Traditions & NameDays

ST. IRENE - May 5

Name day of everyone named Irin, Irina, Irene, Iriney, Mira, Miroslav (which means ‘peace’).

The Holy Great Martyr St. Irene lived during the fourth century and until her Baptism was called Penelope. When Penelope reached adolescence, her parents began to think about her marriage. During this period of her life the Lord instructed her in a miraculous manner.

One day three birds flew through the window, one after the other. First, a dove with an olive branch in its beak, then an eagle with a garland of flowers, and then a raven with a snake. The dove symbolized the virgin's virtues: humility, meekness and chastity. The olive branch stood for the grace of God received in Baptism. The eagle, bearing a garland of victory, signified success in future endeavors. The raven and the snake were a sign that the devil would rise up against her and would cause her grief, sorrow and persecution.

The Lord wished to betroth her to Himself and that Penelope would undergo much suffering for her heavenly Bridegroom. After this Penelope refused marriage, was baptized by the priest Timothy, and she was named Irene. She even urged her own parents to become Christians. Her angry father sent her for punishment to the Governor, who gave orders to cut her with an iron saw. But the saws broke one after the other and caused no harm to the body of the holy virgin. Finally, a fourth saw the body of the holy martyr reddened with blood. The Governor derisively said to the martyr, "Where is your God? If He is powerful, let Him help you!"

Suddenly a whirlwind appeared, there was a blinding flash of lightning which struck down many of her torturers. Thunder crashed, and a heavy rain fell. Beholding such a sign from Heaven, many believed in Christ. The Governor did not understand this display of the power of God, and he subjected the saint to further torments, but the Lord preserved her unharmed once again. Finally, the people who had gathered to watch could not bear to witness the sufferings of the innocent virgin anymore, so they rose up against the Governor and drove him from the city.

St. Irene endured many cruel torments, but by the power of God, she remained unharmed. Under the influence of her preaching and miracles, even more people were converted to Christ and turned away from the worship of pagan idols. Over 10,000 pagans were converted by St. Irene.

Later, while preaching in the city of Ephesus, the Lord revealed to her that the end of her life was approaching. Then St. Irene and other Christians went out from the city to a cave. Having signed herself with the Sign of the Cross, she went inside the cave, directing her companions to close the entrance to the cave with a large stone, which they did. When Christians visited the cave four days later, they did not find the body of the saint.

The holy, glorious Great Martyr Irene is invoked by those wishing to effect a swift and happy marriage. In Greece, she is also the patron saint of policemen.