The Life of the Holy New
VENERABLE MARTYR LUKE,
Who was in Martyrdom Perfected by Hanging
in Mytilene in the Year 1802
Whose Memory the Holy Church keeps on March 23rd
By execution the holy Luke becometh
A companion of the choir of the martyrs.
Luke, the venerable martyr of Christ, was born of Christian parents, Athanasius and Domnitsa by name, in Adrianopolis, in the parish of St. Nicholas. When Luke was only six years of age, his father died, and he was consequently reared by his mother in extreme poverty amid many privations, for which cause she was constrained to give the boy over to a certain merchant from Zagora so that he might raise him, and also, after a time, employ him in his trade. This trustworthy merchant took the young boy into his home and treated him not as a hireling, but rather as his own son, thereby taking the place of his departed father.
One day, Luke’s benefactor set out for Russia on business and took the boy along with him. On the return trip, little suspecting what deep grief awaited the unfortunate boy there, they stopped in Constantinople where the merchant had a shop. It so happened that one day as Luke stepped outside the house where he and his benefactor were staying, he fell into a quarrel with a Turkish lad, whom also he began to beat. When the Turks present there saw this, they rushed upon Luke like savage beasts, wishing to tear him to pieces, and, seizing him in their anger, they would have killed him. Luke, then but a boy of thirteen, became terrified at their violence, and seeing no means of escape from the hands of the Turkish boy’s defenders, was confounded and cried out: “Let me go, and I shall become a Moslem!” These words quelled the vehemence of the Moslems and quenched their anger. Then a certain Turk of great renown took the boy from that hour and with great joy brought him to his accursed house where – O vileness! - he ordered him to renounce Christ and His holy Faith, and to confess that religion of the antichrist. Whereupon Luke, without taking into account the consequences of such a denial, and terrified by the ferocity of the Turks, in his childish thoughtlessness renounced Christ, the Source of life and the Creator of Heaven and earth, in order that they might not torture and kill him. But after he had become somewhat calmer and his thoughts had become more settled, Luke perceived the nature of the abyss into which he had cast himself by exchanging light for darkness, and his soul was pained and his heart melted with tears of bitterness. In place of his wonted joy and gladness, listlessness and melancholy overcame him, and he repented bitterly of what he had done.
In spite of the great favor and love which that impious Turk showed him, and the pleasures and comforts which he promised him, not to mention his offers of luxurious clothing, money, and glory, the blessed youth, although a boy of thirteen, was not deceived by the vanity of this world, but rather acted as if he had already attained to a more mature state of mind; and, disdaining all these things, he regarded with contempt every promise and endearment of that slave of Mohammed, declining even to listen to him.
To the unhappy boy’s complete dismay, his liberty was curtailed, and he was not permitted to leave the house, for the Moslems feared lest he should elude their clutches. However, inasmuch as the boy had renounced the Christian Faith in his childish ignorance and from fear, and furthermore, seeing that he regretted his denial bitterly, God, in His Providence, arranged the means whereby Luke might leave that house, which had become to him loathsome and abominable. Awaiting an opportune moment, he sent word to the merchant, his benefactor, and besought him to release him from the bondage which he had brought upon himself, and to act as quickly as possible, inasmuch as the vile rite of circumcision had not as yet been performed on him. As soon as the merchant received word from the boy, he ran straightway with eagerness and zeal to the head of the garrison of the Russian embassy and related to him his case, entreated him fervently to rescue this imperiled soul by whatever means he could. The Russian official listened to the merchant’s plea, and straightway dispatched one of his own men to ask the Moslem dignitary for the boy and to demand that Luke be turned over to his guardian. But the agha sent a letter in reply, saying: “Since no one has compelled Luke to renounce the Christian Faith and to accept Islam, and inasmuch as he came to my house of his own accord, peacefully and without coercion, no one has the right to demand his return.”
When the messenger saw the agha’s unwillingness to release the boy, he departed. In the meantime, that accursed one, fearing lest they come demanding the boy’s release a second time, straightway bound his hands, and without the boy’s consent, circumcised him by force. When the Russian official learned of this, he said to the merchant: “Since events have taken this turn, there will be nothing but profitless agitation and trouble; therefore, find some means whereby to send word to the boy that he seek an opportunity to flee from that place, and when he departs, to come here.” Thereupon, on that very day, the merchant sent word to Luke to escape from that house wherein with his childish lips he had pronounced those terrible words whereby he denied Christ, the Bestower of life. A few days thereafter, when the opportunity arose, he fled and went to Galata. There he appeared before the Russian consul who ordered him to remove his Turkish clothing and to dress as a Christian. That very day, he sent him to Smyrna, and from there he fled to Theira, where he remained for a short time unrecognized. But in that place he fell ill, and also suffered from pain in his eyes. As his malady grew more serious with each passing day, it brought him to the threshold of death. Hence, he repented bitterly, fearing lest dread death overtake him before he could be chrismated. Therefore, he sought those with him to summon a confessor, to whom he might disclose all that had come to pass.
Enlightened of God, the spiritual father first comforted Luke as regards his denial, and advised him not to give himself over to despair, but rather to place his hope on God, Who foresees all things and Who cares for our salvation, and Who would effect salvation even for him, by the judgments known to Himself. Then, in a paternal manner, he counseled the boy, telling him that it was not advisable for him to be wandering about among the Turks, in view of what had happened to him, lest by some means they should discover his secret; but rather he should flee from these imminent perils and betake himself to the Holy Mountain. There, in that peaceful and calm haven, among men of experience who excelled in the virtues, he could take diligent care for his salvation. Luke accepted the confessor’s wise counsel with joy, and after a few days, when his health had returned and the pain in his eyes had abated, he set out for that haven of salvation, Athos, the Holy Mountain.
There he went first to the Great Lavra of the holy Athanasius and served for a short time as attendant in the reception chamber. Some time later, he departed from there and went to the Monastery of Iviron. There he related to the elders of the monastery that, in ignorance and out of fear, he had denied Christ and had become a Moslem and had been forcibly circumcised, and that he had yet to be chrismated. On hearing this they sent him to the Skete of the Forerunner, to a father confessor who read over him the prayers for catechumens and chrismated him, according to the order of the Church. And so Luke, by receiving the seal of the Holy Spirit, was received anew into the bosom of the Orthodox Church.
