November 13, 2017

Holy New Venerable Martyr Damaskenos of Constantinople (+ 1681)

St. Damaskenos the Lavriotes (Feast Day - November 13)


You behold O athlete the sword with pleasure,
For you see also the crown together with the sword.

Saint Damaskenos was from the Galata district of Constantinople, within the parish of Eleousa. His parents Kyriakos and Kyriake named him Diamantes.

Orphaned at a young age, and without parental guidance, the boy became rather undisciplined in his conduct. One day he was caught doing something unlawful, and in order to save himself he agreed to convert to Islam. Later he came to his senses and repented of his denial of Christ. Fleeing to the Holy Mountain, he became a monk at the Monastery of Great Lavra, receiving the name Damaskenos.

For twelve years he labored in prayer and asceticism, and was tonsured into the Great Schema. Finally, he revealed to the former Patriarch Dionysios III (1662-1665), who had been living at Mount Athos, his desire for martyrdom, for he was troubled by his former apostasy. Receiving a blessing for this struggle, he cut his hair and dressed as a sailor, so as not to implicate his fellow monks, and in the company of the former Patriarch Dionysios III, he returned to Constantinople.

In the Church of Hagia Sophia, which had been turned into a mosque, the monk Damaskenos made the sign of the Cross and proclaimed Christ as the true God. Since the Muslims did nothing to him, he engaged a Muslim man reading a book on the road, asking if the book said anything about Christ. When the Muslim encouraged him also to become a Muslim, and people gathered around to hear their conversation, Damaskenos encouraged the Muslim to rather become a Christian, for Christ was the true God and Maker of everything seen and unseen. Thinking him to be crazy and out of his mind, they left him alone. Then Damaskenos went to the Sultan Mehmed Mosque and repeated his confession of faith to the Muslims there, calling them ignorant and deceived because they did not believe in Christ. Those who heard him thought he was insane. Finally he went to a place called Kabani and shouted in a loud voice: "Men of the Ishmaelites, only the faith of Christ is true. You have been deceived and will be condemned." But they also ignored him.

The next day Damaskenos went to the Vizier’s courtyard and shouted at those he found there: “Your faith is not true. Christ is the true God, and only the faith of Christ is true.” Not surprisingly, he was seized and beaten, then chased away. He continued to proclaim Christ in other places, but everyone thought he was crazy, and they ignored him.

On the following day he went to the Segizli Mosque near the headquarters of the Janissaries. He waited until the end of the services and shouted as the worshipers exited: "Men of the Ishmaelites, what are you worshiping? To whom are you looking? What do you hope from your worship? There is only one true faith, that of Christ." Again they brushed him aside as mentally unbalanced.

In deep sorrow, Damaskenos returned to where he was staying. He prayed all night and said among other things: "Do not detest me, Only-begotten Son of God, for wishing to be numbered in the chorus of Your martyrs, but find me worthy to gain forgiveness."

On Sunday, which was the next day, Damaskenos went to the Tophana Mosque, where many Muslims had gathered, and he repeated to them much the same as he said previously. Again he was seized and beaten without mercy. This time, however, he was sent to the judge of Galata, who sent him to the Grand Vizier Kara Mustapha. The Grand Vizier granted forgiveness to Damaskenos, thinking him to be a poor Christian who did not have the money to pay the imperial tax and wanting to kill himself. Damaskenos insisted he was not poor, but richer than he, for the treasure of his faith was in his heart, shining brighter than the sun, which will remain with him in the Kingdom of Heaven. Seeing that the Saint would not change his mind, the Grand Vizier sentenced him to death.

On November 13, 1681, the Holy Martyr Damaskenos was beaten and led to the Phanar, where he was forced to kneel before the gates of the Patriarchate. Thanking God for allowing him to fulfill the exploit of martyrdom, he bent his neck and was beheaded. The relics of the Holy New Martyr Damaskenos were purchased from the guards by certain Christians and were taken to the island of Halki and enshrined in the Monastery of Panagia Kamariotissa (later it seems they were transferred to the nearby Monastery of the Holy Trinity). Also, the abbot Makarios of the Monastery of Mavros Molos in Constantinople purchased and kept the doors of the factory across from the entrance to the Patriarchate at the Phanar, because the blood of the Holy Martyr had splattered on them.