Παρασκευή 8 Μαρτίου 2024

40 Holy Martyrs of Sebaste, March 9

 Πληροῦμεν ὑστέρημα σοῦ, Σῶτερ, πάθους,
Τεσσαράκοντα, συντριβέντες τὰ σκέλη.
Ἀμφ' ἐνάτῃ ἐάγη σκέλη ἀνδρῶν τεσσαράκοντα.
In the year 313 Saint Constantine the Great issued an edict granting Christians religious freedom, and officially recognizing Christianity as equal with paganism under the law. But his co-ruler Licinius was a pagan, and he decided to stamp out Christianity in his part of the Empire. As Licinius prepared his army to fight Constantine, he decided to remove Christians from his army, fearing mutiny.

One of the military commanders of that time in the Armenian city of Sebaste was Agricola, a zealous champion of idolatry. Under his command was a company of forty Cappadocians, brave soldiers who had distinguished themselves in many battles. When these Christian soldiers refused to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, Agricola locked them up in prison. The soldiers occupied themselves with prayer and psalmody, and during the night they heard a voice saying, “Persevere until the end, then you shall be saved.”
On the following morning, the soldiers were again taken to Agricola. This time the pagan tried flattery. He began to praise their valor, their youth and strength, and once more he urged them to renounce Christ and thereby win themselves the respect and favor of their emperor.

Seven days later, the renowned judge Licius arrived at Sebaste and put the soldiers on trial. The saints steadfastly answered, “Take not only our military insignia, but also our lives, since nothing is more precious to us than Christ God.” Licius then ordered his servants to stone the holy martyrs. But the stones missed the saints and returned to strike those who had thrown them. One stone thrown by Licius hit Agricola in the face, smashing his teeth. The torturers realized that the saints were guarded by some invisible power. In prison, the soldiers spent the night in prayer and again they heard the voice of the Lord comforting them: “He who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live (John 11:25). Be brave and fear not, for you shall obtain imperishable crowns.”

On the following day the judge repeated the interrogation in front of the torturer, but the soldiers remained unyielding.

It was winter, and there was a severe frost. They lined up the holy soldiers, threw them into a lake near the city, and set a guard to prevent them from coming out of the water. In order to break the will of the martyrs, a warm bath-house was set up on the shore. During the first hour of the night, when the cold had become unbearable, one of the soldiers made a dash for the bath-house, but no sooner had he stepped over the threshold, then he fell down dead.

During the third hour of the night, the Lord sent consolation to the martyrs. Suddenly there was light, the ice melted away, and the water in the lake became warm. All the guards were asleep, except for Aglaius, who was keeping watch. Looking at the lake he saw that a radiant crown had appeared over the head of each martyr. Aglaius counted thirty-nine crowns and realized that the soldier who fled had lost his crown.

Aglaius then woke up the other guards, took off his uniform and said to them, “I too am a Christian,” and he joined the martyrs. Standing in the water he prayed, “Lord God, I believe in You, in Whom these soldiers believe. Add me to their number, and make me worthy to suffer with Your servants.” Then a fortieth crown appeared over his head.

In the morning, the torturers saw with surprise that the martyrs were still alive, and their guard Aglaius was glorifying Christ together with them. They led the soldiers out of the water and broke their legs. During this horrible execution the mother of the youngest of the soldiers, Meliton, pleaded with her son to persevere until death.

They put the bodies of the martyrs on a cart and committed them to fire. Young Meliton was still breathing, and they left him on the ground. His mother then picked up her son, and on her own shoulders she carried him behind the cart. When Meliton drew his last breath, his mother put him on the cart with the bodies of his fellow sufferers. The bodies of the saints were tossed in the fire, and their charred bones were thrown into the water, so that Christians would not gather them up.

Three days later the martyrs appeared in a dream to Saint Peter, Bishop of Sebaste, and commanded him to bury their remains. The bishop together with several clergy gathered up the relics of the glorious martyrs by night and buried them with honor.

There is a pious custom of baking “skylarks” (pastries shaped like skylarks) on this day, because people believed that birds sing at this time to announce the arrival of spring. Forty “skylarks” are prepared in honor of the Forty Martyrs.