After remaining a short time in the Monastery of Iviron, he departed for the Monastery of Stavronikita where he stayed with one of the elders of the monastery who also tonsured him and clothed him in the monastic garb, and who read over him the prayer of the rassophore tonsure. However, Luke left from there in a short time and set out for the Monastery of Zographou. He did not, however, spend much time in this monastery either, for the common enemy of man’s salvation would not leave him in peace, but wherever he went, he was assailed by the evil one with diverse temptations which would not allow him to find peace, as was his fervent desire. In His Providence, however, God allowed Luke to be tempted by Satan, foreseeing the outcome of the temptations. So much did his temptations increase that, unable to endure the attacks of the enemy any longer, he left the Holy Mountain and returned to the world with the intent of becoming a lamplighter in some church.
It was not God’s good pleasure, however, that his intent be fulfilled, inasmuch as He had foreordained him for another course. Therefore, neither in Cydonia, nor Moschonisia, nor Mytilene, nor wherever he went, was he able to find a place and shelter wherein to remain. Therefore, he went to Smyrna, but no one would receive him for fear of the plague which was raging there. Losing hope, therefore, because of his failure to find a place to settle, and furthermore, overcome by excessive fear of the deadly plague in Smyrna, Luke returned again to the Holy Mountain, at which time he went straightway to the Monastery of Xeropotamou, where he remained for a short time with a monk who was a compatriot of his. Then he left and set out for the Monastery of Koutloumousiou; from there, he returned again to the Skete of the Honorable Forerunner, to the confessor who had chrismated him in the beginning. After he had confessed to him his thoughts and in confidence related to him his temptations, the confessor diligently sought to have Luke settled in some skete where he might abide in silence, since he was yet beardless and, according to its particular rule, could by no means be received into his own skete. He sent him, therefore, to the Monastery of Grigoriou, where a certain brother there gave him hospitality, and wherein also he, at last, obtained that which he desired. By the intercessions of this father confessor, he was received there as a cell-attendant to the acting superior, the pro-hegoumenos, and Luke was very pleased. Afterwards, he was appointed to work in the church, which was a source of much consolation and spiritual rest for him. The hater of good did not rest, however, but brought new temptations upon Luke. Therefore, he left, or rather, was driven out of Grigoriou, even though the blessed one had entreated them with tears not to cast him out without good cause.
We related above that the enemy of his salvation, that is the devil, brought up against him many and diverse temptations, which for the sake of brevity, we do not record; moreover, God, Who foreknows the future, again allowed His servant to be thus troubled. Let us behold now the outcome and spiritual profit which were gained by these temptations.
When the good Luke had been driven out of the Monastery of Grigoriou, he was greatly saddened. While in doubt as to where he should go, and as he pondered this matter, a divine thought entered his mind: “What could it mean,” said he to himself, “that I am tormented everywhere? The Holy Mountain is the haven of salvation for men, and the multitude of monks here lead a life of quietude, and everyone enjoys a peaceful and tranquil existence. I alone am unable to stay in one place, but move from one monastery to another, and nowhere do I find inner peace. There can be no other reason for this, save that I have upon me the vile seal of the devil, that of circumcision. And so, for my own peace of mind, I must confess Christ with boldness in order to cast away from myself the devil’s seal, to wash away the sin of my denial by the flow of my blood. This will give me rest, and this will be my salvation, that, having spilled my blood for Christ, my Redeemer, I might thus reconcile myself to Him.”
Reasoning thus, and having carefully examined the matter as he prayed in a certain church, he betook himself to his elder to reveal to him these thoughts. On hearing them, the latter greatly sought to dissuade him, since he feared the uncertainty of the outcome. “Do not cast yourself into this danger, my child,” the elder said to him, “and if the others do not want you in the monastery, I am willing to depart with you, and we shall be inseparable for all our life, or, if you so wish, let us take a journey somewhere.” Yet, although his elder said these and many other things to him, nonetheless, he was unable to persuade him to abandon his purpose.
And so Luke departed and set out for the Skete of St. Anne, where he found a certain priest, Father Vissarion, whom he knew. The latter received him with all kindness and love as an affectionate father, and Luke related in detail the reason for which they had driven him out of Grigoriou, as well as the humble entreaty he made to them that they not cast him out. He told also how they would not even receive his plea and were unwilling to show even a trace of benevolence towards him, especially the prior, and this, in spite of the fact that he had related to him all which had come to pass concerning himself. “But do you know my state, venerable father?” said Luke to Father Vissarion. “No,” replied the priest. “Know therefore,” said Luke, “that I am a miserable convert to Islam.” Continuing his speech, he revealed the reason for his denial, as well as his resolve to suffer martyrdom.
Upon hearing these things, the priest-monk said to him: “Your intention, my child, is good; however, your circumstances do not aid you in putting it into effect, for you are very young and fair, and the Turks are most wicked, as we have come to know them. Therefore, I fear lest they not put you to death at so young an age, and you fall into another temptation perhaps. Live a life of quiet here, therefore, for repentance is able to save you. My advice is this: Remain here in our skete in silence; and even without martyrdom, the Lord, seeing your repentance, will forgive your renunciation of Him, which was done in childish ignorance. After your beard grows, I shall send you to a brother here in the skete, where, by leading our life in a manner pleasing to God, you will be saved.”
