In the year 344 AD, by tradition on Good Friday, the bishop who held the See which would later be called the Patriarchate of Babylon was executed by the Persian emperor Shapur II. Because of the tension between the Zoroastrian Persian and the Christian Roman empires, some in Persia began to see the Christians of there land as outsiders and spies, since they shared the religion of the enemy. The accusation, a false one, was that even the bishop of the empire’s capital city Selucia-Ctesiphon, Shim’un, was personally a spy for Caesar. The Shah decided to institute a double tax on his Christian population, since this would break the back of an already poor population. Even worse, he ordered that Mar Shim’un, the son of a garment stainer, (“bar Sabba’e”), was to collect the taxes himself.
The noble bishop refused, saying “I am no tax collector, but a shepherd of the Lord’s flock.” This became an excuse for the Shah to declare open season on Christians, and especially clergy. Mar Shim’un was arrested and brought before the court, and given a devious offer: if he alone were to deny Christ and worship the sun, all other Christians would be saved. This caused an uproar in the Christian community, which refused the offer of salvation through apostasy. In the end, King Shapur II, whom Shim’un had known since childhood, had the bishop taken out of the city of Susa with much of his clergy. Mar Shim’un had to watch as five of his brother bishops and one hundred of his priests were beheaded before him. Last of all, he was killed as well. He was the first of many Patriarch-Martyrs of the Church of the East.
The Sixth Friday of Summer:
Commemoration of Mar Shim’un Bar Sabba’e
O Lord, you search me and you know me
He examines the heart and the kidneys
O Knower of the thoughts of all men, and Searcher of the hidden things of the heart: you know our weakness: have mercy on us.
Choice silver that is tried in the earth
A portion of the heavenly treasure, which is desired by the angels, and by the prophets and apostles, and by the honored martyrs, Christ gave, in his grace, to the faithful Church: the venerable Mar Simon, he whose neck was sliced for the sake of the law of the love of God. Come, all you peoples, in awe and love, and in songs of the Holy Spirit, let us honor the day of his commemoration. He is indeed an unassailable rampart for our people.
The friends of the Lord hate evil
The martyrs, the friends of Christ, the preachers of Jesus our Savior, carried the cross in their hands like a plough, and weeded and worked, in the Faith, the land that was wasted through the error of idols, and planted the Word of life in it. Let us all honor them!