On this day we commemorate the martyrdom of the fifty virgin nuns and their spiritual mother Sophia. These saints were from different countries. Divine love and ascetic life had brought them together and they lived in a convent for virgins in El-Raha. St. Sophia, the head nun, was filled with wisdom and grace. She raised them with spiritual upbringing until they became as angels on earth. They continually prayed, fasted and read the holy books and chronicles of the monks. Among these virgins were those who had dwelt in the convent for seventy years, and some were young.
When Emperor Julian the infidel heard that Sapor, the King of Persia, intended to fight him, he prepared his army and set out against Sapor. On his was to the City of El-Raha he passed by the convent and ordered his soldiers to rob it and kill everyone in it. The soldiers carried out the order and they cut the nuns into pieces with the swords.
The Lord took vengeance on this evil Emperor
by having him stabbed by the spear of a knight at war. It was
said that this knight was Saint Marcurius. The Emperor fell down
from his horse and died. That was in the year 363 A.D. As for
the nuns, they received the crown of martyrdom.
The Christians used to celebrate Epiphany, then they started a 40 day fasting on the following day. That was like the Lord Jesus Who fasted forty days and forty nights immediately after His baptism. The Christians then broke the fast on the twenty-second day of the Coptic month of Amshir. After some days they would fast the Passion week, then celebrate Easter.
When St. Demetrius was chosen Patriarch of Alexandria, God enlightened his mind with divine grace. He studied the Church books and interpreted most of them. He formulated the basis for calculating the days of the fast and the changeable feasts which we celebrate to the present time. He sent copies of these calculations to Abba Victor, Patriarch of Rome, Abba Maximus, Patriarch of Antioch, and Abba Agapius, Bishop of Jerusalem.
When Abba Victor received this message he appreciated it and he gathered fourteen of his learned bishops and many of the educated priests to examine it. They accepted it and spread it around their provinces. Since then the fast of the Great Lent and the festival of Easter have been regulated till today in the Orthodox Churches.