The occasion for the death of these saints was found in the vicinity of that most famous palace which was built by Adrian at his country seat at Tiber, according to Spartianus. For when the emperor gave orders that this palace, which he had built for his pleasure, should be purified by some piacular ceremonies, the priests seized this opportunity for accusing Symphorosa, alleging that the gods would not be satisfied until Symphorosa should either sacrifice to them or be herself sacrificed; which last thing was done by Hadrian, whom, from many others of his deeds, we know to have been exceedingly superstitious, about the year of Christ 120, that is, about the beginning of his reign, at which period indeed, as Dio Cassius observes, that emperor put a great number to death. The memory of these martyrs, moreover, is celebrated in all the most ancient martyrologies, although they assign different days for it. The Roman, along with Notker, fixes their festival for the 18th July, Rabanus for the 21st of the same month, Usuardus and Ado for the 21st June. In the Tiburtine road there still exists the rubbish of an old church, as Aringhi states (Rom. Subter., iv. 17), which was consecrated to God under their name, and which still retains the title, To the Seven Brothers.
The narrative of the martyrdom of St. Symphorosa and her seven sons, which we here publish, is ascribed in the mss. to Julius Africanus, a writer of the highest repute. And it may perhaps have been inserted in his books on Chronography,–a work which Eusebius (Hist. Eccles. vi. 31) testifies to have been written with the greatest care, since in these he detailed the chief events in history from the foundation of the world to the times of the Emperor Heliogabalus.
“1. When Adrian had built a palace, and wished to dedicate it by that wicked ceremonial, and began to seek responses by sacrifices to idols, and to the demons that dwell in idols, they replied,(2) and said: “The widow Symphorosa, with her seven sons, wounds us day by day in invoking her God. If she therefore, together with her sons, shall offer sacrifice, we promise to make good all that you ask.” Then Adrian ordered her to be seized, along with her sons, and advised them in courteous terms to consent to consent to offer sacrifice to the idols. To him, however, the blessed Symphorosa answered: “My husband Getulius,(3) together with his brother Amantius, when they were tribunes in thy service, suffered different punishments for the name of Christ, rather than consent to sacrifice to idols. and, like good athletes, they overcame thy demons in death. For, rather than be prevailed on, they chose to be beheaded, and suffered death: which death, being endured for the name of Christ, gained them temporal ignominy indeed among men of this earth, but everlasting honour and glory among the angels; and moving now among them, and exhibiting(4) trophies of their sufferings, they enjoy eternal life with the King eternal in the heavens.”
2. The Emperor Adrian said to the holy Symphorosa: “Either sacrifice thou along with thy sons to the omnipotent gods, or else I shall cause thee to be sacrificed thyself, together with thy sons.” The blessed Symphorosa answered: “And whence is this great good to me, that I should be deemed worthy along with my sons to be offered as an oblation to God? “(5) The Emperor Adrian said: “I shall cause thee to be sacrificed to my gods.” The blessed Symphorosa replied: “Thy gods cannot take me in sacrifice; but if I am burned for the name of Christ, my God, I shall rather consume those demons of thine.” The Emperor Adrian said: “Choose thou one of these alternatives: either sacrifice to my gods, or perish by an evil death.” The blessed Symphorosa replied: “Thou thinkest that my mind can be altered by some kind of terror; whereas I long to rest with my husband Getulius,(6) whom thou didst put to death for Christ’s name.” Then the Emperor Adrian ordered her to be led away to the temple of Hercules, and there first to be beaten with blows on the cheek, and afterwards to be suspended by the hair. But when by no argument and by no terror could he divert her from her good resolution, he ordered her to be thrown into the river with a large stone fastened to her neck. And her brother Eugenius, principal of the district of Tiber, picked up her body, and buried it in a suburb of the same city.
