On March 6 the Church commemorates the 42 Martyrs of Ammoria and March 9 the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste. All were valiant witnesses for Christ whose contest for the faith took part in the central region of today's Turkey and their numbers were similar and their relics miraculously recovered. Aside from this, there are many constrasts..
~ The Martyrs of Sebaste perished at the hand of a pagan Roman emperor (320AD); those of Ammoria (845AD) by a Moslem caliph in Iraq.
~ The Martyrs of Sebaste died in a single night naked on a frozen lake. Those of Ammoria were captives endured seven years of dark imprisonment with meager food and water.
~ Miraculous signs appeared at Sebaste so that when 40 heavenly wreaths appeared on the heads of the martyrs, a soldier took to the place of one who had aapostatized to receive the vacant wreath suspended in the air. No supernatural events are recorded at Ammoria during the martyrdom itself.
The contests of these martyrs serve as guidance as well as inspiration to us. Rarely are we tested with the intensity of the Martyrs of Sebaste but when we suddenly face an emotional tragedy or painful illness we can recall their example to mind and endure our trial our of Love of the Lord.
Rarely are we tested as long and as severely as those of Ammoria but when problems, mental or physical, seem to continue in a cycle that is similar to the endless dripping of a leaky faucet, remember the long-suffering of the Martyrs of Ammoria and their constant prayers and singing of Psalms as each hour passed. But, the same Lord who gave these martyrs strength is here for us in our small problems as well.
Elder Joseph of Vatopedi (+2009) writes:
"We are the ancestors and co-athletes of the Forty Martyrs as well as of all those who, having heeded our Jesus’ call and been attracted by His Father and strengthened by the grace of the Holy Spirit, have demonstrated their absolute love for Him through all kinds of self-denials and adoration to the best of their human ability. We are not exaggerating when we consider ourselves amongst them. Of course we are found wanting in these unfortunate times. And it is also true that we have progressed to our detriment, but the Lord has not changed His stance towards us. His absolute Fatherly love stands as it was and He also loves us as He had loved the earlier athletes- those great martyrs and confessors. He has assigned us to the same arena and expects us to demonstrate to the measure of our ability that we prefer His love over everything else...Let us, therefore, arm ourselves with our fine intention. Let us plead with the Martyrs today and all the Saints thereafter who are expecting us in the heavens, to intensify their effort and increase their fatherly affection by pleading with the most kind Jesus to receive us. And to pass down to us even a fraction of the zeal which they had when they had accomplished their mighty mission."
42 Martyrs of Ammoria
40 Martyrs of Sebaste
Complete Homily of Elder Joseph