Saint Sultana Mahdukht

Below is the legendary story of Saint Sultana Mahdukht; a name in Persian that translates to "Princess, Daughter of the Moon."

In the ninth year of Shapur II's reign, the king of Persia (318 A.D.), the gospel had been spread throughout the entire Persian Empire, and zealous pastors were in charge of the numerous eparchies that had grown in that region. At that time, Mar Abda was the bishop for the city of Khirbat Jalal.
He was working tirelessly to bolster the Christian faith in that territory and to encourage the persecuted Christians to undergo the turmoil they faced with faith and confidence.

During this time, in the land of Dorsas, there was a prince Pholar, who was a subject to King Shapur II. Pholar had received orders to persecute all the Christians who were living under his jurisdiction by escorting them to Karkh Beth Slokh, which at the time, was the biggest of the cities surrounding the area of Beth Garmai. There they were to be interrogated in front of the Emperor’s Representative and a death sentence was to be pronounced upon them for their belief in Christ.

Pholar had two sons, Athorfrowa and Meharnarsa, and a daughter named Sultana Mahdokht. Since their childhood, their father was careful to provide them with the best education money could afford at the time. As they grew up, they became highly educated, especially in the field of their native religion, which was the religion of all the Persian princes and emperors at the time. They were extremely attractive and so they became a source of delight for their father. Hoping to notify the emperor of his children’s prestige and stature, Pholar decided to take them to the Emperor’s Representative. He took them to Karkh Slokh, where the Emperor’s Representative tested their knowledge and was extremely impressed with their abilities. He promised Pholar to notify the emperor of the stature his children had reached.

After this, Pholar sent his children to go back to their city and schooling. While on their way back, they arrived at a small village called Ahwan.
Before they had arrived at that village, they began racing with their horses. Meharnarsa, the youngest, fell off his horse. His thigh bone had completely broken, almost detaching his leg from the rest of his body. Adorfrowa and Sultana fell into a frenzy, and they began tearing their clothes due to their angst over their injured brother. They took their brother and entered the village wailing and crying over him. The villagers shared the princes’ grief over the young one. It had pleased God that at that hour, the bishop, Mar Abda, was on a pastoral visit to that village. As soon as he heard the wailing, he enquired the cause, and he was told what had happened to the three-horse riders. Despite their persecution of Christians and their pagan beliefs, Mar Abda felt a great deal of sympathy for them. He immediately went to visit the injured man.

While Mar Abda was on his way, Meharnarsa went into a comma. Everyone thought he had died. In a vision, he saw Christ, the King of kings, seated on a great throne that was scintillating with great light and splendor. The heavenly hosts surrounded his great and majestic throne. In front of Him, stood legions of martyrs who wore shining bodies, and on their heads, they had crowns, which they had attained through the torture and pains they had endured. Two dignified men had a hold of Meharnarsa, one in his left and the other in his right. He turned to them and asked with fear, “who is this? Who are those standing in front of Him? And who are those people that are praising with such reverence as if they were slaves?” They answered, “This is Almighty Christ, the glorious King of all ages, upon whom those who rest their hopes will not be disappointed. As for those who honor His presence with reverence, these are angels, powers of light, and spirit. Those who stand in front of His throne with clothes of light and splendor and a crown on their heads are the believers who wear the pearls of light and baptism and are crowned with martyrdom for the sake of their Master.” They said this to him and then they took him to another place and showed him frightening darkness, bottomless pits, and a great fire that torments evildoers and unbelievers. As he began contemplating this horrific scene, the two men brought Meharnarsa back in front of the King’s throne. While he was looking around and meditating this majestic sight, he saw Christ’s priest, Mar Abda the bishop, approaching with confidence through the ranks of the heavenly host until he arrived at Christ’s feet where he knelt down and began petitioning Christ to grant him the soul of the boy, Meharnarsa. Two angels came near Mar Abda and brought him to Meharnarsa. They handed the boy to the bishop and said to him “Your request has been granted. Evangelize, baptize, and give offerings to your Master.”

While Meharnarsa was having this vision, the holy man arrived, kneeled down, and began praying to his Master amidst the screaming and wailing of those present. Then he got off his knees and placed the dislocated leg back into its place, crossed it, and screamed with a voice empty of any doubt or hesitation and said to that lifeless body: “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, He whose name is blasphemed against and whose followers are persecuted, arise boy.” Immediately, the boy rose and came back to life. The wailing and weeping of those present turned into joyous laughter and ecstasy, and they began glorifying Christ the Lord.

