St. Theodore the General Icon

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Orthodox Icon of Saint Theodore the General, Commander, Stratelates, also known as Theodore of Heraclea.

Comemmorated February 8th.

The Great Martyr Theodore Stratelates came from the city of Euchaita in Asia Minor. He is know for killing a giant serpent living on a precipice in the outskirts of Euchaita that had devoured many people spreading fear in the countryside. St Theodore was made the military commander [stratelatos] in the city of Heraclea. Here he combined his military service with preaching the Gospel among the pagans subject to him. His gift of persuasion, reinforced by his personal example of Christian life and brought most of Heraclea to become Christian.

Emperor Licinius (311-324) began a fierce persecution against Christians to try to stamp out Christianity. Licinius tried to force St Theodore to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. The saint invited Licinius to come to him with his idols so both of them could offer sacrifice before the people. Licinius trusted the saint but St Theodore smashed the gold and silver statues into pieces distributing the pieces to the poor. St Theodore was arrested and tortured. An angel healed the saint's wounded body. In the morning, the imperial soldiers found him alive and unharmed.

Seeing with their own eyes the infinite might of the Christian God, they were baptized not far from the place of the unsuccessful execution. Unwilling to escape martyrdom for Christ, St Theodore voluntarily surrendered himself to Licinius, and discouraged the Christians from rising up against the torturer, saying, Beloved, halt! My Lord Jesus Christ, hanging upon the Cross, restrained the angels and did not permit them to take revenge on the race of man.

By order of the emperor, St Theodore was beheaded by the sword. Before his death he told Varus, Do not fail to record the day of my death, and bury my body in Euchaita. He also asked to be remembered each year on this date. Then he bent his neck beneath the sword, and received the crown of martyrdom which he had sought. This occurred on February 8, 319, on a Saturday, at the third hour of the day. St Theodore is regarded as the patron saint of soldiers.

Reference: O.C.A.