May 22, 2018

Holy New Hieromartyr Zacharias of Prousa (+ 1802)

St. Zacharias the Hieromartyr of Prousa (Feast Day - May 22)

Zacharias was from Prousa in Asia Minor, where he served as a monastic priest. One day, under the influence of alcohol, he denied his faith in Christ and accepted Islam. When he sobered up from his drunken stupor, Zacharias realized what he had done, and he grieved and repented with bitter tears.

Since his denial was done publicly and his repentance was done privately, he wanted to make known that he was indeed a Christian, and therefore resolved to confess Christ before all. However, Zacharias was an alcoholic, so when he drank again, his zeal was consumed and it did not allow him to think straight. He feared the torture that would come his way as well.

On another occasion Father Zacharias was drunk again, and he went to the home of a widow asking her for the money she had borrowed from him. She, however, had no money to give him, and after exchanging words that angered him, he had her brought before the judge. Standing before the judge, someone there told the judge that the priest Zacharias should not be listened to, because he was a drunk and an unbeliever, having denied Islam. Though drunk Zacharias responded without fear:

"Yes, I am an unbeliever in regards to your faith, and I disdain your disgusting religion. But I am not an unbeliever to my faith, but I believe in the true God who created the universe, my Lord Jesus Christ. And here, the sign of your delusion I trample and I am ready to die the most cruel death for my faith."

While saying this, he took off the Turkish fez on his head and trampled on it. Thinking that he was just drunk, they threw him in prison until he sobered up. In prison Zacharias prayed continuously while weeping and wailing for his sins. He also sent requests for the Christians to pray for him and to chant supplications on his behalf in the churches, that God may help him complete his struggle faithfully.

Brought once again before the judge, he was flattered, promised gifts and a woman to marry if he would renounce Christ and embrace Islam. Zacharias refused these things, and was sent back to prison. There he was tortured by being bastinadoed on his feet without mercy, having a metal tripod that had been heated in fire placed on his head to burn his scalp, and having his feet placed in stocks. Neither these, nor hunger and thirst and the darkness of prison, would make him renounce Christ, and he remained steadfast in his faith.

Besides these things, sharpened reeds were stuck under the nails of his hands and feet and they were removed, they broke his fingers, and daily Muslims would come and torture him. Though he gladly endured all these things for Christ, he regretted that he had not confessed his sins and received communion before his death. God answered his prayer, however, and a certain priest was allowed to visit him, to whom he confessed and he received communion. Zacharias also gave him all that belonged to him in order to be distributed to the poor.

One last time Zacharias was brought before the judge, where he again boldly confessed Christ as true God. For this, the judge sentenced him to beheading. However, he was brought back to prison and given one more day to rethink his position. This was all in vain. The next day Zacharias was brought to the place of his execution, and along the way he asked of all the Christians forgiveness. He was thirty-eight years old, and he ran joyfully to his death. When he arrived at the place of execution in the marketplace, he knelt down of his own accord and stretched out his neck. The executioner then would pretend to strike, but would hold back, hoping this would strike fear in Zacharias and change his mind. Zacharias remained patient, until the executioner struck him twice to behead him.

Many Christians witnessed the execution of Zacharias, and took cloths to gather his blood for a blessing. His body was left hanging for three days, as a warning to the Christians. But at night a divine light would shine upon the body of the Holy Hieromartyr, and this light was so bright that those nearby could not sleep from its brightness. Therefore after the first night the sleepless people requested his body to be removed, but the judge refused. The same took place after the second night, but this time they threatened the judge that if the body was not removed they would burn him alive. With this, the judge granted permission.

The Christians had the Armenians take the body and bury outside the city. The miracles began immediately. One Armenian had a deaf child, who as soon as he touched the relic he was able to hear.

The then Metropolitan of Prousa, Anthimos, was at this time in Constantinople, and as soon as he heard of everything that took place, he ordered the body of the New Martyr to be taken and buried at the Church of the Archangels, and this was done. But the Christians were not notified of the transfer, so they continued showing up at his grave, where they prayed, lit incense and lamps, and received miraculous cures. This showed that the grace of the Holy Spirit still resided in the place that hosted his sacred relic.