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October 23, 2021

Homilies on Holiness and the Saints - The Holy Martyrs (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

The Holy Martyrs

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

A category in the great chorus of the saints are the holy martyrs. These are those Christians, clergy and laity, who lived in a period of persecution of the Church and proved to be worthy members of the Church of Christ.

The word "martyr" refers to those people who testify, especially in the courts, because they heard and saw certain events that they are called upon to confirm.

This notion of the martyr is also transferred to ecclesiastical terminology and thus characterizes those who have been in their lives audible-witnesses and eyewitnesses of God, they saw and heard God and then were called to confess to this reality.

Therefore, the Martyrs of the Church gave their testimony-confession and then, because of this testimony, they also accepted martyrdom. Testimony and martyrdom are closely related. The testimony precedes and the martyrdom follows. Sometimes testimony is given, but for various reasons martyrdom does not follow, still this testimony has value. But martyrdom without testimony is not recognized by the Church. For example, a heretic may also accept martyrdom, but because his testimony-confession is not Orthodox, that is why his martyrdom is not counted by the Church.

In speaking of Martyrs it should be emphasized that there are four categories of Martyrs. First are the Martyrs in general, second are the Great Martyrs whose martyrdoms were great, third are the Hieromartyrs who are Clergy martyrs, and fourth are the New Martyrs who testified during the Turkish occupation. There is, of course, another category called "ethnomartyrs", who are not considered saints of the Church, but martyrs who testified out of love for the homeland. They are not considered martyrs of the Church, because their martyrdom was not the result of a testimony and confession of Christ, but of something national. They certainly have value, because they fought for great ideals, but they cannot be among the Martyrs of the Church, who represent God for us.

The Martyrs come from all walks of life and are the most heroic children of the Church. They personally lived Christ, experienced the resurrection of Christ, knew the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, overcame death, acquired the love of God, which is the transcendence of death and the gift of the Holy Spirit, and then with joy and enthusiasm were led to martyrdom.

In a troparion it is said that the Church is adorned with the blood of the Martyrs. They proved that the theology of the Church is not an ideology, but life, and our God is not an abstract God, an impersonal power, but a true God who loves and empowers man. That is why the Church is called the Church of the Martyrs.

We must always have before us the life and power of the Martyrs, be inspired and strengthened by their heroic spirit, invoke their intercessions, and make sure we are worthy of the great gift of being a member of such a Church of Martyrs and Confessors, by which we will daily give this testimony every day.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.