When Father Vissarion had finished saying these things, the blessed Luke related to him from the beginning the temptations which he had undergone on the Holy Mountain. On hearing of Luke’s sufferings, Father Vissarion felt great anguish and was pierced to the heart. Whereupon, he consoled him, lovingly indicating to him the profit which, by the grace of God, comes from temptations. As regards martyrdom, however, he would not advise him. Then the martyr said to him: “There is no means, Father, whereby I might stay on further. May God be my helper! I only entreat you to send me to a confessor so that I may make my confession and he may give me counsel concerning my salvation.” On this account, he sent him to the confessor, Father Ananias, to whom Luke revealed his thoughts with much compunction and many tears. Then the confessor praised his decision and resolve, but also presented to him all the possible hindrances and the many varied torments of the tyrants. But, undaunted, the martyr replied: “I shall bear them all, venerable Father, by the grace of Jesus Christ.” Then the confessor said to him, “It is needful that you first be tried and be prepared well by fasting and prostrations, with prayers and spiritual reading.” “Let me be put to the test!” Luke answered with joy. “Let me be put to the test!” Then the priest Ananias asked him, “Do you know anyone here in the skete?” “I know Father Vissarion,” Luke replied. “Go, therefore, and if he receives thee, tell him to come hither that I also may speak with him,” said Father Ananias. Then Luke set out for Father Vissarion, telling him of the confessor’s decision, and entreating him with many tears to receive him, propounding to him also the recompense which he would thereby receive from God. “I accept thee,” Father Vissarion answered him, “but first, let me ask the opinion of my synodia that they not be offended, since thou art yet beardless. Further, I want thee to bring me written consent from thine elder, lest he also become offended.” When these things had been accomplished, Father Vissarion went to Father Ananias to speak with him concerning the youth’s correction. Thus, they found it reasonable that he should be tried with many labors and extensive fasting. Therefore, they established Luke’s rule to be the following: eight hundred prostrations each day, many prayers, and his food was to be bread and water taken only once a day. Luke received the prescribed rule with joy and, struggling according to its precepts, he was well prepared to suffer for Christ, as he ceaselessly kept our Lord’s death in remembrance. But the hater of good was so much stirred up against the boy and raged against him with such vehemence, that, out of malice, he disturbed the peace of that holy synodia. And had God not been pleased to shorten his course to martyrdom, no means would have been found for him to remain there until the fifty days were fulfilled. But He Who desires all men to be saved provided that a certain Nicholas, who had chartered small boat at that time in order to ship goods from the Holy Mountain to Smyrna, and who, moreover, was a trusted friend of Father Vissarion, was ready to set sail. Now, at any other time, such a man would not have been found, nor was there another boat in those parts. Thus, following the will of God, they did not tarry to complete the fifty days, but after thirty-two days of trial they decided to send the young Luke with Nicholas.
Father Vissarion summoned him, and disclosed the situation to him, that is to say, that this good Christian showed himself very zealous to take the boy and leave him at Mytilene and then go on to Smyrna. But Luke desired greatly to go to Mytilene, because he knew of the martyr-loving disposition of the Mytileneans from the account of the martyrdom of the new-martyr Theodore. For there it is recorded that the Christians had a man brought into the prison in order to console the martyr, and that they sent him the Communion of the Immaculate Mysteries, that, thus fortified, he might tread his longed-for path of martyrdom. Therefore with tears Luke besought and entreated Father Vissarion to clothe him in the great and angelic habit of the monks, and also, if it were possible, to accompany him for his consolation, thereby emulating the divine Theodore who had taken along a man from Chios as a fellow-traveler and helper.
When the confessor Ananias learned of these things, he said to Father Vissarion: “If my legs were strong, I myself would accompany him, but since I have this disability, thy holiness may go help our brother, and thus wilt thou become a martyr by volition.” Thereupon the confessor tonsured him to the great schema, and Father Vissarion made a prostration before the elder and promised to be Luke’s companion. And, going to his spiritual father and being strengthened by him, he received his blessing. Then he went with Luke to bid farewell to the father confessor, Father Ananias, who, taking the youth by the hairs of his head, said these awesome words to Father Vissarion: “Behold, I surrender him into thy hands to care for him well unto death;” and giving them his blessing, he sent them on their way in peace.
They then came also into the presence of the saintly retired bishop of Lacedemonia, and received his blessing. Departing thence, they came to the Monastery of Xeropotamou on the feast of the Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebastia where, finding the aforementioned Nicholas, they embarked on a sailing vessel on the tenth of March; on the thirteenth of the same month, they reached Tenedos. Upon seeing Turks there, the blessed Luke, out of the great longing he had for completing the contest of martyrdom quickly, said to Father Vissarion: “Behold, Father, there are Turks here! What doth hinder me from being martyred? Let me finish my contest here.” O what a God-loving disposition! O what ardent love for Christ! “Behold, Turks,” he says, “what doth hinder me from receiving that death I long for?” Another eunuch of Candace does Luke show himself to be! “See, here is water,” said that one, “what doth hinder me from being baptised?” [Acts 8:36]. That very longing which the latter had to be baptised in the water (which is a thing both light and easy) did the young Luke possess in his desire to be baptised in his blood, which is a thing most grave, and the most difficult of all.
Such, therefore, was Luke’s desire. However, it did not seem advisable to Father Vissarion that he be martyred there, because, on the one hand, there were at that time a great number of fierce warriors there, and, on the other, lest they do something contrary to the decision of the Skete’s elders. After two days, they departed and came to Moschonisia, to a certain blessed Christian, the pilgrim Andrew, who, as a man of God, received them and took very good care of them. After leaving there, they went to Mytilene with Nicholas and proceeded to a village called Pamphyla, which was an hour’s distance from the Fortress.
As soon as they disembarked, Luke made a prostration to the sailors and said to them thrice, “Forgive me, brethren, and may God forgive you.” Then he fell on the ground, and with much humility kissed the feet of Vissarion the priest-monk, and holding them for a long time, he kissed them tenderly with tears, saying: “O holy feet which have suffered such pangs for the sake of me, a sinner! May God reward thy labors, venerable Father, who for love of me forsook thy quiet and thy synodia. May Christ grant thee the recompense which thou deservest in His Kingdom.” Then he continued: “Holy elder, I had thought that as soon as we arrived, I would become fainthearted; but, blessed be God, just the contrary hath come to pass. For as soon as I trod on the land of Mytilene, my soul was filled with such great joy and gladness that I am urged on thereby and am set athirst with desire for the time in which I shall enter the longed-for arena of martyrdom.” Father Vissarion admonished him not to be afraid, but rather to put all his trust in God, and not to trust in his own strength alone. In addition, he asked Luke that when, with the help of God, he should complete the good course of martyrdom, he would also pray for his own salvation.
