Wednesday, March 9, 2022

A Reflection from One of the Nuns on the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste

I’ll admit it is somewhat odd what struck me while praying this year with the commemoration of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste. I realized that I have, in my mind, formed a subconscious link between “Forty Martyrs of Sebaste” and “Mother Cecilia’s birthday.” You see, Mother Cecilia’s birthday is March 8 and the Forty Martyrs’ feast is March 9. In the Byzantine Tradition, we always begin a feast at Vespers on the preceding calendar day. Which means the evening we celebrate Mother Cecilia’s birthday, we begin singing the hymns for the feast. As I was contemplating this overlap, something just felt right about it. My next thought was…that’s pretty weird. Why does it seem “right” to joyfully celebrate Mother Cecilia’s life and simultaneously commemorate the torture and death of forty men? Then, I remembered having a similar feeling almost two years ago as we sat at the bedside of a dear friend who was dying. We were there with his whole family, including his brand new granddaughter – his first grandbaby. As the baby made all the baby-sounds of new life, our friend took his dying breath. Despite the obvious grief of the temporary goodbye, I saw a beauty in the dichotomy of the death and new life existing in the same room. Because, as Christians, we of course believe that a holy death brings forth new life. The martyrs remind us of the need to die for Christ, and our birthdays, our celebration of life, should remind us of the need to live for Christ. So, as we struggle through this journey of life together, let us remember the goal, remember the reason we live…and the reason we die. Let us keep in mind these two lines from the propers for the feast of the 40 Holy Martyrs:

     The holy martyrs bravely endured their present suffering,                

     They rejoiced in things hoped for but not yet seen.       

You can read the story of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste here

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