“Winter is cruel, but Paradise is sweet…” (from the vesper’s verses for the 40 Holy Martyrs of Sebaste)
In 320 A.D. there was a whole company of 40 Roman soldiers of the Thundering Legion who stood up to the Roman co-emperor Lucinius. He had demanded that his army be cleansed of Christians, and so had made everyone sacrifice incense to idols. Brave these Forty were in military service, and even braver in giving up their life by submitting to torture and death instead of renouncing their most precious Faith in Christ.
Flattered at first, but when not yielding, they were then threatened, whipped, chained, and lastly frozen to death standing naked in a frozen lake in the frigid winter in Armenia. They received visible golden crowns which came down from Heaven as they died in this world to live forever with Him.
This shows a pattern for us to follow, especially in Lent, through voluntary restraint and then an active life of increased faith and love to others. Winter passes each year to Spring. We know this. The ice and cold of Winter can be cruel, and we know this too, but true warmth, true love, and true joy can only be found at last in the Heavenly Kingdom, for which we were all born to inherit if we will just suffer here for a short time on our way to Eternal joy.
May this Great Lent be our passing spiritually from the Winter of cold and frigid sin to the warmth and love of our true life with God and Heaven. Amen.
The Monastics at St. Isaac of Syria Skete
and at the Convent of St. Silouan
and the Faithful at St. Nicholas Church
and the Staff at Orthodox Byzantine Icons and St. Isaac’s Bookstore