The Holy Martyr Tatiana the Deaconess or the unbridled power of virginity
Reverend fathers, dear brothers and sisters together praying,
Our Holy Martyr Tatiana, the protector of our parish in Bergen, was the daughter of a Christian with an important role in the imperial Rome of the third century. At that time, Christians lived clandestinely. They could also occupy important positions in the empire, be great officials or great military leaders, but they practiced their faith in secret because of the persecution. However, they were relatively easy to discover: they refused to attend pagan ceremonies, whether dedicated to idols or to the deified emperor. Often, the crowds against the Christians led them into idolatrous temples to force them to apostate or to refuse idol worship and thus to denounce themselves as Christians.
Tatiana, raised since childhood in the Christian faith by both parents, decides to live life in virginity, dedicating herself entirely to the life in Christ. Following her very high and dedicated spiritual life, she served as deaconess in the church, helping to catechize and baptizing other women. Caught by a mob of pagans who hunted Christians, Tatiana is forced into a temple dedicated to the idol Apollo constrained to worship him or, if not, she would be denounced as a Christian. Saint Tatiana, however, prayed to the Savior Christ, and the statue of the Apollo god broke down, along with a part of the temple.
The martyrdom of Saint Tatiana followed. What is amazing about her martyrdom is that, unlike other lives of martyrs, it is shown to us that the holy angels were at all times beside her, strengthening her in torment and even rebuking the tormentors. Some of those who tortured her converted themselves as the miracle was revealed to them, and were also martyred alongside Saint Tatiana. The torments to which the saint was subjected were atrocious: the skinning, the pulling of the flesh and the skin from the flesh through razors and pliers, the cutting of the breasts, the removal of the eyes, the terrible beatings and the throwing to the wild beasts. After each round of torture, overnight, Saint Tatiana was miraculously healed. Finally, Saint Tatiana was beheaded with her father.
Wonderful life, my beloved, and wonderful parable of martyrdom. But how can we understand this life more closely? How can we follow it?
The first thing we have to understand is that the Holy Martyr Tatiana was helped and healed by the angels, but she did not know, before going through the torments, that it would happen like this. She went to torment armed only with her faith in Christ. When her eyes were drawn, or her breasts cut, she did not know she would be cured and receive comfort from the angels. She had to endure these with courage and confidence only in divine grace. The angelic aid was a consequence of her faith, not the other way around.
An even more important thing we have to understand is the power of the pure virginity, that is, the virginity of both body and soul. The soul who has managed to remain as pure it is innocent is far more subtle, more permeable to the work of divine grace. Such saints have a great power from God, because their heart is pure, as the Evangelical blessing says. This power is real, and we find it in other lives of holy martyrs, such as Saint Juliane or Saint Catherine. Such Christians, with the power of God, were demolishing the idol temples, casted the demons away, as the angels “fought” side by side with them against the persecutors. Here is the power of pure virginity! And here is why today there is such a fierce war to destroy the children’s innocence. Because from such innocents were once “recruited” in this unseen and seen war Saints as Tatiana, who were the fright of the demons. But there is one more thing, perhaps the most important one. Saint Tatiana was not alone in the hands of the tormentors not only because the angels were by her side, but because she had full self-consciousness that she was a member of the Body of Christ, that is, a member of the Church. Not ideally, not in an abstract mode. The ancient Christians lived this as a factual reality. To have this consciousness, that you are part of a whole, means that you know and feel that you are not alone, you are not lonesome, you are not abandoned in persecution, in trial. You know and feel that not only are your eyes torn out, but that the whole Body suffers because you suffer too. Because you are connected, you are physically, existentially connected to all the others who comprise the Church. And if one hurts, everybody hurts. And if everyone hurts, then the Body heals its injured member because it is open to the work of divine grace, it is a Body through which, through the veins, the prayers of the brethren and the love for the other flow. That is why there is healing from torture, as these healings are also encountered in other martyrdom lives during the first Christian centuries. Let us pray to the Good God to give us this conscience as part of the whole Christ!