Saturday, August 20, 2016

Holy New Martyr Theocharis of Neapolis (+ 1740)

St. Theocharis of Neapolis (Feast Day - August 20)

Saint Theocharis was orphaned at a young age. In 1740 the Ottoman State was at war, and young Theocharis was taken with other Christian boys to a concentration camp to train him as a soldier. There, he was spotted by the judge of Neapolis (Nevsehir) who took a liking to the boy. The judge took Theocharis out of the camp and brought him to work on his estate.

The judge and his wife liked Theocharis so much that they decided to offer their daughter to him, upon the condition that he convert to Islam. Theocharis refused. This caused the judge great offence and so he threatened Theocharis with starvation, torture and death.

Theocharis fled to the Church of Saint George, to Archimandrite Father George, where he confessed his sins and received Divine Communion. He returned home and remained steadfast in his refusal to embrace Islam. For this the judge imprisoned him, and for some time he was without food and had little water. Theocharis passed his time in prayer.

Old Nevsehir

After some time Theocharis was again given the chance to embrace Islam, but he adamantly refused to change his faith. Therefore he was tied to a horse and taken one hour away from Neapolis, where there was a white poplar. There the executioners hanged him and stoned him around noon time on 20 August 1740, and buried him under the poplar.

With this the sky darkened and a big storm of thunder and lightning broke out, which caused the road to be flooded, even though it was sunny before then. That poplar became known as Kanli Kavak, which literally means "Blood Poplar," and till this day a blood-like substance flows from the broken branches. This poplar became a place of pilgrimage for both Ottomans and Christians.

The right hand of the Saint

With the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey in 1923, the relic of Saint Theocharis was brought to the Church of Saint Katherine in Thessaloniki, where they are still located today. There is a permanent place in this church where the right hand of the Saint is exposed for veneration, and on his feast on August 20th there is a procession held in his honor.

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