These two young men, living in Lyons, became friends through the love of God they shared. Alexander was Grecian by birth. Both young men studied together in the same school, and encouraged each other in their acts of spirituality. Neither married, deciding to live their lives devoted to God. It was during this time, in the prime of their lives, that the persecution of Christians began under reign of Marcus Aurelius.
They were aware of the Savior’s words that when the tribulations come to flee to the hills, so they endeavored to hide themselves. Leaving the city, they went to a neighboring town where, for a time, a Christian widow gave them shelter. However, knowing their persecutors were pursuing them, they fled from her house to seek another place to hide. While fleeing, one of the young men lost his shoe which was picked up by a Christian woman who kept it. But they were soon captured and imprisoned. Three days later they were brought before the governor’s tribunal with their hands bound behind their backs. When they professed their Christian faith, there was a great outcry from the people. The judge then announced, “What purpose have all the preceding tortures and executions served, if there still remain any who dare profess the name of Christ?” He then separated the two friends.
He called Epipodius, the younger of the two and the one he felt was the weakest, to be brought alone before him. Pretending to be compassionate and understanding, he proceeded to try to get the young man to deny his faith, but Epipodius did not waiver in his resolve. Instead he answered that he could not be fooled by the judge’s pretended and cruel compassion. “Are you so ignorant as not to know that man is composed of two substances, a soul and a body? With us the soul commands, and the body obeys. The abominations you are guilty of in honor of your pretended deities, afford pleasure to the body, but kill the soul. We are engaged in a war against the body for the advantage of the soul. You, after having defiled yourselves with pleasures like brute beasts, find nothing at last but a sorrowful death; whereas we, when you destroy us, enter into eternal life.” Upon hearing these words, the judge had Epipodius struck in the mouth causing him to lose teeth. But through bleeding lips he continued to proclaim his faith saying, “I confess that Jesus Christ is God, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. It is but reasonable that I should resign my soul to Him who has created me and redeemed me. This is not losing my life, but changing it into a better.”
While he was still speaking, the judge ordered him to be stretched on the rack and his sides to be torn with iron hooks. The people watching were so enraged at his tranquility, that they pleaded for him to be handed over to them to crush him to death or tear him to pieces. The crowd became so frenzied, that the judge feared for his own life so he gave orders for the head of Epipodius to be immediately lopped off, which was done.
After two days, the judge had Alexander brought to the bar. He proceeded to tell him what had happened to his friend and others like him in hopes of frightening him into compliance. Instead, Alexander thanked the Lord for giving him the courageous examples of his friend and other Christians and then expressed to the judge his own desire to be put to death as well. The judge, truly enraged now, had the young man’s legs stretched as far apart as possible and then ordered him beaten by three executioners. This torture went on for quite a while but Alexander never uttered a word of complaint. He was then asked again if he still wanted to persist in his profession of Christianity to which he replied, “I do.”
The judge ordered Alexander to be crucified. He was already so horribly beaten that his entrails visible through his uncovered ribs and so as soon as he was nailed to the cross, he expired.
Christians privately carried the bodies of Alexander and Epipodius to a hillside outside the city where they buried them. The place of their burial soon became famous and many miracles were said to have taken place there. St. Gregory of Tours later wrote that their bodies were deposited with that of St. Irenaeus in the sixth century in the Church of St. John which is now called St. Irenaeus.
Dear Lord, may the lives of Your saints and martyrs never be forgotten by us. Strengthen us in our weaknesses, Lord, that we may not only live our lives in accordance with Your Will but be strong in the face of evil. Amen.
Other Saints We Remember Today
Saints Soter (175) and Caius (296), Popes, Martyrs