The Life of
St. Timothy of Esphigmenou
October 29, 1820
Holy monk-martyr Timothy was a peasant from the village of Kisani in the district of Thrace. His first hame, given to him in baptism, was Triantaphylos. On attaining his majority, Triantaphylos was joined in lawful marriage and from this union had two daughters.
The God-pleasing and peaceful life of this fortunate family aroused the envy of the malicious foe who, in his evil hatred for everything good, resolved to destroy the conjugal harmony between them. In order to do this, he provoked a feeling of lust for the wife of Triantaphylos in a certain Moslem who, being unable to withstand the passion, forcibly took her away from him and, after bringing her within the Moslem faith, added her to his harem. The good heart of Triantaphylos was overcome by bitter sorrow on seeing the perdition of his wife who for the sake of temporary and ephemeral happiness was depriving herself of that which is eternal.
Finding relief from his sorrow only in prayer, he began to pray ardently to the All-Highest Creator, beseeching Him to turn back the one who had perished to the light of true knowledge. But at the same time, he was afraid for his daughters lest the same lot befall them as had their mother. For this reason he sent them to his relations, asking them to help these unfortunate ones.
The grief over the loss of his beloved wife weighed heavily on poor Triantaphylos and he decided, come what may, to wrest her from the grasp of the devil. Besides sincere prayer, he secretly admonished her through others to abandon the Moslem faith, warning her of the eternal punishment her apostasy would bring. This sincere prayer, offered up from the fullness of his heart, was heard by the Heavenly Creator Who in His great mercy placed a good thought in the mind of the apostate woman so that she soon felt a repulsion towards Islam. Having come to her senses, she bitterly repented of her fall and resolved to accept the Christian faith again.
But knowing that it would be difficult to escape by her own efforts from the clutches of her captor, she suggested to Triantaphylos that he pretend to accept the Moslem faith and then by legal process demand her back from her captor; it was impossible for her to be freed from the harem in any other way. Then, when she would be liberated, they could leave the world: he could become a monk on the Holy Mountain of Athos, where he could beseech God and ask forgiveness for his involuntary fall; she could go to a convent where, like him, she could heal her wounds through repentance.
In order to regain his perishing wife and upon hearing her request, Triantaphylos decided to fulfill her wish, imitating in this case the Apostle Paul who, for the sake of the salvation of the brethren, himself desired to be separated from Christ. Thus placing his hope in God, he went to the tribunal where he declared his desire to accept the Moslem religion, but only on condition that his wife be returned to him. Triantaphylos’ wish was promptly granted. He was joined to the faith of the Moslems and, after receiving circumcision, was given back his wife. Thereafter, although Triantaphylos appeared to follow the Moslem law, with his wife he secretly confessed the Christian faith and fulfilled all the Church rituals. No matter how much they tried to keep this secret, the Turks nevertheless suspected them of betrayal and began to keep a very close watch on them. In the meantime, Triantaphylos realized also that it would be impossible for them to remain among the Moslems any longer and entrusted his daughters to relatives. After bidding farewell to them, he secretly wet off with his wife to the city of Enos, and from there to Cedonia where he left her in a convent. He himself went to the Holy Mountain Athos.
Upon arriving on Athos, Triantaphylos joined the brotherhood of the Lavra of St. Athanasios where with zeal he struggled in monastic labor. All this time he secretly shed bitter tears and besought the merciful God to forgive him his unavoidable transgression. The abbot, seeing his zeal in the imitation of a virtuous life, tonsured him into monasticism with the name Timothy. Upon receiving the angelic image (the lesser schema), he redoubled his labors and was like unto an angel among the Lavra brethren, embellishing himself with guilelessness and deep humility. He fulfilled the obediences given him with particular devotion and in tis manner he lived in the Lavra about seven years, growing in spirit stronger and stronger.
At this time, word reached the Lavra that in Smyrna the holy monk-martyr Agathangelos of Esphigmenou had successfully accomplish the feat of martyrdom and that his courageous suffering had even astonished the Turks themselves. This news, as well as the fact that he had shed his blood for his renunciation of Christ and had washed away the stain imprinted in his soul by the all-spiteful enemy, made a strong impression on Timothy; it was clear to him tat he too, like St. Agathangelos, for his renunciation must confess Christ the true God before the Moslems and then accept a martyr’s end.
The thought of martyrdom which had implanted itself in his soul pursued him everywhere, but not having tested his strength, he did not resolve to fulfill his intention without preparation and the counsel of experienced elders.
