Preface of a Saint (3)
PRAYER (traditional language)
Merciful God, whose most dear Son came to heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons, and preach the gospel to the poor; Teach us by the example of thy servants, Zenaida, Philonella, and Hermione to freely give even as we have freely received; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
PRAYER (contemporary language)
Merciful God, whose most dear Son came to heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons, and preach the gospel to the poor; Teach us by the example of your servants, Zenaida, Philonella, and Hermione to freely give even as we have freely received; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
This commemoration appears in Lesser Feasts & Fasts 2018 for trial use.
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Last updated: 16 March 2020
ZENAIDA, PHILONELLA, AND HERMIONE
UNMERCENARY PHYSICIANS, c. 100, c. 117
Zenaida (Zenaida of Tarsus) and Philonella (d. circa 100) were traditionally the first Christian physicians after Luke the Evangelist, and the first "unmercenaries" (physicians who would not accept fees from their patients). They are particularly venerated in Eastern Christianity.
Zenaida and Philonella were sisters, born into a well-educated Jewish family and said to be cousins of Paul the Apostle. On entering the philosophical academy at Tarsus, they devoted themselves to the study of medicine, and when they completed their studies moved to the mountains around Pelion near Demetriada in Thessaly. This was a region renowned for its healing springs and shrines to Asclepius. The physicians who practiced there catered to the wealthy, charging exorbitant amounts for their services, and augmented their incomes with the sale of magical amulets and charms.
The sisters set themselves in opposition to the prevailing custom. On locating a cave with a mineral spring, they set up a chapel and cells for themselves, and opened a clinic where they treated all who came to them regardless of their ability to pay.
Philonella devoted herself to experimental medicine, using methods approaching that of modern scientific methods, and worked hard to separate effective medicine from superstition. Zenaida was particularly interested in pediatrics. Both sisters devoted their lives to prayer when they were not working in their clinic.
Traditions vary about their deaths. According to one account, the two were stoned to death by pagans on the same night. According to another, both met peaceful ends, with Philonella surviving her sister by some years, deepening her spiritual devotion and becoming known as a wonderworker.
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Hermione was born in Caesarea of Palestine early in the first century, a daughter of Saint Philip the Deacon. Inspired by a true understanding of the gospel, she studied the philosophy of medicine in her native city.
She bought a house and founded a medical clinic, devoted to the treatment of the poor and the homeless. Joined by her sister Eukhidia, she added rooms for these homeless ones and for poor travelers who were ill. Thus was established the first of those hospital-hostels or xenodukia, which would become so much a part of the Orthodox Christian tradition. While ministering to the physical illnesses of those who came to her, she also nourished them with the gospel.
During the reign of Emperors Trajan and Hadrian, she was arrested. In spite of her old age she was subjected to tortures to force her to renounce her faith.
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