When the boy came to his senses and remembered what he saw in the vision, he found the priest of Christ whom he saw in the vision standing next to him, he came and kneeled at his feet and said “my lord, priest of Christ, the King of all ages, offer to your Master that which has been entrusted to you as he commanded you, and do not forget that He answered your petition. Do not forget He granted your supplication. Evangelize, baptize and offer to your Master as you were commanded. Your Master is my Master, your God is my God; I do not have a king except the true King, upon whom it was said that those who rest their hopes will not be disappointed. There is no god except Him who created earth and heaven and everything in them according to His will. I renounce Satan and his evil teachings, which lead to hell.” Immediately, he began reciting all he saw in the vision to those present and to Mar Abda. Everyone was astonished at what they heard. Then Meharnarsa screamed at the top of his voice “I thank you, Christ, do not close the door of your kindheartedness on me. O Good One who wants to give life to people, accept me a sinner and invite me to your heavenly light. Do not hold me accountable for the blood of your martyrs and saints, which my father’s sword has spilled. You promised, Lord, in your holy books, that you would not make the son liable for the sin of his father. Shine the light of your knowledge upon the hearts of my siblings so they may know that you are the true God, along with your Father and Holy Spirit. Prepare me for the holy baptism that I may not be deprived of the good communion with your holy saints in heaven.”

He was speaking these words while he was lying on the ground and crying at the feet of Mar Abda. His brother approached him, raised him, and said to him “Arise, brother, we do not need to utter useless words when we can put them to action. Who else is capable of restoring deteriorated natural elements back to their original condition other than the Creator of these natural elements? Who can revive the dead, other than He who breathed a spirit unto him while he was in his mother’s womb? Why are we busying ourselves with useless talk rather than accepting Christ’s decree and being counted among His worshippers through His servant [Mar Abda] whom He chose to fulfill this mission?

When Sultana Mahdokht heard her brothers, she too announced loudly: “Blessed be Christ who brought back hope to the hopeless, blessed be Christ who, through my brother’s broken thighbone, has destroyed the chains of Satan and has captured us to perform His will.” Then she turned to Mar Abda and said “And you, Christ’s servant, whom the Master has sent to save us, why do you disregard our case? Our good Lord wants to bring us back to Him through you. He granted it to you to heal and revive the flesh that was destroyed. And now arise and revive our spirits that have been dead through sin and evil. Our spirits are more deserving than our flesh.” As soon as Mar Abda heard these words, he was overcome with mirth and joy, and he said to them, “rejoice in the Lord, beloved because your names have been written in the book of life.[7] You have become heirs of the heavenly Jerusalem, and you are now counted among the firstborns whose names have been written in the heaven of the Church of the living God. The Father rejoices in you, the Son loves you, and the Spirit sanctifies you. The heavenly door is wide open for you; enter it joyfully. Put on the garment of light that befits the rank, to which you have been called. I have prepared for you crowns of victory through your death for the sake of your Master. Do not cringe from this glorious struggle through which you will be granted many benefits.” He said these words, and he gave to the priests of the village and its deacons everything that is necessary for the princes’ and the princess’ baptism. They received the holy baptism, and they partook of the spiritual banquet by eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Christ.

After all, was done, and while those around them wanted to obtain the blessings of their presence, suddenly God’s Spirit took the newly baptized and brought them to a valley just above the village. In this valley, there was a cave with a small alcove that contained a little bit of water. They found themselves in this cave, and they rejoiced at God’s wonderful arrangements. They began saying to one another, “if it is God’s will that we should remain alive, then we will reside in this cave, which God had prepared for us in his loving care. If our end is near, then this cave will be our tomb.” They remained in that cave for a period of three years. As for their companions who were traveling with them, they stayed in the village for ten days awaiting their return. When they had grown tired of waiting, they went back to the father and told him everything that had happened. Prince Pholar wrote to the emperor [Shapur II] immediately to let him know that his children have gone missing. Emperor [Shapur II] responded with a decree to search for the missing princes until they are found and to inform the emperor the moment they’re found. Pholar sent out searching parties everywhere through the villages, the mountains, and all accessible lands. Six months were spent in this search to no avail. Sadness and despair spread everywhere.

