May 2, 2011

Holy New Hieromartyr Niketas of Serres (+ 1808)

St. Niketas the New Martyr of Serres 
(Feast Days - Sunday of Saint Thomas and September 15)

The Holy Hieromartyr Niketas was born between 1760 and 1770 and was from Epirus. Other biographers speculate he was born in Trebizond of Asia Minor from the region of Lazica. This theory comes from Monk Iakovos of New Skete, who wrote the Service to the Agiannaniton Fathers between 1840 and 1850 that Niketas was from Lazica in Pontus. Furthermore, his reliquary bears the inscription: "The Holy Hieormartyr Niketas of Lazica". Nothing is known of his parents or family except that they were Crypto-Christians.

Regarding his biography, we don't know if he initially betrayed Orthodoxy and accepted Islam in Serres, but we do know that he accepted circumcision.

Niketas became a monk on Mount Athos in the Skete of Saint Anna. Here he lived a life of fasting, prayer and vigils. Later he was ordained to the diaconate and the priesthood at the Monastery of Saint Panteleimon. Desiring martyrdom he left the Monastery and went to Serres in Drama on Great and Holy Monday in 1808 to proclaim before the Turks that Christ is the true God. His goal was to spill his blood for His most sweet Jesus.

Saint Niketas went to confess his sins to the Hieromonk and Abbot Constantine at the Metochion of Panagia Iliokallis and he received the Holy Mysteries. Passing the Church of Saint George he went to the Mosque of Ahmed Pasha. At the mosque was a teacher of Islamic sacred writing together with his students. One of the students was lame in both feet. Niketas told this student that if he believed in Christ, his feet would be healed.

The young Turk told his teacher what Niketas told him. Niketas was arrested and taken to the voyvoda of Serres Yusuf Bey and he was imprisoned. While imprisoned he was severely tortured. On the night of Holy and Great Saturday as Pascha dawned on April 4th in 1808 Fr. Niketas was ordered to be hung in Tzeriach - Pazar. Near the spot of his martyrdom was the Church of the Archangel Micheal. On the night of Fr. Niketas' martyrdom the deacon of this church came out of his cell and saw the entire area in a divine light. The Turks ordered the body of the martyr to remain hung on the gallows for three days until Bright Tuesday. That night the Christians were given license by the Turks to take the holy relic of the Hieromartyr and they entombed him in the Church of Saint Nicholas in Serres. The Skete of Saint Anna on Mount Athos was also given a portion of his relics by the Metropolitan of Serres.

In Serres a great celebration takes place on the feast of Hieromartyr Niketas on his feast day, which since 1987 is the Sunday of Saint Thomas and September 15th.

Απολυτίκιο Ήχος α’
Νικήσας φερωνύμως των εχθρών την παράταξιν, Νικήτα Νεομάρτυς τη γενναία αθλήσει σου, ηγίασας την πόλιν των Σερρών, τοις άθλοις σου τοις θείοις Αθλητά. Δια τούτό σου την μνήμην την ιεράν, τιμώμεν ανακράζοντες. Δόξα τω δεδωκότι σοι ισχύν, δόξα τω σε στεφανώσαντι, δόξα τω χορηγούντι δια σου, ημίν χάριν και έλεος.