Many women who are highly revered by the Orthodox church have done some incredibly and surprising things. Today I’m introducing Saint Marina, the patron saint of my son,Marinos. I’d like to go into her story a little bit more to show that sometimes, female saints in the Orthodox church get a little radical.
Saint Marina’s mother died when she was born, and she was raised by her pagan father in Antioch. However, since her mother had died, her father sought assistance from a Christian woman to help raise Marina. As she got older, Marina told her father that she too would like to be a Christian, and that she would never marry.
Marina’s father was a very wealthy man, and according to the story, Marina was also a very lovely woman. Her father was hoping to marry her to the Imperial Governor, and did his best to try to convince her that she should marry the most powerful man in the province. Marina still refused, quote: “Have no vain hope for me, o governor, that I might cower before any number of torments.
“Nothing will separate me from Christ” - Saint Marina– neither affliction, famine, fire, sword, nor any harsh tribulation – not even a violent and very painful death. Think not that you will entice me the honors, gold or other wealth, because all these things are perishable and temporal.”
This kiss-off infuriated the Imperial Governor. Why wouldn’t this motherless girl want to marry him, guaranteeing a life of every comfort and luxury? The insult was pretty powerful, and the Imperial Governor wasn’t quite gracious in his rejection. He ordered Marina tortured, and her beauty was disfigured.
The more she was tortured, the more she prayed. Quote: “I do not sorrow in this transient life. Readily I give my body to death, for my deathless God and Master, as he, the sinless One, for my love, was crucified.”
The right hand of St.Marina in Vatopedi Monastery in Mount Athos-Greece
Marina was so tough in her love for Christ that she still refused to back down in the throes of painful torture. In fact, she thanked God for counting her worthy of such attention in His name. A demon, curious as to why this young girl hadn’t backed down from this torture, tried to afflict the woman himself.
This part of the story is what really impresses me. When human torture isn’t enough to break you, the devil seems to get desperate and makes an uncharacteristic direct assault on God’s children. The demon, disguised in a human-like form, came upon Marina in her jail cell to confront her, and Marina – in keeping with what should be clear by now is her radical personality – grabs a hammer and beats the demon to the ground.
I want to let that one sink in for a bit. She’s already been shunned by her father, she’s flatly rejected a life of comfort with a man who would be her husband, and she’s been tortured by that man because of her choice to follow God and not be married. Most people, having come from a string of such difficult and sometimes demoralizing occurrences, might just give up at that point. Sometimes its just easy to go along with the flow. Her life would have been a LOT easier had she just said “Alright Dad, I’ll marry the governor.” She willingly chose her fate and went to it unfailingly.
And then she beat up a demon with a hammer. I also forgot to mention that Marina was 15 years old.
Upon defeating the demon, Marina’s wounds were healed, which drove the governor insane. Driven by his madness, he ordered Marina tortured further – first by fire, then by water. When nothing seemed to touch her, he finally ordered her decapitated. She is then martyred at the age of 15.
The truth about so many saints, both men and women, is that their sainthood comes from a very difficult and painful end to their lives. Most of us modern Christians will not be tortured and killed for our adherence to our faith. But in many ways, we put up with public ridicule, misunderstanding, unflattering stereotypes and insults, all because people think they know all about us just because of our faith.
Remember those saints who gave it all because of their love. Saints like Marina, who physically beat up demons with hammers and brute strength, emboldened by their love of God and the power of their faith. Marina’s confidence in her faith is inspiring, and I pray to myself that I be influenced and inspired by the radical life of this fascinating saint.