Saturday, April 16, 2016

Holy New Martyr Christopher of Dionysiou (+ 1818)

St. Christopher of Dionysiou (Feast Day - April 16 and Bright Tuesday)

The Saint was baptized as a child with the name Christodoulos ("servant of Christ") by his pious parents, and was from Adrianople in Thrace. He was a meek, quiet and well-disposed man, very devout and a fervent Christian.

Christodoulos would become saddened when he heard Christians would become Islamized and he tried in every way to prevent it. But that which saddened him with others, happened also to himself. How did this take place?

At the age of nineteen the Saint was a tailor and he had to rent his own tailor shop. He happened to lose some money, which was to pay his debts for the new shop, and business was not going well to earn it back quickly. Not even having enough money to buy some bread, he became very desperate and was ashamed to reveal his situation to others.

One morning he went to the cafe of a certain Armenian. Once the coffee maker saw him, he joyfully greeted him and gave him some coffee. As he drank his coffee he told the Armenian, who himself had Islamized, that he was going to change. However, he didn't say this with the intention of changing into a Muslim, but that he was going to close down his shop. So he told the Armenian: "I'm going to go close my shop and come back."

But the Armenian understood things differently. He told him to sit down and he would take care of the matter so he would not have to close his shop. The Armenian then poked his head out the window and called for some Turks to come, telling them that a Christian gentleman inside would like to convert to Islam.

The Turks came and forcefully circumcised him. Out of his grief, he fainted. They recovered him with water and vinegar. After a few days his circumcision healed, and the Armenian wanted to make him a son-in-law by marrying him off to his daughter and thus become an heir of his estate. But the Saint did not want to hear any of that, but only tried to figure out a way to return to his Christian faith.

For this reason he went to Constantinople, and found there a spiritual father, but the spiritual father would not receive him, suspecting a trap, with the excuse that this was the seat of the Ottoman Empire, and if the Turks learned of this the Christians would be in danger. So the Saint left in sorrow.

He returned to Adrianople and prayed with much pain of heart, especially to the Theotokos. There he found a certain Christian who brought him to Ainos, a city of Thrace, to the port. They found a boat that belonged to Dionysiou Monastery of Mount Athos, which the monks had brought to buy beans for the Monastery. He confided his case to a monk, who consoled him, and the monks accepted him onto the boat even though he wore Turkish clothing.

Arriving at Dionysiou Monastery, Christodoulos confessed to the Abbot Stephen, who comforted him and put him under a rule to restore him. Thus the Saint joined the brotherhood in the spiritual struggle with perfect obedience, fasting, vigils, prostrations and his eyes constantly flowed with tears. Eventually the desire grew within him to become a monk and return to Adrianople to die for his faith. The Abbot encouraged him to be patient and wait for God's will in the matter.

The Saint thus engaged in more asceticism. All the monks were amazed by his change and spiritual progress. Whereas the Abbot, perceiving his willingness and zeal, tonsured him a monk and gave him the name Christophoros ("bearer of Christ") or Christopher, and also allowed him to communicate of the Immaculate Mysteries. Then his desire for martyrdom grew to such an extent that he refused to eat until he was given a blessing to confess his faith in Christ and die a martyric death. After four years at Dionysiou Monastery, the Abbot gave him his blessing, and asked that if his longing is fulfilled, he would intercede on his behalf as well on behalf of the brotherhood.

Having received the blessing of the Abbot and asking forgiveness from the brotherhood, he left accompanied by two other monks. By ship they arrived at Ainos and from there they went on foot to a village outside Adrianople, where the Monastery had a dependency. The next day was Palm Sunday, and the Saint received communion. On Holy Tuesday he and the two monks left for Adrianople.

Initially they went to see a former colleague of his who was a tailor and said to him: "I am Christodoulos and I came to die a martyr for Christ. Ask that supplications be made for me, so God would help me." Then he went to the house of the Pasha and asked to appear before him.

Christopher told the Pasha that he was born and raised a Christian, and that now he wanted to die a Christian. At the same time he threw to the floor his Turkish head covering, saying: "Take your religion, and give me back mine."

Once the Pasha heard this, he became enraged, and ordered that the legs and back of Christopher be beaten, then that he would be thrown in prison. Every day they beat him to weaken his resolve and return to Islam, but he remained steadfast. All the torments he endured bravely and with gratitude.

Eventually they realized Christopher would not be persuaded, so he was condemned to die by beheading. As he was led to the place of execution, he chanted, "Christ is risen from the dead...", since it was also the Tuesday of Renewal Week, and his face shone like the sun. Arriving at the place of execution, he knelt down, bent his head forward, and received decapitation, thus earning the crown of martyrdom.

As was the habit of the Turks, his body remained exposed for three days for the crowds to see it. At night a heavenly light descended on it, witnessed by both Turks and Romans. The Christians rejoiced and glorified God, while the Turks believed God was trying to set his body on fire to burn it. Then after three days his body was taken to the river and cast in, so as not to be buried with honors. But some fishermen came upon his relic, and they took it and buried it in a safe place.

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