August 5, 2015

Holy New Martyr Christos from Preveza (+ 1668)

St. Christos from Preveza (Feast Day - August 5)

By His Eminence Metropolitan Meletios
of Nikopolis and Preveza

The martyrs are: "the glory of Christ, the foundation of the Church, the perfection of the Gospel, and the spilling of their blood produced the body of faithful" (Troparion to Martyrs).

This is why every country and city rejoices and boasts in the "wealth" of its martyrs, their own offspring. And they honor them: with icons, feasts, artoklasies, the dedication of temples in their honor, in accordance with the doctrines and teachings of our Church (see the Synodikon of Orthodoxy).

Regarding these things, Preveza was feeling impoverished until 1971. Then, in a random manner, the esteemed Great Hymnographer of the Church of Christ, Monk Gerasimos Mikragiannanitis, informed the Metropolitan at that time, the late Stylianos of Nikopolis, of much desired news: that a codex from the Monastery of Great Lavra in the Holy Mountain was discovered with a narration of a previously unknown neomartyr named Christos from Preveza. The wise Monk then inquired of the Hierarch if this Christos was duly honored in his homeland.

Without losing time, this martyr-loving Hierarch made the appropriate action, which resulted in a document dated 25 March 1972 from the late former abbot Kallistratos of Great Lavra, who sent an exact copy of the martyrdom of Saint Christos, as it was recorded and preserved in the codex known as "The Grammatika".

This documents records the following first-hand information:

While I was on the renowned island of Kos, in the year 1668, August 5th, the servant of Christ by the name of Christos was glorified, who was from Preveza, being a sailor on a frigate that came from Crete. He got out of the ship and found me. From his confession I realized that he was pure, modest and reverential.

After several days, before it was evening, he went back to the ship, where he was met by some Janissaries, who began to insult him for his faith and his holy Baptism. This blessed man, inflamed with divine zeal and aflame with love for Christ, because he carried within him Christ, made the sign of the life-giving Cross, and responded to them:

"Your own religion, impious and impure ones, is worthy of all kinds of insults, and your false hell-bound prophet, the infamous Muhammad, is a forerunner of the antichrist, the beast, the abomination of desolation who stands in the holy place." 

The wicked Janissaries, enraged, rushed to arrest him, and while he quickly ran to the ship, a great crowd, like some hungry and bloodthirsty lions, pounced on him. Shamelessly they dragged and beat him, taking him and delivering him to the Pasha, namely the local ruler, and they accused him while they beat and struck him, saying to him:

"Reject Christ and your baptism, instead of being burned and punished. Freedom awaits you."

He, however, with a brave and strong voice, said the Creed, spitting in their faces!

When they saw that his heart was immovable and steadfast, they all pierced him with their knives, lit a fire outside the city, and they burned him. But as with Christ the King, at that time they all saw a certain kind of sun-like lighting, radiating and shining. The all-holy body of the Martyr, which remained for more than thirty days unburied, neither dogs nor any other wild animal bothered nor touched. And everybody, both the wicked and the faithful, for three nights saw a heavenly light over his holy and martyric relics.

The above is confirmed by me, because I heard the same by many, among whom took a small portion of his relics. The rest was distributed among the pious and each took their portion with reverence. This, having shined for not a short time, drove out demons, among other things... Through his intercessions O God.

The martyrdom of Saint Christos reveals the following:

1. It was written by an unknown Hieromonk of the Monastery of Great Lavra, who happened to be in Kos in 1668.

2. Saint Christos arrived in Kos via Crete, that is, after a long voyage. It is noteworthy that he rushed to go to confession. His arrival in Kos and his meeting with the Hieromonk from Great Lavra seems to have taken place before the fast of the Dormition which begins on August 1st. The author writes "after several days," which indicates not one or two days passed, but quite a few. How many were they? This remains unknown.

3. In confession this Athonite spiritual father found him to be - according to the standards of Athonite monasticism! - "pure, modest and reverential", a model Christian. Saint Christos understood well the value of a good spiritual father, and for this reason he communicated with an Athonite hieromonk daily during his full-day employment in Kos. He stayed all day with him, and in the evening would go to his ship to sleep.

4. He encountered Janissaries, who at one point were Greek children that were forced to convert to Islam at a young age. They were more fanatic in their observance of Islam than even the Turks. And without the Saint bothering them, they began to insult his faith and his holy Baptism. These apostates were theologians! Full of demonic zeal. But their demonic zeal was opposed by the divine zeal of the Saint.

5. When Saint Christos stood before the Pasha, and refused to deny Christ, he responded to the threats of the Pasha by saying the entire Creed, bravely and loudly, and he spat in the faces of the Muslims! It is rare to find such a courageous testimony, such contempt he had for their falsehoods.

6. After knifing him many times, they lit a fire outside the city and burned him to death. But he did not burn. Rather, strange wonders took place: a) As the fire burned, all the people who gathered saw sun-like lighting, radiating and bright, that came from his body; b) the body of the martyr remained unburied for thirty days, an entire month, neither stinking, nor being approached by dog or beast; c) for three days both Christians and Turks, believers and unbelievers, saw a divine light come upon his body from heaven; d) Christians divided his body into pieces and reverently received its grace, with a portion of the holy relic being given to the Hieromonk from Great Lavra who authored his passion; e) many miracles followed, namely Saint Christos drove out demons from the possessed, "among other things."

7. Question: Does a minimal portion of the holy relic of the Holy New Martyr Christos survive? What a treasure this would be for the Church of his birthplace, Preveza!

8. The conclusion should read: "Through his intercessions, O God, have mercy on us."

A minimum is said about the martyrdom of Saint Christos. A reference in one codex, written for the sake of reverence, or as a note, by a spiritual father of Great Lavra.

But what an enormous knowledge, depth, power and holiness was had by the holy Martyr! Rightly has he been honored with so many signs.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Apolytikion in the First Tone
The boast of Preveza and the majesty of Kos, you showed yourself to be the ornament of the Holy Martyrs; you firmly confessed Christ, O Christos you were made to stand in the pit, through this you endured the fire, and a horrible martyrdom. Glory to Christ Who glorified you, Glory to Him Who through you does wonders, Glory to Him Who through you works many miracles.