The Holy Martyrs Saints Sophia and her Daughters Faith, Hope and Love - Commemorated on September 17
During the reign of the impious Roman Emperor Hadrian, a widow of Italian ancestry called Sophia, whose name means wisdom, lived in Rome. She was a Christian, and in accordance with her name, she lived wisely, showing that wisdom praised by the Apostle James, who says, The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits. This wise gentlewoman, Sophia, while living in honorable wedlock, bore three daughters, whom she named after the three great virtues. The first was named Faith, the second Hope, and the third Love, for to what does Christian wisdom give birth other than to God-pleasing virtues?
Soon after the birth of her three daughters, Sophia was widowed. Living piously, she pleased God by prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. She reared her three daughters in a manner befitting a wise mother so that they, being the namesakes of virtues, might in truth acquire those traits, the names of which they bore. As they matured, they increased in virtue, and they learned well the books of the prophets and the apostles. They became accustomed to listen to the words of their teachers and earnestly occupied themselves with spiritual reading, prayer, and household chores. Moreover, they submitted themselves in all things to their holy mother, who was filled with divine wisdom. Thus, going from strength to strength, they were successful in all things. As they were exceedingly fair and perfect in wisdom, the eyes of all were soon upon them. Word spread throughout Rome of the wisdom and beauty of the three sisters, and even the Eparch Antiochus wished to see them. When they were brought before him, Antiochus learned that they were Christians, for they did not hide their faith in Christ. Hoping in Christ, they did not doubt or falter in their love for Him, but before all they glorified Christ, showing disdain for the idols, hateful to God. Antiochus related all these things to the Emperor Hadrian, who immediately sent his servants to bring the virgins before him. When the servants arrived at Sophia’s house, they found the mother occupied with instructing her daughters. They told her that she was to come, together with her daughters, to the Emperor. Realizing the purpose of this summons, they arose to pray and said, “0 Almighty God, do with us according to Thy holy will, and forsake us not, but rather grant us Thy holy aid, that our hearts be not frightened by the proud tormentor, that we be not terrified by his fearful tortures nor terrorized by bitter death, and that nothing might separate us from Thee, our God.” After praying and bowing down before God, all four martyrs, the mother and her daughters, took one another by the hand, forming as it were a plaited garland. They went forth, frequently looking up to the heavens, committing themselves with sighs and silent prayers to the help of Him Who commanded us to fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul. When they arrived at the Emperor’s palace, they signed themselves with the sign of the Cross and said, “Help us, 0 God our Savior, for the sake of the glory of Thy holy name!”
They were then led before the Emperor, who sat proudly upon his throne. They rendered him fitting honor but stood before him without fear, their faces radiant, their hearts steadfast, their eyes gazing gladly upon all as though they had been summoned to a banquet. Such was their joy with which they came to suffer torment for their Lord! Seeing their honorable, fair, and fearless countenances, the Emperor questioned the mother as to their lineage, names, and faith. She, being most wise, answered so sagaciously that all were amazed at her prudence. Having spoken but briefly of the maidens’ ancestry and names, she began to tell of Him Whom she confessed and before Whose name every knee should bow. Having confessed her faith in Christ Jesus, the Son of God, she called herself His handmaiden and gave praise to His name. “I am a Christian,” she said, “and in that honorable name I rejoice.” She added that she had betrothed her daughters to Christ so that they might preserve their chastity for the incorruptible Bridegroom, the Son of God. The Emperor, seeing that Sophia was a wise woman, did not wish at that time to speak further with her or pass judgment on her. He laid the matter aside for a time and sent all four martyrs to a certain noblewoman named Palladia, whom he charged to watch over them and to present them on the third day to be judged. Staying in Palladia’s house, Sophia had sufficient time to instruct her children. She confirmed them in the faith day and night, teaching them with words inspired by God and saying, “My beloved daughters, the time has now come for you to contend for Christ; the hour has arrived for you to be betrothed unto your immortal Bridegroom. In accordance with your names, may you display firm faith, undoubting hope, and unfeigned and never failing love. The hour has come for you to rejoice, for you shall be crowned with the crown of martyrdom by your most beloved Bridegroom and will enter with gladsome voices into His bridal chamber. “My daughters, for the sake of the honor in which you will be held by Christ, Who is more comely than the sons of men, do not spare your flesh. For the sake of life eternal, pity not the bloom of your youth nor hesitate to suffer the deprivation of this fleeting life, for your Beloved, Jesus Christ, Who dwells in the heavens, is eternal well-being and beauty inexpressible. When your bodies have been tortured to death for His sake, He will robe them in incorruption, and the wounds which you bear on your flesh will shine like the stars in heaven. “When you have been deprived of your beauty for His sake, He will adorn you with heavenly beauty, such as the eye has not beheld. When you have laid down your souls for your Lord and suffered the loss of your temporal lives, He will grant you life eternal, and He will glorify you unto the ages before His heavenly Father and before His holy angels. You will be called Christ’s brides and His confessors by all the hosts of heaven; all the holy monastics shall praise you, and the wise virgins will rejoice over you and will receive you into their company. “My sweet children, do not allow yourselves to be deceived by the enemy’s allurements, for the Emperor will entice you greatly and promise you rich presents, offering you glory, wealth, honor, and all the beautiful and sweet things of this corruptible and vain world. But love none of these things, for they all vanish like smoke and are scattered like dust by the wind and like a flower or grass wither and return to the earth. Neither be daunted by the prospect of grievous tortures, for having suffered them but a short while and having overcome the foe, you will rejoice forever. “I believe that my God, Jesus Christ, will not forsake you should you resolve to suffer for Him, for He said, Even if a woman should forget her offspring, yet I shall not forget thee. He will remain with you throughout all