January 7, 2017

Holy New Martyr Athanasios of Attaleia (+ 1700)

St. Athanasios of Attaleia (Feast Day - January 7)

By St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite


It was not the old Athanasios that departed,
But the new Martyr of the Lord.

The Holy New Martyr Athanasios was born in Attaleia (mod. Antalya). While he was in Smyrna on the Aegean coast of Asia Minor, he encountered the Ottomans. They were constantly harassing him, while jeering and laughing at the faith of the Christians. But the blessed one, even though he was illiterate, always answered them rationally and wisely. He often rendered them speechless, as they were unable to refute what Athanasios asserted. They were ashamed of the frivolous doctrines of their faith; and so they conspired to slander and trap him.

On a certain day, I know not why, Athanasios shouted aloud the "La ilaha ilallah" ("There is no God but Allah") in their own tongue. Now in Islam, this declaration constitutes a doxology to their Allah and is sometimes considered as their creed. Immediately, the Muslims surrounded him. They seized him and led him before the judge, charging him with accepting their religion publicly. Athanasios in turn replied that the words which he uttered were not a confession of faith, but in and of itself it was only a doxology of God - and it is permissible for all to recite. But his accusers insisted that he had accepted Islam and disavowed Christ. Objecting to this, the blessed one said they spoke falsely and that he would rather receive ten thousand deaths than renounce the Orthodox faith. They imprisoned him, bringing him up for repeated interrogations and floggings, further threatening him with other gruesome tortures. They also attempted to sway him by flattery and promises of gifts. Nevertheless, the contestant of Christ considered all these as child's play.

Finally the judge recognized that Athanasios' beliefs were steadfast and immovable, and handed down the decision of death. The blessed Martyr was beheaded, receiving the crown of martyrdom in the year 1700. His sacred relics were discarded carelessly and exposed for three days beside a lair of wild dogs, yet none of these dogs approached the Martyr. At the same time, on the evening of one of those days, two condemned Ottomans were also beheaded. Since there was insufficient time to bury their corpses, they were abandoned till the morning. The dogs, nonetheless, tore the Ottoman corpses apart and devoured them. The Turks later rationalized that the dogs consumed the bodies of the Turks because they were sweet and savory, while the flesh of the Christian was spurned. After three days, the Christians received the judge's permission to gather up the relics of Saint Athanasios, which they interred with honor in the Church of Saint Paraskevi.

From the New Martyrology.

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
As a divine offspring of the land of Attaleia, you sprouted forth, and bore fruit, Athanasios, clinging to the graces of the faith of your ancestors which they laid down, putting to shame those who opposed you by your contests. Glorious Martyr, entreat Christ God, to grant us the great mercy.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
As a most-excellent armed warrior of the truth, Athanasios, for Christ you contested, wherefore with compunction of soul we cry out to you: grant us victory by your intercessions, against our visible and invisible enemies, to those who honor you with faith.

Rejoice, divine offspring of Attaleia and sacred ornament of Neomartyrs; rejoice, you who lawfully contested on behalf of Christ, thrice-blessed Athanasios, fellow-dweller with Martyrs.