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January 29, 2015

Holy Martyrs Sarbelos and Bebaia of Edessa

Sts. Sarbelos and Bebaia (Feast Days - September 4th, October 15th and January 29th)

Verses for September 4th

Bebaia slain and Thathuel as well,
Both found a sure life rather than a false.

Verses for January 29th

Forsaking Sarbelos the abominable sacrifices,
With your sister you were brought as a sacrifice for Christ.

Verses to St. Barsimaios

Bound to the earth with burdensome flesh Barsimaios,
You were carried away where the burden is light.

Sarbelos was a pagan priest in the city of Edessa at the time of the Emperor Trajan (98-117). One day, as he was about to preside at a great idolatrous festivity wearing all his insignia of gold and precious stones, he was approached, not for the first time, by Saint Barsimaios, the holy bishop of the city whose ardent zeal for Christ led to the conversion of many of his fellow citizens, who once again warned him of the heavy account which he would have to render to God for having thus led so many souls to perdition. Sarbelos went through with the celebration but, touched by the grace of Christ, he sought out the bishop the next day, and throwing himself at his feet, asked to receive Baptism with his sister Bebaia. At Baptism Sarbelos received the name Thathuel.*

News of his conversion stirred the city and the governor Lysias (or Lysanias) had him brought before his tribunal. After patiently enduring various tortures, he was imprisoned for two months; then he suffered new torments during a long interrogation. He was then condemned to be sawn asunder and beheaded. The holy Martyr remained impassible during this terrible ordeal as though his soul were already in heaven. When they struck off his head, his sister, who had stood by throughout, spread a coat over his dismembered body in order to collect his precious blood, and said: "May my soul and yours be united in Christ whom I know and in whom I believe." On hearing her words, some of the bystanders went off to report them to the governor, who sent soldiers to behead the fearless young woman where she stood. Her blood was thus mingled with her brother's and together they attained to the choir of holy Martyrs in c. 110. Their bodies were taken up by some of the Christians and buried in the tomb of the holy Bishop Abselamus (or Abshelama).

After their martyrdom, the governor Lysias summoned Saint Barsimaios and, with rods and whips, vainly endeavored to make him deny his faith. He was released from prison thanks to an Edict of Toleration issued by the Emperor Trajan, and was therefore able to govern the Church of Edessa in peace until the end of his days in c. 114. He is also commemorated on January 29th.

* In the synaxaria, there is a commemoration for Sts. Thathuel and Bebaia of Edessa on September 4th (the verse translated above is from this commemoration of September 4th). Though they are the same Martyrs, there it is mentioned that they were perhaps martyred under Emperor Hadrian in 116, while the governors name was Augaros, and Barsimaios is named Barsippo. Interestingly, on September 4th, there is a separate commemoration for a St. Sarbelos who was stoned to death.

Sarbelos and Bebaia are also rendered in English as Sarbel and Barbe, Sarbelius and Barb├Ža, or Sharbil and Babai. Thathuel is also rendered as Thathouel.