The reading from Revelation could remind one of the forty Roman soldiers who froze to death on an ice covered cove rather than give up their faith.

Wednesday, 11/28/12

The reading from Revelation could put one in mind of forty Christian soldiers who were put to death in the year 320. Our reading speaks of a heavenly sea upon which the victors were standing. It is that which stirs up the memory of a frozen sea on which forty Christian martyrs triumphed over death.

In 320 the Roman Empire was split between Constantine in the west and Licinius in the east; and since Constantine had embraced Christianity, Licinius felt it necessary to rid his army of the Christian soldiers. He feared their going over to Constantine. In his Legion XII stationed on the Sebaste peninsula that juts north into the Black Sea, there were forty Christian soldiers who would not give up their religion to prove their loyalty to Licinius.

Overcome with anger against the forty soldiers, Licinius, on a night when the temperature dropped below zero, had the forty men stripped naked, then forced to stand out on the ice of a frozen cove.

On the shore the guarding soldiers were huddled around a fire that cast a meager light on the men freezing on the ice. The guards, doing their best to stay warm, were marveling at the heroism of the men enduring such seemingly unbearable cold. They couldn’t help asking themselves what there was about this Christianity to inspire such heroism. Midway through the night one of the Christians gave in, running toward the fire. But then, one of the soldiers on the shore, deciding that Christianity must be the most valuable thing a man could attain, stood up from the fire; and stripping off his clothing, he ran out and froze to death with the thirty-nine.   

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