On September 17, the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates the Feast Day of Agia Sophia and her three daughters Pisti (Faith), Elpida (Hope) and Agapi (Love).
These Saints were from Italy and contested for the Faith about the year 126, during the reign of Emperor Hadrian. Faith was twelve years old, Hope, ten, and Love, nine; each was tormented and then beheaded, from the eldest to the youngest. Their mother Sophia mourned at their grave for three days, where she also fell asleep in peace; because of her courageous endurance in the face of her daughters’ sufferings, she is also counted a martyr. The name Sophia means “wisdom” in Greek; as for her daughters’ names, Faith, Hope, and Love (Charity), they are Pistis, Elpis, and Agape in Greek, and Vera, Nadezhda, and Lyubov in Russian.
Saint Sophia, who is also referred to as Sophia the Martyr, was alive during the early days of the Christian Church. It is unknown when exactly she was born, but we do know that she resided in the region that we know as Italy today. She is mostly associated with her three daughters and the fact that she was a widow.
Her daughters are an especially important part of her story. She was a strong Christian and when her children were born, she named them after the three virtues that are mentioned in the Bible – Faith, Hope, and Love. They were all alive during a time when Emperor Hadrian regularly tortured Christians in order to prevent the spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire. Despite this, her whole family was Christians.
Saint Sophia and her daughters didn’t hide their religion even though they knew that Christians were being regularly persecuted. Antiochus, a Roman official, told Emperor Hadrian that Sophia and her daughters were Christians. Hadrian ordered that they are brought to Rome in order to persuade them to denounce their Christianity.
Knowing that they were to be brought to the emperor, they prayed to Jesus Christ for strength. When the time for them to appear to Hadrian, those witnessing it would later remark as to how composed they looked. Hadrian told them to denounce their religion during this meeting, and all four of them stayed true to their beliefs.
He tried to get each of the girls to make a sacrifice to Artemis, one of their pagan goddesses. The girls each refused. As a result of this, all three of the girls were tortured in gruesome ways. Hadrian’s hope is that this would then persuade Sophia to turn her back on Christ. She didn’t. She took her daughters’ bodies, buried them, and stayed by their graves until she perished. All four of them are considered to be martyrs.
Today is also the name day of Sophia, Elpida, Agapi, Pistis, Sofianos, Sofiani.