April 3, 2017

Holy New Martyr Paul the Russian and Freedman (+ 1683)

St. Paul the Russian (Feast Day - April 3)


With Paul having a common calling and sword,
Is this new athlete Paul, who was a Russian.

For many years the Crimean Tartars conducted annual slave raids in Ukraine and Russia. On one such raid in the seventeenth century a young Russian lad named Paul was captured and fortunately sold to an Orthodox Christian family.

After serving his master faithfully for years, Paul became a freedman. He then married a young lady who also had once been taken captive and was set free. Both lived in Constantinople. Shortly after their marriage, Paul was afflicted with epilepsy which kept getting progressively worse. Friends and neighbors decided to take him to the Church of the Theotokos called Mouglouniou to seek a cure for his condition. Due to some delirium, however, Paul did not want to go, but they decided to take him anyway.

On the way they encountered some Muslims, and Paul used this opportunity in his delirium to shout out: "I am a Hagarene, I am a Hagarene." Probably due to the fact that these Muslims thought he as a Muslim was being taken by these Christians to a church against his will, they reported the matter to the Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa. He ordered for Paul to be brought before him.

Meanwhile Paul arrived at the church. Someone informed the priests at the church where Paul was staying that men were looking for him, so they took Paul from the church to prevent it from being destroyed or taken over by the Muslims. The soldiers arrived and arrested the priests of the church together with Paul and brought them to the Grand Vizier.

The Grand Vizier asked Paul if he was indeed a Muslim, but Paul responded negatively. The Muslims who reported the incident insisted he declared himself a Muslim, but Paul accused them of lying. Unable to determine the truth, the Grand Vizier gave Paul a choice to either become a Muslim or be put to death.

Paul's wife, who had accompanied him, encouraged him to resist, saying in Russian: "My husband, do not be afraid but remain firm in the faith of Christ, for the cup of death shall last but a twinkling of an eye, and afterwards you will exult and rejoice with the martyrs of Christ." And she added: "I never thought myself to be the wife of a martyr." When the Grand Vizier found out from a translator what she said, this angered him, and ordered that she be taken to the courtyard and flogged, while Paul was thrown in prison.

Three days later Paul was again brought before the Grand Vizier, and given the same offer to either become a Muslim or die. Paul remained firm in his faith in Christ, so he was sentenced to be executed. They brought him to the Hippodrome of Constantinople, and beheaded him before a crowd of people. The day was Holy and Great Friday, April 3, in the year 1683. His wife was ransomed by Christians and released from prison. The Christians offered a bribe for the release of the priests also who had been arrested with Paul, and so they were freed.