March 23, 2015

Holy New Martyr Luke of Adrianople (+ 1802)

St. Luke of Adrianople (Feast Day - March 23)


Venerable Luke by a sword became,
A partner in the chorus of Martyrs.

Luke was born in the city of Adrianople, Thrace, where his parents Athanasios and Domnitsa lived and were members of the parish of Saint Nicholas. When he was six years of age his father died, which plunged his mother into poverty. Consequently, she entrusted young Luke to a merchant from Zagor who was to bring him up and then take him into his business. Luke accompanied the merchant to Russia on a business trip then settled down with him in Constantinople where the merchant had a shop.

One day, some years later, Luke quarreled with a Muslim boy whom he beat up outside of his master's house. Other Muslims who observed this incident ran after Luke to punish him. Anxious to avoid punishment, Luke shouted to them, "Let me be, I'll become a Muslim!" This stopped the Muslims in their tracks, and Luke saved himself from a beating.

Luke was "adopted" subsequently by a wealthy Muslim who provided for him. But later Luke's conscience began to cause him great pain. He then asked for the assistance of his former master who tried to help him using the good offices of the Russian Embassy. The ambassador sent his deputy to visit the aga who had adopted Luke. The deputy made inquiries about the boy and asked for his return. But the aga explained that Luke had voluntarily become a Muslim and no coercion was used. Hence it was impossible for him to return Luke.

Fearing there might be another inquiry and an attempt to free Luke, the aga forcibly ordered Luke circumcised. When the Russian ambassador learned all this, he said he could do nothing unless the boy could escape from the aga's house. One day Luke did exactly that. He was immediately taken in hand by his former master and by an embassy employee who had him remove his Muslim clothing and put on Christian garments. Luke was then taken aboard a ship sailing for Smyrna. From there he sailed on to the island of Thera (Santorini) where he remained for some time.

Shortly afterwards Luke became ill and visited a spiritual father to whom he revealed his entire past history. The spiritual father counseled Luke to go to the Holy Mountain where he could escape from danger and where he could see to the salvation of his soul.

On the Holy Mountain Luke first went to the Great Lavra Monastery where he served for a time, then he went to the Monastery of Iveron, where he revealed to the head of the Monastery that he had not been formally received back into the Orthodox Church. He was therefore sent to the Skete of Saint John the Forerunner where the fathers there formally accepted Luke back into the Orthodox faith. From the Skete he returned to Iveron Monastery where he stayed for a time and then on to Stavronikita Monastery where he became a monk.

Restless, it would appear, Luke left there and went to the Monastery of Zographou where he did not stay very long either. He then decided to leave Mount Athos and find a position as a caretaker in some parish church. But this did not prove to be a solution for Luke because neither in Kydonies, nor in Moschonesia, nor in Mytilene, all visited by him, did he find what he was looking for. He then went to Smyrna, but a plague there cut short his visit, and he returned once more to the Holy Mountain, to the Monastery of Koutloumousiou from where he was sent to the Skete of Saint John and to the spiritual father he had first consulted on Mount Athos.

The spiritual father tried to place Luke in one of the sketes, but was unsuccessful since Luke was still beardless. In the end he was able to place him in the Monastery of Gregoriou, but his stay there was short lived, for the brothers there expelled Luke. Luke was now in a dilemma not knowing what to do. He came to the conclusion that all of his troubles and temptations which he suffered were a result of the sign he carried on his body, his circumcision, and nothing could erase that except a courageous confession of faith in the place where he had denied Jesus Christ, which would wash away his sin.

Luke then visited Father Vessarion at the Skete of Saint Anna. To Father Vessarion, Luke poured out his heart and told him all of his story. Later he left Mount Athos and sailed to Mytilene. It so happened that this was the time that the Muslim authorities had seized the Metropolitan and the demogerontes of the island to interrogate them about a Muslim family which had converted and became Orthodox Christians. This conversion had many Muslims on the island in a state of agitation.

Thus Luke's timing, to say the least, was not very good. Nevertheless, Luke presented himself before the kadi and asked him in a loud voice, "Is it just for me to be deceived, a child like myself?"

The kadi asked, "And who deceived you?"

Luke responded, "Someone deceived me, giving me a badge [meaning circumcision]."

The kadi then asked to see the badge. But when Luke went to part his clothing, those present in the courthouse finally understood what he meant and shouted for him to stop. Luke then said,

Being a young child of thirteen, I was deceived by you and I came over to your religion, not being able to discern the truth from falsehood. I therefore remained with what is false and a lie for some time because I was a young child. But when I became of age, I understood your religion was not true, but false. And he whom you call a prophet is not a prophet but a deceiver and a mythmaker, and he has deceived all of you and you believed him. Having therefore been informed that your religion is darkness, I reject it before you and I confess my former Christian faith which is true light. I believe and worship a true God, my Lord Jesus Christ who will come to judge all the world, the living and the dead, and who will render to each according to his works. If you do not believe in Him, as I do, you will all be damned.

