NOVEMBER 14 - THE SEVEN PROTOMARTYRS OF DAMASCUS
Saints Caesarius, Dasius, Sabbas, Sabinianus, Agrippa, Hadrian and Thomas suffered martyrdom during the Arab conquest of Damascus. The capture of this ancient city, which began in September 636 and lasted for two months until November, took place during the rapid spread of early Islam. History has not preserved for us any information about the biography of these saints. It is known that their memory was celebrated in one of the churches of Constantinople, where, apparently, the Orthodox army that retreated from Syria transferred their relics. The very silent testimony of the Seven Martyrs recalls an era that became the apotheosis of the mutual opposition of all against all.
By that time, the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) and Persian Empires that dominated the East had finally exhausted each other in the last of many wars (602–628). Orthodox Christianity in the East was by that time divided, since already from 519 there were two Churches in Syria, with two parallel patriarchs and hierarchies. Both considered themselves Orthodox but anathematized each other due to the adoption or rejection of the decisions of the IV Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon (451) regarding Christology. The Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch maintained communion with the Churches of Rome and Constantinople, and the Syrian Patriarch of Antioch - with like-minded Egyptian (Coptic) Bishops, most of whom also rejected the Council.
During the era of pagan persecution, Christians were persecuted for their faith in One God. With the establishment of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire, the Christians were persecuted in Persia because, in the eyes of the Zoroastrian rulers there, they were in prayerful communion with churches in another state. From now on Christians were to profess faith in the Lord Jesus, as if the succession of martyrdom had followed the path of the Creed, confessing the Unity of God, and then proclaiming the Divinity of Christ. The Holy Seven Martyrs of Damascus became pioneers on this path, and therefore, according to the New Testament tradition and in the image of the “firstborn of the dead” of the Lord Jesus (1 Cor. 15:20), they are called the first martyrs.