September 2, 2023

Encomium to the Holy Great Martyr Mamas (St. Neophytos the Recluse)

Encomium to the Holy Great Martyr Mamas
By St. Neophytos the Recluse

Mamas the great and renowned, the beauty of Christ's martyrs, the fervent protector of the wounded, the physician of terrible pains and divine healer, the one who dries wounds and easily removes their stench, cleans the rot of demonic wounds, truly having a storehouse of divine medicines and healing free of charge those who come with faith to this sacred temple.

He who did not take into account the terrible threats of impious tyrants, who considered tortures with help from above as the arrows of infants. He received from the forefather Adam the gift which he had from God before the transgression, to have authority over wild animals as if they were tame. He milked them like obedient sheep and made cheese for his own and some poor people's sustenance. He did not, like Abel, sacrifice the best sheep, but offered himself to God through martyrdom and various tortures. He is the one who gathered us all together to glorify God, because on this day after leaving the temporal life, he was transferred to the eternal and to a bright place. That is why it is to our benefit that we celebrate his annual and blessed memory today.

His earthly homeland was Paphlagonia, although today he rejoices in the heavens. His parents were Theodotos and Rufina. They were pious and noble, descended from a lineage who held the office of patrician. Full of divine eros for the faith of Christ and manifesting their piety, they were accused before the local commander of the city of Gangra, Alexander, who received the order from the rulers to punish the Christians who were not persuaded to respect the gods. After Theodotos was brought before Alexander, he pressed him to sacrifice to the idols. But Theodotos thought that what he told him was nonsense. Since he could not accuse or condemn the children of the patricians without a royal order, he sent him to Faustus, governor of Caesarea in the province of Cappadocia. He was also followed by Rufina who was pregnant with the martyr of Christ, Mamas.

The savage, like a beast, Faustus imprisoned Theodotos together with his wife. The faithful Theodotos, knowing his weakness and the cruelty of the tyrant, took refuge in the Creator of creation. And after much pleading with Him with many tears, he "gave up the spirit"; he was afraid that he might do something unworthy of his faith because of the ferocity of the tyrant, so he judged it better to die in the faith of Christ than for something unworthy of Christians to happen to him.

Then blessed Rufina experienced double or rather triple pains: the ferocity of the tyrant, the death of her husband and the birth of the child. After giving birth to the famous martyr of Christ Mamas, she placed him next to the paternal relic, and after praying to the Lord the same as her husband, she surrendered her soul.

The infant was found among the relics of two dead people, without any human aid. That is why the care for him and the relics came from heaven. An angel by his appearance induced a certain woman called Ammia-Matrona to go quickly to the ruler and ask for the bodies of the martyrs, who were in prison, to bury them with honors, to take the infant and bring it up as a mother. Having done all this willingly, Matrona rejoiced at the finding of the child and his upbringing because he was beautiful in appearance and for his first word. "Mamma", was the first word he said, which in Greek means "mother", that's why he was called Mamas from his first word.

When he reached childhood, Ammia made sure he learned letters. The progress in learning was greater than his age. He also learned the content of Christian piety, from which he courageously taught his fellow believers faith in Christ. Therefore, after being accused to Democritus, a certain cruel ruler, he was brought before his terrible court. He at first tried in a mild way, because he was a small child, to convince him to sacrifice to idols, but the Saint, not like a small child, but having the mind of Christ, bravely confessed that he was a Christian.

Then Democritus, after being very angry because of the child's great resistance, sent him bound in irons to Emperor Aurelian. After the holy child appeared before him, he showed great courage and received from him tortures such as whippings, terrible mutilations, stonings, burning with torches and other sufferings equal to his wrath. Then he ordered that a heavy lead ball be hung around the martyr's neck and he be thrown into the depth of the sea. When this was done and the martyr was being led into the sea, the angel of the Lord "who covers those who fear him and saves them", covered and saved Saint Mamas.

When he escaped from the depth of the sea and the hands of the executioners, he was taken to the mountain of Caesarea, and by God's command he was given a staff and a Gospel. He then became a shepherd of wild animals, milked the females and made cheese. This paradoxical miracle was considered by the unbelievers to be sorcery, which is why he was slandered, as a sorcerer of wild animals, to Alexander the ruler of Caesarea in Cappadocia. He without delay ordered executioners to escort the Saint from the mountain. The Saint, taking courage with the help of the Holy Spirit, when he was about to bravely come down from the mountain, called one of the lions and said to him: "When you see me fighting with the beasts in the stadium after the order of the ruler, immediately come down and you there, and after you have devoured many children of the unbelievers, who blaspheme the Lord, return to this mountain again."

This is what he said to the lion. Then the sent executioners reached him. They asked him about Mamas, because they didn't know him. He begged them to dismount and eat with him, promising to show him to them. After entertaining them by offering them cheese and some bread, he told them: "I am the Mamas you are asking for." The men respected his virtue, became more tame, and when they saw the gathering of wild animals at the time of milking, they feared and respected the Saint. He exhorted them to take courage and said, "Go, and I will come to you after I have finished my work."

Unable to distrust such a man, they left. After he had milked and made cheese, he ran and reached the horsemen at the entrance of the city, who were waiting for him, and with them he appeared to the ruler Alexander, who demanded to know with what magic he controlled the wild animals.

