Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Saint Akylina (Angelina) the New Martyr of Thessaloniki


Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!

St. Akylina the New Martyr of Thessaloniki (Feast Day - September 27) (http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_qpE5hNwi618/TKD8TOrmRBI/AAAAAAAAKKw/8GpVIiG3g-s/s1600/akylina+main.jpg) 
   
Akylina (or Angelina***, see below), the holy New Martyr of Christ was from Thessalonica, from the village of Zagliveri situated in the Ardameri Diocese. She was the offspring of a pious mother. Her martyrdom took place from the following set of circumstances.

One day the Saint’s father quarreled and wrestled with a Turkish neighbour (since both Christians and Turks lived side by side in this place). By the Evil One’s collaboration he struck and slew the Hagarene. Whereupon he was arrested by the local authorities, who led him to the pasha of Thessalonica to have him condemned. Now he was terrified of death and sought acquittal, so he offered to become a Muslim. (Alas, his fall!) Therefore, they did not execute him. At that time Akylina was an infant nursing on her mother’s milk. After the passage of some time, the Turks enjoined her father that he must have his daughter become a Muslim. He told them:

"Do not be concerned about my daughter. She is under my authority and I will convert her when I want."

However, Akylina’s mother remained anchored in the Faith of Christ and never ceased every hour to exhort her child to stand firmly in the Faith of Christ and not to ever deny Jesus Christ.

When the maiden reached 18 years of age, the Turks once again spoke with her father concerning the conversion. At this point he summoned Akylina and said:

“My child, other Turks have approached me daily on the matter of your accepting Mohammedanism. Therefore, either now or a little later, you will become a Muslim, only make the decision in a day or two, so the Muslims will not harass me.”

Yet the Saint, who was ignited and enflamed with the love of Christ, with great courage declared:

“Perhaps you think that I have the same little faith as yourself to deny my Maker and Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ Who submitted to the cross and death for our sake? I refuse. I am prepared to undergo the woeful torment, even death, for the love of Christ.”

By these superb and admirable statements she was not the daughter of the thrice-miserable father, but truly the daughter of Christ the Heavenly King!

Observing the Saint’s unswerving belief, the father went before the Turks and divulged to them:

“I am unable to induce my daughter to change her beliefs; you do with her whatever you will."

Upon hearing this they went into a flurry, and immediately dispatched men of the court to apprehend the Martyr. Seeing them approaching, the Saint’s blessed mother took hold of Akylina, and gave her this final instruction:

“Lo, my most beloved child and my sweetest daughter, Akylina. Behold, fruit of my womb, the hour has arrived of which I have warned you. Therefore, my girl, attend and obey my admonition. Display courage in the torments which you will face and do not renounce Christ.”

Likewise, Akylina replied:

“Have no fear, my mother, for I have this intention. The All-kind God will be my help. Pray for me.”

Thus, they bid each other farewell with tears.

The servant of the judge bound the Saint and led her to the tribunal. The compassionate mother followed after her beloved daughter to the place of condemnation, since motherly feelings could not conceive of being separated from her dear child. However those that had taken her intocustody, locked her outside the courtyard. Akylina was taken inside into the presence of the judge, who in a coarse manner blurted out to her:

“Eh! You, become a Muslim.”

The Saint exclaimed:

“No, I will not become one. Never will I forsake my belief and my Master Christ!”

Hearing this, the judge became incensed. Therefore he commanded that the Saint be undressed and be left wearing only her chemise. Then they tied Akylina to a column and two servants beat her with rods for many hours. Notwithstanding, the Martyr underwent this torture bravely.

Afterwards the judge and other Turks had the Martyr brought forward again before them. They began to flatter Akylina and promise her expensive gifts if she would renounce the faith. But the bride of Christ possessed in her heart love towards her sublime Bridegroom Christ and would not even consider their offers. Furthermore, since he was extremely wealthy, he brazenly proposed to her:

“Akylina, become a Muslim and I will make you my son’s bride.”

Christ’s Martyr replied with an immense daring:

“You and your son go to perdition.”

With these words the judge’s wrath was kindled. They tied her again as before and flogged her for many hours. When they unfettered her for a third examination, the judge asked her:

“Hapless one, are you not embarrassed to be beaten naked in front of so many men?”