the tortures you will suffer, looking upon your struggles, strengthening your infirmity, and preparing a plaited crown for your reward. “My good daughters, remember the pains which I underwent in bearing you! Remember the labors I endured in rearing you, remember my words by which I taught you the fear of God, and comfort your mother in her old age with your good and brave confession of Christ. When I am deemed worthy to be called the mother of martyrs and will behold you suffering bravely for Christ, confessing His holy name and dying for Him, I will have more happiness, joy, honor, and glory than any of the faithful. My soul will be magnified and my spirit will rejoice and I will be strengthened in my old age. Having obeyed the instructions of your mother you will truly be my daughters, if you contest for your Lord even unto the shedding of your blood and with fervor submit to death for Him.” Having hearkened with compunction to their mother’s words, the daughters were stricken in heart, and they rejoiced in spirit, awaiting the time of their martyrdom as though it were the hour of their nuptials. Being the holy branches of a sacred root, they desired with all their heart that which their most wise mother Sophia had taught them to thirst after. They stored her words in their hearts and prepared themselves for the contest of martyrdom as though they were to enter a bridal chamber. Girding themselves with faith, bolstering themselves with hope, and kindling in themselves the fire of love for the Lord, they strengthened one another and promised their mother that with Christ’s help they would translate into deeds her edifying words to them.
When the third day had come, the saints were brought to judgment before the impious Emperor. Thinking that they were but young maidens who could easily be brought to obey his deceptive words, he began to speak to them thus, “I see, children, that you are fair, and I feel pity for your youth. I advise you as a father to worship the gods who rule the universe. If you obey me and do what I command, then I shall call you my own children. I will summon the eparchs, governors, and all of my counselors and shall adopt you in their presence, and they all will hold you in the highest respect and praise you. But if you do not obey me and do not submit to my ordinance, then much evil will befall you, and you will bring much grief to your mother in her old age. You will yourselves perish at an age when you should be happy and dwell amid the sweet, good things and the joys of this world. I will cause you to perish miserably and will cast out your severed limbs to be food for dogs, and you will be despised by all. Therefore, obey me, that it might go well with you. I care for you and do not wish to destroy your beauty and to deprive you of this present life; rather, I desire to have you as my children.” The holy virgins answered the persecutor as though with a single voice, saying, “God, Who dwells in heaven, is our Father, Who takes care for our life and has mercy on our souls. His love we desire, and we wish to be called His true children. We keep His commandments, and we spit on your gods. Your threats do not frighten us, for we wish to suffer and bear bitter torments for the sake of our sweet God, Jesus Christ.” The Emperor, having heard them answer thus, questioned their mother Sophia as to their names and ages. She replied, “My eldest child is named Faith and is twelve years old. The second is Hope, who is ten years of age. My third child’s name is Love, and she is nine years old.” The Emperor marveled at the maidens’ spirit, intelligence, and ready answers, especially since they were so young. He then began to attempt to force each of them to submit to his impiety, beginning with Faith, the eldest sister, to whom he said, “Sacrifice to the great goddess Artemis!” But Faith would not agree to submit. Therefore, the Emperor had her stripped naked and ordered that she be beaten severely. The torturers thrashed her mercilessly, saying, “Sacrifice to the great goddess Artemis!” She remained silent, however, as though it were another’s body which bore the suffering. Since the tormentor accomplished nothing by flogging her, he had her virginal breasts cut off. Seeing milk instead of blood flow forth from her wounds, the people shook their heads and secretly reproached the Emperor for his foolishness and cruelty, saying, “In what has this fair maiden transgressed? Why does she suffer thus? What a pity! Such is the mindlessness of the Emperor and his beastly cruelty that he not only tortures to death the aged but young children as well!” Then a metal gridiron was brought, which was placed on a great fire which had been kindled. When it had been heated red hot, giving forth sparks, the holy martyr Faith was placed upon it. She lay there for two hours, calling out to her Lord, but she was not burnt at all, to the astonishment of everyone present. Then she was cast into a cauldron filled with boiling pitch and oil, but there too she remained unharmed, sitting as though she were in cool water, singing to God. The persecutor, not knowing what else to do with her to weaken her faith in Christ, pronounced upon her the sentence of death by the sword. When Saint Faith heard this, she was filled with joy and said to her mother, “Pray for me, Mother, that I may complete my course and arrive at the end which I desire, to behold my beloved Lord and Savior and be filled with the vision of His divinity.” Then Faith said to her sisters, “You know, my dear sisters, to Whom we have promised ourselves and to Whom we have been betrothed. You know that we have been signed with the holy Cross of our Lord to serve Him to eternity. Therefore, let us endure unto the end. A single mother has borne us and has reared and instructed us, so let us accept a common death since we are sisters and share a single will. May I be an example to you, that you both might follow me to our Bridegroom, Who summons us to Himself.” Having said this, Faith kissed her mother, and embracing her sisters, she kissed them and then submitted herself to the sword. Her mother did not sorrow for her daughter, for her love for God overcame her maternal love and pity for her children. She only feared that one of her daughters might renounce the Lord, so she said to Faith, “My daughter, I bore you and on this account endured suffering. But you will redeem my suffering if you die for Christ’s sake, confessing Him and shedding the blood which you received in my womb. Go to Him, my beloved offspring, stained with your blood, as if clothed in crimson. When you appear most fair before the eyes of your Bridegroom, remember before Him your lowly mother and pray to Him for your sisters, that He strengthen them so that they might have the same patience which you possess.” And so Saint Faith’s honorable head was cut off and she departed to Christ God her Master. Her mother took her much-suffering body, and as she kissed it, she rejoiced and glorified Christ God, Who had received her daughter Faith into the heavenly bridal chamber.
