THE HOLY SEVEN MACCABEE CHILDREN, SOLOMONE THEIR MOTHER, AND ELEAZAR THEIR TEACHER
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
The Holy Seven Maccabee Children, Solomone Their Mother, and Eleazar Their Teacher, Procession of the Precious Cross, Timothy the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Priconissus, Elesa the Righteous-Martyr of Kythira
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE HEBREWS 11:33-40; 12:1-2
Brethren, all the saints through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were killed with the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, ill-treated – of whom the world was not worthy – wandering over deserts and mountains and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
The Lord said to his disciples, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.”
The origin of this Feast is explained in the Greek Horologion of 1897: “Because of the illnesses which occur during the month of August, it was customary at Constantinople to carry the Precious Wood of the Cross in procession throughout the city for its sanctification, and to deliver it from sickness.”
On the eve (July 31), the Cross was removed from the imperial treasury and placed it upon the Holy Table of the Great Church of Hagia Sophia (which is dedicated to Christ, the Wisdom of God). From August 1 until the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, there was a procession throughout the entire the city, and then the Cross was placed where all the people could venerate it.
In the Russian Church this Feast is combined with the remembrance of the Baptism of Rus on August 1, 988. In the “The order of services for the holy, catholic, and apostolic Great Church of the Dormition,” which was compiled in 1627 by order of Patriarch Philaret of Moscow and All Rus, there is a similar explanation of the Feast: "On the day of the Procession of the Precious Cross there is a Cross Procession with the Sanctification of Water, for the enlightenment of the people, in all the towns and places."
Knowledge of the day of the actual Baptism of Rus is preserved in the Chronicles of the XVI century: “The Baptism of the Great Prince Vladimir of Kiev and of all Rus took place on August 1.”
In the current practice of the Russian Church, the service of the Lesser Sanctification of Water on August 1 takes place either before or after Liturgy. Because of the Blessing of Water, this first Feast of the Savior in August is sometimes called “the Savior of the Water.” Along with the Blessing of Water, there may also be a Blessing of Honey (thus it is also called “the Savior of the Honey),” because on this day, the newly-gathered honey is blessed and tasted.
The seven holy Maccabee martyrs Abim, Antonius, Gurias, Eleazar, Eusebonus, Alimus and Marcellus, their mother Solomonia and their teacher Eleazar suffered in the year 166 before Christ under the impious Syrian king Antiochus IV Epiphanes. This foolish ruler loved pagan and Hellenistic customs, and held Jewish customs in contempt. He did everything possible to turn people from the Law of Moses and from their covenant with God. He desecrated the Temple of the Lord, placed a statue of the pagan god Zeus there, and forced the Jews to worship it. Many people abandoned the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but there were also those who continued to believe that the Savior would come.
A ninety-year-old elder, the scribe and teacher Eleazar, was brought to trial for his faithfulness to the Mosaic Law. He suffered tortures and died at Jerusalem.
The disciples of Saint Eleazar, the seven Maccabee brothers and their mother Solomonia, also displayed great courage. They were brought to trial in Antioch by King Antiochus Epiphanes. They fearlessly acknowledged themselves as followers of the True God, and refused to eat pig’s flesh, which was forbidden by the Law.
The eldest brother acted as spokesmen for the rest, saying that they preferred to die rather than break the Law. He was subjected to fierce tortures in sight of his brothers and their mother. His tongue was cut out, he was scalped, and his hands and feet were cut off. Then a cauldron and a large frying pan were heated, and the first brother was thrown into the frying pan, and he died.
The next five brothers were tortured one after the other. The seventh and youngest brother was the last one left alive. Antiochus suggested to Saint Solomonia to persuade the boy to obey him, so that her last son at least would be spared. Instead, the brave mother told him to imitate the courage of his brothers.
The child upbraided the king and was tortured even more cruelly than his brothers had been. After all her seven children had died, Saint Solomonia, stood over their bodies, raised up her hands in prayer to God and died.
The martyric death of the Maccabee brothers inspired Judas Maccabeus, and he led a revolt against Antiochus Epiphanes. With God’s help, he gained the victory, and then purified the Temple at Jerusalem. He also threw down the altars which the pagans had set up in the streets. All these events are related in the Second Book of Maccabees (Ch. 8-10).
