St Abercius, who is commemorated in the Church today, is given the high appellation of “Equal to the Apostles” by the Orthodox Church. I can hear some of you saying, “Who?”
This title has been bestowed on only a few saints in the 2000 year history of the Church. Whatever led the Church to bestow this honor on Abercius seems lost in history, for today little is known of him. It always intrigues me that some saints have long hagiographies written about them, some full of embellishments and miracles, while others, even ones given very honorary titles, were almost forgotten in history (see also my posts on St Olympias, or The Holy Martyr Apphia , or St Phoebe the Deaconess, or St Junia). For example on Orthodox Wiki we read this about the saint:
Abercius is said to have evangelized extensively throughout Syria, Cilicia, and Mesopotamia traveling even to Rome, visiting cities and villages, healing the sick and preaching the Kingdom of God. It is upon these great works that he is referred to as one Equal-to-the-Apostles. During his time in Rome, Abercius is said to have been imprisoned by Marcus Aurelius.
After returning to Hieropolis, St. Abercius reposed about 167.
And from OCA webpage we read a slightly more embellished life with some typical ‘miracles’ that commonly appear in the lives of saints to make them appear more saintly:
Saint Abercius, Bishop and Wonderworker of Hieropolis lived in the second century in Phrygia. The city of Hieropolis was inhabited by many pagans and very few Christians. The saint prayed to the Lord for the salvation of their souls and that they might be numbered among God’s chosen flock. An angel appeared and bade Saint Abercius to destroy the idols in the pagan temple. He fulfilled the command of God with zeal. Hearing that the idol-worshippers wanted to kill him, the saint went to the place where the people had gathered and openly denounced the failings of the pagans. The pagans tried to seize the saint.
At this moment three demon-possessed youths in the crowd cried out. The people were dumbfounded, as the saint expelled the devils from them by his prayers. Seeing the youths restored to normal, the people of Hieropolis asked Saint Abercius to instruct them in the Christian Faith, and then they accepted Holy Baptism.
After this the saint went to the surrounding cities and villages, healing the sick and preaching the Kingdom of God. With his preaching he made the rounds of Syria, Cilicia, Mesopotamia, he visited Rome and everywhere he converted multitudes of people to Christ. For many years he guarded the Church against heretics, he confirmed Christians in the Faith, he set the prodigal upon the righteous path, he healed the sick and proclaimed the glory of Christ. Because of his great works, Saint Abercius is termed “Equal of the Apostles.”
Saint Abercius returned home to Hieropolis, where he soon rested from his labors. After his death, many miracles took place at his tomb. He wrote his own epitaph, and it was carved on his tombstone, which is now in the Lateran Museum.