Sultana Mahdukht and her brothers lived in that small cave with joy and happiness. What made them reside in that awful place without company for three years when they were used to living in spacious palaces with plenty of company? Did their clothes not get wet? Did the oppressive sun not scorch them, or did they not shiver from freezing cold? Did they not remember the comforts of their father’s house or the lavish foods they were used to eating? God’s grace,[8] which raised John the Baptist in the desert, also raised these saints, fed them, protected them, and made their content. God’s grace[9] examined them throughout their endurance and fortitude, and it protected them from the Evil One who was attempting to end their lives. They were constant in their prayers and thanksgiving to the Holy Trinity. They were in this state of grace,[10] while their family was in anguish for its missing members.

God had bestowed upon them the gift of prophecy and seeing into the future. When their time for departure from this life and attain the crown of martyrdom had arrived, Adorfrowa, the eldest, said, “I see our good Father, Mar Abda, coming. He prepared everything, and he has come out to see us. The angel has shown him the way to us so that he can bring to us the Body and Blood of Christ. They began praying until Christ’s priest arrived along with a deacon named Adday. They all ran welcoming him joyfully in the same manner children run to see their real father. Mar Abda said to them, “Have courage and raise your heads. The time of your salvation has arrived. Petition the Lord so that He may have mercy on your elderly Father.” Meharnarsa said to him, “No Father, you pray for us instead. You will depart this world three days before us.” Sultana Mahdukht said, “Pray for us Father, our persecutors will find us in seven days, and on the 15th we will win the crown of martyrdom.” Mar Abda marveled at this knowledge of the future, which the Lord had bestowed upon his three children. He embraced them and kissed them. He left them in God’s grace.

On the 7th day after Mar Abda left them, their father’s horse became loose and came running to the cave where they were dwelling. When they saw the horse, they recognized it was their father’s. They hid in the cave to see if there was someone following the horse. They saw two stable boys who worked for their father, riding after the wandering horse. When the three saints saw the two stable boys, they fell on their faces, praying and petitioning the Lord. The two stable boys came to the cave and saw the three saints in that posture. They marveled and remained in their place for nearly an hour. They could not speak nor move because of their amazement. After finishing their prayer, the three saints rose and said, “Peace be with you. Why do you stand there in amazement?” As soon as the boys recognized the princes, they fell prostrate before them. The princes said, “Go and tell the prince that you have found those whom he was looking for but could not find until God willed to reveal them.” The stable boys asked them to mount the horses and come back home, but the princes said, “First, go and tell the prince about us.” They took the lost horse and rode back to prince Pholar to notify him of their finding. On their way back, they said to one another, “What if after we tell the prince, they move somewhere else. Then, the prince will get angry with us and order our death. It is better if one of us stays here, while the other goes and informs the prince.”

After the sun had set and darkness engulfed the cave’s surroundings, the three saints were deep in prayer, knowing that their time of struggle had arrived. The entire hillside was filled with heavenly light. Suddenly, two angels descended from heaven, went into the cave, and began encouraging the three saints. The angels said to them, “Have courage and do not be frightened, you have been given a power that cannot be overcome and a weapon that cannot be conquered in your fight against your enemy. Heaven awaits you to go and reside there with the rest of its inhabitants.” The stable boy who remained in his place saw all this. He wanted to go near the cave, thinking these events were taking place by the art of Christian magic, which these princes had mastered. He went near the cave to have a better look. A spark of fire struck him as a rebuke, and also it served as a reminder for him that he was not imagining things. His body was smoldered. He ran for his life.

The other stable boy went back and told Pholar about his children. Pholar sent thirty knights to bring back his lost children. Immediately, he wrote to Shapur and told him that the three children had been found. Shapur II had heard about Sultana Mahdokht’s beauty. He wrote to Pholar telling him to send his daughter to the king so that he can wed her. The knights who were sent to retrieve the two sons and one daughter of the prince hurried to fulfill Pholar’s command. On their way, they met the fleeing stable boy who was smoldered by fire. He warned them, “Do not go. You cannot go near the cave.” He told the knights what had happened to him, and he showed them the burning marks he had received in his attempt to get near the cave. The knights showed no concern about the stable boy’s account. Instead, they continued to make their way towards the cave to investigate what they had heard. When they had arrived, the angels had departed, and there was nothing out of the norm at that moment. However, when they tried to pass through the cave’s entrance, their eyes were stricken with sparks of fire that rendered them blind so that they could not see the entrance. Meanwhile, they could hear the voices of the three saints praying. The knights said amongst themselves, “Let’s stay until the morn, then we’ll be able to see the entrance.” Morning arrived and the sun had risen. The saints could see the party that was sent after them, standing at the door of the cave-like blinded people who could not see the door. They were praising and glorifying Christ in a loud voice, which bewildered the knights.

