The Holy Great Martyr Procopius was a native of Jerusalem, lived and suffered during the reign of the emperor Diocletian (284-305). His father, an eminent Roman by the name of Christopher, was a Christian, but his mother, Theodosia, remained a pagan. He was early deprived of his father, and the young child was raised by his mother. Having received an excellent secular education, he was introduced to Diocletian in the very first year of the emperor’s accession to the throne, and he quickly advanced in government service. Towards the year 303, when open persecution against Christians began, Procopius was sent as a proconsul to Alexandria with orders to mercilessly persecute the Church of God.
On the way to Egypt, near the Syrian city of Apamea, Procopius had a vision of the Lord Jesus, similar to the vision of Saul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). A divine voice exclaimed, “Procopius, why do you persecute Me?” Procopius asked, “Who are you, Lord?” “I am the crucified Jesus, the Son of God.” At that moment a radiant Cross appeared in the air. Procopius felt an inexpressible joy and spiritual happiness in his heart and he was transformed from being a persecutor into a zealous follower of Christ. From this point in time Procopius became favorably disposed towards Christians and fought victoriously against the barbarians.
The words of the Savior came true for the saint, “A man’s foes shall be those of his own household” (Matthew 10:36). His mother, a pagan herself, went to the emperor to complain that her son did not worship the ancestral pagan gods. Procopius was summoned to the procurator Judaeus Justus, where he was solemnly handed the decree of Diocletian. Having read through the blasphemous directive, Procopius quietly tore it up before the eyes of everyone. This was a crime, which the Romans regarded as an “insult to authority.” Procopius was held under guard and in chains sent to Caesarea of Palestine, where the Apostle Paul once languished. After terrible torments, they threw the saint into a dark prison. That night, a light shone in the prison, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself baptized the suffering confessor.
Repeatedly they led Saint Procopius to the courtroom, demanding that he renounce Christ, and they subjected him to more tortures. The stolidity of the martyr and his fiery faith brought down God’s abundant grace on those who witnessed the execution.
Inspired by the example of Procopius, many of the holy martyr’s former guards and Roman soldiers went beneath the executioner’s sword together with their tribunes Nikostrates and Antiochus. Twelve Christian women received martyr’s crowns, after they came to the gates of the Caesarea Praetorium.
Struck by the great faith and courage of the Christians, and seeing the firmness of her son in bearing terrible sufferings, Theodosia became repentant and stood in the line of confessors and was executed. Finally the new procurator, Flavian, convinced of the futility of the tortures, sentenced the holy Great Martyr Procopius to beheading by the sword. By night Christians took up his much-tortured body, and with tears and prayers, they committed it to the earth. This was the first martyrdom at Caesarea (303).
Your holy martyr Procopius, O Lord,
through his suffering has received an incorruptible crown from You, our God.
For having Your strength, he laid low his adversaries,
and shattered the powerless boldness of demons.
Through his intercessions save our souls.
Set ablaze by divine zeal for Christ and protected by the might of the Cross,
you cast down the insolence and boldness of the enemy, O Procopius.
You exalted the honorable Church,
excelling in faith and giving light to us all.