July 3, 2015

Holy New Martyr Gerasimos of Karpenisi (+ 1812)

St. Gerasimos the New of Megalo Chorio (Feast Day - July 3)

When St. Gerasimos was born he was given the name George, and he grew up in the village of Megalo Chorio near Karpenisi. At the age of eleven, he left his village with his older brother Athanasios for Constantinople to work. Soon afterwards Athanasios returned to his village and left George with a relative who owned a grocery store.

One day, while carrying a copper tray with dishes full of yogurt on his head, George fell and the dishes with yogurt broke and scattered. Afraid of what the owner would do to him, George set out to return to the shop, crying along the way.

But before he arrived at the shop, a Muslim woman saw him from the window of her house. She went out to him and offered him sympathy, comfort and assistance. While he was in her house, her husband was preparing two of his sons for circumcision. In appreciation for the hospitality, George agreed to become a Muslim when it was suggested to him by the husband, who also promised to adopt him and even allow him to visit his home whenever he wished.

George remained in the Muslim household for two years when the husband, suspicious of the affection his wife had for George, gave him a Muslim official with whom George toured Bulgaria and Bosnia before returning to Constantinople.

After a short time had passed, George realized his great sin of apostasy. He then left Constantinople and returned to his home village of Megalo Chorio. He remained in the village for three years attending church services faithfully. When he heard a monk named Gerasimos was returning to the Holy Mountain, George decided to accompany him. On the Holy Mountain, George went to the Skete of Saint Panteleimon where the elder Kyrillos resided who was from the area of Karpenisi and who agreed to become his spiritual father.

Kyrillos taught George how to pray properly and in general outlined a spiritual discipline for him which included reading the book New Martyrology written by St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite.

After a year, George asked to be tonsured a monk, but his elder thought it was too early; he had to train for at least two, if not three years before he could formally become a monk. Upon hearing this, George broke out in tears. In fact, he cried daily for three entire months. Seeing his zeal, his elder agreed that perhaps the time had indeed arrived. So on the Second Sunday of Great Lent, George was tonsured a monk and given the name of Gerasimos.

Three days after the service of tonsure, Gerasimos asked his elder permission to become a martyr. But this permission was withheld as being premature. Gerasimos spent the next three years touring the Holy Mountain, visiting various monasteries. At the end of this time he asked permission to visit his mother and relatives. This was granted. But instead of going back to the village of Megalo Chorio, Gerasimos returned to Constantinople and went to the house of his Muslim stepfather.

Village of Megalo Chorio

Because of the passage of so much time and the change in his appearance, Gerasimos initially had difficulty being admitted to the house. Finally he was taken to his stepfather before whom Gerasimos stood and said:

Because of my naivete and youth I accepted your cunning words as well as those of your wife, and you made me into a Muslim when I was an Orthodox Christian. Now I have come to confess the truth. Then I was young and naive, I was fooled, but now I have come of age and I have been able to distinguish the light from the darkness. I confess that I was born an Orthodox Christian and an Orthodox Christian I will die.

The Muslim was thunderstruck with Gerasimos' words, but he fought back his anger and began flattering Gerasimos. He kept Gerasimos in his house for three days, offering him riches and other rewards. But Gerasimos remained firm in his adherence to the Orthodox Christian faith.

Seeing Gerasimos' steadfastness, his Muslim stepfather said to him, "Go to some other place and live, but until you leave the city, say you are a Muslim so that your life might not be in danger, for I feel sorry for your youth and I do not want to see you die. You have been my son."

To this Gerasimos answered, "I thank you for granting me life and for your permission to live as an Orthodox Christian. But what you have said to me, to say that I am a Muslim until I leave the city, is impossible. On the contrary I shall become a town crier and proclaim my faith in Jesus Christ."

Hearing this the Muslim handed him over to the shiek who had taught him the Muslim faith, but even he could do nothing to make Gerasimos change his mind. Hence Gerasimos was turned over to the kazaskir to be punished. Standing before him, Gerasimos confessed with boldness that he was an Orthodox Christian, calling Muhammad a false prophet, a spinner of myths, and a polluter.

After hearing this, the Muslims in the courtroom were ready like blood-thirsty lions to pounce on Gerasimos, but they were stopped by the kazaskir who ordered Gerasimos beaten with bull-whips. But Gerasimos remained firm in his faith in Jesus Christ, glorified God, and castigated the infidels.

Gerasimos was then thrown into prison where heavy weights were placed on his chest. He remained this way for days, and then he was brought before the kazaskir once more who said to him, "Have you come to your senses or do you stubbornly remain in the faith of Christ?"

Gerasimos replied, "I look upon your punishments as joy, for they brighten my soul. I will never deny my sweetest Jesus Christ even if you inflict upon me tens of thousands of deaths."

Hearing this, the kazaskir became very angry and immediately sentenced Gerasimos to death. But even on the way to the execution, Muslims continued in their attempts to make Gerasimos renounce his faith in Jesus Christ and accept the Muslim religion.

Reaching the place of execution, Gerasimos deliberately knelt facing east and said, "Remember me, Lord, when You come into Your kingdom." The executioner saw this and turned Gerasimos around, but he turned to the east once more. This made the executioner so angry he struck Gerasimos with his sword and severed his head from his body. Thus Gerasimos was martyred for the love of Jesus Christ at the age of 25 on July 3rd in the year 1812.

His relics were taken by fellow Orthodox Christians who paid much money for them. He was then buried in the monastery on the island of Proti near Constantinople. Three years later Gerasimos' relics as well as those of Elder Kyrillos were taken to the Monastery of Prousou near Gerasimos' village of Megalo Chorio. From there, in 1971, his relics were transferred to a magnificent temple that bears his name in his village which was built by the residents.

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
A gift of honor to the Church, a divinely bright flame of Evrytania, a boast of the new neomartyrs, you longed for Christ through asceticism and confessed God with martrydom. To Him, holy venerable martyr Gerasimos, through the intercessions of the Mother of God, beseech that our souls be saved.

Intercessor of Megalo Chorio and newly contested Neomartyr, who glorified Christ with asceticism and your confession, we honor you with hymns.