Saint Gregory V, the Holy Martyr and Patriarch of Constantinople
Saint Gregory V, Archbishop of Constantinople, occupied the Patriarchal throne three times (1797-1799, 1806-1808, 1819-1821 AD). During this time Greece was under the harsh Turkish yoke, but many Greek patriots lived in the hope of winning national independence. They found a brave champion for freedom, the Holy Patriarch Gregory V.
Saint Gregory’s connections with the Greek patriots came to light only when Alexander Ypsilantis and his army crossed over the River Prut against Sultan Makhmul. Toward the end of 1820 AD, the Russian Embassy advised him to flee from Constantinople because his life was in danger. The Saint replied, “Only a hireling deserts the flock in time of danger, but the good shepherd is willing to lay down his life for his flock”. He hoped that if he were killed, the other Christian nations would rise up to help Greece.
As the Revolution began in Greece, the enraged Turks retaliated against the Christians. It is estimated that 30 000 men, women, and children were killed by the Moslems because of the insurrection. The Patriarch, as the leader of the Greek people, was a natural scapegoat. He was accused of being a traitor, and a secret leader of the Revolution.
On the day of Holy Pascha, April 10, 1821 AD, they arrested St Gregory and hanged him before the doors of the Patriarchate. Because of his age and his asceticism, his body was not heavy enough to cause immediate death, so he suffered for a long time. No one dared to help him, and it was after nightfall before he finally gave up his soul to God. Those doors have remained shut since that day. After three days, the Saint”s body was sold to a Jewish mob, who dragged his body through the streets, then threw it into the sea.
Mark Sklabos, the Greek captain of a Russian ship saw the body floating in the water. Under the cover of darkness, they brought the holy relics on board and sailed to Odessa. There, in the Greek church of the Most Holy Trinity, the body of the Saint was buried on June 17, 1821. The Tsar of Russia sent vestments and a mitre with cross, which had belonged to Patriarch Nikon (1652-1658 AD) from Moscow to clothe the Hieromartyr”s body.
In 1871 AD, at the request of the Greek authorities, it was decided to transfer the relics of St Gregory from Odessa to Athens for the fiftieth anniversary of Greek independence. A special service in honour of the Saint was composed in Athens. St Gregory”s death contributed to the rebirth of Greece.
The Holy Martyr Terence and his Companions beheaded at Carthage
The Holy Martyr Terence and his Companions suffered under the emperor Decius (249-251 AD). The emperor issued an edict commanding all subjects to offer sacrifice to the pagan idols. When the governor of Africa Fortunianus received this edict, he gathered the people into the city square, set out cruel instruments of torture and declared that everyone without exception had to offer the sacrifice to the idols. Many, afraid of torture, complied. However, St Terence and forty other Christians bravely affirmed their faith in the Saviour and ridiculed the idols. Fortunianus was amazed at their boldness and he asked how they as rational people, could confess as God, One Whom the Jews crucified as a malefactor.
St Terence answered that their belief was in the Saviour, Who voluntarily endured death on the Cross and rose on the third day. Fortunianus saw that Terence inspired the others by his example, and so he ordered him to be isolated in prison with his three closest companions: Africanus, Maximus, and Pompeius. Fortunianus was determined to force the rest of the martyrs, including Xenon, Alexander, and Theodore, to renounce Christ. Neither threats nor terrible tortures could sway the holy martyrs. They burned them with red-hot iron, they poured vinegar on the wounds, they sprinkled on salt, and they raked them with iron claws. In spite of their sufferings, the Saints did not weaken in their confession of Christ, and the Lord gave them strength.
Forunatian gave orders to lead the martyrs into the pagan temple, and once again he urged them to offer sacrifice to the idols. The valiant warriors of Christ cried out, “O Almighty God, Who once sent down fire on Sodom for its iniquity, destroy this impious temple of idolatry”. The idols fell down with a crash, and then the temple lay in ruins. The enraged governor gave orders to execute them, and the martyrs, glorifying God, bowed their necks beneath the executioner’s sword.
After the execution of the thirty-six martyrs, Fortunianus summoned Terence, Maximus, Africanus and Pompeius before him. He showed them the martyrs’ bodies and again urged them to offer sacrifice to the idols. The martyrs refused. The governor put heavy chains on them, and gave orders to starve them to death. By night, an angel of the Lord removed the martyrs’ chains and fed them.
In the morning, the guards found the Saints cheerful and strong. Then Fortunianus ordered sorcerers and conjurers to carry snakes and all kinds of poisonous creatures into the prison. The guards looked into the cell through an opening in the ceiling and saw the martyrs unharmed, praying, and the snakes crawling at their feet. When the sorcerers opened the door of the prison cell, the snakes bit them. The furious Fortunianus gave orders to behead the holy martyrs. Christians took up their holy bodies and buried them with reverence outside the city.
Dismissal Hymn (Plagal of the First Tone)
All the powers of Heaven were awestruck and amazed at the achievements and deeds of the holy Martyrs of Christ; for contending well in mortal bodies clothed with flesh, they overcame the fleshless foe by the power of the Cross and invisibly subdued him. And now they pray to the Lord, that He might bestow His mercy on our souls.
Kontakion (First Tone)
Let us celebrate the memory of Terence and his companions and draw near to receive healing. For with grace and power of the Spirit they heal the sicknesses of our souls.
We Also Celebrate Today:
- Holy Father Theonas, Archbishop of Thessolonica
- 150 and more Righteous Martyr Fathers of the Sacred Monastery of Pantocrator Daou Pentelis