Today, the Coptic Orthodox Church celebrates the martyrdom of St. Marina the Holy Martyr of Antioch, a wonderful role model especially for young women. She was raised as an unbeliever by her parents until her mother died. Afterwards, she believed in our Lord Jesus Christ and vowed to remain a virgin for Him, but her father disowned her because of her faith, which ultimately resulted in her martyrdom. She shunned marriage, pleasure, fame, wealth, family, and everything the world has to offer for the sake of her love towards Christ.
We hear similar things about other saints in the Synaxarion, of course, but what is unique about St. Marina is that this amazing faith came from a young teenage girl, and not just any girl, but one who was raised as an unbeliever and faced impossible adversities in her life. She lost her mother, came to the true Faith, and witnessed her father become her enemy. Many girls today would have given up in such circumstances. Indeed, we tragically see young women (and men, of course) give in to the temptations of teenage life. Some find comfort in sinful things, like alcohol, sexual pleasure, drugs, smoking, hurting themselves, and other things just to help them get through life. St. Marina, however, found comfort and strength in Christ, which led her to courageously and heroically stand against the sinful world and its prince, the devil. For this reason, our Savior crowned her with victory over the devil, as we see in her famous icon in which this 15-year-old teenager holds the enemy of mankind by his ugly horns. These very horns pierce us regularly whenever we sin, but St. Marina, through the power of Christ, was strong enough to take hold of these horns.
Now, as a victorious martyr basking in the supreme joy and glory of God, she stands before us as a powerful intercessor to all mankind. She hears our prayers, heals diseases (physical and spiritual), and continually teaches us by her example.
She is an especially powerful intercessor for young women struggling with adversities and temptations. Like the Holy Theotokos, who bore the Savior of the world as a teenage girl, St. Marina teaches us that it is possible to get through this difficult stage of life in purity and righteousness. Yes, it is difficult to manifest this kind of faith and love for Christ in an increasingly godless world. We Christians are routinely persecuted, insulted, misunderstood, hated, tempted, and pressured, but didn’t our Savior promise us that this would happen to those who would become victorious? He Himself tells us in the Gospel reading of the Feast,
Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household’ (Mt 10:34–36).
This is exactly what happened in the life of St. Marina. Was it difficult? Of course! But what awaits us in the end? Love! Joy! Glory! Peace! Comfort! Eternal life!
St. Marina rejoices in these heavenly things as she beckons all of us to imitate Christ and follow her example.
May her prayers continue to sustain us. Amen.