jeudi 26 mars 2015

Saint MONTAN et sainte MAXIME, martyrs

Saints Montan et Maxime, martyrs à Sirmium

Saint Montan, prêtre et sainte Maxime, son épouse, furent martyrisés à Sirmium, en Pannonie, précipités en mer par des païens pour avoir témoigné de leur foi en Jésus-Christ, en 304.   

Saints Montan et Maxime

Martyrs à Sirmium (4ème s.)

Saint Montan et sainte Maxime, deux époux martyrisés en Pannonie (correspond à la Hongrie actuelle); ils furent précipités dans le Danube par des païens pour avoir témoigné de leur foi en Jésus-Christ.

À Sirmium en Pannonie, au IVe siècle, les saints martyrs Montan, prêtre, et Maxime, son épouse, qui pour la foi du Christ furent saisis et noyés dans le fleuve.

Martyrologe romain

Montanus & Maxima MM (RM)

Died 304. Montanus, a priest, and Maxima, said to have been his wife, were drowned as Christians in the Save River at Sirmium, Dalmatia, or Singidunum, Pannonia (Benedictines).

St. Maxima of Singidunum, and her priest-husband, St. Montanus

Commemorated on March 26

St. Maxima and her priest-husband, St. Montanus, lived in Singidunum (present-day Belgrade in Serbia) in the fourth century during the time of Emperor Diocletian’s persecution of Christians. The Emperor’s deputy, Galerius, issued an edict requiring Christians to offer sacrifices to the idols. The pious couple refused, and continued to conduct their lives according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They traveled to Sirmium (west of Belgrade) in order to distance themselves from the seat of power. However, in the year 304, they were seized by Roman soldiers and brought to stand trial before Governor Probus.

As they stood before the governor on a bridge overlooking the Sava River, the captives were given the choice of sacrifice to the idols or death. St. Montanus showed great heroism and explained that if he were to sacrifice to the idols, it would be tantamount to rejecting Jesus Christ as God and Lord of heaven and earth, and he refused to comply.

Frustrated and intending to take advantage of her “weaker” sex, Probus tried to persuade St. Maxima to deny Christ. Much to the surprise of the crowd, her fidelity and apostolic courage proved to be as great, if not greater, than her husband’s. St. Maxima defended her faith so convincingly and with such eloquent zeal that Probus cut the trial short, fearing mass conversions to Christianity.

Sts. Maxima and Montanus were beheaded by the sword, and their remains were thrown into the Sava River. The faithful, and those converted by the zeal of the holy couple, willingly endangered their lives in order to rescue the bodies and heads of the martyrs from the river. The relics were transported to Rome and interred in the Catacombs of St. Priscilla on the Salarian Way where they remained for 1,500 years.

In 1804, certain tombs in the Catacombs of St. Priscilla were opened. The many relics that were discovered were presented to various Roman Catholic churches and to notable families in Rome. St. Maxima’s relics were found to be in a remarkable state of preservation. They were ultimately presented to the influential Sinibaldi family, and for over a hundred years, her relics were venerated at the altar of their private chapel in Rome.

In 1927, the Sinibaldi family presented St. Maxima’s relics to the Poor Clares of San Lorenzo Monastery in Rome who, in turn, presented them to the Poor Clares Monastery in Chicago, Illinois, where they remained for forty years. For the next few decades, St. Maxima’s relics were transported from one monastery or priest to another, including Father Joseph Louro, a Roman Catholic missionary in South America. After Father Louro’s death, St. Maxima’s relics found a permanent home with the Byzantine Poor Clares in North Royalton, Ohio.

Wherever her relics journeyed, veneration of St. Maxima grew because of the boundless miracles that occurred through her intercessions. It was, however, the impact of her life that most impressed the faithful. The visible presence of a priest’s wife who, in a time of confusion and darkness, confronted evil with selfless courage and willingly gave her life confessing Christ has inspired countless people to live their Christian faith without counting the cost.

May the Orthodox Church rekindle its knowledge of and love for this saintly and zealous priest’s wife. Rooted in the traditionally Orthodox area of Serbia, St. Maxima’s prayers await our cries and supplications for peace and justice in the world, particularly in Kosovo, and intercessions for the protection of Orthodox families, especially for priests’ wives whose well-being and example are so vital to the faith.

By permission of Sts. Mary & Martha Orthodox Monastery, Wagener, South Carolina

Saints Montanus the priest and his wife Maxima from Singidunum, on Danube, are martyr saints of the harsh persecution times during Diocletian. They are celebrated as saints in the Western Church among the monastic order odf the Poor Clares nuns, but also in the East, especially in the Romanian and Serbian Churches.

