40 Martyrs of Sebaste

The Church sings…

Together let us honor that holy company united by faith, those noble warriors of the Master of all; they were divinely enlisted for Christ and passed through fire and water. The they entered into refreshment and pray for those who cry: Glory  Him who has strengthened you; glory to Him who has crowned you; glory to Him who has made you wonderful, O holy Forty Martyrs. (Apolytikion)

Today, the Churches of the Constantinopolitan Tradition (as a point of comparison, the Armenian Apostolic Church commemorates liturgically these martyrs on March 21) recalls the forty holy martyrs who perished on the ice of Lake Sebaste in Armenia in AD 320.

The 12th legion of the Roman army was stationed at Sebaste in Armenia when the emperor Licinius decreed the profession of Christianity a capital offense. Forty soldiers of this legion who were Christian refused to renounce their faith. Their sentence was mass execution, carried out by forcing them to strip and wade into a freezing lake. A warming fire was burning on shore to encourage renunciation. One soldier gave up but his place was quickly taken by one of the guards who was so impressed by his comrades valor and commitment that he was willing to join their ranks. All were dead from the cold by the following morning. (NS)

A friend marked the occasion by listening to Donizetti’s opera on this subject, Les Martyrs (Poliuto), based on Corneille’s tragedy Polyeucte. The recording on Opera Rara was sponsored by Haig and Elza Didizian, Bob and Tamar Manoukian and Armen and Nouneh Sarkissian.

Through their holy prayers, O Savior, save Armenia, all the Oriental Orthodox and those of us who love them dearly as brothers!