SAINT MARGARET was
born in the third century in Pisidian Antioch, in what is now central Turkey.
Her parents were noble people, but pagans, and she was raised to worship idols.
Her mother died when she was a child and her father, the pagan priest Edesius,
entrusted her upbringing to a nurse maid with whom she lived in the tranquility
of the countryside.
It was a time of
severe persecution of Christians. Some concealed themselves in the wilderness,
but others courageously went about spreading the light of Christ. It was from
one of these that the twelve-year-old Margaret first heard about the
Lord Jesus Christ. When she learned that the only begotten Son of God had come
down from heaven and became man, that He endured suffering and death in order
to save a sinful and unworthy people, her heart filled with love for Him, and
she sought every opportunity to hear more about her Lord. She wanted so much to
be baptized, but because of the persecution she couldn't find a priest to
perform the holy Mystery. She left it up to God's holy will and meanwhile
loudly confessed the name of the Lord to anyone who would listen, even though
she knew she might suffer because of it.
Indeed, her first
persecutor was her own father. When he discovered that his daughter had adopted
the faith of the Christians, he was furious and became hateful, even cruel
towards her. But she took refuge in the love of her Heavenly Father, Who never
abandons His faithful children.
One day, when she was
fifteen years old, she was on her way to the fields to look at her father's
sheep, when she was met by the regional governor, Olymbrius, a cruel persecutor
of Christians. He was attracted by the girl's beauty and struck up a
conversation. "Where are you from? Who is your father? What is your
name?" Margaret answered his questions and boldly added that she
believed in the God of the Christians and that she hoped to dedicate herself to
His service. The governor ordered his soldiers to bring her with them to
Antioch. Hopeful that he would have little difficulty in convincing her to give
up her faith, he did not mistreat her, as he saw in her a good prospect for
The next day the
governor ordered Margaret to be brought for questioning and tried
everything to persuade her to bring sacrifice to the gods, but the bride of
Christ remained steadfast. "I have learned to know the Father and the Son
and the Holy Spirit, one Divinity in Trinity, and to bring to Him the sacrifice
of praise," replied the girl. "I cannot give to lifeless idols that
honor which belongs to my Creator.'' The governor tried various tactics: he
tried to win her over through promises, then he tried to frighten her with
threats. Nothing availed. "I want to remain a faithful slave of my God,'
said Margaret, "Who voluntarily suffered for my sake. He did not
spare His most pure Body for my sake and endured death on the Cross. Should I
not be prepared to suffer and die for Him? You do not frighten me with your
threats. In the midst of sufferings, my Lord, in Whom I have placed my hope,
will strengthen me."
realized that Margaret would never renounce her heavenly Bridegroom,
his pity for the young Christian vanished and he gave her over to cruel
tortures. Margaret was beaten mercilessly with rods so that blood
poured forth from the deep wounds. As the crowd watched the young martyr, many
wept and urged her to obey the governor, but the young martyr remained
steadfast in her sufferings.
The enraged governor
then ordered that she be fastened to a column and her flesh torn apart with
iron hooks. Pieces of flesh fell to the ground, exposing her bones; the earth
was crimson with her blood. Even the cruel governor covered his face with his
hands and turned away, unable to bear the bloody spectacle. Finally, the young
martyr, barely alive, was thrown into a dark, dank prison cell.
"Merciful God Who
livest on high," prayed the suffering Margaret, "revive my
spirit. Heal my wounded body. Give me strength to overcome my adversary that in
me Thy name be glorified."
As night fell the
devil struck at the young girl with fear and despair. Dreadful phantoms
appeared before her eyes, strange rumblings issued from underground... But the
martyr concentrated her mind on God and never ceased praying. And the Lord
confirmed her faith with a miraculous sign.
She suddenly saw over
her head a dazzling gold cross, on top of which sat a snow-white dove, and a
voice came from above:
dove of Christ. You have vanquished the evil foe. Rejoice and be glad, daughter
of Mount Zion. For soon, like the wise virgins, you will enter the bridal chamber
of your immortal Heavenly Bridegroom" An indescribable joy
seized Margaret's heart. At the same time she became aware that her
tortured flesh was being healed and she felt her strength returning. The rest
of the night she spent praising and thanking God. In the morning the
governor had the great martyr brought forth from the prison. Yesterday barely
alive, she now stood before him, beautiful and healthy. The astonished governor
attributed her miraculous recovery to the pagan gods. "It is my God who healed
me," replied the great martyr. "He is the healer of souls and
Again she was subject
to torture. The outraged governor ordered a bunch of burning candles to be
brought and with them they singed her miraculously restored flesh.
The saint, directing her mind to God, suffered in silence. The
singed areas became black, yet stoically she endured the pain.
prayed, "Thou grantest me to go through this fiery trial. Make me worthy
to pass through the water of baptism, that washed of sins I may enter Thy
the saint speak about water, the governor conceived of the idea to
drown the Saint. An enormous vat was brought and filled to the brim. Margaret
was tied up and thrown into it. The Saint rejoiced; here at last was
an answer to her prayer.
Christ, Thou Who didst loose the bonds of death and hell, look upon Thy servant
and loose my bonds. And may this water be for me the long-desired water of holy
baptism unto regeneration and life eternal?
As soon as they plunged
her into the vat the ropes on her body snapped, her head was illumined with
heavenly rays, and a white dove, carrying in its beak a golden wreath, began
circling overhead. Lower and lower descended the paradisiacal messenger, and,
touching the head of the great martyr, rose again into the heavens. At the same
time a voice was heard: "Peace to you, Bride of Christ. Receive now from
God's hand an unfading crown and honor in the Heavenly Kingdom." The crowd
trembled. All had seen how Margaret emerged from the water cured of
her terrible burns and shining with unearthly beauty. Now they witnessed the
descent of a fiery pillar and above it a cross, shining with wondrous light.
The crowd began glorifying God. "We, too, are Christians! We, too, are
Christians, ready to die for Christ."
The governor was
enraged by the multitude of converts, and ordered his soldiers to kill the new
Christians without mercy. That very day fifteen thousand were added to the
ranks of martyrs.
likewise sentenced to die by the sword. Before her execution the great martyr
turned to the crowd, strengthening the people in their confession. She prayed
at length for everyone and was vouchsafed to see Christ Himself, Who called her
to eternal rest, before she quietly bowed her head beneath the executioner's
Thus the Holy
Great-Martyr Margaret accomplished her martyric exploit on the
seventeenth of July. The servant of God Theotim was a witness of her sufferings
and was granted to see the heavenly visions and all this he wrote down for the
benefit of the faithful, in honor of the beloved bride of Christ, Margaret, and
to the glory of our Man-loving God, to Whom, together with the Father and the
Holy Spirit may we give honor and glory, now and ever and unto the ages. Amen.
(Adapted from A. N.
Bakhmeteva, Zhitia Sviatikh [trans. Lives of the Saints],