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May 12, 2015

Holy New Martyr John of Serres (+ c. 1480)

St. John of Serres (Feast Day - May 12)

The Holy New Martyr John came from a wealthy family of Serres and was born and raised in Serres in the latter half of the fifteenth century.

In the prime of his youth, his courage to appear in public as equal to the Turkish occupiers with a splendid appearance, caused the envy of the Turks, who went to the authorities. His accusers claimed that John publicly insulted the faith of Muhammad, refusing to follow him despite his initial promise. The authorities ordered, after this serious complaint, that John be arrested and brought to court, which forthwith happened. The judge, after considering the matter, at first tried with promises of positions to lure him to change his faith, and they would have gained much if by his example others imitated him, but all their attempts failed, since John, in response to the proposal, publicly confessed his faith in Christ.

When all methods failed, they tried in vain to force John to confess their faith by resorting to torture. They took the Saint from prison, dragged him on the ground without clothing, then uprooted his hair while beating him with a rod. Despite this harsh torture, John continued to sing praises to the Lord Jesus Christ, and to his right a magnificent man on a horse whose face shined like the sun appeared. He realized that this was Saint Theodore, sent to strengthen him and give him courage.

The Turks, when they saw that by this means John still refused to renounce his faith, returned him to prison, where they continued to put physical and moral pressure on him. The steadfast dedication of John to his ancestral faith caused them to despair of their efforts, and so a written request was made to the Sublime Porte to be given instructions. Written instructions came, and the judge of Serres ordered the death of John, if he did not renounce his faith in Christ.

Thus the tyrants, after a final effort to get John to renounce his faith failed, took him from prison and led him to a public place where his executioners, in order to make his execution more painful, raised him above a pile of brushwood and dry wood, and after they tied his hands and feet, they lit the fire.

John remained calm throughout this horrible martyrdom, and he even asked his tormentors if they indeed lit the fire, and with a low voice he sang hymns to God. One of the executioners, in order to silence him, plunged a pole in his mouth, and this brought an end to the earthly life of the New Martyr.

The Service to the Holy New Martr John of Serres was written by the Great Orator of the Holy and Great Church of Christ, Manuel the Peloponnesian, sometime between 1491-1497.

Saint John of Serres was martyred for his faith in Christ around the year 1480 and he is annually commemorated on May 12th.