The names of the forty martyrs are: Cyrion (or Quirio), Candidus, Domnus, Hesychius, Heraclius, Smaragdus, Eunocius (Or Eunicus), Valens, Vivianus, Claudius, Priscus, Theodulus, Eutychius, John, Xanthius, Helianus, Sisinius, Aglaius, Aetius, Flavius, Acacius, Ecdicius, Lysimachus, Alexander, Elias, Gorgonius, Theophilus, Dometian, Gaius, Leontius, Athanasius, Cyril, Sacerdon, Nicholas, Valerius, Philoctimon, Severian, Chudion, Aglaius, and Meliton.
Ivory relief icon from Constantinople, 10th century (Bode Museum, Berlin).

Monastery in Cappadocia, Asia Minor
In memory of the saints, a Monastery was built in Caesarea, Cappadocia, by Basil the Great's sister, Saint Makrina, who donated a piece of their relics to the Monastery. Also in memory of the saints three churches were built in Constantinople.

Temple at Cesme in Asia Minor
In Agia Paraskevi Cesme, on the coast of Asia Minor, where Hellenism flourished, there were three parish churches. One was dedicated to the memory of the Holy Forty Martyrs. In the first persecution of the Greek element in the years 1914-1919, most Greek residents of the area found refuge on the islands. Later, when the persecutions temporarily stopped, they returned to the Asia Minor coast.

In September 1922, the massacres and brutality of the Turks forced the Greeks to flee as refugees to metropolitan Greece. The priest George Karastamatis remained in the village together with two other elders, George Makridakis and Nikolis Karakoudas, as preserved by the written testimony of the writer Ioannis Aikaterini. Specifically, on September 4, during the service in the church of the Holy Forty Martyrs, mischievous Chetes invaded, forcing the two elders to leave the church. The priest George remained inside the temple and was martyred by the Chetes. The two elders, when the hordes of Turks left, re-approached the temple and found the martyrdom of the old priest. Giorgis Makridakis, who escaped by boat to Chios, as an eyewitness of what he saw and experienced, delivered his testimony to his fellow villagers.

Their Synaxis was held at their most holy Martyrdom near the Bronze Tetrapylos.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that the Holy Forty Martyrs are patrons of I. M. Xiropotamos on Mount Athos, whose Catholic is honored in their memory.
Chapel of the Forty Martyrs in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem.

Λειτουργικά κείμενα
Ἦχος γ’. Θείας πίστεως.
Θείω Πνεύματι, συγκροτηθέντες, δῆμος ὤφθητε, τροπαιοφόρος, Ἀθλοφόροι Χριστοῦ Τεσσαράκοντα, διὰ πυρὸς γὰρ καὶ ὕδατος ἔνδοξοι, δοκιμασθέντες λαμπρῶς ἐδοξάσθητε. Ἀλλ' αἰτήσασθε, Τριάδα τὴν ὑπερούσιον, δωρήσασθαι ἠμὶν τὸ μέγα ἔλεος.

Έτερον Ἀπολυτίκιον
Ἦχος α’.
Τάς ἀλγηδόνας τῶν Ἁγίων, ἃς ὑπέρ σοῦ ἔπαθον, δυσωπήθητι, Κύριε· καί πάσας ἡμῶν τάς ὀδύνας ἴασαι, φιλάνθρωπε δεόμεθα.

Έτερον Ἀπολυτίκιον
Ἦχος α’. Τῆς ἐρήμου πολίτης.
Τοὺς γενναίους ὁπλίτας τοῦ τῶν ὅλων δεσπόζοντος, τοὺς συγκροτηθέντας ἐν πίστει, ὁμοφώνος τιμήσωμεν· Χριστῷ γὰρ στρατευθέντες εὐσεβῶς, δι’ ὕδατος διῆλθον καὶ πυρός, καὶ πρὸς θείαν εἰσέλθοντες ἀναψυχήν, προΐστανται τῶν βοώντων· δόξα τῷ ἐνισχύσαντι ὑμᾶς, δόξα τῷ στεφανώσαντι, δόξα τῷ θαυμαστώσαντι ὑμᾶς, Τεσσαράκοντα Μάρτυρες.

