March 9, 2017

On the Intercessions of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste (St. Basil the Great)

By St. Basil the Great

Bounteous benevolence, unsquandered grace, ready help for Christians, a church of martyrs, an army of trophy-bearers, a chorus of those giving praise. How much effort would you expand in order to find one who would importune the Lord on your behalf? They were forty, sending up a unanimous prayer. Where there are two or three gathered together in the name of the Lord, there He is in the midst of them (cf. Matt. 18:20). But where there are forty, who doubts the presence of God? The one who is in trouble takes refuge in the forty, the one who rejoices hastens to them - the former to find release from difficulties, the latter to protect his prosperity. Here a pious woman is found praying for her children, begging for the return of her husband who is away, for his safety because he is sick. Let your petitions be with the martyrs. Let boys imitate those of their own age; let fathers pray to be fathers of such children; let mothers learn the story of a good mother....

O holy chorus! O hallowed battalion, O unbroken fighting order! O common guards of the human race! Good companions in time of anxiety, helpers in prayers, most powerful ambassadors, stars of the world, flowers of the churches. The earth does not hide you; instead, heaven accepts you. The gates of paradise have opened for you. The sight is worthy of the army of angels, worthy of patriarchs, prophets, the just. Men in the very flower of youth, despising life, loving the Lord above parents, above children. Having the vitality of their age, they looked down on the temporary life in order to glorify God with their limbs. Becoming a "spectacle for the world and for angels and for human beings" (1 Cor. 4:9), they raised the fallen, they strengthened the ambivalent, they doubled the desire of the pious. All of them raised the one trophy on behalf of piety and were crowned with the one crown of justice too, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

From A Homily On the Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste.