St. Anastasia, also known as Anastasia of Sirmium and Anastasia the Pharmakolytria or “Deliverer from Potions,” is a Christian saint and martyr who suffered for Christ during the time of Diocletian’s Christian persecutions. She is one of the seven women commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass.
Anastasia was from Rome and belonged to a wealthy family. Her father Praepextatus was a Pagan but her mother Fausta, was Christian. Anastasia was born around 280 AD. She was known to be beautiful and virtuous in every way. Without the knowledge of her father, her mother baptized her, when she was an infant. Fausta secretly educated Anastasia to follow the path of Christianity and was raised with Christian values.
When her mother passed away, Anastasia’s father got her married to Publius Patricius, who was also of Pagan faith. Publius was a loving husband to Anastasia until he discovered that she believed in Christ. During the persecutions of Diocletian, the husband tortured her and was confined to the house as a slave. Even though she was tormented, she was delighted that she could suffer in the name of Jesus Christ. Fortunately, she had to tolerate these abuses for only a short period of time, as Publius soon drowned to his death.
Anastasia became a young widow after Publius’s death and she never remarried. She distributed her property to those less fortunate and suffering. Anastasia spent her time traveling from city to city helping the poor, treating the sick and provided the prisoners with whatever they needed every day. She would clean the wounds of injured people and would provide solace to those who were in agony. She was so gifted that she could heal and save many from the ill-effects of potions, evil spells, poisons and other dangerous elements through her interventions and prayers. She was given the title “Deliverer from Potions,” because she would often heal many from the effects of poisons and potions.
Anastasia was arrested in Illyricum and taken to the prefect of the district for being Christian. He tried to persuade her to deny her faith and threatened her with torture. Anastasia could not be swayed, so she was given to the pagan priest Ulpian in Rome. He presented her with the choice between riches or suffering, luxuries or torture devices. She chose torture.
He gave her three days to reconsider. Enamored by her beauty, Ulpian decided he would defile her purity. However, once he went to touch her he was struck blind and his head burst into extreme pain. On his way to his pagan temple, he fell and died.
St. Anastasia, now free, set out to care for imprisoned Christians, along with Theodota, a pious young widow and faithful helper. The news of her good deeds and the miracles that she performed spread far and wide. She became so reputed in such short time that she was arrested under the persecutions of Diocletian, the Roman Emperor. After her companion, Theodota was martyred, Anastasia was ordered death by starvation and was starved for 60 days. But she was not harmed. It is said the martyred Theodota visited her and fed her during this time.
The judge then decided the prisoners, including Anastasia and Eutychianus, would be killed by drowning. They all entered a boat with holes in the base, but St. Theodota appeared to them and steered the boat to shore. Once they landed, Anastasia and Eutychianus baptized 120 men.
Following yet another escape, Anastasia was taken to the island of Palmaria. She was staked to the ground with her arms and legs stretched out and burned alive. She died in 304 AD.
During the fifth century, her remnants were moved from Constantinople to the Cathedral of St. Anastasia in Zadar, Croatia, which was constructed in her memory. This church that was dedicated to Anastasia the Saint was where St. Andrew, the ‘Fool-for-Christ’ was brought and cured of his foolishness. It is believed that St. Anastasia appeared in his dream and encouraged him to carry on his life as an ascetic person. A few years later, St. Anastasia’s head and one of her arms were relocated to the Monastery of St. Anastasia, the Pharmakolitria, in Chalkidiki, Greece. Anastasia of Sirmium was a respected and loved Saint and in her honor, many women were named after her. She is venerated every year during the second Mass on Christmas by the Roman Catholic Church. St. Anastasia’s Day is also dedicated to her and is celebrated on December 22nd annually on the Orthodox Church calendar.