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August 18, 2015

Holy New Martyr Matthew of Crete (+ 1697)

St. Matthew the Neomartyr (Feast Day - August 18)


Matthew's head was cut off with a sword,
Rejoicing he entered into the fold of Athletes.
On the eighteenth Matthew's head was cut off.

Matthew was born in 1670 in Gerakari in the Amari valley of Crete which is in the Diocese of Lambis and Sfakion. Crete at that time was enslaved to the Turkish conquerors, who persecuted and tortured Christians. The father of Matthew was a priest, and this helped bring him up with Christian values and virtues.

This was the cause for the envious devil, who hated the virtues of Matthew, to lead him to impiety. Hence the Muslims chose him to marry the Ottoman Ayse to embrace Islam.

After some time he realized he made a terrible mistake, so he deeply repented and returned to the faith of his Church, as a Cryptochristian.

Because Matthew could not hide his faith, and day and night would make the sign of the cross, this became the occasion for his Ottoman wife to become enraged, and she denounced her husband to the Turkish judge of the city of Rethymno. The Turkish judge then asked him to apologize.

The Saint stood boldly before the barbaric judge and courageously confessed his love for Christ. The court decided on the death penalty for Matthew by decapitation. This took place on the 18th of August in the year 1697. This day has since become the day to honor and commemorate Matthew.

His martyric relics were transferred to his hometown of Gerakari, where pious Christians buried him with honors, in a place today called "Matthew's grave". In the same place a temple was erected in honor of the Martyr.

Saint Matthew is the pride of Crete, who although changed his faith, he returned again to the Orthodox faith. To our Orthodox and our Crete he is the Saint of compassion and love for our people, which is cultivated and sculpted in the hearts and souls of the people of Gerakari.

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
Divine offspring, of Gerakari, and ornament, of the island of Crete, you showed yourself to be blessed Matthew, in the martyric arena of Rethymno, which you performed with an undaunted spirit. Wherefore intercede, beseeching Christ God, to grant us the great mercy.

Kontakion in Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Offspring of Gerakari the most thriving, the mighty brave one of Rethymno, let us praise Matthew with devotion, who stands beside the Lord in the highest, and who wells forth a stream of grace, to all who cry to you: Rejoice, blessed Martyr.

Rejoice, heavenly athlete of Rethymno, martyred for Christ. Rejoice, the horn that crushed the unbelievers, by your confession, glorious Matthew.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.