Feast Day: December 25
- excerpts taken from "Victories of the Martyrs," by St. Alphonsus de Liguori
Taken from the Acts of St Anastasia, who is mentioned in the Canon of the Mass, and commemorated by the Church [old calendar] on December 25, St. Anastasia was a spiritual child of St. Chrysogonus (also martyred). The time frame is during the Diocletian persecution in the fourth century perhaps the year 304 A.D.
St. Anastasia was a Roman lady of noble descent. Her father was an opulent and noble pagan; but her mother, who was a Christian, caused her to be baptized in her infancy, and secretly reared her in sentiments of Christian piety, in which she made great progress.
St. Anastasia had been married to a noble Roman, named Publius, who was a pagan; he loved his wife much, but having discovered her acts of piety, and that she was a Christian, from a loving husband he became a cruel tyrant, confined her to the house, and treated her like a slave. The saint, rejoiced that she could suffer for the love of Jesus Christ.
Publius, her cruel husband, having been appointed by the emperor ambassador to the King of Persia, gave orders to his domestics that they should maltreat his wife during his absence and that there should be no fear if she would be found dead upon his return. But God ordained that Publius met with an untimely death upon his journey; while the saint, having regained her pious labors in behalf of the prisoners of Jesus Christ.
St. Anastasia, inflamed with the love of God, occupied her time in consoling and succoring the Christians, particularly those who were in prison, who she exhorted to suffer for the faith. Having heard of the arrest of St. Chrysogonus, she hurried to his prison, and esteemed herself fortunate in having it in her power to be of service to him in this trial. He had been in prison for one year, during which he instructed his fellow-prisoners who were Christians, and converted many pagans to the faith. St. Anastasia rendered him such assistance, by reason of her extraordinary works of charity.
St. Chrysogonus, by order of Diocletian on November 24 in the year 303, was beheaded, but St. Anastasia continued her mission to the prisoners. One day upon an errand of charity, and having found that all the holy confessors had been butchered by order of the emperor, she wept bitterly. When officers of the court asked why she wept, she replied "I weep because I have lost my brethren, who have been cruelly put to death." Hence she was arrested and brought before the prefect, Florus, who got no satisfaction from her defence and so then he sent her to the emperor Diocletian. Diocletian was unsuccessful in exhorting her to abandon a religion which was proscribed thoroughout the empire, and so sent her back to the prefect Florus. He sent her to the pontiff of the capitol, Upian, in the hope that he could convince her to sacrifice to the gods.
Upian having used all his arts of persuasion in vain, said to her: "Now I shall give thee but three days to determine." Anastasia replied: "They are three too many; thou mayest imagine them already past. I am a Christian, and am anxious to die for Jesus Christ. From me thou shalt never get any other answer."
Upian then employed the assistance of three idolatrous women; but this having proved ineffectual, he made a second attempt himself, in which he had the effrontery to be guilty of some immodest action. This was instantly punished by the Almighty; for he was struck blind upon the spot, and seized by convulsions that within an hour terminated his life.
Florus, enraged at the death of Upian, caused the saint to be shut up in prison, with the intention of starving her; but the Lord miraculously preserved her life. Florus transferred her to another prison thinking the jailer had transgressed his orders to starve her - but she continued to live without food. Florus then ordered her to be put on board a ship with 120 idolaters - the ship was bored with holes and was supposed to sink. The ship soon filled with water, but instead of sinking went ashore; and the miracle worked the conversion of all these persons, who afterwards had the glory of suffering martyrdom for Jesus Christ. St. Anastasia was then conducted to the island of Palmarola, under sentence of death; she consummated her triumph in the flames.
A Christian lady obtained her body, and gave it honorable burial near Zara, in Dalmatia; but about the year 460, under the Emperor Leo, her relics were transferred Constantinople, and placed, as Cardinal Orsi writes, in the celebrated church of the Resurrection, called The Anastasia.
PS There is also another St. Anastasia recorded in the same book who was martyred in the year 249AD. She was martyred along with St Cyril of Rome under the Valerian persecution. This St. Anastasia is often referred to as the Elder to distinguish her from St. Anastasia, widow, above.
Anastasia was born in the city of Rome in the year 275 A.D., to a pagan father whose name was Bristanos and a Christian mother whose name was Flafia. Her mother baptized her secretly without her father's knowledge, and also brought her up in the teachings of the Christian faith. She was steadfast in her faith and no one was able to dissuade her.
When she was at the age of marriage, her father gave her away to a pagan youth, against her wishes. St. Anastasia prayed to the Lord Christ with fervent supplications, asking Him to separate her from this pagan youth who was away from the faith.
When her husband went to work, she used to visit those who were imprisoned for their faith. She ministered to them, comforted them, and offered them whatever they needed. When her husband learned about this, he kept her at home, placing guards over her. She continued to pray and ask God with tears and supplications to save her from the hands of her husband. A short time later, her husband died.
