St. Sophia and Her Three Daughters
Commemorated on September 17
The Holy Martyrs Saint Sophia and her Daughters Faith, Hope and Love were born in Italy. Sophia was a pious Christian widow who named her daughters for the three Christian virtues. At the time of their martyrdom, Faith was twelve, Hope was ten, and Love was nine. St. Sophia raised them in the love of the Lord Jesus Christ, and they did not hide their faith, openly confessing it before everyone.
An official named Antiochus denounced them to Emperor Hadrian who ordered that they be brought to Rome. The holy virgins prayed fervently to the Lord asking that He give them the strength not to fear torture and death. When they appeared before the emperor, all those present were amazed at their composure. They looked as though they had been brought to some happy festival, rather than to torture. Summoning each of the sisters in turn, Hadrian urged them to offer sacrifice to the goddess Artemis, but the girls remained unyielding.
The emperor then ordered them to be tortured. They were burned over an iron grating, thrown into a red-hot oven, and finally into a cauldron with boiling tar, but the Lord preserved them. The youngest child, Love, was tied to a wheel and beat with rods until her body was covered with bloody welts. After undergoing unspeakable torments, the holy virgins glorified their Heavenly Bridegroom and remained steadfast in the Faith.
St. Sophia was subjected to another type of grievous torture: she was forced to watch the suffering of her daughters. She displayed adamant courage, and urged her daughters to endure their torments for the sake of the Heavenly Bridegroom. All three maidens were beheaded, and joyfully bent their necks beneath the sword.
In order to intensify St. Sophia’s suffering, the emperor permitted her to take the bodies of her daughters for burial. She placed their remains in coffins and loaded them on a wagon. She drove beyond the city and reverently buried them on a high hill. Sitting by their graves for three days, she gave up her soul to the Lord. Even though she did not suffer for Christ in the flesh, she was not deprived of a martyr’s crown. Instead, she suffered in her heart. Believers buried her body there beside her daughters. Their relics have rested at El’zasa, in the Church of Esho, since the year 777.
Troparion (Tone 5) –
You blossomed in the courts of the Lord
as a fruitful olive tree, holy martyr Sophia;
in your contest you offered to Christ the sweet fruit of your womb,
your daughters Faith, Hope, and Love.
Together with them intercede for us all.
Kontakion (Tone 1) –
The holy branches of noble Sophia,
Faith, Hope, and Love,
confounded Greek sophistry through Grace.
They struggled and won the victory
and have been granted an incorruptible crown by Christ the Master of all.
By permission of Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)