After sunrise, the knights had not returned. Pholar ordered his horse to be prepared so that he would go and fetch his children himself. He took a good number of soldiers with him. On his way, he saw his knights coming back empty-handed. They dismounted their horses and prostrated before him. He asked them angrily about his children. They said, “We found their whereabouts and we heard their voices, but our eyes were not able to see them.” Pholar ordered them to mount their horses and accompany him. At their arrival, the saints heard the galloping of the horses. They began praying. Pholar saw the cave from a distance and said to those accompanying him, “Isn’t this the cave you mentioned?” They answered, “Yes, this is the exact cave, but we are not sure whether your children are still inside.” At that moment, the horses stopped moving and could not go on any further towards the cave. They used the whip on the horses in an attempt to persuade them to move on. It was no use. Everyone was astonished. When they stopped whipping their horses, they began hearing the saints praising God with beautiful songs. Pholar ordered his knights to dismount their horses. They all walked together towards the cave. When they came closer to the cave, the same power that stopped their horses also prevented their feet from moving any closer to the saints. They remained near the horses while unable neither to mount them nor to move on by foot. Fear descended upon them. Pholar gestured towards his men to shoot three arrows towards the cave. Three archers shot their arrows. Suddenly, their arms, which were carrying the bows, fell off their bodies. The arrows they shot came back in their direction and stabbed members of their squad, who began wailing and screaming. Those who lost their arms and those who were hit by the arrows began begging the saints to heal them of their injuries.

The three saints extended their heads out of the tiny cave. A light was shining from their faces that surpassed the light of stars. Their father raised their voice, begging them, “Will you not come back to your father, my children? Did I not offer you the best upbringing and education in different sciences? Did I not make your names known to king Shapur II so that he may raise your status? Why did you mistreat me in this manner? Why did you make all my efforts go in vain? Why did you turn your father into a mockery throughout the entire Persian Empire? They answered him politely, “We have a better Father than you, and He said to us, ‘he who does not leave his father and mother and follow me, does not deserve to be my disciple.’[11] As for the upbringing and the education you gave us, it is harmful to our real life, and we pray that it will be wiped out from our memory. And what you said about king Shapur’s honor, we now have a King whose kingship and rulership is grander than Shapur’s. We await an honor from our King that is more grandiose than that which Shapur was offering us. We are the servants of this King and not Shapur’s servants. Go back to your house with your soldiers, and stay there for six days until Shapur’s representative will come to you. Then come back here to us. Right now, the time of our martyrdom has not yet arrived. The injured men went to the saints and begged them to be healed. The saints asked them, “Do you believe in Christ, the Son of the living God, who can heal you without medicine?” The injured men responded, “Whoever can heal us, we believe that He is the true God and no one else.” The saints prayed for them, and they were immediately healed. Then, they began shouting, “We profess your name, Christ, Son of the living God. Those who blaspheme against you let them be ashamed.”

When Pholar and those accompanying him heard and saw what was unfolding, they were all frightened. The prince wanted to prevent those who professed Christ’s name from baptism. However, they began screaming loudly that they are Christians. Many of those soldiers who accompanied Pholar joined them and were baptized. The total number of those baptized that day was 708 men. Pholar remained near the cave until the evening, unable to go inside. He asked the three saints to allow him to entrance into the cave. They refused. Finally, he went back home with despair and misery. Soon thereafter, these incidents became known everywhere. Those who heard the news began visiting the cave. Visitors also brought with them the sick and they were healed at the touch of the saints. Along with physical healing, faith in Christ was also shining upon them, making them forsake the darkness of paganism to join the light of Christ.

