THE SEVEN MACCABEES, THEIR MOTHER SOLOMONIA AND ELEAZAR THE PRIEST
They all suffered for the purity of the faith of Israel under King Antiochus, called by some “Epiphanos,” the “enlightened one” and by others “Epimanis” the “insane one.” Because of the great sins in Jerusalem and especially the vying over priestly authority and crimes committed during the occasion of this struggle, God permitted a great calamity on the Holy City.
After that, Antiochus wanted by any means to impose upon the Jews the idolatry of the Hellenes in place of their faith in the one living God and he did everything toward this goal. Assisting Antiochus in his intention were some treacherous high priests and other elders of Jerusalem.
On one occasion, King Antiochus himself came to Jerusalem and ordered that all Jews eat the meat of swine, contrary to the Law of Moses, for eating pork was an apparent sign that one has disowned the faith of Israel. The elder Eleazar, a priest and one of the seventy translators of the Old Testament into the Greek language [the Septuagint] would not partake of pork. Because of that, Eleazar was tortured and burned.
Returning to Antioch, the king took with him the seven sons called the Maccabees and their mother Solomonia. The seven Maccabean brothers were called: Avim, Antonius, Eleazar, Gurius, Eusebon, Achim and Marcellus.
Before the eyes of their mother, the wicked king tortured the sons, one by one, ripping the skin from their faces and, afterward, casting them into the fire. They all bravely endured torture and death but they did not disown their faith.
Finally, when the mother saw her last son, the three-year old in the fire, she leaped into the flames and was consumed in the fire rendering her soul to God.
They all suffered honorably for the faith in the one living God about one hundred eighty years before Christ.
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Some might wonder at the title of this post. Why are these considered the “Last Martyrs”? the answer can be found in the hymnody of the Orthodox Church:
Tone 2 Kontakion (Seven Holy Martyrs)
Seven pillars of the Wisdom of God
and seven lampstands of the divine Light,
all-wise Maccabees, greatest of the martyrs before the time of the martyrs,//
with them ask the God of all to save those who honor you!
For those that say that the Christian Church, Orthodox or otherwise has abandoned their roots, I wonder when the last time was that the congregation of the Jews honored these great martyrs?