While a certain ruler was preparing for war, he resorted (as was common in those days) to an oracle in order to be informed by the demons whether or not he would be victorious in battle. The demon attending the oracle responded: “I will give you an answer only if you remove from your capital city the relics of Hieromartyr Babylas and the three youths.” The ruler immediately ordered the Christians to move the holy relics of these saints outside the city limits, in order to enable the devil to give him an answer–“yes or no”–concerning the war.
Our Christians (elderly, adults, and children), took the holy relics and proceeded with them outside the city, chanting the following psalms and hymns: “The idols of the nations are of silver and gold, the works of the hands of men…they have eyes but shall not see, they have ears but shall not hear…Let those who make them become like unto them” (Psalm 113:12). When the ruler heard their words, he took exception to this and exclaimed: “They are ridiculing us with their songs!” He immediately sent soldiers to apprehend some of the people.
An eighteen-year-old boy named Theodoros was amongst the faithful who were detained by the soldiers. They hung Theodoros on a post, they stripped off his clothes and began to lacerate his body with steel hand rakes containing razor sharp prongs. As they cut grooves into his flesh, his blood began flowing like a river. For as long as this boy remained alive, hanging from the post, they gouged his entire body and rubbed vinegar and salt into his open wounds. In the end, he resembled a slaughtered animal. From morning till dusk the soldiers took turns, one after another, until he was on the brink of death. When they realized there was no life remaining in him and that he would die, they brought him down off the pole and gave him to his family. The relatives took the boy home and began to give him palliative care. At some point the boy opened his eyes, at which time his parents began asking: “Our son, Theodoros, how were you able to endure this? How did you manage not to complain or cry out?”
“I will tell you. After they hung me on the post and the soldiers began to slash my body with those sharp steel rakes, I started to feel excruciating pain that pierced my very heart. At that moment I thought to myself, ‘Wretched Theodoros, patiently endure this pain so you can avoid the eternal pain of Hell.’ As I focused on this notion of Hell, I decided with determination, ‘I will be patient.’ As soon as I made this decision, I saw three beautiful young men approaching. One was holding a basin filled with heavenly myrrh. The other was holding small towels in his hands. When they came and stood next to me, the third one would take one of the cloths, dip it in the fragrant liquid and cover my face with it. Due to the fragrance of this holy myrrh, I no longer felt and pain or suffering. I was living in a celestial state and felt such blissfulness that it would have been better if they never took me down from the wooden pole. As soon as they took me down, the angels departed. I would have been glad if they continued gashing me for years.”
Here we see how God intervenes in a supernatural way during martyrdom. God is He who initiates martyrdom and Who also takes it to completion. If a divine fire does not set ablaze the heart and soul of a confessor, it is humanly impossible for a person to confess Christ and to endure martyrdom courageously and triumphantly. This is why when our thoughts tell us, “How will you endure martyrdom? You can’t even endure the slightest discomfort,” we must firmly believe that if God decides for us to suffer martyrdom, Christ Himself will come to help us. He will send up the Holy Spirit, He will send the heavenly fire to set us ablaze and give us the strength to suffer martyrdom.
The unfolding world events and the prophecies of our Church indicate that the difficult days are approaching. It’s possible that we are presently on the outer perimeter and, in following, we will start spiraling toward inner circles until we reach the center. What we must be concerned with in essence is “the one thing needful.” We should prepare ourselves spiritually each day, we should prepare our soul, we should purify ourselves from every sin, we should repent for the sins we have committed or for whatever we will do henceforth, so that we are found well prepared for the end of our life. We do not know if, even in our days, we will find ourselves before martyrdom.
Parents must diligently teach the faith to their children. They should implant and transmit their own Orthodox faith to their little ones. They should expand on the topic of God, so their children can believe in Him–because children today are shaken by the spirit of atheism, which is prevalent everywhere. If our children do not possess strong faith in their soul, how will they be able to confront the Antichrist in the future? How will they confront the numerous existing antichrists, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and all the other awful heresies if they do not possess the pure faith in Christ? Of course, it would be very beneficial if certain talks took place at some point in the future to discuss topics such as faith in God, and proof of God’s existence, so that the children acquire a strong foundation–because without a foundation, every house crumbles. They must acquire a secure and unshakable foundation of faith within themselves, so that, later, they can be in a position to enter the contest and confess the Divinity of our Christ.
We all must make an effort to help the children, because I discern that, despite their characteristic good nature and simplicity, they are weak in matters of the faith. This is because they did not find what we found growing up in our homeland. Here they found deficient spiritual nourishment and consequently it is quite natural for them to be weak. It is essential that we strengthen and vitalize them in the faith. This lesson, of course, will take place sometime in the future; may God help us to do this because it will be of great benefit to the children.
As you are aware, our small mission has come to an end and we are preparing to depart. I ask that you pray for us, so we can meet again next year, console each other, and help as much as possible. We, on our end, pray for you a great deal. We ask that you pray for us in the same way, so that we have the health and strength to continue coming and providing minimal aid.