June 5, 2015

Holy New Martyr Mark of Chios (+ 1801)

St. Mark of Chios (Feast Day - June 5)


Mark, Chios has as a great boast,
For there your sacred and radiant blood of Martyrdom was shed,
Wherefore, she praises the Lord joyously, Who gave you to us.

Mark hailed from the Aegean city of Smyrna. His father, Hatzi-Konstantes, however, came from Thessaloniki while his mother Maria was a native of Smyrna.

Mark was a traveling vendor who would travel to Kusadasi (New Ephesus), Chios and in their regions. He was married in 1788. Motivated by his brother, he eventually went and settled in Ephesus. There he became involved romantically with another Christian woman named Maria and thus committed adultery. Caught in the act, they were both arrested. Being brought before the Aga, they both converted to the Islamic religion. Mark was adopted by the Aga and circumcised, and Maria was brought to the harem of the Aga. Later he let her free and allowed her to live in her own home, and gave her a salary.

Now the son of the Aga, he was externally hard on Christians, but Mark's conscience began to bother him soon after because of his denial of the Orthodox Christian faith. He therefore went to a spiritual father to confess his sin of adultery and apostasy. Maria would go to the same spiritual father. Both insisted they had to leave Kusadasi and asked the help of their spiritual father. They had already lived as Muslims for nine months. The spiritual father advised Maria to pretend being ill. A physician friend of this spiritual father "examined" her and recommended her to go to Smyrna where there was a cure. The Aga allowed Maria to go accompanied by Mark, but soon after the Aga realized their deception and sent a message to the Pasha of Smyrna to capture them. Mark then found a ship to Trieste, Italy and taking Maria they left. Due to some obstacles they were forced to disembark in Venice in 1792. Having been chrismated back into the Orthodox faith in Venice, they were married (perhaps his lawful wife had died by this time), and they lived in repentance and contrition.

Due to the past denial of his faith, it still left Mark uneasy, so he wandered with his family, until they arrived in Russia. Eventually he returned to the Turkish occupied territories and confessed to many spiritual fathers, metropolitans and patriarchs of his fierce desire for martyrdom. All of them tried to dissuade him, saying that it was not only dangerous for himself but for other Christians, and that repentance sufficed for his salvation. But his fierce desire to confess for the faith led him back to Kusadasi, where he had first denied his faith. Before doing so he prepared for martyrdom in Chios under the guidance of St. Makarios of Corinth and St. Nikephoros of Chios, with whom he stayed for several days. His spiritual father did not permit him to be martyred in Kusadasi, because the Turks were still enraged over the martyrdom of the recently martyred Saint George (April 5) and the new church being built there in his honor.

Mark therefore went to Chios where he visited various churches, frequently receiving Holy Communion, and preparing for martyrdom through the advice of St. Makarios of Corinth, St. Nikephoros of Chios and St. Athanasios of Paros. He presented himself before the Aga there saying: "I was a Christian named Mark. My origins are in Thessaloniki but I was born in Smyrna from Christian parents." He then went on to confess his Christian faith and denied Islam. He pulled a cross out from his chest and kissed it, threw down his turban, and put on a skoufi from Mount Athos. The Aga asked him if he was crazy or drunk. Mark responded that he was neither crazy nor drunk, but he was hungry from not eating. Furthermore he said that he was ready to spill his blood for Jesus Christ.

He was arrested and locked in prison, with his feet bound in stocks, which were a wooden torture board. One of the officers wishing to punish him for his constant singing and prayers to God would adjust this wood to cause him greater pain. But while being tortured, Mark would still melodiously sing hymns to God. The officer would kick Mark, forcing him to bleed from his mouth. However, Mark thanked God for his sufferings.

Sometimes he was given promises and sometimes he was given threats to deny his faith and return to Islam, but he refused. They would beat him and even threw him down some stairs, and while on the way to prison they would cane him. In prison they tightened the wood so much that his feet were nearly dissolved. Yet the Saint would constantly chant and say: "Lord, receive me, your denier."