Ἦχος πλ. δ’. Τῇ ὑπερμάχῳ.
Συντεταγμένοι εὐσεβείᾳ καὶ στερρότητι μαρτυρικῶς τὸν δυσμενῆ ἐθριαμβεύσατε, Τεσσαράκοντα γενναῖοι Χριστοῦ ὁπλῖται· Ἀλλ’ ὡς σύμμορφοι ἐν ἄθλοις καὶ ἐν χάριτι, Ἐν ἀγάπῃ καὶ εἰρήνῃ συντηρήσατε τοὺς κραυγάζοντας, χαίροις ἅγιον σύνταγμα.

Έτερον Κοντάκιον
Ἦχος πλ. β’. Τήν ὑπέρ ἡμῶν.
Πάσαν στρατιὰν, τοῦ κόσμου καταλιπόντες, τῷ ἐν οὐρανοῖς Δεσπότῃ προσεκολλήθητε, Ἀθλοφόροι Κυρίου Τεσσαράκοντα, διά πυρός γάρ καί ὕδατος, διελθόντες μακάριοι, ἐπαξίως ἐκομίσασθε, δόξαν ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν, καί στεφάνων πληθύν.

Τὸ τετραδεκάριθμον καὶ λαμπρόν, σύνταγμα τοῦ Λόγου, εὐφημήσωμεν ἐν ᾠδαῖς· κρύει καὶ πυρὶ γάρ, στερρῶς δοκιμασθέντες, ἐστέφθησαν ἀξίως, οἱ Τεσσαράκοντα.

Ὁ Οἶκος
Τῷ ἐν θρόνῳ ἀστέκτῳ ἐποχουμένῳ, τῷ ἐκτείναντι τὸν οὐρανὸν καθάπερ δέρριν, τῷ τὴν γῆν ἑδράσαντι, καὶ συνάξαντι τὰ ὕδατα εἰς τὰς συναγωγὰς αὐτῶν, τῷ τὰ πάντα ἐκ μὴ ὄντων ποιήσαντι ὑπάρχειν, καὶ πᾶσι χορηγοῦντι πνοὴν καὶ ζωήν, τῷ προσδεχομένῳ τῶν Ἀρχαγγέλων τὸν ὕμνον, καὶ ὑπ' ἀγγέλων δοξαζομένῳ, καὶ ὑπὸ πάντων προσκυνουμένῳ, Χριστῷ τῷ παντοκράτορι, τῷ Πλάστῃ καὶ Θεῷ ἡμῶν, προσπίπτω ὁ ἀνάξιος προσάγων μου τὴν δέησιν, λόγου χάριν αἰτῶν, ἵνα ἰσχύσω εὐσεβῶς ὑμνῆσαι κἀγὼ τοὺς Ἁγίους, οὓς αὐτὸς ἔδειξας νικητάς, δωρησάμενος αὐτοῖς δόξαν ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν, καὶ στεφάνων πληθύν.

Ἦχος πλ. δ'. Τὴν Σοφίαν.
Τῷ Χριστῷ στρατευθέντες μαρτυρικῶς, τὸν ἐχθρὸν καθελόντες ἀθλητικῶς, ἔργοις ἐκπληρώσαντες, τοῦ Προφήτου τὰ ῥήματα· διὰ πυρὸς γὰρ καὶ ὕδατος, γενναίως διήλθετε, ἀναψυχὴν εὑράμενοι, ζωὴν τὴν αἰώνιον· ὅθεν καὶ στεφάνους οὐρανόθεν λαβόντες, χοροῖς συνευφραίνεσθε, Ἀσωμάτων δυνάμεων, Ἀθλοφόροι πανεύφημοι, πρεσβεύσατε Χριστῷ τῷ Θεῷ, τῶν πταισμάτων ἄφεσιν δωρήσασθαι, τοῖς ἑορτάζουσι πόθῳ, τὴν ἁγίαν μνήμην ὑμῶν.