St. Azazael (St. Pancras)

In this episode of our volunteer-driven research project “Walking The Way with The Saints”, we focus on St. Azazael.

Zack Joseph Kuruvilla presents us with his research into the life and martyrdom of the saint, and how he loudly professed that age is not a barrier to be a worthy testimonial for Christ’s infinite love.

St. Azazael was a Roman citizen who converted to Christianity and was beheaded for his faith at the age of fourteen in AD 304. He was also known as St. Pancras. In Greek, his name means “one who holds everything”. His dukhrono (commemoration) is celebrated on 12th of August in the Syriac Orthodox Church. At first, he was venerated along with St. Nereus and St. Achilleus on 12th May.

He was born in Samosata or Phrygia (Turkey). His father Cleonios was a very influential figure in the imperial court. His mother Cyriada died at childbirth and his father died when he was eight. After the death of his parents, his uncle took care of him. He received the kindness and warmth of Jesus’ love through his uncle Dionysios. They were converted to Christianity by the influence of Bishop Cornelius. The heart of Azazael was filled with love & devotion to God. Historical records exist which attest to the arrival of Mor Azazael & his uncle to Rome. But there are two traditions in this regard. As per the first belief, St. Azazael and his uncle came to Rome to proclaim the Gospel. The second tradition states that both came to Rome as directed by the Emperor.

Watch a video about St. Azazael prepared by Zack Kuruvilla

Mor Azazael was 14 years old when he came to Rome to live in a villa on the Caelian hill. The preaching of the saint and his uncle attracted many of the countrymen to the Christian faith. Emperor Maximian ordered him to abandon the faith. When St. Azazael refused, he was brutally tortured. But that night, the Lord healed & comforted him. The emperor was shocked to see the saint regained his health completely overnight. However, the emperor’s heart of stone did not soften. The emperor tortured him several times. But every time the saint regained his health with the help of God’s grace. Finally, he ordered to kill the saint. St. Azazael was viciously murdered at the age of fourteen in accordance with the emperor’s decree. Thus, Mor Azazael attained the crown of martyrdom. The faithful buried his relics.

In Western Christianity he is known as St. Pancras. It is believed that the King of Northumberland in Great Britain received a portion of saint’s relics and built a church dedicated to the martyr. Additionally, several churches in London and surroundings are in the name of the saint. A well-known Railway station in London, England is named after St. Pancras in his honor.

He is an advocate for children and teenagers to remain steadfast and unwavering in their faith when faced with life’s trials and temptations. He is the favorite saint for job-seekers and workers who ask for his intercession in their quest for work or a source of livelihood. He is also the patron saint invoked against cramps and headache as well as perjurers and witnesses in catholic beliefs. Usually, it is in older martyrs and saints that we find the admirable ability to transcend death for the love and honor of God. St. Azazael was just fourteen and was willing to be beheaded for his shepherd Lord. He was not scared to offer his life for Jesus Christ. 

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, if anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up the cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Matthew 16:24-25

Though young, his love for the Lord and courage during persecution until his final martyrdom serves as an exemplary model for us all. And may his intercession and prayers be a helping hand for us all. May God Almighty bless you all!

The Church of Mor Azazael in Keferze (Kafar ze or Altıntaş) is dedicated to the St. Izozoel whom is known in the west as St. Pancras. This church was constructed likely by the end of the 7th century AD. The Beth Slutho was built in 935AD. In 1416, Kurds looted the Church and stole the icon of Mor Izozoel. In 1855, an attack on the village left many of the Christians dead. In recent years, the church has been renovated and faithful flock there for prayers. Video courtesy of Syriac Orthodox Churches & Monasteries Facebook page.

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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