Yesterday at church we commemorated (remembered) Saint Sophia and her three daughters Faith, Hope and Love. Sophia lived in the 100’s during the reign of Hadrian and was a widow; she was also a pious Christian (as you probably could have guessed by the names of her children). Word of their Christianity spread to the emperor and he ordered them brought in for torture, as Christianity was not a legal religion during this time.
Faith was twelve years old, Hope was ten years old and Love was nine years old when they suffered for Christ. None of them renounced Christ, even during terrible torments, and neither did their mother, though she was forced to watch her children endure such pain. One by one they were martyred for their faith, and after they had each received their heavenly crowns, Sophia was allowed to go and bury them. After their burial, she never left their graveside and died of grief a few days afterward. They are remembered and honored as martyrs and saints of the Church, examples that we are to follow. You can read more of their story here.
Hope is the patron saint of our daughter, whose name she shares. I have always loved this, as Hope is a child-martyr, and our sweet girl also suffered much in her childhood. She came home to us at about the same age as Hope went to her Heavenly Home with Christ. I see parallels in their stories, and I have always known that as one who suffered so much at such a young age, she would have special concern for other children who suffer as well.
Sophia and her daughters hold a very dear place in my heart, and in our family. Unfortunately, we are still getting our bearings, and I haven’t been keeping up with our family’s feast days. But when we realized whose day it was yesterday my husband told our priest after liturgy that it was Hope’s “name day” as it’s called. And he did a special anointing for her right then and there! I was off running around with other kiddos while they were talking, so I missed it. But Jake said that she calmed down considerably when our priest anointed her with the oil. Which was very significant, as she had been upset for a long while, and had several people touching her head that day (which she absolutely hates). But when he touched her forehead with the oil, it was not frightening or agitating but soothing. What a gift.
When we left for Orthodoxy we said quite often to people that even though the Lutheran Church has much good to offer people, it wasn’t the “fullness” of the Church. There are things missing. This is an example of that for me. Christ comes to us in so much more than just His literal words and a few pre-determined sacraments. There are an infinite number of ways that we encounter Christ. And for our sweet girl, that is very good news. Without the ability to intellectually absorb catechesis or to participate in the Lord’s Supper – what did church give to her after her baptism? How did it strengthen her faith? By hearing preaching that meant nothing? Why even take her to church? I can read her the Bible at home.
But here there is so much more. Christ encounters her in a personal, meaningful way here, a way that we never would have had in the Lutheran Church. There are gifts here, just for her! There is life here and the glimpse of that Eternal Feast of the Lamb – and she felt that yesterday. She was able to participate in it along with us. For a brief moment she wasn’t simply present while Christ was present, she felt His presence in a way I don’t think I have ever seen her feel Him before. Yes there was screaming and grumpiness and being overstimulated. But for that one instant she was home and she knew it.