Aug 26/ Sep 8 2009 14th Tuesday after Pentecost
Thou didst lay to heart the words of thy godly-minded spouse,/ O Adrian martyr of Christ./ Eagerly didst thou run to the tortures, and with thy wife receive a crown. (Kontakion of Ss Adrian and Natalie, Tone 4)
Many years to our many Natasha’s today! This is the day we remember Martyrs Adrian and Natalia. First a few comments, then their story.
Greetings to our Natashas, hither and yon: Natalia “the black” (Natalia Hawthorne, with dark hair), Natalia the Red (Natalia Quillen), Natalia the short (boy am I in trouble for this, I guess I will see it she reads my stuff! – Natalia Holland), Natalia the “Mishka” (Natalia Dudar), Natalia Hagler, Natalia Farris, and our long distance and former parishioners, Natalia the “white (Natalia Arzhantseva, from Belo Rus) and Natalia “the blonde”, and our former parishioner, our lone Adrian (Boariu). I probably missed a few – we have a lot of Natalias!
I am not feeling extremely literary today, so today’s thoughts will be in simple bullets.
· We poured the concrete slab today. I saw it and Christina took pictures. We will put up the walls next week!
View towards the Hall
Our builder, Tim Bonner, assures Fr Seraphim that …
They are doing their “level best” on this project!
Our Thursday night molebens will be on the slab from now on, almost like
being in the church. Remember, this Thursday we will have Vigil for the
beheading of St John in the current facility, but starting next week,
“Moleben on the slab” replaces “Moleben before the
Services this week – Wed Vespers at 7,
Thursday Liturgy at 9 am, and in a departure from our usual
schedule, Thursday vigil at 7 PM for the Beheading of the
The account of the martyrdom of Adrian and Natalia has much to teach us, if we listen.
They were a very young couple, with most of their “life’ ahead of them, but a life that is not lived according to the truth is death and a death because of the truth is life. They chose truth, at great cost. Their courage did not come of themselves, but by the grace of God, which was abundantly active in them because of their zeal. If they were worldly and prone to threats or flattery, grace would not have protected them. God’s grace is not a static thing that helps us – it either lives within us because of our choices, or it is far from us. All this happens invisibly to our eyes, but very visibly to those with spiritual sight.
We consider Natalia to be a martyr even though she was not actually killed. Since “martyr” means witness, I think her support of her husband qualifies, don’t you? We also count St Sophia, mother of Faith, Hope and Love to be a martyr, and like Natalia, she died shortly after the martyrdom of her loved ones.
We certainly think of the exploits of the martyrs when we read from Wisdom during the Vesper service:
But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and the torment of death shall not touch them. (2) In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure was taken for misery: (3) And their going away from us, for utter destruction: but they are in peace. (Wisdom 3:1-3)
The world does not understand the peace that is possible by loving God. We profess that the martyrs are at peace even during their martyrdom – but this is not something we can understand. Only the very holy can understand this peace. We can only stand in awe of their exploits and berate ourselves because our lackluster way of living does not measure up in any way to their love for God.
The world not only does not understand the peace of God, but is actually would consider the exploits of Natalia or St Sophia to be signs of mental illness or great evil. St Natalia showed true love for her young husband by assisting him to obtain his martyrdom. Would we do the same? Or would we shrink back in horror at the blood spectacle and not see the grace of God giving peace?
The Martyr Adrian converted because of witnessing the way other Christians faced death with dignity and without fear. He saw something in them.
Reading the lives of the Saints should be similar to reading the Scriptures. I have told you many times – it is ALWAYS about us. We do not read for amusement or knowledge – we read to be changed. In reading this story, I always noetically put myself in the place of the Christian martyrs who preceded Adrian, and Adrian and Natalia. I wonder would I have been worthy of such a calling.
There is a longer account of their martyrdom somewhere – I have read it many times, but cannot find it at this moment. It is much more descriptive and moving than the account below. I think it was in Orthodox Life some years ago.
The Martyrs Adrian and Natalia were married in their youth for one year prior to their martyrdom. They lived in Bithynian Nicomedia during the time of the emperor Maximian (305-311). Having started his persecution, the emperor promised a reward to whomever would inform on Christians to bring them to trial.
There began the denunciations, and through one of these there were seized 23 Christians, hiding in a cave near Nicomedia. They were tortured, urged to worship idols, and then taken to the judgment palace, in order to record their names and responses.
Adrian, the head of the judgment palace, looking on as they brought in the people suffering with such courage for their faith, and how firmly and fearlessly they confessed Christ, asked: "What rewards do ye expect from your God for suffering?" The martyrs replied: "Such rewards, as we are not able to describe, nor thy mind comprehend". Inspired, Saint Adrian told the scribes: "Write me down also, that I be a Christian and with joy I do die for Christ God".
The scribes reported about this to the emperor, who summoned Saint Adrian and asked: "Really, hast thou gone mad, that thou dost want to die? Come, cross out thine name from the lists and offer sacrifice to the gods, asking their forgiveness".
Saint Adrian answered: "I am not mad, but the rather have been converted to health of mind". Maximian then ordered Adrian to be thrown into prison.
His wife, Saint Natalia, knowing that her husband was suffering for Christ, rejoiced, since she herself was secretly a Christian. She hastened to the prison and encouraged her husband saying: "Blest be thou, mine lord, in that thou hast believed on Christ, wherein thou hast obtained a great treasure. Regret not anything of earth, neither beauty, nor youth (Adrian was then 28 years of age), nor riches. Everything worldly -- is dust and ashes. Only faith and good deeds be pleasing to God".
On the pledge of the other martyrs, they released Saint Adrian from prison to relate to his wife about the day of execution. Saint Natalia at first thought, that he had renounced Christ and thus had been set free, and she did not want to let him into the house. The saint persuaded his wife, that he had not fled martyrdom, but rather had come to give her the news of the day of his execution.
They tortured Saint Adrian cruelly. The emperor advised the saint to have pity on himself and call on the gods, but the martyr answered: "Let thine gods say, what blessings they promise me, and then I shalt worship them, but if they cannot speak thus, then why should I worship them?"
Saint Natalia did not cease to encourage her husband. She asked him also to convey for her a foremost prayer to God, that they would not compel her into a marriage with a pagan after his death. The executioner ordered the hands and the legs of the saints to be broken on the anvil. Saint Natalia, fearing that her husband would hesitate in seeing the sufferings of the other martyrs, besought the executioner to begin the execution with him and let her herself put his hands and legs on the anvil.
They wanted to burn the bodies of the saints, but a strong storm arose and the fire went out. Many of the executioners even were struck by lightning. Saint Natalia took the hand of her spouse and kept it at home. Soon an army commander asked the emperor's approval to wed Saint Natalia, who was both young and rich. But she hid herself away in Byzantium. Here Saint Adrian appeared to her in a dream and said that she would soon be at rest in the Lord. The anemic martyress, worn down by her former sufferings, in fact soon expired to God. (From the Menologion program, © 2000 by translator Fr. S. Janos.)
Priest Seraphim Holland 2009. St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas
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