The Holy New Martyr
John the Bulgarian
Saint John was born in Bulgaria in about 1775, in the days of the Turkish occupation. †The fanatic Moslem Turks followed the belief that by forcing Christians to renounce Christ and accept Mohammed, the prostelytizer would be assured of the so-called paradise of profane defilement which the demonic cult of Islam offered to its adherents. †The Turks, being by nature an exceedingly cruel race, and considering the deluding of a Christian toe easiest and surest way to obtain the Moslem paradise, would stop at nothing in forcing Christians to apostatize. †No form of flattery or beast-like torture was omitted in these efforts.
When John was still a very young boy, he fell into the company of Hagarene (Moslem) youths and, by various means of treachery, he was led to renounce our Saviour and follow after the false prophet, Mohammed. †When he was about 16, by God’s Grace, John came to his senses and, being overwhelmed with grief at having renounced Christ, the youth fled to the Holy Mountain, to the Lavra of Athanasius. †Here John gave himself up to repentance, submitting himself to a starets. †For three years he lived as a novice in extraordinary strictness. †But his conscience would give him no rest and he was continually grieved. †Finally, he could no longer endure the reproaches of his own conscience and, having obtained the blessing of his elder, John set out for Constantinople to witness for Christ.
The young monk arrived in the great city dressed as a Turk, in the attire forbidden to all Christians and reserved by the strictest law for Moslems. †The youth went directly to the Mosque of Sofia. †Here, in the full view of all, he began to chant Christian prayers and make the sign of the cross upon himself. †The Turks became agitated and demanded to know what was taking place. †Then John confessed to all in a loud and clear voice that he had been a Christian and had fallen into apostasy, even renouncing the Saviour. †But he firmly declared tat he had now been delivered from the abominable error of Mohammed by the Merciful Lord and that he renounced the cult of demons. †Having said this, the servant of God continued his prayers.
The moslems flew into an unspeakable rage at this and seized the youth. †They began to inflict every manner of torment upon him. †He was beaten and kicked, thrown down the stairs, spat on and cursed. †Finally, the Moslems commanded him, Renounce this Christ of yours and return to the faith of the prophet Mohammed, or you will be killed! †John only gazed at them firmly and replied, Without Christ Jesus, there is no salvation!
The Moslems lost all patience, flew into an indescribable frenzy and dragged the glorious confessor out into the courtyard to behead him.
St. John of Bulgaria thus received the crown of Martyrdom in his nineteenth year, in 1784.
Taken from Orthodox Life, Vol. 22, No. 5, September-October, 1972, pg. 10-12, published by Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, New York.
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