A Facebook notification this evening reminded me that I had previously posted a prayer for a sick child to the Seven Youths of Ephesus, and this led me to look at the prayer for those unable to sleep, from the Great Euchologion, in which the ‘Seven Sleepers’ are invoked.
I think it must have been as a teenager that I first came across the Seven Holy Youths of Ephesus in John Donne’s poem ‘The Good-Morrow’, where the poet questions life before the dawn of love with the celebrated line, “… or snorted we in the seven sleepers’ den?”
My English Teacher relegated the ‘Seven Sleepers’ to poetic Christian legend, and it was made clear that they were not considered real.
Praise God, that in the Orthodox Church we embrace the supernatural acts of God in the lives of the saints, and have never been induced to ‘abolish’ early saints and martyrs as Roman Catholicism did under the disastrous crusade of Vatican II and the seismic, modernist tsunami that swept away so much beauty and tradition – including the saints!
We have never felt the need to abolish the early martyrs and confessors, and have no problem in accepting that the Lord could sustain the Holy Youths in their miraculous sleep.
After they were walled into a cave in the persecutions of the Emperor Decius (249-251), refusing to offer sacrifices to pagan idols, the Lord sustained them until the reign of the Christian Emperor, Theodosius the Younger (408-450). At a time when heretics opposed the resurrection of the dead, their miraculous ‘resurrection’ put the heretics to shame.
Prayer from the Great Euchologion “For One Who Is Ill and Cannot Sleep”
O God, Great, Praised, Incomprehensible and Ineffable, Who didst fashion man with Thy hands, taking dust from the earth, and Who didst honour him with Thine Image, O Jesus Christ, Most-desired Name, together with Thy Father Who is without beginning, and Thy Most-Holy, Good, and Lifegiving Spirit: Do Thou manifest unto Thy servant, N., and visit him (her) in soul and body, being entreated by our most-glorious Sovereign Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary; by the holy Bodiless Powers of Heaven; by the honourable and glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John; by the holy, glorious and all-praised Apostles; by the holy, glorious and right-victorious Martyrs; by our Fathers among the Saints and ecumenical Teachers: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom; by Athanasius and Cyril, Nicholas of Myra in Lycia, Cyril and Methodius, Teachers of the Slavs, Spyridon the Wonderworker, and all the holy Hierarchs; by the holy Apostle, Protomartyr and Archdeacon Stephen; by the holy, glorious Great-Martyrs: George the Trophy-bearer, Demetrius the Myrrhgusher, Theodore Stratelates, and all the holy Martyrs; by our Venerable and God-bearing Fathers: Anthony, Euthymius, Savvas the Sanctified, Theodosius (Founder of the Common Life), Onouphrius, Arsenius, Athanasius the Athonite, and all the Venerable Ones; by the holy Unmercenary Physicians: Cosmas and Damian, Cyrus and John, Panteleimon and Hermalaeus, Samson and Diomedes, Thalelaeus and Tryphon, and all the rest; by Saint(s), N. (of the Day); and by all Thy Saints; and grant unto him (her) a peaceful sleep, the sleep of bodily health and salvation, and life and strength of soul and body, as once Thou didst visit Abimelech, Thy favourite, in the house of Agrippa, and gavest him the consolation of sleep, that he not see the Fall of Jerusalem, and having nourished him with sleep, didst raise him up again in the twinkling of an eye, to the glory of Thy goodness; and as Thou didst make manifest Thy holy glorious Seven Youths, confessors and witnesses of Thine Appearance in the days of the Emperor Decius and the Apostate, having sustained them in the cave for 372 years, as infants kept warm in their own mother’s womb, none having endured corruption, to the praise and glory of Thy love for mankind, and for a testimony and confession of our regeneration and the resurrection of all. Do Thou Thyself, therefore, O Lover of Mankind and King, be present now also with the infusion of Thy Holy Spirit, and visit Thy servant, N., and grant unto him (her) health, strength and power, by Thy grace, for with Thee every action is good, and every gift is perfect. For Thou art the Physician of our souls and bodies, and unto Thee do we send up glory, thanksgiving and worship, together with Thy Father Who is without beginning, and Thy Most-Holy, Good, and Lifegiving Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.