September 27, 2010

Holy New Martyr Akylina of Thessaloniki (+ 1764)

St. Akylina the New Martyr of Thessaloniki (Feast Day - September 27)

By St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite

Akylina, the holy New Martyr of Christ was from Thessalonica, from the village of Zagliveri situated in the Ardameri Diocese. She was the offspring of a pious mother. Her martyrdom took place from the following set of circumstances.

One day the Saint’s father quarreled and wrestled with a Turkish neighbour (since both Christians and Turks lived side by side in this place). By the Evil One’s collaboration he struck and slew the Hagarene. Whereupon he was arrested by the local authorities, who led him to the pasha of Thessalonica to have him condemned. Now he was terrified of death and sought acquittal, so he offered to become a Muslim. (Alas, his fall!) Therefore, they did not execute him. At that time Akylina was an infant nursing on her mother’s milk. After the passage of some time, the Turks enjoined her father that he must have his daughter become a Muslim. He told them:

"Do not be concerned about my daughter. She is under my authority and I will convert her when I want."

However, Akylina’s mother remained anchored in the Faith of Christ and never ceased every hour to exhort her child to stand firmly in the Faith of Christ and not to ever deny Jesus Christ.

When the maiden reached 18 years of age, the Turks once again spoke with her father concerning the conversion. At this point he summoned Akylina and said:

“My child, other Turks have approached me daily on the matter of your accepting Mohammedanism. Therefore, either now or a little later, you will become a Muslim, only make the decision in a day or two, so the Muslims will not harass me.”

Yet the Saint, who was ignited and inflamed with the love of Christ, with great courage declared:

“Perhaps you think that I have the same little faith as yourself to deny my Maker and Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ Who submitted to the cross and death for our sake? I refuse. I am prepared to undergo the woeful torment, even death, for the love of Christ.”

By these superb and admirable statements she was not the daughter of the thrice-miserable father, but truly the daughter of Christ the Heavenly King!

Observing the Saint’s unswerving belief, the father went before the Turks and divulged to them:

“I am unable to induce my daughter to change her beliefs; you do with her whatever you will."

Upon hearing this they went into a flurry, and immediately dispatched men of the court to apprehend the Martyr. Seeing them approaching, the Saint’s blessed mother took hold of Akylina, and gave her this final instruction:

“Lo, my most beloved child and my sweetest daughter, Akylina. Behold, fruit of my womb, the hour has arrived of which I have warned you. Therefore, my girl, attend and obey my admonition. Display courage in the torments which you will face and do not renounce Christ.”

Likewise, Akylina replied:

“Have no fear, my mother, for I have this intention. The All-kind God will be my help. Pray for me.”

Thus, they bid each other farewell with tears.

The servant of the judge bound the Saint and led her to the tribunal. The compassionate mother followed after her beloved daughter to the place of condemnation, since motherly feelings could not conceive of being separated from her dear child. However those that had taken her intocustody, locked her outside the courtyard. Akylina was taken inside into the presence of the judge, who in a coarse manner blurted out to her:

“Eh! You, become a Muslim.”

The Saint exclaimed:

“No, I will not become one. Never will I forsake my belief and my Master Christ!”

Hearing this, the judge became incensed. Therefore he commanded that the Saint be undressed and be left wearing only her chemise. Then they tied Akylina to a column and two servants beat her with rods for many hours. Notwithstanding, the Martyr underwent this torture bravely.

Afterwards the judge and other Turks had the Martyr brought forward again before them. They began to flatter Akylina and promise her expensive gifts if she would renounce the faith. But the bride of Christ possessed in her heart love towards her sublime Bridegroom Christ and would not even consider their offers. Furthermore, since he was extremely wealthy, he brazenly proposed to her:

“Akylina, become a Muslim and I will make you my son’s bride.”

Christ’s Martyr replied with an immense daring:

“You and your son go to perdition.”

With these words the judge’s wrath was kindled. They tied her again as before and flogged her for many hours. When they unfettered her for a third examination, the judge asked her:

“Hapless one, are you not embarrassed to be beaten naked in front of so many men?”

He said this because from the countless blows her slip was in shreds and she was exposed. The judge continued:

“Either you become a Muslim or have your bones shattered before all.”

In refutation she declared:

“And what attraction does your faith have for me to deny my Christ, or what miracle of your religion shall I believe, since you have filthy and indecent lives?”

O fearless testimony! A noble reply worthy of heavenly praise, not from a gentle and delicate young girl, but from a valiant giant!

