August 18 – Christodoulos the Philosopher; Florus and Laurus

Christodoulos the Philosopher (XIII cent.) was from Sakara, in Georgia. He spoke several languages fluently, he knew the Bible and the Fathers inside and out, and, as part of his desire to learn about all the faiths of the world (the better to understand his own faith), he even memorized the Qur’an. He was an expert on Christian theology and just about every other theology he could get his hands on. Let’s face it: this guy knew his fertilizer.

His fame went far and wide, apparently, for the Persian king Iamame invited him to take part in Debate-a-Thon 1250 (I guesstimated the year), an intellectual slugfest between Muslims and Christians. Happy to defend the faith of Christ against infidels, Chris accepted the challenge, and was soon checking into his hotel in Tehran (or wherever the debate was held).

The first opponent on his dance card was the king himself, whom he beat in straight sets. Then a pagan astrologer (really? at a Muslim debate? or are they using “pagan” to mean “Muslim”?) was brought in, but when Chris had him on the ropes, he tagged his teammate, a renowned Muslim scholar. Seriously, he was so famous, my source’s sources totally neglected to write down his name. At any rate, Chris’s knowledge of the Scriptures and the Qur’an, his brilliant logic, and his sparkling rhetoric won the day. He cleared the bases, threw a 98-yard touchdown pass and caught it himself, scored a hat-trick, hit for six, made a three-pointer from the opposite key, and in general didn’t lose.

After returning to Georgia and residing there for a time, Chris went off to live at the Iveron monastery at Athos* for a while, then ended his days on Patmos.

Florus and Laurus (II cent.) were brothers “both in flesh and in spirit” which is absolutely the best kind of brother to have, if you can arrange it. They were devout Christians and stonemasons. Interestingly we know the names of their instructors from the stonemason academy (or wherever you learned stonemasoning in those days), who also instructed them in the faith: Proclus and Maximus.

Florus and Laurus were hired by the local prefect, Likaion (“I enjoy charged particles”), to build a pagan temple. As they worked they distributed their earnings to the poor, fasted and prayed, and in general were as saintly and admirable as stonemasons can be.

One day the son (who had no name) of the local pagan priest (whose name was Mamertin (“mom’s can”)) entered the construction zone without his hardhat or safety glasses, and a chunk of stone flew into his eye, half blinding him, and knocking him out. Word of this got back to Mamertin, who was wroth. F & L calmed him down and reassured him the boy would be just fine. The saints yanked out the splinter, and prayed over the boy with much tears and beseeching. The Lord heard their prayer (it was pretty loud), and healed the boy. They explained to the lad whose name they had prayed in, and he and Mamertin embraced the Christian faith.

After the temple was completed, F & L slapped a cross on top, and got the local priest to consecrate it as a Christian temple. Naturally this got back to the prefect, who burned all the local Christians, including Mamertin and his son but excluding Florus and Laurus, whom he tossed down a well, which he subsequently filled in with earth. They were exhumed “after many years,” and their skulls were seen at the Pantokrator Monastery as recently as 1350.