In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. We remember the 45 Holy Martyrs at Nicopolis in Armenia today. May the holy saints pray for us. Amen.
In the fourth century, in the city of Nicopolis of ancient Armenia, forty five Christians came forward to profess their faith in Christ, despite facing certain torture and death by execution.
The governor Licius tortured the saints, hoping they would denounce their faith in Christ, and yet the saints persisted and soldiered on. In prison, they prayed the Psalms. As they were tortured, one of them, St Leontios, fearing for the immense pain of suffering the others would face, prayed to God.
At midnight, an Angel of our Lord appeared to them, and the prison was illuminated like day. The Angel pronounced that their time was approaching, and that their names were already inscribed in Heaven. Two prison guards saw that miracle and believed in Christ. The martyrs were burned in fire, and their remains thrown into a river. But pious Christians recovered their remains later on.
These martyr saints, and numerous others, often remind us of the journey a Christian must face, in living martyrdom, or in death while professing his faith in Christ. We know that a Christian journey is no easy feat, nor a walk in the park.
In the modern society, all too often, many of us have made idols out of ourselves, especially in the world where mass media, populist agenda, political motives, and the twisted notion of “political correctness”, have all debased the inner child we should be. We begin to lose sight of who we could have been, and instead adopt blindness as our window to our whole persons.
As we reflect upon St Matthew 16:24-28, Christ our Lord told us that if we profess to be a believer in Christ, we must first deny ourselves, then take up our crosses, and then follow Him.
Therefore, the first thing we are reminded is to deny ourselves – the very facades and shallowness we are, and to dig deeper into that which is the creation of God, the image of God that we aspire to be. We are to look at the passions we carry as burdens, even if we are deluded to believe otherwise, and drop them wholeheartedly along our journey to God. We are to deny the false beings we are either misled into being or intentionally became.
Next, we know that we are to take up our crosses. Each of us will carry certain burdens, and these become refining instruments that we are to brave through with daily repentance and prayers unto God, that we will rely upon His Grace to soldier on. These burdens are not punishments, but are to strengthen us against the worst enemies we will face in our entire lives – ourselves.
And then, we are to follow Christ, and to walk in His holy ways, as we struggle and stumble along to find the Kingdom of Heaven that is within us. Our journey in our finite physical lives, may be short, or very long. We do not know what is next, or what waits for us at the next turn. But as we reflect upon Isaiah 25:8-9, we know that we are to wait on our Lord, and in Him, we are to trust in His Will and His Ways, and know that in His infinite love for all of us, there is Divine purpose that we will not know, and need not know.
There will always be struggles, as the saints and martyrs have shown us, from ancient Scriptural times to the modern era.
And yet, we are encouraged as we reflect upon Psalm 139:7-13, that God is everywhere, in every time, whether it be light, or darkness. We know that God has been with us even before we were born, and will be with us until we find final rest. The choice therefore, is with us.
Do we choose to deny ourselves, pick up our crosses, and follow Him; or do we succumb to the ways of the world and certain eternal suffering?
Let us pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Let us close by praying the thanksgiving prayer:
It is truly meet to call thee blest, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: True Theotokos, we magnify thee.
O virgin Theotokos, rejoice; O Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Psalm 139:7-13 (LXX 140)
St Matthew 16:24-28
1 Corinthians 10:28-11:7