30 September 2020 (MIA)
Macedonian Orthodox Church Calendar
Saints Faith, Hope and Charity and their Mother Sophia
The story of a second-century Roman mother who sacrificed herself and her three children in the name of Jesus Christ is not the often repeated family tale, principally because it is anything but a bedtime story, which for sheer horror is unsurpassed even in the imaginations of today’s writers of grisly screen scenarios. It would be far better to tell of the family delights and Christian fidelity and to mention in passing that they were put to death for their faith, but the stark truth has to be faced to underscore the depth of belief in the Saviour. The spiritual attainment of this alone is positive proof that Christianity transcends every aspect of human life to focus on the eternity of the soul. The mother of this rare family bore the classical Greek name of Sophia, her three daughters bear the familiar Anglicised names of Faith (Pisti), Hope (Elpitha), and Charity (Agapi). This quartet of frail females stood up to the brutal might of Rome at a time when a mere whisper of dissent could mean death to a Roman citizen, Christian or pagan. Sophia was a widow under whose loving care her three daughters acquired a poise and Christian virtue looked upon with respect by the village which they left for the more rewarding city life of Rome, the Eternal City. The agonised Sophia was torn between the love for her children and the love for Jesus Christ. She turned to the court to plead that her children be released, and they could inflict their tortures upon her. In a chorus of small voices that would have melted the hardest of hearts, the youngsters cried out to their mother that they would rather join her in death to be reunited in the Kingdom of God than to remain behind without her. Sophia’s glance at the magistrate told her the next move was his. Incredibly the magistrate was unmoved and ordered the first of the girls, Faith, to be put to torture before the eyes of her mother. When this failed to bring the mother to please for mercy but instead the praises of the Lord, Faith was put to the sword. Hope followed her sister in death, as did her sister Charity, three innocents whose horrified mother was dragged to the side of their bodies, over which she continued to pray as she herself also died for the Lord. The commemoration of these sweet saints on September 17th has an added solemnity when their complete story is unfolded.
St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church
St. Jerome, who was born Eusebius Hieronymous Sophronius, was the most learned of the Fathers of the Western Church. He was born about the year 342 at Stridonius, a small town at the head of the Adriatic, near the episcopal city of Aquileia. His father, a Christian, took care that his son was well instructed at home, then sent him to Rome, where the young man’s teachers were the famous pagan grammarian Donatus and Victorinus, a Christian rhetorician. Jerome’s native tongue was the Illyrian dialect, but at Rome he became fluent in Latin and Greek, and read the literatures of those languages with great pleasure. His aptitude for oratory was such that he may have considered law as a career. He acquired many worldly ideas, made little effort to check his pleasure-loving instincts, and lost much of the piety that had been instilled in him at home. Yet in spite of the pagan and hedonistic influences around him, Jerome was baptised by Pope Liberius in 360. He tells us that “it was my custom on Sundays to visit, with friends of my own age and tastes, the tombs of the martyrs and Apostles, going down into those subterranean galleries whose walls on both sides preserve the relics of the dead.” Here he enjoyed deciphering the inscriptions.