Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Menaion:December 13/26 - The "Five Companions"

On December 13, (Dec 26 on the civil calendar) we celebrate the memory of the "Five Companions", MARTYRS EUSTRATIOS, AUXENTIOS, EUGENE, MARDARIUS AND ORESTES (+ C. 284-305).

Their story is included below, as well as some useful links.

Our prayers in the church come from many sources, all of which, of course, feed from the same ultimate source - The Holy Spirit. Today, let us consider the Prayer at the end of the First Hour. It was said by St Mardarius just before he died, and was recorded by an eye witness, and made its way into our daily prayers.

O Master God, the Father Almighty,
O Lord, the Only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ,

and O Holy Spirit, one Godhead, one Power:
Have mercy on me a sinner,
and by the judgments which Thou knowest,
save me, Thine unworthy servant;
for blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Having this prayer "in context" should make it infinitely more meaningful for us. Here is a prayer of complete submission to, and hope in God: the last words of a man! The entire angelic host must have been awed at the spectacle! Here was a man, bloodied and about to breathe his last, ending his heroic struggle, and yet his prayer was one filled with humility and hope in in the Triune God!

We believe that the martyrs are especially beloved by God, and pass from this life to the next without fear or travail, and yet, Mardarius, filled with the power of God, and certainly, also the confidence that God gives to his humble strugglers, chose to make his last words on earth those of a simple, humble man, aware of his own great sins, and God's perfect beneficence.

We should wonder, what would our words be in such a case? Would we remain calm, humble, assured of God's perfect plan for us, or would we be in terrible fear and pain, or even worse, feel some sense of entitlement because of our struggles?

The holy Martyr Mardarius offers us a perfect way to pray, and to live, and to die.

Please consider adding this prayer to your daily rule.

All of us are dying; let us die like the great Mardarius, ever with the knowledge of our own sinfulness, with complete submisison to God's perfect love for us.

Holy Mardarius! We have endured none of thy struggles, and yet we possess none of thy humility, we the great sinners, who do not remember our sinfulness. Thou didst offer thy blood to God; we offer nothing except our heedlessness. Teach us to pray as thou didst pray, so that we may die as thou didst die, with humilty and greatness of soul.

The Holy Martyrs Eustratios, Auxentius, Eugene (Eugenios), Mardarias and Orestes suffered for Christ under the emperor Diocletian (284-305) at Sebasteia, in Armenia. Among those first Christians then undergoing torture then was the presbyter of the Arabian Church, the Martyr Auxentios, locked up in prison. Looking on at the steadfastness of the Christians was the nobleborn military-commander Saint Eustratios, city-governor of the city of Sataleon. He was secretly a Christian, and he decided on an open confession of faith, for which he was subjected to torture: they beat him, put iron sandals on his feet, and burnt at him with fire. And after these cruel torments they burned him, and beheaded the Martyr Auxentios. Witnessing their death by martyrdom, one of the common people, Saint Mardarias, likewise confessed his faith and was suspended upside down. Before death he uttered the prayer: "O Master Lord God, Father Almighty...", which is read at the end of the 3rd Hour and at the All-Night Vigil. For the Martyr Eugene (Eugenios) they cut out his tongue, they cut off his hands and feet and then they cut off his head with a sword. The young soldier Saint Orestes confessed himself a Christian and for this stood trial. He was sentenced to burning upon a red-hot iron bed, whither he went encouraged by the prayer of Saint Eustratios ("Greatly I do exalt Thee, O Lord...") which is read at the Saturday All-Night Vigil. The Martyr Eustratios died on 13 December.

From the "Menologion" program.


Hours and Typika

The Five Companions:
A very long account of the struggle of the saints
A shorter account
You may get an icon of the saints here.

Troparion (In Slavonic)

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