On this day, the honorable St. Philotheus, whose name means "lover of God", was martyred. He was born in the City of Antioch, of pagan parents, who worshipped a bull, which they fed cakes made of fine flour and sesame seed oil mixed with honey. They also anointed the bull with spices and fine perfumed oils three times every day, and they gave it wine and oil to drink. They established two places for the bull, one for the summer, and another for the winter. They put around its neck a collar of gold, and golden rings in its legs.
When Philotheus was ten years old, his father asked him to worship the bull, but he refused, his father left him without punishment, for he loved him as he was his only son. As for St. Philotheus, because of his young age, he did not know the Living God, and he thought that the sun was the god. He stood once looking at the sun and said, "I beseech you, O sun, if you are God, tell me." He heard a voice coming from heaven saying, "I am not God, but I am a servant and a slave to God, Whom you will know, and you will shed your blood for His Name's sake."
When God saw the integrity of the child's heart, He sent His angel to inform him about the creation of the world, and the incarnation of the Lord Christ, for the salvation of mankind. St. Philotheus was pleased, and rejoiced in his heart. From that time on, he fasted, prayed and gave alms to the poor and those who were in distress.
After one year had passed, his parents had a great banquet for their friends, and they asked their son to worship the bull before they ate and drank. The child stood in front of the bull and said, "Are you the God that should be worshipped?" A voice came out of the bull saying, "I am not the God, but the devil has possessed me and I have become a deceiver of men." Then the bull jumped and attacked his parents and killed them instantly. The Saint ordered his servants to kill the bull, burn its body and scatter its ashes.
St. Philotheus prayed to God for the sake of his parents, and the Lord raised them up from the dead. Later on, he was baptized along with his parents in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God granted him the gift of healing the sick, and his repute reached Diocletian, the emperor. He brought him, and ordered him to offer incense to the idols, but he refused. The Emperor tortured him with all kinds of tortures, but the Saint never swayed from his determination. The Emperor tried again to persuade him by deception and flattery, and the Saint promised to worship Apollo as the Emperor commanded. The Emperor was pleased to hear this, and he brought Apollo along with 70 other idols, and 70 pagan priests and a herald went around to call upon the public in the city.
Great multitudes came to watch St. Philotheus worshiping Apollo. On their way, the saint prayed to the Lord Christ, and the earth was opened and swallowed the priests and the idol of Apollo. There was a great excitement and disturbance, and a great multitude believed and confessed the Lord Christ.
The Emperor was exasperated, and ordered them all beheaded, and they received the crown of martyrdom. St. Philotheus was also beheaded, and he received the crown of life.
His prayers be with us. Amen.
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