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The Life and the Martyrdom of Saint Drosis

St. Drosis: Daughter of Rome, Martyr of Christ

St. Drosis

During the early days of the Church, the presence of Christ was abundant, and the Apostles boldly preached His teachings, spreading the light of Truth to all corners of the world. However, the secular leaders of that time increasingly viewed this growing faith as a nuisance or even a danger. Among them was the formidable Roman Emperor Trajan, whose heart remained hardened against the followers of Christ. To stifle their gatherings, he resurrected an ancient law that prohibited secret meetings. When this failed to extinguish the faith, he escalated further by enacting a draconian decree that forbade all Christian practices under penalty of death.

The courageous sacrifice: Saint Drosis and the Christian virgins

Yet, in the face of such brutality, the Christian faith persevered, kept alive by the courageous men and women who worshipped in secret. One such figure was Saint Drosis (Drosida), the Emperor's own daughter. Nearby, five Christian virgins — Aglais (Aglaida), Apollinaria, Daria, Mamthusa (Mamousa), and Thais — dedicated themselves to works of faith and mercy. When Emperor Trajan ordered the bodies of executed Christians left unburied to serve as a warning, the five virgins ventured out into the streets at night to give these martyrs their last respects. They anointed the fallen believers with precious spices, wrapped them in shrouds, and then laid them to rest.

A marble statue of Trajan. Photograph by Kenneth Garrett, Nat Geo Image Collection

A marble statue of Trajan. Photograph by Kenneth Garrett, Nat Geo Image Collection

Drosis, a royal, was destined for a life of luxury according to her family and court. Hadrian, her suitor and an advisor to the Emperor, proposed marriage. Yet, Drosis desired only to serve Christ. In fervent prayers, she pleaded, “O King of Kings, Lord Jesus Christ, for Your sake I relinquish my imperial rank, becoming the lowliest handmaiden in Your Kingdom.” Joining the five virgins, she stepped on a path leading to her martyrdom.

Meanwhile, Hadrian learned of the virgins’ activities and alerted the Emperor, expressing concern. He harboured a secret motive: suspecting Drosis’s Christian faith, he hoped fear of punishment would sway her. Following Hadrian’s report, Trajan stationed guards to watch over every unburied body, with orders to capture anyone attempting their burial. On that fateful night, Saint Drosis and the five virgins were captured.

The five Holy Virgin Martyrs faced a horrific end — condemned to be burned alive in a copper-melting furnace. Yet, they embraced their fate with enduring courage and faith, earning eternal rewards in the Heavenly Kingdom.

The Divine warning: Trajan’s dream and the brazen statues

In the aftermath, Emperor Trajan commissioned a grand public bathhouse. At the entrance, he proudly displayed tripods forged from the very copper that came out of the furnaces used in the martyrs’ execution. However, a strange curse seemed to befall the baths. Any who dared to cross the threshold met a swift and inexplicable end. Pagan priests advised Trajan to remove the tripods, hoping to break the curse.

At that point, the conniving Hadrian saw an opportunity. He proposed melting down the tripods and crafting them into brazen statues — five naked virgins resembling the martyrs. These would then be displayed at the bathhouse entrance.

However, the all-merciful Lord desires salvation and a chance for redemption for all, including Trajan. Before the statues could be erected, the Emperor had a powerful dream. In it, he saw five radiant figures, along with the image of the Good Shepherd. The Shepherd spoke, His voice filled with both sorrow and warning: “O most impious and cruel Caesar! Those whose likenesses you sought to mock have been taken from you, brought here by the benevolent Shepherd. Soon, your daughter, the pure lamb Drosis, shall join them as well.”

Saint Martyr Drosis. Fresco in the Church of St. Athanasius in Durmani, Veria, Greece

Saint Martyr Drosis. Fresco in the Church of St. Athanasius in Durmani, Veria, Greece.

The dream, however, failed to soften Trajan’s rebellion against God. It only hardened his resolve. He issued an imperial edict, its words dripping with menace: “Those who worship the Crucified One: spare yourselves immense suffering and us further trouble. Offer sacrifice to the gods! Refusal means casting yourselves into these very furnaces.” Two colossal furnaces roared to life, their fiery maws licking the air, hungry for more Christian sacrifices.

Saint Drosis’s self-baptism and martyrdom

News of Trajan’s cruel ultimatum reached Saint Drosis. Inflamed by a desire for martyrdom, she vowed to embrace death for her faith in Christ. Yet, a single concern gnawed at her resolve. She yearned for baptism, fearing to approach God without its purifying waters. “How can I stand before the King of Kings in such imperfection?” she lamented.

In the confines of her prison cell, Saint Drosis knelt in fervent prayer. She begged the Lord to grant her freedom, allowing her to receive baptism. Her pleas reached His ears, and a veil of sleep descended upon the guards outside. Yet, the fierce persecution had left no priest to perform the sacred rite. Undeterred, Saint Drosis addressed her prayer directly to God: “Baptise me Yourself by Your Holy Spirit.” Her words echoed in the darkness. She took the myrrh she had brought with her and anointed herself. Then, immersing herself in water three times, she declared, “The handmaiden of God, Drosis, is baptised in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Saint Martyr Drosis. Fresco in the Church of St. Athanasius in Durmani, Veria, Greece

“Saviour in Strength”. Andrey Rublev, 1408

Following this self-baptism, Saint Drosis retreated from the world for seven days. She spent this time in devoted prayer and fasting. On the eighth day, the now-baptised martyr emerged from her hiding place. With unwavering resolve, she threw herself into the flames, crying out to the Lord, “I love You, my Bridegroom, and in seeking You, I endure suffering. Accept me as a pure sacrifice, for I have offered myself in love.”

April 03, 2024
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