On the sixth day, Shapur II’s representative, along with seven of the king’s high-ranking officers, arrived at Pholar’s house with a message from the king. When Pholar read the letter, he began weeping. When asked for the reason, Pholar did not respond. They said to him, “We were sent by king Shapur II to fetch your daughter.” Pholar responded, “I do not have a daughter to give to the king.” He then went on to tell of all that had happened. When they heard the story in its entirety, they were shocked. They said, “Let’s go to the cave to see and hear them.” They mounted their horses and rode to the cave, bringing along a big number of knights. When they arrived at the cave, they found a huge gathering. The king’s officers asked, “What is the reason for your gathering, and what is it that you want?” “We came to be healed,” the gathering responded. The officers made their way through the crowd until they reached the three saints, who were praying with hands lifted to heaven. The king’s representative bestowed the king’s greetings upon the saints, but they did not respond. This agitated the officers. They said, “You who deserve death, won’t you respond to king Shapur II’s greetings?” The saints did not respond to this either. The representative took up a stone from the ground and cast it at the saints. The stone came back towards him and hit him and bruised him in the forehead. The crowd raised its voice and began praising Christ.

When the representative, whose name was Koshtazad, tasted the power of the saints, he treated his injury and was quiet until the saints finished their prayers. The saints turned to the crowd and said, “Peace be upon you and cures for your sicknesses.” Immediately, all those sick were healed. Everyone was giving glory to God. Koshthazad himself was ill with gout, which afflicted his hands and feet, and three fingers on his left hand were paralyzed for thirteen years. They were healed. He began, glorifying God involuntarily. The saints called on his name and said, “Koshtazad!” He was astonished that they knew his name even though they hadn’t met him before. “Here I am,” he responded. “We ask you to respond truthfully, who is greater, man or God?” the saints asked. He said, “Certainly God is greater.” “Then why did you get angry when we were speaking to God in prayer and we refrained to answer the greetings of Shapur, who is a mere human just like the rest of human beings?” they asked. After a short silence, Koshtazad said, “I have something to say to you in secret, ask everyone to leave.” The saints asked everyone to leave. Everyone had departed, except their father, Pholar, and Shapur’s messengers. Koshtazad spoke to them and said, “You know king Shapur II the beloved and his majesty, and all the miseries he inflicted and still inflicts on the Christians. He was told of all the instruction you have received on Persian arts. It was his intention to honor you highly, and take your sister as a bride. I was sent to take her to him with a great stature that befits a queen. However, you lack one thing. You must forsake this great darkness that you have fallen into, and the king will grant you everything. What is your answer?”

Adorfrowa said, “Each one of us will answer for himself. My answer is this: my Lord and King and God is Jesus Christ. I have accepted a small deposit of the wondrous gifts that he will give me. Even Shapur II in all his glory and majesty does not compare with a tiny portion of these gifts. I have two witnesses for this, your injuries and your fingers. I am ready to undergo a great deal of pain for that which you have labeled as ‘darkness.’ And now, my brother and my sister will answer for themselves.” Mehrnarsa answered, “I am the youngest of Christ’s worshipers. Yet, let your king with his crown perform what Christ has just performed through me, the smallest of his followers. I am a Christian, a servant of Christ and his worshiper for eternity. I have no king, no lord, nor any god, except Him. You too will soon denounce Shapur’s kingdom and profess Christ’s Lordship.”[12] Sultana Mahdokht said, “It is befitting for a girl to remain modest, humble, and silent at all times, especially in front of men who are dignified and distinguished. Nevertheless, when it comes to faith, speech is better than silence, and courage and candidness do better than modesty. I thought my brothers’ answers are enough for you to know my answer as well. Yet, since my brothers wanted each of us to speak for ourselves, it would be best that I too give you my own answer. For my sake, you have come thus far, and you long to hear my opinion and know my response. You are telling me to go from light and into darkness, from joy to despair, from decency to shame, from life to death, from Christ’s sweet-smelling perfume, and into Shapur’s awful stench, from the glorious, heavenly bridegroom to an earthly bridegroom whose life is festered with worms and who will end up in a tomb. You tell me to descend from heaven to earth, from God to man. God forbid I should forsake the company of Christ, my Lord and my God whom I have followed in faith and love, and join the appalling company of Shapur. I also know that you will be decapitated for the sake of your faith in Christ, by a command from Shapur II himself. Blessed are you should you be found worthy of the heavenly delight. You have heard my opinion. Write to your master and let him know of our decision. You should also know that you will not be able to force us to abandon this dwelling, which was granted to us by our Lord in His grace.

