cgs_2019_02_22

The Holy Martyr Nicephorus lived in the city of Syrian Antioch. In this city lived also the presbyter Sapricios, with whom Nicephorus was very friendly, such that they were considered like kindred brothers. Through the onset of a disagreement they quarreled, and their former love changed into enmity and hate. After a certain while Nicephorus came to his senses, repented of his sin and more than once through mutual friends asked forgiveness of Sapricios, who did not wish to forgive him. Nicephorus then went himself to his former friend and fervently asked forgiveness, but Sapricios was adamant. At this time the emperors Valerian (253-259) and Gallius (260-268) started up persecutions against Christians, and one of the first taken before the judgement court was presbyter Sapricios. He firmly confessed himself a Christian, underwent tortures for his faith and was condemned to death by beheading with a sword. When they took him to execution, Nicephorus tearfully entreated his forgiveness, calling on him as an holy martyr who would soon stand before the Lord and receive of Him a crown.

But presbyter Sapricios remained hardened of heart and even before death he refused to forgive his brother Christian. Because of this the Lord withheld His blessing from Sapricios, having formerly strengthened him during the time of enduring torture; but now, having nearly reached the blessed end of his ordeal, he suddenly became afraid of death and consented to offer sacrifice to idols. In vain did Saint Nicephorus tearfully urge on Sapricios, that he not destroy himself by apostasy, since already he was standing at the threshold of the Heavenly Kingdom. Saint Nicephorus then said to the executioner: “I am a Christian and I believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom Sapricios hath recanted. Execute me in place of Sapricios.” The executioners reported about this to the governor. He issued an edict: to free Sapricios, and in place of him to behead Nicephorus with a sword. Thus did Saint Nicephorus receive his martyr’s crown.