On July 8, the Greek Orthodox Church commemorates the Feast Day of Agios Procopius.
Procopius was born in Jerusalem of a Christian father and a pagan mother. At first, his name was Neanias. Following the death of his father, his mother raised her son completely in the spirit of Roman idolatry. When Neanias had grown up, Emperor Diocletian saw him, took a liking to him, and brought him to his palace for military service.
When this wicked emperor began to persecute Christians, he ordered Neanias to go to Alexandria with a garrison of soldiers in order to exterminate the Christians. But on the way, there happened to Neanias something like that which once happened to Saul. In the third hour of the night, there was a strong earthquake and, at that moment, the Lord appeared, and a voice was heard: “Neanias, where art thou going, and against whom art thou rising up?” In great fear, Neanias asked: “Who are Thou, Lord? I am unable to recognise Thee.”
Then there appeared in the air an exceedingly luminous cross, as of crystal, and from the cross came the voice: “I am Jesus, the crucified Son of God.” And the Lord further said to him: “By this sign that you have seen, conquer your enemies, and My peace will be with you.” Commander Neanias’s life was completely changed. He issued an order to make a cross such as he had seen, and instead of going against the Christians, he and his soldiers used their force against the Hagarenes, who were attacking Jerusalem.
He entered Jerusalem as a victor and revealed his Christian faith to his mother. Brought before the court, Neanias removed his commander’s belt and sword and threw them before the judge, thereby showing that he was a soldier only of Christ the King. After being tortured extensively, he was cast into prison.
There the Lord Christ appeared to him again, baptized him, and gave him the name Procopius. One day twelve women appeared before his prison window and said to him: “We too are servants of Christ.” Accused of this, they were thrown into that same prison. St. Prokopios taught them the Faith of Christ, and prepared them to receive their “martyr’s crowns.” (This is why St. Procopius, along with the God-crowned Emperor Constantine and Empress Helen, is mentioned in the order of crowning during the wedding ceremony.)
Subsequently, the twelve women were brutally tortured. Witnessing their suffering and bravery, the mother of Procopius also came to believe in Christ, and all thirteen were slain. When St. Procopius was led to the scaffold, he raised his hands toward the east and prayed to God for all the poor, the needy, the orphans and the widows, and especially for the Holy Church, that it would grow and spread, and that Orthodoxy would shine to the end of time.
And from heaven, it was made known to him that his prayers were heard, after which he joyfully laid his head under the sword and went to this Lord in eternal joy.
St. Procopius suffered honorably at Caesarea in Palestine and was crowned with a wreath of immortal glory, on July 8, 303.
Today is also the name day of Procopius, Prokopia, Theofilos, and Theofilia.