When the soldiers realized they would not be able to capture them by force, they wrote to Shapur and told him of the saints’ response. Shapur read the response. He became furious and began roaring like a lion.[13] He wrote a message to Pholar and to Koshtazad, his representative, in which he said, “How is it that you stood by, listening to them offending my splendor and you did not annihilate them immediately? And how is it that you did not tie pose magicians and bring them to me so that I would slay them gruesomely? Since you wrote about their magic and how it protects them, I sent you the finest of magicians along with other top magicians to control them. Tie them up and bring them to me. If the best of my magicians cannot overcome their magic, then slay them and burn their corpses. Whoever supports them, crucify him in a visible place.”

Five days after Shapur II’s decree (the 12th day after the saint’s cave was found), his message along with the top magician arrived at the cave. When the message was read and its content became known, the leading knight commanded Mar Abda to be crucified according to Shapur II’s decree. The troops sent to fetch him found that he had already died, and his body was covered up. They went back empty-handed. “Why did you not fetch the episcopate as you were commanded?” the saints asked the troops. The troops were amazed at the saints’ knowledge of the hidden message to fetch Mar Abda and of his death. “Let your magicians now approach and carry out what they were commanded,” said the saints. For two days and two nights, the magicians performed their wicked ceremonies using blood, hair, meat, and different paints. As for the saints, they kept praying and pleading with the Lord.

A great multitude assembled in front of the cave, and they wanted to go near the saints to be healed from their sicknesses and receive blessings from them. Shapur’s knights prevented them from approaching the Saints in accordance with the magicians’ wishes. Among the multitude, there was a man who was born blind. He was forty years of age. He too wanted to go near the Saints, but the troops prevented him. The blind man asked the man guiding him how far of a distance separated them from the magicians. Then he picked up a rock and threw it at the top magician. The rock hit the magician in the head, and it wounded him. At that moment, the blind man’s eyes were opened and he began seeing. Everyone present gave glory to God for this great miracle. When the knights began chasing the man, he fled away. One of the knights fell of his horse, and his leg was broken. Shapur’s magicians attempted to heal him, but they were unsuccessful. Other knights carried the injured one to the cave where he began begging the saints to heal him. Adorfrowa said to him, “Why do you serve the enemy of Christ while you are a Christian?” He said, “All these knights are Christians, but we obey the king because we are knights.” The saints prayed for the injured man, and he was healed.

No sooner did the magicians get tired after two days of useless work than the Saints said to them, “Do you wish to see our strength? We will show you immediately.” They lifted their arms to heaven and said, “O undefeated Power, O Lord, embarrass Satan by destroying his associates, and exalt your Church by making your servants victorious.” Immediately a fire rose from the ground and the magicians were destroyed by the blazes.

While Koshtazad was watching these miracles, in his mind he became convinced of the Christian faith. On the night of the 15th day, the eve of the Saint's martyrdom, he came to the Saints and said to them, “I am a servant of Christ, the true King. Pray for me that He may have mercy on me and accept me to be among His followers. Now I know that He is the righteous God who wants all people to come back to Him.”[14] The Saints became overfilled with joy, and they began embracing and kissing him as a true brother. Then they said to him, “Go to Mar Shemon Bar Sabbae to grant you the holy baptism, and you will win the crown of martyrdom one day before him. But pray for us to be taken out for our struggle where we will win victory. Do not become an obstacle in our battle. Instead, ask our father Pholar to carry out the decree issued by Shapur the king.” He embraced them and kissed them. Then he went back to his companions where they were asleep.

