|St. Damaskenos of Gambrovo (Feast Day - January 16)|
By St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite
You are granted through slander,
Martyrdom O athlete of the Lord.
Damaskenos was born in a village called Gambrovo in the province of Turnovo [northern Bulgaria]. He left his country and came to Mount Athos, where he became a Monk at Hilandar Monastery. At Hilandar he was ordained a Deacon, then a Hieromonk, and finally became the Abbot. The fathers of the Monastery sent Damaskenos to Bulgaria. Throughout the duration of his visit there, he stayed at a metochion in the province of Sphistovi. Before his return to Hilandar, he gathered all his belongings and attempted to collect a certain sum he had lent to the Turks. But they were dishonorable and ill-disposed, refusing to give him the money; rather they decided to keep it, and in addition confiscated everything that Damaskenos had in the metochion.
What else, in addition to this, did the devil inspire them to do? They chose a Turkish harlot and raised her by a ladder to the top of the metochion and left her there. Then the Turks smashed the door down and broke into the metochion, finding the woman whom they themselves had put therein. Thereupon they seized and tied up the Saint, and dragged him to the judge, beating and kicking him all the way. Once they arrived, the Turks shouted accusations against Damaskenos, saying that he dared to take a Turkish woman and sin with her. But the judge knew that the whole matter was slander and sought to deliver him. The false witnesses and all the Turks that heard the judge's pardon, however, were opposed to it and cried out that Damaskenos was guilty of death. The pernicious ones prevailed and took the Martyr away in order to hang him.
On the way, the Hagarenes asked the Saint three times if he wished to become a Muslim and save his life. Then they would return all that they had taken away from him, giving him back even more. But the Martyr of Christ replied: "I was born in the Christian Faith, and I will die in the Christian Faith, so take me wherever you wish." Therefore, they led him to the place of execution. Damaskenos asked their permission to say his prayers, in response to which request they loosened his bonds and allowed him to pray. The Martyr then faced towards the east and prayed. After he made the sign of the Cross, he asked the murderers to tie him up again. Afterward they hanged him, and the ever-memorable one received the crown of martyrdom in the year 1771. However, following the death of the Saint, divine justice avenged those iniquitous manslayers. As they were crossing the Danube River, they drowned in its currents and received as retribution everlasting damnation. May we be delivered from such an end and be made worthy of the kingdom of the heavens, through the intercessions of the Holy Hieromartyr Damaskenos. Amen.