Saint Philopater Mercurius
Martyred the Twenty-Fifth Day of Hatour
On the twenty-fifth day of the blessed month of Hatour, St. Philopatere Mercurius,
known as the saint with the two swords (Abu-Saifain), was martyred.
St. Mercurius was born to pagan parents in the year 225 A.D. in Rome. He was
named Philopatere (a Greek name meaning "lover of the Father"). His father,
Gordianus, was miraculously saved from death by an angel of the Lord, and he and
his wife soon converted to Christianity. They preached, gave alms, and raised their
son according to Christian teachings. By the age of 17, St. Mercurius had already
joined the Roman army and gained a reputation as a great swordsman and tactician.
He was promoted to the rank of commander and given the name "Mercurius," after
the planet Mercury, which was supposed to signify good luck and glory.
During that time, the emperor Decius issued a decree that everyone in the empire
must raise incense and sacrifice to the pagan gods or else suffer severe torture. The
emperor declared that if any Christians were discovered, they would be subjected to
this punishment. Soon after this decree, Decius ordered his army to fight against the
barbarians, and St. Mercurius was sent to battle. One day, at the peak of battle, the
saint had a vision of man surrounded by light, who said, "O Mercurius, servant of
Jesus Christ, fear not, nor be downcast, for I have been sent to help you and lead
you to victory. Take this sword from my hand by which you will achieve victory, and
when you overcome your enemies, remember the Lord, your God." When St.
Mercurius took the sword from the angel, he felt the Holy Spirit overwhelm him, and
he fought with great bravery. He conquered the barbarians and their king, and the
rest fled in terror. For this reason, the great saint is called "of the two swords" (Abu-
Saifain); one sword is the military sword, and the other is the sword of divine power.
When Decius heard of St. Mercuhus' bravery, he made him supreme commander
over the entire Roman army, at the young age of twenty-five. One night, the angel
again appeared to the saint and reminded him to remember the Lord, saying, 'I am
the angel of the Lord who met you in the battlefield and gave you the victorious
sword with which you have conquered the enemy and asked you to remember the
Lord your God after victory. Now, I tell you, do not be afraid or troubled by the
emperor's decree; God has sent me to tell you that you shall suffer greatly for His
name and you shall receive a crown of victory in Heaven. I will strengthen you until
you fulfill your testimony. Your patience and good fight of faith will be heard of in
every quarter and God's name will be glorified in you."
After the angel of the Lord left, the great saint was moved by God's care and
encouragement. He remembered the words and teachings of his father regarding the
faith, and began to confess his weaknesses to the Lord: "Woe to me, sinful as I am
and like a fruitless tree. I have nothing to count upon except God's mercy. Look upon
me, my God and my Lord. Strengthen me and preserve me in Your holy name until
the last breath of my life." St. Mercurius longed with his whole heart to be in God's
presence and be one of the heavenly King's soldiers. He spent the entire night in
prayer and spiritual ecstasy. As he was finishing his prayers, two messengers sent
from the emperor summoned him, but the great saint apologized and excused
himself from the emperor. The next day, the emperor sent for St. Mercurius again,
and this time the saint appeared before him. The emperor told him, "Let us go
together to the great temple of Artemis and make an offering to her." The hero
Mercurius gave no answer, but quietly withdrew from the crowd. However, the devil,
in his animosity toward all good, seized the opportunity to discredit St. Mercurius in
front of the emperor. One of the soldiers of the saint's regiment informed the
emperor that St. Mercurius refused to worship the pagan gods and persuaded others
to cease worshiping pagan gods. Decius answered, "Perhaps you are jealous of the
man against whom you have said such things. I will not listen to you unless I learn
the truth by myself, face-to-face with Mercurius. Keep silent now and do not utter
another word against this great man. And if you have said such things against him
out of jealousy or hatred, you know that you will receive severe punishment. But if
what you have said is true, then you shall receive many blessings from our gods and
will be greatly rewarded by me."
The emperor ordered the hero Mercurius to appear before him. Decius said to him,
"Mercurius, was it not I who bestowed upon you great honor and promotion? Didn't I
make you supreme general over all the governors because of your intelligence and
the victory which the gods bestowed upon us in war? Why should you change this
great affection into bitter hatred? Is it true that you refused to worship the gods who
gave you victory in the war?"
