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St. Genesius of Rome icon

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By Theophilia   |   
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© 2015 - 2020 Theophilia
St. Genesius of Rome icon
© Cecilia Lawrence
May 8th 2015
4.5 x 6 inches
Ink, watercolor, gold leaf


It is no longer I who live, 
but Christ who lives in me.

~ Galatians 2:20

This was done as a commission for a client as a graduation gift. As an actor and martyr, I depicted him holding the customary martyr's palm, and he's also holding two masks representing tragedy and comedy, based on a Roman mosaic now in the Capitoline Museum in Rome: www.ecu.edu/cs-cas/classics/im…

:iconrose5plz::iconrose6plz::iconrose7plz::iconrose1plz::iconrose1plz::iconrose-2plz::iconrose3plz::iconrose4plz:

:+: A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OF THE SAINT :+:

Saint Genesius of Rome (c. 250s? – 303 A.D.) was a pagan comedic actor and a playwright who led a troupe of actors in Rome. When the Emperor Diocletian announced his visit to Rome in 303 to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of his reign and his triumph over Persia, the whole city began to plan the most extravagant of festivities. In an effort to court the Emperor's favor, Genesius decided to perform a satirical piece making a mockery of Christianity. Since he wasn't very knowledgeable about Christian beliefs, he decided to present himself as a catechumen (one who wishes to be baptized as a Christian) to the Christian church in Rome to do some research for his play. He was accepted, and was then instructed in the faith by the priests in Rome. The idea of Baptism – and it's ability to cleanse the soul of all stain of sins – particularly caught his imagination. He decided to base his satire on the theme of Baptism. Once he had learned enough about it for his purposes, he abandoned the catechumenate and discussed the play with his theater troupe. Performances of this kind were often done without scripts and relied mostly on witty improvisation between the actors. As they were composing the comedy and Genesius taught them about baptism, he found that, despite himself, he was being drawn more and more to the beliefs he was mocking. Indeed, he found it difficult to resist his own growing desire to become a Christian. 

On the opening night of the comedy, the Emperor Diocletian and the Imperial court were in attendance. In the play, Genesius played a sick, bed-ridden man who was about to die. He called to the other actors and said to them: "Ah! my friends, I feel a great weight upon me and would like to be lightened!" Another actor laughed: "How shall we lighten you? Would you like us to plane you to make you lighter?" Genesius replied, saying: "You stupid fools! I wish to die a Christian!" So two other actors, one playing a priest and another an exorcist, approached his bed-side and asked him why they had been sent for. At this moment, Genesius began to believe in earnest, and said that he wished to truly receive baptism to be delivered from his sins. The other actors, in a manner as ridiculous as possible, performed the whole rite of baptism. The Emperor and the court laughed long and hard at the whole farce. After this, Genesius was clothed in white as a newly baptized Christian and led by some actors dressed as soldiers to another actor dressed as a Roman judge. They began a ludicrous interrogation mimicking the trials of Christians. But when the usual questions were put to him, he replied in giving an earnest defense of Christianity and turned toward the Emperor and the audience, saying: 

“Listen to me, O emperor, and all you who are here present, listen also O people of Rome! Before today, whenever I even heard the word 'Christian' it made me sick and angry. I made fun of them, insulted them, and encouraged others to abuse them as well. I so hated Christians that when I found out some members of my family were Christians I despised and deserted them. I detested them so much that I decided to learn all about their mysteries and secrets so that I could more completely mock and despise them. I composed this play as a way to arouse the utmost contempt in this audience for the Christians. Yet, while I was lying on that bed and answering the questions of the phony priest I realized that all my answers were sincere and true and that I most earnestly believed. As the water was poured over me I saw a bright angel carrying a book with all the sins I had committed. He plunged the book into the water and it came up clean and white. And so now I tell you, O mighty Emperor, and all of you here present who have ridiculed these mysteries as I have, come and now believe as I now do that Jesus Christ is the True God, the Light and the Truth; and it is through His baptism that you may be cleaned from your sins."

The Emperor Diocletian, enraged at these words, immediately halted the performance and had all of the troupe members arrested and beaten. When the other actors protested and had satisfied Diocletian that they had had nothing to do with Genesius' profession of faith were released. Genesius, however, was turned over to Plautian, the prefect of the praetorians, with orders to have the actor tortured until he should sacrifice to the Roman gods. Genesius was therefore subjected to beatings and scourgings, as well as being racked, torn with hooks and burned with torches. After days of this torture and being urged to sacrifice to the pagan gods, Genesius staunchly replied: "There is no King but Him whom I have seen. I adore and worship Him, and for His sake, even though I be slain a thousand times, I will always be His. Torments are not able to take Christ from my mouth, nor from my heart. Bitterly do I regret that I detested His Holy Name in holy men, and came so late, like a haughty soldier, to adoring the true King." Plautian reported these words to the Emperor, and seeing that the saint would not relent, ordered him to be beheaded.

