Submitted by: Yuri Klitsenko
It happened in the 4th century. St. Neophytus was absolutely young when he received revelation to devote his life to the Lord. He said goodbye to his parents and made for the mountains surrounding Nicea. He found a cave there and decided to make it his home.
However, there lived a lion in the cave. He looked towards the young man growling angrily. Then Neophytus told the beast tenderly and quietly:
- God led me here and ordered me to live in this cave, please, look for another dwelling!
And the lion left. The saint settled in the cave, and the angel brought him something to eat.
But pagans, enemies of the Christ’s belief, learned where St. Neophytus lived. They seized him and decided to throw him to wild beasts to be torn to shreds.
The martyr was brought to a circus ring. It is necessary to note that the circus in ancient times was completely different from the circus that we know today. People did not admire dexterity of gymnasts and did not laugh loudly at clumsy clowns there. Pagans "enjoyed" public executions and severe fights of gladiators there. They liked a show of agony and death. The saint was tied to a pile in the arena and wild bears were let out. Beasts rushed to the saint with a roar, but suddenly a strange force stopped them. Bears bowed there heads to the martyr’s feet and silently stepped aside. Then torturers let out a lion from a cage.
- This hungry beast will tear him to shreds! - Pagans anticipated.
Spitefully growling, the lion jumped up to the saint, but then suddenly stopped and started licking the martyr’s feet. It was the very lion that conceded a cave to the saint!
- Hi, my friend! – St. Neophytus greeted him. - You have recognized me! And now go to our cave and live there - I won’t return there any more.
But the lion wouldn’t leave and sat at the martyr’s feet ruefully.
- Go, go, my friend! And don’t cause any harm to these people, - the saint looked at his torturers.
The lion started rushing around the arena growling, but, obeying the saint martyr, never touched anybody. Then he broke the gate of the circus and left for the desert.
Furious torturers rushed to saint Neophytus and speared him. They never understood why furious predators became gentle and what force changed their animal temper.
Yuri Klitsenko is a Russian living in Moscow. He works for the Russian Orthodox Church.