Featuring the Lives of the Saints of our Church
Saints Sophia, Faith, Hope & Love: September 17
Saint Sophia and her three daughters—Faith, Hope & Love—were from Italy and gave their lives for God in the year 126, during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian. Faith was twelve years old, Hope, ten and Love, only nine; even though they were children, the laws of the emperor’s reign were firm: if they did not repent of their Christian Faith, the penalty was death. After their executions, Saint Sophia mourned at their grave for three days, where she also fell asleep in peace. Because of her courageous endurance in the face of her daughters' sufferings, she is also counted a martyr by the Church.
Getting Practical: Did you know that the Orthodox Christian Church recognizes child saints? Sometimes adults mistakenly think of children as only the “future” of the Church when, in truth, they are not only the future but very much part of the “now” of the Church. As the lives of these beloved saints indicate, alongside adults, children have bravely and faithfully given up their lives for Christ throughout the centuries of Christendom, from the earliest times to the most recent. This month, print out the icon of this faithful saint family for your children; show it to them, share their story and remind your children that their contributions to the Church are real and powerful.
Saint Mary Magdalene the Holy Myrrh-bearer & Equal to the Apostles: July 22
Saint Mary was from Magdala, a city in Galilee on the Sea of Tiberias; the word Magdala means “tower” or “castle,” very appropriate for this saint of “towering” faith. The Bible tells us that for part of her life, she suffered greatly from spiritual pain and that Jesus had cast seven demons from her. As of that moment, she became one of his most devoted disciples, following Him and ministering to Him even to the time of His crucifixion and burial. She also helped prepare the fragrant spices for anointing His body during those difficult times and was the initial witness of His Resurrection. Within the Gospel of John (20:1 – 18), we learn that on that miraculous morning so long ago, she found the stone in front of the tomb rolled away and His resting place empty. After running to tell Peter and John, she returned to the tomb, weeping. Then she saw something even more amazing: two stunning angels sitting where the body had been—and then, behind her, Jesus Himself, who advised her of His coming Ascension and directed her to go and spread the news to the rest of the disciples. Little is known about the rest of her life, but because of her tremendous faith and steadfastness, the Church honors her with the title “Holy Myrrhbearer and Equal to the Apostles.”
Getting Practical: What does it mean to be a true friend to Jesus? To others as well? Saint
Mary’s life provides an amazing example. Discuss with your children how Jesus helped her in her time of need and how she did not forget this—how she followed and ministered to Him faithfully, even to the time of His death … and beyond! Bring home to your children how we are all called to be true and faithful friends of the Lord; in addition, stress how we are called to be true and faithful friends to one another, inspired by His grace and love.
Saint Glyceria the Holy Martyr: May 13
Saint Glyceria was a martyr, which means that she actually gave her life for love of Christ. While not much is known about her early life, we do know that she had great faith in our Lord and that the day of her martyrdom was May 13, 141. On that powerful day, Saint Glyceria was in Thrace and saw a festival going on. The royal governor was offering a sacrifice to pagan Gods. Filled with spiritual courage, she entered the temple and declared herself to be a follower of Christ. The governor commanded that she rebuke Christ and offer a sacrifice to the pagan gods. So she went to the statue of Zeus and overturned it, dashing it to pieces. Immediately, she was subjected to many horrible tortures, and finally was cast to wild beasts.
Getting Practical: Displaying our faith in public can be intimidating. Even when it comes to simple things like praying at a restaurant or answering a question about our Church when we’re with friends, we sometimes think twice about acknowledging our belief in Christ. But we should be proud of who we are: there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Being an Orthodox Christian is pretty awesome! Next time one of these moments comes up, just think of Saint Glyceria—her public display of bravery was inspiring, courageous and true to God. We can act on her holy example.
Saint George the Great Martyr and Triumphant: April 23
(If April 23 falls on or before Holy Pascha, the Feast of Saint George is moved to Bright Monday)
Saint George, called a “great martyr” and “triumphant” in the Church, was born of a father from Cappadocia and a mother from Palestine. He was a military tribune, or chiliarch (that is, a commander of a thousand troops), and he was famous for his battle exploits and highly honored for his courage. When he learned that the Emperor Diocletian was preparing a persecution of the Christians, Saint George, already a Christian, presented himself publicly before the Emperor and denounced him. When threats and promises could not move Saint George from his steadfast faith, he was tortured repeatedly and horribly, which he endured with great bravery, overcoming these trials by his faith and love for Christ. In fact, during his gauntlet of tortures, many wondrous and inspiring signs were witnessed—these events guided many to knowledge of Christ, including Queen Alexandra, wife of Diocletian. After enduring so much for His Lord, he was finally beheaded in 296 in Nicomedia. He is often pictured in armor or upon a white horse destroying a serpent or dragon (symbols of evil), and his life story continues to direct and inspire us today.
Getting Practical: Children seem naturally drawn to the life of Saint George—perhaps it’s the armor, horse and triumph over the serpent or dragon shown in his icons. Take advantage of their interest: repeat the story of St. George with your children; then encourage them to draw their own “icon” of Saint George, highlighting his faith and bravery!