All within earshot were disgraced, essentially by the brilliancy of her truthful speech. They were at a loss at how to deal with her. In their rage they scourged the Saint mercilessly a third time, leaving her as dead. The earth was reddened by her blood and her flesh fell in pieces to the ground. Next they untied the Martyr and had her carried by a Christian who was present to her mother’s home. Whereupon the mother embraced her daughter who was breathing her last, and asked:

“My child, what have you done?”

As she came to herself slightly, the Martyr exerted much effort to answer, and opening her eyes, beheld her mother:

“O my mother, what else could I do except that which you instructed me? Behold, according to your command I have preserved my confession of faith inviolate.”

Akylina’s mother raised her arms and eyes towards heaven and glorified God. After conversing with her mother, the Martyr surrendered her soul into the hands of God on September 27, 1764 and received the martyr’s crown.

St. Akylina’s most venerable and sacred relics straightaway emitted a marvelous fragrance so divine that all the streets which they traversed with her martyric relics for burial were filled with scent. At night a heavenly light descended upon and illuminated Akylina’s tomb like a shining star. All the Christians who observed this phenomena praised God, to Whom is due glory and power unto endless ages. Amen.

Source: New Martyrs of the Turkish Yoke, Translated by Leonidas J. Papadopoulos, Georgia Lizardos & others St Nectarios Press, Seattle, Washington 1985.

The Shrine and Relics of Saint Akylina

The Turks took her remains and buried them in the Muslim cemetery to inflate their ego by claiming her as their own despite their failed attempts at converting her. But as it says above: "At night a heavenly light descended upon and illuminated Akylina’s tomb like a shining star." When the Christians saw this they took her body and buried it in a secret place. According to tradition, the three men who had the courage to do this were named Tsoplas, Kalimeris and Bouklas, and they promised each other that they would never reveal the location of the remains of St. Akylina so that they never fall into the hands of the Turks again. And despite the fact that there is large church dedicated to the Saint in that area, her relics still remain secretly hidden, until the Saint decides to reveal herself for the great blessing of the faithful.

Since 1957 the memory of St. Akylina is celebrated on September 27th, the day of her martyrdom. Before that her feast was on April 24th. The reason for this date of the feast has to do with the decision of the locals of the village of Zagliverion who wanted to combine their two primary feasts, that of St. Akylina and St. George (Apr. 23) - to whom their central church was dedicated - at the same time. The transfer was made in 1957, but firmly established after 1984 when a large church in St. Akylina's honor was built in the village.

A Service in honor of St. Akylina was discovered in the Church of St. George in 1969. This book was authored by the monk Polycarpos A. Giakoudis of Pantokratoras and contains the Vespers, Matins, Liturgy and Life in honor of the Saint. In September of 1969 the hymnographer Elder Gerasimos Mikragiannanitis wrote a Service in St. Akylina's honor and since then it has been chanted. In 1980 a Salutation and Lamentation Service were added.

The first icon depiction of the Saint dates back to 1858 by Hierodeacon Hierotheos of the Holy Monastery of Loggavardas (Longovarda). The icon depicts all the New Martyrs under the Turkish yoke, and St. Akylina is one of them. Also in the Church of St. George are the three oldest icons of St. Akylina. The first dates to 1903 and depicts the Saint whole-bodied with scenes of her life on her left and right, and Christ blesses her from above. The second is also whole-bodied and has the following dedication: "Polycarpou Athanasiou Giakoudi Zagliverinon Pantocratorino of Mount Athos on 1 September 1904", that is, it was dedicated from the monk who first composed a Service in her honor. The third icon is by Panagioti Anagnostou from 1913 and St. Akylina is depicted with St. Kyranna. All three icons are Athonite in origin.

The home of St. Akylina as well as the site of her martyrdom still exist till this day and can be visited, though they are run down. The feast of St. Akylina is known by the locals as Akylineia.

It should also be noted that it is likely that Akylina's real name was Angelina, but when St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite wrote her Life, he translated it to the closest Greek equivalent.

For the recent discovery of St. Akylina's relics, read:

Metropolitan Nikodemos of Ierissos and the Discovery of the Relics of St. Akylina

After 249 Years, the Relics of St. Akylina Return to Her Homeland

Apolytikion in the Plagal of the First Tone
Let us praise the divine Akylina, whom I behold as a godly-minded girl and Champion of Christ, who watered the faith with her love for Him, deposed the enemy through her holy struggles, and was granted divine glory. She entreats Christ the Word that He be merciful to our souls.

Apolytikion in the Plagal of the First Tone
Zagliveri rejoices in your struggle, the village that sprouted you as a fragrant flower, O most-comely virgin of Christ Akylina, for you struggled steadfastly, and received from God the crown of incorruption. Entreat ceaselessly that He be merciful to our souls.