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Martyr Callistratus and 49 companions (27 September)

Saint Callistratus was a native of Carthage. An ancestor of Saint Callistratus, Neochorus, had served under the emperor Tiberius in Palestine, under the command of Pontius Pilate, the procurator of Judea, and was a witness to the suffering on the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, His voluntary death and glorious Resurrection.

The saint’s father was a Christian, and he raised his son in faith and piety. Also like his father, Saint Callistratus became a soldier and excelled among his pagan military comrades by his good conduct and gentle disposition.

At night when everyone slept, he usually stayed up at prayer. Once, a soldier sleeping nearby heard Saint Callistratus invoking the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and he reported this to the military commander, who in turn summoned Callistratus, interrogated him and wanted to make him offer sacrifice to idols. The saint resolutely refused to do this, so the military commander ordered that the saint be beaten. Then, covered with wounds, the saint was dragged over sharp stones. The beating and the torments did not sway the firm will and brave endurance of the sufferer.

The saint was sewn up in a leather sack and drowned in the sea. By God’s mercy, however, the sack struck a sharp rock and was torn open. Saint Callistratus came to dry land unharmed, carried by dolphins. Viewing such a miracle, forty-nine soldiers came to believe in Christ. Then the military commander threw Saint Callistratus and the believing soldiers into prison. Before this, all of them were subjected to innumerable floggings.

In jail Saint Callistatus continued to preach the Word of God to the soldiers and he bolstered their spirits for martyrdom. Summoned again before the military commander, the sufferers firmly confessed their faith in Christ, after which they were bound hand and foot and thrown into the depths of a great lake behind a dam. But there their bonds broke, and with bright faces the holy martyrs stood in the water, rejoicing in their Baptism, which coincided with the act of martyrdom.

Beautiful bright crowns appeared over their heads, and all heard a voice: “Be brave, Callistratus, with your company, and come rest in the eternal habitations.” At the same time, the earth shuddered and an idol standing nearby fell down and smashed. Seeing this, another 135 soldiers also believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. The military commander, fearing a mutiny in the army, did not put them on trial, but again imprisoned Saint Callistratus with his 49 companions, where they fervently prayed and gave thanks to the Creator for giving them power to endure such sufferings.

At night the martyrs were cut to pieces with swords by order of the military commander. Their holy relics were buried by the 135 soldiers who remained alive. Later, a church was built on the spot of their sufferings, as Saint Callistatus had foretold.

These Martyrs contested for the Faith during the reign of Diocletian, in the year 288. Saint Callistratus was arrested as a Christian, and after being tormented, was enclosed in a sack and cast into the sea. The sack burst, and the Saint came to dry land safe and sound. Forty-nine soldiers, seeing this, also confessed Christ, and with him were cast into prison, then beheaded.

Callistratus was born in Carthage. He was a Christian from birth, for his father and grandfather were Christians. One of Callistratus’s ancestors, Neochorus by name, was a soldier in Jerusalem under Pontius Pilate, at the time of the Crucifixion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Witnessing the many miracles at the time of Christ’s death, Neochorus believed in Him, and was instructed in the Faith and baptized by an apostle. Returning home to Carthage, Neochorus brought his Christian Faith with him as a precious pearl. So it was that in time Callistratus was born, baptized and raised a Christian.

While he was in the army there were no other Christians in his regiment besides him. One of his companions, seeing how St. Callistratus arose at night and prayed to God, reported him as a Christian to the commander, Persentinian. Persentinian was a cruel torturer of Christians. In order to confirm that Callistratus was indeed a Christian, the commander ordered him to offer sacrifice to the idols, which Callistratus straightway refused to do. He was then severely beaten and thrown into the sea. However, the power of God saved him, and he emerged from the sea in sound health. Seeing Callistratus’s endurance and miracles, forty-nine other soldiers came to believe in Christ.

They were beaten and thrown into prison with Callistratus. In prison Callistratus taught his companions the Faith, and strengthened them. They displayed great bravery in suffering, and the Lord manifested great power through them. Then the evil torturer sent soldiers to the prison by night, and they slew St. Callistratus and his forty-nine companions. They suffered for the truth in the year 304 A.D. A church was later built over their relics.

Apolytikion of Martyr Callistratus & his Companions

Fourth Tone

Thy Martyrs, O Lord, in their courageous contest for Thee received as the prize the crowns of incorruption and life from Thee, our immortal God. For since they possessed Thy strength, they cast down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons’ strengthless presumption. O Christ God, by their prayers, save our souls, since Thou art merciful.

Kontakion of Martyr Callistratus & his Companions

Second Tone

O all-wise and godly Saints, today the whole Church, showing honour to you all, doth now in spirit sing your praise; for ye contested in her behalf, O right-victorious Martyrs of Christ our God.

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