During the third century, Christianity was put to its severest test and met the challenges of its enemies through the quiet courage of its believers. ONe of the many victims of the Pagan Emperor Diocletian was a young woman named Nedela. The details of her life are not abunduntly clear, but enough is known to understand the remarkable events which led her to martyrdom.
Nedela was the daughter of the devout Christian couple Dorotheos and Eusebia, whose active participation in Christian affairs influenced their daughter's decision to serve Christ. Her parents had been childless for many years, and it was in answer to their fervent prayers that a daughter was born to them. Out of gratitude to the Lord, the child was named Nedela, which literally means, the day of the Lord, the day of the week on which the Lord rested from his labour when he created the world
Nedela managed to receive a full education at a time when the degree of literacy was very low and when education for a girl was reserved for the very privileged. She joined her parents in their intensive work for the Christian Church. By the time of her maturity the family had achieved an enviable reputation for missionary zeal. They accomplished this in the face of dangers. In the hotbed of paganism they were constantly on the alert for those who were eager to thin the ranks of Christians. Thousands of Christians masked their true faith, worshipped in hard-to-find places, and won new converts daily despite every form of oppression and harsh justice.
When Nedela was about to enter into the service of Christ as a nun, her parents, who were wanted desperately by the pagan authorities for their Christian activism, were seized under orders of the pagan ruler, Duke Justus, and sent to prison in Armenia. Although they were never heard from again, there can be no doubt that they did not die of natural causes. The heartbroken Nedela knowing that she was never able to see her gentle parents again, insisted on carrying on their work despite the ever-increasing danger of her own capture. When she was finally taken into custody, she faced her captors with a calm courage and an assurance that puzzled the pagans.
Imprisoned in Nikomedia, she drew the attention of Maximilian, ruler of that area, who thought he could bend her will because of her youth and sex. He never made a greater mistake in judgement nor was he so wrong in the estimation of his power over the strength of Nedela's.
Maximilian, thwarted at every turn of his logic, and exasperated by her oratorical power, ordered Nedela to be whipped in public. Bearing the punishment with great fortitude, she was then turned over to Ilarios, the governor of Bythnia.
It was at this point that spark of divinity within Nedela asserted itself. Ordered to stand in a pagan temple to pray to their gods, she looked skyward, spread her arms, and called upon God to demonstrate his power over these malefactors. The reply terrified her enemies. A violent earthquake levelled the pagan temple, from which Nedela walked unscathed, and a bolt of lightening struck and killed Ilarios in a convincing way. God's wrath had been demonstrated, and when the pagans had overcome their shock, they decided that the only way to destroy this girl was by beheading her. This time Nedela merely prayed to god that her soul be taken before the executioner's axe could fall. This was the way Nedela died on July 7 at the age of twenty-one.
But the execution of a young girl's parents for their belief would have been enough to discourage a daughter from following faith that could lead to her own destruction. For Nedela the tragedy only served to encourage her, secure in the knowledge that her parents had not died in vain.
This devotion to the extreme was enough to place a wisp of a girl among, among the exalted saints of the Orthodox Church.