To this the kadi replied, "Hey you, where are you from?"

Luke answered, "From Russia."

"Why didn't you stay there?"

"Our books tell us that you must confess in the same place where you have denied your faith."

"Who brought you here?" asked the kadi.

"A Russian ship," said Luke.

"Where are you staying?"

"Nowhere. I did not stop anywhere, but came straight here."

The kadi turned to the others in court and said, "He is crazy. See if he recognizes his own shoes."

Luke turned and immediately rushed to find his shoes and showed them to the kadi and said, "I am not crazy, as you say. Here are my shoes. I bought them in Constantinople."

The kadi said, "I am sorry for you, son. If you do not listen to me, you will suffer many torments, many of which you have not even heard. So think well."

Luke replied,

I have already thought on all the torments which you can inflict on me, and I have come. So, whatever you plan to do to me, do it quickly, without delay, and be assured that I am clean and blameless and I will not deny my faith. I am an Orthodox Christian and I will die an Orthodox Christian. I worship Christ and it is Christ whom I desire. I confess him here where I once denied Him in ignorance and I proclaim Him with true knowledge.

Despite the flattery and the threats on the part of the Muslims, Luke remained unshakeable in his adherence to Jesus Christ. The kadi ordered Luke bound. But Luke said to the kadi, "Why are you binding me. i came here voluntarily without you asking for me, and are you now afraid that I will flee? I go where you want me to go of my own free will."

Hearing this, the kadi rescinded his order. And while he was being taken out of the courthouse he met the Metropolitan of Mytilene, accompanied by some priest and demogerontes who were summoned by the naziri because a Muslim family had secretly left the island because they had converted to Orthodoxy. Seeing the Metropolitan, Luke bowed his head and asked for his blessing. Angered by this, his Muslim escort fell upon him and began to beat him mercilessly. For his the Metropolitan later ordered prayers to be said in all the churches of the island for the "servant of God Luke".

Luke appeared before the naziri (a trustee of a Muslim religious endowment), who was surrounded by many other Muslims. The naziri said to Luke, "You came to me before and asked for a fetva (judicial ruling), and now what is this that I hear about you? Come to your senses, my son. Come to the faith if you wish for me to honor you and to do for you whatever you wish. If you listen to me, I shall look upon you as my son."

Luke answered without hesitation and fear and said, "You should know that even if you inflict upon me tens of thousands of torments, it is not possible to separate me from my sweetest Jesus Christ the true God."

Meanwhile the order came for Luke to be brought before the kadi once more. There, Luke was interrogated for a number of hours during which he was flattered, given promises, and threatened with torture. Luke stood firm. He was then returned to prison where he received the Holy Communion brought to him, and he asked for some Orthodox Christian to be sent to him to keep him company and to bolster his steadfastness. Eustratios, an Orthodox Christian from Chios, gladly volunteered for this task and entered the courthouse with the pretense of paying a loan. But it was soon discovered that he really came to visit with Luke and he was expelled.

On Sunday morning the naziri informed Luke that the order for his death had arrived. He was taken to the place of execution where a last attempt was made to bring him back to Islam, but Luke responded to this by saying, "I worship and believe in Christ."

Some Muslim said, "Let Christ come and save you."

Luke replied, "I don't wish to be saved; I wish to die for his love," whereupon he was hanged. It was Sunday, the second hour (8:00 a.m.), March 23, 1802. Luke's body was kept on the scaffold for three days. Then it was weighed down and thrown into the sea so that Orthodox Christians could not have it. But the body rose to the surface later and was recovered and secretly buried.

Thus Luke the assistant clerk sacrificed his life for the love of Jesus Christ on the island of Mytilene at the age of nineteen on March 23, 1802.

From Witnesses For Christ: Orthodox Christian Neomartyrs of the Ottoman Period 1437-1860, by Nomikos Michael Vaporis, pp. 252-257. Hymns translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
You were trained beforehand in asceticism on Athos, and trampled upon the arrows of the enemy, and put on the Cross as armor, O most-blessed one, heading towards the contest, enduring manfully, and putting to death those who war against the faith. O Venerable Martyr Luke, by the noetic sword you were crowned with dual garlands.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
Your bright contest, Venerable Martyr of the Lord, with yearning we praise, with odes and praises, for you rebuked the error of the Agar, and you stood as a brave trophy of victory against invisible enemies, for which you were worthily crowned by Christ.

With martyric glory, Victorious One, you stood before the throne of the Lord of all and God; recalling your faith, we celebrate your memory, Venerable Martyr Luke, most-wondrous of Christ.