Day of the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste
Day of the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste
In 313 St. Constantine the Great issued a decree, according to which Christians could practice their religion. So they received equal rights with pagans. But his joint ruler Licinius was a strong pagan and the part of his empire decided to eradicate Christianity. Licinius began to prepare for a war against Constantine and being afraid of betrayal he decided to mop up Christians from his army.
At that time one of the commanders - Agricola lived in the Armenian town Sebaste. He was a zealous supporter of pagans. A squad of 40 brave wasrriors was under his command which were winners of many battles. All of them were Christians. When the warriors refused to make a sacrifice to pagan Gods, Agricola had put them in prison. The warriors gave themselves up to the prayer and once at night they had heard a voice: "He, who endures till the end, will be saved”.
Next morning the warriors were brought again to Agricola. This time the pagan decided to flatter the warriors. He began to laud their courage, youth and strength offering them to deny Christ. Having heard a refusal, Agricola ordered to put the warriors into chains. But among the 40 there was an elder soldier, Kyrion, said: "The emperor did not dive you the rights to put us into chains”. Agrocola was confused and ordered to dungeon them without chaining. In seven days a noble dignitary Licinius came to Sebaste and organized a trial. Saints replied firmly: "Take not only our military rank but our lives as well. Jesus Christ is the dearest of all for us”. Then Licinus ordered to beat St. Martyrs with stones. But stoned flew beside the mark; a thrown stone by Licius, struck Agricola’s face. The torturers understood that an invisible force protected the Saints. All the night the warriors prayed in the dungeon and again they heard a consoling voice of God: "If he, who believes in Me, dies, will return to life. Dare and do not be afraid!” Next day the trial and examination were repeated, but the warriors remained adamant.
It was winter, the cold was very sharp. The saint warriors were undressed and led to a pond, which was frozen. The directed the saints to stand quite naked on the ice for the night and in order to tempt them the more powerfully to renounce their faith, a warm bath was prepared at a small distance from the frozen pond, for any of this company to go to who were disposed to purchase their temporal ease and safety on that condition. After the midnight when the frost became unbearable, of the whole number only one had the misfortune to be overcome; who, losing courage, went off from the pond to seek the relief in readiness for such as were disposed to renounce their faith; but as the devil usually deceives his adorers, the apostate no sooner entered the warm water but he expired. Later on God sent a delight: suddenly it became brightly, the ice thawed and the water in the pond warmed.
All the guards were sleeping when one of them Aglay was keeping awake. Having looked at the pond he had a vision of blessed spirits descending from heaven on the martyrs, and distributing, as from their king, rich presents and precious garments. There were crowns to all these generous soldiers, one only excepted, who was their faint-hearted companion already mentioned. The guard, being struck with the celestial vision and the apostates desertion, was converted upon it. He woke the rest of the guards up and said: "And I am a Christian!” And by a particular motion of the Holy Ghost, threw off his clothes, and placed himself in his stead among the thirty-nine martyrs. Staying in the water he prayed: "My Lord, I believe in You. Join me to these warriors to suffer with Your servants”.
In the morning the torturers saw with astonishment that the martyrs were alive but their guard Aglay was glorifying Christ. Then the warriors were taken out from water and they broke legs of the martyrs. During that poignant execute, mother of the youngest of the warriors (whom the acts call Melito) exhorted him to persevere to the end. The martyrs’ bodies were laid on carriages to be carried to the pile. The youngest of them was found alive and the executioners, hoping he would change his resolution when he came to himself, left him behind. Then his mother took him up and carried him after the wagon. When Melito breathed his last she put him with her own hands into the wagon with the rest of the martyrs. Their bodies were burned, and their ashes thrown into the river so that the Christians could not bury them.
In three days St. Peter, bishop of Sebaste had a dream about the martyrs. They asked him to commit their remains to the earth. Bishop and some priests and deacons gathered the relics of the glorious martyrs and buried them with honor.