Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saintly Saturday: Sts. Agape, Chionia & Irene

Normally, April 23 is the feast day of St. George; however, he is so beloved by Orthodox Christians all over the world that if his feast falls within either Great Lent or Holy Week (as it does this year) it is transferred to the Monday after Pascha (Easter) so that it can be celebrated in its fullness. In this spirit, I will forego talking about St. George. Instead, I will write about a great story that I passed over in order to honor St. Lazarus last week. Last Saturday was also the feast of Sts. Agape (unconditional love), Chionia (snow) and Irene (peace) the holy virgin martyrs.

These three sisters were orphans who were brought up by a priest named Xeno (outsider). Having seen in a vision that the three virgins would die as martyrs, he urged them to endure all things for Christ. Shortly after his death, his vision came to fruition.

While visiting Aquilea in Italy (the vicinity where the three virgins lived), the Emperor Diocletian summoned Agape, Chionia and Irene into his presence after he was informed that they were Christians. Overcome by their physical beauty, he urged the virgins to denounce Christ and become brides of some in his entourage. They refused and were sent to Macedonia and the court of Governor Dulcititus. He, too, was enamored by the three virgins, only he wanted them for himself; however, when he tried to force himself on them, a physical force prevented him from finding their room. Disoriented, he ended tumbling through his own kitchen covered in soot. Enraged, he gave the three over to trial and execution.

The two eldest (Agape and Chionia) were burned (though in death, their bodies remained unburnt). Irene was sent to a brothel; however, two angels appeared as imperial soldiers and ordered her guard to leave her upon a high mountain. When they found out that their order had never been countermanded by their superiors, they went to hunt the virgin down. They found her on top of an unscalable summit. In anger and frustration, one soldier shot her through with an arrow.


The Mountain of the Three Virgin Martyrs

This remote mountain in the wilderness has a nearly unscalable summit, at the based of which is a life-like statue of a noble dressed in armor holding out his arm as if holding something and with a look of horror. Those who succeed in climbing to the top will be rewarded by the sight of three life-like statues of beautiful women, one of which holds an arrow. They are, in fact, the three bodies of virgin martyrs killed by the gaze of a medusa's head used as a nasty means of execution by an evil lord who used to rule over the land many years ago.

The three are sisters. The older two suffered the petrification while the third was to be sent to a brothel; however, the soldiers guarding her mysteriously left her in the wilderness next to the mount on which her petrified form now resides. When the evil lord learned of the deception, he hunted the girl down. When he found her atop the summit, he ordered her shot. When an arrow pierced her through, but did not seem to do her any harm, the evil lord pulled out the medusa's head. Though the gaze petrified the youngest sister, the evil lord was not careful due to his anger and was caught in the gaze himself. Today, no one knows where the medusa head is.

Those who see the three statues more than once will testify that they are in a different pose each time they see them. Indeed, many believe the petrified older sisters walked to the mountain top over the course of a century or so.

Anyone who climbs to the summit and asks for the intercessions of the three sisters will be given the effects of a Bless spell for the next 24 hours. Lawful characters who sleep on the summit will gain the effects of a Cure Light Wound spell.

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