"Your heavenly Lover, Jesus Christ, is eternal health, inexpressible beauty and life eternal. When your bodies are slain by torture, He will clothe you in incorruption and the wounds on your bodies will shine in heaven like the stars."
These words can hardly be considered the sage advice of a mother to her daughters, or are they? These words are exactly what the mother of three daughters said to them prior to their being martyred for Christ.
Living in Rome during the second century was not an easy thing for Christians. They were being tortured for refusing to worship the pagan idols. Sophia was widowed and rearing her three daughters, Faith, Hope, and Agape. It is not often that we find a mother who sacrificed herself and her three children in the name of Jesus Christ. We may even think that this story should not be shared with our families and yet, it is a dynamic revelation about a family united in Christ Jesus. The spiritual accomplishments of this family reveal that our Christian Orthodox Faith can exceed every aspect of worldly cares and bring us to the enjoyment of eternal blessings.
Sophia and her three daughters were recognized in the Christian community for their deep devotion and dedication to the worship services. Having joined fellow stewards in the candlelight of the catacombs, the worship experience strengthened Sophia and her lovely daughters during a violent period of Christian persecutions. This was a period when the Roman authorities viewed the Christians as a threat to their society. The Emperor Hadrian ordered his soldiers to gather all the Christians in Rome. Among those arrested were Sophia and her three daughters. No one could have imagined the harm that was to come to the three young girls aged twelve, ten, and nine. As Sophia and the children stood before the magistrate, the mother was challenged to deny Christ or suffer the torturing of her children. Sophia pleaded with the judge to release her children and that she would suffer the decision of the court. The children, as if with one voice, assured their mother that they would remain faithful to the Lord. One by one the girls were tortured before the eyes of their mother. With each sacrifice came greater praise and glory to the Heavenly King. When all three girls lay dead, their mother was dragged to their side where she prayed for the repose of their souls. Released by the Roman authorities, Sophia took her daughters and buried them. She remained by their graveside for three days and nights, and then retired her soul to God to be reunited with her saintly daughters in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Christian martyrdom was a real issue for the early Church. The example of St. Sophia and her three daughters is a genuine act of faith that involved extreme physical and moral sufferings. The gift of faith that St. Sophia instilled in her daughters, Faith, Hope, and Agape commands our respect and remembrance. We may not face such extreme torturing for Christ and His Church, but we must be steadfast in living our faith. We are called to have the same conviction of faith that St. Sophia and her daughters possessed. This conviction should be expressed in good Stewardship by each and every one of us. The gifts that these martyred saints offered were their very lives; the gifts we offer to the Lord will be our Time, Talents, and Treasure!
To learn more about the stewardship of the saints, click here.