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Commemorated on October 24
The Martyr Aretha and with him 4299 Martyrs suffered for the Lord Jesus Christ in the VI Century. Aretha was governor of the city of Negran in Arabia, the inhabitants of which were Christian. The Arabian (or Omirite) king, Dunaan, who was Jewish, decided to extirpate Christianity from the land, and he issued an edict that all followers of Christ were to be put to death. The inhabitants of Negran remained faithful to the Lord, and Dunaan came with a large army to destroy the city. At the city-walls of Negran the king’s heralds announced, that Dunaan would let live only those who renounced the Crucified Galileian and His Cross, as a “sign of malediction”. Not daring to assault the Christian city by force, Dunaan resorted to a ruse, swearing an oath that he would not force the Christians into Judaism, but would merely impose a tribute-tax on Negran. The inhabitants of the city would not heed the advice of Saint Aretha [his name in Greek means “virtue”, as if here literally to suggest that the people “would not heed the voice of virtue”], and putting their trust in Dunaan, they opened wide the city-gates.
The very next day Dunaan gave orders to start up an immense bon-fire and throw in it all the clergy of the Church of the city, so as to frighten all the rest of the Christians. Thus were burnt 427 men. The governor Aretha and the other chief men were thrown into prison. Then the oppressor sent out through the city his messengers, to convert the Christians to Judaism. And Dunaan himself conversed with those inhabitants brought forth from the prisons, saying: “I do not demand of you that ye should renounce the God of heaven and earth, nor do I want that ye should worship idols, but I want merely that ye do not believe in Jesus Christ, since the Crucified One was a man, and not God”. The holy martyrs replied to this, that Jesus – is God the Word, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Who for the salvation of mankind had become flesh from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. “We shalt not abjure Christ, since that He is for us – Life, and death for Him – is the finding of Life”, – declared the sufferers to Dunaan. And more than four thousand Christians – men, women, both the aged and children – from the city of Negran and surrounding villages accepted a martyr’s death for Christ.
© 1996–2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.