He said this because from the countless blows her slip was in shreds and she was exposed. The judge continued:

“Either you become a Muslim or have your bones shattered before all.”

In refutation she declared:

“And what attraction does your faith have for me to deny my Christ, or what miracle of your religion shall I believe, since you have filthy and indecent lives?”

O fearless testimony! A noble reply worthy of heavenly praise, not from a gentle and delicate young girl, but from a valiant giant!

All within earshot were disgraced, essentially by the brilliancy of her truthful speech. They were at a loss at how to deal with her. In their rage they scourged the Saint mercilessly a third time, leaving her as dead. The earth was reddened by her blood and her flesh fell in pieces to the ground. Next they untied the Martyr and had her carried by a Christian who was present to her mother’s home. Whereupon the mother embraced her daughter who was breathing her last, and asked:

“My child, what have you done?”

As she came to herself slightly, the Martyr exerted much effort to answer, and opening her eyes, beheld her mother:

“O my mother, what else could I do except that which you instructed me? Behold, according to your command I have preserved my confession of faith inviolate.”

Akylina’s mother raised her arms and eyes towards heaven and glorified God. After conversing with her mother, the Martyr surrended her soul into the hands of God on September 27, 1764 and received the martyr’s crown.

St. Akylina’s most venerable and sacred relics straightaway emitted a marvelous fragrance so divine that all the streets which they traversed with her martyric relics for burial were filled with scent. At night a heavenly light descended upon and illuminated Akylina’s tomb like a shining star. All the Christians who observed this phenomena praised God, to Whom is due glory and power unto endless ages. Amen.
Source: This Life was written by St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite and was translated in New Martyrs of the Turkish Yoke, Translated by Leonidas J. Papadopoulos, Georgia Lizardos & others St Nectarios Press, Seattle, Washington 1985.
   
The house of St. Akylina, as it exists today (http://www.saint.gr/2524/saint.aspx)
   
The Shrine and Relics of Saint Akylina...The Turks took her remains and buried them in the Muslim cemetery to inflate their ego by claiming her as their own despite their failed attempts at converting her. But as it says above: "At night a heavenly light descended upon and illuminated Akylina’s tomb like a shining star." When the Christians saw this they took her body and buried it in a secret place. According to tradition, the three men who had the courage to do this were named Tsoplas, Kalimeris and Bouklas, and they promised each other that they would never reveal the location of the remains of St. Akylina so that they never fall into the hands of the Turks again...(See below for the finding of the Saint's Holy Relics)

Since 1957 the memory of St. Akylina is celebrated on September 27th, the day of her martyrdom. Before that her feast was on April 24th. The reason for the transfer of the date of the feast has to do with the decision of the locals of the village of Zagliverion who wanted to combine their two primary feasts, that of St. Akylina and St. George (Apr. 23) - to whom their central church was dedicated -, at the same time. The transfer was made in 1957, but firmly established after 1984 when a large church in St. Akylina's honor was built in the village.

A Service in honor of St. Akylina was discovered in the Church of St. George in 1969. This book was authored by the monk Polycarpos A. Giakoudis of Pantokratoras and contains the Vespers, Matins, Liturgy and Life in honor of the Saint. In September of 1969 the hymnographer Elder Gerasimos Mikragiannanitis wrote a Service in St. Akylina's honor and since then it has been chanted. In 1980 a Salutation and Lamentation Service were added.

The first icon depiction of the Saint dates back to 1858 by Hierodeacon Hierotheos of the Holy Monastery of Loggavardas (Longovarda). The icon depicts all the New Martyrs under the Turkish yoke, and St. Akylina is one of them. Also in the Church of St. George are the three oldest icons of St. Akylina. The first dates to 1903 and depicts the Saint whole-bodied with scenes of her life on her left and right, and Christ blesses her from above. The second is also whole-bodied and has the following dedication: "Polycarpou Athanasiou Giakoudi Zagliverinon Pantocratorino of Mount Athos on 1 September 1904", that is, it was dedicated from the monk who first composed a Service in her honor. The third icon is by Panagioti Anagnostou from 1913 and St. Akylina is depicted with St. Kyranna. All three icons are Athonite in origin.

