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Martyrs Eustratius, Auxentius, Eugene, Mardarius, and Orestes, at Sebaste (13 December)

The Holy Martyrs Eustratios (Eustrátios), Auxentios (Auxéntios), Eugene, Mardarios (Mardários), and Orestes (the Five Companions) suffered for Christ at Sebaste in Armenia during the reign of Emperor Diocletian (284-305).

Among the first Christians imprisoned and undergoing torture at that time was the presbyterian Saint Auxentios of Syria. One of those who witnessed the steadfastness of the Christians was the noble military commander Saint Eustratios, the city prefect of Satalios, and archivist of the province. He was a secret Christian, and when he confessed his faith openly, he was subjected to torture. He was beaten, and iron sandals studded with sharp nails were placed on his feet, then he was forced to march to the city of Arabrak.

Witnessing the arrival of Saint Eustratios in Arabrak, Saint Mardarios, one of the people in the crowd, confessed that he too was a Christian like Saint Eustratios. He was arrested and cast into prison. Holes were drilled in his ankles, and ropes were passed through them. He was suspended upside down, then heated nails were hammered into his body. He died a short time later. The prayer “O Master Lord God, Father Almighty …” (which is read at the end of the Third Hour), is attributed to him.

As for Saint Eugene, they tore out his tongue, cut off his hands and feet, and then beheaded him with a sword. Saint Auxentios was also arrested and beheaded. The young soldier Saint Orestes confessed himself a Christian and stood trial for this “crime.” He was sentenced to be stretched out upon a red-hot iron bed, and he grew afraid when he approached it. Encouraged by Saint Eustratios, he made the Sign of the Cross and got onto the heated bed, where he surrendered his soul to God.

Saint Eustratios was sentenced to be burnt alive on December 13. As he was being led to his death, he prayed aloud: “I magnify Thee exceedingly, O Lord, for Thou hast regarded my lowliness…” This prayer is still read at the Saturday Midnight Office.

The Five Martyrs were from Greater Armenia. Like their ancestors, they worshipped Christ in secret; during the persecution of Diocletian, they presented themselves before the Forum authorities, and having been tormented in diverse manners, by Lysius the proconsul, three of them ended their lives in torments. As for Saints Eustratius and Orestes, they survived and were sent to Sebastia to Agricolaus, who governed the whole East; by his command these Saints, received their end as martyrs by fire in 296. Saint Auxentius was a priest. Saint Eustratius was educated and an orator; he was the foremost among Lysius’ dignitaries and the archivist of the province. In the Synaxarion he is given the Latin title of scriniarius, that is, “keeper of the archives.” The prayer, “Magnifying I magnify Thee, O Lord,” which is read in the Saturday Midnight Service, is ascribed to him. In the Third Hour and elsewhere there is another prayer, “O Sovereign Master, God the Father Almighty,” which is ascribed to Saint Mardarius.

These five courageous men shone like five shining stars in the dark days of the Christ-persecuting Emperors Diocletian and Maximian. St. Eustratius was a Roman commander in the city of Satalionus; Eugene was his companion in the army; Orestes was likewise a distinguished soldier; Auxentius was a priest; and Mardarius was an ordinary citizen who came, like Eustratius, from the town of Arabrak. The imperial deputies Lysias and Agricolus tortured Auxentius first since he was a priest. Seeing the innocent suffering of Christians, Eustratius appeared in front of Lysias and declared that he was also a Christian. While Eustratius was being tortured, Eugene appeared before the judge and cried out: “Lysias, I too am a Christian.” When Eustratius was led through the town of Arabrak with the other martyrs, Mardarius saw them from the roof of his house.

He took leave of his wife and two young children and rushed after the martyrs, shouting into the faces of the tormentors: “I too am a Christian, like my lord Eustratius.” When St. Orestes was target-practicing in the presence of Lysias, the cross he was wearing fell from his chest and Lysias realized that he was a Christian, after which Orestes openly confessed his faith. Orestes was a young and handsome soldier and towered above all the other soldiers in stature. Auxentius was beheaded, Eugene and Mardarius died while being tortured, Orestes expired on a red-hot iron grid, and Eustratius died in a fiery furnace. St. Blaise (February 11) administered Holy Communion to St. Eustratius in prison before his death. Their relics were later taken to Constantinople and buried in the church dedicated to them: The Holy Five Companions. They were seen alive in that church, and St. Orestes appeared to St. Dimitri of Rostov (October 28). A beautiful prayer by St. Eustratius is extant, which is read at the Midnight Service on Saturday: “Most highly do I magnify Thee, O Lord.”

Apolytikion of Martyrs Eustratius, Auxentius, Eugene, Mardarius, and Orestes of Greater Armenia

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 Martyrs Eustratius, Auxentius, Eugene, Mardarius, and Orestes of Greater Armenia

Second Tone

Thou shonest as a most brilliant light for them that sat in the darkness of ignorance, O prizewinner. And armed with faith as with a spear, thou wast not frightened by the audacity of thine adversaries, O Eustratius, most eloquent of orators.

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