After this, they began walking towards a village which was about a quarter of an hour’s distance from the shore. On the way, they met a couple and asked them if there were Turks in that village. On learning from them that there were not, they came rejoicing, and straightway went to the church. The assistant parish priest, Father Gregory, also came. When he asked them whence they had come and what they were seeking, they answered him: “The Holy Mountain, Athos.” In the meantime, the parish priest, Father Parthenius, arrived from the countryside, and greeted them with much joy. When he learned that they were from the Holy Mountain, he asked them about it, since he had lived there aforetime, and he recalled everything about it with great love. Then Luke, on turning and seeing an icon of St. Barbara, said to his companion: “Behold how the Lord strengthened St. Barbara, and she bore witness to His love after enduring such bitter torments, even though she was a woman!” Upon hearing this, the parish priest, being moved by God, answered: “Not only of old did the Lord marvellously give strength to the martyrs, but even now in our own days. Only a few years have passed since the holy Theodore was martyred here.” Then he began to relate to them the whole martyrdom of this saint Theodore with such emotion and fervor, that the three were moved to compunction, and glorified God with tears of joy.
After this, the priest departed whilst the others remained there in order to recite vespers. Then Luke said: “Holy elder, dost thou see how it is the will of the Lord for me to bear witness? We have found a church of St. Barbara, who is a martyr. The priest told us the martyrdom of St. Theodore, whereat my heart became so enkindled, I cannot forbear any longer. These two things, therefore, are good signs in favor of our purpose. Only let us partake of the Holy Mysteries and be on our way without delay.”
On the following day, that is to say, on Thursday, at the request of the fathers, the parish priests chanted the service of Holy Unction with a supplicatory canon. They passed that night without sleep, saying their prayer-ropes in the cell of the priest Parthenius, in order to prepare for Holy Communion. Then, with much compunction and many tears, Luke made a thorough confession, relating whatever things wherein, as a man, he had sinned. He entreated the confessor to make the sign of the Cross over him with the holy lance. His eyes seemed to be an endless well-spring of tears, and, weeping thus, he said: “Dost thou not pity me, mine elder?” “What dost thou desire of me? What doest thou seek of me?” asked the elder. “The enemy hath brought me many thoughts,” Luke answered, “which, like terrible waves, trouble my mind; one thought saith to me: ‘Dost thou not pity thy youth that thou wastest thy life for a vain hope?’; whilst the other insisteth that ‘all these things which they tell thee are lies, and there are neither martyrs, nor a resurrection, nor judgment, nor recompense.’” And after he had said these things, he fell at the elder’s feet and entreated him to read whatever God might enlighten him for the banishing of such blasphemous thoughts. Therefore, he read over him the exorcisms of St. Basil the Great, those of the divine Chrysostom, and other prayers as well. Then the time arrived for the Presanctified Liturgy and the hour in which they were about to partake of the Immaculate Mysteries, whereupon Luke, as was the custom, made a prostration to the Christians to receive their forgiveness, and everyone saw a wondrous thing which they had never seen in any man: the ground was covered with his tears.
After the Communion of the Divine Mysteries and the dismissal, Father Vissarion asked him, “How farest thou, my son, as regardeth thy thoughts?” “I am well,” he replied, “God be praised! Straightway after the Divine Communion, all those evil thoughts were dispelled and vanished, and now my mind is at rest. Only let us go about our task the more quickly.” Then the two went to the cell of the priest, where Luke asked to partake of a little bread so that they might be on their way. He also asked to drink a little wine; for he was exceedingly exhausted not only from fasting and from the ascetic labors, but also parched from the ceaseless flow of his tears. However, his primary purpose was not to drink in order to be strengthened thereby, but rather he was meditating on the saving Passion of Christ, which he too was about to receive willingly. Therefore, the blessed one wished to do that which also Jesus Christ did with His disciples, when He took the cup into His hands. For when Father Parthenius took the wine to the table Luke received the cup in his right hand and asked the other two fathers: “How did Christ speak to His disciples at the Mystical Supper?” Then they recalled the Savior’s words for him: “I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until I drink it anew in the Kingdom of God.” Let each one know from this, therefore, with what longing, or rather, with what divine thoughts, he ate that bread and drank the wine.
Immediately after dinner, behold the priest Gregory came and said: “Have ye heard what hath taken place at the Fortress?” “Nay,” they replied, “tell us what happened.” “Koutsoumeli, together with his mother and three sisters, eight souls in all, went off somewhere, but no one knoweth whither they went.” Upon asking further, Luke learned that these refugees were Turks which had fled and become Christians. Wherefore, he rejoiced exceedingly and glorified God, and his excessive joy urged him on the more quickly to his death for Christ. He arose straightway, took off his monastic garments in order to dress in the secular clothing with which he was going to present himself. First, next to his flesh, he put on his monastic cassock, then Father Parthenius dressed him in a shroud from the Holy Land, and made the sign of the Cross on his forehead with oil from the Holy Sepulchre, and, in the hairs of his head, he fastened a piece of the blood-stained shirt of the holy new-martyr Theodore, and then dressed him in the other clothes. After this, the three went together to the church of St. Barbara the Victorious, where with compunction and many tears they chanted the supplicatory canon to the martyr, entreating her divine help and assistance. Then they kissed one another, but the blessed Luke, not being content with a kiss on the face alone, fell to the ground and with tears kissed the feet of the priests, as well as those of the elder, Father Vissarion, saying to him: “I thank thee, father, for all the labors which thou hast undertaken for me.” Then to Father Parthenius he said: “I thank thee for the love which thou hast shown us and for all with which thou hast comforted and sustained me in my present contest.”
The athlete of Christ said these things to the priests in his humility, and they also spoke to him in turn. Oh, who could hear their words or see the fountains of their tears and not be moved, nor have his own eyes become two fountains flowing with tears! “Stop, child!” they said to him. “Cease, brother! What art thou saying? We sinners should love thee, for thou hast loved Christ greatly and art offering thy whole self as a sacrifice to Him. Seek not forgiveness of us, therefore, but rather forgive us, who are sinners!” “Nay, brethren,” replied Luke, “I am a sinner, and I seek forgiveness.”
