If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. John 15:19
Beloved Orthodox Christians,
Wondrous is God in His Saints. Our Lord hath set apart the Saints and Martyrs as witnesses to His Truth. The Lord Himself hath declared that the world will hate His Holy Ones because they are not of this world.
As Orthodox Christians we too must realize that we are in this world but the world must not own us and become our master for only our Lord Jesus Christ is our Master. This world is filled with hate, injustice, prejudice, and malice. We must overcome this world and the only way is the way of the Cross – to pick up our Cross daily and follow after our Christ.
We see many glorious examples in the lives of the Saints of how we can answer when we are persecuted for our faith. We look to the Lives of the Forty-two Martyrs of Amorion, whom we celebrate today. We read of their heroic Christian confession of these Byzantine warriors in the account of their courageous martyrdom in the year 838 at the hands of their Muslim tormentors.
The story has a familiar plot, one which we see over and over again in the attempts for the evil-one to destroy the faithful. In their faulty attempts to force these Byzantine officers and officials to convert to Islam, the Muslims used all manner of enticements
and arguments. The valiant martyrs knew well their Christian Faith. During the time of their imprisonment, it is said they spent their time wisely in prayer. Fasting was imposed upon them as they were given little food. Perhaps our Lord allowed this time of ascesis and imprisonment to strengthen these men who would become models for all ages! Though their bodies were beaten, the spirits rejoiced and were strengthened for the contest, surely awaiting them.
We read in the lives of these Saints about one particular encounter with their captors. Here is how they responded:
If indeed you would be persuaded by the teachings of the Holy Prophets, it would be easy for us to prove your words false; and by the God-inspired Scriptures, we can condemn any position you take. Since, however, you do not accept the Divine Scriptures, but believe only in your own teaching, and since you revile us for suffering hardships because we do not believe in Mohammed, answer us the following:
Two men had a difference and fought between themselves over a field. The one, quarreling, asserted without witnesses that the field must certainly be given to him, while the other, without quarrels, brought forward many tried and faithful witnesses who bore witness that the field belonged rather to him than to the other. To which of the two would you Saracens decide to give the field?” Then the Muslims answered, “It is evident that to him who brought forth the faithful witnesses.”
Then the Saints said to them, “Well, then, using reason, we too judge what is right concerning the Only-begotten Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. He became man of the Virgin, as we have heard you also say many times. He had as His witnesses all the ancient and true Prophets who foretold His coming. You affirm that Mohammed was also sent from God bringing us a third law. Ought he not also to have had some of the Prophets of God, or at least one witness to speak of him, to prove that he was sent from God?
We read in the account “To this, the Muslims could answer nothing. In all their encounters, the Muslim tormentors were silenced and put to shame by the witness of the holy martyrs.” Truly, what more could they say?
AS it is written in the Psalms, When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin. (Psalm 109). The valiant Martyrs judged and found the faith of the Saracens wanting, their prayer became sin. So it is with the wicked, who turn their face away from the Living God.
This event teaches us beloved faithful how important it is to know our faith. The Holy Scriptures, the Church Fathers, and the holy services of the Church teach us again and again concerning the matter of our Lord’s Incarnation and fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament. When we attend the divine services and are attentive, we will hear the same message that strengthened the Martyrs!
This is the faith of the Prophets . This is the faith of the holy martyrs of Amorion in the ninth century. This is the faith of the Martyrs of all time. This is the faith of the Orthodox Church!
Adapted from The True Vine, Issue #34