Monday, February 6, 2012

February 6 - Dorothea of Caesarea, Martyr, Virgin, Wife of Christ

Dorothea's parents had been martyrs. This filled her with a painful mixture of joy and sorrow since she rejoiced at their courage and reward but mourned the world's loss. Diocletian had ordered them dead as part of his widespread persecutions and those who were hoping to gain the emperor's favor were only all too willing to spill blood to earn it. Dorothea was also a Christian but there were other plans for her. The governor--Sapricius--had her brought before him and he demanded that she take a husband. He did this because he knew she had committed herself to celibacy and devotion to Jesus and he felt that if he could shake her from this devotion, then he would be able to bring about her conversion to the Empire and away from Christianity. She refused immediately, insisting that she was already married to Jesus, and was forced upon the rack and stretched. The tension was set high enough to bring agony but not death and she was offered a choice:take a husband, renounce her faith, and live or refuse and die. She refused.

Sapricius was not ready to kill the woman, yet, and had another idea for how he might effect her conversion. After all, Christians seemed to be producing conversions constantly--surely the emperor could convert people just as easily. He sent her to prison and had two women--Christina and Callista--visit her daily. Christina and Callista had once been Christians and had renounced their faith under threat of torture and death. When faced with the terror of the Empire, they folded and bowed themselves before the emperor as lord. After their bitter renunciations, they fell headlong into lives of sin and darkness. Their every day was marked by regret and sorrow but they didn't admit to erring by renouncing their faith--sometimes, we hold onto a bad decision because it's the only thing we feel we have left to hold onto. They sought out lives of empty pleasure and sin to fill the hole that had been left in them but found no respite in evil. Their task was to convert Dorothea away from her faith as they had been converted but it was Christina and Callista that were converted back by, Dorothea, to the faith they had abandoned. They found joy again and paid for it with their lives--being tied together and boiled to death--but this they did willingly and Sapricius brought Dorothea before him again.

When Dorothea arrived she thanked Sapricius for the opportunity to bring life to her sisters walking in death and made sure he knew she wouldn't have had the opportunity if not for his imprisonment and scheming. He offered her one last chance--perhaps hoping that the brutality of the deaths of Christina and Callista might have changed her mind--but wasn't surprised when she refused. He ordered her to be decapitated in public. As she was being taken away from Sapricius, one of his advisers called to her in a mocking voice, "You're married to Jesus, right? Please send some of your husband's apples or roses from his garden to me when you see him."

He laughed but Dorothea responded, "I shall do it." As they dragged her to the place of her execution she was met by a young girl bearing a gift of three roses and three apples on a tray. Dorothea recognized that this "young girl" was an angel sent by God and asked the girl to take the roses and the apples to the advisor who had mocked her. She was then bound and decapitated. She became a martyr. The advisor, however, was shocked to receive a gift from a young girl--three roses and three apples. He was shocked--apples and roses didn't grow in Caesarea that time of year--and shaken. Soon after, he converted to Christianity and followed after Dorothea's husband whom he had mocked. Shortly before being martyred himself, he changed his name to Theophilus--lover of God.

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