January 25, 2015

Holy New Martyr Auxentios of Bellas in Ioannina (+ 1720)

St. Auxentios of Bellas (Feast Day - January 25)


Auxentios was greatly honored with a crown,
In the heavens through martyrdom.

Saint Auxentios was born into a devout and poor family from Bellas in Epirus. As a young man, he traveled to Constantinople and entered the fur business, but grew dissatisfied with his prospects. Beguiled by the devil to hold more esteem for the pleasures and vain pursuits of the world rather than the things of God, he began to keep bad company and enlisted in the Ottoman navy. However, when his shipmates began, untruly, to claim that he had denied Christianity in order to become a Muslim, he regretted keeping company with such young men of ill will, and with the spark of Christ that always remained in his heart, he fled and returned to Constantinople, where he earned his living for a time as an oarsman, carrying people on a small vessel from one part of Constantinople to another. Then, seized with remorse for his past mistakes, his heart burned with the desire for martyrdom. This inspired him to pray for a spiritual father to guide him.

Soon after a hieromonk from Mount Athos, Gregory of Xeropotamou, entered his boat, and full of gratitude he took advantage of the opportunity and sought his advice. Having revealed his desire for martyrdom, Gregory advised him that there are other means of salvation besides martyrdom, and urged him to return with him to Mount Athos to lead a life of martyrdom against the will as a monastic. Auxentios was insistent in his desire for martyrdom, however, so he remained an oarsman and he began to lead a life of asceticism and prayer in order to test his resolve, while everything he made from his occupation he gave to the poor.

Then, armed with the power of the Holy Spirit, he made his way to the harbor where the Sultan's barge lay at anchor. The sailors, who recognized him at once, seized him as an apostate and dragged him to the court. One Turk hit him in the face with his rod so hard, that it took out his right eye. Yet this bloodthirsty Turk was not satisfied, so he hit him again in the mouth, and two of the Saint's teeth fell out. Despite this pain, however, Auxentios remained steadfast in his faith in Christ. When he boldly confessed his faith before the judge, the judge ordered his men to beat the Saint's legs 300 times with rods. This caused a river of blood to run from his legs. They then returned him to prison, almost dead. His spiritual father, Gregory, came to encourage him in prison and gave him communion of the Divine Mysteries.

Five days later, on Tuesday the 25th of January 1720, after a final appearance before the judge in chains as if he was a criminal, he was asked for a final time why he refused to accept Islam. Auxentios responded: "I was born a Christian, and I want to die a Christian. I will not deny my faith for any reason, even if you torture me, because this faith is good and true. I pray that you also believe in it, that you may not be damned." Seeing the steadfast faith of Auxentios, the judge ordered him to be beheaded. Kneeling down Auxentios prayed for the Christians and the entire world, then he was beheaded. He was thirty years of age.

The next day a heavenly light came to rest upon Auxentios' holy relics. A certain Christian who had a high seat in the Sultan's government asked if he could have his body to properly bury it. This was granted, and after receiving the body he prepared it and buried it in the Church of the Life-Giving Spring. Two years later his relics were to be transferred, and when they opened his grave a beautiful fragrance came from it, which left everyone astonished. Miracles were ascribed to the sacred relics as well.

His sacred skull can be venerated at the Monastery of Xeropotamou in Mount Athos, where it is kept as a valued treasure.