On martyrdom

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Having eagerly and with great patience suffered, they are now magnified unto ages of ages. For we all must laud with songs of praise the struggles of the saints, because with a courageous spirit they have striven to implore God’s mercy, shedding their blood to cleanse us all. As mild, forgiving, chaste, pure lambs offering themselves up as a burnt offering for us…, and offering their souls as a pleasing, fragrant sacrifice to God.

St. Ephraim of Syria

The death of martyrs is encouragement to the faithful, daring of the Church, confirmation of Christianity, destruction of death, proof of the Resurrection, mocking at demons, condemnation of the devil, teaching of true wisdom and a pious way of life, instillation of disdain for present material benefits and the path of striving for the good to come, comfort in the face of the misfortunes which befall us, an inducement to patience, instruction in courage, the root and fount and mother of all blessings… The blood of martyrs nourishes the Church much more than the moisture of dew brings gardens into bloom.

Blessed is God! In our time as well martyrs have come forth, and we have been made worthy to see people sacrificed for Christ, people who shed their holy blood to irrigate the entire Church. We have been made worthy to see people, advocates of piety, who are victorious, who are crowned… and we now have these crowned ones among us.

Holy Hierarch St. John Chrysostomos

What kind of death is best?

For a Christian, the best type of death is, of course, martyrdom for Christ the Savior. In principle, that is the best type of death one may attain. While some people sent condolences to Optina Hermitage after the murder of three monks [on Pascha, 1993], for a Christian, [such death] is in fact a source of great joy. In the ancient Church, people never sent condolences when anyone was killed. All of the churches immediately sent their congratulations. Imagine! To congratulate them with the fact that they had a new defender in Heaven! Martyrdom washes away every single sin except heresy and schism….

In fact, one should not take the word «martyr» to mean one who has suffered death by torture. It literally means «witness.» Thus, a person is a martyr if, with his death he bears witness to the fact that Christ has conquered death, that He was resurrected from the dead. One's witness lies in this, and not in the fact that he has been tortured.

If we are talking about the natural end of life, the best such natural death is one whose approach you anticipate … For a Christian, the most awful possible death is one that is sudden and unexpected, for such a person departs into eternity unprepared.

(Taken from martyred Priest Daniel Sysoyev's book Instructions to Immortals, or What to do if you Nonetheless Have Died.)

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