At that very moment, the other priest, Father Gregory arrived, and the four of them set out for the Fortress and also made their way to a church dedicated to the All-holy Mother of God, named “Levkolemi.” On being left alone there, Father Vissarion went with Luke to the church where they chanted a supplicatory canon. They then set out again on the road to the Fortress, the martyr going about a mile ahead of Father Vissarion, who followed behind. After they had gone some distance of the way, the heart of the martyr was pained to be separated from the elder, for the blessed ones had parted with much pain, contrition and tears. Therefore, he sat down and awaited him. It so happened, however, that a Turk met Father Vissarion on the way, and the two were walking together. When they reached Luke, the elder, supposing that he had sat down out of some necessity, said nothing to him, in view of the curiosity of the Hagarene, but rather passed him by. After Father Vissarion had gone a little distance, Luke cried out to him: “Elder, stop!” From this the Hagarene understood that they were companions. When the martyr reached him, he said to him: “Let us go into that fenced-off place to exchange the last kiss in Christ, and thus part from one another.”
Then the elder again strengthened his disciple with such words as were necessary, and thus they parted. When the martyr had gone a short distance, he turned again and said to the elder: “Elder, write to my mother in order to console her, that she will not grieve exceedingly for me, and make a prostration on my behalf to my spiritual father, to the bishop, and to all the brethren.” Having said this, he set off and went on his way. Father Vissarion remained an hour’s distance behind until the martyr appeared at the court of judgment, and then, when he had come into the town, he asked where the metochion1 of Dionysiou was located.
Then, the martyr came running full speed, and in order not to arouse suspicion among the people there present, he said to the elder with gravity: “Abba, from whence hailest thou?” Whereupon the Abba replied: “From the Holy Mountain.” “And hast thou been many days in travelling?” Then Father Vissarion answered: “Three.” “I should like to speak with thee,” the martyr said to him. Going then into an out of the way place, he said to him with contrition of heart: “Elder, the fire of Christ is not ignited within me. What is this thing? What could be the cause?” Straightway the elder asked him: “What didst thou do? In what manner didst thou begin the contest?” “I went,” he said, “to Nazir Agha and said to him: ‘I bought a gold seal, which proved to be copper when I tested it. Please give me a written order so that I can go to court with the man who cheated me.’ Then he said to me: ‘Bring the man here so that thou canst have thy case.’ ‘He refuseth to come,’ I answered. Then he said to me: ‘Take a bailiff to bring him.’ Whereupon I said to him, ‘I do not want to be judged here, but at the judge’s.’ Then he became angry and took his tobacco pipe to hit me, and I fled without saying another word to him.” On hearing these things, the elder said to him: “Ah! Thou didst not handle the matter well. Nazir Agha is not the one who giveth the writ, the one they call ‘sacred inquisitor’ is the one who doth give it.” With that, Luke sorrowed greatly and said: “And now, father, what dost thou counsel me to do?” “Thou must do that which the Lord doth enlighten thee to do,” the former answered him. “Let thy holiness also give me a word,” the martyr said to him again. “Doth it seem good to thee that we try again in a little while, perhaps, I will not be able to endure until the end.”
These last words entered the elder’s heart like a two-edged sword, for it appeared to him to be a sign of timidity. Whereupon, being greatly worried, he knew not what to decide. But, enlightened by God, he said to him. “When that hour is come, then Christ Who standeth now above thy head, will enlighten thee in some way, and whatever He saith noetically, that do.” These words seemed strange to the martyr, but also very decisive. Then he asked the elder: “Dost thou, then, see Christ standing above my head?” “I see Him,” Father Vissarion answered, “standing above thee, and with Him all the hosts of holy angels, the choir of the apostles, and the innumerable company of the holy martyrs; all of these are waiting for thee to make the beginning, and they will grant the end.” And the martyr made zealous by these words, said: “Since Christ is with me and aiding me, then I too am ready. Why do we waste time? Bless me, and make the sign of the Cross upon me.” And kissing the elder, Luke departed immediately from before his eyes and straightway went up to the courthouse.
At that time, Nazir Agha’s bailiffs were also present there, and the martyr said to one of them: “Brother, I perceive that thou art a Christian.” “Yea,” he said to him, “I am a Christian.” Whereupon the other bailiffs retorted: “Lies, he isn’t a Christian.” “I recognize him,” said the martyr, “from the nature of his face.” (For the priest of the village, Father Parthenius, had told Luke the distinguishing characteristics and the name of this Christian bailiff.) “My brother,” he said to him, “give me a little water.” And taking the water, he sat down and drank; and giving thanks to God, he said to the bailiff: “God grant thee recompense in the kingdom of Heaven.” Then straightway he appeared before the judge and said to him with a great voice: “Tell me, O judge, doth the law permit one to insult and ridicule a youth, such as myself, for example?” “Who is the one who mocked thee?” the cadi2 asked him. “A certain Moslem hath mocked and highly insulted me, placing a false seal upon me,” the holy martyr replied boldly, meaning thereby the circumcision of his flesh. But the judge, not understanding the type of seal in question, asked to see that seal. Then, without any hesitation, the martyr, who considered shame for Christ’s sake to be glory and dishonor to be honor, immediately began to open his garment, as if to display the seal which they were waiting to see. But when they understood what he was doing, they were ashamed, and cried out: “What art thou trying to do? Stop! Stop! Do not dare to uncover thy body!”
Then the martyr turned to them and said: “When I was yet but a boy of thirteen, out of fear of losing my life, I accepted your faith, not understanding the misfortune of exchanging Truth for a lie, and Light for darkness. I did all this out of fear, I tell you, since at that time my life was in danger. But when I grew older, I realized that your faith was false and contrary to God, and that the one you call a prophet is not a prophet, but a charlatan. And so now, before you here, I fearlessly renounce your faith and confess my former Christian faith, which is light, the true way, and life eternal. And I also believe in and worship our Lord Jesus Christ as true God, in Whom, if you do not believe even as I, you will be damned for eternity and will be tormented in everlasting flames with your Mohammed.”