The Saint answered him: "Both God and Christians hate sorcerers. How can I be a sorcerer, I who am a servant of Christ? Irrational animals know how to feel shame before my God and me His servant, and this so that you may prove more foolish than they, because your own destruction is not enough for you, because you are remote from God and servants of demons, but you want to lead astray us also and strive to turn us away from God and worship dead idols with you. But do not let this happen to me, King Christ, to leave you and go with the demons together with the pagans present."

The proud ruler not suffering this courageous confession of the Saint, ordered the athlete to be hanged on a tree and with iron claws to tear his flesh. The executioners quickly carried out the order. The Saint had his eyes fixed on the sky from which a voice could be heard that strengthened him, which is why he did not take into account the cruel torture. Alexander suffered the most seeing the Saint disdain the tortures, that is why he took him down from the tree, and prepared a burning furnace for him. He previously locked him in prison in order to change the athlete's thinking. The Saint found forty Christians imprisoned and one night, after praying, he opened the doors and freed them all, remaining alone for forty days, rejoicing because he was receiving food from an angel.
The fire in the furnace grew stronger to frighten the athlete, whom the impious ruler, having taken him out of prison, threw him into the furnace for three days. The Saint, after turning the fire into dew, like the three children in the Chaldean furnace, worked a miracle. Living in the cool furnace for three days, the athlete hymned praises to the Lord together with angels. Thinking that the martyr was completely burned, the ruler sent men to the furnace to collect some remnant of the relic. When the Saint was found untouched, without burning a single hair, many believed in Christ, and the darkened ruler said: "O the great Serapis and the rest of the gods, this is true magic." That is why he called the Saint a magician and demon possessed.

For this reason he hastened to make the athlete food for wild animals. He with a smiling face went to the stadium as if to a bridal chamber. They then let loose against him a lion, a leopard and a bear. The beasts, as if ashamed before the Saint, licked his sweat and crawled at his feet. Then the lion, which had received orders from the Saint, after coming down from the mountain angry and roaring, devoured a multitude of pagans and Jews and turned back again as ordered by the Saint.

After what had happened, the wicked ruler, being in great perplexity, ordered that the Saint be beheaded with a sword. And the executioners, after striking the belly of the Saint with a trident and scattering his entrails, the fighter holding them with both hands as a sacrificial offering to God, left the city and went to a cave in which, after lying down, he heard a voice from heaven inviting him to the heavenly habitations, and obeying the Lord he surrendered his soul on September 2. And his honorable remains are buried at a distance of a mile outside the city of Caesarea and the tomb became a source of cures for various diseases. On the Sunday of Thomas, a very large festival is held in the area, of which Gregory the Theologian, after remembering, said in his Paschal speech: "The legendary mamas", "my martyr" and the rest.

We, after addressing a few greetings to you, the great and wonderful martyr of Christ, will finish the discourse.

Rejoice, Mamas the champion of the Lord worthy of admiration, for like Jeremiah you were destined before your mother gave birth to you; born in prison there you were left after your parents delivered their souls to the Lord.

Rejoice, Mamas, for as one chosen by God, an angel of the Lord urged Matrona to take you from prison to raise you, and to bury the bodies of your parents with honor.

Rejoice, Mamas who underwent many contests, for from a young age you were brought to trials before tyranical kings and rulers, and having rebuked their unbelief, you testified for Christ; although you were a young child in age, you had a divine and perfect mind of a great man.

Rejoice, Mamas worthy of admiration, for having escaped the torturers and the depths of the sea with the intervention of a divine angel, you fled to the mountain of Caesarea, as Lot had escaped in ancient times.

Rejoice, Mamas thrice-happy, for as Moses on Mount Sinai received the law and staff to guide the people, you also on the mountain of Caesarea fasted forty days in imitation of Moses, receiving the staff and the Gospel, by which wild animals obeyed you, thus revealing the initial authority of the forefather in this.

Rejoice, Mamas who underwent many contests, for although you were accused of being a sorcerer to the unbelieving and paranoid tyrant Alexander, you rebuked him, presenting yourself as a godly-minded servant of Christ, who has nothing to do with sorcerers.

Rejoice, Mamas the martyr of Christ, for you calmed the wild beasts that were left to come against you, and having overcome the various tortures you became a brilliant martyr of Christ.

Rejoice, Mamas the servant of Christ, for you kept the faith, ran the race to the end, fought the good fight, according to Paul, and you received the crown of righteousness.

Rejoice, Mamas the blessed one, for you became a living sacrifice, acceptable and pleasing to God. After the slaughter, having held with your two hands your entrails, you went to your Master and Lord who you loved, so that not only stained with the blood of martyrdom, but holding your entrails as welcome gifts you offered them to God, whom, thrice-happy Mamas, you supplicated with the boldness you have before Him on behalf of us all, writers, readers, chanters, celebrants, ministers and all those who came to your glorious festival and your sacred temple, so that we may find healing in our souls and our bodies, and to receive the mercy of God with your fervent supplications, and to enjoy the eternal good things with the grace and philanthropy of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom belongs glory, honor and worship together with the Father and the holy and life-giving Spirit, now and always and to the endless ages. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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