March 10 is the feast day of the 40 martyrs. It’s very appropriate to fall within the Lenten season. Their suffering in the frozen pool is a reminder to take on our chosen penances with courage. The number of 40 martyrs also reminds us of the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert. We can take consolation that our Lenten penances are small compared to what the 40 martyrs went through.
In the year A.D. 320 in Sebaste, Armenia, 40 soldiers chose to undergo the following for the sake of their christian faith:
First, they were locked in a frightful dungeon.
They were shackled with chains.
They were beaten with stones.
They were forced to spend a whole, frigid night on a frozen pool to die.
While they were on the frozen pond left to die over the course of the night, the governor’s guards went to them and broke their legs with clubs.
How would we imagine our last words to be? Here was their prayer in dying: “Forty have we entered on the battle. Let us, O Lord, receive forty crowns, and suffer not our number to be broken. The number is an honored one, for thou didst fast for forty days, and the divine law was given to the world after the same number of days was observed. Elias, too, sought God by a forty days’ fast, and was permitted to see him.”
May we take on our Lenten prayers, fasting, and almsgiving with the courage of the 40 martyrs!