On September 17, the Orthodox Church commemorates Saint Sophia and her three daughters Faith, Hope, and Love (in Greek Pistis, Elpis, and Agape).
The reading from the Menaion on this day gives their background:
These Saints were from Italy and contested for the Faith about the year 126, during the reign of the 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. [SOURCE]
As a father, I cannot imagine the horror of being faced with the death of my own child(ren). Could there be anything worse in this life?
And yet, Sophia somehow made it through this incredible trial, and was able to stand strong in the faith along with her martyr daughters. And because of that faith, Orthodox Christians continue to honor their memory, seeing them as exemplars of the faithful life. (In fact, our home parish here in Washington is named in their honor.)
The Menaion gives a brief overview of their story, but there are fathers who have written more. One such example is John the Stylite (or John the Recluse), an eighth century monastic living near the ancient city of Antioch. His hagiography of their life is included in Select Narratives of Holy Women, a translation of this and many other lives of the Saints (translated from Syriac by Agnes Lewis Smith).
If you’d like to learn more about the life of Sophia and her daughters, along with a number of other saintly women, check out Select Narratives of Holy Women today.