“Whence comest thou?” asked the judge.
“I am from this place,” the holy martyr answered.
“Where hast thou been hitherto?”
“Why didst thou not remain there, but have rather come here to insult the judges and to utter all these rude things?”
“Because,” the holy martyr of Christ replied calmly, “our holy books command us that whenever one has renounced the Faith, in that very place must he again profess it.”
“By what means didst thou come?”
“On a Russian ship.”
“And where didst thou stay?”
“Nowhere. I came straight here.”
The judge, suspecting that he was not in his right mind, turned to the other officials in attendance and said: “This young man is confused. Put him to the test. See whether he can recognize his own shoes or not.”3 Overhearing these words, the holy martyr immediately went out and, picking up his shoes, brought them to the judge and said: “In vain dost thou consider me insane. Here are the shoes which I purchased for myself in Constantinople. Therefore, whatever you are going to do to me, do it one hour sooner and without delay, for I am a Christian, and a Christian shall I die. My Christ do I worship, my Christ do I long for; here where I rashly denied Him, here again do I confess Him now and with clarity of mind I proclaim him!”
The Hagarenes then promised him many costly gifts in order to dissuade him, and they threatened him with fearful threats so as to terrify him, but the martyr remained as firm as adamant, and in no way altered his resolve. This conversation between the tyrants and the martyr is not merely our own conjecture, but true and actual, inasmuch as that Christian whom we mentioned above, whose name was John, who also consoled the holy one in prison and gave him water to drink, was present, and with great attention listened to all that was being said.
Then the judge and those with him, seeing the steadfastness of the martyr’s purpose, ordered him to be bound and led to the house of Nazir Agha. But the martyr refused this, saying: “Why should ye bind me? I came of my own accord, without your seeking me; and are ye now perhaps afraid that I shall run away? I shall go wherever ye desire, voluntarily.” After hearing these words of the martyr, they did not bind him, but one of his escorts only held him, while the others followed. As they were walking along the street, the martyr sought the forgiveness of the Christians whom he met, and he himself likewise granted them his forgiveness. Longing to see him, his brother and fellow-traveller waited near Nazir Agha’s house. When the martyr saw him, he let out a great and deep sigh, but he was not allowed to converse with him. The former, seeing the martyr’s countenance, marveled exceedingly, for it shone in a wondrous and extraordinary manner. God revealed this to Father Vissarion, perhaps in order to calm his troubled thoughts regarding the uncertain end of the martyr.
At the same time, as they were bringing the martyr up to the house, the Metropolitan of Mytilene was coming down with a company of certain priests and with the village elders, whom Nazir had called there on account of that Turkish family which had fled. The martyr then humbly bowed his head and said to the hierarch: “Make entreaty for me, a sinner, unto the Lord.” When his accursed escorts saw and heard this, they all fell upon him like wild beasts, and striking him on the head and face and wherever else they could, pushing and pulling him, they brought him to the antechamber where they ordered him to remain on his knees. The martyr remained there, rejoicing and glad, till that time when the Agha asked for him. The Metropolitan and the village elders felt much sorrow and fear as they conversed among themselves and said: “One fire hath been lit upon another. May God show His mercy upon us!” But for all their fears, that blessed hierarch did not forego his obligation, but straightway sent letters to the parish churches, exhorting and entreating them to chant supplicatory canons to the Theotokos with the words: “Most holy Theotokos, help thy servant!” The same was done in the villages, and almost the entire island took similar concern in making entreaty for the martyr, for news of him had reached all parts.
And although everyone else feared greatly, the Lord’s soldier showed himself completely without fear and stood before Nazir with all courage. Since the latter had learnt what the martyr had said to the judge, as well as the reply of the judge to the martyr, he did not ask him concerning these things, but began the conversation in this wise: “Thou dist come first of all to ask for a writ from me; now then, what are these things that I hear concerning thee? Come to thy senses, my boy, come to the faith, if thou dost want me to honor thee and offer thee whatever thou dost like or should desire. And if thou obey me, I shall have thee as mine own son. Know, however, that if thou disobey, I shall inflict many harsh punishments upon thee.” Without any fear or timidity, the martyr replied to this: “And be it known to thee also that whatever evils thou do to me, be they ten thousand or tens of thousands of torments, it is not possible for thee to separate me from my sweetest Jesus Christ, the true God.”
At that hour, a summons came for Nazir to go to the courthouse, where a newly-arrived royal decree was to be read, and they were to bring the martyr to examine him where a multitude of Hagarenes were gathered together from three towns of the island, that is, from Kallone, from Molyvolos, and from the Fortress. When this was done, the martyr again appeared before all that multitude for the third examination. They examined him for more than two hours, with flatteries, promises, and threats, but without torments, but he, as one worthy of wonder, fearlessly, and with valor and courage answered them all in extraordinary manner. And so wisely and marvelously did he discourse concerning our Faith, and so clearly and fearlessly did he censure the falsehood of the perverse religion of the Hagarenes, that they, his enemies, wondered where and when a young lad had learned such wisdom; for the mindless ones were ignorant of the promise of the Lord which says: “The Holy Spirit shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say” [Lk. 12:12], and also: “I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist” [Lk. 21:15]. Marvelling thus, since they were unable to confound him, they were astonished and vexed at his great boldness and fearlessness, and at the many harsh censures of their unholy religion, as well as at the insults he directed against their deceiver and false prophet.
Finally, being put to shame, and without anything further to do, they said to him: “We give thee three days; ponder it well. Either come to our faith, which once thou didst seek and accept as good, or thou shalt suffer many dreadful torments if thou dost remain obdurate.” Thus, taking hold of him, the attendants cast him into prison and put his feet in the stocks. When this had been done, the judge said to those present: “It is none other than the bishop and the elders which do these things; for they make Moslems Christians, and cause us such great dishonor.” Now on hearing these words, the Turk whom we mentioned above who had met the martyr and Father Vissarion on the way, spoke out, saying: “I know the monk who brought him here, and only a little while ago, I saw him at Nazir Agha’s gate. And if you like, I shall bring him hither.” This, certainly, was by the dispensation of God so that accusation might not be brought agains the Mytilenians and they all be persecuted fiercely, but that it might be revealed that a foreigner had brought him there.
