August 4, 2016

Synaxarion of the Holy Seven Youths of Ephesus

On the fourth of this month [August],* we commemorate the Holy Seven Youths of Ephesus, Maximilian, Exacustodianus, Iamblicus, Martinian, Dionysius, Antoninus** and Constantine.


The septet choir of Martyrs I honor,
Who showed the world the rising of the dead.
On the fourth the seven who rose from the dead together died.

These Saints flourished during the reign of Emperor Decius, who in the year 252 distributed all their belongings to the poor, and they entered a cave in which they hid. After supplicating God to be released from the bond of the body, so as not to be handed over to Emperor Decius, they delivered their souls to God. When Emperor Decius returned to Ephesus, he had requested of them to come and sacrifice to the idols, but he learned that they died in the cave, so he ordered that the door of the cave be obstructed. From that time three hundred and seventy-two years passed, until the thirty-eighth year of the reign of Theodosius the Younger, in the year 446.***

At that time there began to spread a heresy, which said there was no resurrection of the dead. When Emperor Theodosius saw the Church of God troubled, and many Bishops had fallen into error due to this heresy, he wondered what to do. Wherefore he dressed in a garment made of goat's hair, spread himself on the ground and mourned, supplicating God to reveal to him the solution to this heresy. The Lord did not overlook his tears, but hearkened to him in the following manner. The landholder of that mountain, where the cave of the Holy Seven Youths was located, at that time wanted to build a stable for his sheep. As he was rolling stones from the cave in order to build his stable, the door of the cave opened, and by God's command the seven Youths who had died in the cave were resurrected, and they conversed between each other, as if they had reposed the previous day, without changing at all, so that not even their clothing was ruined at all from the natural moisture and humidity of the cave. Having therefore risen, they remembered that Emperor Decius sought for them in order to torture them, about which they spoke among themselves. Maximilian said to the rest: "If perhaps, brethren, we are captured by Decius, let us stand with courage, and not betray our noble faith. You brother Iamblicus, go to purchase some bread, and purchase even more, since last night you purchased little bread, which is why we went to sleep hungry. Learn also what Decius is deliberating about us."

Iamblicus therefore went to the city of Ephesus, where he saw the sign of the honorable Cross on the door and he was amazed. Seeing the same in other places, and observing the buildings and houses to have been changed, and the people were different, he thought he was having a vision, or had come into a state of ecstasy. However, as he went to the bread-sellers, he purchased breads, and having given the coins, he set out to return back to the cave. Yet he saw how the bread-sellers were showing the coins to each other, so they turned towards him and said that he had found a treasure, for the money he gave clearly testified that he had found a treasure, for it had engraved on it the image of the emperor Decius from long ago. When Iamblicus heard this, he became terrified, and because of his fear was unable to speak, thinking that he had been recognized by them, and would in turn be handed over to Emperor Decius. He therefore begged them, saying: "I beg you, my lords, you have my coins, take also your breads, and allow me to withdraw." The bread-sellers said to him: "Show us the treasure you found, and make us also partners of the find, otherwise we will hand you over to be killed." Seeing the Saint standing there in his thoughts, they put a chain around his neck, and dragged him to the open market. Taking him to the proconsul of Ephesus, they presented him for examination. When the proconsul saw this, he said: "Tell us, O young man, how you found this treasure, and how much is there, and where." Iamblicus responded that he never found a treasure, but the money he had he received from his parents. "What then has come together," he said, "and has followed me, I do not know."

