The Holy Female Martyrs Agape, Chionia And Irene All three were sisters from the vicinity of Aquileia. When Emperor Diocletian was staying in Aquileia he ordered that the distinguished spiritual father Chrysogonus be killed. At that time an aged presbyter, Zoilus, had a vision in which the location of the unburied body of Chrysogonus was revealed. Hastening, the elder found the martyred body of Chrysogonus, placed it in a coffin and kept it in his home. Thirty days later, St. Chrysogonus appeared to him, informing him that, in the course of nine days, these three maidens would suffer martyrdom and that he, Zoilus, would also die at that time. The same news was received in a vision by Anastasia the Deliverer from Bonds [a woman endowed with moral and spiritual insight-December 22], who was a disciple of Chrysogonus. Indeed, after nine days the Elder Zoilus died and these three sisters were brought to trial before the emperor. The emperor urged these three maidens to worship idols, but they all refused and confessed their steadfast faith in Christ. Irene told to the emperor that it was foolish to worship things made of stone and wood, which were ordered for an agreed price and made by the hands of a mortal man. The enraged emperor cast them into prison. When the emperor departed for Macedonia, all slaves and prisoners were taken with him, including these three saintly maidens. The emperor turned them over to a certain commander, Dulcitius, for torture. This commander, inflamed by dark passion, wanted to defile the virgins; however, when the commander attempted to enter the prison while the virgins were praying to God, he went insane. He fell among the black cauldrons and pots by the gates and began to embrace and kiss them, departing sooty and blackened. The emperor, upon hearing about this incident, ordered that another commander, Sisinius, take over the trial of these sisters. After prolonged torture, the judge condemned the first two sisters to death by burning, while he detained Irene for a while longer, hoping to defile her. But when the judge sent Irene to a brothel with the soldiers, an angel of God saved this chaste virgin by staving off the soldiers and bringing her to a hill. The next day, the commander and his soldiers went to this hill, but they were unable to ascend it. He then ordered that Irene be shot with arrows. St. Anastasia gathered the bodies of these three sisters into one place and honorably buried them. They all suffered honorably for Christ the King and Lord in about the year 304 A.D.
The Holy Martyr Leonidas, And With Him The Female Martyrs Chariessa, Nice, Galina, Callista, Nunechia, Basilissa And Theodora They were thrown into the sea, but the sea received them not. They walked upon the sea as upon dry land and sang to God: “One battle have I won, O Lord, and the army pursued me; O Lord, I did not deny Thee; O Lord, save my soul!” Seeing them, the heathens at first were amazed, but they later tied stones around their necks and again threw them into the depths of the sea, where they drowned. They all suffered honorably for Christ the King and Lord in the year 281 A.D.
Hymn Of Praise The Holy Female Martyrs Agape, Chiona And Irene Chaste souls, chaste bodies, Like three lilies, pure and white, Three sisters, heroines, Golden treasuries of the Holy Spirit. Their blood they shed, their life they gave. With wreaths are they crowned. Agape–pure love, Chiona–glistening as the snow, And Irene–namesake of peace. In torments as in the midst of a feast, They glorified the Living God And the resurrected Lord: “Most-high God, whatever we have, Behold, to Thee we give all: Body, soul and all pains– Thou receivest all into Thy hands! From the river of fire save our bodies; From eternal wrath save the souls! Oh, thanks be to Thee, that Thou didst create us, And didst even make us worthy of sufferings!” Three sisters, three virgins, Martyrs for the sake of the Trinity.
Reflection A story of the Elder Barlaam: A certain man had three friends. Two of them he loved sincerely, but he avoided the third out of indifference. It so happened that the king summoned this man before him to render account and to repay his debt. He turned for help to his first friend, who rejected him and departed. He then turned to his second friend, but even he did not help him. With shame, he then turned to the third friend, who joyfully accompanied him to the king. The interpretation is this: the first friend is wealth; the second friend is one’s relatives; the third friend is the good works of men in this world. The king is God, Who, through death, sends a summons and seeks payment of debt. A dying man seeks help in his wealth, but it turns away and passes on immediately into the hands of another owner. He then turns to his relatives, but his relatives send him off alone and they remain. Then, he reminds himself of his good works, which he carried out with indifference, and these immediately accompany him on his way to the King and Judge. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. The only companions of the soul into the other world are the works of a man, be they good or be they bad. All that was dear and precious to a man leaves him and turns away from him. Only his works, to the very last one, accompany him. He who has a mind to understand, let him understand.
Contemplation Contemplate the resurrected Lord Jesus:
- How, according to the testimony of St. Paul, He appeared alive to five hundred people at once: After that, He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep (1 Corinthians 15:6);
- How He appeared to the Apostle James, again, according to the testimony of the Apostle Paul: After that, He appeared to James, then to all the apostles (1 Corinthians 15:7);
- How in the time of the Apostle Paul, even outside the circle of the apostles, many still lived who had seen Him.
Homily on waking from sin “Awake to righteousness and sin not” (1 Corinthians 15:34). The Apostle Paul gives this commandment in relation to the Resurrection of Christ. Since he had enumerated many proofs of the Resurrection of the Lord, he decisively commands the faithful to awaken to righteousness and to sin no more. Why does the Apostle make our wakefulness contingent on the Resurrection of the Lord? Because the Resurrection of Christ from the dead is the main rebuttal to sinning. And because nothing else in this world can turn us away from sinning as surely as the knowledge that the Lord resurrected from the grave and now sits alive on the Throne of Glory, awaiting us at His Judgment. Having acquired this knowledge, sinning is utterly absurd. Having acquired this knowledge, waking from sin is perfectly natural and reasonable. Awake to righteousness! Not halfheartedly, but completely. Dismiss from your minds even the remembrance of sin. For sin is like a plant that can grow even in the most parched places. One drop of moisture, and a seemingly withered plant becomes green. One remembrance of a seemingly long-forgotten, dead sin makes it come alive and become stronger. The heathens, who sinned without having the example of the Resurrection of the dead, will have some justification at the Judgment. They will say: “There was nothing powerful enough to awaken us from sinning. We believed that the grave was the final delta of the river of human life, for we did not have any proof of life after death.” Thus will the heathens speak? But how will you Christians justify yourselves, you who have learned of the Resurrection of Christ and have not awakened; you who have heard so many testimonies of the Resurrection and the Judgment and yet have continued to sin? How are you going to justify yourselves? My brethren, awake to righteousness and sin not, for Christ is risen from the grave. O resurrected and living Lord, help us to awaken from sin once and for all. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.