January 1 - Martyr Boniface at Tarsus in Cilicia, and Righteous Aglaia of Rome (290)
The Holy Martyr Boniface was the slave of a rich young Roman woman named Aglaia, and he lived with her in sinful cohabitation. Both, however, felt the sting of conscience and they wanted to be cleansed of their sin somehow. The Lord granted them the possibility to wash away their sin with their blood and to finish their life in repentance.
Aglaia learned that whoever keeps relics of the Holy Martyrs in their home, and venerates them, receives great help in gaining salvation. Through their influence, sin is diminished and virtue prevails. She arranged for Boniface to go to the East, where there was a fierce persecution against Christians, and she asked him to bring back the relics of some martyr, who would become their guide and protector.
As he was leaving, Boniface laughed and asked, “My lady, if I do not find any relics, and if I myself suffer for Christ, would you accept my relics with reverence?”
Aglaia scolded him, saying that he was setting off on a sacred mission, but he was not taking it seriously. Boniface pondered her words, and during the whole journey he thought that he was not worthy to touch the relics of the martyrs.
Arriving at Tarsus in Cilicia, Boniface left his companions at the inn and proceeded to the city square, where they were torturing Christians. Stricken by the horrible torments, and seeing the faces of the Holy Martyrs radiant with the grace of the Lord, Boniface marveled at their courage. He embraced them and kissed their feet, asking them to pray that he might be found worthy to suffer with them.
The judge asked Boniface who he was. He replied, “I am a Christian,” and he refused to offer sacrifice to idols. They stripped him and suspended him upside down, beating him so hard that the flesh fell from his body, exposing his bones. They stuck needles beneath his nails, and finally they poured molten tin down his throat, but by the power of the Lord he remained unharmed. The people who witnessed this miracle shouted, “Great is the God of the Christians!” Then they began to throw stones at the judge, and then they headed for the pagan temple, in order to topple the idols.
On the following morning, when things had quieted down somewhat, the judge directed that the martyr be thrown into a cauldron of boiling tar, but this also caused the sufferer no harm. An angel come down from heaven and bedewed him as he stepped into the cauldron. The tar overflowed the cauldron, splattering and burning the torturers. Boniface was then sentenced to be decapitated with a sword. Blood and a milky fluid flowed from his wounds. After witnessing such a miracle, about 550 men believed in Christ.
Boniface’s companions waited two days for him at the inn, but in vain, so they began to search for him, thinking that he had gotten drunk somewhere. At first their search was unsuccessful, but finally they met a man who had been an eyewitness to the martyr's death. The man also led them to the place where the decapitated body lay. Saint Boniface’s companions wept and begged his forgiveness for their unseemly thoughts about him. After ransoming his relics, they brought them back to Rome.
On the eve of their arrival, an angel appeared to Aglaia in her sleep and told her to prepare herself to receive her former slave, now the brother and fellow servant of the angels. Aglaia summoned the clergy, and she received the holy relics with great reverence. Then she built a church on the site of his grave and dedicated it to the Holy Martyr. There she enshrined his relics, which were glorified by numerous miracles.
After distributing all her wealth to the poor, Aglaia withdrew to a monastery, where she spent fifteen years in repentance, then she fell asleep in the Lord. She was buried beside Saint Boniface. The sins of the one were washed away by his blood, while the other was purified by her tears and asceticism. Both were found worthy to appear unsullied before our Lord Jesus Christ, Who desires not the death of a sinner, but that he should turn from his wickedness and live (Ezekiel 33:11).
We pray to Saint Boniface for deliverance from drunkenness.
Fervently, you followed the renowned martyrs
steadfastly confessing Christ before unbelievers, O wise Boniface.
You returned your relics to the august Aglaia
as an imperishable treasure;
from them flow healing and mercy for the world.
You offered yourself voluntarily as a blameless sacrifice
to Him Who is about to be born of the Virgin for your sake,
O Saint, and wise crown-bearer Boniface.
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