by Fr George Poulos
The Roman Empire extended its authority over the entire Mediterranean world in the second century. It was administered by men who looked down at the general public, but who looked up to statues of their many idols. The early Christians, who were forced to worship in secret, must have felt mixed emotions of piety and disdain for the high officials who humbled themselves before useless forms carved out of granite or stone.
One sweet Christian soul who challenged the mighty at the expense of her life was a girl called Glykeria, whose very name translates to "sweetness" and who exhibited a purity of heart not usually put on display by others, equally as devout but much more cautious in expressing their true feelings.
Glykeria was not a face in the crowd who summoned the courage to step forward, as one might suppose. Surprisingly enough she was the daughter of a Roman official of senatorial rank and, therefore, an aristocrat who rubbed elbows with those in power. In her circle of friends there was not the slightest suspicion that this well-placed daughter of Roman society was actually a Christian convert who loved the Messiah with all her heart and who slipped off unnoticed when it came time to mingle with her real friends to worship Jesus Christ.
Out of respect for her parents, St. Glykeria kept her devout Christianity a well-guarded secret, even at times when her presence was required for festivities involving the false gods. It was a matter of time, however, as to how long she could maintain this dual personality without revealing herself, or take the safer course in escaping the loathsome idolatry to find a haven among Christians.
Her love for her parents and respect for their wishes finally placed her in an uncompromising position when she dutifully accompanied them to a pagan ceremony but was compelled to look away in agony, no longer able to abide an unholy scene that was driving her to distraction and torturing her Christian conscience. The scene was a high pagan holiday being observed in her home city of Trajianopolis on the Adriatic Coast. It was being held in the largest temple of the area, and at the special invitation of a man called Sabinius who was the province prefect.
It was hardly the setting for a Christian girl to assert herself, but when her anguish had been noted, her father asked if she were ill, to which she replied that she was indeed ill, sickened by the sight of supposedly noble Romans prostrating themselves before bits of stone. Stripping herself of the cloak of hypocrisy she had been forced to wear, Glykeria approached the feared Sabinius who was leading the ceremony of prostration and asked him in a scornful tone:
"Why does the noble Prefect prostrate himself before a slab of cold marble which has no power nor a saving grace to benefit anyone?"
Thinking her either demented or drunk, the Prefect gestured for her to leave him to his ministrations. Undaunted, Glykeria stepped in front of the idol, and with arms outstretched she proclaimed the omnipotence of God and prayed in the name of Jesus Christ that his power be shown to these.misguided Romans. While the stunned pagans looked on in disbelief, she repeated her prayer, and at that instant the earth trembled with such violence that the statue of Zeus toppled onto the quaking temple floor to be shattered to bits.
The only calm person in this thoroughly confused crowd was Glykeria who cried out,
"Is this the hope of all Romans? Let it be known that the hope for Romans and all mankind is Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, who for our salvation was crucified on the cross in Jerusalem and whose blood shall redeem us all. Our strength is in him, not in this pile of rubble."
When Sabinius recovered from the shock, his pagan-trained mind prevailing over what could have saved his soul, he screamed that the daughter of a Roman senator had turned into a sorceress and had defiled the ancient pagan beliefs. He lost no time in having her executed.
St. Glykeria gave her life for Christ on 13 May 177 AD at the age of twenty-one. From her burial site emanated a sweet aroma, indicating her saintliness which has been honored by emperors such as Maurice in 591 and Heraklios in 610 AD.
from Orthodox Saints, v. 2, Holy Cross Orthodox Press