St. Mercurius said to Decius in a brave but gentle tone, "Let this honor that you
speak of be yours, for even though I did go to war and fight, it was not I who
conquered, but God Who has been gracious to me in Christ. Take away this honor
that you have given me, for 'naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall
return.'" (Job 1:21) And taking off his military cloak and his golden belt, he threw
them at the emperor's feet, and cried, "I am a Christian. Hear, all of you, that I am a
Christian. Here are your titles and your dignities. Take them back, for they will perish
with every vanity in the world." Decius was stupefied. He marveled at the saint's
handsomeness, greatness, and strength. Decius tried to persuade the great saint to
change his mind, for he loved the honorable youth. St. Mercurius refused to yield to
the emperor's pleas: "I will never stop worshiping my Master Jesus Christ for
temporary honors, but by His grace, I will remain faithful to Him until death."
Decius became furious and ordered St. Mercurius to be thrown into prison, saying,
"Let this man who did not appreciate honor experience some disgrace," While he
was being led away to prison, the martyr rejoiced in the spirit and glorified God that
he had been "counted worthy to suffer shame for His name," (Acts 5:41)
That night, the angel of the Lord appeared to the great saint, saying, "Rejoice,
Mercurius, and do not fear the tortures of this tyrant. Trust in Christ, to Whom you
have testified openly, for He will save you from every tribulation." The angel
disappeared and St. Mercurius was strengthened by these words.
The following day, Decius seated himself at the tribunal and called St. Mercurius
before him, trying to persuade and threaten the great saint to renounce Christ. The
martyr remained unmoved and replied, "I do not fear tortures, and I am not moved by
death, because Jesus, our Lord, taught us in the Scriptures, saying: 'Do not be afraid
of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will
show you who you should fear: fear Him Who, after He has killed, has power to cast
into hell.' (Luke 12:4-5) You have no power over me except over my body; you can
do with it whatever you please."
Despite the saint's straightforward answers, Decius still tried to persuade him to
change his mind by offering to make the saint second to the emperor in the kingdom.
St. Mercurius replied, "Your majesty, your gods are the ones that our master King
David sang about in the psalms: Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's
hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak. Eyes they have, but they do not
see. They have ears, but they do not hear; noses they have, but they do not smell...
Those who make them are like them, so is everyone who trusts in them.'" (Psalm
Even still, Decius tried to appeal to the saint to raise incense to the gods by telling
him how much he loved him. St. Mercurius daringly replied, "Being tortured for the
name of Christ is a great honor for me. I have voluntarily taken off all of your
perishable honors and dignities. As a Christian, all I want is to inherit the Kingdom of
Heaven. My master and king, I have told you that I will never take your advice. Save
yourself the trouble and do not ask me again. I am ready not only to suffer, but also
to die for His holy name. Therefore, whatever you want to do to me, do not hesitate."
The emperor asked about the saint's origin and background. St. Mercurius said, "If
you want to know about my race and my native land, I will tell you. My father's name
was Gordianus, a native of Scythia. He served as a commander in the Martusian
regiment. He is a follower of the true God Jesus Christ, my heavenly Father. Thus,
my native city is the heavenly new Jerusalem, the city of the great King, the King of
kings." The emperor asked the saint about who gave him the name "Mercurius." The
martyr replied, "My father named me Philopatere, but I was called Mercurius by my
commander when I joined the army." The emperor gave the great saint one last
opportunity to raise incense to the pagan gods. The great saint replied, "I have come
to this place to conquer you and your father, Satan, through whom all evil exists. And
when I conquer, a crown wilt be placed upon my head by the true Master, my Lord
Jesus Christ. Therefore, whatever you wish to do to me, do it quickly. For I am
wearing the armor of God, and the shield of faith, by which I will overcome all your
schemes and tricks set against me." The emperor, filled with fury, ordered soldiers
to tie the saint's body to four stakes, so that he would be stretched and suspended
above the ground. Then Decius ordered the soldiers to strike St. Mercurius with nails
instead of scourges. The great martyr endured these tortures with patience. Decius
mocked the great saint, saying, "Where is your armor that you have spoken about?
