November 12, 2020

Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Nasaud in Romania: Athanasius Todoran, Basil Dumitru, Gregory Manu and Basil Oichi (+ 1763)

Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Nasaud (Feast Day - November 12)

Holy Martyr Athanasius Todoran was born in Bichigiu village of the Sălăuţa valley in the Năsăud region of Transylvania, to a family of devout Orthodox Christians. Few things are known about his childhood; it is only known that he was an outstanding person in his community, an educated person, who had been administrator and tax collector in Bichigiu and Sălăuţa valley.
As a virtuous and courageous man, he was a member of a military regiment of the empire from Vienna ever since his youth. Hence, as his retirement was postponed, he left the army of his masters, who were Catholics, and went back home. Followed by the people of the empire, he took refuge in the Ţibleş Mountains, in the land of Maramureş and Chioaru. While in this exile, he always prayed to God for himself and for his fellow people who were suffering all kinds of humiliations.
His pain grew when those who belonged to Catholicism caught and imprisoned him for a few years in the Hoopers’ Tower of the Bistriţa citadel. Once released from prison, he went back to Bichigiu village, where the Orthodox faith of his forefathers was threatened by uniatism. Thus, because the village had no Orthodox priest, he firmly refused to confess to and take Holy Communion from a uniate priest.
He always manifested his faith in God and desire for justice and truth. Therefore, from 1761-1762 he held talks with the government in Vienna, together with some other leaders, for the militarization of 21 communes in the Bichigiu, Sălăuţa and Great Someş valleys. He went to Vienna together with other Romanians where the pact with the government was concluded and where they were assured that, after joining the frontier guard, the Romanians from Năsăud area would enjoy more facilities and would not be forced to give up their faith.
When he came back home expecting to enjoy the results of the agreement, blessed Athanasius realized that the Romanians’ demands were not taken into account, so that he started openly opposing the attempts of conversion to Catholicism.

On 10 May 1763, the fight flags were to be blessed and nine companies of the recently set up frontier guard were to be sworn in Salva, at the place called “At the Marsh”. General Bukov, sent by the Court of Vienna to survey and accelerate the conversion of the Romanians to Catholicism in Transylvania, came to attend the swearing in of the frontier guards of Năsăud and the blessing of the flag, accompanied by the uniate bishop. At that time of hard trials for the Orthodox Christians, when the militaries were prepared to swear in, “old Tănase Todoran” (Athanasius Todoran), aged 104 at the time, came in front of the crowd riding a horse and delivered a speech for the Romanian frontier guards. He said: “We have been frontier guards for two years and we have not received papers from the empress to confirm we are free people, as we were promised!… Therefore, we shall not bear arms to see our holy faith mocked! Let down your arms!"
The passionate words of the pious old man bore fruit in the hearts of his listeners and so the soldiers who were about to swear in the oath of faith to Vienna took Athanasius’ side and put down their arms.
Soon afterwards, the authorities undertook investigations in order to punish the holy confessors. Thus, on 12 November 1763, the supporters of the centuries old faith and of the freedoms of the Romanian people were tortured on the same plateau of Salva. The bones of the righteous martyr Athanasius were broken with a wheel from head to toe and his head was tied to a wheel, “because he hindered the people to convert to uniatism and join the frontier guard…”. Three other faithful died a martyr’s death together with him: Basil from Mocod, Gregory from Zagra and Basil from Telciu. Nineteen other Orthodox Christians were whipped, many of them to death. The heads of the Holy Martyrs were put on pillars at the gates of the houses where they had lived and pieces of their bodies cut to pieces were laid at crossroads.
This was the martyric death of those worthy of commemoration. Holy Martyr Athanasius, who shed his blood for the faith of his forefathers and for the rights of his Romanian brothers and sisters from Transylvania. His suffering and those who were martyred together with him have been always honored in the souls of the Orthodox faithful of the Năsăud area. The Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church, through the Tomos of 22 October 2007, numbered them among the saints to be celebrated on 12 November.
Through their holy intercessions, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us. Amen.
Troparion in the Fourth Tone 
Your life well-pleasing to God has shone like a brilliant star in the land of Năsăud, Holy Martyrs Athanasius of Bichigiu, Basil of Mocod, Gregory of Zagra and Basil of Telciu; for being strengthened by divine grace you became protectors and confessors of Orthodoxy against rulers of other origin and faith. Therefore, suffering to the very shedding of your blood, you have been crowned in Heaven by Christ our God, to Whom do intercede for our souls.