Various Fathers of the Church preached sermons on the seven Maccabees, including Saint Cyprian of Carthage, Saint Ambrose of Milan, Saint Gregory Nazianzus and Saint John Chrysostom.
Saint Solomonia was the mother of the seven Maccabee brothers. She encouraged her sons to remain faithful to the Law of God even when threatened with death.
This admirable mother is honored and remembered for her great courage, for she watched all seven of her sons die in a single day. May we also be faithful to God’s commandments and the traditions of the Church.
Saint Eleazar lived in the second century before Christ, and was a scribe. At the age of ninety he voluntarily endured torture and death rather than violate the Law of God by eating swine’s flesh. By suffering death for the Law of Moses, he left young men, and the whole nation, an example of virtue and courage.
The story of Eleazar is found in II Maccabees, chapter 6.
During the reign of Diocletian (284-305) nine holy Martyrs, Leontios, Attos, Alexander, Kindeos, Mnesitheos, Kyriakos, Mineon and Eukles were put to death at Perge in Pamphilia. Eight of them were farmers by profession, but Mineon was a carpenter. They were Christians from their early childhood, and they remained so after reaching adulthood.
One evening, they all decided to suffer martyrdom for Christ, so they went to the pagan temple of Artemis and destroyed all the idols. After this they were arrested by the pagans, who questioned them and then tortured them. First they burned their sides, and then they scraped their flesh with iron claws. Finally, they took torches and stabbed them in the eyes. Then they were thrown into prison without any food or water. After a while, they were taken out and thrown into a cage of wild beasts in order to be devoured by them. Although the animals had not been fed, they sat calmly and did not approach the Saints. Those who saw this miraculous event were astonished and shouted: "Great is the God of the Christians."
Then a miracle occurred. Immediately, there was the sound of thunder, lightning flashed, and rain began to fall. At the same time a voice was heard, inviting the Saints to heaven. As soon as the Saints heard this voice, they rejoiced. After this, the tyrant became so angry that he ordered soldiers to behead them. In this manner the suffering of the nine Saints came to an end, and they entered into the eternal Kingdom.
The "Foreteller"1 Icon of the Mother of God is located in the katholikon (cathedral church) of Konstamonitou Monastery on Mount Athos, and it became famous in the following way.
On August 1, 1020, the eve of the monastery’s Feast Day (The Transfer of the Relics of the Protomartyr Stephen from Jerusalem to Constantinople), the Ecclesiarch Father Agathon, (Zacharias in the Schema) was overcome with great sorrow. The Monastery’s Altar Feast was approaching, and its supplies were so depleted that there was not enough oil to light the church lamps for the solemn celebration.
That night, Father Agathon prayed before the Icon of the Mother of God with fervent tears. So earnestly did he beg her to help the monastery that he became exhausted. Sitting down before the Icon, he fell asleep at once. In a dream he heard a voice coming from the holy Icon telling him not to grieve, because the church vessels were now filled with oil, and the pantries contained everything that was necessary for the monastery's continued existence.
When Father Agathon awoke, he wondered if what he had been told in his dream was true. Hastening to the vessel where the oil was stored, he was overjoyed when he saw that it was filled to the brim. At once, he reported his vision to Igoumen Hilarion, the Superior of Konstamonitou Monastery, and to all the brethren.
Everyone went to inspect the pantries and discovered that all the necessary supplies were there in abundance. They rejoiced because now, unexpectedly, they could light the church lamps for the service. Led by Igoumen Hilarion, they served the Vigil and sang praises to the Queen of Heaven for the miracle she had performed.
After this event, the wonderworking Icon of the Mother of God, before which Father Agathon had prayed, was known as the "Foreteller." Now she is placed in the Monastery's katholikon, on the wall, on the right hand side. Ever since this miracle took place, an "unsleeping" oil lamp remains lit before the Icon.
In his most informative book Bogomater (an account of the earthly life of the Mother of God, and of her wonderworking Icons), Eugene Poselyanin (+ February 13, 1931) states that there are two other Icons of the Theotokos on the Holy Mountain which are also called "Foreteller" – the "Paramythia," or "Consolation" Icon of Vatopaidi Monastery (January 21), and the Zographou Icon "Of the Akathist" (October 10).
1 In Greek: Παναγία η Αντιφωνήτρια. In Russian: Предвозвестительница