Science of the Saints, 10 April, The Holy Martyrs Terence and Companions

The Holy Martyr Terence and his companions suffered under the emperor Decius (249-251). The emperor issued an edict, which commanded all subjects to offer sacrifice to the pagan idols.

When the governor of Africa Fortunatian received this edict, he gathered the people into the city square, set out cruel instruments of torture and declared that everyone without exception had to offer the sacrifice to the idols. Many, afraid of torture, complied, but forty Christians with Saint Terence at their head bravely stood forth for their faith in the Saviour. Fortunatian was amazed at their boldness and he asked how they, as rational people, could confess as God One Who was crucified by the Jews as a malefactor. In answer to this, Saint Terence boldly answered that their belief was in the Saviour Who voluntarily endured death on the Cross and on the third day was resurrected. Fortunatian perceived that Terence by his example inspired the others, and so he gave orders to isolate him in prison together with his three closest companions – Africanus, Maximus, and Pompey. The remainder of the martyrs – which included Xenon, Alexander, and Theodore, Fortunatian resolved to force into renouncing Christ. But neither threats nor terrible tortures could sway the holy martyrs: they burned at them with red hot iron, they poured vinegar on the wounds, they sprinkled on salt, they tore at them with iron claws. In spite of their sufferings, the saints did not weaken in their confession of Christ, and the Lord gave them strength.

Forunatian gave orders to lead the martyrs into the pagan temple and still yet another time he urged them to offer sacrifice to the idols. The valiant warriors of Christ cried out to God: “O God All-Powerful, having once poured out fire on Sodom for its iniquity, destroy now this impious temple of idolatry, on account of Thine Truth.” The idols fell down with a crash and a smash, and then all the temple was in ruins. The enraged governor gave orders to execute them; and the martyrs, glorifying God, put their necks beneath the sword of the executioner.

After the execution of the 36 martyrs, Fortunatian summoned before him Terence, Maximus, Africanus, and Pompeys, pointed out to them the executed and again urged them to offer sacrifice to the idols. The martyrs refused. The governor put heavy chains on them and gave orders to starve them to death in prison. By night an Angel of the Lord took the chains off the martyrs and fed them. In the morning the guards found the saints cheerful and strong. Then Fortunatian ordered sorcerers and conjurers to carry into the prison snakes and all kinds of viprous creatures. The guards through an opening in the prison ceiling glanced down into the jail cell and saw the martyrs unharmed, praying, and the snakes crawling at their feet. When the snake-charmers in obeying the order opened the door of the prison-cell, the snakes disregarded the charms and struck and began to bite them. The furious Fortunatian gave orders to behead the holy martyrs. Christians took up their holy bodies and buried them with reverence outside the city.

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