On this same day we commemorate the holy martyr Theodota and the one hundred and fifty-six holy martyrs who perished by fire.From The Great Collection of the Lives of the Saints, Volume 1: September (http://vatopaidi.wordpress.com/2011/09/17/the-passion-of-the-holy-martyrs-faith-hope-and-love-and-their-mother-sophia/)
Saints Faith, Hope and Charity
(Latin: Fides, Spes et Caritas,
Greek: Πίστις, Ἐλπὶς καὶἈγάπη (Pistis, Elpis, and Agape),
Church Slavonic: Вѣра, Надежда, Любовь (Věra, Nadežda, Lyubov),
Bulgarian: Вяра, Надежда и Любов (Vyara, Nadezhda and Lyubov), are a group of Christian martyred saints.
Their mother is said to have been Sophia (Greek for Wisdom); Sapientia (Latin for Wisdom). The names are also the words designating the three key Christian virtues mentioned in Apostle Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 13:13).
In the year 777 their relics were interred at El'zasa, in the church of Esho.
There is a common misconception that the capital city of Bulgaria, Sofia, is named after Saint Sophia the Martyr, and so the city's holiday is on September 17. Sofia is in fact named after its ancient cathedral church of Saint Sophia, consecrated not to the early Christian martyr but to the Divine Wisdom of God (Aghia Sophia in Greek). There are several icons of St. Sophia the Martyr and her daughters in that church, though.
HYMN OF PRAISE (by St. Nikolai Velimirovich)
The Holy Martyrs Vera, Nada and Lyubov, and their Mother, Sophia
Sophia, all-wise, glorified the Lord;
As a sacrifice to Him, she offered three most-beautiful daughters.
To her daughters she said: ``Be not afraid, my daughters;
Strengthen yourselves in Christ; endure in the Faith;
And be not afraid of torture or bitter misfortunes.
Do not grieve over your bodies-it is better in heaven:
God will give you wonderful bodies in heaven.
Do not grieve over your beauty-with divine beauty
You will shine among the angels in the Kingdom of God,
As the daughters of the King of kings!
Do not grieve over life-what is this earthly life worth?
Its span is at most a hundred years.
In heaven, life without end awaits you:
Life without end, life without beginning.
Do not grieve for the company of earthly friends,
For the company of wonderful saints awaits you there.
Nor should the company of worldly kinsmen cause you grief-
For your kin in the heavens are the glorious martyrs.''
Thus the saintly mother instructed her holy daughters,
As, one by one, they flew off to heaven:
Three white doves, innocent and pure,
Flew swiftly to the bosom of Christ.
And with her soul uplifted, their mother flew after them,
And joined her glorious daughters in Paradise;
And our merciful God receives their prayers.
Troparion - Tone 4
The Church celebrates and rejoices in the feast of the three daughters: Faith, Hope, and Love and their Mother Sophia, named for her wisdom: for in them she gave birth to the three godly virtues. Now they eternally behold their bridegroom, God the Word. Let us rejoice spiritually in their memory and cry: O our three Heavenly Protectors, establish, confirm and strengthen us in Faith, Hope and Love.
Troparion - Tone 5
You blossomed in the courts of the Lord as a fruitful olive tree, holy martyr Sophia; in your contest you offered to Christ the sweet fruit of your womb, your daughters Faith, Hope, and Love. Together with them intercede for us all.
Kontakion in the First Tone
Since Faith and Hope and Love were in truth sacred branches of ven'rable Sophia, the namesake of wisdom by grace they have shown all men that Greek wisdom is foolishness, and in contest they proved to be prizewinning victors; wherefore, they received a crown that never shall perish from Christ God, the Lord of all.