Our second Saint of the Month feature is on the Forty Holy Martyrs of Sebaste (you can read our first March feature on St. Thomas Aquinas here).
Forty Holy Martyrs of Sebaste – March 9
The Forty Holy Martyrs of Sebaste were members of a party of soldiers martyred for their faith. They were martyred near Sebaste (then part of Armenia, now part of Turkey and known as Sivas), victims of Licinius, then Emperor in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire, who persecuted Christians despite the Edict of Milan granting tolerance to Christians throughout the Empire. Their feast dates to the fourth century A.D.
According to St. Basil the Great, 40 soldiers who had professed themselves to be Christians were condemned by the prefect to be exposed upon a frozen pond near Sebaste on a bitterly cold night that they might freeze to death. Warm baths were prepared nearby for any who might be willing to abandon the banner of Christ. Among the 40 was one who yielded to this torture, departed from his companions, and sought comfort in the baths. When this happened, one of the guards set to keep watch over the martyrs saw brilliant light overshadowing them. He immediately proclaimed himself a Christian, threw off his garments, and joined the 39 soldiers of Christ in their martyrdom, thus fulfilling the number of 40. At dawn the frozen bodies of the martyrs, still showing signs of life, were burned, and their ashes cast into a river. Local Christians collected the precious remains, and the relics were distributed throughout many cities, and the veneration paid to the Forty Martyrs became widespread, and churches were erected in their honor. St. Basil, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Ephraim the Syrian were all clients of the martyrs.
Holy Martyrs of Sebaste, pray for us!