On the next morning, Koshtazad said to Pholar, “Fulfill the king’s decree and let’s go back. We wasted a great deal of time here.” While everyone was scared of going near the Saints, the three stood at the entrance of the cave and said to the troops, “Go on, free us from this flesh so that we may go to the true life. Our time to go to Christ, our King, has come.” At that time, the multitude had not scattered yet. Everyone heard the Saints’ request. They all began to weep. Their father tore his garment in mourning, and he started throwing ashes on his head. His troops were weeping bitterly as well. Then he commanded one of them to go and kill them. The soldier unsheathed his sword and approached the saints with great fear. The crowd accompanied the guard, while yearning to see to the Saints and to become martyrs just like them. But the saints were rejoicing for their fate. They said to the troops, “Give us a moment to pray to the Lord.” A silence fell upon the crowd. Everyone wanted to listen intently to the Saints’ prayer. At that moment, the Saints raised their eyes and arms to heavens and said, “O Lord Jesus Christ who gave us a new eternal life through partaking of His holy flesh, who saved mankind through His death on the cross, who rescued the world from darkness by bringing it back to the knowledge of the Holy Trinity, who promised us a joyful eternity rather than life on this wretched earth, Lord, magnify your Church and grant it a victory over its enemies. Lord, bless this land, on which we offer our lives for your name’s sake. Pour your grace and your blessings upon anyone who celebrates our memory, and remove all evil, seen or unseen, away from them, their families, and their properties. Bless, O Lord this gathering, have mercy on our murderers and do not demand your servants’ blood from them. We offer our thanks to the Holy Trinity, now and forever.” The entire assembly responded, “Amen.” The Saints turned to all those present, and their faces were glowing like a flame of fire. All three proclaimed, “Let the peace, which Christ has left for His Church, be with us forever and ever, amen.”

Adorfrowa, the oldest brother, approached the decapitator and offered his neck to him. The decapitator beheaded him. Mehrnarsa saw this and ran to his brother and splashed his blood on his face. He too offered his neck, and the decapitator beheaded him as well. Immediately, the decapitator became infected with leprosy. His hand began trembling and the sword fell off. He did not want to kill their sister. Sultana Mahdokht said to him, “Finish your work, and do not keep me from joining my brothers.” The decapitator said to her, “I wish I hadn’t killed these two.” Then he ran to a nearby brook and washed his sword. Sultana Mahdokht called on him again and said, “Like Christ, before whom I prostrate, lives, if you swear an oath that you will kill me, I will heal you from your leprosy.” He swore an oath for her. She said to him, “Go and wash in the same water that you washed your sword just now and you will be healed.” He did as he was told, and he came back healed from leprosy. He fulfilled his oath and beheaded her as well. The pagans wanted to burn their corpses, as Shapur had ordered them, but they disappeared. When the persecutions against the Christians died down, a church was built on this ground in their name to commemorate the memory of these holy Saints. Many miracles occurred in this church through their intercession. The date of their martyrdom was January 12, 319 A.D.

Adi Sheer says, right now there is a church in a village named Araden, near Amadiya, which holds the name of Sultana Mahdokht and her brothers. In this church, there is a grave, which the villagers say contains the belongings of these saints. The villagers commemorate these saints every year.

Araden village is located between Matin and Gara mountains in Duhok’s Amedi. It is home to both Christians and Muslims.

The story goes that Sultan Mahdokht, daughter of Prince Pholar, and her two brothers were racing in the mountains close to the village. One of her brothers fell and injured his leg. A priest who was in the area came to help, read some prayers and ordered him to stand up and walk.

The three siblings, having seen the miracle, embraced Christianity and decided to stay in the village.

This happened during the reign of King Shapur the Second (309-379) of the Sasanian Empire. The state religion was Zoroastrianism and King Shapur took a harsh line against other faiths.

Prince Pholar, who had been ordered by the king to find Christians and bring them for judgment, commanded his men to find his two sons and daughter.

The three were found after years of searching. When the siblings chose to keep their new faith against the wishes of their father and the king, they were killed.

Mahdokht is a Persian compound word taken from mah meaning moon and dookhtar meaning daughter.

“She was a beautiful woman, that is why she got this name," Philip George, a Christian resident in Araden said.

"Many people visit this site because many miracles have happened here, like curing some illnesses such as infertility in women. They pray that they will have a baby.”

After the brothers and sister were killed, a shepherd from the village decided to build a church in Sultana Mahdokht’s name. He used milk instead of water to mix white cement and join the stones together, Bishop Yushya of Sultan Mahdokht Church said.

The walls in the 4th-century church are about 1.5 meters thick. It is said that 150 people can take shelter within the building.

Christians hold special ceremonies in memory of Sultan Mahdokht, a canonized saint in the Church of East and the Chaldean Church.

People light candles and offer up prayers.

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