The early centuries of Christianity witnessed so many martyrs for Christ who may have been overlooked by their fellow Christians that it is refreshing to discover an obscure saint who might in some way epitomize all those who have died for the Messiah without recognition. Although some martyrs may have died unnoticed by us, no one has made the supreme sacrifice unnoticed by God. Such a lesser light in the galaxy of those luminaries who have achieved sainthood in the Christian Church was a girl named Myrope.
Myrope came from Ephesus, the city in which she was baptized and in which the third-century Christian community flourished despite the shattering waves of persecutions that periodically decimated their numbers. She grew to love the Christian faith so greatly that she was drawn at an early age to a convent near the tomb of St. Hermione, the martyred daughter of the apostle Philip. The resting-place of St. Hermione would on occasion exude a miraculous holy myrrh which the gentle Myrope would take to members of the faith, hence her name Myrope.
During one of the more violent forays into the Christian flock, Myrope fled with her mother to the comparative safety of the Greek island of Chios, whose relative remoteness and tranquility offered comfort to the beleaguered Christians. As the mainland persecutions increased, the number of Christian refugees on the island swelled to a proportion that was alarming to the state which had hitherto disregarded the peaceful island. The serenity was soon shattered by the presence of the imperial pagan ruler’s soldiers under the direction of Numerius, a man whose high rank was earned by swift, harsh punishment of Christians. Anxious to please the emperor, he combed the hapless island in a reign of terror that paralyzed the community in fearful hiding.
During the siege an informer betrayed a young soldier to Numerius, declaring him to be a secret believer in the Saviour. This young soldier, Isidore, was summoned before the merciless Numerius and told to disavow Christ or die by his own sword. Isidore chose to die and was thrown unceremoniously into a shallow grave. Guards were posted to ensure that no Christian would remove the body for proper burial.
Myrope managed to slip past them in the dark of night and dragged the lifeless Isidore to waiting friends for the decent and honorable interment due him. Upon discovery of this, the infuriated Numerius ordered the guards to find the culprits or die in their place. The guards made a fruitless search and finally resigned themselves to death. When the news of this reached Myrope, she would not hear of anyone innocent, pagan or not, dying in her place and gave herself up to the authorities.
Numerius marvelled at the girl’s complete honesty and courage and offered her a pardon if she would deny Christ and go on her way. When she refused, Numerius sent her away with a shrug to whatever prison officials chose to do. Visited daily in her dungeon cell by a gaoler who repeated the offer, she rejected it again and again until she “off ended the state” once too often. She was severely beaten and flung back into the cell, where she
languished for many days before dying in agony of her wounds.
At the instant of her death, holy myrrh began to flow from the dingy cell, filling the dungeon with a sweet aroma. Her gaoler fell to his knees on the spot and accepted Christ. His more hardened cohorts quickly killed him also. Myrope gave her life for Christ on December 2, 250.
Text from Fr. George Poulos’ Orthodox Saints.
On this day, lift before God:
- those who care for the sick and wounded.
- all involved in giving people end of life care.
- all whose lives are dedicated to laying others to rest.
- all who sense of smell reveals to them things that other people miss.