Kiahk 14: The Martyrdom of Saints Behnam and Sarah, His Sister. The Departure of Saint Christodoulos. The Martyrdom of Saints Simeon of Menouf, Abba Hor, and Abba Mina the Elder and The Martyrdom of Saint Ammonius, Bishop of Esna (Latopolis).
1. The Martyrdom of Saints Behnam and Sarah, His Sister.
On this day, Saints Behnam and Sarah, his sister, the children of Sennacherib, King of Persia, were martyred. One day Behnam was out with 40 of his slaves hunting in the wilderness. He saw a huge wild beast, so he went after it for a long distance, and he was separated from his slaves. Night fell upon him and he had to sleep in that place. During his sleep he saw someone who told him to go to St. Matthew who dwelt in that mountain and he would pray for his sister so that the Lord would heal her. His sister was afflicted with an incurable disease, she was leprous.
When St. Behnam woke up and was joined by his slaves, they searched for St. Matthew until they found him in a cave. He knelt between his hands, told him about the vision and they asked him to accompany them to the city. Behnam went before him to the city and told his mother about the vision and the presence of St. Matthew out of the city. Because of her love and trust in Behnam she allowed his sister to go with him in secret. When they arrived to where the saint was, he prayed for her and the Lord healed her. St. Matthew preached and taught them the way of life. He prayed also and a spring of water rushed forth and he baptized them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the one God, then he returned to his cave.
When King Sennacherib knew that his daughter was cured, he called her and asked her how she was cured. She told him, "The Lord Jesus Christ granted me the healing at the hands of St. Matthew and not through the stars that you worship." The king became angry and threatened to punish them if they did not change their noble opinion.
During the night, St. Behnam and his sister decided to go together to St. Matthew before their deaths. While on their way secretly to the saint, surrounded by some of their friends, their father became aware of what they were about to do, and he sent his men after them. They found them on their way to the saint and they slew them. St. Behnam, his sister and their companions received the crown of life in the Kingdom of Heaven.
When the men that killed St. Behnam and his sister went back, they found the king possessed by an evil spirit, which tormented him painfully. The queen sent for St. Matthew, begging him to come. When he arrived, he prayed for the king and the Lord healed him immediately. The saint preached to them, and the king and his wife, along with all those in the city, believed. The king built a monastery for St. Matthew and placed the bodies of St. Behnam, and his sister, his children, in it. St. Matthew dwelt in it for a long while. The Lord worked many signs of healing and wonders through the bodies of Sts. Behnam and Sarah, his sister.
Their prayers be with us. Amen.
2. The Departure of Saint Christodoulos.
On this day also was the departure of St. Christodoulos the jeweler. He was from the city of Ayn-Shems. One day a beautiful woman brought him a broken vessel of gold and tried to tempt him. She uncovered her hands and told him, "Make rings for these fingers, bracelets for these arms, a cross for this chest and earrings for these ears." He replied, "Today I am ill and as for tomorrow, may it be the will of God." He closed his shop, went home and started rebuking himself saying, "I am not any stronger than the saints Anthony the Great or Macarius or Pachomius and the others that escaped from this world and lived in the wilderness. O my soul escape from this world if you wish to be saved."
He recounted what happened to him to his mother and he asked her with flowing tears to allow him to go to the wilderness. She said, "If this was the case, as you indicated, take me first to a convent where I can be a nun, and as for you, may the Lord be with you." He took her to one of the convents and entrusted her to the head of the convent. He gave her whatever money she needed, then he gave the rest to the poor and went toward the mountain.
After walking three days, he saw three men, each one with a cross in his hand and a shining light brighter than the sun shining from the crosses. He went to them, was blessed by them and then he asked them to advise him as to what he should do to save himself. They guided him to a valley which had fruitful trees and a spring of fresh water. He remained there for many years in continuous prayers, and readings of the psalms with many long fasts. He ate the fruits of the trees of that valley.
When satan failed to overcome him, he appeared to evil men, in the form of a barbarian, and told them, "There is a great treasure in the valley. A man found it and is living beside it. Come with me, I will show it to you." They followed him to the mountain but they were not able to go down to the valley. The devil went in a monk's attire to St. Christodoulos and told him, "On the top of the mountain, there are some monks who lost their way; they are tired and will die of thirst. Go to them and give them something to eat and drink so that they may survive." The saint made the sign of the cross over his face as was the custom of the monks and immediately the devil turned into smoke and disappeared. In this way, St. Christodoulos was always able to overcome the devil with the sign of the cross.
He increased in his worship and he lived until a good old age. When the day of his departure drew near, the three hermits who guided him to the valley came and prayed together. After they blessed each other they told him, "The Lord sent us to write down your biography for the benefit of others." He told them all that had happened to him. After a short illness he departed in peace. They prayed over him and buried him.
His prayers be with us. Amen.
3. The Martyrdom of Saints Simeon of Menouf, Abba Hor, and Abba Mina the Elder.
Today also was the martyrdom of St. Simeon of Menouf in the days of the Arabs and the commemoration of the martyrdom of Saints Abba Hor and Abba Mina.
Their intercession be with us. Amen.
4. The Martyrdom of Saint Ammonius, Bishop of Esna (Latopolis).
On this day also the great father Abba Ammonius, Bishop of the city of Esna (Latopolis), was martyred. He was extremely well mannered since a young age and his virtues were well known. Anba Peter, Pope of Alexandria, ordained him a bishop over the city of Esna.
