March 9, 2019

Holy New Martyrs Christos the Priest and Panagos (+ 1716)

Sts. Christos and Panagos the Neomartyrs (Feast Day - March 9)

Saint Christos was from Gastouni in Eleia of the Peloponnese, while Saint Panagos was from the village of Andravida in Eleia. Both came from parents who had abandoned their Orthodox Christian heritage and embraced Islam, but against their wishes both Saints decided to remain faithful to the faith of Christ. In fact, they were distinguished among their compatriots, and were held in great honor. Panagos on several occasions, when under Venetian rule, was voted into the council of Gastouni. Christos however did not care much for politics, instead he had a great desire to serve the Lord as a priest, teaching people to not seek after what can be gained in the world, for it is a vain pursuit, and instead to seek that which is eternal and beneficial to the soul. Eventually he was married, had two children, and ordained a priest in Patras.

In 1715, after the Peloponnese had been under Venetian rule for thirty years, they came once again under the Turkish yoke, when there was again looting and massacres for those who refused to embrace Islam, and many fled. One day Panagos was summoned by the Turkish governor of the area, Osman, to abandon his Christian faith and embrace Islam. Panagos responded that he was raised a Christian, and that his every breath and boast and joy is Christ, making it impossible to obey his order. Osman, because he liked Panagos, did not push him further, but instead bid him to flee to a safer place until the persecution was over, or at least to follow him to Kerkyra where he would be safe. Panagos decided to go to Kerkyra, but he came down with a serious illness. Because it took a long time to recover, he was again summoned and told to embrace Islam, and if he refused the order then he was to face torture, seizure of his property, and finally death by the sword.

As Panagos was escorted, this time standing before the aga Murat, he confessed boldly his faith in Christ. Seeing that he could not be persuaded otherwise, it was ruled that Panagos be put to death by decapitation. With joy Panagos followed the executioner to the place of his execution, and he was beheaded on March 1, 1716. His body was not removed for two days from that spot, in order for it to be devoured by dogs and vultures, to prevent his burial by pious Christians. Nothing however happened to his body, and the animals revered him. The executioners lost patience, so they took his head, roasted it, and threw it close to the dogs for them to eat it. The dogs however would not touch it. When the fourth day came, the executioners finally allowed the Christians to take the body, and they buried it in the Church of Saint Nicholas in Gastouni.

Christos was also arrested at this time, urged to embrace Islam, remained steadfast in his faith, and he was bound and sent to prison. There he remained, until his wife came trying to persuade her priest husband to deny his faith and save his life. In time she persuaded him, and he promised her the next day he would deny his faith. News of this caused joy to the Muslims, hearing that a priest would be converting to Islam. Murat in turn urged all the Christian priests of his region to embrace Islam, but none would do so, thus he had them imprisoned. While in prison they convinced Christos to not abandon his faith and testimony, and with sincere repentance he changed his mind to the joy of all the priests. Christos spent the rest of the night praying and chanting with tears.

In the morning the Turks came to witness to the apostasy of the priest. Before them and before Murat, Christos confessed that he indeed had decided to deny his faith, but God sent him saviors who rushed him back to piety. Then turning his eyes to heaven, he said: "May it never be, my Christ, that I would ever deny You, but I wish to die for Your holy name." Then turning to the executioners, he said: "I was and am a Christian, and I revere Christ with the Father and the Holy Spirit." This enraged those present, so the executioners immediately took him and beheaded him. He remained unburied for four days, until the Christians were allowed to bury him. They buried him in the same Church of Saint Nicholas in Gastouni, alongside Saint Panagos. His martyrdom took place on March 9, 1716.

Apolytikion in the First Tone
Boast of Gastouni and majesty of Eleia, in these latter years Christ was confessed, by Panagos and Christos, let us the faithful honor them with hymns and odes; they were true strugglers and the martyrs of old beheld them as equals. Glory to Christ Who strengthened you, glory to Him Who crowned you, glory to Him Who gave the assembled crowd Martyrs.

Christos and Panagos the athletes and those martyred with them from Gastouni, in these latter years for the faith of Christ, it is meet to praise with hymns.