Where is your courage and great military power? Where is your God to save you
from Decius?" The saint did not reply to the emperor, but instead looked up to
heaven and said, "My Lord Jesus Christ, help me." Decius then ordered the soldiers
to tear off the saint's flesh with sharp blades and light red-hot coals beneath him in
order to burn him alive. The flames were gradually extinguished by the flowing blood
of the righteous man. The great saint endured all these sufferings calmly and bravely
by the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. To prevent the great saint from dying quickly,
Decius ordered St. Mercurius to be sent to prison again and watched strictly. The
soldiers carried the saint's iialf-dead body to the dark prison cell, and there was little
breath left in him. Decius thought the saint would surely die in prison that night.
An angel of the Lord appeared to him that night, saying, "Grace and peace be yours,
O valiant fighter! Have courage, for God has not forgotten you. He will support you to
overcome the emperor and reveal the truth about his idols. Do not fear torture, 'for
our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding
and eternal weight of glory.'" (2 Cor. 4:17) The angel healed all of St. Mercurius'
wounds and restored him to health, so that he stood up and praised God, Who had
not abandoned him in his time of need. The next day, Decius called St. Mercurius
before him, and was astonished to find that the great saint, who had previously been
at death's door, stood before him with no wounds. Decius ordered his spear-bearers
to thoroughly examine the saint's body, and questioned if any physician had been
allowed to see the saint during the night. But the guards told the emperor that no one
had been allowed to see St. Mercurius, because they all thought the saint would die
during the night. The emperor said, "You see what the magic of the Christians is like!
How is it that yesterday he was fit for burial, and yet today he is standing up in
perfect health?" Filled with anger, Decius asked the great saint, "Who healed you?"
St. Mercurius replied, "It was my Lord Jesus Chhst, the true Physician of our souls
and bodies, Who was pleased to heal me. The sorcerers, charmers, and idolaters
are strangers to Him. He will bind them in chains which can never be broken, and will
deliver them to the eternal fire, because they did not acknowledge the true God who
created them." The emperor, enraged, said, "Now I am going to put an end to your
life by severe torture; let me see if Christ, in Whom you believe, will heal you."
St. Mercurius replied, "I believe in my Lord Jesus Christ. It is true that you have
power over my body, but you have no power over my soul, and all your punishments
will not make me renounce my faith, for our Lord said; 'Do not fear those who kill the
body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him Who is able to destroy both soul
and body in hell.'" (Matt. 10:28) The emperor ordered burning irons to be applied to
the saint's limbs, cheeks and sides. When this was done, instead of the expected
smoke and stench of burned flesh, a strong sweet smell of spices rose from St.
Mercurius' body, so that everyone there could smell it. And, although St. Mercurius
was suffering from the tortures, he did not utter a groan or shed a tear.
Decius said to the saint, "Where is your physician? Let him come and heal you. You
even said that He has the power to raise you if you died." St. Mercurius replied, "Do
whatever pleases you. You have power over my body, but God is the Master of my
soul. Even if you destroy my body, my soul shall live, for it is incorruptible."
The emperor ordered the saint to be hung upside down from a tree with a very large
stone tied around his neck, so that the great martyr would suffocate and die. But by
the power of the Lord, the great saint was able to endure this torture for a long period
of time. Decius, growing impatient, commanded that St. Mercurius be thrown in
prison for the night and bound by chains. Despite all the deadly tortures, St.
Mercurius spent the whole night in fervent prayer. While he was praying, a great light
filled the room, and immediately all of the chains fell off him. The angel of the Lord
appeared to him, saying, "O beloved of Christ, have courage and win. Do not worry
about these temporary tortures." The angel wiped away all of St. Mercurius' wounds,
and then disappeared. The great saint was filled with peace and continued in fervent
prayer; glorifying God Who had consoled him in his hour of suffering. The next day,
Decius again became angered when his officers told him that St. Mercuhus had
been healed of all his wounds. Decius pleaded with the saint to raise incense to the
pagan gods, but the great saint remained firm in the faith. The emperor ordered his
soldiers to flog St. Mercurius with a leather whip with four prongs, until the ground
became saturated with the saint's blood. During this torture, St. Mercurius prayed: "I
give thanks to You, my Lord Jesus Christ, that You have held me worthy to suffer for
Your holy name." Seeing that the prince Mercurius would not yield or waiver, and
that many of the soldiers and people in the crowd became attached to the saint and
publicly declared their faith in his God, Decius ordered that St. Mercurius be
executed by the sword. The soldiers tied the saint's nearly lifeless body to a horse
and took him to the city of Caesarea in Cappadocia to execute him.
