Sunday Articles

40 Holy Martrys of Sabaste
40 Holy Martrys of Sabaste

An amazing story of faithfulness to Christ comes from a most unusual source – 40 soldiers who suffered martyrdom rather than deny their faith. The Roman Emperor Licinius, about the year 320, issued an edict ordering every Christian believer, under the penalty of death, to abandon his religion. On the imperial army were 40 men, stationed in Sebaste of Armenia, brave and distinguished soldiers, who refused to offer sacrifice to the idols.

The 40 went to their commanding officer, confessed their Christianity, and were promptly cast into prison. A week later they were hauled before a magistrate, who sentenced them to be stripped, scourged, and then forced to remain on a frozen lake to suffer and die. On the shore a fire was built, with a hot bath, to entice the soldiers to renounce Christ.

Then men huddled together in the bitter cold, prayed, and suffered as one. Their battle cry was, “40 wrestlers we have entered the arena, let 40 victors receive the prize.” The prize was the crown of glory for suffering martyrdom. One by one they froze and fell asleep in Christ.

Suddenly one of the soldiers, unable to withstand the temptation of the fire, crawled to the shore and abandoned his buddies. But at that moment one of the pagan guards, inspired by the example of courageous faith by the 39, proclaimed himself a Christian and went to join the martyrs. Thus, the total of 40 was kept intact.

The names of these martyrs are recorded in lists of Christian saints. A prayer in the marriage service mentions them, reminding the bride and groom to be faithful to each other and to Christ to the end of their lives.

The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ

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Threads of Wisdom

Throughout the ages, the venerable Fathers and Saints of our Church have left us valuable threads of wisdom. By reading their words, we are able to weave a rich tapestry of Christian beliefs. Today, we present just a few that may help you in your daily struggle.

ON HUMILITY: “Learn to love humility, for it will cover all your sins. All sins are repulsive before God, but the most repulsive of all is pride of the heart. Do not consider yourself learned and wise; otherwise, all your efforts will be destroyed, and your boat will reach the harbor empty.” (St. Anthony the Great)

ON ARROGANCE: “Do not practice arrogance. For arrogance is like a very tall rotten tree. All of its branches are brittle and if someone climbs upon it, he immediately falls from the height he has attained.” (St. Ephraim the Syrian)

ON SUFFERING: A holy man was asked why the most virtuous persons are given the greatest sorrow. “Suffering, for those who accept it with forbearance,” said the holy man, “is like salt which preserves the soul and allows one to reach heaven purified and cleansed.” It is the greatest grace of all to be judged worthy to suffer for Jesus Christ. It is already the perfect crown and a payment not inferior to the reward yet to come. (St. John Chrysostom)

ON SPIRITUAL HEALING: “The person who truly wished to be healed is he who does not refuse treatment. This treatment consists of the pain and distress brought on by various misfortunes. He who refuses them does not realize what they accomplish in this world or what he will gain from them when he departs this life.” (St. Maximos the Confessor)

ON DEATH: “Like the tax collectors who sit in the narrow roads and seize the passers-by and the oppressed, so also the demons watch carefully, and grab hold of souls. And when they pass out of the body, if they are not completely purified, they are not permitted to go up into the mansions of Heaven there to meet their Master.” (St. Macarius the Great)

ON MARRIAGE: “Two souls united in this way have nothing to fear. With harmony, peace and mutual love, husband and wife possess every possible wealth. They can live in peace behind the impregnable wall which protects them, which is love in accordance with God’s will. Thanks to love they are harder than a diamond, harder than iron, they have everything they need as they steer their course towards eternal glory and enter more and more fully into God’s grace.” (St. John Chrysostom)

​The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ

Theotokos icon
"It is truly meet to bless you, O Theotokos,
ever-blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God."

When people are asked the question “Why do you want to go to Heaven?” many different answers may result. Probably one response would be “To reunite with a departed loved one.”

The prospect of Heaven is one of the most comforting truths in the Bible. In addition to being in our Lord’s presence, we also anticipate seeing loved ones who are waiting for us. We are given a wonderful promise of reunion in God’s eternal home. Christ said at His Last Supper “In My Father’s house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would not have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 1 4:2) Heaven is a place where Jesus makes all things right.

The scriptures are also clear as to who will participate in the Second Coming of Christ. “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope, for it we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” (1 Thess. 4:13-14) This passage is one of comfort to those who have lost a loved one. It speaks of family reunion and of fellowship. If is comforting to know that we have the opportunity to be reunited with them in Heaven.

The ultimate goal of every Christian life is to attain the Kingdom of God. When our time comes, we should look forward to this loving, communal, eternal experience.

​The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ

St. Onesimus, Bishop of Ephesus
St. Onesimus, Bishop of Ephesus

On today’s Church Bulletin, we see the image of a man who experienced a tremendous SPIRITUAL and SOCIAL transformation. ONESIMUS was a personal slave of a distinguished citizen of Colossae named Philemon in the days of the early Church. After stealing from his master’s treasury, it is said the Onesimus fled to Rome. It was in this ancient capital of the Empire that his life would be changed forever!

While in Rome, Onesimus first heard about Jesus through the preaching of the Apostle Paul, who was imprisoned there. Soon he was baptized into Christianity and became a companion of the famous “Apostle of the Gentiles.”

Knowing of Onesimus’ background, Paul was faced with a moral dilemma. He himself preached that “…in Christ, there is neither slave nor free man.” (Gal. 3:28) According to Roman law, however, Onesimus still belonged to Philemon! Scriptures tell us that St. Paul sent Onesimus back to Colossae with a special letter to Philemon, which would later become a part of the canonical books of the New Testament. In his Epistle, Paul urged Philemon to receive Onesimus with forgiveness as a brother of the Lord. “Perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose,” Paul writes, “that you might receive Him forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave – A beloved brother.” Deeply moved by Paul’s words, Philemon gave freedom to his former slave.

According to Church tradition, Onesimus later became Bishop of Ephesus. He suffered martyrdom in Rome, like his mentor St. Paul, in 109 A.D.

The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ

Priest Martyr Blaise
Priest-Martyr Blaise

Much of what we know about many of the saints of the early Church has been handed down to us in the form of oral tradition. Because little, if anything, was set down in writing concerning their spiritual accomplishments, it is not surprising that many legends and folklore developed through the ages concerning certain saints.

Such is the case with Priest-Martyr Blaise. Early Christian writers hardly make mention of him. Still, he remains a popular saint due to some fascinating stories that have somehow been connected with his life.

We do know that Blaise was the Bishop of Sebaste in Armenia in the 4th century. When the persecution of Christians became great in his city, Blaise fled to the protection of a cave in the nearby mountains. Tradition tells us that Blaise was actually a physician prior to becoming a hierarch of the Church. It is said that wild beasts would come to his cave to be treated for their various wounds and injuries. Blaise’s love for animals, however, led to his ultimate martyrdom. Agricolaus, the Roman governor of the region, had sent his hunters into the hills to find game for him. It was then that they discovered the hiding place of the saintly bishop and brought him back to Sebaste, where he was tortured and imprisoned. Another legend has it that on the way back to Sebaste, Blaise helped a young boy who had a bone stuck in his throat. Because of this, he is looked upon by the Western Church as the “Patron Saint of sore throats.” After enduring terrible beatings, Blaise was put to death by beheading in 316 A.D.

The Orthodox Weekly Bulletin - Cliffwood, NJ

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