St. John the Baptist Parish, A Parish of the Russian Orthodox Church, Canberra, Australia

18 / 31 December

The Holy Martyr Sebastian and those with him

This glorious martyr of Christ was born in Italy and brought up in the city of Milan. He was destined in his youth to be a soldier, and, as an educated, handsome and courageous man, commended himself to the Emperor Diocletian, who made him captain of the imperial guard. He secretly confessed the Christian faith, and prayed to the living God. An honourable, upright and merciful man, Sebastian was greatly loved by his soldiers. Whenever possible, he saved Christians from torture and death and, when this was not possible, gave them courage to die for Christ the living God without turning back. Two brothers, Marcus and Marcellinus, who were in prison for Christ and already on the verge of denying Him and worshipping idols, were confirmed in their faith and strengthened in their martyrdom by Sebastian. As he spoke with them, exhorting them not to fear death for Christ, his face was illumined like that of an angel of God. Sebastian supported his words by marvels: he healed Zoe, the wife of Nicostratus the gaoler, who had been dumb for six years, and brought Nicostratus and his whole household to baptism; he healed the two sick sons of Claudius the commander, and brought him and his whole household also to baptism; he healed Tranquillianus, the father of Marcus and Marcellinus, of gout and pains in his legs which had troubled him for eleven years, and brought him to baptism together with his whole household; he healed the Roman Eparch, Chromatius, of the same infirmity and brought him and his son Tiburtius to baptism. Of these, Zoe was the first to suffer, being seized while at prayer beside the tomb of the Apostle Peter. After torture, she was thrown into the river Tiber. Then Tiburtius was seized, and the judge placed live coals before him, challenging him to choose life or death: to cast incense on the coals and cense the idols, or to stand himself barefoot on the coals. St Tibertius made the sign of the Cross and stood barefoot on the coals, and remained unharmed. He was then beheaded with the sword. Nicostratus was killed with a stake, Tranquillianus was drowned and Marcus and Marcellinus were run through by spears. Then Sebastian was taken before the Emperor Diocletian. The Emperor rebuked him for his betrayal, but he said: 'I always pray to my Christ for your health, and for the peace of the Roman Empire.' The Emperor ordered that he be stripped and shot at with arrows. The soldiers then shot at him, until the martyr's whole body was so covered with arrows that it was invisible beneath them. When they thought that he was dead, he showed himself alive and healed of all his wounds. Then the pagans beat him to death with staves. He suffered gloriously for Christ his Lord and entered into the heavenly Kingdom in 287, when Gaius was Bishop of Rome. St Florus, Bishop of Aminsus.

Martyrdom of Hieromonk Nestor of Zharki (Ivanova), defender of the holy icons (1993)

In the world Nestor Savchuk was born in Crimea in 1960. An artist, he travelled to Odessa in the early 1980's to undertake further studies. There he came in contact with Orthodox Christians, afterwards journeying to the Pochaev monastery where he was tonsured and later ordained a priest. An 'unregistered" monk, he fled the authorities and settled in Zharki, where he served in the church and ministered to the people. He struggled with great courage against the Russian Mafia which was at that time stealing the holy icons from the churches for sale abroad. He was murdered on December 18, 1993, at the age of 33, defending the church from thieves.

On the same day: St Modestus, Patriarch of Jerusalem

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