St Euphemia healing oil
St Euphemia lived in the 3rd century AD. She was the daughter of pious parents. Her father was a senator named Philophronos and her mother was Theodosia. St Euphemia was born in Chalcedon, located across the Bosporus from the city of Istanbul. From her youth, she dedicated her life to Christ and practiced the virtues of prayer, fasting, and chastity.
The governor of Chalcedon made a decree that all of the inhabitants of the city take part in sacrifices to the pagan god Ares. Euphemia was discovered with other Christians hiding in a house. They were worshiping the Christian God, in defiance of the governor’s orders. Because of their refusal to sacrifice, they were tortured for a number of days. They were then handed over to the Emperor for further torture. Euphemia, the youngest among them, was separated from her companions. They hoped that she betray Christ if she was on her own. She was promised worldly riches but refused to deny Christ. She was subjected to particularly harsh torments. This included the wheel, in hopes of breaking her spirit. However, the wheel miraculously stopped and an Angel of the Lord ministered to her wounds.
Victor and Sosthenes
The governor then ordered that the saint be cast into a fiery furnace. Two soldiers, Victor and Sosthenes, led her to the furnace, but seeing two fearsome angels in the flames, refused to carry out the order of the governor and became believers in the God whom Euphemia worshipped. Boldly confessing that they too were Christians, Victor and Sosthenes bravely went to suffering. They were cast into the arena to be eaten by wild beasts. During their martyrdom, they cried out for mercy to God, asking Him to receive them into the Heavenly Kingdom. A heavenly Voice answered their cries, and they entered into eternal life. The beasts, however, did not even touch their bodies.
Saint Euphemia, cast into the fire by other soldiers, remained unharmed. Ascribing this to sorcery, the governor gave orders to dig out a new pit, and filling it with knives, he had it covered over with earth and grass so that the martyr would not notice the preparation for her execution but here too she remained unhurt.
Finally, they sentenced her to be devoured by wild beasts at the circus. Before her martyrdom, Saint Euphemia implored God to deem her worthy to suffer terribly for His Name but when she was cast into the arena, none of the wild beasts attacked her. Finally, one of the she-bears gave her a small wound on the leg, from which flowed the pure blood of the martyr, and immediately the holy Great Martyr Euphemia gave her spirit to the Lord. During this time there was an earthquake, and both the guards and the spectators ran in terror so that the parents of the saint were able to take up her body and reverently bury it not far from Chalcedon.
A majestic church was afterwards built over the grave of the Great Martyr Euphemia.
The Council of Chalcedon, the Fourth Ecumenical Council of the Christian Church, took place in the city of Chalcedon in the year 451. It repudiated the Eutychian doctrine of monophysitism and set forth the Chalcedonian Definition, which describes the “full humanity and full divinity” of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.
Present at the council were 630 representatives from all the local Christian Churches. The meetings were quite contentious, and no decisive consensus could be reached.
According to the Synaxarion of Constantinople, a collection of hagiographies, both parties wrote a confession of their faith and placed them on the breast of Saint Euphemia within her tomb. After three days the tomb was opened and the scroll with the Orthodox confession was seen in the right hand of St Euphemia while the scroll of the Monophysites lay at her feet.
When the persecution of Diocletian ended, the Christians laid Saint Euphemia’s reputed relics in a golden sarcophagus, placed within a church that was dedicated to her. Her relics attracted crowds of pilgrims for centuries.
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 is an important way for us to express our faith in God’s power. Moreover, by doing so we place our trust in God.
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