Because of his strong desire for a solitary life, he built a monastery at the foot of the mountain beside a spring of water. He prepared a cave for his stay all week and went down to church on Saturday. He served the Holy liturgy on Sunday, met with his people, preached to them and settled their disputes. He spent Monday with them also, then returned to his cave to continue his worship and asceticism.
During his days, many of his people were martyred. When Arianus the Infidel went to upper Egypt, on his way he persecuted Christians. He ordered them to worship idols and those who refused were tortured and slain. He continued doing that until he reached Esna, where he met four young men driving asses loaded with melons. One of the governor's soldiers asked them about their belief. They answered, "We are Christians," so they seized them. When their mother knew what happened, she went in haste to encourage them saying to the soldiers, "We love Jesus Christ and do not worship your despicable idols." The governor ordered that she be cast into prison. In the middle of the night the Virgin, St. Mary, appeared to this mother and told her, "Know that my Son the Savior and the Lord has called you and your blessed sons Sarous, Herman, Banouf and Bistay to the kingdom of heaven." St. Mary bid her peace then ascended to heaven. The next morning the governor summoned them and asked them to worship the idols but they refused courageously. As a result, he ordered that their heads be cut off. That took place on the 6th day of the Coptic month of Bashans. The believers took their bodies and hid them in their homes. Many wonders and signs were manifested through their bodies.
There were also four notable persons who worked as tax collectors in the city of Esna. While they were going over the account of their work with Arianus, one of them mentioned the Name of Christ. Arianus became enraged and ordered that they be tortured. When he saw their endurance, he ordered that their heads be cut off, so they received their martyrdom on the 6th day of the month of Baounah. Many were martyred along with them, women, men and monks.
When Arianus went to Armunt, two women called Thecla and Martha who were from Esna went there in hast and confessed Christ before him. Arianus addressed the people of Armunt around him and said, "Why did you say that there were no Christians in your city?" They investigated and found out that the two women were from Esna. They went to Arianus and told him that they were strangers and that they did not belong to their city which loved the emperors and the gods (idols). Arianus ordered their heads to be cut off, and that was on the 17th day of the month of Abib. As for St. Ammonius, the angel of the Lord appeared to him when he was in the desert and told him, "Hail to you Ammonius, the Lord accepted your prayers on behalf of your people and prepared crowns for you. Arise, go down and preach to them and instruct them to be steadfast in confessing the Lord Christ." The angel bid him peace and departed.
The saint arose and went down immediately to the city. He gathered the people, preached to them and informed them of what the angel had told him. They all cried out saying, "Our father, we are ready to withstand any suffering in the Name of the Lord Christ, even unto death." That took place on the feast of St. Isaac, so he took his people up to the Mount of Katoun, which means the mount of good things, to celebrate the feast there.
Arianus departed from Armunt to a village called Helwan, west of Esna. All its citizens came out and confessed the Name of Christ before him. He ordered them beheaded and they received the crown of martyrdom. Then Arianus entered Esna and wandered in its streets which were empty until he came to the southern gate which is called the gate of thanksgiving, because Anba Armanius had prayed there with his people, the prayers of Thanksgiving. There he found an infirm old woman who was left behind because she could not go up the mountain with them. He asked her about the whereabouts of the people of the city. She replied, "The people heard that the infidel governor was coming to slay the Christians; so they went up to the mountain to celebrate the feast of St. Isaac before they faced martyrdom." He asked her which one of the gods she worshipped. She replied, "I am a Christian," and she was immediately beheaded.
Arianus then went out of the city going towards Mount Katoun, passing on the way through the village of El-Mabgalah where he found a group of people who declared themselves Christians and those he promptly beheaded. He continued through the villages of Harmajahat and Seroya where he executed the Christians.
He executed every Christian he met in his way till he finally reached Mount Katoun where all the people greeted him with one accord shouting, "We are Christians." Arianus threatened them and as this had no effect, he ordered his soldiers to draw their swords and to slay them all. Each one brought forth his daughter or his son to the swordsman saying, "Go forward to the true bridegroom that does not die." They all went to death saying, "We are going to the everlasting joy in the kingdom of heaven." They fulfilled their martyrdom on the 19th day of the Coptic month of Abib.
On their way back to Esna, the soldiers met three men who were crying, "We are Christians." The soldiers told them, "Our swords are dull from much use." So the men told the soldiers, "Here are our axes." The soldiers took their axes and the men put their heads on a stone beside the western gate of the city. The soldiers beheaded them and the men received the crown of martyrdom. As for the bishop, Anba Ammonius, they seized him and brought him before Arianus, and in rage he ordered the saint to be tied behind the horses on their way to the boat which was sailing to Aswan. Then they threw him in the stern of the ship. Arianus brought him out every now and then and asked him to raise the incense before the idols but the saint refused. Finally he ordered his men to burn the saint who received the crown of martyrdom on the 14th day of the Coptic month of Kiahk.
The believers took his body which was untouched and unharmed by the fire. They shrouded it and hid it until the end of the era of persecution. When the people of his diocese came to transfer the body to their city, they heard a voice from the body saying, "This is the place that God chose for me."
The prayers of all these saints be with us and Glory be to our God forever. Amen.