"When you lose this temporary life, giving up your souls for the Lord, He will reward you with endless life, in which He will glorify you forever before His heavenly Father and before His holy angels; all heavenly powers will then call you confessors of Christ and His brides''. (Saint Dimitry of Rostov)
The holy martyrs, Faith, Hope, Love and their mother Sophia, are revered throughout the world. They lived in Rome in the 2nd century. When Sophia was left a widow, she devoted her life to raising her three daughters, naming them Faith, Hope and Love (the most important virtues in Christianity) and teaching them, above all things, to love God.
Learning of this family, the Emperor Hadrian ordered that they be brought to Rome and put on trial. The young mother and her daughters appeared before the ruler and openly confessed their faith in Christ the Savior.
Hand-painted Icon of Holy Martyrs St Sophia and her daughters Faith, Hope And Love*
After a long torture, the three holy virgins were beheaded. Saint Sophia adamantly withstood the spiritual torments, witnessing the sufferings of her children and helping them endure their cruel tortures in the name of the Lord. She buried her girls and did not leave their graves for three days, after which she reposed in the Lord.
Although St Sophia herself was not exposed to torture, she suffered greatly as a mother, forced to witness the torment of her own daughters. St Sophia became an example of a strong spirit and firm faith, raising her daughters in the same way.
To remain faithful to God in spite of all life's trials is the most important for every Christian, while bestowing this knowledge on future generations is of primary importance for every parent.
Despite the suffering of her maternal heart, St Sophia rejoiced as her young daughters firmly and confidently walked to their Heavenly Bridegroom. Sophia, translated from Greek, means "wisdom". The deeds of the young martyrs’ holy mother match the meaning of her name. Sophia found the courage and strength to support her daughters in their trial and prepare them for eternal life.
“My beloved daughters, now is the time of your heroic deed. The day has come for you to espouse yourself to your immortal Bridegroom and comply with the meaning of your names, showing firm faith, undoubted hope and eternal love. The hour of your triumph has come, and you are about to be honored with a martyr's crown, betrothing you to Christ, Whose blessed dwellings you will enter with great joy. Seeing your valiant patience and firm, even to death, confession of His Holy Name will be my triumph, joy, honor and glory among all believers, if I deserve to be called the mother of the martyrs. Then my soul and my spirit will rejoice and my old age will be strengthened. You will truly be my daughters, if, after listening to the instructions of your mother, you stand for your Lord to the last drop of blood and die for Him with zeal.”
These are the words that St Sophia said to her daughters before they were executed. In the face of their death for the Lord Jesus Christ, she set for them an example of unshakable faith. The holy martyrs Faith, Hope and Love showed obedience to their mother and joyfully accepted all the sufferings, singing hymns and glorifying the Lord.
These events took place in 137 AD and seem distant, or even unreal to us. Is anything like this possible nowadays? Would contemporary mothers be able to unhesitatingly witness their children being tortured and executed for the name of the Lord and rejoice at their martyrdom? Would modern children, or even adults, be able to show true faith, hope and love?
Our life is impossible without faith, hope and love. These qualities are inextricably linked.
St Paul writes (Heb. 11: 6), “And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him". It means that we cannot enter into any relationship with God (i. e. we cannot hope in Him, love Him, pray to Him, etc.) if we, before anything else, do not believe in Him. Faith, according to the apostle, is "the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen" as if these things were visible in the present life ( Heb. 11:1). Faith is the beginning of everything.
Christian hope is very closely connected with Christian faith. While faith can be described as the certainty that there is a Creator by Whose providence the redemption of the human race was accomplished by Jesus Christ, hope is the certainty that the goal of creation and redemption of man will be achieved. A hoping heart reaches perfect comfort in God, knowing that He constantly cares about our salvation and will not deprive us of His grace-filled help in achieving it, fulfilling all His promises both in our temporary and eternal life.
Let us turn once again to the words of St Paul the Apostle (1 Cor: 13:13), “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love." True Christian love is the highest virtue and the source of all virtues. For Christians, love for God and neighbor is the end result in achieving the goal of the commandments, as well as the content and meaning of life.
But what about Sophia's name? Just as it was impossible for the three martyrs to live without their loving mother, so faith, hope and love are impossible to exist without wisdom.
Without a wise approach, faith turns into fanaticism, hope turns into carelessness, and love without wisdom blinds a person, making him a jealous tyrant.
By their strong faith, hope for salvation and love for God, Vera, Nadezhda, Lyubov and their mother set us an example of a truly Christian life. Let us turn to them with prayers so that the Lord will strengthen us and help us acquire these virtues.
The Church celebrates and rejoices / in the feast of the three daughters: Faith, Hope, and Love / and their Mother Sophia, named for her wisdom: / For in them she gave birth to the three godly virtues. / Now they eternally behold their bridegroom, God the Word. / Let us rejoice spiritually in their memory and cry: / O our three Heavenly Protectors, / establish, confirm and strengthen us / in Faith, Hope and Love.
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