St. Sabina of Smyrna, along with Sts. Pionius and Limnus
Commemorated on March 11
St. Sabina was executed along with the hieromartyrs Pionius and Limnus, and the Holy Martyrs Macedonia and Asclepiades, during the persecution of Christians in the reign of Emperor Decius in the third century. They suffered at Smyrna, a mercantile city on the eastern shores of the Aegean Sea. The Church in Smyrna was founded by the holy Apostle John the Theologian, and was made glorious by its martyrs and confessors.
St. Pionius knew that he and his companions would be arrested on February 23, the anniversary of St. Polycarp’s martyrdom, and a feast day for the Christians of Smyrna. The day before they were arrested, St. Pionius entertained Asclepiades and Sabina in his house. Taking three feet of chains, St. Pionius placed them around his neck, and around the necks of the other two. He did this to show that they would all be led off to prison rather than eat food that had been sacrificed to the idols.
The holy confessors were indeed arrested on February 23. After a brief interrogation, they were dragged off by the governor, Polemon, in order to sacrifice to the idols and eat forbidden foods. They were brought to the forum, where a great crowd had gathered. St. Pionius addressed the people, chiding them for laughing and rejoicing at those Christians who had agreed to offer sacrifice. He quoted Homer to the pagans (Odyssey 22, 412) and said that it was shameful to gloat over those who were about to die. He reminded the Jews in the audience of the words of Solomon: “If your enemy falls, do not rejoice over him, and do not be glad when he stumbles” (Proverbs 24:17).
Polemon attempted to persuade Pionius to obey the law and offer sacrifice to the idols. “If only I could persuade you to become Christians,” he replied. The soldiers laughed at him, saying that St. Pionius did not have the power to do that, because they knew they would be burned alive if they converted. St. Pionius said, “It is far worse to burn after death.”
St. Sabina laughed when she heard this. Polemon threatened to put her in a brothel, but she said she believed that God would protect her.
Under questioning, St. Pionius stated repeatedly that he was a Christian, and could not sacrifice to the emperor or the idols. Before Polemon came to Sabina to question her, St. Pionus told her to say that her name was Theodote. This he did so that she would not be returned to her former mistress Politta, an immoral woman. In an effort to turn her from Christ, Politta had bound St. Sabina and cast her out on the mountains. She was secretly helped by other Christians, and hid in St. Pionus’s house. That is how she came to be arrested.
During questioning, Sts. Sabina and Asclepiades said they were Christians who worshiped Jesus Christ. They were subsequently thrown into jail.
In prison, St. Pionius and his companions met Limnus, a priest of the Church of Smyrna, and his wife, Macedonia, from the village of Karine. They had also been imprisoned for confessing Christ.
Many believers visited the holy confessors in prison, offering them whatever they could, but the saints did not accept their gifts. The jailers became angry, because they used to keep a portion of the gifts given to the prisoners for themselves.
The holy martyrs were brought to the marketplace, and were urged to offer sacrifice to the idols. When they refused, they were returned to prison. On the way, they were beaten and mocked by the crowd. Someone said to St. Sabina, “Why couldn’t you have died in your own city?” St. Sabina replied, “What is my native city?”
Terentius, who was in charge of the gladiatorial games, said to Asclepiades, “After you are condemned, I shall ask that you compete in the games given by my son.” “That does not scare me,” he said. After many torments, the holy martyr was brought to the amphitheatre on March 11, 250. Since he still refused to offer sacrifice to the idols, St. Pionius was sentenced to be burned alive. He was nailed to a cross, then they stacked wood around him and lit the fire. When the fire subsided, everyone saw the body of the saint was unharmed. Not even the hairs of his head had been singed. His face was radiant, and shone with divine grace. After his victory in the contest, St. Pionius received an incorruptible crown of glory from the Savior Christ.
The Life of St. Pionius does not mention how St. Sabina died.
By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)