THE HOLY FORTY MARTYRS OF SEBASTEA

March 9

From the Prologue

All of them were soldiers in the Roman army and steadfastly believed in the Lord Jesus. When the persecution of Christians began during the reign of Licinius, they were brought to trial before the commander. When he threatened to strip them of their honor as soldiers, one of them, St. Candidus, responded, "Not only the honor of being a soldier, but take away our bodies, for nothing is more dear or honorable, to us than Christ our God." After that, the commander ordered his servants to stone the holy martyrs. While the servants were hurling stones at the Christians, the stones turned and fell back on the servants, severely striking them. One of the stones struck the commander's face and knocked out his teeth. The torturers, angry as wild beasts, bound all of the holy martyrs and tossed them into the lake and stationed a guard around it so as to prevent any of them from escaping. There was a terrible frost and the lake froze around the bodies of the martyrs. So that their pain and suffering would be worsened, and in order to persuade one of them to deny Christ and acknowledge the idols of Rome, the torturers heated a bath by the side of the lake in sight of the frozen martyrs. Indeed, one of them was persuaded. He came out of the water and entered the bath. And behold, an extraordinary light appeared from heaven which warmed the water in the lake and the bodies of the martyrs. With that light, thirty-nine wreaths descended from heaven over their heads. Upon seeing this, a guard on the shore removed all his clothes, confessed the Name of the Lord Jesus and entered the lake so that he could become worthy of the fortieth wreath in place of the betrayer. Indeed, the last wreath descended upon him. The next day the entire town was astonished when they saw that the martyrs were still alive. Then, the wicked judges ordered that the lower part of their legs be broken and their bodies thrown into the water so Christians could not recover them. On the third day the martyrs appeared to Peter, the local bishop, and summoned him to gather their relics and remove them from the water The bishop with his clergy went out into the dark of night and beheld the relics of the martyrs shining brightly in the water. Every bone which was separated from their bodies floated to the top and glowed like a candle. Bishop Peter gathered and honorably buried them. The souls of these martyrs, who suffered for all of us, went to the Lord Jesus, resurrected with glory. They suffered honorably and were crowned with unfading glory in the year 320 A.D.





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