Wishing to test himself for certain, with the blessing of the abbot of the Lavra he moved to the Esphigmenou monastery where he placed himself under the direction of the same abbot who, together with the Elder Germanos, had participated in the preparation of St. Agathangelos for his labors of suffering. Here Timothy was soon tonsured into the great angelic habit (the Great Schema) and under the direction of the abbot, began to prepare himself to endure torture for the sake of Jesus Christ.
Having daily before his eyes the holy relics of St. Agathangelos, Timothy felt great reverence for the holy martyr and besought him in his pryers to seek grace for him from the Lord and to suffer for His holy Name. As we shall see, St. Agathangelos gave ear to the prayer of Timothy for his heart was so aflame with love for our Lord Jesus Christ that he was unable to bear it any longer and desired to suffer as soon as possible for the Sweet Lord Jesus. Thereupon he announced his intention to the abbot, begging him to bestow his blessing on his desire for martyrdom. But the abbot, wishing to test Timothy and appearing not to heed his plea, refused to give his blessing. This, however, in no way disconcerted Timothy who, in his sincere humility and submissive obedience, received the words of the abbot a though from the Lord Himself.
During the time that followed, Timothy not only did not waiver in his intention, but even reminded and begged the abbot to release him for his hour of suffering.
When this experienced mentor saw the unyielding and firm purpose of Timothy, he consented and gave him his blessing, sending him with a letter to the Diocese of Miriopheta on the banks of the Propontidis to hieromonk Germanos, the former companion of St. Agathangelos. Germanos at this time was occupied in this region with church matters and the abbot implored him to prepare Timothy for martyrdom.
Bidding farewell to the abbot, Timothy sought his blessing to take leave of his daughters since the village where they lived was located on the road to Propontidis, but the abbot denied him this wish. He instructed him first to remain with the Elder Germanos and then to do only whatever he counseled. The worthy disciple fulfilled these instructions in every respect, for when he approached the village where his children lived, he had to struggle with himself, as his heart grieved and sorrowed for his daughters. His paternal love burned with the desire to embrace his loved ones and press them to his heart, but the command of the abbot prevailed in this true novice. Unable to bear this suffering in his heart, he wept.
As he was leaving the village, Timothy met an inhabitant whom he knew well, who begged him to come into his home, but Timothy pretending that he was unwell, declined his invitation. In the meantime, the villager, upon returning to the village, told Timothy’s daughters that he had seen their father passing by the village. The daughters immediately ran to overtake their father but Timothy, turning around and seeing them running after him, began to flee from them. Neither pleas nor tears could stop the obedient novice who ran from them until they gave up and returned to the village. This for the sake of the commandment of obedience he set natural love at naught.
Arriving at Propontidis, he sought out the Elder Germanos and handed him the letter from the abbot of Esphigmenou. When he read it, Germanos received Timothy with joy and brotherly love as a future martyr, showered him with hospitality and provided him with shelter in his home.
In preparing Timothy for his labor of martyrdom, Germanos rejoiced in his soul that the Lord God in His great mercy had found him worthy to prepare yet another martyr to confess His holy name. After several days, seeing Timothy’s strong resolve, Germanos game him his blessing to undergo martyrdom. At the same time, there appeared a follower of Timothy, Hieromonk Euthymios, who seeing his courageous determination and aflame with zeal, desired to suffer for Christ and accept a martyr’s end together with him.
Germanos, seeing yet another sacrifice, gave praise to God and after confirming him with instructions, commanded him to attire himself in worldly garments and proceed to the village of Kisani and there to meet with the Christians who had been led astray into the Moslem faith, in order to arouse in them the zeal to return to Christianity.
When he heard this command, Timothy began to ask the elder to allow him to bid farewell to his daughters but the elder, foreseeing what detriment this meeting could bring, forbade him and with meekness said, “My son, do not return, but go with God’s grace to your martyrdom, in which may the Savior of the world, Who gives you strength, help you. As for your daughters, I give you my word that when you complete your labor of martyrdom, I will visit them myself.”
Although it was painful for Timothy to suppress his feelings of paternal love, placing his love for Jesus Christ above all else, he agreed to abide by the advice of Germanos. Thus sent off with a blessing and prayer, Euthymios and Timothy directed their steps towards Kisani, where they entered the home of a Christian acquaintance of Timothy who had now become an apostate. After the usual greetings, Timothy began to try to persuade the apostate to return to Christ, warning him of eternal torment and deprivation of the blessings prepared for the followers of Christ. But the embittered apostate, instead of being thankful for this good advice, told the magistrate about them and he immediately ordered the holy martyrs to be brought before the tribunal.
