Martyrs of Jordan Church Project
Latin Convent, Marj Alhamam, Amman
Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem
(Saints Zainoun and Zainas, details of the Good Shepherd Church, Our Lady of Peace Centre, Amman- Jordan)
Saints Zainoun and Zainas and All the Holy Martyrs of Jordan
Many saints and martyrs have hallowed the land of Jordan but only a few of them are commemorated in the canon of the Church. Their feast days are: 10th June, Saint Asterius, Bishop of Petra in the 4th century. 23rd June, the Martyrs Zainoun and Zainas who won the crown of martyrdom on the same day in 304 AD, and 1st August. Saints Cyril, Aquila, Peter, Domitianus, Rufus and Menander from Philadelphia, now Amman.
We must not forget the prophet Moses who lies buried on Mount Nebo near Madaba and Saint John the Baptist who was beheaded by King Herod in Fort Machaerus, south of Madaba. Saint John the Baptist, revered for preparing the way for the Lord, is also the patron saint of Jordan.
Zainoun and Zainas
(From the Lives of the Martyrs, June 1867, Paris, page 406)
“Anyone who loses his life for my sake, will find it” (Math: 10:39)
It is right for us to praise the zeal of those who by suffering martyrdom in the cause of God have won for themselves the crown of victory so providing an example of the truth to all and putting to shame the tyranny of sin and confounding the work of the devil.
In the first year of the reign of the Emperor Maximinianus (285-305 AD) a soldier by the name of Zainoun lived in Philadelphia, now Amman. He was a man of discretion, given to meditation on the things of God, and burning with love for Him as he sought to follow the path of our saviour, Jesus Christ.
He began by freeing all the slaves who worked in his house because he could see that justice demanded restoration of the liberty which God, the creator, had given to all people and indeed nature itself.
Zainoun had in his service a slave by the name of Zainas who was young in years but fully grown in wisdom and courage. He was particularly devoted to his master and implored him not to send him away after he had given him his freedom but to let him stay in his service at his home so that he could continue to benefit spiritually from his example.
One day, Maximus, the governor of the city, was engaged in official business and ordered the idols which he had had made to be brought out so that the people could kneel before them in worship. Now Zainoun, who had already formed a disgust of atheism in his heart and followed a different course, was passing by and said to Maximus: “Why do you, who are an unbeliever and destined for eternal fire, order the people to kneel down in worship before empty idols which you have had made? Why do you persist in following the emperor’s errors and worship false idols instead of worshipping the one true living God?”
When Maximus heard this he ordered the soldiers to seize Zainoun and to bring him to be examined. Once Zainoun stood in front of him, Maximus, as was his custom as a magistrate, asked him his name, his nationality and his occupation. Zainoun replied: “I am from this city. I am a Christian. My name is Zainoun. I believe and know that those with faith in Christ will live. I live in the garrison at Zouziou” (nowadays called Zaizia) “and have an important position in the army.” Maximus retorted: “If you have an important position in the army, you have no business to go against the orders of the Emperor.” Zainoun replied: “I am a Christian and I serve the Lord Jesus Christ. I offer sacrifice only to Him and I only kneel in worship before Him!”
The governor ordered Zainoun to be struck in the face and then to be stretched out on the ground and whipped with leathern thongs. During this ordeal the martyr called out that he was offering this as a sacrifice to the one true God, the Lord of Heaven. Then Maximus ordered Zainoun despite his resistance to be dragged in front of the altar and to kneel down to worship the idols. But the holy martyr emboldened by the Holy Spirit kicked the altar and then knocked it over with his foot. Immediately the governor ordered him to be tied down for torture. He looked up to heaven and cried out: “O God, my saviour, I appeal to you. You said that whoever lays down his life for you will find it. Yes, I have heard your words and I believe in your power”. After he had said this, Maximus ordered him to be released from his shackles and taken to prison. His servant Zainas happened to be near and went and started kissing the off cast shackles as they lay on the ground. He then implored Maximus not to separate him from his master and said he would prefer to stay with him even if this meant martyrdom. Maximus then ordered the servant also to be taken to the prison and to be brought back early next morning for a public trial.
Maximus was touched by his loyalty to his master and also his naivety. But Zainas retorted: “Do you still want me to kneel down before the altar as if you cannot see that it has been kicked over by my master? What honour does it deserve when it cannot stand up to a single kick from the injured foot of a tortured man?” Maximus’s anger rose and he ordered him to be tortured and taken to prison with his master Zainoun. A few days later Zainoun and Zainas were sentenced to be beheaded. They willingly stretched out their necks to the executioner’s sword and thus achieved martyrdom.
Their example shows how:
---We must strive and stand up united in our faith for God, his angels and our Saviour Christ to see:
---We must gird ourselves with all our might so that we can take part in the fight with minds at the ready, strong faith and burning enthusiasm.
---and how little value earthly honours and power will have when we stand before God if we want to receive the crown of glory from Christ our judge.