1. On this day, the holy, and pure fifty virgins and their mother Sophia, were martyred. These saints were from different countries. Divine love and ascetic life had brought them together and they lived in a convent for virgins in El-Raha. St. Sophia, the head nun, was filled with every wisdom and grace. She raised them with a spiritual upbringing until they became as angels on earth. They continually prayed, fasted and read the holy Books and chronicles of the monks and saints. Among them were some who had dwelt in the convent for 70 years and some were young in age but firm in faith and of strong conviction.
When Emperor Julian the Infidel heard that Shapur, King of Persia, intended to fight him, he prepared his army and set out against Shapur. The city of El-Raha was on his way and when he passed by the convent of these virgins, he ordered the soldiers to kill everyone in it and to rob the convent. The soldiers carried out the order, they cut the nuns with swords into pieces and took everything they found.
The Lord took vengeance on this evil Emperor by having him stabbed by the spear of a knight at war. (It was said that he was Saint Marcurius) The Emperor fell down from his horse and died in the year 363 A.D. As for the holy virgins, they received the crown of martyrdom.
Their prayers be with us. Amen.
2. On this day also a holy council assembled in Rome in the days of Victor, Pope of Rome and Anba Demetrius, Pope of Alexandria. The reason for the assembly of this council was because the Christians used to celebrate the Epiphany, then start 40 days of fasting on the following day and end the fast on the 22nd day of the month of Amshir. After a few days they would fast the Passion week, then celebrate the honorable feast of the Resurrection.
When St. Demetrius the Patriarch was chosen for the Alexandrian throne, God illumined his mind with divine grace. He studied the church books and interpreted most of them. He formulated the basis for calculating the days of the fast and the changeable feasts which we celebrate to the present time. He sent copies of it to Abba Victor, Patriarch of Rome; Abba Maximus, Patriarch of Antioch; and Abba Agapius, Bishop of Jerusalem.
When Abba Victor received this message he read it and appreciated it very much. He gathered fourteen of his learned bishops and many of the learned priests. They examined it, accepted it, and spread it in their countries.
Since then the holy fast and the feast of Resurrection have been regulated as they are now in our Coptic Orthodox Church.
To our Lord is the Glory forever. Amen.