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Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume VIII: August. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.

August 8

St. Hormisdas, Martyr

ISDEGERDES, king of Persia, renewed the persecution which Cosroes II. had raised against the church. It is not easy, says Theodoret, to describe or express the cruelties which were then invented against the disciples of Christ. Some were flayed alive, others had the skin torn from off their backs only, others off their faces from the forehead to the chin. Some were stuck all over with reeds split in two, and appeared like porcupines; then these reeds were forcibly plucked out, so as to bring off the skin with them. Some were bound hands and feet, and in that condition thrown into great vaults which were filled with hungry rats, mice, or other such vermin, which gnawed and devoured them by degrees, without their being able to defend themselves. Nevertheless, these cruelties hindered not the Christians from running with joy to meet death, that they might gain eternal life. Isdegerdes dying, the persecution was carried on by his son Varanes; and Hormisdas was one of the most illustrious victims of his tyranny and malice. He was of the chief nobility among the Persians, son to the governor of a province, and of the race of the Achemenides. Varanes sent for him, and commanded him to renounce Jesus Christ. Hormisdas answered him: “That this would offend God, and transgress the laws of charity and justice; that whoever dares to violate the supreme law of the sovereign Lord of all things, would more easily betray his king, who is only a mortal man. If the latter be a crime deserving the worst of deaths, what must it be to renounce the God of the universe?” The king was enraged at this wise and just answer, and caused him to be deprived of his office, honours, and goods, and even stripped of his very clothes, except a small piece of linen that went round his waist; and ordered him in this naked condition to drive and look after the camels of the army. A long time after, the king, looking out of his chamber window, saw Hormisdas all sunburnt, and covered with dust, and calling to mind his former dignity and riches, and the high station of his father, sent for him, ordered a shirt to be given him, and said to him: “Now at least lay aside thy obstinacy, and renounce the carpenter’s son.” The saint transported with holy zeal, tore the shirt or tunic, 1 and threw it away, saying: “If you thought that I should so easily be tempted to abandon the law of God, keep your fine present with your impiety.” The king, incensed at his boldness, banished him again with indignation from his presence. St. Hormisdas happily finished his course; and is named in the Roman Martyrology. The same tyrant, when Suenes, a nobleman of Persia, who was master of one thousand slaves, was inflexible in the profession of his faith, asked him which was the meanest and vilest among all his slaves, and to him that was named he gave all the rest, and Suenes himself, and his wife. The confessor still continued firm in the faith. See Theodoret, Hist. Eccl. b. 5, c. 39.  1
Note 1. The Orientals have in all ages used light silk or linen tunics in hot weather; but the ordinary use of linen shirts is a very modern, though most convenient custom. Dr. Arbuthnot had reason to say that Julius Cæsar had neither a shirt to his back, nor glass to his windows. (Tr. On Coins and Measures.) [back]