July 17 – Marina of Antioch; Alexius of Rome

Marina of Antioch (d. 306) (aka Margaret) killed a dragon! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. A pagan, she was sent to live with a Christian auntie when her mom died, and came to believe in Christ. This got her pagan dad’s seamless undergarment in a twist just long enough for him to disinherit her and drop out of the story. She was arrested and brought before Governor Olymbrios, who tried to persuade her to renounce her faith and marry him. She of course did neither, and was subject to cruel torments including sharp implements and burning substances. She survived. Not having been liturgically dunked yet, she prayed aloud that God, having seen her safe through fire, would bring her through the waters of baptism. A gleam came into Olymbrios’ eye, and he ordered her tossed into a cauldron and drowned. Thunder cracked across the sky, a dove came down from heaven bearing a crown (a hefty dove or a light crown), her chains fell off, she was healed of her wounds, and 5,000 witnesses came to believe in God right then and there.

Thus thwarted, Olymbrios threw her into prison, where she was confronted with a dragon (possibly Satan in draconic form) and promptly et. In the belly of the beast she made the sign of the cross upon herself, whereupon BLAMMO[1]! the beast exploded asunder, and she stepped out unharmed (if, perhaps, a bit gooey). The next day she was beheaded, praying for God to forgive her tormentors. A voice from heaven said, “Will do.”

Marina is unusual in being one of the few (if not the only) women to be depicted on Deacon’s Doors—at least occasionally, at least in the Balkans, at least in medieval times, as a protectress against demons and evil. She is also one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers*, and the patron saint of women in labor.

Today is also the anniversary of the murders by the Bolsheviks of Tsar Nicholas II and his family, including their son Alexis. The royal family are considered by some to be martyrs, and by others to be passion-bearers*, but by both groups to be saints.

Alexius of Rome (V Cent.) (aka Alexis the Man of God) was the son of a Roman politician and desired to be a virgin for God, but was forced into an arranged marriage by his parents. (Where have we heard this kind of thing before?) He put up with the wedding, but afterwards gave his ring back to the bride and said, “I’m out of here.” One source says they had agreed on this beforehand. One hopes that source is right.

He made his way to Edessa, where he lived as a beggar, yet gave away a share of his gleanings to people even poorer than himself (begging being, perhaps, an acquired skill). Thus he lived for seventeen years, when his cover was blown by a vision of the Blessed Virgin referring to him as “the Man of God,” upon which he fled back to Rome, and to his parents’ home. They didn’t recognize him, but being charitable agreed to allow him to sleep under the stairs (did they live on Privet Drive? My source does not say). He made his living working in their kitchen among the servants (who abused him, not knowing he was their master) (oh the irony[2]!), and begging on the streets. Seventeen years later the Pope (Innocent I) heard a voice saying, “Seek the Man of God.” He was directed to Alexius’ folks’ home, where they found Alexius in his cubbyhole, dead, holding a parchment that told his story. He is, for some reason, the patron saint of belt makers.

[1]Or some fourth-century Antiochian equivalent of BLAMMO!
[2]Either real irony or Morissette irony.