Feast of the Martyrs of Edessa (August 21)   Leave a comment

Above:  Roman Macedonia, 330

Image in the Public Domain

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SAINT BASSA OF EDESSA

Also known as Saint Vassa of Edessa

mother of

SAINT AGAPIUS OF EDESSA

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SAINT FIDELIS OF EDESSA

Also known as Saint Pistus of Edessa

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SAINT THEOGONIUS OF EDESSA

Also known as Saint Theognis of Edessa

Martyrs at Edessa, Macedonia, Circa 304

Most Roman persecution of Christians was local and on-and-off.  Some emperors launched empire-wide persecutions, however.  Christianity was, from a certain point of view, an existential threat to the well-being of the Roman Empire.  A common assumption held that, as long as enough people followed the gods, the gods would bless the empire, and it would be strong and prosperous.  There was allegedly a quid pro quo.  Thus making sacrifices to the gods on behalf of the empire was a patriotic duty, according to the imperial government.  Jews were exempt, but they had to pay a special tax instead.

The Emperor Diocletian (reigned 284-305), presiding over a shaky empire beset by internal woes and external invasions, launched the Great Persecution in 303.  He sought to eradicate Christianity.  In 303 and 304 he issued a series of edicts forbidding gatherings for worship, ordering the destruction of churches and sacred books, requiring all Christian clergy to sacrifice to the gods, and mandating that all Christians sacrifice to the gods.

In Edessa, Macedonia, lived a particular family:  a pagan priest and his Christian wife and three sons.  The priest turned his family into the local authorities.  St. Bassa/Vassa prayed and encouraged her three sons to remain true to their faith as they refused to sacrifice to the gods and went to their deaths.  Then she suffered the same fate.

Christianity proved to have more durability than Diocletian had imagined.  Many Christians died, but the faith outlasted the Roman Empire.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 25, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM OF VERCELLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT; AND SAINT JOHN OF MATERA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINGO HENARES DE ZAFIRA CUBERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PHUNHAY, VIETNAM, AND MARTYR; SAINT PHANXICÔ DO VAN CHIEU, VIETNAMESE ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, AND MARTYR; AND SAINT CLEMENTE IGNACIO DELGADO CEBRIÁN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR IN VIETNAM

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Almighty God, who gave to your servants the Martyrs of Edessa

boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of the world,

and courage to die for this faith:

Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us,

and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

2 Esdras 2:42-48

Psalm 126 or 121

1 Peter 3:14-18, 22

Matthew 10:16-22

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 713

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