The Seven Holy Youths Of Ephesus There was a great persecution of Christians during the reign of Decius. The emperor himself went to Ephesus, and there arranged a boisterous and noisy celebration in honor of the lifeless idols–as well as a terrible slaughter of Christians. Seven young men, soldiers, refrained from the impure offering of sacrifices. They earnestly prayed to the one God to save the Christian people. They were the sons of the most influential elders of Ephesus. Their names were Maximilian, Jamblicus, Martin [Martinian], John, Dionysius, Exacustodianus, and Antonin [Antoninus]. When they were accused before the emperor, they retreated to a hill outside of Ephesus called Celion, and there they hid in a cave. When the emperor learned of this, he commanded that the cave be walled shut. Yet, God–according to His far-reaching providence–caused a miraculous and long- lasting sleep to fall upon the young men. The imperial courtiers Theodore and Rufinus (themselves secret Christians) built a small copper box into the wall. It contained lead plaques on which were written the names of these young men, and which recorded their martyric deaths during the reign of Emperor Decius. More than two hundred years passed. During the reign of Emperor Theodosius the Younger (408-450 A.D.), there was a great dispute about the resurrection of the dead, and there were some that doubted in it. Emperor Theodosius was in great sorrow as a result of this dispute among the faithful, and prayed to God that He, in some way, would reveal the truth to men. Then some shepherds of Adolius, who owned the hill Celion, were building folds for their sheep, using stones from the cave. They removed stone after stone. Suddenly, the youths awoke from their sleep, as youthful and healthy as on the day they fell asleep. The news of this miracle was spread abroad in every direction, so that Theodosius himself came with a great entourage and conversed with the youths, to his delight. After a week, they again fell into the deep repose from which they had awakened, to await the General Resurrection. Emperor Theodosius wanted to place their bodies in gold caskets; but they appeared to him in a dream, and told him to leave them in the earth as they had been laid there.
The Priestly-Martyr Cosmas, Equal To The Apostles Cosmas was born in Aitolia in the village of Megadendron (Large Tree). As a young man he went to Mount Athos, where he was tonsured a monk in the Monastery of Philotheou. However, driven by a constant desire to preach the Holy Gospel to the people, Cosmas went to Constantinople, where he asked the blessing of Patriarch Seraphim Ii. He visited the regions of the Danube, preaching the Gospel [Good News], but remained mostly in Albania, where he suffered at the hands of Kurt Pasha, whom the Jews had incited against Cosmas. The Turks strangled Cosmas and threw his body into a river, in the year 1779 A.D. His miracle-working relics repose in the village of Kalikontasi in the Church of the Holy Theotokos, not far from the town of Berat. Cosmas suffered for his Lord in the sixty-fifth year of his life.
Hymn Of Praise
The Seven Holy Youths Of Ephesus
When the last rays of the sun reddened the west,
The Seven Youths, to God, prayed
That on the morrow they might again find themselves alive and well;
But, before Emperor Decius, they were brought for torture,
And lay down to sleep a long, deep sleep.
Time passed with long strides.
One morning, in the east, the sun rose,
And the Seven, from their deep sleep, awoke.
Then Jamblicus, the youngest, to Ephesus ran
To see and hear and, about everything, ask:
Did Decius still hunt them for the slaughter?
And he went to buy bread for the Seven.
But behold the wonder: this is not the same gate!
And the city is completely different!
Everywhere are beautiful churches, domes and crosses!
Jamblicus asked himself: Are these not dreams?
No familiar faces; no kinsmen anywhere:
There are no persecutions; there are no martyrs!
“Tell me, brethren, the name of this city,
And tell me the name of the emperor who now reigns,”
Jamblicus inquired. The people, at him, looked,
And he was the object of much opinion!
“This city is Ephesus, now as before;
In Christ, now reigns Emperor Theodosius!”
The proconsul heard of this, as did the gray-haired bishop;
The whole city was perplexed, and all, to the cave, ran,
And, seeing the miracle, glorified God
And the resurrected servants of the risen Christ.
Ask and it shall be given to you, said the Lord (Matthew 7:7). As parents give to their children all that the children ask, and all that is for their benefit, so does God, the Lover of Mankind, give to men all that men ask of God, and what conducive to their salvation. As a monk on Mt. Athos, Cosmas asked two things of God: to preach the Gospel to the people, and to suffer as a martyr for the Faith. For an Athonite monk, who is bound by vows to his monastery, these two desires seem unattainable and unrealistic. But to God, everything is possible. God perfectly fulfilled both desires of Cosmas. The joy of Cosmas was indescribable, when he received the blessing of the patriarch–that he could leave Mt. Athos and go among the people to preach the Gospel [Good News]. Cosmas had a similar moment of joy when the servants of the Turkish Pasha informed him that, by the command of the Pasha, he must die. Full of joy, the saint sank to his knees, thanking God for fulfilling even this desire. He gave up his body to death, and his soul to the Living God.
To contemplate the miraculous announcement of the birth of Samson (Judges 13):
- How an angel of God appeared to Manoah and his barren wife, and announced that his wife would give birth to a son, who would deliver the people from slavery;
- How, for this, Manoah offered a sacrifice to God; and an angel ascended to heaven in the flame of the sacrifice;
- How even a barren woman can give birth, when God wills it.
About the sickness of apostasy
“The whole head is sick and the whole heart faint” (Isaiah1:5).
Brethren: God, the God of Sabaoth, is the Source of health. Go up into the heights of God–you whose heads are troubled by superfluous works, and still more by superfluous concerns–and be imbued with the health which comes from God, only from God. A sick head–those are the leaders and the elders of the people; and a faint heart–those are the people. The prophet presents an entire people as one body, and shows how, even with the body of a people, the same thing happens as with the body of a man. When one organ of the body is sick, that organ alone is sick; but the entire body feels faint because of the sickness of this one organ. So it was with the people of Israel: the head was sick, and from a sick head the heart became faint. The leaders and the elders of Israel abandoned the Law of God and followed their senses as their guides. They took their sensual minds, tarnished from various worldly influences, as their guides for a good life, instead of the Law of God. They fell into the hopeless darkness of idolatrous errors. And from the insanity of the head, the heart was faint. It is more difficult for the heart to separate from God than it is for the head; it is more difficult for a people to separate from God than it is for their leaders; but when the head remains sick for a long time, then the heart grows faint and yields. Because of the corruption of the leaders, a people finally strays from the path. This is the vision of Isaiah, the son of Amos, the true prophet. Indeed, this is a true vision, both for then and now–for the people of Israel and for the people of today. Brethren, look at the people you know best–and judge for yourself, is the head sick and is the heart faint? O Lord, true and just, enlighten the mind of every people with Your light, and strengthen with Your might the heart of every people–so that our enemies will not rejoice and say that You have abandoned us. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.