Certain Christians managed to enter the prison to encourage the Martyr. To them he also told of his struggles. While in prison Mark received divine revelations which helped strengthen him to end his struggle through martyrdom. The local church also managed to allow mark to receive Holy Communion regularly while in prison and be visited by a priest. From the moment the Saint was imprisoned many Christians strictly fasted and prayed for him. The churches daily held services for him, and not only in the churches, but also in the homes of the Christians. The Saint would encourage them to pray for him, but to not feel sorry for him. He would tell them to rejoice, not be sad, for his wedding was tomorrow. He foresaw his death, and thus asked everyone's forgiveness, and sent his thanks to all those who prayed for him and stood by him.

On Wednesday 5 June 1801 he was taken from prison to the Aga, where there were gathered all the agas and mufti from the region. After his third confession he was sentenced to death by the sword. Mark left the court overjoyed, his face shining. And although his feet were crushed and hands were bound, he literally ran to the place of his execution as if he did not touch the earth. The guards could not keep up with him and even they said that a demon was hovering him in the air. A crowd gathered as if they were about to watch a sporting event. The Saint knelt and told the executioner: "Come on, strike!" The executioner felt awkward by this and was unable to behead him with one strike, and in fact his sword flew out of his hand. The Saint fell motionless, without being agitated or screaming. The executioner therefore grabbed the sword, and with many strikes he beheaded Mark. It was 2:00 A.M.

The Christians glorified God. They ran to the churches, expressing their joy by singing the praises of his martyrdom. Many sought to acquire some belonging or relic of the Martyr, whether it be soil soaked with his blood or a piece of his clothes. The Christians managed to recover the body of the Saint after giving much money to the authorities and they buried his holy relic. His life, written by St. Athanasios of Paros, records many miracles that have been attributed to Saint Mark following his martyrdom. A Service of Praise was composed for him by St. Nikephoros of Chios. A portion of his relic rests in the Metropolis of Chios, and another is in the Holy Monastery of Saint Nicholas in Imerovigliou in Thera.

Apolytikion in the Third Tone 
You gladdened the whole island of Chios, O godly-minded, glorious Martyr Mark, as you radiantly preached piety, and deposed profane error, through your words and struggles, O godly-wise one. As you received that which you sought, O ever-memorable one, remember us who praise you.

Additional Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
God glorified you in heaven and on earth, O adornment and boast of Martyrs, O Mark the radiant. To those who celebrate your sacred memory with fervor, and faithfully venerate the treasury of your relics, grant your grace, and pray to Christ for them, that they be delivered from dangers and trials.

Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
To those who stand round your reliquary, O glorious Mark, and faithfully venerate your divine relics, grant the grace of the Spirit through your prayers, that He might dwell in them and remain in them, and pour forth streams of healings, for you have attained boldness before the Lord.

Additional Kontakion in the Third Tone
Joyously Chios praises in hymns, and ever honors your wondrous struggles radiantly, hastening to where you were martyred--O strange wonder!--hastening to your Master Who sactified your blood, as you desired, the boast of Martyrs, O Mark, the Athlete of Christ.

The radiant and perfect one of Christ, the inconquerable Champion, the adornment of the Martyrs, and the holy treasury, let all of us, the faithful, together place the crowns with the flowers of praises upon Mark, who sprouted as a joyous rose in the great city of Smyrna, which nurtured him well, while the famed island of Chios is joyously enriched with the godly fragrance of his martyrical struggles and feats. Therefore, rejoicing and praising his memory, and honoring his wondrous struggle, sanctify me who cry to him: you who shed your grace-flowing blood, never neglect me, the boast of Martyrs, O Mark, the Athlete of Christ.

Another Hymn to St. Mark of Chios 
Wisely did you renounce the earth and consider all earthly things as rubbish, and having longed for things heavenly, O all-blessed Mark, you exchanged fleeting things for that which is abiding and eternal.