On the 10th Day of Christmas…

On the 10th day of Christmas we celebrate Sts. Zosimus and Athanasius, Martyrs (d:303) or Octave Day of St. John.

Gather round for a bedtime story sure to give the kids a thrill!

A long time ago, in Asia Minor, specifically Cilicia in what is modern Turkey, there was a monk named Zosimus. He lived as a hermit in the wild. He was caught and tortured under Emperor Diocletian (the jerk before Constantine who liked to kill Christians). Athanasius was a Commentarisius, or in charge of the prisoners, where Zosimus was imprisoned.

Zosimus faith was never broken and neither was his body (although some accounts say his ears were burnt off by a red hot poker and then dunked in molten iron, he got better). Athanasius watched his torture, and was so moved by the miracle, he converted and was baptized. Having been found out, Athanasius was then tortured too. They were both released and went to spend the rest of their lives living as hermits, until they died presumably because of the torture, ergo martyrs. But it was said to be a happy death.

I know we’re an odd bunch.

Both of these Saints are listed in the Martyrology and they are Pre-Congregation (which just means they were canonized before the modern investigation into the Causes for Saints).

As for it being the Octave Day of St. John: Octaves were a big thing in prior to Vatican II, in the Tridentine or Latin Mass. There’s several different types of the Mass in this Rite, some being celebrated with a whole bunch of clergy of many ranks to one priest and alter servers, some with all singing, some with none. But I digress.

Octaves had 2 different meanings. The first being the 8 days after a feast. The second being a celebration of a feast lasting of 8 days. (There’s also something about Octaves having to do with the Jewish circumcision practice taking place 8 days after birth, which we just celebrated the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus on the Octave or 8th day of Christmas)

The practice started with Constantine (306-337), was eventually reduced down to 18 by Popes Pius V (P:1566-1572), Leo XIII (P:1878-1903), Pius X (P:1903-1914), as it got a little out of hand, Feast Day Octaves and Octaves of Feast Days everywhere. Pope Pius XII reduced it even more to include only Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost in 1955, and Pope Paul VI removed the Pentecost Octave.

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The above picture is what the Octaves were at the beginning of the 20th Century. To learn more, Wikipedia actually has a decent page on it (where the screenshot came from)

But anyways, it’s also the 8th day after the Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist along with being the Feasts of Sts. Zosimus and Athanasius.

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