Be Thou Faithful Unto Death, and I Will Give Thee a Crown of Life

Sermon on the commemoration day of the Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste


In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!

Beloved brothers and sisters, there is a treasure that is more precious than all riches, more than everything on earth—so much more, that people even give their lives for it. This is holy, exalted, salvific love for God. There is a blessing and reward so great that nothing can be compared to it—this is the golden crown of martyrdom. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life (Rev. 2:10), said the Lord.

And as we celebrate the memory of the holy martyrs, our hearts are filled with special tenderness. We sympathize with these men who suffered for sacred truth, for Christ. We experience profound respect for them, are amazed at their spiritual feat, and involuntarily begin to ponder just how greatly they were able to appreciate Christ’s love and respond to this love. We become ashamed of our own lives, my dears. After all, we also believe in the Lord and think about our salvation, but in our souls and in our lives, we are completely lacking that burning zeal, that living love, which particularly distinguished the first Christians—in fact, all true Christians throughout all our Christian history.

We sacrifice almost nothing in the name of the Lord, we do not want to bear any deprivations, and are at times even afraid to openly confess our holy faith in God. But the truly faithful gave away everything: wealth, honor, youth, and prosperity. They even sacrificed their own lives. They brought everything to the altar for our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ—no earthly interests, profits, and attachments could outweigh their enormous, fiery love of God, which seemed as madness to unbelievers.

And what is especially remarkable is this martyrdom for truth, the self-renunciation of these young, even very young, pure souls. They were young of body but wise of soul. And in their weak, infirm bodies shone forth such strength of spirit, that words do not suffice to describe all of it, or to praise their beauty and manliness.

Today we celebrate the memory of the Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste. Dear brothers and sisters, I would call fortunate those who bear the names of these holy martyrs, and even more fortunate those who are like them in their lives. Martyrdom is a sign of the chosen, a great gift, and divine mercy.

The sufferers went joyfully to their martyrdom. A yearning for ascetic feats is a quality of exalted souls. When the time of persecutions ended, people began to force themselves to suffer for the sake of their salvation and the purification of their souls. What is all this self-torment for? For the sake of what? We cannot fathom the happiness of these sufferings, their true goal, and price before God.

Once some great fathers gathered, and discussing their own deeds, asked, “What have we done?” To this one of them, an abba of great spiritual life, answered, “We have fulfilled the word of the Savior, Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake (Matt. 5:11).”

If a person wishes only good for all, but they pay him with hatred; if his good deeds remain thankless and his love unreturned, yet in quiet and solitude he pours tears for those who know not what they do—is this not bloodless martyrdom? If, without self-pity, a person honorably fulfills his duty, but he is trampled upon, reviled, and accused of self-interest—isn’t this martyrdom?

Finally, if a person in saving his soul struggles with sin, labors against the passions, washes away his sins with his tears, and with pain of heart overcomes his bad habits, courageously enduring temptations and allurements, preserving faithfulness to the divine commandments in all circumstances—isn’t this voluntary martyrdom for Christ? Know that the Lord accepts it all, and rewards even for the tiniest things.

I repeat, my dear ones: happy are they who are like the holy martyrs in their lives. May no heart feel terror at these words. The holy martyrs greeted torments as a feast.

No, let no one be afraid while listening to stories of suffering. When the flame of love for God burns in a pure heart, and holy faithfulness to one’s Savior and Lord Jesus Christ lives in the soul, then no depravations, labors, or torments are terrifying. Then all earthly attachments, all vanity, and cares of this life seem insignificant. Then ascetic labors are easy and desired.

My dear ones! The Lord calls all of us to walk His path—the narrow, sorrowful, path of the cross. He calls us, and He Himself will help us, strengthen us, and give us endurance and strength. If He should call you also to open martyrdom, then know and believe, that the Savior will be right next to you in those moments, and with Him you will be stronger than everyone on earth, stronger than all human and diabolic evil, stronger than death itself.

The Lord warns us: Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown (Rev. 3:11). He knows our infirmity, but holy love can raise us higher than all fears, higher than the fear of death.

May God vouchsafe each of us to love Him more strongly than anything on earth, and walk His path to the end. We do not know, but perhaps one of us may be called to martyrdom. But for now, all are called to labor according to their strength to fulfill His commandments and bear their faith through all trials. The Lord said, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life.” Amen.

From: Archimandrite Tikhon (Agrikov), Life, Sermons, Letters (STSL, 2008), 154–159.

Archimandrite Tikhon (Agrikov)
Translation by

Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Lavra


Here you can leave your comment on the present article, not exceeding 4000 characters. All comments will be read by the editors of OrthoChristian.Com.
Enter through FaceBook
Your name:
Your e-mail:
Enter the digits, seen on picture:

Characters remaining: 4000

to our mailing list

* indicates required