The Holy Forty Martyrs Of Sebaste All of them were soldiers in the Roman army and steadfastly believed in the Lord Jesus. When the persecution of Christians began during the reign of Licinius, they were brought to trial before the commander. When he threatened to strip them of their honor as soldiers, one of them, St. Candidus, responded: “Take away from us not only the honor of being soldiers but also our bodies, for nothing is more dear or honorable to us than Christ our God.” After that, the commander ordered his servants to stone the holy martyrs. While the servants were hurling stones at the Christians, the stones turned and fell back on the servants, forcefully striking them. One of the stones struck the commander’s face and knocked out his teeth. The torturers, angry as wild beasts, bound all of the holy martyrs and threw them into the lake. They then stationed a guard around the lake to prevent any of them from escaping. There was a terrible frost, and the lake froze around the bodies of the martyrs. To increase their pain and suffering, and to persuade even one of them to deny Christ and acknowledge the idols of Rome, the torturers heated and illumined a bath by the side of the lake in sight of the frozen martyrs. Indeed, one of them was persuaded. He came out of the water and entered the bath. And behold, from heaven there appeared an extraordinary light, which warmed the water in the lake and the bodies of the martyrs. With that light, thirty-nine wreaths descended from heaven over their heads. Upon seeing this, a guard on the shore removed all his clothes, confessed the name of the Lord Jesus and entered the lake so that he could become worthy of the fortieth wreath in place of the betrayer. Indeed, the last wreath descended upon him. The next day the entire town was astonished when they saw that the martyrs were still alive. Then the wicked judges ordered that the lower part of their legs be broken and their bodies thrown into the water so that the Christians could not recover them. On the third day the martyrs appeared to Peter, the local bishop, and summoned him to gather their relics and remove them from the water The bishop with his clergy went out in the dark of night and beheld the relics of the martyrs shining brightly in the water. Every bone which was separated from their bodies floated to the top and glowed like a candle. Bishop Peter gathered and honorably buried them. The souls of these martyrs went to the Lord Jesus, Who suffered for all of us and resurrected with glory. They suffered honorably and were crowned with unfading glory in the year 320 A.D.
The Venerable Philoromus He lived and mortified himself in Galatia in the fourth century. It is said about him that he was so perfected in all virtues that he resembled an angel rather than a man. He was especially glorified because of his patience. He was persecuted by the Emperor Julian the Apostate and suffered much for Christ. After the death of Julian the wicked persecutor of Christ, St. Philoromus lived peacefully, benefitting many. He reposed in his eightieth year.
Saint Caesarius St. Caesarius (+369), the brother of Gregory the Theologian, was also a theological writer. Among other things he attempted to answer the question: How long a time did Adam and Eve spend in Paradise before their expulsion? Some have determined the time to be six hours; others, twenty-four hours; and still others, three days. St. Caesarius was of the mind that the length of time was forty days. “Because,” he says, “our Lord fasted forty days in the wilderness and during that time He was tempted by the devil. Since the old Adam could not resist the temptation of the devil in the abundance of Paradise, the new Adam resisted the devil valiantly in the hungry and thirsty wilderness.”
Hymn Of Praise The Holy Forty Martyrs Martyrs in the lake, shackled by frost, Strongly adhering to the Holy Faith, illumined by hope, Cried out to their beloved God: “Thou, Who didst astonish the world By Thine awesome sacrifice and Resurrection–Oh, do Thou enliven us! The firmament of heaven and all created things glorify Thee; Behold, the abyss, fire, hail, snow, ice and heat glorify Thee! Thou didst help the great Moses, Thy servant, And Joshua Son of Nun, and after that Elisha, By commanding nature to calm and divide the waters. Now help Thy faithful as Thou hast until now. Do not allow the frost to be stronger than man, That we, Forty Martyrs, not become the subject of scorn. Oh, Thou canst, if Thou willest, for Thou rulest over all; Thou, when Thou wantest, canst change ice into heat and heat into ice. For Thy name, the frost consumes us as an angry beast– Oh, help us that the name of the Almighty may be praised!”
Martyrs in the lake, shackled by frost, Were warmed from heaven by God’s light. Gloriously they fell and remained Forty Martyrs To the fear, horror and shame of the darkened unbelievers.
Reflection Conceal your spiritual treasures and do not reveal them unnecessarily. Behold how men conceal and hide their material wealth, and how, when forced to reveal how much they have, they always conceal the greater amount and only reveal the lesser. Very few are they who wish to reveal all that they possess, and fewer still are those who would declare that they have more than they actually possess (and these the world considers frivolous and mindless). This clearly shows you how you need to conceal your spiritual wealth, that is, your virtues, good works, fasting, vigils, and prayers. Why do not the wise children of this world reveal their material wealth? For two reasons: So that neither would thieves hear of it, nor would evil men be provoked to envy. There also exist envious and jealous thieves in regard to spiritual treasure. They are the spirits of malice. As soon as you reveal your spiritual treasure, they will endeavor to belittle it and to squander it. Just as soon as you reveal it without need–let us say, out of vanity, so as to be praised–they seize it and disparage it. And you, O rich man of spiritual treasure, will imperceptibly and suddenly become a poor man. Many who were spiritually rich, the saints, made themselves out to be fools before the world so that, by appearing foolish, they would conceal their great wisdom and strength within themselves. Abba Isaiah writes: “Those good works that are performed in secret are more pleasing to God.” St. Nilus of Sinai says: “The covered skin of the body is white, but the uncovered skin is parched and black.” So it is with our concealed and our revealed good works.
Contemplation Contemplate the Lord Jesus in the hands of God’s enemies gathered together in the home of Caiaphas:
- How all of them hurriedly sought false witnesses, for they wanted by whatever means to kill Christ;
- How they spat in His face and struck Him on the face;
- How our Lord endured all with unspeakable dignity and without anger.
Homily on enduring to the end “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matthew 24: 13). O Lord most wonderful, Thou hast endured all–everything to the end. That is why Thou becamest not only blessed but also the source of blessings for all men who desire good for themselves throughout the ages. The apostles endured all to the end and entered into blessed eternity. The saints willingly endured difficulties and sufferings to the end and were glorified in heaven and on earth. The martyrs willingly endured all pains to the end and became the adopted fellow heirs of the Kingdom of Christ. Every founder of a new organization recruits followers for himself with the promise of good fruits and many pleasures, but deliberately remains silent about the hardships and labors that lead to those fruits and pleasures. Our Lord Jesus is the only one Who spoke the whole truth to His followers–both the bitter and the sweet side of the truth. He did not promise fruits without service, glory without suffering, ultimate rest without the thorny path, victory without struggle, pleasure without bitterness, or the Kingdom without tears and self-denial. Although our Lord enumerated the many difficulties that would befall His followers, in the end He does not abandon them without consolation. He gives meaning to their sufferings and does not leave them in darkness. He says: He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And what that blessing is which awaits those who endure to the end, He Himself has sufficiently revealed. This blessing has been witnessed to even until today and continues to be witnessed to by many saints, who have either appeared in glory to the faithful from the other world or who, while yet in the flesh, were raised in the spirit to a vision of that glory and blessedness which await those who are faithful, elect and persevering. O Lord, Thou art our strength. Help us to endure to the end in the faith that Thou art beside us. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.