June 12, 2015

Holy New Martyr John of Trebizond, Who Contested in Akkerman (+ 1492)

St. John of Trebizond (Feast Day - June 12)


By briefly giving blood, O blessed John,
You purchased the celestial kingdom.

John was a successful merchant from the city of Trebizond and a pious Orthodox Christian. For this reason he shared his success with many acts of philanthropy towards his neighbors.

Because of his good reputation, and the fact that he prayed, fasted and did good works, John was greatly envied by the captain whose ship transported some of his merchandise. One day as they journeyed they got into a heated discussion on spiritual matters, and John's vast knowledge succeeded in defended his Orthodox Christian faith, but this enraged the captain. So when they landed in Akkerman, Moldavia the captain slandered John to the city officials, informing them that John wished to become a Muslim. Delighted by this, the ruler ordered John be brought before him.

When John came, the ruler welcomed him and told him how pleased he was to hear that he desired to convert to Islam, which would elevate his position in society as well as his wealth. Astonished, John replied:

"God forbid I should ever deny my Lord. I was born an Orthodox Christian and I wish to die an Orthodox Christian. I neither want your riches nor will I become a Muslim, for I believe in my Lord Jesus Christ, the true God and Master."

The Turkish ruler became very angry hearing this, and began to ridicule the Christian faith and threatened John with a variety of tortures if he persisted in his beliefs. To this John replied:

"I believe and worship God in Trinity, which I was taught by my parents. What I told you in the beginning I tell you now: I do not want to become a Muslim and deny my faith. As long as I have my wits about me do not delay, but cut away, burn, strangle, beat, torture me in whatever way you can. I am ready to suffer all with joy for the love of my Christ."

Thereupon John was stripped of his clothing, and was beaten mercilessly by some of the ruler's men. John endured everything bravely, quietly saying: "I thank you, my Lord God, for finding me worthy to be washed by my blood and be cleansed for all my sins."

When the beatings ceased, John was placed in prison. The next day he was again brought before the ruler of the city who tried with soft and kind words to break down John's resistance to conversion. But John was even more firm, resulting in more beatings and tortures. John's response was: "I don't care at all for this perishable body. My entire concern is how I am going to endure with Christ's help to the end in accord with what He said, 'He who endures to the end will be saved.'"

Convinced that John would not abandon his Orthodox Christian faith, the ruler ordered John be tied behind a horse and dragged through the streets of Akkerman, particularly through the Jewish quarter. As John was being dragged through the Jewish quarter, many Jews threw various objects at him. One Jew, it is said, drew a sword and cut off John's head. The Muslims then untied John's body and just allowed it to lie there. The Orthodox Christians in the city became extremely frightened and none dared go near the body of the Martyr to give it burial.

Finally, the ruler gave the permission for John's body to be brought to an Orthodox church of the city, where it was buried after an appropriate funeral. This occurred in the year 1492.

Around seventy years later, in the time of Prince Alexander the Good of Moldavia, upon the advice of Metropolitan Joseph of Moldavia, the prince had John's body removed from the city of Akkerman and brought it to the Cathedral in Sistova, Moldavia, where it was buried with great honors. In 1668 during the campaign of John III Sobieski against the Turks, the relics were brought to Zhovkva in Poland. They were returned to Sistova in 1783 by order of the emperor Joseph II. Since then many miracles have been reported by those who seek the intercessions of Saint John with faith.

A Service was published in honor of Neomartyr John in Venice in 1752 by Justin Dekadyos, and another was synthesized by Patriarch Nikephoros of Alexandria the Cretan, and issued in Iasi in 1819 by Thomas Bougioukos of Trebizond.

It should also be noted, that there are differences of opinion regarding the date of the martyrdom of Neomartyr John, ranging from 1350, according to Petit, to 1500, according to a manuscript in Vatopaidi Monastery. Most follow the dating of Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite of 1492. However, a note in Nikodemos says: "This martyrdom was translated from the Slavonic to our language [Greek]. According to others, this Saint is found to have been martyred in the year 1642, in the month of May."