The Seven Holy Maccabee Martyrs
Tradition informs us that the seven Maccabee martyrs, Abim, Antonius, Gurias, Eleazar, Eusebonus, Alimus and Marcellus, their mother Solomonia and their teacher Eleazar, suffered in the year 167 BC under the impious Syrian King Antiochus. The King compelled the people to not live by the laws of God: “A man could neither keep the Sabbath, nor observe the feasts of his fathers, nor simply confess himself to be a Jew” (2 Mac 6:6).
Eleazar, a Jewish scribe, was forced to open his mouth to eat swine’s flesh, however he spat out the flesh and approached the rack on his own accord. His martyrdom is consistent with the martyrs we see after Christ: “I am enduring terrible sufferings in my body from this beating, but in my soul I gladly suffer these things because I fear Him” (2 Mac 6:30). Seven brothers with their mother were also arrested and shared the same courage as Eleazar, with the oldest stating: “What do you intend to ask and learn from us? For we are ready to die rather than transgress the law of our Fathers” (2 Mac 7:2).
One by one, all the seven brothers were subjected to fierce tortures: their tongues were torn out, their hands and feet were cut off, they were placed in cauldrons and in large frying pans. Through all these sufferings, with the help of God, they displayed an extraordinary courage addressing the King: “You set us free from this present life, but the King of the world will raise us to an everlasting renewal of life, because we die for His laws” (2 Mac 7:9).
The youngest brother was the last to be left alive and Antiochus suggested to Saint Solomonia to persuade the boy to obey him, so that her last son at least would be spared. Instead, the brave mother told him to imitate the courage of his brothers. The child reviled the King and was tortured even more than his brothers. Saint Solomonia then stood over their bodies, raised up her hands in prayer to God and died. These unwaveringly faithful Jews are examples for all of us in their courage to keep God’s law, and for this reason on their commemoration on August 1, they are called “great martyrs, before the martyrs of Christ”.
Source: Lychnos August/September 2018