The proconsul again asked him: "From what city are you from?" The Saint responded: "I am from this one, if this is Ephesus." "And who are your parents?" asked the proconsul; "let them come to us, and when they reveal the truth, then we will believe you." Iamblicus replied: "So and so is my father, so and so is my grandfather, and so and so are my relatives." The proconsul responded: "The names you said are strange and unsubstantial, and not of the present custom. Thus with these we cannot believe you." Iamblicus said: "If you do not believe me who speaks the truth, then I do not know what else to say." The proconsul replied: "Irreverent one, your money testifies by its inscription that it was produced more than three hundred years ago, during the reign of Decius the emperor, and you as a young man are attempting to deceive us?" Then Iamblicus fell at the feet of those who were there, and begged them, saying: "I beg you my lords, tell me, where is the emperor Decius, who was in this city?" They told him that currently it is not Decius, for he deliberated many years prior. And Iamblicus said: "This is why my lords you are in astonishment; but do now follow me to a cave, and from these signs you will come to believe my words. For I am sure, that we fled because of Decius, and yesterday when I came to buy breads, I saw that Decius had entered the city."

These things were spoken by the Saint. The Bishop of Ephesus, whose name was Marinos, heard these things, so he said to the proconsul: "I think a wonderful thing will follow from this proposal, therefore let us follow him." Hence the Bishop and the proconsul and many people followed him, and when they arrived at the cave, Iamblicus first entered it, followed by the Bishop, who when he turned to the right side of the door of the cave, saw a chest sealed with two seals, which was put there by the [secret] Christians Rufinus and Theodore, who were sent there with others by Decius, in order to obstruct the door of the cave. It was they who wrote the synaxaria of the Saints, and wrote their names on plaques of lead. Reading these words, all were astonished. Entering the deeper part of the cave, they found the Saints, and fell at their feet. Sitting down, they questioned them. The Saints narrated, first, their own purpose, then their brave deeds before the emperor Decius. Wherefore all were astonished and glorified the God of wonders. Then the proconsul with the Bishop wrote an account to the emperor Theodosius, and reported to him all of the above. The emperor received the letter, and was filled with joy over the news, and with much speed went to Ephesus. Entering the cave, he fell to the ground and washed the feet of the Saints with his tears. And he rejoiced and was glad in his soul, for the Lord did not overlook his request, but showed him with his own eyes the resurrection of the dead. While the emperor was conversing with the Saints, together with Bishops and other authorities, the Saints began to get a little tired, and before everyone, they delivered their souls into the hands of God.

Then the emperor gave precious garments of gold and silver, and ordered that seven chests be made of the same, to have the relics of the Saints placed in. But that night, the Saints appeared to the emperor and said: "Leave us, O Emperor, in this cave, in which we arose." After many Bishops and authorities gathered, the emperor had the relics of the Saints placed in the ground of the cave, as they revealed to him in the vision. And making a joyous feast, he gave hospitality to the poor of Ephesus, and brought joy to all the people, lovingly honoring them in very expensive and royal ways. He redeemed also from he prisons the imprisoned Bishops, for they proclaimed the resurrection of the dead. This was followed by a common feast, glorifying and blessing our Lord Jesus Christ.


* The Seven Youths of Ephesus are also commemorated on October 22, though August 4 is their primary feast day. It is believed by some that the commemoration of August 4 celebrates the day of their resurrection, while that of October 22 commemorates the day of their second death.

** Instead of Antoninus, some sources have John.

*** According to the chronology of Meletios of Athens, it was not three hundred and seventy-two years, but one hundred and ninety-eight. Since they reposed in two hundred and fifty-two, until four hundred and forty-six, when they rose, it adds up to one hundred and ninety-eight.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Great is the wonder of faith! The seven holy youths abode in the cave as in a royal chamber, and died without falling into corruption; and after much time they arose as from sleep, as an assurance of the resurrection of all men. Through their supplications, O Christ God, have mercy on us.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
They that scorned all things in the world as corrupted and found the gifts that nothing ever corrupteth, behold, they died, and yet corruption touched them not. Wherefore after many years once again they all rose up, burying all unbelief of malicious revilers. Ye faithful, let us laud the seven youths with hymns of praise on this day, while extolling Christ.

Setting aside the doctrine of death, the divine Youths rose from the dead, making visible to all, what will happen in the future, at the time of the eschaton, the resurrection of mortals.