Wednesday, February 25, 2009

St. Photini the Great-Martyr and Those With Her

Christ talking to St. Photini at Jacob’s Well, detail from fresco from the Protaton, Mount Athos, by Manuel Panselinos (taken from

On February 26th we celebrate the Great-Martyr, and Equal-to-the-Apostles, St. Photini, together with her family martyred with her. St. Photini was the Samaritain Woman who spoke to Christ at Jacob's Well (told in John 4, and celebrated the Fifth Sunday of Pascha).

Here is a quote from St. John Chrysostom's Commentary of the Gospel of St. John:

"'The woman then left her water pot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a Man which told me all things that ever I did; is not this the Christ?'

[1.] We require much fervor and uproused zeal, for without these it is impossible to obtain the blessings promised to us. And to show this, Christ at one time saith, “Except a man take up his cross and follow Me, he is not worthy of Me” ( Matt. x. 38 ); at another, “I am come to send fire upon the earth, and what will I if it be already kindled?” ( Luke xii. 49 ); by both these desiring to represent to us a disciple full of heat and fire, and prepared for every danger. Such an one was this woman [St. Photini]. For so kindled was she by His words, that she left her water pot and the purpose for which she came, ran into the city, and drew all the people to Jesus. “Come,” she saith, “see a Man which told me all things that ever I did.”

Observe her zeal and wisdom. She came to draw water, and when she had lighted upon the true Well, she after that despised the material one; teaching us even by this trifling instance when we are listening to spiritual matters to overlook the things of this life, and make no account of them. For what the Apostles did, that, after her ability, did this woman also. They when they were called, left their nets; she of her own accord, without the command of any, leaves her water pot, and winged by joy performs the office of Evangelists. And she calls not one or two, as did Andrew and Philip, but having aroused a whole city and people, so brought them to Him.

Observe too how prudently she speaks; she said not, “Come and see the Christ,” but with the same condescension by which Christ had netted her she draws the men to Him; “Come,” she saith, “see a Man who told me all that ever I did.” She was not ashamed to say that He “told me all that ever I did.” Yet she might have spoken otherwise, “Come, see one that prophesieth”; but when the soul is inflamed with holy fire, it looks then to nothing earthly, neither to glory nor to shame, but belongs to one thing alone, the flame which occupieth it."
(St. John Chrysostom: Homily XXXIV. - John iv. 28, 29:

She left her sinful life and immediately preached Christ to her family and community. After Pentecost, she, her five sisters (Anatole, Phota, Photis, Paraskevi, & Kyriaki) and her two sons (Victor, who later was renamed by Christ "Photinos", and Joses) were baptized. They became great preachers of Christ in many different places, including Smyrna in Asia Minor, Carthage in North Africa, and finally in Rome, where they stood up to the Emperor Nero's endless tortures (including beatings, poisonings, blindings, imprisonment, temptations, crucifixion, burning in a furnace, etc.), all while managing to convert one of his Dukes (St. Sebastian), his daughter (St. Anthousa), and his magician (St. Theoklitos), who all were martyred and are celebrated also on this day. Their entire Martyrion is found in the Neon Eklogion by St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain, and most of the important details can be found in various places online (, and are very powerful and moving.

St. Photini and her family in prison, and the martyrdom of her sons, Sts. Photinos and Joses (source)
St. Photini is considered a Patron Saint for those repentant and those suffering carnal temptations, for those with physical or spiritual blindness, and for those suffering diseases of the head and trembling disorders. The people of Smyrna in Asia Minor have great love and devotion to the Saint, so much so that they constructed her magnificent Metropolis Church in only 40 days. She has worked and continues to work endless miracles throughout the world by the Grace of Christ.

May we emulate her and her family's glorious example in our sinful lives, as we prepare for Great Lent, Christ's Holy Passion and His Glorious Resurrection.

Icon of selected Saints celebrated on February 26th, including St. Porphyrios of Gaza, St. Photini the Great-Martyr, St. Photo, St. Photis and St. Sebastian the Duke (taken from:
Απολυτίκιο της Αγίας Φωτεινής
Θείω Πνεύματι καταυγασθείσα, και τοις νάμασι, καταρδευθείσα, παρά Χριστού του Σωτήρος, πανεύφημε, της σωτηρίας το ύδωρ κατέπιες, και τοις διψώσι αφθόνως μετέδωσας, Μεγαλομάρτυς και Ισαπόστολε Φωτεινή, Χριστόν τον Θεόν ικέτευε, σωθήναι τας ψυχάς ημών.
Apolytikion of St. Photini in the Third Tone
All illumined by the Holy Spirit, thou didst drink with great and ardent longing of the waters Christ Saviour gave unto thee; and with the streams of salvation wast thou refreshed, which thou abundantly gavest to those athirst. O Great Martyr and true peer of Apostles, Photine, entreat Christ God to grant great mercy unto us.

Ἀπολυτίκιο. Ἦχος α’. Τῆς ἐρήμου πολίτης.
Φωτεινὴν καὶ Φωτίδα καὶ Φωτῶ ἀνυμνήσωμεν, σὺν Ἀνατολὴ Φωτεινὸν τὲ Ἰωσὴν θείοις ἄσμασιν, ὁμοὺ Κυριακὴν Παρασκευήν, τοὺς Μάρτυρας Χριστοῦ περιφανεῖς· θείαν χάριν γὰρ αἰτοῦνται καὶ φωτισμόν, τοὶς πίστει ἀνακράζουσι· δόξα τῷ ἐνισχύσαντι ὑμᾶς, δόξα τῷ στεφανώσαντι, δόξα τῷ ἐνεργούντι δι' ὑμῶν πάσιν ἰάματα.
Another Apolytikion of St. Photini and her Family in the First Tone (amateur translation)
Let us praise Photini and Photis and Photo, with Anatoli, Photinos and Joses with divine songs, with Kyriaki, Paraskevi, the radiant Martyrs of Christ, they seek divine grace and illumination for the faithful who cry out, glory to Him Who strengthened you, glory to Him Who crowned you, glory to Him Who grants to us through you healings for all.
Kontakion in the Third Tone
Photine the glorious, the crown and glory of the Martyrs, hath this day ascended to the shining mansions of Heaven, and she calleth all together to sing her praises, that they might be recompensed with her hallowed graces. Let us all with faith and longing extol her gladly in hymns of triumph and joy.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

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