Jan 17, 2021
Today our Church celebrates the feast of the holy New Martyr George of Ioannina. A short summary of his wondrous life:
"Saint George, the man of few words and abundant faith, was born in 1810 in the village of Tsurkhli in the province of Grevena, which borders the province of Epirus in northwest Greece. He was orphaned of his parents at the age of eight, and as a young man was employed for eight years by Hatzi Abdullah, an officer of Imin Pasha. For some reason the local Moslems called him “Giaour Hasan” – infidel Hasan – rather than George, which led many to take him for a Moslem. In 1836 Imin Pasha became governor of Ioannina, taking with him his officer Hatzi Abdullah and George. In the same year George was betrothed to a very pious orphan named Helen; on the very day of their betrothal, a fanatical Turkish hodja from Ioannina recognized George, whom he had only known as “Giaour Hasan,” and rebuked him for marrying a Christian. Saint George succinctly answered that being a Christian, he sought a Christian as his wife. But the hodja accused him to the judge as an apostate from their religion. When Saint George was brought before him, he insisted that he was a Christian, and a friend of his fluent in Turkish came to his defense. So the judge sent George to the vizier; the vizier knew him to be in the employ of Hatzi Abdullah, who when summoned bore witness that he had always known George to be a Christian. The vizier had George registered with the court as a Christian.
On the following Sunday, the feast of Saint Demetrius, George and Helen were married. A son was born to them, whom they had baptized on the seventh of January; on the following Tuesday morning, George fell into a deep sleep all that day, from which his family were unable to rouse him even by shaking him. He awoke in time for supper, and when, instead of saying the usual blessing before the meal George said, “Glory to Thee, O God,” someone asked him why he said that, he answered, “Be glad that I know how to say even this much.”
The next day, Wednesday, he put on his best clothing, saying he was going to look for work, and before going out the door turned back and gazed with deep emotion on his son, his wife, and the rest of his family; when asked why he did this, he answered, “What difference does it make to you?” In fact he did this twice.
As he passed through the market the hodja who had accused him before accosted him again and made a ruckus; George was taken to the same judge, who now rejected the previous testimony that George was a Christian, and demanded that he become a Moslem or die. George’s whole reply was, “Do what you will.”
George was mocked by an apostate Christian, whom he valiantly rebuked, bringing the wrath of the authorities upon himself. He was questioned by the governor and then imprisoned; when brought again before the judge he briefly answered, “I am a Christian. I will die a Christian.” He was taken back to prison, his feet were confined in wooden stocks, and his body pressed down under a stone slab weighing well over a hundred pounds. Yet he slept so sweetly as if he were in his own bed at home, that when he awoke his fellow prisoners asked him how this was possible. He told them that he had felt no pain at all, and that he had a vision of a young man dressed in white who said to him in Turkish, “Fear not, George.”
George was brought before the judge a third time and answered his threat of the death-sentence with, “Do with me what you like. I’m not afraid. Whether you pass one sentence or a hundred, I was born a Christian, I am a Christian, and I am going to die a Christian.” Seeing the Saint’s courage, the judge decided to release him, but the clamor of the people calling out for his death forced him to carry out the sentence of death.
George passed a number of days in prison, in which many of the leading Christians interceded with the vizier for his release, but to no avail; and those who encouraged him in prison found him in no need of encouragement, but fearless and ready for death for Christ’s sake, and steadfast throughout the daily visits of the captors who urged him to deny his Faith, to whom he said nothing but, “I am a Christian.”
On a Monday, the feast of Saint Anthony the Great, January 17, 1838, at nine in the morning, five executioners came to George in the prison, and he accompanied them to the place of execution with joy as if he were flying rather than walking, and was hanged by them at the age of twenty-eight. His body was left hanging for three days, during which time a heavenly light shone on his body by night, and his holy relics remained incorrupt and fragrant, until the Christians received permission to bury them. Pieces of the rope with which he was hanged or of his clothing worked wondrous cures, and those who came to his tomb were healed. The Martyr appeared to his widowed young wife Helen and told her not to fear, because he would come to her often. Even the icon of him then commissioned to be painted worked miracles.
Saint George is but one of the innumerable multitude of New Martyrs of the Turkish Yoke who were simple laymen that lived their piety honestly without giving any special tokens of sanctity. Without long ascetic training, or the intention of becoming Martyrs, they were suddenly presented with the choice of denying Christ and living, or confessing Him and suffering a painful death, and were found to be Christians not in name only but in the depths of their souls, unto the very death."
(taken from tyoos.org)