The Twenty Thousand Martyrs burned to death in their church in Nicomedia (ca. 304).
During a fierce persecution by the Emperor Maximian of all who would not worship the idols, the Christians of Nicomedia were subjected to especially savage treatment. (Eusebius writes that every Christian in the city was killed.) Along with many others put to the sword or otherwise butchered there, we especially commemorate the large company who, despite all danger, gathered in the church to commemorate Christ’s Nativity. The Emperor, hearing of this, sent troops to surround the building so that no-one could escape, and piled heaps of timber and brush around it. Criers then gave notice that any who wished to save their lives must come out and make sacrifice to the pagan gods.
“As this announcement penetrated the church, a divine zeal, more fiery than any flame in the world, seized the deacon Agapius, who rushed to the pulpit and cried out, ‘Brethren, remember how often we have praised and extolled the Three Young Men who, when they were thrown into the Babylonian furnace, called on the whole of Creation to sing the glory of God, and how the All-Creating Word then came down in bodily appearance, to assist them and to render them invulnerable by surrounding them with a moist whistling wind. The time has now come for us to imitate them. Let us offer ourselves to a temporary death for love of our Master, in order to reign everlastingly with Him!’ The whole congregation with one voice then answered Maximian’s criers, ‘We believe in Christ God and we will give up our lives for Him!’
“As the soldiers began to set fire to the piles of wood outside, Saint Anthimus [bishop of the city, commemorated September 3] told his deacons to assemble those who were still catechumens, and he baptized and anointed them with the holy Myron. He then served the divine Liturgy, at which all present communicated in the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Armed with divine strength and closely united in a single body by Christ who dwelt in them, the holy Martyrs felt no fear as they saw the flames leap up everywhere and thick smoke begin to fill the church. With gladness they sang in unison the Song of the Three Young Men: Bless the Lord, all works of the Lord, sing praise to Him and highly exalt Him for ever (Dan. 3 LXX) until the last among them suffocated and gave up his soul.
“The conflagration lasted for five days. Those who then ventured into the smouldering ruins anticipating the odour of charred flesh, found instead a heavenly scent pervading the air and the place surrounded by a brilliant light. The Saints who were glorified at this time are said to have numbered twenty thousand. Saint Anthimus himself miraculously escaped death, and so was able by his teaching to lead a large number of souls to salvation and to the new birth of holy Baptism before, in his turn, fulfilling his union with Christ by martyrdom.” (Synaxarion)
Our Holy Father Simon the Outpourer of Myrrh, Founder of Simonopetra Monastery, Mt Athos (1287)
He lived during the years when Constantinople was held in captivity by the Crusaders, and the Imperial government was in exile in Nicaea. Simon fled the world at a young age and traveled to the Holy Mountain, where he submitted himself to a strict but wise Elder for many years. In time, seeking greater seclusion, he moved to a small cave on the western side of Mt Athos, near a cliff that towered a thousand feet above the sea. One night, a few days before the Feast of the Nativity, he saw a star move across the sky and come to rest above the cliff near his cave. Taking this as a demonic delusion, he ignored it; but on the Eve of Nativity, the star once again took its place above the cliff, and Simon heard a voice from heaven saying ‘Be in no doubt, Simon, faithful servant of my Son! See this sign, and do not leave this spot in search of greater solitude as you have in mind, for it is here that I want you to establish your monastery, for the salvation of many souls.’ Soon afterward, three young monks from wealthy Macedonian families, who had heard of the Saint’s holiness, came and laid their wealth at his feet, asking that he accept them as disciples. Simon sent for builders and ordered them to construct a monastery on the very edge of the precipitous cliff. The builders at first refused, saying the work was much too dangerous; but, persuaded by a miracle worked through the Saint’s prayers, they were convinced. As soon as the building was finished, the monastic community began to grow rapidly.
In his own lifetime St Simon was the source of many miracles, prophecies and healings. Once the monastery was attacked by Saracen pirates. Simon went to meet them with gifts, hoping to dissuade them from attacking. When the pirates attacked him, they were blinded, and the arm of one of them was paralyzed when he attempted to strike the Saint. All of them were healed when the holy man prayed for them, and at this wonder they all repented, received Baptism and became monks.
Saint Simon reposed in peace. A fragrant, healing balm afterwards flowed from his tomb in great quantities, so that he came to be called Myroblytis, ‘Myrrh-gusher’ or ‘Outpourer of Myrrh.’ In subsequent years, the monastery was destroyed and rebuilt more than once, and no trace now remains of the tomb.