My beloved brothers and sisters in Our Incarnate God,
CHRIST IS BORN! GLORIFY HIM! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΓΕΝΝΑΤΑΙ! ΔΟΞΑΣΑΤΕ!
On the 28th of December, Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church
commemorates the Holy Twenty Thousand Holy Martyrs
Burned Alive in the Church at Nicomedia and Others Put to Death
by Various Means.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Martyrs. Second Tone
BLESSED is the earth that drank your blood, O prizewinners of the
Lord, and holy are the tabernacles that received your spirits; for in
the stadium ye triumphed over the enemy, and ye proclaimed Christ
with boldness. Beseech Him, we pray, since He is Good, to save
Kontakion Hymnof the Martyrs. First Tone
A TWENTY-THOUSAND numbered battalion of Martyrs ariseth
like an unwaning star great with brightness, enlightening by faith
the hearts and the minds of all godly folk. For, enkindled with
divine love unto the Master, this courageous host received a
sanctified ending when eagerly burned with fire.
During the second year of emperor Maximian’s reign, the Church was enjoying a foretaste of the blessed peace she would experience under the Great Constantine. Christian piety gained a foothold even in the imperial palace. Nicomedia is Maximian’s Capital. Many members of the Court forsook the pagan idols and were converted to Christ God, and the word of this soon reached the ruler’s ears. He, being a pagan, was already making preparations for a savage persecution of the Christians, and would have launched his attack on Christ’s Church at once, had not the frontiers come under assault by barbarians. He was compelled to deal with these foreign enemies and to postpone taking up arms against those he considered domestic enemies. Yet the Christians were not his enemies at all.
Maximian returned triumphant over his enemies but did not ascribe the victory to the God of heaven, Who is Might in battle, but to his lifeless idols. Intending to offer sacrifices in thanksgiving to the demons and initiate the persecution of the Christians. The persecution was launched by order of the emperor destroying God’s holy churches, raising up pagan shrines, and dispatching cruel governors to various lands with orders to torture Christians mercilessly. He himself was the chief and most savage persecutor, butchering the faithful to such numbers that innocent blood flowed like water.
The feast of Christ’s Nativity arrived, and with it, the time for a great holocaust to the newborn Lord. All the faithful were assembled in the church, and the impious servants of the ungodly Maximian said to him, "O Emperor, on this day the God of the Christians was born, according to the fables told by these deceivers. The Nazarenes are all gathered in the church to celebrate their feast, therefore, we advise you to send troops to guard the entrance and prevent any escape. Have them erect an altar to our gods at the threshold of the building, and a herald announces that whoever wishes to leave must offer sacrifice. Do as you wish with the obedient, and have your soldiers burn the others of the miscreants that cause such harm to the Empire, and in the future, you will enjoy freedom from care."
The Emperor bade the Commander of his bodyguard lead a strong force to the church, and to pile hemp, wood chips, and other flammable materials against it. When everything was ready, the tyrant’s herald entered the building, and shouted, "Listen! Maximian, master of the whole world, sends you this message: either leave this place at once, sacrifice to the gods on the altar at the entranceway, and save your lives, or defy the imperial will and perish miserably. Fire is ready and kindling prepared; make your choice quickly!"
In response to this ultimatum, the Archdeacon standing in the sanctuary stepped forth and addressed the people: "Behold, brethren, and co-believers, the courageous example of the Three Youths in Babylon remains fresh in your minds, for it was only a few days ago that we honored their memory and extolled their valiant witness in the truth. They were mere children, only three in number, but there is an enormous crowd of us, and many of our number have reached old age; furthermore, we have numerous models of courageous suffering for Christ to inspire us. May love for this fleeting existence not turn us into sniveling cowards. May we never prefer the present life to God, Who created us and underwent death in the flesh for our sake!
As the holy Archdeacon spoke, the spark of divine love burst into flame in the hearts of the whole congregation, and the people shouted with a single voice, "WE ARE CHRISTIANS! WE ARE CHRISTIANS, AND REFUSE TO WORSHIP YOUR FALSE GODS, O EMPEROR!"
Word of this challenge reached Maximian, who, without a moment’s delay, ordered the church burned to the ground, with the believers in it. Meanwhile, the catechumens n the building were separated from the faithful, divided into four groups, baptized, and chrismated. Then everyone received the Holy Mysteries, while the contemptible Emperor’s soldiers lit the fire. Flames shot up, igniting the roof, and soon the blaze had spread inside. As the fire drew near, the Christians raised their voices to God, summoning all nations to join them in chanting the hymn to the Three Holy Children. Before they could complete their hymn, they surrendered their souls into the hands of the Lord, becoming pleasing sacrifices to the Spotless Lamb of God slaughtered for the sins of the world. Altogether 20,000 faithful, a veritable army of holy Martyrs, were immolated and added to the Church Triumphant, with which they keep high festival unto the ages.
Five days later the ruins of the church and the charred bodies of the Saints were still smoldering but gave off no stench. Instead, they filled the air with wonderfully fragrant smoke. A golden ray of light, brighter than the mourning sun, shone down upon the scene of destruction. Meanwhile, the Emperor, confident he had disposed of most of the Christians n Nicomedia, enjoyed himself with horse races and other entertainments. [Source: The Great Collection of The Lives of the Saints]
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in Our Incarnate God,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God