August 5, 2022

Holy New Martyr Christos from Preveza, A Once Forgotten Saint

By Spyros Symeon

Saint Christos is one of the holy new martyrs of our Church that bears the name of the Savior and Risen Christ. This name is only found among martyrs since unfortunately it is not given to monks and clergy because it is customary there to give "monastic" names, and unfortunately although many lay people receive it they do not honor it in memory of a Saint but on the feast of the One who on that day is celebrated by all of Christianity.

When I was young I had heard an elder in a small monastery who told us that those who have names that celebrate them on some Despotic Feast should be catechized and urged to move their name day feast to a day in memory of a Saint who bore their name.

A Despotic Feast is dedicated to our Despot Christ,* and on that day the whole human race and all nature celebrates and rejoices for its Maker.

Through the honor of the saints we essentially honor Christ Himself since their faith and their love for God and fellow man through the observance of God's New Testament glorifies His Most Holy name.

If this were done, perhaps today many more would know, among other saints, Saint Christos who was born in the 17th century in Preveza and at a young age followed the profession of a sailor in the then enslaved and subjugated Greece.

For three centuries the humble Saint Christos was "forgotten" by human earthly history and until 1971 he remained unknown to the people on earth.

It was in this year that in the richest library of Mount Athos, in the Monastery of Great Lavra, as someone was studying, he "came across" the Lavreotic codex titled "Grammatics" in which a hieromonk and spiritual father of the monastery described his acquaintance with Saint Christos as well as his martyric end, and thus from obscurity among men he began to be known and remembered by the people on earth.

The specific hieromonk of the monastery was in Kos in August 1668 when a sailor of a frigate coming from Crete approached him and asked him to confess.

The spiritual father who entered the soul of the humble young sailor Christos desxribes him as pious, modest and pure. From these characteristics given to him by his spiritual father, we perceive as elements of his personality his piety, that is, it characterizes him as faithful to Christ but also admires him for his modesty.

Truly rare traits for someone in his youth. Also, with the term "pure" we infer that he had not fallen into major sins, which confirms his aforementioned piety, but also gives us as evidence that he was a virgin, therefore also unmarried, since at that time in the ecclesiastical vocabulary, "pure" meant the one who has not fallen into sins of the flesh and was a virgin by default.

A few days later as the Holy sailor of Christ, Christos, was going to the frigate on which he was working in the port some janissaries when he passed by them started to mock him and curse him for his faith as well as blaspheme his holy baptism.

Suddenly the young Christos responded to them and, as it were, put them in their place, since those who believe in the lie are nothing but forerunners of the antichrist and are the only worthy recipients of any insult.

At that moment his abusers immediately rushed at him like untamed lions who wanted to tear their prey and caught him only a few meters away from the frigate and after dragging him and beating him just as the soldiers who arrested Christ did, they led him to the pasha of the island where they accused him, demanding that he ask for forgiveness and change his faith, and instead of burning him alive in a fire they had already lit, they would spare his life.

But how could a pious Christian accept such a thing?

Was it possible for a devout Christian to become impious and blasphemous at once?

Not even for a moment did it cross his mind to renounce Christ, and making the sign of the cross he began to shout out with faith and a elevated phronema and ethos the Creed: "I believe in one God...".

Naturally to them the followers of another religion and barbarians immediately became enraged and began to beat him as well as stab him with their swords and knives while throwing him into the fire where they burned him.

Suddenly, lamps and bright lightnings engulfed the scene, something that was witnessed beyond the Christians who were there as witnesses of the martyrdom of Saint Christos, and the torturers and persecutors who fled.

It was August 5, 1668, the eve of the celebration of the great despotic feast of Christ's Divine Transfiguration.

For three days and nights a heavenly light fell on his body which remained in place for thirty days unburied and unscathed by vultures and hounds, while later pious Christians, perceiving the holiness of the young sailor who had been martyred, secretly took small parts of the Saint's relics, and there were not a few miracles reported in those days by those who invoked him.

The first memory and solemn celebration of the Saint came three centuries after his martyrdom, in 1972, a year after his discovery through the codexes of the Monastery of the Great Lavra of Mount Athos, while the inhabitants of Preveza call him their pride and their humble intercessor to the Good God.

Saint Christos from Preveza, a sailor who was assigned to the crew of Christ's ship, intercede also for me the unworthy one!

Let us cheer for the warrior of Christ, the sprout that appeared in Preveza and the follower of the path of martyrdom in Kos. Let us sing in song, faithful ones, let us glorify the new martyr Christos: he intercedes before the Lord to have mercy on our souls.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.


* In the Orthodox Church, the term "Despot" or "Despotes" used for Christ and for Bishops grew around the context of the government terminology of the Roman Empire, where a despot was a senior Byzantine court title that was bestowed on the sons or sons-in-law of reigning emperors, and initially denoted the heir-apparent of the Byzantine emperor. Some translate it as either "Master" or "Lord".