Arriving at the spot of his execution, the great saint and martyr asked for a little time
to pray. While he was praying, a great light appeared; it was our Lord Jesus Christ,
in great glory with His archangels and angels. The Lord, with His sweet gentleness,
addressed St. Mercurius, saying: "Peace be to you, my beloved Mercurius. Your
prayers and pleadings have ascended before me as good incense. Come and rest
with Me in My Kingdom, for you have struggled well and kept your faith, and finished
your course. Come now to receive the crown of glory which has been appointed to
you. You were sincere and testified to My name before kings and princes regardless
of sufferings. I will let your name be known in every part of the world and great
miracles will be performed in churches that bear your name. Whoever writes down
the story of your testimony and suffering, I will write his name in the book of eternal
life. He who prepares your body for burial on earth, I will give him a celestial body on
the day of judgment.
"Whoever builds a church dedicated to your name, I will make him abide in the
heavenly new Jerusalem. I will let Michael the Archangel be a keeper forever over
churches that bear your name, and keeper over all who come to it on the day of your
commemoration to listen to the story of your suffering and take My blessings. I tell
you, Mercurius, I will endow on them mercy and forgiveness, and accept your pleas
for them. And he who makes offerings (bread, wine, incense or candles) on the day
of your commemoration, I will reward him. Whoever cares to make a feast for the
poor on the day of your commemoration, I will remember him at My heavenly feast.
Whoever calls to Me in your name, I will save him from all his suffering. If any
woman in labor asks Me for help in your name, I will relieve her quickly. Whoever
gives your name for his child, I will bless h/m." With these words, our Lord Jesus
Christ departed. And the martyr, being strengthened in peace and joy by the vision
of the Savior, said to those who were appointed to execute him, "Do what you have
been commanded to do quickly, for the Lord Who invites everyone to repentance
shall make you worthy of His grace, for He is rich and shows grace to those who go
to Him with a gift and without envy." After saying these words, the great saint and
martyr, St. Philopatere Mercurius Abu-Saifain, offered his head to executors and was
beheaded. After he was executed, his body became as white as snow and emitted a
sweet odor of the best incense and herbs. Witnessing these things, many people
On the twenty-fifth day of the blessed month of Hatour, St. Philopatere Mercurius
received the crown of martyrdom.
An Important Historical Event that Echoed the Name of St. Mercurius
throughout the Whole Church: Death of Julian the Apostate
Julian the Apostate
Julian, the nephew of emperor Constantine the great, was born in Constantinople in
331 A.D., and was raised as a Christian. In his youth, he fell under the influence of
pagan philosophy, despite the fact that he studied Scripture with St, Basil the Great
and St. Gregory of Nazianzus. Following the death of his cousin, Julian ascended
the throne in 361 A.D, He openly renounced the faith of Christ, and offered sacrifices
to the pagan gods. He deprived Christians of the hghts of citizenship, and stripped
them of many privileges, including membership in the army. He induced many
Christians to offer sacrifices to the pagan gods, and raised a tax against those who
would not sacrifice.
After hearing of Julian's many evil deeds, St. Basil, St Libarius, and St. Gregon/ went
to Julian to confront him on his behavior. Julian became angered and ordered that
these saints be thrown in prison until he return from the war in Persia. He threatened
that when he returned from Persia, he would treat Christians with severity and
boasted that the "Son of the carpenter" would be unable to help them.
While Julian was in the midst of battle in Persia, a violent wind arose, and the sky
and the sun were concealed by the clouds. During this darkness, a horseman, riding
at full gallop, charged with his lance and fatally wounded the emperor Julian. After
throwing Julian from his horse, the unknown assailant went away. When Julian had
been wounded, he filled his hand with blood and flung it into the air, crying, "You
have won, O Galilean."
According to the Ethiopian manuscript of the church fathers, St. Gregory and St Basil
constantly fasted and prayed while in prison. One night while praying, an icon of St.
Mercurius appeared in front of them. St. Basil requested the intercession of this great
saint, and St. Mercurius appeared to them saying, "Julian the Apostate was killed."
May the prayers of this great saint, St. Philopatere Mercurius (Abu-Saifain), be with
us all, and glory be to God forever. Amen.