At that moment, the blessed Father Vissarion was taking a walk near the area in order to learn what had taken place. Nicholas, who had brought them from the Holy Mountain, brought merchandise and was selling it near the house of Nazir Agha, so that he too might learn what was happening, and Father Vissarion then drew near with the pretence of inspecting Nicholas’ merchandise, and, taking courage, little by little he entered within the doors of the courthouse. The head of the prison saw him, however, and angrily gave him two slaps on the face, and, thrusting him away violently, cast him out. He was not about to be driven away, however, and would have been thankful to suffer many things, if only he might not be removed from that place until he had learned and seen the end of the martyr, for his heart trembled greatly, since he did not know what was about to pass.
Had Nicholas not heard what was said concerning Father Vissarion in the courthouse, and had the latter not been forcibly driven away, he would certainly have fallen into the hands of the Hagarenes which were seeking him then. The bishop sent John, Nazir’s guard, whom we have mentioned above several times, to the prison to ask the martyr if, perchance, he would wish to take Holy Communion. And he sent him paper and ink so that he could write down his name and country. The martyr answered: “I fall prostrate before the holy Master and beg him to take care to send me Holy Communion every day, beginning tomorrow, since today I took Communion in Pamphyla. And regarding those things which he requested that I write, he will learn them from the elder who is to be found at the metochion of Dionysiou.” Then he said to John: “Brother, if means could be found for some Christian to come here to the prison for my consolation, I would desire this.”
When the elders of the people heard this request, they set out to find a Christian willing to stay with the martyr in prison, and finding a man of Chios, Eustratius by name, they arranged that he be imprisoned on the trumped-up charge of his not having paid a tax. The martyr rejoiced exceedingly over this, but a short while later he became greatly grieved because one of the guards told Nazir: “I found out, my lord, that they did not imprison this man for delinquency in paying his taxes, but they cast him in to strengthen the boy in their faith.” Whereupon, Nazir straightway ordered that that Christian be released from prison. When the martyr learned the Hagarene’s order, he sighed, saying: “May divine judgement visit him.” And, O the wonder! Straightway his face became swollen as though from erysipelas, a great inflammation came upon him and it grew so bad that he himself perceived it, and in reflecting whence it had come, he was at a loss to understand the cause of his plight. Then the martyr said to John: “I desire no further consolation from men, for I have the Theotokos who doth comfort me.” Thus he remained in the dark prison, rejoicing and glorifying God.
After this incident, the Agha called for the martyr very often, and with flatteries and promises strove to shake his resolve; after this he resorted to threats. But the brave Luke showed himself as firm as adamant. He was, however, concerned for the elder, and entreated John, saying: “Go to his dwelling and console him; tell him to remain unshaken and not to fear. Only that he should entreat God to help him to the end.” But when John returned and told him that he did not find him, the martyr was grieved, thinking that he had departed. Nevertheless, before learning of his longed-for end, he sent John out a second time to search for the elder that he might find him perhaps. And after looking for a great length of time, John found the blessed one praying with bared head and with fervent tears. Upon learning this concerning the elder, the martyr rejoiced, and thanked John for the favor which he had done him.
Finally, after the period of three days was fulfilled, and the martyr had remained unshaken and firm, that Saturday, Nazir called the metropolitan and said to him: “We are going to hang this boy. If it seems good to thee, do what thou didst for the other one,” meaning the holy Theodore: for the local inhabitants had told him all that had then taken place, and he was familiar with it. “Take guards,” answered the bishop,” and for anyone that draweth nigh to the place of execution, let death be the penalty.” With these words, he quieted and calmed him. Then the bishop sent letters to be read in all the churches, and he proclaimed that no one should dare draw nigh to the holy relics, for by command of Nazir Agha the penalty would, without a doubt, be death.
On Sunday morning, Nazir said to the martyr: “The verdict hath been issued, it doth sentence thee to be hanged. But I take pity on thee, and thou wouldst do well to hear me. Consider carefully, for thou hast not much time.” Then the martyr said to him: “If thou dost pity me, as thou sayest, then send me an hour sooner to my Christ, that I may believe that thou dost indeed pity me and dost desire my well-being.” When Nazir Agha heard this, he relinquished all hope, and ordered that Luke be hanged.
Laying hold of him, therefore, the attendants and a great multitude of Hagarenes accompanied him to the place of execution. There the martyr asked to be allowed to go apart for a little, apparently for a bodily need, and they gave him over to John to guard him. No sooner had he parted from the crowd, when he did three great prostrations and twelve small ones, and entreated God for all the Christians, and especially for those who had labored in his behalf, thanking Christ for deeming him worthy of confessing His holy name before the impious. Then he said to John: “I am very sad, brother, because they did not torture me. I longed to suffer many things and afterwards to be burned; however, they did nothing.” Upon hearing these things, John marvelled and said to him: “Brother, be not grieved on this account, for as many as God doth will that they suffer, these suffer; is there anything harder than death?”
Then the martyr returned to his escorts and the blessed one walked to martyrdom with great eagerness. As he was hurrying along, he stepped on someone’s heel, whereupon that one said to him: “Art thou going to a wedding that thou dost run so? Or art thou going to some place in the countryside to celebrate?” Whereupon the martyr replied: “If thou knewest whither I go, and thither thou shalt go, thou wouldst have run and arrived there before me, but after death thou shalt see whither I am going and whither thou art going. For if thou remainest a Moslem until the end, O accursed one, thou shalt be condemned to the outer darkness of hell.” The Moslem made no reply to these things, but was silent. They were going to hang the martyr in the Turkish neighborhood, but the blessed John, who was always inseparable from him, convinced them to bring him to the Christian quarter that they might hang him there.
