Monday, July 27, 2015

Holy New Martyr Christodoulos of Kassandra (+ 1777)

St. Christodoulos of Kassandra (Feast Day - July 27)


Christodoulos carried a cross to his hanging,
Firmly enduring as a great servant of Christ.

Christodoulos was a native of the village of Valta in the area of Kassandra, Greece. As a young boy he went to Thesaaloniki where he became an apprentice to a tailor who worked with wool. While in Thessaloniki, Christodoulos often took trips with his fellow tailors. On one such trip to the island of Chios he bought a large unpainted crucifix. This he made a gift to the Church of Saint Athanasios in Thessaloniki because of his friendship with the sacristan of the church.

Sometime later, Christodoulos heard of a Bulgarian Orthodox Christian who was preparing to convert to the religion of Islam. He was greatly saddened by this news and the loss of a man's soul and decided he would witness for Orthodoxy. Having decided on this, he immediately went to a father confessor to whom he confessed his sins. He then went to church very early, lit all the candles, and remained there for the Orthros and the Divine Liturgy, at the conclusion of which he asked the caretaker to bring him the crucifix which he had donated to the church.

With the crucifix in hand he returned to the tailor shop and worked until he heard the beating of the drums which signaled the beginning of the conversion ceremony. Christodoulos got up from his work station, took up the crucifix, and proceeded to the coffee house in which the conversion was to take place.

Christodoulos boldly walked through the crowd of Muslims who had gathered at the coffee house, and among them were some Janissaries. He approached the young man about to convert, showed him the crucifix, and said to him, "Brother, what has happened to you? This is our faith, this is Christ who was crucified for our love. Why are you leaving Christ your Savior and becoming a Muslim?" Christodoulos received no answer. He then said, "Brother, kiss our Lord's cross." But the denier of Christ refused.

Witnessing this entire scene, the Janissaries turned on Christodoulos and threw him out of the coffee house. To this Christodoulos responded, "I have nothing to do with you but only with this my brother who seeks to deny his faith." With this Christodoulos returned to the coffee house, but this time the Janissaries bound him, beat him severely, inflicted some knife wounds upon his body and head, and took him first to the aga of the Janissaries and then to the judge.

The judge asked Christodoulos, "Who sent you to do this thing?"

Christodoulos answered, "No man sent me, but Christ."

The judge responded, "Forget that and convert to Islam."

But Christodoulos answered, "You should deny Islam and become an Orthodox Christian."

In response to this the judge had him beaten but did not sentence him to death. The Janissaries, however, stood about threatening to tear Christodoulos into pieces in the judges courtroom if he did not sentence him to death and hand him over to them for execution. Frightened, the judge surrendered his prisoner to them. The latter was to be taken to the muselimi (high government official).

Icon for veneration in the vicinity of the place of martyrdom of St. Christodoulos

Christodoulos was led to the muselimi as one leads a lamb, that is, he was pulled by a rope around his neck. The muselimi questioned Christodoulos and got the same answers that were given to the judge. Christodoulos was then thrown to the floor and had two hundred blows delivered to the bottom of his feet. Blood flowed freely from them. Then he was taken to be hanged.

On the way to his execution, Christodoulos addressed his fellow Christians, saying, "Brethren, forgive me and may God forgive you." Christodoulos was hanged near the Church of Saint Menas. He was then undressed and his cross was tied to his back. Thus he remained naked and hanging for two days. Fellow Christians purchased his body for 600 grosia and buried it with honors. According to St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite, through his sacred relics and his shirt, many sick were healed.

Thus Christodoulos the tailor from Valta, Kassandra gave his life for the love of Jesus Christ in the city of Thessaloniki on July 28, in the year 1777.

Witnesses For Christ: Orthodox Christian Neomartyrs of the Ottoman Period 1437-1860, by Nomikos Michael Vaporis, pp. 196-197.

The Church of Saint Christodoulos in Kassandra

Less than twenty years ago a chapel began to be constructed in honor of Saint Christodoulos in the outskirts of the village of Valta in Kassandra. However, the construction was only completed fairly recently. This was done at the initiative of the primary school teacher Mrs. Rose Alexander, who gathered contributions from her fellow villagers. Most of the contributions came from relatives of Saint Christodoulos, who are still alive in the village. In 2008 the foundation was laid for the construction of a new and larger church dedicated to Saint Christodoulos.

The old Church of Saint Christodoulos

The new Church of Saint Christodoulos

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