Martyrdom of Saint Behnam and his Sister Saint Sarah
Departure of St. Christodoulos
Martyrdom of Saints Simeon of Menouf, Abba Hour and Abba Mina the Elder
Martyrdom of St. Ammonius, Bishop of Esna

Archangel Michael

Martyrdom of Saint Behnam and his Sister Saint Sarah

On this day, we commemorate the martyrdom of Saints Behnam and Sarah his sister, the children of Sennacherib, King of Persia. One day Behnam was with forty of his workers hunting out in the wilderness. He saw a huge wild beast, so he went after it for a long distance and he was separated from his men. Night fell upon him and he had to sleep in that place. During his sleep, he saw someone who told him, "Go to St. Matthew who dwelt on that mountain and he will pray for your sister so that the Lord will heal her," his sister was afflicted with an incurable disease.

When Behnam woke up and was joined by his men, they searched for St. Matthew until they found him in a cave. He knelt at his feet, told him about the vision and then asked him to accompany them to the city. Behnam went before him to the city and told his mother about the vision and of the presence of St. Matthew. She allowed his sister to go with him in secret because of her love and trust in Behnam.

When they arrived to where the saint was, he prayed for her and the Lord healed her. St. Matthew preached and taught them the way of life. He prayed also, a spring of water rushed forth, and he baptized them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the One God, then he returned to his cave.

When King Sennacherib knew that his daughter was cured, he called her and asked her how she was cured. She told him, "The Lord Jesus Christ granted me healing at the hands of St. Matthew and not through the stars that you worship." The King became angry and threatened to punish them if they did not worship the stars.

During the night, St. Behnam and his sister decided to go together to St. Matthew to bid him farewell before they died. On their way to the saint, along with some of their friends, their father became aware of what they were about to do and he sent his men after them. They found them on their way to the saint and they slew them. St. Behnam, his sister Sarah and their companions received crowns of life in the Kingdom of Heaven.

When the men that killed St. Behnam and his sister returned, they found that an evil spirit, which tormented him badly, had possessed the King. The Queen sent for St. Matthew, begging him to come. When he arrived, he prayed for the King and the Lord healed him immediately. The saint preached to them, and the King and the Queen along with those in the city believed.

The King built a great monastery for St. Matthew and placed the bodies of St. Behnam and his sister in it. St. Matthew dwelt in it for a long time and the Lord worked many healing, signs and wonders through their bodies.

Departure of St. Christodoulos

On this day, also we commemorate the departure of St. Christodoulos the jeweler. He was from the city of Ein-Shams. One day a beautiful woman brought him a broken golden vessel and tried to tempt him. She uncovered her hands and told him, "Make (from this broken vessel) rings for these fingers, bracelets for the arms, a cross for this chest and earrings for these ears." He replied, "Today I am feeling sick and as for tomorrow, it will be the will of God." He closed his shop, went home and started to reproach himself saying, "I am not stronger than the saints such as Macarius, Anthony, Pachomius and the others who escaped from this world and lived in the wilderness. O my soul, escape from this world if you wish to be saved."

He recounted to his mother what happened to him and he asked her with tears to allow him to go to the wilderness. She said, "If this was the case, take me first to a convent where I can be a nun, and as for you, may the Lord be with you." He took her to one of the convents and entrusted her to its head-mother after giving her whatever money she needed, then he gave the rest of his belongings to the poor and headed toward the mountain.

After walking for three days he saw three men, each one with a cross in his hand from which a light brighter than the sun was shining. He approached them, was blessed by them and asked them for advice as to what he should do to save himself. They guided him to a valley of fruitful trees and a spring of fresh water. He remained there for many years in fasting and continuous reading of the Psalms.

The devil went to the saint in a monk's attire and told him, "On the top of the mountain, there are some monks who have lost their way. They are tired and will die of thirst. Go to them and give them something to eat and drink so that they may survive." The saint made the sign of the cross over his face as was the custom of the monks and at once the devil turned into smoke and disappeared. In this way, St. Christodoulos was always able to overcome the devil with the sign of the cross.

He increased in his worship and he lived to a ripe old age. When the day of his departure drew near, the three hermits who guided him to the valley came to him and they all prayed together. After they blessed each other, they told him, "The Lord sent us to write down your biography for the benefit of others." He told them all that had happened to him. After a short illness, he departed in peace. They prayed over his body and buried him.

Martyrdom of Saints Simeon of Menouf, Abba Hour and Abba Mina the Elder

Also on this day, we celebrate the martyrdom of St. Simeon of Menouf, who lived during the reign of the Arabs and commemorate the saints Abahor and Abamina.

Martyrdom of St. Ammonius, Bishop of Esna

Again on this day we commemorate the martyrdom of the great father Abba Ammonius, Bishop of the City of Esna. He was well mannered since his youth and his virtues were well known.

Abba Peter, Pope of Alexandria ordained him Bishop over the City of Esna. Because of his strong desire for a solitary life, he built a monastery at the foot of the mountain beside a spring of water and prepared a cave in which he stayed four days each week. He used to go down to the church on Saturday. On Sunday, he celebrated the Eucharist, preached to his people and settled their disputes. He spent Monday with them also, then he returned to his cave to continue in his worship and asceticism.

