February 28, 2020

Holy Venerable Martyr Jonah of Leros (+ 1561)

St. Jonah of Leros (Feast Day - February 28)

Saint Jonah had the island of Leros as his homeland, and at some point in his life became a monk at the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian on the island of Patmos. From there he and other monks with him left the monastery and went to the island of Leipsoi, which belonged to the monastery in Patmos, around the year 1550. They chose to land in the cove known as Koimisis. Seeking to find a place where people would not bother them, so they could sing hymns and converse with God alone, they chose a deserted and uninhabitable place to settle. Their first concern was to build a church for their hesychasterion, high above the sea in a difficult to reach area, for fear of pirates. There they struggled to form pathways by clearing away rocks, and they struggled with the lack of water and food. The barren land was irrigated more by the sweat of their labors than the water they could find in that desolate area, but the grace of God was sufficient for them. They eventually built a church which they dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos after the icon they brought with them from Patmos, as well as cells for them to live in.

Despite their efforts to escape the raids of pirates, they were still visited by them, for they believed the monks hid treasures in the cliffs. In one of their raids, Saint Jonah of Leros was killed, on 28 February 1561. He was not the only one. Earlier in 1558 Monk Neophytos of Amorgos was killed by Turks. In 1609 Monk Neophytos the Fazos was killed by pirates with an axe hammer. In 1635 Monk Jonah of Nysiros was killed by Pekir Pasha in the month of April by scourging. In 1696 Monk Parthenios of Philipopolis was killed when a spear pierced his neck. In 2002 these five ascetic martyrs were canonized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to be commemorated by all Orthodox Christians on the first Sunday after the 10th of July. Saint Jonah of Leros is also commemorated separately on February 28th.