On 24 February 303, the Roman co-emperors Diocletian (284-505), Galerius, his son-in-law (293-311), Maximian Hercules (286-305) and Constantius Chlorus (293-306), the father of Emperor St. Constantine the Great signed an edict against the Christians. Another two edicts were signed in the same year (april and 27 september) and the fourth in January-February 304. These imperial decisions implied the destruction of the Christian places of worship, the burning of the Christian books and archives, loss of the properties, privileges and state functions for the Christians, the punishment of the Christians who do not abjure their faith even by death and forbade the Christian assemblies. As it is to see, these decisions suggest already the specific of the Christian faith. Differently of the first centuries, they were already organized, have had worship places and privileges in some regions.

The Roman Empire was already led by the assembly of the two Augusti and two Caesars – the so-called “tetrarchy”. Of course, the laws, edicts and common decisions were respected differently in the regions led by one or another of the emperors. In any case, the eastern regions, led by Diocletian (who had his capital city in Nicomedia, in Asia Minor) and by Galerius (who leaded the Illyricum from Sirmium), the edicts were strictly applied, so that this period, the ending of the 3rd century, and the beginning of the 4th , gave the most of the Christian martyrs in the whole 2000-years history of our faith.

The martyrs celebrated today, Montanus and Maxima lived in Singidunum (the today Belgrade), in the province called Pannonia Inferior, under the leading of Galerius. St. Montanus was the priest of the Christian community here. The Romanian historians try to demonstrate the Dacian-roman ancestry of the martyrs, based on the fact that the Pannonia Inferior was strongly populated at the time by romanized Dacians. The hypothesis has in fact no real basis. The possibility that the two have been Dacians or Romans is the same as for another nationality. Their names are coming surely from the Roman tradition. In any case, they were citizens of God’s city.

 Immediately after the proclamation of the edicts, its decisions were applied by the Roman leader of Singidunum. In this conditions, Montanus fled in Sirmium, the capital of the province (today Mitrovica, about 60 kilometers west of Belgrade), after Christ’s urge “But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another” (Mt. 10,23). There he was caught by the persecutors, who brought him to Probus, the Roman governor of the province. The interrogatory started immediately and St. Montanus confessed his faith in Christ and that he is a priest. After the classical process, Probus asked him to sacrifice to the Roman gods and Montanus refused. During the tortures, Probus ordained the calling of the priest’s wife, Maxima. He believed that she, as weaker being a woman, will see the harsh pains of her husband and will beg him to sacrifice. Maxima didn’t do as the governor believed; moreover she asked to be tortured too with her husband, in order to become a martyr for Christ as well. Finally, Probus ordained the both to be thrown in the river Sava. The Serbian versions speak about the beheading of the two martyrs who were later thrown in the river. After the Romanian versions, the soldiers have bound stones on their necks and so the two saints, Montanus and Maxima, were drowned. It was the day of 26 March 304.

The Veneration of the Saints

The hieronymian martyrology mentions them on 26 March and 26 April. Also the martyrical act of Montanus and Maxima are mentioned in the life of St. Pollion, the lector of the church from Cibalae (died on 28 april 304). Their original martyrical acts were not kept. But in the modern times, a Romanian priest and professor of Church History, Nicolae M. Popescu tried to reconstitute the story, following the similar act of martyrdom of St. Irenaios of Syrmium who died a few days later (on 6 April 304) in the same conditions. This text is today read with piety in the Romanian churches during their days of celebration, 26 March.

In 25 may 1802 the Catacomb of St. Priscilla was opened and the relics of some saints, such as Philomena (+10 August 304) were found. Later, in 1804 it were found the relics of a saint named Maxima or Maximina. The coincidence of names made some to believe that there is the wife of St. Montanus, which it would be hard to believe, because of the lack of information and of the big distance between Rome and Singidunum. In any case, the relics of saint Maximina, who probably died during the same persecution of Diocletian, were kept in Rome, by the nuns of the St. Claire’s Order, in the monastery of San Lorenzo. Later they were moved, so that today there are also in a nun’s monastery of Claire’s Order, in North Royalton, Ohio. There is told that several miraculous cures happened due her intercession. Infos about these relics can be found here and here, in the bottom of the page.

In the modern Serbia St. Maxima has a special devotion. Her intercession was asked especially for the peace in Kosovo, and the protection of Orthodox families and especially for priests’ wives. In Romania the monastery of Halmyris (the place of discovery of Saints Epictetus and Astion (+8 July 290) has as its second protectors, the saints Montanus and Maxima. A Romanian community in Serbia, in the village of Isacova, Tchupria community on the Valley of Morava has as its protectors the saints Montanus and Maxima.

Troparion (Hymn) of the Saints

“Thy Martyrs Montanus the priest and Maxima, O Lord, in their struggles received, crowns of incorruptibility from Thee our God: for with Thy strength they wiped out tyrants, and overcame demons, rendering them powerless. By their intercessions, O Christ our God, save our souls!”