The Holy Martyr Christopher of Lycea (May 9)

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The Holy Martyr Christopher lived during the third century and suffered about the year 250, during the reign of the emperor Decius (249-251).

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St Christopher was a man of great stature and unusual strength.

He was at first named Reprobus. Seeing the Christians persecuted, he rebuked the tyrants for their cruelty. Because of his renowned strength, 200 soldiers were assigned to bring him before the emperor Decius. Reprobus submitted without resistance. Several miracles occurred along the way; a dry stick blossomed in the saint’s hand, loaves of bread were multiplied through his prayers, and the travellers had no lack thereof. This is similar to the multiplication of loaves in the wilderness by the Savior. The soldiers surrounding Reprobus were astonished at these miracles. They came to believe in Christ and they were baptized along with Reprebus by St Babylus of Antioch.

Christopher once made a vow to serve the greatest king in the world, so he first offered to serve the local king. Seeing that the king feared the devil, Christopher thought he would leave the king to serve Satan. Learning that the devil feared Christ, Christopher went in search of Him. St Babylas of Antioch told him that he could best serve Christ by doing well the task for which he was best suited. Therefore, he became a ferryman, carrying people across a river on his shoulders. One stormy night, Christopher carried a Child Who insisted on being taken across at that very moment. With every step Christopher took, the Child seemed to become heavier. Halfway across the stream, Christopher felt that his strength would give out, and that he and the Child would be drowned in the river. As they reached the other side, the Child told him that he had just carried all the sins of the world on his shoulders. Then He ordered Christopher to plant his walking stick in the ground. As he did so, the stick grew into a giant tree. Then he recognized Christ, the King Whom he had vowed to serve.

St Christopher was brought before the emperor, who tried to make him renounce Christ, not by force but by cunning. He summoned two profligate women, Callinike and Aquilina, and commanded them to persuade Christopher to deny Christ, and to offer sacrifice to idols. Instead, the women were converted to Christ by St Christopher. When they returned to the emperor, they declared themselves to be Christians.Therefore, they were subjected to fierce beatings, and so they received the crown of martyrdom.

Decius also sentenced to execution the soldiers who had been sent after St Christopher, but who now believed in Christ. The emperor ordered that the martyr be thrown into a red-hot metal box. St Christopher, however, did not experience any suffering and he remained unharmed. After many fierce torments they finally beheaded the martyr with a sword. This occurred in the year 250 in Lycia.

The etymology of his name, which means “Christ-bearer,” has undoubtedly moved iconographers to depict him carrying the infant Jesus on his shoulders; it is completely erroneous, however, to depict him, as some uninformed iconographers do, having the head of a dog, because of a statement in his life that he was dog-faced, by which is meant only that his countenance was exceedingly frightful to look upon.

St. Christopher is considered a patron Saint for travelers and drivers, thus many Christians place his icon in their modes of transportation.

The skull of Saint Christopher is treasured at Karakallou Monastery on Mount Athos.