Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Lucian, Priest and Martyr

[Saint Lucian of Antioch]
Article

A.D. 312.

Saint Lucian, surnamed of Antioch, was born at Samosata, in Syria. He lost his parents whilst very young; and being come to the possession of his estate, which was very considerable, he distributed all among the poor. He became a great proficient in rhetoric and philosophy, and applied himself to the study of the holy scriptures under one Macarius at Edessa. Convinced of the obligation annexed to the character of priesthood, which was that of devoting himself entirely to the service of God and the good of his neighbour, he did not content himself with inculcating the practice of virtue both by word and example; he also undertook to purge the scriptures, that is, both the Old and New Testament, from the several faults that had crept into them, either by reason of the inaccuracy of transcribers, or the malice of heretics. Some are of opinion, that as to the Old Testament, he only revised it, by comparing different editions of the Septuagint: others contend, that he corrected it upon the Hebrew text, being well versed in that language. Certain, however, it is that Saint Lucian’s edition of the scriptures was much esteemed, and was of great use to Saint Jerome.

Saint Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, says, that Lucian remained some years separated from the Catholic communion, at Antioch, under three successive bishops, namely, Domnus, Timæus, and Cyril. If it was for too much favouring Paul of Samosata, condemned at Antioch in the year 269, he must have been deceived, for want of a sufficient penetration into the impiety of that dissembling heretic. It is certain, at least, that he died in the Catholic communion; which also appears from a fragment of a letter written by him to the church of Antioch, and still extant in the Alexandrian Chronicle. Though a priest of Antioch, we find him at Nicomedia, in the year 303, when Dioclesian first published his edicts against the Christians. He there suffered a long imprisonment for the faith; for the Paschal Chronicle quotes these words from a letter which he wrote out of his dungeon to Antioch: “All the martyrs salute you. I inform you that the pope Anthimus (bishop of Nicomedia) has finished his course of martyrdom.” This happened in 303. Yet Eusebius informs us, that Saint Lucian did not arrive himself at the crown of martyrdom till after the death of Saint Peter of Alexandria, in 311, so that he seems to have continued nine years in prison. At length he was brought before the governor, or, as the acts intimate, the emperor himself, for the word which Eusebius uses, may imply either. On his trial, he presented to the judge an excellent apology for the Christian faith. Being remanded to prison, an order was given that no food should be allowed him; but, when almost dead with hunger, dainty meats that had been offered to idols, were set before him, which he would not touch. It was not in itself unlawful to eat of such meats, as Saint Paul teaches, except where it would give scandal to the weak, or when it was exacted as an action of idolatrous superstition, as was the case here. Being brought a second time before the tribunal, he would give no other answer to all the questions put to him, but this: “I am a Christian.” He repeated the same whilst on the rack, and he finished his glorious course in prison, either by famine, or according to Saint Chrysostom, by the sword. His acts relate many of his miracles, with other, particulars; as that, when bound and chained down on his back in prison, he consecrated the divine mysteries upon his own breast, and communicated the faithful that were present: this we also read in Philostorgius, the Arian historian. Saint Lucian suffered at Nicomedia, where Maximinus II resided.

His body was interred at Drepanum, in Bithynia, which, in honour of him, Constantine the Great soon after made a large city, which he exempted from all taxes, and honoured with the name of Helenopolis, from his mother. Saint Lucian was crowned in 312, on the 7th of January, on which day his festival was kept at Antioch immediately after his death, as appears from Saint Chrysostom. It is the tradition of the church of Arles, that the body of Saint Lucian was sent out of the East to Charlemagne, who built a church under his invocation at Arles, in which his relics are preserved.

The first thing that is necessary in the service of God, is earnestly to search his holy will, by devoutly reading, listening to, and meditating on his eternal truths. This will set the divine law in a clear and full light, and conduct us by unerring rules, to discover and accomplish every duty. It will awake and continually increase a necessary tenderness of conscience, which will add light and life to its convictions, oblige us to a more careful trial and examination of all our actions, keep us not only from evil, but from every appearance of it, render us steadfast and immovable in every virtuous practice, and always preserve a quick and nice sense of good and evil. For this reason, the word of God is called in holy scripture, Light, because it distinguisheth between good and evil, and, like a lamp, manifesteth the path which we are to choose, and disperseth that mist with which the subtlety of our enemy and the lusts of our heart have covered it. At the same time, a daily repetition of contrition and compunction washes off the stains which we discover in our souls, and strongly incites us, by the fervour and fruitfulness of our following life, to repair the sloth and barrenness of the past. Prayer must be made our main assistant in every step of this spiritual progress. We must pray that God would enable us to search out and discover our own hearts, and reform whatever is amiss in them. If we do this sincerely, God will undoubtedly grant our requests; will lay open to us all our defects and infirmities, and, showing us how far short we come of the perfection of true holiness of life, will not suffer any latent corruptions in our affections to continue undiscovered, nor permit us to forget the stains and ruins which the sins of our life past have left behind them.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. Saints.SQPN.com. 6 January 2013. Web. 30 July 2014. <>