St Epistimi healing oil
St Epistimi healing oil is dedicated to the ascetic saint from the monastery at Mt Sinai. She was married to St Galaction, also an ascetic. They were martyred together for the faith.
When Galaction turned twenty-four, his father resolved to marry him off. They found him a bride, a beautiful and illustrious girl by the name of Episteme. The son did not oppose the will of his father. By the will of God, the wedding was postponed for a time. Visiting his betrothed, Galaction gradually revealed his faith to her. Eventually, he converted her to Christ and he secretly baptized her himself.
Besides Episteme he baptized also one of her servants, Eutolmius. The newly-illumined decided on the initiative of Galaction, to devote themselves to the monastic life. Leaving the city, they hid themselves away on Mount Publion. There were two monasteries, one for men and the other for women. The new monastics had to take with them all the necessities for physical toil. The inhabitants of both monasteries were both old and infirm.
They join the monastic life.
For several years the monastics struggled in work, fasting and prayer. Once, Episteme had a vision in her sleep. She and Galaction stood in a wondrous palace before a radiant King. The King bestowed golden crowns on them. This was a prefiguring of their impending martyrdom.
The pagans became aware of the existence of the monasteries. A military detachment was sent to apprehend their inhabitants. But the monks and the nuns succeeded in hiding themselves in the hills. However, Galaction had no desire to flee and so he remained in his cell, reading Holy Scripture. Episteme saw that the soldiers were leading Galaction away in chains. She began to implore the Abbess to permit her to go also. She wanted to accept torture for Christ together with her fiancé and teacher. The Abbess tearfully blessed Episteme to do so.
Epistimi and Galaction martyrdom
The saints endured terrible torments, while supplicating and glorifying Christ. Their hands and legs were cut off, their tongues were cut out, and then they were beheaded.
Eutolmius, the former servant of Episteme, and who had become her brother in Christ and fellow ascetic in monastic struggles, secretly buried the bodies of the holy martyrs. He later wrote an account of their virtuous life and their glorious martyrdom, for his contemporaries and for posterity.
Tradition of oils
The tradition of anointing with sacred oil is very old indeed. It is used in sacraments and also as a devotional practice. The sick person applies the oil and blesses themselves. As they do so, they are asked to pray to whomever the oil is dedicated to. The Irish blessings oils do not have miraculous power. It is God who has the power to heal. Applying the oil while praying are important ways for us to express our faith in God’s power. Moreover, by doing so we place our trust in God.