September 16, 2019

Holy Martyrs Isaac and Joseph of Georgia (+ 808)

The Holy New Martyrs Isaac and Joseph the Georgians were born into a Muslim family, but their Georgian mother, a Christian, secretly raised them and an older unknown brother according to the Christian tradition.

The brothers were so firmly dedicated to the Christian faith that they sent a letter to Byzantium to request that Emperor Nikephoros I Phokas (802-811) permit them to settle in his capital. The pious ruler extended a warm welcome to the brothers, who were already well known and respected by the nobility of Theodosiopolis, or Karnu (now Erzerum).

While the eldest brother set upon the long journey, Isaac and Joseph's intention was learned by the emir of Theodosiopolis, who demanded to know the reason for their journey to Constantinople. The brothers answered him openly, citing their Christian faith as the reason for their journey. Hearing this, the emir was infuriated, but he did not want to kill the brothers, since they were deeply respected by the people of his city. Instead he resolved to convert them from the Christian faith to Islam.

Isaac and Joseph’s elderly father tearfully pleaded with them to deny Christ, while the emir promised them every honor and reward for betraying Him, and terrible suffering and death in the case of their refusal. But the holy brothers answered the emir, saying, “Remember that the flesh is like grass and every glory of this earth is like a flower that grows in the grass. When the grass withers, the flower also dies (c.f. Isaiah 40:6-7). Your threats of torture and death are for us rather absurd, for neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:38-9).”

The young men’s boldness enraged the emir, and he ordered his servants to execute them.

Before the holy brothers gave up their souls, they knelt to the ground and prayed: “O Holy King and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, look down upon Thy servants with mercy and receive us as a holy sacrifice. Number us among Thy martyrs and make us worthy of the crown of righteousness, for every good and perfect gift is from above and comes down from Thee, the Father of lights (c.f. James 1:17)!”

Then they bowed their necks beneath the sword.

The executioners chopped off their heads, leaving their bodies untouched. That night their holy remains shone with a radiant light.

This miracle frightened the godless persecutors, and they ordered the local Christians to bury the holy martyrs’ remains. The local bishop and clergy committed their bodies to the earth with great reverence. This took place in the year 808.

A church dedicated to the Holy Trinity was later erected over the place where Saints Isaac and Joseph were laid to rest.