The Name day of everyone named Vyara, Vera, Veronika, Nadezhda, Nadya,
Lyuben, Lyubomir, Lyuba, Sophia, Sofka, Sevda.
The Orthodox Church tells the horrible story of a
second-century Roman mother who sacrificed herself and her three
children in the name of Jesus Christ. The mother was named Sophia, and
her three daughters had the names of Faith (Vyara), Hope (Nadezhda),
and Love (Lyubov). This quartet of frail females stood up to the
brutal might of Rome at a time when a mere whisper of dissent could
mean death to a Roman citizen, Christian or pagan. Sophia was a widow
under whose loving care her three daughters acquired poise and
Christian virtue, looked upon with respect by the village, which they
left for the more rewarding city-life of Rome, the Eternal City.
Soon, in the Christian community that gathered in candlelight in the
catacombs to worship the Messiah, they became highly respected
figures, the children all the more so, because of their display of
deep devotion to the Saviour and to their mother. Fate decreed that
this blessed family would be called upon to assert their faith in an
incredibly monstrous test of Christian endurance. The Emperor Hadrian
did not share the majority view that Christianity was a harmless form
of worship practiced by patriotic Romans, but looked upon them as
enemies of the state whose Kingdom of Heaven sought to displace his
authority. He instituted a sweeping wave of persecution with an army
of operatives infiltrating all sections of the city, spinning a giant
web which caught up with Sophia and her children. Not even the most
hardened pagans anticipated that three girls, aged twelve, ten and
nine respectively, would be punished for what could be construed as
the offence of the mother.
The magistrate Antiochus on the other hand
saw in the arrest of the entire family an opportunity to wrest from
the mother a disavowal of Christ rather than allow her flesh and blood
be punished. Sophia and her three daughters appeared as a group before
the judgment of the pagan court, which offered to release the entire
family providing that the mother would deny the Saviour and raise her
children as pagans. All three daughters looked up to their mother to
assure her that they would remain as steadfast Christians with her and
that she should feel no guilt should they be put to death.
The agonized Sophia was torn between the
love for her children and the love for Jesus Christ. She turned to the
court to plead that her children be released, and they could inflict
their tortures upon her. In a chorus of small voices that would have
melted the hardest of hearts, the youngsters cried out to their mother
that they would rather join her in death to be reunited in the Kingdom
of God, than to remain behind without her. Sophia's glance at the
magistrate told her the next move was his.
Incredibly the magistrate was unmoved and ordered
the first of the girls, Faith, to be put to torture before the eyes of
her mother. When this failed to bring the mother to pleas for mercy
but instead the praises of the Lord, Faith was put to the sword. Hope
followed her sister in death, as did her sister Love, three innocents
whose horrified mother was dragged to the side of their bodies, over
which she continued to pray as she herself also died for the Lord.
Bulgarians celebrate this day as the day of
love. People give fresh white flowers to their beloved, light candles
in church so that faith, hope and love are kindled in every home.
Faith, Hope and Love
On 17 September the Bulgarian Orthodox
Church pays homage to St. Sophia and her three daughters named after
key Christian virtues
Faith, Hope and Love.
“Saint Sophia was a Roman from a patrician
family, brought up with Christian faith. She placed Christian faith at
the centre of the upbringing of her own children. During the great
ordeal of Hadrian’s rule (117-138) they were subjected to merciless
persecution and torture. The campaign sought to make them give up
Christian faith and come to worship pagan gods.
efforts of the emperor and his adherents however failed. So they
decided that Faith, Hope and Love should suffer very cruel deaths.
They were beheaded in front of their mother. However the power of
faith is invincible. Saint Sophia knew that the bliss of eternity and
the wreath of martyrdom were waiting for her daughters. In this way in
126 AD they accepted martyr deaths. Later on the passionals reads that
the grief-stricken mother died at the grave of her children, and that
secret Christian followers gathered the relics of the martyrs and
their mother and buried them. Later in history they were taken out and
displayed for worship in France. The astounding feat of the three
women reveals the real power of a human being when they defend their
ideal and readily sacrifice their lives for Christian faith.”
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