The home of St. Akylina as well as the site of her martyrdom still exist till this day and can be visited, though they are run down. The feast of St. Akylina is known by the locals as Akylineia.

   
Metropolitan John of Langada venerating the newly-revealed Holy Relics of St. Akylina the New Martyr (http://www.romfea.gr/images/stories/photos/2012/05/chuck/apostoli/russia/lagkada2.JPG)
   
The uncovering of the Holy Relics of St. Akylina the New Martyr (amateur translation/summary)
Amidst a climate of contrition, and with the participation of many priests, monks and a multitude of the faithful of our Metropolis, Tuesday May 22, in the Holy Church of the All-powerful Taxiarchs, Ossa, a vigil was celebrated for the Apodosis of Pascha, headed by Metropolitan John of Lagada, Letes and Retines, who was joined by Bishop Demetrios of Thermon, during which his Eminence officially announced the finding of the Holy Relics of St. Akylina-Angelines...

His Eminence, who was visibly excited, in his homily first offered the life of the Saint, and related the chronology of the events surrounding the finding of the Holy Relics of the Holy Neomartyr Angeline or Akylina, describing all of the wondrous events that followed and brought confirmation of the relics.

He continued to mentioned messages from the martyrdom of the Saint, who with her living presence calls us to remain steadfast in the Orthodox faith, and to give our confession of faith through our participation in the life of our Holy Church.

The all-wise Providence of God, as his Eminence said, chose this instant to reveal His living grace through His Holy Neomartyr Akylina-Angeline and to strengthen our faith.

Closing his homily, he reminded everyone of the prayer of his Eminence Metropolitan Nikodemos of Ieressos, Holy Mountain and Ardameriou, the last time that he had liturgized in the Holy Church of the All-powerful Taxiarchs, as he expressed his wish and his entreaty to the Saint that her relics be found, as those of St. Kyranna were, recently.

Then spoke the Chancellor of the Holy Metropolis of Ieressos, Holy Mountain and Ardameriou Fr. Chrysostom Maidones, who mentioned the dream and desire of all of the generations of the inhabitants of Zagliveri that the relics of the Saint be found.

The people of Zagliveri, since 1764, have been praying that the relics of the Saint be found. It was, as he noted, the prayer of our bishop, who built a church in the Saint's honor in Zagliveri. Now, as he related, during the hour of trial of the health of the Metropolitan, that the Saint appeared and gave him this joy.

He continued that what occurred here also occurred in Mytilene with the appearance of St. Raphael. Of course, with him we did not have anything, neither biographical, neither historical facts, but at the core were the revelations. A similar thing occurred with the relics of St. Akylina, of whom we did know of her life, however.

Finally, the Chancellor of the Holy Metropolis of Ieressos noted that until today, many studies had been done to try to find the relics of the Saint. He said that there were eight occasions when definite information was learned that was thought to have pointed to the place of her burial, without any success, however. In contrast, in outside the Holy Bema of the Church of the All-powerful Taxiarchs in Ossa, the Saint herself was revealed and showed the location of her relics.

***It should also be noted that the name of the Saint was most likely Angelina, which St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain wrote as "Akylina" out of simplicity, and due to the fact that it was more of a Greek name....
(http://www.romfea.gr/diafora-ekklisiastika/12649-eyresi-leipsanon-mitropoli-lagkada)
   
 
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the First Tone (amateur translations below)
Let us praise the divine Akylina, whom I behold as a godly-minded girl and Champion of Christ, who watered the faith with her love for Him, and deposed the enemy through her holy struggles, and was granted divine glory. And she entreats Christ the Word that He be merciful to our souls.

Additional Apolytikion in the Plagal of the First Tone
Zagliveri rejoices in your struggle, she the village that sprouted you as a fragrant flower, O most-comely virgin of Christ Akylina, for you struggled steadfastly, and received from God the crown of incorruption. Entreat ceaselessly that He be merciful to our souls.
   
Icon depicting Sts. Kyranna and Akylina the New Martyrs, whose Holy Relics the Lord was well-pleased to reveal in our days near the Church of the Holy Taxiarchs, Ossa (source)
 
Christ is risen from the dead, by death trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, bestowing life!
Truly the Lord is risen!

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