As soon as they arrived, they hung the rope so that the holy one might see it and become terrified. Then they put the noose over his neck, while the hangman mocked him and said to him: “Confess Mohammed, our great prophet, and we will release thee!” But the holy martyr replied: “I believe in my Lord Jesus Christ, and Him alone will I worship!” Then another officer said, mockingly: “Let thy Christ come down and deliver thee from our hands!” Whereupon the athlete of Christ said: “I do not wish Him to deliver me. I want to die here for His love.” After a short time, the hangman said to him: “Recant, for I am going to hang thee.” But the martyr replied: “My Christ alone do I worship, and it is in Him that I believe!” Finally they pulled the rope and hanged him, and, as he prayed, without any fear and without moving any of his members, he surrendered his holy soul into the hands of God in peace, and received from Him the crown of martyrdom, in the year of our Lord 1802, on the twenty-third day of March, on Sunday at the second hour of the day [8 a.m.].
His most sacred and divinely graced body hung for three days and three nights, and his eyes and mouth were closed so that he appeared to be sleeping rather than dead. His flesh was as white as a lily and suffered none of those things which corpses suffer. Neither flies, nor any other insects came or drew nigh the holy relics. But the most wondrous thing of all was the ineffable fragrance which came forth from that holy body. Upon hearing of this, the elder took off his Athonite rason and dressed in that of a parish priest so as not to be recognized. Then, passing by frequently, he smelled that spiritual fragrance, and rejoicing and exulting, with his whole soul he praised God, Who is glorious in His saints. Especially when the day of Annunciation arrived, he cast away all fear and stood near the holy relics from the sixth hour of the day to the ninth in order to smell that fragrance. The other Christians, hesitating to draw near to show their piety toward the martyr for fear of the Hagarene guards, passed by that place to see the holy relics and to smell the fragrance coming forth from them. And they glorified God for having strengthened such a lad to contest and to conquer and to put to shame the visible and invisible foes.
After three days, they took down the holy relics, and, putting them in a boat, set out for the open sea where they bound a rock weighing about two hundred pounds to the martyr’s neck; and with great labor they lifted up the rock together with the holy relics and cast them into the sea at a depth of more than three hundred fathoms so that the sea would not cast them out on dry land and the Christians thus find them. But here too God vouchsafed His new martyr a miracle: for the heavy weight of the rock lifted the holy relics as if they were a light feather, and it sailed atop the waves of the sea, to the amazement and astonishment of the beholders, both Christians and Hagarenes. And at that very moment, a most fearful wind arose suddenly and so disturbed the sea, that had there not been Christians in the boat, it would have capsized immediately. But the Christians placed their hope of deliverance in the saint, while the Moslems were greatly troubled, thinking that they had lost their minds, as they beheld such strange things. For that fearful storm raged round the boat only, whereas the rest of the sea was all calm and undisturbed. The wind was strong and the boat had all its sails unfurled, but, nonetheless, it remained motionless and unmoved, though those fierce waves were covering it for all sides. Thus, with fear and indescribable fright the lieutenant of the garrison said to the Christian guard: “John, what is this? What is happening?” Whereupon John replied: “Do you not perceive what this is? You see that the whole sea is calm and the tempest and wind are here only, and you ask what this is? It is the wrath of God, and it will drown us. For he whom you cast into the sea is a man of God, and you ought to have left him for the Christians to bury.” “I, too, as well as the Agha, wanted to give him to the Christians, so that we might get some money,” said the officer, “but what could we do, since the others did not want it?”
Finally, the sea cast out the boat which it had broken to pieces, and the men were saved amidst great peril. By Divine Providence, the holy relics were cast out at night, and the Christians buried them secretly. The blessed priest, Father Vissarion, being ignorant of this, nevertheless rejoiced over the martyr’s radiant victory, especially because he had fulfilled the command of his spiritual father, Ananias, who had given the martyr over to him to care for until his death. And thus, with tears of joy, he glorified God for all that had come to pass, grieving exceedingly, however, over the fate of the holy relics.
That night, therefore, the holy martyr appeared to him and said: “Be not sad, Father. I am out of the sea.” On the morrow, he investigated the matter and learned that the holy body had been buried secretly, and that the holy relics were hidden. The divine grace present in them, however, works miracles for the faithful. John, whom we have mentioned above, pulled out some hairs of the martyr in the ship, removed two of his toenails, and, while the saint was still living, had received the handkerchief with which he was wont to wipe away his unceasing tears; he had also his cap, and a belt of the saint which his brother in the synodia, Father Vissarion, had given him. This latter was made from the hairs of his head, which would come out when he combed his hair on the days on which he was going to celebrate the liturgy. Having received all this, John gave parts of them to many people, as well as to Frs. Parthenius and Gregory, the two parish priests of the village of Pamphyla, who had also received from the martyr himself his own prayer-rope.
It came to pass that, after the death of the saint, a relative of Father Parthenius was suffering from a terrible illness. He went insane, and furthermore, the doctors had determined that he would die. But Father Parthenius chanted the service of holy water and, dipping the aforesaid relics in the sanctified water, gave it to the sick man to drink. And – O what great boldness the martyr has before God! – he who had been given up for dead and who was, as it were, already dead, sat up straightway, asked for food, and ate. And from that time forward he rejoiced, being in complete health and glorifying God and his wondrous physician Luke.
The martyr worked yet another miraculous healing in those days through the grace of his holy relics. A certain woman was paralyzed from apoplexy in one of her legs, a hand, and in the whole of one side of her body. And what is worse, she suffered exceedingly great pains, so that she wept night and day. The four Gospels were read for her healing, and they tried whatever they could, but she received no healing. On the contrary, her pains increased all the more from day to day. But as soon as Father Gregory made the sign of the Cross over her with the above-mentioned holy relics of the martyr, the woman who was so grievously ill was healed, and became well, giving thanks to God and to His divine new martyr Luke, by whose holy prayers may we also be delivered from all sufferings of body and soul and from the eternal torments of Hell, and be deemed worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven, by the grace and love for mankind of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory and dominion, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
1. Metochion – Any given property or building belonging to a monastery, but located off the monastery’s immediate property.
2. Cadi – the Turkish title for judges.
3. In the Near East, it is a custom – prevalent especially among the Moslems – for one to take off one’s shoes before entering a house or any public or religious edifice.
Taken from Orthodox Life, Volume 31, No. 2, March-April 1981, pg. 5-22, Published by Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, New York.
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