The Martyress Sira
Commemorated on August 24
The Martyress Sira
lived during the VI Century in Persia and was the daughter of an illustrious
pagan-priest of the fire-worshippers (i.e. Zoroastrians) from Karkh-Seleucia in
Elimiade (Abizarde). Sira's father, fearing the influence of Christianity on
his daughter, sent her after the death of her mother to the city of Tharsis for
education as a pagan-priestess, which taught her the pagan-priestly craft. Sira
became a priestess at the heathen-temple of fire, and occupied herself with
honourable activity. But once, having conversed with some Christian beggars,
Sira believed in Christ the Saviour and began to live as a Christian: she began
to learn prayers and psalms, to fast and to read Christian books.
One time Sira fell ill. She was not able to discover a remedy for her sickness, and she went to the Christian church and asked the presbyter only but to give her some of the ashes from the church, hoping to receive healing from it. The presbyter, knowing Sira to be a servitor of idols, refused her request. Sira was not angered, knowing about her own unworthiness, but she with faith touched the robe of the priest, as once formerly the woman with the issue of blood did touch the robe of the Saviour (Mt. 9: 20-22). She immediately received healing and she returned home healthy. Sira's family began to suspect that she wanted to accept Christianity, and they asked Sira's step-mother to persuade her to abandon her intention. The step-mother, making a pretense, as though she herself were a secret christian, with sweetness talked with Sira to keep her faith in secret, and outwardly to continue to serve the fire, so as not to fall away from Christ altogether by being subjected to torture. Sira began to hesitate about accepting Baptism, but having received a vision in her sleep about the desolate fate which befell her mother after death, and about the luminous abodes foreordained for Christians, she made up her mind and went to the bishop, asking him to baptise her. The bishop declined fulfilling her request, fearing to give the pagan-priests occasion for persecuting Christians. Besides this, he thought that Sira, fearing her father's wrath, would recant from Christ. The bishop advised her first to openly confess her faith in the Saviour in front of her kinsfolk.
One time during the making of the morning sacrifice, Saint Sira was stoking the priestly fire – worshipped by the Persians as their god, and overturning the sacrifice she proclaimed loudly: "I am a Christian and reject false gods and I believe in the True God!" The father beat his daughter until he became exhausted, and then threw her in prison. With tears and entreaties he urged her to return to her former faith, but Sira was unyielding. The father then made denunciation against her to the pagan high-priest, and afterwards to the governor and to the emperor Khozroes the Elder. They tortured the holy maiden for a long time in prison, but the Lord strengthened her, and she stood firmly on her faith in Christ. One time, having bribed the prison guard, Saint Sira went to the bishop and received Baptism. The Lord vouchsafed Saint Sira the gift of wonderworking. When the Persians gave the martyress over for the leering of impious men, they began to jeer at the saint, saying: "What's the fable told about thee, that the chains themselves fall from thee, from thy neck, hands and legs? Let us see now, how the chains fall off!" Against such words Saint Sira prayed in the depths of her heart to the Saviour, and immediately the chains fell from her. And this was not the only time. Succumbing to her tortures, Saint Sira fell deathly ill. She began to entreat the Lord that He not allow her to die from the illness, but rather vouchsafe her a martyr's crown. The Lord heard her and granted healing. Seeing the martyress healthy, the prison guard and jail warden went to dishonour the holy maiden, but the Lord struck one with illness and the other one was struck dead. The martyress was condemned to strangling.
They conducted the execution with refined cruelty: after a while they left go of the rope, asking the saint whether she wanted to change her mind and remain among the living. But the martyress, barely alive, answered a refusal and requested the execution be done quickly. The body of the saint was thrown to dogs for devouring, but they would not touch it. Christians buried the body of Saint Sira (+ 558).
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.