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The Martyr Aretha and with him 4299 Martyrs

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.