10 March 2012

10 March - Forty Holy Martyrs of Sebaste

Weather – As the weather is on the day of the Forty Martyrs, so it will be for forty days.

As on Forty Martyrs, so on St. Peter’s (June 29).

If it doesn't freeze on the 10th, a fertile year may be expected.
                            On the other hand
Mists or hoar-frosts on the 10th of March betoken a plentiful year, but not without some diseases.


“At Sebaste, in Armenia, under the governor Agricolaus, in the time of the emperor Licinius, the birthday of forty holy soldiers of Cappadocia.  After being loaded with chains and confined in foul dungeons, after having their faces brused with stones, and being condemned to spend the night naked, during the coldest part of winter, on a frozen lake, where their bodies were benumbed and laid open by the frost, they ended their martyrdom by having their limbs crushed.  The noblest of them were Cyrion and Candidus.  Their glorious triumph has been celebrated by St. Basil and other Fathers in their writings.”
Roman Martyrology

“The celebrated forty martyrs suffered at Sebaste in Lesser Armenia in 320. They all belonged to the thundering Legion so famous under the guidance of Marcus Aurelius for the miraculous rain and the victory said to be obtained by their prayers.  They suffered for refusing to comply with a general order to sacrifice to the heathen gods, issued by the Emperor Licinius.”
Circle of the Seasons, Thomas Ignatius M. Forster (1828)

"According to St. Basil the forty heroes were soldiers, born in different parts of the world, all young and brave. Upon the promulgation of the edict of persecution, they went before the governor and proclaimed themselves Christians. The governor was lavish of promises and threats in his efforts to win them over. He was unsuccessful. They answered with spirit that they held in equal contempt the transient joys and ills of this mortal life, and were ready to die for their God.

The furious governor invented a novel torture for these courageous Christians. The climate of that country is extremely severe, the north wind blowing with great violence. He ordered the forty confessors of the Faith to be exposed naked to the chilly blasts, in the middle of the city. The cruel sentence was heard with exultation. With mutual exhortations to constancy, the martyrs divested themselves of their garments, and calmly awaited the approach of death. They sent up this common prayer to God: "Lord, to the number of forty have we entered the arena, grant to all forty the crown. May no unit be lacking to a number which Thou hast chosen for a special purpose."

A warm bath had been prepared near by for those who should wish to save themselves by renouncing Christ. One of the soldiers, losing heart, sought relief in the proffered bath; but no sooner had the hapless man touched the warm water than he expired. One of the guards, however, was favored with a vision: angels descended from heaven distributing crowns to all, except the renegade. Moved by the sight, he declared himself a Christian, and succeeded to the place and crown of the apostate.

At daybreak, they came to commit the bodies to the flames. One of the martyrs, younger and more vigorous than the others, was still breathing. He was left behind by the executioners, in the hope that he might be induced to change his views. But the mother of the youth, who was present at the scene, placed him with her own hands upon the cart with the others, exhorting him to persevere unto the end. He was burnt with his companions, and their remains were cast into the river.

We are indebted to St. Gregory of Nyssa for another interesting particular concerning our martyrs. They belonged to a legion which had already become famous in the Christian annals by saving the Roman army at a crucial moment, through the impetration of a miraculous rain. This was the Twelfth or Thundering Legion.”
The American Catholic Quarterly Review, Volume 24 (1899)

The Orthodox Church celebrates the Forty Martyrs on the 9th of March (yesterday) and I’ve found that those in the area of Romania and Moldavia have a traditional sweet for today only called “Mucenici” after their title for the day, “Mucenicii”.  These are forty pieces of dough formed in a figure-8 and either boiled in a sugar-cinnamon bath or baked and topped with honey and walnuts.

[Next year, I will find someone in the Smallest State who makes these delectable treats!]

Another tradition is that the men must take 40 or 44 drinks of wine in honor of the 40 martyrs [and not the women?  You make me sad.]