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April 5, 2016

Holy New Martyr George of Ephesus (+ 1801)

St. George the Neomartyr of Ephesus (Feast Day - April 5)


Sentenced to beheading by the sword O George,
With joy you went off to the land of joy.

Holy New Martyr George was born in New Ephesus in 1756 to a father from Samos. He married and had several children. One day in June of 1798, he got drunk and in that state was induced to deny his Orthodox Christian faith and become a Muslim, though he was not circumcised. When he became sober, he felt shame for what he did, so he denounced Islam and fled New Ephesus for Samos.

During his absence, the Orthodox Christians of New Ephesus received permission from the Ottoman authorities in Constantinople to build a church, which was rare in those days. This angered the local Muslims, who accused the Christians of wishing to kill George for his denial of the Orthodox Christian faith and to bury his remains in the foundation of the new church.

Meanwhile, after some time had passed, George was identified on the island of Samos and was forcefully brought back to New Ephesus. Once there, he was circumcised by the Mulsims who then made him a custodian of a mosque. Not long after his conscience began to bother him and he sought a way to escape. After ten months, he found an opportunity and sailed to Samos once again. There he divided his time between Samos and the neighboring island of Patmos.

During this time George thought about his deplorable situation and this led him to shed the bitter tears of repentance. After he confessed his sin, he decided he wanted to die for his faith in Christ. He therefore appeared before the Turkish governor of Samos and witnessed for Christ and deprecated the religion of Islam. For this the governor had George beaten and thrown into prison. Shortly afterwards, however, leading Orthodox Christian representatives of Samos were able to use their influence, as well as money, and had George set free.

This prompted George to return to New Ephesus. The first thing he did was send his family away, so they would not become victims of revenge by the fanatical Muslims.

For three days George sat in front of the tree on which the Holy New Martyr Polydoros (Sept. 3) was hanged, thus giving the Muslims an opportunity to see him and bring him before the judge. But nothing happened. So he went to the local coffee house where he hoped his presence would provoke his arrest, but nothing happened again. He therefore decided to put an end to the drama and appeared by himself before the judge and confessed his faith in Christ. This took place on Wednesday, April 3.

After questioning George, the judge had him bound and taken to prison, where a heavy chain was put around his neck and his feet were put in blocks. After a night of torture, the next night George was asked to pronounce the Islamic declaration (salabati), some even promised him money if he did so, while others threatened him. George replied: "I am an Orthodox Christian and I wish to die an Orthodox Christian."

Seeing how steadfast George was in his faith, the torturers squeezed his testicles and tore at his flesh with their nails, hoping that it would cause George to deny his faith, but he did not.

The next day, Friday, George was brought bound to the courtroom, and many gathered for the trial. A mufti said to to him: "Come, my son, just say the proclamation of faith and go wherever you please and be whatever you wish, either Muslim (Turk) or Roman (Orthodox Christian)."

George answered: "I am an Orthodox Christian, I want my faith."

A Muslim then said: "It is not his fault; it is the fault of their priests who teach them they must return to the place where they denied their faith and confess it."

The mufti said: "So let's not hang this one, but let us use the sword on him." then turning to George he asked: "Is ninety-nine greater than a hundred?"

"My God, my God, what you ask me even the small children know," George replied.

The mufti asked the question hoping that George would give the wrong answer and then he could be declared mentally unstable and release him. Instead, George was sentenced to be beheaded, and savagely brought to the place of his execution. He knelt down, and the executioner waved his sword in front of his eyes, hoping that it would weaken George's resolve.

One Muslim, feigning an interest in the well being of George, rushed froward and said to the executioner: "What is this you are about to do?" And turning to George he whispered: "Aren't you sorry to lose your life? Only make a declaration and then go and live as you please."

"I am an Orthodox Christian and I am called George. I don't need your advice," was the response. Then the executioner asked him to make the declaration, but George passionately answered: "I am an Orthodox Christian."

Then the executioner asked George to bend his head, which he did with a happy look on his face. Then the executioner struck off the head of George. That night a light shined on his body. On Saturday the judge was informed of this, and ordered two porters, together with some Orthodox Christians, to bury George with his fellow martyr Polydoros. Meanwhile, many Orthodox Christians took the opportunity to take portions of the relics of the Holy New Martyr George which, with prayer for his intercession, produced many miracles. Among these were hairs from his head and his blood-soaked garments. He became especially known at this time for healing fevers and malaria.

And the miracles continued. According to his biographer Saint Athanasios of Paros (1721-1813), Nicholas Karpathios suffered for many days with pain in his stomach, and after taking all the medication available, he continued to suffer. In despair he went to the tomb of the Saint and prayed there with reverence and tears. The glorious New Martyr of Christ George appeared in a dream of Nicholas, wearing garments similar to those of Saint Panteleimon. The Saint asked him what he wanted while touching the spot where the pain was with a stick, and immediately the pain ceased and he became completely well. For this healing Nicholas glorified and thanked God.

In 1806 the sacred skull of Saint George was brought to Docheiariou Monastery at Mount Athos in an eight-angled silver reliquary. A Divine Service was written for him by Saint Nikephoros of Chios (1750-1821).

Saint George is especially honored on the island of Samos, where he is commonly known as "Saint George the Drunk". The first official commemoration of his feast there took place on Sunday 7 May 1967 led by Metropolitan Panteleimon of Samos and Ithaca (later Metropolitan of Thessaloniki). His commemoration was set for the Fourth Sunday of Pascha until 1995. On 17 May 1970 a foundation stone was placed for the building of a temple in his honor, at the expense of Emmanuel L. Hatzinikolaou, in memory of his mother Kalliopi. The door-opening ceremony took place on the Fourth Sunday of Pascha, 25 May 1975. In 1996 Metropolitan Eusebius changed his feast day to the Fifth Sunday of Pascha.

Apolytikion in the First Tone
Having purified yourself with the streams of your tears George, both your soul and body, you became temperate all-praised one. And inflamed with a desire for Christ, you were persuaded brave one towards martyric struggles and contests like a professional athlete. Glory to Him Who gave you strength, glory to Him Who works wonders through you, glory to Him Who without corruption glorifies you unto the ages.

Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
For your ancestral faith you more than contested for, and glorified Christ by dying for Him, all-blessed Martyr George, and you were given the crown of martyrdom.

A star from Ephesus has newly appeared, Champion Martyr, truly rising, gleaming with the light of your martyrdom the intellects of those who venerate you.