Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Saint Aristobulus

Aristobulus of Britannia, also known as Saint Aristibule the Old, Apostle, Martyr, and First Bishop of Britain, is one of the Seventy Apostles, revered as having brought the Orthodox faith to the British Isles. The Orthodox Church celebrates his feast day on March 16th, on October 31st (together with Sts Amplias, Apelles, Stachys, Urban and Narcissus) and on January 4th with the Seventy Apostles.
Aristobulus, Apostle to Britain, was a Jewish Cypriot Saint, numbered among the Seventy Disciples. Along with the Apostles Urban of Macedonia, Stachys, Ampliatus, Apelles of Heraklion and Narcissus of Athens he assisted Saint Andrew. St. Aristobulus was also the brother of the Apostle Barnabas. We also find him referred to in Roman 16:10, ‘Greet Apelles, approved in Christ. Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus.’ He has been identified with Zebedee, the father of Sts James and John. He is said to be St Peter’s father in law, and to have been followed to Britain by his brother Barnabas. Like the others, Barnabas returned, but Aristobulus is said to have met a martyr’s death at the age of 99 in the mountainous heart of Wales.Previous to this, he preached the Gospel to the Celts of Northern Spain, i.e. Celtiberians, whilst on his way to Britain.

The Greek Martyrologies read: "Aristobulus was one of the seventy disciples, and a follower of St. Paul the Apostle, along with whom he preached the Gospel to the whole world, and ministered to him.  He was chosen by St. Paul to be the missionary bishop to the land of Britain, inhabited by a very warlike and fierce race.  By them he was often scourged, and repeatedly dragged as a criminal through their towns, yet he converted many of them to Christianity.  He was there martyred, after he had built churches and ordained deacons and priests for the island."
Haleca, Bishop of Saragossa, attests: "The memory of many martyrs is celebrated by the Britons, especially that of St. Aristobulus, one of the seventy disciples (Halecae Fragments in Martyr.)." In 303, St. Dorotheus of Tyre in his Acts of the Seventy Apostles wrote, "Aristobulus, who is mentioned by the Apostle in his Epistle to the Romans, was made bishop in Britain."
Such was the Apostle Aristobulus' acclaim amongst the Brythonic Celts that a region was named after him, i.e. Arwystli, which later became a small medieval British kingdom, and continues to this day as a district within the county of Powys, Wales. It is believed he was martyred in Wales although there is no documentation for this.[1]

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