Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Soldiers and Martyrs

The South has a noble heritage of bravery and sacrifice.  Southrons and others rightly praise those who gave so much to defend Dixie and her traditions in the War.  Here is one ensample:

 . . . Confederate Col. George E. Purvis was quoted in Confederate Veteran magazine, March, 1897, from an article he had written about Union Gen. Henry Van Ness Boynton and the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. Gen. Boynton, with great respect for the courage of the Confederates he faced, wanted to make it a sacred memorial, not just to Union valor, but American valor.

Col. Purvis writes that Gen. Boynton and a friend had visited the Chickamauga battlefield on a quiet Sunday morning in the summer of 1888 and heard singing in a church nearby. The general’s thoughts went from those sweet sounds to the hellish and “fearful horrors of that other Sunday, when the very demons of hell seemed abroad, armed and equipped for the annihilation of mankind” almost a quarter of a century earlier:[vi]

They saw again the charging squadrons, like great waves of the sea, dashed and broken in pieces against lines and positions that would not yield to their assaults. They saw again Baird’s, Johnson’s, Palmer’s, and Reynolds’s immovable lines around the Kelley farm, and Wood on the spurs of Snodgrass Hill; Brannan, Grosvenor, Steedman, and Granger on the now famous Horseshoe; once more was brought back to their minds’ eye, “the unequaled fighting of that thin and contracted line of heroes and the magnificent Confederate assaults,” which swept in again and again ceaselessly as that stormy service of all the gods of battle was prolonged through those other Sunday hours.

Their eyes traveled over the ground again where Forrest’s and Walker’s men had dashed into the smoke of the Union musketry and the very flame of the Federal batteries, and saw their ranks melt as snowflakes dissolve and disappear in the heat of conflagration.

They stood on Baird’s line, where Helms’s Brigade went to pieces, but not until three men out of four – mark that, ye coming heroes! – not until three men out of every four were either wounded or dead, eclipsing the historic charge at Balaklava and the bloody losses in the great battles of modern times.

They saw Longstreet’s men sweep over the difficult and almost inaccessible slopes of the Horseshoe, “dash wildly, and break there, like angry waves, and recede, only to sweep on again and again with almost the regularity of ocean surges, ever marking a higher tide.”

They looked down again on those slopes, slippery with blood and strewn thick as leaves with all the horrible wreck of battle, over which and in spite of repeated failures these assaulting Confederate columns still formed and reformed, charging again and again with undaunted and undying courage.

 . . .

Source:  Gene Kizer, Jr., https://www.abbevilleinstitute.org/blog/the-barbarians-at-the-gates/, opened 10 March 2018

But there is something more praiseworthy than dying for one’s country, and that is dying for Christ.  The Holy 40 Martyrs of Sebaste (celebrated March 9th), like so many of the honored Southern forefathers, were soldiers, but they were also granted the high privilege of martyrdom for Christ’s sake.  And the wonderful thing about martyrs is that in dying for Christ, they become unconquerable, undying intercessors for their country, whether Sebaste or Scotland or wherever else, as well as for all who call on them with faith.  In passing through martyrdom, they truly become mightier than any earthly warrior.

We offer the account of these 40 Martyrs for all Southerners, that they may learn from it how to persevere in the most trying of circumstances and not fall away from the true Orthodox Faith, and to give them new helpers in these same 40 Martyrs, who will unfailingly intercede for them if any in the South would humble themselves and cry out to them.

The Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste were soldiers who served under the Emperor Licinius in the early 4th Century [320--W.G.]. While St. Constantine had come to power at that time, and Christians had begun to enjoy greater freedom, Licinius, who ruled at that time in the Eastern part of the Roman empire, continued to persecute Christians. These forty valiant soldiers not only served bravely in the army, but were also courageous in their confession of faith in Christ. Because they refused to sacrifice to idols, they were sentenced to death. At first they were stoned, but the stones were miraculously turned aside and didn’t hurt the martyrs. So, instead, they were thrown into a lake during freezing weather, as the lake was icing over.

In order to tempt the forty men to leave the lake and deny Christ, the soldiers who were guarding them built a bath house next to the lake. In fact, one of the 40 soldiers did lose courage, and ran to the bath house. But one of the guards who was watching at that time, saw 40 crowns descending from heaven onto the heads of the 40 men, then saw the crown belonging to the soldier who left the lake rising back up to heaven. That guard then took off his clothes, told the other guards that he was a Christian, and ran to the lake to join the remaining 39. Thus the number of martyrs remained 40, with that guard joining their ranks.

Although the Lord granted those faithful men consolation and encouragement - they saw a divine light and felt themselves mystically warmed - they eventually yielded their souls into God’s hands in the freezing lake. The bodies of the martyrs were burned by the Roman authorities, and then thrown back into the lake. But Christians later collected their remains and glorified them as Saints. From that time they’ve been honored as among the greatest heroes of the Christian faith.

