My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
On the 5th of April, Our Holy Orthodox Church Commemorates
the holy New-Martyr GEORGE at New-Ephesus
Saint George, the glorious New Marty of Christ, was born and bred in the city of the New Ephesus of Asia Minor. The year of his birth was 1756. His father’s name was Nicholas. He contested for Christ in the year 1801, after he extricated himself from the calamity of sin. Blessed be God! Forasmuch as the adversaries rage against Christianity, so much more is the Sun of Righteousness, Orient is His name (Ανατολή όνομα αυτώ). proclaimed splendidly and magnified with martyric contests on behalf of the True God, the Savior of the world and Creator of all things, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Listen now to the account of the New Martyr George lest we should be deprived of such a beneficial and inspiring narrative of a heroic struggle from the morass of sin to repentance and triumph.
It was July in the year 1798, George was forty-two years of age. He was lawfully wedded and had children. His conduct of life was disorderly, spent in a daily whirl of drunken revelry. On account of this passion for the drink, fearful temptations and trials followed. If it had not been for the mercy of the All-Good God, Who foreknows all, George would have tumbled into everlasting death. On one such occasion, though no one compelled him, but only out of the darkness of a drunken stupor, he appeared before the Muslim judge. In the presence of many witnesses, he–alas!–denied the Faith of Christ. Before, however, he received circumcision, he recovered from his intoxicated state. He renounced his folly. When he found an opportune moment he fled to Samos, an island directly opposite his homeland.
In those days it happened that the faithful of New Ephesus were building a church, with imperial permission from the Ottoman authorities. The license to build a church was not a simple permit to obtain, Islamic laws did not generally allow the construction or repair of Orthodox churches. The enemies of the Christian Faith, filled with envy and malice, sought a way to overturn the project. They, therefore, circulated a tale that the Christians murdered George because he renounced their Orthodox Faith; and then they concealed his relics in the foundation of the church they were building. This fiction caught the imagination of many. A multitude of heterodox gathered and made a great fuss. The enemies of Christianity made preparations to assault them. The Orthodox Christians perceived the treachery of the Hagarenes and that, sooner than later, their Church leaders and others would be assailed by them. They also understood that not only murder would be perpetrated but also the demolition of the church. The Christians decided to send their elders to the judge. Also present in the delegation were the owners of the land. They all affirmed that the man in question, namely George, was on Samos. The Orthodox pleaded their case to the judge. "If they, our accusers, should have any doubt, send men to see and confirm what we say." The judge dispatched men not only to find George but also to arrest him. He was soon discovered and clapped in irons. After three days of incarceration, the Muslims circumcised George. Afterward, they supposedly thought to honor him by installing him as a custodian in the Mosque. He only stayed there for ten months when he suddenly disappeared from that place. Seeking to make peace with himself and God, at one point he went around the island of Samos and, at another time, he stayed at the neighboring island of Patmos. He did not waste his time. He spent it in repentance and confession, mourning over his lawlessness.
In the year 1801, on the 1st day of March, George returned to his homeland. He went to New Ephesus with a humble demeanor and sad countenance. Tears welled up and flowed abundantly, as he was filled with profound compunction. He sought forgiveness from all those who knew him and his friends also. He appeared to be preparing himself for his great contest, a matter to which he gave considerable thought. Now, before his renunciation of Christ, he had a Christian friend, who dwelt in the same city, whose name was also George. This former acquaintance, however, not knowing of George’s reform, avoided him as a Christ-denier. The day that our newly reformed George decided to present himself, he encountered his friend George at the marketplace.
The friend George, observing the pitiful condition of a much-tried George, asked him, "What ails thy feet?" George then told his friend the truth saying, "When I was in Samos, I went to confession and was reminded of those words of the Savior, Who said, "But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father Who is in the heavens" (Matthew 10:33). I was, as a consequence of that encounter, resolved to become a martyr, So I presented myself to the Turkish governor of that place. I professed Christ as the True God and denounced Islam. I received a beating of one thousand blows to my feet with rods. Then they hurled me into jail. Some of the Christian leaders learned of my predicament and by means of money, they persuaded the administrator to release me from jail. Then the Muslims threw me out. After that brutal beating, he silently returned to his homeland, determined to enter into definite contests for the Faith. He was yearning to receive a blessed end, struggling for the sake of his Savior Christ. The first thing he did upon returning, however, was to remove his family from the city lest the fanatical Muslims should avenge themselves on his wife and children.
George made up his mind to take himself directly to the local judge. Then the judge asked the Saint, "What do you want?" The martyr answered, "I was a Christian and denied my Faith. But now I am come to confess before you, with the grace of God, that I was and I am a Christian." The judge infuriated with him immediately turned him over to the guard and ordered him to lead George, bound, to the prison. Once there a large chain was wrapped around George’s neck. His feet were secured in wooden stocks. Some of the Muslims promised him money, a considerable amount if only he would confess to the Islamic creed, while others kept threatening him. George would tell them only one declaration: "I am a Christian and a Christian shall I die."
The judge then finally perceived George’s unalterable opinion and handed down a sentence of death by the sword. The executioners then rushed upon George and took hold of him. Their treatment of him was very rough and rigorous. They escorted him to the execution site and they charged him to kneel down. Finally, the executioner asked him, "Do you repent?" The martyr replied, "I am a Christian!" The executioner then said, "Bend your head." The martyr then lowered his head. His countenance appeared joyous. The executioner, then, with one fell swoop, came down and severed the martyr’s head on the 5th of April. It was a Friday, at the third hour of the day. Saint George’s soul then ascended to his much-desired Christ, from Whom he received the amaranthine crown of martyrdom. As for his holy relics, there abode a divine light on the relics. The following Saturday, when people arose, not only Christians but Muslims as well witnessed a mysterious occurrence. They beheld that the martyric relics, in a wonderous manner, were flashing, like lightning, rays of light, even as one would see sunlight reflecting from a mirror. The light appeared in that place for as long as the relics and the martyr’s blood remained.
This then, brethren, is the account of the martyrdom of the holy New-martyr George. His witness induces shame in the enemies of Orthodoxy, but to the pious faithful it evokes spiritual joy and boundless delight, to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, to the ages of ages. 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