Sunday, March 24 - Hieromartyr Pionius of Smyrna and those with him: Asclepiades, Macedonia, Linus and Sabina
Pionius and Linus were priest-martyrs from Smyrna, Sabina and Macedonia were holy women martyrs, and Asclepiades was a holy martyr. All of them suffered during the time of persecution under the reign of Decius (AD 249-251). They suffered at Smyrna, a commercial city renown in antiquity, situated on the Eastern shores of the Aegean Sea. The Smyrna Church was founded by the holy Apostle John the Theologian, and it was glorified by the stoic firmness of its confessors in the faith of Christ.
Having learned that a persecution had begun, and preparing themselves for suffering, Saint Pionius together with Sabina and Asclepiades lived in strict fasting and intense prayer. Saint Pionius took three lengths of chain and placed them on himself and his companions to show that they were all determined to be led off to prison rather than eat food sacrificed to idols.
The holy martyrs were arrested on March 8 - the day of memory of the holy Hieromartyr Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna (AD 167) – a feastday for the Smyrna Christians. After a brief interrogation the holy confessors were led off to prison. And in prison Saint Pionius with his companions met up with the presbyter of the Smyrna cathedral church, named Linus, together with his wife named Macedonia from the village of Carina. They had likewise been imprisoned for confessing the Name of the Lord.
Many believers visited the holy confessors in prison, offering them whatever they could, but the saints distributed it all to the prison guards. People who were formerly Christians, but out of fear of the torturers had consented to offer sacrifice to the idols, came to Saint Pionius asking for prayers. Saint Pionius bitterly wept over the faint of heart and he admonished them with these words, "Do not despair, brothers and sisters, even though you have done a grievous sin, but truly repent and turn with all your heart to Christ."
After many torments, on March 24, 250 Pionius was crucified on a cross. Then the cross itself was set on fire. When the bon-fire subsided, everyone saw the body of the saint perfectly unharmed; even the hairs of his head were unburnt. His face was radiant, and it shone with a Divine grace. After his victory in the contest, Saint Pionius received an incorruptible crown of glory from the Savior Christ.
Now Saint Pionius rejoices in the heavenly Kingdom along with his companions Saints Asclepiades, Macedonia, Linus and Sabina, glorifying the Life-giving Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, throughout all ages.
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