June 8, 2011

Holy New Martyr Theophanes of Constantinople (+ 1588)

St. Theophanes the New Martyr (Feast Day - June 8)

Theophanes was born in the village of Zapanti, today's Kalovrisi, in Kalamata, to his pious parents Nicholas and Kyro. In the world he was known as Theodore and in his youth he travelled to Constantinople where he learned sewing under a harsh employer. At one point a group of Muslims persuaded him to become a Muslim, and for six years he learned Turkish and Arabic. In the course of his studies he remembered his Orthodox Faith, and began a process of repentance.

The young and handsome Theodore sought a guide to lead him on the path of repentance and guide his soul towards salvation, and for this he found Metropolitan Gabriel Seviros of Philadelphia (1577-1616) in Venice. This holy hierarch taught, nurtured and encouraged Theodore, and tonsured him a monk giving him the name Theophanes. This strengthened him to return to his homeland to receive martyrdom for the completion of his repentance.

In Constantinople he was unable to accomplish his martyric wishes, so he travelled to Athens. After three days of prayer Theophanes courageously appeared before the judge confessing Jesus Christ and renouncing Islam. Again not taken seriously he was told to leave. He tried again in Evia and Larissa, pleading to the judges to suffer on behalf of his renunciation. The harsh judge of Larissa had him whipped 600 times, which Theophanes received with gratitude and joy. After he was healed of his wounds, he left for Mount Athos.

On Mount Athos he met virtuous monks and spiritual elders, where he received their advice and blessings. He settled at Vatopaidi Monastery where he met Hierodeacon Sinesios of Vatopaidi, who later wrote the biography and hymns of the Saint which is preserved at Vatopaidi.

Empowered by his stay on Mount Athos, he travelled again to Constantinople to complete his intention for martyrdom. There he met the holy Euthymios, who prepared him to undergo martyrdom with a strong confession. He received Holy Communion, and after a compunctionate all-night vigil he proceeded with courage to the local judge.

With all the strength of his soul he confessed Christ before the judge and renounced Islam. Enraged by this the judge sent him immediately to prison to think of the right punishment. While in prison the Saint was beat and kicked by the guards. The judge called for him again thinking he may have been drunk, but Theophanes spoke of how he sinned greatly in accepting Islam and rejoiced exceedingly on becoming a Christian again. The judge thus ordered that he be whipped 700 times and be imprisoned.

During his second imprisonment the guards would mock him and put him under severe tortures. The Saint afterwards prayed for three hours, and after saying "amen" a great earthquake took place and the prison then became immersed in light, which brought great joy to his soul and he glorified God. The guards dropped at the feet of the Saint upon seeing this, begging forgiveness for what they did, and through the guidance of Theophanes some became Christians.

Theophanes was brought before the leaders once again after all this, and the Saint went fearlessly. He rejected the enticement to renounce his Christian Faith for riches and power, and it was decided that he would be tortured horribly and be put to death.

The Martyr was thus tied to a wooden pole and strips of skin were peeled from his chest and back. Putting him like this on a donkey, they showcased and humiliated him throughout the streets of Constantinople. They also put hooks through his body. Through this horrific torture and great suffering however, the Saint remained calm and was in sincere prayer. He thanked the Holy Trinity and prayed that he may be a cause for unbelievers to repent. After his prayer a white bird like a dove came upon him that descended from the sky. While he was filled with joy, the crowd was perplexed. Many Turks saw this and confessed that Christ was God as proclaimed and glorified by the Martyr. The dove remained with him for three hours, then went away. As darkness came, the Saint, like Christ, said "I thirst". The guards said that if he became a Muslim, then he would receive water. Theophanes responded that Christ has cooled him, and his thirst is for salvation.

Through the night there was a thunder and lightening storm, all the while the Saint was immersed in light. The attending Turks were confessing Christianity as the true Faith as a result. This scared the executioners, since the people were calling out his innocence, so they took a sharp object and began to brutally scratch the Saint, taking out his eyes. From this the Saint gave up his spirit and his sacrifice was complete.

After this the Christians payed the executioners to receive the body, and they also gathered up his blood. These became a source of miracles for the lame, the lepers, the possessed, and those who were sick for many years. The executioners eventually had a bad end and some became blind, mad, or drowned at sea. Some even repented.

The martyrdom of the Saint is placed on June 8, 1559. These sources are based on the account by St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite. But P.B. Paschou places the martyrdom of the Saint in 1588 based on Codex 339 of the Metochion of the Holy Sepulchre in Constantinople and Codex 797 of the Holy Monastery of Vatopaidi, since his death in 1559 does not coincide with his meeting of Metropolitan Gabriel Seviros.