She distributed her wealth among the poor and those who were in prison, the confessors and the fighters, for the sake of their faith. When her fame reached Florus, the governor, he brought her before him, to inquire about her religion. She confessed that she was a Christian. He tried to entice her to leave her faith by promising her many precious gifts. When she did not listen to his promises, he punished her by torturing her. Finally he ordered her to be drowned. Through a miracle, God spared her from drowning. When the governor learned that she was still alive, he ordered that she be tied up to four pegs on the ground and be beaten ferociously and thrown into a pit of fire. They did so until she gave up her pure soul and was granted the crown of martyrdom.
St. Anastasia became a martyr on December 22, in the year 303 A.D. She was 28 years old.
This martyr enjoys the distinction, unique in the Roman liturgy, of having a special commemoration in the second Mass on Christmas day. This Mass was originally celebrated not in honour of the birth of Christ, but in commemoration of this martyr, and towards the end of the fifth century her name was also inserted in the Roman canon of the Mass. Nevertheless, she is not a Roman saint, for she suffered martyrdom at Sirmium, and was not venerated at Rome until almost the end of the fifth century. It is true that a later legend, not earlier than the sixth century, makes Anastasia a Roman, though even in this legend she did not suffer martyrdom at Rome. The same legend connects her name with that of St. Chrysogonus, likewise not a Roman martyr, but put to death in Aquileia, though he had a church in Rome dedicated to his honour. According to this "Passio", Anastasia was the daughter of Praetextatus, a Roman vir illustris, and had Chrysogonus for a teacher. Early in the persecution of Diocletian the Emperor summoned Chrysogonus to Aquileia where he suffered martyrdom. Anastasia, having gone from Aquileia to Sirmium to visit the faithful of that place, was beheaded on the island of Palmaria, 25 December, and her body interred in the house of Apollonia, which had been converted into a basilica. The whole account is purely legendary, and rests on no historical foundations. All that is certain is that a martyr named Anastasia gave her life for the faith in Sirmium, and that her memory was kept sacred in that church. The so-called "Martyrologium Sieronymianum" (ed. De Rossi and Duchesne, Acta SS., 2 November) records her name on 25 December, not for Sirmium alone, but also for Constantinople, a circumstance based on a separate story. According to Theodorus Lector (Hist. Eccles., II, 65), during the patriarchate of Gennadius (458-471) the body of the martyr was transferred to Constantinople and interred in a church which had hitherto been known as "Anastasis" (Gr. Anastasis, Resurrection); thenceforth the church took the name of Anastasia. Similarly the cultus of St. Anastasia was introduced into Roman from Sirmium by means of an already existing church. As this church was already quite famous, it brought the feast of the saint into especial prominence. There existed in Rome from the fourth century, at the foot of the Palatine and above the Circus Maximus, a church which had been adorned by Pope Damasus (366-384) with a large mosaic. It was known as titulus Anastasix, and is mentioned as such in the Acts of the Roman Council of 499. There is some uncertainty as to the origin of this name; either the church owes its foundation to and was named after a Roman matron Anastasia, as in the case of several other titular churches of Rome (Duchesne), or it was originally an "Anastasis" church (dedicated to the Resurrection of Christ), such as existed already at Ravenna and Constantinople; from the word "Anastasis" came eventually the name titulus Anastasix (Grisar). Whatever way this happened, the church was an especially prominent one from the fourth to the sixth century, being the only titular church in the centre of ancient Rome, and surrounded by the monuments of the city's pagan past. Within its jurisdiction was the Palatine where the imperial court was located. Since the veneration of the Sirmian martyr, Anastasia, received a new impetus in Constantinople during the second half of the fifth century, we may easily infer that the intimate contemporary relations between Old and New Rome brought about an increase in devotion to St. Anastasia at the foot of the Palatine. At all events the insertion of her name into the Roman Canon of the Mass towards the end of the fifth century, show that she then occupied a unique position among the saints publicly venerated at Rome. Thenceforth the church on the Palatine is known as titulus sanctx Anastasix, and the martyr of Sirmium became the titular saint of the old fourth-century basilica. Evidently because of its position as titular church of the district including the imperial dwellings on the Palatine this church long maintained an eminent rank among the churches of Rome; only two churches preceded it in honour: St. John Lateran, the mother-church of Rome, and St. Mary Major. This ancient sanctuary stands today quite isolated amid the ruins of Rome. The commemoration of St. Anastasia in the second Mass on Christmas day is the last remnant of the former prominence enjoyed by this saint and her church in the life of Christian Rome.
Prayer to St. Anastasia
O Anastasia, Holy martyr, I am near you, help me to pray. You who know what I and those near me need; intercede for my urgent needs, my spiritual and material wants. I confide in you and entrust all to your loving care. Offer up to Jesus that tender and constant care that you bore Him here on earth. O Holy Anastasia, you who was martyred for the love of our Lord and faith , I beseech of you the grace to meditate on and live the Passion of Jesus and the sufferings of Holy Mary. Pray that I will be able to walk in the path of humility, simplicity, love and sacrifice, fulfilling at all times, and in all ways, the holy will of God. Let me live united with Jesus, the Blessed Virgin and you, for all eternity