In this episode of our volunteer-driven research project “Walking The Way with The Saints”, we focus on the martyrs Sts. Yulithi and Kuriakose.
Gregory Rajan presents his research into the life and martyrdom of the saints, and how their steadfast faith can inspire us today.
Kuriakose (Quriaqos in Syriac Aramaic) means “belonging to the Lord”. The saint’s life is one of the many precious instances in history where we observe the love of the Cross and martyrdom exhibited in a mother-son relationship.
St. Yulithi and St. Kuriakose lived during the third century A.D. Following the death of her husband, St. Yulithi traveled across the Roman empire to escape the persecution of Christians. They traveled to Seleucia and to Tarsus. The governor of Tarsus, Alexandros, was very cruel and blood-thirsty, and was known for killing Christians with his bare hands. The Saint and her son lived as strangers among the people of Tarsus. Soon, they were caught and brought before Alexandros. The Saint realized that it was an invitation from God to martyrdom, since she could not escape persecution. So, she decided in her heart to remain faithful until the end.
Following severe persecution, Alexandros asked the saint to sacrifice to the idols, upon which he promised to release her and the child. The saint replied that even a child like my son would not accept it. Looking at St. Kuriakose, Alexandros asked again to agree to worship the idols. St. Kuriakose replied “Your idols are made of stone and wood. My real God is Jesus Christ.” And, the Saint shouted “I am Christian, I am Christian.” Irate, Alexandros killed St. Kuriakose by throwing the child onto the floor. The child hit his head, and died instantly, receiving the crown of martyrdom. He was only three years old.
In the life of St. Kuriakose, we meet an infant, three years of age, proclaiming “I am Christian” and sacrificing his blood for the love of Christ.
In a treatise about infants written for Governor Hierios of Cappadocia, St. Gregory of Nyssa expounds “nothing happens without God…; and, reversely, that God’s dispensations have no element of chance and confusion in them …God is Reason, and Wisdom, and Perfect Goodness, and Truth, and could not admit of that which is not good and not consistent with His Truth. … in rendering to everyone his due, [God] sometimes even grants a scope to wickedness for good in the end…for He Who does everything with Wisdom knows how to effect by means of evil some good.”
In a writing titled “Dying To Live or How To Become A Human Being”, Fr. John Behr recounts the powerful words of St. Ignatius of Antioch, while the saint was being taken from Syria to Rome to be martyred in the early second century. On route, St. Ignatius wrote:
“Birth pangs are upon me. Suffer me, my brethren; hinder me not from living, do not wish me to die. … Allow me to receive the pure light; when I shall have arrived there, I will be a human being—allow me to follow the example of the passion of my God.”
Only through his martyrdom does the saint be born into life as a human being. It is of such martyrs that St. Irenaeus wrote his beautiful line: “the glory of God is a living human being, and the life of the human being is to see God.” (Against the Heresies 4.20.7).
Christian theology worships the Holy Trinity, looks to the one Lord Jesus Christ, revealing himself paradigmatically through the event of the Incarnation and Passion to understand the truth about God and about the human being, together, in one. Christ shows us what it is to be God in the way he dies as a human being, simultaneously revealing what it is to be human.
With St. Gregory of Nyssa, we can boldly proclaim there is no element of chance or confusion in God and nothing happens without God. This is true even in the life of the three-year-old martyr, St. Kuriakose and his blessed Mother, St. Yulithi.
“O Martyrs, you saw Him who hung on the Cross; sitting at the right hand of God weaving your crowns; therefore you thought nothing of every torture; and cleansed your limbs in the blood which flowed from your necks; blessed are you who trampled all pain; and did yearn for the love of Christ; your memories are honored in heaven and on earth”.Qolo, Wednesday Ramsho of the Syriac Orthodox Church
Blessed are you, O’ Saint Kuriakose and Saint Yulithi; You trampled all pain and yearned for the love of Christ. You savored who God is. You died to live again and to become living together and again, with Christ and in Him.
May your memories be honored in heaven and on earth. May your prayers help us always, and by your prayers, may we learn and yearn to live together and again with Christ. ♰
Stay tuned for the next episode as laymen and clergy present their research on the saints of the Syriac Orthodox Church.
May God bless all of you!
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