According to the tradition about the Holy Forty Martyrs, as they were suffering in the freezing lake, they strengthened themselves and one another by saying “Winter is harsh, but paradise is sweet!” This captures the spirit and essence of Christian martyrdom, which always sees the experiences of this world in the light of the heavenly kingdom. We know, because the Lord has taught us, that we can expect “tribulations” in this world. But He also tells us to “be of good cheer,” because He has overcome the world. Whatever sufferings may come in this world, as St. Paul says, cannot be compared to the glory of the Kingdom.

A Saint of more recent times, Papa-Dimitri of Greece, who suffered persecution during the difficult time of the Greek Civil War, remembered this saying of the Forty Martyrs as he shivered all night in wet clothes in a freezing attic, hiding from the communist soldiers who wanted to force him to take their side. He got through the night by repeating “Winter is harsh, but paradise is sweet.” And God strengthened him, so that in spite of so many threats and attempts to persuade him, and so many other hardships, he never agreed to capitulate with the communists, but boldly opposed them and remained faithful to Christ.

The Saints are our support, both by their prayers and by their example. The Holy Forty Martyrs, and countless others, are cheering us on as we run the race. They form that great cloud of witnesses who encourage us to continue following the path of Jesus, the “author and finisher of our faith.” The Church gives us our Lord’s example, and along with His, the examples of these martyrs and so many others, so that we not become weary and fainthearted as we continue our journey through this Lenten season, and as we endure all the trials of our life.

Even if our small measure of faith seems to fall far short of the great measure of faith we see in the holy martyrs, we are nevertheless continually presented with the opportunity to live more faithfully, more “martyrically.” The Gospel passage for this feast gives us the parable of the landowner who hires workers throughout the day. Even those who come at the 11th hour receive their wages from the landowner. Likewise, the Roman guard who saw the crowns descend from heaven and ran to join the other 39 martyrs in the lake received his crown, although he was joining them at the last minute. And likewise, we who have procrastinated and put off taking our faith more seriously and being bolder in serving Christ, if we will choose to do so today, will be blessed.

The Lord will not fail to honor our efforts, however feeble, despite all our sinfulness, to serve him even now. But we must not put off doing so to another day. “Now is the accepted time, today is the day of salvation.” No, we do not like the thought of enduring the freezing lakes of this world - of suffering the discomfort and inconvenience that test our love for God and others. We sometimes face difficult decisions that pit our comfort against doing the right thing. But, with the Holy Forty Martyrs, let us say, “Winter is harsh but paradise is sweet!” Through their prayers, may God enable us not to procrastinate any longer, but to courageously embrace the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Source:  http://orthochristian.com/78069.html, opened 10 March 2018

 . . .

In Taganrog, in the archbishop’s chambers hung an icon of the Forty Martyrs, suffering in the lake of Sebaste. When I was still a young hierdeacon and cell attendant to Vladyka Arseny I passed by this icon often, but didn’t give the proper veneration to these forty sufferers; I even doubted a little in their existence—maybe there were such martyrs, maybe not…

Well, in the winter of 1943, I was incarcerated in a Gestapo prison in [the central Ukrainian city of] Uman, where there was no glass in the windows, and it was bitter cold outside. I was practically without clothes, wearing only a cassock. Then, in that stone box, I asked for death: “O Lord, let me die!” It was hopeless, and I hadn’t the strength to endure the freezing cold. Then I remembered the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste and started praying to them, asking their forgiveness for not rendering them the proper honor, for not understanding their martyric feat. I prayed fervently, ardently, and soon the despair left my soul, heat filled my body, and I felt entirely warmed. After the cold and despair left me, the prison cell door opened and I was given a package—the Holy Gifts, bread, and warm clothing.

 . . .

Source:  http://orthochristian.com/102063.html, opened 10 March 2018

The Troparion of the Forty Martyrs in Tone 1

Those noble soldiers of the Master of all let us honor, for they were united by their faith as they passed through fire and water, and being enlisted by Christ they entered to divine refreshment. Now those pious warriors stand and intercede with Christ God for those who cry out. Glory to Him that hath given you strength. Glory to him that hath crowned you. Glory to Him that made you wondrous, Holy Forty Martyrs.

Another Troparion of the Forty Martyrs in Tone 1

Be Thou entreated for the sake of the sufferings of Thy Saints which they endured for Thee, O Lord and do Thou heal all our pains, we pray, O Friend of man.

The Kontakion of the Forty Martyrs in Tone 2

Having left every military array on the world, ye cleaved unto the Master Who is in the Heavens, O Forty Prizewinners of the Lord; for having passed through fire and water, O blessed ones, ye rightly received glory from Heaven and a multitude of crowns.

Source:  http://orthochristian.com/45460.html, opened 10 March 2018 (the names of the 40 Martyrs are given on this page)

Wherever there is a picture of Lee, Jackson, Hill, Johnston, etc., from now on, let their holy icon also be found.  Holy 40 Martyrs of Sebaste, pray for us sinners at the South!


Holy Ælfred the Great, King of England, South Patron, pray for us sinners at the Souð, unworthy though we are!

Anathema to the Union!

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