Today, March 31, Saint Benjamin of Argol, deacon and martyr, is remembered. Saint Benjamin of Persia, as he is also known, lived between the 4th and 5th centuries, at the time of the Sassanian Empire (Persia), located in what is now Iran, in western Asia.
Under the yoke of persecution
At the beginning of the s. V, two Persian kings, first Yazdegerd I (Isdegerd), and later his son and his successor, Varanes V, maintained a cruel persecution against the Christians, which lasted in total about 40 years.
Those were painful decades in which being a Christian carried tremendous risk. Decades before this persecution began, King Shapor II had already laid hands on the Christians, sacrificing many lives and leaving the Church almost in rubble. When it seemed that hostility was a thing of the past, Yazdegerd – Bahram IV’s successor – gave the order to end the Christian demonstrations and demand that all followers of Christ publicly apostatize.
Benjamin, who was born around the year 329, was in those days a young deacon, of great apostolic zeal and remarkable eloquence, known for his charitable spirit towards the weakest. In the years that followed, Benjamin, despite the dangers, continued his work and made a wide name for himself; he had achieved many conversions and, by the time he was graying, he was successful even among the priests of Zarathustra, the founding prophet of Mazdaism.
The Lord is light everywhere
Although King Yazdegerd I temporarily stopped the persecution initiated by his grandfather Shapor II, he ordered the destruction of Christian temples, when a Christian priest named Hasu along with his relatives went ahead of him and set fire to the “temple of fire”, the main object of the attack. Persian cult.
Accused of sacrilege, Bishop Abdas, priests Hasu and Isaac, a deacon and two lay faithful were arrested. These were sentenced to death for refusing to rebuild the destroyed temple. The affront against the Persians started the new persecution, this time, by order of Yazdegerd.
Among the group of imprisoned men was Benjamin, the deacon, who would be beaten and then sent to prison. The future martyr would spend a year locked up, despite not having participated in the fire. Neither the bars nor the walls were an excuse to stop talking about Christ, because Benjamin was not daunted and continued preaching, even when he was in the darkest place in the prison. For him the Light of Christ was always capable of illuminating souls.
It is impossible not to announce Christ
Thanks to Benjamin’s good reputation, the Eastern Roman Emperor, Theodosius II, sent an ambassador from Constantinople to intercede for his freedom. The deacon was released, but on condition that he refrain from preaching the religion. However, Benjamin did not pay attention to what was agreed and was arrested again. Brought into the presence of the king, it was determined that he be tortured and then beheaded. Benjamin never denied Jesus, he was faithful to him in the test.
His execution is believed to have occurred in 420. Only two years later, with Theodosius II’s victory over Varanes V, freedom of worship was established for Christians in Persia.