The Holy Protomartyr Thecla, Equal to the Apostles
Thecla was born in Iconium of eminent but pagan parents. As a girl of eighteen, she was betrothed to a young man at the same time that the Apostle Paul arrived in Iconium with Barnabas to preach the Gospel. Hearing Paul's testimony for three days and nights, Thecla converted to the Christian Faith, and vowed to live in virginity. Her mother, seeing that she was now ignoring her betrothed and no longer thought of marriage, tried to dissuade her, and then beat her and tortured her by starvation. Finally, this wicked mother turned Thecla over to the judge and demanded that Thecla be burned. The judge threw her into the fire, but God preserved her unharmed. Then, Thecla followed the Apostle Paul, and went to Antioch with him. Attracted by Thecla's external beauty, a certain elder of the city wanted to take her for himself by force, but Thecla escaped his grasp. The pagan elder accused her to the eparch as a Christian who disdained marriage. The eparch condemned her to death, and had her thrown to wild beasts, but the wild beasts did not touch the body of this holy virgin. Amazed by this, the eparch asked her: ``Who are you and what kind of power is in you, that nothing can harm you?'' Thecla replied: ``I am a servant of the Living God.'' The eparch then released her, and she departed to preach the Gospel. She succeeded in converting many to the true Faith, among whom was Tryphena, a prominent and honorable widow. Then, having received the blessing of the Apostle Paul to do so, Thecla withdrew to a secluded place near Seleucia. There she lived a life of asceticism for a long time and, by healing the sick with wonderworking power, she converted many to Christianity. The doctors and soothsayers in Seleucia were envious of her, and sent some young men to defile her, hoping that the loss of her virginity would also mean the loss of her miraculous power. Thecla fled from these arrogant young men, but as they were about to catch her, she prayed to God for help. A large rock opened up and hid this holy virgin and bride of Christ. This rock was her refuge and her tomb. St. John Chrysostom says of this wonderful Christian heroine and saint:
``It seems to me that as I see this blessed virgin, in one hand she offers Christ virginity, and in the other hand, martyrdom.''
Troparion - Tone 4
O Lord Jesus, unto Thee Thy lamb doth cry with a great voice: O my Bridegroom, Thee I love; and seeking Thee, I now contest, and with Thy baptism am crucified and buried. I suffer for Thy sake, that I may reign with Thee; for Thy sake I die, that I may live in Thee: accept me offered out of longing to Thee as a spotless sacrifice. Lord, save our souls through her intercessions, since Thou art great in mercy.
Kontakion - Tone 8
O glorious virgin, thou wast entrusted with an apostolate, while shining brightly with virginal beauty and adorned with crowns of martyrdom. And, O Thecla, thou also didst subdue the bullís fury and change the fire to dew by thine entreaties, O first contestant among all womankind.