St. Genesius was buried in the Cemetery of St. Hippolytus on the Via Tiburtina. Today, his relics can be found in the Chapel of St. Lawrence in the Church of Santa Susanna di Termini in Rome. 

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:rose: The Feast of St. Genesius is celebrated on August 25th. :rose:

St. Genesius is the patron saint of actors and comedians.

Eternal Father,
in your love you call all men and women
to come to know you and to share in your divine life.
Through the intercession of your martyr, Genesius,
who responded so generously to the grace of conversion,
grant that the same grace may be given
to those who as yet do not know you,
and may be renewed in those who do.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Image size
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Comments42
anonymous's avatar
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RisenArt's avatar
RisenArtProfessional General Artist
If this is true, that is a life worth mimicking.

Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
:nod:
atmantero's avatar
This is stunning. I also love your icon of St. Cecelia. As a Catholic high school and elementary school director, we invoke St. Genesius and St. Cecelia before each rehearsal and each performance. Is there any way to get prints of these icons for sale?

Thank you for sharing your gift.
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
Thank you! :aww:

Yes, absolutely! My e-mail is in my journal along with the corresponding sizes/prices. :nod:
a-witty-fool's avatar
a-witty-foolHobbyist
I think you've just become my favorite artist on here, if you weren't already!

Even though I didn't know his story, St. Genesius brings back fond memories. When I joined Theatre at my (Catholic) high school, our Chaplain came backstage and gave us each a medal with either St. Genesius or Mary on it. It was really sweet of him, and it helped calm my nerves a lot. We said a prayer to St. Genesius before each show, and sometimes we incorporated him in our pre-show ritual. (In case you were never in theatre, I should mention that actors are a highly ritualistic people. :D

Anyway, I'm not sure why I'm rambling on about this. I guess I just want to thank you for unknowingly bringing some joy into my day with such beautiful artwork! :)
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
Such high praise! THANK YOU! :meow:

I never was in theater, but I can certainly believe it! :D That was one of those things I've always kind of regretted not doing, but then, I don't know if I could have endured all of the after school practices; I think I would have gotten quite burnt out!

And I am absolutely delighted that my work has been a source of joy for you; it's a beautiful and humbling thing to hear, and I want to thank you for taking the time tell me so. Again, thank you! :hug:

:iconilikeitplz:
BohemianBeachcomber's avatar
BohemianBeachcomberProfessional Writer
What a fascinating life story!
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
Right?! I'd never heard of him before I got the commission. :nod:
scarlethorn's avatar
There was an odd thing in my university (a Catholic one). There was usually at least one person in each class with a major or minor in both Theatre and Theology.  My sister was one of them, although the teachers in the Theology section didn't seem very-um- 'learned on Catholicism' (I think one was agnostic- which wouldn't be a problem in a non-Catholic College- problem in a Catholic one run by Nuns).  Maybe they need a statue of St Genesius in their theatre.
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
Hahaha, yeah, sounds like it! :XD: Unfortunately, there are a lot of "Catholic" universities that are almost anything but. :roll:
Mandinga91's avatar
Mandinga91Student Traditional Artist
what a story...i think i got fond on this saint becouse of his actions and how he dared to talk to the Emperor like that....what a brave soul this actor had and what a great saint for the Church! do you know if he became the patron of actors? 
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
My guess he's the patron of actors because he was an actor, and his acting and acting research led him to Christ. St. Vitus is also another patron saint of actors as well (and I'm sure there are others). :nod:
Mandinga91's avatar
Mandinga91Student Traditional Artist
ohh i see....well,thanks for the info!
nKhyi-naonZgo's avatar
nKhyi-naonZgoHobbyist Writer
Actors and various kinds of clerks (lawyers, secretaries, etc.).
Relient-K's avatar
Relient-KProfessional Traditional Artist
Such a beautiful story! Makes me want to cry...
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
Right?! It's amazing how God can move in a person's life.
shortpencilstudios's avatar
shortpencilstudiosProfessional
Cool! These saints you make are so beautiful! This and Francis of Assisi especially.
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
THANK YOU!!!
shortpencilstudios's avatar
shortpencilstudiosProfessional
You're very welcome!
TheRainbowQueen23's avatar
Cool. :) I kinda gave up some hope thinking that people can be converted, but is story proves me wrong.
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
Yeah, it's never too late! :D
MiGpilot's avatar
MiGpilotHobbyist Traditional Artist
Just comes to show that any path can lead to Christ!
Theophilia's avatar
TheophiliaProfessional Traditional Artist
Amen!
FliegenLicht's avatar
FliegenLichtHobbyist General Artist
What a wonderful story! And beautiful image!
anonymous's avatar
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