Presvytera Vassi Makris Haros is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Art, Architecture & Planning and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. She is the owner, designer and photographer of V’s Cardbox, In Service and Love. a greeting card company featuring cards with an Orthodox voice. She strongly feels that experiencing the Orthodox Faith through the church’s cyclical calendar of feasts and fasts is a gift that is too often overlooked.
If we watch the news online, we will find video clips and articles of Christians being targeted, humiliated and executed by the Muslim fanatics. In America, we call this a “hate crime.” But in the Middle East and Europe, it’s only history repeating itself. Look at Greece, Cyprus, Albania, Russia, Rome, Lebanon, and Egypt… Christians have been targeted by Muslims, Pagans, and Communists and entered the ranks of the martyrs each time. The Orthodox Church reminds us of how the saints have overcome these moments in history.
Growing up in a Greek Orthodox parish, I know the parish Greek Schools offer poems and programs remembering March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation and Greece’s Independence Day. But along with the poems of nationalistic pride and courage, we also have the lives of the saints. I used to hear the stories of the saints as a kid. I never doubted the stories. I also never imagined that they would be ringing true in the 21st Century.
They began like a fairy tale but ended tragically; where a beautiful girl caught the eye of a pagan leader. He desired her and captured her. She rejected him and his gods, which only led to her torture and eventual martyrdom. Here are a few stories of saints we are remembering in September and October that are starting to sound too familiar.
On October 5, we remember the Holy Martyr Charitina who suffered the most terrible tortures, including the uprooting of her teeth and nails, before she gave up her soul into the hands of the Lord during 304 AD.
On September 25, we remember the Holy Martyr Paphnutios, from Egypt (284-305), who refused to deny Christ and was thrown in prison and tortured. He survived being thrown into a river with a stone about his neck but was eventually crucified on a date tree.
Then there are the stories of the children who were tortured before their mother, to see if they could break the mother’s courage. Sts. Faith, Hope, and Love ages 12, 10, and 9 became martyrs in the year 126. They were tortured, but their faith was not broken, so they were beheaded. They are remembered September 17.
We have to teach our children the stories of the martyred saints, if not for any other reason, to give them courage because times aren’t changing: they are repeating. Your children will probably not be among the martyrs, but they should know that the martyrs are still suffering here on this earth, and to pray for the Christians who are among the tormented.