Science of the Saints, 14-VIII (1 Aug.), The Holy Maccabees

The Seven Holy Maccabean Martyrs: Abim, Antonius, Gurias, Eleazar, Eusebonus, Alimus, and Marcellus, their mother Solomonia and their teacher Eleazar suffered in the year 166 before the Birth of Christ under the impious Syrian emperor Antiochos Epiphanos. 

Adhering to an Hellenistic cult, Antiochus Epiphanes introduced pagan customs at Jerusalem and throughout all Judea. He desecrated the Temple of the Lord, putting there in a statue of the pagan god Zeus, and forcing the Jews to worship it. Many of them then fell away from the True God. But there were also those, who were deeply sorrowed by the downfall of the people of God and who continued to believe in the coming arrival of the Saviour. 

A ninety year old elder, the law-teacher Eleazar, was brought to trial for his adherence to the Mosaic Law, and he steadfastly underwent tortures and died at Jerusalem. 

Bravery was likewise shown by the disciples of Saint Eleazar – the Seven Maccabean Brothers and their mother Solomonia. They were brought to trial in Antioch by the emperor Antiochus Epiphanes. They fearlessly acknowledged themselves as followers of the True God, and refused to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. The eldest of the lads, having been first to answer the emperor in the name of all seven brothers, was given over to fierce tortures in sight of his remaining brothers and their mother. The next five brothers one after the other underwent these tortures. There remained the seventh brother, the very youngest. 

Antiochus suggested to Saint Solomonia to urge the lad into renunciation, so that at least this final son would remain for her. But the brave mother encouraged him also in the confession of the True God. The lad resolutely ignored the entreaty of the emperor and likewise firmly underwent the tortures, just like his older brothers. After the death of all her seven children, Saint Solomonia, standing over their bodies, raised up her hands in prayer to God and died. 

The martyrdom of the holy Seven Maccabean Brothers inspired Judas Maccabeus, and he led the revolt against Antiochus Epiphanes with the help of God gaining the victory, and then purifying the Jerusalem Temple of idols. All these events are related in the Book of Second Maccabees, which is included within the Bible. Sermons of laudation to the holy Maccabean Martyrs were offered by various fathers of the Church – Saint Cyprian of Carthage, Saint Ambrose of Milan, Saint Gregory Nazianzen, and Saint John Chrysostomos.

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