November 26, 2015

Holy New Martyr George of Chios (+ 1807)

St. George of Chios (Feast Day - November 26)


A dagger brought about your end George,
They also through this brought about your crown.
On the twenty-sixth George your neck was cut with metal.

George was born in Chios to Paraskeva and Agerou. When he was 18 months old his mother died, and he was brought up by his stepmother.

At ten years old, George was apprenticed to a cabinetmaker named Vessetzes, with whom he traveled to the island of Psara to build an iconostasis for the Church of Saint Nicholas. While in Psara, George became acquainted with some other young boys and left the island without notifying his master. The boys ended up in the city of Kavala where they attempted to steal some fruit from a garden, but were caught and handed over to the judge of the city. Frightened, young George embraced Islam, was circumcised and named Ahmed.

Meanwhile his parents and family lost all trace of him until one day a ship arrived in Chios carrying watermelons and George, now an apprenticed seaman, was seen getting off the ship by a relative who heard him addressed as Ahmed. When the relative questioned George about this, he remained silent.

On another occasion George went to his father's house but did not find anyone home. On a third attempt, dressed as an Orthodox Christian, George met his father who burst into tears when he saw him and said, "It is better to see him dead than in such a miserable state."

George too was in tears, for he had repented of his conversion to Islam and confessed his faith in Jesus Christ. After staying home for a few days George was taken by his father to the city of Kydonies (Aivali) in Asia Minor and placed with a good Orthodox Christian farmer outside the city, out of fear of the Turks for renouncing Islam. George was still ten years old at this time.

In Kydonies George felt safe and content for ten years. Despite the passage of time his father still feared for George and wanted him to leave Kydonies on a Russian ship, but George refused to leave believing he was perfectly safe. Rather he moved to the city of Kydonies to live with an elderly Christian lady who became like a mother to him, and he told her everything that happened to him.

Two years later George became engaged to be married. The parents of George's fiancee asked his new "mother" about George's background. Unwisely, she told them George's entire story. This story spread to the entire family.

One day George quarreled with his fiancee's brother over some money matters, so he reported George to the authorities as an apostate from Islam. When friends of George heard of this they urged George to hide and save himself. George refused.

Soon men arrived and took George into custody and brought him before the judge. When asked why he abandoned Islam and returned to the faith he previously denied, George replied: "I neither denied my faith nor did I accept yours, but when I was a child I was forced to accept it. However I never changed my mind. I was always an Orthodox Christian and lived as an Orthodox Christian. And I always hated your religion as I do now. Moreover, I despise it and in no way will I accept it."

When the judge asked for his name, he expected George to say Ahmed, but understanding it was a trap, he replied it was "George" and that with this name he wanted to die. After flattering him and giving him offers to deny his faith, the judge warned also that if he wished to die it would be a very cruel death. George replied, "Kill me. I accept my death with joy."

George was then placed in prison from November 8th until November 25th. Christians meanwhile prayed for George to receive strength to endure till the end. This comforted George while in prison. On November 24th George was sentenced to die on November 26th. George thanked God and requested a priest to come to him. George confessed his sins to the priest and received Holy Communion.

On the evening of Novemeber 25th, 1807, an all-night vigil took place on behalf of George by fellow Orthodox Christians, and the next day a large crowd of Orthodox gathered outside the prison, which made the Turks nervous and frightened. Soldiers with swords went out to scatter them, but they did not go far.

On his way to execution, George asked all the Orthodox he happened to meet along the way for forgiveness. One of them, who served the Turkish aga, offered George his arms to wear and become a servant of the aga, in order to take his place and die for Christ. George refused this offer, saying, "I denied Christ and I die for His name."

Saying this, he ran ahead of the executioner, repeating over and over again the prayer of Jesus, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me the sinner." Muslims urged George to repent and remain a Muslim, but George shouted, "No! No! I am an Orthodox Christian and I wish to die an Orthodox Christian." Hearing this, the executioner shot George in the back with his rifle, causing much blood to pour out of the wound. The executioner then ordered George to bend his head whereupon he struck his neck with the sword. George did not fall from this, so after a number of strikes George's head finally came off. Until his final breath George repeated the prayer of Jesus. He was only twenty-two years old.

Faithful Christians had him buried on the deserted island of Nisopoula, near Aivali. Years later his relics were translated to a church built in his honor over the place of his martyrdom in Kydonies. Until 1922 there was a great feast held there in his honor annually. Today he is greatly honored in Lesvos and Chios, where there are churches built in his honor, as well as in Santorini and Syros. The Turks had sold his skull to a German, who then sold it to a Christian that donated it to the Benaki Museum in Athens, where it is today.

Church of Saint George the Neomartyr in Chios

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
O Martyr George, your head was struck off with a sword, and were glorified by God, in heaven and on earth, as the majesty of Chios, divinely crowned with an incorruptible crown above, and below divine hymns are sung by people; through his intercessions Christ our God, save our souls.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
We glorify you as a friend of Christ and Martyr, fervently pleading for your divine support, Athlete George, granting your petitioners, who flee to you, to redeem us from dangers that come upon us.

You are glorious among the Martyrs of old renowned George, and now you, George the new, of the same name as the one of old, dwell among us for we all honor you.

Another Megalynarion
Those who reverently venerate your sacred relics, Martyr, with your sacred intercessions before God cease not to guard us, boast of Neomartyrs, divine George.