They were all Christians from Persia and suffered during the reign of King Sapor in the year 355. The first three were servants at the court of this same king but secretly served Christ their Lord. When they were accused and brought to trial before the king, he asked them where they came from. To this they replied: ``Our fatherland and our life is the Most-holy Trinity, one in Essence and undivided, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, One God.'' The king subjected them to cruel tortures but they endured all heroically, with psalmody and prayer on their lips. During the time of their torture and imprisonment angels of God appeared to them many times, and one time the Lord Christ Himself appeared to them as a man ``with a face radiant as the sun.'' When one of the torturers, Aphthonius, beheld a miracle, when boiling lead did no harm to the martyrs, he believed in Christ and cried out: ``Great is the Christian God!'' For this, he was immediately beheaded, and many others saw and believed. Then the king ordered that Acyndinus, Pegasius and Anempodistus be sewn into animal skins and cast into the sea. But St. Aphthonius appeared from the other world with three shining angels, and led the holy martyrs to dry land and set them free. Elpidephorus was one of the king's nobles. When he revealed that he was a Christian and denounced the king for his slaughter of innocent Christians, the king condemned him to death and Elpidephorus was beheaded along with seven thousand other Christians. Then those first three martyrs [Acyndinus, Pegasius and Anempodistus] were finally thrown into a burning furnace along with twenty-eight soldiers and the king's mother, since they also believed in Christ-and thus, in the flames, they gave up their righteous souls into the hands of the Lord.
Marcian was from the town of Cyrus in Syria. He was distinguished by his noble ancestry as well as by his physical beauty. He left all for the sake of Christ and withdrew into the wilderness of Halkis to live as a hermit. He was a contemporary of Patriarch Flavian of Antioch and the Emperors Constantius and Valens. A heavenly light shone in his cell at night by which he read the Holy Scriptures, and he never had need of any other light. He was a great miracle-worker both during his life and after death. Before his death, he ordered his disciple Eusebius to conceal his body and bury it secretly because of his many admirers. He entered into rest in the Lord in 387.
Many maintain that he was a Slovene by ancestry. Blessed Jerome points him out as a learned and devout man. He knew Greek better than Latin. He wrote the interpretations of several books of the New and Old Testaments. He suffered for the Christian Faith in about the year 303.
The Holy Martyrs Acyndinus, Pegasius, Anempodistus, Aphthonius
The martyr Acyndinus and with him Pegasius,
Courageous Anempodistus and with him Aphthonius,
And the gentle Elipidephorus, a royal dignitary:
All-sacrificial lambs, snow-white lambs.
They showed themselves servants of the Most-holy Trinity,
And declared Christ to Sapor, face to face.
For them, martyrdom was a celebration.
Christ was dearer to them than youth and health;
Christ was dearer to them than royal delights;
Christ was dearer to them than royal honors.
Whatever the world gave them, they gave away for Christ;
They fell as noble sacrifices for Christ;
They fell in disgrace and rose in radiance;
They fell on earth and rose in Paradise.
For the Church on earth, they shed their blood;
In the heavenly Church they completed the edifice of their souls.
Filled with love for the Christian race,
They now pray to the risen Christ
That He preserve the Church on earth from misfortune,
And lead it to the final victory.
How will one who transgresses love toward his parents raise himself toward love for his enemies? Love for one's parents-this is the main and fundamental school of love. Without this school, one can go no further. The Serbian King Dragutin rose up against his father with an army in order to sit on his father's throne. But it so happened that he later broke his leg, and this awakened in him pangs of conscience which did not leave him in peace until his death. Dragutin withdrew from the throne and relinquished his authority to his younger brother Milutin, and began to widely distribute alms, build churches, and perform other good works. In addition to this, he lived a strict life of asceticism in secret. He girded himself with a belt of reeds around his naked body, dressed in coarse sackcloth, and prayed to God at night in a secretly dug grave. This penitent king did all this only that God would forgive him the sin of lack of love toward his parents, and God forgave him. Many holy martyrs joyfully received their executioners who were seeking them, and treated them hospitably in their homes while they themselves prepared for death. To entertain one's mortal enemies-is this not an expression of great love toward one's enemies? When King Sapor harshly tortured Acyndinus, Pegasius and others with them, he suddenly went mad, became dumb and unable to speak, and began to claw his face with great fury. Seeing his tormentor in such despair, St. Acyndinus wept and prayed to God for the king and said, ``In the name of Jesus Christ the Lord, speak!'' and the king's tongue was loosed and he began to speak. Here is an example of true love for one's enemies!
Contemplate the wondrous power of the apostles' words (Acts 16):
on the will of God that all Christians should be holy
According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love (Ephesians 1:4).
Only the Church teaches and demonstrates that first there was a plan for the world and then the world was created. That plan was in the wisdom and will and power of God. And we Christians, as the Church of God, are in this plan. According to this plan, God chose us before the foundation of the world for holiness and righteousness and love. God chose us beforehand and adopted us through Him-through Whom? Through the Lord Jesus Christ. For all that we are to God, we are to Him through Jesus Christ. Apart from Jesus Christ man has no other bond, no other relationship, no other kinship with God, and therefore our choosing and adoption was through our Lord Jesus Christ. He chose us, His Holy Church, according to the good pleasure of His will (Ephesians 1:5), as He had once chosen Israel from among all the nations on earth. Let no one say that this choosing of God destroys man's free will, so that neither does a Christian have merit because he is a Christian, nor is a pagan condemned because he is a pagan. No, this is a totally erroneous interpretation. For at one time God also chose Israel and some in Israel perished while some were saved. He also chose His Holy Church, calling all nations and peoples to it. But the salvation of those among the chosen does not depend on God's choice alone, but also on man's will and effort.
O eternal God, our Creator, Who chose us for salvation before Thou hadst even created us, have mercy on us and save us.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.