THE BEAUTY’S ORDEAL
Long ago, when the Romans held the reins of the world, near the capital of the Empire, in a monastery known to few, there lived several nuns. Among them was Anastasia. She had been orphaned at the age of three and had been taken care of by Sofia, the Abbess of the place.
The young woman was now almost 20 years old, and although she had grown up sheltered from others, news of her beauty had spread beyond the monastery walls. Many wanted to marry her, but Anastasia was a nun and wanted to remain so.
Then, some of those rejected decided to seek revenge. The young woman’s “indifference” was hard to understand for someone of a different faith. That’s why they reported her to Prov, the administrator of Rome. They told him where she was, how she lived, and how she surpassed the maidens of the city in beauty. But they also said that she disrespected the pagan gods, laughed at the Roman gods, and believed in Christ.
Prov sent his servants to bring her to him. When they arrived at the monastery, they found the gates closed and cut them open with their axes. Most of the nuns were frightened, but Abbess Sofia and Anastasia remained undisturbed. The Abbess, suspecting what the soldiers wanted, took Anastasia aside and prepared her for what was to come. She predicted that she would suffer defamation, humiliation, and torture, but encouraged her not to be afraid. To remain steadfast in her faith, no matter how difficult it may be.
The Abbess spoke openly about a future with a grim outcome. On one hand, old Sofia’s heart was torn apart, knowing what her spiritual daughter would endure. On the other hand, she had taught Anastasia that in the name of the love of God, one sacrifices everything. Moreover, faith and love gave her the strength to confront any inner weakness and any human injustice. The same happened with Saint Anastasia. Learning what awaited her, she could have stepped back. However, she showed her readiness to endure anything for Christ, even to die for Him.
THE POWER OF ANOTHER BEAUTY
When Anastasia entered the hall where Governor Prov and other curious onlookers awaited her, silence fell around. They had heard that the young woman was attractive, but now, as they saw her up close, astonishment paralyzed them. Her judge stood in one corner of the room, upright, next to a chair. What was happening to him? Why were his temples throbbing? And why—suddenly—did his chin begin to tremble?
The maiden only looked at the ground as she approached him. For a few moments, the man seemed to see her enveloped in a gentle light.
“Who are you, what is your name, and what faith do you have?” he asked her.
“I am from Rome, that’s where I was born. I grew up in a monastery,” she replied, without lifting her eyes from the reflection on the floor. “My name is Anastasia.”
“What kind of name is that?!” Prov reacted.
“It’s a Christian name. It means Resurrection,” she explained without looking him in the eye.
Poor girl!, Prov thought. She lives in delusion. How can you give up the joys of youth just because you choose to believe in someone who claimed to be the Son of God and died like a criminal? Why hide your beauty instead of taking advantage of it?!
At one point, he spoke to her:
“What do you gain by running away from people? By sacrificing yourself for a crucified man? It would be better to marry an honest and handsome man, enjoy wealth, and not waste your life because…”
“My husband, my wealth, my joy, and my life is my Lord Jesus Christ,” Anastasia interrupted him, meeting his gaze.
“That’s how you respond to a ruler? How dare you?! Slap her!” he commanded.
The first slap was the hardest. Then, Saint Anastasia endured the others more easily. She felt the urge to burst into tears only when Prov commanded that her clothes be torn off and she be left naked before the crowd. He asked her if it was fitting for a virtuous woman like her to be exposed in such a manner for all to see.
“It is not I who should be ashamed, but you, a man full of lust,” Saint Anastasia cut him off. “God knows that not even the Sun has seen my naked body.”
Instead of saying anything else, the governor ordered her to be tortured in many ways, but the maiden endured all the torments without ceasing to confess her faith. She was beaten so severely that even her executioners grew weary. They tried to wheel her, to crush every bit of her body, but at her prayers, the wheel stopped, Saint Anastasia was untied by an unseen hand, and she appeared unharmed to everyone.
The miracle shook the witnesses of the torture, except for Prov, who grew even more furious and ordered the maiden to be mutilated. Thus, her entire body was disfigured.
In the midst of the torment, weakened, Saint Anastasia begged for water. A man named Cyril quenched her thirst twice, and for this act of mercy, the Saint blessed him. However, his compassionate gesture cost him his life.
“Anastasia, are you well now?!” Prov asked from time to time.
“Yes, because I endure all for Christ. I am ready to die for Him not just once, but hundreds of times,” she replied.
“Cut out her tongue!” the man thundered.
“It doesn’t matter. My heart still speaks to my Lord…” Saint Anastasia managed to say before Prov’s command was fulfilled.
Afterwards, Prov ordered her to be taken outside the city and beheaded, and her body to be left in a field – food for wild beasts and birds. However, God ensured that her body remained untouched, and at night, in a dream, an Angel sent by the Abbess Sophia came to call her as her spiritual daughter. The elderly woman took a clean cloth, left the monastery, and did not stop until she reached the field where the relics of Saint Anastasia were scattered. With the help of unknown Christians, she gathered the relics from there and buried them.
Saint Great Martyr Anastasia of Rome lived in the 3rd century and is commemorated on October 29th. There is another Holy Martyr with the same name (Saint Anastasia the Healer of Diseases) celebrated on December 22nd.
Saint Anastasia of Rome is known for both her physical and spiritual beauty. I find her endurance in suffering incredible, as well as her maturity, dignity, and the strength to not surrender to an abuser. Her courage to confront such a person is admirable. A drop of this boldness would benefit anyone.
What would be useful to you from the life of Saint Anastasia of Rome?
By Ioana Revnic