St. Anatolios, the patriarch of Constantinople wrote:
In your tender years, you endured more than anyone, O victorious Kyriacos.
Come and see all people this rare and magnificent scene; the mighty ruler, with all his torturing instruments, loses the battle against a young child. What a wonderful sightl The baby feeds on his mother's milk, and then tells her, "Do not be afraid mother, Jesus is our strength, death is no more, because Christ has risen."
Rejoice Iconium, for from you came great martyrs: the blessed Eulita and her saintly son Kyriacos. They trampled under their feet the devil and all his wicked means. They received the crowns of martyrdom, and taught us how to worship the Holy Trinity. Therefore, we also have faith that Christ who glorified them, can grant us His peace, and save our souls.
Asia Minor was divided in many provinces by the Roman empire: Cappadocia, Phrygia, Galatia, Cilicia, Lycaonia... SS. Paul and Barnaba the Apostles preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Iconium which was the capital of the province of Lycaonia, and when they learned that the pagans plotted against them, they fled to Derbe and then to Lystra before they returned again to Iconium. (Acts 14)
There in Iconium, Eulita, a descendant of the Asian kings, was born towards the end of the third century. She grew up to be a beautiful and rich woman. But she was also a good Christian, who spent most of her time in praying and helping the poor. Eulita got married at a young age. She had only one son; Kyriacos was a very beautiful baby who grew up in a spiritual atmosphere. When he was a little over one year old, his first spoken words were, "I am Christian."
Life in Iconium did not remain peaceful for a long time. Eulita's husband passed away suddenly, and she had to raise her son by herself. And when Kyriacos was about three years old, Diocletian, the Roman emperor, started the worst persecution ever against the Christians. His orders were carried out through the whole empire. The ruler of Lycaonia, Domitiatos, was known to be very savage in persecuting the believers. Hundreds of them were killed every day.
Feeling worried about her son, Eulita took Kyriacos, along with two of her maids and fled to Seleucia in Syria. But the situation there was no better than in Iconium. So they left to Tarsus which was the capital of the province of Cilicia (and the birthplace of Paul). The Roman tetrarch in that city, whose name was Alexandros, was also very cruel and blood-thirsty. He used to kill the Christians with his own hands.
Eulita and her companions lived as strangers among the people of Tarsus, and were soon arrested and brought before Alexandros. At that point Eulita understood that this was an invitation from God to martyrdom, since she could not escape persecution in three different provinces. So she decided in her heart to remain faithful, and to endure all kind of pain until the end. She longed to die as a martyr for the sake of the Lord. Her only concern was Kyriacos' future. When Eulita was presented to Alexandros, the Roman ruler, he was sitting on a chair elevated by few concrete steps, and surrounded by many different instruments of torture. The tetrarch stepped down from his chair, and went near the saint.
He asked, "What is your name, you beautiful woman?" Eulita answered, "I am Christian." Alexandros said, "So you follow Jesus whom the Jews crucifiedl" She replied, "I call upon His holy name, though I am not worthy." He asked, "Do you know that our emperor ordered the extermination of all the Christians?" She answered, "Yes, I know." He said, "Aren't you scared of death? Don't you want to save your beauty?" Eulita said, "Governor, you must know by now that all Christians are willing to die for their Lord the Christ. Your cruel tactics and severe abuse will only strengthen their faith."
At that point the ruler got mad, went back to his chair, and told his men, "Bring me that child from the Christian woman, throw her on the ground, and whip her with lashes made of cow's nerves. She must learn how to answer the Roman ruler." So, the soldiers took away Kyriacos, who was now crying and kicking, from the arms of his mother, and gave him to Alexandros. Then they threw Eulita on the ground, and started whipping her without mercy.
The ruler looked at Eulita, who was now covered with blood, and said, "Why don't you come back to your senses and save your life, and your son's too? For if you agree to sacrifice to my idols, I promise to release both of you." Eulita said, "You surprise me with such an offer, which even a child like my son would not accept." The ruler said, "In this case, let us ask the child." Then he looked at Kyriacos and said, "Son, would you agree to worship the idols?" But to everyone's surprise, Kyriacos answered, "Your idols are made of stone and wood. My real God is Jesus Christ." When Eulita heard that, she was filled with courage, and shouted, "I am Christian; I worship the real God Jesus Christ who made heaven and earth." At the same time Kyriacos also started yelling, "I am Christian, I am Christian."
The soldiers started beating Eulita again, but she was enduring the pain with joy, giving her son a practical example on how to remain faithful until the end. In the meantime, the ruler was trying to attract the baby's attention by playing with him. Kyriacos kept shouting, "I am Christianl I am Christianl" The tetrarch got mad at this strange child, and he threw him with all his power to the ground. Kyriacos hit his head against one of the concrete steps, and died instantly, to receive the crown of martyrdom. He was only three years old.
That incident disgusted many people who were present because of the inhuman manner the ruler treated Kyriacos. As for Eulita, when she saw her own son fall dead in front of her, she sighed with relief, since she was sure that he went to Jesus in Paradise, and that she did not have to worry about his future. So she lifted up her eyes to heaven and prayed, "Thank you my Lord because you considered Kyriacos worthy of receiving this glorious crown. I ask you now my Savior to take me also, for this is my ultimate desire to be with my son in the Heavenly Kingdom, where we can enjoy Your presence with us for eternity."
Eulita's words angered the Roman ruler to a great extent, so he ordered her to be beheaded. He also ordered that the two bodies be thrown in a garbage dump. Eulita was executed on July 22, 305 (Abib 15) while she was repeating, "I am Christian. I am Christian." At night, her two maids took the bodies and hid them in a cave near Tarsus. When Constantine, the first Roman emperor, came to power, he built a church in the same place where the mother and her child were martyred. Today, parts of the relics of those two saints are preserved in St. Mary's monastery (The Syrian) in the valley of Nitron. There is also a historical church bearing their names in Tahta.
May the prayers and the supplications of St. Kyriacos, and his mother St. Eulita the martyrs be with us. Amen.