January 14, 2016

Thirty-Three Holy Fathers Massacred at Raithu


Just as Rachel once did for her children, now for the Abbas,
Raithu weeps, having been slaughtered together with swords.

Raithu is two-days journey from Mount Sinai, on the shores of the Red Sea, where the Hebrews, in the course of their journey to the Promised Land, had found twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees (Ex. 15:27). There holy ascetics lived in quietude and prayer, until one day during the reign of Diocletian (284-305) when 300 Blemmyes from Ethiopia came ashore and killed 147 Christians from Pharan like wild animals, and captured their wives and children. They then came upon the fortified church of Raithu, where thirty-three fathers had taken refuge. There the Abbot Paul encouraged his monks to persist to the end and rejoice in joining the choir of holy Martyrs in heavenly glory.

Suddenly Blemmyes burst into the church, seizing Jeremiah, one of the monks, who after being dragged into the courtyard, was stripped and shot with arrows. Then they split the head of Abbot Paul with the blow of a sword, after he told the barbarians that the monks had no money to give them. Entering the church, the barbarians ruthlessly slaughtered the holy fathers, sparing none but a fifteen year old novice; however, the latter seized the sword of one of the barbarians and struck another on his shoulder, whereupon the brutes cut the youth to pieces in their fury. One monk alone escaped to bring news of the carnage to Mount Sinai.

On returning to the harbor, the Blemmyes saw that Christians had cut their ship's cable and had run the boat onto rocks. Unable to get away themselves, they killed all their prisoners, women and children, and set fire to the oasis. A second band of armed Christians arrived on the scene after and put every one of the barbarians to death.

The massacres of the Holy Fathers of Sinai and Raithu were recorded by Saint Nilus of Sinai, Ammonius the Monk, and Saint Anastasios of Sinai. Initially they were commemorated on December 28th, today however they are commemorated together on January 14th. It is indicated by some that the slaughter of the monks of Raithu took place on December 22nd.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
O God of our Fathers, ever dealing with us according to Thy gentleness: take not Thy mercy from us, but by their entreaties guide our life in peace.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
As a holy chosen chorus of the Word, the Abbas of Sinai and Raithu, angelically prevailed as a sacred gathering, the sweat of their asceticism secretly mingling with the shower of their blood in a vessel of grace, spiritual set out for us, from which we revel, they do we bless.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
Ye fled from the world's confusion and wild turbulence, and passed over to a state of great tranquility, crowned with blood of martyrdom and the pains of valiant ascetic deeds. Hence, ye dwell together with all the Martyrs and Venerable Fathers in the heights.