Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Holy New Martyr Nicholas the Grocer from Karpenisi (+ 1672)

St. Nicholas of Karpenisi (Feast Day - September 23)


Nicholas sold everything below,
And acquired Christ above with the sword.

Nicholas was born in the town of Karpenisi in Greece to pious parents (according to tradition he belonged to the Karanikas family), who raised him to be pious and educated.

At the age of fifteen he went to Constantinople where he worked in his father's grocery store at a place called Tachta Kale. His father, however, wanted him to be educated, so he had his son tutored in the Turkish language by a well-educated Muslim neighbor who was a barber.

Soon the tutor plotted with a group of Janissaries to make young Nicholas a Muslim. One day, in the presence of these Janissaries, the barber presented Nicholas the Muslim declaration of faith in Turkish to read. He therefore announced: "Salabati [which means 'Glory to God']. There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his Prophet." After being informed that he had just declared himself to be a Muslim, Nicholas responded: "I am an Orthodox Christian, and not what you say. I am duty bound to read whatever lesson the teacher gives me."

Forthwith the Muslims present took Nicholas and presented him to the kaymakam, who stood in the place of Grand Vizier Ahmed Koprulu who, together with Sultan Ahmed IV, was off to war in Poland. The Muslims said to the kaymakam: "This man, Master, made a declaration of faith in our presence, and if you wish to be convinced of the truth, look where he has written the declaration of faith. He reads it every hour. Now we ask him to become a Muslim and he mocks our faith!"

To this the kaymakam said: "Nicholas, why have you written and read the declaration of faith and now you don't want to become a Muslim?"

Nicholas boldly responded: "Today, while my teacher taught me my lesson, he gave me this declaration and told me to read it. But I did not know it was a declaration of faith. I thought that since he is my teacher, it was necessary to read whatever he gave me."

But the kaymakam responded: "Nicholas, because you read the declaration of faith, you must become a Muslim. I will give you whatever great office you want. I will give you riches, I will honor you, and I will glorify you in the Kingdom."

To this Nicholas replied: "I am an Orthodox Christian and I believe in my Christ as the true God. I don't need the honors and offices which you promise me. I will not deny my Christ, and for the sake of his name I will die! I will therefore not become a Muslim."

In saying this, Nicholas was fulfilling the words of the Master Christ, who said: "When they bring you before kings and princes do not think about how you will answer them, for you will be given wisdom to stop their accusations."

The kaymakam ignored the confession of Nicholas, and forcibly ordered his circumcision and the other rites necessary to make him a Muslim, hoping in this way to get Nicholas to accept Islam. However, this only made Nicholas shout louder: "What! Are you circumcising me? I am an Orthodox Christian!" But Nicholas was told that now by his declaration and circumcision he was a Muslim. Nicholas refused to accept their lie as truth.

Due to Nicholas' godly stubbornness, the kaymakam had him thrown into prison with murderers and deprived him of food and water. He spent sixty-five days in prison, and was given only enough food and water eventually just to keep him alive. He was then brought before the kaymakam once more in the presence of other Muslims who gathered and shouted: "Either he becomes a Muslim or he dies!" Of course, Nicholas refused to embrace Islam, so he was thrown in prison once again, where he was beaten often and severely.

One day a rich Muslim man visited Nicholas in prison and offered him his daughter together with money and a successful workshop if he embraced Islam. To this offer Nicholas replied that he considered the riches and pleasures of this world as dust and shadows, and that the rich refuge of his heart was Christ, and he desired to live and reign with Him for eternity rather than deny Him and embrace Muhammad.

Soon afterwards Nicholas was brought before the judge, who flattered him and urged him to not allow his life to be lost prematurely, and said that due to his youth he was not able to fully comprehend the truth of Islam, but to accept it nonetheless. Nicholas responded that he wanted to die an Orthodox Christian as soon as possible.

Nicholas was therefore sentenced to death and taken to Tachta Kale. He had the flame of the love of Christ in his heart, and had such joy as if he was going to his own wedding. And when the executioner asked Nicholas to kneel, he stretched out his neck as far as he could to make the executioner's job easier. Having said his final prayer, Nicholas' head was struck off, thus sealing his confession for Christ with the blood of his martyrdom in the year 1672.

Church of Saint Nicholas the Grocer in Karpenisi

For three successive nights the body of Nicholas remained exposed, and a heavenly light illuminated him. Certain Orthodox Christians paid the executioners to allow them to gather his blood with their handkerchiefs for a blessing, and his body was taken and buried at the Monastery of the Theotokos called Kontoskale on the island of Halki.

It also happened that the synkellos of the Ecumenical Patriachate, Gregory, who was from the Monastery of Xeropotamou, asked for and was given the skull of the Neomartyr. He placed the skull in his church, but after his death the relic was taken by Patriarch Dionysios IV. Later, however, monks from the Monastery of Xeropotamou claimed the skull as their inheritance and wished to have it return to Mount Athos. The people of Halki, however, refused to let it go. Meanwhile a trustee of the church confiscated it, and after his death and some miraculous events, the skull was given to the monks of Xeropotamou Monastery with much joy.

The Life of Saint Nicholas was written by the French secretary in Constantinople, who was impressed by the faith of young Nicholas. Other portions of his relics can be venerated in Gregoriou Monastery at Mount Athos, Tatarnas Monastery in Evritania, and in the church that is dedicated to his honor in Karpenisi. His jaw is in Prousou Monastery in Evritania.

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
You brought victory to the Church, forever bringing to your homeland your gloriously triumphant contest, Nicholas. The imperishable glory of Neomartyrs, you showed us the path of the Lord as a youth, wherefore beseech with fervent entreaties Christ to ever grant us victory.

The boast and offspring of Karpenisi and the God-illumined guide of the youth, the great man of valor of Neomartyrs, Nicholas the New, we honor you with hymns.

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