough to make him fearless in the face of an armed foe, but the prospect of suffering persecution in helpless agony made him shudder and brought to him the realization that, in this sense, he was both a coward and a hero.
In a rotation of duty, Uaros found himself posted in the prison as one of the guards, free to pause at the gates of every cell and talk to the condemned wretches within. Some of them were felons, but the majority were Christians to be put to death for their faith in Jesus Christ. In one of the cells he looked with horror at the sight of seven monks, one of whom had died and was being cradled in the arms of another. It was then that he was torn between what was clearly his Christian duty, which would place him in a torture chamber, and his duty to Rome, which meant he could walk away with the terrible secret in his heart that he lacked the courage of men who had never served anything but the cause of peace.
Uaros decided that the least he could do was assist the remaining six as best he could, but the release of six condemned men was out of the question. As he pondered the problem, he went to the larder to bring them food and drink in such quantity that it could scarcely go unnoticed by other guards. One of them approached to question him but, upon recognizing the fearless fighter, hastily withdrew. The sight of the condemned men eating what might be their last meal so moved Uaros that he confessed to the gathering that he was a Christian, but was afraid to reveal it because he feared the dreaded rack and other tortures more than an enemy sword.
Uaros was assured by one of the monks that his kindness had proven him Christian enough, and there was no need for him to die to prove his faith in Jesus Christ. This brought a degree of comfort to the tormented soldier, who said he should have proved himself not to eliminate the ridicule of his name, but for the sake of the Savior who had died for him and all mankind. The captain of the guard overheard a portion of this overly extended conversation and approached with a demand for an explanation of such behavior. It was the last demand he ever made. Shouting for all to hear that he was a Christian, Uaros drew his sword and dispatched the captain and killed or wounded several others before being finally subdued.
The most fiendish tortures were reserved for Uaros, who found the Christian courage to endure them all. He is remembered by the Church on October 19.