This Sunday is the last Sunday before the Nativity, the Forefeast of the Nativity of Jesus Christ, and we remember the ten martyrs of Crete. Below you will find the short life of the martyrs, their troparion and kontakion, and troparia and kontakia for the Sunday before the Nativity and the Forefeast.
The Ten Holy Martyrs of Crete: Theodulus, Saturninus, Euporus, Gelasius, Eunician, Zoticus, Pompius, Agathopus, Basilides and Evaristus suffered for Christ during the third century under the emperor Decius (249-251). The governor of Crete, also named Decius, fiercely persecuted the Church, and arrested anyone who believed in Christ. Once, ten Christians were brought before him from various cities of Crete, who at the trial steadfastly confessed their faith in Christ and refused to worship idols.
For thirty days they were subjected to cruel tortures, and with the help of God they all persevered, glorifying God. Before their death they prayed that the Lord would enlighten their torturers with the light of the true Faith. Since pain did not influence them, the saints were beheaded.
Saint Paul of Constantinople visited Crete about a hundred years later. He took the relics of the holy martyrs to Constantinople to serve as a protection for the city, and a source of blessings for the faithful.
Sunday before the Nativity of the Lord
Great are the accomplishments of faith,
for the Three Holy Youths rejoiced in the flames as though at the waters of rest,
and the prophet Daniel appeared,
a shepherd to the lions as though they were sheep.
So by their prayers, O Christ God, save our souls.
Rejoice, Bethlehem. Prepare yourself, O Ephratha.
The Lamb is on her way to give birth to the Chief Shepherd she carries in her womb.
The God-bearing forefathers will rejoice, beholding Him,
and with the shepherds, they will glorify the Virgin nursing Him.
Forefeast of the Nativity of the Lord
Prepare, O Bethlehem, for Eden has been opened to all.
Adorn yourself, O Ephratha, for the tree of life blossoms forth from the Virgin in the cave.
Her womb is a spiritual paradise planted with the Divine Fruit:
If we eat of it, we shall live forever and not die like Adam.
Christ comes to restore the image which He made in the beginning.
Today the Virgin comes to the cave
to give birth to the Eternal Word.
Hear the glad tidings and rejoice, O universe.
Glorify with the angels and the shepherds
the Eternal God, who is willing to appear as a little Child.
Ten Holy Martyrs of Crete
Let us show forth our great praise of Crete
that brought forth these precious Christians: the pearls of Christ.
And these blessed ten, the offspring of martyrs,
who though few in number, overcame all the deceits of powerful demons.
Therefore these martyrs of Christ have been crowned with victory.
The noble struggle of the martyrs
shines forth as the morning star,
shedding brilliant light for us
on the One who was born in the cave
to whom the Virgin gave birth without human seed.