On March 9, the Maronite Church remembers the 40 Roman soldiers of Capadokia who chose to seek high honour in heaven instead of within the army rank.
In the year 313 Constantine the Great, issued an edict which granted Christians religious freedom, making them equal under the law with paganism. However, his co-ruler Licinius, a pagan wanted to stamp out Christianity. He prepared his army to fight Constantine. He removed Christians from his army or had them renounce their faith and worship pagan gods, as he feared mutiny within the army.
The 40 soldiers refused to denounce their Christian faith and worship the pagan gods. They proclaimed that they were Christians after which the governor ordered them to sacrifice to the pagan gods. He promised them promotions in the army if they cooperated and threatened of stripping them of their Roman Army badges, if they did not. They declined his offer and were thrown in prison. The governor continued to persuade them and failed. The soldiers were tortured and during the winter they were lined up and thrown into an icy lake. A guard ensured they remained in the water until they renounced their Christian faith. The icy waters became so unbearable that one of the soldiers ran out and sought the warm bath house. This saddened the remaining 39, however they continued to encourage one another and continued praying. A soldier who was present, was moved by the 39 remaining soldiers and their endurance of suffering for their faith and he proclaimed that he was Christian and joined the soldiers, completing them as 40 once again.
May we remember all the martyrs of the Christian church, their suffering gained them high honour in heaven. May we seek to preserve the Christian faith and encourage our families through our prayer and our actions. May others see the zeal we have for our faith and also seek this zeal for themselves. Amen
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