When the holy martyrs stood before the magistrate, they boldly confessed themselves to be Christians and denounced the delusion and false belief of Mohammed. The magistrate, when he heard blasphemy against his faith, seethed with anger and ordered his assistants to tie the hands of the holy martyrs tightly behind their backs. Because he did not consider their crime to be within his jurisdiction, he sent them to Adrianopolis. In the meantime, the assistants demonstrated their own bestial fanaticism – they tied the hands of St. Timothy so tightly that his shoulders almost touched.
On the next day, the suffers for Christ arrived in Adrianopolis. Here they learned that just the day before, tow strugglers for Christ, Hieromonk Nicholas and Monk Barnabas, had courageously confessed the Christian faith. After a short admonishment the magistrate ordered them to be thrown into separate prisons and when their feet were put in stocks, ordered that the heels of their feet be beaten for the period of a monthly, daily increasing by two the initial thirty-eight blow. This news strengthened Euthymios and Timothy and they awaited with joy their tortures for Christ Who so loved them.
When the holy martyrs Euthymios and Timothy were brought before the tribunal, the magistrates, after the usual exhortations and seeing their determination, ordered that Hieromonk Euthymios be confined in a prison and beaten over the heels in exactly the same way as Nicholas and Barnabas. Timothy was left without punishment and was told that if in the course of one month he did not convert to the Moslem faith, he would be put to death in the following month. Two days later, Timothy’s elder Germanos arrived in Adrianopolis. He was secretly informed that the holy martyrs wished to receive the Holy Mysteries in prison. Therefore he straightway proceeded to the patriarchal chapel, took several particles of antidoron and that same day sent three particles to the holy martyrs with the same Christian who had informed him of their desire to partake of the Body and Blood of Christ. In a brief letter he told them he would himself come to them in prison the next day. On the following day Germanos, having learned from a certain Christian that debtors as well as tax-evaders were placed in the same prison in which Euthymios and Timothy were confined, besought the Christian to inform the tax-collector that Germano had not paid the taxes required by law. As soon as the tax-collector heard this he came to the hostel where Germanos was lodged and demanded his receipt for paid taxes. Since Germanos had neither receipt nor money, the tax-collector sent him to prison. Who can worthily describe the joy when the disciples saw their teacher in prison?! They all rejoiced and with tears embraced each other. They spent the whole night in vigilant prayer, and the gloomy prison was transformed into a church.
After the vigil the martyrs for Christ confessed to their elder and then received the Holy Mysteries of Christ. In the morning, Germanos was ransomed by pious Christians and set at liberty.
In the meantime, to the shame of the enemies of Christianity, the Lord manifestly performed miracles through his confessors, for no matter how much the cruel tormentors beat the passion-bearers on their heels, the martyrs of Christ, instead of the usual groans, rejoiced and gave thanks for their stripes. After each blow, the hands of the executioners became weakened and seeing their powerlessness, they gnashed their teeth in rage.
Finally the day came when it was pleasing to God to summon the holy martyr Timothy to Himself. On this day the magistrates ordered him to appear at the tribunal and after various flattering promises and threats ordered that he be beheaded and that the body be thrown into the river. This sentence was carried out by the executioners on October 29, 1820.
The elder Germanos grieved deeply that the enemies of Christ’s Church had deprived the Christians of the consolation of having the holy relics of the suffer for Christ Timothy. He, therefore, wishing at least to acquire his blood-stained garments, offered the executioners a considerable amount of money for which he received that which he desired. With this precious attire he then departed for the Holy Mountain. Passing the village where Timothy’s daughters lived, Germanos stopped to visit them, announcing to them the joyous news of their martyred father’s end and apportioning between them a part of the saint’s attire. When he arrived on Mount Athos, the brethren of Esphigmenou monastery came in procession to meet the martyr’s garment, and carried it with honor into the church where it was placed in the same reliquary as the garments of the holy martyr Agathangelos.
After the execution of St. Timothy, they confessors of Christ Euthymios,* Nicholas, and Barnabas were released from prison and with dishonor were chased out of the city.
Through the prayers of the holy monk-martyr Timothy, O Christ God, make us also worthy to receive eternal glory in the heavens. Amen!
* He reposed in peace on Athos in the Pantocrater Monastery in 1852. The life of St. Timothy is based upon and translated from the Russian Athonite Patericon. The memory of St. Timothy is celebrated on October 29.
Taken from Orthodox Life, Vol. 26, No. 6, November-December, 1976, pg. 2-8, published by Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, New York.
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