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October 13, 2010

Holy New Martyr Chryse of Meglen (+ 1796)

St. Zlata (Chryse) the New Martyr (Feast Day - October 13)

By St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite


In torments, O Chryse, thou wast as brilliant
As gold that hath been purified by fire.

Chryse*, the New Virgin-Martyr and undefiled bride of the Heavenly King, Christ God, was from the village of Slatena of the district of Meglen which lies near the border of Serbia and Bulgaria. She was of a poor family, being one of four daughters. Yet she was rich in acquired and natural virtues; in acquired virtues, that is to say, by her fervent faith in God and by her virginity and prudence; in natural virtues, by her comeliness and beauty for which also the blessed one was deemed worthy of being perfected by a glorious and noble martyrdom.

There was a certain Turk there who, seeing her beauty and comeliness, was pierced in the heart by satanic love for her and kept watch to find an appropriate time to accomplish the evil purpose which he had conceived. One day the Saint came out with other women to gather wood. When the Hagarene - that plotter against the Saint's virginity - learned of this he took some other Turks with him also, and going there, seized her and carried her off by force to his house. At first he began to flatter the Saint with many promises, attempting in this manner to pervert her convictions and lead her to his religion. He told her that if she accepted and became Muslim, he would take her as wife. At the same time he began to threaten her also, saying that if she were not convinced by his words he would submit her to great tortures. But when she who was truly golden, both in mind and in name, heard these things so unexpectedly she did not fear at all but in her heart she called upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to come to her aid, and with great nobility and boldness she answered: "I believe and worship my Christ and Him alone do I have as my Bridegroom Whom I shall never deny, even though you inflict ten thousand tortures upon me - even though you cut my body into small pieces."

When they heard these things they understood that they alone would not be able to convince her. For this cause they used other means. Wherefore, knowing that women are more adept than men in deceiving others, especially other women, they gave the Saint over to their women and commanded them to use every means and device to convince her. When they had taken the Martyr, what did they not do, what did they not devise, what magic spells did they not use against the virgin? For nearly six months they incited the blessed one to accept their religion but in vain did they labor, for the blessed Chryse was firmly established upon the immovable rock of the Faith of Christ. Afterwards they called the Martyr's own parents and sisters and with great threats commanded them to incite their daughter to become Muslim, or else she would be put to death and they would be tortured and would suffer great loss.

Therefore when the parents and sisters of the Martyr drew near to her (for fear constrained them to do this, though unwillingly), they said and did all those things which are able to soften even the hardest and most adamant soul, and they wept and cried and said: "O sweetest daughter, have pity on yourself and on us your parents and your sisters who are all in danger of being destroyed on your account. Deny Christ just for the sake of appearances, so that both you and we might be delivered. Christ is compassionate and will forgive you this sin because of the necessity and violence." And here, let each one consider how vehement and how great was this warfare which the devil had devised and set in motion against the Martyr, and what thoughts of weakness and sympathy could have overcome the tender virgin from the rivers of tears which her mother and father and sisters shed in her presence.

But take courage, beloved, the power of Christ conquered even this warfare and device of the devil; for being aflame with the heartfelt fire of love for Christ, Chryse, who was manly and mighty in soul, was not at all inclined to sympathy by the words and tears of her parents and sisters, as nature demanded. Rather, like one above flesh and blood, and beyond the laws and limits of nature, she turned and spoke these praiseworthy and most wise words to her parents and sisters: "You, who incite me to deny Christ, the true God, are no longer my parents and sisters, nor do I wish to have you as such henceforth. But in your stead, I have my Lord Jesus Christ as father, my Lady the Theotokos as mother, and the Saints as my brothers and sisters." And with this answer she turned them away.

Well done to your stouthearted courage, O Saint! Well done to your true love for God! Well done to your wise convictions, worthy of heavenly praises! Truly, brethren, in this Saint there is fulfilled that which the divine David said: "My father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord hath taken me to Himself" (Ps. 26:10), and that which the Lord said: "I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and a daughter against her mother...And a man's foes shall be they of his own household" (Matt. 10:35-36).

When the Muslims, and especially that evil lover of the virgin, saw that they could achieve nothing, nor pervert the Saint from the Faith of Christ, even with those means and instruments which they had conceived, they abandoned flatteries and words from that time forward, and began torturing the Martyr. At first, for three whole months, they beat her daily with clubs. Later they skinned her and took many strips from her flesh and left them hanging in front of her, so that she might be stricken with fear at the sight of them. The blood ran like a river from the virginal body of the Martyr, and the nearby earth was reddened. Afterwards they heated a skewer and passed it directly through the ears of the Martyr, so that smoke came forth from her nose and mouth.

While suffering such numerous and such grievous tortures, which would humble even the most stouthearted of men, the Martyr of Christ endured with great nobility, being strengthened by the power of the Cross and by her heartfelt love for Christ. For as Symeon Metaphrastes says: "The soul that is held by bonds of love for God deems suffering as nothing; rather it revels in pain and prospers in adversity." When the Saint heard that there was nearby the priest Timothy, the abbot of the august Monastery of Stavronikita on Mount Athos, a man modest and trustworthy whom she had as her spiritual father, who also narrated her martyrdom, she sent word to him by a certain Christian that he make supplication unto God, that she might be accounted worthy to finish the course of her martyrdom in a manner pleasing to God.

Finally, not being satisfied with the numerous torments which they had inflicted upon the Saint, but rather marvelling how she remained yet alive and did not die, those cruel and hard-hearted ones - nay, one should say rather those crueler than the wild beasts themselves - could not endure the fact that they all had been conquered by a maiden, and they became so angry and obstinate - Oh! what does not evil devise! - that they hung the lamb of Christ upon a wild pear tree, and all ran at her with their knives and cut the sacred body of the virgin to pieces. This took place on October 13, 1795.**

In this manner was the good Chryse tested and made radiant by such numerous tortures, like gold in a furnace. She surrendered her holy soul into the hands of her immortal Bridegroom, and received a double crown as virgin and as athlete. And now she dances and rejoices together with the prudent and prize-winning virgins in the heavenly bridal chambers, and stands at the right hand of the Bridegroom, Christ, and reigns together with Him unto the ages of ages. As for her victorious and virginal relics, certain Christians took them secretly and buried them with honor and reverence.

By her intercessions may we also be accounted worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven. Amen.

* In Greek synaxaria she is known as Chryse, while in Slavic she is known by the more popular Zlata; both however mean "golden".

** Other sources say it was 1796. On October 13th, believers flock to the icon depicting Saint Zlata of Meglen in the Church of the Holy Brothers Cyril and Methodius and their Five Disciples in Sofia, Bulgaria to honor the memory of the Bulgarian martyr and saint.

Apolytikion in the First Tone
Having come to love the celestial Bridegroom, you have shown no fear of the tortures of the wicked infidel and have shed your blood even to death, O Chryse, worthy of all praise, O pride of Meglen. That is why you are now being recompensed according to your merits: eternal joy in the palaces of Christ our God. To Him do pray that He may save our souls.

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
Golden vessel of virginity, a spotless a bride of the Lord you became, O most-comely virgin Chryse; you preserved your virginity blameless for Christ, and you struggled in a divine manner. O glorious Martyr, entreat your Bridegroom, to grant unto us great mercy.