During his lifetime, many of his people were martyred. When Arianus the infidel Governor went to Upper Egypt he ordered the Christians to worship idols, and those who refused he tortured and had slain. He continued doing that until he reached the City of Esna where he met four young brothers driving donkeys loaded with melons. One of the Governor's soldiers asked them about their belief. The answered, "We are Christians," so the soldiers seized them.

Their mother went in haste to encourage them, saying to the soldiers, "We love Jesus Christ and do not worship your idols." The Governor ordered that she be cast into prison. In the middle of the night the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to their mother and told her, "Know that my Son the Savior and the Lord has called your blessed sons Sarous, Herman, Banouf and Bistay to the kingdom of heaven." St. Mary bid her peace and ascended to heaven.

The next morning the Governor summoned them and asked them to worship the idols but they refused courageously. Therefore, he ordered that their heads be cut off. That took place on sixth day of the Coptic month of Bashans. The believers took their bodies and hid them in their homes and many wonders and signs were manifested through their bodies.

There were also four notable persons who worked as tax collectors in the City of Esna. While they were going over the account of their work with Arianus, one of them mentioned the name of the Lord Jesus. Arianus became enraged and ordered that they be tortured and when he saw their endurance, he ordered that their heads be cut off and they received crowns of martyrdom on the sixth day of the Coptic month of Baounah. Many women, men and monks were martyred along with them.

When Arianus reached the City of Armunt, two women from the City of Esna hurried there and confessed the Lord Jesus before him. The two women were named Thakla and Martha. Arianus addressed the people of Armunt around him and said, "Why did you say there were no Christians in your city?" They investigated and found out that the two women were from the City of Esna. They told Arianus that the two women did not belong to their city, which loved kings and gods (idols). Arianus ordered that the heads of the two women be cut off on the seventeenth day of the Coptic month of Abib.

As to St. Ammonius, the angel of the Lord appeared to him when was in the desert and told him, "Peace be to you Ammonius, the Lord has accepted your prayers on behalf of your people and prepared crowns for you and them. Arise, go down, preach to them and instruct them to be steadfast in confessing the Lord Jesus." The angel bid him peace and departed.

The saint arose and went down immediately to the city. He gathered his people, preached to them and informed them of what the angel had told him. They all cried out saying, "Our father, we are ready to withstand any suffering in the Name of the Lord Jesus even unto death." That took place on the feast of St. Isaac, so he took his congregation up to the Mount of Katoun, which means the mount of good things, and they celebrated the feast there.

Meanwhile, Arianus departed from Armunt to a village called Helwan, west of the City of Esna. All its citizens came out and confessed the name of Christ before him. He ordered them to be beheaded and they all received a crown of martyrdom. Then Arianus entered the City of Esna and wandered in its streets which were empty until he came to the southern gate which was called the gate of thanksgiving, because Abba Ammonius had prayed there with his people the "Prayer of Thanksgiving." There he found an old woman that was not able to ascend the mountain with the people. He asked her about the whereabouts of the people of the city. She replied saying, "The people heard that the infidel Governor was coming to slay the Christians, so they went up to the mountain to celebrate the feast of St. Isaac." He asked her which one of the gods she worshipped." She replied, "I am a Christian." He ordered that her head be cut off.

He left the city and headed towards Mount Katoun, and on his way he passed through a village called El-Mabgalah where he found a group of Christian people that had been beheaded. He continued through the villages of Harmajahat and Seyoya where he also executed more Christians. He finally reached Mount Katoun where all the people greeted him with one accord shouting "We are Christians." Arianus threatened them but it had no effect so he ordered his soldiers to draw their swords and to slay them all. Each one of them brought up his daughter or his son to the swordsman saying, "Go forward to the true bridegroom that does not die." They all went to death saying, "We are going to the everlasting joy in the kingdom of heaven." They fulfilled their martyrdom on the nineteenth day of the Coptic month of Abib.

On their way back to Esna, the soldiers met three men who were crying out, "We are Christians." The soldiers told them, "Our swords are dull from so much use." So the men told the soldiers, "Here are our axes." The soldiers took their axes and the men put their heads on a stone beside the western gate of the city. The soldiers beheaded them and they received a crown of martyrdom.

Bishop Ammonius was seized and brought before Arianus. In a rage, he ordered the saint to be tied behind some horses and taken to a boat, which was sailing to the City of Aswan. Then they put him in the stern of the ship. Arianus brought him out every now and then to ask him to raise incense to the idols, but he refused. Finally Arianus ordered his men to burn the saint alive, and Abba Ammonius received the crown of martyrdom. That was on the fourteenth day of the Coptic month of Kiahk.

The believers took his body, which was unharmed by the fire, shrouded it and hid it until the end of the persecution. When the people of his diocese came to transfer the body to their city, they heard a voice from the body saying, "This is the place where God chose for me to rest".

Glory be to God forever and ever. Amen.