The 15th of the month, Memory of the Holy Confessors

Image result for saints guria shamuna AND habibThe holy Martyrs Gurias and Samonas were priests in the
region of Edessa at the outset of Diocletian’s persecution
(c. 303). They were haled before the Governor, charged
with giving aid and comfort to their imprisoned brethren, and
with encouraging, in spite of every threat, all the Christians to
stand steadfast in the faith. When the Governor tried to make
them apostatize the confessors told him, “We will not betray the
one and only God of Heaven. We are not going to exchange Him
for a man-made image. We worship Christ God who, in his goodness,
has saved us from delusion. He is our light, our physician and
our life.” The Governor accused them of rebelling against the imperial
edicts and promised them a death of dreadful sufferings if
they persisted in their obstinacy. “We shall not die, as you suppose,”
they replied. “But, according to our faith, we shall live, if we
do the will of Him who has created us. We are not afraid of your
torments, which do not last long and then are gone as if they had
never been. What we fear is the eternal punishment that awaits
wicked men and apostates. Our God will enable us to bear the
tortures which we have to endure only for a while and which
disappear when the spirit has left the body.”

When he heard this,the Governor ordered them to be held in custody with other
priests and deacons. Some days later, he had them brought out
and hung for five hours by one hand. As they suffered in silence
and shook their heads at every offer of the executioners, they
were thrown into a dungeon called the Oblivion (dark hole), where they
remained for three and a half months in total darkness with almost
nothing to eat or drink.

At their second appearance before the tribunal, their firmness
of purpose was no less than on the previous occasion, and they
said to the Governor, “We have already told you that our faith and
our word are unshakeable. Do what you have been commanded
by the Emperor. You have power over our bodies but not over our
souls.” They were hung by their feet, but continued to make
their prayer to God to give them the endurance of the Patriarchs,
Prophets, Apostles and Martyrs who had suffered before them
for the Truth.

Samonas and Gurias were finally brought before the tribunal to be sentenced to death. Samonas, whose
kneecap had been broken, was carried; and because of his age Gurias
was supported by soldiers. On hearing the sentence their faces
shone with joy and they said, “We are the most wretched of men.
We do not deserve to be numbered among the righteous and compared
to them. But we take comfort in the word of our Master: He
who loses his life for my sake will find it (Matt. 10:39). All praise
to Him who has counted us worthy to bear every torment for the
Name of Jesus Christ.” Before he beheaded them, the executioner
spoke to them saying, “Pray for me, I beg you, for I am doing evil
in the sight of God.” Samonas and Gurias knelt down towards the
East and prayed to God, “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, receive
our spirits and preserve our bodies unto the Resurrection.” They offered
their necks to the sword and were beheaded, the one after
the other.

On hearing of their martyrdom, the whole population
of the city rushed to the place to take up all that remained of
them, even to the blood-soaked dust. They were laid to rest surrounded
by incense, perfumes, Psalms and canticles that were
offered to the glory of God, who had shown His power in the perseverance
of the Martyrs.

Saint Habib was a deacon in the time of Licinius, who ruled
after Diocletian, and who launched a new persecution in 309.
Habib travelled in secret around the villages of the Edessa region
gathering the faithful in the churches, reading the Scriptures to
them and encouraging them to stand firm in the truth of the faith,
without fear of persecutors. On hearing what the bold deacon was
doing, the Governor Lysanius was very angry. He gave orders for his
arrest; but, since Habib could not be found, his family and the people
of his village were seized. When this news reached the Saint,
he went straight to Edessa and gave himself up to the captain of
the Governor’s guard. The captain did his best to persuade him to
flee, assuring him that there was no risk to his family; but the Saint
would not, for he was convinced that it was God’s will that he
finish his course by martyrdom.

Habib showed such fearlessness under interrogation and so
much contempt for the idols that the Governor was moved to
fury, and had him scourged ruthlessly. Some days later he was
again brought before Lysanius. Since he persisted in rejecting the
idols, they hung him on a frame and mangled his flesh with iron
combs. Threatened with other and even more dreadful tortures,
the Saint replied, “As a tree that is watered bears fruit, so is my will
strengthened by torments.” Seeing his own powerlessness, the
tyrant said to the Martyr, “Does your religion teach you to hate
your own body and to delight in sufferings?” Habib replied,”we do not hate our
bodies but we rejoice in contemplating the invisible
realities, confirmed by the promise that the sufferings of this
present time are not worth comparing with the glory that
awaits those who love Christ (cf. Rom. 8:18).”

Considering that the sword would give the Martyr too easy a death, the Governor
ordered that he should be burnt in a slow fire. He was taken to it
at the end of a lead attached to his mouth. His mother, dressed in
white as for a feast day, walked by his side. When they arrived at
the place of execution, Habib prayed, then turning round he
blessed the assembled crowd, who wished him the peace of God.
When the wood began to crackle in the flames, he opened his
mouth and immediately gave up his soul. The Christians pulled his
body out of the fire, and after anointing it and pouring perfume
upon it, they laid it on the bundles of wood. His holy body was
buried in the same tomb as Gurias and Samonas.

The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church
Translated from the French by
Christopher Hookway

Holy Convent of The Annunciation of Our Lady
Ormylia (Chalkidike)