3. Then, on another day, the Emperor Adrian ordered all her seven sons to be brought before him in company; and when he had challenged them to sacrifice to idols, and perceived that they yielded by no means to his threats and terrors, he ordered seven stakes to be fixed around the temple of Hercules, and commanded them to be stretched on the blocks there. And he ordered Crescens, the first, to be transfixed in the throat; and Julian, the second, to be stabbed in the breast; and Nemesius, the third, to be struck through the heart; and Primitivus, the fourth, to be wounded in the navel; and Justin, the fifth, to be struck through in the back with a sword; and Stracteus,(7) the sixth, to be wounded in the side; and Eugenius, the seventh, to be cleft in twain from the head downwards.
4. The next day again the Emperor Adrian came to the temple of Hercules, and ordered their bodies to be carried off together, and cast into a deep pit; and the pontiffs gave to that place the name, To the Seven Biothanati.(8) After these things the persecution ceased for a year and a half, in which period the holy bodies of all the martyrs were honoured, and consigned with all care to tumuli erected for that purpose, and their names are written in the book of life. The natal day, moreover, of the holy martyrs of Christ, the blessed Symphorosa and her seven sons, Crescens, Julian, Nemesius, Primitivus, Justin, Stracteus, and Eugenius, is held on the 18th July. Their bodies rest on the Tiburtine road, at the eighth mile-stone from the city, under the kingship of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom is honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
INTROIT Psalm 33: 18
The just cried, and the Lord heard them ; and delivered them out of all their troubles. (Psalm 33: 2) I will bless the Lord at all times : His praise shall be ever in my mouth. v. Glory be…etc
O God, Who permit us to celebrate the anniversary of the death of Your holy Martyrs, Symphorosa and her sons, grant that we may enjoy their companionship in everlasting happiness. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, Forever and ever.
EPISTLE Hebrews 11: 33-39
Lesson from the Epistle of blessed Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews. Brethren, the saints through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, recovered strength from weakness, became valiant in battle, put to flight the armies of foreigners: women received their dead raised to life again: but others were racked, not accepting deliverance, that they ight find a better resurrection; and others had trial of mockeries and stripes, moreover also of bands and prisons: they were stoned, they were cut asunder, they were tempted, they wandered about in sheep-skins, and in goat-skins, being in want, distressed, afflicted of whom the world was not worthy: wandering in deserts, in mountains, and in dens, and in caves of the earth. And all these were found approved by the testimony of faith, in Christ Jesus our Lord.
GRADUAL/ALLELUIA Psalm 132: 1, 2
Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. V. It is like the precious ointment on the head, that ran down upon the beard, the beard of Aaron. Alleluia, alleluia. V. This is the true brotherhood that overcometh the wickedness of the world; it hath followed Christ, holding fast to the glorious heavenly kingdom. Alleluia.
GOSPEL Luke 12:1-8
At that time, Jesus began to say to his disciples: “Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed: nor hidden that shall not be known. For whatsoever things you have spoken in darkness shall be published in the light: and that which you have spoken in the ear in the chambers shall be preached on the housetops. And I say to you, my friends: Be not afraid of them who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will shew you whom you shall fear: Fear ye him who, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell. Yea, I say to you: Fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? Yea, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: you are of more value than many sparrows. And I say to you: Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God.”
OFFERTORY ANTIPHON Psalm 31: 11
Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, ye just; and glory, all ye right of heart.
We offer You, O Lord, the gifts of our homage; may they be pleasing to You in honor of Your just ones, and by Your mercy, may they become profitable for our salvation. Through our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God Forever and ever.
PREFACE of the Common
It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation that we should at all times and in all places, give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty, everlasting God: through Christ our Lord. Through Whom the Angels praise Thy Majesty, the Dominations worship it, the Powers stand in awe. The Heavens and the Heavenly hosts together with the blessed Seraphim in triumphant chorus unite to celebrate it. Together with them we entreat Thee, that Thou mayest bid our voices also to be admitted, while we say in lowly praise:
COMMUNION ANTIPHON Matthew 12: 50
Whosoever shall do the will of My Father Who is in Heaven, he is My brother, and sister, and mother, saith the Lord.
Grant, we beseech You, O Lord, by the intercession of Your holy Martyrs, Symphorosa and her sons, that what we taste with our lips we may consume with pure heart. Through the Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God For ever and ever.