Martyrs Terence, Africanus, Maximus, Pompeius and 36 with them, beheaded at Carthage (250)
These African Christians suffered during the persecution of the Church by the emperor Decius, during which a great many Christians denied the faith rather than suffer. These faithful few boldly upheld the Faith and, after many torments, were condemned to death by beheading. The went to their execution singing psalms and hymns of thanksgiving, and received the crown of martyrdom in 250.
In the early centuries of the Church, North Africa, especially the region of Carthage, was one of the centers of the Christian Faith, comparable to Asia Minor.
Six Thousand Holy Martyrs in Georgia (1615)
“In the wilderness of David-Garejeli in Georgia there were twelve monasteries, in which monks had lived the ascetic life for centuries. In 1615, Shah Abbas I invaded Georgia, laid it waste and slew innumerable Christians. One day, while out hunting at dawn on Easter Day intself, he saw the light of many candles shining in the hills. This was the monks of all twelve monasteries in procession all round the Church of the Resurrection, walking with candles in their hands. When the Shah discovered that it was monks, he asked in disbelief: ‘Isn’t the whole of Georgia put to the sword by now?’, and ordered his generals to go and slaughter the monks at once. An angel of God appeared to Abbot Arsenius, and revealed their imminent death to him, and Arsenius informed the brethren. They then all received Communion in the Holy Mysteries and prepared for death. Then the attackers arrived, hacked the abbot to pieces when he came out ahead of the others, and then killed all the rest. They all suffered with honour and were crowned with unfading wreaths in 1615. Thus ended the history of these famous monasteries, which had been like a flame of spiritual enlightenment in Georgia for more than 1,000 years. There remain just two today: St David and St John the Baptist. The King of Georgia, Archil, gathered the remains of all the martyrs and buried them. Their relics are to this day full of myrrh for the healing of those in sickness.” (Prologue)
New Hieromartyr Gregory, Patriarch of Constantinople (1821)
He was born on the Peloponnese, and became Archbishop of Smyrna in 1785. He served at a time when revolutionary feeling and activity was increasing among the Greek people, and witnessed the cruel retribution that the Ottoman Turks visited on any evidence of rebellion among their subject people.
Once in Smyrna, seeing that an action he had taken was causing discord in his dioceses, he came down from the hierarchical throne during a service, prostrated himself before the faithful and asked their forgiveness.
He was elected Patriarch of Constantinople in 1797. Under the Turkokratia, the Patriarch was not only the head of the Greek churches but the secular ruler of the Greek people, bound by oath to respect the authority of the Sultan. This, combined with Gregory’s personal experience of the treatment of Greek rebels, made him a staunch opponent of revolutionary activity among his people. Still, when revolutionaries on the Peloponnese declared Greek independence from Turkey on March 25, 1821, Turkish retribution was harsh: On Pascha, April 10, after serving the Paschal Liturgy, the aged Patriarch was arrested by the Turkish authorities. He was tortured in an effort to have him reveal the names of those heading the revolution, then was offered his freedom if he would convert to Islam. Gregory answered, ‘You ask in vain: the Patriarch of Christians dies a Christian.’ He (along with other clergy and hierarchs) was hanged as a traitor on the gate of the patriarchal compound. An eyewitness, a British clergyman visiting Constantinople, wrote: ‘His body, attenuated by abstinence and emaciated by age, had not sufficient weight to cause immediate death. He continued for a long time in pain which no friendly hand dared abridge, and the darkness of night came on before his final convulsions were over.’ His body was left hanging for three days, then sold by the Turkish authorities to a Jewish mob, who mutilated the body, then weighted it about the neck with a stone and threw it into the sea. Despite this, the body was found floating at sea by a Greek merchant ship captain. When the body was identified as that of the martyred Patriarch, it was secretly taken to Odessa, where Orthodox church leaders took it under their care. Tsar Alexander I ordered a state funeral for the holy hierarch, which was celebrated on June 17 1821 in Odessa.
In 1871 the relics were returned to Greece by Tsar Alexander III. They were incorrupt, though fifty years had passed since his death. Saint Gregory was officially glorified in 1921. His relics may be venerated at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Athens.