My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
On the 28th of October, the Holy Orthodox Church Commemorates
the holy New Martyrs ANGELIS, EMMANUEL, GEORGE, and
NICHOLAS of Crete.
Apolytikion Hymn of the holy Martyrs. Fourth Tone
Thy Martyrs, O Lord, in their courageous contest for Thee received
as the prize the crowns of incorruption and life from Thee, our
immortal God. For since they possessed Thy strength, they cast
down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons’ strengthless
presumption. O Christ God, by their prayers, save our souls,
since Thou art Merciful.
Angelis, Emmanuel, and Nicholas, the holy new martyrs, were the sons of reverent parents. They were crypto-Christians practicing all the mysteries of the Church; yet, out of fear, they appeared outwardly as Ottomans. The island of Crete, just prior to the Greek Revolution (1821), was heavily populated, and there was much activity to overthrow its Moslem overlords. It was during this period that the four new martyrs lived. As their parents, they were born and raised in the village of Melambes of the eparchy of Saint Basil, which is under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Lambes of Crete. Emmanuel and Angelis, son sons of Retze[es, were brothers of the same parents. George was the son of Constantine Retzepes, and Nicholas was the son of another John Retzeges. The young men were cousins. Apart from their Christian names, they also held Ottoman names for public use, even as did their parents. The family occupation was farming. When the four cousins took wives, they were secretly betrothed and married according to the order of the Orthodox Church. Outwardly they performed Ottoman customs for the wedding festivities. They also conducted their lives and reared their children in the same fashion. Before the outside world, they practice Ottoman customs and habits, retaining their rights and privileges. This means that they were exempt from the poll tax of the empire, which the Christians were obliged to remit. Living in this matter, they were never bothered by the Ottomans (Turks).
In the year 1821, every Orthodox Christian on the island of Crete took up arms and joined with the rest of Greece in the struggle for independence, to overthrow the Turkish yoke and the unbearable misery, wretchedness, and poverty they had endured for so many years. The cousins decided to join the revolution, out of piety and zeal, and engage the Turks in battle. Their desire was to become free men so that they might practice the Faith and perform their religious duties without fear. They went to war, which lasted for three years and beyond. The situation took a turn for the worse when Sultan Mahmud II, a fierce ruler, managed to secure the assistance of his vassal, Mehmet Ali, the Pasha of Egypt, a man who treated the nominal suzerainty of the Sultan lightly. The price of Mehmet Ali's cooperation to crush the beleaguered Hellenes came at a high price: the Pashalik of Crete for himself and that of the Peloponnese for his son, Ibrahim. In 1824, after suppressing the last vestiges of resistance in Crete, Ibrahim said with the most powerful naval force ever launched in the Mediterranean by a non-European power and landed on Crete at Suda Bay in early winter. In 1825, he sailed on to the Peloponnese, where he spread terror and destruction everywhere in a "scorched earth" campaign of fire and the sword.
In the year 1824 many Hellenes were captured and taken prisoner, including, men, women, and children, the four cousins were unharmed in their village. Now they openly appeared and acted as Greek Orthodox Christians. In the meantime, the Turks on the island resumed their demands for payment of taxes. This time, the four cousins willingly rendered their share of "HEAD TAX" (meaning if one was to refuse to pay it, one would lose his head) with the other Christians. The Turks recognized the four cousins and urged them to return to Islam sot hat they might be exempted from paying the tax and be set free from fear and resume their past privileges.
The blessed witnesses for Christ, however, in no wise heeded the counsels and the flattering words of those in power. No, instead, they struggled on behalf of piety, confessed that they were Christians even as were their parents, and added, "We gladly pay the tax." The Turks, seeing the persistence of the ever-memorable righteous men for Orthodoxy, reported the incident to their governor, the Pasha Mehmet, who was in the city of Rethymno on the North shore of the island. Upon receiving intelligence of the matter, he dispatched men to lead the four Christians bound from their village. They were brought before the governor, who interrogated them: "What religion do you revere?" The blessed cousins, without fear, confessed their Christian faith adding, "From the beginning, we were Christians, baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity even as our parents. Indeed, Christ is the only God Whom we worship." The Turkish governor urged them to renounce the Faith and return to Islam, that they receive gifts, ranks, and great dignities. They replied, "From the beginning we were Christians, and as Christians, we wish to die." So the governor sent them to prison in bonds. Once again, they were brought before the Pasha, who kept talking and advocating that they do his bidding. After applying various tortures, again, he achieved nothing, for their resolve remained unaltered. They kept shouting aloud, "We shall die for Christ!"
The governor, at last perceiving, that the Orthodox Christian martyrs' immovable resolve was steadfast, were led to the execution site, which was called Gate of Rethymno, where the executioner performed beheadings, they kept on invoking God to their last breath, reciting the "Kyrie Eleison" (Lord have mercy). The holy Martyrs surrendered their holy souls into the hands of the Lord. The Moslems, contemptuously, left the sacred relics exposed to the weather for three days. Now during those days, the Turkish guards of that city kept seeing a light on their holy relics. They kept blaspheming and hurling reproaches, saying that fire from out of the sky descended and consumed them. This was far from the truth. The Moslems, furthermore, after having executed the four holy cousins, apprehended their wives, ana children and held them as captives.
After those days had passed, certain Christians who were abiding in the city arranged it so that the Pasha's interpreter, Manuel Papadakis, asked for the holy relics of the holy martyrs. After he had received permission, the holy relics of the holy Martyrs were taken to the Monstery of Saint George, which is located in the village of Perivolia near Rethymno. Their blood-spotted clothing was taken up by Orthodox Christians and many miracles were wrought. After one year, the Bishop of Rethymno, Ioannikios, sents some of the holy relics to the church in Rethymno. The remainder of the holy relics were sent to the Monastery of Saint Constantine. The holy relics of the holy martyrs have produced countless miracles for the Orthodox, healing every kind of illness for those who have asked for the intercessions of Saints Angelis, Emmanuel, George, and Nicholas. Thus, they continue, glorifying their Lord, for Whom they struggled. By their intercessions, O God, have mercy on us. Amen. [Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church]
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George