The Forty Martyrs of Sebastia
Valerius, Claudius, Leontius, Theophilus, et al.
March 22nd (March 9th Old Calendar)
In the year 313, the emperor Constantine the Great signed a law decreeing freedom of religious faith. His co-ruler, emperor Licinius seconded this law; however, in the provinces subject to him, the persecution of the Christians continued as before. Around the year 320, a unit of Roman troops was stationed in the town of Sebastia, in Armenia. Within that troop there were forty Christian soldiers who were from Cappadocia by birth (presently Turkey). The commander in chief compelled them to bring a sacrifice to the idols, which they refused to do.
The soldiers were arrested and, while bound, led to the lake near the town of Sebastia. It was winter and night was approaching. The stripped soldiers were forced into the ice covered lake. A terrible frost fettered the limbs of the saints and they began to freeze. This torment was extremely difficult for them, especially since a warm vapour-bath was placed on the shore of the lake for their temptation. Whoever wanted to save his life had to inform the warden that he was rejecting Christ; he would then be able to enter the warm bath and be warmed. All night the soldiers valiantly bore the ferocious frost, inspiriting each other and singing holy hymns to God.
At dawn one of the soldiers could no longer endure the suffering. He came out of the lake and hurried into the bath house. But as soon as the warm air touched his body he dropped dead. Soon after this happened, the warden Aglaius saw that an unearthly light shone above the remaining martyrs. He was so shaken by this miracle that he divested himself and joined the 39 martyrs. Upon arriving at a later time, the torturers saw that the Christian soldiers were not only not frozen, but seemed to have thawed. Then, using mallets, the torturers broke their shins and threw them into the fire, after which the charred bones of the martyrs were thrown into the river.
Three days later, the torturers came to Peter, the Sebastian bishop, and recounted their deeds. Bishop Peter gathered the bones of the martyrs and buried them with honor. The names of the martyrs were saved: Cyrion, Candidus, Domnus, Hesychius, Heraclius, Smaragdus, Eunoicus, Valens. Vivianus, Claudius, Priscus, Theodulus, Euthychius, John, Xanpheas, Helianus, Sisinius, Angius, Aetius, Flavius, Acacius, Ecdetius, Lysimachus, Alexander, Ilias, Gorgonius, Theophilus, Domitian, Gaius, Leontius, Aphanasius, Cyril, Sacherdon, Nicholas, Valerius, Philoctimon, Severian, Chudion, Meliton and Aglaius.
The memorial for the forty martyrs is related mostly to the read feast days. On the day of their memory the strictness of Great Lent is lifted and the liturgy is conducted before the Preconsecrated Holy Sacraments.
Holy Protection Russian Orthodox Church
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