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Forty Martyrs of Sebaste

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  • Originally Recorded: March 9, 2013

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on March 4, 2013

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Forty Martyrs of Sebaste are some of the great martyrs of the early Church.  This video highlights the witness of their lives and the continuing impact of their actions, which show the glory of God. 

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Forty Martyrs of Sebaste Transcription

In the year 320A.D. in what is today central Turkey, forty men took a stand that cost them their lives. This is their story:

 

Seven years earlier, Emperor Constantin issued an (...) declaring religious tolerance throughout the empire. His co-ruler Licinius on the other hand, perhaps out of despise against Constantin's Christian leanings, and unleashed a severe wave of persecutions against Christians in his part of the empire.

These persecutions extended even to his own soldiers. When in 320, all soldiers were commanded to worship idols placed in front of them, forty members of an elite troupe called "The Thundering Legion" boldly approached the governor of the province, saying that they were Christians, and that no torment could make them abandon their Holly Religion.

The governor noting the firm of these soldiers, with all gentleness tried to convince these soldiers that it was such a small gesture, and their refusal would bring them dishonor among all the troops. He also made large promises of gifts and high favors with the emperor, if they complied.

To these promises, they answered, that this governor could give nothing equal to what he would deprive them of in the Kingdom.

The governor finding them resolute, ordered them to be torn with whips, and their sides to be (...) with iron hooks, after which they were loaded with chains, and committed to jail.

After some days, their general came from Cesarea to Sebaste, and called for them to be reexamined. Their general appealed to them to relent with more large promises, to which the forty soldiers replied that they despise these gifts as much as the torment being given to them.  

Highly offended by their words, the governor devised an unusual torture, which being slow and severe, he hopped, would shake their resolve.

 

The end of the winter had brought a sharp cold in this month of march. The northern wind had brought a severe frost that had frozen over a pond nearby. The judge ordered that the saints be stripped of clothing and put out on the ice of the pond. In order to tempt them to renounce their faith, a warm bath was prepared at a small distance from the pond. To any company to go (...).

 

The martyrs on hearing their sentence, went joyfully to the place, and discarded their own clothes themselves. They encouraged one another in the same manner as usual, among the soldiers and military expeditions. They also made this their joint prayer: "Lord we are forty who are engaged in this combat. Grant that we may be forty crowns, and that not one be wanting from the sacred number."

 

The guards standing at the warm bath pleaded with the martyrs to relent into utter sacrifice. After some time, one of the soldiers lost courage, and run from the pond discreetly for the warm bath. But as the Devil usually deceived his adorers, the apostate no sooner entered the warm water, that he died.

One of the guards of the bath looked out at the thirty-nine remaining soldiers in the pond. He saw forty crowns descending from the Heavens upon their heads.

Filled with courage and the Holy Spirit, he quickly threw out his clothes, proclaimed himself a Christian, and run out to join the thirty-nine, completing their number of forty.

 

Lest any of you think that this is an account of fiction, the words of this story came to us from three holy fathers who lived at this time.

St. Ephraim the Syrian was but a teenager of fourteen years, when these men were murdered.

St. Basil the Great preached the sermons  many years later, to people who had known these men, saying, "Let your petitions be with the Martyrs, let boys imitate those of their own age. Let fathers pray to be fathers of such children".

St. Gregory of Nyssa preached two homilies on these men, and buried his parents next to the remains of these martyrs.

 

Today, I ask you the question that is already on your mind: On the face of temptation, would you choose the pleasures of the flesh, or stand on that frozen lake for your soul? Kingdom awaits your answer!

 

 

 

 

Transcribed by jeanounou, September2017