In Asian Bithynia, Governor Aquilinus fiercely persecuted Christians. Once, he captured 370 Christians, brought them with him, and bound them at a place where there was an idolatrous temple of the god Poseidon. Here, the wicked governor tried to force them to worship and offer sacrifice to the idol. Even though the governor threatened death for anyone who did not obey his order, not a single Christian submitted. Just then, a respected man by the name of Paramon passed along the road beside the temple. He stopped beside the masses of shackled people and learned what was happening. Then he cried out: "Oh, how many innocent righteous ones does this foul governor desire to slaughter, because they will not worship his dead and mute idols?" Paramon then continued on his way, and the infuriated governor sent his servants to slay him. The servants caught up to Paramon, seized him and pierced his tongue with a thorn, then stripped him naked and stabbed his entire body. Holy Paramon, with prayer in his heart, gave up his soul to God. After that, the 370 martyrs, great as sons of God and innocent as lambs, were beheaded and thus entered into the Immortal Kingdom of Christ the Lord. They suffered in the year 250.
In his famous book, The Ladder, St. John Climacus relates the life of this saint. The young Acacius was a novice under an evil elder in the monastery on Sinai. The irascible elder daily reproached and insulted Acacius and often beat, tormented and maltreated him in every possible way. However, Acacius did not complain but endured this all patiently, with the assurance that it was beneficial for his salvation. Whenever anyone asked him how he was doing, he replied: "Well, as before the Lord God!" After nine years of obedience and torment, Acacius died. The elder buried him and then expressed sorrow to another elder saying: "Acacius, my disciple died." "I do not believe it," replied the holy elder, "Acacius did not die." Then both of them went to the grave of the dead man and that holy elder cried out: "Brother Acacius, did you die?" Acacius, obedient even after death replied: "Father, I have not died, for it is impossible for an obedient one to die." Then, the evil elder repented and shut himself in a cell near Acacius's grave where, in repentance and prayer, he spent the remainder of his life.
He was an eminent pastor and teacher. He was beheaded for Christ in the year 182.
Tiridates was a contemporary of Diocletian. At first, he furiously persecuted Christians, but God's punishment befell him and he went insane and became like a beast, as had happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. Tiridates was miraculously healed of his insanity by St. Gregory of Armenia (September 30). From then until his death, Tiridates spent his life in repentance and devotion. He died peacefully in the fourth century.
Apollonius was a Roman senator. Accused because of his faith in Christ, he confessed it before the entire senate, for which he was beheaded with the sword in Rome in the year 186.
"Brother Acacius, where are you?"
The elder called once more:
"Acacius, are you dead?"
"No, Father, I am not dead,"
The monk humbly replied,
"For him who faithfully obeys,
There is no death."
The irascible elder was amazed,
Amazed, and began to weep.
The elder bitterly wept,
And repented of his wickedness.
Why does the cruel elder repent?
Truly, he has a reason.
Into the wilderness, the sinner went
To atone for his evil.
Acacius, the wondrous monk,
By obedience, saved his soul;
And his soul now rejoices,
And his name is glorified.
God's punishment often befalls sinners immediately after the sin, that the sinners may fear and the righteous be encouraged. However, sometimes it falls much later, suddenly and unexpectedly, that sinners may know that God forgets nothing. Dathan and Abiram were swallowed up by the earth immediately after their sin, but King Balthazzar saw the hand that wrote his death sentence when he felt most fortunate at a banquet among his friends and admirers.
A gravely ill soldier was brought to St. Stephen the New to be healed by him through prayer. Stephen told him to venerate the icons of Christ and the Holy Theotokos. The solider did this and was immediately restored to health, and this miracle was spoken of everywhere. Hearing of this, the iconoclastic Emperor Constantine Copronymus summoned this soldier and questioned him. When the soldier confessed that he received healing from the holy icons, the emperor reproached him with fury for venerating them. The frightened soldier repudiated the veneration of icons before the emperor and grew ashamed of his faith in them. When the soldier left the court and mounted his horse, the horse went wild under him, threw him off and trampled him with its hooves until he gave up his soul. Behold: a punishment immediately following sin.
King Tiridates, a persecutor of Christians, threw St. Gregory into a pit and killed thirty-seven holy nuns, but no punishment befell him. Later, when the king and his companions went hunting for pleasure, he and his entourage were seized by sudden madness. The reason for his madness and the means to restore him were revealed to his pious sister in a dream. St. Gregory was taken out of the pit, and by his prayers King Tiridates became healthy, repented and was baptized.
Punishment sometimes quickly follows sin as the day follows the night, yet sometimes slowly, as year follows year. But it never fails to come, except where repentance takes the place of punishment.
Contemplate God's wonderful Paradise (Genesis 2):
on the Church's compact structure, similar to a body
From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part (Ephesians 4:16).
This word, brethren, is on the spiritual body, God's holy Church. From Him, that is, from Christ, the whole body is fitly joined together and compacted. The most wise Apostle cannot find a better comparison for the Church than the human body. What the head is to the human body, so is Christ the Lord to the body of the Church. From the head, the nerves spread through all parts of the body, and through the nerves, all the parts of the body perceive, feel and move; and their life lies in this perception, feeling and movement. It can be said that the head, through the brain and the nerves, is present in every part of the body. If the head is cut off, every part of the body becomes dead in an instant. Christ is present in every part of the Church, in every faithful member of it. Through Him, each of the faithful perceives the spiritual kingdom, feels love and moves aright toward God. From Him, every member receives strength according to the effectual working in the measure, that is, according to function and gift. The Lord gives this strength directly, by contact, by touch, by His personal presence. Love is a wonderful bond that binds Christ to the faithful, the faithful to Christ and the faithful to one another. Brethren, what happens to one part of the body when it is torn away from the nerves that link it to the head? It becomes inactive, insensitive and motionless: dead. This also happens with every member of the Church who leaves the structure of the Church, and thus severs his tie with the Head of the Church. Brethren, may God preserve us from this calamity!
O Lord Jesus, the Source of life and love, do not allow any dark power, within us or without us, to separate us from Thee and Thy Body, Thy Holy Church that Thou hast purchased with Thy precious blood. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.