March 6, 2017

Holy Forty-Two Martyrs of Ammoria in Phrygia (+ 845)

42 Holy Martyrs of Ammoria in Phrygia (Feast Day - March 6)


Seven times six in number are reckoned together,
As if in a line of battle and beheaded.
On the sixth the heads of the forty-two were cut off together.

During a war between the Roman Emperor Theophilos (829-842) and the Saracens, the Saracens managed to besiege the city of Ammoria (or Amorium, a city in Phrygia of Asia Minor) in 838. As a result of treason on the part of the military commander Baditses, Ammoria fell, and forty-two of its generals were taken captive and sent off to Samarra (today in Iraq). The remaining Christians were either killed or sold into slavery.

During the seven years of their imprisonment they tried in vain to persuade the captives to renounce Christianity and accept Islam. The captives stubbornly resisted all their seductive offers and bravely held out against terrible threats. After many torments that failed to break the spirit of the Christian soldiers, they condemned them to death, hoping to shake the determination of the Saints before executing them. The Martyrs remained steadfast.

When the Saracens spoke to the commanders, saying, "Mohammed is the true prophet and not Christ," the commanders asked them, "If there were two men debating about a field and the one said, 'This field is mine,' and the other, 'It is not, it is mine,' and nearby, one of them had many witnesses saying it is his field and the other had no witnesses, but only himself, what would you say, 'Whose field is it?'" The Saracens answered, "Indeed, to him who had many witnesses!" "You have judged correctly," the commanders answered. "That is the way with Christ and Mohammed. Christ has many witnesses: the Prophets of old, from Moses to John the Forerunner, whom you also recognize and who witness to and about Him [Christ], but Mohammed witnesses only to himself that he is a prophet and does not have even one witness."

The Saracens were ashamed and again they tried to defend their faith in this manner: "Our faith is better than the Christian Faith as proved by this: God gave us the victory over you and gave us the best land in the world and a kingdom much greater than Christianity." To that the commanders replied, "If it were so, then the idolatry of the Egyptians, Babylonians, Hellenes, Romans, and the fire-worship of the Persians would be the true faith for, at one time, all of these people conquered the others and ruled over them. It is evident that your victory, power and wealth do not prove the truth of your faith. We know that God, at times, gives victory to Christians and, at other times, allows torture and suffering so as to correct them and to bring them to repentance and purification of their sins."

They said to the soldier Theodore, "We know that you forsook the priestly office, became a soldier and shed blood in battle. You can have no hope in Christ, Whom you abandoned voluntarily, so accept Mohammed." But the Martyr replied, "You do not speak truthfully when you say that I abandoned Christ. Moreover, I left the priesthood because of my own unworthiness. Therefore, I must shed my blood for the sake of Christ, so that He might forgive the sins that I have committed against Him."

The executioners took each one separately and led him off to be beheaded, then threw the bodies into the River Euphrates. However, they floated to the other side of the shore where they were gathered and honorably buried by Christians. In the divine office to them, these holy Martyrs are glorified as: the "All-Blessed" Theodore, the "Unconquered" Kallistos, the "Valiant" Constantine, the "Wondrous" Theophilos and "the Most Strong" Basoes.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Thy Martyrs, O Lord, in their courageous contest for Thee received as the prize the crowns of incorruption and life from Thee, our immortal God. For since they possessed Thy strength, they cast down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons' strengthless presumption. O Christ God, by their prayers, save our souls, since Thou art merciful.

Another Apolytikion in the Third Tone
Let us honour the Forty-Two Martyrs, the chosen company of God the Word; they fought with one accord. United in grace and faith, they stood in invincible array. They proved to be heirs of Christ when they bore witness to His Love.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Ye who contended on earth for Christ's glory, and were shown forth as godly crown-bearing Martyrs, have been vouchsafed to dwell in Heaven joyously; for since ye brake all the snares of the enemy's cunning by your suff'rings and the blood of your tortures and woundings, ye ever send down freely from on high loosing of sins unto all them that honour you.

Another Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Let us crown with praises the new warriors of the Faith, who have zealously contested for Christ. As pillars and guardians of all Christians they intercede with Him for us.