September 2016 Letter
With the beginning of September we get close to the new Coptic year 1733 AM. Because the Coptic year is called the year of the martyrs, let’s learn from H.G. Bishop Pachomius’ article entitled: “Virtues in the lives of our fathers the martyrs”:
“Every time we remember our fathers the martyrs, we remember their virtues to follow their footsteps and take an example from their lives that was beautified by many virtues that we can learn from them:
- The first virtue in the life of the martyrs is perseverance: they were stable in their love to God, despite all the pressures they faced; physical pressure by torturing, and emotional pressures by leaving the family (parents, children, husbands or wives) and psychological pressures (insulting, scandeling, humiliation and losing their properties). But if they were not steadfast in the love of the Lord as per His commandment: “Abide in my love” (John 15: 9), they would have already given up their faith in front of these pressures. They have learned to affirm in the Lord in times of joy as in the sorrow, in childhood and youth, for their steadfastness in the Lord was not connected to the circumstances. So being their children we learn to be steadfast in our love to God through the divine mysteries; the means of grace, in order to be ready always to declare our true love to the Lord all the time.
- Their lives were also characterized by honesty and lack of rebellion: the martyrs were honest even towards their persecutors. Christians did not betray a master or king or a persecutor, but they were in complete subordination to the authority, according to the commandment as long as it does not affect their faith. The Theban Legion, led by Saint Maurice, which consisted of 6666 soldiers and were all armed to the war, did not think one day to rebel against the king, rise up in his face, use worldly means or their weapons to escape from death, but in honesty they submitted to the King.
- Also their lives were characterized by chastity: They held on to chastity in the arena of martyrdom because they were fully aware that the abandonment of chastity is the most thing that separates them from the God who they loved. The governors knew this fact so well as they often exercised pressure on our fathers the martyrs to lose their chastity, but our fathers clung to chastity up to death. Therefore St. George refused strongly to fall in defilement despite pressure exerted on him in his imprisonment.
- The life of our fathers the martyrs was characterized also by joy: they faced difficult times and persecution with joy without grumbling. Prisons were rooms in which deep prayers were raised and, comforted by joy and condolences. By this joy they were able to offer their children on the altars of martyrdom without sadness: as mother Dolaji and St. Rebecca. This joy was the reason why many from the audiences accepted Christian faith when they saw them accept death joyfully!! It was a joy because of the certainty that they are leaving a perishing world in order to win an everlasting world, and their belief that if they suffer for the Lord they shall be glorified with Him in heaven”.
May the blessing of St. Mary, St. Mercurius and all the martyrs be with us all. Amen.
Belleville, September 1, 2016