Today, on July 8th, we commemorate St. Procopius the Great Martyr. In my research on this saint, I encountered two dramatically different accounts of his life--one which is considered the earliest account and another which is the commonly held traditional account. Whether the accounts speak of different "Procopius's" or one of the two accounts is erroneous, there is still much to glean from both. I personally wrote on the common account concerning the soldier, but I also provide some links (courtesy of a friend) on the earlier account from Eusebius.
(And icon of Saint Procopius from the 13th century;
Saint Catherine's Monastery on Mount Sinai)
From Eusebius Pamphilii of Caesarea's "History of the martyrs in Palestine:" http://www.intratext.com/IXT/ENG0798/_P4.HTM
The Legends of the Saints: An Introduction to Hagiography: http://books.google.com/books?id=6VI4AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA140&lpg=PA140&dq=procopius+martyr+legend
What do St. Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus and St. Constantine the Great’s legendary vision, “Ἐν Τούτῳ Νίκα!” (with this ‘sign’ you shall conquer!), have in common? Given that Constantine was born more than two hundred and fifty years after St. Paul’s death, a “common” thread--besides that of Christianity--is hard to identify.
However, in the life of St. Procopius (late 200s to 303 AD), the two events find a meeting point. Born near Jerusalem, Neanius (his pagan name) was raised by his pagan mother, Theodosia, to become a machine for political success, academic accomplishment and monetary ease. His Christian father, Christopher, died while he was still very young, which left him highly vulnerable to the Roman paganism of the time. He was groomed for secular achievement and had very little difficulty achieving it, securing the interested eye of Emperor Diocletian soon after his education was completed. Upon his mother’s request, he became the Duke of Alexandria--a chief executive officer--filling her with pride and joy. Diocletian quickly sent this promising young man on the one mission that would alter his life: a campaign against the Christians to exterminate them. Neanius, eager to please the emperor, lost no time in the expedition. However, this pursuit was over before it began, for as he rested along the road with two bodyguards, a shining cross appeared to him and a loud voice said, “I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was crucified.”
This event changed the entire cadence of Neanius’ life. Like St. Paul, he adopted a Christian name--Procopius (meaning “progress”)--and redirected his forces to defend the Christians in Jerusalem from those sieging it, much to his mother’s confusion and dismay. Similar to St. Constantine, he ordered that the cross from his vision be inscribed on every shield. Theodosia’s perfectly built temple of a boy was transformed into a palace for God. The Christians were obviously bewildered at this unforeseen support from the Duke of Alexandria, but they received it joyfully and hosted him until the prefect, Holkian, summoned him to a pagan temple. He accepted this summon only under the condition that some of his Christian brothers accompany him. Despite the efforts of the prefect, St. Procopius and his brothers refused to give reverence to the pagan gods, praying instead for the Lord to demonstrate His merciful power. After they exited the temple, it began to rumble and soon crashed, broken and shattered, to the ground. This was too much for the already angry Holkian, who perceived these miraculous events as black magic. Thus, the martyrdoms of St. Procopius and his friends were swift: beheading without a proper trial on July 8th, 303 A.D.
Troparion — Tone 4
Your holy martyr Procopius, O Lord, through his suffering has received an incorruptible crown from You, our God. For having Your strength, he laid low his adversaries, and shattered the powerless boldness of demons. Through his intercessions save our souls!
Poulos, George. "July 8, Saint Prokopois the Great Martyr." Orthodox Saints. Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, Print.
"Greatmartyr Procopius of Caesarea, in Palestine." The Orthodox Church in America, n.d. Web. <http://oca.org/saints/troparia/2014/07/08/101966-greatmartyr-procopius-of-caesarea-in-palestine>.
The Orthodox Church in America: http://oca.org/saints/lives/2014/07/08/101966-greatmartyr-procopius-of-caesarea-in-palestine
Prologue from Orchid: http://www.stnicholasredbank.org/july1-8.htm
Other links: http://www.orthodox.net/menaion-july/08-the-holy-great-martyr-saint-procopius.html, http://www.stmarybyzantinecatholic.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/great-martyr-procopius.pdf,