Icon of the Holy Martyr Varus (standing) (1VA02)

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The Life of the Holy Martyr Varus 

+October 19

Varus was a Roman officer in Egypt and also secretly a Christian. When seven Christian teachers were cast into prison, Varus visited them, supplying them with necessities and ministering to them zealously. He was amazed at these martyrs and grieved that because of his fear he could not become a martyr for Christ. The men of God encouraged him, and Varus decided that he would go with them to be tortured.

One of these men of God died in prison, so that when the wicked eparch had the martyrs brought before him, there were only six remaining. He inquired as to the seventh. Varus said to him: "I am the seventh". The enraged governor tortured Varus first. He commanded that he be flogged with dry rods naked, and after that had him tied to a tree and sliced apart piece by piece until the saint gave his holy soul to God.

His body was thrown on a dung heap. A Palestinian woman named Cleopatra, the widow of an officer, was there with her son John. She secretly took Varus's holy relics from the dung heap and buried them in her house. Then she begged permission from the eparch to take the body of her deceased husband from Egypt to Palestine. As she was the wife of an officer, the eparch immediately gave his permission. However, the blessed Christian Cleopatra did not take the body of her husband but the relics of the Holy Martyr Varus instead. Thus, she brought the martyr's relics to Edras (the village of her birth) near Mount Tabor, and buried them with honor there. Afterward, she built a church to St. Varus and he often appeared to her from the other world, resplendent as an angel of God.

An Appearance of the Holy Martyr Varus

When the devout widow Cleopatra built a church to him, she summoned the bishop and priests to consecrate it. A large number of Christians gathered for this celebration, for the entire countryside venerated St. Varus as a great healer and miracle-worker.

Following the divine services, this pious benefactress went before the relics of St. Varus and prayed: "I beseech you, you who endured much suffering for Christ, implore God for that which is pleasing to Him; and for me and my only son, ask that which is beneficial."

Cleopatra's son John was ready for the army. Just as she left the church, John became ill. He was seized with a burning fever that grew steadily worse until, around midnight, John died. The grief-stricken, furious mother came before the tomb of St. Varus and spoke sharply: "O saint of God! Is this the way you help me?" and she said much more in her bitter lamentation until, utterly exhausted, she fell into a light sleep.

St. Varus appeared to her with her son John. Both were radiant as the sun in garments whiter than snow, bound with golden girdles, and had magnificent wreaths on their heads. God's saint said to her: "Did you not pray to me to implore God for whatever was pleasing to Him, and beneficial to you and your son? I prayed to God and He, in His unspeakable goodness, took your son into His heavenly army. If you so desire, here he is: take him and place him in the army of the earthly king." Hearing this, the young John embraced St. Varus and said: "No, my Lord, do not listen to my mother and do not send me back into the world, full of unrighteousness and iniquity, from which you have delivered me."

Awakening from the dream, Cleopatra felt great joy in her heart and left the church. She lived near the church for seven years, and St. Varus often appeared to her with John.

~Taken from 'The Prologue of Ochrid' by, St. Nikolai Velimirovic


A Heavenly Intercessor for those outside the Church

One often hears converts to Orthodoxy express their sorrow that there is, no Orthodox service that a priest can serve on behalf of their beloved relatives and friends who have departed this life outside the Church. They feel the inadequacy of their own prayers, and look without much hope for guidance and help. Owing to the widespread apostacy in Russia under the Communists, this feeling is now very common there amongst those who have remained faithful. In response to this, an age-old tradition, fallen into disuse, has been revived. There is someone in Heaven whose prayers are very strong, wanting and willing to help in such cases - the 4th century martyr St. Varus!

How did this tradition begin? St Varus was an officer in the Roman army in Egypt, a secret Christian, who frequently visited a group of imprisoned Christians, supplying their every need. He greatly admired their courage, feeling he would never himself have the strength to bear torture. However, through the prayers of these Christians, he finally gained courage and offered himself as a sacrifice along with them. He was cut to pieces with knives and thrown onto a dung heap, from where a Christian woman, Cleopatra, took his body secretly. Her husband was also an officer in the Roman army and had recently been killed. She was granted permission to take his body back to her home in Palestine. Instead, wishing to honour the martyr, she took the body of the holy martyr Varus, buried his relics in her family vault, and built a church there dedicated to him. Gradually he became known throughout the region as a great healer and wonderworker.

Cleopatra herself prayed there frequently with great devotion, especially for her only son, John, who had just gone into the army. To her great grief, the young man died shortly afterwards and she went to the tomb, bitterly complaining that the saint had not answered her prayers. That night the saint appeared to her in a dream, together with her son, both of them radiant with glory. "You asked me to beg God to grant John whatever was most pleasing to Him and beneficial for you both. He has taken him into His heavenly army, where he serves with great joy. How can you complain? Would you rather keep him for the army of an earthly king? Your prayers to me are always remembered. Moreover I have prayed for all your relatives, buried with me in the vault, that although they died outside the Church, all their sins would be forgiven, and God has heard my prayers."

Cleopatra's joy was unbounded, and she passed on the good news to everyone. From that revelation in her vision, the custom grew up of begging St Varus' prayers for deceased relatives and friends, whatever their faith.

Here is the special prayer to Saint Varus:

O Holy, wondrous Martyr Varus, who, burning with zeal for the Heavenly King, didst confess Him before thy torturers and didst greatly suffer for Him! Now the Church doth venerate thee, as one glorified with the glory of heaven by Christ the Lord, Who granted thee the abundant grace to approach Him boldly. And now, standing before Him together with the Angels, rejoicing on high, beholding the Most Holy Trinity clearly, and enjoying the Uncreated Light, remember the suffering of our relatives who have died outside the Faith, and accept our pleas, and as thou didst intercede for the unbelieving ancestors of Cleopatra and didst free them from eternal suffering, remember those who have died unbaptized and have been buried in an ungodly manner, and pray earnestly that they may be delivered from eternal darkness, that we may all, with one mouth and one heart, praise the Most Merciful Creator unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Saint Varus is celebrated on October 19th

His Akathis and Canon can be found here!

A more detailed account of the Saints' life can be found here.