Martha Smeoni (Shmuni) and Seven Holy Youths and Mar Eleazar | Aug 1
Our Church celebrates the Feast of Martha Shmooni (Solomonia) and her seven sons, on August 1. The story Martha Shmooni and her seven sons and their teacher Eleazar, from the Book of 2 Maccabees chapter 6 and 7. After the period of exiles of Israelites to Babylon, before the incarnation of Jesus, Antiochus Epiphanius, the Syrian ruler who conquered Jerusalem severely persecuted the Jews. He send a command that they should not worship the Jehovah, the true God and that they should eat the food that they were prohibited. He ordered to kill all those who did not obey this rule. In those days the family of Martha Simeoni belonged a Jewish family, who served Jehovah very devotedly. Martha Simeoni and her seven sons who did not obey the King’s command got caught. Their aged teacher Eleazar, was a highly respected, elderly teacher of Law. The names of the seven sons of Martha Simeoni are, Aveim, Antony, Gourias, Eleazar, Efsevonas, Acheim and Marcellus, were Jews by race and strict observers of the ancestral laws.
The king insisted that they who were true worshippers of God to deny and leave Jehovah, and eat pork, which was forbidden for them. To frighten them, the king’s soldiers brought and kept in front of them whips and all sorts of eThe king insisted that they who were true worshippers of God to deny and leave Jehovah, and eat pork, which was forbidden for them. To frighten them, the king’s soldiers brought and kept in front of them whips and all sorts of equipment for torture. First, the teacher’s mouth was opened and was forced to eat pork, but he refused, and he spat out the meat and willingly accepted to be tortured. He was then, beaten to death. Now those acquaintances of his, who were trying to rescue him, were also angry. They took Eleazar to be madman because he could have saved himself but didn’t. He was beaten to death. While close to death he said “The Lord possesses all holy knowledge. He knows I could have escaped these terrible sufferings and death, yet he also knows that I gladly suffer these things, because I fear him.” (2 Maccabees 6: 30). Hence Eleazer died leaving behind a good example of his noble character. After this the seven children and mother were killed.
The eldest was first brought to the front, to sacrifice the faith in the True God, in front of all. He shouted in front of everyone “We would rather, die than to break our laws and traditions of our forefather’s”. Hearing this, the furious and angry king ordered the soldiers to first cut away his tongue and chop his hands and feet. He then ordered to put him into the red-hot cauldrons. He was thus reduced to a mass of breathing flesh. The other six cried to their mother. “Let us die with courage. God is seeing all this. As Moses had said, God is pleased with His servants, who serve Him, so will He be pleased with us”.
The cruel king, had the second son brought forward and had his hair peeled off with the scalp. The king then asked him to eat the pork. But the boy looked at the king and shouted “Oh cruel man! You, worldly king is wiping us, off from this temporary life. We accept death for the sake of our God’s commandments. He will resurrect us for eternal life”. He too was burnt alive in the fire. It was the third one’s turn. He happily came forward. The king ordered to cut away his tongue. As soon as he heard this, he showed his tongue, arms and legs and happily shouted “all these I received from the Heavenly Father. I return then to Him in the hope that He will give them to me again”. The king and his people were amazed at the courage of the young boy, and his willingness to accept martyrdom.
After his matter was finished, fourth son was brought forward. They started torturing him by whipping. When he was nearing death, he shouted but as to no one in particular “I am glad to die at your hands, as I have the assurance that God will raise me from death, but you Antiochus will never get life and resurrection”. He too boldly faced death in the same cruel way. When the fourth son died, they made the fifth one stand aside and then started persecuting him. He stared at the king and shouted, “since you have power among men and you are strong here, you can do what you want. But don’t think that God has left our tribe. You watch and see how God will torture you and your family and your descendants. Finally you will witness God’s glory and power”.
After his death, the soldiers took the sixth one. He was also persecuted badly. In deep pain, he encouraged his younger brother a child and died. When it was time for the seventh son, the king called the mother. He asked her to advise him so that he may live. Hearing the words of the cruel king, she fell at her son’s feet crying “my son have mercy on me. I carried you in my womb for nine months. I reared you for three years giving my breast milk. I have brought you up to this stage. My son, I request you, watch the sky and the earth and all that is in it. God created it out of nothing”.
Hearing the mother’s request the son lifted up his arms and called loudly, “I will not obey the king’s commands. I will only obey the Law given through Moses. You evil king, you who brought many disasters to Hebrews. You will not be able to escape God’s hands. My brothers who suffered torture for a short time in enlightened life will be with Him in Glory of God’s kingdom. Like my brothers I submit my spirit and body before God. I pray for the mercy on my people”. The king who got very angry at this did more cruelty to him than his brothers. He persuaded the seventh child to abandon the traditions of his ancestors. He offered him riches, fame and a title ‘friend of the king’. He died with great hope chanting absolute trust in the Lord and never unfaithful for even a minute.
Martha Smeoniwho saw all her sons die in front of her bore it all with divine joy because of her hope in God. Bearing the grief courageously, she said “My sons I do not know how you were born in my womb. It is not I who gave you life and spirit. It is I who gave each one’s form and appearance. On the contrary, it is God the creator of the universe who examines everyone’s heart. Since you have submitted your body to death, His mercy will give you life and spirit again”. On hearing this Antiochus Epiphanius felt belittled and so did severe persecution. But that good lady accepted martyrdom placing her hope in God. Even though Martha Smeoniand her sons are martyrs of Jewish church, Christian church also show reverence to them and intercede in their name.
Their wonderful mother, Smeoni, filled with noble thoughts and rousing her woman’s mind with manly fervour (2 Maccabees 7: 21), stood by the triumph of her children over the tyrant, encouraging each of them to the struggle for the faith and bravely enduring their pains through her hope in the Lord. When she saw that her youngest son had met his end, she threw herself last of all into the fire and was granted the same blessed end along with her children, in the year 168 before Christ.
The Orthodox Syrian Church considers Martha Simeonias saint and intercedes. Many churches have been built in this saint’s name in the Middle East and in Kerala. The church built in the name of Martha Simeoni, in the village Karakos near Mussal in Iraq is a centre visited by many. Martha Simeoni’shistory is linked with the history of her seven sons who became martyrs. On the day of their remembrance, on the north wall of the church in Karakos, a wonderful light appears and the mother with the seven sons walks through that. It is a famous scene. His Grace (late) Geevarghese Mar Gregorious who was the metropolitan of Angamaly diocese has authenticated this in his book ‘Journey to Syria’, written in 1946. We commemorate the memory of Martha Simeoni, her seven holy martyr sons and their teacher, Eleazer on 1 August.
When each child was murdered the proclamation that they made was such that it was giving courage to the elders. No one submitted to death in fear. Their response was that bearing this persecution is nothing when you think of the fortunate life to come. To stand watching seven children murdered and prompting each one to stand up for the true faith can be seen as the exemplary motherhood. This is the example that we should also follow in our life. In any suffering difficulty there should not be a circumstance of denying God.