Saint of the Day – 16 February – Saint Maruta (Died c 415) Bishop, Confessor, Theologian, Writer, honoured in the Syrian Rite Church as a Doctor of the Church. He was a friend of Saint John Chrysostom and acted as an Ambassador between the East Roman Emperor and the Persian Emperor. Died in 425 of natural causes.
The Roman Martyrology reads: “In the kingdom of Persia, St Maruta, Bishop, who, having restored peace for the Church, presided over the Council of Seleucia, restored the Churches of God which had collapsed during the persecution of King Sabor and placed the relics of the Martyrs of Persia in the City Seat of the Bishop, since then called Martiropoli.”
Maruta was Bishop of Mayferkqat, a Syrian City between the Tigris River and Lake Van, on the borders of the kingdom of Persia, an area where Christians frequently suffer aggression. When Yezdigerd I ascended the throne in 399, Maruta went to Constantinople to ask the Emperor Arcadius to intercede with the new sovereign in favour of persecuted Christians. His appeal, however, remained unattended as the court was already committed to resolving the question of the exile of St. John Chrysostom – in other words, they had no time to assist Maruta and the Persians. However, it was precisely the latter, St John, who was personally interested in Maruta’s difficult situation, asking St Olimpia, a friend of his, to go to Maruta, as St John was worried at Maruta’s lack of reply to St John’s letters. St John Chrysostom wrote to her: “I urgently need him for Persian matters. Try to find out what success he has achieved in his mission. If you are reluctant to put it in writing, let me know the result somehow through others. Do not delay trying to meet him. ”
Maruta went in person to the King’s court to try to get his support towards the Christians and in the delicate fundamental mission. Maruta’s prayer and medical knowledge allowed him to cure the Sovereign from violent migraine headaches. The pagan priests, worried that this could induce the King to convert to Christianity, came up with a way to discredit Maruta in his eyes – they hid a man under the floor of the temple, who, when the King entered the temple for worship, appeared out of nowhere and screamed. “Send away from this holy place, he who, wickedly, believes in a priest of Christians.” The King was impressed and decided to drive Maruta away but Maruta showed him the hidden trap door from which the impostor had appeared. The Sovereign thus began to tolerate Christianity in his kingdom,
During this period of truce, Maruta was able to dedicate himself to the reconstruction of many Churches previously destroyed under the persecutions induced by King Shapur. He also compiled the “Acts” of those ferocious persecutions and collected an innumerable series of relics, which earned the City the name of Martiropoli, still an Episcopal Seat today.
He was present at the general First Council of Constantinople in 381 and at a Council of Antioch in 383 (or 390), at which the Messalians were condemned. For the benefit of the Persian Church he held two Synods at Ctesiphon. A great organiser, he was one of the first to give a regular structure to the Syriac Church.
His writings include:
Acts of the Persian Martyrs (these acts remember the victims of the persecution of Shapur II and Yazdegerd I)
History of the Council of Nicea
A translation in Syriac of the Canons of the Council of Nicea
A Syrian liturgy
Commentaries on the Gospels
Acts of the Council of Seleucia-Ctesiphon (26 canons of a synod held in 410)
He also wrote hymns on the Holy Eucharist, on the Passion and the Holy Cross and on Martyred Saints killed in Shapur’s persecution.
Most of Maruta’s hymns and works are still in use in the Syriac Rite. Maruta died around 415 and just in that period a new wave of persecutions broke out. Due to the numerous writings attributed to him, he was honoured as the principal Doctor of the Syriac Rite Church.