Updated: Aug 4
There once were seven young Christian men who were soldiers, living in the fourth century. They were the object of persecution by the pagan emperor which caused them to seek refuge in a farmer's cave. When the emperor heard that they were hiding there, he gave orders to have the cave sealed up with masonry with the boys still inside. This would, at first glance, appear to be quite a sad ending to the story of their lives. Fear not. God would make it otherwise.
Remember that these young men were martyred in the third century. God knew that there would be a great heresy in the fifth century when the people would begin to doubt the resurrection of the body that we profess every time we recite the creed. Because God knows all things, He provided a way to prove to us that He has such a plan and is fully capable of raising bodies from death, not even on the third day, but after even as long as two centuries! Today we remember how these seven persecuted Christians were martyred by falling asleep and being sealed in a cave with masonry. In the fall, we will rejoice and celebrate these men again when we remember how they arose, came forth and showed themselves to be fully and perfectly alive after almost two hundred years! I'll review the story in more detail for you on their second feast day, October 22.
Did you know that if you travel to Ephesus today you can visit the cave of the Seven Sleepers? Many tourists stop there on pilgrimage when they visit the country of Turkey. The cave was excavated and studied by archeologists from 1927-1930 and many interesting things have been discovered there. It is still a cave, but over the years pilgrims have built it up with masonry so that it has now become a proper church building. You can see the seven graves of the sleepers and the many hanging votive lamps that pilgrims have left to honor their memory. Some of these lamps date back to before the fifth century! The names of the seven young men are written on a tile-covered chimney built in 1731, so that they may not be forgotten, and we know who they are to this day. Their names are Maximilian, Iamblicus, Martinian, John, Dionysius, Exacustodianus, and Antoninus. Their feast is celebrated by the Latin Church on July 27, and their story is even mentioned in the Quran as a testament to God’s goodness in rewarding the faithful.
This is one of my children's favorite stories and we mark it every year by making a recipe that has become a family favorite. The children love to pick out the seven ingredients of these little commemorative pies, and to tuck them all in, safe and sound with their little biscuit blankets before sealing them in their cave (the oven!) for about 200 years....just kidding! It only takes 45 minutes!
Seven Sleepers Pot Pies:
Begin by deciding on seven ingredients to go inside your pies, one for each of the seven sleepers, and cut them into bite sized pieces.
This proved to be especially fun at mealtime when my children who weren't part of the dinner prep that evening would try to keep track of the seven vegetables as they ate their pies.
Our favorites for this time of year are:
Mushrooms Zucchini, Yellow Squash, Eggplant, Onions, Tomatoes, and Peppers.
When we make these again in October, we like to use fall vegetables like onions, carrots, celery, corn, peas, potatoes, and sweet potatoes
If one of these ingredients doesn’t suit your family’s taste, feel free to substitute with anything you like!
In a deep skillet or stew pot, over medium heat, we begin by sauteing the onion in a bit of butter or olive oil (or just a Tablespoon or two of water for a fast day). Once this has become nicely browned and beautifully fragrant, we add the rest of the vegetables, some seasonings, according to your family’s preferences. We add things like chopped fresh basil, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, Continue to cook this down over medium heat until the mixture becomes like a beautiful stew; about 15-20 minutes.
Once your mixture is ready, spoon it into each individual baking dish, top with biscuit dough. You can either use a prepared dough, or make your own!
2 ½ cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 stick cold butter (coconut oil may be used, if desired for fasting purposes..or omit all together and substitute the same amount of unsweetened applesuce...it works!)
3/4 cup buttermilk, or milk, either dairy or nut, with a splash of lemon juice or vinegar ***(during the fast, any non-dairy milk, like oat, hempseed, cashew, or almond may be used as a substitute for the buttermilk, but adding the vinegar or lemon juice is crucial)***
Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl or food processor. Cut in cold butter or coconut oil till mixture resembles a coarse meal, then add milk and stir just enough to form a rollable dough. Roll out to desired thickness and cut into shapes to cover your pies. My children love to cut shapes with cookie cutters and layer them over each pie before baking, being sure to leave vents for steam.
You can brush the tops with butter if you like and bake each at 350 degrees for about 30-45 minutes, depending on the size of your pies, until hot and golden brown.