Friday, June 28, 2019

Saints Who Read "The Salvation of Sinners": Holy New Martyr Zacharias of Patras (+ 1782)


Saints Who Read Salvation of Sinners

Holy New Martyr Zacharias of Patras

The Holy New Martyr Zacharias was from the Peloponnesos in Greece in the region of Arta. He renounced Christ to become a Muslim, then went to old Patras and worked there as a furrier, establishing a workshop to manufacture furs. He had a book, titled Salvation of Sinners, which he often read in secret. The book moved him to repentance, and he wept bitterly for the great evil he had done.

Zacharias, unable any longer to bear the pangs of conscience, met a certain Elder and told him of his sin. Having confessed his apostasy to a priest renowned for his virtue, he revealed his desire to confess Christ before the Turks. The Elder advised prudence and told him to spend forty days alone in fasting and prayer in order to put his resolution to the test.

After praying and fasting for twenty days, Zacharias no longer was able to restrain the flame of divine love which burnt in his heart, and resolved to return early to the Elder to receive the blessing to go forward in martyrdom. Having returned to the Elder and confessed all the sins he had committed during his life, he asked the Elder's blessing to seek martyrdom. The holy man tried to discourage him. He warned that he might not be killed swiftly, but only after much torture.[1] He also pointed out the danger that Zacharias would betray Christ a second time under the torments he would endure. The saint, aflame with zeal for martyrdom, said he was prepared to suffer myriad punishments for the sake of Christ.

The Elder read the prayers of absolution and chrismated the Saint (as is done when apostates from the Church are received back into the Church), then administered the Holy Mysteries to him. Then he blessed Zacharias to go back to the Muslims and declare his faith in Christ. On his way, the Saint asked forgiveness from each Christian he met. He went to his house and shop and gave everything he had to the poor, even the key to his house, and proceeded from there to the house of the judge.

The holy martyr went to the judge's house and said that he had been deceived when he accepted their religion, but now he had come to his senses and returned to Christ. He then returned his white turban and asked him to provide him with Christian clothing. Zacharias was thrown into prison, where he was beaten three times a day. He was happy to be chastened for the love of Christ, and after every blow he received he repeated: 'Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.' When the pain became too sharp for him to speak, he would raise his eyes to heaven in silence.

One night in order to be finished with him, his tormenter screwed down the stocks until his legs were broken and then calmly went away to finish his supper. Finally, the Saint died by being stretched out on a rack and gave his soul to God. The place immediately was filled with a beautiful fragrance, so much so that the guard had to sleep elsewhere because the aroma was so strong.

Christians asked for his body so they might bury it, but the Muslims refused. They said, "He is neither one of you, nor one of us, for he denied both religions. Therefore, he is unworthy of burial." His body was dragged through the streets and thrown into a dry well near the Church of the Holy Trinity, landing on its knees in an upright position. Christians saw a radiant light over the well the next night, and hastened to venerate the Saint. The Turks filled the well with dirt and debris to prevent such gatherings in the future.

By shedding his blood, the holy New Martyr Zacharias washed away the sin of his denial of Christ and received an unfading crown of glory in the year 1782. He is commemorated by the Church on January 22nd.

Notes:

1. The Elder reportedly told Zacharias how in 1770, when the Albanians descended in Morea, they taught the Turks such violent methods of torture that the tortures of the first centuries of Christianity were light in comparison. He warned that he should not expect a swift beheading, but extreme torture. For this reason the Elder advised him against martyrdom and to rather undertake a strict asceticism to purify his soul.